EXERCISE Myth-take Challenge #22

Discussion in 'REFINING WRITING' started by Lstorm, Apr 15, 2013.

  1. Myths and legends could be said to be the prototypes of modern novels. They are stories in their own right, tales that were passed on for generations. Even today, some elements from the old myths remain in our stories and occasionally, they serve as inspiration.

    This week’s mythical element is: Anansi


    In African mythology, Anansi is a trickster god who is a spider, but he often appears as a man. The stories about him are mostly told in the way of oral tradition, and he is also often associated with skill in speech and wisdom. He is also seen as an example to be followed amongst the slaves as in the tales told of him, he manages to turn the tables on his oppressors. A very prominent god, there are so many tales about Anansi that there is a specific word for tales about him, which span a vast range of subjects.

    Your challenge is to write a story that incorporates your own take on this mythical element. The genre and setting of the story does not matter as long as the element remains recognisable.
  2. Smoke rose from the smoldering fire, chattering of on lookers blending with the sound of the forest around them. The sun was almost set, as a man rose to his feet, his voice ringing out. It was young sounding, however somehow, it sounded strong and wise, with a rough edge as if he talked too much.
    'I wish to weave you a tale,'
    He simply begins, and with those words the sounds died out. The crickets no longer chirped, the children no longer whined, and a hush fell over all, as if they were caught in a spell.
    'It's a tale of a man...' He glanced around with gray eyes, intent on each face for a moment before he dove into the story. He wove a spider-webs tale of mischief, slavery and unbelievable odds. It was a tale of theives, and a tale of a man who had the uncanny knack for slipping out of situations that most people could not, and pranks.
    A man who knew the power of words, A man of mystery, and a man who loved spiders, of all things.

    When he was done with his story, his feet had worn a small path in the dirt where he had paced back and forth. His fingers flew their last, and a puff of smoke issued from the fire, punctuated with a pop. Which the pop, crickets sang, and a child began to cry. The adults shook their heads as if they had been in a daze and started to chat quietly amongst themselves. With the pop, the man was also gone, his footsteps a soft echo on the leaves.

    One child jumped up. Light brown hair flying around her face and then streaming in the wind as she followed the path the strange story teller had taken. "Wait, please wait!" She called, tripping over herself as she caught up. A small, delicate hand clutching the back of his shirt. He turned to her with mischievous eyes,
    "Yes, dear child?" He said. He has let her follow him, of course, though she did not know. She was lucky.
    "Was it true?" She wondered of him, eyes lifted and hopeful.
    "What do you think? " He asked, and before she could say another word, he suddenly seemed to vanish, though as she looked she could see spiders thread surrounding the area in a almost beautiful way. She knew of course it had to be true! He was indeed the man from the story. A god. She went back to the fire and illustrated what she had seen to the others, in a chime of a voice. Some did not believe, but others did.

    What the girl did not know is that Gods need to have people believe in them in order for them to survive. Sometimes it is necessary for a god himself to come down and play and tell stories to create belief. Because of that girl, his story, and him, himself, would live that much longer.
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  3. The bar was a seedy place, where the crusty inhabitants of the universe’s underbelly went to soak up a few pints of the local intoxicating beverages, and yet it pretended that it wasn’t. All the glittering geishas of the galaxy, or that corner of it at least, paraded around amongst the patrons to make them feel at home and no one seemed to care that their obis tied in the front.

    There was music in the place, a warm undercurrent to the cacophony of voices. It came from a burnt out starlet in the corner who had never really had her chance to shine. She spent her soberest hours singing so that she could wander back to the bar and drown in the haze of drunkenness that stole the better part of her life, letting slip the few coins she had to her name.

    A young man sat in a booth near the songstress’s corner. To all appearances, he was completely human but there was something about him that made every passerby stop to look again, even in a place like this where second glances were rare. Maybe it was that he didn’t blink enough or that his eyes shifted a little too rapidly. Maybe he smiled too wide or tilted his head the wrong way. Perhaps it was the clothes he wore, an eccentric clash of Earth 1860s with Earth 1960s and a little hint of the modern. Maybe they caught the scuttling of some small creature along the brim of his bowler hat. Most would say, however, that what made them look twice was that he was clean.

    This was the lowest echelon of a port town and dirty people were the norm. Everybody was too busy, too poor, too drunk to find a bath. Grime covered everything from the people to the buildings. A stink peculiar to the deepest pits of civilization rose up in the bar. No one paid it any mind. The dirt was as ubiquitous as the drink—no one could or would do anything about it. Here, in the middle of all this filth sat a man who was completely at ease and yet completely at odds with everything about him.

    The man was not there to drink. He didn’t even have the courtesy to have a beverage on the table. His purpose was far more important than even pretending to be interested in anything the establishment had to offer him other than a chair and a table. He was there for business, not pleasure. Those regulars who were sober enough to keep record (though regulars like that were few and far between) had begun debating over what he did. He was met by people of all sorts. The only connection between any of his “clients”, for lack of a better word, was wealth. None of them belonged in a place like that bar and none of them felt comfortable. They spoke low and he spoke fast, lips barely moving. What they spoke about was secret but there was a pattern. They always lost and he always got what he wanted. On his way out, he always paid the bar owner for the use of the table.

    If anyone had asked how long the man had been using that table for work, he would have received blank stares. No one could answer. If anyone had asked the man’s name, there would have been silence. No one knew. What they did know was that business was good and that when he wasn’t working, he watched the singer; he was probably the only person in the bar who actually listened to her music.

    The singer stumbled off stage. It was the end of her fourth set, far more than she usually sang, and she was getting quite intoxicated. She kept saying, or slurring as was now the case, that she needed money for her rent but it was a losing battle because she owed more than she made to the bar owner already and she slithered back for more drinks in between each set.

    The man sat alone at his table, drumming out a rhythmic beat on the table as the creature on his hat fussed. He was clearly waiting for someone. He checked his watch at regular intervals. It was a beautiful pocket watch in an antique platinum case like they didn’t make any more but it had been fitted out with a high tech holographic display. Some of the street urchins who had taken refuge from the acidic rain under the bar’s roof debated relieving him of it when he left but none of them quite dared.

    A man came storming in, face gone red with anger and any of the numerous other things affecting his health. He was overweight, bald, and ugly and he knew it. He also knew that money was the only thing that could make life any fairer to a man with as few advantages as he had. This was why he had taken to renting out apartments to the town’s women of ill repute at the highest prices he could get away with. He even rented to some of the bar’s so-called “geishas” but he wasn’t there to see them because, even though he took almost every cent they earned, they all paid on time most months. No, he was there for the woman he called his “songbird” because she was behind on rent…again. It was a familiar scene and so the patrons of the bar remarked the man’s arrival with nonchalance and returned to whatever they’d been doing before.

    The singer’s landlord began his usual rant about her being behind in rent. When he didn’t get the response he wanted from the intoxicated woman, he threated to evict her. The singer wasn’t yet drunk enough for that last threat to pass by her with no reaction and, dissolving into tears, she begged for a little more time. The landlord was about to tell her that he was done giving her more time when a spindly fingered hand came to rest on his shoulder. He turned to see the odd man in the bowler with the burgundy velvet jacket.

    The landlord was a big man and the strange man was not. Under normal circumstances, the landlord would have told the other man to scram but when he met with the cool grey eyes of the man in the bowler, he was utterly frozen.

    “Hello,” said the man with his too wide grin and an unfamiliar accent.

    “I-I’m kind of busy here,” replied the landlord, clearing his throat when he regained his voice.

    “I can see that, but since I caught you here I thought I’d tell you that I’d just been thinking about doing business with a man of your status and I just received news of a proposition which I thought might tickle your fancy. I don’t want to bother you, though, and it really isn’t anything special. Once-in-a-lifetime chances are really everyday things and fabulous riches aren’t very picky about who they belong to. Ah, well, I should just go find the next suitable candidate before I forget and leave you to your business. Carry on.” The man turned to go.

    “Wait,” said the landlord. “You said something about fabulous riches?”

    “I did, but that term is really subjective and you were clearly more interested in other means of obtaining funds, so if you’ll excuse me…”

    “Ah, no, don’t go,” said the landlord, anxiously catching the man’s sleeve. “I mean, I’ve been…contemplating what you said and you’re right. ‘Fabulous riches’ is really a…subjective phrase. I might be more, ah, interested if I were more certain of the sum…”

    “All I am at liberty to say at the moment is that there is opportunity for boundless wealth. If you’re interested we can step over to my table to discuss the situation in more detail. Of course, if you’d rather shake down this lady for rent money she’s already spent on drink, be my guest. I’m certain there are others here who could use some fabulous riches.”

    The landlord looked between the songstress, whose money he already knew was gone and the man whom he neither knew nor trusted. His greed got the better of him because he knew he wouldn’t get a cent from the singer. He followed the man to his table where they sat down to talk. As they spoke, the landlord’s expression changed multiple times but the man’s expression remained the same—warm and open with those eyes that didn’t blink and the smile that was too wide. The landlord finally settled on mildly troubled and he was about to get up when something happened that made him and every onlooker freeze.

    It started slowly. One slender leg stretched up then hooked itself over the edge of the man’s bowler. It was a ruddy brown and matched the colour of the man’s hair so perfectly that some thought they had been mistaken in seeing the leg. Soon, though, their doubts were removed as a second leg followed and then a third. By the time the creature had finished moving, four legs hung off the brim of the man’s hat and four stretched out and curled over the top of the bowler. The creature’s body was still concealed in the curve of the bowler’s brim but, when each leg easily spanned the length of a large man’s hand from the heel of the palm to the tip of the middle finger, it could not be small.

    “What?” the man asked innocently to the landlord’s mask of horror.

    “Th-th-there’s a-a spider on your h-h-hat,” the landlord stammered.

    “Oh, him?” the man asked, tugging affectionately on one of the spider’s legs. “He’s just my little brother.”

    “Your br-brother?”

    “Yes. Now, where were we? Ah, yes. You were about to sign this contract.” The man produced an electronic pad with a stylus seemingly from nowhere.

    The landlord worked his jaw but could not say anything. His eyes were glued to the creature on the man’s hat. He finally pushed a sound out. “I-I-I-I…” He couldn’t get beyond that first word. The spider slowly pulled its weighty body up and pulled itself to the top of the man’s hat where it rested placidly. Those who had imagined it with a large body had not been disappointed.

    “You?” the man asked.

    “I…” The landlord swallowed hard, eyes still fixed on the creature. “I would love to s-sign that contract.”

    The man grinned and passed the pad over to the landlord. With a shaking hand it was signed.

    “Thank you very much,” the man said. “It was a pleasure doing business with you. You’ll be contacted when your treasures arrive.”

    The man took the pad back and began examining it. Without looking up, he waved for the landlord to leave. The landlord needed no second bidding. He was in such a hurry to depart the establishment that he ran into a table on his way out.

    The man made his way back to the bar where the songstress sat. She shrank away as he approached and would have fallen off her barstool if he hadn’t been there to catch her before she slipped.

    “I seem to be the proud new owner of an…apartment building now,” he said. “Your rent is 250. I expect to be paid promptly every month or you’re on the streets. No negotiation.”

    The singer understood enough through her drunken haze to be alarmed. She could only stare at him in dumbfounded silence.

    “This is my brother, Hunter,” he said, picking the creature up off of his hat and setting it down on the bar. “I’ve been looking for a place for him to stay because it’s too dangerous for him to travel around with me like he does. I like this city and these apartments, well, I own them so it’s convenient. I can’t just leave him alone, though. He doesn’t do very well on his own. Do you know of anyone who could look after him?”

    The singer was too stupefied to answer, so the man just continued. “He comes here with me to hear you sing. He likes your voice. He wouldn’t come otherwise, hasn’t the head for business. Wait…what would you think about doing it yourself? I’d pay you, of course. How does 250 a month sound? There’s one condition, of course. You’ll have to sober up and get your life in order. There is no way you can look after my little brother the way you are now.”

    The singer was so numbed by drink and shock that she wasn’t even afraid anymore. She just tilted her head to the side to get a new perspective on the giant spider in front of her and then reached out to gently shake its right foreleg. “It’s nice to meet you, Hunter.”
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  4. The iron doors slammed shut, and pitch blackness fell upon the prisoners. Chanting could be heard somewhere far away, shouting, the swing of a blade, and the heavy thudding of a head falling on the floor.

    The Inquisition had been executing the so-called heretics since a week ago, and none of the men and women, and occasionally children, in the cell knew when their turn would come. The motley group of nobles, peasants, merchants and criminals all huddled in their corners, trying to stay as far from the iron door as the cramped space would let them.

    There was a scampering as a rat tried to reach and gnaw on someone's rotting and infested feet, then a jingle and a crunch as muscular shackled arms smashed the rodent. Something with too many legs crawled about near the cuffs, and there were shrieks and frantic movements, then a disgusted grunt.

    Silence fell again, broken only by occasional shifting and breathing. The stench of filth and waste from the corner they had unanimously and silently designated the chamber-pot-without-the-pot filled the room as it had since they arrived, and despair could be felt as much as heard and smelled.

    There was a stamp of booted feet and clashing armor as someone approached the door on the other side, and suddenly there was an odd voice.

    "Excuse me, gentlemen."

    "Halt in the name of the Lord! Who goes there?"

    "Just a traveler, a traveler from afar."

    "You look to be no traveler! What is your purpose here?"

    "My purpose is as it always was and always will be, sonny."

    "You dare address the guard of the-"

    "Now, now, sonny, I didn't mean no harm. I was just trying to tell you about that there escapee."


    "Don't you hear that clanging and clashing over by those barrels there?"

    And indeed, as the voice said, there was a clanging and a clashing as loud as you please.

    "And don't you see that black, black arm, a-sticking out from between them?"

    "I see it, sir, and you aren't fooling me!"

    "Fool? Me? Well, if I'm a fool, then so it be. I'll leave you for your merry way when the Big Men come to take you away."

    "What?! Now wait just a minute-"

    "Or don't you know the punishment for letting prisoners escape?"

    A growl and a mutter, and a deep, deep chuckle.

    "Fine then, I'll see to your 'prisoner'."

    But the guard never did see no prisoner, though he did see that black, black arm. And not just one! But two black arms, as hairy as you please, and three and four and five! And soon the guard was nervous and scared, for there were EIGHT black, hairy arms, all about him, and not a single hand!

    He never did talk again after that, I'm afraid. But he did get a shiny new coat, and a silk one too! Silver and soft, and strangely light, and it never tore, no sir! And he liked it so much that he never took it off ever again, no sir. He kept that shiny, shiny coat of silk, so happy that he shriveled up like a little dry prune. And those eight black, hairy arms held him gently, turning him about and about and about until he fell asleep, and he was so relaxed and sleepy that he never woke up again.

    And what of the prisoners, you say? Well, as soon as that guard walked away, the door, it just popped right open like there weren't no lock at all! And standing there was a tall, tall man, with long, hairy arms, and a face as black as coal. His bright red lips were pulled back in a grin, and his white, white teeth were like a beam of sunshine in that cell, so bright that they cleaned the stink and filth straight out, till that cell was clean as a teacup.

    And that strange, tall man said, "Why you all sitting around like that? Stand up like the men and women and children you are!"

    And so they did! And do you know, those iron shackles, they just fell right off like spider silk, for while them prisoners were sleeping, that thing with too many legs, it went right inside those locks and pulled them clear open like they never were.

    Them prisoners, they was so amazed, they didn't know what to say, but the big man just stood and chuckled quietly and began walking off.

    "Wait!" whispered a young child, no more than six. "Please sir, what's your name?"

    The big man smiled and smiled as he turned around, bending down and down and down until his long, hairy arms were touching the floor, and his black, black eyes were sparkling at the lad.

    "Don't you know my name, child?"

    Do you?
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