Fear can never be overcome by anger. It must be overwhelmed by hope.
There are some issues writer’s need to understand about artwork they use to make their book covers. Just because a site says the artwork is royalty free doesn’t mean it is. People put images they find onto sites and say it is free to use but they don’t own the image so, while you might think you have something free it also might come back to bite you in the butt if you don’t have permissions from the creator or company that owns the copyright. Even if you think you are free and clear it can still result with you owing money to people you never knew existed.
A lot of sites offer images for purchase and you might think you are free and clear with those as well. Fact is you have unlimited digital distribution with most of those purchases but limited physical printed versions for sale. Many have a limit of 1500 or 15000 physical printed copies before you have to pay for an expanded license from the owner. This can end up being problematic if you don’t know about that little clause and the owner comes back and sues you for copyright violation after you surpass the limited use mark.
Most limited use contracts have a clause that allows you to use the image(s) purchased in composition of digital artwork. This is the sweet spot for writers. If you get an image, clip out the subject, add it to a digital background and modify it to be part of a larger piece (i.e. a cover design) so that the original piece comprises no more than 20% or so of the whole or that you have modified by 5 steps of digital manipulation, you have an original piece of artwork that you own the rights too.
Look into the copyright license of any image you use. Read the fine print and make sure you know what you can and can’t do with it. If you just work off faith that someone on some website knows if the image is free, you may end up paying much, much more than you would have getting a custom design done to start off with. Even some of the book cover service sites just use bought limited use images. Make sure to ask for the full copyright use agreement. You want to sell a gazillion books? Make sure something small like cover art is not going to cost you big time down the road.
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.
“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.”
So this weeks Flash Fiction Challenge from Chuck Wendig’s Blog was to start a 1000 word story with the phrase Its started with a bang. In whatever way your mind took that phrase to mean.
This is my take on it
It Started With a Bang
“It started with a bang,” Detective Flanders surmised, speaking less to the room of police and CSI techs around him than to himself.
“Duh,” his partner said, mocking him. “No shit? You mean the brains spattered on the wall and the shotgun in his mouth gave it away, huh?” Henderson said in feigned surprised tone. Then he shook his head; he hated being partners with this guy. Admittedly his clearance rate was sky high but this guy just rubbed him wrong, always so superior hoity-toity with his attitude.
Flanders looked up from his ponderings when he realized the ox was talking. Seeing he was apparently done he returned to his own thoughts, sure the ox had said nothing of value. It had started before this scene, before the shotgun. Flanders looked at the computer screen on the desk in front of him and saw that a word processing program was open and yet the document was blank. Odd, he thought. He reached out and took the mouse with a gloved hand, clicked ‘undo’ and a rambling paragraph re-appeared.
“That his note?” the ox asked. Flanders ignored him and read through the ramblings. It was not insanity but free writing of some sort. There was a theme to it that was just out of reach for Flanders to grasp. It seemed to be focused on humanity, how people treated each other, interactions, emotions, and resulting counter actions and reactions. It was almost making sense…
“Shit, this guy was looney toons. You read that shit? No wonder he blew his own head off with a shotgun. Fuckin crazy shit.” the ox said. He plodded away from the desk to stand by the door and act self-important to impress the uniformed officers. Flanders fought down the urge to call him on his blunt stupidity and looked again at the man in the chair; the look on the face was not what you’d expect from a suicide. It was a look of victory. A look that said he had accomplished something. . .
. . .Something. . .
Flanders started to see it. Just the frayed edges but it was coming more and more into focus. He had found something in those random thoughts. Something. . .
“It started with a bang,” Flanders announced to the room. “But no, my dear partner Les Bœuf, it was not a bang of a shotgun although I do see why your limited mind goes there first. Shouldn’t you be out in a field grazing or something?” Flanders said shooting him an annoyed look.
“This started with a bang within him; a very different kind of bang,” Flanders continued, ignoring whatever the ox was saying as he plodded back towards him.
“This man came upon an idea that was . . . singular,” Flanders said in amazement and envy. “A thought so unique and so powerful it was a singularity, a single point of infinite possibilities. A thought so pure and perfect that it had so much energy, this man could not contain it. His mind was only human after all and it could not hold all that this thought was,” Flanders continued, ignoring the blank bovine stares of the CSI team.
“This man did not kill himself. Evidence of this is the look on his face; he is victorious, ecstatic even. Add to that the fact that still, even after death his hands clutch the shotgun fiercely. This was not a man giving up but a man . . . transcending. This man was not depressed or forlorn; this man had something he had to do.” Flanders strode purposefully back to the opposite side of the room and turned, looking at the crime scene from a new perspective and he finally saw it. He finally knew he was 100% right.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” the ox said plodding towards him.
Flanders gave him a disdainful look of pity but pointed to the desk from their vantage point. “Look,” he said.
The ox turned and saw only what he had seen before. A man at a desk with a shotgun in his mouth, his brains splattered all over the wall behind him. He saw nothing else but what he expected to see. Flanders saw the lack of illumination in his partners eyes and in a rare moment of emotion, grabbed the partner’s chin, pointed his face at the wall again saying, “Look at what is there.”
Still the ox saw nothing and Flanders fought down the urge to pull out his gun and shoot him. Instead he explained, “Look at the spatter pattern.”
The look of discovery came over the ox’s face. He saw it. Right there before them the whole time but only now was it visible. “It looks like a fuckin…”
“…Raven.” Flanders finished for him. “A messenger to carry that thought from him to the world,” Flanders explained. “The singularity within the man’s head had caused a ‘big bang’ of thought so huge; he had to let it out. He had to share it. That is the bang that started it all. The shotgun was just the tool.”
The ox gritted his teeth, he hated when the prick was right.
“I dunno, it kind of looks like two elephants trunk wrestling,” one of the CSI techs said.
Both Flanders and the ox shot him a disgusted look at the same time.
“How exactly did you pass the psyche test to get into the academy?” the ox asked him in disgust.
“It’s not a damn Rorschach test!” Flanders snapped. No, it was a sign . . . A sign of something bigger that could not be contained within one person. He looked around and could almost feel it lingering still, the thought that had to be free. It would not be seen though. It would fly out across the world, finding places to nest and grow. One day, it would be ready and the world would be big enough to hear it.
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.
I always thought we were like a puzzle box. Intricate and crafted so as to be a challenge to understand but with a core secret little space inside us that we choose what we carry forward with us through life. I was sure of this as a matter of fact and would tell people this philosophy with confidence that what I was telling them was the absolute truth.
Then I was writing my first novel and things I wrote reminded me of things I had long ago forgotten. Emotions I was crafting into my character resonated within me and brought back echoes of phantoms from pages past. Not actual events but mirrors, shadows of things . . . Feelings and thoughts that I would have sworn I had thrown out years ago.
I was wrong.
Writing has been a catharsis in a way. Not that anything is lost or purged . . . Quite the contrary as a matter of fact. We are not a box to hold life experiences in like tiny bits of treasure hidden away but a notebook of all that has been. We are a notebook with a thousand different starting and stopping points and a multitude of covers and ways to open it from different angles and different sides. We carry it all with us.
Everything stays . . . we move on. Like reading a novel, the words at the start do not vanish as you read, we just turn the page. Life is like that. Except in life’s notebook the chapters can be inline or they can be at complete right angles or opposite sides or anything between. They can even be all of the above and other things we can’t describe. Forwards, backwards, sideways. . . we turn the pages however we want to.
The bad we turn the page on and leave behind. The good we carry forward to the next page with us to continue the narrative. Nothing is thrown away though. Blacken it with ink, color it with bright swirls or paste pictures over it. . .it will still be there. Rip it out and the absence will be there like a negative image. You will know what is there by seeing what is not and in that way, it will be there.
We need not look back at those things we prefer to leave behind and they need not color the next page if we choose to move on but, they are there.
So, I was wrong. We do not choose what we carry with us because it is all in the notebook of our life. Nothing is thrown out, nothing discarded, nothing erased. . . but . . .
We choose what we carry forward to the next page.
So the flash fiction challenge this week for Chuck Wendig’s blog was to take two random weird character descriptions generated by THEY FIGHT CRIME and write a 1500 word story featuring the two characters you got fighting crime. I got:
He’s a hunchbacked Elvis impersonator from the spirit world and She’s a bloodthirsty paleontologist with a backpack full of scones.
Together, They Fight Crime!
So this is what I came up with. . .
The Doctor and The King
Cassandra looked at the carnage before her and drew in a deep breath. It was, to say the least, intoxicating to see the sheer brutality of the riot in full color, unabridged, and still fresh. The entire jail prison yard was decorated with splashes and splatters of blood and bits of flesh. Unlike most of the scenes of carnage she investigated, it was not fossilized remains and conjecture. This was, real. . .she could smell the tin like scent of blood. She could see the glistening of the sticky smears as they slowly dried, she could. . .
“It’s overwhelming I know.” The Warden said in an apologetic tone.
Cassandra realized her level of excitement was showing and took a deep breath, savored the scent and put on a shocked mask. “Yes, it is . . . terrible.” She lied.
“Why is he. . .” The attending guard asked from behind them. Turning they both saw Dead Elvis fixing his hair perfectly and then assuming his standard ‘I’m about to break into song’ pose. He was just starting to croon ‘Amazing Grace’ in tribute to the mangled bodies which, it should be said, was one of his better numbers but hardly appropriate for the job at hand.
“No!” Cassandra scolded him and he stopped at “the sound” and went quiet and stared at her with a sulky frown. “No.” She said again and then reached into her back pack and fished out a lemon-poppy seed scone. Like a puppy being given a treat, Dead Elvis pranced over and bobbled in place waiting to be given the pastry.
Both the Warden and guard looked on with a mixture of distaste and curiosity mixed into the normal ‘WTF’ gaze people had watching them. Cassandra shrugged as an apology and tossed the scone to Dead Elvis.
“What exactly is . . . ?” The Warden started to ask and then let the words drift off.
Cassandra took a deep breath and launched into the canned, standard issue reply and explanation she had said so many times she had to fight herself to not go through it too fast. If she did, she just had to say it again later.
“He’s a spirit; a dead person. He was a homeless Elvis impersonator but then he was run over by a Buddhist monk. The monk felt bad and came back day after day offering incense, foods and prayers to atone and Bennie’s spirit stayed around because it smelled good. That would have been the end of it if I had not come along and, not expecting to see a Buddhist monk kneeling in the middle of the road in the middle of the night, run him over, killing him. It was an accident but, by chance I had just gotten fresh baked scones, they smelled good and Bennie, or Dead Elvis as he prefers to be called, began following me.” She took a deep breath and let it all sink in.
“He’s all hunchbacked and . . . what kind of Elvis impersonator. . .” The guard started and Dead Elvis chimed in.
“No. . .No. . . You got it wrong buddy boy. That’s just the, you know, break.” He explained.
“Huh?” Both the Warden and Guard chimed in together.
“His back, it’s snapped in two.” Cassandra explained. “The monk backed up when he realized he ran him over and. . . .” she snapped her fingers coldly. Then realizing how that might look, smiled sympathetically.
“And since my body left me, I’ve found a new place to dwell. . .” Dead Elvis started, his hip gyration making his top half heave and bobble precariously.
“Stop!” Cassandra told him. Dead Elvis went back to sulkily sniffing at the scone. “He really is helpful at times. He can sometimes speak to the recently dead and get their side of the story.”
Dead Elvis nodded and smiled.
“So you two. . .” The Warden began in a dubious tone and then rethought his words and let the statement drift off. He was beginning to wonder why the State’s Attorney had sent these two to help investigate a prison riot. “I’m sorry but I don’t see where the two of you are going to. . .” He started to say but Cassandra cut him off.
“These men were from a special unit correct?” She asked.
The Warden nodded and looked around at the bodies. “Yes, they were our pilot early release program.”
“They were model inmates who had committed non-violent crimes?” Cassandra asked.
The Warden nodded.
Turning to the guard she asked, “And you had direct interaction with all of them?”
“Yes,” The guard nodded. “I am with them. . . .was with them every day for 8 hours when I was at work. I even ate lunch with them.”
“So no underlying gang related tensions? Racial tensions? Political or religious tensions?” Cassandra asked in rapid fire.
The guard shook his head no three times in response. “They were good men. They were getting out in less than a week.”
“They were almost done with the program. They had no reason to do this at all.” The Warden stated and threw up his hands in confusion. “I have no idea why. . .”
“The three guards on duty were involved and also killed?” Cassandra asked bluntly.
The Warden took a deep breath to calm himself and not retort to her brusque method of questioning. “Yes, we assume they were fighting for their lives.”
“As were they all, Warden. As were they all.” Cassandra said and began stomping on the ground.
“What are you doing now?” The guard asked in disgust, tired of this woman’s stupid questioning. It was obvious, it was a riot and three of his friends died. He was getting fed up with her superiority complex and the bullshit.
Cassandra looked up, eyes narrowing as she looked past him at the mountains behind him through the prison fence. Turning she looked at the hills to the other direction and nodded. Then she noticed Dead Elvis was, once again drifting away. Reaching into her backpack she produced a cinnamon scone and Dead Elvis was immediately beside her again sniffing deeply.
“Gentlemen, to understand what happened last night you must understand what happened on this spot long ago. That is why I am here.” She said, answering both of their unspoken questions. “Long ago . . . and by long I mean millions of years. . .This area was home to a species of raptors that I believe had evolved beyond what we currently can prove.” As the Warden began to speak she held up a finger and shushed him. “They were a matriarchal species and when their species went into decline, the males outnumbered the females and eventually there were only males left. The species would gather together, clan like, for a mating ritual on the spring equinox. They would gather here, on this spot, actually. In the final years when there were no more females to control the mob, the gathering became a blood bath. With no females to govern or chose mates, the males attacked and shredded each other much like last night.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” The Warden burst out with obvious contempt.
“Hear me out Warden. All will be clear.” Cassandra asked and then snapped her fingers to get Dead Elvis’ attention.
“What are they telling you?” She asked him.
Dead Elvis listened and nodded and turned back to Cassandra. “There was a party. . .a celebration of the men having completed the program.”
Cassandra nodded, she had expected as much.
The Warden explained, “They had almost completed the program. I thought they deserved some kind of reward so. . .” Cassandra held up a finger to silence him.
“There was music?” She asked.
“Yes, the prisoners had been allowed to form a band and play at the party.” The Warden nodded.
“The wiring for the sound system, it runs under this cement slab?” Cassandra asked.
The Warden nodded.
“Then I know what happened here. It was not a riot, it was in fact a case of trans-species spiritual possession. The carnage from the past left an emotional charge in the ground that, when triggered by the right electrical charge possessed the inmates and guards alike into reliving the deadly event over again.” Cassandra explained.
“What the hell are you talking about?” The Warden bellowed.
Dead Elvis stepped forward to explain.
Dead Elvis took a non-breath and then began to gyrate in a most disturbing way as he sang, “The warden threw a party in the county jail. The prison band was there and they began to wail. The band was jumpin’ and the joint began to swing. Then the electrical shorted out and it released that thing. The shock, It was all about The shock. Everybody in the whole cell block, was possessed by the dead raptor rock.”
“There you have it, case solved,” Cassandra said.
So a long time ago I taught martial arts. I used to tell my students (mostly kids) to not worry about dorfing a kick or punch. Dorfing was my term for screwing up badly. . . everyone dorfs a kick in training but if you focus on the mistake, you never move on and learn from it. This was a lesson I drilled into their heads class after class but, as it turns out, I didn’t really listen to myself.
When I write I agonize on getting the wording just right. I take great pains in the setup and flow of each scene to the point when I can paralyze myself. I see a dorf and I become obsessed with trying to fix it. I become unable to move forward until I perceive it as being just right.
So last night I am writing one of the big action scenes in my novel and, once again, I become fixated on getting it perfect until I realized, I am Uber Dorfing. . . .that is the term for being fixated on one’s dorfing. I realized that I am going to have to rewrite this book another 2 or 3 times at least. If I dangle a participle or trip and insert a double negative, life as I know it will not end. The world will continue to spin and I can, most importantly, fix it later.
It sounds silly I imagine to many, but the ability to forgive my dorfs made the words flow. I didn’t worry if they were perfect words, they were close enough for hand grenades and that is all I can really expect from a first draft.
Just thought I’d share the epiphany.
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:
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.
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:
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.