Songs of Shan Earth Ur : Troy Worman

I happened upon the virtual townhall by happenstance.  I launched Google.  I typed in ‘Charlton Heston and The Ten Commandments’ and the next thing I knew I was frantically keying my distaste for cross-novel character unions. That was when she cold cocked me. I looked up at her through bleary eyes. “Welcome to Shan Earth Ur,” she said.  She wore a salacious parrot pantsuit, x-factor gun metal pumps, and a San Francisco Giants cap turned sideways. “You’re just in time for the Cold Season.” She held a fistful of napkins in one hand and a box of Cracker Jacks in the other.  She dropped the box at my feet.  Then she flung the napkins at me.  “Clean up yourself,” she said.  “You look ridiculous.”

~~~

“Not feeling yourself?” she asked.  I looked at her through bleary eyes.  “I have that effect on people.”  Her eyes were the color of autumn leaves.  Her hair was auburn.  All she was wearing was a Winnie the Pooh tee shirt.  “I’m Song,” she said, handing me a translucent red capsule and a glass of orange juice.  “This will help.”

She stood and crossed the room to a bureau.  “Do you remember anything?” she asked over her shoulder.

“I remember… napkins?”  My voice strained.

She laughed.  “You did look ridiculous.”  She pulled a hanging bag from the bureau.

“The bathroom is that way.”  She handed me the hanging bag and nodded toward the adjacent hallway.  “You should hurry.  The Authorities will be here soon.”  She motioned toward the door.

“I took the liberty of lifting your prior work history from Monster.com,” she said as we walked.  “I have to say, you don’t seem to have done much writing, not professionally anyway.”  She stopped at the bathroom door.  “But you appear to be relatively active on Twitter and your weblog is up-to-date.  I guess that is something.  Nice head-shot, by the way.  How old is that photo?

“Not that old,” I said.

“Still,” she motioned to the shower.  “I’m not convinced you are the man for the job.”

“Not convinced?  What are you talking about?”

“It’s the Cold Season, a time for weeding out the flat and otherwise half-baked characters of Shan Earth Ur,” she said frankly, “and you’ve been chosen.”

My brow knit.

“Don’t worry,” she continued, “You won’t be asked to flesh them out or round them out or anything of that sort, just to write them out, and of course, you’ll be expected to produce propaganda.  Nothing too salacious, backstory and perhaps a few character sketches, you know, just enough detail on the eighty-sixed to protect us from any lawsuits.”

“Chosen?  By whom?”

“Really?  By whom?  Who says that?”  Her incredulous tone wasn’t lost on me, but she didn’t wait for me to respond.

“I don’t know who does the choosing,” she said.  “I just do the recompiles.”

~~~

I lost myself in the shower.  Engulfed by the translucent violet beads, my body let loose a long sigh and my mind drifted from Song to poem, proem to prongs, District 9 to Home Alone, then back to Song.  Her last words were still ringing in my ears.

“I just handle the recompiles.”

What the fuck?

I turned off the shower and the violet beads gathered at my feet for a moment then found their way to the drain.

The hanging bag that Song had left for me hung on the back of the bathroom door.  In it there was a puce tee shirt with the words Nothing to Lose printed in yellow bubble letters, a pair of khaki trousers, white leather creepers, a charcoal corduroy smoking jacket, and a San Francisco Giants ball cap with traces of auburn dye on the inside band.

In the toiletry sleeve, there was a box of Cracker Jacks and a bottle of Nap Time.  I shoved the Cracker Jacks into the inside breast pocket of the jacket and the pills into my trouser pockets.  Then I made my way to the flat door.  I was ready to be done with this place.

The flat door opened inward and I leaned outward expecting to find a long eggshell corridor of like doors.  Instead, I found a small concrete slab enclosed by four padded walls.  At the center of the slab was a wrought iron staircase.  The spiral structure ascended to a circular rose metal door in the ceiling.  I climbed the ironwork deliberately and with some effort slid aside the heavy disc to reveal an enormous library.

I climbed into the adjacent chamber to see what I might discover.

After hours
of searching, I finally found what I was looking for.  It was right there where it should have been, snuggled between a volume of yoga positions and a photo journal of Chelsea Clinton’s landslide defeat of Barack Obama.

Just then a panel of books on the far wall parted and a petite elderly woman in horn-rimmed glasses entered the room.  Her silver hair was pulled back in a bun on the back of her alien-shaped skull and her ashen skin was screwy with deep creases.  Still, she was quite attractive.

Sawubona,” she said.

I had been made.

~~~

The elderly woman shuffled forward, her silver hair gleaming in the reading light.  “So,” she said, “you fancy yourself a poet.”

Time will tell,” I returned.

“Indeed,” she said, shuffling onward until she was close enough to extend her hand.  “I’m Velvet,” she said.

I took hold of her hand gently.  “Johnny Winter,” I returned.

Winter,” she mused, “how apropos.  Song has recompiled a man named Winter to lead us through the Cold Season.”

“She said something about weeding out flat and half-baked characters?”

“The scenario this past Hot Season was utterly absurd.  Shan Earth Ur experienced quite a ridiculous influx of cardboard characters—a veritable gold rush of Flat Stanleys—some stiff as plywood.  We, the round and interesting,” she said with some esteem, “are all but being overrun.  This is where you come in.”

Velvet reached into her pocket and withdrew a chrome fountain pen, leaned forward and placed it in my hand.

“The job description read experience preferred.  I hope you will be able to leverage your creativity to make up for any lack thereof,” she told me.

“Now, you should be on your way,” she removed her horn-rimmed glasses and wiped the lenses with a tissue.  “There will be a roadblock at every exit to the district.  You’ll have to write yourself a different way out.”

~~~

Perhaps, I should have gone into journalism or some other writing profession. If I had, I may not have been drawn so oft to search the Interweb, to Shan Earth Ur, ultimately recompiled, and now drifting between worlds like Stephen King’s Gunslinger.

I put the chrome fountain pen that Velvet gave to me in the inside breast pocket of my smoking jacket along with the box of Cracker Jacks that Song had given to me. Then I opened the pocketbook I lifted from the library. It was a small book no larger than the palm of my hand. In it was a list. At the top of the list was the word Astronaut.

Curious, I returned the book to my pocket and stepped outside the library. The sun rays were a translucent blue. I closed my eyes and imagined they were warm on my face.

After several moments of basking in their serenity, my lids popped open. I blinked. Song stood on the curb in front of a lemon-orange limousine wearing a sheer Danger Zone halter and a Technicolor poodle skirt. I blinked again.

She opened the door to the car and motioned for me to get in it.

“That’s it?” I said. “No hello? No how have you been?” I stopped at the door of the car to drink in her scent. It was hallucinogenic.

“Do you still have the Cracker Jacks?”

“Yes.”

“Good,” she nodded at the man sitting in the back of the limousine. “Once you have written off the Astronaut, open them.” I got into the car and Song shut the door behind me.

The man in the back of the limousine looked like any other character without his space armor.

“Do you know why I am here,” I asked him, pulling the chrome quill from my jacket.

Retaliation?”

Retaliation for what?” I asked.

“Uh, I wouldn’t know,” he said. “I haven’t done anything.”

“Exactly.”

~~~

I was surprisingly hungry after eighty-sixing the Astronaut. The Cracker Jacks Song had given me hit the spot. I deposited the prize in the front pocket of my trousers and turned to the pocketbook.

The next two characters on my list were a trucker and a doughnut maker? Like the astronaut before them, they were utterly boring. Writing off each of them was a no-brainer—not at all askew of my own personal philosophy on character development.

Then I found my thoughts drifting back to them—those I had written off. I wondered if these characters were truly soulless, and if not, where their souls might have gone. Was there a heaven for flat characters or only a hell?

I wondered how I might have saved them—rewritten them—given them freedom from the fate thrust upon them—the fate I had delivered.

I imagined erecting scaffolding around their pitiful frames and rebuilding them, giving each of them an apartment, a wardrobe, and an interesting dinner companion every other Friday night.

As I wandered back to the corner of my mind where I had deposited their residue, I wondered if in this world there were premiums on character traits.

~~~

I opened the pocketbook I had lifted from the library bookshelf. The next character on the list was a Dietician. I found the uncreative young lady at her nondescript desk on the ground floor of the community hospital.

Dim as she was, she recognized me as soon as I walked through the door.

“It didn’t have to be like this,” I told her. “It isn’t as if you had to have a rattlesnake tattoo coiling out of your ass. How hard would it have been for you to take a liking to Bumblebee tea? If you had done anything, anything at all, I wouldn’t be here.”
“What will you do when the seasons change?” asked the Dietician.
Her quirky delivery reminded me of a coed I once dated at the University of Victoria. She was a music major—a harpist—destined for glory. That is, until she got caught in the tailwind of a low-flying airship, sucked up into the firmament, and then diced to beautiful little bits in a dirigible propeller.
The recollection made me physically ill. I turned on the Dietician with a retching belly and undid her with the chrome quill.

~~~

One thing leads to another, I suppose. In my case, what had started as an innocent search of the Interweb had led to character assassination? Next on my list was a very thin extrovert, a ruffian and a dishwasher.

Perhaps I was beginning to read too much between the lines, but I began to imagine these characters might have more to them than the Listmaker had imagined for them.

Back in the corner of my mind, beyond the knobby barrier of my frontal lobe, I sat next to the coffin holding the residue of my victims. I lit a lantern and peered into it. Was it any wonder that my unlimited access to power in Shan Earth Ur had brought me no tranquility?

~~~

I woke up on the floor.

“You’ve done well.” I looked up to find Song. She wore a catcall bodysuit and brushed iron-ore boots. “But then,” she continued, “I knew that you would.”

“How did you know?” I asked, my venustraphobia rising.

“You’re a daydreamer.”

You got lucky.”

“You sound bitter.”

“I’m tired.”

Song walked over to me and held out a closed fist. I opened my palm and she let loose a fist-full of painkillers.

“You can make it all end right now if that is what you really desire.”

I looked at the pills. For a moment I actually thought about eating them. Then I relaxed my fingers and let them fall to the ground. “I’ll pass,” I said.

“Very well,” said Song and with a wave of her quill the pills turned to silkworms and wriggled away. “I’m glad to know we are still on the same wavelength.”

“Are we?” I asked.

~~~

Song wasn’t amused. And I was tired. My bowel movements had become irregular—the culmination, no doubt, of my Cracker Jack and gumdrop diet. And my ass hurt—as if I crossed Texas on horseback in a thong. And I had writer’s cramp.

“So we’re NOT on the same wavelength,” she said at last.

I didn’t answer.

Little by little, I could see her patience slipping away, but there was nothing I could do. If she wanted to make me her scapegoat, there was nothing I could do about it.

I awoke to the smell of ammonia, rolled in bubble wrap and crammed into a birdcage.
I had no idea what a sick fucker she was.

~~~

I had no idea what a sick fucker she was, but I was about the find out. Our next stop was the Asylum, a popular haunt for flattish characters, a deathtrap tonight. DJ Clobber was spinning In the Name of Love when we strode onto the club.

Song wielded her chrome quill like a switchblade.

After the carnage, I sat down next to Song at the bar. She poured me a drink. “This will wash down the sorrow,” she laughed. I laughed, too.

Her gunpowder perfume was exquisite. I leaned in to kiss her. And I woke up with her boot on my throat. Before meeting Song I hadn’t had my ass handed to me by a girl since kindergarten.

“Your stupidity is disappointing,” she said.

“And by the way, that goatee isn’t working for you.”

~~~

The DJ was spinning In the Name of Love when we entered Club Clobber, a popular haunt for allegedly flattish characters.

“Do you wanna dance,” I asked, putting on my best Joey Ramone.

“Your stupidity is disappointing, Winter,” she said. “We aren’t in kindergarten. And by the way, that goatee isn’t working for you.”

Her gunpowder perfume was exquisite and she wielded her chrome quill like a switchblade.

The characters at the bar didn’t stand a chance.

Shan Earth Ur was beginning to feel more like a deathtrap than an asylum.

My heart filled with sorrow and I began to wonder if I would make it out alive.

~~~

“This is the end of the line, Johnny,” she said as she pulled me from the trunk of her vanilla sedan. I hit the ground with a sticky thwack. Song stood over me in a skinny glacier blue pantsuit and silver steel toe roach killers.
“Shane Arthur!” I spat. I was in the shallows of a cesspool of broken characters. “What the name of…?” Her boot came down hard on my head driving it into the filth.
“I guess I will be earning my paycheck this week,” she said stepping forward. I lifted my elbows to shield my face and she swung her steel toe into my ribs, rolling me over in the rancid spillage.
“I will tell Velvet that you were an imposter, a cokehead and a womanizer. And of course, she will believe me. She always does.”
I looked up at her through bleary eyes and for the first time saw her for who she really was. Everything else was just an illusion.
She pulled a micro-tablet from her breast pocket.
Her chrome quill glimmered in the translucent blue rays of the sun.

~~~

And then Song was gone.

Velvet stepped forward. “You don’t get to my age by being a fool,” she said, waving her chrome quill in the air. She lifted her chin to meet the sun’s luminescent blue rays. “Ah, warmth,” she sighed. “There really isn’t anything quite like the sun on your face. I must find my way out of that musky old library more often.”

Then she turned back to me.

“You know, you and I aren’t exactly simpatico, Johnny. You were brought here to do a job and you aren’t exactly setting this world on fire.” She cocked a brow. “I expected better from you, or more anyway. Do I need to write you up a doppelganger?”

“Ah…” I stammered.

“Nevermind, Johnny. You probably wouldn’t make anymore use of it than your shadow. Look, you aren’t here to play Cupid.”

“I’m not sure I know what that means,” I confessed.

“You aren’t here to write happy endings, Johnny. You are here to write out the flat bastards that trespass on the pages of the SEU!” She shuffled forward and lowered her horn-rimmed glasses. “Do you know what the butterfly effect is, Johnny?”

“Ah, yes…”

“Be that butterfly.”

And then Velvet was gone. The vanilla sedan was gone. The rancid cesspool was gone.

I had forgotten how fragrant a blank page could smell.

~~~

Before, when I looked upon a blank page it was like looking into the eyes of a stranger. Now, I saw a universe of infinite possibilities.

I drew my chrome quill and pocketbook from the inside breast pocket of my smoking jacket. Rolling the quill between my index finger and thumb, I watched as it shimmered in the translucent blue rays of the sun.

Then I opened the pocketbook and began making a list of contraband words to use moving forward.

There might be no sidestepping the quest set upon me by Velvet and the Authorities, but fall on me what may, I would be damned before I accepted my role without coloring it with a little of my own personal style.

And to prove it to myself, I wrote up a nude doppelganger of Song, complete with pigtails and a tattoo of Death on her entire back. Then I watched her ride a dolphin through a meadow of gumbo.

~~~

There was nothing I would rather do than watch Song’s nude doppelganger dance all night with the dolphin. They were putting on quite a show—better than porn. And the aroma! I fingered my joystick and contemplated slipping into my pajamas and ordering a pizza. But then I thought better of it. She was exquisite, but there was time enough for that later. Or so I hoped. Now, there was no time to dilly dally. My recent conversation with Velvet had changed my outlook on Shane Arthur, the SEU and Shan Earth Ur. It was time for me to make a statement. It was time to go berserk!

“Let the carnage begin!” I screamed into an imaginary microphone.

~~~

What potential he had! He could have been a nasty old man who liked to photograph children, a double-amputee confined to a wheelchair or a man driven insane by ongoing complications caused by a defective prophylactic. He could have been quite simply hysterical. In my mind, a hurricane of possibilities raged, a whirlwind of dashing anti-heroes and gallant antagonists, upstanding citizens with deviant secrets and scary monsters with soft underbellies.

But this character’s story was completely void of human emotion. No drama. No humor. No conflict. He was little more than a stain on the back-story of Shan Earth Ur.
I poured myself a glass of red wine and wrote the pathetic thing into the morgue—no doubt, it was the climax of his futile existence.

~~~

Velvet directed me to the Riptide—a seedy bar on the waterfront—for my next assignment.
“Viva la Revolution!” The vagrant at the end of the bar drooled. Then he slid off his bar stool and collapsed in a heap on the floor.
It’s hard to watch a man drink his life away,” said the character behind the bar. “He’s lush, but he doesn’t deserve to die.”
“Did you ever consider not serving him that rot gut.” I pointed to the bottle sitting on the bar.
“Mister,” he leaned forward. “Serving white lightning isn’t a felony. I’m just doing my job! Do you hear me? I’m just doing my job, nothing evil.”
That was true enough. Still, I wrote off the old bastard. Then I swept his residue away.

~~~

When I happened upon the sniper, she was a broken woman strung out on cocaine.
If I could turn back time,” she told me, “I might not again answer the call of Shan Earth Ur.”
Looking back, I may have made the other choice as well.  Surely, if I had resigned my thoughts to the confines of my day job, the senseless slaughter of dozens of innocent characters would have been forestalled and my mind would be absent the lunacy let loose there by the Tyrant.
But turning back time was not a luxury afforded me.  I was destined evermore to wander this space, a foreigner in this strange land, killing for the sake of writing.

So I knelt next to the sniper.  There were feint trances of beauty on her face, but Shan Earth Ur had all be sucked the ink from her veins.

I finished her quickly and swept her residue into the corner of my mind with the others.

~~~

I couldn’t get the Sniper or her words out of my head. “If I could turn back time,” she said. “I might not again answer the call of Shan Earth Ur.” Now, in my mind, she was neither a Sniper nor an addict—but almost human—far from the cardboard characters I had been commissioned to write off.

“She had to go,” said Velvet. She shuffled forward, intently hammering her chrome quill on the palm of her hand. “She was a fanatic! She was trying to destroy the very fabric of Shan Earth Ur.”

“I’m not sure I believe you,” I said.

“That’s a shame, Cupcake” she said. “You actually had me considering childbearing, again.” Velvet smelled of butternut shampoo and mothballs—somewhat less interesting than before.

I tried to imagine what must lie beneath her honeybee housecoat. My thoughts perverted all over the place.

“It’s a pity. Our child would have been invincible,” she said. “But I can see you are ready for this to be over. And it will be soon.” She dipped her chrome quill.

“I promise.”

And it was—THE END.

“““““““““““`

The images rained down on me like hummer-sized rocks of hail mottled with characters yet unwritten, a toe-tag attached to each, inscribed with an epitaph.  Nothing profoundStuff. Log words. Mundane lexiconica. Sterile. Empty. Parching. Each rock harder to swallow than the last. Until finally, mercifully, I choked out.

“Welcome back,” the woman’s voice was vaguely familar–as if long since dreamt.

I looked up at her through bleary eyes. She was wearing nothing but a black tee shirt with the words ”blow me” printed across the chest.

“Song?”

“I’ll give you a chance to catch your breath,” she said as she stepped into her pantsuit and left the room.

A moment later she returned and handed me a translucent blue capsule and a glass of kool-aid.  “This shit is beyond test-grade,” she said, “certain to kill your block.

I knew the drill. I popped the pill and drank the kool-aid.

~~~

I don’t know how long I was out, but when I came to, Song clued me in.  “The revolution we launch today will end Shane Arthur’s misuse and abuse of character once and for all!”  She smiled a wry smile and leaned in near.  There was a far away look in her eyes.  She thrust a brass quill into my hand.  “The tyrant must die,” she hissed.

~~~

I don’t know how long I was out, but when I came to, Song clued me in.  “The revolution we launch today will end Shane Arthur’s misuse and abuse of character once and for all!”  She smiled a wry smile and leaned in near.  There was a far away look in her eyes.  She thrust a brass quill into my hand.  “The tyrant must die,” she hissed.

“`

The energy from the quill coursed through my fingertips and into my veins.  I turned on Song.  “How stupid do you think I am?” Her voice turned doughy.  “Johnny…” But it was too late. I wrote her into the void.

Translucent violet beads rained down on Shan Earth Ur in sheets, beating down on the speckled jollies that hopped in and out of my conscious.  They were jovial little creatures, a welcome distraction.


7 Comments on “Songs of Shan Earth Ur : Troy Worman”

  1. […] Songs of Shan Earth Ur at CCC — a series of ill-be-gotten characters are unceremoniously written off. […]

  2. It wasn’t until Johnny Winter had created the nude doppelganger and had literally changed his outlook that I saw Shan Earth Ur for what it is.
    Troy, you are a wordsmith of the 5th Dan.
     
    I really enjoyed this series.
     
    Cheers,
     
    Mitch
     

  3. […] Shan Earth Ur « April Fools […]

  4. […] :: Find the complete rough cut version of the Songs of Shan Earth Ur at CCC […]

  5. […] :: Find the complete rough cut version of the Songs of Shan Earth Ur at CCC […]


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