Monday, February 19, 2007

Pretty: Backing

David twirled the paper in front of him. It was necessary to spin the paper as he read it, because the words were twisted in a spiral. Actually, calling them "words" might have been an overstatement. They might have been some sort of code, or perhaps a language that David had never seen; they were at least groupings of letters that were separated by spaces. He twisted the paper clockwise and counterclockwise, trying to gain some insight into the arrangement.

"Where do you people even get these things?" He didn't even bother to look up, he could feel Inessa's stare on the top of his head.

"Here and there. Garbage, street prophets, crazies. Books stolen and restolen. Everywhere. It doesn't matter, the story is everywhere. The world trembles with it, it is hard to contain. All you need to do is learn to read the story. You're making progress, I have been told."

The words of encouragement were his first, ever, from Inessa. They emboldened him to speak truth about what he saw in the random scraps of paper he was handling. David looked up, met Inessa's eyes stare for stare.

"She is in hiding. She is surrounded by protectors, and will not emerge. She is afraid."

Inessa blinked.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pretty: Insulated

David's head hurt. He'd had a headache all day. He blamed it on the lump that was on his forehead, acquired during last night's attempt at a skrying. The papers in front of him didn't help at all. He stared at them, shifted them around on the table. One piece of hemp-paper was a solid column of names and numbers. It was pretty clearly a page from a ledger, with debits and credits showing in different-colored ink. Only one page, though, and the names on the page did not have anything in common with the names on the other pages he had in front of him. Another was a single page from someone's diary, describing a purely mundane day in the life of a purely mundane person.

When he started working in the room, he tried to make eye contact with Inessa, but had quickly given up on that. There was something about her intent stare, the way she didn't blink enough, that made him look at her chin whenever he spoke to her. David turned and looked at Inessa's chin. "If you'd tell me more about what you're looking for, I'd be better able to help you."

"It's not that I'm holding something back, David. I do not know any more than you do about your task. The information you refine must be untainted by expectation, unshaded by perception. The people to whom I report know little more than I do, and I don't ask. Information can only flow one way here, and doing that is very challenging. Trust me, we've learned our lessons the hard way when it comes to ensuring a single direction."


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Metapost: Delays

Sorry about the delays, folks. I had a combination of writer's block, laziness, and lack of time. Back on track again, and should be back in the 2-per-week schedule that I'd like to be in.

Pretty: Latent

After his shift was over, David returned to his quarters. They were sparse, but comfortable enough. Even now, he was not really certain about his status. He wasn't precisely a prisoner, but neither was he free to leave. "Guest" was how Inessa put it. She was his guide and keeper; the only person in the whole compound who would actually speak with him. Others might speak at David, "go here", "sit", "eat this", but only Inessa made any responses to him. He would have broken down long ago if it weren't for her.

Since arriving here, David had started speaking to himself, the walls, his bed. "I thought I'd be important here", he said. "They told me I was special, that I had a gift that could be trained. But all they do is make me stare at nonsense words on a page all day. Where are my prizes? Where is the reward and prestige that should be my due?" He sighed.

David went to his sink and stopped it up with a plug. He let the water run until it was half-full. This was something new he was just starting to learn how to harness. He stared at the water, bringing his head down until it was even with the lip of the sink. He could see reflections in the water, tiny ripples. He held his breath.

Every word spoken in Londinium vibrated the city just slightly. Every footstep, every door opening and closing. Those vibrations went everywhere, from the tops of the towers down to the geothermal power plants and farms below the city. They even went out and contributed to the ocean's waves, ever so slightly. Anybody could look at a pool of water and watch it tremble. It took an Infomancer to extract meaning from the pool. David was not an Infomancer. Not yet, at least.

David focused his awareness through a series of mental exercises Inessa taught him. She didn't have the gift, but she knew enough about it to help him learn to use his gift. His perception shifted. He no longer saw the vibration in the water as just water, but as a cacophony of sound and a kaleidoscope of colors. His head felt like it would split open, from the pain and overload of the sensation.

He found himself lying on the floor of his quarters, with a bump forming on his forehead. He must have blacked out. The thump would, no doubt, contribute to the trembling of all the other pools in all of the city. David stood again, stared at his sink. This time, nothing happened. Still, he was encouraged that he was able to pull something out of the water the first time. Sooner or later, he'd get it.