Flash Fiction Challenge: Must Contain A Map

This week’s flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig’s Blog was Flash Fiction Challenge: Must Contain A Map. So I chose a little bit of a different mapping technique. Hope you like it.

quantum entanglement

A Map

“This is your last chance Mr. Carter. You can, if you wish to avoid undo discomfort, tell us what we want to know or we can . . .“ the interrogator let the words drift off in veiled threat. “It really is completely up to you.” He walked around behind Carter and stood out of sight using a standard interrogation technique to disorient the subject and make them feel vulnerable.

“Or what? You’ll torture me?” Carter asked defiantly.

The interrogator laughed. “Oh my, you do have a flair for the dramatic.” His voice wafted in from behind Carter. “We don’t do that anymore.”

Carter set his jaw, mind games. Interrogators always fell back to mind games but he was not going to play. He stayed quiet.

“You see a person, any person, no matter how well trained will eventually break under torture. This is true and proven any number of times in any number of ways. Unfortunately, they do not always tell the truth or the whole truth. They will tell you whatever you want to hear so you will stop the pain. That is what we call confounding confessionals. They may confess but the confession may be a lie and it will throw a bit of a wrench in the information machinery.” The interrogator explained very calmly.

“So what then? Are you going to bore me into submission? Are you going to babble about technique and results until, finally, I tell you anything just to shut you up?” Carter scoffed.

“Oh no, sir. That would not do at all.” The interrogator told him, walking back into view holding a very large syringe filled with a bright blue liquid. “That would not do at all.” When the interrogator smiled, Carter felt a chill run down his spine. It was not so much the smile as the complete lack of any emotions in the man’s eyes.

“Then. . .” Carter started to ask but was unable to finish the query.

“Then . . .” the interrogator held the syringe out to him, “this.” The smile again, the same dead eyed smile.

“And that is?” Carter asked, voice not a whisper but with far less bravado than before.

“A map . . .or rather I guess this would be a cartographer.” He paused to consider the verbiage. “Either way, it is the key to you, Mr. Carter.” For emphasis he flicked the syringe with a finger. “This is a special kind of thing you see. This blue gunk, stop me if I am getting too technical, is a completely harmless sludge of amino acids and saline solution. The thing is though and you’ll want to pay attention to this part because it gets good here, those amino acids are encased in tiny little bubbles which are negatively charged. That is important because that means we can get positively charged protons to stick to them until the bubble breaks.”

Carter was at a loss. He had no idea what the man was talking about.

“I know, I know, you are wondering what the fuck I am on about, I can see that in your eyes. So here’s the thing, those protons are not just protons. We didn’t just go down to the store and buy some generic protons, oh no Mr. Carter. These are special protons.” The interrogator sneered. “They are very clingy kind. As a matter of fact they are so clingy they have become entangled with other protons on a quantum level. Do you know what that means?” the interrogator asked.

Carter shook his head; the tech babble was all Greek to him.

“The long and short of it is this, Mr. Carter. I stick you with this and shoot this gunk into your veins. This gunk then makes its way to your head because we put a nice positively charged tinfoil hat on you and then it whizzes around doing nothing until we start to talk.” The interrogator began to smile again and Carter was afraid. Those dead eyes lit up with a dark glee.

“Fuck you.” Carter spat at him.

“Then as you start to talk or not talk or try and stay unthinking, the protons these little guys are entangled with read every neuron firing in your head. Even the ones firing to keep you from saying what you don’t want to say. That is then imprinted on a blank . . . a cloned brain that has no impressions at all. It is a perfectly new brain in a clone body still in an embryotic sack that will record everything in your brain. Every thought, every memory will be slowly, methodically transferred, recorded and imprinted until we make a duplicate you. We will just play music and images for you and we will talk to you and your brain will eventually give us a map of everything Mr. Carter. We will remap you, into it.”

As the interrogator finished Carter’s chair was rotated by some unseen mechanism under it until he was facing the back wall of the room. It was set with a window across most of it and through the window in a dimly lit room was a very large biological mass. It was hard to describe it as anything but a throbbing sack of something organic with tubes and wires feeding into it. It pulsed and occasionally jiggled and the tubes could be seen to be pushing liquid in and sucking it out. In all it was a monstrous sight.

“So you see Mr. Carter, we have no need to torture you at all. We will simply make a map of you and then spill the clone out. While it will not last more than a day or two, we can’t seem to keep them alive longer. It will be enough time for you to tell us everything we want to know.” The dead eyed smile again as the interrogator leaned in close. “So Mr. Carter, we have no need for torture at all.”

Seeing is Imagining

wall full of post it notes

I outline in a weird way. I have come to this epiphany after reading how other people do it and realized, the way that works for me is. . . .odd. I am a visual creature. When I am writing I see in my mind things and then try and describe what I am seeing. By the time a story is done or, hopefully, my first novel, I have seen it as a movie in my head over and over, each time with slight little tweaks and bits changed. But I see it and that is how my brain works.

I’ve tried the note card method, the free writing method, the rigidly formatted method and none work for me.

What does work for me are sizes, colors, and spreading things out. I start with rather large (11 x 14) paper. On these pieces are the main big fu-fu parts of the story, the things that must happen to propel the story to its end. This is not only the standard turning points of a three act story but also things that I want to be major that make the story make sense to me. Once I have those written down I begin to pin them in order on the wall with thumb tacks.

Next I take 8.5 x 11 sheets, usually a different color than the big white sheets. These are scenes and they are written out in a random order. I need to know why the story goes from point A (the beginning) to point Z (the ending) and for me that is not a linear process. Each big paper is looked at and I replay the things around it in the movie in my mind. I look to see what details I need to make it happen and make it logical (even in a non-logic based urban fantasy setting). I spread out my thoughts from there, slowly weaving what has to have happened prior to each point to what should happen after another point.

The reason I do this bit is to get the scenes as I want them in my head. It is not an absolute for me. Often I pull the tacks out and stuff them in another place. I am also usually too lazy to respreads all the papers so I can tend to get clumps of papers all shoved into one small place. That is ok for me. That visual lets me know that particular area is important to the movie in my head.

Once I have the scenes, the steps from one fu-fu to the next, done I take out the post it notes. Yellow is for name ideas or object ideas. Purple is for emotional aspects I want to bring out. Green is for important information I need to have expressed by then. Blue is for back story that needs to be told by that point for it to be logical. Pink is for action bits. Orange is for questions I have not answered yet.

Now I stand back and look at the chaotic mess I have made all over the living room. Thing is though, it is not chaotic to me. I see the sizes, shapes, colors as the thoughts I am trying to organize. I keep adding post-it notes until I can’t think of anything more but I don’t put them away. If I do, I will have to grab them out again in no time, never fails.

Now I start to tell myself the story, usually out loud. I tell the story just like you’d describe a movie you saw to someone else and I challenge myself on the validity of the logic for everything that is not based in physics or just common sense. Anything that is a dramatic element of the story is challenged like a parent questioning a late child about where they’ve been. I try and poke holes in my head-movie. I try and draw conclusions to spoil the ending. I try and tear the story apart and sometimes it works. Sometimes I realize “That is just stupid” and then I grab up the post its and start to figure out a way to make it not stupid.

Sometimes at this point I rip up some of the 8.5×11 sheets and figure out a different set of steps to get from fu-fu to fu-fu. Sometimes I rearrange things so they make more sense and line up more with the movie. I add post-its as needed until I feel “Ok, this is what I am seeing and it makes sense”.

Then I leave it alone. I go off and do something else and leave the mess tacked to the wall. When I return I start over and think of the movie in my head. I see how it lines up to the mess on the walls and I try and find big holes in the whole thing. I do this for days and I keep adding little bits or moving things or taking things away until one day I look at the mess and I see it. I see the movie in my head.

Then I start writing it all down in an outline to make sure I don’t lose anything.

But it is all seeing it for me. It is all about seeing what I see in my mind in a mass of colored paper and thumb tacks and only then, when I have poked at it for a long time can I start to write it down and make sure I remember it. I have to see it first.

That’s how I outline.

Flash Fiction – Random Picture Story

So this week’s flash fiction challenge on Chuck Wendig’s blog was to write a story for a random picture. Now, I know this is actually a Peruvian Chullo hat or something like that but that is not the first thought that came to mind. . . I went a little more fanciful with my story. . .

The photo url:

http://photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=10451892

The Glitter Man
The Glitter Man

For the record it should be stated he did not ask for it. He had, on many occasions begged them to stop. It was to no avail though. They kept doing it every time he fell asleep. He’d wake up and find himself covered with random bits of color. Sometimes it was just glitter sprinkled on him and other times, like today they went all out.

His hair was actually woven into the yarn bits and portions of the hat were glued to his head. He guessed it was to keep it all in place while he slept but, was not quite sure. It happened like this sometimes. The bush fairies would get in a color-fueled frenzy and go crazy.

It was his fault. Had he listened those many years ago and not given milk to the cries in the bush he would have had a much less complex life. He was young and foolish and didn’t listen though. He knew best and he put the saucer of milk by the bush. He had fed them and they had stayed with him ever since.

At first it was just flowers in his bed. Bright little bundles of wild flowers left for him and he had thought it very quaint and special. Then it was flowers woven into his hair. While a little less quaint it was still, interesting and harmless. Then they discovered textiles. That is when it started to go a bit odd.

Hats were the first things. Random colorful hats would be on his head when he woke up in the morning. No matter where he woke up. At home, they were there. At a friend’s house, they were there. Serving in the military, they were there and his drill sergeant was not at all amused. They were always there and he had no way of stopping them. People thought he was insane, they sent him home from the Army. No one wanted an insane man around, even if he was stylishly accessorized with colorful headwear.

Then, just as he thought things wouldn’t or couldn’t get worse, they discovered glitter. He remembered it was a cold day in early fall and there were no colorful wildflower blooms in the fields. He had always thought that was why they found glitter. They could find no color they wanted in nature so, they found it in some craft supply store. Then glue was next because the glitter fell off too much he assumed. Beads, pom-poms, tassels, and streamers followed in quick succession as they branched out their artistic efforts.

Soon after that they began to combine things. Beads in his hair and glittery cheeks. Pom-poms tied to his ears with nasal streamers of rainbow colors. The list was almost unlimited of the things they did. He couldn’t stop them. He tried staying awake but eventually, he had to sleep. He tried having someone watch over him but everyone thought he was crazy and wanted nothing to do with him. He set up cameras to capture them doing it but they stole the film and made streamers out of it and decorated him with shredded plastic tassels.

He was too old now to worry so much about it. He left it where they put it and just went about his life. The people around town all thought him completely mad but harmless and nothing he would do would ever change that view. Once you were mad, you were always mad. No one in a small town ever came back from being bug nut whacko. You just were always assumed to be hiding it better. So he didn’t try. He went about his life as best he could.

He would fish alone and sell his catch to a man in town. He would hurry into the store and buy what he needed and milk to put out in a saucer for them. Even though he didn’t appreciate all of the things they did, he also still couldn’t let them go hungry. It didn’t matter if he did, they didn’t leave so he might as well be right about it in his heart. He was a good man.

He had built a fence around the bush where he had heard them crying those many years ago with wood he found washed up on the beach. Over the years he had added much of the color from his morning gifts to it so that it was a patchwork of aged wood, dried flowers, bits of fabric and yarn and threads and, of course, lots of glitter. He kept adding to it until the fence completely hid the bush and the layers of adornments muffled any crying inside.

He was a good man. He would feed them because he had no choice but he would also hide them away. He would make sure that when his days were done they would not find another to do this too. He was neither angry nor bitter about it. He thought of them as his children and had genuine affection for them in his own way. He also wanted to make sure that no one else would ever suffer the same harshness in their life.

They meant well. Of that he was sure. They meant all of their efforts in love and affection as a way of thanking him. They didn’t know what it cost him and like a good father, he would never tell them even if he could. You accept. That is what parents do. They meant for him to be bright and cheery like a smile or a summer’s day. He saw it. After all these years he saw it and understood it and accepted it. He cherished not being alone. He cherished what they meant to do because, they meant well for him.

The children of the town called him the glitter man. They thought he was quite mad.

That was ok.

He would make sure they never knew the truth behind the glitter.

 

Getting Back On Track Writing

cover design for Sparrow
Rough Idea for the book cover design

Trying to back on track writing my novel but. . . it can be hard to pick things back up again. Working on a cover design. . .that usually helps me find the mindset again. Focusing on one image that would speak for the story helps me strip down what the idea was to start off with and get back to the basics of it all.

Flash Fiction – Creating a Character

This is my flash fiction bit for the Creating a Character topic. . . .something rather normal. . . I noticed everyone was creating dynamic characters and I thought I’d try and create a very normal one. . .to the extreme. From the Flash Fiction Challenge:

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/08/21/flash-fiction-challenge-time-to-create-a-character/

 

Bob is a normal guy . . . amazingly and mind numbingly normal actually. He is so ordinary that there is nothing to really point out about him that would distinguish him in any way from anyone else. He is of average height, normal weight that fluctuates within normal seasonal parameters. He has very non-descript looking hair that is always cut in a very normal fashion and even when he tries to do something different, it seems he only does what lots of others are doing and it remains totally average. At work people barely notice him at all. When asked they would be more likely to recall his desk and chair as obstacles rather than remember the man sitting in them. Bob was just terminally normal.

Then one day Bob woke up at his regular time and proceeded to begin his typical routine. As he began to lather his face to shave Bob suddenly realized that he was so amazingly normal and bland, he could no longer even see himself in the mirror. He was simply not there anymore. Which, he thought to himself, was pretty much normal, all things considered.

Flash Fiction Challenge – Pop Culture Mash Up

This week’s flash fiction contest at http://terribleminds.com/ramble/blog/ was a mash up of two random pop culture things. I got Scooby Do meets Donnie Darko. . . this is the result. . .

 

Getting It Right

“This week on Ghost Catchers we are heading into the halls of education that became the halls of death!” Fred gave a dramatic pause.

“Cut!” The director screamed in his earpiece.

“What’s wrong with that?” Fred asked incredulously, sure his introduction was perfect.

“Fred, your selfie camera is angled up your left nostril.” The director explained in a pinched voice, then exhaled loudly over the radio, and said, “Just tilt it up some, ok?”

“Oh.” Fred readjusted his camera and then started over; pausing only briefly to wonder just how stoned the shaggy headed director was getting back in the control van. “Ok . . . take two. This week on Ghost Catchers we are heading into the halls of education that became the halls of death!” He gave a dramatic pause before swinging around his camera to show their guest hunter of the week. “And with us is the student that escaped these halls once and now he is coming back again to face the spirits of his fellow students who died here.”

The guest host looked at him blankly. Fred waited for a response and when he was sure the guy was just going to stare at him and say nothing, he swung the camera back to himself and continued the introduction. “Two years ago a student entered these halls on a normal Monday morning and went to his home room, just like he always did. Once there though he detonated a bomb he was carrying in his backpack killing himself and the 20 students in the classroom. The horror of those moments has been permanently etched in these halls and people from the local area swear they have seen and heard the students screaming over and over again at night.”

“You know you sound like a complete tool, right?” The guest hunter said.

Fred paused, bewildered.

“Just thought someone should tell you because no one else seems to.” The guest hunter finished, shrugged, and started walking to the homeroom.

“Wait. Hey! You are with us, we are the investigators!” Fred called out looking to his teammates for support. Daphne was busy trying to figure out why her bra was glowing through her shirt in the night vision cameras and arguing with the producer about it. He wanted her to leave it because it would increase ratings. Velma was trying to control their dog Scooby that supposedly could sense ghosts, usually by yelping and running in the opposite direction as fast as possible. Fred realized he was on his own.

“Fred, dude, we’ll fix it in editing.” The director told him in the earpiece. “Just roll with it and go on.” Fred gave a scowl and then hurried after the guest hunter.

“Hey,” Fred called out and then realized that he didn’t even know the guy’s name. ”Hey, what’s your name again?”

The guest hunter didn’t pause, he just waved Fred’s question off like some bothersome gnat flitting about his head and walked purposefully to the blasted classroom doorway. “Go away Fred.” He called back as Fred caught up with him.

“Hey dude, I’m the star of this show so you listen to. . .” Fred began to say but the guest cut him off.

“No Fred, you are the douche of the show that thinks he’s the star and this isn’t about EVPs or any of that other ghost hunter horseshit. This is about them and me and something that went wrong.” The guest turned to him, his face calm but stern. “I was there. I was supposed to be there. They can’t stop being there till I go back so this isn’t about your little show, this is about them; the students that died that can’t stop dying till I get it right.”

Fred looked totally confused. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

“That morning, I was there, in the room with them. The bomber, he had a moment where he thought that maybe he shouldn’t do it. I mean really, really thought about it and when that happened I saw him leave the room, I saw him go outside and I followed him. When I left, he blew up the room. I wasn’t supposed to see that moment but I did and I left when I was supposed to stay.” The guest explained but seeing the blank look on Fred’s face he knew he was totally lost.

“All you need to know is I agreed to be on this piece of crap show because it was the only way I could get back into this building again.” The guest said.

“We have won several local cable awa. . .” Fred protested.

The guest went on talking over Fred. “Sometimes when we have two choices we create a divergence of reality. He had a choice to go home or to stay and kill. I saw that thought about going and followed it but he stayed and killed everyone. I wasn’t supposed to see it and I was supposed to stay and die. Now there are two realities fighting it out and these kids can’t finish the dying without me.” A hellish light began to emanate from the room and they could hear faint screams starting and then begin to grow louder. “Every night, they’re still dying until I get it right. Both realities can’t exist, one has to end.”

Fred was totally lost but Velma had come up and understood what the guest was saying. “So you have to redo the day with them, the right way?” The guest nodded. “Can you tell us your name at least?”

“Unknown Remains #12. The new kid whose foster family never reported missing, whose paperwork never got filed in time.” He smiled a bittersweet smile, “I’m Unknown Remains #12, nice to meet you.”

Velma’s eyes welled up with tears. He saw that and smiled at her. “I’ve got to go.” She nodded.

He turned and went into the classroom.

 

This time he got it right.

 

Flash Fiction: The Gift of the Nothing

Here is my entry to the flash fiction contest at Chuck Wendig’s Blog It comes in at 1000 words exactly including the title. . .hope you enjoy. Had some fun with it.

The Gift of the Nobody

Nadia stood her ground and tried to not be intimidated by the hulking, eight foot tall demon before her. His deep red skin covered with a viscous snot-like fluid that constantly oozed down him and dripped off in glops. It fell to the ground with a sizzle like it would dissolve the floor but it didn’t. In fact it was mostly cosmetic and for show. He felt it gave him that “hellish” appearance that people expected and it was all about first impressions and the big ‘wow’ factor.

“So, one more time. What exactly do you want?” The demon asked, sure he had misunderstood the girl.

“I want to be nobody. I want to be completely unnoticed by anyone unless I make contact with them and then when the contact is done, I want them to go back to not noticing me again.” Nadia said once more.

“Well, I have to say, this is a new one deary.” The demon said thinking about it.

“It’s what I want,” The girl assured him.

“But why? Such a beautiful creature such as yourself, why not revel in the attention? Bask in the adoration? Most people make deals to get that. . .  not . . .the other way around.” The demon scratched his chin in contemplation.

“If you can’t do it. . .” Nadia shrugged and turned to leave.

“Wait, I can do it, but why? Just tell me that. Why do you want this?” He asked.

Nadia sighed and resigned herself to telling him. “My parents were famous, really famous. The moment I was conceived I was famous because of them. When I was born I was famous. When I was a child I had hordes of people watching me all the time. When I was in school, everyone stared. When I go to get a burger, I have throngs of paparazzi taking pictures. Everywhere I go, everything I do, someone is watching. Always watching me. People I barely know give interviews like they are my best friends. I am always noticed. I am always, constantly, never endingly watched and always have been. I want it to stop.”

The demon thought about it and nodded. He didn’t really understand it but he almost never did. During his last performance review his supervisor had chastised him for trying to understand, making his dissatisfaction clear with a few well timed and poignant licks of hellfire and brimstone. So faced with a lack of understanding and the potential of losing the contract, the demon simply said, “I can do it.” It’s all about closing the deal. He plucked a contract from the air with one hand and a pen from the air with the other.

Nadia shook her head. “No way I sign anything till I know you can do it. Not till I know for sure that you can make absolutely everyone not notice me. Not till I know I am nobody.” She had spent a lifetime dealing with managers, talent scouts, lawyers and other nefarious types that made big promises. “You need to prove to me that you can do it.” She crossed her arms and gave him a distrusting look.

“I can do it.” He protested.

“Prove it.” She challenged.

The demon thought about it and then about his quota, and how far behind he was this month and finally sighed. “Ok, fine.” He had a bad feeling about this but he needed to close the deal to avoid the fires again. With a grand gesture he summoned up arcane powers, the circle around him flaring up like neon so that the room was bathed in a hellish green light. “Then you are nobody!” His voice booming the words into reality.

That being done he stopped and looked around. He was confused. What had he been doing? He looked at his hands, he had a contract and a pen, he must have been doing something important. He looked around the room and saw nobody. What was he doing here? He chewed on the end of the pen trying to remember why he was here. He began to tap his foot nervously and thought ‘oh no, not again’. The door to the room opened and closed but he saw nobody there. What was he doing here?

Outside the throng of photographers were likewise trying to figure out why they were standing around in the hot sun. They knew there must have been a reason they were here but nobody walked out the door and they had no idea who they were waiting for. A few began taking pictures of the other paparazzi in case that was who they had come to shoot but they were dubious that was the case. As far as they could remember there was nobody here worth shooting.

Inside the demon looked at the contract. It clearly stated it was with nobody. Why had he written a contract with Nobody? That didn’t make sense. He was slipping, losing his touch. He was going to be in such trouble, he was very far behind on his quota and to be standing here wasting his time with nobody. It was a safe bet that things were not going to go well when he got back. He briefly thought about trying to work the paparazzi outside but discarded the idea, most of them had sold their souls long ago. With a gesture the contract and pen turned to ash and fell away, vanishing before they hit the floor. He was so screwed. With a sigh he gave up figuring out what he was doing and vanished in a puff of smoke back to hell.

The reporters likewise gave up and began to disburse and go home, confused, mopey, and feeling very foolish. There was nobody here to see. Nobody walked right past them. Nobody walked down the street unnoticed. Nobody walked off into the sunset alone for the first time.

And Nobody lived happily ever after.