Monday, 16 February 2015

SE Story Monday: Brilliant Darkness

quote [ People always ask me if there is a God, if I saw it. I turn around and tell them ?Yes?. And then walk away. ]

SE Story Monday is back guys. This story was written a couple months ago. If anything can be said about it, is that it deals with our deepest fears, and just makes them even more fearful.
Again, please keep it in one post per story, use the spoiler tags and if you are planning to post something big, maybe you can use something like Wordpress and link it here.
Thank you guys and gals and bring them on.

Brilliant Darkness, by Carlos Mart?nez

Reveal


People always ask me if there is a God, if I saw it. I turn around and tell them ?Yes?. And then walk away. Perhaps it is not the best moment to ask, they figure, and they go away. Some people have tried to explain my isolation, my lack of interest in a book deal or some shit like that in the fact that I spent seven hours dead, while the nanites were working on my brain and body to bring me back, even if most people are left alone after five hours. But my friends kept on trying, injecting me with more and more machine-filled liquid, while at the same time massaging my chest and stimulating my brain.

Shit, I have no idea if I should be thankful for their efforts, or if I should go to each one of their places to kill their descendants and then their families, down to the youngest one. And maybe their fucking dogs or cats or whatsoever. They have no idea what they have done to me. I know they meant good anyway, which is why I contain myself. In the end, they are going to be on the same road I was, whether they were good or bad people. They are good, I know, and that is what really pisses me off about all this.

There is no heaven, no hell. No fucking Budha or a place where all souls gather to play chess with their loved ones for eternity. No place where Hitler is slowly boiling in hot water forever. Not that he didn?t deserve what he got, but all of us are getting the same. I think it?s just some sort or nature thing going on, but I am sure that I am not going to get that shit happening to me ever again. I am not going to be eaten by nobody.

The problem is that I just cannot tell anybody about this. They?ll just say ?dude spent like seven hours dead. Brain?s fried up? and would not believe me. And who would. You have all those returned, all those people coming back to life with a message of hope in another world. Telling you how they got to meet Grandma, the one they never knew, and then describe her with so much detail that their families believe it and would not question what happened. It?s not fucking Grandma asshole, just the signature of your soul and some selective memory by?. God?

The point is, the whole idea is to get you trapped, so comfortable in death that you would not want to return. You know how people after five hours return as functional idiots? How they are able to respond like robots to orders and questions, but they are not really there anymore? Most people say that they got too damaged in death and the resuscitation process began too late and somehow it fails after five hours. Nope, they got trapped, they fell into the trap. Their souls were so happy there that they did not wish to return, not until it was too late.

As soon as I remember all this and I begin to shake and it can get really bad sometimes. But I have to control myself. I will gain the upper hand. I will not be trapped again, not now that I know what really happens.

I don?t really remember the accident, but I know that it was probably my fault. You must use proper protection when dealing with electricity, but I felt particularly apt at messing with it. In the end, I guess it was supposed to happen to me somehow. I don?t believe in coincidence, maybe something else was at hand, wanting me to find the truth. And it certainly wasn?t this ?God?.

The first thing I remember was something like the light of a train in the distance, coming closer and closer and finally opening as a wide tunnel, wider than the Universe itself. When I saw that I immediately thought, ?Jesus, I am dead!.? I was a religious man then. Not anymore. It is just part of the trap.

Then I saw people coming to me, nice familiar faces. I recognized mum and dad, my brother Kevin and even my dog Bean, all there, waiting for me. Some other people were there, and I knew them. My grandmother and grandfather, my childhood friends, and so many others, filling the gigantic horizon.

?Ben, it is so nice to see you?, Dad said, and he never looked any better. He was the man in his prime that I remembered, not the old dried up skeleton which was all that remained after a botched cancer treatment. My mom was also the beautiful tall blonde I remembered from my childhood, not the fat alcoholic which ended trying to substitute dad with just about any fucker she met at the bar. No, it was all fine. And then I knew I did not want to leave.

But I had to, I really had to. I had a family, a boy who was growing up and I wanted to spare him all the suffering I endured in my youth. And I wanted to be back with him.

My family was trying to convince me to remain there, with them, in that paradise of light, while Bean was curling in my legs, doing his best to make me scratch his belly. I wasn?t aware of it, but my friends were unto me as soon as I fell to the ground and were pumping me full of nanites and stimulants and electricity, trying to get me back.

?Ben, Jason is going to be fine. You?ll take care of him from here. We?ll all do it?, Mom said. Then Dad came to me, took me by the hands and told me: ?You know it son. This is the best for you. You have to think about yourself from time to time.?

But I was so worried about my son. I was simply too scared by my childhood to just let go like that. I just couldn?t bear myself to do it. Even if everything was so nice and my family was there. I still had a responsibility back home. And by that time my family and all those close to me began to change their behavior. They began to push me, to tell me that I should stay, that nothing was as important as being there. The dog stopped playing with me and began to pull my leg. My father started to yell at me, telling me what a bad son I was, always disobeying and unreliable, while my mother screamed that I was never a good child, that I had to obey for a change.

That was not the way I remembered my dad, not the way my dog behaved. The two closest beings to me would never behave like that, they would never snarl at me, they would never hurt me that way. I was with that dog until it died. I was every day with my father after school, tending him when mom was too tired after being with him the whole night. I did my homework and fed him. I crawled into bed with him when he was in pain, the horrible pain that he felt in every cell of his body, and clung to him crying, wishing to find a way to tear that disease from his body.

I was with him when he died. What he was saying to me was not fair. What they all were doing, recriminating and pushing me, was unfair.

And then it hit me, perhaps at the same time my friends were nearing the seventh hour of resucitation procedures, that something was wrong. This people around me, they were not my family. I felt a tug inside of me, a pull, and followed the direction of it with my gaze. The tunnel was there and I could see faces, faces which I vaguely recognized as my friends, out of focus and somehow strange. But my friends nevertheless.

?They are pulling me back. They are bringing me back?, I thougth. I moved into that direction, but as soon as I did my fake dad grabbed my shoulder and made me turn around.

It was horrible. His face and body were becoming colorless, hollow, becoming one with the others, like if suddenly there were melted and joined. The dog was part of all that, everybody joining like an old photograph going out of focus and losing color, with all the depth real things have all gone, like when you remove the glasses in a 3D movie and then all starts to form a bubble, an empty space, little by little covered in black spots until all there is is black. An empty space of black, of nothing, but with a presence and the clear intention to keep me there. It was then when I realized I was half within something, something which was tearing me from the inside, making me fade. And I was feeling less and less myself, with the deepest cold growing inside of me.

And it was then that I understood all. It was like that thing, that void, was inside my memories. And I saw so many things then. I saw the souls of men and women falling inside of it, the very essence of every living creature on Earth and the universe being consumed, disappearing in the void. And I understood that the void was alive somehow, feeding on me and many more, many more souls all over the universe, falling into the same trap it had presented to me before.

No soul was too small, no soul was big enough.

I felt the tug in the opposite direction again and jumped, with all my strength, and did it again and again, keeping the thing from sucking me dry. And it pulled me, and it kept trying, until I felt like I was plummeting into the light.

I opened my eyes and saw familiar, tired faces around me. And then it was the dark again.

I woke up in a hospital, felling like I had been trampled all over. I slipped in and out of consciousness for days, until I was able to remain awake. The doctors said that the tiredness I felt was perhaps due to all the nanites in my bloodstream, turning me off while trying to repair something.

But I knew otherwhise. That thing almost drained me. A part of me is there, slowly being eaten through eternity by that fucker, and I was left with perhaps just a part of what was really me. My soul had been mutilated and reduced to stumps. And the stumps were not enough to fully live.

And yet, I wasn?t going to let that thing get me again. I know that I can?t save everybody from that void, but I know I can save myself. I?ll be able to do it somehow.

You see, the things I witnessed inside that thing are just to big to be remembered. The infinite number of souls devoured through history, through time and space. It is just impossible to remember. But I remember a few details. I remember a few times when the thing was unable to eat. Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nuclear explosions, radiation accidents. Impossible spaceships crashing in incredible places. Amazing creatures reduced to nothingness by the acts of a rogue sun. I know how it is when someone dies in the heart of a melting reactor. It messes up everything. And how sorry that thing was for being unable to feed on so many souls going to waste.

Even the soul ceases to exist in the middle of a nuclear explosion, a radiation burst. It?s just too much energy, too much fucking chaos. It dissolves everything and it ceases to exist. Even the soul.

I am searching for places where nuclear tests are done, where a radiation burst can be achieved. And I travel the world to places like China, North Korea and Russia, looking for a place to put what little remains of my soul to rest. It has to be something big, but I will find it. You know how people commit suicide when they can?t take life anymore? Well, I am going to commit suicide of the soul, because I can?t take whatever is waiting for me in the other side.

I have plenty of time. I have been looking for 95 years now. I was so pumped on nanites that according to the doctors there is no way to tell when I will die. My case prompted authorities to forbade the use of the nanites after the five hours period. They say I was lucky to come somehow functional after my ordeal. Fucking idiots. I know some people have done the nanite thing, but it is fairly uncommon and strongly prosecuted. Besides, human life is pretty long already, just not long enough as to be away from that thing.

I left my child when he became an adult. And I have not seen him in 76 years. I can?t bare to think what would happen to him when he dies and sees ?me? greeting him at the other side. At a trap to keep him at close range to a predator.

If only there was a way to stop it and save everybody, but there is not. I know, because it is one of the things I remember. There is no scape from it. It waits there and has waited forever and will remain forever, because time does not exists for it.

And I know what it is, because it told me so when I was trying to get away from it, and I am reminded every time I fall sleep and see that nothingness draining my soul, angry at me for trying to leave.

?This is what I made you all for. This is what you are?. So, when someone asks me if there is a God, I say ?Yes?, and then I walk away.

I have seen it, and I know the exact reason he made us, as well as the whole universe.

This is only a slaugther house.

[SFW] [+6 Good]
[by Onix@6:35amGMT]

Comments

Abdul Alhazred said @ 12:05pm GMT on 16th Feb [Score:2]
I'll just sit over here in the corner this round...

*hangs head in shame*
Onix said @ 9:48pm GMT on 16th Feb
Come on. You know you want to post something. Just do it in a new post please. You mad Arab you.
Abdul Alhazred said @ 8:00am GMT on 17th Feb [Score:1 Funny]
Well... okay...
Onix said @ 11:54pm GMT on 17th Feb
But in other post Abdul... Well, okay. I'll let yo do it just this once because you are mad ;).
steele said @ 12:51pm GMT on 16th Feb [Score:1 Informative]
I fixed your spoiler tag, Onix. You opened a new one instead of closing it :)

for your last tag you did:
<spoiler>

when it should have been:
</spoiler>
robotroadkill said[2] @ 1:05pm GMT on 16th Feb
Goddammit my phony tags keep disappearing.
steele said @ 1:25pm GMT on 16th Feb [Score:1 Informative]
Use &lt; instead of <
robotroadkill said @ 1:02am GMT on 17th Feb
Oooooh
Onix said @ 9:47pm GMT on 16th Feb
Thanks boss.
steele said @ 1:02pm GMT on 16th Feb
It's been a while but I have a writing exercise I sometimes do where I take a random tarot card and then write for 20 minutes non-stop. No corrections, no deletions, just balls to the wall till the timer runs out.

Princess of Chalices
Reveal


"I'm just saying it seems a bit rude to just pull some guy out of his natural habitat without asking, Princess." The surprisingly anti-authoritarian turtle explained.

She was a bit flustered, but responded quickly, "I meant no disrespect kind turtle I was merely hoping you might share some of the great turtle wisdom I always hear so much about."

"Wisdom? Ha! you must be thinking of dolphins. The wisest turtle I know is only considered as such because he has five wives and none of them know about each other." The Turtle wiggled his butt around in the water of the Great Chalice before continuing. " Now, if it's relationship advice you're looking for, that's fine. But that's not wisdom, it's just common sense."

This was not going as she planned. Maybe she picked up a faulty turtle? Okay, it's definitely humping the side of the cup now. That's its... "Mr. Turtle, I seek a wisdom that I'm told was been passed down the ages, but has been recently lost by my people. I was hoping that since your kind..."

"What do you mean by, MY KIND?"

"Turtles, Sir?"

"Oh, yes, that's fine. Go on."

"This wisdom," She continued.

"It's just we've had a horrible amount racism under the surface lately. Wasn't sure if you were taking sides."

"I know of no sides, Sir."

"It's those damn Loggers, you see? They've got no respect for society."

"I'm sure I don't know, Sir. I was just hoping if you could tell me"

"Those damn Loggers are everywhere. It used to be, back in my day, that the different species kept to themselves, but the Loggers, OH the LOGGERS." Out of all the turtle in the sea, she had picked up a racist, pervert turtle. Who even knew there was such a thing?

"I think I have to go, Sir. I'm almost positive I hear nature calling."

"oh, well, glad I could be of service." She's sure that's what he said, but it was so hard to tell with how hard she threw him.


Knight of Chalices
Reveal


He would find her again. He would chase her till their was nothing left of him to give chase. She had slipped away into the night while he slept, but he would find her. He said goodbye to the body he found her in, the young village girl, with a passionate kiss and walked towards his horse.

He knew the this was an endless journey when took up the cause, but it never occured to him just how much it would pain him to be tortured like this. To always be so close, to hold her in his arms, to find the one who could truly understand him, and just hours later be left holding a stranger. And it wasn't fair to the women he left behind either. He knew that and he tried his best not to leave too many broken hearts in his wake, but there was only so much he could do.

He patted his horse's neck before lifting himself onto his saddle. The Chalice of his station banged against his hip as it settled. He would need a large body of water for what came next. The spell to find her next host was too important to be tainted by the brakkish water of civilization. To the west then. A remote lake was just two days ride away. It would give him time to think, to clear his head of the haze her abandonment always left him in.

With a final goodbye over his shoulder he took the reigns and gave Snow a slight nudge in the side. In no time they were at a swift pace heading away from the rising sun. Even faster than that, the lonelyness took hold. That feeling of being one of a kind in a world of uniqueness, but knowing just enough to see it all as potentially one. She was his link to paradise. The hidden potential within all women that could make him perfect.

He caught glimpses of her constantly. That first moment of eye contact with a strange woman peirced with recognition, for a second they knew who he was... but it didn't last. Their experience takes over, the training this universe has put them through locks her away in a fleshy prison of their own fears. It's like he spends most of his life in one of those strange hall of mirrors. Constantly catching her reflection, but always falling for the illusion.
JWWargo said @ 4:42pm GMT on 16th Feb
What tarot deck is that? I really like the princess artwork. Reminds me of a story I wrote a couple years ago.
steele said @ 5:20pm GMT on 16th Feb [Score:1 Interesting]
Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn Deck (Lo Scarabeo Decks) (English and Spanish Edition)

It doesn't quite abide by all the archetypal symbols but I like the character styles. Almost anime-ish.
Onix said @ 10:05am GMT on 25th Feb
You have a nice prose Boss. Try to go linear for one card to the other (for a moment I believed that the Knigth was looking for the Princess) and go longer. Maybe a story will form itself, being a Tarot it will have something to say to you.
steele said @ 1:00am GMT on 26th Feb
I forgot I posted these. Thanks! I've actually got about 20 of these, I was/am designing a kind of writing game that would basically train someone to write for longer and longer periods of time nonstop while being able to move back and forth between the different archetypes of the tarot. The idea was to basically to train the user (me) to work up to being able to knock out about a book a month. I'll finish it one of these days. I do have a tendency to finish programs more often than stories at least :)
Abdul Alhazred said @ 8:09am GMT on 17th Feb
A chapter out of a book I've been working on. I based some of the stories on bits of folklore that I looked up, such as leprechauns, faeries and other magical folk, incorporating some of their supposed characteristics into the tale. This one is about an encounter with a leprechaun.

Reveal

It started out innocently enough. Birn just wanted some shoes. But don’t all stories start out with something small like that?

Birn was a simple man, a woodsman who made a living by cutting trees and taking them to the sawmill to be turned into lumber, or by providing firewood to those in the village who needed it. He was certainly not wealthy by any means, but he had enough for his needs, so he considered himself to be lucky indeed.

But as happens in all small towns, he had people who didn’t like him, or who he didn’t like. Unfortunately he had gotten some shoes from Tadd the cobbler that were so ill made that they hurt his feet to walk in, and leaked no matter how much grease he slathered on them. One rainy night while in his cups at the inn he had complained about his shoes to Fald the baker, and the story had gotten back to Tadd practically before he left the building. Tadd made some very disparaging remarks about Birn’s ability to attract a woman and hinted of a certain anatomical shortcoming, and before long neither would speak to the other for any reason other than to hurl insults. So when even the lousy shoes he had became too ragged to use, he began casting around for an alternative.

He quietly asked around town, but no one seemed to have any better ideas than to tell him to go make peace with Tadd. This was unthinkable, of course, and he often expressed this. The usual response was a sympathetic acknowledgement of his difficulty, with a flickering glance below his waistline.

He was on the verge of trying to make his own boots out of wood when he happened to run into Jaern, the old woman who did much of the town’s mending. She was crossing the square at the same time he was and smiled, her eyes only flickering down for an instant.

To have an elderly woman do this was simply the last straw. He growled a curse and dropped the axe he was taking to the blacksmith, causing her to stop. “Is everything all right, Birn?”

“No, it bloody well isn’t!” He caught himself, as he realized that in fact she meant him no harm. “Sorry, Jaern. It’s just these shoes.”

“Oh? I hear it’s a good bit more than your shoes.”

Birn felt his face getting hot. “Well yes, things have gotten a little unpleasant lately…”

Jaern laughed. “Boy, you certainly have a talent for understatement! This argument between you and Tadd has been the best entertainment this village has seen in years! But I don’t mean to make light of your difficulties. In fact, I may be able to help.”

“Help? How?”

She gestured. “Come, let’s at least get out of the square and discuss it in private.”

He followed her to her house, where she gestured for him to sit while she brewed some tea. “Your problem is hardly unique, of course. There are lots of men in this village who suffer the same problem.”

His face flushed again. “Now look, I don’t have a problem! Tadd was angry with me when he said I was equipped like a tomcat. He has nothing to base that on! He’s never seen my-“

“Stop! That’s not what I meant. I was referring to your fight with Tadd, and your inability to end it.”

“Oh.” His face was almost purple.

“Tadd does do lousy work, for a fact, and has a temper to match. Many’s the men of the village who have come to blows with him for both his poor shoes and his sharp tongue. That is why his nose looks like that. Fortunately a way around this is known to the people who need it.”

“And what is this way?”

She set a cup in front of him. “Have some tea, lad… It turns out that we have a leprechaun in this neighborhood. If you go out along the mill road you will find a hedgerow of blackthorn bushes. He generally keeps to there. You just need to walk carefully along there and listen, and when you hear a tapping sound take careful note of where it’s coming from. Then sweep aside the branches and look inside the hedgerow for him. If you see him he must do as you ask. Get him to make your shoes- that’s what most of us who want decent footwear do.”

“And that’s it? Just get a glimpse of him and he has to do as I tell him?”

“In essence, yes. But be polite about it- you don’t want to offend him.”

Birn sat considering for a moment. “But why does he have to make me shoes just because I saw him? That makes no sense.”

“Who knows? That’s just how it is. He’s been there for as long as anyone knows, and has always done the same for everyone who seeks him out. Needless to say we’ve kept it a secret, and I ask that you do the same. We don’t want him to be overworked.”

“Very well.” Birn drained the last of the tea from his cup. “Thank you. I’ll go seek him out now.”

“Good lad. Just remember, you have to be subtle about it, and be quick- if he knows that you’re looking for him he’ll vanish. Surprise is the key.”

Birn pondered this as he walked. The more he thought about it, the stranger it seemed. But what was the harm in trying it, at least? Jaern had no motive to deceive him. And all he was doing was walking along a hedgerow listening for tapping, right? No one could find fault with him for that.

He approached the hedgerow and walked as quietly as he could, considering the state of his shoes. He frowned slightly as he looked at it. Didn’t she say it was a blackthorn hedge? This one was juniper. But surely this was the hedgerow she meant?

A furtive rustling was coming from the bushes a little bit ahead of him and to his right. He sprang forward and whipped the branches apart with his arms and thrust his face inside.

A female shriek shattered his eardrums. Frell the candle maker jumped up hastily, and the chamber maid from the inn struggled to cover herself. “Birn! What the hell-“

He stood dumbfounded for a moment, then let the branches go and ran down the road to get past the bend. He had never been so embarrassed in his life.

When he was safely out of sight he cursed Jaern roundly for playing a prank on him. But then he heard footsteps along the road and decided that he really didn’t care for another confrontation at the moment, so he pushed aside the branches and ducked inside the hedgerow.

“Hey! Watch where you’re stepping!”

He looked down and saw a tiny man, shorter than his knee, wearing a green suit with a pointed brown hat. Brin’s foot was stepping on a half finished boot. He quickly moved his foot. “Sorry. I had no idea you were here.”

“It’s all right, there are a lot of people who duck into these bushes along the road. Just down that way is a couple-“

“Yes, I know.” Birn suddenly became aware of who he was talking to. “You must be the leprechaun!”

The little man grunted. “True enough. And I can see why you seek me out- those horrid things on your feet are the worst shoes I’ve ever seen.”

“You have no idea!” Birn took one of them off. “Look at this! The stitching has come apart along here so that gravel and everything else gets inside them and I have to remove them to get it out! And the seams scrape my feet raw-“

“Yes, I know. Take off the other one too, please, so I can see your feet.”

Birn complied and the little man bent to look closely at them. “Uh huh. Normal enough feet, considering. Very well then. Come back tomorrow at this time.”

“Uh… thanks.” Birn pushed his way back out of the hedge and was about to leave when he turned back. “Can you do anything about axes?”

The leprechaun gave him a look of disgust. “No. I don’t do iron. Take that to the blacksmith, and try not to annoy him too. It’s enough to have annoyed the cobbler, because his work is crap anyway. But the blacksmith does good work, so don’t accuse him of molesting livestock.”

“What?!? You heard about it too?”

“Hard not to hear of it- a lot of people pass by here.”

Birn could think of nothing to say to that, so he just stumped off along the road toward the blacksmith.

*****

The following day he went to the same spot along the hedgerow. He looked up and down the road to see if anyone was near, then peered into the hedgerow. The leprechaun looked up at him. “Ah, there you are. Come in and try them on.”

He gingerly squeezed in through the branches and took the boots, then slid them onto his feet. He laced them and moved his feet around, and to his amazement found them to be comfortable. “They’re wonderful! I daresay these are the best boots I’ve ever owned!”

“I’m glad. When my competition is a man who has no idea of how the foot is constructed and just makes leather flaps to cover them, it’s not hard to make something that is far superior. And these boots should last you for a very long time.”

“Excellent! How can I repay you?”

The leprechaun got a crafty look. “Well, do you have any beer?”

Birn looked startled. “Well, yes, but… Look, I don’t mean to pry, but I thought you were one of the spirit folk.”

“I am. But I’ve manifested this body to make it easier to do my job, and it needs to be fed.”

“Oh… Well then, yes, I can bring beer. And some food as well?”

“Yes, please. And don’t skimp on the beer.”

Birn left and walked back to his house, and for the first time he could recall his feet didn’t bother him as he walked. So on arriving home he was in a very fine mood and feeling generous, so he began to put together a basket. Half a loaf of bread, a chunk of cheese the size of his fist, some dried beef and a couple of apples went in, and he got three fairly large bottles of ale from the cellar. It was a triple brewed ale, very heady stuff, and since it was his favorite he guessed that the leprechaun would like it too. He put a cloth over the top and carried it out to the spot along the hedgerow and placed it just inside the branches. He peered in and saw the leprechaun investigating it. The leprechaun looked up and grinned. “Very nice, very nice indeed! Where did you get such ale?”

“I had the brewer make it for me. I have a goodly number of them in my cellar. If you come by there I will be happy to share with you.”

“I may well take you up on that at some point. But for now I think I’ll take this basket home. Come back again if you need more shoes!” And with a rustle he was gone.

Birn went home well satisfied with the day’s events and made himself a supper of broad beans with bacon and onions and a chunk of bread, and had some ale himself. He cleaned up the house a bit, then went up to his bed.

It was about midnight when he heard a sound from downstairs. He sat up in his bed, then reached out for the stout cudgel he kept near. He came downstairs quietly, and traced the sounds to his cellar. The door stood open, and he could see the light of a candle coming up from below. He went below and stopped in his tracks in astonishment.

The leprechaun was finishing a sixth bottle of ale. He gave a strangely intense grin as he took in Birn standing there in his nightshirt with a cudgel. “Well, so there you are! I thought I would take you up on your offer. Fine ale that is. I had the three you brought me and found them to be to my liking indeed. The brewer did an excellent job.” He belched, then went to a corner to relieve himself.

“Hey! Stop! What do you think you’re doing? I keep my food down here!”

The leprechaun paused. “I suppose you’re right. I’ll go outside for that then. Meanwhile, why are you standing there with that club? Oh that’s right, you had that other problem as well. You want it to be the size of that club, is that it? No problem.” He gestured, and Birn felt an uncomfortable tingle in a very sensitive area. “There, that should do it. Well, I really need to get going anyway. But I will take one more for the road.” He took down a bottle and vanished.

Birn stared at the now empty cellar. How had such a tiny man drank that much ale? Three bottles of that stuff would put Birn down for the night, yet the leprechaun had consumed nine and carried off a tenth!

He picked up the candle and went back upstairs and was going to go to bed when he heard strange sounds coming from outside. He went to the window and looked out, then stared in amazement.

The sounds turned out to be a very unhappy sheep running through the night with a small man sitting on its shoulders, whooping as they charged along. The terrified sheep charged into a thicket with a crash, and Birn heard a string of invective coming from the brush. A moment later the leprechaun stumbled out, shaking twigs out of his hat.

The night was filled with barking as the dog that had been guarding the sheep burst onto the scene. It charged the leprechaun, who let out another whoop and sprung into the air. He landed on the dog’s back, and the growling bark of challenge turned into a yelp of dismay as the leprechaun’s fingers found purchase in the dog’s fur. He whooped again as the dog ran in several circles and then took off through the village.

Birn stopped long enough to put on his shoes, then ran out the door toward the village. In the distance he could hear the howling of the dog and the shouts of people as they woke up to this cacophony. As he entered the square the dog shot by with panic in its eyes as the small figure clung to its back, still whooping. They vanished down the road, the yelps and whoops fading into the distance.

“Birn! A moment, please!”

He turned to find Jaern approaching with a stern expression. “Did you give that leprechaun any beer?”

“Well, yes. He asked me for some after he made my boots. And then he came into my house and drank a lot more of it.”

“Pfaugh. I should have remembered to tell you not to do that. He loves beer and will drink a vast amount of it, but he can’t hold his liquor- he gets it into his head to go out riding on some poor beast. I daresay that dog will return in a couple of days and sleep for a week after that. And we’ll not see the leprechaun for at least three days until he’s slept it off… Well, did you at least get good shoes out of it?” She looked down at his feet, then choked. Her face went pale, then deep crimson, and she couldn’t seem to decide between horror and laughter.

Birn was suddenly aware that something was different, and looked down as well. He let out a strangled noise and did his best to gather his newly altered anatomy up under his nightshirt, his face as white as the full moon shining down.

“Birn! I should have known you were involved, you underendowed lummox-“ Tadd’s voice died as he looked down, and his jaw sagged.

By this time a small crowd had gathered around them, and there were hushed whispers of awe. Birn’s temper finally snapped. “Here, you want to see it for yourselves? I hear that you’ve all been discussing it for weeks. Take a good look then and be done with it!” He lifted his nightshirt to his waist and turned around.

The people gasped and scattered back to their homes, leaving him standing there with Jaern and Tadd. He turned to the cobbler. “Well?” he snapped.

“Uhh… I need to go now…” Tadd departed as quickly as the rest.

Jaern could hold her laughter no longer. “As I said before, the best entertainment in years!”

*****

Birn waited a week to be on the safe side, then went walking down to the hedgerow again. He stepped through the branches without a pause and looked down at the tiny man there. Then he pointed to his pants and said, “Fix it, please. Now.”

The leprechaun shuddered. “I had forgotten about that… Very well, what size do you want it to be?”

“Just like it was, please.”

“Not bigger? I thought all men wanted it to be big. Get more female attention that way.”

“Normal size is fine. I’m getting more female attention than I want at the moment.”

The leprechaun shrugged. “As you wish.” He gestured, and Birn felt the tingle again.

“Thank you. You’ll forgive me if I don’t pay you in beer.”

“Quite all right. That stuff you have packs more of a wallop than I thought. I woke up three days later in a tree. It took me two more days to be able to eat more than berries and to not have to hold my head every time a leaf dropped.”

“I can imagine. Let’s not do that again.”

“Agreed. Although at least your argument with Tadd seems to be done. There’s one positive thing to come of this.”

Birn grinned. “True. I don’t think I’ll be hearing much more from him for a while. Although you may find him looking for you with something long in his hand…”

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