Friday, August 28, 2009

Wordzzle 78 - The wall

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 my entry number 22, for Wordzzle week 78.

Ten Word Challenge:

really cool,
bread crumbs,
Sponge Bob,
magical moment,
back and forth,
good fences make good neighbors

I'd like to say it was a magical moment, and really cool, but all the suffering got in the way. I crawled along on my stomach, hugging the line in the road like it was a trail of bread crumbs left by angels. I could see the end, not far away now. It lay like an invisible fence, separating what was here from what was there. I've heard that good fences make good neighbors, but it didn't much matter in this case. I hoped to never be here again.

I tried to gather my strength, to stand, to somehow walk to the end, to go out like a man, but I swayed back and forth and then fell to my knees, and then on my face. Through a haze of pain I saw a little boy wearing a Sponge Bob T-shirt, looking down at me.

"Are you all right, mister?"

I tried to say something, but couldn't. I finally nodded, or I think I did, and began crawling on. Maybe I inspired the kid. I hoped not. Why would I want anyone to end up like this? Oh, what an impulsive thing I had done, that led me to end up here. If I could only take back that moment. But it was too late now. Too late for anything.

The end was close now. I could feel it more than see it, as the light seemed to be fading rapidly.

Then, almost as a surprise, I was somehow crossing it, slowly inching my way forward, a growing roar filling my ears, filling my head. And then it was done. It was over. I hadn't set any records, except maybe for slowest finisher, but the marathon race was done.

Mini Challenge:

side effects are generally mild,

"'Side effects are generally mild,'" I said, reading from the package of samples the doctor had given me. "'Some people may experience goose bumps and reddening of the skin, and sticky sweat, occasionally heavy.'"

"Goose bumps, huh? You look more like a chicken than a goose. With that red face. more specifically a rooster. Does it say anything about the feathers?"

"No, it doesn't mention feathers. The feathers are from that truck full of chickens that passed us, I'm sure. They're just stuck to me because of my sweat. It makes my skin real clingy."

"Well don't come in the house like that. We'll have to wash you off with the hose."

"With the hose! But I've already got goose bumps!"

"Yeah, but they're meaningless. It's over 100 degrees out here. You'll be lucky if the water from the hose doesn't burn you. Now hold still."

"Ahhh! Ahhh! It burns! My goose bumps are getting worse! I'm sweating more! I'm got feathers in my mouth!"

"Well, spit them out. You don't know where they've been."

"Oh, this is just awful, I can still taste them!"

"Well, you won't be kissing me for a while."

"I'm here suffering, and all you can think about is yourself? Have you no pity?"

"I drove you home, didn't I? Drove you there, too."

"Yes, but you could be a little nicer about it. Especially with the shape I'm in."

"You look in better shape than your clothes. We're going to have a terrible time getting all the feathers off of them."

"They wouldn't be there if you hadn't washed them off my face and neck, and hands. Some of them have gone down my neck. I can feel them inside my clothes. It's awful. I think some things are crawling around on me, too."

"Maybe they were on the feathers. Or it could be all in your head."

"Let me check the box again. It's all wet! My glasses are, too. I can hardly see it. Let me see... It says something about possible mild hallucinations and delusions."

"Uh huh. You should have shown a little more curiosity before you took them."

"Well, they were essentially free, the doctor was giving them out, they were something the drug company gave him. If they worked he said he would write me a prescription for some more."

"You might not want to get that prescription," a strange voice said. "In fact, you might not want to take any more."

I turned and saw a woman on the sidewalk, looking at me funny. She had slowed to almost a stop, but she speeded up now and walked away quickly, sometimes looking back over her shoulder at me.

I looked down at the small poodle holding the hose. "That sure was odd, wasn't it?"

She nodded and hit me again with the water.

Mega challenge:

really cool,
bread crumbs,
Sponge Bob,
magical moment,
back and forth,
good fences make good neighbors

side effects are generally mild,

"Good fences make good neighbors," the sign said, but there were no fences and no neighbors, just the barren land. I guess that was the point. No fences, therefor no neighbors. If I constructed a fence, would neighbors appear? I didn't know. I walked on. A little later I saw another sign. It said, "If you build it, they will come." It sounded like an answer to my question, though I couldn't be sure. In any case, there wasn't anything around to build anything with, and I didn't have the time to cart building materials out here.

After a while, I came to a solid wall, painted white, ten feet high, that ran from horizon to horizon. This looked like a pretty good fence, one for the record books. I still didn't see any neighbors. Maybe because it wasn't really a fence, just a wall. I guess that made sense.

I saw two doors in it. One said "Fools" and the other said "Angels." I wasn't sure what to expect on the other side, seeing that the other signs hadn't been too helpful.

I knew more about fools than I did about angels, so I finally decided to open the door marked "Fools" first. I didn't know how many might be inside, or how friendly they might be, so I opened the door slowly and carefully. Inside I saw a dilapidated wooden bridge crossing a deep canyon. The bridge was creaking and shifting, and seemed about to collapse. A sign beside it said, "Cross here." I decided I wasn't that big of a fool, so I backed out and went to the other door.

I opened it and saw the same canyon, only without the bridge. A sign said, "Cross here." I didn't have any angel wings with me, so I couldn't cross here, either. I went back out and closed the door, unsure what to do now.

Then I noticed that the signs on the doors had changed. The signs now said "Really cool" and "Impulsive." I opened the "Really cool" door and found a bridge of ice going across the canyon. It looked pretty slippery, so I closed the door and went to the other one.

When I opened it, I saw a path leading to a bridge, with giant toad statues lining and facing the path. I stared at the scene for a while. The bridge appeared to be sturdy, but something didn't feel right. I started to turn back, but then on impulse I started down the path. The toads jumped toward each other, slamming into each other with loud smacking sounds. I was almost hit, but leaped out of the way just in time. I could see now that they weren't statues at all, they had just seemed that way because of their size and stillness. They were now erratically jumping in all directions, seemingly on impulse. I couldn't tell which way any of them would jump, and some of them almost hit me again. I finally managed to get out and close the door.

I saw then that the signs on the doors had again changed. One said "Clingy" and the other said "Curiosity." I opened the "Clingy" door and saw the canyon again, with no bridge. A giant frog wearing a saddle crawled up over the edge, using its sticky feet to cling to the rock. It looked at me and its tongue shot out, hitting the wall five feet from me, then shot back into its mouth, holding some small animal. I backed out and shut the door.

I opened the other one and saw a long concrete pipe, about four feet wide, forming a tunnel over the canyon. The ground around it was littered with the bones of small animals. Over the end of the tunnel was a grate of heavy steel. On a pole beside it was a plaque with a large red button. I went over and read the plaque. It said "Push this." I peered into the tunnel, but couldn't see the other end. Something seemed to be blocking the way. I finally pushed the button, not knowing what else to do, and curious about what might happen. The grate started to lift, clearing the way into the tunnel, and from inside the tunnel I heard a rapid scurrying, coming this way. I ran for the door, got through it and slammed it closed, as I felt something heavy smack into the other side.

I spent quite a bit of time at the doors, going back and forth between them, opening them and going in, but no matter what the signs changed to, I couldn't find a way to get over the canyon. At least not one I felt safe using. Finally, the signs said "Suffering" and "Bread crumbs."

I decided to try the "Bread crumbs" first. When I opened the door, I saw a sturdy bridge heavily carpeted in bread crumbs. The path leading to it was the same way. I started to walk forward, and hordes of birds swooped down and started eating the bread crumbs. They were all around, and smacking against me. I put up my arms, trying to fend them off. With my head down and arms waving, I tried to slowly walk forward, but the birds were everywhere, and I could hardly find a place to put my feet. Eventually I stepped on one, whereupon the others all turned on me and started flying at me and pecking me. I turned and ran back out through the door, slamming it behind me, hearing a rain of thuds on it.

I went to the other door and stood in front of it for a while. "Suffering" did not sound too promising, but the signs wouldn't change until I tried both doors. I finally opened it and saw a sturdy bridge. Nothing unusual seemed to be around. I slowly walked toward it, expecting something to happen at any minute, but nothing did. I slowly and carefully walked across the bridge. I made it to the other side, and still nothing happened. I looked back at the bridge, and everything still looked normal. Where was the suffering? Then I remembered that one of the meanings of suffer was permit. So suffering could mean permitting. Perhaps that was it. At least I hoped so.

I turned away from the bridge and continued my journey. The path led into the hills. I saw no more signs. The way got rougher and steeper, and eventually I was going up the side of a mountain. Then the path led into an opening in the rock, into a cave. I paused outside it for a minute, considering what to do, and finally went in.

Inside was a huge room, dimly lit by widely spaced torches. Directly in front of me, wide steps were cut out of the rock, leading down to a broad flat floor, perhaps ten feet below. Overhead, far above, I could see a distant ceiling, littered with stalactites. The room stretched to vast distances on either side of me. Ahead, perhaps two hundred feet away, were more steps, leading up to another level area, beyond which was the far wall. A little ways in front of the far wall was a giant throne, made of rock. On the throne sat a giant rooster.

I walked down the steps and across the floor, and up the other steps, until I stood in front of the throne and the rooster. This close, I could see that he was enormous, probably seven or eight feet tall when standing.

The rooster looked down at me. "You have completed the tests. You have earned the prize. Now you must choose it."

It swept its left wing up in a majestic gesture, and I saw the wall now had narrow shelves lined with Sponge Bob lunchboxes. It was a magical moment.

I walked up to them. They all looked the same. "Does it matter which one I choose?"

"Yes, it does."

"What will happen if I choose the wrong one?"

"The side effects are generally mild, but the primary effects will gather all your attention."

That sounded pretty bad. I walked up and down in front of them, looking them over. I couldn't tell any difference in any of them. I finally turned to the rooster and said, "I choose the one you would choose."

"A wise decision."

It got up and walked over and picked up one with its beak. Holding it by its handle, it turned and held it out to me. I reached forward somewhat uneasily, suddenly acutely aware of the bird's size. I took the lunch box and held it lovingly in my hands, then opened it. Inside it was, of course, full of golden sponge cakes. I took one out. Another appeared in its place. It held an unending supply. I took a bite. It was delicious, heavenly.

"May I have a sample?"

I started to say yes, but then stopped, a wave of fear going through me. For all I knew, I might look even more tasty than what was in the lunchbox. "A sample of what?" I finally said.

"You have passed the test. I offer you my kingdom and everything in it, if you will accept it."

I thought for a minute. Normally an offer like that would be pretty attractive, but his kingdom seemed pretty forbidding, with its wall or fence that kept out almost everyone. I didn't think I would really like being cooped up in the cave all alone either, perhaps for all eternity, unless I could eventually trick some other person into taking my place. "You're very kind, but I'm afraid I can't accept it. I'll just stick with the lunchbox."

"Very well. The way out is over here," it said, indicating a large white door set into the wall.

I went over and opened it. Light poured out from it, then light was everywhere. I stood there blinking, then saw my wife over by the light switch. I was standing in front of the refrigerator, holding the door open with one hand, and eating something with the other.

"What are you doing? You know you're supposed to be on a diet! And what is the lunchbox doing open on the table?"

"Does it, er, have any sponge cake in it?"

"Not anymore, everything's gone, I'll have to repack it before he goes to school. And you're still eating! Put down that chicken leg."

I stared at it. "Don't worry," I said. "I only, er, took a sample."

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The Wombat and the Pudding

This is a story that I did for a message board, on a thread normally concerned with comically constructing new words and definitions. They were at that time doing exercises where a user gave a short list of words and other users then wrote a story containing those words.

This is another of my stories from my post number 1000 for that message board. The list of words for this story: prickly, pudding, marbles, wombat, braids.

This story is dated 9:23 PM, December 1, 2006, Arizona time (MST).


The wombat, missing a few marbles, made braids out of the pudding and put the result on its head. "Blame it on the prickly heat, that's what I say," it exclaimed.

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Dream - The auction of the lion-thing

On Sunday morning, April 19, 2009, I had a dream about being at a place where something partly hidden was being auctioned, something that looked something like a lion.

In the dream, I was in a place with long white tables or counters, that occasionally had computers on them. The main area was a very large room, but it had smaller offshoots. I wandered around, sometimes fiddling with the computers. Sometimes a few people were there, and sometimes not. Time passed. My mood was glum.

Then an auction started in the middle of the room, in the rows of white tables or counters. I went forward and looked at what was happening. The thing being bid on was mostly hidden behind a white curtain or sheet, but the curtain was pulled back a bit and a little of the object showed. It seemed to be something at least partly like a lion, very large and probably life-size, with its mane showing, but with a long narrow structure extending upward from the area of the neck. I'm not sure what the lion-thing was made of. It was colored a bright shiny reddish color, tending toward blue in some places, with the color looking like part of the material and almost translucent. It looked like it might be some type of fiberglass or plastic, but a fairly heavy kind. I wondered about its age. It didn't really seem like it could be too ancient if it was made out of that, though I supposed it could date from the early 1900s.

I wondered what the bidding would be, and if it would go fairly cheap. It started out, though, around 600 or 650 dollars I think. Then someone bid 1500, but the auctioneer didn't seem to be acting on it. He was still referring to the earlier bid when asking for a higher one, and someone bid 750, which he accepted and then started trying for more. I was getting really confused. Why wasn't the other bid being recognized? I heard, then, some people referring to it, but they treated it as less than the other bids, that it was somehow something like 150. But the man had said fifteen-hundred, could fifteen hundred be less than seven hundred and fifty? I was getting more and more confused and couldn't make it work.

Finally the curtain was pulled back and the whole thing was revealed. To my surprise it seemed to be some kind of ostrich, and instead of a mane it had the round body with its wings and feathers, and also a pale, faintly violet series of large drooping panels around its neck and over the top of its back, apparently for riders to sit on.

At the time I had the dream, the Wordzzle game for next week involved the term "auction block," and I had been working on the stories. That's probably where the auction concept came from. I didn't have any lions or ostriches in them, though, just polar bears.

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Dream - My grandmother is voted president of a club

Sunday, February 1, 2009, I had a dream in which I was traveling with the rest of the family, and then I went to a place where a small election was held.

In the dream, in the first part I can remember, I was in a bathroom, with another, larger, room of some kind attached to the back. It was a white wooden structure with a concrete floor, outside away from things. It had a big dirt area around it with patches of short grass. No other building was close. I was trying to clean the toilet some. I think my father had left me or brought me there. The whole family was traveling, me with them. The rest of the family, and my father, were in another place right now, perhaps at least partly separately, some place in the town.

I went to a place in town, then, apparently where we were going to meet. It was composed mostly of a very large, open room, maybe around a hundred feet on a side, with a long room at the back with rows of people like a smallish movie theater, or like the inside of a large airplane. I think it was an eating place, though it may have sold some things, too. The attached big building was entirely open, with just pillars holding it up. It was white painted stucco, with low walls in various places, including along the edges, and some areas were different levels. It was landscaped inside and out, and had some eating areas inside and out.

We had to vote, then, in a place in the big room. It seemed mostly the people in the place who were voting, though perhaps some others also went in there to vote, too. A woman was taking the votes out of the ballot box and reading them. Other women were gathered around her, watching. The votes were just little pieces of paper, maybe three by five inches.

She was also happily saying something about a code that was used or was now being used. It was three or four letters long, the first part of a much longer word, which she also gave. I don't remember now what they were. I wasn't sure what importance it really had, it just seemed to be a handy word that was associated with their business or business goals in some way, and that they were now using the first part of the word as a code to put on a lot of things and communications, as a kind of reminder.

When she got to my votes, I had put in a few, this was evidently allowed, she looked up and starting kidding about my ballots. Evidently people had their own names on their ballots too, along with the person they had voted for, identifying themselves. She was saying something about how she knew these were mine, that the 3's had fancy curlicues.

I was standing about twenty feet away, and frowned as she was saying this. I didn't know exactly what she was talking about. I didn't remember writing a 3, and could only assume that she was referring to the letter E, my middle initial, which looks something like a backward 3 when written, though I don't make any fancy curlicues on it. I guessed she was trying in some way to kid me about it looking like a backward 3, which didn't make much sense to me since that was what it was supposed to look like.

When all the votes were counted, my grandmother was elected, apparently as president of a club, or something like that. I'm not sure exactly what it was. In real life, she died in late 1984.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Wordzzle 77 - The silent majority

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 my entry number 21, for Wordzzle week 77.

Ten Word Challenge:

blind panic,
soap operas,
cajun cooking,
free and easy,
public school,

It wasn't a public school, but it was a fenced-in institution. People were put there who had special problems. Very special problems. They were getting a lot of new residents, too. It was not free and easy to get in there, and in many cases not even entirely legal, but many people were put there by concerned family members, moved out of their house and apartments, sometimes with little or no warning.

It wasn't the usual problems or phobias, not fear of dirt or germs or fleas or even Cajun cooking or sangria. Still the people arrived, often in a blind panic. They were difficult cases, too, and some who came never left. Sometimes when a person's favorite soap opera went off the air, there just wasn't much you could do.

Mini Challenge:

keeping secrets,

I checked the calendar again, but it had no appointments for me. No classes either. I looked at the next week and the next month, and finally at the whole year, but nothing was there anywhere. Unless the calendar was keeping secrets from me (and they sometimes do, boy have I been surprised) it looked like it was going to be one boring year.

I finally started looking at the pictures on it. They were all of fashion models. Well, no wonder, what do they know. With disgust, I put the calendar back on the shelf and picked up another one. Hmm. This one had cats on it. Maybe it would be better. Cats seem to know everything.

Mega challenge:

blind panic,
soap operas,
cajun cooking,
free and easy,
public school,

keeping secrets,

Walking along, I passed by what used to be a public school. There were no classes on the calendar today, though. The neighborhood had changed, and there weren't enough kids and it was shut down. It was going to be torn down and something new put up, but money had run out, and now it simply lay in ruins, partially demolished.

Some people were camping out in it, probably vagrants. The smells of Cajun cooking drifted toward me. As I got closer, I could see them roasting something over a fire, and they were drinking something that might have been sangria, though it was hard to tell for sure. It looked like they were getting pretty drunk already, though they remained strangely silent. I crossed the street to the other side and continued on.

As I passed some apartments, a dog came out, fleas jumping all over it. I was afraid it might want to transfer some of them to me, but it acted like it was behind an invisible wall, and didn't try to jump up on me.

I passed a store with TVs in the window, heavily discounted. Good luck with that. Everything was reruns now, even soap operas, and it had just gotten too boring for most people. Too depressing, too.

I came up to a supermarket. Its windows were boarded up, but it was still open. A long line of people stood in front of it. The owner was just letting in a few at a time, so he could keep a better eye on them. This was getting common, and I had seen it in other places. Things had gotten to the point that people no longer cared as much what was legal and what was not, and were doing more shoplifting than paying. What they regarded as free and easy, though, the shop owners did not, and so the present setup evolved.

I watched as the owner took in a few people, than put his hand up to indicate that the others had to wait. Some in the front assumed exaggerated pleading postures, but he shook his head. One of the people halfway back along the line leaned out and formed his hand into an imitation of a gun and pretended to shoot at the shop owner. The shop owner pretended to shoot back, and the man in line clutched his chest and went into an overly dramatic death that took several minutes. One of the other people pretended to go into a blind panic, running around and jumping up and down and pointing at the "dead" man. I had seen similar things before, far too many times, but it never seemed to go out of fashion.

A real policeman came by and saw the situation and got into the spirit of things, pointing at the body and looking accusingly at the crowd, finally going up to one person after another, glaring intimidatingly at them. But they were real good at keeping secrets, and no one said anything. I shook my head at what was happening and moved on.

I had hoped that things would get better, but they just kept sliding downhill. I saw this type of stuff over and over, day after day, and the whole structure of the city, and of life in it, was slowly falling apart. Presumably it was the same way elsewhere, too, but it was hard to know these days.

I continued to walk through the silent city, sometimes stepping around invisible walls, sometimes seeing other people do the same. It just seemed to never end. The epidemic itself had largely passed, but the effects remained. The epidemic that would in later generations be called the mime flu.

Nobody called it that now, though, or said anything at all.

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The Inspirational Blog Award

On Monday, August 17, 2009, I was given the One Lovely Blog Award from Akelamalu on her blog Everything And Nothing. Thank you, Akelamalu!

This is the fourth blog award I have received.

The award came with several rules, including passing it on to ten other people, but I'm only going to be able to comply with the part about linking back to the blog where I received it. I have already given the link to the blog, in the first paragraph, but below is the link to the specific post:

Everything And Nothing: Partytime............

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200th post

This is the 200th post on this blog. It came a lot faster than the 100th post.

Coincidentally, the four year anniversary of this blog falls on August 22, 2009. I managed to get 200 posts in time for it, but that wasn't a goal, they just happened to come together. For several months I've been posting a lot more than usual, at several times the previous rate in fact. A couple of months ago, it looked like I might hit 200 posts before the end of the year, but as I neared August it became apparent that it was going to be sometime in August. I thought that I had started the blog around that month, but I had to check to see what date it was. It looked for a while like the 200th post might come significantly earlier than August 22nd, but I had to devote more time to other things the last couple of weeks or so, and the number of blog posts dropped a bit. Originally I hadn't planned to mention the anniversary, then began to think I might make a post about it. They were now so close together, though, that I decided to put them both in the same post.

Besides the increased number of posts per month during this hundred posts, the addition of the Wordzzle posts is probably the biggest change. The other posts are generally of the type I've had on before, though dreams may be a slightly bigger proportion of them than previously.

I also started getting my first blog awards. So far, they are just in the posts where I mentioned them, but I'll have to get around to modifying the template, something I rarely do, and put them in along the side.

Another change is the addition of a Table of Contents for Stephen's Thoughts, in another blog linked to from this one. Though I suspect it's rarely used, I wanted to show what was available, and make it easy to get to any particular post. It's probably good that I did it, since the link at the bottom of the blog to older posts has recently disappeared. I've noticed that it's not on some other blogs either. Perhaps they still use the older format template, as I do, and for some reason some features are being dropped.


Comics art imitating life

Several times over the years I've had some cases of deja vu while seeing images on television. I was able to place them fairly quickly, though, in some cases instantly, as things I had seen in comic books long ago.

One time, several years ago, I saw an old clip of some disaster in some other country, with the announcer in the foreground talking into a microphone and dirt and debris behind him, and an old man kept coming into view a few feet back. The old man had his mouth open wide in an expression of despair, the mouth a tall rectangle with a few ragged teeth showing and a lot of them gone. He kept coming back on camera, evidently wanting to be part of the broadcast, always with the same expression, always looking the same. I was astonished. It was the same figure I had seen in the comics, drawn by Jack Kirby probably, probably in the 1960s or early '70s. I had thought it was terribly exaggerated when I saw it in the comic book, the mouth open far beyond anything in real life, with lots of artistic license, but here was the original for it, what must have been the original, and it looked just like it.

There was also a case where I saw, again several years ago, a scene in a movie in which some people were sitting down with their backs to each other, maybe tied up but I'm not sure now, with the tops of their legs seeming unusually long and sticking out too far. I had seen the same image, with Sgt. Fury and some of his commandos I think, tied up in a circle with their backs to something, back in the mid 1960s. I had thought at the time that the legs were much too long, that their length was terribly exaggerated, but they looked the same in real life.

Another time, several years ago but perhaps a little more recent than the others, I saw a replay of an Elvis Presley concert, from the late '60s probably, or maybe a little earlier. In one scene, his arms were stretching out in opposite directions, and his hand was reaching out toward the camera, fingers spread, his face turned and looking up toward the camera imploringly as he sang. The cloth of his sleeve was covered in wrinkles because of the arm stretching out and upward like that, and the fingers large and foreshortened, the fingertips looking square and seeming to form an arc with the thumb. I realized with wonder that I had seen the same thing years ago, in a comic where the Human Torch was having trouble with his powers and trying to light up without much success. It had seemed exaggerated again, the extreme foreshortening and the large hand with the squarish fingers in an arc, and the extreme wrinkling of the sleeve, an unusual thing for a superhero costume and it seemed a vastly overdone effect. Even the anguished face was there.

Then, a few years ago, I saw part of an outdoor concert from the mid '60s, with Peter, Paul and Mary among the performers there. The camera tended to stay on Mary as she sang, looking up at her face, which was in the sunlight. Her face had dark shadows in places, and because of the angle of viewing looked more squarish. The wind was blowing, blowing strands of blond hair across her face as she sang, the hair making more shadows, strands of shadows on her face. I realized, again with astonishment, that I had seen the same image in the comics, probably for Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman, another member of the Fantastic Four.

I'm not suggesting that there's anything wrong with doing this. It's common for artists to use models, and common for artists to take inspiration from real life and from what they see around them. It's just interesting to know what the artist(s) in these cases used, and that the extra effort was put forth, even when a comic was involved. And also that, though some of the drawings seemed exaggerated, they were in fact drawn from life.

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Dream - The creatures in the basement

On April 7 or 8, 2009, I had a dream in which I apparently killed something that turned out to be a baby dragon, and when I tried to escape I went into a basement filled with strange creatures.

The first part of the dream, except for some vague impressions of driving back and forth doing pickup and delivery, is largely forgotten.

Then, at some point, I came to a place like the front parts counter of a local Chevrolet dealer, as it was back in the 1970s and '80s. There was someone behind the counter and also someone outside it. There were also a few other people nearby. It was sometime in the morning.

After a while, my mother showed up. I think she went there to tell me something, perhaps to remind me to come home for lunch, though I'm not sure. I talked to her for a while, and sometimes to a person or two in the area. We started slowly drawing away, then, preparing to leave, but though she took a step or two away, my mother kept on talking to someone at or near the counter, her body turned partly back toward them. I waited, not saying much myself, and getting a little impatient.

While waiting, I noticed a dark, roundish, hazy-looking thing, like a large bug, near the counter along where a small side wall was, where the floor met the wall. It looked like a small dustball, with a long, thin, neck-like structure sticking out of it. I threw something at it, breaking the neck-like structure off. It was brittle, like a thin piece of meat that had been burned almost to ashes. My mother objected, too late, saying, "Ohh!...," disappointed. It was going to grow up into a dragon. Well, too late now.

There was some question about the dragons getting mad, and something else was happening where the thing was, something growing out of the dustball, a small totally black dragon, looking two-dimensional, like a dark, impenetrable shadow, except for an eye, like a cutout in the shadow, looking mad.

Some things were coming, somewhere out there, somewhere to the west. Someone came and told us and some others. Looking out, you could sense them, feel them coming, though nothing was visible yet. The day seemed darker, as faint clouds partially obscured the sun, which seemed to be getting low in the sky. A faint, slightly cool wind blew in from the west, the direction from which they were coming. I'm not sure exactly what they were, but we were told that the dragons were notifying a lot of the other strange, fantastical (and generally large) animals, which had then notified others, etc. They were now headed our way, converging on us. We had to get away before they got here.

There was a narrow doorway beside the counter, with old chipped paint on the door frame and short hallway beyond, light blue paint showing though the white outer paint so much that it was mostly blue. It led down some old grimy short steps to a dark sunken room, maybe six to eight feet down. Some boxes and things were in the room, mostly near the walls. Strange things hid among the boxes, fantastic creatures.

I went a little down the stairs. A wizard, standing outside near the doorway, told us we needed to hide, to go to our secret places as planned, as we had rehearsed. A bunch of people, some outside and some inside, did as instructed, disappearing, going under the layers of reality, like burrowing under layers of cardboard, disappearing like bugs scurrying away from the light, and the place was suddenly almost empty. I went away too, going through layers that were like stacked cardboard, reaching a place beyond like a little niche.

The creatures were surprised, puzzled, not sure what to make of the sudden activity and then the emptiness. I came out, though, and went through the darkened sunken room, the things watching from the shadows, interested but still slow to move, slightly cautious after the strange happenings. They were generally not very large, probably mostly in the two to four foot high area, but they tended to be on the thick side, particularly their upper bodies and heads, and could be very dangerous. They started to get a bit more bold, slowly coming out of their hiding places.

I went up the stairs on the other side of the room and out to the back yard, which appeared to be the back yard of my grandmother's house in Arizona, although her house there didn't have a basement. There were more strange creatures out there, different from and not connected with the creatures inside, like they each had their own dimension or universe. There were various objects in the yard and back by the house. It was night now, out back, though when I had killed, or apparently killed, the bug creature it had been morning, perhaps near lunchtime. Now, out back, it was late at night, perhaps ten or eleven, and the creatures were sleeping, not expecting anything. Someone came up the stairs after me, perhaps my mother or maybe another relative, I'm not sure now. Some of the creatures from inside were starting to follow us, heading for the stairs to come up after us.

I went to the right around a corner, to where part of the house was set back a bit. There was a stack of the creatures there, sleeping. I woke them up. They were a little slow to wake, and puzzled at what was happening, surprised too. Some of the things from inside were getting in the yard now. There was an old round piece of cardboard, like an oversized plate, that I half tossed, half pushed toward a creature or two. There was also a largish crumpled ball of old cardboard that I rolled and tossed.

The creatures were slowly murmuring to each other and milling around, dim forms in the darkness. We all started playing with each other, like children, a kind of slow motion playing, and the mood became happier and lighter.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Wordzzle 76 - Masks

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 twentieth time I've played the game.

Ten Word Challenge:

flea market,
falling leaves,
who was that masked man?,
keeping kids out of trouble,
I'm a believer,
bonnet in the attic,

Falling leaves blew through the deserted flea market. Before it had been a flea market it had been an amusement park, and before that a place for circuses and fairs. It had been one thing after another, for generation after generation. Right now it seemed to be between incarnations, haunted by the ghost of its former self and without any indications of what might come next. I walked through it, looking at the remains of what it had been.

Eventually I became aware of someone walking beside me. We talked for a bit, about various things. When I turned to look at him, he was wearing a clown mask and a clown costume. It seemed odd, but I didn't say anything about it. We continued walking.

"Too bad this place is closed again," I said. "It used to be popular, but the owner ran out of money."

"Yes, times are hard, many places have closed. This one will reopen eventually, as something else. It always does." He wore a cowboy mask and a cowboy outfit now.

"There's not many places for kids to go, now," I said. "Not many jobs for them either. I'm afraid a lot of them are going to get into trouble."

"I'm a believer in keeping kids out of trouble," he said, dressed like a ringmaster now and wearing a mask with a long curly mustache.

"You seem to have a lot of costumes," I said.

"I also have a bonnet in the attic."

"Oh? Which attic is that?"

"I have many bonnets, in many attics. Some are quite nice, but I wouldn't mind being seen dead in any of them," he said, wearing a leprechaun mask and costume.

"I have no idea how you do it, but you do the best job of switching costumes I've ever seen."

"I accept your compliment, but there's no need for superlatives. It's easier than it seems, and not entirely what it appears," he said, looking like a magician.

"You're speaking in riddles."

"Perhaps, but I speak as I think. Misunderstanding may induce misdirection, but I give out no disinformation," he said, looking like an old wizard carrying a staff.

We had reached the other edge of the flea market. He turned to me, looking like trapeze artist. "I have to go now."

"What shall I say when people ask 'who was that masked man?'"

"We all wear masks. Tell them what you like."

"I don't wear a mask."

"Then here, take one of mine."

Then he handed me a mask that looked like me.

Mini Challenge:

deep in the forest,

Deep in the forest, away from the cities, away from the government, away from anyone who knew him and anyone he knew, he found an old trunk. He stood there looking at it, wondering why someone had left it there, in the forest. He felt he should probably open it, but it wasn't his, and though it had apparently been abandoned, it might not be. He rubbed his upper lip with his finger, a nervous habit of his. He couldn't just go away and not see what was in it. There might be something valuable, something that shouldn't be left out here and lost.

When he opened it, he saw that it had a wide tray across the inside, formed into sections for holding different things. The tray held a variety of items, old letters and keepsakes and heirlooms, some charming and some not. He lifted the tray out, and saw that underneath it the bottom of the trunk was gone, and the ground under it as well. A wooden ladder led downward, changing into a steep staircase as it went. He heard distant sounds, distorted, and caught glimpses of bright pinpoints, like eyes reflecting light.

He stared, flabbergasted, then suddenly put the tray back over it and stood there leaning on the edges of the trunk, trying to catch his breath. Then, trembling a little, he slowly took the tray back off. The trunk was now filled with a variety of items. There were old shoes and old dolls, and pieces of dolls, and old boots and old gloves.

He also came across an old wallet, very old. He opened it up and looked inside. It didn't have any money or credit cards, but it had a driver's license. The driver's license had his name and his signature, but the wrong address. It also had his picture, but not the one he had on his license. It was a poor picture, and faded, but he seemed to be older in it.

He finally put it back, and put the tray back in and closed the lid. He leaned on the lid for a while, trying to absorb what he had found and what had happened. He couldn't make it work, though. Nothing fit in, nothing made any sense.

He straightened up and stared at the trunk. It shouldn't even be here. What would a trunk be doing in the middle of a forest? He felt he should leave, really felt he should leave, but somehow couldn't bear to. He couldn't leave like this, with everything making no sense.

Finally, he hesitatingly opened it up again, and slowly took the tray out, almost afraid to look. As he took the tray out, he could see that what was inside had changed again. He held the edge of the tray against his stomach and peered over it. The trunk now held a body. It was on its back with its knees by its face. The eyes were staring outward, the mouth slack, the face blank and expressionless. It looked much like him, but instead of being clean-shaven, it had a long mustache that curled up at the edges.

Suddenly the eyes turned toward him and winked. He screamed and dropped the tray back down on it and backed up a few steps. He stared at it, his eyes big, his face in a grimace. Then he went toward it and quickly closed the lid and moved the clips into place to latch it. Then he backed up again and stared at it, breathing hard, a shudder running through him.

Something tapped him on the shoulder. He recoiled and turned away from it and ran mindlessly through the woods. Suddenly something big was right in front of him and he tumbled over it, hitting his head on a rock on the ground. Dazed, he dimly saw the trunk again, beside him, and heard voices talking around him. They all sounded alike and it was hard to follow the conversation. Consciousness faded, then, and his sleep was troubled by strange dreams.

He finally awakened, late in the day, and sat up and held his head and groaned. Beside him on the ground was the massive trunk of an old tree. A squirrel came out on top of it and scolded him. He stared back at it, then began to move slowly closer, softly talking to it. The squirrel ran along the trunk to the base, where the tree spread out in a tangle of broken roots, and ran over the edge into them and disappeared.

The man got up and followed it and found that the tree was hollow. Deep inside it he saw two eyes shining in the darkness, looking back at him. He wondered if squirrels' eyes were supposed to shine in the dark. It didn't seem right, but he wasn't sure. It was hard to think with his head hurting like this. He started to move in closer, to stick his head inside the tree, but then he paused, and finally drew back. The eyes looked back for a while, but then were gone. He started to go into the tree then, without even thinking about it.

He crawled in on his hands and knees into the darkness, his head and back scraping the top of the tunnel, the air full of the smell of rotting wood. Then suddenly the space seemed to open up quite a bit. He could feel the change in the air and in the way sounds came to him. He seemed to be close to the edge of a vast underground area, though he couldn't see much in the darkness, just occasional distant pairs of pinpoints that could have been eyes. He paused, unsure what to do or whether it was safe to go on.

Suddenly, something grabbed his hand. He screamed and tried to pull his hand away, but it wouldn't let go. He screeched and pulled and pulled, and finally yanked his hand away and hastily backed out. Standing up, he backed away from the trunk, staring at the hole, breathing hard. This was a very strange place. Whatever was in there, he really didn't want any part of it.

He twirled the end of his long mustache, a nervous habit he had, then turned and walked quickly away.

Mega challenge:

flea market,
falling leaves,
who was that masked man?,
keeping kids out of trouble,
I'm a believer,
bonnet in the attic,

deep in the forest,

"Are you a believer?" a voice said. "Are you a believer?"

"I'm a believer in some things," I said. I was deep in the forest, and no one was around, but it didn't seem important somehow.

"Are you a believer in me? Are you a believer in us?"

"I don't know who you are or what you want me to believe in, but I guess I can say that I believe I'm hearing you."

A tiny woman flew out from among the trees, on long dragonfly-like wings. "Perhaps that will be close enough," she said.

I suppose I should have been flabbergasted, but I was only a little surprised. It seemed strangely normal. "You look quite charming," I said.

"Thank you," she said. "You said the same thing the last time, but it's always appreciated."

"I saw you before? I don't remember it."

"Yes, humans are frequently like that."

"If I saw you before, why did you have to ask if I believed?"

"It helped to put you in the proper state of mind. Humans sometimes need prompting."

"I suppose I should ask you to take me to your leader."

"We do have leaders, but not governments as you think of them. However, it is not necessary to see one at this time."

"Do you have cities, then, or something else you can show me?"

"We do not have cities. What would we do with them? We live in homes in the forest, in trees or under rocks or behind waterfalls, and whatever other place that we may like."

"Can you take me to your home?"

"Yes, but it will be a more difficult journey than you think."

"Let's go, then. I want to see it."

She turned, then, and led me on a winding journey through the trees and underbrush. Things got more dense and tangled as we went, and soon I was fighting my way through branches, with falling leaves hitting me on the head and shoulders. "Is it going to be much longer?"

She turned and looked at me, hovering in the air. "Do you believe?"

"I guess so. I'm here aren't I?"

"Then let's continue. We still have a little ways to go."

Soon I was finding the path through the branches easier, as they grew mostly above me, but I was having trouble with tree roots, as they seemed to be increasingly in the way and of enormous size. After a while I was actually having to climb over them.

"Here we are," she said, landing by a hole in the base of a tree. "This is where I live."

I walked up. "Can I go in?"

She turned to me, and I realized that I was now her size. "Yes, you can. For a while."

We went into the tree, into a little room that had been carved out of it. Giant spoons hung on the walls. In the middle was a little wooden table with thimbles around it to sit on.

"You don't sit on mushrooms?"

"We sit on whatever's convenient. Sometimes it happens to be a mushroom, but usually it's something else. Not everything is as it is in fairy tales. There's a lot of disinformation out there."

"Do you live here alone?"

"I have some children, but they're not here now."

"What about your husband?"

"Our customs are not your customs. The father sometimes visits and sometimes not. He was here more often in the early days."

"I see, I guess. What do your children do? Where are they? Are they in school?"

"We don't have schools, though we have teachers. Perhaps the children are being taught something now. I don't know. We don't have schedules."

"You just let them learn when they feel like it?"

"We let them learn when they are ready."

"I would think that if left to themselves, they would more often choose not to, and would spend most of their time playing and maybe getting into trouble. Discipline is a big part of keeping kids out of trouble, and there doesn't seem to be much discipline in what you describe."

"We do not have much of a problem with them getting into trouble. Our definitions of trouble differ, though."

I walked up to the walls and looked at the spoons. They were evidently made by humans, for the use of humans.

"We like to collect things," she said. "The things in here have been collected over many generations. We tend to regard them all as heirlooms, even the newer ones. We do not regard time as you do."

"What else have you collected? Can you show me?"

She led me deeper in the tree, through winding corridors to other rooms, and sometimes up stairs carved into the wood. Many things had been collected, of a wide variety. Much of it seemed like flea market or garage sale type of stuff, but not all of it.

"You don't seem very interested in collecting the best or the greatest or the most valuable."

"We tend not to think in superlatives, thinking more of what is needed, of what will work or may work, and of what we like or may like. Sometimes this does result in collecting something valuable, such as jewels or something in silver or gold, especially if the item is very pretty. Usually our needs are filled with lesser items, though."

We continued our tour. After a while I came across a giant black band hanging on a wall, with huge eye holes in it, like a mask for Zorro or maybe the Lone Ranger. I went behind it and put my head through one of the eye holes. "Who was that masked man?" I said.

"Who do you believe that he is?"

I blinked. "Does my belief make a difference?"

"You are here and you can still say that?"

We continued on. In one room I saw a long wooden rod hanging on hooks on the wall. "What's this?"

"It's a staff, a walking stick."

"You mean like a cane? I didn't think you people needed such things."

"We usually don't, but this one has special significance."

She didn't say anything more about it, and I moved on, looking at the other things. Finally, after looking in a far room that contained a collection of giant shoelaces and king and queen playing cards, I sat down on a giant spool of thread there and rested for a while.

"You have quite a bit of stuff."

"Yes, and there's even more. We have underground rooms, too. They can wait for another time. There's a bonnet in the attic that you might be interested in seeing now, though."

She took me up some more stairs, which wound around and around and finally ended in a large room. It was mostly empty, but contained a few things. She led me over to what was apparently a small jewelry box, looking very large here. I had no idea how they managed to get it in here, or up the stairs. She opened it and took out a small, fairy-size green derby hat, and handed it to me. I looked it over. Inside I saw a name on the band. It was my name. I looked at her, then put it on. It fit perfectly.

"I guess this is my hat."

"Yes. You have worn it many times."

"I'd look at myself in it, but I don't remember seeing any mirrors."

"We sometimes find pieces of mirrors that we can use, but the ones I have are all in the underground rooms. They don't always show what you would expect, though."

"I see. Well, it's been a fascinating experience and I'd like to stay longer, but it must be getting late. I wouldn't want to have to go through the forest in the dark, so I'd better get going."

"Time works differently here, and doesn't always correspond to what is happening in the outside world, but yes, it's probably time to go."

"Can I keep the hat?"

She looked at me. "Do you believe?"

"Do I believe? In the hat? In the experience? It all seems real. I guess so."

She led me down, and through the rooms and the other stairs, until finally we were in the first room. I looked around it, looking at everything, trying to fix it all in memory. I was starting to feel a little light-headed for some reason. Perhaps it was all that going up and down the stairs, though it wasn't as tiring as I would have thought.

"We should go now," she said.

She led me out and I followed, as if in a dream. Outside, the wind had picked up a bit. Giant leaves blew across the ground in front of me. Beyond the tops of the trees, far above me, the sun passed behind a cloud. Things suddenly felt more threatening, ominous. I shivered. She urged me on, back across the giant roots that grew smaller as I went, and back through the tangle of branches. Finally, we seemed to be back somewhere in a more normal part of the woods, though I didn't recognize where I was. I guess one part of the woods looks too much like another.

I noticed that she was small again, and the trees seemed normal size to me. I reached up and felt my hat. It was still there, and still fit me. I was feeling funny, though, and disconnected from things. I wasn't sure I could find my way out of the woods from here. I looked at her. She hovered in a beam of sunlight, looking back at me. She looked as she had when I first saw her, but she seemed different somehow, more distant and unreal.

"Will I see you again?" I asked.

"You always do. Just remember to believe."

A wind slowly swept through the trees, making a growing roar. I heard a hooting sound, and turned my head and saw on a branch nearby an owl looking at me. I shivered, and a wave of fear went through me. I turned back and looked at the unfamiliar forest. Why had I stayed out so late? I felt I had to leave, to get out of here, but I wasn't sure which way to go. I scratched my head and something fell, something like a tiny hat. Something swooped in and caught it, something like a strange oversized dragonfly, and was gone.

I stared at the empty air unbelievingly, open-mouthed. I had never seen a bug that big. And where did that little hat come from? Well, I would have to think about it later. I needed to find my way out of the forest before it got dark, or before something else happened.

Whatever that meant.

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My Word Imperfect entries, Part II

A little over two years ago, I came across a blog called Word Imperfect, which is run by a person known as the Word Imp. At that time, the blog was normally updated every day, but for quite a while now new posts have been rare, due to the blog owner being busy with other things.

Originally, each day the Word Imp put up a new word and a made-up definition, and readers submitted comments with their own made-up, "wacky" definitions of that word. The next day, the Word Imp revealed the real definition and chose three finalists from the entries submitted. Readers voted (in a poll) for what they thought was the best one, and the next day the Word Imp announced the winner. The only prize was the glory of being chosen.

This is the second group of my Word Imperfect entries. The times given are the approximate times of my posts, in Arizona time(MST), from the clock on my computer.


1:18 PM 6/21/2007

A squacco is a stool pigeon, an informer, but one who makes no attempt to hide this and actually brags about it. The usefulness of such people is not as great as it could be, as they tend to suddenly disappear or meet with an unfortunate accident before being able to testify.


12:10 AM 6/23/2007

A limbate is a thicket so overgrown with branches (limbs) that a person cannot get through it. The word is a combination of "limb" and "hate."


3:59 AM 6/23/2007

A tortile is a general term for any item that goes into or on a tortilla.

Example: He was greatly enjoying the tortilla when several tortiles fell on his shirt.


11:54 PM 6/24/2007

A crambo is a type of machine used in the dairy industry for separating cream from milk. The word comes from a combination of cream and boy.


11:06 AM 6/25/2007 *** finalist

The Holothurian is a subdivision of geologic time within the Eocene epoch. During the Holothurian, a short period of cooling occurred that lasted approximately 1.5 million years. Numerous plants and animals disappeared during this period, but it is considered only a minor extinction event. The Holothurian began 38 million years ago, and ended with a worldwide return to warmer temperatures.

My entry for holothurian was chosen as one of the three finalists. It's allowable there to vote for yourself, and I did. I didn't win, though.

The vote count the last time I checked it:

8:02 PM 6/26/2007

Choose a winner for holothurian
Brian O Vretanos 47.06%
Stephen 17.65%
Gregg Mattocks 35.29%

Total votes : 17


8:31 PM 6/26/2007

Moxa is the plural of moxie, and is used when referring to a group of people who all have moxie.

Example: The mountain climbers were full of moxa.

I don't know whether my definition of moxa was a finalist or not, as I didn't get back to the site in time to check.


3:57 AM 6/28/2007

An incubus is someone who is really into doing Rubik's cubes.


12:45 AM 6/30/2007

Aboulia is an abnormal fascination with ghoulish films.


3:05 AM 6/30/2007 *** winner

A eudiometer is a device for measuring yodeling. It records variations in loudness, the frequency range used, the speed and intelligibility of syllables, and the tolerance level for the average non-Swiss listener.

My entry for eudiometer was chosen as one of the three finalists. It's allowable there to vote for yourself, and I did. I ended up the winner.

The vote count the last time I checked it:

8:29 AM 7/1/2007
Choose a winner for eudiometer
Stephen 100%
Shari 0%
K 0%

Total votes : 6


5:32 AM 7/1/2007

A crankle is a group of cranky people. They may be cranky about the same things or different things, and some may be cranky about many things. Some or all of them may also be cranky with each other. Approach a crankle with caution, as its affliction can be contagious.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dream - Chased through a forest of giant stalks into another dimension by the robot

A few years ago, perhaps in 2006 or 2007, I had a long dream that seemed interesting and important, but I didn't write it down until a year or two later. By that time, I had forgotten most of the beginning and the rest had become somewhat condensed.

In the dream, it was daytime. I went down into a low, wide place, something like a dry sunken riverbed. The surface was mostly dirt, mostly firm but a little soft, perhaps looking like a mostly dry mud flow, mostly flat but a little uneven, a little wavy. It was filled with tall pole-like plants. They each had at most a couple of stalks, six to ten inches thick, narrowing slightly as they rose. The stalks had occasional large leaves, perhaps a foot or a foot and a half long, set close to them. I crossed the riverbed to the other side and climbed back out onto normal land.

On this side were some old abandoned wooden buildings in disrepair, perhaps two or three of them. I walked slowly among them for a while, looking at things. A time or two I kicked the debris around them a little with my foot, just nudging it a bit. I may have briefly gone inside one or more of them, but I'm not sure. At least one or two of them seemed to be places I had known in the past, places that had been owned by my parents or had been in the family somehow, though they didn't exactly correspond to anything from real life. I think someone may have been with me for a little while, perhaps my brother. If so, he came separately, and possibly from a different direction.

Earlier, on the other side, the side I had come from, I had been with a few people, but I don't remember what was happening then. I had some concern about someone there who was trying to get me, some concern that he might realize I was here and come over, or send someone over. I think I might have come over the dry riverbed, past the tall pole-like plants, to escape. It was a distant concern now, though, a worry, something to be aware of. I seemed safe here for the moment.

After what seemed like a few hours, I could see out in the riverbed the distant figure of someone coming after me. He was sent by the person who was trying to get me.

He made it across to the buildings, and there was a period of time when I tried to escape him there, going back and forth and hiding behind the buildings and other things. I may have also sometimes gone inside the buildings.

At some point I went back into the broad, dry, sunken riverbed with the stalks, to try to get away. I think I made it most of the way to the other side, but I couldn't get away from him, and I turned back at an angle. He may have been around fifty or sixty feet behind me, though the distance varied somewhat, and he tended to get closer over time. Trying to better escape, I went up the plant stalks, getting perhaps thirty or forty feet up, and then went directly from plant to plant. Unfortunately, the person chasing me also climbed the plant stalks. I was also now distantly followed by a second person, who also climbed the stalks.

I went back across the riverbed to the side where the old buildings were and then back down in the riverbed, going along it, still going from stalk to stalk. They continued to follow me. The riverbed eventually became an actual river. The first person fell behind and the second continued.

I eventually turned to the left, to a small side channel at right angles to the main one, and landed at a small dock or pier, where it turned out I had crossed to another dimension. There was green grass, and beyond that a ways was a house. I met a few people at the dock. Some children were playing there, and one or two adults were standing there, though they seemed unconnected with the children. They were all dressed in old fashioned clothes, like from the 19th century, though the adults were dressed somewhat formally, wearing greenish brown pants and vest with perhaps a slightly lighter shirt.

The children took me to the house, where some more people were outside, and a few more came out to join them. The adults here were dressed more casually, in frontier style clothes. The children who had brought me and the people at the house were related to me somehow, or perhaps most of them were. The people were glad to see me, though a little surprised. I think I might have originally come from there, long ago, or at least that was my impression.

I had some adventures there, including at a nearby small town, but I kept worrying about the people chasing me and if they would catch me. I thought they might have a hard time finding me in the other dimension, though.

Finally I had to leave, even if they were still out there. I'm not sure now why I had to leave. It may have been some trouble that had happened to me there, perhaps somebody there chasing me now. The family members were sad to see me go.

I went back through into my dimension, and was in the water in the middle of the river, it seemed without anything to float with or on. There was someone in front of me a ways off, but he seemed harmless, somebody who had gotten in from the other side. He seemed happy, and there was a feeling that I knew him from somewhere, or that he knew me or knew about me. To the left side, in the distance, I saw the second figure that had been chasing me. He was on a small raft of some kind, maybe a rubber raft. He had passed the entrance to the other dimension and had now turned around and was coming back toward me, rowing.

The second figure was now clearly the robot with the fixed smile, a figure that has appeared in other dreams, and I had the feeling it was on my side now after all. In this dream it was normal sized, although in some dreams the robot was giant.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Wordzzle 75 - In their image

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 nineteenth time I've played the game.

Ten Word Challenge:

master of ceremonies,
dirty deed,

The dirty deed was done, but not quite finished. He walked through the ancient concert hall, a reluctant master of ceremonies to an empty house. He put a hand out to a crumbling pillar and felt it. It still seemed strong, but soon it wouldn't matter.

He sat down in one of the seats and ran his hands along the arms. One of the arms came off. He stared at it, turning it over in his hands. It seemed almost a sacrilege. He carefully put it back as best he could. It was only a token gesture, he knew, but he had to do it.

He got up and slowly walked up the aisle, over the dusty, decaying carpet, and finally reached the outside.

He looked at the almost deserted streets, and pulled his coat closer about him, trying to keep out the cold wind. He looked at the buildings of the city, and the darkened windows, some broken, the pieces hanging at odd angles. It seemed an humiliating mockery of the city he knew, set in a foreign territory. He turned and looked at the wall of ice, only half a mile away now. He would not live long enough to see it thaw. Neither would his children, or grandchildren.

He turned and sadly walked away, joining the others, the few who were still left, walking through the icy, snow-covered streets, away from the city.

Mini Challenge:

official portrait,
personal bank account,
shoulder bone,

"This is the official portrait of my shoulder bone," he said sadly. "The X-ray almost cleaned out my personal bank account. The insurance wouldn't pay for it."

"What's that white thing?"

"That's the implant the aliens put in me."

"It looks like a screw. Did you ever have your shoulder bone broken?"

"Yes, but that was long ago. I'm sure this is an implant. No one will believe me, though. Not even my wife. I just know they are going to come and take me away and no one will ever see me again. Maybe she'll believe me when she's a widow." A tear rolled down his face.

"Come on, it's not that bad. I'm sure it's just a screw that was used to hold your shoulder bone together."

"No! The aliens did it! See? No one believes me, not even my best friend. It's simply unbearable. You'll all be sorry when I'm gone."

"Look, relax, relax. Even if what you say is true, if the aliens did put an implant in you, that just means they're monitoring you, keeping track of you. It doesn't mean they'll come and take you away."

"They wouldn't monitor me for no reason. They must have something in mind. They must have something planned for me. I just know they do, and it's going to happen soon."

"Just relax, I'll get us some more drinks, and maybe something to snack on. We'll watch something on TV. After a while you'll feel better." He tossed the remote control to him and turned around and walked toward the kitchen. As he neared it, he saw light patterns on the walls from the TV and heard sounds and voices. He was glad that his friend had decided to go along with his suggestion.

When he came back from the kitchen with the food and drinks, however, he found he was alone, and the TV set was off.

Mega challenge:

master of ceremonies,
dirty deed,

official portrait,
personal bank account,
shoulder bone,

I ran my hand along the crumbling shoulder bone of the pharaoh, and wondered if there could possibly be any usable DNA in there, or in any of the other bones. If we could do it with a neanderthal, we should be able to do it with a pharaoh, even one over 5,000 years old. There were never any guarantees, though. An awful lot of the attempts failed, or were only partially successful.

We had developed techniques where we could put together the complete DNA for a person by combining DNA from the remains of lots of his cells, so we didn't have to find a cell that had everything, though it was easier if we did. If we had to, we could also fill in generic sections from DNA taken from other people. When we had the complete DNA, or had recreated it, we attempted to clone the person. Some of the attempts succeeded, but most of them failed, either not living at all, or dying long before birth. Then there were those that got to be three or four years old before we realized that they weren't quite right. We were getting quite a collection of them and I wasn't sure what to do with them yet.

The clones didn't have any memories of the people they had been, of course. They were just like other babies, and as they grew up they learned to speak English, even the neanderthal, though he sounded a little odd.

I had also managed to clone some people from the strangely shaped skulls found in the Mediterranean area. I had been curious as to whether the skull shape had been induced by some form of head binding or grew naturally. It turned out that it was natural, and the people were definitely different, enough so that I was a little concerned about them, afraid that they might be dangerous in the future.

So far all the clones were made from DNA that was from bones or tissue, or partially fossilized bones. We hadn't been able to obtain enough DNA yet from completely fossilized bones, but we were hoping to be able to refine the process enough to make it work. We had also recently gotten some samples from a body that was found frozen on a mountain. The body was only a few thousand years old and didn't seem to be anyone important, but we had never done it yet with material that had been frozen for that length of time and then thawed, and we just wanted the challenge.

There had been some hope initially that memory might somehow be encoded in the DNA, and we could find out what life was like when the original people lived. That hope had now faded somewhat. If DNA memory existed, we had so far failed to find it or decode it. It was too bad, really. We could have learned a lot of things.

The Abraham Lincoln clone was in its teens, now, and was a pretty homely kid and was depressed a lot. He liked to read and study, though, and there was some chance he might be destined for greatness. He had no idea who he was, of course. None of them did.

Not even the neanderthal kid. He was by far the ugliest of the lot, and covered in coarse hair. He was old enough now to worry about such things. We told him it ran in his family. He was then asking about his parents, of course. We told him they were both dead, which was, of course, true. He then wanted to know how they died and if they loved him, and we had to make something up.

Making stuff up wasn't a problem, as long as everyone told the same lies. We had extensive fictional histories of all of them in the computers, now. A couple of kids got confused in the early days, before we started keeping track of such things. They were told two or three different stories by different people, and in one case different stories by the same person. We got together after that and settled on particular stories, and then pushed that at them. They seemed to accept it, though their eyes looked a little unsure. It's been a long time since then. They don't ask about the earlier stuff anymore, and hopefully don't think about it.

In the earliest days it had been hard scraping up the money, particularly since we were kind of operating outside of things. It was hard to even gain access to things. No one would normally let you take samples of Abraham Lincoln or even a pharaoh, not for cloning purposes. We couldn't officially clone any human, there was too much of a stigma attached. A lot of people would simply call it sacrilege. I had to sneak around, getting my samples, pretending it was for other things, sometimes grabbing things when no one was looking. It was a lot harder now, with all the cameras watching, but it was hard enough then.

Part of the money I siphoned off of other projects, and part of it even came from our personal bank accounts. It was not nearly enough, though, to do what we needed to do, and we began to locate, by friends of friends of friends, shady people who would invest in us. It felt humiliating at first, for a scientist to have to do this. The first few times it was almost unbearable. Then I began to feel differently about it. I began to feel that it was something owed to us, and something owed to me. Let these strange people pour their money into it. It was probably all crooked money anyway. At least I was putting it to good purposes.

Several years ago we had gotten especially lucky, securing a mystery investor who provided enormous sums. I had never met him, but I would today. We had a meeting scheduled for this afternoon. He had asked for it, not me, and I didn't know what was coming, or why he had finally decided to reveal himself. That's something that kept bothering me. Why now? What did he want? I put the pharaoh's bone down and went to my office. I had to think about things, and try to prepare myself for anything he might ask about.

It was finally time for the meeting, then, and the secretary showed him in. He turned out to be a tall man in late middle age, with hair that was gray on top and white on the sides. He was wearing, of course, a very expensive suit, much more expensive than mine, as I still had modest tastes in that area.

"So, I finally get to meet the master of ceremonies for dirty deeds," he said, extending his hand.

"Well, that's one way to put it," I said, rising up to take his hand. "It's good to meet you, too, though I'm afraid I still don't know your name."

"That's intentional. I'm not ready to give that out yet. By the way, I noticed that picture of da Vinci out in the hall. Have you cloned him yet?"

"No, but we did do his widow."

"His widow? How odd. Why?"

"I'm just kidding. We haven't done any gods either, despite the statue of Apollo out in the courtyard."

He looked at me blankly for a moment, seemingly caught in mid-thought, then got jubilant again and tossed me a penny. "Have you shown Honest Abe his official portrait yet?"

I picked up the penny and looked at it. "He's still young and probably wouldn't notice any resemblance, especially with an image that small. Though he may have seen better pictures in some history books."

"Possibly so. And I'm sure there are others you've cloned, no I know there are others, famous leaders, artists, writers, musicians, etc., of which we also have pictures."

"Yes, though some are fairly obscure, and others would normally be found only in history books. And as with Abe, they're too young yet to really look like the normal pictures of them."

There was a little bit of a pause in the conversation then, as the topic seemed to have run it's course. I finally broke the silence. "Well, what is it that brings you here today, then? Is there something you wanted to see? Is there some aspect of it that you're particularly interested in?"

"As a matter of fact there is. It's come to my attention that you're scaling back the research into genetic memory."

"Yes. We're not making any progress in it right now. There may not even be anything to it. I'm only keeping it going at all because I think there's still a slight possibly of something happening, some kind of breakthrough that would let us move forward. I've come to doubt, though, that there's anything to find at all."

"There's got to be something to find. That, along with the cloning, is why I'm funding this thing."

"Hmph. Well, I can increase the funding some, but I'm not sure it will have any effect. Right now we're not making any progress at all in that area."

"You don't understand. You've got to make the progress. You're not getting this money out of altruism. You have to get the job done."

I stared at him. This had suddenly gotten a lot more complicated. "Is there a pet you're trying to bring back, or perhaps a family member? You understand, don't you, that even if they have the same memories, they won't be the same? They will just be copies that have the same memories."

"Yes, I understand. But I still want you to do it. I still have to have you do it."

"Who is it we are talking about, if I may ask."

"It's my great-grandfather. I only saw him a few times before he died. I'd like to have the opportunity to spend some more time with him."

"You barely knew him, yet you want him back instead of people that you really knew and loved, who have passed on?"

"Yes. I had time with them already. I didn't have any time to speak of with him."

I stared at him some more. Something didn't seem right. "You understand, don't you, that he won't look like he did when you knew him? He will be younger than you, much younger. In fact, he will start out as a baby, and by the time he's an adult you will be an old man." A really old man, I thought, assuming you're even still alive. "And that's if we were able to start now, which we're not. It's likely to be several years before we have any kind of success at getting back the memories, if we ever do."

"You've got to! You've simply got to! And it's got to be soon!"

"What is it really, Mr., um, X? What is it that you're really trying to do? It's got to be more than you've said."

There was a pause. He leaned back in his chair, looking nervous and upset, his head turning to the side, one hand rubbing his mouth. He finally turned back to me and said, "Look, it's got to be done. There are high stakes involved. My great-grandfather knew things, important things. I didn't know about it until much later, long after he had died. I came across a diary where it was hinted at, where he gave just enough that if you could read between the lines you knew what he was saying, but didn't dare really say. You've got to bring him and his memories back."

I looked at him, trying to digest what he had said. It still didn't seem to make any sense. "Whatever it was, it doesn't seem like you really need it. You're obviously wealthy, and it wasn't anything like immortality, because he wasn't able to save his own life."

"What you say is true, but it's more than that, it's, it's..."

"It's more than wealth and immortality?"


"But you can't tell me?"

"No. Not Yet. Maybe never."

"I see. Well, I'll increase the focus on the DNA memory. We'll do all we can in that area. If it turns out to be a dead end, we'll try something else, get the memories a different way."

"A different way? How?"

"I don't know yet. We'll think of something."

"Thank you! I knew I could count on you!" he said, rising out of his chair to shake my hand again. Then, as he was leaving he turned around and said, "I'm donating another 25 million. Make sure it's well spent."

"Oh I will, I will. Thank you."

He nodded, and turned and left, leaving me alone with my thoughts. It still didn't seem to be the complete story, even leaving out the fact that he had admittedly not told all of it. It might not even be the real story. I had wondered if perhaps he might be wanting to clone himself. Even knowing that the clone is not really you might not be enough to prevent the longing for something to survive, even if it's only a copy. But why not tell me, if that's all he wanted? He must have known that I wouldn't consider it an unusual request. What could it be, that would be so outrageous, or so dangerous, that he couldn't mention it to me? There wasn't much I was reluctant to do, if I thought it could be done. And if it couldn't be done, I was willing to spend the money to find out.

I picked up the penny he had left. I hadn't really thought about any problems that might occur with the clones seeing images of the originals. If they noticed a resemblance, they would have to assume it was just a coincidence. What else could it be? It's possible they might gain inspiration from the resemblance, and try to make their lives match up to the inspiration, even if they didn't actually end up playing the same roles in society.

Although a lot of them, almost all of them in fact, had shown themselves to be very similar to the originals, having similar tastes, and similar likes and dislikes. It wasn't quite the same as genetic memory, though it did show that a lot was encoded in the genes. If memory was encoded in the genes, what would be the purpose of it, if we couldn't access it except as a family history of likes and dislikes? If it was there, surely there must be a greater evolutionary purpose than that.

Many things were passed along, eye color, hair color, height, build, etc. Some of these could also be affected by environment, and sometimes it took generations for a change in environment to totally change people to the maximum extent. It could be a change for the better, like better nutrition making successively healthier, taller generations, until the maximum amount was reached. Or it could be something detrimental, like increasingly scarce food and resources sending people in the other direction.

Some things were less affected by environment. Thin or fat, small or large, a person could still adorn himself with whatever was at hand, whether it was gold and silver or colored plastic beads or even bone necklaces, if the person had the innate desire for adornment there was always some way it could be fulfilled. Woven grass could even be used, and if there was nothing at all in the surrounding territory, the person could use mud or ashes or make cuts with sharp stones.

It was a good thing to know that such genetic traits existed, and important in my line of work to know it, but was it saying that there was something more under it, that this was only the tip of the iceberg, or was it only what it appeared to be, and no more?

The extra money wouldn't be enough to find out. I knew that when it was offered, and so did he. It was much more than a token gesture, of course, and would be enough to start a lot of things going. Maybe one of them would produce a lead, something that would take us in a new direction. If not, I would think of something. Some new thing to do, some new thing to try. Something to keep the money flowing. I always did.

I flipped the coin in the air for a while, brooding about the man and what he said. It still didn't make any sense. I'm sure he knew that. He must have hoped to convince me easier than that, and had to come up with some reasons at the last minute. It's possible that he did really have a great-grandfather that he hardly knew, but the rest just didn't make any sense. Not unless the part he left out, or said he left out, really was crucial to understanding it.

I put the coin in the desk and got up. I might as well do some more work on old pharaoh, take samples from various places and see if anything could be done with them. No worries about him seeing portraits of himself. None existed that were anything more then vague cartoonish engravings on walls.

Outside, in the courtyard, I paused and wondered about the mystery man again. I was feeling more and more like I'd seen him somewhere. Perhaps a picture of him when he was younger. I couldn't be sure, but I couldn't shake the feeling. I stared for a while at the statue, at it's graceful form, and at the power it displayed. It was good inspiration for the work, but it didn't seem to offer me anything today.

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My Word Imperfect entries, Part I

A little over two years ago, I came across a blog called Word Imperfect, which is run by a person known as the Word Imp. At that time, the blog was normally updated every day, but for quite a while now new posts have been rare, due to the blog owner being busy with other things.

Originally, each day the Word Imp put up a new word and a made-up definition, and readers submitted comments with their own made-up, "wacky" definitions of that word. The next day, the Word Imp revealed the real definition and chose three finalists from the entries submitted. Readers voted (in a poll) for what they thought was the best one, and the next day the Word Imp announced the winner. The only prize was the glory of being chosen.

Only one post was devoted to each word. The post initially introduced the word and gave the Word Imp's made-up definition. The next day the post was modified to give the finalists, and a poll was set up on the right side on the blog so people could vote. The third day the post was overwritten, removing the fake definition and giving the real one, and announcing the winner. Since a new word was given each day, each day the site had a post with a new word, a day-older post with a different word that people were voting on, and a two-day-older post with a different word in which the real definition was given and the winner announced. Plus, of course, the older posts with the previous words and winners.

My entries have won or tied a few times, and have also sometimes been nominated and not won. In the current vote (for conterminal), which has been going on for several months now, I am a finalist but am unlikely to win.

I have decided to reprint my Word Imperfect entries here in occasional posts. The first group of entries is below. The times given are the approximate times of my posts, in Arizona time(MST), from the clock on my computer.


6:44 AM 6/8/2007

Quaquaversal is something that is true throughout the strange and magical land of Quaqua, a land that is reached by putting one's arms over one's eyes, stepping through the looking glass, and shouting, "Duck! Duck!"


10:09 AM 6/10/2007

Asperity is the branch of horticulture concerned with the cultivation of the asper. The asper is a flower related to the aster, but much more troublesome to grow and much less rewarding. Those who undertake such adventures are known as aspersions.


4:53 AM 6/11/2007

A horopter is a helicopter that is believed to be haunted or jinxed.

Example: After being tapped on the shoulder too many times and finding no one there, the pilot refused to ride in that "horopter."


10:42 AM 6/12/2007 *** finalist

Once a year, people named Matt gather for a special celebration called MATT (Matts All The Time). Those who attend but are not actually Matts are referred to as Mattoids.

My entry for mattoid was chosen as one of the three finalists. It's allowable there to vote for yourself, and I did. I didn't win, though.

The vote count the last time I checked it:

11:39 PM 6/13/2007:

Choose a winner for mattoid
Stephen 26.92%
Karoline 46.15%
Bloodboughtme 26.92%

Total votes : 26


9:37 PM 6/13/2007

Nonage is a term used to describe the remaining capacity of a ship that has been fully loaded, one that already contains its maximum tonnage.

Example: "I can't put any more in her, she's at nonage now."


5:02 AM 6/14/07

Jobation is a general term for the activities taking place on St. Jobat's day, which include the First Feast of Jobat, Comments on the First Feast of Jobat, the Second Feast of Jobat, Comments on the Second Feast of Jobat, the Third Feast of Jobat, Comments on the Third Feast of Jobat, and naptime. St. Jobat was a 7th century monk who didn't believe in fasting, and though now little known, was very popular in his time and for several centuries afterward.


9:45 AM 6/15/2007

A kymograph is used as an aid in the adjustment of chimes. It is a device containing multiple narrow extensions of different lengths, which have been set to vibrate when tones of the appropriate frequency are reached. To check a particular chime, strike the chime and see if the kymograph portion designated for that particular chime vibrates. If it does not vibrate, or if it vibrates poorly, or if more than one vibrates, readjust the chime and try again.


2:16 AM 6/17/2007

A splenius is the jar in which the ancient Egyptians kept the spleen and other organs when mummifying a person.


8:58 AM 6/17/2007 *** winner (2-way tie)

Pilose is the state of mental numbness brought on from calculating PI to too many decimal places.

My entry for pilose was chosen as one of the three finalists. It's allowable there to vote for yourself, and I did. I ended up in a 2-way tie for first place.

The vote count the last time I checked it:

12:40 AM 6/19/2007
Choose a winner for Pilose
Stephen 43.24%
Melissa 43.24%
Dan 13.51%

Total votes : 37


12:46 AM 6/19/2007

[I wrote this too late to be used. When I rechecked the site before posting the entry, I found that the finalists had already been chosen, so I didn't post it. I'm posting it here, though.]

Wivern means "woven fern." It is a type of fern whose branches are so woven together that they almost resemble a climbing vine.

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