Titus’s War – a historical flash story

Picture by Gemma Amor via Flickr Creative Commons
Picture by Gemma Amor via Flickr Creative Commons

Legionaries marched along the dusty hillside road, spears and shields in hand, the studs of their sandals clattering on the stones. As they passed Titus Labienus, sitting astride his horse with his senior officers, they looked at their general with pride. Titus returned that look, even as he discussed their next move.
“Caesar has troops in the next valley over,” said Cnaeus, the cavalry commander. “If we can catch them by surprise-”

“We won’t surprise Caesar,” Titus said. He knew his former friend and commander too well to ever believe that. “But if we can attack from the heights then we may have a chance.”

His officers galloped off to pass the orders along, as Titus set his heels to his horse’s flanks and joined his men on the march.


Not all defeats were disasters. Titus pulled his men back before they were fully surrounded. Most of them made it back out of the valley.

Though their losses were far fewer than he had feared, it was a broken army that set up camp that night. Titus could readily understand their feelings. Soldiers of Rome were not used to defeat. They were even less used to fighting their comrades in arms. Until today, “civil War” had just been a phrase they muttered darkly. Now it was something they had experienced, a bitter struggle against men who wore the same uniforms as them, who they had once fought alongside. Win or lose, that was a gruelling thing.

“Up!” Titus snapped at a group of men sat by what would be the gateway into their overnight camp. “You know your orders – dig the ditch then pitch your tents. Rest comes later.”

Reluctantly, the men reached for their picks and shovels. The pride with which they had marched hours before was replaced by a weary resentment. He needed to say something to bolster their spirits, but what?

“General.” Cnaeus strode over, cloak flapping behind him. “Come quickly.”

With relief rather than disappointment, Titus abandoned thoughts of raising morale and followed Cnaeus across the camp.

“What is it?” he asked.

“Some men tried to desert,” Cnaeus replied. “My outriders caught them on the way down the valley.”

A dozen men stood at the edge of camp, watched over by a cavalry troop. They had abandoned their armour and weapons, but their belted tunics marked them out as legionaries.

“You men were leaving?” Titus asked.

“You left Caesar,” one of them replied, his arms folded across his chest, expression defiant. His accent was that of Rome’s southern farmlands.

“I chose to fight for the senate and the good of Rome,” Titus replied. “That is not the same as desertion in the face of the enemy.”

He turned to Cnaeus and his men.

“Execute them,” he said. “We can’t have this spreading.”

The cavalrymen shifted uncomfortably in their saddles. More Romans killing Romans. More divisions in the army. More blood for politics. There was hesitation in their faces.

“You hypocritical bastard,” the southern soldier snarled. “You aristocrats get to decide what to fight for. You get to give up on your duty when it serves you. But if we start thinking for ourselves we get killed.”

“I gave you a choice before,” Titus said, setting his hand on the pommel of his sword. “You could have left me at the start of all this.”

“I still want that choice,” the man replied. “If you give up, no-one’s going to execute you. Why should it be different for me?”

The cavalrymen glanced at each other, looking even more uncertain. One of them started to back his horse away.

Titus thought of all the arguments he could use. About patriotism and the public good. About choosing paths. About discipline and the military life. About what soldiers were paid to accept.

If words could decide these things, there would be no war.

Drawing his sword, Titus stepped forward and ran the man through. With his last breath, the soldier gasped in surprise. Then he fell, blood pouring across Titus’s sandals.

“I don’t ask you to do anything I won’t,” Titus said, looking again at the cavalrymen. “I don’t ask you to take any risks I won’t. But the legion stands together or it falls to pieces, even now.

“Execute them.”

The cavalrymen swung from their saddles, drew their swords and closed in on the deserters.


Legionaries marched along the dusty hillside road, spears and shields in hand, the studs of their sandals clattering on the stones. The uncertainties of the night before were gone. Discipline had returned and they marched with determination.

As they passed Titus Labienus, sitting astride his horse with his senior officers, they kept their eyes on the road.

Sadness weighed on Titus’s heart at the change in his men. But he had done what was needed. Setting his heels to his horse, he joined the column, marching on to the next battle.

* * *


This return to the story of Titus Labienus comes courtesy of Steve, who asked for more after previous Friday story “Titus’s Choice“.

If you’d like to receive more stories like this direct to your inbox every Friday, along with a free copy of one of my books, then please sign up for my mailing list. And if you’d like to read a more fantastical take on the Roman army, check out Ocean Gods, Roman Blades, my novella of divine magical and one legionary’s struggle to master himself in the face of death.

Frost on the Wall – a historical flash fiction

Picture by Gemma Amor via Flickr Creative Commons
Picture by Gemma Amor via Flickr Creative Commons

Winter was the most beautiful and the most awful time to stand guard on Hadrian’s Wall. As I looked out across dawn-lit hillsides sparkling with frost, the forests in the distance and the smoke rising from barbarian villages, the pale stillness had a grandeur as stark as my mood. I could enjoy it for less than an hour before ice gnawed at the tips of my toes, two layers of socks not enough beneath open toed sandals. My armour carried the bitter cold through layers of wool to my chest.

I would be sorry to leave these sites behind, but not the sensations. I missed the warmth of home.

Unsteady footsteps and the bump of a shield hitting stone steps told me Tullius had been drinking before his shift. We all coped how we could, and the centurion turned a blind eye to more than he had before Albus’s death.

Everyone had loved Albus, with his smiles and his endless laughter.

“Morning, Caius.” Tullius leaned his shield against the battlement and blew plumes of frosted air. “I swear, my shit froze to me this morning.”

I grunted in return. I hadn’t the heart for Tullius’s banter.

“Of course, with the bath house frozen, no-one will smell the difference.” He elbowed me in the ribs, winced as he hit my armour, and winked. When I didn’t respond he frowned. “You alright? You look even more miserable than those bastards over the wall.”

“It’s nothing,” I said. Sharing my decision would only make it harder to follow through.

“Nothing my arse.” He unhooked a small amphora from his belt and held it out to me. “Come on, have a drink, tell Uncle Tullius all about it.”

“No drinking on duty.” I resisted the urge to grab the amphora and fling it over the wall, to break something for the sake of breaking something.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Tullius took a swig, put the amphora away and turned to me. “Come on, we’re stuck up here together. Are you really going to make me suffer through your foul mood all day?”

“There’s nothing to talk about,” I said.

“Like piss there’s nothing,” Tullius said. “We’ve been through hell together. Battles, sieges, that grim little whorehouse in Londinium. We survived decimation together, had to kill our own comrades for the sake of discipline and mother Rome. After all that, are you really going to lie to my face?”

I wanted to close my eyes. This would be easier if I couldn’t see him. But whenever I closed my eyes I saw the decimation. One man in ten from our unit beaten to death by the rest because we had retreated in battle. Albus’s skull giving way beneath my blows.

“Fine,” I said. “You want to know what’s wrong? I killed Albus.”

“We all killed Albus.” Tullius’s voice went quiet. “And the rest of them.”

“My blow, Tullius. My blow caved in his face. Teeth flying. Eye bursting. Cheek smashed open. I saw it, and now I see it every night.”

“We had to.” He took a drink. “Orders.”

“And that makes it better?”

“We ran,” Tullius said. “We ran and left others exposed. We knew the price, and we paid it.”

He downed the contents of his amphora and flung it away. It shattered in the courtyard below, but there was no-one outdoors to see it.

“That doesn’t make it right,” I said. “And that won’t take away the nightmares.”

“I’m sorry.”

Tullius reached out to pat my shoulder. I shook him off.

“Then they send us out here.” Now that I’d started, the words wouldn’t stop pouring out of me. “I grew up in Palestine. This place is beautiful – the trees, the clouds, the rain. But the cold is killing me. I can’t think, I can’t sleep, and when I lie awake all I see is Albus.

“I’m going to desert.”

“Are you mad?” Tullius stared at me. “If they catch you they’ll kill you.”

I shrugged, a difficult manoeuvre beneath all my layers. “At least this will be over.”

“And what about the rest of us?” Tullius said. “What about me? You’re my best friend in this place, and this place is my whole life.”

“You’ll still have your friend wine,” I snapped. “She’s seen you through so far.”

“Fuck you.”

Tullius froze, looking around to see if his raised voice had attracted attention. But nothing short of a full assault was bringing anyone out of the barracks in a British winter.

“They decimated us once for cowardice,” he whispered, looking at me with a feverish intensity. There were tears in the corners of his eyes. “They killed Albus. Fucking Albus. What do you think they’ll do to us if people start deserting? If they don’t catch you, who do you think they’ll punish instead?”

A chill gripped me. Icy tendrils pierced my heart more deeply than winter ever could.

“I didn’t think-” I started.

“No, you didn’t,” Tullius said. He sighed.

Then he flung his arms around me. I could feel the warmth of his cheek against mine and smell cheap red wine on his breath.

“Good luck,” he whispered. “I hope they never catch you.”

He took a step back. As I stared at him in shock he looked all around.

“Go now,” he said. “No-one’s coming out until our watch is done, and then I’ll tell them you’re in the latrine or something. If the centurion’s busy you might get a day’s head start.”

Freedom stretched out before me along the dirt road south.

An image flashed into my mind. A face giving way beneath a club. This time it was Tullius, not Albus.

“No.” I turned to face north across the wall. “I’d never make it.”

I looked out across frost-shrouded hills. There was no beauty there any more, just a numbing cold.

* * *


Decimation was a real disciplinary practice in the army of ancient Rome. If a unit was found guilty of cowardice in battle then they would draw lots. One man in ten was beaten to death. Their comrades had to do the killing.

I’ve been thinking about decimation more than usual recently. I’m reading Adrian Goldsworthy’s The Complete Roman Army, and then I saw a particularly harrowing and convincing portrayal of decimation in an episode of Spartacus. I was struck by just how psychologically harrowing the punishment must have been for some of the survivors, alongside the terrible brutality of the deaths. And so I explored that in the best way I know how – a story.

If you’d like to read a less harrowing and more exciting take on ancient Roman then try my historical fantasy novella Ocean Gods, Roman Blades. And if you’d like to receive short stories like this straight to your inbox every Friday then please sign up for my mailing list – you’ll even get a free e-book.

Spartacus: Blood and Tolerance

The Spartacus TV show was never going to be for everyone. It’s a maelstrom of brutal violence, cartoonish gore, nudity, sex and imaginative swearing. Almost anything that could offend a person is here.

Everything except intolerance.

Only one thing is certain with this show - that loincloth won't be staying on for long.
Only one thing is certain with this show – that loincloth won’t be staying on for long.

The world of Spartacus is full of inequality. Class, gender, and wealth all affect people’s chances in lives. It’s the story of slaves and masters, underclasses and overlords. Inequality drives the action.

But you don’t see much of the intolerance that accompanies it in our society. Nobody is judged, either by the producers or by the characters, for their skin colour or sexuality. Gay relationships are treated no differently from straight ones. The cast is mostly white, but the characters never comment on the presence of people of other colours. When race comes up it’s about region of origin – whether someone is a Gaul, a German, a Syrian, a Roman – and even on the lips of the most vicious characters it seldom carries the implication that one group is inferior to another.

I think this ties into a broader moral underpinning of the show, and one that’s surprisingly forward looking for a production that plays to our basest pleasures. Spartacus is very open about sex and violence. We see full frontal nudity, both male and female, displayed with casual ease. We see sex, straight and gay, in a range of different forms, whether it’s about love, fun, power, or something else. We see violence as something horrifying yet strangely fascinating, and are sometimes exposed to the scars it brings, both physical and emotional.

I’m not trying to hold up Spartacus as some shining beacon of modern television. But as I work my way through the fourth and final season it’s providing me with a lot of food for thought, not just insane spectacle. I can’t help thinking that, despite appearances, its heart is in the right place.

If you haven’t watched it already and aren’t put off by gore and nudity, then I totally recommend Spartacus. For folks in the UK, it’s now all on Netflix.

Lies Like Honey – a fantasy flash story

Bellona by Rodin
Bellona by Rodin

The stones were cold and hard beneath Marcus’s knees. Pulling a purse from his toga, he tipped the contents into a bowl at the feet of the statue. Gold coins reflected flickering candle light across the carved body of the goddess.

“Hear me, oh mighty Bellona.” Marcus did his best to mimic the humility he had seen in others. There was little reason for a senator to be truly humble. “I bring you this offering, and more to come. Please grant me your power as a leader and orator, that I may humiliate Tullius on the senate floor tomorrow, and ensure my control of the port taxes.”

There seemed little point in lying about his purpose to either a god or a statue. Any god of Rome must know what business preoccupied the city’s senate, and no statue would hear or care.

“I can grant what you ask.” The voice was rich, booming and so unexpected that it made Marcus jump. He had seen the gods grant power, but never before had one deemed fit to speak to him.

None of the temple’s attendants were looking his way. Only he had heard the voice.

“Thank you, oh glory.” He smiled and bowed low. “I will bring you more offerings once I have-”

“I will not grant this power for your petty cause.” Bellona’s voice cut through his thoughts like a sword blade. “But I have need of a voice in the senate. Turn your efforts to stoking war with Carthage, and I will make you a mighty orator, a leader among men.”

Blank faced, Marcus considered his options. He had no desire for war, whether as a leader of a follower. It was a waste of talent and time. But if he was careful, he could get what he wanted from this.

“Or course, oh great one.” He bowed more deeply. “Grant me your power, and I will prove your greatness on the senate floor.”

“Worm!” The voice was a hammer pounding in his brain. He pressed his head against the cold stones, hoping to find some relief from the agony. “You seek to trick me with your slippery words! Implying obedience to my will, while committing to no path but your own. You think I am a fool?”

“That is not what I meant.” Even with his brain feeling like it might spill out through his ears, Marcus could still see a way forward. “I will use your power to make the case for war.”

“Very well.” The goddess’s voice become gentle, washing away the pain. “My power is yours.”

A taste like warm honey flowed across Marcus’s tongue and down his throat. Poetic turns of phrase sprang unbidden into his mind. There was a rumbling richness to his voice as he spoke.

“Thank you, oh great one.” Even he found his new tone charming. “I will do as you ask.”

Rising and turning to leave the temple, he finally allowed himself a sly grin. It was not the first time he had lied for what he wanted. By the time Bellona knew, his work would be done, his argument won with her power. After that, he would make do with attending on the other gods. It would be worth it for the riches at stake.

“Marcus.” Her voice caught him as he reached the doorway. “I have other servants. It will not go well for you if you betray me.”

A temple attendant looked his way as he stood blinking at the sunlit street. The man’s hand lay on the knife in his belt. His eyes gleamed like an iron blade.

Marcus hesitated, contemplating the possibilities ahead of him. Lead a war he didn’t want, or spend months looking over his shoulder for angry priests. Maybe next time he wouldn’t try lying to a god.

Or maybe he would just do it better.

* * *


If you like your fantasy with a classical setting then you might also enjoy my novella Ocean Gods, Roman Blades, available as a Kindle ebook. And if you’d like to get more short stories like this one, straight to your inbox each Friday, then please sign up to my mailing list – it’s free, you can unsubscribe any time you want, and you’ll even get a free ebook.

The God of This Hillside – a fantasy flash story

Picture by Martin Pettitt via Flickr Creative Commons
Picture by Martin Pettitt via Flickr Creative Commons

“For the last time, put that thing away.” Carausius glared at the labourer in the grey tunic, the one who kept trying to place offerings next to the syphon pipes. “If the senate thought we needed gods to carry our water then they would have sent a priest, not an engineering team.”

“But the god of this hillside-” the man began.

“A pox on the god of this hillside,” Carausius said. “We have laid the pipes perfectly, there is no need for magic.”

He laid a hand on one of the lead tubes. The siphon ran down one hillside, across the valley, and back up the other side, from a rural collection tank to a water-tower on the edge of Rome. Even by his standards it was excellent work.

“Open the gates,” he called up the hill.

“I already did,” came the reply from near the collection tank.

Frowning, Carausius leaned down and pressed his ear against the pipe. There was no sound, nor the slightest vibration. No water flowed.

He stomped up the hillside, followed by the labourer. At the top stood his assistant Itimerius, his face crumpled with concern.

“Look.” Itimerius pointed to the gate leading from the tank into the pipe. It was open, but no water flowed through. A foot-wide bubble blocked the way, and in the middle of it stood the tiny figure of a water sprite, hair hanging green around her scaly shoulders.

The tank wasn’t full yet, but the water reached Carausius’s knees as he dropped down inside, a measuring stick in one hand.

“Get out.” He stabbed at the sprite with the stick, but she darted giggling out of the way. The air bubble remained. Taking a deep breath, Carausius forced himself to smile at the tiny creature. “What would you like in return for letting the water flow?”

“Not me.” The sprite giggled again, the sound grating at Carausius’s nerves. “Hill god wants offering. Hill god friend.”

“Fine.” Carausius gripped the edge of the tank and hauled himself out. As he stood dripping on the hillside, he turned to the labourer in grey. “Make an offering. Summon the god of this blasted hill.”

“Um…” The labourer pointed past Carausius.

A face had appeared in the freshly dug dirt beside the tank.

Letting out a deep sigh, Carausius turned to the god of the hillside.

“Oh spirit,” he began.

“You mean ‘oh mighty spirit’.” The hill god’s voice was deep, rich and arrogant. Apparently it thought it was one step down from Jupiter, not one step up from a pile of rocks.

“I mean oh noxious vapour,” Carausius replied. “Now tell me what you want, so we can get this over with.”

“What I want is some respect,” the god said.

“Respectfully, what do you want?” Carausius snarled.

“I knew you were too proud.” The god frowned. “You’re one of those humans who thinks you’re good enough without gods.”

“I built this siphon.” Carausius pointed at the pipeline. “I’m good enough without anyone.”

“You didn’t ask my permission to build on my slope.”

“I didn’t need to. The senate priests did that.”

“You didn’t ask for help.”

“I didn’t need your help!”

“You still could have asked.”

“For what? To protect your feelings?”

“To show some respect.”

“How’s this for respect – let the water flow and I won’t turn this hillside into plebeian housing.”

“See – too proud.” Dirt flew as the god snorted. “You’d delay Rome’s water supply rather than say please.”

On the verge of shouting, Carausius caught a glimpse of the city in the distance, and of his team looking at him in resignation.

Closing his eyes, he took a deep, calming breath.

“Oh mighty spirit,” he said between gritted teeth. “Please help the water to flow.”

“And what do you offer me for this assistance?” the god asked.

“Offer you?” Carausius yelled. “You wanted me to-”

He caught himself, took another deep breath, and held out the measuring stick. His hands trembled with anger.

“I offer you the instrument of my craft.” He snapped the stick in half, then plunged it into the dirt. “Which is nothing compared with your power.”

Everyone turned with bated breath to look at the god.

“Very well.” It smiled. “Thank you for your offering.”

The dirt face disappeared, and a moment later there came the sound of water running down the lead pipes.

“Itimerius, take a note,” Carausius called out as he strode away.

“Yes, master.” His assistant ran to catch up with him, a wax tablet in one hand and a stylus in the other.

“Note for our next project,” Carausius said. “Get a commission for something ugly, dirty or smelly.” He waited for Itimerius to scribble that down. “And then build it on this hillside.”

He looked back up the hill with a sneer.

“I’ll show him what pride’s about.”

* * *


If you enjoyed this story then you might also like Demons and the Deep, my new short story about piracy and magic in the ancient Roman Mediterranean, out now for free on Amazon, Smashwords, and other ebook stores.

After Londinium – a historical flash story

Picture by Jorge Elias via Flickr creative commons.
Picture by Jorge Elias via Flickr creative commons.

The ashes of the city were still warm underfoot. They felt gentle against Luigsech’s skin, until she trod on something broken beneath them – a snapped bone or shard of pottery. Then she was reminded of the destruction they had brought to pass here, unleashing their rage upon the people living within the invaders’ walls.

She had thought that vengeance would help her feel better about losing Seisyll, but she was still as lost as she had been for months. The ashes were meant to hold something, anything to soften the blow. That was why she had come back here, axe still in hand, while the rest of the army formed up behind their queen and marched on. But the ruins were too empty, too quiet to bring any comfort. The black stain of ashes would forever scar this land, but it could not drive away her grief. Walking here just left her feeling hollow inside.

The wind blew, lifting ash from the base of a fallen pillar. Perhaps that was what she needed to do, to imitate the wind and dig deeper.

Kneeling, she sank her hands through the ashes, flinging handfuls aside. The air around her becoming a grey cloud, until her fingers touched upon something strange and angular.

Carefully now, she brushed the ashes from its surface, revealing a fallen statue. The man it depicted had been handsome before they tore him from his plinth, smashed chunks from his face and scoured his building with fire. What remained still had a stark beauty, with the remnants of smooth lines and perfectly carved muscles.

Tears ran down Luigsech’s cheeks. She had never seen such a breathtaking work of art, and she had played a part in destroying it. How many more things of beauty had they ruined? She had wanted to create balance for Seisyll’s death, but all she had done was bring more loss.

She pulled off the fur in which her chest was wrapped and used it to brush the ashes from that beautiful, broken face. Then she worked her way along the prostrate form, flinging aside the ashes that covered his belly, his pelvis, his legs.

At last she came to his feet and saw what he stood on. Another body, this time a rendition of one of her own people, trampled underfoot. She didn’t know if it was the way he was carved or just her fond memories, but this man looked so much like Seisyll that she wept again.

This time the tears were hot with anger, her breath coming fast in her rage. It sickened her to think that people capable of such beauty should use it to depict the terrible things they had done. She felt ashamed that she had wept for these people, ashamed and angry.

Snatching up her axe, she pounded at the smug face of the Roman, smashing away what remained of his beauty in a frenzy of blows.

She had helped to ruin something wonderful, and it had all been worthwhile.

* * *


If you enjoyed this story then you might also want to check out my collection of historical fiction, From a Foreign Shore

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Postapocalyptic Fiction and the Fragile Rise of Civilisations

Just one of many images of the apocalypse.

Postapocalyptic fiction is pretty big at the moment. And by ‘pretty big’ I mean among the best-selling books and movies out there in the form of The Hunger Games. Of course there’s grittier stuff as well, scavengers looking to get by in the devastated future of Mad Max or prepper fiction.

Harry Manners, author of the postapocalyptic Ruin Saga, made a good point about this when he said on Twitter that postapocalyptic fiction is a great arena to discuss the underlying fragility of civilisation. In a world where we have become so detached from the basics of survival, it can be terrifying to consider how easily our comfortable lives could be undermined. Postapocalyptic fiction is a way of addressing that terror, of venting and exploring modern fears. Perhaps it also lets us get a taste of the barbaric, as we increasingly come to understand that the rest of the world isn’t populated by backwards primitives, as everyone from the Romans to the Victorians believed.

I find it fascinating that we can see the same themes – the fragility of civilisation, difficult choices between morals and pragmatism – in stories about the rise of civilisation. Rome and Deadwood both brought this to our TV screens, deliberately exploring how civilisation emerges while showing that as a difficult struggle of faltering steps. In both, the path to safety and security was spattered with blood, and the survival of something that might be called civilised always seemed under threat.

As writers, it gives us two ways to explore these themes – with the birth and the death of civilisations. And as readers it provides something familiar and intriguing in wildly different settings.

What do you think? What’s the appeal of postapocalyptic fiction? Are we really so fascinated by civilisation’s rise and fall?

And if you want to see me grapple some more with what it means to be civilised, you can download my novella Guns and Guano for free from Amazon or Smashwords.

Writing Live by the Sword

Live by the Sword came from one of my basic desires as a fantasy writer – to write something that’s familiar and accessible, but that also brings something new to the genre. To provide my audience, and myself, with enough novelty to stand out but not so much that readers will feel lost.

To this end, I decided to write a Roman fantasy. It’s something I’m returning to at the moment, and that I think has a lot of merit. The majority of secondary world fantasy has a strong Medieval flavour – The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, The First Law, etc. We’re starting to see more influences from the Renaisance and the Victorian era coming through, especially with the growing success of steampunk. But if writers go further back it’s normally to produce wild barbarians in a Conan style, rather than to build on ancient civilisations.

So I picked Rome. I picked the arena because it was an exciting setting, and because this was before the popular Spartacus TV shows, when it had more novelty. And I picked the gladiators as characters not for the glory and romance of men of action but because it allowed me to look at those harmed by the might of Rome, as well as to show the wide diversity that was the oppressed under-belly of the empire.

The plot came from something more modern. I saw paintings in the Manchester Art Gallery by artists who had survived the horrors of the First World War, and whose art was shaped by this. It made me think about the other forms of creativity that came out of that era, such as the war poets, and how art became a way for them to cope with the violence they experienced. I wanted to explore that, and it fit naturally with looking at how my gladiators escaped from the traumas of their lives. The fact that I was writing fantasy let me turn this metaphor into reality, the subtext into text, art into something literally transformative.

So there we go. A little insight into where this story came from. Now it’s time for me to take some of this inspiration and go write something new.