This is a departure of sorts. Skyshell Stories, is intended as a collection of short stories about the characters and/or the world of Skyshell. This way I get back to writing and into the worlds I left behind without having to finish an entire novel. I also get to know my characters better and my fans have something to read again.
Skyshell stories 1
The past’s long annoying shadow.
Having an old soul is considered the greatest of blessings. Of course every soul was old. As far as anyone could tell souls were as old as the world itself. Well except those of the first-born, who when taking their first breath had not caught a soul and so instead were forced to create one of their own. Those poor creatures hat the worst fate of all. In away though, Ailu thought that they had still a better lot in life then her. They at least had an excuse for being no one.
Just like had those people who inherited drifting souls, that had been outside of a body for so long that they had forgotten everything about who they may have been. They like the first born had to build their personality up from scratch. Yet this personality was built on a strong foundation of a old, strong soul that had like the body-shell hosting it gone through uncounted millennia of evolution. Ailu hadn’t been that lucky either.
No. Ailu’s soul had been wandering the world for a long time. Doing… whatever it is that souls do when they leave the body after death. Hers was obviously fond of wandering. Travelling hither and yon with not a care in the world. At leas that was what Ailu thought. She had always loved exploring and tended to lose herself in these moments. Of course that could simply have been Ailu, but how would she ever know?
Her damned soul had started drifting stopping being someone and started just being. It would have been fine if it had continued doing so but noooo. No. Suddenly it remembered that it needed to do something important, to catch a body, preferably one that was close to who, whomever this particular soul had been close to when it was still inside its shell. So it had run. Do souls run? Flown? Hurried and implanted itself on Ailu cursing her before she was even properly human.
Ailu stabbed her stew angrily. She had of course no idea what happened to souls after the body-shell breaks. Research had gone a long way in the past centuries. The soul had become measurable, it could be caught, its passing slowed, it could be infused into artificial shells and kept active for a very long time. Or as the worst crime and the most drastic form of punishment it could be burned. But what the souls felt and thought when they were without a physical anchor no one had so far found out. So Ailu had just her pet theories.
Tonight she was alone. Which suited her well. She ate a few spoons of her stew. It was adequate in taste but it was warm. That was good. The night was cold and the wind was as often this time of the year a grim arsehole. She liked that. It fit her mood. Cold, dark and stormy.
This was her ‘first’ life and she was getting close to 40 where she was considered a full adult in Yhganndem, meaning that she needed to chose a vocation. A vocation that was true to her soul. And that was her problem, the life long source of annoyance. She had an existential itch she could not scratch. Her soul remembered almost nothing. When she was a baby she had the more sedate demeanour of an old soul, but every once in a while she had shown a spark of a mind far more advanced that it should be, like in the properly reincarnated. But they remained just that sparks. Before Ailu could even start worrying about it her family had started with it. Was she the reincarnation of a family member recently departed? If yes, what was wrong with her? If not who was she then? Was she of Yhganndem or was she an outside soul that needed to be taught in the proper ways?
And so as Ailu grew up she found herself constantly trapped in between the worlds of the reincarnated and the old souls. The reincarnated left her in the dust when they became able to speak. Their thoughts were still those of a child but that of a child that remembered the lives before.
However she was far more apt than the old souls. They had to relearn being a human from the start. No matter how firm and noble their foundations, it was no match for the sharp instincts of Ailu, with a soul that had left the memories of its old life behind but still retained a strong grip on old lessons learnt. She surpassed everyone in her class in pretty much every subject, learning more quickly than anyone else. Making absolutely no friends at all in the process.
As the sun set, Ailu used her shell-art to make her eyes more sensitive to the light there was. Her shell-art was very strong for a young first life probably one of the gifts of her soul. She looked at the heart land, wild and untamed. Beautiful in ways that had become extinct everywhere on surface of the planet, where humanity had changed, cultivated or tampered with nature. The only thing that kept it that way was the determination of the people of her country to preserve it at all costs. They had built the Seam all round their territory to keep humans including themselves out.
The isolation was what gave the heart of Yhganndem its unique charm, the basis for what it was. Ailu liked seeing that isolation could lead into something positive. At nights like these it gave her the power to keep going. Self-pity was always close at hand calling her to give in, to accept that her life was unfair and that everyone was treating her like a freak. But Ailu didn’t want to go that way. She knew that it would only lead to bitterness which in turn would make her life even harder. Her hand tightened into a fist. There it was again. The doubt. That idea of not giving in to bitterness, was that her own thought? Or was it a thought of the other, the old one still lurking in her soul. She turned around and stalked past her fire towards the other side of the wall. At this point the seam was very narrow so it was only a few hundred meters to the other side, facing the parasite forests of Khirlon.
Whenever she had a good idea or outdid herself. Was it her or the other? When she did something wrong or made a stupid mistake. Again who was respnsible for it? Since she was little everyone around her was obsessed to find out who she really was. So every tiny thing she did that was considered beyond ‘normal’ and normal being a fantastically subjective thing as Ailu came to learn very early in her life, it was seen as a piece in the puzzle that would help find out who she was. For her family it had become a hobby, looking for clues trading discoveries and discussing pet theories. At the school it had been a constant source of worry of her teachers, who were either thinking that she was obviously more than just an old soul in a new body or that she was a talented kid that had no business attending the classes intended for reincarnates. There where very few people who actually were looking for Ailu. The actual person.
It had made Ailu cranky at first, leading quickly to even wilder theories. Maybe she had been some kind of bad character before? Or maybe her peculiar soul had broken her in strange ways? So in time she became reserved and cold. That way she was simply considered strange. Someone who normal, there it was again that damned word, could simply not understand and vice versa. She did not make many friends, so she had to learn to enjoy her own company. She got lost in books half of the time and the other time she worked out her ever smoldering frustration by working on her shell-art and her body, before the frustration would grow into anger. So after being considered cold, people were now starting to consider her scary. That helped her enormously in her social life… Well at least the bullying became less. Not because she became violent but more because of what her would be bullies thought she might to to them.
At least the few friends she made were real friends. People who tried to see her for who she really was. It was not easy to become her friend as she had built so many walls around her that reaching her proper self was rather hard. So she was almost shocked when she met her first real proper friend.
Boosted by grim determination, soul skills and whatever talent she may have because of her body-shell, Ailu was excelling in her shell-art classes, so much so that her school decided to put her in a reincarnated class. This of course caused a new wave of wild speculation in her family who was now focusing on deceased shell-artists of some renown who had not reincarnated. This annoyed Ailu.
She at that time was 16 and put into class with 6 year old reincarnates who, remembering their past lives had long surpassed all old souls in development. This annoyed Ailu even more.
In that class was Livon a 9 year old girl whose soul had forgotten so much about its previous life that she had needed longer than the other reincarnates to realearn her skills. Ailu had speculated that that girl and her had enough in common that at least neither of them had to eat alone during breakfast and the midday break. Turns out that the Livon old hated Ailu with tempestuous passion, as she had coped with her situation by telling herself that she was a misunderstood martyr. Now Ailu had come along and ruined her social niche. Livon forgave her quickly after discovering that Ailu was far more of a freak than she ever was which made her more of a target than her. For Livon it was liberating to finally have someone to trample herself. This annoyed Ailu the most. The result of that was that she lost herself in her training. She even abandoned her books in that time. To much aggression. She needed the constant release or she would have murdered half of her class in hot blood.
One day Livon had finally gone all out and insulted Ailu in front of everyone else during the lunch. She had called her an outsider freak whose soul had been wandering for so long, as no proper body-shell would ever accept such a crazy animal until it met her defective body. Her former enemies snickered in the background. To add emphasis to her words Livon let her drink slip from her hand so that it would ‘accidentally’ ruin Ailu’s school uniform. Ailu, keeping eye contact with Livon, caught the glass before it could spill. Livon held her stare, even as the glass began to crack under Ailu’s grip. “Thank you.” She said, “Looks like you are good for something after all. But next time try not to break the glass. Even if you are an animal you can at least try to pretend to be a human.” Livon took her glass black, mending it as she took it with her magic. Ailu tried to burn the soul out of Livon with her eyes. While her enemy survived, she at least flinched. As she sat down she gave in to some murderous fantasies. When she saw that someone else was approaching her she was very close to finally snap and punch someone. A lot.
When she looked up she saw Len Oingan, 6 year old body third reincarnation. One of the girls that did not belong to any of the more prominent cliques that had evolved in her classes preferring to base their identity by being hanging out together. Ailu though of her and her friends as arrogant tossers who where obviously had better things to do than to lower themselves to talk to the lesser humans around them. Her impression was based on the fact that they kept to themselves and were mostly third incarnations.
She revised this view the instant Len sat down in front of her that day saying: “Never mind Livon, she’s a cunt.” a broad smile dawning on her face.