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Creative Writers!

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the Undead assignment [Mar. 20th, 2009|04:59 pm]
Creative Writers!

proseductive

[udjibbom]

Verbal Transcript 884-3A-12:
- file name -
“The Early, Inglorious Death of Hopfwe Klency”

[NARRATOR]: All I ever wanted was to live forever.

That doesn’t seem so terrible, does it?

And now, look at me – spending my last few minutes talking to a skull. Waiting for a foul-mouthed, green-skinned maniac to finish chopping down the door so he can put a horrifyingly painful but probably still unimaginative end to me.

[FX: A LOUD CRASH REVERBATES THROUGHOUT THE ROOM, FOLLOWED BY INDISTINCT MUTTERING AND A LOUD BARK OF LAUGHTER. THE CRASHING SOUNDS WILL REPEAT AT REGULAR INTERVALS, BECOMING SLIGHTLY LOUDER EACH TIME.]

How common.

At least…

[BRIEF PAUSE]

I hope it’s unimaginative. I don’t think I could handle something long and drawn out. Oh, shit – please, let it be unimaginative.

I can’t believe I’m actually wishing for a simple death…

-Sigh-

This was never part of the plan, you know. Oh, sure – “Dying a horrible death, Klency, it’s never part of the plan! Welcome to the club, old boy.” Har, har. But, no – I had it all worked out.

I was gonna be a lich, man. Live forever – eternal un-death, pinnacle of the undead. I’d finally have time, time enough at last, to figure out all the incantations and recipes and chord progressions, to see all the sights and do all the things I never had time to get around to while I was alive.

I was planning to build a clock, you know? An eleven-story, gravity-powered timepiece that could be seen for miles - and it would have looked gorgeous, too. Polished bronze spires, gargoyles of terrible mein… People would have traveled for days, just to say they’d seen Klency’s clock tower. Stained glass windows, great booming bells to announce the hour… it would have been phenomenal.

I’m not even 40 yet, dammit. Why was I so focused on dying right that I never took the time to live?
I’ll tell you why: because there’s just too much knowledge out there – once you start to scratch the surface, it becomes apparent, and so damn quickly, there’s just so very, very much to learn and appreciate and comprehend that no one, no matter how gifted or smart, could possibly cover it all in the few brief decades we’re given.

And I was gifted, make no mistake. Top of my class in the Academy of Thaumaturgic Sciences, classically trained cellist, fluent in nine languages – only four of them human! – and, I like to think, fun at parties.

Shit – I just realized I’ll never finish any of my paintings, either.

So how’d I end up here, cowering in a dank hidey-hole, waiting for my imminent demise?

-Sigh-

I got seduced by the money.

It isn’t cheap, becoming a lich, you know that – right? I mean, the alchemical treatments, the apparatus, setting yourself up with some kind of financial support network – who wants to spend life eternal constantly scraping by, hustling from one score to another? You’d never have time for any fun or research.

And the research! Man, you wouldn’t believe the amount of hunting you have to do for even the simplest clue about how to proceed with something like this. Maybe there’s a secret club out there for all the rich and connected necromancers to just go and look up whatever they want – sure: N’yraltop’s “Dusk Comes to Ryellheh” or hand-stitched copies of Gumb’s treatise on non-alkaloid tanning just laying around for the browsing, am I right?

Heh.

But for the rest of us, it’s nothing but searching, digging, fighting for even the slightest scrap of knowledge. You’d almost think there was some sort of concerted effort going on in hiding this knowledge, wouldn’t you? [BRIEF CHUCKLE.]

So, no: getting started isn’t easy – and, it involves greasing quite a number of palms. I had no idea – I mean, yeah: even in medical school, quality supplies came with a price tag. But it isn’t like most of what we were studying was illegal or anything.

This, though – well, let’s just say that I wasn’t really prepared for some of the financial hurdles that lay before me, all right?

So I had to come up with a way to make some money and, after a while, inspiration struck.

See, by this time I was already studying the ambulatory corpse-forms, as we call them. I was well past the first hesitant mincing around the subject that they leave off with in the universities – they dance around the subject like it’s somehow socially unacceptable to study the dead.

And, I know, I know: it is. Everyone thinks it’s gross, or that there are “Some Things Man Was Not Meant To Know” or crap like that. It’s childish – knowledge is pure, it doesn’t have a moral weight to it. Knowing how to properly suture an incision isn’t any different if it’s done to save a life or stuff a trophy.

Besides which, this is fascinating stuff. Think about it: how can a corpse get up and shamble around? And I don’t mean in some abstract, philosophical way – the whole “Oh, gods, how can this be happening? – sob!”

No, I’m talking about the purely mechanical question of just how does a dead, un-respirating, unthinking pile of slowly decaying flesh actually manage to stand on it’s own two legs and stalk down prey?

In practice, of course, the obvious answer is that they don’t do it very well. Sure, fresh bodies are surprisingly quick because they’re no longer hampered by pain or fatigue but that’s pretty rare and doesn’t usually last past the onset of rigor – which, admittedly, is delayed in the case of ambulatory dead and doesn’t seem to last as long as the normal degradation process… but once the body starts to actively decompose, speed, balance, dexterity - all start to go right along with the musculature.

Their endurance is uncanny, though – if you could just quench that hunger and train them in a simple task like masonry, you could build a tower that would reach the moons. Oh, I had such plans…

[PAUSE]

Anyhow – it took me a while to figure this out because, obviously, I was starting from scratch given how difficult it is to find any quality academic research on this subject. Sometimes I wish the lich lords who’ve gone before weren’t such a bunch of… I don’t know, an old boy’s network, you know what I mean? It just seems like there’d be a real chance to advance this science if there was a little more free and open disclosure of methods and findings – man, how I vowed to do things differently, once I was dead.

So much for all that… -sigh- Where was I? Yeah, money.

See, I’d studied the vision question early on – I was fascinated by how most undead continue to see even after their actual eyeballs had decomposed. Studies have shown that they have almost no sense of smell or hearing – which is also interesting, given how much the tympanic membranes impact balance and the way zombies’ sort of shamble around. I guess that’s another mystery I won’t get a chance to look into…

But, yeah – the vision! I never really figured out why this happens, but it seems that the process of becoming undead confers a sort of darkness vision – it’s not one the same level as some of the non-human species but it’s definitely a heightened ability to see beyond the visible spectrum our eyes are normally attuned to. Without getting too technical, let’s just say they can see heat radiation – this accounts for both why they tend to lie dormant during daylight hours, as sunlight basically washes everything out in a dull white blur, and it explains the ease with which they’re able to track their prey through the dark – even without eyeballs, in some cases. It’s that spooky red glow in the pits of their eye-sockets, if you’ve seen it.

So, yeah – I was just fascinated by what that was all about, especially since it had some rather fascinating implications in my particular case: how long, exactly, would I be able to count on the same vision after making the change to lich-hood? What, if any, sort of complications does this heat-sensitive vision imply in terms of research? Ink doesn’t give off any sort of heat signature I’m aware of, so how do lich’s continue to study once their eyes have rotted out?

It would have been a lot easier if I could have just asked one…

[A LOUD CRASH ECHOES OFF THE WALLS]

Shit – he’s not gonna give up, is he?

Well, anyway – I had to research all this stuff on my own. And, in the course of looking at the whole eyeball conundrum, I figured out my remote viewing apparatus – there’s a lot of mystical mumbo-jum that is, frankly, over your head, so I won’t bother trying to explain it. But, trust me – it worked.

And, naturally, the obvious question is: Well, what possible good does that do anyone?

Well, hell – if they can figure out a way to turn a skull like you [RATTLING SOUND] into a recording device that’ll immortalize my words for future scholars to study, there’s got to be some use to a cheap, reliable remote-viewing device, right?

Even if it only works with dead bodies.

First of all, it answered a lot of my questions about vision-after-death: turns out you –can- read, provided the use of a cold light source – candle-light will work in a pinch, if you have enough of them spread out, far enough away, in a pattern that provides more of a diffuse glow rather than point illumination.

But sunlight, campfires, stuff like that? No good. What’s perfect, actually, are magical forms of illumination – pretty much any of the illusionary light spells will work perfectly in this regard and, I gotta tell you: I was really looking forward to digging into the question of how any prep school simpleton with the ability to concentrate and master a couple simple gestures can generate light without heat – I mean, energy is energy, right? It’s a fascinating question with a lot of implications I doubt you’ve ever considered but, well… I suppose we both know how far I’m going to get on that question.

But, yeah: how does this make me money? It took me a long time to figure out and, judging by the increased frequency of those axe-blows, I think I’m gonna have to pick up the pace if I want to get this explanation out there for anyone else to learn from.
I started up a sort of haunted house for rich people – they pay their loot, I give them a pair of spectacles linked up to one of my undead minions and they get to watch from inside the skull of the monster as it hunts down some helpless, unwitting fool.

Yeah, yeah, yeah – I’ve heard all the complaints before, believe me. “How could you do that to innocent people?” It’s horrible, I’m awful, it’s disgusting, yeah, okay, objections duly noted.

But you know what? Most of those people weren’t going to do anything important with their lives anyhow. I am… or was, at any rate. And if trapping a couple useless nobodies in a boarded up mansion with some undead monsters who are going to hunt them down and eat them for the entertainment of some very rich and connected patrons who will help me achieve my genuinely important goals is “evil” or “mean” or just not very nice…

Well, guilty. You got m-

[THE LOUDEST CRASH YET.]

[NARRATOR YELPS IN SURPRISE.]

[NEW VOICE] Looks like I got you now, scrawny.

[NARRATOR] Stay back, you! Or I’ll… I’ll…

[NEW VOICE LAUGHS] You’ll what? You cast all your spells at me while I was chasing you – I counted – and I kept up the noise and the threats while I was busting my way in here so you wouldn’t have the peace and quiet you needed to study up any more.

[NARRATOR] You… counted my spells?

[NEW VOICE] This isn’t my first turkey hunt, dumbass.

[NARRATOR] What.. what do you want from me? I’ve got mone-

[NEW VOICE] Save it. I’ll look for whatever money there is once I’ve settled your hash. You’ve only got one thing I want and that’s information. You tell me what I want to know and you could crawl out of here with enough fingers to wipe yourself.

[NARRATOR] Cuh-cuh… crawl?

[NEW VOICE] Yeah – your legs are coming off to show how serious I am. Plus, you got me kind of worked up and I’m not very reasonable when you get me worked up. [CHUCKLE]

[NARRATOR] Ha. Hah. Oh – okay. I get it – you’re just joking around wi- WAIT, NO!

[ANGUISHED SCREAMS AND INDETERMINATE SOUNDS BEGIN, CONTINUING FOR SOME MINUTES.]

[NEW VOICE, OVER THE SOUND OF SOBBING] –sigh- That’s never as easy as it looks, is it? If you’d kept squirming, I never would have got those tourniquets on. Keep it up and I’ll poke out the other eye, too. [CHUCKLE] But maybe you can train one of your damn skeletons to pull you around and lend you his eyes, right?

Now – you’re ready to answer some questions. And please note: I’m telling you, not asking you.

[NARRATOR] Whu-whu-whu-ttt-ttt-t.T!T!T! dooooo y-y-yeww-

[NEW VOICE] Ugh, stop. Shut up. Here’s what I want to know: there was a girl who disappeared four nights ago. The thugs who took her told me they delivered her to you before I took care of them – you hired pretty decent help, I’ll give you that.
But I’m here to find that girl. So, wher-

[THE SOUND OF THE NARRATOR LAUGHING HAS SLOWLY BEEN BUILDING UNTIL IT DROWNS OUT OTHER DIALOUGE.]

[NARRATOR] Huh-huh-HAH! Heh-HOHO-HOOO. Hah-heh-Whu-whu-what cuh-cuh-color whu-was her huh-HAHA-huh-huh-hair? Heh-heh-GAH…

[NEW VOICE] She had red hair, you useless bastard – how many people did you run through this shithole? Red hair -  long red hair.

[NARRATOR, SHRIEKING WITH LAUGHTER] HAH! HAH! HOOO-HOOO-HOOO-Who? Duh-duh-DOOOOO?! Yuh-YOU? TH-TH-TH-TH-INK UH-UH-I’ve? BUH-UH-ENNN TAh-ah-ah-ahK-ING? TO-OO-OO-OO? OOO-OO-AH-HAH-HA-

[NEW VOICE GROWLS AND ALL RECORDING CEASES]


Recording on file, School of Thaumaturgic Studies: 884-3A-12
 

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: udjibbom
2009-03-20 09:20 pm (UTC)
i don't remember how to do an LJ cut; if it's annoying in it's present form, let me know how and i'll edit one in.

is this the part where we talk about our inspiration or themic goals or whatever? i don't know if i had one, beyond wanting to do a sort of "Most Dangerous Game" and then realizing that's probably been done a thousand times before and better [most notably in the short-story, The Most Dangerous Game, i'd imagine] and then trying to come up with a new angle to approach it from.

which was right around the same time i stumbled upon someone saying something about that old idea, that the villian of every story thinks he's really the hero.

so that's what i was going for, here. i was going to have the narrator go into more detail about just how quickly everything came crashing down, dwelling at more length about how much he enjoyed the money his "Movie nights" were bringing in before going into some play-by-play rundown of just how terribly ohla the ork upset his applecart but, really, this seemed to get that all across in less time. and while it might have been fun to describe what it was like to watch ohla turn the table on the zombies and use things like a sharpened human femur as a combination brain-bludgeon/eye-socket pick until he found the room where they'd chucked his weapons after he was kidnapped... like i said, this seemed to get it all across.

plus, i kinda ran out of time - this six weeks or two months of work time? probably just about right for me, at this point. not because the writing itself took that long, but because the thinking about it and the motivating myself took that long.

so, enjoy - i hope.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: hadjare
2009-03-21 04:01 am (UTC)
Awesome. I can't wait to read it. I only got my 1/3 done...it was a weird kind of day. I'm giving myself a Sunday night extension. ;)
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: bloodlossgirl
2009-03-29 09:46 pm (UTC)
Dude, this was awesome, Phil!

I really enjoyed it!

Mine is late. Really late. Erk. I'm giving myself the rest of this week to finish it (that is, until April 5)
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: udjibbom
2009-03-30 04:01 pm (UTC)
well, thank you.

thank you very much.

[now i feel like a pompous jerk but mainly just because i never know how to react to anything, good or ill.

unless "inappropriately" is considered a suitable reaction - suppose i've got that covered.]

more about me: so, you didn't find the phonetic speech at the end there annoying or anything? because i don't really like it, myself. it _is_ supposed to be a transcript, though, and i don't really know how else to get that sort of pain and torment across without resorting to that kind of gimmicky-y... gimmick.

any suggestions would be gratefully appreciated. or, hell, even just a point in the right direction toward some other author who did it "right" or, at least, in a less affected way. if there is such a way - it's possible i'm just being too critical.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: bloodlossgirl
2009-04-01 12:42 am (UTC)
Hmmm, well now that you mention it, I suppose the phonetic speech did bother me a bit. I'm not sure how else to do it ... unless you inserts silences and screams and pauses instead of some of the phonetics.

I think you could tighten this up on the next draft, take out some of your protagonist's rambling, have him address the skull, maybe give us a bone or two about the skull's identity, or where he got it from.

I'm struggling with a piece of my own ... I wrote it as a monologue, of sorts, and two different trusted readers gave me different advice. One, said to keep it a monologue and develop the voice. Second person said to develop the world and add in other characters. I might try it both ways to see which jumps out better.
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