Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

Minor Update–plus writing prompt:The Resilience of Children

*Inspired by James Mascia’s Other Worlds Writing Prompts.

I like to give credit to him because it is a book of sci-fi/fantasy writing prompts, and I am working through them to get the rust off so to speak, and help spark my creativity for my new novel which has hit a wall.

So, in a sense, I am giving away his content for free if you can figure out the prompts which is pretty easy to do. So, the least I can do is give him the credit so that maybe someone else will buy his book and get inspired. Or at the very least he will get the recognition for the prompts as any writer should get recognized for their work.

As far as the new novel is concerned, I feel like I am reaching the big important event a bit too early. It is kinda like setting up a fireworks show; you have things go off at certain times to really make it work. Same with this novel, and if it hits its stride too soon, it may be a hard thing to organically fix.

I can add events and lengthen it, but my worry there is that it won’t flow properly. It will seem stretched out, which is bad pacing.  I am a bit stuck, trying to figure out the best path to fixing this, or altering it now, so hopefully, I won’t have to make a Frankenstein’s monster later. I all ready have one of those in my fantasy series. I’ve got six books sitting in binders, some need to be entirely rewritten. So yeah, trying to learn from my mistakes and not repeat them.

*Anyway, this prompt :

Candice lay still in the hospital bed, eyes closed, drifting out of a deep sleep to beeps and steps in the hall way and birds chirping out the window. A TV was blaring on the other side of the room and she could hear a fan going someplace nearby. She opened her eyes slowly, adjusting to the artificial fluorescent lighting.

She looked at the side table, propping herself up with her arms, glancing at the pink carafe and a small plastic cup of water and a multi colored bouquet of flowers that seemed relatively fresh. She saw a bench along the wall, a coat left draped on it lazily, one of those thin grey jersey hoodies. Her brother was here recently, or maybe he would be back soon, she thought recognizing his coat.

How long have I been here? Which hospital was this? She craned her neck toward the window, concrete parking lot, street lamps, cars parked here and there. No remarkable landmarks from there. She looked around the room, no neighbor next to her, just an empty bed. She hit the call button and waited.

A nurse walked in and nearly stumbled from shock, taking a seat on the bench. Candice looked at her startled by the reaction. “Nurse? Where am I? What happened to me?”

“Oh you don’t know poor child? It was awful, so many children didn’t make it, so many people. Everyone thought it was the common cold, but then people would fall asleep, and just not wake up. And, then a few started to, but not many. But a few. Least that is what I heard, but, you are the first of the fallen ones I have seen with my own eyes. Your family will be so happy, especially considering…Well. I better let them know. Are you hungry?”

Candice nodded. The nurse left and Candice reached for the water, taking a sip slowly. She felt the water go down cooling her insides. She suddenly felt very thirsty, refilling the glass and taking another gulp. She grabbed the remote for the TV turning it down. She heard steps down the hall, hurried steps. She glanced toward the door just as her mother and father ran in. Their faces were wet with tears and they looked a little scared. They ran in and hugged her tightly, kissing her roughly. “Stop. I’m okay. Where’s Jeremy? I see his coat over there?”

They both took a seat on the bench slowly. Her father grabbed the coat into his arms, clenching it in his hands. “Jeremy fell ill right after you did, but, he didn’t make it. Seems mostly children were affected by this virus, and the elderly, and people who were all ready sick, but even some healthy people came down with it in the end, and most people that fell asleep, never came out of it again. You are lucky, Candy. We were losing hope, you seemed to be drifting away. They don’t know what changed, it is just all so sudden. We are just so glad we still have you, we never dared to hope, or dream. It was just too much to bear. To lose you both like this.”

“Jeremy’s gone? I can’t believe it. He was my older brother. I can’t imagine a world without him in it.”

“The city is also under quarantine still. They don’t want this spreading, so you will have to go to school when you are deemed fully recovered in a special place for other kids like you. They don’t want to take any chances, because they still don’t know what this is or how it happened here. Right now, you just have to get well, and eat, and get strong for us, okay?” Mom’s voice sounded worried and confused, and didn’t seem reassuring at all. A special school? Quarantine?

“What about my friends? Becky and Josie? Did they fall ill, are they okay?”

Her parents remained silent a moment, looking at each other before her dad spoke. “They did fall ill. They didn’t make it, Candy. You are the only one at this hospital. The children’s hospital has a few others. There might be a few more who are being treated at their homes because for a while there was no room. The sick lined the floors, it was terrible. Then, people started to die. Now there is room again, but, the whole city seems empty, and food is starting to run low. The government sends some in, of course, but just the staples. No luxury items, basic stuff like blankets and food. Things are looking up now though. They halted the disease here, so it could have been worse.”

“New victims are down, and have been falling every week, so, pretty soon the city will be declared safe, and things will go back to normal,” her mom adds forcing a smile, her eyes still appearing kinda vacant.

A doctor came in saying, “Sorry, for interrupting, but we would like to watch her for 24 hours, just to make sure, and then we can see about discharging her to home care. Watch for signs of a new onset, if she gets the all clear, as I expect she will, we can release her into your care. But, we want to make sure, before we send her out. So, we’ll give you as long a visit as you need, but I would like her to get plenty of rest.”

The doctor  gave her parents some paperwork and nodded at Candice,  leaving abruptly again. She can hear his shoes as he walked down the hall. She can hear the nurse at the nurse’s station tapping at the keyboard, and the birds chirping loudly. She can hear her mom fidgeting with her hands, rotating her wedding band, and her dad cleaning his glasses for the tenth time, the slight sound of microfiber cloth on glass.

“Honey, why do you have the TV so quiet? You can’t hear it.”

“Oh, I can, please, leave it.” Her mom looked at her, and puts the remote down. “Okay, dear. Maybe we should let you rest, I am just so glad you are okay.”

They got up and reluctantly leave, her dad turned to her and says, “We are just going to take a nap downstairs, we’ll be here if you need us. Okay?”

“Okay.” She watched them leave, and shut the door quietly behind them. She looked back to the window and saw a boy’s face in the glass. She got up and opened the window to let him in. “Thanks, the name is Charlie. I came as quickly as I could. I am a survivor too. I came from the other hospital, we are going to break out. Are you in?”

Candy looked out the window, and saw that it was a long way down. “How did you get up here, by my window? I’m on the third floor, at least.”

“Same way you could hear me coming, and Abbie knew you’d be here. We are special. When we awaken, we awaken different. Thing is, the adults won’t understand it. They will try to study us, they will hurt us. I know, my sister Mirabelle, she was the first. She had a special gift, and it was discovered pretty quick. So, now they have her in some special facility. I know they are doing bad things to her. Abbie can feel it. She can feel things, and sense feelings. I can fly.”

“Like Peter Pan?”

“Sort of, see.” The boy lifts himself a foot into the air, hovering. “It gets tiring though. So, I cannot do it all the time, and I can’t keep myself up for too long. Besides, we can’t let them know.”

“Them?”

“The doctors, the nurses. They are in on it. They did this to our city on purpose. They wanted to test something, they had this planned. That is what Abbie says. Abbie is our leader. She is fourteen. The oldest survivor so far, and so very wise. You will like her. She is a red-head, very tall and thin. Kinda freckly. But she knows the adults, she knows what they are about.”

“My parents are downstairs, and they would be worried sick about me. I can’t leave them. They all ready lost my brother.”

“They will lose you anyway, as soon as they figure out you can hear things so well, and who knows what else, they will take you away, like Mirabelle. Mirabelle can move things, like that water, she can move it all around without touching it. Or she could, I don’t know what has happened to her.”

“I will help you find your sister, but can I leave a note for my parents? I don’t want them to worry.”

“Sure, but don’t mention me or where you are going. Just say you are helping a friend and stuff.”

Candy takes the hospital stationary and writes a letter carefully, making sure it was legible, stating her love and how she hopes she can explain and they understand she loves them.

“I don’t know if I am making a mistake by leaving, or if I should stay.” She looks at Charlie’s eyes. “Come on, we don’t have a lot of time, the Doctor will be back, and who knows what he will do. He will be looking for something special, he will know about this, and if he discovers you, I don’t know if we can break you out again.”

Candy hears the door make a clicking sound, Charlie dives under the bed, Candy forces out a loud cough to cover the noise, a nurse comes in with a tray of apple sauce and crackers and some apple juice. “We want to start you off slow, since it has been a while since you had a real meal.” The lady smiled at her, smoothed her bedding and left closing the door again. Charlie scooted out from under the bed as soon as the steps receded.

“She seems nice, are you sure they are all in on it?”

“They are probably watching us, we better go, now.” He looks around the room suspiciously looking for cameras. Candy shrugged. “That seems a little crazy.”

“Come with me, if you change your mind, I promise I will help you come back myself.”

“Okay.” Candy got out of the bed slowly, and her legs wobbled on the floor. “I can’t seem to walk.”

“It’s because you have been in bed a long time. Here, let me help you.” He put his arm around her and walked over to the window. She opened it again, looking back at Charlie with concern, gulping and breathing in deeply. “Here goes nothing.”

“Just hang onto me, we will drift down.”

He helps her scramble onto the sill, “I’m scared.”

“Think of Peter Pan, okay? Or Superman, that’s okay too.” And he pulls her out into the air with him drifting like clumsy birds. “How is this even possible?”

“I don’t know, I’m only ten.”

“I can’t look anymore.” She felt some of her crackers coming back up and her head feeling strangely light.

“We’re almost there, just stay with me a little longer.”  When their feet touch the ground her knees buckle, and he attempts to break her fall and they both fall in a heap. “You’re heavier than me, sorry.”

She elbowed him. “Hey now.”

“It’s the truth. Sorry.” He got up brushed the grass off his clothes. “Can you get up, I’ll help you walk, the others’ aren’t far.”

“I’ll try, but I feel like all rubber.”  The boy  again put his arm around her and gently walked her in a direction away from the hospital.

“Trust me, I know where I’m going. If they were watching, they will be after us, but they won’t know how far I drifted, so, we may have a little time, plus, I know this town pretty well. I’ve got a map in my head from riding my bike tons.”

“What am I doing? My parents are going to be so worried.”

“Look, you would be disappeared one way or another. That special school, yeah, no one goes there and hears about the people again. We are trying to locate it through Abbie’s power. But, there are still a lot of people around, and she can’t  choose what to tune in or out of very well, she is still working on it.  She found you because you just woke up and she says it is like a beacon, a flare goes up when one of us wakes up. It is like, we are part of something, a plan, something bigger than everything else.  And when one of us wakes up it is like it sends a message to the others.”

“What about those that didn’t make it?”

“Well, whatever experiment this was, we were phase one, the kinks weren’t worked out yet. I guess that is what they call collateral damage. Cost of doing business, sort of thing?”

“How far do we have to walk, I’m not used to it?”

“Hey,I’m doing most of the work here, don’t worry, it isn’t far now.”

A car pulled up beside them, slowing down to a crawl, a door opened. “Come on, get in.”

“What? Are you sure?”

“Yeah, it is Abbie’s mom, she is with us, they tried to take Abbie away, so, she is on our team. We can’t waste time.”

“For someone that is suspicious of things, you are asking me to trust a lot of strangers.” Candy got in the car reluctantly after Charlie. The woman driving seemed anxious, eyes darting; hair a mess, with a crumpled blouse. Another girl was in the car. A tall girl with red hair and freckles.

“You must be Candy. I am Abbie. You have met Charlie. My mom is driving, she can be trusted. She saw Mirabelle taken. She knows what is happening with us, or at least that much. There is still a lot we don’t know. Please, don’t be frightened. None of us chose this, this was thrust upon us, and we must come together. We are each others’ family now.”

“Easy for you to say, you still have your mom.”

“My dad died from the virus. He was sick all ready, and he got it from me. So, I do understand. I know about Jeremy. I feel your pain, and your loss. And the loss of so many here. I feel it every minute, every hour, all the time. I am tired of the pain, but I know, I have a purpose. This was no accident, and until I fulfill that purpose, I must live with this pain, and this knowledge of everyone’s pain and frustration and fear, and hatred. I must bear it all,  do you understand what that can be like?”

Candy said nothing after this, Abbie’s mom locked all the doors from her driver’s panel and sped away taking a circuitous route to wherever they were going. Eventually they end up out of the city proper and in a quiet suburb area. “Who lives here?”

“This is the property of a friend. They gave us permission to use it, me and Abbie. Abbie and I cannot go home, they will take us for sure, we cannot stay here long, because they will find us, but we have a temporary headquarters in the barn over there. We use the house sparingly, just in case. Mostly at night, but can’t get used to routine too much. That’s how you get found out.”

“Has someone been found out, before?”

“Yes, we lost a couple kids, that way. Mirabelle didn’t get to leave the hospital, but there have been others. The special school isn’t a school. It is a laboratory. The government is behind all this. For military purposes I am sure. We aren’t people to them, we can be stated as dead from this illness at any time. That’s how they cover this up.”

“Does that mean, that when they say someone is dead, they  may not be?”

Everyone looked at each other and looked back at Candy.

“Could Jeremy be alive? His coat was in my room, if he had died, how would his coat have gotten there?”

“Child, there could be a lot of explanations, your parents could have kept it as a memento and left it there, perhaps he visited you before falling ill himself and left it there. I would assume him to be dead, if he isn’t then he is being experimented on some place, and I am not sure I would wish that on anyone.”

“Abbie, can you search for him?”

“Hope is a dangerous thing. It can make you do crazy stuff. He fell ill after you, so, it is possible they could be declaring him dead to move him someplace else, early. But, if he woke up, surely I would have felt that.”

“Well, even if it is a slim possibility, I’m in, if finding Mirabelle means possibly finding my brother. I need to know for certain. I feel like I would know if he were dead.”

She unfastened her seat belt with a click as did the others and quietly got out of the car heading toward a large barn with one light burning brightly.

The light beckoned and called to her, flickering as the sky started to darken a little and she could hear the crinkle of the grass beneath their feet and the hooting of owls in the trees, and the animals scurrying in the brush. She could hear the others’ breathing and hear other cars in the distance crunching gravel.

She knew in her heart that her brother was alive. He had left his coat to let her know this. Her brother would never leave her unless he had to. Maybe it was crazy, but she could not believe he was dead, the coat was there for a reason, just like she woke up for a reason. Candy smiled, someday her family would be reunited.

In her heart she knew this and it felt real, almost like she would find them all happily waiting for her in the barn before her right in this moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

Excerpt from my fantasy novel Part 2–On War and Difference

Minottir had gotten to know Oshbury Beldurkit of the Rabbit People the best during their journey because he had been the most open and friendly.

“Oshbury, what do you think awaits us in Caeter? I wonder what the land will be like? I’ve been to the Great Forest, and the North, and now Smethille. This is a beautiful land, don’t you think?”

“Yes, it is. I had not been to Anthella before this. We live near your land, just further east. We war with our cousins, the Hare People. They are arrogant, and presumptuous. They hold nothing but contempt for us. But I have heard tales of your people’s fury.”

“Oh, indeed. Us and the Dragon Folk are always at each others’ throats. It does seem that way all about us, doesn’t it? For every people, there is another to fight them. Peace is a foreign concept on this world of Babalae.”

“It is the dream of the hopeless idealist, nothing more.”

“What if one day, it is more than a dream, Oshbury?”

“On that day, there will be only one race on this world. That is the only way I see.”

“That would be truly monstrous. All this beauty, and variety? This difference no more? I hope not.”

“Then do not wish for an end to war, my friend. Differences are the stuff of war. My brothers and I used to fight, and it was war on a different scale, but the same. There would be times of peace, but these would be stopped by a fight of some sort eventually. The only way we stopped fighting is when we went our separate ways. They left the household. It was the only way. And that is the way of the world, Minottir. Are you a dreamer, my friend?”

“I suppose, I am what they call an optimist. Because if this world cannot be redeemed, then what are we doing this for? Why don’t we just shut our eyes, and wait for the Andred to come? If it’s so terrible, then why is it worth saving?”

“I am not sure. But I feel it is my duty, all the same. War may be cruel, but non existence is surely worse.”

They were silent the rest of the ride to Caeter, and even Minottir’s optimism was shaken by this idea of non existence. He couldn’t truly conceive of the great void consuming everything and leaving nothing in its wake. He shivered, and his thin rubber-like arms felt like bones for a moment. Beyond mere death. Non existence. Yes, that was worth war, he thought to himself in a desperate mood.

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

Excerpt of a scene from my fantasy novel

This scene is one of my favorites from my novel, because part of me loves sadness, and I find it moving. I’ve been thinking of just pulling scenes out and re writing the rest of it. It is such a massive mess, over 250,000 words written many years ago, 2001 to be precise.

Still Telmishei is one of my favorite characters. I tortured this poor guy in a couple novels actually, I seem fond of torturing him. I almost feel bad. Actually, I added clips of several scenes just for some context. There is another chapter I’d like to find, and excerpt here because I doubt it will actually make it into the final draft. Tertiary characters at best, but it has some philosophical discussion that I like, but, otherwise is too much of an outlier unfortunately.

So hear goes..

“You mean to you, Telmishei. Our time was years ago. I’m flattered you still remember. I found you, not much different from Diamtur. In a family that would have killed you as a child had they known. I have never met a family that hated magic more than the Razshai’s. Your first talent was the portal of worlds, was it not? How old were you, Telmishei? Maybe seventeen, sixteen?”

“How old were you, that was the question. I remember. I offered to marry you, and you turned me down. A rude awakening for a boy heir.”

“To the most powerful clan in the land. Yes, that was sweet. This is no different, only I am the one getting turned down.”

“How old are you?”

“It is rude to ask a lady her age, Telmishei. Didn’t your mother teach you anything?”

“Don’t tease me anymore, or I might show Lorune how it is done.” With this he laughed, for he and Jannhilae had known each other for so long.

He kissed her lightly on her soft chocolate colored hair and went to his horse. He’d kept the King waiting too long as it was.

#####

“Good night, Telmishei. We will meet again tomorrow night.” Shaih left with the King, Diamtur left in the other direction. Telmishei turned to Jannhilae.

“My offer still stands. Give Lorune a break. I am all alone here, and I miss you. There is no one here, not even Shaih.”

“Telmishei, you had no interest in me until a few days ago. Are you really that simple? Find another girl, you’ve never had trouble before.”

“I took you as a given, and for that I am sorry. We have always been there for each other. Spare him this night, and we can remember old times.” He saw she was tempted despite herself. What woman didn’t dream of having men fight over her? Lorune didn’t want her, but Telmishei did. In the end she turned away.

“Telmsihei, I like you this way. Perhaps I will consider your offer some other time. I wouldn’t want you to take me as a given.” Telmishei watched her leave reluctantly. Maybe he was still the boy to her, thinking that being a lord was enough to get the girl.

####

“Jannhilae, come with me to my tent. I would like to speak with you.”

“Why, my lord, of course. Excuse me, Lady Orshei.” Jannhilae stood up slowly and walked to the exit toward Telmishei.

Once they both were in Lord Razhshai’s tent she glared at him.

“How did you know Arousei was Lorune’s?”

“His thoughts aren’t guarded. He was always obsessing over Daemia, who hadn’t loved him.”

“Ah, the tainted blood, and so on. So, why were you with him, Jannhilae?”

“Oh, Telmishei, do you not have sight behind those violet eyes of yours? Aren’t I more lovely than you remember?”

“And, Lorune has aged considerably. He is always tired.”

“Yes, he hasn’t noticed at all, but when he is with me, he feels young, but after he is older I’m afraid.”

“The secret of your youth? How much have you stolen from me, I wonder?”

“Telmishei, you are one of us. Stealing from you, would only hurt us. I have from time to time, not meaning to, really.”

“Yes, I am not much older than Lorune, yet I look much older. He does seem to be catching up to me, though. I ask again, how old are you Jannhilae? You seemed the same twenty something maid when I was sixteen.”

“I was a little older than you are now, perhaps. Now, I am older still, and it takes more energy to keep up my  maintenance than it used to.”

“Lorune isn’t here. I have realized that I love you, because you are like me. Others fear me, you understand me.”

“Would you still, if you saw my true age, Telmishei? Would you have still loved me at sixteen, if I looked older, with grey in my hair?” Telmishei had to admit to himself, that he wouldn’t have. Not at sixteen. He wouldn’t have seen her that way.

“That was then, we are here now.”

“Very well,” she reached out, and took his hand. He felt the energy course from her into him, and he saw her age speedily. Her hair lost its curl, turned grey and thin. Her skin grew taut and stretched tightly over her bones. She looked like a worn wooden doll ready to break apart with the smallest breeze.  Her teeth were long and yellow.

Instinct made him want to recoil from her, and tear her hand away from his, but he resisted.  Instead, he bent over her, and kissed her on the mouth. He felt the energy start to course in the other direction and felt her lips plump and her cheeks soften. When he pulled away, she was beautiful again, perhaps even more so.

He heard someone shout outside his tent. ‘They will go away,’ he hoped but they did not. “The King summons you, Razshai.”

“I must go, but please wait for me. I will be back soon.”

####

He entered his tent to find it empty. Hadn’t he told her to wait? he walked over to the women’s tent. “Jannhilae, I thought you were going to wait for me.”

“I will return soon, Lady Orshei. Good bye, Kalowen.” Jannhilae stood reluctantly it seemed, and went to the exit of the tent.

“Telmishei, I am sorry. Shaih has told me  of my doom. Years ago, understand, I made a pact with Keltorill, the God of Death. I may retain my life and youth through others’ life force. If I didn’t now, I would surely die in moments. You saw how I was. There is a price for everything, Telmishei.”

They entered his tent, she seemed uncertain. “Telmishei, I am sorry. My price was that I could use others, but not truly love them.”

“Does it matter? One more time, for the years we’ve had.” He saw that she was crying, and he had never seen her cry before. “Oh, Telmishei, but I do love you. You kissed me, as I was when I thought no one would. If only I..”

They were on his blankets, and he loved her. He kissed her, and had her, and when he was done, he noticed she was quiet. He moved away from her to see what was wrong, when he saw that her hair was grey and brittle. It was coming off in his hands in clumps. Her skin was like clay, and crumbled when he touched her. Before his eyes her bones cracked and broke into a fine grey powder. Where she had been was nothing.

He kept trying to find her in the powder, calling her name over and over. “No, where are you? Jannhilae! Jannhilae. Come back, come back. Where are you?”

He frantically searched his tent, and found her clothes. They still had her scent on them, and he hugged them to him in a tight embrace. The tears wouldn’t stop. She had tried to warn him, had avoided him for quite some time. Shaih had known. Had told him to stay away in fact. Told him, that it was his flaw. If only she had told him, but she had. And it was too late.

Time passed, and yet he just stayed where she had been, not knowing what else to do. He saw light coming from the bottom of the tent flap. It was day and he would have to move, but he didn’t want to.

“Telmishei, Telmishei, we had best be going. We cannot keep the King any longer.” It was Shaih. He didn’t know what to say. He took down his wards so that Shaih could enter his tent unharmed.

Shaih entered, and didn’t seem too surprised. He had probably been expecting it. “Telmishei, let me have a look at you. Jannhilae made a pact with Keltorill, sooner or later he claims all.  She only put off the inevitable.”

“I loved her, I killed her. Why hadn’t you told me?”

“You wanted to decide your own fate. You didn’t want to know, and I did hope I was wrong. We could have used her in the war. Come over here, Telmishei. I could see what she saw in you, now. She has given you a parting gift.  You don’t look a day over sixteen, my lord. Like when she met you, I’ll bet. She was a little sentimental it seems. All that energy has to go somewhere. That does leave us with some explaining, I’m afraid.”

“What are you talking about? Nothing matters anymore.”

“Now, that isn’t the proud lord I remember. Telmishei, wake up. Look at your hands. Your hair is thick and black, you are a very pretty boy. It’s too bad you like women.”

Telmishei did look at his hands. They were young, and his voice was smoother, and he knew it was true. Many men would have loved a second youth, but Telmishei would have traded it all for Jannhilae.

“What will we do, Shaih?”

“Let’s make up something. You can be one of your bastards, and we’ll say Jannhilae ran off with Lord Razshai.”

“The King is bound to  look for Lord Razshai.”

“The King will know the truth tonight, Telmishei. I’ll even give you your own horse. And, we’ll call you Telmishei. Common enough for a mistress to curry favor with her lord by naming her brat after him.”

“As you say.”

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

A Writer’s Prompt– Future Earth

*This is inspired by James Mascia’s writing prompt book Other Worlds

 

The sun glinted off the cracked lens on the top of a knitted basket. She went to pick it up, the seller grabbed her wrist harshly. “What do you got to trade for that, kid? No touchy til I see it.” The man’s voice sounded hoarse and threatening, his grip on her wrist tightened slightly.

“You expect me to buy without a closer look? What kinda fool do you take me for?”

“Not everything that glitters is gold, miss. Let’s see it.”

She sighs. She pulls out her pockets, counts the little coin she has, and other odds and ends that she has found on her travels. A spool of yellow thread, a needle, a couple plastic things, including a plastic soldier with a menacing expression and a helmet.

“You got nothing. Just as I thought.” The man spits at her feet, an ugly wad of brownish gunk.

“Let me go, then. You got me, I just wanted a look see, no harm. Honest.”

“Hmm. No harm indeed.” She saw his eyes cloud over briefly, mulling something over or in reverie perhaps. “Well?” She said giving her arm a jerk. He finally lets go, she rubs her sore wrist giving him a dirty look.

“How old are ya girl?”

“Old enough.”

“To remember what? Clean air, clean water? A time before the return of the great diseases? The ones we thought we had licked. Boy, were we wrong. They are sneaky things, super bugs. They find a way to beat the vaccines, boom, all our technology and fancy dew-dads, they don’t do us no good. All for nothing.”

“So we are done here?” Her green eyes flashed defiance. She was young, how young hard to say. Mal-nourishment had a way of making someone tinier than they ought to be. Plus, looking younger than one was could be an advantage. She was used to being underestimated and had to grow up fast in this cold world.

“You got any kin left? Where are you from?”

“Why do you care, mister?”

“I had a daughter once, and a wife, and even a brother. Brother died in the war with China. Daughter and wife, well, TB got em. So, here we are. Alone, selling what we find on the road. I got an old cart and a mule. and I just venture looking for treasure and to trade stories with other survivors. Hoping to find some information. You see, I had another daughter, that was taken away, years ago, when we were all confined, in the TB ward, she was taken from me. All I have left of that one is this.” He holds up between his thumb and forefinger a tiny blue button.

“How old was she? When you last saw her?”

“She was about three, almost three years old. She would be somewhere around 13 I reckon, now.”

“Well, she ain’t me, Mister. I am older than that. Besides, I know where my family is. They are all under the dirt someplace or other. Some died here, others over there. I have been traveling for a ways now. And, I lost a lot along the way. Been alone a couple years. But, now I am out of anything to trade, except of course my labor. I can trade that well enough, if someone needs something fixed, or a rabbit caught. I have gotten good at rabbit and rat catching.”

“Are you offering your services? Whatcha want the glasses for?”

“Makes it easier to make a fire, I broke my last lens.”

“You aren’t near sighted then. Can you see that sign over yonder?”

She squints in the direction the man points. It is a hand painted sign an old woman is holding. “Looks like, maybe, I’m not sure. Have you seen…so and so, or something.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. Here. A gesture of good will. I will accept your services, by the way, because, my last traveling companion took ill and died. I think I may be a carrier of the TB. But, then, if you have lasted this long, you may be as well. Besides, I can see no fear in your eyes. You are ready to die, aren’t you?” The man’s eyes glint in the sunshine, a smile crosses his face as though being ready to die is a novel concept.

“Been fighting to live for so long. Maybe  I have had it all wrong this whole time. Maybe accepting the final destination. Maybe that is the point. Maybe there is some wisdom you can teach me yet.”

She catches the glasses, shoving them on her face, still squinting.”You talk a lot of nonsense, stranger. If you got some food, I would appreciate another good will gesture. Been a while since I caught a rat. And well, I could use the strength to catch another.”

The man motions behind his cart where he has a little fire going and a cast iron pot boiling some kind of vegetable soup. He grabs a hunk of bread breaks it in half, handing her one piece, offering her a metal bowl and spoon. A small rickety table with a couple of beat up travel chairs with a faded green fabric material sat nearby. “Normally I charge for a seat at my table, but considering you are going to be my companion here, I will offer you a seat for free.”

“How kind of you.” She eats the bread with one hand, sloppily dishing out the soup with the other hurriedly. She sits down with a thud, and proceeds to devour the bowl.

“Don’t rush. You gotta make it last. Savor it. Otherwise you will get a tummy ache.”

The girl glares at him. “Don’t tell me how to eat. I know how to eat.”

The man smiles sadly. “Of course. You know everything. This is your world. This is what you know. All of this, its your castle, your home.”

“I am going to stop talking to you. You are crazy.” The man chuckles. “Perhaps. I very well may be crazy. I am caught between worlds. Remembering what was, and existing here. I feel like I was in heaven, but now I am in purgatory, waiting, to finally go to hell.” His eyes go all distant and  the girl refocuses on the soup.

She didn’t care what was actually in it at this point, she just had to eat something to stop the growling gnawing inside of her. The constant need to satiate her hunger was the driving force behind her day to day life. It was the reason to keep going, the reason she found to keep going in order to not think or remember the faces of the others.

The others that hadn’t kept going, the ones that fell before the sickness or the bombs or both. She had to survive for those that couldn’t. Someday, she could tell their stories to others, if there was a day where one could tell stories again and live to see a brighter day. Where one could safely sit and dream and not worry about hunger, and death, and destruction. It was her turn to go distant.

She could hear the man’s snores, as he fell asleep in his chair. She could hear foot steps and animals rustling in the grass. This was life now. Tiny moments among tiny moments, not knowing when the end might come, only that it would one day.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

Writing Prompt–Virtual Currency

*This is inspired from James Mascia’s Other Worlds Writing prompts.

 

Tap, tap,tap went the keys on the keyboard as a ring of screen monitors surrounded him with multiple windows up and running on each one. All the major banks and credit bureaus were accounted for, now for the final crash to the system. Bitcoin was inspirational for sure, he thought to himself, but they didn’t quite go far enough. In order for a virtual currency to become the dominant currency, the faith in paper money had to be shown for the stack of card houses it truly was.

You have to knock that first domino over to cause the rest to fall. After many hours of research and hard labor from not only him, but a myriad of sources and fellow hackers and economically disenfranchised people with an especially sharp axe to grind, the moment was at hand. Revolution never tasted so sweet.

The government of course, was one step behind, but he knew even a tiny delay could cause everything to fall apart. Everything was in place, the currency was thriving in pirate bays and other underground places in the dark side of the internet. This last punch of a string of fatal code should be the push to cause the rest of the unknowing sheep to follow suit as they will not know where else to go, and hopefully, his contacts in the media will follow through and educate them on the true path.

He sipped noisily on his Dr. Pepper, pushing the stale uneaten remains of the Doritos onto the floor. He would clean it up later, for now, click, the last key stroke. He smiled as the light of the screen reflected off his glasses, gleaming a bluish color as several streams of words and numbers lit up all the screens and other hackers across the world typed along with him at the same moment, each doing their part in a bigger puzzle. Viva La Revolution. Time for a new world order, controlled by the hackers, gamers, slackers, and under represented geniuses of the internet.

He smiled smugly, nodding to himself as if at some unspoken joke. So, this is what power feels like. He leaned back in his chair, watching the chaos, a TV was in the far corner, he took the remote turning it on waiting for the news. The weather man droned on and on about the chance of showers motioning and aiming his hands on a virtual background behind him. Jerry sighed impatiently. Come on, how long until his friends come through? Of course, he knew it wouldn’t be instantaneous.

News can be, and often was, but when it came to messages that could be controlled, and directed for mass effect, sometimes timing was everything. And, he expected the establishment boogeymen to attempt to spin and control this. The last gasping struggle of a dying behemoth who would crush many when it fell. Reasonable casualties to be expected, he thought coldly to himself. Every revolution had them, and losses were to be expected. Change was painful, and the greater the change the more painful it could be.

Suddenly, there was a  loud ringing knock at the door, he jumped up from his chair turning toward the door, not saying a word. “Hey, Jerry, is that you in there? Are you hungry? I can order a pizza?”

Jerry got up reluctantly hitting the monitor button on his computer not wanting his mother to see what he was working on. “Just a minute. I’ll be right there.” He walked over to the door unlocked the  dead bolt, opened the door slightly. The door banged open hitting him in the face hard, he fell down to the floor knocking the breath out of him. “Freeze. Police.”

“I’m sorry,” his mom said, with tears in her eyes. “They said if you cooperated, you might get immunity. They said you might be a terrorist, and that all these deaths would be on my head. I got scared. I’m so sorry, Jerry.”

He just looked up at her; blue eyes hating her with every fiber of his being. “You have no idea what you’ve done. None of you has any idea.” He watched her wring her hands nervously as they handcuffed him, shoving him up forcefully, his face bruised and swelling from hitting the floor a moment before.

 

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

J.R.R. Tolkien–Birthday Post part 2

Now on to Tolkien. Honestly, I am getting burned out talking about Tolkien but he still dominates Fantasy, so he will inevitably pop up in any conversation about it. Fantasy is just starting to diverge from the basic Tolkien-esque plot of country bumpkin becomes unlikely savior against the ultimate evil guy whose name cannot be said out loud.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Truth is, Tolkien loved the English countryside and there is a distinctly environmentalist spin in The Lord of the Rings. Since, I hadn’t dealt with this aspect of Tolkien yet, this might be the post to do so.

The talking trees, the tranquility and peacefulness of the shire. The lack of technology and the idealization of country life all point to his love of the past and of pre-World War Britain. I mentioned in a previous post Tolkien’s love of Beowulf and Saxon England, his love of pre-industrial England was obvious. And, one has to like how he has nature fight back, literally, the trees rise up and fight. In some ways, he was way ahead of his time.

Sometimes, looking back is a way of looking forward. Language and linguistics were his passion, and what he was a professor of, although I read that he could be hard to understand and mumbled when he spoke.

I have read that he didn’t intend to write a novel, but started out trying to invent a language, and the novel was the back story for the language which grew in the telling and eventually became a series of novels.

I was introduced to The Hobbit a long time ago by the Rankin Bass cartoon, with its folk-ish singing and cartoony looking hobbits. I think it actually made me cry when the dwarf king died. I guess part of me wished that he had another chance to redeem himself. Tolkien believed in an afterlife, even in Middle Earth, so it is possible that he found redemption there, but as a kid death seems so permanent.

The Hobbit was aimed at children, and is easy to read but the story is still interesting to read as an adult. Lord of the Rings is harder to read in that it is more descriptive and appears to be aimed squarely at adults. Before Lord of the Rings, most fantasy was what was termed Fairy Stories and were intended for children only. Fantasy was not aimed at adults for the most part. There were some unclassifiable stories like Gormenghast, called a Gothic Novel, because Fantasy was not an active label yet.

George McDonald was another early fantasist. Not sure if he was marketed toward children only, but an adult can get enjoyment out of it. C.S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles were also aimed at children primarily, of course.

This is what made Lord of the Rings so special, it was fantasy for adults, it made it okay for adults to read this. And, if we look back to the original Grimm’s Faerie Tales, children’s tales could be quite violent and gory. The fate of Cinderella’s step sisters and mom for instance, toes chopped off to fit into shoes and the step mom dragged behind a carriage until dead. Harsh. We think what children are exposed to today is harsh, but historically, children have always been exposed to some darkness even in the stories supposedly tailored for them.

The Lord of the Rings was originally one big novel, it was broken into three because the publisher thought it would be easier to market and less of a risk to do it this way. Tolkien did not write it as a trilogy. Also, it was subjected to illegal publishing in America via Ace. Somehow, the rights were not secured over here in the U.S., so an unauthorized version was being printed.

The Ace edition was in print for years, so that Tolkien actually put a disclaimer in the official copies asking his readers to only purchase the official copies since of course, he got no remuneration from the illegal copies. Eventually, Ace had to stop printing it as the rights got sorted out, but one wonders if having it out and about helped create the later popularity of it, as at first it was more of a cult following for college kids and was far from main stream reading.

‘Frodo Lives’ was sighted here and there showing that it was growing by word of mouth.The future writers of Dungeons and Dragons would be heavily influenced by Tolkien and create a whole sub-culture of table top gaming and fantasy culture.

This is going to seem unrelated, but the blip in the rights type of situation made me think of it. And this offers an example where the gap in rights actually made a significant difference. The Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life also had a time without secured rights. This actually saved the film from obscurity and actually was what contributed to it being a classic.  Because Columbia forgot or neglected to nail the TV rights down, any channel could show it whenever they wanted without paying any royalties or fees.

This made it free game, and an easy way to fill a TV slot during the holidays. So, naturally, it became something that was put on TV on many channels every holiday, until it became tradition. So, eventually, Columbia wised up, and said, ‘We should be getting paid for this’ or something along those lines, and secured the rights, but now these channels had been airing it every year, and it was expected that they would continue to do so, but now Columbia got paid, and It’s a Wonderful Life became a classic even though in its day it was a flop and not regarded as anything special.

The Ace fiasco might have helped the popularity in the end because it allowed more people to access it because the Ace copies were cheaper, of course. Interesting idea but I suppose we cannot know if it helped or not, but obviously, a writer like any artist, deserves to get paid for their work, and I am not suggesting otherwise. It was a gaffe on the UK publisher’s part. Possibly they didn’t see the US as much of a market for this book, if that was the reasoning, they were very much mistaken.

In summary, we are still dealing with the legacy of Tolkien and Asimov, and I think both will be pillars in their genres for many years to come.

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

Isaac Asimov– A Birthday Post Part 1

Part 2 will deal with Tolkien and Fantasy. It is a bit humorous that Asimov read and enjoyed The Lord of the Rings, and Tolkien had read Asimov’s science fiction and liked it, apparently. They were both giants in their genre, and highly influential and still define their genres to many to this day.

Beyond this, they were very different. Asimov was a New Yorker, and an atheist. Tolkien an English gentleman and a devout catholic. Asimov wrote a lot of what we call Hard Science Fiction, which is a hard branch of sci-fi to successfully write.

For one thing, your readers, probably largely thanks to writers like Asimov, expect you to have knowledge of scientific processes. You have to do your homework and your research. There isn’t any excuses, or wand waving, or light saber battles here. Hard sci-fi can be very dry and cerebral to those that don’t read it often. It isn’t always done well. Asimov’s writing style was known to be dialogue heavy and bare of a lot of description, but he could always explain his science in layman’s terms.

He knew and worked with a lot of the greats in science-fiction. His editor was John Campbell, who has an award named after him, and he knew everyone. Heinlein, Ellison, Arhur C Clarke, Frederick Pohl.

I have a few books of his, the Foundation Trilogy, which might be more than three books, so perhaps trilogy is the wrong term, and Magic- The Final Fantasy Collection, which is a collection of his fantasy short stories he wrote. Asimov was quite prolific and wrote and published thousands of stories. He was the epitome of hard sci-fi for a long time. I enjoy Heinlein as well, because he deals with situations that kind of make you think. His characters were more developed in a way, but Asimov’s science was stronger.

Hard Sci-fi typically doesn’t make it into the mainstream media, the much softer “Space Opera” like Battlestar Galactica or Star Wars tends to dominate because the science is downplayed or not there at all, and more is focused on the characters. The only one I can think of that is actually called hard sci-fi is The Expanse based on a S.A. Corey series. I am excited for this show because of this, it is a thinking person’s science fiction.

I would argue West World could fit here as well, and possibly Orphan Black, because the science is at least mentioned which is more than some shows. I would say Orphan Black has the best of both worlds with unique  characters and a science background, but it is to be seen if the writers can continue to do the dance between the science and the plot. Asimov’s writing is still influencing Science-Fiction, and I actually enjoy reading heavy dialogue, it is kind of how I write as well so it gives me hope to know that a writer can be successful with that type of writing style.

His “Law of Robotics” also has affected a lot of the culture’s view on robots and machines and on their ability or inability to hurt people. Like in the Dick article I wrote, A.I, Blade Runner, many of these deal with robots who aren’t supposed to be able to hurt people going rogue. Asimov cemented the idea of making a robot incapable of harming a human. He is credited with coining the term robotics itself, and also wrote many science articles that were non-fiction to educate people on science.

Ultimately, a very interesting individual and writer that I would love to read more of. Feel free to add any comments on specific works and if he was an influence on your writing or anything I may have missed. This is the brief version, he was very prolific, this is just a basic overview of his life and work. I am aware I haven’t even scratched the surface.