Monday, May 20, 2013

Story a Day - Start in the Middle

Ah, she's done it again.  Julie at A Story a Day has this amazing ability to serendipitously assign exactly the right prompt so that my Story a Day offering matches up with work that I simply must get done.  I received word from my editor last night that some changes must be made on my novel.  One suggestion was that I remove some expository information from the end, change it up a bit, and make it a prologue.  And here we are.  So, here's a sneak peek of a rough draft of the new prologue of my middle grade fiction (does it surprise you to read that's what I really write?) novel "Hunter the Horrible."

The boy's breath was coming in harsh burning gasps. His ratty shoestrings dragged across the pavement as he ran and he kept throwing quick, panicked glances over one shoulder.  Finally, he saw someone, a man he thought, walking across the deserted parking lot. 
"Hey Mister," he shrieked," "Mister!"
Ryan stopped, convinced that the boy was just another fan, desperate for an autograph.  As he got closer, though, Ryan could see the sweat pouring down the boy's brow, and the white that ringed his blue eyes.
"It's my sister," the boy choked out, and without another word the pair started running back the way the boy came.  At one point the boy, exhausted, tripped and nearly fell, but Ryan reached out and yanked him back to his feet, never breaking stride.  As they rounded the corner Ryan could see two figures pushed up against a wall and he quickened his pace.  One of the figures was a young woman, slender, with sandy blonde hair.  The other figure slender as well, skeletal, and it's head was perfectly bald, but the nauseating, jelly-like smoothness of a hard boiled egg. The woman was putting up a fight, punching and thrashing, but she was no match for the strength of the creature she battled, and Ryan could see it's head moving slowly but unflinchingly towards her neck.  Without thinking, he reached into his pocket.  He always kept a few spare ball in each, in case he encountered some hopeful kid, and he felt the reassuring ridges of thread on leather.  His aim was as true as ever, and the ball struck the thing with a moist, sickening thud just where it's head curved down into it's neck.  It collapsed, instantly, stunned, and Ryan slid on his knees to where the young woman slumped against the wall.  She was shaken, but unhurt, and Ryan took but just a second to wrap his jacket around her shivering shoulders before turning his attention back to the best.  It was unconscious and Ryan could take his time to look at it, taking in every feature.  It's skin, he could see now, was green, and the points of it's canines brushed the top of it's slack lower lip. Ryan reached into the duffel bag that still hung from his shoulder,and pulled out one of the practice bats that resided therein.  He swung, one of the strong, full-armed swings that had made him famous, and then plunged the shattered remnants into the vampire's chest.  The girl let out a small sound.  A scream, or maybe a cheer, as the thing melted into dust.  Ryan turned and knelt before the girl.  Even pale and tear stained, she was, he thought, the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen.  "Hi," he said, extending his hand, "I'm Ryan."  The woman laughed and held out a hand that had already almost stopped shaking.  "Laura," she said.

Story a Day - Copycat

The assignment for today was to write a story that was a copycat of another short story that we enjoy.  I had a brief struggle with this as Saki, A.A. Milne, Poe, and Spider Robinson engaged in an intercranial shouting match to determine who was my favorite at that moment.  It was hot, and our air conditioner was broken, so Spider won pretty much because Callahan's Chronicles take place in a bar and a pint sounded really good right about then.  In addition to being a copycat of Spider Robinson, this is my subtle and slightly odd (one of those words describes me, anyway) tribute to my pathetic celebrity infatuation.  Not that the celebrity is pathetic, the infatuation is.  Right. 

Alexander Humphries - Interstellar Bounty Hunter
It was Saturday.  I was thinking about lying in bed, but then the phone rang with a job and it saved me the trouble.  It was the Chancellor of Qed, personal appointee of the Emporer Himself and living proof that money does not buy class.  Or competence.  Turns out Ayto Zetelbroad had jumped bail, bad for the Chancellor, worse for anyone who liked to keep their phlanges handy.  Ayto posed as a salesman down at Salyer's Quality Solar Vehicles, one of those buy here, pay here sorts of places (No Credit Needed-Just Salyer Sol), but if anyone who showed up with his business card in their grubby little hands was actually in need of a car, I'll eat my left shoe with relish.  He was one of Benden's boys, and to say that he was a loan shark was an insult to sharks everywhere.  He'd finally gotten picked up after one too many of his associates was found resting in pieces, posted bail instantly, and come his court date was nowhere to be found.  The Chancellor was in a tizzy, as usual, kept panting and shreiking that Zetelbroad had just up and vanished into thin air.  I assured him that was an ungrounded assumption and started to pack my gear.  I grabbed some shoe polish, documents in two different names, cash, weapons, and a case of Vesuvian Cephalopods with Eight Gumball eyes.  Those things tasted terrible, bu tthey were my best sellers.  Kids thought they were out of this world.

A lot of people are confused as to why a bounty hunter would choose an ice cream truck as a vehicle. It's simple, it doesn't matter who they are or what they've done, even the biggest, baddest, most hardened criminal is going to come running when they hear the music start to play.  I've seen a dude known for strangling eight men at a time (Octosapiens could do that. .. and play the piano really well) squeal like a little girl over a push up.  But back to Ayto. My first stop was to some journeymen friends of mine who, for a fee, would clamp a little doohickey on the top of the phone towers they were working on that would allow them to monitor calls made by certain numbers.  I know I wasn't the only one who used them for such.  Social climbers they were.  Anyhow, they pointed me to some construction workers down in the industrial part of town who had some riveting news.  Turns out they'd been down to Lucky Louie's after work the night before and he's got a new waitress who is the ugliest woman anyone had ever seen.  I got a bit irate for a minute.  Ugly women at Louie's were hardly news.  Turns out this one still had Ayto's signature moustache and hadn't yet learned how to bend in a skirt.   They seemed trussworthy, so I gave them a round of ice cream sandwiches on the house and headed down to the river. 
First, though, I stopped in a men's room, at least I think it was, on Qed it can be a little hard to tell, and polished up my hair.  See, I'm a ginger and even though Ayto and I had never formally met, well, I thought news of my arrival may have gotten there a hair ahead of me.  By the time I got done in the bathroom I had a glistening mop of Soldier's Boot Black hair and a line five Quedians deep around my ice cream truck.  I sold some cephelapods and one nutty cone and hit Louie's just before dark.  I found a table by the door and ordered myself a pint.  Sure enough, one of the waitresses had a moustache.  I tugged on her hair, expected to pull of a wig, but found out it was stuck fast.  She stuck fast, too, and I had to take a minute to compose myself after pulling her pen out of my hand.  Turns out it was the wrong girl with a moustache.  Just then, I saw him, smacking some gum and batting his eyelashes at a couple of guys up by the bar.  I kept an eye on him 'til closing time, then pulled around outside.  I could see him eyeing me suspiciously as I pulled up in the parking lot, reaching under his skirt and most likely looking for his gun.  But then I turned on the chimes.  Sure enough, his eyes lit up and here he came.  "Oh," he said, "you have chocobars," He reached for the frozen treat that I'd laid just on the edge of the window.  "Hey buster, can you give me a hand?"  "No," I said, snapping the cuff around one wrist, "why dont' you give me yours."  He tried to play the tough guy, which I had to admire, being dressed as he was, but after he'd cooled his high heels in the back for a while, he was nearly ready to talk.  By the time I was licking the last bits of chocolate off the stick he was crying like a baby.  I reached into a cooler and pulled out another one.  And that's how I got everything from Ayto Z.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Story a Day in May - Blue Horizon

As a prompt, we were given the 1940's song "Blue Horizon."  I love playing with voice, so I decided to write the story in a 1940's film noir femme fatale style.  PG 13/R Rated. 

Ya got a smoke?  Thanks, Mister.  Ya know, Harvey wasn’t even my type.  He was a, a, flash int eh pan, a ship passing in the night.  And with so many boys runnin off to join the Navy, well, a good ship was getting hard to find.  He made it sound so glamorous, dressin up in jewels every night, getting hot under the lights.  I tell ya, after two year s of dressing up to get hot next to the deep fryer, that sounded about like heaven.  Enough to make me forget his, shortcomins.  So I started workin at the Blue Horizon.  That first night I got back to the room I shared with three other gals, I cried my eyes out ‘til some tramp throws her pillow at me and tell me to shut it.  And Harvey, he keeps tellin me all these big time muckety mucks are gonna be all over me, they’re gonna think I’m the tops.  They were all over me all right.  The tops.  The bottoms,.  And the sneaky little suckers who’d kinda slide in from the side.  If hands were Huns I’d swear that Germany had won the war.  I tried to leave about a million times, but it was funny, somehow at the end of the night I always ended up owing money.  Dress rental, stage clean up fees, drink tabs.  You name it, they shyster.  So when I met Ronnie I jumped at, well, that too, but I jumped at the chance to bring Harvey down a notch or two.  Ronnie was a cop whose Daddy was a cop, turns out the guys were givin him a hard time.  So’s he’s gonna prove himself.  Wansta know if I got any dirt on Harvey.  I told him, I said, “Kid I got dirt on half the city.”  See, guys may pay money to look at my gals but the part they really want is my ears.  But, you know, I don’t want to trouble so I don’t tell him nothin’.  That kid, though, he won’t take no for an answer.  He starts showing up after work with flowers, openin my car doors, sayin I oughta be treated like a lady.  So one night I tell him about Harvey’s little weekly poker nights.  The one in the back room with those hard looking cats with the greased back hair and the guns too big for their britches.  Next thing I know those cats are in the doghouse and the Blue Horizon is just a pile of Ask and Harvey he’s the one spending his time getting hot under some lights.  Only these lights are the little ones they shine right in your eyes when they take you downtown.  Ask me if I shed a tear.  And get this, the kid wants to marry me, marry me! He said he’d made an honest woman outta me.  Can you see me with a bunch of rugrats.  Ironing his clothes and makin dinner and all that jazz?  He says I’m already a star in his eyes.  I told him if he got stars in his eyes he needs to see a doctor or something.  I don’t’ know, though.  I just might take him up on it.  Or I must go on home, see if the diner is still hirin.  I bet I can still flip an over easy without breakin the yolk.  All’s I know is that with that Blue Horizon gone, there ain’t nothin standin in my way. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Story a Day - Operation Antler Strike

Today we were supposed to use journal entries or letters or something of the like to tell our story.  I'm not sure how great of a story this makes, but I have been needing to create this series of Memos to release on my book's website, so at any rate I'm very glad I got this done. 

17APR2012                                                                                                                          FOUO: Secret

To: All Stalkers

Re: Operation Antler Strike

Currently accepting volunteers for all Stalkers Boar Class and above for participation in Operation Antler Strike.  Suspected Class 2 hive activity detected in Colorado, all personnel must be prepared to deploy.

03MAY2102                                                                                                                        FOUO: Secret


To: TINE Company


You are hereby ordered to report to Forward Operating Base Packer no later than 15JUN2012 0800 for participation in Operation Antler Strike.  Packing list to follow.

01JUL2012                                                                                                                           FOUO: Top Secret


Hasty Risk Management; Orange

 Mission:  1. Eliminate Class 2 enemy hive.
                    2. Destroy enemy base.
                    3. Detain any Master level enemy for acquisition of intelligence

1.        TINE Company will be split into four squads A-D.  Squads will enter single entry point at 15 minute intervals.

2.       Eliminate enemy targets (suspect  30-50 scouts 2-4 mid-level, and 1 master) 1-9. Leave light grenade to disallow reentry by enemy.

3.        Rendevous in Cell 10 to establish communications, triage.

4.       Squads A,B clear cell 12, 13.  Squad B clear cell 14, 15.  Plant heavy listening device. 

5.       Locate and detain Master level enemy.  

6.       Clear friendlies from hive. Radio contact artillery support unit with coordinates. 

SITREP                                                                                                                                  FOUO: Classified

08JUL2012   0700

Attack on hive as planned in OPORD distributed 01JUL2012.  Hive significantly larger than first believed.  Hasty risk management high yellow. Advised: Continue Mission


SITREP                                                                                                                                  FOUO: Classified


Squads A,B,and C reported to rendezvous point inside hive.  Two casualties. Squad D MIA. Sounds of explosives near entry to hive.

SITREP                                                                                                                                  FOUO:  Classified

09JUL21012 0045

Mission  failure.  Bound retrograde, Loss of caisson at FOB Packer.  Located enemy forces in excess of 100 scout type, 20 mid level, and 5 master level.  2 Master level targets and 7 mid level targets confirmed eliminated.  7 casualties, 3 MIA, one severely wounded, transported to hospital (report reads bear attack).  Evidence that enemy had extreme, top secret knowledge of plan. 

15JUL2012                                                                                                                           FOUO: No Caveats


To:  All Guild Personnel

Re: Memorial Services

All personnel are encouraged to join us at 18JUL2012 1100 at Hutter  Cemetary for burial with full honors of the following fallen Houseman Guild stalkers:

Foley, James P. (Wolf Class)
Morgan, Johannnes R. (Wolf Class)
Hernandez, Angel M. (Wolf Class)
Wallace, Rupert L. (Bear Class)
Beaufort, Olivia R. (Boar Class)
Kadulsi, LeAnna K. (Boar Class)
Brown, Abigail S. (Eagle Class)

Those wishing to remember the families may do so by contacting HQ and asking for Mrs. Fyles.


02AUG2012                                                                                                                        FOUO: Secret


You are hereby ordered to report to New Wallachia, Ohio No later than 21AUG2012 0800.  Housing will be provided. Report to Knock, Will U., Golden Eagle First Class for billeting.  Employment has been arranged at Callahan Middle school in position of librarian.  Observe and report any suspicious activity.  Current threat level GREEN.  As always, thank you for your service. 

A Story a Day - The Fairy Tale

The prompt today was to take a beginning line that was handed to us, and go from there.  I kept trying, but all that came to mind was poor imitations of one of Marian Allen's wonderful novels.  A young lady who is spending some time with us suggested a twist on Hansel and Gretel, so I gave that a try. 

The little cottage sat at the top of the mountain, silhouetted against the setting sun. It had been handsome once, the sides hewn from the trees felled to clear space for the house and small yard, with a green roof and the trim painted a cheery sunshine yellow.  Time had taken its toll and done to the house what it was unable to do to the ancient stone. Now, It was old and dilapidated, buffeted by the snow in the wintertime and the sun in the summer, the first to feel the wind and the rain the rest of the year.  The paint was faded and flaked, the roof covered in moss, and the front door hung askew.  There were few who chose to live that high up the mountain and so the little house stood alone, neighbored only by stone and trees.  A dim light shone in the window, and inside an old woman muttered to herself as she rocked in front of her fire, her dinner plate balanced on her lap, the grease adding drips and drabs to her dress, its fabric already darkened with scores of the same. Her hair was white and wiry, and her hooked nose and black eyes bespoke a land far away from where she had made her home. 

                “Fool kids,” she muttered, “banging on me door like that.”  The couple had knocked shortly after lunch. Blonde haired, fair, and blue eyed, unbelievably young, they looked enough alike to be brother and sister rather than husband and wife. 

“We finally found you!” the girl had bubbled, clapping her hands like a small child.   For a split second she looked like she might even hug the crone.  “We had our GPS so I thought we’d be fine but then we lost signal and I don’t know how we can make it home.”  The old woman stared out of her beady eyes and the girl trailed off, her grin slowly fading.  They were invited inside and accepted readily enough, giggling nervously, but once there they seemed to be at a loss.  There were a lot of measured looks, some clearing of throat and shuffling of feet, but in the end the story had to be drug out of them, just like it had had to be with all of the others. They had been trying to catch pregnant for three years and yet no baby.  The doctors were at a loss.  They’d heard thing, certain things, and thought that maybe she could help. 

“Darn fools,” the woman muttered again.  An old woman lives by herself in a falling down shack and they figure she must be a witch.  They never stopped by to offer to fix the roof, or bring her some presents at Christmas time, or see how she was fixed for bread and eggs, but if someone had a score to settle or there was something wrong inside their britches and they came asking spells.  It was like they were kids, still believing in fairy tales.  “Of course,” the woman thought, as her teeth splintered through a bone and she sucked out the marrow, “sometimes the fairy tales are right.”

Monday, May 13, 2013

Story a Day May - Sam's Story

Today's prompt was to write about Sam.  You see, Sam was just recently offered a promotion at work, all is going well, and yet she has this feeling that she isn't quite where she needs to be, that she ought to just give it up.  **Spoiler Alert** I was surprised to find that I was writing about death again.  It's odd.  That makes a solid one half of my stories and the thing is, I'm really not a morbid person.  I don't know why I keep going there.  And men.  I keep writing as men.  So very odd.  But I really dug this story, so I stuck with it.  I figure I still have half of the month and a three story backlog that I will just have to keep death free.  So, um, enjoy.

Sam's Story
Samantha walked through the double doors and blissfully out of the blisteringly cold wind that whooshed unimpeded down North Upper and headed straight for the unprotected sliver of skin between the hem of her slacks and the top of her boots.  Samantha spent each winter in agony as the skin on her ankles grew first white,then flaky, and finally developed tender red bands as the fragile skin was rubbed away one layer at a time.  This winter had been the worst.  Try as she might, Sam was simply unable to get warm. She found herself, not for the first time, thinking wistfully of the vacation she had taken months before.  The hike up to the Mayan ruins had been spectacular, the jungle with its technicolor flora and fauna appropriately exotic.  Ben had been more romantic than ever, feeding her bits of fruit with his fingers and dancing with her to the lilting melody of the pan pipes.  It was the feeling, though, that had stuck with her most of all.  The nagging feeling, growing stronger every day, that there was more waiting for her than the daily trudge to and from the giant edifice of blue glass.
Sam rode the elevator to the ninth floor and walked soundlessly across the beige carpet to her blue walled cubicle. Samantha was a creature of the outdoors; raised on a small not not insubstantial estate outside of town, the majority of her life had been spent on horseback, or hiking the gorge, or running back and forth on the lacrosse field.  To ease her hours confined to a six by six square and breathing predigested air, she had covered her cubicle in photographs, posters, little knick-knacks to remind her of wind and water, of light and laughter.  She rounded the corner and stopped, shocked, her woolen scarf still partially round around her slender throat.  The walls were bare.  There was nothing there but the soft blue felt that blocked noise from travelling from one person to another.  The wood patterned laminate of her desk stretched out before her. For a moment, she was enraged, frightened, then a grin flashed across her face, revealing a double row of very even, very white teeth.  Of course! The promotion!  Sam had been fighting for a job in one of the higher eschelons since she was hired.  Even the recent malaise had done little to stop her relentless pursuit.  It must have finally paid off!  She must have gotten the job and her friends had moved her things as a surprise.  It was a relief, really.  Her friends had been, well, elusive to say the least, and Sam had begun to think she had somehow offended them.  She had been too distracted, to depressed, to do much about it, but was glad to know that she was mistaken.  Surely in no time, they would be laughing about the misunderstanding over sweet potato chips and conch fritters.  She looked for her friends, but couldn't find them, and so she took the elevator up to the fifteenth floor in search of her boss, and her desk.  The promotion was great news, the best.  God knew she had worked hard enough for it.  Still, as the elevator rose her mind was pulled back to Peru, and to the thought that even now she was not where she ought to be.

Samantha's boss was in a meeting.  With no idea of what she ought do or where she ought do it, Sam decided to treat herself to a long lunch and a martini at the little bar down the street.  She sat in the dark leather booth, swirling the chocolate liqueurs around in the glass and toying with her food.  She didn't have much of an appetite.  Hadn't had for months now.  As she sipped, she stared out the window at the park across the street.  Always lovely, it was particularly gorgeous this time of year.  The white lit fountains lined one whole side of the park, shooting high into the air before cascading in a wall of waterfalls.  The trees were covered with twinkling lights,and a fifty foot tall fir tree had been installed and festooned with brightly colored lights and ornaments.  It was magical, and romantic, especially so for Sam because she and Ben had had their first date there, a picnic among the trees.  Samantha missed him so badly; the pain was no less now than it had been the first day that she had discovered him gone.  She had been so certain that he was going to propose while they were in Peru.  The kisses, the glances, the lovemaking, they had never been better.  She saw him reach into his pocket three or four times and each time she felt a tickle of joy.  But, then, he hadn't.  Instead Ben had suddenly become sullen and withdrawn.  He wouldn't touch her, and hardly spoke.  They flew home in silence.  One day, Samantha came home and all of Ben's things were just gone.  She called him over and over again, begging, pleading, entreating him for some sort of answer, but he never called back.  Once, in desperation, she had even called his mother.  They had, after all, always been rather close.  But she hadn't called either and Sam had resigned herself to the fact that, for reasons she could not begin to comprehend, Ben was just gone. Samantha had almost packed up then, moved somewhere else and started anew, maybe even Peru, but her courage failed her.  Lexington was, with all of it's pain and memories, home.  Samantha drained her glass and felt the booze burn it's way into her belly.  Suddenly, she wanted to go for a walk in the park.  Maybe that would be what it took to finally put Ben, and the love she still bore, behind her.
She buttoned her coat and started against the street just as the light turned from yellow to red.  The car, a late model sedan absolutely packed with college kids, bore down on her,and she just had time to see the look of panic on the face of the young man in front.  There was a squeal of tires, the grind of rubber on ice, and Samantha braced herself for impact.  The car fishtailed, careening, out of control, and passed right through her. 
In a flash, Samantha remembered. The feel of Ben's hand in hers, the smell of the tropical rain, the sound of the motor as the car swung onto the curb to pass the line of motorized bikes in it's path.  It all made sense.  The cold.  The loneliness.  The feeling of being somewhere she ought.  Samantha's eyes widened, and she turned, finally, into the light.  

Story a Day - First Person

The assignment for today was to write a story in the first person POV.  I have to admit I cheated a bit; instead of starting from scratch I finished a story that I have been percolating for a while.  A friend and I were talking a while ago about the occasional need for content advisories on the things we read, how certain topics can set us back for days if caught unawares.  This is one of those.  It deals with things that are hard; helplessness, the loss of a loved one, and it does so from the POV of a little boy.  But, if you can, I think it's worth the read.

The Halls of the Nosmo King

The halls of the Nosmo King are green.  Not a pretty green like, like leaves or grass or Mommy’s favorite dress, the one with the flowers all around the bottom.  No.  It’s a yucky green like the time I drank a whole lime slushy by myself at a birthday party for my bestest friend then threw it up and my friend’s mom spanked me for staining her couch and then we didn’t go to see her no more. 

The halls are green and they move around sometimes when you aren’t looking.  I know ‘cause I went to try to find something to eat cause my tummy was growling so loud and then I couldn’t find my way back.  I know that I goed the right way, but the tower, the tower wasn’t there anymore and a lady, I think she was a princess, but good one, she brought me back.  She tried to talk to me but I made her words sound like “waa waa waa” in case she was just pretending to be nice but was really going to cast a spell on me.  She gave me some food, some crackers and some juice, but I wouldn’t eat them either ‘cause they might have a spell on them, too.  They might even be poison. Yeah, I think they are and I think if I ate them I might turn into a monster or maybe they could use their mind control to get me to do what they want me to.  So I don’t care if I’m hungry.  I’m strong. 

The halls of the Nosmo King are green and they are loud.  They are so loud and even when I put my hands over my ears I can still hear stuff.  The torches in the ceiling buzz all the time and they flicker and make my head hurt.  You can hear the prisoners that they keep in the dungeons.  You can hear them crying or moaning and there are voices that even come from the walls and everything echoes echoes echoes so that you hear it all over and over again and it makes you crazy.  Crazy halls.  Crazy King. 

He is, too, that King.  Crazy. And mean. And a big scaredy cat.  I mean, I haven’t even seed him but I’m not stupid.  I know things and I can read and his name is everywhere in the castle so I know it’s his but he won’t come out.  I called for him and called for him all night long once and all the servant girls just looked really scared and kept telling me to please quiet down. So I know he’s here.  Somewhere.  He’s prolly hiding because he is a bad king and there are good knights who would take him down with a pow and a crash.  Wherever he is, I’ll find him someday.  And when I do, oh boy. He’s a mean old man and I do not like him. Not at all.

The halls of the Nosmo King are guarded by a dragon.  She looks like a lady, but I heard some people whispering and they kept calling her “the Dragon” so now I know the truth.  And then I knew and I looked and her when she didn’t know it and I saw.  Her lips are red cause she’s been eating something like maybe horses or maybe even people and she smells gross like smoke.  She’s magic too.  She has super sight.  I said some magic words once and sprinkled myself with some dust that I’ve been saving and I know I was invisible.  I tried to sneak by her to go see my mom but she still saw me and she roared and roared.  I was going to keep going, into the dungeon cause I HAVE to get in there but she roared so loud and her lips were red and I was scared she as going to eat me too so I went back to my chair and colored some more. I hate coloring. 

The halls of the Nosmo King are ruled by wicked wizards in big white robes.  When they show up, everybody runs and hides or bow their heads and follow his every command. They give out evil potions to hurt people and instead of a wand they give them shots just so they can hurt them even more.  And I heard what he said last time.  He said that he didn’t have to do anymore.  That she was dying.  And then he said that I had to stay away, that I couldn’t go in there no more and so I know that he knows my secret.  He knows my secret and he knows my Mama’s secret that, that before she got that evil spell putted on her, that bad bad spell that made all of her hair falled out and made her sick all of the time, before she got that spell and after she got that spell she would kiss my head and call me her Little Prince.  Her prince!  That means, that means that she is a queen and if my  mama is a queen then she’d defeat that Nosmo King and he wouldn’t be king no  more.  So he had that wizard put a spell on her and he didn’t think I’d know but I figured it out and when he comed outta my Mama’s room I attacked him.  I kicked and kicked and hit him – bam – and I even bit him even though I know I’m not ‘sposed to bite ‘cause mouths are nasty and we could really hurt someone but I WANTED to really hurt him so I bit him hard.  Then I yelled all the spells I knew.  I yelled and I yelled but I’m just little.  I’m just little and afore I could get to the end they held me down.  They kept saying, “it’s okay, it’s okay,” but it’s not okay and nothing is okay and they must think I’m stupid but I’m not and I’m sorry Mama I’m just so so sorry and next time I will do better and please forgive me.  Maybe, maybe if I was bigger or if I had a sword maybe then I’d know what to do and they’d have to listen to me and they would have to let me in.  Maybe if I were bigger I’d have bigger muscles or a bigger brain and I’d know what to say and then I’d get through whether they wanted me to or not and then I could kiss her ‘cause she’s my queen and she would be all better I just know that she would.  If I were bigger but I’m not.  I’m just little.  I’m just the little Prince and now there are people telling me that I have to go with them but I won’t.  I won’t never.  I’ll pretend to be a, a baby dragon, or I’ll pretend to be a ghost.  I’ll pretend that I’m just part of a painting or, or I’ll go invisible and I’ll just stay here ‘til I’m big.  So when I’m big enough and strong enough I’ll still be here.  Right here.  Here in the halls of the Nosmo King. 

Dark Carnival Fiction Competition

Calling all bearded women, scary clowns, and dreamers of dark dreams. The Dark Carnival Film Festival and author K.A.DaVur have joined forces to present the first annual Dark Carnival Fiction Competition.  The Dark Carnival Film Festival is celebrating it’s eighth year and is considered to be the nation’s scariest and best independent horror and dark fantasy film festival.  This year, the festival is moving from Bloomington to the historic Crump Theatre in Columbus Indiana and have decided to expand their heartstopping horizons with new vendors, paranormal intrigue, and a short story competitions with frighteningly amazing awards including a publishing contract with Hydra Publications. 

Submissions are currently being accepted, and will close on the stroke of midnight on July 31st.  There are three categories; dark fantasy, science fiction, and horror, and any original, unpublished submission of 5000 words or less will be accepted.  Due to the thematic content of the competition, we ask that all writers be at least 18 years of age.  Please send your submissions to Finalists will be notified mid-August, and winners will be announced at an author’s reception at the film festival.  Please, come along and enjoy the ride!

A Story a Day - Third Person, Limited

Ah, this is closer.  Today's assignment was to write a story in third person, limited.  That point of view refers to a speaker who is an onlooker, who may see the events that go on behind the scenes, but has only the most limited knowledge of what is going on inside a character's mind.  I enjoy third person quite a lot.  I prefer third person, omniscient.  Perhaps that's because I'm lazy, perhaps because I tend to write ensemble books and I find that third person, omniscient works best. 
At any rate, this story started when my daughter grew jealous of my writing.  This is not unusual.  In fact, all of my children can be playing happily, paying me no mind, but the act of my picking up a notebook and pen is somehow a call to arms.  Suddenly everyone needs a snack, a hug, to play, to reach something that they cannot.  Often, I don't mind. Why am I doing this if not for them, after all?  On the times I simply must get work done, a gentle shoo-ing works, well, as well as anything.  Anyhow, in this instance my daughter was much more wily.  She did not ask me to stop writing.  She simply asked me to write a story for her.  We were creekin' at the moment, and I simply looked around and started a simple tale based on what I saw.  The thing is, I rather like it.  A really, really like it.  It is a short little story now, but I think it may very well become the first chapter of something bigger. 

The Last Fairy
One blustery day in October an evil wind began to blow. The doe felt it and bounded off across the glade, flashing her white tail in warning.  The timber rattlers felt it in their dens, and coiled and struck at one another hissing, "this is my bit of rock, go and get your own."  The coyotes felt it and sang their moonsongs, even though the sun still shone.  Clouds gathered on the horizon, black and pendulous.  Suddenly, lightning split the sky, a signal, an order, and the fury descended. 
The trees bowed before it,powerless, as the gale ripped golden leaves from the branches.  The rains came first, and then the hail, solid balls the size of the bitter apples that hung on the gnarled old crab apple tree.  The hail clattered and rattled, ripping plants to shreds and sending an unlucky fox yelping to his den.  In the distance figures moved amongst the chaos, darting this way and that, blowing off course only to right themselves a moment later.  As they drew closer to the meeting place, a sheltered cove formed by the roots of a tree long since fallen the identity of the brave, or perhaps mad, creatures became clear.
A bedraggled, crimson cardinal flew at the top of the formation, his wings providing a big of shelter to the quartet of dragonflies that flew below.  Six honeybees flew in a triangle at point position, their needle like stingers poised and ready for battle.  AS the group approached the cove, one of the bees took a direct hit from a piece of hail, spun to one side, and was still among the sodden grass.  Immediately one of the other bees flew into position, filling the hole in the ranks.  In the middle of the formation another figure flew, battling bravely against the storm.  At first glance, it appeared to be yet another dragonfly; the same long, iridescent wings beat against the wind. As the squadron began their approach into the cove, however, her identity became clear.  It was a fairy, one of the ancient ones.  Her long, white hair was pulled back from her face into a bun from which only a few strands had escaped despite the buffeting winds.  Her face was as deeply lined and wrinkled as the shell of a walnut, and her gossamer wings sparkled in the dim light.  In her hands, she carried what appeared to be a large seed.  Finally, the group made it to safety, landing still in formation among the roots, directly in front of the small General who waited for them.
The General bowed deeply and removed his plumed helmet.  "Madam," he said respectfully.  The fairy gave him a brief not, but wasted no time on formalities.  Her eyes scanned the shadows in the deepest nooks of the cave, but it was empty save for the General's gallant steed, a bright eyed field mouse with an armored tail and sweat darkened leather saddle. 
"The others?" she asked.  The General shook his head sorrowfully.  "I'm sorry," he said, "but you are the first."  The fairy's face twisted in grief, and a single tear fell from one eye and wound its way down the fissured cheek.  "So the rumors are true?" the General asked.  The fairy nodded.  "Maleithe," she said, "and much sooner than we expected."  Her eyelids drooped, and she swayed a bit on her feet.  Behind her, a dragonfly sneezed. 
"My apologies," the General said, bowing low, "You must be exhausted. Perhaps you'd like to rest."  "In a moment," she replied, "but first. . . " gingerly she sat the seed on the loamy ground by her feet.  She reached into the pocket of her frilled apron and pulled out a shimmering wand no bigger than a splinter.  The cardinal chattered excitedly and the General removed his cap, a look of awe on his handsome face.  He looked much younger with the helmet off,his dark hair rolling back in waves from a clear, fine brow.  For the first time in that long, long day the fairy smiled a bit.  She spoke a single syllable and the tip of the wand glowed pink, a cheerful, healthy pink that spoke of springtime, of hope.  Outside the cove the storm died down a bit.  The honeybees started to hum a low, lilting harmony.  The dragonflies joined in, providing a flowing melody.  The storm receded even more.  With a wave of the wand and a single word a hole opened in the dark earth.  The song grew louder still and it seemed the wind could hardly be heard.  The bees and the dragonflies sang, they sang a song of victory, of triumph.  The General's cheeks flushed and the mouse and the cardinal looked on with their bright black eyes.  The fairy bent, gingerly laying the seed in the hole, tucking it in like she would a babe.  The song reached a triumphant crescendo, the fairy lifted her wand and gave a shout.  There was a flash of blue and then utter silence inside the cove and out.  The hole was filled with earth, brushed smooth, without a sign to show that it had ever been disturbed.  The elder fairy faded a bit, grew transparent.  The General could see the roots behind her.  She smiled at him kindly, and his heart beat faster in his chest.  "There now," she said.  "Now it's up to you. . . and to her." With that, she was gone.

A Story A Day - Second Person

The assignment today was to write a story in second person without it sounding like a choose your own adventure book or a role playing game.  Eek!  I've always admired writers who can sustain this for any length of time, Tom Robbins comes to mind.  It's a handy tool, and a lot of fun to read, but frighteningly difficult to write.

Sweet Carolina
The Sun finally breaks through the leaves and warms your old body all the way to your bones.  Ah, that feels nice.  You stretch languorously, splaying your toes.  The birds fill the air with song.  Finally, you begin to feel yourself again.  Those long, dreary winters truly leave you feeling logy, unmotivated, stuck in the much.  No matter how you try, you can't seem to drag yourself out of your shell.  Your stomach growls and you start the seemingly endless journey to rustle up something to eat.  Some fruit, maybe, would really hit the spot.
Suddenly, the ground begins to shake.  The roof sways and your rock collection comes crashing to the ground and you tuck your head between your shoulders, eyes darting this way and that.  What on earth?!?  Your roof is torn away completely, and without warning you are flying through the air, twisting, turning this way and that.  Your legs pedal at nothing.  You can't breathe! A tornado, then?  As though your very thoughts summoned them, sirens begin to wail.  "Turrrrrrrrrrr" they shriek, winding up and up to a pitch that is nearly unbearable.  You want to cover your ears, but alas you cannot.  Just when you think you cannot bear another moment, then begin to wind back down. You hiss a brief sound of relief, only for the noise to start again. 
You are becoming quite seasick, and frankly water never appealed to you that much to begin with.  You flail for purchase, call for help, begin to pray.  Anything to stop this hell.  Suddenly great, slavering beasts begin to attack from all sides.  They roar thunder and exhale breath from the very grave.  Their huge teeth hunger for your flesh.  The sirens, now you know were simply an early warning system for these creatures, stop.  The word "Armageddon" floats briefly through your mind.  That's when the missile attack begins.  Still suspended by unseen forces you are shaken by each impact.  With each concussion comes a crash.  Shake! "Git!" Boom! "Daun!" Over and over again.  Still the beasts rage on.
Something about this begins to tug at your memory.  It seems vaguely familiar somehow.  Could it be a recurrence of some childhood event?  Something so traumatic that you tucked it away, forced yourself to forget?  That's when it dawns on you and you remember, it's child season again. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

My first blogging award.

I was given this award this morning by a woman with whom I am quickly becoming smitten, the lovely Marian Allen.  She has been beyond kind to this new kid on the block, and I am incredibly grateful.  This award comes, however, with some fun little strings as listed below.
  1. Thank and link to the person who gave you the award.
  2. Tell seven facts about yourself.
  3. Pass it on to seven other bloggers.
  4. Link to specific posts on their blogs so they’ll be notified by pingback. I’ve also notified my recipients by commenting on specific posts, since I read them every day anyway!
Seven facts about Ms. Davur
1. I am completely and utterly unable to compose writing on a computer.  Everything begins in composition books that I buy in bulk during back to school sales.  To me, a blank book is an invitation, a cursor is a demand. 
2.  I love books like Lenny loves bunnies.  There is no sound finer than the crack as the spine breaks.  And it's a mercy thing; hopefully they are unaware of all the trauma they endure after that point. 
3.  I'm really quite old fashioned in a lot of ways.  I can my own food, sew many of my clothes, make homemade cleaning products, spin wool into yarn, and am a trained midwife.  Don't get me wrong, I am an admitted FacePlant and love the various creature comforts that the modern age provides, but there is something incredibly satisfying about the simplicity and immediate tangible rewards of simplicity.
4. I am obsessed with sharks.  Really, really obsessed.  I love them and want to cuddle them all.  If prompted in any way I will regale you for hours with shark facts, so enter the waters at your own risk.
5.  I also love pseudonyms.  **Newsflash** K.A. DaVur is not my real name.  Also, I once wrote a modern western under the nomme de plume George P. Murphy after three of my favorite war heroes.  (Gold star to anyone who can name all three).
6.  In my rebellious, iconoclastic youth, I got an underage tattoo...of Winnie the Pooh.  And a balloon.
7.  I have four children seven and under whom I homeschool and with whom I am utterly and completely in love.  They make me a better me and have taught me so much.  Two of them have special needs.  I was incredibly proud when my then four year old, who could not yet say his name, settled by calling himself "Beowulf." 
I'm kind of new to this blogging thing, so I'm not sure if I know seven others.  But, here goes.
Suzann @ Moozan's Mind
Jay Noel
AR Neal @ Starving Activist
Dom @ Plumicorn Prophesies

Story a Day May 5/6- Argh!

Wow.  Today has been a long one.  One of those days when, as a writer, you are having to fight and scrape for every word.   The prompt for today was to briefly research a place that you have never been, and use that as the setting for your story.  I read that and had this amazing idea that involved Seal Island off of the coast of South Africa.  It was perfect; gorgeous setting with lots of opportunities for adjectives, excitement, jumping sharks, self-awareness.  Except it never came.  It didn't flow and it would not be drug.  Really.  Everything I wrote was horrible.  However.  However, my muse, Cecelia, fickle wench that she is, apparently didn't forsake me altogether because as I was researching a well-loved book in my collection (The Shark God by Charles Mongomery), I became obsessed with trying to write part of my story in Bislama.  I thought that it would be a great tie-in as it covers the groups of Melanesians who believe that some spirits return as sharks.   The original story never got written, but the Bislama did. This may be horrible as well, in fact I think it is, but time runs short and it is all I have. So please indulge my little mental exercise.  The translation is below, but to best enjoy the beauty of this language, I suggest you read the passage out loud.  I think you will find the translation is not necessary.  And bear with me, I promise regular programming returns tomorrow. 

TakTak Tamavha Blong Mi
Mi Papa hem gudfala.  Katsom magic, i blong hem.  Wen son he blong hem draon mi bleve see hem nomo. Me bagarup. Kaikai nogud.  Stop swim mi. Mana blong mi nomo. But, one a monintie me see pigon blong solwata.  He taktak me.  Gudfala he go sanbich me fala.  I looklook solwata.  Papa! He swim.  He taktak say mifala cry nomo.  Gud tamavha taktak blong mi. I savve Papa shark, mi gudgud ogleta. Lookum mi bakagan blong hem.

An Answer Prayer
My father was a wonderful man.  He knew the magic and culture of our people.  When the sun set on his life I thought that I would never see him again, and I was broken.  I could not eat.  I did not bathe.  The will to live ran out of me.  But, one morning I saw a seagull.  The seagull talked to me, and told me to follow.  I followed him to a sandy beach and looked out into the water. There was my father, swimming in the water.  He spoke to me and said that I should not cry anymore.  It was an answer to prayer.  Once I knew that my father had returned as a shark, I felt much better altogether.  I finally got to say my goodbye.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Story a Day 5/5 - Brain Candy

Whew!  After those last three days, I needed a bit of a palate cleanser!  I hope that you enjoy today’s fun little bit of nonsense. Some brain candy.  The prompt for today was to allow a Wikinews article to spark a story.  The link to the original article is at the end. 



Now that I have reason to consider it, I suppose that such a thing was inevitable.  We, as a whole, are a more progressive people out here, and it’s not as though these individuals live under a rock.  No, they leave that to the vampires.  Contrary to what some might believe, regardless of their circumstance these are the same, valuable, forward-thinking contributing members of society as those around them. 

After years of trying to conceive a child, I had some tests run only to discover that my body had only ever been going through the motions.  That the irregular cycles I’d always attributed to stress, or genetics, were in fact a sign that I was not ovulating.  We tried for quite a while to induce such; but all that happened was that I became irritable, weepy, and fat.  Finally, I decided on in-vitro fertilization.  I picked a donor and off we went.

I started to suspect success on the two hour drive home from work one day.  Suddenly the smell of the exhaust became unbearable, even though the windows were rolled up all the way.  I turned off the air conditioning, but as the car grew warmer, and I could still smell the fumes, I began to retch.  I texted my doubles partner that I would have to cancel and spent the evening in bed.  But it wasn’t until I was out for dinner with some friends that I knew for sure.  Instead of my usual salad I found myself ordering a steak; extra rare.  A week later my doctor confirmed what I already knew, that I was finally going to be a mother.  He waved off my concerns as part of a normal pregnancy and told me to relax.  So I did.

Once I entered the second trimester, my pregnancy was uneventful.  I ran every day just as I always had, meditated spent time with my friends who all ooh’d and ahh’d appropriately.  I’d lay awake all night, feeling her kicks and flutters, already in love with this creature growing inside of me. The ultrasound revealed that I was having a daughter, and I decided to name her Luna. 

Luna was born, ironically, on the eve of a new moon after thirty six hours of grueling and painful labor.  She was beautiful, pink and perfect, covered in downy lanugo and looking at me with bright, alert eyes.  She nursed hungrily and easily, I had been warned to expect some difficulty as we both learned what to do, but my girl and I, we were in sync.  Four weeks later, though, I learned truth about my daughter.  Late one night I woke to a howl, looked to the crib beside my bed and saw this black, furry thing growling and snarling where my daughter should have been.  I screamed and beat at it, looking for my daughter.  Where was she?  Did it eat her?  Then suddenly I saw the eyes, alert and intelligent, looking up at me, and I knew.  I remembered the donor profile:” Trim, athletic, in good health.  Dark hair, green eyes. Above average intelligence. Enjoys running, trying new foods, and moonlight. “I should have known that they would find a way to eschew violence.  After all, we are a progressive society. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Story a Day in May 5/4

Today we focused more on character by using an obituary as an inspiration.  I combined the obituary I read about Motherwit, an Alabama midwife, mixed with a bit of what I saw when I was baby catching.  The speaker, though, is very much my Mammy Noon.  Mammy Noon was my great-grandmother and most of what is good in me came from her.  She was born and raised on a farm deep in Arkansas.  She used to tell me stories of her youth: napping on her parent's cotton picking bags, paying the local midwife a bottle of molasses to deliver my grandma. There are subtle signs that this is not our America, though, so this may be another "Brink" story. We will have to see. 

The Last Delivery
I don't rightly recall the first baby I helped bring into the world.  My Mama was a midwife just like her Mama was her Mam before that, back and back as long as anyone could remember.  There used to be a joke in these parts, that when Mother Lou gave birth to that precious Baby without knowing the touch of a man, it was a Cannon woman who'd been there to catch Him.  Daddy worked on the railroads and was gone most of the time, so if a woman's time came and it was just me 'n Mama I went right along with her, nightgown and all.  At first I just watched or played with my corn baby or napped on a pallet I'd make up in the corner.  When I got older I'd help a little bit, warming blankets, boiling water, making sure that Mama's needles were threaded with the special thread that was given to her by the kindly doctor who lived in town.  By the time I'd started my  monthlies I was standing in if Mama was sick or helping someone else when a frantic man showed up at our door.  My Mama was a good woman.  She was my best friend.  Lordy I miss her sometimes. 
So's like I said, I don't recall the first, but I sure do remember the last.  I was thirty years old when the sickness came, married to my Georgie and living in a pretty little house near town.  I loved that man more'n anything.  He was gentle and kind.  And handsome!  I like to never see another man as good locking as he was.  When the sickness came, he was one of the first to get it.  It started out with a rash, kindly like poison ivy and so at first I thought he'd gotten into somethin' out in the fields.  I made him up a poultice of cornstarch and wild plaintain mixed with a bit of water.  I smeared it on him and sent him to bed.  I figured by the next morning he'd be fine.  Around midnight, I reckon, I had to leave the house to tend to the of the Byrd girls.  The Byrd's were all easy births.  Broad-beamed, goo-natured and hardworking.  We'd all been pretty worried about 'em when their Mama ran off with a fast-talking tinker man, but their Granny did real well by them and they turned out to be fine, fine women.  Callie called out to me jest as soon as I walked through the door.  Covered in sweat with her big old belly low and hard, she was trotting around the living room just as fast as she could go.  "See Miss Lee," she called out, "I'ma walkng this baby out, just like you said."  See, most women went straight to bed as soon as the pains hit.  They didn't know that just made them get worse and last longer.  But Callie was a good girl, she'd tended what I said.  I was proud of her and I told her so.  After a couple of hours it was time; you can always tell 'cause a woman's voice gets real low, just like a growl.  When she starts growling it's time to push.  So I sat Callie down on an old milking stool that had been brought up and scrubbed 'til the wood was nearly white.  Three big pushes and that baby slid out, neat as you please.  It was a boy and I can tell you that pleased Callie's husband quite a bit.  He pulled off his hat and let out a screech I'm pretty sure they could hear all the way across the holler.  He and Callie were laughing and crying and hugging and kissing an staring at their son all at the same time.  By the time I'd tended to the afterbirth and cleaned up all my supplies both Callie and the baby were having a bite to eat.  It was a good birth.  One of the best. 
By the time I headed home the sun had come on up and the birds were singing.  I sang a little bit, too, some of my favorite hymns, and thought that when I got home I might make a bit of cornbread.  I first got the idear that something might be wrong when I heard Maybelle, our old milk cow, just bellerin and hollerin up a storm.  But, it wasn't 'til I saw the sky above our house; the clear, smokeless sky, that I started to run.  Georgie never let our cookfire go out.  Ever.  Sure enough, there he was in bed, so hot with the fever he'd like to catch the sheets on fire.  The rash and spread, and the parts that had been red the night before were grey and white, like ashes.  Well, I yelled out the door to old Kimmy Sample that she needed to get the doctor right away.  Kimmy was as dumb as a post, but she was an obedient child and she ran off quick as could be.  A week later, she was dead too.  The doctor came and he didn't know what to make of Georgie any more than I, though he told me hed'a been hearing about this kind of thing.  Well we tried everything we could think to do, and a couple of things we knew wouldn't work but did just o be doing something.  It weren't no use, though.  Those patches just kept spreading and after a couple of days they'd break open and blood and pus would just come pouring out.  Georgie screamed near all the time and sometimes he thought I was his mama and sometimes he thought I was an angel but all he knew was that he hurt.  He came to for a little bit right near the end, told me that he'd always loved me.  then he died.  When I set foot that afternoon out of my house, for the first time in a week, that's the first I knew about what was happenin' right outside my door.  The sickness had taken control.  Six weeks later almost everyone was dead.  What was left were a whole bunch of beat up-washed out torn down souls.  And barren.  Each and every one of us. 
So for the last forty years it's been just us, whilin' away the time, plugging along, watching each other grow old and die.  There ain't been no kids in twenty-five years or more, and no babies since Callie Byrd's.  None that was until today.  I was sitting there, watching the flames, trying to warm my old bones a bit when I heard a knock on my door.  Even though I ain't heard a knock like that in a coon's age, I knew just what it was.  Sure enough, there was Johnny Mac, his face bright read and his hat in his hands.  "Why Johnny Mac," I said, not able to keep the twinkle outta my voice.  I ain't seen hide nor hair of you or yours in about seven months."  "Yes ma'am," he said.  "It's Laura.  She's - we - well we just couldn't chance it.  Will you come?"  I took a minute to grab my bag, packed away for all these years.  Laura had to be forty-three or more, a rough age to be having a baby.  When I got to her house, though, I saw her just a walkin.  "Look Miss Lou," she cried, just as her auntie had all those years before.  "I'ma gonna walk this baby out." 

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Story a Day May - 5/2

Today's assignment was to pick a character and write a story based on something they want.  I decided to work on a story that I hope to include in a short story collection called "Brink." I was inspired to write "Brink" when I read an article about a planet that was orbiting a black hole.  The atmosphere had been torn from the planet, but the bulk of the mass was still intact, forever on the event horizon.  I started thinking about what life would be like on the edge of a tear in the time/space continum.  This is one of the stories.  It's a very, very rough draft.  I hope that you enjoy.  There is some mild profanity.

Brink – Circus

The two men sat beside the fire, huddled against the cold.  The fire was eerie.  The flames small, white-blue, and they hissed and danced.  Several such fires glowed amongst the trees.  Firestones, they were called.  Fifty years ago a team of marine biologist had found them growing on the edge of a vent deep in an underground sea.  Dry, they were unremarkable, porous white mushroom-like minerals brought up from the depths by the air that bubbled past. The d a couple of droops of water, though, and they came to life, giving off remarkable amounts of heat along with the freakish blue light.  Now, the vents were mined day and night, harvesting the stones, and the entire country was powered by them.  They were heavily favored among the Homeless, as they were called in these parts.  Lightweight, easy to stuff into a pocket, infinitely useful.  They were in fact, the reason the man had come here in the first place.  Of course, civilians weren’t allowed to possess a firestone.  Highly illegal.  But then to even be Homeless required a certain disregard for the laws of any given land. 

“Go home, kid,” the man said for at least the fiftieth time.  “You ain’t crossed yet, it’s not too late.”  The kid didn’t listen, just like he hadn’t any of the times before.  His head was full of all of these romantic notions of how it would be; the freedom, the adventures.  He was always wanting to hear stories.  “Tell me about this, tell me about that,” all the damn time.  The man had tried to tell the kid what some old man had told him decades before.  Simply put, once you stand in one world and piss in another somehow you can’t go home.  But, it hadn’t worked, just like it hadn’t worked with him. 

“What was it like your first time?” the kid asked.  The man shook his head.  “See, you don’t ask about stuff like that,” he said.  “It’s personal.  Like asking a guy about the first time he was with a woman.”  “Oh.”  The kid started at the flames.  “Well, what’s that like?”  The man sighed.  The kid wasn’t going to get it, plain and simple.  You can’t fix stupid, and the kid was as stupid as it got.  No, that wasn’t true.  Not stupid.  Just…young.  Green.  Still wet behind the ears.  It all came down to the same thing, though.  Oh well, he’d learn.  If he went through with it and didn't turn back shivering and crying from the line.  Or go insane.  Or kill himself when he finally realized what he’d done.  He’d learn.

Suddenly, there was movement from the edge of the wood.  Muffled curses, the crackling of leaves, thumps as the firestones were doused with sand.  Then the flashlights, sending out beams through the woods.  Cops, the man thought at first and packed up camp in a hurry.  Then he heard the shouts and the laughter.  Not cops then, but kids.  Locals. Teenagers, probably, got their dander up and were out to show how tough they were by beating on some Homeless.  A couple of years back a Homeless man had taken up residence in these parts.  Of course, he was also a psychopath and by the time he was brought down he’d killed about a dozen local girls.  Eaten some of them.  Pretty gruesome stuff.  The fact of it was that for every one that went bad, there were hundreds, thousands maybe, who just wanted to be left alone to live their lives.  Still, one was all it took to make a whole country turn on them all.  The man packed up his gear in a hurry and started to flee.  The kid stood by where the fire used to be, staring at the shadows behind the beams.  “What are you doing?” the man grunted, “run!”  The kid’s smooth forehead wrinkled.  He looked like a baby in that minute, not even fuzz o his checks.  “But why?” he asked. “I know them.  Or, I might.  Probably.  Maybe I could explain to them, let them know you’re good guys.  Then you wouldn’t have to run.” The locals were coming closer.  In a moment they’d be on top of them.  The man paused for a minute, torn, and then he shrugged.  “Have it your way,” he said, and sprinted to safety. 

The onslaught didn’t last long.  They never did.  Teenaged boys got bored easily, especially faced with a quarry that would rather hide than fight, had been hiding for more years than the kids had been alive.  A few sharp sizzles of electricity, a few cries of pain.  A few cruel laughs as they tore apart some packs, and then it was all over.  When he was sure that it was over, the man walked back to where their camp had been.  He found the kid right where he had left him, laying on his back, his eyes wide and unblinking.  A long, red gash ran across his stomach, the edges of the shirt around it melted into the skin.  The boy’s breath came in shallow gasps.  “Aw, hell,” the ma said. “What did you do that for?  You dam fool.”  The boy’s lips moved, making bubbles of blood and spittle.  The man leaned down to hear.  “Tell me,” the boy gasped,” tell me about your first time.  The man rubbed his rough calloused hand over his eyes.  He tossed his back on the round and leaned against it.  He gave the boy a drink of water.  Finally, he began.

“I was a boy,” he began, “not much older’n you.  I’d taken my girl to the circus.”  He saw the boy’s lips move again.  “What’s that?” The man gave the kid another drink of water.  His eyes had taken on an on, faraway look. “Now, don’t you bothering with questions.  I’ll get to it.  The circus, well what the circus really was, was something fun that happened once a year or so.  There were magicians, animals like from fairy tales and they could do tricks, pretty girls dressed it outfits that didn’t cover much and sparkled like the stars.  When we said we were going to the circus, though, what we meant was that we were going somewhere to park.  To kiss for certain, more if we could get it.  We called it going to the circus ‘cause of the the wires that ran right through the field where we’d go park our cars and into the woods on either side.  There was three of em, thick and black.  The first one was about twenty feet in the air, the second ten feet above that, and the third one was another ten feet above that.  They had yellow flags on them.  They were there to mark the timeline, and they reminded us of the wires that people would walk on in the circus.  Tightropes they were called, and whenever you watched you spent of of your time kinda hoping they’d fall, and the other half scared to death that they were going to.  That was one reason.  The other reason that they called it the circus was cause of the house.   The field was off of this country road.  It wasn’t more than a track, really, gravel, and if you followed it long enough you’d get to this crossroads.  At the crossroads was this house, and so matter which way you came from it was across the road and to the left.  We’d spend whole weekends, sometimes, my friends and I, trying to sneak up on the house and see if we could see the moment that it switched places.  One of us would come from one direction and another one of us would come from another.  It didn’t matter, though; we never could figure it t. We finally just figured that it was magic, like the rings or the birds that the guy used at the circus, and so we called it the circus house.  But anyway, my girl at the time was named AnneMarie and she was just the prettiest thing that I had ever seen.  Long brown hair that looked red when the light hit it just right, big, soft brown eyes.  I’d had a crush on her for as long as I could remember, and a couple of months before that she’d agreed to be mine.  We spent most every Friday night at the circus, and I spent most every Saturday taking cold showers and thinking about the way her lips had looked when she said something, or how her skin had felt, or how I could get even further the next week.  One night we went out there and it was business as usual, but soon I realized that something was wrong.  It was cold, that was the first thing, winter was coming and this was one of the nights that you could really believe it.  We were dressed like it was still summer, probably cause in our minds it still was, and we were both shivering even though we were pretending that we weren’t.  Second, I could tell that AnneMarie was mad, even though she kept saying that she wasn’t. We fought.  I turned on the car so we could have some heat and I bullied her until she decided to tell me what was wrong.  I said that I was concerned.  I said that I wanted to know so that I could fix it.  Looking back, what I really wanted was to have a reason to fight.  I was tired of going home every week with my balls throbbing.  I was tired of having to dress up every Sunday and make nice with her folks who hated me and were going to no matter what.  So, I got the fight that I wanted and she cried and I thought it would make me feel better but it didn’t.  I just felt tired. And guilty for making her cry. And mad at her because I felt guilty.  Anyway, we decided to call it a night and I got ready to take her home.  But when I pushed the ignition, nothing happened.  Just a click.  I got out and checked the tanks and sure enough we’d fought them both empty.  Well, that got me even more fired up.  I pulled one of the tanks out, made sure that I slammed everything really hard so that AnneMarie could tell how mad I was, laced up my shoes so that she could see, and started to stomp off to the nearest fuel station.  AnneMarie wanted to go with me, but I wouldn’t let her.  The last thing I needed was her shivering beside me in her skirt and heels, twisting her ankle. Besides, if I went by myself maybe she’d she how much I did for her.  Maybe she’d be a little grateful.  Looking back I didn’t treat her too well, but man I’m glad that I at least did that right.  So I stomped off, nursing my hurt feelings, telling myself all of the things I should have said, planning out a nice speech for when I got back the car.  I got to the station and they filled me up with air.  There was an old man there who offered to give me a ride back, but I said “no.”  It would look a lot better if I walked the whole way. That’s how much of a dumbass I was. So I walked back and for a good part of the way I was still good and mad.  Then I calmed down some.  I noticed that the moon was getting near full and remembered hoe pretty my girl looked when the moonlight flashed off of her smile.  I noticed the trees and vines and thought about how I’d never really see them before, always having been focused on something else.  There were these great white flowers that covered some of the old trees. Parasites, I found out later but damn they were pretty parasites.  After an hour or so, though, I still hadn’t come to the field.  I think I knew then.  Still, I kept searching, wandering around ‘til I found my car right where I had left it.  It was rusted all to hell and the forest had grown up right around it.  There was even a tree growing right through where the windshield used to be, but I knew it was mine.  Well I went a little crazy, bashing my head against a tree trying to put my own brains out.  All I did though was rip up my face and put myself to sleep.  I thought about going back to town, looking AnneMarie up if she was still alive and telling her that I was sorry, but I just couldn’t bring myself to it, so I crossed the line again, on purpose, and been doing it ever since.” 

The man finished and waited, staring at his hands, for the kid to say something.  The silence spun out into the darkness, and after a moment the man looked down.  The boy’s chest was still.  The man reached out and closed his eyes.  He rose, wearily, and put on his pack.  He thought for a minute about doing more for the boy, burying him or saying a few words or something.  After all, he was just a kid.  Then, he didn’t.  He wasn’t one for words and he’d never invited the kid along anyway.  Tried to make him go away.  Besides, let them see what they’d done, when the light came.  Let the townies see just who they’d killed with their pranks.  “I tried to tell him,” the man said to no one in particular.  “I tried. Damn fool kid.” Then, he struck out west, towards the nearest timeline.