Thursday, May 27, 2010

REPETITIVE PATTERNS

My writer buddy Timothy P. Remp (@Tim_Remp_writer if you want to follow him) and I once wrote a story together titled "Claims" which was included in Absent Willow Review's Best of 2009 anthology (thank you very much).

Tim is writing episodes for a Pluto story, which when finished will probably become his first novella.  He tied it to Mars, the setting for "Claims". A week ago (like a fool) I suggested that we both write separate flashes, but relate them to Mars.  He was enthusiastic (manic!) about the idea and talked Mars with me all week. (Check out the "Prelude" episodes at The Event Horizon which he also writes in conjunction with 3WW and #fridayflash). 

Well, I couldn't not write a story based on "Claims", but apparently, I couldn't write a flash either (1800 words and not finished yet).  My offering will be serialized, if you will, over the next three, maybe four weeks.  We'll all be surprised by the ending ;).  Here's part 1:

REPETITIVE PATTERNS


Keith felt a feather's touch on his shoulder.

"You awake?" she whispered. Keith kept still. Her name began with an "S"? Sasha, Sarah... something like that. She kissed his shoulder again. "Keith?" It escaped him. He used his stand-by. "Hey Baby."

"The dust devils are scary," she said. She snuggled against his chest.

"They're just part of Mars. Sandstorms and iron grit and dust devils. I thought you said you've been here a while?"

She sat up and pointed out his window. Keith watched a couple cabs whiz past on Perimeter road. Tourists. They always opted for the scenic route. Insiders chose direct interior routes to get around Venture. Most structures had at least one view toward the dome and the Martian landscape, but that first dome view elicited awe.

Keith barely noted the looming silhouettes of Ascreaus Mons, Pavonis Mons and Arsia Mons below the twin moons. A red desert stretched between the domed city limits and the lesser volcanoes. Several dust devils battered the side of the dome.

"See what I mean?" she asked.

Sandy? Keith wondered. "Sandy" on Mars; Keith stifled his chuckle. Might as well name her Desert. Sierra! That was her name.

"Why are you smirking? I've never seen dust devils act like that," Sierra said. She got out of bed and searched for her clothing. Keith remembered more than her name. Yeah, he thought, I could do that again.

"Sierra, don't go. I've never seen dust devils form a pattern—" The pattern was familiar.

"I know! Watch." Sierra pulled her shirt over her head and walked to his window. He found his pants and joined her. The rust-colored sand gradually swirled into cones, aligned into precise rays—a sunburst pattern—and then en masse surged forward, ramming and collapsing against the dome. Transfixed, Keith watched several repetitions of this phenomena. Sunburst patterns niggled his memory. Where had he seen that happen before?

Sierra's voice interrupted his thoughts. "I've never seen dust devils together. They're supposed to be solitary. And random. This is bizarre." She leaned against the window to peer left, then right. "They're only doing it here. In this section."

The last time he'd seen so many dust devils was with the claims investigator. The insurance company that hired her also hired his company, K.F. Salvage Services to take her out onto the Arcadian Plains to locate Norman Solemn's lost labor bots and the Boyar master-mind. The labor bots had unloaded supplies into that pattern.

They had found pieces of those bots. He had kept the pieces for his salvage business and was able to get top dollar for parts. Settling the planet required almost an army of labor bots, and the grit did a number on them. He could have made a killing off the Boyar brain, even if it was fried, but he held onto the head and torso. I couldn't sell him—IT. I couldn't sell IT.

Keith remembered watching the event module with the investigator. The iron grit or something affected the Boyar. Instead of supervising construction, the Boyar abandoned the project after watching meteor showers. It had led the bots on a hike to a geyser. The retrieved holographic diary showed the Boyar frozen in terror as a wall of sand buried it alive.

"I've got to go." Sierra finished dressing. "Call me?"

"Sure, sure," Keith said. "Um, what's your last name?"

"Jenkins."

"Floyd."

"I know. We wouldn't have done it if I didn't know your name." She stood on tip-toe and kissed the scar above his eyebrow. A couple hours ago, she'd licked it, told him it was sexy. He didn't tell her he got the scar falling on his beer bottle.

Keith returned to the window after she departed. He counted twelve separate dust devils. There had been twelve lost bots. He ran his fingers through his shaggy blond hair. Before he could convince himself twelve was a coincidence, he heard muffled thumps and scrapes.

Keith followed the sounds to his storage annex, swiped his uni-card. The door-panel slid up.

The Boyar placed its fists on the threshold, then lifted and swung its torso forward, propelling itself gorilla-style through the open doorway. The Boyar's eyes shone with green lights. "All accounted for Norman. Ready for our next assignment."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

PIRATE GLASSES

This 3WW and #fridayflash could be considered another episode relating to "Unchained Feeling" from a few weeks ago.  This flash features the guitarist Stone and stands alone; but if you're interested, follow the link.  I like the band members, and they seem to like me. We'll see how much they tell me about themselves.  I think the band's name is Red Arrow, but they haven't verified that yet. Comments welcome.

Pirate Glasses

The phone buzzed and vibrated against the nightstand. Stone grasped for it, trying not to actually get up. He brought its small screen to his face and squinted at the display. He groaned. She was the last person he wanted to talk to right now. The never-never land between Saturday night and Sunday morning meant she drunk-dialed. He didn't need to listen to her slurring; a body warmed his back. Stone replaced the phone onto the nightstand... he didn't own a nightstand.

The body murmured. Think! He peeked. Her face was turned away from his, one arm flung over her eyes. All he could see was a halo of red curls, a creamy neck and his Heavy Metal tee covering a different chest. Oh jeez, it had been that kind of Saturday night. Sore muscles competed with his throbbing head. His tongue felt wooly. Stone was pretty sure the Captain had something to do with his evening.

Oh my god, did she take me home? Solo gig at Terrence's, red curls bouncing under a green plaid fedora. The hot chick swayed and mouthed lyrics in front of the stage. She'd sent him a Cap'n and coke during his first break, proving she made the effort to learn about him. Of course, he was obliged to show his appreciation.

Oh man, he'd appreciated her vintage Pretenders tee, the block-style "P" stretched over what proved to be much more than a mouthful. She'd laughed at his wedding gig story, begged him to play the Righteous Brothers. He acquiesced, and followed it with Joe Cocker's "You Can Take Your Hat Off"—which she did, as part of a slow grind, her gaze locked on him as he strummed and wooed. Those gray eyes sparkled and for Stone, Katie's moves were irresistible. Katie!

Stone eased out of her bed, relieved he remembered her name. Katie murmured again before turning on her side. Stone pulled on his jeans, held up her discarded tee, decided against it. His phone vibrated again. He dreaded answering it.

"You should get that," a soft voice said within a yawn.

He pressed a side button, shoved his phone into his pocket. "That's okay, nothing important."

Katie sat up. "Really, it's okay. If she's expecting you, you should answer."

"It's not what you think," Stone answered. His pocket vibrated. Shit! he thought. Not that he expected this one-night-stand to blossom into a relationship, but he'd like his baggage to stop cock-blocking him. He definitely would appreciate a second round with Katie.

"It's my mother. She won't stop if I don't answer."

"Sure, whatever." Katie reached to flick on a bedside lamp. Stone could tell from her frown that she didn't believe him.

He bolted from her bedroom, found his way to the kitchen. An almost empty handle of Captain Morgan sat on Katie's kitchen table, set between two pirate glasses half-filled with watery amber liquid. Stone emptied the rum into one as he waited for his mother to ring again. Before he swallowed one gulp, his phone vibrated.

"He'sh gone."

"Who's gone ma?"

"YOUR STEP-FATHER'S GONE! WHO HELL DO YA THICK?"

Stone pulled the phone away from his ear, shouted into the mouth-holes. "GOOD RIDDANCE. RAY'S A JERK!"

"HE'SS NOT A JERK! God yer'n ass."

"Is that why you called? To insult me?"

Katie stepped into the kitchen. His Heavy Metal shirt didn't hug her curves as well as her Pretenders one, but something about a chick in a man's tee got to him. He mouthed sorry.

Katie purposely walked to her coffee maker and pushed the start button. Through the earpiece he heard a click and a sharp inhale. "Ma, I thought you quit smoking?"

"I did, but I'm not a critter." Snorts filled his ear canal. The aroma of fresh-brewed coffee intensified Stone's headache. "I didn't quit, no sirree. Ray did. Ray'ss a quitter." Sobs replaced her bitter laughter.

"Don't mom. Please. He'll be back. He'll apologize and beg for your forgiveness. Just go to bed; we'll talk in the morning." Ray wouldn't apologize—it was his mother's fault, even if Ray was a jerk—but Stone had to say something to pacify her. He hated dealing with drunk mom.

The night faded to gray through Katie's sheer curtains. It was morning; he didn't want to talk yet.

"I don't wanna live alone" leaked into his ear. Me neither, Stone thought. He stared at Katie leaning against her counter, his tee draping her body, the hem caressing her thigh.

He wanted to caress that thigh. He wanted to ask her for his tee back, sniff it for her citrusy scent, forget about his needy mother. He fingered the pirate decal on the glass in his hand; different glass but still a pirate. Ever since he could remember, his mother drank from a pirate glass. If he visited now she'd be sitting at her kitchen table, clutching her jelly glass, amber liquid defining a faded red hat and hook; the vestiges of a movie promotion.

"Mom, you're not alone. I'm around. Go to bed. I'll be over later today." Katie cocked her head, blushed when she realized he watched her listen.

"Promish?"

Stone heard his mother's hiccup. He got up and placed his glass in the sink, motioned for a mug. "Promise. I just have to finish my Saturday night." Katie smiled and poured him a coffee.

"Whass 'at mean?"

"It means thank you mom. I'm—I mean, you're not alone."

Stone pressed "end" and took a sip. Katie's coffee sucked. She yawned then smiled at him. "Your mother."

"Yes. I have to go soon."

"I heard."

He winked at her. "I need my shirt." Stone tugged on the hem, leading Katie back to bed.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

MOM CALLED HIM A GIFT

First things first.  Thank you to everyone who took the time to read and vote for "Flying Colors" at Chad's Site.  I won! I received the beautiful collection of graphic novels and The Deputy by Victor Gischler. 

Second.  I had a dream this morning that I bumped into Stephen King and he liked me, offered to do something special for me, but then got called away to an event that I didn't have a ticket for.  I woke from this dream, thrilled that I had met Stephen King--you know how dreams do that to you?  Anyhow, FedEx delivers a package from my sister who lives in Florida.  She went to a special event (which I couldn't go to), heard Stephen King speak, got me an autographed copy of Under the Dome and a framed photograph of my inspiration signing books.  Sometimes, dreams really do come true.

Okay, it's been a couple weeks since I've participated but a story idea came to mind.  Enjoy this week's 3WW and #fridayflash.

MOM CALLED HIM A GIFT

Matt stared straight ahead as he and Ted passed the gawking woman. "I wish they wouldn't stare," Matt said. Ted shrugged and overlooked the woman's magnified eyes and gaping mouth. Matt tried to act natural as he glided behind Ted.

"Let's take the shortcut," Matt whispered. Ted nodded. The two left the sidewalk and cut through the overgrowth to the old trestle. Once under the spotty light, Matt felt more at ease, hopping and dashing in between leaves and around branches. Ted ignored his antics and concentrated on the path. 

"Why do they always stare?" Matt waited for Ted's answer, but Ted only shook his head as they walked onto the bridge. Matt kept to his heels.

A couple slats had rotted, a gaping hole framing the chortling river below. "The current's strong. See the eddies?" Matt hugged the edge, wrapped his body around a vertical support. He envied Ted's fearlessness.

Ted rocked from heels to toes, swung his arms, sight-measured the distance. Don't jump, don't do it, Matt thought. Both heard the loud crack. Ted sprang forward as the cross-slat snapped.

"AAAHHHHH!" Matt hollered, his body weightless as he fell. A secret part of him wondered if Ted wasn't fearless at all but reckless, maybe even malicious. Did Ted jump on purpose, knowing Matt couldn't? The river's chortle grew to a derisive roar; Matt never heard his splash. He didn't feel the wet as he melted into the swells. A sharp tug flew him upwards. Matt found himself on the bridge again, dry.

"Thanks man," Matt offered, wanting to hug him, but knew Ted would only shrug him off.

They emerged in the town center, Ted walking in the glaring sunlight while Matt shrunk against his friend's back. "I thought you didn't want us to be seen?" he asked, but Ted stayed focused, intent on the library. After Ted got a book, they'd return home, away from the stares and the frightened faces. Matt tried his best to go unnoticed, but others noticed—they always noticed. Maybe someday Matt would run into someone that looked like him, though he was losing hope.

He'd stick with Ted, try his best to avoid others and thus avoid causing a scene. Ted hated scenes. 

Sometimes Matt wondered if Ted wished he didn't exist. He never dared to ask. Matt tried, he really tried to give Ted his space, let him go out alone, but Matt just couldn't. Irrational, maybe, but he feared that without his companion, he would disappear.

Ted found the self-help section, shook his head, moved on to astronomy. "What're we doing here?" Matt asked, but his reticent companion ignored him as he scanned titles. Moving towards mythology, Ted paused, cocked his head. A woman's animated voice caught Matt's attention too. Ted crept along the aisle, nearing the children's room.

Matt peeked around the corner, saw it was story time. The woman turned the page, smiled at the seated children. On the book's cover, a boy with a leafy hat and green tunic flew over a city. Matt glanced at Ted who seemed enrapt in the story of the flying boy waking a girl, looking for something he'd lost in her room. A girl interrupted the reader. "What's a shadow?" Before she answered, Matt said, "We should get out of here," but Ted kept listening.

Before he could react, Ted dashed forward to "Classics" and searched the bookshelves. Matt hurried to keep up with him, but didn't see the boy sitting cross-legged in the aisle. Matt's leg brushed against the boy's jutting knee.

"Ma! Ma! It touched me!" the boy shouted. Ted jerked Matt closer and rushed them to the exit.

Back on the path, Matt apologized, but Ted only muttered. "Could it really be that easy? Why hadn't I thought of it before?" Ted looked at Matt, for once actually stared at his face. "Mom calls you a gift. I try to see it her way. But now, I think I can fix this." 

Matt didn't dare ask what Ted meant; he was just happy that Ted actually talked to him.

As soon as they arrived home, Ted read the book to himself. Matt tried not to disturb his friend and attempted to blend into the sofa. Ted slapped the book shut, went into the kitchen, shuffled through a drawer and then pulled out the shears. 

"Whatchya doing?" Matt asked. 

"You are called a shadow. The only one. Mom says I'm lucky, cause I wear my darkness on the outside while everyone else hides theirs inside. She says once, under a different sun, everyone and everything had a gift like you. 

"She may say you're a gift, but you've made me a freak. I won't be a freak anymore." 

Ted opened the shears, ran an edge against the floor where Matt's feet merged with Ted's.

Don't do this! PLEASE!" Matt shouted as he dodged to avoid the sharp edge.

Ted snipped. Matt felt nothing, but the edge of his foot floated. "Please, don't," he whispered, but Ted cut again. Matt bent forward, reached for Ted's leg, Ted's hand, the scissor handle—anything to stay attached. His fingers passed through Ted; Matt's left leg lifted. Ted started to laugh as he snipped faster. "IT'S WORKING! I'M FREE!" he shouted as he threw aside the scissors and jumped upright.

Matt whispered please but Ted only gloated. "Be free too!" he said then sucked in air.

Matt wafted on Ted's exhaled breath, through a wall and into the outside. He darkened a passing jogger but didn't care. He brushed against a leaf, drifted over a tree and then soared over the city, felt himself disperse inside a ray.