I Keep My SOPA On A Rope

January 18, 2012 § 1 Comment

I, not being American, cannot directly act against SOPA, but I will do what I can.

Read this. And as you are probably aware, I am not alone in my opposition.

I did not run a blackout on my site because I have only one day a week that I must post something, and didn’t want to lose my week. Yes, that is somewhat selfish (I’m just a damn dirty Internet scab), but what are you going to do.

In other news, have more story! These posts are getting longer and longer, but remember, I’ve decided to make this story quite a large one. Correspondingly, the lengths of the posts will increase as well, but I might put up some PDFs with what I’ve go so far. You should, if, y’know, you’re interested…let me know if you’d like that? Mmmkay? And

VI.

Heaven was not what Patrick expected it to be.

First, there was a frightening lack of clouds, angels, harps, and bearded men. In fact, there was no-one and nothing. He found this somewhat distressing.

Second, he seemed to be plummeting to the ground at a ferocious speed from very, very, very high above the…world. Patrick’s brain, still in the Earth mindset (i.e.- that there was still one), had to think in terms of falling, above and below, and getting hungry. It did not take this sudden change in altitude well.

In fact, it found this significantly distressing. He would have, had words made sense to his brain, called his present situation a “difficulty”.

The wind ripped through his shaggy brown hair and tore tears from his eyes. It ballooned in his toga, which he futilely waved to slow his descent. His scream disappeared in the hideous roar of rushing wind and he was swallowed up by the fact of falling. His brain raced as it tried to understand, categorize, and evaluate all the current stimuli while simultaneously get his mouth to start working and his bladder to stop opening up. Luckily, he didn’t actually have a bladder, or else he would have been very embarrassed right before he died. Again.

There was a crowd of people on a grassy field beneath him, and from this far distance, they looked like they were teams of people playing a game. There were hundreds of them, crawling around the grass like ants, and he could just barely make out some of them looking up and pointing. They were very quickly getting larger.

His hand, not entirely under conscious control, felt about as it looked for something it couldn’t find. In-between the howling death and his brain’s inability to deal with said death, a profound sense of sadness filled him.

One that was obliterated by the impact as he hit the ground.

The ground stretched like it was made of rubber, but was soft, like it was made of marshmallow. It bent far, far back to allow the softness to take away the pain of impact, and then quickly sproinged back into place like a trampoline. So much like a trampoline, that he was launched a few feet into the air, arms flailing madly, before coming back to crash into the ground again.

This went on for some time. The ground, covered in grass and rocks and one very surprised looking rabbit, bent and warped and jiggled Patrick around like a bowl of excited Jell-O until he came to a rest on his stomach. Still very much alive, or whatever passed for alive in these parts, he rolled over on his back to revel in the sun, the warmth, and for the fact that yet again, a fall failed to destroy him. He had only fallen from the sky twice, but that was enough for him, thank you very much. No more dying today, please.

A bearded, one-eyed man holding a gigantic battle-axe and dripping with violence stared back down at him. Patrick’s natural inclination to run away from anything and everything frightenomg collided with his fight-or-flight reflex on the way out the door, before both agreed it was to their mutual effort to leave as soon as possible.

“Ugh.” Was all that Patrick could make out as the man, dressed in chain and plate armour, looked at him like it was Christmas day and Patrick was the turkey. The axe was certainly large enough to be a carver, and again, if Patrick had a bladder, he would have been fairly well basted.

“God’s wounds, are you alright man?” A look of touching concern suddenly passed over the scarred man’s face.

“Ugh.”

“The fall must have addled your senses. Have we the surgeon!” The man looked up and shouted to the others. “Fetch Avicenna!” Some shouting, for the aforesaid Avicenna, followed this. The man helped Patrick sit up. “Never, upon my honour, have I seen someone arrive here in such a manner. Are you hurt, brother?”

“Ugh.” Patrick’s brain, already shaken after the events of the fall, simply could not reconcile the violent appearance of the man in front of him with the tender care he was showing him. Deciding that enough was enough, and he was really due one anyways, Patrick’s brain took an unscheduled break.

A harried-looking, hawkish man, also bearded, ran towards the two men. A circle of armed and terrible-looking men surrounded Patrick, concern evident on their scarred and ruined faces. One was holding his head in the crook of his arm, but the face on the head showed more concern for Patrick than itself.

The hawkish man wore a turban and long, flowing Arabic robes. His skin was the same colour as Amira’s and his beard was the same thick black hair, but his eyes burned with an intelligence that was almost feverish. He dropped in front of Patrick and skewered him with those burning eyes.

“Are you just arriving from Earth, yes?”

Patrick dumbly nodded.

“Are you still confused and disoriented, yes?”

Patrick nodded. Still dumbly, but now more of a second-grade level.

“Ah. Your humours are upset by the dissociation of your body.”

The surrounding warriors, for warriors they were, groaned as one.

The one-eyed man wagged his finger in a far-too motherly expression for a man carrying a battle-axe.

“Now come ye, Avicenna, stop now your games. This soul has no body until final resurrection! He has no humours to be unbalanced!”

A whistle sharply blew, and an Asian man with a thin, pointed beard, a fat jolly face, and dressed in ancient robes that were striped white-and-black like a referee, ran up and jabbed the one-eyed man in the chest.

“Citing religion on the game field in a manner not relating to re-enacting final words or dramatic scenes! Five minute penalty for number 44, Jan Zizka!”

The warriors began screaming at the referee, their concern for Patrick gone in the face of this horrible injustice. Patrick’s brain was now somewhat interested, but steadfastly maintained that his break was not yet over. Union regulations, of course. Still sacred even in the afterlife.

“Referee Confucius, I must protest!” The one-eyed man, Jan Zizka apparently, shrugged and looked bitterly offended. “Surely play had been stopped by the unexpected arrival of a new soul to his just reward?”

Confucius, who was much more like a Chinese Santa Claus than Patrick had thought, shook his head fiercely. He wasn’t wearing a shred of armour and carried nothing more violent than a whistle, but when he inflated like a balloon every man backed away.

“No! Not only did the whistle not blow, thereby allowing no stoppage of play for any reason, the new soul fell onto the defending team’s side, thereby constituting, at the very least, a too-many-men on the field penalty. Five-minute penalty stands, yellow card for Zizka!”

One group of armed men booed loudly as Confucius presented a card to Jan, but the others looked a little relieved. Confucius glared at Avicenna and Patrick.

“We should get up now. Come, my friend, let us get you off the field before our honoured Referee decides that we are interfering with play. That is a ten-minute major, and no way for a new-arrived soul to make friends.”

He helped Patrick stagger off to a nearby hill. Atop the little grassy hump, no more than a knoll, really, dozens of people sat on blankets or in the fragrant grass, in dress from various historical periods. They were arranged into two groups like team supporters and some carried flags and pennants, but the groups had no sort of cohesion or uniformity. A Greek woman from sometime-long-ago BC sat beside a Chinese businessman, while on the other side of the hill a gaggle of Victorian girls and some Inuit children clumped together eating cotton candy. The people waved politely to Patrick, but quickly turned their attention back to the field.

Avicenna took Patrick to a bench, where several armed men sat in various states of injury. A few held on to dismembered limbs, several looked to have been run through, and one was little more than bits in a basket. They greeted Patrick politely, but their attention was on the field. Avicenna deposited Patrick on the bench and wandered off to sew up some of the wounded. None of them seemed to be in any pain, and there wasn’t a drop of blood to be seen, anywhere. Patrick recoiled in horror when, sitting beside the basket, it said,

“Hullo there! I’m Phorcys of Phyrigia!” A severed hand waved and offered itself to be shaken.

Patrick, duly horrified but remembering his manners, shook the hand. “Hello, Phorcys. I’m Patrick O’Flanagan. Uh…how are you?”

The hand, as best as a hand can, shrugged. “Oh, I got right walloped by Guan Yu. Didn’t see him coming from my left, and then bam! Before I knew it, I was right out of the match and in this basket. Little disappointed, honestly. Had a much better showing last time, to tell you the truth.”

Zizka sat down beside Patrick. “Do not fret over much, Phorcys. T’was just our poor luck to draw “Last Stand” this day. And, should it salve your worries, Guan Yu laid hold of your flag, but Joan d’Arc smote him but a second after, so the score is again tied.”

Phorcys, or at least his hand, snapped his fingers in a gesture of irritation. “I hate these damned scenarios! We never pick any of the ones that I like! I’ve been on the defence for the past three last stands! Three! My position in the standings isn’t doing particularly well either, because of it!”

Patrick couldn’t help himself any longer. “Excuse me, but…what’s going on here? What’s happening?” He pointed at the field, where the warriors were again beating the (living? Really?) daylights out of each other. One group, a smaller one who had blue splotches on their armour and blue banners, were in a tight circle on a hill while the other group, much larger and with red splotches, pressed up at them. It was indeed a battle, but one without screams or blood. Instead, there was cheering and laughing over the grunts and clashes of sword-on-sword and sword-on-flesh. “Why are those men killing each other?”


Zizka laughed. “Killing each other? Nay, my friend, we are not killing one another. We are playing War.”

“Playing…war?”

Phorcys clenched his hand in what looked like a nod. “Yes indeed! What else is there to do when you’ve got a bunch of warriors, the makings of a wonderful battlefield, and all the time in existence? Why, you strap on your armour, get a bunch of the lads and ladies together, and have a right old time of it! It’s wonderful fun, and makes for the best sport in Elysium!”

Patrick’s brain became too interested for its own good and came back to life. “So you’re telling me…that in Heaven, which is where we are now, right?”

Zizka shrugged. “Truth be told, we reside right now in Elysium, one of the provinces of Heaven, but yes, what you have said is correct.”

“And you’re all warriors from history, correct?”

Phorcys nodded with his knuckles. “Aye, Patrick! Fought at Troy, I did! And Zizka fought for the Hussites, what, 700 years ago? Oh, those were good days.”

Zizka nodded. “Give or take some, yes. We men of war sometimes feel the call to battle in our blood, and again take up our arms. Paradise would lack something, were the occasional ploughshare not beaten back into a sword.”

“But, they let you do this? Isn’t it…violent? And mean? And sinful?”

Zizka chuckled. “Sinful? Sinful is when man kills each other because the name he uses for “God” is different from another’s. Our league is sanctioned from On High. There are rules, as you saw Confucius so adeptly lay down, and no-one is forced to participate. It is only a simple jest, a game.”

Phorcys pointed over to a grove of trees. “We’re on the Screaming Eagles, but right now, we’d be more apt to be called the Weeping Chickens. That team, the red ones? They’re called the Holy Terrors, and they’re led by Artorius, that bloke you lot call Arthur. Terror is right, because that one whips us every time we play him. Except every third day, when we allow gunpowder. He still hasn’t gotten the hang of artillery yet.”

“You will see, Patrick, that Heaven allows much that seems peculiar. Why would we not seek to entertain ourselves performing our profession? Because indeed, for many, many years of our history, war was indeed a trade. You will find carpenters who work the heavenly forests for their amusement, and writers who write the works they always wished to. When given the chance to cross blades with the legends of our history, how could we say no? And though we are re-enacting murder, but do not you back on Earth, with your electronic amusements? And here we have not even the possibility of harming another! Look!” Zizka pulled out a knife from his belt and stabbed himself through the arm without hesitation. Patrick recoiled, but there was no blood, no scream from Zizka, and in fact, no damage. The knife just disappeared when it touched the skin and appeared on the other side, like a trick blade. When Zizka pulled it out of his arm, Patrick could see that it had cut through the flesh, but the cut quickly healed itself shut.

Patrick shook his head. “This is all a bit much, thank you. I don’t know what to think of it!”

“Well, if war ain’t your thing, there’s a concert in the woods tonight. Jimi Hendrix and Aristophanes are unveiling their new collaboration. I hear John Lennon’s going to be there!”

“John Lennon’s in Heaven?” Patrick asked, incredulous. “Really? The man who said “imagine a world without religion?”

Zizka stood and craned his neck to check the gigantic hourglass in the middle of the field. “Yes. He is a touch perplexed by that course of affairs, but I hear it told that Metatron appreciated his work and argued for his salvation. He mostly keeps his own counsel, but in time he will come around. But now, I have served my penalty and lo,” he pointed to a man in blue limping off the field, “we have lost a man. Come, Patrick, I will show you how to play.”

Patrick’s superpower of being able to avoid conflict at all cost suddenly failed him. He meekly waved his hands in defence. “No no, Jan, I couldn’t. I’m no warrior. And I just ate. I’m a pacifist, and I’m not dressed anyways. I think I left my morningstar at home.”

Zizka laughed. “Patrick, I can tell that you have never once beheld a morningstar, much less swung one against a foe. Come,” he gripped Patrick’s arm with iron fingers, “try it at least once. Think of this: we are in eternity now, at our just reward. Why not start enjoying yourself?”

Zizka dragged Patrick to the field as a whistle blew. Patrick lamely tried more excuses, but Zizka came from a time before excuses. He was determined to show Patrick something, and Patrick, though equally determined not to set one foot on that field, was powerless against a man from a feudal society. When it came down to a test of strength between a man who rose horses every day and a man who rode the subway, the smart money is on the horse.

The warriors, or, Patrick supposed, the players, milled around the field waiting for play to start again. They nodded to Zizka and cheered Patrick as he came on the field. A few, red and blue alike, clapped him on the back as Zizka led him to an empty position between two hulking Zulu warriors.

This wasn’t too bad, thought Patrick as the Zulu patted him on the head, they seem like nice chaps one and all, and not the least bit violent! He introduced himself to the Zulu, but found himself quite unable to pronounce their names in return. They smiled at him, and shared a knowing look with each other.

Oh look, that look said, a new guy. Won’t he be a wonderful addition to our team? The look didn’t include an eye roll, but it might as well have. Possibly also a sigh and a knowing shake of the head.

Zizka snapped his fingers and Patrick was suddenly wearing heavy chain and plate armour, much like Zizka was. The one-eyed man looked him up and down appraisingly, and nodded in approval. He snapped again, and Patrick found himself holding a big thing like an axe with a spear and a hook. The armour was heavy, but to Patrick’s surprise not too heavy, and he suddenly felt the heat beneath the layers of protection. Thick padding covered him almost everywhere, and he could barely see out of the helmet that covered most of his face now.

“Now then, Patrick, I won’t bore you with the rules, but follow along with whatever Bongani and Fanyana do. Right then, back to the bloody business, as it was!”

Zizka trotted off and the red squad, much like a lineup in football, approached Patrick. Surprisingly, Patrick didn’t feel the least bit of fear. Instead, excitement, anticipation, nervousness, and giddiness fought for attention inside him. Wouldn’t Amira just laugh her head off to see me like this? He thought as he clenched his weapon in iron fingers. The armour made him feel invincible, like his flesh had been removed and replaced with stone. He was untouchable! He was a warrior! He was a real manly man!

Confucius blew his whistle and Patrick smiled. Come on, he thought, let’s do this! The red squad slowly advanced while blood sang in Patrick’s ears. His brain, now fully back in the saddle, told him that he was fighting in a battle with thousands of history’s greatest warriors, in Heaven, while the sun shone, and he had the chance to go meet Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon later.

It was glorious. It was unbelievable. It was impossible, but it was. It was true. All of it.

A second later, Patrick took an arrow through the eye.

Bongani and Fanyana rolled their eyes as Avicenna hustled Patrick off the field. New guys, eh?

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