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. . .

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

Tom manages to convince himself that he’s doing the right thing. He may be giving birth to monsters like Sally and Bernard, but he’s won folks like Amber and Harold for the House of Dreams. In the end, he thinks, isn’t it better to have two more science adventurers and any number of cannibals, then to have neither and leave the world helpless before great beasts?

He doesn’t start realizing just how far he’s going wrong until he slips the hat onto young Morgan’s head.

Plus, he thinks, those cannibals — at least they find it filling!

Morgan’s in runics. He’s hanging upside down from a tree and he’s thinking. You’d think that what he’d be thinking is “how can I get down from here?” but he shows no actual evidence of this intent.

Fulfilling, Tom corrects. Then he looks up. There’s Morgan!

“Dude,” says Tom.

Morgan smiles at him.

“I’m looking for wisdom,” Morgan says. “This world’s spiraling out of control. Did you know that? Hans, who kept it sane, is dead.”

“I think the blood is going to your head, man,” says Tom.

Morgan laughs.

“Seriously,” says Tom. “You think that’s a way to get wisdom?”

“C’mere,” says Morgan.

Tom does.

Morgan whispers, “I completely blew off my runes all year, but if I hang upside down for nine days and nine nights in search of wisdom, it’s basically a guaranteed A on the midterm.”

Tom draws back. He squints at Morgan suspiciously.

“Don’t you need a spear in your side and to have one eye out,” he says, “for that?”

He’s referencing the story of Odin, who hung in such a fashion, and learned the runes and also mastery of the world.


“It’s just a midterm, man,” says Morgan. “Chill.”

So Tom winds up sitting beside him. They talk. Morgan hangs there. And after a while, Morgan wishes he didn’t have to hang there; or rather, that he could hang there, only without the negative consequences, like the agony and the wind.

And to such wishes as these Tom has an answer.

He puts his crowning hat on the hanging boy.

It’s hard, of course, because Morgan’s hanging upside down. It takes some serious ingenuity. Tom has some serious ingenuity, though.

. . .

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

Morgan stares at Tom for a while. His irises and his pupils film over with yellow gold.

Tom recoils.

He remembers Mr. Loggins. He remembers the man on top of him, he remembers the words, he cannot hear them, he did not hear them, he refuses to hear them, but he remembers

The blood drains from Tom’s face.

He skitters back. He pushes himself along the ground away from Morgan and stops with his back against a slender tree.

“It’s supposed to help you,” he explains, frantically. “It’s a hat for helping people.”

The hat falls off of Morgan, who is upside-down. The wind carries it back in Tom’s direction. Morgan regards Tom for a long moment, but he doesn’t speak.

“It’s to help you achieve your potential,” Tom says. “I was going to be a science adventurer. Maybe refine the world or empty Hell or something. Stupid, stupid Tom.”

He stares at his fingers. He can’t remember how many he’s supposed to have.

“I’m not an ophidian world-inheritor,” he clarifies. “My DNA is totally human. So there’s that! Hey, is there even anything in . . . I mean, what is Hell, actually, did you ever think about that? Like, is it an ectoplasmological phenomenon, or an epistemological state? I mean, Hel, obviously,” he says, correcting his pronunciation to refer to the Norse afterlife instead of the British one without actually sounding different in any audible respect. “Bit of a bone-head, sometimes, haha.”

He gives Morgan a frantic smile. He claws his hat up off the ground. He puts it on. He staggers off.

He doesn’t like the house in yellow, with their yellow eyes and their yellow hats.

Sometimes at night when he is just about to complete some grand invention —

Some brilliant and awful design —

He will look up from his work and see them and their yellow House standing around him in a creepy circle. Morgan. Fred. Lirabelle. Veronica. Sometimes even Paul. (Paul is not a member of the Keepers’ House. He is simply trying to fit in.)

They will stand. They will stare. This will creep Tom out. He will forget what he is doing. He will say, plaintively, “Please stop that. I am trying to work on this —”

He’ll flail it about.

“These words and numbers,” he might say. Or “these thingummies!”

This dismisses them. They dissipate! They slip off gracefully into the halls.

They honor his wishes, when he asks, but they creep him out anyway; and he has yet to hear them speak.

They are the worst.

They are definitely the worst. They are almost the worst. They are . . .

They are definitely his least favorite thing to come out of sticking his magical hat on random people around the Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth, he is pretty sure of it, until he understands what it is that his hat has made of Sid.

. . .

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

– 10 –

Posted by on Nov 26, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

Bethany duels Edmund in the sky above the school.


Well, it’s only natural.

I mean, specifically, it’s only natural that in a whole school full of renegades and bad elements, there’d be one or two people who’d object to having cannibalistic wolf-people running around eating other students and wearing non-regulation hats.

Such as: Bethany!

Also there was Theodore Cetera, but he had already been et.

Bethany slams Edmund down. She stomps him into the ground. She stops just short of killing him, though. She takes his hat and leaves him to grovel about on the earth, instead, desperately whining for someone, anyone, to bring him a new white hat to wear.

She should have killed him, of course. Humiliating him was pointless. But there’s something about killing fifteen-year-old kids that makes it hard to feel morally at your best.

Even if you’re only sixteen and a half yourself!

That night, she realizes her error. She realizes her error because she wakes up and Sally is in bed with her. Only, Sally isn’t planning to do something naughty with her. Sally is planning to kill and eat her.

. . .

Possibly I have phrased that poorly. I mean, Sally is not planning to do something untoward.

The point is, I mean —


What I mean is, this story is going to retain its solid for-young-people rating. It is not going to have two girls in bed together doing something of which good upstanding Christian adults would not approve. Particularly when they are really young and immature. So instead Sally just attempts to strangle Bethany.

Bethany isn’t quite awake yet. She has vague dreams of a slavering maw and a pale, stretched-out face. She flinches, reflexively. She throws Sally into the wall above Bethany’s bed. This resolves the problem for all of two seconds before Sally falls back on top of her. Bethany slams her against the other wall over her bed and this time manages to twist her enough that Sally falls onto the floor instead of back on top of Bethany, and with a ringing clang.

Bethany curls up in her quilt. She tries to go back to sleep. Sally lunges up from the ground.

Bethany bonks her on the head.

Sally goes down. Sally clangs. Sally shakes her head vigorously. Sally tries to stand up again.

Bethany flails. She is not actually trying to knock Sally out. She is trying to press Sally’s snooze button. But the Sally-beast has no snooze button! Sally bites off two fingers of Bethany’s hand.

“Gah!” says Bethany.

She wakes up. She spurts blood in Sally’s face. She draws her night-tanto, which is like a regular tanto only it is smaller and snugglier for sleeping with. Its sheath is basically a teddy bear, only long and solid and straight. She squirms into a crouch.

“Get out, Sally!”

Sally is her neighbor. Sally was her neighbor. Now Sally is a member of the House of Hunger who has broken into her room, tried to strangle her, and eaten two of her fingers. This does not affect her residential status but it is arguably not neighborly.

Sally lunges. Bethany stabs her eye. It’s grotesque. Sally claws at her.

Bethany pulls back. She crawls to the far end of the bed. She stabs Sally again. Sally bites through the blade.

“Get out!

Bethany tries to remember what a proper ninja does in this situation. It is difficult because she is wearing fuzzy pajamas. Well, it is difficult because she is wearing fuzzy pajamas that are not black. They have an adorable frogs and fishes pattern instead. Then she remembers, just as Sally scrambles up onto the bed with her again.

Bethany twists sideways and vanishes. She transcends reality. She walks three steps through the shadow world. It is exhausting and she cannot breathe there. She tumbles back into reality outside the walls of her dormitory.

She catches herself —

Well, first, she falls, but then she catches herself — against a window railing two floors down.

Sally leans over the open window. Then Sally begins to crawl down the wall like some vast gecko.

Edmund’s leaning, kind of casually, against a tree not far below.

“Damn it,” Bethany says.

She lets go of the wall. She drops.

“Don’t start fights,” says Edmund, “that you don’t intend to finish.”

He makes a head-gesture. The Bernard-beast approaches, and the Lucy-beast.

“I didn’t —”

Bethany remembers that technically she had started the fight. She had stopped Edmund from eating Sid, who had really seemed to have enough problems on his plate already.

“Well, fine,” she says.

Then she is a river of motion. Then she is striking this way, this way, and that. The sharp point of her wrist catches the Bernard-beast’s throat; he gags, chokes, and goes down. She hops on one foot, backing away from the snarling Lucy-beast’s attack, long enough to rip out the emergency footie-knife from the footie of her pajamas. Then she takes the offensive, but Lucy slides back and away. She is as elusive as the wind.

Then it seems like Bethany has her. Lucy’s eyes are wide and cavernous; they draw Bethany’s attention in, they fixate her, and she slams the knife towards Lucy and Lucy does not dodge —

Edmund catches Bethany’s hair. He pulls her staggering back.

Sally has caught up to them. She springs snarling for Bethany’s leg. Bethany topples. Bernard is recovering. He is pulling out his own weapons now, glass wind-and-fire wheels — like fist knives, only with razored glass semi-circles for their blades — and Bethany’s knife has gone skittering away.

She’s almost out of night-time backup weapons. There’s the wire in her hair, of course, and the suicide tooth, but she doesn’t really want to spit the suicide tooth at anybody and it’s really hard to get the wire back in once she’s ripped it out.

She’s first-ranked in her class. She is on track, as she tells her friends when lazily hanging about on the couches in the dormitory lounge, to be the Valedictorian of Lethality, or possibly of Lethal Magnetism, at the end of the following year.

She is Bethany.

Edmund discovers that he might not want to be holding on to Bethany’s hair. She twists about him, tangles about him, dances as even the nithrid dared not dance, and a confused Sally gets a mouthful not of Bethany but of wolf-gold and Edmund’s back.

Edmund can’t help it.

He snarls. He lashes out at Sally. The hunger in him escalates into an ulfserk fury and Bethany is skipping away, fluttering up into the trees, her eyes a gleaming in the dark.

Lucy is waiting for her.

. . .

Posted by on Nov 26, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

Bethany practically backs into her. It’s only the utter silence where Lucy is, the unswaying of the branch she stands on, that gives the Lucy-beast away.

Bethany elbows at her, hard. Lucy dodges but staggers. Bethany squints.

“That’s right,” she says, recognizing the girl under her hat. “You’re on the prophesy track, aren’t you?”

Lucy snorts. She tosses her head. “I,” she says, “am the evil prophet of —”

She doesn’t get to finish. Bethany moves in such a fashion that if Lucy finishes that sentence, she will fall and break her neck.

Lucy snarls. She opens her mouth. She tries to start again.

She will introduce herself. Then she will speak an evil prophecy. Then there will be only blood and death for Bethany, as she will have foretold —

Bethany is looking at her. Bethany is intending at her.

Lucy howls.

She gulps back the evil prophecy. It roils in her wolf-gut. That path leads to disaster. What about . . .

Bethany moves, just a little.

Lucy, tangled up in prophecy and forebodings, throws herself from the tree and hits her own head hard on a wayward branch.

. . .

Posted by on Nov 26, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

Bethany ducks under Bernard’s blades.

The Bernard-beast is vicious. He is also quite well-dressed. She finds herself admiring the cut of his garment as he swings invisible blades over her head.

She ducks, planning to catch those blades in the trunk of the tree she’s standing on. His blades scissor straight through the wood, instead, in a great spray of chips and bark.

“Jesus,” swears Bethany. Later, if she survives this, she will add a shilling to her Jesus jar. It’s a swear jar, shaped like Jesus. But that’s not important right now!

Sally has lost the accidental struggle. She has curled up, whining, licking her wounds (except the missing eye) beneath a tree.

Edmund is coming for Bethany.

Bernard punches as if to stab through both Bethany and several feet of wood.

Bethany falls sideways. She twists in the air. She transcends reality. She jogs a few steps downwards, reappears delicately poised one-footed on Edmund’s head, and heel-kicks his nose hard with the other.

Then she twists sideways again as Bernard descends —

Bernard follows her into non-space. His glass weapon here gleams a brutal gold. It cuts her. It tears her side open. She gapes at him and bleeds as he falls back into the world; and has only a second or so to stagger in a random direction away from him before reappearing herself.

He has guessed her place of emergence almost exactly. She loses a lock of hair. That pushes her to the decision point.

She rips the wire from her hair.

He comes at her again. She locks eyes with him. She shoves his consciousness out of the way for a second so he doesn’t cut her again, comes in at him, and wraps the wire around his neck. She pulls —

Lucy seethes up from the ground in a cloud of air and darkness. She hauls around a gunbrella to point at Bethany. It beeps, charging. Bethany can’t intend at her with two hands full of garroting the snazzily fashionable Bernard!

Edmund is getting up.

Bethany tightens the wire. Bernard’s throat begins to bleed. He thrashes —

She still can’t kill another student. She rips his hat off instead. It doesn’t come off. He’s glued it on.

“Gah!” she howls, incoherently, beats his head against the ground twice, and runs.

There is no specific jar for incoherent howls. It is a good mental practice for her to sort through such things later and figure out what swear she would have used, had she had the proper mental presence for obscenity.

She breaks Edmund’s knee fifty yards later, by which time she has a stitch in her side and Lucy’s gun is fully charged.

She drops to the ground as it fires. Lucy fires at the ground. Bethany twists desperately away from reality but she still winds up seared and aching.

She jukes the followup blast onto her shadow. She staggers up against a wall.

She is dirty, beaten, and battered.

She looks up. She looks around her. She scans for hope. There’s a gun emplacement in the bell tower, but — it’s unlikely to have tranquilizing weaponry.

This is a Lethal School.

She sights Tom Friedman, science adventurer.

. . .

Posted by on Nov 26, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

Tom is sitting alone on a bench. He is admiring a stand of mutant pipe cactus. The blooms have opened in the night and are releasing a rich and alien scent.

She turns sideways. She appears sitting beside him on the bench. He startles three feet rightwards.

“I need it,” she says.


“I need it,” she grits out. “The hat. I can’t kill them. I can’t keep fighting. I can’t breathe.”

He looks her up and down.

“You’d just wind up joining them,” he says, dismissively.

Edmund verges onto the scene. Bethany kicks a cobblestone from the ground into her hand, throws it, beans him.

“Not mad scientist material?” she asks.

“The correct term is ‘innovator,’” says Tom peevishly. “Or merely ‘scientist.’ And no.”

“All right,” she says.

She stands up.

She looks down. She looks up. She takes a breath.

“You’ll have to watch me die,” she says, “then.”

“Actually,” says Tom, “I can just go home —”

“You are a complete and total jerkface,” she says.

He ponders this.

It is, as it happens, not true.

“Fine,” he says.

He tosses her his hat. She puts it on.

. . .

Posted by on Nov 26, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

Thus is she sorted to the House in red, the House of hope, which is named also the House of Saints.

– 11 –

Posted by on Dec 2, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

Lightning thrashes the grounds of the Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth. A wise child would not stay out in it, but would retreat to bed — or better, to a cave — to wait it out instead.

Bethany isn’t a wise child. Nor yet are the enemies who come.

She tosses Tom’s hat back to him. He snatches it. He retreats.

“Red,” Bethany whispers. “I must wear red.”

Lucy and Edmund circle around her. The other two have fallen a bit behind.

Bethany is distracted by a flash of lightning. In that moment, when her eyes are drinking in the nithrid’s radiance, Lucy seethes at her as an evil mist of aerated prophet. There is no time to dodge, at least not properly; nor could she dodge, not with such dazzled eyes as these.

Bethany vanishes, instead, in a swirl of red; it is like a fountain of rose petals and carmine smoke bursting upwards from the ground where she had been.

Lucy condenses; Lucy, who has wickedly counted out three counts while dissipated into prophet foam with neither visible hands nor arms to count with, throws paper.

Bethany is not there.

Bethany has gone to ninja-space, and beyond ninja-space, to Hans’ wardrobe deep under the surfaces of things.

She falls back into the mortal world clutching a hat that has no equal in all the world.

It is that hat which reminds us: if we do our best, if we are good and strong and determined, then everything will end OK. No matter what. We are enough. It’ll end OK.

It is a miracle hat. It is a hope hat.

But more importantly, it is red.

She puts it on.

“Now then,” she says.

Edmund moves at her, but she is gentle with him. She pushes him lightly to the side; he goes past her, stumbling. Lucy has stopped moving; Bethany is confusing her prophesying, and hence her very sense of reality, with careful thoughts.

She grins at them.

“I am one thing,” she says. “Now, where I was many things before. Do you really think you can kill me?”

She turns. She disdains them. She disrespects them. She walks, with her back to them, towards her dorm — only, an evil feeling strikes!

She dodges. She tries to dodge. She fails. Edmund hammers her into the ground.

“I am not,” he says, “that easy, you filthy splot.”

He’s right. He isn’t.

He was that easy, but he isn’t now.

He doesn’t let her get away just with transcending mortality. He doesn’t let that be enough. He draws full upon the strength of Fenris Wolf and he is mighty.

It surges in him.

It burns through him.

He is strong as beasts are strong and fierce as a world-devouring wolf.

In the face of her sainthood and her red, red hat, his stomach growls and he steps up his game; his pupils are devoured by an awful white.

He slams her back. She is having trouble dodging him now; there is a fatal element to his punches, each has the weight of destiny to them, she finds herself in a world where the previously vast probability that she would dodge each one dwindles directly to almost nil.

He eats the chance-lines where she escapes him.

He hammers her back, back, back, he shoves her up against the wall and his teeth are bared and he says, “Shall I free you from your chains?”

She kicks. She fails.

“You’re not going to say it, are you?” he asks. “You’re not going to tell me what Peter told me. You’re not going to tell me I’m not to eat you. Because I am, aren’t I? I can eat you, can’t I? Hahahaha, I can!”

She dissolves into flower petals and mist but he shoves his hand through her dissolving form and grasps her shoulder muscle and she hisses and screams and she falls back to flesh.

She sags.

“If you can beat me, you get to kill me,” she admits. “That’s my samurai code! But I’m not done yet.”

“Be done,” pleads Edmund. “Let me free you.”

“No way,” she says.

She knees the air in front of his groin. (His actual groin is out of reach.) If you were a man, and also made out of air, you would probably wince in sympathy. But Edmund doesn’t even move!

She isn’t actually a samurai at all.

“Let me free you,” he says. “You are trapped into a hideous existence. I will cut you loose. Then I will eat you. That will be my payment. It is a small reward. I only ask the flesh.”

She doesn’t understand for a moment what has happened.

She doesn’t understand why he won’t just get on with it, where his confidence and power went, until —

“Oh, dear,” she realizes. “The slavering wolf-boy doesn’t want to murder me.”

He pulls his hand out of her shoulder. The sound is awful. She goes absolutely white. He licks it off.

He looks away, sulkily.

“It’s important for someone to agree with your reasons for killing and eating them,” he says. “That’s democracy.

It bursts out of her as laughter: “What?”

A flash of fury from him. He rips off her hat.

It staggers her. It makes her mind all chaos and disorder because it is the nature of a Bethany to wear a hat of red.

“You’re in such an awful trap,” he says. “You see.”

She is completely distracted. “Give it back,” she says.

He squints at her.

She sinks down to the ground. She is begging. “Please. Give it to me. Give me back my hat. There is only one. That is the only one in all of unbeing beyond time and space.”

“I will trade it,” he says.

She shakes her head. A dead girl cannot wear a hat.

She reaches for it.

He holds it back.

“Don’t you want —” Her brain is in confusion. She scrubs her hands raw and red on the pebbles. She holds them over her hair. She can’t think. “You don’t want to do this. You want to give me your hat. Don’t you?”

Bloody hands are not a red hat. She tries but it’s not good enough. Maybe a little rock —

“You want to give me the hat,” she says, “because it’s right. It’s right and proper and important. Please.”

He’s turned away from her. He’s walking away. He has her hat.

He doesn’t understand. He can’t possibly understand. How can he understand what he is doing? He must just be mistaken.

“It’s the one in your hands,” she explains.

He’s gnawing on the edge of it.


Eating her hat is a bad thing to do. Probably. That is what Edmund suspects. It is probably a thing that only a bad dog would do. It is like killing people, only maybe it is better or worse. He isn’t sure. He probably should not. Didn’t she say there was only one of them?

He is so very hungry.

Maybe Sally will eat the girl, and then he can eat Sally to remind her that one should always get permission from people before killing and eating them. That would be a good and moral action. That would be the right thing to do.

“Why do you make me think about things like this?” he says, angrily.

He is staring at her.

She is staring at him. Her face has gone completely bleak and lost. He realizes after a moment that he has accidentally eaten the whole hat.

He licks a bit of felt from his lip.

“Sorry,” he mutters. He looks at her arms.

“My hat,” she says.

“Your arms,” he says. She looks at him blankly. She won’t miss an arm, will she? Hats, he thinks, are not very filling at all.

It’ll help him break Fenris’ chain.

She shouldn’t be so obstinate! It is just one arm. And maybe another arm.

She is crawling away. He should stop her. He should eat her. He shouldn’t eat her —

“God damn it, Lucy,” he says, because the evil prophet of space is about to kill and eat Bethany by murder; and he cuffs her and they fight and snarl for a bit, and then somehow they get into a rock-paper-scissors match and she creams him five times in a row even though he is head boy of the House of Hunger and she is just a space princess assassin who always throws paper, and he bites great chunks out of stone cherubim only to discover them practically indigestible and he staggers grumpily away.

He is so very hungry. He is so very bad at cannibalism. This night has gone so very wrongly.

Bethany so very badly needs a hat.

Posted by on Dec 2, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments