Friday, May 13, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday

So there is a pretty cool dude named Chuck Wendig who has a blog over at: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/blog/. I highly recommend it as he talks about a whole host of things that are relevant and useful. (But fair warning, he likes strong language and is unapologetic about it, so if you are offended by swearing or creatively grotesque imaginings his blog may not be for you).

Anyway, every Friday he does Flash Fiction Friday. He gives a prompt and a word count and you go off and you create something. This will be my first time actually participating :)

So the challenge for this week was to go to: http://photo.net/photodb/random-photo?category=NoNudes and pick a random image and then write about 1,000 words to go with it.

I picked two because they both inspired a scene rattling around in my head:

Morning Fog

Dead Tree





Here is the story:




“Look at what The Creator is capable of, Jack,” Pandora says. “Look!”

I don’t want to look. I know what’s there. I know what The Creator does. But Pandora grabs me by the neck and forces my head up, forces me to see what I don’t want to see. The sun sinks across the horizon. Through the smoke the orange hue of the fires and the sun make the countryside look a picturesque fall morning. From this distance the smoke could be fog, the blackened trees could just be in shadow.

“I get it,” I say, trying to break free from his grip.

“Pandora is not sure that you do.”

He holds tight for another few seconds, then pushes me away. I turn to glare at him. It is about as effective as a toddler throwing a tantrum. He towers over me and is as imposing as the day that I first met him. I hate the condescension in his tone, but I know it is not intentional.

“This is just the beginning. The Creator has been designing and destroying creation since the beginning of time,” Pandora says. His voice inside my head is stern, steady, and desperate. “He is extremely thorough at how he destroys his creations. He studies the patterns of all the living things and then finds the most interesting and entertaining way to destroy them.”

“So, he’s just going to rain down fire and brimstone and watch us run around while the world ends?” I ask.

“He isn’t going to do anything,” Pandora says. “He will plant the seeds into the minds of men and then let them do what they do best.”

He pauses, waiting for me to get the answer. “They’ll go to war. A war to end all wars.”

“Yes.”

“But why would he want it to end this way?”

“An empire that is destroyed from within is dead forever,” Pandora says. “By letting your species destroy this organism he is ensuring that it can never be again.”

My head spins. All of sudden The Creator seems very real and very much like the threat Pandora has been warning me about. Before now he was some distant villain, almost cartoonish in my imagination. Now, I am truly beginning to understand why Pandora is so desperate and afraid. If he can plant the seeds of destruction into the minds of every person on Earth, then how can there be any hope? How do you beat a deity who is always seven steps ahead of you?

“It isn’t hopeless.”

I look up at Pandora. “Reading minds now?”

“Your expressions make it pretty clear what you are thinking.”

“All right, then, pray tell me, o great avian warrior of creations past, how is it not hopeless?”

Pandora hesitates for the slightest moment. “Transcendence.”

I stare at him. “Transcendence?”

“Yes.”

“That thing we tried and I failed epically at?”

“You can’t just give up because it didn’t work the first time.”

“Well, I would be more willing to do it if I was certain that it would work and that there wouldn’t be excruciating pain involved,” I snap. “You don’t even realize what you’re asking me.”

“Pandora is asking you to do what is necessary to save your way of life.”

“You’re asking me to sacrifice my life for a plan that might not work. You can’t even tell me how I am supposed to achieve this transcendence.”

Pandora leaps at me, so suddenly I don’t have time to react before he has picked me up and we are soaring over the blazing countryside.  His talons wrap around my biceps and hold me snuggly, digging just enough to be uncomfortable. From this vantage point I can see that the carnage of this field extends to the forest beyond. Smoke rises around us, thick and heavy, enveloping us in its hazy embrace.

“Is this really how you want it all to end?” he shouts at me.

He swoops down through the smoke and sets me in front of a blackened tree, dead from the fire. The smoke is so thick where we are that it’s almost as dark as night, weak sunlight trying to filter through the gaps and reveal the damage to this forest in all its horror.  My eyes water and my lungs burn with the effort to breathe, but I can’t look away from the tree.

“This is what will remain if there is no intervention,” Pandora says. “Everything will be blackened and dead. Pandora knows that what he asking of you is great. But there is a chance this will work. Isn’t that worth the risk?”

“Why does it have to me?” I ask. I know I sound like a whiney teenager, but that’s what I am. I just a kid and I have a hard time believing that there isn’t somebody more qualified than me to take on this great mission of saving humanity.

Pandora studies me for a long moment. “Pandora is not sure how he knows, but there is something about you that feels right. Pandora searched all of Earth for the right candidate and he came across much more accomplished people than you. But you, Jack, have something that he did not find in abundance in the others.

“What’s that?” I ask, both sarcastic and flattered.

“Empathy.”

I can’t help but roll my eyes. “Empathy? You’re telling me that nobody else on this planet empathizes as well as I do? You’re going to have to do better than that.”

“Hear Pandora out. It is not so much that your empathy is greater than anyone else. It is that you have the right kind of empathy. You feel things deeply. Combined with your sense of doing things for the great good of people, rather than just for the good of yourself and that is a powerful thing. Pandora cannot tell you exactly how to transcend to the next level, but he can tell you that you are the right person. But if you do not believe it, then it will not be.”

I look at the blackened tree and let his words sink into my mind. I want to believe that I could do this, but I also know that I am not a hero. I have many faults and while my moral compass usually points north, I am no saint. So then how can I be the right person for this? How can there be no one else?

“No true hero ever thinks himself in that way,” Pandora says and I wonder again if he can read minds. “But there is one thing they have in common. They persevere and they never give up.”


____

And there you have it. Feel free to leave any comments or thoughts, but please be sure to be constructive because being mean and nasty is not good for anyone.

--TAP









Thursday, May 5, 2016

Life Gets In The Way




How I feel every day


Well here we are in May and I have not been keeping up very well. Computer issues and a busy schedule for life makes for a lot of nuisances. But hey, it's not about what you haven't done, it's about what you do. So I am back and am going to try to be more regular about updating this.

Life gets in the way of a lot. I currently work four jobs--it's not as insane or impressive as it may sound--and if I want to do things like go to movies or hang out with people, sometimes I have to get creative about how I manage my time. (It usually involves cutting out sleep).

Sometimes we get so caught up in our schedules and how busy we are and what we have going on that we forget to take time for ourselves. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our individual lives that we forget we affect other people.

Here is my example of this from the other day. I was driving home from job #2, which I do in the evenings anywhere from 5-8pm. It was a gorgeous day (which was nice because we've had cold, rainy weather for two weeks) and I had my windows down and my music up. I came to an intersection, in the left hand turn lane. It's fairly major intersection and there are always people standing on the corners waving signs or homeless people on the medians with signs asking for anything that anyone is willing to give. I am by no means rich or well off (see above about working four jobs). But I have enough to make ends meet and still have something left over. I could be a hell of lot worse off, that's for sure.

But I digress.

So I pulled up to a stop in the turn lane and there was a man there with a sign saying he was homeless and anything at all would help. At first I sat there and thought, well maybe next time I'll give something. I thought, well I just gave money to another person not that long ago. I thought, not this time.  But as I sat there, with my windows down, trying not to look in this guy's direction, I thought, well, but I have some extra cash this week. I thought, all I'm going to do with it is spend on extra things that I don't necessarily need.

So I took out a twenty and gave it to the man. He lit up and kept saying thank you, told me now he could catch the bus. He packed up his things, ready to move on. And as I drove away, there was a smile that I couldn't keep off my face because I knew I had made someone's day better.

I'm not telling you this story with some kind of moral lesson attached. That's not the point. In all honesty, my act of kindness was rooted in selfishness. Because for me, giving to other people, sharing with them, gives me a happiness that I can't quite define. Doesn't matter if I am giving money to a homeless person or buying dinner for a friend or paying it forward somewhere. When I do something for someone else, not because I have to, but because I can, well, it brings me joy.

It's a powerful feeling, a high that you just want to keep high on. Seeing how happy other people are when you surprise them with an unexpected gift or when you do something for them that they weren't expecting you to do is something that I will never grow tired of. You gotta find the thing that makes you feel like you're a better you, that gives you some sort of meaning or purpose.

So yeah, life gets in my way. And I have to deal with all the mundane day to day detritus of adulthood that is paying bills and doing laundry and the dishes and being generally responsible for myself. But, as I was reminded earlier this week, it doesn't take much to give other people happiness and it takes even less to give them sadness. We all affect people, sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad ways, and sometimes in ways that we never imagined. There are times we don't get to choose how we are affecting people. But, there are times when we get to choose, when get to make a conscious choice about what we put out into the world. And those are the times that say a lot about who we are as people.

When I remember that, everything else seems pretty unimportant.

--TAP