Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

See You On the Other Side

June 24, 2017

I stood on the threshold of the portal. The surface of it was shiny like a mirror dusted with glitter. I could see strange neon-bright circuitry creeping over the walls next to the portal. Pretty soon, the invading technology would be advanced enough to grow a defense of the portal from that strange circuitry moss. Laser grids, grenade launchers, machine guns, sonic pulse emitters and anything else the stuff could think of. It was only a matter of when not if. We had to hurry.

I touched the communications button under my ear gingerly. I was a little wary of being watched in that hallway. “Marianne,” I said into the implanted microphone. “Timing is crucial. Are you going to get here in time?” There was a three-second pause that lasted an eternity.

“Yeah,” Marianne said as she rounded the corner a few feet away. “Hold your horses. It took a bit longer to get through security. This is getting even crazier than I thought.” She spotted the portal and her eyes went wide. “Much crazier.”

Marianne had been my client for the past month. She was the Chief Operating Officer of DOT Industries when the company started to act strangely. Strange orders started coming in and paperwork was getting fudged. When Marianne started to look into it, she had been reprimanded. When she persisted in investigating, she had been removed from her position with a healthy severance payment. She had used part of that severance to hire me. We had been digging for a month and now we had snuck into one of the buildings belonging to her former employers.

“That’s why you hired me,” I said. “I was right, by the way. We have an invasion in progress or at least that’s what it looks like.”

“So do I owe you twenty bucks?” She asked.

“I’m not really happy about it but yes,” I said. I gestured toward the portal. “Shall we?”

“We’re not going in there are we?” She asked. She had obviously been a tough executive but there was a difference between that and jumping into a strange portal. Adventuring took a different kind of guts and maybe a little stupidity.

“We have to know what is on the other side,” I said. “What did you think we were going to do?”

She pulled out a camera. “Well, take some pictures and get the word out.” She aimed the camera at the portal.

“No flash,” I said. “You might startle the moss.”

“Of course not,” Marianne replied. She snapped the picture and then two more to be safe.

“That thing doesn’t have any scanning technology, does it?” I asked. I was no scientist. I could pretty much tell the portal was stable but beyond that, I was out of my element. I would have loved a little more data.

“No,” She said. “However, it did upload to three different servers and it was sent to a friend of mine.”

I had to admire her drive and attention detail. “Well, if you’re done with the photography, we may never get another chance to see the other side of this thing.”

“How do we know we can get back?” She asked.

“I have a transponder on me that I can activate,” I said. “It will provide coordinates for our own portal. I have friends on standby too.”

“You think that will work?” She asked.

“It hasn’t failed me yet,” I said. “By the way, if that techno-organic moss is what I think it is, we should try and keep electronics close. They might be able to absorb our tech.”

“What about you?” She asked.

“What about me?” I asked, watching her watching me.

“Well, I don’t want to pry,” She said. “But don’t you have a lot of cybernetic parts?” I must have shown surprise on my face because she added. “I do my research before hiring anybody.”

“And you still hired me,” I said softly. Cybernetics and old school surgical corrections had fallen out of favor when genetic recombination and nanotechnology had advanced.

“I don’t judge,” She said. “You’re not less human to me. Just somebody who got broken and repaired the best way they knew how.”

I was surprised by the acceptance. “Um, thank you,” I said. “We really should be going, though. Anything could set off the alarms at any minute.”

“Um, can we breathe on the other side?” She asked.

“If it was dangerous over there, we would have already passed out,” I said.

“Comforting,” She said.

I nodded and drew my pistol from where it was shielded from scans, hidden in a cavity in my right hip. I ran through the portal. It felt like stepping through a curtain of falling mercury except for that right afterward you feel like you are falling. Except, you are still stepping forward in the same moment. It is incredibly disorienting which is probably why portal travel never caught on commercially. After a swirl of light and color, I came out on the other side. I stepped aside so that Marianne would not bump into me when she came through. Then I turned to look at what we had stumbled onto.

The place was absolutely covered in eye-searingly neon circuitry. The stuff had formed itself into structures either for purposes of form or function or both. It was hard to take in but it strikingly beautiful. I heard a soft rippling noise from the left of me. Then Marianne let out a soft and breathy ‘Wow’. I nodded, that was the word for it.

Magical Earth Defenders Pt. 5

June 17, 2017

The Star and the Shadow

Daff was so hyped to be heading to auditions for the Spring Musical. She had been in every school show since she was old enough to try out. However, this was the first year that she felt that she could actually get the lead. She enjoyed being in the ensemble. She enjoyed the costumes, the energy, and the camaraderie. However, she felt like she had paid her dues and it was her time to shine. She really wanted to shine.

She had wanted to be a star since she was old enough to walk. She wanted to be the one out in front in the lights and maybe even that white hot spotlight. She wanted people to look up to her like she had looked up to the stars before her. It was the cycle that show business was built on. She wanted to be part of that business for real so badly. Experience here might serve her well in the future or she might even get seen by the right people and secure her future. The possibilities were thrilling and they fed her excitement and confidence that she would pour into her audition.

Suddenly, she tripped over something. She recovered her balance at the last moment and looked around. A thing that was not a cat had been in her path.

“Hey!” Daff yelled. “You almost made me fall! I could have been hurt, you need to watch where you’re going. Oh God, I’m yelling at a cat.”

The thing looked up at her. “Daffney Sinclair, there is little time but I do apologize. We need to meet with the others. Time is short.”

“What?” Daff said. “You have to explain.”

“There is no time, Daffney. Take this charm and follow me!” The thing yelled. A charm flew through the air toward Daffney. She caught the charm in midair. It was some sort of metal with an orange crystal in the center of it. She tried to argue but it was pretty and the cat thing was gone. She needed to find it and fast.

* * *

Maya ran as fast as she could through the city streets. She knew her appearance startled all of the people she passed. Runes from various cultures decorated much of her skin in inky black. However, it was not ink. It was concentrated dark energy. It had been the only way to hide and protect herself from the strange invaders that were chasing her. It was the only way to fight back. The use of dark magic had turned her hair oily black and her skin chalky white. She looked like something out of a Japanese horror movie. She had been on the run for so long but now they were finally catching up.

She had only a little idea who they were. She knew they were called the Dark Covenant and that they controlled terrible magicks but that was about it. They had killed Maya’s parents right before her eyes. An old witch had come from nowhere and rescued Maya and took her on as an apprentice. She learned spells and runes but Maya fled when she learned of the dark nature of the spells she was learning. She did not want to fall into the darkness, even if it meant saving her life and avenging her parents.

She was on her own for the first time in her life. She drifted from place to place. When there was danger, she ran. A few days ago, she had felt the pull to come here to Drake City. She had gone immediately. She had never been there before and it was a long way from her homeland but something about it felt right. Maybe her journey could finally be over. Somehow, the creatures had made it there first and that dream was in danger again.

Maya rounded the corner and ran right into a girl her age. As they both fell to the ground, Maya saw a glittering orange charm clatter to the pavement. All around them, the brick walls and blacktop formed humanoid shapes. These newly formed monsters surrounded the two young girls. Maya was instantly back on her feet, her runes pulsing with power.

“Get behind me!” Maya yelled out.

Before the other girl could move, one of the brick monsters held up its hand. What could only be described as pink flame shot out and hit the other girl. With an unearthly shriek, the girl fell back to the pavement. She was not moving but she was still burning with those strange pink flames.

“No!” Maya cried out. The brick monster turned to her but she poured will into a collection of runes on her wrist and she teleported before the pink flame could touch her. Unfortunately, the spell did not work for long distance so she was only just outside the circle of monsters. A thing that was not a cat came running from the alley. It stopped cold when it saw the burning body.

“Daffney! No, I was too late,” The thing said with a yowl. Maya reached down and picked up the charm that Daffney had dropped. She held it in her hand and watched the crystal turn black. The cat thing yowled again. “No! That’s not for you! Drop it!”

“What the hell are you?” Maya yelled. Everything was happening so fast. It was hard to concentrate on the danger when confronted with a talking animal.

“It’s too late! Bring the charm with us! Run!” The thing yelled. Maya chased after it, out of the alleyway. She needed answers. For the first time since this whole thing had begun, there was somebody besides that awful witch who might know about these monsters. The two of them sprinted down the street. Thankfully, the monsters seemed to be as slow as you would expect brick and blacktop monsters would be. Pink flame shot out of the alleyway behind them but it came just short, missing them both. Maya heard the screams of bystanders on the street. She started to turn back.

“No!” The cat thing yelled. “We can’t help them like this. I want to help them too but we need assistance first.”

“Like this? Like what?” Maya yelled back. Everything made less sense than usual.

“Run!” The cat thing commanded and Maya shut up and ran harder, feeling her own darkness pushing her forward faster. She scooped up the cat thing and kept running. “Turn right ahead!” It yelled out.

Maya hung a right and nearly ran into four startled girls, one of them in a wheelchair. The thing called something out into the gathering twilight that Maya did not hear clearly. There was a flash of light and then all of them were gone from the streets of Drake City.

Magical Earth Defenders Pt. 4

June 3, 2017

The Gravity

When Kelsie walked into the locker room, there was already a lot of shouting. It was not the good, after-game excitement shouting. It was angry shouting. Ruby and Nikki were going at it and it looked like they were about to start shoving each other. Kelsie could not tell what the fight was about but she knew it was up to her to end it. She stepped between the warring factions.

“Hey!” She yelled. “You two need to quit it and cool down. Can you do that for me, please?”

“I was just trying to change and get out of here,” Ruby said. “but she picked a fight with me.”

“You little snitch!” Nikki yelled.

“Whoa,” Kelsie said. “How about you tell me what’s wrong, Nikki? We solve problems together on this team.”

Nikki sighed and backed off of Ruby but she was pacing a little. “If Ruby had passed me the ball in that last quarter, we would have won. Instead, she passed to her girl Bailey and Bailey blew it.”

Kelsie glanced over to see Bailey blush and look down. Kelsie walked over and put a hand on Bailey’s shoulder. “Bailey did not blow it. She tried her best. I bet she gets the next one.”

“Yeah, I will,” Bailey said with a smile that warmed slowly and showed her confidence returning.

“And she’s not just Ruby’s girl,” Kelsie said. “She’s our teammate and so is Ruby and so are you, Nikki. Maybe Ruby didn’t see what you saw. We’ll get better at that through practice. We can only get better together, right?” She looked at Nikki purposefully. It was not a hard look or an unfriendly look but it was an unshakably confident look. Nikki looked down, breaking first and looking ashamed.

“Yes, Captain Kelsie,” Nikki said softly.

“I can’t hear you!” Kelsie yelled with a smile. This was directed at the whole room rather than just picking on Nikki.

“Yes, Captain Kelsie!” The girls in the locker room shouted and that included Nikki.

Kelsie beamed with pride. “Besides, what would our coach do if she saw this? I’ll tell you what she would do. She would make all of us do laps and we already just played a hard game. I don’t want to do laps, do you?”

“Okay Okay,” Nikki said with a groan. “We get it. I won’t fight anymore. I’ll play nice. I’m sorry.”

“Awesome,” Kelsie said. She held out her fist and Nikki touched her fist to it. Nikki sighed and turned to Ruby and held out her fist. The two of them touched fists together. Kelsie liked that but decided not to ruin the moment by pointing it all out. She loved the lacrosse team.

One by one, the team filtered out of the locker room. Kelsie stayed behind to tidy up a bit. Nobody on the team would dare be messy in the locker room but there were a few things to tuck away so the janitor could get everywhere with the mop. After tidying, Kelsie decided to take a shower. The loss of the game was hitting her again and it was hard to remain positive.

As the water ran over her and she breathed in the steam, she replayed the highlights of the game in her head. She thought of how they could have done things differently. She thought of how they could work to improve next practice. That was why Coach Marnie had chosen Kelsie as team captain. She was very passionate but positive about everything she did. She did her best to put a smile on her teammate’s faces and a little extra effort into their performances.

It was so quiet when she got out of the shower. She lived for the roar and rush of the game but sometimes a little quiet was good too. She felt safe there because this locker room was like a second home to her. She grabbed a towel and started to dry as she walked through the locker room. Kelsie loved to take her time after a game. The light rail would come around when she was ready. It was also Friday so homework for Monday was not exactly pressing. For the moment, she had all the time in the world.

“Kelsie Gutierrez!” A voice called out and Kelsie yelped and dropped her towel. he bent down to retrieve it, but she looked around wildly.

“Not funny!” Kelsie yelled. “You can’t do that to a girl in a towel!” She huffed and looked around for which friend had played such a dirty trick. When she came around a group of lockers, a thing that was not a cat was sitting on a bench. Kelsie froze in confusion.

“Sorry for scaring you, Kelsie,” The thing said. “We have need of your positive spirit and unbreakable nerve.”

Kelsie nearly dropped her towel again. “W-what!? How can you be talking? What are you talking about? Aren’t you a little short for a college recruiter?”

“I am recruiting you to save the world,” the thing said. “We need you.”

“Who is we? Who are you?” Kelsie asked.

“I will explain at the meeting,” the thing said. “Bring this charm to the location on the note.” Then the thing dropped a charm and a note and ran out of the locker room, leaving Kelsie with more questions. She grabbed up the charm which turned from blue to purple.”

Magical Earth Defenders Pt. 3

May 27, 2017

The Sound

Natia sat under the bridge, clutching her guitar to her chest tightly. Usually, she would be with her friends jamming out a little bit. She loved being loud but now it was time to be quiet for once. When she had been headed to the jam space, she was sure that she had spotted the local truancy officer, Mr. Collins. She had thought that she knew how to shake them off but this one seemed especially aggressive. Natia’s usual indestructible confidence was shaken.

She pulled out her phone and texted “007” to her friends both as a warning and to psych herself up. The thought of the famously ridiculous spy made her smile. She could do this. She was better than any Bond, she was Natia Apatu. She looked around for some way to escape. Just a few feet away, there was a grate over a large pipe that looked like it might access the sewer. It was not the most pleasant way to travel but there was a sink and a hose at the jam space. She could get clean again. Mostly clean.

She pulled at the grate and, surprisingly, it came off right away. It was not even that heavy. This did not exactly inspire confidence in the municipal infrastructure. Of course, Natia and her friends regularly raged against that machine so it was not remarkable for her to criticize or expect much from the city. She loved the people but hated the man. The man did not like freedom and Natia was all about freedom.

She stepped into the pipe, ducking her head and slinging the guitar under her right arm. She reached back and pulled the grate back into place the best she could. It kind of looked exactly how it had looked before. At least, this is what Natia hoped. She doubted the officer would crawl through the sewers to catch one preteen girl who was skipping school but the paranoia was real. She quickly and carefully crawled further down the pipe.

Thankfully, the thing was dry. She had imagined it would be absolutely caked with questionable oozing substances so she was glad to be wrong. She idly hoped nobody flushed but as far as she knew, the sewer did not work like that. This was probably just a storm drain. This was going to be easier than she thought. The only worry she had was her guitar. Everything else could heal but her older brother had given her the guitar before leaving for college. It was irreplaceable.

Natia missed her brother dearly. The had been pretty close growing up, squabbling sometimes but they always had each others’ back. They often got into trouble together but Samula was also always getting Natia out of it. She missed that. She really did. After he left, school did not feel worth going to and teachers got no respect from Natia. Not when dreams of a hit record danced behind her eyes. Besides, she had made friends with a bunch of kids who were also done with school.

At the other end of the pipe, was the sewer. Natia tried to count out the distance so that she could slide under and past Mr. Collins. Once she was sure that she had gotten past the guy, he started to climb a ladder. This was so 007. She started to hum before she realized that she was humming Mission Impossible and not James Bond. She hummed one of her own compositions instead. It kept her hands steady.

The manhole at the top of the ladder was heavy. She heaved but nearly lost her balance on the ladder. Instead, she used her shoulder, grunting with the exertion. The manhole finally moved. She shoved it aside as carefully as she could and found herself in an alleyway. She leaned the guitar against the wall and gently moved the manhole back into place, trying not to make any more noise. After that, she sat next to her guitar to catch her breath and get her bearings.

The alley looked kind of familiar. On a whim, Natia clambered up some boxes and crawled into an open window. Luckily, it was the right building. She recognized the crappy wallpaper and everything. Natia sighed with relief. The rest of the gang was probably already in the room. They were a stealthy bunch and half of them usually crashed in the room anyway. They probably had not even known the officer was around.

She headed up the stairs two at a time, shouldering her guitar as she walked. There was not a spot of dirt on it and that made her proud. She started to tune it. IT felt good to be home free. Each musical tone from her guitar made her more excited, more alive. It was time for another day of rock and roll. She opened the door to absolute silence. Nobody was there.

“Where is everybody?” Natia asked the room.

“They got caught by the truant officer,” A voice said from somewhere. “They’re gone.”

“Who’s there?” Natia asked. A thing that was not a cat came out from behind a speaker.

“Natia Apatu. I will not answer that question right now,” The voice said. “But we have a need for your creative energy. It could save the world.”

“Save the world?” Natia asked. “Who is ‘we’?”

“That is not quite settled yet,” The things said. “Take this charm and meet us at the location on the note.”

The thing dropped a charm and a slip of paper jumped out of the window. Natia scrambled over and picked up the charm which went from red to green.

Magical Earth Defenders Pt. 2

May 20, 2017

The Flame

The doctor came back into the room and Lennon knew from his face that the news was bad. She wiped at her glasses in an attempt not to cry. She hardened her heart and looked up at the doctor almost defiantly. She felt her mom squeeze her hand and the tears almost came again but she held on tightly instead. She had to be strong.

“Lennon, Ms. Clarke,” The doctor said. “I’m afraid I have some bad news for you.”

At that, Lennon’s mom did start crying. Lennon kept it together even though she felt the words tear her apart inside. She found herself focusing on being strong for her mother and trying to comfort her, reaching to stroke her mother’s shoulder and back. This illness had been a long journey for both of them. It seemed the journey was far from over.

Over five years ago, Lennon had lost her father. He had been hit by a taxi on his way to his car after a late shift at work. She still missed waiting up for him so they could eat cookies and talk about their day. She missed Sunday breakfast where all three of them could laugh and have a leisurely meal together even though her father was still usually dog tired from the night before. She knew her mom felt the same. Now, Lennon stayed up alone with only her books to comfort her while mom was off working to cover the bills. Cookies had lost their taste.

Two years ago, Lennon had fallen during gym class. She had thought it was just a fluke and chalked it up to being an awkwardly clumsy nerd. Things went downhill from there. She had thought that her legs were just bruised and injured from the fall but they started refusing to work right. They were weak and she could not stand right. Soon, her legs shook too much with the strain of her weight and she could not stand at all. The school had chipped in for a wheelchair. It made her cheeks burn with embarrassment.

There had been so many tests and nobody had any answers. Lennon felt that she had become an expert on the subject by now. Not only was she living the experience, she was also spending all the time she was not doing her homework studying medical books. She was looking for some clue the doctors were missing that would lead her to walk again. She never wanted anything more. She had found nothing in those books. Nothing useful.

“The tests show what we feared,” The doctor said. “Your legs show no signs of improvement and may only get worse from here. With some work, you may be able to stand briefly in the leg braces but you will most likely never walk again.”

“Never?” Lennon asked. She had always been a bookworm but even bookworms like to walk and play with the other kids.

“I’m sorry,” The doctor said. Her mother hugged her and Lennon allowed a single tear as emotions swirled inside of her. There was a lot of sadness but there was also a lot of anger.

“Can I be alone for a little while?” Lennon asked. The question surprised her mother but not the doctor.

“Of course, honey,” Her mom said. “I want to go over the charts with the doctor if that’s alright?”

Lennon nodded and wheeled herself toward the door. The doctor pressed a button and the door opened, letting Lennon out. She wheeled past the receptionist’s desk, a dark cloud hanging over her head.

She tried to think of all the people she knew who still made a difference while confined to a wheelchair.  There was Dr. Hawkins, Mr. Reeves, Frida Kahlo, and so many more. Still, she pictured having to cross the room for a book and now that simple task was so much harder. She would probably have normally spent her career sitting anyway but not her whole life. It was not fair.

She did not look forward to all the awkward smiles and pitying looks from her friends. Lennon did not want to be pitied. She just wanted to live her life. Everybody kept saying that things would get better but that sounded hollow to Lennon. It was hard to have faith sitting in a wheelchair with no hope of ever getting out. The lobby felt so cold and empty.

That was when she heard the weird purring noise. It was almost like a mechanical rhythm which made it even weirder. It instantly distracted Lennon from her troubles, pushing them aside for the moment to solve a mystery. She rolled toward the noise and found nothing at its source. Which is when a weird cat thing jumped out and startled Lennon.

“Aah!” She yelled. “Stupid cat!”

“I’m not a cat!” The thing shot back. “I’m not stupid either. Though I admit that I am not as smart as you are, Lennon.”

“You can talk?” Lennon asked. She felt that she may have disproved her intelligence by asking that question. “I mean, how do you know my name? What do you want with me?”

“You are strong enough to exist in that chair, Lennon,” The thing said. “We, however, may not be strong enough without your intelligence and heart. We need you.”

“Who is we?” Lennon asked.

The thing produced a charm from somewhere and placed it within reach of Lennon. It started to back away.

“Take this charm to the meeting on the note and you will find out all the answers to your questions and more.” Then the thing was gone. Lennon picked up the charm which went from white to red. She puzzled over it but pulled out the note.

Magical Earth Defenders Pt. 1

May 6, 2017

(This is part one of my take on the magical girl genre. Enjoy!)

Part One: The Light

Margaret Washington stood in front of the mirror. She took the deep breaths she had been taught in yoga class. Her parents would listen this time. They just had to. She was a Washington and therefore she was a born leader. People listened to Washingtons. Besides, Margaret knew she was on the right side of things this time.

She started to make the journey from her bedroom in the East Wing to the study in the West Wing. Along the way, she saw Marcie and her daughter mopping the front hall. Sometimes it felt like the maids were the closest thing she had to friends. She had no siblings and everybody seemed so guarded and selfish at the academy. She waved at the two women and smiled briefly but she kept walking. She was on a mission.

The Washingtons were amazingly rich. If all the math were done, the family probably ranged between the third and sixth-richest family in the city. It all depended on the way various international money markets and the stock market went each day, of course. Margaret knew how powerful all of that money was. That was what Margaret was counting on. Of course, her plans depended on the kindness in the hearts of her parents. She believed it was there because if it was not, then how could Margaret know she had kindness in her own heart?

She peeked into the study and saw her father at his desk. Her mother had the newspaper over on the couch. Her mother was away from her own office for once. Nobody was on the phone or terribly busy and that was a great sign. It was almost like this was fated to be the moment she made her pitch.

“Mom, Dad,” Margaret said. “I need to talk to you about something.”

“What is it, my dear?” Her mother asked. Both of her parents looked up from what they were doing.

“I need to ask you for a favor,” Margaret said. She felt herself starting to shake and she clenched her fist to stop it.

“A favor?” Her father asked. “What can I buy you this time?”

“No, daddy,” Margaret said with a gesture dismissing the idea. “It’s not like that. I want to start a foundation!” She smiled proudly.

“A foundation?” Her father asked. “What do you mean?”

“I want to feed the homeless,” Margaret answered with a smile. “I also want to start some shelters. Maybe one at first but we can open several more later.”

“Where’s your action plan? What returns can we expect?” Her mother asked.

Margaret’s smile faltered. “No returns, Mom. We would actually be helping people.”

“Cupcake, I don’t think our budget allows for that,” Her father said.

“Dad,” Margaret said. “Our budget is bigger than NASA’s. Besides, as soon as we start everything up, everybody will want to jump in and follow our lead.”

“Your father said ‘no’, sweetie,” Her mother said. “I say ‘no’ too.”

“We’re sorry, honey,” Her father said.

Margaret was completely deflated but she nodded dutifully. She was the intelligent, polite, and friendly Washington daughter. “Thank you for listening,” She said. “I will see you at dinner.” With that, she left the room before her parents could say anything else. She made an effort not to look too dejected and she fought back a tear or two. She also made an effort to glide gracefully as she walked instead of stomping or storming like she wanted to.

Here parents meant well but it seemed like they were constantly amassing money for the future of the family without a thought for the future of the world. Margaret just wanted to spread the wealth around. She was already donating most of her allowance to various causes but she dnot have the financial and organizational heft of a foundation at her back. The foundation could have done a lot of good especially if it was backed by her parents’ cunning minds.

Margaret did not remember the whole walk back to her room but she was glad to shut the door behind her. When she was safe inside again she picked up her hair brush. She began to stroke it through her straight, blonde hair that was the envy of many girls at the academy. And yet, she did not brush her hair simply to look good. It was calming to brush her own hair. She had asked to do it herself instead of the nanny at an early age. It made her feel a little more in control of her fate.

“You really want to help, huh?” A soft voice spoke from the bed.

Margaret whipped around fast and raised the brush to strike like you would grip a hatchet. There was only a cat on the bed. Well, it looked like a cat at first glance but it was actually subtly changing shape over and over as Margaret watched. Its fur was purple but even that was not staying stable. It was kind of hard to keep her eyes on the thing but staring was rude anyway. Margaret could only look puzzled, no answer forming in her head.

“What if you could really make a difference?” The cat asked.

“A talking cat!?” Margaret yelped. She immediately felt kind of dumb for stating the obvious. “What are you doing here? What do you want?”

“I want to help you realize your potential,” The cat said. “I have a feeling that your path does not really have to do with money. I think you could help save the world.”

“Save the world?” Margaret asked. “I’m all for it but you’re going to have to explain.” Somehow, the talking cat thing was getting more normal as the conversation proceeded.

“If you really want to help, take this charm and meet me at the address on the attached note,” The cat said. It placed a pretty little charm on the bed.

Before Margaret could think to respond again, the cat leaped through the third story window and left Margaret to contemplate the charm. The charm’s crystal went from green to white.

X Marks the Spot

April 28, 2017

The sand had been easy enough to get through. The dirt was a bit harder. I left most of the digging to Macan. That is one of the perks of being the captain of the ship. You do not have to dig if you do not want to. I still took a turn because that sort of thing is good for morale. Besides, I need a good workout now and then and it had been a while since the last good sword fight. It looked like my turn just might have been the last turn as my shovel hit something hard. The symbols above had indicated that something important was buried here. Pirates and buried treasure seemed a little too on the nose but I was not about to complain. Treasure is treasure.

“Agatha!” I called up. “I don’t really want to dent whatever this is any further. Could you bring up a little wind to clear off what I probably just dented?”

There was no verbal response. Instead, the air started to swirl around me and I covered my eyes, nose, and mouth as best I could. Agatha was a powerful sorcerer but she did not disobey orders even if it meant playfully taking the order a little too literally. The wind picked up and dirt and sand rushed out of the deep hole I was standing in and it did not feel great against my skin. I was tough and I was pretty sure I would survive. When the wind died down, I coughed a little and looked down.

There was a long flat box sticking halfway out of the dirt which intrigued me. Supposedly there were charms and artifacts that would draw out and amplify the powers and abilities of those who obtained them. That is why we had come to the Othersea and whatever was in the box might be the first step in making my small crew the most formidable crew around. I touched the box and I felt the hairs on my arm rise and I shivered a little.

“Throw down a rope!” I called up. When the end of the rope came down, I tied it to a ring on the box. “Macan! Pull the rope!” I called out and I started to scramble out of the hole. As I reached the surface, Macan was grabbing the rope and he pulled hard. I watched as the box shot up to the surface and fell with a thud in the sand. Everybody was instantly crowding around the box but I elbowed my way to the front of the crowd as only somebody in charge can do.

Hooded Kartha was standing next to me. Her robes were encrusted with salt and seaweed and all sorts of bits of nature. She was wise beyond her young years and I valued her counsel. “What do you think it is, Captain?”

“I can only guess,” I answered. “I feel its magic. Can you detect any?”

There was a shiver of magic in the air and Kartha’s barely visible eyes went white for a moment. “There is powerful magic at play but it is in the box. The box, while pretty, is just a container. It is safe to open.”

I knelt down in the sand and smoothed my hands over the box and I felt both the thrill of discovery and something else. I felt the strong magic that Kartha spoke of as well. My excitement reached its peak as I flipped the latches one by one. I gripped the lid and I opened it. Inside was a large sword and I could feel my heart thudding in my chest. There were murmurs from the crew behind me. The clear consensus that this one was for me. I found it hard to argue that point.

I gripped the blade’s handle and mysteriously it began to shrink. It quickly reformed itself into a copy of the soldier’s rapier that I already wore at my side. There were gasps from behind me and I admit that although I was expecting magic, I was not expecting that. I swung the sword around a bit and it felt really good. It felt faster and smoother than any sword I had ever held in my hand. I had held a lot of swords over the years.

“What do you think, Captain?” Oni asked. I turned and saw a very curious crew and I felt myself smiling, not realizing when the smile had started.

“It’s powerful. It’s fast. Once I get used to it, I think I could be even more unbeatable.” I said with a smirk. You can only call it cocky if you cannot back it up. I can back it up. “I just wish it was a little sturdier, a little stronger.” And just like that, the sword transformed into a two-handed claymore. “Nevermind, it’s a magical shape changing sword.”

“Wow,” Oni said. “So what now?”

“We keep searching,” I said. I grabbed up the sword’s sheath and slid the sword into it and slung it over my shoulder. “The tools to conquer the seas are here and we will find one for everybody.”

Victory Island

April 26, 2017

As the ship careened straight into the depths of the whirlpool, I could not be any prouder. Everything was going according to plan. We had fought long and hard for the map I held in a case across my back. It was one of a kind and it had required sacrifices both willing and unwilling. The crew had done their part but everything was on my shoulders. I was the captain of my ship and I needed to be sure I was heading in the right direction. Things were questionable there for a while but I had shown my most confident face. Now, as the ship began to glow, I finally knew I was on the right track.

As the legend went, there was a whirlpool off the western shore that only appeared every thirteen years. Most people wisely avoided it as sailors should avoid all whirlpools. They are dangerous even to the most experienced sailors. However, this whirlpool was obviously special. (Why else would I be talking about it?) It is a portal to another place, a place of extreme danger but also of great opportunities for wealth and power. It was a place called the Othersea. It was here that I brought my crew to see what we could find. When we reached the other side of the sea, the island was right in front of us.

“What’s that island, Captain?” Agatha asked. As usual, she was impeccably dressed without a hair being out of place even after going through rough seas and a whirlpool. It must be one of her magic spells or maybe she was just that good.

“I don’t really know the true name of it. Perhaps we’ll discover that” I said. “But the legends call it Victory Island.”

“Victory Island?” Oni asked and it was as if a piece of the mast has suddenly come to life. He had been leaning against it so still. “That’s quite a boast.”

Macan grunted from where he was tying a line back in place. During the stormy seas, the line had come loose and Macan had anchored it using only his enormous strength and his massive body. “Do you doubt the Captain?”

“Nobody doubts the Captain, Macan,” Agatha said. “We followed him this far, after all. We’re just in awe of this journey and this place.”

“I’m touched,” I said with a smile. “I’m pretty much in awe of the place too. I have only read the legends and even they couldn’t do this place justice.”

“Why are we here?” Oni asked. He was a very direct person. You generally knew where you stood with Oni, as getting on his bad side usually earned you a solid kick to the face.

“The island should have items of great power,” I said. “A pirate crew could benefit from them. Especially in a fight.”

“What items?” Agatha asked. “Like a sword? You’re deadlier with a sword than you are with a cannon and you already have one of the most well-crafted swords in the seven seas.”

“Well, this is the eight sea and things are different here,” I said. “No, the things here are not just weapons. They are focuses. They allow a person to tap into the talents, skills and abilities already present and allow the user to use them more freely. We’re already powerful, this will just give us that extra edge.”

“I don’t need an extra edge,” Macan said. “I’ve got two fists.” Macan was a simple man. He never held a weapon except for that one time he had thrown the extra anchor at a ship they were trying to board. It was a good thing they were in shallow water so they could dive for the treasure.

“Some of us weren’t born with a dragon’s strength, Macan,” I said.

“I don’t need to use weapons either,” Oni said with a smirk. The martial artist was a living weapon, one kick ended a tavern brawl.

“All this talkback is sounding a bit mutinous,” I said. I ran my palm along the hilt of my sword which elicited a chorus of ‘Sorry Captain’ even from crewmembers who had not participated in the conversation. “That’s better. We’re going to see what’s on that island. Besides, we need to find something to fund repairs on the ship.”

“Can we explore the Othersea after that, Boss?” Agatha asked. “There has got to be so much to see out there.”

“That’s a good plan,” I said. “Good thing it’s the plan I made a week ago.” Always ten steps ahead, or your crew will never respect you.  It was time to brave the island and look for victory.

Radio

April 21, 2017

Caleb shuffled into the studio and flipped on the lights. He yawned and sipped his soda to get a little more caffeine in his blood. The late night slot was a hard row to hoe but Caleb was just strange enough to do it. He fired up the equipment and checked the levels on the board. They were fine. They were always fine. Nobody came in here but Caleb. Most shows at the station used the main studio instead of this old one. Caleb was stubborn but if that lead to getting his own private albeit dusty studio then whatever. He checked his watch, it was almost time. Normally an engineer would be doing the counting down but nobody else wanted to work at midnight.

He picked up the familiar record and placed it on the turntable. He played most of the other music from his laptop but this one was special. It was one of his favorite songs and it had become kind of an unofficial theme song for his slot over time. It had been three years since he had moved up from engineer to host. The slot did not pay very much but he was finally doing what he wanted again. After Chicago, it was good to be back in the saddle. He looked at the clock. Ariel was winding down, any minute and she would go into commercials and throw it to Caleb. He was always ready and she knew that even on the days they missed each other in the hallways. It was almost time, the red light went on and Caleb dropped the needle. The familiar strains of People are Strange filled the studio and went out on the airwaves.

Caleb tilted back in his seat and let the song wash over him. As the song started to fade, he hit the button to turn on his microphone. It was time for the show.

“Welcome to midnight, where only the crazies, the insomniacs, the parents with newborns, the late shifters, etcetera, etcetera,” Caleb said. “I’m Caleb and I’m strange, how about you? The phone lines are open. You know the deal, though. If you don’t want to talk, then we’ll just hang out and listen to music. So how about it?”

Caleb just let there be a silent pause. That was usually a no no in radio. Dead air. Caleb was comfortable with silence. He knew his people, the army of the night, were fine with silence too. You had to be familiar with silence at the midnight hour. A single light lit up on the phone and Caleb was curious so he hit the button.

“You’re on, stranger,” Caleb said. He slipped his headphones on.

“Why didn’t you come by today, Caleb?” The voice on the other end asked. “I missed you.” The guy’s voice chilled Caleb to the bone. It was impossible.

However, “No” was all Caleb said. He reached to hang up the line.

“My funeral, Caleb,” the voice said. “You actually missed my funeral. You don’t even work during the day.”

“This is a really bad prank, even for my listeners,” Caleb said.

“This is no joke, asshole,” the voice said.

“Joe?” Caleb asked. Any semblance of the show was gone from his head, his heart was beating faster.

“Spooky Joe,” Joe said.

“Back from the dead, huh?” Caleb asked. There was a long enough silence after that question. Dead air again.

“No,” Joe said and his voice sounded rougher, tired. “But I guess you could say they let me have my one phone call.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“You like it strange, Caleb,” Joe said. “Cut the shit. Why didn’t you show up?”

Caleb took a deep breath. There was a station policy against drinking on the air but Caleb was seriously considering violating that policy. “I figured you wouldn’t know the difference.”

“Well, I did,” Joe said. “What were you so afraid of?”

Caleb let the dead air stretch between them. He wanted to shrug the question off. He wanted to give some biting, sarcastic response. He wanted to raise two middle fingers to the sky and play God Save the Queen a hundred times in a row.

“Death.”

“I am the one who died, Caleb.”

“I know that Spooky Joe,” Caleb said. “It doesn’t change anything.” Caleb leaned back in his seat. He wondered briefly if this was actually happening. He wondered if he had not finally passed out on the air.

“Explain then.”

“You know who’s at every funeral, Joe?” Caleb asked. “Death. He… or she… they’re waiting there. I don’t want to run into death at the funeral, Joe. I don’t want to be next.”

“It doesn’t work that way, Caleb,” Joe said. He sounded like he was smiling.

“How the hell do you know?”

“Believe me, I know,” Joe said. There was a deep, unnatural hollowness in his voice when he said that but his voice started to warm up again quick. “She’s actually pretty nice and she’s got rules.”

“You’re making fun of me,” Caleb said. He let the silence fill in for a moment but for once he could not let it be. “I miss you already.”

“I miss you too. I’m glad you took my call,” Joe said.

“I’m glad I did too,” Caleb said. “So what now?”

“I can’t tell you that. Just know that death isn’t gunning for you. You’ll get your appointment when it’s time.”

“Comforting.”

“I know but what are you gonna do?” Joe asked. That familiar grin was back in his voice.
,
“I don’t know,” Caleb said. He felt knocked out of his routine, his thoughts scattered.

“Play your music. Entertain the folks out there in the night. You were always good at that.”

“Just go on?” Caleb asked.

“You’d better,” Joe said. “And don’t miss any more funerals.”

“I’m sorry, Joe,” Caleb said.

The light had gone out. Dead air.

Pokemon: My Life as a Gym Leader

April 19, 2017

I came up with the idea for this post after the release of Pokemon Sun/Moon and the release of Pokemon Go. Recent readers of this blog know that I am still playing Pokemon Go. After hearing about challenges where people play through the game only using one type, much like a gym leader. Last year I invented gym leaders based on a game I wanted to write. This year, I thought about what I could have been based on my life so far and the world of Pokemon.

Pro-Wrestler
Fighting Type – Heavyweight Badge

When I was younger, I had less control of my anger. I thought about taking up something like boxing but my obsession from a pretty young age was professional wrestling. In this version of me, I would have pursued that dream and used it to focus my rage. I would have formed a bond with my starter pokemon and we would have trained together to be stars and then I would train others. My gym would be a place where trainers could challenge me but also where people could train physically along with pokemon.

Emboar – A young boy with an anger problem, I eagerly picked the fire pokemon Tepig as my starter pokemon. We learned to master our anger together.

Primeape – The mankey I caught was the embodiment of the unbridled and untactful anger that I was experiencing but we learned to calm down after a bunch of losses.

Machoke – The art of grappling was my first foray into more disciplined fighting and taught me that there was more than swinging fists or throwing fire.

Hitmonchan – The sweetest science helped further develop conditioning and accurate strikes.

Hawlucha – Of course, I was going to hunt down a Hawlucha ally after gaining respect for the faster, high-flying style of lucha libre.

Mienshao – Catching a Mienfoo sparked an increased interest in the broader spectrum of martial arts. In return, I gained an increased ability to focus my negative emotions.

 

Parks and Rec
Ground Type – Park Badge

A couple people have said that I would have been well-suited for a career in parks and recreation. Whether it is designing activities for people to do or just walking the parks. I love walking around and exploring and lately I have been haunting my local city park a lot. In this version of me, I would have embraced the outdoors more and walked around protecting people. Gym battles would be done by appointment or if the challenger found me walking out in the woods or the fields. It would add a degree of challenge to not know the battlefield beforehand.

Golem – Most people say that Geodude is shaped like a boulder but I thought that she was shaped like a friend. She was a good starter pokemon as I started to hike through the wilderness looking for Pokemon.

Sandslash – As I journey off the beaten path, I sought out a Sandslash to cut through the underbrush and through the competition.

Krokorok – I grabbed a Sandile so I could train an enforcer with dark type moves.

Rhyhorn – Rhyhorn is useful for moving fallen rocks and trees off of paths and crushing the competition.

Gliscor – My eye in the skies on those days where I am deep in the woods and he fights like a superhero in the gym.

Onix – Opponents tend to quake with fear when they see my largest pokemon. In a pinch, Onix is also big enough to provide transportation for a wilderness rescue.

 

Theater Electrician/Designer
Electric Type – Spotlight Badge

For five years, I worked as a technical director for a regional theater in New Jersey. I could not have stayed there (the theater folded shortly after I left) but I could have stayed in the business instead of moving on. I love the theater and I loved hanging lights and making them do what I wanted. I loved seeing my designs (and hearing my sound designs) in real life stage productions. In this version of me, I would have stuck with the theater and would still be haunting a theater. In between swinging a wrench and drawing lighting plots I would take on challengers. I would get permission to use the theater stage as a battleground for big showy battles.

Electabuzz – When I started with my Elekid, he was not super impressive but he was a friend. Now that he has evolved, he is another hand on the job and a true partner.

Magneton – Levitation is handy in getting tools from the ground up to where I am up on a ladder or the catwalk.

Emolga – A little friend who can scurry up and check the plugs on the lights if necessary. He can also glide from pipe to pipe to check things out.

Rotom – The best board operator is one who can literally possess the board and control it from within.

Raichu – For a kid with a thing for electric type pokemon, a pikachu is a welcome addition to the team.

Flaafy – A gentle reminder of my family’s pastoral history and a personal symbol of my family. The lamb.

 

Agent of the Law
Steel Type – Marshall Badge

When I was a teen, I wanted a badge. My uncle worked with the police but I never wanted to be a cop, I wanted a little bit more freedom. Some of these feelings have been stirred up lately by my legal studies and my brand new career as a paralegal. Law enforcement in the world of Pokemon always seemed really mixed up with the world of champion trainers. In several of the games, members of the Elite Four investigate crimes and fight terrorists. In this version of me, I would help keep the peacce and troubleshoot criminal or terrorist threats. My battlefield would also double as a headquarters for crimefighting.

Aegislash – My Aegislash is evolved all the way from Honedge which was my starter pokemon. Usually, giving a sword to a child is a bad idea but I respected the blade and gained discipline.

Skarmory – My Skarmory has the advantage of the high ground and speed for ruthless attacks to hopefully end the battle quickly or chase down criminals.

Empoleon – Empoleon’s size is a great thing to have as back up and his water moves act as a non-lethal method for resolving tricky situations while also dominating gym opponents.

Registeel – Who doesn’t like a giant robot acting as a shield when necessary?

Lucario – A great partner for practicing hand to hand combat and a great tracker.

Bronzong – A literal heavyweight for protecting myself from criminals and challenges to my badge.

 

Haunted House Owner
Ghost Type – Scare Badge

I have loved Halloween since I was a little kid. Lately, I have visited some haunted houses and watched some documentaries on how they are put together. It has gotten into my head lately that I would love to design haunted houses given the chance. In this version of me, I would own and operate an ever-changing haunted house that people could get amazing scares and thrills from. The battles would take place in a spooky, dark basement meant to unnerve my opponents. The huge basement would be below the haunted house so that people could hear periodic screams and laughter while battling. It would be so fun.

Gengar – Travelling to real haunted houses as a spooky little kid, I would have embraced a Gastly instead of a ‘normal’ pokemon for my starter.

Mismagius – How could I not want a ghost that looks like a witch and evolves into a wizard.

Trevenant – Spooky plants are a must for a haunted house and I knew this guy would make a very scary tree.

Chandelure – A well-controlled fire can scare the pants off of visitors just as much as any other ghost in the house.

Dusclops – A powerful ally and a formidable scary opponent. You want to be on the right side of this creepy pokemon.

Sableye – A creepy little guy with gem eyes. Victims can see his eyes sparkle in the dark before he scares the crap out of them.

 

Professional Writer
Water Type – Penstroke Badge

I have thought about being a professional writer and maybe that still lies somewhere in my future. For now, I love writing here for whoever reads this blog and for myself when I am not working or out playing. If I had become a professional writer, I would want to live where I could take a break and swim in nature. In this version of me, my gym would be alongside a large lake. My chosen battlefield would be on the lake using a series of rafts so my water pokemon could swim among them. I would write pages and when a challenger came, I would take a break and we could have a lot of fun on the water.

Wartortle – A traditional starter pokemon, the squirtle evolution track always made think of superheroes.

Azumarill – A water pokemon with excellent hearing, it could help listen out for fellow fishy pokemon under the waves.

Kingdra – I could imagine this horsea hanging out in a bucket next to my desk sometimes.

Ducklett – A pokemon who can fly but can also dive deep to evade enemy attacks.

Sharpedo – Sometimes a writer needs to use a scary monster to further the plot.

Kingler – The krabby evolution line is surprisingly powerful, especially when facing moves like crabhammer or guillotine.


susanne matthews

Living the Dream

Silence Killed The Dinosaurs

(but it won't get me)

Daily (w)rite

A DAILY RITUAL OF WRITING

Wrestling Dreams

Wrestling analysis from the fans to the fans

DMing With Charisma

Stories, Reviews and Opinions!

half a 1000 miles

cringeworthy (adj) -- causing feelings of awkwardness or embarrassment

kayrayiam

Adventures of a Gypsy Nurse with a Cryptic Past

Abbs Abroad

27 Months with a Maryland Girl in Senegal

Princess of Dragons

A world of imagination, writing and dragons

the eye of the beholder

(a place where beauty is found)

%d bloggers like this: