Now Available: Dream Logic

Dream logic

She was made to dream and told that her visions might save them, but would they destroy her in the process? Asleep she dreams of a ruined world that is slowly dying, where she is forever trying to find someone still alive. Awake she is trapped in a bed and fed drugs that will make her dream. But now those two realms are beginning to combine. and as the distinction between dream and reality starts to crumble it may drive her mad.

A short story by Clint Westgard
Published November, 2013

Available at Amazon, Kobo and Smashwords

 

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The Contaminated and the Fallen

She suspected, though she had no proof one way or the other, that this fallen realm in which her dream had her trapped was underground.. Perhaps it was the ever-present shadows and darkness, the days as the nights, whole and unchanging that led to this belief. Her existence here was immutable unmarked by any sense of the passage of time. She imagined a world of caverns, hollowed out and reconstructed into this strange habitat that seemed to her without purpose. A dream within a dream, she realized, and perhaps it was just the dream state thwarting her senses and not allowing her to comprehend all that she saw.

The last words of the voice came to her mind, dimly and half-remembered, as though that were the dream and not this. She was following one of her usual trails toward a dispenser that she was knew was still working. After that, if her dream went as it normally did, she would go above to one of the higher rings where there was a large room filled with desks with screens. Some of the screens still worked, after a fashion, and she would sit and watch them flashing their information and images, until she grew restless and started moving again.

This time, compelled by the words, she continued on along the ring, chewing on the block of foul tasting food the dispenser had given her. She often felt ill after she had eaten the food, though this dispenser seemed to agree with her more than the others. It was clearly degrading, as everything here was, and part of her knew that it was only a matter of time until all the dispensers failed entirely. Would her dreams allow that to happen, would her mind compel the machines to continue to work or would the logic of situation play out as it should? And what then?

Not wanting to dwell on that, disliking the sensation of dreaming and yet aware that she was in a dream, she pressed on, ducking through corridors. Rather than taking one of her usual paths, the ones she knew were safe and abandoned, she went to those areas that the Fallen inhabited. Not all of them were unhazardous, she knew, so she went with care, always checking each door she passed through to make sure it had not sealed behind her allowing her no escape.

One of the machines confronted her as she went, looming up out of the darkness, demanding her authorization. Its voice was disturbingly similar to the one that questioned her when she was awake, though they all sounded more or less the same. The flat monotone, parched of emotion.

The area is contaminated. Please exit immediately. You are not authorized.”

She ignored it, ducking around its bulky frame and moving down the black corridor, the machine sounding an alarm that no longer functioned. The corridor ended at a door that was jammed, which she pushed and pried apart just enough so that she could slip through. She waited a moment to ensure it did not close on her and then turned to go further down the corridor, her path illuminated by a blinking red light along the ceiling. Was this the alarm the machine had started after her breach into his realm, she wondered, or was it from some earlier calamity?

There were a few doors off the corridor, but she knew by the shape and the markings on them that there would be nothing of interest in them. They were small rooms that had perhaps been used for storage or for those who had left to sit in and pass their days. Now they would be empty, or filled with the uninteresting refuse of the decay. At last she found what she had been looking for, a larger door than the others with symbols above its frames. It was open, its automation having failed, and she stepped through into a large chamber.

It was cavernous, the ceiling stretching up past the far reaches of her sight. There were giant tubes, fragile seeming cylinders, and pipes that curved and wound around on themselves, sheltered behind protective glass. Some glowed with dim activity while others were dark. The flashing red light was brighter here, more insistent, if that were possible. She ignored all of that, ducking around the artifacts of this previous age, looking for one of the Fallen. They would be here, she knew, the smell of them was undeniable.

After some searching she managed to find one. He leaned against one of the glowing cylinders, seeming to rest his head against it as he stared off into the distance. In spite of his faraway gaze she felt his eyes upon her, no matter where she stood as she considered her approach. At last, realizing that he would already have seen her anyway, she walked up to him directly. The heat coming from the cylinder on which he rested was tremendous. Instinctively, she crouched down as she moved forward, as though that would protect her from whatever force lay within the tube should it somehow be loosed.

Nothing happened as she came face to face with the Fallen man. The cylinder did not explode, as she had feared, nor did the man rise up and seize her. He continued to stare off into the distance, a leering grin marking his face. She eyed him warily, still unconvinced that this was not some manner of trap that he had lain for her. When he made no motion at all, after she had watched him for several minutes, she moved within range of his grasp, poised to flee at the first instant of motion.

None came and then she wondered if he were waiting for her to speak, to make plain her intentions. How did one address the Fallen? She had no idea, the machines mostly did not respond to her, perhaps it would be the same here. In this realm it seemed she had forgotten the tools of speech, though words still seemed to form as thoughts in her mind. She wet her lips and reached out to touch the man, thinking that if there were no words to speak, then this gesture might be enough.

Her hand had just brushed the cloth of his uniform when one of the machines seized her.

You are not authorized. The area is contaminated.”

from Dream Logic

Now Available: The The Trials of the Minotaur

The Trials of the Minotaur

In the fifth year of the rule of Auten the One Eyed a minotaur was born to one of the imperial city of Colosi’s most important patrician families. The Trials of the Minotaur tells his story, following his life from despair and exile to triumph in the pantheon of Colosi. Betrayed at the hands of those closest to him, he achieves wealth and power beyond imagining as the oracle of a barbarian city, only to be cast out and turned into the star attraction of a traveling cabinet of curiosities.

Including all three volumes: The Blind Minotaur, The Oracle’s Mortification, and The Wondrous Beast.

By Clint Westgard
Published November, 2013
Available at AmazonKobo, and Smashwords

The Traveling Cabinet of Doctor Eid

Months passed in miserable solitude for the Minotaur, where he survived on berries and whatever he could manage to scavenge. He was avoided as a pariah wherever he went in Thedeo’s kingdom, for word had passed quickly from Alari of his downfall. No longer a god, but a mere beast, towns barred their gates to him and villagers rang bells to warn others of his approach. Children, tempted by the stories they had heard of his former deity, would follow him at a distance, throwing stones at him for fun.

Though he longed for death, and had expected it after what Velthar had done to him, the gods did not grant him release. His crimes were too great, he surmised. His wounds healed well, though he was left greatly weakened, with little of the strength he had once possessed, and his sides were still marked with scars where the whip had torn at his flesh. His visions had ceased upon leaving Alari, returning him to that darkness again, which he took as a small mercy. He often woke weeping and trembling, his mind empty, whatever dreams that had troubled him vanished into the aether.

In a sense he had died when Velthar and his followers had cast him from the temple, his false godhood passing from him, for in the long and empty days that came after not once did he think of what was to come. Such things no longer mattered to him. He lived on because he could not summon the courage to stop himself, scrounging and foraging, a pathetic figure on the fringes of the world. He hated himself for this weakness. No flame burned within him to keep on, nothing beckoned him forward, yet on he went, unable to stop himself.

Some days, when he had walked too long and exhaustion had overcome him, he would collapse, wherever he happened to be, and lie there insensible thinking about Galrice. He would imagine their escape from Alari and their child, a son he was certain, that they raised to be a proud man. All impossibilities he knew. Galrice would never have left the temple, perhaps not even at his command. She had believed, they had all believed, and when that belief had proved to be upon a foundation of sand, it could only crumble and ruin them all.

It was while lost in such despairing thoughts as these that he fell into the hands of Dr. Eid and His Traveling Cabinet. The Minotaur had passed beyond Thedeo’s kingdom and into another barbarian fiefdom where the learned doctor happened to be displaying his bestiary. Upon hearing from the locals of a strange half-bull, half-man who had once been a god, he sent two of his minions to capture the beast. It was an easy task, for by this time the Minotaur had fallen into a pitiable state. His ribs showed through his chest, his gums were bleeding and he had a tremor in one leg that made his gait unsteady.

The good Doctor’s minions found him lying and daydreaming in the middle of some country trail, muttering to himself in some strange language. They set upon him before he even realized they were present, knocking him senseless with a few sharp blows from a cudgel. They fashioned a length of rope into a halter and put it about his neck, running it through a ring they put through his nose, and with that they led him as they might any draft animal.

The Minotaur offered no struggle in the face of these new humiliations, submitting meekly to the two men as they led him back to the village where Dr. Eid had established himself. He could hear the gathered crowd murmur in consternation as he passed by. For a fleeting moment he thought they might act, turn against his captors and restore his freedom to him, but he quickly realized their anger was directed at him. In the months since his exile from the temple, Velthar had been careful to spread word to all and sundry that, not only had the god left the Minotaur, he was now an empty vessel who could be inhabited by any false devil or wizard.

Seeing him in the possession of this foreign doctor who sold various strange life elixirs and talked of the secret knowledge of science and philosophy that he possessed, they suspected the two of them of being in league. By the time the Minotaur had been thrown into a cage and thrown some hay, which he lay down on as a bed, the villagers had begun to gather, even calling the farmers and herders from the fields to stand against this invasion. The good Doctor, seemingly oblivious to the growing ire of the villagers, stepped out before them and in his best barker’s voice began to call for them to come and look upon their fallen god.

“My good friends. Come and see the god that has fallen to earth,” he said in his strange accent. “Once a god now a mere beast. But a singular beast. Part man and part bull. What terrible congress led to such a creation. Only the gods know and they have sent him from their care so that you may look upon him and the offspring of such a terrible act.”

The crowd had begun shouting at him before he had even finished his speech and several of them took up stones and aimed them at the Minotaur’s head.

“My good friends, my good friends. This is not necessary. The beast has been subdued. I have him in my grasp. He shall not escape.”

“Yes, he is under your control,” one man shouted. “We all know what that means. You’ll not be ruling over us.”

“My good friends, I have no designs upon your land or your hearts. I would never dare to usurp your gods or your rulers. I am a humble servant and I ask only for some of your time and your hard earned coin so that you may witness my wondrous menagerie. Creatures, each more marvelous than the next, from all corners of the earth, carefully gathered and tamed and brought before you.”

His words did little good, for the crowd had already decided against him, and he was forced to have his men hitch up the caravan and flee before the villagers turned violent. When they were safely underway he had the driver of his wagon pull alongside the one carrying the Minotaur’s cage so that he could study the creature more closely. He clucked his tongue in disapproval at the shriveled and ragged state of the beast, but soon he found himself nodding and smiling.

“Not some simulacrum here. The unvarnished truth lies before us,” he said to the driver, who spat in reply.

“You had better be worth the trouble you’ve caused me,” the doctor called to the beast. “I’ll have to leave these miserable lands now or they’ll have my head. And think of the coin I am losing because of it. If they believed you a god, they would have believed anything.”

The Minotaur had been dozing but he awoke at the Doctor’s words and raised his head, trying to discern the man’s tongue. “What words are these? Where are you from?” this said in the barbarian tongue he knew the doctor spoke.

“It speaks,” the Doctor said. “A truly wondrous beast. We hail from the magnificent and eternal empire Huiam, all praise its greatness. You have not seen its like in these miserable barbarian realms.”

“I see little as it is,” the Minotaur said. “And I am no barbarian. I am a patrician of Rheadd.”

“His tales grows even more fantastic. Well beast, I think we shall find use for you.” the Doctor laughed and slapped the driver’s shoulder so that he pulled the caravan ahead of the Minotaur’s cage, leaving him to shiver and wonder what the man meant.

from The Wondrous Beast