The Shaper's Folly
Ee Pin Pang
I do not understand what it is that drives them so. I cannot envision the circumstances that make rational men leave their perfect lives, to swear their bodies, hearts and souls to this cause. While I do not find it ridiculous, it is something to think about before I set to work. I already have an Initiate in the other room.
I put on the robes I am given. They are the blue of night and made of the purest silks. I throw them over the similarly dark shirt I have over my body. The robes wrap around me perfectly, the soft material caressing the skin of my arms lightly. I almost sigh.
Even as I wonder about the ideas that Initiates possess in their minds when they join the Order, I do not neglect the events that marked me for who I am -- the Ashrield, the Shaper. My name was called and reluctantly, I accepted. I was only nine when the former Ashrield discovered the power inside of me, and proceeded to hone my talents into mastery.
Such an age seems so far to me now and I have yet to find a successor. Nobody has caught my eye for over four hundred years.
I laugh quietly, my body shaking a little from the strain. It certainly is a lifetime profession I have here. I hobble to the end of my room, where a brown door sits, closed to me. Before the door, I turn to my left, where a medium-sized window is, showing me the view of the sky outside. I smile. It is a good day today. It doesnít seem too windy.
I turn back to my door and with a withered hand, gently push on it.
The door gives way and I slowly enter another room. It is one of the more ornately designed chambers in the building, sporting many portraits and sculptures that adorn the various corners of the room. Red and gold curtains flank the many round windows lodged in the walls. There is even a large balcony jutting outside the room, the sunlight shining generously on the marbled floor. As I have said, it is a good day today.
But I care nothing for these extravagances. My attention is taken elsewhere. My eyes skip the bright colors of oil paintings and focus onto the figure in the middle of the room. He is an Initiate, one of the Accepted. Yet he is not special. I have seen many of the Accepted in my time.
The man sits on a platform in the middle of the room. The platform is made of marble also, and is high. The manís feet do not touch the ground. The man himself is fully naked. His red robe lies at his feet. His skin is bronze and body well muscled. When Initiates first join the Order, they must undergo intense physical training, replacing fat with muscle, changing ordinary men to visions of perfection. I notice the manís dark hair ends past his shoulders. It is longer than expected. The rules must have changed sometime ago.
The man hears me enter and turns towards my direction. I get a full view of his face, sharp and well defined. The Accepted usually are handsome, with faces strong and smooth as polished marble.
I cannot see his eyes, covered as they are with a black sash. There are tinges of dried blood under the sash. It seems that is what this Initiate gave for Sacrifice.
This is one of the more cruel trials an Initiate must go through. The Sacrifice is the final and most grueling of the tests of devotion. The Initiate must choose a part of his physical self to leave behind if he is to go forth. The Sacrifice exists according to Order teachings, to cement the commitment one has to the cause. It is cruel I know, but necessary as a test. Many leave behind fingers, toes and other appendages. Some I know sacrifice an ear, relying on the other one to hear the worldís song. But to give up an eye is a rare thing, and to yield both globes is rarer still. This Initiateís devotion is touching and I hope to make this occasion one he will treasure.
I stop in front of the man, watching him as he strains to hear me. His brows furrow in concentration and I decide to make my presence known.
"What is your name, child?" I ask in a quiet, gentle voice. He is a full adult, possibly having seen more than thirty winters, but they are all children in my eyes, even the Instructors and the Heads. Age is funny that way.
The man turns to my voice, registering the nuances there, imagining who it belongs to. He takes his time to answer. When he speaks, his voice is deep but light. There is roughness as well, like a pebble before time and tide burnish it.
"My name is Marion, son of Jaqui, Ranger of the 32nd Northern Brigade."
"Thatís good, Marion. I admire your efforts in making it this far," I say. "Your devotion amazes me."
"You mean my eyes?"
"Not many would give such important parts of their lives. Why do this? Why your eyes, good Marion?" I ask, forgetting my place for a moment.
Marion smiles ruefully. "With all due respect, Shaper, I have just been through Sacrifice, where my eyes were freely given, and Confession, where I bared my soul to the Heads. You must forgive me if I seek not to recall my trials at this moment."
I nod slowly, then realize my folly. Nodding to a blind man is as futile as trying to extinguish the sun with spittle.
"I understand fully. It is I who must ask for forgiveness, given my insensitive probing," I say, reaching out to hold his hands. They are rough, callused. Hands used to hardship. "You are almost at the end of your trials, difficult as they have been."
I have always wondered about Confession. Where Sacrifice required the gift of the physical, Confession was an intrusion of the mind, the unveiling of a personís soul. It is perhaps more intense than the giving of flesh. It is infinitely more painful, I think.
He fidgets a little, unsure of the situation ahead, afraid of the silence in the room. I walk away from him and approach an ivory table next to the one Marion sits on. And for all the murmurs of understanding the manís reluctance to speak, my mind still dwells on the things he has left unsaid.
I have seen many kinds of people, with so many lives thrown away to me. Simple farmers and shrewd academics have come before me. Wise teachers, saintly priests and proud artists have bowed humbly before me. And once in a while, I receive the fighting man. Men like Marion, son of Jaqui.
One soldier has told me before of his motivation for undergoing the ceremony. He told me of his despair when his village was destroyed by the enemy. He whispered amongst open tears of his dead and ravaged family. He railed against injustice and spoke feverishly of the need for order -- order only our kind can uphold. I looked into the soldierís eyes then, and turned my gaze at his missing left hand. Then I called him a fool and proceeded with the Shaping. I am not allowed to judge.
"Shaper." Marionís soft voice reaches me and breaks my musings.
I look up ashamed, aware of my thoughtlessness. This is not a moment for idleness. His reasons do not matter. He is in my care now. You would think old age should erase foolishness from my wizened mind.
"Shaper," Marion says in the cool air, "I am ready."
"And I am not," I chide and move to the white table. On it is a rich brown box of small size. There are no markings on the lidís cover other than two gold locks etched onto the boxís front. I touch the locks and mutter words of power. The gold guardians instantly release their charge to me with nothing more than a quiet click. I put my hands on the box lid, feeling the sharp, uneven grain of the roughly carved wood. With an unnecessary flourish, I flip the box lid quickly, revealing in the dim light two small daggers of ebony finish. From hilt to tip, each reaches across my palm and halfway to the elbow. The blades are thin, and immensely sharp. And the color of black provides them a wicked glint. Light merely falls dully on these weapons. No, it is as if they suck light from the world.
I hold each dagger in a reversed grip, my palm closing onto their handles easily, the blades pointing inwards. And when I lift them, the blades sing. Haphazard, discordant music chimes through the air. It is a scream of release. It is an Angelís sigh.
Marion hears the bladesí song as well, perhaps even more so without the benefit of sight.
"What beauty is that, Shaper? Is this part of the ceremony?" he asks, fear and wonder in his voice.
"That sound resonates from my tools, dear boy. They sense somebody who is worthy and ache to be used. They crave purpose. This music we hear is their voice."
"It sounds like pain."
I laugh a little more unkindly than I expect to. "Do not concern yourself about the pain of others." I move while I speak, slithering behind the man, his bare back to me. I see a long, scar on it, snaking in an arc across the skin. I am nearer now, my body tenses as I crouch low until my face reaches the nape of his neck. I raise the daggers high above my head and they wail in anticipation.
"Are you ready Marion, son of Jaqui, Accepted of the fold? There is no turning back," I ask a final time.
"Yes," comes his answer, a breathless whisper of preparation.
My daggers sweep down without pause, slicing through the air mercilessly. With simple brutality, the blades plunge into Marionís shoulders, sending a mist of blood onto my face. Still I do not hesitate. The blades rip through skin and muscle. Cartilage is swept aside as the dagger tips search for the bone structure. All this time, Marion is crying out in agony, his head thrown back and his body bucking uncontrollably. His voice cannot stay silent. It is a raw being that screams for alleviation. It cannot be helped. Other than blind faith, only pain can propel a personís understanding to ultimate levels. Pain can give a person insight, or drag him into madness.
I almost find the bones I need.
Choose! I command silently and the burning tips reach the bones. Wielding the secrets of my craft, I channel the energies required and connect the flow with little difficulty. It is easy because I do not make the choices. I am merely a conduit. The Accepted must be able to see his path.
The alternative is much worse.
I lift my arms and with a piercing cry, tear the daggers out of Marionís back. Like a dam suddenly collapsing against a rushing tide, a surge of power suddenly bursts out of the man. Its force crashes into me, throwing me off the ground and into the air. Never have I felt such chargesÖ such raw power before. As I land heavily on the floor, my thoughts rest more on the prospects of a superb creation than on my own wellbeing. I recover quickly, my eyes trained tightly on Marion. Still, he sits on the table, his hands cover his face, his face peers towards the Heavens. He is azure blue now, the color of lightning, and blazes with painful intensity. His wails betray the torment that rages in his soul. He is being torn apart. He is being reborn.
Suddenly, he issues a scream that tears through the room. I watch as four protrusions explode from his back, from the two deep cuts my knives created on that muscled tapestry. They are long, with jagged, serrated sides, like a multi-faceted spear. They are the hue of ice and gleam crazily in the surrounding intensity. I watch with my experience at the beginnings of wings.
Marionís cries of agony and mercy do not stop. The son of Jaqui now has his arms wrapped across his body, each hand straining to touch those added facilities. But he cannot reach them, and still they torment him. Still I watch. I observe his writhing form as the colors that surround him blaze brighter and brighter. It is all I can do not to cover my eyes from the brilliance. Then it happens. The icy wings being to crack, the sound of splitting overpowered by Marionís inhuman shrieks. They break slowly at first, then faster -- the pieces falling off him continually now. The blue rages more intensely and this time, I shield my eyes with a withered hand.
Finally, the light falters and starts to die down. I lower my hand and observe my creation once more. This is the moment of reckoning and I am excited of the result. Even after so many years, so many times of this, still my blood races before a finalized subject. By now, Marion has stopped his cries and is sitting calmly on the table. I trace my eyes across his back. The wings are what I focus on. They are beautiful, positioned in the shape of a large cross, the perfect four-leaf clover. Each wing is the length of a man, with pure white feathers that glow lightly on their own. Each shift slightly as the man breathes, the feathers ruffling quietly, the only sound in the room other than Marionís now-slowed breathing.
"Marion, son of Jaqui, Accepted of the Fold, it is done," I say, my voice quavering slightly.
"My name is not Marion," the Angel says and gets off the table. It walks away from it and turns towards me. I see Its face now, unlined as it is, achingly perfect. Its body has lost none of Its muscled mass, but now seems slender at the same time. It looks every inch a God. In reality, it is Godís warrior. It moves confidently, with the supple grace of knowledge. Its eyes are still covered and Its hands reach for the sash. The nails on them are longer than before. Sharper too. I should have reacted then but carelessness stays my hand. I watch as my Angelís fingers play with the sash, and with a swift motion tear it off Its face. Its eyelids are closed. Its mouth curls wickedly.
"My name is not Marion," it repeats and opens Its eyes, revealing twin pits of fire and blackness. It smiles now, daggers peeking out from under Its lips. "It is Waarheid."
Instantly, my mouth utters a spell of shielding and there is a shimmer in the air. It is a spell designed to repel most dangers, yet I cannot tell with this particular Demon. I have faced many a failed creation before, but never one as devious as this. Never have one waited until fully-formed before revealing itself. No, I have never let one slip by me like that before.
"Surprised, Shaper? Shocked at your failure?" the Demon taunts. It is still perfect.
"Begone Hellspawn!" I roar, defiant against this monster, "Back to the pits with you!" I stretch out an arm, my palm opens outwards. There is a rune drawn on it and it glows faintly. "See my sign and know I can destroy you!"
The Demon laughs, a sound that grates the soul and shatters all security a being has. Its laughter rips through my shell of confidence and seeks my weaknesses.
"See your arrogance old man! See how you try to frighten your superior with wild words and empty promises!" It sneers, Its face a mask of contempt, "You have no power, not the strength to match mine. Youíve grown docile in your years. Weak and blind to your enemies!"
"Dare you match against me, Demon?" I threaten but it is too late. The seed has been planted. And Waarheid has sensed it.
"I know of the times you have found my brethren, ripping them out from Manís souls and casting them back to the Abyss. But that was when your powers were greatest. No more, no more! Now you cannot even sense revenge masked as righteousness! You cannot tell venom from justice! This humanÖ this son of JaquiÖ his soldiering days ended when he killed his comrade for seducing his wife. His wife perished later beneath his blade and the man fled. He nursed his hatred well inside him, deeming the world responsible for his misfortunes. He spun lies upon lies, stories layered over stories until he deceived himself of his reasons. In doing that, he deceived the world and all that would judge him. Sacrifice was nothing to the man; Confession was a playground for his words.
"You did not see me hiding in his soul. You did not see the hatred harboring in his heart. He offered lies and you and your little knives believed him. You forced yourself into his life and yet you are blind! You deemed him worthy to be an Angel and this is the result, Shaper! I am the result! I am the amalgamation of Demon, of Man and of Angel. I am your folly!"
I feel weak and my outstretched hand shakes. The Demon, for all Its lies, reveals grains of truth, enough to carry Its twisted words into my heart. I have failed to notice the evil in the man. It was I who chose one who should never have been given wings. I was the final test of the soul and I have failed, in all my arrogance, to use my craft wisely. It is all true Ö and it is all over.
My arm drops and I sink to my knees. My spell of shielding disappears as I lose my will to fight.
The Demon laughs once again and stalks nearer to my limp frame. Its once-sightless eyes glare malevolently and Its wings open up in ultimate triumph.
"I am the Bringer of Truth and the Teller of Lies! I am the Deceiver and Illusionist, the companion of Despair and Desolation!" it roars.
"You are nothing," I whisper, my words having lost all power.
"Know of your wrongs, of your false beliefs!" The Demon is right in front of me now. It kneels and gently, even reverently cups my chin. I do not resist. Its claws slice my cheeks lightly, rivulets of blood flow down the skin instantly. Its very touch burns me, yet I do not move. Its face is inches from mine and my eyes have nowhere else to turn but to the fiery coals before me.
"You know your faults, you know what must come now." The Demonís voice is soft and smooth, calm and seductive.
"LeaÖ leave me be monsterÖ" I sigh.
"Goodbye Shaper," the Demon says and tilts my head back, revealing my neck and the veins that govern my life, "Know in death the cost of pride."
It opens Its mouth, pulls back Its lips and Its teeth reach out for blood. I feel searing breath on my skin as in a smooth motion, the Demon moves to rip out my throat. Its teeth have just lightly pierced skin when all of a sudden, they retreat and the being leering over me vanishes. I look up in time to see the Demon Waarheid fly through the air, crashing onto the marbled table, crushing it in shocking ferocity.
"Have faith, Shaper," a voice says beside me. It is calm and authoritative, of gentleness and power. I smell lavender in the air and I do not have to look to know who it is that saved me. Yet look I do and I see the Angel that stands next to me, Its pale body shimmering lightly, Its wings flared open in readiness. Its eyes speak the hues of judgment and mercy, eyes that matches Its hard face of smooth granite, framed by blond hair to Its chin. My eyes stray to Its hands and notice something surprising. The Angel carries no left hand. It is rather, replaced by a shaft of orange light -- Its weapon against evil.
"Thank you," I mutter.
Soft as my words are, the Angel hears them and smiles. It is as if the world smiles along too.
"You are much welcomed," it says, "my name is Ordeenwet, of the Lordís 12th Company. I was flying around the area when I sensed a disturbance in your chambers." Ordeenwet dips his head slightly, "You must forgive me for intruding, Ashrield, I had no other choice."
"You did right, Ordeenwet," I say. The Angel nods and steps forward. I turn to see the Demon getting to Its feet, Its face twisted in hatred, in Its right hand a blazing sword of fire. It strides purposefully towards us.
"Back, Shaper! You are my charge!" the Angel commands and begins walking. Both warriorsí paces quicken and soon, with weapons in hand, they run at each other. Waarheid raises Its sword and slashes downward with all Its strength. Ordeenwetís shaft of light rises to meet it and the weapons clash, invoking a mighty quake of power that rips through the room. I cover my ears from the splitting sound. It is as the whole world shakes.
The Angel knocks the blazing sword aside and thrusts with Its own weapon.
Waarheid jumps back, wings flapping in agitation. Suddenly, it turns and runs for the balcony at the edge of the room. Ordeenwet pursues.
The Demon, upon reaching the balcony, smashes Its body through the doors and into the sun outside. It runs to the railings and with a laugh, jumps off. For a moment, it vanishes from view, an anti-climactic end to this nightmare. Then there is a whistle in the wind and the Demon soars past the balcony and into the sky.
The Angel strides to the balconyís edge and launches Itself into the air without hesitation. Its enormous wings unfold effortlessly, catching lift in Its white feathers. Sunlight shines on the Angel and there is a flash of gold as Ordeenwet rockets after the Demon.
I hobble to the balcony, squinting against the sun, my eyes hunting for signs of these immortal beings. There! There they are, two dark winged figures silhouetted against the immense cloudless blue above them. They are so high that they look like mere harmless dots that zip through the sky at astonishing speeds. Only the brilliant flashes of gold that streak above my head betray the epic battle that rages. Then, there is a flare that lights up the already sunlit horizon and I hear a distant crash of thunder. As I continue watching the sky, I notice one of the dots increasing in size. Instantly, I take a step back. The dot grows until my eyes can make out a substantial shape. The Angel crashes hard onto the balcony tiles. The floor cracks heavily and pieces of material fly all over. I cringe from the spray of debris but take a step forward again.
The Angel lies on the ground, with only little nuances of movement showing Its tender hold on life. It lives but barely and I run to Its side.
"Angel!" I cry to my fallen protector. I touch Its porcelain face, my fingers finding the damp stickiness of blood that traces Its mouth.
Its eyelids suddenly open, twin sapphires stare up to the sky.
"Beware," It whispers just as the air burns and a fire rockets into the both of us.
Something hits my head. The world disappears into darkness.
I awake, not knowing how long the dark has claimed me. I realize I am still on the balcony, in a sitting position, my back leaning against a wall. My eyes see only chaos. Destruction is everywhere, tiles lay scattered, pillars have crashed. Yet the balcony stays. And yet nobody has come to aid Ordeenwet. Are Godís warriors so distant?
In the centre of the devastation stands the Demon Waarheid, Its features curled in triumph. It waits for my eyes to meet Its own, and they only speak of contempt.
Quickly, I search for Ordeenwet, desperate to know Its condition. I do not have to search long. The Angel lies behind Its killer, a flaming sword through Its chest, pinning the poor warrior onto the ground. Ordeenwet moves not and I fear the worst.
"Rest assured, the Angel is not dead yet," Waarheid reports. Its lips twists into a grin. "Not until it sees Its charge slaughtered painfully. Then it may die, Its heart pierced with sorrow and failure, Its voice for salvation thrown into the wind, Its curses of damnation sweet in my ears."
I give a wail of despair, an inhuman cry of pain. It drives the Demon to laughter, a sound that corrupts the air. It approaches me, sauntering with power and the knowledge of victory. The Demon has won and I am going to perish. Worse, I have led an Angel to Its death. The guilt churns in my soul.
Waarheid stands before me now and kneels, Its face next to mine.
"Do you not have any last words? Any pleas? This is your chance, Shaper!" It breathes in my ear. I am reminded of the songs that snakes sang to the wounded warriors of old. That is how Demons trap their victims. They take pleasure in denouncing the faith of the dying, they relish the confusion and desperation.
A fire starts to smolder at the base of my stomach. I do not fully understand, but there is anger hidden beneath my quivers and resignation. A quiet, tiny flame of defiance begins to ignite as I stare at the Demonís lava eyes. Then my eyes drift down Its face, landing on Its knowing smirk and the fire explodes within me, coursing through my blood and into my heart. My hands lose their tremors and I am bold.
The Demon has a moment to see my eyes harden before I shout, "Begone!"
A wave of power slams into It, launching It into the air and away from me. I do not watch the Demon fall, rather, I get up as fast as I can and run for the doors to the ceremonial chamber. I dash into the room, my heart pumping too quickly to calm, my body screaming against such exertion. My sight fades, but I push back the darkness and stagger onward.
My only thoughts are for the twin ebony blades that rest uselessly on the floor.
My right foot slips to the side, my entire body weight rests on it, and there is a crack. Fire flares from my ankle throughout my body and with a cry, I fall. My mind still reeling, I crawl to my daggers in front of me. My fingers touch their hilts just as I hear the Demon bellow -- a curious sound of vengeance and death.
I twist around, my weapons scream their siren voices as they slice through the air and reality. While I try to look as menacing as possible, from Waarheidís face as It examines me from the balcony, I doubt I have succeeded.
The Demon laughs as It enters the room. Its face mocks my weakened state but Its eyes betray only hatred. "What a sight you are! A man as old as you should not run, nor attempt resistance. It only makes you more pitiful!"
"Pitiful? MaybeÖ but I will not die easily, Demon!"
"Then just die where you are!" The Demonís hand flares into flames. Its arm shoots out and a sphere of scarlet flame bursts out towards me. I yell out a spell and my shield appears. The fireball collides into it and my nerves react. My body writhes as the shield dissipates. I have bought some time, but my powers will not save me a second time. The Demon readies another attack.
With a loud incoherent cry, I wrench myself up, my uninjured foot supporting my wizened frame. The pain is unbearable but it is what fuels me now.
Waarheid raises Its flaming arm.
I throw my knives.
They sail through the air like bullets, singing mournfully at their discarding. One of the dagger hits the Demon hilt-first before bouncing off Its shoulder. The other however, buries itself into the Demonís chest.
Waarheid roars. And it is terrifying. It is pain and hate combined. It is revenge and fire promised. The dagger disrupts the Demonís power and bites mercilessly. Yet for all the bladeís magic, Demons are more powerful.
Waarheid grabs the dagger with a free hand and rips it from Its chest. Crimson flows down the cut. The Demon raises Its arm again.
"No more weapons!" It rages, "No more games! You die now!"
I struggle to construct another shield.
The flames burn brighter.
I will not make it in time.
"To Hell with you, Demon." The voice that says this is soft, but manages to reach Its audience amidst the chaos.
Waarheid whirls around quickly but the sword is faster, striking Its neck, severing leather skin, flesh, tendons and muscles. The head slips off, disbelief trapped in Its eyes, rage still etched in Its features. There is a spray of blood. There are the dull thuds of head and body on the ground, the clang of steel as the flaming sword clatters down as well. Then it ends and the Demon moves no more.
I see the Angel Ordeenwet standing wearily over the vanquished Demon, noting in alarm Its condition. There is a gaping hole in Its chest, blood gushing out of the wound endlessly. Its remaining hand is burnt black from touching the Demonís cursed weapon. Its wings are torn and feathers fall every other moment. Its muscles quiver from the strain of merely standing. The Angel watches the Demonís body sadly.
"Angel," I say and the spell is broken. Ordeenwetís eyes meet mine and I feel such tenderness in my soul. Tears well up as I see the same for the Angel.
Then the Angel sighs and collapses to the ground, next to the Demonís unmoving form.
"No!" I cry out and with whatever strength remaining, limp forth. When I reach them, I fall to my knees. My ankle flares once more but I do not care.
Ordeenwet is not dead, but will be soon. This much I can understand. Its wounds are too great to be healed. More importantly, It does not struggle against the tide of death. Still I hold the body close to mine, as if I can will the Angel to full health.
"Donít die! Donít die!" I repeat over and over again, a litany for my own heart rather than anyone elseís. "You are Ordeenwet, Godís Angel of the 12th Company! You are Samuel, son of Taswai, soldier of the 63rd Infantry Division! You are Order and Law and my savior! Do not die!"
My charge is safe, and I must go. Take care, Shaper.
Those words whisper gently in my mind and at that moment, I know the Angel breathes no more. Still, for all their compassion, they do nothing to relieve the pain in my heart. My body shakes in sorrow, my tears are my cries of anguish and despair. I weep for the loss of beauty for an old manís sake. And that is the most brutal truth of all.
I do not know how long I have sat there, holding the Angelís limp body. But I cannot mourn like this forever and I put Its body down. I stare at Its closed eyes, Its features seemingly peaceful -- a direct contradiction to the wounds in my soul. An Angel has saved my ugly life. For that I shall always hate the Angel, but for that I am eternally indebted to it.
After more moments, I finally stand painfully. Reaching out for the walls for support, I limp towards an innocent brown door. My movements are slow but I manage to reach it in due time. I stand at the door, lost in my thoughts and selfish guilt. I see the balcony and the sunshine. It is too good a day for a story of death and loss. Too happy a world to discuss the fall of beauty. Yet tell the tale I must. That is my punishment and I am glad it is not worse. With a final sad glance at the scene before me, I open the door.
© 2006 by Ee Pin Pang
Bio: Ee Pin Pang is a struggling writer who wants to save the world. However, to do that requires mental abilities far beyond his own. Thus he writes. Sometimes he works to bring in the dough. A recent graduate from Melbourne, he posts his inane ramblings at FictionPress (under the nom de web of 'Maskerade'), and spends his time watching the people counters go up ever so slowly. This is his third appearance in Aphelion; his story Mrs. Blumer's Dustbins appeared in the November 2005 edition.
E-mail: EePin Pang
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