The purpose of this blog is to provide a place for me to express the stories that boil out of me. Feel free to comment, critique, congratulate, or hate. To create is to live.

February 4, 2016

A Hard Night's Haunting

“Oh for the love of…” his hand stung and rippled as he tried to shake the pain away.
“Come on Mort, it’s just a toy, it’s not made of salt. You can do this!” Carl was hovering behind him like any good haunt proctor would.
“You try it if you think it’s so easy!”
“Stay focused and you can get through this. If you lose your temper you’re liable to go all poltergeist and I’ll have to mark you down.”
Mort’s translucent face darkened as he forced the anger away but he couldn’t keep it fully contained. A shelf next to the girl’s bed shook and a snow globe fell to the carpet with a muffled thud.
“Focus? Seriously? Why don’t I just float through some incense or stick my fingers through a powerline to ‘recharge my chakras’ for all the good that would do?!”
Mort looked at the bed. The girl, his assignment, was still sleeping peacefully under her bedspread. She hugged a large blue dinosaur plush toy, its long neck pinned under her chin, its tail lost under the covers.
Mort forced himself to calm and reached out again. He felt the tingle and pushed harder. Drops of ectoplasm formed on his forehead and vanished into the either as he kept pushing. There was a crackling sound and his hand jerked. He shot forward and brushed against the plush toy.
Pure agony ripped through his body and he screamed.
“Freakin dinosaur!”
Mort’s rage was a solid thing and he didn’t even bother holding it in. Phantasmal energy shot out as he went full poltergeist. There was a loud boom that only the dead could hear and both Mort and Carl were hurled away from the bed. Curls of ectoplasmic energy peeled from them to shimmer and fade against the walls.
“That’s enough ya gits!”
A deep scottish brogue cut through the room from direction of the sleeping child. Mort shook his head and looked at the bed. The plastic beads of the dinosaur’s eyes looked back. Its long neck had turned and the head was regarding them as their bodies healed.
“Did that toy just talk?” Carl’s voice was shaky as his face solidified.
“Get ye gone spirits or suffer my wrath,” the dinosaur’s voice was steady and radiated power but the toy’s mouth didn’t move.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Mort’s anger flowed back and his body rippled as the last drops of his substance reformed.
“Mort wait!”
“I’m almost a licensed spook you sack of fluff! I’m gonna tear you apart!”
Mort’s body was glowing a sickly shade of green as he let the rage grow.
“Fair warning fairly given.”
The dinosaur started chanting.
“Specters and fiends, spirits and devils, get thee hence from this plane! By the power of Bronto Kittles, the third of that name, guardian of children, protector of the mortal realms, and scourge of evil! I command thee! BE GONE!”
The air shattered and both ghosts screamed as their spectral bodies were torn apart by a hellish wind coming from the toy. In seconds there was nothing left of them but the fading glow of Mort’s impotent rage.
“Bronto?” the girl’s eyes blinked open and she looked around the room, lids still heavy from sleep. All was silent, dark, and peaceful. She shivered and hugged her dinosaur close. It felt warm. Comforting. Safe. In time she fell back into her dream, a princess saving her dinosaur from idiotic monsters.

I sometimes haunt (forgive the pun) the Writing Prompts subreddit looking for inspiration. I rarely seem to find it but the other day one lept out at me. Sadly I can’t link directly to it as it seems to have vanished but here’s what inspired the above flash piece.

Everyone knows that salt repels ghosts because people believe it should. Now a ghost has been assigned to the toughest job of its career: To haunt a child with a plush dinosaur.

February 1, 2016

It's Cold Here

It’s cold here. It’s been cold for a long time. The world was getting warmer but now it’s cold and getting colder. When I spit it freezes before it hits the ground. I piss yellow slush. Even sound is different.
It’s fucking cold here.
I think it’s because of the sun but that’s just a guess because the sun is fucking gone.
It vanished a while back. Well I think it’s been a while. With no sun there’s no days.
My watch tells me it’s been 9 months but the thing is old and doesn’t always work. Whatever it uses to keep ticking depends on moving around and it’s usually just too cold.
Can’t use my cell phone because it’s just a brick now. When the sun went away so did GPS, the internet, and the power grid.
If I’m honest though time doesn’t really matter all that much anymore.
Eventually I’m probably going to freeze to death.
Me and the rest of the assholes.
Well, not the rich assholes.They’re probably in bunkers somewhere huddled around nuclear reactors and converting their piss and shit into potatoes and chicken wings. They’ll keep on going for centuries.
Then again maybe they won’t. Maybe I’m just inventing them to keep myself from walking into the cold and never coming back.
Maybe I shouldn’t worry about hypothetical assholes and worry about real assholes like you. I mean you definitely should have been worried about me.
It’s going to be okay.
Well, okay for me.
For you, not so much.
At least with the cold you’ll last.
You gotta look on the bright side even when there’s no sun right?

January 4, 2016

A Little Something

The thing coiled in his chest. He could feel it moving. It was restless and had been for weeks. He wanted to hate it but he couldn’t. It gave him power and made him strong.
The pile of gore cooling at his feet was proof.
He smiled and it pulsed. There was pain but he didn’t cry out. It felt good and his smile widened.
“Not long now…”
The words came from his throat but they weren’t his.
His smile faded.

November 24, 2015

The Fight

I pushed against the darkness and something gave. There was a rumble and I felt chunks of stone bounce off my metal skin. Light poured in and I pushed harder. Broken concrete and brick fell away and I stood.
There was a massive hole in front of me but at least the rest of the building was still standing. Luckily I hadn’t struck anything load bearing. I don’t want more dead people on my conscience.
Nothing hurt, it never did, but I felt a couple new dents along my shoulders and neck. Nothing a decent meal couldn’t fix but there was no time.
I heard the sirens in the distance so I went out through the hole and stopped cold. There was three hundred feet of torn up roadway, a bunch of burning cars, and the crumpled halves of a bus scattered in front of me. There were people pulling up debris and I could hear screaming from the wreckage.
My world fell away and all I knew was panic. I checked my body, my arms, my legs, and tried to twist around to see my back. I was looking for blood, for gore, things that could only come from others. I remembered the desert, the maniac with the knife, and diving off the SUV at 70 miles an hour. Nothing, no blood, just tar and dirt. My world came back by inches.
“Just...just walk…” my voice was ragged and weak but at least I was talking.
I forced one foot in front of the other and followed the destruction.
I heard a massive roar and one of the sirens shifted into a warbling sound that seemed to get closer.
I looked up and saw the tumbling patrol car. It was bent in half and seemed to be barely moving as it got bigger. Behind me I heard people digging. I turned my head and yelled at them.
They looked up and I saw their fear but they didn’t stop. There was an arm sticking out of the ground at their feet.
I swore. I know, heroes aren’t supposed to, but if you had been there you definitely would have. I gauged my position, took a step to the left, dug my feet into the ruined asphalt, and braced myself.
The car struck and I flexed as I caught the thing. My feet didn’t budge. The car felt as light as cardboard to me and I put it down as gently as I could. I looked inside but it was empty. My relief was a solid thing.
Reploid didn’t care who he killed. Didn’t care what he hit, what he tore, or what he ate.
I took a step, then another, then another.
I was charging towards a monster...is that what makes someone a hero?

September 16, 2015

The Process - The World Building Trap

I write science fiction and horror.

I love it, I really do. Inventing worlds, creating monsters, and portraying the fantastic. These things are pure joy.

That said, it’s a freakin trap!

What do I mean?

Well, it’s seductive. It’s much easier to write background material than to actually write a story. After all, the only audience is you so why the hell waste time on polish, presentation, or coherence when you can just type away? These documents are your personal notes so it doesn’t really matter. That’s why there’s a certain comfort in creating encyclopedic write-ups on obscure and “super cool” things that you’ve come up with.

Hours, days, months, even years can be spent down this rabbit hole of invention all before you get the first paragraph of a real story penned.

That’s when the true horror of the trap reveals itself. You can spend so much time exploring your fascinating invention that you have no more stories to tell. You wrote all this background history where crazy awesome things happened but you resolved the conflicts before your story started. Or, perhaps worse, you were so in love with exploration that you didn’t write inherent conflicts and story hooks that would create an actual narrative.

By the time you feel you’re “ready” to start your actual story there’s nothing left in the tank.

So if that’s the danger, why bother with world building at all? Why not seat of the pants the whole setting while you tell your story? Why not boldly plumb the depths of your imagination while in the grips of your daring tale?

Some people do that very thing and it CAN work for them. However that creates a couple of different potential traps that, in my experience, are a just as deadly. You can write yourself into a story ending corner or you can be paralyzed out of a flow state because you can’t think of what’s around the next bend when the characters are doing their natural thing.

The truth is that you will always need to invent stuff for your world and it will burn mental cycles. It’s part of the whole telling a story thing. Given my focus on trying to stay in a flow state I’d much rather burn those cycles when I don’t have to stay in the moment. I’d rather know how the nanites in the protagonist’s blood work before the bad guy hacks them. However that leaves me vulnerable to the trap and that cannot stand.

The solution, like for most things, is probably in following a middle of the road approach. For a specific idea I’ll do a small amount of world building or world refining along with structure work before starting the actual story. However I start writing the story when I’m only 20-50% through the building bit. That way I can work on tone, mood, and voice without falling into the endless building trap and actually generate content in the process.

I just can’t do a seat of the pants story to completion. I’ve tried. Anything more than say 500 words needs some outlining and building before I can get it into a reliably complete-able state.

Silver lining though if you have fallen into the world building trap: All that stuff you built? You can strip mine the hell out of it to make other stories so the effort isn’t totally lost.