Monday, February 28, 2011

Story-A-Day #109: Vulvic


Do you ever have one of those days where you become so fixated on something that it takes over your entire world? Maybe you think of a person and then you keep thinking about that person for pretty much the whole day straight. And then you get a phone call from them later that night and you tell them how weird it was because you were thinking about them all day.

Maybe you see this really cool thing in a television show and for the rest of the day, that’s all you can think about. Sometimes it might just be a really cool explosion. Sometimes it’s an awesome fight where a guy jumps through the air and shoots two guns and once to kill the bad guy. Sometimes it’s a girl in a kind of sexy outfit that just makes you wonder.

There are other times when you read a really good story and there is something that happens in it that is so cool, or sad, or scary that you can’t stop thinking about it. Like not even at night when you should be sleeping.

I have that happen all the time. My friends and I were playing at recess yesterday and we were talking about this part in our video game where you have to shoot this barrel thing and all these amazing things happen if you shoot it right. It was pretty cool.

Then we had a class that our parents had to sign a sheet about. It was called sex ed and out teacher was really red in the face when she explained why boys sometimes get hard down there and how girls have these parts with all these weird names that make eggs and that when a boy and a girl are old enough, and in love or married or something, the boy parts and the girl parts can fit together to make babies.

It was weird.

It’s not that I don’t think science is cool and stuff, but everywhere I look now, I see these shapes that are just like what is down there. It’s not like when you see someone’s underpants sticking out of their pant pants either, these are more like, artistic, or something.

Strange girly bits hidden in my parents’ plants, the ice outside, everywhere. I hope I’m not a pervert sicko or something now because it’s really starting to freak me out. I need a good explosion to clear my thinking. That might make things better.

Story-A-Day #108: B and E


He had requested the room on purpose, practically made it seem like an Aspergers thing.

“It has to be the third room in, ground floor, facing away from the road,” he had explained to the receptionist, and she had willingly obliged.

She had no way of knowing that he had been scouting the place for the better part of the week and that the real reason he had selected that room was not because of some somatic nonsense, but actually because of the room above. More to the point, it was because of the person in the room above.

She had been holed up in there for three days and was determined to wait her out. Having the room below was an additional way to keep track of her: a knock on the door, a toilet flush, a long shower. He had her routine down and was just waiting for the opening he knew would come. A click and a slam from above and he would be out the patio door and up and over the balcony above. He knew she didn’t lock the door, careless though that was, because he had watched her from the forest the day before: open the door a crack, sneak a cigarette, then slide it shut and pull the blinds.

It was almost too easy. She would eventually step out for a walk, or a swim in the hotel pool (he had watched her do that as well) and he would make his move. He was sure that the briefcase would be in there. Where else could it be? She had come straight here from the bank and he had been right on her tail the whole way.

The briefcase would be in there and he would get it back and return it to its rightful owner within the week.

It was pretty ridiculous that even in this day and age of information, there were still those people who thought that they could get away with their crimes and disappear into the unknown. There was no disappearing anymore. Not anywhere, not by anyone. He would prove this to her when she returned to her room and discovered that she had left everything to end up with nothing.

It would be at least a day until he could make his move.

He called down to the front desk and ordered some room service, a bit of fried breakfast to tide him over. There was something soothing about a bit of B and E to get the day going.

He walked over to the patio door on a whim, figuring he might take a quick moment to let some fresh air into his room. He popped the latch and slid the heavy glass door open.

There was a fresh pair of footprints in the snow bank beyond his small patio; small, almost feminine footprints. They had not been there the day before. He dashed back in through his room and down the corridor to the side door. He smashed through it and out into the parking lot.

Her car was gone.

Story-A-Day #107: Old Elmer


It was cool, not cold. A wet wind blew in across the open expanse of the ice-covered lake, buffeting the tree limbs gently in its wake.

He took a pull ion his cigarette and flipped the butt out through the air. It landed in an explosion of orange sparks, and slowly slid to a stop next to the half buried boardwalk.

He pulled his jacket in tighter and slid another smoke from the cardboard box. He tucked the cigarette between his and lit it with a disposable lighter. He exhaled a blast of blue grey smoke and surveyed the lake. A small village of huts, trailers, cars, trucks, and snowmobiles had formed about a kilometer out from the shoreline.

It was the big fishing derby, an annual event that drew in crowds from miles around. It was a bit of a joke locally, hinging as it did on landing the big one. Old Elmer was a local myth, a sturgeon reported to measure nearly three metres in length and weighing nearly a full ton.

How did people know how much Elmer weighed if he had never been caught? How did people know how long he measured? Elmer was an amalgamation of dozens of reports, but like most urban legends, it was impossible to substantiate something based solely on the eyewitness accounts of those who had “nearly landed the big one”.

The fact that there was no way you could pull a sturgeon that was purported to be that large through your typical ice fishing hole seemed to escape most people. He realized that the town officials were just using the legend to create more interest and build up the economy, but that’s what bugged him the most.

Elmer wasn’t just a legend. Elmer wasn’t a sturgeon either, but he was out there. Elmer had taken his father nearly 20 years before, and the man had seen him several times over the years.

Elmer was out there, and the man would one day prove it. The dead of winter was not the time, but one day, possibly this summer even, he would prove it. He threw his cigarette butt down next to the previous one and walked back into the bar.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Story-A-Day #106: Old Stairs


He climbed the rotted logs, submerged as they were just beneath the dirt-specked layer of late February snow. The pieces of old timber that jutted out from the snow were rotten with age, hollowed out cores that had lost their strength over the years.

The stairs eventually ended at a plateau, but the narrow trail continued onward, out into the encroaching forest that lined the rear of the park. He knew the trails instinctively. He had mapped them in his youth, and explored every twist and turn he could discover. He had wandered off from the existing pathways, blazing routes of his own design that took him to secret corners of the forest full of gloomy mystery.

That had been a long time ago though. He had been a young man then, and was far from that now.

The snow added an additional degree of difficulty to his trek, but he continued on with grim determination. This was important. This was essential.

He slid and twisted along the rutted paths until he reach the dark copse of cedars. He paused for a sip of tea from his thermos, then stepped off the path and into the deeper snow where he sank up to his knees.

The journey grew wearisome, each step an entire journey in itself. He continued, lifting one leg and swing it ahead of the last, only to repeat the process: one step after the other, onwards into the clinging dark of the forest.

The trees grew in closer, certainly closer than he remembered them being. After an impossibly long trek, he realized that he had arrived. The cedars opened into a small clearing, on that was sheltered enough to merely be dusted in snow. He sat down on a fallen trunk and sipped his tea again.

“Are you here?” he finally called out into the gloom, his voice trailing off feebly. “I know you said not to, but I’ve returned. I had too.”

“I knew you would,” her haunting voice echoed through the enclosure. “I had hoped it would be longer, but all things are inevitable.”

“That they are,” he replied with a raspy chuckle. “We knew this was how it would come to be.”

“And so it has.”

He was happy. It had been a worthy journey, but he was ready to rest. He had traveled so far. It would be good to be home.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Story-A-Day #105: Feeding Frenzy


Stepping through the patio doors into the snowy backyard, she was instantly greeted by a choir of singing songbirds. There were a dozen different kinds, at least, and as the initial cacophony slowly subsided, the music became ethereal.

Chickadees trilled, robins peeped, crows squawked and somewhere out in that sea of flittering commotion, a loon’s mournful cry echoed through the afternoon. It was oddly out of place, especially given the blanket of snow that still covered the ground.

She could see the remnants of a picked over Christmas garland up in the evergreens, a few shriveled cranberries and popcorn husks all that remained of the festive snack. The large plastic birdfeeder in the middle of the lawn was a popular gathering place and she watched as the tiny winged birds slowly swept down from the trees to the feeder, then back up to the obscuring limbs above.

She took a tentative step forward and the birds scattered to a safer distance. Their songs continued, a undulating wave of parallel noise that somehow mingled into a beautiful arpeggio.

She carefully walked up the snowy stairs towards the upper level of the yard where she peered back down towards the feeder from her bird’s eye view. The snow was littered in tracks, the dozens of birds as well as squirrels, raccoon, and even deer. It was strange to realize that one simple pylon of feeds could provide such a substantial draw. The food supply must be close to its end, a further blessing of the coming spring.

There was something magic in the chaos, a kindred sense of shared resources that was often overlooked in the human world.

In the backyard where the feeding frenzy occurred, there was a better world. One filled with music and peace. She could stay there forever, in the moist cold of the afternoon.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Story-A-Day #104: Couple Retreats


I had popped out to my car for a moment to grab a USB key for my laptop and was just crossing the lobby back towards the elevators and my room on the eighth floor when I realized I was about to take a detour. I don’t know what made me notice them. At first glance, they were just an average middle-aged couple sitting on a pair of average lobby chairs. There was a generic watercolour of a sailboat on the wall behind his head, and a potted plant between them.

Normally, I would have smiled noncommittally at them, and continued on my way, but there was something off about the tableau. I paused near a rack of brochures and flipped through the different leaflets. I wasn’t actually investigating the area attractions though – there was only one that interested me at the moment.

I realized that the woman was actually much more attractive than she appeared at first glance. There was a quiet dignity to her stature, and I realized now, a look of fear in her eyes. I repositioned myself to get a better look.

The man was cool and calm. He sat in a slightly forward position and I realized that the woman’s posture was mirrored: she was shrinking back slightly in her chair. In most circumstances, I would have assumed that they were a normal couple experiencing a bit of a domestic, but there was a palpable sense of dread emanating from their corner of the lobby.

I looked around at the other people in the lobby, scanning their faces to see if they too had noticed the odd angry man and his beautiful, terrified companion. A family walked past, within four feet of the chairs, oblivious to any disturbances. A man followed close behind, pulling a wheeled suitcase in his wake.

The couple suddenly stood and the man placed a firm hand on the woman’s elbow, steering her towards the bank of gleaming brass elevator doors. I replaced a brochure for the yacht club and followed them across the carpeted floor of the lobby. The elevator door pinged open and I slid in next to the couple, nodding casually at the man’s leering shark face.

“Which floor?” I asked casually.

“Twelve,” he grumbled.

“Perfect,” I replied pressing the button for their floor.

The doors slid shut and the elevator slowly lurched upwards. I wasn’t sure what I was doing, or what I planned to do, but I turned towards the couple and focused on the woman with a casual intensity, “How is everything?” I asked.

The woman started to respond, but the man quickly superseded her. “We are fine,” he replied. “Just tired from a long journey.”

I noticed then that neither one of them were wearing rings. I also noticed a hint of shiny black metal in the man’s waistband as he turned back away from me.

The elevator doors pinged open on the twelfth floor and the couple quickly exited and turned down the hallway. I followed casually after them and watched as the man slid a pass down the reader in the room door.

A thousand options passed through my mind: call the lobby, yell for help, get the police, ignore my gut instincts, go back to my room, forget about the whole scenario.

None of them felt right though so I did the only thing I could think of. I reached out a hand and caught the closing door, then with a deep breath, pushed my way into the room and the awaiting darkness.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Story-A-Day #103: Mounds


How could three days of rain be followed by a foot of snow? You could actually smell spring in the air for a bit, that muddy, melting dog shot smell that is as welcome as it is disgusting. The roads had turned to rivers and now it was though it had never happened.

It seemed inconceivable, but it was the same thing every year. You’d see stocky men walking around in shorts for a couple days, then back to burly parkas and back pain.

Winter could be a beautiful time, but like your favourite old aunt, it had a tendency of overstaying its welcome and never quite realizing when enough was truly enough. As much as he purports to be a benefactor of beauty, I would assume that even a guy like Hugh Hefner needs some time away from the wiles of woman.

Like all things truly beautiful, the appeal fades when you are constantly exposed. And the thing with winter is that she is not just a beautiful mistress who passes by once a year. She lays her roots, insinuates herself into every aspects of your existence. She brings the cold loneliness like no other mistress before her.

Winter tempts you with her soft, white mounds, but she will be the first to watch you break. She will sweep you off your feet with her slippery surfaces, and catch the very breath in your chest with her cool embrace.

Winter is the ultimate temptress and deceiver. She paves your world in diamonds, wipes the world clean, and just as you finally appreciate her insulating caress, she leaves you once more in a fetid wet world of mud and filth.

There is no mistress like her, and no greater manipulator. Even with the invigorating arrival of spring and the warm laziness of summer, you know that she is planning her return. Somewhere, right around the crackling corner of autumn, she waits to pounce.

She will be gone soon. It is only a matter of weeks. And just when you least expect it, she will announce her return with a cold white dusting of frosty mascara over the harvested fields.

Ever the cold-hearted calculator.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Story-A-Day #102: Organic Blend


He set the coffee down on the desk and looked over the outputs.

"Looks good. The trellis adds a nice touch."

"Thanks. The entry seemed a little empty without," Lisa replied. She was still a junior designer but he could already tell she would have a successful career.

He turned back towards his coffee and paused. A sliver of early morning sun spilled through the window, illuminating the steaming mug in a soft glow. He watched the wisps of steam curl up off the oily black surface for a moment, inhaling the rich, earthy aroma.

"What would you think of a small pond in the rock harden out back," he asked, turning back towards Lisa.

She grinned at him and flipped through her stack of outputs. She had already built it into the design.

"A nice touch, he said, smiling back at the junior designer.

He picked up his coffee and turned towards his office. She was going to go far.

"I guess great minds really do think alike," she said.

"They do. I think the Rogers are going to be very happy with your proposal." He sipped the coffee, relishing the warm trail it left down his throat.

For a second, he thought she had said something else. Surely it was all in his mind.

He turned back towards the office. Lisa was still at the large work table. She smiled at him. Maybe she had mumbled something about a different kind of proposal after all.

He took another sip of coffee and closed his office door.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

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Story-A-Day #101: Overgrowth


She had been away for a week. It wasn't a long trip, not compared to some, but the results were incomprehensible.

She lived the outdoors. Always had. Her recent vacation had been a simple one, camping out in the everglades. She was happy to be away from the drone of mosquitoes, but surprised by watch she found upon her return home.

Usually after a trip, she would return to a house full of wilted plants. As a lover of nature, she liked to maintain as much of a great outdoors vibe inside as out. Her frequent escapes could be detrimental to this, but she had learned that the right combination of plant food and regulated water reservoirs would generally maintain her plants in her absence.

She might have overdone it this time.

Her plants had flourished to the point that there was noticeable humidity in the air. She could almost hear dripping in the corners. It was off.

The plants had taken over, great blooms filling the spaces with color. The ivy had stretched out, wrapping it's tendrils around anything in it's path. She wandered through the green enclosures and noticed entirely new species. How could that be?

In the bedroom a great red bloom, more than a foot in diameter. pulsated. There was a whooshing sound and a cloud of yellow pollen erupted upward.

She felt dizzy. Then she fell to floor in a crippled heap. It didn't make sense. How could they have taken over like this.

She tried to stand, but there was no connection between brain and body. She felt a prickly tendril winding it's way up her calf.

There was a sharp prick in her thigh and with great effort, she managed to cast her gaze down towards her feet. A vine was could tightly around her lower leg.

She watched as a blood red bulb unfurled into a beautiful blossom lined with jagged red barbs. They curled inward and clasped on to her leg.

She could feel a faint auctioning just below the surface of her flesh. She could feel serpentine tendrils crying ever deeper. She felt the wave of inky black wag over her, and then nothing.

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Story-A-Day #100: Atlantis


He never really believed that it was possible. An entire civilization collapsed into the sea was just too fanciful. It was as likely as a prehistoric creature existing in a land-locked body of Scottish water.

Still, when Cynthia had walked onto his dive shop on the Florida keys, she brought with her an aura of academia that was hard to ignore.

He had questioned the location at first. Atlantis was mentioned by the ancient Greeks. What did they know of the Caribbean?

She brought our her charts and some underwater photographs. She showed him massive rectangular blocks arranged in perfect symmetry beneath the clear blue waters. She showed him a detailed shot of some strange, almost alien writing. She explained tectonic shifts in the ground and showed him two last photos that finally convinced him.

The first was of a castle like structure covered in swaying green kelp. She said they had found it a month before and that her crew had quit shortly after. They were superstitious, or out for a bigger payday.

The second photo was a shot of her holding a large bronze plate on the bow of a boat. She was wearing a half zipped wetsuit and that alone was enough to secure his interest.

Anything for a pretty face.

"Why me?" he finally asked. " There are a dozen dive shops along this stitch of the Keys alone."

"I was told you were discrete and reckless."

He grinned. "When do we leave?"

"I'd like to take you for a drink to celebrate our arrangement. There are some preparations to be made, and there is some specialized equipment we will require. We could be ready in a fortnight."

He extended a hand to her and they shook.

"How 'bout some dinner too? I know a great place for shark steaks."

She smiled. "I think that sounds lovely."

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Story-A-Day #99: The Great One


Alexander knew that he had held back too far, and now he had lost them. There would be repercussions for this oversight for sure, possibly even a trip back to Butyrskaya, the very place this whole miserable charade had started. At least that horrid dump had tanning beds now, not that it would make a huge difference to anyone imprisoned in that dark, dank hole. He had done a five-year stretch in Russia’s notorious prison, and tanning beds or not, he wasn’t keen on returning.

He dashed quickly along the peninsula, pausing intermittently to scan his surroundings. She was out there and he would find her. Kneeling next to a large evergreen, he pulled the parabolic mic from his knapsack. A quick listen was all he needed to realize the wind and crashing waves of the lake were too much of an impediment for the sensitive equipment.

He collapsed the dish, tucked the gun-shaped device back into his bag, and was about to stand up when he noticed a hint of red through the trees. Olga. It had to be.

The death of Konstantin Medvedev was meant to be a simple job, but had turned into five years behind bars before Alexander was able to achieve their goal. Of course, they didn’t realize that that damned lawyer Magnitsky would ingest the poison as well. The subsequent flood of allegations of abuse and insufferable standards that flooded the media worked wonders though: Medvedev became a footnote in history, and Magnitsky a looming beacon of martyrdom shining a light on the corrupt Russian prison system.

Still, tanning beds at Butyrskaya? It was laughable.

Alexander dashed a little further ahead. He was not here because he was a screw up; he was here because he was the great one. No challenge had ever bested him, and today, he was here to bring Olga home.

Keeping low to the ground, he quickly made his way towards the flash of red he had seen. He knew that Olga was with a man, but he was not sure who that man might be. He would need to remain vigilant. There could be more men in these woods.

With his bearings now in place, the trail was easy to follow. Olga’s small footprints ran parallel next to the man’s larger ones. Alexander followed them towards the shoreline, then up towards the trees. A second set of men’s prints intersected them and followed the shore. They were fresh.

Crouching behind some low shrubbery, Alexander paused and scanned the beach. The footsteps disappeared over a mound of rocks. They were not alone.

Alexander quietly slid his handgun from its holster and followed the pair of footprints into the trees. It did not take long to find Olga, her face frozen in a grimace of surprise; what was left of it at least.

And so the games begin, Alexander thought to himself. He carefully screwed on his silencer. There was at least one other person out here. They had completed his mission for him, and in doing so, initiated his secondary objective: leave no witnesses.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Story-A-Day #98: A Thousand Miles


They’ve been around the world, these boots of mine. They’ve been though rain and snow and sunny days. They’ve been with me on journeys both near and far. I have run and walked and splashed and danced and climbed in these boots, and they are showing the signs of a life well lived.

There is a certain joy to be found in a familiar pair of footwear. These boots have a way of hugging every contour of my foot in a way that is instantly comforting. I’m not going to tell you that they are like pillows of air that make each step a pleasure. They are quite the opposite in fact.

These boots have sharp points that tend to dig in uncomfortably. Their leather is old and cracked. The soles have been worn smooth, providing nary an ounce of traction, and there are holes in both heels that squirt water through to my feet on soggy days.

Like a true friend though, these boots are made of memories and the times we have shared make it hard to put them aside. I have walked through airports, streets and villages in Cuba, Mexico, England, Canada and more in these boots, their smooth bottoms sliding across endless concourses of discovery.

They say you should try walking a thousand miles in another man’s shoes to truly understand his nature. You would enjoy the journey of these boots. They have been ankle deep in icy October water while I removed the dock at the cottage and still have the rust streaks to prove it. They have sunk in the tidal sands of the Bristol Channel. They have slid down miles of winter road, perilously hurtling me towards my destination. They have been wedged in the nooks of trees as I sought ever-higher perches to scale.

My boots have taken me through cities and wilderness alike, driving me ever forward towards destinations unknown. They have been re-laced three times, and have outlasted countless insoles both gelled and un-gelled.

These boots are an extension of me, and one day they will finally collapse under the weight of their own history. That is a day I do not long to experience.

Saying goodbye is never easy. Parting ways with a friend who has been so integral to so many life-defining moments is a sorrow unlike any other. I hope to prolong that inevitable moment for as long as possible. I have easily walked a thousand miles in these boots, and I look forward to walking a thousand more.

History happens. A good pair of boots will tell you as much. They were never perfect, but they were mine and the adventures we have shared will live on long after we have both moved on.

My boots have taken me to places I could never have imagined, and at the end of every adventure, they have taken me home. What have yours done for you?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Story-A-Day #97: The Old Mill


When I was young, my parents bought an overgrown acre of land on a lake. Over the next several years, they cleared chunks of land: a lane from the main road and a path to the beach. The biggest clearing effort was easily the great big chunk that soon became a hole, then a cinder block foundation, and over time, our two-story cottage. It was an interesting and protracted transition, and while I remember the summers spent in our tent trailer with great fondness, it’s nice going to bed with a solid roof above, and a warm comfortable bed below.

Spending most of my summers there provided great opportunities for growth and adventure. When we were really young, we were content to frolic in the lake, pulling out giant pieces of driftwood and chasing down tadpoles and crayfish. That eventually led to the building of forts, and eventually, my ambitious multi-tiered tree fort in the plot of vacant land between ours and the neighbours.

I stumbled across the old foundation when I was scouting for locations for that tree fort and wound up picking a triangulation of tottering tamaracks nearby as the basis for the fort.

As I entered my teens, I still spent hours building up the fort, adding new platforms and railings, an observatory platform almost 30-feet above the main structure, a half-assed roof over the main “floor”, even a series of narrow 2x6 walkways that angled off through the treetops.

I had good motive too. There were a couple girls who would come up and stay at a campground across the bay and my tree fort became an annual showcase that I used to impress them. One summer we set out to spend the night on the large main platform. It was a cool night in August and a friend from town and I hurled our sleeping bags up onto the platform and helped the girls climb the ladder.

We sat up there in the dark, shining our flashlights out through the trees and telling ghost stories. The trees fluttered eerily and the haunting song of the loons echoed up and down the lake. It was probably not even midnight before we had fully creeped ourselves out. At one point, we even managed to convince ourselves that there was a ghostly figure wandering through the forest below. We spent a sleepless night huddled together in the safety of the fort and silently vowed never to repeat the process.

We did again the next summer and over my remaining years of high school, and even into college, I would often return to that platform and spend the night searching the forest for the figure of that ghostly woman.

I eventually looked into the history of the area and discovered that there had been an Old Mill in that nook of the lake. It had thrived until the early 1900s when a massive fire burnt it to the ground and killing the millwright’s wife. There had been speculation that there might be more to the story, but her death was officially declared an accident.

Over the years, I have often felt a presence in the woods though. I chalked it up to the innate creepiness of the forest, but there were times when it felt like I was being watched. I was never positive, but when I took this photo, I realized that there was something out there.

The rectangular flash seemed like an anomaly, but when I inspected the site closely, there was nothing there that would create such a reflection. It was just dirt and rocks and wood. If you look long enough into that rectangle, you start to see a face. It almost looks like a woman peering anxiously out a window…

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Story-A-Day #96: Wish You Were Here


I’ll admit with full disclosure that the situation really did seem like a disaster. I had gone out in my 12-foot aluminum boat to enjoy a simple day of fishing. I went alone: mistake number one. I had only been out for a couple hours when the rain started, but I decided to stick it out, thinking it would pass. I should have checked the forecast: mistake number two. When I washed up on the shore of this island, I was relieved, but I knew that I might be here for a while. I hadn’t told anyone I was heading out: mistake number three.

I’ve been here for 9 days now, which might seem like quite a bit of time, but it isn’t; not at all. And my stay has been quite pleasant. I am on Grand Island and as you know, there was an old camp here. I have shelter. I managed to keep hold of my fishing rod when my boat capsized and my tackle box washed up later on first day, so I can get food easily enough. Plus there are a ton of edible plants on this island. They must be remnants from the camp; I’ve found things like carrots and potatoes growing, and that isn’t exactly common for this area.

At first, my instinct was to panic about my situation and to loath myself for being so stupid. Three major mistakes had gotten me where I am, and they were all easily remedied.

What I’ve come to realize though, is that I might have actually done all this on purpose – not consciously or anything, but the subtext of intent in my actions is undeniable. Things back home have been pretty crazy lately and I hadn’t realized just how run down and tired I have been for the past few weeks. This time away has proven to be quite beneficial.

I’ve been swimming every day, with the pretense that I’ll eventually swim back to the mainland. I’ve been hiking around the island looking for more secret nooks and moments of splendor. I’ve also been thinking. Possibly more than I ever have before.

Life should not be a consistent battle to get work done, pay the bills, fulfill social obligations, maintain friendships, eat properly, or satisfy the overarching needs of society. We have become so regimented that there is little joy remaining in our lives.

Out here on this island, things are great. I don’t plan my activities, I just engage in whatever notion catches my attention. Feeling warm? Swim. Feeling low? Climb a tree? Feeling apathetic? Take a hike. It’s a wonderfully causal system.

I am writing this letter to you as a token of respect. I am going to put it in a bottle and see where it ends up. If you have found this, you know that I am on Grand Island. Feel free to send someone to collect me. I won’t resist. After all, I am not here to escape my obligations. I have family and friends that will be missing me by now and I don’t want them to worry.

I’ll go home when the time comes, but for now, there is so much peace and beauty on this little island that I am quite content to watch the waves crash over the rocks as the sun slowly sinks into the horizon. Whoever you might be, I ask that you do the same tonight. Do it every night. Also, take an hour to watch the skies at night. That is something you will never regret doing.

Please pass this letter along to the authorities and be sure to leave your name. I’d like to meet you someday, supposing we haven’t met already. Send help, but don’t rush. I’m happy in this place and I don’t mind waiting.

Wish You Were Here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Story-A-Day #95: Deus Ice Machina


The bastard had been following me for years, but I had finally got my one up. In the end, it was surprisingly easy, and more satisfying than any other single moment in my life, not that it has been full of particularly satisfying moments. Once I rewired that bastard’s ego, I knew that his crap, his stalker nonsense, had finally come to an end. For any of this to make sense, I should probably go back to the beginning.

I’ve had a rough life. I was the girl with the spots, the ugly redhead, the orphan. I had foster parents, both good and bad, but unfortunately for the good ones, they were the last to arrive on the scene and the bad had already done their damage. I was pregnant at thirteen-and-a-half, at the hands of stepfather number two, and he gave an abortion for my fourteenth birthday in the form of a fifth of cheap whiskey and four kicks in the gut while I vomited out the force fed poison. It was probably for the best.

For the longest while, I thought that I was unlucky. It wasn’t until my twenty-second birthday that I discovered I was a pawn in a game being played by a lonely god. That’s not a metaphor. He was actually a god, and he had been slowly destroying my life since as early as I could remember.

On my twenty-second, I concluded that I had little reason to carry on as I had been. Things were bad, and getting no better, so I decided that on the day I had been born, I would end 22 years of malignant suffering. That’s when he first showed himself, a fat, pompous god of nothing.

I wondered how you could be a god of nothing. I had always understood that gods required followers and believers; they needed tribute. I realize now that he was actually the perfect god: too many people are parishioners at the church of nothing these days.

Anyway, this smug bastard shows up and explains that he is the one who has been delivering the pain. It was a game to him, to see how far he could push me before I broke. Congrats, asshole. You win.

He said that he wanted to be paid tribute to, but that this was not the gift he sought. My life was not worth enough. That was when it dawned on me. If he wanted tribute, he would have it. I would day after day, from scores of miserable bastards, but more importantly, I would provide him a solution that would allow him to proliferate the world.

He argued at first, that such a tactic would weaken him, at least until I reminded him that a true God is omniscient. He latched onto the idea so forcefully that he came up with the implementation. He would fuse his essence to the pop machine in the hotel where I was the maid and every patron who purchased a beverage would take a piece of him with them. The concept was mine, proliferation through tribute, but the implementation was all his.

And the best was yet to come. The following day, I lead him up to the 13th floor of the hotel where I worked as a maid, an uncommon floor in the superstitious world of hotels, and let him into the room. He licked his lips lasciviously and asked me which one. I pointed to the plastic cabinet and he quickly squinted in concentration. His essence became smoky, and with a suctioning pop, he achieved his goal. And so did I.

He had fused with the machine in perpetuity, and in doing so, I had put the bastard on ice. It didn’t dawn on me that he would not know the difference between a pop machine and an ice dispenser, but he had greedily entered the machine where he was now trapped. No coins, meant no tribute, which meant no proliferation, which meant no more smug bastard.

Deus Ice Machina indeed.

Story-A-Day #94: Three


Fat flakes of snow descended around him. The world had descended into a gentle and tranquil temperance that only occurs on snowy winter nights. This time of year is often described as magical, and while it can be easy to ignore the wonders of a night such as this when you are navigating traffic of slogging along an unplowed street, there was definitely an aura of magic in the air.

He walked up the slippery driveway towards the front door and paused. A fleeting motion had captured his attention, something stirring out in the snow. He scanned the lawn quickly, but there was nothing there. He turned back towards the house and was about to ring the doorbell, when a sharp prick stabbed his neck. He reached up a hand and found a tiny icicle there. He looked up towards the overhanging roof above, but there were no icicles to be seen.

A high pitch cackle echoed through the silence.

He spun back towards the lawn and found it still deserted. There was a stick covered in snow, but aside from that, the yard, and even the street beyond, was empty.

He was about to turn away again when the stick moved. It somersaulted quickly through the air, and landed motionlessly a few feet away. The night was calm, and aside from the softly falling snow, utterly still. There was no explanation for the sudden movement.

He looked closer and the stick turned to face him. It wasn’t a stick at all. As impossible as it might seem, a small craggly man stood before him.

“Three,” the tiny figured cackled. “That is all you have.”

“Three what?” he replied.

“Just three. No more no less.”

“Three what? I don’t understand.”

“You will not know when you have taken them, but you will know when they run out.”

“I don’t…”

“Three. Your eyes have seen what is unperceived, and for that you have three. Use them wisely.”

With a cackle, the tiny figure dashed off across the lawn and disappeared into the night.

He stared after it for a moment, wondering whether he had experienced a tiny grand mal or stroke. There was no explanation for the tiny figure. Storybooks talked about elves, leprechauns and sprites. They were secretive creatures and they would often bestow three wishes. It seemed impossible, but maybe that’s what the little figure had meant.

He thought carefully, conscious of all the stupid trappings from the stories he had read growing up. Finally, he decided upon his first wish and as if on cue, he noticed the little man standing next to him.

“I know what I want,” the man announced proudly.

“I’m sorry to hear that," the little figure replied. “Your three minutes are up.”

Story-A-Day #93: Hall Pass (Out)


His eyes were burning from a long drive through treacherous winter weather. It had started out as clear roads and clear skies but an hour into his journey South, the skies started a slow motion stroboscobic dance between sunshine and gloom. A half hour after that, there was snow.

For the last four hours, he gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles, rocketing towards his destination. In the open fields to either side of the highway, swirling whisps of snow funneled up from the smooth blanket of snow. Streamers of white poured over the large banks that lined the highway, obscuring the road with malicious intent.

When he finally pulled into the rutted parking lot of the motel, a long gasp of breath escaped from his chest. He had made it, possibly in an oxygen-deprived state, and he was relieved. He stepped out of the car and paused to watch an enormous passenger jet slowly sinking towards the nearby runways at the international airport.

He grabbed his bags, slinging one after another over his shoulder: laptop, backup laptop, luggage, paperwork, presentation materials. Loaded to bear, he waddled penguin-like into the hotel and up to the front desk.

Within ten minutes, he was in the elevator and slowly inching upwards towards the tenth floor. With a soft ping, the brass coloured doors slid open. He stepped out into the corridor and oriented himself quickly before heading off towards his room.

The hallway lurched, and he stumbled into the nearby wall. He righted himself quickly, unsure about what had just occurred, and a sudden wave of dizzying nausea crashed down upon him. He blinked rapidly as he stumbled into the wall again. He felt his luggage sliding from his shoulder and slowly lowered it to the ground.

His equilibrium was off. He could tell that he was upright, but the entire corridor seemed to be shifting, twisting, to the left. He took one last step forward and the corridor slowly faded out into a small black pinhole.

He felt like he was floating, a euphoric sense of swirling bliss. Then he felt the impact. His entire body reverberated in slow motion.

He was on the floor, a pile of bags by his feet. They were his bags, he realized after a moment, discarded moments, or minutes before. A tall pale woman stared at him from the end of the corridor, a curious mile playing on her face.

He slowly got to his feet, gathered his luggage, and walked the remaining distance to his room. It had been a long journey and he was looking forward to some rest.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Story-A-Day #92: White Lie


I woke up with a yawn and a stretch then slowly rolled out of bed. The weekend had arrived, and none-too-soon. I wandered down the hallway towards the kitchen, sliding my feet along the smooth hardwood floors. Today would be a solid day. It was winter, true, but I was done with hibernating. Spring was not far off and I knew that once it arrived, I would regret the fact that I hadn’t enjoyed a little more of what winter had to offer.

I put on a pot of coffee, fried some eggs and bacon, toasted a couple pieces of bread, poured a glass of orange juice, and slid into my seat at the dining room table. My first bite was halfway to my mouth before I noticed the scene out the patio door in front of me. It was pristine.

I abandoned my breakfast for a moment and stared out at the wonderland beyond the frosty glass door. Ten inches of fresh powdery snow had fallen overnight, adding to the impressive amounts that we already had.

Yes, today was going to be a good day.

I finished up my breakfast, showered and dressed, then went into the storage room and dug out my snowshoes. There were miles of trails behind my house and I was going to explore them all.

Someone had beat me to the trails, which was good because they had blazed a bit of a trail for me to follow. The sky was a deep, regal blue and the sun shone down brightly. It wasn’t long before I had undone my coat to let a little cool air in.

I wasn’t the only one who was enjoying the trails either. Big fluffy bunnies bounded through the snow and chickadees flittered through the snow heavy branches, dropping big clumps of snow to the ground. It was another world in that forest, an immaculate realm of clean, white pureness. The air was crisp and fresh. The trees were silent. It was probably the extra snow, but the usually ubiquitous sound of distant traffic had been erased from the world as well.

I eventually caught up to the trailblazer, and greeted her with a warm smile. She had flopped down into the snow and was sipping on a thermos.

“Hot chocolate?” she asked, extending the thermos up towards me.

“I’d love a bit,” I replied, and plopped down next to her.

“It’s beautiful isn’t it?” she said as I handed the thermos back.

“More so as the day goes on,” I replied. “I honestly can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing.”

It was a lie, but an innocent white one. I hoped the day would never end.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Story-A-Day #91: Tickless


I was taking the same familiar shortcut to work and was just passing the shed when I felt the familiar vibration in my pocket. With a sigh, I reached into my pocket and pulled out the phone, an excuse already forming on the tip of my tongue. My boss was a stickler for punctuality and I was already one minute late, and three minutes away from work.

It wasn’t work though, and I did a quick double take at the phone’s caller ID screen. The hospital? Why the hell would the hospital be calling me? I didn’t know anyone at the hospital, I wasn’t awaiting any test results, and I didn’t have any looming appointments.

Mildly confused, I answered the phone and listened to the person on the other end as she introduced herself and apologized for disturbing me. When she got to the part about it seeming as though there had been an accident, the entire world slowed to a standstill.

I could still hear the voice chattering away, but it had dulled to a somber tone that drifted at me through a tunnel of muffling silence. I happened to glance sideways, down a narrow gap between the shed and the building next to it. A drop of water had frozen in midair, a few inches away from the icicle that had spawned it.

I took another step forward, my legs cutting through the suddenly molasses-like air. The phone slowly lowered from my ear, an involuntary gesture of defeat. I could hear her still, slow motion “hellos?” echoing through the void.

I stumbled and fell into a nearby snow bank, landing in a prostrate position. I felt the phone tumble from my hand and knew that it was lost in the fluffy depths of snow.

A sharp pounding built up in my chest, then a shrill wail in my head. It took me a moment to realize that the pounding was actually my heart, and the wail, that god-awful has spawned from with the morass of my own misery.

I buried my head in the snow, and with it my anguish. The ticking of my watch announced the return of time. I imagined that I heard a soft plop as the icicle drop hit the ground.

It could not be true; none of it. Any moment now I would awaken from this horrid nightmare and laugh about it with my friends.

She could not be dead.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Story-A-Day #90: Founder's Folly


It had been one of my favourite urban legends growing up, a mystery unlike any other in our small town. There were others, like the creepy mental patient who had escaped from the psychiatric hospital and lived in the woods on the escarpment. Rumour had it that he had dug a network of tunnels underground and would snatch unsuspecting children down into the darkness through strategically placed, and all but invisible, hatches. There was the old Boogeyman who lived in the mayor’s mansion, a withered old ghoul who was only ever seen on the nights surrounding Halloween. There were others too, the monster in the lake who would often tip the boats of (drunken) fishermen, the beautiful nymph who danced naked in the swamp, her perfect body gleaming in the gloom.

My personal favourite though had always been the lost treasure of our town’s founding father, a man who was as visionary as he was careless. The legend said that he had made a fortune forging a path into the northern wilds and exploiting the lands for their forests and minerals. He had used his wealth to build a city, and just like Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, he built it and they came.

The town quickly flourished and there was a constant influx of people for the first decade. Miners, loggers, fur traders, and women of loose virtue flooded the region with the promise of easy money and a good life. The Founding Father ensured that his presence and position was known and often built shrines to himself. One of the last completed was a fountain in the heart of the city; a construct that he described as a metaphor for the life and prosperity that he flowed into the region. It was bombastic and it made perfect sense.

The story goes that the Founding Father became enamored with the casinos that had sprung up along the riverbanks and on one particular night of heavy drinking, he lost it all. He had gambled away everything, but when the man he lost to arrived to collect, the Founder’s mansion, an edifice widely regaled for its splendor, was devoid of all treasures and refinements.

By the following morning, it had been razed to the ground. The Founding Father was never seen again – except in legends that told of a familiar old man who arrived in the city years later and spent his days feeding pigeons by the fountain, until the day he was found floating face down in the splashing waters or prosperity.

Of all our myths, I was sure that the one relating to the missing treasures of the Founding Father was the one that most likely germinated from truth, and now I had proof. Through the Lands and Registry Department, I had ascertained the former location of the great razed mansion and I was now the proud occupant one of the half dozen homes that now exist on the plot.

And this is where it gets interesting. After some careful surveying of my yard, I detected an underground pocket, and under the guise of digging a hole for a fountain (appropriately ironic, I thought), I uncovered an old network of wooden tunnels. Unfortunately, the tunnel came to a quick end, but with further research of the Public Records, I am confident that the destination of those tunnels lies directly beneath that fountain.

It’s covered for the winter now. I suppose I could be wrong about all of this, but it only makes sense to me that the Founding Father’s wealth and riches had to disappear somewhere. In the bowels of that fountain makes perfect sense and all that remains for me to do now is figure out an easy way in, or do it the hard way and excavate my tunnels.

Either way, this adventure has only just begun.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Story-A-Day #89: 1.618


1.618 and onwards; it never ends, an endless series of digits. It is commonly referred to as the golden ratio and it is the underlying truth to our entire existence.

I have always been a superficial man, even in the petulance of youth. It wasn’t until my heart was shattered by the disdain of the most beautiful woman in the south of France that I realized this. It became, as they say, my defining moment.

I had never dwelled on what made something visually appealing, I just accepted that it was and sought out those things that I deemed to be beautiful. I never wondered why were so many people were fascinated by the pyramids. I never wondered what the underlying appeal was of the Parthenon. I respected the imagery presented in The Last Supper, but I did so superficially.

And so, with broken heart, I sought the deeper truth. In life, as in art, there are certain undercurrents of design and appearance that create an immediate sense of appeal. It is often subtle: the simple rectangle shape of a playing card, poster, or light switch cover.

That truth extends beyond the mundane though. Sometimes it is the symmetrical makeup of a beautiful woman’s face, and at first glance, she might not represent the preconceived definition of beauty, but something in that perfect medley communicates the underlying perfection. From a strictly mathematical perspective, there is a perfectly proportioned mix of eyes, nose, mouth, ears, forehead, hair. This is the golden ratio as well.

With the mystery solved, I am now able to view my character flaw as a purer essence. I am not vain or superficial – my notions of beauty are mathematically defined and there is no arguing the truth of equations.

Of course, this knowledge comes with a price. The mystique and intrigue I once knew is no more. It is as though I see the world through a grid, a perfect overlay of geometrical shapes and patterns. Symmetry, the rule of thirds, proportion and balance – these are the things I see in the world now.

There is no beauty in math, only perfection and truth. In finding the answers, I have somehow managed to lose the question. It started out about beauty, and resulted in this, a falsehood of figures defining my perceptions and reshaping the very nature of the landscapes around me.

This is what the golden ration delivered unto me: a stark life of perfection.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Story-A-Day #88: Hawk Eyes


The hawk soared through the skies, scanning the fields and clearings below for signs of movement, its wings bent in a motionless V. The world below sped by in a blurred patchwork of fields, forest and swamp. Narrow dirt roads crosshatched the countryside.

The hawk cut sharply to the left for a moment and followed a car along the road, a dusty plume trailing in its wake, then cut back to the right and out over the field.

It had been flying through the summer skies for the better part of an hour, eyes narrowing in on every twitching piece of grass, every trembling shrub.

It had killed a snake almost an hour before, its piercing cry the only forebear of death for the sun basking reptile. One minute it had been curled lazily on a bun baked rock, the next, its life was over, clasped in the sharp talons of the bird of prey.

Snakes were bony though, hard work. What the hawk wanted was something plump and juicy; maybe a nice rabbit, or a fish. It calculated its options, scanning the world below, then adjusted its trajectory out towards the nearby lake.

The hawk drifted gracefully into the upper limbs of a dead tamarack and alighted gently in the stunted upper boughs.

It surveyed the shoreline below with a quick flicking motion of its head. There were small fish darting about in the shallows below. A chipmunk dashed through the tall grasses. Those were fine for a moment, but fleeting in their lasting nourishment. The hawk was hungry for something bigger.

The hawk froze, scuttling in a little closer to the trunk of the tree. A flock of mergansers had just entered the bay and were skidding to a stop in the water about twenty feet away from the tree. The hawk’s eyes zeroed in, scanning the brazen dozen and waited until one of them drifted off from the group, its head underwater as it plucked at the plant life below.

The hawk leapt from the branch and tucked its wings in close, rocketing towards the straggler like a missile. It talons sunk deep into the ducks fleshy neck and it flapped its muscular wings, struggling with all its might to pull its meaty meal from the scattering flock of honkers.

They turned on him, a dozen angry birds, even more, pecking with their dull scoop-shaped beaks. Relenting under the sheer force of the ducks’ numbers, he released his prey and retreated to the treetop above.

Today was not his day.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Story-A-Day #87: Tension Relief


It had been a long day, but productive. He had been up since 6 a.m. preparing himself, and since 8:30, he had been pacing back and forth across the meeting room at the hotel.

They had gathered for a purpose, and through carefully directed discourse and the judicious use of flip charts, they had achieved their primary goals. Next time, he would ensure the air conditioning worked.

He had originally planned to leave once the session was completed, but it had been a draining process and he wasn't sure that he could handle the four hour drive home. He was wiped.

After securing his room for another night, he went to his room, and grabbed his bathing suit.

The pool was small, but it felt just right. The water was a little cool, and just deep enough that he could float there without his feet touching the bottom.

It was the perfect end to a draining day. Not quite a dip on the ocean, but a satisfactory decompression nonetheless. He would follow this swim up with a juicy steak and a cold pint of beer, then accept the tender embrace of sleep.

The drive home could wait until tomorrow.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Story-A-Day #86: Hockey


The crowd went wild. People were cheering and banging their seats and across the arena, on the other side of the shiny white ice, they were singing a song he had never heard before. It was the loudest, most exciting thing he had ever experienced.

The announcer came on over the loudspeakers to tell the audience what the young boy already knew. The captain, Number 3, had scored a goal for the good guys.

He flipped his notepad open and jotted down the captain's name and time of the goal in the left hand column of the simple chart he had created before the game.

The whistle echoed through the cavernous arena and the action continued. He watched as the tiny players below skated back and forth up and down the rink. He cheered as two players collided with a jarring crunch, and then he cheered some more as the gloves hit the ice and the two players sorted out their differences.

When the final whistle blew to announce the end of the game, he was a little dismayed that his team had lost, but he looked up into the smiling face of his father and knew that it would be okay.

There would be another game next week. He took his father's hand and they joined the exodus.

It had been a good game. It had been a great night.

"Thanks dad," he said, and that was enough.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, February 4, 2011

Story-A-Day #85: The Ancients


I felt sedated. Discombobulated. My ability to process differentials had vanished into a haze of inconsistency.

I sat cross-legged on the deck as a swarm of bugs awakened into the night, their persistent buzz no more than another drone in the murk of my mind. The world had receded into an ominous palette of purples, pinks, and deep, engulfing black. The skies turned to water and the water to sky.

I was alone, but I could feel the ancient ones scrutinizing my catatonic form. Their bemusement was palpable.

I rocked gently back and forth, a rhythmic seesawing motion that served no purpose. Where had everyone gone? Where had they left me?

My knuckles dragged across the weathered wood, sharp splinters of wood digging into the flesh. The trees buffered back and forth in a mute gale. The silence was more intimidating than the shifting shadows it birthed.

I had traveled far and wide to reach this point and the destination suddenly seemed unworthy of the journey. I had sought them out and was now on the verge of the ultimate humiliation: rejection.

My original intent was lost to me. Why had I come to them? What had inspired me to seek out their ancient wisdoms?

I had been a normal man of normal means and now I was at their mercy. I was staring into the void and to my amazement, the void was indeed staring back. And in that void, they mocked me, their condescending rejection an affront to my entire existence.

There was no solace here.

There were no answers.

All that remained was an upside down life of empty promise. I had surpassed my destination and was left in this swirling nowhere of familiarity.

I had failed.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Story-A-Day #84: Packing Pistils


It took months of careful preparation to get to this point. Patience truly is a virtue. I've been trying to convince the guys for months now, but boys will be boys, right? Still, we're at the point, where I think we are ready to give this thing a shot.

Sure, there's a chance that we might be jumping the gun a bit, but this is an art form that we have mastered over centuries - no, longer than that even. Our forefathers were among the first lifeforms on this planet and it is our unrequited duty to ensure that we are amongst the last. Without us, there is nothing.

Today feels right though. We are packed to the brim and ready to spread our seed. Sure, we could have done it last week, when the big one rolled in. The thing is, the big ones are diffusers and we would have been spread too far, and too thin. It's what the upright mammals refer to as Natural Selection.

There's a great deal to be said for abstinence. Natural law argues that we should disseminate and conquer a greater territory, but I have always believed that there is strength in numbers. Build the community and from that you can grow. The thing is, every community needs a solid foundation - spread yourself too thin and the community collapses. Such is life.

Our primary goals as propagators of the species is to ensure our continued longevity and that's what these yellow bastards don't seem to understand. It's all about seizing the moment; the perfect time to accomplish the goal.

Today is that day, and we will march forward, an army united in discipline. We will pack those pistils, and we will ensure that our species continues long after the rash have perished.

Today is the day where we all march forth in unison and lay claim to the lands that have yet to be claimed. We will use our stamena to lay siege to the lands and claim the future that is ours alone, because when the blood infused shall fail, we are all that will remain.

We are the past of this planet, and we are the future. There is no life without us. Go forth good soldiers, we are the stamen and by packing those pistils, we will succeed is all our endeavors. Only with loaded pistils shall we prevail!

All hail the green future! All hail the mission, complete!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Story-A-Day #83: Tresspass


This had to be the place. He pulled out his iPhone and looked at the message for the third time in the past hour.

Drive one hour west to a chained off dirt road marked by two reflectors. Follow the road for approximately one hour to the abandoned factory. Don’t be late. If you are late, she dies.

The message was dated the day before and it was the only thing he had been able to think of since he had received it. He looked at his watch and was relieved to discover that he was almost an hour early.

He wiped a sleeve across his sweaty brow and started off across the grassy clearing towards the factory. The bright sun shining above was a stark contrast to the gloomy sense of oppression that emanated from the factory. He could hear it creaking as it slowly settled into itself. Loose panels of sheet metal banged in the breeze.

He placed a hand on his lower back and gained a bit of resolve from the lump of the gun tucked into his belt. It was a precaution, and one he hoped he wouldn’t have to use. Still, there was no motive to the kidnapping, and he hadn’t been instructed to bring a ransom, or files, or anything else as an exchange. The situation was suspicious at best.

He stepped into a large opening in the side of the factory and waited as his eyes adjusted to the gloom. When he had regained his bearings, he called out, “Hello? I’m here.”

“You’re early,” a gruff voice replied from above. He looked upward and saw the vague impression of a man standing in the shadows on the catwalk above.

“I am. Now maybe you can tell me why I am here?”

“I think you know the answer. Really, take a minute to think it over. You’ll get there.”

He was a normal guy with a normal job. He had a girlfriend, a beautiful, smart, and talented girl that he would do anything for. His parents were comfortably upstanding members of society, but not wealthy or prominent. His coworkers, friends, and associates were normal, average people without any ties to criminal activities – maybe a bit of weed now and then, but that was the extent of their underbellies.

“I haven’t the faintest idea,” he finally called up into the gloom. A handful of pigeons scattered into the interrupted silence.

“You’re here for her, are you not?”

“I am. But why is she here, and why me?”

“Because you have something we need. Something extremely valuable to us, but of little consequence to most.”

“Is that supposed to be a riddle, or just some cryptic crap because you don’t have an answer?”

“I told you. You’re here for her.”

There was a sudden stirring in the far corner of the enclosure near a hulking pile of rusted machinery. He peered into the shadows, seeking out the source of the shuffling noise, then took a step backwards. She stepped out of the shadows, a large rifle pointed at his chest.

“You’re here for me,” she offered. “How sweet.”

He was almost choking on the confusion that now clouded his mind, as he swallowed the lump in his throat. This was not what he had expected at all.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Story-A-Day #82: Droplets


The leaf curled up slightly towards the edges to form a perfect bowl of silky green life. Within that bowl were sixty droplets of water; perfect globes of water that gave clarity to leaf on which they rested. In that little cup, there were sixty tiny droplets that wobbled ever so slightly in the gentle spring breeze.

Thunder rumbled ominously in the distance, a low grumble that I could feel within me as much as around. It had been a violent storm, sudden and aggressive, and then it had vanished. I could not tell whether that thunder meant that the storm was returning for another round, or fading off into the distance, but I knew that it contained power.

There was a sudden shift in the barometric pressure, one that was almost imperceptible. The air grew suddenly colder and thicker. The smell of ozone filled the air; an smell that was electric and exciting all at once.

I took a long drag from my cigarette, and followed it with a cold swig of beer. I could see myself in the droplets before me, sixty tiny faces grinning back at the one who originated them.

I glanced away for a moment, up towards the tops of the poplars that ringed the clearing where the cottage was nestled. The leaves were tossing about wildly, turned up to the sky in an ecstatic plea for liquid nourishment. There was a soft music in their rustling, a hushed whisper of devotion.

High above, against the ominous grey clouds that raced across the heavens, I could see a large drop of water falling from the sky. I watched as it distorted in the air, spreading out and snapping back in; yet never losing its ultimate consistency. It landed in my outstretched hand and exploded into a million indiscernible particles.

The thunder grumbled again, a long drawn out vibration. The storm was definitely building, working itself up for another round of fury.

I glanced back towards the bowl shaped leaf and watched it rock back and forth in the steadily building breeze. The droplets held their ground for a moment, before slowly pooling in the middle and draining off down the leaf’s stem.

Another drop hit me, this time in the neck, and I shuddered as the cool water ran down the collar of my shirt. A sudden flash of lightning illuminated the darkening afternoon and I watched as the thin fingers of electricity forked across the dark grey sky.

The air exploded almost instantly, a huge crash that shook me to the bone, and seemingly tore a hole in the sky. The rain fell suddenly and with force; great, fat drops that smashed their way into the earth and battered the very leaves that had moments before plead for their watery embrace.

I stood their for a moment in the pounding deluge and watched as my clothes darkened in a splotch work of rain drops that quickly became one uniform shade of darkened wetness.

I tossed my cigarette butt to the ground, and quickly retreated into the cottage. It was going to be a good one.