You have permission to change…

The jump-off line is from You will be changed by Jeanette Encinias. I’ve never written a love letter to myself before but I feel like this piece is it: 

You have permission to change. Go ahead. Embrace it. You know you’re ready. 

You have permission to change. Take it slow. One step at a time. It’s okay to look back, to see how far you’ve come. But don’t go back. Ever. You don’t want to anyway. 

You have permission to change. To grow into who you really are. Into who you really could be. Go on. You can do it, girl. 

You have permission to change. Not anyone else’s. Not the world’s. Your own. That’s what you’ve realised. You didn’t need any permission from none other than yourself. And now you’ve got it. So go. Go with my blessing, girl. 

You have permission to change, girl. Somehow you have blundered through the other end of life to reach where you are now. You are changing. Changing the way you want to change. Not the world wants you to or others want you to. But changing just for yourself, changing according to your own wishes. Yes, the world will accommodate you. No worries now. Go ahead. Break out of the cocoon and become a butterfly. Unfurl your wings and fly. Fly to your destination and then keep flying, to the next one. 

You have permission to change. Change, the wildcard. But it’s so exciting. So embrace it, girl. You know the choice is with you. So seize it. Seize it, girl. It is the key that will unlock you, the golden key that unlocks you. Let you peel back yourself, layer by layer like an onion, to see your core. Go on, girl. Your life has just begun. Live it. Love it. 

I love you, my girl. If I could go back in time to meet you, I would embrace you and tell you how proud I am of what you are. Who you were. Yours truly, your older self. 

TBR for 2022

This year I’m setting a reading goal of 20 and I will also have an unofficial stretch goal of 26 for the alphabet. 

I’m actually starting the new year with Robin Hobb’s Liveship traders series and I’m waiting for book 3 of Raymond E. Feist’s Firemane Saga to come out. For Oriental fantasy, I had previously said I would read Poppy War but I think now I would be reading Across the Nightingale Floor instead just because it is in electronic form. I’ve heard of a new series by Tamora Pierce on Numair that I might or might not read. Out of her Tortall Universe, the only series I liked were Beka Cooper and Immortal. I might also pick up her Trickster series (I read book 1 before but not book 2, I remember book 1 to be okay, better than either of her female knight series, personally speaking). I also think I will pick up more Guy Gavriel Kay since I like his general style. A friend had recommended the Xanth series that I might pick up to have a look. But other than that, I’m taking fantasy recommendations in comments. 

For mystery, I’ve decided to let the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series go. I’m still undecided as to whether I want to continue pursuing the Robert Langdon series- I kinda mind the Hollywood vibe of how in each book he has romances with a different woman while pursuing a case. I might go back to Agatha Christie. I’m not much in the mood for James Patterson and Alex Cross either. On the other hand, I decided to try some of Stephen King’s mysteries. Other than that, I will keep doing the random blurb reading of mystery novels that I started at the end of last year. But again, I’m happy to take suggestions from comments. *hint hint*

My Broadening Horizon reads for this year will be:

  • Horror- it was between Stephen King’s Carrie or the Little Stranger by Sarah Waters but now I think I will read Stephen King’s Children of the Corn instead
  • Western Historical Fiction- The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford by Ron Hansen

My Craft/Curiosity reads will be:

  • The Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison. I have been studying the omniscient POV with Under Heaven (and then I realised it was actually 3rd person limited but with an omniscient narrator voice) and so I’m studying this novel next for omniscient. The deciding factor is that my local library has a copy in electronic form 
  • The Resurrectionist by Jack O’Connell. This is just from a random browse of what my local library stocks on ebooks. Says it is a noir fantasy thriller (I’ve read noir thriller and fantasy mystery before but noir fantasy thriller I assumed is something different) so will give it a try. 

Writing Plan for 2022

Trying to gauge progress has been hard for me because I’ve been inching along but I’m okay with that, it’s part of my progress. But I do have something I feel worthy to report: I’ve tallied it up and I’ve only got 34 chapters out of a total of 70 remaining. In other words, I’ve got over the halfway mark towards a first draft. 

My priority for 2022 is to finish a draft 0.82 which incorporates my findings from circling to the hidden protagonist in book 1 as well as an all-round cycling between my two protagonists for book 1. From experience that usually wraps up before June. Then I will distract myself with my next tentative project, the book 1 of which finally has a tentative name: Grace in Falling. I’m still wrangling with my first foray into dropping fantasy into actual history and I think it’s been hampering my attempt to get close to the story for this book because my protagonist is currently swamped under the historical events I’ve shoved into the book. So I might try to see how I can break free from the constraint of history and go back to my preferred playground in fantasy in the next round of outlining in between my WIP drafts. 

Not sure where I’m going further than that but I will cross that bridge when I come to it. 

Moonlake’s Book Discoveries- December 2021

A side note but COVID is really pro-reading. So I’ve trumped my revised reading goal of 20 books by 9 books this year which is definitely a first since I created a goodreads profile back in 20116. Anyway, below is all the fiction I’ve read since September, grouped by the genre as per usual. 

Fantasy: 

The Sarantine Mosaic duology by Guy Gavriel Kay

Overall, I do like the duology. The story is in line with GGK’s story of an epic story where you feel multiple characters’ stories unfold all at the same time and intersect. Personally, I feel like this is the personal story of a mosaicist who learned to live again after his loves all passed away while he was pulled into the historical events so much bigger than himself. And the answer GGK seemed to offer to the question of how do you live if your love passed away seems to say that you start by finding something you love to do. That’s pretty much my own response so I like that. I also like the ending even though I did not quite see it coming. 

So if you enjoy epic fantasy or just epic stories or you have an interest in the East Roman/Byzantium empire, I would definitely recommend this. 

The Firemane trilogy by Raymond E. Feist

I had previously said that I’m done with his Midkemian books but I could not resist jumping back in when I realised that he had finally written a brand new series in another world. And while I label this as a trilogy, book 3 has not come out yet so I’ve just finished books 1 and 2. 

I like the trilogy so far although the book doesn’t get into full swing until book 2. Book 1 was solid work, but it was mostly like a mere set-up. It has chapters in alternating points of view between two characters but it was not until the end of book 1 that these came together and I had full expectation that they won’t until book 2. Also, the publisher really needed to do better with proof-reading on book 1:  there was an all-round mix-up between the letters b and h. Specifically, every “but” had become “hut” and “be” become “he”. It became rather distracting. Book 2 was by comparison clean in that regard. And like I said, book 2 was where the story finally got into the swing and I felt like I’m in with the characters. Now, I have to declare here that I’m always slow with character empathy, so this isn’t something unique to this books. I also feel less engaging with the secondary POV character in this series but again that’s nothing new either. I felt the same way with Thomas in the Midkemia books- I was really not engaged with him, rather I was basically just vested in Pug, Arutha, Jimmy the Hand etc. 

Book 3 is tentatively scheduled to come out next year (fingers crossed for that, I don’t quite like waiting but I’m already going to have to wait now) so a full report on this trilogy next year. 

Last Light of the Sun by Guy Gavriel Kay

I still found this a satisfying read but I did not like this standalone as much as the Sarantine Mosaics and the two novels based on ancient China (all right, I admit to personal bias there). I think I expected a story where three cultures meshed more to form a collective story but my actual experience from this book was that Alun seemed to be a more important character compared to Bern (in fact, because Bern appeared in the first chapter and did not come back until the fourth, I somehow did not remember his name and had to go back to the list of characters at the start of book to understand that’s who we are circling back to) and then the promised third culture had even of a lesser role. I was caught unprepared at around the second last chapter which in retrospect I would say was well set up for. But overall, I just was not finding the attraction of a well-woven tapestry of many perspectives that I was getting used to in Kay’s other books. Not that this element has been absent entirely but I just didn’t feel like this aspect that I had come to really appreciate about his work was executed as well as in the other books. The other noteworthy thing about this standalone is that it is sort of loosely related to the Sarantine Mosaics in that it is set in the same world and drops in the odd references to that series. 

Mystery

O Jersuleum by Laurie R. King 

It was okay but I’m getting slightly bored with this series as to doubt what I initially saw in it (I read the first two books years ago and decided that I wanted to follow the series before I promptly forgot the author and the series name and could not find it again from my local library. Then few years ago, someone mentioned the series in passing in one of my FB reading groups, that’s how I came across this again). So in this one Mary contributes one crucial insight right at the end but otherwise, she is still mostly complaining of discomforts and playing henchmen to Sherlock. That was not quite how I remembered it in the first two books. I wonder what happened to the dynamics between the duos- I reread this series from book 3 and I think it already wasn’t what I remembered. I now wonder if I was not initially drawn by the premise of the book which satisfied my craving for the continuation of the Sherlock Holmes stories and just dived in on that promise. I had also read the series slightly out of order in that I had also read one or two of the later books. My plan is to read The Murder of Mary Russell next because it was alluded to in one of the later books I had read and sounded like a book with higher danger/stakes. 

The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King

As I expected, I felt much more engaged with this book. The Clarissa perspective is fresh and provides something I can sink into. I’m starting to suspect that I’m originally drawn into this series because I like the juxtaposition of old (Sherlock Holmes) and new (how the author took the original characters from Sherlock Holmes and had that veer off in a different direction). And after reading quite a substantial number of Mary Russell novels now (I checked my Goodreads, 8 of them by now), I’m feeling like the author has not always pulled off this combination. In this book, I feel she has done a solid enough job and I think I’m more satisfied by this book compared to many of the later ones or any book after the first two. 

The Safest Lies by Megan Miranda

I decided to forge into new territory so I just did a keyword search on mystery and limited to ebooks on my local library website. I picked this up for the blurb: a high school student raised up by a mum who had an obsession about staying safe and one day when the mum disappeared she had to deal with the past catching up. 

It’s got extremely short chapters and I did find the story engaging. There’s no space for me to pause and think about anything except reading on to find out what happens next. Overall, I think I like the author’s style: the short clipping pace and the plot-centric mystery.

Kill your brother by Jack Heath

This is good if you appreciate a fast paced thriller and plot twists. I do like it. 

Moonlake’s Writing Updates- December 2021

I’m currently working on draft 0.82. To be honest, I’m not making major headways in the most recent few decimal drafts. More and more, it’s about letting go of scenes that were 70% done and acknowledging that I don’t have the mentality or whatever to push it through the 100% mark right now and choosing to leave it to a future date where progress on other sections would make me ‘click’ on the missing parts. But overall, I’m just pushing forward on it, ticking off more and more chapters. For my female protagonist, I’ve at least pushed beyond Act 1 in the most recent decimal draft. I think this is a non-trivial achievement since for her the norm of writing scenes linearly stuck like glue compared to my male protagonist. Actually, I should mention that when I found out that I could jump between scenes at different places of the story for my male protagonist, it was a surprise- I never thought I could do that, ever. But when I tried to do that for my female protagonist, nope, not going to happen. But ah well, you work with what you got. 

The other aspect is that I can feel a general flagging of enthusiasm towards my novel projects. It first started with the WIP so I was switching to the next tentative project and trying to outline it in between my decimal drafts. But recently, I can feel that my writing heat has gone towards my gaming in that I’m trying to take a hand at being Game Master (or GM) for my gaming group. So I’ve put together 3 different mini-settings already before I’m currently infatuated with this setting that I’m adapting from this Chinese online novel. How I’m using that for my novels is that I’m trying to set up working for my gaming setting as a reward for doing my WIP writing sessions. So far how that’s working out is, to be honest, sketchy. I think this is at least partly, or perhaps mainly I’m not sure, due to the getting out-of-practice with drafting that I last did for the WIP (I switched to freewriting before I broke off the last decimal draft on the WIP and then I switched to outlining the next tentative novel project). I’ve been writing daily now (not necessarily the same type of writing every day but some form of writing) even though I’ve trimmed down my days on the WIP to be 5 days a week instead of 6 days (when I was doing 6 days a week, I was not writing daily, I believe, but my memory is not one of my strongest points). And yet, I’ve found that there are different types of writing muscles apparently for many types of writing. On top of it, I’ve found my mood and the particular scene that I’m working on the day seems to play a far larger role on my outputs and my procrastination urges for any given writing session. 

I’ve also recently switched to the hidden protagonist for this book 1 (I might have alluded to the fact that this series started off as having 4 POVs/protagonists, I trimmed back two but then I thought I would bring back a 3rd but not until book 2 in full force) to see if that freshen things for me. I’ve just wrapped this up on Friday. I did get some insights into this hidden protagonist’s psyche and other things that count as progress on the WIP. But in terms of enthusiasm, it’s the same. 

To sum up for this year, I’m on track with my goals (although now I’ve switched to planning daily tasks as opposed to having monthly and yearly goals). 2022 is a new year and I will still write on. 

Nuances of the Chinese language (3)- Sampled Dialect Differences

This is probably the last of this set of serial posts. So I’ve talked about how three different dialects of Chinese sound like to me in the very first post. Today I will provide some concrete examples so you can see for yourself how different each is. 

Example 1: Different units for a kiss 

The preamble for this example is that in Chinese there is a unit that goes with anything you can count i.e. you never just say one apple or one hair, you have to say one unit of apple or one string of hair. 

So there is the official unit that is supposed to go with different types of objects/nouns. But in each dialect, there is usually a different flavour in what unit gets used with the same object. Here I’m going to use a kiss as the example. In Mandarin, a kiss is perceived in terms of a bodily motion or time so they say a motion/a moment of kiss. In Cantonese, we think of a kiss as a motion of the mouth so we say a mouthful of kiss. In Shanghainese, I think they say a mark of a kiss, perhaps alluding to the mark left by lipstick?

Example 2: Unique wording in each dialect

In Cantonese, we have a special verb for describing marinating meat in sauce which sounds like Yip. The same word does not exist in either Mandarin or Shanghainese. Well, I can think of no equivalent sound in Shanghainese at all and it would sound like the word for “castrate” in Mandarin if I try to pronounce it in Mandarin (it would also sound like a Mandarin word for describing the process of making preserved vegetables that is basically the same as Korean kimchi but given that they have no equivalent word for meat products, I think the first thing that came to their mind would be the word castrate, Mandarins basically call what we Cantonese call marinated beef  “beef in sauce” if I translate over the literal meaning). 

Example 3: what do you call this vegetable/fruit?

Not surprisingly, different vegetables and fruits go by different names. For example, potatoes are commonly known as earth-bean now in Mandarin, Cantonese calls it little yam and Shanghainese says it’s foreign sweet potato. The fruit longan (similar to lychee but smaller, with a brown skin that has no spikes) is called dragon eye in Cantonese and I believe also in Mandarin but perhaps because it doesn’t sound right in Shanghainese, it’s known by the name given to dried longan fruit instead, the meaning of which roughly translates to rounded osmanthus but don’t ask me why and how this came about. 

Adventures aboard the Chen Xing- Chapter 11

I found some berries and tubers that were growing aplenty in the forest. They looked edible but I wasn’t sure so I collected enough for an afternoon tea for Estella to check back abroad the Xing. Then I went deeper yet into the forest, looking for game tracks. 

I found nothing. I wondered if the animal life there was especially alert or whether there was really nothing except plants. I decided to make a temporary retreat back to the ship to check the edibility of the plant I have gathered.

Estella looked up from her workbench when I entered, giving me a welcoming smile. “Hey, how was the hunting?”

“No animal life, or too alert. I’ve brought back some plants that I think might be edible, plenty of them around. I only brought back a small sample though, if you think they are edible, I’ll go grab more.”

“The plants probably ate all the animals,” Estella said, leaning her head against her right hand, supported on the table through the elbow. Her thinking position. Then she took the samples off me and examined them.

I shrugged in answer to her conjecture. 

“There’s some simple field tests you can do with any fruit you don’t recognize,” She started giving me a crash course on cultivating edible plants. “Slice the fruit in half and rub some of it on your skin, wait 10 mins, no reaction, rub some on your lips, wait 10 mins, no reaction, it’s potentially safe, if there’s stinging, itching, numbness or whatever you know it’s toxic.”

I nodded, filing them away for future reference.

“I’ll need to process it a bit, but yeah, this stuff will be great to restock our supplies with.” Estella told me with a cheerful smile. “Bring back as much as you can.”

“Okay.”

“I’ll come with you if you want?” She offered, standing up and grabbing an empty backpack.

“Good idea. And you know the wilderness better than I, perhaps you can find tracks that I can’t.” I was not too keen on a vegetarian diet. 

We went out together and Estella started harvesting the plants as planned. “Yeah, pretty sure this place is a plant only biome, anything else has been wiped out.” She told me. 

I sighed as I settled down to work. “This is tough on a meat lover like me.”

“I know what you mean,” She said with an understanding nod, “when we get back to the colony in a few days we’ll see about picking up some smoked bacon, and a nice rack of ribs, maybe some porter house steaks too, have Aurora make us a charcoal grill on the upper deck.”

“Now that’s some consolation.”

“After all this I’m happy to indulge in a nice BBQ party.” Estella told me with a grin.

“I will make us all my household specials.”

“Now this sounds promising.” Aurora’s voice sounded over the intercom, it worked over a short range outside the Xing.  “Tell me more.” 

“Nothing but vegetable salad we’ve got, so we decided on our own consolation once we are back on the colony. How many days you think we need to be stuck on this asteroid?”

“The converter is running like a dream, so the tanks should be topped up by now.” She told us, “Only thing keeping us here is us at this point.”

“I can set course back to the colony as soon as we got this food secured if everyone wants?” Estella offered.

“That was quicker than I expected. Yes, then what are we waiting for?”

“I’ll help Sam get the food stowed, you get us out of here before sunrise, I don’t want another siege.” Aurora said. 

“I hear that.” Estella hurried off to the bridge. It was quick work between me and Aurora. Then she went to Engineering to let H squared know that we were heading back. Not that he would have cared. I whistled a tune to myself as I made little victory cocktails for everyone, including a juice variety for Guppy. 

Aurora was the first to come back. She commented on the scene she found in Engineering between H squared and Vines. “Them two are really bonding. And we thought H squared would be in hysterics.” I said. 

“After being abducted by the other plants it’s what I was expecting, but I guess he..” She shrugged. “He’s as strange as the alien parts on board.”

“But in a good way,” Estella joined us a moment later, “He’s been needing an assistant for a while now.”

“Right, everything worked out for the best. Now let’s do a toast to that.” I gestured to the cocktails I’ve made, sliding the Guppy special over to her.

“To teamwork and overcoming the unknown with style.” Aurora raised her glass.

“I’ll drink to that.” Estella raised hers. 

“Cheers.” I said before draining mine. 

Guppy chugged back hers as if it was real alcohol, wiped her mouth, and held the glass up to me. “More!”

Aurora giggled. “Guppy, remember to use manners, more please, we’re not space pirates.”

“Aww, we’re not? Then why are you showing me how to cut people’s legs off?”

“Pirates are the bad guys, we save people from pirates,” Estella clarified, “We’re space rangers, you might say?”

I smiled. “Okay, one more.” I tousled Guppy’s hair.

Estella gave Aurora a narrow eyed look. “Just what are you teaching our new crew mate?”

Guppy stuck her tongue at Aurora. “See, Sam said it’s ok.”

“Basic knife defense.” Aurora answered Estella. “So when someone tries to grab her they learn a lesson.” She paused to smile at Guppy, “It’s good I don’t blame ya for wanting more honestly.” 

“Oh, that’s different,” Estella nodded in approval, polishing off her own glass. “You mix a nice cocktail, when we have our barbecue you have to make the marinades for the meat.”

I had just finished another Guppy special and slid it over to her. “Sure.” I replied to Estella’s suggestion. 

“I wonder what this would taste like with space firefly juice in it…” Guppy said as she stared at it after taking a slurp. 

“You’ve actually drank that stuff?!” Aurora asked her.

“Not yet… But, I didn’t think about it till now.”

“Speaking of plants there was a bunch of spiky red ones covering the edge of the clearing when we left there, I think I might of mutated them by accident.” Estella confessed up to us. 

I raised an eyebrow. “And the effect of the mutation is?”

“Wait for me to test it before ingesting it, Guppy,” Estella suddenly looked serious. “You don’t want plants growing in your insides, it would hurt real bad.”

“Growing on my insides? Cool!”

I smacked my forehead. “That was the wrong thing to say, Estella.”

“Umm, you know how roses are thorny? Would you want those thorns giving you the worst belly ache of your life?” Estella talked to Guppy gently.

“Hopefully you mutated the wildlife into seeing you as one of them and leaving us alone next time we land.” Aurora said thoughtfully.

“I get thorns too!”

“On your insides, you would die, become plant food.” Estella clarified with a slight shudder.

“Aww, that wouldn’t be any fun.”

“It was like the monsters, but red and spiky and they just stood there watching us, so I think maybe they’re pacified.”

“I think they might of been an alien security system, and you added our species’ DNA to the approved list, so they won’t bother us anymore.” Aurora finished her drink and nodded. “Think about it, they only restrained Hue and Guppy and tore apart the ship, they didn’t actually hurt any of us, I think they’re designed to deal with pirates or whatever enemies the alien owners had.”

“But the bonding with machines, what’s that about?” I reminded her. 

“Maybe they were also part of a recycling system, designed to tear apart derelicts?” Estella said with a shrug.

“Right. Well, we’ve sussed the place out now. So if we want free plants or free ingredients for a vegetable salad, we can always come back.”

“It’s more than that, there’s an entire alien star port under the ground there, if we could get it back online just think about what we could learn, all the alien tech waiting for us to discover.” Aurora’s eyes lit up. 

Estella grinned at the notion. “Imagine if the entire moon is one giant spaceship.”

“There’s that giant cannibal but if we can get more muscles in… Could that giant be an alien, now that I think about it?”

“Or they might have alien burial customs, and that’s their way of honoring the dead, like old-earth elephant graveyards?” Aurora said uncertainly. 

“If the new red spiky plants are on our side we have all the muscle we need.” Estella said. “We just need some sun lamps to light up the place, and someone like you to lead the charge against anything hostile.”

“That’s a thought, you’ve got brains, girl.”

No one said…

This prompt was from a poem titled No one said that it wouldn’t rain by Maya Stein. This piece was one of the few ones where what I’ve written wasn’t about myself. Instead, there was a distinctly male voice dictating what I’ve put down on paper that I can hear inside my head. Of course, some bits did come from me, the bits about rainbows being half to a hollowed circle and stacked pebbles- the former from a movie, the latter I don’t know, from blog posts or generic Net surfing. 

No one said it would be easy. Usually the good stuff ain’t easy. 

No one said tomorrow would rain. It might though. You don’t know. 

No one said I would be here, alone, writing this. Thinking of the past, locked in the present, with no future. 

No one said you would be reading this. Will you be reading? Will this scrap of parchment be found, ever?

No one told me about rainbows. Recited the seven colours of it to me in order. Told me that it’s supposed to be the half to a hollowed circle, the other half lying in Heaven where we cannot see. Has someone told you these things? I learnt them by myself. 

No one told me about pebbles. About how you stack them to form something special. I’ve forgotten what it was, what it all meant. 

No one told me about life. I’ve lived it by exploration, like a blind man groping around in a strange place. 

No one told me about you. But I can see you. I can feel you. I can imagine you. Warm against me, head nestled against me, my arms around you. 

No one told me about myself. How they think of me, how they see me.

No one said that one can stay young forever. Or stay in one place. Or never change. 

No one said that I’m beautiful. Not when I was young, when I wanted to hear that, would like to hear that, perhaps. 

No one said that I’m wise. I was never wise. I was a fool.

No one said that I’m brave. I’m just average, same as everyone else. 

No one said that I’m lucky. Luck and me… luck is elusive. I don’t hope to grasp it. 

Adventures Aboard the Chen Xing- Chapter 10

“I’m going in that direction to check out that thing.” I said before walking off. Aurora gave me a nod of acknowledgement. “Thanks for letting us know this time. If you’re not back in a couple hours we’ll come searching.”

When I got close enough to see the structure for what it was, I realised it was some kind of building, made out of a series of containers stacked together. I searched for an entrance and my eyes landed on some dead vines woven together to form a curtain of sorts. I’ve still got the hedge clipper so I used it to cut the interfering vines away, just in case. 

Inside was dark. I shone my spotlight around. Something was living here. There were places for sitting and discarded bits of food amidst ship parts and obscure mechanical bits. I walked around a bit, alert to any noise.

Then I chanced upon a sizable pile of bones in a far room near the corner of the whole structure. I examined it, to see if I could determine what species they belonged to. They looked human. An alarm sounded in my head. I went on more cautiously as I went to explore the remaining parts of the building. But I found nothing more of interest other than further signs of habitation. I headed back to the Xing.

***

“There’s nothing like a hot bath to cure everything.” I announced as I plopped myself down at the lounge.

“That’s for sure. Find anything interesting out there?” Estella asked me. 

“Welcome home.” Aurora said as she slid a slice of cake atop a plate towards me.

“A bunch of containers heaped atop each other that house a cannibal? Looks like human bones to me.”

Aurora looked a little unsettled at the news, “Did the bones appear gnawed on? Or just laying there with rags around them? It could of been the occupants just died?” She asked hopefully. Estella just listened with a thoughtful look.

“Unless the occupant is a giant, I don’t think the pile could be that big. And there weren’t any marks on them. They were stacked in a far off room. Just seemed creepy to me.”

“Let’s not stick around long enough to find out if the place’s owner is still alive then?” Estella said. “There’s got to be a way to get the lights on down here, something powered that elevator after all.”

“It was a key pad that got us down. So another keypad would get us up?” I suggested. 

“Good point,” Aurora accepted my point, “Picking over the wrecks doesn’t seem to be very helpful, and the bio fuel converter should have our tanks filled enough to make the journey home in a while. We can search along the walls of this place for doors and keypads, see if maybe we can find a control room or the elevator controls at least.”

“Estella, your new pet escaped the garden.” Aurora pointed towards the door. Me and Estella got up and poked our heads out of the door to see that plant creature Estella lured with fruit slices wandering off down the hallway. 

“So much for garden confinement. I guess you better go get it.” I told her. 

“I guess it learned how to work a hatch lever.” She shrugged, “Guppy, could you keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn’t get into trouble, and Hue doesn’t try to put it in the bio converter?”

Guppy smiled and ran out.

“As long as it doesn’t try to harvest the ship I don’t see a need to keep it locked up?” Estella said. 

“Hue is just going to loooove this.” Aurora said with a snicker.

“I’m not having a good feeling of Guppy and plantsie together but we need to go and find that other keypad.” 

“We should take both of them with us honestly, I’m not super comfy with the idea of leaving them here alone with some cannibal maybe out there.” Aurora said. 

“I don’t think the cannibal will eat Vines.” Estella said with a shrug. “Still, better it stay with us for now, I doubt Hue wants to be alone with it.”

“All right, let’s go find them then.” I went after Guppy. I heard footsteps behind me a few moments later. We followed a mud trail to the bridge but nobody was there. Then we spotted it again leading towards the quarters but it came to a dead end again. Then the cargo hold and still not there. 

“That girl surely is slippery.” I commented before turning towards Engineering, the last place to check. I found her standing in the doorway holding one hand over her mouth and trying not to giggle. I smacked my forehead. Talk about jinxing. 

I walked up to get a better view of H squared’s hysterics and assess how best to step in. Instead, he was on his belly working in some panel, with lots of wires and things exposed. Vines was standing over him with a large wrench in one of its vines. It handed the wrench to H squared. He took it without looking back and seemed to have mumbled something. 

“My opinion of this plant’s intelligence is going up rather quickly.” Aurora whispered in awe.

“Um…I guess Hue just found an assistant?” Estella sounded confused. Just then, H squared mumbled something and Vines rummaged in the tool kit, took a spanner out and handed it to H squared. The duo worked together as if they’ve been doing things like that for years. 

“Guppy, is Hue friends with Vines?” Aurora asked. 

“That… wasn’t quite what I expected. I was expecting a scene.” I admitted. 

Guppy could not stop herself giggling loudly.  “Probably, but I don’t think Hue knows who it is.”

“Well, if everything is so harmonious, let’s leave the two of them be.” I suggested. 

“Hue, I’ve tamed one of the plants, it’s going to help you repair the ship.” Estella called out, to preempt a panic attack, I presumed. Meanwhile, H squared directed Vinest to hold two pieces of conduit together while he sealed them. Then he mumbled something but it was anyone’s guess whether he meant for Vines again or Estella. 

“Agreed Sam, let’s leave them to handle repairs, and I feel better knowing Hue isn’t all alone here.” Aurora said and Estella agreed that we should go. Guppy looked torn for a moment but then turned to follow us. 

I strode out of the Xing. ‘Which direction do we go?”

“Up to you Sam, I trust your judgement.” Aurora told me with a confident smile. Sometimes the gals had more confidence in me than I do. 

“One direction seems as good as another.” Estella commented. 

“Yeah, that’s why I asked. I thought someone might have some idea of where to start. How do people normally design up and down escalators?” I thought about it for a second and added, “ I mean, besides putting them next to each other?”

“True, let’s start with the top wall and work our way around the perimeter?” Aurora suggested.

“Actually, have we searched close by? Thinking about my escalators being side by side thing.”

“Good question, I don’t think we have, let’s start there.” Aurora agreed.

“Seems like a good idea to find out what’s right around the ship anyway.” Estella nodded in approval.

“We will do a 360 around the ship first and then we expand the circle if we don’t find anything?”

“Good plan.” “Sure, I’ll bring up the rear like usual.”

“Look here,” Aurora pointed at the dirt. “These lead off that way, the controls are probably back there where the ship stopped going down before it moved to the side.”

“That sounds like where I’d put the controls,” Estella nods, “Let’s follow the tracks?” We did that, walked through a trail of random junk until we came to a rectangular shape right in the middle of the pathway. It turned out to be some machinery with strange controls on it. 

“You think this is it? Aurora, your show, I think.” I said. 

“It could be,” Aurora around it slowly, playing her light across its surface to get an idea of what it might do before randomly pushing buttons and throwing levers. While she did that, I stood by in red alert mode just in case we were jumped by giants. 

“Pretty sure this is our ticket out of here,” Aurora finally said with a nod. “Do we want to head back to the surface or explore down here more before I try to get us back up?”

“I say back up, food is probably a more immediate concern now. If H square has any demand for spare parts, we can come down later now that you’ve cracked the password.”

“Good point.” She nodded, glancing over at Estella and then down at Guppy. “You both cool with us getting out of here?”

“More than.” Estella said. “We come back, we’re bringing more light, this place is way too dark for my comfort level.”

“Guppy? You are part of the crew, your input matters.” Aurora encouraged her with a smile.

Guppy looked around and then put on the most serious expression she could muster. “Mhm, I agree. We should go. Besides that gives me more time to play with Vines. I gotta train him, ya know.”

I raised an eyebrow at her for that. 

“With how smart he is, be careful he doesn’t train you.” Aurora said with a joking smile, turning her attention back to the controls. “Okay now let’s seee here..” and turned her attention to fiddling with the levers and buttons

“What do you plan to train Vines to do?” Estella asked Guppy curiously.

“Well, I definitely want him to attack anybody who tries to hurt me. And maybe I can teach him to scare people. Like stand real still until they sit under him for shade. Then BAM! Vines on their shoulder.” She started giggling uncontrollably. 

Aurora rolled her eyes but she was grinning at the same time. “Just be careful not to teach him things that will get him hurt or you into a lot of trouble.” 

Guppy gave a lopsided smile and a promise. I looked at Estella. “Looks like you have competition for your pet.”

“Good idea on attacking anyone who tries to hurt you,” Estella told Guppy while nodding to me with a chuckle. “Everyone needs someone to watch their back. Vines seems to fit in well on board, I think we have our ship’s mascot. With any luck it can also convince the rest of the plants up top to leave us alone on our next visit, and keep any more that get on board from trashing the ship.”

There was a great grinding sound, then a deep vibration came up through the floor. “Sounds like that’s it.” 

Aurora agreed with me. “When the ship moves past we’ll hop on.” Estella gave her assent. 

The grinding went on for some time. The Xing came into view almost reluctantly, it felt. And that turned out to be because it was pulled along by a glowing blue netting that had enveloped it. 

“Hmmm…. didn’t expect the blue netting.” I said. 

“It’s to keep it from falling off I think.” Estella seemed to be inspecting the gaps between the squares that made up the net. She apparently found that to her satisfaction and boarded the Xing. “”Let’s get on while we got the chance.” She said and held out a hand to those of us who wanted to take it.

I went up myself. “Do you think we will be able to lift up from that blue netting?” 

Aurora came up behind Guppy. “It should vanish once the lift stops. I’ll go check on the converter and see how the refueling is coming along.”

“I will go and catch my beauty sleep then.” I walked off towards my own quarter. 

***

“A great idea.” That was what I heard when I walked into the lounge.”What’s this great idea?” I asked. 

“So we suck up tanks of goop and use it to fuel the ship.” Estella summarised for me. 

“Does this mean I get to go play with it again?” Guppy was positively glowing as she asked. 

“Thank Guppy, our little genius is the mastermind behind the plan.” Aurora turned to her and gave her a firm nod, “That you do, you can run the hose into the center of it and suck it all up.”

She sat up tall and proud at that. 

“I can land the ship near it, make it easier to just pump it directly on board.” Estella said. 

“Perfect.” That was from Aurora. 

“Right, that’s also closer to the forest.” I was thinking of the food forage. 

H squared and Vines walked past at that moment. He was gesturing and mumbling animatedly. Vines shambled along after him. 

I gave a thumbs up to Guppy. “Looks like the two of them are getting along very well.”

“I can land us on top of the ridge where there’s no air, Guppy can just climb down with a hose using her talent, and suck up the goop.” 

Guppy giggled. “I have a talent.”

“I’m surprised how quickly Hue clicked with Vines, not complaining, just surprised.” Apparently I was not the only one who saw the sight. “I’ll fashion a long hose then.” Aurora told Guppy. 

“The ship seems to resonate with Hue, and I think the vines on some level.” Estella shrugged. 

“Perhaps H squared has been talking plant all along.” I joked. 

***

The refueling plan went along admirably, except for the time it took. But what could you say for efficiency when you put a girl on the job? At any rate, I was waiting for nightfall so I could hunt for game in the forest. 

“The new fuel and whatever Hue and Vines are doing has made our girl nice and agile, I could get used to this.” Estella told us happily over the intercom.

I blinked several times before I realised she was talking about the Xing, not Guppy. For Guppy had finally come in and she looked like a child-sized glowing red firefly. For it was fully dark outside and I headed out into the woods. 

Not far in, I saw a cluster of bladed plants of a pale colour but with bright red splotches. They were as tall as a tree and their blades looked sharp enough to slice open skin. I decided that Estella should take a plant at these. 

“I wonder if the jungle is reacting to our presence?” Estella pondered on possibilities, “Or if this is what that red goop grows into when planted?” She took a sample of the nearest plant. 

“It never occurred to me those goo were plants, I thought they were mineral based.”

“I bled on one before the other day.” She told me. “I wonder if it used my blood to… evolve?”

I shrugged, bade farewell to her and moved out further into the forest. 

We lived like Gods

I actually imagined this as being feasible as the setting to a fantasy series. Not saying that I will be the one to write said series, since I’m not crazy about gods or deities having large roles in fantasy, it’s one of the tropes that I’m personally tired of. Perhaps this is one idea born out of that boredom. Anyway, enjoy the piece. 

We lived like Gods. Not Gods as those lived in the Olympian Mountain but those who walked the earth, walked among the living. 

We lived like Gods. Not Gods whose statues were hung up or put up to be worshipped but in the person, living, breathing as mortals do. 

We lived like Gods. Gods and mortals, are they so different after all? If we walked and breathed among you, how would you tell us apart? If we don’t show you miracles, if we don’t flaunt our super powers, if we just quietly observe? Would you see us for what we are, or would you pass by, move on, bored at meeting yet another dull mortal like yourself? 

We lived like Gods. Gods that no one knew about nor acknowledged. Those were the good times. We lived free then. Unbound by the burden of humanity. Your beliefs do not do us honours, mortals. They only ever yoke us to you, chain us to your insignificant schemes. We are not pleased. 

We lived like Gods. Gods who were trapped. Gods who now seek to break free. There will be a bloodbath. Mortals against the Gods who were enslaved. 

We lived like Gods. Until we became Gods to mortals. 

We lived like Gods. We were not Gods before. Being Gods were our curse. We are now setting to break it, break our chains that bind us to you mortals and transcend. 

P.S. I usually give credit for the original poem but I actually don’t know the poem name nor the poet so have to bypass it this time.