Category Archives: Stories

Eye of Newt

The black cauldron sat in the middle of the room and hissed menacingly as the green sludge within burbled and glurped.  The stench emanating from the vile brew was overwhelming, nauseating in its potency, but the witch standing over it seemed not to notice.

“Leg of lizard.  Tail of salamander.  African bat guano.”

The bubbling mix sizzled and sparked with every ingredient added.

“Dash of pixie dust.  Cloven goat’s hoof.  Heart of newborn lamb.”

She read from the page she had copied from the ancient tome.  The print had been terribly faded, the language archaic, but from it had come a form of magic that others would kill to acquire from her, if only they had known of it.

“Stir clockwise for three minutes, six turns per minute.”

Her arm ached by the time she was done dragging the mixing rod through the thickening glop, but past experience proved that her discomfort now would be worth it once she was done.

The final ingredient was eye of newt.  This she dutifully added, expecting that the formula would transform into its usual bright blue color, indicating that she had done everything perfectly and that the potion was ready.  Instead, it puffed a cloud of acrid smoke, causing the witch to cough and gag.

When the air finally cleared, she looked to find that her precious Vanity Potion, her secret to ultimate beauty, had turned black and smelled strongly of charcoal.  She cursed quietly and then sighed in resignation.

“Oh, well.  I guess I shall have to start again.” The witch-turned-prom-queen whirled to face the young man – her date – that she had tied to a chair behind her.  His head lolled to one side, revealing a red socket where his left eye used to be.  “I’m sorry, Newton, dear.  I confess I was careless with your gift.” She raised a short dagger and took a step toward him.  “I’m afraid that I have need of your other eye.”

Eternal Sleeper

The Lonely Moon gazes down on me,
The pale, immortal Son of Night.
It wakens the Eternal Sleeper,
Who calls to me, and I answer.

She walked, barefoot, across a carpet of moss. Her song – soft, haunting – danced on a breath of air, spun through the wood.

Only the trees observed her progress, their bony fingers scraping across her skin, clutching her hair, tugging at her thin nightgown. Dead leaves chittered nervously, a lament for other lost souls. She seemed not to notice, hypnotized by the enchantment in the air.

She sang, even as vines wrapped around her and bore her to the great old oak. She greeted it like an old friend, her hand caressing its rough surface.

“Hello, lover,” she whispered. “I have been waiting for you.”

It stood wide to receive her, molding itself to her as she was pressed into it. Washed in the moonlight her features were transformed into gnarled bark as the oak claimed her for itself. Her song ended only after the tree was whole once more.

* * *

Somewhere in the forest is an ancient oak tree with a human face. The legends all say that once upon a time, the Eternal Sleeper reached out from its slumber and called a young maiden to itself, that she went to it willingly and became one with it, a song of joy on her lips. It is also said that when the Lonely Moon shines upon the Sleeper, you can hear her singing still.

Originally posted at Clarity of Night.

Dragonfly

//BEGIN TRANSMISSION
SEARCH ‘DRAGONFLY’
AGGREGATION BEGINS IN 3… 2… 1…
ACCESSING NEWSNET
COLLATING FEEDS

NeuroSoft Corp Releases New Gaming Console
New Chicago, Robaxian (AIP) – Interplanetary neuroware giant NeuroSoft Corp announced earlier today the release of their newest gaming console, dubbed the Dragonfly Entertainment System.  The Dragonfly features state-of-the-art hardware, allowing it to achieve unprecedented graphic display and processing speeds.

“We’re very excited about Dragonfly,” stated Mark Bradley, founder and CEO of NeuroSoft, in his announcement to the Twelve Worlds earlier today.  “This console is going to revolutionize the way people play games.”

The Dragonfly is the smallest gaming console to date.  Measuring less than 1cm across and just 3mm thick, it is easily the most compact gaming entertainment system ever built.  But perhaps what makes the Dragonfly so special is its ability to plug directly into NeuroSoft’s standard neural wetware modules.  Simply slide the console into the wetware port, and a whole world of gaming opens up to the user.

Dragonfly designer and project chair Michael Pickerell tells what his favorite feature of the revolutionary gaming system is.  “Try the full-screen mode.  But make sure you’re sitting down first.  Most optical displays these days use only one corner of the visual output field, and even that has a minimum level of opacity.  Can’t have people bumping into each other or smashing their gliders just because they can’t see, right?  Well, Dragonfly was designed to provide a total immersion experience for the gamer.  You can option for the full-screen at a zero percent opacity and experience the game the way it was meant to be.  It’s just like actually being there.”

Already NeuroSoft has seen huge success in their sales…

BrainWaves Podcast
Episode 413
”…scare in the gaming world.  Today, in City Heights, Paradigm, professional gamer Darian Rice collapsed during an MLG tournament…”

UNN News Ticker
NEURAL SOFTWARE GIANT NEUROSOFT FORCED BY NMHA TO RECALL ALL DRAGONFLY GAMING CONSOLE UNITS PENDING AN INVESTIGATION

Channel 9 News
“If you play video games on the Dragonfly Entertainment System, the latest in gaming technology from NeuroSoft Corp, you just may be taking your life in your own hands.  What started as an interplanetary phenomenon has turned into an addictive and potentially lethal pastime.  Medical reports issued by the Neurological & Mental Health Agency describe frightening side effects from prolonged use of the gaming console, including serious addiction and, in many cases, death…”

TWBS Special Report
Interview with neuropsychology expert Professor Doug Addams, Ph.D.
”…what seems to be happening is that the player often experiences high levels of stress as his character takes damage.  In some cases, the player’s mind is no longer able to make a distinction between fantasy and reality.  It thinks that the player’s body is actually dead or dying and starts shutting down vital systems.  Either that or the player experiences so much anxiety that he has a heart attack…”

UNN News Ticker
NEUROSOFT EXPERIENCED FURTHER FINANCIAL HARDSHIP IN THE STOCK MARKET TODAY AS STOCK VALUES PLUMMETED FURTHER…

Live News Conference – Pandemon, Darkfall
“We’re very pleased about the merger of the two companies.  I think NeuroSoft had the right idea with Dragonfly, but unfortunately insufficient testing and court settlements were enough to bring the company to a hard place.  We’re only all too happy to step in and help out.  NeuroSoft’s mission to provide only the best neuroware to every city in the system has not died here.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  If anything, its mission has been reborn today, and we will continue to provide only the best and state-of-the-art neuro- and wetware possible.  That’s Microsoft’s pledge.”

//END TRANSMISSION

Originally posted at Flashes of Speculation.

Two Lamps

“Choose the lamp on the left, see visions of the future. Choose the one on the right, taste of true madness for a spell.” The crone’s words burned in the girl’s mind like festering sores. She held her hands over the lamps but felt no heat from them, despite the frigid temperature in the small chamber. No shadows, nothing to indicate they even sat before her, despite what her eyes told her.

What kind of choice was this? Madness versus prophecy? The choice itself was madness.

Still, she plunged her hand into the light of the left-hand lamp and felt warmth from it at last as it gripped her arm and invaded her body. But then it grew bitterly cold as it wracked her mind with visions of an impossibly horrible future. She screamed with the pain and terror of it and knew that this was far worse.

Her last thought before she succumbed to the black madness was, I should have chosen the other lamp.

* * *

Shuffling steps. A hunched figure in the shadows. The girl was half-curled in a fetal position, eyes wide and unseeing. She could have been dead, but for the tears streaming from her eyes and the trembling lower lip.

“Your problem, girl, is that you have no imagination, no ability to see the consequences of your choices. So very typical. Arrogance of youth.”

She spat and the rancid spittle slid down the girl’s cheek as the crone shuffled back into the shadows.

Originally posted at Clarity of Night.