The palm reader couldn’t find his friends. He knew he was their friend because he had read that information right off his own third hand, of the four that he had. How he got four was a mystery. One day the second pair was just there, one scratching his back while the rest stretched into the air with a morning yawn.
There was no one to mentor him in the skill of palm reading; it was just something he learned by immersion, like someone dumped into a foreign land adjusting to the language. Almost everyone had palms, so it seemed strange nobody else responded to that pressure the way he naturally did, by struggling to understand them. Continue reading
Babylon’s sky was the only sight humanity would ever see that could truly convince them they had left their world of origin. Even the celestial ocean swimming with stars was still their world, despite being inhospitable. The hanging gardens themselves could be felt and thus understood, but they were just grit forced deep into a wound and healed over. The realm itself was foreign, and they were all immortal because they didn’t belong there.
As such the endless fields of orange and gold clouds, while breathtaking and sometimes even breathkeeping, eventually wore on the soul like the unblinking eyes of a disapproving parent. The only refuge was heading for the core of the gardens where there were walls on all sides and mindless chatter about nothing could bring them back to a sense of normalcy. Except the weather. They couldn’t make soothing small talk about that, as Babylon didn’t have any. Continue reading
Respawn Chat Log
There was a place inside the hanging gardens of Babylon where ghosts gathered. It was sealed off from its endless colorful sky, lit only by the pale white energy of a crystal formation at its center, standing more than fifty feet tall. It had tree-like branches, more than thick enough to support the weight of living creatures, but only the ethereal dead were present.
The ghost of Flippers sat on one such branch, kicking his feet, just waiting. Nothing in the game stayed dead forever. The crystal tomb was much more like a waiting room or a penalty box. Really it was an admirable extra step from the game’s developers. A lot of other multiplayer games just cut to another active player’s camera when the countdown to respawn started. Continue reading
Atlantis wasn’t the only advanced civilization to suffer a sudden and precipitous fall; there was also Ys, Norumbega, Arcadia, and others… at least according to the lore of the hit video game Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
Jenny Handerly (who goes by Handzy online) is also seeking her own path to paradise, through the game. If her ragtag team of friends can win the next Hanging Gardens tournament she’ll be set toward the future of her dreams, but there are plenty of obstacles in the way, in the gardens and well beyond them in the ruthless, youth-obsessed, and often bigoted world of E-sports.
Tourney at the Hanging Gardens
The party had journeyed deep into the caverns of the hanging gardens of Babylon. It was not a place that knew true darkness, so no matter how far down they went they would always be able to see their way. Still, it was as dim and cool as it ever got in their paradise, and it had them all on edge.
They hadn’t constructed the gardens, and they didn’t know any of those who had, so all of the small questions about its functioning were allowed to fester and grow into giant frightening shadows in the back of their minds. Continue reading
(back to part one)
(reading time: 42 minutes)
The daylight came as it always had, despite Wilmot not feeling ready for it. When the towels had lost all their heat they were merely damp; he threw them off like wet leaves. There was much activity just outside of his room, but none of it was panicked, just the excitement one would expect for the finale of the Chairman’s Banquet.
His stomach churned and made a sound. He thanked the culinary gods for leaving his needs and desires intact. Whatever madness plagued his mind would have to be held back until after the competition; then he was free to go exactly as insane as he pleased.
First they had to crown a winner, and Wilmot Barclay had to record it. When he emerged he left as much of the previous night as he could wrapped up in the heavy towels and put a smile on his face. He was one of the first ones to his seat. Continue reading
Wilmot Barclay is a culinary explorer traveling the world to help define the cuisine of his fledgling country: Liberia. He thinks he has tasted it all until he lands on a mysterious island off the coast of Japan, harboring all the ingredients of the world within an incredible castle. Earth’s greatest cooking competition is just about to begin there, but some of what’s on offer is leaving a most suspicious aftertaste.
(reading time: 1 hour, 25 minutes) (reading time for entire novella: 2 hours, 7 minutes)
Countless words are lost in the ecstasy of a good meal, their structure overpowered by much more ancient and instinctive sounds. Exquisite becomes ehhnnn. Scrumptious becomes sfffshh. Magnificent into Mfff! In this way it can be extraordinarily difficult for a master of cuisine to receive helpful criticism. They know their work is good, so good it can’t be put into words, and that prevents them from progressing in their passion.
This presents a culinary ceiling. The barrier where words fail, where the tongue cannot be tamed enough for syllables, was the threshold Wilmot Barclay set for himself. He would need to perfect a number of dishes that made words fail, and they had to fail in a room full of equally fresh diplomats and statesman… but he was getting ahead of himself. Continue reading
(Back to Part One)
(reading time: 55 minutes)
The finals dinner was the first time everyone was in the same place since orientation. Dean Mystpass, who had made exactly zero appearances since then, was there, thoroughly surrounded by staff and newly elected officials so that not a single student could reach him and say what they thought of his first crack at the school. Continue reading
(Back to Part One)
(reading time: 54 minutes)
Trouble came to all of Cay Royal, not just its students. Word of the intruder and their power spread quickly. Any calls for Dean Mystpass to invent suspension or detention were neutralized when the safety precautions taken essentially counted as punishment. The whole college went on lockdown, students now escorted in groups from tent to tent and back to the dorms by either professors or security guards. Continue reading
(Back to Part One)
(reading time: 46 minutes)
Dove looked through her notes while she waited for him. They weren’t physical notes of course. She’d been experimenting with compressing the lectures down to single paragraphs in her mind, trying to get the information as dense as possible to save memory space, which, much like using a computer, simplified her magical efforts. The one she’d created from the introductory Evil Eye Era lesson felt expertly compacted:
Magic is the psychic power of secrecy, threatened by transparency. In its early days even the people using it did not understand its nature. The first system was the evil eye, by which spells were cast with intense unblinking stares at their targets coupled with focused thought and emotion. It flourished for hundreds of years until its collapse in 1899, when a combination of exploding population, scientific advancement, and superstition regarding the evil eye specifically made it too common of knowledge. After it ceased working it took more than two decades, and a notable worldwide war, before a new method took root. Thus we have the snap system, powered by concise incantation words and kinetic catalyst sounds. Continue reading
Magic is real, as long as you’re in the know. It’s a lot subtler than people think, mostly invisible in fact. It can give you the second last sip from a canteen, let you push a pull door, or make your fortune cookies accurate if as vague as ever.
Dove used it on the stage, her audience only thinking they were looking at illusions. She was happy with that, but now her parents have dragged her to a strange island, the site of a failed music festival, and there’s talk of starting a new country, and a new school, both magical in nature…
Author’s Note: I wrote this novella to be my ‘Harry Potter’, but given my recent disappointment with that author it now works pretty well as a replacement for me. I hope you can get some enjoyment from it as well.
(reading time: 42 minutes) (reading time for entire novella: 3 hours, 19 minutes)
The Moneyed and the Mystic
The sand would’ve been much too hot for bare feet under normal circumstances, but the Théard family didn’t pack any normalcy for the trip. They always left that at home, a house that sat empty most of the time while its supposed occupants were off romancing the stages of the Caribbean and France. Continue reading