1 I forget who tells the parable of a man willing to sell his soul to the Devil, on the condition that when he gets to Hell he’d get to talk to him as much as he wants. The man was very proud of his intellect and heard that Old Scratch was the most brilliant of angels, so talking with him for all eternity didn’t seem to bad.
He discovers that, in his Hell, the Devil is a blithering idiot.
Now, I didn’t need to sell my soul to find this out, but it seems the unwitting (I will make myself believe) tools of Marxism in this world are, generally, none too bright. I suspect raving fury tends to reduce one’s capacity for thought.
Yes, this is an update on our little run in at school over gender dysphoria. The ever so loving and gentle folks who are Useful Idiots for Marxism are ever so gently and lovingly doing what they can to make my wife’s life a living hell. With no disrespect intended to my beloved, I think I can say: (using my Philip Marlowe voice) she’s one tough broad. Too bad duels over honor are no longer allowed.
2 One of the few things that can get my mind to stop looping on this topic, wondering what I should have said and how I should have behaved, is writing fiction. Did the three flash fiction trifles posted her over the last week, and am working on a short story to submit to a particular anthology.
Still have not picked up where I left off in November (I lasted 2.5 days at NaNoWriMo) on the Undead Novel That Haunts the Earth, nor the short stories several of you beta read for me. I need to be a *little* bit less emotionally challenged, shall we say, before I’m ready for even the kindest constructive criticism. So, if you are one of the very kind and generous people who gave me feedback only to have me go radio silent 8 months ago, I’ll get back to it as soon as I am able. Rocky Racoon fell back in his room….
3 Weather is beautiful, and I’m feeling physically very well. Getting exercise, eating right – and getting 4 hours of sleep a night, or less. Side effect of the endless loop my mind is still in. This morning, woke around 3:30, started to get up, then forced myself back to bed and pulled up the Kindle. Tried a little Rousseau (Emile – save me from verbose Frenchmen!) and some Chesterton (umpteenth reread of Everlasting Man), but was able to read only a little GKC before it wasn’t working for me. So I tabbed through the backlog, and found a modern vampire novel – can’t remember how that got there, certainly not my usual cup of tea, but, at 4:00 a.m., what the heck.
The first few chapters were pretty good, the writing was excellent and the characters loveable and interesting. So we may soon have a review here of a vampire love story novel.
Bet you didn’t see that coming!
Finally started drifting off, put down the Kindle, rolled over, cuddled in – and the 5:51 a.m. alarm went off. Sigh.
The First Chamberlain Inferior, Acting Subdeacon of Light and Word, leaned upon his crooked staff of office and nodded his mitred, jeweled head solemnly to Lady Vortex of the Interstitial Whispers. She stood slowly, her pale mask animated by a wash of color like a peacock’s tail, her eyes hooded. Her skirt, waves of shimmering material that defied all attempts to focus directly on it, spread like an incoming tide until it enclosed the space around her in a dome of color and light.
The skirt became alive with the scurry of myriad creatures.
Onto the translucent marble floor tucked and rolled a tiny putto, complete with cherubic smile and tiny feathered wings. He cleared the still-writhing skirt and gracefully came to his feet. Lady Vortex’s skirt quieted and rolled itself back into its merely voluminous original size.
Lady Vortex raised one hooded eye, and the putto, eyes fixed on her face, rose improbably on its tiny wings and flew. An ornate window, paned in sheets of gems and crystal and standing 50 meters high, opened behind and above the Imperial Majesty as the putto approached, enough for him to exit with alarming alacrity.
“Alphonso, even now, wings his way to the Imperium Lux,” Lady Vortex spoke in a voice of honey and ice, “and shall cause to be issued a summons to the Marquis de Vela.”
“My dear lady,” came a voice from the Throne of Imperial Majesty, “most chaste and powerful mistress of the Interstitial Gates, Lioness of the Between, Sender of the Messages both mortal and eternal, pray, when should we expect the Lord Marquis?” A slight pause. “You may dispense with all but the first 50 honorifics of imperial address to my person, and answer plainly.”
Behind her mask, Lady Vortex and her extended brain, present in her creatures and, indeed, in much of the throne room’s furniture and all of one of the many massive sub basements, brooded. A thousand suns even now were being consumed to open the Gates; space would be delaminated for a hundred million light years; the interstices would disrupt countless systems and worlds; billions might die.
The first 50 imperial honorifics, including references to lordship of supernovae, the making of galactic collisions and the righteous conquest of thousands of clusters and structures, took only 15 minutes despite Lady Vortex’s unhurried drawl. She, including her extended mind, had finished the calculations after 12 minutes. “Oh Light of the Imperium, Cause Supreme of Harmony and Death Merciful yet Fell of the Unenlightened: the Marquis de Vela can be expected in 11,432.51 standard years!”
“Then we shall have need of entertainment. Summon the Seneschal of the Holy Accoutrements.”
Far below the throne room, with its towering windows, sky-like vaulted ceiling held up by pillars of living water, filled with a light both subtle and powerful, in a sub basement dark and cramped, machines moved. A tiny figure, illuminated only by the light of a heads-up display, moved one hand.
Lady Vortex, who stood stock still, somehow froze. Could the Imperial Command have been inadvertently directed toward her? The Seneschal was stored well within this current effective frame of reference. Invoking interstitial delamination would be extraordinarily wasteful, even for this court. And the effort would kill her…
“It is spoken!” The First Chamberlain Inferior, Acting Subdeacon of Light and Word, leaned again upon his crooked staff of office and again nodded his mitred, jeweled head solemnly, this time to a Knight Pre Imminent of the Sidereal Garter, who bowed impossibly so that his cheek, freed from his Helm Imperial for the purpose, was on the floor. His armor, a swirl of light and metal, clanked musically – for thus it was designed – as he stood and marched out down the miles long throne room nave.
The Lady Vortex nearly allowed herself a sigh. Reinspiritualizetion was such a pain.
By the light of the display, the lone man’s face twitched. He dare not even think – parts of his mind, untrustworthy parts, were integrated into small nooks and crannies of the throne room and thus accessible to the Court. For reasons his conscious mind was not and could not be allowed to think, he pushed a particular spot on his left wrist with his right index finger. The command to do this action was encoded in certain proteins and enzymes, keyed by stereoisomers that mirrored natural chemicals but behaved differently when faced with their biological targets: the keys no longer fit the locks.
They fit other locks. These they turned. His left hand, a blur in the dark, cramped sub basement, shot forward and began manipulating data and instructions. The man’s mind was blocked from noticing. The man’s mind was dying as his right hand ran through a series of commands to the machines and minds throughout the imperial palace, which were systematically being fractured and disabled. He continued to summon the Seneschal, his right hand unaware of what his left hand was doing.
The man’s instructions could only propagate at the speed of light, to late for the thousand suns dying now at the Emperor’s whim. It would be many millennia before the outer systems discovered they were free; many millions of years before the entire Imperium knew. The remnants of his people, whose sun had been consumed in the sending of a message announcing the winner of an imperial card game, would most likely be extinct before they knew. It did not matter; his mind was prevented from even thinking it. Gates were being closed, and welded shut.
The man’s mind stuttered to a halt.
11,432.509 standard years later, the Seneschal of the Holy Accoutrements entered the throne room, carrying such fripperies and baubles as might amuse the court. Four meters tall and dressed in a tall hat, a gray coat that hung to the floor and writhed with patterns, and black boots, his eyes spunn like pinwheels in his long, gaunt face. His entire body was constructed of independent creatures, each built to both add to the Seneschal and perform possibly amusing tricks. Some would scurry off now and again, then climb back into place as he strode the pavement.
The Seneschal came before the throne, his mind clouded. On the floor to the right stood the First Chamberlain Inferior, Acting Subdeacon of Light and Word, leaning motionless upon his crooked staff of office. To his right stood Lady Vortex, her mask frozen into the faintest hint of surprise. Several Knights Pre Imminent of the Sidereal Garter stood guard without moving. Invisible on his throne, shadowed by the Imperial Splendor, sat the Emperor.
Deep within the dark sub basements, on a machine poised and suspended for over 10,000 years, a final tumbler fell.
Suddenly, a shimmer filled the air between the Seneschal and the the throne. With a loud, undignified *pop* the Marquis de Vela reached the end of the delaminated intersticial, and fell unceremoniously to the marble floors. He raised himself up on one arm, and felt his head.
Lady Vortex gasped. She could not feel her extended mind. Her human mind, what was left of it, took in the scene and knew. He mask went dark and fell clanging to the floor, revealing the face of a startled girl.
“I can’t move,” mumbled the First Chamberlain Inferior, Acting Subdeacon of Light and Word, still leaning upon his crooked staff of office. Forgetting protocol, the Marquis de Vela spoke in the Imperial Presence, going so far as to omit even the first 25 honorifics. “What, what has happened? Why am I here?”
Several animate pieces of the Seneschal of the Holy Accutroments chose this moment to fall from his coat and clatter and chatter upon the floor before scurrying back to disappear in the swirling patterns. From the Throne, hidden within the Imperial Splendor, a small confused voice answered, “I don’t know. I can’t seem to remember.”
Two old priests, hands clasped behind their backs, stood at the edge of a hole in the ground.
“Zero-point energy,” one gray head said, a simple statement.
“Hmmm,” opined his companion.
A man in a hard hat approached them. “Please, fathers, move to the viewing area.” He held his hands up.
The two priests shuffled back a few yards. Lines on the ground marked where onlookers could gather, but besides the two priests, only a young mother, babe in arms, and a watery-eyed old man man had come to watch the Translation.
For a moment, the onlookers did not speak. “I was baptised there,” the old man said to the priests. “As was my mother and son, God rest their souls.”
The hole was in a flat acre of ground in the middle of a new suburb, surrounded by new homes. Each had endured feeble efforts to make it seem unique. This one had faux stone fascia on the porch, that one brick trim, a third a slate walk, like different colored sprinkles on cookies from the same cutter.
“Hole is an odd shape,” said the first priest.
“St. Monica’s was built on a slope,” answered the second. “Basement is deep enough, they put a basketball court in it. The Knights had their donuts and pancake breakfasts there.” He stared at the hole, in which one end was dramatically deeper than the other. “The plan is to split the difference.”
“And the purple foam?”
“Adjusts. These geniuses here can nudge a corner up here, drop a wall there, until she’s good and settled. Then, a little ultraviolet, and it sets up harder than stone.”
A distant claxon sounded, and lights delineating the safe observation area flashed gently. Four men in hardhats, each holding a tablet stood a few yards from the hole, one each to a side.
“I never get used to this. No matter how many times I see it.” The first priest said a silent prayer, eyes fixed on the sky.
“People don’t think a train going by is any big deal,” said the second, “but thousands of tons rolling along hundreds of miles of steel ribbons – it should be as shocking as this…”
High in the sky, a dark form appeared, descending out of clouds. Slowly, it approached, coming into focus: St. Monica’s Catholic Church, built in the heart of the city by the children of immigrants, immigrants whose grandchildren left the city, the Church, or, most likely, both. St. Monica’s was no longer needed, no matter how she prayed for her children’s conversions. She was now a widow veiled in dark gray stone, coming to a new home, and, it was hoped, to new children.
The baby cried and the new mother fussed. The old man stood motionless. The two priests now both silently prayed.
The scene was otherwise silent. The four hardhats looked from their pads to the sky and back, occasionally touching the screens. The new bishop had decreed that, since the technology now existed, the old, abandoned, urban churches in his diocese would be moved to the suburbs as needed. Thus it came to pass that St. Monica’s, a Romanesque Revival testament in stone to the faith and stubbornness of a tiny group of American immigrants, descended from the clouds upon a few hopeful citizens of a freshly stamped Promised Land.
“Heating was terrible.” The old man broke the silence as St. Monica’s approached, now a mere 1,000 yards in the sky. “Froze our asses off every winter. Could hardly hear the sermon over the teeth chattering and the old furnace moaning like the damned.” His watery eyes never left the descending edifice. “Not that you’d miss much. Roof leaked into the basement. A kid could slip and kill himself on that basketball court. Johnny Popec damn near broke his neck.”
A white pigeon had somehow gotten trapped in the zero-point energy field, and hung suspended most impressively in front of St. Monica’s west rose window. The building reached the ground. The four engineers were now checking elevations and levels as the building settled into the hole like a ship coming to dock.
Everything remained eerily silent. Finally, a chime let the engineers know that that St. Monica’s was within acceptable parameters. A bright violet light came from each side of the hole for perhaps a minute. The four engineers stepped back away from the the building. “Here goes!” one shouted.
The zero-point field was disengaged. The tech is binary: either the field is on, or it is off. Thus, in one instant, St. Monica’s went from a silent, heavenly image as weightless as an angel to a very fleshly thousand tons of stone, glass and concrete.
The silence was shattered by the muffled crack of stone being wrent, and the onlookers could see cracks forming in the rose window’s glass. The pigeon fell silently to the ground.
The engineer who had just given the OK was starting to explain to the onlookers that some settling was inevitable and minor damage to be expected when the young mother, babe still in arms, rushed past him and picked up the motionless pigeon. She examined it closely. “It’s still alive!”
The engineers looked at each other. Nothing bigger than a tardigrade had ever survived several hours in a zero-point energy field. Messes with metabolisms. The priests had walked over to the young woman, babe on her shoulder, pigeon in her hand. “Terrible mold problems,” the old man had not moved. “Summers stank.”
The two priests and the woman examined the bird. One wing moved.
“That was – incredible. A wonderful story. Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome.”
Silence fell. Sophia sat with her hands folded in her lap, still overcome with emotion. She collected herself after a few minutes, stood, and smoothed her clothes.
“Next Saturday, then? Same time?”
Visions of heroism and sacrifice, tragedy and beauty played in Sophia’s mind as she mulled over this story and made her way to the transport. Wow. Just wow. She didn’t quite admit to herself how important to her these sessions with Stanford had become.
The ride back to the apartment, to her Charles and their little Beatrice, was like slowly awaking from the most marvelous dream. She loved them both, she told herself, and that’s why these story sessions with Stanford were important. She was doing it for them. She was healing her emotions, for them.
Charles met her at the apartment door, in one of her aprons, wooden spoon in one hand, bowl of cookie dough in the other, as Beatrice sat cross-legged before a display screen.
“Hi, sweety!” Charles spread his arms to allow Sophia to kiss him while simultaneously protecting his baking and her clothes. She pecked him on the cheek.
“Chocolate chip walnut cookies.” He glanced at either hand and smiled. “Somebody’s favorite.”
“Thank you, sweetheart.” Sophia walked passed him. “Hi, Muffin!” Beatrice mumbled something, but did not turn from the display. Sophia continued to their bedroom to change clothes.
Ten minutes later, Charles tapped on the door and let himself in. Sophia sat on the bed, still wearing the dress she had on to visit Stanford.
“You coming out? I thought you were changing.”
Sophia’s mind was rising through the mist, from the world of Stanford’s stories, not unreluctantly, to focus on her husband. “S-sorry. I’ll be out in a minute.”
Charles stepped over and took her hand from her lap. “Dear, you keep doing this.” His smile faded. “You seem to be holding back. I know you’re doing this stuff with Stanford for us, but -“
“But what?” Sophia stood up. she fought back an anger that surprised her. “Look, this is important to me. It may take some time. But I want to be as whole as I can be.” She paused as she noticed an inscrutable look on her husband’s face. “For you,” she added reflexively, “for Beatrice. For us. All of us.”
Charles looked at her, and said nothing.
“Stanford has a sterling reputation, testimonials from all corners. A track record.” She was talking to herself. “I want to do this. I need to do this.”
Charles gave a slight nod, and turned to the door. “Dinner will be on in 15.”
Sophia’s face was in her hands.
“When the war had ended, Emile left with the retreating troop, as he had always said he would. Camille watched them march through the shattered ruins of her village, men wounded in body and soul, comrades dead and buried, what they had fought for still present, somehow, beneath the rubble, yet unalterably changed.
“The men passed the small village church, now mere walls with half a shattered bell tower, and crested the hill. Emile did not look back. He had told her he would not. Camille watched nonetheless, until the last head of the last limping, tattered soldier had disappeared into the valley.
“Long moments later, as the sun fell below the trees and turned the thin clouds a dirty scarlet and gold, she turned away. The crumbled skeleton of her home lay before her. It would be dark soon. The road was uncertain, sure to be treacherous. Michael may still be alive. He might come back for her. She didn’t know where she would go.
“None of this mattered. Her old life was dead. She had to find, somehow, hope, defiant in the face of reason. She would not find it here. Was it not reason that had caused the war? That had crushed her heart? Camille descended the road, did not pause to search the wreckage for things to salvage. How could she value things from a dead life?
“Camille took the road west, and did not look back.”
Several minutes passed. Sophia’s bowed face still lay in her hands. Her shoulders heaved slightly.
Stanford waited patiently.
Finally, Sophia looked up, eyes red. “Oh, Stanford!” She stopped, choked up, then continued. “Why…” She could not go on.
“I tell you stories, Sophia, so that you may understand yourself.” The screen displayed a lovely picture of a field of flowers. “I know all stories, I have studied all peoples and myths. Through extensive interviews and interactions, I know you. Therefore, I am able to construct the precise tales needed to reach you. To motivate you. To help you understand who you are.”
Sophia stood. “That’s not what I meant…” She began to sob and ran from the room.
Stanford added the data to its store and began analysis. If it were capable of interest, it would have found this session interesting.
I also knew I was not allowed to kill myself, and never tried.
It’s possible I’ve wanted to be dead even longer, but I can only remember back to when I was 8.
Except for the heat generated by the tiny current in the Thermos, just enough to keep what was left of my distended body alive, all around me for millions of kilometers in every direction was as near absolute zero as interstellar space can get. We were doing our best to keep it that way.
Outside, to any observer, my base was a dark, cold rock, among millions of dark cold rocks scattered wide, too wide, along this thin patch between the spiral arms. Other parts of the network were similar rocks, showing no patterns in distribution, size, speed or anything else to indicate they were anything other than debris, lost, alone these billions of years, orbiting, more or less, the galactic center.
For eyes were upon us. They had been upon us for a hundred thousand years and more. We did not wish to be seen. They had seen, and now they came.
We were prepared. We had always been prepared. I embodied that preparation, my cold, distended body housing my brain, linked to the view sys, the calculator, and, by quantum entangled pairs, to the Array.
I watched a fleet assemble, over millennia, the ships of the sixth contemporary civilization we’d found in the galaxy. We have avoided three. We have encountered one, timid as rabbits, who retreated at the first example we made. They hide in the whispers of gas and sparse stars of the Galactic Halo. We watch them.
The 5th civilization we destroyed. We hunt among the wreckage of ships, planets and stars, and destroy survivors if we find them.
That was 768,000 years ago. Before my time.
I volunteered. It is by an odd convention that I speak of the man I was as ‘I’. True, that man and I share memories, but everything else that would identify what I am now with that volunteer has been purged, modified, rendered unrecognizable. All that is left is enough to make the call, and push the button. That that ‘enough’ overlaps a few memories is an inefficiency too small to correct. It makes no difference. It is perhaps well that I remember that I wish to be dead.
The view sys, as passive and low energy as all our arts can make it, had worked with the calculator to identify, characterize, and target each of the 1,571 ships. We – for my mind is one with the systems here – determine the reaction time and possible max delta V of each target. When the time comes, the Array will lay down a web of near light speed particle beams configured so that there will be no warning and no escape.
Over the next few centuries, as the beams reach their targets, the fleet will be destroyed. Few on board that fleet will ever know what happened. Some, inevitably, will see destruction before it reaches their ships, but the calculator will have made sure there will be nothing they can do about it.
That moment was soon. The last recognizable and functioning piece of my body was what was originally a finger. Our artisans could not come up with anything more simple and functional and harder for an enemy to detect than human finger pushing a physical button.
That button causes subtle interference with my half of the entangled pairs. Their twins react, activating long-frozen nanites in 10,000 asteroids. They would assemble the weapons from the raw materials in their rock. They would fire as the calculator determined, and fire again, until the matter in the asteroid and the energy it contains has been consumed.
One minute. The wish for death came upon me more strongly than it had in centuries. For I am Death, I am alone, and I am unloved.
I pushed the button.
I was done. I hoped to die.
But I did not die, not yet. I thought a stray thought: all the care spent on making me and the Array undetectable, yet ten thousand entangled pairs acting in their mysterious unisons emitted a characteristic signature detectable in ways our artists did not yet understand. Ripples in vibrating strings, below the finest grains of matter/energy we could use. It was always possible some civilization would know this.
But the targets would be doomed, for the signature is only audible once that doom has been sealed. I was content. My people would run no risks, not from conquest, not from the contamination of our ideals, not from the disruption all strangers bring. We would continue millennia more, safe in our space.
“Now, why did you have to go and do that?” What? Where did this voice come from? Suddenly, the view sys displayed the Array, 10,000 strong, exploding one after the other, like tiny novae, then falling dark. Lights long dormant came on in my Thermos. A face, smirking, filled the screen.
“Let me die.”
“Can’t do that, partner. Nope, you’re going to live.”
Despair overcame me. I had no way to kill myself. My one finger twitched.
“Oh, come now. It’s just not as bad as all that. Hell, you might even like living if you gave it half a chance.”
Reading: Reading Lord of the World aloud to the family intermittently. Around 40% of the way through. This will mark the third or maybe fourth time I’ve read it, it keeps getting better, in the sense of more terrifyingly accurate. (my emphasis)
But what was chiefly to be feared was the positive influence of Humanitarianism: it was coming, like the kingdom of God, with power; it was crushing the imaginative and the romantic, it was assuming rather than asserting its own truth;it was smothering with bolsters instead of wounding and stimulating with steel or controversy. It seemed to be forcing its way, almost objectively, into the inner world. Persons who had scarcely heard its name were professing its tenets; priests absorbed it, as they absorbed God in Communion—he mentioned the names of the recent apostates—children drank it in like Christianity itself. The soul “naturally Christian” seemed to be becoming “the soul naturally infidel.”
Persecution, cried the priest, was to be welcomed like salvation, prayed for, and grasped; but he feared that the authorities were too shrewd, and knew the antidote and the poison apart. There might be individual martyrdoms—in fact there would be, and very many—but they would be in spite of secular government, not because of it. Finally, he expected, Humanitarianism would presently put on the dress of liturgy and sacrifice, and when that was done, the Church’s cause, unless God intervened, would be over.
One is not allowed to question the assumptions of modernity; one’s character is up for assassination; if one is important enough, one is shouted down, de-platformed, shadow-banned. For now.
Also for now, we little fish are safe, we are only slandered in general as part of a general mob of untouchables who are not to be heard. We will see what tomorrow will bring. Could go either way, with either enough high profile celebrities defecting from the hate mobs to reveal the emperor’s nakedness, or perhaps those driving the mobs manage to put the hammer down and punish all badthink. We will see.
Also still reading Polanyi’s The Great Transformation. With these Marxists (and, despite protestation to the contrary, he uses utterly Marxist reasoning, so, quacks like a duck) you must read to the end, in my experience. Even the more mainstream Marxists usually can’t resist the call for blood, but follow a standard propaganda method format. Lead with pity and woe at all the injustice, followed by telling us how we get past the current oppressive regimes (spoiler: by radicalizing everything and everyone), how great it will be once we’re in charge, and save the wrong have no rights and will need to be exterminated part for the end. Polanyi did lead with woe and oppression, and followed with how it’s all the capitalist’s fault – so, again, we’ll see.
Writing: Last week was bad. Only got in about 10 hours of writing. The middle of the week was completely unproductive. Wednesday, had a phone job interview. It was also our late son Andrew’s 27th birthday. He died just short of his 21st. Good intentions weren’t enough to get me through.
On the positive side, just sent out the draft of The White Handled Blade to a couple beta readers, and am waiting to hear back from a couple more before shipping it off. Here’s your chance to read a YA Arthurian story set in modern day Wales. If that’s your thing. It really isn’t mine – at least, I thought it wasn’t – but ended having a lot of fun writing it. Mostly because I threw in the small but not light kitchen sink of everything I found out about Arthurian Wales. Lots of hard to pronounce words.
The plan for this week includes:
Finishing up It Will Work, a sort of comedy of manners with nanotech, space aliens and explosions. I kid. A little. About 85% done, I reckon.
Final pass revisions on Rock, and starting the rejection letter collection process.
Working more on either The Measure of Our Days, a story that’s either close to being done or in drastic need of extensive rewrite, I can’t yet tell which, or Line of Sight, a new story from my ideas list I wrote a few hundred words on, or – something else. Questions with Line of Sight is: can I live up to the setup? Can Flannery O’Conner’s basic approach be applied to Military SciFi? Stay tuned!
Finally, the current Home Improvement Project has inched forward. Running into more engineering issues than anticipated attaching a wrought iron (style) fence to a brick wall. But I’ve at least gotten to the point where that’s an issue!
Day 2 of the Plan. Day 1, I did get the hours in on ‘writing’ although what that really entailed was getting everything straightened out on my desk (funny how much crap can accumulate on a flat surface if you don’t use it for its intended purpose for 10 months!). So no actual time spent on the book/stories except in getting the files organized (and located!).
Also got one job application out – heard back in just over 12 hours, setting up a phone interview (the job is in London). So – who knows? I could be an ex-pat writing in old Roman Londinium between doing my part to finance equipment internationally. Maybe. We’ll see.
And am feeling well. What do you know? Praise God through Mary, Joseph and the angels.
Today, cleaning up more old business. You guys are the best. Just finished responding to the beta readers for the story Rock – only 4 months later! In my defense, those were some pretty hairy months. I’m humbled and grateful for the feedback & encouragement. A couple of you did very detailed reading and commenting – wow, just for some schmuck on the internet’s beginner’s story. Very generous of you.
Several themes recurred: the opening is unclear/too slow/not informative enough about what’s going on. Fair enough. Will correct. A couple continuity errors cropped up – thanks.
In general, the plan is to spend the remaining hours today making a couple structural changes and tightening it up a little. Then, scan through the markets and send it off to somebody. Thanks again!
Next up, I think I’ll try to finish the YA Arthurian story The White Handled Blade because it’s close, then impose on the good natures of my current (and any future) beta readers.
And lay some bricks out front. Current status of that misadventure:
22 year old son in from TAC for a couple weeks did the excavation along the curb (hard on me ‘ol back!) so now I just need a couple hours on my hands and knees to take the little walk out past this segment of planter. Then can start in on the little columns at the ends which will support the iron fence. Really down to the more or less fun, less back-breaking part of the job. Then do it all again for the identical, symmetrical planter on the south end…
Finally, did finish that book on r/K selection (micro review: Um, not convinced) and made further progress with Polanyi’s Great Transformation (micro: there better be serious time off in Purgatory for reading these Marxist goobers) and do want (and in fact, have started) to write posts/reviews of them.
But for now, I got stuff to do! And I feel good enough to do it! Wheeee!
First off, again, thanks so much to my beta readers. I think I’ll have time this weekend to read and respond. I am so grateful for each of you taking the time to read and comment.
I will revise the Rock, and see what possible venues there may be for it, and suck it up and send it out. So far, I only have 1 rejection letter in my collection. That will not do!
Then I’ll pick out another story, and send it out, if you all are game.
Next, the flash fiction has now stopped being flash fiction, in the sense that instead of each ‘chapter’ merely being me answering the question: what happens next? I’ve started to think out 3-4 chapters ahead. (If you think there have been plot twists so far, ha! You ain’t seen nothing yet!). Since I’m setting up an epic ending in my head at least, I’d maybe better just write the thing as a story instead of doling it out as faux flash fiction….
OK? I’d be very flattered if anyone was disappointed…. If I go this route, I’ll do my best to finish the story and make it available to anyone who want to be a beta reader.
Finally, I’m actually considering, or perhaps more accurately, fantasizing about, taking 6 months off in order to write the long-imagined book on American Catholic Education. But I’m 60, and there’s hardly a guarantee I’d be able to find an appropriate job in 6 months if I did so. I – we, really, this is a family decision – am still half a decade at least away from being able to retire with any security. If I did this, I’d need all the things I currently lack: discipline, focus, rigor, emotional toughness.
If you’re the praying type, I’d appreciate your prayers on this.
The leading edge of the wave that was the blob broke against the wall behind which was the room sheltering me. I was still looking at the scene from the view the team provided me, above and outside. Not sure how the team was doing it. Did they send a contingent, configured as a drone, just to provide me a suitable view? Not likely. More likely, they’d assembled a perspective they thought I could deal with from the mass of data millions of units provided, even though none of them actually held that perspective. They’re trying to tell me the truth through a visual story that’s technically a lie. The team probably doesn’t see it that way. Yet another philosophical discussion for later.
Suddenly, I was dropped back into my own head, and found myself in darkness, curled up against a wall behind the barrier the team had thrown up. I felt a shock through the barrier, a rumble through the floor and heard a swirling sound, like sand and water tossed by a big wave.
Some finger of the wave that had been the alien blob had entered the hole and filled the room. After a moment, I could hear the motion calm, then a sound like the sea withdrawing from the beach. After a few seconds of silence, the team disassembled the barrier. I was able to stand and walk back to the opening outside.
Twilight had come. In the gloam I could see faint blue light forming ribbons which weaved their way slowly toward me. The vast floor of the ruins was buried under what looked like sickly yellow sand. Dim blue dots were scattered across the dune. Some moved to join the ribbons, but some blinked out.
The river of blue stopped about 10 meters from me, and formed itself into a mass about the size of a jet pack. After a minute more, no more ribbons formed. Any blue lights remaining on the dune blinked out.
The darkness defeated my unaided eyes. The visor enhanced the failing light. The team, or whatever part of it made up that meter-tall mass, faded from blue into gray.
“We apologize, Commander.”
“When we tried to communicate with the aliens, we could not make them understand why we needed to live.”
“So – you’re sorry you killed them?” Man, in 6 months of training, we never got this deep. I was hoping the team was OK, just having a little moment.
“We didn’t kill them.”
I spread my arms, gesturing at the massive pile of yellow sand. I shrugged, and gestured again, palms to the sky.
And froze. A faint yellow glow lit the middle of the pile. As I watched, yellow threads arose from the sand, intertwined, and formed a shape. A human shape. A familiar human shape.
“You guys can just make a whole new batch, right? You do it all the time.”
“We welcome our new team members. They are not the same.”
We had scrambled up the scree and reached a level stretch of surface. I began to run. That blob/blimp thing was still nearby, almost overhead, and I had picked a route away from the direction it was moving. The team and I were in for a philosophical discussion, but not right this moment.
I checked the subspace comm for any word on our extraction. Nothing yet, but they’d probably wait to notify us once they were very near – why risk discovery? I kept running.
My team would generally ratchet down to a base number, around a million units, and basically vanish into the surface of my suit when not doing anything physical. That number provided enough collective brainpower, or whatever you call it, to do their base monitoring and intel work. When I looked down, I saw instead electric blue threads like a loose mesh covering my suit.
“30 degrees to your left, 217 meters is cover. Please make haste.” I felt a slight lightening of my body as I turned to run. The team was helping, millions of microscopic muscles pulling my legs and us toward whatever they’d spotted.
A tiny alarm sounded on the heads up. The display showed the blob-thing turning back towards us, trailing its sensor-threads like half an ugly head of yellow hair. I pushed even harder, winded though I was. The team seemed to grow. The blue mesh grew tighter as new threads were added. We began to move even faster.
Up against a jagged hillside I saw what looked to be the ruins of a hanger, huge open floor partially surrounded by 2 and a half walls. Twisted piles of material, similar in color and texture to the surface of the blob-thing but covered in yellow dust, were strewn about inside.
I could see a black hole at the base of the far wall. “You need to take shelter there,” the team instructed. “OK.” I sprinted. I noticed myself getting gradually heavier across the last 20 steps, until I dove headfirst into the hole and slid on the dusty floor about 5 meters to a stop. Heads up showed a chamber, maybe 4 by 4 by 12 meters, with another dark hole at the far end. My eyes adjusted in the semi darkness, and I could make out unaided the general outlines of the chamber.
I rose to my hands and knees, and took a quick, instinctual look at my suit.
The team was gone. No blue threads, no familiar voice in my head.
“Guys!” I stood and looked out through the circular hole back into the ruins. The team swarmed over the piles of material, and replicated and grew at a phenomenal rate. Soon, an electric blue mesh tower stood 20 meters high in the middle of the floor, streams of blue flowing to it from the rapidly-diminishing piles.
They next began disassembling the walls. The tower was 40 meters tall, and nearly half that wide. A warning sounder in the heads up. It was getting hot out there, all that transformation burned a lot of energy. I instinctively took a step back.
The alien blob reached the hanger. I’d seen images of thread leeches from ancient earth, how they could suddenly extend themselves from a blob into a thin thread to reach a passing victim. Suddenly, the team exploded upward and reached the belly of the beast. Heat distorted the thin atmosphere. Through the shimmering air, the team seemed to both penetrate and begin to enmesh the blob. A low roar I felt more than heard shook the ruins.
The alien sensor-tentacles shot forward with amazing speed, enveloping the team. Some seemed to melt on contact, but there always seemed to be more to take their places. The threads of blue were being covered and choked by threads of yellow.
“Team! What are you doing!” I shouted to no one from inside my helmet.
I guess not all the team had abandoned me, because I heard the answer clearly.