Sunday, July 29, 2012

Some Short Fiction

No new book review this week, but I'm trying to get back into posting regularly, so I figured I'd share a couple of short fiction stories that I've written recently.

The first is a piece based on my experience playing the video game Skyrim. I find certain video games to be a great source of creative inspiration because the setting is already there for me to wander through and the events that effect my character's life have been pre-scripted, but the character herself is a blank slate that I can imprint thoughts, feelings, and a personality onto. This first story is told from the perspective of my character in Skyrim right before and right after the game's final battle. It hopefully expresses both my pride at getting as far as I had and at accomplishing so much, and also the frustration that I felt at the fact that the game had no real ending--just a stopping point, chosen by me when I decided that I had gotten all I could out of the experience. Enjoy!

So this is what it finally comes to.

I came into this country less than a year ago as a prisoner awaiting execution, with no memory of who I was, where I had come from, or what I had done to deserve my fate; no memories at all except for my name. And then a dragon attacked.

That attack saved my life, though I’m not entirely sure that was what the dragon had had in mind, because ever since then I can’t seem to go anywhere without being attacked by dragons. I know why that is now—it’s because I’m Dragonborn. I can speak with the voice of the dragons, and it is my destiny to kill the dragon that inadvertently saved my life in order to prevent the end of the world.

If I had been smart, I would have left Skyrim as soon as I found out, but there were two problems with that plan. Firstly, I don’t think it would have actually helped—prophecy and destiny aren’t usually things you can run away from, and the last thing I want is to be responsible for the end of the world. And secondly, Skyrim has become my home. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but somewhere along the way, between surviving and trying to discover who I am, I made a home and a future for myself here. I made friends and companions, helped a lot of people, and even secured Skyrim’s future as a free and independent nation. It no longer matters to me that I don’t have a past, because I made a present and a future for myself here, and that is something worth sticking around and fighting for.

So I stand here now on the edge of the abyss in my armor made of the bones of the dragons I have slain, the blade of my war-axe crimson with the blood of fallen foes, thinking about what little past I have even as I wonder if I will have a future once I step into that pillar of fire. I may not have spent very long in this land, but I have left my mark. Elshara Dovhakin is the leader of the Companions, Listener for the Dark Brotherhood, savior of the Riften thieves’ guild, Archmage of the College of Winterhold, and Thane of Whiterun. I am the hero of the Stormcloak rebellion. I assassinated the emperor of Tamriel. I have faced down Daedric Lords, discovered lost empires, saved tiny hamlets and large cities alike from dragons, and have slain every beast, monster, and enemy that has wanted me dead. And now I must enter Sovngarde, the Nordic realm of the dead, and kill Alduin, the most powerful dragon in all of Tamriel, the dragon whose coming foretells the end of the world.

How hard could it be?
*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * *  *  *  *
It is done.

The battle was long and hard-fought, but with the souls of Skyrim’s greatest heroes standing beside me, we managed to win the day. Alduin World-Ender is now well and truly slain. He will never trouble the lands of the living or the dead again, and without him to resurrect them and give them power, the rest of the dragons that have been plaguing Skyrim will soon fade into obscurity and legend again. And now I hope to do the same.

I sit now in my home in Windhelm, watching the ever-present snow falling outside the window. I have hung up my axe and my armor, stored away all of my adventuring gear, and have stocked my kitchen pantry for the very first time. I sent Lydia, my housecarl, back to my house in Whiterun to look after my interests there for a while. The house is blessedly quiet and peaceful, and I’m looking forward to staying awhile, to sleeping in a bed and eating decent food and not getting attacked by enemies everywhere I go. My adventuring days aren’t over, and probably never will be, but I just saved the world, so I think I deserve a rest.

Was that a knock on the door?

The second story was inspired by a writing prompt from one of my favorite websites,, which runs a weekly series called the Concept Art Writing Prompt. Every Saturday, they find a piece of random science-fiction or fantasy inspired artwork on the web and invite their readers to write short works of fiction based on them. In this piece, I use the idea of bottled emotions to try my hand at true science-fiction for the first time

“Hey there, soldier, wanna buy a feelie?”

Efran instinctively shied away from the ragged young woman stinking of poverty that had emerged from the dark alley and was now approaching him. Her back was bent subserviently, but her lowered eyes kept flickering up at his face, full of greed and expectation. As she came closer, he pulled his uniform jacket back to reveal the holster concealed at his hip and placed a hand on the pistol’s grip. “Begone, woman. Peddle your filth elsewhere.” With a squeak of fear, she retreated back the way she had come, and he continued down the street, unmolested by the other street scum littering the nearby alleys and doorways.

He didn’t understand the appeal of emotions, anyway. His people had discarded such things in their distant evolutionary past, and until the Fleet had encountered humans, they had considered it no great loss. But then they had brought this one, seemingly-insignificant planet into the Empire, and, suddenly, the damn things were everywhere. It had taken less than a decade for human scientists to discover that certain natural compounds, when injected or ingested by his people, could simulate the emotions that so many alien cultures in the Empire took for granted. Of course, the Generals had immediately made the creation, sale, and use of such unnatural drugs illegal, but that hadn’t stopped them from taking over his people like an epidemic.

Even Tama, his partner, hadn’t been immune to the siren call of the ‘feelies.’ After the loss of their second clutch to one of the many diseases that ran rampant through the population of this vile, disgusting world, a friend of hers had introduced her to ‘happiness’ in an effort to encourage her to try again. She had quickly become addicted, to ‘happiness’ and to many of the other emotions that were sold on the black market. She had gone to ‘sadness’ as a way to express the effect that the loss of her potential children had had on her, to ‘anger’ when he didn’t take her ‘feelings’ seriously, to ‘despair’ when he could not be persuaded by her incomprehensible arguments, and had finally lost herself in ‘bliss’ and had wasted away. The last time Efran had seen her, she was a hollow shell of herself, her eyes that had once been so full of intelligence and curiosity about the world blank and glazed from the effects of the drug. She was in a hospital somewhere now, and as soon as her addiction to the drug was severed, she would be sent back to the homeworld, never to leave it again. And since he, as a soldier of the Fleet, had severed all ties to that place, he would never see it, or her, again.

After his patrol that evening, as he sat alone in his quarters in the barracks, Efran thought back to Tama and to all the other friends and fellow soldiers that he had lost to the ‘feelies’ since coming to this planet. What did they see in being so crippled by chemicals that they were no longer able to think or act rationally? Couldn’t they see that it was emotion that had held all of the aliens that were now under control of the Empire back, that had allowed them to be subjugated by the fleet? That woman today… who knows what she could have been, what heights she and her fellow humans could have reached if they had not been slaves to things like ‘fear’ and ‘uncertainty’?

Suddenly, there was a blinding flash of light, and the far wall of his room exploded. The next thing Efran knew, he was being pulled out of the rubble of the barracks by a medic. “Suicide bomber,” the medic explained as he applied bandages to deep cuts on Efran’s leg, arm, and head. “These humans are all insane. Any word on how much longer we’re planning on trying to hold on to this worthless ball of rock, sir?”

Efran nodded vaguely as he looked around at the dead bodies littering the ground. Over half his squad, dead in an instant, all because of these humans and their emotions. Sometimes it was enough to make him…

Late that night, long after curfew, Efran found himself back on the street he had patrolled that morning, standing in the mouth of a filthy, stinking alley. The woman was still there, huddled in a bundle of rags behind an overflowing dumpster. She looked up at him, terrified, but also hopeful.

“Rage, please,” was all he had to say.


Alii Silverwing said...

I didn't properly express my love of your bottled emotions piece before. I fucking LOVE it. It's the kind of piece that lingers and is amazing. I also think it ends in the perfect place. Right at the point where I'm afraid of what happens next with the anticipation and knowledge that it doesn't MATTER what happens next because the story is complete right there.

Um, so, yes. Excellent, excellent piece. :)

Anonymous said...

WOW, I love it Sarah!!