As part of my planning for National Novel Writing Month 2016, I wrote a brief sketch for one of the characters I was tossing around; I figured it’d help me get a grasp on the setting. A few details about what you can expect from the final product:
- It’s set in the same universe as “Deal with the BSDevil“; a world where hell is always around the corner and where the forces of technological development have placed chaotic magic in the service of humanity.
- The initial draft is proceeding at a breakneck pace. I am actually ahead of the NaNoWriMo targets, with over 20,000 words in my manuscript alone. This is by far the longest sustained burst of creative writing I’ve ever done; exceeding my rate of output at DMU as well.
- The final product will almost certainly take longer to release. NaNoWriMo sets a modest target of 50,000 words by the end of November, but I expect to expand on those afterwards, as well as making whatever revisions I feel necessary for the end product.
Read on after the “Read More” tag.
Flash Fiction Month comes to an end with this installment, but the concept of flash fiction lives on! You might see more of it in the future. Read the previous installment here.
Excerpts from an anonymous letter:
Inevitably, historians will claim my downfall came at the moment I managed to weaponize student loans. I’m surprised nobody had the idea back in the days of metal currency, or even paper currency (which is obviously lighter, but it wads up well), but it turns out that even a simple credit card can wreak havoc, as long as it’s fired at relativistic velocities. The first shot wasn’t merely liberating. I imagine conventional gun owners enjoy the first shot beyond all the others for the power it unlocks within them, but when your first shot tears a hole in a mountain and keeps going, unscathed but for the trail of a superheated shockwave it tears across the sky, you would know you’ve come upon a weapon of immense power.
The targets, on the other hand? I initially wanted them to believe that I was simply trying to make them wealthier, but no matter how much I preloaded the charge cards with cash, none of them really had the manual dexterity or heat resistance to snatch my ammunition out of the air, at least not in a form that the average ATM would accept. My aim wasn’t very accurate, but it didn’t really matter since even a near miss was enough to turn anything nearby into a dark shadow on the ground. Incidentally, I feel like I’m running out of things to shoot at, but even now I occasionally see a tank or a helicopter on the horizon. I think they’re out to get me, and I keep trying to bribe them to go away, but I’m running really low on wealth and I’m afraid my bank won’t offer me a loan so I can keep going for a bit.
I actually managed to catch some emergency broadcasts early in my travels. They’d already labeled my efforts a “mad rampage” and were telling everyone to get as far away as physically possible in order to avoid being vaporized. I realize that my actions have cost some lives, but frankly, the media has some really messed up priorities. At no point did anyone discuss the economic aspect of what I was doing, and even I can think of a few consequences – mostly related to deflation and the other effects of a reduced money supply. Still, a few hundred thousand dollars of debt multiplied by a few hundred shots, while enough money that you shouldn’t scoff at it, is a drop in the bucket compared world currency reserves. Things probably won’t get that bad.
Anyways, I think I see another plane on the horizon. I hope it’s not a passenger jet; I’ve already set a dangerous precedent by firing at one and I would hate for Boeing or Airbus to lose even more of their assets.
I know little about the readers of Invisible Blog, and their browsing behavior, but they can always read the 3rd installment here.
“What’s that on the road? It looks sticky,” my daughter Anna said to me one warm, sunny day when I was supervising my childrens’ play time. She was pointing at a dark red discoloration towards the center that was roughly aligned with our driveway, perfectly placed for cars to repeatedly run over it. I sighed – with her fifth birthday a few months behind her, she was beginning to notice things about the world that I could not leave unexplained lest she begin to develop some dangerous ideas.
“That, my daughter, is God. You must treat it with the utmost respect and reverence,” I explained. She raised an eyebrow; meanwhile, her twin brother George waddled over to listen; even though he’d asked the question a few months earlier, his presence, knowing grin, and overfed mass would help drive in my points.
“Mommy told me that there are many gods, like Odin, Thor, Loki, Freya, and others. Is that Loki?” Anna asked me. This presented something of a problem I had to deal with before I could continue.
“Your mother, as a devout Odinist, will never agree with me on religious matters. We promised not to argue about it, but just between you and me… well… I don’t believe in those gods and never will,” I responded. As I spoke, I got out of the lawnchair I’d been reclining in, walked over to our cooler, and picked out a sealed vial of chilled blood. It was about a day old (I’d drawn it personally from a passing solicitor), but the cold had kept it reasonably fresh until then.
“By far, the most important part of worshiping God is feeding it, so that it may manifest more powerfully in our world. I will demonstrate.” I walked over to the stain, and after making sure there was no oncoming traffic, I unsealed the blood and slowly dribbled it onto the red stain in the road.
“How often do you do this?” Anna asked.
“No less than every three days, and preferably more. God is hungry and must feed until the great awakening… which could even be today, if we’re lucky.”
And then we were lucky, for the blood-stained asphalt began to glow bright yellow. Eerie multicolored runes and sigils appeared in midair, tracing an elliptical orbit twelve feet tall and perhaps half as wide. I gestured for Anna and George to stand back as the air between the corruptions faded to a dull brown, interspersed with a foul gray smoke that was beginning to expand out towards us. I remembered this from my training – any moment now, something would emerge from the coalescing portal to reward my efforts in tending to it!
“ARE YOU THE BEING WHO SUMMONED ME?” a voice called out, seemingly from everywhere and nowhere, although most likely still on the other side of the portal.
“Oh great master from beyond, it is I who has brought you forth into this world to do as you please! What is thy bidding?” I shouted back. Usually, I wouldn’t be so obsequious, but I had to set a good example for my daughter.
“DON’T OPEN THIS PORTAL AGAIN. I’M TRYING TO FARM PRESTIGE IN BLACK OPS III.”
With that, the portal popped out of existence with none of the drama that had heralded its initial appearance. The red stain on the ground disappeared. Anna raised an eyebrow.
“So… uh… is your mother taking converts?” I asked Anna, but she ignored me as she went back inside to play with George.
It never ends… until the end of the month. Read the previous installment here.
There’s this new restaurant in town that specializes in flatbreads. Every type you could think of – pizzas, pitas, paninis, pancakes! …I guess that’s not exactly representative, and many of those aren’t exactly flat, but I had to alliterate. So many styles from all over the world, every possible filling I could imagine, Yelp reviews claiming good prices and large portions… needless to say, I had to give it a shot. Perhaps it was a bit out of my comfort zone when it comes to food, but sometimes I like to experiment. What could possibly go wrong?
Flatland (interestingly named) was built at the intersection of Elm Avenue and Steel Street, straight in the middle of a half-gentrified neighborhood that’s seen some pushback from the more impoverished of its artsy hipster inhabitants, as they seem to prefer inexpensive housing to luxurious shops. The frontline of the construction projects is about two blocks away at this point, so my dining experience was fortunately not dulled by sharp, ear-piercing noises of construction. The interior decorator must’ve had Edwin Abbott on the mind, because the furniture and decorations were rather more abstract and angular than the food. Upon arrival, I was immediately tended to by a polite and attentive set of staff, who saw to my orders and requests in a timely fashion.
Now, judging from the service, you would probably guess that I was quite impressed with Flatland as a whole. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I ordered some miniature pizzas as appetizers to hold me over for my main course – a dish of Ethiopian wat made with fresh chicken and served with injera. This was when my entire experience fell apart. Bear with me for a second – I’m not saying the food was bad, because to be honest, it actually wasn’t. It might’ve been a better experience if it was, though – I can remember almost nothing about my meal other than that it at least resembled what it was supposed to be. I guess the real problem is that I, a middling cook at best, could’ve prepared the sort of dishes I saw for about the same price and investment of time. If I’d done that, the flatbreads would at least be tailored to my personal tastes. Instead, I ended up wasting gasoline for a surprisingly… flat experience. I guess you can’t get lucky every time.
Needless to say, I can’t recommend Flatland, but it troubles me greatly that I can’t honestly condemn it.
The second installment. Read the last one here. Comes in handy if you’re not viewing posts chronologically.
Railroads are like rattlesnakes. If you spot one off in the distance and hear a train whistling, you should get out of the area as quickly as possible; otherwise, the train might see you, mark you as prey, and jump the tracks in an attempt to kill you and then devour you. That would especially inconvenience the passengers.
Between highways, cargo planes, and enormous container ships, trains have had it rough in the last few years, as their sources of prey grow ever scarcer. In the 19th century, none of these were particularly concerning (much less existent) threats to railroad tycoons. Nowadays, they call those years a golden era – when with the help of a horde of underpaid drudges new tracks would veer dangerously close to your land, and all you could say for fear of reprisal was that you hoped it would grant you access to goods from New York or Philadelphia.
The funny things about trains are that they take bribes, and that they don’t have an especially advanced sense of self preservation. This confluence first entered public eye when on May 12th, 1851, the enterprising Alexander Rodkin snuck into a switching station under the cover of night. Using a rare blend of cunning, guile, and (mostly) gold bullion, he convinced a steam locomotive intended to carry grain from Chicago to an industrial bakery in Erie to attack a nearby passenger station on the way. Besides resulting in seven fatalities, it had the despicable side effect of delaying the grain shipment by over seven hours. Jurisprudence back in the day didn’t account for murderous machinery, but Rodkin’s actions were condemned nationwide as irresponsible, and he spent the rest of his days imprisoned.
For whatever reason, the train got off without any consequences. It also managed to convey its newfound taste for human flesh to locomotives across the country. You should know the rest of the story from here – a wave of deadly train ‘accidents’ across the country, desperate attempts to design less barbaric railroads that were quickly squashed by the beginning of the American Civil War, and eventually an uneasy equilibrium as we slowly learned how efficient and cost-effective a carnivorous train can be. By keeping a harsh penal code and otherwise sacrificing a pound of flesh or so as needed, the United States ensured the dominance of its rail system for decades.
Some people say that between the declining use of commuter rail and the increasing popularity of diesel-electric motors, the age of killer railroads may be coming to an end. Personally, though, I’d keep my wits about in case an opportunity arises to serve the greater good.
I’m trying something new and presumably interesting this July! Each of this month’s posts will be a self-contained story, most likely of about the usual 400-500 word length. I make no guarantees of subject, style, or anything else, and this one actually turned out a little lengthier than expected.
“Pac-Man with a goatee? That’s… frightening.”
Jim Simmons had been working as a concept artist for Bandai-Namco for an entire week, but he was sure he wouldn’t make it to the second. Nobody seemed to appreciate his design ideas, and his boss had already yelled at him on Wednesday, almost begging him to stick to illustration.
“If my count is correct, you’ve submitted at one hundred twenty nine separate proposals to change our character designs in the last two days,” she’d said. “This includes fifty one changes to the Tekken roster, fourteen variants of the King of All Cosmos, and no less than twenty five separate and sometimes conflicting redesigns of Pac-Man. Absolutely none of these are salvageable! What were you thinking?”
In the present, Jim’s boss sighed and slowly, almost delicately tore his latest image (entitled “Pac-Riker”) into uneven strips of paper. It wasn’t ideal, but his previous artistic efforts had jammed her office’s shredder. After depositing the scraps in her trash bin, she had to jam her foot down on the ensuing pile to keep it from overflowing and covering the floor with garbage.
It was 4:01 PM on a lazy Friday. Jim was trembling outside his cubicle, almost certain that within the hour, he’d be summoned back to his boss’s office for an immediate termination. One thing was certain – he absolutely had to find a way to prove his worth within the hour in order to have even the slightest chance of keeping his job. He looked at the stack of recent drawings on his desk, and finally decided that conventional means weren’t going to work – these were hasty and incomprehensible even by Jim’s standards. One of them caught his eye, though – a nondescript humanoid of ambiguous species and most everything else, except for a strangely flat and angular head – Jim suddenly had a flash of brilliant insight. He was working in the wrong medium! With that idea suddenly animating him, he stood up from his desk, collected his portfolio, and headed for a nearby copying machine.
With five minutes to go before the workday ended, Jim’s boss left her office, intending to cut Jim loose and therefore save her company. She’d barely opened the door when she heard a bloodcurdling scream to her left. The firing would have to wait; she sprinted towards the source of the awful noise, only to slip on something red, damp, hurtling towards her-
It was somebody’s blood. The boss scrambled to her feet, desperately trying to find out what was going on. She soon saw that Jim was repeatedly slamming the lid of the copier down onto the head of her secretary. To be honest Remy’s fastidiousness and demands for exacting precision occasionally got on even her nerves, but his administrative skills still had made him the star of the department up to that point; in an office full of creative types, that was quite an achievement. However, it looked like Remy wouldn’t be able to perform his duties any more – Jim’s constant bludgeoning had smashed his head open and flattened his skull into… was that a rectangle?
Jim finally noticed his boss had arrived on the scene, and gently lifted Remy’s mutilated corpse off the copier, presumably to demonstrate his handiwork.
“What do you think of my Remy redesign? It’s a little drastic, but I’m hoping you’ll like it,” he said to her in the calmest voice he’d mustered ever since she’d first trashed his drawings.
“…I actually quite like it,” she responded. Then she fainted.
Needless to say, Jim’s handiwork didn’t go over too well with the police.
This was originally posted on LinkedIn, but I thought it would be a good fit for my personal blog as well, so it’s making its debut here after about a week of exclusivity.
It doesn’t come out as often or as overtly as it might’ve when I was younger, but I’ve always been fascinated by old software. There was a period in the early 2000s where almost every computer game I played was for antiquated MS-DOS systems, and I often spent more time trying to get a game to run properly than I did actually playing the games (this was before DOSBox really became a viable option, although I later embraced it as its functionality improved and I gained access to more powerful computers). Long story short – with a few exceptions, like a huge box of floppies my mother bought me at a garage sale, I relied heavily on the efforts of benevolent archivists to keep myself entertained. Despite all this, and my major/minor combination of history and computer science, I didn’t expect that one day, I would actually contribute to their efforts.