Welcome to day 6 of the Immanion Press blog hop for the new Wraeththu anthology, Para Kindred. Every day until 25th June the PK authors will be posting a blog post about their story in the collection. Read every contribution to the blog hop, answer all the secret questions about the posts, and you will be entered into a prize draw to win an item from the New section of our Café Press store.
Authors who don’t have blogs of their own will have their articles posted here. Today’s featured author is Fiona Lane. The secret question is at the bottom of this post, along with details of previous contributors’ questions.
Maria’s question: Where was Chenga’s servant Dolah planning to escape to?
Earl’s question: Who do the spirit wolves watch over, according to legend.
Storm’s question: What can Cherrah do in the mountains that ordinary hara cannot?
Nerine’s question: What birds fly past Taym’s window as he’s staying in the garret?
Wendy’s question: What is the name of her alter-ego?
Fiona’s question: What colour did Kethoak turn when he mused on the fundamentally linear nature of time?
Link to E. S. Wynn’s 16th June http://www.eswynn.com/2014/06/ghost-wolf.html
Link to Maria’s 17th June https://ipmbblog.wordpress.com/category/articles/
Link to Storm’s 18th June http://dreamsofdarkangels.wordpress.com/
Link to Nerine’s 19th June http://www.nerinedorman.blogspot.com
Link to Wendy’s 20th June https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/6490018-para-kindred-blog-hop-day-4
The Unspeakable Sliminess Of Being
It was the legs that gave it away. Six was not a quantity usually to be found on any har, and Kethoak had trouble co-ordinating them to begin with until he divided them into two sets of three, each in a sort of tripod arrangement. The problem of locomotion solved, he set his mind to the task of discovering why he was scuttling across a stone-slabbed floor while far above him a giant har shrieked his dismay at the presence of a cockroach in his kitchen and brandished a giant broom.
Kethoak was on the point of making a vital connection between these two seemingly unrelated happenings when the giant broom came down with an almighty whack on his exoskeleton, crushing him to an unsightly smear on the otherwise pristine kitchen floor and ending his deliberations.
The wings were an improvement the next time. There were only two, which proved a lot simpler to operate, and the power of flight gave the world an altogether more three-dimensional aspect. His view of this three-dimensional world was multi-faceted, intricate and, ironically, insufficient to warn him of the incoming swatter which knocked him out of the air and left him lying on his back on the ground, all six legs waving helplessly.
At this point, he thought, wings would definitely have come in handy, but it was too late because the curious harling picked him up and pulled each fragile, translucent membrane from his thorax. The legs followed, one by one, and then the head.
The presence of fur and a tail alerted him to the fact that he had been upgraded to something more mammalian this time, and a quick leg-count confirmed his suspicions. The presence of sharp little teeth in his mouth filled him with the desire to gnaw something tasty, and the presence of a pungent, lactic aroma drew him like a magnet toward the wood and metal contraption on the floor. He did not see the coiled spring, nor the delicately-balanced wire that kept it in place – all he saw was the tempting, creamy bait, and as his tiny incisors bit into it, the second-last thing that went through his mind was that he had never realised how delicious cheese was. The last thing that went through his mind was the short metal bar attached to the spring as it snapped close.
Being a slug was all about the slime. That unspeakable slime. And the unspeakable sliminess of being. About which he could not speak. So he didn’t.
After that there was nothing. Or at least there was no legs or wings or tail or teeth. (And, mercifully, no slime.). There was, however, a Dehar. Kethoak felt pleased with himself for recognising the entity as such, but the Dehar failed to return the compliment and looked right through Kethoak as if he wasn’t there. Which – having no body – he wasn’t. Kethoak coughed irritably to try to attract the Dehar’s attention, but again the lack of corporeal form was a hindrance to this activity, so he concentrated his non-corporeal self into a thought which he projected into the Dehar’s mind.
“I wish to complain.”
The Dehar looked up, as if being addressed by a disembodied consciousness was nothing out of the ordinary. Which, for a Dehar, it probably wasn’t.
“What do you want to complain about?” the Dehar asked.
“Really? That’s unusual. Most souls find it an improvement on existential annihilation. Do you want to apply for that instead?”
“No I do not!”
“Then what exactly is your problem?” The Dehar looked around himself rather distractedly, as if he had lost something but couldn’t quite remember what it was.
“My problem is that I keep getting reincarnated as… creatures unsuited to my spiritual development.”
“I see. What sort of creatures?”
“Cockroaches. Flies. Mice.” There was a ripple in the aether. “Slugs.”
The Dehar’s attention finally focused on the space where Kethoak’s consciousness located itself. “I don’t consider that to be a problem.” he said. “These are all beautiful and worthy animals in their own right, which play an important role in the ecosystem of your realm. Particularly the slugs. You could learn a lot from them. You do know, don’t you,” he said, a slight edge creeping into his voice, “that the purpose of reincarnation is to learn from the experience?”
“And what am I supposed to learn from being a cockroach or a slug?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Something about the nature of power and powerlessness, perhaps?”
Kethoak rippled angrily. “I know about that. I was a powerful har. I don’t need to spend several lifetimes oozing slime and eating cheese to learn such basic things.”
“Obviously not. Well, if you don’t enjoy being reincarnated as any of these fascinating and gentle creatures, what would you like to be reincarnated as?”
“A har, of course!”
“I see.” The Dehar thought for a moment, then materialised what appeared to be a well-thumbed copy of a small book and flicked through it efficiently until he reached the desired page, which he studied carefully, a slight frown upon his unearthly features.
“A har?” he said, running his finger down the page and back up again. He sighed. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I’m not authorised to do that.”
“It’s the rules, you see.”
“The ones that we have to obey.”
Kethoak rippled in agitation. “That’s ridiculous. Why do we have to obey rules?”
The Dehar nodded approvingly. “Excellent question.” he said. “Now, I can’t reincarnate you as a har, not directly anyway, but I can sort of, well, bend the rules a bit, and reincarnate you as a human.”
“A human?” Kethoak’s ripple became an indignant vibration. “I have no desire to be a human! Vile things, humans.”
“Ah, but once you achieve sexual maturity you can then be incepted and become a har. Ingenious, no?” The Dehar smiled happily at him, pleased by his own resourcefulness.
“How can I be reincarnated as a human?” Kethoak demanded, pulsating agitatedly in a shade of pale green. “Humans are almost extinct. None have been born since the early days of Wraeththu.”
The Dehar’s smile became slightly forced.
“Then I will reincarnate you as a human in the early days of Wraeththu.”
“Doesn’t that conflict with the fundamentally linear nature of time?” Kethoak mused, turning a thoughtful shade of violet.
“Can we assume,” said the Dehar through gritted teeth, “that I know better than you about the nature of the space-time continuum and how best to sabotage it?”
“Fine, have it your way!”
The Dehar regained his composure. “You will, of course, have to be a male.” he said.
“It’s either that or a tapeworm.”
Kethoak found his resonant frequency and oscillated there for several seconds. “Very well,” he said. “Do it.”
The crowd of human bodies packed tightly together in the basement of the crumbling and abandoned building shifted uneasily. Muttered curses or whispered predictions of horrors to come rippled through the dark, but Kethoak felt neither fear nor apprehension. Instead, a fierce exhilaration coursed through his veins. He had waited sixteen years for this moment. Outside, the Wraeththu tribe circled like hungry wolves. Soon they would storm the basement and Kethoak would throw himself on their mercy; offer himself up as a willing sacrifice to Inception, and be reborn and reincarnated as what he truly was – a har. Soon the years of living as a disgusting, degraded human would be over, and the time spent as those pitiful lower creatures not even a memory.
One of the men close to Kethoak gripped his weapon tightly and coughed nervously.
“I have heard that this group are led by a most ferocious and bloodthirsty leader,” he said, the tremor in his voice betraying his fear.
“Don’t worry.” His companion gave him a comradely slap on the back in an effort to encourage him. “Nothing is going to happen to us. We outnumber them several times over. There are only a few of them, and there are seventy of us. Seventy! We cannot possibly lose. What did you say this leader’s name was again?”
“Manticker. His name is Manticker.”