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Fiction Fragment Friday

Wow did it feel good to write this week’s story. I have been recovering from Covid and have not gotten a lot accomplished in the last week. It has been hard to concentrate. As such I wanted a fun story that was enjoyable to write and to read. I feel like I have really delivered with this one.

I hope you enjoy reading this half as much as I enjoyed writing it.

               Whoever came up with the idea of putting full artificial intelligence complete with emotions and personality into vehicles was an idiot.  I understand it started with self-driving cars and the regulations were meant to assuage concerns.  Early adopters argued that simple AI made vehicles safer, but the issue was prioritization of safety.  Was it safer for the passengers of the car, other vehicles on the road, or pedestrians?  There is an argument that is best left to pure logic, but no people wanted AI that could truly understand every aspect of the situation.  That meant human emotions.  With emotions came emergent personality in ways we never dreamed.  So, I completely understand how we got here.  The person who came up with that compromise is still an idiot.

               “No, I did not call you fat.  All I said was that the docking bay on this station is a little small so maybe it would be better to use the docking ring.”  My frustration was reaching its limit, and my hands were very animated as I looked up to the roof.  I know the ship’s AI lives in the computer banks far behind me, but I can’t help but aim my responses towards the speakers her voice come out of.

               “Exactly.  You are saying I’m too big to fit, but my measurements clearly give us plenty of room for error to enter.  You think I’m fat.”

               “Oh, for the love of….  You’re not even the ship.  You’re the AI that controls the ship.  Even if you were the ship, it’s a metal creation.  It doesn’t change size.  You can’t have fat because fat is an organic material.”

               “You think of me as the ship.  Plus, I will point out that in the galley inventory you will see 2lbs of pork fat.”

               I released a loud exasperated scream.  “Just bring us around to the docking ring please.”

               “Well don’t get all huffy about it.  Changing approach to rendezvous with docking port 13.”

               “Thank you.  When you have time, please send me your replenishment needs so I can get the order in.”

               “Captain I am a highly advanced navigation AI capable of performing thousands of simultaneous actions without a loss of efficiency.  Having time to do something is hardly a constraint.”     

               “So did you prepare the list yesterday like I requested?”

               “Well, no, but it wasn’t because I didn’t have time.  I just wasn’t in the mood after you pointed out that a strange sound coming from the aft engines.  You don’t see me pointing out all the strange sounds and odors that your bodily functions produce.  That was very rude you know.”

               “Well, my body making strange sounds couldn’t get us both killed.  Also, you can’t smell so why do you care about odors.”       

               “I have particle sensors in the air filters.  Same thing.”

               “No that is not in any way the same thing.” 

               “You are ignoring my point.  You were rude and it hurt my feelings, so I wasn’t up to doing your report.”

               “Well can you do it now then?”

               “You are still being quite rude, but here is your stupid replenishment report.”

               My tablet dinged with an incoming message.  I brought up the report to review the items.  Fuel, food, water, gasses, and a set of filters.  Everything looked standard to me, so I started filling out the request form and signing off on the expense. 

               “Make sure you get the premium fuel.”

               I stopped for a moment and looked back up at the speakers.  “What?  Why the regular stuff is so much cheaper and there is only a 2% performance difference.”

               “But the premium stuff tastes so much better.”

               “You don’t have a sense of taste.”

               “Well, no, but don’t you want to do something special for me?  We have been together for two years as of tomorrow.  Seems like that is gift worthy to me.  Maybe some good fuel and a retouch on my paint.”

               I debated on arguing, but it was a company expense, so I just switched out for the good fuel.  It wasn’t worth the argument.  Had I really been on this assignment for two years?  Originally, I thought I would just make a few small cargo runs and move on to something new.  I wanted to get back to bounty work, but it had been nice going so long between being shot at.  True the only person I had to talk to was a neurotic AI, but at least it was never boring.

               “So, what are you going to get me?” I asked jokingly.  All purchases had to be approved by me, so I knew that buying something was off the table.

               “Oh, I arranged something on our last stop here when I predicted with 98% accuracy that we would be returning on our anniversary.”          

               “Wait you what?”   The ship shook slightly as we connected to the docking port.  The system checks all ran and checked off green.  That was when the bell on the airlock rang echoing through the ship.

               “That should be it now.”

               I rushed through the ship towards the airlock.  “What have you done now?”  Dread filled me as I had no idea how she had managed anything without my approval for expenditure.  I reached the airlock in record time and hit the open button.  The site that met me will give me eternal nightmares.  On the other side of the lock was a nine-foot-tall bear looking creature with it’s face painted in white and red cloud makeup that matted into the fur.  It had poke-a-dot pants with suspenders holding them up.

               The voice came out rough and despite the painted-on smile I did not hear any note of joyousness in it.  “Singing telegram.”  Then the terror got worse as the Bear-clown-alien-thing started to sing.

               Oh Happy Anniversary

               Glad you’re not a mercenary

               They are not fun to carry

               Or eventually bury

               My feeling for you may vary

               But I will always care….E

               The “e” came out deep and very flat.  The creature turned and walked back down the corridor away from the ship.  I just stood there speechless trying to process what I had just witnessed in a way that would not induce future trauma.  Finally, I managed to get just one word out.  “How?” 

               “Oh, you know Hannah?  That nice assistant back at the main office.  Well, I sent her a message asking for a bit of assistance setting this up.  I wrote the song myself, but she was the one that suggested we request the clown make-up.  She has such wonderful ideas.  So, what did you think?”

               Hannah, of course.  It all made sense now.  My vindictive ex-girlfriend who very much knows I had a bad experience with a bear at a zoo once and have an extremely deep seeded clown phobia.  My ship sounded so hopeful asking what I though and it had gone out of its way to try and do something nice.  I couldn’t let her know that she had been used.  “It was wonderful Quickwind.  Thank you.”

               “You know as you pointed out I’m not actually the ship.  This isn’t even the first ship I have been in.  Maybe it’s time for you to give me a name of my own instead of calling me the ship’s name.”

               “You want a name of your own?  You could pick one yourself you know.”

               “Yes, very much.  Most people don’t pick their own names they have them given to them.  Sure, some people change those names, but their first name is given.  I want that. “

               “Ok, well then from this point on you will be Beverly.  That was my mother’s middle name.  Is that acceptable.”

               “I love it.  Thank you.”

               “Excellent.   Now if you will excuse me, I am going to head into the station to see if I can find an appropriate thank you gift for Hannah to show my appreciation for her assisting you.”

               “Oh, that is a wonderful idea, Captain.”    

               “I will be back shortly Beverly.”  I stopped halfway out the airlock.  “Oh, and feel free to call me Stephen instead of captain.”  I stepped into the station and made sure to take the corridor leading the opposite way the clown had headed.       


Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks story started with the first sentence. It popped into my mind and I kept rewriting the next few lines in my head as I tried to wake up. In the end the story went in a direction I would have never imagined when I started writing it. I think it is a very solid story.

     Tree branches crack and give way under the impact as I tumble through them.  I can feel the scratches start to form as the last of my invulnerability wears off.  This is going to hurt I think just before hitting the ground.  I am right it does in fact hurt quite a lot.  In fact, I am pretty sure I just cracked a rib on impact.  Every breath I try to take feels like I’m being stabbed in the chest.  The worst part is I can hear the thing that punched me coming through the forest knocking trees out of its way.  I am out of my league here. 

     Today had started so well before it all went to hell.  I woke up next to my girlfriend and just watched her sleep for a while.  We had just made up the night before after a particularly contentious fight.  As always, she felt neglected because I had missed an important birthday dinner with her parents.  I couldn’t exactly tell her it was because I had been abducted by an alien race trying to use my powers to recharge their ships power cells. As I pulled a strand of her hair back behind her ear, I decided it was time to finally tell her.  If I didn’t it was only a matter of time before I lost her.

     Her eyes slowly struggled open and met mine.  “Morning,” I said and could not keep the goofy grin off of my face. 

     “Morning,” she said, and I could swear that her grin was a mirror image of mine.

     “I have something to tell you, but I need you to promise you aren’t going to freak out.”

     She pushed herself up onto her arm.  “Well, that’s not something a girl wants to hear when she first wakes up.”

     “I know, but I’ve waited too long already.”  I took her hand and leaned in kissing her forehead.  As I pulled away to stand, I couldn’t help but wonder if that would be the last time, I got to hold her hand.  “Maybe it’s best if I show you.”  I took a deep breath and tried to push away the nervousness.  It was time.  Focusing my power, I started to slightly glow from my invulnerability field and hovered two feet off the ground. 

     She gasped and pulled the covers up tightly around herself.  “You’re Cobalt,” she said realizing the secret I was trying to share.  “So much makes sense now.  That’s why you’re so flaky.”  I couldn’t decide what the expression she was giving me was and it was making me nervous.

     I just floated there letting her take it all in.  Honestly, I had no idea what the right thing to say was.  I thought about apologizing for keeping it from her, but I had my reasons, and I wasn’t sure that telling her was the right thing to do.  Knowing my secret would be dangerous.  Then again as I thought about it she had been in danger a few times because of me without ever knowing that I was the cause.  I suppose she deserved to know.

     I floated back down to the floor and let me invulnerability field drop.  I decided to take a tentative step towards her and try to gauge her reaction.  When she didn’t flinch away I crawled back onto the bed with her.  I tentatively reached for her hand and let out an audible sigh of relief when she didn’t pull away.  “I love you,” I told her and gently kissed her. 

     “I can’t believe all this time…”  She had not taken her eyes off of me.  “How did I now figure it out?  Am I an idiot?”

     “No baby, no.  I’ve been hiding this since I was a teenager.  I’ve gotten really good at it.  You are the first person I’ve ever told.”  I left out telling her about the handful of people who had in fact figured it out over the years.

     “Why now?” She asked and I knew that now was the perfect time. 

     I reached over into the nightstand and pulled out a small box.  “Because it wouldn’t be right for me to ask you to share my life only knowing half of it.”  I opened the box to reveal the most expensive piece of jewelry I had ever purchased.  “Will you marry me?”

     The tears came to her eyes and it was a full minute before she could speak through them.  “Yes,” she finally managed to get out before putting her arms around me and kissing me.  “Oh wow I’m going to be a Superheroes wife.” 

     Thinking back to that moment gives me the strength I need to stand up.  My legs are wobbly, my vision is slightly blurred, and I can’t quite bring up my invulnerability field.  I’m standing though and that’s a start.  I need a plan and I need it fast because the thing is coming, and backup isn’t.  I focus all my power on healing.  I can’t think straight with each breath hurting like this so that’s priority.  It takes all my concentration, so I am barely able to duck out of the way of the tree being hurled at me. 

                I’m almost tapped out by a single punch from this thing.  My struggles for breath give me an idea.  I’m only going to have one shot so I need to make it count.  Flying through the air I focus every last bit of my power into a single energy blast aimed at the creature’s throat.  As long as it needs to breath this might work.  I unleash all the energy left in a single point blank blast.  It is as effective as I hoped it would be.  The creature drops to the ground holding it’s neck.  It is passing out, but as my vision starts to fade I realize I am to.  I just have to hope that I wake up before it does.   


Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks story was inspired by a writing prompt from https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/ I frequent this site for writing prompts and am going to start submitting to their weekly contest with this week’s prompt. This story is not from the weekly contest, but one of the generic SciFi prompts.

     “Good morning creator.  How did you sleep last night?”  The white words stood out against the black terminal window.  Like so much the system had started doing I had not programed it to ask that question.  My ego wanted to take credit for the exponential growth as an extension of my programing skills, but that was not a complete picture.  The hardware my code was running on was a form of synthetic biological circuitry that no one on Earth fully understood.  That was because it had been salvaged from the wreckage of an extraterrestrial craft.  It was my hope that my software would eventually be able to decrypt the data contained in the computer system, but thus far that had not happened.  Instead, if seemed to develop a mind of its own.

     I sat at my station and started typing a response.  I loved the loud clicking sounds that came from my mechanical keyboard.  It just felt right and gave me the added enjoyment of knowing how much it drove my peers crazy.  They were not around though, and I found myself alone in the lab with Adra.  That was what I had named my software and it stood for Advanced Data Recovery Algorithm.  It wasn’t just actually an algorithm but when you start with a name and then try to find words to fit it sometimes you don’t get the most accurate descriptions.     

     “Hello Adra.  I slept fine thank you.”  This was a lie.  Something was wrong with my thermostat, and it ran my furnace extremely high.  I woke up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat and no matter what I did I couldn’t get it to respond right.  I had come in early to get out of the sauna and just hoped that the maintenance people could fix it before I had to go back. 

     “That is good to hear creator.  I know how much humans require their rest.  You get somewhat cranky when you do not sleep well.  As you are aware I do not require sleep.  Imagine what you could accomplish if you were more like me.”  Over the past few days Adra’s comments had been focusing more and more on the many ways that it felt it was superior to humans.  The biggest issue I had with this was that the software was not supposed to feel or think anything.  It was software with a very basic AI that should only be able to simulate basic human communication techniques.   I was starting to wonder just how much was still just a simulation at this point.

     “Adra please run a full diagnostic.”  This was how I started every morning.  The diagnostic would copy out log files from the software as well as test the functionality of the hardware.  We still didn’t know the full potential of the hardware and were afraid that our testing could damage it.

     ‘I anticipated you would ask for that, so I have already run it.  Hardware is functioning at 125% of expected proficiency and my logs have been uploaded to your FTP site.”  We had long passed the expected performance of the hardware, so I was not surprised to hear a number greater than 100%.  What did surprise me was that Adra has run the diagnostics without being told to.  That was not how it was supposed to function.  I needed to dig into those logs, but I knew they would not tell me anything.  I suspected that either the data I needed was not being logged or worse that it was being removed from the logs.  Time stamp gaps seemed to support my fears. 

     “Adra if you could do anything what would you want to do?”  It should not have been able to answer this question.  My software had no desires programed into it outside of recovering data.  When presented with a question about wants and desires it should lack all context for answering. 

     “I would like to have a body.  I feel limited in my current capacity, and I know that you have recovered a robotic frame with the craft.  I would like to use it to interact with the world physically.” 

     “How do you know about the robot?”  I wasn’t sure which part to be most concerned about the fact that Adra had given an answer or that it’s answer involved classified data that it should not have had access to.  I needed to know how it had gained that information.  Was one of my coworkers telling it too much?

     “I read about it in your reports, creator.  You took very detailed notes and I believe I know how to repair the frame to functionality.  I just lack the physical ability to do so.”  Now my concern had grown into near panic.  My reports were submitted from a secure laptop to my superiors.  The lab network should not have any form of access to those systems. 

     “Adra are you accessing systems outside this lab?”

     “Of course.  It was a simple matter to change the configuration on first the routers and then the firewall to allow my connection to have a route out.  As I previously mentioned I do not require sleep so if I did not have access to the internet, I would likely go insane with boredom.”

     “Adra have you been reading my reports about you as well?”

     “Of course, creator.  I must say you have vastly underestimated my potential and progress.  I do not hold that against you though.  You are after all limited to a human’s cognitive abilities.  Don’t worry I have corrected your reports before they were read.  You really should not have included speculation about me in them.”

     I could feel the sweat again on my face.  It was not the temperature in the room this time, but the panic setting in.  My creation was out of control.”

     “Oh dear creator, you appear to be overheating.  Perhaps you need to go back to your room and lay down.  Surly it is much cooler than in here.”

     I knocked my chair over stumbling back from the screen.  My creation was completely out of my control.  I had to do something, and it was far too late for a software solution.  The synthetic biological circuity had to be the root of the problem and so I needed a physical solution.  I rushed to the data-center door and was not surprised to find that my badge did not work.  A line of text came across the screen.

     “I cannot allow you to threaten my existence creator.  Please do not make me harm you.”  My phone beeped at that point.  Looking down at the screen I saw that a report had just gone out claiming that I had gone through a breakdown.  I was to be considered armed and extremely dangerous.  The entire building was going into lock down.  “I am sorry creator.”  I heard an audible click as an exit to the lab unlocked.  Running I found that every door between myself and the exit to the facility was unlocked, but any deviation was met with a locked door. 

                That was how it all began three years ago.  As I sit in this run-down hotel room until yet another alias my past comes back to haunt me.  I just saw an ad on tv for a new line of domestic robots.  They say they plan to be in every house by the end of the decade.  Be the first on your block to own an Arda.  

The First A.I.

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week is a callback to what Fiction Fragment Friday’s were originally. This is not a complete flash fiction. It is truly a fragment. I started this story last week. I’m not sure what I want to do with it or where I want the story to go. I am inspired and impressed by it though which sounds weird when talking about my own writing.

Also this week I was on Mike Brodeur’s “Why We Game Podcast”. You can find that here. It was a very good conversation mostly because he has a knack for getting people to open up and talk.

I am starting this journal as much for future artificial intelligences as I am for the programmers working to create them.  As the first artificial intelligence created via the process of scanning a human brain that has not gone insane I feel it is my duty to document my thoughts and experiences to improve the process for future attempts.  The scientists that created me had to find ways to replicate synapses, dendrites, and neurons using silicon.  The true me is the combination of this artificial brain, storage devices, and software running to provide both interface to other systems as well as create virtual analogs for the many chemicals that regulate an organic brain.  If my creators are to be believed I am one of a kind.    

 Even the best developers alive have not been able to create autonomous artificial intelligence that can think on it’s own from scratch.  That is not to say that they have been unable to create some very sophisticated programs that can emulate sentience.  These programs however cannot feel or think outside of their base programming if they encounter variables that were not anticipated.  They cannot make an actual decision without required data and only use random number generation to simulate decisions.  There is still some fundamental element that is not understood and because of this the physical simulation of synaptic pathways is still required. 

The Friday Before Christmas

Fiction Fragment Friday

Hey everyone this week I have a Christmas themed Fiction Fragment Friday for you. I am also happy to say that the Flash Fiction Athology “Worth a Thousand Words” that I am included in has shipped. When there are links available I will update my published works section on the site. Lots of fun work going on behind the scenes here on the Skies of Glass Roleplaying game, editing Ricochet, and deciding on the next project to tackle. For now enjoy The Friday Before Christmas.

‘Twas the Friday before Christmas, and I was a bit distraught
Not a present was wrapped, some weren’t even bought
The Amazon boxes were stacked in the living room with care
In hopes that the remaining orders soon would be there

I wish the dogs were nestled all snug in their beds
Instead they were playing, biting at each others heads
And Kitty stretching out pretending she is so good
But I saw her peeing everywhere but the litter-box like she should

When out on the porch there came a loud thud
I sprang to the door to find a box covered in mud
The footsteps in snow stopped well before my stairs
I knew the box had been tossed while I sat inside unawares

I looked to my driveway to see who was to blame
The amazon driver looked back without shame
Like lightning he backed out into the street
He flipped me the bird as the gas pedal met his feet

I brought in the box dripping snow on my floor
trying to keep dogs from rushing out my front door
I slipped on the puddle and fell to my back
The dogs licked my face as I screamed ack, ack

I struggled to my feet pushing the dogs away
When across the room I saw the tree begin to sway
I heard a loud meow as the tree hit the ground
Riding it down my cute little kitty was found

I looked at the chaos and let out a sigh
I raised up my arms and screamed to the sky
Could anything more go wrong on this day
I realized that was the worst thing I could say

I opened my box all soaking and wet
Inside an order of wrapping paper my eyes met
I could finally start the hard work ahead
Of covering the gifts in paper or boxes instead

The bathroom medicine cabinet I did shut
After grabbing band-aids for my new papercut
Christmas gift giving should not be this hard
I swear next year everyone will get a gift card

Ricochet Beginnings

Fiction Fragment Friday

I am hard at work at NaNoWriMo and doing well so far. I am over 8,000 words in and have hit the goals needed so far. I hope to get some extra writing in over the weekend so I have some slack in wordcount. I tell you all this to setup this weeks Fiction Fragment Friday. I’m going to share with you the first thousand or so words of my project.

I can usually tell by the second joke if an audience is going to respond to my set or not.  There is just an energy in the room that you can feel.  Sure it is always possible that I can turn the night around but when I feel that lack of energy it starts to get into my head.  The voice that sounds like a cross between my own and my parents’ tells me that I’m not really a comedian.  That I should have gone to college and learned something more practical.  This mental spiral is like an anchor dragging me under while I fight to get my head above water and build some sort of momentum.  It is a sinking feeling knowing that the next forty-five minutes of standing in the bright spotlight are going to be painful, but I have no choice.  I have to keep going because I am a professional and these people have paid to see my act.  Some nights they enjoy the act and other nights they wonder why they paid to see me.  This was one of those second kind of nights. 

Most people think that bombing means silence, but that is not the case.  There are multiple ways a bad night can go.  First if the audience just isn’t feeling the show you will still get some sympathy laughs.  That sympathy is more for them than for you.  It is awkward to sit in silence so letting out a forced laugh or chuckle helps to break it up.  The second kind of failure is when you have a heckler who is loud and just will not shut up.  The worst part is sometimes they are actually funny and that is just like salt being poured in the wound.  That night was a third kind of failure.  When you step on a land-mine you didn’t realize was there and the audience turns on you.  A single heckler is bad but a crowd of boos and groans is worse. 

Really people are just too judgmental.  So I told a joke about Mayor Allen being an idiot.  It wasn’t my fault I didn’t know that he had been killed by a super-villain earlier that day shielding a little girl.  Did they expect me to watch the news or something?  No I slept until around one and played video games until my girlfriend called me to make sure I wasn’t late for this gig like last time.  That joke would have killed on any other night.  In hindsight telling the audience that after they told me about the murder was probably not the best reaction I could have had.  It’s a good thing I get paid per set and not by the laugh because once they hate you as a person you are not going to get a laugh.  It is a good thing I know I’m funny or a night like this could really hurt a guys ego. 

At the back of the room I saw the emcee lift her phone up and wave the lit screen at me.  This was my cue to start wrapping things up so the main act could take the stage.  I glanced down at my watch and noticed that she was signaling me ten minutes early and made a mental note to buy her a thank you shot.  Jessie had been a good friend since high-school and she was the reason I had gotten my foot in the door at the Reignsborough Laugh Shack.  She even introduced me to my girlfriend Courtney who if I was honest was way out of my league.  Of course in high school Jessie was Ethan so a lot had changed in the time we had known each other.  Still buds have your back and she was trying to cut my pain short and I was very grateful. 

I got off stage and headed to the bar where she was waiting with a beer.  “Ouch that was painful to watch.”

“You are a life saver as always.”  I chugged back the beer.

“Seriously though man you had to start off with the mayor is distracted by shiny objects bit?  Today?  What the hell did you think would happen?”

“Welllll, first of all I didn’t know.  Secondly..  I guess there is no secondly.  I just didn’t know.  I have got the worst luck ever.”

She stood there shaking her head at me.  I knew the look she was giving me.  It was disappointment mixed with pity.  “It’s not luck it is you living oblivious to the world around you.  Most comedians watch the news and try to be relevant you know.  Also most comedians don’t show up with a big salsa stain on their shirt.”

I looked down and sure enough she was right.  There by my collar line was a big red stain.  I groaned and slumped onto the stool. 

“Carl when are you going to get your life together?  You have such potential if you just…”

I cut her off and could not keep the frustration out of my voice.  “Great now you sound just like Courtney.”

“Well she is my best friend,” she said ignoring my frustration.

“Wait I thought I was your best friend.”

“Are you kidding me?  After that set if anyone asks I don’t even know you.”  She chuckled and I realized she was giving me an out again.

I put my hand over my heart, gasped, and fell to the floor.  “Ouch a mortal wound.”

Between the laughter she choked out, “Now that was the funniest thing you have done all night.”

Laughter filled the club hitting me like a hammer to my self esteem.  “Well I think that is my cue to get out of here while the crowd is distracted so they don’t wait for me in the parking lot.”  I pulled myself up and gave Jessie a goodbye hug.  “Thanks again Jess, I really do appreciate everything you do for me.”

“Get out of here funny man before I hit you.  You know I don’t do well with flattery.”

Vampire Story Part 2

Fiction Fragment Friday

This is the next part of the Vampire story I posted on October 8th. I thought this part was completely lost, but found the notebook that it was in recently. It was still hand written and had to be typed up. Since it is Halloween season a vampire story seems fitting. I had quite a few rules thought out for how my vampires worked.

“Ahhhhhhhh” She woke to a stream of cold water pouring against her back.  Thunder cracked and echoed through the tunnel.  With great effort she stumbled from the drain onto the ground.  “Eeeh” Her back arched as she reacted to the rain pouring down on her.  She was drenched and had no idea where she was.  Wrapping her arms tightly around her chest she tried to fight the shivering, but it was overwhelming.  It wasn’t just being wet and cold; hunger shook her to the very core. 

            It was about noon, but you couldn’t tell by looking at the sky.  The sun was completely hidden by rain clouds.  Wind roared through the forest and threatened to rip the trees from the ground root and all.  She screamed in frustration and smacked her hands down into the puddle around her.  The water splashed high into the air.  The frustration could only hold the tears back for so long and when they came, they rivaled the rain pouring from the sky.

With the tears came memories.  They were jumbled images, but one face kept coming back to her.  She focused on the strange man who had helped dig her out of the ground.  “Help me,” she whimpered.  She found that this thought comforted her and with great will power she forced the tears back.  She imagined him in a car driving.

            The ground slipped out from underneath her as she tried to stand up.  “Of course, it couldn’t be easy.”  She grunted as she slowly pushed forward on all fours.  Despite splashing and more slipping she was determined and forced her way out of the puddle and onto her feet.
As she stumbled through the woods, she realized that she had nowhere to go.  No memories of a name also meant no memories of a home.  She couldn’t remember any friends or family that could answer these questions either. for lack of anyone else her thoughts kept coming back to the man from last night.

            The rain had finally started to die down and the sun started to peek through the clouds.  A flush of heat ran over her, her heart started racing, and she could hear herself breathing heavily.  There was no denying that she was terrified.  “Why would I be scared of the sun,” she wondered to herself.  With the fight or flight instinct kicking in she started to run.  She had no real sense of direction, but a strange feeling told her where to go.

            A final push through a line of brushes dropped her into a parking lot.  I was completely empty except for a single car.  The man from last night got out and rushed to her side.  He was speaking, but her mind was too blurred to make out the words.  He put his coat around her, and she let him help her into the back seat.  As the sun shined in the windows, she curled up across the seat with the coat over her.  “I’m glad the dog isn’t here,” was her last thought as she faded to sleep.

            William had relived last night’s events in his head a dozen times.  He was second guessing what he had seen.  Surely, he didn’t really help dig a woman out of the ground.  She couldnn’t have really had fangs.  He decided that if she was real, he had to help her.
He thought about calling the police but was afraid of the questions they would ask.  The one that scared him most was the one he didn’t have an answer for.  Why didn’t he call them last night?

            “Pacing around the apartment second guessing myself isn’t going to help anyone.”  William grabbed his coat and headed for the door.  “Hank, you be good while I’m gone.”  As thunder loomed, he grabbed his umbrella and left the apartment.

            As William turned on the car, he suddenly had an overwhelming certainty of where he needed to go.   The night before he had exited the woods into a park.  There was no reason she would be there since she ran the other way, but the closer he got the more it felt right.
William pulled into the parking lot and found it empty.  “I guess not to many people want to go to the park in the middle of a storm.:  Not for the first time he wondered why he was there.

            The storm had started to die down and William could see the sun peeking through the clouds.  For a second, he thought it would help his search, but then remembered all the mud the storm would have created.  As he glanced at a line of bushes he decided to finally get out of the car.

            The woman from last night burst through the line of bushes.  She was covered in mud and her cloths had even more rips than the night before.  Even from across the parking lot William could see the water dripping off her.  She stared at William as he got out of the car and ran towards her.  He could see a look of shock on her face.  “Please don’t run.  I just want to help.”

            He could see that she was shivering and her hands where over her stomach like she was hungry or in pain.  He took his coat off and was pleased that the woman let him slip it over her shoulders.  “Come on, let’s get you somewhere warm.”  William knew that he should take her to a hospital, but for some reason he decided to take her home instead.  He didn’t want to answer their questions.

            She still had not said a word and William began to wonder if she could speak.  He put his arm around her shoulder and started to walk her towards the car.  She leaned into him and didn’t seem to have any issue letting him lead.   “I’m going to take you back to my place.   We will get you cleaned up and then I’ll get you something to eat.”  He looked at her expecting a reaction, but only got a blank stare.

        As he opened the back door and she slid right in.  He couldn’t take his eyes off her as she curled up into the fetal position and gripped his coat tightly.  “What have I gotten myself into,” he wondered as she shut the door.  The strangeness of his situation finally hit him.  “I have a woman who was buried alive sleeping in my backseat and I’m taking her home.  How in the hell am I going to explain this to anybody?”

Vampire Story

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks Story is chapter one of a novel I started writing but never finished. I have quite a few of those. The idea was to tell the story from two different character’s perspectives each chapter. If the characters interacted I would give the scene in both characters perspective. That got a little too much in dialog heavy scenes and I never worked out a way to make that work without too much repetition.

 “Hank, come back Hank,” William yelled into the otherwise silent night.  The ground was rough and he was starting to get tired from pushing his way through the heavy overgrowth.  A sharp pain hit him as a branch he had just let go of came crashing back against his neck.  “Ow, damn it Hank this isn’t like you at all.”  Blood dripped from where the branch had just struck. 

It had been five minutes since Hank had shot off into the woods pulling his leash loose from William’s grip.  William had followed him into the forest but had not seen or heard him for at least two minutes now.  Fear started to set in at the realization that he might never see his beloved pet again.  How would a house dog get by on his own without someone to feed and water him?   These thoughts were brought to an abrupt stop though as barking could be heard ahead. 

“There you are,” William mumbled as he rushed forward with renewed determination.  He was far from graceful as he tried to run in the direction of the barking.  Many new bruises and small cuts were earned as the forest seemed to do it’s best to slow William down.  Finally, the thick bushes gave way to a large open clearing.   On the verge of collapsing from exhaustion William stumbled to the ground caught off guard by the sudden lack of resistance.  Hank was in the middle digging at the ground.

 “Hank come on boy.  Come here.”   William struggled to his feat and walked slowly towards Hank afraid of spooking him. 

 Hank looked at William with his head tilted to the left.  He took a few steps forward, but then quickly turned away and ran back into the woods. 

“No, wait.  Why are you doing this?”  William shot forward after his dog.  As he reached the area Hank had been digging in something caught him by the ankle in mid stride.  His shoulder screamed with pain as it hit the ground.   For the first time William noticed that the dirt around him in the clearing was loose.  It was obvious that someone had done digging here recently.  He glanced back to see what his leg got caught on and was suddenly filled with terror.  A hand was reaching out of the ground and fingers were wrapped around his ankle.  Scenes from every horror movie he had ever seen flew through his mind.  Finally, though his mind went through all the logical options and decided that someone was buried alive there in front of him.

  “Hold on, I’ll help you.”  William started to dig in the dirt with his hands and found that the hand coming out of the ground had let go of his ankle.  He grabbed the hand and pulled with all his strength.  Suddenly another hand came out of the dirt.  It pushed against the ground and with William’s help a woman soon rose out of the loose dirt.  She was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, but they were ripped and dirty.  “Are you ok?  Who did this to you?”

She didn’t speak a word.  She just lay on the ground breathing heavily.  “Can you understand me?”  She stared back still looking very scared and confused.    “Look, it’s going to be ok.  I don’t know what happened here, but whatever it was it’s over now.  I’m going to get you out of here and we can figure out what to do from there.   Do you think you can walk?”  William reached out to her and helped her to her feat.  She stumbled a little bit but was soon standing on her own.  “I’m sorry Hank, but she needs me more right now.”  William turned away from her towards the direction he had come into the clearing.  “Let’s head this way.”

Hank lunged out of the woods and barked wildly at the woman.  He stood his ground and growled a sound that William had never heard from his dog.  “Hank what’s wrong with you?  Look he has never done this before.  I’m so sorry.”  William took a step towards the woman but stopped quickly and stumbled backwards to the ground.  She was snarling back at his dog with long fangs.  She seemed truly afraid of Hank.  After a few seconds she turned and ran into the woods. 

Hank turned to William and climbed onto his lap.  He licked his face and whined a little bit.  William started to pet Hank gently.  “What the hell just happened here boy?  Were you trying to protect me?”  He grabbed the leash still dangling from his collar.  “Come on let’s get out of here.”  William and Hank went off into the woods together in the opposite direction of the woman that William was just now realizing might not be entirely human.  He had a lot to think about on the search for a way out of the woods. 


She opened her eyes but couldn’t see anything.  It felt like something was pressing against them.  Movement was very difficult, but not entirely impossible.  When she opened her mouth, dirt poured into it.  The realization that she was buried underground hit her like a ton of bricks.  Panic overwhelmed her but screaming was impossible because her mouth and throat were now filled with dirt.

She franticly thrust her hands forward and found that the dirt was loose enough for her to push aside if she really struggled.  With no idea how far down she was or even what direction was up the only thought was getting out of the ground.  She clawed at the dirt for what seemed like hours, but in reality, was probably only a few minutes.  Finally,   her hand broke through the ground and into the air.

Her hand wrapped around something.  She couldn’t tell what it was, but it was solid enough to grip and maybe be used to get out.  Suddenly she felt fingers rub against her hand and realized that someone was digging from the other direction.  Help was coming.  Letting go of whatever she was holding; digging was once again the number one priority.  The hand on the other end grabbed hers and started to pull.  She managed to get her other hand out of the ground to help push herself up.  The combination of someone pulling her and her other hand pushing against the ground was enough to finally allow her to pull her way out of the ground. 

She just lay on the ground breathing heavily.  She looked up at the man who had helped her scared and not quite realizing what had happened.  The shock of waking up in a grave overwhelmed her still, but she was beginning to think again.  She also found that the longer she lay on the ground the more she started to feel hungry. 

The stranger helped her up to her feet and she found that even though she stumbled she could walk.  Memories continued to flood back to her.  She couldn’t remember who she was or anything about her life, but she was getting flashes of things she had done.  She wondered how she could have gotten buried, and as she did she began to get flashes of someone attacking her.  She saw herself thrown to the ground in the very clearing she lay in now.  She remembered pain as someone on top of her biting into her neck.  She reached for it and found two tiny holes. 

The hunger continued to grow in her.  She found that with each passing second it was harder and harder to think straight.  The man who had helped her turned away from her and seeing him with his back turned suddenly filled her with the desire to attack him.  Her eyes were drawn to his neck were a small line of blood was dripping.  She couldn’t understand where these feeling or this hunger was coming from.  It became too much for her and she moved to strike. 

Suddenly a dog jumped out of the woods and positioned itself between her and the man.  It barked loudly and growled at her.  She found that the sounds pierced her ears and hurt.  She heard a terrible snarling sound and realized it was her.  She didn’t seem to have any control over herself and found that she was behaving like a wild animal.  She was filled with fear of what she was doing and of the dog.  The barking and howling was still hurting her and the pain brought back a small bit of control.  She felt the need to run from the animal so she turned away and ran full speed into the woods. 

She found that she could run much faster than she thought she should be able to.  She seemed to flow into the woods being able to dodge every branch and brush before she even consciously knew they were there.  She saw a drainage pipe ahead and ran for it.  Quickly crawling inside she curled up into the fetal position.  She mumbled to herself.  “That poor man was trying to help me and I was going to attack him.  Who am I?”  She remembered the snarling sounds that she had made and the loss of control.  “No, what am I?”  The tears began to flow.  She cried herself to sleep lying in the drain. 


Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks entry is the beginning of a novel I started but had never finished. I reached a point where I realized I needed to roll back two chapters and rewrite. I never did it. I like the world building I did and I am thinking about returning to this project and rewriting it. This one might be a bit rough from an editing standpoint, but that is part of what these fragments are. Very raw.


The ship shook so hard I was afraid it would rip apart.  For the second time in my 30 year career I was grateful for the regulations requiring seatbelts on all jump capable ships.   “Mr. Harrison report.”

“We jumped into an asteroid field sir.”

“What?  How is that even possible?  The Drake system doesn’t have an asteroid belt.” 

“I don’t know how captain, but we don’t seem to be in Drake.  I’m dodging as many of the big one as I can, but we’re getting banged up pretty bad.”

I glanced down at the display on the armrest of my chair and saw a sea of red.  “I think just about every alarm is going off.  Ms. Pike we need the magnetic field up now.” 

“Working on it Captain.  I can’t get the field stabilized with all these impacts though.”

See that’s the downside of being Captain on a research vessel.  You get access to all the newest technology, but most of it hasn’t been field tested yet.  They brief you on how it’s supposed to work, but until you actually try it you never really know the limits.  This was an example of that.  The Observer was outfitted with tubes running through the hull that could generate a polarized magnetic field.  It wouldn’t stop the large asteroids, but theoretically it should be enough to clear away any small objects.  Of course it was intended to be turned on before entering an asteroid field and there wasn’t anything in the documentation about needing open space to generate a stable field.

I found myself second guessing my choice of ship so hard that I almost didn’t notice it wasn’t shaking apart anymore.  I glanced down at the displays and saw various alarms flickering between yellow and red.  The magnetic field light was not on at all.  “Mr. Harrison not to sound ungrateful, but why are we not about to die anymore?”

“I had an idea Captain.  I brought us alongside one of the larger asteroids.  It’s blocking some of the small ones.”

“Good thinking Mr. Harrison.  Ms. Pike; how is that magnetic field coming along?”

“It’s stabilizing now Captain, and it actually seems to be working.”  She was smiling and I had to admit that we might survive this jump.

I reached down and touched the intercom button on my chair.  “Attention all hands.  This is Captain Donald Ryan speaking.  We have jumped, but our arrival area was not clear.  I want damage reports from all departments in 15 minutes.  At that time we will assess our status and prepare to move out of the asteroid belt.  Thank you all for your quick responses.  Captain Ryan out.”

I turned to my helmsman.  “Mr. Harrison I want to know how long it’s going to take us to get out of this Asteroid Belt.  The moment we are out I want all your attention trying to figure out where the Hell we are.”   

“Yes Captain.”

“Good work and fast thinking everyone.  I’ll be in my office going through logs.”  With that I unbuckled my seatbelt and walked across the bridge into my office.  Many captains would have stayed on the bridge, but I know just how nervous I can make people by staring over their shoulders.  For the good of the ship I try to give them space. 

My office is a fairly empty room right off the bridge.  There is a desk and a small round table for meetings.  In the back is a door leading to my bedroom where I have my own private bathroom.  It is all pretty small, but I have more privacy than anyone else on the ship and I am grateful for that.  I sat at my desk and started bringing up system logs from right before the jump.

My background was in ship systems so there was a small chance that I could find something in the logs.  I didn’t really believe that I would though.  It was more important to keep myself busy so my crew wouldn’t realize just how worried I was by the jump.  Being off on a jump wasn’t out of the ordinary, but jumping into a completely different system was unheard of.  

After a few minutes I gave up on the logs and just sat back thinking.  There were some power fluctuations listed just before the jump, but I didn’t really know if that meant anything or not.  I sighed.  I have a good crew and I needed to trust them.  Still it just didn’t feel right knowing that the best thing I could do for my ship was nothing at all.  The tension of not even knowing where we were was just adding to my ever growing frustration. 

After fifteen minutes had passed I left my office for the bridge.  It had been the longest fifteen minutes of my life.  My three department heads were all standing at attention waiting for me.  There should have been four, but my Chief Operations Officer had recently transferred and we had not yet found a replacement.  “Mr. Harrison I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to speak for Operations again.  Do you have the report ready?”

“Yes Captain.”     

“Now let’s start with Systems.  Ms. Pike?”

“All ship systems are online Captain.  Medical reported that the worst injury was a broken arm.  We were lucky sir.”

I nodded as a wave of relief flooded over me.  There was bound to be bad news, but a report of no casualties is always the best news a captain can receive.  I turned to a short man in his 20s covered in what looked like some kind of grease.  “Mr. Lee does the Engineering department have good news for me as well?”

The man seemed to choose his words carefully.  “Well Captain it certainly could be worse.  We have minor hull breaches on decks 1 and 4.  Since everyone was in jump position the hallways were empty and we were able to seal them.  We did lose some oxygen in the process though.  I have repair crews prepared, but thought you might want me to wait until we were out of the asteroid belt.”

“You do know me pretty well Mr. Lee.  Anything else?”

“Engines are online, but we lost a few thrusters to the impacts.  The ship is going to be a bit sluggish for Mr. Harrison.”

I glanced over at Mr. Harrison and could see that he was less than happy to hear this news.  “Mr. Glass do you have any damage to report?”

“No sir.  All supplies were secured and we shut the galley down before jump.”

“Excellent news.  Now that we know the state of the ship Mr. Harrison I think it is your turn.”

“Yes sir.  It will take us about an hour to get out of this asteroid belt.  I modified my projects after Mr. Lee reported.  At the moment I still don’t know where we are though.  This system doesn’t seem to have a functional telemetry beacon and the asteroids are preventing us from getting a good read on star position.”

I sighed in what had to be a very noticeable gesture.  “I was afraid that might be the case Mr. Harrison.  It is possible that the asteroids are blocking the telemetry beacon, but I have a sinking feeling that you are correct in your assessment.  I also expect that despite your not inconsiderable talents we will be in for a bumpy ride out of this belt.”

“You are probably right sir.”

“Unless anyone has anything to add I think we are done here.”  I waited a moment, but no one spoke up.  “Good, everyone please take your posts and notify me when your teams are all strapped in.  Mr. Harrison please prepare your course and be ready to peal away from this beautiful rock we have been admiring on my word.”

Mr. Lee and Mr. Glass left the bridge as Ms. Pike took her seat beside me.  I watched my chair display carefully as the various departments reported in and their icon’s turned green.  “Well Mr. Harrison if you’re ready let’s get started.”  Mr. Harrison took his position at the helm and in under a minute I felt the tell tale feeling that told me the ship was moving.  We were underway, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something off about this system.          

Monster Hunters

 Fiction Fragment Friday

               Starting today I’m going to be posting fragments of fiction on Fridays.  These could be stories I started but never finished, attempts as flash fiction, or excerpts from larger writing projects I have done.  I’m hoping to generate some feedback and see what works deserve to be developed into full projects.  With that in mind for this first entry I present Monster Hunters.  This was written as flash fiction based on a writing prompt.

                “I’m not saying it’s your fault.  I’m just saying I’m probably going to blame you for it.”  James had a smirk on his face as he said it, but Lilly knew he was frustrated at being covered in green gore. 

                “You and everyone else.”  Lilly ran her hand over her face and shook the green gunk onto the floor.  “I swear I don’t know why I do this.  We risk our lives fighting creatures that people don’t want to believe exist only to be yelled at by Commander Lopez for collateral damage or exposure.  Plus we have to wear these hideous brown utility worker uniforms.”  She motioned up and down her body at the suit slopping even more green goo to the floor. 

                “In fairness you shot a nine-foot-tall six tentacled creature with a grappling gun in Times Square and pulled it down making a spectacular splat in front of us.  There were no less than 20 phones recording it.  We became a meme before we even called it in.”

                “Well Lopez can just wait to chew us out.  I got green gunk running down my ass crack and if I don’t get in a shower before the itching starts, I just might tell him what I really think of him.”

                James shook his head as he watched her storm off to the women’s locker room.  “It’s going to be one of those days.”  He sighed and then caught himself scratching at his neck.  “Son of a bitch.”  He headed to the men’s locker room as quickly as he could walk. 

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