Check below for information about my podiobook, "The Price of Friendship"

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The Price of Friendship by Philip 'Norvaljoe' Carroll is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Two Great Hites Posts

Here are my entries for The Great Hites podcast.

This weeks, the prompt is 'and none of the answers is savory'. I wasn't paying attention and built my story around, none of the choices being savory. Well, it's close. Here it is:

'Family Matters'

The king stood in the passage just outside the open door to his daughters ante chamber, and watched the ladies-in-waiting hover and fuss like a swarm of helpful bees attending to a single flower. "She is beautiful', he thought as the ladies primped and preened her in preparation for the betrothal feast, just a few hours away.
A son-in-law that would be the most beneficial alliance for the kingdom was not the foremost factor in the kings mind as he negotiated with the eligible men of the surrounding kingdoms, but it was high on the list. He wanted his only daughter to be happy, that was foremost. Ten kingdoms touched the boundaries of his own, or were within a days ride of it. All had varying degrees of hostility or cooperation with his land. Should he choose the son of his most trusted alliance and cement a relationship that was already strong, or pursue the son of his most heated rival and build a bridge to cooperation that had been difficult to achieve in the past? Would allying with this rival, then, offend his trusted friend, and thus shake a fundamental and valued relationship? Should he choose the dim witted, but handsome, youth of one king over the intelligent, but middle aged brother of another? None of the choices had been simple; all had potential repercussions that might prove to be undesirable.
He had made his decision and forged an alliance with one of the more distant kingdoms that produced much of the grain that his kingdom used; It had seaports and was strong in trade with distant, exotic countries. In addition to fields of grain and sailing ships, the kingdom had a prince, the heir to the thrown, a few years older than his daughter. The princess had accompanied the king and her older brother each autumn, since she was eight years old, as the king traveled to the foreign land to secure treaties and trade agreements. It would seem that the princess had been concealing an interest in the young prince for many years; when he presented the idea to the princess of marriage to this young man, she reacted with indifference, and replied, "My desire is to serve the kingdom. If this is what is expected of me, I can do nothing but comply with your wish."
'She will be a beautiful queen,' the king thought, proudly, as he heard her reply, her shining eyes putting the lie to her affected indifference.
The king turned from the door and walked toward the banquet room, where his trusted advisors and ministers were preparing to receive the prince and his envoy, in preparation for the official betrothal.
A scribe, red faced and perspiring sped down the passage and threw himself at the kings feet. "My Lord, I bring the gravest of news. The princes envoy was attacked as it passed through the eastern forests, and the prince was taken hostage. The rest of the entire party were killed, save a single squire. He reached our gates only this very hour. He said that there is a large contingent moving this way. He brought this emblem from a dead solder of the attacking party."
Mechanically, the king took the emblem form the messengers outstretched hand. He recognized it immediately and wanted to cast it down in disgust. The kings face paled then reddened in turns, as the implications of the attack clarified in his mind. "Rise, good servant." The king said gruffly. "Send word that all are to gather in the banquet hall within the hour. I must, now, speak to my daughter."
His son stood and all discussion ceased in the hall when the king entered. He was composed, but it was evident from his demeanor that the news was not easily received by his daughter. Emotionally drained and feeling all of his five and a half decades, he dropped into the large cushioned seat in the middle of the long banquet table; with a wave of his hand, he indicated that all who stood in attendance, should sit. "Father, will she be alright", the prince leaned in and whispered? He nodded an abbreviated half-nod to reassure his son.
All the choices were before the king, and he knew that a decision would need to be made quickly.
He looked, first, down the table to his left. There sat his minister of finance, the deep sense of unease clearly readable in her eyes. She saw his contemplative stare and quickly glanced down to the sheets of parchment on the table before her. She shuffled them about and acted as if she was reading them, hoping that this would divert the Kings attention elsewhere. Her lead accountant sat to her right, careful not to look up from his own notes. To her left sat her chief economist, blissfully unaware of the tension.
He then looked down the table to his right. His minister of trade sat between two of his long time friends, the guild masters of the bakeries and the blacksmiths.
Between these two groups were arrayed the various other ministers and advisors.
The king signalled to his steward who rang the dinner chime and the room was suddenly filled with servants rushing about to get the various platters and tureens onto the long banquet table within three of the kings deep, steadied breaths; they knew that he was counting, and were too familiar with the results, if the count was too long. The food on the table, the servants disappeared as quickly as they had come.
"Eat", the king declared when the last of the servants had left the banquet hall, "This was to be a celebration banquet, after all." He looked at the steaming entrées, a look of dismay growing on his face; sweet and sour soups, candied yams, and chocolate fondues. He looked at his ever expanding waist and at the dinner service again. 'All sweets', he thought, ' not a savory choice on the table. No wonder I'm getting so fat!'
He looked up from his evaluation of the table to see his dinner guests; The entire entourage sat, motionless, waiting for the king to be the first to eat; someone's stomach groaned loud enough for half the table to hear.
The noise startled the king from his contemplative stasis. With a heat he hadn't expected, he growled at his advisors, "Make your selections and eat. With an invading army approaching our lands, we've many decisions to make this evening, and none of them are savory." He slammed the table for emphasis and picked up a honey coated date ball to throw, sullenly, into his mouth. The dates were crunchy and sweet, yet difficult to swallow.
They all began to eat cautiously pondering the steps that must be taken to prepare for war.

Last weeks prompt was 'Cloud Storage'. I called my story 'The Shaman'. Here it is:

The Shaman
The old man was as grey and immobile as the granite on which he sat. His eyes were a shocking blue that matched the sky on clear winter days; clear and piercing like the icy crystal pools in high mountain streams. His skin hung loosely on him, as a robe many sizes too large.
Ancient. The oldest man's grandfather spoke of him as old. So old now, that he could not speak. Too old to raise his own hand to feed himself. Young men and women were sent from the villages to feed and care for him, and to hold his arms for him.
Every day, from spring equinox to that in the autumn, two young men came for the villages to place the staff in his weak and gnarled hands, and raise the old mans hands above his head, and hold them there.
Proud parents raised their boys to be strong and patient and prepared to raise the old mans hands. Boys and young men of all ages could be found as they walked from place to place, with their hands above their heads, holding a staff, increasing in strength and endurance, hoping to one day be selected to raise the old man's hands.
He sat on the granite ridge one thousand feet above the villages of the fertile plain. As he sat, hands folded neatly in his lap, he scanned the summer sky. As always, it remained clear and blue and still.
Young women, pure and chaste, fed him each morning, he didn't require much to sit and watch the sky. They brought him water and washed and trimmed his hair. They brought blankets for him when it was cold, and shaded him from the heat of the summer.
And each day, two young men; young, though physically mature; knelt at each side. Supporting elbow and wrist, they raised the old mans hands and staff over his head.
And held them there. Sometimes, they needed only hold them mans arms for a short period, but more often the task reached an hour or more.
As the arms were raised, the wind would rise in concert. The young men would lean into the wind to maintain their hold on the old man and his staff. With the wind, as it crossed the broad plain below, came clouds, boiling up to block out the sun and cast the earth into darkness; and rain.
The deluge was sudden and complete, creeks and rivers swelling and overflowing their banks. The old man with his attendants holding fast, chilled by the sudden downpour, searched the distant horizon, for the sign. Finding a break in the clouds, the afternoon sun peaked though, and the old man sighed; the cue to his young assistants that the days task was complete and they may relax.
Lowering arms and staff, the young men got to their feet, the clouds thinning suddenly and blowing away, leaving in its wake as sodden stillness, pristine and new. The young women came out to assist the young men. They worked together to dry the old man and help him into a clean robe.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I hate 'meh'.

Since I have been following flash fiction podcasts, and they regularly quote feedback on previously posted stories, I have become familiar with the ubiquitous comment of indifference, 'meh'. It seems, almost, a trite rite of passage to denigrate someones hard work with the single syllable of condescending indifference. I have even heard people incongruously use the vile three letters in as absurd display of their condescending arrogance, "..a great, big, resounding, MEH ...". Can they not say what they think, or is it more important to sound like they belong? This previous quote was not indifference, but dislike.

If I must use this 'non word' to join the tribe of flash fiction critics, I will, no doubt, remain outside their fraternity.

Friday, March 27, 2009

On being a Hero.

Why, when I was a kid.....

Our heroes were astronauts and athletes. The Beatles had just hit the U.S., so the Pop Superstar wasn't any ones goal. We looked up to athletes, like, Mark Spitz, Joe Namath and O. J. Simp...... Well, there is my point.

When did the hero step down from the podium. I have to look back on a few years ago when Brittany Spears was told that impressionable youth looked up to her as a role model. She denied that she was a role model.

My 100 word story is about Michael Phelps. The present day Mark Spitz, (He won a lot of medals in the Olympic swimming events.) Someone for kids to look up to. Eating right, working out, smoking pot at a college party.

I think that it has been a long time since heroes were heroes.

Here is my story:

Michael Phelps likes to do everything fast. Whether it is chopping vegetables, signing autographs or learning to speak Chinese, with Rosetta Stone.
On a flight to Europe the in-flight movie was Crocodile Dundee, and that gave him an idea. Redirecting his return flight through Egypt he went to the Nile to show Paul Hogan what he was made of. In his speedo, he jumped in to out swim the crocodiles.
His goal was to beat the records he set in the 2008 summer Olympics. Instead, in London, 2012, he'll be in the paralympics, competing as a double, below knee, amputee.

Working in the field of orthotics and prosthetics, I know a lot of heroes.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

100 word podcast - Wikipedia Wildcard

This week the weekly challenge at the 100 word story podcast turned out to be the first ever 'Wikipedia Wild card'. The idea is that you go to Wikipedia, click on random essay, and write about what comes up. I had only read the prompt on Saturday, and assumed that you had to write on the first essay you pulled up. I listened to the Podcast on Monday, and found that if you didn't like the prompt, you could keep trying, but you would have to list the ones that you didn't like.

My first try brought up the prompt, "People just like us." I went with this, not just because I didn't know that I could, 'reboot', but because it allowed me to address a thought that I have had for some time.

There is a website called where they have a hundred postcards of lynchings. I was so disturbed the first time I found the site, (referenced from a psychology podcast I had listened to), that I have often pondered; How would I have acted in the crowd? Would I have stood up in defiance of the mob? Would I have just skulked away? Or would I have moved along with the 'Righteous Wrath'?

In 100 words, I ask these questions. I will post that story here, after I upload it on Friday night.

Here it is:

It looked like the entire town came out for the event. There was a carnival atmosphere in the town square. People just like us gathered to view the lynching. See, here's the postcard. The black man raped a white girl; no one is sure who the girl is, but there were plenty of white witnesses. There was a grim fascination as they hauled him up and some commented and even laughed at how he thrashed about. They mutilated his body afterwards. It didn't seem right, what they did. But they were good people who did it, people just like us.

I changed my intro and bed music for it. I felt like it was too grim of a subject to have 'happyish' sounding blues. I converted it to mp3 and listened before uploading the story, to see if the music was too loud. I learned from my Christmas Haiku that if the music is too loud, you lose the entire story. It was too loud again, so I toned it down for the final upload to the 100 word story podcast.

As a post script I might point out how my attitudes toward people of african descent has changed since my youth. Having been raised in a primarily 'white' neighborhood, I thought that I had healthy racial attitudes. We only had about 5 black people at my high school of about 1200 students. However, I has quick to stereo type minorities, based on the prevailing attitudes of the mid 1970's.

Since that time I have spent 2 years living in South Africa, and then 5 years in the U.S. Army, including 3 years in Hawaii, which is a field experiment in racial stereotyping and prejudices.

I can't argue that I don't still have preconditioned attitudes, but I am not locked into them. If I find that I have an unhealthy attitude about a person or people, I truely, and honestly, try to identify if I am falling on old learned attitudes or if I have founded my own beliefs through personal experience.

Great Hites Prompt #45 - You are now in the Magic Quadrant

Here is this weeks submission to Great Hites. Many of the stories that I have written, I have felt confident with the first draft and did little editing. This one, on the other hand, took several days to wrtite, and two complete edits. It is still not quite how I wanted it, but it is close.

The Subway.

This was their station. Anyone that wanted to do business here; hookers, drug dealers, pickpockets; would first need to check in with the street gang's representative. There was at least one around the platform, anytime of day or night, and usually there were more. You probably didn't know that they were there, unless you needed to know it. They kept a close eye on all the action, and were quick to rally enough of a presence if some unknown player tried to leave the platform without paying the 'tax'. You could do business here, but running a business always had expenses.
The weekly meeting was about to begin as the 12:05 was pulling away. An unusual number of 'inconspicuous' men had gotten off the subway car just as it pulled away. One of them shouted, "Get your hands in the air!" as they all drew their guns. The new chief of police had declared that he would make the subways 'safe and family friendly' again, but no one expected that the crackdown on gang activities would begin this soon.
The invasion was a surprise, but the gang was not unprepared. Whenever they gathered for official business, and a number of the group would be together and thus at risk, they held an open phone line to one of the boys a few blocks away at a power relay station. He was standing ready to cut the power to the lights, in the event of an emergency, such as this one.
The cop had barely barked his command and the lights were out.
There was a large enough wave of gang members surging up the stairway to the street that the few officers at the top were bowled over, unwilling to shoot into the suddenly dark platform below, the youth and young adults melted into the crowd on the street.
Blocked from escape up the stairway, a group of youth jumped down to the tracks and ran along the rails hoping to find a ladder to the street or some other alcove or utility room where they could hide. Small blue lights placed along one wall every twenty yards generated a faint silver light that gleamed on the steel rails to guide them. The tunnel filled with the shrill whine of an electric rail car that they could not yet see. The four boys raced forward in a desperate effort to find safety from the rapidly approaching inevitable death.
A burst of wind lifted them from the ground and hurtled them forward ahead of the subway car, battering the young men against the walls of the tunnel and rolling them across the ground. The rail car was upon them. They should be torn apart, their bodies mangled between the rail car and the walls of the tunnel, their limbs and torsos severed by the heavy steel wheels as they were drawn beneath the train.
But they weren't.
They got to their feet, dusted themselves off, and looked around. They could hear the subway car fading into the distant tunnel. The blue lights were gone and someone was missing, but they couldn't figure out who it was. They limped along through the dark, following the fading sound of the train.
The sound of the train didn't fade completely away, but stopped suddenly and left only the a ringing silence in their ears. They stood panting not knowing which way to go, with out light or sound to guide them. Very far off, and very faint, came the sound of a single hammer on a bell. But not a bell, and not a hammer, only similar. They stumbled forward in the direction of that single sound, stumbling over unseen rubble, bumping into unexpected turns in the walls. Then the sound again, still distant, and still faint, but not quite as much, so. They increased their pace for a time, but finding their route impeded more frequently with blocks of stone, and twisted pieces of metal, they slowed, and proceeded with a sliding shuffling gait, hands gripping one another's shirts or belts.
They inched along slowly, the temperature increasing in the tunnel with every step. Eventually, in the distance they could make out a dim light, glowing faintly as if from around a corner. Creeping forward they began to make out the objects they had been stumbling over; blocks of stone and broken and rusting rails. The increasing light allowed them to move forward much faster. The sound came again, much louder this time, not nearby, but much closer than before. The sound came again and again in rapid succession; like a tap, tap, tapping, on a metal pipe; and then stopped.
Red light glowed far down the tunnel and they moved toward it with determination, their path increasingly more visible as they traveled. The ringing sounds came more often and were joined by similar sounds, some distant, some close.
They reached the opening in the side of the tunnel where brilliant red light lit up the tunnel. Carefully they peered into the opening, shading their eyes from the intense light. The walls of the room were covered with rubies, each facet reflecting and multiplying the lanterns of the men that worked in the room. The hairy men were short, but wide and had massively muscled arms and shoulders. They were shirtless and wore either leather breaches, or knee length tartan kilts. They hammered metal spikes into the wall of rubies with heavy sledge hammers.
The men stopped to look at the three interlopers, who stood, dumbfounded. The leader of the miners grinned, "You three there!" He boomed with at deep broagh, "You've a choice to make. The dragon will be coming down that tunnel where you stand, in just a few moments. She'll eat you before you've felt her rotten breath on your scrawny necks." It was true, they could hear the pounding of great footfalls echoing down the tunnel, increasing in volume as the creature rapidly approached.
Calmly the squat giant continued, "You can remain where you are and die soon, or enter, here and help us mine fresh rubies for the dragons bed; at which time she will most likely eat you. Quickly boys, you're in the magic quadrant now, and decisions must be made with out delay."
The youth were baffled, the situation was too far outside their understanding and experience; their confusion made their choice for them.
The speaker turned back to his mates, "Well, men, that wont hold her for very long. Let's get back to work and see if we can get enough rubies to satisfy her ."

Friday, March 13, 2009

All the back stories

I am going to put all the back stories that I have written for the Great Hites Prompt, except, of course, those that I have just posted today, already.

Here it goes. My first story; I mentioned it in a previous post, but I don't think I posted the story; was a bout the space elevator:

Great Hites prompt #35 "The first space elevator, just rained it's first cargo all over the desert, now for the first passenger."

"Third floor, men's lingerie, rubber baby buggy bumpers, right handed smoke benders," Jeremy said as the box began its' climb up the composite ribbons. The three other occupants of the space elevator, white faced and white knuckled, eyed him nervously, not sharing his humor.
Jeremy sat buckled in his safety seat, the one in the north east corner, the same one he had sat in for the last twenty three climbs. He had said his same little joke to himself each of those twenty three climbs as well. This was his first climb with an audience; with passengers.
At the low orbit station Jeremy had found, through casual conversation with the other lift pilots, that he was not the only one who had developed silly rituals for the climbs and descents. Superstition wasn't dead in the days of the space elevator, and anything that would add a little extra luck wasn't going to be scoffed at.
Especially since the failure, last spring, that left the contents of the space elevator spread across the desert. He remembered the scathing headlines in the local and national papers. "Now for humans?" The journalists were asking. Since that accident some of the pilots had even taken up the archaic ritual of praying to a god.
Jeremy kept his luck rituals; his jokes, sitting in the same safety seat every time, eating chicken for dinner the night before the climb. He didn't want to become known as the pilot of the first manned lift to come down.
Ground people didn't really understand, anyway. Space elevators were still new technology. Really, they were still mostly experimental.
He had to sign liability wavers, and 'no fault clauses' just to apply for the program. Heck, his parents, and even his little sister, had to sign affidavits saying that they wouldn't sue for anything, in the event of 'lift failure.'
He remembered, as a child, the space shuttle, Challenger, disaster. His father was stationed at a military base in Hawaii at the time, and Ellison Onizuka, the first Hawaiian astronaut, was on the flight. Jeremy could remember monument of flowers at the Punch Bowl Cemetery, in Honolulu, that was set up in Onizuka's honor.
Would they make such a monument for him if his box crashed?
His stomach lurched and he broke out in a cold sweat. How could he have allowed himself to think that? Had he just jinxed himself? Twenty three climbs and he had never allowed himself to think about death. And now with passengers!
It was their fault. The passengers didn't understand luck. They had never climbed the ribbon before. They hadn't performed any rituals. They were going to bring the lift down and spread bits of their DNA across the desert at the lifts base; theirs and his.
Panic overwhelmed him, pressure was bearing down on his chest, and he struggled for breath against the straps and buckles of the safety seat.
His worst fears were realized when there was a sudden jolt, a hiss of air and the straps holding him to the seat released him to rocket toward the ceiling of the box, in the weightlessness of space.
The door to the lift opened. Jeremy steadied himself with a handhold on the bulkhead. He smiled weakly and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, huddled masses and wretched refuse, welcome to Ellis Island, you're in America,
now," and directed his passengers onto the space station.

The next week was a prompt about 'bringing an army of darkness to work'. I don't think he ment to the actual work place, though I did give it some thought. Instead, I have been listening to a lot of podcasts about astronomy, and I thought that you couldn't get anything darker than a black hole, so I wrote my story about one super massive black hole and his experiences in relationships in high school.

I was a teen age super massive black hole. It was really hard to fit in in high school. At a time in my life when I should be developing relationships, some that should last my lifetime, no one wanted to get close to me.
I was attractive, if I might say so myself, maybe too attractive. As a quasi stellar object with an impressive accretion disk, I could be a bit overwhelming. I had an appetite to match my size and I consumed whatever I could reach.

There was one little variable star with an oblique orbit that used to wink at me when she passed by. At times she was kind of cute and then at times she was really hot. When I got a clear look at her one orbit I realized that she was actually they. She and her sister were binary stars; twin sisters. Let me tell you, either of them would have brightened my life.
In retrospect, it never would have worked with the twins. Their orbit was long and, as I said, oblique. Then I found that they had a couple of gas giants in close orbit. Hot gas giants! How was I supposed to compete with that?
Eons have passed since the days of high school. My accretion disk is all but gone, and with it any potential for visible light. Sure, there is a bit of infrared and some x-ray echoes bouncing around the galaxy, but nothing to draw any real attention. And I know, I am the center of a massive galaxy with numberless stars and planets swirling around me.
I am an accumulation of the billions of stars, the cosmic dust and galactic debris that I have consumed.
There I was, voted most likely to become an army of darkness to bring my infinite work of destruction to the universe. But the facts are, I am a dark, essentially invisible, lonely mass, isolated in the vast emptiness of space.

My third Great Hites, was a prompt about the News from pokeepsie. I don't remember how that related, but this is the story I submitted. I liked it a lot, myself.

The Prison
The walls of the prison cell were exactly as you would expect them; slime and black moss grew in the water percolating through the walls and oozing down to pool on the floor. The air in the cell was humid and smelled of rot, but it wasn't cold. Not this deep in the cellars of the prison, with in the very foundation of the mountain, upon which the tyrants castle was built.
The prisoner sat naked on the floor of the cell. His clothes had rotted away years ago. His grey hair matted with filth reached nearly to the floor where he sat leaning against the locked wooden door.
He waited for the sound of approaching boots on the stone floor, outside the door. When had he last heard them, and the sound of the metal plate as it was shoved through the gap under the door?
He couldn't know, in the perpetual dark, during this one eternal night. But he had eaten, he thought, he must have, because he was still alive, having lived long enough for his clothes to rot away and his hair and beard to grow almost to his waist.
He tested the shackle around his ankle. The iron cuff bit into and wanted to tear the thin skin as he pulled on it to test the strength of the chain. The chain, long enough to allow him to reach the door, but not go through. Go through? But it wouldn't open. The metal plate would just scape the floor as it was pushed under the door.
The door was locked, or at least he assumed that it was. He knew it was, didn't he? He must have tried the door in the countless years that he had spent in the cell, with his clothes rotting off and his hair growing down his back.
He stood on weak and trembling legs, his knees threatening to buckle under his meager weight. He leaned against the door, supporting himself as search for a knob or handle. But the door, at the prisoners touch, creaked on rusted hinges as it opened into the dimly lit passage.
Unbelieving, he stepped forward and the chain fell away from his ankle. He ventured tentatively, into the passage, outside the cell. The hallway stretched off into darkness on both sides, the torch near the open door casting only a small pool of light on the floor where he bent trying to catch his breath, panting in anticipation. He stretched his arms and legs to loosen joints stiff from inactivity and felt a sharp pinch at the bend of his arm, like the bite of a spider. His head started to spin and his sight, even in the darkness, filled with a brilliant blinding white. He fell to the floor and rolled onto his back, breathing hard, trying to ease the sudden nausea.
He lay still for a moment, then slowly opened his eyes. His head was resting on something soft. He turned his head to the side luxuriating in the suppleness of the linen and the fragrance of its' cleanness. Beside him sat a woman. She looked familiar, but she was much older than a woman he had known. How long ago had he known her? She looked so kind, with lines of concern at the corners of her eyes and across her brow.
She saw him looking at her and she smiled. She reached out to run her hand through his long greying hair. "Dale, honey, you're awake," she quietly exclaimed! "They didn't think it would happen so quickly." She stood and kissed his forehead. Turning to the phone, she said, "I have to call the kids, there are grandchildren now, too. They will want to say hello. It has been so long." She paused with the phone held halfway to her ear, "The doctors don't know how long the drug will last, they have never tried it on humans before."
She was punching numbers on the phone as the blackness crept in from the edges of his vision, to steal his wife away and plunge him back into the cell, under the castle in the foundation of the mountain, with the slime and moss growing on the walls where the water percolated through and oozed down to pool on the floor.

The next prompt was "The cold was shocking" and I wrote a long story about a homeless man as he tries to make his way from Los Angeles to Sacramento.

December in Modesto was foggy and cold. He shivered in his light jacket, standing outside the entrance of the hospital, directions to the Gospel Mission crumpled in his hand.
He couldn't believe that he had left Los Angeles . It was warm there, in Mid October, when he had set off to the north.
Traveling north had been painfully slow. Travelers were hesitant to pick up hitch hikers these days; especially old ones. He remembered the days of his youth with fondness, hitch hiking with friends around the country, eventually arriving in Southern California. He fell in love with the ocean and warm nights on the beach instantly.
In a short time all of his friends moved on. They went back to college, or to their home towns or just to work.
He had tried to work; odd jobs. But something, or someone, a co-worker, or a customer, something would get under his skin and make him angry and he would blow up and break something, and he would be back on the street.
But the street was good. It was open and uncomplicated, and there were no walls to press in on him, no people that would require him.
He might have to ask for spare change to get a drink now and then, but there were always people on their way somewhere, or nowhere, to make panhandling worth while.
But he was old now. How old was he? fifty, sixty? He remembered Kennedy getting shot, LSD and Viet Nam, and all that was in the 60's.
It was getting harder to sleep, too. His neck and back hurt him all the time, so every night he had to find a comfortable place to sleep; couldn't just sprawl out on the sand. And it was getting dangerous too. Kids, teenagers, they don't hitch hike for a thrill anymore, they beat up old men.
He was heading north to Sacramento. He had a brother there, or he did years ago. He had to go there and find him.
He made it to Bakersfield in the back of a pickup with a load of old tires. He heard the driver talking on his cell phone while getting gas at a station where he often pan handled. He hadn't truly decided to leave L.A. until he heard that driver. "Yeah Buddy! I got this load of tires I'm taking over the grape vine to Bakersfield. Meet me there and I'll take you all the way to Sac."
The driver said he was going all the way to Sacramento. He had a brother there! Here was his chance and he took it. He squeezed in among the tires, not thinking past Bakersfield, where the tires were going to be unloaded.
In Bakersfield he was quickly discovered among the tires by the unsympathetic driver, who ranted about the fines he would have received if the man had been noticed by the highway patrol, riding in the back of his pickup. When he asked the driver if he could catch a lift to 'Sac', to find his long lost brother, he was told to take a hike. He stood in the gloom of the setting sun, in the parking lot of a west Bakersfield service station, hundreds of miles from the beach, and his destination.
He started to walk north. He thought, 'The guy told me to take a hike, maybe I'll just walk all the way there.' He soon found, however, that his shoes, worn with out socks, wore blisters on his ankles, his back started to pain, and he got hungry and tired quickly. He had to find another ride, he would die long before he could walk that far.
He was in Bakersfield for weeks, and with each passing day it got colder. He found a Good Will collection station. People would drop off bags of clothes, and trash, during the night knowing that the store staff would have to deal with it when they opened the doors in the morning. He waited in the shadows and then rummaged through each bag that was left there until he found two coats; one thick and warm, and the other, light but waterproof. He also found a comfortable pair of boots and even a pair of socks.
The week of thanks giving arrived to find him asking for spare change at the northern end of town. One man, about to give him a dollar, changed his mind and told him he would take him to lunch, so that he wouldn't 'drink away' the money he would have received. That was fine, he was hungry enough, and during the lunch conversation the philanthropist introduced himself as a Pentecostal Minister of a small congregation just north of Fresno, and was returning home after doing some charity service in northern Baja California.
The man explained his plight to the minister who replied that he would gladly take him as far as he was going for the small price of 'listening to the Word of God'.
He rode in the ministers 1986 Plymouth K car and listened as the Word of God deteriorated into a discourse on the evils of this world, from mostly innocuous to the most vile. And it became clear that many of the evils that the minister found the most reprehensible were some that he had the most personal experience with. But he dozed and listened as they traveled north past each of the small towns, the minister pontificating on social injustices and the lack of moral response. They finally reached the small town a few miles past Fresno, the minister pulling the K car into the gravel parking lot of a long rectangle of a building that served as both, the ministers home and meeting house.
From the parking lot of the church he could see the highway and began to walk toward it. Reaching the frontage road that parallelled the north bound lane of high way 99, he stopped. His feet and ankles ached with arthritis. He sat on the edge of the asphalt road, with his feet resting in a shallow ditch, the dead dry grass of the long ago spring broken off and blown away by the wind, a thin carpet of short, new grass, beaded with moisture from the valley fog. His mind returned to the beaches of Southern California.
He used to surf all day, and then sleep under the piers next to his surf board. There were bonfires on the beach, and barbecues, and even women looking for companionship. He could be companionable for a short time, but then even the most pleasant woman would start to get on his nerves, and he would spend a day surfing and working his way north or south along the coast, and find a new place to hang out.
Surfers always shared food with him, if they had it. And if they didn't he could walk between the beach towels, and blankets and coolers until he could find something edible to swipe. He never tried to take money or valuables, that could land him in jail, but no one would call the cops over a bite of food. He could flash a winning smile that would lite up his darkly tanned face that would win people over and they would give him a beer to go with the sandwich he just tried to take.
He couldn't surf anymore and the stumbling old bum drew too much attention to surreptitiously spy out food in the baskets and coolers of swimmers and beach loungers.
He looked through the wire fence that ran between the freeway and the frontage road and watched the light fog swirl and eddy along behind the cars and trucks. To the north was an overpass for one of the small country roads where it met the freeway. He could see that there was a minivan parked under the overpass, and the various sized people of a small family were milling about the vehicle.
He found a hole in the wire fence and crawled through, and walked the hundred yards to where the family gathered to watch him approach. The mother was speaking to the children in Spanish. He had surfed with enough Mexicans to know just a few words, and thought hard to put a question together. "Va norte?" he finally asked. They began to speak among themselves much faster than he could follow, but eventually it appeared that they agreed to take him on as a passenger. They waited for him to climb in the back seat and sit next to a broken out window that was taped over with a plastic sheet. The noise of the plastic sheet increased, the wind threatening to tear it from the van as the driver accelerated onto the highway. Accordions and tuba blared from the the AM radio, and children laughed and fought with one another all to the rhythmic flapping of the plastic sheet of the window.
Suddenly he was waking up as the car was pulling off the freeway. The driver pulled over and wished him, 'buena suerte', 'good luck', and opened the sliding side door of the mini van to allow him out. He watch the car disappear into the fog in the distance as it headed for the families home.
He walked back over the overpass, looking for a comfortable place to panhandle or try to hitch another ride, when he saw that the freeway was crossing over a river that flowed through the center of this town. The fog was getting thicker and a cold drizzle was sticking to his hair and beard.
He followed the side of the freeway toward where the river flowed underneath and found that there were others that had also sought refuge from the damp fog under the bridge. There were three men sitting around a small fire which they fed with bits of wood broken from wooden pallets that they had stolen from a nearby storage yard. He greeted the men and approached to warm himself at the fire. They eyed him with calculating glares. Crouching close to the fire, the warmth quickly penetrated his thin trousers, and he began to feel much more comfortable, if not entirely welcome. He hadn't known that there was a forth man in the little party until stars burst across his vision as the unseen companion slammed a river rock against the back of his head. His consciousness was fading away, and he wondered if he was dieing, until he hit the water. The cold was shocking. The conspirators had stolen his two coats, his boots and his socks and thrown him into the Tuolumne River, assuming that he was probably dead, or would be soon enough.
The Tuolumne River, whose origins were high in Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, had much of its water diverted to provide drinking water for the San Francisco Bay Area, and for irrigation of farms throughout the central valley of California. By the time it passed through the city of Modesto it was usually a sluggish trickle, but recent heavy rains in the foot hills had risen its level and increased its speed markedly. Instead of allowing him to sink placidly to the bottom of the river, the rapid current quickly dragged him across the river where it made a sharp turn to the south and promptly lodged him in the brambles of the western bank.
In a haze of pain and cold he struggled up the bank, shoeless, to collapse on the road at the top. A grounds keeper from a nearby golf course saw the prone form laying in the street when the beams of his trucks headlights fell upon the old man. He covered the man with a blanket from the back seat of his Club Cab, and waited by the unconscious form until medical assistance arrived.
The nurse asked him questions as she cleaned the top of his head in preparation for the arrival of the plastic surgeon who would oversee the reapplications of much of his scalp. "Name?" she asked. "Um. Joe, I think." She frowned, "Last name?" He paused, "I don't think I have one anymore," he mumbled thoughtfully. "Address?" she asked. He sighed, longing for the beach, "Los Angeles." "And the street address", exasperation sounding clearly in her voice? "Any one of them, just take your pick," and he sighed, wishing she would stop asking him questions.
It was foggy and cold, the morning in Modesto, when they discharged him from the hospital, with a donated pair of shoes, a light jacket, and directions to the Gospel Mission.
He had a brother in Sacramento, or at least he used to, and he started walking toward the freeway.

Another of my favorites came the next week with the following prompt:

The flames leapt higher than they would have thought possible.

This is another story I hope to develope, as future prompts allow.

"Henry, lean in here, closer with that lantern."
"Yes, Lord John." Henry said, lowering the lantern toward the ground where the younger man knelt on the ground, arranging an assortment of sticks. The sticks were all of similar lengths, though cut from different thicknesses. "Are you sure that it is vital that they be arranged in such an order?"
Lord John stopped what he was doing and looked up, into the grey eyes of his long time servant. He was feeling frustration welling up in him, and his first response was to unleash it on this faithful older man, but caught himself before saying something that he would regret. "Yes, my friend, it is vital that each stick be placed in its' proper position, or this entire exercise will be pointless," he said instead.
"Here are 77 sticks, cut from the straightest willows growing along the most curved parts of the Forest River. 28 of the thicker sticks are arrange as you see here, 2, then 3, then 5 then 7, and at last 11. You see? They are the first five prime numbers, their sum being 28. Then atop that structure, the thinner sticks, 13, then 17, then 19. The next three prime number, the sum of them all being 77. The numbers are vital."
"Yes my lord," Henry said, the scepticism clearly apparent in his voice.
"Look around you. We have found the deepest part of the forest, where the pines grow so straight and tall that the moonlight will only light this small glade, directly, for a few minutes at midnight. That time approaches, look up. The legend says that a flame started at midnight, from the willow wood of the Forest River, arranged as we are doing so, here, will summon the spirit of the forest, and it will be bound to do our will until the next full moon. That is all the time we need to be able to exact our revenge and re-establish our prominence throughout this country side, for the rest of our lives."
Henry looked up to see that the light of the full moon was, in fact, working its' way down the trees on the western side of the small glade. In minutes the moon would be directly over head.
"We must work quickly," Lord John said, now feeling the pressure to complete the structure with sufficient time.
He placed the final stick as the moonlight touched the ground at the base of the giant tree just feet away. "Henry," he gasped, the light is upon us, bring the flame, now!" He was almost in a panic to begin the ritual. Henry stumbled, the lantern swinging wildly on its' chain, but was able to right himself and offer the flame to his master.
Lord John opened the lantern door and quickly lit a small willow twig from a coal with in. He eased the burning twig under the stacked pyre the moment the light from the full moon rested atop the structure. Though the willow boughs were green and wet the flame caught instantly. With blinding intensity the pyre was engulfed in the fire. The flames leapt higher than they would have thought possible and Henry wondered if escape would even be possible if the flames jumped to the surrounding forest.
Then, as quickly as it had begun, the flames faded and were gone, the wooden structure was intact and uncharred.
Upon the wooden structure sat a small girl, her iridescent gown flowing down the sides of the alter, covering her legs, except for the tips of her bare toes.
She sat, immobile, with her head down, and tilted to the side, her unfocused gaze directed at the forest floor. The expression on her face seemed ,at once, passive and immobile, yet changing at each instant; at once disinterested, then distraught, offended, sad, impatient, and contemptuous.
"It's just a little girl," Henry exclaimed. For the smallest fraction of a second she glanced in Henry's directions. A short sigh and small sob escaped her lips, ruby red against milk white skin.
She was small, true enough, and though her gown was in no way revealing, she was a woman of obvious maturity. "Henry, this in no girl, this is..." Lord Johns words were lost in a sudden roar of winds that burst around the two men, who crouched near the small woman. The air was still in the vortex of the storm, but only yards away trees were shattered and blown down; branches, dirt and other debris were pick up by the whirl wind and spun around the small clearing. Just as the two men began to despair that the winds would change and draw them in to a terrible death, the wind abated and the flying debris settled to the ground. The destruction was immense and spread for almost a quarter mile in all directions.
Henry knelt next to the placid diminutive woman, his mouth hanging open, disbelief in his eyes.
"Henry, Fortune has smiled upon us," Lord John said, a grin slowly spreading across his face, "This is no little girl! This is a woman scorned. Hell hath no fury.....".

The next prompt was, "It's only tuesday". This was a fun one to write as well. There is a lot of talk about the end of hte world coming in 2012, when the Mayan callender comes to an end. It was fun to mix in this superstition with scientific favorites like the cosmic microwave background.

Inside Joke

The death row prisoner, Harvey Banks, sat inside his cell and smiled. He had an inside joke. His execution was scheduled for December of this year, 2012, but he wasn't worried. He had been counting down the days for years, now, and the big day, the day of the big joke, was only three days away.
The elements of his plan were coming together this Friday, everything was set.
He had been working on this plan since 2004. To make it all happen, he knew it, even back then, he would need a big bank roll, and nothing traded in this prison like cigarettes. Cancer stick currency, the insiders called it. He quit smoking and started saving. It took him a whole year to actually quit. It's hard to not smoke in prison, where everyone does, the smoke is always around you, inviting you back into the habit. He couldn't let anyone know that he had stopped smoking, so that he could get even more 'cash'. "Hey buddy, can I bum a cig from you?" He would ask around after every meal, and stash away a few extra each day. "Got a light?" he would ask, but then not light it, just let it hang in his mouth. Occasionally, someone would catch him at it, "You gonna smoke that thing?" They would ask, and he would reply with, "I'm trying to quit, I wanna be healthy when I go to the chair," and they would laugh together, but he would laugh all the better at his inside joke.
Eight years earlier, almost to the day, he had received the first message. He hadn't believed it at first; thought it was his imagination. He heard it in the static from his fm radio. He knew about static. You get plenty of free time in prison, if you call sitting in your cell free. It gives you a chance to catch up on all the reading you didn't get to do, as busy as you were, on the outside.
Banks had always been fascinated by the stars that you couldn't see really well in the city where he lived. But in the prison library, they had a whole shelf of astronomy books, with pictures of the stars that he never gotten to see. He took the books back to his cell and started to read about the universe, and was fascinated. He talked so much about the things that he read that the inmates gave him a nickname, which doesn't bear repeating in polite company, but alluded to his astronomical interests.
Messages were encoded in the static caused by the cosmic microwave background radiation. He listened to the static each night, at the same time, for a week. He wasn't crazy, or imagining this, he was receiving instructions from extraterrestrial life. Their message was this; They were coming back on the winter solstice of 2012, when the Mayan calendar comes to its end, and they are going to vaporize the earth. They would do it, too, because they weren't pleased with how the earth was doing. These beings had interacted with the Maya, centuries ago, and had given them instructions regarding the proper preparation of the earth for their arrival of their own descendents, centuries into the future. They warned the Maya that if they, the aliens, were displeased, they would vaporize the earth and start over. They even gave the Maya a date; winter solstice, 2012.
The static encoded message gave directions to all who could understand, how they could be rescued from the doomed planet. All who would be saved must be ready, atop a building or mountain, four weeks before the day of annihilation; just three days away.
"It's only Tuesday," he said to the guard, passing outside his cell. The guard didn't miss a beat as he paced by the cell, he had heard worse comments than that all day, and Banks sat is his cell and laughed.
A guy in laundry owed him a favor and agreed to leave him in the facility at the close of business. He could gain access to the roof through an air vent, and since it was six floor up, with no possible way down, the spot lights would never cross it to find him there.
He had carefully selected the proper guard for collusion, and had to offer him his entire stash of cigarettes. Guards were limited to one pack of cigarettes that they could bring into the prison each day, to prevent them from trading with the prisoners; keeping them honest. Five years worth of cigarettes was enough to turn any small time guard into a major player, who then could get cooperation from the bosses of the even largest gangs in the prison. He had promised the guard that he only wanted this one chance to view his beloved night sky, before his execution, and would return to his cell, or more likely. solitary, in the morning when apprehended on the rooftop; but, of course, he would be gone. He kept a straight face during these negotiations, there was no one in the prison who was worthy to share his inside information; let them be vaporized with the rest of the world.
Friday night everything went exactly as planned. He was left, hiding in a bin or clean towels, at 8:00 pm, when the laundry was locked for the night. He waited quietly in the dark room until all sound had died away in building before opening the vent in the ceiling and working his way to the roof. At the 9:00 pm and midnight cell checks, his empty bunk was carefully overlooked.
He had checked the lunar tables and knew that at midnight the waxing moon would be directly overhead. As the moon approached its zenith Banks boldly stood in the center of the rooftop with arms out stretched, head back, looking up into the night sky, expectantly. Waiting, his neck began to get stiff, and at times he had to bend over and stretch out the muscle cramps. Other times, he began to get dizzy, the stars over head spinning around him as he lost balance and tried to catch himself before falling to the rooftop.
Eventually, reality settled in. The moon was descending toward 3:00 am and his alien rescuers had not come for him. The guards would be changing shift and the prison would soon be on alert to a missing prisoner. He sat on a ventilation conduit, his face in his hands, dejected.
The fresh guard quickly reported the missing prisoner and the search began. The investigation rapidly revealed the escape route through the laundry room ceiling to the roof above. Guards stormed up the stairway and through the access to the roof. Spot lights crossed and searched every inch of the roof.
They found Harvey Banks right shoe on the roof under the ventilation conduit, but a thorough search of the entire prison and the country side for miles around yielded nothing more.

The following week was my Ganymede story with the prompt, "They watched as day turned to night". In this case the sun was passing behind the planet Jupiter. The darkest time of the entire day on Ganymede, if you are on the planet side of the moon, would be this period when the son was blocked by the planet. And even then, Jupiter gives off light of its own.

The following week, the prompt was supplied by Justin, the Space Turtle. "At the largest bookstore in the city" I started off with a mysterious sounding description of the basement, but then, couldn't help myself and lightend it up.

The Basement Room
At the largest book store in the city there is a basement where nothing is stored. The books go right onto the shelves, if it is stored away, no one can buy it. There is dust on the basement floor, no one goes there to clean, why clean a room that is never used?
There is a trail through the dust where many feet have walked from the bottom of the stairs to a room at the far end; there is a little window in it, that slides open when you knock and wait long enough.
I went there once, that room in the basement. I knocked at the door and waited. Ancient eyes with deep crows feet peered through the and asked the questions that I couldn't answer. He just closed the little window and I walked away, back along the path through the dust.
Someone called out to me as I reached the stairs. He invited me back to enter the room.
The room was filled with the smell of decay and old men in strange hats. Some wore robes and one man, apparently, wore nothing but long hair and beard. His eyes twinkled.
Cackling, the man at the head of the table stood, thrusting his finger at another, coughing, spittle sprayed from his lips. "Roll the dice," he shouted, his laughter raising in fervor and pitch. "You're dead", he shrieked gleefully, even before the dice tumbled to a stop, "You're all dead!"
All the men at the table screamed; some jumping to their feet to lean hunchbacked over the table, others too week to stand just swayed and howled from their seats, the intensity of the argument increasing by the moment.
My escort turned to me and winked, "Twenty five years we've been in here. Longest game of D&D in history."
I nodded and left the room as he turned back to the assemblage, "Order some more pizza, and roll new characters, it's my turn to be Dungeon Master."

The next two prompts, I have already mentioned, were about Mr. Gorbachev, and Belly Button Lint.

I am cought up with Great Hites now. I hope to put these stories in, weekly. Though since no one, except maybe Lisa, reads this, it doesn't really matter.

This weeks Great Hites Prompt

This week for the Great Hites prompt, it was something about "Scientists discovered the reason for belly button lint", or words to that effect.

This is the first week that I wrote an entire story, though not very long, didn't like it, and wrote a different one.

They both follow, in that order:

Enquiring minds

"It's the higs boson," he said, not looking up from the newspaper article. "Now, where is the rest of hte artticle!" he sighed. "Oh, continued on page 26. Whu can't they just write an artyicle and complete it on the same page?"
"I don't know why you insist on readign the at stuff. It's all tripe, you know." She said , turning hte dial on the small black and white TV. "The really valuable infromation is in this box." She switched the long antentae on the back until it cracked and the picture appeared from the static.
"Soupy Sales for the block," the television blurted. 'Click, click', she turned the dial. "Can I get U.S. presidents for 400, Pat?" a womans voice asked.
"Here it is, page 26. There's no number on the page....You have to countfive pages of adds from page number 21. I can't believe it! These people don' have a clue!"
"No kidding, Bob. Look at the front of that rag! 'B1 bomber found on Mars'. These people haven't made it to Mars yet, they only go to the moon five years ago."
"Right, and 'Giant Cat Eats Chicago'. How can they even print this; Don't you think that the people of Chicago would notice that something was missing?" He shook his head and continued, "Well, in 40 years when they get the Large Heydron Collider running, they'll figure it out."
"What, the dark matter, anti matter inconsistency?"
"No, that it's the higs boson that holds things together on the sub-atomic level. Some clown here thinks that that there are tiiny hairs on the body that direct lint from other areas of the body, and causes it to accumulate in the bellly button. It is obviously a componat of quantum mechanics, that should be obvious, even if they haven't found the higs boson.
"Oh. Right. Well, anyway, we're running out of time. It's only six months until the next time ripple. If we can't get to Elvis and get him realdy to go, we'll be stuck in theis backward century for another 20 years."
He shrugged, "That wouldn't be so bad, we could learn to disco dance." Then he thought about what he had just said; "No," he said standing up, "lets get some bus tickets to Nashville and see if we can find 'The King'."


Her long silver hair was held behind her head with a golden clip in the shape of a dragon fly; the craftsmanship so intricate and detailed that a person would want to approach slowly to get a close look at the golden creature before it startled and flew away.
She sat as still as a pearl white marble statue, bent over the microscope on the antique golden oak desk; her gossamer lab coat, an iridescent waterfall, cascading from her shoulders.
Her lab assistant stepped into the room; he was older than her, though not grey at all; his hair and eyebrows, jet black, in contrast to his milk white skin. "Jenesse," he interrupted, "I have the spectography reports." But she silenced him, slowly raising a single long index finger into the air and holding it immobile next to her petite, pointed, right ear.
She sat up from the microscope and took the report from her lab assistant, Farland. Glancing over it briefly, recognition and understanding clear on her beautiful and youthful face.
"You have identified the substance," it was a statement, not a question.
"Yes," Jenesse replied, "It's lint. Belly button lint. The human scientists believe that they have found the reason that it accumulates there; there are fine, task specific, hairs that direct the lint to the belly button."
Farland smile wryly, and said," Can you imagine having that much body hair?"
Jenesse nodded and replied, "Can you imagine having a belly button?"
They both turned to look at the bell jar on the desktop next to the microscope; the toxic wad of fuzz, inconspicuous and inert in the vacuum.
They shuddered.

Ganymede, Part 3

Here is the most recent addition to the Ganymede story line. It is this weekends entry for 100 word story, weekly challenge. It starts the story from the Callista side.

The prompt was, "What would Gandhi do?" I hope that it is clear how my story addresses the prompt.

The president of the United Federation of Callisto watched the invading fleet from Ganymede landing their ships on the fragile surface of his moon. They were here to enslave more of his people; unwary farmers in the upper tunnels were the likely victims. Their common ancestors came from Earth 500 million years ago; libraries deep within Callisto's tunnel system held records of their histories. Ganymede must not know of Earth's ancient social reforms; or not care. Soon, he must make a decision; continued non-violent civil disobedience or military retaliation. He re-read the launch protocol to initiate an inter-moon nuclear assault.

Ganymede Part 2

The second story in my Ganymede 'Experament' came a few weeks after the first when Jeff introduced the prompt about Pres. Reagan in Germany calling for Gorvachev to 'tear down this wall'. My original plan was to include clips of Winston Churchill, Desmond Tutu, and Martin Luther King, Jr, with the Reagan clip. But I could only find the MLK and inserted the Reagan quote first, and then the MLK, "I have a dream..."

Here is the story:

Ganymede, Part II

Julie was angry. Her father was away, off moon, on another business trip, her mother had gone off to do her community service, and Julie was left at home to watch her new slave do chores. The allure of having a personal servant had worn off in just a few days, and became a shackle around her own leg. This girl couldn't understand her language, so any instruction to her required complex pantomime that nearly wore her out; she might as well do the work herself.
Besides, the little thing was ugly; virtually hairless with light blue eyes and skin to match; skin that was soft and squishy, like over ripe fruit. She wasn't beautiful and dark with a tough, thick, hide, like Julie was. She rubbed at the thick carpet of short hair that covered the top and back of her head, down her neck and over most of her back. Julie badly wanted to go down to the ground level to explore, but her slave couldn't endure the radiation like her own people; had these creatures lived underground on their moon?
She went to her desk and spinning the top half of the smooth orb, she turned on her music player. Static. The magnetic waves between the planet and its moons sometimes interrupted the broadcasting device. She got her anti static cloth and began to buff the player, hoping to reduce any magnetic charge. The cloth snapped and popped as she lifted if from the device, but didn't hear the music that she expected. After a loud burst of static came a clear voice, ["Mr. Gorbachev....."] Encouraged, she rubbed harder and more vigorously with the clothe, more static, then, ["I have a dream....."]
Frustrated by the incomprehensible babble, she turned the music player off, and sat down with a huff.
Magnetic waves that resonated between the planet and its moons, held the recorded broadcasts from Julies ancestors, 500 million years in the past. Her people, originally earth colonists, had survived countless near extinctions, population booms, dark ages and enlightenments, and thereby, evolved to live in the high radiation environment of Jupiter's moon, Ganymede. In the recent past they had discovered the physics that allowed them to travel through space, to the planet and its other moons. They had the all the luxuries and benefits of an advanced civilization.
Julie was angry. Her slave was performing again, her puffy lips turning down at the sides and water coming from her eyes. Julie was so angry and frustrated that she just wanted to hit the slave; but she felt, somehow, doing that wouldn't be right.


Two of my favorite podcasts are the 'Astronmy Cast' and Dan Carlins, 'Hardcore History'. Many of the things that I have learned from those podcasts, and the resulting thoughts that I have had, have begun to work their way into some of the short stories that I have been writing.

My premise is: If colonies are established on the moons of Jupiter and human kind is as adaptable as we like to believe, what will the colonies be like in 500 million years, when the sun had increased in size and temperature, that the earth is now a hot barren rock and the moons of Jupiter are a balmy 68 degrees F.

My first story, which entered the Great Hites competition, was universally underwhelming. I was trying to describe life on Ganymede, with newly developing space travel, between the moons. I tried to write this in a way that it is clear that they don't know where they came from, and not have to just say so. They have lost thier history and are surprised to find life on another moon, which, in true human fashion, they enslave. (Refer to Dan Carlins Addicted to Bondage podcast.)

This first episode follows:

The Daily Eclipse

They sat in angry silence, under the protection of the glass filter dome, and watched as day turned to night. At least, as much of a night as you get on the planet side of the moon. It was the mid day solar eclipse which would last several hours before the sum re-emerged on the opposite side of the big planet. "I don't even like this side; it never gets dark. We have the sun shining on us all day, and at night, the planet glows so much it might as well be day."
The last edge of the sun was slipping behind the giant orange planet. The moon where they lived was tidally locked with its planet and therefore, the same side always faced toward the planet, the side where Julie and her family now lived. "I want to go back to our old home, on the back side. At least there we had complete darkness at night. I wouldn't mind if I never saw that big red eye staring at me ever again." She stood to stomp around the room to emphasize her anger, but the atrium was so filled with plants that she would soon be lost to her parents vision, and the effect would be wasted. She was a year old now, and had a typical pre-adolescent flair for the melodramatic.
She sat back down, her mother was lecturing her, "I expect you to show a little more gratitude to your father. You have quickly forgotten how long and cold the nights were, and how long and hot the days were, on the backside. And your father has worked, and sacrificed, to get us this place up on top, where we can have a dome, and plants, and see the planet. It wouldn't take much to lose everything and be down at the dirt level with the indigents and general laborers." She sighed inwardly and rolled her eyes, 'What did her mother know? There was nobody down that low.'

She thought she knew what would be coming next, and she wasn't off by much. "Your father has sacrificed so much to make all this possible for you!" Her mother was even working up some tears. 'Hypocrite,' Julie thought to herself, 'Where will you be as soon as Dad is gone'? What did she call it, 'Social networking'? She wondered if her mother had ever really loved her father, or had she just loved his potential. He was nearly twice her age; she had just turned 2 and he was nearly four when they were married.
It was true that in the last solar circuit her father had been gone much of the time traveling between their moon, the planet and the two major moons in between. He had made most of his fortune on shiploads of fresh water from the watery moon that orbited the planet twice for every time theirs did just once. She wondered what days and nights were like on those other moons; they were both tidally locked, as was this one, but to have a day and night pass so quickly was incomprehensible to her. The closest of the larger moons, to the planet, would have four days and nights for each of hers. 'Wouldn't that just make you dizzy?'
Her mother was still harping about her lack of consideration, but she had heard it all before. Each time her father was preparing to leave, her mother would start to get edgy and irritable, then like clockwork, she would break into a tirade, unleashing her frustration on her daughter.
Space travel had only been developed in the last 10 years. Her father had taken the existing knowledge about space travel and applied what he knew of material science and designed space barges that could harness the magnetic charges that were generated between the various moons and the planet and slingshot the barges back and forth, making the the transportation of heavy items profitable; minerals harvested from moons, heavy gases gathered from the atmosphere of the planet, and in his case, water from the next moon in toward the planet. Her father had built his empire on the transportation of fresh water. There was salt water deep in the crust of this moon and it could be pumped and desalinated, as it had been for millennia, but with the advent of space travel, fresh water was an available luxury.
But was it for Julie, that her father worked so hard and was away so often? She didn't think so. With his rise in wealth there also came a rise in prestige and political power.
Outside the dome, with the sun fully hidden behind the planet, it was as dark as it was going to get, only the planets own light showed right now. Their day was divided into 100 hours, and each hour, 100 minutes. The eclipse lasted between thirteen and fourteen hours. Julie liked it dark.
As soon as her father was away and her mother found her 'other occupations', Julie would work her way down the elevators, stairwells, and passages to get to the ground level. Over the millennia new dwellings were built atop the old, reusing the existing radiation filters and magnetic shields. With the current imports, new structures, with more efficient shields were being built at the highest levels. It would take a long time to get to the ground, she would have to pack several meals. She had only been there a few times since their move to the planet side and only stayed a few minutes, but she had stood in the open air, on natural soil, unaffected by the waves of radiation that the domes, and shields at the top of the city were designed to reflect.
"Julie", her father was saying, "my travels have produced another benefit, that I would like to share with you." He caught her attention, instantly. Though she did her best to act indifferent to his work, and the 'benefits' that the family enjoyed, the allure of this relatively new space exploration intrigued her. "What the scientist had theorized; that our people had come from a different planet hundreds of millions of years ago, may actually be correct. We have found, 'people', for lack of a better word, similar to us on another moon. Some are theorizing that we, and they, came from a common ancestor. These creatures are not as intelligent as us, and are probably more suited to manual labor, but they show a willingness to work, and, in fact, appear to thrive under our direction." He looked closely at her face to gage her reaction. "I have acquired on of these beings to be your companion. She appears to be about your same age, and has already begun to understand our language. Would you please make it your project, over the next few weeks, to teach her more of our language, and help her to understand some of the basic menial tasks around the home?"
She began to reply but looking at her fathers face she could see that he had already assumed that she would be compliant with his wishes and had begun to gather his things to leave.
Her own thoughts were racing. She had heard talk among her acquaintances at school that slaves were being brought in from one of the other moons, and now she would be the first in her class to get one. The day was looking up.