By Mary Oliver. Via Suspended Coffees.
More silly fantasy character studies from my work; they are definitely taking liberties with the people, and most definitely not intended to be a comment on anyone’s character!
(The first one may be the exception… totally not looking at you, Remy.)
She was so sweet, so helpful and so friendly that it was clear she had to be thoroughly evil; everyone knew that she had plans for world domination, but no one could quite determine how exactly she was going to achieve it.
Everyone ensured that her every whim was obeyed anyway, just in case.
The thing about zombies is that they’re only brainless and shambling if the spell goes wrong.
He was so useful that his employers had not even let death stop his work. The spell was expensive – indeed, he was still paying off his debt for the reanimation – but he did not need to eat, or sleep, or stop. The occasional shamble did not prevent his friendly face being one frequently seen around the office, and the knowledge in his brain was not hindered by his lack of pulse.
It was rumoured that one of the company projects was earmarked for reanimating key members of staff if they happened to pass away inconveniently; but after a slight misunderstanding with a betting pool, the rumour was officially denied, and the project name put down to simple coincidence.
A man thrown out of time, irritated and frustrated with our world – longing for a time of direct politics and simpler morals, where words were not picked apart in endless streams and courage was easier to grasp. And yet he had found his faith and his love in this time, and fought for them every day; argued with those who would drag his soul down, defended his love to every comer, and came back every dawn with a stout heart and explosive temper to wage war against his fellow believers.
No one could exactly put their finger on when the potions machine had become sentient, but it was universally agreed by all the staff that the device had a personality of its own. Stubborn, wilful and devious, it seemed to take perverse pleasure in denying the vital fluid to those most in need, and deliberately thwarted every attempt to fix any problem. Even threats of violence rarely placated it long enough to get more than a dribble of liquid.
For those few in the company that could order its replacement, however, it worked perfectly.
He has not been hired as a spell-smith; merely an administrator, he says when asked. He has always refused to discuss his provenance, age, or any other such mundane matters; his conversation centres around his employment and the wonders of modern cinema. However, hints such as 636 BC being “a little while ago” and a brief reference to having known several famous historical figures personally suggests age; the accidental wreaths of blue smoke and angry mutterings of dead languages when something goes wrong do little to dispel the impression of some deep, arcane skill.
The occasional mumbling of “when in doubt, use demons,” also do little to counter this impression.
She looks up as you approach, tinted goggles across her eyes and delicate gloves sheathing her skin. A parchment lies in front of her, the words twisting in your vision as you catch a glimpse of it and your mind filling with a dragon, raining fire and vengeance down upon a walled city.
You ask for a recommendation; a gentle story, one to ease your mind into sleep and your body into welcome rest. She nods, lays a glove-covered hand on the scroll in front of her to obscure the writhing text and then leans back to pick out one of the copied scrolls from the shelves behind her.
“What would happen if you gave me the original?” you ask curiously as you take the story.
The book witch pushes the goggles up onto her hair and gives you the faintest of smiles. “You’d sleep easily, but you’d likely not wake up again.”
[This may be ending up as a story…sort of plotting odd bits off and on!]
Otter hadn’t read Soul Music, likes other Pratchett books, and is into music enough that I reckoned they’d get most of the jokes. I wanted to practise reading out loud; I occasionally get asked to do it as an author, and frankly it’s something I do need to spend more time doing. Otter agreed on their part, too, and therefore, a plan was born: we were going to read Soul Music out loud.
(As an aside: one of the reasons I adore Soul Music (and Pratchett generally) is all those little in-jokes; you read a scene or a line and it’s pretty funny, but then you see something classic or read something and suddenly OH WOW THAT’S WHAT HE’S RIFFING OFF! Which I love. However, it doesn’t necessarily help with not getting the giggles when reading.
Death doesn’t help that either, or the Death of Rats.
Anyhow! It was something in the nature of an experiment, as I hated being read to as a child (being able to see the page when you’re a fast reader is a recipe for frustration) and don’t really get on with audiobooks. Otter felt they were thoroughly out of practice reading as well… but we gave it a go.
Conclusion: we’re ok at Welsh, and sort-of-Jamaican (which is what we settled on for Lias) but couldn’t work out a voice for Glod. Otter does a mean Death – definitely better than me – but I do a better Susan. And we both had to keep stopping to giggle at the jokes.
Secondary conclusion: “How the fuck can you remember lines of the book?!” (An odd Kate skill: I memorise a lot of them as I read, and it’s partly why I get faster when I’ve read a book more than twice – I’m not even really reading, just skimming something I already know. Otter gave me a side-eye for that.)
Overall – a lot of fun! We’re going to keep going, I think – if nothing else it definitely is giving me practise in reading out loud, even if I do get the giggles more often than I want… (how do audiobook narrators not laugh at the funny bits?!)
So I was having fun using my workplace as character inspiration – and I did some more silly character studies! These are definitely not intended to be any comment on the character of the original person, even if you do recognise someone as the inspiration – I have absolutely taken liberties 😀
The first thing visitors saw on entering the building were the corpses; gigantic monuments frozen into stillness in their last battle, a testament to the ferocity and conquest that we built our history on.
The second thing was the sign, pockmarked with shrapnel and battered by the elements, left rusting and tattered as it announced the company name.
The third thing was the smiling face of the organiser as she prepared to assist, direct or otherwise help the unwary guest.
The entrance would likely be far quieter if more visitors took it upon themselves to wonder what role that smiling face had in the history of the other two items.
He was a mischievous sprite, sold into indenture by a previous master and given no way to buy out his contract – but the work suited him, and so he contented himself with tiny pranks on those around. A spell pinned to the back of a cloak that would make the wearer say what they truly thought for the day; a team of imps that rearranged the papers out of order every time they were shuffled; a wandering spell on items to make them amble and hide when least expected. And then, when the prank was discovered, his tiny giggle would ring out, brightening the office for that brief moment of joy.
Ze did not like direct sunlight, but that was not particularly unusual for a place that attracted many of the shadow folk; no one had dared ask zir opinions on garlic, and it would have been rude to comment on zir preference for working through the hours of darkness over the day. Ze occasionally spoke of zir homeland, or zir other name, or zir mother tongue: occasionally wistfully referred to somewhere ze had left behind. We never found out why ze had left, or what event had made zir come to us; but ze was a knowledgeable and esteemed worker, and if zir smile occasionally appeared a little too pointy, well – it would have been impolite to mention.
He had been granted two wishes; immortality, and speed. Immortality was plain, for he did not age in those long years that he worked within the building – but the speed, that had its price. He was often to be seen zipping around the office, a cheery smile and a welter of chatter heralding his unexpected appearance; but then he would retreat to his cave, and we would find him curled amid the wrappers and packets of his fuel, slumbering until his next mad dash.
It was rumoured that he was a shapeshifter; and that he’d accidentally shifted to a human and now couldn’t move back: or that he had somehow split himself in two, sundering his soul into two vessels that he was now searching for ways to combine. Certainly he was frequently in the company of another shifter, an imperious cat, and certainly he disdained humanity – any conversation was brief and annoyed, and he spent most of his days buried in intricate spellwork. But I found that he would answer any direct question, although whether that was spell-driven or not I was never sure; and he did so with something of a smile, as if grateful that someone had discovered the trick.
The gentleman was effortlessly polite and charming; always with a bow, a smile or a compliment. His bushy hair was kept trimmed, his dress was always immaculate, and his manner light-hearted; he was often serious, but never dwelled on weighty subjects long enough for that to be noticed.
It was not until I chanced across him one day, crouched in the darkest forests far from the beaten path, that I understood what he kept at bay with his careful walls: the visage of the bear snarled at my hasty retreat, even as the human in his eyes begged for forgiveness.
A very late post today (I blame work and my lingering cough!) but Sammy and I did an interview with the amazing Damien Seaman. There’s advice for wanting to work at or with a small press, what gives us the edge over the Big 5, how Sammy is secretly a superwoman, what makes a good book cover and what authors we’d recommend…