aqua fortis

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Flickr Fiction: Dream in Color

Ida dreamed in stories. Not flickers of images like the switching of TV channels, or half-remembered childhood memories, or partially digested daily events mish-mashed together into an incomprehensible soup.

Stories. Complete plots with characters and an arc that rose to a dramatic climax and then, always, always, stopped at the most absolutely crucial moment. If these had been actual written pieces, then she would never get to the end of the key scene, never experience a character's epiphany, never find out the moral of the story.

Like this, from her dream diary dated October 2, 1992: She was a girl working in a tavern somewhere in 1800s England. A soldier came in. The soldier was her brother; their mother had taken ill with a fever after helping their sister give birth to her first child, a boy. She--Ida--rushed home to find her mother in a state of delirium. She bathed her face gently with compresses of cool water, but the situation worsened. In a rare--perhaps her final--moment of lucidity, her mother reached out one trembling, careworn hand to touch Ida's face and opened her mouth to speak, at which point Ida woke up, sweating, frustrated, angry, crying.

Or this, dated just last Monday: She was a young man--sometimes she was a member of the opposite sex in her dreams, though at the same time, curiously, she remained herself--a young man living in Chicago, alone in a cramped but sunlit apartment. He had moved there just a few months before to study with a world-famous tap dancer, jazz-tap style, and life had not been easy for him, working odd restaurant jobs at late hours and falling into bed exhausted after practicing until he was ready to drop. But the very next day, he received a visit from his teacher at the world-famous tap dancer's school, and the teacher asked him to dance right then and there, in his apartment, because the teacher was considering suggesting him for a key role in an upcoming performance. The young man pulled on his shoes, excitement warring with trepidation, his hands shaking but his feet steady. He stood in the empty, wood-floored living room and began to dance. After several minutes, he stopped. The teacher opened his mouth, raising one hand to emphasize what he was about to say.

Ida woke up.

This week's piece was inspired by To the dancers in the sun by Flickr user dejon. This is another sort of unfinished piece, playing around with a character who might work her way into a short story... Check for more Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Isobel, Elimare, Chris, Mina, TadMack, Linus, and new members Neil, Valsha, and Dermot, who's still getting set up.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Guess What I'm Doing Right Now?

Talking to my sister on the phone. In Australia. !!! More later.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Flickr Fiction: At the Sign of the Sheep

The dark-cloaked figure staggered up to the wooden building, creaking in the wind, and leaned against its outer stone wall for support. For a time, Aster did not move or speak, but merely breathed, each inhalation a struggle against the grating in his ribs, each exhalation an opportunity for more blood to trickle past his fingers, out of the stab wound in his shoulder. They'd almost succeeded this time. But they hadn't. If only...No. Thinking that way would surely focus his thoughts in the wrong direction, and then they'd be sure to detect him again, with their Mind-Hounds. No more.

The wind picked up, gusting into the folds of his cloak along with a spatter of drizzle, and he began to shiver uncontrollably. Time to go inside. With any luck, She would be there. That's what they'd told him. But was this even the right place? He looked up. There was a wooden sign creaking back and forth, back and forth, lit only by the glow of moonlight reflecting off the clouds. He could just make out a crude drawing of a sheep, sitting drunkenly on a barrel of ale.

He stood with his head cocked, staring for several moments. They'd told him the sign of the sheep. This was the only sign of a sheep in the town of Meadowmore, which was a mere village compared to the vast capital city where he'd spent his childhood roaming the streets. Somehow, though--the reverence with which they'd spoken of it, that hardened band of toughs who'd helped him escape the patrol of Orderkeepers and their Mind-Hounds--he'd thought it would be somehow more imposing. Not a mere public house.

Then, for just a moment, the clouds allowed a sliver of moonlight to blaze through from the Gibbous Lady, may-her-peace-shine-forever. Aster followed the beam of the Lady's gaze to where it shone upon the public house and its crude banner. And, for the space of a blink, a heartbeat or two, the wooden sign no longer hung there but a much older, rusted-metal, portentously heavy ornament, more gargoyle than sheep, its corroded chains swinging silently. The moonlight shone through its cut-out eye and came to rest in a small spot directly above Aster's heart.

Yes, this had to be the place. The moon returned to her cloudy sleep, the sign once again the crudely drawn sheep imbibing a tankard of ale. But Aster knew, as surely as he was standing there, that the Gibbous Lady herself had given him a sign of his own. He felt the first stirrings of hope he'd had in a very long time. Perhaps he was not doomed to spend his youth in an Orderkeepers' labor crew.

This week's piece was inspired by judgement day (sic - no need for that "e"!) by Flickr user columbo's dad. Sorry it's late. I'm not sure where this story might be going, but I occasionally try my hand at the fantastical... Check for more Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Isobel, Elimare, Chris, Mina, TadMack, Linus, and new members Neil, Valsha, and Dermot, who's still getting set up.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Holiday Procrastination...

...Or, I'm Still Not Done With All the Shit I Gotta Do. That's right, this really ought to be a Flickr Fiction post, as it's Friday, but I haven't managed to get to that yet. Trust me, it's on my list, but I have this problem...I make lists that are too long to humanly accomplish in a day. Then, of course, I feel crappy if I fail to complete them, as I inevitably do. It's a vicious cycle.

Here's what I have accomplished this week:

  • Exercise: Today Rob and I finally did our in-the-gym sprint triathlon. Yay! I am very tired. We started with a half-mile swim (16 laps); went on to do the 5K run on the treadmill; and then finished off with 10 miles on the exercise bike. It took me about 1 hr. 55 min. including transition time; about 1 hr. 48 min. not including the transitions (changing out of swimsuit, coping with sudden breakage of hair tie, etc.). Verdict: My legs hurt. And leaving chlorine on your body while you exercise for another hour and a half is kind of itchy. Also: Take that, gym people who said I had an obese body fat percentage!
  • Baking: This week I baked another pan of gingerbread, a batch of persimmon cookies, a batch of oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies, and a vegan orange cake (for a friend's vegan wife). Fortunately, I didn't give it all away. However, there's still baking to be done--two custard pies, which my mom will help with when she gets here tomorrow evening; another batch of gingerbread, if I have time; plus assorted other goodies for people I won't see until after Christmas.

Really, those are the main accomplishments I'm happy about this week. Sadly, I still have some presents to wrap, tidying of my office to do, Flickr Fiction to write, and Cybil graphic novel nominees to rank. Speaking of which, one of my book reviews was Review of the Day yesterday on the Cybils site. Woo! They picked a strange one, though, out of the reviews I've written for nominees so far. Plus now the whole world will know of my feelings for David Bowie.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Flickr Fiction: Dumbbell

"Unnrrrgggghhhh!" Sweat dripped down Sean's slightly protruding, artificially-bronzed pectorals, in rivulets from his neck, across his orderly six-pack of abs, down into the waistband of his designer gym shorts. Missy, five years old, watched in utter fascination, Malibu Barbie lying forgotten in her lap. Charisse flipped a page in her issue of Cosmo and moved her cigarette to the other side of her mouth in a cloud of menthol.

"Unnrrrgggghhhh!" More sweat, more heaving pectorals. Not to mention bulging biceps. Charisse had her feet up on the table, and moved them slightly so that her legs formed a more effective magazine stand and blocked off the sight of the sweat hog.

"Unnrrrgggghhhh!" Charisse and Sean had not had sex in months, but those rare occasions when they did were marked by grunting, sweating, and self-aggrandizing statements of masculinity such as You like that, baby? You know I'm the only one who can satisfy you. Which was indeed ironic. Charisse had not had an orgasm by anyone's hand but her own in several years.

"Unnrrrgggggggnnnhhhh!! Oh yeah." The dumbbells were set down with a clank and another brief grunt. "Whaddya think of them apples?" He picked up a towel and sopped up the sweat rivulets, rubbing himself down with almost postcoital bliss. Charisse raised her eyebrows and peered up momentarily from "Bitch in the Bedroom: Sometimes What He Really Wants is What He Thinks He Doesn't Want."

"What are you up to now, twenty-pounders?" Charisse sounded bored; her question sounded rote. Her sigh sounded truly martyred.

"Twenty-five," Sean said, in a voice an octave lower than his normal speaking range. "How d'ya like your strong-man now?" He smiled, flexing, but it turned into a grimace as his strained muscle fibers protested.

"Hot," Charisse said, looking back down at her magazine. "Missy, what do you think of your big buff daddy? Like Superman."

There was a long pause, as Sean inspected a sculpted quadricep in front of the mirrored basement wall. Charisse stopped reading, though she didn't look up, as Missy straightened in preparation to deliver an irrefutable pronouncement.

"Daddy, you have man-boobies," Missy said, and laughed hysterically.

This week's piece was inspired by daddy's dumbbells by Flickr user fadedmilkyway. I think I might be spending too much time at the gym... Check for more Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Isobel, Elimare, Chris, Mina, TadMack, Linus, and new members Neil, Valsha, and Dermot, who's still getting set up.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Flickr Fiction: The Return

It is time. He heard the voice in his head, from a long way off, and realized he had been asleep, lost in dreams, for heaven knew how long. He hardly remembered who he was, but he must not have been asleep the entire time, for he had some inkling of where he was. From the looks of it, it was some kind of stasis tube, an isolation chamber. He was looking through water, some kind of liquid. Was he still dreaming?

He lay there for a moment, eyes open, not quite fully conscious, as the room warmed around him, prodding his sluggish blood to life. In his head, he remembered that voice, that same voice that told him it was time--a woman, or a high-voiced man--telling him of the wonders that sprung up as he slept, the horrors. It was a voice out of time. Out of time, as he'd been for so long, so long that he only remembered a name: Arthur. I am Arthur. But who am I?

Arthur sat up in the fluid-filled tank. He gasped as warm air flooded into his lungs; vomited as the fluid that had kept him alive and nourished but static and unmoving forced its way out of his eustachian tube. His organs convulsed; he felt like every nerve was on fire. The light in the room was growing brighter only gradually, but it was like a dagger being driven into his temple. He sat there for heaven knew how long, until the air moved in and out of his lungs unobstructed. Arthur realized he was cold, and looked down; he was naked. It made a certain amount of sense that he would not wear clothing in a fluid-filled tank, though he wasn't sure how he knew this, just as he wasn't sure how he knew that someone would be coming for him, soon.

He found a gray jumpsuit and blue vest of some strange, supple material hanging on a hook on the wall, and he put them on. Arthur. I am Arthur. Am I Art? Artie? What is my family name? Where IS my family? And, soon: Where am I? Yet he had a strange feeling, a knowing, that all would come clear. He thought he remembered the voice in his dreams, telling him that this would happen. Who was that voice?

There was a soft ding, and a set of doors he hadn't noticed slid open at one end of the small, smooth-walled chamber. A tall, slender man in a white coat entered. A scientist? He was holding a square device with a stylus poised and ready to write.

"Excellent," the man said in a dulcet and soothing voice. It was not the voice from Arthur's dreams. "Our Rip Van Winkle is awake. It's been a long time; even we aren't sure how long. How are you feeling?"

"Why, I'm..." Arthur's voice came out hoarse, his vocal cords contracting painfully as he tried to speak. He swallowed, and made another attempt, lifting his head proudly, though he wasn't sure why he felt he should do so. "The waking...was difficult." His own voice sounded strange to his ears, the words felt odd on his tongue, the shape of them. He didn't sound like the man who stood before him. Why?

"I'm sure, I'm sure. Please, drink this." The man handed him a clear bottle of some strange green liquid. It bubbled startlingly on his tongue and down his throat, and was achingly sweet, but he immediately felt clearer-headed. Perhaps he'd been missing some vital nutrient that was supplied by this...he looked at the bottle again, saw the name, and smiled. Somewhere, surfacing from deep within his memory, was the taste of dew from the mountainsides. This was nothing like it.

"We had arrangements made for you upon your awakening from stasis," the man said, "if you'd like to come with me."

Arthur nodded. It didn't seem as though he had a choice. There was nowhere else but this room, devoid of people, of food, of life. He did not know what life was like on the outside, except that it had been changing, so much, so quickly. He followed the man, who walked briskly, his shoes making crisp tapping sounds, and found himself in a huge network of corridors. They walked through the maze, Arthur hurrying to catch up with the larger man while still gaping at the unfamiliar sights, still straining to use his eyes after their long rest.

At the end of a long hallway, a set of doors slid open and they stepped through. Arthur stared, and his eyes slowly moved upward. It was a huge cylinder, the likes of which he'd never seen; like the inside of a castle tower, a grain silo, only much larger. Lights twinkled along it at intervals, and huge semitransparent red spheres were moving up and down the sides and even the middle of the space, suspended in clear tubes. He thought he could see the shapes of people inside the red spheres. This was confirmed when one glided down to a halt right in front of him, and a smiling young couple stepped out, wearing green jumpsuits. They nodded and hurried to a set of doors labeled "A Plus Resort and Underwater Hot Springs."

"Underwater?" Arthur exclaimed, astonished. The scientist nodded. "What is this place?"

"Why, sir; this is Apple Isle. You've been in the underground research facility ever since you were found miraculously preserved in some kind of natural stasis field about thirty feet below the island's surface. But you've been unconscious for so long; maybe..." Arthur must have looked blank. The scientist blinked and shook his head. "It's worth a try, I suppose...In the old stories people called it Avalon."

This week's piece was inspired by Christmas on Madeira by Flickr user Madeira. It was also inspired by watching too many Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine reruns, while also reading a kids' graphic novel about King Arthur. Check for more Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Isobel, Elimare, Chris, Mina, TadMack, Linus, and new members Neil and Dermot, who's still getting set up.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Some Extra Coolness

So yesterday I was driving a bunch of bags of crap to the recycling center (in theory, we can put blue bags of recyclables in with the regular garbage and the garbage co. will sort them out, but we doubt that actually happens). I was in the car for a total of about two minutes, idly listening to Insight on NPR.

But perhaps I need to back up. After actually managing to finish my 50,000 words (see humongoid graphic at left) for National Novel Writing Month, I thought I'd drop the show's producer a line. I thought they might be interested to know I'd finished, since the segment about NaNoWriMo basically ended with them asking me if I thought I'd get to the end and me saying I was sure as hell going to try (without the hell part). Thus, on Friday I wrote a short e-mail to the host and the producer saying thanks again and, incidentally, I managed to finish by about 9:30 pm on the day of the deadline; and, gosh, being on the show must have given me a fresh burst of enthusiasm or somethin' for me to write 5,000 words in about six hours.

So fast forward again to yesterday. I'm sitting in the car, half-listening to Insight and thinking how it would really be neato (but unlikely) if they announced on the air that their guest last week for the NaNoWriMo segment managed to finish her 50,000 words in case y'all were wondering. And then...the host, Jeffrey Callison, announces it. Right at that moment, at approximately 2:18 pm. And he read my little e-mail on the air.


On a totally different topic, I have a couple of artists' websites to plug. My friend Corey does some really excellent nature and landscape photography and has prints of his work available. Secondly, I randomly got back in touch with someone Rob and I went to Cal with, in the Art Department there, when we saw her work on a book cover. I looked at the name of the artist and we thought, geez, that has to be her. It was. If you know someone who likes fantasy art, visit Shadowscapes, the art of Stephanie Pui-Mun Law.