Microfiction

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She woke up feeling like a new person.

Concepts she hadn’t considered before rolled through her mind at speeds she didn’t know she could think at. A word problem that had bothered her since high school opened up before her and showed her all of its mathematical components, leaving her speechless.

Even her hair seemed different. Usually she woke up to a bedraggled mess of unruly snarls, but today her hair was a tousled twist of sassy style. Her makeup sat, waiting to line up and be called upon, and when she applied it, despite it being the same product it was yesterday, it somehow looked elegant today, and she felt beautiful.

The feeling carried on into her work day. Normally she would hunker down in her cubicle, hoping no one would notice that she was there. Today, she volunteered when her co-workers needed her expertise. She wasn’t the go-to person for problem solving before.

The moment that clinched it was seeing her boss in the hallway. He was a short man, trim, with graying hair and a fashionable goatee. Mr. Kettinger intimidated her, although not physically. He was so much smarter than her, she didn’t feel like she could ever have a conversation with him.

He nodded to her in the break room, in his perfunctory way. She nodded back.

“Great post,” he said.

She knew what post he referred to. Secretly, she was quite proud of it. She’d detailed problems the company faced and the solutions to counter the problems.

“Thank you.” She said.

It was nothing, it was a four word conversation, but something shifted, and she realized, she wasn’t intimidated by him. Before he spoke, she hadn’t felt that thrill of terror that preceded each interaction.

What changed?

While sitting at dinner, outside in the warm sun with her friend, a car accident nearly occurred. She heard the screech of tires, the blare of a horn, and the shouts of startled drivers. Then she felt it. A wave of emotion rolled over her. Fear, confusion, anger, it all mingled together. The most startling fact of all, however, was that none of it was hers.

She could feel the anger and confusion of those in the vehicles, just across the block. She could feel the echoing feelings of those who watched the near miss. For a moment, she felt overwhelmed, as the feelings flowed over her, through her, and into her mind.

“Are you okay?” Her friend looked concerned.

She should have been terrified. She remembered those feelings from when she was a child. Knowing what other people felt, within her line of sight. She’d tucked that away, in a portion of her mind that was locked by glowing blue eyes and shivery fear.

“I’m fine.” She smiled, reassuring her friend.

Before she went to bed that night, she drew a bath. She slipped into the warm water and let the day sluice away her confusion, but the answers wouldn’t come. What was happening to her?

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Cretaceous Creatures

 

 

Currently I’m working on a book for my son. I have been telling him bedtime stories for years that featured a sort of dinosaur superhero, Ignacio the Iguanodon. Ignacio keeps his identity secret, working as the Masked Avenger. The Masked Avenger keeps the Iguanodon Village safe from the likes of Gaucho, the evil T-Rex, or his two velociraptor minions, Tinker & Trombone. Here’s a piece I did for my microfiction this week.

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“Hey, Tinker,” said Tinker. “Let’s eat that one.”

Trombone, a velociraptor and Tinker’s brother, peered through the thick green vegetation providing the two carnivorous dinosaurs with a place to hide. “Which one?”

Tinker sighed and pointed, using his small but mobile claws. “The only one there, you dummy.”

The two velociraptors sat high on a hill, looking down at a watering hole. This watering hole had been slowly drying all summer long. The water pulled back from the shore, leaving a swath of thick, sticky mud. There were sets of bones, picked clean by the flying dinosaurs that could safely reach the carcasses. The smell of dead things mingled with the thick air of the Cretaceous period.

“I can’t see it.” Trombone strained his neck and squinted.

“He’s in the mud! Close to the water.” Tinker pointed again.

“Oh! He’s all mud colored.” Trombone said astutely.

“Well, that’s hardly going to be his problem for long.” Tinker sneered. “Let’s go.”

“He’s in there awfully far, Tinker. How are we gonna reach him?” Trombone asked, obediently following his brother down the hill. His tail lashed through the underbrush.

“Easy. There’s two of us. You’re going to go out a ways in the mud, and I’m going to stand on you for reach.” Tinker said, his red scales glistening in the sun.

Trombone stopped. “Then I’ll be all muddy!”

“You’ll be mud colored, like the iguanodon. Perfect camouflage.” Tinker grinned.

“Oh! Well, all right then.” Trombone agreed, and continued to pick his way down the hill, behind his brother.

The iguanodon let out a call, bleating like a caught sheep. It thrashed, weakly, struggling against the mud.

“I don’t like iguanadon. They’re gamey.” Trombone complained.

Tinker turned so fast that Trombone almost walked right into him. “Oh, you don’t like iguanodon? Hmm, let’s see. We’ve got some hadrosaur carcass ahead of us. Too bad it’s picked down to the bone. Oh, and I think that might have been a gallimimus at some point. If only it had some meat on its bones to be sure. I imagine you’ll get a great soup out of those bones, if you were so inclined.”

“I was just saying.” Trombone sulked.

They got to the water, and the iguanodon smelled them. It thrashed to get away, but it was stuck fast.

“How’m I going to get out to it?” Trombone asked, eying the mud distrustfully.

“Jump.” Tinker said, helpfully.

“Oh. Well. Right then.” Trombone backed up a few paces, got a running start, and leaped with his long, powerful legs.

“Great, now hold still!” Tinker said, running to follow his brother.

Several things happened in that moment. First, Trombone realized that he was stuck, and began jerking against the mud. Second, Tinker sailed through the air, aiming for his brother, but soaring right past him. Third, Trombone noticed that the strange iguanodon wore a mask!

“Tinker, it’s HIM!” Trombone shouted. “It’s the Masked Avenger!”

The iguanodon smiled. “That’s right!” He wriggled in the mud and with a loud sucking sound, popped his body free of the mud.

“You’re kidding me? Trombone, this guy’s real?” Tinker demanded.

Trombone nodded, cringing as the iguanodon strode past him, nimbly walking along the top of the mud, jumping in an odd sort of pattern. “I told you, but you didn’t believe me.”

Tinker and Trombone watched as the Masked Avenger made it safely to the land. “Now, if you two will excuse me, I need to rinse this mud off. I hope you too have learned your lesson! The iguanodons of Iguanodon Village are under my protection, and I will not rest until you leave our territory and stop preying on our weak, and our old, and our children.”

“We’re predators, mate. What do you expect?” Tinker shot back.

“For you to be predators elsewhere.” The iguanodon stated, and then disappeared into the vegetation.

Trombone shook his head, the only part of him free of the mud. He chuckled.

“What’s so funny?” Tinker demanded.

“For once, I was right!” Trombone said proudly. “I told you iguanodon were gamey!”

 

Chaos Theory – A microfiction

A butterfly flapped its wings in Brazil, and a hurricane began its journey towards Louisiana. Somewhere along the line the hurricane earned its name, Edith in this case. She was the fifth named hurricane of the year, a tremendous monster. This monster blew the boat named, “Her Other Car” off course. The two people inside, certain that they were going to die in the storm, vowed to die in each other’s arms.

Instead, nine months later, Edith was born. Her mamma said Edith could cause or calm a storm just by walking into a room.

When Edith got older, she learned to keep her observations to herself. It started when the cat got loose; she’d told Mrs. Brightly that her dog shouldn’t be let out of its yard.Mrs. Brightly didn’t listen. It turned out that Muffin wasn’t aware of the weak board in the fence, but Tuggers was. He forced his way free of the confines of his yard. The big lab chased Muffin around the house and across to the Dalbert’s yard. Mr. Dalbert wasn’t home yet, but that was okay. Mrs. Dalbert was entertaining Mr. Brightly at the time. When Muffin ran through the slightly opened window of the bedroom where Mrs. Dalbert was entertaining,Tuggers had enough momentum from chasing the cat to become a canine projectile. The window had no chance against a full bore doggy intrusion. Tuggers poured light on the dark shadows of a neighborhood affair.

Mrs. Brightly demanded a divorce and moved to Shreveport, taking Tuggers with her. Mr. Dalbert sold the house to move to Florida and be closer to his mother. Edith’s mom never told her what happened to Mrs. Dalbert or Mr. Brightly. She suspected that Edith knew more than she let on.

What Edith’s mother didn’t suspect, however, is how much Edith knew. She knew the color of the wings of the butterfly who flapped her into existence. She knew when the last bee would die. She knew about the affair that Mrs. D and Mr. B were having. She’d been the one to let the cat out of the bag, that day.

Edith knew that there were big things in her future. A child of a storm did not simply slide out of the world’s eye. That’s why she wasn’t scared the day the men in black suits came to talk to her mamma. She knew they were coming, and hid away her backpack full of food and water and a change of clothes. She felt a twinge as she whispered a goodbye to her mamma, and struck out on her own. Truth was, Edith might have even gone with the men, but she knew what would come of it if she did go. There was only one future she could choose out of the ones she had seen. The others ended in pain and death and sadness. The future she chose held those things, as well, but it also held something the others didn’t.

Microfiction (500 words or less.)

The brightly lit, sterile room was cool, and brought shivers to Moria’s flesh. The room reminded her of a surgical suite. She hated doctors, but right now she would be happy to see one. She would far prefer that to where she was.

The execution chamber door opened to reveal two men. One was dressed severely, in all black, with a slash of white at his throat. He carried a leather bound book with gold embossing. She recognized him and her stomach plummeted. It was Father Brile, the old priest who read her mother’s last rites.

Moria tugged at the straps holding her to the table. They held fast. The second figure strode in, and Moira blanched. Her father returned her look, his blue eyes full of disapproval, his cheekbones prominent, his steel-gray hair pulled back in a luxurious ponytail. She’d always loved it when he’d let it loose.

She didn’t say anything. She didn’t know what to say. Heather’s kidnapping struck her to the core, and Moria had to do something. She’d even succeeded. Her childhood friend Jeremy swore to her that Heather would be hidden and kept safe. The last friendly words she’d heard.

“Moira McGuinan,” her father intoned, “you have been charged with the kidnapping of your sister, Heather McGuinan. Your punishment is execution, lest you speak now and reveal where you’ve hidden her.”

Moira bit her lip in refusal. It broke her heart that her father was the Councilman present to see through the execution. It meant he knew about Heather’s kidnappers, maybe even orchestrated the abduction. “Moira McGuinan, your crimes are these.” Her father continued. “Theft of clan property, including weapons, ordinance, and a cruiser. Breaking the clan trust and treaties between clan McGuinan and Clan MacLoren. Leaving the clan’s boundaries. Invading clan MacLoren territory. Murder of seven men of clan MacLoren. And finally, the abduction of your sibling.”

Not necessarily in that order. Moria thought.

“Do you not have anything to say for yourself? Nothing even to say to me?” Her father asked.

“You know that isn’t what happened,” She finally said, seeing the emotion touch his frosty eyes. “Heather was kidnapped, and I went to go save her.”

“If you saved her, why didn’t you bring her back?” Her father asked, the ice reforming quickly.

“I wasn’t sure who I could trust.” Moria met her father’s eyes without flinching.

Her father nodded to Father Brile, who began chanting in Latin. Her father pressed some buttons on the table, and an arm popped out, holding a syringe filled with deadly solution.

Forgive me, Heather. Moira closed her eyes.

Her father pressed the button, and a needle pierced her arm. Adrenaline washed through her. She tried not to panic as her senses dulled. Her limbs felt heavy.

She awoke hours later, in her room, with her father sitting at her bedside. “I’m sorry darling. It was important that you die, you see. Now I’ll be able to tell you why.”

High Rotation

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You may have heard of the book, 7 Habits of Successful People. I read it once, a long time ago. I don’t remember what they are now, but one thing I did take away stares at you from the title. Successful People have habits. And yes, we all have habits, but what we don’t realize is how complex some of those habits are, or how forceful they can be.

A lot of the time, I use habits as a way to accomplish what I want. If I want to remember a task, I put it in my phone calendar. If I find a cool website that I can’t read until later, I email it to myself so I know exactly where the link is. My routine is as rigid as a steel girder. The upside is, I get a lot of shit done. The downside is, this doesn’t leave much room for ‘me’ time.

My problem is people. Namely, I have a ton of good friends and family that I don’t want to lose track of. Then, I also have my social demands. There are guests over at least three times a week at my house, and then of course there’s family night, and the weekend, which leaves me with very little time. And of course there are my tasks – running errands, cleaning the house, helping my son with his homework, editing my novel, and putting my son to bed to name a few. This is before any extra hanging out with friends I don’t see on a weekly basis. And let’s not forget that I also have phone calls to make to my out-of-state friends and family.

I want to pare down my life and simplify it somewhat. Obviously husband and son time are not going to see any paring down, and my husband likes to host our friends so they’re coming over whether I want to be social or antisocial. I have tried to write on movie night, but generally I get distracted by whatever is going on in the big screen in our living room, and I can’t work that way very well.

I don’t want to tell my friends, “Hey look, sorry,” but I think that is my only option. Usually I’m the initiator for communication, so honestly if I stop talking to them I don’t think they’d even notice, at first. Eventually they’d want to renew ties, and by that time it might even be time to worry about it, but I am pushing myself to the limit and I need more breathing room.

It took a conversation with my husband to bring this into perspective for me. I was talking about how my sister is a much bigger badass than I am. She’s currently pregnant, has a sinus infection, can’t breathe through her nose, and went to work yesterday despite her minimum one hour commute (one way). There is no way I would do that to myself. Yet, my husband pointed out that I should turn it around and point out all the things I do in a day.

It seems I have gone from being a flakey gamer girl who could barely keep track of what day it was to a hyper vigilant obsessive-compulsive who has to alphabetize her to-do lists.  These ‘habits’ have turned me into the kind of person who plays Tetris with her calendar instead of using it for occasional appointments.

Even now, I am writing this blog post to avoid my editing. It’s seven days into May and I have one chapter done and I’m only just into the second. Of course, my friend Allie says that editing is the WORST. She’s in my monthly writer’s group. And no, I’m not giving that up in my mass culling.

Hopefully I’ll figure out a way to slow my role. I’m going to have to, because the wall is fast approaching, whether I do or not.  

The Winter of My Discontent

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***Caution. Spoilers. Very small quantity***

This conversation is why George RR Martin chose to write stories about rape, and murder, and betrayal, and dark magic, and all the things that fuel human beings to take actions that we never would in our world. I don’t endorse violence or rape in the real world, but it’s a book. It starts discussions. People get intense about things that they should be concerned about, without their family/friend/self being the victim of the violence. I game because gaming is safe. I’ve had horrible things happen to my characters because that’s where the story went, and I’ve seen others go through hell too, and sometimes it’s cathartic. I’ve read books with rape, violence, and horror. Most books I feel the author uses their tools to make me think. Sometimes, authors step over my personal line and I never choose to read their books again. However, I was never hurt from reading a book. And sometimes I have to consider how I feel very carefully after I’ve read it. It’s like my friend Kat said. Fiction is hard. Interpreting written fiction into a visual medium is hard. I think it’s important to remember that art is about art, that writers try to make people think. I don’t want to live in a world where darker elements of stories aren’t allowed to exist because it might give someone pause. Giving someone pause is what writers do. What a person learns from those stories is very individual, but I believe that it helps strengthens the cause by giving people debatable points to talk about.

I’m sure by now you’ve all either watched, read about, or heard someone mention the most recent episode of Game of Thrones. (By the time I publish this, it won’t be anymore. To give context, it’s the episode that has a scene with Jamie and Cersei that has the intarwebs up in arms.)

Please let me be the first to say that I have stopped reading books because of scenes I objected to. In specific, Laurel K. Hamilton writes a scene in one of her books that portrays sexually explicit child molestation. Allow me to assure you, I have never purchased or read anything that she has written ever since that time, including other series that weren’t related.

In the Game of Thrones series, George R.R. Martin writes rape scenes. Plural, mind you. He also beheads a beloved character before the end of the first book, scatters a family to the winds, writes scenes about incest, about murder, about disfigurement. He “crowns” a character by drowning him in molten gold. All sorts of terrible, terrible things happen in these books.

In short, George R.R. Martin is a right fucker to his characters.

My feelings about this are mixed. I am no advocate of rape. Rape is awful, there are no words for how despicable of an act it is.

That said, writing about rape is not rape. Writing about rape is important, despite our wishes to the otherwise. Writing about rape brings the issue to the fore, allows for important discussions to be broached, and gives a context for people to start a discussion.

How can that be, I’m sure you’re asking in disgust. Well, drawing from my own pool of knowledge, I’ve started reading Harry Potter to my six year old son. Recently we got to the chapter where Malfoy calls Hermoine a Mudblood. My son understood right away that this was a slur, even before Ron explains to Harry what the slur means. This later gave me a platform for discussing discrimination to him. There are plenty of real life instances to refer to, to be sure, but Toby cares deeply about Harry and the fate of the wizards and witches. There are the bad things that happen in the real world, but my son doesn’t have the kind of context required to understand some of the implications.

I respect people saying Game of Thrones is “too rapey” for them and quitting. I respect people who are watching the HBO show saying, “That scene was too over the edge, and I don’t want to watch this anymore.” If that be the case, so be it. Please just don’t try to take it away – I rather enjoy it, myself.

 

Reconstruction

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Change is the butterfly that flaps its wings in Brazil and causes a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s the smallest act, that will create chaos along it’s path. We tend to be the people in the path of the hurricane. We don’t know where the butterfly was, what color its wings were, or when it precisely brought its wings together. We just know the hurricane that hits because of the creature. This is because humans don’t live in an isolated world where only one variable changes at a time. Humans overload their plates when they feel like they ‘need to change’. Every year, on New Years, people make a laundry list of resolutions that they fully intend to follow through with. However, trying to change so many things at once only results in us resolving never to make resolutions again.

My resolution was to stop attending cons. I forgot that humans don’t make drastic changes very well.

However, we do make changes subtly, as people. We discover that we feel better if we do eat something, or don’t eat something, or drink less, or stop smoking. Our entire youth seems to be centered on deliberately damaging ourselves. Testing our endurance to our limits, to see what our limits are. With maturity comes the rolling back on what we can keep doing, and recognizing what we must abandon for our health.

So, with this in mind, I started going to cons when I was 17 years old. That is a lot of learned behavior that I can’t indulge in anymore.

Con was definitely the place to test my endurance. Not eating enough, not sleeping enough, dancing all night long, smoking cloves, and joining my friends for drinks. I had heard about these strange things called panels, but that was where the day-walkers tread. I was contented to stand in the halls and talk with my friends. Or to wander into rooms and socialize. Try to find food and meander the dealer’s room, absorbing the things that I couldn’t buy myself.

Obviously, the behaviors of an older teen/young twenty-something aren’t behaviors I can really keep anymore. My life has changed. I’m a wife and a mother, not a free-wheeling kid. I wish I had the same kind of endurance that I did when I was twenty-one, but I don’t. Then again, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I can’t do what I’ve always done, and that’s all there is to it. So my obvious solution was to not attend con this year. Cut myself off, cold turkey.

It’s been brought to my attention that I’m pursuing a career that I wasn’t pursuing in my late teens and early twenties. A career that happens to dovetail nicely into going to cons, attending panels, doing what day-walkers do. If it means being at the con when night falls and the party animals emerge – well, I’m still able to say hello to them in the halls, just like normal.

I don’t want to say I’m getting old, because I don’t feel old. I just had a problem presented to me over the weekend. My husband wanted to go be social with his friends, and I didn’t want to go. Being without him for four days, on the other hand, was awful. Not because the days were awful; I had fun. I spent time with family and friends and my adorable son, and we had a great time. I just don’t like being without my husband for that long. We were at an impasse. My options, seemed to be to go back to con, or to plan on spending Easter without him for the rest of our lives.

This is how change comes in. Necessity. The collapse of viable options to one single point, the leaf the butterfly lands on to flap its wings. I have to essentially deconstruct all of my old expectations and understandings of con, and reconstruct them to include my career aspirations. It will be odd to walk the halls, looking to make new friends, with so many old friends wandering the halls. I think this year was the year of the hard look; of the conscious decision, and of the remodeling of thought. But the answer was always obvious, now that I think about it. Compromise. Go for part of the con, not the whole of it. Cut back, relax, and enjoy what is there before me.

Guess you can’t stay a caterpillar forever.