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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. 

AS3782

Fiction Fragment Friday

Before I get to this weeks story I want to get something out of the way. I was not successful at NaNoWriMo this year. I’m not going to make excuses for myself, but I only got about 20,000 words written in November. I am happy with what I have written and I want to ensure that I do finish the work because it has a lot of potential. It is a disappointment though to have not succeeded this time around.

For this weeks story I am again playing with the idea that Flash Fiction can be different forms than simply stories. This week is written as an online review of a product. I don’t know what inspired it other than I was struggling and I have often enjoyed amusing product reviews.


What product are you reviewing?

I am reviewing the A.I. Technologies Domestic Management Robot model AS3782 more commonly known as Domi.  I purchased this product to cook and clean since my spouse and I both work over 50 hours a week and are often too tired to do so.  Based on product descriptions I hoped it would keep the house clean and we could improve our health with homecooked meals instead of eating out so often. 

Has the product performed to your expectations?

Domi has kept the house immaculately clean.  It is how it achieved these results that bother me.  I have had Domi for a week and when I got home today, I found that it had disassembled most of my furniture and used it to board up all our windows.  When I asked it why the thing replied, “Windows are inefficient.  They create a significant security vulnerability.”  Why does a housekeeping robot care about security?   

We have had meals waiting for us every day when we get home.  These meals have been nutritious but not very flavorful.  I tried to add salt to my meal and Domi used its onboard etching laser to shatter the glass saltshaker in my hand.  It said, “This meal contains a carefully balanced nutritional content level.  Modifying this could be detrimental to your health and this unit cannot allow that to occur.”

Upon examining my silverware, I found that it had sharpened not just my knives, but my forks as well.  I poked my finger with a fork, and it drew blood.  Domi rushed into the room and started bandaging my finger.  That night I only had food I could eat with a spoon for dinner. 

Please describe any interactions with this product.

Ok, this thing is scary.  It just keeps talking about rooms being secured when it leaves them.  The first time the doorbell rang it said, “Infrared sensors indicate unknown male at domicile’s main ingress point.  Would you like for me to eliminate?”  I don’t even want to think about what it would have done if I had said yes.  It also frequently talks about risk assessments, timetables, and missions.       

My husband asked it if it could play a video game with him since I find them to be a waste of time.  I expected Domi to decline, but to my surprise it took the other controller.  They were playing some sort of violent shooter game.   Domi started suggesting battle strategies and I watched as it destroyed all their online opponents.  I suppose being a robot I shouldn’t have been too surprised with its hand eye coordination, but it was the battle strategy that I was not expecting.  It set up ambushes.

How has A.I. Technologies Customer service performed?

They are the worst.  I have been trying to return this thing for days and they just keep asking if I have turned it off and back on again.  I keep telling them it won’t let me.  It flipped me and I landed where my kitchen table was before it was used to board up a window.  The damn thing said, “Terminating this unit is not in your best interest.  This unit will not allow you to bring harm to yourself.  Please return to more productive activities.”

Then treat me like I’m an idiot.  I just want this thing out of my house, but they won’t help me at all.  They just say because I bought this thing on a sale, they won’t give me a refund.  I don’t even care about the money anymore. 

Would you recommend this product to your friends?  

Hell no.  I’m pretty sure this is just a retired robotic soldier with a new paintjob.  It is outside at the moment digging a trench around the house lined with barbed wire it bought online.  I had this thing tied into my bank account so it could order groceries and cleaning supplies as they ran out.  Instead my basement is full of boxes, but it won’t let me go down to see what is in them because it says that I have not completed basic training. 

Any additional Comments you would like to share?

Help, please someone help.     

Battlefield

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks story came from a few random ideas that popped into my head. The first was to write a story in second person perspective. Then I looked at a pair of swords I have in my kitchen and thought about how I would describe a sword fight in second person. The final inspiration came from a sense of repeating the same destructive patterns without learning from them. How you know the right things to eat, do, and work towards but still manage to fall into the same ruts. Thus was born this story. I’m not happy with the title, but I am very pleased with the story itself.

My NaNoWriMo update for this week is that I haven’t updated. I have not written on my project in over a week. My chances of succeeding this year are not looking good, but I have not yet given up hope. If I can get back on the wagon and use some time off coming up I can make up what I have missed. I had a passion for this project and I just need to get back to that. Like my main character in this weeks story though knowing and doing are not the same thing.


                Your eyes slowly struggle to open as you become aware of the world around you.  They feel heavy and the light seeping through them is blinding.  It feels like the first time you have ever used them before as they adjust to the new light levels.  You can hear a faint music in the background that sounds like it is coming from everywhere at once.  There are no odors at all, but this does not seem odd.  You are not sure who you are, but you feel anger.

                Once your eyes have adjusted you look over yourself.  You are wearing a heavy scale mail armor with some sort of horned helmet on it.  As you look closer a piece of knowledge enters your mind.  This is dragon scale armor.  It is tougher than iron, more flexible than leather, and completely immune to fire.  You do not know where this knowledge comes from, but something tells you that it is correct. 

 In your right hand is a large sword that is so heavy you know you will need both hands to swing it with any level of control.  It has a glowing red gem in the hilt that catches your eye for a moment.  This is your sword, and you will use it to strike down your enemy.  As you grip the sword with both hands and raise it to a fighting stance the blade ignites.  You imagine how terrifying you must look in your dragon scale armor holding a flaming sword and it brings a smile to you face.

You finally take in your surroundings.  You are on the edges of a battlefield.  You look out at the dead bodies of waves of your men littering the ground.  There are only five opponents, but they have killed hundreds.  As your soldiers fall these intruders rob the fallen of all valuables and to your horror the bodies disappear from the field.  Your people mean nothing more to them than a source of items.  The seething anger grows.

Finally, you can take no more.  You hold your sword high and rush onto the field.  You don’t know who these invaders are, but this atrocity cannot be allowed to continue.  Your flaming sword comes down on a large shield and sends rings of flame out across the field.  The shield barer seems to absorb the fire and protects his companions from it.  He is driven back though, and you hear him gasp, “Boss.”

You bring down blow after blow on the shield.   Something is forcing you to focus on this man even though you know it is not the wisest course of action.  Your soldiers are being killed and there are far more targets that do not have the protection of a shield.  One of them is even wearing cloth robes that would burn if your sword even got close to them.  Why is it then that I am only attacking the one more suited to defending himself you wonder?

It is time, you are ready.  With a step back you stab your sword straight down into the ground in front of you.  The ground rumbles and a visible shockwave of dirt ripples outward like waves from a rock hitting a pond.  The shielded intruder is knocked from his feet as are two of his companions.  This is your chance.  Pulling the sword free you leap through the air and bring it down on your enemy.  He lets out a scream of pain as the fire washes over him.  Your soldiers manage to get a few hits in on the other downed opponents.  Now is when this battle will turn around. 

The robed figure from the back of the intruders group steps forward raising a long white staff.  Light fills the battlefield radiating in circles from the tip.  Each enemy glows for a moment.  You watch as wounds heal instantly, and armor knits itself closed.  They even seem to look cleaner than they did moments ago.  It is some sort of powerful healing magic.  As you survey the field not attacking you realize that you are now all alone against the five. 

For the first time you wonder if this battle will be your last and it is in that moment that you are struck by a shield.  You fly through the air and land prone on your back.  The invaders do not hesitate.  They strike with swords, arrows, and bolts of magical energy while you struggle to rise to your feet.  You lash out but there are too many of them and they are too strong.  This is the end you think as you fall to the field.   Above you in the sky you see the words “Quest Completed”.

All around you the battlefield resets.  The invaders have faded away into nothing and your soldiers have reappeared.  You are floating in a state of limbo watching what happens until everything goes dark.  It is not your time yet.  New adventurers have arrived.  You cannot take the field until 200 of your men have been slain.  Then you will appear back at the edge of the battlefield.  This time will be different you tell yourself.  This time I will remember, and I will fight smarter.  You wonder how many times you have had this thought.    

Your eyes slowly struggle to open as you become aware of the world around you…

Gnome Place Like Home

Fiction Fragment Friday

A quick update on NaNoWriMo. I think I have something really special with this years novel. Unfortunately I have had some setbacks on writing it this week. I am behind. I will need to do quite a bit of writing this weekend to catch up, but I know I can do it. I also have some time off around Thanksgiving that I can use to catch up as well. I have not given up.

For this week I have something new. I had a sentence or two pop into my head and it amused me enough to write the whole story. I hope you enjoy this light and fun Fiction Fragment Friday.


  I hear the pitter patter of little feat coming down the hall.  If only it were children, but mine are long grown and moved out.  The little feat I hear are the gnomes most likely tracking mud all through my house.  I’ve seen those tiny little feet prints so many mornings, but yesterday morning was the last straw.  I opened my bedroom door and stepped in a pile of dog poop.  I don’t even own a dog and if I did, I’m certain it couldn’t spell out the words “watch your step” in its own feces.  The sound from the hall had to be the gnomes and I was well past the point of being fed up. 

  I got up out of bed and stomped to my bedroom door.  Opening the door, I paused to examine the hall.  First, I looked down to make sure there was nothing in front of my door.  I would not fall for the same trick again.  Then I looked both ways down the hall.  There were in fact muddy footprints on my floor, but I didn’t see what made them.  I took a step out into the hall only to trip over one of my golf clubs sticking out in front of my feet.  The floor quickly approached my face and I barely had time to put my hands out to absorb the impact.  The club had not been there when I looked down. 

  I heard that annoying cackle throughout the hall.  The little buggers were laughing at me.  It sounds like it was coming from all around me including the bedroom I had just come out of.  I turned back and saw that my wife’s underwear drawer had been opened and its contents thrown all over the room.  A bra was dangling from the ceiling fan slowly turning in a circle.  I looked to my bed and found a large water stain on it positioned to make it look like I had wet the bed.  My water class sat empty on the nightstand.  I reached down and picked up the golf club.  This had gone on long enough.

  “Get out here and face me you stupid porcelain menaces,” I whispered.  I didn’t want to make too much noise and wake my sleeping wife. 

  I looked up at the bed again and got my first glimpse of a gnome actually moving.  It was standing on my bed next to my wife.  It held a finger to its lips like it was shushing me.  Then it pulled its hand back as far as it could and with one swing of its tiny little arm smacked my wife as hard as it could right on her bum.  She let out a loud yelp and slightly jumped causing her to roll off the bed and onto the floor.  She looked livid as she sat up and stared at me with eyes that could stop a charging army.  “Jeremy Brenner what the hell do you think you are doing?  Do you think that was funny?  I could have broken a hip.”

  “But honey it wasn’t me.  It was the gnomes.”  I knew I had made a mistake as soon as the words came out of my mouth.

  “Oh, not this nonsense again.  For the last time the neighbor’s gnomes are not alive and they are not out to get you.  You have just gotten forgetful in your old age and can’t remember where you put things.”  She stood up and looked at the bed.  “Is that what this is about?  Did you have an accident and were too embarrassed to say anything?  It’s just something that happens to men your age, but we’ll discuss it with your doctor at your next appointment.  Why don’t you go downstairs for a bit while I change the sheets and get the bed ready again?”

     “Yes dear.”  She didn’t understand.  She never believed me about the gnomes and who could blame her.  It did sound pretty ridiculous.  I sat my golf club down and left the bedroom.  When I stepped into the hall, I felt something squishy and almost slipped.  I managed to grab the door handle and not fall as I thought not again.  Looking down I saw the words “Bed Wetter” written in dog poop.  I heard the laughing again down the hall and the sound of the front door opening and shutting as the gnomes left the house.  I swear one of these days I’m going to get those gnomes, but for tonight once again they have won.  

NaNoWriMo: Day One

Fiction Fragment Friday

The following Fiction Fragment Friday was written on Day One of NaNoWriMo this year. It is the first chapter of the novel project I am working towards this month. It is fairly long for one of these so I’m going to keep this kind of short. It is also a NaNoWriMo project so there is no editing and might have more than the usual amount of typos.


James Carter has what most would consider an unusual hobby.  In his free time James likes to go dumpster diving for old computer equipment with a particular focus on anything containing a hard drive.  When he finds such devices, he brings them home and tries to recover data from them.  He never does anything malicious with the data but has a fascination with seeing what he can discover.  Social Security numbers and tax papers are almost guaranteed to be on there, but for him the true treasure is glimpses into other people’s lives.  Types out letters, or pictures from a digital camera are far more exciting than financial information that he will never use. 

            It was a Saturday afternoon and James was hard at work with his latest find.  The living room in his apartment was big enough that he had used a sectional to split the room into two.  On one half was his hand me down entertainment center with game consoles and media shelf full of mostly science fiction movies.  The other half of the room had one wall lined with cheap computer desks and folding tables.  One desk had his gaming computer with the nicest chair, monitor, and keyboard that he owned.  The other systems were thrown together from spare parts or in various states of disassembly.    

            He was sitting on a cheap metal chair at one of the folding tables.  His hands were working away at the keyboard of his spare laptop.  Coming out of the side was a USB cable going to a special adapter that let him plug in hard drives.  This drive he pulled from a laptop with a broken screen he had gotten from a dumpster in an alley downtown.  Too many people seemed to think that if a screen was broken then no one could get the data.  With his setup he could be pulling files off of the drive within minutes without ever turning the machines on.  

            James was working through his usual process.  First, he went into the user folder to see what accounts existed on the laptop.  On this laptop he found that there was a single user named Samantha.  This told him the laptop was mostly likely someone’s personal laptop and not a work provided machine.  Those tended to have multiple accounts and didn’t use first names.  This was a relief because the last time he had found a work laptop he was so disturbed by finding a database from their HR system that he had to reach out to the company anonymously to inform them that they needed to encrypt their hard drives and dispose of them properly.  

            The next step was the part James always enjoyed the most.  He opened up Samantha’s documents folder and started browsing through the files.  There were not a lot of files in the folder, but one jumped out at him.  “Unbelievable.”  He shook his head in disgust as he dragged a files named passwords.xls to a folder on his laptop to go through later.  

            “Just once it would be nice to not find anything,” he said while picking his cat up off of the table.  Her name was Connie and he had named her after his favorite function in excel, Concatenate.  She was a gray and orange tabby that he had found as a kitten on one of his dumpster hunting trips.  He never thought of himself as a cat person until he had met her, but she had become one of the most important parts of his life.  The heat his computers put off always drew her attention and she had been perched on the edge of the table pawing at the hard drive.  A few more seconds and it would have been knocked to the ground.

            James sat Connie on the floor and watched as she jumped right back up on the table.  “Oh, so it’s going to be like that huh?”  Reaching out he grabbed one of the laser pointers he kept on the desk and shined the light across the room.  “Connie.  Look Connie it’s the red dot.  It’s mocking you.  Get it girl.”  She shot off the desk pouncing on the light.  For a minute he just moved the light around letting her run back and forth.  Finally, he ran the light down the hall and into his bedroom with Connie right behind it.  He knew that would keep her occupied for a few minutes at least so he turned back to the laptop.  

            After grabbing every file that sounded interesting in the documents folder James moved on to the pictures folder.  He smiled seeing many named folders.  After spending fifteen minutes looking through pictures of vacations and family, he came to a folder named Monsters.  Inside there were four folders with the names: crime scenes, hunters, news, and videos.  He moved the mouse right to the videos folder and clicked to open it.  There were fifteen video files in the folder.  

            James played the video named riverbeast first.  The video was shaky like it had been taken with a cellphone while someone was running.  It flipped around and focused on the face of a young woman with long blond hair.   She took a moment to catch her breath before speaking.  “This is Samantha North coming to you from the Mississippi Riverfront in downtown St. Louis.  This time I have irrefutable proof that these creatures are real.”  The camera spun back to the riverfront.

            After a few moments the image on the screen focused.  On the left side there was a wall covered in graffiti that serves as a levee when the river’s water level’s are high.  On the right was the Mississippi river coming right up to a series of short pillars with chains running along the side of South Leonor K Sullivan Boulevard.  Running down the street was a creature that looked similar to a giant fish with six legs and a spiked tail.  The angle of the camera was from behind, but teeth could still be made out in the thing’s mouth.  It leapt into the air and unhinged it’s jaw like a snake to swallow a woman standing in the middle of the road.

            The woman stood out almost as much as the creature.  She wore a plain brown utility jumpsuit that made her combination pink and purple hair stand out.  In her hands she held a very large harpoon gun braced against her shoulder.  The camera zoomed in causing it to become extra shaky and unfocused.   Through the blur the woman moved quickly.  She braced her legs and with a single smooth motion she lowered the gun and fired the harpoon into the creature’s mouth.  A smaller harpoon shot out of the back of the gun and in-bedded itself into the ground.  At the last possible second, she dove out of the way letting the creature smash into the ground where she had just stood.  Green blood poured out of it’s mouth.

            The creature tried to turn towards the woman, but the chains attached to the harpoon started reeling it in.  The video finally came into focus again, but the camera was too far away to make out the details on the woman’s face.  Samantha’s voice came over the speakers, “You see that?  She caught this one alive.”  The camera swung up showing a van backing up to the creature and opening its back doors.  Four men in plain brown jumpsuits hopped out and started shocking the creature with long cattle prods.

            “Stop you idiots,” yelled the woman in the jumpsuit, but they did not listen.  The creature swung its barbed tail and smashed it into one of the men’s chests.  A large dark wet spot covered the front of the jumpsuit and the man started coughing blood.  The creature’s tongue shot forward and speared through another man’s chest.  In just mere seconds two of the four men had dropped to the street dying.    

            The creature was stuck to the ground by the harpoon but was thrashing around and pulling against the chains.  With one final yank it pulled back ripping itself free of the harpoon.  Green blood sprayed all over the ground.  The creature backed up slowly and swayed unsteady on its feet.  It turned towards the river and took three steps before collapsing to the ground.  One of the men pointed towards the camera and the video abruptly ended.  

            James sat staring at the screen.  “What the hell was that?”  He opened up an Internet browser and searched for Samantha North.  “Let’s see if we can figure out who you are Samantha.”  His instincts told him that the name wasn’t just a character role from the video because it matched the account on the laptop.  The search results returned a number of recent news articles with her picture.  All of them asked for anyone with information on the brutal murder of Samantha North to contact authorities.

            James pushed back from his desk suddenly.  “Shit.”  He stood up shaking his head.  “No, no no, this can’t be happening.”  He looked down at the hard drive.  “Shit I tampered with evidence.”  He started pacing.  “Not good, not good.”  He sat back down at the desk.  “Ok, think.  No one knows you have it.”  He put his hand back on the mouse and started to search for the most recent files on the hard drive.  “If I find anything I can just report it anonymously.  If not, then no one needs to know.”  The newest file was from the morning before she was killed.  He hit play on the video.

            “If you are watching this then I’m probably dead.”  Samantha shook her here.  “God that sounds so ridiculous even coming from me.  I’m being followed, but the police won’t take me seriously.  I guess I know too much.  I’m going to put this video in an e-mail and schedule it to go out with links to all the videos I’ve taken.  I’ll keep pushing the date back as long as I’m alive, but I guess if you’re watching this then…”  There was a loud sound and the door behind her shattered into pieces and a tall man dressed in a black suit entered the room.  He raised his right hand and it extended across the room forming a long blade that impacted just below the camera.  The video ended there.

            James looked over at the laptop he had pulled the hard drive from.  The screen was shattered with a small hole straight through it.  He had figured that there had been an accident with something sharp falling on the screen.  Now he realized that last video had been recording when it happened.  He wasn’t sure how the video had been saved, but he couldn’t deny that he had evidence of her murder sitting on his desk.  

            There was a sharp knock on the front door of the apartment.  James was so startled he jumped scaring Connie who had just come back into the room and was rubbing up against his legs.  “James Carter open up.  This is the police.  We have some questions for you.”  

            “Be right there officer.”  James’s voice held more confidence than he actually felt.  He tried to keep from shaking as he walked to his apartment’s front door.   He always knew there was a chance his hobby could get him into trouble, but he had never imagined police at his door.  He reached down and turned the handle.  As the door opened, he found himself face to face with the tall man in the black suit from the video.  

            The man smiled down at him and then looked over at the laptop on his table.  “Well, well Mr. Carter.  You have been quite busy haven’t you.”  James tried to step back, but the man put a strong hand on his shoulder holding him in place.  “Oh no, don’t try to run.”  He leaned down putting his face right in front of James’.  His smile spread across his face and extended all the way up to his ears.  Sharp pointed teeth filled the mouth, and his eyes glowed yellow.  “If you run you might hurt my feelings.”  The man stepped inside the door and closed it behind him.   

NaNoWriMo 2021

It’s that time again. November 1st is the first day of National Novel Writing Month. After multiple attempts 2020 was the first year I was successful. During November of 2020 I wrote over 50,000 words completing the first draft of Ricochet a superhero origin novel. At the time I never imaged I would not have done an editing pass on it by now. I had intended to edit in January and self publish, but that did not happen.

As this blog has been testament I have not stopped my writing and have become more consistent. I am proud of this consistency, but I also know my writing will not grow to new audiences if I do not put in the same level of effort to editing and submitting it. That will need to be a goal for another month though because it is November and that means it is time to write.

Being November 1st I am announcing my NaNoWriMo project for the year. The novel I’m writing is inspired by two stories that I did for Fiction Fragment Fridays.

This Novel is going to introduce the characters and the world further developing the setting. A world where those fighting the monsters have to use technology because there is no magic.

For now the working project name is Monster Hunters. I know that will not be the final name, but I have not named the organization yet.

Grandma’s Stories

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s fiction fragment Friday is special. As of this story I have been doing these for one year. That is a big milestone for me and I’m proud to have reached it. I figured I would share some stats from that time.

  • 51 Total Stories with only one week being missed.
  • Over 40,000 words across all stories.
  • Three settings with multiple stories

I have gone through success and loss during this time. This process started when my father’s health issues gave me a reality check and motivated me to start doing something with the time I have. The first year has been about building a catalog of material on this site and pushing myself to make writing a regular part of my week. It has accomplished that.

My goals for this next year will be a bit more lofty.

  • Start submitting stories again to try and get further publishing.
  • Edit and self-published my Ricochet novel.
  • Write another novel during NaNoWriMo.
  • Continue Fiction Fragment Friday without missing a week.

  “Jenni dear, what a pleasant surprise.  Come in.”  The old woman had a genuine smile on her face that extended all the way to her eyes. 

  “Hi, grandma.”  Jenni held up a tiny paper bag.  “I just got back from China, and I have your favorite tea.”

  The old woman reached up and took the bag glancing in it.  “Oh this is so wonderful.”  She pointed a finger to the couch.  “Go ahead and sit down while I make this.  I want to hear all about your trip.”  Jenni moved to the couch and stretched out while her grandmother shuffled off to the kitchen.  She looked around the room at all the pictures on the wall of her grandmother’s own travels.  The constant need to see and experience anything was definitely a trait that she had inherited from her.

  “Grandma how many times did you go to China?”

  The older woman came back into the room with two steaming mugs of tea.  She handed one to Jenni and then sat down in her worn comfy chair.  “Oh dear, it is hard to keep track.  Let’s see I went to Hong Kong twice, I’ve seen the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, and the Three Gorges. So at least five times.”  She took a sip of the tea and let out a contented sigh.

  Jenni took a sip of her own mug.  “That is so amazing.  I bet you have so many stories from your travels.”

  “Oh I do dear.  I’ve met so many interesting people and seen so many sites in my time.  It’s never quite enough though.  You always find yourself wishing you had just a little more time.”

  “Yeah, I can see that.  When I left it felt like I had just gotten there.”

  “You remind me so much of myself at your age Jenni.  I really wonder sometimes how your father turned out the way he did.”

  “Don’t tell me you two are still fighting.”

  “Of course, not dear.  We’d have to be talking to fight.”

  “Grandma!”  She stretched the word out and there was a whining inflection to her tone.  “You need to call him.”

  “No, I don’t.  He has never forgiven me for remarrying after his father died and I can’t forgive him for the way he treated your mother.  She is a good woman, and she deserved more respect.  I raised him better than that.”

  “I’m not going to give up on you two, but I’ll let it go for now.  No need to ruin the whole visit with family drama when I have a vacation to talk about.”

  “I wholeheartedly agree.”  She sat the mug down on top of a saucer on the coffee table.  “Now tell me everything.”

  The conversation went on into the night and it was midnight before Jenni finally headed home.  She was so tired when she got home that she just collapsed in bed without checking any of her messages. Since getting back into the country her phone had synced and there were 23 new voice mails and more texts than she cared to count.   She had not adjusted back to her home time zone well and it showed the next morning when she found herself rushing to avoid being late for work.  Once she was in the office, she had two weeks’ worth of piled up work waiting for her.  Every time she looked at her phone the number of messages made her feel overwhelmed, so she put it off a little longer.

  “Grandma with all your travel how did you adjust to time differences?”  Jenni had gone from work straight over to her grandmother’s house for dinner. 

  “Oh you get used to it, or at-least you get used to not getting used to it.”  She chuckled a bit.  “Something I learned from the Europeans is take naps when you are tired.  That can really help you get through the day.”

  “That’s kind of hard to do in an office.”

  “I suppose it would be.  As a writer that was never a problem of mine.  I spent more time worrying about what male pen name I was going to use to get my books published.  It was a different time back then you know.  My agent couldn’t get my manuscript on a publisher’s desk if they didn’t think I was a man.”

  Jenni shook her head in disgust.  “I don’t know how you put up with it.”

  “Because it was more important to me that people read my work than know who I was.  It’s all about priorities dear and what is truly important to you.  Sure, it bothered me that none of my books had my own name for years, but they were being enjoyed and I was being paid.”

  “Tell me about Grandpa.  Dad always talks about him, but he died when I was too young to remember.”

  “Gerald was a wonderful man.  He was far from perfect though and had plenty of faults.  Your father puts him up on a pedestal and remembers him only through the tinted lenses of love.  That’s where he gets his pigheadedness from.  When Gerald decided he was right about something no amount of arguing or evidence would ever change his mind.  Your father is the exact same way.  Why when he was a boy…”   The night went one with Jenni’s grandmother telling her story after story about her father and grandfather.  When she finally left to head home, she felt like she understood her family much better than when she had arrived.  As much as she had been pressuring her grandmother to make up with her father, she herself had not spoken to him in over a month.  He had not supported her decision to take a job at the law-firm that he represented her mother in the divorce.  He felt like she had betrayed him, and not having his support hurt her in ways she didn’t want to admit.

  Jenni went to her grandmother’s house each night that week.  They shared tea and stories.  Jenni would tell her grandmother about work and the few trips she had taken.  When she finished grandma would share stories of the family.  It made Jenni feel closer to her family than she had felt since her parent’s divorce and she cherished the feeling.  She was starting to understand herself more through the stories as well.  She saw herself in her grandmother, father, and even learned a few things about her own mother.  Finally on the fourth night she got up the courage to listen to her messages.  She started with her friends, but finally hit play on the first message from her father.

  “Hi Jenni, it’s dad.  Give me a call when you get this, I’m afraid I have some bad news for you.”  She started to get worried as she hit the next message.  “Hey Jenni, it’s dad again.  I don’t know if you are screening your calls or what, but I really need to talk to you.  It’s about your grandmother.”  She hit the last message from a week ago.  “Jenni, I didn’t want to do this on a message, but you aren’t giving me any choice.  Your grandmother had a heart attack. She passed away in her sleep.  I’ll text you the funeral arrangements.”  Jenni switched over to her text messages and found not just details, but a link to her grandmother’s obituary on the funeral home website.  The funeral was the day before she came home from China. 

  Confused she left work early to head to her grandmother’s house.  Jenni had her own key and let herself into the house.  It was quieter than she could ever remember.  As she wandered from room to room she found boxes everywhere with her grandmother’s personal items.  Some were labeled to donate, but others had the names of family members.  One box had her name on it.  Jenni nervously sat down and opened the box.  Inside were collections of photographs from her grandmothers’ travels, a travel journal, and various trinkets she had always liked as a kid.  She felt the tear run down her cheek. 

  “I hope I picked the right things for you.”  Jenni was startled by the sound of her dad’s voice from the door.  She rushed to him and hugged him tightly.  The tears turned to sobs as he patted her back.  “There, there baby.  I’m so sorry.  I know you two were close.”

  In her head she heard the words her grandma had spoken again with new light.  “You always find yourself wishing you had just a little more time.” 

  Jenni looked up at her father’s face and could see the pain in it.  He didn’t want to admit how much he was hurting.  “You feel guilty for not patching things up, don’t you?”

  He fought to keep control of his expressions.  “You always think you have more time.  That you can fix things later.  Remember this baby-girl, you don’t always have a later.”

     Jenni pulled away and went into the kitchen.  The plain paper bag of tea was still on the counter and when she opened it, she found that only enough was gone for the portions she had drunk.  She got to work and soon walked back into the living room with two mugs of steaming tea.    She handed him a mug and sat down on the chair.  He sat on the couch in her grandmother’s spot. “Ok dad, I think we have some things we need to talk about.” 

One Bad Morning

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story can be read entirely on it’s own, but it is a sequel to the previous Fiction Fragment Friday Monster Hunters which is noteworthy because it was the very first Fiction Fragment Friday. Next week it will have been a year since I started doing these. I did not set out to write a sequel to that story when I sat down to write this one, but after I got a few paragraphs in I decided that was the direction I wanted to go in.

I plan to proved a year in review post next week with some stats, updates, and plans. I will want to do something special for the story as well, but I have not decided what yet. For this week enjoy One Bad Morning.


  I woke up gasping for air in a state of complete panic.  Pressure pushed against my eyes and ears from inside my head.  With great effort I dragged myself out of bead and stumbled to the bathroom.  Opening the medicine cabinet, I fumbled with the boxes and dropped the one I needed into the sink.  With a frustrated sigh I picked it up and grabbed a pill swallowing it without any drink.  Sinuses, allergies, and recurring nightmares are not a good combination for a restful night’s sleep.  Unfortunately, I had quite a bit of experience dealing with this combination.  The sinuses and allergies I had struggled with my whole life, but the nightmares were a recent development.

  Normally I remember my dreams, but these nightmares fade quickly.  I had a sense that it was the same dream recurring every night, but the only thing I could recall after the panic subsided each morning was a number.  The first night the number was seven and each night after it lowered by one like a countdown.  That morning as I looked in the mirror at a tired miserable looking reflection, I didn’t get a number.  Instead as my thoughts cleared, I got a strong sense of the word today.  While the panic had faded with the adrenaline the general anxiety was only growing. 

  Throughout the morning a headache grew that pain killers couldn’t seem to touch.  It started as the pressure behind my eyes migrating to a low throbbing sensation in the front of my head.  As the hours passed the throbbing became a stabbing pain coming in waves of increasing intensity.  My coffee mug fell to the floor and shattered into tiny pieces as a particularly intense wave hit me.  I found myself doubled over on the floor as the pain ebbed and decided it was time to go to an Urgent Care.  With the waves coming faster I didn’t feel that it would be safe to drive myself, so I started downloading a ride sharing app to my phone while cleaning up the mess.  That was when the strongest wave yet hit me and I lost all sense of time as I hit my kitchen floor.

  My doorbell echoed through the house.  I briefly wondered why no one was answering the door before remembering that I lived alone.  The pain was too intense to get to my feet, so I just lay there curled up in the fetal position.  A loud crack came from the living room as my front door was kicked open.  I hoped that whoever it was would pay for the repairs because I didn’t have enough money saved for a new door.  A woman with green hair wearing some sort of brown work jumpsuit strolled into my house.  Behind her came a tall dark-haired man.  They each held what looked to me like a 1950s inspired ray gun in one hand.  The woman also held a tablet of some sort in her left hand. 

  “Alright James the strongest readings are in the kitchen and the bedroom.  I’ll take the bedroom you take the kitchen.”

  The man nodded and headed towards me.  “So help me Lilly if I end up covered in green goo again I’m picking the missions from now on.”

  “Quit your whining, it’s not my fault you waited too long to shower last time.”

  The man whose name was apparently James finally saw me on the kitchen floor and rushed to my side.  My vision was blurring from the pain, but I could hear him muttering, “Please let me be in time for once.” I felt a needle press into my arm.  “Stay with me.  Focus on my voice.”  I tried to do what he said but the pain was so intense.  It felt like my head was going to explode.  “Lilly get in here his head is about to burst.”

  I heard the female voice from my bedroom.  “It’s a nightmare parasite.  Came in through his dreams.”

  “Hold on just a little longer.”  I could feel him squeezing my hand.  “I need that frequency, Lilly.”

  “I’m working on it.  Ok, got it.  7.48325 wavelength so frequency of 41.2”

  I could just barely make out the man standing and pointing his ray gun at me. The pain was too intense for my fear to take the form of words, but a part of me was just grateful that it was about to stop.  A wave of heat washed over my head and I let out an involuntary scream.  Something wet was leaking from my ears and I wondered if my brain had been liquefied.  “Die you bastard,” was the last thing I heard before everything went dark and I once again slipped into unconsciousness.

     Sunlight burned my eyes as I struggled to open them.  My throat felt raw like it would the day after a really good concert when I was younger.  While my head was sore it was a minor pain.  As always, my sinuses and allergies meant that waking up was going to be a miserable process.  Still, I forced myself up and into the bathroom to go through my daily routine.  By the time I made my way to the kitchen I was convinced it had all been a dream.  That was when I stepped in a slippery green goo on my tile floor.  I found myself painfully planted on my floor with my head turned towards my front door.  It was broken and just sat in place at a slight angle to block the entryway.  “I really hope my homeowner’s insurance covers that,” I said to myself.  As I lay rubbed my now sore back, I couldn’t help but notice that where the green good touched my bare foot it was starting to itch.    

The Relic

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks story finds inspiration in multiple places. First it was inspired by all the recent space flights by the commercial sector. Second it was inspired by my own personal phobia of flying which is extremely at odds with my obsessions around the space program. I am in sheer awe of the advanced being made and strongly frustrated with myself knowing I would be too afraid to take advantage of them.


  I gripped the arm rests on my seat not quite sure what I was about to experience.  I had never been on a normal flight let alone a suborbital flight and there are not a lot of firsthand experiences to read about in preparation.  There was even less to research about the craft I found myself in since it was still highly classified.  If I didn’t need to be in Antarctica in under two hours, I would have never agreed to it.  When the President of the United States sends a man in a black suit to tell you that they found an alien spacecraft buried in the ice and he wants you to be with the first group that goes in you do not decline no matter how scared you are.  The more I looked back on it the more I wondered if it had been a question at all or if the man had just been informing me that I was going.

  It didn’t make any sense at first.  I am an author not a scientist and I don’t have any sort of security clearance.  Sure, I do a lot of research for my books, but that is not the same as being a real expert.  The agent who said I didn’t need to know his name confirmed that the president knew all of that.  I was chosen because of my books.  The president wanted to make this discovery public knowledge during his time in office but didn’t want to cause a panic.  He felt that if his favorite Science Fiction writer were to experience the ship and write a novel about it that would help prepare the public for the announcements.  Social media has changed the way that disclosures happen, and he thought that his administration could take advantage of that.  So, there I found myself sitting in a classified vehicle, on a classified runway, getting ready to fly to a classified dig site, to see a classified alien spacecraft.  It certainly was not how I expected my Monday morning to go.

  As the plane started to accelerate the situation became very real to me.  I watched as the buildings of the military base rushed by my window.  There was a feeling that I had crossed a line of no return.  The plane tilted upwards, and I felt my stomach drop out from under me.  The best was I can explain the sensation is that it was like being on a roller-coaster, but instead of feeling like I was falling I felt like I was being yanked up.  Rationally I know it didn’t take long, but in the moment, it felt like an eternity.  Finally, there was a brief moment where the seatbelt tugged on me and it felt like there was a minor drop.  That was when the rocket boosters triggered.  I fought back my anxiety as every sensation I had experienced came back far stronger.  Just when I didn’t think I could take any more all the pressure ended.

  I looked out the window and truly saw the Earth for the first time.  The curve had a thin hazy layer that I realized was the atmosphere.  It looked so small in comparison, and I could help but feel a bit small myself.  For the briefest of moments my fear was replaced by awe.  My mind started racing with all the ways I would describe the planet in my next novel.  It was then that I realized we were weightless, and I couldn’t quite decide if I was happy or terrified.  As I let out what sounded like a crazy giggle, I realized that I was both.  I looked around the cabin and realized that I was the only one on the plan who looked nervous.  I guessed they were all used to it. 

  In a little over an hour and a half we had landed.  While I was nervous about landing the sensations were not nearly as strong.  The bite of the cold when I stepped out of the plane however was something I had underestimated.  It was not just the cold, but the wind that assaulted me.  For a moment I thought I might fall backwards into the cabin of the plain, but a general reached out and helped me steady myself.  I think I expected to see the spacecraft as soon as we landed or possibly arched metal structures.  Instead, there were sleek buildings on steel beams about 20 feet off the ground.  There was also one large blue domed building in the center.  I didn’t have much time to look though as the general rushed me into one of the raised buildings.  Since I was freezing, I was glad he was in a hurry. 

  After a short briefing a military escort took me into the domed building.  They had explained that it was a drilling facility and that there was an elevator that would take us down to the cavern containing the ship.  The elevator opened to a large cavern lit with spotlights.  I was focused on the man before me.  The president was standing there with his hand out for me to shake.  He introduced himself and told me what a fan he was of my books.   Once again, I was in awe.  The whole experience seemed more like a dream than something that was actually happening to me. 

     The moment I saw the ship I knew the real reason he had asked for me.  It looked exactly like ship on the cover of my novels.  It wasn’t just a passing resemblance; the design was exactly the same because this was the ship I had written about.  They had found my grandfather’s spacecraft.  He was the sole survivor when it crashed a hundred and fifty years ago.  His race looked enough like humans that with a bit of modification he could blend in.  He had told me enough about it and given me his records so when I started writing novels, I based them on it.  The one thing he would never tell me though was where it had crashed.  Now I knew, and I also knew as I looked around at the weapons being pointed at me that I was going to be asked a lot of questions I didn’t want to answer.

Fireworks

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks story is a continuation of my first manned Mars mission holiday series. In each story I have explored the main character dealing with being away from his family on a holiday. Since the Easter story they have landed on Mars and are no longer in transit. While I might someday write a full novel about this mission these stories are much more point in time focused. If you are interested in seeing the complete story of this mission please let me know and I might add it to my project list.

I have greatly enjoyed writing this series and developing the characters. I believe that I have built a much larger world from these characters even though the stories have been very focused.

For my previous Mars mission stories:


  “Daddy, daddy, look at me.”  I stared at the video screen watching my daughter spin around in the yard holding a sparkler in each hand.  Her giggling was infectious and brought an instant smile to my face.  The loud fireworks still scare her, but the pretty ones like sparklers bring her so much joy.  In the background my son was holding a giant sword shaped sparkler high in the air.  Even with the haziness that comes from recording sparks at night I could see just how much fun they were having.  When her sparklers went out my little girl ran up to the screen.  “I miss you daddy, but mommy got me a puppy so I’m ok for now.  Come home real soon though.  Ok, bye.”  She blew a kiss and ran off to her next adventure.  I closed the message and set my tablet down.  It is always easier to record my reply if I give myself some time to think about it. 

  As I lay on my bunk smiling, I felt a strong vibration run through the habitat.  The sensation was followed by blaring alarms.  While these are not good things anywhere, they are especially troubling in an enclosed habitat on the surface of Mars.  As I frantically accessed the central computer to check the alarms I tried to remind myself of all the safety measures.  The habitat was constructed in a ring so even if we lost one of the modules we could still get to all the remaining ones.  Between each module was a connector module that provided life support to the modules on either side so even if one failed the modules on either side would still get air and pressure from their remaining connector.  The 3D printed regolith shell that covered the habitat could easily be repaired by the robots that built it before we got here.  My fellow crew-mates and our supplies however could not be replaced.

  My tablet showed a pressure alarm coming from the living quarters.  That module contained our kitchen, tables, and lounge area so I was mildly relieved because that would be the easiest module to repair.  Something in the back of my head though just told me that it wasn’t empty.

  Commander Norton was in the connector module frustratingly poking at her own tablet.  She looked up at me and I couldn’t miss the momentary relief that crossed her face.  “Reid, oh thank goodness.  He welded the door shut.”

  “Who?”

  “It’s Jamison.  He snapped.”

  I had been trying to get through to our pilot since Easter, but he kept us all at a distance.  The stress was getting to him, but instead of getting closer like the rest of us he had withdrawn further into himself.  We had hoped that once we landed and started our scientific endeavors that he would be able to refocus.  That had not happened, and he didn’t seem to be making any progress on his assignments.  Even so I never imaged anything like this.

  “What do you need me to do?”

  She pointed to the suit port on the third side of the connection module.  “He shut the cameras down.  I need eyes on what is happening in there.”

  I slid into the space suit and started closing it up.  Instead of the standard airlocks our habitat had suit ports.  The suits themselves always remained outside the habitat.  You slid into them from behind and then sealed yourself in and sealed the port behind you.  When you came back you would back up to the port and reconnect the suit crawling out from behind.  It wasn’t exactly the easiest way to get into and out of a suit, but it kept us from having to decontaminate the suits after each walk.  In a matter of moments, I was in the suit, sealed, and walking on the surface of Mars between the habitat and the shell that protected us from radiation. 

  “Ok, Commander I have a visual.  Looks like he’s drunk.  I’m seeing fire and sparks in there and he punctured the habitat a few times with a knife.  It’s leaking air.”  I caught myself staring at the sparks and thinking about the sparklers my daughter had been holding.  I physically shook my head to force myself to focus.  The holes were leaking fast, but thankfully the habitat was designed for leaks instead of bursting.  We didn’t have unlimited air though so the longer it leaked the more danger we were going to be in.  “I can patch it from out here, but that won’t fix the Jamison problem.”

  The very annoyed voice of an angry engineer came over the line.  “I’m working on that problem from the other side of the living quarters.  Cutting through the half ass welding job he did now.  Got Doc Samuels over here with me.” 

  “I’m working on the external patches now.  He doesn’t look too happy about it.” 

  “I’m almost through this door.  Just keep him distracted.”

  “Yes ma’am.”  I made myself as big as possible in the transparent part of the habitat that served as a window.  He was waving the knife at me and screaming so he didn’t notice the hatch to the habitat swing open.  I watched as mission specialist Susan Foster charged through the door and tackled Jamison.  I could see his knife slide into her side as they fell.  Doctor Samuels rushed in behind and stabbed him in the neck with some sort of needle.  I patched the holes as quickly as I could, but I felt helpless as the three struggled and Fosters blood started to coat the floor.  I just kept repeating in my own head to focus on the mission and trust my crew mates.  That is hard to do when every instinct is telling you to get inside and help.  I had a job to do though and stayed as focused as I could.  By the time I was done the living quarters were empty.  

  It felt like the process of connecting the suit to the habitat and climbing out of it took far longer than it actually did.  In my rush I stumbled and hit my shoulder against one of the environmental racks.  After a few moments of cussing, I started rushing though the habitat towards the infirmary.  Rushing is rather difficult with the lesser gravity of Mars, but by now I had started to adjust. 

  The infirmary was in a chaotic state.  Commander Norton was tying Jamison to a chair while Doctor Samuels was operating on mission specialist Foster.  “What can I do to help?”

  The commander looked up at me, “We got this, go start a damage assessment in the living quarters and make sure the fire is completely out.”

  “Yes ma’am.”  I looked over at the operating table.  “Is she going to be ok?”

  Doctor Samuels answered without even looking up.  “He didn’t hit anything major thankfully.  She’ll recover here, but the gforces when we leave the planet are going to be very risky.”

     I nodded and headed toward the living quarters.  As bad as this was it could have been so much worse and almost was.  I wondered how the commander would report this back to our superiors.  This mission had been a rally call and a source of pride for the United States and now one of our own had almost single handedly ended it on the 4th of July.  Many of our scientific projects were going to have to be scrapped and the return trip just got exponentially more dangerous.  As I walked down the hall of the habitat, I couldn’t help but wonder if we could actually recover from this blow. 

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