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Fiction Fragment Friday

What is a story? As I was writing this week’s Fiction Fragment Friday I found myself asking that question. This work did not feel like a story. It was certainly fiction and qualified for posting, but was it a story? It felt like world building and not actually telling a narrative. I felt like a story required something to actually happen.

Is exposition or description a story? I still don’t know the answer to that, but many flash fiction works tend to fall into the category of being something new and unique. I have written flash fiction as an advertising campaign, terms of service, a product manual, and other such formats that do not seem like actual stories. They build a world more than tell of events.

I think this work does classify as a story even though it is really more of a prologue to what could be a larger story. It certainly does not feel like a complete story. In the end it doesn’t really matter if it is a story or not. All that matters is whether you enjoy what you have read. With that in mine I present Gigi.

     Death hates murderers and especially those that take the life of a child.  I was surprised to discover this because I had assumed that she would appreciate anything that ended a life.  What I didn’t understand was that she believed in the natural flow of a life.  A life cut short has not experienced its full potential.  It seems like a contradiction to me, but she is far more complex than I would have ever imagined.  Apparently, a life given fighting for something a person truly believes in is a fulfillment of potential unequaled by any other.   

     The living embodiment of the concept of Death is not actually a woman.  She takes a form comfortable to the person interacting with her and in my case, it just happens to be 22-year-old goth girl I had a crush on in college.  There is something truly disconcerting to feel the immense power radiating off someone wearing a “got blood?” t-shirt, barbed-wire necklace, and black jeans.  From what I understand if there were more than one of her reapers in training interacting with her, we would all see and hear something customized to ourselves.   It actually hurts my head to think too hard about it.

     I could tell this job was not going to be pleasant with her arrival.  The ground shook as a bolt of lightning struck it burning a ten-foot radius.  We were not in reality, but a place between this world and the next.  It felt real to me though and I recoiled on instinct.  She was angry and barely holding that anger in.  I logically knew that she would never lash out at me for something I had no part in, but fear seldom listens to logic.  I recoiled from her out of a sense of self preservation.  From the look on her face, I can tell that annoyance at me has now been added on top of the seething rage she was already feeling.

     “Get up dumb-ass.”  I did mention that her form personality was created from my memories, didn’t I?  Her message always come through clear but filtered through my own awareness.  Like I said it gives me a headache to think about it.

     “Sorry Gigi, you just startled me.”  When she had first recruited me, I decided I needed a name other than Death to call her so I came up with Gigi. It was a play on the letters g and g which were short for Goth Girl.  I still felt weird reducing a being with such power to that level of a nickname, but she didn’t seem to have any issue with it at all.  I suppose self-consciousness goes out the window when you are a force of reality. 

     “You’re the best trainee I’ve got.  Probably says more about the talent pool than it does you, but it’s time to graduate anyway. Don’t fuck it up.”  My phone dinged and I knew the information would be waiting in an e-mail.    She turned to walk away and was just gone.  I was used to quick conversations, but this was abrupt even for her. 

     I opened my phone to read the e-mail.  I should probably mention that I know the phone isn’t real.  Every interaction goes through the filter of what my mind can handle.  I’m not ready to have information just flow into me so instead I have a phone and e-mail.  Other trainees get file folders, books, or whatever they are more comfortable with.  I can’t call anyone with it or e-mail anyone except Gigi.  From what I understand when I “graduate” to a full reaper I will be able to though.  I will be able to interact with the other reapers.  I winced as I read the details.

     My job is simple yet incredibly difficult.  When people die, they need to move onto the afterlife, reincarnation, or whatever comes next.  I don’t actually have those answers yet.  The important part though is that to do so they need to let go of the life that just ended.  They have to acknowledge that they have died and that their journey now goes forward instead of back.  That is harder to do for some than others and especially difficult for people who die tragically or who have a lot of unfinished business.  It is the reapers job to be there when they die and ensure that they move on. 

     Reapers are not always successful.  You know all those stories of demonic possession, poltergeist, and general weirdness.  Most of them are fake, but the ones that are real probably started with a reaper failing.  If we can’t successfully get the spirit to move on quickly, they become twisted and angry.  It is a horrible existence where you are trying desperately for closure that will likely never come.  If it does somehow come, you have already been changed too much to move on.  That is where reapers come from. 

     Every single reaper is a spirit that refused to move on, but somehow managed to return to sanity.  I suspect there is another force of nature out there helping that to occur but have no proof of such.  We all know what it means to fail because someone failed us, and we don’t want anyone else to go through what we did.  That is why reapers are so dedicated to their job.  Whatever comes next is denied to us, so we need a purpose here.

     I looked down at my final test and felt tears in my eyes.  It was a young one.  I have been told they are the hardest to convince.  They have nothing but loose ends and often are not formed enough to even understand what has happened.  They are often raw and undefined enough that if we do fail, they don’t even get the option of becoming a reaper.  I have not done one solo yet and I am terrified of failing. 

     It is then that I realize that I know the name.  This is my nephew, and I’m the only one standing between him and a nightmarish eternity.  The fear slowly fades away into determination.  I will not fail him I think as I turn and walk through the tunnel of light that will lead me back into reality.  It was time to go to work.   


Fiction Fragment Friday

I really like this story. I don’t know where the inspiration for this one came from, but it hit and I just had to write it all out. It flowed easily once I started.

     “It’s time,” the nameless robed man said as he opened my door.  I’m sure he actually did have a name, but I didn’t know it.  I had come to recognize this one’s voice from the others.  He came to see me often enough that I had given him a nickname.  Generic Cultist number thirty-seven.  I had not in fact identified thirty-six other cultists prior.  Nor did I actually know if there were more than three cultists because I had never seen more than three together at one time.  I just liked the number. 

     “Time for what?  Oh, is it ice cream time?  I haven’t had ice cream since before you two-bit horror movie rejects shoved a bag over my head and kidnapped me.  How long ago was that by the way?”

     “Six hundred and sixty-six days ago,” generic cultists number thirty-seven said without any emotion leaking into his words.  No matter how much I taunted this one I just could not get a rise out of him.  It was long past frustrating.  It didn’t matter what I said this one was always stoic.  It felt like he had been assigned to me because after a while he would be the only one, they would send in to interact with me.  I really hoped I hadn’t earned him a promotion.

     “Well, that’s not ominous or anything.”   I tried to keep my nervousness out of my voice.  I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of knowing that I was actually terrified out of my mind.  I had apparently been here for two years without any interaction with a person not wearing one of these robes.  No one had come to rescue me and it didn’t look like anyone ever would.  Somehow, I had held onto my sanity, though it might be argued I didn’t really have any to begin with.

     Number thirty-seven grabbed me by my upper arm and squeezing hard enough that I winced in pain.  My hands were already bound in front of me as a couple of his identical twins had come in earlier and taken care of that.  I stumbled a bit as he lead me through the winding corridors.  It was all stonework with actual torches in sconces on the wall.  Not even gas lanterns, but actual cloth wrapped torches.  I couldn’t even imagine the upkeep on that or why anyone would go to that degree of trouble.  Everything about this group screamed bad horror movie. 

     We came out into a large chamber.  There was a carved Pentagram in the floor with candles at the points and a raised stone altar in the middle.  Standing there next to the altar in much more ornate robes with the hood pulled back was someone I recognized.  “Janet?  What the hell are you wearing?”

     My ex-girlfriend was smiling at me.  “Hello Jeremy.  I trust your accommodation have been adequate.”  My eyes went to the very ornate dagger she was holding.  It had jewels on the handle and symbols carved into the blade. 

     “I’m stayed in worse.  I mean I did stay over at your apartment a few times.  Now that was a dump.” 

     I could see the anger on her face.  “Does everything always have to be a joke to you?” She stomped her feet in exasperation which kind of undermined the creepy vibe she was going for.  She looked to thirty-seven.  “Put him on the altar.  Let’s see him joke as I carve him open and bleed him for our master.”  Not going to lie that brought back the creepy vibe.  I struggled, but thirty-seven was much stronger than me and had no problem tossing me onto the altar and tying me down with my hands up over my head. 

     “You know you are giving a whole new definition to the phrase crazy ex-girlfriend.”  I tried to keep my voice light, but at this point I was truly terrified.  I watched as four more robed figures came out of the shadows of the chamber.  Each of them including thirty-seven took up a spot on a corner of the pentagram and picked up the candle.   They were chanting in a language I didn’t recognize.  Finally in unison they all pulled back their hoods to reveal pointed ears, red skin, and yellow eyes.  It was either the best cosplay I had ever seen, or they were not human.  The bruise on my arm supported the not human theory. 

     Janet stood over me chanting herself.  She picked up a chalice and dipped her fingers in it.  They came out dripping blood and she flecked it over my body.  I struggled against my bonds trying to pry them loose.  I could feel them start to give way but didn’t know if I had enough time.  Janet sat down the chalice and lifted the knife over her head.  As she brought the knife down my bonds finally gave way and I reached up catching her wrist.  The cultists did not move from their spots or stop chanting.

     “NO, you always ruin everything.  Not this time though.  I won’t let you ruin this for me too.”  She was frustrated by I was much stronger.  I bent her arms back towards her thinking she would quit trying to push forward.  She didn’t realize what I had done in time though and plunged the knife into her own stomach.  She screamed in pain and fell on top of me.  I could see a large black vortex forming above us.  “Why couldn’t you just die?” she whispered as she bled out. 

     I felt a weight come over me.  It felt like I was moving through water.  The pressure became so bad that I collapsed back onto the altar with Janet’s now dead body covering me with her blood.  My eyes stared into the abyss above me and I had the distinct feeling that something was looking back.  That is the last thing I remember.  I woke up at some point later on the altar.  The cultists had been ripped apart leaving me alone in the room.  It was the most horrific thing I had ever seen. 

                That was three weeks ago.  I’ve settled back into a new life.  As it turns out there was a treasure room in the catacombs, they kept me in.  I still need a new job to explain my income, but in reality, I never need to work again.  For some reason I decided not to call the police and report what had happened.  I knew I couldn’t really explain Janet’s death or any of what happened.  There has not been a night since that then that wasn’t filled with nightmares.  The scariest part though is that sometimes when I’m awake I hear a voice in my head that does not sound like my own.  It tells me to do horrible things and the more it talks the more it sounds reasonable.  

My Person

Fiction Fragment Friday

I started writing something and got two paragraphs in before scrapping the story. It isn’t that I don’t think it was good or worth telling. I just was not feeling the story right now. Instead I wanted something lite. Something with a different tone and feel. So I wrote this story instead.

It is definitely on the shorter side, but I think that is a strength. It is a perspective story and hopefully makes you think a bit.

     I know that sound.  Some of those things sound similar, but they all are a little different.  That one belongs to my person.  He is home and I know it is him from the squeaking sound before he turns off his machine.  I need to see him though because he has been gone forever.  For all I knew he was not going to come back.

     I run across the room and jump up on the couch.  The curtains are in the way so I have to shove my head through them.  There he is.  My person outside and walking towards the door.  His hands are full of bags slowing him down.  I can get to the door before he does. 

     The door opens and hits me in the head.  It’s ok my person is here and I forgive him.  My tail is wagging like crazy shaking the whole back of my body.  I need to get to him, but those bags are in the way.  Is that a treat in the bag?  I shove my head in and sniff to see for sure. 

     “Guys back up.  Get back.  Away from the door.”  He has raised his voice.  He must be as excited to see me as I am him.  He really shouldn’t carry so much stuff.  It keeps his hands full and he can’t pet me.  Oh yeah there is another dog here.  He isn’t important though.  All he ever does is hog the attention of my person. 

     Ok, that’s not really true.  He helps groom me and runs with me in the back yard.  I guess we are friends, but he needs to know that this is my person not his.  I already have to share with the cat I’m not sharing with him too.  That’s just too much

     Oh no my human is yelling now.  I was just trying to get my treat but then he dropped his bag.  I’ve upset him.  I just wanted to show my person that I was happy to see him, but now he is angry with me.  My tail is up between my legs and my head is down.  I scuttle back to my bed and lay down.  I can’t help but whine a bit.  I was so excited to see my person, but now he says that I’m a bad dog.  I don’t think I’m a bad dog, but I guess I am.

     My person finishes putting away the things in the bags.  I try to watch him from a distance.  He sits down in his chair and turns on the TV.  I just watch.  I want to make it up to him, but I don’t know how.  I’m still excited to see him, but he isn’t happy to see me.  It hurts to be in the room with him, but so far away.

                “Come here boy.”  Oh boy he called me.  He wants me over there with him.  I rush over to him.  He pats his leg.  I know what that means.  I jump up on him.  He lets out a loud sound, but I don’t understand why.  It doesn’t matter my person wants me.  I lick his face.  “I’m sorry I yelled.”  He pets me and I am happy.  My world is complete right now.  My person is home, I am on his lap, and we are going to be like this forever.   

A Disagreement

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week you are getting a fragment and a story. When I started writing I had an idea. As I wrote that idea just was not working. I kept pushing forward even though I knew that what I was writing was bad. Finally I stopped and decided to scrap it all and restart. Instead of just sharing the new story I have decided to do something a bit different. First I’m going to share the failed story and after that I will share the rewritten version.

First Attempt

     “What the hell were you thinking?”  The volume and force of Jennifer’s words hit Brandon like a wall.  He had just entered the kitchen but had to take two steps backwards.  He could feel the heat radiating off her from across the room. 

     “Calm down honey.”  As soon as the words came out he knew it was the wrong thing to say.  The wave of psionic energy lifted him off his feet and tossed him through the air into the living room.  His hip smashed into the back of the couch flipping him over it.  Finally he landed on the coffee table with a groan of pain.

     Jennifer rushed into the living room in a panic.  “Oh baby I’m so sorry.  I didn’t mean it.”  She pulled his head to her chest and stroked it gently.  “Please be ok.  Please be ok. Please be ok.”  She rocked back and forth as she pleaded with him.  “Come on baby wake up.”

     James struggled to open his eyes.  His whole body was wracked with pain.  He could hear Jennifer’s voice but his head hurt too much to make out the words.  This was not the first time something like this had happened, but it was the worst.  Something had to be done, but he was afraid to say the wrong thing.  “We have to do something about this.  It’s getting worse.” 

Final Story

     It had been a long day at work, and I was happy to finally be home.  Unfortunately, that feeling of relief didn’t last long.  The moment I stepped into the kitchen Jennifer turned to me with eyes full of anger.  I opened my mouth to ask her what was wrong but before I could utter a word, she cut me off. 

     “What the hell were you thinking?”  I stumbled back two steps from the force of her words.  The heat radiating off of her could be felt from across the room and I could see loose items in the kitchen start to float.  I was particularly worried about the knives.

     I lifted my hands up in a placating manor and said, “Calm down honey.”  As soon as the words left my mouth, I knew that it was the worst possible thing I could have said.  In the history of the world no one has ever calmed down because someone told them to.  It will always just make them angrier.  She let out an exasperated scream while I tried to brace myself for the fallout.

     The wave of psionic energy hit me like a truck.  I could feel my feet leave the ground as my body rode the wave into the living room.  My hip slammed into the back of the couch spinning me over it and rolling until my back crashed into the coffee table.  I lay there feeling nothing but pain and I’m pretty sure I lost consciousness for a moment. 

     As the world started to come back to me, I realized that Jennifer was there and holding me tightly against her.  I could hear her voice, but the words could not cut through the pain.  It wasn’t just my hip and back that hurt either.  My head was pounding, and I knew that she was the cause.  I struggled to focus and finally her voice started to come through.  “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to.  Please wake up baby.  Please just be ok.”  She was rocking me back and forth adding to the pain.

     This was far from the first time she had lost control, but it was worse than I had ever seen it.  I fought to open my eyes hoping to make the rocking stop.  My next words had to be thought out very carefully.  Saying the wrong thing could make her lose control again.  My voice was strained when I finally was able to speak.  “We have to do something about this.  It’s getting worse.”

     “Don’t you think I know that?”  The frustration was mixed with tears.  I could feel the pounding in my head getting worse.  “I try so hard to keep it in check but I just can’t.”  I forced myself to meet her eyes.  The anger was fading away buried beneath the fear.  Unfortunately, that was the second most powerful emotion for triggering outbursts.

     “It’s going to be ok.  We’ll figure this out together.”  I was trying to be comforting but every instinct told me to run.  It was only the overwhelming pain my body was in that allowed me to push the instinct away.  “You can’t be the only one with these abilities.  We’ll start searching the Internet for others.  Someone out there has to be able to help you.”

     “What if I am though?  Or what if the government comes and locks people away when they start to develop?  What if I’m an alien?  I never met my birth parents.”  She was spiraling again.  Always going to the worst possible scenario.  It was something I understood well but could not allow myself to do.  I needed her calm. 

     “You’re not an alien and no one is going to take you away.  I won’t let them.”  We both knew that she was way more capable of defending herself than I would be.  Sometimes it’s just the words that someone needs to hear that make all the difference.  “We’re in this together.”    She held me tightly in a hug and I tried not to wince too badly in pain.  “I’m kind of afraid to ask this, but what were you so mad about when I got home?”

                “You bought a new fabric softener and I’m allergic.  I’ve been itching all day.”  I looked over at the TV and saw one of the kitchen knives sticking out of it.  I had almost died because of fabric softener.  If I didn’t get some kind of help soon, I might not survive my next shopping trip. 


Ricochet On A Saturday Night

Fiction Fragment Friday

Oh Ricochet how I have missed you. For those that don’t know Ricochet was originally created as a character in the Roleplaying Actual Play Podcast Knights of Reignsborough. For me he has grown into so much more. During the original run outside of gaming there were a few short stories and audio fiction I made for the character. I have received some artwork of the character over the years as well and have a custom action figure of him.

Where Ricochet really became something more for my writing was in 2020 when I completed NaNoWriMo for the first time writing his origin story as a novel. It was not the first novel length work I had written, but it showed me that yes I could still do it and I could complete NaNoWriMo as well. That was a huge boost for my confidence.

This weeks story could very well be included in the sequel to my Ricochet novel if I write one. I would need to edit my first novel before moving forward to see what changes in rewrites. This story stands on it’s own though and I think I would like to do more stories and perhaps combine them into a short story anthology of the day to day heroics of the character.

So without further ado I give you Ricochet on a Saturday night.

Words cannot describe the exhilaration that comes from leaping off a building and feeling the air rush past you.  You have this moment of pure freedom where nothing else matters except that moment.  Bills, relationship troubles, being a general loser at life; all of it just slips away as the adrenaline hits.  Of course, I wouldn’t recommend it if you don’t have superpowers like I do.  The freedom might not come if you didn’t know for sure that you weren’t going to squash into the ground.  It really does open your options for what to do on a weekend.  This past Saturday was a great example of that. 

                I found myself lost in the lack of thought as I patrolled around the bad part of town.  It would be nice to say that I had gone there looking for trouble, but actually it was just my neighborhood.  Superheroing doesn’t pay very well.  I should clarify that it doesn’t pay me at all.   There are plenty of heroes out there that do make a paycheck out of it.  Lots of others are just rich and use it to finance the heroing.  My day job is a stand-up comedian, and I am incredible at it if I do say so myself.  Unfortunately, the audiences and comedy club bookers don’t have the same opinion of my act.  I get paid more for my gig jobs of event security, birthday party appearances, and food delivery.  I used to make side money signing up for medical tests, but since getting my powers from one I don’t want anyone taking my blood.  I have no idea what it would look like and can’t risk the secret identity. 

                I landed on the ledge of a roof in a perfect superhero pose.  In the age of cell phone cameras, you never know when you are being recorded or photographed so you have to always act like you’re always being watched.  Once a bad landing hits social media not even my hacker buddy Lester can make it go away.  True me he really tried that time I landed in dog poop and slipped falling on my butt.  He ended up spending weeks flooding the internet with memes and trying to bury it.  I still sometimes see a new meme with that photo. 

                The key to finding crime in Reignsborough is to just wait long enough in the right neighborhood and pay attention.  Sometimes you will hear a gunshot or a scream.  Most of the time it is much quieter.  On that Saturday night it was a group of gang bangers breaking into the back door of a gun store.  The last thing I need is those guns falling into gang hands.  My immediate instinct is to jump right in and start punching.  I am not quite lost in the high of my powers enough to forget the lessons I’ve learned in the past few years, so I wait and watch. 

                Most robbery in this neighborhood is smash and grab work.  Break something to gain entrance, grab as much merchandise as you can, and run.  It only takes a few moments of watching them to realize this is different.  One woman is at the end of the alley watching out for anyone.  Unlike ninety percent of people out there she is looking up as well.  That means she probably knows I operate in this part of town.  The guy at the door is picking the lock instead of just breaking the door.  Most noteworthy was that he wasn’t using a lock pick kit.  His index finger was shifting shape and flowing into the lock. 

                “What the hell?” I muttered to myself realizing that at least one of them had powers.  This was well organized, and I didn’t know what I would be facing.  I still had to stop them, so I tensed my legs ready to leap.  My plan was to hit them hard and knock them out before they had a chance to react.  That was when I noticed that the woman at the end of the alley was gone.

                “Bright red isn’t very stealthy.”  I felt the impact of her kick in my back as I heard her words.  The hit didn’t hurt and with my powers of kinetic absorption it actually made me slightly stronger.  It did however knock me off balance and I tumbled off the roof.  This was not a controlled fall, but I was still able to tuck up into a ball and spin in a way to land on my feet.  It was a fairly impressive superhero landing for a guy who had been kicked off a roof.  I smiled under my mask proud of myself.  Then the cattle prod hit my spine sending electricity through my whole body.  For the record my powers don’t absorb electricity.

                This was when the man at the back door got involved.  His hands morphed into large rectangle blocks as he stalked towards me.  I struggled to stand, but my body was not quite responding yet.  That was when he hit me.  It felt like his hands were made of concrete.  He pummeled me with hit after hit all the while screaming at me.  “You think you are tough.  How do you like that hero?”

                I leaped to a crouch and caught his hammer fist in my left hand.  I balled my right hand into a fit and pulled my arm as far back as it could go.  “Felt pretty good.  Just what I needed.”  I punched him right in the jaw only thinking to pull my punch at the last moment.  It was still enough to send him flying down the alley spinning in the air.  All his hits had supercharged my abilities and I didn’t know just how strong I was.  That isn’t to say that it didn’t hurt.  I knew I had bruises under my costume and would be sore in the morning.                         

                “You idiot he absorbs kinetic energy.  Stick to the plan.”  I didn’t like that she knew so much about how my powers worked.  I disliked that they had a plan specifically for me.  I really hated that she still had that cattle prod and was jabbing it into my side.  There is nothing I hate more than losing control of my own body for any reason. 

                As I fell back to the ground I kicked out with my left leg.  I didn’t receive that satisfying feeling of boot impacting knee that I expected.  Instead, I kicked empty air.  She materialized in front of my face and stabbed forward with the cattle prod.  I just barely dodged and watched her disappear again.  On pure instinct I spun around and tackled her to the ground.  “Hate to tell you lady, but you’re not my first teleporter.”  I grabbed the cattle prod with my left hand and crushed it.  I had knocked the air out of her with my tackle and like most teleporters she could not jump unless she could focus.  That’s hard to do while you are gasping for air.  “Who are you people?”

                She disappeared in my hands and reappeared at the other end of the alley over her unconscious partner.  “Loco sends his regards.”  With that she vanished taking her partner with her.  I knew the name.  Loco was a super powered gang leader, and we had a history.  I had been looking for him for a while with no luck.  If he was finally coming for me that was just fine with me.  This was far from over.  It was just beginning.      


Fiction Fragment Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Fiction Fragment Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Chase

Fiction Fragment Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Fiction Fragment Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Big Story

Fiction Fragment Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     “Why would I need a pen name?”

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

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

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

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

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