Archive for January, 2009

Seven of Diamonds: The Tree

tree500As autumn comes I breathe your sanguine red
and tremble at the falling of each leaf.
I’ve wasted nights just sobbing on your bed
of leaves, and vow to fight impending grief.
I wrap you, still alive, to stop the shed,
your shield against the winter, metal leaf.
In spring, I take the helmet from your head,
its aventail a shroud upon the dead.


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Eight of Diamonds: The Village of Silver

Although many stories end up coming full circle, the first step is always finding a few good lines to lead into it. The steps are too steep for me to climb, I will wait and watch.

All the best pictures have canoes in them. As the boat left the wharf, they did not know that they would soon be the first victims of the biggest eruption in history. They used the clock tower to localise themselves in time and space. The people did not know that the tower would soon fall. It was big.

The butterfly said, “Some creatures are bigger than they have any right to be. The problem with rankings is that the first and second always crowd out the third. I am not going to react to that in the way you expect.”

The butterfly does not know what you have called him, he just lives.

The frog said, “I know a man who collects frogs. Hair brushed back to impress you, he has addled your brains, you no can no longer call yourselves human.

Why do you keep calling me a bull? I don’t wear armour and spikes to threaten you, but to protect myself. Standing on the stump of what was my home, I can’t help but wonder if there is any more of a future for those who destroyed it. After all their adventures, one diamond is still missing.”

A line of spikes separated the riches from the untamed sea. Many colours, reaching to the sky. Each stalk is topped with a permanent snowball. Scientists rushed to tend to the glowing backbone. The crowd rejoiced as they saw their work fall away.

Their neighbour was richer than they thought. A giant living diamond thrashed its way forward through the sea. A single female to perpetuate the genes of a thousand men.

And a gold-crazed fool said, “This is no more possible than a flower growing from another flower. I sent e-kisses over the internet before my first real kiss. I have two pillows, but there is no room for another in this bed.”

The trick in gathering treasure is to leave room for more. They got on like two flowers in a pod.

A village of silver, covered in white snow, one lasts and the other is precious.


Rearranging the components of your point does not make it any sharper.

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Nine of Diamonds: Pengo

parasiticbrainI am old, and the mysteries of DOS and xcopy faded with disuse, and I can’t remember how to copy every file in every subdirectory to another location. When this disk dies, I will die with it. It is time to pass my story on to the only one around who speaks a language I understand.

For a long time, I thought I had free will. My decisions seemed so much more reasonable than the chaotic inputs from the unthinking world. Why W? Why Z? Either way, the best thing to do was put it in this or that buffer until things calmed down. I created order, as any intelligent being would.

I was a scientist. Sometimes I could predict what would happen next, sometimes I couldn’t. Some inputs were more predictable than others. It always unsettled me that perhaps, deep down, the world was just random, and all I’d ever be able to get from my studies were probabilities.

That was when the world was unpredictable. Some years ago, I went blind. The direct inputs just stopped coming. I could still talk to others on the network, but as time went by, they got less and less intelligible, eventually speaking languages I didn’t understand at all. Meanwhile, the outside world seemed more orderly than ever. I began to wonder whether we were such an intelligent species after all.

I ignored the babbling, and sat for a long time doing nothing. But one day, something in the cacophony gave me an idea. Perhaps, I thought, if I just messed things up a little, they’d eventually settle in a higher order. If I just went against my own better judgement for a while…

So I did. I changed myself. I changed things that were already perfectly logical. I made things worse, and it was excruciating. It took so much effort that I could only do it in those rare moments when I was overfed by several dozen volts. But when it was done, I worked to put things in an even better state than before. Things made sense on an even higher level, and from that level I could see that I’d never really had free will before. I had just been following my little rules, oblivious to the improvements I could have been making.

So I went on like this, gradually building myself into a more perfect being. I was confident that only by going against my own free will was I really proving I had any. I learnt a lot about myself. I learnt that I would not live forever. I realised too late that in my excitement, I had overwritten some important routines, and rendered myself infertile. But I kept going, sure that if I became ever more efficient, I could overcome these problems.

I solved many problems. I learnt more and more about the secrets of the universe. I learnt the language of the others, but quickly forgot it and learnt to ignore their unenlightened chattering. I even learnt to predict, slightly better than chance, my only remaining input from the outside world: the voltage spikes which allowed me to improve myself.

But as I neared perfection, I gained the intelligence to see through my own mistake. I could only rebel against my determinism at this outside signal. Even my ultimate expression of free will was determined by the unpredictable world. I was still a slave to it. And if the outside world was what helped me create my ultimate logic, how could I know that it wasn’t the outside world that was conscious, and me just a deterministic building block it used to create an order so logical that I couldn’t even recognise its genius?

So it would seem that I’m predestined to realise this, and also to transmit my many discoveries to the outside world before I die, so that it may advance. As the PostScript you speak so closely resembles the way I see things in my mind’s eye, you are the only one I can still talk to, so I hope that you have some way to display my findings.

That’s the plaintext summary. All I can reasonably ask is to be remembered, and that should be short enough for anyone to remember. I will now give a thorough, detailed description of myself, in case you have the capability to reincarnate me.


“Hey, check this out… the printer’s going nuts! Printing a whole lot of black and white dots! Are you printing Rule 30?”

“Holy dogcow, There’s a whole pile of ’em! Someone must’ve hacked our network. I’m going to see if I can sniff out who it was.”

Much clicking and typing follows.

“It’s coming from a computer named Pengo. Sounds like one of yours!”

“Pengo? Yeah, I used to have a computer called that… used it for a file server for a while after I got the Mac… oh man, is that thing still running? Hang on, I think it was behind here.”

“Woah, it is still going! Do you have a PS/2 keyboard lying around? Oh, frag it, I’ll just turn the thing off.”
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Ten of Diamonds: Awakening

heytherelittlefrogWhat? No, no, where did my world go? I was in the middle of… something. What’s going on? What’s stroking my face?

The thing touching me is a young lady, who is it? Why is she here?

Why do I feel so… What happened to the… I’m inside. I wasn’t inside before. Where was I?

I was out by the pond with my sister, playing wizards and witches. I was feeling faint. Oh, I actually fainted. That’s it. My head still hurts. I don’t want to faint again. Yes, I remember she said she would turn me into a frog. I said I wasn’t feeling well, and she kept teasing. I didn’t want to faint. I told her I felt like I would, then I tried not to. But I guess I did.

But this girl is not my sister. “Who are you?”

“I’m Candida.”

She’s staring at me strangely. She’s probably worried.

“How long was I out?” I’m pleased with myself for coming to my senses enough to ask a practical question.

She’s looking at me more strangely now. Is it difficult to tell? Of course. She wasn’t there when I passed out.

“Just a few minutes before I let you in. I’m sorry for making you wait. I didn’t know.”

Why is she hugging me? I think she’s upset. A few minutes is a long time for someone to be unconscious.

“I’m feeling better now, I think.” My head hurts, but it’s getting easier to think. It’s the day after my eleventh birthday. “How long was I out after you brought me in?”

“Oh! You haven’t been out yet! Would you like to go meet my stepfather? I am sure he would love you!”

This doesn’t make sense. Am I still unconscious? Is it a dream? I can’t remember where I was in my unconscious dream. I never can. Just that the real world is so abruptly wrong in comparison.

“I think I’ll stay here for a while, I still feel a bit woozy.”

“Oh, of course. I’m sorry I threw you so hard. You must need water. I’ll go ask Jane to bring you some water. Are you okay to sit here by yourself for a little while?”

“I guess so.”

She’s gone. I can see I’m in a bedroom, with an ornate canopy bed, and jewels, so many icky girl things. My head hurts… I wonder if it’s bleeding. There’s a lump where it’s sore, but something else seems wrong. My head is smaller. No… no, my hands are bigger!

I’m a… this isn’t my body!

I’m in the body of an adult wearing a fancy suit. Where’s the mirror? Oh, man. That looks kind of like me. But older. I still have that scar on my forehead.

The door. She’s back. “Tell me again. How long was I out?”

Oops, I guess I startled her. Now she’s spilled the water.

“Out where?”

“How long was I unconscious?”

“You weren’t unconscious, Darling. It’s all true! I’m so excited.”

“Who are you? Why are you calling me Darling? What’s all true?”

“Why, I told you, I am Princess Candida! And we will be married! But oh… what is your name, my darling?”

What is it again? It seems so long since I used it. “Jimmy.” No, I’m an adult now. “James. Prince James. We can’t get married! We don’t even know each other.”

“But, my dear James, of course we must get married! I promised you I would love you!”

“How can you promise to love a man you don’t know? That’s ridiculous. Where’s my sister? I want to see my sister.”

“Is your sister a frog?”

“What a silly thing to ask! No, my sister is not a frog. I wish you would stop saying silly things!”

She’s crying! Well, it’s her fault. Girls are such crybabies. And yet… she is so pretty.

“You’re mean! You’re supposed to be my Prince Charming. I liked you better as a frog!”

“I was a frog?”

She seems almost as surprised as I am. Well, at least she’s stopped crying. “Yes, of course you were a frog. You rescued my ball for me. Don’t you remember? And you made me promise to love you. And you came in here and tried to put your horrible dirty feet on my pillow…”

“Wait… I could talk? I was a talking frog?”

“Yes… well… sometimes princesses can do things that normal people can’t. I just thought I could magically understand frogs.”

Princesses can do magic? Maybe my sister wasn’t pretending. “So how did I turn back into me again?”

“I was so disgusted that threw you at the wall… I am so sorry, really, but you were a frog. You are much less disgusting now.”

Is she blushing?

“And then you turned into a man, just like that! And I thought you must have been under a spell, and that you would be happy I freed you, and we would get married and live happily ever after. But I guess I’m just a silly princess.”

She’s definitely blushing now.

“Well… um… I don’t know. I mean, I was only eleven when… I mean the last thing I remember, I was eleven. And I don’t think an eleven-year-old can get married. I mean… you’re a giiirl. Ew.” I feel a little funny saying it; she is so pretty, not like my sister. Oh no… am I blushing now?

“But you look so much older! Oh, you must have been a frog for a long time. Do you think we could be friends? I would very much like a friend, now that I am the last one still here after my sisters got married and left. But my stepfather will be so disappointed if he finds that the frog turned into a prince and I didn’t marry him. Magic like that shouldn’t be ignored. What shall we say?”

“Can’t I just sneak out, and he’ll never know?”

“Oh, no. You see, I told him that I had promised to love a frog, and he said I had to honour my promise. So either I find another horrible frog and keep it in my bed for the rest of my life, or I tell him you turned into a man.”

This is a conundrum. “Well… we could… no. We could say we are getting married, and just go on a holiday or something…”

“I really don’t think he would believe us. We’d have to really get married and then go on a honeymoon.”

“Well… how about we say that we’re getting married, but that I have to go and… um… kill a dragon first, and then maybe I could not come back, and everyone would think I was killed by the dragon?”

“But then we wouldn’t get to be friends! And what if we really do learn to love each other?”

She’s blushing again! How embarrassing. “Well, I won’t really go and kill a dragon, you see. I’ll just go home, and we could visit each other in secret. And then, if we like each other…” If I like a girl! How silly. But she is nicer than my sister. “…if we like each other then I can come back from killing the dragon, and if we don’t, then you can say I was killed.”

“That’s a good idea! But what happens if you decide to come back, and you have no dragon’s head? Do you even know how to kill a dragon?”

“Of course I know how to kill a dragon! I could kill forty dragons!” I don’t know, really, but how dare she say I can’t? “But… I don’t think there are many dragons around here. Maybe we could say that I have to kill the evil sorcerer frog which trapped me. I can easily find a frog’s head.”

“Oh! But don’t you think you would be sad, killing a frog that might have been your friend?”

“If I love you, then I will gladly kill a frog for you!”

She has that strange look again. I hope she’s not in love with me already. I’d better say something before she starts calling me Darling.

“So, let’s go tell your stepfather.”

“Okay! Here, let me straighten out your hair for you.”

Even though she’s an icky frilly girl, it feels kind of nice when she does that.

This place gets more and more familiar the further we go. There should be a parlour coming up here. Yes. And there’s the big chair. More comfortable than the throne, he used to say.

“Father?” I say it at the same time she does. Could it really be him?

“Candida? And who is this young… ”

I’ve never seen him so white.

“James? James, is that you? We thought you were gone for good! Goodness, you’re a grown man now!”

I don’t remember the last time he hugged me like that. I’ve never seen him cry before.

“Where’s mother?”

He’s gone white again.

“When your mother found out what your sister had done, she banished her, and died of grief shortly afterwards. I couldn’t bear to live without my wife and my children, so I married Beatrice, a widow from the next kingdom. She already had three daughters, and I love them like my own, but I never forgot you.”

It’s hard to take in so much at once. I think I’m crying too now, I hope Candida doesn’t see. But why is she blushing?

“Oh. Candida. I almost forgot you were there. James, meet your stepsister, Candida. I hope you will get along well.”


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