No Way Out

The mountains do not own the stage. Deep in the valley, a forgotten race prepares for the harvest with a gory ritual that offers no compromise to a demanding deity. Shek Mola has until sunrise to escape.
Hola Valley, Norway
Jón Ragnarsson via Compfight
Bound between two saplings, the brave young man barely has enough freedom to twist his limbs. Yet, possessed of a strength born of desperation, he pulls the trees together until he can grasp the thick vines around his left arm with the spindly fingers of his right hand. The fingers become a unified claw – there won’t be a second chance at this.

Shek pulls the vines to his teeth. His muscles protest – they are more used to throwing rocks and chasing girls. His strong jaw gnashes the bitter vegetation. Too late, he realizes that the elders have foreseen this; his mouth begins to burn from the sap of poison ivy.

Still, with fierce determination, he chews through his bindings until, at last, they break away. He is left with the trivial task of freeing his other three limbs, while drawing harsh breaths through swollen lips and itching tongue.

As the last vine drops to the valley floor, the sun peeks over the rim. Shek fears he has lost the race against time, for an actual apparition solidifies before him. She is dressed in white. Henna fangs are drawn on her chin. Incongruously, she holds a clutch of wildflowers.

Embarrassed by his nakedness, Shek strains to recognize this person. Praying to another god, he hopes that she is from the far village. His prayer is answered. The lovely stranger glides up to him and presents the wildflowers. It is the universal romantic gesture of a wedding proposal.

He is to be a sacrifice, after all.

The vignette above is based on a writing prompt from

I chose these five words: sacrifice actual person romantic compromise

People Read

Stories exist everywhere. Compelling, boring, inspiring and tiring. True and fanciful, harsh and heartening. Stories permeate societies.
Intensely reading the newspaper in Addis AbabaCreative Commons License
Terje Skjerdal via Compfight

Good stories entertain. Great stories endure as myths, legends and folklore. Bad stories expire – buried in the toxic cloud of background noise.
I leave it to you, gentle reader, to determine the toxicity/entertainment ratio of my tapestries. Pass each one through the Feynman Filter* and, if the strained content is still pleasing, do come back for more.

* Richard Feynman wound up in my own filter, as I read about obfuscation:

The physicist and storyteller Richard Feynman describes a time when he took part in a conference discussing “the ethics of equality”. Feynman was at first apprehensive, having read none of the books which the conference organizers had recommended. A sociologist brought a paper which he had written beforehand to the committee where Feynman served, asking everyone to read it. Feynman found it completely incomprehensible, and feared that he was out of his depth — until he decided to pick one sentence at random and parse it until he understood. The sentence he chose (to the best of his recollection) was:
The individual member of the social community often receives his information via visual, symbolic channels.
Feynman “translated” the sentence and discovered it meant “People read”. The rest of the paper soon made sense in the same fashion.

Feynman Anecdote, from Wikipedia

The Lost Tower of Pendle

Then …

By covenant of blood, we thirteen speaketh, to hide ’til night in earth, what others seeketh.
Let neither man, nor beast nor astral power, set naked eye or foot on Pendle Tower.
Protect our home, oh land, do not reveal, forevermore to be, hypogeal.

Witch Tale Will you Believe? nebojsa mladjenovic via Compfight

Now …

“Keep up, keep up! We’ve only got one more hour of daylight and we’ve only covered one tenth of the region!” Professor Mallory de Lacy huffed and puffed along with her studious and more energetic charges.

“Really, miss. D’you think we’ll find the coven?” Samantha tried to hide the sarcasm. She was probably the only one happy to be mucking about in the woods. Her classmates were all so bookish and dull.

“If my calculations are correct, dear girl, it’s here. Thomas Potts’ records placed the structure anywhere between Colne and Gisburne, but my computer simulations have narrowed it considerably.” The professor paused to catch her breath, then pitched her voice lower, so that only Samantha could hear:

“Don’t overplay it. You know very well that the Dekatreis Magisses invoked a powerful charm to protect Malt Kiln. Our ancestors spent a lot of time obfuscating the public records and propagating silly legends to throw off the overly curious.”

“I am just as tired as you are, Mallory,” Samantha sniped. “Four hundred years keeping this secret, for who? For what!”

“That’s why we have to do this tonight. I’m not waiting another year for this opportunity. Nobody even drinks that vile poison, anymore, ever since the Beerhouse Act of 1830.” De Lacy sniffed the air.

Samantha snuck furtive glances at her unsuspecting classmates. “Do we really have to sacrifice this lot? I kinda like most of them, though I wouldn’t mind sticking a pin in Jeremy.”

The professor chortled, “Oh, yes. We must slake the thirst of Mother Earth in order that She might give birth.”

Thunder cracked.

Samantha cowered. “Oops.”

The professor took off her hat and glasses. “Enough with the charade. That spell only works within a hundred yards of the coven. Hurry! Round them up!”

Samantha screamed. It wasn’t her best effort but, she was a bit frightened by the sudden change in Professor de Lacy. In no time, the other classmates had assembled near Samantha.

Jeremy spoke up first. “Whatsa matter, Sam? Seen a ghost or sommat?” The group tittered nervously. Everyone began swiveling their heads about, looking for unseen threats.

Professor de Lacy pretended to look around nervously. Then, without warning, she extracted a long, wicked blade from her knapsack. Faster than anyone had ever seen her move, she quickly slit the throats of all seven students, leaving only Samantha to stare, wide-eyed, at the carnage.

As she wiped the blade on her skirt, the professor reminded Samantha that the Pendle Forest had been a vaccary and cows were often sacrificed as part of the revelation ritual. She talked non-stop while arranging the bodies into a pentagram. By the time she had circumscribed the macabre star, she had calmed the young girl considerably.

Finally, she gestured for Samantha to join her in the circle. “Samantha of Alizon, daughter of the mist. Will you give of yourself in the twilight?”

Samantha stuttered an affirmative.

“Then, let us pray.” Mallory de Lacy lifted her hands skyward and tilted her head back. She led them in an incantation:

By covenant of blood, we Magis speaketh, to raise our home from earth that we may sleepeth.
Let neither man, nor beast nor astral power, set naked eye or foot on Pendle Tower.
Release the charm, oh land, do not conceal, ’til end of time and space commence to heal!

The soft earth of the moors opened up and swallowed them whole.

Tomorrow …

“We’re disappointed in you, Mallory of Anne. Surely, the bloodline of Chattox was stronger!” Alice Nutter rose from her chair. She hugged the two arrivals and ushered them to the round table, where twelve other wizened crones sat regally.

“Bah! I would have done the same, meself! I am surprised they held out as long as they did.” Jennet Preston took a sip of malt. She grimaced and washed it down with a hefty swig of India Old Pale.

To celebrate this ghoulish day, I remind you to read my free collection of scary stories:

Tap Dancing With the Devil.

Cosmic Joke

If I can find the first quote* I ever made regarding Evernote, I would be able to find peace. In the meantime, let me share something with you. Actually two somethings:

  • Live Each Day As If
  • Why Do You Buy A Bigger Hard Drive?
  • There Are Three Kinds of People: Those Who Can Count And Those Who Can’t

Land Whales Not Acting Neighborly Russ Seidel via Compfight


Chris Rock said:

“You know, some people say life is short and that you could get hit by a bus at any moment and that you have to live each day like it’s your last. Bullshit. Life is long. You’re probably not gonna get hit by a bus. And you’re gonna have to live with the choices you make for the next fifty years.”

When we decide to install applications to organize our digital lives, we should constantly remind ourselves why we feel this is important. If we ever lose sight of this reason, we may find ourselves wandering down paths that serve no other purpose than to make our legs grow weary.

Size Matters

George Carlin said:

“That’s all your house is: a place to keep your stuff… Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore.”

When we get larger hard drives, why do we then fill them up with so much stuff? Didn’t we learn our lessons the first time?

Marking Time

“I can remember the first time I had to go to sleep. Mom said, ‘Steven, time to go to sleep.’ I said, ‘But I don’t know how.’ She said, ‘It’s real easy. Just go down to the end of tired and hang a left.’ So I went down to the end of tired, and just out of curiosity I hung a right. My mother was there, and she said ‘I thought I told you to go to sleep.’”

I like Steven Wright. I had him for dinner. Erm, I invited him to a Dinner Party Line of Sight.

Bottom line: I will just keep throwing stuff into Evernote, searching for it* and spending more time on things that matter.

This concludes the Evernote experiment. Go Meet Someone Special.

* OMG, you’re still here? Okay, here is one of my earlier references to Evernote. It’s on my good friend Cathy Miller’s blog, SimplyStatedBusiness: Cloud Computing: 3 Questions to Ask Before Taking Off.
I Heart Evernote
Ode to Evernote