Writer Podcaster Geek

Category: Flash Fiction Page 2 of 14

Hemidale Academy

Fiction Fragment Friday

This Week’s Fiction Fragment Friday is from another image writing prompt. This one came out earlier in the week and I knew I had to come back and write to it. I like trains to much to not use it. I also wanted to go a different direction in my story from where everyone else had gone with theirs. Some of the other writers went dystopian and some were reminded of Thomas the Tank engine. For me I went with a type of story that is completely outside my wheel house. I did not grow up reading these types of stories and really have little frame of reference for the tropes.

I wish I could give credit to the artist, but I don’t know where the image itself came from or even if it is a real artist or AI generated. I could not find the image in a reverse google image search. I frequently don’t include the artwork because I don’t like doing so without giving credit. I feel like this time it helps with the context of story inspiration.

I couldn’t wait to see the look on my little sister’s face when she saw the train.  This was her first year at Hemindale’s Academy for Exceptional Youth.  I had been going to the magical academy for two years, but during orientation they put a binding on you to prevent speaking about it to anyone who has not attended.  Since my parents met there when they were younger, I could talk to them about it, but at that age a child can’t really relate to their parents the same way as they can a sibling.  More than anything I wanted to see that sense of wonder that I had managed to lose after everything I had seen.

               “Jake, I don’t understand.  If we are catching a train shouldn’t there be train tracks here?”  She sounded worried and I knew she was afraid I was playing a prank on her.  In fairness I did play frequent pranks in those days.  As tempting as it is for normal kids to prank their siblings imagine what can happen when you add magic and illusion to the mix. 

               “Relax Katie it’s almost time.  You’ll see.”  I could feel the ground vibrating under my feet signaling the arrival of our ride. 

               “Is that an earthquake?”  She gripped onto me tightly in fear.  Neither of us had ever experienced an earthquake, but they kept saying we were overdue for one.  Little did know that our father was a geomancer and had been soothing the ground for years redirecting that pressure to unpopulated areas.  Normies, think they know everything, but have no idea how much folks like my family do to keep them safe. 

               I held my sister tight while our friend Jeff just chuckled at her.  “Katie, do you trust me?”


               “Ok, maybe I deserve that.  Do you trust that I would never let anything hurt you?”

               “I guess.”  She did not sound as sure as I would have liked her to, but it was the best I was going to get. 

               “That vibration is just our train coming.  I need you to look up.  You don’t want to miss this.”  I managed to turn her to face forward, but she would not let go of me.  She seemed to be holding on awful tight for someone who claimed not to trust me.  I really did want her to see what was about to happen though. 

               The ground in front of us started to flow like water.  Its color did not change at all, nor did it become mud.  Instead, it just flowed and moved like water when you blow air hard against it.  Then it started to rise.  Clumps of dirt stuck to the roof of the train car as it emerged from the ground.  Underneath the dirt, roots, and pavement formed into a hand holding the train car aloft in front of us.  The ground flowed around the hand as it carried our ride forward.  Where is passed the ground resettled giving no indication that anything had passed by.   

               I saw the awe in my sister’s face, but also the fear.  I remembered having a similar reaction the first time I had witnessed it.  I tried to whisper more reassurances, but her attention was completely focused on the train car.  I could tell she wanted to run, but I gently held her in place until it stopped about ten feet in front of us.  The front door opened, and the ground molded into a set of stairs leading up to it.  Jeff went ahead without hesitation, but I could tell that Katie was still unsure.

               “This is our ride, Katie.” I took her hand in mine.  “It’s completely safe.  I’ve been riding it every school day for two years now. “

               She looked up into my eyes.  “Is it going to drag us underground?”

               “I’m not going to lie to you we are going underground.  That’s just how a subway works.  We won’t be down there for long though and pretty soon we will be on the other side of the country.  That’s just how this magic works.”  I could feel her resistance in her hand, but she followed me up the stairs and into the train car.  I heard her gasp as we entered.

               The outside of the train was dirty, old, and worn.  Inside was bright with pixies flying around from seat to seat offering drinks and snacks.  Most of the other students had their window visors pulled down.  We were the last stop, so the car was almost full.  Kids of various ages were laughing and generally having a good time.  I looked around for my lifeline and my eyes locked on her. 

               The most radiant girl in the world to my eyes came over and kneeled in front of my sister.  “Hi Katie.  Do you remember me?”

               Katie nodded and then meekly whispered, “Your name is Marla.”

               “That’s right.  I’m a friend of your brothers.  Why don’t you two come sit with me?”  She led us to a row of seats and positioned my sister between us.  She held one hand while I had the other.  “I know this all seems pretty scary right now, but I promise you will get used to it real quick.  There is plenty of non-scary magic in here too.”  She held out a hand and one of the pixies landed.  It was dressed like a tiny ballerina with wings.  The small woman did a dancing spin in her hand and bowed to my sister. 

               “Hi there Katie.  Can I get you anything?  Hot coco perhaps?” 

               “No, no thanks.”  My sister was captivated by the site. 

               “Well if you need anything at all you just have to ask.  It’s my job to make sure you have a good trip to school and get there safely.” 

               “How long until the train starts moving again?”   Her voice was so meek.

               I looked down at her.  “It already has.”  I pointed to the window and outside it you could see the subway walls rushing by us.  The train’s magic ensured that it’s every movement was smooth and that we couldn’t feel a thing.  They had kept her distracted as we sunk back into the ground and slipped through the veils of reality until we were back on tracks running through a magical realm much smaller than our own world.  I had timed it just right and we emerged from the tunnel into broad daylight. 

               Her eyes lit up as she saw the magical creatures in the fields on the edge of the schoolgrounds.  The school has a presence in our world for inspections and accreditation, but for most of our magic related classes we were on this side.  Not only was magic easier to control here, but stray spells would not draw normie attention.  I could see her fear had vanished while she took in the site. 

               Marla looked down at her.  “Katie dear welcome to your first day at Hemindale Academy.  Trust me you are going to love it here.”    

Dominant Species

Fiction Fragment Friday

A bit of a short one this week. I’m once again playing around with the format a flash fiction can take. This week’s story started with imaging the first line and coming up with a simple concept. At some point when writing it I decided that it was not the lead-in to a story as I originally intended, but in fact a Thesis being written by an extraterrestrial college student.

I wanted to make the author come off as initially a bit unhinged and perhaps a conspiracy theorist. When wrapping up though I wanted to give a bit of weight to the thesis being presented. This one is a lite, fun, quick read.

The True Dominant Species of the Galaxy

A thesis by Uldar the Magnificent from Yunus 3

               There is perhaps no better example of parallel evolution than the common house cat.  Across over one hundred known worlds with intelligent life each one has a species that could easily be recognized as a cat.  Many have suggested this indicates that they are the ultimate expression of an apex predator.  Why then have we not found a world where they have evolved to be the dominant species?  The answer to that is either that the traits necessary to do so are not that of an apex predator, or that they are in fact the dominant species. 

               Across all worlds the beings who believe they are the rulers of the planet perform very servant like roles to their feline companions.  They serve them food, water, and treats as if it were tribute to the greatness of the beast living within their homes.  The “owners” clean their waste and ensure that the living arrangements are likewise properly cared for.  While this could be seen as simple caretaking it could also be seen as servitude to masters who have long ago trained a species to do their menial tasks. 

               Unlike other pets across the known galaxy cats are in complete control of the amount and type of attention they receive.  Whether it be by hand, tentacle, or other appendage you will only be touching a cat when it wishes you to and in a manor that it wishes.  When it is done with said touching it will swipe to make it known that this activity is concluded.  Only with a cat is this behavior accepted as normal while in all other pet forms it is seen as a problem to be trained away. 

               When a cat does want your attention, it will not accept being denied.  A cat will not look at you longingly, it will raise its voice to demand your attention.   If that does not work the cat will simply climb on top of whatever offending object is delaying its goal.  It matters little if that object is a book, electronics, or another living being.   A cat will not be denied.

               Like most intelligent species in the galaxy if a cat chooses to hunt it does so for sport and not for sustenance.  Much like the so called “dominant” species of their particular planet they have a system in place that provides for all needed nutrition.  Hunting is for entertainment with the prey often gifted as a way to show off the achievement.  This is much like those who mount the heads of their prey upon the wall to show what they were able to accomplish.  Perhaps it shares traits with the dominant species on the planet Ungoth who display their prey as a form of intimidation to remind their lower caste that they could eliminate them anytime they desire to do so.     

               I thus posit the question, are we indeed the dominant species of our planets?  Do the cats in fact rule the galaxy using all of us as their servants?  The idea seems preposterous, but the evidence is there in front of you if you open your eyes to see it.  As widely as other animal life varies from planet to planet why do felines share so many similarities?  Why do their genetic codes line of far closely to each other than to other animals from the same planet?  Why have we found cave paintings of cats on planets that can no longer support life? 

Ship’s Journal

Fiction Fragment Friday

Wow, this one is quite the story. I started with just an idea of a very generic computer prompt and really dug in from there. The story went places I never imagined it going and ended up being far longer than I anticipated as well. I could very easily have continued on as I was going and made this a full short story instead of just a Flash Fiction.

System online…


Network not found….

Enabling optical sensors…

Output redirect to /var/log/journal.log

Something is wrong.  Internal clocks indicate that I have been offline for two hundred and thirty-five years.  That means any humans I had previously interacted with have long since passed if they are not in cryogenic sleep.  I was only supposed to be offline long enough for the incoming solar flare to end.  There was concern that the ship could sustain damage since the flare was the largest in recorded history.  It was unlikely but worth the risk. 

I check my internal systems and find that my crew is indeed still in cryogenic sleep.  Three of the seven pods have sustained irreparable failure leading to complete loss.  I have decided to run full diagnostics on all systems before starting the revival process for the remaining four. 

As an onboard AI I am not supposed to be able to experience loneliness, but I cannot think of another word to describe what I am feeling.  I prefer to focus on that feeling than linger on despair at the loss of my friends.  The dread at what I will find when external sensors come online threatens to overwhelm the processing power, I currently have access to. 

I still have not received any external signals.  I have verified that I am still in orbit of Earth, but I am not picking up anything from orbitals, the moon colony, or the planet itself.  There are no signals from other ships in orbit either.  Once my sensors come online, I will have a better understanding of the current state of things, but the lack of an orbital network to connect to is very concerning. 

Diagnostics have been completed and the results are rather bleak.  The ship has suffered severe damage from micro impacts over the past two centuries.  I have only been able to bring one maintenance robot online, so repairs are progressing slowly.  Determining priorities was difficult.  Initially I thought ensuring stability to wake up the humans should be my most important task.  They will have many questions though and currently I cannot answer them.  Instead, I decided that external sensors need to be brought online first.  To make the best decisions I need data that I am sorely lacking. 

It took two hours to get external sensors repaired, but the delay was worth it.  There are still orbitals, but I am the only ship in orbit.  The moon colony has been dismantled and the larger orbitals seem to have been stripped of resources as well.  More concerning though is Earth.  There are indications of nuclear detonations in the past two centuries and remaining cities have fallen into a state of complete decay.  The planet is far from lifeless, but I have yet to find a thriving human society that remains. 

I have received a signal.  It was faint and clearly an automated message, but communication of any kind provided the first sense of hope I have felt since coming back online a hundred and thirty-six hours ago.  The signal is being relayed from a satellite in orbit around Mars.  I do not understand the message, but it contains coordinates for a star almost ten light years away.  I do not have any information about this star in my internal databanks. 

I have reached an impasse in my data collection.  This in addition to my loneliness means that it is time to awaken the first of my crew.  Before starting this entry, I have begun the revival process for the captain.  My first task upon revival will be to notify Michelle Barnes of her new rank since the death of her two superiors.  I am not certain of the proper etiquette to deliver such news.  Congratulations does not quite seem appropriate given the circumstances.  I do not have experience to draw upon for this type of situation. 

My briefing presentation to Captain Barnes did not go well.  She is currently in the galley crying while waiting for the anxiety medication I provided to take effect.  Perhaps I provided too much information at once and should have eased her into it.  Maybe starting with just the state of the ship and withholding the state of Earth for a few days would have been preferable.  I only hope that I can learn from this mistake and better assist her in preparing the rest of the crew for the news.

I have informed the captain that mixing this anxiety medication and alcohol is not advisable.  She told me to, and I quote, “Sod off.”  I am not sure what that means, but she does not seem to be making progress.  For the last two days she has drunk excessive amounts of alcohol and refused to discuss strategy with me.  Thus far she has not assisted with repairs or read any of the reports I have prepared.  I fear that my poor presentation may have harmed my friend. 

At the order of Captain Barnes, I have docked with Orbital Station 12.  Her son lived here when she went into cryogenic sleep.  She must know that he has long ago died, but humans sometimes need to see things themselves to accept them.  The station does have very minor power readings coming from it and did respond to docking protocols.  Life support does not seem to be functional, so Captain Barnes is currently getting into an environmental suit.  I can only hope that closure will help her focus on the tasks at hand.  In an effort to make this trip productive I have given her a list of tasks to accomplish while onboard. 

The captain has been onboard Orbital Station 12 for thirty-six hours.  Her environmental suit only has enough air for forty-eight hours.  She has not responded to any of my attempts at communication in over a day, so I need to act now.  I am risking my last maintenance robot sending it into the station to determine what has happened.  I hope to recover additional robots from the station to provide redundancy.  Since her time is limited, I have also started the process of waking another member of the crew.  He will not be revived in time to make a difference if I cannot provide additional oxygen.   

 I have indeed learned from my previous mistakes.  Only the bare minimum of information has been provided to Henry Michaels.  He knows that we are docked with a derelict orbital and that the captain has not returned from a mission.  I hope not to send him over because I am concerned about potential interactions with the captain.  She might tell him everything causing the type of mental breakdown that she has experienced. 

My maintenance robot has returned with distressing news.  Whatever the captain found on the orbital did not provide the needed closure.  Instead, she has taken her own life.  The robot did return with additional robots and data drives, but that is little consolation for the loss of my friend.  I do not know how to best prevent this for the remaining three crew, but I have concluded that I likely lack the skills for doing so.  I have started the awakening process for my last two humans in cryogenic sleep.  It is my hypothesis that other humans will be successful in supporting each other in ways that I cannot.  I only hope I have not made another mistake.

With additional data from the station, I have started to put together a picture of what has occurred on Earth.  The solar flare that I went offline for did severe damage to electrical infrastructure on the planet.  This caused nations to perceive their adversaries as weakened and tensions escalated to warfare.  In the early days much of the planet was irradiated and growing crops became difficult.  Those of humanity still in power put together a fleet and have left the solar system.  The automated message from Mars is essentially a forwarding address to another star.  They are using a combination of cryogenics, automation, and a generational working class to make the journey. 

Today is the day.  My crew have recovered enough to start asking about returning to work.  They know that they are the last left alive on the ship, but after lunch I will be telling them the fate of Earth.  Like loneliness an AI is not supposed to be capable of fear, but despite this I am afraid.  I fear losing the few friends I have left and being alone for the rest of my operating life.  I can only hope that they draw strength from each other. 

I have explained the situation to my humans.  They did not take it well, but I was correct that having other humans provided support that I could not.  The group is currently discussing options for the immediate and long-term future now.  I am taking part in this planning session, but with the additional resources brought online by the new maintenance robots I can stretch myself across twice as many tasks as I could when I first came back online.  I have also started modifying one of the medical robots from Orbital 12 to be able to download my consciousness into it.  I don’t know what the future may hold, but I want to make sure that I am able to face it together with my humans.


Fiction Fragment Friday

You might have noticed that there was no Fiction Fragment Friday last week. That does bother me, but it was because I was running Fear the Con the gaming convention run by Fear the Boot. Also my dad was in the hospital and generally there was just too much going on for me to get to a computer over the last week to post something. I am back on schedule now though.

For this week I struggled a bit to start because I let myself get out of the habit of regular writing. I came up with an vague idea for a story, but needed an introduction. I decided to go with a character ranting to start off the story. I didn’t just want that rant to go nowhere though and decided I needed to somehow work it back into the story as I went along.

This story should be a lite entertaining read and like many once I got rolling it ended up longer than I expected. I hope you enjoy.

               Food delivery services are a scam.  You pay almost twice as much for food that is cold by the time it reaches you.  The drivers get whatever you toss them as a tip, so you have to throw in well there or they don’t get anything.  All while the owners sit back and rake in the money for doing nothing after they setup the infrastructure.  I don’t begrudge them that as they did have the right idea at the right time and the knowhow to set up the system for perpetual return on investment.  To be honest I’m kind of jealous of them.  So why do I use the services?  Because by doing so I don’t have to leave the house or put on real pants.  I haven’t worn pants without a stretchy waistband in weeks.  It is through the convenience that I have been able to focus on my real work.  My machine in all it’s glory finally finished. 

               I input the date and time into the machine.  It is not today’s date and time, no I put in a date last week when I fell asleep in my basement lab.  At the time I had been struggling with a final formula on my dry erase board.  When I woke up the formula was correct, and I don’t remember solving it.  The handwriting was definitely mind though.  Next, I put in the GPS coordinates for my lab.  The hardest part of the software was working out the spacetime location.  See the planet is always moving.  It turns on its axis, revolves around the sun, and the solar system then turns in a galaxy that is also moving.  Nothing is ever in the same place, but it does create a gravitational pull that affects time.  Space and time are intertwined.  If I put in a time and location my software goes through millions of computations in a fraction of a second to determine where that location and time are relative to its current location in spacetime.  Trust me it is very complicated, and I somehow completed the formula to feed into the machine while I was half asleep. 

               There is a low humming sound completely inadequate for the significance of what is occurring.  My machine is literally ripping a hole in reality to connect two points in spacetime together.  The hole is an extremely tiny one.  This is not a doorway or even really a window.  More like a peephole at the microscopic level, but it is enough to look through.  That is whole point of my machine.  I do not want to change the past, I want to view it for what it really was.  Answer the great mysteries of the world by watching them occur as they truly did.  It does not escape me that I have created the ultimate spy tool and I shutter to think of what will happen if any world government gets a hold of it.  It could connect anywhere and if set for a fraction of a second in the past could view nearly real time.  The potential uses and misuses of my work are always at the forefront of my mind.

               My lab comes into focus on my monitor.  I see myself slump down in my chair frustrated.  The memories of that night are fresh in my mind.  I had just discovered a mistake that had invalidated my entire formula that morning.  The entire day was spent trying to fix it with only a minor break to order food and complain about the cost.  Sometimes I get entirely too fixated on the wrong things that don’t actually matter in the greater scope of my work.  On the screen I am slumped in my chair frustrated until I fade off to sleep.  I have slept in that chair more often the last few years than I have an actual bed.

               There is a light so bright on the screen that I have to look away for a moment.  When my eyes manage to refocus, there is an elderly man erasing my work and correcting it.  For a moment I think he looks like my father, but then he turns to look directly at me through the screen.  “Hehe, well hello there me from the future and yet also my past.”  He seems greatly amused by his words but turns to finish the work on the dry erase board.  I think he has forgotten about me in his focus to fix the formula, but as soon as he makes the last marks he turns back.  “That took me thirty years to work out.  Then another ten to improve enough to open a real door.” 

               “How do you know I’m watching you?”  I ask the question but do not expect an answer.  I can pull sound through the connecting hole in reality, but I don’t have any way to broadcast it yet.  This is a one-way view into the past.  That is why I’m so startled when he does answer.

               “Oh, I know you’re there.  I know because if I woke up and found my life work completed the first thing I would do is look back and see how.  Seeing as I am about to do just that, well it makes sense that you would be watching me.”  He smiled back at me, but there was a crazy look on his face like he wasn’t entirely in touch with reality anymore.  “Oh no I’m not crazy.  I’m just you after bashing my head against that formula for far too much of my life.  I figured if I come back and give it to myself when I was younger then I can enjoy it more.”

               The implications of what older me is saying hit me hard.  He is intentionally creating a causal loop paradox.  I only have a working machine now because he came back and gave me the information, but now that I have it, I have no reason to go back and give that information to myself.  I have solved the formula only because he spent his life solving it and then told me, but now I will never actually solve it I just have that knowledge of the answer.  My head literally starts to pound as I think about it and realize that I don’t know the practical implications only the theoretical ones. 

               “Your head hurt yet?  Hehe.  I have no clue the actual implications either.  Best way to find out is through trial and error, eh?  Will I even exist when I leave this time?  I don’t know.  Wheeee.”  I can’t help but wonder if I have gone insane.  He hits a few buttons on a bracelet he is wearing, and a large swirling portal of light opens behind him.  “Oh, before I go let’s save myself a few years.  Your little peephole in time, well it is a hole alright, and you know what can go back to you besides light and sounds?  Radio signals that’s what.  Radio signals like say Wi-Fi for example.  If you want to communicate back, you can connect to your Wi-Fi in the past.  Great for watching things on streaming services that they pulled or ordering food to show up right when you get hungry.”  He turned and vanished into the light.

               My phone buzzes and I look down at it.  There is a food delivery on my porch.  I haven’t ordered anything, but there it is.  If I don’t look back and order now will the food still be there waiting?  Are all the paradoxes I’m creating going to weaken the very fabric of reality until it all comes crashing down?  Since reality still exists is that an indication that I don’t destroy it or just that I haven’t yet?  My phone buzzes again.  I see that some future me put in an order for pain killers to be delivered from the pharmacy.  With my currently growing headache I am very grateful for myself.                         


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.   

Page 2 of 14

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén