This week’s Wendig challenge was a random image search using Flickr’s built-in randomizer according to an algorithm they call “interestingness.” I was not impressed at first, even though my friend Matt showed me a pretty cool image he got. I had to refresh mine 4 times before I got something that wasn’t a bird. That’s not an exaggeration. Each click popped up 9 photos in a grid. I got 27 straight birds. Birds aren’t that interesting, people. They really aren’t.
So eventually I ended up with this really cool image of a chicken satay street vendor in Jakarta, uploaded by photographer Alex Newman. At first I ran with that. Then, while browsing other pictures of Indonesia on Flickr, I ran across the image to the right. My character sketch of a lonely street vendor on a rainy day in Jakarta evolved into the story of a lecherous man who is coaxed into even greater evil by a demonic spirit. Story is after the break. Enjoy.
Not expecting much to come of this resurgence, however brief or long it may be. Head down teaching means not enough me time for writing. Eh, always with the excuses. But I had time today, and a suggestion from my friend and writer Matthew X. Gomez gave me a short swift kick in the ass, and I turned out 800+ words as a continuation to a story he started. (It’s a round-robin writing challenge thing. I’m actually part 3, as someone else wrote a part 2.) You can read part 1 and part 2. Actually, I’ll just copy-paste the whole thing so far. Story below the fold.
This was written for a challenge at Writer’s Carnival. The requirements were the starting sentence and a limit of 500 words. This bit of weirdness was the result.
“My life will never be the same.”
Sally has a flair for hyperbole, but in this case it isn’t unwarranted. Death has a funny way of changing your life plans, but now isn’t the time to get all pedantic. Besides, while she’d been happy to leave behind Hank for awhile, the way time melds and shifts out here means it hasn’t been as long for her as it has been for him.
“Sally! You look just like I remember you.” The long striated wounds on his face will heal as soon as he learns to control his self-image, but for now the grotesquery on display is enough to turn my stomach.
I step forward. “Hank, now might not be the best time.”
“And who the hell are you? I’m just trying to see my wife for the first time in twenty years.”
Sally’s face blanches. The shock hits her nearly as hard as Hank’s old beatings. “I haven’t been here twenty years. Gabriel and I just got to know each other.”
“Gabriel, huh? You fucking my wife?”
I know better than to try to explain, so instead of getting into a fight, I reach into the space between space, grab my pitchfork, and stick the pointy end into Hank’s abdomen. He doesn’t have time to scream before fainting. Of course it isn’t going to do any permanent damage, but Hank doesn’t understand the afterlife rules yet. Not that there are many.
Well, rules is a bit harsh. More like the physical laws, since there really aren’t any legal systems or other sorts of instructions to follow. In any case, since nothing happens here that can’t be fixed by force of will, the old adage of “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” is in fact the truth.
I leave him lying on the ground with a giant fork sticking out of his belly.
I adjust my halo, take Sally by the hand, and look into her eyes. “Forever is a long time. Aren’t you glad the vows just said ‘until death’?”
Besides, once Hank figures it out, he’ll just conjure up an obedient sentient pseudo-Sally and be content. Hell, he could be a pseudo-Hank from Sally’s mind. She is still learning the rules herself.
Come to think of it, I’m not entirely sure when I lived and died or if I even did. I could be a pseudo-Gabriel. I mean, I know the rules backwards and forwards but I still don’t understand them. There isn’t anyone here to really explain. But that is sort of the point, isn’t it? There is no who-what-when-where-why-or-how-ness. There is just forever and emptiness for us to fill.
I am Samuel Jenkins, and Lilith is my daughter.
At first I assumed it was a typical school shooting. The fact that I can say those words is an indictment of the time period we’re living in, but there is such a thing now.
Hmm? No, I hadn’t known she was being bullied. She was at that age when girls don’t talk to parents, especially fathers, anymore. She found a few friends that I objected to, as fathers do, but I wasn’t worried about her.
The pocketknife was something I gave her a few summers back when we took our first camping trip. It was just a typical lock-back Buck knife.
No, to the best of my knowledge she did not stab anyone with it.
Yes, I taught her how to use it. I showed her first how to make sure the blade was sharp. We practiced honing blades with an oil stone, and then we worked on basic whittling techniques. She got quite good that summer, and then moved on to woodcarving. Her artistry is even on display in the school right now.
Because pocketknives are extraordinarily useful. The fact that they’ve fallen out of cultural consciousness is a travesty. When I was a Cub Scout in the 80s, we were even allowed to bring them into school if we had earned our Totin’ Chips.
It’s about as sharp as a well-kept kitchen knife.
Well, of course I showed her. How else would she have known where to draw the right amount of blood from her palm?
I am saying that, yes.
The best I can figure is the circle she drew was not completely connected.
Not unsupervised, no.
Balar was the family’s personal servant.
Of course I didn’t trust him. That’s why I paid to have a perfectly machined inlaid marble circle in the summoning room.
I don’t believe Lilith intended to release him.
I would appreciate your patience as my family deals with this troubling time. Now, if you’re quite done with the questions: phnglu gloz benath uth hatar…
Left the first copy with a friend and colleague who inspired the story.
He said this:
I found your short story today. You do a great job with detail. After seeing that 60 Minutes episode, it is clear to me that you captured the essence of our fucked up government, and that you are a talented writer as well. I would like to say that the story is all sci-fi, but you are probably too close to reality.
which was nice to hear.
Then I sent it to a friend to edit, took feedback and changed some order and structural elements. Then I posted it at a writing community, took feedback and changed some more structural elements. And now I’ve gone through again for even more edits. I’m about ready to close the book on this story and move on to something else.
About a month ago I had an idea for a single person role playing game using the basic card game, “War.” I finalized a draft which is going to go up at WritersCarnival.ca in a day or two.
This week is Game Chef, a competition to create a playable game using a set theme and four “ingredients” in a week. I’ve knocked out a rough draft, and I think, as a game, it’s done and playable. Now I have to work on adding more story to the mechanics and fixing the presentation.
I’ll post links later this week.
In other news, the Silo story is done its first draft, finally, but I’m going to sit on it for a few days and then go back through it.
I still have about three dozen poems out in the ether awaiting responses, so I’m going to go through last month’s poems, cull the herd, polish the remainders, and then send them out as well.
Last week after a discussion with a teaching colleague, the idea for the beginning of a story came clear. I’m not sure if it will ever be publishable, but the research itself has been enlightening. The basic idea is about the current state of US Minuteman missile silos, and one possibly unstable operator standing his watch there.
I’ve still got another 1500 words or so before I’ll call the first draft done, but in order to write those, I need to go back and rework some of the ones already down, just because the time sequencing is all off. That’s my plan for later today now that I’m done grading papers, hopefully for the rest of the semester.