Welcome to my blog! If you are a new visitor, please click here.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


"Hey dad," I say as I sit down next to him.  He's lying in a strange bed, in a strange room, with strange devices connected to him.  "How are they treating you?"

My old man looks at me closely.  "Who are you.  Are you going to stick me with another damn needle?"

It hurts, but I was prepared for it.  "No, it's me, Daniel.  Your son."  I reach out to take his wrinkled hand in mine.

His eyes light up.  "Oh, Danny!  You've grown!  Look at you!  How is whatshername, that girl?  Michelle?"

"Dad, we broke up years ago.  I'm married to Anne.  We have kids now.  Josh and Elizabeth."

The look of joy In my dad's eyes fades.  "Oh.  Oh, I'm sorry."  His eyes move away as he tries to connect the missing pieces of memory.

"We're good, dad.  How are you?"

"Oh, I'm alright.  I've got to get the garage cleaned up before your mother gets home, or else she'll see the china cabinet.  It's almost done, Danny.  These people around here just won't let me leave!"  His voice raises a little and the deep wrinkles in his face contort with anger.

"No dad, it's alright.  I'll…  I'll take care of it when I leave.  You need to rest."  I never wanted to lie to my dad, but what else could I do?  The cabinet had been done for years.

"Oh, thank you Danny.  So what…"  I can see part of him fade from me.  "Where am I?"

"You're at a hospice… hospital, dad.  Are you comfortable?  Feeling OK?"

"Hospital?  What happened?"

I don't know what to say.  "You've… you've got Alzheimer's."

He gives me a blank look.  "Got his what?"

"No, dad.  You're just forgetting things."

He waves his hand dismissively with a huff.  "I've always been forgetful.  It's nothing new."  I smile, but have to wipe some tears from my eyes.

"That's right.  I remember when you forgot mom's birthday.  Boy was she angry."

Dad gives a chuckle.  "Oh yes.  I remember.  Don't tell her, but I didn't really forget."  His old eyes look around for an intruder, then he leans closer to me.  "I was angry at her because… because she…"

"You never told us that."

"She… what?  Well, why would I?  You kids didn't need to know our adult stuff."  He leaned back and smiled serenely, closing his eyes.

"Well, I won't tell her," I said.

"Tell who?"


He opened his eyes and stared at me.  "Who are you?  You aren't here to give me another damn shot, are you?"

I feel a pain in my heart as if I'd already lost him.  And in truth, I had.  He wasn't the strong, quick-witted salesman that I adored and admired as a kid.  He wasn't the flawed-but-good-hearted man I learned to love as an adult.  Those moments where he was himself were fleeting.  But as he searches my face suspiciously, I don't see him, or even the ghost he had become.  I see myself, and I'm frightened.

"I'm Daniel," I told him again.

"Oh, Danny.  Where's your sister?"

"Joyce is at home, dad."  She had refused to see him.  Whenever I tried, she'd tell me that she wanted to remember dad the way he was, as if he had died the moment he was diagnosed.  But as much as it hurt, I couldn't let dad sit in that strange room alone.  Mom would've wanted me to be with him, I'm sure. 

"I'd like to see her again.  So, how's whatshername, Michelle?"

"…She's fine, dad."

Friday, May 23, 2014

Major Tom

This short is based on the song "A Space Oddity" by the incomparable David Bowie.  If you are not familiar with the song, you can hear it by clicking here.  The inspiration for this take on the song came when I heard Ayreon's version.  I've been meaning to get to it for a while.

Five years I've spent working on this project, fourteen hours a day, every day.  I've gone through three breakdowns and for what?  All two get this damn satellite in orbit.  At least after today it will be done.

"Lift-off.  May God's love be with you."

It's hard to believe that my father was born when the Wright brothers made their first powered flight, and now I'm strapped to a rocket about to enter space.  Nowadays, it seems so easy; the G-forces aren't even enough to make you black out.  Just 8 minutes go by and the world beyond my small, fishbowl window has become a vast, blue marble.

"This is Ground Control to Major Tom," the radio kicks in.  "Major Tom, are you there?"

"I'm here, Ground Control."  With a chuckle I add, "Are we there yet, Dave?"

"Yes, you're there.  It looks like orbit has been achieved and the satellite is ready to deploy."  In the background, I can hear some cheers and applause.  "You were right, Tom.  The new fuel is incredible.  This will make space flight affordable, and these satellite beacons are going to change the world.  You think all those late nights were worth it now..."


"...You think this makes all these late nights worth it?"  My wife is waving a glass vase at me in the kitchen while she screams at the top of her lungs.  The sundress she's wearing has splashes of mascara as black tears roll down her face.  "You think these flowers make us better?  I never see you, Tom.  I never hear from you.  I never know what you're doing.  Everything is 'classified.'  Who is she, Tom?!"

"Leandra, please, calm down.  There is no one else.  Put down the vase.  Call Dave, if you doubt me. Or the lab.  I swear, baby, you're the only one in my life."  I put my hands up to try to calm her down, but she just throws the vase at me.  It misses and shatters on the kitchen wall.

"Dammit, Tom!  I haven't had more than 30 minutes with you in the past year!  I'm not even in your life!  I get home and you're on your way out every day!  If I get up early, you're either already gone or... well, you're just not there, Tom.  Always working on that stupid project."  She falls against me, sobbing.  As I hold her, my beeper goes off.

"That's them.  I have to go," I tell her.  She grips tight enough it almost hurts.

"Don't leave..."


"It's time to leave your capsule," Dave says.  "Tom?"

I snap out of it.  "Uh, yeah. I'm on my way.  It takes a minute or two to connect the umbilical cord to my suit.  The moment I do, I feel a rush of air pressurize the suit.  "This is Major Tom to Ground Control.  I'm stepping though."

"Roger,"  The sound comes from inside my spacesuit this time.

I step into the air lock and turn the handle on its door.  It looks like something left over from a submarine.  On the opposite wall, I press a flashing red button.  Instantly, the air rushes out through a vent.  The only thing between me and death is my suit.  The doors to space are heavy and it is difficult manipulating the handle in the pressurized suit.  When they slide open, I fall, unprepared, and float out into space until the cord catches and tugs on me.

"Major Tom?  Your heart rate just shot up.  Is everything OK?" I hear Dave ask.

"Uh, yeah, I'm just free floating right now.  Oh wow."  The universe stops spinning as I catch onto a bit of the ship's rigging.  Before me is Earth.  Everything.  All the people I've ever loved, everyone who has loved me.  All the sorrow, the love, the joy, the war, the death, the life.  It takes up my entire field of vision, yet I wouldn't look away if I could.  "It's so big.  Here I am just sitting in a little can as everything goes by beneath me, without me..."

"What is?  Oh, the Earth.  It must be an amazing sight."

"I've never seen anything like it.  It feels like I could just stay up here forever.  It's all so still.  So beautiful."

"Well don't spend too long taking in the sights, Tom.  We've got to get that beacon out there, remember?"

"I've never felt closer to Leandra.  It's so clear up here.  She's the lover I've been looking for, the one that will stay loyal, who'll never cheat.  She can't cheat."

"Tom?  Wh-what are you talking about?  Did you hit your head?  Did he hit his head?"  Frank sounds guilty, but it hardly matters any longer.

"Earth.  She's the love I deserve."  I push away from the ship's rigging towards the swirling clouds before me.  I can hear people start to panic down in Houston.  "Frank, when you see her tonight, tell my wife I love her very much."

"...she knows, Tom." Frank said.  I smirk at the guilt he cannot hope to hide.

"Take care of her."

"What are you saying, Tom?  Can we get back to the satellite?  We need to deploy it."

An alert should be sounding now back in Houston.  No pulse, no brain waves, no communications.  I make sure the circuit is dead by disconnecting the entire umbilical cord and letting it float away.  And I wait, arms widespread as each breath takes me closer and closer to the stars.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ghost of the Crystal - Part 10

"I don't want to do it anymore, SkekNa" came a voice on the light breeze.  "I can't go to the Gathering.  I won't."
"Hhhhahhh.. I knew you were a spy," said another voice.  Tyrin instantly recognized it as the Hunter's.
"Shhh, SkekMal!  You will not harm my spies, or I will make sure the Emperor will have your essence, may his beak be ever bent."  This voice was higher, like a constant whine.  "If I have to come out to save a spy from you again, I'll-"
"I didn't know she was a spy, you slavegrinder," the Hunter growled.
There was a pause, then the whining voice continued.  "Gelfling, you will show me what this Gathering is.  Or do you not care for your brother or father?"
"Oh please, don't hurt them!  You've had Renn for so long.  Please let him go, at least.  I've done everything you've asked of me!"  Tyrin was sure that the voice belonged to Morra.  He crept along the ground until he saw movement, then stayed low and still.
Standing in a clearing was the Hunter, idly picking at Minn's torn crystalweave cloak.  In front of him stood another Skeksis adorned in ill-fitting leather armor that was worn over an old yellow robe.  Around his neck was a large black frill of feather and bone, rising over his back like a hump.  Although he was smaller than the Hunter, he still towered over Morra, whose arm he kept in a tight grip.  At his side, a cadre of balding creatures stood near a litter that was covered in finery.  It was obvious that they had been carrying the smaller Skeksis upon it.  The creatures weren't even half as tall as their master and were round in feature, with white, spiritless eyes.  Tyrin had seen podlings before, but never like this.  It was as if their spirits had been broken along with their minds.
"You will not be taking any gelflings from me, SkekNa.  Do not forget that I am in the Emperor's favor.  Hhhhhe fears me almost as much as you do," the Hunter said and pushed at SkekNa's chest in defiance.  SkekNa pushed back.
"You just lost four gelflings, SkekMal.  You're starting to slip.  The Emperor's favor won't last forever," SkekNa retorted with a menacing sneer and pressed his beak so close to SkekMal's that they nearly touched. "I hear SkekUng has nearly completed his newest creations, something that can gather dozens of podlings at once and can't betray the Emperor.  They look promising."
SkekMal's furs and feathers rose and bristled in anger, but only briefly.  He pulled away from the smaller Skeksis and fell silent.
"Please," Morra begged.  "Let my brother Renn go!  You can have me instead!"
SkekNa pushed her roughly to the ground.  "Why would I want you?  I need to know why the gelflings are gathering, and you are going to be the one to show me," he said, his voice getting deeper and more menacing.  "Whether you like it or not."  SkekNa reached one of his hands out and opened it.  A small, black creature that looked like a piece of fuzz jumped from it and landed on Morra.  Small, wiry legs gripped at her clothing, keeping it in place.  "My spyeye will see everything you do," SkekNa said.  "When this Gathering is over, it will return to me."
Morra grabbed at the spyeye frantically and pulled it off.  The moment it touched the ground, it jumped back at her and attached itself once again.  She used both hands to swat at it, but to no avail.  As swiftly as she could pull it off, it would simply return to her as effortlessly as a leaf blowing in the wind.  After a moment, she settled down in defeat.
The Hunter tilted his head up and sniffed at the air.  "I smell prey," he said.
"You smell nothing!  You will take the gelflings you already have to the castle," SkekNa told him.  "Leave the others.  Or do I need to remind you of what happens to those who take potential essence from the Emperor?"
SkekMal pushed his finger into SkekNa's chest.  "I will go, but you will do well to remember whhhho you are talking to.  You don't want to walk into a trap, do you?" he said, then left the others and quickly vanished into the forest.  SkekNa ran a hand around his neck with a look of dread on his face.  When he saw Morra still sitting on the ground in submission, he pulled a whip out and snapped it near her.
"Move, gelfling!"  Morra got to her feet in an instant and ran into the woods as SkekNa clambered onto the litter. The podlings all labored at their posts to lift him, but with impatience, SkekNa snapped the whip at them.  "Now, slaves!  Move now!"  They started off into the trees with the ever-present threats of their master over them.

It didn't take long for Tyrin to find where Morra gone.  She lay on the ground near a stream, sobbing.  Even when he approached, she didn't move.
"Morra, I didn't know," he said in a soft, soothing voice, sitting down beside her.
She looked up at him with terror on her face.  "Oh Tyrin.  You saw it, didn't you?" she said, bringing her legs up so she could hug her knees.  Tyrin nodded to her.  "I just don't know what to do, Tyrin.  They have my brother.  And now they have my father."  She leaned against Tyrin as he put his arm around her.  "Why are you so nice to me?  I'm a traitor.  I've betrayed everyone."
"I think you've been through enough, Morra."  Her wings fluttered a little and she rubbed at her eyes with the back of her hand.  "I don't blame you; you did what you thought you had to do to save your family," Tyrin said.
"You don't know how hard it's been, living with the secret that I caused Renn's capture, that I was spying on my clan all that time.  I wish I could trade my life for theirs."
"Well you can't.  So don't worry about things like that.  Just focus on what you can do."
Morra sat up and looked at him.  "Tyrin, it's been so long since I've dared to dreamfast with anyone, but I need to let someone know.  I can't keep this inside any longer.  Will you?"  He nodded to her and took her hand.
Images of the other's life flooded through their minds.  Morra saw how Tyrin had never known a family, but made a family out of those he met on the road.  He had made many friends, but never held any of them very close.  Tyrin saw scenes from Morra's past.  She used to love playing with her brother, taunting him with her wings.  She was an instigator.  She goaded Renn on.  That's how he got her to sneak into the forbidden ruins that lay a day's travel from their home.   They found a Skeksis performing some dark ritual to create armored monstrosities, but they were discovered.  Renn was forced to become a slave while Morra returned home, clandestinely sending reports of her clan back to SkekNa in hopes that her cooperation would result in her brother's release.  When the dreamfast ended, she looked both relieved and sad.
"Now you know," she told him.
He smiled at her with that same friendliness that he always shared.  "Yes.  And now I think we need to get back to the others.  You're the last of the Vapra convoy, the only one who can represent them.  You have to go, even with that… thing watching you.  Where is it?"
Morra shrugged.  "I guess it's hiding, now.  Do you think it's safe?  Should I let everyone know?" she asked.  Tyrin nodded to her.
"That would probably be wise.  I have a feeling that the less the Skeksis know, the better it is for us.  Come on.  You'll feel better after we get some food and find our friends."
A small smile formed on her lips.  "Thank you, Tyrin," she said and rose to her feet.  They walked off together, hand in hand.

Neither of them noticed the peymakan was crawling away from them.  In its needle-like beak it carried the fuzzy spyeye, its limbs hanging loosely.  The peymakan crawled up a tree and onto a dark, long branch, which curled into a bony hand.  SkekMal emerged from his hiding place and brought his pet close.  He took the spyeye, then crushed it in his strong grip.  When he dropped it, it remained still.  SkekMal the Hunter wheezed for a moment, his eyes fixed on the gelflings as they walked away.

This concludes my entry to the Dark Crystal Author Quest.  I hope you enjoyed it!

4 more years! 4 more years!

Today, my blog is 4 years old!

Granted, I've only been writing short stories for less than one, but nonetheless, I've been actively trying to update for 4 years!


It is strange looking back on old writings.  I automatically assume that anything I wrote more than, say, 15 minutes ago completely sucks and is a testament to what a terrible writer I am.

Usually, however, I look back and go, "Oh, that was funny," or, "I said that?!" or "this bit is alright."

Granted, once in a while, there ARE the moments when I think, "Oh Lord, smite me now so that these words I once wrote can never haunt me again."  But those are at about the same frequency as moments when I think, "Now that is genius."

So, here's to hoping that I can keep this blog running for 4 more years!  I plan on moving to my own server, professionalizing it up just a bit, and getting an actual published book under my belt before then.  Let's look forward to 4 more years!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Ghost of the Crystal - Part 9

Tyrin's wound looked worst than it felt.  The archer was not only skilled in his art, but knew how to dress a wound with a gentle and experienced hand.  Morra was silent as Minn untied her.
"Thank you, both of you," Tyrin said with a humble smile.  Prril reared up and nipped at his fingers in protest until she got the reward she'd been looking for, a pet behind the ears.  "And you too, Prril.  Who is our savior?" he asked, addressing the archer.
"I am UrVa of the Valley of Stones," he said in deep, calm tones.  Everything he did was slow, deliberate, and efficient, including the way he spoke.
"The Valley of Stones?  Then you are a Mystic?  I've heard so many tales of your people: that you are both wise and kind to gelfling, that you seek to destroy the Great Crystal, that any who wander into the Valley are killed.  You do not seem evil to me."
UrVa smiled and gave a single nod.  "Many lies have been spread.  We prefer to let our actions speak for us."
"Your actions are very welcome.  How did you find us?" Tyrin asked and nodded to Minn.  "I thought you were dead."
Minn helped Morra get to her feet and shook his head.  "Such was not in the designs of the sands of fate.  Prril was an invaluable distraction," he said as his hands danced before him.  Tyrin had never heard him speak so much at one time.  "Our camp was not far from the Podling Village where the clans gather.  The Mystics were asked by Aughra to watch over the Gathering, even though they are feared by many.  Friend UrVa was quick to answer my plea."
"The three suns are aligned tomorrow just before dusk.  The Gathering must happen then, yet we await the arrival of the Vapra clan," UrVa told them.  Morra bit her lip and leaned against the tree.
"Kleo?" Minn asked, placing his hand over his heart.  "Jag-Ben?"
Tyrin shook his head solemnly.  "Jag-Ben was caught and Kleo stayed behind to save him.  We need to find them before the Hunter does."  He got to his feet and pulled his worn shirt on.  "I can't believe that creature was a Skeksis.  I've only heard good things about them.  They've educated gelflings, held grand feasts in our honor, and work tirelessly to keep us safe."
Minn nodded and motioned to his mouth. "Words are words."
"Then let's stop using words and start using actions," Tyrin said.  "You and I should find Kleo and Jag-Ben while UrVa takes Morra back to the Village, since she is the Vapra clan's representative."
"No!  I mean, I want to help you look for the others," Morra quickly said.  "You've all done so much for me already, I can't abandon you now."
"Are you sure?" Tyrin asked.  She looked away and nodded.  "Then let's go."

"They're gone."  The three suns had risen by the time they found the empty net that Jag-Ben had been captured in.  The branch of the tree had been roughly cut off and the net left loose and open on the ground.
"They escaped," Tyrin said as he examined the scene.  "The cut is not clean.  The Hunter's blade would not leave a mess like this.  Their trail leads off this way."
UrVa pulled an arm out to stop Tyrin from following it and put a finger to his lips.  "The Hunter's trail is fresh here, too," he said softly.  "Be careful, gelflings."
"Then let's not waste any time," Tyrin said, then paused and looked around with a sigh.  "Where's Morra?"
None of them could recall the last time they had seen her.  UrVa ran a long, knobby finger against the ground and chanted an archaic verse.  "Her trail and yours are joined, Tyrin," he said after a time, marking two joining lines in the dirt.  "You will travel together, or you will fall separately.  You are important to each other, Tyrin."
Tyrin hesitated for a moment.  "You saved our lives, UrVa.  I will trust your wisdom.  But where will I find her?  And what of Jag-Ben and Kleo?"
"Do not worry, young gelfling.  We will find your friends.  Take the shard; let it guide you." UrVa lay a comforting hand on Tyrin's shoulder.  "Trust in yourself, Tyrin.  Trust in each other.  Now hurry."

Tyrin gripped the shard tightly.  "Trust in myself.  Right then," he said and brought the shard to his chest. He turned, eyes closed.  His mind wandered, eventually settling on the silvery note she had sung when he was captured.  Her voice in his thoughts, he stepped forward and opened his eyes again.  Instinct guided his every step.

[ Link to Part 8 ] -- [ Link to Part 10 ]