Alright, so I’m back to the podcast, woo.
Um, I did finish my masters… did alright. I’m applying for a PhD though so it might disappear just as quickly.
If there are any people, I guess, curious what the plan is: I don’t have anything particular planned exactly. My thought is: I’m going to occasionally try and do short stories. Probably not as long as I originally intended them to be but, you know, we’ll see.
And a friend of mine has, let’s say tentatively, agreed to collaborate on a project for the podcast so hopefully that’ll be coming up at some point. But you know how these things are.
I don’t have a specific timeline on that project, and I don’t have a specific schedule in mind for the short stories. So, we’ll see.
All that having been said: onto the podcast, I guess.
Welcome back to the World Cycle Podcast, I know it’s been a while. Today we’re reading a short story called the Wanderer, which I wrote in parts for my daily story project between the tenth and the twelfth of April, twenty twenty-one with some additional editing since then. Full text can be found on my blog: worldcyclepodcast.wordpress.com.
The Wanderer meandered, or wandered if we want to be cute about it, around the buttresses and rooves and archways of the old Svarlich ruins. In short, they explored the outside of the ruins looking for some way in.
The Svarlich ruins were gargantuan, towering, staggering in their size. And every so often, the Wanderer would see some faint, magical light playing through the labyrinthine structures. But when they reached the light, they could never find the source. They explored a long time before they found the pillar, the obelisk.
It was made of the same stone as the rest of the ruins, but glowed in bright blue lines, in swirling patterns about the bulk of the thing. The Wanderer placed their hand against it, and up their arm flowed the stone and glowing lines until their hand sank into the obelisk.
There came a click.
The obelisk sank into the ground and continued to sink, a staircase unfolding down into faintly luminescent dimness. Once the movement had stopped, those glowing lines unfolded down the stairway and into the corridors below.
The Wanderer followed.
Down and down, the Wanderer followed the glowing lines, down into a corridor that took them deeper into the ruins. But here were no ruins. The walls were pristine, those glowing lines unmarred and unbroken. No litter covered the floor, not even dust.
The Wanderer emerged into a large room, onto a walkway railed off from a massive old machine. The Wanderer gazed down on the machine, still and silent, rusting and dusty, and they smiled.
The Wanderer pressed a hand to the machine, and that rusted, dusty metal spread up their arm until their hand sank into it. There was a rumble, a whir, a crunching and crackling, and the machine began to hum. A port opened in the machine and out snaked a conveyer belt, winding out of sight and through the back wall of the cavernous room.
On the conveyer belt were lumps of rust, of dust, of cracked and crushed bone and scraps of cloth. And for a moment the Wanderer was transfixed by the conveyer belt, transfixed by the machine grinding itself clean.
Then they followed the belt as it wound between piles of detritus and crumbling pillars and eventually through a large slot in the far wall. Beside the slot was an old, metal door, rusted over completely. The Wanderer pushed at it and it creaked and crackled and did not open.
They pressed their hand to it and the rust travelled up their arm and their hand sank into the door. There came a screeching and the door started to come apart under the Wanderer’s touch, flaking and crumbling into rust, until there was nothing left of it.
Beyond was a small room with a small chair beside the conveyer belt. A skeleton sat on the small chair, hunched over the conveyer belt as if inspecting the detritus churning past. Wires and strips of bright metal snaked from the chair and the ground into the skeleton, keeping the cadaver eternally in place.
The Wanderer gingerly, gently placed a hand against the skull and closed their eyes, and that same shining metal and the glowing magical lines traced up the Wanderer’s arm, and then down into the skeleton until the bones and wires and metal were covered.
Suddenly, that creeping magic retreated into the Wanderer, taking the wires and metal with it, and the skeleton collapsed onto the conveyer belt with almost a sigh of relief.
The Wanderer stood and watched the skeleton collapse onto the conveyer belt, watched it be taken through a slot in the wall. Faintly, a humming could be heard from that slot in the wall. A door stood beside it, rusted over.
The Wanderer placed a hand to the door and the rust spread up their arm and their hand sank into the ancient metal and the door disintegrated under their touch. Without was a huge chamber, most of its expanse lost to mist. A stairway led down to where regular rows of light peered through the condensation.
At the bottom of the stairs, the Wanderer found a cobbled road leading straight between rows of neat, identical houses. Doors hung open and from the doorways emanated a soft, magical light.
Inside the first house, a single room dwelling, was a machine. It was small compared to the one from which the conveyer belt originated, and it looked hand-made. Uneven plates, exposed wires, ragged lines of magical light.
A skeleton protruded from the machine, arms down to the shoulders embedded within. Wires and strips of bright metal and magical light sprouted from the makeshift machine into the skeleton.
The Wanderer put a hand to the skeleton and bright metal and magical light spread up their arm and their hand sank into the skeleton’s skull. The metal and the lights engulfed the bones and spread into the machine. When the Wanderer withdrew their touch, with it came the skeleton and the wires and the lights, and the machine dimmed.
For a long moment, the Wanderer gazed at the dead machine. And then luminescent ooze extruded slowly from where the skeleton had been embedded. It seeped along the machine, the metal ports closing slowly behind it as it dripped down to the floor, where it spread toward the Wanderer.
The Wanderer backed away.
The lights from the houses were brighter now, and as the Wanderer looked in, they could see that same ooze spreading from dozens of makeshift machines over the skeletons that were embedded within.
On the far side of the misty town, that faint humming was louder, and stairs led up to where the conveyer belt, obscured by mist, penetrated the wall. The door here was not rusted over and as the Wanderer put a hand to it, it swung open without struggle.
Within was a beautifully furnished office, luminescent ooze seeping from the corners and slowly spreading toward the Wanderer. They hurried through and into a magnificent entry-way. A double staircase, coated in dust, led up and away from the ooze.
As they stepped foot on the stairway, a breeze took up the dust and turned it to a choking storm. Light spread to the Wanderer’s face, and filters and goggles emerged from their mouth and eyes as they made their way up the steps.
Above were corridors and doors, covered by heavy iron bars, bolted into the stone walls to keep the doors very, very shut. But one door stood open, only darkness within.
The glowing Wanderer stepped into the room and found a bedroom, massive and rotting and covered in dust. Hangings were indecipherable behind the rot. In the bed was a figure, an old man with sallow, bloated flesh.
The Wanderer smiled and thrust a hand into the man’s chest to grip the steel, glowing heart within. The shining metal and magical light spread up the Wanderer’s arm and their hand sank into the heart until it was engulphed by them, consumed by them.
When the Wanderer removed their hand, the empty corpse collapsed into rot and age. The Wanderer continued to smile as they made their way back down the stairs to where the luminescent ooze had spread to cover the floor.
The Wanderer touched the luminescent ooze and the light spread slowly, creepingly, up their arm to pool in their shoulder. When they removed their hand from the ooze, the glow stayed, though faded slowly as if eaten away from the outside in.
When the Wanderer stepped onto the ooze-covered floor of the entry hall, the ooze spread to clear a space at their feet as they strode to a back door and pushed it open.
Within was a staircase, dusty and uneven, leading down into darkness. No magical lights lined the walls, no ooze crept into the open space. The Wanderer’s smile only grew as they strode down into the darkness, the fading glow in their shoulder lighting the way.
Ahead, far ahead, the Wanderer saw a dim light shining up from a hole in the ground. They reached the hole and gazed down and saw, far below, the machine into which the conveyer belt fed. Large plates had been attached to the outside of the machine and skeletons, coated in that luminescent ooze, were embedded in those plates. Each embedded up to their shoulders.
For a long time, the Wanderer stared down at the machine as it whirred and hummed and crunched, consuming those few things coming in on the conveyer belt. And then the Wanderer stepped over the edge and fell into the pit.
The landing crushed their legs, but light and stone spread from the ground into the Wanderer and in a moment, they were again standing upright. They laid hands on one of the ooze-covered bodies and the glow spread up their arms, into their torso and legs and face and in a moment, the body was gone.
Luminescent blood oozed from the machine and the ports that had held the body closed. The other bodies pulled themselves free of the machine and turned to face the Wanderer, who still smiled ear to ear.
You will not have our machine, the bodies screamed to the Wanderer.
The Wanderer put a hand to the machine and light and metal spread up their arm until their hand sank into the machine. Pieces of the machine cracked and popped as plates started to fall apart. The glowing bodies rushed at the Wanderer, hitting with unexpected force and pushing them away from the machine.
The screaming pile of oozing bodies struggled with the Wanderer, kept them pinned to the ground, kept them away from the machine. The Wanderer smiled and smiled and their body started to glow.
The glowing corpses scrambled to get away, but they were too slow, too late. And the Wanderer opened up and wrapped the glowing bodies in themselves until they were alone with the whirring, crunching machine.
The Wanderer was so big, so luminescent, so grinning and grinning.
They put their hands to the machine and they sank in as the machine popped and creaked, and their hands sank in and then their arms up to the shoulders. The Wanderer pressed their forehead to the machine and their torso and face sank into the machine as it whirred and whined and disintegrated under the Wanderer’s loving touch.
And eventually, all that was left was the glowing skeleton of the machine. It whirred and crunched and hummed. It raised its hands and the Wanderer smiled and smiled.
Thanks for listening to this episode of the World Cycle. Once again, you can follow me on worldcyclepodcast.wordpress.com to read more of my writing: I’m currently doing a short story every day. If you prefer, you can find me on tumblr at worldcycle.tumblr.com, where I also post the stories and reblog a lot of shit. All these links, as well as a link to the full text of this episode can be found in the show notes, if the show notes work properly.