NaNaWriMo 2012 – Day 30

I haven’t written a damned thing today (except this). And I don’t plan to write anything for the rest of the day.

Why?

Because I finished my 50,000 words last night.

My girlfriend, Jessica, hovered over my shoulder, watching as the word ticker in Word slipped past 50,000 and kept going. I didn’t type “the end”, because this isn’t the end. The story continues, for at least another 50,000 pages or so. It’s tough writing a quality science fiction epic, and I’m not even really doing that. I’m creating a skeleton on which to build a quality science fiction epic, and I’m not finished. I’ve got the important scenes, the sketches of climactic battles, the shades of a massive world, but I have a long way to go. Now that the skeleton is two-thirds complete, I have a mountain of research to slog through, not only to validate the sketchy science I’m coming up with on the fly, but to build upon this idea of the evertale that I have in mind. I’ll have to tell you about it some other time.

I typed the last period, we uncorked a bottle of red wine, said a toast to me, and then sat on the couch watching Moon starring Sam Rockwell, which is a great example of how science fiction doesn’t have to be aliens, spaceships, and lasers.

So that’s another NaNoWriMo down. Last year at this time I still had 11,000 words to write. Next year, things will be different. I’ll be writing from scratch, not continuing a story I began the year before, because next year, my novel will be complete.

Here’s a last excerpt from the tail end of my writing yesterday:

The Mage stood among the flames for a long time, his jaw set, and his eyes vacant.

When the flames died and all that was left were the charred skeletons of the Pilgrims that had defied them, Pyros began the long walk back to the City of Light alone.

( P.S. – “Mage” and “Pilgrim” are placeholders for other words I haven’t finalized yet … more of that research.)

Laughter of the Drowning

Well, it’s nearing zero hour. I’ve got about 4,000 words left to go to complete The City of Light, this year’s NaNoWriMo entry. I will finish that up today and tonight.

Things are winding down. The story has about four separate stories reaching a climax that marks the end of this 1/3 of the novel. And that leaves only the final 1/3 to go at a later date … definitely a lot sooner that NaNoWriMo 2013..

Likewise, this is the last old short that I’m going to dig up and subject you to.

So, what does that mean for this blog? Well, obviously, new stuff. New projects, new experiments, new rants. In the coming weeks I’m planning a post about anxiety and gravity, how navigating life is like moving through the universe: certain things have gravity and pull us in and slow us down and cause us to veer off course, when the ultimate meaningful life is spent moving forward and accumulating a wealth of experiences. It should be interesting.

With this part of the novel down, I’m turning back to short pieces for a few months while I plan for the conclusion of my epic tale. I’ll post a good deal of flash fiction here, and compose some longer pieces with submission for publication in mind. I hope you stick with me.

One of my favorite movies ever is The Thing from the ’80s, with Kurt Russell, Keith David, and Wilford Brimley. Spooky soundtrack and creepy effects aside, the idea of the doppelganger alien is a mainstay in science fiction, and it was done well.

This was the first of what will become many personal explorations of classic science fiction plots.

WARNING: VIOLENCE

Io zipped by the window, its mottled fruitcake-colored surface brightening the airlock momentarily.

Joshua brought the bulky magnetometer down on Baines’s skull again – the spray of blood exceeded the radius of the previous spatters.

Panicked, Joshua looked back to the glass where a handful of the crew of the Heisenberg Orbital Station watched in horror at his actions. Sweat ran down his face, mingling with spatters of blood and gore to run into his eyes. He could taste Baines’s life fluid in his mouth.

Looking back to the corpse, Joshua thought he saw movement in what was left of the engineer’s face and brought the heavy scanner down into flesh again. Bone splintered and hung in flesh like bits of nuts in a cake.

Io flashed by the window again, illuminating the violence of the scene, as the artificial gravity wheel spun around the station core.

The intercom switched on and Joshua heard the voice of the Project Director, Quinten Mallory: “Joshua, please stop this.”

“I saw it!” Joshua shouted, tossing the magnetometer aside in frustration. “I know I saw it!”

“It’s been a long mission and I’m afraid it’s taken its toll on all of us,” Mallory’s syrupy voice said through the speakers in the airlock.

Joshua looked at the director’s face through the glass set in the door to the station. Briefly, the glass reflected Io over Mallory’s face.

“Joshua, I’m sending the rest of the crew back to the core while you and I have a talk.” Motioning to the crewmembers, Mallory sent them away. After a few moments, having watched them depart, Mallory turned back to the airlock.

Joshua stared silently down at the lump of flesh that had been Baines’s face.

“You know what I have to do,” Mallory explained. “This exhibition seals your fate. As originally suspected, it was a crew member who murdered Franco and Deets. And now Baines.”

Joshua rotated his head to stare at Mallory, hearing his death sentence.

“It was you,” Mallory stated flatly.

Pushing himself from the floor of the airlock, Joshua ran to the door and beat on the glass. “Let me out of here!” he screamed in futility. “I didn’t do it.”

“Then explain what we’ve seen here,” Mallory said, offering a slight reprieve.

“There was something -”

“Some thing?”

“There was something in Baines,” Joshua said, glancing back at the circle of violence.

Io flashed by.

“I didn’t kill those men,” Joshua pleaded. “Please let me out. Maybe it left Baines and went into someone else. You could all be in danger.”

Mallory stared silently back at the blood spattered astrogeologist he was about to dump into space. He was surprised this one had figured it out as quickly as he had.

“Oh yes,” Mallory said with a wicked smile. “They are all in great danger now.”

Joshua saw Mallory’s left eye bulge as something moved inside it. From behind, Joshua heard a strange gurgling sound that settled into short bubbling gasps. He turned around and saw what was left of Baines’s face bubbling near where his mouth had been. As the air pushed through from the body and broke through the mangled flesh, the noise became the sound of rasping laughter.

The corpse slowly sat up and turned its gory mask to Joshua, who didn’t notice it gripping a handle on the floor of the airlock tightly.

When the airlock opened its contents into space, Joshua shot past the undead creature and exited the station – and exited this life.

Io reflected dimly in his dead eyes as floated away from the Heisenberg and was saved from a fate worse than death.

A Predator of Children

Ah, Mr. Giles. Don’t take this the wrong way after reading this piece, but Giles is one of my favorite creations. Is it because he’s so blatantly evil? No. Really, he’s not evil at all, he’s just hungry. Is it because he has no regard for the preciousness of human life? No. You gotta do what you gotta do, eh?

I like Giles because he cares about culinary presentation, never EVER puts salt or other seasonings on something before he tastes it, and he always plays with his food.

Bon appétit, mes amis…

Damon is a colony kid, one of the many dancing in dusty coveralls under the protective dome above us all.

These children have no worries. Their parents are scientists: astrobiologists, geologists, chemists, engineers, meteorologists. Their parents have built this colony on this tiny moon, and toil endlessly to keep it running, to keep it growing, to keep us all alive.

The children don’t realize this precarious position we find ourselves in – a foot of plastic in some places, separating us from murderous cold, gut-boiling noxious gas, and skull-crushing pressure. They kick up dust in clouds as they play invented games. This is a new world and these children are creating the childhoods of all those that will follow them. Their tiny clique is setting the standard for generations to come.

Damon is so beautiful. Of all the children, I enjoy watching him the most. I peer at him through a hole in my small habtent, sweating in the darkness as I imagine holding him in my lap, caressing his soft skin, breathing in his youthful aroma …

“Giles,” the comm unit on my uniform squawks. I jump in terror, thinking someone’s seen me. Sweat drops roll off my face and splatter in stains on my lap.

Switching the transmitter on, I say, “This is Giles.”

“Giles, we’ve got a major leak in the sewage line going out to Fill Three. The leak is outside the dome, so we’ve had to seal off the west quarter. How soon can you get it taken care of?”

“Fifteen minutes,” I say, rubbing my sweating hands on the legs of my suit.

“Funny,” the voice says. “As long as it can be fixed in a couple of days, we’ll be okay.”

I smile. They don’t know what I do here.

I take a good, long, final look at Damon, tackling another boy in the dust.

No, they have no idea what I do here.

***

I dream of Damon. His sweet voice fills my sleep and fills me with strange sensations. I ruffle his brown hair with my hands. I hold him in my lap and tell him not to scream, not to struggle. I tell him it will be over soon.

***

“I don’t know how you did it, Giles,” Director Kent says to me. He’s smiling. He’s Damon’s father, but I have no interest in him or what he says to me. “The pipe seal has held, and you did it in only ten minutes.”

I shrug.

“That leak was a geyser out there. Hell, half the pipe buckled. You’re amazing.”

“All in a day’s work, chief,” I say, wanting him to leave my habtent.

“Well, we’re damned lucky the Initiative decided to add you to our roster.”

Again, I just shrug. I don’t care about these people, or this colony. I don’t need them.

All I care about is –

“- Damon,” he finishes. He’s said something that I was ignoring until he uttered Damon’s name.

“W-What?” I stammer, starting to sweat.

“Do you know my son, Damon?” he says. I start to panic. Does he know? Does he suspect?

I freeze. I close up. I can’t say anything.

“There’s a director’s meeting tonight, and my usual babysitter is in quarantine with a virus. Would you mind watching him for a few hours?”

I have to fight to control an outburst. I bite my lip too hard. I feel like he sees my thoughts, my elation, my fantasy coming to life.

“I’ll do it,” I say. I think to myself that, yes, I will do it tonight. It’s so perfect. So perfect.

***

“You smell funny,” beautiful Damon says to me.

I know I do. I cannot help the chemical reactions taking place in my body. I have waited for this for so long.

“It’s how all adults smell,” I say, pulling him up onto my lap.

“No,” he says. “You smell like the yellow rocks.”

He’s so intelligent. More intelligent than they suspect, this child is a genius – a masterpiece of the human species, but too young for it to show to the untrained eye.

“My daddy says one day we’ll have to build a smaller dome underneath this one because the older one will fail,” he speaks to me, innocently, but in the manner of an educated adult. He is so perfect. “I think they should build one bigger. We should always get bigger and expand out.”

“How very profound,” I say to him. “Damon?”

“Yes, Mr. Giles,” Damon says, smiling at me.

“I’m going to do something to you that might hurt,” I say seriously. “I want you to try not to scream and stay very still.”

“Ok, Mr. Giles,” he says.

I reach my sweaty hands up and caress his skull. My blood boils within me. I apply slight pressure in my fingers, seeking out weaknesses.

“Mr. Giles,” he says. “You’re hurting me.”

“I know, Damon. It will be over soon.”

“I’m going to tell my daddy,” he says, and then I laugh.

“No, you won’t, human.”

With a quick squeeze, my razor talons emerge from my finger tips and pierce the human child’s skull. Before Damon can react to the sudden pain, I pull the top of his skull away and massage the brain slightly. Liquid drips from the open flesh of my fingers and works to numb all pain.

Slowly, savoring every precious morsel, I devour the child’s brain.

When I am done, only a few remnants of the brain’s connection to the rest of his nervous system remain. Just like I did with the sewage pipe, I fill the hole with the semi-organic excretion I produce in my true form underneath this human flesh that used to be Giles. It will fill the child’s brain cavity as I command, forming connections with his body, perfectly simulating the properties of the human brain. No one will know the difference. Damon just won’t be as smart as he used to be.

By the time Director Kent returns, I’ll have finished the job, sealing the wound as easily as I sealed the pipe. No one will know.

Then, after they are gone, I can begin to absorb this beautiful human’s intelligence which I have just devoured.

***

“We appreciate what you’re doing here, Mr. Giles,” Director Kent says. “We’ve always thought of you as just a maintenance worker, but your skill as an educator is very apparent to us now. We were in a tight spot.”

“Yes,” I say to him, adjusting my tie.  “It’s unfortunate what happened to their former instructor. I am just glad to be able to help continue their education. So many of them have … potential.”

Kent rambles on and I turn my head to the sound of laughter, ignoring him.

In the yard outside the habtent being utilized as a school for the colony’s children, the next generation invents the struggles of those that follow. They kick up dust and play their simple games that will become their trials as adults.

One of them catches my eye.

I can feel his intelligence. I can sense his superiority.

He’ll be my next meal.

Avocado Red

I can’t eat avocado. I also can’t eat cantaloupe or too many bananas.

Regardless, I still sneak a chip full of guacamole on occasion, and have been known to eat a whole banana when the mood strikes me. It’s not that it makes me violently ill. I don’t spend hours in the bogs after ingesting these foods. When I eat them, I develop a severe stabbing pain in my stomach that lasts about fifteen to thirty minutes. No vomiting, no diarrhea. Just intense physical pain. Sometimes its worth it. The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.

I don’t write women well. That’s me criticizing myself, not the opinion of others. Occasionally, I make the effort and embark on a strange and twisted journey to both understand and portray the opposite sex effectively, but typically I fail – I think. For some reason, my females tend to kick too much ass, or curse too much, or are murderers, psychos, and victims.

-le shrug et le sigh-

I wrote this in intense pain, and while attempting to break my losing streak of female mains.

-le fail-

I could have been good. If I were, I’d probably be sitting here tingling with anticipation at the thought of doing something good, instead of the opposite.

I could have been a confident woman, a raging hurricane of self-awareness ripping deeply rooted conceptions from the wet earth.

I could have been a good wife. Happy and not jealous. Satisfied and not easily tempted.

Mars is desolate. Almost a century into colonization, we are no nearer taming this planet than we were when a couple of robots were all that moved along the surface here. The emotional landscape of our team is as bleak – we watch the occasional dust devil of turmoil roll past, our hearts protected in our own symbolic individual habitats.

“Dr. James,” a voice says behind me. It’s not the voice of one of my husband, so I don’t care to listen to it.

I wave it away.

From the safety of our habitat, I see a dust devil in the distance, just past the level ground of our makeshift courtyard, writhing across the dunes. That’s our drama for you – in the distance, away.

I tap the knife in a quick cadence on the thick plastic of the window, then repeat it.

“I hope you’re not planning on stabbing some one, Sue,” says that same voice, not leaving me alone.

“Stick around and find out,” I whisper.

The man behind me coughs and leaves. I am glad he has departed, but his cough gives me a giggle.

In the courtyard, one of the technicians stumbles across the red dirt, then collapses, causing a could of dust to rise around his bulky environmental suit. I can imagine him coughing, too.

I bite my lip, imagining being alone in this place with my man. Alone.

The rover trundles by, my husband slumped at its wheel. Colliding with the fuel tanks, it vanishes in a fireball. Metal collides with the habitat, but doesn’t breach it.

After a few moments, I see a few more colonists arrive to see what the trouble is. They stare, they stagger, they collapse, they die.

I never knew I had such a talent with poisons. All over the territory of MC3, people will be collapsing dead. All but my lover.

Calmly, I rip the velcro tag that reads “MC3 – Cook” off of my suit.

I am so happy my lover cannot eat avocado.

Everyone here loves avocado.

Out There: Or Why I Think Space Exploration is Vital

I’m not a scientist. I’m no expert on anything really, so don’t let my own observations on the universe convince you to alter your own views on what is or isn’t important for the human race to focus on in the first decades of this century. I am simply that – an observer. Are my observations valid? Well, you’ll decide that based on your own observations, right? I wish that were true for everyone. Unfortunately, in a world where politics and religion are often given more power than logic, a large number of people would consider my observations bunk based on tribal knowledge, a party line, ancient texts, or what ever garbage they’ve seen on television.

I merely ask that you THINK about this, not accept it.

1. Be Fruitful And Multiply – It’s our nature to expand and explore. We, as a species, have been doing it as long as there has been land to expand into. On top of that, its not just our species who have this primal urge to move ever forward. Our planet is finite – it has finite boundaries, finite resources, and definite lifespan.

The universe is a dangerous and random hell of endless possibilities. Disaster WILL strike our planet before it has a chance to fizzle out on its own, and the only way to survive that disaster is to not to center our entire focus and livelihood on this planet.

If the other species that have existed on this planet had stayed in one place and never migrated from sea to land, from arid wastes to fertile land, from imbalanced ecosystems to evolutionary hotspots, the biological world as we know it would not exist and life as we know would like have disappeared from this place long ago.

It’s natural for us to be curious. There are individuals throughout our history that have been unable and unwilling to sit still. Their desire to traverse the many frontiers we’ve expanded to have led our species to where we sit today.

We’re built to move forward, to climb higher, to dig deeper.

Certain insects know, whether instinctively or purposefully, when the next generation needs to grow wings to escape a quickly shriveling mushroom in time to find a new source of food well before the colony dies out from hunger. For us, that generation is here, we have the wings to escape, to expand, to explore, and to survive no matter what disaster may strike. It’s an evolutionary imperative that we be vigilant in this expansion.

In this infinite universe, the grain of sand becomes the beach, the beach becomes the continent, the continent becomes the planet, and now once again we stand on a beach at the edge of a vast and unexplored ocean of space.

Our species has many facets, many specialized minds, to be directed towards the most essential pursuits. The one counterpoint I hear most often when I get into discussions with other people about this subject is that “There are more important things here on Earth to focus our attention and money on.” I agree that there are important pursuits here at home, but no pursuit that benefits the evolution and expansion of the human race has precedence over the other. We must expand in all directions simultaneously with equal vigor. I think its an unfortunate misconception that these people have, seeing space as a waste before they see the ignoble pursuits that have stagnated our culture for centuries as necessary to cull.

There are asteroids to mine, planets to colonize, massive shipyards to erect to facilitate station-to-station flight without the expensive fuel necessary to exit this planet. There are resources beyond our dreams, there is infinite room to expand – an endless sea of discovery.

2. Something Wicked This Way Comes – “Nothing” never was. Every day we find evidence of existence of extra-solar planets in our own galaxy, and that’s not even considering that there are billions of galaxies in this universe. Its no longer even “improbable” that there is life beyond this planet – its improbable that there is not. Will we ever find an alien species to communicate with, to share our knowledge with, to bond with? I can’t answer that. I don’t know. It’s not even a definite “NO” if we kill our dreams of space exploration completely. Something … could find US.

Back to the grain of sand. You cannot stand on a beach and hold a grain of sand in your hand and think to yourself that you now know all you need to know about the universe based on that grain of sand. What holds true on Earth, may not hold true in another galaxy. We want to believe we can find a grand unified theory that solidifies the truth of the universe, but that’s not an old notion, and beliefs like that are almost always proven false. The greatest testament to our intelligence is that we can accept that no matter how much we learn, we know nothing compared to the infinite possibilities of the universe.

There may be islands of life out there – entire galaxies where alien life flourishes and crawls over every surface of every planet of every star system. Will they reach us? It would be unscientific to say they won’t or can’t or haven’t already.

It wasn’t that long ago that we believed the Earth was flat and revolved around the sun. To think we’ve reached the pinnacle of scientific achievement and can place boundaries on what is possible in this universe in OUR time is ludicrous. There is infinite knowledge to be gained beyond this planet and beyond this star system. Our pursuit of that knowledge may well save our species – from hostile alien civilizations, from violent and deadly galactic phenomena, and from dangerous microbial life that may reach us via rogue debris from outside our system.

Again, we can’t put all our eggs in one basket. We need to colonize and spread out, long before that grenade hits in our midst.

3. Shepherds of Life – Its a common tenet among some modern religions that we are the chosen children of some supreme being, made in its image, born to do its will. Maybe that is true, in a sense. Consider that its possible that we are the most advanced life in the entirety of the universe. Perhaps its our purpose to expand beyond these fields and contact lesser forms of life. Perhaps our presence in this universe is meant to eternally seed intelligence among the stars – to lift up the lowly sludge on Titan and breathe life into it. We save species from the brink of extinction here on Earth. What can we do off it?

Prime Directive be damned. We may be catalysts for they great Universal Bloom that is to come – whether we be Gods or Monsters. I can’t help but wonder if there is a destiny for all things, a path set for every molecule leading towards a final climactic multiversal event.

I love Science Fiction. It opens my eyes to the fact that I am not alone in these thoughts. Consider Dune where man creates the dragons he will slay later to strengthen his species. Consider Clarke’s Space Odyssey series where the seeds of transcendence are planted just beyond our frontiers. Consider the Mass Effect Universe where universal evil exists to repel life into pockets of resistance strong enough to defeat it. Consider Star Wars, where the universe is balance and creation and destruction must exist in equal parts to maintain equilibrium. Consider The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, where gods disappear in puffs of logic and infinite hordes of galactic warlords are swallowed by domesticated dogs.

Perhaps we are given the means to push beyond the frontier because we must. It is our destiny.

Conclusion:

As we expand, our former boundaries have no meaning. The village becomes the city, then the county, then the state, then the country, then the continent, then the planet.

We are all humans. We were Texans, but then we became Americans. We are all Earthlings, but one day we will be Martians, Titanians, Europans, and then we will all be Solarians,  and Andromedians. The sooner we accept that and move outward from this pinpoint of existence into the rest of the universe, the sooner we become what we are meant to be.

Our species is engineered to move out and up. Anything else is stagnation.

Most importantly, we have to realize that our culture must advance at the same pace as our technology. We can’t be tied down by traditions. We can’t be boxed in by fears. We can’t be generationally selfish – we have to see beyond our lives and consider the life of our species as a whole.

We must evolve and we must transcend.

Fungus Among Us

My wife isn’t the woman she used to be.

When we were younger, we traveled the world looking for transcendence. We wanted to be gods who tread the same dirt as their creations. Money wasn’t an issue to us – we could always manage to find it. We backpacked Europe during the Federation Wars. We parachuted into the Korean Confederacy during the Japanese rebellions. After the Texan Militia massacres and the bombing of Mexico City, we ran with bandits down the long road to South America and freed American prisoners of war.

Our love life was violently ecstatic. We knew things about each others’ soul that allowed us each to explore the chasm that is the human psyche and use what we found there for pleasure … and pain.

We weren’t perfect. Our travels kept us thin and lean, but “healthy” is the last word I’d use to describe us. Going against Federation regulations, we grew our own tobacco and marijuana and just about anything else you could grow, process, and ingest. We burned ourselves in the ritual of Tczatloc in Peru, scarring ourselves with iron and suffering through the painful visions of the hallucinogenic properties of the Ramaat infection it created. We drank the blood of newborns murdered in China during the Dysgenic Movement.

My wife was viciously intelligent and we worked together flawlessly through everything life could throw at us.

Now we live here in this small habitat, away from the world and away from what we used to be. We reached an age where running became difficult. Climbing fences and dodging bullets brought lingering pains worse than the sting of barbed wire or the bite of shrapnel.

We aged.

My wife first showed signs of change after our third year here. I blame myself. I went through a bout of depression after I was cut from the Colonial Council. We had a fight, a continuation of hostilities I had instigated with various other colonials after the incident at the Council Habitat. I brought my anger home to her and she absorbed it until I had nothing left.

She took to staring out at the plains without saying anything for long periods of time. I would work on the vaporizers and mend the connections between the Northern Arterial Pipeline and our small habitat, while she would stay inside and look through her window at nothing. I would drive my utility hauler in front of the window, but she wouldn’t look at me.

When the Chatter outbreak spread through the colony, we survived. The entire western hemisphere was evacuated and our beautiful little Martian home was abandoned by humanity.

After correspondence with the Martian Colonial government, my wife and I were allowed to remain here and keep our connection to the lifeline that is the Arterial pipeline coming down to us from the icecaps.

I imagine her running through the last rainforests with a J37 Incinerator strapped over her shoulders.

I can see her garrote the President of the Western American Alliance.

I can feel her pressing the hot barrel of a laser rifle against my chest, right above my heart.

And now she stands rigid, her skin the color of stone, her eyes black and glossy. The spore-releasing stalks that are a trademark of the Chatter fungus branch out from her body and twist in strange helix patterns. There in front of the window, the suns rays activated the latent fungus within her and she died as the fungus spread faster than she could react.

Every two weeks, I strip down to nakedness in preparation for the release of spores. My body is not what it used be. As I sit, my belly pushes my legs apart. The spore shower covers me in a fine powdery snow. I open my mouth and choke myself on the spore cloud – I rub it vigorously into my eyes – I cut gashes in my skin and press the powder into my flesh.

I am immune to its colonization efforts.