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If you're here to read my 'Dryad Eyes' story, then welcome! Check out the 'Table of Contents' for that story below. It will get you to where you need to be.

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If you're curious about the Dryad Eyes timeline, or are one of my auspicious co-authors and need a quick reference, look no further. I've mapped the whole thing out here.

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"All fiction is a subset of fantasy. Think about it this way: What we now consider 'fantasy' is the original whole from which all literature is distilled, starting with the Epic of Gilgamesh, running through the Iliad, and Odyssey, the Bible, Beowulf, the Bhagavad-Ghita... Examples are found in every culture. Every other genre (I should say: every SUBgenre) is defined by eliminating fantastic elements: by carving away the gods, fate, magic, whatever. 'Fantasy' is what we call a novel that partakes of the whole of the human literary heritage. So, yeah. I’m a fantasy writer. It was good enough for Homer, and it’s good enough for me."
-Matthew Woodring Stover


Relax and Write, prt 5 - Jean Beringer

Jean Beringer arched her back as deeply as she possibly could. She brought her shoulder blades together and opened her chest forward. It was difficult to keep her face soft, relaxed, as the stiff, long-unused muscles throughout her body protested the motions that she used to do several times a day. Her heart was a little heavy as she began to realize how far she had fallen; how much she had lost. The accident had taken months from her, perhaps even years in the long run, but it would take nothing more.

She'd decided that minutes ago. This was her comeback to badass.

Jean rolled her shoulders a few times, trying to loosen them up. Then she brought her hands up over her head. Her expression slipped. She immediately schooled it back into a neutral state. With a soft huff, she blew aside a few platinum strands of hair that had already crawled loose from her ponytail and fallen across her face, then blinked her eyes open to gaze at her right arm.

Her reflection gazed back at her from it's specular metal surface. She held her own gaze for only a moment, then folded forward to bring her hands to the floor.

According to her very capable doctors, whom had saved her life and she trusted implicitly, the new arm didn’t weigh any more than her actual flesh, blood and bone should have. It felt like it, though. Every motion was as graceful and smooth as she could have wanted, and she could see that. Her body, however, told her that it was clunky and wrong.

‘What do you mean by that?’ the others would ask.

‘You’re contradicting yourself,’ she had heard a million times.

‘Jean, it can’t be perfect and wrong.’

“Yes it can,” she grumbled aloud unashamedly to the otherwise empty gym as she kicked her feet back and caught herself in a plank. “Yes. It. Fuckin’. Can.”

Karissa Swift

-This is a letter recently published in the pages of Masked Views Unmasked. MVU, as has become commond knowledge, is owned by Editor-in-Chief Mary Moulton-Eisenberg. Better known to the world at large as Gaia, the world's very first female superhero, Mary is an icon, a sex symbol, and a champion of Ascendant Human Rights. She went public with her identity in the wake of her husband, Hank Fletcher Eisenberg, and used the considerable fortune he left her to launch MVU. Though popular and highly successful, the magazine has come under fire from critics who view it's subversive stance on Project Overseer, along with other Ascendant control methods that have been implemented by the world's governments, as being dangerous to the point of treason.

Dear Gaia,

I really don’t know where else to send this letter, and so I was hoping that you could help me. I wrote this for the Running Girl. Of course, nobody knows very much about her, and it isn’t like she has a public address or leaves a calling card for people who want to get in touch with here.

So, Running Girl.

I want to tell you about my daughter, and what happened to her. Her name was Karissa. She was only fifteen years old the first time she saw you on television. It might even have been your very first television appearance.

Some kind of huge mecha-robot thing was tearing up the street somewhere in downtown Dankor. Do you remember? You appeared out of nowhere, right in front of it, with a screwdriver in your hand. The next thing anyone knew, you were taking the machine apart piece-by-piece, and toying with it, until it’s utterly terrified pilot was left sitting on the broken asphalt and screaming profanities.

You posed for the camera when you were done. Thumbs up, wink, and then zip! You were gone.

I thought you were just about the most adorable thing I’d ever seen. My daughter had a different reaction. You inspired her. From the moment she laid eyes on you, it was like some little piece of that bright and bubbly personality of yours rubbed off on her. She smiled more often. She got out more, making more time for her friends and spending less time on the Internet.

What you need to know is that my Karissa was Ascendant. She had wings. Not ugly things made out of fire like that hateful man down in Madrid last year, or those scary looking things made out of alien metal like that hero with the reality show up in New York has. Hers were real, and soft, and perfectly beautiful, just like her.

She could fly! I never fully appreciated it for the wonderful thing that it was until it was almost too late.

Karissa had a second ability that I always thought of as ‘stealth mode.’ It was like, with only a little focus, she could make it incredibly hard to focus on certain things. If she wanted to hide herself from you, you might never see her. And, even if you knew they were there and what to look for, your eyes could slide right off of her wings without being able to focus on them. That’s how she kept them a secret all those years. It’s also what got her into trouble when she used it to sneak out of the house a few times.

A mother always knows. Remember that, young lady, if you ever get any ideas about those quick feet of hers.

God, I don’t even know if you have a mother. I don’t know anything about you, really, besides what little we’ve seen on TV.

On a sunny morning not long after you first appeared in our lives, I went to wake her up only to find an empty bed. Less than a minute later, I found her. She was standing in our back yard. Her arms and wings were stretched out toward the sun, and on her face was the widest, most beautiful smile I’d ever seen in my life. She wasn’t even trying to hide. Here I am, she was saying. This is me. Look at me.

There was a part of me that wanted to rush outside, to cover her up and hide her away before anyone else saw. It was too late for that, of course. I could already see our neighbors, on both sides, gaping over the fence. Was it awe on their faces? Did they think she was as beautiful as I did? Were they disgusted? Terrified? I really couldn’t say. It wasn’t until a long camera lens appeared over the fence that I opened the back door so that I could go to her.

Click! That was her cue.

In one swift motion, she flexed her huge, beautiful wings and leaped into the air. That was the first time I saw her fly, and I will never, ever forget even one moment of it. I still get teary eyed thinking about it. One of the pictures that my neighbor snapped actually graced the cover of this very magazine. I have the original, as well as that issue, framed on my wall.

About six months ago, and exactly three months to the day after she came out of the proverbial closet, something terrible happened. There was a hostage situation at a bank on the far side of Dankor City from where we live. What she was doing there, I don't know. How she even knew what was going on, I don't know.

From what I was told, and learned through the News, there were seven armed men and one who was allegedly an Ascendant Human. He had some kind of flame powers. They had taken seventeen hostages and were holed up in the bank. Negotiations with the police were going poorly.

My Karissa crawled into the building through an upstairs window. I've seen the security footage of that. She had that determined frown on her face as she struggled to get her wings through that tiny opening, the one that I remember from when she was a baby trying to figure out how to make her legs work. It was also the one she often wore when working on her computer, or doing her homework.

From there, she made her way down three flights of stairs to the main floor. She took a hostage by the hand, and using her Stealth Mode, sneaked her away. Then she came back for another. She made this trip at least nine times. That is a matter of public record.

It was the numbers that did her in. Those men would have never seen her, or the people that she was taking away, but nobody can make eight hostages look like seventeen. I don't know exactly what happened. If there is security footage of that, I don't ever want to see it. I know that, apparently, these men noticed the missing hostages and panicked. Karissa got caught up in that.

My little girl died a hero. Her body was badly burned, and we buried her in a closed casket beside her father in Dankor Memorial. It was the worst day of my life.

This is what I wanted to say, though. Don't feel bad for what happened to Karissa. That isn't why I wanted you to know this story. Whoever you are, wherever you are, you brought her to life. I don't think that she was ever truly unhappy, but I never saw her so full of joy as she was in those three months when she was finally allowed to be absolutely, unashamedly herself. Sometimes I can't still can't stand the pain of losing her, but those memories get me through. They will get me through the rest of my life.

Thank you, Running Girl. And God bless you.

Maria Swift

Editor's Note:

I found this story very touching, and have contacted Maria about making the next edition of Masked Views Unmasked a Karissa Swift tribute. We will re-print her beautiful MVU cover and include a small photo album highlighting the transformation of this amazing, courageous girl. Nothing will ever bring her light back into this world, but I feel that she deserves to be remembered and honored.

Two more things.
1. The Running Girl should be involved in this tribute. I have never had the pleasure of meeting her, and my attempts to reach out to her have been unsuccessful as of this writing. If anyone who reads this does know her, please extend to her my most heartfelt gratitude for everything that she does and give her my invitation to meet with me at my office in the Masked Views Unmasked building. The address can be found in the front of this publication.

2. The Ascendant Human with flame powers who killed Karissa managed to evade capture. He is currently at large and considered extremely dangerous. It would, of course, be wrong of me to encourage Dankor's more active Ascendant elements to take matters into their own hands and do what they can to bring this man to justice, but wouldn't it be nice if the Swift family, as well as the rest of us who were moved by this story, could have some closure? Food for thought.

-Mary Moulton-Eisenberg aka Gaia

Relax and Write, prt 3 - Burning Love

It was a pleasant Sunday morning, and the early light spilled, in thin, golden streams, through the narrowly parted blinds that decorated the restaurant windows.

Jack grinned his goofiest, toothiest grin across the table at Jill, who replied in kind. They were six months and two pregnancy scares into their relationship, which began as a surprise after a teasing suggestion that they go on a date to the Hills because of their names, and he was as deliriously happy as he had ever been. Perhaps, he often mused, as he ever would be again.

"When do you know?" he'd asked his mother. It was a difficult subject to broach, requiring courage and a commitment that had surprised them both. It was also a long conversation, occurring in multiple parts over several days, and had finally ended in him buying the delicate golden ring that was hidden away in his shirt pocket.

"Here you go," the young waitress named Jenna interrupted his reverie as she set their food down between them. It was a simple order. Two matching plates, each with two pieces of sausage, three over easy eggs, a helping of hash browns and a single piece of toast.

"Right on time," Jack smiled his thanks at Jenna, who was staring at Jill. Jack followed her gaze and guffawed.

Jill had immediately stuffed a fork full of egg and hash browns into her mouth. She was presently tilting her head, puffing out her cheeks, and crossing her eyes at Jenna. The waitress was at first taken aback, and then matched Jack's reaction. A tiny dribble of runny, yellow yolk was leaking out through Jill's pursed lips. With a snort that would have been a laugh of her own in an empty mouth, she quickly snatched up her napkin and wiped it away.

Then, suddenly, everything changed. It began with the light. That early, golden promise that always charged the morning with so much energy and so many possibilities shifted into an ugly, ruddy orange glow. The thought that flashed through Jack's mind, as on-the-spot descriptive spots often did ("How would I write this situation?" was a question he always held on standby for himself), was that it looked sick. It was as if the sun had suddenly taken ill, and was on the verge of either puking or passing out.

"What the Hell...?"

Jack, Jill and Jenna rushed the eastern facing windows as one, and their fumbling hands managed to pull the blinds down rather than pull them up so that they could look outside.

The sun was just visible, hanging above the trees and the row of small businesses that lined that side of main street. It was so dim that they could look directly at it without so much as spotting their vision. The orb's outer edges were an intense reddish-orange, giving off the glow that had so changed their vision of the world. Inside that, toward the center, it had gone dark, almost black. That ominous shadow churned, swirling dangerously as not only they, and not only the people outside, but every person on the planet who could see the sun at that particular moment looked on.

"It's changing," Jenna breathed.

A pit of dread grew in Jack's stomach. The shadow was growing even darker, blacker than black, and then began to brighten. It was not returning to orange, or red, or brilliant yellow of a proper sun, but toward a particularly intense white that forced them to avert their eyes. Some part of him understood what was happening here. It was not scientific knowledge. He could not explain the process, or guess at why it was happening. What little understanding he did have of these subjects told him that what he was seeing probably shouldn't be happening.

But, really, what did he know? He was a writer, not an astrophysicist.

Jenna darted away from them suddenly, saying something about calling her fiance, John, who was still at work. Jack took that as his cue and placed his hands on Jill's shoulders, pulling her away from the window, and back into the heart of the restaurant's front room.

"Listen to me," Jack said. "Jill, listen."

When she fixed those wide, terrified, blue orbs on him, his heart broke. She knew. Whatever the primal part of him that recognized this event was, it existed in her as well.

"Listen to me. I love you, and I... well, maybe it's stupid to say it right now, but I believe I'm going to for the rest of my life. Maybe even longer. I bought a ring, okay? I bought a ring that I want to put on your finger."

"What are you saying?" confusion had overtaken the terror on her face.

"I'm saying that I love you, and I want you to marry me."

They stared at each other, and the room grew brighter. Tears welled up in her eyes, and a tiny, brave smile tried to turn the corners of her mouth. It was not until he was certain that he would never hear her say it, when the brilliant, blazing light from outside had begun to wash the color from everything around them and he could already feel the heat climbing past the point of human comfort that she finally spoke.


The world went white.

Relax and Write, prt 2 - Entropy

Insidious and inky black, it crept into the empty spaces between thoughts. It made it's home there, in the proverbial shadows, biding it's time. Not until those thoughts began to form words did it move, but that movement was small. Subtle. It shifted just so, and intent shifted with it. These changes were minor, but the effect was far reaching.

Somewhere, a man opened his mouth to tease his friend playfully, but his words were more sour than he meant them to be. Feelings were hurt. A friendship crumbled.

Another saw a woman in a park, and opened his mouth to flirt with her. His words were awkward and clumsy, and he pressed the issue harder than he ever had before as embarrassment gave way to anger. The seeds of fear were planted, and she never walked that path again.

A young woman grew frustrated as her baby refused, again, to eat for her. His crying grated upon her already frayed nerves. Her thought went to action, and she shoved the high chair back from her and then screamed as it fell over and the crying stopped.

It was the same throughout the city. Philosophy became riddled with bigotry. Political speech slowly turned toward tyranny. Happiness was replaced with anger, and laughter was choked into silence by hateful words.

What of love? What of hope? Perhaps they endured, but none remained who knew where to look for them. It was the end. All was lost.



The Clearing

Dryad Eyes vol. 2
Episode 5

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Dryad Eyes vol. 2
Episode 4

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The Stuff of Nightmares

Dryad Eyes vol. 2
Episode 3

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Dryad Eyes vol. 2
Episode 2

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