A part of a story, from somewhere right of the start, but left of the middle.
Blinba sulked. He sat on a small stool in the centre of the Space and peered out of his own head sullenly. The term “he sat” was somewhat misleading, Blinba considered. He was a he only by convention; his shape was certainly not female, but he definitely lacked some details which would have lead an observer to conclusively declare his masculinity. Then there was the word “sat”. True, his shape appeared to be that of a cross legged figure with his rump on or about the seat, but a careful watcher would see that he hovered a fraction of an inch above the rough wood. He was also rotating slowly. His extremities faded into motes as they approached the metal slabs making up his cage, and were whisked away in a speedy half orbit, before a rapid but smooth deceleration as they re-attached themselves to his other side.
Blinba felt the iron hard knot of His mind approaching, along with another knot which was more of a heap. A thin wooden door rattled a couple of times behind him, and there was a muffled curse. The knot of the mind grew spikes.
“Bloody damp, I swear, damnable fores-” There was a splintering crack as something came free. The knot smoothed out again. The room rocked, and boots clumped on the wooden floor.
“Good morning, Blinba”, said a voice full of meticulously rationed joviality.
“Only here, elsewhere it’s the afternoon”, replied Blinba, attempting pomposity. He failed.
“Quite so, quite so. I am glad you are concentrating so much on these things, there is so much that needs to be watched, after all.”
Blinba didn’t reply.
Once, he thought, he had drifted through the world; watching, nudging a mind here, tinkering with an action there. Enjoying himself. He had been free in a creation of his own mind. Maybe it WAS his own mind, once. But his attention, while vast, was not infinite. For humans, he thought, attention span referred to time, but to the likes of him it was more a matter of radius. Time was not an issue, everywhen was now when your memory was perfect, and the future perfectly predictable. But everywhere was behind you when you were concerned with those tiny fascinating details. Things sneak up on you, even in your own mind. Without warning he had been crammed into this Space, and his attention was cut free, his predictions shattered. Now all he had were his eyes, the local limit of his attention, formed with care into two glowing blue orbs in the top of his shape.
And they were BORED.The cage ringing the Space was made of twenty-one metal slabs about six feet tall by one wide, each with a tight coil of copper wire at top and bottom. Engraved on each was a picture. Blinba had studied them many times; the Heirophant, the Lovers, the Tower.
Shortly after he had gotten bored with these, the visits had started. The man had been okay; blond, tall, shoulders that made him look vaguely triangular. An archtypal hero, and thick as a sawmill of planks. He has been good conversation and charming. Blinba had wanted to give him a boon or, failing that, a treat and a pat on the head. His mind had been like a duvet – soft, warm and full of air.
Then there had been the woman. Blinba shuddered, and then out of pride at this human-like reaction, did so again to show off. The woman. Her mind had been a granite ball, polished to a mirror shine, but containing a seething mass of molten ambition. The man, whom she called Your Highness in Blinba’s presence, but “Dolt” when she thought he couldn’t hear, had been scared of her too, and had looked at her before every question, like an actor who had forgotten his lines.
Then one day – Blinba didn’t know how much later, he had never been good with time – another man had arrived. He was bearded, grey and hunched, and his mind was metallic, at once both sharp and malleable. He was a man used to adapting, and used to having things turn out to his advantage. Blinba had liked the beard, sharply defined and grey, like a piece of flint. He had tried to copy it until the man politely told him not to, and ripped Blinba apart. When Blinba had pulled himself together, the man had told Blinba that they were going on a journey. A score of younger men, all similarly robed, had rushed in. They’d manhandled Blinba’s cage through the door and out of the castle. It had been dark, but Blinba didn’t need light to see the citadel, and the mountains, and the sky before the door of the cart had closed them off from him one again.He’d tried to copy the human shape in the intervening months out of a lack of anything else to do, and, using the shiny surface of the metal slabs to judge the results, had got very good at it. He hardly had to concentrate any more. The illusion would have been perfect but for the fact that that he couldn’t change colour from that of early morning mist, and that the motes making up his body would get dragged away by the intense field at the edge of the Space. After the ripping apart incident, Blinba didn’t go near to them. In the end, the boredom had rendered him lazy, and it was this laziness that left him in his current form, an androgynous figure made of solid mist, with few details. “We had a problem several nights ago, my friend”, continued the knot, measured steps circling his enclosure so that they were always behind him. Blinba stayed silent.
“One of our shows went wrong, and I know it wasn’t our methodology that caused it. Some damage done to equipment and personage, and a lot to our reputation. I am not ha-ppeey!”.
This last sentence was delivered in a childlike sing-song voice, and was all the more menacing for it. The mind spiked and then went mirror smooth. The clumping stopped.
“This world was created by you, we were all created by you; you owe us for that. This world does not run well, it runs erratically, driven by emotion and stories”, the man sneered,”not by fact and rigorously enforced RULES!” The last word was a savage scream. Blinba jumped, and congratulated himself.These conversations were getting more common. For all his attempts to ape human behaviour (he applauded himself on the pun) he hadn’t yet got the hang of fear. This human enjoyed creating fear, and when he couldn’t instill it in Blinba, he got angry. “So, now you are going to try again.” Blinba felt the field around him relax its grip, and he let his mind reach out, fingers of consciousness swirled through the gaps between the slabs. He flailed for a moment, and his world flooded to meet him, tendrils intertwining. The most tenuous of bridges, the most fragile of freedoms from this prison. Blinba exalted. “A town, east of the Sunset mountains, on the shore of a great lake. Are you there?” Blinba felt the words flow across the bridge with the world, and he focused, a concentration of attention on the small town. He saw the cobbles, the harbour, the sun reflecting on the deck of the schooner, the men kneeling in rows scrubbing her deck. He saw the gulls swirling overhead, he saw the rat scurry through the unloaded cargoes. He saw everything at once, and every one thing in detail. “I am here, I am everywhere, but am mostly there, yes.” He felt the grunt, and the brief annoyance at his verbosity. The heavy footsteps resumed. There was another groan of arboreal protest as the door was opened. “There is a show, a small cart and a stage in the square. Things must be consistent. Ensure it.” Blinba set to work as the door shut. He was dimly aware that a couple of heavy blows were needed to ensure it stayed that way. A small human wandered into view, holding a notebook and a quill. “W-whenever you are ready, s-sir”, said he, in a squeaky voice. Blinba concentrated.