Movement – Fiction

Look at her. Here she comes, again. I swear, everyday she gets just a little bit slower, and slower. Bucket gets a little heavier. All that water, just for me. The other day she almost dropped it, almost had it tumbling down those steps. God, how much of a disaster would that have been? All that tasty, tasty water…But she managed to catch it. Despite her age, she can still be agile. Gotta give her that. But what about today? Would she be able to catch that bucket again if it fell from her?

I would be fine. I’ve been at the top of my tower longer than she’s been alive. But, if she fails in her duty to water me, she’s gonna freak. I’ve seen it happen. Not with her, but with previous Guardians. But me without water? Think I can tolerate it. Either I will get my water eventually, or they would simply replace her. But she wouldn’t be able to tolerate it. She would flip out. Call herself a failure. But I wouldn’t think of her as a failure. Of course, she would never know.

Yep…still coming up. You know, once she’s gone, she will be quickly replaced as if she never happened. In a way, I’m kind of looking forward to it. A nice young lass, but I’ll miss my current Guardian as well. She used to tell me things (not that I had much of a choice.) I remember when she was young and pretty-looking many years ago, she spoke about her family and how they lived. Guardians had spoken to me about their lives. I’ve never seen the world below, but from their secret words I’ve been able to piece the below world together. So when she first told me about how her family lived in a small cottage I thought of some dismal little shack with dozens of dirty children running about. But when she spoke about her home, she made it seem like a cozy piece of heaven. One that she was thankful for despite her hardships.

She also told me about her husband who had been gone for a few years in a distant land. I don’t remember his name, but I still hear the mix of pain and pride in her voice whenever she said it. I sometimes think about how he died, tried to piece together a scene. She never said how, specifically, it happened, only that he died fighting for their land. And for years she would recount memories they had together, but soon those memories fell into silence. As she’s gotten older, her voice trembles and barely speaks. It makes me sad.

I never had a lot of choice in my life, but it’s interesting how humans never really move, either. I mean, what was stopping her from abandoning her duty and going off to find her husband? That’s what I’ve never been able to understand. The only information I have are the whispers of poor, prideful souls that will continue to haunt the steps of my tower. Which, I guess, is more their tower than mine. Those Guardians. Marching up those steps, bucket in hand and tales in their throats. Falling into the same, replaceable march. They’re all part of me now, but I still don’t know what it means.

I can hear her. She’s getting close…storm’s coming. Funny, she probably didn’t even need to be up here today with the bringing rains. But it’s nice to hear her steps, knowing those are her’s, and pretending that they aren’t the same as the others’.

tower


A response to What Do You See? MAY 14/2019 writing prompt.

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Are They Out There? A Small Animal Opines

Today, we’re going to do something different. Instead of posting a weird poem or story, I’m simply going to be answering a couple of questions provided by Fandango. They are:

“Are we alone in this vast and expanding universe? Do you believe that intelligent, alien life exists? Defend your answer.”

As you can probably tell from my posts I’m no scientist, philosopher, nor have I ever had an “extraterrestrial experience.” So, I’m probably incredibly under-qualified to answer this. So, here we go.

“Are we alone in this vast and expanding universe?” Well, no one really knows, of course, but if the universe is vast and expanding, then surely there has to be some form of life elsewhere, beyond our solar system. So, statistically, it’s very likely. However, the second question is a bit trickier:

“Do you believe that intelligent, alien life exists?” This goes back to the point I just made, which is that, statistically, it’s very likely that there is life beyond what is known; it’s also likely that at least some of that life might be “intelligent.” However, such lifeforms might be trillions of miles from us, and it make take millennia for contact to be made.

But, the fact that we ask such questions is interesting, and the ways that we answer them are revealing.

Brian Cox is an English physicist and well-known television personality who once tried to answer a similar question to the ones above, which is, “if intelligent alien life exists, how come we haven’t had contact yet?” His answer:

“It may be that the growth of science and engineering inevitably outstrips the development of political expertise, leading to disaster…”

Basically, the reason we haven’t heard from alien civilizations is because they have destroyed themselves, and that we could be, according to Cox, “approaching that position.” This makes sense. Human life, despite all of its technological and cultural progress, remains self-destructive. And maybe life, as it becomes more intelligent and complex, inevitably leads to its own censor.

But, isn’t it possible that we haven’t seen aliens yet not because they self-destructed, but because space travel is extremely difficult and resource-heavy? Perhaps, there are some civilizations that have managed to crack the code, but we are simply in too far a quadrant for them to reach. Or, alien lifeforms are already here, but merely exist on a different plane from us. It is possible that extraterrestrial life could be non-corporeal, non-carbon based. Perhaps, we simply could not perceive them, and they cannot perceive us; two universes, maybe even more, in overlap.

But Cox isn’t the only physicist to opine on this. Stephen Hawking once speculated on the nature of intelligent alien lifeforms and what the scenario might be if we ever crossed paths:

“Meeting an advanced civilization could be like Native Americans encountering Columbus. That didn’t turn out so well.”

If extraterrestrials are advanced enough to traverse whole galaxies, it could be akin to Europe colonizing distant lands. This also makes sense. Humans, once we became advanced enough, used those advancements to oppress and use each other. Progress, like a parasite, feeding itself to growth.

But, due to the near-infinite variables granted by a vast and expanding universe, isn’t it also possible that aliens may not even know the concept of slavery or property? Perhaps, such things could be so distant and, well, “alien” to them that they could barely comprehend it? Maybe, if aliens ever meet us, we may not even register a second look. We could be merely a worm writhing in the mud and aliens, a child who may give us a gander for a minute, but has more important things to do.

So, you’ve probably noticed the thing that girds their speculations. Brian Cox and Stephen Hawking are far more intelligent and accomplished than I; however, while their answers make sense, they are also based in the assumption that all intelligent life is/would be like us–human. They are reading the unknown through a human lens, projecting upon the universe thousands of years of human progress and suffering. But this shows that the only universe we know so far is the one caged in our skulls. 

Though I might be being too harsh on Brian Cox and Stephen Hawking. They may have been using the question of alien life to reflect on/warn of ourselves. They knew that there is simply not enough evidence yet to answer the question of intelligent life without speculation. So, they tried offering something practical. Something that we can use in the meantime so that we might actually be around when alien life ever decides to show. Though, this could speculation as well.

You know, I just realized that I didn’t really answer that second question myself. “Do you believe that intelligent, alien life exists?” Well, yes…I guess so. Again, I’m no expert, on anything really. So I don’t know there is intelligent life (then again, who does?) but I do believe that there is, out there; it’s just hard for me to speculate on its nature. Despite one of my counter argument against Cox, I doubt that intelligent life would come in a non-corporeal form, but…it’s always possible that at least some entities might be. After all, while there is much we know of the universe, there is a lot that we likely don’t. As advanced as we are, I sometimes feel like we’re just getting started. 100,000 years from now, historians may lump the current Internet Age with the Hunter and Gatherers in terms of advancement/progress. As far as we’ve come, we’re still animals clinging to our humble speck, with our eyes occasionally gazing upward at slightly more distant specks, and dreaming.

Another Moment – Fiction

“PULL IT!”

“PULL WHAT?”

“YOUR ‘CHUTE!”

Oh right, my para…and that’s when I realized it. I forgot to equip my parachute. I looked back at the skydiving instructor, but all he did was shrug and pull his parachute, disappearing in a flash above me.

I looked down and saw the ground rushing toward me like a rabid dog. The air yowled and my body felt so small and vulnerable. I was so, so screwed.

I closed my eyes and tried to take control of the situation. Tried to slow down time and fill the remaining seconds I had with a montage of life’s greatest moments. My mind sped through random images and faces and tried hone-in on specific ones.

The image of a lake came up. I was standing before it, watching the sun glimmer off of it. And there was a girl. Her name was Penelope and she was the first love of my life. She had long, auburn hair and eyeglasses. We dated for a whole month before she decided that I was too “boring” and “weird.” I opened my eyes and only felt sadness as the earth grew and grew.

I turned back to my mind and away from death, recalling life. This time, I remembered the telegram I received from my mother, informing me of my father’s passing. Well, that’s not what I wanted exactly. Maybe the good times I had with ol’ papa…

Ol’ papa was a great man. A country music star by the name of Harry Gilbert. You may have heard of him. Anyway, the memory that I pulled-up was when, after one of his shows, I decided to sneak back to the green room to surprise him. I opened the door and saw him with another woman on his lap. “Oh. Um. Hi son. Sonny boy.”

“D-dad? What’s-who’s–?”

“Ummmm. We’ll talk later.” And he shut the door with his foot. Behind the closed door I heard the two of them giggling. Their giggles clung to my ears as I fell through the sky. I felt the tears rolling, quickly evaporating into air.

But as my body was about to smack against the earth, two arms wrapped around me. “DON’T WORRY, I GOT–”

I woke-up in the hospital, my head throbbing. Everything was tied to wires and bleeping machines. “Hello there, daredevil.” The woman rolled over to me in a wheelchair, both of her legs in cast.

“Heyyy…” was all I could say. My mind swayed underneath the fluorescence. “Am I dead?”

“No. Far from it. You just experienced your first skydive.” She smiled as she explained how she managed to save me mere seconds before plunging into the earth. Apparently my head was bashed against the rock on the landing while she shattered her legs.

“So, you ever gonna do it again?”

“Uhhhhh. Maybe…” But the answer was no. Everything was discombobulated, but things were starting to cohere, slowly. Weeks passed before I left the hospital and I remembered the moment before leaping out of that plane. I was thinking about how this was the first genuinely great, exciting moment of my life. And then I plunged into the vast blue, and was filled with excitement that was, of course, short-lived.

So, what’s the takeaway from this tale? Well, that’s the thing…I’m not sure you can take away anything from life. Okay, that’s not true. You obviously can. But it’s all dependent on how you form things. Life is life, and we all seem to sculpt it for our own needs. And maybe one day, that descent can be turned into something that I can be proud of. A poem. A movie. Maybe even a song. Something greater than me and you. I close my eyes and watch my body fall again, and take on a strange kind of peace.


Another literary and highfalutin response to Stream of Consciousness Saturday and Three Things Challenge: PL79.

SoCS badge by Pamela, at https://achronicalofhope.com

 

Remembrance

She gathers another rock
right-shaped for the lake
ripples another time
that was cut in war

She gathers another sun
and bends it in her eye
day bleeds into white
stage; a silhouette rising

She meets the silhouette,
but has run out of lines–
only the old, distant waves know
and so do now-vacant coffins

She gathers another rock
right-shaped for the lake
ripples another war
no longer cut in her eye


Response to Genre Writing Challenge April 24.

The Obelisk – Fiction

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“This is the worst vacation ever!”

Even Fred, the optimist of the two, struggled to say something positive about their situation. “Yeah, it’s…not the best…but hey, at least the gas masks are kinda cool!”

“And how much are we paying for them?”

“You know,” Fred said, “this was your idea, remember?”

May muttered something in her mask. They continued trudging along the lost and vacant world, bored to tears. “So…wanna go sightseeing?”

“And see what?”

“I don’t know. Heard the Washington Monument is nearby. That might be kinda cool.”

She sighed.

It didn’t take long for the old, broken obelisk to appear in the horizon.

“Hey, that must be it!” They were soon standing before the monument, looking up.“Amazing how most of it is still standing. They must have really had some good engineers back in the day!”

He looked over at May who was staring up at the monument silently. He was only able to guess her expression underneath the gasmask. This is what she wanted, unless Fred somehow misread her. When he asked her days ago what time period she wanted to visit the first thing she uttered was The First Apocalypse.

“So…” he said, “what do you think?”

They had been together for almost a year. And things were going okay, but lately there had been distances that couldn’t be named. Maybe it was him. Maybe it was her. But Fred felt compelled to do something about it and was hoping this vacation would be that thing.

Finally, after a moment, she answered. “What?”

“…Nevermind…”

Days passed until the VR goggles were removed and the ruins of the old world plucked from their faces.

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Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

Response to Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #10 and Genre Writing Challenge April 22.

Losing the Case – Fiction

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Image by Kira Hoffmann from Pixabay

It was the ugliest scene I had ever seen. The body looked like it had been tossed onto the couch like a discarded rag. Blood dripping onto the floor. But what was truly foul was the stench. Old bags of Cheetos bags strewn about without care. Monster energy drink cans empty across the table. Sickness crawled up my throat and wanted sweet release, but I couldn’t afford to sabotage the crime scene, not this time.

“There was a laceration to the rib and a broken collarbone. Approximately 50 stab wounds. Very nasty stuff.” I don’t know how they were able to make this determination without getting forensics involved, but I guess time was of the essence if we were going to catch the killer.

The stiff’s name was Melvin Miller. 28 years old and was a professional “gamer,” whatever that meant. But even though I was a 50 something curmudgeon who could barely operate a smartphone I knew that the world of video games was a dark one indeed. All sorts of racists, Nazis, and virgins congregated on online forums and shot each other in virtual skirmishes, taking out their frustrations which were caused by a world uncaring for their sick, deluded minds. And Melvin Miller was certainly one of these poor, wretched souls. Now, he was just another statistic. Sickening.

Later that day I went down to the station to interview the only suspect we had: Melvin’s mother and roommate, Regina. She was an overweight woman and not very attractive. Just my type. But it just wasn’t those days. A young man had been slaughtered and the sky was filled with rain and death.

“So, Mrs. Miller,” I opened with. She sat across the table. She was staring down at the ashtray which already held the bodies of sixteen cigarettes. “I understand that you did not like some of your son’s ‘activities.’ Neighbors reported arguments between you two, mainly about taking away Melvin’s video games.”

“What are you insinuating?”

“Oh nothing. Nothing. Just the fact that you killed your son.”

“WHAT? I would do nothing of the sort!”

“I see. I see…Of course you wouldn’t. After all, he was your precious son. Your baby boy. That’s why you didn’t kill him, on purpose…”

Her eyes started to water, her lips quivered, but she held it all back. She refused to cry. I did not know why.

“See, I have a theory: you two got into an argument. Probably over the fact that he doesn’t have a job and is a generally lazy bum who preferred the company of cheetos and pixelated violence over everyday responsibility. And, push comes to shove, you accidentally stab him 50 times. In the heat of passion. And you know what? It happens. It happens, what can you do? Well, other than confess…”

I smiled, knowing that I had her in my hands.

Her eyes lowered. “Can I have another cigarette?”

“Sure. Of course.” I handed her another and lit it for her. If things had been different maybe I could have taken the dame out. Maybe have made a new life with myself, helping to raise Melvin. Teaching him how to shoot an actual gun. Like a man. But, you’re dealt with the cards you’re dealt.

“I want to speak with my lawyer.” And with that her lawyer stepped inside the interrogation room. Holding two briefcases with papers falling out. Crooked eyeglasses and an unkempt tie that wanted to escape.

“D-detective Jones. I-I-I’m sorry I’m late. Traffic was just SO BAD. So bad…Oh. Hi Mrs…um…”

“Miller.”

“Right. Sorry. I’m bad with faces so I…anyway…I would like to speak with my client alone, if that’s o-o-okay?”

I leaned back in my chair and shrugged. “Fine. But watch out. She’s a killer.”

The lawyer grinned nervously at this as I stepped out. I wasn’t able to cull a confession out of her that night. But you know, things don’t always have to go your way. Things are interesting that way.

So, I was sitting home alone, watching Two and a Half Men when it happened. A loud bang rang through the air just to the side of my head. Glass cracked. I stood up and pulled out my glock. I peeked through the window and saw a car speed off. A bullet hole in my window told me all I needed to know: that I had to give up this case and retire.

And that’s what I did. After all, I was simply getting too old for this and while I didn’t mind hassling the random minority or hitting on suspects, it was time to move-on, and maybe this was God’s way of letting me know that the goose was cooked.

So I moved out to M’uahahahahmnaa, an island floating off desolate and alone in the Pacific. I even married one of the natives. Life was good. Until I received the letter. Apparently, shortly after I retired, Mrs. Miller was found dead. An apparent suicide. But something in my gut knew otherwise. That there was something more to this murder. Something lurking in the dark, seedy underbelly of competitive video games, but I was an old man basking in the sun. Beer bottle in hand. Watching the bright, blue waves singe the sky. Paradise kept me here. And I kept to paradise. The world had its own affairs and, damn it, that’s all I needed to know.


A very deep and literary response to The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS April 20/19, Word of the Day Challenge: Ugly, and Genre Writing Challenge April 21.

SoCS badge by Pamela, at https://achronicalofhope.com/