Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Eternity Burning: Chapter 3, Part 4

Victory drove the wooden staff into the ground and looked proudly at it. The wooden pole was ornately carved with meaningless runes and symbols, and it was varnished. Hanging from the staff was a flag, a white field fringed with gold. In the center of the white field was the fairly large form of a blue ox, pointed to the right. On the other side of the flag another blue ox was sewn on pointing the same direction. He had made the entire thing himself. It looked spectacular to him.

“What’s this?” someone asked, coming up to him.

“This,” he said, pointing at the sacred banner, “Is the flag of the Fellowship.”

He said it with such a finality and importance, that the lady stopped and just basked in the appearance of the flag and the man for a moment.

“Which Fellowship is that?” she asked.

“The Fellowship of Labor, Business, and Merchantry,” Victory replied.

“Oh,” she said, and nodded dumbly.

They looked at each other for a few moments and then the lady scurried away. Victory sighed. It was a little discouraging. Somehow he had imagined that people would be fighting each other to come under his banner. Forming something was a lot harder than it seemed.

"What is this?" a man asked in a faint European accent.

Vic turned to see a dignified old man with glasses, a cane, and a moustache approaching him. He did not seem well, or, if it wasn't illness it was the ravages of time.

"This is the flag for my organization," Victory said proudly.

"And what organization is that?" the old man asked.

Victory loudly said the fancy name he had concocted. The old man looked unctuously at him.

"And how many members do you have in this Fellowship of yours?"

"Well, none yet, aside from me," he admitted.

"And that is why you are here? To, uh, recruit?"

"Yes," Victory said.

"Then tell me about your group's philosophy. If it is similar to my own, I may become a charter member of your Fellowship."

So Victory went into the rather lengthy and bulky discourse he had made up in his head. He slipped up a few times, and the man seemed perfectly bored at points.

Finally he summed it up saying, "So, basically, the Fellows will help each other out, we will try to end unemployment, and basically do a service to the economy and America as well."

The old man smiled when Victory finished.

"I believe I understand what you are saying," he said, "I think I might very much like to be a brother in your organization. Is there a pledge to sign or dues to pay, anything like that?"

Victory brought his arms down from the glee-filled position they had been in, which, on a football field, generally meant a touchdown had been scored.

"What?" he asked.

"Any sort of initiation?"

The old man sighed.

"Come now, my boy, take down your flag, and let's go find a bench. I'm growing tired of standing here for so long."

"Okay," Victory said, and did as he was told.

The European man hobbled along until they found a bench which stood before a duck pond. He ponderously lowered himself into the seat, and Victory followed suit.

"You are going about this business in a rather ham-handed fashion, young man," the European said, "So why don't we cut down to the bare bones of the situation. My name is Ganyu Yovkov. I am originally from Bulgaria, but I came to America after I retired. Now what is your name?"

"Victory Halov," he said, "My family is Russian, but I was born here in Philadelphia."

"Russians are good people," Ganyu said, drawing on his first hand experience, "They are usually not quick to act. They are usually slow and thoughtful, and plan things out far ahead of time. When you came here looking for people to join your club, did you even think to bring some paper to write names down on?"

Victory's silence was a fine answer.

"You are a young and brash American. Which is a good thing, but not when you are trying to build something that will last and make a difference. Now, as I said, I am retired, so I have time to give you. I want to help you. I will wait here. You go and find paper and pens and a clipboard, and come back here. Leave your flag; I will protect it. I will be here when you return."

"Yes. Thank you."

Victory scurried off. While he was gone purchasing the items like the Bulgarian had said, he had a vague tickling in the back of his mind that he shouldn't have left his flag with a stranger. He had put weeks of work into the thing. But when he returned to the park his fears were assuaged. The old man had moved to a different bench to shade himself from the sun's rays, but he was still there.

"Ah, good, you are back, Victory. I had a good sit while you were gone. Now you got some paper, yes?"

"Yes," Vic said, and proudly displayed the stuff he'd gotten.

"Now you gave me a long dissertation on your Fellowship. I had time to sit here and wait for you to finish, but most people with regular jobs, would have cut you off less than halfway through. I need for you to condense your entire philosophy into one paragraph."

"All right, I can do that, I think."

"But," the old man held up a single emaciated finger, "It must be in the 'I' form. 'I will do this as a brother', 'I will do that as a brother'. Do you understand?"


"Good. Then write."

Victory began to scribble furiously on the clipboard. Ganyu watched the pond intently, but he must have kept one eye pointed in Victory's direction, because he noticed when he turned onto another sheet.

"Keep it short," Ganyu said, "You are too long winded. In fact, shorten it. Cut out unnecessary sentences."

"But I've taken it down as far..."

"Take it down farther. Make simpler concepts. You're not making out a book of laws, you're just making a general theory."

"Okay," Victory said, and began to scratch out and rewrite numerous sentences.

After a few more minutes of revising, with the occasional gentle nudge from the Bulgarian intellectual, Victory finished. He said as much.

"Let me see," Ganyu said, and held out a hand to receive the clipboard.

The old man took one look at the chicken scratch writing and countless cross-outs, and handed it back to Victory.

"Rewrite it so that my weak eyes can read it."

Victory tore out a clean sheet of paper and carefully took down each letter. Then he handed it to Ganyu. It read:

As a Brother, I swear to labor furiously at all my tasks to the best of my ability. I swear to help end poverty and unemployment through peaceful methods. I swear to help my Fellows when they need it. I swear to teach others about the problems of poverty so that they can help my cause. I swear that I will be open to the ethnic, cultural, racial, and gender differences of all decent hard-working people. I swear with all my being to righteously do all these things and more.

"Very good, Victory," Ganyu said, "Now work on your sales-pitch. People who decide to join your Fellowship, have them repeat this verbally, and then sign some sheet, a roster sheet. And do not get discouraged, many people will ignore you. Now, swear me in, and I shall swear you in."

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