Friday, May 29, 2009

Wordzzle 65 - The crows and the big sale

This is my contribution to this week's Wordzzle. Wordzzle is a game in which each week word lists, used to create stories, are given on the blog Views from Raven's Nest. Participating users post their stories on their own blogs.

This is the ninth time I've played the game.

Ten Word Challenge:

meals on wheels,
it's my fault,
everything but the kitchen sink,
on sale,
the love of my life,
library card,
common sense

The roller-skating crows were nothing but meals on wheels to the parasites, but right now one of them had a more pressing worry.

"It's my fault," he said. "I should never have tried to sell my patriotism. I didn't really believe anyone would buy it, but I got full price and didn't even have to put it on sale."

"You're a spokesman for Peru now, better get used to it," said the second crow. "You've sold almost everything but the kitchen sink now. I wouldn't have believed that anyone could sell a library card, but you did. The first thing you should have sold is these parasites, but they're still here. It defies all common sense."

"At least I still have the love of my life," said the first crow.

"Not if you sell the kitchen sink," said the second.

Mini Challenge:


In a place called California, a fat envelope apparently containing photographs went to the dead letter office because of insufficient postage and no return address, and from there was eventually discarded. Without the proof of the photographs, the blackmail money was never delivered. The blackmailer, a crank who hated doctors, and hated this one in particular, was enraged that nothing was happening, and fumed and paced.

He still had the doctor's bag, and could go ahead with the disclosure, and photographs of it and the stethoscope in the motel room, and photographs of the doctor by the cars talking to her. He had followed the doctor and hidden nearby with the camera. They had been outside talking and even kissing for a long time. Doing it openly. They had been so absorbed that he had been able to sneak into the motel room and take some pictures of it, and then take the doctor's bag.

He wasn't really after disclosure, though. Disclosure just seemed petty. He wanted the money, and he wanted the doctor to feel fear.

Why wasn't he getting the money? When he had mailed the pictures, he had included a note with the place and time for the money delivery, and how it was to be done. He had named a date several days after the mailing, to allow time for delivery and time for them to get the money. He had waited on that day, watching, all day long, but nothing had happened. He went back the next day, too, and the next, and the one after that. Still nothing. He continued pacing. He hated to go back and wait again. Some people were starting to look at him funny. They might be able to identify him if questions started being asked, or maybe even call the police themselves to report a suspicious character.

He looked at the doctor's bag one last time, and finally put it in the closet, next to the other doctors' bags. He couldn't understand why these things never worked out.

Mega challenge:

meals on wheels,
it's my fault,
everything but the kitchen sink,
on sale,
the love of my life,
library card,
common sense


On a tree limb the crows sat, watching the activity. Since they were California crows, they wore sunglasses as symbols of their coolness, though of course they already knew they were cool.

"Looks like everything is on sale down there," said one. "You'd almost think they were looting the place."

"I hope they leave some for us," said the other. "I'd like to go down there now, but I'm not sure it's safe. Normally we could scare people away, but the way they're acting they probably wouldn't even see us and we'd just get trampled."

"Well, it looks like they're taking everything but the kitchen sink, and we really don't need any more kitchen sinks. I really think pickings are going to be pretty slim if we wait. If we see an opening we better take it,"

"I wish I had a stethoscope, so I could hear what they are saying."

"Will a stethoscope work at this distance?"

"Maybe with enough batteries it would."

"We could always take the flag up there on the pole. We could put it on the tree and show our patriotism."

"I think it's bigger than it looks. We probably couldn't manage it. Besides, we've already got five small ones."

"Yeah, but five is such an odd number."

They watched for a while in silence. "Look," the first one said. "Some of them have started fighting over something, and it isn't even food."

"Yeah," said the other. "People can get so cranky at times. and being cranky is the opposite of coolness. People have no common sense."

"Although," said the first thoughtfully, "we can sometimes be something like parasites. Is being a parasite cool?"

"It is if crows do it."

They watched for a while more. "You shouldn't have mentioned food," said the second. "Now I'm really, really, hungry. Sometimes I really think food is the love of my life, my one true love."

"Good thing your girl friend isn't here to hear that, or something really uncool would happen."

The second crow seemed startled and looked around nervously for a minute. Not finding her, but afraid there was a chance she might actually be out there, he said loudly, "Of course, I love Mabel more than anything." Then, much quieter, "Man, you sure know how to destroy a mood. Still, I really wish we had some food."

They continued watching. "That guy on the edge there has something sticking out of his pocket," said the first. "I think I can swoop down and grab it."

"You'd better hurry then, before he manages to get back in the crowd."

The first crow took off and quickly flew down toward the man, then swooped around and plucked something out of his pocket with its bill. Landing back in the tree, it laid the things out on the branch.

"This isn't exactly food," said the second crow.

"Yeah, but I got a credit card and that might be useful. I also got some postage stamps. Maybe we can sell them to someone."

"I'm not sure the stamps are any good. They don't have any numbers on them. If they don't have numbers, how can you know if you have enough postage? And if you don't have enough postage, don't they just send your letter to the blackmail office?"

"Hmmm. Well, maybe. There's still the credit card, though."

"That's not a credit card, it's a library card. I think they have pretty low limits, because libraries don't have much money."

"Well, I guess it's my fault. I should've picked a different pocket. Still, we should be able to get something with it."

"Maybe, if there's anything left after these people get through."

They turned and stared at the scene some more. "I hope there's some food down there," said the second crow. "I see a bunch of stuff but no food."

"I think there's something over there to the left, not far from the entrance," said the first. "I think it might be a food vendor of some kind. People are getting things from it and eating them."

"A food vendor! Where did it come from!?"

"I think it must have rolled up while we we talking about the credit - er - library card."

They stared at it. The second crow said, "There seems to be enough room around it. We could swoop in and grab some stuff."

"Well, let's do it then."

And they took off and swooped down on the food cart and then back up, their feet grabbing as many hot dogs as they could hold.

"I love food carts," said the second crow, joyfully. "They can show up anywhere. They're just meals on wheels, meals on wheels."

"Yeah," said the first. "Too bad we couldn't have given him something in return."

"Don't worry," said the second. "I left him the library card."

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Wombat on the Trellis

This is another story that I did for a message board for a thread that was normally concerned with comically constructing new words and definitions. At that time people were taking turns writing short stories containing a short list of words given by another user. The story is changed slightly here in that it is broken up into three paragraphs instead of being contained in just one.

This story was one of several that I did for my post 989 on that message board. The other stories were separate from this one, with their own lists of words. The list of words for this story: wombat, trellis, electricity, cobalt, stink

This story is dated 5:04 AM, November 29, 2006, Arizona time (MST).


A wombat climbed a trellis and was silhouetted against a cobalt blue sky. A tourist, watching the scene, raised his camera to take a picture.

Suddenly, there was a blinding flash and an incredible crash of thunder. The wombat clung to the charred trellis, its eyes big and its fur smoking slightly. The air had a stink of ozone, and fingers of electricity ran everywhere.

Murmuring to itself the wombat said, "Wow. I didn't know cameras still used such large flashes."

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dream - Super-Neanderthal

On March 14, 2009 I dreamed about driving and road construction and cars I once had, and eventually about a person who was a super-neanderthal. (Neanderthal man is generally thought to be a side branch of early man, one that died out in the last ice age.)

In the dream, I was driving out in the neighborhoods near where I live, probably in the 1970 Cadillac, though it could have been the 1987 Oldsmobile. I was in the area slightly north and slightly east of where I live. It was night now, or getting close to it. It might have been late afternoon when I started. I had been at my house and was trying to get back there. I was trying to go south down a minor city street, but it had construction on part of it, as I knew. The construction was mostly south of a major neighborhood street, one I had to cross before getting home. I had done this before, earlier.

Now, for some reason, I was driving the 1955 Cadillac. I would have to go back and get the other car somehow. It was extra trouble. I parked by the road that had the construction, by the edge of the road, just before the neighborhood started and before most of the construction started. I was trying to walk home, going west down the neighborhood street I would eventually have to cross, then I somehow had the 1955 Cadillac with me, carrying it on my shoulders. It was smaller than in real life and seemed almost ghost-like. A few other cars were around, but not many. Perhaps one police car was nearby, maybe at the neighborhood cross-street I came to, but I'm not sure. I was concerned about what people might think, seeing me carrying the car, and whether it might be one more reason to decide to report me. I got it home and put it down in the strip of paved side yard near the fence. The car was just a faded brown blur now, semi-transparent. I went inside, then.

Then I had to leave again, and at some point became a super-neanderthal, though at first I was just looking at him. He had super-strength and was super-smart, though not nearly as much as Superman, but I felt that he did connect to the Superman story in some way, and had some kind of connection or similarity to the Bizarro Superman.

The neanderthal was dressed in clothes and was unshaven but didn't have a beard. I think it was kind of rustic clothes, a plain flannel shirt and pants with suspenders. The neanderthal was probably around six feet tall, maybe a little less, with his chest and stomach area very broad and projecting outward some. He also had some kind of jacket, which seemed too small to comfortably close over his chest.

He couldn't talk, just make some grunts, but he could understand what was being said to him, though most people didn't realize that and thought he was stupid. This gave him an advantage, because they could talk around him, not realizing he knew what was being said. He also didn't act like he could do much, or was even very strong.

He went from my house off to some place else, a restaurant I think, though it was somewhat laid out like the house, but in a larger way, and wandered around. He was carrying something with him, some little device maybe, perhaps even a camera, but I'm not sure.

Before he left the area, and was probably either just inside or just outside the restaurant, someone wrapped a narrow tan leather strap around his chest and shoulders, with it coming together and knotting at odd angles, forming a complicated network, to hold the device. He looked at it a little surprised and somewhat bemused, but happy that someone had cared enough to do it for him. I wasn't certain he was smart enough to take it off and put it back on again.

He was just outside the building now, on the concrete walk along the front of it, and facing toward the parking lot beyond the walk, with the person finishing it up.

Then someone brought out a little wheelchair for him. He looked at it a little surprised, but happy, and sat down in it, and was going to use it to go home in. He did finally make it home, back to the place I lived.

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Dream - The robot box with the girl face

On March 13, 2009 I had a dream about working late and accidentally activating a mechanical thing like a large ladybug, and a little later meeting a robot box with a girl face.

In the dream, I was at work somewhere. It was a continuation of the work in Nevada, but at somewhere else. Ir was getting late. My mother came and wanted me to leave. I finally decided to and she went out to the car to wait.

In the place where I worked there was a broad paved parking area by the building and beyond that a tall wire fence. I'm not sure if it was chain link or not. The building was dark in color and low and very large. I was in a room about the size of a large living room. It had a low dense carpet. It was mostly empty but had some things around the sides of it. It had an opening to a hallway on one side, the right side when facing the parking lot, and windows along the side by the parking lot. It also had an opening to another room halfway along the wall on the side away from the parking lot. The other wall was along the outside of the building. There were at least two workstations along the wall away from the parking lot.

I was looking around, seeing what I needed to do to close up before leaving. It was Friday and approaching 9:00 PM now, though it was still light outside. I remembered I was still logged in on a computer and needed to log out and shut it down. It would be bad to have people come in in the morning and find it still on with me logged in. I also needed to find my time card and fill it out before I left. The Engineering boss hadn't liked me working so late, and probably wouldn't be happy to see the time on it, if he happened to notice it. After considering it for a while, I decided that it didn't really matter. I was making trips here from Arizona to work now long after I had quit, and probably wasn't getting paid for it and probably didn't even have a time card anyway.

I went to the workstation to try to log out. I had been using both of them but the one toward the hallway, on the other side of the opening to the other room, was already shut down.

Working at the one that was still on, I saw that it had a view of a small boat speeding along on some mission, with the viewpoint being a little bit behind the boat and up in the air a bit. It was a movie camera taking a picture of a real boat, but sometimes it seemed to degenerate into some kind of video game.

I kept trying to type "logout" but now I had gotten very tired and it was hard to see, hard to keep my eyes open and hard to do anything, and I was having trouble finding all the letters. The screen was fairly high up, and below it there was a small square keypad with not many letters, and a lot of them were numbers, and a ways below that another keypad, more rectangular but still very small, and below that, on the desk surface, the almost forgotten normal keyboard. I kept getting confused and having to start over partway through, typing a zero instead of an "o" or some other mistake. I thought there was probably a logout link somewhere on the screen if I could find it, but it seemed a lot of work to look for it right now.

One time I typed it with a mistake and accidentally pressed Enter instead of backspacing it all away, and it turned out to be an actual command for something and some device was activated. It was about a foot long and looked something like a giant ladybug, but it was much more subdued in its colors, being gray and light gray green. It flew around fiercely out by the boat.

Some other people came in from the hallway, and I was momentarily distracted and got confused, then woke up some (in the dream) and the giant ladybug-like thing was in the room, up on the broad post that the monitor and the two small keypads were mounted on. It moved around some but much less than it had been doing. It might have been around the size of a fist, more with the wings spread. I think the people who came in were part of a later shift, one that overlapped mine, and actually worked somewhere else but came in here for some reason. I think I finally managed to log out. I think I managed to somehow shut the little machine off too, and went into the other room through the door near my computer.

The other room was more dimly lit and had a concrete floor, and was filled with things, various equipment and tools and stuff. Some people came in from another way, from the side that was an outer wall on the previous room but seemed to lead to some other rooms from this one. One was a man who had evidently been working on an old small cellular radiator for most of the day, and still hadn't gotten it fixed. He hooked up or maybe just stuck an air hose in one end and turned it on, and air of course shot out of all the openings, but also from a place in the middle on the other side.

He was complaining in despair, "Oh, no...." and turned it over, showing it to me while he looked at it himself. It had a big rust-stained area on the core, but I saw no evidence of soldering or of work of any kind, except for some scrape marks where he had been poking a screwdriver into it. I looked at it doubtfully, my eyes a little big, and started to say something about it. "You want to work on it?!" or maybe "You want to fix it?!" he demanded, but at the same time a little hopefully.

I thought about it for a couple of seconds, thinking that I possibly could but really didn't want to, and then picturing fumes from the flux coating my face again and really didn't want to do this again and said, "Uhhhhh..... no..."

He turned back to it, seemingly satisfied that an answer had been given, but somewhat grimmer because it wasn't the answer he had hoped for, even if it had been only a little hope.

There was a square rack in the room near the opening to the hallway. It was a couple of feet on a side, with a series of long metal hooks sticking out of each side near the top, with things in wide partially clear plastic bags hung on them. Some of the hooks also had cardboard pouches that opened up accordion style, like some briefcases, with small clear bags stuck in them. I had been looking through some of the stuff there when the men came in, and the man with the radiator. It seemed to be mostly stuff purchased in various department or discount stores by various people, perhaps some of it as gifts. Now I went back to looking through the things on it.

People occasionally went by in the broad nearby hallway. I thought about the people who had worked here for a long time, and about one of them that I had known since high school, maybe even grade school (in real life, the only such person might have been someone from DeVry. a college). We had had some kind of disagreement several years ago, and were no longer friendly with each other. It seemed very sad.

Suddenly, a dull, light gray metal box rolled up and asked in a soft female voice what I was doing. It was about three feet high, with various intricate little things attached to it at various places, and a gray metal face high in the middle of one side. The face was sheet metal and was somewhat smaller than a real face, and shallower, like a Halloween mask. It had sheet metal formed into a vague representation of hair around the top and sides of the face. It also had skinny arms at the top corners of the box, composed of rods and cables, and grasping appendages on the ends of the arms that were like two narrow triangles hinged together at their bases. It may have had two more arms at the back top corners, but I'm not sure now.

I think the other people had moved on now, or had moved off a little ways and I was no longer directly concerned with them.

I looked at the robot thing. It had spoken with a little bit of authority in its voice, like it was in fact demanding, in its soft way, if I had the authority to do what I had been doing. Its face was bland and expressionless, and it had gray featureless eyes.

I talked to it a bit and it explained a little about itself, though I think part of the knowledge simply flowed into me independently, just a knowing. She was something that had been built as some kind of special project, and had an advanced artificial intelligence. She said she had also been changed at some point so she could make her face look human, and I think had competed in some kind of beauty contest.

She then demonstrated, and her gray sheet metal face faded into an entirely human female face, complete with makeup and real-looking hair. The face was still a little smaller than normal but looked astonishingly real, and was capable of movement. Even the eyes moved. Her voice became a little louder and took on more expression, too.

I talked with her a while, and then one of the inventors came in and talked a bit. At one point the inventor said to me, "You know what she is", apparently cautioning me to remember that it was really a machine with an advanced program.

I said "Yeah...... but it doesn't make any difference." I turned and looked down at the robot and said, "You're very pretty" and she beamed and blushed.

When I woke up, the dream quickly faded and I looked at the time and was surprised. It didn't seem that I had been asleep at all. I had been trying to sleep and having some difficulty, but a lot of time had evidently passed and I was puzzled as to where it went. Then some of the dream came back to me, just a little. Much more came later, especially as I typed it down.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Wordzzle 64 - Under water

This is my contribution to this week's Wordzzle. Wordzzle is a game in which each week word lists, used to create stories, are given on the blog Views from Raven's Nest. Participating users post their stories on their own blogs.

This is the eighth time I've played the game.

Ten Word Challenge:

What's that supposed to mean?,
sound first principles,
the key thing,

He pulled the curtain aside, and saw the albino Indian assistant there. He had thought someone might be there, but he hadn't really been expecting him, or anyone, actually. "Urk!!" he said.

"What's that supposed to mean?" the assistant replied. "You act like you've never seen me before."

"Well, I wasn't really expecting you. I wasn't expecting anyone, actually, but certainly not you."

"You're starting to hurt my feelings."

"Well, nothing personal or anything, but aren't you dead? We gave you a marble casket and everything. I'm sure you were in it."

"Yes, I can see the need for that. Can't have dead people laying around and stinking up the place. Sound first principles and all."

"Yes, um, well, that's true, but you make it sound so bad!"

There was a pause in the conversation. They continued to look at each other.

"I told you not to put water in the moat. I had a bad feeling about that," the assistant finally said.

"I had to put water in it. Without water, it was just a trench, and trenches aren't nearly as useful as moats. Besides, what would people think?"

"I fell in the moat and drowned. I'm sure someone pushed me."

"Well, it's a castle, full of intrigues and things like that. Castles always are."

"When I got my head above water and turned around, the only person I saw was you."

"I was nearby and heard a splash, and went out to see what had happened."

"Why didn't you help me?"

"I did, don't you remember? I got a board and held it out to you, so you could grab it and pull yourself out."

"You kept hitting me with it."

"I was just, um, trying to get it near enough that you could grab it."

"When I did finally grab it, and pulled myself closer, you managed to get the end of it against my chest and pushed down on it, pinning me under the water, against the bank. I couldn't get out from under it. You kept pushing and pushing until I drowned."

"Really, I'm sure this is a distortion of what actually happened."

"No, I was there, remember?"

"Well, even so, even supposing all that to be true, the key thing is, what are you going to do about it? You're dead. Do you plan to haunt me?"

"Yes, but not for long. While we've been talking, I've been moving toward you, and you've been backing up. Now you're on the balcony, almost up to its outer wall. On the other side of the wall is a long fall, with the moat far, far below. The wall is very low, low enough to sit on. I can easily push you over it."

"You're a ghost! You can't touch anything!"

"We'll see about that."

And the ghost leaped at him, and he did feel something, and stumbling back in terror he fell over the wall, and fell into the distant moat. He tried to get back to the surface, but somehow the ghost was there, sitting on his chest, and he couldn't get out, and he couldn't get away....

"He's dead," the doctor said. "Died in his sleep from all appearances. It was probably his heart, even though he was a bit young for that. Although I suppose someone could have killed him in some way that isn't obvious. It wouldn't be the first time something like that happened. All sorts of odd things happen in castles."

Mini Challenge:

under the surface,
grand design,

He looked around him one last time at the grand design of the doomed temple. Water was already washing over his feet. In a few hours, the whole place would be underwater. He took another headache remedy, similar in its effects to aspirin. He wasn't sure how much help it was going to be to him now, and it sure wasn't going to fix what was happening. It felt like the whole world was in agony, and was shaking itself like a wild beast. This was going to be one of those memorable times in history, he knew, one that people talk about in ages hence. Assuming anybody survived to talk about it. Another quake came, and more pieces of ceiling fell into the water. A wave washed through, splashing his legs up to his knees. He made his way unsteadily to the entrance. The trembling of the ground was almost constant now.

At the entrance he stood for a moment, leaning against a pillar, looking out at the city. Most of the buildings still stood, but the lower parts were covered by water. Beyond the city, the tall mountain also still stood. Would the waters cover the mountain, too? He didn't know. Perhaps, though, he had better try to make it to the mountain, and hope for the best. The temple was far above the streets, now invisible under the rushing waters. He would have to swim if he was going to make it anywhere. He looked at the water. All sorts of things were in it. Even bodies. It was moving fast, too. It wouldn't be an easy swim. He looked toward the harbor. It was hard to tell exactly where it had been, now. It had been wrecked, along with most of the boats, and people had already taken any of them that could still float. He knew there wouldn't even be a rowboat left.

Another quake hit, and the pillar he was leaning against tilted sharply. He tried to keep to his feet but was unable to, and slipped and fell into the rushing water. He was under the surface for a while, tumbling along, but finally managed to get his head above the water. Gasping for breath, he saw a long earthen jar floating nearby. He wrapped his arms around it.

Looking around, he tried to see where he was. He was surprised to find that he didn't know. He had lived here all his life, but everything looked different now. He could still see the mountain, but the water didn't seem to be carrying him that way. Unless he wanted to hang onto the jar until he died, he was indeed going to have to swim for it.

He let go of the jar and began to swim, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't make any progress. The water was too fast, and he watched the mountain slowly move past him to the side. He swam for what seemed like hours, until he couldn't swim anymore and just paddled enough to keep his head out of the water. He watched the mountain recede in the distance. Darkness fell, then, and it was hard to see much of anything.

Something brushed against him in the night. Feeling it with his hands, he found that it was the branch of a tree. He felt his way along it and came to the trunk. He wrapped his arms around it and clung to it. After a while he managed to climb up onto it, and he lay there clinging to it, and finally fell asleep.

Sometime the next day he woke up. The tree was scraping against something. The water had carried him to another land, one that also had a mountain. He wasn't sure where he was, because none of the nearby lands had mountains that looked like this. Then he realized it was his mountain. The water had carried him in a circle and brought him back. Except now he was on the other side of the mountain. It had looked different because of that, and because he was so close to it, and because the lower part was covered in water. He got off the tree and back into the water, then made his way the few feet to the mountain and climbed up onto it. The mountain wasn't too steep here, but there were some steep parts he would have to cross to make it around to the other side.

He made his way slowly along. An occasional quake would come, and one even threw him to the ground, but they seemed to be lessening. Twice he came upon landslides that were too treacherous to walk upon, and he had to go back to the water to get around them. He found some fruit and berries to eat, and managed to catch a few fish, which he had to eat raw. He also came across a couple of streams. The water was muddier than he would have thought, and didn't taste good, but in the end he drank it. Days passed. He noted that the water was still rising. It was easiest to tell in the morning, for he could see that it had crept closer to him as he slept. He had not seen another living person during this time, just dead ones in the water and along the shore.

Coming around at last now to where he could see where the city was, he could see nothing of it at all. It was entirely underwater. During the next few days he made his way along the mountain to where he felt that the city was directly in front of him. He still couldn't see it. He walked along the edge of the water, trying to find it, but there was no evidence that anything was ever there. No evidence, perhaps, except for the debris along the water's edge. He decided to look through the debris and see if he could find anything useful. Most of it was broken in some way, and some things were just scraps. He found an occasional jug or jar that was still intact, some still partly filled with something.

He came upon, then, the top of a small table missing its legs. He realized that it was his table, from the temple. Not the big table, where he ate with guests, but the table he used when eating in his room. He picked it up. It was waterlogged, but not so heavy that he couldn't carry it.

He turned and started climbing the mountain. He had to find a high place to put it, some place he could make a permanent camp. It was possible the water would someday overrun it, but if it did he would find another place on higher ground. Along the way, he met some other people, some other survivors. They traveled on together, up the mountain. They walked for several days, finally stopping at a place that was almost level, a place far above the distant water. Here they would build their new city, and their new temple. It wouldn't be much of a city at first, and the temple would be smaller than his bedroom in the old one. It was a start, though, and something future generations could enlarge upon.

Mega challenge:

What's that supposed to mean?,
sound first principles,
the key thing,

under the surface,
grand design,

He looked beyond the curtain, out toward the edge of the world. It had been getting closer for some time now. Soon it would be close enough to touch. If it could be touched. What would happen then, when it was close enough to touch, and then too close to avoid touching it, and then so close that it passed over him? It was just a formless grayness, and no one seemed to be paying any attention to it. Airplanes flew in it, and airplanes flew out of it. Cars went in and out, too. There was nothing on the news about it. He couldn't help but worry, though. Were they all doomed?

He had thought at first it might be fog, but as time went on he became certain that it wasn't. He had seen fog before, and it wasn't like this. The transition line was a little blurred, but it was a very tight line, and very straight and flat. Nothing natural could be that straight.

He walked to the window and looked out at it. What was under the surface? Was everything still there? That was the key thing, he thought. Was everything still there. He got out a crystal ball someone had sold him long ago. It was supposed to have been made by monks in a temple in India. Were crystal balls made by religious Indian monks better than other kinds? He didn't know, but he had never been able to get it to work. Oh, sometimes he had seen some odd things in it if he stared at it long enough, but never anything he could figure out, and he wasn't sure it meant anything. Nothing was happening now, either. He held it up in front of his face, putting it between him and the grayness, and then moved it close to him, until it was almost touching him and he was cross-eyed looking at it.

"That's not how to make it work," a voice said from beside him.

"Oh, you again. I haven't seen you in a long time." He lowered the crystal ball.

"It's not been as long as you think. You don't always remember."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means the same thing it did the last time I said it."

There was a moment of silence. He didn't turn to look at him, but continued to look out at the grayness. He didn't like looking at him. He was whiter than an albino, and there was something strange about his appearance, but he couldn't remember exactly what it was right now. Finally he said, "Shouldn't an assistant be more helpful?"

"I sometimes help you, but I'm not your assistant."

They stared out at the grayness some more, or at least he assumed that both of them were doing it. He had no desire to turn and check. The grayness got closer and closer. The building across the street, a temple, faded out.

"I wish there was some way we could stop it. Or at least put up something like a wall or trench or moat, something that would keep it away."

"None of those things would make any difference. Nothing you could make would have any effect on it."

"Is this the end of the world, then, is it all over?"

"What you are seeing is a natural phenomenon. Though it doesn't usually happen in quite this way. Most people don't notice it because they aren't tuned to it, and most of them will be unaffected by it. Since you do see it, you will be affected by it, or at least you could be."

"But, what is it? What does it do?"

"It is the dividing line between your timeline and another. On the other side, things will be a little different. In some cases a lot different. Most people will remain in their current timeline, but some will cross over, and some, because of imperfect alignment or other factors, will cross to a different timeline than what is beyond the grayness."

"How can such a thing be?"

"Do you believe the universe was designed on sound first principles? Do you think it is all part of a grand design? If so, then this must, since it exists, be part of it. If you believe that the universe and everything in it has a scientific explanation, then this, too, must have such an explanation."

"That's not telling me much."

The grayness was just outside the window, then all of a sudden the window and curtains and wall faded away, and it was coming across the floor toward him. He quickly backed away. Coming to the other side of the room, he looked around desperately. Even if he made it to the door, he knew he couldn't get out of the building in time. And even if he did, there was no place he could go to escape it. He saw a bottle of aspirin on the dresser, and picked it up and threw it at the grayness. It disappeared into it without a sound. He put down the crystal ball and pulled open a drawer, looking for something else to throw. Seeing a marble, he grabbed it and threw it hard at the grayness. He knew there was a wall back there, if it still existed. He still didn't hear anything, but the marble came bouncing back at him. The grayness was almost upon him, now.

"Isn't there anything I can do to stop it?" the words coming out quickly, his voice tense and shrill.

"If you put your mind to it in the proper way, you might be able to move to a different timeline than the one that's coming, or even come back here. Such things can be tricky, though, and may not be an improvement."

"It's almost here, there's no time to learn anything, IT'S ALMOST HERE!" He put his hand out, trying to ward it off, then when his hand disappeared he jerked it back. "Help me! DO SOMETHING!"

"Here, take this."

Out of the corner of his eye he saw something being tossed at him, and he grabbed it with his hand and arm, holding it against his body, and then the grayness was upon him. There was a moment of lightness, which quickly passed. He turned around and saw the grayness receding from him, and then the wall faded into view. Looking down, he found he was holding the crystal ball. That was the thing that had been thrown to him. He stared at it, wondering what it meant. Then he noticed that his shirt was different, and his pants, and his shoes. He looked slowly around at the room. It seemed a little bigger. The dresser had moved to the side a little, and was now of a different design. The curtains were also different. Everything else seemed pretty much the same, or at least close enough that it was hard to tell.

He saw the bottle of aspirin, then, on the floor where it had fallen after he threw it. He went over to pick it up, but then saw that the bottle design was different and the label had changed. He straightened back up and left it there, not being able to bring himself to touch it.

He turned and looked at the window, then walked over to it. The temple was gone, in its place a supermarket. Some of the other buildings were different, too. There were still cars on the street. Some of them looked familiar and some didn't, but he didn't keep track of what they all looked like anyway, so he couldn't say if any of them had changed or not. He saw a plane in the sky. They still had those, too, though it didn't look like any plane he had ever seen.

He looked again at the supermarket. He had gotten used to seeing the temple there, and would miss it. But hadn't there always been a supermarket there? He looked at it blankly for a momant, confused. No! There had been a temple, of course there had been. But there also had never been a temple. In fact, he now remembered them building the supermarket, years ago. Before the supermarket, the area had held a bunch of little shops.

Other memories were also coming, of the city and the types of cars and types of planes and of everything else. Memories of his life, also. Big parts of it had been different, some better and some worse. He wasn't sure of the extent of it, he was just getting some highlights right now. He would have to think about it for a long time, going through things in detail, to see what all had happened. He still had memeories of his old life though, and the world as it had been. It was terribly confusing, and it was already hard to tell what had happened here and what had happened there. Maybe he never would get it fully straightened out, and occasionally refer to things that never happened, and have people look at him strangely.

He suddenly had a desperate longing to return, to go back to the timeline he came from. He held the crystal ball in both hands and glared at it, clenching his teeth, willing it to take him back. Nothing happened. It wasn't that easy, he guessed. He sank down to the floor and sat the crystal ball down. He rolled it around absently with one hand while he gazed at the wall and thought. There had to be a way. He had even been told this, by someone, though he couldn't quite remember who it was. He was starting to have memories, too, of actually doing it before, several times, but he couldn't quite remember yet how he did it. He had to do it, though! He had to! He had to get back!

Or did he? He was starting to get a feeling that this world was better than the one he had left and that his life was better here, and had been better for a long time. What about all those things, though, that had happened in his life, and that now never did? Some of them were important things, too. Well, other things had happened instead, and some of them were also important. Maybe he should stay here for at least a while. Maybe things really would be better. Only time would tell.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Hyena Sets a Trap

This is another story that I did for a message board for a thread that was normally concerned with comically constructing new words and definitions. At that time people were taking turns writing short stories containing a short list of words given by another user. The story is changed slightly here in that it is broken up into two paragraphs instead of being contained in just one.

This story was one of several that I did for my post 989 on that message board. The other stories were separate from this one, with their own lists of words. The list of words for this story: avalanche, dust, guppies, hyena, banana

This story is dated 5:04 AM, November 29, 2006, Arizona time (MST).


The hyena carefully placed the banana in position, and was covering the string with a layer of dust when he was buried in an avalanche of small fishes.

A man carrying a clipboard came up and said, "Delivery of guppies from ACME Corp. for Wile E. Hyena, sign here."

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Dream - Flying away from the castle on the mountain

Around the middle of December 2007, I had a dream about driving, and eventually about being chased from a hospital that became also a castle on a mountain. I wrote part of it down around the time it happened, intending to get back to it later. However, though I occasionally came across it in the file, I never got around to finishing it, and eventually forgot about it. When I finally did finish it, it was December 25, 2008, a little over a year later. I was, nevertheless, able to add some parts that I still remembered, and was also able to do a major expansion and polishing of it.

It was a long dream. Most of the earlier part is forgotten, though it was also very long. The earlier part had something about driving through Phoenix, I think, probably from around McDowell or Thomas Rd. to Camelback Rd. or beyond. I think the trip was done repeatedly.

In the part that I start to remember more clearly, I was outside, driving, then flying. It was night, I think. At some point, well into the dream, long white stucco walls were by a road. They also appeared earlier, and I had come back to them. There was also a taller stucco post with something on it about four feet up. I think someone at this point was after me, but it may have been a relatively recent thing. Though it was night earlier, it was now becoming daytime.

I went to a hospital in a different location, off to the side several miles at least, perhaps quite a few miles, maybe twenty or forty or even more. I flew out to the hospital, using my ability to fly, and left and went back to the walls, then returned to the hospital.

Lots of old folks were in the hospital. It may have been a old folks home, too. While there, I met a black woman nurse. She was medium build and perhaps just a little overweight. I talked with her a while. It was pleasant. She even laughed a little. I also met her a little later and carried her while flying.

I had been earlier kind of gliding around a few feet off the floor, sometimes flying instead. Part of it was showing off, but part was also the sheer joy of doing it. Some people did seem to notice. I think some grinned a little at me, their eyes opened a little wider than normal. There was a danger in attracting too much attention, though, because some people were trying to find me and get me. I tried not to be too overly conspicuous, and I did worry some that I might be overdoing it.

Now, though, when I picked the nurse up to fly with her, I found that she was much heavier than I had expected. I had put myself into a cross-legged sitting position, with her sitting in my lap with her back to me, and was trying to fly like that. I found, though, that her weight dragged me down, almost down to the floor.

I fought to stay in the air, and went toward wide steps that led down to a huge open area with a few people scattered around, apparently workers. I zoomed down into it, hoping I could stay up, but I went down at an long angle toward the floor and ended up only a little higher than before. I forced myself, willed myself, to think that both she and I were light and I zoomed up high toward the distant ceiling.

A least some of the people down there turned out to be part of the group that was trying to get me, and chased us. We went up to the upper story of the hospital, perhaps the third floor, perhaps higher, and went out a door to a flat roof or balcony that ran along this side of the building. Beyond it was a low wall, and on the other side of the wall was revealed a high cliff with the ground far below. Behind the building the mountain continued up. The hospital seemed to be castle-like now, a castle embedded in a mountain.

I looked out at the distant ground far below, dirt and shrubbery and farther out a wall and more things beyond that. I hoped I could fly, but I wasn't sure. I think there were people coming from both sides for us now, and maybe from behind us, too, through the door we came through. I had to do something, they were about to get us. I had to try to fly, to get away from them. I had to go out over the wall, out in the air far above the distant ground, carrying the nurse, and hope I had enough power left that I wouldn't simply fall, that I could at least glide in for a soft landing. I hoped it would work.

We went off the cliff in a long downward glide, eventually going over a road that went crosswise to us, with two walls running along it. Two important military officers were there discussing us. They seemed to know we were somewhere nearby.

I flew off over the fields, gaining altitude. The sun was mostly set, and the tops of things, such as trees, bushes, buildings, etc., were softly lit, emerging out of soft shadows. As time wore on, the light faded into darkness. I came to a small town and turned back to go to the hospital, to see if it was safe yet.

I flew back in the night over fields that were in major sections, separated by long crosswise roads and hedges running from road to road. Each major section was divided into small plots that were very roughly square, bordered with wiggly lines of thin hedges. Each major section had differently shaped plots and different hedge designs within each plot, with all plots being the same within each major division.

Although the woman was a nurse at the hospital, she was getting too tired now, and didn't want to continue all the way back to it. I stopped there among the fields and put her down on one of the roads, then I went back into the air and continued on alone.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dream - 'Uncle Jed' and flying

Sometime in the first few days of November, 2007, I had a dream about an 'Uncle Jed' and about someone mistaking me for my father.

In the dream, I was in Scottsdale, but it was a much smaller town with much empty space, perhaps something like it was decades ago. In the earlier part of the dream, I traveled back and forth to different buildings. I met two important people, who came up to me. One of them, the leading one, I knew as Uncle Jed (Jed Clampett, from the Beverly Hillbillies TV show) and the other one might have been my father at a much younger age than he currently is (he might have been around 40). (I have, in real life, on rare occasions, jokingly referred to myself as Uncle Jed when talking with my mother. I don't look anything like him, however.)

After talking with them for a while, I left and went through a series of buildings and rooms. At some point, I was in some kind of waiting room, perhaps for an automotive repair facility. Two older women, perhaps in their mid fifties (at the time of the dream I was 54, but could have passed for someone less than 40) came up to me. I paid the most attention to the one who talked. The other one was a shadowy figure who stood slightly behind the other woman and to her left. The first woman had very curly hair that was dusted with gray. The hair was not too long and was combed down except where it was allowed to blossom out at the sides. Her eyes were open wide and she leaned forward, looking closely at my face (I was sitting down). She asked if it was really me, and was marveling about coming across me after all these years. She got an envelope with large plastic windows from the other woman and showed me a drawing of a man, mostly from behind, holding a torch and working on a radiator. The name and address of the radiator shop were to the left of the figure, and the whole thing was in the upper left quarter of the envelope, showing through the plastic window, though part of the name and address was blocked. I felt that what she was showing me was from the mid-to-late 1960's.

She was apparently under the impression that I was my father, and that this was a picture of him. I felt that she had seen him in person, though, and knew what he looked like. I tried to explain to her that I was not my father and that the drawing was not him, just the little man that was used in the ad (though for all I knew the drawing could have been based on him). She never seemed to understand, though. I was also uncomfortable because I was dirty and wearing dirty work clothes, and had not shaved for days.

Eventually, I left and continued to wander from one building or room to another. It was dark, but it may have been dark for a long time. At some point, I ended up in a building that was several stories high, and I was at least three stories off the ground, with other stories above me. There were some other people in the room.

For some reason, I was becoming increasingly nervous and uncomfortable and felt that I had to leave. I went over to a large window that stretched almost to the floor. The window was either open or I opened it. I looked out into the dark, down the building toward the parking lot or alley below. The building had small ridges that ran around the building above and below the windows.

I wondered if I could just drift down to the pavement if I stepped out the window. Sometimes I could drift down or fly and sometimes I couldn't. I wondered if this was a dream or not. I decided to go ahead and try. I stepped out the window and did drift down, catching at the ridges with one of my hands and slowing myself in little jerks. It all seemed like a lot of work, requiring too much concentration.

After I got down, I decided to try to fly. I spread my arms wide and partly behind me and soared up and out at a forward angle. It felt so natural and easy, and was so much fun. I wanted to turn to the left, though, and was making a slow, wide turn. It seemed much harder to turn for some reason, than just soaring up.

As I drifted down toward the ground, Uncle Jed and the person who might have been my father came striding up, Uncle Jed in the lead. They were about three stories high now, though, and seemed to be made of wood with built-in joints, like giant wooden dolls. Uncle Jed's face seemed to be at least partially human, though. He had the same fixed smile that the robot in my "And fly away" dream had, and reminded me greatly of him, especially after I woke up. The other figure, the one who might have been my father, remained mostly in shadow. I felt that they, especially Uncle Jed, had come to help, both with the flying and with whatever situation had been happening in the building.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Wordzzle 63 - Covered in flowers

This is my contribution to this week's Wordzzle. Wordzzle is a game in which each week word lists, used to create stories, are given on the blog Views from Raven's Nest. Participating users post their stories on their own blogs.

This is the seventh time I've played the game.

Ten Word Challenge:

Green goddess,
please and thank you,
Operation Marigold,
throw pillows,
up the creek without a paddle,
wedding ring

Flowers were ubiquitous now, ever since Mother Nature, the Green Goddess, had instituted Operation Marigold. And it wasn't just marigolds either. Flowers of all kinds were everywhere. It was almost like the land had gotten a shampoo, washing away the traces of man's destruction.

People had tried to talk to her, to convince to back down, or to just do a little. She listened to them, as in groups or singly, they came before her and presented their cases. It was more often than not the same case, like a filibuster that went on and on. Even as they talked, though, flowers grew up around them, covering their feet, and flowering vines twined around their legs, and flowering trees grew up beside them.

They finally had to retreat, going back to their cities, which became increasingly isolated as the flowers and plants covered the roads and airports. They grew up to the buildings, and up the doors and walls. Some people tried to cut their way out, hacking at the plants with knives and axes and machetes, but they might as well have just thrown pillows at them, for they grew right back. They even tried burning them, but they were too green to burn, and any damage was quickly healed. Some did succeed, though, in catching their own homes or buildings on fire. No one could respond to such fires. No fire truck could make its way through the clogged streets. Sometimes the people were able to extinguish the fires themselves, and sometimes not, and the buildings burned until they could burn no more, and flowering plants grew across their ashes.

The government leaders got together, as best they could, and discussed what to do about the situation, and whether anything could in fact be done about it. The general consensus seemed to be that mankind was up the creek without a paddle, and what little remained of it after the coming mass starvation was going to be in the forest eating roots and berries.

Finally, one of them said, "We've got to convert her to our side. There's no other way. If she doesn't get on our side we'll perish."

"But how do we do that? Person after person has already tried talking to her."

"We're going to have to do this the old fashioned way," the first man said. "The way it was done in Europe in the old days, to cement relations between countries that otherwise might not really like each other. We have to send someone to marry her."

And so they did. A man was chosen who was tall and muscular and handsome, and who could talk in a very convincing way. He was given stretchy colorful spandex clothes to wear, so that he looked something like a comic book superhero. He was trained endlessly in what to say and do, and many, many possible approaches to winning her over were worked out, in case the first few didn't work. Finally, he was given a wedding ring for her, and sent to meet her.

"So, yet another one comes," she said. "I thought you had all given up."

"No," he said. "We have not given up, although things do look pretty hopeless for us right now.

"If the situation is hopeless, why not accept your fate, and return to the forest and to nature?"

"In a way, I am returning to nature, for I have come to you."

"But after you speak and fail, and all the others have failed, you will return to your city and try to keep nature away as much as possible, to try to put off as much as you can the encroaching end."

"Perhaps, but I do not intend to fail."

"Speak, then, with your pleas and proposals, but do not speak too long, lest you be unable to find your way back through the wilderness that is growing up around you."

"First, many people have come before I have to ask you to stop this."

"Yes, it's always please, please, please, and never please and thank you."

The man paused. In all the training, this was something that had never come up. "You want us to say thank you?"

"Why not? I am restoring the earth, wiping away the damage caused by man."

"You're also wiping away man in the process."

"Not everyone will die, but quite a few will. Most of them, in fact. Other species go through such cycles, though, of boom and bust. It's all a part of nature."

"If we say thank you, will you stop and let us live?"

"Thank you would be nice to hear, but it's too late now to stop. It's been too late for a long time. To stop now would allow your species to overrun everything again, and no matter how much you personally would assure me of this or that, you would have no control over it."

"What if we became part of nature again, to such an extent that you would not have to reduce our numbers, at least not quite so drastically."

"Whatever of you is left will become part of nature. There will be no other way to survive."

"Yes, but not as many really have to die to accomplish it. Most of us, maybe almost all of us, can survive."

"How might this be?"

"You could make giant trees, bigger than redwoods, with natural spaces inside that could be used for rooms. You could do similar things with other plants, in places where the ground is too rocky or too soft or too watery to support the giant trees. You could also make new fruits of all kinds that would supply every nutrient that we need, and that grew all year round, and streams that always flowed with clear fresh water so we would always have some to drink and to bathe in. Plants also would supply us with fibers that could easily be extracted and woven into cloth, and plants on which a durable, long-lasting paper grew, and plants that could supply us with pens and writing implements, so that we could retain our history and something of our knowledge. All this and more could be done."

"Yes, it could. But why would I do it? Why would I make a special case out of you, when all the other animals have to make do for themselves?"

"Because we are kin, or will be." The man got to his knees and produced the ring. "I'd like to ask you to marry me."

She looked at the ring, and at him.

"I am sincere," the man said.

"I know you are sincere. Such things cannot be hidden from me. All the empty talk from all the others failed, though, no matter how sincere and desperate the pleadings.

"I am sincere, and I do not talk empty talk. Married to me, you would have a stake in how well your extended family was doing. You would not want them to perish or suffer hardships. It would be only natural for them to hold a special place in your heart, and for you to supply them with everything that they need, and to watch over them so that they came to no harm, and to make sure that they followed the right path, the path of harmony with nature."

She considered. "All this is true, but only if I should marry you. Why would I marry you?"

"To have a companion."

"I have many companions. The animals come to me and eat from my hand."

"It is not the same. They are not on your level. We are not on your level, either, but we are much closer, at least intellectually, than they are."

"Perhaps, but they are closer in spirit. And though they cannot speak as you do, their thoughts are clearly heard."

"They still cannot talk to you on a level that we can, and you still cannot talk to them as you can to us, and to me."

"What if talk is not enough?"

"We may not be in love right now, but that is often the case with arranged marriages. Love can and frequently does come later. We can grow into it. We can have children, too, that combine our best qualities. You have the power to ensure that this is so. Through these children, all of mankind could eventually be enhanced."

"Another master race, then, replacing man?"

"No, it would be a case of man becoming a master race."

"What of a time after you, though, a time when you are gone? There will come such a time. Even if I make you wise and healthy and long-lived, near-immortal even, there will come a time when either I tire of you, or you tire of me and you find yourself with someone else. You will do it knowing all that you would be giving up, because you will be unable to stop yourself. You will not be able to hide it from me either. I will know when it happens, and I will know when you are thinking of it happening."

"In such a case, should it ever occur, or should we find that for whatever reason we can no longer be married, you can always choose another from the ranks of men, using whatever means you think is most appropriate."

And so she accepted the ring, and the marriage, and everything else, and it all came to pass as he described, and mankind lived with nature in a world of peace and plenty, in endless springtime, and their marriage lasted for centuries, uncounted centuries, for no one kept track of such things anymore.

Mini Challenge:

lamb chops,
clever devil

The stingray was a clever devil, and ate the lamb chops and Skittles without chagrin.

Mega challenge:

Green goddess,
please and thank you,
Operation Marigold,
throw pillows,
up the creek without a paddle,
wedding ring

lamb chops,
clever devil

Operation Skittles had failed, as well as Operation Marigold. Some senators had filibustered against the last one. They knew little about it, but no one did, it was too secret. They just didn't want the name of a flower for a military operation. In fact, the name did have something to do with the actual endeavor, though no one would have guessed it. The name for the previous operation didn't, but how could it be a secret, if the secret was revealed in the name? What name would be best, for an operation that invaded Hell?

Some people had suggested that a more forceful name be used for the next attempt, that the low-key and perplexing names given to the previous attempts had worked against them, and been part of the cause of their failures. Others argued that a forceful and dynamic name, and in particular a bloodthirsty one, as some people championed, also worked against them because they sounded like something the Devil might support.

In the end, the next, and everyone hoped the final, operation was named Shampoo. Operation Shampoo had to be a success, they said, mostly because they preferred not to think of what would happen should they fail. Each attempt, each opening of the portal, each invasion into Hell, strengthened the portal. Each time, it became a little bigger and a little stronger. If they failed this time, they were really up the creek without a paddle, because the portal might not close well enough to keep the demons out, perhaps not really close at all. The Devil and all his demons might be able to come and go as they pleased, and it might please them to make a lot of trouble while they were here, and to take a lot of people back with them when they left.

The first operation had failed resoundingly. It wasn't that a bunch of clever devils were being sent to fight them. Many such things existed, for they could be a very devious and calculating lot, but the ones sent to fight them, at least so far, were just brutes. It took a while, too, for it to dawn on the humans that the demons liked pain, even their own, and their screams when they were shot, knifed, blown up, and mangled were at least partly of delight. For brutes though they were, they were fully aware that such activities degraded men, and the demons couldn't get enough of it. The men were overwhelmed by demons hoping to be maimed and killed, and ready to endlessly torture if they weren't. Most of the men never got away, and were still trapped there, undergoing torments that no one wanted to think about.

In the following attempt, Operation Marigold, they didn't even throw pillows at the demons, instead bringing armloads and truckloads of flowers, hoping to destroy them by kindness and generosity. The demons flinched and drew back, but eventually managed to terrify someone enough to break him, and he ran and then others ran, and there was a stampede, with some being crushed underfoot, while the demons laughed and chased them, grabbing any who were too slow.

It was now deemed too dangerous for actual people to attack. The demons would always win somehow, because people were too weak and too easily provoked into doing something wrong. Now, in Operation Shampoo, machines would be sent. Robots, large and small, would be sent everywhere, looking into the most hidden places, and drone airplanes would fly through the skies, looking from above. The men would be found, and when they were, would be rescued with armor-covered robots carrying weapons. It was thought that destruction caused by robots would not really count as destruction by men, even though the robots were the creation of men and were sent there by men and told to hurt and kill by men. Not everyone agreed with this analysis, but there seemed to be no better alternative.

Afterward, after they had all been saved, or as many as possible were saved, then massive armored vehicles would enter, ten of them, robot controlled and spraying poison gas in all directions. The robot vehicles would separate from each other, going as far as they could in all directions. When they had reached as far apart as they could safely go, or, since the ability to maintain communications was uncertain, if a predetermined amount of time had passed, they would all blow up. The hope was that they would all do so at the same time, but, in the end, they would take what they could get. They would never know what happened for sure, because the portal would be closed long before the bombs blew up. It would never be reopened, and anything that survived the bombs and the radiation and the poison gas would be trapped there forever. Anything that survived all that they really didn't want to have to deal with anyway.

If for some reason they were unable to fully close the portal, and some of the explosion or gas made it back through it, they were ready to accept that. Tall embankments of dirt and rock would be put around the portal before anything was sent in, though a clear path had to be left for the robot vehicles. After the ones with the poison gas and bombs went in, the opening for the path would be quickly closed. If part of the blast did come through, it would hit the walls of dirt and rock and be directed mostly skyward. There might still be a bit of a problem with radiation and fallout, but hopefully not too much.

The machine operating the portal would be destroyed, though, if any of the blast came through. Without the machine they would be unable to even try to close the portal, but they were going to bury the portal in concrete anyway. Even if they had managed to close it before the explosion, and nothing came back through it, they could no longer trust that it would remain closed. They knew that in the end concrete would not be enough to keep the demons out, but they hoped that it would seal it long enough that the opening would close on its own.

Things were almost ready now. The generals sat around the table, talking over things, trying to think of anything they might have forgotten, when suddenly a woman appeared, a faint glow about her. The generals stared at her, transfixed. "Who are you?" one of them finally managed to say.

She looked at them, not saying anything. They looked back, though it was hard to really focus on her, and her form, though seemingly solid, seemed to be constantly shifting, like an image seen through ripples of water. One of the generals looked away and began to squirm in his seat.

Finally she spoke. "I am the Green Goddess. One of your names for me is Mother Nature, but I have many other names. You have no idea what you are doing, or what you have done. Do you think that by destroying a small portion of a place you can get rid of all of them? Would blowing up one city here get rid of people in distant cities? It is the same way there. Those that are left, and that would be almost all of them, will want to get you all the more, and the portal, already strong enough that you can barely keep it closed, would absorb the energy of the blast and become an opening wide enough for armies to cross, armies marching side-by side and not in narrow lines like you do now. You do not have the ability to close a portal of that size. It might close naturally over time, gradually shrinking over thousands of years, perhaps tens of thousands of years, provided no attempt is made to keep it open. Such an attempt will be made though, because they would not wish to see it closed. And so it will never be closed, and they will come through, endless numbers of them, and your world will become their world, to do with as they wish. They will not kill all of you, not even most of you, because they want you here to feel the pain they will inflict."

There was a long period of silence. Sometimes one or more of the generals would look at each other, but no one seemed willing to speak. Finally, one of them said, "I don't believe you. What's to stop me from killing you right now?" and drew out a pistol and pointed it at her.

The other generals drew back in their seats from him, and one of them said, "Now, let's not be hasty--"

"Shut up! We don't really know who she is, or if what she is saying is true. Aren't real gods supposed to wear togas, or if she wants to be modern, at least a tight spandex costume like the superheroes in the movies? As far as I can tell, she's not wearing anything. In any case, I've never managed to add killing a god to my list of achievements, and this might just be the time. Now, if she is a god, we'll see how a god dies."

The goddess looked at him. "You cannot harm me, and you might find that your weapon will malfunction if you even make the attempt."

"Yeah, well, we'll see about that, and we'll see what happens when a real bullet goes through you." He began to press the trigger, but then paused, staring at the gun. Orange-red rust crept over it, blossoming out, giving it a soft look. Part of the barrel fell away in pieces on the table. Bullets rolled away, leaving lumps and flakes behind them, until they were too small and lumpy to roll anymore. Suddenly his fingers closed together, a cloud of rust particles coming up and then settling down over them. He stared at his closed hand, wide-eyed, then looked at her, a sickly smile of chagrin on his face.

"What I did, they can do. All of your weapons, including your bombs and poison gas, could be destroyed by them, at least by the stronger ones among them, as I did with the gun. They have not done so, because they don't want it to be that easy. They love the terror and the killing and the destruction. And they want the bombs to go off."

"They want them to go off?" one of the generals croaked.

"Yes, they have been planning on it for centuries, for thousands of years actually. They knew the time was coming when once again men would make such things. And they knew that once again men would fiddle with the portals, thinking themselves in control, when they never are. The beings are very patient and can wait a long time, longer even than the life of civilizations."

"No!" said the general who had tried to shoot her. "You're just trying to rob us of our glory! We almost had them with the flowers! We'll think of something."

"You do not even know what you are fighting. You have no idea what the enemy actually is. You picture them as things from your Christian theology, devils and demons, beings from Hell. In reality, such concepts are fairly recent ones, and these beings date from far older times, long before Christianity. People in older times had far better ideas of what these beings actually are, though the accuracy even then varied with the rise and fall of civilizations.

"The entities you are referring to as devils and demons are actually beings from a parallel universe, one with slightly different physical laws. Their universe is as big as ours, though they only inhabit a small part of it, as you do with your universe. You say that you almost had them with the flowers, but they were scared of them not because they were afraid of peace and love, but because they were afraid that the flowers were carried by emisaries of me."

The generals looked at each other again. "You have had dealings with them in the past?" one of them finally said.

"I have a long, complicated history of interactions with them."

"What are we to do, then? Is there no hope?"

"Here, take this," she said, taking a ring off one of her fingers and holding it out. It had a gold band in the shape of a snake with its tail in its mouth. On the snake's back was what apeared to be a gold stingray with its wings and tail curled up, holding a round glowing gem with strange green and blue patterns, almost like seas and continents.

"You're giving us your wedding ring?" one of them asked.

"It is not a wedding ring. Beings such as I do sometimes wed, but we have our own customs and traditions about such things. One man, alone, must take this in there. He must hold it out in front of him. He will not be harmed while he has it. He must ask to see their leader. The language spoken there will not correspond to any of the languages currently spoken here, but it will not matter. They will know what is in his thoughts. Similarly, they will be able to make themselves clear when they speak, though their language is not his. When the leader comes, the man is to tell him that the descision has been made, that the portal will be closed and that neither side will enter the other side. Tell him also that all the men that have been captured are to be returned with no further harm done to them, and that the remains of any who have been killed are also to be returned, as much of the remains as are left. The man is to stay there until all of this is carried out. You must say this as I have said it to you. Do not leave anything out, and do not change anything or add anything to it."

"No! It's a trick!" shouted the one who had tried to kill her. "She's had dealings with them! She admits it. The man we send will be torn apart and eaten by them. He will be just more lamb chops to them!" The generals turned back to her, questioning looks on their faces.

"He will not be harmed, not as long as he has the ring. They know the ring, and they know who gave it to him. They will not even try to scare him. They will treat him with the utmost respect, being terrified of doing anything wrong. They know that if any of them does something in the faintest way negative toward him, that being will be immediately consumed by the others. They do this because they know that they themselves will consumed by their superiors if they do not. They do not fear anything you can do to them, but they fear what they can do to each other, for they can operate at the level of the soul. The leader himself will treat the man with respect, because he knows and respects the meaning of the ring, and because he knows that he will deal with me if he does not."

"If you're so big and strong, why don't you do to me what you did to my gun? Why don't you just kill me right here, right now?"

"Your gun I destroyed as a demonstration and as an example, and to show that you have no power over me. There was also a chance that you could have hurt someone with it, perhaps even yourself. You could not have hurt me. It is not necessary to do more against you. The example that needed to be made has already been made, and you personally will not be able to alter the course of events. You do not matter."

For a moment the general stared at her, and then his head slumped dejectedly and he looked much older. He turned and shuffled out slowly, still muttering. "You'll see! There's no dealing with such creatures! No 'please and thank you' talks with things like them! You have to destroy them before they destroy you! We're like lamb chops to them! Nothing more than lamb chops, I tell you..."

And so Operation Shampoo was abandoned, and a new operation, called Lamb Chops, was begun. A volunteer was trained carefully for the mission, and finally given the ring and sent in. The beings, ubiquitous at first, ran from him as soon as they saw him, before he could say anything. Not able to meet any close up, he called out after them that he wanted to meet their leader. When the leader came, he was so terrifying in appearance that the man couldn't look at him, and had to talk to him with his face pointed to the side. The leader treated him with courtesy and respect, though, and agreed with everything he said.

All the men that had been captured were returned. Most of them were in pretty bad shape, but no further harm was done to them after the request was made. It did not have to even be relayed. Those involved simply knew, and stopped doing what they had been doing. All the dead were also returned. Sometimes there wasn't much left, sometimes only some teeth and scraps of bone, but there was always something. When everything was done, the man returned through the portal.

At that instant, a woman's hand came out of the air and seemed to grip the fabric of reality tightly, pulling it closed. There was a moment of disorientation, and then things felt normal again. The man looked and saw that the machine that held the portal open was gone, in its place a mound of dust. Then he felt a hand on his wrist, and looked down at it. There was the woman's hand again, fading out in mid forearm, still with no body attached. It felt strange to have such a thing touch you. A woman's voice said, "You will not be harmed as long as you hold the ring, but they do not forget, and even with the portal closed, their powers can have some reach here. Come with me." And the hand pulled him through something, into somewhere else, and he was gone.

Operation Lamb Chops was declared a success, though not to many people, since few knew of its existence. All the soldiers brought back, and all the ones that had been in the previous operations, were told that there had been a chemical accident, and the fantastic things they had seen were just hallucinations from the chemicals, and the injuries that some had received were attributed to them running about madly and getting hit by cars, etc. The dead were treated differently, and were assigned whatever reasons for death that were most convenient and convincing.

All the records, on paper or in computers, of how to build the machine to open the portal mysteriously vanished. The scientists involved couldn't remember what they had done, and came to doubt that they had actually done it. The military, though, being what it is, decided to make another machine and open another portal. Surely there were better universes to visit. So far they only knew of that one, though, the one that had seemed to be Hell. They would probably have to go there first, just briefly of course, to see if the machine actually worked. After that they could try for the other universes.

However, anyone who was assigned to work on building the machine either couldn't make any progress, or mysteriously disappeared. One worker swore he saw a hand reach out of the air and take one. Nobody believed him, but after a while no one wanted to be associated with such a project, and the project was abandoned, at least for now.

Somewhere out there, though, an unimaginable distance, and yet closer than we would like to think, something patiently watched and waited, willing to wait for centuries if necessary, even for centuries of centuries, for the right moment to come to pass. It did not name its projects, not Skittles nor Marigold nor anything else, for everyone knew what everyone else was doing, and there was never any confusion. But also, in that place, in the end there was really only one project, and everything else they did was only a part of it.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Forgotten dragons

It was 1961, and I was in the second semester of the second grade, with three months, maybe a little more, left of the school year. We were going to move again, going from the second house in Las Cruces, New Mexico to Phoenix, Arizona.

Before we moved, I had been playing in my mind with dragons, with a whole complicated storyline involving even generations of them. It had been going on for weeks or months, but was particularly intense the last week or so we were there.

Then, just before we moved, when the rooms were mostly bare, I suddenly forgot almost all of it. I still had a lot of pictures of dragons I had made, but almost everything about them was a blank. I was very saddened and disappointed by the forgetting, feeling somehow betrayed by it.

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The bark dinosaur

Back in grade school, a long time ago, I made a small dinosaur out of bark. I was in Scottsdale, Arizona and probably in either the fourth or sixth grade. I know it was not the fifth, because my fifth-grade class was bused, because of overcrowding, to a school in Tempe. In my class, at this particular time, whichever time it was, students had been divided into small groups for the purpose of doing a group project. The groups were to decide on their own what projects they were going to do. The teacher may have had to approve them, but I don't remember now whether this was needed.

There were probably four people in my group, including myself. I had a possible idea for what to do, but wanted to see if anyone had any other ideas first. No one did, and they all seemed to be hoping that someone else would come up with something. Seeing what the situation was, and somewhat surprised by its severity, I stepped into the vacuum and took control.

I told them I had an idea on what to do. They perked up, looking interested and hopeful. I told them that we could make a dinosaur out of bark, a Tyrannosaurus rex. They agreed with this, and we set about gathering small pieces of bark. The bark was mostly of the thick brown variety, with a soft, uneven surface.

The dinosaur was a small model, around seven to eight inches high, longer if measured diagonally. I did most of the work putting it together, though the others helped in a small way. I don't think it had any internal framework, just the pieces of bark glued to each other. When we turned it in, it was thought to be so impressive that it was put in the front offices of the school for a while, so people could see it.

After we finally got it back, we had to decide who got to take it home. I wanted to take it, of course. One of the other kids begged we, over and over, to let him take it, but I refused. I think he said something about wanting to show it to his mother, that he didn't really have anything else that he did that was important. Part of me felt bad for him, but there was no way I was going to let him take it.

I still have it, on a shelf, wrapped in plastic.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Wordzzle 62 - The woolly mammoth and the bubble gum

This is my contribution to this week's Wordzzle. Wordzzle is a game in which each week word lists, used to create stories, are given on the blog Views from Raven's Nest. Participating users post their stories on their own blogs.

This is the sixth time I've played the game.

Ten Word Challenge:

gentle spring rain,
soap opera,
bubble gum,
garden gate,
of Biblical proportions,

Beyond the garden gate, a woolly mammoth stood, looking at them. The man went to the gate and held up a handful of bubble gum to it. The mammoth solemnly took them with its trunk and put them in its mouth and began chewing. After a while it blew an enormous bubble and floated up high into the sky with it. The man watched over by the house, standing by a woman.

Then the bubble popped and the mammoth came back down, landing in the garden. The impact was enormous, and the mammoth sank deep into the soft earth, with only a few feet of it showing. Chunks of dirt were flung everywhere, and wrinkles and cracks went out in the ground in all directions. The man and the woman stood there, looking at it. Finally the woman broke their mutual paralysis and said, "My garden seems to have suffered a disaster of Biblical proportions."

"Yes," the man said. "I don't think we'll ever get it out of there. It's just too big and heavy. We'll just have to put some dirt over it. It'll take a lot of dirt to keep it from smelling, so there's going to be quite a hill there. It's going to take a lot of days to do it."

"I'm going to have a hill instead of a garden?" the woman asked, looking worried. "Could I still plant things on it?"

"Some areas might be too steep. We can just put rocks on those areas instead."

They looked at it some more in silence. After a while the woman said, "Aren't woolly mammoths an endangered species?"

"Maybe so," said the man. "I never really paid attention to such things."

"If they're endangered, then there might not be many left. In fact, that might be the last one. That's so sad."

"Yes," said the man, "but there's nothing to be done about it now. This isn't some soap opera where people keep coming back to life."

They looked at it some more for a while, standing there by the house. A gentle spring rain began to fall, and they moved back a bit to get under the overhang of the roof. "It's almost like the sky is crying," the woman said.

Suddenly the mammoth moved, and climbed out of the hole. The woman gave a half-stifled cry, and they both stepped back further, and now had their backs pressed firmly against the house. The woolly mammoth turned and looked at them.

"You almost gave me a seizure," the man said. "We thought you were dead."

"No," said the woolly mammoth. "That was quite a ride, though. I'd do it again, but I think I swallowed the rest of the gum."

Mini Challenge:

stuffed animals,
anger management,
paint splatters

Drops fell from above, leaving paint splatters on the stuffed animals. He looked up, then quickly moved to the side, as another one landed where he had been. "Are you sure you know what you're doing?" he asked the woman.

"Well, so far most of the paint is going where I intended, and I'm going to call that a success. You'd better move those toys, though. They might get a few stray drops on them."

He looked at the toys, and at the rug. "Aren't you supposed to put plastic over everything first?"

"It costs too much to buy that much plastic. We're trying to economize, remember? That's why we're doing the painting ourselves. It's a good thing we got this paint on sale. I don't know how we would have afforded the more expensive stuff."

He looked at the painted section. The paint wasn't quite covering the burn marks, and they'd have to put on another coat, at least over part of it. The burn marks were there from when she trying to save on electricity by burning lots of candles instead. It had not worked out well.

"You could be helping me, you know."

"I guess I could, but you only bought one brush."

"Well, maybe you could get a pan and catch any drops that fall, then."

He stood there for a moment, considering her request, but he was having trouble wrapping his mind around it. Suddenly a drop hit him on the forehead and cheek, leaving a line across one of the lenses of his glasses. Another one hit him on top of the head, and trickled down behind one ear. He could feel other drops hitting his shirt and pants. "Um, maybe less drops would fall if you painted a little less energetically."

She turned her head around and looked at him. "Wow. You could have used the pan, you know, you didn't have to catch them with your body." She looked around at the room. "I guess the room has quite a bit on it, too. Why didn't you say something?"

"I thought that I did, sort of. I didn't want to nag you too much, I wouldn't want to make you angry."

"Angry? Don't be silly, I never get angry. Anger management is something I never have to worry about, and it's a good thing, because I've got so much else to manage."

She studied the wall. "We've still got part of a can of varnish. I guess I could fling drops of it on the wall, make a kind of reverse color scheme splatter pattern, so that it would seem that the rug splatters were intentional, and just part of the effect."

"That still wouldn't hide the burn marks showing through."

"Maybe I could make a mural then, something that tells a story. Maybe something biographical."

"It kind of already tells a story. And it's already biographical."

"Yes, but it's not interesting enough. It needs to be soaring, operatic even. I think I'll put the Eiffel Tower over here, and some Vikings with horned helmets over here."

"But, we've never been to Paris or ever seen an opera."

"Yes, but nobody has to know that."

Mega challenge:

gentle spring rain,
soap opera,
bubble gum,
garden gate,
of Biblical proportions,

stuffed animals,
anger management,
paint splatters

"Stop watching that soap opera and come help me get this bubble gum out of my hair!" the man said.

"Oh, all right. You wouldn't have it there, you know, if you hadn't kept hiding under the table at that restaurant."

"I didn't know the whole underside of it was covered in bubble gum."

"Any fool knows that's where people put it, but you're not just any fool, are you?"

"Just get it out," he moaned.

She fiddled with it for a while.

"It won't come out. I'm going to have to cut it off."

"Cut it off? Cut my hair off? No..."

"Hold still, you're making it worse."

"My hair! This is a disaster of Biblical proportions!" He wept, wrinkles of worry crossing his face.

"You're such a baby! Let me get one of your stuffed animals for you. Here, take it." He clutched at it, tears still falling like a gentle spring rain.

"There, that's the last of it," she said, stepping back a bit and looking it over. "I could take off a little more. I might be able to hide some of it."

"No! Let me see how it looks."

He hesitantly went to the mirror and looked at himself. His eyes opened wide and he staggered all the way back to the wall, then slid down it to a sitting position.

"You're not going to have a seizure over it are you? It's just hair."

"It's MY hair!"

"I can still cut some more off, try to even it out some."

"Maybe later, I can't face any more right now. How can I go out on job interviews like this?"

"You haven't got any job interviews. You haven't even sent out any resumes."

"I'm still working on the biographical information."

"Well, don't include what happened to your hair."

"No, no, they don't want details like that. Just the highlights."

There was a moment of silence, then "Were there any highlights?"

"I'm sure there must have been some. That's what I'm been trying to think of. I don't know that it matters now, not with this... this... mammoth problem." He bitterly indicated his head.

"I've never understood why you took that anger management class. You're such a wimp, always moaning and worrying. Why didn't you take a class to fix that?"

"The anger management class was something that the place I used to work would pay for. It's okay to be angry, it makes you seem dynamic, like you're a real man. I could never take a class to make me be less of a wimp. People would look at me funny."

"I've got news, they look at you funny already."

"Maybe, but there's no point in making it worse."

"Well, if you're not going to let me cut your hair, you better get to work on the resume. No point sitting there in your own paralysis."

"I can't think right now. I think I'll go out in the back yard and pace for a while. I hope no one sees me like this."

"As long as you're going out there, you might as well finish painting the garden gate. And try not to get paint splatters on the walk this time."

"No! I can't get paint on my hands, not if I'm going to have job interviews."

"Yeah, with you doing it you'd probably get some in your hair, anyway."

He noticeably cringed, then gave her a pained look.

"It's your own fault this happened," she said. "No normal person would be hiding under tables."

"I had to! My old boss came in the restaurant, and I didn't want him to see me!"

"Well, he saw me and he knows I'm your wife. I don't know what he thought, with me sitting there alone and whispering to the table."

"You saw each other?"

"Well, across the room, it's not like we went out on a date. Believe me, if they made our lives into a television show, it wouldn't be a soap opera. It's not even faintly soap operatic."

Suddenly the doorbell rang. She went to answer it, and found a young woman there holding a baby.

"Hi," the young woman said. "I'm the daughter you had as a teenager and gave away. This is my daughter, your granddaughter. Who's that under the table?"

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