All They Wanted Was Angry Meat

1.

“What was all that fury on our sensors about?”

“A Viridian delegation from Viridian Prime unveiled at close range, sir.”

“Viridian Prime?”

“Complete with warm greetings and compliments and all that, sir.”

“I don’t get it. We weren’t scheduled to receive any visitors from Viridian Prime today, were we?”

“They’re not warbirds, sir.”

“If they don’t want to fight, why creep up on stealth?”

“Apparently they just want to talk, sir. Said if they unveiled at a distance, we might fire on them.”

“Damn straight we would have. What makes them think unveiling this close to our sensors makes them safer?”

“Maybe you’d reconsider firing at civilians at close range or something. I don’t really know, sir.”

“So what do they want from a humble border defense outpost like ours? Why not bother Tenebrus Central Command directly? Those guys do conversation better than we do.”

“Said they don’t want to talk to Central Command. They want to talk to us. Like, they want to talk to you.”

“What about?”

“Said they’d tell only if you agreed.”

“Sounds supremely suspicious, if you ask me. Is some new invasion tactic of theirs?”

“I mean, we’re loaded on weapons, sir. And they’re not warbirds, you know?”

“Yeah, that’s all nice and pretty, but we’re also farthest from any neighboring defense outpost, you know?”

“Shall I say no to them then? Or do we attack and take the crew?”

“You said they’re straight from Viridian Prime, yeah? They’ve got to be some pretty important folks.”

“My bacteria farm manager always used to say, ‘A conversation never really hurt anyone’.”

“You straight from the farm to front-line service? I didn’t know that about you.”

“Farm was destroyed by the Viridian attack, sir. Then, times of hardship brought about other talents.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Well, if they’re here to exchange words, let’s go wreak some sordid havoc with our words on them, then.”

“I didn’t know you were a closet poet, sir.”

“Times of hardship bring about other talents or something.”

2.

“I can’t believe our commander decided to agree to a ‘conversation’ on board the Viridian ship.”

“I don’t see why not. It shows we’re trustworthy and that we’re not all as paranoid as you are, Szari.”

“Masara, please, this is the technologically superior enemy we’re talking about.”

“Yeah, so? We haven’t sent him alone. And that’s why we’re all on standby for an attack.”

<Sigh> “…. you ever feel like our station commander was designed for this job? The way he stomps about you’d think he’s constantly leading us to war.”

“We’re on the border, Szari. These aren’t exactly easy times. He has valid reasons for being jumpy.”

“Or maybe conversations just really get him riled up.”

“The Viridians said they wanted to negotiate. Not your average hello-how-are-you-how-is-your-farm kind of conversation.”

“Negotiations imply that the two forces are somehow comparable in power. We’re no match for the Viridians, let’s be honest. Even if they’re not warbirds or whatever.”

“My dear optimist, it’s the Viridians who called us here to negotiate. Ergo, we have something they want.”

“Or maybe this is all a great trap and we’re going to die.”

“You always this charming, Szari?”

“Only if I can blame it on being perpetually hungry and having been raised on bacterial soup my whole life.”

“Ugh, shut up and let me watch the negotiations.”

“Councilor Baccara of Viridum Prime. Who do I have the pleasure of meeting today?”

“She’s kind of pretty, I’d say.”

“Are you just saying that because she’s naked, Szari?”

“I’m not alone in this. Watch our dear commander avert his eyes.”

“Everyone knows the Viridians are naked all the time because of their green skin, except for adolescent boys – “

“And painfully conscious Tenebrus commanders with questionable conversation skills.”

“And pessimistic Tenebrus senior staff on far-flung outposts.”

“Commander Zelony of Tenebrus.”

“Please, let us be seated. We meet in difficult times, but I hope there’ll be no need for armed guards?”

“This room is safe and my people within are disarmed, ma’am. Can’t speak for yours.”

“Come, come! Viridian hospitality allows that we receive our guests in one piece.”

“No guarantees whether they depart the same”

<Chuckle> “Who knows whether we are guests even?”

“You’re keeping up, Masara!”

“For a cynic, you’re easily surprised.”

“As you know, Zelony of Tenebrus, this meeting has been sanctioned to respond to your allegations that Viridian forces recently attacked your civilian property.”

“I did not know, ma’am. But we have lost three of our best bacterial harvesters, ma’am.”

“Deplorable!”

“Watch the faces.”

“All appropriately sad. Why, what’s wrong?”

“That’s exactly what’s wrong. Do you think they wore the same faces when they attacked?”

“Unfortunately, my dear Zelony, we are unable to offer either explanation or apology for these heinous crimes. All we have is an offer, which we hope which may be the only olive branch.”

“I’m listening.”

“In summary, we both know that Tenebrus is fighting a losing war.”

“Bad start.”

“Szari, shut up! What if she proposes a peaceful union of our people?”

“Masara, please. Don’t make me bring up my last meal.”

“With all due respect to Viridium Prime, ma’am. That remains to be seen.”

“But does it really, Commander? Look at your undernourished, hungry people. Do you expect them to fight a losing war to the end, subsisting only on bacterial soup?”

“Do not insult our armies, ma’am— “

“What if we were to offer your people free chlorophyll mutations?”

“About that last meal, Szari. Did you swallow it back like your words?”

“Your starving masses cannot support growth anymore. If anything, our records show a steady decline.”

“Fewer people hurt the environment less, ma’am.”

“Does that convince the mothers of starving, dying children? With our chlorophyll mutation, all your people will need is exposure to the sun and rechargeable crystals to fulfill their nutrient needs. Sure, your people will have green skins and some will grow film over their eyes to protect them from harsh light, but can’t you see how these superficial side-effects can negate the benefits? Does our proposal not solve your problem of perpetual hunger?”

“Is this a Viridian attempt to get us to surrender, ma’am?”

“Are you so fond of archaic eating habits that you’ll watch people die rather than adopt a miracle?”

“Starvation is hard on our forces, ma’am, but—”

“Why do you choose to battle both Viridian forces and hunger? Let us help you win one over the other!”

“We provide for ourselves the best we can, ma’am!”

“…”

 “Aren’t you grateful that awkward silence isn’t disrupted by the sound of your stomach growling?

“Do you think nudity is a problem, then? Our exposed skins absorb all available light all the time to nourish ourselves. We do not need to hide in crowded, suffocating, subterranean caverns. Can your methods offer your people such freedom?”

“Our clothing protects us— “

“Your clothing adapts, or even, confines you to your cold subterranean caverns. Our nudity is a very minor cost for the privilege of nutrition and warmth. There is dignity in the simplicity of accepting our bodies as is. Consider, the guarantee of an empty stomach at the cost of clothing.”

“We can’t force people to become part-plants, ma’am.”

“But we are offering your people a lifestyle where hunger will be the least of their concerns!”

“With all due respect, ma’am, the only thing you’ve fed us is propaganda!”

<Sigh> “Undeniably, I’m making an excellent deal.”

“She wants surrender.”

“Not a bad idea, if you look at our odds.”

“If their odds are so good, then why is she here asking instead of attacking?”

“Surely the offer isn’t free, ma’am.”

“All we ask is access to your city-gates so that our vessels can collect the unfortunate from their prison. A negligible price to ask for their survival. I’m sure their family here would agree.”

“…”

“We understand that you alone cannot make this decision. We will assemble tomorrow, so that you have time to make the right decision. Please review what we have offered, since such offers are rare in their generosity.”

“Much appreciated, ma’am.”

3.

“Well, senior staff, y’all saw and heard what happened.”

“Sir, we should accept their proposal if they have something to show for it.”

“You think they wouldn’t have come here with at least some lure of convincing us to adopt their ways?”

“We don’t know if that’s really what they came for, sir.”

“That naked councilor of theirs said that she and her team could inject enough of our crew with the chlorophyll so that we could experience that life.”

“If they were willing.”

“We have starved ourselves and our people long enough, I think. You think loyalty stops hunger? You’ve been on the bacterial farms, you’ve seen what life is like when food is so hard to get.”

“But sir— “

“But sir, what? All of the things she said today. Even if it is propaganda, doesn’t it sound so good?”

“What if Tenebrus Central Command— Would this be considered mutiny, sir? “

“Central Command be damned. Have you ever lived a life without being hungry all the time? Because that’s what they’re offering. And we have to share our space and borders with them, not with the bacterial farms back on Tenebrus.”

“Permission to speak freely, sir?”

“Yes, Szari. You’ve been quiet this whole time.”

“Masara and I conclude that the deal isn’t as rosy at it seems, sir.”

“If this has anything to do with administrative, bureaucratic or loyalist something or other— “

“The Viridian offer has a giant loop-hole, and it’s not nudity and green skin. Mutating people into photosynthesizing creatures may satisfy many of the carbohydrate requirements, but it doesn’t solve everything.”

“I don’t remember asking permission on your behalf, Masara.”

“Let her catch a breath, Szari. What’s wrong with the Viridian deal?”

“The problem is protein. Photosynthesis alone can’t complete dietary protein needs. The only plants that synthesize proteins are legumes, and even then, because they have bacterial hosts in their roots, which use atmospheric nitrogen. That’s why we harvest bacteria.”

“Okay, so?”

“Biology babble aside, the Viridians must be suffering from protein deficiencies. For their survival, they have to get their protein from somewhere.”

“This deal gives them complete access our protein farms.”

“We also know, and Szari, you’ll suffer the biology babble here, that nothing grows anymore on Viridian soil because all sunlight has been monopolized, captured and reflected. The soil has been burned but those naked mutants are fed.”

“…I’m still not seeing the light here.”

“No grass means no animals, so no animal meat. Even if they attacked our farms to steal our bacteria, they can’t grow them under their harsh lights. The only other source of protein they can readily get their hands on is…”

“Us.”

“…”

<hysterical laughter>

“…”

“Sir are you alright?”

“All of this is very tenuous sir, there’s no way we can report this to Tenebrus Central Command”

“Oh yeah? You think that Central Command doesn’t understand science?”

“Forget science, you think Tenebrus Central Command doesn’t understand a black market for all that bacterial soup that’s in our bloodstream and food?”

“Enough of this. Don’t harass the liaison.”

“I was only trying to do my job, sir…”

“As I’m sure you were. But we clearly have enough scientific grounds.”

“If he’s not convinced, I would suggest being locked up alone with Masara until he can convince himself. Not that this is a punishment I would recommend. Given that I endured it myself.”

“You think you’re rare, Szari, wait till you’re medium rare.”

 “Stop it! Are y’all senior staff or children?”

“…”

“<Sigh> …I don’t know if we’re defending Tenebrus from securing their right to eat or from being eaten…”

“Sir, with all due respect and apologies and all that, Tenebrus Central Command requests urgently an update and briefing of what happened.”

“All hail to Central Command and their great sense of timing.”

“But sir, what about what Szari and I uncovered?”

“Two things, that’s what. Tell Central Command we intercepted a Viridian intruder. Refill our armory.”

“Sir, what are we doing?”

“Attacking a bunch of Viridian civilians, that’s what. They came here for meat. But they’ve forgotten from years of non-eating that it’s easier to skin unclothed meat.”

“Sir, have you ever sampled meat?”

“A long while ago, when we weren’t forced to be hungry all the time.”

“Sir, am I permitted to disclose what happened on the Central Command report?”

“Yes, go ahead. And with that poetic flair of yours, tell them we avenge your former peers at 0400 tomorrow. Meeting dispersed.”

“Do you think that’s what the Viridians wanted?”

“Whatever happens is definitely what they get.”

 

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How I’ve changed as a writer and honestly, it’s probably for the best?

Blogworld,

Recently my writing efforts were lauded by the super supportive community of writers and readers here. They published my story “They Who Were Wordless” and it was received with many present comments.

The story is quite verbose and long, partly because I fell victim to a common ploy of most sci-fi amateurs: over-explaining things.

I wasn’t sure how to convey enough context while still retaining elements that would make the story readable (a protagonist overcomes a struggle to achieve a goal, etc.) Perhaps this over-explaining helped to carry the heavy context of the story, but in some way I felt I had short-changed myself and my readers in deriving from context.

But more importantly, the version I submitted and the one on my blog is the sixth version. That’s the weird part. Earlier, I was used to sitting down in one session and rushing forth till the story didn’t end. This time, I scratched out so many sketches and versions that I nearly gave up on the story mid-way.

Maybe that’s a good thing? I’ve learned to edit and be more careful with my work and probably set reasonable deadlines (like a story every week or two weeks). Or maybe the earlier creative tornado of thought was a better style? I’m not really sure how to navigate creativity.

They Who Were Wordless

Ku was named with a rare consonant and the last vowel her wordless family had to spare and she had fallen on desperate times indeed. The Qxlb recruited Ku when they discovered that she sold slang on the black-market, desperately moving from alphabet to alphabet to feed herself. Ku had always considered them her last resort, and now that she had succumbed to it, she felt her end very near. The Qxlb chose their unpronounceable names from scraping the remnants of burned lexicons on the streets, an act which endeared them to the wordless majority. They made bold claims to restore the depleting vocabulary and often acted on them, using methods that Ku could neither accept because of their extremity nor reject because of their results. The government could not capture or describe that which they could not name, which served the Qxlb’s purposes quite well.

Ku had come to realize that her introversion had moved from a choice to a survival trait. It was not only the quiet introspective silence that she had habituated to, but an impressive taciturn armor from which words had to literally be wrestled out. Ku had grown up around the increasingly thinning rationed dictionaries, watching friends and families unspeak themselves around her, whispering the last of their letters from their hoarse mouths and falling to a vocabulary of grunts which could at best communicate anguish. There were literally no words to convey what she had seen or felt so she denied herself the experience of it. If she couldn’t describe it, even to herself, what could it be? The frustration of the sudden limits on their expressive abilities often drove the wordless to death, that Eternal Silence. The sad silences, the awkward silences, the pregnant silences were not for Ku. She clung to her armor terrified, willing to risk losing her voice entirely than to risk losing the few words she had. Sometimes these words would jump to her mouth, but remain unexpressed.

The Qxlb researchers as well as the government had tried to come up with alternative languages. Could they teach an entire population of adults to sign before their language died? Could they come up with any language at all that would not suffer the same fate from their using, abusing mouths? The more outspoken members of Ku’s generation still believed they could Do Something about this situation. They directed scattered efforts to word-preservation methods or new ways to communicate without losing the expressive power they had formerly retained. The problem had to be discussed, the solutions had to be expressed. Ku guessed that they were in denial of an entire generation had been rendered disabled by the very language they spoke. Still she couldn’t blame them for trying.

Ku’s illegal transactions were conducted behind a governmental shelter that taught speakers to sign. She made words that could be used for one conversation and then died out. This made what people spoke impossible to remember (since they weren’t real words), but they gave people the illusion that they had more words to spare. They had signed till they had calluses on their hands and yet they became increasingly incoherent. It was a failing venture by a desperate government, foiled at will by the Qxlb who refused to surrender to these indignities. Large populations of adult speakers could not be converted to signers in a timespan that could retain their language. The silent inexpressible frustration that the signers now held in their hands brought literal chokeholds, broken fingers and hands. Signs failed to be accepted as the new norm, and people soon thought their hands could be better used to squeeze the remaining letters from the living and the speaking yet. The demented signers now roamed the streets muttering, “_Ny l_tt_rz pl_z h_lp-“, begging any possible letters they could from those who walked alone in the dark. Ku clutched her few vowels close to her heart, when she braved those nights.

The Qxlb had assumed that by killing the verbose, the archaic, the voluble and the redundant, they could recover yet the words and letters unspoken. Like spilled blood, the letters disappeared shortly after their death though scavengers actively hunted for short easy vowels or the occasional soft consonant. By the Qxlb’s “munificence”, they could collect as much as they could commit to their memory. The scavengers knew they were now impure with the letters of another, but at least they could lend comprehension to their speech, a voice to their demands. They comprised of the Qxlb in large numbers. They disgusted Ku, but she could never name the feeling without losing words, so she accepted their recruitment as some form of final punishment. She was one of the most passive and withdrawn recruits yet for she had no words to bandy, not even for small talk.

The raid on the old libraries tonight would be in vain, Ku thought. The Qxlb were under the impression that freeing words from the archaic manuscripts and texts would enable people to use them. Blood-curdling scavengers had been recruited for this noble task because they could memorize the letters of others so rapidly. The Qxlb also deemed it necessary to find new letters to identify themselves with. Notoriety had cut into the exclusive usage of ‘Q’s, ‘X’s, ‘L’s and ‘B’s, which would soon become rare due to overuse. The Qxlb could not afford anonymity to the extent that even their own members were unable to identify themselves. Ku herself had grown accustomed to living in the perpetual fear of unspeaking her own name. She let others assign aliases to her and did not care to repeat to herself what they were, since she didn’t want to be remembered by them. Ku knew they envied her silence. She must be holding on to a lot of words, they must have rumored, let her open her mouth and speak for a change.

Despite all of the projected bravado that the Qxlb members shared between themselves, Ku could not shake the feeling that the Qxlb had run out of alternatives. Ku watched the more aggressive members hold Silencers to the mouths of government officials, vicariously living through the memories of squeezing every last word that casually rolled from their fat mouths, spilling between the flecks of their saliva while they laughed or chortled. Did they deserve justice? Did they deserve to have their voices heard just because they could afford the waste? Ku crept into the raided library herself, assigned to secondary shifts, reading aloud from the echoes of words left behind by her shift-members. Her painfully hoarse, fragile voice carried the combined weight of disuse as well as the magnitude of “new” words. Scavengers stared at her lips hungrily, memorizing their moves, driving their own depraved growls to the sound of possible prestige and power and expression. Ku did not doubt that they had contemplated scooping the last of the words from her should they spot her alone in some dark corridor.

When the long night ended, the Qxlb poured into the streets, fresh with new words of joy and celebration. Even the wordless who could still speak joined in the revelry, since victory did not need words to be expressed. The Qxlb could shout themselves hoarse into the horizons with a “victory” that they hadn’t “earned”.  Ku did not care for the Qxlb’s losses and she certainly could not care for their successes.

“What is the point of fighting over the few letters we have among ourselves if we cannot save the history of a people?” she asked herself aloud, nearly surprising herself with the sound of her own daring. By speaking aloud to herself, Ku had unlocked the dam that had kept her words and feelings and ideas in. Now that her voice had been reluctantly put through the motions of speaking, Ku knew it was time for her wordless suicide to begin. She stalked back into the library for government bodies that still bled. She pushed past the scavengers who were ready to press words even from the ghosts of these people as spoken life left them. She dipped a sharp tip of wood in the slow-pooling blood and began to scratch words onto the recently emptied pages that had been read from.

“We are the Atlassian people. We speak a language that has abused us. Very soon, we will be silenced forever. There will be nothing left in our language. Without words to use, we will be thoughtless and nameless. Do not forget us…”

 

 

Philosophical Musings While Popping Pimples As An Adult

You know how you brush your hand across your face and feel a slight bump where there wasn’t one before? The bump beckons you to the mirror. After a few increasingly frustrating cursory scratches, you discover it’s a pimple. And if you’re like me, you have little to self-control and patience. The infidel pimple must be uprooted from your skin by the militant aggression of your own fingers. These migrants of rebellion, dirt and pus cannot settle in the otherwise smooth flatland of your face. I know I’m advocating for a course of action that every dermatologist and every Person With Amazingly Clear, Flawless Skin will frown at, scoff, abhor. Don’t touch your pimples. Leave them alone. Like the rebel forces of the state, if you don’t pay attention to them, their campaigns weaken and they they must leave, ousted by the lack of support.

I’ve never had breakouts as frequent as these when I was a teenager, which is when these outbursts are expected. Hence as a 22-year old, I shake my head at the absent-minded bothering of the pimple by my fingers. Are pimples a rite of passage? is this like learning to drive to learning to hold your drink? Having pimples is sort of like wearing the publicly-visible “new-to-this-adulthood-thing” sticker. It makes the bearer self-conscious. It makes me want to look more closely at myself.

Am I still a teenager under all of this? Am I so eager to pop the pimple because I want to oust all evidence of my awkward teen years from my life? Am I unable to resist bothering the bump, no matter how small or how large, because I am hell-bent on “cleansing” whatever perceived negativity high school or being an awkward teenager might have left behind?

It’s odd for pimples to be popping when I’m beyond the normal age range for them, I think. Are they indicators of other health issues that I’m having but denying? I push the pimple for answers and revel a little in mopping up the response with a clean tissue paper. This cleansing is undeniably satisfying. If anything, I would like to weed out all of the problems in my life the way I pop the pimple. Effective, persistent and satisfying results.

Though it doesn’t appear to be so, every mismanagement of the pimple results in disrupting the surface of my skin. It’s not easy to discard toxins from your skin or from your life and perhaps you bear marks of the aftermath for a while to come. After a while, it has been done. The skin hurts, the face hurts, the pimple has given up and you’ve gone so far as to hurt the skin which hosted the pimple. Now the lesson remains, a maturation if you will. You could have been the bigger person and left the pimple alone. All it wanted was some attention and a space to call its own.

Or you couldn’t resist. You’re an adult; you can do what you want.

 

The Revenant That Did Not Confront a Bear

Dear Blogworld,

It has come to my alarming notice that the following things have happened (in order)

  1. I’ve graduated from college! (More posts on the musings of real life are definitely coming)
  2. I have time on my hands to write about all the things I wanted to! (Expect more of my attempted science fiction stories)
  3. I’ve been notified that it’s been exactly one year since my last post on this blog. (Hence the title, since I’m literally back to this blog after some sort of death)
  4. My writing skills are borderline dysfunctional. (Isn’t this parenthetical style annoying?)
  5. I have 80 days before Real Life begins.

With this terrible excuse of an apology, let me not waste your time any longer and begin by *slowly* resuscitating this blog back.

Cheers and best, etc.