Pleather


by L.P. Stribling

    There was wind, light wind, upon the hillock that night. Wisps and whips of it at least. Yet, in the middle of the near-lightless twilight. The only color to the distant sky was a slow-waking maroon. Both women held each other clenched in the an unbroken gaze, unaffected but bonded by that wind.

    Holsters were hollow, their contents barren as the tempered steel of the women’s barrels languidly locked on the center points of the other’s face. Cobra revolvers – the starry glints of each hollow-point tip hugging the triggers faded slowly with the passing seconds

    With her free hand, Kumiko flicked her head and repositioned the long stray tuft of black trail hair that stood apart from the rest of her buzzed brethren. Before jumping behind her, it ran down the glossy full-body red pleather she wore opposite her enemy.

    “Smoke?” she asked.

    Maiyu shook her head, a slow concentrated shake. “Nah. But please, take what you need.”  Maiyu’s eyes were an almost-emerald dark as she motioned her gun for the girl to proceed.

    Kumiko holstered her gun, took out a worn packet of cigarettes and, after a moment of selection, lit one before scrunching the pack back into her leg pocket. A lighter appeared out of nowhere, served its purpose, then vanished.

    The girl drew, blew a burn of smoke into the air and looked back at her rival.

    “Why didn’t you shoot?”

    Maiyu cocked her head with the girl in her sights. “Excuse me?”

    “You could have shot me. Plain and simple. Reasons?” She took another drag as if giving the girl a chance to answer.

    “Do I need reasons?” Maiyu said. “Regardless of what happens here, the cycle is broken. All you need to know before one of us dies, Siranes and her people will be loosened from your shackles and there will be no repeat this time.”

    Kumiko took a drag and nodded in easy understanding. “I see,” she said, exhaling into the night. “And you’re certain this time will be far different from every attempt in the past century? You were sure of yourself countless times before. Well, no matter. That’s my opinion, anyway.” Another drag she took then, easy, calm.

    “I know some things,” Maiyu said.

    “Like?”

    “Like what will happen to you if you return to your lord empty-handed.”

    Kumiko thought about this and exhaled. “Mmm,” she nodded. “You’re right . I don’t know exactly what he would do, and yes, the consequences would be disastrous. That’s why I’ve ensured that I will not be going home empty-handed.”

    Maiyu cocked an eyebrow and steadied her aim on the woman. Lightening pulsed behind the overcast evening and in a matching of drums, the neon ashen end of Kumiko’s cigarette spewed her opponent in a fiery burst of orange trails. Maiyu’s lithe body dropped in quick reaction, and she rolled as quickly as she could, but she wasn’t fast enough. She felt the irate claws of the liquid fire before the smoke had a chance to rise from the glossy pleather of her suit.

    The streams of lava roared into her skin and Maiyu cried out. Tears rushed from her face and began streaming downwards as though they were racing one another in competition.

    Maiyu continued to roll – her only attempt to stop the burn, somehow managing still to hold the Cobra in her hand. The hillock sloped and after the initial tumble, she managed to slow herself, dragging herself painfully toward wide boulder – one of the night’s black giants, one quiet and without judgement.

    The steel of the gun tip clanked on the rock before she scooted behind it. She ducked then, evading another wave of heat.

    “I thought you were so sure of yourself?” She heard Kumiko’s voice, it had risen as the woman stepped toward in a lazy obligatory approach. How many more waves within that cigarette did she have? Why did I allow her a smoke? How many times had they fought? How many times had she lost, been killed of her own folly? She was always so sure of herself. Why continue to trust “always?”

    There would not be another chance. The time was now. She peeked around the stone wall of her cover, her head shaking. Kumiko’s mini molten glow still hung between her fingers as she approached. The sky was darkening. Dark misty swirls high above began to fall. Rain. How long until I feel it? Kumiko pulled up the cigarette again and flung it at Maiyu.

    “How’s that for some confidence in the end?” Her tone was pretentious. Cocky. She strutted as if she knew she had won.

    No. This would not be the way of it. The true way had already been spoken for, had been foretold. All she needed was a window. And there, through the haze, the blur of it all, she saw it. Kumiko brought the cigarette to her mouth and Maiyu crouched to brace for another shower of lava. But no. She just wanted to take one more victory drag. She saw Kumiko pull her head back and empty the smoke into the air. It seemed as though the puff of her own smoke was going up to meet with the rain clouds that were coming down. When will I feel the rain? It must be soon.

    Window.

    Maiyu raised the snake and took aim. Kumiko’s face in her sights was unnoticing.

    The first drops of rain fell upon her skin just before she pulled the nickel-plated trigger of the snake. A blessing in black.

    If there were stars out then, they would have burned out.

    The lift from the gun almost lifted her prone body off the blackened earth. Her eyes shut with an automation that came from her body’s (her spirit’s) desire for protection. She would look back at the moment as a small fraction of a bliss she would have loved to indulge in – the frame-by-frame of the red-pleathered body going limp as its command center shattered and fed the dark grass with the nutrients of blood, cranium meat, and a fragmented globe of haughtiness.

    Nor did she hear any of it. Maiyu simply remembered her body’s confusion in the thoughts of almost. It was just as it was destined to be. It almost wasn’t. It almost was me.

    The rain sheltered her then. That was the next thought, the only thought that she was able to carry into her future – the beautiful dark rain, feathering her there in the field, easing the lava away from her wounds, lending good-night kisses to her skin.

    It was there that she melted. Looking up in blinks, the sky was dark. She lay there in a field of pain and falling angels. She no longer felt the wind.

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Hyperion – gotta go


Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos, #1)Hyperion by Dan Simmons
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I usually give a book a max of 100 pages to get me hooked. This one I gave ~150 pages to and it just wasn’t doing it. I had just finished Simmons’s Song of Kali, and that was great. His prose is very strong and I respect him very highly as an author. This just wasn’t something I was overly fond of. I’m not disregarding him as an author and I’m sure I will go to some of his other books, but this particular one has to go down now.

Reasons:
1. Plot wasn’t strong enough up front. The story was alluring. It did have appeal, but it just didn’t grab me. I know this book has a huge following and lots of people love it. I can only speak to myself.

2. Terrific prose, but no real direction: It was sort of like the way I felt about Snow Crash. The writing was a brick to the face – that good. But I just didn’t know where it was going.

View all my reviews

Page or Screen – a personal policy


Keeping calm
Keeping calm

I have this policy. It’s more of a personal preference, really, but, either way, I’m usually pretty good about following through. The premise is straightforward enough – do not watch the cinematic rendition of an already established literary piece before first reading the piece itself. In lay terms – don’t watch the movie before reading the book.

This is in no way a disparagement of the film industry, of course, but the grounds of which certainly merit elaboration.

Let’s face it – as a species, we’re suckers for stories. Every day, hour, microsecond (someone could argue that), we’re engaged in some sort of story. It could be anything from reading about the latest restaurant review to writing an e-mail to a friend agreeing to meet for dinner. Whatever it is, talking or listening, at some degree, whether we’re cognizant of it or not, we’re all storytellers – chefs serving anecdotal entrées (be it entertaining or strictly informative) using our special ingredients of fact and fiction. Stories of love, hate, fear, and loathing, no matter the case, we love it; we eat it up. Yet, without trying to sound too judgmental, we’re also a wee bit averse to more effort than necessary (FINE PRINT: yes, I just said that you were lazy). So, given the choice between film or font, we would usually prefer to recline in front of a 30’ X 70’ screen and get fat on fake-buttered popcorn and nibbles and bits of sugary goodies.

There’s no need to state the obvious here – as a population, we read less than ever before. I’m not talking about the malarkey online statements that aver that we read more than ever before, because reading e-mail, Tumblr, or Amazon receipts ad nauseum doesn’t quite constitute reading.

You know what I mean by reading, right? I mean real fucking reading. Reading books, not e-readers, not bullshit iPods/Pads/Pamphlets or whatever other type of pocket screens you carry around (books and games for me are like Church and State – keep ‘em separate). I’m talking about reading for pleasure, reading something that you love.

Why?

Because that’s the “real” story. I use quotation marks here because it’s my own definition of real. The real story are the ones that each of us sees in our own heads. What did Harry Potter look like in your mind before you saw Daniel Radcliffe play him? What about Hermione?

Exactly. They were your own, just the way that you saw them. They were perfect.

I read the books first for different reasons. I could create a list of those reasons, but this is prose, not a grocery list, and I’d rather not allow my thoughts to be bullet points.

Text, in as many advantages as it has, comes with the requirement of effort on the part of the ‘to be entertained.’ The entertainer, on the one hand, certainly has to put in the effort to provide the entertainment, the product. It’s sort of like the soda jerk who makes the viscous, but highly-addictive milkshake for you, the customer. The idea is that you will probably enjoy the product, however, you will have to extend your arm, grasp the low-quality, but visibly catchy paper/plastic cup, raise it to your sweet little sugar pouting lips and suck like a porn star. That’s how we, the customer (after having paid for our product) acquire the value of said product. Now, compare that to reading.

We (the humans) buy the book, to get all the joy of the book into our bodies, it’s not like we can just snap a USB cord into it and slip the opposing end into our brain’s pleasure center. Doesn’t work that way. We have to run our eyes over every single word beginning after the first cover and going all the way to the back cover…and that usually takes longer than the porn suck.

If only there were a more expeditious way.

 

Enter FILM, Stage Right.

 

The motion picture – humanity’s answer to the “full” story in a small fraction of the time it takes to read a book.

Short and sweet – now (finally!) we don’t have to spend days or weeks or (yes) even months reading this bullshit and having to trudge through the ultra boring bits about the main character’s love life and how they really feel about the guy and their emotions or the work, all for the sake of ‘character development.’ Now I can finally watch Tolkien’s classics without having to read all that prolonged trash about him describing a branch on a tree in a forest full of Orcs, or Ents, or ugly things. Yes! The Movie! Finally! My prayers have been ans-

Hold up.

You may feel like your prayers were answered, but (and you’ll never believe me) you’re missing all the glory of the written word. If you watch the movies all the time and never read, you’ll be missing how much better the book is compared to the movie. Now, if you’re just plain impatient, well I can’t help you, although I do believe there are certain people within certain professions who may be of service. But, I’m imploring you not to just do it out of your love of things that blow up, or colors or beautiful people (though I’m not saying you should deny yourself of such pleasures – they’re wonderful; they are. But this is simply my own commentary on watching movies before reading the work in text).

 

Okay, where am I going with this.

 

Here’s where I’m going. The long (Tolkien version of the) story is that (for whatever reason) I chose to watch the film rendition of a story that was already in text. Mistake No. 1. I really wanted to have read the story before the movie came out (just like I did with Harry Potter), but for some reason I didn’t, and now that I’ve watched the film, I have picked up the book and am finding it exceedingly difficult to read it.

 

WHY?!

 

Because I already know what happens! That’s why. So, guess what I have to do. Well, let’s start with guess what I can’t do right now – I can’t really enjoy and savor the book the same way. It’s not like I’ll be up until the wee hours of the morning waiting to see what happens when everyone finds out that the butler’s really a herm. I already know the story. It’s almost as if it’s cheating, almost as if I’m cheating myself.

So, back to what I have to do – I have to wait until I forget the entire story and then go back to the book.

Well, lessons learned for next time, I suppose.

Look, for me a book can take at least a week (two if I have a job – which, at the moment, thankfully…), but a  movie takes a couple of hours. Why not just read the book, enjoy it, lap it up, savor it and all that, and then, when you’re ready for a nice evening out, reward yourself with the movie. You’ll find exactly how different they are – as you have heard or experienced, perhaps, yourself.

Go ahead – stop reading this right now and look up how books sales have changed in the past 50 years.

Just a thought, but makes sense to me.