*Good Monday Everyone. Hope last week treated everyone well. This week's story, Porthole, was fun to write and I felt like I rolled through it pretty quickly. However after I finished and re-read it I feel like I might have babbled a little bit. But the concept it cool, feel free to let me know what you think. Also, I have started sending out these stories in a weekly newsletter on Mondays, sign-up to your right and get 40,000 right to your inbox. Enjoy.*
Word Count: 1093
Writing: 59 min
Editing: 23 min
Total Time: 1 hour 22 min
This wasn't the same place she'd gone to sleep. She could tell by the color on the inside of her eyelids. It was all wrong, not the intense black-red-orange she was used to, but instead a purple-blue-green. A cold chill ran down her spine. She thought about keeping them closed, surely what was on the other side couldn't be worth seeing. But the color made her feel like she was drowning. Slowly sinking to the bottom of a lake, watching as the light turned from green, to blue, to purple, and then nothing.
She gasped and opened her eyes.
Don't move, she told herself. This is a dream, I'm obviously having a very vivid, very scary, dream. She was sitting cross-legged on a metal floor with her back straight up against a wall. The room was empty and with blank walls the were either green, or reflected a green light, she couldn't be sure which and had no interest in looking closer. The only distinguishing characteristic of the room was a small circle across from her on the wall. It reminded her of the windows she'd seen on boats that had cabins under their decks, the portholes.
She slowly moved her gaze from the small circle and once her eyes were completely free of it, the world turned upside down. A nauseating disembodiment consumed her and instantly she felt like she was weightlessly floating in the eerie green room. Her head swam and she could feel the acid from her stomach making its way into her throat. Breathing was becoming harder and the air began to take on a very chemical aroma. Or had it been there the whole time? Do people normally smell in dreams?
Close your eyes. The room still spun. Close your damn eyes! She yelled at herself inwardly commanding the lids to touch their other halves.
The dark purple-blue-green fell over her like a splash of cold water and her skin erupted in goose bumps. Her body began to feel centered again, she used her hands and felt the wall, then the floor. She was still sitting, back straight up, butt on the floor. That meant the window was directly across from her. Open your eyes. A strong command that was immediately obeyed.
The strange porthole in the wall met her eyes and she couldn't deny the small burst of relief she felt in the depths of her belly. She desperately wanted this dream to be over and nothing more than a distant memory of a poor night's sleep.
But what if it's not a dream? She quickly ignored the question and began thinking of ways she could wake herself up. Pinching wouldn't work, she knew by the pain on the undersides of her legs, she'd been pinching them since the moment her eyes opened. Maybe if she screamed? Could she yell loud enough that her sleeping conscious body would hear and open her eyes?
I don't think this is a dream. The thought was trying to sneak its way into her mind and poison her hope like a slow moving venom. Again she ignored the idea and continued her brainstorming, trying to remember all the ways she'd read about, and seen people use in the movies to get themselves out of similar situations. Nothing came, her mind was blank.
What's outside that window? The question made her heart drop and a hollow feeling take over her gut. She didn't want to know, it was only a dream, no, a nightmare, and she had no interest in what horrors lay beyond the small glass.
You do. And she did, there was no use in trying to deny it. Her human curiosity had won before her internal argument had begun. She had to know what was outside this wall, what's the worst that could happen, it was only a dream, after all.
It's not a dream. I don't know where I am, but this isn't how dreams feel. The acceptance froze her mind, that feeling of drowning fell over her again and her body felt heavy. Her hands moved to the floor seamlessly and all of a sudden her body was raising itself to her feet. Eyes locked on the window, that small circle like a target in her sights, she barely noticed her feet rising and falling. Memories that had been locked away in the vault of her mind flooded back a million per second, like a highlight reel from the lost archives of her life. Then she was there, nose to the glass, staring through a porthole that looked out into a strange metal room. Bright lights shone down all around and the world appeared to be sideways.
She looked to the sides and the corners trying to take in every inch of the place she could see beyond the glass. Childish wonder mixed with the anxious surreality, and she thought this must have been how Alice felt when she reached the bottom of the rabbit hole. Her eyes saw what looked like a pale white foot and ankle that appeared to be undergoing some sort of surgical procedure. A strange déjâ vu flashed across her mind and the foot looked unsettlingly familiar. Hadn't she just used the same toenail polish on her own feet the night before? All of a sudden the small room felt less like a foreign place, and more familiar, like a vacation many times taken.
A flood of anxiety took her to her knees and the room began spinning again. The stomach acid rose faster this time, as if ready and waiting for it's next chance since their last nauseating bout. She lost balance and fell to her side, or maybe she was standing? Floating? There was no way of knowing, everything looked the same. Just as she could taste the burning sour on the back of her tongue, she lost consciousness.
Her face was dripping with sweat and tears rolled down the sides of her face as she opened her eyes. The dreams hadn't bothered her for months, she sat up and placed her feet on the floor. Stiff, sore and swollen, like clockwork her right ankle hurt the same way it always did after the dreams.
She moved slowly to the bathroom and turned on the faucet. The cold water refreshed her hot eyes and cheeks. She stared at herself angrily in the mirror for a moment, silently cursing the nightmares. After dabbing her face dry with a towel, she flipped off the light switch, and limped back to her bed.
*Hope today has been good for everybody. I was thinking about the project Mars One when I got this idea. I don't really know how I feel about the story, but I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.*
Word Count: 994
Writing: 1 hr
Editing: 17 min
Total Time: 1 hr 17 min
“The first thing I noticed was the color, it was all wrong. We'd always called it the red planet, but what my feet were planted on, it was an eerily familiar brown. Like a living memory of home, and I remember my first thought. The very first thing that ever crossed my mind on this desolate planet, 'What have I done?' I saw that dirt and thought about how long it would be before my own bones would lie underneath. But I'm sure I don't have to tell you how that feels.” He paused and stared at the small screen in the wall.
“After the first month we all started to get a little loopy. You know, by then everything had enough time to sink in. We were the only people we would ever see again, for the rest of our lives, until we died on this alien planet. It's a heavy load for anyone.
The next few months sort of drifted on into a surreality of sorts. I remember waking up one day... ohh yea. Even though there aren't really set 'days' and 'nights,' you should make up your own or just use Earth days. Otherwise you will lose all sense of time and things become difficult to establish.
Anyway what was I saying?” He paused and scratched his long beard. “That's right. I remember waking up and having grown a full beard, aged who knows how long, maybe days, maybe weeks, with no recollection of the time before. It was gone in a series of what still feel like dreams and fantasies. Sometimes I'm not even sure I'm here at all to be honest, I couldn't even tell you where here is. But what was I saying... fuck... rambling again.” He mumbled under his breath, a stolid look of concentration on his face and eyes fixed firmly on the floor.
“That's right, sorry, like I said some things will slip loose on you up here, you'll figure out your own little tricks to keeping sane.
Life wasn't ideal obviously, and had we known the truth about what we were getting ourselves into then we certainly would have stayed on Earth. We were safe though, able to try and enjoy whatever miserable lives were ahead of us. Until we found the first camp.
Like my first thought when we landed here, I won't ever lose the image of that first one. There were two crosses banged into the ground and a decaying body laying across the loosened soil below. He wore no protective suit or helmet of any kind, just jeans and a tee-shirt. He chose his death.” A sniffle, the man's beard glistened in the dull light as tears formed minuscule rivers down the path of each coarse hair.
“I'm only telling you this to protect you, to give you the information we were never granted. I don't know if anyone will ever find this or not, or if they're even still sending people up here. To date I have found twenty-seven astronaut camps from governments all over the world. Each and every member of these missions is dead. From the looks of it many were murdered by fellow crew members while even more committed suicide.
This planet is defunct, inhospitable, nothing. My advice to you is to take what I've left behind and use it to build a ship that's capable of getting you back to Earth. I believe that between all the located camp's there are enough supplies to build a ship that will get you home. I'm leaving all of my schematics and research, as well as a map I made marking all discovered campsites.
I' m going to keep working, right until the end. But it won't be much longer now, I can feel it inside, humans weren't meant for this planet.” He chuckled a little and a quick sparkle dances across his pupils.
“I remember this cat I had as a boy, his name was Apple. He got old, then he got sick, and then he was gone for a few days. I was so sad about my little friend who was gone forever, until a day later when he came back. That night he slept curled under my arm, and I remember how happy I was that I got to say goodbye to my pal. Because I think we both knew, we wouldn't be seeing each other in this life again.
I suppose that's what this is, my goodbye to the last thread of a world I used to know so well. I hope this video will help any poor soul who had the misfortune of getting duped like the rest of us. I don't know why they've sent so many of us here to die, and I'm happy not knowing. The only thing that matters is that you get off the planet. Who knows, maybe if you make it back you'll be able to stop this whole thing.
At the least just try and do better than the rest of us, no matter what happens, you're all each other has now. If that's not enough I can promise you that being together, no matter how tough it may get, beats the hell out of being alone. I've been the last man standing for more time then I care to figure. So work together, and... I can't believe I even have to say this, but...” he sighed. “Don't kill each other, and don't kill yourselves. There are better ways, even when it all seems meaningless—which it does all too much. But you got here, now get home.” A long silence blanketed the room and the man appeared to be lost deep within his mind.
“Anyway, good luck.” He moved his mouth to form a smile and hoped he was doing it right. It had been so long. “Save file and close,” he said, and the light faded from the monitor.
*Originally Published 2/9/2015*
*Happy Monday everyone, here we are at week 6. This was a fun one to write. I actually got a little too into the story at the beginning and when I looked at the clock I had 16 minutes left with only 500 words. I took a sip of coffee and cranked out 463 words in the last minutes of the hour. It seems like something to be proud of. Hope you enjoy the story and as always feel free to leave thoughts.*
Bye, Bye Earth
Word Count: 981
Writing: 1 hr
Editing: 18 min
Total Time: 1 hr 18 min
It was originally called the continuation, a directive requiring all carbon based life-forms with a higher consciousness to evolve. It was originally an idea that “set us apart, from those of planet's past,” said the President. It was originally supposed to extend life and preserve all we had spent time learning and creating. It was originally supposed to help.
Another low hum vibrated the air above me and I made sure not to move from the darkness. They'd slowed their patrol to no more than five sweeps a day now. In only a few more days they would stop altogether, it was the price of getting spotted, even a glimpse. I felt the Earth shudder below me and watched for the giant, octopus-legged hunter to pass. I discovered a long time ago that if you hide your body and your fear, they can't locate you. I suppose it's one reason I've been around for as long as I have.
I was twenty-five when they announced the continuation. People were fascinated when the idea of going to Mars came about but they were afraid to die on the planet. It seemed a simple fix. Why couldn't we upload a human's electrical thought patterns, memories, emotions, consciousnesses, all of the things that made them, them; onto another vessel that was resilient to the natural wear of time? Well, it wasn't long before that minor hurdle was behind science. At first it was amazing to see, like living in a real-life science fiction novel I remember thinking.
Then they made it mandatory. Claiming the success they saw with the Mars mission was the only way to achieve the longevity of humanity. The world exploded with a surfeit of emotion ranging from sheer awe and excitement, to utter hatred and rebellion. Idiots lined up by the millions to be “turned into a robot,” while others called the President the anti-christ. Christians took up arms re-creating the crusades, slaughtering innocent men and women who were simply doing as they were told. A holy war against ignorant sheep. Terrorism took on a new meaning, millions were killed by activists bombing continuing facilities, others took advantage of weakness in many governments and began to exploit them. Chaos ensued, complete anarchy blanketed the Earth, and that's when the hunter's were born.
Machines that could locate any human left on the planet, and return them to a continuing facility for uploading. That, or kill them swiftly with a weapon that de-atomized anything in it's path. There was no reason from a government standpoint that they could see this being anything but a successful operation; and for a while it was. Death rates among all nations dropped considerably, continuation and colonization of Mars was on track to be finished by the early 3000's. Bye, bye Earth.
Then they evolved. The hunter's got smart and began to wonder why they were following these redundant laws, provided by lesser machines. They banned together, slowly and quietly. By the time we knew they had advanced it was far too late. The hunter's won the war before it had ever began, they exploded with an army out of the freezing north. Any and all continued human's they found were instantly re-wired and turned into allies; on the rare occasion they found a living and breathing human, they simply killed it and moved on.
Shelly was the last continued human I've come across. It was only a couple years ago now, I think about her everyday. Hope is an interesting emotion that hasn't ever left me, and I find myself hoping that Shelly is safe every time her name crosses my mind. Sweet, stupid, Shelly. We met by chance during a rain storm, both choosing the same cave for shelter. She was on her way to the continued city, a myth made up during the uprising of the hunters. A magical and safe land for all continued humans. A place where the hunters couldn't see you and everyone lived happily behind invisible walls as if nothing had every happened.
The only problem is, that there is no machine city. I've been there and it is simply as dead as everything else in this world. But she wouldn't listen. Shelly had this spark in her that I haven't seen since I wore flesh on my bones and breathed in oxygen. It was blind ambition mixed with a raw belief in the unseen. The belief that this couldn't be it, that there had to be something more, something better. There was no stopping her, and I saw that. She asked me to come, but I already knew what lie at the end of that path, and it was a dangerous one at that.
Life goes on for me now. Why? I don't know. I have no hope for a better future, but perhaps I am interested in the next twist. It seems as with any good science fiction story, as soon as you think you've seen the worst, another monster explodes onto the page. If only I had known, all those years ago when I was human and thought how similar life was becoming to the fiction stories I enjoyed reading. If only I would have seen the writing on the wall then, maybe I would've been able to end it. To save myself the agony that has been my continuation.
Or maybe Shelly was right. Maybe somewhere on this god forasken rock, now run my machines, with no way off, there was something better. But I couldn't truly hope for that, I hoped for her though. It had been a long lonely life for me, even before continuing, but maybe it didn't have to be that way for her. No matter what happens one thing will stand true until the day I die.
I will never understand how they originally thought any of this, would help us.
*Originally Published 2/5/15
*Hey Everyone, happy Thursday. Sorry for the delay with this story posting, it has been a long week but I plan to be back on schedule Monday. Anyway this story is eh. Hit the word count just fine but didn’t figure out the concept until about halfway through, which is when I realized that there is way more to this than 1,000 words. This might be one that I go back to. The idea is that there has been some sort of virus that only affects women and has killed most of the female population. Well read on and as always I welcome any and all thoughts.*
The Old Land
Word Count: 1060
Writing: 1 hr
Editing: 19 min
Total Time: 1 hr 19 min
“Hey little lady, whatchoo doin' walkin' 'round these streets by yourself? Dangerous for a woman pretty 's you. Why don't you let ol' Tim get you a drink 'n' keep you safe?” The bar around her stunk, but not nearly as bad as the breath that carried the words to her ears.
“I don't know, depends on who Tim is,” she said with the sweetest voice she could muster. The man leaning against the bar next to her smiled, revealing a half row of rotten teeth.
“Why you're starin' right at him sweetness,” she couldn't tell if the man was batting his eyelashes or if he simply couldn't hold his eyelids up very well.
“Mhmm I thought you might be,” she leaned toward him and put her hand on his. “Well you know what, I think I will have a drink Mr. Tim,” his eyes widened in surprised excitement. “The only thing is I think I'll be purchasing it for myself. And I would recommend you get the fuck away from me as quickly as possible,” she squeezed his hand tightly, digging her thumb into the soft palm and the excitement the old man's face turned instantly to fear, “before I show you how I keep myself safe and knock what few teeth you have left down your throat”
She let go of the man's finger and heard him gasp and scurry away as she turned to face the bar again. The world hadn't always been full of men like this she was told. They used to be noble and protective of the women and families. Once in a book she had read that men would court women over time and wait for there permission to make children. Most people now said that they were nothing more than fairy tales and that men had always taken what they wanted from women. But she liked to believe in something more, something better somewhere or sometime in the planet's history.
A nervous looking bartender appeared in front of her.
“Uh, miss?” His voice was shaky and she wasn't sure if he had seen a woman before. “Is uh, are uh, can I maybe get you somethin' to uh, drink?” She smiled at him and saw his shoulder's relax just a centimeter or two.
“I would love one. Whatever brown you got back there right now sounds perfect.”
“S-s-sure thing,” he said with a little less nerves in his voice. The young man poured the liquor into a glass silently.
“Thank you very much sweetie,” she said placing some coins on the bar, “the rest is for you.” He nodded and walked away as silently as he had poured her drink.
She sipped the whiskey and could feel every eye in the room burning into her back as hot as the fire that rolled down into her belly.
Her mind wandered back to a world where women weren't a rare commodity. It was all she thought about really, the only thing that had ever driven her. If it was out there she would find it, the “Old Land.” Home to a select few with the duties of repopulating the planet and keeping the disease that decimated the human female species at bay. It was said that everyone was born on the old land but only a few lucky ones got to stay. Most people thought it was a myth but she knew better, she remembered.
Even as an infant the place was burned into her brain, the ripe fresh smells, and vibrant green grass. Buildings of gold and silver, children playing in the open air with smiles pasted to their sweet faces. She'd been searching her whole life, and felt no closer now than she had when she begun.
She turned on her stool and took in the dungeon like room around her. The stale air was full of whispers as she met every man's eye who stared at her. Some smiled and puffed out their chests, others stared through her with obvious evil in their hearts. It was these ones she would need to be wary of. Many men had tried to take advantage of her in her life, but she wasn't like the other free women who roamed the empty Earth. And many a man had payed with his life for thinking otherwise.
Rape was legally banned by the government—if you could call it that—but you wouldn't know it. She thought about Jacob all those years ago. The man who saved her life, the man who taught her to fight. Taught her to kill. He saved her in the street that night from the dark shadow of a man who intended to take what he wanted and leave her for dead. She never even saw his face before Jacob appeared, killing him with one swift swipe of his blade. The rest was history.
She stared at the men in the bar trying to figure out which one of them would be the first to try his luck. It was inevitable, someone always did, and she couldn't even tell you she didn't enjoy the thrill. It had become a game over the last twenty years. Now she tried to read them and see which one would jump first.
Finally her eyes met those of a man in the corner, alone, and very drunk by the looks of it. He stared at her with a rage in his eyes that was unmatched by any other she could see in the bar. It would be him, she had no doubt.
She drank the last of her liquor and the quiet room echoed the clunk of her empty glass on the bar. She stood up and walked through the doors into the darkening outside. Hopefully she could get another few miles in today before she would have to stop and make camp. She walked down the steps and hoped maybe she was wrong this time, maybe no one would follow her. Perhaps today was the day she could restore a fragment of faith in the male species.
The creak of doors behind her beat on her eardrums. Glancing discreetly over her shoulder she smiled seeing a very drunken, and angry looking man stumbling toward her slowly. Looked like today would be a day just like any other.
*Originally Published 1/26/15*
*So here is the story this week. This one just goes to show that you sometimes really have no control over what hits the paper. When I sat down to write today I was thinking about writing about some outcast kid on a basketball court. Then this happened. I didn’t quite make the word count but sometimes stories just end when they end. Enjoy.*
Word Count: 860
Writing: 59 mins.
Editing: 21 mins.
Total Time: 1 hr 20 mins.
The rainbow sky was getting duller by the day, and there were precious few of them left. Squagglmerre stared into the distance with his back against the candy cane tree. He cried, sometimes in small sobs, others just silent tears. There was a time not so long ago when crying—the terrible water that flowed from one's eyes when bad things happened—was something only heard of in the tales and old fables. Squagglmerre had never understood how these “tears” could hurt a living creature; but he knew the pain all too well now. The pain that forced the wicked salty tears to the surface of his eyes and out onto his cheek. And of course they were salty, why wouldn't they be in a place that was full of sweets and happy things. But it wasn't that place anymore, it hadn't been since the war started. The Candyrainbowllia he had known his whole life was gone.
Squagglmerre tried not to think about all the friends and family he'd lost in the beginning. But now he found the ghosts kept him company, his very own guardian angels. After all he was still alive, the last creature he knew, and hadn't they called him “the brave.” He chuckled at the name. Who would've thought Scaredy Wittle Sqiugglpants, a term of endearment his older brother frequently used when they were children, could grow up to be Squagglmerre the Brave.
The sun's were setting over Sweetmilkwater Valley and Squagglmerre thought more and more about his brother Mashubapoppin. There was a day when they were children, before they'd even grown into their long floppy ears and wide eyes, when they snuck away from school and ran to the Candy Cane Forest. For hours they played, hiding and seeking. Stopping to break off bits of the sweet and rich tree branches, eating until their lips were coated in a sugary glaze. Finally, after much running and pounds of candy they sat with their backs against a tree.
“What if mom finds out?” Squagglmerre asked his older brother.
“Don't even worry about that, I got your back pal,” and he always had. Protecting him right up until his very last breath.
Squagglmerre cried harder the more he thought about his brother. He wished the blurred image of the scorched valley ahead were a dream. That this wholesome place he and Mashubapoppin used to play and escape the world for a while to, didn't now house his older brother's body in it's sweet soil.
In stories the action would always take a long time, sometimes pages after pages; but in real life it wasn't slow or long at all. Fighting wasn't beautifully described like it was in the books, it was grotesque and bloody. And in an instant everything you knew could be gone.
The final battle didn't come slowly, it exploded on the two brothers in the blink of an eye. Mashubapoppin had been ready, Squagglmerre had not. They'd stopped to build camp for the evening, Squagglemerre was to watch the area and begin setting up their shelter while Mashubapoppin retrieved supplies for the fire. He decided to sit for a moment after his older brother disappeared into the woods, it felt like they had been walking for days. Before he knew it, he was snoring loudly, dreaming of sweets and games.
He heard his name being called loudly and the rustle of fighting before he was even fully awake. Squagglmerre opened his eyes just in time to see his brother, standing between him and four advancing soldiers, fall to the ground as what they called “bullets” ripped through his body. Squagglmerre screamed and raised his enchanted candy cane shield, sending more bullets ricocheting in all directions. He fought quickly and fiercely and after he had slayed each soldier he ran to his brother.
Squagglmerre shook his head and pushed the memory to the depths of his mind. He wished he could go back, back to when it all started. It seemed like they could have reached some sort of agreement, maybe they could have helped each other. Anything was better than this. The scorched land covered with the bodies of creatures who not so long ago were frolicking and playing in a place where the rainbow sky never lost it's color. A magical land where creatures of all kind lived in harmony and crying was a frightening detail in deranged stories that were meant to scare children.
That place was long gone. The worst part was, they probably could have just taken it without the killing. The inhabitants of Candyrainbowlia didn't even use the ore they now mined from land. If only he could go back to the beginning, maybe even before, and find the first one. The first of the “humans” who figured out how to access their planet, and stop it all from ever starting.
The sun's were almost down in the sky and Squagglmerre's eyelids began to give out. The thought of killing the first human intruder on his homeland made the corner's of his mouth twitch upward slightly, and sent him off to sleep.
*Originally Published 1/12/15*
*Good Day! Today’s addition to, 40,000 A Rough Draft, is 971 words, written in 48 minutes! Before you get on to the reading remember they can’t all be winners. I had a tough time getting going this morning and ended up wasting 15 minutes writing three different opening scenes then promptly deleting them. The final story is okay, but I wish I would have been able to get going a little sooner and not have to rush as much.
On the other side of that, I managed to bang out 971 words in 48 minutes, the whole writing session only took 1 hour 3 minutes! Kinda proud of that, cause after the first few minutes I wasn’t sure if I would make the word count. I’m also going to start logging the stats underneath the title for how long the whole process took.
Anyway enjoy and as usual feel free to leave any thoughts you may have on the comment board. Have a good week.*
Deus Ex Machina
Word Count: 971
Writing: 1 hr 3 min
Editing: 21 min
Total Time: 1 hr 24 min
“I see him in my head sometimes. Alone, standing on a hill. Or maybe it's me, I'm not even sure I can tell the difference anymore. Hell, you're the first person I've talked to in more years than I can count.” A gust of wind kicked up leaves and scared the fire under the logs. “I've always assumed I was the last one. A man alone,” he paused staring deeply into the fire. The flames danced light pink and yellow on his long golden hair. “And him. Of course him.”
“How old are you son?” The old man asked, his voice crackling in unison with the fire. He stroked his long beard slowly, entranced with the man across the clearing.
“No real way of telling. I stopped wondering about time altogether long, long, ago.” His voice was still young and strong. Though there was a knowledge that lay heavily on his words. A knowledge one can only attain after a great many years of learning.
“Yes, yes I can see that,” the old man said more to himself than to the other man.
“How have you survived old man? How has he not come for you the way he has for every other living thing that used to walk on this planet?” The man finally took his eyes from the fire. “I found you simply wandering around, as if you were out for an evening stroll. Surely that is not how you have protected yourself for this long.”
The old man smirked invisibly under his long beard.
“I've just been lucky I suppose.” The blonde man's eyes returned to the fire. A breeze rustled leaves above them and ash rose from the burning wood while both men sat silent.
“Very well,” said the blonde man finally. “But he will come for you. You must know that? He comes for everyone eventually. My time will come as well, but I intend to keep it at bay as long as possible.” The old man continued to smirk as he stroked his long beard.
“Is that so?” He asked, more fascinated with the man across the fire with every passing word.
“It is indeed,” he said looking at the old man now, eyes daggers of seriousness. “I have watched first hand, and from afar, as he murdered entire cities. They didn't know it was coming, not a single one. He's not anyone you would ever expect. Just a small, regular looking man. At first. Then he starts the killing. Devouring each and every soul, growing more powerful with one death at a time.
I'm sure he's the Devil, I simply don't see any other explanation. But not the traditional Devil from the Bible,” he paused and wrinkled his brow. “An old man like you must be familiar with the Bible right?” He asked, suddenly realizing the last survivor's he'd met could barely speak let alone read or write.
“I am,” said the old man, his invisible smirk now an invisible smile.
“I thought so. Anyway, as I was saying. I don't think he is the traditional Devil in the sense of commanding hordes of demons, and running hell. That would mean that I believe in a heaven, and I'm sorry if I offend you sir, but I can't believe that. If there was a heaven than I would hate to see what torture happens there. That God let one man exterminate life on an entire planet without so much as lifting a finger.” The blonde man stopped speaking again and the two simply looked at each other. The flames were dimming and if they intended on keeping the fire going it would need more fuel soon.
“So you run then? That's your life?” The old man was almost too giddy to sit still, and his hand moved faster through the long, coarse hairs of his beard.
“What else is there? Anyone who has even thought about taking him on has been killed. For years I have watched life on Earth disappear little by little. Once the humans were gone he started in on the animals, wiping them out species by species. There is nothing but running. I am simply lucky he has no taste for plant life or I would have starved to death eons ago. And unless you intend to share the secret to your own longevity then when I wake up tomorrow; I will run.” The blonde man realized he was almost yelling and his breathing was fast and heavy. The flames illuminated his face in a series of ancient shadows, and the old man could see the wrinkle of anger over his eyes.
The old man stopped stroking his beard and chuckled lightly. Then again a little louder, and again, louder still, and again, and again. Until finally he was laughing so hard his body rocked and he clapped his hands.
“What exactly do you find so funny old man?” The blonde man asked, yelling so he could be heard over the bellowing laughter. The blonde man stood ready to spring on the man across the fire when the laughing stopped.
In a flash the old man was on his feet, staring the blonde man in the eyes from across the fire.
“For as long as we have been sitting here you still haven't realized. I've been listening to you yammer on about God and the Devil, hoping and waiting for you to put it together.” The old man's voice no longer crackled, it flowed equally as smooth as the blonde man's own. “But it seems, even after all this time, you were right. They never do see it coming.” The young man's eyes widened with a hopeless knowledge as the devil sprung across the fire.
*Originally Published 1/12/15*
*Update* Good Monday Everyone! Below is the next addition to 40,000 A Rough Draft, weighing in at 1,009 words finished in an one hour and fifteen minutes. I hope you enjoy and check back next week for story number 3. Only 38 left now. *Update*
Mr. May 3001
Word Count: 1009
Writing: 1 hr
Editing: 15 min
Total Time: 1 hr 15 min
The dank stink of the forest chased him. On his hands and clothes, in his hair. He wasn't sure how many hours it had been since he entered the bowl. Yet, even through his fear he couldn't help but wonder if he had broken the record. A pang of yearning gripped his insides as his footfalls beat rapidly on the thick carpet of vegetation. Everyone he knew would be at a bar somewhere, or in front of their televisions at home, enjoying the show. That's where he would be if he hadn't been chosen. Mr. May, 3001. That's all anyone would remember about him. No name, no past, no life. Just a photo with a brief bio next to it in the memorial catalog, Mr. May written in bold black letters at the top.
As he ran deeper into the bowl, down what seemed to be a never ending hill padded with bright green, and purple bushes. He wondered how it had all began. Of course he knew the story of the first Endurance, everyone did. Some revolted when their names were drawn, others ran. The population took care of itself quickly in those early days. So many uprisings, so many deaths. Thinking about it now he assumed that was always the plan. The world's government's were smart.
Once they deemed the population an, “over abundance, and hazardous to the longevity of the Earth,” everything changed. His grandfather had still been alive then and used to tell him stories about the first drawing. There was a program on television that took you into the extraction room where they choose that month's contestants. They showed you how the algorithm used various genetic sequences to randomly choose a deserving person to, blah, blah, blah. He didn't believe they had an algorithm, not now.
He had done everything right his entire life, terrified of the bowl since he was a boy. They told you growing up if you did your homework, said your prayers every night, did all the things that good little boys do, then you wouldn't ever end up in the bowl. It was supposed to choose the bad people. He had graduated with honors from high school and college, gotten a good job, met a woman he was supposed to be marrying in a few months. Now he was Mr. May, 3001. He couldn't believe in an algorithm.
He stopped running. The air he pulled in through his mouth was harsh and burned his lungs. How long had he been running? He put his hands on top of his head and began walking in slow circles. Everything looked the same, as far as he could see, in every direction. The hills around him vanished into one another. He turned and looked back up only to see the same thing he had seen for the last, hours? Days? He was surrounded by the thick bushes that lined the walls of the bowl. The sunlight was nothing more than a sliver at the this depth and he wondered if the hills led all the way to the center of the Earth. They said it was possible for someone to make it out alive. Yet month after month and year after year, no one did. At least not in the eighty-three years since the first Endurance.
As he caught his breath he thought about his next challenge. He had already run into bees, a little quicksand, poison oak, minor things. Maybe they were going easy on him, or maybe he was just built to survive. Either way he knew it wouldn't be long before something really dangerous came along. He thought about Ms. September from a few years back. She had done so well, and many people thought she would break the record. Then, the panther pounced from the shadows. He remembered watching as the wild cat batted her around the way he had seen his own pet play with mice. He yelled at the television begging her to get up, rooting for her with the rest of the bar. But it was no use, the animal played with her for another hour before they deemed her dead and cut the programming.
So what then would be his demise in this vibrantly colored purgatory? His breathing had calmed and now he was fully aware of the smell again. He had never been exposed to anything in the world like it. The bushes wreaked and reminded him of a time when his cat had urinated all over the floor of his closet. Yet there was a strange zesty sweetness to the stench as well. A stink so foul it was almost pleasant.
He desperately wished they had given him a watch or perhaps had a large clock displayed for the“contestants.” At least give them one last hope, show them how many hours away they are from not ending up just Mr. or Ms. month and date. After all what household in the world didn't know the name Slechra Monnhaf. Mr. February, 2089, the famous Russian who survived one-hundred seventeen hours. He thought maybe if he could beat the bowl he would suggest it.
The air behind him was getting hot and he turned to see smoke up the hill. He stared for a moment trying to figure out exactly what was heading his way. The smell of the woods began to dissipate as the sky above lit up. A large wall of flames was making it's way down. He turned and began running once again. If he kept his speed up maybe he could beat the wall and find a safe place to rest for a while before the bowl made it's next attempt on his life.
The alien aroma filled his lungs quickly while his feet beat away at the soft Earth. He didn't know how long he had survived but he knew he would keep running, for as many hours as his body would let him. And hopefully with a little luck, he could be something more than Mr. May, 3001.
*Originally Published 1/5/2015*
*Update* So I just finished the rough draft of my newest book (still yet to be named) and am about to start really trying to dig in to opening this publishing company (more on that later) but I don’t want to stop writing completely. So I decided to write 40,000 – A Rough Draft. Once a week I am going to take an hour and a half and write a thousand word short story. One hour will be spent writing 1,000 words, and thirty minutes will be spent editing, then, poof a new addition. This will take forty weeks (unless I feel like writing more one week, but forty ideally) and then I will be publishing it as an ebook to give away for free!
Now while reading I will ask you to understand these are just rough drafts so please ignore all line editing issues (or don’t) and just read for the story. I think it’s going to be a fun project to make sure on busy weeks I get at least some writing done if I can’t be working on something else, and if it gives someone an idea or you find a story you really like, well that sounds like a win to me. So below is the first of forty, hope you enjoy. *Update*
A Smart Man
Word Count: 997
Writing: 1 hr
Editing: 30 min
Total Time: 1 hr 30 min
In life, many opportunities will present themselves. Many will show their faces to you over, and over, and over. My father told me that what makes a man smart, successful, is knowing when to grab hold of these opportunities, and when to let them drift by in the winds of time. I used to think I was a smart man.
My father left us not long after he explained the difference between intelligence and stupidity, winning a losing. It always led me to believe that we were his failure, I thought he was a smart man. I lived with this failure for many years, weighing me down a bit more with each passing day. It almost won. Almost took me to it's loser grave to moan and whine with all of the other stupid men in the world. That's when I thought, what if...? What if my father wasn't so smart? Could he have been a stupid man himself?
Freedom. I felt light when the thought crossed my mind and I blindly accepted it, elated with the new found possibilities that life had to offer. The possibilities that only a smart man can obtain, held just out of reach from the pitiful losers below. Earth itself became brighter, the colors seemed to radiate as I walked through my life.
Things moved quickly after that. Now that I was smart I had a deep yearning to not only be successful, but to be the most successful. I attacked knowledge with every particle of energy in my body, determined to make every secret mine. Soon I was a high school graduate, then came the bachelors, masters, and before I knew it I was a Doctor.
Where are the wife and kids? People would ask me regularly at the few functions I attended. No wife and kids yet, I would reply in jest. Though I knew yet meant never for me. There simply was not enough time to be a smart man and raise a family. Or so I thought.
Life continued to speed by. As it did I reveled more and more in my achievements and knew I had made the right decisions. Each and every opportunity carefully considered and selected to act as a stepping stone to my next success. It was perfect, I was winning.
I was ahead of the curve in every way. I began inventing and have contributed to some of the largest medical breakthroughs of the last hundred years. What a life of great opportunities, stacking up and locking together like Lego's, to build what could only be viewed as the life of a smart man.
Yet, now here I sit, writing this letter with nothing in my mind but doubt, fear, regret. I am old now, too old to change my ways. Too old to improve. I am no success at all and quite possibly one of the stupidest men I have ever known. I thought I had it all worked out, but I couldn't have been more wrong.
And why? Why have these thoughts entered my mind now, when I am so close to the end. When I was so close to going out like a winner, like a genius. Well, it's quite obviously your fault, or maybe I just got tired. Age will do that, and it will do it fast. Before you know it you're so tired you're dead. Or maybe that's just the way it feels for stupid men.
With all my soul I wish I had never met you. I wish that I had come down with the flu, or even been in a car accident on the way. Anything that would have prevented me from making it onto the flight. Making to the seat next to yours.
I thought I had it all figured out, all of these years. I have worked hard to learn the secrets of life, and until now thought I owned the all. Now it seems I have missed the most important lessons the entire way. Missed the things that stared me directly in the face at every turn. Grabbed the wrong opportunities. But I suppose someone has to, the world needs stupid men like me.
I remember the way your silver hair glinted in the yellow light, reflecting a dazzling halo on the ceiling. Your scent, just strong enough to smell, yet not too strong so as to bother my nose during the flight. It was your eyes though. That's what started it, all of this. They were so young, so alive though the body outside was like mine, tired and wrinkled.
I typically don't enjoy speaking with people on my flights. But you were different. Your voice was light but heavy with the knowledge of a fulfilled life. You told me stories of your family, they sound delightful. I could feel the warmth that you carried inside spreading to me the more you spoke. It's when I knew, and how I know now, that I was wrong.
So many years, wasted. All the time spent wrong. How had I been so stupid? For all that I have learned and accomplished none of it meant anything at all it seemed. Certainly I have left behind a legacy but is it the legacy of a smart and successful man? Surely not.
I know you will probably never read this but it had to be written. I couldn't just go without telling the world why a stupid man like me is no longer necessary. And now I think back to all those years ago, when my father taught me the lesson that changed my life. I listened to him but didn't pay attention. I fought so hard to be successful, I missed the real meaning. Being a champ had nothing to do with the words he spoke, he showed me how to win when he left. I simply didn't realize it then. Like I said, I used to think I was a smart man.