Monday, January 25, 2016

The Apocalypse Ticket

Another Flash Fiction Challenge from Chuck Wendig. Takes place in the same city as the last one

In a small city tucked into the rocky coastline, which may or may not exist at any given time, a young man goes to visit his grandmother, who lives in one of the city's more upscale retirement communities. They like to play cards, and to this end, the young man picked a new deck of cards at a local shop. After greetings, hugs and offers of beverages, they get down to the card game. It's a simple affair, but fun for both parties.

During the second hand, something inexplicable happens. The young man goes to flip up a card, hoping for something useful so he can win the hand, but instead the card has text on it. It reads, "Ticket to the Apocalypse, January 31, 2 PM, Piazza Vecchia."

"What an odd card," the grandmother remarks. The hand is cancelled and the deck counted. All of the cards that are supposed to be there are there, and so the game continue. The young man pockets the strange card, intending on dealing with it later. 

On the way home, he stops by the shop to show the owner the card. When he pulls the card out it now reads, 3 PM. The young man blinks. He could have sworn that it said 2 PM earlier, but he didn't pay much attention. The owner opens several packets of cards and doesn't find another ticket in any of them.

"Strange," the owner says and the young man heads back to his place and posts about his experience on his network. Checking back later he finds that several people have found similar tickets in other places. One is found in a bar of chocolate, while another comes on the back of a grocery store receipt. One friend reports that it's on her birthday, but this confuses the young man. The friend's birthday is in February, not January. The young man pulls the card out of his wallet and the date is indeed her birthday, February 5th, the friend's birthday. He is confused; he could have sworn it said January 31. As an experiment, he takes a picture of it with his phone and sets it aside.

A week later, an article runs in the local newspaper about strange tickets showing up all over the city, with no two tickets showing up in the exact same manner. As if that wasn't strange enough the date has changed once again to March 10th. The young man opens his desk drawer and pulls out the card and there is it, "Ticket to the Apocalypse, March 10th, 4 PM, Piazza Vecchia." He pulls up the photo he took and it, to his surprise, reads March 10th. How could this be? His phone reports that it hasn't been changed since it was taken

The young man goes back to his network to look for the post from his friend and can't find it. He queries her, "Didn't you say the ticket had your birthday on it?"

"I think so," she says. "Let me look." After a few minutes she comes back to report, "Strange, I can't seem to find that post and I took a look at my ticket and it says March 10th which is clearly not my birthday." The two of them scratch their collective heads, but don't worry about it too much. Strange happenings are common in this city.

Over the next couple of months, the mystery deepens as more tickets appear and the date keeps shifting. Every time it does, every reference to the date changes, newspaper articles, photographs and even handwriting. It is as if reality is rewriting itself. One day, a countdown clock appears in the Piazza Vecchia, counting down to the event, It is strange because the countdown will jump back in irregular intervals. Once, it gets to within a half-hour of zero before jumping back a whole week. The newspaper headline the next day reads, "Apocalypse Now?"

After that day, the countdown stabilizes and stops changing. In addition, no new tickets appear. At the appointed hour the entire city,including streetcars, gathers in the piazza. What happens when the clock strikes zero depends on the person. For people without a ticket, nothing happens. The crowd disperses and the piazza is littered with discarded tickets. The people shrug and continue with their lives.

For those with a ticket, the outcomes are as different as the tickets' origins. For some, God, gods, goddesses or demons descend/ascend, to rule over mankind. For others, it was first contact with a variety of alien species, including a race of sentient streetcars. Reality itself has fractured into a thousand shards within the city limits.

What about our young man? For him, it was a PR stunt for a new movie called "The Apocalypse Ticket."

Friday, January 15, 2016

Random Flickr Flash Fiction Challenge

Chuck Wendig posed this flash fiction challenge:

This is my picture and story, inspired by the "weird" fiction of Michael Cisco, Leena Krohn, China Mieville and others.

In a city nestled in the mountainside with a view of the Mediterranean, the streetcars are alive and self-aware. To the residents this is not shocking or strange, just another quirk in a quirky town. An outsider might ask, "How can this be? Are they organic? Some form of genetically engineered monster with just the right combination of genes and circumstances for sentience?" The locals would say, "No, they are purely mechanical," nod their heads and say no more.

If pressed further, especially if it is later at night and a particular local has imbibed more of the city's wine than they should, they might give further details. "We have an engineer," they might say, "Mother of streetcars. She built them and presented them to town. They proved useful given the hills of our fair city. In some places, the cars run on rails, others they amble about freely. Well amble might not be the right words, given they have no legs just wheels like normal streetcars."

After hearing this the outsider might frown in thought, might struggle in making sense of what seems so fantastical. They might even ask, "I have seem words painted on the fronts of them. Do they mean anything?"

If asked this question, a local might grin and say nothing, but other locals might answer, "Those are their names, they were decided by the city residents and presented to the cars, they discussed it amongst themselves and decided who would wear what name. An local artist applied the names using spray-paint."

Another question a outsider, upon learning of the streetcars unique quality, would be, "I've seen operators on the street cars. If this conversation was taking place, in a bar, the local would frown and terminate the conversation, leaving the outsider to scratch his head. However, if the two were talking at a sidewalk cafe, admiring the streetlights of the Artist's Quarter, a local might respond. "They aren't operators of the traditional sense, they communicate with the streetcars through the panel. They are specially chosen and trained by the Mother of Streetcars. The operators are highly revered and don't have to pay for anything."

Upon hearing of this, outsiders might ask, "I saw a strange sight today. Two of the streetcars, Lone and Yobs, were stopped on a hill next to each other, yet both had passengers."

If the moon is out, full and shining down on them, the local might chuckle and say, "Those two gossip like two old women, there really isn't anything one can do about it. We are used to it and use the time to catch up with neighbors. Nobody here is much in a rush to do anything." At the end of such an evening, as the outsider is going back to his lodgings, the city has not proper hotels, they might no longer be an outsider. Having learned the city's secret, they might become a local. This, of course, assumes that outsiders can find the city, or that it even exists...

Monday, November 23, 2015

Work in Progress

I'm posting this per Chuck Wendig's request. This is a scene from my novel where Marvin, who comes from the aristocracy, quits his job to become a fisherman. The scene begins with his former boss confronting him as he gets off the fishing boat.

“Mr. Rogers,” the man was red-faced from the get go, “What do you think you are doing. You don’t bother to come back from lunch or come to work the next day. I went to your flat thinking that you might be sick, but I find you on this fishing boat dressed like this. I have given you a lot of slack because of your father. I let you hang around with these people and wear those silly clothes, because what you do off-duty is your business. Why you were even showing some promise that morning, and I was going to put you in for a promotion. You are a nobleman, and you should act like it.”

A small lump formed in Marvin’s throat. He had made an impression with his boss, but it was too late for that.

Marvin swallowed and said, “Perhaps I don’t want to. You, good sir, can take your crappy job and shove it.” With that, Marvin went below decks to help bring the fish up. When he came back, his now former boss was gone. That night, hard work lulled him into a  deep sleep. The next morning, however, Marvin could barely move, his muscles being sore from being worked so hard. He thrown himself into the work. It took him a little longer to get to the dock and when Don saw him, he said, “I wondered if your muscles were going to complain. It will go away in time."

That day was harder then the previous one, but over the course of the week, his muscles adapted. Despite the physical hardship, or maybe because of it, he immensely enjoyed working with his hands and doing something productive with his time. At the end of each day he could clearly see what he had done by the stack of fish they unloaded.

When it came to hair, the fisherman took the easy route, letting it grow out several months and then visiting the barber and getting it shaved so that only stubble remained. Marvin’s hair was such as to require much time to keep it in line and during that first week, he joined the rest of them as then went. Afterward he looked in the mirror, and felt strange. His hair was never this short, but he thought he looked good like this. Outside, feeling the sea breeze tickle his scalp he felt a peace so deep, it was amazing, like this was what he should be doing.

However, that peace would be shattered the next day. As the boat made its way to shore, Marvin saw his father standing on the dock, dressed as he himself once dressed. His father’s handlebar mustache was unmistakable. Marvin immediately went below decks and did every task he could think of to avoid the confrontation. It had worked with his boss and he hoped that it would also work with his father. It didn’t. As soon has he came above board, he heard his father speak.

“Mister Mervin Rogers.” His father’s tone was harsh. He recognized the tone as the one his father used when he had messed up in the past. “When I received word of your shenanigans with your boss, I though it was just one of youthful rebellions. I had them when I was your age. I hoped that, a few days, you would come crawling back. I see now that it was something far worse. I take time out of my busy schedule, to find my son working on a fishing boat like a commoner.”

Reaching back into the stories his father was fond of telling, he replied, “Our family has had all types of people, now it includes a fisherman.”

His father’s eyes narrowed, sharpening his features. “You have had every advantage, every opportunity, but you throw it all in my face to become a commoner. You were never good at anything and sometimes I wonder if you are my son at all.”

“As a child, I never had a free moment to discover myself. It was always this class, that lesson, and most of that was boring.”

“That is the way of things. It was the way I was raised and my father before him. It is our duty to take our role in society, to produce great things.”

“I produce plenty,” Marvin said, gesturing the fish on the dock.

“And it will be gone in a week. I even had to give you a job because you weren’t good enough to get one on your own.”

Before, Marvin was just merely upset but that last remark was an out and out lie and his father knew it. Rage bubbled up inside, Marvin and he opened his mouth and let it out.

“How dare you! I worked my butt off trying to find a job, any job. I used every resource at my disposal and was denied at every turn. I finally asked a friend and he told me the truth. He said that you bribed and threatened anyone who offered me a job, other than with your ministry. At the time I was mad, but I went along with it because I had no choice. At least I can fish everyday, I told myself. And now you have the temerity to imply that I’m lazy and not good enough. Did you tell my boss that. Give my son a job, but don’t give any responsibility? He hardly gave me anything to do and the things that I did seemed like they didn’t matter. They treated me like shit. It took the disappearance of my best friend for me to realize that you are a evil and hateful man to treat your son in this matter.

“Mervin…” his father said, trying to control him, “…you are making too much of this. Come with me now and we can return to capital and find something more to your liking.”

“Mervin is dead. My name is Marvin.”

His father’s nose wrinkled, “A commoner name to go with those commoner clothes and that commoner haircut, if you can even call it a haircut. It just looks someone attacked you or you got some disease.”

Marvin lunged at his father, tackling him. When he was on the ground, he started punching his father and tearing at his clothes. His father fought back and they started rolling. There was a splash and suddenly, he felt cold all over. He realized when he tried to breathe that he was underwater. He let go of his father and surfaced for air. Spluttering, he blinked and saw his father swimming to the shore. He got out and yelled back at Marvin, “Fine, if you say Mervin is dead, then he is dead. You are not my son. I hope you have some place sleep tonight.” Fear flashed through him as he remember. His father had bought him a flat when he started the job. Now he was technically homeless. Deep down, he knew this was coming, but it still hurt. With water squishing with each step, he made his way to the bar.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Fridays: Roll For Title.

Chuck Wendig has posted the first Flash Fiction Challenge of the year. This challenge is called "Roll for Title" where you roll ( or generate ) 2 numbers between 1 and 20 and consult a chart to get your two ( or three if you want to use "The") word Title. I used and got 11 and 3 which makes my Title "Orbital Angel". I hope to have it done this weekend.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge: 200 Words at a Time, Finale

This is a piece that was started by J.D. Fitch, then continued by Doreen Queenand Paul Baughman, and Joanna Horrocks. This is for Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge where 5 people each write 200 words of a story. My portion is at the bottom. 
God, how she hated dance music. Tony blared that crap every day at work, and after four years, she couldn’t take it anymore. Most had their I-phones or mp3’s and earbuds to stuff in their heads. The rest of them had to suffer. Her fist smashed the bread dough with a vengeance. One fist beat the soft, yeasty mass over and over.
“Screw this.” Gloria reached and ‘touched’ the electric plug that asshole’s antique radio was plugged into. Sparks crackled from the outlet, the acrid smell of burnt plastic ripped across the room.
“Judas Priest!” The shift super rushed over and yanked the cord from the wall. “Tony, this piece of crap is gone. You understand me? Three times in one week? Burn it, burn your own house down, but keep it out of my bakery.” Allen rammed the offending device into Tony’s chest before stalking off.
Gloria could not help the smile that crossed her lips. Then common sense took over. Shit. Why did magic have to be so unpredictable? Two years, and she still could not predict the outcomes, not like her teacher. Who would no doubt taste the magic in the air around her.
Life sucked chunks.
She had to be more careful or else be caught by the Authorities. They might taste the magic she leaked after tweaking the radio.
Most kids were screened by preschool to see whether they had talent – somehow Gloria had been missed.
Good thing Claudia had seen her magician’s performance at a child’s birthday party. Everything had gone wrong that day – instead of a rabbit, she pulled a python out of the hat. Of course, the party had been for boys, so that went over well. But it didn’t go over with the parents when her bra and panties had pulled out of her sleeve along with the handkerchiefs. Not sure how that happened.
Claudia had tasted the taint and offered to tutor her if she promised to stop playing magician.
Gloria needed to control herself first if she wanted to control the magic. Otherwise, some Telemage would catch a whiff and she would be slammed into a Control Chair. Then some Docmage would fry out her brain section that created magic – and they weren’t too careful about what else was around, like body functions or reasoning. She didn’t want to spend the rest of her life drooling in the corner of a closed ward, finger-painting.
It hadn’t always been this way. Once magicians had been an accepted, if not welcome, part of society. The Magic War was hundreds of years in the past, but the results had echoed down the years into the present. The old saw about bad apples still applied.
Time to try out some of Claudia’s tutoring before a passing patrol sensed what she had done. Gloria let her hands continue working the bread dough on autopilot. She let her mind drift until she could sense the magic crackling in her skin, vibrating in her bones, and even curling off the end of each hair. When she had the feeling solidly nailed down, she sucked it all into her hands and grounded it to the earth.
The sense of magic vanished. It worked! She smiled happily. It was the first time she had successfully used one of Claudia’s techniques on her own. Maybe now she wouldn’t have to worry so much about getting caught.
The happy, proud feeling faded as she realized the bread dough she was working felt odd.
She opened her eyes and looked down to find her hands buried to the wrist in the finest cake she had ever seen.
Every other baker and apprentice in the shop saw it too, a multihued, multi-tiered swirl of impossibly delicate buttercream butterflies and roses. Gloria licked a finger and found the rich filling studded with blackberries and pears. She smiled in spite of herself. She knew she was screwed, but at least she was going down in style.
Gloria looked up; her coworkers were staring at her with terror in their eyes. She wondered how many seconds it would take before someone would start to scream, how many minutes after that until a patrol arrived with their magic-damping nets and their wands set to stun. She wondered whether finger-painting would turn out to be fun.
A deafening blast of dance music rent the air. Gloria grimaced along with everybody else, involuntarily shutting her eyes against the pain. When she opened them again, the cake was just an ordinary lump of bread dough again, and everyone else had gone back to work as if nothing had changed.
“Babe, that was one crazy spell you threw there,” she heard someone say. “Don’t ever do that in here again.”
She turned and found Tony standing next to her.
“And stop frying my radio, hear?”
“Cause if you do it again, I am going to tell Claudia. I know she is going to be displeased.” Tony said.
“How…” Gloria stuttered.
“Didn’t you think that Claudia would allow you to work in such a public place without surveillance?”
“No I guess not, But why must you insist on playing that damn music all the damn time. It is so repetitive.”
“I happen to like this music, plus it gives Claudia plenty of chances to watch you in action and see if you can handle yourself, I must say that the cake looked quite scrumptious. You forgot one thing, you need channel the energy through your feet not your hands. Feet are magically dead and safe to channel through without setting anything off.”
“Of course, Claudia keeps going over that and I always forget.”
Just then the door opens and a Telemage walks thru the front door. The color drains from her face as the mage approaches.
“I am here to pick up an order for Parker,” the mage says.
Gloria breathes a sigh of relief as Tony helps with the customer. Later Tony starts up the music again, but for whatever reason, Gloria doesn’t find it so bad this time.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nier Game review.

I picked up Nier over X-Mas as part of a buy 2 get one free deal at GameStop. It was the free one. As the disc started playing I notice that it was by cavia, the people that did Drakenguard and Drakenguard 2. Both of those games had a great atmosphere as well as some strange takes on things (especially the first one in alternate endings). The first thing I am presented is a tirade from a woman with a really foul mouth. It was quite stunning. Then the game begins, its a standard hack and slash. The one thing that stands it apart is the magic. The game has 8 different spells that attack (or defend in one cast) in various forms from hands to spears. After the tutorial ( in which I reach level 30) I am transported 1312 year into the future where the game actually takes place. My first task is going to the library to talk to Popola. This is a task which I will perform countless times, as she is the one of the people the game that actually know what they are doing.

The main character is a father who is looking after a sick daughter. This leads him ( his name is Nier, but you can call him anything) to a Lost Shrine when his daughter, Yonah, runs off there to find a rare flower. Here he encounters Weiss, an age-old grimoire with an attitude. Weiss likes to think of himself to be all important, but has lost memories of exactly how he is important. He is always harping on Nier when Nier helps townspeople with some of there more mundane tasks. The back and forth between Weiss, Nier and Kaine (pronounced Kai-neigh), the woman from the opening sequence, is one of the things that makes this game great.

Kaine is a foul-mouthed warrior woman who is possessed by a Shade, the nasty things that pass for enemies in this game. She is wearing fairly standard JRPG wear, that is a collection of bandages and lingerie. They poke fun at themselves for this a couple of times in the game. They also poke fun at Legend of Zelda games, by having the player throw bombs in a bosses mouth and the next dungeon a young prince acquires a mask and strikes the famous Link Item-Acquisition Pose.

Again cavia serves up the atmosphere with great locations, including a xenophobic cliff-dwelling village, a forest where words have power (most of the events here are in the form of text) and a desert kingdom with 120,000 rules( which cover everything from the mundane to the profound).

The game does have a new game plus feature, but the games starts over half way in. There are 4 endings to the game. Two of them are gotten just by playing and two by collecting all the weapons in the game. However, this game does something radical. In order to watch the final ending, all of your save data is deleted. When they say all they mean all, not just the save file that you were using but everything. It pretty fitting considering that Nier is sacrificing himself to save Kaine. I thought it was a nice touch to a very good game that I got for free.

Introducing Me

Hello, My name is David Wilson and I live in Blacksburg, VA. I have started this blog to document the expansion of my world through my own efforts. The title is a takeoff of a Nintendo DS game. The main point of the story of the game is that the world is as small as you make it and that you should push yourself into new territory. I shall be using this blog to talk about such expansions and other things I see fit. So let see where this thing goes