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?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Ready to Rumble

There is the WWE, World Boxing Federation, the UFC, Lucha Underground, and many other leagues that feature combat for entertainment.  The combatants prepare themselves in different ways.  For today, I decided to enter the mind of one competitor before he enters the combat arena in a league that doesn't exist.....yet.

Here I sit. Getting myself prepared for what lies ahead. A battle. A fight for supremacy. A bout that will take every ounce of my power in order for me to be successful. I have been successful in similar situations before, but never with so much at stake. Victorious, and I will be the top of the heap. The best there is at what I do. Completely and officially. Until another comes along and tries to knock me down, that is.

I flex my fingers. I clench my fists. I can feel the energy coursing through my arms. It is aching to be released. I am aching to unleash it in a fury aimed at my opponent. I want him broken and beaten, begging for mercy on the floor. I want him looking up at me and knowing that I am his superior. I want to look him in the eyes and see his weakness and my strength reflected back at me. The problems lies in the fact he wants to see me the same way.

I have to fight smart. I must not let myself lose control. I don't know how my opponent may have prepared himself for my attacks. How he plans on defending himself from my onslaught. How he intends to on shattering my defenses and taking me down. Despite my urge to utterly destroy him quickly, I have to restrain myself. I have to prod and test his shields. I have to probe his defenses while keeping mine intact. As the power in every cell in my body rages at me to unleash it all in an animalistic attack, I must keep my mind focused and in control.

Mere seconds remain. I am alone in this locker room. The tools for my fight sit on the bench next to me. I gather them up as the music in the arena rises. The crowd adds their voices to the din. My blood begins to boil and my breath comes faster and harder. I start my walk to the arena and the combat pit in the middle of it. The brief time it takes to complete the few steps between the locker room door and the entryway into the arena feel like an entire mile walked in slow motion.

The music becomes louder and spikes a blast of notes. The spotlights of the arena focus on me as I emerge from the shadows. The entryway glows around me. The announcer's voice echoes over the cheers, applause, and stamping feet. Even the small amount of hisses and jeers sent my way are covered up by the volume of the PA system.


“Ladies and gentlemen! We have reached tonight's Main Event! It is for the ultimate title in the League. The most highly regarded title in the entire world. The challenger tonight Torgo the Black Blooded. The current champion is Christian of the Mighty Tower. Now, these two face each other for the title of Magus Suprema in the Wizarding Battle League!”

What kind of spells would you cast to protect yourself in a wizard battle?  Would you rather go on an all out attack and not worry about defense?  Would you want to see a battle live, or prefer to be safer and watch it on pay-per-view at home?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

All the Colors of the Rainbow

I have long been mindful of the limitations caused by various physical handicaps.  While I don't experience any such handicaps myself, I try to be aware of the things those with handicaps may not be able to experience.  Someone deaf can't be woken by the morning song of the birds.  The feeling of soft grass underfoot is missed by one bound to a wheelchair.

Even with the constant pushing of technological boundaries, there are still some limits.  One thing science hasn't allowed us to do yet is show colors to the blind.  How do you show someone that has never seen what red is?  What do you use as a reference when saying that yellow and blue make green?  That is what I'm going to attempt to do today.  Not everything I describe will look like the color I use it with.  I'm less concerned with how something looks than with how it feels.

Red
Red is the color of anger.  It the fire that roars inside when feeling rage. The pop and roar of a fire give red its sound.  It is the raw heat of flame.  It is the lifeblood that flows through our bodies.  Pricking your finger on a rose's thorn calls red forth.  Cinnamon is red on the tongue.

Orange
Orange is controlled strength.  Orange is the warmth of a body under a thick, soft blanket.  The feeling of a warm mug of tea in your hands.  Trumpets and trombones play orange's music. The acidity of orange juice as it flows down the throat, the sharpness of a grapefruit, the sensation of a warm slice of pie.  All of these are orange.

Yellow
Yellow is soft and smooth.  It is calm and quiet.  The touch of the sun on a spring day is yellow.  The softness of a baby chick.  The silky feel of a rose petal.  Songbirds in the morning sing yellow's song.  A kitchen filled with the smells of baking bread becomes yellow.  Yellow tastes like crisp lemonade and the buttery texture of a pastry fresh from the oven.

Green
The smell of a freshly cut lawn fills the world with green.  The emotion of living is green.  A bite from a crisp apple is green.  The vibrancy and renewal of Spring is all green.  Green is the sliminess of Jell-O squished between the fingers.  It is the pungency of fresh mint.  It is the burst of juice when a grape is crushed between the teeth.

Blue
Blue is where colors start to get cool.  Streams and creeks flowing from melting snow are blue.  Being sad is sometimes called feeling blue.  The clatter of ice in a glass of water ring with blue.  The coolness and relief from that water running down a parched throat.  The air after a cleansing rain is filled with the smell of blue.  The popping of blueberries and their essence in a muffin are the flavor of blue.

Purple
Purple is the color of royalty.  It flows with pride.  It is the caress of a thick pile carpet.  It is lounging on a very comfortable couch.  A clarinet and sax quartet would play the songs of purple.  The pop and fizz after a firework explodes are all purple.  Sipping a sweet wine causes purple to flow over your tongue.

There are many more colors, but I think this would be a good start.  Do you think I got any wrong?  How would you describe a color I didn't?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Whole New World

One of the important components of a good story is a good world.  In order for a story to take place, there has to be a place for the tale to occur.  One of the challenges of writing is finding the right balance between narrative and world building.  Bogging the reader down with too many details of the world without any action is just as bad as leaving the world empty and not allowing any context for why the characters behave the way they do.

Today, I'm going to play the role of a mythological god and build myself a world.  Someday I may populate it with characters that have adventures.  Or I may leave it empty and see what happens.

Emptiness.  A void that lacked even the black of darkness itself.  Such is the canvas for creation.  First, a sun so that there may be something to brighten the days of the world.  Also, so that there may be something ti differentiate the day from the night.  Opposite the sun are a field of stars.  Bright points of light to make the night less frightening and to guide long distance travelers.

Now, for the world itself.  A medium sized planet with a broad temperate zone.  Three landmasses separated by expansive oceans.  The continents meeting at each pole with ice covered terrain.  Mountains run the length of two of the continents with the third being covered completely in jungle.  Creatures roam the lands.  They crawl among the tree branches and scamper up the steepest cliffs.

The seas contain the clearest waters.  Waters that contain animals that vary in size and shape.  All of them eating each other in the struggle to survive.  Currents carry water from depths so dark, denizens there know no difference between the day and the night.  The waters are replenished by rivers that flow over each continent.

The space around the planet itself needs to be filled.  Three moons should do that nicely.  Two in a standard orbit at typical distances for such heavenly bodies.  The third tidally locked moves around the planet in a polar orbit.  This configuration should confuse any astronomers that may spend their time studying the heavens.  To inspire any future civilizations to further expansion, the system should contain more planets.  This one in particular shall be the closest to the central star, with five others spread out unevenly behind it.

The emptiness is now filled.  The void contains both darkness and light.  Everything is ready for the stories of the peoples that will fill the planet.

What kinds of people would you have populate the planet?  Would there be peace for the entire world, or would wars be ravaged for the spoils of each terrain?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Child's Gateway

I've done a blog post before based on an image.  Doing some browsing, I came across another image with a tale to be told.  Something about the look on the child's face tells me that he has no fear of what is before him because whatever is behind him is so much worse.

It was a typical day at school.  Pretty much the same as every other day I've had for years.  The same jerks calling me the same names.  The same giggles from the girls as they walked past me.  The only saving grace was the fact it was Friday.  I wouldn't have to tolerate any of this for the next two days.  There would only be may father to avoid.  Since this Friday was also his payday, he would be easy to avoid in his drunken stupor all weekend.

With my mind on caring for myself and other plans, I failed to notice anything different about the side alley I usually took on my walk home from school.  That is until I noticed a shuffling sound in front of me.  The sighing of cloth against cloth seemed to fill the alley.  Stone ground against stone under my feet.

A light popped on the ground.  It was like a campfire, but, instead of reds and oranges, it was pure white.  A large figure with horns, one broken, emerged from the darkness as the white flames grew in size and brightness.  Around the big, horny dude stood a growing number of what I could only think of as mummies.

I didn't move.  I stood completely still.  First due to fear, then from the shock of the unreality of what I was seeing.  Something in the back of my mind was telling me they couldn't see me if I stood completely still.  To this day, I don't know if this was true or not.

As I stood there, a voice spoke.  I didn't exactly hear it.  The words seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at once.  They entered my mind without bothering to go through my ears first.

"Welcome traveler.  Before you is a gateway.  A passage to other realms and realities."

As the voice spoke, the fire continued to grow.  However, the top of the flame never got any higher.  The ground below it began to sink lower and lower.

"Beyond is more than you can imagine.  There will be women that will adore you.  Riches worth more than anyone could spend in a lifetime.  Your plate will overflow with enough food to feed entire countries.  All that you desire is yours to claim."

"Will there be pain?"

The large guy with the horns almost seemed startled.  "I'm sorry.  What?"

"Will there be pain?  Will there be challenges to overcome before I receive any of the rewards you mentioned?  Will there be a risk to my immortal soul?"

"That is a question your kind has never asked before.  I cannot say I know the answer.  It is something you will have to step into the purifying fire to discover."

"I don't believe I will get all the wonderful things you described without some kind of price.  Some kind of toll paid."

I looked over my shoulder at what was behind me physically and metaphorically.  To escape it all.  The teasing.  The giggles.  The eyes smiling, not at me but at my expense.  The silence from those that were supposed to protect me.  The drunken beatings I have witnessed and been given.

I knew any price to be paid to get away from it all would be worth it.  Even without the rewards the horned figure promised, getting away from this place would be worth any price.

I stepped in to the flames and the world vanished.

If you were to give a name to the creatures in the picture, what would you call them?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wars

It seems like there has been war as long as there has been humanity.  Wars over the possession of land.  Wars to remove tyrants.  Wars to reclaim stolen fortunes or beautiful women.  Wars for food, or over religious tenants, or defending the rights of the people.  Whether or not is good for anything, war has been around forever.

With that in mind, it is understandable that two powerful figures would go to war between themselves at some point.  Today's story is about two powerful wizards that each create an army of their own and wage war against each other.

Flags flutter from the tops of tall poles.  Tents line each side of a field.  A field that was once covered in beautiful flowers.  Now it is full of craters and stains.  The grass is trampled and contains marks where bodies have been dragged away.  As the sun rises over the camps, a single figure stands before the largest tent on each side.

The figures begin chanting in an ancient language.  While their tones are similar, the words themselves are different.  They gesture and move their arms in similar yet varying fashions.  The chanted words begin to shape alter reality.  Air shimmers and shifts.  Wispy clouds overhead start building and becoming looming storms.  The ground itself moves underfoot as tremendous powers are flexed and released.

The ground in one camp rises more and more.  Small bumps become mounds.  The mounds form new, unnatural shapes.  Arms develop and muddy bases split into legs.  The humanoid piles of solid and grass begin to line up in ranks between their camp and the field.  Branches and twigs gather themselves into piles.  The piles become laid out in skeletal shapes.  Smaller pieces of wood form hands and fingers.  They grip wooden bows that form themselves in the palms of the developing archers.

The magic being wielded on the other side has a different effect.  Instead of rising up, here the ground splits open.  Skeletal hands of true bone reach out of the chasms and grasp the ground above.  With a grip as strong as Death itself, the multitude of hands grab the dirt and pull.  Arms of bone begin to emerge from the holes.  The arms are followed by torsos and heads as skeletal warriors of every type and size emerge ready to do battle.  Some have swords strapped to their thin waists.  Others have bows slung over their bare shoulder blades.  A few are dragging studded clubs on the ground as they lurch towards battle.

Silence echoes across the land as the wizards each complete their summoning spells.  Two unnatural armies face each other.  The minions of each side advance towards the field.  The commanding wizards stand and watch.  Looks of concentration on their respective faces.  Eyes darting from inhuman soldier to soldier.  Slow advances become rushing charges as each army fills the field of battle.

Suddenly, the one sound that could bring the entire conflict to a halt booms across the entire realm.

"Sam, honey.  It's time for dinner.  Come inside and clean up."

A child stands up, multiple figurines and toys at their feet.  "But Mom, I just started having fun."

"Dinner time is now.  You need to clean up and wash your hands.  If there is some light left, you can play more after you eat."

Did you ever play any war games as a child?  If so, what were some of your favorites?