I don’t normally talk about “feelings” and metaphors in my story, but the events of this chapter–and some events in real life–give me an opportunity to do so. Without spoiling anything in the chapter I will say it is about anger, and the prison it can create for a person. Lashing out in rage can seem like an outlet; but when it occurs it is anything but a release.
A few days ago a commenter in the Mark Reads blog ranted about some characters in Lady Knight by Tamora Pierce. It started out well enough, but he let his anger get the better of him: turning a constructive discussion into a full-on hate-driven rampage. It ended up hurting many taking part, even insulting the integrity of the author herself.
And this is where the “prison” part of anger comes in: he is now banned from the site forever. The excitement you feel from anger is short-lived; the consequences can be quite permanent.
Anyway, this chapter has something similar happen. In metaphor, of course. I mean, it’s not like I’d put in a LITERAL prison that’s set off by anger! Ha! That would be silly.
23 – Two Worlds to Save
Mean watched as Pinada vanished, the debris around her shifted and the roof grew a shade dimmer. Above, thin clouds filtered the sunlight, and a monstrous, black helicopter sat idle.
“We’re back,” Mean uttered, checking her body: the sundress she had worn a week ago hung there. Darrow, Dark, Tome, and Vornis all stood where they had been a moment ago. They all looked at each other and saw the same thing: a six-sided glass case surrounding each one. Vornis reared back his fist and roared; the sun shifted position to the far end of the sky. The five were now standing in three separate, wooden gazebos.
“Brinkland,” Tome spat, racing out of his along with Vornis. Thick pine trees and vacant buildings cast long shadows over a nearby sign. It read: “SAY CRICKETS” in a sharp, scrawled font.
“Guys, we need to get back to the cave!” Mean called out, emerging with Dark from the gazebo at the end.
“Why!?” Vornis boomed, slashing the sign in two with his thorn. “He knows we’re here! He planned it all out! Geez––he played us like fresh-faced suckers!”
“We need to try, though,” Mean said. “I stood aside while it happened so that we’d have this chance. I’m going back, whether you’re with me or not.”
“Yeah, ‘standing aside,'” the beast grumbled. “I saw you all doing that. While he killed Donzel, Tenny––”
“Alright, enough,” Tome said. “We all know what happened and we all feel guilty enough as it is.”
Vornis bit his lip, his clawed finger hanging in the air.
“Fine,” he muttered. “But what’s the plan gonna be? Can you do that mind thing you were talking about? You said it wouldn’t hold, but I swear––all I need is a few seconds to bust that cage of his wide open.”
Tome shook his head. “Pinada is completely sealed off; he uses his magic to keep it impenetrable. I can’t even see thoughts in there. If he wants to do something outside his case he uses hand motions to signal the four devices on the top corners of the box.” He nodded at Vornis’ spines. “You might be able to lock him down by putting your vein in receptive mode. If we could keep him immobile we may be able to get his time machinery figured out.”
Vornis slammed a fist to his palm. “Yeah, got it. Let’s go.”
The group moved through a sidewalk into the middle gazebo, where Darrow was standing, his eyes still moist.
“We’re going to get her back, Darrow,” Mean said. She wiped at her eyes and stood next to him. As the rest shuffled in, Darrow gasped at Dark.
“Don’t say anything,” Dark told him. “We don’t know who’s listening.”
Mean rose her eyebrows and the forest of pine trees disappeared: a bright field of yellow grass taking its place.
“Alright,” Vornis said, twisting sideways out of the gazebo and looking off toward the hills. “I can carry a couple of you––Mean, can you take Dark?”
“He’s here,” Tome uttered, directing the beast’s attention with a tap on the back. With a quick clamor the group came out into the street; from the far end a glass cube traveled towards them. A figure in a heavy coat stood inside it.
“Okay, so I won’t go,” Vornis said. “I’ll just hold him––the rest of you run for the cave as soon as I say.”
“Got it,” Mean answered back. “Dark: I’ll take you with me. If you can grab Darrow and Tome I’ll pull them along too.”
“Oh man,” Darrow repeated to himself, stepping closer to Dark as he watched Pinada approach. “Oh man, oh man––”
With a smack Pinada caught himself with both hands on the glass as the box halted before them. The bottom plate skimmed over the surface of the road before coming to rest.
“Hello everyone!” Pinada announced. He stared at them between his spread hands. Above his head, four new spires were set at the case’s corners: with objects and clothing impaled upon them.
“You monster––” Tome uttered, seeing King’s crown jammed through one of the spines. Above it, Kello’s umbrella hung in tatters along with a bit of jeweled shell.
“So, did you guys sort it out?” Pinada asked. He pushed back from the wall and stood, rubbing his hands together. “Did you save the world? I left you a really good clue.”
“Mean––!” Vornis shouted, and they both knelt to spring: she spun toward the cave while he faced Pinada.
“Where are you going, Mean?” PInada asked, pointing upward. “Don’t you want to see your father?”
“What!?” Mean squealed, stumbling, catching herself. She brushed her hair back and turned: Pinada was pointing at a tatty headband hanging next to a shoe.
“I was just speaking with Hatchel, you know––”
“What did you do to him!?” Mean yelled. Pinada’s case trembled and he braced himself.
“Nothing––yet,” Pinada replied, calming the tremors with a gesture. “It’s just that I’ve been waiting here for so long. And since you all love games so much I thought we’d play another.”
He darted to the side, sweeping his arm out to the road. Several completed houses dotted the fringe, while construction vehicles kicked up dust at metal frames near the end.
“You see, while I was looking for you I found a city that was falling from the sky,” he began. “And there was a person in one of the buildings that was going to get killed! Can you believe it? I can’t let that happen. I am the hero, Pinada.”
“A person?” Darrow gasped, looking at Dark. “Who was left up there? Dhaston? Mackaba?”
Pinada snapped his fingers. “Yes––that’s who it was! Officer Mackaba with the something something. He wanted revenge or some silly thing so I spent these boring weeks teaching him to––ooh––get back at people. Untrustworthy authority figures! Imagine that.”
He chuckled to himself before going on. “I put him on top of that cliff with a great deal of magical energy. It won’t last for long––so I set it to freeze everyone to death in about thirty minutes. He has them trapped in that water Hilo uses, and the perimeter of the effect extends quite far through that vertical city. Far enough to make sure Hatchel and Trisk’s family are killed, at least. Yes, I followed you around after I pretended to leave that diner.”
“So you want us to choose,” Tome stated. Pinada hovered over.
“Yes:” he said, “if you choose to stop Mackaba I’ll immediately head in the other direction. I took the time virus as soon as I saw it had worked, and I’ll spend my last moments here dismantling everything in the cave. If you choose to take a trip through time again, I’ll go help Mackaba demolish your ‘Jesice’ country instead.” His case lifted him higher, and he looked down at them past his feet. “So, I’m curious: will you abandon your home world for people that you knew a week? I have to say, I don’t think you have much of a chance stopping me there––”
“Mean,” Dark said, keeping his helmet turned up. “We need to get to Ley Ledge. “It’s the only way we can win this.”
She glanced at his lips, and then up to where she thought his eyes would be.
“I need you to trust me,” he said. “I know the way through this.”
“Are you sure?” Pinada hummed down. “Didn’t you just see the dangers that blind trust can bring?”
Mean grabbed onto Dark’s arm. “You never asked for people to trust you,” she shot back. With a scuffle of gravel at her feet, she and Dark dashed into the air.
“I see you made your choice, then,” Pinada called after them, swiveling in the other direction. In a blur Vornis leapt and crashed down onto the top plate: slicing apart one of the spires as he landed. The box dipped and Pinada wobbled as it hit the street.
“Oh, that’s disgusting; get your feet off me,” he said.
Vornis grumbled, and the spine at his side doubled in length. It bore jagged barbs and then it lightened to blue; he tore it off with a snap and drove it into the street. Pinada mused at it.
“You’re kidding,” he said. “How did you learn how to do that? What are you going to do––hold me here forever?”
Vornis plopped down, folding his twisted legs. “Just until you disappear: then we can use your precious cave all we want. Enjoy the view.”
Mackaba gazed from the judge’s pulpit: out at the grid that stretched from the citadel.
“So, it seems the final showdown has come,” he announced, turning to the room filled with people: frozen in their seats. From the back, Mean walked in.
“I can’t believe you’ve made it this far,” he said to her.
“I can fly, you idiot,” she shot back.
“As cheeky as ever, little trollop,” Mackaba shaking his finger. “But now, here on the seat of Ley Ledge, your judgment will be carried out. You––and all the rest of these traitors.”
Mean edged past the blobs of odd water clustered around the back door; the people inside them squirmed, suspended.
“Get out of here,” Lord Ley Vail told her. His coat was swirling up at the edges.
“No, you have to help us!” the Lord Ley of Communication, Prayler, begged. “It’s getting hard to breathe––”
“I will,” Mean replied, walking past and into an aisle between the fifty-five desks. “That stuff doesn’t work on me; don’t worry.”
Mackaba chuckled, folding his arms across his yellow sash.
“Sorry, not this time,” he said. “I have help.” He narrowed his eyes. “I’ve met someone from the other world: An alien. The last of his kind.”
“The last––” Mean sputtered, laughing. “Mackaba, you are so stupid; he’s using you! There was an ‘alien’ back when you were pouting in Hardpan; I’m an alien, for crying out loud!”
As she raved the world grew blurry; the gel was forming around her. She bent her knees and zipped to the ceiling; the blob followed her up.
“Get your crap off me!” she wailed, dropping down to aisle again. She writhed and the liquid clung to her dress, getting thicker and darkening like the others.
“This entire building and the city is submerged,” Mackaba said. “Thin as air, for the most part. It’s only when it senses a certain ‘mind pattern’ that it reacts: turning the space around that person into a gelatinous sludge.” He smiled as she fought her way forward. She swung her arms in slow arcs, inching toward him.
“Do you want to know what the pattern is that it looks for?” he asked, backing away. “Do you want to know what emotion I picked?”
Mean bared her teeth, kicking her feet against the slime.
“It’s anger,” Mackaba said. He snatched a gavel from the judge’s pulpit, directing it at the seated, frozen Lord Leys. “It’s the only thing I can count on. It’s the only thing other people can show me.”
“Mackaba, just let us go!” Mean protested as her hair swished about her face. “You don’t know what’s been going on; there are people in trouble; I don’t have time for this!”
“Oh, of course you don’t,” Mackaba whined, tipping back his head. “You just barge in, do your damage and leave. You don’t even stop to think what I’ve had to go through. No one does. All my life I’ve been at the mercy of uncaring brutes like you.”
Mean ceased with her struggle, dragging her arms to her sides, staring him down. He sneered, lifting a foot onto one of the desks and leaning on it.
“Show me,” he said. “Show each other. We’re just all angry, seething animals.”
“We aren’t,” Mean replied. “Not even you can be angry all the time.”
“Of course I am,” Mackaba growled. “It’s what drove me to do this. Otherwise I’d still be sitting in that puddle.”
“You couldn’t have been,” Mean went on. “When you”––she paused, swallowing––”when you poisoned me at the hotel. You said you were going to kill me. I thought I would die.” Mackaba shifted back, letting his arm drop from his leg. He glanced at one of the frozen Lords Ley.
“But you left me alive. And you didn’t try to find me again; you knew it was wrong.” She pressed her face forward and her hair swirled back. “I’m sorry things turned out this way. When this is over––when there’s time––I want to explain things to you. And maybe you can even tell me your side of the story.”
The gel encasing her melded into the air, leaving a slick sheen on her skin. Mackaba’s foot slipped from the desk and he staggered back.
“I’m not angry,” Mean said, settling to the floor.
“You’re––you’re not?” Mackaba gasped.
“No,” Mean replied, leaping forward. She tackled him and they both slammed to the floor: shaking the base of the judge’s pulpit. With two tiny fists she grabbed the sash that Mackaba wore; she planted a foot on his chest and tugged as the waters gathered and congealed on her body again. A quick tear ended it: the fabric ripped––volumes of odd water splashed free from the people while glittering, reddish fibers hung from the two frayed edges of the sash.
Mean tossed the wad back at him, hissing through her teeth. A uniformed guard from the side of the room bolted forward and drew his pistol.
“Okay, I give up,” Mackaba said, looking past the barrel. He held his hands away from the sash. It read “HILO” on the other side.
“Good show!” Lord Ley Hinge said, waddling through the pools of water at his feet. Lord Ley Tecker Ponce went to the aisle, wading past him as Mean skimmed over the surface. She headed for the back door and he called at her.
“Wait––how did you do that? How did you break his spell?”
“A friend taught me how; it’s like going to different floors,” she said, weaving around the different people clamoring to thank her. “But I need to go––
“But miss!” Tecker pleaded. “Won’t you stay?”
“Yes!” Lord Ley Prayler laughed, brushing the moisture from his pinstriped suit. “You saved us!”
“A hero!” Tecker cheered. “You’re a hero!”
Mean grimaced at the word, lingering long enough to frown back at him. Tecker sagged to a stop, watching her go through the door. Lord Ley Lickwolf trudged up beside him.
“You’re always saying exactly the wrong things to that woman,” he said.
Mean’s group arrives in the present again, still on the roof of the Imperial Pyramid. The helicopter that Dhaston took the staccato from is still sitting there, along with glass cases that entrap everyone.
Before they can act, they are sent to the hex doors over in Brinkland. Here the pictures are taken, the ones that Darrow asks the time machine to send back as proof of their safety.
With no time to formulate a plan, the group rushes to Droldragia in an attempt to salvage any of the time machinery from the Teery Mine. At the road Pinada meets them again. He tells them that he’s concocted a game: If they go to the mine then he will have Mackaba destroy their homes on the other world. If they try to stop Mackaba, Pinada will go dismantle the time machine in the mine.
They choose to stop Mackaba while Vornis holds off Pinada. After a thrilling confrontation that totally doesn’t involve literal prisons induced by anger, Mean conquers her emotions using the method that Trisk taught her back in the tower from book one.
23 – Two Worlds To Save
I wanted this title to be a counterpart to the first book’s “Two Lives To Play” chapter. It does sound kind of corny, though, don’t you think?
They all looked at each other and saw the same thing: a six-sided glass case surrounding each one.
Oh, wow, this is so rushed. They just got back, but I need to make the group feel helpless now; I need to make this more horrifying for them. For instance, I could have them all appear in boxes made of concrete so they’ll freak out a bit before they’re transported to the next spot.
Then again I want to show the passage of time, so the boxes should probably be made of clear glass so the roof can be seen. Should Pinada put something outside the boxes? He could place Donzel’s corpse right outside Vornis’ case. Shoot–he could get pictures of every single person that died and position them so that they faced in at Mean and the rest as soon as they re-appeared. Really rub it in. Man, I’m not sure if I want this to get TOO morbid, though.
I’ll think about it.
Thick pine trees and vacant buildings cast long shadows over a nearby sign.
I think I want to do something with Brinkland, too. Tome mentioned crickets when they came here earlier, and the sign that says “SAY CRICKETS” is making fun of his earlier comment. The problem is I don’t know how Pinada HEARD him talking about crickets.
But this country is homeland to both Pinada AND Tome, so I think I need to show some sort of defilement here.
I could put some litter on the ground and have Tome cry a single tear. No, ha,ha,ha, I’m not going to do that.
“Mean,” Dark said, keeping his helmet turned up. “We need to get to Ley Ledge. “It’s the only way we can win this.”
Pfff, Dark just decides for everyone? He doesn’t even address Tome or the others? The fates of thousands of lives are at stake!
I need to make this more of a discussion. There are factors to consider and everyone needs to weigh in. And why did I put another set of quotation marks before that last sentence!?
It bore jagged barbs and then it lightened to blue; he tore it off with a snap and drove it into the street.
I didn’t realize I had Vornis do so much manipulation with his vein spikes. I’ve already decided that he doesn’t know how to control it yet so I’ll have to think of some other way to keep Pinada busy while the others go back to Jesice.
Hm, how about another page-long attack spell from Tome? Sounds like an excellent plan. 😉
From the back, Mean walked in.
I don’t even SHOW how Mean got from the other planet to Ley Ledge. Wonderful. Did she take the space train I forgot to mention? Who knows. I’m a bit LESS excited about writing another page of “travel time”–but it must be done.
“I’ve met someone from the other world: An alien. The last of his kind.”
Mackaba is ten steps behind everyone, as usual. This section still needs some work, but I really like how the end of the “final confrontation” turned out.
As she raved the world grew blurry; the gel was forming around her.
Okay, okay, so Mean IS trapped in a literal prison that was activated by anger. I didn’t intend for it to be a metaphor when I wrote it! At this point Mackaba has come to expect rage from every person he meets, so that’s why this particular emotion is the trigger. And Mean gets angry, just like I feel sometimes. That makes it the perfect test for her. Their first battles were RAGE-filled smack-downs so I want to show that at least ONE of them has grown.
Mean grimaced at the word, lingering long enough to frown back at him. Tecker sagged to a stop, watching her go through the door.
Here Tecker calls Mean a ‘hero’ and she reacts poorly. I’m not sure if Mean would act that way though; I might want to lighten up this reaction. Y’know, joke around a little since things are getting pretty grim.
I’m just not the kind of person that enjoys non-stop descents into the black pits of despair. I don’t think it’s healthy for the story. This scene here is a minor victory, and I need to let the roller coaster ride peak a little.
So what d’ya say! Hive fives for everyone!