Thursday, May 29, 2008

Episode 8: Musicians Wanted

Musicians Wanted for folk-medieval-metal band based in Edmonton, Alberta.

Ripper paused a moment, his fingers hovering over the keyboard, wondering if he should add what World he was referring to. How would one go about ascertaining which world they were from? Typing "Earth" obviously wouldn't do. That was only the planet he was on. As far as he understood it, the entire universe he occupied was one branch of the Tree. He shook his head. He'd have to hope the software had some means of providing the applicants with Ripper's world address.

Singer/songwriter/guitarist/bagpiper seeks other musicians to create a truly unique experience of live sound through music. Any interested parties are welcome to apply, regardless of race

He backspaced and replaced "race" with "species." Who knows what sorts of musicians were out there across the Tree?

Influences include In Extremo, Corvus Corax, Subway to Sally, Battlelore, Seven Devil Fix, Schandmaul, Leaves' Eyes, Athan Asia, Kate Bush, Richard Kean, Kemper Crabbe, Iona, and Lacuna Coil.

Would other worlds even know about any of these bands? Was there some sort of database of otherworld bands he could go to and listen, to find groups from other worlds who fit the style of Gotthammer?

He put in a contact number, the MySpace Music URL for Gotthammer, the address of Magik Beans and his name, and as an afterthought, added...homo sapien.

His finger hit enter. He closed his eyes, inhaled, and sat, waiting.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Episode 7:Maintaining a sense of Wonder

"A dragon?" Blackout said, sitting down. "Are you seriously considering hiring a dragon?"

"He interviewed really well," Lara replied. "And look at his resume; it's fantastic."

Lara pushed a heavy piece of parchment, slightly burned around the edges, with a dark, calligraphic ink outlining the dragon's achievements.

"He wrote this?" Blackout asked. "I wasn't aware dragons were literate."

"You weren't aware dragons were literate?" Lara laughed. "What, did you buy a copy of 'Dragonology'?"

"No," Blackout replied petulantly. "But don't they mostly sit around on piles of treasure waiting for dwarven gangs to invade their trove so they can go on a rampaging killing spree, burning everything in their path?"

"Hype, apparently," Lara said. "Read the damn resume already."

Blackout picked up the parchment and began reading.

Dragon, 174 years old
Good health, Non-smoker

Cheerful, gregarious fire breathing reptilian tetrapod with 20 foot wing span.
Exceptional social skills, seductively charming (magically induced).

History of Gainful Employment (highlights):
Emergency Boiler Heater, Steamship Summer Wanderer, New Amsterdam
Controlled Burn Supervisor, British Columbia
Mail Carrier, Arboria
Tour Guide and Transport, Bespin

Blackout looked up from the resume.

"Bespin?" he asked, dubious. "As in, Cloud City? As in, Lando Calrissian?"

Lara nodded. "Apparently the city isn't there any more. It's more of a tourist attraction now."

"What do you mean the city isn't there any more?"

"Well, you know, it did happen 'A long time ago,'" Lara said, grinning.

"How does that even work?" Blackout mused. "I mean, was George Lucas tapping into the reality that is the Star Wars universe, or did the universe appear after George Lucas imagined it?"

"Maybe that's the sort of thing Andrew will be learning at this conference, or whatever the hell it is."

"It's bizarre, isn't it?" Blackout said. "It's only been a year, and we're so completely at ease talking about the Tree as though it were something common."

"It is, after a fashion," Lara replied. Blackout made a face, and she waved a hand to silence him. "I don't mean it's 'common' in a demeaning way. was always there before. We just never saw it. This world is just one branch on the Tree. We just didn't know. And now we do. The wonder isn't in the thing, it's in knowing it. The discovery of it. It's like meeting Dragon. I knew there were dragons out there on the Tree somewhere, but I'd never had the chance to meet one. And when Dragon came in, the wonder I felt came as a result of verifying that belief, not because he...or she...or it, was ten feet tall with beautiful green scales, or that there was smoke trailing up out of her...I'm sorry, I have to call Dragon a 'her''ll understand when you meet her. you get what I'm driving at?"

"Sort of," Blackout said. "But I don't ever want to take all this for granted. I don't want to lose the sense of wonder I felt the day I saw the Fates heal you." He paused. "I think I worry that if I lose that sense of wonder I'll start losing you. It's like...the way I feel about you is linked to the Tree somehow."

"And how do you feel about me?" Lara asked, a coy smile playing across her lips.

"Cafe Mocha," Ripper announced, setting down the cups, and sitting down beside Blackout. "Lara, I need to know how I go about advertising something across the Tree."

"It's done through an Internet site," Lara replied, smiling at Blackout consolingly.

Ripper furrowed his brow. "That's really disappointing," he said. "I expected something like carrier gryphon or some sort of mental sending."

"They might employ carrier griffins," Lara said. "But the website is just the place where you enter the information and how limited or wide you want the ad to go."

"Does it cost anything?" Ripper asked.

"It does, but since you own the comic shop that shouldn't be a problem. The arrangement is either monetary or trade in turn. You agree to post a number of advertisements for others across the Tree, and you get yours free. The bigger the search though, the larger the reciprocation. So make sure you limit it or you'll be able to wallpaper the comic shop with the ads. Why, what are you advertising for?"

"I'm placing a musicians wanted ad," Ripper said. "What's the website?"

"www.treemail.mag." Lara said.

"Dot Mag?" Blackout asked.

"For magical websites. Most people don't know about them, and they don't show up in most searches. It's a real insider thing. But once you're in, holy shit, the sky is the limit. The magical Internet is really intense. And vast."

"Sure," Ripper said, draining the last of his coffee in a long gulp. He scribbled down the URL on a napkin and stood up. "Gotta go," he said. "I want to get started on this." He waved the paper at Lara. "Thanks for this," and to Blackout, "I'll see you later." Then he looked at both of them, looking at each other and added, "Or not."

After he'd left, Lara smiled at Blackout. "You were about to say exactly how you felt about me."

"Let's just say I highly doubt I'll be seeing Ripper later," Blackout replied with a boyish grin.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Episode 6: I'm Getting the Band Back Together

Mark "Ripper" Keane gripped the guitar harder than he ever had in his life. He knew that if he applied any more pressure from any direction, he would snap the neck. Hugging the body like it was a person, he slowly ground his teeth quietly in the darkness of his room.

Sunny was gone. That was ancient history. But he hadn't quite healed up all the wounds she'd left him with before the next hit came, when his band, Gotthammer, had fallen apart. Trouble was supposed to come in threes, and Ripper was waiting for the third.

He'd been trying to make the music thing work so hard for so long. Maybe it was time to cash it all in. He wasn't getting any younger, and Edmonton wasn't exactly the best place to be launching a music career. And then there was the style of his music.

It had seemed like a good idea at the time, a way to set the band apart from all the other local acts, to incorporate the bag pipes, an instrument he'd been playing since he was a young boy. A testament to his heritage. And as gimmicks went, it'd been a good one. It had set them apart from other bands, especially given that Ripper had paired the bagpipes with overdriven guitar rock. And everything had been going well, until Gotthammer's incredibly good-looking female vocalist had gotten an opportunity to do a solo project that was more mainstream, and more pop. The record company backing the recording had said the band needed a new image to keep up with where they'd be taking her. Ripper refused to change, and got left behind. He told them they wouldn't be taking the name or the songs with them. The record company had said they wouldn't be needing either.

"We can make a career off her tits and ass," one of the suits had told Ripper. "What the hell makes you think the music industry has anything to do with songs?"

So now her first single was playing on the radio everytime you turned the damn thing on. The Edmonton stations were pushing the "local girl makes good" angle, and giving her all the support they could muster. None of the interviews said anything about Gotthammer. It was like the band had never existed.

A sliver of light penetrated the darkness of Ripper's thoughts. He looked up to see Blackout's silhouette in the doorway.

"Wanna get a coffee?" Blackout asked. "I've closed up the shop, and I wanted to go say hi to Lara, seeing as she's tied to the store while Andrew's doing those courses."

Ripper nodded silently, and relaxed his grip on the guitar, glad once again he hadn't broken it in a fit of anger.

Blackout remained quiet while Ripper put on his jacket and they descended the stairs from their apartment next to the comic shop the two of them owned together. It was their financial "fallback" in the event neither of their music careers took off. Ripper's dream was to be a rock star. Blackout's was to be a DJ. Neither had found success yet, but at least Blackout had a girlfriend. At the moment, Ripper had nothing.

Their shop was located upstairs and over from Magik Beans, which was housed in the corner of the building they all leased in, facing the street. They entered Magik Beans, and as he had come to expect, Ripper felt a sense of peace come over him as he came into the presence of the Tree. He had written some of his best songs in the shadow of those branches, sometimes actually laying back on one of them, strumming his guitar or writing lyrics.

The shop was quiet, a typical Monday night crowd. Blackout bee-lined for Lara, who was sitting at one of the tables, poring over a stack of resumes. They kissed, and Ripper looked at the floor.

"Looks like you've had a day of it," Blackout said, looking at the stack of resumes.

"Those are the rejects," Lara replied. "I've got these--" and she patted three resumes set apart from the rest, "to make my final decision with. Besides, it might not be as difficult as I'd originally thought. I can always hire more than one."

"What are your choices?" Blackout asked.

"Well, the first is a dragon," Lara said, and suddenly Ripper was paying close attention.

"Did you say dragon?" he asked.

"Yes--I put out the help wanted ads throughout the Tree."

"You can do that?"

Lara nodded. "There are quite a few courier services which provide delivery throughout the worlds. You can limit the scope of your search as much as you like."

"And you got a dragon to apply," Ripper mused.

"He was one of the least strange," Lara said. "I had a zombie in here for heaven's sake."

"I need to get a coffee," Mark said, excitement rising in his chest. "You guys want anything?"

Blackout asked Ripper to get him a cafe mocha, and Ripper walked over to the counter, where Mikey was working. Mikey looked up at Ripper through his dreadlocks.

"I don't remember the last time I saw you smiling," Mikey said. "What's up?"

"I'm getting the band back together," Ripper said.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Episode 5: Finding Good Help These Days

It bothered Lara when The Lovers tried to distract her by attempting positions only artists of the Kama Sutra could represent, and only Olympic gymnasts could replicate. Matters worsened if the card’s position was reversed, giving the illusion that their sexual acrobatics were being engaged while hanging from the ceiling. To say nothing of the noises they made. The female thought it particularly amusing to talk dirty while Lara was delivering her reading.

Thankfully, the rest of the cards were rather behaved, even The Fool.

The cards seemed a necessity for the interview process. There were too many good liars in the world, and Lara was much too trusting. Her belief in the human spirit as something inherently good had been her own private hamartia, leading to that heartbreaking moment in the doorway of a hotel room over a year ago. It had been that belief in the goodness of people which had allowed her to believe in love again, to let Blackout into her heart, her body, her life.

And the cards helped her get beyond appearances. She'd flipped over the Four of Swords reversed while interviewing a robust young Adonis with golden hair. Hypochondriac, she thought, looking at the man on the card, sleeping on a stone slab with four swords poised in the air above him. Normally, it would mean he needed to take a break. Upside down, the card implied he'd be looking to take any break he could as often as he could. On the other hand, she'd flipped the Nine of Cups, a card which always meant abundance in regards to feasting for a female zombie who had nervously biting the nails of a severed hand. She'd obviously be good for business, although Lara couldn't imagine how. Perhaps the abundant feast was a reference to all the food walking in here on a daily basis seeking coffee.

The cards were helpful, but nothing replaced good old feminine intuition, a nicely formatted resume and good references.

Or, in the case of the dragon sitting across from her, the ability to heat liquid in the case of a power outage.

"It says here your name is Dragon," Lara said.

"Yes," Dragon replied. "Dragon names are unpronounceable without the ability to breathe fire, and trying to teach someone how to transliterate them never seems to go very well."

"All right Dragon," Lara said. "I'm curious to know why you're interested in the position."

"I just love coffee," Dragon replied. "And I understand I get it free while I'm working."

"So you're just a big coffee fan? Is it normal for dragons to apply for really rather mundane, boring jobs? I mean, you're a legendary creature...your species is famed for sitting on huge piles of treasure, kidnapping virgins, laying waste to countrysides..."

"Hype," Dragon replied. "And besides, don't you know that in some worlds you're the legendary species? Haven't you ever heard of the tale of Fni'kkzz the Human-slayer? It's very popular amongst cockroaches. It's all a matter of perspective. Like this job. You know how rare it is that a dragon gets work as a barista? You think I'm legendary now, but once the girls back home hear about me serving coffee..."

"Big deal, eh?" Lara asked.


Lara flipped a card over. The Moon. One of the most ambiguous cards in the Tarot. It either meant deception or illusion. Dragon's, or my own? she wondered.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Episode 4: On the way to class

The Spring Symposium of Ontological Overseers began conveniently on the same day as the University's spring sessions, allowing Andrew to blend in with the handful of students trundling across the otherwise empty campus. There was a smell of moisture in the air from the previous night's rainfall, lifted into the air by the warmth of a sun in a cloudless sky. Setting out for class from Magik Beans, Andrew felt a sense of freedom.

Lara had been more than happy to assume extra duties to allow Andrew the necessary flexibility to attend the symposium. "This will finally give me a reason to hire some help that you can't argue with."

Andrew had opened his mouth to protest, but he knew Lara was right. In the past year they'd handled the work between the two of them with casual shifts from Sunny and Mikey, but Sunny had finished up her year and had signed on for a stint with Doctors Without Borders, mostly, Andrew surmised, to get away from being in the same social space as Ripper. The two of them had gotten into a heated argument when Ripper had suggested they try advancing their relationship into a more committed sort of space. Less friends with benefits and more a couple. She'd refused, and things had grown uncomfortable between them, and as a consequence, everyone around them. Mikey couldn't take on more shifts, being in his last year of high school, and so Andrew had relented. It was time to hire someone.

"How are you going to explain all this?" he asked, waving his hand at the Tree.

"I might not have to," Lara replied. "People walk in here every day and we don't bother to explain it to them."

"Working here is different. You know that."

"Besides," Lara went on, ignoring him, "who says I plan on limiting possible candidates to humans?"

"Don't tell me you're planning on advertising across the Tree!" Andrew hissed.

"I have every intention of it. Just imagine what having the brewing skills of a dwarf in here would do for business." They'd gotten a license for liquor earlier in the year and while it had all been bottled, Andrew had to concede that the beer of the dwarves from most worlds served on tap would do wonders for business.

"We're a coffee shop," Andrew replied.

"We're a cafe," Lara said. "I think it's about time we expanded our mission statement to include food. Especially since the copy shop is empty...and we have money to lease."

"I don't want to renovate," Andrew said.

"Dwarves do more than just brew beer," Lara said.

"You don't even know if you'll hire a dwarf!"

"I'm just keeping my options open."

"And we don't even have a mission statement!"

"Well maybe we should."

In the end, as he had in so many things, Andrew had relented. He needed to be hands free of Magik Beans if he was going to attend to whatever homework and studying this symposium required of him.

"Don't be nervous," his binder said to him as Andrew walked briskly across the campus.

"How do you know I'm nervous?" Andrew asked.

"Your palms are sweating all over me for one thing," the binder said. "And besides, I've done this long enough to know how first timers react to their first day at the symposium."

"How long have you been doing this?" Andrew asked.

"Long enough to have had Plato's sweaty palms on me," the binder said.

"I'm guessing you weren't a binder at the time," Andrew said.

"No, I was a scroll then."

A Philipino girl with a backpack nearly as large as her entire upper body gave Andrew an odd look. Andrew paused, took out his cell phone, flipped it open, placed it to his ear and continued walking.

"Do you have a name?" Andrew asked. "I feel kind of weird talking to a binder."

"I do," the binder replied. "Saphyr."

"You're not really a binder though, if you've been a scroll before. What exactly are you?"

"I'm here to help you," Saphyr replied. "That's all you need to know for the time being. The rest you'll learn in class."

"Why can't you just teach it all to me?"

"I couldn't do that," Saphyr said. "We just met."