Posts Tagged ‘Story’

Shield of the Ishim 6

March 5, 2016

Ishim Shield

The ticket was absolutely and totally gone. Maya looked wildly, desperately at the sisters with big frightened eyes. Any second she could be hurtling into train tracks, an embankment or whatever when she missed the changeover. Why had they not warned her before they got on the train? Now she was doomed and there was not a single thing she could do about it. She felt like falling to her knees and just giving up.

“Relax, Maya. China was just messing with you. The tickets disappear after they’re activated.” Ivy said, showing her empty hands. “We’re perfectly safe.”

Maya took a deep breath and then scowled at China. “You’re a real piece of crap, China.” Maya said but she only mostly meant it. She kept scowling at China until China shifted uncomfortably. It almost felt like a victory so she found herself smiling just a little.

“Sorry. That was the last one. I promise.” China said. She was telling the truth or at least she thought she was. Maya softened her expression a little more.

“Don’t you believe it,” Ivy said. “She’ll do it again. But we’re all friends, right? Partners?”

“Yeah. Partners.” China said.

“Partners,” Maya said. “Should we sit down?”

“Gross! It looked like a full train. Wouldn’t it be like sitting in someone’s lap?” China asked.

“More like sitting through somebody’s lap,” Maya said with a smile.

“Exactly. Just like the ticket taker. I know it’s weird but we might as well get comfortable. Besides, you’re both still injured.” Ivy said. China had been it so well but she had to have also been injured in the fall.

“I’m fine,” China said flatly.

“I’m also feeling a lot better. Maya said. She focused on her crutches and watched them collapse slowly. In a second the crutches had collapsed to six-inch wooden rods. She slipped those into her messenger bag. She smiled at Ivy and she was sure she caught a look of approval from China out of the corner of her eye. She fought off a blush.

“Very impressive, tough girls. Why don’t we sit down anyway?” Ivy asked and sat down right in the middle of a frumpy old lady. Thankfully, as she did, the lady faded to transparency so she could still be seen.

“Whoa!” China cried out.

“And that doesn’t hurt them? They went all clear.” Maya asked.

“It’s complicated magic but they should be fine,” Ivy said.

“Should be fine?” Maya asked.

“Nothing is a hundred percent in life, kiddo. Not even magic.” Ivy said with a wise-looking smile.

Maya and China each sat next to each other and everybody relaxed. Maya tried to process what had happened so far. It was a lot to take in. Threats, monsters, injury, the council and now the Spirit Train. Ivy seemed to be taking it all in stride but she was older and more experienced. Of course, she could be covering and putting on a front like China. China put on a tough face but Maya was beginning to realize she was not any better off than Maya.

Maya had received her training out in the county. Her training had been informal and more touchy feely. It was more campfires and feeling things out and becoming one with the universe. It looked like the sisters had received a stricter and more formal education in the city. Maya had only worked with Coyote and eventually their relationship had become more democratic. She wasn’t used to being the good soldier even if she had no objections to being one. The Ishim obviously had a chain of command but it was rarely enforced other than handing out assignments. That was usually very brief communication too.

As she thought about all this, the scenery passed by the train window. Phantom people walked up and down the aisles, stood up and sat in seats. Eventually, it became easier to ignore the people. Just when Maya had gotten used to things, they changed again. The world swirled around her and she felt weightless. She briefly flashed back to the fight in the basement. Everything went gray and then black and then the three of them were suddenly sitting in a bus.

“Wow. Kind of fun, huh?” Ivy asked.

“It’s pretty crazy but I guess it’s really useful magic,” Maya said. She slowly checked to make sure everything was still attached to her. She tried not to make a show of it since she was still sitting next to China. Though it looked like China was doing the same. That was comforting.

“Which way do you think we’re headed now?” China asked.

“No idea,” Maya said, looking out the window. “There are spells to find that out.”

“Not a good idea,” Ivy said. “They want us to not know. Besides, there are probably protections in place against compass or locator spells.”

“Then what are we supposed to do?” China asked.

“Not much to do. I’ll tell you that I’m taking a nap.” Ivy said.

“Me too,” Maya said, curling up against the window.

“Ok. Sleep tight I guess.” China said with a grumble just before Maya fell asleep.

Video Games

July 15, 2015

Like a lot of people, I was recently shocked by the death of Satoru Iwata. He was the president and CEO of Nintendo and an Executive Producer on a lot of games. I think I’ve mentioned it here before but my first experience with video games was watching somebody play the Atari. However, the first system I played was the Nintendo Entertainment System. The original dull gray box with rectangle controllers. I was a console gamer from that point forward mostly because I never had a high performance computer to play to many things on PC.

I’ve been thinking about gaming and gaming culture for a while now. Video games seem very different from when I was just starting out but also the same. Massive improvements in technology have created a diversity in games that was unthinkable years ago. I think it has led a lot of people to play games that never would have before and I think that’s awesome.

When I played Nintendo games way back in the day they were so hard. The graphics were simple so back then it was pure gameplay. There are a lot of people that cling to that version of gaming. They don’t care about the story, they don’t want cutscenes or text. I don’t really look back on this period of gaming with great fondness. At the time I played these games relentlessly but I think I can count on one hand the games that I finished. I played the hell out of games like Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Brothers, and Bubble Bobble. However games like Contra and Bart Vs. The Space Mutants made me want to throw the controller through the screen.

Eventually, video games with more complicated stories showed up. Up until that point, all of a game’s story was in the manual or on television or in a movie. The first game I remember playing that had real story to it was Pokemon Red but it still wasn’t much. Then I played Final Fantasy VII which was my first game with a real story in the game. It was also my first game with real cutscenes and dialogue and more rounded characters. It was also the first game I played where you could make choices that mattered and a whole world to explore.

My eyes were really opened up to what games could be. It wasn’t just the advances in graphics and sound but there was more writing and character development involved. Now when my character died, I was more angry at the enemies than I was at the game. So far games had only evoked anger and joy but with this new wave of games came all sorts of emotions. When I reached that final boss and gave him everything I had, I felt a much bigger emotional release when I landed that final blow. When one of my companions died I felt bad and outraged at the enemy for doing such evil things.

Now I know some people don’t care about all of that. It all comes down to gameplay vs. story and the argument can be made for either or both. I happen to love a game with excellent gameplay but I often need a story too as motivation to play. I know there are people who are unwilling or unable to identify with their avatar in the game and are just in it for the challenge of the game. I can respect that but I’ve always needed some sort of narrative even if I have to make it up myself. This makes games with RPG elements in them among my favorite games and also any game with a strong story.

Please look foward to a follow up to this when I do a Top 11 Favorite Video Games where I’ll be able to give further examples.

The Key – Episode 5

January 9, 2015

(You can find earlier episodes of The Key in the Archives to the right)

The drive to Carly’s apartment was done with unsteady hands and frayed nerves and Robin definitely caught herself making little distraught sounds now and then.  The Doll Girl had been almost as frightening as the Beetle Man.  Of course, the Beetle Man had changed into a mysterious and attractive young man but there was no guarantee it would happen again. The Doll Girl could have just as easily tried to skin Robin alive and nobody would find out for a long time.  All of this was too much and she could no longer be sure of her decisions or her own senses.  It reminded her of that one party where she had taken a hit of acid, a memory she had mostly repressed.

She pulled along the curb in front of Carly’s place and wondered for a moment why it was so empty on the streets.  Then she remembered that Carly’s side of the street had to be clear for the street-sweeper in the morning which was mere hours away.  She almost decided to take her chances before she spotted a space on the other side of the street.  She pulled into the spot after only a couple tries.  As she reached for the handle to exit, she was gripped violently by overwhelming terror.  She shook her head violently.  Robin could almost swear that something huge was moving out there in the darkness just out of range of the streetlights.  Actually, the streetlights seemed a lot dimmer.

Robin hit the door lock button even though the doors were already locked as lamp after lamp seemed to flicker and then go out.  She shut her eyes tight in the darkness and could have sworn the car moved a bit as if something had brushed up against it.  Maybe the car was the safest place to spend the rest of the night after all.  Besides, Carly would not appreciate being woken up in the middle of the night.  Especially not by a half-crazed friend being pursued by demons or ghosts or something.  In the morning she would go get breakfast for her and Carly and surprise her then.  Then she would discover that the whole night had been a bad dream or her drink had been spiked or she had a parasite.  A few minutes more of such comforting thoughts and she lost consciousness.

When she woke up hours later the sun streaked through the windshield into her bleary eyes as if the shadows had never existed.  She wondered for a few moments if Other Robin had taken over during the night.  She should have taken precautions against this ages ago but had no idea what those precautions might be.  She wished for all of those years back when she had been mostly ignorant about Other Robin and wished she had chained herself down or locked herself in.  She wished she had done anything to prevent all of this from happening because, as much as she wanted to, she knew that none of it had been a dream.  As strange as it had all been, it also felt very real.  Too real.

There was suddenly a knocking on the passenger side window but it sounded like fireworks going off and she had seven consecutive heart attacks.  This is the moment when Robin discovered her brand new hangover.  Funny, she hadn’t felt too bad a moment ago.  She turned her head and realized that it was Kim, knocking on the window with a perfectly manicured hand. Kim was a friend of Carly’s but Robin had only talked to her once or twice before.  She looked around and then rolled down the window slowly.  It was probably safe now that the darkness was gone and even if it wasn’t Robin couldn’t have anybody thinking she was crazy.

“You’re Robin, right?  Hi!  What are you doing out here?” Kim said with too much perkiness and that barely concealed pity and worry of a mother.  Was Kim a mother?  If she was, did that make Robin psychic now? It was at this point that Robin realized it was her turn to speak.

“Um, visiting. Carly.” Robin mumbled as if the two words were separate thoughts that she had decided to connect at the last minute.  She felt a little embarrassed and found it hard to make eye contact.

“Oh!  Yeah, she must have forgotten to tell you about going on vacation.”  Kim said.  She had either decided to swallow the worry or she was acting willfully ignorant of Robin’s sad state.  It was crazy how quickly her smile took over her face and radiated out like a second sun.  The real world was just as weird as the shadows sometimes.

“Oh.  Yeah.  I guess so.” Robin replied half-heartedly as if this was normal and would be a funny story later.  She wanted to crawl into a deep, dark hole and fall back asleep.  She needed hours more of sweet, precious sleep.

“Would you like to go get some breakfast?”  Kim tilted her head to the side and for a moment Robin superimposed Kim with a little corgi dog.  She did not want to go to breakfast with this girl who she barely knew.  She wanted to go home but she really didn’t want to go home.  The Doll Girl was still there.  Then her stomach growled which pretty much sealed the deal.

“Sure. Let’s go to breakfast.” She heard herself say.  It wasn’t Other Robin speaking but it may as well have been.  She stepped rolled up the window and stepped from the car and into the sunlight which seemed way too yellow.

Kim was wearing pink and yellow while Robin was wearing all black.  Kim had a healthy tan while Robin was almost as pale as chalk which made her tattoos stand out even more.  A picture is worth a thousand words.

Robin tried to stay steady as she blinked in the harsh sunlight.  Everything under the sun looked like it belonged to some alien world.  She was never up this early and it almost felt stranger than the strange new world she had discovered in the shadows.  As soon as this was over with, she was crawling into her backseat and going back to sleep.  Ther was nothing she could get done until she rested again.

“What are you thinking about?”  Kim asked, choosing an outside table at a cafe before Robin could object.  She decided to let it go even though she could almost still see her getaway car from her seat.  At least there was an umbrella.  She dragged her gaze back toward Kim and smiled.  It wasn’t Kim’s fault that this was so awkward.  It was time to fake being normal, at least for a little time.

“Just a little stressed lately.  I’m trying to figure things out.” Robin responded with what felt like the fakest smile she had ever used.  “You know how it is, trying to plan the rest of your day. Right?”

“Oh yeah.  Carly told me about your blackouts.  That must make things tough.”  Kim said casually as if those sentences were somehow allowed and meant nothing.  As if that wasn’t deeply personal.  Robin fought hard not to wince when the words came and she thought she was mostly successful.  She was self-conscious enough about them without a conversation about her medical (or magical?) state.

“Yeah, they’re not fun.  I think I’m starting to understand them a little more now.”  She replied, trying to be as vague as possible.

“Are you going to Carly’s bachelorette party?” Kim asked in an obvious bid to change the subject to save everybody from a conversational sinkhole.  Robin had to fight not to sigh with relief.

“Not at first.” Robin responded.  “But the second stop is the bar I work at so I can join you all for the fun after that.”

“Oh good!  I’ll bring your goodie bag along with us then.”

“Thank you.  That’s really nice.” Robin felt kind of bad for judging Kim earlier but chalked it up to nerves and exhaustion and quickly let herself off the hook.

“Anything for one of Carly’s friends.  I want everyone to have a good time.”

Robin felt that maybe Kim wasn’t so bad after all.  She was just way sunnier than Robin could ever hope to be even if she wanted that kind of life.  That did not make Kim the devil anymore than it made Robin the devil.

The two of them kept talking with Kim doing most of the talking between dainty bites of breakfast.  As much as she craved it, Robin abstained from coffee with the intention of going back to sleep.  Successful conversation topics were few and far between as the two of them had very little in common.  Still, things were civil and Robin felt she could stand the energetic woman at least in small doses.

Of course, that was was when another blackout happened.

The Key Pt. 1

July 4, 2014

The tattoo had always been there behind Robin’s ear, ever since she could remember.  Apparently, it had been put there by her parents whom Robin had never met.  She supposed that society tends to revoke parental rights from people who tattoo their infant daughter.  Nobody had ever told her differently so she tended to paint her birth parents as the villains and moved on with her life.

The tattoo was of a key and a crudely drawn key and she covered it up as best she could out of embarassment.  Therefore she had always grown her hair out long and she had always worn it down.  She ignored it and forgot about it and locked it away in the same mental vault that she had shoved her birth parents.

Her adopted parents were caring and understanding and she got along with them fine.  This continued even through her teenage years when she had added a single purple streak to her dark brown hair while she devolved into an angsty mess.  During those years she had also been forced to wear glasses but now she couldn’t imagine her face without them now.  Eventually she traded her normal glasses for ones that had a slight purple tint which soon became her trademark.  She slowly grew up and formed into a person just like all the ordinary people did.  An life interesting to her and those closest to her but most likely boring to everybody else.

She had learned to play the violin in high school which won her a scholarship to a prestigious university.  That all changed when the blackouts began during freshman year.  It was hard to get through a symphony when she was worried another blackout might swallow her mind whole.  So she dropped out and they revoked her scholarship.  She couldn’t really blame them for it.  She had promised to play and then didn’t follow through.  She would have loved to make beautiful music but now she was a waitress in a rundown bar but she made it work.  She rarely had blackouts during her shifts and the people were alright to her.

However, the blackouts continued and nobody could ever explain where they were coming from.  She would be doing one thing and when she came to she would often be in exactly the same place.  They didn’t last long at first, a few minutes here and there, later they would stretch on for hours.  It wasn’t until the tattoos started to appear that she figured out she was being productive during her blackouts.  After she turned fifteen, she would sometimes wake up from her blackouts with a new tattoo.  After a year, she was starting to get alarmed by how much skin they had started to take up.

The tattoos had raised several questions.  If she blacked out and got tattoos, then she must have asked for them.  However, it was not Robin who had asked for them because she would remember.  So who asked for the tattoos?  Who was she sharing space with?   She was no closer to answering those questions today then she had been when the first tattoo showed up.  She felt like she was losing her mind but she roughly shoved all of those thoughts into the vault as well.  She thought the vault of her mind must be a fairly scary place by now.  If only she could decipher the tattoos the other Robin had placed on their skin.

These are the thoughts that unexpectedly swam to the surface of her thoughts as she started her Saturday shift.  She tied her apron on in a daze and then tied a bandana over her hair and walked the tables.  She almost didn’t notice the guy in the third booth, sitting all by himself with his coat still on.  It was annoying when single customers wanted a booth, taking up all the space from potential groups.  The guy was still dripping from the rain as well which meant Robin would have to grab a mop after he left.

Impatient, Robin leaned on the table. “What can I get you, stranger?”

The guy looked up at her, one eye brown and the other blue.  He looked confused for the longest pause and then his mouth turned up into a grin. “I guess you wouldn’t remember me.  No matter.  I come for the mark of the hound.” He replied.

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