March 2020


A cat’s eye is my eye now
Over indoor sights it will play
Confined we both softly prowl
Too risky to let us away

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Let us sing now of adventurers
Forthright and bold in verse
As a second great journey they start!

We head now to the dwarven king’s halls
Mines deep and spoils rich in those walls
As our heroes with empty purses enter!

Gem and coin they did need
Afore the planting of seed
But the mines they were full up with monsters!

O’er a lake they would slosh
To reach mountains of dosh
But a cthulhu lurked deep down within it!

Our heroes soon realized
As they fought for their lives
That the monsters were eating the treasure!

The longer they did wait
And their fury abate
The less spoils there were for the banker!

To make bad matters worse
The dwarf mines were cursed
With severe tectonic instability!

As the monsters did feast
Leaving heroes with least
The dwarf-cave did threaten a cave-in!

As all hope was lost
And regardless of cost
The heroes’ mage stepped forward with grim purpose!

He gave up his life
In an orgy of strife
That his friends could escape from the maelstrom!

As they fled the great blast
They seized jewels at the last
And erupted from the mines with a pittance!

Their good friend had now gone
With brain over brawn
And left them just enough richer!

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I didn’t know my way around my parents’ new house, since the old one had burned down. It was on the same plot of land, and the same treasures from travels all over the world filled it, but they’d bought a house elsewhere and had it moved onto the plot. I never would stop seeing it as a labyrinth, having trouble even finding the stairs up or down.

They sent me to the corner store to get some groceries, just like they had in decades gone past. The old IGA was open again, downtown on the corner, as if it had never left, as if all its broken tile floors and worn-out conveyer belts had just been sitting in storage for twenty years.

On my way back–at a run, because time and daylight are short–I see my aunt and uncle coming into town, my father’s big sister and part of her brood. They shout to me, sing a little “Happy Birthday” out the window. It’s embarrassing, but I know their heart is in the right place. They are driving one of the cars of their generation, outdated and gigantic, a glacier with oval side windows and faux vinyl, but it’s a good fit.

When I reach home, I have visitors. Old friends, or were they rivals? We’d gone to school together and gone our separate ways. But they’d never been far from my mind, and I was flattered to see that the same was true. The old swingset was back in my parents’ backyard, or perhaps a new one of the same design, and we sat in the three seats idly talking of days gone by. Some old secrets were shared, and we each asked after people we’d lost track of. I had to tell one of them how truly little I cared for his opinion, and the other seemed to cut me to the quick with her questions, innocent as they seemed.

I am older, yes. I am older. But that does not mean all is lost.

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The king’s life it did wane
Our nation’s heart cut in twain
When three heroes did venture to cure him!

There was a cure they did say
With a witch it did lay
And they struck through the mists to find it!

Their search took them three days
Across the most dangerous of ways
‘Til from mists the witch rose before them!

The crone she did speak
Of an herb they might seek
In a tower that by monsters was guarded!

As our heroes set out
With fey monsters to rout
An unearthly scream they witnessed!

The great tower had sprung forth
In the forests to the north
And monsters issued forth to fight them!

Our heroes did fight
For far more than their lives
To keep king and castle preserved!

After battles most grim
They had forced their way in
And the tower yielded up its treasure!

An herb they did take
And a potion did make
The king’s life was saved by imbibing!

With the mist-ery solved
And the king’s sins absolved
A tower-ing achievement it was!

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At length I remembered the last resort of a great princess who, when told that the peasants had broken into her royal bakery and were hurling the contents into the street, replied: “Then let them yeet cake.”

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Levird briefly stabilized its form, and Maya could make out something like limbs and a head, with two points of light dancing in it. But then there was a second set of arms at Levird’s side, and its dress was suddenly made of up living butterflies, and those same eyes of dancing light were amid them, peering out from a hundred impossible places at once.

“That might just be the least convincing disguise I’ve ever seen,” Maya said.

Clearly focusing, trying hard–which was not at all what Levird was about–it smoothed away the extra arms and gave the dress a firm snap to bring it back to a single fabric. The glowing points were now icy blue eyes in a face that could–charitably–pass for human.

“Much better. You’re about one good push from being able to do it.”

With a final grunt, Levird was able to solidify and smooth still further, taming the wild natural energies of the fae into a more or less mundane form. Androgenous, yes, and perhaps a bit odd looking, but nothing that would attract a second glance in the right clothes.

“Perfect!” Maya said. “I think you’re ready.”

A mild breeze kicked up, and Levird sneezed. A torrent of fae energy was unleashed, blowing Maya back a little bit, and when she looked up, Levird was a mess. A second face on one thigh, clothes that were half alive, hands where its feet should have been, and a guilty grin on each and every visible lips.

“I dinnae ken how ye mundoons do it,” Levird said. “Tae prance about in the same shape all the bleedin’ time? It isnae fun and it isnae natural for me kind.”

“Well, you’re going to have to make it work.” Maya said firmly. “Or they’ll panic, and you’ll never see your kin again. Or mine.”

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Recording timestamp: 1585091497

AUMNYL: Hello! This is Dr. Nhzaly Aumnyl, the inventor of the Daedalus system, the discoverer of the Aumnyl-Feld bridge, and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, speaking.

FARIS: You don’t need to start the recording that way, you know. People can look it up.

AUMNYL: People won’t read signs telling them where the toilet is, what makes you think they’ll look up my CV? Besides, having it read to them in a good, strong voice with a powerful accent will make it stick.

FARIS: Make what stick, now?

AUMNYL: Ah. Yes. Well, what we are going to demonstrate here today, under strictly controlled laboratory conditions, is an entirely new form of photon-based storage for quantum computing applications. It is a simple process involving a laser beam and a particle accelerator.

FARIS: Decelerator, in this case.

AUMNYL: Feh! If we try to describe it in layman’s terms, we will be here all day. On that point I agree with you: if they want to do the math they can read my paper. Good luck getting past the first paragraph, you bunch of plagiarists and pirates!

FARIS: Decelerator, in this case.

AUMNYL: Begin the first test. We will encode a single byte into the storage medium for one second and then retrieve it.

FARIS: Beginning test 01-01-01. Hold onto your butts.

Recording interrupted at timestamp: 1585048515

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