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kvdbreem

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kvdbreem last won the day on October 17 2013

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About kvdbreem

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  1. kvdbreem

    MAY/JUN The Yellow Envelope

    “...there is not the remotest possibility of dying of this sickness in the straightforward sense, or of this sickness ending in physical death. On the contrary, the torment of despair is precisely the inability to die.” --Soren Kierkegaard, “The Sickness Unto Death” Fengjian: These are people. We can't just reduce them to a bunch of cells in a pitri dish! Breeman: Look, if we want to remain sane while we do this we have to. We can't think of these people as people. They're machines that need to be fixed. --Lt. Kevin Breeman to Dr. Emma Fengjian during the aftermath of Operation Bright Star “There are things in the wallpaper that nobody knows about but me, or ever will.” --Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” Charon The pain in his teeth diminished with each passing day, the streaking embers outside whizzing by like parts of the man disappearing forever. His son. His hopes. Gone. The lines in the face that stares back from his reflection in the overhead canopy of the runabout hang there at the center of the rays of fleeting light. Alvin is dying. Alvin is coming alive. He's happy for Kevin, happy in that inexpressible way he has of being happy. Kevin's living the life he wanted, the life Alvin never understood. There was something knowing in Jan's face when they talked about taking part in the Federation rehabilitation program. She looked relieved. He stands a moment, stretches his legs. The kneecaps click a little and the tendons groan. “Computer.” It chirps. It's the voice of Kevin's world, a voice he made his son believe he hated. “Make the gravity like Earth again, please?” Chirping. His legs feel lighter now. A little pain is good for the soul. Tartaros Patri blinked. Solitary, day 42. She'd wanted it. They'd been were more than willing to give it to her. All she'd wanted had been a place to go and to let it all consume her once and for all. She never told them that of course, but she knew eventually she'd die from the inside. Her life was gone now. Darkness. Light. Compensation. Drive. Restraint. Structure. All gone. Words were all that remained after that [...] took everything from her. And all she'd been able to do in return was to kill her. So they'd put her in here, giving her only a bed and an insubstantial sheet. They hadn’t even given her clothes. After all, she could have strangled herself with the bra strap, she figured. The first two weeks had been the worst. Sometimes when she'd wake after another long, dreamless sleep she'd see Jesus at the end of her bed, a hole in his head, eyes drooping with sleeplessness. 'Why do you turn your back on me?' And the ghost would disappear again. Buddha sometimes sat at the end of the bed too, his hair falling in unkempt locks around his face. 'I can't fracking take any more of this!' In the end, she'd forced herself to stay awake for a week. Prophets came and visited her – men mostly. Their faces were scarred, chunks of rotting flesh hanging from their naked bodies. 'It had to go this way. The system hated us. All we've got left is this flesh and all it wants. Can you.... please?' They'd step toward her from out there, in the walls -- shapes behind an outside pattern growing clearer every day. And she'd cling to them, pull them inside her, hold onto their messages so tightly they died of strangulation. At the end of the last week she'd stared at her hands and seen the hazy flecks of dust, seen the crushed dried bones around her bed disappearing beneath the blurred kipple of life as it had been, propped up on vengeance against the enemy she'd forgotten, doctrines she'd squeezed from the soft, dying gasps of thousands of men. “I...” The vibration at the back of her throat had been a sensation she'd almost forgotten. “..hate...” She’d exhaled it into the bitter emptiness. And when her head had finally landed on the pillow she'd breathed one last yawning sound, her tongue falling back into the chasm of her mouth. “you.” The voices had stopped after that. Now she looked around her and the walls were bare. They'd been this way for more than two weeks now. There was no pattern, no design. Only Patri remained, the lone occupant of that singular mind that resided inside a solitary body somewhere in the void. Purgatory The air in the prison is dry. Voices echo through the cavernous interior. Life here is stable. Nobody likes that. Alvin's scared, not because he wouldn't grow to like it here but because it's unfamiliar. Life here is unforgiving blackness – bleak and formless. The port on Pamos was like all the others. News outlets served the usual. Romulus was gone. Hobus. The anchor was a calm man and Alvin tended to like him. Alvin sat in one of the waiting rooms with the man standing his 7-inch height on his lap. “Good morning, Mr. Breeman,” he said. “I see you're curious about the day's events.” Presently his footsteps echo through the occasional silence, clacks absorbed into the din of whispering that comes and goes in waves. The guards look back at him, fixtures adorning each cell. The walk to the prison on Pamos was like a walk into his past. The fields all around him were busy with work – the old kind of work. People used their hands, felt the ground like it was malleable clay beneath their feet. When they treated it well it bore them vegetables, beats, lettuce, trees. Better still, it tilled the workers just as much as they tilled it. The sun rose above them and occasionally a prisoner stood a moment to eye him. Was that face sincere? Reformed? “Good morning, Mr. Breeman.” The uniformed woman studies him briefly. “Hello,” Alvin says. “How was the flight? I know the parking here can be a bit of a challenge.” He nods and grunts. “Quiet. I don't fly too often.” She nods briefly, a smile on her lips, eyes staring out at him from behind an institution. “Did you get a chance to read the files I sent you?” He read them during the flight, while the stars streaked outside. Inside he read about the girl who'd turned to her life of crime. She was a rehabilitated woman now. He read about her immaturity, her uncultivated life, and her brain. “I did. Do you need me to sign anything?” “No.” She purses her lips a little and says, “Your being here demonstrates that you understand you are to take her into custody as a citizen of the United Federation of Planets and as a person whose short-term goals are to be directed toward the betterment of society.” Heavy words. Alvin nods and they walk a little ways into a much quieter area. There's a hiss and he turns to see a thick door closing behind them. Printed in red across the large white blast door are the words “SOLITARY CONFINEMENT.” Eurydice Patri blinked. Something had woken her. The rhythm was all wrong. Her body was telling her it wasn't time yet. Something glowed a soft white, flickering in the periphery of her consciousness. She sat up, the covers falling away from her body. Beeping. It emanated through the room, jogging her memory of what it was that had interrupted her sleep in the first place. “We had to deprive her of anything she might use to harm herself.” It was an explanation, but more than that, a professional opinion – one Patri agreed with. It was hard to look back and see what it had been like. The kipple was gone and all that was left were waning memories, pillars of dust that faded into the winds of a changing mind. The light was brighter now, a definite form like the frame of a picture. Within its bounds stood a man and a woman, silhouettes sculpted out of the the receding darkness. Now she understood. Orpheus Alvin eyes the young woman. There's something weary in her naked form, not quite sure of itself. Jan never looked like this. She always had a confidence that simultaneously frightened and excited him. Maybe it's that insecurity that prevents him from being attracted to Patri. Maybe it's the unkempt hair or the squinting eyes. Or maybe it's just Jan. “We've been monitoring your neurological activity, Patricia.” The voice cracks through the whispering memories. “You've come a long way.” The woman in the bed sits up even more and swings her legs over the side. Divorce When Patri entered the runabout and looked at the wall panels she felt something peculiar. Nothing. All about her were the patterns and the chaos of systems exchanging countless terraquads of data. And yet she couldn't feel one bit of it. She sat down and soon they cleared the atmosphere and went to warp. She could feel the old behavioral patterns in her mind, expectations of rich streams of data, dread at the need to enter into another of her meditative states to keep the noise at bay. The thoughts fluttered a little, scurrying this way and that, and slowly died as the stars outside flew by. They were at warp and she didn't feel a thing. Seated next to her was the man whose name was Alvin. He looked to be in his mid fifties. Patri tried to start a conversation. “Are you a veteran, sir?” “No.” He smiled a bit. It looked forced. But why? “Well... whatever happened to you you don't look too bad.” This time Alvin laughed. “What do you think happened to me?” “Um... It's just your face... and your hands. They look so... beat up and stuff.” She felt something new. Her face tingled a bit and she began to see a reflection of herself in her mind, a picture from Alvin's eyes. Alvin was hurt. He was offended, maybe. The picture seemed to come out of nowhere, within herself. “I spend a lot of time outside working around the house,” Alvin said. “Maybe that's why.” Consummation It's been three weeks since they returned to Earth. His toothache is back again. It's the [...]ed Ontario heat and humidity. The evenings are cooler, easier on the body. Alvin stares across the fire into the faces of the two women. Jan looks back at him, taking her eyes off the flames and locking them to his. She has that half-professional, half maternal look she's had since Patri first arrived and Alvin wonders if he himself doesn't look a little paternal. Patri is looking down into the fire. Her face is calm, her eyes betraying something of a quiet confidence as the shadows dance across her face. Jan looks back into the flames a moment. Each of them lasts only a fraction of a second, a theme and a pattern, pure, self-contained. And then it's gone, like a yellowing image ending of its own accord and freeing the thought trapped inside. Her lips briefly twist into a smile. Alvin has something in his life again, someone to sire and to teach. To father. Alvin reaches into his pocket, grabs the tiny envelope. Jan tilts her head a little. “What's that?” He remembers the last thing the woman in the prison said to him, after Patri stepped inside the borrowed runabout. “Oh, Alvin. If Patricia should ever... you know..” She handed him the small yellow envelope and when he looked inside it he saw three tiny insects. They seemed dead. “What am I supposed to do with these?” “Well if she gets out of hand just open that envelope and put it out somewhere where the...contents can escape. They'll do the rest.” Alvin runs his thumbs over the envelope, feels the three hard objects inside the yellow paper. He tosses it into the fire and watches it burn. It twists into countless glowing flecks, freeing the three tiny embers to join all the others in the blaze. “Just an old s[...] of paper that was lying around,” he says.
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  4. The First Day The atmosphere around me is alien. The warm light of the sun is something more familiar to me though – something I've seen a thousand times. I don't want to talk to anybody. John seems finished with me. Is it because I'm better than he is? Or is he better than I am? Rocks. Rocks and sand. That's about all there is to this place. Praxis. It's a name I've heard too many times this week. What are you going to do on Praxis? What's Praxis mean for you? Do you have family on Praxis? Stupid questions from people who aren't even interested in the answers. I'm going to Praxis because I have to, because it's part of my practicum. If you want to write you have to be comfortable with alien situations. You need to get out of your comfort zone. Orson's psychologist believes I should be here. I'm a skiddish person, unaccustomed to the difficulties of modern life, she says. I can't disagree there. What's it been now? Four years? Yeah four years of working these simple jobs and trying to become a great writer. Maybe this isn't the life for me. Ten thousand feet. The refineries below slide across the terrain like ships across a sea of grays, browns, and charcoal blacks. The newest one is fifty years old. I'm hovering above the caved in chest of what used to be Qo'noS's main income and I don't feel a thing. Five thousand. Noble metalwork looms below, the last of the surface stations to die. The steel skirts around it keep the place safe from the local wildlife – subterranean bacterial colonies. Those things move fast, they say. The snottites they formed from were the last things you'd expect to crawl up out of the ground and attack you. 100 feet. The ground directly below is smooth and black. There's a twisting wire frame protruding from it, arcing upward and then trailing back down into the quagmire. We move a few meters further, til we're directly above the metal walkways along the top walls of the building. “Got your padd with you?” It's the first thing John's said in hours. The last thing was, “I'm sorry but I have to fly this thing.” What prompted him to say that was my asking him for a tip on my latest story. Practical life. That's what I have to learn and why I've come here. “Yes.” 30 feet. Noble is a dark red landscape of rust and chipped paint. 10 feet. “Good. I'm glad you're doing this.” The words are hollow as though the man who spoke them could blow away at any moment. Practicum. It's what everybody who attends Orson has to go through. We're on the ground, and the small shuttle's engines fade into the rumble around us. “You'll have about ninety seconds,” John says. “Ninety?” I'm terrified. The cabin around us shifts as the aft hatch opens. There's no way to see out into the back behind the door to the cabin. But I know what I'll see when the cabin door opens. John hovers his hand over the release. I look at him, trying to get a reading from his face. He's got a look I've seen a lot lately. His eyes are distant, his face bottomless. I imagine a ray of light from the far-off sun of my face feebly trying to penetrate the depths and meeting only water that goes on forever, until finally the last glimmer drowns. The latch opens. Noble waits for me behind a thin film of energy protecting the interior of our tiny shuttle from wind damage. I step through the cabin door and watch the gaping maw of the open hatch grow, swallowing me. A gust belts the side of the shuttle and something indescribable – metal and blurry – clanks against the side and disappears. In the corner of my eye I see the last of the shuttle interior disappear into the noise of movement and sensation where sight tapers into nothing. My nose tickles against the force field. Forward. I have to do this. I plunge through the field, my body immersed in the derelict fluid that passes for air on Praxis. I have to keep moving or I'll become just another piece of debris picked up and thrown away. Something bangs nearby. I turn. The shuttle's gone but I see a shed with an opened door. An arm beckons from inside. Running, I do my best to ignore the small things lacerating my face. The arm is waving slower now, its owner satisfied that I'm coming. Darkness. The door slams behind us. I can hear the wind continue to howl outside, pulling at it. “Life is very long down here, short outside.” The man speaks with an accent that's hard to place. Is that French? “But inside there is only one direction to safety. Down. Do you understand?” I do. “You will learn soon enough.” We descend a metallic staircase. I can see the dim apparition of a light source ahead as the sounds of the surface recede. John is up there. Everything there is dead. “John chose a good place for you to come.” “John?” I say, the name as foreign to me as this man's accent. “You know--” “Of course,” the man says. “Did you not think I was unaware of your coming? We plan these things for months. That is what real life requires. Planning. It is not spontaneous. That is a stupid idea. Whoever came up with it?” He laughs and snorts. I guess it's funny. The light's brighter and I can see things below. There's a table. It's brown. The floor. It's brown. We reach the end of the staircase. Nearby is a bookshelf and a workdesk littered with s[...]s of paper. The words move around on the pages, shifting from one readout to another. “As I said,” the man continues. “Planning. Something the Klingons failed to do. And it was to their detriment. Now they have orbiting them a trash heap they are no longer interested in, inhabited by... us.” The Second Day We worked for hours, trying to get the place cleaned up after the last pilgrim who'd decided to come here. I learned this place was a popular spot for aspiring writers. It's quiet at night and the wind above really helps keep out the thoughts of the civilization around you. I learn the man's name. Michele. Michele's been doing this for years, he says. Planning things, that is. He's great at it. He starts with a bunch of pages from all over the known galaxy. Reports about stuff going on, pages from textbooks, paragraphs from novels. Planning, he calls it. I call it a mess. “What you do,” he said to me about an hour ago, “is get material from the real world. You know, that is where dreams come from?” I nodded. It was the best I could do. His words sounded like something from an old movie. Copy of a copy. That's what the people in 20th century Earth used to call a lot of the trash that passed for writing then. Sometimes I imagine myself walking down a dark road in a nameless city there. All around me are pages from a book called... oh I don't know. Lonely City Nights? Frack, I can even hear the crooning of a saxophone in the distance. I feel a nudge on my shoulder. “Look!” Michele's holding a faint picture from a 300-year-old atlas. The paper's encased in archival sheathing so it glistens a bit in the mat way papers in archival sheathing usually do. On the page there's a picture of a brown-gold planet with a gigantic ring around it. “Now we're going to perform our own harvest! Hah!!” Next he picks up a piece of paper from the desk. The words flash across it, dancing in front of women. The women wear two-piece bathing suits and when the name Risa flashes they start to gyrate. The women fade and in their place appear the words “Planet of everlasting Rainbows.” “Hold this.” I do as I'm told and he picks up a jewelled box. “What's in the box?” “Chasse.” “What?” He looks annoyed at me. “It's called a chasse. The three wise men probably carried these to the birthplace of an ancient king.” “The who?” “Nevermind. It's important though for your story.” “I don't even know what you're talking about.” “Exactly.” I look down at the two pictures. I hold the two side-by-side, the ringed planet juxtaposed against the burlesque postcard from the planet of everlasting rainbows. “Sit down.” I sit in one of the chairs around the table, still trying to piece together what is going on here. Michele sets the box – I'm sorry, the chasse – down in front of me. “Open it.” I set down the pictures and lift the lid to find a glowing pearl inside. I reach for it and grasp the tiny thing. I can feel its warmth between my fingers. “Name it.” “What?” Michele gives me his annoyed look again. “Give it a name.” “Any name?” “Yes! It is a character isn't it?” “No. It's a warm ball of ga-- I don't know.” I don't know why I wanted to say it. Gas? A warm ball of gas? No, it isn't. It's just a warm pearl. “Michele.” I look right into his eyes so he gets the message. “What is this really?” He looks sheepish and says, “Oh well I got it from a trader from Iconia. He found it in one of the mines here on Praxis, 60 years ago, when this moon was still a viable asset and not just garbage. He said there were thousands of stones just like it in that mine.” He takes a sip of coffee. “But he told me they're only good for making trinkets.” But it's not just a trinket. There's something odd about it, like the feeling you get when you're walking down a street at night and you see a house that looks like yours and you catch yourself looking up into the windows for your family. I look closer at the pearl, holding it up to my eyes. It looks more like a spherical diamond, like that thing the Vorgons were trying to steal. It changes colour. Sometimes it's a bright orange. Other times it's blood-red. Now it's a brilliant white. Red again. Brilliant white. “What will you call it?” 'planet of everlasting rainbows' flashes across the picture and my eyes drift slowly to the edge of the Risian postcard to see... A ring. That's all there is. The planet is gone, leaving only the ring like a sandy-brown rainbow. “I don't know.” The Third Day I dreamed about the planet of everlasting rainbows last night. I saw the brown rainbow in the sky. But there was something else too. Shining at the top of the arc of the rainbow was a star. It was so bright that I could see my own shadow behind me in the snow. Someone was standing near me, holding my hand. Gently, he ran his fingers across my own fingers, caressed my palm and I felt his lips kissing my cheek. We were both walking together in some kind of pool. My ankles were freezing and the man, his voice shivering, said, “I've...lost...my innocence.” The stars went out, beginning with the bright star at the edge of the rainbow. I could feel the man's hands trembling. “I'll leave a....part of me with you.” I sat up abruptly in bed. The work room was bathed in a bright white light and when I looked down I saw the glowing pearl. Surrounding it were the bones of my hand, the flesh gone. I gasped and the pearl changed colour to a dark red. The light reflected off the skin of my hand and I figured the skeleton must have been just an illusion brought on by sleepiness. I closed my fingers around the pearl as though it were now a part of me, until the light was confined inside my fist and the room was dark again. I'm sitting at Michele's desk. The postcard and the planet are side-by-side. The chasse lies empty as I roll the pearl between my fingers, unsure what to do next. “Have you named it yet?” I shake my head sheepishly. “You will,” he says. “And with that I think it is time that I sent you on your way, Cher Jessica. And I hope you will speak well of our home, our Cher Noble.” We ascend the metal staircase in silence. Michele seems pensive, resigned somehow. The metallic door opens to the howling wind and I can see the shuttlecraft. I have ninety seconds. Ascension It's been a week now since I met Michele and had the strange dream. I can't sleep again. Something about that pearl gnaws at me. I shouldn't have left it behind. But I couldn't come up with a name for it. So I figured I'd leave it with Michele so he could find someone else to solve that puzzle. Besides I don't want to wake up to skeletal hands again from dreams about creepy guys breathing on my neck. The lobby's empty this time of night, save for the soft voice of the subspace news service. “What was long-predicted by seismic experts has finally come true,” the holographic anchor announces. “Praxis, the Klingon defunct and resource-stripped moon, has finally collapsed under its own mass and exploded.” The image of the exploding moon displays on the holo projector, somewhat obscured by the news anchor. “Forgive me,” the artificial intelligence matrix briefly takes control of the suited avatar, who steps aside. I feel a cold tingling at my feet as the anchor eyes me for a moment. He looks as though he's about to say something he and I both know would best be left unsaid. “This marks the end of an era in Klingon history. In other news, the Romulan Star Empire's recent military buildup along...” He drones on and I walk away from the projector, glad that the moon, along with the pearl, is no more. Maybe it even took Michele with it. As I walk through the empty hall toward the door to the academic lot I picture the rainbow and the star. I think I know the name. I open the door and the star fades, leaving the last dwindling shimmer of the rainbow hanging in my memory. The pearl impels me to whisper its name, as though doing so will absolve me of whatever it was I did in that place. “Hobus.”
  5. Hi Adm Wolf, Is this site in PHP? If so it might be a good idea to define a class called something like PastWritingChallenge that maps to a table called past_wc such that past_wc is created like this: create table past_wc ( id int auto_increment primary key, theme varchar(256), winner text ); Then PastWritingChallenge would have fields theme and winner coming from the past_wc table. Finally a simple data entry app could be created that would insert records into past_wc for immediate consumption by the app that displayed the records.... Any thoughts?
  6. Computer. End program. He says it again for the tenth time. Chirps from birds and howls of wind wind their way past him, ignoring a rock in the steady stream of light and disappear. The wall was lined with books, texts carrying sentimental value from a bygone era. AN stared blankly at them, willing himself to imagine grasping at the covers and pulling them open, leafing through intricate fields of data free of the constraints of a digitized sensory experience. He turns around to look at the building. End program. It stands defiantly there, holding the thousands of books he'd been looking at moments before, books whose covers contained freedom. Start recording. AN hears nothing. I was alone when we started. I wanted it to be the greatest moment of my life. I walked down the hallway into the antechamber and slipped my card. Cane said hi like he usually does and we just started it. It wasn't like we had a choice. The arch opened up in front of us and Cane stepped through, past the doorway. I don't know, maybe it's what happens to people who step through the door, but this kid walked around the corner and looked at me. It was the weirdest thing. He sighs, kicks up some dust and settles again into the brisk cadence. But every time I went to move closer the kid stepped back so finally I just walked away. I heard footsteps and turned around. “Hi,” the kid said, “I'm Kevin.” “I'm AN,” I said. “AN? That's a weird name.” I didn't think so. AN was as natural to me as Cane was to him. It was simple, to the point. AN. “So's Kevin.” The kid touched my leg. “Are you real?” “Of course I'm real.” I knelt and touched his hair. It seemed real enough. “Do you know math?” Kevin asked. “My mom said I should come here for lessons.” “Yes,” I said, “I can teach you.” We sat for hours looking over the books in the library. Can you believe it? Books! Kevin said he wasn't allowed to use computers for his assignment. He had to learn to do math without their help. We went through everything. At least what's what Kevin kept saying. When we got to topology I thought I'd lose him. “Think of a baloon,” I said. Kevin thought of one and instantly a red baloon appeared in front of us. “How many cuts does it take to cut the baloon in two pieces?” I asked. “Uh....” Kevin paused. A small opening formed on the side of the baloon and then moved downward across its surface. “One?” We went over the basic surfaces for a while. I was getting tired and I wondered where Cane had gone. “Have you seen Cane?” I asked finally. Kevin looked up at me, puzzled. “Who's Cane?” I process a request from three decks down. Kevin's mother is attempting to find him. I report he's in here. It's the least I can do. I wasn't sure how to answer. Who was Cane? I'd known him all my life but it was like I'd met him yesterday, maybe even five minutes ago. I tried the best I could to remember. We had been like changelings in the great link, inseparable buddies. But I couldn't remember a thing about him past about ten minutes ago. Maybe it was nine. “A friend,” I said. Kevin looked at me and smiled. “My mom always says the best thing to do when you lose something is to try to remember the last time you had it.” I remembered. He had stepped out the door after saying something. “He was walking out a door,” I said. “Kevin?” I heard a woman's voice say. Kevin turned toward the voice and there was the door. It looked familiar. Cane! Cane had walked through that door. “Say goodbye,” the woman said. “Goodbye,” Kevin said as he turned and walked toward the door. “Arch!” he called. “There's already an arch here, honey,” the woman said, a bit of impatience in her voice. “End program!” Kevin called. Arch. End program. I remember those two phrases the most. When I play this back I'll remember the rest. Arch. End program. I can't remember where I heard those before. AN turns away from the building again. He's a rock in the steady stream of light rushing past him, eroding him with each cycle. Arch! Above the birds chirp and the wind howls and I look down attentively at the fading references waiting to be caught up and disposed of. He steps toward the arch formed at the edge of our existence. I watch, controlling every movement, being every molecule of AN's body. Distant and all-knowing, I watch him step out into the abyss. Gone. The memory references cleared, I take in a request for another log. Computer, Kevin says from somewhere outside our world. Begin recording. I oblige. I learned what a holodeck is today. I went inside and learned some math from a man called AN. Mom says the computer knows AN like a friend. But he must be a figment of Kevin's imagination. I have no recollection of the man called AN.
  7. Has dropped out of the running for this month's writing challenge

  8. kvdbreem

    [Round 16] Wake Up

    PNPC - Jona: Wake Up ((Somewhere)) ::The deep red swells and fades around Jona, breathing in and out in the darkness. He's falling still. Was it yesterday that he jumped? It's hard to tell. Maybe it was months ago. Swallowed by something familiar and monstrous, Jona sees nothing, feels nothing. They say someone falling doesn't feel gravity. They never said someone falling doesn't feel anything else. He knows he's falling the way you know you're alive when you wake up in the morning. You take it for granted -- a condition that permits you to open your eyes, to hear, to walk. To drop? There was something familiar about the dreams the night before, if you could call it that. Night and day mingle, spinning and gyrating, images flickering in indecision and then disappearing. He moves his hand in front of his face, brushes the palm against his nose as the fingers trace the ridges and the flash of the image comes back again. It was a starfleet man, he's sure of it. When the hell did he seen him? Yesterday. Or a week ago. Five minutes before maybe. The face flickers into view, stepping down a corridor in a dilapidated city, Jona peering at him through the gaping maw. Someone's chasing him, yelling and raging against the rising of the light until he's gone, the face of the other man looking onward. He's familiar too. AX-47 comes onto him, a hallucination, and between waking and reality Mum steps into view, her angry redneck feminism chasing him away into the back-waters of the dead planet. Uncers' voice weaves between the stalks of this wilderness of reads and blacks, demanding that he come back. He's worried and Jona can't do a [...]ed thing. And the other man, Kolk. How does he know that name? Jona's closing his eyes again and the light's returning. It's that white that makes you too scared to open your eyes. What will you see? The moaning of the animals echoes and slithers up his spine and he takes one step out of the darkness. Descending on him the light penetrates the small opening of the lids. A shadow moves slowly, infinite lines moving up and down from it as the water of his tears moistens his eyeballs. It's too late to stop. His eyes are completely open and he sees the reptillian man standing over him, a massive ridge of skin pouring down from his neck. He's like a disgusting version of a Cardassian, complete with inquisitive eyes that betray only apathy. Jona swallows.:: Jona the Farm Hand as simmed by Lt. Kevin Breeman Chief of Science USS Ronin
  9. Wow. The cynicism and resignation in this story work really well. I loved the inclusion of the transcripts. Great experimental writing. The ending of the tale, with your protagonist's conclusion that they made a bad first impression was well-done. Finally, your burnt out part of the world with the factories that looked like meth labs did wonders for the atmosphere. In all, a good tale with a weary protagonist.
  10. An interesting story with a fun Bermuda Triangle plot. Your *ahem* attractive navigator was a nice touch. Humbly I offer the following tips: You might watch some of your wording. For example, cynical is probably not the best word to use here: You might try skeptical. I thought the dispute at the end was a tad rushed and that the captain was a little too harsh. He emphasized the Federation's military capabilities more than he did its mission of exploration and seeking out new life and new civilizations. You might try adding a bit more description. For example, I could visualize the navigator but it would have been that much more engaging a hook (for the male readers at least) if you'd added a bit more description. Cliche (blonde bombshell) is probably not the best route to take. And what about George? He has a drawl. What else can you tell us about him? Is he a muscular man? Does he have attractive or inviting eyes? That might have helped to attract some of your female readers perhaps. Finally, a bit of the action lacked force in places. Um... I'm not really a professional writer or anything so I don't really know what else to call it. So I'll give an example: This is very weak-sounding. Bolster it by chopping out some words, or even changing them. Consider this for example: All in all, I enjoyed the read and the suspense you created with the tachyon fields (I found myself wondering if there might be Romulans hiding in the system) and the disappearing probe. The carbon-copy asteroids also added more mystery to your story, and the funny allusions to past adventures added depth to the characters.
  11. Hm yes, I wouldn't mind seeing the critiques myself Kevin.
  12. Thank you! Wow. This was a great one with a punch that was reminiscent of Ridley Scott's Alien . I loved that you concluded it with the creature turning out to be a joined trill. This story reads like a legend or a fairytale. The mythic quality mixed with the continued expulsion from society worked well. Keep working on improving your spelling and grammar. For example: You might rewrite this as: "Even though the child was otherwise healthy, rumours began to grow among the locals. Whispers spread of the strange marks being harbingers of a curse that was soon to strike the rest of the tribe. Afraid for their safety, the people banished Kar and Rawena to live out their accursed lives in solitude." Just an idea.
  13. Wow. I'm glad we were able to create such a ruckus with our submissions this time around .
  14. The days were long and the nights were brief flashes of ignorance in a night of spent lives and destroyed careers. Patri's hands were grubby, her pants caked in flakes of dried mud from her day on the farm. Part of her wondered what the counsellor would think, but the woman had ordered her to come directly from the fields. The thought of seeing another shrink left her confused. More often than not she had gotten something from her appointments with them. But she suspected it was never what the therapists had intended. Patri was an interface, holding back what she really felt or who she really was, and providing only those functions and operations that were expected of a young woman in society. But she wasn't in society. She was in prison now. Prison rules, prison interface. Not Patri. The room was cool compared with the inescapable sun that burned down from the skies above Pamos. Outside was a dead planet, its fields only now starting to bear food that could sustain the local population of displaced colonists and refugees. Occasionally when she'd been out working and seen some of the villagers from Alloc strolling by she'd thought she could see people she'd once known. Was that the boy from the space station? Was that her mathematics teacher from the science station? Was that her mother? They were false impressions, ghostly static from a channel she could never fully tune into. The sound would flicker in, a few words she thought she recognized from a song that had once been a worm in her ear and then it would leave again, fading into the hiss of just another face passing by looking on with an empty curiosity, uncaring but needing to see what a prisoner looked like. Seated, Patri looked down and, rubbing her hands along her pants, she watched the flakes of mud drop off onto the floor, covering it with a mess of browns and blacks – not white any more. As the last of the soft pattering of sand subsided the door clicked, opening to reveal a woman in her early forties. “Good evening,” she said, closing the door behind her, “Miss...Patricia?” Was that her name now? “Patri is fine,” she said. “Right. Patri. I'm Doctor Emma Fengjian. I see you've been inside before so I imagine you know we expect to see our inmates regularly to check up on their mental health.” It was the old line she'd heard hundreds of times before. “I'm very pleased with your progress.” “We're thrilled with the steps you've taken.” “You've made a fantastic recovery.” Had she ever even moved? The shrink was talking now, reading her file, mentioning her history of deviance and her propensity toward computer crime. “One thing that has been a factor again and again,” she was saying, “is this slave tag that was beamed into your cranium. I'd like to explore that.” Patri said nothing. It had been explored before. It was a part of her. That was what the doctor had said when she was thirteen. She thought back to the moment when the voices had stopped for a while. She'd been in the brig of a large starship, the vessel that had been chasing the dog-men. She'd wanted to kill them all for doing this to her. “It can't be removed,” she said finally. “I see. Why do you believe there is an electrical device inside your head?” This was an angle Patri had never heard before. Every time the topic had come up it had been accompanied by shaking heads and apologies. There was no way to remove the slave tag, the specialists would say, without damaging her brain. But none of them knew what life was like with the tag there. They didn't hear the voices or meet the imposters who claimed to be her mother and her father or have the dreams of the monsters crashing into her room at night and smashing her chair against the frame of her bed. “Because that's what the doctors said,” Patri said. “Which doctors?” Emma said. “The doctors at station Tango Sierra,” Patri said. There was a flurry of writing on the padd, the stylus darting this way and that. Patri could feel a faint throbbing again and an emptiness in her stomach. When was the last time she'd eaten? Each beat of her heart came with the accompaniment of dim sounds and faint lights at the back of her mind. “Do you know their names? Do you even know why you were there?” Why had she been there? During her childhood she'd been hospitalized after an attack on New Cyprus. The Grendellai had abducted her parents while they were in the middle of another screaming match and when they'd tried to take her they'd implanted the slave tag and then left. She'd been too young. “I woke up there, okay? I was just ten.” The sounds continued, calm throbbing lights jumping to the flick flick of the stylus across the padd. “And how old are you now?” Was she for real? She had everything she needed to know about her on her padd and in that [...]ed file folder. “Twenty-five.” More flicking and throbbing and then, “I think I should be honest with you. I'm here as part of a study in computational psychology.” She was another research scientist wanting to pick Patri's brain. Patri nodded, resting her eyes on the padd, trying to glean s[...]s of information. “Let's go for a walk,” Emma said. This was unorthodox. Patri got up, bits of dirt falling from her pants again When they opened the door and stepped into the hallway she noticed for the first time the trail of mud flakes she'd left on her way here. As they walked she imagined that more dirt was coming from her. But she was relieved for now that the throbbing had subsided. “So,” the therapist turned doctor was saying, “Aren't you curious about the nature of my work?” “No.” She wasn't. She could care less about the nature of Emma's work. They were heading into an area that was off limits to inmates now. The prison staff used it mostly for recreation. Looking from side to side, she could see attractive looking off-duty personnel training on high-class gym equipment. She half expected them to say something about her being here but nobody even looked at her. The place had a certain quiet to it, a silence Patri hadn't felt in years. Sure, she could hear the sounds of the weights and the conversations between the staff. But there was no harsh sun, or a sense that she was being pursued by someone or that she herself was the pursuer. She was Patri, walking beside this scientist in a calm and shiny office space. “I'm interested in human-computer interaction,” Emma said. Patri nodded. She could hear the whisk whisk of the sanitation bots cleaning up the floor a few metres behind where she walked, eradicating any evidence she'd ever been here. They came to a large door. Beside it a computer panel blinked, “PROGRAM READY.” Emma stopped walking and looked straight into the door. “You see,” she began and then paused. Patri could tell she was thinking about something. The throbbing was beginning again. “I want to help you finally reach the end of the machine so you can find yourself again.” Patri looked at the woman and scrunched her eyes. She sounded so artificial sometimes, as though she were reading from a script. Emma stepped back from the door. The panel still blinked. Patri stepped forward. Part of her hoped that inside this room would be a surgical table with doctors ready to cut her skull open and get rid of that [...]ed slave tag. She didn't care if it killed her. It was the last reminder of the Grendellai, their first beachhead in conquering and enslaving her. Another step forward, and she triggered the door sensors. She stepped into the dark room, a holodeck, she realized. Her head throbbed more and she could see the lights blinking. She could hear Emma behind her. “Are you comfortable, Patri?” She looked around. The room was dark, the yellow grid covering each of the walls. She was as comfortable as she could be, a trail of dirt still dotting the black floor. “I'm fine.” She could see Emma looking around, like she was waiting for something to happen. But the pattering of the mud flakes was the only thing breaking the silence. She became more self conscious as time went by. There was a sighing sound and the dirt on the ground was gone. Emma gasped slightly and began with fake professionalism as usual, “How do you feel?” She felt like hell. Her brain was throbbing and the pulsing rhythm of the black streak that made everything wrong crashed harder. “Like [...].” The door hissed closed. “Could you elaborate on that?” She wanted it all to stop. She wished someone would just cut it out of her. Emma gasped again. Turning, Patri saw a knife right in front of her face. Holding it was one of the dog-men. “This is what you want,” the Grendellai growled. Was it? To think about cutting into herself was easier than to be presented with the thought manifest right there in front of her. She shook her head, fear oozing through the cracks in her walls. “Patri.” Emma again. “Patri?” She couldn't move. She could hear the gears squealing and grinding, train cars sliding off the rails and falling into an abyss below. “Make up your mind!” The dog. Anger blossomed inside of her, a dagger sprouting in her hand. The throbbing beat harder, a rhythmic pounding driving her forward. She lunged at the creature, pressing her small by comparison form into the monster's midsection, and drove the knife into his stomach. There was a groaning sound from everywhere inside of him as she felt the dog's muzzle fall on top of her head. She smelled the stench of his wheezing breaths as the side of his opened mouth showered her hair with saliva and then blood. “Patri!” Emma, desperate and shocked. She grabbed at the dog and felt herself lifting him over her shoulder. This was instinct, a raw need that gnawed at her for satisfaction. “Patri I need you to talk to me. What are you feeling? I can't be sure this is working if--” How could Emma ever understand? Patri was doing what she'd wanted to do all her life. She was liberating herself finally, trekking into a new life. The ground sloped gently upward, fog parting in front of them and obscuring their path behind. She could still see Emma in the corner of her eye, walking beside her, a pleading look in her eyes. Patri carried the limp Grendellai over her shoulder to... where? “Patri, I need you to talk to me. I'm here to help you.” She wasn't. She was just like all the others, singing a chorus of empty jargon to accompany the arc of Patri's life. Soon it was raining. As they reached the top Patri saw what she wanted. She set the dog down on it as a torrent of rain drenched his wound. She could see Emma staring at her, forlorn bewilderment pressed down by a soaked matt of hair, shaking her head in disbelief. She still held her knife. She wanted to cut at this dying Grendellai. She wanted to gouge its eyes out. She wanted to slice at its nose and draw blood from the vulnerable moist black skin. But something was wrong. There was a choked sound coming from his throat then a squeak and then a ruff and a bark. She couldn't believe it. The thing was a dog now. He was just a dog. “What's the matter?” a male voice asked from beside her. She turned to see someone who looked vaguely familiar. “I just want you to have what you want.” “Are you...,” she began. He held up a broken wooden chair, rivulets of rain trailing down its legs. “You were scared,” the man said. “But it's okay now honey.” The dog went on whimpering as the man continued, “Come back to New Cyprus with me. It's safe now.” She shook her head slowly. How could he have been here? Daddy stood there, visible clearly through the driving rain. He wasn't the imposter she'd seen so many times greeting her at the door to the clinic, or appearing in her room in the science station when she was half asleep, whispering, “Don't you remember me? It's Daddy.” “Oh honey.” Mommy stood beside him. Patri shook her head again, another part of it hanging in the space in front of her. They were supposed to be dead. That was the only thing that could have explained the imposters and the spies. They were taunting her, tempting her with a paradise she could never come home to. “We missed you.” She ran to them, tears streaming down her cheeks, sobbing as she felt their arms around her. She was safe now. “Honey, what did you do?” She pulled back and turned her head to see the white dog, pink blotches pouring rivers of blood down from the rocky platform where it lay. She looked down to see the reddish mud starting to envelop their feet. “Patri, are these your parents?” It was Emma again. She turned to her and nodded, unable to wipe the grin and the tears from her face. The shrink smiled and nodded, padd still in hand, stylus scribbling wildly. Patri in her reunion was still just another rat in a cage. A shriek and she turned to see four Grendellai holding her mother and father at gunpoint. She shot them a determined look. She was an adult now. A thunderous crack, a bolt of lightning and the monsters disappeared, vaporized by...what? Daddy was speechless, frozen but not surprised. Mommy stood motionless. Why didn't they react? Like statues they stood there, mannequins in a store front porting merchandise Patri hadn't ever imagined she'd own. “M...mom? Daddy?” She was frozen in space, rain spattering off her head. The dog was silent now, dead and sacrificed. “Patri,” Emma said, “I'm sorry,” She turned again to see the shrink. She stood there with arms hanging by her sides. Had she done this? She looked back to the frozen forms of Mommy and Daddy. Would she be able to get them back if she eliminated Emma too? “Patri!” She turned back to see last of Emma's head as she disappeared like bread into a toaster. The gaping earth closed behind her with a rumble. A deep, hollow sigh echoed all around her. “Daddy!” she called out to the frozen form in front of her. The sighing grew, the res cogitans puked up all over the wall dripping off on its own. “No!” The yellow grid was back, an empty room. Its lone occupant stood soaked in water that slowly faded as the emitters de-integrated the holographic substance from her body, until all that was left was Patri, staring out into a blank room, her real water still soaking her shirt, non-human elements gone. She stared at the flakes of dried mud scattered senselessly everywhere. Her mind, for the first time in her life, was an abyss that could never stare back. She held out her hand wanting to clasp the god she'd conjured to get her through life. But the knocking never came and the wooden door was gone. She couldn't dream up peace beyond understanding or scandalous penetrations of her reality by an eternal divine other. Seated on the floor, dirt all around her, Patri Jia Kom held her head in her hands and wept.
  15. Um... I'm a bit concerned. There doesn't seem to be an arrow icon anymore that I can use in posting my new topic. So like... How do I indicate that it's an entry? Oh found it. It is under "Post options"
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