Art for “The Haze-Beast”

Thank you Cloudywind!

(Guys, check out the White-Chans series!)

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[Fic]: The Haze-Beast

As you know, Singapore has been having quite bad smog days with the fall out from the slash-and-burn activities at Sumatra, Indonesia. The scene in my country is nothing short of apocalyptic: people panic-buying face masks, queuing up to buy more of the masks, pictures of smog-filled city-scape and suburbs all greyed out, and this distinct fear of not seeing the sun again, not feeling cool fresh breezes again. At the moment, the two governments are engaged in finger-pointing and pretty much a lot of hot air (pun not intended). Meanwhile, people from both countries are suffering. (Note: It’s apparently a confluence of factors: the dry season, strong winds and lack of rainfall – Singapore is also having a dengue epidemic)

The Haze-Beast is a flash piece. If such things were easily conquered…
(Note: As you have noticed, the story has grown longer…)


The Haze-Beast

“Damn,” I shouted. “It’s out again.”

Tian Jin dropped her cup of tie guan yin and flowed into her dragon form. Under the orange orb that was the sun, her silver scales glittered dully. I wished to see blue skies again.

“Wish they could stop whatever they are doing,” Tian Jin said in dragon-speech which I understood perfectly. I was her Companion, part of a pair of Guardians tasked to watch over our given regions.

“They can’t,” I shook my head and quickly tied my hair into a ponytail. I flexed my fingers, grimly pleased to see my talons appear. My nose twitched, partly due to sheer irritation and partly to pure joy. Hunting the haze-beast would be fun. Just hope that it would not break into different parts, like the hydra we encountered a month ago. That was fun. Our regional head had some choice words for me and Tian Jin.

“Let’s go,” I nodded and let myself transform.

With a cry, I sprang into the air, wings spread to catch the thermal.

~*~

Oh, it was there. Hovering above the cityscape like… a haze. A blanket of death-giving smoke.

And it had fangs and a leering wicked smile.

I couldn’t abide by this. The sight of the haze-beast stirred something primal inside me. I screeched an eagle’s challenge and headed towards its head… or its tail. I wanted to cause damage to it. I wanted to cause hurt to it.

Tian Jin was already in the thick of things, grabbing onto the haze-beast and biting into it. But like the cloud it pretended to be, the beast laughed and dissipated, only to appear again and swipe at Tian Jin. I heard something crack, a porcelain cup breaking into two, and Tian Jin cursed in all different Chinese dialects. Silver scales scattered in the wind like glittering petals. I winced. That was going to hurt for weeks. Regional head is so not going to be happy.

Bloody hell. The beast had to go.

I drew down the fire of the sun and sent a bolt towards the haze. Hit it where it hurt.

I called down the power of the wind and sent a wave toward the haze. Make it disappear.

I am garuda. I ride the wind. I am the wind. My claws are lightning. My wings are gales.

You die, haze-beast, you die.

Tian Jin headed towards the upper limits of the sky. Between her fore claws a pearl formed. With a snarl, she dropped it into the haze.

The haze-beast realized it was trapped and began withdrawing its tendril. Damn, it had tendrils?

“Follow the tendrils,” I said to Tian Jin and she nodded.

“We go for the roots,” Tian Jin said. “You ready, Yana?”

I flexed my talons and felt my feathers ruffle. “Yes.”

~*~

We followed the smoky tendril as it withdrew as fast as it could. The last time I saw similar behavior was at a tidal pool where my cousin was happily poking at a baby octopus. The thing we might end up meeting was not going to be as cute as the baby octopus.

Tian Jin burst through the cloud cover and swore loudly once more. The smell of burning forest hit my nostrils straight away, like some powerful fist. I choked, gagged and had to turn away quickly. The smoke was seeping into my lungs: I couldn’t breathe.

I saw…

I saw men clearing the forest. Men and women, hunched over, their faces covered and anonymous. I saw fires roaring their defiance into the sky. The ashes of trees, of animals and of broken dreams. The haze-beast was a product of this and yet, it fed on the miasma of shattered lives.

My skin crawled and I ruffled my feathers.

We swooped down, brandishing our weapons. The wounded haze-beast hovered over the men and women, its tendril curling back down like a miniature tornado touching ground. Even as I watched, it started feeding again.

The humans worked harder and harder, the fires growing hotter and brighter.

Tian Jin was already in the thick of it, biting the tendril as hard as she could. The link snapped. The men and women stared as if they just woke from a nightmare. They gazed up at us and started screaming. They dropped their parangs and knives, fleeing from us, their saviors.

Tian Jin and I were speechless. As we hung in the air, watching the humans flee and the haze-beast pulling away to find more victims, cold hard stones began to hit us. It was hail.

(The end?)

Oh looky!

UM cover A 008 b

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COVER REVEAL: HEART OF FIRE

HeartofFire_JDamask_CovArt2

HEART OF FIRE, 3rd book of the Jan Xu series, published by Masque Books.

Thoughts about self.

So first week of the June school holidays is almost over. Three more weeks to go. I am sitting at my desk. My joints hurt. No sure what’s happening, but the joint pain started a week ago. I am worried again about things like gout or arthritis or something else.

Here I am, thirty-eight. What am I? Who am I? For a while, I thought I was a wolf, or someone who was wolf-souled or wanted to be a wolf. Now nearing the big Four Zero, my paradigms have shifted: I have two girls, been in and out of work, dealing with my financial woes, writing books and stories… and actually getting them published. I have tried self-publishing, cyberfunded creativity and publishing with small presses. I have even been foolish enough to think I would get published by one of the Big Six, part of my bucket list. I have told myself that if I don’t get published by forty, I would jolly give up, pack up my bags and leave. Or simply forgo my dreams of ever being an author. I would keep all my stories, store them elsewhere and throw the keys away.

Last week saw the print release of Wolf At The Door. Excitement, anxiety, people congratulating me, etc. Then something struck me hard: it sucks to be a local SFF writer, especially somebody without a name to herself.

Let me be clear with this. This is my journal/blog/personal sounding board. I am decompressing. I am dealing with my self-doubt that has reared up again with its teeth and many heads, snapping away at me. I want to give voice to it and deal with it.

And let me be clear with this. I am grateful with the support I have from the people whom I know have been with me all the way. Grateful, thankful… words fail me here. I don’t know what to say, except a heartfelt Thank You. That’s all I could do at the moment.

There are moments when I feel trapped by circumstances and the resentment tastes like burnt gunpowder. Trust me. I want to attend cons. I want to attend big-ass literary festivals. Damn, I want to be recognized. But things like work and family are not going away. A writer needs to eat. A writer still needs to live. So when I see people talking about cons and geek stuff, I get… depressed and the real depression kicks in. Getting out of bed is a struggle. Getting myself to believe myself is a battle. How come I can’t do this? Why am I so unlucky? Why can I just shut up, pull my bootstraps up and “hang in there”?

For people who know me, I have hypertension. Then in the mid-2000s, I was diagnosed with depression. At the moment I look and feel ‘normal’, whatever ‘normal’ is. I hide it quite well, apparently, because people see the happy and cheerful Joyce.

At the moment I consider being alive a triumph.

What do all these things got to do with me as a writer? Writing helps me cope. Writing is breathing for me. Writing is an outlet, a world I can go in and be safe, feel safe. Yet the hydra of self-doubt is often lurking nearby. Sometimes I have it cowed. Sometimes I feed it and it grows bigger, more gnarly and hurtful. This will be a continual journey and battle for me until the day I stop writing and stop believing in myself.

So I keep on fighting, fighting and fighting.