A Testament for Habits

Humans are creatures of habit. Not a shocking proposition, for most of human history our lives have been nothing but the same thing over and over. As a ‘sort of’ uncle of mine used to say, we “eat, sleep, shit, and work;” a succinct formula for our lives.

But it’s even more important for those like myself. Low in conscientiousness, and with a mental illness deeply linked to habit. Bipolar disorder is strongly linked to the circadian rhythm. Mess with your sleep? You’re going to feel it worse than others. And we probably all, at some level, already know this. But what you may not have known is that it goes that deep into biology. Another thing liked to the circadian rhythm is eating, so if you want to get next level about it, eat at the same time, and sleep at the same time as much as possible.

Don’t beat yourself up about it though. Use who you are today as a ruler for success. Just setting “better than before” as a goal is an actual, meaningful improvement, because now you’re seriously oriented upwards instead of across. The “ideal” can forgive the mistakes you make along the way to reaching them.1

Habits are powerful tools twofold. First, once you set a habit in place, you essentially start doing it automatically. I did this with fiction writing a year back when I was in my “year off” of University. Since I returned, I post weekly instead of daily. Another, more relevant habit I’ve constructed is… breakfast! I thought, what’s the easiest, and highest in fat/protien (the best morning [and life] nutrients) food that makes a good breakfast? Coffee! No. Coffee and peanut butter! Yes!! Wonderful! Now I have breakfast nearly every day.

The second superpower of habits is that, once one is in place, it’s super easy to build on it. It’s like… well, it’s sort of like building a house. Once you have the framework in, it’s not too difficult to nail down some dry-wall. Maybe add some siding? Pain the inside? Hell, it’s so nice now you might as well buy some imaginary furniture and move in to the damn place. But, there’s no rush. Do it right, do it at your own pace.

Just make sure that you’re oriented upwards, instead of across, and that’s where you’ll end up even if it’s by process of absent-minded strolling.

Further Watching on the topic of Habits:

  • Jordan Peterson – Daily Structure Keeps You Sane – “So you do the math, so we’ll say five hours a week for the sake of argument just to keep it simple. It’s 20 hours a month. It’s 240 hours a year. That’s six 40-hour work weeks. … Mostly what you want is to have [in life is] a routine. It’s discipline. It’s predictable and bloody well stick to it. You’re going to be way healthier and happier and saner if you do that … the world is too complicated for you to keep it organized all by yourself … So we outsource the problem of sanity.”
  • Simon Sinek – Do You Love Your Wife? – “It’s about transitions. … If you go to the gym and you workout and you come back, and you look in the mirror, you will see nothing. And if you go to the gym the next day and you come back and you look in the mirror, you will see nothing, right? … Or if you fundamentally believe that this is the right course of action and you stick with it, like in a relationship. I bought her flowers and I wished her happy birthday and she doesn’t love me, clearly I’ll give up. You know? That’s not what happens. … You could screw it up, … you know it allows for that. But if you stick with it consistently, I’m not exactly sure what day, but I know you’ll start getting into shape. … It’s not about intensity it’s about consistency. … It’s the daily practice of all the monotonous, little, boring, things like brushing your teeth that matter the most.”

1 Yes, that is a Jesus reference. Idk what else to say about it.

Maybe I’ll do a post on goal setting later.

Daniel Triumph.

The Spectator; The Thief

Jason Arson walked across the rooftops. Most other people in his position may have run, but Jason was a punctual infiltrator. He was already ahead of his own schedule by fifteen minutes, and his schedule was set ahead by twice that much. Running would actually be detrimental, as the longer he stood in his hiding place, the more likely he was to be discovered. The only real downside to walking was that he had to push harder to jump from roof to roof, but Jason had strong legs, so he didn’t mind.

So Jason Arson walked.

He ran down an alley, thrusting his legs from wall to wall. He ran, losing a cubit of height with each step and hitting the ground right before running out of alley. Then, he walked out into the streets, entirely unassuming.

Arson wore a brown trench coat, cut right above the knee. He preferred black, but brown would blend in better with the castle’s insides, as well as its inhabitants. Jason patted himself down, checking items off his mental list.

Short sword? Left side, tied high on the waist. Spike launcher? He felt around. Also on the left side, above the sword. Truncheon? He knew he had that for sure, it kept knocking on his spine as he walked. Wallet? Jason tapped around his seven pockets. Nope, forgot the wallet. Hand pick? Yes! In a pocket! At least he had that.

The last item was his ear-trumpet. The use of the trumpet had made him a laughing-stock, until it had allowed him to hear a vital piece of information that everyone else had missed. They stopped calling him ‘the deaf spy’ after that.

The inside of the castle was extremely crowded, the walls browned with age. Jason quickly got lost. It is an infiltrator’s job to get lost. He quickly made his way to the second floor, and after making two lefts in the wide halls, he looked around for a haven where he could plan his next move. He found the door to a broom closet. According to the map he had been supplied with and subsequently memorized, Jason knew that this closet was only one wall over from the throne room. He looked around. So far, he hadn’t seen anyone on the second floor, and he guessed it was restricted from the public. This was both good and bad. It meant he was less likely to be caught, but it also meant that his presence would immediately draw suspicion. Jason tried the doorknob. Locked. He felt around for his picks, and then remembered that he didn’t have the wallet he kept them in. He was going to have to get creative.

Jason casually launched himself back towards the staircase, sidling around the corner. Before turning it, he stopped. He could hear footsteps, but they were unusually paced, as if the person was stumbling continually. He rifled around his coat for the small ear-trumpet. Thu-thump, thu-thump. The sounds became louder and more distinct through the horn, but they still made no sense to him.

He took a deep breath in, and then turned back from where he came. He tried every single door as he skulked down the hall. All were locked. He ran around the corner once more, and vainly tried the closet again. Nothing. He was farther from the footsteps now, so he took the extra time to feel around the walls for loose stones, maybe a hidden entrance. He again found nothing. He heard his oblivious pursuer getting closer. He didn’t have much time.

Jason tried all the doors in the section of the hall. No. No. No. No. Yes. Wait, yes? He opened the door and saw that it was another staircase, but that this one went up. He closed the door and ran to the top. The door there unlocked as well. “Okay,” he whispered.

Right as he opened the door, Jason heard the knob at the foot of the staircase turn. The odd footsteps had caught up. He rushed through the portal and closed it behind him, carefully turning the latch so that it clicked silently. The steps got even more unusual, as if they couldn’t understand the concept of stairs. Jason shuddered, but continued trying rooms, and continued to be denied entry.

Jason was getting nervous now; he was running out of options. He noticed that the rooms on this floor were labelled. He grabbed the one titled “supply door” and to his relief, it opened. Jason entered and slammed the door as silently as his nerves would allow.

Minutes went by, and the footsteps became audible once more. He listened as they passed and then turned the corner. In an act of poor judgement, Jason opened the closet door and looked around the corner of the hallway to see what kind of creature had been following him.

He saw a short woman. She had tanned skin, and thick sun bleached hair. She was a child! She was skipping down the halls! Jason receded back into his closet He took his face in his hands and pulled downward. He lamented the idea that he had been genuinely fearful of a prancing youth.

Jason sighed and returned to his task. He hadn’t memorized the third floor, so he felt around, hoping he had his map. Its presence in his coat surprised him. He quietly unrolled and read it. The throne room was two storeys tall, which meant that he could probably listen in from this closet, if he dug into the edge of the floor diagonally.

Jason Arson took the hand-pick out of his pocket and started at the mortar by his feet. Within twenty minutes he had removed many of the smaller stones from behind the outer brickwork. He worked his way around a wooden support beam, and then broke through into another room. He stopped digging, pulled the debris inward, and then peered inside. It was the target, the throne room. He could see the King’s wife milling about and talking to someone who he recognised. His mind began to wander into memories. He cleared his head. The King arrived. Jason lay face down on the ground, pressed himself against the wall, and readied his ear-trumpet.

 

Another of Jason Arson.

This is an edited re-release of the story fragment that was recently removed from the site. I figured that the story that was contained on the page might be worth keeping posted. Also, my editing game is getting up there. Pretty happy about it.

Daniel Triumph.

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P.S., Happy Friday!

Can You make a Living as a Writer?

In a long continuance of poverty, and long habits of dissipation, it cannot be expected that any character should be exactly uniform. There is a degree of want by which the freedom of agency is almost destroyed; and long association with fortuitous companions will at last relax the strictness of truth, and abate the fervour of sincerity.

Samuel Johnson (on William Collins)

There was a long period of time when I categorized creative writing as a job, like any other. As I grew up though, it became more and more obvious that this simply was not the case.  They don’t work steady hours, they often work from home, or at the very least not out of an office. They often take years, or fractions of years, to put out content.

Really, you could have a lot of fun with this line. Writers often don’t get published. They’re often rejected many times first if they actually are published. It’s a flooded market, because everyone thinks it’s easy to write a novel. Even if you do manage to push out 50 000 words or more, it’s not easy to make them any good. And even if they are good, good isn’t good enough, especially for a publisher. Especially for the market. Especially for history. What was I getting at?

Right. So you put out a book. Does it even sell well? Maybe you put out another? I read that it took one writer eight novels to start making a livable income.

The more I learned about it, the less likely it seemed that someone anyone was about to list “writer” as their occupation. It’s just so unlikely.

The Split

It wasn’t until nearly a year ago that I realized that there’s a split in books. It’s going to seem really obvious when I say it, but I’m really good at not noticing obvious things so I’ll lay it out for you.

Number 3 on Amazon on release!

I had been listening to Gary Vaynerchuk for a long time. Eventually I had gotten his entire message down, and he was starting to get repetitive. (Gary, for those of you who don’t know, is marketing entrepreneur who sells the “work hard” message, and talks about how it’s way easier to “make it” now that the internet exists.) I got his first book, Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion on audible, and I listened to it at work. It’s a pretty compelling title, right? The book essentially encapsulates on how to execute on the idea of what is now known as “influencer marketing.” You make a blog, or a youtube channel, or something. Then you become an expert on a topic. Then you just put out content as frequently as you can and build an audience. Apparently it works, because he’s released an updated book on the same thing complete with success stories.

Back to the split. I decided, hey, I can do that. Thus, this blog was started. It wasn’t too long later that I started to realize what I was doing wasn’t the same kind of thing as other influencer blogs were. I’m not talking about anything. I don’t have a specialty. I don’t really have a “brand.” I’m not influencing anyone on anything, not really. I just write stories. Unless I build an audience, nobody’s going to advertise on that, and advertising revenue is kind of the whole thing. It’s hard enough to build a financially successful blog, but building a financially successful fiction blog is essentially unheard of.

To be honest, I don’t know much about fiction blogs. I don’t think you can monetize them in the same way as informational blogs (no affiliate ability, products you can create are limited), so I can’t be of much help. I’m sorry!

— An email reply to my question of how to monetise.

And that’s the split.

Non-fiction is a lot easier to sell than fiction, and as far as I can tell, this extends out of blogs and into books. It’s a lot easier to get a non-fiction book published and have it actually make money. People seek information and solutions to problems a lot more than they seek stories. Those who read for pleasure are a minority; even if you give it away for free, as I and a few other bloggers do.

Let’s keep going.

Great Writers

Studying English Literature at University, I noticed something surprising. A lot of the fiction writers that I studied also had some other job. I can’t really remember many off the top of my head, but I compiled this cool chart. As my definition of “great” I chose people in the canon, and the canon I used was the first one I could find online. You think there’d be a more official list than Wikipedia, but this isn’t really an academic paper, so you’ll have to excuse my use of the free encyclopedia. (Actually, if anyone has a good link to an English or Western canon list, please tell me.)

Writer Artistry Other Occupation
Jonathan Swift Poetry, Prose Priest, Essayist
Samuel Taylor Coleridge Poetry Philosopher
Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) Prose Entrepreneur, lecturer, publisher
Edgar Allen Poe Prose Critic*
William Shakespeare Poetry, Plays Actor*, editor
Charles Dickens Prose
William Wordsworth Poetry
Fyodor Dostoyevsky Prose Military engineer, journalist
Arthur Conan Doyle** Prose Physician, Fancy Moustache
John Milton Prose Polemicist, civil servant
Emily Dickinson Poetry Lived with her parents
Ernest Hemingway Prose Revolving door of rich wives
John Donne Poetry Priest, lawyer
William Blake Poetry, Painting Printmaker
Miguel de Cervantes Prose, Poetry Soldier, accountant
Geoffrey Chaucer Poetry Bureaucrat, diplomat
Virginia Woolf Prose Publisher, critic, essayist

Image result for canterbury tales*May not count
** Not in a canon

The man who managed to make it into the canon with an unfinished book was the first person who tipped me off. For whatever reason, I remember Geoffrey Chaucer being introduced in class as a banker. but this was two years ago, so, looking at my chart, it seems that I mixed that up. Chaucer was a bureaucrat and diplomat, and he “audited and kept books on the export taxes, which were one of the Crown’s main sources of revenue” (Greenblat 189). I guess he did do something with money.

So, once you realize that people, even the people you learn about in academia, are working as well as writing, you start to think. At least I did. I started to notice more of them here and there. Although, I didn’t much pay much attention to it. Not until this year, when I was researching Poe.

Edgar Allen Poe managed to scrape his gothic self into two separate courses of mine this year. And, looking into him a bit, I learned that “Poe was the first American writer, as Alexander Pope had been the first in England, to support himself entirely by his writing” (Mayers 138). This quote is kind of cool, because it shows that in two separate countries, making a living writing was unusual… for centuries.

Continuing with Poe, however, it seems that even after he “made it,” he continued to struggle financially.

A young author, struggling with Despair itself in the shape of a ghastly poverty, which has no alleviation — no sympathy from an every-day world, that cannot understand his necessities, and that would pretend not to understand them if it comprehended them ever so well — this young author is politely requested to compose an article, for which he will “be handsomely paid.” Enraptured, he neglects perhaps for a month the sole employment which affords him the chance of a livelihood, and having starved through the month (he and his family) completes at length the month of starvation and the article, and despatches the latter (with a broad hint about the former) to the pursy “editor” and bottle-nosed “proprietor” who has condescended to honor him (the poor devil) with his patronage. A month (starving still), and no reply. … At the expiration of six additional months, personal application is made at the “editor’s” and “proprietor’s” office. Call again. The poor devil goes out, and does not fail to call again. Still call again; — and call again is the word for three or four months more. His patience exhausted, the article is demanded. No — he can’t have it (the truth is, it was too good to be given up so easily) — “it is in print,” and “contributions of this character are never paid for (it is a role we have) under six months after publication. Call in six months after the issue of your affair, and your money is ready for you — for we are business men, ourselves — prompt” (Poe).

Poe struggled because editors avoided paying him, and because of a lack of international copyright law. Publishers and magazines could literally just steal works from other countries like Britain, instead of paying the American for his stories. As far as I know, neither of these issues exist anymore. At least, I hope not.

Related image
Cricton got an MD from Harvard before switching to writing.

A lot of the great writers had jobs… in fact, if my quote has any weight to it, all writers born before the eighteenth century in England, and the nineteenth in the United States had jobs. For me that means a couple of things. The first is that writing “on the side” is normal. The second is that, even (especially?) if you happen to be extremely artistic, writing anywhere except on the side mightn’t ever factor in.

 

While I was researching for this, I found a an entire Wikipedia (again) page on physicians who write. I’m not sure why this is a thing, but it’s common enough to have its own page. Mental Floss also did an article on it. So, why not go be a doctor like your parents (may have) wanted you to? Make a six figure income and write in your fancy home during your off hours. Ahah.

Novels are a Business

There isn’t enough money to go around… sort of.

Image result for pareto distributionAccording to Price’s law, half of all scientific contributions are made by the square root of the total number of scientific contributors: thus, if there are 100 scientists within a given discipline, just 10 of them will account for 50 percent of all publications. The Price’s law describes unequal distribution of productivity in most domains of creativity (Gorny, emphasis mine).

The bigger you are, the more people recognise you. The more people recognise you, the more people buy your books. The more people buy your books, the bigger you get. The more people want to publish you. The more stores shelf your book. It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s present in the novelling, and almost any other market.

Most of us aren’t recognised at the top, in fact most writers probably aren’t making anything. There’s probably a large amount that are just writing for fun. Those that are making a living wage are what I like to call the exceptions.

The Exceptions

Image result for agatha christie

Writers like J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, and Agatha Christie are the exceptions. Especially Christie. If you want a good example of an exception to the rule, look no further than the woman competing in sales numbers with William Shakespeare!

Outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare, Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time. She is best known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections, as well as the world’s longest-running play – The Mousetrap.

— http://www.agathachristie.com

From what I can tell, which isn’t much, it seems to me that there are two ways to actually make money writing. The first is to write a lot of things that are interesting to read. They don’t have to be particularly good, in fact being literary slows you down. Get rid of all that and just write a ton. That’s clearly what Christie did. One of the things that stabbed out of the page at me while reading Harry Potter was the unimpressive and sometimes just plain bad prose. Apparently King isn’t much better. But really, writing in this fashion clearly works if you have the content to make up for it.

There’s another group that manages to get by with fairly simple writing, the occasional grammar error, and lots of releases. It’s the indie publishers. Self publishinh directly to ebooks and cranking out two or three novels a year, these people are on a mission, and it’s paying off. Royalties are lower, if not non-existent if you indie publish, and because it’s digital you don’t even have to pay for printed books. But, the breakneck speed at which you have to release to make a living seems to cut into their quality. I’m not sure.

Conclusion

This is actually sort of an awful article, it spells out how almost exactly how unlikely it is that anyone will make a living writing. It’s the last thing I wanted to hear, that’s why it took a strong three years for me to come around and face it. But, I kind of cheated when I did.

The first thing I pointed out here, in different words, was that it’s unusual to make money doing art. I feel like that’s so obvious that it’s almost in the realm of common sense. Writing somehow falls to the side of that though, possibly because when people think “art” they don’t immediately think “novel.”

Anyway, my first point was that even a lot of the great writers from the canon also did other things, and that’s where I “cheated.” It’s unlikely that you or I will make a living writing. It’s unlikely that anyone will make a living writing. Especially if you want to take the time to put out something of literary quality. So the cheat is that… that’s normal. You don’t have to worry about it, or stress about how you’re going to do it.

I mean, feel free to try, just be careful that you don’t fall into the dead prose of mass fiction… or do, whatever works. As for me, I’m going to try what Margret Atwood did. (Although, I’m not a huge fan of Atwood, she definitely both made it, and is good enough that I read her work in university.) That is, get a “real job” and hope for the best after that. I think it beats being a starving artist working a minimum wage job anyway. And being educated certainly doesn’t hurt writing quality.

Further Reading

I found this article, I thought it was pretty cool. It’s a very strong resource for learning how to make money in art, although it’s geared a little more towards visual arts. The #1 Reason Artists Fail At Making a Living Selling Art (And What You Can Do About It)

I did a post a while back on theme. That might interest you.

Works Cited

Gorny, Eugene. “Price’s law.” Dictionary of Creativity: Terms, Concepts, Theories & Findings in Creativity Research / Compiled and edited by Eugene Gorny. Netslova.ru, 2007. http://creativity.netslova.ru/Price~s_law.html

Greenblatt, editor. The Norton anthology of English literature. Ninth ed., vol. 1 2, W.W. Norton, 2013.

Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: his life and legacy. Cooper Square Press, 2000.

Poe, Edgar A. “Some Secrets of the Magazine Prison-House,” Broadway Journal, February 15, 1845 (accessed at http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/poe/etext/smprison.htm)

Wikipedia. “Western canon.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 9 Feb. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_canon.

Daniel Triumph.

Please check out my most recent work of fiction, Mariça.

Sunchaser

We live on a boat that sails across the sea. The ship is called the Sunchaser. I consider this to be a lazy name, because it’s simply a description of what the ship does. We follow the sun around the world. I used to wonder how we could follow the sun all the time, so I asked one of the captains.

He told me, “the ship is powered by wind blowing in the sails.” When I asked where the wind came from, he said, ” the air moves from cold places to warm places. So, when we see the sun, the ship moves slower, and our ship starts falling behind. Then, when it’s dark, we get caught in the winds that blow from behind us, where it’s cold, back towards the sun. This gives us a burst of speed, and we eventually catch back up to the sun and to the slower moving wind. This is how night and day work on the ship.”

We have been following the sun for many years. There are families, plants, and animals here too. In fact, I was born on this ship. Occasionally, we encounter other boats who sail alongside us. We meet new people. Sometimes, I wonder about the islands and lands that we pass. I decided to ask the other captain what’s on the land.

She told me, “on the land are other people. Many years ago, the other captain and I decided that we wanted to ride on a ship that would chase the sun. We wanted to take control of our abilities and use them in a productive way. So we learned how to sail, and found others who had the abilities and wanted to come along. Living on the sea is a lot more work than living on the land, but the reward is the sun.”

I asked her why we don’t ever stop on the land.

She told me, “we have stopped, when you were much younger than you are now. Some of the eldest of our group were unable to keep up with the tasks of sailing. We had to wait a very long time for the sun to return and bring us wind again. When you stay at harbour for too long, people get out of practice, and lose the important routines needed at sea. Some of our people gave up during the wait and decided to stay on the land instead. It’s easier to live on the land than here at sea. The ground isn’t made of ever-shifting waters. There were people living on the land, however, who were interested in taking the place of those who left. We were grateful that they would come help us follow the sun.”

I asked the captain why the sun was so important if we could never truly reach it.

She replied, “keeping up with the sun is a very difficult task, but the reward is that we have more frequent exposure to its light than those who don’t. We are able to see it by applying our own efforts. Instead of waiting on the land for the sun to come to us, we go to the sun.”

The other captain overheard us, and as we spoke, it came time for the two to trade duties. He told me that he could take a short break with me, and that I could ask him questions. So, I asked him if the people on the land were different.

He told me, “as you know, some people can’t sail, so they have to stay on the land. Some have decided that they would rather not take the effort to learn, so they remain on the land. Others realize that the effort needs to be maintained even after learning, while sailing, so they stay too. Others still never hear of life on the water until later in their lives, and they decide to train then, and join a ship.

“There are also those who were sailing that tire of the life following the sun, and decide that the rewards aren’t worth the effort any more. Others are pessimistic, and choose to believe that it wasn’t worth the effort in the first place. On the other end of the scale, some people were lucky enough to be born sailing, and learn the ropes as they grow up. Some people sail all the way until they die.”

The captain gave me a chance to think through what he had said.

“But, to answer your question directly, the people on the land are different, but not in the way you might think. As an example, you might find someone just like yourself living on the land. Outside of those who are simply unable, anyone can train and become a sailor. Anyone can learn, and practice the skills.”

He scratched his chin thoughtfully, then said, “as my partner said to me, the real difference between the people on the land and the people chasing the sun is the level of discipline and the kinds of habits they maintain.”

I asked if habits really was the only difference.

He told me, “yes, and the discipline to maintain those habits! Now, with that in mind, I think we both have duties we should be tending to, is that right?”

I hopped up and nodded. I headed to the area of the ship that I was responsible for. While I was working I thought back to what I had believed about the ship’s name. Was it a lazy name?

Inspired by the words, “ever receding horizon.”

I’m struggling to create narratives with underlying meaning. I know that this piece might be a little overt about the whole process, but it’s a first step, and I’m really happy about it. Once I get a solid grip on all this, then I can play with subtlety.

Daniel Triumph.

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WHAT WAS IT LIKE? THE FUTURE?

“WHAT WAS IT LIKE? THE FUTURE.”

“I could see myself, lifting things that I could not touch.”

“COULD NOT TOUCH?”

“Yes, I could move things that were far away, I could… control matter as I pleased. It was… frightening.”

“YOU ARE NOT THE CHOSEN ONE, AND YET YOU HAVE STOLEN THE POWER.”

“The… the power?”

yaska-pen-e1506059008713.jpg

“YOU ARE THE CURSED ONE, YOU ARE THE DEVIL. WE MUST KILL YOU. WE MUST KILL YOU SO THAT THE CHOSEN CAN TAKE YOUR POWER. YOU ARE NOT THE CHOSEN!”

“Kill me? What? What… what if I am the CHOSEN?” She said.

The Shriken Elder’s face became fierce. It was a look that Yaska was used to. All the Shriken people were the same in this respect. They had three pronged pupils, many long, sharp molars, and a they could pull back their cheeks to let their jaws open wider.

That is what the Elder was doing. He bared his teeth, and brandished his claws. His giant leathery wings unfurled, and he swept himself forward.

Yaska was knocked to the ground. She stood and clawed at the man, but nothing happened. His skin was hard as stone. She drew her sword from the clasp on her back and cut across. The man did not flinch, he simply walked towards her slowly.

“Why are you attacking me?”

The Elder said, “YOU ARE NOT THE CHOSEN, BUT YOU WILL HAVE THE POWER. THIS IS NOT ALLOWED, YOU HAVE TAKEN IT.”

A young woman appeared in doorway holding a Plainkind medical knife.

Yaska stepped away from him, backpedaling until her back was to the wall. she looked left and right. She saw a square hole, a window.

The Elder was slow, Yaska knew it was because he was cursed, and suffered from grinding bones in both knees. He would get over it in a few years, the Plainkind did were immune to chronic illness. But for now, the man edged towards her, death in his eyes.

Yaska turned left and dived out of the window, a hole. She opened her wings and dropped to the ground with grace, plummeting. This place, this ancient Shriken temple, was built into the mountain that overlooked the Plainkind desert, the rolling hills of sand and its inhabitants, the Plainkind and the dinosaurs. They were all Plainkind, even the Shriken, but they liked to pretend they were better.

From within the building, the Elder shrieked. The sound cut the air, travelling hundreds of kilocubits.

This is mountain where they watched the youth survive.

Yaska could see them, the Shriken people, heeding the Elder’s call. They soared through the sky towards the mountain.

“Oh no…”

Yaska didn’t know what she was going to do. She didn’t think she could take out an entire settlement’s worth of them.

She turned around to see if she could find refuge back in the mountain. The stone door was sealed.

Yaska ran to it and started knocking, her fist creating deep seated cracks in gate. She frantically looked around. The Shriken were getting close. Where was the elder? He had not followed her. Who was in the crowd?

She saw someone flying in front of them, it was her sister, Reyla. What, was she coming for the kill as well?

The first of the Shriken landed. She looked around and saw her sister’s back.

“Run!” Reyla shouted. She drew a ten foot wooden pole and began beating her companions with it.

Yaska beat her way through the door and turned back. Reyla had subdued three or four of them, Yaska couldn’t tell.

“Go! Do not worry about me. The would not kill another Shiken. Are you the CHOSEN ONE?”

“No, they want to kill me because I stole the CHOSEN’S powers!”

“What nonsense. Now go!” Reyla pushed her stick against a group of attackers and stepped forward. She walked, shoving more and more against the dull blade, and then she swung. The wood strained, but Reyla successfully managed to fling a small group of her attackers into the air.

Yaska spun and ran into the temple and was confronted with a wide open stadium, and was immediately confronted with the Elder. She looked around, her eyes cutting the dark environment. She saw the hall that followed the mountain’s circumference and dashed, pulling her wings out a touch. Her gait was one step above a run, maintaining a glide by launching herself forward with each stride.

The entire temple was black, because the Plainkind could see in the dark. Various limbs and bladed weapons crashed through the wall, they were locating her by her vibrations. Most of them missed, but Yaska also collected a few scrapes and cuts from the odd sword.

Yaska ran down the claustrophobic tube for three, then four strides before she was confronted by another person, the woman with the knife.

“Ah, wait!” Yaska skidded to a stop, her clawed feet digging into the stone.

“No, we are done waiting, you will stop now.”

Yaska was thrust into the wall. The Elder’s hands made a pair of holes through the stone behind her, and Yaska was caught in his hold. She was held around the waist by the Elder, and pinned by the shoulder by the woman.

She said, “The knife,” and then handed it over.

The man punched a hole for his head with his off hand, and Yaska squirmed beneath the woman’s pin.

“What are you?” Yaska looked around. The attacks from outside had stopped, and she wondered if it was due to her capture, or if perhaps Reyla had defeated them all.

The Elder forced his torso through the wall, and stone crumbled around him.

“No!” Yaska moved her shoulders. The woman dug her fingers in until she drew blood.

“Yes. It is what must be done.”

“No!”

The Elder stabbed the knife into Yaska’s left thigh, and then slowly drew it up her body. It cut deep, deep past the nerves. For the most part, Yaska did not feel much. He cut upward, nicking her ribs as he went, cutting the upper edge of her right breast, and then up the shoulder.

Yaska looked down and watched as the think line of pink slowly turned red.

The Elder began cutting around the shoulder and down her back.

“No!”

Yaska’s heart began to pump faster, and for a few beats blood squirted out of the long incision. She gritted her teeth and forcibly pulled the laceration shut by the sinews.

“No!”

Her eyes glowed red, and she looked into the maroon eyes of the woman.

“NO!”

Yaska pulled free of both holds and grabbed the young woman’s face in her hand. She slammed her head into the outer wall, cracking it along it’s length. And the she did it again, and the poor woman was thrust into the hot desert air. She was no longer concious. Yaska’s wound was still oozing, but it greatly inhibited by the sheer force of her clenching muscles.

“YOU MUST DIE FOR THE GREATER GOOD!” The Elder said.

Yaska spun to face him, “THE GREATER GOOD WILL BE THE DOWNFALL OF CIVILIZATION.”

The Elder’s expression became fierce; murderous. He stepped forward and thrust the sword into Yaska’s heart.

One pump emptied the organ of it’s blood. It splattered across the elder’s torso. Yaska stared, eyes wide open.

“YOU CANNOT KILL…” Yaska spoke, as though in another language. Words came out, as if she was speaking in tongues. “YOU CANNOT KILL THAT WHICH IS ETERNAL.”

She took his hand and stabbed him with the knife. The Elder stood in shock, his own hand, his own knife piercing his chest. Then elder the died in shock.

Then, Yaska fell on top of him.

 

Shortly after Reyla found her.

“Wah!” She turned her sister over and looked at the wound.

It had healed, leaving a long scar running across Yaska’s body. The woman woke up, her head pounding.

“Reyla… did we kill the thief?”

“Kill?”

Yaska’s eyes opened. She looked around.

“Are you okay, sister?”

“You are my sister then?” Yaska said.

“Yes, do you not remember?”

“I only remember dying. I remember language, and I remember all my knowledge but… I don’t remember any people.”

Reyla embraced her sister. “Once more you have abandoned me… Don’t worry Yaska. I will take care of you.”

It’s strange but true.

Yaska goes on to relive her childhood in the village. As we know, she also loses her wings, and her sister, but all that happens… much later.

Daniel Triumph.