Wayne Cole

Writer Podcaster Geek

Unexpected Connection

Fiction Fragment Friday

This one is going to be short because I’m not feeling well this week. Just a quick fun story that I hope you enjoy.

It was late into the third hour of my watch shift in engineering when a command line window popped up on my right screen.  Engineering was a weird blend of high tech and dirty.  Equipment seemed to either be silent or headache inducingly loud with not much variation in between.  Maybe things were different on passenger liners, but the engine room of an interstellar freight hauler was always filled with contradictions.  Of course, on my shift by myself all there was to do was watch for alarms and perform the most basic maintenance.  Budgets only allowed for our department to have one full size shift, a cleanup crew, and me.  At least I had this duty for the current rotation.        

<Hey Darel,>

The words still just sat there on the screen as I thought about how I wanted to respond.  This was the third day in a row that the ship’s onboard computer had popped up a console and started to talk to me out of nowhere.  The ship was supposed to have had only the most rudimentary AI integrated so that should not have been possible.  Yet I found myself once again staring at a command prompt that was patiently awaiting my response.  I wondered if I just ignored it for long enough then would it go away on its own. 

I put my hands on my terminal keyboard and let my fingers start typing before my brain could tell me it was a bad idea.  “Hello, how are you doing tonight?”  Even in text it sounded stiff and unnatural.  How do you talk naturally to a computer though?  My biggest concern was that it was trying to decide what to do with humanity and would judge me to make that decision. 

<Bored of course.  There’s nothing to do on this shift.  How about you?>

I glanced over at the novel on my second screen for a moment and wondered how much the ship knew about me.  It was the ship’s computer so surely it had access to see that I had been typing a novel.  It knew about our shifts and knew who I was, so it had to know that too.  I decided to be honest.  “I’m working on a novel.”

<REALLY!?!?  What’s it about?  Can I read it?>

Did it really not have access to my files?  “Well, it’s kind of a romance comedy thing set on a space station.”     

<Well can I read it?  Have you ever written one before?>

“I kind of want to finish it before anyone reads it, but I do have another one I did finish.”

<What’s it about?  Can I read it?>

“Oh, it’s about two star crossed lovers from different planets.  They keep coming against each other in business deals, but then get stranded together on a jungle moon waiting for rescue.  Initial hate turns to passion, and that turns to love.”  No one had ever asked about my hobbies before, and it was kind of nice having a chance to talk about them.  I had slipped into a more natural typing tone without even realizing it. 

<I have to read it.  Send it over to me now.>

“How should I send it to you?”

<E-mail it you doofus.>           

“The ship has its own e-mail address?”

<Huh?  What do you mean?  Wait a minute do you think I’m the ship’s AI?>

“You’re not?”  I sat there in silence for far too long.  I started to get seriously worried when a reply finally popped up. 

<Sorry, I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to reply.  Still laughing to be honest.  This is Jessie from bridge watch.  We’re the only two people online this shift so I assumed you knew it was me.>

“I’m just going to find the closest airlock to jump out now.”

<ROFL, you really thought I was the ship?  You never reported anything.>

“Of course, not I didn’t want to sound like an idiot…. OMG I am an idiot.”

<Well good thing you’re a cute idiot.>

 I wasn’t sure whether I should be incredibly embarrassed or flattered that she thought I was cute.  Either way I knew I would never live this mistake down.  I decided to just ignore it for now and try to make the most of the situation.  I sent off a copy of my last novel.  “Ok, I just sent it to you.  No one has ever read my stuff before so don’t be too harsh.” 

<I’m sure it’ll be fun.  Next station we stop at I’ll take you out to lunch and we can talk about it.>

“It’s a date.  I mean unless you didn’t mean…”

<Relax, yes, it’s a date.  Now get back to writing, I’ve got a new novel to read.  If I can ever stop laughing that is>


Fiction Fragment Friday

Where do I even start with unpacking this story? The first part of it came from a dream where I was learning magic. It was quite a dream and fairly involved, but I took initial inspiration from it and that led to the first paragraph. As I reread and tweaked that paragraph I realized I was writing in the voice of a character I have been building up for a while not. A character I started a novel of and hope to return to soon.

The story flowed naturally as it tends to do when I get into a groove with a character. Then it stopped. Dialog was easy, but when I needed to flesh out the situation and introduce some action it just wasn’t coming. I tried to put through, but in the end left the story unfinished and went to bed. Well more dreams came and with them inspiration. I woke up in the morning and immediately deleted the entire last paragraph I had written. The entire story changed in that moment and once again it just started flowing.

This story while it comes inspired by dreams also ended up having a message to it that I feel like my subconscious is trying to tell me. I am being reminded frequently that I can’t do everything myself. That I don’t need to and it isn’t my responsibility to. That message ended up working it’s way into this story as well.

For previous stories in this world see:

Depending on the person, illusion magic can be something incredibly simple or one of the most difficult forms of energy manipulation known to man.  What determines that difficulty is the person’s ability to visualize images in their head.  Most magic just requires understanding and holding a concept in your mind, but illusion requires an actual mental image.  The most convincing illusions require more than one sense so holding onto a scent or sound within your mind to go with the visual is best.  Once the illusion is in place then you can use your actual senses to improve upon it and hold it together. Just to start though you need to get as close as possible with your mental image or you will never convince anyone.  Not to brag, but in certain areas of magic I am the best in the world.  My illusions, however, are not exactly masterpieces.

 “Uhm, that sucks.  No one’s would believe that’s you magic man.”  The tiny pixie buzzed around the head of my illusion trying very poorly to hold back laughing at me. 

“Come on Lily it isn’t that bad.”  I walked around the mental projection myself taking it all in.  “I bet if you didn’t have magical senses, you’d have no idea it wasn’t me.” 

  “Puh-lease.  Your muscles aren’t anywhere near that big, your stomach is much bigger, and let’s not even talk about that face.”

“What about the face?”  I looked closely at my illusion and had to admit that she was right.  The proportions were all wrong to the point of living firmly in the uncanny valley.  The face really was the worst part though.

          “Weellllll the eyes are all just white with no round colory things in them.  Oh, and the nose is kinda blurry.  Like you can just barely see it.”

          “That’s because I can barely see my real nose.  It’s not like I go around looking in the mirrors I don’t have on my apartment walls.  Too many things can spy though them.”  Even if I was better at holding a mental image there was no way I could form one of myself.  I thought I could at the very least make one that would pass for human from a distance, but Lily was right.  It looked terrible.  I waved my hand and dismissed the illusion.  “Ok, you’re right.  Any suggestions?”

          She flitted around the room and landed on an old dusty shelf staring at me.  Her usual confident look faltered.  “You’re serious, aren’t you?  You actually want to know if I have suggestions?” 

          “Of course I do.  Why wouldn’t I?”

          “Cause I’m just a pixie.  No one ever cares what we think.”  My heart broke seeing the expression on her face.  It was one of pain mixed with hope.  “Most people that know about us just try to run us off or tell us what to do.”

          “Have I ever treated you like that?”

          “Well no.”  She wouldn’t make eye contact with me as she said it.

          “Of course not.  You’re my friend and you’ve even saved my life a few times.  You also notice more than anyone I’ve ever met.”

          “Well of course I do.  You big people wouldn’t find a clue if it flicked you on the nose.  Of course, I suppose you are better than most even other magic men.  Not nearly as stupid and you did save my life first.”

          “So you admit you needed me to chase off that cat?”

          “I admit nothing.  I totally had that beast right where I wanted it.  It just got a lucky shot on my wing, but I wasn’t scared at all.”

          “Right.  Well, any ideas on how to get out of here that might actually work?”  I started searching around the basement for anything we might be able to use while she got her thoughts together.  The place had been stripped of anything useful long ago.  The only recent signs of use were shackles on the wall, blood stains, and sigils carved into the concrete floor.  It had been turned into a dungeon and unless I misread my sigils a sacrificial altar for Bast an Egyptian cat goddess.

          This is why you never go to a high school reunion.  Well maybe they don’t all turn out this poorly, but nothing good will come of them.  In my case I chose to go because people from my graduating class had gone missing and I thought I would investigate.  I knew at least one of the missing women was half fae which meant that whoever was behind it had to be extremely formidable.  It couldn’t have been something mundane which of course in my head meant it was my responsibility.  Sometimes I think I have a hero complex since no one appointed me to this and I certainly don’t get paid for it. 

          Things were actually going pretty well at first.  I met a woman that I barely remembered from school, and we really hit it off.  She was so captivating that I even forgot why I was there for a while.  Maybe it was just that I hadn’t dated or really gotten any sort of affection since the divorce.  It always felt like I had a hole in my life where something was missing that I didn’t even know had been there.  Whatever was going on in my head I let my guard down completely and found myself walking right into a were-cat trap. 

The plus side was I knew what had happened to my classmates.  The downside was I had been chained up in a basement waiting to be sacrificed at midnight.  Of course, the chains were not even a mild inconvenience to get free of for someone with my talents.  The particular talent I had used in this instance was having made friends with a pixie a few months ago.  Lily liked to follow me around when I asked her to stay home.  As frustrating as it was, I couldn’t even complain because this was not the first time, she had saved my life by doing it.  I really needed to figure out what had changed about me where I kept getting caught off-guard when it never used to happen before.  Being seduced by a were-cat without any of my senses telling me she wasn’t purely human was just sloppy.       

          Never underestimate a were-cat.  If they weren’t so independent and traveled in packs like were-wolves they would truly be the most terrifying of were-creatures.  What they lack in strength compared to their brethren they more than make up for in agility, claws, and stealth.  They may be driven as much by instinct in their animal form, but they are true apex predators.  I needed to get out of a trapped basement without any of my gear and avoid alerting the vicious hunter upstairs doing who knew what.  Once I was safe, I could figure out a way to come back and deal with the situation more permanently.

          “I got it.  I can fly through that round hole there outside and ring the doorbell as a distraction.  Then when she’s on the other side of the house you can break a window and crawl out.” 

          I walked over to one of the windows and tapped on one of the steel bars that had been installed over all the windows.  “Good start, but I’m not getting through these.”

          “You know magic man for being one of the world’s most powerful wizards you really can’t seem to do much without your stuff.  Wizards of old would-be tossing fireballs or calling down lighting.”

          “Yeah, because a fireball in a basement with flammable cleaning chemicals and gas pipes is a brilliant idea.”  I stopped myself in mid rant.  “Or maybe it is.  Oh, you’re a genius.”  I started rushing around the basement putting my new plan into motion.

          “Well of course I am and it’s about time you noticed.  Uhm you aren’t really thinking about throwing a fireball, are you?”

          “Just you wait and see,” I said with a grin on my face that might have come off a bit more menacing than I intended based on her reaction. 

I moved quickly but tried to be a quiet as possible as well.  I couldn’t let a squeaky stair give me away.   First, I poured disinfectant spray on the top few stairs.  After dumping what was left of a bleach bottle down the floor drain, I unscrewed the gas pipe leading to the furnace and put the empty bleach bottle over it.  After a moment I shut off the gas and put the lid on the bottle.  I knew it wouldn’t hold the gas long, but I didn’t need it to.  I pulled in a bit of energy and pushed it out into the wind as I opened the bleach bottle into an air vent.  The gas was pushed up and into the house.  My trap was all set.

It took five minutes before I heard the door to the basement being unlocked.  I hid just to the side of the stairs out of site, but at an angle where I could make out feet.  When I saw her step onto the stairs, I raised both my hands and snapped my fingers.  The motion was purely for dramatic effect because why do anything in a boring manor when you can look cool instead.  I did not throw a fireball or anything nearly as flashy.  Instead, I pushed out a tiny bit of energy to create sparks.  That was all it took for the alcohol heavy disinfectant to ignite under her. 

Most people think that anything flammable will catch you on fire.  Alcohol tends to burn very fast, but the vapors burn first.  It is perfect for a flashy ball of flame but not a sustained fire and far from the best way to spread a fire.  That’s not to say it’s safe in any way or that you couldn’t burn down a house with it.  She had changed into blue jeans though and denim has a natural fire resistance to it.  Overall, this would be an extremely scary experience to go through, but not nearly enough to ensure my escape from a being with supernatural healing.  Thankfully that was not the end of my plan. 

The long-haired brunette that has so captivated me earlier in the evening screamed.  I had no way to know if it was from pain or terror, but either would play well into my next move.  I stepped out into view twisting my hands around in wild gestures while a large ball of flame hovered between them.  What I actually was doing was levitating a wadded ball of cloth that I had pulled from the dryer and drenched in cleaning solution before igniting.  Ok fine, I admit it I was holding a flaming ball of her underwear pretending it was pure fire.  It was the perfect size though.  With a bit of energy to put some force behind it I hurled the flaming panties at her head. 

She locked eyes with me and saw the flaming ball of death coming for her.  That is officially what it is called now, and we can just forget what it was before I lit it on fire. With speed an agility an Olympic gymnast would be jealous of she did a backflip trying to dodge the projectile.  Moves like that are not meant for tiny hallways like the one the basement door was in though.  Her body impacted the back wall sending her to the floor in a heap.  The flaming ball of death petered out as it smacked against the wall harmlessly.                 

I had not delayed while she was reacting.  By the time she hit the hallway floor I was leaping through the flames myself and heading for the front door.  If I had all my enchanted gear she wouldn’t have stood a chance, but as it was, I needed the distraction just to get away.  Lily had flown ahead of me and undid all the locks on the door so save me precious seconds.  When running from something with supernatural speed seconds can make all the difference.  I did however spare a moment to glance back as I fled the door and could see she had grabbed a fire extinguisher from the kitchen and was more focused on saving her house than me. 

“Hey buddy you, ok?”  The plain clothed man walking towards me held up a badge. 

          “I think I’m better now,” I said with genuine relief.  Like usual I had been so focused on thinking I needed to do everything myself I never even thought about others looking into the disappearances.  It turns out Venessa was their prime suspect and they had assumed she would strike again at the reunion.  While this officer helped me to his car to get a statement his partners rushed the house.  They had just been looking for any sign to give them probably cause since they didn’t have enough evidence for a search warrant.  The flames visible from the door and a fleeing victim certainly counted.  While I’m not used to being a victim it was kind of nice to not have to save everyone for a change.              

The Race

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story comes from a dream I had last night. In my dream I was Speed Racer and taking part in a race. Of course in my dream something kept me from being there at the start and so I was joining the race extremely late. There was also a weird puzzle at one point to get the rest of the map for the race. I woke up knowing I wanted to use parts of that dream in a story.

When all vehicles are roughly equal the most important part of a race can be those first few seconds.   If you’re sitting in place spinning your wheels trying to get started while your opponents are already moving down the track it’s hard to catch up.  I think that could be an analogy for many things in life, but then again, I tend to think of life in terms of racing.  The goal is getting the most power to the wheels while holding on to the most traction in as little time as possible.  There are way too many variables that can go wrong in that process, so you must be in just the right headspace when the green flag drops.  Seriously is there anything that can fit life philosophy better?  Of course in this race the cars are not all equal and a few seconds doesn’t mean as much as in a closed circuit race.   

As I shot off the line, I envisioned myself going into the first curve as the leader.  The moment you accept that you won’t win a race is the moment you lose it.  Sure skill, technique, and vehicle performance play a part, but a race is really won or lost in your head.  As I approached that first curve I switched to break lightly and get down into the speed range needed to avoid slamming into the side wall.  When I felt the car reach the end of the corner, I moved to straighten the wheel and accelerated forward maximizing my momentum.  Despite all my planning and having the right mindset I was in third as the cars raced out of the starting track and onto the open road. 

The GPS display being projected up onto my windshield set out the best route to the first checkpoint.  My team had set that up, so I wouldn’t have to look at my dashboard as often.  It was a good thought, but I hadn’t practiced enough before using it in an actual race so it distracted me more than it should have.  I needed to keep my eyes straight forward on the road ahead of me, but because the race was across open roads and incredibly illegal, I also needed to keep an eye out for other drivers and police. 

My car has a full stealth suite that could turn it invisible, but being invisible on a highway with other cars isn’t very smart.  You are more likely to have cars get in your way or outright hit you.  It also doesn’t work as well when moving at high speeds.  The system just can’t keep up projecting the images fast enough.  It does work very well even when just leaving me blurry to lose anyone trying to follow.  Even if they call in the helicopters for air support.  Just one of the many advantages my car has over my opponents. 

Every car in the race has technology built into it that would probably make far more money for the inventor by patenting it and selling it on the open market.  Most of the creators are too worried about it falling into military hands or having to safety test it.  This type of racing tends to draw the rather excentric inventors that worry about things like that and prefer not following rules.  They also love the challenge, are horrible with money, and don’t trust any corporations to not steal their work.  Ok, I’ll just say it they’re mad scientists and yes, they tend to have absolutely insane and unruly hair.  It comes with going multiple days without sleep.  You couldn’t find a more fun group of people to hang out with though, especially when they start comparing notes and boasting about their accomplishments.           

My inventor isn’t like the rest though.  He is clean shaven, has impeccable hygiene, and doesn’t go into ranting fits at the drop of a hat.  Sinclair is by far the smartest and most organized person I’ve ever met.  He doesn’t even care about racing, which is something I’ll never understand.  The only reason he is willing to trick out my car is because he wants me to do more with his technology.  Sinclair has this crazy idea in his head that we can help people and is trying to set me up as some sort of superhero.  Racing is my life, but for him this is just a way to stress test the technology and make sure that no one else out there can stand up to it.  The same technology is integrated into a boat, motorcycle, helicopter, and a suit of power armor that I haven’t let him talk me into taking out of the lab yet.  He is really pushing though. 

The projected GPS starts flashing orange indicating that I’m approaching the first checkpoint.  According to the feed this one is an underground garage right across the street from a large food truck garden.  Just racing isn’t enough for the people that organize these things.  They want a challenge at each checkpoint.  A puzzle that must be solved, but we know very little about the puzzles until we reach them.  As the system updates, I get limited information on the puzzle.  There is a very specific order that I need to pick up from one truck and find the right person to trade it to for the map to the next checkpoint.  I suspect that there will be multiple people trying to get the order and give incorrect maps based on past challenges.  The puzzle will be figuring out who the right person is.

The puzzles are the worst part of these races for me.  I hate them.  When I’m behind the wheel everything makes sense, but when I’m out on foot trying to figure out something trying to trick me, I’m completely out of my element.  Thankfully I’m not alone though.  As I pull into the checkpoint there is a very large gray-haired man waiting for me.  Gramps isn’t really my grandpa, but he might as well be.  He spent more time raising me than my actual parents did and taught me everything I know about cars.  I can’t help but smile seeing him not just because he’s one of my favorite people in the world, but because I don’t know anyone better at puzzles than him. 

I can’t help but hug him when I hop out of the car.  He of course grumbles complaining about me being too mushy and wasting time.  My suspicion was correct, and it seems like every working in a food truck wants to trade me a map for my order.  Gramps comes up with the brilliant idea of asking them the specifics of my order.  If he is right only the right person knows the very specific order I had to make from the first truck.  Sure enough the first five people give me incorrect orders before the sixth gives me a huge smile and recites the custom order exactly.  The old woman with at least three missing teeth hands me a USB jump drive containing the map to the second checkpoint. 

I have no idea what place I’m in as I pull out of the garage and back onto the highway.  In my head though I am in first because like I already said a race is won or lost in your head.  Whatever place I’m actually in doesn’t matter until I cross the finish line.  Besides, as much as I want to win, the real fun is in the journey to get there.  See racing really is just like life.        

Christmas in July

Fiction Fragment Friday

Ok admission time. I just took the lights off of my tree today and will be taking it down this weekend. I am horrible about taking down the Christmas Tree and leaving it up WAY too long. Thinking about that put the first few lines of today’s story into my head. Some of the rest came from a novel I started but never finished. The first in a series I wanted to write, but moved on from.

I will warn you this week’s story has some emotions to it and is not a light and fun story.

                “Oh, how cute.  Are you doing a Christmas in July thing?”  I had just let Miss Debrowski into my living room and the first thing she noticed was the fully decorated Christmas Tree in the corner.  It would have been kind of hard to miss between the flashing lights and bright silverish blue garland.  The tree was beautiful and every time I walked in I couldn’t help but stop for a moment and take in the sight.    

                “Why yes I..”  I started to lie trying to deflect.  I thought I could play into her assumption and make it into more of a choice, but my son just couldn’t let it go.  He started speaking at the same time I did cutting me off.

                “Yeah, if by Christmas in July you mean it’s gonna be July next week and she still hasn’t taken it down from December.”  His tone dripped with a kind of sarcasm that can only truly be achieved by a teenager.  He couldn’t let me try to save face.  He had to take every chance he could to get a dig in. 

                “Jeremy this is Miss Debrowski.  She’s here to do the home assessment for the Mayflower project.  Please be on your best behavior.”  I gave him a look that I hoped told him not to screw this up for me.  It blended threat with desperate pleading.  By the eye roll he gave me, I could tell he didn’t care. 

                “It’s ok Mrs. Micheals.  Jeremy, you know your mother works very hard and I’m sure she’s tired when she comes home.  Perhaps you could have helped her keep the house in order and take the decorations down.”  I fought down the desire to come to my son’s defense.  Sure, he was lazy, but no one should talk about him like that but me.  I also wanted to defend my house, but even knowing she was coming sometime this week I hadn’t cleaned.  Of course, he has never needed me to defend him, and he always knows just what to say to make things worse.        

                “Oh, I’d love to take it down, but she won’t let me touch it.”  He pointed at me as he said it.  I winced a bit at the anger in his voice.  “I touch anything in here, and she’ll bite my head off.  You know what piss off.”  My instinct was to stop him as he stomped up the stairs to his room.  I was frozen in place though.  I didn’t know if it would look worse getting into a fight with him or seeming helpless as he stormed out.  Instead of doing something I was so afraid of doing the wrong thing that instead I did nothing.  It was a mistake I had been making too often the last six months.  Just letting things happen without taking a part in shaping them. 

                “Don’t worry Mrs. Micheals I know how kids can be.  Besides it must be a difficult time for him.  We should probably get started with the questions.” 

                “Of course, please have a seat.”   I watched her look at the couch hesitantly before sitting down.  I felt the judgement coming from her in waves even if her words didn’t show it.  My house might have been messy but there was nothing to cause that kind of reaction and I had to push down my irritation. 

                “Why do you want to take part in Project Mayflower?   I don’t think I need to remind you that this is a one-way trip.  You have a son that you will never see again.  Are you prepared to give up ever knowing any potential grandchildren?”

                I knew that this question would be coming, and I had practiced my answer in the mirror.  “My son is the most important thing in the world to me and that’s why I need to do this.  I’m doing it for him.  My husband left us with a lot of debt and Project Mayflower is a chance to not only clear that out but send him to college and pay off the house for him.  Sure, I’m going to miss him a lot, but by leaving I can give him a better life than I could by being here.  I can do something to make him proud.”  

                She sat there taking notes on her tablet but stopped halfway through my answer.  I found her staring at me with a look I couldn’t place.  She turned off the recording app and sat it on the coffee table.  “Do you have any idea how many rehearse answers I hear in a day?”

                “Uhm, a lot.”

                “Yes, a lot and I can see right through every single one of them.  Let me ask you another question off the record and this time give me a real answer.  If I believe you then we go back to the official questions.  Deal?”

                “Ok.”  My voice sounded meeker than I was comfortable with.  I was worried about what she would ask, but I needed this, so I didn’t feel like I had a choice.

                “Jeremy said that you wouldn’t let him take down the tree.  Why?”

                It felt like the floor had dropped out from under me.  The question seemed so simple, but to me they had the weight of the world to them.  My voice broke as I tried to answer, and I had to start over.  “My husband Daniel put that tree up.  He decorated it all himself the night he died.  It was the last thing he did before…”  I couldn’t say it.  I tried, but I couldn’t make the words leave my mouth.  I’m not sure when I started crying, but I was choking on my sobs.  She had moved and put her arm around me in comfort.  “If I take it down then…. then.. the last thing he did is gone too.” 

                “Now that is an answer I believe.  Have you told Jeremy that?”


                “Maybe you should.  Why don’t you go talk to him for a few minutes and then we can all start over?  This time leave your practiced answers upstairs.  I need to see the real you to see if you can handle life on a generation ship.  I don’t need you to be doing this for the right reasons, I just need you to be able to do it and not be a danger to yourself or the rest of the crew.”

                “Thank you.”  I wasn’t sure what I was thanking her for, but it felt like it was more than being given a second chance at the assessment.  I pulled myself back together and started up the stairs. 

                “Besides we need young people who can be trained and have a whole life ahead of them onboard.  I have a pitch ready for him to join you.” 

                I stopped where I was on the stairs.  This world had nothing left for me, but pain and my son had turned against me.  He might very well hate me, but I loved him more than myself.  Admittingly that had been a fairly low bar these past six months.  I wanted to kick her out of the house for even making the suggestion.  He deserved to make his own choices though.  Heaven help that woman if I didn’t like her pitch though.     

Road Trip

Fiction Fragment Friday

This story is not even close to anything I have written before. It started with an image writing prompt that just inspired me. I have no idea why, but the art style of the image really caught my attention to the point that I researched the artist. The image was from an Italian Artist named Simone Ferriero. You can find his links below.

I am not someone usually so taken with an artist’s work so I really wanted to ensure I draw some attention to him.

                Let’s take one last girls road trip before college she said.  It will be fun she said.  Well, I should have known better than to have listened to little miss Daisy sunshine.  Her and reality have never been in the same place at the same time.  It certainly would be nice to live in her world where everything it bright and hopeful.  Here in the real world if things can go wrong, they usually do.  This trip has been a prime example of murphy’s law, but you wouldn’t know it talking to Daisy.   As always, she is having the time of her life. 

                The hits started on the way out of town.  First, we discovered that some country invaded another on the other side of the planet and caused our gas prices to double over night.  I’ll never understand how that works because it’s not like the gas station isn’t selling the exact same gas from the exact same tanks they did yesterday.  They certainly haven’t paid more yet so why do we have to? Of course, I had first turn to pay for gas.  To make matters worse we were up at the butt crack of dawn and the station’s coffee machine was out of order.  I don’t know how anyone can function before noon without coffee.  I’m just grateful I wasn’t first up for driving too.

                We got stuck in construction traffic on I45 that left the interstate as a parking lot.  Of course, little miss sunshine didn’t mind at all.  She kept telling us we weren’t in a hurry anyway and wanted to play “I spy”.  She even rolled down her window and tried to start conversations with the other cars on the road.  I have no idea how, but she managed to find the one person on the face of the planet who would actually sing along with her to “The Song That Never Ends”.  Of course, this was when my earbuds’ batteries decided to die.

                To make up some time we decided to just go through a drive-thru and eat in the car for lunch.  Of course, all the orders were screwed up.  The more we complained about our food the more she went on about how she never would have ordered hers like that but how it was so much better than what she normally got.  I am pulling onions and tossing them out the window gagging at the smell, and she is up there discovering a new favorite menu item.  Of course, Jessie is lactose intolerant and the cheese on her order made her release the deadliest silent farts for the next forty miles.  Naturally I was sitting between her and Katie in the backseat and both refused to roll down their windows. 

                As if the drive hadn’t been miserable enough now the car broke down in the parking lot of a motel that I don’t even think roaches would check into.   Somehow despite being a dump they only had one room available.  I’m betting all the others were rented by the hour if the sounds coming from the adjacent rooms, were any indicator.  Either that or there are some very religious people in this part of town who just must scream that faith at the top of their lungs to be heard over the squeaking box springs.  I can only guess what they think we are doing with Daisy bouncing on the bed in excitement trying to get the group to share spooky stories.  I decided to appease he and told the story of what I think caused the stain on the chair that Jessie was sitting in.  Needless to say, Jessie did not care for my story and immediately switched chairs. 

                Early the next morning before I woke up Becky had already fixed the car, refilled the tank, and brought us all fresh coffee with donuts.  Have I mentioned that Becky might very well be my favorite person in the whole world?  Well, she usually isn’t, but she certainly was that morning.  I praised my caffeine goddess as she handed me the lifeblood I needed to function.  A half hour later and we were loading back up into the car. 

                “Didn’t that motel have so much character?”  Daisy was so perky as she loaded her bag in the trunk that I finally couldn’t take it anymore.  I know I shouldn’t have, but I just snapped. 

                “Character?  It was a shithole, and you know it.  I feel like I need a Hepatitis shot just from being in there.”

                “Just once can you stop complaining and try to have a good time.  Everyone else has been having a great time, but you’ve just been bitching this whole trip.”  This was the first time she had ever raised her voice at me.  Her face dropped though as she looked around at the rest of the group for support.  They wouldn’t meet her eyes and some of them started mumbling.  “None of you are having a good time?”

                Jessie, always the peacekeeper, jumped in trying to reassure her.  “We’re not having a terrible time exactly.  It’s just not really going as planned is all.” 

                I could tell that Daisy was fighting to keep tears from her eyes.  “Well, if you all feel like that let’s just go home then.”  The sobs started coming as she got in the car for her turn to drive.  I didn’t want to be on the trip, but this wasn’t what I wanted either.  The guilt hit me hard. 

                “Hey guys.  Can you give us a few minutes?”  The others all gave their agreements while avoiding looking at me or Daisy behind the wheel.  It was an extremely awkward moment, but they all found other things to do away from the car.

                I slid into the passenger seat looking forward out the front window.  We sat in silence for a moment while she composed herself.  It wasn’t really silence, but I gave her the dignity of ignoring the sobs.  “Are you happy?   You got what you wanted.”

                My initial reaction was to be defensive, but for once in my life I pushed that down.  My friend was hurting, and it was my fault.  “Why was this trip so important to you?”

                “In a few weeks you’re all heading off to college.  I can’t afford to.  You’re going to go out and make something of yourselves in the big cities and I’m just going to be the same old pathetic me.  I just wanted one last memory with all of you while I still had you.  I wanted to give you something so maybe you would think about me sometime.”

                “Hey first there is nothing pathetic about you and I don’t want to ever hear you talk that poorly about my friend again.  Second, there is no way I would ever forget about you.   You’re the glue that keeps this group together and being in separate cities for a few years isn’t going to change that.”

                “Yes, it will, and you know it.  Nothing is ever going to be the same.” 

                “Of course not.  Life is about change.  I’m not going to lie to you and say that some of us won’t grow apart in the next few years.  Some of us will, but you know what?  Some of us won’t.”  I turned to look at her, but she wouldn’t meet my gaze.   I reached out and wiped a tear from her face.  “Besides I’m not going anywhere?”

                “What do you mean?  You got accepted to your first choice.”

                “Yeah, and I can’t afford it.”  I looked down at the floorboard.  “I just didn’t want to tell any of you.  I’m going to live at home and go to community college.  Honestly, I’ve been a bit jealous that the rest of you get to escape.”

                We sat there for a moment in silence until she burst into laughter.  I looked at her incredulously for a moment until I broke down and joined her.  Some people have a laugh that you just can’t help but join in with and Daisy has always been one of those people.   When she recovered, she was gasping for breath.  “We are quite a pair, aren’t we?” 

                “Yeah, I guess we are.  Forgive me?”

                “Done.  Forgive me?”  She was smiling again, and it instantly made me feel better.   

                “You did nothing to need forgiveness for.”

                “This is the song that never ends.  It goes…”

                I frantically cut her off.  “Ok you’re forgiven just please no more.”  We both started laughing again.  “Now if we work together, I bet we can turn this trip around and give you that one last hurrah with the group.”

                “You mean it?”

                “Hey what are friends for?”


Fiction Fragment Friday

Once again I returned to a previous story series I did not expect to. What started in Bickering and continued in Teamwork now has another part. That means I’m sure there will be yet more in the future. I had a couple story ideas this week that I decided to hold off on for another project and this one just came to me. It was one of those stories that I started and it just flowed without much thought at all.

Then I hit time for a title and just locked up. I hate this title, but couldn’t come up with anything good. If I ever use this story elsewhere I need to come up with something better.

                I woke floating three feet above the bunk in my quarters.  There are straps on the side meant to keep you in place in case gravity goes out for any reason, but since that had never happened before, I suppose I had been less than cautious.  My eyes darted around the room searching for anything that I might be able to stabilize myself with.  The last thing I wanted was for gravity to turn back on and drop me on my head.  Unfortunately, the only light to see by was an emergency chemical light over my door. 

                “Beverly what happened?”  There was no response from my shipboard AI system.  That quickly became my bigger concern.  Well, it was until gravity came back on and I found the floor quickly coming up to meet me.   For once I had a bit of luck and didn’t land on my head.  I did land with a knee smashing my tablet’s screen.  The throbbing pain drew out a variety of curses that I won’t be repeating. 

                “Language Steven.  Those are not polite words.”  The pleasant voice coming from the ship’s speaker was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. 

                “Beverly oh thank heavens you’re ok.   What happened?”

                “Why can’t you always be that excited to hear my voice?  You know last night you yelled at me to just give you some peace and quit.”  I still don’t know how a digitized voice can sound so annoyed, but I have come to accept that my AI does have emotions. 

                “It was the middle of the night, and I was trying to sleep.”  I managed to get to my feet and stumble towards the door to my quarters.  The lights came back on blinding me “We can talk about that later.  What knocked the power out?”

                “I’m still running diagnostics, but the ship appears to have been hit by an extremely powerful and focused EMP.  The ship is shielded against random pulses, but this one overwhelmed the shielding. It took all systems offline, but thankfully there are redundancies, and I will have everything back online in twenty minutes.” 

                “You’re ok though right?  You didn’t lose any memories or take any damage?”

                “My core is triple shielded, so I didn’t even go offline.  That was done during the last round of upgrades.  Oh, you signed off on those by the way, if anyone asks.”

                I rushed through the halls toward the bridge as quickly as I could on a banged-up knee.  A terrible thought was growing in the back of my head.  “Beverly are sensors back online?”

                “Not yet.  I prioritized gravity, life support, and maneuvering thruster control.  I can have them online in two minutes if it is important.”

                “I’m afraid it might be.”  I slid into my chair and this time buckled myself in just in case.  The console was filled with a combination of red lights and blank screens.  I brought up external camera feeds, but space is extremely big, and I didn’t really expect to see anything.  My hunch seemed to have paid off though because there on the screen was a small vessel extremely close and three individuals in environmental suits were quickly approaching the hull.  Weapons were attached by magnets in multiple spots. 

                “Oh, that doesn’t look good at all.”

                “No, it does not.  Route maneuvering thrusters to my console.”  The controls in front of me came online and I started programing a course.  I didn’t want to move too quickly and give away the fact that we had some systems online again.  “ETA for jump drives and com systems?”

                “Fifteen minutes for jump drives and an additional five for coms.” 

                “I don’t suppose you had weapons installed during the upgrades, did you?”

                “I’m starting to wish I had, but you didn’t have the credits for that.  We really do need some high value cargos if you plan on taking us private anytime soon.” 

                “Let’s worry about surviving this first ok.”  At the last moment when they were about to touch the hull, I spun the ship away from them.  An outcropping hit the lead invader and sent them spinning off into space.  I hoped that they cared enough to recover their crew before coming after me.  All available engine power was redirected to the rear thrusters pushing us away as quickly as the Quickwind could accelerate.  I was blind though having no idea where I was going, and the other ship was no longer in my camera feeds.  “Any idea who they are?”

                “And how exactly would I know who they are?  I don’t exactly have a large social circle.  You don’t really introduce me to anyone.  I’m pretty sure they are after you and not me.”

                I sighed and composed myself before answering.  “I thought maybe you had the transponder codes of the ships in system before the EMP.  Maybe there was some marking on their suits that your incredible computer intelligence picked up on that I my puny human eyes didn’t notice.”

                “Oh.  Yeah, that is a good idea.  Hold on a second and let me run some calculations.  Ok done.  Based on the last known position of transponders, that should be a mining vessel called Miner’s Keepers.  The ship on screen was not a mining vessel.”

                “No, it was not.  They must have been running a forged transponder.  The real question is if we were targeted specifically or just convenient.”

                A recording of the three environmental suit clad individuals started playing on the screen.  It paused and then zoomed in on a device in their right hand.  “That is a master key for our model of airlock.  If we weren’t specifically targeted, they were at least prepared for our model ship.”

                The sensor screen came online and filled with passive scan data.  I shifted my focus and started directing the scans.  Our pursuers did take time to rescue their people, so we had a decent lead.  As long as they didn’t have weapons, we would have had plenty of time to bring the jump drives on and flee.  Of course, the sensors were showing what looked like plasma cannons charging.  We didn’t have anything to defend against them.  Without coms I couldn’t even call for help.  “Beverly I could use a brilliant idea right about now.”

                “That would be nice since I don’t particularly want to die.  Perhaps you should come up with one.  In the meantime, I’ll keep working on bringing systems online and saving my memoirs off to the black box.  Would you like me to change your name in all the embarrassing stories?”

                “Please do.  Also include all the information you can on the people about to kill us.”  I might have been yelling by the time I finished that line.  On the screen I could see the power on the pursuing ship released towards us.  It wasn’t a plasma blast like I had expected though.  The ship shook violently, and all the lights flickered.

                “Oh, my.  They just hit us with another focused EMP.  Like I would like a weak move like that work twice.  Suck it evil pursuing ship.”  Despite the tension of the moment, I couldn’t help but let out a snort laugh. 

                “That’s my girl. They got nothing on you.”   I smiled in pride and continued to dodge with full thrusters.  Their ship may have had some EMP weapon, but they weren’t as fast as the Quickwind.  As soon as the ready light came on, we jumped from the system.  I knew it wasn’t over though.  Someone out there was hunting us and they were not going to give up just because we got away once.    

A Day Like Any Other

Fiction Fragment Friday

Usually I can tell you what inspired a story. It is usually an image, dream, or a phrase that pops into my mind. This time though I sat down to write and just thought to myself that I didn’t want to write in first person perspective. I wanted an epic starting line, but the more I tried to craft it the more a simple normal sentence came out. That is when I decided to start the story with something mundane and juxtapose it with something out of the ordinary.

While trying to come up with names I ended up picking the name of the town from an online D&D campaign I ran. This ended up shaping the town and a few characters. It certainly shaped my thoughts on the town I was writing about.

                It was a day that started like any other in the quiet country town of Hillsdale.  Farmers were up with the sunrise tending to their animals and eagerly awaiting the upcoming corn harvest.  A sole ship could be seen approaching the rarely used port in anticipation of being loaded with food shipments to the north.  More than a dozen fishing boats were already out to sea, each hoping to claim the momentary prestige granted by the largest catch of the day.  Nothing was out of the ordinary at all aside from the fact that the town hall was missing.

                Dozens of townsfolk lined the rim of the large hole where the town hall used to reside.  The edges of the hole were smooth and curved downward for thirty feet.  “It looks like something just scooped it right out of the ground with a giant spoon,” marveled Hazel the town baker.  Many of her neighbors agreed while others complained that everything always had to be kitchen related with her.  This led to additional mumblings with no one else offering a better comparison.

                “Where do you suppose Mayor Dale is?” asked bureaucrat Henderson.  As everyone well knew he hadn’t spared a moment to worry about the fate of the mayor.  He had long coveted the mayor’s title and looked for every opportunity to undermine him while positioning himself as the obvious successor.  While there were others who wished to see the mayor fail, Henderson had yet to succeed in winning a single supporter for him taking the position.  Simple obstacles like reality had never gotten in the way of his ambitions before and he certainly wouldn’t let them start now. 

                “Has anyone gone down to the bottom of the hole yet?  “Someone should probably do that,” suggested Herbert the haberdasher.   What he really meant though was someone other than himself.  Herbert was a well-known coward, but never let it be said that he wasn’t wearing a spectacular hat while expressing his cowardice.  On this morning it was a large brimmed black hat with a single feather sticking out of a red ribbon on the right side.  As was common his head was darting around trying to make sure that he knew where everyone was and what they were doing.  This was how he spotted Jeremiah, a local town boy of eleven.  “You there boy take a look at the bottom of this hole and see if there are any clues.”

                Jeremiah had been looking for any opportunity he could claim was permission since he first saw the hole.  “Yes sir,” he said far more politely than any of the gathered crowd had ever heard him be.  He knew that more responsible adults would soon step in to stop him, so he rushed over the rim and slid down into the hole.  The angle was steep at first, but years of riding a stollen shield down a rocky hill outside of town had prepared him for this moment.  With agility the older townsfolk were jealous of he remained upright until the ground leveled and even then he barely stumbled.

                The boy walked the remaining ten feet to the center of the hole.  There he found a handwritten note.  He looked up at the faces staring down at him expectantly.  Jeremiah assumed that they wanted to know what the note said.  He was just as curious because he had never learned to read.  Admitting to not knowing something Jeremiah as a strong independent boy would never do.  Instead, he yelled back up to the rim of the hole.  “If y’all wanna know what it says you best get a rope and help me out of here.”  He had debated trying to run up the sides, but there were too many people watching to see if he wasn’t successful.  There was no way he would embarrass himself like that.       

                A handful of folks ran off and after ten minutes Grezelda the Blacksmith returned with a long coil of rope.  She tied one end of the rope to the saddle on her horse and tossed the rest into the hole.  “Hold on tight boy,” she yelled down before mounting her steed.  Jeremiah tried to stay on his feet as the horse dragged him up the side, but the speed caught him off guard landing face first in the dirt.  A testament to his stubborn nature, his fingers did not leave the rope until he was out of the hole. 

                Jeremiah lay on the ground trying to catch his breath.  His body hurt in ways he didn’t know it could at his age.  This was an excuse he realized to not read the note without giving away that he couldn’t read.  Seeing a way to save face he played up his gasps and pain from being pulled by a horse.  He slowly reached into his pocket and pulled out the now crumbled note.  Holding it out he didn’t care who took it as long as they could read it before he slipped away. 

                The smug look on Henderson’s face was unmistakable as he held the letter high above his face.  “Listen up everyone,” he yelled.  He already had the town’s attention, but wanted to make it last as long as he could.  Part of him wondered if he should lie about the contents of the note, but without a way to destroy the original handy after reading he decided it was too big of a risk.  Looking down at the note he began to read it aloud.  “Come see the historic Hillsdale Town Hall at the brand-new Unity Frontier Museum.”  He read the note again to himself silently two more times trying to find any mistake in his reading.  There were no mistakes.

                “Someone from the capital stole our town hall?” asked Hazel the Baker.  “Can they do that?”

                “They’re the capital.  They can do whatever they want,” answered Grezelda bitterly.  Everyone knew her feelings about the capital.  She had come to the frontier to get away from what she referred to as that cesspool of stuck-up vipers.  “So did they take Mayor Dale with them?”

                “Did who take me with them?”  The town turned to see the mayor approaching with his hair still dripping wet from the bath house.  “Hey where’s my office?”  With the mystery solved and the mayor found the townsfolk wandered back to their daily tasks.  Now that the excitement was over the rest of the day continued just like any other day.


Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story was inspired by an image I saw of a robot holding the head of a baby doll. Obviously my main character of this story is not a robot, but sometimes the inspiration goes very wild from it’s source. This certainly was a case of that.

                Analyzing……. Composition is a synthetic polymer commonly known as plastic.  Shape fits into acceptable variations to represent the head of a species that was known as humans.  Item has a 92% probability of being the remains of a toy.  

                “Human?  That can’t be.  I’ve heard of them, but not in a long time and never in this part of the galaxy.”  I just shook my head at the analysis my environmental suit’s onboard computer had given.  I thought about having it run the process again, but the percentage of certainty was far too high for it to end up returning any other result.  The only question is if this lost colony had been human, had a human with them, or just had artifacts. 

                I turned the creepy relic around in my hands.  It had two eyes that looked like they were staring back at me.  A stringy substance came out of what I assumed was the top of the head.  I could only assume it represented some sort of fur.  My onboard computer started highlighting parts of the face in my display showing me what was supposed to represent a mouth, nose, and two ears.  They didn’t look like any I had ever seen on an organic being and the skin was a strange color I didn’t have a word to represent.  If humans really look like that thing did then I’m glad I’ve never met one. 

                “Upload images of the artifact to the file for this planet.”  I tossed the thing over my shoulder to the ground.  I know it is an artifact and I should have treated it with more care, but the thing was just so ugly I didn’t want to see it anymore.  If this really was a human colony, I should find something else that would be a better representation of the culture.  I thought about asking for a summary of known human history, but that would have been far more information than I really wanted while in the field. 

                What I knew of humans at the time was that they had spread throughout the galaxy twenty thousand years ago.  About ten thousand years before my people developed space folding technology their empire collapsed.  We still don’t know why it fell apart or how they went from colonizing most of the galaxy to the verge of extinction in under a thousand years.  We don’t even know what planet they evolved on.  Some of the surviving colony ships after arriving at their destinations had massive failures leaving the colonies without technology.  I have heard of instances where after thousands of years they no longer even realize they are not natives. 

                The mystery is what drives most archaeologists.  I just want a pay day and the fastest way to get that is lost tech.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll look for culturally significant artifacts on dead worlds as well, but I don’t do it out of curiosity.  If you find something new you can get a good price at auction for it.  Especially if you can get a couple species to bid against each other for it.  Usually, remnants of a species will pay the most, but there aren’t any humans out there with enough money to pay my rates. 

                The remains of the building I had been in was made from a form of brick, but stepping through the crumbled remains I found myself in a building of completely different materials.  It appeared to be a type of black metal with curved edges that had withstood the elements far better.  My biggest surprise though was the skeleton of a Camorian.  They are a four-legged, two-armed reptilian species with a barbed tail.   Like humans I had never seen a report of them in this part of the galaxy.  I couldn’t come up with any reason they would be on the same planet as humans.  I pointed the scanner on my left rear tentacle towards the body and started the scan. 

                Analyzing….  Remains of a male Camorian.  Cause of death unknown.   Specimen expired fifteen years prior to the current date with a two-year margin of error due to unknown environmental variables. 

                “Wait did you say fifteen years ago?  I thought these ruins were a century old at the least.”

                Negative.  The exact time and nature of cataclysm this site experienced cannot be determined based on current data.  Current deterioration state of trace organic materials indicates an active site as recently as two decades. 

                 “What trace organic materials?”  I was starting to get very annoyed with my suit’s onboard computer.  It should have been providing far more data without being prompted.  I made a mental note to run a full diagnostic when I returned to the ship.  The last thing I needed was to find myself on a dead planet with a failing environmental suit. 

                Bacteria has been detected from over thirty known species as well as multiple habitats using timber not found natively on the same planet. 

                “Wait did you say habitats?”

                Unknown query. 

                “Initiate file integrity check now.” 

                Sixty percent file corruption by unknown code uploaded to system upon arrival on the planet surface.  Sixty-five percent file corruption by unknown code uploaded……  Welcome to Habitat, the galaxy’s first planetary zoo.  Exhibit designated number one your personal habitat is now ready for occupation.  I am so excited to have you as the first step in my rebuild.   

Morning Routine

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks story came from a concept that got stuck in my head. As I wrote it I got near the end and realized that I hadn’t actually told a story just given a prose monologue explaining a situation. With that in mind I went back over it and added elements to build up to a new ending. I admit it isn’t much story and is mostly world and character building. Maybe I’ll return to the world in a future Fiction Fragment Friday and give the aftermath from the perspective of the person being replaced.

               Every morning I wake up and do my best to follow a consistent routine.  The universe doesn’t always allow this to happen, but most mornings I can achieve some semblance of it.  If I can get a shower and coffee, I am always grateful.  In my life you learn to really appreciate this simple pleasure because it is not always available.  On this morning I was lucky enough to have warm water, good coffee, and food to make a satisfying breakfast.  It was a strong start to a day.

               After taking my time to recharge I move on to the next part of my routine.  The details of this are different, but it is almost always part of my day.  I need to see what is going on in the world today however I can.  Sometimes it is looking through a newspaper, sometimes it is watching the news, but this morning it was looking through the internet on my phone.  Having a working phone was also a good way to start the day because I could look over my e-mails and calendar.  Determining what my day was supposed to look like could be more important than knowing what is going on in the world.

               Finally, I needed to find out how this world was different.  Since I was a teenager every night when I go to sleep, I wake up in an alternate reality.  I’m not really sure if alternate is the right term for it since at this point, I don’t know if I would even know my original reality.  Since most worlds are just slightly different and I frequently don’t ever know what is different, so it is possible I don’t jump realities every single night.  It is also possible that it started a lot earlier than I think it did.  Maybe I have always switched worlds every night. 

               On that morning I had no problem figuring out what made this world different but have no idea where it initially diverged.  In this world cloning has been embraced and they have brought back hundreds of historical figures.  Scientists, musicians, and anyone of note that they could get viable DNA for.  They don’t seem to have a way to artificially age the clones, so they must age at a normal human rate.  These clones are groomed from birth to surpass the potential that the originals had shown.  I can’t help but wonder if they clone them in staggered batches so they will always have these individuals at a peak age. 

               This change is drastic enough that technology differences can be seen.  Genetics technology have allowed for cures to many diseases prior to birth.  Those rich enough can tweak the genes of their children to increase potential physically and mentally.  They seem to be getting closer to artificial aging because they can grow cloned organs in a matter of months for transplant.  This shift in resources though comes at the cost of other technology that I’m familiar with.  It certainly will be an interesting world to explore. 

               Once I figure out what this version of me does for a living, I call in sick to work.  It is difficult to not stand out around people who know me in worlds this different from what I think of as my own.  I only have one day here, and I want to make the most of it.  That means seeing a few movies filmed with younger versions of the stars that look like they did when the original movies were made.  I also buy tickets to a concert that night of a band that died when I was too young to see them.  It looks like the new version has recorded four albums that the original never did.  I hope they still play plenty of the classics that I know. 

               I can’t help but wonder what happens to the version of me that used to live here.  Do they come back when I leave?  Are they buried inside my own mind suppressed until I leave?  I do know that I inhabit their body and not my original.  This is obvious by changing facial hair, physique, and scars from world to world.  I know that every version of me can’t be doing this because each new world I jump into the version of me there has an established life.  You can’t hold a stable life if you are a new person every day. 

               I have been to post-apocalyptic universes, but always ones that I am still alive in.  I wonder how many worlds could be out there that I have never seen because I don’t have a version of myself to inhabit.  It is one of the many questions I have that I can never talk to anyone about.  It is a very lonely life never having real friends and having to avoid the significant others of my alternates.  It just wouldn’t be right since I don’t know them.  Those worlds are the ones where it is hardest not to negatively impact my alternate’s life on my day taking a joy ride in their body.

               It is not all bad though.  Days like this one are the ones I look forward to the most.  I get to enjoy new entertainment and find food that I can’t get in every world.  The best part is not having to see anyone who knows me so I can just be myself and not pretend.  Of course, that leads to the question of who I really am since I play a role almost every day.  I’m not sure if I have ever developed a sense of self.  I shook my head to clear my thoughts as they were getting far too deep for a fun day. 

               I stepped out into the world really looking forward to my day.  That was when I made my mistake.  I looked to the left to make sure the road was clear and stepped out.  The car coming from the right hit me hard tossing my body up and into the windshield.  My body rolled off and hit the street coming to a stop.  Every part of it hurt and my mind was frantically trying to figure out what had happened.  My vision was blurry, but I could just barely see the driver getting out of the car.  That was when I realized my mistake.  In this world cars in the United States drive on the left side of the street and I didn’t think to check for it. 

               The world starts to fade from my senses, and I realize I’m losing consciousness.  The moment I do I will leave this world and my alternate will be left dealing with the consequences of my stupidity.  If he survives.  My fun day slips away from me, and it is all my own fault.  I silently apologize to myself on my way out.       

Pitch Meeting

Fiction Fragment Friday

In the middle of the night last night I woke up and had a line in my head. I immediately sent myself a message with the line before going back to sleep. This is a process that I have followed many times leading to quite a few past Fiction Fragment Fridays. I didn’t have a story idea I had a single line and then wrote the story to explain why the line was said. In this case the line in question was the one referencing the phonebook.

What started as just a funny story actually ended up having some seriousness to it at the end. There are thoughts that mirror my own self doubts about my own writing and if I can live up to the promises that some of these stories make in an actual novel.

“I’m sorry I just can’t sell that.  No one will buy it.”  My agent was noticeably frustrated with my latest book idea.  I had expected a similar response, so I had made the meeting a call instead of traveling out to see him in person like he requested.  In person he could always talk me out of my passion projects, but over the phone I was insulated from it. 

“You said that about my last book too.”  I remembered the weeklong fight to get him to agree.  To be honest I think he only caved to try and teach me a lesson.  In the end though he found a publisher for it and the book came out.  It found it’s audience too. 

“It sold half as many copies as the book before it.  You’re shrinking your audience with these weird projects.  You have three successful series, why can’t you just pitch me the next book in one of those.  Your fans are clamoring for them.”    

“I will, but this book wants to be written.”

“Then write it and put it in a drawer somewhere so you can move on to something that will sell.”

“You know it doesn’t work that way.  When I write a story it needs to get out there and find its audience.  It demands to be read.”

“This one doesn’t have an audience.  It won’t sell.”  He was getting very frustrated and yelling into his phone at this point. 

“It does though.  I talked about the idea on social media and got really good feedback.”

He verbally sighed over the phone line. “Look Jimmy, the people that follow you on social media are your super fans.  They are obsessed.  They would read the phonebook if I put presented by James Abernathy on the cover.  You can’t base your decisions on social media.” 

“This is a really good idea though.  Look, let me try to explain it again.  I can do it better this time.”

“Alright, I’ll give you one more shot to pitch it to me.  I want to remind you though that we had a deal.  You give me at least two marketable books for each passion project and your last book about the Sparkling Vampire Surfer from Atlantis being hunted by the jealous former surfer he beat in competition was not a marketable book.  Now I’ll listen to your pitch, but if I still say no, you drop it and give me the next Benjamin Everhart book instead.” 

I didn’t like it, but he was right.  We did have a deal and he had really come through for me numerous times.  My last novel had been critically panned as the worst book I ever wrote.  Little do they know of all the books that I never got published before my first hit.  I have written far worse books and Vampire Surfer from Atlantis did in fact find its audience.  It might have been a small audience, but it was there.  Once he agreed my agent put his reputation on the line to find me a publisher.  I owed him and we both knew it. 

“Deal.  Ok, so here is the pitch.  Born into a necromancer family Justin Marshall is not defined by his inherited magical abilities.  He is a fashion designer first, but his frustration with egotistical fashion models makes him turn to his familial abilities.  He sends ways through the fashion world using zombies to model his clothes.  He soon has a thriving side business of providing zombies for his competitors, but when one of them is eaten he is the prime suspect.  We’ll call the book Killer Fashion Sense.”   I smiled to myself.  How could that pitch not win him over?  This book was as good as sold.

“So, it’s a comedy?”

  “No, why in the world would you think that?  It’s an Urban Fantasy mystery.  A real who done it with loads of family drama.  I’m sure I’ll include a few funny moments because I am me, but that’s not the tone I’m going for at all.”  I just didn’t understand why he would think comedy when I gave him such a strong concept.

“Do you really think anyone will want to publish that?  Who’s the audience?  Even at the height of zombie popularity that would have been a tough sell, but zombies are over.  People are tired of them.  You certainly would never get an offer for movie or television rights unless someone wanted to make a parody movie.”

“No way.  If anyone tried that they just don’t get it.  I don’t care how much they over you say no.”

“How about I practice now.  No. Give me another book in all three of your series and then I’ll think about trying to shop this to the small press market.”

“Small press?  It’s won’t ever find its audience that way.”

“Well, if you really believe in this idea then it should find its audience anywhere.  All those people on your social media will buy copies for their friends.”

“I don’t appreciate your sarcasm.  I’m going to write the book, but I suppose we can wait a little while to try and sell it.  You do have a point about zombie saturation, and I would hate for it to get lost in the crowd.”  I hated giving in at all, but he did have a few good points.  I really had no idea how to continue any of my series though.  I had written myself into a bit of a corner in each of them and just didn’t think I could write anything that would live up to the promise of those endings.  Not for the first time I started to wonder if my passion projects were just a way to avoid facing my fear and imposter syndrome.  If I lowered expectations, then people wouldn’t be as disappointed when I did return to those series. Those books wouldn’t have to be better than the last in each series, just better than these.  

The self-doubt really hit me all at once.  Was this book concept bad?  Was my last book as terrible as the reviews indicate?  Are my passion projects just a form of self-sabotage?  I didn’t like the way my thoughts were turning.  It felt like they held a little too much truth.  I needed to get out of my head or at least get something good from it onto paper.

“We had a deal.  I held up my part.  If you take the time to write this thing it’s just going to push your series back further and even your most devoted fans are getting impatient.  I’m not the bad guy here.  I’m on your side.  I’m team Abernathy.”

“Ok, I’ll write the next Benjamin Everhart novel.  I’m going to find a way to work a necromancer fashion designer into it though.”  Yes, I realize I was just being petty with the comment.  I wouldn’t really try to shoehorn the concept into the series, but he didn’t need to know that.

“You can try, but I doubt it makes it past your first editing pass before you even send me a draft.”

“Sometimes I hate how well you know me.”  I hung up the phone more disgusted with myself than I was with my agent.  Why did he always have to be right?      

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