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Flashback 1: Glory

Posted by on Jan 22, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 0.33 (Glory) | 0 comments

– 1 –

Posted by on Jan 22, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 0.33 (Glory) | 0 comments

There is a terrible flaw in the marvelous immortality elixir of Amelia Friedman. Drink of it and you can live forever — but five hundred years later, Heaven will send a terrible finger to destroy you. And even if you survive the finger, Heaven will send a wind and fire to destroy you five hundred years after that!

“That’s no good,” says Amelia Friedman.

She tosses the diagrams into the corner. She bundles the ingredients back into the secret compartment in her desk. She stares aimlessly at the publicity portrait of Drake Steverns, man of legend, that she keeps on the wall above her.

Then she straightens.

“Right, then!” she says.

She packs a bag.

She goes out to her car. She enchants it to drive on water. She leaves a note pinned to the refrigerator for her children, because she is a responsible parent. Then she tears out to sea to find a better path.

An even more marvelous alchemical elixir!

Immortality, without a flaw!

She explains this to a seal that is lolling about uselessly near a truck stop. There aren’t many truck stops out in the middle of the sea so possibly this is actually a tiny island.

“I can’t let a finger squish me,” explains Amelia Friedman. “I have children to think of!”

The seal barks at her.

She inflicts it with the curse of language. It grumbles at her. It can talk now, but it doesn’t have anything to say!

“That’s ridiculous, seal,” sighs Amelia.

She fuels up using an alchemical extraction of the nearby island. She stomps on the gas and races out over the sea. For a moment she thinks she sees cop car lights behind her but after a while realizes it’s just the distant red glow of a seal, discovering fire.

“That’s never going to cause trouble for anybody,” she explains.

In the northern wastes in her parka she revels with the polar bears. They attempt to eat her. This does not succeed!

“I’m not that easy,” she says.

She holds them off with her marvelous wrist-mounted anti-bear device.

“It’s not even my device!” she laughs. “It was made by my son Tom!”

She delves into dark and buried cities. She goes where an Amelia Friedman ought not go.

Eventually she settles in against the back of a large, tamed polar bear. She argues with it about immortality.

“I think five hundred years,” says the polar bear, “is quite enough.”

“That’s nonsense,” says Amelia.

It stretches its claws. It rakes the ice. It yawns. “If I could live for five hundred years,” says the polar bear, “I could grow large enough and strong enough to eat the continental shelf.”

“That isn’t necessary,” says Amelia.


“I too have known the dream of eating all the layers of the earth’s crust and mantle,” says Amelia, “but it turns out to be less glamorous than you would expect. The rocks are differentiated but they are not actually good at being their various flavors, and it’s all really annoyingly hard upon the teeth.”

“Oh,” says the polar bear. It glares out at the arctic. “You have shattered my dreams, Amelia.”

“That’s my bad judgment,” the alchemist agrees.

“If you’re not going to eat everything,” says the bear, “what do you plan to live for so many years for?”

“I don’t really need to,” Amelia says. She shivers. She pulls her parka in closer.

“Then —”

“I just wanted to make something perfect,” the alchemist explains.

But she doesn’t.

That’s not what happens.

Instead she goes to America. She adds reverted cinnabar and a living mandrake root to an unattended Slurpee machine. She creates a swirly Heaven-defying sludge.

“I am the Eternal Earthly Glory!” cries the sludge. “The Blue-Green Slurpee Sage! I shall topple Heaven and the legally appointed authorities of the United States of America! And all shall love me and despair!”

“Oh, dear,” says Amelia Friedman.

That isn’t perfection.

That isn’t perfection at all!

– 2 –

Posted by on Jan 22, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 0.33 (Glory) | 0 comments

Let’s go back a little further.

Jeremiah Sandiford is homesteading. It’s after the scissors-fall. He is sweeping the scissors away. He is cleaning a neighborhood in Respite, Kansas, in the hopes of legally claiming it after the scissors are gone.

He isn’t planning to become the god of a new millennium.

He isn’t planning to do anything strange.

He’s trying not to let all this shake him. He’s trying not to be afraid of the dead scissors — I mean, I guess all scissors are dead scissors, in a sense, but still — in their piles and drifts.

He’s trying not to freak out entirely, like most of humanity is trying not to freak out entirely.

He’d lived in a world of reason; calm; and of sanity, but that reason is starting to fray.

It’s not just the scissors, either. It’s not just sextillions of scissors suddenly falling from space. He cleans and he stares at them and every now and then he fills a barrel with the swept-up metal — it’ll be melted down. But it’s not just the scissors. There’s the Konami Thunder Dance, too. That’s not normal. Nor all the summoning. And there’s rumors of great snakes in the sea and of vast wolves.

It’s everything.

He feels like he’s floating. He feels like he’s drifting.

He doesn’t want this to happen.

He doesn’t think things this . . . uncleanly . . . ought to happen.

He doesn’t think that the world ought to be this way.

It’s the day Hans dies. There’s a vacancy.

And sunlight pierces through Jeremiah Sandiford like a spear.

It is shining in on him from all directions. It reflects in on him from the scissors and from the sky.

It pours in on him suddenly, all golden and all fierce.

Gold light congeals within him as a thought — not a thought of words, but a thought of intention. It wakes in him a lion of purpose, a lion of sacredness, a shining, burning magic that roars through him and is not touched anywhere by the shadow of despair.

It illuminates him.

It fills him with a thunder like the falling of a hammer; like the shattering of the gates of Hell.

He is shining, then, in that moment.

Sacredness pushes out the weakness of him. It falls from him like a shadow from his lip. Divinity tramps out the impurity of him like it is some vintner pressing grapes. He is thrilling to it, it is resounding through him, it is tuning him to its self.

He weeps whole, pure tears.

He sinks down onto his knees. He takes up a handful of broken scissors in his hands. He holds them before his heart, like they in their awfulness are sacred, and then he lifts them to his lips and he kisses them full-on, he is gentle but he is firm, and his lips are bleeding from it.

He says to them: “Bless you, who are my enemy, for you have given me my grace.”

Then he blows on them and they denature; they turn to dust; they fly away.

He is no longer Jeremiah Sandiford.

He rises, among the scattered scissors then, as Jeremiah Clean.

He rises and he stretches, he stands there like Atlas unleashed; unburdened, like a titan who has just now realized that there is no dome, there is no burden, there is only the great clean openness of the sky.

— and with that realization made it truth.

Jeremiah roars.

The world echoes with it; it shudders; everywhere there are those who hear that roar. Emily hears it. Eldri hears it. Linus Evans, a child in Sussex, hears it; he loses his innocence; he realizes in that moment that there is nothing good in all of life.

Then, like the settling hackles of a dog as it relaxes, the sacredness recedes from the cleaning man.

To be God — to make himself as God — that would be uncleanly. To make himself God, or King in America — that would in itself be a breach of reason. That would in and of itself represent a kind of scissors’ victory.

So he lives, does Jeremiah Clean, among us, as a man.

Just a man.

Just an ordinary man — save, his heart is pure.

– 3 –

Posted by on Jan 22, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 0.33 (Glory) | 0 comments

The sun sinks down to the horizon. It touches against the mountains and the sea. It would totally set them on fire and make the world into a shining bonfire of sunlight except that the world is actually extremely far away.

It’d like to set them on fire, maybe.

Not to be mean. Not because it would hurt anybody. Just because it would shine so brilliantly, burn so gloriously, you would look at that light and it would lift you, it would inspire you, it would burn through your soul and set you free.

That gleaming light — that burning in the earth, the sky, and the sea —

You’d look at it and it would make you happy, your heart would be laughing, and then it would ignite you in a firestorm, instantly flash-fry you, and leave you dead in one great charcoal pouf. You’d be like a marshmallow somebody dropped into a campfire, so smoky! and so sweet!

The sun doesn’t actually do that, though.

It’s really, really far away.

The light of that sun — a few years, and eight minutes, later — catches on the laminated badge of a janitor. He’s mopping the floors in some City Hall, in some City, somewhere in Virginia.

He’s an ordinary man, just an ordinary man, but his heart is pure.

He looks up.

He squints.

Amelia Friedman has verged suddenly onto the scene. She is rushing past him. She’s running to get a hunting license so she can legally kill a swirly, Heaven-defying sludge. She’s not paying any attention to the janitor. She doesn’t know who he is. Not until he stops her mid-step with an awful glower.

It’s like a toad’s!

She stumbles. She staggers. That glower practically knocks her over — that and running, while in heels, on a (clearly-labeled) wet floor.

She skids. She spins. She lands.

“Oh, dear,” she says.

She turns her head.

Jeremiah Clean glowers at her.

“It’s just,” Amelia explains, instantly reverting to the defeated attitude of a zero to twenty-two year old girl being glowered at by a toad — this having been her origin story — “that I wanted to make a delicious Slurpee of eternal life.”

Jeremiah Clean blinks once. His glower relaxes. He shakes his head a little, once.

“Start earlier,” he says.

“Oh,” she says. “Sorry.”

She gets to her feet. She smiles at him. “Hi.”

“It would be cleaner,” he says, “to say ‘hello.’”

“Hello,” she says. “I’m Amelia Friedman. I’m a renegade alchemist. Now I’m on the run to the law! Or at least the licensing board. To get a hunting license. To kill a swirly Heaven-defying sludge!”

Jeremiah Clean looks down at the floor. He looks up at the ceiling. Finally, he goes back to his mopping. He mops until he can stare at his own clean reflection in the floor.

“Start in the middle,” he says.

“And then,” says Amelia Friedman, roughly subdividing her life by inaccurately estimated page count, “the doctor said, ‘parasitic snake DNA,’ and . . .”

“The Slurpee,” says Jeremiah Clean.


Amelia gives him a repentant grin. “Well,” she says. “I put reverted cinnabar and a living mandrake root in an unattended Slurpee machine. I hope that’s OK.”

“Those — those are dangerous contaminants, Ms. Friedman,” says Jeremiah Clean.

“Well, there wasn’t a toad,” Amelia says. “So it’s OK. It’s OK to do things if there aren’t any toads glaring at you about them.”

“That was not good judgment.”

“That’s why I’m a renegade,” Amelia says. “My judgment’s never any good. But my genius! It defies all boundaries!”

She snaps her fingers. She points at him. “Name a boundary,” she says.

“Cleanliness,” he says. “Uncleanliness.”

“Spilled soap,” she says.

Jeremiah Clean shudders all over. He gives her a horrified look.

“See?” Amelia spins about. Then she stops because there’s just a bit too much glowering in his look. Then she continues despite deciding to stop because the floor is still quite wet. In fact she almost spins out. She recovers her balance using secrets of renegade alchemy. “Anyway,” she says. “It was quite terrifying. I did not get a delicious Slurpee of eternal life at all. I got a swirly Heaven-defying sludge. And that is everything. That is the complete story. There is no more.”

“I see.”

“I left the handle down,” Amelia confesses. He has pressed her too hard. He has broken her with his insidious interrogation! “I did not mean to. I didn’t mean not to. I had no intentions on the subject. It simply happened, like water slipping through a sieve. And down it dripped, drop by drop, bit by blue-green bit. I turned to look at it. I gaped in horror. I said, ‘No! Bad sludge!’

“But it only reared up, and took three squelchy steps, and cried, ‘I am the Eternal Earthly Glory, the Blue-Green Slurpee Sage! I shall topple Heaven and the legally appointed authorities of the United States of America! And all shall love me and despair!”

Tears trickle down Amelia’s cheeks. Jeremiah catches them with his mop before they hit the floor.

“That is an astonishing story, Ms. Friedman,” says Jeremiah Clean.

“I am astonishing,” Amelia agrees sadly. “Please stop glowering at me. You are not a toad but it brings back the most awful memories. I do intend to hunt it down and destroy it, though. Bang! Right in the . . . vitality! It may escape into the sewer the first time or two and cultivate a different color of life, but ultimately I will emerge triumphant and it shall be the Eternal Earthly Glory, the Blue-Green Slurpee Sage, that splurt down from the handle of life into the uttermost abyss of death.”

“No, Ms. Friedman,” says Jeremiah Clean. “I don’t think that will be necessary.”

“Really?” she says. She brightens.

“Your heart has led you to me,” he says.

“That,” she clarifies, “was my feet.”

“I will resolve the matter,” says Jeremiah Clean.

And so he does.

There is nothing that can stop him, not even the Eternal Earthly Glory, because his heart is pure.

Posted by on Jan 22, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 0.33 (Glory) | 0 comments