cloud whirls

I don’t think about Harry Potter a whole lot, typically, but today I saw a video that featured Harry wearing some cool shades and I started wondering: what if Voldemort’s killing curse had struck Harry just a little lower? What if, on the first of November, 1981, the Dursleys had discovered on the doorstep their infant nephew - not with a conspicuous jagged scar, but instead with eyes the colour of electricity? How would blind Harry Potter’s life differ from the story we already know?

The first divergences are small and predictable. On his eleventh birthday, Harry’s letter from Hogwarts is written in delicate braille and the signature of Minerva McGonagall is elegantly embossed. At the Hut-on-the-Rock, the newly-revealed wizard boy is impressed not by Hagrid’s size but by the unusual depth of his voice.

Arriving at Hogwarts, we get no description of Draco Malfoy’s appearance, but instead learn the self-important scuffing sound of his footsteps, plus the fact that Crabbe and Goyle smell of old oatmeal, too much candy, and something that reminds Harry of grumpy toads.

Instead of learning “Lumos”, our blind Harry learns spells like “Oros” - which makes books and letters whisper their contents to him in their papery voices - as well as “Divinus”, which causes his wand to hum like a tuning fork the closer it gets to the object he’s thinking of.

One very notable thing has changed, however. In this world, no-one will ever tell Harry that he has his mother’s eyes. It’s hard to tell how much this changes Harry’s story; perhaps, without Lily’s eyes to stir up such emotion, Professor Snape won’t inflict Harry with the sadistic cruelty of a jealous lover - though he still treats the Potter boy with the same distance and hostility he felt towards Harry’s father, James (this, plus the acrid fumes and addling, humid vapours of the potions classrooms, continues to make the subject one of Harry’s least favourite).

With eyes that mark him as “The Boy who Lived” he may not be able to see the reflection of his desires in the Mirror of Erised, but upon placing his hand on the mirror’s cool surface Harry’s head is filled with the murmurs of familiar and comforting voices - his uncles, grandmothers, great-aunts and second cousins - and he is taken by an overwhelming sense of belonging, of being home.

Our sighted Harry always relied on the help of his friends to overcome challenges, and this remains true through the challenges to reach the Philosopher’s Stone. Hermione will still fend off the devil’s snare and solve the potion riddle, while Ron’s command over the chess board will still get the trio through the fourth chamber. Unable to see, Harry may yet be able to capture the winged key in the third chamber; instead of chasing the key like a daring snitch-seeker, he rises cautiously on his broom into the middle of the whirling, fluttering cloud and waits patiently until his keen ears distinguish the slow and clumsy flapping of the injured old key, grabbing it cleanly out of the air as it lumbers past him.

In his second year, Harry’s blindness is if anything an advantage in the fight against the basilisk, making him immune to the serpent’s petrifying gaze as he follows the sound of Fawkes’ voice to rend it through its head. (Incidentally, the repercussions of Dobby’s meddling this year will be slightly lessened, as who could blame a blind twelve-year-old for knocking over a sugared violet pudding - although the Dursleys will try - or bumping into a wall at Central Cross station?)

Professor Trelawney’s classes in third year could only be incredibly tedious for Harry, being unable to read tea leaves or see into crystal balls. What’s more, the Divination professor makes near-constant references to “blind prophets” and “third eyes”, which Harry can’t help but feel is somewhat offensive. Hermione will be very patient with Harry when they sit down to practice their astrology readings and Harry has to ask “Where are the stars, Hermione? The stars? Is Mars in the house of Jove right now? What’s the moon doing?”

With all the talk of The Grim this year, all Harry notices is the lingering ‘shaggy dog smell’ that seems to follow him around whenever he’s outside the castle.

Will a blind boy be allowed to participate in the Triwizard Tournament? Of course he will! Wizards don’t understand ‘safety’. Our Harry may not be a confident flyer, but he still has command of the Accio charm, as well as an entire stash of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes products under his bed in his dormitory. Even a Hungarian Horntail can’t see you through Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder, not can it smell you once you’ve detonated a few dung bombs. After being tricked into devouring an entire case of Skiving Snackboxes, any dragon is going to feel like taking the day off.

Harry doesn’t recognise Hermione at first when she attends the Yule Ball with Viktor Krum: her improved posture changes the sound of her footsteps, and her voice has taken on a new lilt and clarity after Madam Pomfrey shrunk her teeth to undo Malfoy’s hex. Masking her characteristic smells of library books and toothpaste, she carries with her the flowery scent of the cosmetic potion she put in her hair.

Harry will be incapable of seeing thestrals, even at the start of his fifth year; after hearing the clopping of hooves from his carriage and remarking that “regular, horse-drawn transport seems rather mundane for Hogwarts”, he will be drawn into a very awkward and illuminating conversation with Luna Lovegood about the nature of death.

Umbrige will be described to us not as “toad-like”, but in terms of her voice “like an indignant budgerigar stuck in an expensive vase”. Her classroom smells strongly to Harry of talcum powder and too-sweet tea, with an undertone of vinegar and hints of nightshade.

With a fragment of Tom Riddle’s soul trapped within his eyes, Harry’s visions of Voldemort are stronger than ever, and he rushes as always to confront the Death Eaters - a group of determined friends by his side - at the Ministry of Magic.

Of course this Harry will succeed in hunting down the remaining Horcruxes and tracing the paths of the Deathly Hallows. How could he not, with his magical talents, his powerful capacity for empathy and love, and the endless help of his his allies and friends?

Coming to in a spectral representation of King’s Cross Station, Harry recoils from the whimpering fragment of Voldemort’s should before being greeted by the figure of Albus Dumbledore, whom Harry recognises from his distinguished voice - like a grand old oak tree, its branches bowed under the weight of a thousand stars. Harry’s figment of Dumbledore smells like soap and gold wire, like ink, polished wood and lemon sherbets, and very faintly of kind and humble tears. Occasional wisps of the old man’s expansive beard brush past.

Harry has the same conversation with Dumbledore about life and death, about his own plans and foils, and about Voldemort. Harry is offered the same choice: to go back to the land of the living or to board a train into the beyond. Harry still chooses to return to Voldemort’s camp in the Forbidden Forest, for the sake of his friends, whom he knows and loves by sound and smell and touch.

Harry - The Boy Who Lived - the boy with eyes like lightning, duels Voldemort without ever seeing his snake-like features or the contempt and malice in his red-ringed pupils, and defeats the dark lord just as he does in the original story, because the sum of one’s strength is more than any one sense, just like a community’s strength is greater than that of any one person. Beside the skinny boy with the dark glasses held together by Spell-o-tape stand a frizzy-haired muggle girl who has read every book, two of redhead siblings from a huge and loving family, a forgetful boy raised by grandmother, a girl who still carries around a battered pair of Spectre Specs, and countless other witches and wizards who know that love, acceptance and cooperation are the most powerful magics of all.

5

Kings Masterlist

Kings Part Eight:


Klaus sighed as his phone buzzed on the side. You were out with Rebekah, helping her bond with Freya so he wasn’t too worried about you, even with Kol dawdling after the three of you. It had given him time to paint, to unwind and find a peaceful moment when the last month had been nothing but pre-war planning while Roman seemed to have no intention of giving up.

 

When unknown number flashed up on the screen he frowned. There was only a small number of people who actually had his number.

“Hello?” Klaus sighed, setting the paint brush in his hand down so he could lean against the table as he answered the phone.

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Plot Ideas: Natural Disasters
  1. Our muses are taking a vacation on an oceanside beach when suddenly the water pulls away from the sand. A tsunami is coming.
  2. The snow has started falling, the wind is whipping and isn’t stopping. Our muses are suddenly stuck wherever we are in a blizzard.
  3. There’s a rumble in the distance and suddenly the sky looks like it’s snowing but it isn’t snow. It’s ash. A volcano has erupted and our muses are within the fallout zone.
  4. A hurricane or typhoon is headed straight for our muses. Either we have to try and get out of the way, or hunker down and weather it out.
  5. It’s been raining hard for days and water is starting to rise. Flooding is a very real possibility with the added worry of landslides and walls of mud destroying everything in their path.
  6. Earthquake! The ground suddenly shudders under our muses and things go tumbling. Roads crack, bridges break and houses split.
  7. It was suppose to be a weekend of skiing, snowboarding or just cuddling in a winter wonderland, but an avalanche has tumbled down from the hills and buried everything.
  8. Hot dry summers have caused the forest to become as dry as a matchstick. A fire has erupted and a wild fire has begun. Somehow our muses have to get out before the flames come.
  9. Tornado alarms go off, the sirens whirring as blackened storm clouds whirl and swirl. Rain and hail pelt the landscape and our muses are caught in the path of the storm.
  10. Our muses were on a cruise ship when suddenly foul weather strikes. A massive wave collides with the vessel at just the right location and the whole boat capsizes!
Rumors

Spiritassassin Week 2017, Prompt 4: Bodyswap/role reversal

Chirrut is, quite possibly, the best assassin anyone has seen, and it is not just because he is fast, not just because his strikes are always sure–he never misses, the other mercenaries whisper when they think that he cannot hear them, which is ridiculous because he hears everything, knows everything–but because he can move from one thing to another quickly, can smile and laugh fast like lightning right after pulling the trigger of his lightbow, right after striking with the strange staff he carries with the retractable dagger in its tip. Nothing ever seems to make him linger, nothing ever seems to make him stick, pulling him into the mud and the mire and the muck of their work. It always seems to just roll right off him. If it makes a mark, if it presses something like regret onto the lovely set of his shoulders, he never shows it, hides it carefully away under his quips and the never-ending prattling, in his talk about the Force.

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AN ~ get ready for some FS hurt/comfort/fluff y’all. for @simmppaa, who prompted me along these lines. I hope you like it!

-

Where-ever this arrow lands; bury me there.
- The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, by Howard Pyle.

After the Framework, Fitz is struggling to shake it off, so Fitz and Jemma go to visit his mother in Glasgow. There they reconnect with Fitz’s true past, his true self… and his future.

Read on AO3 (~2300wd)

-

wherever this arrow lands

Jemma burst into the room and was already rifling through those belongings they hadn’t moved off-base yet, searching for a good jacket, when she realised there was someone else in the room. She jumped.

“Fitz?”

He looked up sluggishly from the tablet he was reading. “Mm?”

“You’re done early.” Frowning, Jemma approached the bed. “Is everything okay?”

Fitz sighed, the ache suddenly clear through his whole body. He lowered the tablet and raked a hand over his face.

“I couldn’t do it, Jemma,” he confessed. “I couldn’t walk into the lab. I just – it’s like, every time I think of picking something up, making something, all I can think of is him. What he made. What he did with it. With my hands. All my work is – is – is –“

Shaking, he clenched a fist as the word eluded him. He was not sure there was a word for this, even if he could find it. Jemma seemed to understand, though, and she crawled across the bed to his side and eased his fist open so that he was holding her hand instead.

“Have you been in here alone all day?” she asked.

Fitz shrugged, but avoided her eyes.

“Mack’s off duty, of course,” he explained. “I ran into Daisy in the kitchen – I can hardly look at her. There’s no way I’m going anywhere near May. The things I said to her. About Bahrain. Twisting it on her like that.”

Jemma squeezed his hand, and he sighed again.

“I know,” he assured her, “I know it wasn’t me. But it’s still in my memories, my hands, my voice. My brain has enough trouble sorting out what’s real and what’s not. I’ll be fine, I just need some time. I’ll just catch up on some reading and paperwork. It’s fine, Jemma. Go back to work, please.”

Jemma scoffed.

“Absolutely not.”

Fitz frowned.

“You just came in here to get a jacket. There’s no reason to cut your day short.”

“There most certainly is.” She cuddled closer to him, defiant, and he wrapped an arm around her with an uneasy smile, still lost in unpleasant thoughts. He picked the tablet back up with one hand, and pretended to read the article he had open on it, but Jemma could see that his eyes were not moving.

“Fitz,” she prompted. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

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A Summer second

On the edge of a highway
hard sun high above
seeing the saffron cloud
of whirling dust
settling slow to tint
a still water stream
that sits waiting
in pale shadows
beneath the viaduct
dropped pebble
a dark grey hope
plunges in
distortion momentarily
holds the image
larger than life
in the center
of a rippling watered
geography
then gone
into green secret places
hear the cars passing
as the water settles

do it again

Best Friends Forever

Originally posted by kylolicious

Summary: Ben Solo and (Y/N) have been friends since as early as they can remember. They’ve been inseparable and have plenty of sweet and wonderful memories through out the years. As they grow and (Y/N) becomes a Resistance pilot, Ben a smuggler like his father, things change. 

A/N: Yay I met my goal of 2 fics tonight!! WOO! Soo this is based on a drabble I did for Ben Solo that was so cute I couldn’t not write a longer story. So hopefully you guys like this! I made it a lot of flashbacks, so if you want more after this, don’t be shy to request! Also for anyone who’s into songs that go with fics, I abused the replay button on my iPod for “We’re Going to Be Friends” by White Stripes while writing. Haha it fits pretty well.


Gazing around curiously Ben walked with his parents through the house, surrounded by towering adults. Surely with the sea of long limbs he was being guided through he could tell there weren’t many younger kids around. Being only 3 he didn’t understand why he had to be dragged around with his parents to events like this. And to a 1 year olds birthday? He wasn’t that much of a baby, why did he have to attend if there were no other kids? After greeting a few adults, his mother Leia came to a stop, crouching down and dusting off his shirt with a grin. 

“Ben why don’t you go say hello to the birthday girl?”

He scrunched up his little face, “Why?”

“It’s a nice thing to do. You would want her to say happy birthday to you.”

“No I wouldn’t.”

Han gripped his shoulder gently.

“Come on kid, she won’t bite, just say it quick and then I’ll get you some sweets. Ok?”

Ben nodded eagerly. He was a child who could very easily be bribed with food, so if there was one plus to this party it would be the sugar rush. With a little push forward Han sent Ben on his way to the living room. Approaching the living area he looked around curiously still surrounded by giant adults, where was this birthday girl? Suddenly hearing some loud babbling from behind him he turned around.

“BBaaahhh bahh!!”

The little 1 year-old was in a green sundress, a flower crown of some sort set atop her barely there (Y/H/C) strands of hair as she sat in a high chair facing the party. With her little fists flaling around she stopped suddenly as Ben looked at her, both of them exchanging curious glances. Ben had rarely been around babies, his family was always doing something, and almost none of it involved babies. (Y/N) was also a baby that rarely saw any kids of Ben’s age. She had seen her bigger cousins, and all the adults at the Resistance, but this was another human, almost her size. 

Ben raised a brow at her as she cooed at him, putting her little fist into her mouth. 

“Happy birthday.”

(Y/N) giggled as she reached forward trying to reach Ben. If this was the only human close to her size here she surely wanted to play with him. Struggling to get out of her chair she started whining. Her chubby little arms not being able to push the tray away from her. Hearing her whines her mother came over and gently lifted her out.

“Okay baby, I know, I know, you’ve been up there too long. Here you can play with Ben. If that’s alright with you Ben?”

Ben smiled nodding. Gently (Y/N) was set on the soft carpet in front of Ben. She tilted her head to the side as she crawled forward to Ben. Deciding she had to investigate this new person she crawled up to Ben’s legs, placing one tiny hand on his calf as she reached up and tugged at his fluffy brown locks.

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– she was a whirling cloud of death
                                           a QUEEN of SHADOWS

                                               and these men were already carrion

RULES FOR RIDING THE STORM, by Rosamund Hodge

The town is called Driftwood, though there isn’t an ocean for three hundred miles.

But they have one hell of a storm.

It’s the edge of the map, the end of the end, and also the very beginning. From far enough away, it’s just a smudge on the horizon. From the streets of Driftwood, it’s a wall of swirling cloud that reaches halfway up the sky. 

It’s not beautiful. It’s just a billowing wall of dusty, pale brown. But if you get closer—if you leave the town, if you go almost to the point of no return—you might see a gap in that wall. You might get a glimpse inside.

It’s another world.

No: it’s the boiling chaos from which all worlds are born. Sky and land both vanish: there’s only infinite wind and cloud, whirling into pillars and mountains, rivers and oceans of ceaseless movement. Light glows through the clouds, shadows dance through the winds, and the colors are vivid enough to taste: sometimes black and indigo, sometimes crimson and gold.

On the other side of that infinite chaos lie other worlds. That’s why some brave the Storm: for trade, for adventure, sometimes even for love.

And that’s why they need to have rules.

#

You are eight years old when you see a caravan ride through town. It’s your first, but it’s the one you remember: three slow, hulking armored trucks, with a set of identical triplets manning the shotguns and the sniper rifles. They have a seeress, a shriveled old lump of a woman, with bone-white hair that the wind blew into a halo around her head, and a red bandage tied over her eyes. She sits in a wooden rocking-chair lashed to the back bumper of the truck.

She sighs, and she turns her blindfolded eyes toward you, and says, “You. Little girl.”

You bob a curtsy and then you manage, “My name is Maia, ma'am.”

She clucks her tongue and says, “Your heart is the wrong shape.”

Your wrong-shaped heart jerks against your ribs and you can’t speak. Can’t move. The engines of the caravan rattle to life, and the trucks bring trundling toward the Storm. The seeress watches-without-seeing you, all the way out of town.

That evening, your mother taps your head with the mixing-spoon three times, you’re so distracted. She demands to know what’s gotten into you, but you know she would just call you silly if you told. It’s your older sister Lily who finds you crying that night, who teases the story out of you, who kisses you when you’re done.

“Maybe she just means your heart is the wrong shape for Driftwood,” she says. “I’m the wrong shape too, you know; I’m leaving on a caravan, soon as I’m old enough. Do you want to come with me?”

“Yes,” you whisper. “Yes." 

You’ve always loved Lily. She’s pretty and strong and smart; she glides through your world like the moon. And now she’s asked you to join her in the sky.

That’s how you swear, at eight years and six months and three days old, that you will join the caravans and cross the Storm. That you will never love anyone as much as your sister. 

And that’s when you start learning the rules.


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Descendants Jaylos Monster High!AU
  • Jay is a Djinn/Genie without the wish granting powers thanks to being born on the Isle of the Lost. He has both a human form and a spirit form, which is how he is able to perform all sorts of acrobatics and disappear through small gaps as a whirling cloud of dust before reappearing on the other side.
  • Carlos used to be a normal human being until he accidentally got scratched too deep by a werewolf he ran into. Now he’s a “weredog” as Jay affectionately calls him, and even though he’s just as powerful, fast, and durable as any werewolf, he is completely, absolutely terrified of himself and spends every waking hour in his human form and every full moon locked in a closet, too afraid to even look at his reflection and screaming every time he sees his adorable floofy tail.
  • Yeah, he’s basically a vicious, half-human, half-monster Dalmatian with spots and one outturned ear, plus super fluffy curly fur, it’s adorable
  • The two of them are both forced to go to Monster High, Jay for being a small-time criminal/vandal and as part of his not going to juvenile hall (which for monsters, is about as pleasant as you’d expect) and Carlos, for being recently Turned into a werewolf and unable to go to the regular, human high school he wanted
  • They first meet up when Carlos hears that Jay’s a genie. “I heard you grant people three wishes, right?”
  • Jay could prank him and get his hopes up but he’s already seen Carlos get triply bullied for being a) smart, b) really small, and c) a “mutt” werewolf, so he tells him honestly that he can’t grant wishes, he wasn’t born with that power
  • Carlos gets said but then Jay promises to make his wish come true some other way–”Maybe I can’t turn you back into a human, but I CAN turn you into a badass werewolf! Or weredog! Whatever, you’ll still be a total badass.”
  • So begins their friendship and “Badass Weredog Training!”
  • The relationship is pretty problematic at first with Carlos being super reluctant and constantly sabotaging all of Jay’s attempts to make him cool or better in the eyes of the others
  • But eventually, with some training, wrestling, and Jay teaching him all the techniques of how to be cool and confident (basically, don’t listen to what anyone else is saying and think that YOU’RE cool, and the coolness shall follow) and Carlos learns how to be comfortable in his werewolf form, defend himself, and be more assertive and do the things he wants to do but never quite got the courage too
  • Plus the magic of weredog belly rubs. Those are awesome.
  • Jay and Carlos eventually realize that his wish really did come true and he’s better than ever if he wished he were back to being a human. “And you said you can’t grant wishes!”
  • The two of them suddenly stop when they realize that their original agreement has them only being together until Carlos wish is granted. And they realize they don’t want to go their separate ways.
  • So they keep on being friends! Best buds! Monster Bros! Who hang out so much people mistake them for a couple, and Jay just awkwardly jokes his way out of these, while Carlos blushes and silently dies a little inside as Jay gets them out of it, and as the two walk away, they start to wonder if they really are just friends…

I. ANGST
What whirls and twirls are dark clouds,
occasionally lit up by bright flashes.

Unexpected noises,
startling.

Loathed looming consciousness;
eyes ominously glaring.

Stalking predator preparing the pounce.

Bodiless mouth opens wide in a holler,
displaying filed teeth, sharp and bloody.

II. GUILT
From a great hight the old rag doll falls;
wind flayed arms, stitched to a
patched up body.

Soundless plunge
in tenebrous water.

Twigs and disintegrated leaves breathe rot,
saturating the humble figure’s cloth,
now cold to the touch.

Lastly, a black threaded smile submerges.

Heaviness sinks until presumed lost.

III. SHAME
A being of slithering tentacles, swallowed,
latches onto the medulla.

Continuous discharge of
yellow poison.

Small doses remain unnoticed.

Creeper vines grow, gradually crawling
across the length of the nerve-
system’s branches.

Taint.

Weakened host
nauseated by the smell of stomach acids.

Struggling in swirling pools of vomit.

IV. JUDGMENT
Timid singing bird shivers at its reflection
in the glass sphere that has it hidden.

Faint tweets roared down
by an unknown
echo:

Sinner.

Sinner.

Sinner.

Sinner.

“Spent your life undoing your wretchedness,
that none might be afflicted by your
repulsiveness.”

Timid singing bird shivers,
losing feathers.

V. LOSS
Layers of dark clouds; whirling, twirling,
with at the core of its system, hidden,
the being once birthed in light
now reduced to a flicker,
begging to be seen,
yet dreading to
be 
noticed

by shrieking demon moths, attracted to
the lost flame of innocence.

The girl with the ashen mirror -
M.A. Tempels © 2017

@satan-onii-chan and I were headcanoning on Skype again and came up with this arranged marriage sefikura AU. The scenario goes that Sephiroth, not very impressed with the princesses of the country his kingdom is trying to annex, finds a nice spiky-haired peasant girl that doesn’t grate at his nerves. Poor Cloud is shoved into the royal life and has to learn how to adjust quick. Or will she end up changing the court lifestyle?  

Just snippets so far. Cloud is about sixteen at this point in the story. No sexy bits until she and Sephy are older. And there is a language barrier between them. 

[EDIT]: I talked to @cloud-strife-amiibo and they came up with the idea first. Thank you for letting us run off with with it. 

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Nott M. Portent X Duke Nukem

Nott M. Portent watched the tea kettle bubbling through his greasy locks, pale lips turned into a frown, as if it was a rainy day and the sun was hiding. The sun was not hiding, but Nott couldn’t tell on account of his greasy locks, so the day may just as well have been rainy, which he pessimistically assumed. He put on an oven mitt and a sunflower apron, retrieving the sugar cookies from the oven.

His husband Duke was sitting in his favorite recliner, puffing on a fat cigar and reading National Geographic. “Tigers are the bomb.” He turned the page. “Nott, those cookies smell bitchin’. What kind are they?”

He gave a low sigh. “The kind is not important… what is important, is where they’re going to go.” He gently pushed the cookies into a plastic tupperware bin, sealing it neatly along the edges, then shuffled back to the counter and began washing his cooking supplies.

Duke looked up from an attractive ad about silver eagle dollars, concerned about his husband. “Hey there, what’s got you all sad and greasy? Let’s see that pale gloomy face I love so much.” He sauntered over, fetching a cookie. “Mmm, damn I love cookies…”

Nott just fuckin hated the world, and the human worms feasting on its carcass. But the love of Duke Nukem stayed his shotgun-hand from shotgunning. He couldn’t even tell Duke how important this was to him. He was not, as Duke was, a master of language. All he could do was try to express his love, as best he could, through cookies and tea.

“Duke it’s just hard being optimistic when people are so terrible… My whole life is just cold bitter hatred.”

Duke munched another cookie and opened the fridge, retrieving the 1-percent milk, which he poured into a quaint cow mug. “Don’t let the world get you down, Nott. If you wanna make an impact, you gotta be loud. I wake up and see the badness and the filth, but I fight back, and I stay as Me as I can possibly be. The world is your skillet: If you wanna make an omelet, you gotta turn the dial up to eleven. Mixing metaphors, taking names, kicking ass, and saving the world. That’s what it’s all about.” He took a loud sip, sliding up behind Nott as he was scrubbing off an egg beater. His free hand wrapped around his waist in half a snuggle.

“No Duke s-stop I’m doing dishes…” Nott cringed a little as color filled his blanched face like rosy watercolors on a fresh canvas.

“I’ll do -your- dishes, baby…” Nott felt the flush rising all across his face to his neck and ears. “No for real you always ambush me when I’m washing the dishes I have so many to do…”

Duke backed off, sighing. “Okay I was just trying to cheer you up…” He finished his milk, putting on his size-13 boots. “I’m going to stomp some
aliens, and then I think I’ll buy some movies.” He left the house.

Nott resumed his dish-washing. He had used too much soap and been too distracted. Now the water was tepid and slick, and the foam rose up thickly in the mixing bowl as his brush ran up and down the edges. He let go, watched the scrub brush and bowl sink, feeling that he had gone too far and upset Duke. The terrible isolation crept in, the feeling that his loneliness was complete. The last fragile cable had snapped, nothing kept him in touch with humanity now. For no special reason he took the sugar cookies off of the table, sinking down to the floor, crying his angsty saline tears into them.

With the cookies ruined and the dishes still not done, there was only one thing left to do. He went into his bedroom, sorting through Duke’s things, retrieving the only shotgun available since he had gotten rid of his old one. “This is the time of vengeance and no life is worth saving… I will put in the grave… as many as I can…”

He put on his boots, slammed open the door. Dark clouds whirled overhead, crackling with lightning. It was time for him to kill, and it was time for him to die…

Nerf bullets assailed a thick oak tree in the middle of their yard, discharged from the shotgun. The bullet impact-textures danced around the object as more foam bullets struck, only three were present at any given time.

Nott lifted the garden gnome standing cheerfully in the aloe patch, sat down, and began ramming his pointy head into the fresh mulch, to the tune of heavy metal music from inside his head only. It had begun… he left the gnome sticking hat-deep upside-down in the ground, passed through the yard several times recovering his foam darts. He brushed off bits of grass from each one and began reloading as he stomped out into society.

Nothing was safe. He went into the parking lot of a supermarket, kicking stray shopping carts that careless people hadn’t returned to the designated cart return area, rocking them and pushing them away as startled moms desperately loaded their children and groceries, and drove off recklessly.

He went into a park, began purposely tripping over trash cans with his entire body, tipping them over. He purchased a loaf of bread and returned to the park, wadding bits of bread into dense balls and throwing it to a fluffy white flock of ducks, who eagerly followed each bread ball as it sank down into the pond instead of floating, which it would have, if Nott had not scrunched it up.

He then threw away the bread wrapper in a recycling bin for aluminum only, and took two free newspapers from the front of a store despite the ‘TAKE ONE’ notice.

Citizens knew him, what he could do, and were panicked by his antics. They fled for their lives as he pelted them with all the fury his Nerf darts could convey. A long trail of bright orange darts followed in his wake, absent any blood or bodies from the non-lethal foray, as he Nerfed his way into the city.

Elsewhere, a few hours later, Duke Nukem holstered his weapons, gazing at a street filled with alien goo and alien corpses. “Damn I’m good…” A beautiful babe tried to get his attention, but his loyalty to Nott M. Portent rendered him oblivious to such juicy opportunities for carnal mischief. He walked into the movie store, intent on rewarding himself for such excellent fidelity.

He went immediately to the Action section, giddy as he picked up a 2-in-1 box of the first two Predator movies. “The husband’s gonna love this…” He picked up a few other titles, such as “Army of Darkness,” “Full Metal Jacket,” “DOOM,” and “The Secret Garden.” However, just as he completed his purchase, he heard sirens, saw a panicked civilian carelessly tumble through the glass storefront into a display rack of Blu-ray copies of the movie “300” as streaks of orange flashed by, a furious Nerf barrage.

“Damn, no… it can’t be, we were making such progress…” He ran outside as Nott M. Portent’s genocide crusade rampaged, boots steaming as he pursued the flapping coat-flaps of Nott’s trenchcoat. Police vehicles screeched to a halt across from Nott, who threw a fistful of plastic army soldiers at them. They gasped and ducked as pale and green servicemen scattered across windshields, landing haphazardly on the asphalt. Someone radioed for backup.

Duke hid behind a tree growing out of a median, looking closer as Nott strafed into an alley to reload. He saw the cold sob-tears of genocidal sadness trailing across Nott’s genocidal face. Duke’s ego stung to see his husband in such a dire predicament. Police returned a fierce volley of pistol-fire, which sent bits of rubble flying so thickly that some of them disappeared before they hit the ground, according to the world’s Game Engine’s pre-set limit on the number of rubble objects it could render at any given time.

As the police reloaded, and Nott prepared to fire once more, Duke sprang out. “Wait, let me talk to him.” He approached Nott.

Nott’s shotgunning hands trembled. “D-Duke? Stay back, this is how it ends for me…” A plastic army man fell out of his trench coat pocket.

Duke held his arms out in a placating gesture. “It’s alright, baby. We can talk this out. What’s got you hating the world again?”

Nott rubbed his eyes and nose on his sleeve, sniffling. “I thought you were leaving me too, just like everyone… it’s all the same, no one cares about me…”

Duke gave a weak smile. “Hey now come on, that’s a steaming crock of alien shit, what makes you think that?”

Nott looked up, eyes watery, hands limp at his sides. “Because I’m Nott M. Portent, that’s why…”

Duke approached slowly, arms still outstretched, giving him a big hug. “You are important… to me.”

Nott sniffled. The muscles in his face began to do a curious thing, something they hadn’t done before. He was… could it be he was smiling? The shotgun fell, a Nerf dart discharged harmlessly into the streets. He hugged Duke back, feeling for the first time that the world didn’t need to die, that Coldness and Hatred were for the first time being supplanted… with Warmth and Lovtred.

“I have such Lovtred for you Duke Nukem…” He said, nuzzling into Duke’s big burly shoulder.

“I love me too, baby… now let’s go home. I’m ready to watch some movies together and chew bubble gum… and I’m all outta gum.”

Turquoise-tinted plumes in the Large Magellanic Cloud

The brightly glowing plumes seen in this image are reminiscent of an underwater scene, with turquoise-tinted currents and nebulous strands reaching out into the surroundings.

However, this is no ocean. This image actually shows part of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a small nearby galaxy that orbits our galaxy, the Milky Way, and appears as a blurred blob in our skies. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has peeked many times into this galaxy, releasing stunning images of the whirling clouds of gas and sparkling stars.

This image shows part of the Tarantula Nebula’s outskirts. This famously beautiful nebula, located within the LMC, is a frequent target for Hubble.

In most images of the LMC the colour is completely different to that seen here. This is because, in this new image, a different set of filters was used. The customary R filter, which selects the red light, was replaced by a filter letting through the near-infrared light. In traditional images, the hydrogen gas appears pink because it shines most brightly in the red. Here however, other less prominent emission lines dominate in the blue and green filters.

This data is part of the Archival Pure Parallel Project (APPP), a project that gathered together and processed over 1000 images taken using Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, obtained in parallel with other Hubble instruments. Much of the data in the project could be used to study a wide range of astronomical topics, including gravitational lensing and cosmic shear, exploring distant star-forming galaxies, supplementing observations in other wavelength ranges with optical data, and examining star populations from stellar heavyweights all the way down to solar-mass stars.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA; Acknowledgement: Josh Barrington