Posted by: danzierlea | January 6, 2013

Part 2: Not Cheating

First off: NSFW a bit.

Cheating is wrong. It appears that, by picking a second set of random numbers, I cheated. So, back to the first set. I misread the list, and thought it was the tropics when it was actually Limbo. SO ANYWAY, here, a non-cheating flash fiction post.

I will say this. Horror’s not my thing, and post-apocalyptic anything makes me gag. I put a spin to it so I could get through it. Post-Apocalyptic Horror, Limbo, featuring a Vigilante. 972 words.

Danced to Death

Einstein said he didn’t know with what weapons World War 3 would be fought. Well, WW3 was fought over the Internet, with kitties playing piano and rock opera montages. When Disney’s electro-sorcerers called down lightning on Bollywood server farms, nobody was that surprised. Now Kate stood at the brink of World War 4, and aside from the small group of educated observers, nobody would ever know they were at war.

The overgrown parking lot left plenty of space for the thirteen warriors, seven judges, and eight pole men. Seven large speakers were set up in a wide circle, with bleachers in between. At the center of each space, a judge stood behind digital camera on a tripod. A single, dented mic was aimed at a small radio/cassette deck’s built-in speaker.

Byron, DJ of Electro, glared at Kate across the open battlefield. Twelve thin girls and scrawny boys in skintight web nets stood behind him. Kate, in a molecule-thin motion capture suit of her own, stood alone across the field.

After a full twelve seconds of silence, during which the cameras panned and zoomed and set the scene, Byron finally spoke. His web net captured his voice, and it boomed from the speakers. “Kate, fugitive, sometime DJ of the Rebel Nation of Rock, I, Byron, DJ of Electro, challenge you to a contest. The prize is the complete, immediate rule of the world. The followers of the loser will surrender themselves to the nearest school for immediate return to the Web World of the winner. Do you accept?”

Accept, or forfeit and die. “Yes,” Kate said, her low, gravelly voice a surprising counterpoint to her emaciated body. “In what battle shall we fight?”

Byron laughed. “As if you don’t know. In the spirit of your own rebellion, your Dance Revolution, I challenge you to a dance-a-thon…”

Well, perhaps this wouldn’t be the end of civilization after all.

“…a Limbo Rock dance-a-thon.”

Aw hell. That song was banned in both worlds! Where had Byron found a copy?

The eight pole men stood in two rows, facing each other. None of them could touch any of the warriors without dropping the web net connection point they held. The woven mesh held taut at a carefully practiced angle was far more challenging, and harder to beat than a bamboo pole. Kate stared as the pole men lowered the web net to shoulder-height.

Byron walked slowly to the radio/cassette player. “You, Kate, must do the Limbo, under the web net. If you succeed, then my warriors have their chance. Should you successfully Limbo better than my twelve, you will face me—and winner takes all.” He reached out with a single un-netted finger and pushed play.

“..this is DJ Bill Ray, coming to you from the beaches of Cancun…” Oh, that’s where he’d gotten it. Recorded from the radio, and part of Byron’s personal stash. Of course. “It’s time for that weekly contest! How low can YOU go! Give us a call!” And the music started.

Kate put her arms out and her head back, and walked slowly under the net, never touching it. When she reached the other side, she stepped out of the way, and Byron’s twelve went under all at once. The pole men lowered the net two inches. Kate limboed again. Again, Byron’s twelve went. This time, the tallest boy brushed the web net.

It crackled. Power flowed through the short circuit he’d made, into his body. Electrified, he died where he stood, cooked in his own web net suit. Eventually, gravity won, and his body dropped to the ground, steaming.

Kate passed him carefully.

Next round, two more boys and a girl fried.

Five more rounds played. Five times Byron rewound the tape. Five times callers who were long dead tried to beat the DJ’s low voice. Five more of Byron’s warriors died in their tracks.

The ground was becoming dangerous, now. Three thin, short girls were left, and Kate was getting tired. The net was at crotch level. Kate calculated the position of each body before she took a step. Two girls fell when a pole man sneezed—the web didn’t move, but they jumped at the surprise, and died.

Knee level, now. Kate bunched up the loose coils of her web net in one hand to keep them from dragging on the ground and ending the war right there. She made it through. The girl didn’t.

“Interrupt,” one of the judges called. “The bodies are too high to lower the net.”

Byron sighed. “Fine. Observers, clear the field.”

Seven groups of observers swarmed the field. The pole men raised the net high over their heads, and each group of observers grabbed a body and carried it away. When they got their prizes back to the bleachers, they ripped the bodies apart. After a little commotion, each observer chewed on a leg, arm, rib, or head as they watched the final round.

Kate didn’t let herself get sick. She couldn’t. Back down went the net, down to a mere eight inches from the ground. Under Kate went, slowly, carefully, successfully.

Under Byron went, more slowly than Kate, more carefully.

Kate struck, smoothing her voice. The gravel dropped out, leaving a deep, rich, honeyed, temptress’s voice. “How many girls are waiting for you back home, Byron? Real, live girls, willing and able and well-endowed… Maybe you don’t like girls. How many boys are waiting for you? Maybe they’re not even netted. Maybe they’re off the grid, naked boys and girls in a secret room in your farm, waiting eagerly for their great DJ to return. They’ll strip the netting off you, oh so slowly, and then…”

It worked. Eight inches of space to live in. Byron’s six inches of hip plus six inches of lust were four inches too many. Kate won.

Posted by: danzierlea | January 4, 2013

Magic Food

This is part one of a two-part challenge. It wasn’t supposed to be two parts, just this, but then I figured out how to have horror in limbo, so there will be more. You know the drill: go here ( http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/01/04/flash-fiction-challenge-spin-the-wheel/ ), learn the challenge, do the flash fiction, post, repeat until your fingers bleed. Or something. This is Superhero genre, set on a comet, with magic food being very necessary. I went a little wackazoid on it, because I could. The second bean set, by the way, is purloined from the VeggieTales episode “Lord of the Beans”.  746 words, plus a title.

Quick Fix

WE sat on an ice shelf and stared bleakly at the fire overhead. It would be thousands of years before he got home. He kicked at a pebble. It bounced weakly off his tennis shoe, floated briefly away, and was caught in the flaming corona and vaporized.

Stupid no gravity, WE thought. Stupid no air. Stupid fire dome. Stupid beans.

Beans, beans, beans.

Not beanstalk beans. No, those had been used up long ago, their magic siphoning all the life from a third of a continent and introducing the planet to the devastation of oxygen-deprivation-induced megalomania. Giants and castles in the sky indeed.

Not, either, the magic beans of legend that could grant their owner small kitchen gadgets. Rumor had it that those beans had been the key ingredient in either the world’s best chili or the world’s best cookies, and nobody knew for sure which it was any more. Either way, they’d been eaten long ago.

The beans WE hated, the beans which boasted no brains in his estimation, were his. His vast supply of magical Mexican jumping beans. Magical, first because they jumped without worms inside them, and second because when that moron had decided to make dinner, dinner had pulled a Gingerbread Man Escape.

Not that it had done any good.

WE glared at the fire creeping closer to his head. Resistance was futile, but it was something to do. He stood up, ducking slightly, and twirled in place. Sauce splattered around him, and when he stopped, dizzy, the corona was significantly further away. Also, the pebble was back, and the ice shelf had reformed where his warm backside had melted it into something slightly more comfortable. WE sighed.

Magical Mexican jumping beans, made into paste that wriggled, schlepped on a tortilla, coated with pepper and hamburger and other nasty-looking goop, flung in a hot pizza oven and burned to a crisp. And then, when the oven door opened and the poor dazed thing sat coughing and wheezing in the rain, the prodigious announcement—spoken without a single damn given—that defined WE’s life. “Ladies and gentlemen and touristas, I give you Pizza Pablo’s first and only dish made from a child’s recipe book: the Whole Enchilada! And now, I quit.”

And WE was unceremoniously flung on a plate, slathered in guacamole, and dropped on a table in the rain.

The plate broke.

The slithering magic bean paste slithered, and WE bounded from the plate in the instant before it broke.

People screamed. First they screamed because the enchilada was very evidently crap. Then they screamed because the crappy enchilada moved on its own. And then they screamed because they were splattered with some kind of brownish sauce.

Eventually they screamed in delight. The enchilada—THE WHOLE ENCHILADA—stayed there, floating in the air. The broken plate, covered in enchilada magic sauce, mended itself. The sauce came easily away from clothing and hair, leaving the clothes mended, clean, fresh-smelling, and occasionally in better taste. It left the hair clean and neat (and the bald man wept as he felt his head sprout anew). It had left the tables clean, and even the napkins used to clean it up went in the garbage neatly.

Many months later, the city dump was honored by a visit from the President, who commended the place for its commitment to improving the environment. It was by far the neatest, cleanest, most encouraging dump on the face of the planet.

The people, of course, tried to catch him. Run, run, as fast as they could, but they couldn’t fly. All they could do was follow WE’s trail. Everywhere he went, things got better. Broken windows mended. Potholes in streets filled in and disappeared. Plants bloomed, sun shone and soft rain fell, rainbows and butterflies festooned the very air. People were nice to each other.

So of course they caught him. They hunted him with vigor. They chased him with bottles. They threw broken bits of trash at him, hoping that they’d recapture the mended item with a dose of magic sauce still inside.

And then some dingbat hit him with a rock.

Stupid space junk.

Not just any rock, unfortunately. A rock that had dropped through the atmosphere, a million billion years ago (or some time), slammed into the earth’s crust, smashed to bits, changed the planet, eradicated the dinosaurs, and, clear back before all that, had escaped the broiling heat of a comet’s corona.

Stupid magic fix-everything sauce.

Posted by: danzierlea | December 7, 2012

Nancy Who? (Possibly NSFW…)

Hi all. This isn’t a flash fiction post, but I’d appreciate a read-through and whatever thoughts you have anyway. It’s more off-the-cuff than usual and I’m trying to sort out what I’m saying as I write it, but you’ll get the idea. I get a little vehement at the end, so this is maybe NSFW a smidge.

One of the bloggers who I follow, Linda Adams (whose blog is here:http://garridon.wordpress.com/ ), wrote a post on another blog about Nancy Drew.

The idea is, there are strong female characters. There are… Oh heck, let’s go straight to the Steak Rating System. The apparently perfect female character, who has skills and charisma and charm and a good head on her shoulders and can throw a punch or shoot a villain in the middle of a big fight scene–that character is Rare. Rare steak rating, not hard to find, although it applies that way as well.

Nancy Drew is medium rare, steak rating. Her boyfriend apparently has to ride in and save her on occasion.

The wimpy girls who are there to be skirts, or who are mentioned in passing, are well-done steak ratings. You know the ones–Indiana Jones’ arm candy in IJ2, or Rosie the hobbit in LOTR, or any of several others I could mention but won’t because it’s beside the point. Well-done steak, just a shade away from burned-to-a-crisp and I’d-rather-eat-cardboard.

So, back to Nancy Drew, and what I can say about her.

I can say exactly Nothing. I read the Hardy Boys, and the Black Stallion, and a lot of other books when I was growing up. I knew the characters weren’t girls. I didn’t care, because holy cow, there’s a kidnapped Paraguayan diplomat and the only people who can save him are these kids who happened to be looking out the right window at the right time. But I read a Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew crossover as a “I’ll try it and see” book, and not only was Nancy only marginally competent, Frank and Joe Hardy were marginally competent when they were around her! Now, as an adult, I know that the author probably had a “formula” mystery and stuck four teenage detectives on it instead of two. But from my ten year old viewpoint, it looked like Nancy made my favorite heroes stupid. She stole their lines (so many times!!!!!!), she found their clues, and for some reason they went out of their way to hang out with her when they canonically had girlfriends who NEVER helped (or, ok, rarely helped) them solve a mystery.

This is not a positive review for Ms. Drew. So I never read another book that had her in it.

The thing is, a lot of writers I know now are enthusiastic in their support of Nancy. Huzzah, a female protagonist who can do stuff, when all about her are saying it can’t be done! This is a genuinely good thing. There are just piles of female protagonists whose jobs are to be female rather than to be protagonists. There are piles of day-saving male characters whose only part in the story is to not be locked in the cage so they can let “her” out. And, there are a plethora of newer stories where she has a lockpick set and he’s in the cage with her… but his role is that of the TV screen. He can’t be a useful helpful character, because, dammit, the girl can do it all. But he’s gotta be there for some reason, so he’s usually just too stupid to figure out why she just stuck lockpicking tools into the wierd hole in the door they need to open, and she has to explain it. “Well, Bob, I’m picking the lock, because we might just want to not knock the door off its hinges.” “…durrr… okay, Sally.”  I am not amused.

I am, therefore, not in favor of Rare Steak female protagonists.

No. Wait for it. No mad rages yet, please.

I am in favor of…

the best damned steak dinner you ever had, with the perfect steak and the best shrimp and awesome mushrooms and baked potatoes with all the butter and gravy and sour cream and chives and bacon and black olives and all the various condiments and some broccoli because I’m wierd and I like broccoli, and enough that you eat until you’re full and there’s leftovers for later, which taste just as good the next day despite being nuked, and it’s cooked by your best friend who made it just for you as a birthday present, so it’s free and you know there’s no spit in it… and you get it every time you want it.

That. In a book.

Screw this Semi-Militant Feminism business. And screw the backlash. It’s not Girls Versus Guys out there. It’s People Versus Assholes. Assholes sit around waiting for someone to rescue them, or follow around someone in hope of one day rescuing them. (Yes, I will catch flak for this statement. I reserve the right to be wrong and learn better later. If I am wrong. Which isn’t necessarily true.)  Assholes don’t use their skills, or they use them to make someone else’s life worse in some way. Assholes put people into catagories and then force them to face off against each other when there’s a bigger issue that it would be wise for both groups to address, and with each other’s help. Assholes divide and conquer. Seeing that I’m an author, this is a big part of my job, and therefore, I’m an Asshole.

But I’m also a People. I don’t know judo and I can’t shoot a gun if it doesn’t have a scope and expect to hit the broad side of a barn, and I do have asthma and can’t run, and I’m scared of the dark. I’m a people. Characters should be people, too. And if the character has no gender but has asthma and a set of lockpicks and is surrounded by other genderless people who know judo and are scared of the dark, then I as the writer will–guaranteed–stick them in the dark, force them to run, give them standard-issue sidearms with only a few rounds of ammo, never let a locked door cross their path until absolutely necessary, give it a palm lock, and have it open onto a room full of black belts. And make the law of multiplication of ninjas invalid. (And if you don’t know that law, go read Dr. McNinja. It’s an internet comic. This post will be here when you get back probably.)

People solve their own problems. People team up with People to solve bigger problems. I do not give one hoot if the People have boobs or estrogen or periods or get distracted by pinup calendars.  I do care about whether kicking certain parts of their anatomy will incapacitate them and whether they have the height and muscle it takes to keep them from being able to use the ducts as a viable escape plan, because it’s a conflict area. But a kick to the knee will work on anyone. And, guaranteed, if they have periods and boobs, these will make trouble, just like extra muscle will. Just TRY running for your life with secondary dysmenorrhea.

Characters are people. They should damn well act like it. They should get tired. They should have bruises that last for nine days and hurt for twelve. They should hurt, and mess up, and make snappy rash decisions out of anger. They should love. They should make stupid choices and end up with problems that need fixing, and then they should fix those problems by becoming less stupid. Yes, sometimes they should get help. Nobody can do this life thing alone. But the helpers are People, too.

Yes, yes, I know, it’s fiction. Everything for a purpose, lest I lose the reader. Fine. Plot must advance! Fine! But dammit, I will NOT sacrifice the People I’ve made on the altar of Female Protagonist, Male Villain, Superhero, or any other label. Characters and their conflicts drive story, in the vehicle of their needs and wants, through the wasteland of everyone’s different. Plot can change.

I want to read about characters like me, too. Including characters who use a plural tense as a label for a singlular noun on occasion.

Now, feel free to rant at your leasure.😉

Posted by: danzierlea | November 16, 2012

Another Flash Challenge

Again, morose.

I don’t know why this one was in my head, but it was. Again, this was prompted by Mr. Chuck Wendig. Check it out here: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/11/16/flash-fiction-challenge-100-word-stories/

100 words, 1 story. Lord only knows why mine came out in poetry. Here you go.

 

Run-on: “Prodigy Dies Playing In Fire”

 

Tock tick tock

Time like a metronome,

Striking keys, ebony, bone,

Melody, memory, something from home.

Onstage offstage

Have I been here before?

“Prodigy of Harmony”

Whirlwind tour…

 

Kings come to hear me play

And Queens, and important men.

“No Children Allowed In Theater”

Why can’t I play for them?

 

Fire in the Opera, burning up the stage.

Piano isn’t burning yet.

Accompany this orange haze.

 

Smoke and heat and sticky keys

Warping notes and tune

I can hear it withering—

Can you hear it too?

 

Time like a metronome,

Striking keys, ebony, bone,

Melody and memory

Never go home.

 

Posted by: danzierlea | November 12, 2012

Who Needs Time Travel?

I wrote this over the summer, at some point when I didn’t have internet access to post something long, and now I am finally posting it. I do not apologize for calling certain people dumb shits. Also, I love time travel ideas and putzing with things better left alone. But this is important.

******

Holly [Holly Lisle, of http://hollylisle.com/ ] wrote a post – a reader interview question – that asked, in a thousand years, what do you see as the greatest human achievement?

And of course a bunch of dumb shits posted crap about enforced peace and no people and such. This pissed Holly off. [Me too.]

My post kind of sucked. I was posting on my phone, which is a bad idea, and I missed the focus of the question too. I thought I was commenting on the unhappy tone of the comments, but it reads badly, and then my joking “ability to understand the language” didn’t read as a joke.

I’ve thought about it some more and come to a couple of surprising conclusions.

First, there’s trouble with the phrase, “Greatest Human Achievement”.

Because, Human isn’t a number, it’s a mass. It’s a group. And group achievements are usually half what they could have been.

Greatest is another thing—what to call great? What do I, the person judging a list of achievements, decide is great, and what’s mediocre, or lame, or nifty but not quite the pinnacle of humanity’s last thousand years of travail? It has to be something I think is great. I find greatness in a lot of things, and they’re usually places where someone’s looked at a problem and flipped it on its head to solve it, and I grin at the ingenuity of the solution. Things that make peoples’ lives better in a one-on-one style—like water filters and air conditioning—are marvels. So what is my measure of greatness?

Greatness, I think, is something of a ratio. The ratio of the size of the grain of rice tipping the scale to the size of the scale being tipped. Well, not really quite that. But it’s like this. Suppose, in a moment of good humor, I tip a waitress by hiding dollar bills under all the dishes on the table. Suppose this makes her laugh after work, and suppose that makes her more relaxed, and suppose that makes her able to react better as she’s driving home, and suppose that makes her stop at a red light instead of running it, and suppose that she therefore doesn’t t-bone a tourist, and suppose that tourist who has unsuspectingly not been turned into mincemeat goes on their merry way to the airshow, and while there, figures out how to revitalize the airline industry, which when implemented, allows a kid (now two) to figure out how to make interstellar travel in-solar-system possible for the common folk, and suppose on the first flight two rich young people meet and have coffee and end up married and their kid figures out how to make the best blueberry pie in history by growing the blueberries in space.

What’s the great part—the tip, the happiness, the saved lives, the revitalized industry, the space travel, the lovers’ union, pie, or space blueberries?

Well, it’s my call, and I say it’s the tip.

Why?

Because I did something, on purpose, to make someone’s day better. I put a smidgeon of effort into getting the ghost of a smile from some other human. One-on-one life improvement.

I don’t want to go a thousand years into the future to hunt down greatness. It’s a lost cause, to me. I want to go ten years into the future and be able to track it back, one good thing at a time, to now. I want to look at my kid and see a teenager who is responsible and happy and well-adjusted and not about to flush her life away for the first guy with a smile. I want to look at my life and see a cascade of tiny good events, one rice grain after another, leading back to now and one good choice.

A hundred thousand tiny shifts towards something better, one little thing at a time, will produce something great. I don’t know what. Maybe it’s space blueberry pie. Maybe it’s two lovers on a spaceship. Maybe it’s air travel that doesn’t involve voluntary molestation.

Or maybe it’s a waitress, smiling at the end of a long day, as she finds twenty dollars’ worth of tip hidden on the table she’s clearing, in a country I’ve never been to and never plan to visit.

So there’s greatness, right? Well, now we get to the real heart of the question. In a thousand years, after innumerable acts of greatness and hellraising, look at humanity and say, this, this here? That’s what makes humanity worth saving, celebrating, and improving.

In the book “Q&A” by Keith R. A. DeCandido, the author does just that, and gives the answer to Q at the end: “What worried me most was that the fate of the universe rested in the hands of the stuffiest human being in the history of the galaxy finding out that he has a sense of humor.” According to DeCandido, the quality that makes all the great and nifty and wowing stuff worth it is the ability to laugh.

I’m not sure he’s right—but I’m not sure he’s wrong, either. I think there’s more to it than just that wild maniacal giggling in the face of terror, or of insanity, or of a banana cream pie. I think…. the ability to laugh is great. But the ability to consciously choose to bring happiness, laughter, and joy to another person is even better. Laughing alone is sad. Laughing with others is contagious.

After all this, here at last is my answer to Holly’s question: In a thousand years, if I can get off a time machine and watch a human do something on purpose that makes another human happy without hurting anyone in the process or being forced into it, then there is that greatest achievement. The single act of bringing joy, the knowledge of its necessity, and the willingness to do so without coercion—that is the greatest of human achievements.

And the greatest part is, I can see that today. I can do that today. Who needs time travel?

Posted by: danzierlea | November 12, 2012

Back At It

It’s time once again for a sporadic flash fiction post! Yay!

*crickets*

Ok whatever. Here is another one of Chuck Wendig’s challenges. You can find it HERE: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/11/09/flash-fiction-challenge-sub-genre-mash-up-with-a-twist/

I’m leaving you all a note at the end.

Name The Sun

They say this ship is haunted. I don’t mind. In some ways, everything is haunted. The ghost only shows up when the least likely person is looking, they say. I’ll never see a ghost. When I was seventeen I saw the Goddess without my face mask, and the solar glare burned out my optic nerve. This doesn’t stop my brain from randomly filling in objects. Funny—I see things that aren’t there, blinded by a sun that now can barely illuminate what is there. Poor Sola. We thought she’d nova in a century. Three days after blinding me, she collapsed. The space fleet staves off the inevitable, while the rest of the world rushes the escape.

I’ve been pulling military space junk from this cruiser for six years. I have no team—nobody needs “Eyes Only” clearance here. If the Perugas catch me for interrogation it’ll be hilarious. “What did it look like?” they’ll ask, and I’ll say, “I don’t know. It was square, and the left corner sliced my hand open, and all I could see was walruses on a beach.”

Asking to take a year dying, that. Perugas have no humor, only strange honor and sharp swords.

Don’t get me wrong—I love my planet. I love the system. I’m very careful to salute whenever the anthem is played and bow to anything that could be the flag. I just don’t think that torturer’s victim is a convenient way to quit this job.

So the Bright Lady is cleared out. I’ve pulled anything of value from every room on board except the third sickbay and the bridge. I’ve left enough in place on the bridge to fly her to the solar furnace, where whatever’s left will be shoveled into the sun to keep her lit. I haven’t found a ghost yet. I’ve always hoped to come across Captain Grayson Herwick, career captain of the Space Shipping Fleet, trying to keep me from slagging his ship like he’s stopped so many others. There hasn’t been even a vague knocking or unexplained chills to feed my imagination. I’ll be done tomorrow, and then even Grayson’s ghost will be slagged. Poor Sola, now we’ve nothing to feed you but ghosts. The Bright Lady will become a piece of deck plating on the Biosphere, and then he’ll sail away to court a new sun.

Third sickbay is small. Four Zombie Coffins—er, reanimation chambers—sit on the floor, making a giant E. The first three—F—are empty, cold, and silent. The fourth beeps at my touch. I swear, I jumped a foot. “Vocal readout Chamber Four,” I order.

“Reanimation Complete; Press OK To Open Chamber,” the readout says.

Well, this is unexpected. I press the OK button.

The Zombie Coffin lid opens with a hiss and a rush of cold air. Hoses auto-retract, oxygen valves close, and an unexpectedly dry male voice croaks, “Help me.”

I put my hand out, and a hand closes on it. There is weight and pressure, and the guy sits up. “Who’re you?” he demands.

“You first.”

“What, you can’t tell from the bars? What’s my ship come to that my crew doesn’t recognize me?”

Oh. “Captain Grayson Herwick, I presume? I’m Zel, sir. I’m blind.”

“Zel? Huh. Why’d they let you on board, then?”

This is going to hurt him. “Salvage. You were reported dead ninety-two years ago by Ensign Cedric; Bright Lady’s been ordered to repurposing.”

“I see. Well, Ensign Zel, can you escort me to the bridge?”

The captain is quiet as we walk, only the whisper of his clothing and light shoe tapping let me know he’s still there. I fill him in on details as we walk, imagining him looking on his deserted, strip-mined ship in despair. I can’t bear to tell him about Sola.

When we reach the bridge, the captain jumps to action. Apparently a message beacon is flashing; I’d never have known. It began with today’s date, and a send time of seven this morning. “Sola’s collapsed again. She’ll nova by noon. Biosphere’s set to go, but the Perugas want you. We’ve got a shuttle; we’re coming to pick you up. Be ready at oh-seven-thirty.”

I run my fingers over my watch’s face. It’s twenty after now. “Oh shit.”

“Son, do you have anything you need to get?” The captain’s hand on my shoulder startles me.

“Uh, no, nothing important. I’m afraid there’s not much left in your cabin, either, sir.”

“Then let’s go.”

Eight minutes later we hear a banging on the hatch. I crank open the pressure seal.

“Come on, Zel, there’s one seat lef—who the hell are you?!”

I can feel eyes on me. “Captain Grayson Herwick. He was in ZC 4 in Sickbay three. Long story there, I suspect; Admiral Cedric’s going to have an aneurism.”

“Zel, there’s no room for him. We have air for one.”

Sola is calling me. I find the Captain’s arm and shove him through the portal. “Take him. Don’t let the Perugas get him. Dethrone the Admiral.”

“What are you—” The hatch slams off the end of the question. Five loud, metallic bangs signal the shuttle’s departure. Good. Now, maybe, Biosphere has a chance for new love—a love undying. I head back up to the bridge.

In the shuttle, Captain Grayson Herwick watched the screen as his ship flew himself into the sun. Sola, he thought. Ancient goddess of night, whose mortal lover Zel gave himself to her to keep her anger from destroying the planet. She consumed him in darkness, and his light shone through her to light the world. A rare tale, even when he was a boy. Ninety years later—likely nobody knew it now. But he was the only one not shocked when the glow of slagged space freighter spread across the sun’s surface, reigniting her fires. “Sola-Zel,” he murmured, and blew a kiss to the relit divine. Then, louder: “We’ve got some work ahead of us now, boys!”

THE END

My Note: I promised ghosts meets space opera, with ninjas. Well, 1000 words is not a lot of space for ghosts and ninjas and space opera. The Perugas are the ninjas. If you didn’t get that from “strange honor and bright swords” I apologize. If you did, well, have a gold star!😀

Posted by: danzierlea | June 14, 2012

Purpose!

Well, I think I’ve got it figured out. I discovered some flash fiction challenges, posted by The One, The Only…Chuck Wendig of Terribleminds.com. So far, they’ve been… um, entertaining. My brain’s been on a very dark side trip lately, though, so my little stories are somewhat scary. Still and all, they’ve led me to this: I think I will use this blog to post them. It will be fun. It will probably also be a smidge creepy, but I can live with that.

Here’s this week’s addition to the role. 990 words, counting the title (but not this introduction). It’s a little gorey; you’ve been warned.

Decisions

“Surprise!” Richard yelled, yanking the blindfold from my head. I blinked in the sudden light. He pressed his axe into my hand and waved at the forest in a grand, sweeping gesture.

All around us, trees had been stripped of their leaves. Hanging from the bare branches, twirling in the midmorning breeze, were the skeletons of monsters. Each tree was wrapped in bones; skulls dangled like macabre Japanese lanterns.

I wanted to cry.

Instead, I smiled at my big brother. “It’s amazing.”

He grinned. “Gregory and I put a lot of time into it. Ha—just about everyone in town’s worked on this. Come on, there’s more to see.”

Richard was bursting with pride as he described each tree. “Markos did this set. Oh, and here’s Misty’s tree. Fairy wings! Isn’t it beautiful?”

“Your girlfriend’s a real artist.”

Richard walked on, mouth running. “And here we are,” he said at last. “Welcome to the Bone Cathedral, Katie.”

It was a cement slab the size of a basketball court, surrounded by more gruesome trees. At one end was an unlit bonfire; at the other, an ancient mausoleum. Between the two was a giant sarcophagus.

Between trees and cement stood everyone I’d ever known who still lived.

Jackson Bright, the mayor, climbed up on the sarcophagus. “Friends, welcome once again! Your diligence, persistence, and hard work has once again brought us a harvest. Within the Last Refuge lies not one, but two denizens of evil!”

Richard screamed right in my ear. His cry was lost in the wave of cheers as the crowd went crazy. I rubbed my ear and glared at him.

“And today we are joined by the next generation of hunters. Watch and learn, children, for this is your destiny. Monsters beset us on every side, but we will prevail. One day, you will take our places and slay the vile creatures on this very stone! Sheriff Jones, bring out the prisoners.”

The sheriff—the man I’d always been told was the most worthy of respect—threw open the mausoleum doors and dragged a pair of nearly-normal people out.

On the far side, he held a woman dressed in simple jeans and a baggy t-shirt, with long blonde hair. Closer to me was a man with brown hair in a similar outfit. Both were terribly pale, and both struggled weakly. The sheriff hauled them  up onto the sarcophagus as the mayor stepped down.

“You see, people? They have no strength. The daylight binds them tighter than ropes ever could! I give you: vampires!”

The crowd made some sort of appreciative noise. I barely heard it. The two creatures had struggled upright and now sat back-to-back, and the man was looking at me. The weariness brought on by the sun was not the only weariness in him. His face was a picture of despair beyond hope. But there was something nameless in his eyes as he stared at me, something nobody in the village ever had in their eyes. It seemed almost passive.

The mayor wasted no time in lighting the bonfire. “Bones mark our trees. The bones of our enemies mark the places they die. With vampires, we have to take the bones first. Step forward, children.”

I stepped forward. Eleven other kids did, too, most with knives in hand, all barely teenagers. They’d been told in advance what this was about.

So had the vampires. I stared at the man’s face. He closed his eyes. “I love you, Marie,” he whispered.

My mind raced.

Love. There was no love. Love was a lie, a trick, a trap. Love was what monsters said to draw you in. Just an act, being nice for no reason but to catch you. Parents liked you. Siblings tolerated you. Boyfriends and girlfriends liked each other enough to stay together. But love?

Why would he love her?

Unless it wasn’t a trick.

If he thought it was real—

If she thought it was real—

If there was something better—

And they had it!

What was that look on his face?

Sheriff Jones grabbed the man and hauled him to the end of the sarcophagus, right in front of me.

I shut my eyes.

“Now, children, watch carefully. The first thing you must do when killing a vampire is sever its head.” There was a wet THOCK. The man let out a howl. The mayor kept right on talking. I couldn’t think.  When I opened my eyes all I could see was Sheriff Jones’ back. The grownups moved to better see the woman being dismembered. They shouted encouragement to their kids.

Richard’s axe was in my hand, and then it was in the back of the sheriff’s head. He collapsed, his blood mingling with the woman’s all over the table. The man licked it, blinked, licked some more, and suddenly there was pandemonium.

The man caught me around the waist with one arm and held the sheriff’s body up with the other, stopping two knives and an arrow in a lightning-fast twist. Then he threw the body away, grabbed something else and started running.

What had I just done?

When he stopped, we were miles away from the Bone Cathedral. The trees had leaves. The air smelled fresh. He set me down, gently, inside the mouth of a shallow cave, and I saw at last what he had taken.

The woman’s head. He held it in both hands, then set it gently on the floor and turned to me.

“Why did you do that, child?”

I suddenly realized I was weaponless, face to face with a starved vampire. And I looked him in the eyes and saw fear. I licked my lips. “Be… because you… you love her. And I need to know why.”

“If they ever catch you, they’ll kill you,” he said.

“I know.”

“What’s your name?”

“Katie.”

“That must have been very difficult for you, Katie.”

I shook my head. “No, sir. Killing monsters is easy.”

 

Posted by: danzierlea | January 6, 2012

Schrody, Schrody, Schrody…

I will say right now that I’m fascenated by all things that spin off the idea of Schrodinger’s Cat experiment. There’s a lot of spinoff and spoofyness. I’ll add a link list to a few of my favorites at the end of this post.

BUT FIRST…I will enter the realm of the really really out there wierd and wacky. Hold on to your hats.

Dan Shive wrote a tumblr blog post about Zelda timelines. I like Zelda games, although I’ve only played about four of them (not my fault). So I read the blog post… and found the MOST EXCITING PHRASE OF THE NEW YEAR!!!!

It is: ” So basically, it’s Schrodinger’s timeline. It is in a superposition of both states of existing and not existing until you open up Miyamoto’s computer hard drive and collapse the wave function.”

Why is this exciting? Let me count the ways!

1. It’s got Schrodinger in it.

2. It’s got overlapping timelines (just you wait till I geek out on that!)

3. It uses the Schrodinger idea properly (that is, superposition of both states, not a simple “we don’t know which so it’s both”)

4. It allows ME to sabotage the computer of the guy who runs Nintendo (fun to think about, but this is a big red-letter “don’t try at home” moment)

5. I like to picture a wave function collapsing.

6. The wave function collapsing should destroy the idea of the timelines involved in the Schrodinger’s Timeline Debacle.

7. This one’s complicated. I’m a dedicated Wapsi Square reader (www.wapsisquare.com) and it’s 2012. There’s this discussion in pop culture about some Mayan timeline calendar thingus that I’ve heard of vaguely. There was a tv show on last week about how the Mayans built their calander as an endless loop system (Loop, Endless: see Endless Loop —->Endless Loop: see Loop, Endless). I suspend my disbelief consciously  when contemplating the Orange Slices Alternate Realities Theory: Multiple versions of reality, all a little different, stacked next to each other, go endlessly in both directions from our own and eventually meet in the middle, forming a circle or “orange”.

Got all that? (If you read all the wapsi archives, welcome back! If not, just the first eight-or-so years should do ya for this story😉 )

Now… Add Schrodinger’s Timeline. You may have to briefly embrace the Orange Slices Alternate Realities Theory to see where this is going…

Possible result: if I collapse the Nintendo Guy’s computer’s wave function, the orange will explode. The universe’s survival depends on the survival of a wave function (which provides a superimposition of existing and nonexisting Zelda timelines), which is stored in a computer which I may choose to not destroy. Not only is the universe’s survival on my shoulders, but Nintendo literally cannot answer the question of whether there’s a Zelda timeline, lest they incur my compu-destructive wrath by answering incorrectly. MWAahahahahahha!!

Yes, yes I did. I told you “really really out there”, didn’t I? Promise kept. I now return you to your regularly scheduled reality. Have a nice day.

NOW: The promised links.

http://danshive.tumblr.com/post/10982388208/i-already-know-stuff-about-the-zelda-timeline : Dan Shive’s Tumblr.

http://dresdencodak.com/2006/02/13/trouble-in-memphis/ : Dresden Codak. I also like ancient Egypt.

http://www.thinkgeek.com/tshirts-apparel/womens/d415/?pfm=homepage_EnjoyYouWill_6 Yeah not so big on the sparkly flower cat… but it’s funny.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNgvR3g5Xow I ALSO like SG-1. I am sad that it ended but I know about series writing, and there wasn’t much further they could have taken it. Remember, if it’s already aired, IT’S CANON.

http://www.thinkgeek.com/files/schrodingers_cat_card_10up.pdf This is just fun.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q-Squared On the subject of timelines… You must read this book. It’s a starting point… or rather, a jumping-off place.😀

Posted by: danzierlea | July 2, 2011

The Most Important Lesson

I like online comics. It’s a terrible habit–less expensive than drugs but certainly as addictive. One of my favorites is Wapsi Square (http://wapsisquare.com/ ). Today’s comic started a lot of debate between we-who-read-and-comment. The debate focused on whether it’s right to tell someone what you know, or to withhold information so they can learn for themselves, or maybe make up something to tell them that’s cryptic and by so doing, do both.

I threw my two cents in on it, and I got a little carried away.  Phix is a character who asks, “If you could help someone…by not telling them something, would you do it?” Here’s my response:

I’m with Phix, too.

I told my daughter Santa is as real as me. I told her the tooth fairy still has all her teeth. I told her to wear sunscreen. I told her not to go near the fire when Uncle Isaac was blowing up marshmallows with cherry bombs tucked inside. [Author’s Note: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!!!!! It’s dangerous, it’s destructive, and it’s probably illegal. Seriously, don’t do it.]

I haven’t told her that “Santa” and “Tooth Fairy” are hats I wear when I must. She learned yesterday that no sunscreen=days of sunburn pain. Thankfully, she listened to me about the marshmallows–but the boom still scared her.

The most important thing I will ever teach my kid is to think for herself. You can’t teach someone to think by doing their thinking for them. Sometimes, they need your protection. But the lessons that come when she figures out all by herself that “Santa” is a hat and sunburns hurt and therefore she will wear the “Santa” hat someday and she will put on sunscreen before going swimming… those are priceless lessons. Those are the ones that a parent looks at and says, “Now I know my baby will be ok when she’s out on her own; when I’m too old; after I’m gone. She knows what to do–she can think for herself.”

Nothing can take the place of those lessons… And to teach those lessons, sometimes the parents MUST hold back. See, we already know how to think.

I realized when I’d finished writing that this is something I really believe. This is something important. This matters. Teaching my kid to think for herself really is the one and only thing I have to get right as her mom. Sure, I have to keep her safe, fed, clothed, and educated–but technically, a robot monkey could do that. I’m her MOM. That means I’m more than a robot monkey. I have to do more. The only thing I have that a robot monkey couldn’t have is wisdom–and frankly, I’m not too sure I have that, most days. But I know that thinking for myself saved me from some really stupid mistakes, and not thinking for myself got me in some very hot water. That experience–knowing that my thought process is what lands me in trouble or keeps me from it–is that all-important lesson.

It can’t be taught like math. Repitition and memorization will gain her nothing here. Here, only going through the process of making her own decisions and living with their consequences will teach her to think. I’m here to guide her, but I can’t make the decisions for her.

It’s a hard lesson for both of us.

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