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Dungeon Diving

Fiction Fragment Friday

While this week’s story started with a single starting line popping into my head, I also have to give credit to many other sources of inspiration. I was naturally inspired by roleplaying and video games. The launch of Decked Out 2 a minigame built in Minecraft by Hermitcraft YouTuber Tango played a part in the timing as well. I also need to give credit to the many LitRPG novels I have read as well. Finally my own cynical nature deserves a nod.

                Some days I can’t help but question my life choices.  For example, the choices that led my three best friends and I into a dungeon looking for treasure.  Why in the world would people keep anything valuable in a dungeon?  Also why are dungeons in the middle of nowhere and filled with monsters?  I really think some people just don’t know what the word dungeon means.  Even if that is the case and these are not actually dungeons buried in the ground, they still seem like horrible places to keep anything valuable.  Haven’t these dungeon owners ever heard of a bank? 

                There we were as usual sneaking through halls where everything was falling apart.  Actually, not quite everything.  Traps always seem to be in complete working order no matter how old the dungeon is supposed to be or how many people have triggered them in the past.  Seriously why are they never out of arrows and how does a collapsing floor get rebuilt?   You would think one party going through one of these would trigger everything making it safe for future groups.  Maybe all the monsters reset the traps. 

                Speaking of monsters, how do they survive in dungeons?  If it has been sealed for let’s say five hundred years how is anything alive? I can understand skeletons and other undead, but mimics for example have to eat.  Sure, sometimes they get to eat adventurers, but some dungeons go long stretches between anyone going in.  If it has been sealed for generations have the monsters been breeding in there?  There certainly isn’t enough genetic variance for that to be healthy.  Just thinking about the logistics of a dungeon gives me a headache.  Nothing about it makes sense. 

                “You know we could be on a nice fishing trip, laying around on a beach, or taking in a bit of culture.  No, instead we are covered in slime and zombie guts just hoping that the next room will have a treasure chest sitting in it.”  I spun in place decapitating the zombie that was doing a very poor job of sneaking up behind me.  Moaning does not help with stealth.

                “Do you have to complain about everything?”  Gema the Bard, our party leader, was busy drawing the current room onto a map.  “There,” she said and leaned against the wall.  Of course her elbow triggered a hidden switch disguised as a brick.  The wall next to her opened up into a secret room causing her to stumble to the ground.  She has a natural skill at finding these hidden rooms.  We could search for hours without ever finding a hint that something was there, but the moment she carelessly leans against a wall she will fall through it.  At least this time there weren’t spikes or an army of monsters waiting.   

                “Again?  Seriously if anyone else had triggered something it would be a death trap, but you just stumble across epic items or hidden passages like the universe wants you to find them.”  Thorgrin, our paladin, only sounded annoyed because he was.  As someone blessed by a divine being he felt like the world should provide more for him, but our bard had all the luck and the rest of us seemed to be cursed.

                Our ranger just sighed and stepped into the hidden chamber.  The rest of us followed him not wanting to be left behind where something could wander along and attack at any moment.  The room was mostly a corridor, but at the far end was a treasure chest sitting on a raised platform.  If we were smart, we would have been checking for traps and approaching with caution.  Instead, Tiberius went right up to the chest and opened the lid.

Instead of gold or equipment the only thing inside the chest was a tongue and two rows of teeth.  The tongue wrapped around Tiberius’s wrist and dragged him half way inside.  The teeth came down biting into his back and stomach.  They punctured his leather armor and blood started soaking through.  We could hear screaming from inside the chest and his one free arm was smacking against the list of the chest.

It took me far longer to react than I would care to admit.  I blame it on shock, but this wasn’t even the first time we had run into a mimic, so I don’t actually have an excuse.  I chanted a few nonsense words while moving my hands around in a circle.  Pointing my fingers straight out in front of me a fireball hurled across the room and exploded against the mimic.  Since Tiberius was halfway inside the mimic the flames ran over him as well and I could hear him scream in pain from the burns.  The fire seemed to particularly like his cloak as well.  In my defense though the mimic opened up and let out a screech of pain himself releasing the pressure on Tiberius. 

Thorgrin grabbed our friend and pulled him away from danger.  I could see his hands glowing as he laid them on Tiberius.  Under the layers of blood his wounds knit closed and the blisters from his burnt skin cleared up.  When I could tell he was going to be fine I let out a breath I didn’t realize I had been holding in.  Another few seconds and he would have been gone and my fire certainly didn’t help his health. 

I was angry with myself, but not wanting to acknowledge that I decided to let that anger out on the mimic.  It is always easier to redirect those emotions than admit to them.  I spun around with my hands together ready to blast flames at the creature only to find it gone.  My eyes shot around the room looking for anything that could be a mimic in disguise.  That was when I noticed the platform splitting in two and moving towards us.  The walls started forming into stone golems and marching towards us too. 

“It’s gotten dangerous I have to say, perhaps it is time for us to run away,” Gema sang.  It might have seemed like an odd time to be singing, but we all felt the magic from her words flow over us.  Even though I had been a bit tired I suddenly felt not only refreshed, but ready to run.  As a group we fled from the creatures trying to retrace our steps back to the entrance of the dungeon.  “Keep an eye out for more trap, but don’t look back.”  No one verbally acknowledged her command, but we were all paying attention.  When Gema speaks it is hard not to pay attention, but when the magic flows from them we know to listen. 

The four of us came rushing out of the dungeon entrance as the doors slid shut behind us.  The creatures behind us roared in frustration at having their meal denied to them.  As I lay on the ground panting, I wheezed out.  “Someone tell me again why we do that?”

Each of my party members opened their bags and dumped out the gold and gems.  I added my own loot to the pile and Gema started dividing it evenly among us.  “Well, this should last us all for about two months.  Can you think of another way to make this much with two hours’ worth of work?  I can’t.”

I gathered up my pile refusing to admit that she had a point.  I kept my questions about why any of this worked the way it did to myself as well.  I knew if we went back into that dungeon in a few days we would find everything exactly as it had been when we went it.  Someone or thing had to be resetting all the traps and refilling all the treasure.  There had to be a reason for it, but that part of my theory still needed some work.  As much as I hated doing it I knew that there would be many more dungeons in my future until I could get the answers I was looking for.     

House Viewing

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week is a random idea that popped into my head. Another new way of presenting a story. I didn’t plan it out at all. I approached each room and decided what they would be like as they came up. Not really much to talk about with this story. Hope you enjoy.

                So, I know the last house wasn’t quite what you were looking for, but I really think you’re going to love this one.  As you can see the yard is very large.  What’s that?  Oh, don’t worry about those burnt spots.  I assure you the fires were all outside and there was no damage to the actual property.  The previous owners got a bit rowdy at times.  Once this place is yours though I’m sure your new neighbors will be so happy to have such an upstanding individual as yourself move in.  You are a quiet neighbor, right? 

                As you can see the front door is an antique.  That skull door knocker is made of real gold.  I would suggest replacing it though.  Sometimes with antiques they don’t quite meet modern safety standards.  The first time I viewed this place I cut my hand on it.  I’m not sure where the metal sliver is, but I got blood all over those very detailed fangs.  If you put an offer down, I can request that replacing the door, be a requirement for closing.  Wouldn’t want you to have to worry about that after all.

                Take a look at this beautiful entryway.  Living room on the right, dining room on the left, kitchen down the hall, and stairway up to the second level.  Where should we start?  Let’s take a look at the living room first.  Just imagine sitting in a comfy recliner with a good book in front of the magnificent fireplace.    I can’t imagine a better way to spend a cold winter’s evening.  Plus, if the power were to go out you would still be nice and cozy.  Not that the power in this neighborhood goes out often.  As I understand it though during storms you might lose it for a little while. 

                I do wish the previous owners had taken that painting over the mantle with them.  I swear it feels like the eyes are following me.  I tried to take it down last time, but it is really stuck on the wall.  Once you have it down though this will be such a wonderful room to relax in.  There are some scratches on the floor and a few stains, but a nice buff should take those right out.  Even better, that door leads to a den with inset bookshelves in the walls. 

                Let’s just quickly look through the rest of this floor.  Nothing much to see in the dining room except that candle holding chandelier.  I know the perfect electrician who can replace that with a proper electric lighting fixture.  The kitchen is huge with plenty of storage in the pantry.  There are stairs down to the basement there as well.  It might seem a bit odd that there is a walk-in freezer with a drain in the floor, but I just see that as a one-of-a-kind feature you could only get in a classic house like this one.  Also do you see the size of that oven?  Why you could almost climb in it.  I would not recommend that though as it seems to auto lock when you close it and you can only unlock from outside.

                Of course, there is a guest room and bathroom on this floor as well, but I really think we should head upstairs.  The master bedroom is where the house really shines.  Let’s head up the stairs here to the right.  Not only is this bedroom huge, but it has its own private bathroom with the largest tub I have ever seen indoors.  Those doors lead out to a balcony that looks over the backyard.  For some reason there is a podium built into the rail, but it won’t get in the way of the view if you want to put a garden or something out there.  The previous owner had a lot of parties back there so the grass was trampled fairly badly.  I know a great landscaper if you need one.  I’m sure that five-pointed star made of stones will come up very easily if you want to remove it.  I think it’s a bit of an eyesore personally.  Not even made of decorative stones.

                This is the second bedroom on the floor.  As you can see it has plenty of room.  I’m not sure what they used those hooks on the wall and floor for, but I bet you can have them all out in thirty minutes tops.  The key is how spacious it is with a walk-in closet.  If you want to store some valuables in it this lock is as secure as they come.  I have a buddy that is a locksmith and when I showed him the picture, he said it would take him a full thirty minutes to pick it.  You could even leave the hooks in the closet to secure a safe or something. 

                What’s that?  Oh no you don’t need to see the basement.  Trust me, there are no foundation issues.  Ok if you really must see it follow me.  Trust me you are not going to find a house this size for such a low price anywhere else.  It is a real steal, but the previous owners really have no choice.  See they found themselves in some legal trouble and need the money for their lawyer.   

                Here we go, the basement is right down here.  Ok, calm down.  I know a great cleaning crew that can get all this out.  Now I know it looks like blood, but the police forensics team ran tests.  They don’t know quite was it is, but they have eliminated human and all known mammalian blood.  I have been assured that it can’t be blood because it contains sulfur and still hasn’t dried after weeks of being down here.  It is not toxic though and there is no danger in it being here until cleaned.  It isn’t really that big a deal, is it?                  So, what do you say?  I can get the paperwork all drawn up for an offer in about ten minutes.  Sure, the place might need a bit of clean up, but it’s been here for over one hundred years, and you just don’t get that kind of quality workmanship anymore.  This is a house you can stay in until you die.  Uhm of natural causes many many years from now.  Ready to make an offer?       

First Contact

Fiction Fragment Friday

Cutting this story a bit close and barely getting it out while it is still Friday. I don’t really have much to say about it. I came up with the first line and the idea of what caused the commotion on the bridge and just went from there. I wrote not quite sure how to end the story until inspiration hit. Hope you enjoy.

                “Captain on the Bridge.”  My first officer announced my arrival as I stepped off the transport and into pure chaos.  The bridge was filled with crew calling out information from their stations and all talking over each other.  It was impossible to make out what any of them were saying.  I had been paged to the bridge only to find my usually disciplined crew in a panic.

                “Everyone quiet.”  Despite the chaos my voice was enough to immediately gather everyone’s attention.  “That’s better.”  I turned to my first officer.  “Mrs. Trask report.”  I could see the relief on her face at no longer being in command.  I made a mental note to have an uncomfortable discussion because I needed to be confident in her leadership when I’m not around.  This was the first time she had ever given me any reason to doubt her abilities. 

                “Captain three vessels of a completely unknown design have jumped into the far side of the solar system.  They are on an intercept trajectory.”

                I turned to my communications officer.  “Mr. Micheals any communication from the unknown vessels?”

                ‘No sir.  I’ve tried greetings in all the standard languages with no response.  I’m also not getting any transponders from those ships.  They are putting out some kind of signals, but nothing I recognize.  I’ve got the computer trying to analyze it.”

                “Good work.  Miss Cheng what do we know about these ships.”  I turned to my sensor engineer.  On a normal day sensors, communications, and basic system functions would all be handled by a generalist.  This was not a normal day though and my experts had made it to the bridge before I did.  I wasn’t happy about that and would need to figure out if I had been called late or just been slow.

                “Well Captain they don’t seem to be running any sort of stealth, but our sensors also can’t penetrate their hulls.  I have external design and am having no problem tracking them.  All three have energy shields around them and multiple mounted weapons.  Each ship is about a fourth the size of ours, but twice as well armed.  I suspect based on the energy outputs that they can outrun us as well.  No idea how they compare with jump technology.”

                “ETA to interception if we do nothing?”

                “Sixty-three hours.”

                “Ok, I want all the information we have gathered so far bundled up and sent to Mr. Micheals.  Once compiled get that sent off on a communication probe back to command central.  Astrogation, I want jump options planned for the three nearest systems with stations.  Tactical I want targeting programs ready with priority on weapons first and engines second.  Just to be clear we are not assuming they are hostile, but we need to be prepared in case they are.  Questions?”

                The ensign at the piloting terminal turned to face me.  “Captain, those designs don’t even look similar to anything I’ve ever seen.  Could they be aliens?”

                “Again, we don’t want to jump to any conclusions, but we need to be ready in case it really is a first contact.  I want options for communicating if we don’t know their language or have compatible communications technology.  We have sixty-three hours, and we are not going to waste them panicking.  Do I make myself clear?”

                “Yes sir.” The bridge crew answered in unison. 

                “Essential crew only on the bridge.  I want teams working on this not individuals so get your departments together.  Mrs. Tracks, I want department head meetings in my office at the top of every hour.  Any situational changes though I want immediate updates on.  Do not wait for a meeting to tell me anything they do.”

                “I’ll be in my office not standing over all your shoulders.  I need to prepare some speeches in case this really is a first contact situation.”  I left the bridge but made sure that I was not leaving it alone.  I couldn’t let the crowds and cross talk continue.  I needed them off the bridge and working. 

                When I reached my office, I slumped down in my chair and let out a deep breath.  The confidence I projected on the bridge was a mask.  I was just as concerned as everyone else, but it was important that my crew never saw that.  The next few days my decisions could very well get all of us killed.  Even worse if this was a first contact situation wrong actions could lead to war. 

                After about twenty minutes there was a buzz at my door.  “Come in.”  My first officer joined me in my office.  I motioned for her to sit.  “I take it there is an update.”

                “Yes sir.  One of the ships launched a shuttle.  It made an intersystem jump and will be here in about an hour.

                “Inter system?  That shouldn’t be possible.”

                “That is what our people said too.  Either way it happened, and they are almost here.”

                “Well, I’m taking that as a good sign.  They sent one lone ship that I’m assuming is not as well armed as the others.”  I sat back and thought about it.  Either they wanted to communicate and thought it would be better face to face, or the shuttle had some sort of trick up its sleeve.  “Clear one of the docking bays for it.  I plan on being there personally to greet them, but let’s not be dumb about it.  I’ll take a full complement of guards with me, and I want the bay ready to open to space if something goes wrong.  We are not taking chances here.  If something happens to me, your priority is getting this crew home.”    

                She agreed, but I could tell by her tone she was not happy about it.  I wasn’t exactly happy about any of it myself.  With time a premium I headed down to the docking bay.  I tried to prepare myself that anything could come out of the shuttle.  It is hard to prepare for anything without a frame of context though.  The best I could do was watch the shuttle come in and land in the empty bay.  Then myself and my security detail stepped into the big nearly empty room.  The door to the shuttle opened as I approached.

                The creature that stepped out was not human.  It was too tall, had too many tentacles, and simply did not move like a human.  Soon there were four of them at the bottom of the ramp.  Then the vilest most inhuman creature I have ever lain eyes on stepped from the ship. 

                “Becky,” I said with a bitterness that I could not contain. 

                “Hello Benjamin,” my ex-wife said with a tone as cold as my own.  “As much as I would rather not, I suppose we should talk.  My new friends here have much to discuss and I’m the only one they have taught their language to.”

Self Evaluation

Fiction Fragment Friday

I recently while doing some cleaning around the house found a deck of cards used for writing prompts. The deck has quite a few different types of prompts including dialog, setting, genre, starting lines, and more. I don’t remember when or where I got them, but flipping through I found a card that inspired this weeks story.

               Cooking has always been my biggest passion.  There is just something about a perfect slice with a knife through a vegetable that makes you feel accomplished.  The blending of spices and ingredients in new ways to create flavors that might have never been tasted before.  Every dish even if made in the same manor will be just slightly different.  The process is a form of art, but the real joy is seeing the expression on someone’s face when they take the first bite.  There is nothing else in the world that brings me more satisfaction. 

               It should be no surprise that the accident happened that would forever change my life happened in the kitchen.  I was chopping carrots almost on instinct since I have done it so many times.  Before I knew anything was up my cat leapt from the top of the refrigerator and landed on my dog.  He shot off running circles around the kitchen island knocking my legs out from under me.  It all happened so suddenly I hadn’t even processed it before the pain finding myself on the floor.

               I noticed a sharp pain on my left hand.  Realizing I had been holding a knife when I fell, I looked down in horror.  I had sliced the back of my hand deeply.  Instead of the massive amounts of blood I expected there was some sort of black oil.  Beneath that instead of bone I saw a layer of shiny metal.  My mind didn’t accept what my eyes were seeing.  I felt like I should be screaming, but instead I just sat there on the floor holding my hand.

               It took me a few moments to compose myself, but once I did, I got to my feet.  The pain in my hand was gone as soon as I saw the metal.  In a daze I stumbled into the living room.  My body didn’t want to respond making me extremely sluggish.  I stood there in the door holding my hand.  “Dad?  What’s wrong with me?”

               My dad jumped up from the couch and crossed the space between us in a heartbeat.  His arms were around me in a moment.  “Oh, baby girl, I’m so sorry.  I’ll make it all better.  Override code Alpha, Gamma, 723 Epsilon.”  I felt myself slumping down in his arms as I lost consciousness. 

               I woke up strapped down to a metal table.  The room was full of computers and equipment higher tech then I even knew existed.  Struggling didn’t do me any good because my body below my head was not responding.  I saw my hand and it was completely healed, but that did little to calm me down.  The terror of not feeling my body was on the verge of overwhelming me. “Help!”  I screamed out at the top of my lungs.

               “It’s ok Katelyn, please try to calm down.  Daddy’s here.”  My dad was at my side before I saw him moving.  He was stroking my hand, but I couldn’t feel it.  “Don’t worry baby everything is going to be ok, and you won’t remember a thing.”

               “This isn’t something you just forget.  What’s wrong with me?”  I remembered the metal under my skin.  “What am I?”

               “You’re my daughter.  That’s all you need to know.”

               I cut him off.  “No don’t just gloss over this.  I have metal under my skin.  What am I?”

               He sighed and looked down at me.  “Five years ago, there was an accident.”  I could see he was fighting back tears thinking about it.  “I lost you, but I brought you back even better.  I scanned your brain and made this body for you.  This way you will never get sick, never die, and never age.  You will always be my little girl.  Well, you will be again once I erase your memories of the last few hours.” 

               “You can’t do that.  You can’t just keep lying to me forever.  I deserve to know what I am.” 

               “You’re my daughter.  That’s all that matters.”  He was yelling at me now.  He went back to his keyboard and started typing. 

               I felt the tears starting.  “Please don’t do this.”  He didn’t even turn to look at me.  I realized in that moment that the only thing he cared about was himself.  He created me for himself without any consideration of what I might want.  I hadn’t quite fallen into a complete existential breakdown, but I could feel it building.  For a few moments I actually debated letting him just wipe my memories.  It would have been so easy to just forget it all and go back to being clueless about what I was.  Something deep down though wouldn’t let me give in. 

               I put all my willpower into my hands and tried to move my fingers.  Nothing happened.  I closed my eyes and thought.  I’m not human so I shouldn’t have human limitations.  I did have other limitations that I couldn’t just push through.  Instead, I thought about his computer.  I realized that if he was typing on the computer it had to be somehow connected to me.  The more I thought about the computer the more I got an impression of a command prompt.  I started typing frantically with my mind.  I didn’t know what to type so I just started poking around. 

               “Enable all systems?  y/n” The words were as clear in my mind as if I was looking at a computer monitor.  I thought yes and almost instantly could feel my body again.  It was more than that though.  I could feel things about my body and knew that limitations had been removed.  When I opened my eyes, I had an overlay giving me details about everything I looked at.  With a thought I could get further information about any of it. 

               I flexed my muscles and the straps across me snapped.  I was free, but I didn’t know what I should do.  Dad turned to look at me in a panic.  “What?  How did you do that.  Stop this, just let me fix you.” 

               “There’s nothing to fix.”  I stood and faced him. 

               “Override Code Alpha, Gamma..”

               I lunged forward and pushed him before he could finish the code.  I just wanted to stop him but didn’t understand my own strength.  He went flying backwards into his computer hitting his head on the bookshelf above it.  Everything on the wall came down on top of him.  “DAD!” I screamed and rushed to his side.  My emotions were a conflicted mess of anger, panic, and desperation.  He was dead before I reached him.  I cried and cursed him for a long time not quite sure how I should feel.  I still don’t know. 

               The three weeks since that day have gone by in a daze.  I have learned a lot about myself going through dad’s files.  This body has incredible capabilities, but they had all been locked away.  I have no idea what I should do next, and I can only keep ignoring the people knocking on the door looking for dad so long.  I’m going to have to leave the house soon, but I don’t know where to go.  Maybe I should travel for a while until I can figure out just who I really am.         

Snow White & The 3 Pigs

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story is one of those that formed when the first line popped into my head. I have no idea where the inspiration for this line came from, but a whole story developed in that one moment. I woke up in the middle of the night and sent myself a message with the whole first paragraph so I could remember it in the morning.

As I wrote it I realized I had a much larger short story on my hands than fits for a Fiction Fragment Friday so I started cutting out things that I would have spent paragraphs on. Conversations between the main character, a mirror, her hunter, and the pigs were cut. In fact as I was writing the chase scene I realized that it could have lasted the entire length of a Fiction Fragment Friday. This is a case where I think the story could use a bit more room to breath and might have been better if I had written the entire story and then edited it down for size instead of the approach I took. I take it as a lesson learned.

My alias is Snow White, and I am the realm’s greatest art thief. To the best of my knowledge, I’m the realm’s only art thief but let’s not quibble over minor little details like that.  I have been liberating great works from the rich for years with only the rare close call.  No matter the number of guards or traps setup I can abscond with my target leaving no trace of my passing.   You might wonder how I achieve such a remarkable success rate, but that is a trade secret.  Words cannot thus express my surprise at triggering the Queen’s magic security system.

“Thief on the second floor of the north wing.”  The voice came from a mirror in the hall across from the painting I was targeting.  It also came from every other mirror and reflective surface in the castle.  There was an elderly man’s face reflected in these surfaces and he did not look happy.  He gave a play-by-play report of my actions as I grabbed my objective and made a run for it.  On the plus side I had covered my face, so the descriptions of my appearance were not particularly helpful.  On the negative side the moment the mirror started talking a magic suppression field went into effect and I could no longer walk through shadows. 

I heard the howl and knew I was in serious trouble.  The Queen had loosed her werewolf hunter on me.  It would have no trouble getting my scent so the saving grace of keeping my appearance hidden wasn’t as helpful as I had hoped.  Even with my abilities losing a hunter that tracked by scent was difficult.  Without them I was about as scared as I had ever been.  That meant I was desperate, and, in my desperation, I dove through a glass window into the courtyard.  My gear kept me from getting cut, but the action was loud, and the landing was hard.  There would be no blood left behind to use against me, but I was drawing a lot of attention.

Exhaustion soon threatened to overtake me as I regained access to my magic and started pushing against my own limitations to escape.  My muscles were sore from running and my brain was pounding from magic exertion.  There was only so long I could push myself like that and my ankle had landed very poorly so every step shot pain up my leg.  I was free of the castle, but the werewolf was still behind me.  Scent cannot be outrun.  I needed just a moment to catch my breath and think of something.  That is when I saw the thatch cottage. 

The owner let out a squeal of surprise when I melted out of a shadow of his cottage.  He was a Swineman.  If you have never encountered one, they are magically evolved pigs that walk on hind legs and wear clothes.  Mostly they have been created as an underclass of farmers for the Queen.  She doesn’t really let them leave the farms that they work very often.  He was shaking petrified and considering most of the encounters he had probably had with humans I couldn’t blame him. 

“Little pig, Little pig.  Let me in.”  The harsh raspy voice of the werewolf carried through the little cottage.  My host was too petrified to move or speak. 

“Yeah, that’s not gonna happen,” I yelled back out the window.  I knew that the walls of the cottage could never hold him out, but I still needed more time. 

I expected him to give another warning.  The longer I could stall the better.  He did not bother with more words though.  I heard rough chanting and when I glanced out, I could see his clawed hands making signs.  Wind whipped around him, and a mini tornado formed heading straight for the cottage.  On instinct I grabbed the Swineman and dragged him through shadows seconds before the building was completely destroyed. 

Hoping it would take the werewolf a moment to realize he hadn’t gotten us I paused long enough to take in my surroundings.  There was a much sturdier looking cabin on the far end of the farm field.  I was still working on instinct and started heading in that direction.  The werewolf would have no problem slaughtering the Swineman for just being near me, so I dragged him along.  The werewolf realized what I was doing far faster than I had hoped and leapt through the air at us.  I was barely able to melt into a shadow before a claw sliced through the air where we had just been. 

In the wooden cabin we were greeted with another squeal of shock.  My Swineman ran to the new one and they held each other tightly.  I think they were brothers, but to be honest I have a hard time telling them apart.  I feel horrible for that, but it is the truth.  “Calm down, I’ll think of something.”  I was gasping for breath.  I finally set the painting down to free up my hands. 

“Little pigs, little pigs.  Let me in.”  The voice sent shivers up my spine.  He was enjoying this hunt and I was just putting more people in danger.  “No brave words this time?  Well then, I guess I’ll just huff and puff and blow your house down.”  The chanting started again.

I was at rock bottom as far as my magic went.  I needed rest and focus.  The cabin looked solid, so I decided to risk it and try to rest.  It was one of many mistakes I made that day.  The walls held against the first impact, but the roof collapsed in on us with the second.  The weight of the wood slammed down on me.  Pain shot through my body as a splintered beam pierced my side.  I could feel the warm blood pouring.  If I managed to get away that blood could be used against me. 

A strong clawed hand wrapped around the back of my neck and lifted me off the ground.  I dangled there with the weight of my body pulling me down and my head spinning.  My body was broken and my mind fussy.  My magic though had one final reservoir of power.  I turned intangible passing through the claw and dropping to the ground once again physical.  I grabbed a support beam turning it intangible for a moment.  With all the muscle I had left I hefted the beam through the werewolf and let go of it.   

The wood turned solid again inside the wolf causing him to let out a bone chilling howl of pain.  There was no external blood since the skin was not punctured but melded with the wood.  He reared back and started wildly grasping at the beam trying to break it.  I had expected my actions to have been fatal for him, but he was still on his feet.  This was not over. 

I quickly took in the scene around me.  The Swinemen were both down and needed help.  The painting was destroyed.  My body wasn’t fully responding telling me that bones were broken.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw a stone building.  As my consciousness faded, I melted into the shadows and came out in front of a brick fireplace.  I could still hear the howling as I passed out.                   

“Wake up, wake up.”  The panicked Swineman was shaking me, and it hurt.  The stone cottage was shaking as wind buffeted it.  The werewolf was cursing me outside, but he didn’t sound like he was having fun anymore.  I could hear pain in his words and the wind was not nearly as strong as it had been when it destroyed the wooden cabin.  “Here drink this.”  He poured a mug of something down my throat.  It stung going down and soon it felt like my entire body was being burnt from the inside out. 

“What was that?”  My voice came out strained.

“Magic user, yes?”  He held up the mug.  “This will refill magic.  Can’t help fix your body, don’t have the right ingredients.” 

I felt deep inside and found that indeed my magic reservoir had been refilled.  My headache had faded as well.  I only have limited healing magic, but I pushed it to it’s limit to try and deal with my pain.  It was just enough for me to stand again and approach the window.  Thankfully it was far too small to fit the werewolf, but I still found myself buffeted with wind and debris.  The Werewolf was bent over in pain with its palm out towards the house.   The beam had been snapped but was still sticking out of him.  I could tell that his healing ability was taxed to its limit, and his magic was fading fast as well. 

I could barely move so anything I did needed to rely more on magic than physicality.  I would only have one shot because even hurt it could move so much faster than I could.  The moment he lowered his hand and the wind stopped I made my move.  I melted out of his own shadow and grabbed him turning us intangible.  We sunk into the ground and I let go of him allowing him to become physical again.  Shadow walking while intangible is extremely dangerous, but turning physical underground is even more dangerous.   I dropped to the ground inside the stone building and once again the world faded away. 

I awoke hours later.  The werewolf was dead.  Even if it survived becoming tangible again it would not be able to breath underground.  The Swineman from the stone building had retrieved the other two and addressed their wounds.  As I looked over my body, I found that he had bandaged me as well.  I could smell something burning in the distance. 

“Worry not.  Your blood burns with the remains of my brother’s house.  You are safe for now, but you can’t stay long.  I don’t need the kind of trouble having you here will bring.”

“Thank you.”  I felt like I should say more, but words didn’t quite match my gratitude.  “If you ever need anything..”

“You owe no debt here princess.  Just don’t mention us to your stepmother.”  I reached up to my face and realized that to bandage me he had removed my coverings.  He knew who I really was.  If word got out that Snow White was Princess Caselotti it would not only be the end of me but might destroy the kingdom.  He seemed to read the concern on my face.  “Relax princess your secret is safe with us.  If I may be so bold though perhaps you could do more with your gifts than steal pretty pictures.” 

I think that was the moment I decided to organize the resistance against my stepmother.         


Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s Fiction Fragment Friday is not just fiction.  I have been looking into solo roleplaying games and in particular the genre known as journaling rpgs.  The idea is that you have mechanics and prompts that create a situation or conditions that you then write a journal in character for.  A few weeks ago, I wrote a story called Stranded that used the format of a space explorer’s log.  As it happens there is a solo RPG out there called “Alone Among the Stars” that has the gameplay take the form of a Space Explorer’s log.  It seemed like it would be a perfect fit for the very first solo RPG that I try.  Being a journaling rpg it is essentially writing prompts.  That is where this week’s fiction comes from.

For those interested in the Mechanics I rolled a D6 and got a 4.  That meant I was going to draw 4 cards from a deck.  Each card would be the prompt for a log.  The cards were placed in a row in front of me.  Before flipping a card, I would once again roll a D6 with this one informing how I found the item.  The suit determines the type of item found while the value of the card defines where it was found. 

The final prompts generated by this method were:

Entry 1
Come upon it suddenly
Living being
Under the light of the Moon

Entry 2
Come upon it suddenly
Living being
In the desert

Entry 3
Arduous to get to
Natural phenomena
In a steep canyon

Entry 4
Come upon it suddenly
Plant or other immobile life
Floating in the air

Space Exploration Vessel EV-023 James Lovell

Mission Log AB Doradus E: Day 1

My first day on the planet was spent running scans and assessing the local environment.  By nighttime I was able to determine that the air was breathable and didn’t seem to contain pathogens or virus that could be harmful.  I decided that it was worth taking a walk around the landing site and doing some personal cataloging.  I found myself distracted by the beauty of the double moons in the sky.  They were breathtaking and I have come to realize that no matter how many planets I explore the first night under a new sky will always be a surreal experience. 

Perhaps it was my distracted state or the creature’s natural stealth that kept me from noticing movement in the nearby brush.  Before I even knew I wasn’t alone I found myself facing down a very large feline like predator.  It had some sort of natural camouflage that allowed it to blend into the flora until it leapt into the open.  A shot from my blaster shattered a large nearby rock startling the creature long enough for me to return to the ship.  I have cataloged the creature as best I could from footage provided by the onboard ship cameras.  It was a successful but harrowing first day on planet and I will be making sure I take proper precautions on future days.

Mission Log AB Doradus E: Day 4

I have been using the remote drones to map the regions around my landing site and determine locations where I need to personally investigate.  The first few days provided valuable data, but nothing of particular note for my mission logs.  This morning broke that pattern.  I was flying the drone over a desert when it was knocked from the sky by a large flying lizard like creature.  The talons did severe damage to the drone.  Thus far this mission is quickly ranking up as one of the most dangerous explorations I have performed. 

Following protocol, I could not allow any technology to be left behind on the planet, so I took a hoverbike out to recover the drone.  I don’t want to sound paranoid, but I wore a full armored environmental suit and brought both my standard blaster and a high-powered rifle.  Thankfully the recovery went smoothly with no complications.  I am still in awe of the damage this creature was able to inflict on my drone.  These drones are designed to be resilient, but the claws ripped right through the shell and damaged the internal functions. 

Mission Log AB Doradus E: Day 6

The drones yesterday identified a steep canyon that makes the Grand Canyon look like a crack.  It is easily the largest canyon I have ever cataloged and unfortunately the high magnetically charged iron content interferes with my drone control signals.  I had to personally investigate the site.  I have performed rock climbing on multiple missions, but still consider myself a novice at it.  If not for the antigrav safety harness, I very likely would not have survived my decent.  I almost decided to call off the investigation due to personal risk.  That would have been a tragedy. 

At the bottom of the canyon were awe inspiring crystal formations.  Many of these crystals were as large as small skyscrapers back home.  The depth and moisture levels required me to wear my environmental suit as all readings indicated that my lungs could not survive without it.  The increased heat at the depths also taxed the cooly systems on the suit.  If I had realized what I was going into I might have worn a volcano observation suit instead.  Even with the dangers and struggle to reach the crystal formations are a once in a lifetime experience and reminds me why I enjoy my job as much as I do.  I get to see things that no one else has ever laid eyes on.

Mission Log AB Doradus E: Day 7

Today for my final scheduled day on the planet I decided to have a picnic in a nearby clearing.  It was a short trip from the ship through a bit of forest and a few fields of tall grass.  When I came out in the clearing It didn’t look anything like what the drone footage had returned.  There were flowers just floating in the air.  I launched a drone to my site and watching through its camera sure enough the flora did not show up on the feed.  My relaxing lunch soon turned into three hours of intense testing, scanning, and sample collection. 

I am stumped.   I cannot figure out how these flowers float in midair defying gravity and rewriting everything we know about how flora grows.  None of the tests can explain why the plants do not show up on camera.  Even more confusing most standard scans do not detect anything at all.  I can see, touch, and collect samples though proving their existence.  It is a true mystery and as frustrating as it is I must admit that it is beyond my personal capabilities.  I can’t wait to see what the scientists back home make of this. 

With my seven-day mission complete I am finalizing the log with this entry.  I am utilizing my right as first explorer to name AB Doradus E.  It is a planet of wonders and dangers in equal measure.  A place to be treated with caution, but also admired.  Because of these traits I’m naming the planet Leander after Oleander a flower that is extremely beautiful, but also very poisonous. 

Destiny of the Wicked

Fiction Fragment Friday

I have always loved the world created in the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I cannot say that I have read all the books, but I do find new versions of that world fascinating. The ways it can inspire others is truly magical. I greatly enjoyed Wicked, Dorothy Must Die, and many other ways people twist the story. This week is my attempt to do so.

I have no idea what brought this tale into my mind, but it started with the second sentence of the story. The line just popped into my head and it was so evocative I knew that I had to write about it. I immediately typed out a paragraph so I wouldn’t forget. That actual paragraph did not get used in the story, but it did inform the direction I would take.

As I started writing I realized I was framing a situation and a world. I wanted this to be a story though and not just a thought exercise. Playing to my own strengths that meant I needed to introduce dialog and that forced me to develop the stories protagonist further. I went through multiple ideas in my head for what job he would take on before settling where I did. The rest of the story kind of flowed and took me places I did not anticipate.

               There is a long forgotten saying in the Land of Oz.  If you kill a witch, you become the witch.  It was mostly lost to time as no one save the most powerful dares oppose them.  Then came Dorothy Gale from Kansas.  This girl waltzed right into Oz dropping a house on the Wicked Witch of the East and stealing her magical shoes.  Not long after she slew the Wicked Witch of the West as well.  Before leaving Oz, she convinced the Wizard to abandon the Emerald City placing Scarecrow on the thrown, Tin Woodsman takes charge of the Winkies, and The Lion is declared king of the beasts.  Over the course of just a few weeks this small girl changed the entire power dynamics of our world and then left.

               If the legends are true, then by slaying two witches she would inherit both of their powers and roles.  Since they were wicked the magic would twist her enhancing her darker emotions and desires.  This is the true danger of fighting evil.  Sometimes in the fight to defeat evil you fall pray to becoming that which you most hate.  Dorothy should be destined to become one of the most powerful and evil being in the history of Oz, but she went home to a world without magic.  What does that mean for the power and roles that she should be inheriting? 

               I was thinking over these questions in my classroom when she came into the room.  “Good morning, Dorothy.”  I greeted her with a smile masking my concern.

               “Good morning, Mr. Franklin.”  The girl always seemed so happy, but I could see a sadness behind her eyes.  Something hidden behind a smile that I might not notice if I were not doing the same myself. 

               A year ago, I gave up everything I knew to travel to Kansas.  I needed to know if this girl is the biggest danger that Oz has ever known or if the stollen power and influence was being suppressed.  I needed to get close enough to watch her and so I took a new identity and became a teacher at her school.  I’m not sure how long my identity will hold before I am discovered to be a fraud so I must work quickly to establish trust and gather as much information as I can. 

               “How was your weekend?”  Always start with a probing open question.

               The sigh that escaped her did not match the smile on her face.  “Boring.  Nothing interesting ever happens around here.”

               “Life on a farm can’t be that boring.  At least it keeps you busy.”

               “I don’t want to just be busy.  It’s the same chores every day.  Nothing ever matters.”

               I’ve heard this speech from her before.  I can’t really blame her either.  After experiencing a world as magical as Oz who could be happy in a mundane place like this.  Still this world has its own wonders.  Oz has technology, but the technology here is available to all and developing at such a fast rate.  I’m sure the banquets of the Emerald City might compare, but the food here is a vast improvement over what you can find in the average village of Oz.  Particularly meat dishes.  When all the animals can talk meat is not particularly popular among most of the cultures.  It is also far safer here, but to a girl who has known this world all her life and only glimpsed mine I can understand her wanderlust.  I must question though if the magic dormant inside her might be pulling her to return. 

               I have no way to return home unless she finds one.  That is something I can never allow.  Dorothy Gale must remain in Kansas and that means I have to as well.  It means I need to find ways to help her embrace her home.   “If you didn’t live on a farm, what would you be doing with your free time?  What do you want to be doing?”

               To give her credit she thought about the question before answering.  I can’t be sure if she was debating the answer or remembering her time in Oz.   “I don’t know, but I want adventure.  I want to see new things and meet new people.” 

               “So, it is less about wanting to do anything in particular, but more a case of the grass being greener elsewhere?  Everywhere has its own set of problems.”

               “I guess, but how do you know the perfect place for you if you don’t know what else is out there?  If you don’t go, try to find it you never know it exists.”

               I opened the drawer on my desk and pulled out a handful of travel brochures.  “New York, Chicago, San Francisco.  You can read all about the places of the world.  Learn about them and decide which ones are worth visiting.”

               “What if the place I want to visit doesn’t have a travel guide?” 

               “Then maybe it’s too dangerous to visit.  There are plenty of wonderous places in this world that do have travel guides.  Traveling isn’t going to solve your problem though.  Traveling is fun, but the best part is coming back and having a home waiting.  Having people that care about you.  You need to find ways to appreciate that while you have it.  When you grow up you don’t have to stay here, but you need to be able to make where you are home, or you will always pine for what you don’t have.” 

My own words hit me hard.  I don’t have anyone here and spend far too much of my time thinking about where I came from.  I might be here for a reason, but I don’t feel like it is a home.   For my own sanity I need to start making this my home and not think of it as just a mission.  I’m never returning to Oz so this is my home now. My purpose might be to protect Oz from Dorothy, but that Is not a life.  I need to start making friends and plan for my own future outside of her.

“Mr. Franklin are you ok?”  She was staring at me, and I realized that I had been sitting there silent and lost in my own thoughts.  If she had said anything I hadn’t heard it.

“Yes Mr. Franklin what ever are you thinking about?”  The voice came from an older white-haired man leaning against the frame of my classroom door.  Wearing a black suit and top hat to accentuate his handlebar mustache, the look reminded me of a circus ringmaster.  He had said my name with a sarcastic tone like he knew that it was not real.

Dorothy’s eyes lit up at the sight of the stranger in a way I had never seen them do.  It wasn’t the mask of a smile, but true joy.  She ran to him wrapper her arms around his waist in a hug.  She was talking so fast I could not make out what she was trying to say to him.  The man returned her hug, but his eyes never left my own.  He radiated confidence in a way few people can.

“Who might you be good sir?” I asked trying to keep the worry from my voice.  If this man knew I wasn’t who I claimed to be he could ruin everything.

“Oscar Diggs at your service.”  He tipped his hat and bowed his head unable to bow further due to the girl hanging onto him.  “Though I suspect you know me by one of my other names.  Oz the Great and Powerful.”

               “The Wizard,” I gasped. 

               “Just so.  Dorothy dear your teacher here is not who he says he is.  I know not why he has come here, but this man followed you from Oz.  I received a message from Scarecrow via flying monkey to come check on you.”

               Dorothy looked at me with a rage in her eyes I had never seen on the girl.  I stumbled over my words trying to defend myself, but she screamed at me.  “Just shut up.”  Suddenly I couldn’t speak.  My lips felt glued together, so I reached up feeling my face in panic.  My mouth was gone.  There was just smooth skin where it should be.  Somehow in this world without magic she had access to it.

               “Well now isn’t that interesting,” the wizard asked with a smug look on his face.  He looked down at the girl.  “How would you like to return to Oz and see your friends again?  My balloon is right outside.”

               “Oh, I would like that very much.” 

               “Excellent.  Grab your things and head on out.  I’ll be right along after I have a few words with your teacher.”

               “I can’t wait to see everyone again,” she said as she rushed from my classroom.  As she got further away, I could feel my mouth returning.

               “Well now, ‘Mr. Franklin’ I don’t know what your game is, but that little girl is going to redefine the meaning of the word power and I’m not about to let you or anyone else get in her way.”

               “You don’t know what you’re doing.  She has the power of both wicked witches and if she goes back it’s going to twist her into something evil.”

               He smiled at me again and pulled a revolver out of his jacket pocket.  “Perhaps, or perhaps I can guide her into what I want her to be.  Either way she’s my ticket to greatness.  Ask yourself this.  Why did I order her to kill the Wicked Witch of the West?  Was my leaving her in Oz really an accident?”   Then he shot me.  It was only in the leg and not life threatening, but it hurt worse than anything I have ever experiences.  “So, you don’t follow me.”  Then he left my classroom whistling as he walked down the hall. 

               That encounter was two weeks ago, and no one has seen Diggs or Dorothy since.  I can only assume that he did successfully return to Oz and that means I need to as well.  I must find a way, or everything will be lost.  I need to save Oz from Dorothy, but I need to save that little girl from herself as well.  Only in Kansas can she have any hope of not becoming something truly wicked.  I rev my motorcycle and ride towards the tornado.  This might kill me, but I can’t live knowing I didn’t at least try.   


Fiction Fragment Friday

I was looking through old flash fictions I had written and remembered how much I like the log entry format for them. It allows for a different kind of storytelling. In this case I wanted to see if I could work in a reason why the story was being told in that format and I believe I accomplished it.

Alvera Prime Surface Day 1

     Catastrophic system failure during entry to the planet’s atmosphere led to an emergency landing far from what had been scouted by advanced probes.  The ship still has power, but structural integrity has been lost.  It is not going to fly again let alone reach space.  I’m still assessing what can be salvaged from the ship and taking inventory of my supplies.  The emergency beacon is active though so if I hold out long enough a rescue team can find me even though I’m not sure where on the planet I am.  I just hope there is a team sent to come looking.

Alvera Prime Surface Day 2

     I have survived my first night on the surface.  The forest was filled with the sound of animals hunting each other.  None were brave enough to approach my crash site thankfully, but I fear they are curious about me.  I need to make a decision on shelter today.  Either I try to fortify what is left of my ship, or I can attempt to build from scratch.  Since I want to be rescued, I’m leaning towards staying on the ship.  There really isn’t much room though and if I have to start gathering resources, I need somewhere to put them.  I only have enough food and water for a few weeks.

Alvera Prime Surface Day 3

     It is storming outside and with no life support functioning the ship is getting very cold.  I’ve been so focused on moving forward that I haven’t taken a moment to stop and really think about the situation I’m in until now.  I’m wrapped up in a blanked on my bunk as I make this log and there is standing water on my floor.  The whole ship is shaking from the wind and what few systems were still functional are going off-line as the water seeps into the electronics.  For the first time the fear is getting to me and I’m having a hard time holding onto any hope of rescue.  I have no idea why I’m putting this into my log.  None of it can be used in my mission report if I ever actually get to write one.

Alvera Prime Surface Day 4

     Today I will be focusing on exploration.  My mission was supposed to be one of exploration to begin with so while I’m looking for useful resources I’m going to be cataloging flora and fauna.  I don’t have the tools anymore to safely analyze them, but I can try and gather DNA samples.  Without the analysis tool I’m going to have to rely on training and sampling to determine if anything I can find is edible.  I’m going to be gathering wood to start a camp fire as well.  I need the heat and when my precooked food rations are out I’ll need to be able to cook what I find.  I have a few ideas on how to get a fire started, but I’ve never actually tried to start one before.

Alvera Prime Surface Day 5

     Behold me with awe as I am the great and powerful bringer of fire.  That’s right I am writing this log sitting next to my campfire.  I have cataloged thirty-eight plant varieties and seven animals.  It is amazing how close to Earth animals some of these creatures look while others are like nothing I have ever seen.  There is a green slime-like creature that scoots across the ground digesting anything that it absorbs.  While it is slow, I consider it extremely dangerous because I have yet to find anything it is not willing to absorb.  I saw it capture a small mammal and reduce it to bones in under a minute.  I have been unable to find any way of getting a sample of this creature’s DNA. 

Alvera Prime Surface Day 6

     My stomach feels like it is the battlefield of a vicious war.  I can’t even tell what I ate that caused this.  The scientific approach would have been to test one potential food source in small quantities a day and wait to see the results.  I didn’t approach it scientifically though so I’m not sure which of the berries, leaves, or meat did this to me.  It’s possible that it all did, and everything here will be toxic, but I suspect it was the berries.  Today it hurts to even move, but I need to keep patching the holes on the ship in case there is another storm. 

Alvera Prime Surface Day 9

     I am finally recovering from trying to eat the local food.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to survive for a while there.  My first aid kit was destroyed in the crash so I didn’t have any medication to counter the food poisoning.  I didn’t even have medical scanners functioning to tell me just how bad off I was.  My campfire went out while I was sick and to make it worse it is storming out again.  The wood is all going to be wet, and it was hard enough to start a fire the first time.  Please let there be a rescue party on the way.

Alvera Prime Surface Day 10

     I woke up this morning still feeling miserable, but with the first glimmer of hope I’ve had since day five.  The only systems of note still working on the ship are the communication systems.  I finally remembered that I have probes in orbit and I can still access them.  For the last hour I’ve been mapping a hundred miles around my position from orbit.  I know where I am now and have multiple areas of interest to explore.  I will also know if any ship enters the system. The best news though is that they are equipped with quantum communication systems that are still on-line.  They only communicate telemetry data back, but with all of them focusing on the area around my ship anyone who checks the data will know that I crashed. 

Alvera Prime Surface Day 11

     Today I found ruins.  This planet was once inhabited by intelligent life.  I can’t put to words how exciting this is.  Only the third planet to show evidence of intelligent life and I was the one to find it.  This is where I admit to breaking protocol.  I didn’t upload this information to the probes.  I’m keeping all data I gather stored locally on my tablet.  I’m afraid that if this information gets out while I’m still stranded here someone else will take credit for the find before I can lay claim to it.  This is pretty I know, but this kind of discovery will make my career.  It will make me famous. 

Alvera Prime Surface Day 12

     I realized that if I don’t survive to get rescued then my discovery will be lost.  With that in mind I have set up a delayed communication of what data I can send through the probes.  If I don’t do anything it will send the data in a year.  This way if I don’t make it at least some of what I have found won’t be lost to humanity. 

Alvera Prime Surface Day 13

     A new communications probe has entered the system.  It has delivered a recall message for me.  Apparently, tensions are high back on Earth, and it looks like war might break out any day.  There is concern that if survey ships don’t make it back before the war starts then returning might be dangerous.  I was able to relay a request for recovery back through the probe.  If my own quantum relay had not been damaged in the crash, I could have done this on day one.  I’m sure they will arrive any day now to rescue me.

Alvera Prime Surface Day 14

     War has broken out on Earth and new launches are not being allowed.  Rescue is not coming, and this realization is crushing.  For now, I am on my own.  I have decided that it is time to share what I have found.  I can only hope that perhaps the magnitude of my discovery will be enough for the scientists of the world to pressure the politicians and allow an expedition to come examine the ruins.  An expedition that could rescue me.  That is why I’m sending this log and setting it to broadcast to social media so my part in its discovery cannot be buried.  Please those of you out there reading this I don’t want to die here.        


Fiction Fragment Friday

This is my first time trying to write Noir. I have run a noir campaign, but never really tried to write it in fiction format. I have been struggling with creativity the past week as mental stresses get to me. Because of that I wanted something very different this week and instead of going the easy route I wanted to push myself.


My breath caught as she walked into my office.  I’ve had plenty of pretty faces walk into my office, but there was something special about this one.  Her body swayed with a power that demanded your complete attention.  Sapphire eyes that could burn a man if he made direct contact with them locked onto me.  Her tongue played on her upper lip before speaking.  “Mr. Boil I dearly hope you have an update on my case.”

    “Of course, Ms. Hitchens.  Please have a seat.”  I was proud of myself for not letting my voice crack under her appraise gaze.  I pointed to the chair across from my desk, but she sashed right past it and slid onto the edge of my desk.  Her bare leg brushed against my arm as she smoothed down her dress with her left hand.  Her right hand sat on my desk next to the falcon statue from my other case.  I glanced up to see that she was staring down at my open notebooks.  Those eyes were not missing any detail.

    My mind was screaming at me with conflicting signals.  Part of me wanted to do anything she might ask in the hopes of pleasing her.  The rest of me screamed to grab the revolver sitting on my desk and unload it into her head before she ate me alive.  I had never felt such strong instincts about a client before.  It was a feeling more suited for the mysterious things that live in the shadows of our world.  Speaking of shadows, the ones created by the streetlamps glowing through the blinds on my front window highlighted her body in ways that a private detective should not notice about a client.

      “Mr. Boil I’m not paying you to stare at me.”  She reached out and pulled my fedora up slightly with a single finger so she could force eye contact with me.  “Perhaps after you’ve found my property, we can see about such leisure activity.”  She ran her hand down the side of my face.  “After all I do believe in business before pleasure.”  Leaning over me in a manor that left no doubt she wanted my eyes to wander she took my scotch and finished it with one gulp.  If the drink had any effect on her she did not show it.

    I forced my eyes away from her and down to my notes.  It was difficult to breathe, and my suit felt far too warm all the sudden.  Keeping my eyes off her let me regain my composure.  “As it happens, I have already found your missing necklace.  Sammy the Fox and his army of street urchins picked it from the pocket of your jewel thief before she could sell it.  From there they had a bit of misfortune when their warehouse burned down so they sold it fairly cheaply to Packrat Jimmy.”

    “I assume you procured it from this Packrat Jimmy?”  There was a demand in her voice that I could feel in the air.  I continued to avoid looking at her, but even her voice seemed to be having an impact on me.

    “Uhm, well not exactly.”  I felt stupid stumbling over my words.  I recomposed myself before speaking again.  “See Jimmy’s pawn shop burned down that evening.  Don’t worry though your necklace is one of the few items that survived.  Darndest thing despite sitting in a pile of ash it was still as shiny as you described it according to Lieutenant Malone.”

    “So, you have it.”  It was not a question, but a statement that sent chills down my spine.

    “Not exactly.  The cops took it as evidence.  It’s down at precinct 7 for now.  I’m sure they can get the case all wrapped up and get your property back to you in no more than a month.”

        She lifted her hand and slammed it back down on my desk.  “That’s not good enough.”   With her other hand she reached out and turned my face back towards her.  I felt smaller under her gaze.  “That necklace was to be a wedding gift for an associate of mine.  It was meant to send a message and you are telling me that I won’t have it by the ceremony.  That will not due.”  She brought her face very close to mine so I could not help but stare directly into her eyes.  I could feel her breath against my lips as she spoke.  “I don’t care what you have to do, you are going to get my property back from the police tonight.”  Her voice took a much softer tone.  “If you do you will be rewarded in ways you can only imagine.” 

               Her lips pressed against mine in a kiss more passionate than anything I had previously experienced.  In that moment I knew that I would have done anything she had asked of me.  Her desire was the only thing in the world that could possibly matter.  When she pulled back from me she was smiling and licked her lips.  I could not quite close my mouth as my lower lip was still trembling.  “Your wish is my command.”  The words had left me before I knew that I was speaking.  Something in the back of my brain was screaming that these were not my words.  I told it to shut up savoring the memory of her kiss. 

               “I know you will darling.”  She slid off my desk and with the same powerful strut headed to my front door.  “I do love mortals.”  I heard her words, but they didn’t make any sense.  My head was foggy like I had drunk far too much.  I could see my reflection in the glass of the front window, but for some reason hers did not seem to be there.  “You have until tomorrow night.  Do not disappoint me.”

               “Never my lady.”  Again, the words were out before I knew that I was speaking.  When she walked out my door, I found my body trembling.  I grasped my revolver in my hand and with it returned a feeling of control.  My breathing returned to a normal pace, but my head was still fighting through the haze.  The revolver fit back into my hidden shoulder holster and once again I finally felt as if I was regaining control.  I’m not usually a sucker for a pretty face, but I couldn’t deny the effect that she had on me. 

               I reached out an grabbed my phone dialing up the seventh precinct.  After a few rings a familiar voice answered.  “Hey Max I’m gonna need to cash in one of those favors you owe me.”  Despite my uneasiness there was no way I was going to let her down.            

Reaper in Training

Fiction Fragment Friday

This story is a sequel to Gigi but I did not intend it to be the entire story. while it can stand alone as a flash fiction it is a piece that lives up to the name Fiction Fragment because I wrote it as the opening scene of a much larger story. I have not written the larger story yet, but I do intend to. Since it can stand on it’s own as a sequel though I decided to share it with you today. Partially because the story I was writing for today was not coming out like I wanted it to.

     As the rain poured down around us, I stood on the sidewalk holding a sobbing teenage girl in my arms.  Her name was Candice and behind us on the street they were loading her dead body into an ambulance.  Fifteen minutes ago she had died in a car wreck and it was my job to make sure she accepted that reality and moved on to whatever comes next for her.  For some people that acceptance comes easy, but when they die too young, like Candice it tends to be a difficult assignment.  I don’t just mean the complexities of being successful either.  These are the assignments that take a serious mental toll on me as a reaper. 

     “There, there Candice.  I know this sucks, but you have an adventure ahead of you.  If you just look forward, you get to find out what comes next.”  I patted her back trying in vain to comfort her. 

     “I don’t want an adventure.  I want to go to prom with Jeremy.”  The words came out between sobs and the ugly kind of crying.  Despite how broken I had no problem understanding her words.  By that point I had heard enough crying speeches that translating them was second nature.  That realization was not a happy one. 

     Glancing across the street I saw my trainee Steven talking to Jeremy.  The two teens couldn’t see each other, or a reaper not assigned to them.  This is to help us try to keep their focus and prevent distractions while we work.  I could tell that my trainee was struggling because Jeremy was waving his hands and pointing in an angry manor.  I wanted to trust Steven, but failure meant a twisted angry spirit loose on the world forever denied access to what comes next.  I couldn’t allow that. 

     In that moment I made an executive decision.  With my hand on the back of Candice’s head I shifted reality around us.  “Hey, hey,  it’s OK let it all out.  There’s someone waiting for you across the street and I bet you don’t want him to see you like this.”  It took a moment for my words to sink in, but when they did she pulled back to look across the street. 

     “Jeremy,” she gasped and pulled away from me.  In a moment she was across the street and in his arms.  The two hugged like they were grasping life preservers in the middle of the ocean. 

     “Sorry I didn’t warn you kid,” I said to Steven.  “Spur of the moment decision.”

     “I wish you would knock it off with that kid stuff.  Right now I look about twenty years older than you.”

     “That my young padawan is because you’re still too new to have mastered controlling your external representation of internal self.  Thus kid.”  I smiled at him, letting his frustration slide right off me.  It wasn’t really aimed at me anyway.  It was the situation.  Young ones are always difficult, and this was his first. 

     “I died before you were ever born.  Also why do you keep calling me that?”

     I keep forgetting that Steven has never seen Star Wars or any other movie for that matter.  He died two hundred years ago, but only managed closure and a return to sanity recently.  That is where reapers come from.  We are all spirits that didn’t get that needed closure until it was too late.  In my case I was a poltergeist for a couple years, but Steven spent those two hundred years being the source of nightmares and urban legends. 

     “How much of that time do you remember?”  My tone was far more serious now. 

     “Too much,” he said as he let out an involuntary shudder.  “It’s not all clear, but bits and pieces are way too clear.  Mostly I remember the way I felt.  So much anger.”  This is why we are so dedicated to our jobs.  We know what it is like when a reaper fails because when we died one failed us.  Most spirits never come back from that, but the few that do have an opportunity to do some good. 

     I turned back to the teenagers, “OK kids now that you two love birds are together again you ready to see what comes next?”  I would never say so out loud, but I’m a bit jealous of them.  I don’t know what comes next and I never will because it has been forever denied me.  “All you got to do is just let go.  This world is your past and it’s time to face your future.”  I don’t tell them that they will do so together because I don’t actually know if that is the case.  I can’t be sure if they are going to the same place or if once you cross over you remember anything of this world.  I could give them pointless platitudes, but I don’t like lying.  My job would probably be a lot easier if I was willing to.

     Jeremy looked over at me for the first time.  “What does come next?”

     “I can’t tell you that.  You just have to let go of whatever thoughts are keeping you here and find out for yourself.”  He didn’t need to know that I didn’t have the answers.  I find it best to sound confident and in charge.  Showing any kind of doubt just lets the insecurity inside them linger and you can’t allow that.  I twist reality around us again to make the world fade from their vision.  It’s easier to let go of something you aren’t still looking at.  “Are you ready to find out?”

     Candice turned her head against his chest to look at me.  With a very soft voice she said, “yes.”  Jeremy just held her and nodded.  That was good enough for me.  With a gentle nudge I helped them untether from the world they had known and watched as they vanished from any reality that I had access to. 

     One last task left I turned to Steven.  “That was a rough one.  How you holding up?”

     “They were so young.  Had so much left to experience.”

                “Yeah, those are some of the most difficult.  Let’s head home for now.  Think about the assignment some and I’ll come by for a debrief a bit later.”  It was in that moment it first really sunk in that my assignment wasn’t just Candice.  I had to look out for Steven and keep him on the right track as well.  In the early days of returned sanity, it is still so easy to backslide.  Perhaps I had a few things to think about as well.  With that revelation I shifted reality around us to return to the space between life and death that we call home.        

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