The Prop House

On the winding gravel roads, gothic iron fences surround a sick old building once full of life.  To the onlooker, the building is a simple church.  To the one that steps inside, the illusion melts away and the theater takes its place.  Renovations in the early 1900s had transformed the place.  Alter to stage, pews to auditorium seats.  The most curious part of its design is that other than the traits necessary to be called a theater, the building is obviously a place of worship.  Saint Michael still acts as a sentinel at the entrance, inviting theater patrons to enjoy the historic architecture.

The audience sees what they see on stage because of what happens behind the scenes.  They never question where the majestic melodies of the opera come from, or how the blank canvas of the backdrop became a stunning landscape of snow.  No, what is seen can’t compare with what exists out of view.

Though the theater is for the public to see, many rooms, unseen to common folk, only reveal themselves to the performer.  Golden stars mark the territory of greatness.  Labels mark the useful rooms.  The unmarked rooms rest undisturbed.

On every wall electric cords snake along like veins connecting every light, keeping the area alive-stage lights, lamps, the lighted makeup mirror-buzzing quietly.  Decrepit tables, chairs, and other miscellaneous pieces of furniture breathe in and out, covering everything with dust and perfume, exposed by the glow of the cheap overhanging fluorescents.  It never settles.  The constant hustle and bustle doesn’t allow it.  In every corner sits something to be touched, used, or dealt with.

The makeup mirror, large and menacing, frames magazine clippings and images, creating the perfect face.  Eyes by Allure, lips by Vogue.  Infinite kisses stamp the its surface.  A palette for colors like Blonde Venus, Russian Doll, and Manhurt.  Stage-face wet.  Lips caked.  Eyelashes fake.  Flawless.  Appearance means everything.  With the right mask an actor can pull off anything-from a simple minimalist to an outrageous extraterrestrial.

Hiding in the rows of racks costumes sleep, untouched for some time.  Wizard robes, shining armor, Victorian gowns, and tailcoats.  Shoved behind the togas lie twin Superman outfits, and everything else under the sun made from cotton, polyester, spandex.  The shoes come in obscene numbers.  Ballet toe shoes, one lace missing.  Lumberjack boots, sturdy and covered with mud.  Glinda’s magic red heels, forgotten in a corner.  There’s no place like home.

Behind the red velvet curtains, just beyond the gargantuan oak doors, stands a graveyard.  The sword Excalibur, still wedged in the stone, sleeps there forever.  Tiny Tim’s crutch leans against the far wall, having seen its last Christmas.  The wolf-man’s head keeps its eternal snarl, even in storage.  The ivy covering Juliet’s balcony has died long ago.  Rocky’s gloves were put down for the last time.  Smells of must and sorrow drift throughout the room and immerse anyone who enters.

The prop-house bears many scars and screams a thousand stories, an enigmatic raconteur of stone.

Perfect 20

During my hiatus I wrote this piece, an account of an outing through the eyes of someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder.  I had never written anything like it before; it was both fun and challenging.  Enjoy!

 

Perfect 20

“Carter!”

A collision of forces.  Fire against Water.  Day against Night.

“I think we should go home…you’ve had enough.”

She doesn’t understand!  Her wallet isn’t balanced anymore!

“Let me fix it!”

$7.14 including tax x2 for movie tickets + the cost of popcorn (also for 2) totals to $19.27.  NO.  It has to round to $20!

“Carter, this isn’t how 20-year-olds act!”

Adding a dollar would make it $20.27, which rounds down to $20.

“Let me give you a dollar!”

Maggie touches my shoulder, her face breaking through the swirling numbers.  Her eyes remind me of my name, the one she’s been yelling.  “Carter?”

Deep breaths.

“Carter?”

“Yeah.  Just…touch my other shoulder, too.  Do it.”

“Ca–”

“Could you not put on the therapist act on my birthday?  Please do it.  And take this.” I hand her the dollar.

Her eyes drift away, hands falling back to her sides.  “Please.  Don’t.  I don’t need your money.”

“But I need you to have my money.  Your wallet isn’t balanced.  You spent…”

Instead of taking the dollar from my outstretched hand Maggie goes for the keys dangling from my belt loop.  “I’m taking you home.”

Slapping her hand away, I reply, “You can’t.  Not with something unbalanced in the car.  Mag, you understand my needs.”

“Yeah.  And it’s my job to cater to them.” Unbuckling, she lunges.  I can’t react in time.  She’s got the keys.

“Uh–”

“I thought when you TURNED 20 this nonsense would stop.  Clearly all the time I spent trying to cure you was a waste.”

Not a therapist.  Maggie’s my friend.  She has to let me fix this!

My burning red face melts my cold stare.  The tears start streaming.  Six on the left, three on the right.  Torture!  “You won’t let me?”

“Nope.”

N-O-P-E.  Four letters.  If she wants an argument at least that will be balanced.  “Bitch.” Five letters.  Product of exchange, 20.

The word hits Maggie in the chest, knocking her breath away.  I don’t know what to do.  Comfort her?  Take the balance away?  Should I feel bad?

I pace.  I get out of the car and pace, two steps left, ten steps right.  Four steps left, five steps right.

——————–

The ride to my house stays silent, minus the sounds of breathing patterns returning to normal.  Though physically recovered, the mood isn’t any less tense when Maggie pulls into my driveway.  She must think I’m horrible for calling her a bitch, but we weren’t seeing eye to eye.  Something she sees as petty, such as a one dollar bill, can have astronomical importance to me.  Hurting someone you love stings.

Still, as I open the door Maggie kisses both my cheeks, my forehead, and my chin, and gives me a high-five.  She keeps her hand against mine.

“Maggie, I’m sorry.”

She sighs, shifting her attention to my face.  “It’s okay.  You had to do what you had to do.” She takes her hand away.  “I better start the trek home.  Happy birthday, Carter.”

Intro to a Sci-Fi Universe, Part II

I promise this post won’t be as lengthy as the last.

This is the second of a still undetermined number of posts leading up to my science fiction that will be posted here.  One preliminary point about the story’s fictitious society that weren’t mentioned in the last post is that it has just transitioned into a level 1 society.  This means the people of the society control everything on their planet.  This includes weather and energy, and also means a global common tongue is emerging.  In this case that language is English.  According to science there should be millions of level 1 societies out there in space, yet there are none.  Our suspicion is that they destroyed themselves during the transition…

Selective Breeding & Eugenics

In this universe, parents have many choices to make before their child is born.
With advanced genetic technologies, parents can select genes from a talent pool to ensure their child a bright future in the area of their choice.  Of course children still have natural talents, but usually their parents tell them what they’ve been “programmed” to excel at so that “…they may find joy in something easy and enjoyable…” (Dr. Rico Sentalve, 2041)
Doctors scan parents for any common hereditary diseases and replace those mutated genes with normal ones from a relative (if any are available).  In the event the parents have no living relatives, they may select a willing donor with compatible genes.  Gene compatibility is determined by race, relations (if any) to the patient, and health of the donor and patient.

Smart Clothing

One of the most innovative inventions of the 30s (That’s 2030s) was “Smart Clothing”.  Virtually all articles of clothing became “smart” during this time period including shirts, sweaters, skirts, pants, formal wear, pajamas, hats, bracelets, and more, each with unique functions.  For example, smart bracelets keep track of pulse.  Sweaters and coats read body temperature and adjust accordingly.
Smart Clothing, completely wired to interact with the wearer, serves many practical uses.  It can recognize fever, fatigue, and dehydration, as well as make suggestions to the wearer via his/her A.R. feed.  It’s fully customizable with color and style options.  You can make your hat match your outfit, as well as remind it to keep track of your position and send it to friends so you can hang out after school.  Have a growth spurt?  No problem!  Smart Clothes automatically adjust to your height, length, width, and will get tighter or looser wherever you want them to.

Tick-Talk™

Much like cell phones in today’s world, many kids in this universe have Tick-Talks: The multi-talented digital watch.  It appears to be a small, tight, bracelet, but becomes a fully interactive holographic display when activated.  It displays the time, its current location, and the date.  People can connect their Tick-Talks to form networks of contacts as well as send voice messages.  One’s contacts scroll along the bottom of the display as a marquee.
In many ways Tick-Talks trump cell phones.  They’re easier to keep track of because most people never take them off, just shut them down when they go to bed.  Also they can not only send voice messages but also text and picture messages, all of which send notifications to the recipient’s A.R. feed.  Tick-Talks serve as handy tools, and as a convenient way to tap into social media.

Weather Influence

By definition, level 1 societies control everything on their planet.  Weather is no exception.  The scientists of this universe developed a machine which releases friendly gases into the atmosphere that speed up or slow down the formation of clouds.  This means weather predictions are normally 100% accurate.  Even in 2089 it’s not completely perfected, but science is getting close to gaining full control of the elements.
Because the weather is about 98% controlled by the people, new weather norms have been established.

1. It almost never rains in cities, only if someone important dies
2. Snow falls exclusively in the mountains for skiers to enjoy.
3. Temperatures in populated areas never leave the range of 40-85 degrees.  This is accomplished partly by variations of clouds that block sunlight, and by solar screens that orbit the Earth and block excess radiation, ions, etc.  these solar screens were put into orbit to slow and eventually halt climate change and to compensate for the still-weak power of a recently flipped magnetic field.

Before I end this there’s a piece of exciting news: It’s possible that some art for this could go up in the near future.  I have it, it’s just a matter of scanning.  I’ll try my hardest!

Intro to a Sci-Fi Universe, Part Ⅰ

In preparation for the fiction that will be posted here, I thought I’d post some cool background stuff from the prewriting process.  Some of this will be handy if you end up reading my sci-fi story also, so all the more reason to put it up.  This is just a piece of it, but for now I’ll just show you this:


Before you know anything else, know this.  The year is 2089.  At least, that’s the year we’re supposed to be in…


Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer.
In the case of Augmented Reality, The augmentation is conventionally in real-time and in semantic context with environmental elements, such as sports scores on TV during a match. With the help of advanced AR technology (e.g. adding computer vision and object recognition) the information about the surrounding real world of the user becomes interactive and digitally usable. Artificial information about the environment and the objects in it can be stored and retrieved as an information layer on top of the real world view. The term augmented reality is believed to have been coined in 1990 by Thomas Caudell, an employee of Boeing at the time[1].
Augmented reality research explores the application of computer-generated imagery in live-video streams as a way to expand the real-world. Advanced research includes use of head-mounted displays and virtual retinal displays for visualization purposes, and construction of controlled environments containing any number of sensors and actuators.
-this excerpt taken from Wikipedia

With personal augmented reality, a user could annotate their surroundings, subscribe to personalized A.R. feeds, step-by-step directions, or even see reviews for a restaurant just by looking at it.  All of it’s live, 3-D, and customizable.

The characters in this universe actively use augmented reality in the form of contact lenses.  Glasses are also used, but they’re considered to be the “old way”.  The sounds of A.R. are heard through tiny chips in the ears or earrings that can be taken out along with the lenses at any time.  The ability to take away augmented reality is to prevent addiction among other things, and also because doctors of the time believe (and have evidence to back it up) that implanting something like A.R. in the brain isn’t only dangerous, but just an all-around bad idea.

AugmenTech is the corporation that designs new A.R. products, sells A.R., and more.  AugmenTech buildings are common in major cities.


Advanced Photovoltaics

Photovoltaic cells are the cells used in solar panels to absorb energy from the sun and use it to produce electricity, heat water, and more.  In this universe, photovoltaic technology has progressed so much that the cells can be put in thinner-than-paper sheets and put seamlessly on any surface.  Translation: Virtually all services are solar panels, but you wouldn’t know just by looking at it.  This means that almost no oil is used whatsoever, only for extremely old pieces of technology that are sold illegally.

Other forms of “alternative” energy aren’t obsolete.  Wind is still used in less populated areas, particularly in the water.  Factories that require massive amounts of energy have complex systems that use combination solar and geothermal.

The biggest energy consumer is the space travel industry.  Space shuttles get power from solar power and large electromagnets that store massive charge and use currents to get the ship off the ground.


Career Training in Secondary School

When children enter secondary (high) school, they select courses to take to train for a career, similar to today’s college experience.  Below is a list of some of the more popular fields of study:

Art: Ancient Language, Architecture, Extraterrestrial Architecture, General Arts, Music,
Beauty: Color Theory in Advertising, Cosmetics, Fashion
Engineering: BioEngineering, Chemical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, RoboEngineering
English: Ancient Literature, Journalism, Publishing, Screenwriting
History: Culture, Languages, Theology, War Science, World History
Nature: Conservation, Geologic Time, Meteorology, Oceanography
Science: Business, Cosmetology, Economy, Genetics, Geology, Medical
Space: History, Theory, Travel
Technology: Networking, Programming, Space, Transportation


Cosmetics/Genetics Fusion

No one gets plastic surgery done anymore, that’s too much work.  This universe’s technology has reached a point where genetics can be fused with cosmetics so that people can manipulate their appearances, as well as dramatically reduce risk of disease.
Simple operations like a change in eye or hair color (dying hair isn’t permanent enough) simply require an injection of nanobots that do the job and get expelled with waste.  More difficult things like ensuring your child doesn’t exceed a certain height or ever have a heart attack may require breathing in prescribed gasses, taking pills, etc.


Culture Museums

History is precious.  That’s why culture museums exist all around the world.  They have exhibits that show what it was like to live in every time period since recorded time.  Some things showcased are:

Ancient…
Art
Books/Manuscripts/Texts
Computers
Fashions
Inventions
Maps
Musical Instruments
Tapes/CDs/Music Players
Relations Records
Religious Relics
Robots
Vehicles
…and more!

Culture exhibits can consist of, but aren’t limited to actual items, models, text descriptions (received via A.R. feed), voice/music recordings, tour guide speeches, shows, holographic personalities, etc.

These facilities house the greatest treasures in the world, and also the most advanced security systems.  Obviously everything in these museums would sell for a handsome amount of money, so they frequently deal with attempted robberies.  Yes their security is impressive, but it’s still puzzling why NO ONE EVER SUCCEEDS.

Europium

Europium became the most amazing element when discovered on Jupiter’s moon Europa in 2036 on the TitanXVIII mission launched by the Soviet Union.  Surprisingly, it can exist in three forms as water can.  When fused (as a solid) with other metals like steel, it makes an alloy 467% stronger than any steel alloy created prior to Europium’s discovery.

The element was first discovered in its liquid form by IN-Ground Retrieval Impenetrable Drillbots (INGRIDs) that were drilling through Europa’s oceanic crust.  They came across another liquid layer between the crust and the iron core-liquid Europium.

Samples were brought back to the ships laboratory for testing, and it turned out to be a non-toxic substance.  The biggest shocker was that is became hard when it came in contact with a small robot’s metallic arm.  Being the crew’s biggest finding, the mission ended three days early and TitanXVIII returned to Russia and sent Europium samples to Japanese, Chinese, Indian, American, English, and Canadian labs.  A decade later in 2046 it entered the industrial world.

Europa (pronounced /jʊˈroʊpə/ ( listen);[11] or as Greek Ευρώπη) is the sixth moon of the planet Jupiter. Europa was discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei (and possibly independently by Simon Marius), and named after a mythical Phoenician noblewoman, Europa, who was courted by Zeus and became the queen of Crete. It is the smallest of the four Galilean moons.
At just over 3,100 kilometres (1,900 mi) in diameter, Europa is slightly smaller than Earth’s Moon and is the sixth-largest moon in the Solar System. Though by a wide margin the least massive of the Galilean satellites, its mass nonetheless significantly exceeds the combined mass of all moons in the Solar System smaller than itself.[12] It is primarily made of silicate rock and likely has an iron core. It has a tenuous atmosphere composed primarily of oxygen. Its surface is composed of ice and is one of the smoothest in the Solar System. This surface is striated by cracks and streaks, while craters are relatively infrequent. The apparent youth and smoothness of the surface have led to the hypothesis that a water ocean exists beneath it, which could conceivably serve as an abode for extraterrestrial life.[13] This hypothesis proposes that heat energy from tidal flexing causes the ocean to remain liquid and drives geological activity.[14]
Although only fly-by missions have visited the moon, the intriguing characteristics of Europa have led to several ambitious exploration proposals. The Galileo mission provided the bulk of current data on Europa. A new mission to Jupiter’s icy moons, the Europa Jupiter System Mission (EJSM), is proposed for a launch in 2020.[15] Conjecture on extraterrestrial life has ensured a high profile for the moon and has led to steady lobbying for future missions.
-excerpt taken from Wikipedia


Port Grid

This universe has an interesting technology in it’s urban areas.  Affectionately called the “Port-Grid”, a literal grid of short range teleportation devices can take anyone with a GridPass to any other on the grid.  This is accomplished by molecular scrambling and consciousness upload/download.

With anything great, there are complications.  If one overuses the Port-Grid, they are more likely to get colds, migraines, and (in extreme cases) genetic mutations.  The act of teleporting weakens the immune system, and too much consciousness upload/download can give one a massive headache.  Genetic mutations occur because of an excess of molecular scrambling.  The more your molecules scramble, the less likely the are to arrange themselves properly on the other side.

Robotics

Over the years robots have been integrated into the society of this universe.  Here’s an explanation of some common robots, as well as some not-so common ones I may have referenced.

NAT: (Nursing Assistant and Technician)  If you have a doctor’s appointment, this friendly robot will likely greet you at the door and bring you to your human doctor.  She mainly assists doctors and nurses and does odd jobs around the hospital building, but she’s also quite social and is programmed to have “emotion”.  NATs see just about everything in hospitals, so she’s able to wirelessly set off fire alarms, other alarms, announce over intercoms, and contribute to the hospital A.R. feed.

INGRID: (IN-Ground Retrieval Impenetrable Drill)  This is a non-humanoid robot built only to serve its function: drill. (why they gave “her” a human name we may never know.)  It is commonly used for construction and space missions.  It can sense light, hardness, temperature, and sound.

NOAH: (No One At Home)  Handy and polite, a NOAH robot will greet visitors when his house’s residents are away.  NOAH’s most amazing feature is his ability to exist physically and digitally so that he may greet physical visitors as well as inform online messengers/chatters/callers that the recipient either doesn’t have his/her A.R. on, or is screening their calls.  But of course NOAH’s too polite to say the latter…

SISTOR: (Secret Information STORage)  Tell this little bot anything you want, save files to it, tell/give it anything you want kept safe and hidden and it won’t give it up until the person that gave it to it needs it.  That’s right, only the SISTOR’s owner can make transactions, so don’t bother trying to get one to cough anything up.  It’s just like your trusty sister…

PDrone: (Police Drone)  This robot assists police officers out on patrol.  It’s equipped with lie detectors, fear detectors, a taser, and who knows how many other weapons!  They often work in swarms to catch criminals, and they can contribute to the police station A.R. feed.

RAVER: (Recorded And visual Arts Robot) Want to have a rave right now?  This robot makes it easy by acting as DJ, sound man, light man, and even dancer!

That’s all for now, but don’t worry…there’s more!  Let me know if this universe is intriguing you!

Adopted Love

I know I already posted (a much-needed update) today, but I found this old fiction short piece and felt it belonged here.  Enjoy!

Adopted Love

The world rushed by in the form of a narrow hallway packed with people.  Everything blurred through Tezu’s tears.  He weaved through the faceless white coats to room 208.  Through the door and behind the curtain two white beds stood awkward yet belonging, vulnerable among machines.  Approaching the bed on the left side, Tezu sat carefully as not to disturb its sleeping occupant.  Jerry had never looked liken this before: so small and sick.  A machine measures his heartbeat, pulsing, dropping, repeating.  It told his life story.  Jerry had his ups and downs, but in the end nothing ever changed.  Pulse, drop, repeat.

Tezu reached for a tissue on the bedside table, pushing away “Get Well” cards, all apologetic, from his siblings who were studying abroad.  He knew they had no control over the situation, but with one parent already gone Tezu had thought Rachel and Dan would come.

Nose sniffling, tears flowing, Tezu gently grasped his adopted father’s hand.  He felt the wrinkles, baggy and smooth, that normally wouldn’t be there for another couple years.  He followed the pattern of his scrub up to his face and neck.  Tezu thought his father’s appearance reflected his age.  His grey beard was uneven, evidence he had been sleeping for some time.  His eyes and mouth looked warm even when he was asleep, his aura always active. Jerry was always smiling, but somehow never at Tezu.  Jerry’s breathing quickened, the heart monitor jumped, and the sick man awoke: Recovering, smiling, welcoming.

Décolor a Noir

I’m making this post because I feel bad not having done one in a while.  The next one coming up will be my review of the book, “A Teen’s Guide to Getting Published” (2nd edition)  by Jessica & Danielle Dunn.  In the meantime, I thought it’d be fun to put up one of my old descriptive fiction pieces.  Enjoy!

Décolor a Noir

Just outside of Paris an old priest trudges up the muddy path from his house to the church, his true home.  A large brown splash accompanies every footstep.  Rain pellets his exposed neck, drenches his robes.  His little brother died that morning, flea bite, sick, gone.

The torch-lit avenue stands abnormally quiet, even for a rainy day.  The rows upon rows of buildings on the usually busy street show no sign of life.  The town mourns.  Citizens leave their windowsill gardens out in the downpour to commemorate the passing of the town apothecary, Mr. Alexandre Vasseur.  The weather mercilessly accepts its sacrifices, takes them down to the streets and the sewers.

Sheet upon sheet of rain scurries along the grey cobbled street, not stopping to admire the stunning beauty of the fashion district.  Healing waters attempting to cleanse the town of its silent invaders.

Water pours off roofs of the brown buildings arranged single file.  Everything appears darker, saturated with precipitation.  All the shutters shut the weather away, locked tight.  Gutters groan, struggle to hold on before overflow.

Trickling down anxiously, the droplets join the river flowing to the sewers.  They wipe the grey cobbled street clean and leave leaves in their tracks.  The sidewalks sit safely above the curb, below overhanging roofs.

Breaking its way through a roof of soggy autumn leaves, a rat dives beneath an overhanging roof for shelter.  The first of many.  The baker that usually kicks her out isn’t there.  No one knows.

Just up the road the ancient cathedral, rundown, home to flees as well as patrons almost bursts at the seems, barely holding the whole town in.  The guardian statues have the only emotionless faces.

Everyone knows.  Those that can’t get in stand outside the door in silence, shoulders drooping, tears falling with the rain.  A patchwork tarp made from one hundred black umbrellas.

Everyone knows.  Through the cherry wood double doors an oversized congregation cries in unison.  Monsignor Jean-Claude’s robes resemble pepper, crows, midnight.  His sullen dark eyes are like high walls, blocking out the flood.  What cruelty brought him leading his own brother’s funeral?  No one knows.

The pearly white casket stands at the front of the altar––waiting for God.  He knows.  He knows before everyone else.

Empty.

Clouds break.  The stain glass window scenes come to life and reflect their story on the blank coffin’s surface.  The last bit of light before the future turns horribly, miserably black.