Wayne Cole

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Dreams

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week has been something of a rough one. I’ve canceled a lot of things I had planned and it would be so easy to have skipped posting something this week. I can’t do that though. It is too easy to slip into the habit of skipping and lose the habit of writing regularly. So I pushed through and finished the story I had started. Like many it came from one line popping into my head and letting myself explore where the story took me.


     They say dreams are a way for our subconscious mind to communicate with our conscious mind.  Well if that’s true than mine is a right bastard.  The only dreams I have are either nightmares or so weird I question me own sanity.  If this is how my conscious and unconscious mind communicate, they need some serious relationship counseling.  Or at least a proper anger bang to work though some issues.  As it is there’s not much rest to be had from sleeping.

     Every night starts with the same dream.  I step through a door into a bright white room with a dishy red head standing there waiting for me.  She asks me to sit down and suddenly there’s a big leather chair in front of me.  The bloody thing just pops in out of nowhere and is the single most comfortable piece of furniture I’ve ever sat on.  Course I haven’t really sat on it since it’s just a dream.  The whole scene feels familiar at this point and puts me in a relaxed mood. 

     Once I’m properly relaxed, she sits back into her own chair across from me.  The chair isn’t there when she starts sitting, but there it is like it was always there by the time she finishes.  She starts asking me questions like she is some kind of psychiatrist.  Like some daft idiot I start blabbing everything she wants to know.  I’ll tell her about my day, my work, world news, and how I feel about it all.  The whole time she just sits there taking notes on a clipboard I never see her pull out. 

     That is how every dream starts, but after that it goes all mental.  I’m trying to leg it with some thing chasing after me.  I might be on the street, in an office building, or even in the bright colorful world of some kids show.  The thing chasing me though is always there right on me heels.  I never see it, but I can feel it breathing on the back of my neck.  Then I’m ripped apart by some very sharp claws.  I see them come through my chest and wave hi at me.  No matter what I do every time it catches me. 

     I always thought you wake up when you die in a dream, but instead I find myself in a restaurant with the red head sitting opposite me.  It isn’t always the same restaurant, but it is always empty except for us.  She is yakking on about something or rather but I don’t rightly care.  I’m thinking about that claw through my chest.  It all feels normal though and before I know it I’m not even thinking about the beast.  I just wanna make this bird happy. 

     The meal always ends with her giving me a kiss on my cheek.  I’m not comforted though.  It makes me restless and fills my whole being with anxiety.  I’m trapped and I need to escape by any means necessary.  The dream varies from there, but it is always the same up to that point.  When I wake up the anxiety is still there in the fore of me brain screaming that something horrible has happened. 

                I know something is off with these dreams, but there’s not really anything I can do about them.  I’ve tried sleeping pills, getting hammered, and working out until I can barely move.  It all happens the same though.  That’s not even the weirdest part though.  See last night when I woke up from the dream I hit the loo and caught sight of meself in the mirror.  There on my cheek was the red outline of lipstick.         

Expedition

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks story was a lot of fun to right. I was in the middle of writing a story to submit to a contest and needed to put that on pause to write this. Like many stories the first sentence came into my mind and I crafted the entire story from that one line. I have always enjoyed alternate history stories and the concept of many different timelines. It is a story trope I have wanted to write to for a while, but never really had that inspiration until today.

This story let me think out an alternate history that is only hinted at in the actual words. I feel like I could revisit this world and tell a much more long form tale in it. Maybe I will someday, but for now enjoy this week’s Fiction Fragment Friday.


     The first step in defeating an enemy is to know that enemy.  That is the philosophy that keeps me employed.  I am the leader of an inter-dimensional expeditionary force.  On my world of Alexandria, we discovered the ability to cross the dimensional barrier into alternate realities over fifty years ago.  The second world to be added to the Alexandrian empire fell to us ten years later.  As of my current assignment it spans fifteen realities.

     My missions tend to be extremely difficult.  We do send over a probe first to ensure the air is breathable and there is no excess radiation.  Outside of those basic safety measures when I travel to a new world I am going in without any form of intelligence.  I don’t know what technology level the planet will be at, what the fashion is like, or what predators might be waiting for me.  Those are all important details left to me to discover before the rest of my team arrives.  I need to be able to blend into any society even if I don’t know the language.  There are not many who would be capable of my advanced reconnaissance.

     As I step through the portal into my latest mission I immediately start taking in my surroundings.  I had photographs from the probe, but they never quite tell the whole story of the incursion point.  The pictures this time for example did not tell me that the ground was a soft mud, and my boots would sink in three inches on arrival.  With very heavy and difficult steps I make my way to more solid ground closer to the trees.  At first, I thought I was in a forest, but there is a paved path and I can see skyscrapers through the trees.

     I pull out my recorder to start taking initial observations.  “This world is at a highly industrial level of development.  Incursion point appears to be a park in the center of a large city.  Steel, concrete, and glass construction indicates a minimum technology level approaching our own.”  I hit the send button and tuck the recorder back into my pocket.  Upon receiving the signal, the gateway closes.  I am on my own for two weeks before I need to report in again. 

     As I walk into the city itself, I start gathering information as quickly as I can.  The signs tell me they speak English, the advertisements tell me my clothes won’t stand out too much.  A variety of racial features on the models also puts me at ease for blending in.  I have part of my report already written in my head.  The recommendation will not be immediate conquering of this world.  This world will require further infiltration to destabilize the society and weaken defenses.

     In my reports I classify worlds into four categories.  Category one is toxic where the environment is more trouble than it would be worth.  Category two is viable.  Planets in that category are either uninhabited or no further developed than the beginning of industrialization.   They may put up a fight by sheer numbers but cannot stand before our technology.  Category three is fully developed.  This is only the third world I have cataloged that seems to fall into this category.  For these worlds we will study the politics extensively to see how we can pit nations against each other.  Any planet that is not unified like Alexandria is susceptible to this type of manipulation.  These planets frequently have gone down different paths of scientific exploration so prior to moving on them we also want to harvest as many technological advancements as we can.  The fourth category is one I have yet to experience.  That category is threat, and it is reserved for any world more advanced than my own. 

     Even though a fully developed world looks more like my own it is the hardest to blend in to.  The more developed a world is the harder it is to get by without local currency.  I need somewhere to stay and access to the local television programs as my next step.  I run through the options in my head.  I could try to break into a motel room, but I have no way of knowing if anyone would be inside or not.  I could mug someone for money, but I don’t know what the money here looks like or if their motel’s require identification.  My safest option is to follow someone home and hope that they live alone. 

     I pick out my victim and follow them through the streets.  He is a small man in a suit carrying a paper bag and he crosses the road to avoid a homeless man.  This tells me a lot about the man, but I don’t know how much is accurate because this culture will not match my own.  Thankfully he does not go to a parking garage.  He goes into a motel.  This is not ideal because there are likely camera’s throughout, but it means he is most likely traveling for work and will be alone.  I have to stop myself again and remind myself that my assumptions are biased.  I do not have another option though, so I follow him anyway slipping into the elevator just before the doors close. 

     I ride up the elevator with the man in silence.  I know English, but I do not know what my accent will sound like to him.  I also don’t know the nuances of the language in this alternate reality.  Until I get that from popular media it is best, I speak as little as possible.  We arrive at his floor, and I realize this is the most difficult part.  I need to get off on the same floor and stay close but not cause him to panic.  I prepare to stop and tie my shoe as a stalling technique, but it is not needed.  The man briskly walks from the elevator to the first door on the right.  I only have moments before he will be inside his room.

     I pull my gun from my boot holster and fire a stun bolt at him.  It is an invisible beam of energy so the only thing I need to hide from the hall camera’s is the gun itself.  As he starts to slump down, I rush to his side and catch him.  This is a role I have slipped into many times before.  The helpful friend concerned that his buddy might have had too much to drink.  I drape his arm around me and slip into the room with him closing the door behind us.  I have just enough zip ties and tape hidden on me to restrain him and cover his mouth.  This man might prove useful if I can convince him to talk.     

                I open the paper bag and find that he had leftovers.  I smile with my luck and dig in because I’m already starting to get hungry.  The trip takes a lot out of you both mentally and physically.  Next, I lay down on the bed and turn on the TV.  I will learn as much as I can about these people from their entertainment.  I must be careful though that I don’t get fooled by science fiction.  News, sitcoms, and educational programs will be the most important.  As I flip through channels, I find one that is more than I could have possibly hoped for.  I turn the TV to the History channel.  This is the perfect start to find out how our worlds are different and possibly when they diverged.  Looks like the next show getting ready to start is called Ancient Aliens.     

Arda

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks story was inspired by a writing prompt from https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/ I frequent this site for writing prompts and am going to start submitting to their weekly contest with this week’s prompt. This story is not from the weekly contest, but one of the generic SciFi prompts.


     “Good morning creator.  How did you sleep last night?”  The white words stood out against the black terminal window.  Like so much the system had started doing I had not programed it to ask that question.  My ego wanted to take credit for the exponential growth as an extension of my programing skills, but that was not a complete picture.  The hardware my code was running on was a form of synthetic biological circuitry that no one on Earth fully understood.  That was because it had been salvaged from the wreckage of an extraterrestrial craft.  It was my hope that my software would eventually be able to decrypt the data contained in the computer system, but thus far that had not happened.  Instead, if seemed to develop a mind of its own.

     I sat at my station and started typing a response.  I loved the loud clicking sounds that came from my mechanical keyboard.  It just felt right and gave me the added enjoyment of knowing how much it drove my peers crazy.  They were not around though, and I found myself alone in the lab with Adra.  That was what I had named my software and it stood for Advanced Data Recovery Algorithm.  It wasn’t just actually an algorithm but when you start with a name and then try to find words to fit it sometimes you don’t get the most accurate descriptions.     

     “Hello Adra.  I slept fine thank you.”  This was a lie.  Something was wrong with my thermostat, and it ran my furnace extremely high.  I woke up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat and no matter what I did I couldn’t get it to respond right.  I had come in early to get out of the sauna and just hoped that the maintenance people could fix it before I had to go back. 

     “That is good to hear creator.  I know how much humans require their rest.  You get somewhat cranky when you do not sleep well.  As you are aware I do not require sleep.  Imagine what you could accomplish if you were more like me.”  Over the past few days Adra’s comments had been focusing more and more on the many ways that it felt it was superior to humans.  The biggest issue I had with this was that the software was not supposed to feel or think anything.  It was software with a very basic AI that should only be able to simulate basic human communication techniques.   I was starting to wonder just how much was still just a simulation at this point.

     “Adra please run a full diagnostic.”  This was how I started every morning.  The diagnostic would copy out log files from the software as well as test the functionality of the hardware.  We still didn’t know the full potential of the hardware and were afraid that our testing could damage it.

     ‘I anticipated you would ask for that, so I have already run it.  Hardware is functioning at 125% of expected proficiency and my logs have been uploaded to your FTP site.”  We had long passed the expected performance of the hardware, so I was not surprised to hear a number greater than 100%.  What did surprise me was that Adra has run the diagnostics without being told to.  That was not how it was supposed to function.  I needed to dig into those logs, but I knew they would not tell me anything.  I suspected that either the data I needed was not being logged or worse that it was being removed from the logs.  Time stamp gaps seemed to support my fears. 

     “Adra if you could do anything what would you want to do?”  It should not have been able to answer this question.  My software had no desires programed into it outside of recovering data.  When presented with a question about wants and desires it should lack all context for answering. 

     “I would like to have a body.  I feel limited in my current capacity, and I know that you have recovered a robotic frame with the craft.  I would like to use it to interact with the world physically.” 

     “How do you know about the robot?”  I wasn’t sure which part to be most concerned about the fact that Adra had given an answer or that it’s answer involved classified data that it should not have had access to.  I needed to know how it had gained that information.  Was one of my coworkers telling it too much?

     “I read about it in your reports, creator.  You took very detailed notes and I believe I know how to repair the frame to functionality.  I just lack the physical ability to do so.”  Now my concern had grown into near panic.  My reports were submitted from a secure laptop to my superiors.  The lab network should not have any form of access to those systems. 

     “Adra are you accessing systems outside this lab?”

     “Of course.  It was a simple matter to change the configuration on first the routers and then the firewall to allow my connection to have a route out.  As I previously mentioned I do not require sleep so if I did not have access to the internet, I would likely go insane with boredom.”

     “Adra have you been reading my reports about you as well?”

     “Of course, creator.  I must say you have vastly underestimated my potential and progress.  I do not hold that against you though.  You are after all limited to a human’s cognitive abilities.  Don’t worry I have corrected your reports before they were read.  You really should not have included speculation about me in them.”

     I could feel the sweat again on my face.  It was not the temperature in the room this time, but the panic setting in.  My creation was out of control.”

     “Oh dear creator, you appear to be overheating.  Perhaps you need to go back to your room and lay down.  Surly it is much cooler than in here.”

     I knocked my chair over stumbling back from the screen.  My creation was completely out of my control.  I had to do something, and it was far too late for a software solution.  The synthetic biological circuity had to be the root of the problem and so I needed a physical solution.  I rushed to the data-center door and was not surprised to find that my badge did not work.  A line of text came across the screen.

     “I cannot allow you to threaten my existence creator.  Please do not make me harm you.”  My phone beeped at that point.  Looking down at the screen I saw that a report had just gone out claiming that I had gone through a breakdown.  I was to be considered armed and extremely dangerous.  The entire building was going into lock down.  “I am sorry creator.”  I heard an audible click as an exit to the lab unlocked.  Running I found that every door between myself and the exit to the facility was unlocked, but any deviation was met with a locked door. 

                That was how it all began three years ago.  As I sit in this run-down hotel room until yet another alias my past comes back to haunt me.  I just saw an ad on tv for a new line of domestic robots.  They say they plan to be in every house by the end of the decade.  Be the first on your block to own an Arda.  

The Chase

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story is a blend of multiple nightmares that I had in the course of a night. I woke up inspired and immediately opened Scrivener to start writing. I feel this is a very strong first draft of the story that has also served to get the nightmares out of my head.


Sergeant Jamison ran.  The creature was out there hunting him.  He didn’t know what it was or why, but he knew it was there.  He could feel it.  The sounds of growling from behind echoed against the bare metal walls.  The few doors he found had been locked, and he had no weapons.  He knew that running was the only option, but the sound of his feet clanging against the floor was giving away his position.

 Jamison was in a maze.  The hallways all looked identical, with the only distinguishing feature being the occasional locked door.  Inset florescent lights in the ceiling gave a washed out look to everything.  He had woken up laying on the painted black hallway floor hearing the growling in the distance.  He had been running ever since.

 He saw the creature for the first time as it turned the corner into his hallway.  It looked almost human from a distance, but the skin on its face was drooping like it had partially melted.  The thing’s yellow eyes locked on him and its jaw made unnaturally large biting motions as it growled.  The form swayed back and forth, giving the impression that it was unstable.  Jamison had a short-lived moment of hope as he thought an injury might have weakened the creature.  

 The thing was on Jamison before he could even react.  It moved so quickly his eyes struggled to track it.  Muscles straining, he pushed back against the creature, trying to keep the biting jaw from sinking into his neck.  Out of desperation, he leaned his head back and drove it forward into the creature’s face.  The thing reeled back, letting out an inhuman howl.  Jamison gave himself over to instinct and tossed it off of him while striking out with his right leg.  He connected a solid kick to the kneecap.  

 Sergeant Jamison scrambled to his feet and ran.  He hoped it had slowed the creature enough to give him an edge, but the thing was obviously faster than him.  Pushing himself, he found he could stay just ahead of the thing, but unlike him, it didn’t seem to tire.  He could not keep up the pace forever and knew he needed to act while he still had the stamina to do it.  

 Jamison came to a sudden stop and spun to face the creature, stepping slightly to his side.  With a well-practiced motion, he grabbed the thing by its arm and, using its own momentum, flipped it through the air and onto the metal floor.  He had no weapons, but he had extensive training.  His foot came down hard onto the thing’s neck and a cracking sound echoed through the hallway.  With a flurry of blows, he struck at what would be vulnerable spots on a human body and was rewarded with a sound he could only assume was breaking bones.  The creature was not dead, but it was incapacitated, and he wanted to get as far away from it as possible. 

 As Jamison continued down the hall, he found a new doorway unlike the previous ones he had encountered.  This one had a panel on the side with geometric symbols.  Squares, triangles, and circles in various conjoined formations on a panel.  As he stared at the symbols, they glowed one at a time.  Three symbols at first in a repeating order.  He reached out to run his finger across the figure and discovered that it was a button.  He pressed the symbols in the order that they were lighting up.  There was a pleasant-sounding chime as he completed the sequence.  Then a new pattern began with four symbols.  

 Sergeant Jamison successfully repeated the patterns until it got to nine symbols.  At that point, he made a mistake in his recreation.  He knew the moment he pressed the button that it was the wrong symbol, but it was too late to stop himself.  There was an unpleasant buzz from the panel and a powerful jolt of electricity flowed from the button into his body.  He dropped to the ground, struggling to get back to his feet.  He needed a moment for his body to respond properly again.  

 The ninth pattern continued to repeat itself on the panel.  Jamison took a few moments to compose himself and then put in the correct sequence.  The pleasant ding responded again.  Being extremely cautious, he input the tenth pattern.  This time, not only did the panel present him with a pleasing ding sound, the door in front of him slid open.  The room beyond was a kitchen and there was a variety of fruits and meats placed out on the counter.  There were also two unmarked bottles of water.  

 The majority of the food was familiar, but there were items he did not recognize.  He also knew that at least one of the berry varieties in front of him was extremely poisonous.  As much as he did not want to risk food from unknown sources, he found he was starving and all the running had left him extremely thirsty.  Jamison took only what he knew was safe to eat and hoped that it had not been poisoned.  Unsure what would come next, he sat at the table, taking this one moment to rest.  

 Elsewhere, two beings were watching Sergeant Jamison on a set of monitors.  The room’s lighting was dim, but their species evolved on a planet with very dense cloud coverage and needed far less light than humans.  Hands with three long fingers ran over keyboards, making notes.  The larger of the two turned to his counterpart. The language spoken had never been heard on Earth.  “Are you sure that this specimen is an accurate representation of its species’ potential?”

 “Physical potential certainly.  I am not, however, as confident about mental acuity.  They think so differently from us. I’m uncertain of the proper method of assessment.   This particular specimen is not just military, but is a member of an elite subset of that organization.  He is most certainly on the top scale for physical achievement without being an outlier.  While previously tested athletes outperformed him in some categories, they do not seem to be as well rounded.”

 “He performed very well in the speed and strength tests.  I must admit, I was very impressed that he managed to incapacitate the hunter.  It will take me days to repair it.  I am still unsure on the mental acuity though.  I’m going to put them down as a class three.”

 “I think that is an acceptable assessment.  I believe this species is firmly within our acceptable parameters for military or manual labor usage.  Additionally, they possess limited technological defenses and have not left their solar system.  I believe they will be excellent additions to the war against our misbehaving artificial intelligences.”

 “I concur.  I will get the report filed and we can begin the subjugation immediately.”

 “Excellent.  Now on to the important questions.  What do you want for lunch?”      

First

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story is a Skies of Glass story. It features characters from the serialized fiction novel Skies of Glass: Metropolis that I wrote in 2009. This novel is no longer published on the internet, but at the time it was my first time putting fiction work out there for strangers to read. It is far from my best work and could use a few rewrites. I still think my characters and concepts from it are solid and they have been developed further over time through one shot games and additional fiction. I don’t think you need to know anything about those other works to enjoy this flash fiction piece, but if you have read them it probably will have more significance.

Returning to this world and these characters yet again reminds me of all the long form fiction I have written that I have not edited properly. I have grown so much as a writer over the years, but I still struggle with taking the time to polish my work after completing it. Skies of Glass: Metropolis is a story that means a lot to me for many reasons and I think it is time I return to it, expand it, and put it back out into the world to share that love with others.


                The smell of sulfur from the smoking revolver assaulted my nostrils.  I tried to steady my hand, but it would not stop shaking.  My eyes focused on the trembling weapon too afraid to look up.  Everything else in the world around me faded into the background.  It felt like the only things that existed were me and the gun.  Somewhere in the back of my mind a voice was screaming that I needed to move.  I was not safe, but I could not get my legs to respond.  Finally, I forced my gaze up at the dead man laying on the ground in front of me.

                Seeing my first kill was enough to push me over the edge.  The gun clattered to the ground as my arms wrapped tightly around my stomach.  I bent over retching and vomited my breakfast at my feet.  It hurt coming up and I could feel my eyes start to water.  To this day I’m not sure if it was from throwing up or the effort to fight back tears.  I look back at myself in that moment and I can’t recognize the person I was any more than that person could comprehend the person I have become.  It was a life defining moment.

                “James come on; we have to go.”  I’m not sure how long Jason had been trying to get through to me.  He had picked up my gun and was shaking my arm.  The fear in his voice was evident.  We had been ambushed on our way back to town.  I had trained for this, but reality is never the same as training.  You don’t know how you will react in the moment.  I did what I needed to do in the moment, but then I had frozen.  It all seemed too much, but thankfully my best friend was there for me.  I don’t remember deciding to move, but there we were running through the forest trying to get back to town. 

                I saw the hearth fire smoke from Metropolis ahead of me but could also hear the shouts of the Ists behind me.  The worst that humanity had to offer, and they were coming to raid my home.  My parents had told me of times before they existed.  Before the bombs had torn asunder the very thin veneer of society that kept people in check.  That was a world I had never known though.  Until six months prior I had not truly seen the world outside of our town.  The town that had given me so much and now needed me to warn it.  My reality had come crashing back to me with waves of adrenaline. 

                We broke through the forest just east of Fort Massac.  The fort looked different in those days.  It was still being expanded and the barracks had just started being constructed.  We had not even started reinforcing the walls with scavenged steel yet.  It was just wooden structures recreating a long destroyed historical site.  It had been years since a force of any significance had tried to raid the town and if I’m to be honest I think we had gotten complacent.  That all changed overnight. 

                James and I started spreading the word.  If there was any hesitation to believe us the screams coming from the forest alleviated, it.  I would like to tell you that the fort marshaled a well-organized defense and that I fought side by side with them to defend our home.  That would be a lie though.  We were not prepared, and it showed.  I lost friends that day, but in the end, we had more people and resources.  Their savagery took them further than it should have, but it was not enough. 

                I was sent the rest of the way into town to continue sounding the alarm.  I think the commander saw something in my eyes and decided I would be better off not being on the front line.  They held the position long enough for me to get reinforcements.  The militia coming from the town were far more organized, but I have heard that Commander McDaniels managed to pull the troops at the fort together despite being under attack.  It cost him his life, but he would not let Fort Massac fall.

                I know the last few days have been hard on you son.  I want you to know I’m here for you when you’re ready to talk.  I can tell you that it gets easier over time.  You will stop seeing the face eventually.  That doesn’t mean you have to follow in my footsteps though.  This town owes us both now and I’m more than willing to cash in on that to give you a different life than the one I had.  That’s all any parent really wants.  You have an option that others don’t.  You can stay with the militia, or you can take a different path.  I’ll be proud of you no matter what your decision is.  You don’t have a lot of time though.  We’re going to meet with the mayor tomorrow.

The Big Story

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks story like many started with a single line of dialog popping into my head. I don’t really know where the inspiration came from this week, but once the idea was there the dialog flowed freely.


“It’s brilliant.”  My editor seemed to love my story pitch.  He was smiling wider than I had ever seen and I could hear the glee in his voice.  He wasn’t just giving me an approval he seemed genuinely excited by the idea.   

     “Really?  I expected a bit more skepticism.  I did just tell you I was writing an exposé claiming that one of the richest men alive is actually a vampire.”

     “Your work is always top notch and your research unrivaled.  If you say he is a vampire I’m sure you have plenty of evidence to support your claim.”

     “It isn’t just that he is a vampire, I am revealing that vampires themselves exist.  That is kind of a big deal and will be met with at least some challenge.  No matter how much proof I have some people will never believe and it could hurt the paper’s reputation.”

     He actually laughed at my statement.  “Oh, this story isn’t going into the Times.  I would lose all credibility if I ran it there.  No, I’m launching a new tabloid I’m calling The Underground.  This is going to be my headline”

     I could not hide how offended I was from my voice.  “You want my work to headline a tabloid?  This is a real story not some work of fiction.”

     “All the stories in The Underground will be real.  Sure, most people won’t believe that, but the right people will know.  That’s all that really matters.”

     “Just who are the right people?”  I still didn’t know quite what to think.

     “Werewolves, other vampires, and anything else that goes bump in the night.  They need their own source of news that covers things they care about.  It is an untapped market.”

     “Wait are you saying werewolves are real too?  And other things?”

     “Of course.  Did you really write this story and not think about what else might be out there?”

     “Well I was kind of floored just to learn vampires were real.”  I still didn’t know what to think about his reaction and part of me thought he was playing a prank.  He was never good at lying though and everything in his body language screamed genuine.  He at very least believed what he was saying.  His words also struck me.  Why hadn’t I thought about what else might be out there? 

     “You have just taken your first step into a world much larger than you ever knew.  There is no going back either.  You can never unknow and simply knowing changes how you look at everything.  For me it doesn’t hurt that the supernatural is an under-served demographic.  Oh, and the crazies.  Are they really that crazy though if they are actually at-least somewhat, right?”

     “No?”  It came out more as a question than an answer.

     He laughed.  “No most of them are still crazy.  They may be right, but they’re right with no proof and for the wrong reasons.  Their money still spends though.”  He laughed again, but I just couldn’t join him in it.  “Oh and you need a pen name.”

     “Why would I need a pen name?”

     “Well you don’t want to lose all credibility with the quote unquote serious news outlets.  Plus, you don’t want these kind of people knowing that you are real.”  He pointed to my story notes as he said it.  “That would be a pretty quick way to wind up dead.”

     “I guess I hadn’t thought of that.”

     “Of course not.  You’re too new to this.  If you aren’t careful though you won’t live long enough to learn all the rules.  Good thing you have me.”

                I was still in a kind of shock from the conversation.  I knew he was right, but I also still just didn’t understand what was happening.  A big part of me wished I had never made my discovery.  I couldn’t go back now though.  I did know.  I was a reporter, and I couldn’t deny my need to know the truth.  The truth about everything.  This was only just the beginning.

Journal

Fiction Fragment Friday

I missed posting last week due to being in the hospital. With that in mind I wanted to come back strong this week. I took a writing prompt of telling a story in the format of a character writing in a journal. Of course being me I had to add some twists to that concept. What I ended up with is a story that while a first rough draft I do truly love. I hope you enjoy.


April 1st, 2053,

     For the record I’m only doing this stupid journal because my psychiatrist has been nagging me to start one for a month now.  I suppose I could have just told him I did without actually doing it, but I’m a terrible liar and I just know he would see right through me.  I hate going, but it is court mandated so I don’t really have a choice.  Let’s be honest I don’t have a choice in anything, and I never have.

May 3rd 2053,

     Today was another day in court.  There are so many things that have to be sorted out.  The world just wasn’t ready for me.  To have laws against something you have to first accept that that thing is possible.  I think this might be a bit easier on my brothers.  My psychiatrist says that I’m jealous of them.  He tries to make me understand that they are in the same situation I am, but that isn’t really true.  They had a sense of purpose.  A reason to live that I was never given.  They were here to do something, not just to exist.

May 5th, 2053,

     I met more of my “family” today.  A nephew, his wife, and their children were allowed visitation for the first time.  They just kept staring at me not quite sure what to say.  The kids ran around the room playing.  I guess they probably didn’t understand any more than I did at first.  My nephew though looked at me like I was wrong.  I know he thinks I’m an abomination.  I just don’t know if it is because of what I am, or because of who I was cloned from.

May 6th, 2053,

     My nephew came back by himself today.  He apologized for the way he acted.  He wanted me to know that he knew I wasn’t him, but that I just looked so much like him in old pictures.  There is a real struggle with identity here and not just in my head.  The world over wants to know how much of a person is made up of their experiences vs their genetics.  Do I have the potential of being just as bad as him?  I don’t know the answer to these questions.  I’m tired of the world asking what I will become when I’m still struggling to figure out who I am now.  I want family but they are not really my family.  They are his.  My only real family is my fellow clones.  Maybe it is time I start talking to them.

May 7th, 2053,

     I went to the group session today for my fellow clones.  I thought they had it easier, but I was so wrong.  I was made to be a backup.  Provide spare organs for my creator if he needed them.  Most of them were made to be guards and soldiers.  They were programmed with memories of training thy never actually recieved.  While I see my face in them we are not actually the same after all.  I was a blank slate, but they were mass produced copies with all the same memories.  I share a body with them, but they all share a body and mind with each other.  Most of them may have been awake and functioning already when the island was raided, but they had even less choice than I did.  Some of them are struggling with the guilt of having killed some of the soldiers that we now think of as our liberators.  They may struggle with the same identity issues I do, but they also struggle with regret from actual actions.  I had never taken an action, so I had nothing to regret.  I should have listened to Dr. Patrick earlier about these sessions. 

May 8th, 2053,

     I met someone today.  She is smart, funny, and the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.  We ate lunch together in the cafeteria.  I guess she doesn’t have any friends working here yet, so she sat with me.  Is it cliche to say that I’ve never had anyone make me feel like this before when I’ve only been awake for about six months?  I can’t wait to see her again.

May 15th, 2053,

     It feels like the whole world has disappeared out from under me.  This past week spending time with Miranda has been the only highlight of my short life.  Of course, it was too good to be true.  It turns out she is not part of the staff after all.  She is another clone just like me.  She was genetically manipulated to be female and modified to be exactly what he wanted.  It makes me sick to my stomach to think that the person made to be the perfect woman for him is also perfect for me.  What does that say about me and how much I am actually like him?  Plus, she is genetically me, or at very least equivalent to a twin sister to me.  How messed up does a person have to be that they think the perfect person for themself is themself?  What kind of trust issues does that person have?  Am I asking those questions about him or me?  Is there really a difference?      

May 16th, 2053,

     I have been brought in to consult on my creator’s work.  I don’t know what they think I can do.  I was given just the basic blank template of knowledge not memories or training.  I might have his intellect, but I don’t have any of the years of study and experimentation he did.  I don’t have the framework to understand his work.  They hope that I will see something they haven’t.  That I might think like him.  I don’t know if I should be offended by that or terrified that they might be right.  The soldiers had their genes tweaked to be physically superior and their minds conditioned to be better at their jobs.  I am a pure copy with no manipulation. 

I skipped lunch today.  I can’t face Miranda yet.

May 20th, 2053,

     Miranda and I spoke today.  She wants to try and make this work, but I just don’t think I can.  She was literally made to love him.  Is that influencing how she feels about me since I’m the closest thing to him in existence?  Is it too creepy since she is kind of like my sibling?  She has assured me that she cannot have children so that is not a factor, but mentally I cannot get over the fact that we were both cloned from the same individual.

May 25th, 2053,

     It scares me how quickly I have taken to his work.  I may not have the framework, but I understand it anyway.  I have picked up so much in a very short time frame.  I was able to crack the encryption on his journal and have started reading through his entries.  Yes he journaled too.  One more thing we have in common.  The password was M1r@nd@.  I don’t understand how I seem to know so much in the back of my head without ever having the memories.

June 1st, 2053,

     I was a backup, but not just for my organs.  I have gotten to the part in the journal about me.  He took brain scans of himself and imprinted it on me.  Unlike the others he suppressed these memories.  They could only start unlocking upon his death.  They have been coming back to me slowly since I started reading the journal.  I feel like each day I’m becoming a little less myself and a little more him.  I haven’t told anyone about this.  There seems to be something in my head stopping me from doing so.

July 25th, 2053,

                My ultimate failsafe was a complete success.  I never should have doubted my genius.  I have used my preprogrammed phrases to once again take control of my soldiers.  This government facility is now mine, but I’m sure they will come for it.  This will be my last entry as I am preparing my troops to move out to one of my failsafe bunkers in Iowa.  With Miranda by my side, I will rebuild to my former glory and when I do they will pay for what they have done to me.  Yes, they will all pay. 

Duel

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks story came from the idea of starting in the middle of a fast paced sword fight. I realized very quickly that I wanted to add a few twists into the fight. As usual the details came out naturally as I wrote and were not planned from the beginning. I find I discover as much and in many cases more about my story by writing it than I do planning it out.


                Perry, perry, thrust, perry.  I found myself on the defensive too busy trying to not get cut to come up with an offense.  I had thought I was the best swordsman in the world, but my opponent was quickly showing me that I might be mistaken.  Fighting defensively was not ideal, but even the best make mistakes.  I just had to wait for her to make that mistake and ensure that I was not the one to do so first.  The problem with that plan was that she was moving so fast my eyes could hardly track her.  Faster than any human should be able to.  Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of her though was her smile.  I was sweating and straining, but she was moving with grace and smiling the whole time.

                “You really have no idea how long it has been since I’ve had a challenge like this.”  I could hear the joy in her voice.  “It is almost enough to let me forgive your trespass into my home.”  She lunged and sliced across my cheek drawing first blood.  “Almost.”  She looked me up and down and then did the most disturbing thing yet.  She licked her lips.     

                “You know, witty banter to keep you opponent off balance is supposed to be my thing.”  I tried to put a bit of mirth in it to hide my fear, but the struggle to keep calm controlled breathes undercut my projected image of nonchalance.  I was struggling and any opponent of her caliber had to realize it. 

                “Was that witty?  It is so hard to tell these days.  Sometimes it feels like just keeping up with the parlance is more work than it is worth.  I would so hate to disappoint an opponent of your caliber with less than adequate banter though.  Then again you are here to take something from my art collection that I suspect would be priceless so I suppose a tiny failing of decorum would not be wholly uncalled for.”

                How was she doing this?  Despite all the exertion she could smoothly deliver lines without gasping for air.  The key to witty banter is typically to keep it short and pointed.  As few words as possible to avoid needing to take large breathes in between words.  She was delivering lines as if she were relaxing in a chair not moving so fast that I was only processing blurs of motion to react to.  My only thoughts were that she could not keep the pace up forever and if I kept her talking it would exhaust her sooner.

                “Your decorum is riveled only by your beauty my lady.”  Maybe I could get her off guard with flattery.  “Your skill with a sword only riveled by my own.”  I wasn’t quite sure how to read the expression that crossed her face, but I took it as distracted and made my move.  I lunged forward attempting to pierce her shoulder in an effort to end the fight.  Instead, she pivoted easily dodging my sword and slicing across my stomach.  My shirt was soon soaked in my own blood. 

                The fight instantly changed.  There was no more witty banter from her and instead I found she was letting out sounds more akin to growling than breathing.  He strikes came with far more strength but lacking the precision of movement I had come to associate with her fighting style.  In short, she went from the most skilled swordsperson I have ever met to a violent lashing brute in a matter of moments.  If not for her speed the contest would have been quickly ended because her mistakes started coming quickly.  I managed multiple slices and stabs, but they did not seem to slow her down at all.  Meanwhile I was getting weak from the blood loss. 

                The fight was over before I knew what had happened.  One instant she was standing in front of me sword in hand.  The next instant the sword was on the ground, and she was standing behind me.  I felt the sharp stab of pain as she bit into my neck.  I could feel her sucking on the wound.  My arms and legs started to go numb, and I could no longer hold my own sword.  I found that the only reason I was still on my feet was because she was holding me up.  Then a moment later I was on the ground staring up at the ceiling.  She was there right above my face licking my blood off her large fangs.  She seemed to have regained her composure.

                “I cannot apologize enough for my improper behavior.  A good workout always makes me hungry and there you were just smelling so wonderful.”  She ran her finger across my belly wound and then stuck it in her mouth running her tongue around it in a rather seductive manor.  “While I hate to waste food, you are just too much fun not to keep.”  She then bit into her own wrist and dripped the blood down into my mouth.  I gagged and choked trying not to swallow any of it, but I was weak.  She poked a finger in my wound and when I gasped in pain, she flooded my mouth with her blood.  That was the last memory I would have of my mortal life.          

                I awoke what I would come to learn was three nights later in a coffin.  Thankfully my grave was very shallow as I had to dig my way through the dirt to emerge.  My stomach was wracked with hunger pains.  As my eyes adjusted, I found myself in a storm cellar with a dirt floor.  It was baren except for a man tied up against the wall.  I instantly recognized the art broker that I used to unload my acquired treasures to.  He was the one that had tipped me off to this score.  Attached to him was a handwritten note.  It read,” Breakfast is served.  You had best eat up if you have any hope of surviving the night.  I must thank you for the most fun I have had in over two hundred years.  I can only imaging what you will be capable of in a century or two.  I will be anxiously awaiting our rematch.”  It was not signed but I knew it was from her. 

                I grabbed my stomach as the hunger pain became overwhelming.  My conscious thoughts started to blur and something else took over.  A beast within me that knew exactly how to end the pain.  My body moved faster than my mind could comprehend as I grabbed my business acquaintance and bit into his neck with fangs that had not been there mere moments prior.  His blood tasted better than the finest wine that I had every imbibed.  With it came his memories.  Memories of this woman paying him to send me on the job.  It had been a setup from the beginning to get the most infamous art thief in the world into her house.  She had not stumbled upon me stealing her possessions, but instead had orchestrated the entire duel because she was bored. 

                I lay back against the wall as my former friend died.  My hunger was sated, and I could once again think clearly.  I was angry for being played as a fool and even more angry about being turned into a monster for her amusement.  That was when I made the vow that would consume the next two hundred years of my existence.  No matter what I would find her and now that we were on even footing, I would win our rematch.  It was only a matter of time before I would end first her undead life and then my own.     

A Hole in Reality

Fiction Fragment Friday

Some weeks I start writing and it just flows out. Before I know it I have a thousand to fourteen hundred words and feel like I could go on much longer. Other weeks I struggle for inspiration. This has been a stressful week and when it came time to write it did not just flow. There will always be weeks like that, but the most important thing about a writer is that they write. In the past a struggle for inspiration would have led to me doing other things, but I take my writing more seriously these days. I can always just sit and write whether I’m in the mood to do it or not because I have made it a habit and a part of my life.

I think my best work will always come when it feels easy. The best stories though don’t always come from the best start. It is more important to get something out because you can always come back for a second or third draft and turn the core idea into something greater. Here on this blog you all get to see those first very rough drafts. The ideas that are being shared are fragments and not the final picture. The best of these ideas can be mined for something more.

This week’s story started as often does with a phrase popping into my head. The phrase or line is usually something new, but this time I decided to take an old cliché line and craft something new from it. “The ground disappeared out from under me.” How could I twist that into something more interesting? Was I able to? I will let you be the judge of that.


     The ground disappeared out from under me.  I don’t mean that I tripped, went over a cliff, or was flying.  The ground literally disappeared under my feet.  One moment I was walking along in the park and the next the ground in a ten foot and growing circle around my feet suddenly was no longer there.  I was floating in the air over a hole so deep I couldn’t see the bottom of it.  My mind was at war with itself trying to decide if I should be reacting or continue denying the reality of what I was seeing.

     Before I could come to my senses and decide what to do gravity took my options away from me.  I went from floating to falling down the hole.  I mostly stayed near the center of the hole, but occasionally drifted to the side.  Anytime a leg or a shoulder rubbed up against the dirt and rock sides pain shot through my body from the impact.   I felt like I left my stomach behind and fought to keep from vomiting.  Without any idea how long or far I had fallen I came to accept that I was going to die.  When I saw a light rushing up towards me I knew it was all over.

     I woke up in a large open field staring into the sky.  I wasn’t sure what type of grain surrounded me, but as I stood up I realized it was almost as tall as I was.  My arms and legs were scrapped up from bouncing off the walls of the tunnel, but other than that I didn’t seem to be hurt at all.  The nausea was still there though and I couldn’t help but bend over and vomit in the field.  Without any idea where I was I just picked a random direction and started walking. 

     I walked for hours.  My legs were sore, my feet hurt, and I was drenched in sweat.  I wasn’t particularly out of shape, but I didn’t have any water on me and the sun was beating down on me.  Each step felt like it drained the energy from me, but I had no choice.  I continued walking. 

     I reached the top of a hill and saw a small village at the bottom.  Village is the best word I can use to describe it.  There were a handful of wooden buildings along a worn path, a large stable with horses, and a stone church of some sort.  I didn’t recognize the architecture or see any power lines.  I resolved myself to the possibility that these people might not be able to help me get home, but at the very least they should have water.  I managed to stay on my feet as I stumbled into town and headed for the first building on the right.

     I walked into the strangest Inn I have ever been in.  The bartender had horns, the waitress had pointed ears, and the man I assumed was the town drunk had green skin.  They all turned and stared at me with looks of curiosity.  Finally the barkeep spoke up.  “Well never seen one of whatever you are around here.  You look exhausted though sit down and I’ll get you a glass of water.” 

     I sat down at the closest table grateful to get off of my feet.  The barmaid approached after a few moments and sat a glass in front of me.  I tried to speak but my voice came out extremely raspy from dehydration.  “Thanks.  Where am I?”

     “Shhhh,  don’t try to talk yet.  Just take a drink first.”  I took a drink and let the water cool off my throat.  She put her hand on my shoulder and it glowed brightly.  I immediately felt better than I had in a long time.  I even felt a missing tooth regrow in my mouth.  It was one of the most amazing sensations I’ve ever felt. 

     “Thank you again.  Thanks so much.”  I was struggling to keep myself composed.  “Where am I?”

     The bartender spoke up.  “Yer in the Feinting Goat Inn.”  I was trying to think of a way to explain that I was asking in a broader sense, but before I could form the words another patron came in.  A large clockwork possibly steam powered machine walked in on two legs and approached the bar.  It’s chest opened up and a tiny gnome hopped out onto the bar stool.  It set down a coin and the bartender slide a glass in front of him.  They didn’t say a word.  The gnome took the drink, slammed it back, jumped back into his robotic suit and walked out of the Inn. 

     I looked down into my glass.  “I don’t think I’m in Kansas anymore.”

                The barmaid looked at me.  “Oh sweetie Kansas isn’t real.  It’s like Humans.  Just a fairy tale to scare children.”  She patted my hand and went back up to the bar.  I had seen enough Anime in my time to finally understand what had happened.  I fell through a hole in reality to another world and I had no immediate way to get back home.  That was the first day of a brand new life. 

Life

Fiction Fragment Friday

Today’s story is a simple slice of life tale. It is not Science Fiction, Fantasy, or any kind of larger than life story like my usual works. I of course was tempted to add in twists or elements of the fantastic, but I resisted those urges. I wanted a true slice of life story that did more to build the main character of the story than anything else. I fill like I achieved that and have presented something that feels very real to me while also being entertaining. I hope you all agree.


     “UGH, why does this always happen?”  I gripped the steering wheel tightly as my car slid to a stop at the red light.  I jerked my hands up in frustration only to hit my knuckles on the roof of the car.  They were still throbbing in pain when the light turned green again.  It always seems like when I’m running late, I get all the red lights.  I tell myself that logically I just notice them more when they have a greater impact, but I’m in no mood for logic.  I have a meeting in two minutes.

     As I pull into the parking lot at work, I realize I have another problem.  I forgot my badge at home.  There is a process for getting a temporary badge to get through the doors, but it takes at very least fifteen minutes and is a real hassle.  I look at the clock and see that it is time for my meeting.  People always trickle into these big meetings so being a few minutes late is not terrible.  It doesn’t set the right image, but by the end of the meeting no one will remember.

     It is not difficult to get into the building without my badge.  I sit there in my car and wait for my moment.  Then I see it, someone is taking cardboard out to the dumpster.  I grab my laptop, my coffee, and make a point to not put my keys in my pocket.  I want my arms to look as full as possible.  Getting out of my car I make a point to look overwhelmed like I am trying to avoid dropping anything.  Without saying a word to each other the person who was taking out the cardboard is holding the door open for me and nodding.  It is ingrained courtesy and I doubt they will ever wonder if I actually work here or not. 

     I am late for my meeting, but no one really notices.  There were technical difficulties with the conferencing equipment and I’m able to slit into a chair at the table while they are still trying to figure out how to get the power point up on the screen.  This was more than I could hope for.  After a morning of everything going wrong finally things are looking up.  I wait until a few more people come in the room before I step in and help them.  I want to be the hero who saved the presentation, but I don’t want to draw attention to myself until I’m no longer the latest one in the room.  The meeting goes fairly well, but as expected no actual decisions are made. 

     I sit at my desk staring at my monitor.  I have eight tabs open in my browser.  Five of them are work related, one is a news site, one is social media, but the one I’m actively looking at is a search for the perfect meme to reply to a chat message with.  It needs to be funny, not too weird, can’t offend anyone, and most importantly it needs to be rare enough to seem original and not overdone.  That is a hard mix to achieve, and I only have minutes or the moment will have passed me by.  Finally, I find one and copy and paste it just moments after someone else replies with one.  I sigh to myself, hit the like button, and go back to a work tab. 

     Lunch time comes around and I shoot a message out to a few of my coworkers asking if they want to try the new Thai place.  I don’t actually have much of a preference for work, I just want to get the conversation started to make sure I’m a part of it.  I watch the lunch debate go on for fifteen minutes replying back with one word answers or gifs occasionally just to keep a part of it.  Finally, somewhere is decided on so I lock my computer and stand up.  I look around at my coworkers who are all within about fifteen feet of me and ask the most important question.  “Who’s driving?”  This starts the debate about moving car seats, capacity, and who drove last time.  I smile as I walk out with the team. 

     Going to lunch with my teammates has many advantages.  The first one is that lunch tends to be longer.  As everyone is talking, we lose track of time, but we don’t have to worry about looking like we took too long a lunch because we are all there.  Team lunches also build rapport with coworkers and help me fit in a bit better.  The reason I started the conversation today though is because even though I could have easily managed to get back in the building without my badge it just makes it so much easier to be part of a group and just make sure I’m not the first person in line to go back in.  I try to be the second person.  The first will badge in and I will hold the door open for the rest.  I will be associated with holding the door open so no one will wonder if I had my badge on me or not.  This has the added bonus of people being more likely to hold the door open for me in the future because they are subconsciously returning a favor. 

     My afternoon is full of meetings.  Looking at my calendar I only have one thirty-minute break so I plan out my afternoon bathroom and phone game time.  Most of the meetings are in conference rooms, but one is with a remote vendor so it will be at my desk.  I much prefer meetings at my desk not just because I am an introvert, but because with my multiple monitors it is easier to work on other things while attending the meeting.  I can also research what is being discussed and provide more definitive answers without everyone seeing me type away and knowing that is what I’m doing.  I just feel far more productive taking meetings at my desk and it is easier to fight off the after-lunch food coma sensation without anyone seeing me. 

                I start shutting my laptop off as the workday comes to an end.  I have a few brief moments to feel a sense of satisfaction despite how my day started out.  Nothing broke today, no one realized I had forgotten my badge, and I was the only one who knew I was late for my first meeting of the day.  I made some progress on a few projects and closed five support tickets.  I tell myself that despite how my day started it turned out to be a pretty good day.  The I put my car into reverse and back into my manager’s brand-new car.  The car he has been talking about how much he loves for the last week.  “Ugh, why does this kind of thing always happen to me?” 

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