Eternity Falls


This Week’s Prompt:6. In Ld Dunsany’s “Idle Days on the Yann.” The inhabitants of the antient Astahan, on the Yann, do all things according to antient ceremony. Nothing new is found. “Here we have fetter’d and manacled Time, who wou’d otherwise slay the Gods.”

The Research:The Lord Dunsany, Time, and Hegel

Who can say how many High Priests Oldowan there have been? How many men, with lanky arms outstretched bearing torches overhead, in tattered vestments have stood at dawn and recited ancient prayers to gods forgotten? To Molech, To Baal, to the Gods of Harappa, to the little gods of long dead villages, to the gods of Greece, to the bestial and regal gods of Egypt, to the bloody gods of the Aztecs, to their northern neighbors, to the Inca’s many fold divinities, to China’s bureaucracy, and so on. No god here is forgotten, no god goes unmentioned in prayer. Who can say how long that roll of ceaseless divinity is?
The High Priest will stand at this point, reciting prayer and receiving offerings for the gods, his only sustenance, until the end of days. He, in many bodies, has done this act for centuries. The first Oldowan stood waiting the gods arrival, enumerating them as they emerged from the foggy vestments of Time. Around him was the city unchanging, the city unbroken. No god could speak for its invention. Houses and altars to those not yet born were already built. A mosque stood before there had been a Mohammed, a Cathedral before a Christ. Temples with many columns, with towering tops, mighty and splendid ziggurats stood. Such was the city that bound time.
For Time was what drove the gods hence from their mighty aether. Time, ravager and many clawed beast, gaping and vast gyre, wound its way across the sea of Chaos. Time hounded the gods, in their multitudes, from hold to hold. Until in Astahan they trapped it. For the High Priest would not bow to time. Nor would the acolytes or adepts, the lesser priests or the stone workers. Here no change would pass. Here eternity would reign.
And every rite was preformed then, along the river Yann. Ever moment remembered, and repeated ad infitium. Who can say how long after, for in Eternity a moment is a millennial? But in time, a ship came down the river Yann. And strange men came, from distant deserts and red clay cities. They came and landed.
And one, one spoke with an acolyte by the harbor.

“Hello,” the stranger said, in a long coat, a face pale and thin.
“Good morrow,” the acolyte said, returning to his labor.
“Tell me what city is this?”
“This is Astahan,” the acolyte responded, not ceasing in his work.
“And what are the gods of Astahan?”
“Why, all the gods are. Here we worship all the gods, that Time would otherwise ravage.”
The stranger paused here, staring out at the calm and blissful river Yann. With a clicking sound he turned to the acoylte again, who was still sweeping the port.
“What of Time himself? Is he paid tribute here?”
And the acolyte paused. His broom hoveredv over the pile of dust, the same pile that had stood there since the dawn of creation. He paused and wondered at the question.
“Time himself? Why, no. Of course not,” he said, and the traveler was appeased at the novel words.

The question still stung in the acolytes brain, however, and like a tumor grew. Did time consume itself? Was time too preserved, destroyer consuming forever? Or was it dead? But if dead, why needed it more chains? And he asked another acolyte. And that one asked another, which delayed his construction and deconstruction of the vessels.
And so the nightly procession saw and paused to admire the well constructed vessels, and so was delayed in observance of the rites of the god Timur. And the delayed observance of one led to chastisement and delay for another. Until at long last, the seconds added up to minutes to hours of delay and failing ritual. And Oldowan rose late that day.
And there was a great groaning noise in creation. The city seemed to sink a little. For as Oldowan rose to speak the many names, he saw a great shape. A many toothed shape, with outstretched arms from a vast precipitous maw.
And how the Gods of Olympus wept. Hera’s gowns is stained with tears as her sire returns. Ares stares with pale skin, his spear clattering as his children Phobos and Deimos seize him. Athena hides behind the aegis and whimpers at dread Time’s approach. Hades, long neglected Hades, awaits time, sitting on his throne with his wife. He is no stranger to the dread passage,and fears not what is to come. Apollo sings a dirge as a great claw grasps his arms. Posideon rages, rages against the coming night, but before all of Astrabdh the great hound Time devours him whole. Zeus, mighty thundering Jove, hurls a multitude of his dreaded bolts, that power which would bow the cosmos. And they barely scorch its mighty form.
Odin and his kin have seen this day, but not this day. They behold not dread Surtr, not the host of Jotunhiem, and not the great trickster, who stands by their side. No, though Time like a wolf does crawl, like Jomundur is vast, it is inconstant and fickle in shape. In one moment as it seizes dutiful Hemidall, it is like a giant, in the next it is an avalanche to bury the All Father. Flames rises to eat their father, holes fall like great mouths to consume the young god Baldr.
The host of Egypt do not weep but try not to flee. Time is a vanguard and this day they knew would come. And so they train helplessly into the inescapable. One by one they are devoured, by earth, plant, tree, and flower. Great reckoner crushes their barges and scatters their bodies among its whirlwind of a form. Osiris feels death again claim him, erase him from the great books. Isis watches as son and husband and father are rent asunder by the unending broil. And when it comes she casts herself onto the fire.
And so on for all the many hosts. The oracles go silent. The nymphs lay weeping before they too are seized and rent. Astahan, its people now bear witness to a terror. Horror of devastation, long for told. And all of man with them that day, saw as Time laid waste to its multitude of enemies. Great fickle power, entropy made manifest, and agent of eldest King Chaos from which all things come, Time now surveys the ruined lands. Who can stand before it? Eternity is now once again silenced. And time, Time waits to devour all it can.
Some hope, some how, that a new wheel might be wrought. Perhaps this victory is for but a moment, and a new refuge from the unthinking ravager can be found. Perhaps, perhaps this is but a piece of the great wheel. But those who saw Time, bedecked in the hides of the dead and forgotten, devouring memory and name and glory, think not such things. The great predator is free now.

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The Lord Dunsany, Time, and Hegel

Lord Dunsany

This Week’s Prompt:6. In Ld Dunsany’s “Idle Days on the Yann.” The inhabitants of the antient Astahan, on the Yann, do all things according to antient ceremony. Nothing new is found. “Here we have fetter’d and manacled Time, who wou’d otherwise slay the Gods.”

The Resulting Story: Eternity Falls

Lord Dunsany is someone people should be more familiar with. Edward Pluckett was, and is, one of the most influential writers in the fantastic, gifting the world with The King of Elfand’s Daugher, and The Gods of Pegana . Lord Dunsany has touched minds as scattered as Mr. Lovecraft, who has provided todays prompt, as well as the illustrious J.R.R. Tolkien, Neil Gaiman, Guillermo Del Toro, Robert E. Howard, Arthur C. Clark, Borges, and many more. He has much to recommend, building a world as spanning as Middle Earth and the Dreamlands, with influences the world over. If you wish to write fantasy, he is key to read.

His story in this case, the Idles of Yann, touch on another author however. One…less fantastic by a measure but more dull to be sure. This will be brief, fear not. I won’t subject you to the tyranny of historical philosophy for long. Hegel argued that history, and thus time, only occurs when people act as individuals and great men arise. It is by this method that Yann has ‘slain’ time. For if everything is done the same way, at the same moment, does a day really end? It becomes cyclical, the day never passing. We can of course in modern ages observe the decay around us. And people will pass.

But if they are replaced by those who act in the same ritual matter, and assumes their ritual identiy, are they dead? How can they be? Sure, we may bluster about the soul, but if from womb to grave all actions are planned and purposed, if every person and every role is the same without err and change stomped out of the cycle, then time surely must die. Because what can we call time, if not the measure of changes?

Astahahn’s role in the Idles of Yann is a sort of divine life support. By dreaming and ritually remembering every god that has been, Yann keeps them safe from “Time, who would otherwise slay the gods.” And if the Gods die, dreams shall die too. What are we to do with this though? Time and change are fundamental to the plot of a story. At the core of narrative is ‘Things happen.” Astahahn is a mere stop on a travel log down the river Yann, with meditations on Gods and imagination and the like. How do we build a story out of manacled time?

Well, two routes seem most apparent to myself. The first is the manacling of time, the inception of the eternity of this city (one wonders if the beginning is repeated without end). This would be a strange piece, since the ending would be the removal of endings, the middle repeating forever and ever. The alternative, however, is more nefarious. The end of the chains, the cycle breaking in the city that has bound time.

I find the second choice more appealing. A story about how this bubble of eternity is overpowered, how Time and Entropy and the Powers Invisible storm through its walls like the Greeks at Troy. It is akin to how utopia can only exist at its beginning or end (though I will note that there is no reason to assign to Astahahn some sort of perfected existence; it seems to be a bleak place of slumber at best). And what may come, when chance triumphs fate and the might of eternity must give to deaths swing, who is to say? In Western lore, the one to try such before was bound by heavy chains.

What schemes do you have in mind against such a power? Will rebellion come from within or invasion from without?

Mr. Keen’s Road

Mr. Keen's road

This Week’s Prompt:5. Narrator walks along unfamiliar country road,—comes to strange region of the unreal.

The Research:The Wild Wood
I know that the road goes from Matthew’s farm to Martin’s store. I know this like I know the shape of a house, or that the ring on my hand has a matching one on my wife’s hand. I know this, and this I know. But last Thursday, it wasn’t. It was the same road, the same mile of stone and dirt through woodlands, at first.

In fact, it seemed rather dull and familiar. Not a noise along the entire way as I stumbled along. It wasn’t well lit, but I knew the path well. A river runs beside it, so its hard to get lost. In time, I saw another ligh in the distance. A flickering signal of another traveller coming the other way. I grew tense, and should have trusted my heavy heart beat then and there. But I was cordial as the man drew near.

“Howdy, fine night isn’t it?” I said as he drew near. His face was long and his eyes seemed pushed back into his head. He smiled, a mouth full of yellow stone teeth. He had on a small hat, an old cap like you see Civil War men wear. A coat of dulled red slumped over his body, with faded gold touches.

“An excellent nocturne indeed. Do you mind if I share it with you?”

“Share it?”

“I believe I have been misled. Is this the way to Matthew’s barn?”

“Your going the wrong way, friend. I can show you there,” I said, gesturing with my head behind him.

“Misled indeed. Yes, that would gracious of you,” he said,turning the other way.

We walked a good way in silence, his boots dropping beside mine to keep pace. I tried, as best I could, to discern his age. His hair, if he had any was tucked underneath his cap. His face looked worn by the sun, but there were lines that could be wrinkles, but could be from lack of sleep. Nothing that betrayed his age, his steps an even disciplined pace.

“What brings you out this late?” I said, smiling as best I could.

“I have a private time to keep this hollowed night,” he said, smiling back.

“Down with the Matthews?”

“No, no, beyond the fields of the Matthews family,” he said, smiling still, “Your own person?”

“I have poker with Jim Matthew and some of the farmhands every Thursday,” I said with a shrug.
“Ah, something similair with myself. I always get lost on the roadways, though,” he said turning his head about.

“Really? How do you manage that if its every Thursday?”

“Roads, the world over, are all the same in form as they are in substance. Even Plato could reason that. I mistake roads for their erstwhile kindred, typically in different places,” he said, in the sort of matter of fact tone that you use when explaining things to a kid at a college.

“Poor sense of direction, I gotcha. Never noticed much passed Matthew’s barn except the field,”

I said, shrugging off the response.

“Its off past the horizon, my good man. Far past the agricultural institute that Mr. Matthew runs.”

We came to a big tree, hobbled over in the road. It was an old Southern oak, branches gripping the ground like an octopus trying to stay at the bottom of the ocean floor. A second road struck out to the side, one I did not recall being there.

“I’m afraid I did not receive your nominative, good anthropos,” the man said turning to me.

“Anna what?”

“Never wonder, apologies. Your name?”

“Jacob, yours?”

“They call me Mr. Keen, Jacob,” he said, now turning to the tree.

“Did someone make you aware yet, good Jacob, that this tree is an unfortunate plant. Ten score ago, maybe fewer, men in carnal and wanton malignancy hung grown children from its arms like puppets. It was so robed in tenebrous corpses that from afar a cemetery it seemed to be,” he said, tracing the thin lines and creases on the tree.

“No, I didn’t know any of that. You said you were going past the Matthew’s farm?”

“Affirmative, Mr. Jacob. Would you care to attend?” he said, gesturing at the second road.

“I don’t know, crossroads are bad places to make decisions.”

“I have always found crossroads the most serendipitous and serene of places. Come, you will enjoy our company,” he said, taking me by the arm. And I ought to have known better, but my mind was addled and I felt dizzy, my ankles bending in on themselves. I struggled to walk with my new friend down the road.

The trees, the trees became first columns. Tall, perfect columns of bone white stone, a great rib cage jutting out of the now dark black grass. The road ran along hills and vales I had never seen, and in the distance I saw it, the Matthew’s house. Far far away. Briefly, I thought Mr. Keen’s legs grew rather than walked. Grew and shrank to simulate stepping feet as we seemed to fly. Eventually, though, he began slow.

“Where are we?” I asked, as I survyed the surroundings. The bushes were great polyps and mass of meat, bleeding from the sides.

“We are past the fields you know, to the fields of mine. I, after all,have an appointment to keep,” he said. And he walked again, as if nothing had changed.

But the grass was black and sharp, and things loped from tree to tree. Smoke seemed to rise form the earth, despite there not being a pothole insight. I turned my eyes to the heavens, and only the moon looked down. A dark blue moon shined down, its lights dancing among stars of yellow and green. None were arranged in constellations I had seen, not a dipper nor a bear nor a dragon to be found.

“Mr. Keen, what buisness do you have out here? This is far from the Matthew’s farm,” I asked, not taking another step. My traveling companion halted but yard past.

“I have compacts with a man of fraternal relation. And as I disclosed, I am easily confused by roads. Do not worry, the lands known to men are not far yet. We are simply at the woods that Sothan keeps. They are habitable to men such as you, I swear by long dead Jove,” he said, twirling about to face me. His head was tilted down, his hat hiding his eyes.

“Pardon me, Mr. Keen, but this place seems far from hostpitable,” I said, backing down the road again slowly.

“Dear Jacob, sweet Jacob, amorous, gracious, kind, humble, and luminous Jacob. You are free to find the road again,” he said, gesturing out a hand, now with a thin white glove.

I looked behind, and in the distant hills I saw something like a house, perhaps it was Matthew’s farm. But from here, it could be nothing more than a pile of stones.

“If I follow, will you return me home?”

“I will lead you to your place, I swear by the deepest of places,” Mr. Keen said, rotating to point down the road. Slowly, I followed. The road seemed to seep beneath my plodding feet. Like mud, but with stiffer.

As we went, the ground began to bleed and seep black tar. In time, I saw a great pale tree, branchless, rising from the surface. A huge spire that we approached, growing larger and larger as we drew near. It seemed to pierce the sun.

And it moved. The great needle like tooth moved, roots ripping themselves free of the ground, cracking and splinter stone. A hundred small grasping hands wrenched free now clambered out toward Mr. Keen and me.

“Ah, so the appointing rendevous makes himself known. Mr. Jacob, stay but a while, and you may learn a bit,” he said, turning toward the structure.

I ran. I ran and ran and ran and ran. I ran until my legs were a blurr beneath me. I ran until the trees melted into a long corridor of pale wax walls around me, until the ground felt solid and the sky was blue. I ran back to the fields I knew.

I stopped when I was home again, in bed praying to a God who was too far away to care. I stayed up all night, looking for his face in the window. Mr. Keen, I thought, surely would find the path to my home. After a week, I left my refuge. After a month, I took the road again.

But now, along the second path is still clear, waiting like an extended tounge. And sometimes, in the distance I see Mr. Keen’s shape walking along. And a taller shape, a great bent beast shuffling behind him.

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The Wild Wood

Dark Woods by Narcostock
Dark Woods by Narcostock

This Weeks Prompt is :5. Narrator walks along unfamiliar country road,—comes to strange region of the unreal.

The Resulting Story: Mr. Keen’s Road

The prompt speaks to a mythological motif, the odd country. Its one we have lost in this modern mapped world. In the ancient times, there was the Otherworld of the Celts, a fairyland that one could stumble into at any time. Fairyland was, however, a place of many less than fortunate things. As Emerich Rich and Mr. Pratchett can tell you, fairies are not as you now know them.

The enchanted woods in medieval times, where the Graal and other monsters and mystic castles lie, was an echo of this old motif. The woods holds potency and power, and surround (if not engulfs) orderly lands. Dwarfs, dragons, giants, and demons walk side by side with the fey in the woods. The Green Knight, a towering figure in the story of Gawain, looms with his headsman’s axe to play his foul game. The marshes of Cambridge are likewise inhabited, with strange lantern men and demon dogs that wait for their prey. The wild, chaotic, and mad realms were always just down the road or across the sea.

Our story then, will be tapping into an old strain. Another strain we may discover is that narrative of describing a faraway place. This runs the risk of the Utopia, of being conflict free and plot-less. Still, we have other options. Strange dealings can occur, as well as bizarre wagers. Dealings that go awry, with powers beneath the earth. Or we have the classic danger of being trapped in this wondrous place, or worse, leaving and being locked out.

Being locked out of fairyland often results in discovering that time has flown past. Decades or centuries might slip by, with the protagonist none the wiser. And when the unfortunate man (and in the old stories, sadly, it is always a man) sets foot on mortal soil, he ages at once. And, typically, expires.

How to do this in the modern age, with GPS and MapQuest and cellphones and other life lines to civilization, will be difficult. We could of course set it in any earlier era, even just four decades ago. But that, frankly, seems to ruin the fun. A source, for possible horror in the modern information filled age, might be the phenomenon of creepypasta. Set in today’s era (typically) in rather urban environments at times, creepypasta’s might be handy for how to turn the web of knowledge into a knot in the throat of the reader.

Mr. Lovecraft, for his part, did not paint alien vistas that were pleasant, as is readily apparent by Ry’leh and Yuggoth. His own version of this tale The Shadow Out of Time does similar, sending Mr. Randolph Carter to a number of strange and foreign lands and time. Yet…yet perhaps we might. Our wayward traveler might seek stranger countries than they suspect.
Continue reading “The Wild Wood”