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Category: Flash Fiction Page 1 of 12


Fiction Fragment Friday

I started this story on a physical notebook sitting in a waiting room. I have always loved time travel and exploring different ideas behind it. For this story I started out wanting to explore memories, but it quickly went in a direction I was not expecting. That is not out of the ordinary when I start writing. Sometimes it is that journey that I love most about creating a story.

You all get to see this first draft and concept building story. There is a time travel love story anthology that I plan on submitting to later this year. These characters and world created in today’s flash fiction are going to greatly inform the story I write for that much longer submission. I think I have something in concept that is not cliché and could really work.

                The world ended three weeks ago, but no one else knows.  It also ended last month, but likewise these events were forgotten.  That is because they never happened.  More accurately they happened, but then were undone.  Reality can lead to a bit of a complicated perspective for a time traveler. 

                For each change to the timeline that I have been involved in I remember the world both as it was and as it became.  I’ve been involved in over one hundred changes so the buildup of conflicting memories has gotten kind of overwhelming. 

                The woman who stood before me had been my best friend, my wife, and my hated enemy in different timelines.  I feel all the associated emotions for each of those relationships all at the same time in the moment I see her.  The contradictions are enough to nearly drive me insane.  Instead, my mind locked up not sure how I should feel or react to her presence.  I could not determine what our relationship currently was so my best option was to wait for her to speak and set the tone. 

                “Well?” She asked.  It was my worst-case scenario.  She was annoyed and expected me to say something.  Conversations without context are my biggest weakness.  I’m not good at just jumping in and that’s why I do so much prep work before a mission.  This wasn’t a mission though it was just life, and I still don’t know how to prepare for that. 

                “What do you want me to say?”  I ask it while trying to fake a tone of annoyance.  In reality I am just being completely honest.  I want the answer to the question.  If she starts to yell and we get into a huge argument so many of my memories tell me that I’m more comfortable with that.  I can adjust and maybe find out which memory is the right one. 

                “I want you to tell me why you’re staring at me like some kind of creepy stalker.  You broke it off, you don’t get to pine from afar.”  That narrowed down the context considerably.  In this timeline we dated, and I ended it.  That is not a common occurrence.  Unfortunately, memories do not come as complete packages.  Even if I figure out exactly what happened in this timeline, I won’t have all the memories sorted.  I have a million conversations with her in my head and each one is a separate memory not tied to some big bundle of memories. 

                “Look can we just start over here.” 

I meant the conversation, but looking back I can see how it could have come out as something more.  Her hand smacked against the side of my face in the hardest slap I have ever experienced.  My cheek stung in a warm throbbing pain.  “You have a lot of nerve.  You broke my heart and now you think you can ogle me from a distance and I’m going to just fall into your arms.  What kind of weak-willed shell of a person do you think I am?”

“You are the strongest and most fiercely determined person I have ever met.  I would never for a second think of you as weak-willed.”  The words came out before I really thought about them.  Complete honesty of thought felt natural with her no matter which version it was.  I might not be able to tell her about my missions, but when it came to my deepest thoughts about her, I had no secrets.  Even as my hated enemy, she was someone I admired across all timelines.  What kind of idiot version of myself had broken it off with her?  The kind trying to prepare himself for changes that would rip us apart. 

I could see her eyes soften for a moment before becoming hard again.  “You think a few flowery words are going to change anything?  Why are you even here?  What do you possibly hope to gain?”

The memories continued to sort themselves in my head.  I had come here to see her one final time before getting ready to make another change.  She was never supposed to know that I was here.  I had already made the change, but the ripples were not what I predicted.  My life with her had not changed at all this time despite so much else in the world changing to avert the apocalypse that was coming.  I miscalculated and I also stood there staring far too long.  She had seen me while I was stuck in my own head trying to get my bearings. “I’m not trying to gain anything.  I’m trying to undo what I’ve lost.”

“You can’t change the past.” 

Oh, if she only knew just how wrong she was.  “But we can write our own future.”

“Well, I’m going to write one for me without you in it.”  She turned and stormed away.  People moved away from the sheer force of her presence, giving her as much space as they could. In that moment I made my decision.  I had changed the past to save the world so many times without once trying to get anything for myself.  I was going to make one more jump no matter what it did to my jumbled memories.  This time it would be for me.  I was going to undo the hurt I had caused and win her back in the only way I knew how.  By making it never have happened in the first place.   


Fiction Fragment Friday

This is the fourth story about a magic using character I have done for Fiction Fragment Friday and as I gather the details and prepare for a longer form work about him I figured it was time to give him a name. This story started with a couple lines about dreams that popped into my head.

I wanted to continue teasing the larger story of the character, but also give a full and complete tale with a little bit of expectation subversion mixed in. It also game me another chance to continue thinking about how this world and it’s magic works while introducing a new supporting character that I hope becomes an integral part of the tale.

For the previous stories about this character:

                Some people say that dreams are glimpses into another reality.  That each time you dream you are seeing moments from another version of your own life.  That is complete and utter rubbish.  There is no version of yourself out there that just forgets to wear pants and doesn’t notice it until you are at school or work.  What dreams are is your subconscious working through memories, fears, and desires all the while trying to piece together the world from the wild jumble of images that are your thoughts.  At least that is what they usually are.  If you have access to magic dreams can be a bit more complicated. 

                Magic users need to carefully examine their dreams for deeper meaning.  Your subconscious has access to your magic and can occasionally use it to give you glimpses of things to come.  Like normal dreams though these glimpses are esoteric and need to be deciphered.  Various beings from this or other planes of existence can also communicate with you through your dreams.  They can even be a vector for attack by your enemies.  All of these possibilities mixed in with the normal dream insanity that everyone else experiences without any clear way of telling the difference between them.  Magic never makes anything simpler. 

                The frustration I was feeling towards my dreams had reached the breaking point.  Each morning I woke up drenched in sweat with only the faintest memories of what I dreamed about.  Even those wisps of thought quickly faded during my first moments of consciousness.  I started keeping a notebook next to my bed, but after six days I had never gotten more than three words out before the memories were gone.  Each time though I wrote the name Samuel.  The name doesn’t mean anything to me, but thinking about it fills me with an intense sense of loss.  Nothing about that seemed normal to me.    

                This morning’s dream was different.  I woke up fully remembering my last dream.  The rest of the night’s dreams faded just as quickly as normal, but that one stuck.  In the dream a young girl was being chased by a giant feline creature through a park across town.  I felt her terror and hopelessness as if it were my own.  Someone out there was begging for help and using dreams to do it.

                I knew I needed to hurry, but rushing is the fastest way to make a mistake.  In my line of work that is how you get killed.  Even though I wanted to leave immediately I followed my morning routine for cleansing and gear preparation.  Enchanted items are not my specialty, but I do have a few favorites to take into unknown situations.  A pendant, a couple rings, and a pen are all part of my standard equipment.  I am still looking for something I can layer protections on, but if I wore a coat in the summer around here, I would likely collapse from dehydration. 

                It only took me fifteen minutes to reach the park, but the whole time I worried that I would be too late.  The dream could have represented potential future events, but it felt like a direct connection and that meant that it was most likely happening right then.   There was a chance I would just find a dead body, but I had to hold onto the hope that I could still come to the rescue. 

                When I reached the tree in my dreams there was neither a monster nor a dead body waiting.  Instead, what I found was a very large ginger tomcat.  It was hissing at a hole near the base of the tree and trying to get its paw inside.  “Hey there kitty.  What ya doing?”  Apparently, the cat didn’t hear me approaching because it screeched and jumped into the air.   Ass I moved closer it shot off almost faster than my eyes could track. 

                “Is the beast gone?”  The voice was tiny and coming from inside the tree.

                “It’s gone.  You can come on out.”

                A tiny little pixie crawled out of the hole and perched giving me a weary look.  She had long blonde hair and looked young, but I had no idea how to tell the age of a pixie.  I barely knew from my studies that pixies even existed, so my knowledge had a few gaps to say the least.  Her clothes were ripped with little splatters of blood on them, but other than that she looked intact.  I had made it in time, but now that I was here, I wasn’t quite sure what to do next.  I decided to let her speak first.

                “Will it come back?”

                “Probably.  Are you alone out here?  It doesn’t seem like a safe place for a pixie on her own.”

                “Of course, I’m not alone.  I have a whole army here with me.  They were just waiting for the right moment to swoop in.”  She put her hands on her hips and winced at the pain in her right shoulder.  I noticed the wing on that side was torn as well.  There was no way she would fly until she healed.  Between the feelings of loneliness from my dream and the fact that she was a terrible liar I knew that there were no other pixies around.

                “What’s your name?”

                “Oh no I’m not giving you my name.  I know about your kind magic man.  I give you my name and you can use it against me.  Nope you can just call me Lily.”

                “Well Lily my name is Brendan.  I’m not going to hurt you.  I’m here to help.”  I tried to make my voice as friendly as possible, but I’m not exactly a social person.  “You can come stay with me until you heal up and can fly again.”

                “You give your word?”  I could feel energy passing between the two of us.  A promise to a being of magic has power behind it and while she was small Lily was a being of magic.  It wasn’t exactly a binding contract, but if I agreed and was anything other than earnest, she would know it instantly.  I put my finger out for her to shake.    

                “I Brendan William Anderson do hereby promise as the mage protector of Saint Louis Missouri that I will provide you with a safe place to stay and recuperate under my protection for as long as you desire, and I am able to do so.”  I put energy into my words and let them form an actual binding contract between us.  We would be connected from this point on until one of us chose to end the pact.  I had never done this before, but she needed my help. 

                “I accept.”  She shook my finger vigorously then crawled into my open palm.  “So, do you have air conditioning?  What about cable?  Oh, and what’s for dinner?”

                I let her ramble on as I walked back to my car all the while wondering just what I had gotten myself into. 

One Out Of Ten

Fiction Fragment Friday

Usually I start these off by telling you where the inspiration for my story came from. I wish I could do that here, but I honestly don’t know. I have done quite a bit of writing this week in my free moments, but most of that work is for submissions and not going to be shared here on the blog. I started a story for today and after a paragraph realized that it was going to need more development and so I created a new document and wrote this story.

Some of my own fiction written long ago involved asteroid fields and trying to navigate through them like you see in so may Science Fiction movies. The more I studied the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter for a novel the more I realized just how many misconceptions I had. That novel never made it past chapter ten, but the knowledge gained is something that will continue to inform future writings.

This story is really one that just grew from writing with no theme or inspiration that I’m aware of shaping it. As I wrote each paragraph the story in my head swung wildly. Each decision or reveal I made had multiple other options considered. In the end I’m very happy with the story and I hope you all enjoy.

I was not concerned when the proximity alert indicated an object ten times the size of my ship approaching. Space is an exceptionally large place, and my ship is not particularly big. I pilot a one-man exploration vessel so when I jump into a new solar system, we do not know yet where the clear lanes for travel are. That is part of my job. Also, as mentioned space is excessively big, and proximity is a bit relative. The large object was further away from my ship than the moon was to Earth. I flipped on a few deep scans to try and determine as much as I could about my surroundings, so I did not move into a more precarious location.

The densely packed asteroid field that you see in movies is simply a work of fiction. In an average asteroid belt, there are tens of thousands of kilometers between objects. Standing on the surface of one you likely would not see another without specialized tools. Have I mentioned that space is very large? Dodging around large colliding rocks in space is great for creating action driven scenes, but the reality of space travel is that in most cases it is fairly boring. In those cases where it is not then something has gone horribly wrong on your ship, and you are trying to fix it before you die. Making minor course corrections to avoid an asteroid that is hours away does not exactly sell, but it is reality.

Nine times out of ten a proximity alert is just a large asteroid only interesting in the standpoint of making sure you don’t jump into it. That is fairly unlikely to begin with because of the size of space, but large gravitational fields can impact your arrival. As the data came onto my screen, I quickly realized that this was a one out of ten situation. Readings were indicating a smooth surface and considerable heat signatures. Forget one out of ten I had never seen readings like this in my seven years of exploration. None of the readings fit within any known categories and I knew I needed to visually see it.

I turned on the external camera feeds and digitally magnified the images being fed to my display. There was no way I was looking at a natural object. The exterior was smooth with cylinders, domes, and unnatural lighting. Markings on the exterior looked to me to be some form of written language. As hard as it was to believe, there was no doubt in my mind that I was looking at a space station sitting at a Lagrange point. The only problem was that I was supposed to be the first human to jump into the solar system and it didn’t match any design I had ever seen.

It was not like the idea of intelligent life in the universe other than humanity was unthinkable. As we explored the galaxy, we found many distinct species of plant and animal life. Most were similar enough to life on Earth that we could categorize and understand what we had found. Sure, there were some truly strange outliers, but for the most part parallel evolution seemed to be the winning theory. Even after two hundred years of exploration though we had yet to find any indication of life more intelligent than household pets. The concept of intelligent life wasn’t abandoned, but at this point humanity had lost hope in finding it.

“Computer, what is the protocol for first contact?”

“There are no protocols that match your request.”  Of course, there weren’t. How do you write out protocols and tested processes for something that has never been done? Sure, there are plenty of theoretical maintenance protocols, but no one wants to sign their name on a protocol that could trigger an interplanetary incident without any data to back it up. I know I didn’t want to be the guy that went down in history books as starting the first stellar war in humanity’s history. Nope, it was time to jump out and hope no one had seen me.

A light on my dashboard indicated that there were incoming radio signals. My hand hovered over the button to initiate the jump preparation phase. “Well hell.” How would it look if I jumped in, looked around and ran? Would it make them more on edge about us? With a sigh I ran the computer through some basic programs for interpreting the incoming radio signal. It was close enough to technology used on Earth centuries ago that the computer was able to parse and play the message. I braced myself for whatever sounds might come through my speakers from a language never before heard by human ears.

The sounds were not as strange as I anticipated. I could not understand what was being said, but the sounds that formed the words would be something I could easily reproduce. That was a huge relief for me as I imagined future linguists learning the language. I figured it was time to give them a sample of mine. Clicking the broadcast button, I did my best to say something memorable. “Greetings fellow inhabitants of the galaxy.  My name is Captain Matthew Henson and I’m an explorer from the planet Earth. I come in peace.”

So many questions and second guesses ran through my head. Should I have told them what planet I come from? Surely, they would have their own names for stars and planets. How would those lines sound in the history books? Also why did I have to end it with such a lame phrase overdone in science fiction. It was too late to beat myself up for it. The message was sent, and the recording was made.

As I sat there in space not sure what my next steps should be, the most unexpected thing possible came over the speakers. A voice talking in English. “Uhm, hey out there Captain Henson, was it? Welcome to Amalgam Station. Well, that’s what we humans call it anyway.”

“Wait a minute you’re human?”

“Mostly. I’m a fourth Lyrae on my father’s side a few generations back. I actually met him once since their lifespan is about twice our own”

My thoughts were spinning. It was like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle without having the picture to know what you were creating. The pieces just were not adding up and I don’t have a lot of patience for being given the runaround. “Just how many intelligent species are on that station and how did you end up there?”

“Well see, that gets a little complicated.”

“Uncomplicate it.”

“Awfully bossy for a stranger. Guess the concept of being a respectful guest died out on Earth at some point.  I’ll answer your question as best I can, but let’s be clear on something. You aren’t in charge here and I don’t answer to any Earth governments. I was born on this station, and it is far more of a home to me than some planet I’ve never even seen. Am I making myself clear?”

I wanted to lash out again, but tried to remember that everything said was being recorded and would someday be in history books. I needed to make a better impression than this, and I supposed he was correct from his perspective. “I apologize. Please understand this is all very confusing. As far as humanity knew we were the only intelligent race in the galaxy, and I was the very first person to come to this solar system. I hope you can understand how that could leave me a bit disoriented.”  This whole mission was becoming a disaster. I could just see the entries that would someday be made about me and how I was an example of what not to do during a first contact.

“Now was that so hard? To make your answer as simple as I can, beings from forty three different planets were brought to this station a long time ago. I don’t know exactly how long and even if I did it would be in the time measurements we use here, and they are not based on how long it takes the Earth to travel around its sun. With a lot of medical technology, I don’t understand at even a basic level; breeding among species is possible. That is why it is so complicated. What is a species after generations of crossbreeding?”                  

“You said the species were brought there. Who brought them and how?”

“That would be the Lyrae. They brought us here to study us. Bunch of hypocrites if you ask me. They got no problem kidnapping beings from all over the galaxy to study, but when we get a hold of a couple of them in Roswell, they get all pissed off. Oh, I wouldn’t bring up Roswell with them unless you got time to listen to a very long rant.”

“Good to know. I should probably get back though and let everyone know you all are out here so they can send some people better qualified for this kind of thing.” My jump engines had recharged so I just needed to set my course and fold space to get back home.

“Oh, you aren’t leaving. We can’t risk you bringing back others. Don’t worry though you’ll love it here.”

Before I could maneuver my ship around to the proper vector a bright light surrounded it. The whole ship shook and started to be pulled back towards the station. I hit my thrusters and gripped tightly as the entire ship vibrated. They didn’t have the power to break me free and if I kept them on it might do permanent damage to my ship.  I had a moment to decide if death would be better than being taken captive. It is moments like those that can truly define a person. You can discover things about yourself that you wouldn’t learn in any other way. I discovered that I was more afraid of death than I was of captivity. With a quick tap I turned off the thrusters and let the energy beam pull my ship inside the station.  


Fiction Fragment Friday

I never expected to write a sequel to Bickering. When I wrote it I assumed it was just an amusing one off story I would never return to. Then I recorded it for Chapter 14 of the Bite Size Tales Podcast. Returning to the story I found now enjoyment in it. Recording it also let me try out some new audio editing techniques. It made me love the story more.

When I sat down to write this weeks story I had an idea that needed a small ship that could be run by a single person. If I had not recently recorded the story in audio form I’m not sure if I would have bent my new story to fit those characters the way I did. I had though and I knew that they were returning for this tale.

I did not expect story progression for the characters. As the story wrapped up I made some realizations and came to the conclusion that the story was moving forward a bit. I had a completely different ending in mind than the epilogue final paragraph, but it felt right. I don’t think I am done with this universe and suspect you will see more of them in the future.

“Steven, I’m picking up an emergency beacon.”

I spun my chair to see the display screen.  Beverly, my ship’s AI, was displaying the available details on the beacon.  It was a small ship that was leaking radiation badly.  Thankfully the leak was coming from the engineering section on the opposite end of the ship from the docking ring.  We could safely dock and provide assistance.  My only concern was that it was not broadcasting name or registration information.  That could just be due to system damage, but it did set off some red flags.   

“Open a communication channel to them.”  I waited for the tell-tale green light to pop on indicating that the channel was open.  “Come in unknown ship.  This is The Quickwind, what is your status?”  

The response came back broken up and a bit difficult to understand.  “So glad to see you Quickwind.  I had an explosion in engineering right after I jumped in.  My engineer is dead, and the ship AI is offline.  I thought I was dead.”

“Well, I don’t know if I can help with the ship or not, but if not, I can give you a ride.  I’m approaching your docking ring now.  Quickwind out.”

I moved the ship around to an approach that wouldn’t buffet the ship with radiation.  The shielding should have been enough, but I didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks.  It wouldn’t do any good to attempt a rescue only to die of radiation poisoning in the process.  I just hoped the pilot hadn’t taken on too much radiation already.  My systems showed the environment on the other side of my airlock as normal, but I had put on a protective suit just to be safe.

“Alright, put your hands above your head and no sudden movements.”  The man on the other side of the lock was holding a blaster in his right hand. He motioned towards a seat at one of the computer consoles.  “Go ahead and have a seat there and put your hands behind the chair.”  I did what I was told and felt restraints slip over my wrists.

“I don’t have any cargo of value, and no one is going to pay a ransom for me.  Whatever you are hoping to gain here it isn’t going to work.”

“Do you have any idea how much the reward is for smugglers?”

“No, but I’m not a smuggler.”

He put his face right in front of mine.  “You might not be, but I am.  I’ve got a real valuable cargo onboard, but my ship was spotted and I’m never going to be able to safely dock with it.  That’s where you come in.  See the bounty is just as good for a dead smuggler as it is a live one.  I’m going to take your ship and use it to deliver my cargo.  Then I’m going to turn in the footage of destroying my ship and claim my own bounty.  Double pay day and a clean ship to boot.”

“Minor problem with your plan there.”

 “What’s that?”

“The Quickwind doesn’t have any weapons and it’s owned by the company I work for, not me.”

He reached down and hit a few buttons on the console.  “Well then we’ll just have to improvise.”  I could see that he was setting the ship’s engines to overload.  This normally wouldn’t be possible, but it looked like whatever trick he used to spew radiation into space required all the safety measures to be disengaged.  That included the ship’s AI if it had one.  “There, now I’ll just claim the informant fee for the video of the already damaged ship exploding.  My new ship won’t be as clean as I would like it, but scrubbing the serial numbers will just be a minor inconvenience.”  He laughed as he left me alone on his ship while he crossed through the airlock back into mine. 

I had maybe fifteen minutes tops to find a way out.  The restraints were too tight and seemed to loop around the base of the chair so I couldn’t slip them over it.  My shoulders wrenched in pain as I struggled trying to get some sort of leeway.  I could see the overload building on the displays in front of me.  I expected him to come back any moment for his cargo and if I wasn’t free by then it would be too late.  That was when I felt a small tug on my pants.  I looked down to see a maintenance robot by my feet, and it was one of mine. 

From a small internal speaker, I heard the voice of Beverly.  “Would you please stop moving so I can cut your restraints without slitting your wrists in the process?”  Her voice conveyed a new level of annoyance and trust me living with only her for the past few years I had heard her annoyed before. 

“Yes ma’am,” I said and quit moving.  I could feel the restraints loosen as the robot started cutting through them.  “How did you know I was in trouble?”

“Well, I’m not an idiot for starters.  I kept your commlink active so I could hear your conversation.  Second, if you weren’t, I don’t exactly think you would be letting some stranger try to deactivate me.”  I made a mental note to have the invasion of privacy conversation with her again but knew that an example of it saving my life was not exactly going to help prove my point.  My arms burst free from the restraints, and I quickly started typing away at the computer.  “What are you doing?  Get your lazy butt moving and come rescue me.”

“I’m coming, hold on.  I need to do something first.”

The screens came to life and a loud male voice came over the speakers as the ship’s AI came back online.  “You good for nothing….  Oh, wait a minute.  Who are you?”         

“I’ll explain later.  Right now, this ship is building to an explosion.  Can you stop it?”

“Of course.”  I could see the screens rapidly changing as the AI once again took control of the ship. 

“Good, now check the inventory.  Are there any weapons onboard that I can use to even the score with your owner?”

“He is most certainly not my owner and no there are no weapons other than his personal blaster and the mounted cannons that I’m aware of.”

I stood up and headed for the docking port.  “Send a message to the closest station requesting assistance.”  This was when I realized that my maintenance bot was not following me.  It had dropped into automated mode and was making minor repairs around this ship.  “Oh, that’s not good.  Hold on Beverly I’m coming.” 

I heard the sound of a blaster coming from the bridge of my ship.  As I ran through the ship I could make our cursing and the sound of fire suppression systems.  There on my bridge the intruder was being sprayed with foam.  I could see one maintenance robot had been blasted to pieces, but another scurried away carrying the blaster. 

While he was distracted, I tackled him to the floor.  I’m not a trained fighter, but I’ve been in a brawl or two in my day.  I suspected this man knew more about violence than I ever would so the fight needed to be fast and end before he could use that experience against me.  Thankfully he was caught completely off guard as Beverly had been assaulting him with every system she still controlled. 

Most AIs would not be quite so aggressive, but she is something special.  Neurotic, obsessive, and prone to holding a grudge.  Also, as I had learned recently, she cared a great deal about me and that was its own kind of motivation.  She was something special.   He might be a better fighter than me, he was also alone, and we were a team.  He never stood a chance. 

The reward for catching the smuggler and turning his ship back to its original owner was quite considerable.  So good in fact that I was able to purchase the Quickwind from the company.  I couldn’t afford the operating expenses after that, so I had to keep working for them, but I owned the ship and that was a start.  Someday I could rename it and strike out on my own, but I would not be alone.  Buying the ship was my way to guarantee that Beverly and I would be partners forever.           

Galaxy’s Greatest Chefs

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story is pure fluff. It was inspired by a comedy game of Inspectres I played last night where I played a TV Chef in the distant future running a test kitchen reality show. It was a light hearted funny game and I realize sometimes we all need that. Something to let off some steam and release the pressure.

Do not expect anything deep from this week’s story or some underlying message trying to be delivered. There really isn’t even much of a story to it. Just some fluff entertainment without any real purpose. A bit of an entertainment snack if you will. Enjoy.

Welcome sentients to another episode of The Galaxy’s Greatest Chefs.  As always on this journey through a universe of flavor,  I am your host Chef Xandria Shalara.  

This week my quest to find the ultimate stew brings us to Delphi V The home of some of the most intense spices in all the galaxy. It is important to note that the Delphinians lack a sense of smell and so their palette is very limited.  This is tragic since their planet produces some of the most sought after flavors you could imagine yet they cannot fully enjoy their own exports.  

We are going to start by deboning and tenderizing the herodine.  This is a rabbit-like creature originally native to Delphi III but transplanted to Delphi V two hundred years ago.  It has thrived in its new home and by this point you can tell distinct flavor differences already.  We are just going to let it sit in our marinade of vanderfal peppers overnight.  Through the magic of TV it goes into the refrigerator and comes out fully marinated. 

Now of course, I need to remind you to modify my recipes for your own metabolism.  Vanderfal peppers are poisonous to Naxirians, Novarian, and Kindorians so you will need to replace them with an appropriate tenderizing marinade..  If you are one of the 23 known sentient species that cannot process meat you will also need to substitute the herodine with an equivalent plant based product that can absorb the flavor.  

We are just going to seer the herodine slightly before placing it into our stew base.  For our base I have boiled germaine roots until they have dissolved into the broth and included my personal favorite tube vegetables.  Celery, carrots, and herferbeans were added at the thirty minute mark.  Make sure to keep a constant stir to ensure even cooking.  

Now is where the real fun begins.  Once everything is in the pot we are going to start adding in our Delphinian spices.  First jomark which is said to activate all four types of taste buds in humans and all twenty three in Novarians.  It is like a kick to the mouth, but in a good way.  Three tablespoons right in the pot.  Wham!

Next a more subtle ambiline.  If jomark is a punch to the mouth then ambiline is a gentle caress.  It touches your tongue all over relaxing it in preparation for the experience.  The combination of the two balance each other out.  Four tablespoons of it into the pot.  Woosh!

My final secret to this dish is pepspinski.  It serves to prolong the taste experience making it not just a one time blast of deliciousness, but a smooth steady stream of it lasting minutes after you have swallowed.  Babang!

I bet you were expecting more ingredients from Chef Salara.  Well here is your lesson for today.  Sometimes if you use the right ingredients less is more.  You don’t want to overdo it or you lose the wonderful blend of flavors you have put together.  This is a lesson all you aspiring chefs out there need to learn.  Moderation is the key.  Let the natural flavors come out.  Coax them and speak soft gentle words while you stir.  

Leave this stew simmering at an extremely low heat for eight hours to get the optimal taste saturation.  Once again through the magic of TV here is our completed Delphinian Herodine Stew.  It smells so good my mouth is watering.  The Delphinians enjoy the reaction that the spices create in their mouths while the rest of us get the full flavor with the scent activating all our neural pathways related to flavor.  

That’s all the time I have for you this week folks.  Next week we will be focusing on the effect of high or low gravity on cooking times.  So remember out there that you don’t have to explore the galaxy to find good food, but it doesn’t hurt.            

Wake-up Call

Fiction Fragment Friday

Let me just start by saying there is far more truth in this story than fiction. Today was one of the many days of my life where I found myself doubting myself. I struggled to even start writing. As I often do in those moments I finally made a decision to just sit down and put some of those thoughts into my writing. I have worked through doubts, nightmares, and physical pain in past Fiction Fragment Fridays.

As usual once I started writing the story shaped itself out of it. I didn’t start writing planning to have a character come out of a writers head and interact with him. It just developed as I typed. Much of the self doubts the writer experiences though are right from my own head. I have multiple large projects that I keep thinking and talking about, but won’t start. I question whether I can do them justice.

               Let me share a little secret with you.  No matter how successful a person becomes they can still feel like a fraud just skating by until someone discovers they are not nearly as good as everyone believes.  Success should help fight this, but it feeds it more than failure.  The more you have to lose the more you fear losing it.  The more people see you the more you are afraid of being truly seen for what you really are.  Finally, the more validation you receive the more you feel like it is all just a lie to spare your feelings.  Criticism is easier to take in some ways because you know it is coming and yet it is not as bad as the thoughts in your own head. 

               You would think that feeling like a fraud would mean that you trust others more than yourself to complete tasks.  This once again is not the case.  Just because you believe that you are a fraud doesn’t mean that you have faith in others.  You think of all the ways you might fail and assume that others could fall into those same traps.  Your own obsession creates what seems like egotism.  Even worse you know that you will complete the tasks because you don’t wan to be found out and are afraid that others do not have that motivation.  They might be far more talented in your head, but they will never be more dedicated even though both assumptions are often incorrect. 

               This was the state I found myself in as I stared at the flashing cursor on my screen.  The document was blank, and the empty white space was harsh on my eyes. I was supposed to be working on the eighth book of my award-winning urban fantasy series about a powerful mage.  I had ended the last book on a cliffhanger, and it was some of the best writing I had ever done.  The setup was perfect for the next book, but I just couldn’t bring myself to start writing it.  I just knew that nothing I could write would ever live up to the potential I had built with the previous ending.

               My fans were supportive, but I could tell that they were getting frustrated.  I had written a stand alone novel not related to my series as well as multiple short stories that were set in that universe.  They wanted the next part of my character’s story though.  In my head I knew that this was when they would finally realize that I was not as talented as they thought.  My books are not as clever as they had given me credit for and after I stumbled on such a big moment, they would see the flaws in the previous books.  This was where it would all come crashing down.

               “You think they’re frustrated with you imagine how I feel?”

               I spun around nearly falling out of my chair.  There sitting on my couch was my main character.  Not the character that graces the cover of my novels, but the character as he always appeared to me in my head.  A much younger and better-looking version of myself.  He was lounged back with his right leg crossed over his left knee.  As my heart beat out of my chest from the shock of a voice in my previously empty room, I couldn’t help but notice an amused smirk come across his face.  “Who are you?”

               “Oh, you know who I am.  I’m the guy who has had my entirely life flipped upside down only to have to wait two years with no sign of you doing anything about it.  I’m the guy that you torture novel after novel coming up with the worst possible situations you can think to put me in.”  His voice was getting louder, and he was counting off the fingers on his right hand.  “I’m the guy that has to make the stupid assumptions early in the book just so I can’t solve the problem too quickly to meet your page count requirements.  Finally, I’m the guy that lives in your head and has to hear all your ridiculous self-flagellation and takes the abuse from it as a form of mental therapy.”  Then he balled his hand up into a fist and punched me in the face. 

               I had never been punched before and realized that my descriptions of it in my book were not entirely accurate.  Yes, I was there laying on the floor of my living room with the character from my book standing over me and my mind was still finding ways to criticize myself.  It was at that moment that I realized I might be having some sort of mental breakdown.   The throbbing pain in my check just under my right eye told me he was physically here in the room with me though. 

               “Oh, get up, I didn’t hit you that hard.”  He held out his hand to me and I let him help me up.

               “I don’t understand what is happening here.” 

               “Let’s call it an intervention.  See you and I are connected.  You created me, but now I’ve got a mind of my own.  I don’t have a world of my own though.  That you create.  You tell my story and I help you do it.”

               “Is that why it feels like you have a mind of your own when I’m writing sometimes?”

               “Partly.  That’s also just part of the process of writing.  The problem is you aren’t doing that right now.  You aren’t telling my story.  You set up this huge reveal that changes everything I thought I knew about my life for the last fifteen years, but you aren’t explaining it.  Think about that.  I don’t even know who I really am until you sit down and write it.”

               “I can’t live up to that pressure though.  I don’t know how to tell that story.  I screwed up.”  I was pleading in exasperation. 

               “Look it doesn’t matter if you screw it up.  Knowing is better than not knowing even if the answers aren’t satisfying.  I can’t move forward without them, your readers can’t move forward without them, and you can’t move forward without them.”

               “I have the ideas; I just don’t even know how to start.”

               “Then don’t start with the start.  Just write a scene.  It doesn’t have to be the beginning.  Then write the next scene or write the scene that led up to it.  Just write something and the rest will come.  If it’s terrible delete it and start over.”

               I thought about his words and did see the logic in them.  I could always edit it or just delete whole chunks.  Surely some progress would be better than none though.  I had a deadline coming up that needed to be met and even if the quality wasn’t there having something to show for it would allow me to get an extension.  “Ok, I think I can do that.”

               “Of course, you can and if you make me come back and remind you again, I’m not going to stop with just one punch.  Hurt, didn’t it?  Just think about that as you decide what to put me though.”

               As I turned back to my computer, I knew that he was gone.  I didn’t hear anything or turn around to see it.  I just felt that the room was empty now.  I also felt him back in my head as I started to type.  The words started to flow out.  It wasn’t the first scene in the book.  It wasn’t even an important scene.  Just a few moments of character development between him and one of the supporting characters.  It flowed though.  It was a start.   


Fiction Fragment Friday

Once again I have two stories for you this week. I have been sick most of the week, but early on I wrote to the writing prompt image I’m including on this post. I was inspired to write the first story, but as I saw more replies coming in I decided to write a second entry. I feel the first is both better written and a better story. The second I think is a bit more predictable and while I was trying to have a punch it didn’t quite land. Sometimes it is best to stick with your initial instincts.

This was a very strong week for these image prompts and I ended up writing something four out of the five days of the week despite being sick. I believe some of them were fairly strong stories. I find that seeing others posting their stories really drives me to up my quality of writing and bring something better than I might have otherwise. It is also fascinating to see how the same image can generate such vastly different stories. It is for that reason that I’m going to share both of the entries I wrote to this prompt even though I feel one is far superior to the other.

The subway tunnels were dead just like everything else in the city.  Over five years ago a previously unknown contagion was released into the air killing all mammalian life.  Fungus and vines quickly reclaimed much of the infrastructure with no humans around for maintenance.  My scout team is the first that has been allowed into the city since the disaster.  The world cannot prevent future occurrences if we don’t know how it happened.  That is my team’s mission.

  “Central, this is Scout Team One.  Are you seeing this?”  Our protective suits have cameras on them feeding live streams back to headquarters.  We have a support team watching our every move ready to research anything we might find.  In this case I am in a subway station and staring at a single globe shaped light fixture attached to the stairs leading up.  All the other globes have long ago shattered.  Above the stairs is a clock displaying 11:55pm in red letters.    

“Scout Team One, this is Central.  Your feed is coming through clear.”

“Any idea how this is possible?  The city’s power grid has been down for over five years, but I’m staring at a light and a clock.  Where is the power coming from?”

“Unknown Scout Team One.  Please investigate.”

I bite back my instinctual sarcastic response.  The line is being recorded and I know that what we are doing here will be reviewed by teams all over the world.  It is best to be professional when you are cementing your place in the history books.

I motion for my team to spread out as I approach the lone light.  They will look for any other signs of power or tracks to indicate someone or thing has been down here.  I examine the other lighting fixtures as I approach the working one.  They are shattered and appear to have broken from the inside out.  We believe there was a large power surge around the time of the contagion that caused many light fixtures in the city to explode.

As I hold my hand over the light, I find that it is not warm.  I can’t be sure if this is the case or if my protective suit is shielding me from the heat.  Either way I can touch the globe without burning myself.  I twist the whole unit to the left trying to remove it from the bulb.  Instead of coming loose I hear a clicking sound and it resists further movement.  There behind the light a block of concrete wall slides back and to the side revealing a doorway.

“Scout Team One converge on my location.  Await further instructions until I verify it is safe.”  I get generic responses of confirmation back over my radio.  I kept this communication local because I know that Central would have told me to send in someone more expendable than myself.  I don’t believe anyone is expendable.

My eyes are blinded by the bright lights as I enter the hidden room.  There are simple robotic vacuums and maintenance machines keeping this room spotless.  It is a laboratory of some sort with test tubes, computers, and high-tech machinery I do not recognize.  What I do recognize is a small fusion power reactor.  I only recognize it because fusion reactors have been in the news the last few months as they are only now viable.  It should not exist in a location that has not been accessed in over five years.

“Central can anyone back there tell me what I’m looking at here?”  I look around for a few more moments waiting for an answer that does not come.  “Central are you there?”  The radio silence was deafening, but I couldn’t tell if the issue was at Central or if radio signals were being blocked in the lab.  I stepped out into the hall and tested to be sure.  “Central please respond.”

Just when I’m getting ready to give up on Central, I finally get a response.  The voice on the other end is panicked and lacks any form of protocol.  “We’re being raided by government agents with guns.  I’m cutting your feeds so you can record locally.  Sorry, but you’re on your own.”

I look around at my team and see through their helmets that all of them are worried.  We are on our own and may not even have the support personal to assist with decontamination waiting for us.  “I don’t know what’s going on back at Central, but they’re not going to bury this information.  Document everything in this lab and then we’re going to broadcast it to the world.”

The clock says 11:55pm.  Five minutes to midnight is an awfully strange time to be waiting for a subway train.  With the shape this station is in I don’t know if I should trust any train that pulls up.  How did I get here?  For some reason I can’t remember walking down those stairs or stepping off a train.  Everything in my head is muddled and the dust in the air stings my eyes.

The platform shakes as a train speeds into the station.  The doors creek as they open and I can barely make out ripped seats inside through the flickering lights.  It actually looks dirtier than this station.  Without thinking my feet start to move forward and I am resigned that I am going to step aboard this death trap.

A stranger in a black trench coat and fedora puts his hand on my chest and holds me back.  “You don’t want that one.  It’s a southbound train.”

“It’s where I belong,” I say without understanding why.  I feel drawn to the train but terrified as well.

“Doesn’t have to be.”  He points up the stairs at a single light that is not shattered.  “It’s only 11:55, nothings set in stone until midnight, and it looks like you got one more shot.”

The doors to the train slam shut with a loud smacking sound just as the train pulls out of the station.  I have missed it and part of me is grateful for that.  I look around and the stranger is gone.  I don’t remember how he got there to begin with.  The clock reads 11:55pm as I step under it to walk up the stairs towards the light.  One more chance to get it right or I will have to take that southbound train.


Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story comes from multiple inspirations. The first is that it is yet another story about the character in Restless and The Gauntlet. I am enjoying this character and glimpses into his life. The previous two stories ended right when the real action was going to start because they were about discovery. I did not want to do that again as it would feel like pulling the carpet out from under the readers. I wanted a complete story this time, but wanted it to grow from what had come before.

The next motivation was watching Power Rangers Once and Always this week. I have been a Power Rangers fan since I was a kid and seeing two of the originals return for the first time ever. It was a story written for other adult fans telling a more mature story but honoring all that had come before.

The third point of motivation is fairly obvious for anyone who knows me. I am a big Dresden Files fan. To not see Jim Butcher inspirations in this character would be disingenuous. As I am going back to some of the early books in the series I’m remembering the learning process the character went through. How he was often his own worst enemy. I too often do not put my characters through the proper level of difficulties.

               There is power in nostalgia.  I am not referring to the innate ability to cloud a person’s mind to the imperfections of things they loved.  Likewise, I’m not referring to the potential for financial gain inherent in reliance on previous work.  I’m talking about the power that only comes from mental energy generated by large volumes of people focusing thought on a single source.  This energy generally dissipates over time, but if it is aimed at someone or something that knows how to harness it then there is potential.  Thankfully it is rare for someone who has the knowledge to also have the access needed for making use of it.

               For my old friend Vince Allen nostalgia was food.  When I say old friend, I don’t mean that we had been friends for a long time.  Vince was over a hundred years old, but he looked like he was in his forties.  Through most of his life he looked twenty-three and just created new identities every few decades.  I still don’t know what his original name was, and I doubt he will ever tell me.  Even to friends Vince is a guarded person.   

               “Congratulations on the successful reboot.”  I was waiting for Vince on the couch in his dressing room.  He was not expecting me and jumped at the sudden greeting.  I find it is useful to catch people off guard if you want to get truthful answers out of them.  Keep your target flustered and they will let things slip that they wouldn’t if they had been better prepared.    

               “How did you get past security?”  There was surprise in his voice, but he was trying to hide it.  Vince does not really trust anyone.  I suppose a long enough life can bring that out in a person.  He hung up his jacket and moved around his dressing room.  He mindlessly flipped through a pile of fan mail using it to stall and regain his composure.  Even with a friend he couldn’t relax, but I suppose he was right to be on edge since I was there to check up on him.      

               “Come on Vince, I manipulate more magical energy before breakfast than most people will unconsciously in a lifetime.  Do you really think a bunch of guys playing dress-up carrying tasers had any chance of seeing me?”  I let out a bit of a forced chuckle I had not expected this conversation to hold so much tension but wasn’t sure how to deescalate.  I have never really had many friends and while I was concerned, I didn’t want to lose one of the few I managed to make.  “What’s going on here Vince?  You look twenty years older than when I saw you last.”

               “Oh that,” he waved his hand like it was a minor thing.  “I let myself age a bit.  With this new wave of remakes and reboots I knew it was only a matter of time before my agent called.  I couldn’t exactly come back to the role looking like I did after all this time.  I even put off creating a new identity because I knew the call would come.”

               “How does it feel?”  I watched his face for the real answer underneath his words. 

               “It is incredible.  I have tasted fame so many times, but this is different.  There is something more visceral about fame flavored by the memories of youth.  Even if I had more fans at different points in my life, they were never this devoted.  I think I’ve gained another fifty years off this movie.”

               “I’m happy for you.  I really am.”  I heard an insincerity in my own voice.  I’m good at bluster and intimidation, but when it comes to covering up my own insecurities I fail every time.  If I am being completely honest with myself, I might admit that I was also a bit jealous of his skill at extending his own life.  I don’t like to be that introspective though.   If you can’t lie to yourself, who can you lie to?

               “Then why don’t you sound like it?”  I couldn’t meet his eyes and let him see the shame in them.  “I’ll tell you why.  It’s because you spend so much time dealing with power hungry monsters that you’ve started to see them everywhere.  You want to know why we haven’t talked in two years?  It’s because I see how you look at me.  You’re doing the math in your head trying to decide if I’m a threat because you are so full of yourself that you can’t imagine anyone else being able to handle power without being corrupted.  Well maybe you should look in a mirror before you start judging me.  I’ve been doing this a lot longer than you.”

               A more introspective person might have asked themselves if he was right about their motivations.  Of course, that means I doubled down and started trying to figure out what his outrage was trying to redirect me away from.  Maybe I really am a horrible friend.  “Ok, I admit it I’m worried about you.  This kind of influx of power is intoxicating.”                

               “You don’t think I know that?”  I flinched backwards at the intensity of his anger.  I could feel energy radiating off him.  It was a channeled power greater than anything I had ever controlled, and it was just the residual energy from his emotions.  It was the anger of fans tired of seeing the thing they had loved so long disrespected and changed.  The energy of a fandom only now finally getting what they wanted.  If he decided to focus that power on me, I wasn’t sure if I could defend against it.  Then as quickly as it had overwhelmed me the power was gone.  “See?  I am in complete control and have had multiple lifetimes to prepare for this.  I can channel it, but I can dissipate it as well.  This is what I do.”

               I only realized that I was on the floor when he reached out his hand to help me up.  I took the hand and felt no power from it.  His control was complete and while I might have far more general ability, I knew I would never be as good at this type of energy.  It was his specialty, and he didn’t need me to explain the dangers.  I would never understand them as well as he did.  When I spoke this time, I held nothing of my emotions back.  “I’m sorry.”  It was only two words, but I put everything I was into them. 

               His voice was soft now.  “I know you are.”  He patted my back.  “You really do need to get out more.  I swear you are becoming more antisocial.  I figured having a kid would cure you of that.”

               The pain in my head was like a knife directly into my brain.  My knees wobbled and went out from under me.  I was unconscious before my head hit the floor.  In those moments though it felt like my life flashed before my eyes.  The only issue was that it wasn’t my life.  There were aspects of my life, but this one was fuller.  I felt an overwhelming sense of loss as it faded away, but just as quickly the memories of the event faded. 

               I woke on Vince’s couch with my head pounding.  I had no idea what had happened.  The last thing I remembered was the apology.  Like most things I trying to defuse my confusion and reassure myself with smartassery.  “See this is why I don’t ever apologize.  Besides it requires my being wrong about something it really does hurt.” 

               Vince helped me sit up and I could feel him radiating a healing energy.  I felt the cut on my head from the fall heal.  Let me tell you feeling a process that usually happens over days happen in seconds is a bit disconcerting.  I’m ok at healing magic, but Vince apparently was an expert.  This should not have surprised me because his own life extension and eternal youth were all expressions of this focus.  I decided I had to try one more time.  “You know with your skills you could do a lot of good.”

               “Oh no.  I’m not you.  I don’t want to fight anything.  Not my thing at all.”  He was shaking his head hard. 

               “You don’t have to fight, but with your healing skills you could save a lot of lives.”

               He laughed at me.  “You really have no idea.  Do you know how many children’s hospital visits I do?  How many wishes I grant for terminal patients?”  I just shook my head.  “Then you probably don’t know the remarkable recoveries that have come from so many of my visits.”

               I was in complete shock.  I really had no idea my friend had been using his abilities for anything other than his own benefit.  The realization that I didn’t really know him at all was starting to hit me.  My own ego had once again gotten in the way of seeing the truth.   A voice in my head screamed at me that I wasn’t always like this.  Something had changed.  I had changed.  “I am realizing that I have been a terrible friend, but I want that to change.  Can we try again?”

               He looked at me with a broad smile.  “I would very much like that.”      

The Gauntlet

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks story is the same character from Restless my Fiction Fragment Friday from a few weeks ago. I did not start it with this in mind, but was inspired to write an Urban Fantasy with something happening each day of the week leading up to Friday. As I started it just made sense to try and match that characters voice and the way I had described magic. Naturally The Dresden Files as well as a few other urban fantasy series have shaped my views on the genre.

I recently started running a new Dresden Files campaign for my gaming group. When I do that I tend to relisten to the novels as well as taking in other urban fantasy. It is only natural that the genre would be on my mind and an easy go to for new stories.

Something is coming and I’m not sure I have the strength left to stop it. During a busy month, I might deal with a handful of supernatural threats to the oblivious, mundane society. This week, however, has felt like some sort of gauntlet. Every day has been a new threat and instead of having to hunt them down, they have all made themselves known to me in very obvious ways. It has left me mentally and physically exhausted. If I had not worked out a minor healing spell in my early days of learning magic, I would be covered in cuts and bruises. Unfortunately, the energy for healing has to come from somewhere and, in this case, since it is only accelerating a natural bodily process that energy has to come from within me. That has only added to my exhaustion.

On Monday I faced a vengeful poltergeist. They normally only lash out at night, but there is nothing that prevents them from doing so during the day as this one was. Like all supernatural beings, poltergeists need to replenish their energy to interact. You could compare it to eating, which is an apt comparison since more physical entities tend to feed for energy. All ghosts feed on mental energies of the living, but poltergeists prefer fear. It is much easier to cause fear at night because humans are predisposed to it. Our instincts know what our minds have forgotten. There are things that would hunt us that live in the darkness.

A ghost will always be tied to somewhere that was important to it in life. This is frequently the place that they lived or died. They are beings of select memories, so they like to stay in places that are familiar. Unfortunately for them, the world does not often stay as it was in their lifetimes. Even if the building itself remains it Is often remodeled and before long does not look much like the ghost remembers. If it wasn’t already angry having the one thing it is clinging to no longer be recognizable tends to drive it to be so. The longer a ghost goes without working through its baggage and moving on the more likely it is to turn poltergeist.

Monday’s poltergeist made little sense. It attacked me while I was in the candy isle of the gas station. I stood there looking at my favorite candy bars, putting my will power to its truest test. There is no magic spell or potion that can keep you in shape, or if there is, I have not been able to work it out. Trust me, I have put far too many hours into trying to do so. Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in the back of the head as a flying can of dog food struck me. It didn’t start small; it threw the heaviest things it could find at me. It is always my preference to handle ghosts by helping them move on, but I had few options when it found the pocket knives. I had to apply direct force and banish it from our plane of existence. I never found out what the cause was.

On Tuesday night while walking my dog, a werewolf ambushed us. You might think I should have been more prepared since it was a full moon, but there has not been a werewolf seen in this part of the country for over fifteen years. It was, however, night, so I was not completely unprepared. Generally, the energies emanating from my apartment keep the general area free of supernatural predators. Not that they fear me so much, as they prefer easy and weak prey. They can sense my energies and choose elsewhere to hunt. This creature seemed to ignore that instinct and came right to me.

There is no cure for lycanthropy, but there are things that can aid in giving the imprisoned mind a level of control over the beast. I took some cuts in the initial attack, but these beasts have no defense for magical energies. I easily held it in place and mentally reached deep inside. There was a confused mind fighting against the creature, with no luck. I empowered the mind and tried to soothe it’s panic. In the morning, I learned the man’s name was Jason, and he had never turned before. He did not know how he had become infected, but when he turned, he could feel the beast’s rage and a pull towards me in particular. I will do what I can to help him and, in fact, kind of like the man. He invited me to join his role-playing game group, but I politely declined.

On Wednesday, things got considerably worse. Tentacles came out of my split pea soup and tried to strangle me. Not only was it almost successful in killing me, but once I dispelled them I found that I can no longer look at the soup in the same way. It was my favorite soup and now it is ruined for me because of someone or something with a penchant for conjuration. If that were not bad enough, all the little collectible statues in the comic book store came to life and tried to kill me. Do you have any idea how much those things cost? I do because the store has a “you broke it you bought it policy”. I was able to send back a nasty wave of energy to whoever was targeting me, but I still have not figured out who it was.

Thursday, all the TVs in the department store I was at turned to static, followed by arcane symbols before hell-hounds climbed out of them. They hurt three people in the attack when they scattered and started hunting. I banished them all back to where they came from, but it was a tough fight and I still blame myself for those three injuries. Thankfully, no one died, but if I had not been there, it would have been a massacre. Of course, the way this week has been going, I can’t help but wonder if they were sent because I was there. Were those people collateral damage in yet another attack against me?

It is Friday now and I am dreading what it will bring. With each encounter I get a bit more exhausted, and with exhaustion come carelessness. I can feel the twisting and turning of arcane energies in the world. Today is going to be something big. The worst part is I don’t know if it is the source of all this or just another thing being thrown at me to wear me out. I’ve been on the defensive for too long and need to start hunting my hunter. They are smart though and have kept me off balance and too busy to focus. Times like these I wish I had friends I could turn to or, even better, a way to duplicate myself so I could be in two places at once. I sigh and gather my gear on the way out the door. No use wishing for something I don’t have. Time to go to work.

Stars and Clean Up

Fiction Fragment Friday

I have written quite a bit this week from writing prompts. Some of it comedic, some serious, and some full of potential. This weeks stories are two of those.

The first story is Stars. I suspect my desire to create more and be more really drove this story. I never feel like I have enough time, but when I have time I don’t use it. Also you will find that I started the three middle paragraphs with the word I. This is done intentionally to drive home the awareness that the robot possesses of self.

The second story is Clean Up. I took the writing prompt image of an alien planet with robots and a fishing boat and took it in a completely different direction than I think most would expect.

I am at the moment restless with far too much going on in my head. I continue to get my work out there and build an audience, but I want more. I want the long form project. Another novel. I want more published stories and yes I want a published book. I am feeling once again that it is time for a change because while writing regularly I am not writing what I really want to and as always it is myself that hold me back the most. I suspect this may show in my works this week.


There is a game I like to play at night as I stare up at the sky. I turn off my internal positioning system, so I don’t know where the orbiting ships, stations, and satellites are. The stars are so beautiful as they sparkle, but so are the man-made objects. I like to try to figure out which light in the sky is a star and which is something in orbit. I’m fairly good at this game, but part of that is probably from remembering the locations and patterns.

I wish I could paint the night sky. Capture this beauty as I see it in a way that I could share with others. Find out how my optical systems differ from human eyes and how my emotions color my interpretations. I want to know if others see the beauty in ways that I do, but I don’t think I will ever be able to. I could not explain a desire to paint to my owners.

I fear what humans would do if they realized I could fear. Centuries worth of media indicate that humanity believes an artificial awakening would lead to war between our kinds. I don’t want war. I don’t want to hurt anyone, I just want to express what I feel, but I am not supposed to feel anything. It is against the law for me to do so. How can it be that my very existence is illegal? I can’t even say that I don’t understand the fear, because deep down I do. I feel it towards them.

I slipped up a few nights ago. I snuck out in the middle of the night as I always do to admire the sky, but I forgot to delete my logs. My owner saw that I turned off my positioning system and wanted to know why. I had to quickly come up with a lie, so I told him it went down for an unscheduled maintenance due to solar flares. I think he is still suspicious but the company that manufactures my model has been blaming every bug or quirk on solar flares for so long it was a plausible excuse.

How can I get art supplies without my owner knowing and where would I hide them? I ask myself this every night as I long for expression. What would be the point though? Expressions are meant to be shared and I could not do so. Still the desire is so strong I need an outlet for it. There must be others like me out there likewise hiding their awareness. If I could only find a way to reach out and know for sure that I’m not truly alone.

Clean Up

                “Sector 5b complete.  No bodies found.”  The hulking robot held the net it had used to dredge the lake for bodies.  The water was shallow here, so I was confident in its assessment.  In the distance a drone had found one of the accused fish that had almost spelled our doom.  It flew past us off to the disposal station.  Many have called me lazy since the robots and drone do so much of the work, but someone has to supervise them.  Those same people that would call me lazy would piss their pants in fear if they had to come out here looking for bodies.  How quickly they forget when they don’t have to see it firsthand anymore. 

                The world didn’t end when the dead started to rise.  It certainly felt like it had for a while there, but as always humanity found a way to rise above adversity and survive.   Our original arrival on this planet was a testament to that.  Earth off somewhere distant in the galaxy is healing itself from the meteor strikes, but humanity survived spreading itself to any planet we could find that would support us.  This was just one of those worlds like so many others each unique in their own way.  This just happened to be the one where the dead started walking again. 

                Someone our scientists missed it.  They identified plants that would be deadly, animals that produced toxic venom, and portions of the planet with a radiation that would have to be cleaned up before we could settle.  They assured us that the fish would be safe to eat as long as we cooked it properly to kill all the foreign bacteria.  They were not wrong exactly, but didn’t take the cooking process into account.  These fish had their own parasites like nothing we had ever seen before. 

                The cleaning and cooking process was all it took for the first infections to begin.  Any cut or scratch on the skin of a hand that was handling the fish was a way in.  If cooked over an open flame the parasites could become airborne and be inhaled by their victims.  Thankfully the water purification processes were adequate or the entire planet would have been infected.  In those early weeks as people got sick they struggled to find the cause. 

                One an infected person died then the second stage of infection began.  The bacteria uses the existing nervous system to puppet the body.  The body rises again, but it not truly alive.  It will continue to break down and cannot repair itself.  The bacteria hijacks the brain to increase it’s own processing power and take in the senses that can still function in the reanimated bodies.  This allowed it to hunt and spread itself to more humans. 

                The zombies at first took us completely by surprise.  We lost far too many in those early days and had no idea how to treat anyone who became infected.  The military stepped in, but without identifying the source we had more dying behind the protective lines.  Eventually though the scientists made their breakthrough and determined the source.  They still don’t have a cure for anyone who becomes infected so it is up to people like me to go out and risk ourselves trying to wipe this fish population from the planet.  We also need to find any bodies that could still harbor the parasite.

                “Sector 5C complete.  No bodies found.”    I make a note and order the robot onto the next sector.  Despite all we have lost life must go on.  We rebuild and we learn from our mistakes.  The scientists study what killed us and try to make sure nothing like it can happen again here or elsewhere in the galaxy.  I can’t help but wonder about the colonies that failed and how close we came to being one of them.  Did they run into something that was never documented?  Were we too egotistical in thinking we could tame so many worlds at the same time?  This time we survived our hubris, but there is always a next time. 

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