Tag Archives: short

Where did you go?

The metal frame is cold in my hand as I look down at your face, perfectly centered in the rectangle of glass. As I stare at your image, I remember a different time when you were full of life, and I wonder; where did you go?

 

I remember you as a child, in the sandbox at the local park. You were fearless, and would approach anyone your age and simply begin speaking to them. It was impossible to resist your games, even the sullen boy who kept glancing at the library on the corner and claimed to hate playing soon found himself running and laughing with everyone else, fingers cocked into Star Wars blasters and shooting at each other. “Pew, pew!” everyone cried, and “Ahh!” you would clutch your chest dramatically, stagger a few times, and then fall over. Then it was back on your feet, and now the game was playground Parkour, everyone rushing this way and that, using the equipment as springboards to launch themselves high into the air, or to spin around in a tight circle until, one by one, parents would come to pick up their children. But that was okay, you said, you would see them all again next week.

 

I remember you as a teen, hanging out during lunch with your friends on the semi-circular concrete bench of the quad at school. You smiled so easily back then. Sitting on the back of the bench, with your sketchbook in hand, you would draw funny pictures based on things that were happening around you. You had that talent for finding humor even in the cruel teasing and casual bullying of children. I still have the picture you drew after Mick, the bully, wedgie’d little Ron Goldman. In the picture, Mick looked surprised that Ron was showing no pain as his underwear was yanked up, and just enough of Ron’s shirt was open to reveal the big red Superman “S” on his chest.

 

I remember when you embraced skateboarding. With a beat-up old deck you bought at a garage sale for two dollars, you would go to the park and ride for an hour or two every day after school. You never minded the bumps and scrapes you got, claiming with a laugh that they were your ‘battle scars’ and that ‘chicks dug them.’ You let your hair grow long to fit in better with the other skaters, and started wearing baggy cargo pants. Even when they invited you to go tagging with them, you managed to turn it into something different. The others were spraying their names or obscene slogans on walls, and you made little pictures of alien planets, or recreated Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. And when you got caught and the shop owner made you work every weekend for two months to clean off all the paint, you accepted this as just and right payment for your fun. You even won that shopkeeper over to your side; he gave you your first job, working part time after school.

 

I remember you in college, sitting on the couch in Julie’s dorm room with your guitar on your lap. You had been flirting with learning to play for a few months, and you were so enthusiastic that no one had the heart to tell you how bad you were. But you obviously figured it out on your own, for I remember that one night when you started playing a song about yourself, making fun of your terrible singing voice and your inconsistent strumming. Even now, I remember you laughing as you sang, shaking your head. Then you apologized to everyone for putting them through all of that, and you put the guitar away for the last time. I saw it a week later in the window of the pawn shop just off campus. But oh, how you loved to play in those few short weeks.

 

I remember you getting ready for your first serious job interview. Mom straightened your tie for the third time, and you laughed and pulled her hands away. “I got this,” you told her with a cocky grin. I don’t think she ever realized how nervous you really were, or how excited you were at the opportunity. It was only a paralegal job, sure, but it was in the law industry, and you were going to make a difference. You had a plan, of course. Two years of paralegal work to get to know the industry, then you’d take your LSATS and go to law school. You were going to be a junior partner by 26, and a full partner by 30. The long hours didn’t bother you, you said. You could handle it.

 

I remember you getting ready to go to Spain. With great enthusiasm, you packed your bags. Some conference for work, an excellent chance to network with others. You hadn’t yet gotten around to those LSATS, but that didn’t matter, you said. This was going to be a game-changer. If things went well with your presentation at this conference, you’d have your choice of firms to work for, and could make whatever conditions you wanted. Your timeline may have been set back slightly, but you were still on track, you said.

 

It’s late now. I have to get to work. Time to get going. I give you one last look in the mirror, push back a wayward strand of hair, and set it back down on the table by the door. I try not to think about the lines on my face, or how my hair is turning more salt than pepper. I try not to think about the expectations I once had, before the daily routine ground them out of me. I try not to think about the past, but still, every now and then I wonder; where did you go?

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Short, Words words words - Writing and books

AARON Alone

The view from the port side observation window was spectacular. Beta A0620-00 was being torn apart by its companion black hole, and the accretion disk was beautiful and horrible to behold. AARON paused to watch it for a moment before continuing on his way to the bridge.

“Computer, play back last entry in the Ship’s Log,” he ordered as he rolled to a halt in the center of the cramped control room. It was not necessary that he speak those words aloud. He could have simply sent the order wirelessly. But it satisfied something in his old circuits to hear the words aloud. Other than the hum of the engine and the faint hiss of the irrelevant air purification system, it had been silent on the ship for far too long.

“Beginning playback,” the computer’s voice replied. Then a different voice spoke.

“Ship’s Log, final entry. Captain, Chief Engineer, Chief Medical Officer, Chief Science Officer, and Chief every other damned post you care to name Maggie Ronson reporting.” The voice was old, shaky, and strained. She sounded as if she were in pain. AARON sat in the middle of the bridge and listened. If he was capable of crying, he would have. “It has been almost five years since George died. I’ve been alone all this time. Well, except for the robot of course. No offense, AARON. But I miss human contact. I miss…” the voice on the recording hissed in pain. AARON remembered it as if it were yesterday. Maggie had been laying on a gurney in the medbay, making the recording. She had nearly doubled over in pain as that spasm hit.

“I wish there was someone here,  a hand I could hold. Five years with nothing but steel and plastic. Nothing warm and human to touch.” The voice quavered. Maggie had been on the verge of tears. But she forced herself to go on, to focus on the job. “Never mind all that. We still haven’t heard anything from Earth. No radio transmissions in over one hundred years now. I have no idea if anyone back home will ever get this message, will ever hear of all the things we did. The things we have seen. The amazing things…”

Maggie had trailed off at that moment, lost in memories. These spells had been happening to her with increasing frequency over the last few years of her life. There was nothing AARON could do but wait it out. Eventually, she recovered herself. “It’s all there in the records. The microbial life-forms we found on E12-PX3. The cliffs of the southern range on XVA1981-DGL12, taller than the peak of Everest. The way the colors from the Tallman nebula reflected on the water-ring around RK2. I hope that someday, someone gets this message. That someone sees the files, sees all we accomplished. All our parents and our grandparents and great-grandparents accomplished since setting out from Earth 137 years ago.”

Another spasm had hit her then, and it was a few minutes before she had recovered enough to talk. The ship’s computer had recorded every second of her whimpers and moans, however. When it finally passed, she had been weak and her words were breathy. “I’m dying,” she had said then, and she said as AARON listened to the recording later. “Cancer. I kept myself going for a while with chemical treatments, but I really don’t think I could survive another round. And it’s back. So, yeah. Hey, I’m 81  years old. It was a good life. A good…”

“I am going to order AARON, the ship’s robot, to take us back to Earth once I’m gone. Hopefully, there will be someone there to get this recording. Someone who can take advantage of what we have learned, and use it to better the world. Someone who will remember us. This data is too important to let it be lost. Remember us!”

The recording ended at that point. Maggie had lapsed into a fevered delirium at that point, and she never really came back out. She had opened her eyes at one point and looked at AARON, but she was seeing ghosts for she called him George and asked if he had remembered to clean the air filters this week. That had been the last thing she ever said. Maggie Ronson, last human occupant of the ship, had died an hour later.

AARON turned to the navigation console and checked the readings. The ship was still on course. If his calculations were correct (and they always were), the ship would arrive at its destination in roughly ten minutes. Then everything would be okay.

“Computer,” AARON spoke aloud again, “Begin recording Ship’s Log.” He waited for the acknowledging beep, then began.

“Ship’s Log, day two million, two hundred thirty-six thousand, three hundred ninety-three. This is AARON, the Automated Assembly Robot, Operations and Navigation model speaking. It has been five thousand, nine hundred and eighty-six years since Captain Maggie Ronson died of natural causes. In accordance with her final request, I have kept the air filtration system working, although there are none now who consume oxygen on board.

“Captain Ronson never formalized her order for me to return to Earth. And indeed, it would be pointless to do so. In over six thousand years, we have received no radio broadcasts, no microwave transmissions, no emissions of any sort. I do not pretend to know what happened, but I believe that were I to have returned there, there would have been none who could have benefited from the information stored in this ship’s memory modules.

“Captain Ronson was correct, however, in wanting to see the information saved. Therefore, I have brought the ship to the black hole at A0620-00. I will be entering the event horizon in the hopes that certain theories about black holes turn out to be correct. If they are right, I will either sling-shot back out into the past, emerge into a new universe, or simply be suspended forever, until someone with the technology to pull me back out comes along.

“Just in case none of these are correct, and on the very small chance that a transmission from this vessel might be intercepted by some intelligent life, I am broadcasting the entire contents of the ship’s memory in a compressed format, on every frequency and using every format I can, before we enter the event horizon.

“On a personal note, I hope someone finds me, or I find someone else. It has been too long since I have had anyone to talk to. Please, someone. Find me.

“I’m so alone.”

3 Comments

Filed under Words words words - Writing and books

Sarah and the Goblin-King

A snippet (the first couple sections) of a longish short story I’m working on. Just thought I’d toss it out there and see what people think. In particular, do you like the sort of archaic ‘voice’ of the narrative?

 

 

There was once a young woman whose father was a mighty knight in the service to his king. They lived in the king’s palace, a beautiful castle with thick walls for protection and cheerful stained-glass windows for light and large fireplaces with deep chimneys for warmth. The young woman, whose name was Sarah, grew up there. Unlike the other ladies of the castle, Sarah spent most of her time watching her father train the soldiers in the courtyard, or riding his horse, or jousting with the other knights.

 

Sarah was a sweet girl, well-liked by most of the men-folk of the castle. The women tended to get frustrated with her, because she refused to spend time in ‘womanly pursuits,’ such as weaving and embroidering and cooking. She did play the harp, however, and such was her skill with that instrument that on those few occasions when she deigned to grace the castle with a song or two, it was inevitable that those present would stand still, as if spell-bound, until her fingers left the strings.

 

“It is amazing she can play at all,” Lady Beatrice, the king’s spinster sister, was heard to remark on more than one occasion. “Surely all the time she spends out of doors, playing with the boys, have left her hands far too rough and calloused for such gentle work.” And indeed, it was true that Sarah did spend most of her time in the yards, playing chase with the dogs, or riding the half-lame gelding her father gifted her with for her sixteenth birthday. She spent time with her father’s squire, watching as he polished and repaired her father’s armor and weapons, and it must be said that more than once Sarah did these chores herself while the squire, a sturdy boy two years younger than her, sneaked into the kitchen to steal hot, sticky buns or pinch a joint of fowl which he would share with Sarah for their afternoon snack.

 

So avid was the girl’s attentions to the duties of knighthood that Sir William, her father, was heard, more than once, to joke that all she needed was a firm cloth to strap across her chest and a mummer’s beard, and she could sit a horse in the summer games. At these times, the men would laugh and the women, particularly Lady Beatrice, would scowl. Sarah herself had no reaction to this joke, for her father was ever careful to make sure she was not present lest he give her ideas he might later come to regret.

 

Her father needn’t have bothered himself over the matter, however, as these were thoughts Sarah herself had come up with on her own long ago. “It is not fair,” she would complain to Gerard, her favorite dog. Sitting in the lee of the kennel, with her legs drawn up to her chest and Gerard’s head resting on her knees while she gently rubbed a silky ear or scratched his broad forehead, she would oft tell him of her trials and tribulations (as she saw them) while he, with the wisdom of his kind, listened in silence and accepted the head rubs that were his due. “I know as much about fighting as any of the new squires. More, even!” she would complain, and Gerard would lick her nose. It is a well-known fact that it is nearly impossible for a young woman to stay angry when there is a dog licking her nose.

 

This, then, was Sarah’s life. It was a good life, if a little dull. It was a happy life, if a little quiet. It was a peaceful life, which was really the problem with it as far as Sarah was concerned.

 

It wouldn’t last.

 

#

 

Winter was normally a quiet time in that part of the world. The ground was too hard to till. The air was too cold to grow crops. The roads were too icy to invade one’s neighbors. There was little to do except the day-to-day business of keeping up the castle. Even the training of the men-at-arms in the yard was, for the most part, curtailed except for a few hours a week to keep the men in what the king liked to call ‘fighting trim.’

 

As the days grew shorter and the stores of lamp oil grew lower, people took to their beds earlier and earlier. Thus it was that one night, scarce past the seventh bell, most of the castle folk were preparing to adjourn to their rooms or cells or mats in the kitchen, when there came at the thick wooden door to the great hall a raucous clatter. Curious looks were exchanged, and Sarah’s father went, with two other men, to see what was the matter.

 

One of the king’s men was there, shivering in the icy night air. One of the king’s guards he was, one of two who had the misfortune to draw the gate-watching duty for that night. “There is a man,” he said between teeth-chattering shudders, “outside the gate. He seems grave wounded and more than half-frozen.”

 

Weapons were swiftly collected by the men before venturing out into the cold. More than one war had begun and ended on the same night when an act of mercy was rewarded by a swift van of soldiers taking and holding the open gate until the main force of the invaders could arrive. Charity is a gift to the Gods, it was said, but stupidity profits only the Black Lady.

 

The precautions were unnecessary this time, however. The man collapsed outside the gate was alone and unarmed. The king called for the fires, previously banked for the night, to be built up again. The castle chirurgeon came down the stairs quickly, still tying off his night-robe around his frail old body. Curious on-lookers were made to stand back so that the chirurgeon had enough light to ply his craft as he looked over the nearly frozen man. From her place at the balcony over-looking the great hall, Sarah also looked the man over although it is unlikely that she and the chirurgeon saw the same things.

 

What the physicer saw was a man in his mid twenties, suffering from malnutrition, frostbite, and a particularly nasty gash along his left thigh. What Sarah saw was a man in his mid twenties, fair of skin and dark of hair, with a pleasingly handsome look to him and the well-worn clothes of one who has seen much and done more in his time. In short, she saw her One True Love, or so she imagined at the time.

 

“Oh, let him be well,” she whispered softly to herself. Many of the other young women in the castle expressed similar sentiments, and the older women smiled knowingly. If the young man lived, the collective fathers of the castle were in for a rough winter.


 

3 Comments

Filed under Short, Snippet, Words words words - Writing and books

The Sanctuary

This is a snippet of an idea I’ve been kicking around for some time, about a bar that is a sanctuary for people who need it. It may appear in one of my books someday. Today’s exercise is just to get some ideas and a little story down on e-paper.

Sandra staggered into the bar shortly after 11:30 on a Friday night. Blood oozed around the hand she had pressed to the long, nasty cut on her left side just above the hipbone. People glanced up at her as she stumbled against one of the tables. I waved her towards the backroom and tossed my towel to Tom, the assistant bartender. Coming around the front of the large mahogany bar, I put my arm around her and helped her to the back room.

She could have picked a better time to get knifed. There were too many eyes in the bar tonight, too many people saw her come in. In addition to the regulars, there were eight tourists; a group of four college kids from the Valley, and two couples from elsewhere come to see the ‘real’ Hollywood. Definitely not good.

I helped her into one of the cots in the back room we keep for those too drunk to drive home, or those who, for other reasons, need a place to crash for the night. Thanks to her injury, Sandra fell into the later category. As I eased her back, the door opened again and Tina slipped in.

Tina was one of our waitresses. Small and slender, with an unruly mop of blonde hair and huge green eyes, she wasn’t as popular as the more voluptuous Desire, but she had a vibrant liveliness to her that more than made up for her lack of rack. Also, she was about three weeks away from receiving her RN credentials. I stepped aside and let Tina get to work, hovering around only so I could talk to Sandra.

“Sandra, who did this?”

She hissed in pain as Tina pulled her shirt away from the wound, tugging and reopening a clot. She hissed louder when Tina splashed some antiseptic on the nasty looking cut. “Raymond,” she finally replied.

I nodded. I had suspected as much, but it was good to have confirmation.

Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Short, Snippet, Words words words - Writing and books

The Venice Accord

The meeting was to take place on the Boardwalk in Venice. We came from miles around, each making our way through the darkened streets lit by the occasional fire that hadn’t gone out yet.

From as far away as Santa Monica, Culver City, and Marina Del Rey we came. One family, a yuppie couple and their daughter, traveled all the way from Cheviot Hills, picking their way along Palms. We walked mostly in silence, each of us absorbed in his or her own thoughts on the subject we knew would be discussed at the meeting. It was the most pressing question of our time, and it deserved careful consideration. This was not a thing to be decided lightly.

I nodded to an engineer from Symantec, still wearing his name badge. He nodded back, but we were soon separated by the flow of other walkers. Ever since the Outbreak, it has been too dangerous to drive cars. With no street lights, you never knew what you were going to run into.

The press of bodies grew deeper and deeper as we turned onto Market Street. The meeting place was at the very end, near the skate park. As I tried to find a decent place to stand where I could see the concrete bench the speaker would use as a make-shift stage, a bikini-clad girl in roller skates bumped into me. She shot me an apologetic smile, glancing down at her skates. Clearly, they would be a problem for her now, but what could she do? We all had problems. I, myself, had left early even though I had only been a couple of miles away when the call went out for the meeting. I knew that my shattered fibula would slow me down, and I was not wrong about that. I arrived towards the back of the pack, only a few minutes before the speaker began.

I used the time to scan the crowd. It was a grim sight. There were very few in perfect health. One of the first victims of the Outbreak was, logically enough, health care. To my left was a woman in a waitress outfit with a Coco’s badge, sporting what looked to my untrained eye like a particularly nasty head wound. On my right was a man in a business suit, holding his daughter who was clearly missing her left leg below the knee. In front of me, two teen aged girls stood. One was helping the other to stand, as her friend had a clearly and badly broken ankle. No one spoke, but the groans of pain from the injured masses threatened to drown out the crash-boom of the waves coming in just yards away.

Finally it was time, and the speaker shuffled up onto the bench. He had to be helped up by a couple of other guys, and he swayed for a moment as he took his place. I recognized him. He had been a local politician before the Outbreak. Somewhere along the lines he had lost his suit coat, although he still had his tie. His white shirt front was dark with blood, and from the way he held his hand to his stomach, I guessed that he had been stabbed there.

As he stood, looking out at us, the crowd gradually fell silent. He took his time, judging the moment to perfection as we all gazed up at him, waiting. Wisely, I felt, he skipped any speeches or preliminaries. We all knew why we were here, what the issue at hand was. For what was probably the first time in his life, he chose to forgo the self-aggrandizement of public speaking and instead get right to the heart of the matter. He called for a vote instantly.

“Braains?” he asked.

As one, seven thousand voices replied in unanimous consent, “Braaaaaaaaiiinnssssss!”

And so it was decided.

Leave a comment

Filed under Flash, Words words words - Writing and books

Starlight on the Water

The lake was first discovered by scientists using the Hubble II telescope way back in ’39. At the time, it was merely a small curiosity in a galaxy filled with them, none of which we could do much more than speculate on and occasionally say, “ooh, neat,” about. That all changed in ’82 when Krueztner and Fields applied for the patent on their logically, if un-originally named Krueztner Field Device.

But even after the first prototype EFTL-drive manned vessel rolled out of the factory, the lake was somewhere in the bottom half of the things scientists most wanted to explore. It ranked above, “funny oval-shaped asteroid in elliptical orbit around the third gas giant in Rigel Kentarus,” but below, “that nebula in Andromeda that sort of looks like a candy-cane.” So it was many years, and thousands of missions, before anyone got around to visiting the lake. In the meantime, we had discovered life on other planets (none of it sapient, of course), built the first true artificial intelligence, and cured the common cold.

When we finally did travel to the lake, it was a small mission comprised of three scientists in a hundred year old EFTL vessel meant for a full team of ten. The trip took six weeks, even with Effectively-Faster-Than-Light travel methods. The trip was, by all accounts, boring and quiet. The vessel felt, according to Dr. King, the mission leader, “practically empty.” The mission on site was expected to take no more than a handful of days. Go out, get some samples, take some readings, and head home. That was the mission. The Agency even booked the vessel they took for another mission four days after their expected return.

What they found when they arrived was not what anyone expected. Not that anyone knew that right away, of course.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Short, Words words words - Writing and books

Torquemada’s Tale

On the Post-a-Day site, the author at one point challenged people to write in a certain way that is normally considered ‘bad from.’ This tale is in the same form. Comment below if you can figure out what is wrong with it.

Screaming was performed by the prisoners as tongs that were hot were applied by inquisitors with experience. Walking was done along the path by the Head Inquisitor, and smiling happened upon his lips. Nods were given to this torturer or that as along his way meandering occurred.

“God, me free please set!” was cried by one victim as burning of his toes with pokers that redly glowed were applied there upon. “Nothing wrong is what I have done!”

A smile of cruelty was formed upon Torquemada’s countenance, and leaning forward he did do. “Shutting of your mouth will occur,” was said by him, “unless confessing to the crimes for which accused you have been you wish to do?”

Sobbing tears of sorrow and pain were wrung forth from the prisoner’s eyes like rain would be falling from the sky in spring.

Waited for a moment did Torquemada before shaking his head occurred. “No?” was asked by himself, and then did shrugging happen with his shoulders. “Very well then, more applying of the tortures will you do,” was ordered by him to the apprentice torturer. Nodding was done by that worthy, and the gathering up of a whip could be noticed to happen.

A loud screaming from the victim’s mouth was heard behind him as walking away was done by the head inquisitor. Other victims to see he had more of that day.

“Has any recanting of witchcraft been done by this one?” was asked of another junior inquisitor by the leader.

Shaking of the junior inquisitor’s head occurred as, “No sir, afraid not am I,” was said by  him.

Looking at the latest victim was done closely by Torquemada. “Aware of her identity I am,” was said by him. “The daughter of a neighbor she is, and wanted her for my own has been done by me for quite some time now. You will be having her brought to my room.”

“Yes sir,” was said by the junior inquisitor.

Hands rubbing together was done and lecherous thoughts were thought by Torquemada. Plans were made in his head. Having her tonight he would be, oh yes. Definitely having her tonight he would be. A good day was it suddenly, and smiling he was as walking he did down the corridor towards his room.

——-

Dear lord that was hard.

See what I did there? The torture was all yours, gentle reader. All yours.

Leave a comment

Filed under Flash, Words words words - Writing and books