Masked – The Fingerprints (16)

The story begins with Masked – The Fortress (1).  To access installments in narrative sequence, click on an entry title, then click on “Next” at the end of that installment.


In his scrying, Bloodwater loved to linger on this moment: the wink, Amica’s eyes widening, Amica’s mouth opening slightly in surprise. Bloodwater would leave five fingerprints on the history of Earth – at least, that he had found so far. He liked to think of this one as the mark of his right hand pinky finger. What followed in the life of John Kosearas interested him hardly at all. Nothing mattered to Bloodwater except leaving his marks.

He felt more stirred to action than he had in the span of a few million breaths. Perhaps he should converse with Sarabamoun about the experience with John. Bloodwater knew Sarabamoun took an interventionist stance toward Earth, flitting about the edges of the planet’s history like a wild animal both attracted to and fearful of firelight. Sarabamoun would even expend the spirit energy required to physically manifest on Earth! Bloodwater could not count the number of times that he had seen Sarabamoun’s severe Egyptian countenance peering back at him as the tahtib dancer participated in an event in human society. Sarabamoun liked to challenge humans. What would he think of the challenge Bloodwater had set before John?

Bloodwater focused the energy necessary to send a thought out into Aum when not in the “presence” of its intended recipient. Communicating across “distance” in Aum had a tricky aspect: one could never know how far the recipient had advanced in his or her personal experience, as “time” did not flow at a universal pace in the spirit realm. He had come to understand that when two minds encountered each other in what each interpreted as the space of Aum, the minds did some kind of delicate dance that allowed for a parallel flow. The minds did not negotiate this flow consciously; they did it by instinct, like so many actions taken in Aum. However, when a mind operated in isolation, the experience required only subjective logic. He wondered, not for the first time, what it would be like to exist natively to Aum, like the Ianu, unconstrained by linear chronology. His experience with those orbs when he first explored in Aum before settling in his cavern had left him completely mystified.

He pulsed out a thought: “Sarabamoun. Where can I meet you?”

Sarabamoun took a few breaths to reply. “Not now. A human has danced me to exhaustion. I must regroup. I will name a place to meet when I feel prepared to travel.”

“Received,” Bloodwater sighed. For now, he would continue to savor the satisfaction of his influence in John’s life, Amica’s life, Sean’s life, and therefore the lives of all in their future as the complex interconnections played out across the beautiful colored glass of history. He could see his fingerprints on that glass perfectly. No one else from the lowly village of his childhood had such a privileged vantage point, and yet he often felt dissatisfied. Soon, he would go to the vortex, ready to learn it all again, ready to be surprised; soon, he would re-enter the universe. But not quite yet. He had only played out three of his five marks that he had found so far on Earth’s history. He still needed to speak to the dolphin and to rescue the scout. If he found no more fingerprints before completing those two, he would go to the vortex after doing those deeds, and he would go with a smile on his lips.

He stood. Feeling the age he had given himself, he slowly walked to the mouth of his diamond cavern, and surveyed the landscape. As always, no sun or stars hung in the purple sky. He watched a luminous speck float over the canopy of the forest that carpeted the land below, and he knew that speck to be a wyvern that had crossed the barrier of the mountains. He frowned. Most of the exiled beasts had agreed to keep to the other side of the mountains, but stubborn wyverns sometimes broke the truce. What did this one want? No matter. He lashed out with his magic and exterminated the speck, then returned to his cushioned ledge, and summoned the image of John Kosearas’ wink to Amica Ferri one more time. Bloodwater had done well; he had marked the world.


Thank you for reading!  This concludes Masked.   In my next installment, I begin a new story, Topaz Bond.

The Aum stories include Globe Without Goodbye.

If you have enjoyed Masked, please support my writing on Patreon.

Masked – The Offer, continued (4)

This story begins with Masked – The Fortress (1).  To access installments in narrative sequence, click on an entry title, then click on “Next” at the end of that installment.


John found himself standing in a cavern three times bigger than the apartment he shared with his roommates. The stalactites that had somehow formed around sources of pale blue light glittered, and dazzled his eyes. If John had been more fantastically inclined, he might have believed the cavern had been formed out of diamond. But diamonds didn’t work that way… right?

An elderly man dressed like a medieval monk reclined on pale cushions arranged on a ledge before John’s disbelieving eyes. The man’s face held condescension, and his hand held a large beetle that glittered like the stalactites. When he spoke, his lips did not move. John placed the accent reverberating in his mind as German. “When you get over the initial shock, you will have many questions. Allow me to assure you that there is no rush. Time will not pass for your body on Earth while your mind is here in Aum. Ask whatever you need to ask.”

John felt something scuttle against his foot. Looking down, more insects made from the same material as the cavern crisscrossed the floor. One centipede looked eight inches long. John did not especially fear insects, but their motion here distracted him. “How are you speaking in my mind?”

“The magic of Aum takes many shapes. One of them is telepathy. The longer you would stay here, the easier you would find it to speak mind-to-mind, without language impeding you.”

“You said… your name is Bloodwater?”

“Indeed.” Bloodwater smiled with yellow teeth.

“Are you evil? Nobody normal has a creepy name like that.”

Bloodwater cocked his head, taking the question seriously. “I chose that name because many, many breaths ago, I tried to cut my hand on something sharp here in Aum. I just felt curious about what might happen. I felt pressure, but no pain, and when I split my skin, what came out was clear and thin like water, not red or viscous. The sight took my breath away.”

John examined what he could see of Bloodwater’s hands for a significant scar, and saw only the marks of age.

Bloodwater finished the story. “When I wanted the wound to close, it closed, and the clear liquid that had came out simply disappeared. Like much of the magic of Aum, all it required was an act of will.”

“What is happening? One minute I was sitting in the kitchen, and now… What is going on?”

“I am making you an offer.”


Thank you for reading!  Coming up next week:  John continues to learn about Aum and the scryer.

Previous Aum stories include Globe Without Goodbye.

If you are enjoying Masked, please support my writing on Patreon.

Globe Without Goodbye – The Shore, Revisited (11)

This story begins with Globe Without Goodbye – The Shore (1).  To access installments in narrative sequence, click on an entry title, then click on “Next” at the end of that installment.


Nadja told Jeffrey to go back the way he had come, and he followed her direction. A few steps away from the cave, Nadja began beaming thoughts to Jeffrey, unbidden. “I was not the first Earth exile to live and die in this place. The vortex likes to hover in an abandoned village, making it the center of this world. I tried to make my home in that village when I first arrived. It’s the only mark of civilization I’ve seen here and I’ve traveled through the forest, to the foot of the diamond mountains.”


“I thought that would get your attention. The mountains are beautiful and very, very big. Much too big for you to bring back with you.”

“Diamond is a brittle stone. I could chip off some pieces?”

“I’m probably exaggerating because of their beauty. The mountains are probably not made of diamond. Maybe you’d travel all that way to learn they were only common glass.”

“Maybe. Maybe not.” He kept his eyes on his tracks as he retraced his earlier steps. “Maybe you’re trying to fake me out because you don’t want me to bring back a diamond that barely fits inside a wheelbarrow. I’ll figure out what I’m going to do after I talk to the vortex.” He paused to look around. “Will the world turn gray again?”

Nadja laughed raucously in his head. He wanted the nasty sound to stop immediately. It seemed like a disgusting forever before her thought-beams shifted back into words. “You saw gray before you came to my cave?”

“Yeah, everything was monochrome.” He started walking again.

“The color came with me, frog-man. You must have a very rigid mind. Did you like the gray?”

“What? No, of course not. It looked ugly.”

“You should thank me for the color I have brought to you. Go on, thank me.”

“Thanks. Sure. Whatever. How do I get to the village?”

“It will be visible from this shore once you travel in this direction far enough. The exiles that built it settled at the mouth of a river. If I remember right, it will be the very first river we come to. You won’t have to ford in between. A shame, because fording rivers here is the fun part.”

“Fun? Sounds inconvenient to me. I think I’ll pass on the fording. I’m amazed at how convenient this village sounds, to be honest with you.”

Nadja’s thought-beam sounded mournful. “I really wanted to live in the village. I liked it best there. The huts, the wild gardens. But the vortex wouldn’t leave, and we just don’t get along. So I made my cave as close to the village as I could stand to be close to the vortex.”

“Makes sense, I guess. So what’s between here and there?”

“Not much. Sand. Water. Me. You were right; to someone of your temperament, this is a very lonely place. I, however, just feel safe. There aren’t any animals here you don’t conjure up yourself from memory. At your level of sophistication, you wouldn’t be able to conjure anything that would last more than a few minutes. But you won’t get hungry here, so it’s not like you’ll need to hunt. If you miss eating, go inland, past the dunes, into the forest, and eat a plant. But you won’t need to, and while nothing here will poison you, nothing will taste good either. The plants from the village gardens were the only things I’ve found here that I actually wanted to eat.”

He wondered if Nadja had told him the truth. “So you’re seriously saying that all that’s between me and this vortex is a pile of sand?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

“How many miles will I have to walk before I reach the village?”

“Stupid frog-man Jeffrey. Still thinking in miles. You’ll get there when you get there. Now let me sleep. All this bird speak-chattering has drained me. I don’t want to talk to you any more.”

He tried beaming some more thoughts into his shirt-sack but Nadja either couldn’t or wouldn’t think back to him any more. He guessed that she hadn’t been lying to him, and that nothing waited for him behind a dune. He didn’t particularly enjoy “talking” with Nadja anyway, although it did give him an excuse to theorize about his newfound telepathy. He wondered, as he walked, how it worked. What other powers would he discover here? Maybe he would stay, like she had. Maybe he too would see diamond mountains. Maybe he would travel even further than Nadja had. He could probably figure it all out after he talked with the vortex. Everything would fall into place then, he was sure.

Thank you for reading!  Coming up next week: Jeffrey meets the vortex (much to his chagrin).

If you are enjoying Globe Without Goodbye, please support my writing on Patreon.