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14 July 2008 @ 08:08 pm
Excerpt From "The All-Seeing Ear"  
The following excerpts are from Part One of my steampunk and pulp-noir serial The Strange Case of the All-Seeing Ear, being published by The Willows Magazine. The serial begins with January's issue, and continues for the entire year. You can find more information about me at my Myspace page, and you can contact me with questions at gdfalksen@gmail.com.

In the rain-washed darkness, the thing that had lately been a man stared blindly into the invisible sky. All concept of pain had vanished, perhaps along with the sensation itself, and now sanity remained as tenuous as life. Though hearing had vanished, the creature’s very body still sensed the dreadful siren song that had bound him to that place, and even now the echoes of the monstrous noise kept his limbs as numb as stone. He fought to cry out, or at least to make a sound, but nothing more than a dull rasping cough escaped his lips. He could no longer feel the dripping of water that had washed his broken body clean, and a terrible feeling of vertigo drove shudders along his spine.

In the rain-washed darkness, the thing that had lately been a man stared blindly into the invisible sky, and died.

As the highest section of the city, Layer One was open to the boundless sky. Like a vast wall of milky gray vapor, the Unending Ether stretched off in all directions toward the furthest reaches of infinity. It was even written that the Ether’s distant places led all the way to the gates of Heaven itself, and to the dreaded outskirts of Hell. Curious organisms drifted, swam, and in some places even tunneled through the sky. Many were monstrous arthropods, with feathered limbs and chitinous flesh and eyes too numerous to count. There were strange polyps and animate fungi that floated through the ether far beyond, and even some creatures that might be labeled fish or birds by an abnormally charitable zoologist. While these were common enough sights for sailors who plied the shipping lanes between the distant floating cities, panic and chaos inevitably followed when one drifted into a place of habitation.

Clouds of ether drifted across the open streets like a billowing fog, but the cover was light enough to maintain visibility. All around, the glass spheres of the streetlights had dimmed to signify the onset of evening, but the commercial lifeblood of the city paid no heed to the arbitrary concepts of day and night. Out in the distance could be seen the shapes of countless ships flying in and out from the ports on the city’s middle layers: wooden-hulled sailers passed under the watchful eye of ironclad Legion patrollers, whose flags bore the emblem of the great seal fluttering in the spectral breeze. It was almost an inspiring sight, offering the illusion of the City of Salmagundi triumphant: the mighty master of its own destiny. To counter this tempting dream, the massive shapes of steel-hulled Alliance warships pulling in and out of the city's military docks served as a grim reminder of the political reality.

The Sergeant nodded to the nearest Legionnaire before turning to look off into the distance as if frightened of what the sheet concealed. The policeman he addressed had much the same reaction, turning away with a visible cringe even as he raised his side of the sheet to reveal what lay beneath. There was a long moment of silence as Cerys and Wilde peered into the bright shadows, their eyes searching for where one line ended and the next began.

Cerys remained impassive, expression hardened by years of experience, betraying only a dark scowl of fury at the violence that had been wrought upon an innocent man. It was Wilde who reacted, face paling in horror as his hand feebly lifted to cover white lips and a slack mouth. Turning away, he gasped for air, fighting his rising gorge. Hand clutching at his stomach, he leaned over and coughed violently in an effort to resist his body’s urge to vomit.

“Heaven’s!” he cried in horror. “Heaven’s Beyond! His skin! What’s happened to his skin?
madda_gaskamadda_gaska on August 12th, 2008 08:19 pm (UTC)
I really like the imagery- it fits in nicely with a zeppelin based Steampunk Universe I've had dance around my mind occasionally over the last couple of years.

Just one thing though: It's 'Heavens'- it's a plural and it's not possessive, at least as far as I'm aware. Certainly I would have trouble envisaging what a 'Beyond' belonging to Heaven would be.

G. D. Falksen: Evilgdfalksen on September 21st, 2008 05:08 am (UTC)
I'm not surprised that's a point of confusion. In the setting "Heaven" is regarded as a tangible location that incorporates "the Beyond," which is essentially everything that is neither Hell nor Ether. "Heaven's Beyond" is simply an oath that conjures up the image of heaven in totality. This is often shortened to "Heaven's," which is a way of swearing by anything that belongs to Heaven.

Unfortunately, there was no convenient way of explaining that without breaking the narrative flow, so it's simply included as a taste of the exotic flavor of the setting.
madda_gaskamadda_gaska on September 21st, 2008 02:21 pm (UTC)
Ah, I stand corrected! My apologies, I just see so much butchery of the possessive that I sometimes can't stop myself from commenting.

Still, yes, it does make far more sense with the added information- I assume it is something that would become more clear later in the story?

G. D. Falksengdfalksen on September 29th, 2008 06:58 pm (UTC)
That is quite all right. I too weep for the destruction of the English language.

The background to the statement is not explained in "The All-Seeing Ear," but it will be in a later story (when circumstances allow for such a discussion without breaking the narrative flow).
minasmith on August 20th, 2008 08:28 pm (UTC)
How can I read the whole story? Do I have to buy all of the past issues of "The Willows" that feature it or is it available in its entirety anywhere else?
G. D. Falksen: best part of a songgdfalksen on September 21st, 2008 05:10 am (UTC)
Unfortunately the story is only available in The Willows (the six parts are featured in the six issues of this year). However, if it is republished in a collected format I will certainly be posting about it.
Gumball_Joegumball_joe on March 22nd, 2009 09:01 pm (UTC)
This happens to be the first time that I've ever been truly introduced into steampunk. I didn't even know what it was before I took a quiz online.
I think I'd watched steampunk anime movies, but never have I seen a world so, darkly vibrant. This story is insane, and I can't wait to read more.
meowwlmeowwl on May 18th, 2009 09:34 am (UTC)
The Willows, alas is a dead project, so there is no reading it there unless you can get hold of old issues. :(
Lexipants: Oh facepalm.haliyah on June 22nd, 2009 08:58 am (UTC)
Thoroughly depressing. Story do want. :'(
meowwlmeowwl on June 22nd, 2009 09:04 am (UTC)
Me too...I think I'll send an email and request a crosspost.
Lexipants: Freeeedom!haliyah on June 22nd, 2009 12:07 pm (UTC)
Hooray! :'D
warjnawarjna on September 13th, 2010 12:58 am (UTC)
Found this too late?
I only just found a link to this story. How frustrating to discover that the magazine is defunct! I don't suppose it might be found anywhere else now?