Master Class – Rewired

Last week on Master class, the following was given for a first line of a story.  Click through to add your own piece or read the rest of the submissions!

I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. I was on the fast track to any school I wanted – my fastball was clocked at 106 MPH.  A motorcycle accident, two weeks in a coma and three surgeries to straighten my leg out, and I found myself with an awful lot of time doing not much of anything, with no-one around to keep me company.  Turns out, the people who hang around with popular-you aren’t always the ones who stick with you through the tough times.  My extraordinary life plan was as out of reach as the sun. Laid up in hospital with my life in shambles, I wasn’t much in the mood to read my usual sports mags.  Reading was a great escape, though, and I went through the hospital library pretty quickly.  My brother rolled his eyes when I asked him to hit up the public library for me.  But since my accident, he’d hung up his helmet – the star quarterback learned his lesson from the has-been pitcher’s accident – so use of my parents’ van was granted in return for ‘helping your brother out’.  Not one to go above and beyond, he’d swing by the library once a week, check out a shelf of books at random and return the ones I’d read. His lazy library visits did one good thing – they brought me the book that would change my life. Programming Your Life, by Franko Brunne, had an overly cheerful picture of the man himself giving two thumbs up on the cover.  I know what you’re thinking… so this is what hitting rock bottom sounds like. I didn’t even have a laptop, but reading this book, I just had to try it out.  Franko’s shtick was that writing the computer code for things you wanted to come true would “rewire your world”.  It sounds lame, but hey, rock-bottom-jock, here.  I was willing to try anything. His coding wasn’t quite like any programming language I’d already read about.  And, with my brother working his way through the ‘computer’ section of the library, I’d read a lot. My first attempt was to write a code for my brother to bring me a coke.  Easy enough, right?  It could even happen, theoretically, without the code.  If Jon weren’t such a tool. Nada.  He didn’t even come into my room with a coke of his own.  I found where I went wrong – no time requirements – and rewrote it. It was the most refreshing soda ever, and little bro didn’t even know it wasn’t his own idea. I practised on small things.  Jon’d moved into the sci-fi and fantasy shelves, which definitely gave me some ideas. I fixed my leg – a miraculous recovery, my doctors said – but I never did get that sports scholarship.  My leg wasn’t even my biggest accomplishment so far.  Making things that already existed change wasn’t nearly as impressive as what I could create from nothing but a bit of led and lined paper.

This is a photomanipulation type piece of artwork by FictionChick on DeviantArt. Click the image to go to her site and check out more of her work. It’s all wicked, and I love the surreal landscapes she creates. Every one of her pieces looks like it’s got its own story, and, if we’re judging books by their covers, I would totally read them all.

 

A Temporary Trip

 This week on Trifecta’s writing challenge, the word is:

 1usually zombi
 a :  the supernatural power that according to voodoo belief may enter into and reanimate a dead body
 b :  a will-less and speechless human in the West Indies capable only of automatic movement who is held to have died and been supernaturally reanimated
 b :  a person markedly strange in appearance or behavior
2a :  a person held to resemble the so-called walking dead;especially :  automaton

Their rules are simple – 33 to 333 words, use the third definition of the word.  Head on over to submit your own work, or read some other takes on the challenge.  And now I’ve updated mine to put back in all the paragraphs that wordpress apparently decided were unnecessary for my story.  weird.

This photo was taken by Ryan Hyde, and shared on Flikr.  Click on the image to follow the link back to his page and check out some of his other work.

This photo was taken by Ryan Hyde, and shared on Flikr. Click on the image to follow the link back to his page and check out some of his other work.

Jeannie sloshed her drink as she stumbled through the crowd.

He swore as the cold liquid seeped into his shirt. “Jeez, I am so sorry!”  She shouted over the pounding music.

“Hello, Jeannie.” “I’m not Jeannie, I’m –“ She paused and tugged the hem of her skirt down, revealing more cleavage in the process, “SUPER-hic… Supergirl!  Who are you?

“I’m a reaper.” Jeannie tugged the neckline of her costume up. “Great costume,” she slurred disdainfully, taking in his jeans, shabby suit jacket and ancient converse.

“I’m working.  I think a costume would be kind of tacky.”

“Whatever, grim reaper.

“Not the Grim Reaper, just a reaper.”

“Whatever.”  Jeannie stumbled, jostled by the crowd.  When he steadied her she smiled and sloshed more of her drink on his arm with her over enthusiastic salute.  She leaned in, smiling flirtatiously.  “Thanks.  I’m so trashed right now, I’m probably eighty percent zombie, you know?”

He wrinkled his nose at the sickly sweet of her breath.  “I know.”

“Wanna get out of here?  I could use some fresh air.”

“Yes.” Jeannie giggled and grabbed him by the hand.  They wove through the crowded yard under orange and green twinkle lights, through the black streamers hung at the gate, past the incredibly drunk hulk dry heaving in the bushes, past female Woody and a maskless gorilla making out on the front porch and out into the relative quiet of the street.

She wobbled in her heels and swung their clasped hands playfully.  “So, where are we headed?”

“Your place.”

Jeannie giggled and tugged his hand.  “Then we’re going the wrong way, silly.”

He sighed and ran his free hand through his hair, turned back to face her. “Jeannie, don’t you think it’s time we stop pretending?”

She looked out at the rows of cardboard headstones on the lawn, a glossy red boot emerging from the shadows cast by tree and house.

“It’s just so stupid, y’know?” she whispered, completely sober.  “Such a waste.”

“I know.”

Foundations

This little story was inspired by Write on Edge’s Write at the Merge, and the Trifecta Writing Challenge.

Write at the Merge gave us a picture of a brickwork heart and a quote from Groucho Marx:

When you’re in jail a good friend will be trying to bail you out.  A best friend will be in the cell next to you saying, “Damn, that was fun”

Trifecta gave us the third meaning of the following word:

BITCH (noun)

1: the female of the dog or some other carnivorous mammals
2 a : a lewd or immoral woman
b : a malicious, spiteful, or overbearing woman —sometimes used as a generalized term of abuse
3: something that is extremely difficult, objectionable, or unpleasant

I guess I should warn you now, if you haven’t guessed already… this post may contain mature language.

I hope you enjoy the piece – let me know your opinions on it, concrit always welcome.

The new patio looked fantastic.  Lori called it an ode to HGTV.  She said Mike Holmes couldn’t find something to complain about – it’d last for a hundred years at least.

Jenn hoped so – no good would come of digging it up too soon.  Her gaze was drawn to the centerpiece of the brick patio.  Heart-shaped and decorated in a mosaic of broken crockery, it was a work of art.

Lori always saw the possibility of beauty buried within old and broken things.  There’d been an abundance of broken things to work with when they’d started this project.  She’d been the only one to see something better buried in Jenn herself.  She rubbed the crook in her nose where it’d been broken.

Sensing the maudlin turn of Jenn’s thoughts, Lori stopped dragging patio furniture out and joined her friend in admiring the heartstone.  She punched Jenn affectionately in the shoulder.  “Life’s a bitch, but we’re bitchier, eh?”

Jenn tried to smile, feeling her lower lip start to tremble.  “Do you really think it’s over?”

Lori shifted a pair of rattan chairs a bit closer to the grass and pulled a cooler between them.  She cracked open a beer and passed it to Jenn.  “Honey, it’s been six months. That nice detective told you he’d personally keep you posted on the case.  Sounds to me like they’ve shelved it, anyways.”

“You don’t think anyone will come looking?”

“Earl wasn’t exactly a picnic, Jenn.  Nobody really wants to find him.  You ought to put your mind to nicer things.  Like Detective Jim.”

Jenn blushed, eliciting a whoop of delight from her friend.

“I knew you were sweet on him.  Spill!”

A grin crept across Jenn’s features, youthful and bubbly.  “He invited me to dinner – we’re going to that fancy French place on Highbury next Friday.”

“Well I’ll be damned – something good finally came out of your first marriage.”

Six feet under the patio, worms agreed that Earl was a delightful picnic.

Quack!

This story exerpt is a continuation of the Which Witch storyline, and comes immediately after Tuesday’s piece, Duck.  I’m sure you were all on the edges of your seats.  Will duck-Simon flap off to join his brethren?  What can an inventor do with no hands and a bill?  Time will tell!  And time happens to be now.  If you are somewhat confused by what you’ve just read, I suggest you at the very least go back to Tuesday’s post, and, at the most, click through to the Fiction tab at the top, scroll down to Which Witch, and read all the little pieces of storyline that culminate (so far) in Quack!

I don’t own a duck, so, as picture, I give you my dog, in his least-favourite aquatic form.  Look at those eyes!  Don’t they just scream, “for the love of all that is holy, don’t take pictures of me when I look like a drowned rat!”

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“Quack! Quack Quack Quack Quack!! Qu-ah! Qhat! What just happ-AK, What?!  What just happened?”

The flighty waterfowl kept trying to express its anxiety through quacks and grooming as it transformed once again into a wild-haired machinist.

Flustered, Samuel ran his fingers through his hair for a few moments, before running them down his arms and legs and waggling them in front of his face to confirm that he wasn’t the bird he’d been sure he was just moments before.  “Aaaah!” he exclaimed, taking a few hasty steps away from Agata, and tripping on a mislaid wrench in the process.

“aaaAAAaaa!” he tried again, jabbing a finger in her direction, eyes wide.

Agata sat comfortably on the only piece of furniture vaguely resembling seating.  She thought it might be one of the surviving parts of one of the less landing-successful previous flying machines.

She looked up from her perusal of his blueprints, red marker in hand, and smiled.  “you were saying?”

“You- you- you- you… “

“Aaaare?”

“W-witch!”

Agata felt a moment of regret for her actions, seeing the frightened look in his eye, the way he held a wrench between them as a shield.

Of course.  Because witches are evil, even if you don’t believe in them.  She sighed and stood, wincing internally as he stepped back again.  She set down the set of blueprints and started towards the door, calling out as she went, “I’ve put in some suggested modifications that will improve stability and help you have more control in landing in future.  I’ve also taken the liberty of taking one of your sets of spectacles-in-a-hat as payment for my assistance today… and for turning you back into a person.”

“Modifications?”

“You’re welcome.”

“Um, thanks?  And Goggles.”

Agata paused in the massive hangar door.  “Who goggles at what?”

“The… erm… spectacles in a hat… goggles – flying goggles.  They’re grand, aren’t they?   Keep the wind and the bugs out of your eyes.  Why would you need them… oh.”  He stared at the broom she’d hefted over her shoulder with dawning comprehension.  “Oooh.”

“’Oh’ is right,” Agata tried to stay chipper, wishing she felt more happy about carrying on her way after this encounter.  “Good luck with your flying machine – it’s really quite extraordinary.  Try not to kill yourself – that would be a waste.  And goodbye.”

With that, she was astride her broom and shooting skyward with a freedom of movement unrivalled by the bulky awkwardness of the flying bird contraption Samuel had created.  Indistinctly, behind her, she heard a yell.  It didn’t matter.  However he’d decided was best to treat a witch, she was unstoppable once she was airborne.

It had been nice, though, to be able to share the experience with someone, for once.

<– Duck|| Crush –>

Duck

Clearly inspiration strikes when deadlines are lacking.  This week, you’ll be seeing quite a few pieces of short story, most particularly from the Which Witch storyline.  We last left Agata in a big field with a strange machine, in Roc.  You can also read more of her story by going to the Fiction Tab at the top of the page, and scrolling down to ‘Which Witch’.  The nice thing about this (for me) is that it isn’t a prompt response… which means I can write it as long as I’d like to write it, which is sometimes a nice thing to do, however succinct a 300-400 word max can make a story.  I wrote this (very roughly) during Nano, and have since gone through and tried to smooth out the rough edges without losing the entertainment I found in writing it.

I’m also posting a random gratuitous picture of my puppy, because he’s just so CUTE.  Enjoy, and let me know what you think of the piece!

IMG_20110925_111823

“You want to do what with that machine?”

The man grinned.  “Fly, of course!”

“Fly.”

“Fly!”

“on that.”

in that.”

“That thing”

“Roc.”

“As in ‘sinks like a-‘?”

“Giant mythical bird – it’s a homonym, but spelled different too.”

“huh.”  Agata stared at the machine.

“Want to go for a ride?” the man was rolling down the sleeves of his grubby coveralls with equally grimy hands, an adventurous glint in his eye.

Agata held her broom in front of her like a warding.

The man squinted owlishly at her through a set of spectacles built into a leather hat that flattened the wild tangle of black hair on his head, leaving a fringe around his collar.  “We can probably hold off on sweeping it out for now, Miss…?”

“Agata, and it’s not for sweeping.”

“So it just looks like a broom.”

Agata hesitated.  “Yes.”

“Shall we carry on the experiment, then?”

“Only if I can take my broom too.”  Inside, Agata cringed.  The man’s eyes glinted with laughter.  “Shut it,” she snapped.

The man only smiled, looking slightly bemused.

“Samuel.”

“Samuel?”

“My name.  Yours is Agata.  I thought you might want to know.”

“Are we going to go flying in your contraption, or not?”

Samuel grinned.  “you take this wing, I’ll get the other.”

“Where are we taking them?”

“Out.”

“Of the shed?”

“hangar”

“I suspect I’ll need my coat, but thank you for the offer.”

“No, I call it a hangar.”

“Do you hang the plane up?”

“Well… no.”

“So you…”

“hang tools in it.  Hang out in it.  Will eventually have hangers-on to order about in it?”

“Hmm.  You take that wing, then.”

After a great deal of effort on both their parts, the devilishly heavy contraption was out and facing in, according to Samuel, the optimal direction.

“Hop in,” he said brightly, rubbing his hands together in delight.  He headed around to the pointy end and she followed.  He seemed surprised to turn to face the plane and find her in front of him instead.

“You’re not going to try and send me up there by myself, are you?”

“I’ve just got to get it started.”

Agata crossed her arms and scowled, letting her boot tap out her impatience.  “Well, then.”

He looked about helplessly for a moment, and said, “We’ll need to get in quickly after I get it started, to get it moving.”

He then fiddled with the large wind-catching blades at the front, and soon produced a roar of noise, along with such motion to the blades that Agata’s hair was instantly whipped into a rats-nest around her head, and she could no longer see the actual blades causing the wind.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?”  she yelled over the noise as he hustled her back to the door of the machine.  The noise dimmed only slightly once they were inside.

Agata gripped her broom tightly as the machine started to rumble forward.  Samuel glanced warily back at the wooden shaft poking threateningly over his shoulder.

“Wouldn’t a club be more effective?”

“What?”

“you know, ‘you twit, can’t you get anything right, leave and never come back, thwap thwap thwap!’”

“thwap?”

“The sound of a broom striking a man about the shoulders when he comes home with ‘magic beans’ instead of money in exchange for the cow?  Presages divorce?”

Agata decided to file this under ‘unresolved parental issues’ and leave it at that for now.  While operating heavy machinery didn’t seem like the ideal time to rehash childhood traumas.

“Ah.  Well, a club would make more of a ‘thock thock’ noise.  And the… broom… isn’t for hitting you.  If you’ve gotten it wrong, we’ll likely both end up meeting a very violent end – why would I ease your passing by knocking you senseless with a tool for household tidiness?  Aaah!” she gasped, as, at that moment, the machine ceased rumbling along the ground as it bounced once, then twice, and then abandoned terra firma entirely and took, wobbling, to the sky.

Samuel let out a whoop of delight, punching the air once with his fist and causing the entire machine to lurch before desperately clawing at the instruments in front of him to stabilize it.  “Sorry!”

Agata hardly heard him, the words whipping out of his mouth and past her ears, pushed by the powerful wind.  Her hair slapped madly at her face as she tried to pull it back, one-handed.  She began to wonder if it had been his first test of the machine that had left his hair so bushy.

It seemed hardly any time at all before they were turning, wobbling, and losing elevation.  Quickly.  Very quickly.

Agata rapped sharply at Samuel’s leather-clad head to catch his attention.

“Are we trying to land?”

“Not trying, succeeding!”  He didn’t sound convinced.

“Not at this angle of descent,” she replied, confirming his fears. “Have you landed before?”

“Not with this model!”

“Why not?”

“Hardly any parts of the wreckage are salvageable – it’s basically built new every time.”

Agata half-stood in her tiny slot in the machine shoving her broom handle roughly at Samuel, with a barked, “Hold this!”

Leaning awkwardly over his shoulder, arms on either side of him, she snatched the controls, to his alarmed shout of “HEY!”

She assessed the situation as quickly as possible.   Yes, she thought.  I definitely don’t know how to use these controls. 

He snatched them back as quickly as she released them and they continued to wobble too quickly, and too steeply, towards earth.

“Go UP!”

“That’s only an alternative as long as we’ve got fuel!”

“Not all the way up… just even out a bit.  It’ll slow us down!”

He did as he was told, and the Roc coasted more gradually towards the ground, finally dipping down to judder and  kiss the runway once, twice, three times, before wobbling to the side with a screech of tearing metal and ripping sail-cloth as a wing was torn asunder, then coasting to a stop near the border of the open field, neatly turned 90 degrees from its original direction of landing.

“HAH!” Samuel exclaimed, whipping off his spectacle-cap and jumping up.  “HAAAAH!”

Agata stiffly rose from the hunched over position she’d maintained for the duration of the landing, fingers stiff on the handle of her broom.  The Roc had lost its wing.  They were both alive, but the machine had lost its wing!

She hopped down to the ground from within the listing machine, only to be swept up and danced enthusiastically around in a jig whose pace could not be matched by any fiddler in existence.

“Aaa-Ah!” she exclaimed, on principle.

“You did it!” he cried, a broad grin wreathing his oil-smudged face.  “You! Did! It! HAAAH!  Smoothest landing ever!”

“If the machine isn’t whole at the end, it isn’t a landing.” Agata stepped away from the capering inventor and seriously considered giving him a good thwap!  She settled for scowling, arms crossed, strangely unwilling to make him upset.

“First ground-arrival ever in which I have an actual machine to modify for next time,” he replied brightly, unfazed.

“Were you trying to get me killed?”

“Every technological advancement has to start somewhere!”

“Like in a lab?”

“Won’t fit in a lab.”

He had her there.

“Shouldn’t you have some kind of safety measure in place?”

Samuel stared at her and then shifted his gaze to the machine, before returning to her.  Arms out in a pantomime, he said, “It’s a flying machine.  Flying.  Machine.  What would you suggest?  Perhaps a broom?”

Agata hastily snatched her broom from where it had fallen, glaring at him.

“Anything that would prevent, or at least reduce the possibility of death and destruction.”

“Flying machine.”

“What?”

“Your point is moot.  It’s a flying machine, I invented it, but, frankly, having it fall out of the sky is just something that could happen, and then you really just have to pray to whatever god gives you the best chance of adapting to flight rapidly and hope for the best.”

“You could hire a witch to test it with you.”

The man barked a laugh.  “Don’t be ridiculous.  Witches aren’t real.”

Agata smiled sweetly.  “Oh don’t they?  Here, I’ve got a great idea for getting out of your flying death machine unscathed.  Be A Duck!”

<– Roc || Quack –>

First Impressions

This week on Trifecta, the word was

DEATH
1a : a permanent cessation of all vital functions : the end of life
b : an instance of dying disease causing many deaths>
2a : the cause or occasion of loss of life
b : a cause of ruin <the slander that was death to my character — Wilkie Collins
3 capitalized : the destroyer of life represented usually as a skeleton with a scythe

I figured, with a prompt like that, how could I not dust off my imagination, stretch out my fingers and jump back into writing again.  Some of the other responses I’ve read so far are amazing – you should check them out, or submit your own!

This piece of art is called “The Playground Called Life”, and it’s a photomanipulation.  The artist’s name is Michael Vincent Manalo, and he’s from Manila, in the Phillippines.  All his artwork has a great surreal “There’s a cool story behind this” feel to it.  Check him out on DeviantART or at his website.

Nick gazed over his teacher’s shoulder at the dark figure at the front of the bus.

“We should postpone the trip. Looks like rain.”

“Take a seat, Mr. Ryan”

He took a seat next to a preppy-looking blonde, dread twisting his stomach.  I only lasted three days at this school, he thought, sourly.

Shadow shrouded the girl to the point that Nick couldn’t see her.

DID YOU HAVE AN ENJOYABLE THANKSGIVING, NICHOLAS?

Nick glared. The girl narrowed her eyes at him and snapped, “What?”

Why are you doing this?

I BEAR WITNESS FOR THESE OCCASIONS, NICHOLAS, I DO NOT CAUSE THEM. I REGRET THAT YOU ARE HERE TODAY.

Nick laughed bitterly.   His seatmate pressed herself back against the window.

IT IS GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN.

“Yeah, well, the feeling isn’t mutual.” The shadowy presence flickered briefly, And Nick found himself glaring at a girl whose presence he’d forgotten. He blushed. Said it aloud. Again. Awesome.

Nick could feel the grains of sand slipping one by one through the hour-glass.

Death stood, its darkness dissipating like smoke.

HOLD ON TIGHT.

Nick cranked his music up louder and wedged his body in between his seat and the next, knuckles white. Despairing, he called out, “Brace yourselves!”

Last time I move somewhere with cliffs, he vowed.

The bus snapped sideways, and existence narrowed to a roar of terror, crumpled metal and short-lived weightlessness.

Nick relaxed his grip on the seat and dropped to the bus roof. He blinked in surprise when a second metallic thud echoed through the silence. he girl took in the bloodied and crumpled forms of her classmates in mute horror.  She couldn’t see Death gently lifting their souls into its embrace.

Nick couldn’t take his eyes off her.

“How are you even alive?” he blurted out.

“Luck? Your timely warning?  How did you know what was going to happen?”

Death runs in the family, that’s how.

Warmth and colour seeped back in as Death departed.

“Women’s intuition?”