Monday, 1 October 2012

Pictonaut September '12 - The Journey.


I'm a little late with my first pictonaut, which I'm feel terribly ashamed for. Not only that, but this is most definitely a first draft and not a finished piece. I feel when it is finally done it will look significantly different. Nevertheless, here it is. Over complicated, far too obtuse and either way too short, or way too long, I haven't decided which. 
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Story.

Arnold's journey across the desert was endless. The great mountain loomed behind, a reminder of how far he had come. He had been summoned and he came. It was a great honour to be called to the feet of the High Priestess, but more than that, it was an opportunity for Arnold personally. If he had to travel the rest of his life he would not stop until he reached the Priestess' desert shrine. Everyone, at least everyone important, would be there.

Arnold's life had been a success by anyone's standards; it had been divine by his own. His position in the world, before the final war had come, had been one of power to the greatest degree. The CEO of probably the most successful business the world had ever seen, he saw his own cunning and fortitude as the only providence to thank. It was true that there had been a partner once, in the early days; a woman. But Arnold had always known she had thrived only under the safe protection of his mighty shadow, and this was proved to him when she sold her share of the company for a fraction of a percent of its true worth. What had she said the day she left? Arnold did not struggle to remember - some emotional ramblings, he had little doubt.

Such an empire the man had built, to be the envy of all who heard its name. And that power had served him well, saving him from the slaughter of the war. Great men were not allowed to perish at the hands of common soldiers!

As he walked on, tirelessly, never ceasing, never slowing, towards a reward that was just and true, he thought of his glory days and kept his head held high. One incident stood out brightly from all the other shining memories, built of solid gold; a personal triumph for Arnold, and a glaring display of his diplomatic nature and great business acumen.

With swiftness of wit, and cold hearted pragmatism, Arnold had, in a single effort, rid himself of a problem employee and saved his company millions. His expulsion of Richardson had been inspired, for the man’s guilt or innocence had been of little consequence. The facts were simple, and the solution clear. Richardson's accusations of theft by Donovan had been in precise, Newtonian conflict with Donovan's own accusations toward Richardson himself. Whatever the truth, firing Richardson and replacing him with Donovan, with only a modest raise for the latter, would rid him of a thief or an innocent man, and make an innocent man or a thief happy. The raise would guarantee no further theft; the fraud squad would guarantee no revenge. There had been others involved, but Arnold had allowed the police to separate out his chaff and filled the void with minimal staff at minimal pay raises – cost effective and efficient.

Few men could run a business as well Arnold. Few men were capable of his perfect logic, his pure objectivism. And now, his brilliance had been noticed. Finally, at the very end, with everything else burned and gone, he would meet the High Priestess; employees and business rivals alike would bow to his genius in respect. And who knows, he may even rise above the High Priestess herself, for what possible job could a woman do, adequately as she undoubtedly did hers, which he could not excel in! No job that Arnold cared to know about, that was for sure!

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Richardson's journey across the desert was endless. The great mountain loomed behind, a reminder of how far he had come. He had been summoned and he came. It was a great honour to be called to the feet of the High Priestess, but more than that, it was an opportunity for Richardson personally. If he had to travel the rest of his life he would not stop until he reached the Priestess' desert shrine. Everyone, at least everyone important, would be there.

However, in the baking sun of the desert, Richardson's anger only grew. He thought he had been so careful, he thought he had been so smart. When Donovan had presented to him information regarding Samael's deception, he had, concurrently, presented all Richardson needed to rid himself of an ambitious underling and a dangerous colleague. To implicate Donovan in Samael's crime was the perfect political move. He could still not see, even now, how it had failed, how Donovan had turned about those tables and set his own accusations against him. But it mattered not any longer. All that mattered now was his vengeance. And now he had been summoned, he could finally have it.

For eight years he had rotted in a prison cell, implicated in attempted murder, in fraud. Eight years he had lost, although he might have lost much more. Prisoners and other such undesirables were not required, by the powers that were, to fight in the final war. Nor were prisons priority targets for the enemy. He lived only because his life had been taken from him. Yet there were many times he wished he had not. A life without power, a life without money, a life without privilege was no life at all in Richardson's mind. Nor was a life without his daughter.

Richardson had always resented his daughter. He had prayed for a son, a strong and handsome man to keep his name and genes alive. Instead he had been given her. She complained of being unappreciated, yet Richardson could find nothing to appreciate. He gave her what she needed and allowed her all the world's freedom of will to do as she would please, so long as he was left unaware. Richardson took great pride in the sensible compromise and great restraint he had shown.

But she was to get her vengeance before he would execute his own, for when the gaoler rattled his keys, he had none but her for solace, and solace never came, but once. Once, Richardson saw his daughter's face, heard his daughter's voice. What had she said? He could not recall. He used every influence he had to gather news of his girl, but there was none to be had. She had fled from his life. And then the war came and the men burned and all the women were fled away, to where he would never know.

It little mattered now. The war had ended all. All Richardson could see was his revenge. Donovan, Arnold, Samael, they would all be with him at the foot of the Priestess, and he would have his revenge.

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Donovan's journey across the desert was endless. The great mountain loomed behind, a reminder of how far he had come. He had been summoned and he came. It was a great honour to be called to the feet of the High Priestess, but more than that, it was an opportunity for Donovan personally. If he had to travel the rest of his life he would not stop until he reached the Priestess' desert shrine. Everyone, at least everyone important, would be there.

Donovan's position at the end had been assured from the very start, at least, in his own eyes. Since he had first joined the company, he had begun to lay down the strongest blocks of a foundation that would propel him, and his ally, Blake, like cannon shot through the ranks till he stood beside the man himself, Mr Arnold. And Donovan was proud, for he had done it without deceit, on his own part at least.

Not that his was a blameless life. He had been forced to let go of a good employee on what were at best unsupportable grounds, were they true at all (a question that Donovan had little troubled himself to answer). But if Blake were to be beside him, and that was absolutely necessary, then the weaker and the less useful assistant he'd had at the time must go. She had said something to him as she had left on that final day. He had not listened. He had little time for the vitriol of his former female employee.

And he had been proven wise indeed in his decision. For not long after this incident, Blake had proven his worth. The information Blake had provided Donovan on Samael’s crimes had been worth as much as promotion. Blake's contacts within accounts had assured it. When Richardson had turned on him, Donovan had begun to worry that going direct to him with Blake's information had been a mistake, despite it being perfectly according to protocol. Blake had, however, proven Richardson's allegations of Donovan's hand in murder and fraud to be, themselves, fraudulent, a desperate bid by Richardson to rid himself of a powerful enemy. But Donovan, with Blake by his side, had proven too strong and when Richardson's expulsion propelled Donovan to Arnold's side, he had taken his PA, Blake, with him, Donovan being forever true to his allies.

In such high positions, the final war had passed them by virtually unnoticed. When Arnold had fled, he had taken his best men with him, Donovan and Blake included. They had sat below while the world above burned to blackened desert, the sand that lay now beneath his feet. And then they had left and wandered an infinite plane, until he had heard the call and began his trek towards the High Priestess.

Now he walked on to meet up with his employer once more, to share in glory with him once more. With the war done, and the cities gone, the High Priestess and her tribe will begin to rebuild the world. Men and women will be reunited, the race shall begin anew, and shall begin with Donovan, and those greats with him alike.

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Samael's journey across the desert was endless. The great mountain loomed behind, a reminder of how far he had come. He had been summoned and he came. It was a great honour to be called to the feet of the High Priestess, but more than that, it was an opportunity for Samael personally. If he had to travel the rest of his life he would not stop until he reached the Priestess' desert shrine. Everyone, at least everyone important, would be there.

Samael had done wrong. That was clear to him now. Not in his attempted murder of Foley, for the man was a fool and a liability to the company; nor in his attempt to Frame Brent; that plan was flawless - Foley's blackmail of Brent had given the man clear motive. Where Samael had been wrong was in getting caught. He had been wrong to trust Blake, to believe an enemy's assistant could be an ally to him.

The information had been diamond coated in gold and Samael had received it freely from Blake. More suspicious too, Blake, shortly after, received promotion from Brent's to Donovan's personal assistant. He should have seen it, he should have known. His sister would have known, but he had forsaken her counsel long ago.

Samael had lost her, not long before the final war began, not long before the bombs came and the cities vanished. She had never taken to rehab, or it had not taken to her. She was of such a strong will, the distinction was never clear. He had never visited her, other than that final day. She was an embarrassment, a small speck of weakness in an otherwise perfect family tree.

She called him, summoned him, Samael supposed, and he came. He could not say why. There was a sense of finality in her voice, a controlled urgency that Samael could not ignore. She had said little. What was it she had said? Samael could not recall. She spoke laconically and then he left. Later, he received the second call. She was gone. No one knew how, or where, just that she was gone.

And then the police came. Attempted murder, implications in fraud, the evidence was compelling, Samael had no way out. And after the police came the bombs, and then the fire. The police left, the gaols were left empty, the prisoners walked out into the baking sun and began to spread out into the nothingness that the war left behind. And Samael walked too, without direction, until the High Priestess called him to his fate, to his revenge!

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Blake's journey across the desert was endless. The great mountain loomed behind, a reminder of how far he had come. He had been summoned and he came. It was a great honour to be called to the feet of the High Priestess, but more than that, it was an opportunity for Blake personally. If he had to travel the rest of his life he would not stop until he reached the Priestess' desert shrine. Everyone, at least everyone important, would be there.

Blake was a dodger. His mother, a single one, had abandoned him at an early age. Many attributed his peculiarities to this, but in reality, the causal relationship was no doubt the opposite. He had been manipulative from birth. His mother had never felt her own person since Blake had come into the world. One day, before she felt the last scrap of identity ebbing from her soul, she slipped out in the night and was never heard of again.

It did not hold Blake back. Without the loving hand of a mother to guide him through his life, he did not suffer. Rather he gained a greater control over his own fate, positioning himself perfectly throughout his life to gain the maximum personal benefit through the actions of others.  A maxim that had served him his entire life, this was never truer than in the cut-throat environs of the company.

With great care, Blake had made the best effect out of the theft that his immediate superior, Brent, had undertaken from the company, thievery that Blake himself had managed with perfect stealth to steer Brent towards. With the paranoid and ambitious Samael, he had found the perfect fulcrum, and with Donovan, the honest and resourceful man, the perfect lever with which to lift himself higher; close enough, in fact, to touch the floor of the Head Office.

Brent's theft, Samael's shock reaction (to others at least), and finally Donovan's 'by the book' approach - the work had been flawless and Blake had arrived precisely where he had meant to be. Not the man with power, the man with the gun aimed constantly at his head from below. Nor the man behind the man with the power, yet one man further back still; the truly unnoticed, the devious, the immune. And by luck, for he would always take it, though Blake never relied on it, he had inadvertently positioned himself clear of the war.

And now he travelled on, to place himself behind the High Priestess, behind the woman with the world in the palm of her hand, the ultimate mother, to be the projectionist at the moving picture show that was the entire planet - the man who made it happen, yet unthought-of by actors and audience alike.

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Brent's journey across the desert was endless. The great mountain loomed behind, a reminder of how far he had come. He had been summoned and he came. It was a great honour to be called to the feet of the High Priestess, but more than that, it was an opportunity for Brent personally. If he had to travel the rest of his life he would not stop until he reached the Priestess' desert shrine. Everyone, at least everyone important, would be there.

Brent had been a fool; he had always been a fool. He had been the hopeless son that could not earn his mother's love, he had been the hopeless romantic that could not gain a lover, no matter how hard he tried, and he had been the hopeless employee that could not resist temptation, nor be clever enough to evade discovery. He had been so blind that he failed to notice the absence of women come the final war, nor the absence of forethought in his own professional life.

It had seemed easy to Brent, to siphon off the funds and secrete them away. No one had known, not for years. He didn't take more than would be noticed and he never flaunted his ill gotten wealth. However, he also never took much time to cover his tracks, as no one seemed to really mind what he was doing.

When the demand for blackmail came from Foley, Brent had been surprised, not that he had been caught (which appeared inevitable to him), but that anyone had bothered to catch him. Brent had assumed his PA, Blake, had told Foley of his sticky fingers. Now he came to consider it fully, the idea for the theft had come from Blake originally, who had taken his cut and had gained significantly from the aftermath, becoming PA to the deputy himself.

Brent had sweated for months under the torturous extortions of Foley. When an attempt was made on Foley's life, Brent was more relieved than anything, but a ham-handed attempt by Samael to implicate Brent himself in the affair made that emotion painfully short lived. Finally, the truth had come out; he, Richardson and Samael had all been put away for their various splits from legality. He saw none of it coming.

And while in gaol, while the war raged and all that he knew burned, while the world disintegrated around him, Brent had the time to take stock. He thought about how he deserved the money he stole. He thought about the hatred he nurtured for Blake, for Foley, for everyone who'd had a hand in his downfall. And he thought about his vengeance, an opportunity that the High Priestess had finally laid at his feet to make amends with the blood of his enemies. And even that had been a surprise to Brent.

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Foley's journey across the desert was endless. The great mountain loomed behind, a reminder of how far he had come. He had been summoned and he came. It was a great honour to be called to the feet of the High Priestess, but more than that, it was an opportunity for Foley personally. If he had to travel the rest of his life he would not stop until he reached the Priestess' desert shrine. Everyone, at least everyone important, would be there.

The journey was particularly hard for Foley, since he had been crippled. Foley might have resented the wheel chair – his hands were blistered from pushing himself along and the wheels were beginning to grind away to nothing against the sand of the desert - yet he did not. Maybe he had brought it on himself. Perhaps he should have been more responsible than to use the information his secretary, Green, had given him to blackmail poor Brent. And, after all, had things not turned out quite well for him, at the conclusion of it all.

Foley had been given quite a decent settlement by the company, without the hassel of lengthy court hearings. Of course, this had been to their advantage too, in the form of good publicity. And although it was without a doubt, a great inconvenience to have lost the use of his legs, did it not ensure his security when the final war came? And the sympathy card had gone down quite a treat at the local bars, before the women had all gone to wheresoever it might be they went at the eve of the final war. Foley had never once had to pay for it after he lost his legs (purely a figure of speech, as the damage was concentrated solely on his spine). He still did, though, it was still the easier, the cleaner way in his mind; and when he did, he always received a healthy discount.

Despite all this, however, despite his positive attitude, despite his enviable financial situation and his improved promiscuity, there was always a bitter taste at the back of Foley's mouth, a twisted thought at the back of his mind. He knew who had done this to him, it had all come out in the wash, and he felt a pressing, almost primal need to settle that particular score. Samael had taken something personal, something vital from Foley, and Foley was going to repay him in kind.

Foley was well aware, that if he had received an invite from the High Priestess, despite him being so obviously deserving, given the circumstances, given the hardship he had been forced to endure at the hands of another, then Samael would have received one also, despite him being entirely the opposite. But the chair gave Foley a great element of sympathy, and that worked best on women, and the Priestess was a woman. Foley would be by her side soon, and he would ensure that he was not joined by Samael. That position was his and his alone.

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Green's journey across the desert was endless. The great mountain loomed behind, a reminder of how far he had come. He had been summoned and he came. It was a great honour to be called to the feet of the High Priestess, but more than that, it was an opportunity for Green personally. If he had to travel the rest of his life he would not stop until he reached the Priestess' desert shrine. Everyone, at least everyone important, would be there.

Luck had been with Green, always. He had been fortunate professionally, and he had been fortunate personally. His fortune had not always been clear to him, nor had it come for free, but fate had always served him well at event's conclusions. With all its infinite intricacies, Green could never unravel the source of his serendipitous situation.

Circumstance most mysterious, for instance, had propelled him forward greatly in his career ambitions, when he one day received an anonymous message, outlining and evincing the underhanded operations of Brent, the rival of his own superior, Foley. He had only hoped to gain good favour, yet, after his manager's attempt at blackmail and the returning attempt on Foley's life, Green had gained more than he had hoped when he gained Foley's position. So extreme had been the circumstance, in fact, that Green had taken on both Foley and Brent's responsibilities and with it had come a significant raise in salary and stature.

There had been one bleeding heart in his otherwise faultless diamond flush, however. She had been dear to him; he might even have said he had loved her. But work at the company put stresses on any relationship, and when it came time for him to excel, he was forced to choose - she forced him to choose. Green's reaction was, he would himself admit, not a calm or considered one. She was out of his house by the end of that night. She had turned to say something to him as she walked out into the street, but he had already closed the door on her, already turned away.

And even that had been to his favour, as his time was pressed and he had little spare for a serious relationship, particularly towards the end, when the final war came. He had not been so fortunate as to have found a rack high enough within the company to avoid the ravages of the war, but his fortune had fought with him, and he lost nothing more than an eye and a few fingers.

Still, the memories, the images - fire and death - would not leave his mind, only heightened by the heat of the desert, working its way through his empty eye socket and deep into his brain. He had struggled so to keep hold of life, and now, his luck had won out one final time to bring him to the feet of the High Priestess and he would, at last, be elevated to the position he truly deserved. And he will look down on those that took his eye, his fingers, his love, and he will smile.

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Lukas' journey across the desert was endless. The great mountain loomed behind, a reminder of how far he had come. He had been summoned and he came. It was a great honour to be called to the feet of the High Priestess, but more than that, it was an opportunity for Lukas personally. If he had to travel the rest of his life he would not stop until he reached the Priestess' desert shrine. Everyone, at least everyone important, would be there.

Lukas had worked hard to get to the position he was in. He had made great sacrifices and done many things that, when in the calm introspection of solitude, when there was no one left to lie to but himself, and when he found he could no longer even do that, he had to admit he regretted. He would never say he made mistakes, but he had acted out of necessity, to achieve his lofty goals, in ways that he occasionally found distasteful.

And he had lost things, things he cared for deeply, people he had loved; his wife. He thought hard, but it seemed so long ago. There had been an argument and she had left. She had said something to him. What it was he could not say. It seemed nonsense at the time but now, he felt it was important that he try to remember.

He had known, of course, and that was why she left. If he might have been able to plead ignorance, then perhaps she could have forgiven him, but he had always known. He knew well that, should he give the evidence he had discovered of Brent's theft from the company to Green, then Green would immediately report this to Foley. He had known Foley's greed would compel him to blackmail Foley rather than use the information to gain favour. He was well aware the Brent would blame Blake for Foley’s discovering about his theft, that Blake was presenting a facade of alliance with Samael, while his true allegiance was with Donovan, and that Samael fancied himself quite the 'Prince'. He well knew also, that Donovan liked to use the rules to his advantage, that Richardson was fundamentally untrustworthy, and that Mr. Arnold was a reactionary fool.

Richardson, Samael and Foley had gone. Donovan's and Green's promotions had left a power vacuum where Samael's and Donovan's positions had been, and that vacuum blew Lukas rapidly up the corporate ladder, with only the smallest amount of Foley's blood left on his hands and conscience. But Lukas' wife had known more than he, for she had known he was complicit in all these events, and with that, she found, she could not live. She had left just before war broke out, and Lukas had not seen her since.

Lukas walked on now, to what he might have seen as his reward for such a well constructed and executed manoeuvre, but he could not see it that way. For what had he gained from his actions? He'd had the responsibility of two men, both Donovan and Samael, thrust upon him, while gaining the privileges of barely a quarter more than one. And he had not even had position enough to escape the war; that monstrosity that ended all things. And after that, after the death and the destruction, what was left of his privilege or his responsibility? What had it all amounted to in the end? What had all the blood been worth?

He remembered now, what she had said. Those few little words filled with knowing, the kind he'd never possessed - until now. There was something so certain in her eyes, he should have known then. It should not have taken an apocalypse to show him what she had known all along. He should have believed her when she had said "It will all seem so meaningless, all this, one day."

Lukas looked onward at the endless expanse of desert before him, and back at the looming mountain behind, and he stopped walking…

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And so went the thoughts of all the thousands of men who journeyed across the desert at the call of the Priestess. These were not the best of the best, nor the worst of the worst, neither righteous saints nor evil personified. Those had already been dealt with - allowed to pass or cast away to eternity's shore. These were the average men, led astray; the great undecided, all with hope or despair in their possible futures, each equally as probable as the other.

The Priestess watched as they walked on continually, yet never gained ground. And as she watched, she listened closer, sweeping her mind across the endless field of men, the light of her thoughts penetrating the deepness of their souls and waiting for that tell-tale reflection back to her own.

And there it was, and her mental energies focussed on a single man. His mind wavered, his thoughts turned to doubt; doubt of his malicious intent, doubt of the righteousness of his path. The reflection of her light grew within him and soon became a beacon for all who were capable of viewing such things. With the slightest gesture from her small, subtle hand, he was released.

Lukas stumbled out of his endless walk and stared in disbelief at the scene that now surrounded him. To his eyes had been revealed the truth, while his comprehension was struggling to catch up, still plodding on as it was, down its rigorous pathway.

Finally, his eyes rose to the hilltop ahead of him and he all but whispered, "The Priestess!" She nodded, silent in reply. Lukas looked about the wasted desert that engulfed the world beyond the horizon and saw, for the first time, his fellow travellers. He saw the men he had once known, and those he had not, and he understood. They had all been his rivals once, but no more. Rivalry was futile now, times had changed and union was the watchword of the new world. Silently to himself, he wished them all well, before glancing once more to the once mythical figure that stood high above him. She cast her light deep inside of Lukas, and he reflected it about himself and back to her until he shone with all the power of the sun - and vanished.

The Priestess looked up to the peak of the great mountain and saw the brief flash that marked the end of Lukas' journey, brighter than day for a fraction of a second, and then gone. The gaze of her golden eyes moved back to the crowd below her, and once again, she sought for the light of journey's end.

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