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Author: Wayne Cole Page 2 of 10


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.


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. 


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. 


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?” 


Fiction Fragment Friday

This is one of the most fun stories I have ever written. As such I’m giving an advanced warning for language and some mature by way of immature themes. Enjoy.

                The first time it happened was on my first mission to the moon.  My steps were being livestreamed to the world as I made my mark in history.  I would be the first American to walk on the moon in over 60 years.  It was the highlight of my life up to that point and I imagined the 50 million users streaming it through the camera on my helmet.  The moment I stepped down from the lander I saw it.  It took me a moment to realize what I was seeing so the camera focused on the image for thirty seconds while I stared in disbelief.  The world that day saw a very detailed drawing of a penis etched into a rock on the moon right next to my feet.  Carved in English under the drawing was the phrase, “Tell your mom I said hi.”

                As you well know this started quite the uproar on Earth.  Claims that the landing was faked in a sound stage came first.  While some to this day still believe that to be the case, I can assure you I really was on the moon.  Next came the conspiracy theorist that seemed to think we had moon bases that they had not been told about.  Other theories pointed to aliens, accused us of pranking the world, and suggesting that another country had beaten us there.  Inquires started into all previous missions to the moon, but the landing site was too far from previous missions for that to be plausible.  Unfortunately, none of the other theories were plausible either. 

                I was sure after my disastrous first outing with public fame that I would never travel to space again.  Of course, this was not the case and I found myself scheduled to be the first person to step food on Mars.  This time because of the distance a live stream was not possible.  It would have to be delayed slightly because of the distance.  Just to be safe NASA decided it would record the landing and give themselves time to edit incase anything went wrong.  This turned out to be a very wise decision.

                The moment I set food on Mars I saw it.  A large rock with a carving on it.  Yet another very detailed penis with the words, “Getting to Mars was hard, and so was I when I boned your mom.”  I couldn’t believe it.  I just stood there staring at the image.  By the time I radioed back to Houston they were already hard at work editing my footage.  Of course, they missed a frame and before long the image was out there on the internet.  The most important scientific mission of my life, but by the time I got back to Earth I was already a meme.  More accurately I was multiple memes.  Major Penis to ground control.  Houston, we have a penis.  Then of course the ones so vulgar I won’t repeat them.  I had certainly made history alright, but not in the way I had hoped.

                Multiple teams of experts spent weeks examining the penis images.  Forensic document examiners were brought in to determine if the handwriting was the same individual or not.  Art experts to examine the drawings to determine if they were the same individual.  In the end all signed pointed to both messages being crafted by the same individual.  Any theory that a foreign power had created them on Earth and delivered them to the destination was quickly eliminated with mineralogical examination of the rocks.  They really were from the moon and Mars.  The messages had to have been left on site. 

                I thought I would spend the rest of my life not ever knowing how this had been done to me.  My career in the spotlight was over.  Oh, I could certainly get interviews, but I was a laughingstock.  Every interviewer thought they were the first to plant a penis image somewhere on set.  I couldn’t even get a coffee without someone doing artwork of a penis on the cup or in the foam.  So many letters and cards came in the mail with drawings.  I think the low point was when an adult toy company made a product named after me.  I don’t think I need to tell you what it was. 

                Two weeks ago, I walked into my kitchen and found someone sitting there with his feet up on my table.  “Who the hell are you?” I asked.  I probably should have been worried that he might have a weapon, but I was too angry to really think straight.  Years of pressure had really eaten away at my patience.  I knew this had to be yet another prank of some sort. 

                “You know a good artist always signs his work, but what is a guy to do when mystery is part of the art?”  He dropped his feet to the ground and leaned forward.  I could not make out his accent.  It sounded familiar but just slightly off.  He looked to be in his late teens and wore a t-shirt for a band I had never heard of. 

                “Answer my question.  Who are you and how did you get in my house?”

                “That’s two questions mate.  Also, those are stupid questions.  Well at least the second one is.  I mean really if I can get to the moon, Mars, and all those interview sets do you really think a cheap front door lock is going to keep me out?”  His smirk showed just how proud he was of himself. 

“You’re the son of a bitch that ruined my life?”  I was on him before he had time to react.  He found himself pulled from the chair and slammed against the wall.  Years worth of anger was boiling inside of me and ready to explode.  I wanted to kill the punk.  “I’m going to give you one minute to explain yourself and I better like the answer.”

He looked genuinely shocked and extremely worried.  He did not seem to expect this response.  “Whoa chill out dude.  It was a bit of performance art.  A joke so epic it was told through time.  I’m from 400 years in your future.  We were watching the videos of your first steps on Mars and my buddy was like hey how funny would it be if I hacked the feed to add a penis on video.  I was like no man that’s kinda lame, but how cool would it be to hack time so there really was a penis on Mars?  So, like I broke into my dad’s lab stole his time machine and came back.  I screwed up the first jump and came too far back so I did the moon one as practice.”

“Are you seriously trying to tell me that ruining my life was all some classroom prank?”

“Yeah epic I know, but it kinda wasn’t.  See when I went back everything was different.  Apparently, I undermined the space program and created all these conspiracy theories.  It all comes to a head in like 50 years when the government breaks down.  Long story short my world doesn’t exist anymore.”

I was barely able to speak through clenched teeth.  “So, fix it.”

“Uhm I can’t.   Batteries are dead.  It’s going to take a month with current technology to recharge.  When it’s ready though I’ll totally fix this, I promise.  It will be like it never happened.”

I let go of the kid and let him fall to the ground.  “So why are you here then?”

“I need somewhere to charge.  I kinda also need somewhere to live and food and stuff.”

That was the beginning of the most interesting month of my life.  I think that says a lot considering I have been to the moon and Mars.  The kid was infuriating and complained about absolutely everything.  He kept comparing the world to the stone age.  Finally, when it was time for him to go, I could not have been more ready for him to leave.  I knew he was holding back something though and I pressed him before he left to tell me everything.  He explained to me that he didn’t actually know what would happen.  My world might just cease to exist, but it was possible that we would go on in a pocket universe.  His timeline would be restored so he could go home and there would be a world were I lived the life I was supposed to.  I would never know that world though.  I would either be wiped out or just go on living in this parallel universe that he had created through his actions.  It has been two weeks since he left and at this point, I don’t know if he failed or if we are going to just keep going on.  I like to hope that there is a me out there living the life that I always dreamed of.  A world without penis.                  

A Bad Jump

Fiction Fragment Friday

This is another story that came from thinking up the first line. I have two major ideas in this story that I like, but the story overall does not quite live up to it’s potential. I do think something could be made from this first draft that is far better than what is currently presented. Still I hope you enjoy.

     The moment I jumped into the system I knew that something was seriously wrong.  My first indication was the communication array lighting up with traffic across every channel.  The second was a lack of response from the system’s telemetry buoy.  Finally the navigation hazard alerts triggered on a dozen ships heading my direction.  I was overwhelmed by all the information coming in for just a moment, but as Captain I don’t have that luxury. 

     “Priorities,”  I said out loud to myself.  Then I hit the button to connect to my wife down in engineering.  “Hey hon things are looking kinda weird here.  I need those engines spun up and ready to jump again in case we need it.”

     “Fifteen minutes is the best I can do.  Also define weird.”

     “Not normal.”  I shut off the connection.  I knew that I would pay for that later, but I really didn’t have a better answer for her just yet.  That was my second priority. 

     The communications coming in from the system were chaotic.  There was a mix of basic chatter, encrypted messages, and a makeshift traffic control system.  I started with that channel.  “This is Captain Blake from the cargo freighter Navis.  I’m pinging my ship ID out there if anyone can triangulate and give me an approach vector.”  Without the telemetry buoy the best I could hope for was having my ship identity bounce from multiple ships in the system and hope someone could triangulate off of a known location.

     “Roger Navis, this is Pyle station.  There is an insurrection in the system.  We request that all civilian ships please leave the system at your earliest convenience.  This is to ensure your safety.”

     “Well that’s just great,” I said to myself.  I turned my attention to the navigation hazard alerts.  It looked like every ship in the system was trying to get out.  There wasn’t any risk of collision.  Space is extremely large and it is actually harder to hit something than it is to miss it.  The larger concern though was that all of these ships were going to be jumping soon.  Jump systems poke a hole in space and they are not gentle about doing so.  This many ships jumping in such a short time would cause a backlash.  Ripples in space was not prepared for.

     “Hey babe we need those engines running and ready to absorb jump energy.”

     “How much energy?”

     “Oh about 58 ships worth.”

     There were a string of curses coming from engineering.  “What the hell is going on out there?”

     “Insurrection, everyone is bugging out.”

     “Again?  I told you we shouldn’t have taken this cargo.  I don’t care how much the early delivery bonus was the system has changed hands five times in the last decade.”

     “Yes dear, I know you told me.  Now tell me if we’re going to die or not.”

     “I’ll be ready you just get your jump coordinates put in because when this wave hits we are riding it out of here.”

     I didn’t want to tell her how difficult that actually was.  I was giving her what to most engineers would be an impossible task, but my wife was not most engineers.  Also, the Navis was not most cargo ships.  I knew that she would either pull off a miracle or I would never know that she had failed.  I just needed to do my part. 

     I didn’t know exactly where I was which made accurate navigation impossible.  Given time I could use solar radiation to get close enough, but I didn’t have that kind of time.  Instead, I decided the only thing I could do was go backwards.  I knew where I had come from and how far I had moved since arriving.  That would have to be enough.  Running everything in reverse I set my destination and crossed my fingers that I didn’t do something wrong.  If I did the best we could hope for was that we wouldn’t ever know. 

     The energy wave hit us and I watched as it was soaked in and redirected directly into our engines.  I thought for a moment that they were going to overload but as the ship shook we poked a hole in space and in an instance we were somewhere else.  I saw the power drop and go into a recharging sequence.  We had safely transitioned, now I just needed to figure out where we were. 

     My math was wrong.  Not only were we not in the system I expected, but we were not in a system at all.  We were in interstellar space close to a system, but there was no buoy in the system broadcasting to tell me which one.  I was picking up a very faint signal though and moved the ship towards it.  It was a tiny probe of some sort communicating back to the nearby solar system.  I decided to bring the probe on-board hoping for a clue as to where we were. 

     The probe was mostly a large dish antenna and the technology was so outdated I didn’t even know where to begin trying to understand it.  The most notable thing I found on it was a plaque.  It had drawings of two being that didn’t look like anything I had ever seen before.  One appeared to be male and the other female, but they only had two arms and two legs.  The drawing didn’t seem to indicate any form of shell at all.  If I had to guess I would say that these creatures were some sort of mammal, but their inclusion on this plaque seemed to indicate that they were the creators.  No mammal had ever gotten that intelligent as far as I knew.  The drawings seem to indicate that they came from the third planet in the solar system. 

                “Well, it’s going to take me a few weeks to figure out where we are so I might as well go see if I can get a peek at the neighbors.”  I set coarse for the third planet from the star.  My screw up just let us find the first intelligent life in the galaxy and my wife and I would be making first contact. 

Heart of the Forest

Fiction Fragment Friday

I am VERY proud of this story. It started like many of my flash fictions do with a sentence popping into my head. In this case it was the first sentence of the story. Something simple and straightforward. I had been reading book blurbs and thinking about different writing styles. Then the sentence was in my head and screaming to be written.

Some stories I think out entirely before writing, but this was not one of them. With each sentence I wrote I was discovering the story. I had no map for it or idea where the destination was. It was a journey taken by my hands moving across the keyboard. Like driving around randomly to see what interesting locations you can find. Sometimes you end up lost with nothing to show for it. Other times you find a restaurant, park, or store that you never would have known was there but it becomes a favorite.

                Deep in the heart of Serpent Tooth Forest lives a man named Zebadiah Humperdinck.  He is a very unpleasant individual to anyone who has had the misfortune of meeting him in person.  See Zebadiah likes his privacy and had laid claim to the entirely of the forest as his own.  In his long 372 years this has put him at odds with several settlements that have grown up along the edge of the forest.  They have cut down his trees, hunted his animals, and generally disturbed the peace that he prizes above all else.  These settlements have paid dearly for gaining his attention. 

                Zebadiah Humperdinck is no ordinary man.  He is one with his forest ecosystem.  So long as it is healthy, he is healthy.  If it is in pain, then he is in pain.  He knows ever branch, rock, and worm like they are a part of his own body.  Even the most dominant of predator within Serpent Tooth Forest is his subject to his will.  This has been the case since he built his cabin from the ancient Oak tree that contained the heart of the forest. 

                When humans encroach on his domain Zebadiah calls forth the hunters of the forest.  With tooth and claw they enact his vengeance.  His command is limited though by the edges of his forest.  If a beast leaves the forest, he can no longer sense it.  As much as he desires driving the settlements from the ever-shrinking borders of his forest they sit just beyond his reach.  This has caused his frustration to grow into a smoldering hatred. 

                Nothing happened in the forest that Zebadiah did not know about, so it was with great consternation that he moved to answer the knocking at his cabin door.  He did not know who was on the other side of the door or how they had gotten to the cabin without his knowledge.  Zebadiah believed himself to know everything about the forest and was rather cross to have that assumption challenged.  He silently vowed to not let the intruder know that he was unnerved.  “Stop that blasted banging.  I’m comin already.  I don’t move like I used to.” 

                Zebadiah swung his door open in frustration and found himself staring at a young boy.  The child looked up at him am smiled.  “Hey there mister.  Can I come in?”

                “Why would ya want to do a blamed thing like that?”  Zebadiah tried to let his annoyance show in his face.  He gave the most menacing glare he could manage in hopes of driving the child from his sanctuary.

                “Because it’s boring out here on your porch and I’m kind of hungry.”  Impatience showed on the child’s face.  Before Zebadiah could answer the lad slipped under his right arm and into the cabin.  By the time he could turn around the boy was in his kitchen and eating one of his apples. 

                “Hey, I was savin that for a nighttime snack.”

                “You have plenty.  Even if you didn’t you could just have more brought to you.  Don’t be so greedy.”

                The old man huffed in disbelief.  “Greedy?  Such rude little vermin I find infesting my home eating my food.  Leave my cabin and get out of my forest.”

                “No.”  The child did not look disturbed by the outburst.  In fact, he sat smiling at the old man. 

                “No?  What do you mean no?”  

                “No.  I’m not going to leave.  I think I’m going to live here now.”

                This statement drove the old man to rage.  He yelled and swung his cane breaking various knickknacks displayed on the shelf by his door.  “Get out, get out, get out.  This is my home, and you are not welcome.  Get out.”     

                The child laughed at the display.  “You’re funny.”

                “I’m not funny, I’m a terrifying force of nature.  Tremble before me.”  Zebadiah spoke with all his fury fueling his words.  His mind had reached out and called forth the predators of the forest.  Two large wolves came through his front door growling, snakes slithered in, and an owl perched on each of his shoulders.  He had to admit it was a bit ostentatious, but he wanted to make sure that the child got the message. 

                The boy’s face lit up and he jumped from the chair he had perched on.  “Doggies.”  He rushed to the wolves and started petting them.  To Zebadiah’s surprise instead of lashing out as he commended them the wolves licked the boy.  One of them even rolled over for belly rubs.  Not only would these predators not attack the child they seemed to chose him over Zebadiah.  Nothing like this had ever happened before.  The child just laughed in a joy that the cabin had not seen in over 300 years. 

                “Who are ya child?”

                “I’m Timmy.”  The boy stated it like it was the answer to all of life’s questions.

                “What are ya?”  This is what Zebadiah really wanted to know.  He could see and hear the boy, but he could not feel him.  He inner forest sense did not register the boy at all, but the beasts by instinct knew him where Zebadiah did not.  This could be no normal boy. 

                The boy looked at him quizzically.  He tilted his like he was trying to see the old man from a different angle.  “I’m just Timmy.” 

                The old man decided to take a different tact.  “Why have ya come here?”

                “The forest asked me to.  Can’t you hear it?  It is in pain.”

                “Of course, it is, those blamed settlements keep encroachin.  Pushing in, hunting, and chopping down the trees.  They’re vermin that need to be exterminated.”

                The boy shook his head.  “No, the forest doesn’t hurt from outside.  It hurts inside.”  He touched his hand over his heart.  “It’s used to change, but it’s being poisoned.  So, it asked for help.” 

                “What could be poisoning the forest if not the settlements?”

                The boy looked sad for the first time since stepping into the cabin.  “You.  Your anger and hatred.”

                The words were like a physical blow to Zebadiah.  His connection to the forest was weaking by the moment and exhaustion began to overtake his body.  He limped to the couch afraid that in moments his legs would no longer be able to support him.  He tried to speak, but the words came out as gasps for air and raspy sounds. 

                Timmy stood over the couch looking down at Zebadiah.  His face showed pity but also a child’s joy.  “Don’t worry mister the pain will be over real soon.  The forest is already feeling so much better.  I’ll take good care of it.  I might change the cabin a bunch now that it’s mine.  It needs more windows and color.”  Zebadiah could no longer see the boy or anything else.  He could just hear two final words before his long life came to an end.  “Bye mister.”             

Winter Storm

Fiction Fragment Friday

Today’s story is just a tiny slice of life. It is probably the first story I have shared on a Fiction Fragment Friday that is not Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Paranormal. I did think about adding a paranormal element to the stuffed animal in the story, but decided against it. It would have been extremely easy to do so, but it just didn’t fit the purpose of the story.

I actually debated for a while on whether this should be a genre story. Some past stories have started out completely mundane, but I don’t write mundane so I have worked in elements of Science Fiction into them because I felt that is what is expected of me. I tend to want that for a story to be interesting so a part of me feels like that is all I can write. For that reason alone I decided to stick with slice of life. To continue challenging my preconceived notions of my writing.

“Daddy how do the bunnies stay warm with that much snow outside?  What do they eat?”

My daughter has always loved bunny rabbits.  She sometimes sits on the couch looking out the window watching them run around the front yard.  Of course, her favorite stuffed animal is Mr. Hoppy a big rabbit with a creepy looking grin on it’s face.  I swear I have never seen a toy more disturbing, but she won’t go anywhere without it. 

“I’m not sure baby. “ I knew the answer was wrong the moment I said it.  I didn’t even have to see the look on her face, but that did help drive it home.  I could see the tears forming in her eyes and had seconds before they would start falling.  “I know, let’s look it up.”  I pulled out my phone incredibly grateful to have the total of all the world’s knowledge both real and imagined at my fingertips. 

I made a couple of quick searched why my daughter watched me.  I wasn’t sure if the look she was giving was hopeful or afraid.  I knew I had to answer very carefully though and if I was vague she would eat me alive.  People worry about bears and sharks but the real apex predator is a seven year old girl worried about the bunnies in her front yard.

“Looks like they have thick fur and burrow underground to stay warm.  If there isn’t grass to eat they can eat tree bark or bushes.  This says they do really well in the winter.”  I relaxed a little.  I had been expecting a much less reassuring response.  I of course left out that rabbits breed so quickly because winter like predators is a form of population control.  My phone stayed ready though because more questions were likely to come.

“How does being underground help them stay warm?”

“Well it’s kind of like wearing an extra coat.  It keeps the wind away and makes sure that all the heat their bodies make stays there instead of floating away.”

She looked relieved and for a moment I thought I could relax.  Then came the flood.  “What about squirrels, and chipmunks, and raccoons, and and and…skunks?  No skunks are stinky even if they are kinda cute.”  She spoke so fast I could barely understand her. 

“Woah, slow down the princess. I’m sure they all have ways of getting by.  Let’s just pick one more and look it up.  How about raccoons?”

“Ok.”  She clutched Mr. Hoppy tightly and I could tell she wasn’t happy to be limited to only one. 

I did a few more searched and thought about how I wanted to word my answer.  “Well baby it looks like they grow extra fur, find shelter from the wind and if it gets really bad they do something like hibernating.”  I really hoped that would be a good enough answer, but I expected to have to look up details on hibernation and how what they did was different.  Thankfully she looked satisfied.

“So the animals outside don’t need our help?”

“No baby they all have their own ways of dealing with it just like we do.  Speaking of how we handle it do you want a Hot Cocoa?”  The key to a seven year old is distraction.

“With little marshmallows?”

“Yep I picked some up in my pre-snow storm shopping trip.” 

As we headed to the kitchen I couldn’t help but wonder how my parents and grandparents did it.  How did you answer questions like that before having the Internet to look it up?   I tried remembering if I had ever asked questions like she does, but if I did I was too young to remember the answers now. 

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