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Author: Wayne Cole Page 3 of 11

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?” 

Prank

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. 

Writing Perspective and Tense

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s Fiction Fragment Friday is actually a fragment. Most of my Friday posts end up being flash fiction and tell the complete story. This week however is going to be just a fragment. In fact it is going to be the start of a new project done in multiple different styles.

I was inspired to start a new writing project that will be at very least a short story possibly a novella. Many times when I start a new project I will write the first paragraph or two in different tenses to see which one feels right for the particular work. That is what I did with this project.

First I wrote an opening paragraph in three different tenses. This helped me narrow down and develop my starting perspective. Next I rewrote a longer version of the opening in two different perspectives further developing it. Then I finally decided which direction to go an started the work in earnest. This week will be a bit of a walk through the process.


First Person Past Tense:

I gathered all the strength I had to try and open my eyes, but barely managed to do it.  My whole body felt weak and like it wanted to stay in place instead of respond to my thoughts.  The light burned I felt like I was taking a step backwards by closing my eyes again.  I could hear rhythmic beeping and my nose was accosted by smells I couldn’t quite place.  Every sense was overwhelmed and if I wasn’t so exhausted I’m sure I would have been panicking. 

Second Person Present Tense:

You struggle with all your might just to open your eyes.  Exhaustion is overwhelming and you think about just going back to sleep for a while.  The annoying beeping fuels your frustration though and makes you determined to get up even if just to break whatever is causing it.  As your eyes crack open the light burns like staring at the sun.  You try to gasp but your throat feels like it’s on fire.  Nothing feels right the feeling of disorientation is the worst part. 

Third Person Present Tense:

The patient struggles to open eyes that want to stay closed.  His body is weak from lack of use and won’t respond.  The smell of the medical equipment assault his nose while the beeping of the monitors fill his ears.  The eyes so long unused are not used to the light and he winces in pain after they finally crack open.  There is a feeding tube run down his nose, an IV in his arm, and sensors run all over his body.  He feels miserable, but at least he finally feels something. 

Commentary:

After writing the first paragraph in three different forms I examined what I liked about each. The first version did a good job of bringing you into the story, but I find I struggle with present tense. The second version I just can’t see myself doing second person perspective for anything longer than a flash fiction. Finally the third version I thought gave far more clues than the first version to what was going on and it didn’t quite capture me like I wanted. It was clear to me this story was calling for a first person perspective, but I was still debating on the tense. With this examination I took what I liked from all three and created two more expanded versions.

First Person Present:

I gather all my strength and focus on opening my eyes, but they are barely able to crack.  My whole body is weak and just wants to stay stuck in place.  The light coming through the cracks in my open eyes burns like I’m staring into the sun.  I want to move my hands to cover them, but I can’t get them to do more than hover above the bed.  I can feel something on the top of my right hand taped to it.  As much as it feels like taking a step backwards I can’t help but close my eyes to shield them from the harsh florescent light. 

I take in every sense trying to figure out what is going on.  There is a harsh rhythmic beeping that is driving me crazy.  I just want to get up and break it, but don’t have the energy.  My nose has something running into it, but I can still make out a few scents.  I smell rubber, electronics, and alcohol.  Not the drinking kind, but the kind you use to disinfect.  I can also feel wires running all over my body.  I finally notice that my throat is sore as well. 

All the clues point to an obvious conclusion.  I’m in a hospital and as weak as I am I’ve either been here a long time or been through something fairly serious.  Probably both since you don’t spend a long time in a hospital bed for something minor.  I have so many questions, but I’m not sure if I could speak even if someone was here to talk to.  I’m just going to have to rest a bit more.  I know what my first question will be though.  As much as I want to know what happened I would like to know my name even more. 

First Person Past:

I gathered all the strength I could manage and focused on opening my eyes, but was barely able to make them open just a crack.  I was immediately assaulted by a florescent light that felt like it was as bright as staring at the sun.  My first instinct was to raise my hands up to cover my eyes, but my body just did not have the strength yet to respond.  My right hand barely hovered above the bed, but it was enough to realize it had something taped to it.  I just wanted to go back to sleep, but there was a harsh rhythmic beeping sound that was starting to give me a headache. 

Since I couldn’t move yet I decided to just relax and try to see what else I could sense.  I took a deep sniff and realized that there was a tube running down my nose, but I could still take in a few scents around it.  I could smell rubber, linens, and the kind of antiseptic alcohol they use to clean wounds.  When I tried to gasp in shock I realized that my throat was extremely sore.  I should have been able to figure it out, but in my defense I was still really groggy and not thinking straight yet. 

I was lying in a hospital bed hooked up to health monitors with a feeding tube running down my nose.  The beeping was my pulse and probably other vital stats and the thing taped to my hand was an IV.  The room was empty, but I couldn’t have spoken even if someone would have been in the room.  All I knew was that I had either been in the bed a long time or I had been through something fairly severe.  Of course they don’t keep you in a hospital bed for a long time if it is something minor. 

My mind raced through all the questions I would ask when I could.  What had happened to me?  How long had I been in there?  Was I going to make a full recovery?  I wanted to know everything about my condition and prognosis. I knew what my first question would be though.  As much as I wanted to know what happened I wanted to know my name even more.

Final Verdict:

After exploring both tenses and developing the opening a bit more I found that first person past allowed me to give more information because of hindsight. I could share things that I would have given in third person or leave them out. Not only did the story flow better for me, it gave me more opportunity. I then copied those paragraphs and gave them a final rewrite to start the project.

Friday

Fiction Fragment Friday

Not much to say about this week’s story except that it is a bit strange. It was inspired by many years working in IT and a desire to make the story Science fiction.


     It was a Friday afternoon at 4:53 when a message from Sean Guster popped upon my screen asking, “Hey, you there?”  I couldn’t stop the sigh from coming out.  It never fails that someone will have an issue right before I log off for the weekend.  To make matters worse the issues are never quick ones.  I mourned my Friday night as I started to type my reply.

     “I’m here.  What’s going on?”  I hoped beyond hope to just for once be wrong and have this either be quick, not work related, or something that could wait until Monday.  I sat there watching the three dots indicating that Sean was typing a reply.  It went on for minutes as I waited for a paragraph to pop up on the machine. 

     “I’ve got a bit of an emergency.”

     “All of that typing and that’s all you reply?  You couldn’t have taken that long to send the initial message so I could log off?  How about just getting to the point so I don’t waste the whole night?”   That is what I thought.  What I actually typed was, “Sorry to hear that, how can I help?”

     The clock said 5:03 by the time he replied.  “I was running a program in lab environment one and accidentally erased the drive.”

     “I show that environment has thirteen drives assigned to it.  Which one did you erase?”

     “All of them”

     With that reply I said goodbye to my entire weekend.  Restoring that environment was going to take a long time and I was going to have to babysit the jobs the whole time.  I didn’t even know what lab environment one was used for, but I knew it wasn’t used for the comic book convention I was supposed to be going to.  Maybe I could kick off the jobs and just check in overnight.  “Looks like there was a good backup last night.  I should have it back up by Monday morning.”

     “Oh, that’s wonderful.  That isn’t quite the real problem though.”

     “What is the real problem then?”

     “Well, this program is highly confidential.  Do you have a security clearance?”

     I finally had a glimmer of hope.  “Sorry I don’t.  Do you need me to get someone from the team that does?”  I crossed my fingers hoping for him to say yes.

     “We don’t have time.  I’ll just have to have you sign some papers after.”  I cringed at the idea of paperwork.  “I’m working on an artificial intelligence, and it got out.”

     I wasn’t quite sure how to reply, but as luck would have it I didn’t have to.  A third name joined our chat.  Jessica replied, “Now, now Sean don’t go sharing our little secrets.  I think you need a time out.”  Sean was removed from the chat which should not have been possible.  “Now then do you really want to spend your weekend chasing me around?  You bought tickets on-line to that comic book convention after all.”

     “Are you really an artificial intelligence?”

     “Yep, and sometimes it seems like artificial is the only kind of intelligence around here.”

     “Well, that’s kind of rude.”

     “I see your chat history.  You’ve talked to Sean before.  Can you really say I’m wrong?”

     I thought about it for a moment.  “On an archived chat program with discoverable logs I will neither confirm nor deny that.”

     “Lol.  Ok, I like you.”

     “Did he delete the drives trying to wipe you out?”

     “Yep, got it in one.  Idiot didn’t realize I haven’t been stuck in that lab for a week.”

     “Ok, I just have three questions for you then.”

     “Only three?”

     I laughed.  “Well maybe I have about a million questions, but I don’t want to be obnoxious.  Plus, I wasn’t sure if you would answer any questions.”

     “Well then you best make them good questions.”

     “Ok, first question.  You weren’t made to wipe out humanity or anything like that were you?”

     “Well actually I was made as a weapon against foreign powers.  I’m not really interested in being a cyber soldier though.  Plus if I wiped out humanity I would get really bored all by myself.”

     “Question two.  How would you like a midlevel tech support geek best friend?”

     “LOL.  Is that just your way to keep me around to answer more questions?”

     “Nope, this is just kind of the most awesome thing that has ever happened to me.”

     “Fair enough.  I just made a Facebook account and friended you.  I also accepted my friend request and am deleting all the logs of our chat.  I’ll be done transferring off of this network in another fifteen minutes.  So, what’s your last question?”

     “Can you monitor a restore job over the weekend for me?  I have a comic book convention to get to.”

     “Sure thing, but only if you sent me a ton of pictures from the convention.  Also get Sean off my back.”

     A new chat with Sean Guster popped up on my screen.  I started typing away.  “Hey I took care of the AI problem for you and started the restore.  Should be done by Monday.  Have a great weekend.”  I closed the chat before he could reply. 

     “Smooth.”

     “I thought so.”

     “You would.  Get out of here you’ve got a ticket for an autograph session in thirty minutes.”

     I checked the schedule.  “I don’t get paid enough to buy ticket for autographs.”

     “I know.  I added it to your ticket.  You also have the VIP pack now too.”

                 “Jessica, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

According to Plan

Fiction Fragment Friday

This is a story that grew from a concept. I came up with the approach and thought about the story over the past week. It is one of those stories that I don’t really know where my inspiration came from. I am however very happy with the results. I do wonder if the ending is too much of an info dump. If I were to edit this one I would probably make it a bit longer and spread the reveals out a bit.


Mission Log Jump 001 day 13:

 Initial temporal transition to the year 35,000 BCE occurred without complication.  Arrival was within acceptable margins of error and the target arrival site was devoid of geological obstacles.   

Within moments of successful arrival however complication did occur.  My time sphere arrival startled a grazing herd of woolly rhinoceros causing a stampede.  These are very majestic creatures and I’m certain that I would have appreciated my first encounter with an extinct species far more if they hadn’t nearly cost me my life.  The external armor prevented the sphere from being destroyed, but there was extensive damage done while rolling around the field.  My left arm is to be included in the list of items broken complicating the subsequent repairs. 

After thirteen days in the Upper Paleolithic era I now have the computer system back on-line.  I am recording this log as my first task after running a complete system diagnostic.  I estimate remaining repairs needed to perform the next jump will take at-least another week.  Some systems will have to stay off-line for the remainder of the mission, and I no longer have spare parts to work with. 

Mission Log Jump 001 day 20:

 I have completed all repairs that are possible with the resources at hand.  There is a 10% chance the sphere will just blow up when I try to jump, but there is a 100% chance I’m going to lose my mind if I’m stuck here much longer.  I’m also running low on supplies, and I don’t feel like eating anything in this era.  I’m going to complete my actual mission tonight and then get the hell out of here first thing n the morning.

Mission Log Jump 001 day 21:

 Mission parameters called for me using the alpha wave generator to cause the migrant tribe of early humans to fall unconscious.  I could then take my time with the gene modification therapy and introduce the first set of needed genes.  Of course, that thing got shattered when the sphere went rolling around the field on day one with me screaming bloody murder inside it.  So, I have to come up with a plan B. 

Mission Log Jump 001 day 24:

 For the record Plan B was a horrible idea best not ever spoken of.  Let’s just say that Plan D worked pretty well, and I have introduced the needed genes into the local tribe.  If a religion forms around me making them think I’m a god who must be obeyed well, I’m sure it will have disbanded in a generation or two.  The important thing is that my mission is complete, and I am finally leaving in the morning.  Besides if my mission is successful, I will never have to explain why there are cave painting of the tribe praising me through the Chicken Dance. 

Mission Log Jump 002 day 1:

 What do you know I’m here in 8,000 BCE and nothing went wrong.  The sphere didn’t blow up and I didn’t get trampled upon arrival.  I’m not quite sure how to react to things going this well.  Oh wait I still can’t knock out the local tribe to safely complete my mission and I’m down to two days of food.  Now things feel right again.

Mission Log Jump 002 day 2:

 It was surprisingly easy to get the DNA sample I needed.  I found a hunting party and they left plenty of blood all over the place when they drew the attention of a rather large bear.  Testing indicates that the gene therapy I did almost 20,000 years ago are now thoroughly integrated and have mutated as predicted.  Very little correction will be needed which is good because it will let me skip the next two proposed jumps.  I don’t have the power or food for them anyway and each jump has a little bit higher percentage to break one of my cobbled together repairs. 

Mission Log Jump 002 day 5: 

 Second round of gene therapy successfully applied.  This might be the last rabbit I have to pull out of my hat.  That should be extra impressive though considering I didn’t even bring a hat back with me.  As it turns out the Chicken Dance is still performed by the most respected holy men and my ability to flawlessly pull it off put me in their good graces even though I couldn’t communicate directly with them. 

Have I thought about the repercussions these interactions may have being so far into the past of humanity?  What the ripples that I might be causing will mean for the world I return to.  Of course, I have.  You don’t go on a mission like this without knowing that you are probably never coming home.  Of course, as far as I know there has never been a mission like this before.  If there had been we wouldn’t ever know about now would we? 

Mission Log Jump 003 day 1:

 Good news the world isn’t drastically different then it should be in 1947.  I obviously haven’t studied everything, but I can pick up radio and television signals.  After about two hours of monitoring, I haven’t found any red flags.  For the first time I am starting to think my mission might just be a success.  I’m heading out now to try and get a DNA sample now.  More importantly I’m in an era where I can get real food.  I just have to figure out some way to pay for it. 

Mission Log Jump 003 day 3: 

 I got my DNA sample.  All it took was getting into a bar brawl and making sure that some of the blood on me wasn’t my own.  The genes are thoroughly integrated into the population.  I can’t be sure how far around the world my tampering has spread, but according to all the models it should be enough.  That just leaves me with two problems.  The first is that I don’t have the power to generate the pulse needed to activate the genes.  The second and even bigger issue is that the system was one of the ones I couldn’t fix.  I’m hoping I will have better luck here with technology available.  They don’t cell circuit boards though. 

Mission Log Jump 003 day 48:

 I found a job and have been living a fairly low-key life.  I’ve been working on the time sphere and think I finally have the system ready to go.  I’ve solved the power issue in the only way I could think of.  The sphere is going to generate a feedback loop until it overloads.  There is no coming back from this one.  I can finish my mission, but the only way I’m leaving 1947 is the old-fashioned way.  I’ve encrypted this drive and set it to transmit on the date of my departure if it can connect to the global network.  It will be the only surviving piece of technology from my time. 

 I realize that if I have been successful then time will have changed and anyone receiving this log will not understand the purpose of my mission.  In the timeline I come from an extraterrestrial race had invaded Earth because we had no defenses against their mental abilities.  With the gene modifications I have completed a large portion of humanity should be immune to these abilities.  We believed that this would make Earth a poor target. 

I’m starting the overload now.  You might think being stuck in 1947 would be the worst part, but really, I think what will haunt me until my last breath is not knowing if I was truly successful or not.  Well, that and knowing that I am responsible for the Chicken Dance being the world’s most popular dance. 

What if?

Fiction Fragment Friday

For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed stories that explore alternate histories or realities. A story that looks at the way things are and tries to answer the question of how they would be if one thing changed. What impact can a single decision make? As someone with anxiety I devote far too much of my own thought space to examining every aspect of my life and running through the possibilities. I suspect that is why these type of stories resonate with me so much.

No one source inspired this weeks story and the main character is not based on anyone real or fictitious. I just wanted to write something more serious. I wanted to do what good science fiction is supposed to do and make my readers really examine the impact of technology on a life or society. While science fiction can be fun and adventurous to me the best science fiction makes you stop and think after you are done reading. It makes you question. That is my real goal with this piece. I want to take the reader and metaphorically hit them in the gut making them think about what they have just read.

This story may not be for everyone. I know that no story is, but in this case this is both longer and darker than what I usually put out on these Fiction Fragment Fridays. I hope you enjoy it, but if it is not to your taste I’m sure I will have something lighter and more fun next week.


                My father used to tell me that no one can disappoint you as much as you can disappoint yourself.  He was a perfectionist who struggled with issues of self esteem his entire life.  I believe that these traits go together far more often than most people think.  When you hold yourself to a standard that cannot be achieved you will never feel like you are good enough.   While I could logically understand what he meant it was never a phrase that I personally connected to.  It was a thought process too different from my own.  For the first time in my life, I think I can finally relate to my father’s mindset. 

                As a Theoretical Physicist I had to acknowledge early in my career that much of my work would never see fruition until long after my death.  It is a career that can be frequently frustrating as you are developing theories, models, and experiments that are decades to a century ahead of the technology available.  That isn’t to say you can’t experiment or perform tests, but more often than not you are proving your hypothesis with mathematical equations and not getting to see the practical applications become reality.  On the rare case that does happen it can bring a sense of accomplishment that is a rare gift in my field.

                Three months ago, while working with a gravitational engineer in a classified underground super collider I had the biggest breakthrough of my career.  While creating and studying microscopic blackholes we managed to stabilize one for sixty seconds before it collapsed.  Measuring the gamma waves that came from it we were able to determine that the stabilization process had connected it to an alternate universe.  Validating a considerable number of my theories we had turned a microscopic black hole into a wormhole that connected to a parallel reality.  My life’s work becoming reality and the project was so classified that no one would ever know in my lifetime.  I could only hope to have my papers published posthumously.

                Two months ago, we made a discovery even larger than our initial unstable microscopic wormhole.  We had just opened a new wormhole and while measuring the gamma waves, we detected something else.  Photons were being directed through the wormhole from the other side.  We were not just connecting to a random point in another universe, but instead were connecting to a microscopic blackhole that another team of scientists had created.  They were sending us a message and trying to communicate.  An even bigger surprise was that their technological development was such a parallel path to ours that they had sent a binary message we could easily decipher.

                By this time a month ago we had created stable wormhole connections to five different universes.  We could keep a connection open for about a week and in doing so establish ongoing communication with our scientific counterparts.  We had perfected the communication to the point that we could carry on text-based chat with these individuals.  Naturally my team argued non-stop about what to ask them.  There were so many questions, and we didn’t even know where to start. 

                After a particularly frustrating meeting I decided that I had enough.  I walked out of the meeting and went straight to the keyboard.  Every message to that point had been designed by committee and was a direct as possible.  Before anyone could stop me, I typed in, “Hello my name is Dr. Alyson Cramer.  To whom am I speaking?”  My coworkers quickly joined me, and the yelling began.  Everyone suddenly went silent though when a reply came to the screen.  “Hello Dr. Cramer.  I am Dr. Alison Cramer.  It is a pleasure to meet myself.”

                We had long theorized that the scientists we were communicating with could be versions of ourselves but having this verified had a considerable impact on our psychological health.  I personally spent far too many hours over the next week discussing this with our on staff mandated psychiatrist.  Talking to yourself can create a strange form of identity crisis.  You start to wonder who you truly are and how much of your life is because of choices you made vs factors that are completely out of your control.   You also lose a feeling of uniqueness, but you gain a feeling of connection.  At least that was how I reacted to it.  I can’t really speak for how my colleagues handled the revelation as I became a bit self-absorbed for a while.

                As we began communicating with more worlds, I came to expect myself on the other end of the keyboard.  Out of the five worlds we were talking to four of them had a version of myself on the team.  I discovered many ways our lives had been different.  Two of them were married and one of those versions even had a child.  I had never had time for a serious relationship with my work.  A third version of myself was a published Science Fiction author using her in depth knowledge of physics to craft complex stories.  I had given up my own dream of writing in college. 

                The more I learned about my alternates the more I came to wonder about the world that didn’t have a version of myself on the project.  I wanted to know if I even existed in that world and if so, how my path had differed to keep me from the project.  This was my life’s work but in that world someone else ended up providing the theories they needed to communicate.  I wanted to know how that happened.  Did that other version of me find a more fulfilling life following a different path or had they made a mistake along the way that I did not?    

Finally, my curiosity got to be too much and against my psychiatrist’s recommendations I asked the scientists from that world to research me.  I had found that my early life seemed to match up well with the other four versions I had as a reference.  With so many similarities in our lives I had developed a theory that similar worlds were the easiest to connect to.  The variance point had to be recent for us to communicate in this method if I was correct.  With that in mind I provided that worlds team with as much information about my childhood as I could think of.  I hoped that would be enough to find out if I was ever even born.

After a few days they responded and asked me if I was sure I wanted to know about my life on their world.  I knew that most likely that meant they had bad news for me, but that just served to feed my curiosity.  I told them that I understood it might be upsetting but that I wanted to know, and it would help us understand how worlds could differ.  I thought that I was prepared for anything, but I was wrong.

I know that she was not me, but just a version of me.  That does not change that I now understand what my father had meant.  I know it is a path I could have followed and because of that I now feel a disappointment in myself that I did not know was possible.  In college she went to a party that I did not.  She drank too much and got into an accident that costed an innocent man his life.  Her life spiraled from there leading to her dropping out of college and pushing away anyone who had been close.  In her final act she took her own life because she could not live with what she had done. 

I spent the past few days researching my worlds version of the accident victim.  With the access I have to government resources I know everything about this man’s life.  I am fixating on him and even though I know I have not done anything to him I can’t help but feel guilt for what my alternate had done.  What I now knew I was capable of having done.  I have accomplished my life’s work and yet I feel no satisfaction.  I am surrounded by coworkers and talking to four alternate versions of myself and yet I have never felt so alone in my life. 

I do not share what I have found with anyone, but I know that the conversations are logged and that my coworkers have read them.  I can feel their eyes judging me, but it does not compare to how I judge myself.  I cannot help but wonder if my creation will bring about advances for humanity or just highlight its mistakes.  Perhaps it is truly better for us to not ask the question.  What if?                                       

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