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Mildthing update

Well, almost a year to the day here since my last update. I know, I know… excuses are like peanuts – abundant and poisonous to 5% of the population.  Sue me. 

I wish I could blame this on some horrid tragedy or something but the truth is as I continued work on several projects – Mildthing being one of primary ones, it became clear that I had a lot of work ahead of me. 

Flipper_1980

I could, just start slapping it up for everyone and see what happened.  Or I could take my time and actually put in the work of plotting out the course of the stories and how they arc together into a central theme.  (Which took almost 3 months…)

And I could have just gone with my horrid sketch work… or I could slowly but surely improve my skills and hone them so that… Flipper here, actually has some facial expressions and a personality when you encounter him (and you will… encounter him).  paguk_full

The same is true for the rest of the creatures – and there are a lot of them.raffertybw1980  Human, and non-human, some who are just walk ons, others who actually play an important part.  I’m not an artist.  I’m a scrawl something on a napkin guy.  So for me, getting the concept art down has been a learning experience.  And I’m a slow learner.  Winking smile 

As a digital artist I’ve always relied on images as starters – this lovely old gentleman for example.  He’s one of six old men I found as an inspiration for Sylas Rafferty.  But I can’t actually use that image – even though I did draw it – because he’s a real person.  Died most likely 40 years or more ago.  But the image is someones.  I didn’t create it when I drew it.  It visually belongs to someone else.  I can use it as inspiration – but Sylas has to be original.  So he is.  He’s an amalgam of many people.  I learned from studying the crags in this mans face how I would want them to be in the actual Sylas face.  So there is the dual need of not just becoming technically skilled – but proficient enough so as to create the Sylas in my head with that level of detail convincingly. 

Zombie2_1980

The art end of it – is something I’m enjoying the heck out of.   Even if I most likely get an actual artist to take the concepts and bring them to life – just doing the concepts for it has been a really rewarding experience. 

Other things going on as I work this through …

Every single part of the book is being plotted and remapped.  All of the characters will have at least a concept sketch to them – and yes, I will be checking out all the major ties to the real world.  There are Paguks which are these incredibly scary but somewhat amusing creatures that … essentially they steal your kidneys and leave you in a bathtub with a note pinned to your chest saying “Call 911”. 

Okay… not really – but kind of.  What they really do is paralyze you, then steal your liver and sew you back up with a stone or twigs or leaves as stuffing to replace what they ate, so you don’t know it until you die several days later.  So if you’re wondering where I’m going with these stories… yeah… we’re goin there.  The weird place.  What’s even more weird is… there are real accounts of Paguk existing even today. 

And that’s one of about 30 different creatures in the books.  If I find some reason I can’t use them I toss them on the pile to use at a later date.  But I am researching things pretty carefully.  If something is out of place in the book – it’s meant to be.  But to do that, takes some time – or rather timelines, and character lines, and overlaying these with historical events of the 70’s, 80’s and today… well, that’s been more fun and more difficult than I realized.  And I’m having to go back and relearn how to write again. 

Its odd, it is a bit like riding a bike.  You don’t forget… unless it’s anything to do with ego.  Which is to day, I had forgotten why I gave it up – I was never that good unless I actually applied myself.  So, once again… it takes time.  Cyborg001

So, if this is taking forever… my apologies.  I am working on this as quickly as I can. 

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Posted by on April 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Challenges…

It’s always good to update your skills – keep your game up.  We always hear this over and over.  A great way to keep your skills up is to create a challenge and walk your way through it.

Compilation of the videos below….

I was sitting around looking at the latest ads for Batman and Superman flicks coming out and decided I wanted to take a bash at a creative challenge with them.  Here was my challenge (and it’s still going on – btw) which was to create some iconic visual compositions using existing art -  their logos – and then seeing if I could create a very emotive context that summed up the character visually.  Now, granted – this is MY take so if these aren’t how youd do them with the resources out there that’s great.  Go do some.  But here’s some challenges… No existing footage from Movies or TV, you get the logo – the typographical elements.  You can use graphical elements from the comics but not from Movies or TV. 

The jobs to push the comic character – not the movie character.  Don’t get them confused.  We’re not selling the movie or a tv show… we’re selling the comic or something based on the comic.  Oh – and since we don’t know the final look of the character – try not to show the character.  So… kinda… stick with the logo and avoid actually showing the character itself.  Try to stay in that confine and define the character visually.  (Believe it or not I’ve had this almost exact challenge years ago…. so yeah, this kind of work does happen.)
That’s the challenge.  Good luck and have fun… so far these are the ones I’ve come up with…

 

Superman Logo Challenge

Superman – we all know.  He’s about as iconic a hero as they come and there are visually to me two main elements that really sum up Supes.  One is ‘the big red S’ … but even more, is this almost … regal, and regal isn’t really the best description – it’s bigger than being regal.  It’s iconic.  Superman is Mom, Apple Pie – the American Flag… it’s … this iconic bigger than life quality.

If I had to pick an element of Superman visually that describes it, it’s the way his cape flows in the breeze – so I wanted that cape.  I wanted it bracketed and flowing in the breeze – and I wanted that big red “S” on it.  Straight out of those old cartoons I grew up with. 

Batman… needed to be this thing in flight – and he’s been sooooo tied to Gotham and this dark knight thing that Nolan’s got going that I was really burned out on that.  Part of me was honestly, yearning for the days of the old campy batman – and even a bit of the cheesy George  Clooney / Val Kilmer / Michael Keaton Batman movies. 

The Bat Signal that whole larger than life genre that was a man who’d lost his family to something horrid, and was born out of a bat flying through a window.  Not some, all encompassing evil ninja school of vengeance… so I went with the bat signal look in the night.

Flash… a lot of people don’t consider the Flash one of the big 3 you know?  You have Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman – and all the rest of the Justice League are 2nd raters or something right?  So I wanted to do something for the Flash because, hey, he’s like… needing some love. 

I’ve got more to come… I’m working on thoughts for Wonder Woman, Aqua man, and others… because it’ a fun challenge that’s a good exercise for real life work.  Take an existing logo and rework it into a new exciting composition – give it a distinct look and feeling – if possible an emotive level … and keep it under 20 seconds.

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Why print designers have an edge with Metro…

It’s ironic that as everyone keeps reminding us “print media is dead”  that designers who have skills with print media, may very well be best equipped to design Metro UX apps. 

Ever take a look at a Metro App or web site?  Swing on over to the Dev Center at MSDN…

Hh465424.ux_guide_banner(en-us,WIN.10).png

  Take a good look.  Its not a web page look – and it’s not an application look…

It’s all content.  In fact, if it looks like anything it looks like a magazine or a brochure more than an application or a web page.

Like a magazine,  there’s very little chrome there – as the UX Guidelines point out many times.   In fact if you look at like a print type design, it actually looks more like that – than an application.   It’s literally Content over Chrome. 

That’s a concept a lot of people haven’t quite wrapped their head around yet.  Content driving the users experience, directing it, as opposed to the Chrome of the app.   The confusion in many peoples minds comes from the concept that Chrome is buttons, graphics, and pretties, etc., and to some extent it is all of that.  But more accurately, Chrome is also buttons and navigation menus and all kinds of things we’ve come to expect on applications.

But the Metro interface is really more like a magazine or something from the printed media world.  Content is what fills a magazine.  When you turn to a page in a magazine you don’t come to a page which has a banner that tells you how to get to everywhere else in the magazine.  In fact, if every article in a magazine started with a table of contents for the entire magazine it would pretty annoying wouldn’t it?  

Here’s a few actual magazine layouts – look at them and see if you can identify a ‘Metro’ look or similarity…

image

What you expect when you go to an article in a magazine, are pictures and text that tell a story or provide information.  “Content” people often fail to realize that just as a magazine page has images, and  charts and data and text – that’s the content.  What’s in the text of the article isn’t the content on a printed page… it is everything on the printed page.

In Metro, Content is everything on your apps ‘page’ if you will.  Simply put, content is what the user wants to see.   Its what the user came there for.  The actual ‘point’ of your application, of your web site, of the tool your creating.   So, “content over chrome” really means to remove the extraneous, remove the unnecessary, the unneeded elements of your app, and leave behind what the user wants.

It’s in this paradigm that designers with print can really excel over web or traditional software designers.  They aren’t carrying with them the baggage of buttons, scrollers, data grids and objects.  they can say more with a compelling photo and a single line of text than someone who thinks it’s necessary for all that baggage we call Chrome.

They think in terms of typographical elements, understanding the need to punch up titles but keep them short, and that one good picture says more than 100 words.  So yeah, those with a print background have a real advantage over those of us that have to learn to break all the conventions we’ve learned.  This isn’t’ to say that a Web or conventional software designer can’t do it – but for us, there’s a lot of extra weight to carry with all that chrome.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Xbox house party finally gets my attention..

I do not talk about games. It is a rule. Most people think I do not play them – well, other than City of Heroes – Champions Online and DC Universe. All of which began as a professional thing, and worked into a side fascination. They are about the only games that I semi-regularly play and those are mostly because of the social aspects of the game and the friends I’ve made within them. Part of it is just that I do not enjoy them to the tune of $60 a game, part of it is I’ve never been one to go hang out and browse game sites and shelves to find one I might like, and part of it is that I may enjoy them… just a bit tooo much so I typically avoid becoming hooked.

Xbox Live Arcade House Party may… be the end of me because of this. At $15 a game, that I can check out the trailer from my Xbox, and play instantly, well,  I gotta admit it is a dangerous slope to be walking on for a recovering gameaholic who’s playing the “I’m just a social gamer” card.

There is a part of me that thinks I Am Alive… might be kinda cool. And unlike many people I actually really enjoyed Alan Wake but do agree that it needed more action. So, the promised Sequel to Alan Wake, Alan Wake®’s American Nightmare definitely has my attention.

 And this is my connundrum.  Once I start, where does it end?  Haakon (the ManChild) is the ruler of the Xbox.  It’s His.  Not mine.  I make no claims upon it.  It was bought for him.  It resides on the main TV, in part to keep his gaming habits within controllable levels appropriately monitored by responsible adults.  To indulge in my own gaming horrifics… I will need to co-opt the box, possibly for days… which would be… unfair.  (Let me just add the ‘Muhahahaahahahaaha!!’ now… since I know you were thinking it.)  And don’t even begin to act like every other parent out there hasn’t encountered this issue.  If you’re male, and you’re a gamer, and you have a son… eventually it’s going to come down to this moment… or you’re going to have to admit you have a problem and buy your own console, big screen tv, all of that – and expose your addiction to everyone proudly (and rather pricely).
 
There is only one other option…  Make it a “family” thing. 
 
And this is where having these games not only inexpensive, but easy to access, and under the name of “Party” is just cruel.  It encourages parents to fall into the “its a family thing” trap.  Because once you go down that rabbit hole the next thing you’re looking at???  Oh yeah… Kinect Sports and from there it’s Zumba, and your wife’s fighting for time with the game console now. 
 
You toss open that can of worms and it does not end.  There is no bottom to that rabbit hole my friend… no bottom to it. 
 

So I have a choice… fall prey to the Xbox House Party… or I may instead just … possibly… say… connect to COH again this weekend, provided of course I can find several people to run a TF or two… until like… 2 am… when I know the Xbox… Will be Mine!!!

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Metro for the web… less is more…

Had someone ask me about Metro Interfaces for the web.  (Eyes dart about room in scurrilous paranoid motion…)  I’m going to say, that unless you’re ready to shift some thoughts just slapping a few tiles up for people to click … isn’t going to get you a Metro Interface for the web, and… (ducks for cover) you may not want to.

If you don’t know what a Metro Interface is, then you’re probably living under a rock or your not familiar with what everyone else keeps calling them “Windows 8” Interfaces, which, is kind of right – but not.  Metro applies to a number of interfaces, like Zunes and Windows Phone 7, and yes… Windows 8. 

But you really shouldn’t fall into the mind trap of thinking that because there are similarities it’s the same thing.  Especially if you’re designing an app.  Metro is more a set of guidelines to apply, to allow your app to work on several platforms better.

It’s also a bit of a way to design your app better regardless of the platform because at it’s core Metro has one design philosophy… make it easier for the user.  Along with the philosophy comes the accepted paradigm that less is more, and don’t put things in there you don’t need.

So if you’re designing a web site, you need to start not with graphics or content… but an understanding of “What is it that my user wants to do?” – and just as importantly “What does my app do?”.

Most apps – be they web pages or desktop tools or whatever… have basically one central purpose or theme.  One thing they need to do more than anything else to be useful to someone.  If it’s a web page – there’s a specific message or purpose to it, like “I want to show off my…” [business] [self] [cookies]… whatever that is… that’s the purpose of the web page.  That’s what people are going to come there for, and that’s all they really want to know about.

You can have sub-sections, but those sub-sections should have to do with the main topic.  Because once again, that’s all they really want to know about.

A lot of web sites, even for businesses – are these very cluttered content messages.  “We’re a [law firm] [bakery] [comic shop] [car dealer] [pump manufacturer] …’ and then there’s the stuff that differentiates them from everyone else… “with a [heart] [location] [experience] [drive] [cat] that makes us different.” because that’s what all good marketing tells you you need to do… be different.

And you can… you just… can’t be wordy.  You need to really refine your differences, condense what your business means to people.  And understand what that means.  Most businesses, small businesses never really have to do this because it’s pretty organic for them.  They’re small and they know their customers well and what a customer wants.

What they don’t often know – is what their customer wants when they get to their web page.  So for that… they need to understand that what a customer wants, and what a customer wants when they ‘walk through the web door’ may be completely different understandings. 

Web sites were traditionally a cross between a brochure and a store front in the early days of the web.  As people became more web savvy they became more like a searchable index of goods and services.  Some are very good at this (Amazon), some are not… (think any website you cursed because you couldn’t find what you were looking for…).

So for most people – they’re used to one experience on the web, or the other, or a combination of those two.  That’s not a metro interface.  You can make a metro interface that does that… but it’s not going to end well because it won’t do what a metro interface is really good at which is allowing the user to do what they expect to do – and do it quickly.

All the flickable, clickable screens in the world that slide, glide, tile and shift… will not change the fact that the user had to flick 6 times, click twice and then flick back 4 times to get where they were… to make a purchase.  If the user’s fingers are tired and they get lost in the shuffling screens you will not be accomplishing your goal.

So know your goal.  Know what it is your user wants to do – and what it is you want them to do.  Then, and only then, can you really build a metro interface.  This is because to really be effective you need something that a user can see – and go “Hey!  that’s what I was looking for!” and go “Click”, or as close to that experience as you can make as possible. 

If you look at most web sites – print the page out, and then with a red marker click all the links on it.  You’ll be amazed at how many there are.  How many of those are there so users can find other things?  How many are there because users “might want to find…” or “we have some users who…” type links?  I call these ‘fractional links” because they serve to fracture the users  by intention and send them to specific sections.  This isn’t a bad thing, it serves to categorize them and make it easier.

But… a more skillful approach would be to consider each of your primary “fractions” as needing a site specific to that need.  So – a master Metro Interface, which serves to send the user to specific Metro sub-sites based on that need, as sub site which can be linked by the user directly, and allows them efficient access to their specific need.  You really aren’t changing things much from a work flow perspective – just from the user perspective. 

imageIn some cases, a web site may have links which… frankly aren’t used, or are only used by a small sub set of users.  Look at your web traffic.  Look to where your customers go to, what’s the ‘final destinations’ for them?  Your top 3 or top 6 should be on the page.

Everything else should be clean, clear and understood.  No big “NEW” or “SALE!” blinkies (yess those still exist)… no funky scrollers that appear like a Times Square billboard that say “…ast day of sale!  Hurry or you’ll miss this once and a l…”.  No menu bars which have drop downs on drop downs.  No “Search” box. 

What??? No Search?  No Ads?  But… But… But…

imageSearch you can probably get away with, by having a tile for that… because it’s a high traffic need item, and then use the other tiles or click/flick items as primaries that only have as much information as is needed for the customer to find what they need to do.

Don’t explain – don’t get contentish, that’s for the part of the site the user is going to.  If you have to explain to a user what it is they’re about to click on… you probably failed in the Metro Interface.  Updates to the tiles should be handled with very minimal content types.  A “+1” or something akin to that to show there’s new items for them in this area.

So… why if the Metro Interface is so basic is it the rage?  Because it works.

It’s very simple.  People like simple.  But to make something simple, it often needs to be very complicated to allow that.  The complication comes in understanding the needs of the user.  What are they looking for?  How quick can I get it to them?

That…is the beauty of the metro interface for the web.  If you can do it – do it.  But first know your customer, or your efforts to make it simple will make users go “huh?” and that’s what you want to avoid.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Annual free stuff that makes life easier thing…

There are things that make our lives easier and so … in the spirit of the new year… I’m including a few of them that you can find on the web.

Skydrive… with free Microsoft Office…
imageStorage space in the cloud is good.  Storage space that allows you to create and share MS Office documents is better.  Don’t know why more people don’t know about this but I keep running into people who don’t.

Any parent who’s ever had their child call them from school and say, “Hey I forgot my flashdrive with my homework can you bring it to school?” needs this.  Anyone who’s ever forgotten a business letter, spreadsheet, anything like that while on a business trip, needs this.  Anyone who’s ever been forced to use another computer because a laptop died … needs this. 

Why?  Because all your files … are right there nice and safe and warm and in the cloud, and you can choose to share them with others or not.  I’ve used Skydrive since 2007, yes… lo those many many years ago.  It’s arguably the oldest cloud type file storage systems out there, security has always been great for me and it’s about as easy to use as it gets. 

Recently, Microsoft added to it, the ability to create Word, PowerPoint, Excel and imageOneNote notes – or edit them, directly, even if you don’t have any of those programs on your computer.  So if you’re stuck in an Airport in Atlanta or Boston, with a busted laptop and you absolutely need a document out – just grab a pay-terminal-system, hit your Skydrive and away you go.  (No, this has never happened to me.)  it also works if your son/daughter was supposed to have something written for a class, forgot, and the school library computers don’t have word processors (yes, this also happens). 

Anyway, point is – it’s pretty useful. And it’s free.  Yup.  Free.  It also syncs with Windows Phones, iPhones and others and … let’s face it that’s pretty dang nice.
wwww.skydrive.com

Next on the Free Cool Storage Toys… is Mesh.

What’s a Mesh?  Well, Mesh is like Skydrive, only on steroids because it actually lets you connect your files with another computer – like – your home computer, and share them.  This is particularly useful if you, like me, don’t always drag a laptop around – or find it a pain in the arse to have to copy files to the laptop to your home computer, or a flash drive (because flash drives never get lost, crushed or left in the computer at work… right??). 

With Mesh, you assign a directory (or two… or whatever) as “Mesh"ed and then you do the same with the home (or other computer).  Whatever you do in that drive, is sync’d to all the other computers in your mesh.  Any changes made in one location are updated.  So the files are accessible by any computer with Mesh installed.  You can make them private, public, only to a select few people you want to share it with… which is pretty awesomely simple for collaboration.

Have something on that home computer but you… like an idiot… didn’t put in in the Mesh drive?  Not a problem.  You can actually connect to any other meshed computer remotely (provided your firewall allows it) and then use it as if you were sitting right there.  Full remote desktop capability.

imageNow, here’s the coolest part… what if you don’t have a laptop (see above for instances of disaster in the Boston airport with laptops)… you can also access your meshed files and computers, and devices – via the web.

Between the Skydrive, and Mesh – you’re Picture of how to sync a folder between computers and devices in Windows Live Meshlooking at very accessible, very nearly unlimited free storage you never have to worry about.  And… for those of you who like your Macs… it yes… does work with a Mac.

Mesh, is part of the Windows Live Essentials Package.  Which  also has the very criticaly acclaimed Windows Live Writer.  Which, if you Blog – you GOTTA have.  Seriously.  I’ve tried Adobe, I’ve tried a ton of Blogger software, and Live Writer is the easiest, has a boat load of plugins and works with everything from WordPress to bizare obscure blog software (even SharePoint). 

It also has Movie Maker – which – is a very very useful little tool for editing simple videos and posting them in cool places like, blogs, Youtube, FaceBook… very nice, and also … very free.
http://explore.live.com/windows-live-essentials 

Which brings me to… Adobe Photoshop… for free.

Yup you read that right.  Photoshop.  Not some 2nd rate photo editor, but Adobe’s SNAGHTML2307be66own Photoshop, online, and free.  Now, there is a Microsoft tool which is also free – called the Microsoft  Live Photo Gallery that you can get with Live Essentials.  It’s also really good but I didn’t want to just hype Microsoft, and frankly there’s things you can do with Adobe Photoshop you can’t do anywhere else. So, definitely download Photo Gallery as it’s very useful (and free)… but have a look at this as well.   To get it — go to www.photoshop.com and you’ll need an Adobe Account so sign up for it if you haven’t.  Once you have it you can then access the Online tools… and you’ll find PhotoShop Express.  It’s not full blown Photoshop but it’s pretty damn good, especially – if once again – you don’t have a computer/laptop that’s yours, the School computers don’t have it, your boss won’t buy you a copy… etc… you get the picture.

So… once you’re in you can upload a photo, get one from your Adobe online gallery SNAGHTML230e7ef7and start in fixing those photos that need to be on a web site by tonight – getting that graphic for the school play done right… the usual.  All from the web, and yes… it’s as free as a bird.image

You can even add cartoons, word balloons, sticky notes… all kinds of stuff… then save it and share it with the world. 

Just think of the possibilities that come from something free – all the ways you can now annoy others and embarrass yourself online. 

There are – literally hundreds of other free toys out there and I’ll try in the new year to post the ones I use the most here for you, but this is a good start for a new year.

Happy New Year everyone…

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

A very Mildthing Christmas…

I haven’t written a Mildthing story short in a while… so figured I’d rip a couple pages from the unpublished, unedited and (yes) uncompleted Chronicles and let you have a glimpse at the battle between Mildthing and Gylfi – who for those who don’t know was the ‘first’ King of the Nords… a kind of mythic King/God.   It’s got snow… so that’s as close as you’ll get to a Mildthing Christmas…

………. Excerpted From the proposed short “Late Lament” (from Sept 2003) ………….

The cold seeped into my joints like a slow syrup of gnawing pain that coagulated around them. You could feel the sharp pangs of ice crystals as they formed between knuckles and scrapped against the bone with every motion.  It carved into them like a mixture of broken glass and ice water as it flowed in and around them.

I clenched my fists and rubbed thumbs back and forth to try and get circulation going to little if any effect as I stumbled forward.  My shoulder had gone numb, in part from pain and in part from the muscle and tissue exposed had begun to freeze.   I leaned into the wind, and drove on.  To stand still, was to die and I knew that.  The dull throb of numbing pain within my toes as they burst through the crust of the snow blurred my mind as they found jagged rock beneath the snow.  The snow crust scraping the flesh of my legs and the tops of my feet with each step, as the wind whipped and bit into my exposed legs was now pink and red from the abrasions and bleeding.

There, no more than perhaps fifty feet away sat my goal, unmoving, unblinking, judging my worthless existence with a fury and disdain for me and everything I was or had ever been. This critical hatred burned in eyes the color of slate nestled deep within an ancient face carved from weathered granite and framed in icy frost colored hair. He sat frozen and filled with arrogant disgust and for me that was enough.

He hated me. He was a god. He had unlimited power in his realm, a realm I dared to enter, and he hated me more than anything right now.  He didn’t need a reason.  I existed, and because I existed he hated me.  That was it.

He hated that I was alive. He hated that I breathed air. He hated that I was here. He hated that I never lived up to what he felt I should. He hated my smell. He hated my face. He hated every single microsecond of my existence and if he had it within his power I would have been wiped from all of eternity… and guess what?  That was within his power.  His was the power of perfect hatred.

He was a god, and his hatred was perfect.  It was something alive.  I could feel it as if it was a living thing that moved and coiled about like a snake in freezing winds around me ready to strike. It floated and hung in the cold of the air, dodging in and out and made the winds blast at me that much harder.  They did so because he hated me to the core of his being.

That was good.  Most people wouldn’t think that.  But I knew hate.  You can’t hate something that isn’t there, and a mortal can’t touch something that isn’t there.  it has to be real, to be so real you can reach out and feel it.  So yeah, I needed him to hate me, because I needed him there.  There, and real and where I could get my hands on him.

I stomped forward and bellowed, “You hate me. I get it. Good.  We have something in common. It’ll give us something to talk about, if I make it the next thrity feet to kick–” was all I got out before he was upon me.  Thirty feet.  Maybe I’d misjudged the distance in the blowing snow and hypothermia, or maybe Gylfi could actually jump that far from a seated position in the blink of an eye. It’s one of those great philosophical questions that are a waste of time to ask like “Can God make a rock so big he can’t lift it?”.  It’s there, it’s happened – so the answer is “Yes”.  Asking it is a waste of time, more so when you’ve got a pissed off Nordic god holding your throat and shoving a thumb made of rock into an open wound in your shoulder in a way it separates from the joint.  It digs it’s way deep in between the bones and cartilage and pops it slowly out as if it’s broken – only to slide back and let it pop back into place just to hear you scream again.

I thrashed wildly but his grip did not give.  I flailed and snapped at him and tried to bite like a dog held in place by that grip of iron but there was no moving from him, no slipping free to fight back.  I beat on his arms that really were, to my surprise, not just looking like but made of frozen stone. Unmoving.  Unfeeling.  I fought and fought while he glared that unfeeling uncaring glare of perfect hatred and held me fast in the air.

With each blow I tried I grew weaker.  My fists bouncing off and rebounding with frozen pain from the strikes.  I gave up exhausted and stared like a goat who’s accepted his fate and just wants the knife drawn and the unholy sacrifice to be over.  Then, when fatigue had drained my resolve.  He pulled in close, and the wind blew the white frost hair from his face and I recognized the craved stone features.  They weren’t just familiar.  They were my own.  He grinned as I grasped the dark twisted irony of him wearing my own face to kill me.  His — My — stone face grinned psychotically at me with an expression that was not my own, and he drove his stone thumb deep into my shoulder again and I screamed once more.

Hvor er ditt hjem?” , he demanded.

I was silent.  I was tired, frozen, dying, with agony and anger and pain and I had no idea what he was saying, all I could do was pant in silence and wait.  In movies when mystical creatures talk they always speak your language.  You can understand them.  In reality, they generally don’t speak much.  They just try to kill you.  So it wasn’t a big shock that he spoke in some nordic dialect I had no clue what it meant.  It’s not that he couldn’t speak english or understand it… In fact,  was fairly certain he did.  He just wouldn’t. Nords I’ve met were a stubborn bunch that way, and this was the King of stubborn.

He leaned in close enough that I could smell his breath, a horrid odor of decay and something rancid with breath as cold as the wind.  “Hvor er din ære? Hvor er din verdig liv?” he whispered inches from my face, whatever fight was inside me was gone as he released me and I dropped in the snow on my knees.

The chill of those words had cut into me.  I didn’t even know what they meant, and yet somehow I did.  They swirled in my brain like a freezing rain that chilled and bit into whatever exposed life they touched.

My pain, my anger, my misery, faded.  I was left with nothing.  Empty.  Defeated.  With words I didn’t know or understand, I was cold and empty in a way I’d never been before and for the first time since this began unsure of why I was doing this or for that matter why I’d done anything in my life.  I was nothing and I knew it.  I had been judged and I wasn’t just unworthy, I was nothing.  I was something that took up space in the universe that was so unimportant, that until now, I didn’t even deserve to be wiped from it.

Tears welled up as I watched Gylfi slowly move back to his throne, and it dawned on me that even if I wanted to there wasn’t a way to beat him.  He was a god, by all accounts he wasn’t just any god he was the first, the basis for Odin, the all father, the wisest, strongest, most whatever… he was it.  He hung himself upside down over the great void and bled out his soul to the universe for fun.  This isn’t a demon you shoot in the head… it’s a god.  This was his universe and I just happened to fall into it.  No malice, no evil. He was what he was, and that was ancient and powerful beyond imagining and pissed off.  He turned back for a moment and he whispered and the winds spoke for him, “Who do you cry for?”.

The air whistled this furiously around me and then was perfectly still.  The kind of stillness you see in the deepest forests after snows blanket everything.  Not even the air makes a sound.  Now, that stillness was louder than a deafening roar as the snow flakes seemed to hang suspended to punctuate the words that came not as sound, but as a whisper of a breeze.

Words that came from the moment, not from the man, as if they were carved somewhere in stone.  Gylfi’s grey eyes fixed firmly on me, and inside them I knew was the stone the words were carved upon.   “A man cries not for his home.  His home is what he builds.  You have not lost your home.  A man cries not for his honor.  His honor is what he is when no one is looking.  No one is looking at you now.  Your honor is not lost.  A man cries for not for his life.  His life was given to him, it was never his to lose.  A man cries for what his life is filled with.  So… pathetic creature… Who – What — do you cry for?”

The deafening silence was all that existed, a weight on the scales of the universe that held my soul on one side and Gylfi’s accusing eyes on the other, waiting for my response.

Our eyes locked and my soul bled out before him.  All the people I’d known over the years.  All the moments that brought me here to this moment.  Even Fate herself, always there for me until now.  All that I’d loved, all that I’d lost.  It had been actually a pretty amazing life all in all, watching it play out before me.  Not the best to be sure.  Not one I’d have chosen.  It was a biting, clawing, never give a sucker an even break existence.  One near miss with death after another, one fight after another, one harrowing walk on the razors edge of sanity day after day.  It wasn’t a life.  It was a battle.  Every moment of every day.   But it was mine.  Every day I survived, I had another to look forward to … it was an endless battle I never asked for and sad as that was, it was what I had.  It was mine.  And, now, this bastard was taking it from me.  It was all I had ever had, all I ever might be, all I’d never be…  And just like that, I understood why I cried. I knew what I cried for.

What was it Fate had said?  Something about winning not about defeating what we despise the most but learning to endure it and gain strength from it?

Gylfi grinned an evil grin, and I had to grin right back.  From someplace, I have no idea where, I found the strength to stand.  I wasn’t cold any more.  I wasn’t angry.  I can’t really say what I was, I just know I wasn’t empty, I was filled with a sweet rage of life.   We now moved and thought, almost as one, we had one thought, Gylfi turned and began to stomp back towards me, grinning, I stomped forward to him, the same evil grin on my own face now.  We spoke together now, as one, and the winds which had frozen in time howled our voices to the night sky.

“Jeg Gråte for Kamp!!”.

*…. “I Cry for Battle” – loose translation

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2011 in Uncategorized, Writings...