Sunday, July 26, 2015


The oppressive heat of the tunnels made Carmel feel as though she was traversing further and further into some gigantic oven; voluntarily baking herself alive.

The cluster of pipes that ran along the length of the tunnels sweated with the scorching steam that travelled within, so she had to be extra cautious not to touch the surface of them, else a slight brush up against them would sear her skin.

Sweat drenched her face as the moisture in the air caused her hair and clothing to cling to her already overheating body, yet she kept on moving deeper still; deeper and closer to the center of the mystery she was determined to uncover.

All of her life, she, and everyone living topside hundreds of levels above, had gone about their lives in the seemingly utopian city in the clouds, Himmel, unaware of the dark secret that dwelt directly below them in the depths of the massive floating island's engines.

Until, that is, a few weeks ago when Carmel and her friend Luciana were in the archives doing research for a project in history class and had stumbled upon an odd book.

What made it so odd was that it was so old and moreover, that it was not made of regular holographic paper as every other book in Himmel, but actual organic pulp-paper.

It had been wedge in behind the shelves of all the other identical, super-thin books as though someone had hidden it there for them to find.

Within the book, the fragile pages were filled with handwritten entries from whoever had authored it. The journal told of how the people of the city were being lied to by the Counsel of Elders and that there was a hideous secret that they hid from everyone; the secret of what actually ran the floating city.

The girls had snuck the book out of the archives easily because there would be no digital tracking on it like the other books housed there, and so they had hurried home to Carmel's family's unit, high up in the Avex Sector, to pore over its contents in secret.

The journal was hard to understand because of the scrawling writing, yet they followed along as the author told of a secret entrance to the tunnels below the city that led to the hidden engine room down deep within the bowels of the floating continent.

After searching for the clandestine tunnel entrance for weeks, Camel and Luciana had found it; an abandoned maintenance hatch in the dingy Hallum Sector that must have been long forgotten even to the Counsel for it was unguarded and, though the hatch wheel was rusty, unlocked.

Once they had found the entrance, they had gone back home to prepare for their journey to uncover the truth and snuck out after nightfall as the city powered down for the evening.

Steeling themselves, they hefted open the hatch and climbed down the rusty ladder that led down to the tunnel below.

At first, after getting over the darkness and initial scariness of the tunnels, the going was fairly easy, just long corridors of old pipes and wire casings that hummed constantly as they made their way down the seemingly never ending levels.

Every so often they had to choose which way to turn down a new corridor, and more times than not, the way they chose stopped in a dead-end of impassable pipes entering the thick metal wall, so they had to back track and go the correct way.

Until the door.

After what seemed like the entire night had passed, they had become weary and tired, so they stopped to rest and eat some of the protein snacks they had packed. While sitting there in the dim lamp light, Carmel had noticed a door at the far end of the tunnel. They had come across a few doors which led to the stairwells to the next lower level, but they had all been fairly thin doors with portholes through which they could see the stairs.

Yet, this was a big, thick door with no window and another hatch wheel, with what looked to be frost built up around its seams.

She pointed it out to Luciana, who said they probably should not open it because if it did not lead down then it was probably just some dead end room, perhaps a cold storage, which was causing the frost.

Carmel was already too curious to just let it be and so had gotten up and walked over to the hatch and hefted the wheel a turn. It spun more easily than the entrance hatch and before she knew it, the door was cracking open with a gushing of air.

Since she was already holding onto the hatch wheel, Carmel was able to keep herself from being sucked out of the door that opened right out into the frigid open air of the night sky.

Luciana was not so lucky.

Unprepared for the vacuum of air that was powerful enough to lift her right up in the air, she screamed as she flew toward the opening and hit her head on a low hanging pipe, knocking her unconscious.

Carmel watched in horror as her friend was sucked out right passed her and hurled into the star-filled night, falling out of sight silently.

Once the vacuum had depleted itself, the pull of the air outside died down so that she could crawl herself along the pipes and over to the next set of stairs, where she slammed the stairwell door shut and fell to the ground in a sobbing heap.

That had been what felt like a lifetime ago now, as she tried not to think about Luciana limp body falling forever downwards into darkness and wiped away the sweaty tears that welled in her eyes.

Now, she was almost to the end of their journey and was determined to find out the horrible secret the old journal had spoke of, and uncover the truth behind the lies the Elders were feeding to the masses back up on the surface.

She was determined for her friend, Luciana, and so kept on even through the maddening heat, down further into the ever-constricting tunnels.

Until at last she came to a final hatch, and had to cover her already singed hands with cloths torn from her sleeves in order to grab onto the wheel and wrench it open.

A gush of air from behind the opening door made her flinch and grip harder onto the scoring hot wheel, but it only let out a cooling breeze that felt like the refreshing open air compared to the stifling heat of the tunnel.

Hurriedly, Carmel went through the opening and let the door shut out the heat behind her.

Everything was dark in the coolness of the room she was now in and she once again turned on her lamp to light the open space in front of her.

All of the heat and energy of the outside tunnels must have been to keep this vast, open room cool, because she shivered as the drop in temperature caused the sweat on her skin to instantly go cold.

In the muffled silence of the dark room, she heard a laboured breathing from somewhere off in the middle of the open space. Moving as quietly as she could, Carmel crept closer to the sound which was then joined by the noise of rhythmic motion, a kind of trotting pace.

As she moved further into to the dim room, she could tell it was not just one individual in there with her, but many; a multitude of labouring beings, breathing heavily from their movements in the cold dark.

Abruptly, she hit into a metal railing that blocked her from going further and she could see a dim glow from what seemed like below her. She looked down from the ledge she must have been standing on to see figures moving in unison on the floor below.

As her eyes widened to adjust to the low light, she could make out the shapes of the massive amount of figures below.
Though never having actually seen them outside of picture books of old fairy takes, she recognized recognized the creatures instantly, and she gasped in shock.

For running on stationary treadmills, with wires connecting them to the light-filled machinery that lined all the walls around them, were thousands of galloping horses.

Himmel, it would seem, was run on horsepower.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Machine

Switching on the machine's power unit, Barry took a step back as the silver sphere began to hum with vibration from the harmonics regulator and lift off the concrete floor to hover a metre in the air.

The cables and wires attached to the docking cradle held the sphere from rising much higher and Barry's eyes widen with delight as the vibration waves became visible around the curve of the orb's surface.

The humming from the machine grew as did the vibrations, until the entire sphere was a silver blur that began to fade in and out of vision.

It was working.

Barry quickly scanned his laptop screen and saw that all the output readings were within the optimal limits, finally; after so many failed attempts he had finally fixed the stress level harmonics and brought them into alignment. And now, his machine was actually working!

Looking back to the fading sphere, he saw it dissolve right out of existence and leave only a void where its silver shape had been.

The hum stopped abruptly and for a few moments, all sound seems to be sucked out of the room, leaving only a pure silence, devoid of any noise save for the sound of Barry's own breathing in his ears.

Then, with a pulsing wave of air and sound, the sphere reappeared and hovered peacefully where it had been only a few moments earlier, a layer of frost crackled on its surface.

After a moment of hesitation, Barry took a step toward the machine before a figure of a man popped into being right in front of him.

It was him, another Barry; only this one was dressed in what looked to be a well-worn, leather motorcycle outfit and sporting an eye patch over his left eye that hide a long, jagged scar.

The other Barry also looked tougher somehow, harder. Perhaps it was all the spiked studs adored his leather outfit, or the rugged beard, or more than likely, the homemade-looking rifle slung across his back.

In any case, this Barry seemed to mean business, and he came at Barry shouting.

"You have to shut this machine down, you fool!" Tough Barry yelled and he closed in on him, but even as Barry quickly stepped back to get away from the crazed version of himself, Tough Barry seemed to make sure not to come close enough to make actual contact.
"You hear me!?" Tough Barry shouted again. "Tear the machine down or everything and everyone we knew and love will be destroyed!"

Barry felt himself hit against the work bench and he reached back to the machine's power unit as Tough Barry continued to shout at him to turn it off.

"Okay." Barry stammered as he found the switch and flicked it off.

Instantly, the hovering sphere dropped back into its docking cradle with a metallic clunk and the other Barry popped out of existence just as suddenly as he had shown up.

Barry sighed with relief as his cluttered basement workshop was quiet once more.

Well, that was a close one, he thought to himself as he began to disassemble the wiring connection of the machine's main power supply.

When a crazy, alternate-timeline version of yourself comes from the future to tell you to shut down your time machine, you listen.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


Being a wizard's apprentice was not as glamorous a vocation as Hansel had envisioned when is poor, dirt-farming mother and father had tried to convince him it was when they had sold him to the old sorcerer, though it did have its moments.

For the most part, Hansel ran errands for the gruff conjurer: making the long trek into the village through the haunted woods; fending off the vengeful spirits that dwelt within with the heavy iron pipe the wizard had given him for when one of the shaky warding spells gave out. 

Once he had finally made it through the treacherous woods, he had learned to ignore the villagers' shouts for him to go back to his 'Devil-master', though not so with being pelted by the rotten fruits and vegetables they threw at him.

Gathering the different items needed for the specific spells was always interesting since most were toxic to the skin or eyes, and so would leave him with terrible rashes to which the wizard would apply some stinking salve concoction that usually stung worse that the skin abrasion. 

Then there was the endless chores the wizard would have him do: sledging out the remnants of the unused potions from the huge cauldron in back behind their modest shack of a house; fixing the countless repairs on the shack's leaky roof, walls, and floor; taking the sorcerer's pet demon out for its daily exercises always proved a challenge for its tiny but powerful wings could lift them both fairly high up before the gave out, sending them plummeting down to the muddy ground in a heap of gnashing teeth and claws.

However, the worse part of the apprentice life was the days he spent in the shape of some horrid creature or other when the wizard's spell experiments went wrong.

Hansel had been a rat, a bat, a toad, a fruit fly, and most retched of all, a cockroach; scurrying out of the light and having to hide with the teeming masses of other roaches that infested the seedier recesses of the latrine.

Thankfully, he would always return to his regular form, with the wizard chastising him for not being around for days as if he was shirking his duties.

And yet, all the trials and tribulations were worth it when, late at night, as the old wizard lay snoring in his bed, Hansel was able to practice spells on his own in the dark of his corner bed of straw.

It would always begin with a tiny spark of light, barely bright enough to see, and then, as he concentrated, the spark would grow bright and brighter into a glowing ball of light in his hand.

Letting the light tumble through his fingers he had learnedto deftly move the glowing ball from one hand to the other, like a jester's juggling. His eyes shimmered with the delight of being able to conjure the ball of energy out of thin air, though the wizard had said something about the energy actually coming from some 'nether dimension' or something in one of his droning speeches on the proper use of magic.

But what the old fool did not know could not hurt him, thought Hansel as he marvelled at the glowing light bouncing to and fro in his hands.

So enthralled at his own magical prowess was he, that on this night, the second spark of light coming into existencebehind him went unnoticed. 

It too grew into a glowing ball of radiant light, yet it kept on growing rapidly until it was a sphere half of the size of Hansel that then started to flicker from within.

Hansel noticed his shadow dancing in front of him on the freshly swept floor and turned to see the orb of light hanging in the air behind him. His concentration lost, the small ball of light was sucked from his hand into the bigger sphere with a hissing sound. 

Peering into the light, which was somehow not harsh on his eyes, Hansel saw the flickering and leaned in closer to examine the shifting darkness that began to crackle through the ball's core.

Moving closer still, he saw the cracks in the light were actually letting out shafts of darkness as if there was something behind the shell of light; something void of light.

Suddenly, the cracks broke open and monstrous claws reached out from the darkness within and grabbed hold of Hansel's face and before he could utter a scream, pulled him wholly through the gap. The gap being slightly too small for his shape, caused his flesh to be ripped off as he was dragged through.

Once his bloody feet had disappeared through the dimensional opening, the glowing light collapsed in on itself and blinked out of existence, leaving only the pulpy mess of Hansel's hair, clothes, and skin on the straw covering the floor that had been his bed. 

Awaking in the morning to find the mass of gore that was once his bumbling apprentice, the wizard grunted to himself and went to get the shovel to casually clean up. That had been his fifth apprentice in as many years; the fools never listened to his teachings. 

Oh well, he thought as he hummed a happy little tune while scooping up the muck, he only had cost two bricks of manure and a hen, which had happened to be his last apprentice anyway.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Jungle

With the jungle floor far below and the green canopy of leaves above, she sped along the high branches, effortlessly leaping from tree to tree, rushing to the danger that awaited her to the east.

The muscles of her strong limbs worked beneath her sun-soaked skin as she used the vines and hanging branches to carry herself across the tree tops along side her companions that had come to warn her of the distress on the far side of the jungle.

Twin chimpanzees moved deftly beside her; their unusual silence telling her of the urgency of the situation. Down on the ground, travelling as their shadow, a midnight-furred panther tracked its fellow travellers with unmatched skill.

All together, the four of them raced eastward toward the rushing of the river that splits the jungle in two; toward the darkness that lay on the other side.

Soon they reached the edge of the tree cover and came to an anxious stop, the panther pacing back and forth along the river bank while she and the twins stood high up on over-hanging branches, scanning the rapidly moving water for their young friend.

She held a hand over her eyes to shield them from the bright light of the sun that shinned in the sky overhead. Her amber hair and spotted cloth garments flapped in the moisture-filled breeze as she searched the waters for any sign of the cub.

Excited screeches beside her caused her to look over and find the twins pointing and jumping wildly down at the river bank to her right; the far river bank.

Down on the muddy shore of the wide river, a small orange and black figure pulled itself out of the speeding waters and scrambled up the bank to collapse with exhaustion on the dirt ground at the foot of the towering trees of the other side.

For a moment she was relieved the tiger cub was safely out of the river, but the loud roar of the panther brought her attention to the shadowy figures moving through the darkness of the trees toward the resting young cub.

Without hesitation, she jumped to the next branch, grabbed hold of a strong vine that wrapped itself around the tree from the jungle floor, and, with a dashing leap, she vaulted herself sidelong through the air above the river.

The tension of her weight and trajectory of her swing caused the vine to unravel itself from the top of the tree, giving her enough length to just reach half way across the water. At the apex of her swing, with a loud grunt, she let go and let herself fly freely down toward the other side of the river.

With acrobatic agility, she rolled herself into a tumble as she landed somersaulting onto the muddy riverbank, covering herself from head to toe in the dark muck.

Not stopping a beat, she rolled to her feet and raced toward where the unconscious tiger cub lay. Running parallel to her, amongst the dark shadows of the trees, the threatening figures uttered terrifying shrieks as they neared their prey.

Pounding her bare feet on the hard-packed ground, she quickened her paced but could feel the other creatures' speed up as well, with only a few lengths between her and the cub she could see that the loud screams had woken the tiger out of its daze and his dark eyes were bulging with terror.

One last push of effort and she dove out for the cub and snatched him by the scruff, tumbling into a ball; the swiping of razor-sharp claws narrowly missing the exposed skin of her back and legs as she rolled down the river bank.

Not daring to look back she came out of her tucked roll and dove directly into the rushing river, holding the cub by its scruff in her mouth as a tigress would. Paddling hard and fierce, she slowly work her way across the river, the wild screams of the creatures on the east bank muffled under the splashing water.

With barely enough strength to move her arms she felt herself being pulled along the current toward the all-engulfing falls that raged over the colossal drop to the craggy rocks below.

Opening her mouth, she let the cub slide into her arms as she began to sink under the rushing water.

Suddenly, a sharp pain shot through her shoulder and she felt herself being lifted out of the water and dragged roughly to shore.

The panther pulled her with his massive jaw clamped onto her shoulder until she was fully out of the river and then her let go, leaving puncture wounds that bled freely; though they would heal more quickly than any injury she would have sustained being dashed upon the rocks at the bottom of the falls had he not intervened.

Coughing out water, she sat up and lifted the young tiger up to glare at him in the eyes as he looked sheepishly back.

Across the river the screeching creatures slinked back into the shadows of the trees, their sickeningly yellow eyes glowering at their lost meal, while the group of friends stared silently back as they gathered on west river bank.

Looking back at the young cub she growled her own threatening disapproval and the little tiger flinched as she only ruffled his soaked furry head with her hand.

The little prince of the jungle would be getting enough punishment from their majesties when she got him home as it was. Perhaps, she thought, we can take our time getting back.