Friday, June 14, 2019

#FridayFlash - Oracle

Margarite stepped from the forest into brilliant sunlight. Temporarily blinded, the young woman paused, taking the moment to catch her breath. Her legs trembled from the climb, and she wanted nothing more than to take a seat on the closest flat surface while she drank from her canteen.

But if she sat, she'd be unlikely to stand back up. If she didn't press forward, Margarite would never arrive at the Oracle's cave before the blood moon rose. And if she didn't speak to the Oracle...she refused to think of failure.

Drawing a deep breath, Margarite began the final leg of her journey.

The trail was narrow, barely there at all, winding up the bare slope of Mount Adams. Summer sun beat upon her head and shoulders, weighing down every step, making her doubt her decision to come up here. It would be easier to return to the village with her questions unanswered rather than trek higher up the mountain.

Margarite couldn't turn back now. Not after she'd made such a fuss to her family about needing the Oracle's guidance. The young woman refused to feel useless any longer, not when their caravans were going missing, the village was ina drought, and there were rumors of war coming across the country. Everyone needed answers, but only she was willing to seek the old woman who lived at the top of the mountain.

Her thoughts faded as she focused on the climb. One foot in front of the other, bracing on the occasional boulder or spindly tree. The sun marched across the sky, relentless with heat and light, and sweat ran into her eyes. Margarite lost track of the hours as she pressed on.

The end was finally in sight. The trail leveled out in a little glen, a black cave lurking at the far side. Shadows covered the stony maw, and a chill passed through Margarite. Walking fifty feet and into the dark portal was suddenly the hardest part of her trek.

But she had to do it. For everyone at home.

Margarite strode across the grass and into the cave, ignoring her aches and pains, determined to get the answers everyone needed. She'd made it! Her family had doubted the Oracle's existence, had been certain she wouldn't make it halfway up the mountain, but here she was.

The darkness brought welcome relief. Margarite allowed herself a moment to rest, taking a long drink while her eyes adjusted to the darkness of the cave. She ate a tiny piece of bread, not knowing how long it would actually take to find the Oracle.

A voice echoed from around the corner. "Who is it that seeks me?"

Margarite shoved her astonishment aside, glad that she did not have far to look. Smiling, relief banishing the stresses of her climb. "I seek the Oracle," the young woman called out as she approached the corner. She rounded it, and the sight before her gave her pause.

The cave was a natural room, bathed in the light of glowing crystals. Furs and moss draped the floors and walls, and strands of something she didn't recognize hung from the ceiling.

Lounging in the middle of the room beside a stagnant pool was an enormous frog with the face of a woman.

Margarite blinked several times, staring with eyes gone wide and mouth agape. Her questions disappeared completely, not just scattered by weariness. Comprehension was beyond her in the face of the creature before her. Could this beast be the Oracle with answers to her deepest worries?

"Not another one." The frog shifted, webbed hands taking new positions on her mossy perch. The crystal light gleamed upon sticky skin, highlighting her warts and mottled flesh.

Margarite shook her head, confusion fading slowly. "Pardon?"

"You stupid humans show up every now and then, asking for me to look into their future. They want me to just give them answers so they don't have to figure it out themselves.

"So I don't want to hear your questions. I'd give you the same advice no matter what. Live your own damn life, and don't let others tell you what to do."

Friday, June 7, 2019

#FridayFlash - Tipping the Scales

I slipped through dimensional walls, approaching my target. Yet another brightly lit world, drenched in sunshine and redolent with the scent of growing things. My least favorite type of world, on my least favorite type of mission.

But as a servant of the Grey Lords, I didn't get much say on the matter.

The town was beautiful and well-maintained. Picturesque. Housewives watched me from their windows, and children halted during their play to stare. Exactly as their kind on these planets always did. I'd endured these looks a thousand times, would endure a million more, but that didn't mean I enjoyed them.

Of course they stared. Even if they hadn't watched me appear out of thin air, everything about me screamed outsider. This was an agrarian society, peaceful, and I was clearly a warrior. Even a society without violence recognized armor and a long sword, the tools of my trade. I stood a head taller than any of them, strode with purpose, and let my ebony hair flow freely to my waist.

I kept my head up and eyes forward, ignoring the whispers. Other servants of the Grey Lords went about their missions in peace, without awkwardness from the natives, but I didn't possess that level of subtlety. In and out, swift as could be, moving on to my next mission.

My target played in a yard two houses ahead, currently unaware of my approach. The sun gleamed on her golden tresses as she merrily splashed in the mud. I quickened my steps, wanting to kill her before she saw me. My heart had hardened to the stares, but not the innocent eyes.

Nothing numbed me to that.

Luck was on my side. I was upon the toddler, sword drawn, and claimed her life before she looked up from her game. Her tiny body offered no resistance to my blade, and fell soundlessly when I withdrew.

Her mother shrieked, rushing to the girl's corpse. I cleaned my sword, ignoring the wails, preparing for my return journey. It would take much alcohol to dull this fresh memory.

A rock hit my shoulder, unable to hurt me through my armor, but it drew my attention to the growing mob behind me. I sighed and turned to face them, the unfortunate mother still wailing behind me.

"Monster!" The middle-aged man in front brandished a pitchfork at me, his face red and jaw clenched. Other men brooded behind him, and even the village women gathered in their rage.

When I'd first began the task of maintaining Balance, I'd attempted to explain my missions to the mortals. I'd wanted them to understand that one death was often all it took to prevent a greater catastrophe. I'd thought it would ease their little minds, that I could open their eyes to the greater causes of the Universe.

But mortals saw only a death, and lost all reason. They were ruled by their emotions, and the blatant reminders of their mortality stirred their fear and sorrow and doubts. No words I offered would calm them back down, so I'd stopped. No one here would know why a little girl needed to die to preserce their way of life.

A wet horse turd flew from the back of the mob, hitting me in the chest before I realized what it was. It broke apart, pieces splattering my face. More cries of villainy and wrong-doing rose, but I barely heard them over my sudden rage.

"You petty things," I growled. Ice filled my veins, not fire. Anger had always brought me cold clarity, the fury of a blizzard. "You cannot comprehend the nature of your world, let alone the greater formula of the Universe. I am an Agent of balance, tasked with maintaining that through whatever means necessary, but you call me a monster."

Another piece of filth flew, struck me in the thigh. They were too busy working into a frenzy to hear my words or see the anger building within me.

"If you want a monster, than I will show you one." No one would remember this village when I was done.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Movie Review - The Hard Way

If I see the names Michael Jai White or Luke Goss, I set my expectations at a certain level. When they credits roll, they get equal billing, then are followed with "And Randy Couture:, and I know I'm in for a whole new lower level of hell.

Even with lowered expectations, I managed to feel disappointed in The Hard Way.

There's a way to start a movie with a running chase, and this wasn't it. Pointless, ungrounded, and a character no one cares about finally dies. Meaningless words, then the credits roll.

Next scene is Michael Jai White being all mysterious and bad ass, fight scene to show that he's bad ass, then he finds out his brother is dead.

The movie progresses in pretty much the same way. Just one scene after the other, barely connected, usually with boring cinematography or head-splitting edits. The story is so paper thin, I'm pretty sure it was written on a cocktail napkin. Wait, a gang leader is a bad guy, and he is doing bad things to these vulnerable girls? Shock and surprise. The big twist is predicated on an event you didn't know was being set up? Color me bored.

Couture was somehow worse than normal, and I think it was because too much was asked of him. Annoying, because he wasn't really playing an in-depth character, so for him to be even more wooden and unable to emote...Enough said.

Whomever edited the fight scenes should be immediately taken out back and be beaten with wet towels. They should feel deep shame, and never be allowed near martial art fight scenes again. There is zero reason for so many cuts when you're dealing with guys that talented.

Not only were there too many cuts in the fights, many of the scenes were transitioned with this fade to  grayscale B-roll cuts of the surrounding city, and sometimes there was random narration that was supposed to be deep and meaningful. The director clearly had some high ideas of what kind of movie they were making, and wanted to elevate it to some artistic level, but was too heavy-handed with everything. And he wasn't realistic enough with admitting what he was actually making and got it into his head that this was artsy.


No amount of badass Michael Jai White or hot Luke Goss makes this worth watching. Rewatch pretty much any of their other movies instead.