Fiction Midterm

I wrote this for my fiction midterm story, but I thought it would be fun to post here and see what people thought.

Emily’s Garden

The tower rose three stories with a top floor filled with glass. A hot house, with ripe tomatoes on the vine, beans growing up trellises, mounds with cucumber poking through the soil, a small herb garden that released pleasing aromas into the air. There was even a small patch of strawberries. He stood at the east windows of her garden, looking at the glow just clearing the horizon. He winced, unable to look at it directly, then, he wouldn’t have to.

A furious clatter atop the stairs caused him to turn around. A woman stood at the entrance of the room, blood-spattered and breathing hard. She wielded a large axe, but what he took notice of was the thick black utilitarian braid running down her back, her large dark eyes, the flush of pink at her lips. He could smell the blood of Clarence and Vanessa on her, but not of Emily. No, that would just be ash.

“What, no sly remarks?” The woman demanded. Girl, he thought, probably no more than forty, although perhaps only thirty with a rough life. Her teeth were nicotine stained. “No menacing threats?”

“Child,” he said, his voice a slow breath over dandelion seeds, “you killed me yesterday. Go away.”

“You look surprisingly animate for a dead vampire,” She said. “I think you’re lying.”

“Tell me, was it your brother or your sister?” He asked, and watched her eyes go wide in shock. “It couldn’t have been a parent, they are expected to pass first. Was it in the dark of night? Were you in the room, listening to soft sucking sounds as the monster lay atop them, holding them close so they could not escape? Or was it a lover? Someone you were very close to, surely.”

“You don’t know me,” She spat, braid stiff like an angry cat’s tail. “You don’t know anything about me.”

“I know everything about you,” he said, his gaze turning back to the horizon, ignoring her. “You were hurt, you were trained, you started to make a name for yourself. You decided to try for more difficult prey. You killed Emily.”

“I kill a lot of vampires. I’m going to kill one more,” She said, taking another step closer.

“I told you, you killed me yesterday. When you staked Emily, the wood pierced two hearts. I cannot face immortality without her.” He confessed, his fingers caressing the soft ripeness of a nearby tomato. “I have given it thought, and I realize without her, this life offers me no more.”

“Bullshit,” She advanced again, holding her axe up between them. “Vampires can’t love.”

“On the contrary, we love very deeply. It is difficult to find the one person who can traverse centuries with you, but it is possible. Vampires do not change the way that humans do, but we do change. Like those plants we twine around what supports us, holding us up as we reach for the next level. Many vampires are not capable of love at all, as you say, but there are some who not only do, but who love for well beyond a human lifetime, into the realm of ages.”

“If you want me to apologize for killing your wife, you’re asking the wrong woman,” She said, taking another wary step across the teak wood floors towards the vampire. He discerned that she’d crossed half the length of the space. He wondered which would reach him faster, the sunlight or the hunter.

“I do not apologize for my kills,” he shrugged delicately. “I am a hunter, just as you are.”

“I’m nothing like you!” She shouted.

“Oh, but you are,” he said, taking a step towards her. Her axe flew up in a defensive style. “You have blood on your clothes. This is not the average wear of humans. Very few pick up the cause to end things lives. You are just. Like. Me.”

“No!” She shouted again, and she rushed him, axe swinging.

He reached out and gripped the axe beneath the head, ripping it out of her grip. “Emily was asleep and unarmed,” he pointed out. “You are a clever hunter, but you are not a strong hunter.” He turned the axe and swung, hitting her in the thigh, all the way to the bone.

She shrieked, and her agony was a song in his heart.

“Immortality is impossible, you know,” he confided in her, jerking the axe free of her femur, smiling at the cracking noise that preceded the rich smell of blood that flowed like wine. “It is like perfection; something to strive for, but inevitably as ephemeral as the soul.”

The hunter stopped screaming, and both of her hands pressed hard against the wound, trying to stem the flow of blood. Such riches going to waste, but he would not give her what she wanted. Vampire hunters sought vampires to risk eternal life, and she had killed Emily. Her deed was immortal, but he would not give her the satisfaction of living forever. She coughed. “I could be her,” she begged. “I could take her place.”

He could feel the bright brush of the first rays of sunlight stroke his cheek, so similar to how Emily would rouse him at night that his chest hitched, and his breath caught. His attention was torn away from the hunter as he turned to face the sun. “She was singular,” he said as he felt his cheek turn to ash. “You should try her strawberries before you die.”

He looked back to her, watched her blood soaking into the teak wood floor. He saw her pick up her stake and slide in his direction on her injured leg before his eyes turned to ash and he joined Emily in her garden.

Photo credit:
unsplash-logoChristian Widell

This Year for Christmas, Just a Handbasket

I would like to say that I have been too busy to keep up with my blog, and that would be true, but the real reason I haven’t written anything is because life got tough for a while. I couldn’t write anything but how much it sucked, and nobody has the spoons for that.

The short version is that my husband passed out and fell, giving himself a concussion. There’s no clear reason as to why he passed out – our current theory is that he had a fever and he stood up too fast. When we took him to the doctor they weren’t able to diagnose any better than us, unfortunately, although they did order some tests to rule out a few things. We were in the shadow of the valley of no insurance, so this made things much more interesting at the time. We have insurance now, but we still don’t have a ton of answers, the fact that he can’t take his ADHD meds, he can’t get his heart rate up, and he’s pretty much had to retool how he works. Luckily, his job is being very accommodating.

Concussions are a serious deal. I already knew that, having had two friends who have had one, but it’s different when you’re living with a person every day who has one. It’s a very intense situation. I’m also used to having a partner who helps out with everything, so to have him on light duty has increased my responsibilities… right before finals. This is a difficult situation but we’ve been handling it. He fell a month ago today.

School has been going well. I have ended up with two classes that I loved and one class that I did not. I am already done with the two classes I love, papers and projects are turned in, everything is now waiting on grading. My last class, the one I don’t love, has a final scheduled for today. I’m not happy about the final but I’ve done my preparation and research so I think I’m as ready to go as I can be. We had 8 study questions and 3 of those will be the final exam, so I need to keep everything in my head a little while longer.

I won’t lie – once this class is done, I will forget I ever took it. It was touted to be a high-value class for my major, but after taking it I am still failing to find it relevant. It’s disappointing, but it seemed like other people got more from the class than me, so it’s obvious I missed something.

Winter break is almost upon us! I am looking forward to three weeks of no homework, family time, and maybe even a little holiday baking. I could even write, although I have been warned against this by friends of mine. It’s hard to give up the habit, even if it is supposed to be break.

This has been a particularly stressful holiday season, not just for me, but for my friends, and I hope that the new year will bring in some much-needed relief. If you are not one of those people and are doing fine, I’m happy for you. If your season has been rough this year, keep going. Christmas rarely killed anybody, unless you’re Phoebe’s dad from Gremlins.

unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt

Fall Quarter

We have reached mid-terms, that nebulous point in the quarter where Big Tests are taken and everyone begins feeling anxious. To me it felt like we spent six weeks shooting the shit, only to come back around and sample those conversations and remaster them into something the teacher will feel reflects a modicum of processing and retention. It’s intimidating but also bracing, a chance to show off about what you’ve absorbed during those first six weeks.

And what have I learned? My classes this quarter regard Afrofuturism, Augmented Realities, and Philosophy 101 disguised as an English class. The crossover has been fast and furious. I read a book for my Augmented Realities class that featured the word semiotic, which I’d never heard, but found the definition in my own notes from the Philosophy class. (Hint: It’s the science of signs and symbols.) I have read books about aliens taming humans and books on a murdered woman whose remains were eaten. I wasn’t anticipating my Augmented Realities class to be so disturbing, but that has been the watch word. I watched a movie about phone sex operators (Girl 6,). I read a book about a transgender man who has a lot to say about the pharmacological industry on human life. I would like to think of myself as a ‘woke’ individual who is aware of the status of the world in which we live in, but these classes are taking me to school, as it were, highlighting what I don’t know with savage glee.

So instead, I surf the conversations of each of the three classes, trying to chime in where I am able. The funny thing is that I am the most convivial in my Afrofuturism class. Despite being a white girl from a very white state and having very little interaction with black culture, I find myself drawn to Afrofuturism for its message of hope of a better tomorrow. Here is a people who have been subjected to the literal worst for hundreds of years, still trying to find the best in things. Still thinking positive. Despite this not being my heritage, I can get behind the message quite thoroughly. It has raised a lot of prickly questions for me, recognizing my part in colonialism just by being alive, and I’ve been very uncomfortable. Still, I feel like this has engendered real learning, which is more than just getting passing grades in class.

My Augmented Realities class looked like the easiest one to pass, based on the fact that I would have a class project of my choosing, and I could write a short story as one of the options. I decided to write a short story based on Bento Box, my sci-fi world. However, what I didn’t expect was to read so many books that were so challenging, which took the basis of my understanding of how the world worked and twisted it until it was nothing more than a swirl of color in the forefront of my mind. One book was written by a transgender man who has a lot to say about pharmacology and how it effects every human on the planet; another book instead focuses on journalism in today’s world. Everything is like a quick jab to the ribs, causing you to forget how to breathe and struggle to survive at the same time.

I love my classes, and I love my school, and I am very learning how to navigate the world of junior classes. There is a synergy in having a focus for your major, and the classes meld together until you can’t tell where one stops and the other starts. I’m a little spooked by how this is working, but I’m also a little thrilled, as the whole point of this education was to push me beyond my high school level education and prepare me for jobs where more is demanded.

There is no doubt I will look back at this and miss it, but for the time being I’m looking forward to graduation.

Read, Write, Lather, Rinse, Repeat

I have been in school for a week, and I can already feel myself getting smarter.

Yes, I am gaining knowledge, but I can gain knowledge by picking up any old book and starting to read. There are documentaries out there, if I can’t spare the time for a book. There are YouTube videos that are even shorter, although the danger of being trapped in the Kittenverse is much greater that way.

What I mean is that I can feel spaces in my understanding that I previously did not realize I had. I can feel them because they are filling up, with discourse and reason and logic. Not the knowledge itself, but the framework, like a spider’s web being spun to span a doorframe. Things that I missed, because it flatly wasn’t my strong suit to notice. I’m learning system.

What I mean by learning system is that I’m learning the terminology, the grammar, the rules which construct thoughts. I think all the time, but how I think is changing as I recognize key concepts that I’d never thought about before.

This mind expansion is assisted by the young classmates that I share classes with. A significant portion of them grew up with this kind of mindframe. It is not new to them, or different, so they are not sharing my experience. They are instead adding to it, by showing me realtime how they reflect on the content we are being exposed to for my classes.

One of my classes is a Philosophy class, and while I am singularly unimpressed with the gender bias and general air of superiority that is rife with every reading, the how of it sinks into the cracks and I begin to see how they thought, how they examined the world around them. I don’t want to emulate their conclusions, but we are nearly five thousand years beyond them in terms of science and technology. Their findings don’t make sense anymore, but they are the basis for thought in Western Civilization, so I suppose one might give them a nod for it.

Another one of my classes is investigating Augmented Realities, and how those realities affect the people that exist in them. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal until you recognize that every book every written is an alternate reality, created by a person who saw things in a unique way. We may only just be scootching our way in to virtual reality, but humans have been taking trips into their imagination for millennium. Hell, once every couple of weeks I indulge in the same process, of sharing an illusory world with approximately 40 other people. I am aware that I am not actually my character, but for several hours I have a different set of priorities, principles, goals and beliefs, and I portray her with all the cleverness and pathos I can muster. I am invested in a world that doesn’t exist, and I have learned a lot even in the short time I’ve played with the troupe.

The last class is a lesson in culture, focusing on black science fiction. Octavia Butler, Sam Delany, but more than that, musicians like Sun Ra and George Clinton, and let’s not forget Nichelle Nichols, who became a cultural icon as Uhura. I grew up in a small white community in Wyoming, with very few friends that weren’t white. I wasn’t exposed to black culture in any meaningful way, but this is something that I can plug into immediately. The stories they tell are unique, powerful, and inspiring, and I am expanding my understanding in ways that I can’t even calculate yet. Better understanding often leads to better communication, and I am all for that.

So, this is how I’ve spent my days since school started. Getting smarter, feeling more confident, enjoying the hell out of my classes.

Things are turning out all right.

 
Photo credit:
Ryan Holloway

Autumn is Coming

I’m not going to lie, I think I forgot how to blog.
I used to be able to whip out a few lines about my life, but that was when I was in school, when things were jam packed and exciting.
This summer has made life Slow. Way. Down. And while I’ve been enjoying the pace, let’s face it, there’s nothing gripping in 88 lines about 4 things that happened. I’ve been writing about my adventures over the summer, of which some were mighty, and of which some were just a mention.
One of the things I like to talk about is my writing. I am learning so much I feel like every blog post is a chance to document my milestones. I also imagine that other writers might find it interesting. I imagine, on the other hand, that some people think it’s like watching paint dry. This leaves me trying to find a balance.
I am working on an exciting achievement and something I’ve never done before. I wrote two rough drafts in two months, in tandem. I’ve written one book in the course of a month, last summer, but two separate books in different genres was a whole new level of achievement. I used to wonder how my other writer friends pounded out manuscripts so fast, but I see now that it simply matters how much time you have. When I have enough time to treat my writing like a full-time job, I produce crazy books. When I’m a student, my output slows way down. It makes sense, but to know a thing and to experience a thing sometimes turns out differently. I always thought I was underproducing. Turns out, I was just overachieving in other areas of my life.
Speaking of overachieving, I was accepted to Sigma Alpha Pi, which is a national honors society for universities. I am stunned and pleased that my grades are getting noticed. Of course, this always raises the bar as well, but I figure anything to make my resume look more shiny is welcome in my world.
I’m a year out from graduation (or so,) and I’m making plans for how to finish out my year even as I begin it. I love being a student, love all that I’m learning, but it’s a race against money, as the student loans rack up. The whole point of going back to school was to raise my income potential. That, and to get a job that I could marginally stand while I wait for people to fall in love with my books.
I am looking forward to school. I love school. I love learning. In another life I might have been a teacher, if I wasn’t so obsessed with spinning yarn.
Speaking of yarn, I am trying to teach myself to knit. Let me tell you, for a clumsy lady, that is some slow going. But it has taught me the secret to learning a thing; never give up. And just keep trying.

So here is my relearning how to blog.

One Down, Five to Go

I have successfully concluded my first quarter. And, while my grades won’t be officially submitted until next week, I have reason to believe I’m getting A’s and a B. In January I would have sworn to you I was doomed for D’s, so it’s nice to be pleasantly surprised.

Registration is done for next quarter and my schedule is… expedient. I am going to take classes I enjoy, but one will be interesting. I’m not looking forward to a debate class. My husband almost fell off the couch laughing when he heard I’d signed up for one. If nothing else it should be a source of amusement at my expense, but I’ll live with that. Awkward human brings forth awkward humor.

On a completely different note, I am watching The Flash on Netflix and I am genuinely enjoying the storytelling. The cast is fantastic, they have a great style and energy. The storytelling is complex, which you could expect, both from a superhero point of view and a timey-wimey point of view. Time travel always opens so many cans of worms at the same time, the complexity is easy to mess up. They are doing a fine job with it, though.

Things are going well on the writing front. Finals week took out my momentum at the knees, but as I approach Spring Break I have days devoted to finishing Typhon. Finding time and space to read out loud without bothering people has been challenging, so I’ve been working on other projects while I wait for break. I am working on a strange marriage of a sci-fi setting and an epic fantasy. I like where the story is going, but I’m worried about the voice. It doesn’t have the stylized speech patterns of an epic fantasy, which it did when I first started the work. On the other hand, the story is solid, so perhaps the stylized fantasy aspect was holding me back from finishing the piece. Ah, the life of a writer. Much like the complex storytelling aspects of time travel, if you’re going to try to work in two genres, you’d better be prepared to get both genres right. If you can’t write Pern, you’d better stick to one gun or the other.

But now, I must go. My son’s coding club is having an open house for parents today, and I’m going to investigate. He’s had so much fun in this club, we’re going to miss it while it’s on break!

Onward Spring

Last week the snowpocalypse showed up, snowing in my husband, my son, and me. My husband constantly physical, and being indoors for seven days was a trial. My son does love video games, and we took him to play outside, but after such a long time even he was missing school. My school, which never closes, was closed for three days, and my teachers cancelled classes even on some of the days the school was open. I was ready for a change of scene by the end of the week myself.

I’m going through some big shifts this first quarter at university. For starters, my grades aren’t where they’ve been at Whatcom. It’s frustrating, going from a school where I was on the Dean’s list to belly-flopping in the grade pool of Western. It’s also motivating me to find new ways to student. I’ve been blessed with a husband who knows many forms of getting information drilled into your head. He’s been coaching me along, giving me good suggestions for how to study more effectively.

Learning new techniques has been helpful. It’s also taught me a lot about what a good student really is, compared to what I thought being a good student was. I’ve had to face up to my prejudices and the standards I’ve held myself to, then take a step back and recognize that my old standards were crazy high and needed to be reset.

The time management has also become a thing – my schoolwork requires more time, which means that there’s less time for my son, my husband, and my house. I keep reminding myself that sacrifices would have to be made to get through school. This isn’t supposed to be forever, after all.

This does however put a shift in my blogging, as well, as I usually write about what happens to me, and currently there isn’t much going on with me outside of school and home. I don’t even have much time to write, which is ironic. I still try to make time to write, despite my challenges.

I took a walk with Toby yesterday. It was fifty degrees and felt balmy compared to the cold we’d had the week before. The sun was out, and we managed to see signs of spring. The lilac leaves were budding, and it looked like the willows were sprouting forth their fuzzy white buds. One neighbor had just mown his lawn, and the smell was divine. Seeing signs of life amidst the winter bracken gave me some hope that the next season would be coming quickly, with new sights and new stories.