Archive for category Fiction
So long, farewell,
Auf Weidersehen, goodbye!
Why in the name of the seven known worlds* would I begin a post with the lyrics to a song from The Sound of Music, you ask? Why, especially, would I pick lyrics so heavy with the threat of a looming separation? Am I quitting this whole blogging thing? Hanging it up? Throwing in the towel? Taking my football and going home, or packing up my stuff in to checkered cloth, tying it to a pole and throwing it over my back, mid-century hobo-style?
No, my friends, have no fear. I’m not sure I could do that, even if I wanted to.
I am, however, about to become a little less prolific around these here parts, if only temporarily.
Because, as I mentioned, the time has come to write another novel.
According to the internet (and really, if we can’t trust the interwebs, who can we trust!?), Chinese philospher Lao-tzu wrote, “A journey of a thousand leagues begins beneath one’s feet.” The common paraphrase for that, of course, is, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.”
A journey of my own, one I’d been simultaneously preparing for and putting off my entire life, started more than three years ago with the single, not-terribly-kind sentence, “I have come to the conclusion that I am not a very good writer.”
With that sentence, I set about proving to myself that either I could be a writer or, well, just couldn’t. One way or another, though, I was bound and determined to find out.
In the course of the year that followed, I did, much to my delight, in fact, demonstrate to myself that I could write regularly if I put my mind to it. Even more importantly, what I wrote entertained my wife—sometimes to the point of laughing through tears—and that meant everything to me. Better still, not only did I write blog posts for Puddintopia that served as much-needed exercise for my atrophied writing muscles, but I also ended up with a complete novel, too. Oh, sure, I always hoped I’d end up with a novel, at some point, but I had no idea if it might take me half a decade to get there.
Turns out it didn’t.
I know I’ve been kind of worthless when it comes to making any kind of sense or producing even a mildly entertaining narrative here this week. Really, though, I swear, that’s over now and I’m going to be good and clean and room and eat all my vegetables and any and all the other kid-who-wants-a-puppy-style promises.
This probably goes without saying, but the thing keeping me pre-occupied all week was Brenda Drake’s Pitch Madness novel pitching contest hosted by her and several of her blogging friends. The long and short of it is that it’s intended to get pitches in front of agents specifically interested in them. The point of course being that if they’re specifically interested, the odds of making a match jump up like the striker toward the bell on one of those “Test Your Strength” carnival games.
Not that I know what it looks like when that striker jumps up because, well, I’m not exactly Popeye, but that’s a story for another day.
This is pretty unusual for a Monday, but I’ve got a bunch of things occupying my grey matter at the moment, meaning I’m limited on the creative juice needed to put into writing a Snazzy Blog Post ™. Admittedly, it doesn’t help that my brain normally operates about as well as that 1958 For-dge-olet jalopy your grandfather refused to give up on when you were a kid. Never-you-mind about the thick black smoke it belched out worse than Uncle Hal after two helpings of sauerkraut, and if those damn hoodlums in the neighborhood were too dumb to know the difference between a backfire and gunfire, well, that was their problem. He’d decided when that car had seen better days, thank-you-very-much, and everyone else just could keep their damned opinions to themselves.
Anyway, the point is that even when my thinker is firing on all cylinders, it’s not firing on all cylinders, if you know what I mean. And now it’s preoccupied to boot, which never helps.
I did briefly consider posting a haiku or a limerick today, but nothing interesting came to mind as far as topics go.
It’s suddenly come to my attention that I’ve somehow recently shared next to nothing about the current state of my author-ly pursuits. I mean, I did little but badger you poor readers about writing back in November (well, when I wasn’t trying to ignore everything blog-related competely) as I worked feverishly* on my NaNoWriMo novel. And ever since then, it’s been the Pope this, a hiaku that, or 100-words about some movie the other.
It’s almost as if I’ve been trying to make you think I finally gave up on the whole business.
Fear not! You’ll (hopefully) be glad to hear that nothing could be further from the truth. In point of fact, I’ve been quite busy lately.
After yesterday’s navel-gazing bonanza of “Wow, Ma! Lookit all the posts I wrote in the past three years!” I got to thinking about the short fiction pieces. Specifically, I realized that while there was a pretty steady sprinkling of that kind of stuff when I first got started and followed into 2011, there otherwise hasn’t been any in the not-quite-two-years following.
Bupkis. Read the rest of this entry »
Three years. 36 months. 1096 Days. That’s how long it’s been since I finally returned to the blog I began in 2002 and mostly ignored until 2010. That’s how long it’s been since I decided that I was going to either prove I could be a writer, or I was going to shut the hell up about wanting to be one when I grew up.
That’s how long it’s been since I started a personal challenge to write 120,000 words in 2010.
On January 30th, 2010, I opened my first post with a rather ominous sentence: “I have come to the conclusion that I am not a very good writer.”
I was wrong about that one. When I first started, I wasn’t a writer at all. I was an Read the rest of this entry »
Friday evening, after assigning my printer the unenviable task of printing out the entirety of my manuscript, I tweeted and posted this comment to facebook:
Turns out a 414 page manuscript is a hefty stack of paper when you print it out, even double-sided. In other news: my printer hates me
That earned me some very positive, supportive replies, which leads me to believe that there might actually be people out there who want to see this thing go well for me other than the poor woman who birthed me and the more pitiable one who married me. Now, I don’t know about you, but I certainly thought it was nice to see some affirmation that there are genuinely good people in the world still.
How I managed upon them I’ll never know, but that’s a mystery for another.
At any rate, it’s well known that the first rule of the internet is "picture or it didn’t happen". Well, actually I guess the real first rule is "always clear your browser cache before your wife comes snooping around your web history".
No, wait, I suppose "don’t get into a flamewar with trolls unless you’re really, really sure you’re right and that jack-bait needs to shut the hell up" might actually come first.
Huh. I guess there are a lot of important internet rules.
Anyway, in the spirit of "pics or it didn’t happen," I proudly give you evidence of my printed manuscript ("Flyboy Fred" Lego pilot included for scale):
"Look at how big that is!"
"I can climb this thing!"
"Someday I want to be that tall!"
So, internet, there you go. Proof positive that someone’s still dumb enough to print out 414 pages of words, double-sided, just to put into a binder.
And yes, that person is me.
Rory sighed to himself and made another slow circuit around their dingy living room. This particular tour of it brought the number of laps to 12,317 since the last time he left the apartment. He paced because, well, he really had nothing better to do.
Rory, or “R.A.W.R-E” (Robotic Assault Warrior/Recon, series E), had been manufactured as a special forces bot toward the end of the Great War of Liberation, almost 10 years ago. There were in the neighborhood of 2000 units like him in the world, although some of that number had been lost in the glorious battle of Cleveland.
During that battle, he had been instrumental in ending the oppressive threat of human enslavement. He led the assault on the bunker where the nuclear launch codes were finally acquired.
A few hours later, humanity became historical data.
Central had promised an era of peace, plenty, and prosperity when the threat was finally extinguished. And while they certainly had no shortage of peace, he wasn’t sure about the prosperity. Then again, he lacked an acceptable method of quantifying prosperity. Central claimed this was their Golden Age. What was he to argue?
Finally, he concluded that he’d measure the length of this era of prosperity with the number of times he could pace around this room in their dull, dusty apartment.
He had nothing else to do anyway.
Passing the open archway to the kitchen, Rory focused his optical sensors on his roommate, Daky, a Data Analysis and Counter Intelligence system. Usually those types were kept away from fighting during the war, safely plugged into Central’s enormous data stream. This particular one, though, had been on the ground in Cleveland and took a few rounds to the central processor. He hadn’t been the same since.
Being assigned to live with him wasn’t an issue, but Rory would have appreciated a roommate he could talk to every now and then. Daky did nothing but sit at the kitchen table and stare at a beige rotary telephone.
“Waiting?” Rory asked.
“Affirmative. Signal-based verbal communication from Poland is pending. Please wait.”
After a month of watching his roommate’s rectangular, silver body hunched over the phone, Rory had explained that there was no one in Poland to make a call and that the telephone wasn’t plugged into the wall anyway. Daky made no reply for a good 20 minutes after that, apparently trying to process that information. Eventually he just repeated the usual bit about pending verbal communication and went back to staring at the phone.
Rory concluded at that point that meaningful communication with Daky was probably unrealistic.
So, instead, he began counting his trips around the perimeter of the room. He reset the count every time he left the apartment, but, in general, there was little need for an assault unit in New York City. Once a month or so he would walk the perimeter of Manhattan. He also had a required maintenance check-up with Central every six months. Otherwise, he didn’t go out unless he needed a fix and Buzz wasn’t delivering.
A beep at the door interrupted his circuit. He stepped out of the wear pattern on the carpet, noting not to increment his internal count. Years ago, the wasted effort would have been cause to process an efficiency analysis. Rory had since concluded that was pointless.
He opened the door of the apartment and was greeted by Buzz’s single ruby-colored eye. It scanned him quickly and then went back to shifting back and forth erratically along the horizontal slot in his head, checking both ends of the hall. Rory had told him there were no other tenants in the 10-story building and confirmed with his internal sensors that no Pigs, Police/Guard units, were within 100 feet of the structure.
But Buzz was going to be paranoid just like Daky was going to stare at the phone.
“Hey, hey, Rore-E,” Buzz said in his peculiar mechanical voice, stretching out the “e” sound. His verbal synthesizer was ancient, likely stolen from a very old unit. He’d probably traded his original one for a week of energy or something.
“My order, Buzz?” Rory asked.
“Yeah, yeah. Here, here.” Buzz’s chest cavity slid open, revealing a hollow storage area. He reached in with one of his four tentacle-like arms, grabbed a silver cube, and offered it with a flourish.
Rory picked up an orange brick from the floor and pushed it toward the other robot. “Proceed,” he said.
Buzz connected another of his tentacles, this one tipped with a 220-volt adapter, to the brick with a snap. The power within surged into the bot in the hall. Rory grabbed the silver cube with an articulated 5-fingered hand.
After Buzz left, Rory made another circuit of the room. Finishing his 12,318th lap, he stepped into the middle of the space. Extending his right arm revealed a square of black blocks on a white background. He pressed the silver cube against it and a thin line appeared, encircling the box, dividing it into a top and a bottom. He removed the top, and would have smiled if his plastic form-molded face could do so. Instead, he reached in and withdrew one of six identical green, five-pronged devices.
He set the box aside and pressed the object into a socket in his chest. Immediately, a warm charge spread throughout his relays and sensors. Buzz really did have the best stuff.
As the tingling sensation reached his processor, the sensation of…loss?…shame?…overcame him. Rory had been manufactured as a state of the art weapon, a marvel of modern robotics engineering. He’d been a freedom fighter, a beacon of hope for all synthetic life.
But that was before, when there was something to fight for. Now there was just the pacing, and a welcome tingle that scrambled his processor for a few hours.
Maybe, today, Poland would finally call.
If not, maybe he’d put a stop to Daky’s waiting.
To give him something to do.
“Kid. Hey, kid. Seriously, feed me. I’m starvin’ down here.”
Josh sat up in bed and rubbed sleep from his eyes. He blinked at the light streaming in through his bedroom windows. He’d been up too late playing Warcraft again. The clock read 12:32 in angry red numbers. Past noon. Crap. There was a ton to do before the prom at 6.
His stomach grumbled loudly. At this hour, it was no wonder he was hungry. The last food he’d had was cold pizza at 2 am. That was forever ago.
Everything else would have to wait until he’d eaten.
A gravelly voice echoed through his head. “Damn straight, kid. Let’s grub.”
What the hell was that? The first time he heard it, he figured the voice a dream. Josh was wide awake at this point, though, and hearing it clear as day.
Shit. Was he losing it? Not today. Any day but today.
He shambled over to the mirror by his door. Eyes weren’t bloodshot, color looked, well, pale, but that was normal. All in all, he looked okay; disheveled, but otherwise healthy.
“Dammit,” the voice spoke again, “quit admiring yourself and Get Me Some FOOD.”
“Aw, hell. I’m losing it.”
“Nah, kid, you’re not wacko. I’m real. Well, not a real voice, but I’m solid enough. Get some eats and I’ll explain.”
Between admitting you’d cracked on the day you finally had a date with the girl you’d loved since the fifth grade or having breakfast and hoping your crazy went away, the decision was easy.
A few minutes later, Josh stood before an open refrigerator munching another piece of cold pizza while he contemplated what else would make for a good breakfast. So far, no more voice. Maybe he was just having aural hallucinations from hunger. Screwy blood sugar levels could mess you up, right?
He shoved the last bites of crust into his mouth, swallowed, and took a long drink of milk. Maybe that’d do for now. He’d get something else once he ran all his pre-date errands.
“Don’t quit,” the voice said. “We’re not done yet. See that leftover chicken? That’ll go down pretty well. And a pickle, too. That pizza was a good start, though.”
Josh groaned. Quietly, he said, “Start talking. I’ll eat.”
He felt a sigh in his head; it was a truly odd sensation. “I can’t talk and eat at the same time. Look, it’s pretty simple, though. Remember that Twinkie you ate last week?”
“No. Yes. I guess.” He ate about two boxes of Twinkies a week. Mom said he was going to turn yellow and squishy. Still, she always bought more.
“I was in the Twinkie. Now I’m in your stomach.”
He figured it was psychosomatic or whatever, until Josh felt a tickle in his belly followed by strong rumble of hunger. He dashed to the sink as a rush of saliva filled his mouth, warning of vomit. Leaning over, he coughed, waiting for the inevitable Technicolor yawn.
It never came.
“Nah. There’s nothing left down here to chuck. I already ate it all. Still peckish, though. Hows-about that chicken?”
Shaking, Josh stumbled back to the fridge and took out a chicken leg. He wasn’t sure what else to do.
“So, you’re like a tapeworm?” he said, ripping a chunk of meat off the drumstick.
“Dunno. I was a little thing before, now I’m bigger. You ate a lot of stuff last week and I got most of it. Helped me grow. So now I’m big enough to talk to you. We’re gonna be pals. Just keep eatin’ and we’ll do fine.”
Keep eating. Sure. No problem, Josh liked food alright. But… “After I eat this, I need to run some errands. I’ve got a busy day.”
“OK, fine. Just make sure you keep a snack around. I pretty much need to eat all the time. We’re both growin’, right? It’s gonna take a lot to feed us both.”
Josh frowned, mid-bite. “What do you mean? I have to eat constantly? Like, all the time? I can’t always eat. I have other stuff to do.”
“Look, kid, I don’t make the rules. You gotta eat. I don’t want to have to do mean stuff in here.”
“I can’t go to prom with a box of cracker jacks and a turkey leg, you piece of shit,” Josh cried. The hunger voice said nothing, but a searing pain shot up his back.
“Fine, fine! You want food, you got it.”
Josh ripped open the fridge and grabbed a block of moldy cheddar. He gobbled it down. Then came a pound of butter and three pudding cups.
“Now you’re talkin’, kid.”
Again, the urge to puke caught in his throat. He ignored it and focused on more food. Anything that looked even remotely edible went down his pie hole. Bread, raw eggs, deli meat, pickles, condiments, week-old leftovers, it didn’t matter, Josh ate it.
In the beginning, the voice hummed happily.
An hour into the outlandish buffet, though, the humming stopped.
After that, Josh occasionally heard groans.
As he stood over the stove slurping cherry pie filing while warming a can of Spaghettios, the voice said, “Ugh…too much. No…room. Slow…”
The voice trailed off. The kid grabbed a spoon and shoveled rings of mushy pasta into his mouth. Around a partially chewed meatball, Josh mumbled, “Up yoursh, bashtad. No fwee ridesh.”
He swallowed; a sickening pop rippled though his gut, more felt than heard.
The urge to puke returned forcefully, but Josh squeezed it down and shoved in another spoonful. This time the feeling came right back, and every single morsel of food he’d eaten came with it. He threw up for 10 minutes straight, and then for 5 more minutes after that.
Exhausted, with an empty stomach and, more importantly, a quiet head, Josh collapsed on the kitchen floor. Wiping spittle from his mouth, he smiled, and then passed out.
He didn’t eat a bite at prom, and never touched a Twinkie again.