Archive for May, 2013

‘Tickling Butterflies’ – The Woman with the Broken Heart

May 30, 2013

Here’s the story so far. Now to the latest fairy tale:

The Woman with the Broken Heart

(Containing a smacking good tale of a thwack and a whack.)

Sarah O’Connell had not been the same since her love affair with Death.

Her love for him was genuine, she believed. She loved the fact that he was true to his nature and did not hide who he was. She loved the fact that he had no fear, of others, of who he is, or of telling others who he is.

But then, one day, Death broke her heart. He had feigned anger, and told her to leave.

She did not believe that he was angry, not even at the time. But she did believe that he wanted her to go, although she did not understand why. Since he wanted her to leave, she walked away.

When Death and Sarah O’Connell, who were one, broke into two, her heart had also broken into two pieces, and her tears filled three rivers and one brook.

After the first week of tears, she decided she would never love again. For that purpose, she cut a piece of cloth from one of her shirts, and blindfolded herself, vowing to never set eyes on another man, lest she fall in love again and her heart be broken into four pieces.

A few weeks after that, when no more tears came out of her eyes, she met a stranger in the woods, a stranger called John the No Longer Cute. He had claimed he had fallen in love with her immediately and wanted her to be with him. But he could not promise that he would live long – in fact, he knew that he would not – and he would not promise to spend what remained of his life with her.

She had sent him away, and he had vanished immediately, as if he were a cloud and had risen into the air itself.

And yet, over the passing weeks, John the No Longer Cute’s voice haunted her. She kept hearing it in her mind’s ears, imagining what he was like, feeling that he was a worthy man who had seen pain in his life.

And so, for weeks she mourned her relationship with Death, and could not understand the change that had come over him. And during those weeks, she had also become familiar with the voice of John the No Longer Cute.

The Fates had brought her to the palace, when she had caught with her own bare hand a man who sought to escape the king. The criminal’s name was Al the Average, and with Sarah O’Connell’s hand on his throat, she dragged him by the throat for four days and four nights, until they reached the king’s palace.

They entered the palace swiftly, his hand still on his throat. Sarah O’Connell felt a shadow on her face, and froze. Something was happening nearby.

She heard many people move, and then a familiar voice exclaimed, “What are you doing in my palace, Death?”

With her free hand, she signaled Al the Average to be silent. He, who had also recognized the voice, was happy to remain silent. The two remained unmoving behind a statue, and listened to the events nearby.

The more she listened, the more she learned. She learned that John the No Longer Cute was actually King John the Cute. She learned that Death was here and that he had lost his hand to a mysterious stranger. She learned of a bargain struck by the king and Death. She learned of Death’s list, she learned of the Afterdeath, she learned of Death’s prophecy of Life, and she learned that Death had been a revolving door.

She also learned that King John the Cute was a brave man. She learned that his name was already on Death’s list, and that this did not frighten him. She learned that he was trying to save the Land of All Legends from a mysterious sickness. She learned that he was determined to reveal all secrets, to find the truth behind falseness, and to do all of that before he dies.

And yet her broken heart beat quickly at the offence that had broken her heart.

When she heard that Death was leaving, she stepped out of the shadows, Al the Average’s throat in hand, and called “Hold on! I have a question for Death!”

Everyone around her froze, even Death.

Death turned around. “Sarah O’Connell!” he said, surprised. His eyes searched her, to see if she was holding a seashell.

“John the No Longer Cute,” she said. “May I ask Death my question?”

“Certainly,” said the king. She was sorry that she could not see the surprise on his face. “And he must answer.”

She did not hear Death move away. And so she asked, “I want to know why Death left me.”

“Answer her question, Death,” she heard the king’s familiar voice.

There was silence, and then Death spoke. “Sarah O’Connell, I realized that one day your name will appear on my list. And on that day, I must take your soul. The thought was too much for me to bear, and so I cast you away, hoping that the next time we meet enough time will have passed, and I will not care as much for you as I do now.”

Sarah O’Connell was surprised. “Everybody dies, Death,” she told him simply. “But until then we must live. What you are telling me is that you fear death. To that, I have only one thing to say.”

She stepped closer to Death, Al the Average’s throat in her right hand.

“Your touch no longer kills, correct?”

“That is correct.”

“Good,” she said. And with her left hand, she socked Death in the jaw.

Death fell to the floor.

“Now I realize that you are a frightened man and you fear life just as you fear death. You are not the man I thought you were, and I am glad I realized this now. Now you may go.”

She heard Death rise and slowly leave.

Once he was out of earshot, she turned to face King John the Cute.

“John the No Longer Cute,” she said. “Death did not honor his side of the bargain completely. Will you still honor yours even though you do not have to?”

“I will,” said King John the Cute. “He has honored all that he could. I have learned quite a lot. And I would rather Death’s hand be attached to Death than to a mysterious being. I will do my best to restore Death’s hand.”

“Even though he will touch you once his hand is returned?”

“Yes, Sarah O’Connell. Even though.”

“John the No Longer Cute,” Sarah O’Connell continued. “I have noticed that you did not ask him about the mysterious being who stole his hand.”

“No. I did not. Since Death called him a ‘mysterious being’, he clearly knew nothing about him. I am sure I will of him hear quite soon and from many sources. A man who is walking around the Land of All Legends with Death’s hand as his weapon will draw attention.”

“So,” Sarah O’Connell said. “You forgot to tell me that you are king of the land.”

“I am sorry I lied to you, Sarah O’Connell.”

“I do not think you lied, King John the… Cute. I think you told me your real name. I think you think of yourself as a man, not a king. And I think you see yourself as no longer cute, rather than cute.”

“True.”

“Then I shall keep calling you John the No Longer Cute, because that is what my king wants.”

She heard John the No Longer Cute approach her. “Stay in the palace,” he said softly, and he was close enough that she felt his breath on her cheek. “Stay with me.”

“John the No Longer Cute, I have had my heart broken by an unworthy being. From what I have heard today, I know that you are truthful, honorable, and brave. My heart is not free to be broken again, which surely will happen when I take off my blindfold. And yet, it is fear speaking out of me, and I do not want to be fearful. I also do not want to be unworthy. Your cause is a just one. Please, give me an impossible task that serves your cause. And once I succeed and prove myself worthy, I will take off my blindfold, and we will be together.”

King John the Cute was silent for one minute and eleven seconds. “Sarah O’Connell,” he said at last. “Discover the secrets of the Afterdeath.”

She nodded. “I will do just that, and I will leave immediately. In the meantime, I leave you with a gift,” she released her hold on Al the Average, and threw him on the ground. “I will see you again and for the first time at a future date, John the No Longer Cute.”

“I am sure you will,” said the king, with sadness in his voice. And he did not add the words that rang in his head: But by that time, it would no longer matter.

Sarah O’Connell turned around and walked out of the palace with her head held high.

This has been the thumping good tale of how Sarah O’Connell overcame her love for Death and how her heart began to mend. This has also been the story in which Sarah O’Connell received an impossible quest, to discover the secrets of the Afterdeath.

(To be continued on Sunday…)

Remember: Find the Easter Eggs in the fairy tales and have a fairy tale written about you.

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‘Tickling Butterflies’ – The Revolving Door

May 28, 2013

Are you searching the Tickling Butterflies fairy tales for Easter Eggs? You can have a fairy tale written about you in the Tickling Butterflies universe!

 

Back to the story. Here’s the story so far. And now it continues:

 

The Revolving Door

(Containing a baffling tale of how death has changed over the centuries.)

 

“My fourth question to you is this,” King John the Cute spoke. All around him, the ministers, advisors, and general help listened closely, fascinated by the bargain struck between King John the Cute and Death.

Death listened closely.

“When I first met you, Death,” said the king, “we raced each other. When we began that race, you said that we have raced before. Explain yourself.”

Death considered the king’s question. Then, after forty four seconds, he said, “I have answered enough of your questions. I will not answer this one.”

“I have no recollection of having met you before. I have no recollection of any such race. How is it that you do? Tell me that tale.”

“If you do not remember it, King John the Cute, perhaps it was not important,” Death said bitterly.

“You said you had won that race. Who died when this happened?” the king insisted.

“I shall tell you nothing of that tale,” said Death. “Ask another question, if you must.”

King John the Cute saw Death’s patience grow short, and decided to try and ask as many answers as possible before Death decided he has had enough.

“My fifth question to you is this,” said the king. “Is the Original Monster dead?”

“The Original Monster has never appeared on my list and I have never claimed his soul,” answered Death solemnly. “He is older than all the creatures now alive in the Land of All Legends, and yet he has more life than any creature I have ever seen, including those who would live forever,” Death aimed his last words at Benjamin Miller, looking the orphan from another world in the eye.

“I have a question for Death,” Benjamin Miller said suddenly. “In fact, I have two.”

“Ask your questions,” said the king.

“I do not like this bargain,” muttered Death.

The king nodded to Benjamin Miller, who then spoke loudly, “The first question is for myself. Is Sylvia Fo dead?”

“Young orphan boy,” answered Death, “I have never claimed the soul of any creature who has come from another land,” as he said this, Death’s eyes moved from Benjamin Miller to Minister Vazir. A dark chill ran through Minister Vazir, a man with no memory of his past. Death’s eyes glided back to Benjamin Miller. “The names of the Elsewhere People, such as yourself, have never appeared on my list. And even when one of you dies, as your friend Ochi Moetski did, his soul remains unclaimed by me. For you things work differently. In answer to your question, I do not know what happened to Sylvia Fo. She may be dead. She may be alive.”

Benjamin Miller swallowed hard, then continued. “My next question serves the king in his quest. Everyone here except Death and myself is too young to remember. Until about five hundred years ago, death was not as final as it is today. Isn’t that right, Death?”

Death looked down and was silent.

“What are you referring to?” asked King John the Cute.

“Back during the first hundred years to my stay in this land,” said Benjamin Miller. “Death would claim someone’s soul, take that soul to the Afterdeath, and then, a short time later, that person would return, quite unharmed. Take, for example, Little Red Riding Hood. The Big, Bad Wolf ate her grandmother, whose name was Very Big Red Riding Hood. Then he ate Little Red Riding Hood. But then, when the Hunter came to save them, they were both fine, even though they had died.

“Back when I came to the Land of All Legends, people were regularly claimed by Death, only to return from the Afterdeath as if nothing had happened. Death and the Afterdeath were a revolving door. Death perhaps cannot enter the Afterdeath and the living cannot enter it willingly, but the living can walk out through Death’s Door quite easily.

“But then something happened. I do not know what or how. But suddenly, creatures and stories who died, never returned. Slowly, over the years, there were less and less creatures in the land. Perhaps this is part of the sickness in the land that you, King John the Cute, are trying to discover. My question to Death is: What had changed and why?”

Death squirmed in place. For a moment, there was a glint of fear in his eyes.

“I only answer the king’s questions,” answered Death.

“Consider that my question, then,” said King John the Cute. “Why is death no longer a revolving door? What has changed and why?”

Death looked away, knowing that all could see there was now a spark of fear in his eyes. Once he had conquered his fear, he looked back. “I shall not answer your question.”

“We have a bargain.”

“I no longer care about the bargain,” answered Death. “I have answered enough questions. You must choose for yourself, whether it is enough to uphold your part of the bargain or not. This question or any future ones, I refuse to answer.”

Death turned around, and began to leave. “Hold on,” a woman’s voice surprised everyone.

Everyone turned and saw a blindfolded woman with a broken heart step out of the shadows. In her right hand, she held Al the Average by the throat.

I have a question for Death,” said Sarah O’Connell.

This has been the revealing story in which Sarah O’Connell returned to Death’s life.

 

(To be continued on Thursday…)

Remember: Find the Easter Eggs in the fairy tales and have a fairy tale written about you.

 

 

 

‘Tickling Butterflies’ – A Prophecy of Life

May 26, 2013

If you missed it, here’s how you can win a chance to have a fairy tale in The Tickling Butterflies universe written about you.

In any case, here’s the story so far. Now to the latest fairy tale…

 

A Prophecy of Life

(Containing a bewildering tale of life and death.)

 

“My third question to you is this,” began King John the Cute.

Death listened closely, afraid that he may be asked one of the three questions he knew he may never answer.

“In my travels, I have learned that you are the subject of a prophecy, a prophecy which you believe did not come to pass.”

“How do you know of this prophecy?!” For the first time in three hundred and thirty two years, Death was truly angered.

“Tell me of this prophecy,” King John the Cute said calmly.

“Tell me how you know of this prophecy!”

“Tell me of this prophecy,” King John the Cute repeated firmly, “or get out of my palace.”

The ministers, advisers, and general help once more held their breaths.

Death looked aside. Slowly, he conquered his anger. “Very well,” he said. The ministers, advisers, and general help released a sigh of relief. Death continued, “I will tell you the story of my prophecy. But my patience for your questions is growing short.”

King John the Cute said, “I am listening.”

“Once upon a time,” Death began to tell his third tale, “I was happy being Death. Being Death made me feel good, complete. I knew this was what I was meant to be.

“But then, one day, three hundred and thirty two years and thirty three days ago, I was visited by three Foreseeing Propheseers. They conveyed their prophecy quite efficiently. This was their prophecy.

“They said that one day, a person whose name I shall not repeat in front of any of you – they said this person would one day save me.”

“Save you?” King John the Cute said. “Save you from what?”

“From being Death,” answered Death. “They said this person would turn me from Death… to Life.”

“Life?”

“A being that brings life rather than death. A being who brings happiness rather than sadness. A being who brings tears of joy rather than tears of grief.

“The Foreseeing Propheseers said this, then vanished into thin air, to join their masters in their hastened trip through time.”

“That is amazing,” said King John the Cute. “I never imagined you would become Life.”

“Nor I. But once I had heard that prophecy, I could not get these strange thoughts out of my head. Suddenly, I no longer wanted to be Death. I wanted to be Life. I wanted to bring life to everyone. I wanted to bring happiness rather than sadness. I wanted to be the cause of tears of joy rather than tears of sadness. Suddenly, I was no longer happy being Death.

“And then, a short time later, I met the man the Foreseeing Propheseers had mentioned in their prophecy.”

“Three hundred and thirty two years ago?”

“Yes. Three hundred and thirty two years ago. I told him the prophecy, and he claimed he had no knowledge of how to turn Death into Life. I followed him doggedly. And then…” Death trailed off, silent.

“What? What happened then?” asked King John the Cute.

Death looked at King John the Cute accusingly, as if the king had done something wrong. “And then he died because his name was on my list. I had to claim his soul, for I am Death. And, with great sadness, I did. And as I did, I knew that forever I would remain Death, I knew that prophecies can be wrong, and that sadness will now forever fill my heart.”

“And this, King John the Cute, had been the story you requested, the story of Death’s prophecy, a story of sadness, a story of absolutely no use to you. And now we are done and our bargain is complete.”

“We are hardly done,” said King John the Cute. “I did not say how many questions I will ask you. However, back to your story: I have it on good authority that all prophecies are true. Could it be that you heard wrong? That you misunderstood?”

“I heard quite right. The name was quite clear. It was just as clear when it appeared on my list. It was just as clear when I carried it with my other souls.”

“This does not make sense to me,” said King John the Cute. “What was the name of that man?”

“His name does not matter to you. I shall not reveal it.”

“What does it matter? He is dead.”

“What does it matter to you, then? He is dead, after all,” answered Death.

King John the Cute considered this. Rather than solve a mystery, this story created a greater mystery. Yet was it worth it right now to pester Death for a name? Perhaps it was time for another question.

“Have it your own way, Death. For Now,” said the king. “Now for my next question.”

Death sighed. “I am listening.”

This has been the bewildering tale of Life and Death.

 

(To be continued on Tuesday…)

Have a fairy tale written about you.

 

You Can Become Part of a Fairy Tale!

May 23, 2013

Announcing the Tickling Butterflies Easter Egg Hunt! Three of you can win the prize of having a fairy tale written about you and your life!

 

What Is Tickling Butterflies?

Tickling Butterflies is a fantasy novel created out of 128 fairy tales that together create one epic fairy tale. It is currently being serialized online for free at this website, with a new fairy tale every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday.

 

What Are the Easter Eggs?

An Easter Egg is an element that cannot possibly exist in a fairy tale. I’ve hidden 3 of those somewhere in the 128 fairy tales.

So far at least one such element (perhaps more?) has already appeared.

Check out the entire list of fairy tales here.

 

The Prizes

Three of you will get to have a fairy tale written about you!

Once your name has been drawn as the winner, you’ll get an email from me. I’ll ask you for a few details about your life, then write a fairy tale about you, a fairy tale that exists in the Tickling  Butterflies universe.

The fairy tales will be published in this website.

 

How to Win

One Way to Win: Search the fairy tales for an Easter Egg. Think you found one? Send an email to TicklingButterflies@gmail.com and tell me what it is.

For each Easter Egg you find, you get a ticket. If you find two or all three, you get the corresponding number of tickets. If your guess is wrong but a really good try, you still get a ticket.

When you send your email, I’ll tweet about you and add a link to your page.

The Second Way to Win: Spread the word. If you spread news of the Tickling Butterflies Easter Egg Hunt in your blog/Facebook/Twitter/Etc. – send a link or a screen capture to TicklingButterflies@gmail.com and you’ll get a ticket as well as a tweet with a mention of your name and a link to your page.

You’ll get a ticket for every single place where you spread the word. If you spread the word in many places and find Easter Eggs, you can get a lot of tickets, increasing your chances of getting a fairy tale written about you.

 

The Tickets

A week after the last fairy tale in Tickling Butterflies is published, I will put all eligible tickets in a hat and choose three names randomly.

The more tickets you have, the better your chances to have a fairy tale written about you.

 

Let the Tickling Butterflies Easter Egg hunt begin!

‘Tickling Butterflies’ – Death’s Empty Space

May 23, 2013

Tickling Butterflies is an epic fantasy, containing 128 fairy tales that together create one huge story.

Here’s the story so far. The story continues:

 

Death’s Empty Space

(Containing a mystifying account of a small, empty space.)

 

“Tell me what happens after death, Death,” said King John the Cute.

Death paused and considered his answer. Then he said, “I do not know what happens after death.”

“He’s lying,” said Minister Vazir, who had lost his fear of death over the past few weeks.

“I only speak to the king,” said Death, who did not deign to look at the minister.

“You will speak with whomever serves me,” said King John the Cute. “Answer my question truthfully.”

“I do not know what happens after Death.”

“Surely,” the king said, “you must know something.”

Death hesitated. “Something… Yes.”

“Tell me that something.”

Death waited one minute, a minute that seemed to last almost three minutes and thirty three seconds. Then, at the end of that minute, he spoke. “I shall tell you what I have seen of the Afterdeath.”

Back in the days when I was young and roaming the land without purpose, during the first weeks after I came to be, back before I had the list in my hands, before I had taken my first soul, back when the land was bright, I came upon a hole in the ground. A strange and terrifying plant guarded the hole, but he made no aggressive moves towards me and allowed me to approach.

This is the hole that leads to the place you call the Afterdeath. It is the hole in the ground that leads you to whatever it is that happens after death.

The hole beckoned to me. It was as if it called for me to explore it. I felt it belonged to me.

I walked in.

There was a short path underground, and beyond it a small light. Seeing the small light convinced me that the path was somehow leading up and into the sunlight.

I walked the short path. But it led down.

At its end, I saw the entrance to a small room. The room was closed on all three sides, and open only in the direction I came from. The room was no bigger than three feet one way and three feet the other. There was no way out. There was nothing further. There was nothing beyond it. The room did not lead to anything.

I tried to walk into the room, but the air itself fizzed and fizzled and burned me and stopped me from advancing. I stopped, and when I stopped, the air changed color, and turned into a black screen. Today, I know that what seemed like a screen was actually some kind of door, and it is a dark door through which light does not pass and no one can see.

I tried to pass a few more times through the black door, but always it blocked my advance.

I tried to look in again, but light did not pass through the closed door. Disappointed, I walked out of the hole in the ground.

Weeks later, when Igda Bigda’s soul was in my grasp, I felt a need to return to the hole in the ground. Eager to learn more about my own nature, I decided to obey my need and see where it leads. I kept Igda Bigda’s soul in a bottomless pocket in my robes, and walked for eight days and seven nights, until I reached the hole.

I walked down the short path. The dark door was still dark and still closed. I felt a need to take Igda Bigda’s soul and pass it through the door. Although the door did not open, when my hand touched it, Igda Bigda’s soul left my hand and moved into the door and past it, disappearing from my sight.

There were sparks of light when she passed, but only for a second. I could see Igda Bigda’s body being reformed, and the small room was suddenly full of objects I did not recognize.

Then the sparks were gone and the darkness returned.

Many years have passed since. I have lost count of the centuries.

During the thousands of years that I have been alive, I had never been able to get more than a rare glimpse of the other side, nor have I been able to enter my own domain. But the few rare glimpses I had seen of the other side have led me to guess that for each creature I put in the afterlife, a space grows specifically for that person, where he, she, or it can roam freely. One time I believed I caught a hint of a large, green park. But I may have been mistaken, for I have never seen it again.

What the souls see, what they do, what they know once they are in my domain – I can attest to none of this. I do not know what happens after death. Nor will I ever know. For even when Death dies, he cannot pass through that door. I have claimed the souls of other Deaths in my time, and their souls rest with me in my bottomless pocket, for the door to the Afterdeath does not allow them passage.

And this, King John the Cute, had been the story you requested, the story of Death’s domain, which you call the Afterdeath. Once more, this was also a story of Death’s first days. Are we done?

“We are not done, Death,” said King John the Cute. “I have more questions for you.”

This has been the story of Death’s second story in which King John the Cute learned of the mystery of the Afterdeath.

 

(To be continued on Sunday…)

‘Tickling Butterflies’ – Death’s List

May 21, 2013

Tickling Butterflies is an epic fantasy, containing 128 fairy tales that together create one huge story.

Here’s the story so far. The story continues:

 

Death’s List

(Containing an astonishing account of unknown forces.)

 

“My first question to you is this,” said King John the Cute. Death, who refused to sit down, listened closely. “I have heard it told that you carry a list of those who must die. In the story I have heard you are not the one who controls the names on the list. You do not choose who dies at your hand.”

“How do you know this?” Death demanded.

“I wish to know,” King John the Cute continued, ignoring Death’s question, “where the list comes from. I wish to know who puts the names on the list. Who is more powerful than Death? Who decides who lives and who dies?”

Death lowered his head. “Very well. I shall tell you the story of the list.”

The story of the list is the story of my first days in the Land of All Legends, Death said, as he began to tell his tale.

Once upon a time, I had simply come to life. I was not born, I simply was. I was this size, with this voice, wearing these clothes, and holding this scythe. I looked around and saw that I was standing among rolling green hills, and the light of the day was quite bright. That is what the Border of Nothing looked like during those days.

I did not know who I was. I did not know my purpose. I only knew how to speak and how to think. I knew how to look and how to hear. And I also knew my name: Death. But at the time, I did not know what that name meant.

For seven days and seven nights I wandered the land, discovering its secrets, looking at its creatures. And yet, I talked to no one. I touched no one.

Then, at the end of seven days and seven nights, I was standing on green grass, when a sudden movement near my feet awakened my interest. I looked down. A blade of grass was stirring, and nothing was touching it, not even the wind. Another blade of grass stirred. And another and another and another, until the all grass around me was moving for no reason I could fathom.

Then the green grass turned golden and shiny. The shine turned white, and the grass broke into small objects, objects I later learned were magical fairy dust. The fairy dust rose into the air, danced before me, then coalesced into a shiny square in front of my hands. The shine shone less and less brightly, until it disappeared completely. In its place was a piece of old, yellow parchment that cannot be torn. The parchment was empty.

Not knowing what to do, I reached forward and touched the paper of the parchment.

The instant my fingers touched it, I knew this was what I was born to do: to touch this yellow parchment. It felt right.

The grass beneath me was gone, and the land had turned into a dry desert. All but a single blade of grass remained, still green. Then the single blade stirred, as well, slowly becoming fairy dust, slowly rising into the air, swimming in it. The small amount of fairy dust danced in the air above the yellow paper parchment, then sank slowly upon it. And where it touched the list, it had turned to writing. A name was written now on the paper: Igda Bigda.

Not knowing what to do now, I walked around the Land of All Legends and asked everyone I had met who Igda Bigda was, and where I could find her. At the end of a two week search, I found her.

During my travels, I had noticed that everyone has a special aura, which as far as I could tell only I could see. The brightness of that aura changes from person to person. On Igda Bigda, the aura was a remnant of a flicker. Unable to resist, I tried to touch it. And when I did, Igda Bigda died, and her soul was in my hand.

At that moment, I knew that this was my purpose. I knew what the word ‘Death’ meant, and I knew who I was and why I was here.

At the moment I took her soul, the writing on the yellow paper parchment turned to dust and fell to the ground, more lifeless than the grass it had been.

Over time, I learned that a creature’s aura was the amount of life still to be lived by the creature. Over time, I learned that the names on the yellow paper parchment were creatures I was meant to touch, whose lives were flickering at an end. Over time, I learned to tell by a person’s aura how much time they had left. And yet, if I ever touched a life that is not yet over, if I ever tried to take a life whose time has not yet come, my arm would burn. When I had met the mysterious creature that had taken my hand, he had no aura, not even a flicker. And yet he spoke. When I touched him, he did not die, nor did it hurt me. I have never experienced such a thing.

But these were not the only things that I had learned. Over time, I have seen trees and chairs, blades of grass and flowers, and inanimate objects of all kinds turn to fairy dust which turns to names that appear on the piece of paper parchment I carry. And once I had taken the souls of the creatures whose names appear on the list, the writing turns to dead dust.

Thus for every living object whose life I take, the life is taken out of a non-living object in the Land of All Legends. For every death that takes place, the Land of All Legends dies a little, too. Once upon a time, land and new creatures were appearing all the time, and so there was more life than death. But for centuries, this has not been the case. Now both land and creatures are dying with no new land, no new creatures being created, and very few creatures being born.

To answer your question, my king, I do not know what manner of creature commands what words are written on the parchment. I do not know who chooses the names or how they are chosen. For all the time I have been in the Land of All Legends, never have I seen a hint of this.

And this, King John the Cute, had been the story you requested, the story of Death’s list, which was also the story of my first days as Death.

“Thank you for the story, Death,” King John the Cute said. The ministers, advisors, and general help around the two were silent, frozen in fear and awe. “Yet another mystery to solve – a creature who dictates Death’s deeds. Now to my next question—”

But King John the Cute stopped in the middle of his words, as a picture on the wall began to glow. It was a picture of King Charming the Fourth, the previous king, and it slowly glowed in shimmering radiance. Then the radiance broke apart into shimmering fairy dust, which danced in the air, in front of Death.

Death took out his list.

The fairy dust settled upon the list, and, with a last glow, turned to writing.

Death looked at the new name silently.

“What name does it say?” King John the Cute asked.

Death looked into the king’s eyes, only a foot away from Death. “It says ‘King John the Cute’.”

The ministers, advisors, and general help gasped.

King John the Cute did not take his eyes off Death.

“If I had my hand,” Death said. “I would take your life right now.”

“But you don’t,” said King John the Cute.

“No. Surely, as soon as I regain it, I will touch you.” Death looked down. “I assume now that our bargain is void and that you will not help me get my hand back.”

“You assume mistakenly, Death,” said the king. Once more, the ministers, advisers, and general help gasped. “I already know I am going to die young. I know it will be at Death’s hand, be the hand on Death himself or on the one who stole it. I may yet find your hand and restore it, a year and seven months from now, and then you will slay me.”

“Yes,” said Death.

“Our bargain is still on,” said King John the Cute. “If you answer all my questions, I will do my best to restore your hand.”

Death looked at the king with calm respect. He had never seen anyone behave like this. “We will see how true you are to your words,” said Death, “and we will see if I hold up my end of the bargain. I may answer or I may refuse to answer. What is your next question?”

This has been the appalling story of how King John the Cute’s name came to appear on Death’s list.

 

(To be continued on Thursday…)

Guest Post at SF Signal: Keep It Stupid Simpleton

May 19, 2013

A new article of mine has been published over at SF Signal. A new trend in high-tech, called GOP (“Guest Post Optimization”), brands SF readers as stupid. Here’s a taste:

 

A few days ago, I got a phone call from an unknown caller.

“Am I speaking to Guy Hasson?” The woman was cordial.

“Yes,” I said, wary.

“I read your guest post in SF Signal,” she said as if we’re old friends. “The one about the zombies.”

“I’m sorry, what?” Strangers don’t usually call me about these things. There’s a reason God created email.

“And I saw no one left any comments,” she continued.

“Yeah?” I said, warier and warier.

“We can help you with that.”

 

Read the entire post here. Oh, and read the comments, too.

‘Tickling Butterflies’ – A Bargain with Death

May 19, 2013

Tickling Butterflies is an epic fantasy, containing 128 fairy tales that together create one huge story.

Here’s the story so far. The story continues:

PART 6

A PROPHECY OF LIFE

A Bargain with Death

(Containing a dire meeting of two powerful beings.)

King John the Cute returned to the palace and Death waited for him.

Chariot dropped King John the Cute and Benjamin Miller, the seven hundred year old orphan boy from another world, in the middle of the court. Death stood there, waiting.

All the king’s ministers, advisors, and general help stood in the court yard, as far away as possible from Death. Even Benjamin Miller, upon setting foot in the palace, took a few steps back. Chariot floated upwards instinctively.

King John the Cute approached Death without fear. He stood inches away from him, and said, “What are you doing in my palace, Death?”

“I seek your help.”

“Mine? To help you cause more death and destruction?”

“I no longer cause death and destruction. My hand has been torn from me by a mysterious and powerful creature that cannot die. Now he walks the land with my hand, able to take lives at whim. I need the king’s help in putting things back as they were. You are faced with a choice, my king. That I walk the land with my hand once more, able to kill responsibly, as I always have… Or that he walk the land, able to kill irresponsibly, whenever he desires.”

King John the Cute was reminded of a similar dilemma, back when he was a young boy in the town of Bambooville. In deciding to perform a good deed for an evil witch he helped her do evil but stopped her from doing great evil.

King John the Cute said, “I have important tasks, more urgent than helping Death. And yet, I will make a deal with you.”

Death was angered. But all he said was, “I am listening.”

The crowd of ministers, advisors, and general help around the king and Death held its breath, awaiting the king’s words.

“Just as I have vowed that you will not have my soul, even after I am dead, so I have vowed to reveal the hidden secrets of the Land of All Legends. Share your secrets with me, and I will help put Death’s hand in its owner’s hands. Refuse to share your secrets, and I will send you back to roam the land alone and unaided.”

A long silence ensued. No one dared breathe. Death was thinking.

After two minutes and twenty-two seconds, Death spoke, “We will see. I may share information or I may not share. What is it that you want to know?”

King John the Cute never took his eyes away from Death’s face. He said, “For you I have many, many questions. Sit down. Let us begin.”

This has been the dismaying story of how Death began to reveal some of his secrets.

(To be continued on Tuesday…)

‘Tickling Butterflies’ – The Winds of Chance

May 16, 2013

Tickling Butterflies is an epic fantasy, containing 128 fairy tales that together create one huge story.

Here’s the story so far. The story continues:

 

The Winds of Chance

(Containing the auspicious tale in which Al the Average returns to our story.)

 

Al the Average was a big believer in letting chance have its way with him.

Al the Average had grown up in a small house in Bambooville, a tiny town in the farthest corner of the farthest shire in the farthest land of the Land of All Legends.

When he was nine years old (and John the Cute was still in his mother’s womb) Al the Average was playing in a field of wheat, and a tornado appeared between him and the Bambooville. Al the Average did not know what to do. The tornado seemed dangerous. As it headed straight for him, it tore trees out of the ground by their roots. Al the Average did not know in which direction he should run because he did not know in which direction the tornado would go.

After five moments of panic, Al the Average decided to close his eyes and surrender to chance.

He heard the tornado approach, and through closed eyes he imagined another place and another time. He felt the wind begin to strike him, and he began to tell himself a story about True Love.

Suddenly, he felt the wind lift him into the air. And yet he did not open his eyes, surrendering to chance and the Fates, and imagining a more peaceful story than this.

After being shoved this way and that, and after feeling like he was falling down a slide,  his feet touched solid ground, his body was unhurt, and the wind was gone.

When he had opened his eyes, he discovered himself in another world. It was a world of tall buildings and rooms that lit up during the nights without candles. It was a world filled with roads in which not horses rode, but mechanized carriages on wheels. Most importantly, it was a world with a lot of music, music that usually played on a strange box called a ‘radio’.

Without knowing how he had gotten there, without knowing what that world was, he fell in love with that place.

But when he woke up the next day, he found himself back in the wheat field outside Bambooville. He was disappointed that it had all been a fantasy. But then, upon a second glance, he discovered a radio at his feet.

He had been to that other, strange world!

The radio could be turned on, but it only played a strange kind of uniform noise.

From that point on, whenever there was a windy day, Al the Average would return to the wheat field, close his eyes, and hope to return to that magical world.

During the next fifteen years, Al the Average had returned to the magical world only twice more, never knowing how he had gotten there, never knowing how he had returned. But every time he came back with a souvenir from that place.

On his second visit, he returned with a book that included stories about some of the friendly creatures that lived in nearby cities, like Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, and Jack and his beanstalk. This was strange, because Al the Average did not know Little Red Riding Hood was famous enough to have a book written about her.

On his third visit, he returned with a machine called a ‘glider’. This machine allowed people to soar through the air and the wind as if they were a bird.

When Al the Average was twenty-four years old, he put the radio on one of the shelves of his fixit shop, because he liked to listen to the noise when no one was around.

John the Cute entered his shop, and inquired about the radio. In a moment of weakness, Al the Average explained what a radio was. John the Cute loved the radio so much, that he told everyone in town about it.

Too late, Al the Average realized his mistake, hid the radio, and denied everything. Soon, the talk of the radio died and people began to speak of other things. Al the Average believed his mistake had been a small one, and that nothing of great importance had occurred.

Two years later news came to Bambooville that King Charming the Fourth was dead, and that John the Cute was now king. Two weeks after the king’s coronation, Al the Average was walking back to his shop when he saw one of the king’s soldiers ride into town and stop at the fixit shop. Al the Average followed the soldier afar, as the king’s man asked everyone about Al the Average. When no one knew where Al the Average was, the soldier began to ask everyone if they had ever seen a special seashell called a ‘radio’.

There and then, Al the Average understood that King John the Cute would never rest until he took all of his possessions from him and forced him to tell all his secrets.

Come nighttime, Al the Average snuck back into his shop, took his book, his radio, and his glider, and ran away from Bambooville forever.

He climbed atop the highest hill in the shire, and jumped off, using the glider. Al the Average closed his eyes and surrendered to the wind, allowing the currents of air to carry him this way and that.

For two weeks he was in the air, with his eyes closed, being handed from one wind to another. For two weeks, he dared not open his eyes, allowing chance and the Fates to have its way with him. Then, when the winds tired of him, they gently put him and his glider down.

Al the Average opened his eyes, expecting to be in some remote spot, or perhaps even in the magical world. In front of him, he saw the gates of the palace. The Fates and the winds had dropped him at King John the Cute’s doorstep!

Al the Average quickly dropped the glider, and with his book and radio, jumped into the nearest river. Al the Average closed his eyes and surrendered to the currents, allowing him to pass from one river to another, then to the currents of the open sea. For two weeks, he let chance and the Fates and the currents have their way with him. And then, when the currents tired of him, they thrust him gently onto solid ground.

Al the Average opened his eyes, expecting to be in some remote continent no one had ever heard of. In front of him, he saw the gates of the palace in Capital City. The Fates had dropped him at King John the Cute’s doorstep once more!

Al the Average held the book and the radio even tighter, and ran as quickly as he could. He ran for four days and four nights. He ran in a straight line, trusting his legs more than he trusted the Fates now.

At the end of four days, exhausted, Al the Average stopped to take a breath. Near him, a young blind woman rested on a bench.

“What would you be breathing so hard about?” she said.

“It is nothing,” Al the Average panted. “The king wants to see me. He wants to me tell him my secrets. I would rather be anywhere but there.”

He had felt safe confiding in a woman that could not see, could not identify him, and could not run after him.

To his surprise, he felt the woman’s grip on his neck. “Is that right, now? My name is Sarah O’Connell, you scoundrel, and no one naysays the king when I am around!”

For the first time, Al the Average realized that the woman was not blind, but had a cloth around her eyes; and that her strength was the strength of ten men. Her hand around his throat and still blindfolded, she began to drag Al the Average by the neck in the direction of Capital City. “Come,” she said. “We have a little trip ahead of us. I hear the palace is lovely this time of year.”

This has been the auspicious tale in which the Fates brought Sarah O’Connell back to the presence of King John the Cute.

 

(To be continued on Sunday…)

‘Tickling Butterflies’ – Little Soldier Blue

May 14, 2013

Tickling Butterflies is an epic fantasy, containing 128 fairy tales that together create one huge story.

Here’s the story so far. The story continues:

 

Little Soldier Blue

(Containing the ghastly story of a perfect soldier.)

 

Little Soldier Blue hated the army. But it was also clear to him that he needed a job. It was clear to him because his parents had made it clear to him that he needed a job. His father, Big Soldier Blue, and his mother, Big Soldier Wife, both expected him to go into the army. Big Soldier Blue came from a long line of soldiers, and Big Soldier Wife came from a long line of soldier wives.

By a strange coincidence, on Little Soldier Blue’s eighteenth birthday, Prince Charming the Fifth rode into town and gathered all eighteen year olds and suggested they join the prince’s army. The prince offered money, and Little Soldier Blue accepted, even though he was not sure that it was the right job for him.

On the first day, all soldiers were given uniforms and a magic silver box.

All soldiers put their feelings inside the magic silver box. But Little Soldier Blue held on to his feelings and his box remained empty.

Prince Charming the Fifth did not rely on the boxes to gain his soldiers’ loyalty. During his trial of fire, he had conceived the perfect plan to gain his soldiers’ loyalty. The prince knew, as all royalty does, that the feeling of anger makes a person certain that he is right and equally certain that the person making him angry is wrong. The angrier the person, the more certain he is that he is right, and the more certain he is that the other person is wrong.

And so, the prince’s training consisted of making his soldiers angry.

With each passing day, Little Soldier Blue became angrier. With each passing day, all soldiers around him became angrier.

With each passing week, Little Soldier Blue became certain that he was right. With each passing week, all the soldiers around him were certain that they were right.

And during all that time, Prince Charming the Fifth was the angriest of them all, and therefore everyone agreed with him that he was right. His anger connected with everyone else’s. Everyone agreed with him that he should be king. The more right and more righteous and more angry the soldiers became, the more certain they were that King John the Ugly should be killed.

Within a month, Little Soldier blue was mighty angry, and he felt better about being in the army, and he knew that King John the Cute should die. And he was surrounded by soldiers who felt exactly the same feelings all the time.

Prince Charming the Fifth had also learned, during his trial of fire, that soldiers must care for their fellow soldiers before they cared for their families.

And so, at the end of every night, the soldiers played games in which one of them was being rescued by the others. And after a month, the soldiers felt as tight as a family. For the first time in his life, Little Soldier Blue felt that he had a family that approves of what and who he is, a family that understands him, a family that shares his anger. Little Soldier Blue was loyal to his new family and felt certain that he would willingly lay down his life for all his soldier friends.

The third lesson Prince Charming the Fifth had learned in his trial of fire, was that his army needed to be desperate for his approval. He wanted to make sure that his loyal army would be truly loyal, and wanted the soldiers to be loyal because they sought his approval.

And so for every day for an entire month, Prince Charming the Fifth made sure that he told each and every soldier three times that he was not good enough, and one time that he was getting slightly better. So it was for every soldier. So it was all the time.

In that way, Little Soldier Blue felt he was improving, but also felt that he was never good enough for Prince Charming the Fifth. And yet, with each good word from the prince, he became more loyal, and tried even harder to get the prince’s praise. He wanted Prince Charming the Fifth to tell him how good he was. After a month, it was the most important thing he wanted. It was equally as important as killing King John the Cute.

Little Soldier Blue knew that if he killed King John the Cute, the prince would tell him that he was a perfect soldier and would love him greatly.

And so, after three months of training, Little Soldier Blue became the perfect soldier. Then, to make Prince Charming the Fifth even happier, he opened his box, locked his emotions in it, then threw it away.

This has been the ghastly story containing exact details of how Little Soldier Blue became the perfect soldier. This has also been the unpleasant tale in which Shadowy Death stood silently and in the shadows, allowing Prince Charming the Fifth to create an impressive army.

 

(To be continued on Thursday…)