Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Burning Planet

            The hull of the Galaxy Ship has created two long shadows that split the shrill monotony of the Oyamic Desert landscape. One of these shadows is caused by the rising sun Putnam II and as if sentient of the next few hours’ coming heat, it is slowly receding like a pool of water from the dry and barren desert to the oasis of the concrete landing pad. On nearly the opposite side of the ship the shadow created by the setting sun Galelius is creeping its way from the base of the triple engines and across the landing pad, beyond which it disappears somewhere among the grains of windswept desert sand. Hours pass but the only movement in the area is the waxing and waning of the shadows and the progress of their respective sources in the sky. These twin suns, Putnam II and Galelius, take turns in dominating the planet, alternating every half-day on their circular journeys, one disappearing to rule over the Underworld while the other takes its place on the firmament throne to watch over this side of Hell. And Hell it is. There is no night on this planet, only times of extreme heat and of less extreme heat, but never darkness or a respite from the suns. Accordingly, no plant or animal inhabits it. The air is too dry and the heat too much. It never rains. Clouds do not exist. The planet is dead, simply another rock hurtling through the vacuum of space in an anonymous galaxy forty light years away from Earth. The planet is distant, obscure, and inhospitable to life. And this is why I live here.
            I was sent here nearly twenty years ago with 50,000 other convicts to populate this penal colony. We were murderers, rapists, child molesters, originally sentenced to death on Earth. Unfortunately, a forward-thinking rookie Senator managed to pass a law that snatched us from the cozy cradle of our graves to this prison without walls. The move served to encourage people that the Earth’s coalition government was indeed humane after its image had been tarnished by a series of ethnic cleansings. It was a successful publicity move and the Senator was elected to the Prime Ministry the very next year.
Twenty years later and this uninhabitable planet is filled with pathetic excuses for lives. Of course, Putnam II and Galelius saw to it that the scum of the earth wouldn’t live on the surface of this planet. We were swept underground, in a labyrinthine city of concrete and steel that was built just for us to call home. The government didn’t give us any instructions or oversight, or put us with any guards. They simply left us here like how moving trains of antiquity would dump the contents of their lavatories on the tracks. Order of the most primitive kind was established. In twenty years, despots and tyrants have risen and been murdered, factions have been established and disbanded, and each year brings a new wave of fresh-faced convicts to replace the ones that died or were killed. We can’t murder each other fast enough to combat population inflation. The planet’s underground city, originally designed for 50,000 to live in the most Spartan manner, now holds 200,000.
Today, nearly twenty years after I crossed the Acheron, that rookie-Senator-now-Prime Minister is visiting for the very first time the creation to which he owes his power. The Galaxy Ship is his. I assume his visit is just a ploy to rekindle old support. Regrettably for the Prime Minister, however, his visit is not going as he planned. The planet’s convicts stormed the convention hall in which he was giving his Inter-galaxy broadcasted speech in order to let him know that they would have preferred execution to this- his- more “humane” solution. The broadcast was turned off before the entire United Galaxies could see 200,000 criminals tear Earth’s leading politician limb from limb.
Well, actually 199,999. I did not go to the convention hall with the others. Instead I am running in the opposite direction of where the mob is, in the direction of the landing pad. I’m escaping this planet.
It doesn’t take me long to exit the underground city and reach the planet’s surface. I am immediately suffocated with hot, unbreathable air. The tangible heat rising from the concrete landing pad creates a shimmering mirage and physically blocks my view of the Galaxy Ship and its entrance hatch. I have no idea if it’s open or closed but I know that I’d rather die than go back to the city so I move forward. Slowly my melting legs make their way across the scorching concrete. I feel like I’ve drunk gasoline and swallowed a match. I try to hold my breath. My legs are giving out but I am close enough to now see the craft through my watering eyes. I follow the length of the ship’s body from the landing gear to the engines to the entrance hatch- it’s closed. I have no Plan B and my brain is now boiling. My eyes shut and my mind goes blank as I collapse.
I awake to the sound of thunder. It’s hot, still very hot but not as unbearable as before. I take a look at my surroundings and realize that I must have passed out and fallen into the compartment that houses the landing gear. I thank the heavens. I did it, I’m coming home! Back to Earth! Back to life being rule by the Coalition Government instead of countless dictators and tyrants! Back to real humanity! The engines of the late Prime Minister’s Galaxy Ship are rumbling near me and as we begin to lift-off I take a look out of the service window. Below me the landing pad is slowly shrinking from sight, the hot desert is becoming a memory, and as I picture my return to Earth and the rest of civilization I know that I am only trading one hell for another.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Scene Stealers #2

Jason pushed himself up on one elbow, groaned, and fell back to the floor. He tried to get his bearings but couldn’t think past the pounding in his head. He waited–maybe 15 seconds or so—and tried again. The room didn’t spin quite as much this time, so he looked around.
The sun was filtering its way around the edges of the heavy black curtains that hung in front of the windows, providing just enough light to counteract the epileptic effects of the two overhead strobe lights, which were still on. Crushed beer cans and countless red solo cups littered the worn out parquet floor and camouflage sheets, bamboo sticks, and fake leaves hung from all four walls. The jungle juice sat motionless in its giant bowl in the corner.
            Jason stood up and pressed his knuckles into his temples. His vision had returned but his head was filled with a grating buzzing sound. Trying to ignore it, he pulled his jeans from underneath the couch and, hopping around trying to put them on, fell and crashed into one of the enormous floor-standing speakers. The noise stopped. Jason lay still on the ground for a second, pleased to learn that the buzzing had been from the speakers and not from his head but also in pain from crashing into the sound system. As he got to his feet again rubbing his elbow, he noticed numerous bruises on his forearms and a few more on his legs. Evidently his falling skills had not diminished overnight.
            This wasn’t the worst hangover Jason had ever experienced. His body felt as if he had just lost a title fight, his lips were parched, and his stomach rumbled, but apart from the pounding in his head his mind felt clear. He reached into his pocket for his phone. Through the spider web of cracks in the screen was a notification for three missed calls and a voicemail. And it was 11:48am. Shit!
            Jason bolted out the door and down the stairs of the house, his bare feet hardly registering a sound. His shoes he was sure were still in the room he had woken up in, either under the couch or in the piles of cans and cups, but he didn’t have time to look for them. He jumped the last four steps, grabbed his skateboard which thankfully was where he had left it, and kicked open the front door.
            His mind was working to generate an adequate excuse as he kicked his way down Beacon Street. Unfortunately, he wasn’t certain an adequate excuse existed for a situation like this. In less than ten minutes he had reached the Prudential, the massive 52 floor downtown skyscraper. The offices of Robin, Blankstein, & Gray were on the 47th floor. Barefoot and skateboard underarm, Jason sprinted through the lobby and navigated around the Welcome Desk and an open-mouthed concierge. As he reached the elevator lobby his phone beeped.
            Thnx for the awesome party last night. Congratulations again on your new job- 3 years of suffering thru law school and hard wrk and u’ve really earned it! Just don’t fuck up on your first day ;)
            Way too late.


This post was based off of the following writing prompt:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Golf Fundraiser Takes an Interesting Turn

            I had already spent ten minutes wandering through the trees looking for the errant golf ball I had hit and I knew Mike and Ryan were getting impatient. One more minute, I told myself, and then I would just accept the one stroke penalty. I flipped over a flat rock with the head of my golf club and then out of the corner of my eye, round and white, I saw the golf ball. I breathed a sigh of relief. When I bent down to pick it up, however, the ball wasn’t there. I looked around confused and then found it again, ten yards to my right. I took a couple of cautious steps forward and then realized my mistake. It was not my golf ball but the round tail of a white rabbit. I cursed under my breath.
            Before I could walk away, however, the rabbit turned around and, in a dignified voice suitable only for a British radio announcer, said “Follow me.” I blinked. “Ahem,” the rabbit said clearing its throat. “If you want your golf ball back, follow me,” and it hopped off further into the woods, with me, not sure whether it was to retrieve my golf ball or simply because the rabbit had said anything at all, following as close as I could.
            After a while we came to a clearing in the woods, with a small stream on one side and the trees shaping the rest of the border. Here were gathered deer, owls, foxes, turtles, frogs, monkeys, bears, squirrels, beavers and animals of all other sorts. In front of them stood a flip chart on a wooden easel. My rabbit friend hopped up to it and began to address the crowd as I took a seat on a mossy log next to a rather pretentious looking otter.
            “Friends,” began the rabbit, “we have all fallen on tough times but no one more so than John, who has lost his golf ball.” He was pointing at me. “We will use this to our advantage, however. When John fills out his taxes this year, he will claim that the golf ball was stolen and will file for a tax deduction. He will then take the money he saves from the IRS, and invest it in a company that I will incorporate called Rabbit Holdings, Inc. Bear and Squirrel will then sell shares of this company to two people each. The return for their investment will partially come from John’s golf ball money and in part from the money that we will earn when Deer and Owl sell shares of Rabbit Holdings to two more people…”
            It was dark when I finally made it back to the golf course. I walked back into the clubhouse and found Mike and Ryan having a drink at the bar, waiting for me.
            “So, did you find your golf ball?” said Mike. I shook my head. I didn’t want to tell them that I had almost been hired to take part in a Ponzi scheme run by a rabbit who talked with a British accent. I could think of only one thing more embarrassing.
            “It’s almost better that you didn’t,” Ryan interjected before I could even say anything. “See, Mike and I were sitting here at the bar waiting for you and we met the most amazing fellow. Apparently, if you claim that your golf ball was stolen then you can claim it as a tax deduction. Then all you need to do is invest it in…”


This post was based off of the following writing prompt: You’re on a golf course taking part in a fundraiser to cure a disease that’s near and dear to your heart. On the 11th hole, you hit a ball into the woods. While searching for that ball, you see a white rabbit that stops, looks you right in the eye and says, “Follow me.” Link:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Pale Blue Dot

Death is an expected event.
It’s not meant to take you by surprise,
It’s not meant to wet dry eyes, for the
hearse awaits in everybody’s life.
And when a person dies the world spins on
around the sun,
a pale blue dot
in this heaven-reaching universe.
When a person ages and has paid
life’s wages, they know that soon they will
turn the page and reach the back-cover
of the book.
And they know if then they look below from above-
            Or above from below-
            Or outside from within-
they will see that the pale blue dot will
continue to spin around the sun,
And that Death does not stop the sun from rising.        
Death, nevertheless, still seems to come
out of the blue, losing those who once
were here every day and now have
gone away to some place other than
And even after sickness or old
age, even when we are sage enough
to expect the expected,
in the moment that we hear the news,
we are confused,
thinking it would happen tomorrow,
or yesterday,
but not right now.
And though the loss gives us pain that will
always remain, we shouldn’t complain.
Instead we should smile, for though we are
shocked by that which we knew all the while,
nature is not.
And our pale blue dot will continue
to spin around the sun
in this heaven-reaching universe.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Scene Stealer #1

Anna watched the sun come up for the fifth day in a row. Sleep had eluded her since the accident. So did her memory. Reaching up to touch the heavy bandage that was wrapped around her head and was covering the bullet wound, Anna tried to remember what had happened. She screwed her eyes shut and tried to make her brain work but all she could recollect was the sound of a gunshot and a hot stinging pain on the side of her head. The doctors had told her that despite the damage and the pain, the bullet had merely grazed her. They had also said that she was lucky to be alive. Anna wasn’t sure she agreed.
            The entirety of the sun was now breaking free of the horizon, spewing blood-red rays of light across the sky. The residents of the San Fernando Valley below Anna’s window were beginning to awaken. Anna watched on and wished that they wouldn’t for somewhere in the city the person who had tried to murder her would also be waking up. Some say that ignorance is bliss but Anna disagreed. She knew that her shooter could return at any time to finish the job and her amnesia made each moment that passed exponentially more agonizing than the pain she felt in her head.
Anna got up and leaned her head on the windowpane, looking down at the ground below her. She was currently on the seventh floor of her apartment building which rested on top of a cliff that dropped at least 100 feet lower. If she jumped from the window the fall to the bottom would certainly kill her and end both pain from the wound and the torment of her amnesia.
And then it came to her. The thought of jumping from the window clicked on a part of her brain that made her remember that her would-be-murderer was not waking up right now.  In fact, the person was already awake for the shooter was she. Anna looked back out the window and contemplated whether a second attempt at suicide was worth it.


This post was based off of the following writing prompt:

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Mad Scientist Approaches You

            Jessica had an enormous amount of work to do and she was pounding away at her keyboard, brow furrowed, and eyes locked in steady concentration at her computer screen. A slow uncontrollable smile fought its way across my face as I watched her from the other side of the office floor over the low cubicle walls. I loved the way she worked with such passion and intensity. I loved the way she bit her bottom lip as she typed. I loved the way she flicked her hair out of her eyes as it fell across her face. In fact, I thought she was the most beautiful and talented woman I had ever seen and I loved everything about her. The only thing I hated about her was the fact that she didn’t know I existed.
            Jessica and I had never met, had never even talked, and I couldn’t live another day with the unbearable weight that was crushing my heart. I sighed and leaned back in my chair, knowing I didn’t have to. After eight years of longing for her, it was time. Today was the day that I was going to make Jessica fall in love with me.
            I quickly finished up the TPS report I was working on, stood up, and starting walking towards Jessica’s desk. How could I possibly start a conversation with her out of the blue?, I thought to myself. Hey, I’m Ryan. I noticed you started working here eight years ago and just thought I’d introduce myself now. I shuddered at the thought of how embarrassing that would be. Lucky for me, there was a much easier way. I reached Jessica’s desk and kept walking, made a right turn, and went into the men’s bathroom.
            I locked the door and took out a small glass vial out of my pocket, holding it up to the light. The substance inside was a liquid, yet it wasn’t a uniform color. Rather it was a dazzling pattern of red, pink, yellow, purple, and turquoise and as I tilted the vial in my hand, the colors and patterns of the liquid shifted like a kaleidoscope. I would have been more amazed at its appearance had I not known what the liquid was. It was a Love Potion.
            It had taken me over two years, my entire life savings, an owed favor from a high school friend who was now a U.S. senator, and a trip to the basement of a night club in Armenia to obtain it. In short, I had risked my entire life for this Love Potion. I didn’t care, however. Its effect- which was to cause the object of the imbiber’s desire to fall deeply and madly in love with him- would be more than worth it. I popped the cap off and, raising the vial and saying “Cheers” to my reflection in the bathroom mirror, downed the polychromatic liquid. I immediately felt different. The chains of unrequited love that were strangling my heart had been lifted. It worked!
            I ran out of the bathroom, down to Jessica’s desk, and spun the chair around. I gasped. Jessica was sitting in her chair staring back at me, but now I no longer saw her as the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Now I thought she looked like the ugliest and most vile creature that ever existed. “Ryan! I’m SO happy to see you!” Jessica said, leaping out of her chair and giving me a huge hug and a kiss on the cheek. I broke myself free of her embrace and, dropping to my hands and knees and vomiting, cursed myself for not reading the side effects on the vial.


This post was based off of the following writing prompt: A mad scientist approaches you with an offer: He has a secret potion that will help you get the thing you want most in this world—be it a person, a thing, an ability, etc. What you don’t know (and won’t reveal until the end of your story) is that there is one dire consequence (not death) from drinking the potion. Link:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Skeleton In Your Closet - Literally

“Honey, have you seen my briefcase?”
            I looked at my wife through the mirror that hung above the bureau in our bedroom. “Have you seen my briefcase?” I repeated, this time more slowly so she wouldn’t miss a word. “I put it on the chair last night, remember? So I wouldn’t forget it for my interview?”
            “Yeah, I remember. I just don’t know where it is,” she said, smothering her face back into the pillows and away from the light that I had flicked on.
            I spun around to face her. “Well, when I got up this morning I noticed that it wasn’t there- so unless a ghost ran off with it someone must’ve moved it.” I waited for her to get the hint.
            “Maybe a ghost did run off with it,” came the muffled response. I sighed and, still in only my boxers, hurried out of the bedroom to scour the rest of the house. Foyer, living room, kitchen. I checked all of the places where my wife could have moved the briefcase out of absentmindedness. Then I checked all of the places where she could have moved it out of spite. Neither search proved fruitful.
            Dejected, I decided that I would just print out another copy of my resume and carry it in a folder, even if it looked less professional. At this point it didn’t matter- the important thing was to get to the interview on time, and I wasn’t even dressed yet. I ran into the bathroom to shower and shave and then raced back to the bedroom to get dressed, towel flapping around my waist. But when I opened the armoire to get my suit out I nearly fell flat on my face.
            Staring back at me out of the darkness of the wardrobe was a creamy white skeleton, six feet tall, and fully clothed in my interview suit and power tie. In one hand it was clutching my briefcase. I dropped the towel to the ground and let out a yelp.
            “Why are you screaming?” my wife said, sitting up now to admonish me. “And why are you naked?” I looked at her, dumbfounded, then to the skeleton, then back to her, then down at my exposed midsection. I picked up the towel and looked back at my wife, who had her eyebrows raised.
            “Ummm…” I said, “I found my briefcase,” and shut the armoire door.


This post was based off of the following writing prompt: When you go to get dressed one morning, you discover that there really is a skeleton in your closet. Write this scene—discover how it got there, why it is there, what to do with it now. Link:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Leaving Town Abruptly

            “Eddie, we gotta go. Now.”
            Through my squinted eyes I could just make out a shape undulating as it moved across the stripes of light that streamed in through the slatted blinds. I let out a half-groan half-sigh that I had been perfecting over the past forty years and ostriched my head back under the tangle of pillows and covers.
            “Come on. We don’t have time for this,” said the voice again. In an instant a draught of cold air hit the parts of my body that my boxers and socks (yes, I sleep in socks) weren’t covering as my sheets were yanked off me, presumably by the owner of the nagging voice. This was the most convincing motivation I had been given yet. I gave in and lifted my head from under the pillow to peek at my bedside clock. It read 4:14am. This was the deadest time of night, a time when it was just too late for mindless partiers to keep mindlessly partying and just too early for mindless farmers to start mindlessly farming.
            I sat up, swung my legs off the bed and slipped my feet into my cotton slippers. Standing up I took the opportunity to finally look at my assaulter. He was a tallish man in his late-twenties or early-thirties, wore brown hair with brown eyes and had a rather good-looking face that could have appeared on a magazine cover. And he was a complete stranger.
            My eyes did not have the chance to observe the man for very long as all of a sudden a gym bag- my very-seldom-used gym bag- was thrust into my arms. I looked down into it and closed the zipper over the socks and underwear and shirts that had just been stuffed into it. “’Kay, I got all your stuff. Let’s go,” the man said as he started for the bedroom door.
            The urge to resist is not so strong when you’re standing in the cold of your bedroom in nothing but your boxers and socks and cotton slippers as it is when you’re snuggled comfortably in your warm and cozy bed. So all I said was “Alright,” and I followed him out of the bedroom and down the stairs.
            “You remember the old cruiser, don’t you, Eddie?” the man said as he pointed to perhaps the plainest and most boring car I ever saw, a gray ’04 Mercury Marauder. I crossed the threshold of my house after him and as I did I let out a cough, as the sharp February morning air filled my lungs. “Aha! Eddie!” the man had taken this as an affirmative.
            I opened the passenger door of the boring car and flopped into the seat. It didn’t matter at this point that my name wasn’t even Eddie- I just wanted to be somewhere warm again. The man slammed shut his door, revved the engine, and we sped off down the street, away from my cozy house, away from my cozy bed, and straight into trouble.


This post was based off of the following writing prompt: A friend rings your doorbell way too early in the morning to be ringing doorbells. You answer the door in your PJs, and the friend says, “Pack a bag quickly. I have to get out of here now and need you to come with me.” You are intrigued. Link: