Through a Sky Gray

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Digital painting. Bottom half, a variety of wildflowers and grass. Top half, a solid gray expanse is split at middle by a bright glowing light at top that streams down and expands to the sides to encompass the wildflowers below.

“I want you to teach me how to paint,” Leodoras muttered, rehearsing the words as he strolled down the street that was assigned to his evening patrol.

He gazed up at the monochromatic gray veil of the sky, trying to imagine painting directly onto it, shaking his head at the thought.  There were rumors that said it was possible.  He’d never seen it nor known anyone who’d seen it.  But their realm was vast.  Who was to say there wasn’t a patch of gray that had been painted with swirls of indigo and black, and sprayed with blue-white stars, or brushed with a wide swathe of blue patched with soft diaphanous clouds? 

Better to paint than to pierce, he thought.  Better to live than to die.

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Garden of the Peculiar

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Digital drawing. At center, offset slightly to the left, a flower with three petals shaped like teardrops, one petal at top, two petals below, each with long tips that extend out of frame. The coloring at the base of each petal when combined resembles the face of a monkey. Behind and to the right of this flower are bright and shadowy overlapping outlines and silhouettes of a stem with branches that terminate in skull shapes. Behind and below the flower is a smaller flower with a monkey face tilted to the right, its monochrome color fading into the background. Behind to the left of the main flower, depicted in glowing monochrome is a flower that appears like a figure wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a flowing cloak. Behind this glowing figure to the left is another silhouette of the skull shapes.

I’m a terrible person.  And terrible things appeal to me.

Branches terminating in skulls. 

Transparent petals whose vessels glow white as bleached bone in the dark.

Bright yellow leaves whose soft serrated edges exude a dark red liquid that drips and pools and stains the ground like the signs of a crime scene.

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The Durquin Adventure

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Digital drawing. A rubber duck facing forward, offset left of center. The duck sits on a layer of bubbles. There’s a chain around the duck’s neck, pulled taut forward, moving out of bottom frame. On the duck’s left flank, the partial drawing of a chemical structure is visible. Behind the duck tilted to the right thirty degrees, a shark with mouth open emerges from the water and bears down on the duck.

I’m trapped inside a rubber duck that’s about to be swallowed by a giant shark.

How did I come to be in this predicament, you ask?

Good question.  I’d like to know myself. 

But there’s no time for that now.

Because if that shark doesn’t swallow me and Durquin—that’s the duck—in the next three seconds, we’ll both disappear into an abyss of bubbles for all eternity.

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The Desk of Professor West

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Digital drawing. View looking down at a weathered antique desk, composed of a tabletop and a hutch with a central cabinet, various slots, a dome top, and drawers, one of which, at left, is open and empty. The whole desk and hutch appear empty except for an envelope lying on the tabletop. The envelope bears a wax seal. Just above the open drawer is a butterfly in midflight seen in three-quarters view, trailing two afterimages and a soft glow of light that suggests its flight path. At right, a hand emerges from out of frame, holding by the blade what appears to be a dagger with a cross guard whose ends curl down and a handle resembling a spiral horn.

I’d seen pictures of his desk, several of them.  They were slightly different, but there was one thing in common with every single one.  It was cluttered.  Piles of files, pencils lying in constant danger of rolling off the edge, a half-empty cup of coffee or tea or maybe flat soda, a wadded up piece of paper, a stack of books, no two of them aligned at the edges.  It seemed like the desk of someone who would start working on every idea that popped into his head, so he wouldn’t forgot.  A person who didn’t use sticky notes or devices to help him remember.  But in the most recent picture I saw of Professor West’s desk, all of that was gone.  There was just one thing left on the desk, a letter addressed to someone he’d never met before in his life, and who’d never met him. 

A letter addressed to me.

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A Dream Unto Death

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Digital drawing. Sketch of a structure roughly shaped like a tree but made up of disproportionately sized animal bones. The trunk is the bones of an elephant leg. Sprouting from above the foot bones are curled horns, labeled at right “horns of a markhor?” At the top of the trunk are the bones of a human hand, fingers splayed out in the suggestion of tree branches. Extending from some of the branches are the bones of cat tails and bat wings, one at right labeled “bat wings.” Capping two finger bones are the skull bones of a penguin, labeled at left “penguin skull (reminiscent of plague mask).” A third penguin skull sits atop the bones of a cat’s tail. The sketch is labeled “Tree of Death” at the bottom. Above the title and to the left of the sketch is written the following in a calligraphic style: 25 October. Her dreams grow ever more frantic, ever more heinous. I have attempted a sketch based on the details gleaned from her latest nightmare.

13 September
“I’ve been summoned to your side,” I said, taking a seat in the chair beside her bed.  “In the hopes that I can help guide you back to the world of the living.”

She coughed, cleared her throat, smiled at me, and said, “I have been waiting for you.”

The waking dreamer was lucid on the day that I met her.  Though she was lying propped in her bed, she didn’t even appear weak or pale.  I was quite surprised.  But then I looked into her dark eyes and perceived in their depths a hidden truth, a weary soul, and a cautious calm.  She was indeed haunted by the journeys that her mind and even her body had made in the weeks prior.

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The Vessel Vespertilian

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Digital drawing. A bat mostly resembling the pygmy round-eared bat, three-quarters view of head with mouth slightly open, seen from bent legs up. The bat has two arms bent over his legs with a smooth membrane connecting the arms to his side. Behind these arms rise four pairs of membranous wings. They extend off frame. The bottom pair is watery and translucent. Next is a pair with rough earthen texture. Next is a flaming pair. And the last is luminous and wispy.

“Raccoons or orphans, whatever is back there, chase them away.  Or chase this away.  It’s your choice.”

I didn’t want to look at the glinting silver coin that he held up, but I couldn’t help it.  This was not the coin I needed today, or ten days from now, or even ten years from now.  I was prudent with my coin.  No, this was the coin I would need when I was an old woman, assuming I wanted to be the type of old woman who spent her days sitting by a sunlit window, sipping on fruit nectar, listening to a happy dog bark as I read a book of my choosing for as long as I so pleased.

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Angel at the Carnival

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Digital drawing. Two figures at center. Left, a toddler boy wearing overalls with a patch at the chest bearing an image of the hand-horns sign. The boy’s right hand is outstretched and is conjuring a cloud of cotton candy. His other arm is bent at his side. Right, an animal that appears to be half-dog and half-fish. The dog-like body is sitting up. The fish-like head is turned to the side with mouth open, displaying piranha teeth and a pointy outstretched tongue. The creature’s eyes are red. It has a long tail bearing fins, ending in a caudal fin. The creature wears a studded collar with a tag that reads “Angel.” Behind them is the hazy shape of a Ferris wheel with glowing lights.

“I know what it looks like to most, but he’s actually quite friendly.”

The woman named Irina laughed and tipped her head toward the toddler picking dehydrated marshmallows out of his cereal.  “I could say the same for him.”

She glanced down at Angel, who lowered his head and kept his mouth closed, trying to appear as harmless as was possible for him.  Angel was born of a dog, but he was…different. 

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A Carnival of Cakes

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Digital drawing. Background, a two-layer round chocolate cake with a slice cut out, with orange frosting, chocolate glaze on top and dripping down the sides, and overlapping round orange slices wrapped around the bottom. Tall glowing triangles of sugar candy crown the top. Foreground left, a square piece of two-layer cake with sprinkles, frosted with whipped cream, topped with three berries in a diagonal, and sprigs of tiny leaves. Foreground right, a square cake seen from top and along on corner, with frosting piped at the bottom and top borders. The word “Farewell” is written on the top. The word “Level” is written on the visible sides. A shadowy hand emerges from right and reaches for the cakes. Another hand grasps the first at the wrist.

On the eve of the winter solstice, ever since I can remember, my brothers and I have played a game that only we can play.

It’s because we made it up.  We made it up together.  I would have let my brothers decide everything.  I was the littlest.  I didn’t know as much as they knew.  I didn’t know anything.  But they told me that was the point.  No one knew anything in the beginning of their journeys.  They only started knowing things by going on the journey.  By making decisions before they even knew what the right decision was.

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Kairos and the Phantom

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Digital drawing. At right, a man in medieval style clothing stands amid patches of grass and looks shocked. He holds his right hand to his mouth as he gazes at the figure to the left, a man with a gray complexion bowing as he catches an apple. The bowing man is surrounded by a wispy glowing cloak and the colors of his clothing appear to be bleeding into the cloak. At his right foot is a platter of food. A stone sits on or in his left foot. Part of a stream is visible behind the shocked man.

Something terrible had come into the world.  Something evil.  Invisible, intangible. Some corruption that could not be perceived.  And therefore could not be fought.  By the time it had a grip on someone, it was too late.  The corruption seeped into every part of that person, defiling their heart, twisting their thoughts, draining the very life out of their body.

No land was spared.  No person was spared, no matter how pure, how honorable, how fit of body, how courageous of heart.  No place was hidden from this corruption. 

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