Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Adventure of Your Choice

One of my favorite series growing up was the Choose Your Own Adventure books.  Stories I could read over and over, taking different routes and reaching different endings each time.  I mentioned them before in relation to Wil Wheaton reading them live online.

For some reason, I recently got the idea to try and write a story in a similar style.  Obviously, some adaption had to be made for the digital method of choosing story options instead of simply turning pages.  I hope you enjoy it.

You are the First Officer of an exploratory space vessel. You stand and look over the bridge and see the other five officers working at their stations. The Captain sits in his raised chair next to your position. The bridge is relatively quiet as the large display screen shows a map of nearby solar systems and the status of various ship systems. All power levels, environmental systems, and faster-than-light engines are all showing green and functioning properly.

The peace is broken by the communications officer speaking up. “Sir, we have an incoming communication. It appears to be a distress signal from a colony ship en-route to Tau Ceti. A malfunction took out their FTL drive and some of their environmental systems.”

Captain Hogarth issues commands in a clipped tone. “Navigation, plot the colony ship's location and put it up on the main screen. Communications, reply that we are on our way and get their registry and the number of people aboard. Also, relay the signal to any other ships in the neighborhood. We don't enough space to transport an entire colony's population.”

You look down at the Captain as the two officers acknowledge and execute their orders. “Should I alert the Medical Bay that we will have injured incoming?”

“Let's wait and see how many people are hurt and whether their own medical facilities are functional first. No need to get the doctors and nurses all hot and bothered for nothing. We should notify the Marines that they will need to gear up to board in unknown conditions.”

You nod at him and glance at the navigational display as the colony ship appears on it. Even with the FTL drive at full power, it will take just over two hours to reach the same region as the stranded ship, then another hour running on the sublight engines to get close enough to dock.

If you use the ship's interior communications system to contact the Marine squad, click HERE.

If you take the lift down to the crew quarters and notify the Marine Lieutenant directly, click HERE.

This post was challenging on two fronts.  It was fun writing a story that takes many paths because I didn't need to decide which direction a story should take, I could let it take all the directions that came to mind.  The other challenge was creating the different pages for the different choices and linking them all properly.  In all honesty, I may do this again if people like the format.

Are there any other directions you would like to see the story go?  Comment below what you think.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Universal Power

There have been so many cosmic powers given to different types of characters.  Different versions of Captain Marvel have had stellar abilities.  Spider-Man briefly became Captain Universe.  The residents of Oa, founders of the Green Lantern Corps, have abilities that are practically god-like.  Many gods themselves have had heroic tales told about them.  The majority of these powers could be considered to be at the "galactic" level of cosmic powers.  What if a an average person were suddenly given "universal" level powers?

I know everything.  The bindings between electrons of different atoms are a breeze to calculate.  The secrets of gravity are but a plaything to me now.  I can also see everything.  I can tell what Heisenberg postulated was impossible.  I can watch as as galaxies collide and planets collide into rubble.  I can see life forming in the deepest recesses and intelligence developing in the light.  I can see how time flows and know how truly easy it is to move back and forth in the stream.  Normally, a person might be surprised to suddenly having the knowledge of everything that is and ever was.  I was comforted by one more thing I knew.  In addition to waking up knowing everything there is to know in all of existence, I also know why I've been given this knowledge.  I have been tasked with saving the universe.

Every few eons, as measured by our traditional meager human methods of tracking time, two great powers rise in the universe.  One is bent on manipulating every fiber of every type of energy for its own benefit.  If someone or something will not comply, it is destroyed without any further thought.  The other power prefers to let all life and existence continue on without any influence at all.  When the two powers rise, they come together and have a contest to determine which one shall maintain control of all existence for the next few eons.

Since the powers cannot influence the universe with their combat, the powers each select a handful of lifeforms and imbue them with the knowledge and abilities required to combat those selected by the other side.  Knowledge nearly as expansive as the powers themselves posses.  Awareness beyond that which any human scientist could ever even dream of.  Enhanced strength and the ability to survive in the vacuum of space.  Imagine The Incredible Hulk, Superman, Mister Terrific, and Sherlock Holmes all rolled into one powerful superhero.  Then multiply that by about a quadrillion and you might get close to a small inkling of what I've been given.

With the entire universe being at stake, a simple game of darts or one-on-one isn't going to be sufficient.  Instead something akin to an intergalactic obstacle course is established.  Tasks are assigned that require a combination of the newly gifted abilities and some of the organic intuition and creativity that is required in the short life of a mortal being.  Imagine a puzzle style video game where one level is altering atoms to create an element with specific magnetic and conductive properties and the next is is positioning planets and moons in a solar system in order to achieve balanced orbits around the central star.  Unfortunately, getting a Game Over means more than just having to load the last save point.

Even with all my new knowledge, I have no clue how long this competition is going to take.  I also don't know which team I'm on.  Should I help or hinder any fellow competitors I come across?  How can I tell if we are on the same or opposing sides?  Given what I know of the powers that are in competition, is this even a contest I want to win?

If you had the power to do anything, absolutely anything, how would you use it?  Would you achieve some personal goal or do something for the betterment of humanity?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Reason Behind the Hunt

So many heroes are motivated by tragedy.  The main character of my current works in progress is no exception.  He decided to hunt Demons after watching his mother die.  While I work through and touch up my first draft, here is what you might call my hero's origin story.

I still haven't settled on a name for him yet.  In the meantime, I use "SonHunter" as a placeholder.

SonHunter had taken his pregnant wife and first two daughters to a local festival to boost the town's morale in the face of the Demon threat. A celebration to remind everyone of the days before Demons brought humanity down through fear and random destruction. His mother had been feeling ill and decided to stay home. He was never sure if she was truly ill or that was part of the Demon's plan to get her alone.

SonHunter was walking with his wife and children when the screaming started. He hurried his wife and children along so he could get them safely into the house before investigating the source of the suffering sounds. It was only when he saw the flames licking at the sky behind the house his family shared with his parents that he became truly afraid. He began running, ignoring the words of his pregnant wife and cries of his frightened young daughters.

SonHunter reached the field behind the house to see his mother's body completely engulfed in flames. Her clothes nothing but ash floating in the air as the Omega Demon stood nearby, laughing as the last breath of life left the woman. SonHunter reached into his pocket and grasped the crystal he kept there in case of emergencies without breaking his running stride. A primal roar of rage came out of him as he charged at the Demon. “You foul beast from Hell! What have you done?”

The Demon turned at his words and raised one hand. It seemed to grin as it snapped its fingers. SonHunter suddenly found himself frozen in place, mid-stride in his run at revenge. The Demon licked its lips in anticipation of more fun as it looked SonHunter up and down. Its attention wandered only when the sound of the cries of SonHunter's daughters came around the corner of the house, closely followed by the two girls with tears streaming down their faces clinging to their mother's hands.

The Demon turned to look at the new arrivals. SonHunter had never heard of any Demons speaking out loud until that moment. “Ah, even sweeter little things to play with.”

The fury in SonHunter began to build and rise. His vision tunneled in on the Demon, blanking out the rest of the world. He tried to force his limbs to move. Pressing against the Demon's imposed paralysis with every ounce of will he had. He had lost his mother. He refused to lose his wife and children as well. Not today, not now, not ever.

With another roar that seemed to shock the Earth itself with its ferocity, SonHunter shattered the spell the Demon had him under. He charged once again at the figure of evil and torture. The Demon's face was locked into a look of shock right up to the moment SonHunter thrust the crystal at its chest. The shock momentarily became pain before disappearing completely in the flash of light that signified a Demon's capture.

SonHunter's wife stood frozen in place, as though the Demon's spell had hit her when he broke free of it. The girls, his own daughters, cowered in fear behind her legs. Peering around their mother at the previously enraged form of their father. Fresh tears now flowing down their faces.

SonHunter took a step towards them. They all stepped back as one. He turned and walked towards the flaming remains of the bonfire and his own mother. Tears flowed down his own face. Tears from the heat of the nearby flames. Tears from the sudden loss of his mother. Tears from the reactions of his wife and children. Tears of a lack of hope for future happiness. On his face, he could feel a pair of cool streaks in the heat still radiating from the deadly fire.

Do you think anything more can be added to help the story along?  Do you have a suggestion for my main character's name?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Journalist's Journal

The government is always releasing information and reports.  So many people review these pages, it's doubtful any part of the original writing is left when it reaches the public view.  What if there was an ongoing event that the public was clamoring to hear about?  Who would write about what was happening?  I couldn't help but wonder how someone would record their thoughts about what was going on outside of the reports they knew would be seen and edited by government officials.

I have decided to keep this journal because more of the story needs to be told than is in the public record. Recent events have filled headlines across the country for weeks. Rampant violence in city streets. The central neighborhoods of small towns razed to the ground. It seemed to happen all over the country at once. Within a matter of weeks, Governors from nearly every state were dispatching their National Guard troops and requesting help from the Military.

The Federal Government sent troops to aid the local agencies. The President, in an attempt to improve her public image, hired a number of civilian writers to embed with the troops in the streets. My entire responsibility was to write down what I saw so it could be reported from a civilian point of view instead of some government mouthpiece. The idea was to appear more transparent than many previous administrations. Since everything I write is filtered through the high muckety mucks before it is released to the public, their activities are as transparent as a brick wall.

One part of the official statements that I have an issue with is the comments that the incidents are being contained. How can you contain something without knowing what is causing it? I was filing a report in the communications tent when I overheard an officer on the radio. Some scientists at a lab had failed, again, to locate the exact cause of the change in people. I'm not a doctor so I didn't completely understand everything that was said, but I did manage to catch a few words. Neurons, degradation, and adrenaline all stuck in my head as important to the conversation. It took longer than normal for me to process and flag my report. I intentionally delayed things so I could hear more of the conversation than I should have. While I didn't understand everything, I was able to determine that nobody had any kind of control over the situation.

Yesterday was my first encounter with people influenced by whatever is happening. I know none of this will make it to the public, but I have to record it anyway. I was put with eight soldiers to patrol an abandoned neighborhood. All of them were armed with machine guns, I was equipped with only my pen and a notepad. An APC carted us and a few other soldiers into the town. Our assigned patrol was the closest to the camp that is our headquarters, so we were the first group to unload. Once the APC was a couple of blocks away, everyone's attitude relaxed considerably. We weren't on an official military patrol, we were a bunch of friends chatting and strolling down the street. Jokes were passed around and cigarettes were lit. Everyone with a gun had it hanging loose with the safeties on. Nobody was ready for any kind of action. That's why we were all struck so hard by the ambush.

I don't know if the pack had planned the attack or we happened to walk into them as we rounded a corner. Either way, two of the soldiers were severely injured before we fought back. I dropped to the ground and kept my eyes open to see as much as I could. It was my first time to see what we were really up against. My first chance to see what the reports I had been writing and filing were truly about. My first view of what all of this was about.

As the attackers came at us, my first impression was one of a group of sweaty bodybuilders. Muscles rippled over muscles. Pecs flexing and pressing through tank tops and t-shirts. Calve and thighs busting the seams of tiny shorts. Skin stretched almost to the breaking point. Meaty hands swinging at the helmeted heads of the soldiers. Inhuman roars came from the attackers' mouths as they charged at us. These beasts were the embodiment of everything dark in the human soul wrapped in a bulky flesh. This is what the government says it has control over. The soldier that had his arm ripped off by one of the attackers might disagree with that. Fortunately, we managed to kill all of the animals before any one of our group was killed. It was a long walk back to the rendezvous point with the APC. The soldiers were all quiet, except for the occasional groan from the man with the shattered thigh bone that was leaning on my shoulder as we moved through the streets. A pair of medics treated the most severely injured soldiers on the way back to headquarters. Once there, I was given a packet of data from the other patrols to integrate into my report. I put the raw information in with some of the impressions I got from the attack I saw with my own eyes. I knew that not all of what I had to say would make it to the public. However, I added a few things that probably wouldn't make it past the censors just in case.

Weeks went by and I wasn't sent out on any more patrols. I was able to speak with soldiers as they came back. Many of them were injured. From what they told me, they had been attacked like the group I had been with. It did seem like fewer and fewer soldiers were coming back injured. There was no way for me to be able to tell if it was because there were fewer attackers or the soldiers were just more aware. Either way, word around the camp was that we would be moving along before too long. I was having lunch with a particularly lovely female soldier when she mentioned the duration of her orders. Apparently, their mission here was to eliminate all of the “infected subjects” before moving on to the next town and do it again. Lather, rinse, kill, repeat. With me as the happy writer telling everyone what was happening in the best light possible.

Would you want to know the truth behind an ongoing tragedy or are you fine with knowing only what someone else wants you to know?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Waking the Dead

I recently saw a picture of a unique headstone.  The epitaph engraved in the stone got the gears in my mind whirring.  While I haven't done a zombie story before, I thought I might give one a try.  Sort of.

There was no way of knowing anything like this would happen.  Although, looking back, it should have been kind of obvious.  I had gone in for my annual employee-mandated physical.  The doctor declared me alive and fit enough to continue working.  All of my vital signs were good and the tests they ran on my blood all came back just fine.

The company paid for a catered lunch for everyone.  It was largely a bribe to make sure we all showed up for our physicals.  It was also a chance for the company to have a captive audience while someone read off all the announcements they wanted to make us aware of.  Of course, hardly anyone paid any attention.  We had already received these important announcements in emails, through notices in the break room, and in our weekly meetings with our supervisors.  Everyone just kept on eating and talking to each other while some poor soul droned on about safety initiatives and corporate goals achieved.  In more than 15 years with the company, I can gladly say I don't think I ever heard a single word that was said by the announcer at these lunches.

This year something new finally happened.  The corporate speaker said the doctor's office that had just finished with us had a request to make.  A young and attractive nurse walked up to the stage at the front of the conference room where the lunch had been served.  She said that a research lab had recently been approved to test a new flu vaccine on humans.  Since all of our basic health statistics was now on file, the doctor was offering $200 to anyone that wanted to be a test subject for this vaccine.  I figured I would go for it.  I just had to get a small needle in my arm and I would have plenty of money for beer at the bar without my wife complaining about me dipping into our grocery fund.  Why not, what could go wrong?

For the first few days, everything was fine.  I didn't feel any different.  Just my normal self with the normal aches and pains of a normal life.  Until the day I woke up in the morning with pain in my toes.  It almost felt like my toenails were trying to slice into my toes themselves.  At the same time, my toe bones were trying to press themselves out from the inside.  Fortunately, this lasted less than two minutes.  At first, I figured it was just a cramp or something.

Over the next couple of weeks, the pain spread from my toes and up through my body.  It was enough to wake me up each morning, but didn't last long enough to have any impact on my day.  My wife kept urging me to go see our doctor.  As long as I could keep working and hanging out at the bar after my shift, I wasn't going to bother.  What harm could a little bit of pain do anyway?

My wife finally got her way and I went to see a doctor when the pain reached the top of my legs.  For about three minutes I just laid in bed.  I probably could have moved my legs, but I didn't want to because of the sheer amount of pain coming from them.  Every muscle was irritated by the skin around it and the bones underneath it.  The bones were being squeezed and compressed by my muscles.  My skin seemed to be outraged by everything and wanted to let me know about it.

Even though I had called my family doctor, not the corporate one that did my physical, right away, his first appointment wasn't until three that afternoon.  Just like all the other days, the pain had faded shortly after I woke up.  There was nothing for my doctor to detect.  He still gave me a full examination to be sure.

A few days after that, I woke up with pain from my shoulders down. I carefully rolled over to look for support from my wife.  She wasn't there.  She had called the doctor before I would wake up.  He was coming into my room as I laid there, curled up in the fetal position.  Every part of my chest screamed in agony at me.  The doctor did as much of an examination as he could with me in a tight little ball.  He did manage to draw some blood despite my immobility.  After a few moments, like every other day, the pain faded and I was able to continue with my day.

The day after that was the most painful morning of my life, literally.  Every part of my body was screaming in pain.  My hair trapped between my head and the pillow was quivering in agony.  My earlobes burned with the sound of my very heartbeat.  My eyes burned as though I was staring at the sun, even with them closed.  I would have screamed but my lungs hurt too much to expel the air necessary.

My wife called an ambulance and our doctor.  She came into the bedroom in a worrying fit as I was about to pass out from the pain.  I barely managed to roll over and look at her.  As my mind started to retreat into darkness to escape the extreme agony, I managed a slight grin and whispered to her, "Wake me if anything interesting happens."

Unfortunately, the ambulance didn't arrive before my escape into the darkness became a complete retreat.  They declared me dead.  A funeral was held a couple of weeks later.  I can only guess it was a beautiful ceremony since I wasn't exactly in a position to see it myself.  Per our agreement before we were married, my wife had my final words to her engraved on my headstone.  It is probably one of the more unique phrases in that particular cemetery.  It is much more memorable than the typical "Beloved son and father." or "Loved by all."

I have no way of knowing how long I was in the coffin.  I just know that I was suddenly awake and aware.  None of the progressively expanding pain that had plagued me near the end of my life.  Just a sudden sense of being awake and in darkness.  A lot of darkness.

I felt above me and pushed against the lid of my coffin without realizing I was in one.  I sat up and looked around.  I should have been in a panic and freaking out about waking up in a coffin above the ground of a cemetery.  I was a little surprised at how calm I was feeling about it all.  I realized two things at about the same time.  First was that my body was oddly intact for someone that was in a coffin.  The second was that I couldn't tell if it was early morning or late afternoon since both horizons glowed as though the sun was just out of view.  Apparently something very interesting had just happened.

Zombies have been the mindless villains of so many stories, why not have one as a hero?  On a side note, is there a unique phrase or quote you want on your headstone?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Night Walkers

Finishing up NaNoWriMo and entering the holiday season ended up being more of a one-two punch than expected this year.  I managed to achieve the 50,000 word goal for November, but there is still a lot of story to tell.  With this in mind, I needed to clear a little space in my head after my daily walks brought me by a nearly abandoned church.  The crooked bell and weather-worn walls lit a spark in my head that grew as I considered what teh building may be used for and why.

The irony of the situation is not lost on me. Here I am. The son of a preacher, excommunicated from his father's religion for a multitude of sins, cowering in a church. I am huddled in a corner of the fellowship hall seeking a night of safety and sanctuary. All I want is a night of peaceful rest without fear. Without having to worry about what is going to kill me before the sun rises in the morning. Is that really too much to ask? These days, it seems so.

Nobody knows exactly when the beasts first appeared or where they came from. Some say they are a failed experiment from Area 51. Others say they have been here since humanity was young, just lurking in the shadows until the time was right. Still others say the beasts are the result of people consuming too many GMO foods and artificial flavorings. Regardless of where they came from, these damn vampires have gotten completely out of control.

None of the books or movies had it right. At least, not as far as this reality is concerned. These vampires didn't live in remote castles kidnapping beautiful women to add to their harem. They don't have secret societies that work with governments to rule the world. They most certainly don't sparkle in the sunlight. Forget about Holy ground. Cemeteries don't even slow these vampires down and churches are just as good for hiding in as any other building with doors and solid walls.

Sunlight is another thing they books and movies got wrong. These vampires don't burn to ash when walking around in the daylight. They will sunburn faster than a nerdy redhead on a Bahama beach, but it's not as lethal as the stories used to say. Crosses are completely useless and garlic only makes their breath smell bad. Honestly, since these suckers eat the flesh and meat of living people, the garlic might actually make their breath smell better. Finally, wooden stakes. Driving one through a vampire's heart is definitely lethal, but only because it would kill any complex living being. If you wanted to, you could use a metal stake, a plastic one, or even a long bone sharpened enough. The hard part was finding the heart. I nearly died five times before out they have their heart more to the right side and behind other organs in their chest, as opposed to human's anyway. Fortunately, stabbing them enough times in the chest is still lethal, if you can survive the fight long enough.

While the old information about vampires and their weaknesses may have been wrong, there is one thing that is correct. Their appetite. A single vampire will attack with its claws and teeth, going for the throat first. If successful, the beast will drink up as much of the blood as it can while its victim thrashes around. Once the blood stops flowing, the vampire will begin eating into the flesh and muscle. It is easy enough to fight off a single vampire's attack. Maybe even possible to survive two or three. It's the packs of five or six, or more, that are impossible to survive. That many teeth and claws all attacking at once make a person into a gory mess rather quickly.

The sun set a couple of hours ago. While the vampires can survive the daylight, their sensitivity tends to cause them to move at night. Entire packs will leave whatever cave or house they have sheltered in and roam around in the pale moonlight. Despite the number of walls between me and the outside and the lack of windows in this hall, I'm pretty sure I can hear a small pack moving around right now. It may only be a figment of my imagination, but it is enough for the hairs on my neck to stand on end as I tuck myself further into the corner.

So, here I sit. A man that had been kicked out of a church for drinking, doing drugs, frequenting brothels, and busted in a child pornography ring, hiding in a church from legendary monsters that don't fit the legends. A member of the species once considered the very top of the food chain trying to avoid being eaten by horrid, ravaging monsters by cowering in a peaceful house of worship. All I want is to wake up from a good night's sleep.

Did that sound like the front doors opening to anyone else?

Have you ever spent time in an abandoned building?  What kind of place was it and what did you do there?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Novel Demons

National Novel Writing Month is in full swing.  This year I am doing a story based on an idea that has been in my mind for a very long time.  I have even written a few blog posts about it.  This year's book takes place in a world where Demons have emerged and special individuals, Hunters, try and protect humanity.  A number of aspects have changed since I first came up with the idea.  Today's post is an excerpt from the work in progress.

Demon from Hell. You have come unbidden to this Earth. Your presence in this town and on this plane of existence is undesirable. I have come to banish you and end the pain you and your kind have brought forth.”

The Demon just laughs. The sound lacks anything close to mirth as far as SonHunter knows it. The sound of the Demon's joy echoing off the walls of the hall fills SonHunter with dread. The sense of evil in that simple noise is enough to bring most people to their knees. It is a something SonHunter had heard before, but still causes him the same emotional pain as it did the first time.

The ember on the end of the Demon's cigarette glows more brightly as it takes a drag. Then it speaks with a voice that sounds like rocks tumbling in a deep grave. “You silly humans and your rituals. Weekly gatherings where you read from some dusty old tome. Phrases are said and replied to. None of it does any good, really. Candles, robes, all that fancy d├ęcor. And all of it asking for favors from some deity that may or may not be listening.

“Is it really any wonder so many of you follow my kind when we make our offers? You will believe in anything, even if you know it's wrong to do so. Just give you a tempting enough offer from someone in front of you, and you will give up on generations of worship.”

The Omega Demon takes another drag off its cigarette and lift one hand straight out. It snaps its fingers and the shades drawn over the hall's windows all fly up. The room is filled with light. All of the seated shadows are now revealed to be the residents of the town. They all sit still as statues, their eyes tracking the Demon as it strolls back and forth across the stage.

SonHunter can now clearly see the Demon. Its skin is as red as blood. This particular Omega has the body of an athlete and is naked from head to toe and almost six feet tall, minus the horns. Every Omega Demon looks the same, except for the horns. This Demon's horns curve back from high on its forehead. The seem to lay across the beast's bald head. The black horns come to sharp points near the back of its head.

SonHunter grabs two crystals from his pocket. He selects, by touch, two of the larger ones to allow for a quicker capture of the Demon once he gets close enough. He grips the crystals tightly, one in each hand. “Demon, hear me and answer me true. What have you done to these people? Why have you trapped them in this place?”

“I have done nothing to them. They have done it to themselves. I just came to town and made each of them an offer. Those that accepted, now sit here. Those that didn't spread word of my legend to other towns and villages.”

As the Demon speaks, SonHunter gets a closer look at his cigarette. He realizes it isn't a bundle of tobacco wrapped in paper. It is a small, burning bone. He can't tell what part of the body it may be from, or if it is even a human bone. All that is clear is that the Demon is breathing in on one end of a bone as the other end smolders. The Demon takes another drag as he continues to smile and taunt SonHunter.

“These people are just sitting here, waiting for me to make up my mind. I haven't decided if I want to make them kill themselves or go out and kill others as my bloody army. Either way, they are only doing what they chose to do by accepting my deal.”

This is still a very raw first draft.  Leave a comment and let me know what you think.