31 August 2009
I was considerably surprised at the fact that the whole time spent reaching the edge of the plateau was without incident. I had expected to see at least a few, or hear them at best; lizards were notorious for their long-distance sniping. Even the vicious plant-life did not hinder us in the least. We saw no carnivorous blossoms or curious mirage-plants. Consulting our map, I saw that we were very near to where the map ended and that we would have to rely on Grace's guidance. I stopped the rover and suggested we eat and rest before continuing. We had been going all day with hardly any stops, so the suggestion was accepted. We slipped the food tablets through our masks, sat back, and admired the sunset. Afterwards, I continued along the plateau's edge, using the rover's map light to illumine the chart. When I had finally run out of map to follow, I stopped the rover and looked to Grace. I pointed to the map and ran my finger along our path until it ran off the edge. I then pointed to her, hoping she would understand that I now needed her to guide us the rest of the way. She did not respond at first, but then unstrapped herself from the rover and climbed down onto the mossy ground. Callie and I grabbed the supplies and exited the rover as well.
I keep forgetting about the slightly quicker rotation of venus. I suppose I had only gotten about five hours of sleep when I hear Callie knocking at my door. I got up, stumbled over to the door and opened it to find a bright, cheery Callie, fully suited, standing in the hallway. I turned on the light.
"Ready, Arty?" I actually welcomed her cheery voice in spite of my mood.
"Yeah, in a few minutes. Is anyone else up, do you know?" I peered out into the hallway. I did not see anyone.
"I don't think so. Far as I can tell, you, me, and Grace are the only ones awake. Y'know, I think that you and I are the only ones who ever get up this early." She made her way into the room and took out from under her arm a small bundle which she put on the table. She opened the bundle, "All right, now, I got us some spare filter cubes for our masks, spare cartridges for our flame pistols, power cells for the crystal detectors, and," she produced a small box of food tablets and held it up like she was in a commercial, "breakfast, lunch, and dinner." She returned the box to the bundle and closed it up again. She then looked up from the table, sniffed the air, and suddenly became overcome with a look of repugnance. She looked at Grace and then at me, "I'm wondering if that's coming from you, Grace, or the two of you put together."
"I'm sorry?" I was not sure what she was saying; I still was not fully awake.
"This whole room smells like a jungle. I'm surprised I didn't notice it before." Grace had gotten up at this time and was making her way over to her uniform. Callie picked up the folded hide suit, took Grace by the hand, and took her toward the door. I grabbed Callie's arm.
"Where are you going?"
"The showers; she needs one. You could use one, too," not wishing to argue with Callie, I let her go past me and into the hallway with Grace in tow.
"All right, but keep quiet," I called after her.
"You know me, Arty."
"That's what I'm afraid of."
"I said I'll meet you in the rover garage," I hoped she had not heard what I had actually said. They disappeared around a corner and I made my way to the men's showers. I was back in seven minutes and saw that Grace and Callie had not returned yet. I slipped back into my leather suit and checked the filter cube in my mask. Having confirmed everything to be in working order, I gathered up my things, as well as Callie's bundle of supplies, turned off the light, locked the door behind me, and made my way to the rover garage. After placing the supplies in the rear compartment of the rover, I went over to the supply room and got a small air tent for us. The air tent would allow us to sit around without the aid of our masks. I returned to the garage, stowed the tent, signed out the rover, and waited for Callie and Grace. After only a minute the two arrived and took their places in the rover. Grace sat in the seat next to me and Callie took the back seat. I reached under Grace's seat and produced the spare mask for her to use. Once she had it on and we were all strapped in, I started up the rover and we were on our way.
We crossed the ravine without incident and came very near the location where I had found Grace and the crystal. I parked the rover where I had parked it before and unstrapped myself.
"Where are you going?" Callie asked.
"This is where I found Grace. I want to make sure that those two lizards I frightened away yesterday aren't back with reinforcements. I'll be right back." I took out my flame pistol and machete as I walked around the rover to the altar in the clearing. I found that the vegetation I had cut away yesterday had grown back. When I finally came to the clearing, I saw that not only were the lizards gone, but that the lizard I had killed the day before was already covered with moss and swarming with insects. Pondering if the lizards were simply lying in wait, I chanced a walk around the clearing. Of course, I kept my flame pistol poised the whole time I did this. I had walked the entire circumfrence of the clearing and saw that my suspicions of ambush were proven wrong. Satisfied, I went back to the rover and assured Callie and Grace that it would be safe to continue through that area and make our way to the plateau.
29 August 2009
Grace sat slumped back in the chair, looking at her hands for some time. Callie and I exchanged nervous glances until I finally broke the uncomfortable silence. I went over to Grace, took one of her hands, and put it on the map.
"Grace," I began, moving her finger to the camp. "We..."-I gestured to all three of us-"are going..." I moved her finger along map across the ravine, past the point where I found her, along the edge of the plateau, and eventually off the map as she had done before, "There." At first I did not know if she would understand, but seeing her smile at me was all the indication I needed that she knew my intention. Callie leaned forward and tapped me on the shoulder.
"You're inviting me along?" She sounded surprised.
"Well, I assumed that you would want to be a part of this," I replied. "Do you not want to go?" I ventured.
"No, no, I want to. You've stumbled onto something big, Arty, and I want to see what's out there too."
"Alright, we'll leave first thing in the morning," I proposed.
"How long do you think we'll be gone?" This had not occurred to me, I must admit. I thought a few moments before providing any kind of answer.
"A few days at least, I would guess," I said with a shrug of my shoulders. I noticed Callie's uneasiness, "I don't think anyone will notice our being gone. I mean, hell, Takehisha and Crow set out on a little expedition of their own and they were gone for over two weeks. Came back with enough crystals to pay their way back to earth. If someone asks, we'll tell them the same." Callie got up from her seat and made her way toward the door, her confidence in our little escapade now fully restored.
"Well, Arty, you've made my day. I'll see you in the morning. G'night, Grace, it was nice meeting you." Callie waved at Grace as she exited the room and Grace returned her wave. The door slid shut and I locked it. I then went over to Grace and told her, as best I could, that we would leave in the morning; it was better not to leave at night because the lizards are more active at that time. She nodded her understanding and I led her to the bed. She stood by it and slipped off her hide suit, revealing a conservative, brown under-suit made of a fabric resembling cotton. She folded the hide suit neatly and placed it on the table. I removed my own leather suit and went to a cabinet under the bed. I removed a spare pillow and sheet, making my bed on the floor next to Grace, who had slipped herself under the covers. Before turning in, I walked over to the door panel and flipped the light switch. I went back to my bed on the floor.
"Goodnight, Grace," I said.
"G'night...Arty," she replied.
27 August 2009
I parked the rover in the garage, signed in, and carried my guest back to my quarters. I pondered if I should take her to a doctor, or at least to my superiors. My conclusion was not to; our local physician was away and my superiors would probably not have cared. When I came to my quarters, I set my guest down on the bed, removing her mask as well as mine. I figured I should return the mask to the rover as well as deposit the crystal, however, I feared leaving her alone. She was still unconcious and breathing quietly; the lizards had probably drugged her with those abhorred darts of theirs. Reluctantly, I finally left my quarters and went back to the garage.
Once there, I returned the mask to its usual place under the seat and then made my way toward the depository. I placed the crystal on the scale and watched readout numbers climb as the computer calculated the crystal's monetary value. It was a rather large crystal as was my final payment. I inserted my card, thus depositing the money into my account. Of all the crystal hunters, it seemed as though I was the most successful. This was partially due to the fact that I was the only one willing to fight the lizards. If I were to return to earth with what I had, I could retire. But, as I said, I have no real desire to return to earth.
When I returned to my quarters, I found the woman sitting huddled on the bed, awake and quite frightened.
She calmed a little when she saw me yet still backed away when I came near. I have to admit, in spite of her timidity, that I was actually quite frightened of her. She glared at me with those incomprehensibly pink eyes through strands of white hair. I continued to move nearer to her until I could extend my hand to her. I reasoned that anyone could understand this gesture as one of peace and sincerity. My reasoning served me well as she looked from my hand to me and then back to my hand, at which point she finally took it. I led her from the bed to a table right across from it. She sat down, I sat across from her and attempted to coax her to say something. After about five or ten minutes I gave up and went to the cabinet above the bed; I was hungry and I guessed she might want something to eat as well. Of course, I did not know if she would like the food tablet's bland taste; I know I do not. The food tablets are the most wretched excuse for food I have ever known, but they are all we get. I took out two tablets, swallowed one and handed the other to the woman. She looked at the tablet, turning it over in her hands. I resumed my seat across from her.
"Thank you," she finally whispered. I was shocked and amazed, to say the least.
"What?" I asked, making sure I heard her right. She reiterated her thanks and swallowed the food tablet herself, wincing slightly at the taste. I did not blame her. "What is your name?" I probed. She did not seem to understand, so I put my hand on my chest and said my name, "Ar-thur Cad-mus." Fortunately, she seemed to understand; she put her hand on her chest and said, what I imagine, was her name. Her name was apparently a rather melodious arrangment of whistles that spanned a length of about ten seconds.
She noticed my stupified look and returned it. I attempted to explain that I could not repeat her curious name and asked if I could call her something else. She did not understand. I reached across the table and put my hand on her chest.
"Grace," I said slowly. It took her a while get what I was doing, and when she did understand, she put her hand to her chest, repeated the whistles, then said 'Grace.' She reached over the table, put her hand on my chest, and said my name. I did the same and we both laughed. We understood each other.
I recieved a knock on my door followed by a painfully cheery inquiry, "Arty?" It was Callie; I recognized that sickly playful voice she uses that always makes me want to throw up each time I hear it. Grace looked worried, but I assured her that Callie was a friend. I got up and went to the door. I undid the electronic bolt and slid the door aside.
"Hi, Arty!" Again the voice. In addition to Callie having tendencies to possess an annoying personality, she is also incredibly nosey and intrusive. She looked past my shoulder and saw Grace. She seemed shocked at her albinism, but that cheerily rude disposition soon took over and manifested itself with the question, "Who's the lab rat?"
"She's not a lab rat!"
"I came over here to ask where you were this morning"-she gave me an all too exaggerated wink-"but now I see why. Where'd you find her?"
"Were you born sick and inconsiderate, or did it take years of practice?!" Having a word like 'inconsiderate' attached to her personality was the proverbial dagger to the heart to Callie. The hateful Callie dissipated and the good Callie resumed. A likeable Callie. A Callie I could actually stand to have around.
"Sorry, Arty," she began. She looked over my shoulder at Grace and said, "Sorry I called you a lab rat." Grace waved shyly, not understanding Callie's joke. She returned her attention to me, "So, where were you this morning?"
"I was across the ravine looking for crystals, fighting lizards, and"-I nodded to Grace-"saving her."
"From the lizards?" She looked disbelieving, "I didn't know the lizards took hostages."
"Neither did I, but there she was." I looked past her into the corridor, "Come on in; keep standing out there and we'll have half the camp lining up." I moved away from the door and let Callie go past me. She took my chair at the table and leaned toward Grace.
"Hi. Callie Muir," she extended her hand. Slowly, Grace took it and introduced herself. Callie inquired, "Grace...?" in hopes of finding out her last name. I explained that Grace was simply the name I gave her because I could not repeat her real name. Callie did not believe me, so I asked Grace to repeat the series of whistles she had related to me. I chuckled at Callie's look. She then suddenly became very fascinated with Grace's uniform. "What is this?" she asked rubbing her finger along Grace's arm.
"As far as I can tell, it's lizard skin, though I've never seen brown skin before; they're usually green." I explained.
"And what's with these markings?" She continued, half to me and half to Grace. I admitted my inability to decipher them. Callie then asked, "Where's she from?" I had not thought to try and coax this information out of Grace, and I thanked Callie for bringing it up. I went to a shelf above my bed and removed a large map of the surrounding venusian terrain, as cartographed by Matsugawa in the early expeditions to the planet. I laid it out on the table and pointed out various locations to Grace. She seemed to recognize certain major landmarks such as the ravine and the plateau.
"This is where we are now," I pointed to the camp and, with my other hand, indicated the room. I moved my finger along the map across the ravine to where I had found her, "This is where you were." I took my hand away from the map. Grace oriented herself by first pointing to the camp and then to the location across the ravine, and then she moved her finger away from that point and toward the plateau. She continued to move her finger along the plateau's edge until her finger went off the map. She clutched her fist, put her hands in her lap, and slumped back in the chair. She looked somewhat saddened, as though frustrated that Matsugawa had overlooked her home in his surveying. Callie and I looked to each other.
"I guess she's homesick," Callie ventured. I nodded in agreement.
26 August 2009
In order to help avoid this whole thing becoming a 'tech blog' (given all my rants about frustrations with technology), I'm presenting the first part of a story I wrote a few years ago. It's as close to 'fan-fiction' as I've ever allowed myself to write. It's set about 50 years after the events in my favorite (after Mountains of Madness and Colour Out of Space) H.P. Lovecraft story "In The Walls of Eryx" but only retains the setting. Not one of Lovecraft's better-known or particularly well-liked stories, it's one of his few and arguably only voyages into the realm of pure science fiction. Set on Venus, presented as a jungle planet like in the works of Kline and Burroughs, a power company from earth scours the planet searching for crystals that can be harvested for power while fighting a poisonous atmosphere, killer plants, and an assortment of savage fauna. Put simply, it's too rich of a universe to ignore despite its wild factual inaccuracies (Venus has a quicker rotation, it's a jungle planet, a crystal the size of an egg can be held in the hand yet be able to power Chicago for a year, and so on). I wrote the story many years ago, and while it exists complete in my head, only about half of it is actually written out, about seven chapters worth. It makes me cringe slightly when I read it as it is very amateurish, but I don't really want to re-write it either, and it's gotten me a lot of compliments from the few I've shown it to.
I'm also including it because "In The Walls of Eryx" is where I get the name for my weblog.
VII, 13, Early Morning
I really hate Venus but I do not exactly miss Earth. Getting a job on Earth in this day and age is nearly impossible while there are always openings on Venus. My job is crystal hunting; it is actually about the only real job here. There are always openings usually for fear of the lizards. They do not exactly appreciate our being here let alone hunting what they claim to be their crystals. It is unfortunate that they do not understand the potential of the crystals. When the lizards find a crystal, all they simply do is put it on an altar and blindly worship it. Meanwhile, on Earth, the crystals are a precious commodity, especially after we learned that we could tap them for power. Crystal power has revolutionized technology.
I had set out about an hour before sunrise to begin my daily routine. I had calibrated my crystal detector and replaced the filter cube in my electrolyser mask. I had also leased a rover to explore the land across the ravine. A rover is small, inexpensive, solar-powered, and actually quite adept at navigating the venusian terrain. I was able to cross the ravine without incident. Almost immediately after I entered the deeper jungle, my detector began clicking incessantly. I knew there had to be a large crystal deposit within at least ten meters of my current position. I parked the rover by a tree and, with the detector in one hand, and my machete in the other, I began weaving my way through the creeper-stricken jungle. The jungles here on venus are like no other landscapes anywhere else; the incredible diversity of shades of green and various earthtones make for an all too dizzying array of wilderness. It was exactly ten meters distance from where I had parked the rover that I came upon a clearing possessing a small stone column adorned with a crystal. I knew this was bad; where there was an altar, lizards were sure to follow. I decided to remain in the cover of the underbrush until I was sure my attempting to seize the crystal would not be hindered.
My instinct served me well as within minutes, the all too familiar sound of hissing lizards came to my ears. From the other side of the clearing, two lizards emerged followed by another riding an animal resembling an Iguana. The two walking lizards each held a large crystal cradled in his arms. They went to the altar and gently set the crystals atop it. They then backed away and bowed their heads while their tentacles moved in rhythmic patterns. As they continued this ritual, the mounted lizard steered the beast toward my end of the clearing. It was when he turned to the right that I saw the net draped over the back of the beast. I soon found out that the net held a young woman. I saw her face through the net and not only saw that she was albino, but also that she did not have an electrolyser mask of any sort. It became clear to me that if the lizards did not kill her first, the venusian atmosphere surely would. I knew I had to do something. So, I clipped my crystal detector to my belt and drew my flame pistol. The mounted lizard soon climbed off the beast giving it a rather consensual pat on the head as he walked around to where the net was fastened. Now that all three lizards had their backs to me, I knew I had the advantage.
Setting my sights on the one by the net, I leapt from my hiding place and drove my machete into its back. I dared not use my flame pistol on this lizard for fear of hurting the woman. The shrill cry of the lizard alerted the others to my presence and they ceased their praying I leapt over the dead lizard and the net toward the advancing lizards. Now that the woman was behind me, I could use my flame pistol safely without endangering her. A quick burst of flame sent them into disarray and they scurried back into the jungle. I was sure they would come back, so I quickly cut away the net and took the woman up in my arms. It was here that I noted her uniform. It was of a brown, reptilian-looking hide with indecipherible markings on it. My assumption was that this lizard-skin suit was the reason for her capture as the lizards may have been offended by it. I began to turn back to the rover when I remembered the crystal. I went to the altar and dropped it into my satchel; I am not paid for saving lives.
When we got back to the rover, I set the mysterious woman down in it, reached under the seat for the spare mask, and carefully put it on her. Her once erratic breathing had quieted now. I was glad for this as I would now have a chance to find out more about this person. The fact that she was albino alone was intriguing enough to me, but the hide uniform and its strange markings made for an even deeper, more peculiar enigma. I started the rover and made my way back to the base.
09 August 2009
Addendum to title:
OR: Another Casualty of My Linux Loyalty.
Well, OpenOffice briefly disappointed me, but thanks to some wonderful people at Yahoo! Answers, I was able to work around it and publish my short story to its own page. I'll post a full entry later on the unbelievable headache I encountered when simply trying to copy and paste text from one file into another.
Here's the link to the story: http://matsugawa.freeservers.com/mjaladyhorse.html.
It's still got a few formatting issues, but like I said, I'm too tired to correct it right now.