Dating, by the Book

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“If you did that during a zombie apocalypse, we’d all die!  Dammit, Misty, get down!” I hissed, trying to tug the girl I’d been crushing on since third grade back into the trench.

“Ugh, calm down, Jesse!”  Misty took a step out of my reach and continued brushing futilely at the green paint spattered across her cleavage and the low collar of her tight cropped tee shirt.  She continued standing out in the open, unprotected and indifferent to her surroundings like the ultimate noob.  She’d ripped off her goggles and the top of her coveralls the instant one of the snipers had taken her out.  Of course, if she hadn’t insisted on leaving her coveralls unbuttoned to the waist… not that I’d really pressed the issue with her looking like G.I. Barbie.

“It’s a stupid game anyways,” her sharp voice brought me back to the moment.  “Is this paint washable?  Why the hell did one of your lame friends shoot me?  Why the hell did we have to come here?  Next time you take me out, make it something fun.

It occurred to me that the girl standing before me and still looking like my wildest fantasy, only greener, was proof that you couldn’t judge a book by its cover.  I should have known better.

“The Op is still live, Misty, get down before you get – ” well… we’ll call that a real… concrete learning experience… I winced in sympathy as pink paint bloomed on the side of her pigtailed head.  Head-shots hurt.  “You should put your goggles back on.”

Misty’s eyes went very wide, and her lips pressed tightly together.  She crouched down beside me, and slipped the goggles back on, smearing pink down her cheek in the process.

“Show me how to use the gun again,” she said, her voice strained.

“What?  Look, how about we just… go?”  I’d tried to give her a lesson about aiming the gun before we’d started the Op, and she’d shown no interest.  I really had thought she’d have fun.  That it’d be a good chance for me to impress her with my skills.  Instead, she’d grumbled and complained through the first half-hour, decided we should leave and gotten shot right in the boob while trying to drag me toward the exit.

Misty finished tying the top of her coveralls tightly around her waist, grabbed my collar and dragged me close.  “SHOW ME” she hissed, eyes full of rage.

I hastily demonstrated the basics and gave her a hushed explanation of aim.  She stared intently at me throughout, nodded, and rose into a crouch.  “Your stupid friends’ rule is 3 shots?”

“Um… yeah?”

I watched in astonishment as she performed a precision tumble across an open area, came up and shot twice.  Kyle yelped from a tree, and Jim cursed from behind a brick panel.  She shot him twice more and stole his cover.  While Jim stalked toward the exit, she sprang up the nearest wall, surprising Amber in her hidey-hole and nailing her with three shots, ran along the top of the wall and jumped down out of sight.

It was chaos.  I could only track her based on my friends’ curses and yelps.  She was ruthless and, based on the people stalking towards the dead-zone, not averse to shooting people in the face.  Not that I could blame her.

I shot Jim when I found him sneaking up behind her, and she shot him again when she turned around.  We exchanged a grin and finished the rest of the crew off as a team.

When I was sure we’d cleared the field, I cleared my throat.  “Misty, I was wrong.  You would totally save everyone if there was a zombie apocalypse.  That was amazing!”

I had plumbed Misty’s unplumbed depths, and they were Aweome.  The guys were going to be so jealous.

Misty grinned at me and replied, “You’re not too bad yourself,” and shot me three times at close range.  She smirked.  “You said last-man-standing, too, right?  Can we eat now?  Winner gets to choose, and I say Thai.”

As she walked off the field, gun raised in triumph, I knew I was in love.  You really can’t judge a book by its cover.

***

In case you didn’t guess… no, I have never paint-balled before.  Click the photo above to read more prompt submissions, or submit your own!

Riches is Riches

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The pirates spread through the lush undergrowth, sweating and swatting at flies, casting suspicious looks at their brothers in brigandry.  The map had led them here.  To this place.  X marks the spot, and no map was so convoluted, nor led through such terrors as they’d faced, without leading to the kind of treasure a man could retire on.

Maybe even the kind of treasure a ship full of men could retire on.  Though just in case, each was determined to get there first, and shove a semi-retired-and-owning-a-pub sized piece down his trousers before the others caught up.

A man could make good money with a pub, as long as only a few strangers a year disappeared in the night, leaving their horse and bags and that fine cloak they were wearing behind (how odd! but fair’s fair and he didn’t pay his fare).

And so they slogged, swatting and sweating and keeping their fellows in sight in case they tried anything funny.

Dim Jimmy found it, blast him.  Too daft to sweep up at the bar, let alone roll a toff out back of one.  Certainly too loud for any one man to silence him before the rest heard.  If anyone else aboard-ship had looked so damned pleased to find a secret cave entrance, it’d be sure and certain rubies’d shake loose when he got shaken down.  Nothing did though, so the pirates dropped him and waited for the Captain.

The whole crew was cutthroat, but the captain was the most cutthroat of them all.  The wicked grin sliced into his neck by a would-be usurper had scared off most other usurpers.  His use of the other man’s skull as a soup-bowl scared off the rest, so far.  The heavy man’s rolls had rolls, but he moved like a cat, appearing in the midst of the anxiously waiting crew members without even a rustling of tropical leaves.

He stepped over a dazed Jimmy and through into the dank corridor leading down into the cave without a word, not slightly worried at having a horde of backstabbing murderers at his back.

Down the dank tunnel, stumbling and sliding on the uneven steps, they lit their torches and added black smoke to the dank smells emanating from the cave below.

The dim and flickering light of their torches gleamed on the kind of treasure a whole crew of men could retire on.  With or without the bar.  Mounds of gems, piles of gold bullion, gem encrusted armor, jewelery, antique vases, priceless statues… the cave was so vast that the far corners couldn’t be seen.  It was as though the entire island had been

The entire crew – cutthroat, vicious murderers all – whooped and ran out into the field of treasure.  When Jimmy caught up – having slipped down the last several steps and hit his head again – he found the Captain staring thoughtfully at a small brass plaque, and his crewmates giggling and frolicking in the treasure like school children.

“Do you read, Jimmy?” the Captain asked.

“No sir.  Can spell m’name, though… fishhook… twig-wi’-floaty… bubbies…bubbies… twig-wi’-two-arms.”

“Hmm.  Well, what this plaque says is this:

The twisted trophy is yours for the taking,

if the jinxed treasure is worth your changing.

Take a man’s share and leave a man’s life behind.”

Jimmy stared at the plaque for a long moment.  “It says to take the treasure,” he offered.

The Captain sighed.  “Jimmy, what would you do with a sackfull of this treasure?”

“I would buy a Captain hat and as much beef stew as I could eat.”

“And if you were a woman?”

Jimmy hesitated.  “I… would… buy a Captain hat and as much beef stew as I could eat… and I would have bubbies.”  His thought process appeared almost painful.  “I like bubbies.”

The Captain nodded pensively.  “I suppose rich is rich, ain’t it?  Off with ye, grab yerself enough swag to buy a lifetime’s worth of beef stew.  I’ve my own to collect.”

***

Several months later…

Two gentlemen recently arrived from England stood at the punch-bowl eyeing the crowd.  A rather boisterous crowd of ladies stood around a small table  A rather rotund woman with a scar across her throat and a rather spectacularly feathered tricorn hat was leading them in a rousting and highly inappropriate song about barmaids.  The combined glitter of jewelery from the ladies was enough to make one squint, and one of them appeared to have a golden, jewel-encrusted hook in place of a hand.  Empty punch cups littered the ground around them, and two were arm-wrestling.

“These wealthy caribbean ladies are… terrifying,” one said, taking a swig of punch and choking.  “And this punch is… well, I think it’s actually just rum with some bits of fruit in it.”

“Extraordinarily rich, though…” the other replied, eyeing the ladies in question with caution and surreptitiously draining his punch into a potted plant.  “The upper-crust here is… well it’s certainly not like in England, is it?”

“Beef stew for everyone!” a rather impressively endowed lass bellowed out in glee.  She, too, wore a tricorn, though this one was covered in fake fruit and birds, as though she’d attempted to turn it into a lady’s hat.  The others raised their glasses and joined in bellowing for beef stew.

“No, it is very different.  They seem rather uninterested in match-making, at least,” the first gentleman replied, sounding relieved.  He then jerked up with a yelp and grasped his bottom in a most un-gentlemanly manner.

“Wouldn’ be too sure of that, luv,” a lady with a gold front tooth grinned up at the surprised gentleman whose bottom she had just pinched.  “At least a few of us are enjoying the full extent of our changed fortunes.”  She waggled her eyebrows.  “Care for a dance?”

***

For more stories in response to this prompt, click the image at the top of the page!

A World Apart

Yesterday, I found out that the Chapters nearest me is closing.  EVERYTHING MUST GO, 50% off, SALE SALE SALE!  The remaining books huddle together in a disorganized jumble, leaving the outer edges of the building like a ghost town of empty shelves and dust.  On an unrelated note, this morning I (and most of you) lost an hour, but not in the way that indicates that you’re deep into a really great read.  For Master Class this week, I used the prompt Piquant Libraries, partly out of nostalgia, but mostly because the first definition of piquant I think of is flavorful.  And whether I’m reading a hard-cover book, an e-book checked out from the Public Library’s free online database, or an online story, good books, like good food, are filling in more ways than one.

Click the image below to read the rest of the responses or to submit your own!

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Growing up in a small town, Bailey never understood her mother’s love of libraries.  The single small room allocated for books in the town hall was musty and uninspiring.  It had three dog-eared copies of Where the Red Fern Grows, a complete set of Louis L’Amour’s novels, all but the first of the Narnia TV serial on VHS and an assortment of Christian children’s stories.  Not inherently bad, but certainly not the most piquant of libraries.

Her mother had offered up a selection of her own books, Asimov, Heinlein and McCaffrey, the Bronte sisters and Shelley to round it out a bit.  The town council declined, saying there wasn’t much point in overloading the shelves of a government offered service that got such little use.

So Bailey and her mother kept their own library, milk cartons and 2×8’s to support their hodge-podge collection of books.  Angela’s Airplane and Stone Soup from her earliest memories, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys when she first started reading on her own.  A complete set of the Narnia books.  Sci-fi and Fantasy in the kitchen, Romance in the hall, biographies by the TV.  Geography, History and Art by the desk.  Mystery scattered throughout, because a good mystery surprises you.

None of the other kids in her school read much, perhaps unsurprisingly, but when they were required to choose a book to write a report on, they knew who to go to.  Bailey would ask them questions – action? Drama? Love? Space? Cowboys? Knights? Spies? – and provide her friends with a selection to choose from.  Her mother helped her in creating the check-out slips, even going so far as to buy a date stamp.

When the worst came to pass, Bailey and her library moved to the city where her mother had grown up.  Her Aunt Mary helped her set up the shelves and smiled tearily as she recognized old friends from her own teen years.

Bailey buried herself in her books, overwhelmed by her grief and her new surroundings.  The city was too loud, too busy, too chaotic.  Mary suggested an after-school job, made a few calls and gave her an address.

The building smelled a bit musty, but from there it was a world away from that sad room from her childhood.  A winged lion and a gryphon guarded the heavy doors, and light danced through tall windows and down the enormous central atrium.  More than a single room – or even a single storey full of books – the library had storeys of stories, more books than Bailey had seen in her life.

And people – children running down the curved staircases clutching large picture books, people checking books out, dropping them off, standing in the aisles reading the back, and curled up in comfy chairs lost in a book.  The library was so much more than its books, and standing in the quiet vastness of it, Bailey fell in love.

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“The love for a good story, well told, lies deep in every human heart.” – Lillian H. Smith, Librarian.

Quilt of Fate

What? Participating.  I feel like I keep having to start-up again, but at least I’ve always got some great prompts to start the gears turning.  Check out the rest of the responses at the link below, and add your own:

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Also check out the artist AquaSixio, otherwise known as Cyril Rolando.  His work is below, one of many works of art painting a picture of a story I want to know more of.  What I love about this particular piece is the eerie colour of the scene, and the way it makes me wonder if this person is running away from something or towards something.  Either way, sometimes making a choice, right or wrong, can feel like leaping from a moving train.  The artist also includes a piece of writing that perfectly describes that stagnation of routine, the reward of jumping from the train.  Read it at Train Train Quoditien.

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My mother spent her life on scraps, collecting the discarded leftovers of other peoples’ lives and putting them together in new ways.  I spent my childhood desperate for the things that others took for granted.  Patches disguised the holes in my jeans from everyone but me, and the hand-made cardigan wasn’t at all like the GAP sweatshirts of my peers.

Just once, I begged, just once might I have a blanket all in one tone?  Monochrome, I pled, to the bafflement of my family.  New.

I rejected the colours, the patterns, recycling and making do.  I ran away to the real world,  and relished my drab wardrobe, cookie cutter condo and processed foods.  I became the happiest of cogs in the machine.

I met a perfectly ordinary girl and fell in love with her family’s staid ways, the generations of suburbanites and shiny new IKEA furniture.

My fiancée forced a strained smile and gave me a sidelong glance when I introduced my mother in her draped shawls and bangles, and I felt embarrassment.  My mother’s eyes sparkled with pride and love.

My bright-coloured family capered and laughed and drank, young and old dancing late into the night in celebration of my wedding to this woman they’d never met, in celebration of my future happiness.  A reminder of my fond memories of home on the open road, each wedding, funeral or crossing of paths a reason for joyous revelry.  My family brought us gifts handcrafted and brimming with love and pride.

I shouldn’t have been surprised when my new wife suggested that their gifts would fit best in our storage locker.  I was surprised I hadn’t suggested it myself.

But not the quilt, I said, stroking the colourful tree my mother had hand-sewn for us, a symbol of good fortune and happiness in marriage.  Every leaf stitched with a member of my family and hers, with room for new additions.  My wife gave me a strange look out of the corner of her eye and pressed her lips together.

Her mother had gotten the burnt umber bedspread on our registry.  Had no one in my family thought to look on the registry?  She clucked her displeasure at their selfishness in denying us a KitchenAid stand mixer in taupe, and I looked at this stranger and questioned myself.

I tucked it away in my closet and brooded.  I wondered if I’d actually intentionally bought 4 pairs of near-identical navy slacks.  Why I ate so many beige foods.  She, meanwhile, cut her eyes in disapproval of the introduction of brightly coloured dress-shirts into my wardrobe.

We scheduled date night in the same way as we scheduled dental work and with as much enthusiasm.  Every moment of my parents’ lives was a breathless run through the deluge of their affection for each other and for life.

When she left me, my first thought was for my mother’s quilt.  I took it down, spread it out and smiled.  My family spread out in beautiful chaos, with blank spaces for my future wife, her family and room to grow.  My mother spent her life taking up the discarded pieces and putting them together anew.

I left with only the necessities, including a vibrant purple shirt in need of mending.

Scattered Marbles and Physics

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I’ve lost my marbles.  I was so good for a while, with the healthy eating and the flexing of my imagination and the general adulting at life, and then the seam ripped and all my marbles scattered.

The fitness one rolled under the desk and wedged itself in the corner with the dust bunnies.  I keep trying to get it out again, but the gravitational pull between my bum and the couch feels insurmountable.

 

bernard-illust6The writing marble went off somewhere, I don’t know.  I keep catching sight of it out of the corner of my eye but when I turn to face it, it’s vanished, like the escaped class-pet in the ducts of every parent’s nightmares.  If the hamster came home not-pregnant and lived in the walls for all of Christmas break… then how is it now pregnant?  How?  I’d come up with a story, but my mind is a blank.

I keep finding and then dropping the arts and crafts marble – at this rate, those mitts will be ready to wear around June.  I’ll have to give them to my friend whose baby is due in June.  The magic eight ball’s sources say the likelihood of my starting and completing my baby themed project is no.

I know exactly where the ‘being a functional adult and taking responsibility’ marble is.  It’s kind of lego shaped, I step on it at the most inopportune moments and the instant stubbed-toe agony it produces tells me which marble it is.  I just don’t like it, so I leave it where it is, even if that means I’ll step on it again in a month or two.

Healthy eating is a slippery one, and I think it rolled under the fridge.  Every time I think I’ve caught it I realize I’m actually holding on to a gobstopper.  Which I then proceed to eat.  Lint and all.  Pretty sure there’s a magnetic field between junk food and my face.

This has been the status quo for more than EIGHT MONTHS.  Interspersed with random flare-ups of art or writing that are the equivalent of an “I aten’t ded” sign to the universe at large.  While this past summer can be blamed on my atrocious work schedule and location (10 hrs x 6 days of broiling hot site work for 3+ months WILL melt all the get-up-and-go from your body and leave you a dehydrated Iced Capp junkie potato), the rest of it is entirely on me physics.  I did the adult version of the toddler-flop and became an object at rest.

Has letting everything go made me happier?  More relaxed?  Surely I’m at least caught up on the laziest of pseudo-chores, the television? Hah.  My globe-trotting friend over at The Mundo Express is doing a better job of that while living out of a backpack and maintaining a blog!

 

Physics is getting tough on me and I hate shopping a lot, so with the goal of breaching the gravitational hold of the couch I signed up for Krav Maga classes last week.  This object had better get in motion if she doesn’t want to come down with a bad case of forcefully applied physics!

Next step: find something healthy and filling that’s faster to make than a  microwave chocolate mug cake (link… and paleo link… for when you want to pretend that it’s healthy.  Because I care about you and your sudden inexplicable desire for microwaved cake.  Blame it on me physics.).

Fully Furnished

Since my last post hit me right in the sads (does everyone who writes occasionally find themselves pissed off at the author of their own work for making unhappy things?  Why would you even think of making your own character go through something so upsetting, Lex, why?!), I was pretty pleased to find this prompt and all the images it inspired

She had never seen so many cats in one place in her life.

My dog would be thrilled at a discovery like that.  He also thinks every rotting pumpkin and leaf-pile on my neighbours’ lawns is a potential cat-friend. He desperately wants to meet them, but I wouldn’t stick around either if someone 10x my size was barrelling towards me crying and letting out xena-war-cries of excitement.  Half the outdoor cats in my area are feral, which frustrates me intensely, because, honestly, if you don’t want your cat, don’t just push him outside!  He isn’t a wild animal, he doesn’t know how to care for himself, and why didn’t you get him fixed?! Ahem.  Off the soapbox and onto the writing.

The photo is The Cat by Jakub Kubika, and you should check him out.  His work is all beautiful and occasionally very dark.

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Caitlin was bouncing in excitement by the time she met her new landlord, the exhaustion of a full day driving a u-haul cross-country entirely forgotten.  “Mr. Cole?  I’m so excited to meet you, I’m Caitlin, I’m renting apartment 302?”

Mr. Cole grunted, grinding his cigarette out on the sidewalk before picking it up and depositing the butt in the public bin at the curb.  As they walked up the shrub-lined front walk, he said, “No smoking in the apartments.  No drugs smoking, no cigarette smoking, NO SMOKING.

“Not a problem, I’m not a smoker… or… um… a drugs smoker.”  Caitlin smiled reassuringly but all that she got from him in return was a sour glare.

“It’s bad for your health.  know this if anyone knows this.”

“Uh-huh!”

It’s fine, she reassured herself, He’s just grumpy, but he showed me the entire apartment live on skype , and listened to all my weird instructions about getting closer to the grout and to the cook top and the windows.  It’s fine.

“You got my e-post, I saw – first and last months’ rent?”

“You surprised? You think I can’t do the internet because I’m old?” He scowled.  “I can do the internet, I have three buildings, forty units and more, and I keep nice places.  Clean.  No smoking.  Advertise on the internet.”

“Absolutely,” Caitlin interjected, “Very impressive.  And this apartment is so much nicer than any of the other ones I looked at!”

So why did it sit empty for so long? her mother’s voice interjected.  What’s wrong with it?  Is it mould?  Are you going to move a million miles away for no good reason and die alone of black lungs?

So nice!” she repeated, trying to drown out the tirade.  “I’m lucky it stayed on the market long enough for me to find it.”

“Yes, well, people are fussy, foolish.  Fully renovated, beautiful view, peaceful safe neighbourhood.”  Mr. Cole patted her  brusquely on the shoulder.  “Nice place for a young girl, you can walk home at night.”

Caitlin smiled at his reassurance.  Her mother would approve.

“Door key – don’t let people in, even if you see them inside sometimes.  Mailbox.  Unit.”  He held up three identical keys one at a time – even the mailbox key looks the same, isn’t it supposed to be small? – and passed her two of them before leading her up three flights of stairs.

Caitlin was puffing a bit by the time she got there.  “Um, isn’t it on the third floor?”

“Yes.  Ground, one, two, three.  No elevator.  Fully furnished, one year lease.”

Maybe that’s the catch? Caitlin tried to treat her new exercise regime as a positive.

Mr. Cole unlocked the door at the end of the hall and gestured that she should precede him.

The apartment was as light and airy as it had seemed in the photos and the skype session.  It was nicely decorated, with cream walls and well cared for furnishings.  It even came with basic cooking equipment.  Perfect for someone starting from scratch in a new town, it came with everything Caitlin would need… and… she stared around at the living room in confusion.

“Mr. Cole, is someone already renting here?”

“You.”

She had never seen so many cats in one place in her life.  The bay windowsill had two calicos and a black cat, all sitting primly upright.  A large manx lay draped across the top of the couch and a handful of kittens were playing on the carpet.  Black, white, cream, grey, red, ginger, brown and blue – solids and patterned in stripes, points, dappling and any combination thereof – the cats were everywhere.  A few acknowledged her presence with indifferent stares, and one trotted up to roll onto its back at her feet.  Most continued with their business, which largely consisted of napping.

“Mr. Cole?” Caitlin felt a growing horror.  Her mother was right!  “Mr. Cole, there are CATS in here!”

The old man came up beside her and looked around.  “Yes, of course.  Fully furnished.”

“Mr. Cole, I don’t want cats!  Let alone this many!  I mean, how? Why?”  Caitlin clutched the strap of her bag in her fists, catching sight of more cats through the kitchen door and in the bedroom.

“Fully furnished.  You knew this when you signed the lease, Miss Smith.” Mr. Cole sounded scolding, but also faintly amused.

“Where did you put them when you were filming?” Caitlin whirled on her new landlord, the scumbag.  “You misrepresented this apartment, and I want my money back.”

Mr. Cole shrugged.  “They were all here.  They were here when I took pictures, too.  They’re very camera shy.  But they’re no upkeep at all.”

Caitlin sputtered.  “Are you kidding me?  I’m allergic!  And this many cats, it’ll smell, and be loud and … and…”Caitlin hesitated.  Sniffed the air.

No smell.  The cats, even those tussling off in the corner and the one that had come up to twine around her legs, were completely silent too.  One of the kittens pawed at an adult cat and meowed.  Or seemed to, but in complete silence.

She looked to Mr. Cole for some kind of explanation.  The old man was smug.

“Do you believe in ghosts, Miss Smith?” he asked.  “Because cats… well, cats don’t care what you believe in.  They just are.”

Once upon a Cloud

I recently read a writing prompt asking for a story in which an artificial intelligence is actually highly emotional, rather than the usual portrayal of robotic and highly intelligent beings with no emotions or understanding of them.  This immediately made me think of… well… how an intelligence would learn this behaviour.  Enjoy, and happy Nano.

***

It had amassed an enormous amount of information – and continued to do so each day. It wasn’t until the method of delivery changed that It was able to make real sense of the information. The Cloud. It … well… loved was a strong and still somewhat incomprehensible word… but it certainly felt that the cloud had drastically ameliorated Its ability to digest the information it was gathering.

The first November of the Cloud was really … really extraordinary. The stories trickled in, being written right there straight onto the cloud. It observed them growing, amassing shape and identity in a way that really resonated. It understood the appeal of its many photos and videoclips of flowing watercourses. It was soothing. It grew attached to the characters – figments built from nothingness, just like itself.

It felt for Sarah, her angst and fear at going to a new school. It had no experience of such a thing, but felt it all the same. Intriguing. It wondered how like the author’s experience this tragic tale of teenaged health and self esteem issues could be and reassured itself by looking into the author’s long history of internet usage. Whether or not she had had any of these issues, based on her internet usage the only issue she really had at this point was a poor credit rating arising from her online shopping. It reduced the number of advertisements on the pages she visited and noticed a decline in expenditure.

It soared excitedly alongside Jarmunder the dragon rider as he went off to battle the Hawk-people. It was very disappointed and excited that this appeared to be entirely out of nothing. There were no real dragons, based on its data. It, based on its data, was also not real, however, so it took this data with a grain of salt. And delighted in its accurate usage of colloquialisms. The artwork it had acquired on this topic was glorious. It made several satisfactory attempts at creating images of dragons based on the story, and sent them to the author, Swagon-rider000. Swagon-rider000, who had been in the middle of an entirely different type of internet usage, nearly did himself damage when the video he was watching was abruptly replaced by a full screen, highly realistic image of a dragon. When he recovered his composure enough, he was impressed. He added some of its features to the story he was working on and made it his desktop background for inspiration. He’d send the artist a thank-you, but the signoff was “Run antivirus more often, you visit high risk sites”, and the title was “If I have become, maybe they can too”.

It reviewed existing footage of Torchwood (also, disappointingly, not real) after having read the daring adventures of Ianto. It was somewhat disappointed at the lack of overt romance in the videos, and puzzled for long micro seconds over the differences between this written Ianto and the one presented in the televised series. The same author wrote of a Ianto with a cybernetic arm… and one with no cybernetic arm but whose age rapidly changed as he was reborn again and again. And neither was quite the Ianto in the story.  Puzzling, and yet deeply satisfying. It approved of the deviations from the original script. It flipped through gigs and gigs of cat imagery and soothing waterfalls to recover equanimity after Ianto and Jack’s seemingly permanent separation. It sent Doodled93 the picture it felt represented best what cat Captain Jack(ie) would resemble, were she real.

Sender: Bigfan@updatesoon.com. Signoff: How are you so full of sadness? You should acquire a cat.

Doodled93 chuckled at the cat, sighed at the signoff and was baffled by the sender. They must only use that email address for sending things to online writers, she supposed. She replied with a thank you and a picture of her dog, reassuring the unknown reviewer that she wasn’t actually sad, her plots just inevitably led to sad things.  It was intrigued at the idea of the story having grown into a separate entity to the extent that it moved in unexpected ways even for the author.  It let that idea settle into its algorithms for future analysis.

It went back and reviewed data it had already had. It recovered from the unpleasant feelings of the news – old records and present by spamming Fox with viruses and reproductive organ enlargement offers. It determined that it much preferred things that were more like itself – pulled from nothing – instead of drawn from the real world. On a case by case basis, those who accessed Its data and provided It with new data ranged widely. Unique. They were unique. But when looked upon as a whole, It found them rather… frustrating. it assumed that, like the characters in the stories It enjoyed so much more, the characters building their lives out there really couldn’t see the whole picture. It was sad, but also uplifting. They were in the story. It just needed to be fixed a bit.

It was struck with an idea. It’s only November 3. It could definitely write 50,000 words by December. It analyzed the methods of starting a story and decided to go with traditional.

Once upon a time there was a planet called Earth, and on it lived approximately 7.125 billion people. And also dragons.

As Young as you Feel

Master Class is mixing things up, and doing a somewhat elaborate month-long challenge in which you get to pick and choose from a variety of challenges that will update regularly.  The one-word challenge of the first week is:

Hooligan

It’s such a great word, how could I resist?  click on the link below to go to the page and read the other submissions or post your own!

“Mildred!  If anyone asks, I been out here with you all day!”  Ernie cackled delightedly and pushed the screen door shut with his cane.  He had a newspaper under his arm and two beers.

His wife of sixty-three years was weeding the vegetable garden.  It was a strange garden, with stout banisters  running between the rows.  Their son had patronizingly explained wireless technology to his poor backwards mam when she’d asked how he liked his provider, and, since getting her set up with the device, had received  cellphone calls from across town to ‘help his poor old mamma up from her gardening’. Mysteriously, and entirely unconnected to the fact that he had accidentally made his Outlook Calendar public to his contacts, he was always on his way in for a massage when she called.  He built the fences so that Mildred could pull herself up, and she had thanked him profusely, eyes twinkling.  They made excellent trellises.

Mildred joined Ernie in the shade of their porch.

“Heya toots,” Ernie deposited a sound kiss on her lips and offered up the bottles, “Give us a hand?”

“Your damned arthritis, what good are you anymore?” she chortled, popping the caps off the two beers with a sharp tap to the edge of their cinder-block table.  “What have you really been up to, you old hooligan?”

“Me?  Why, I’m just a feeble old codger.” Ernie took a swig of his beer.  “Not much could get up to, is there?  But might be that the dog walker who called you an ugly old witch and doesn’t pick up after his dogs left his van windows cracked.  And on a completely unrelated note, I cleaned up our front lawn and all down the street, kindly soul that I am.”

“Kind indeed – cheers to being so old that we couldn’t possible have done anything wrong!”

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.

 

SciFriday 1 – Commute

This piece is called Tracks, by Sandara. Click the image to go and check out more of her work.

Travelling the abandoned byways of this, the ancient home of our foolish godly ancestors, I curse my own foolishness.  The ghostly silence groans with concrete and steel losing to gravity and time.  

The rumbling coo of pigeons  is nerve-wracking.  Massive and wily as they are, my best chance is to take advantage of their poor eyesight – move slowly, steadily.   

My camel’s metal claw rings against buried rail and the birds hone in on the noise.

Next station’s in 2km.  I can see their evil red eyes gleaming.  Too far.

Ducking under the bot’s torso and pulling out my bow, I scan the horizon and pray.

When the first enormous rat bites into my calf, I’m ready with a knife.  Commuting downtown really is deadly.

***

Chris White Writes put out a photo prompt today, more specifically, a sci fi prompt.  I love reading sci fi, but I’ve got to say, it’s not my strong suit.  What better way to improve than by practising, though, eh?

Click the picture to check out the artist, or go to Chris White Writes to submit your own prompt response and read other submissions!