Posted in Life, Uncategorized, Writing

What’s New In The Zoo… Or More Random Thoughts

I have ran the gamut of emotions this weekend. My car died on me in a roundabout on Thursday and I had to push it into a parking lot and call AAA. It was old. Eighties. Not late eighties. In all honesty, it is very close to me in age and I didn’t always take the best care of the car. But she was known as Old Betty by me and my son and she will be missed.

Also, to get a new car I had to cash out my retirement IRA which means I am starting over setting aside money for retirement, which truly is heartbreaking to me. But the silver lining is that the IRA wasn’t earning that well anyway, and we don’t know what the future holds. I am lucky I had it there to fall back on.

Another issue is that I am working a lot which is good for financial surprises like this, but I am also very tired. My computer is also having issues and now that I had to buy a car, I don’t think I have the resources to invest in the computer. Although it might be a simple issue to resolve.

But, despite all this, I got a lot of good things happening. I got to dress forties style and attend a murder mystery style dinner event which was fun. I got a brand new car no previous owners and it will have no issues for a long time. I can actually go on road trips if I wanted worry free. I have been hesitant to go far for fear of breaking down in a random place.

I have an idea for more characters for the new novel but I need to draw their pictures and flesh out more backstory. I actually know how I want the first scene to go. Need to do more prep work before November though. Deadline is coming up so I must use my time wisely.

I believe sometimes for growth or perhaps a reason beyond my understanding, I have to go through a rainy season to get to the rainbow at the other side. I feel like I had a rough few days but now that it is almost done I feel a sort of relief. I survived and will continue to survive. I will make it work, fix my credit and the end goal is to buy a house and publish a working novel. And, I think those goals are very reasonable and doable.

I also believe in true love, even though I haven’t found it yet, I believe I will. It is all about timing and being able and ready and willing. I feel I am personally in a good place mentally. It took me forever to mature but I feel finally like I have my feet on the ground and am ready for life and all that is out there. I am ready for an adventure and responsible enough to make it happen.

I hope everyone that passes this way is having an awesome weekend full of memories. Thank you all. I am fortunate to have people in my life I can fall back on and to have an outlet in this blog and to have such dedicated supportive readers. So many blogs out there that I truly feel blessed to have any followers on mine. So, thank you. *hugs*

JennRae

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Happy Birthday to Ursula K Le Guin

Happy birthday to one of my favorite authors of all time, Ursula K Le Guin.

She has been one of the authors that has inspired me and also a pioneer for science fiction women writers. Before her success, often women writers had to use initials or male pseudonyms to get published.

Some examples would be Andre Norton and C.J. Cherryh who are both also amazing writers in their own right.

But Ursula is unique. She wrote thought provoking works in the genre and did it with an undeniably female name.

She also writes poetry and literature, fables and fantasy. I have a number of her short story collections from the Birthday of the World and Worlds of Exile and Illusion, to many others.

She deserves a better post but alas my computer is having issues so this will have to do.

Another book I own and highly recommend is the Dispossessed. Also The Left Hand of Darkness is a classic which I also own.

For fantasy fans her Earthsea trilogy is also well done. My favorite out of those was Tombs of the Atuan. She is a true hero to me and an inspiration.

She is an example of what is possible to achieve in the field and that the only limitations really are in the mind and what one believes is possible.

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

Sci-Fi Writing Prompt #2 – The Eyes Have It

Sci-fi writing prompt #2- People have their eyes removed at the age of fifteen and replaced with recording devices that allow the government to see everything they see.

I opened my brand new eyes and looked around in wonder. Everything was so clear and concise. I could even zoom in on details. “I’m so jealous!” Stephy says petulantly stamping her foot in frustration.

“You have to be at least fifteen to have the surgery, sis. You know that. That’s when the sun’s radiation has damaged the eyes and the sockets are finally fully formed. That’s what they say in Miss Miller’s class anyway. “

“Isn’t it just amazing? You can do so much more with these eyes than your natural ones. You can memorize images you can take a copy of what you see for later. But, there is one thing you must do to keep them in working order. You must download them every night on this special platform. You can’t miss a single night or you might experience a glitch. It is very important. So important, your mom has to sign this special government form saying she will ensure that you do so.”

The eye doctor holds out a fancy pen and a long document to my mom with a nod and a smile gesturing to his desk. She sits down takes the pen from his hand and scans the document. Her eyes are also artificial but an older kind, the kind that first came out couldn’t do as much as this model.

She signed carefully printing her name so it could be read. Only a handful of people could read cursive so it was decided that printing had to be used on government forms exclusively when typing wasn’t possible. Once the document was signed the man put it in a machine which sent it to the government offices instantly.

“There, now we are all done. I can’t wait to do the surgery on little Stephy in a few years. Now, remember, every year I have to examine them to make sure they are in working order and that everything is processing normally. And, you must download it every night. Okay?” He smiles and opens the door for us and we file out of the office, the sunlight is bright and I feel my robo-eyes adjust to the lighting instantly.

It feels a little weird. Everything is so different but the same. I can clearly see in the distance. Sometimes my eyes seem to be drawn to particular sights. Like it has a mind of its own. It is a little unnerving because I can intentionally focus on something, but I just get the feeling that the eyes are saving something else.

“Mom, you have these eyes, do you ever get the feeling that they are looking for something on their own?”

“What? That’s nonsense dear. They can only look at and focus on what you are seeing.”

“I know that, but you can see a lot without really thinking about it, you know. What if they are saving details for their own agenda?”

“They are simply eyes, Cathy. They don’t have an agenda.” She sighs and pulls me along shaking her head in irritation. My mom was a committee member of the local government. They had to report weekly on anything unusual in the neighborhood. You know, in case of terrorism. Terrorists were all around trying to destroy the country from the inside out and you just had to be aware of what was going on. So, they would get together and go over reports.

My mom was very pro government. It was the duty of every citizen in her view to assist the government in any way they were able. She had the download device in her purse. It was a thin long black rectangle with a couple small jacks that plug into the eyes and download the data of the day. I am guessing it sends the information much like that machine sent that document. Straight to the Government Office of Internal Thought Processes.

There were government offices for all sorts of things and committees at every level so people could feel involved and a part of the process. It was important to feel like you belonged to something. And since religion was banned, the government tried to make people feel as loved and safe and included as before without all the unnecessary unscientific stuff that religion had.

My teacher said religion made people stupid. Sometimes I would occasionally see my mom get a bible out at night and read a passage or two before she hurriedly locked it in her safe. She seemed embarrassed, or ashamed of it. But I know it gives her something I do not have. Some kind of feeling, because afterwards she seemed calmer or less anxious.

I often have trouble sleeping despite the soothing sound machine and the temperature being set to the ideal sleeping conditions in my room. Sometimes I would surprise my mom at night because I simply felt lonely. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t alone in the house. That despite all the gadgets and machines, I needed to see something human.

I would check on Stephy too. She would be snoring away clutching her teddy bear Graham Cracker the Great, toys put away, circular rug askew in the otherwise neat environment. She had no trouble sleeping. I envied her. She looked peaceful, happy. I wasn’t sure there wasn’t something wrong with me. I didn’t feel like that. I am not sure I ever did.

It was at these times that I would catch my mom and dad doing unpatriotic things, or less than patriotic things, Miss Miller would say. I know they need to be corrected but something about them not being perfect made me feel better. So I let it go. Even though we are supposed to report things to the school about suspect behavior at home. The fact that my dad often leaves in the night and I don’t know where he goes. Stuff like that that I know the government people would want to know.

I say nothing because I secretly like the fact that they aren’t robots. I like being human. I like them being human. Sometimes I doubt I am human. Sometimes I don’t feel human. I feel like I am pretending and watching the humans, trying to learn how to be human and failing. I feel so disconnected and just wish I could find the right plug. Maybe if I change somehow I would feel more a part of things. Maybe I should join my class committee and become a part of the government machine. Maybe that is what I was missing.

When we got home the first thing my mom does is put my download platform next to hers and Dad’s, three little black platforms in a row waiting to charge and download our eye’s data. “There, now isn’t that nice? We have just enough space for Stephy’s when she is older. There was one empty spot on the counter, waiting for my sister. Stephy ran to check on Graham who was sitting on her bed propped up just like she left him.

“Where is Dad?”

“You know Cathy, he is working. He has a very important job. He isn’t allowed to talk about it. But it can take him away for a long time, but if it wasn’t vitally important, he would be right here with us. You know he loves you, right?”

Her expression was one of concern, but the artificial eyes couldn’t show it. When my sister was being comforting, you could see it. Something in the eyes showed it. In these eyes, you felt nothing. Maybe this is why I feel disconnected. How can you connect to something so cold, and empty?

“Of course,” I say automatically. Part of me wondered how Dad could drive away at night if his eyes were charging in the case. True, cars drove themselves, but he wouldn’t be able to record any events, how could he know what was happening? Who he was doing business with? What kind of business would he be doing that the Government wouldn’t be able to download? Or is he not downloading his eyes? I wondered about what the eye doctor said about a glitch. What would that be like?

Night came and I took my eyes out like the Doctor had showed me to, and placed them carefully on the connections on the platform. My parents hadn’t downloaded yet, but they went to bed later they explained, and I went to my room with its perfect temperature and the soothing noises and the window with the artificial picture of trees on it.

We were on the 37th story of the building but the window was made to look like I had a garden waiting outside, a beautiful dream-like paradise I could visit. But none of it was real. I could no longer see it without my eyes and I still had trouble sleeping. I heard dad leave in his car. Not many ventured out at night. Except for special exceptions there was a curfew. Terrorists and people up to no good were up past curfew. I hoped my dad was an exception but it was hard to say. Terrorists were supposed to blend in with us, and be trained to fool us.

I got up carefully, feeling around my bed and the wall making my way to the door, blind. I managed to get to the platforms where the eyes were. I knew mine was the closest to me, being the most left of the three. I casually felt the other platforms and the eyes weren’t there. They weren’t being downloaded. My own parents were lying to the government and breaking their contract! I was horrified. How could they do this? I grabbed mine carefully putting them in.

My eyes adjusted to the low light, and suddenly I saw flicker and static and saw an Eastern Yellow Swallowtail butterfly superimposed on my vision, for just a second. A logo for the Government Science Department of Robotics flashed and a stream of words scrolled up and then they went dark again. My eyes crashed. Maybe they weren’t done downloading? I had no idea what time it was.

They came back online in a flash; the butterfly made one more appearance and then it was gone. I went quietly to my parents’ room and peeked through the keyhole. I saw my mom kneeling down below her bed, her bible in hand in her nightgown, alone. Her back was to me, I could only assume the bible was in her hand, but I knew it was likely. I crept back to the hall way and decided to go back to my room with my eyes in. I didn’t like not being able to see. It was scary and I hated feeling isolated. I got under the covers and held my blankets around me like a cocoon to try and feel safe. Not sure it worked but day happened eventually.

I got up and drank my breakfast meal and started getting ready for school. My parents were all ready up looking at their screens reading and watching the news while Stephy drank her breakfast pretending to share it with Graham.

“Good morning everyone.” I say cheerily and tired.

“I see you got your eyes back in. Didn’t have any trouble did you?” Mom asked hardly looking up from her coffee and screen.

“None at all.” I say with a smile. I could pretend too. I could pretend everything was normal. The door bell rang with a calming chime. I got up, “I’ll get it.” I go to answer the door and three men in Government police uniforms consisting of bullet proof vests, black masks and assault rifles storm in.

“Freeze. This household is in lock down for further investigation for unorthodox behavior and failing to download eye data. It has been brought to our attention that you break curfew and are continuing to do religious observance. The Government Health Agency has expressly forbid religious observance and the offending book will be confiscated and destroyed. Also, the car is being taken to our offices and is being downloaded to see where it has been going and to whom. You have the right to remain silent, anything you might say will and can be used against you in a court of law.”

None of us moved, knowing that the police were given free rein to shoot on provocation. Stephy started to cry, and Mom went to comfort her, but one of the men gave her a shake of the head, his visor and mask making it so his expression couldn’t be read.  My mom sat back down slowly.

I could see her desire to comfort Stephy in her face, but her eyes were devoid of feeling, recording the information coldly, disconnectedly. There was no soul in our eyes. Stephy was the only one whose eyes had that weird quality. That could show what was going on inside her. Something the robo-eyes could not and would never be able to do.  One of the men grabbed the teddy bear from her, Stephy screamed and clawed toward the bear, tears flowing from her eyes, yelling “no, don’t take Graham, he is my only friend!”

The man elbowed Stephy and she fell down hard, looking up confused, my parents frozen, unable to move. The man looked in the back of the teddy pulled out a machine. Graham had been a sort of eyes for Stephy too apparently. “Confiscating this for evidence.” The man says unconcerned. “Leave a guard at every exit, make sure they stay in lock down, no one here goes anywhere until the investigation is complete.”

My mom looks at me with her machine eyes. I would say accusingly, except the eyes didn’t show it, they showed no humanity whatsoever, but the rest of her expression was hurt, or what I must guess was hurt. I am not very good at reading people’s faces or expressions. It is always the best guess for me, and I am wrong as often as I am right.

“The eyes see what they see, and they report what they see. I can’t help that you were betraying the Government. You are at fault for being unscientific and secretive.”

“Oh Cathy, you have no idea what you’ve done.”

“I’ve done my duty. We must all do our duty. Isn’t that what you said so many times before?”

“I wish I could cry right now.” My mom puts her hands on her face but no tears will come from the artificial eyes, no release from the pain, she holds Stephy and rocks her, and examines the bruise on her face. My dad stays in his chair, in total shock, not moving, not saying a thing. Stephy grabs what’s left of Graham, the machine part gone out of his back, his black glossy eyes hidden camera machines. How many more were there in the house?

Her tears got his artificial brown fur wet and messy, she clung to him more than Mom, who tried to be empathetic, but it is hard to project that without the windows to the soul. All of our windows were fake throughout the house. They were all windows to no one leading to nowhere.

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing

Better early than late…Happy Birthday to Robert Jordan

Robert Jordan’s birthday is Monday the 17th of October so I figured I would write something on how his books influenced me and my writing. He of course is the fantasy writer that was writing a very long series and unfortunately, passed away before it was complete. Many are worried that George RR Martin might share this fate, but honestly I don’t know.

I guess when I was reading Wheel of Time, at first I was interested, the further the series got along the harder it became for me to take it seriously. I felt like many times Mr Jordan was treading water; less plot was happening because the story had splintered into so many directions that he was busy just trying to keep up and so it felt like he was lost. Like he knew he should end it, but didn’t know how. I am not sure he would have ever finished it. Honestly, he may have never wrapped it up even if he had lived another ten years it was all ready at book 13 or 14 I believe when he passed? I may be wrong, I haven’t fact checked so I’m going on memory here.

Okay, so how did he influence  me? Well, going back and working on my novel from 2001 it is painfully obvious to me in every half smile, bitter laugh, and gawd knows what else, that he had a direct influence on my word choices and how I defined characters. Going back and trying to re-read Wheel of Time, the first thing I notice is how repetitive these things are. A character is defined by how they swing their braid, or how they half smile, or some other little gesture, and it repeats throughout the books. It is a defining feature of that character. It is also annoying.

Mr. Jordan had great skill as a puppet master, keeping many lines going at once, and that also affected me, unfortunately that is a skill that takes a lot of practice to perfect, and my skill wasn’t there yet.

So, while I think he is a decent writer, his works for me are more Anne McCaffery and less Le Guin. More middle school literature, than college. It is hard for me to go back and enjoy them.  I do recommend them to people who are young and haven’t read much fantasy, they are pretty light fare. I would say they are more epic in nature than Piers Anthony, and not as high fantasy as Terry Brooks, but the writing level is about the same. Not as medieval or descriptive as Martin, so an easier start into fantasy. It is like the  Hobbit as opposed to Lord of the Rings. A 6-inch sandwich as opposed to a foot long.

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Sci-Fi Writing Prompt #1–Bread and Bots

From the e-book Other Worlds Writing Prompts by James Mascia

Strange worlds –1. Your characters live in a world where brain scans accurately detect lies and convictions are made instantaneously.

She sat in the small cell waiting for the Brain Star to come, the laser bars taunting her in the meantime with a view of freedom so close but so far away.  She heard her stomach give a loud rumble.  She looked around the bare cell wondering where people went after this. No one had come back to talk about it, but from what she had heard the Brain Stars were never wrong and could detect a lie and would mete out your  punishment  right then and there.

There were no people around her. Perhaps in the neighboring cells but she couldn’t hear anything. She knew the laser bars were impenetrable. She threw the apple core from her basic lunch at them and watched it disappear with a sizzle into nothing.  All the food was finger food so she had no implements like forks or spoons to do anything with.  The plate was a paper like material that crumbled into nothing within 30 minutes.  Her uniform was also extremely basic. A bright yellow jumpsuit, no belt or accessories allowed. They took no chances in here. No guards to bribe just machines cruising around in the metal hallway. Always watching but never directly interacting.

“Come on. Let’s just get this over with. I know I’m on a camera somewhere and I know someone has to be watching this somewhere. Just scan me and send me wherever people go. The waiting is intolerable.  If this is really fool proof, why don’t you just go around scanning people going about their lives why wait until we are starving and desperate to torture us? Please, someone say something!”

What she wouldn’t give to hear another human voice. Even the robots here said nothing. She could hear a whir and a hiss of movement but they never spoke to her.  Finally one of the robots she saw zoom by stopped its blue light swiveling toward her cell. It hovered there bobbing slightly. A couple more showed up doing the same. Finally she watched as a larger bot approached slowly steadily rolling on treads. Could this be the infamous Brain Star? It had a large cup coming out of its chest area. She saw flashing blue lights inside the cup which was about the size of her now shaved head. That was the first thing they did was strip her of her clothes and shave her head, and give her a cold shower with robots scrubbing her body red and raw.  She shivered at the memory.  She felt the light stubble on her head which felt prickly against her palms.

The two smaller bots approached the laser panel with the large one between them. The lasers flickered off for a second but both little bots trained laser guns on her person blue lens whirring as they adjusted their aim. The large robot entered her cell clamped onto her arms tightly. She squirmed and kicked, eyes rolling back in fear shouting obscenities yelling “Please, anyone out there? I was alive, I was here! I don’t want to die alone! God forgive me. I was hungry, is that such a crime?”

The robots said nothing. The large one clamped the cup like device onto her head while it held her still in an ever tightening grip.  Soon she stopped resisting and slumped against the bot. It flashed images from her brain scan on an internal camera. It saw a little girl running in a meadow; it then saw a teenager stealing a candy bar from a store.

It saw a young woman take a baseball bat to a food store at night, with the intent to steal. Saw her hurriedly eating the bread out of the bag while robots surrounded her, coming closer. She swung the bat at the bots, destroying a few while more kept coming, some of them getting back up a little worse for wear. Finally one of them stunned her with a jolt.

The bot saw images of her getting cleaned and head shaved, saw her placed in the cell and laser bars activated. Saw all the images of her ranting and raging about the solitude and lack of words.

There were so many people jammed together in the world now that hunger had reached a crisis so it was thought more humane by the leader to put the extra populace to sleep much like what was done with cats and dogs in the twenty-first century. It was for the good of all of course.  The needle entered her head from the cup putting the girl to sleep forever. The robot saved the memories like one does the minutes of a meeting.

The leader would review the materials later if he liked, but most likely this case wouldn’t merit much interest. It was too common.  The robot without passion filed away the scans out of duty, the beauty and tragedy of life lost senselessly not noticed or truly experienced.

Posted in Fiction, Life, Uncategorized, Writing

Update for the next project….

I completed the writing boot camp writing prompts, the ones that were freely given by Writer’s Digest anyway.

Next I will be gearing up for Nanowrimo and doing some Sci fi and fantasy prompts to get me in gear to write my new novel.

Update on said novel: I have my protagonist. I have a few settings worked out and some conflicts. Need to flesh out a couple more characters and figure out how I want it to end and some more major events. But once I have the outline and background then the fun begins! 🙂

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

Writing Prompt #15- Ocean Tears

Bonus Day 1

Sinking Ship

You realize the boat is sinking, but that’s not the worst thing that could happen. The worst

thing happened last night.

 

I bailed water as fast as my frozen fingers would allow with the metal bucket. The rain bashed me in the face taking my hair and putting it in my eyes. I knew the boat was sinking and fast. But that was not the worst thing I had to deal with at the moment. I was in the middle of the ocean, and pirates had boarded us last night leaving us with nothing but a gunshot wound to the stomach for my poor lover.

 

I had no phone, I had no food, and I had no way to hail anyone. They took all our supplies and I had to watch as my love continued to bleed out all over our cabin using my first aid kit to try and stop the flow.

 

I knew they had shot the controls and the radio. Perhaps they damaged the boat in some other way. We hadn’t had a lot but it was foolish perhaps to think we could safely traverse this area of the ocean alone. It was the adventure of a lifetime and we had both left our families behind and all the scandal that goes with that.

 

I remember the pirates with masks hiding their features speaking in some kind of French language that I could only understand a little of. They looked African, but from which country I had no idea. They made demands swinging guns around with urgency but we did not understand. And then they shot Greg. I put my hands up shakily shaking my head not knowing what they wanted from us.

 

They rummaged through our cabin knocking things to the floor noisily, taking the food and whatever else seemed to have value, and then they disabled our communications and shot up the boat. Meanwhile, I tried to make Greg comfortable. I hefted him onto the bed the best I could while he groaned in pain. “I’m so sorry.” I felt his brow, his face was so pale. So much blood.

 

I shoved all the bandages I could into the wound and used the first aid tape not knowing what else to do. I put pressure on it with my hands, I watched him pass out, looking strangely peaceful. I heard more gunshots and then some splashing and finally silence.

 

They were gone. It was just the two of us and the ocean. Suddenly my feet felt icy and wet. I looked down at the water streaming in slowly. “No, this cannot be happening.” I left Greg and went to the radio. Completely gutted. Flares taken as well. I knelt and prayed not knowing what else to do. Finally, with the water growing in a pool, I grabbed the bucket. I took to bailing as much as I could, feeling the tightness in my arms after a while but ignoring it. I had to keep going. I did not know how else to keep going.

 

I check on Greg, he is asleep; blood is still seeping into the bandages. Tears come to my eyes unbidden. I don’t have time to cry. I need to somehow signal someone. I grab the lighter out of his pocket and find some papers on our desk, I take it to the deck and that is when the storm starts to lash me and I realize there is no way I can start a fire as the rain is too intense. The wind rips the paper out of my hands scattering it away, I feel the lighter drop to the deck and disappear leaving me with the metal bucket in one hand. I can taste the salt water or maybe it was my tears mixed with the rain? I start yelling at the storm, at God and at myself.

 

I recall how we were eating breakfast and planning what port we would go to next on our adventure, not a care in the world. I could watch Greg eat an orange all day and be perfectly happy. He made it seem almost sensual. We shared a look and smiled. We felt the boat shift we saw the other vessel approach but didn’t think much of it. Boats pass by each other on occasion it wasn’t until we heard the shouting and saw the guns that things turned ugly. If I could go back in time and warn myself I would say, “Get to the radio, call for help!”

 

The pirates took our cell phones first, holding us at gunpoint while they did so. This wasn’t their first ambush apparently. And most likely wouldn’t be their last. I think of my soon to be ex husband and the kids. Would they even know or find out what happened to us out here? Would I see their faces? I only meant to go away for a year or so. Not forever, no,not forever.

 

I dropped the bucket, my hands going completely numb. I listened to the rain and wind and waves crash against the boat tossing us around like a toy. I feel the water creep up to my knees, feel it splash me, and soak me making me feel so very cold. I grab the railing, but I can’t feel a thing. I close my eyes and breathe in deeply. I shiver and try to think of the happy moments I had before all this. If I am to die out here I want my last thoughts to be happy. I feel the boat start to sink at last. One side starts to lower and I let go feeling the water rush over me and into me.

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

Writing Prompt #14 – The Meeting

Day 14

Matchup!

Write a story featuring a Ouija board, a search engine, and a self-help book.

 

I sat in a circle all of us with our Camp Fire Girl vests on sharing ghost stories and gossip, sitting criss-cross applesauce on the floor. The meeting was officially over, minutes recorded but there was always that little bit of time at the end before the parents came and picked us up.  This meeting was at Susie’s house and her house was one of those old meandering type of houses.

The kind that were meant for ghost stories like Bloody Mary. There was a spooky old mirror in a quaint hall way that led to this little half bathroom. It was creepy because there just was no reason to have a bathroom there. It made me think of the Winchester house but less cool. No stairways with dead ends and upside down stairs. Just a weird old bathroom and an antique mirror.

“So, guys, what about trying to contact Bloody Mary? I mean, we could say her name like 100 times in front of the mirror. You know the mirror. The one near the end of the hall. Or, we could do something even creepier. We could use a Ouija board.”

“A what board? It isn’t satanic is it? My mom wouldn’t be okay with anything like that.” Isabelle looks worried, feeling her crucifix in her hand absently with one hand.

“I know,” says Becky. “I will look it up on Google with my smart phone. She pushes her glasses up her nose slightly punching keys lightly in her phone. “How do you spell it, Susie?”

“One moment,” Susie runs out of the room excitedly, arriving back a few moments later holding a board game in her hands. She sets it down carefully in the middle of the floor, while we stare at it.

“Wait, it is some kinda board game?” Isabelle sounds disappointed, wrinkling her nose.

“This ain’t no Monopoly. I can tell you that. My parents had a séance once. With lit candles and a bunch of people over. They made us kids go to bed, but I tell you, it was something. You could see the candle light dance and I heard strange voices.” We all leaned in a little, faces going “oooh” in unison.

Becky calmly looks at the board, typing in O-U-I-J-A in her phone.  “Awh, a game put out by Milton Bradley Parker Brothers that is typically used to try and contact spirits on the other side.”

“The other side of what?”

“Isabelle, the other side, where people go after they are dead. Like your dog, Rover. When he got hit by that car last summer?” Susie explained with a malicious glint in her blue eyes.  Susie enjoyed freaking Isabelle out. It was too easy.

Becky rummaged through her bag and pulled out a self help book titled ‘How to Deal with Fear of the Unknown.’  “My motto is always to come prepared.”

“Isn’t that the boy scout motto or something?” Isabelle says uncertainly accepting the book gingerly, looking a bit confused. “I hope my Aunt is here soon, “she eyes the clock uncertainly.

“So, what do you say girls? Wanna try it?”

“Bloody Mary was the daughter of Henry the Eighth and was known for her reign of terror against the Protestants.” Becky added helpfully still looking at her phone typing away.

I had sat quietly this whole time taking it all in.  “Sure, let’s do it.” I say suddenly feeling brazen. All this talk with little action was beginning to bore me. “You got candles and a lighter?”

Susie jumps up and runs into the other room again coming back with some birthday candles and some matches. “Hey, Suse, where’s your mom at?” I ask wondering why the rest of the house was so quiet.

“You know, I don’t know. Probably outside in the garden. Maybe she is watching my baby brother.” She made a disgusted face. “I hate babies.” She added as clarification. “I’ll like him better when he turns five and goes to school.”

Susie lights the candles on a little metal box, melting the bottoms so they stay upright. “ouch,” she sucks in a finger from holding one of them a little too long.  We watch the little flames dance, they won’t last long, these candles were pretty small. Susie carefully sets up a little card table and moves the tin on top of it, putting the board in the middle and we each pull up a chair from the other room, rickety mismatched chairs from random places.  She put the device in the middle and there was the alphabet all too familiar to us written in big letters across the board.

“So we have to spell out a question that gives a yes or no answer.” Susie sits down carefully watching the expressions of the other girls as they fidgeted in their seats. “Shouldn’t we turn the light off too?” I add wanting it to be as scary as possible.  Becky comes back in with some Mountain Dew. “Your mom wouldn’t mind, would she?” She looks toward Susie.

“Naw. “ Susie replies. “Now what should we ask?”

“I’m scared. I want to go home.”  Everyone glares at Isabelle; I roll my eyes, cracking the can of soda open with a loud crack that makes her wince. “Sorry,” I say unapologetic, shrugging my shoulders.

We go silent for a minute looking at each other and the board. Finally Susie says, “Let’s ask the spirit if it is Bloody Mary.”

“Considering we are not in England, any spirit here would be unlikely to be Mary. I suggest we ask a better question.” Susie glares at Becky, sticking her tongue out in annoyance.

“You got a better question, Becky? What do you think we should ask then?”

“We should ask it if it is a friendly or malevolent spirit.”

“What’s malevolent?” Isabelle stammers out, shaking.

We all look at her, and she is rubbing her crucifix in her hand looking nervous. “It means, real bad, real bad, Isabelle. Like mean, only worse.” I add smiling.

“Oh.” She says hiding her head in her hands. “Come on Auntie.”

“Let’s all hold hands.” Susie suggests and we all comply for once.  We then all put a hand on the little pointer device and spell out the question are you bad or not, because it is easier to spell than what Becky said.  We wait a moment that seems like forever with one hand on the pointer. Then it starts to move. I hear Isabelle whimper.  It goes slowly toward the Y. Then an E, then a S. Y-E-S.  “Yes, what? Yes you are bad? Or yes you are not bad? That was a crappy question.” I say annoyed.

“I think it means, yes it is bad. I don’t want to do this anymore.” Isabelle lets go of the pointer abruptly and leaves the table almost tripping on her backpack. “Oh come on, Izzy, it is just a game for Christ’s sake.”  Susie shrugs. “Whatever.”

“Hey she spilled my soda.” Noticing the green fluid all over my things and the floor.  Suddenly a breeze gusts through and all the candles go out at once. “Uh, did someone leave a window open?”  I say, suddenly feeling creeped out, feeling all the little hairs on my arm stand on end.  “Susie?” I say when no one answers me.  “Hey guys, this isn’t funny. I know I was kinda mean to Isabelle. But so were all of you.”  Still silence.  I look around, feeling the sticky soda with my hands.

“Come on. Turn on the light so I can clean this up at least.”  I start to feel a little panicky. I feel sweat on my brow. “Guys? Guys!”  I feel the chair near me as I stand up, I can feel the table in front of me. “Where are you guys? Why don’t you answer?”

I feel the pointer but don’t feel anyone’s hands but my own.  I run into the tin with my hand and the candles are all knocked over and warped from the melted wax. I go away from the table feeling for the wall, looking for the door or the light switch.

I keep my hands on the wall, and eventually realize I am in the hallway.  I can feel the mirror. The old style frame. The cool glass. I went the wrong way. But I knew there was a light switch by the bathroom.  I kept feeling for the switch, and then I heard a noise.  I turned my head. I called out again, “Guys, this isn’t funny.” It was totally dark here.  And then I heard it.

Footsteps. Coming closer.  “Uh, Guys? Susie?” I say, voice trembling. My hands were shaking now. I felt cold. So very cold. I put my hand on the glass again. Still at the mirror. Where was that switch?

The footsteps were getting loud, the person was stomping. “Hey, whose there?” I shout.  No answer.  I feel a cold breeze again only this is more of a gust, it pushes me. My back is now against the mirror. I can feel the cold glass through my clothing.  I felt as though I could go through the wall. Like it was nothing. I suddenly felt trapped and truly afraid. I found myself looking out of the mirror into the dark hallway arms pulling me into the mirror, weird long dark arms. And then I was in the mirror looking out trying to call out to my friends but nothing would come out of my mouth except more darkness.