Saturday, December 20, 2014

Spitting at the Sun -- part 3

A story of mine from a dark fantasy anthology titled Hunt the Winterlands from a couple years back.  The narrator is the Loremaster from a tribe of orcs whose world changes when a strange object falls from the heavens and lands in the distant Daggar mountains.  The cataclysm caused by the object does not affect the orc tribe right away, but the following winter is a harsh one that drags on into the summer months.  An ambitious young warrior of the tribe named Borklan has gone off to learn what has happened and returns speaking of a new god, "The Sleeping God", who has brought the eternal winter and will enable the orcs to crush the race of men. 

Spitting at the Sun

(c) 2011 by Kurt Wilcken

(part 3)

            “We are free Orcs!”  I shouted to make myself heard over the raucous mob.  “We worship no gods such as men do.  If there is some war among the Powers as Borklan says… IF such a thing has happened, then it has nothing to do with us.  We shall live as we have always done, according to the lore of old!”

            “The world has changed!” Borklan replied.  “The old Powers are dead, and you are a master of dead lore.  A new world demands new gods and a new lore!  The Sleeping God will lead us to victory!”

            “Victory!” the warriors of the tribe shouted.

            The elders of the tribe looked at one another and at Gurthang.  They felt what I felt; the mood of the tribe was a swift river carrying Borklan along, but threatening to overwhelm anyone who stood in his way.  Gurthang rose from his seat and stood before Borklan, planting his own spear on the floor with a dull noise that stilled the shouting.  “Do you then lead the tribe to war?” he growled.

            The murmurs of the warriors ceased.  Gurthang was pressing Borklan to openly challenge him.  If Borklan called his bluff, he might lose; although past his prime, Gurthang still possessed much of the strength of his youth, as well as many years of battle craftiness; and if the Chief bested him, the tribe would no longer heed Borklan no matter how persuasive his words.

            Borklan lowered his head and again smiled his deadly thin smile. “The Chief leads the tribe as always, and I will follow you, my Chief.  But the Chief cannot lead well if he relies on poor advice.  Your old Loremaster would have us hide in our holes from a dead Sun.  The tribe needs a new Loremaster.”

            “Ojah!” shouted one of Borklan’s friends.  “Borklan!  Borklan!  Down with the old lore!”  The other warriors took up the chant.  “Borklan!  Borklan!”

            Gurthang turned his gaze to me and bit his lip.  We had earned our spears together as boys.  I had stood by him when he challenged Dripthew, the tribe’s previous chief.  Now I saw dreadful decision in his eyes.  I needed no casting of bones to read his future: Chief only in name, he would desperately cling to his position while Borklan gave the commands, until the day that Borklan decided he needed Gurthang no more.

            “What then of our old Loremaster?” Gurthang said in a low, defeated voice.

            “Kill him!”

            “Meat for the pot!”

            “No!”  Gurthang’s voice regained a bit of his accustomed thunder.  “The Loremaster is a holy man.  It is not for us to lay blade upon him.  Let him take his spear and some food and leave this tribe.  His fate shall be in the hands of the Powers.”

            I think Borklan would have preferred I die right there, but the tribe, after some grumbling and muttering, agreed to Gurthang’s counsel.  The Loremaster, after all, speaks to spirits; and evidently they feared that even a discredited Loremaster might call down calamity upon the tribe.

            So they cast me out.  They permitted me to keep my spear and my casting bones and a small bundle of the herbs I used for healing.  They gave me a waterskin and a few pieces of dried meat.  Some of the younger hunters threw stones at me and Gurthang did not stop them.  Still, I felt more pity for him than I did for myself.  My own catastrophe was so sudden and complete that I could barely comprehend it.  I would stop every now and then and look back at the tribe, each time smaller and more distant, as if my expulsion were a dream that might fade away.

            For many nights I traveled.  I continued to perform the ritual Challenge to the Sun each dawn, more out of habit than anything, and a stubborn determination that the traditions be followed, even if I were the only one to do so.  Then I found what shelter I could and pulled my cloak over my head to sleep, fully expecting to die before the next sunrise.  Within a few days I ate the last of my food.  After that I hunted when I could find game and dug into the cold earth for roots when I couldn’t.  When I could find neither, I hungered, and walked on.

            Occasionally I would pass a farmhouse or a village of men, abandoned and alone; or the carcass of some wayfarer, man or beast, who had perished.  I found one, a fighter with an empty scabbard  and guessed this was where Borklan found his sword.  The scavengers had left little meat on the bones, but the man’s knife was a better one than my own and I gladly traded it.

            One day I came to a village of the Elves, deep within a silent forest.  A circle had been drawn around the village to protect it from enemies and I could feel its magic as I approached, but the village itself was still.  One lone Elf sat in the center of the village, in dirty robes; surrounded by skeletons and as thin as a bone himself.  He bade me come into his circle where it was safe, but I saw the hunger in his eyes and heard the madness in his voice.  Here was a mage who had created a magic barrier to protect his home; but being afraid to leave their circle, his village ran out of food.  One by one, they had starved to death.  And what then?  The Elf wouldn’t say; but the blood on his robes and the bones at his feet told me all I needed to know.  He cursed at me as I left him behind, but his curses meant nothing.

            For many weeks I wandered without aim, not caring where I ended up; but the spirits guide our footsteps and lead each man to his destiny.  And so my own footsteps led me to the Daggar Mountains, to the spot where Borklan’s god had dug a great bowl of dust and death.  No trees stood in that deadly hollow; they all lay on the ground as if knocked down while trying to flee some great calamity.  What few traces of buildings I saw lay scattered amongst the rocks, even as Borklan had said.  The very spirits of this place were alien to me and spoke in a language I could not understand.

            I sat down and there I pulled my cloak over my head and wept; for until that moment I had hoped, in some small corner of my soul, that Borklan had lied to us about what he saw.  Then I knew that this new Power was stronger than any of the other Powers I had ever seen.  I curled up like a hedgehog and waited to die.

(continued)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Spitting at the Sun -- part 2

I'm posting a story which originally appeared in a shared-world anthology titled Hunt the Winterlands, devised by my good friend Alex Ness.  The anthology's setting is a world of Dark Fantasy where the land lies under a curse of eternal winter due to a mysterious event long ago.

My story is set about the time that event happened.  Our narrator is the Loremaster of a tribe of Orcs.  His job is to teach the young of the tribe the story of Urg-Dar, Father of Orcs, who refused to bow down to the gods and was cursed by the Sun; and to perform the daily ritual re-enacting Urg-Dar's defiance.  He is the repository of his tribe's collective wisdom going back for generations.  But everything he knows is about to change...

Spitting at the Sun

(c) 2011 by Kurt Wilcken

(part 2)

            It happened one night in early autumn.  As I cast the bones to augury the night’s hunt, one of the hunters cave a cry and pointed to the heavens.  “A star is falling!”

            I meant to rebuke him and explain, as my father had told me, that the stars are the Children of the Night Sky suckling at her myriad teats and that occasionally one will pull away causing the milk to spurt out -- I have seen such things in the sky, and indeed they do look like a star is falling to the superstitious -- but when I looked up myself I saw that he was right.  I saw a light, much larger than a star and brighter, plunging towards the heavens leaving a shining trail, as straight as the edge of a knife.  It struck the horizon far in the east and a glow of fire lit the rim of the world.

            The sun rose late that morning and glowed a dim, sullen red behind a shadow of cloud.  I spoke the words of the ritual, proudly defying the sun; but in my heart I felt a tremble of fear.  Why, I wondered.  The sun had risen to a red sky before; more times than I could count; and as Loremaster, I knew how to interpret such signs.  But I did not know how to interpret this.  The bones had augured no calamity.  The only ill omen I could see was the grim, calculating look in Borklan’s eyes.

            That afternoon Borklan came before the Council.  He had grown into a strong-armed warrior in the years since the time I had cuffed the lore of the tribe into his skull, and the younger hunters admired him for his skill and his courage.  “Something great and wonderful has happened today,” he said.  “A piece of the sky has fallen to the earth!  We must send a party to seek it out!”

            “Such talk is foolish,” I argued.  “What we saw is strange, I do not deny, but it can have nothing to do with us.  Let the sky keep to the sky’s own business.”

            “How will we know if we do not look for it?  This is undoubtedly a sign of some great occurrence.  Who can tell what mysteries lie where the sky-piece fell?”  He struck the ground with the butt of his spear to support his argument.  Many of the younger folk of the tribe murmured in agreement.

            “You are merely speaking great words to make yourself seem more important.  I say again, it has nothing to do with us.”

            The Council argued back and forth, but the tribe’s chieftain, Gurthang, decided the matter.  “The Autumn Hunt is almost upon us.  I cannot spare a scouting party to go off fetching pieces of moonbeam.”  The elders of the Council chuckled, but I saw another reason behind Gurthang’s ruling:  He too saw Borklan’s ambition and sought to check it.

            Borklan crossed his arms and scowled.  “So be it.  Then if you women are too cowardly to seek the piece of the fallen sky, then I will go myself!”  And with that, he strode proudly from the Council chambers.

            He left that sunset, carrying a spear, a knife and a bundle of rations, and headed eastward in the direction of the Daggar Mountains.  He did not return the next day, nor the day after that. 

            Weeks passed and the nights lengthened as autumn passed into winter.  The tribe rejoiced with the waning of the year, because the longer nights meant more hours to hunt and the men of the human-lands remained behind their village walls waiting for springtime.  But this year the frost came sooner.  Clouds shrouded the sky nearly every night and when the wind blew from the east it carried the bitter grit of dust.  So dense lay the clouds on the eastern sky that some mornings I could not even see the Sun until it had risen well over the horizon.

            Strangers began to cross our territory.  First we noted an increase in game, which brought much food for the tribe.  Then the occasional band of Goblins would venture into our lands, always coming from the east.  Our warriors killed what they could and drove the rest away, for the Goblins are thieves and make poor neighbors.  One day, shortly before Midwinter, a group of humans passed through, traveling quickly with their possessions in carts.  These we slew also, sparing only one or two for questioning.  As Loremaster, I have learned some of the human tongues, but the language of these was strange to me.  I could make out but few words:  “ashes”, “darkness”, “death.”  They were evidently fleeing something which they feared even more than they feared us.  Gurthang and I decided that there must be some great war to the east which all these people were fleeing.

            I nearly missed Midwinter’s Day.  Although I kept careful reckoning of the passage of the suns, I had difficulty tracking the seasons of the gloom-encumbered sky.  Again I began to worry.  The days were growing longer, yet still the land lay in the cloak of winter, as if the world had forgotten about spring.

            Although spring never arrived, Borklan did.

            He came striding across the snow, just before dawn, using his spear as a staff and wearing a sword at his side like those forged by the humans.  “I have returned!” he shouted.  “Hear me, my people!  Everyone come and listen!”

            Gurthang confronted him, his brow knotted like a club.  “So you have returned.  And do you think the Council has time for traveler’s tales?  I am Chief and I call the Council.”

            “I call not the Council, but the whole tribe!  Old and young!  Warriors and females!  All must hear what I have to say!”

            “So, young braggart,” I said, standing by the Chief, “You went off seeking a piece of the fallen sky.  Did you find it?”

            Borklan met my mockery with  a blade-thin smile.  “I found more.  I found our destiny.”  Then he turned to the people of the tribe who had begun to gather around him.  “Let me tell you!  For many weeks I traveled when I left our tribe, until I came to the Daggar Mountains.  High into the mountains I climbed until I came to a pass and on the other side I saw a wide hollow, miles and miles across, as if a giant’s club had smote the earth.  And in that hollow I saw nothing but ash and destruction.  The trees had been knocked over like sticks, and the rivers choked with dust.  I saw villages of men that had been flattened as one might kick over an anthill. And I saw the bodies of men and beasts picked to the bones.

            “I continued on across the devastation until I came to the center of the circle, where the very stone of the earth was shattered and I found a deep pit that had been filled in by rock and debris.  I could feel that within that pit lay a Power, a Power greater than any one that Orc or Human, Elf, Dwarf or Goblin had ever before seen.  And the Power took me, and I fell into a deep sleep and entered the spirit lands.”

            The tribe gathered around Borklan, enraptured by his story.  I found myself bound by the spell of his tale too.  I had intended to mock him as a liar, but I could not.  I recognized truth in his words and it frightened me.

            “I know not how long I traveled in the realm of spirits, but when I awoke, I understood many things.  A new Power has come to Earth, greater than the Sun, greater than the Sky.  With one blow he has overthrown the old Powers.  A new age has come.  Hitherto was the age of the Sun and the dominion of Men, but the Sun has been defeated!  No longer do we need to fear it!  No longer do we need to cower underground until sunset!  A new god has arrived!  He sleeps now, but his power goes out into the land.  This is the Age of the Sleeping God!  This is the Age of the Orc!”

            At this blasphemy, the spell broke and I found my tongue.  “We are Orcs!  We serve no gods!”

            “Hah!  Pathetic old man!  You pretend to challenge the Sun with your daily mutterings when really you fear him and use the fear of others to cling to your position in the tribe.  Well, hear my challenge!”

            With that, Borklan turned to the east, and I realized that as he had spoken the Sun had indeed risen above the horizon, red and sullen.  Borklan raised his sword high over his head and shouted.  “Hear me, O Sun!  You are defeated!  You are powerless!  Your reign is over!  A greater god has crushed you and scattered the children of men before him.  In this sign we will triumph!  We shall seize the human-lands and we will not stop until all the earth is ours!  The Day of the Orc is now!”

            We all cringed, waiting for him to fall, burnt by the rays of the Sun, but yet he stood.  One by one, the people of the tribe realized that  the Sun was not burning them as it used to.  So weakened was the Sun by the dense clouds that covered him, that his face could no longer harm us.


            The youths of the tribe started up a low chant:  “Borklan!  Borklan!”  Other voices joined it.  The Chief looked to me uneasily; he saw his rule slipping from him and expected me to put  a stop to it.  Borklan also looked to me, daring me to try.

(continued)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Spitting at the Sun -- part 1

This is a story I wrote for a dark fantasy anthology my friend Alex Ness complied a couple years ago titled Hunt the Winterlands.  The stories of the collection were set in a world where a tremendous catastrophe long ago had plunged the land into a centuries-long winter.  (Alex lives in Minnesota; can you tell?)

My story is set about the time of the catastrophe and tells how the shaman of an orkish tribe deals with the sudden changes in his world.

Spitting at the Sun

(c) 2011 by Kurt Wilcken

(part 1)

            Long ago when the world was yet new; when unstained was Earth by the blood of the weak; the Great Powers whom men call gods descended to earth and called all the peoples together.  “Choose among us whom you will worship,” they said, “and we will bestow upon you our blessing.”

            And so the Father of Men stood forth and chose the Sun to worship, for his power and majesty; and the Mother of the tall Elves chose the Stars for their beauty; and the Father of the burrowing Dwarves chose the Earth for her deep wisdom.  And so each of the peoples of the Earth chose one of the Powers to be their god.

            Lastly came Urg-Dar, the Father of the Orcs.  “What say you, Urg-Dar?” the Sun asked.  “Whom amongst the Powers do you choose to be your god?”

            “I choose none!” Urg-Dar replied.  “For what use have I of gods?  If I want something, I take it by the strength of my own arm!  If I lack something, I endure by the power of my own will; and if I desire wisdom, my own mind will teach me what I need.  I desire no god’s protection.”

            Then the Powers grew angry at Urg-Dar’s speech, and the Sun spoke thus:  “Hear me, Urg-Dar!  Though you scorn the gods’ favor, you cannot doubt their power!  From this day forward, my face shall be hateful to you and you will hide from my presence!”

            And Urg-Dar looked upon the Sun’s face, and the brightness of the Sun was like a spear in his eyes, and the rays of the Sun were like a fire upon his skin.  But Urq-Dar flinched not, even though the tears welled in his eyes as if he were a female.  “I have no desire to look upon a face as ugly as yours,” he said proudly, and only then did he turn away.

            Such is the story my father told me and his father to him, and his father’s father for unknown generations.  And for just as long, each morning the Loremaster of the tribe has stood out under the open sky to greet the dawn and remind the Sun that we, the Children of Urg-Dar, are still here and we bow to no god.

            And such is the story that I once told the youths of my tribe, for like my father, and his father before him, I was a Loremaster.  I spoke to the spirits; I instructed the tribe; and every morning, I challenged the Sun.

            Always when I taught the youths, some would ask questions.  “Why do we fear the Sun?”

            “We do not fear him, but we respect his power,” I would answer.

            “If we worshiped the Sun, perhaps we could walk under him in the daylight as the Children of Men do.”

            “We are free Orcs, and worship no Powers, whether the Sun above or the Earth beneath.  That is the meaning of the Morning Challenge.”

            Then one surly lad in the back of the others said, “I think the Morning Challenge is simply to make the Loremaster look important.  Surely the Sun does not hear his words, nor would he heed them.  It does not take deep wisdom to stand in the mouth of the cave and speak great words.” 

            Borklan, the lad was.  Even then he was querulous youth; always arguing and testing, as if the Wisdom of the Past was an enemy to fight instead of a father to obey.  Sometimes in meeting his barbed questions and defiant tongue, the wisdom my Father gave to me failed me and I had to resort to giving the lad a clout on the head.

            So I took Borklan by the arm and dragged him to the mouth of the cave and waited for the morning Sun.  “See then!” I said.  “If it is no great thing to stand and speak words, then stand with me.  You are full of words yourself; speak them to the Sun and see if he hears you!”

            As we waited for the dawn, I saw fear in Borklan’s eyes, for no Orc likes to be under the Face of the Sun.  I had been taught by Loremasters, and so I knew the tricks; how to avoid looking directly at the Sun’s Face and how to cloud my mind to block the pain of the sunlight on my skin.  Borklan knew not these things, and so when the eastern sky grew pale and the Sun’s bright disc crept into sight, he squirmed in my grasp, trying to flee, while I boldly spoke the words of the ritual.

            When the ritual was complete, I released Borklan and cast him back into the cave with the rest of the tribe.  “Do not mock the wisdom of your elders,” I told him.  “For thus these things have always been, and thus shall they ever be.”

            And Borklan was silent; but he regarded me with a hatred and resentment that I later came to remember.

            For many years my tribe lived as our fathers had before us:  hunting game in good times; grubbing for roots in bad; and sometimes venturing out into the Human-lands to raid the villages of Men.


            Then the sky fell.

(continued)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Jill Trent, Science Sleuth in "Truth or Dare" (part 2)

As I mentioned previously, I wrote a comics script a few months ago for the blog Superdames, a site devoted to celebrating female heroes, of Comic's Golden Age.  The site is compiling an anthology of new stories featuring one of these heroes, a beautiful and brilliant detective named Jill Trent, who creates amazing inventions to solve crimes.  My script was not one of the few chosen, alas, but I'm sharing it here.

In the first part, JILL TRENT and her friend DAISY SMYTHE are visiting a colleague, DR. WILLIAM MOULTON MARSTON, a psychologist who has done important work in developing the polygraph, (as well as being the creator of Wonder Woman, but we don't specifically mention that).

Dr. Marston isn't in at the moment, but Jill and Daisy meet his wife, ELIZABETH and their friend OLIVE.  Suddenly, a couple of THUGS barge into the house.  They have been sent to grab an expert on lie detectors.  Jill claims that she is "W.M. Marston" in order to protect the others and agrees to go with the thugs, but insists she be allowed to take some equipment from her car along with her.

Daisy is worried, but Jill assures her that she has a plan...

And now, the thrilling conclusion::

PAGE THREE

PANEL 1
ACTION:  Inside the THUG’s car.  THUG #2 is driving.  Behind him, in the back seat, we see JILL, with a blindfold over her eyes.  THUG #1 is seated next to her with his gun drawn, just in case she decides to get funny.

1 JILL:  So, why do you palookas need a polygraph expert anyway?

2 THUG #1:  You’ll find out soon enough!

3 THUG #2:  I thought she was an expert on lie detectors! 

4 THUG #1:  Shaddap, dope!

PANEL 2
ACTION:  Inside a warehouse.  JILL’s blindfold has been removed, and the THUGS are escorting her – none too gently – into the presence of BOSS KREZNIK, a tall, broad-shouldered gangster in an expensive, well-tailored suit.  KREZNIK addresses his THUGS angrily.

5 JILL:  (thought balloon):  My, my!  Boss Kreznik!  He’s wanted for questioning about that bank robbery last week!

6 KREZNIK:  What in blazes?  I told you lugs to get Doc Marston!

7 THUG #1:  This is Marston, boss!

PANEL 3
ACTION:  JILL faces KREZNIK, putting up a bold front.  KREZNIK eyes her skeptically, clenching a cigar in his teeth.

8 JILL:  I usually publish under a male pseudonym, because some people don’t think a woman can know anything about science.  If you agree, you can take me home and find another expert.

9 KREZNIK:  Keep yer shirt on, toots!

PANEL 4:
ACTION:  Close up of KREZNIK, grim and threatening.  He jerks his thumb in the direction a group of other THUGS standing behind him..  (Two of them we’ve met; there is also a HANDSOME one and a WEASELLY-FACED one)

10 KREZNIK:  It’s like this.  Last week, my boys pulled a bank job and took 300 grand.  Thing is, 50 grand of that went missing!  Someone’s been skimming my take!

11 KREZNIK:  Naturally, they all deny it.  So I want you to hook ‘em up to a lie detector and see which ones are telling the truth!

PANEL 5
ACTION:  JILL turns to head toward the exit.  KREZNIK smirks, standing with his arms folded.

12 JILL:  I’ll just need to get my equipment.  I had your boys bring it in their car…

13 KREZNIK:  No need for that, toots!

PANEL 6
ACTION:  KREZNIK gestures proudly to a polygraph machine set up behind some wooden crates.  (I included some links to visual references at the end, but since real polygraphs are rather small, we might want to make this bigger and more intimidating; say, the size of a photocopier).  JILL puts her hand to her cheek in dismay.

14 KREZNIK:  I already got the lie detector!  I had my boys swipe it from the D.A.’s office this morning!

PANEL 7
ACTION:  JILL explaining thing, trying to be as persuasive and logical as possible.  KREZNIK reacts with anger and frustration

15 JILL:  You have to understand; a polygraph doesn’t actually detect lies; it detects changes in the body, like increased heart rate or sweaty palms, which often accompany lying.  But those changes could simply mean that the subject is nervous!

16 KREZNIK:  Then that gizmo’s useless!

16 JILL:  Not quite!  I can modify your polygraph so that it analyzes the parts of the brain where lies are created!


PAGE FOUR

PANEL 1
ACTION:  JILL is crouching next to the polygraph, connecting it to a couple other devices which are in boxes so that their exact purpose is not clear.

1 CAPTION:  Soon…

2 JILL:  (thought balloon):  What a load of banana oil!  But they bought it!

3 JILL:  (thought):  Hooking up this wire recorder to the polygraph should provide some nice evidence for the police – If I can get out of here!

4 JILL:  (thought):  I just hope my other gadget works!

PANEL 2
ACTION:  JILL has finished tinkering with the polygraph.  She gestures towards the chair next to it, inviting KREZNIK to have a seat.  KREZNIK stands with his arms folded and seems amused.

5 JILL:  Before I test your men, I want to calibrate the machine; have a different person make some truthful and false statements to make sure it’s operating properly.

6 JILL:  Would you like to do the honors?

7 KREZNIK:  Ha hah!  I have a better idea, toots!

PANEL 3
ACTION:  Close-up of JILL, looking shocked

8 KREZNIK: (off-panel):  You can be the guinea pig!

PANEL 4
ACTION:  Similar to the splash panel on Page 1, although perhaps a bit less dramatic.  JILL is sitting in the seat next to the polygraph; (a regular chair, not an electric chair).  A cuff is around her arm to measure her blood pressure, and a band is around her head with electrodes attached to the machine.  She looks apprehensive.  A WEASELLY-looking thug is monitoring the polygraph needle.  KREZNIK stands over JILL, holding a microphone attached to the machine.

9 KREZNIK:  Let’s see how this works.  We’ll start off with a simple question.  What is your name?

PANEL 5
ACTION:  Close-up of JILL in the chair. Her eyes are shut and her brow furrowed in concentration.

10 JILL:  My name… my name is… Jill Trent!

PANEL 6:
ACTION:  KREZNIK is startled.  He did not expect her to say that!  In the foreground, WEASEL watches the line drawn by the polygraph needle spike.

11 KREZNIK:  What?  The Science Sleuth?

12 WEASEL:  No, Boss!  Lookit the needle!  The machine says she’s lying!

PANEL 7
ACTION:  Tight close-up of JILL allowing herself a sphinx-like smile.

13 JILL:  (thought balloon):  Actually the machine says I’m nervous!  But since they think I was lying, now I can relax!

PANEL 8
ACTION:  Scene in the Marston living room.  DAISY is operating  a RADIO SET while ELIZABETH and OLIVE stand around her.

14 CAPTION:  Meanwhile, at the Marston home:

15 RADIO:  (spiky radio balloon):  Ha ha.  That’s right.  Really, I’m Doctor Marston.  You kidnapped me to help you recover the money you stole from the bank.

16 RADIO:  (radio balloon):  I know all that!  Let’s get on with it!

17 DAISY:  I don’t know how Jill set up that radio transmitter right under their noses, but if she can stay on the air, I can pin-point their location!


PAGE FIVE

PANEL 1
ACTION:  Now a HANDSOME THUG with a Clark Gable mustache is in the seat hooked up to the polygraph.  The polygraph needle is again spiking as HANDSOME flirts with JILL, who is seated by the machine and holding  the microphone.  Behind them, KREZNIK is pulling his hair in frustration

1 CAPTION:  Back at the Warehouse

2 HANDSOME:  Sure, doll, I’d be glad to tell you about the bank job.  You doin’ anything later?

3 KREZNIK:  Nuts!  This isn’t getting us anywhere!  I think you’re stalling for time!


PANEL 2
ACTION:  THUGS #1&2 burst into the room, frightened.  KREZNIK is so startled he drops the cigar from his teeth.  In the foreground, we see JILL in close-up, smiling!

4 THUG #2:  Boss!  The cops just showed up!  This place is surrounded!

PANEL 3
ACTION:  KREZNIK is in the process of pulling a gun on JILL, but she clocks him with a sock to the jaw.

5 KREZNIK:  You did this somehow, you filthy little --

6 KREZNIK:  Ow!

7 JILL:  Never underestimate a scientistOr a woman,  “Toots”!

PANEL 4
ACTION:  The POLICE are here and arresting KREZNIK and his THUGS and putting them in handcuffs.  A POLICE DETECTIVE, dapperly-dressed, handsome, but a bit condescending, chats with JILL as DAISY stands nearby.

8 DETECTIVE:  This was one of your crazier stunts, Trent!  Broadcasting the crook’s confessions on the Police car radio band!

9 JILL:  It got you here, didn’t it?

PANEL 5
ACTION:  A more intimate panel of JILL talking to DAISY.  DAISY laughs.

10 JILL:  I’m sorry I put you through all that worry, Daisy.  It must have been terrible waiting to hear from me.

11 DAISY:  That’s all right, Jill!  I’ve thought of a way you can make it up to me!

12 DAISY:  Y’see, while I was waiting, I was reading some of Dr. Marston’s funnybooks

PANEL 6
ACTION:  Circular panel, suggesting an “iris out”.  Close-up of JILL and DAISY, not directly facing each other, but glancing in each other’s direction.  JILL has a look of surprise on her face.  DAISY has a mischievous smile, and she holds a coiled lasso in her hands.

13 DAISY:  You were right; he does have some interesting ideas!


14 CAPTION:  Fin

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Jill Trent, Science Sleuth in "Truth or Dare!" (part 1)

One of the blogs I follow is called Superdames, and is devoted to heroines from the Golden Age of Comic Books.  This past summer, the site ran a contest for new stories featuring one such character named Jill Trent, Science Sleuth, a beautiful and brilliant scientist who, along with her best friend Daisy, uses her fantastic inventions to fight crime  She's one of many obscure characters from that period who have fallen into the Public Domain.  Superdames selected her as the subject for a comics anthology of new stories.

The story I submitted was not one of the ones chosen for the anthology; but since I never like letting material go to waste, I decided to post my story here.


JILL TRENT:  SCIENCE SLEUTH

“TRUTH OR DARE”

by Kurt Wilcken

PAGE ONE

PANEL 1:
ACTION:  Splash panel showing  JILL TRENT strapped into what looks like an electric chair. A grim-faced figure hunches over a piece of electrical apparatus connected to the chair.  She is surrounded by several THUGS, including BOSS KREZNIK, who stands over her, gloating.  Perhaps DAISY SMYTHE looks on in shock as another THUG holds her back.

1 TITLE:  JILL TRENT:  SCIENCE SLEUTH

2 CAPTION: Jill Trent uses her keen intellect and scientific skills to solve mysteries and fight crime; but when one of her ingenious devices is used against her, can she outwit her own invention?

3 SUB-TITLE:  “TRUTH OR DARE!”

4 CREDITS:  Story by Kurt Wilcken; Art by _____________

PANEL 2:
ACTION:  JILL and DAISY are driving along a country road in a sleek convertible.  JILL is behind the wheel.

5 DAISY:  So, this William Moulton Marston we’re seeing, is he the one who writes those funny-books?

6 JILL:  Ha!  He’s more than that, Daisy!

7 JILL:  He’s also a psychologist who has done a lot of work with polygraphs.

PANEL 3
ACTION:  Closer view of JILL and DAISY in the front seat

8 JILL:  He has some interesting ideas.  You’ll enjoy meeting him.



PAGE TWO

PANEL 1:
ACTION:  The living room of the Marston home, a well-to-do house with 1930s style deco furnishings.  Perhaps, if there’s room, there might be a framed copy of a SENSATION COMICS comic book on the wall.  JILL introduces DAISY to ELIZABETH MARSTON.  OLIVE, a attractive, athletic-looking girl, stands nearby.

1 JILL:  This is Elizabeth, Dr. Marston‘s wife, and their house guest, Olive.  Elizabeth, this is my friend Daisy Smythe.

2 DAISY:  Pleased to meet you

3 ELIZABETH:  I’m so sorry William isn’t here yet.  He phoned to say he’d be delayed.

PANEL 2:
ACTION:  Several THUGS burst through the front door with guns drawn

4 THUG #1:  Okay, youse dames!  Don’t nobody move, and no one gets hurt!

5 THUG #2:  Where’s Doc Marston?

6 DAISY:  Holy cats!

PANEL 3:
ACTION:  OLIVE, her fists balled up and ready to fight, confronts THUG #1, who has his gun trained on her.

7 OLIVE:  What do you want with Dr. Marston?

8 THUG #1: We just need to borrow him.  The boss wants an expert on lie detectors.  As long as he co-operates, no one has to get hurt!

PANEL 4:
ACTION:  Small, dramatic pane.  JILL puts her hand on OLIVE’s shoulder and steps forward to face the viewer.

9 JILL:  I am Doctor Marston!

PANEL 5
ACTION:  The THUGS are puzzled.  She is obviously much curvier than they expected the Doc to be.  JILL is brazening it out.

10 THUG #1:  You’re W. M. Marston?

11 THUG #2:  But you’re a dame!

12 JILL:  Good eye.

PANEL 6:
ACTION:  Close, intimate view of DAISY whispering to JILL, worried.  JILL reassures her.

13 DAISY:  (whispers):  Are you crazy, Jill?

14  JILL: (whispers):  Shh! We have to protect the Marstons!  Don’t worry, I have a plan!

PANEL 7
ACTION:  JILL takes command, pointing towards the door (off-panel).  In the foreground, DAISY is going off in the direction she points.  DAISY’s face is to the viewer and she can see the smile she’s concealing from the THUGS; she guesses what Jill’s plan is.  The THUGS are bewildered that their “prisoner” has started giving orders.

15  JILL:  I’ll need some of my equipment.  Daisy, get the apparatus from the trunk of the car.

16 THUG #1:  Wot the--- ?


17 JILL:  You want my help, don’t you?

...

To be continued !

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Department of Filk: The Literary Mack the Knife

Okay, dipping once again into the Filk file for a bit of literary silliness.  Swing it, Satchmo!

The Literary Mack the Knife
(tune:  "Mack the Knife" (of course!))

Oh the Shark has
Pretty teeth, dear
And he shows them
Pearly white,
You won't meet him
In the bookstore
But you might meet
Mack the Knife

When the shark bites
With his teeth, dear
Scarlet billows
'Gin to spread;
MacHeath’s lethal
Like the shark, dear,
But he's also
Quite well-read

By the shores of
Gitchee-Gumi,
Hiawatha
Used to go;
Now Nikomis
Sits there weeping;
Mack please say it
Isn't so...

Once upon a
Midnight dreary,
Weak and weary,
Pondered I;
Is that tapping
Just a raven
Or is Mackie
Stopping by...?

Mistress Em'ly
Belle of Amherst
Once sat writing
After tea;
"Since I could not
Stop for Death, dear,
Mack, he kindly
Stopped for me..."

It was Brillig,
Slithy Toves did
Gyre and Gimble
In the Wabe
Vorpal Mack went
Snicker-snack, dear
Jabberwock lay
There outgabe...

Captain Ahab,
That fanatic
Sought to kill that
Monster whale;
But who really
Sank the Pequod?
Mack says "Call me
Ishmael..."

Once an Old Man
Caught a “Beeg Feesh”
As he struggled
‘Gainst the Sea;
When the sharks bit,
With their teeth, dear,
Mack said “Leave a
Bite for me!”

Rev'rend Dimsdale,
Sinning Hester,
Justice Pynchon
Sweet Goodman Brown
Mister Hawthorne
Set them up, dear,
But our Mackie,
Mowed 'em down.

Our great authors
Wrote us stories
Full of death as
Well as life;
Don’t be napping
While in Lit Class
Or you might miss
Mack the Knife!