Monday, January 3, 2011

Common Words: No Regrets

I had no idea it had been so long since I've posted one of these, but there you are. Five months pass by fast, especially when you move across the country during them.

I can't recall much about this snippet - it's something I wrote in 2006, and while I'd like to say it's a mere extract from a 900-page unpublished novel, I'd be lying; my unpublished novel would probably be more like 300 pages. It has, however, seen prior publication; it appeared in Volume 8, Issue 4 (October 14, 2006) of the Trent University student publication Absynthe Magazine, distributed from Kerr Hall to Otonabee College and everywhere in between. However, given the tight geographic focus of Absynthe's circulation, it didn't likely go much farther than that.

After more than four years I can't rightly recall, but I think it may have been written on the bus. It was also back when I was on a science/magic kick that ended with the former's decisive victory.

(Disclosure: Though I did serve as Editor-in-Chief of Absynthe for two years, by October 2006 I had left the organization.)


Tisiphone Zeeman held a warrior's stance, savage and defiant. The sleek, grey revolver was heavy in her grip, but it was a feather compared to the responsibility that she bore. She took one step forward, eyes filled with anger and contempt, toward the prideful man in green.

Her finger quivered on the trigger. The man's head was in her sights.

"It's over," she said, and her words were absolute. Kings and emperors had fallen with similar finality. "The Jieitai's seen to your distraction, Colonel. I don't know what you expected to achieve, other than the sacrifice of your men, but that's hardly out of character."

"You wound me," Colonel Choi answered in a self-assured tone that had grated on Tisiphone ever since she'd first heard it, two years before in the labyrinth beneath Pyongyang. "They have done their duty as all patriots should, the efforts of your friends in the Self-Defense Forces notwithstanding. Don't think for a moment that the fulfillment of their duty has left me unable to do mine."

Lightning flashed, and for a split second the tiny shrine on the promontory was illuminated with divine light. It stiffened her resolve, and she stepped forward again. Choi stood with his arms outstretched like a reverend blessing his congregation.

"Good for you. I've got my own duty to think about, you fucking pinko," Tisiphone said, spitting the words like venom. The symbol of North Korea, that obscene badge that presided over the enslavement of millions, was prominent on Choi's uniform. "Get on the fucking ground."

"Such crude language from such a lovely woman," Choi said, and Tisiphone could only glare. While the charm he wore didn't provide absolute protection, it would take quite a few bullets to punch through its defense. Choi knew it, and that knowledge only riled Tisiphone more. "This is hardly something you should be concerning yourself with in any event. The last time I checked, you didn't hold Japanese citizenship."

"I have some friends in Tokyo," Tisiphone said. "Maybe you'll be able to meet them, once you're shown how to be a decent fucking human being."

"Really, madam, there's no call for that," Choi said. "What is life, at its fundamental root, but ensuring the survival of blood? You and I, we follow different paths, that's all."

Choi took a step toward the altar. Tisiphone let her gun answer. The North Korean commissar staggered back from the impact, but there was no blood. It was, at the best, as if he'd been hit by a rubber bullet. She hoped she would need less than five more to finish the job.

"You should be the last person standing in my way," Choi said. There was a look of betrayal in his eyes. "I know you have a respect for the works of the ancients. This is a work that should be reclaimed by its rightful inheritors, not sat upon by shrinemaidens."

"Somehow I doubt the king of Gojoseon would like to acknowledge Fearless Leader as his inheritor," Tisiphone said. "Almost as much as I doubt that you'd let an artifact as powerful as that see the light of day."

"The artifact belongs to the Choson, not the filthy Japanese," Choi said. "It is only through us, through me, that this artifact will ever see the light of day. I know that you and your ilk would be perfectly content to leave it here, hidden and forgotten, until doomsday."

"I'd rather it be forgotten than used to do the work of evil," Tisiphone said. "I know what you would use it for. You won't be content until you can enslave all of Korea, and Japan besides."

"One woman's enslavement is another man's stewardship," Choi said. "No matter, this discussion has served its purpose. I do enjoy sparring with you, Miss Zeeman. I'm almost saddened to think that one day, it will all end."

"With me standing over your cooling corpse, it'll end," Tisiphone said. "You can count on that."

"Yes, well, we'll see when we get there, won't we?" Choi said. He waved a finger above the largest badge on his tunic, and it shone with a mystical light. "After all, we're just slaves to the river of time. Sooner or later the current will carry us to our future selves, and then we'll know just whose corpse will cool first. With that, my dear lady, I can only say farewell."

For a moment the rage overwhelmed Tisiphone, and she emptied the six-gun into the North Korean colonel. His shield flickered and threatened to give, but before it collapsed entirely he gave Tisiphone a knowing smile. He made no move to run or otherwise defend himself, and with the final bullet he crumpled.

Tisiphone took a moment to reload the chamber before taking another step forward. Choi was just the sort of man to exploit appearances, and she put another three slugs into him before she was confident enough to approach him.

His face was locked in an expression of serenity, smiling as only a man with no regrets could smile.


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