Friday, March 27, 2015

io9 Concept Art Writing Prompt Mar 26, 2015

The commotion happened at the edge of Castleton's vision. A flurry of motion and a dull, wet thwack. He wanted desperately to look, to pry his eyes to the right, but the caterpillar was already examining him. What was wrong with that one? he thought but did not ask. You don't speak to the caterpillar. You especially don't speak to the hunchbacks.

Before the tenders arrived, Castleton tried to lighten the mood. Gallows humor, all that. Called it the "disassembly line". Made a crack about abattoirs. In retrospect, with what's-his-name being dragged just out of sight, a trail of blood ruining the tenders' carefully sanitized environment, he realized how crass the whole thing came off as, how transparent and needy was his need to be liked and thought of as clever, even now.

He could murder someone for a coffee. Even crappy vending machine coffees. Castleton came to coffee later in life. He missed out on its subtle pleasures, skipping from soda straight to the hard stuff, until a mere couple of years before the invasion. After he'd been drinking coffee steady (Jane got him in to it. It was her vice originally.) for a few months he marveled at the universality of it. Not just the shops and bodegas scattered everywhere, but pots cooking in diners, aforementioned vending machines, the questionable gas station fare. Whole industries devoted to growing, cultivating, shipping, grinding, roasting, packaging, marketing, distributing, selling this one product that was so universal as to be taken completely for granted. All gone now. Probably the beans too, hard to know. The invasion bred an instant blackout. Castleton had no news of the wide world beyond about a five mile radius. No idea about the President, about his parents, about Jane.

The invasion happened swiftly. They were as ants before a corn thresher. Completely immaterial to the process. All those centuries of history, those monuments we built to ourselves, the petty wars and hopes for the future, rendered moot almost offhandedly, listlessly. No one knew precisely what they wanted. They rounded up people, roughly corralled by gender, fitted them with restraints, and led them into the great new structures on the horizon of every city, not so far to be seen again.

There's a certain despair to not being at the top of the food chain anymore. He envied deer. Castleton's father took him hunting, ages ago. A deer isn't self-aware enough to give much thought to how it sits in the whole scheme of things. It's life is all leaves and grasses and just keep moving and hey look there's another deer I kind of find attractive, let's see if I can mate with it Oh crap! I'm dead! No time to worry about the meaning of it all. No deer gods who promised they'd be put up to rule over all the beasts of the Earth.

In the holding pens, before they were fitted with the magnetized boots and weighted gloves, the men reminisced about who they were before the world ended. Doctors and lawyers, plumbers and mail clerks, cops and criminals. The distinctions didn't matter. Guys shared old stories from back before the end fo the world, clingng on to that version of themselves. Castleton didn't volunteer his story. For all sorts of reasons. First of which, small-time Providence, Rhode Island coke dealer just didn't have the same ring to it as the guy who was a sergeant in the Marines. For another, he knew they had it all wrong. They weren't who they were before. Those men they were before weren't going to get out of here. They would have to be something else. Of all of them, the Marine sergeant seemed best to understand that.

The man next to Castleton was tense. Which was saying something, because they all were tense. They were about to go to the body farm or whatever the Christ it was. But there was something else. Something Castleton could almost taste in the air. The man next to him, just out of the corner of his eye, was planning something. He realized, straining with his eye while trying to appear not to strain, that it was the Marine. Gilchrist, or something.

It occurred to Castleton to do something he would never before have considered. He was not a brave man. Not by a country mile. He spoke to the silkworm.

"What was wrong with him?" he asked, but the robot (were they robots? They seemed metallic and light-up)  did not answer and continued to consult the holographic display that was, cryptically, listing all of Castleton's vitals. "Not eat his Wheaties, or something?"

The silkworm looked up, its metal expression of course unreadable. But he held its gaze for a beat, which was long enough for Gilchrist to move.

Some of the resistance were outitted with a chemical device. Almost impossible for the tenders to detect, or so went the rumor. Castleton had only faith that it wasn't some bullshit. Gilchrist bear-hugged the silkworm and suddenly the both of them were gone in a deafening flash of light. At once the men were moving, away from the explosion, away from the tenders, and out into the wintry daylight. CLANK CLANK CLANK their heavy metal boots rang against the concrete floors, before out into the snow and the gun turrets.

All around him men fell, but somehow Castleton escaped, made it past the wire fence, and through to the woods. He had no idea how long he would have or how dearly this all would cost him. He only knew that he must keep moving.

Friday, March 20, 2015

io9 Concept Art Writing Prompt: March 20, 2015

It was when Xorcthul the Unspeakable knocked on ​his window--for the fifth time that morning--that Charlie Hsing really, really wished he'd gone to Arizona State instead.

Xorcthul the Unspeakable wanted to play hackey sack. He was mad for it. One of the other exchange students, Denny Poe (of the Denny Poe Memorial Park Bench out back) got Xorcthul the Unspeakable and Klv!graxxx of the Thousand Horrors and Mitch the Unliving in to it the year before, apparently, and now it was their chief means of interacting with the world.

Nick would be there. Charlie turned on his side and ignored Xorcthul. Pointedly, or as pointedly as one can while turning one's back to a razor-fanged three-brained demon with a limited understanding of human social cues.

Arizona State. Where you're not one of a handful of human beings on the whole campus  (especially following the untimely and difficult-to-clean-up-after death of Denny Poe), where the Sun Devil is just a mascot and not a literal Devil made out of the collapsing hearts of a hundred billion living suns, like Pandaemonium College's faculty president. Should be on all the brochures. But then, MC did offer him a full ride.

Nick and Charlie. Charlie and Nick. They met in Epidemiology of Mass Communication, a 350 they both placed in to. As two of only a handful of Earthplaners (RIP Denny) they were expected to fall for each other. And so what if he did? Fall, that is. Charlie. For Nick. Who was currently dating Mitch the Unliving, and Mitch the Unliving's extensive collection of execrable college rock and briefcases full of human skin.

Well. Some of it was human, anyway.  Probably? One more semester, he told himself, drawing the blanket over his head and ignoring the alarm runes that told him he had class in ten minutes. One more semester and it's study abroad.

Maybe he'd meet someone nice in Acheron

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Steal this pitch, FOX

Of all the myriad things to which Ichabod Crane had failed to acclimate himself, the constant and irritating presence of unnatural light was perhaps the most insidious. Even here, in a cement bunker beneath Washington D.C., it was as bright as daylight. White. Flickering. If he closed his eyelids it would do little good. In his day, but, well, he wasn't in his day, was he?

Agents Redmoon and Finch (the latter speaking incessantly all day about getting his hands on something called tapas) swiped their key cards in unison, and a great iron door at the end of the long white flickering cement hallway scraped itself open. Beyond the door and the two men there was a figure, as garishly lit as the outside. He?--she?--it was difficult to determine, both, either, neither--was the color of bleached bone and dressed in what appeared to be moldering brown rags, but which, upon Ichabod's closer inspection, revealed themselves as a uniform of some kind.

"This," Redmoon said, "is the Horseman of Famine. He has been in the service of this country since 1938."

Sleepy Hollow is super-owned by people who are not me. Consider yourselves Disclaimed.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

io9 Concept Art Writing Prompt, Feb 19, 2015

The dragon decamped from a book about itself. Most of us had never seen a dragon, though there were dozens of books on them in the vaults. It was cute, in a smoldering sort of way, enough to make you forget, at least briefly, it was a fire-breathing lizard in a building full of paper. Of course, more alarming was how the thing arrived in the first place. Daisy Buchanan didn't crawl out of The Great Gatsby or Benedict Arnold out of A Schoolchild's Illustrated History of American Traitors. What was more, the printing within the book (Verclamps' Collected Taxonomies of the North Eurasian Microdrake) had faded and blurred and disappeared as the drake uncoiled and accustomed itself to its surroundings.

"Something else is at work here," the Professor mused. We scoured the vaults. More books were found to be empty, though we did not find the creatures they described. The Professor mused further that the drake escaped something else. Something only rumored to exist. Something which no volume, no tome could describe.

He called them silverfish, jokingly. They moved through the text of a book. They ate stories. The apex predator feasts on ideas. We studied Verclamps' tome to find any reason why the drake would have survived the process. Eventually, the Professor maintained, the ideas in texts wouldn't be enough to contain the silverfish. An outbreak would surely spread to our own hearts and minds.

He worked tirelessly at the problem. I had only been apprenticed to the Professor for a few years. When I first arrived at the Vault, and for many a month following, I found the man to be a pompous windbag. But faced with this problem, he showed his true aspect. 

He created a cage book. A complete history and taxonomy of the silverfish, its language, its dimensions, culled from the distant recesses of his memory. By describing, by naming, by circumscribing the creature, he imprisoned it, finally, in a tomb of words, a prison of description.

The drake we kept as a mascot.

io9 Concept Art Writing Prompt, Mar 05, 2015

The Legendary Moment

Longspur grasped futilely as his c7 camera phone drifted away from his hands. Selfie denied. Next to him the mouser he just released watched him quizzically, trying to process what this writhing strange figure was doing. It began to float away, its lungs adjusting. In a few hours it'd drop, like Longspur's phone was beginning to drop, into the heat and pressure and radiation of Juno. It would grow wings within twenty-four hours and begin the search for its prey, the feral carbon zeppelins of Juno's middle atmosphere, pests who fed on the gas miners. It took thirty years to engineer the mousers, thirty minutes to release them into Juno's atmosphere, and thirty seconds for Longspur to lose his phone. He tilted away from the creature and floated back, letting the wind drift him back before he turned on the actuators in his suit. The phone had in-built rockets, or was supposed to, but then the c7's were hardly reliable. He tried to call up the phone on his wrist comm, but got nothing. Oh, he'd never live this down. Behind him, Finch and Hatch caught the winds and made their way back to the sky station. The mousers around them plunged into the clouds.

io9 Concept Art Writing Prompt, Feb 12, 2015

My mother told me there is a place in the mountains where all unloved children go. She also told me, much later and under the influence of considerable amounts of alcohol, that I once had a half-sister.

I tried to pry. I didn't get anywhere, then or later. I consulted grimoires and rumors, oracles and old wives. They eventually led me to a place in the Winding Mountains. Led me to her.

In the days and weeks before, I conducted another search, more clandestine and and discreet, or my sister's father. I found no trace of whom it might be. Something like this makes you stare at every man of a certain age a bit longer, harder, and with less certainty.

There is a cave in the Winding Mountains. A chasm barely noticeable in the twists of rock. Repelling down, I find her. The Old Mother. She tells me she knew it in her bones, that her own children would devour her. That her first memory was tearing through her own mother, scrambling with the rest of the brood. Turning on each other.

"I wanted children," she rasped. "But more than that, I wanted to live. I still do." She was centuries old, the Old Mother. She had a brood of her own collected from orphaned and abandoned children, brought to the mountains. Among them my own half-sister, pale, subsisting on moths and bats and cave creatures. I as so confident, to that point. That I would come down and rescue her, bring her into the light. Looking at her then, in her dress of cobweb silk, the clash of our divergent biographies finally struck me. I took her into my arms for the briefest of moments (she squirmed, not quite understanding) and left her, and went back into the light.

io9 Concept Art Writing Prompt Mar 13, 2015

The Ark began as barely a blip on the jagged and tumultuous horizon. Dove negotiated his way gingerly across the frozen lake, his mind focused on getting inside and resting his cold and aching servos. He's been here before. It seems the most profound tragedy of his life that the world is round. In his mind he plays over the daydream of a flat world, extending forever in all direction, nothing but unending hills and valleys and oceans and forests, unrelenting newness everywhere. On a rational level he knows there are far corners and destinations he will never visit, but standing there, facing the Ark again after ten years, he feels acutely aware of the closed system of the world.

You can run as far as you like, the road will eventually take you back home. In school they told him the Universe was infinite, so sometimes he dreams of rockets instead.

We tried to cure the warming Earth. Our attempts did not have the results we anticipated. The huddled remainder of the human race waits out the Ice Age in a crumbling, decaying Ark. They sent out two messengers, Dove and Raven. No one ever heard from Raven again. Perhaps Raven found the one corner of the world not bent and rounded. Perhaps he found a rocket.

His direction was as sure as his programming. His life would resume in the way it had before the expeditions. He would carry on, as ever, repeating the same tasks, going forward blindly into the future.