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Prophecy 1: Occasions for Some Concern

Posted by on Feb 1, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 0.66 (Occasions for Some Concern) | 0 comments

– 1 –

Posted by on Feb 1, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 0.66 (Occasions for Some Concern) | 0 comments

These are some things that will happen.

They haven’t happened yet in this story. They’ll happen before the story ends, but not quite yet.

They are written on the scroll of evil prophecy;

They are inscribed there, in letters of gold.

– 2 –

Posted by on Feb 1, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 0.66 (Occasions for Some Concern) | 0 comments

St. Bethany is out in the quad. She is watching the nithrid in the sky. She is wearing a red bonnet, because she must wear a red hat, even if it isn’t the right hat. Even if it doesn’t satisfy her at all.

Bethany is quiet. She is wrought.

She is thinking many things; and then she sees Edmund, spots him suddenly, across the quad.

His eyes are like the lightning: they are flickering with white.

She moves. She has her swords out. It is by reflex.

In the moment between the lightning and the thunder she is in front of him, she is turning, she is unfolding, she is cutting at his throat.

He blurs out of the way. He tries to blur out of the way. She catches his foot as he moves instead. She makes him stumble. He is a pale blur of motion that rockets head-first into the dirt.

She catches him. She lands on his back, guides him downwards so his skull won’t fracture. She kicks her boot off. It bounces off a tree branch into her hand. As he writhes bonelessly, turns around, and gapes his maw at her, she shoves the boot into his mouth. His teeth close futilely on boot leather. He makes an irritated sound.

“I’m such a bad saint,” she says, beating Edmund’s head into the ground. One, two —

She can’t manage even one.

All she can do is push a pressure point to try to still him, and dream that more meaningful violence would be allowed.

A stone box has fallen out of his pocket. She glides back a few steps. She picks it up. She shakes it. She listens to it.

“Heh,” she says.

Her attention is momentarily diverted by the lightning. She realizes Edmund is standing up again.

“Jesus,” she swears, condemning herself to adding a shilling to her Jesus jar later and possibly also to suffering eternal torment in the afterlife. But that’s not important right now.

Right now, Edmund’s standing up!

Edmund spits out the boot. (This is one of the weaknesses of boot-based strategies in terms of long-term subdual of Edmund or the wolf.) It lands on the ground. He says, “That wasn’t necessary.”

“Maybe not,” she says. She tosses the box into the air and pulses energy into her fist for a stone-shattering punch.

– 3 –

Posted by on Feb 1, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 0.66 (Occasions for Some Concern) | 0 comments

First there was Edmund, begging for his freedom.

Then there is Emily.

They pass in the halls. Tom sees her eyes. He shudders at what he sees in them.

“I can’t help you!” Tom snaps. He flails a hand in her direction. He dismisses her.

He is angry because he feels guilty.

He stalks away.

“All of them,” he mutters. “Everyone. Why? Why can’t people just be happy being what my hat turns them into? Why must everything be so complex?

Tom stalks into Saul.

“You!” he says.

St. Saul hangs his head.

“You want to be re-hatted,” he says, “Don’t you.”

“Um,” says Saul.

“You are not satisfied with being one thing,” says Tom. “You would rather be no things, maybe. Or 1*i things. You cannot appreciate what it is that you have.”

Cheryl stops in the halls. She looks at them.

“Stop it,” she says. “Tom, you are having a terrible idea.”

“Bah!” he says. “I can recognize my own bad ideas.”

“But you still do them —”

“I am a prisoner of my circumstances,” Tom concedes. He glares at Saul. “Am I correct? This is why you have come to me?”

“I bumped into you,” says Saul.

“I see,” says Tom. He turns away.

“But,” says Saul.

“Aha!” howls Tom. “It is everywhere! Insurgents! Traitors! Ingrates! I have given my soul for you and how do you repay me? By sacrificing your sainthood and groveling in the slime.”

“I don’t actually —” starts Saul.

“If you don’t like being a saint,” says Tom, gesturing to Saul and using his body language to drag Saul back towards his room with him, “then why were you such a person as to become a saint in the first place? Why am I surrounded by such fools? I had such hopes for you, Saul.”

“I was a druggie musician!”

“Exactly,” says Tom.

“Exactly?” says Saul.

“Ixnay on the arcasmsay,” whispers Cheryl.

“Exactly,” says Tom. “You were alive.”

“I didn’t mean to —” says Saul.

Tom has reached his room. He snaps his fingers. Thunder booms. The door creaks wide.

“What can you possibly hope to gain?” he says.

Saul hesitates.

“Your hat made me one thing, and one thing exactly,” he says.

“Yes,” Tom confirms.

“I want to become a different one thing,” proposes Saul, “exactly, with all of the advantages of sainthood, but none of its manifold flaws.”

“Hahaha!” laughs Cheryl.

Tom peers at them.

“Ixnay on the encouraging himay,” Tom says, revealing his poor grasp of the romance languages. Then he flings the door open — it’s designed so that it can be flung even when it is already open, and in fact this helps determine which version of his room one enters — and he leads them in. He gestures broadly at the giant robotic spear he is building in the back of his room.

“Behold!” he says. “The hammer of science!”

“It’s a robotic stick!” exclaims Saul, startled.

“Observe how pointless your archaic saint-hopes shall be in my glorious new age,” says Tom. “As you can see, while I have yet to construct a suitable head for it, I have already made great progress towards a hammer shaft to smash away your crazy world of saints and antichrists and beasts. I will smash this world flat, only, rounder, and make it a shining science-topia — of dreams!”

– 4 –

Posted by on Feb 1, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 0.66 (Occasions for Some Concern) | 0 comments

A different occasion.

Cheryl sets a small fleet of paper boats on the water. They float out into the ocean as the sea serpent eddies towards her.

“ ‘Too attached to it,’ ” she mutters disdainfully.

Her boats become waterlogged.

They sink.

Waterlogged, they fold themselves into mines. They land against the rocks. They belly themselves down.

The paper serpent comes closer. A basking shark thrashes its way down its throat.

“I’ll show you attachment,” Cheryl says.

Cheryl raises a hand.

She clenches her fist.

She is extremely good at origami. It is worth noting that most origami masters wouldn’t be able to make boats like these if they’d folded them for a thousand years. Oh, boats that get bogged down and become sea mines, that’s not so difficult — but the real trick is in the paper she’s made herself.

The flows of the serpent’s movements tug free tiny paper connections. This puts pressure elsewhere on the origami folds she’s made. Leaves of paper bend down; they pull on threads woven into the fabric; this loosens smaller folds in turn, down and down, fractally, microscopically, molecularly, until the delicate patterns of connections that hold the atoms of the sodden paper together rip apart.

The origami mines are nuclear. The waters off of Little Ganilly become a single searing sheet of light.

A fiery wind washes across her. It slams into her. A portable shield protects her, though her hair blows back and her eyes water and she must cast up an arm against the light.

The origami serpent, the awful Ouroboros, wound all through and around the local seas —

Its head is nothing but black wisps of paper and fire floating in the air.

She has timed it correctly. She has gotten its head and not its tail. It cannot breathe. If it cannot breathe, it cannot draw its head through its tail, its lungs through its stomach, reverse itself. If it cannot reverse itself, it cannot heal.

Only —

As she watches in horror — the paper winds and weaves around itself anyway. It is blackened, blinded, it is hollowed out, but remnants of it somehow maintain their structure as they flutter down, as the waters pour themselves thunderously back into the emptied ocean bed, as strength and folding surge back towards them from the orphaned spine of the serpent’s back.

The wind, she realizes; the wind, the currents, the flow of energy from the bombs themselves: all of it has contrived to maintain some of the pattern of the original folding. She cannot escape it: it has infiltrated her own design, and she herself —

She understands with a sickening, stomach-plummeting dizziness —

She herself has woven the snake-wroth, the folding-wroth, the original origami-wroth, into the fabric of her attack.

– 5 –

Posted by on Feb 1, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 0.66 (Occasions for Some Concern) | 0 comments

In our enemies we find our strength. We wrestle with them and so we do survive; but one day, I think, we must exhaust them. We must hit —

I guess you could call it “Peak Enemy.”

And then they will be no more.

– 6 –

Posted by on Feb 1, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 0.66 (Occasions for Some Concern) | 0 comments

Skip ahead a bit.

Edmund wakes up. Edmund yawns. Edmund stretches. Edmund wanders off to eat Sid, because he’s hungry.

The little wimp from the House of Torment, Edmund discovers, has got a gun.

It’s pretty amusing. Edmund stares at Sid’s face. He looks down at the gun’s barrel. He looks back up. He doesn’t laugh, because his heart is in a stone box in his pocket, but he can’t help giving the other boy a little smile.

He’s Edmund, of the House of Hunger. He isn’t frightened of a gun.

“It’s a death ray,” says Sid.

Edmund steps casually forward.

“Tom made it,” Sid explains.

Edmund stops. He hesitates. He squints.

“I’ve eaten death rays,” he says.

Tom made it,” Sid says again.

Edmund sighs. He leans against the doorframe of Sid’s room. He stretches up his arm. “You can’t possibly —”

He stops. He shudders all over. There is a spider crawling on his arm. Apparently it was living on the top of Sid’s doorframe. He tries not to freak out and wave his arm around. His heart is in a box of stone. He has eaten people. He is bound to a giant wolf.

Just barely, he manages not to freak.

He lowers his arm. He shakes the spider gently off onto the floor. He lifts his arm back up again, but not all the way.

“Mathilda,” says Sid sternly to the spider. He leans forward. He picks up the spider with his free hand. He shudders all over, twice. He closes his eyes. There’s a perfect moment there for Edmund to attack him, but when the moment ends, Edmund hasn’t, yet.

“I hate spiders so much,” confesses Sid.

There are little red marks all along his arm where he’s been pulling out his hairs. It’s like the spider is crawling up a stucco road.

“You can’t possibly want to stay like this,” says Edmund.

“No,” says Sid. “But I’ve got to, don’t I?”

“No,” says Edmund.

“It’s necessary that there be a sacrifice,” Sid says. “The hat said.”

“For what?”

Sid waves his gun around. “For the world.”

Edmund’s eyes narrow.

“See,” says Sid, “there’s a — there’s a weight, you know? Ever since God, or whomever, died. There’s all this chaos and strangeness pressing in on things. There’s all this madness. And if it doesn’t have a place to drain into, if it doesn’t have someone to hurt, then it pops through and breaks everything and it frees the wolf . . .”

He doesn’t make it through the last word. Right or wrong, he doesn’t make it.

That’s just the way the cookies crumble.

Edmund is moving. The death ray is firing. Edmund knocks the beam aside one-handed and he leaps on Sid.

This doesn’t actually work, by the way. This is actually called “being hit by a death ray, one-handed.”

Only: Death is small.

Death is small, and the wolf is large; and Death may not have Fenris’ Edmund Gulley.


– 7 –

Posted by on Feb 1, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 0.66 (Occasions for Some Concern) | 0 comments

Still later yet:

The scissors fall. For a second time in Earth’s history — not counting the little spurts and dribbles that had come between — scissors fall out of space.

How many?

I cannot count them all. Too many. They are endless.

Most of them were flattened under Vidar’s Boot when it came down, or have been battered away by the wave of reality-alteration that spreads from it, but uncountable scissors remain. They pour themselves down from the endless sky in a single metal sheet: indivisible, like the horn of a narwhal spiraling down, ten miles around at its narrow tip.

And there is half a wolf.

That is a terrible thing. Half a wolf, its guts spilling out behind it, but the boot has missed it. The boot has almost missed it. The boot has . . . partly missed it, as it came down from space.

It is half a wolf, and therefore it is better than none.

It is half a wolf, whining and struggling, sickening, its eyes rolling, its tongue lolling, but it is not dead; and that wolf, that particular wolf, well, if it is not dead, then it should not be possible for it to die.

And there is a snake, and oh, how ungodly is that snake. It is rising, and it is rising, and it is pierced through over and over again by the scissors but the will of Vidar’s Boot commands that it does not die.

Its teeth close on the side of the wolf. The wolf snaps at the scissors, gulps them down. And the boot is shattering, fraying, leaving only Cheryl, standing there, with the hammer of science —

I probably shouldn’t call it that.

With the hammer of deciding what shall live and what shall die held and coiling with lightning in her hand.

In this the end of days they raven, and they curl in on one another, and I think this is an egg:

A thing from which something beautiful should be born; will be born; would have been born, except —

– 8 –

Posted by on Feb 1, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 0.66 (Occasions for Some Concern) | 0 comments

This story, it turns out, isn’t about any of that.

This story is about Mr. Enemy.


– 9 –

Posted by on Feb 1, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 0.66 (Occasions for Some Concern) | 0 comments

“I’ve been a lot of things. You know?” the antichrist says to Edmund.

They were raised together: them, Jane, and Tom.

“I’ve been a lot of things, but I’m really only one thing now.”

Says the antichrist: “I’m just your friend.”


Posted by on Feb 1, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 0.66 (Occasions for Some Concern) | 0 comments