Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Off The Wall

Nursery rhymes have been around as long as parents have been putting children to bed.  The stories of Mother Goose and the Brothers Grimm to send the little ones off to dreamland.  For the most part, unchanged for generations upon generations.

When I put my sons to bed, I tell them these classic tales.  With a little twist of my own.  The other night I did this very thing with Humpty Dumpty.  This time, he was pushed.  Sort of.

Once upon a time there was a kind and intelligent accountant.  He had a round face and figure.  Some would call his shape a dumpty one.  With his pale complexion, many people thought of him as closely resembling an egg.  This didn't prevent many of them from trying to get him to crack under the pressure of keeping their complicated accounts and transactions straight.

What none of his clients or friends realized, was a secret he kept tucked away in his inner core.  He guarded it like a mother hen guards her young.  He only practiced his dream hobby in the darkness of his basement.  Nobody else could see him.  Nobody else could hear him.  This is how he practiced his dream.  This is where he would rap.  His used his hip-gyrating moves and beat to give himself a nickname, Humpty.

His outer existence as a quiet accountant and his hidden life as a rapper remained utterly separate.  Until he had a few too many free samples as a citywide Oktoberfest beer party.  With such small amounts from each brewer served in the tiny cup, he didn't realize how much he had consumed until he was standing unsteadily on the wall next to the main stage.  A microphone in his hand and every eye of the festival on him.  With all the liquid courage in him, Humpty Dumpty decided to make his private hobby public.

Humpty laid down his best rhymes.  He whipped out his best moves.  He let the beats flow like water over Niagara Falls. Everyone at the party watched him in stunned silence.  Finally, as Humpty was catching his breath for a moment, someone else climbed onto the wall.  It took Humpty a minute to recognize the face of the infamously famous King of Hip-Hop.  At the base of the wall we his entourage.  His friends were affectionately called The King's Men, while his bodyguards were called The King's Horses.  Humpty now faced the most elite crew in the country.  It was at that moment The King challenged Humpty to a rap battle.

Words flew back and forth.  Each contestant stepped closer to the other as their rhymes collided over the heads of everyone in the crowd.  Subtle comments and outrageous insults slashed into the ego of each one of them.  The audience cheered when one side or the other dropped a line that cut particularly deep.  They booed and hissed when a verbal attack was so weak it was shrugged off with a grimace.

The competitors finally met in the middle of the wall face-to-face.  Humpty threw some words that hit The King directly.  The King struck back so fiercely that Humpty was physically knocked back.  The King kept flinging phrases that forced Humpty to step further and further back.  The King unleashed one final rhyme that literally knocked Humpty off of his feet.  Humpty fell from the wall.

He landed in a heap on the ground.  His arms bent in an unnatural angle.  His legs bent in ways no human should be capable of bending any of their appendages.  The King's Horses and Men rushed to offer some First Aid.  Unfortunately, none of them knew anything about anatomy or treating wounds.  They were unable to help Humpty with any of his broken bones.  All of them tried, but none of them was able to assist.  Finally, an EMT crew arrived and loaded Humpty Dumpty on a stretcher.

After months of healing and time spent rehabilitating, Humpty went back to work at his accounting firm.  His rap equipment left collecting dust in the basement.  He now spent too much time handling the accounts and transactions for the one and only King of Hip-Hop.  He let the numbers flow and the balances rhyme on the sheets.  He was finally happy with the combination of his public face and formerly private hobby.

I have always wondered one thing about the Humpty Dumpty nursery tale.  Who ever said Humpty was an egg in the first place?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Demons Rising

For an eternity, I've been meaning to write the story about a world in which Demons are hunted and contained.  Ideas for this story crop up at random moments.  During work.  While eating dinner.  Laying down for a quiet evening.  Driving down the highway.  Rarely at a time I have the tools at hand to put words on the page.  Now I think it's time to try to advance the tale a little further.

It's been a decade since the first hole to Hell opened in the farmer's field.  Other portals have appeared in other locations.  All of them on the ground, but not all of them in areas as open as the first.  School children celebrated as their school fell into a chasm, then ran in fear as beasts began to emerge.  City traffic, an entire freeway, had to be diverted when a support for an overpass fell below the surface of the Earth.

In all, 182 gaping portals opened between the Earth and whatever world the Demons came from.  13 gigantic chasms in various locations around the world with 13 smaller holes around each one.  From constant monitoring it was revealed that size did matter.  Smaller demonic imps and figures crawled from the smaller holes, while titanic, horrific, monstrous beasts erupted from the larger holes.

Over the decade that passed, many technologies were lost.  The Demons tore down cell towers in their rampages.  Power plants were irreparably damaged.  Corporate headquarters fell to the ground as the office buildings that housed them were toppled by demonic claws and extreme strength.  Humanity was pushed back nearly to the Iron Age of civilization.

However, at the same time a new "technology" was developed.  It was discovered by accident that the Demons were susceptible to certain minerals placed in a specific lattice structure.  Crystals.  The Demons could be fought and trapped in crystals.  In this aspect, size didn't matter.  A demon of any size could be captured in a crystal small enough to fit in the palm of a person's hand.  All that was required was someone brave and strong enough to get close enough to a Demon to touch them with the crystal.  This was easily accomplished where the smaller imps were concerned.  Trapping one of the larger Demons was much more difficult.  This is how the Hunters came to be.

What do you think a side effect of approaching the Demons could be?  Should the Hunters have extra abilities or just be gutsier than an average person?  Comment and let me know.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Dark Beginning

A story that has been stuck in my head for a long time takes place in a world that is battling and capturing demons.  Demons that cause chaos and confusion by possessing people and influencing them for their own foul intentions.  I have posted about this story idea before, although I haven't really worked out much of the tale itself.

Here, today, I have worked on something that could possibly be the emergence of the world in which the story takes place.

The legend had been passed on for generations. Fathers had told it to their children at bed time. Bards had entertained taverns full of drunks with songs based on the tale. Scribes had copied endless books whose pages were filled with the words of the legend. Everyone knew the story of the legend, even if they didn't always agree on the details. The legend continued to live on far longer than anyone that had taken place in the event that inspired it. Still, the story continued to be told and passed from generation to generation.

Like many great stories, big and small, this legend began in a tavern after a few drinks. A group of companions from a distant land had stopped for a hot meal and good night's rest. How many in the group and where they came from varied from telling to telling. They were just finishing their dinner and contemplating climbing the stairs to their rooms when a local farmer burst through the door. His hair was singed and his clothing had oddly shaped burn marks on it. He was coated in sweat despite the cool night air. He uttered one single word before collapsing on the floor. This word remained the same, regardless of who was speaking the legend.


The waitress, who was also the farmer's wife, dropped her tray of tankards and hurried to his limp form on the floor. With patience and a calm that was exceptional at the time, she checked him for injuries and began belting out demands. She ordered a handful of regular customers to their home to check on her children. Two others she sent to the village apothecary for specific herbs to treat her husband's burns.

This wasn't the season for travelers so there were a number of empty rooms in the inn above the tavern. With a look at the building's owner standing behind the bar, the waitress nods upward. Her eyes pleading as her lips contain the fearful screams and mournful groans she wants to release. He gives a nod of acknowledgment. She grabs the hand of the largest man in the tavern and asks him to help her move the unconscious form of her beloved husband. The two of them carefully transport the farmer upstairs to an empty room and lay him down on the bed. There, the wife continues her treatments as the medicines she requested arrive.

The men sent to the farm return to the tavern s the wife finishes her ministrations and collapses in a nearby chair. She waits patiently and watches for any changes in his condition as the rest of the story unfolds in the large room beneath her. The different versions of the legend vary in regards to the exact words used to describe what the group found at the farm. However, they all agree on the general conditions at the farm.

The farmer's plow lay on its side, charred and broken. All that remained of the plow horse was the back half of a smoking skeleton and the foul smell of burned flesh in the air. The front half of the animal had vanished down a deep chasm that dropped far below the turned soil. The pit had opened in front of the farmer as he prepared his land for the planting of his crops.

The walls of the pit glowed with shifting and moving reds and oranges. As though they were made of living flames. The bottom of the pit couldn't be seen. Just more menacing light the further down one looked. One of the villagers tossed a rock into the pit in order to listen for it to hit bottom and gauge its depth. There was no answering crack of stone on stone. Instead, a bestial roar echoed up and caused the villagers to all leap back from the edge of the pit. All of this was relayed by the breathless folks that had been tasked with investigating the farm. Their words mingling as the tale moved from mouth to mouth.
Days passed. The farmer remained in a deep slumber despite his wife's nursing. He neither improved nor weakened. His burns were slow to heal, but showed no signs of infection. The hole in the field was being watched over constantly. There were only two changes in the field. A cloud of smoke began to emerge from the depths of the pit. Over time the smoke thickened and darkened. What, at first, was faint white wisps evolved into a thick column of black so dark it seemed to suck in all the light around. The smoke could be seen at night. Its darkness being so much deeper than a moonless sky.

The other change was a matter of sound. The initial roar that sounded after the rock was tossed in started a reaction. Numerous guttural growls and grumbling roars followed. As the days wore on, the number of voices and volume of each increased. Mixed in with the beastly sounds were occasional words and phrases. Nobody, not even the village scholar, was able to interpret the language being spoken.

At midnight of the 6th day, something finally happened. A hand the size of a cart wheel with sharp ebony claws and rippling skin slammed down on the rim of the pit. A second clawed hand quickly appeared next to it. A roar louder than any heard before accompanied the emergence from the smoke of a head that could only be described as demonic. As the rest of the beast's body rose from the cavernous pit, numerous impish figures quickly scampered to the surface around the large figure. The imps chittered to each other as the demon rose to a height more than the largest house in the village. The beast stretched and took in its surroundings.

According to the legends, the injured farmer's eyes opened the same instant the hand slammed against the ground. His wife had been checking his bandages when she saw his eyelids flutter open. She would always insist that the eyes of the man she had fallen in love with were different in that moment. They seemed to glow with a light that defied the darkness outside. A pure light, of the clearest white. A clarity that she never knew could exist.

He sat up, the light from his eyes giving his face a faint glow. Once more, all the tellings of the legend agree on what words he spoke. “The war has begun.”

Where things go from here and how I introduce the rest of the inhabitants of this world will wait until another time.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Just Go Away

Reality has been particularly insistent lately.  My time to write and work out ideas has been at a minimum.  Reddit has been a periodic escape and source for stories.  This is one writing prompt that caught my eye and sparked a creative fire.

I had been given many pieces of advice. Different methods and techniques for taking care of my problem. No two of them the same, but many of them similar. Simple words for an issue that was anything but simple. Not a single one of them actually worth my time to try them. Partially because none of those offering advice had truly had the experiences I had. None of them had been experiencing my difficulties for as long as I had, despite each of them pretending to be “experts.”
It all started when I was quite young. My parents both came from money. They were constantly going to charity events, visiting other towns and countries for holiday. I saw my nannies and tutors more than my parents. It was only during my late teen years that I learned the term “trophy child” and how well it applied to me. I had everything a kid could want, except other kids to play with. I had every expensive toy and all of the latest electronic equipment. It was all mine. I didn't have anyone to share any of it with, even if I wanted to.
Then one day Edward appeared. Not Eddie or Ed. It was always to be Edward. He would help me decide what to play with in the mornings after breakfast and early lessons. The two of us would high-five when achieving an accomplishment in one of my video games. We ohhed and ahhhed when we found my father's hidden stash of naked women magazines. Edward helped me fill the silence of the large, empty house when my parents were away and I had outgrown the need for nannies. He knew all my secrets and I had all of his stored away. We were inseparable. He was my best friend and the only person that would listen to me.
He was the only kid I knew from the day he appeared until I was in my late teens. I was at home working on a project with my science tutor when the call came in. My parents were returning from a ski trip in Aspen. A freak weather front knocked their plane out of the sky. I was now a very rich orphan.
Edward was standing behind my chair, supporting me during their funeral. He helped me fill the silence of the He sat patiently in the waiting room while I attended a seemingly endless string of appointments with counselors trying to help me. He comforted me as I hurled endlessly in the toilet after getting into my parents' liquor cabinet. Edward and I discussed it first and we both realized they couldn't punish me for breaking their rules any more.
The two of us kept each other going until I had to start interacting with other people in the outside world. I was nearly 25 before I decided to seek out more people. My tutors had all completed their contracts. The nannies were long gone. Without my parents, there was only Edward and me. Two people were not enough to make a life.
I hit a few nightclubs. I went to a number of youth centers. Indoor rock climbing, miniature golfing, movie release parties. Over time, I started to form a core group of friends. Some of them had known each other their entire lives, but this was all new to me. Edward had started to tell me that this was a mistake. With more than one person, he was correct. For the most part, socializing had improved my life.
There was only one thing I had to do. It was finally time. I had to remove Edward from my life. With friends now, they were doing all of the things that Edward used to do with me. He no longer had a role. It was now the time to take everyone's advice, even if I had to choose my own method to do it.
I stood up and looked Edward right in the eyes. In my strongest voice I said these simple words to him, “You don't exist. Go away.”
With that, Edward was a memory. Just a past figment of my imagination.

Who was your childhood imaginary friend?  Did they just fade out one day or were you forced to banish them?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Michelle's Time Alone

In my first book, Dangerous Stars, I introduced a secondary character named Michelle Henrix.  She was a survivor from an attacked research vessel.  During her time on the KRENNET, she aided the ship's engineer with tasks around the ship.  She vanished searching for the station where the KRENNET had been built.

In an epilogue for the sequel, Striking Among the Stars, she appears again.  This time as the captain and only crewmember of her own ship.  I've never thought much about what may have happened to her between leaving the KRENNET and boarding the BELLADONNA.  Until today that is.

Two weeks.  That's how long Michelle had been living on this remote station.  Arriving at the construction facility, she was quickly hired as a lead technician.  Apparently, showing up with a fuel transfer coil from the premiere ship of the previous generation of ships went a long way when applying for a position.

Two weeks of working in either a cramped passage filled with pipes and cables or drifting through wide-open space in a tight spacesuit.  Two weeks socializing with other technicians and engineers during off shifts.  Two weeks becoming known to everyone on the project for her efforts on the job and friendliness off the job.  Her name began to appear frequently in the reports reviewed by the handful of unknown figures that operated the facility.  This is something they commented to each other in their encrypted, clandestine communications.

While Michelle was installing the secondary signal relay system between the central command system and engineering deck, her next assignment was being determined without her knowledge.  The members of the group unknown to each other, recognized only by codenames and familiar voices.

"Unlike many of the candidates we have looked at, we have first-hand knowledge of her work ethics and abilities."

"That we do.  However, she seems too perfect.  I question so much about someone so ideal literally appearing on our doorstep like she did."

"You always have been so cynical and suspicious.  We have investigated and vetted her background.  I will admit that her encounter with both projects Cloud Cover and Hidden Knife is very coincidental.  However, with all the strange coincidences this universe has presented us with, it's not impossible."

"You're both right.  Given the type of fleet we are attempting to build here, we need to be cautious in regards to the crew we put on our ships.  We also need to be aware of the fact that the growth in the number of those ships will increase the chances of someone seeking us out and finding us, even if by accident.  We only build at the one remote platform in order to minimize the chances of discovery.  On the other hand, we don't arm and defend it heavily so those that do find us can approach unthreatened.  It is all part of our ultimate goal."

"According to my notes, she is liked by nearly everyone she has worked with.  I still wonder why she has never been put in a leadership position.

"She has been offered a number of promotions that would put her in charge of many subordinates.  She accepted the first one but has refused all others.  Something about her character makes her unfit for a large command and she knows it."

"I guess it's a good thing this will not be a concern with the crew of this new ship.  Leadership abilities aren't required when there is nobody to lead."

"I will compromise.  Madam Michelle will be considered a top candidate for the pilot's seat.  Still, I will send some of my own personal agents to interview people from her past in order to further verify the authenticity of her background."

"Understood.  While we wait for the final word from your agents, we can move ahead with some of the testing required.  As Michelle is already with the installation of bridge equipment, it wouldn't be a leap of logic for her to test the pilot/AI interface system.  Much of the neurological compatibility and response time testing can be done at the same time."

"We will not eliminate any of the other candidates from future considerations until we are unanimous in our choice.  Regardless of who it is or what species they may be."

With that agreement, Michelle's future career was determined.  Either she would pilot the craft she was currently lending a hand in building, or she would be "eliminated from future considerations."

Back at the station, far from any of the individuals making important decisions, Michelle finishes her shift and rides the shuttle between the construction platform and the station housing the living and entertainment quarters.  She makes a comment about one of the construction managers that causes all of the shuttle passengers to laugh loudly or quietly chuckle.  Even the pilot, brother of the subject of her comment, smiles.

I may or may not give Michelle Henrix her own book.  Would it still be considered a spin-off if the originating series is only two books?  There is so much to think about when creating an entire universe and filling it with characters and events.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Fidgeting and Spinning

Fidget spinners are the latest fad to invade practically every aspect of everyday life.  They have even reached into the realm of Reddit writing prompts.  Of course, more can be done with fictional fidget spinners than just giving them a whirl.

I wrote a short tale for one particular prompt that caught my eye.  If you don't want to open a new browser window or follow the link, the tale is below.

I've had many subscription boxes over the years. Random comics, toys, movie props, all kinds of things. My favorite box each month, the subscription I've maintained the longest, is from Fantastic Spintastic. Two or three fidget spinners each month. Metal ones, plastic, even a wood one now and then. All of them in different colors and more shapes than I would have originally imagined. I have spun them all. A few flashy ones, most of them average, but none of them particularly special in any way.

One month the box felt heavier than normal. My first thought was, “Bonus. Extra spinners this month.”

I tore off the outer packaging and slowly opened the inner box. There was just one spinner inside. After taking a good look at it, I could see why. It laid on a form fitted felt cushion inside the hard metallic box The middle grip was solid black and shined like metal but felt like soft rubber. It had four arms that appeared to be made of smooth gray stone. The entire thing had the feel of a brand new granite counter-top. Strange characters ran the length of each arm. They looked a little bit like runes shown in the fantasy novels I read and DnD games I like to play. I lifted the spinner out and noticed a symbol engraved on each tip. A clock, a drop, a lightning bolt, and a skull.

As I walked up my driveway from my mailbox to my front door, I gave the new spinner some slow experimental turns. It was a lot smoother and lighter to turn than its appearance suggested. Reaching out for the doorknob, I gave it a good spin to test its speed and duration.

The arms became a blur and the runes started glowing. There seemed to be a breeze growing and coming from between my fingers. A single note, like an opera singer holding an extended note, started to rise from my fingers. A sensation of low voltage electricity flowing from my hand and up my arm made me both excited and a little scared. This new spinner was getting better by the second.

I stopped the spinner as I opened my front door. The drop symbol faced away from me as it flashed. The next thing I knew, I was being washed off my porch and onto my front lawn by a cold tidal wave of water. I looked around from my unexpected position on my back in muddy grass. Everything in my yard was soaked. What I could see of my living room through the open door looked to be dry as a bone.

Of all the thoughts that ran through my head as I got up off the wet grass, two stood out the most. Picking up the spinner, I wondered what the lightning bolt and clock symbols might cause to happen. The other thought was a strong desire to not find out what happened if I stopped the spinner on the skull.

Is there a current or old fad that was guilty pleasure?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

To trust or not to trust....

One thing that keeps life interesting is continually growing and learning.  Always stretching to new heights and reaching out to new horizons.  With that in mind, I have picked up a book to help me with my writing.  It is a simple book of story starters.  One or two lines to get the juices flowing.  Where things go from there is completely unpredictable, even to me.

I wanted to believe him. I really did. I had trusted him before, and it hadn't worked out that well. So now, when he assured me that everything would be “just fine,” I wasn't too sure. I knew we wouldn't be any worse off than the situation we were in right now. There would be consequences for what happened today. Somehow, “just fine” seemed to be too high an estimation. Unless I used a rather loose definition of “fine.”

The tunnel around us is lit by strings of lights with bulbs every few feet. The air is chilled and stale, but not stuffy. Breezes move through side passages and ventilation shafts drilled through the rock overhead when this was part of an active mine. These days nobody bothered to dig for riches in these tunnels. The only people that bothered to move this far under the surface are ones with alternative goals. Goals shared by the troublesome man in front of me, myself, and the four brutish fellows behind me.

The plan had been a simple one. A staged car accident with overly dramatic and loud “victims” would cause a distraction. The guards and any other witnesses would be distracted while each member of our group subtly switched one of the bags of money in the back of the truck with a fake bag. It would be impossible to tell the difference between the fake bags and the real ones until they were opened. By that time, we would each have walked our separate ways. If any one of us was seen or caught, nobody knew which ways the others were going or how anyone else was getting to the rendezvous in this old mine. If anyone was followed, or the authorities found us, there would be any of a number of side passages and exits we could use to escape. Far too many for the police to cover all of them.

Everything ran real smooth. The accident distracted the rookie guards. We each switched real bags for fakes and quietly walked away. Over the next 14 hours we each made our way to the mine. We were ready to split up the take. Then the earthquake hit.

We were all in an open section of the main shaft when the rumbling started. The supports around us held up without showing any signs of being stressed. The same could not be said of the timbers near the entrance that were exposed to weather and the elements. They collapsed in a choking cloud of dust and grit. As the earth stopped moving and the air cleared, we could all hear the side tunnels collapsing in the distance. We were now cut off from the outside with no way of knowing how to reach the fresh air and sunlight.

We argued and fought about whether or not to try to call someone from our cell phones for almost an hour. Then someone rather loudly pointed out that there was no service where we were. Calling out was not an option. Then everyone fell silent. The only sounds were our breathing, sand falling as the shifted earth settled, and the drips of water somewhere in the darkness. After some time, the echoing silence was broken by one man speaking.

“I've got this. Trust me. We'll be just fine.”

Have you trusted someone that proved untrustworthy before?  How did it turn out?