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Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo 2017

Culture, Events

May 29, 2017

It’s strange how generations of entertainment have passed us by. In the past two centuries, we’ve gone from novels to radio plays to comics to movies to television to video games without newer forms destroying older forms. Instead, there’s this strange co-operative where these different creative forms feed off one another, both in terms of modern output and an appreciation of history. There are festivals to celebrate old books, theaters that specialize in old movies, and comic conventions are ever-more common as they bleed into every other form of media.

Video games, though, are something else again: tied to specific middle-men consoles that allow people to enjoy the entertainment that they’ve bought, those old games are often lost as the consoles that used to play them are abandoned: Q-Bert and Burger Time don’t exist on Playstation 4. There are exclusives that appeared on one console and never anywhere else, versions of games that differed depending upon the console they were on. Anyone that wants to experience this in older generations, though, can be hard pressed to find what they’re looking for unless they know the right places.

The Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo is the best of those places in Vancouver.

Attracting collectors and collections from all over the west coast, the Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo takes over the Anvil Center in New Westminister once a year, bringing you the very best of what was and celebrating the generations of an entertainment art form that is eclipsing all others in popularity. It’s well known and popular enough to draw crowds of people ranging from the oldest of the old school to recent converts looking for a sense of history to shack-dwelling hillbillies that live in hillbilly shacks somewhere.

Braving the heat and the sun over this past Vancouver weekend, they filled the whole of the Anvil Center, New Westminister’s shining jewel and prime effort in drawing outliers to come and hold their events. A stunning and elegant building with story-size windows that allow all the light one could possibly want, the Anvil Center was swarmed with gamers of all kinds and all ages looking for relics of eras gone by.

The main floor was more than ready to deliver. Space dedicated to places like Game Deals and Toy Traders, the main floor held a collection of old consoles and games ranging from the dawn of the medium through to the modern era. Imports from around the world, old bootlegs and never released roms, toys and strategy guides, controllers and accessories… whether you wanted something from the classic Nintendo Entertainment System or one of the old Dreamcast video-screen memory cards, this was the place you wanted to be. Amiibos, charms, shirts – anything and everything celebrating the history and evolution of gaming was here for you to find and adopt.

For those looking for more information, a host of panels covering everything from collecting old games to working with old hardware was available, people coming to share the secrets they’ve learned and pass on that knowledge. There’s something about listening to people that are passionate about the things they know, or passionate about the things they do – an infectious energy that permeated that top floor, conference rooms sharing space with artist’s alley and some of the most gifted artisans and masons working within game-based designs. From throw pillows to custom made posters, there is and always will be something for everyone.

Those looking to test their skill would also find a home here: the Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo featured a host of prize-based tournaments that covered the breadth of old school competitive gaming, everything from Street Fighter II to Tetris. Those less inclined to competition were still encouraged to play on various arcade machines and console systems, most of which were conveniently set up on the second floor in a theater where live game-inspired music was being performed live by bands like MissingNo, the Runaway Four, Bryface, 20Six Hundred, and Opus Arise… and if music isn’t your thing, the Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo also features video game improv games by way of Minus World, here on behalf of the award-winning Fictionals improv troupe.   

And for those looking for something even rarer, something most people have never heard before – this year the Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo featured a working prototype for the Nintendo Playstation, along with several playable games that people could try. Yes, you read that right: Nintendo was once partnered with Sony to compete with the Sega CD, but when that console failed and doomed Sega, Nintendo left the plans with Sony and they released it and changed the video game landscape forever.

The real question when it comes to the Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo is why aren’t you there? If you love video games at all you owe it to yourself to come out and celebrate that love, to treat yourself to this event. And if you missed it this year, make sure you don’t the next – we’ll keep you posted on when the Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo returns.

Until then, keep your calendars open.

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169

Story Story Lie – The Devil Is In The Details

Comedy, Culture, Events, Interviews, Reviews, Showcase

May 27, 2017

On a balmy May evening, the din of the crowd at Cafe Deux Soleil is palpable from a block away. The venue is a well-loved place where the local community gathers nightly for improv, poetry, live music and for this night a story telling game show and podcast.

The premise is simple, listen to stories, pick out the liar, win fabulous prizes!

The show’s creator and host Jo Dworschak sat down with me for a quick interview on a hot sunny afternoon. I got to pet her bunny rabbit.

Floppo the Bunny (Photo By Anne Honeycutt)

 

LM: What is the inspiration of Story Story Lie?

JD: I moved to Vancouver and Vancouver didn’t have the variety of shows that I thought it should have. After travelling to Chicago to study with Second City I came back and thought about the type of show I wanted to do. My son and his friends had a game where they would tell two truths and a lie and it seemed like the best way to get storytellers involved.

Photo By Anne Honeycutt

LM: What is your selection process?

Jo explaining the show. (Photo by  Richard Glen Lett)

JD: I scout through shows in the area. I go to a lot of them and then sometimes I get recommendations.

LM: If you could have any person on the show living dead real fictional, who and why?

JD: My two personal icons! Who are Frida Kahlo and Leonard Cohen. They are just so inspiring to me.

LM: Who would be the worst person on your show?

JD: A Lawyer… *nervous laugh* actually not them because I am trying to get an online divorce attorney to sponsor the podcast.

LM: How do you get the cool and very practical prizes for the show?

JD: I buy random things off of Craigslist!

Travis Bernhardt talking about a magic act gone horribly wrong (Photo by  Richard Glen Lett)

LM: What would be your Hogwarts House or Star Trek Shirt Colour?

JD: Ops Gold

LM: If you were in an airport and you had time to waste and 20$ what would you spend it on?

JD: I wouldn’t buy a thing, but I would go get a quick pedicure and ask the person for their story.

If you are able to attend the next show June 10th at Cafe Deux Soliel please do. This is the type of show and cultural experiences that are awesome.

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136

Instant Theatre – A Fistful of Kicks: An Improvised Kung-Fu Spectacular

Comedy, Culture, Events, Improv, Reviews

May 27, 2017

“A long time ago, before East met West. When the modern world wasn’t so modern. In a far away land across the Pacific Ocean, there was one path, one way, one truth – kung-fu. A Fistful of Kicks is an improvised kung-fu spectacular starring an all Asian-Canadian cast of Vancouver’s best improvisers. Mashing up all of your favourite martial arts movies of yesteryear, this show will bring you all of the hard-hitting fight scenes together with our signature epic storytelling to tell these authentic and hilarious stories all for one amazing show. Filled with impressive stunts choreographed by local fight director, Nathania Bernabe, an amazing soundtrack, and a grand adventure, this is a unique and exhilarating improv show with a cultural twist.

Vivian Tang, Brent Hirose, Kai Rudell, Carla Mah, Curt Da Silva and Kia Vance

Featured comics include Curt Da Silva, Vivian Tang, Carla Mah, Brent Hirose, Nathania Bernabe, Kia Vance, and Kai Rudell.”

A Fistful of Kicks: An Improvised Kung-Fu Spectacular started off as part of Instant Theatre’s Incubator program. Curt Da Silva the show’s director/producer organized to have fights choreographed for the show by local fight coordinator Nathania Bernabe.  After having several successful shows it has been added to the monthly line up of shows that Instant puts on at The Havana. Representation matters and to have a show that honours Asian heritage in a city that has a population of 42.9% of Asian descent is not only important but vitally needed.

The story itself ended up being an epic much along the lines of most epic Eastern tales with trickster spirits, pupils and masters teacher each other, goddess empresses, family feuds and in the end a happy end. 

The next showing of this masterpiece is June 9th at The Havana. 

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295

Review – Here I Stand: A Benefit + Awareness Show – Opera Mariposa

Culture, Events, Performance, Reviews

May 26, 2017

Review – Here I Stand: A Benefit + Awareness Show

I recently had the pleasure of attending Opera Mariposa’s “Here I Stand” benefit and awareness concert for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia (ME/CFS & FM).

Soprano and Artistic Director, Jacqueline Ko, tells her inspirational story of living with ME/FM through a variety of musical theatre songs and opera arias with highly accomplished pianist Angus Kellet.

A big part of Jacqueline’s story is the chronic pain and emotional struggles born out of the many obstacles she has faced. That struggle was explored through carefully chosen songs and arias. The song “Anyone Can Whistle”, by Stephen Sondheim, was an insight into what it feels like to not be able to do normal things the way someone without ME/FM would.

So why not do extraordinary things? Jacqueline became an opera singer and started an opera company. She mentioned this with pride, and rightfully so.

I know how much work goes into putting on a show like this, but I was blown away when Jacqueline said she will spend months recovering from this one night. “You Learn to Live Without”, from If/Then by Tom Kitt, alluded to all the adjustments Jacqueline has had to make since she became ill at just six years old. Yet you can see how much joy singing brings to her life, and how it radiates to the other people around her.

Her musical numbers showcased how versatile her voice can be: delightfully sweet and intimate, yet also powerful and raw. It was a welcome surprise to hear her sing “Wait For It” (complete with an Opera Mariposa chorus) and “That Would Be Enough” from the highly acclaimed and very popular musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

However, two pieces were absolute standouts for me. “To This, We’ve Come” from The Consul by Gian Carlo Menotti, requires a solid classical technique, while still conveying an utterly tragic frustration with how immovable bureaucracy can be to the disenfranchised. It’s chilling to hear Jacqueline sing lines like “I’m asking for help, and all you give me is papers” as she sings with her whole body and every ounce of emotion.

The second standout piece for me was “Elle a fui, la tourterelle” from The Tales of Hoffman by Jacques Offenbach. Jacqueline makes a quick joke about how she just had to sing this aria. It’s about a woman that is forbidden to sing because of her illness, but she sings anyway. I was very moved with how graceful, lyrical and resonant her voice was. It was as if the aria was written for her.

This concert was a unique experience, with a very important purpose. I’m grateful to have been there.

Photography by Diamond’s Edge Photography: https://michelledohertyphoto.smugmug.com/


Kathryn grew up in Vancouver as a proud geek & nerd. Her love of sci-fi led to her first big dramatic dream of becoming the blue alien from the Fifth Element. Instead, she graduated with a Bachelors of Music degree as an opera singer. She is also a regular photographer for various performing arts groups and recently has been most interested in fun boudoir & body positive photo shoots. You can contact her here.

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342

Alien: Covenant

Culture, film, Reviews

May 19, 2017

The Alien series shifts genre in a strange parallel to the xenomorph upon which it was based and as commentary on the era in which it was made. The first movie was about horror and suspense as took us from the seventies to the eighties, where the suspense we felt moving from one decade to the next gave way to the horrors of corruption and disease that we’re still feeling to this day. The second movie was all about action and consequence and how the greed of a few might kill the rest of us, about how our society will blindly follow the people that are profiting off our work into war and not heed the warnings of those with the most experience. Sounds like Iran-Contra, the AIDS epidemic, the Iraqi War… all those messes that we barely survived.

Alien3 was a thing that happened; we had settled in nihilism by that point, and David Fincher captured the entropy that had taken root in the human soul, the disappointment of his movie caused by forces far beyond his control but still being forged into something better than it had any business being. The fourth movie was a music video written by Joss Whedon, a high action disaster that started strong and ended weak… and that was okay. We weren’t expecting anything more than a close to the series and that was it.

It should be noted that Neill Blomkamp’s Alien movie is apparently dead, but it was supposed to be the Alien3 movie we had been promised thirty years ago. Instead of that, we got Prometheus, a wildly ambitious high-concept sci-fi adventure movie that would have been stronger without a connection to this franchise. Honestly, most of the problems people have with that movie is that it ties into the others, acting as a direct prequel to the very first movie. This movie acts as a direct sequel to that movie, which makes it the second chronological movie in the six-movie-long series, with a third part to begin shooting in fourteen months, which will make this a seven-movie long franchise if you don’t count the two AvP movies.

Confused yet? Don’t be. One of our staffers didn’t see Prometheus and went with me when I saw this, and he seemed to have a good time. I had a good time, and you will, too. Just try to relax your brain a little because this is, like Prometheus, not what you’re expecting from an Alien movie.

“We’re all still going to die. Morituri nolumus mori.”

Whatever that may be. C’mon, guys, given how loose the continuity is and how much these movies change from one installment to the next, you just kinda sit back and accept the movie for what it is. Have some popcorn.

Covenant very much aims to equal the ambition of Prometheus while also taking into account fan backlash – there’s a lot of concessions made that directly address problems that fans had with Prometheus, and some of those are for the better. To illustrate those points, though, we need to talk spoilers. You have been warned. The whole movie is summarized below, so highlight at your own discretion or skip past it to where we talk about the movie without spoiling it:

We cold open in a white room where Peter Weyland is waking up David, an android played by Michael Fassbender and one of the big reasons so many things went wrong in the story of Prometheus – that movie is basically about David being creepy and touching things and here we get to know the beginnings of his dissatisfaction with humanity, as his creator is kind of a tool. Thankfully, they both got ripped apart in Prometheus, so we cut to

A crew of colonists in deep stasis, heading towards a planet that has been researched for them. They are being cared for by a robot named Walter who doesn’t do creepy things but is still played by Michael Fassbender. They’re doing a recharge of the electrical systems when there’s a solar flare that causes that system to be damaged and wakes up some of the crew while also burning one of them to death in his pod as his girlfriend looks on.

The person that died was supposed to be the captain, which puts Oram in charge. He’s not good with people and thinks people don’t like him because he’s religious, which he brings up a few times and doesn’t play into his character arc at all but does play into the themes of the movie, so we’ll let that one go. The crew is full of couples (including a gay couple, which is a nice touch), and dead captain’s surviving partner is Katherine Waterston’s Daniels. She leads a funeral that Oram isn’t onboard with, but he lets it go without comment because he’s not an asshole.

As they’re fixing things they pick up a distant distress signal from… somewhere. They use long-range scanners and find a planet that is much closer than the one they’re supposed to go to that is suitable for human habitation – they could get to this one in a week, and the one they’re supposed to go to is decades away and requires more sleeping in cryo-pods like the one the captain burned to death in, so off they go explore the new world. Daniels objects, but not loudly given that her lover was just turned into BBQ.

Oram and Daniels lead an away team down to the planet and find it full of plants and, strangely, wheat, but no animals. They test for toxins in the atmosphere and find none, so they head out and discover the crashed ship that Shaw and David stole in Prometheus, along with Shaw’s dog tags. There’s no sign of Shaw or David, though. Everything is okay until two people are infected by microscopic spores and hatch white not-xenomorphs that blow up the ship they came down on and nearly kill them all until they are rescued by David.

David leads them to a necropolis that is clearly an alien city (actually one built by and for the Engineers) and David tells them a story about how the Engineers and Shaw both died and it was sad and he is sad. David and Walter have some conversations that are the core and most interesting part of the film that infers questions about the act of creation and what is owed between creator and creation. It’s some interesting stuff that hints at the horrors to come.

David watches as a human gets killed by one of the white not-xenomorphs and tries to communicate with it, but then Oram blows it up and tells David that he is the devil. So David offers to show him something and Oram, instead of shooting him, follows him down into a pit where there are xenomorph eggs and David reveals that he created them. Oram gets face-huggered and out bursts a mini-xenomorph. Oram is dead, a xenomorph is on the loose, and Danny McBride is in charge of the mothership and brings it down for a rescue.

We get Daniels fighting the Xenomorph on a flying ship while David and Walter have a conversation and one of them dies and the winner goes on the ship. Daniels beats the xenomorph but there is another and that one ends up on the ship and kills the whole crew except for Daniels and Danny, who jettison it from an airlock in a tense battle because that is how the first, second, and fourth movies ended and it worked for them.

Daniels and Danny go into their pods and go to sleep, the android on board is revealed to be David, and that’s where the movie ends.

So, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the movie.

First off, this movie is gorgeous. Ridley Scott has some flaws as a director but set design and cinematography have never been among them, and this movie lives up to the high expectations he sets for himself. The ship looks good and practical, the necropolis is fascinating, the ruined Engineer ship is as haunting as you might remember if you saw Prometheus. The score is gorgeous and perfectly sets the mood and compliments the visuals and the direction is spot on.

The writing is also stronger here than it was in Prometheus. Aside from a couple of character moments that are never followed up on – like the replacement captain being a man of faith and that being why he wasn’t fit to be the actual captain – we get the sense that these are people that know and trust one another and that they are professionals. Their deaths are the result of circumstance and panic rather than idiocy, and they feel like experts who have hit a situation they’re not prepared for. It makes the movie more enjoyable when we want the characters to live, and we do here; even Danny McBride brings surprising nuance to his performance, and it makes the movie stronger.

Fassbender is transcendent, playing two understated characters with very different experiences and goals. There are subtleties to each of them that set them apart from one another, small tics in body language that speak about the intelligences that they are. His David is heartbreaking and terrifying, his Walter aloof but sympathetic. The dichotomy of these two characters are what makes this film as good as it is, and their conversations are what allows us to see two very different ways of accepting the role of created and the drive to create.

Likewise, Katherine Waterson is also incredible. Fassbender’s characterization wouldn’t work without her, and if he is the backbone of the movie than she is the movie’s heart. This is entire tale is very much hers to tell, and her sense of loss is palpable throughout, her acceptance of Walter as a surrogate for her lost love heartbreaking in its conclusion. She is smart, agile, and courageous in the way we demand that protagonists in this franchise be. She is a worthy successor to Shaw, but perhaps not to Ripley and it’s painful to type that – this movie, like Prometheus before it, would be a much stronger film without being attached to the Alien franchise.

She is great.

The central question of the film is a good one and justifies the religious subtext and populates the undertones of the movie: where Prometheus was about stealing answers, Covenant is about building relationships with what is created. This trilogy is about David but is told through the eyes of heroines who do not live through their meeting with him; they are the main characters of the chapters they are in with David as the clear antagonist of their story, while he remains the protagonist of the trilogy as a whole. It’s an interesting means of framing a tale about an immortal creation plaguing his creators, all while creating something as monstrous as he perceives his creators to be.

Make no mistake: David’s reliance on human poetry and art to express himself is as defining as his sociopathic outlook on the human race as a whole, and it makes him both pitiable and more monstrous. He is alien in his mindset and outlook simply because he was alienated, and it remains to be seen what final revelation awaits him.

Which is not to say that the movie is perfect: it isn’t.

Like Prometheus before it, Covenant is a highly ambitious but flawed masterpiece.

The promise of the last film was that Shaw was going to find and confront the Engineers that we might learn more about them. David has killed them all sometime between the end of Prometheus and the beginning of this movie, so we learn nothing more about them. The humans that discover this have no time to seek answers to any questions they might have because they are trying to survive the white not-xenomorphs, the actual xenomorphs, and David (two out of three ain’t bad~!). It’s frustrating but understandable – the Engineers were a framing device in the first movie but are of no importance here – but that lack of resolution is irritating.

And, again, David’s creation of the xenomorphs adds nothing to the franchise as a whole and detracts from the mystery of the creatures somewhat. The xenomorphs aren’t scary anymore – we know all about them, what they do and what they’re about, and it’s hard to be afraid of them when we know so much about them. Because of this, the xenomorphs are denigrated from terrifying presence to a simple obstacle to be overcome.

Worse, we know them but the characters don’t, and that drives a wedge between us and the people we should be rooting for. If the characters were informed – if they had a chance to even glance at David’s notes – they might have been able to put up an informed fight and that would make the monsters scary again by showing their intelligence and versatility. The monster that shows an ability to learn is much more terrifying than the one that doesn’t, but they are not the antagonist here: David is. David does learn, David does show his intelligence, and David is terrifying.

Terrifying.

The xenomorphs are nothing more than a tool being used by the true villain in a movie that they are named for.

Aliens: Covenant is not a scary film. It has a couple of jump scares and it flirts with horror, but much less so than even Prometheus did. It will not give you nightmares and I don’t think it was designed to. This is a movie that is about the journey and the questions more than the destination or the answers, a complex exploration of a god’s responsibility disguised as a science fiction film.

It’s likely to be as divisive among Aliens fans as Prometheus was. It adheres to some tropes from the franchise it’s nominally a part of to its detriment, clearly a response to the backlash the first suffered, but that reining in of that ambition gains the film nothing and hobbles the scope of the potential trilogy as a whole. If this had been a new property I get that sense that people – including fans of the franchise – would love it, but as an Aliens movie, it confuses itself as it stumbles along.

All that said? It’s a fun movie and a good way to spend a couple of hours, and the conversations it inspires will be worth the price of admission. Fassbender and Waterson turn in incredible performances and the artbook is going to be a must-have for people that go in for that sort of thing (I am very much one of those people). Definitely worth seeing.

All photo credits are Mark Rogers.

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333

Fiction – My Bad Dream

Books & Writing, Culture, Short Fictions

May 13, 2017

Beyond the end of the world, the end of all the worlds, is a place where they all meet. All manner of creatures and beings come here; it is a place of refuge, of shelter from the storm. And there is always a storm somewhere.

Among them, strangely even for this strange place, is a child. A girl of eight or nine in a nightdress, flaxen-haired and blue-eyed, the very picture of innocence. One might be worried in this place that she is somehow a trap, a monster hiding, but it is not so. Goldie really is a little girl, but she is a dreamer.

Goldie fell asleep one night. It was a strange falling asleep, but she remembers nothing more about it. Then the terrors began. Night after night, week after week. The teeth in the woods, the house of blood, the gray faces, each more terrible than the last, the nightmares haunted and tormented her. Even in sleep, there was no rest.

But time passed. It always does, even if it moves strangely beyond the veil of worlds. One can eventually get used to anything, and though Goldie really is a little girl, she had been a little girl now for a long, long time. One day, with the teeth snapping at her heels again, she tired of the chase. She sat under a gnarled, blackened tree, picked up one of the fallen branches, and waited.

The snarling and howling stopped the moment she sat, and in short order, intrigued, the nightmare appeared to her, taking the form of a tall, dapper man whose body seemed to be made of black fire.

Why do you not run? it said, the words being remembered without ever being spoken.

“I’m tired.” she replied.

But you are asleep, it said, For years now. How can you be tired?

“Not sleepy,” said she, “Tired. Tired of running. Why do you torment me?”

The nightmare paused. This was something it had never considered. How could it? Do fish wonder why they swim, or flames wonder why they burn?

Finally, it spoke, without speaking: I am your Nightmare, it said.

“Mine?” Goldie asked.

Yours and yours alone, it said, as long as need be.

The girl stood. “You… are mine? You belong to me?”

Confused, the nightmare nodded, for was that not what it said?

Years of darkness change anyone, even someone who really is a little girl, and there in the gloom and the dark Goldie smiled for the first time in years, and ran forward, embracing the burning man who did not really burn.

“You’re MINE!” she said. It was the first time she could remember that anyone or anything was truly hers, even from before the strange sleep began. And the Nightmare, for it was made of her dreams as much as her fears, to its surprise wrapped its burning but not burning arms around her and hugged her back.

This, gentle traveler, is how you may meet the dreamer who has been young for so long in the place beyond the end of the worlds. Beside her always is her traveling companion, her Nightmare, which brings her from dream to dream wherever darkness touches, teaching her now the joy and laughter that lives where light doesn’t reach, for it already taught her everything it could about fear and pain. The nightmare is itself, himself, young in many ways, and does not always understand the places they travel. But it knows two truths that are clad in iron.

Firstly, he is HER Nightmare. Without her, he does not know what he would be, perhaps the nameless dread in the dark again, and it would be awful to go back to that sort of nonperson after finding this richer life.

And secondly, he looks really good in that hat.

 


Abbey St. Brendan is the sort of monster that would bake you a pie. She improvises, acts, performs regularly in the comedic end of geek fandom, and in this case writes. Her collaboration with Living Myth Magazine is kismet. You can contact her on Twitter @abbeykadabra.

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375

The Mariposa Opera presents “Here I Stand”

Culture, Events, Showcase

May 2, 2017

Do you know what Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is?

It’s okay if you don’t. I didn’t. I don’t think anyone in our offices did, which is why things like this are important. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) is a disease that causes fatigue, loss of memory and concentration, unexplained muscle and joint pain, and sore throat.

It’s that last one that has special meaning here: sore throat. Jacqueline Ko has suffered with ME/CFS since she was six years old. She’s spent a good chunk of her time bedridden but has still helped found the critically acclaimed production company, Opera Mariposa and the Mariposa Theatre Wing, while mastering a range of vocal skills. Combining both these things, Jacqueline has managed to raise over $35,000 for ME/CFS research, hoping to find a cure and increase visibility.

“ME can change the course of your life forever – it certainly did for me,” Ko says. “I’ve seen studies that compare its impact to multiple sclerosis, late-stage cancer or congestive heart failure, but it’s still rare for this disease to be taught in medical school. They say as many as 9 out of 10 people aren’t even diagnosed. I was lucky in that regard – but the fact is, even with a diagnosis, they still don’t fully understand the cause or have a cure.”

By pairing with the ME/FM Society of BC, Jacqueline has put together a series of musical singles that are meant to tell her story through music, weaving together different stylings and making sure that her show has something for everything. The show draws from diverse genres – from pop to Broadway to opera. Her set will include pieces by Puccini, Verdi, Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber, as well as songs from the hit musical Hamilton. Jacqueline will be joined on stage by pianist Angus Kellett and several guest artists, and the evening will include a reception as well as a charity raffle contest with over $2,000 in prizes.

You can learn more about her story in the new book, Lighting Up a Hidden World: CFS and ME, by Valerie Free.

The concert itself will take place on Saturday, May 13, 2017, at 7:30 pm at the Marpole United Church, located at 1296 West 67th Avenue, Vancouver. You can click here to buy tickets, click here to find out more about the ME/FM Society of BC, and click here to find out more about Jacqueline Ko and the Opera Mariposa

Banner photo credits goes to Kathryn Nickford Photography

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481

Fiction – Love is War 03:00:03:09

Books & Writing, Culture, Short Fictions

April 28, 2017

Click here to read the previous entry.  

 

Iataad taohif aamgae. None may escape.

Those were the words her House had been built upon. The very first Vanir to bear their name had looked up at the stars and pointed, she had been told, and uttered those words. Years later they would hear them echoed among other nations, among the Swann, the Devinii, the Darroken. There was some ancient truth wrapped in those syllables, in that meaning. None may escape. She had sought to escape the prophecy of those words with her genius and her tools but now Veskur Wyrd stood alone and afraid, naked and revealed on the top of her tower. She had been undone, destroyed, her every tenant proved a lie by what the world had become around her.

Wind and storm and fire whipped the lands surrounding her home. Her nameless manservant had finally proven to be no fool; he had abandoned her, leaving her to her fate. His doing so had saved her the task of having to tell him to leave before the price of all that she had done came to claim her. No one else should have to pay for the consequences of her actions and yet so many had.

Her quiet valley, her refuge and solitude and all that she had ever wanted had been blasted beyond all recognition. There was no sign of the peace she had tried to cultivate. Soldiers and barbarians died all around her, their final screams waging war with the clash of thunder and steel, rain turning red as it met the sea of death that lapped at her tower. Hekro was out there, Risue, Jesam the first. Every hero of two nations had come here, at this moment, to take from her a power that they could not hope to understand.

Some among the Vanir wore gaurn on their left hands, tools that she had not made and had never meant to share. Jesam the First knew them for what they were but not how they worked. The Coeecians came to claim the Ethcinos Sciences for themselves while the Vanir came only to take the rest of what they thought she knew.

They none of them knew nothing.

Sometimes the price of knowledge was knowing.

Out there, somewhere, was Figo, lovely and light Figo Jera. The Rose Dragon. Who had loved him like she had? Who had cherished him, respected him, cared for him? No one. Thea had told her how he had given himself to Jesam the First, convinced that his sacrifice was noble. Veskur saw only the price of it: a holy radiance swallowed by darkness. She had told him again and again that he was perfect but he had always blushed and muttered dismissals of her description, claiming that no one could ever hope to reach the tiers she judged him worthy of.

You idiot!” she screamed, her words echoing off the mountains and reaching the ears of the armies that even now waged war on her small home, Vanir and Coeecians thinking to wrest her knowledge from her while trying to kill one another. “You fool! I called you perfect because you were perfect even in your imperfection! You were the light that softened the edges of the darkness that I am, the joy that tempered the sorrow that I was so lost in that I could not even recognize it! I would have done anything for you, anything for you, anything for you, and this is where we are and this is what I have wrought! I miss you, miss you with everything that I will ever be, and there will never be another word for me, not from you, never from you!”

Thunder smashed the world around her keep as she slashed the very weavings of Creation itself with her gaurn, the nimbus that surrounded her tool burning with the intensity of a thousand suns and rendering the atrocity that had consumed her world in monochromatic silhouettes, either red or white or black. There was no mixture of color as two nations went to war with one another and with her, but as long as her tower stood, as long as she could keep herself in check, as long as she didn’t catch sight of the ones who had helped her become what she now was, it would not get any worse.

She weaved atop the stones of her keep, reeling like a drunk above the riot below her. She balanced herself on the battlements, staring down, counting the heroes that held their own: Hekro, Jesam, Risue, Leovi, Janwae, Darco. She knew they would fight until not one of their number was left, their clumsy groping violence as nothing compared to the horror she could unleash at any time, at any moment, if only she could find the will to do so.

Endrall Sahr would be out there somewhere. Ygg Sotaas. Possibly even Deeam Njiord and his fabled ahmr, smashing skull and heart with long arching swings, the deep baritone of his voice expressing only hatred. 

Did it matter who won, so far as she was concerned? 

Sotaas had told her of the rumors Endrall had spread above and beyond the taking of her name, knew that between her inherent strangeness and Endrall’s charisma that no one down there was fighting with her interests in mind; the entirety of the horror playing out below her was an action taken utterly without love.

She knelt, coated in a fine blanket of rain, clutching to the cold rock that made up her home as screams echoed throughout the world around her. She remembered Figo, how soft he was, how gentle, how kind. Veskur believed that he had been everything good and pure in the world but he was gone now, given up, driven to self-destruction by forces that she herself had crafted. She was responsible. She was accountable. The skeletal fingers of death that gripped the plains below her had been summoned by her, by the arrogance of her Science.

Perhaps, she thought, if she had been more careful or more subtle it would not have come to this. Perhaps if she had held herself in check instead of giving voice to her every wild imagining she would not have inflicted this final doom upon an undeserving world. Sotaas didn’t deserve this, or Hekro, or Risue, or even Endrall. And Figo, lovely lost Figo, well, the more Veskur thought about it the more she came to understand. She didn’t need Figo in her life, or Endrall, or any of them. She had lived alone and had been happy alone. She should have returned to her solitude. Instead, she had tried to weave herself into the lives of threads that were never meant to bear her weight.

She could fix it. With the power she could shape with her left hand she could fix all of it. She saw the plan unfold before her, the length of time it would take. She would have to remove herself from the equation but she wanted to do that anyway; she no longer wanted to be, to exist, to remember. All she wanted was quiet and emptiness. There was a place for her. Mathemagically speaking, there was a place that she could go that no one would ever be able to follow, another trick Sotaas had caught in her equations that she would have never noticed but had followed to finality.

Veskur Wyrd didn’t need to be a part of anything to win. All she needed to claim victory was for the people she cared about to be happy and she had never been able to view herself as a person.

She stood, brushing water from her shoulders, raindrops lost in the horror that painted itself below her, a landscape of entrails and screaming. No arrows were fired upon her, no one wanting to risk losing what they thought they were here to claim. She looked down upon them and felt an awful wrath set root in her heart, an anger that could never be undone, for upon standing she could see Endrall Sahr.

He stood in the midst of the carnage, walking towards her keep with a tingling disregard for all those that fell around him. He carved signs into the air with his gaurn, keeping himself removed from the conflict even as he moved through it, untouched and regal and all the more inhuman for doing so. She recognized him then, the true face that lay behind his beauty – a sadistic solipsist who hid behind the veneer of the humanitarian, the weapon crafted and honed for a heart’s battlefield by a bitter and childish father.

She should have been wiser. She should have known him for what he was.

I trusted you!” she cried, the words torn from somewhere deep inside her, echoing down along the corridors of broken steel and shattered flesh. Endrall looked up at her, not even breaking stride.

Then why did you leave?”

You left me, remember?” Veskur screamed. “You left me! You used me as an emotional crutch and insulted me and insulted me and insulted me and then you got angry at me for being hurt, again, and you stormed out on me! I had to chase you down, to give you back your things!”

You stopped speaking to me!” Endrall shrieked. “You replaced me and with what? Nothing? You stopped speaking to me without a word!”

Veskur stared down at the battlefield. Something broke in her, something that had been holding back the most terrible of whirlwinds. She slashed at the air, calling upon names and powers that she had only theorized but had never bothered to prove. 

All of them answered her, all of them came at her word, and when she directed this collection of things that should not be into the world around her they hammered every soldier of two nations with an unthinkable onslaught, driving everyone to the ground until only she and Endrall were standing.

The energies she had called upon tore her skin and boiled her blood. Her world was agony but still she stood as those same energies tore at the fundamental laws of physics that held her together and scarred the crucible of her mind. She forced her will into her gaurn and rewrote everything that had ever been or could ever be – it was her destiny to be here and now, her destiny to have this conversation, and if it hadn’t been before it was now and it always would be.

More energies were called upon, more names. Endrall tried to shield himself from her wrath and maintained the structure of his poor Science. She might have been able to smash it but did not care to, instead wrapping her will around his and bringing him to her, dropping him on the roof of her keep so that they could stand facing one another.

I thought that was an okay thing to do,” she whispered, releasing him.

Why would you think that?” he spat, shaking, picking himself up on hands and knees.

Someone told me it was okay.”

That person was wrong.”

That person was you!” Veskur cried. “That person was you! What makes it alright for you to treat me like that and wrong for you to suffer as I did? What makes it okay for you to hurt me, to dismiss me, to treat me like that? Are you even conscious of the injury and insult that you offer or is that behavior a fundamental aspect of the person you’ve become? Were you always like this? Did I just not see it or did I help twist you into this?

Look around us, healer. Look at the world as we have made it, you and I in all our towering arrogance! Look what we have wrought and tell me that either of us could have ever been in the right!”

You were wrong,” Endrall said, standing. “You were wrong. You were arrogant. This, this mess, this is what you made or allowed to be made. I didn’t make it and didn’t approve of it. This is always and ever your fault, just as everything is in your life is. All the miseries of Figo, all the miseries of me and of Sotaas, all of them are your fault. You could have made them better. You could have made this world better but you chose to make things this way and nothing you can do will change that now. You tried to make us all small. You wanted us to crawl before you, as if you were some giant or something worthy of love. You’re a monster. A process. Unworthy of trust and we were never friends.”

Veskur stared at her love for a moment and then stumbled back, laughing with a mania that frightened even her.

Hypocrite,” she wheezed, spreading her arms. “Charlatan. You think I’m not aware of my sins? You think I don’t know what I’ve done, the mistakes I’ve made? You think I don’t know that every time death claims someone below us it’s my fault? I know this. I know what I have wrought. My choice not to decide has brought us here, but you… you’re every bit the monster I am. The only difference is that you don’t acknowledge the pain you cause. You’re not a person. You’re a weapon.”

Coming from anyone else,” Endrall slurred, narrowing his eyes, “I might take that seriously.”

Veskur clawed at the air with her left hand, shattering every protection Endrall could think of with a fraction of the power that was hers to command. Energies rippled along her flesh, tearing it open, her blood bubbling out in steaming rivers, but still she stood straight and tall, a creature torn from the very fabric of nightmare.

A lifetime of anger at the ridicule and scorn she had suffered pushed its way to the surface, crawling out with talons tempered by the very fires of Hell. She was becoming something else, something both more and less than human, something indescribable to her shattered mind.

Endrall fell back, warding her fury off with his right hand, the gaurn on his left weaving patterns that rewove his wounded skin as soon as the backlash of Veskur tore it open. He struggled to do it, Veskur knew, and she could see the terror in his eyes – the knowledge that all the damage that he was suffering, the damage that he could only just repair, was only incidental. She smiled, feeling her body flaking into ash and held steady only by the Ethcinos Sciences that she knew better than anyone else could ever hope to.

She would not could not waver, not now.

A cry cut through the agonized orchestra below them, a single sound that caught the attention of them both. Figo Jera was down there, tied to the wrist of Jesam the First and held like an animal, his naked body covered in welts and scars. Veskur felt herself trembling to see the noblest man she ever knew reduced to such a whimpering state, felt her knees buckle, her right hand falling limply to her side.  

Her left hand, however, cut her pain into the fabric of everything that could ever be.

Mountains trembled, brought low by fates they had not known moments before. Metal found flesh and released a whole new choir of screams, guided by destinies that had not been meant for them seconds before. As Veskur gave voice to the agony of a lifetime the world narrowed, the very idea of possibility and choice narrowed and thinned and culled until death hung in the air as a bone white haze, an entire field suffering for the unloved blame that Veskur had accepted as her own.

This was the world shifting, the monochromatic figures shifting color even as they watched. The gore that coated the ground fell white as snow, the Vanir bathed in the blood of their enemies, the Coeecian horde blacker than Endrall’s withered and unused heart. Veskur watched, stunned at the result of her power, and it took a few moments for agony to settle into her shoulder.

She turned and saw Endrall towering over her, a dryw in hand, the serrated double-edge of the weapon tearing into her flesh. She watched her own blood fall, covering her arm and shoulder, flecks of it painting Endrall. She stared at it in horrified wonder, not even wanting that part of her to touch the awfulness that she now knew him to be.

I trusted you,” Veskur whispered, her voice cracking. “I trusted you and every word you said to me. I tried to get through to you, to let you know, and all you ever gave me was cruelty.” He struck her, sent her spiraling to the cold stone. She lay limp and dying on the ground, staring up at him as he panted above her, his eyes narrowing as he glared.

How many times do we have to tell you?” He struck her with all his strength. “How many times did Figo tell you? Thea? River? Myself? How many times do we have to tell you that your feelings don’t matter, that you’re an arrogant and unworthy thing, a process more than a person, a concept more than an individual? You don’t matter and you never did! Any usefulness you might have had has long since passed. Die, Veskur. It’s all you have to do now.” He struck her at the end of every question, every statement, struck her until her face was as bruised as her soul.

She mumbled something, unable to make sense of the words that struggled to be heard through the blood she was drowning in.

What was that?” Endrall asked, taunting. She glared up at him, left hand weaving furiously. It was not her destiny to die here. It was not her choice and death could only take her at a time of her choosing so long as she wore the gaurn on her hand.

I said,” Veskur mumbled, catching Endrall’s wrist as his hand came for her again, “I said what a fool I am.

She grabbed her levl and dryw as she kicked him off her and rose up, holding the weapons in a clumsy stance as she faced down the only enemy in her life that would ever matter. Endrall held a dryw in his left hand, keeping his right free to use the Ethcinos Science that she had given him. He was so much more graceful than she was, accepted by his House, trained to defend himself somewhat – but she was a power above and beyond anything that Midgard or any other nation would ever know.

All this,” Veskur said, knowing that it was Endrall’s destiny to hear the words, “All this is because of you. I blame your father for twisting the person you should be into the person you are, and me for letting you define me. I gave you everything I had to give, everything you wanted, but you always wanted more. You were destroying me, unmaking me, turning me into something that I did not recognize and did not choose and I let you. Would you have been happy, then, with me dead? Is that why you brought two armies to my doorstep?”

I don’t know what you mean,” Endrall answered. The dryw in his hand was steady.

I will try to end this quickly,” Veskur said, ignoring him. “I will try to set you free.”

She lunged for him, the damage her body had suffered not slowing her down in the slightest, but Endrall was so very fast and so very graceful. Every time she cut his flesh he used the gift she had given him to heal his hurt, mocking her all the while. He cut her right hand, stabbed through the back of the palm and kicked the levl away when she dropped it. She threw the dryw in her left hand at him but he casually batted it out of the way, falling back a step as he did so.

She did not have so much time to act in given the space between them.

Carving the air with her left hand, she began to call upon powers that would stagger even Endrall Sahr – but then he stabbed her, driving the dryw in his right hand into and through her ribs. Blood passed her lips, boiling into steam as it touched the air. He pushed her to her knees, laughing, pressing his boot against her heart to free the blade. She crumbled to the ground, whimpering as he put his boot to her, dancing up and down her frail fracturing body.

Do you have anything else to tell me?” Endrall asked. “I can feel you dying. You don’t have much longer, so if you have any last words now is the time to speak them.”

A whisper lost to the rain passed her lips, a weak rattle before dying.

What was that?” Endrall asked, voice cold and sure as he leaned down, holding his ear just above her lips. “I can’t hear you.” Veskur coughed weakly, cleared her throat, fighting to hold onto an ever dwindling consciousness.

I still love you.”

Endrall fell back as Veskur pushed herself onto her stomach, pushed herself up on shaking elbows, forced her knees underneath her. Coughing tore her throat, spasms wracked her decaying body, but still she held herself, still forced her neck to turn so she could look up at him from hands and knees. He kicked her in the gut and she curled into herself, kicked her again until she fell onto her back and lay still.

Why won’t you die?!” Endrall shrieked. “It’s the only thing left for you! There’s nothing else! Nothing else! You’re weak and pathetic and disgusting, a shell of a person, a rotten concept that corrupts and weakens and degrades with your presence! Filthy, disgusting whore! That’s all you are and all you’ll ever be!”

He stood over her, triumphant, feeling her heart falter and break, the pulse fading down to nothing. The woman below her was dead, a memory, and though a part of Endrall missed her and mourned her passing, he could not help but rejoice at the death of everything he knew was evil in the world.

Enough.” The word came from below him, the steady voice that spoke it impossible. “Enough.” A force he could not name pushed him off the corpse of his enemy. He looked down and saw her eyes flutter open, her gaze boring into his soul.

You can’t be alive!” Endrall cried. “I felt you die! I felt you die!”

I don’t believe you.” Veskur picked herself up off the ground, the gaping wounds carved into her ignored. He could see tendons move within her, exposed muscle stretching with her every motion. “It is not my destiny or fate to die here. This world is what I choose it to be and I do not choose your reality. You think this is a fevered dream, a last ditch effort, and I know that because I put that thought in your head – you were fated to think it just now. Destiny and fate, the push and pull of choice and circumstance, are mine to do with as I will. I tried to play by your rules, I did, but I am done with your game.”

He wove shields around himself, drawing on the Ethcinos Science, but Wyrd broke his circuits, shattered his knowing, her will washing over the battlefield around them and crippling all those it touched. She rose into the air, eyes glowing with eldriss energies, her left hand burning with the fury of ten thousand suns. He screamed as his eyes broke, outlined images burned into his brain one after another as the world shifted, changed, broke apart and was remade as Wyrd desired it to be.

The stone they stood upon shattered, broken into dust that somehow held his weight for the span of a rapid heartbeat. He counted down those seconds, each as long as a lifetime before he fell through that dust towards the ground that waited to claim him. His bones broke as he struck the earth. There was no place to hide or flee from Wyrd, not now, not as she was. Her fury washed over the assembled nations and Endrall could only watch in horror as those around her were picked apart, skin and sinew washing away in a wisping cloud of white ash. Only the two of them remained untouched and whole and Endrall knew that this was not a mark of mercy.

He coughed up blood, forced himself to roll over as ribs strained and fractured under from the simple motion. Breathing hurt; his lungs were filling with blood, his fluids leaking out of holes in his body that should never have been. The woman watched him, still standing on the dust above him, her eyes alight with that same terrible energy, steam catching and reflecting the edges of her madness. His left arm twitched. He was too hurt to call upon the Ethcinos but still strong enough to use baser sciences to heal himself. He wept as his bones set and his flesh mended, whimpering as he rolled onto his stomach, forced his knees underneath him.

Calling upon the Ethcinos, he willed that energy into him, found a place where he was whole and unhurt and pulled that self to him, massacring even the possibility of anything else being there. He opened his eyes as phantom pains still assailed him, his real hurts now nothing more than dim flickering ghosts.

Veskur had reached the ground, now standing in a whirlwind of human ash. The rags she wore whipped around her, revealing flesh that was constantly being pulled apart and sewn together by the energies she had invited into herself. She stalked towards him, kicking up little clouds that had once been women and men, driving her foot into his chest as he struggled to stand, driving her heel into his heart as he lay on the ground and tried to remember how to breathe.

Veskur,” gasped Endrall, trembling, looking up at the woman.

There are no names between us,” the woman whispered. “The dead have no names.”

You and me,” he said, tasting iron on his lips, “We can fix this. We can make it so it never was.”

But this is what you wanted, isn’t it?” The woman looked around them, at the blasted landscape that had once been her refuge. Snow mixed with ash until it was impossible to tell the difference between them, coating ground and sky. She trembled, her every living moment an agony that she could not describe, mind-shattering and yet still not quite enough to dull the terrible ache this man had placed inside her. “Don’t you know that this is war?”

He quivered as she knelt down on top of him, straddling him, her fingers reaching for his flesh. He screamed and tried to buck her off him but it was no good – he knew with an awful clarity that it was not his destiny to escape her in such a way, that it was his fate to falter and die underneath her.

A circle of royal sigils burned into the snow around them.

Veskur looked up and screamed as searing light lanced into her from eight directions, thrusting through her skin and bone, holding her aloft. Endrall heard chanting – why had he not heard that chanting before? – and looked into the wilds. Freya, the Nauthiz Coven, Thea, and River were all standing there, using Science to bind the Good Lady and hold her in place, to inflict unspeakable pain upon her. It was only just holding her, their efforts, but Endrall knew that so long as those figures stood that Veskur would never break free, would never use her power before they ripped her apart.

He pulled himself to his feet, used his Ethcinos to finish healing himself. He walked around her in a circle, watching her suffer and smiling, taunting her with whispers that no one else would ever hear. He was so very careful not to touch the light of the sigils that were holding her, not wanting to risk her getting free, knowing what she could do with even a moment of liberty.

You’re finished,” Endrall whispered, low and throaty, a tone meant for lovers. “It’s over and you’re done. Whatever plan lies within your heart will die with you.” She shuddered, her head lolling, and he saw that she was smiling down at him through narrowed eyes.

She flicked her fingers and there was a flash. For a moment, just a single moment, Endrall thought he saw a series of spiraling corridors that circled off into the infinite, winding corridors lacking any sense of floor or ceiling that nonetheless went off into forever. He saw as some of the heavy doors that were held in the oldest stones light into black flame and heard a terrible wailing from each, uncounted lives ending as each portal flickered and died. 

The flash brightened as Veskur’s smile grew, the light becoming blinding.

When Endrall could see again the vision and the Good Lady were gone.

Are you alright?”

Endrall looked up, realizing that he must have fallen in the Lady’s final moments. Thea was offering him a hand and he took it, letting the smaller man haul him up from the corpse-dust that had pooled around him.

Is she…?”

She’s gone,” Thea nodded, looking around. “She was driven insane and she had to be put down. I came up with the method of doing it, the Coven putting together the Sciences that would have to be enacted. A process for holding, a process for pain, a process to smother her actions, a process to destroy her, a process to banish her into a plain of infinite possibilities from which she will never escape.”

You sent her to Yggdrasil?” Endrall asked, looking at Thea in horror. “Do you know what you’ve done?”

I’ve cleaned up your mess,” Thea hissed. “She was perfect and you ruined her. Don’t tell me that you didn’t. She made the mistake of loving you over me and look what you did, what you brought her to. You’re a whore, a spoiled stupid whore who thinks only of himself. Do you have any idea what we lost in her, in her home?”

Nothing of import,” replied the eldest of the Verra Coven. “We know how to make the tools of her Science, the gaurn, all of it. Soon all our nobles will have them and then where will the Coeecians be? Let them have a hundred Jesams, a thousand, and still we will meet them.”

We should let her Science die with her.” River spat at the place where the Good Lady had vanished. “There are other ways, less profane.”

You’re just angry because she never slept with you.”

You never rode her, either.”

Endrall turned from their bickering, looking at the spot where his would-be lover had vanished. No one living knew Veskur Wyrd so well as he and that smile, that final smile, haunted him. The power and qualities that Veskur had known, Endrall knew, would not limit her from within a place that only she had mapped and theorized, a place that only she believed in.

The certainty of those around them was a lie.

The Ethcinos War had only just begun.

 

It’s over. The novella is done, and the novels still loom in the future. If you want something more to read, why not click here and try my novel? If you like the artwork, why not go and thank Meghan Duffy at duffyartdesign.com? She’s cool people. I’d like to dedicate this to her, AJ, Andy, Claire, Greg, Andrew, Kathleen, and Jaime. Thanks for reading, hope you liked it, and stay tuned for more original fiction here at Living Myth Magazine.  

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Fiction – Love is War 03:00:03:08

Books & Writing, Culture, Short Fictions

April 21, 2017

Click here to read the previous entry.  

 

Figo Jera had always seen the world for its light.

In his eyes, everything was beautiful. Everything had meaning. There were darker shades but they were perversions, not true things in and of themselves. Most of those shadows were outside Midgard and therefore unimportant in the greater scheme of things, but there were some darknesses that would leak into even the brightest day, little black veins that touched the light and stood un-banished. Figo had known the edges of a darkness like that, having even come to love her for what she was, but he knew that the danger of losing himself to that sort of monster was simply too great to be borne.

He had not seen Veskur Wyrd for a very long time.

A figure from his nightmares had returned – the madman Jesam. He had been Figo’s proof of evil and arrogance, a figure so consumed by solipsism that the rest of the world was nothing more than a toy for him to abuse and break. Figo himself had been such a toy, left bleeding and pleading. He didn’t like to think of it. Light should have saved him from that darkness but instead a greater darkness had come and taken away everything.

Figo had discussed that at length with Endrall, Farrell, and the other nobles that he kept in his closest circle. He threw parties for them, hosted events for them, took care of their troubles and listened to their problems – and if they did not do the same for him, well, perhaps he had no problems worthy of that name or they trusted his strength to overcome the things that they could not.

He was strong, he knew that. The fingers on his left hand twitched as the fabric of the gaurn chafed his skin. His levl was secured along his back, the dryw he had carried no more than a memory. He had seen the hated tool drowned, holding it underwater and leaving it to the tides. He had not wished to carry something so traitorous with him. Many of his soldiers had followed this practice, taking to wearing shield-gauntlets on their left forearms as another echo of their commander.

You’ve become an icon,” Hekro had told him, laughing. “Just like me. The Golden Champion and the Rose Dragon. What a pair we make.” She shook her head and clasped his shoulder. He wondered how much of that admiration was truly his and how much was a side-effect of his association with the Lady Wyrd, of the Science she commanded and the tool on her hand. He hated that he could not explain that to anyone.

He’d seen Wyrd thrice since abandoning her all those decades ago. Once had been at a public function; the two of them had resumed communication briefly over something silly and unimportant, sharing fables with one another. Figo had mentioned a time and place where he could be found, expounding on those details, but he had never meant for the woman to come.

She had anyway, keeping to the background. She watched with wide eyes, nervous as a colt, keeping to the back of the trees and looking lost, torn, and hurt. She had tried to approach him only once but had stopped immediately when Figo took a step back. She’s stared a moment longer, shaking, then simply waved and left, holding herself.

Endrall had heard of that moment, had told him that the woman was not to be trusted, that she was a monster and a foulness that needed to be kept at arm’s length. Farrell further drove that point home and Figo knew that if anyone would know these things and hold these things that it would be the two of them. Especially Endrall, who loved the woman in a way that Figo had once shared but now wanted no part of.

The next had been at random, sometime after Deeam had ascended to the position of Njord. He had been out at the markets of House Fehu when he had seen her, walking alone and shaking. He had caught her eye and seen agony writ there, a loneliness that he could not put a name to. She had looked at him and recoiled, had turned on her heel and shambled away like a corpse caught on a string. He didn’t like to think of that encounter. He didn’t like to think of that encounter at all.

What if his every moment since meeting her had been a lie, something she had created? Endrall was right; she could not be trusted and neither could anything that happened around her. Maybe she had set the entire thing up with Jesam the first time around, just so that he would accept her into his life the way he had. She was vile. She was a monster. She was completely capable of undertaking the actions that Endrall accused her of. Figo knew better than anyone that Wyrd was capable of anything.

But the look of her those last two times; the fatigue, the sense of defeat and longing. Figo was not certain what to make of that. He sighed and looked at the note that lay on the table before him, lit by flickering light suspended in the air through the application of Coeecian trickery. Vanir science could do similar things. Were they really so different?

Figo, the note before him read, Lovely Figo. You were taken from me so long ago that I have trouble remembering you – your face, your touch, the look of defeat in your eyes. I hear you’ve become a Lord and a General, a leader of the forces I fight, but we both know that’s a delusion born of the arrogance you’ve surrounded yourself with. The truth is and always has been this: you are nothing more than a whore, nothing more than my toy to use and abuse as I see fit.

Your mistakes are many but I, in my generosity, can be forgiving. You have some understanding of the damage I am poised to inflict upon your people, having seen first hand the advantage I have built myself since assassinating your previous king and taking advantage of the ceremony surrounding the crowning of your new one. Believe me when I say that the victories you have suffered are as nothing compared to what I am even now prepared to claim.

I make you this offer, my most precious whore. Come to me of your own accord. I am not saying that I will halt my plans – I will not – but if you come home to me I will cease my attacks for seven full seasons. Your people will have time to catch their breath, to mourn their dead, and you will have won that time for them. Come to me, whore, as I have commanded you. If you do not, then by the next turn of the moon I will have wiped your people off the face of your world, and still, whore, still I will take you for my own and you will not like what I do to you then.

Or perhaps you will. We know how much you adored the things I did to you.

This is the last choice that I will ever allow you to make.

For I am as I always was: Jesam the First.

Figo read over the note once, twice. The Vanir were losing – Jesam the First was an imposter, clearly, trading on the name of an old hero of his people, but his strategies were good ones. The Vanir were a hardier people but not quite so fast. The Coeecians fought brutal battles, digging in trenches and fighting for every inch of land. They cared nothing for actually winning, it seemed, striking at settlements, at civilians, at supplies, at anything they could and then running away at the first sign of trouble.

When Jesam the First said that he would end the Vanir as a people, Figo believed him. He remembered the way the first Jesam had claimed him, had touched him and used him. He remembered the illnesses he had suffered, vomiting every morning with the taste of Jesam and Farrell in his mouth, the dull throbbing ache that had dimmed the light of his eyes and shaken his spine and legs. He knew that if Jesam claimed that he could do a thing that he fully believed that he was capable of doing it.

He walked the length and breadth of his soldiers, silently naming them as he went. Many of them rose as he walked past and he smiled at them but waved off any attempt at conversation – there was no one he wanted to talk to at that moment and his men were wise enough to respect his desire for solitude. He reached the edge of his camp and looked south, into the far wilds where the collected marble that the Coeecians laughably called cities sat, tall and imposing. He thought of Endrall and Veskur, of Farrell, of Jesam and Hekro.

How many of his decisions were his own? Wyrd had always told him that she wanted what was best for him, that she wanted him to be happy. She had once explained that she didn’t need to be in his life to win – all she needed was for him to smile, to be the light that she could never be. He looked at his men again and felt like the sun, each of them a planet that reflected the light and warmth of he himself. Had Wyrd done that, too? Hekro had once said that the sort of charisma that he possessed was an inborn talent, that he had shined of greatness from the very moment that the two of them had met.

Wyrd could change that sort of thing if she desired. Figo knew she could.

Silent, he walked back through the camp. There was a way for him to win if he only possessed the courage for it, a way for him to escape all doubt while saving the whole of the Vanir nation. This method would not require him to stand and it would free him from the pain of thought, of choice, the horror that came with being a man.

He pulled the gaurn off his left hand, laid it on the desk and looked at it. How much of himself he had poured into such a complex tool and how simple it looked, a heap of inert fabric without his will to guide it. He unstrapped the levl from his back and laid it down beside the gaurn, staring at it – these were symbols, he knew, things that he would never surrender were the choice his own.

Whatever happened now was all her fault.

It took him longer than he would have thought, using Science without the gaurn to ease the process. He completed the circuit required for sending a message, directing it to what was left of the Nauthiz Coven.

To you what are left, he wrote, I have received word from Jesam the First that he is poised to destroy the whole of the Vanir as a people and to claim Midgard for himself. I believe that he is capable of doing this but he has offered to stay his hand for seven full seasons if I turn myself over to him. I am going to do this – but I am leaving you the key to our people’s salvation.

I know that you and yours have been eager to study one of the gloves that the Lady Wyrd has crafted, to study the limits of the Ethcinos Sciences that she has tapped into. I am giving you that chance; I will hide mine in a place that only one among you will think to look. Though it has been designed to work only for me, I will leave you some of my blood. Perhaps, you will discover its secrets. This is my wish.

In return for my sacrifice and my end, I ask only that you discover the secret of making and copying Wyrd’s tool, that you pass that secret to the rest of the nobility and that the Vanir, as one, stand strong against the Coeecian horde that threatens us and has now claimed me.

Endrall Sahr will be upset by my absence, as will Hekro Gherlid. I ask that you show this message to them, that they might know that I was thinking of them and that I loved them both for everything they had given me, everything that they meant to me. Tell them both that this is not their fault. Tell them both that this is my choice, made freely and of my own will.

He signed the message and sent it along with the note that Jesam the First had sent him, taking the glove with him when he snuck out of the camp but leaving his levl behind. His soldiers would find it. He hoped they would understand. His sentries stood to attention but they were looking without, not within – no one abandoned the Band of the Rose Dragon, all of them loyal to a fault. He felt a momentary twinge of guilt for abandoning them in this manner, but he knew they would all die otherwise.

Alone, out in the dark, he looked to the night sky and set the moon as his marker. He did not have much time. Shrugging out of the noble robes and leaving them and his birthright behind, he moved swiftly into the darkness of night and circumstance, the light within him guttering out with each step until there was no sign of anything other than the eternal black.

 

Click here to read the next and final chapter. If you like the artwork, why not go and thank Meghan Duffy at duffyartdesign.com? She’s cool people.

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Geekenders’ Nintendance at the Odyssey

Burlesque, Culture, Events

April 18, 2017

It’s a warm Vancouver night, clear and expectant, and I’m walking towards one of the most storied venues in the city. The Odyssey was opened in 1987 and continues to operate as one of the city’s most prominent gay bars and that makes it the perfect spot for Geekenders to expand into.

A line had already begun to form at seven o’clock, the curious and familiar of both venue and troupe coming to see what the official mingling of both would result in. The answer was a smashing success, with a good crowd that was hot and ready for everything the Geekenders had to offer and a Geekenders crew fully prepared to take advantage of everything that their hosts had on hand.

People got settled, got drinks, got comfortable, greeted old friends and made new ones before the show began. The Odyssey provided a host of Nintendo-themed drinks and entertainment, including several iterations of Mario Kart and Smash Bros., letting the bar fill with classic remix video game tracks that set the stage for what was to come.

And what came? Veronica Vamp and the incomparable Stephen Blakley took the stage as Jesse and James of Team Rocket fame, accompanied by stage kitty Chantini. The two set an immediate rapport, riffing off the game and the cartoon and one another as they set the tone for the acts to follow with typical Geekenders flair.

Dee Luscious set things off as Bowser, King of the Koopas, prancing out to Amy Kurcharik and Friends’ Like a Boss and showing everyone that she had come up with an ironclad plan to finally conquer the Mushroom Kingdom: kidnap Princess Peach and put her in a castle. Dee made the stage her castle and every last audience member was captivated by her performance. It was a strong showing, equal parts funny and sensual, and it set things at ease and relaxed the crowd for whatever was to come.

With Princess Peach out of the picture, Jayne Fondue stepped up as Princess Daisy and let us know why she should be the new ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom and not just Luigi’s heart. Rocking out to How to be a Heartbreaker by Marina and the Diamonds, her facial expressions let everyone know that they were watching royalty – and when she came into the audience to thrum along with her loyal subjects, we were surprised to find her take someone on stage with her. This lucky player two was fed the freshest sort of block-fare, turned from another face in the crowd into the most famous plumber this side of Mario. The two of them stepped off, triumphant, and everyone’s heart went with them.

Artemis Lark had a difficult act to follow, but she managed. Coming out as the Kaepora Gaebora- the Great Owl from the Legend of Zelda games – she took a wild breath and claimed the space around the stage, flapping her wings and moving her head like an owl to Who Are You? by the Who, an inspired choice that Artemis turned into the ultimate audio/visual pun. Her facial expressions were, once again, perfect, and she became the show’s twilight princess as attention focused from performer to crowd.

The fine folks behind the upcoming Robin Hood: Prince of Tease were given a chance to strut their stuff while hosting the Geekenders costume contest. They’re performing an entirely gender-bent take on the classic fable and will be at the Performance Works on Granville Island from April 28th to May 13th. You can find out more by clicking here.

We were treated to two separate contests, a Nintendo-themed and a non-Nintendo themed follow up. A man wearing a full on Pikachu costume claimed the former, while the birthday-celebrating Draco Muffboi and companion Ginger Femmecat shared victory Hogwarts-bound Sailors Uranus and Pluto. Their victory was greeted with a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday sung at Draco, and a Happiest Birthday to you.

With that island of calm behind us, we returned to the world of burlesque with Kitty Glitter proving that everyone loves a dinosaur. Appearing as Yoshi, she gobbled down every last morsel of attention with a fun and energetic showing that had the Odyssey in good spirits and ready for more.

The crowd was rocking and rollicking and feeling the passion of that performance, and so we were treated to an intense tournament of that most skill based of challenges: rock paper scissors. Contestants were culled from the crowd, their glory to be claimed or lost on stage for all the Odyssey to see. The battle was fierce and the prizes for victory mighty, with the final winner taking home the Master Sword.

You could take that prize home, maybe. You should come to one of these shows.

Donna Jazz flounced on stage to bring us back to the show as Kirby. She started things innocent, with some light instrumental that led to a nice rendition of Don’t Put in Your Mouth, the songs following the action as Kirby, of course, ate something… and we all know that Kirby takes on the power of those that are eaten. The music was swallowed and so was Donna, allowing her to transform into a very different kind of dreamland resident, Beyoncé’s Partition marking this as the perfect song to sum up the stunning performance as a whole.

As Kirby ended, the King returned: one can’t keep a bad Koopa down, and one does not turn away from a second showing from their King. The debuting Johnny Wildcard eschewed the stage entirely, showing as incredible athleticism as he swung along and pole-danced to Ain’t no rest for the Wicked by Cage the Elephant. Johnny hit every beat perfectly, ruling the land and the world and making the Odyssey his kingdom, and by the time his performance ended and we had managed to pick our jaws up off the floor we were certain we had seen the show-stopping number.

We were wrong.

Saffron St. James flew out from Ottawa to take part in this show, donning the yellow cap and crooked mustache of Wario. She stepped on stage and, like Wario, was greedy for our attention – but unlike Wario, she knew how to hold it once she had it. Setting herself to Crown by Angel Haze, she brought the house down, a perfect presence that proved that majesty comes from so much more than a crown.

Jesse and James saw us off and kicked off a massive dance party mingled with video games and good times, as the crowd that was there stayed and new faces showed up. A good time was had by all, and Stephen Blakley gave us some magic as he took the stage to reprise the Han Solo routine from the Star Wars burlesque. What else was he going to do? Maroon 5’s Moves Like Jagger was playing. The Geekenders crowd knew what was up, and the new faces from the Odyssey clued in quickly.

Geekenders continues to break new ground and expand their venues and fanbase. This was an awesome show with a great turnout for a Sunday night, and there’s sure to be more to follow both at the Odyssey and elsewhere. We know for certain that the Geekenders are returning to the Rio this May the Fourth (and the Fifth~!) with Star Wars: The Empire Strips Back. For our new friends that saw tonight and want more, click here and grab some tickets.

You won’t be disappointed.

All photos provided for by Zemekiss Photography, who you can learn more about by clicking here. You should do so; Zemekiss Exanto is awesome people and will capture your event with class and skill.  

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