Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sally, Part 27

Sally Part 26  for anyone who missed the last installment.

Stacey's heart jumped as he saw no other port but Andrill on the horizon.  He never thought he'd be so happy to see that cesspool of a city, but it would be perfect for his getaway.  He would find Sally as quickly as he could and then make it as far inland as he could.  He didn't know the country well, but knew it as well as any other, and he doubted they would even come looking for a cook.  It was perfect.

While the rest of the crew prepared to dock, Stacey just stood, staring at his future:  just him and his boy, starting up a little inn.  "Are you from Andrill?"  The voice startled Stacey, and his stomach didn't leave his throat when he saw it was Mattias.

"Um... no, sir.  No."

"Oh,"  Mattias's frowned and shrugged his shoulders, "It just looked like you were really intent on staring at it.  Come on, we need help with the sails."

Stacey ran to a mast and started helping.  That was close.  Another slip up like that and he might as well tie up his own wrists.  Mattias kept looking at him funny though, like he knew something was wrong.  "You okay Stacey?"

"Yes, sir.  Just didn't sleep well last night, sir."

"And why do you keep calling me sir?  You haven't called me that since the first time you were on the boat."

Stacey could feel his face turning red.  "I... I really can't say, sir."  There it was again.  Stacey wished as hard as he could that Mattias would just drop it and let them pull in to port in silence.

"Okay.  After you get the food on the ship, I'd like to have a word with you in The Mace and Sword.  It's a pub in Andrill."  Stacey was sure happy he'd figured all this out before now.  Just three months ago and he'd have met Mattias there, surely to be shipped off to chains and whips.  Ready or not, this was the time to run.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Meeting My Dad's Challenge

The wind cuts through.  Pups yip, and Alpha stirs, stands and postures.  Her eyes scan, and we stand, ready.  Two moons and new snowfall - it's time.  Position first, then move through fresh snow.  Stay low, move slowly, silently.  Keen eyes, focused.  Turning ears, focused.  Soft crackling, and then a snap.  Stop.  Ears perk, breathe, get low, move slowly.  Ears perk again, leaves rustle, her ears hear it too, and his.  New position: three strides from him, five from her.  Scan the forest as those run around to flank and startle.  Tree, bush, grass... it's there, behind those trees.  Antlers behind branches covered in snow.  Wait, focus.  Wait, focus.  Stay low, stay still.  Wait, listen for those to come.  Focus.  Wait.  Snow falls, focus.  Wait.  Burst, growl, bark, lunge.  Antlers crash through branches, hooves dig through snow, she cuts it off, stay low, quick, run into its legs, no trip.  Hit harder into them, no trip.  Again, trip, fall, he lunges at its side, him at its throat, but misses.  It gets up, lunge at its side, he tries again for the throat and latches.  Jump on its back, bring it down, stay away from hooves.  Hold... hold... hold.  Howl for others.  Eat... survive.

When I was in high school I wrote a lot of short stories, most of which dealt a lot with feelings and inner turmoil.  My dad once challenged me to writ a story about a wolf on a hunt.  No thoughts, all instinct and observation.  I never took him up on it.  I said it was because I didn't want to.  The truth:  I didn't know how.  I'm not saying I know how to now, but here's a first attempt.  This one's for you Dad.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sally, Part 26

Sally, Part 25.  As always, share with your friends, and hope you enjoy it.

Stacey began watching Mattias more closely.  Why was The Captain so worried?  What was keeping him up late at night?  He appeared so transparent to Stacey before that his current actions felt queer.  Was he here to free people as he said, or was he really just enslaving them farther?  As Stacey watched, he noticed that Mattias spent an inordinate amount of time with Syrin.  At first, this seemed to back up what Stacey knew of Syrin.  But what did he really know?  Nothing.  Only what Mattias had told him.  Maybe Syrin was never actually a slave, but a slaver, who was now looking for more slaves, and Mattias was simply his collector.  This made Stacey watch Syrin closely too, and not just during his daily dance.  At meals, Syrin tended to eat alone.  He also seldom talked while he worked.  Possibly, he was trying to distance himself from those who would soon be under his lash.  Stacey also forgot everything he knew about elves.  They were sneaky and manipulative, often cutthroats and thieves.  Had some been enslaved int he past?  Sure.  But not all of them, and even if some had been, why would that make them trustworthy?  On top of that, Stacey noticed what the sailor had about Mattias.  His complexion was obviously very pale, and he did try to cover it up.  Why would he by lying about something like that?  And one time the wind did push his hair back, and just as the sailor had said, his ears had two tips at the top, and almost no earlobe.  There was also a tattoo on the back of his neck, though Stacey couldn't make out what it was of.

As Stacey sat in his kitchen stewing about all that he had seen he grew uneasy.  Maybe he could make a run for it at the next port.  That's it, he would pretend to be buying goods at the grocers, but instead, he would just run and hide somewhere outside the city, where Mattias would never find him.  It wouldn't be too hard.  He was often gone for hours when they docked.  He would be long gone before anyone even knew he was missing.  That was the plan, he just needed to keep his eyes open for the right time.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Second Half of Pearl's Intro

Instinctively, Pearl pressed herself closer to the building and tried not to be seen.  She learned long ago not to get in people's way, not in an alley, not when they were in a hurry.  Tightly, she shut her eyes, hoping that if she didn't see the runner, the runner might not see her.

The steps got closer and she felt herself get yanked up from where she sat.  Her eyes flew open to see a blur of red bricks, a Desert Eagle handgun, and then seconds elongated as she watched three bullets propelled past garbage cans and filth, and buried into what looked to be an inferno turning the corner from the street and down the alley.  Pearl tried to focus on what was chasing them, but in a blur, time caught up again and without missing a step, her and her assailant were careening down the alley and facing the lake again.  Each step was surprisingly smooth.  Pearl didn't weigh much, but it was as if the runner wasn't carrying anything at all.

They burst out of the alley and onto the cold, paved dock.  The runner banked so hard to the right that his hand touched the ground to keep them on balance.  Pearl was quickly and neatly placed against a wall by a pair of fingerless gloves.  For a moment she looked into piercing blue eyes, framed by black hair.  He nodded at her and then ran back toward the lake, turning to hold out his left hand, motioning her to stay where she was, and pulling out a katana with his right.  His black trench coat whipped in the wind as he stopped and turned, directly in front of where the alley let out, the moon shone bright off the blade.

Fire spilled out of the alley way, and Pearl could now see the inferno in full.  It was, or was in the shape of, a man, only four times taller.  Pulling both of its arms back, the monster roared and the man's hair noticeably blew back, but his frame was unshaken.  He stood in no particular stance, with his sword arm, hanging next to his right leg, and coat fluttering in the breeze.  Both fighters stared each other down, and without warning the inferno barreled toward Pearl's rescuer.  He, in turn, ran toward the beast, rolling beneath its hay-maker, slashing at its leg, and then rolling away again.  The monster turned and roared in the direction of Pearl, making her cover her ears.

The man stood again, waiting for the fire beast's next move.  It tried to grab him, but he leaped back onto a step and cut into its hands.  To Pearl, there looked to be no damage done, but the monster roared again, and lunged forward, knocking the swordsman to the ground.  The inferno got up with surprising speed and tried to slam the man into the cement, but barely missed as he rolled and got back to his feet.  Pearl could see that the man was breathing hard, but if he was afraid, she could not see it in his eyes.

Away from her and the beast he ran, the monster quickly turned and chased after him.  The man stopped short and faced the monster as it barreled toward him.  Pearl sat confused as the man didn't lift his sword, or brace for impact or anything.  He just stood there, as an inferno galloped toward him.  Pearl's eyes got big, and her hands clenched just before impact, but then her assailant artfully dodged as the monster went tumbling into the lake.  Her relief was burdened by the most horrible scream coming from the beast as its body boiled the water around it.  It writhed for what seemed like forever, and then slowly bubbled into the water.

The man sheathed his katana and briskly walked toward Pearl.  "Are you alright?"

"Why was that thing chasing you?"  Pearl's voice shook uncontrollably.

The man chuckled, "Well, sometime graves are guarded by ghost stories and spiders, other times they're guarded by fire demons.  Glad you're okay."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Opening to a Story About Pearl

Pearl's back scratched against the red brick, as her arms wrapped around her bony shins, searching for warmth that simply wasn't there.  What looked to be a pair of snowflakes drifting to the pavement appeared a few feet in front of her, and in an act of acknowledgement and fear, her head bumped against the rusting trashcan at her right.  Another winter in Second Chance, the optimistic, albeit misleading name of the town across the lake from Carlsville, built under the guise of a place for the poor to go and find cheap housing so that they could get back on their feet.  Unfortunately, the cheap housing is where the help stopped.  It wasn't cheap housing they needed, it was help understanding how to change a lifestyle that had been in their family for generations, a void that the liquor stores and street hustlers were more than happy to fill. So it was that in these slums they got stuck, and when they couldn't pay for their kids to eat anymore, their kids ended up shivering in the long alleys that separated one dilapidated apartment development from the next, and separated Second Chance from the rest of the world.

The previous winter was Pearl's first in the alleys of Second Chance.  She didn't know if she could live through one more.  She knew where the good spots were, the doorways and bridge hollows that kept out most of the wind, but she also knew that she wasn't strong enough to fight off the others who would already have them claimed, or who would attack her to get her out of them.  So, once again she would be left huddling next to garbage cans, wrapped in newspaper, and trying to ignore the double-edged invitations from middle aged men in windows, with cheap wine in their left hands and come-on-over beckons with their right. She, luckily, hadn't succumbed to the temptation of four walls and a roof the last year, mostly because she saw the vacant expressions of the girls who had too often, but didn't know how lucky she'd be this year.

She lifted her head and banged it against the garbage as her eyes filled with tears and her chin fought to keep still.  Pearl opened her eyes and looked across Lake Jackson at the lights of Carlsville.  It was only a lake away, but might as well have been an ocean.  It was no secret around Second Chance how the people in Carlsville lived.  They ate everyday, had work, had fun and even threw parties when their kids got to be a year older.  Pearl fixated on that last one until her parents threw her out, she thought of the first more often now.  Sometimes she'd allow herself a daydream, of what it might be like to live in Carlsville, but at the end of it she often felt worse, so she kept those daydreams in reserve for when she couldn't feel worse.

Pearl was on the verge of allowing herself just such a daydream when she heard a noise coming from the street.  Peeking her head around the metal box, she saw a bit of newspaper, carried on the breeze toward her.  The alleys of Second Chance were significant in length, so it took the flying parchment a good deal of time to make it to her, but as it passed her face, she saw that one of the edges had been singed.  Confused, she watched it for a bit longer, then whipped her face back toward the street when she heard the soft patter of someone running her way.

I had the idea for this story several years ago, but just haven't been able to find a beginning to it that I liked.  The first scene has always been in my mind, but whenever I go to write it, I can never get the exact effect that I want.  This is probably the closest I've come.  I'll finish the other half of the scene tomorrow... or the next day.  Let me know if you have a preference, either in the comments or on facebook.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sally, Part 25

Sally, Part 24, for those of you who didn't read it.  As always, share it with your friends if you like it.

If Stacey did hear him, the words never registered.  He yearned so dearly for familial ties, but literally had none.  It made him think of Sally, and the little girl who was, hopefully, watching over him.  Would he know a family?  Did Stacey drop himself off in Andrill, only a few decades younger?  He actually asked himself if the boy would be lucky enough to find a ship captain to work for.  It was funny how whenever he thought in the abstract his mind would follow the teachings of Mattias, but when he thought of something he really cared about, it would revert back to his old ideals.  Would Sally ever be his family?  The thought weighed heavy on him.  He wanted it so badly, but felt the dream was like the mist of the ocean, refreshing, but impossible to hold.  He began to doubt he would ever even see Sally again.  At any rate, he wanted Syrin to have something better.  It was at this moment that he knew he must help if Syrin ever went to save his brother, but must first look in Andrill for his boy.

The months passed, and The Liberation sailed from port to port, picking up men and women who longed for freedom, each with his or her own special talent to bring on to the ship.  There were fewer incidents with pirates than Stacey had imagined there would be, and those that happened were seldom as eventful as his first encounter.  Stacey continued to make meals, and would occasionally have someone help him who was interested in cooking, but never acquired a steady apprentice.  As it turned out, sword play and knots held interest much more than cabbage and poultry, but that suited him fine.  He enjoyed getting to know an assortment of people and found that only getting to know them a little never led to feelings of needing to share more than he was comfortable with and he also seldom heard more than he wanted to.

Mattias seemed distant throughout.  He would make a daily stop by, and always flashed his magnetic grin, but his eyes told of late nights and heavy shoulders.  Without question, Stacey knew Mattias had always held something back of himself, but it seemed more so now.  The silence worried Stacey, and it made him keep his ears open for any tidbit about The Captain that might bring him some peace.  Normally he heard nothing that alarmed him, just worries other sailors were having that he shared, but one evening he heard something that roused in him more curiosity than tired eyes and slumped shoulders.  It was Golnar, the big warrior whose size was only surpassed by his kindness.  Quietly he talked to another sailor in the night, apparently thinking they were the only two awake.  "The Captain's a good man.  There's no need for you to be talking bad about him."  Even his whisper was something of an earthquake.

"He is a good man," the older sailor was noticeably nervous, "I'm just sayin' he ain't human."

"Ain't human, that can't be right."

"Haven't you looked closely at him?  Haven't you listened to him?  He's from far across the sea.  They have a totally different culture..."

"The Bilnahs and Calmans have different cultures, what's the difference?"

The other sailor became bolder, "But as different as his?  No.  Also, have you seen his complexion?  It's obvious he's using dirt to hid his very white skin, and long hair to hide some of the strangest ear I've ever seen.  I tell you Golnar, he's not human."

"Well so what if he ain't?  We got plenty a non-humans."

"Keep it down?  Look, he's not like any of us, I tell you, and I'm not so sure he has the best intentions for any of us."

At that, Golnar went quiet.  Mattias had always been kind to him, but he didn't have the intellect to work through what the other sailor had said.  Stacey didn't either.  He had never trusted any of the other races after hearing about Halflings eating children in their stews, and this new news made him question how much he trusted The Captain, especially if there was something weighing heavy on his mind.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A True Story, From My Own Life

She wasn't the prettiest, or the cheapest, or the easiest girl in our school, but she had a style, a swagger that was undeniable.  From red leather trappings that only an experienced user could stroke  without it gripping his hand too much, to the way she sauntered onto a scene, shoot, from the way she traveled all the time, no one could help but notice that she was someone special, someone a guy could be proud to be with, to roll with.  And best of all, she was mine. 

I'll admit that she was tough to deal with in the beginning.  Our first meeting wasn't one of love at first sight.  I'm ashamed to say that my first aversion was that she was bigger than most girls I'd liked.  She wasn't too big, mind you, but big enough that I knew everyone would know we were together, or maybe it wasn't her size, but rather her particular look that I knew couldn't be ignored by any onlooker (no matter how much they abhorred gossip).  But to be honest, it was that style that made me fall in love with her in the first place.

I first saw her when she came over to my parents' house, well, my house at the time, as I was still in high school.  My dad's friend knew her and both of them thought we might hit it off.  The first thing we did, after the preliminary talking, and getting to know each other, was go for a drive.  I'd never been with a girl like her.  She was a loud, powerful woman that, at first, made you want to drive slowly, out of respect, or maybe out of fear that she'd be angry at you for recklessness.  But, after knowing her for a while, you got the feeling that her personality, her desires would have nothing more than fast driving and changing lanes.  Sometimes I thought it was to impress her, but other times I saw it as stress relief for myself, and she was one of the few girls that could handle that kind of speed, and I wasn't about to let that quality slip by, not while I was in high school anyway.

We went everywhere together.  My first fears, that others would know we were together, quickly left.  I wanted them to know.  I pined for every guy in our school, every guy in Utah to know that she was mine, and I'd say, more importantly, that I was hers.  We were together clear until I left for my Mission.  I knew I'd miss my family and friends, but secretly, I knew I'd miss her too.  None went with me like she did.  No one had that style, that swagger that I'd always desire.  While I was gone she went with someone else, someone who didn't take care of her like I would have.  Someone who didn't appreciate her.  You know who you are.  I know you read my blog. 

When I came home, she came back to me, and it was just like old times.  We drove everywhere together, and when she wasn't with me, I yearned for her to envelope me with her safety.  We lived in Arizona for a while together, came back to Utah, and eventually moved in with one of my friends.  It wasn't too long after we lived there that she got sick.  To be fair, I hadn't been as good to her as I should have.  Maybe rode her a little hard.  But nothing I did, or didn't do could have stopped what happened.  The specialist tried to explain to me what she had, but to no avail.  I just didn't understand, but he did tell me she didn't have long.  I'll admit that her and I cried a little as we drove back home, knowing that we wouldn't be together much longer.

The day came that her and I had to part ways.  I remember looking her over again.  She wasn't as young as when we'd started dating, but her beauty hadn't diminished.  Her style was still the same, red leather and more swagger than anyone could truly handle.  My hand caressed her hood, my eyes stared into her headlights.  My fingers, for the last time, touched that leather interior.  There were times I wanted to paint her gray exterior white, looking back, I'm glad I never did.  She was perfect the way she was.  She was MY gray Cadillac DeVille, with red leather interior, a V8, and a cd changer in the trunk.  May she rest in peace.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Sally, Part 24

That's right, I promised that Stacey would be back, and so he is.  As usually, if you've forgotten what was going on, you'll want to read this, and uh, share it with your friends if you like it.

Mattias looked out onto the sea as a smile spread across his face.  "Liberation." his head nodded as he looked for how to explain it, "Do you remember what we were talking about before the attack?"

"You were explaining what you were doing here."

"That's right.  We are here to liberate people.  It means to free them.  To free them from whatever is holding them down."

"Like showing us your culture."

"In your case, yes.  I would love for you to be liberated from the orders of others, but we are also here to liberate slaves."

"Like Syrin."

"Exactly.  So many good men and women are being held against their will, and we want to stop that.  Men and women like Syrin."

Syrin finished his routine and looked at the horizon as he sheathed his rapier.  His lips moved as his eyes slowly closed, and his head lowered.

"What's he doing now?"

"Syrin is making a promise.  After he fled his captors, Syrin learned that one of his brothers had been found and caught again.  Every day, after he perfects his craft, and puts away his tools, he promises his brother in his native tongue that he will find him, no matter the cost."  At this Mattias looked down and licked his lips.

Stacey couldn't help but wonder what that kind of brotherly love must be like.  It made him aware of a hole inside of him, but could feel that hole fill up as he spoke, "I'd like to help him if I ever got the chance."

Mattias looked up at the comment, and squinted as he tried to look into Stacey's soul.  Stacey didn't notice.  He was looking past all things physical and into the void within himself that was being filled.  Mattias saw deep and finally smirked, "And so you might."  Mattias didn't wait to see if Stacey had heard him, but walked away, leaving Stacey to his thoughts.

Friday, February 3, 2012

For all you facebookers

Hey, so I've made a facebook page where I'll put updates about what/how I'm doing as an author.  If you have facebook, you can look for me under M. Paul McCormick, and 'like' me as an author to follow how I'm doing.

Have a nice day.

September? I haven't posted since September?

Mark's muscles were getting tired.  He'd been on his perch for over an hour and his legs were starting to ache.  His target, Heather, had come home one day with a giant wicker nic-nack, and had decided that the best place for it was on top of the wall separating the kitchen from the living room.  Of course, when she decided that, the wall went floor to ceiling and it would be Mark's two month project to knock out the wall just above the cupboards, minus the load-baring beam, and finish it so it looked like it was originally built that way.  For his efforts, Mark was afforded a perfect spot to ambush Heather with his foam-dart gun.

Just as he was starting to transfer his weight, he heard his mark come walking down the hall toward the front door.  She'd have to pass right by his perch, and when she did, he was going to let her have it.  Mark locked on to the back of her head, exhaled, and squeezed the trigger, placing a dart squarely in the back of her brunette hair.  Mark smiled in the anticipation of Heather blowing up and jumping to reach his leg, but his smile slowly faded as Heather just stood there. 

His eyebrows furrowed, "Heather?"  No response.  "Heather, you know I was just joking."  No response.  Mark felt a pang in his stomach.  Instinctively he held the dart gun in his right hand as his left slowly pulled the pistol on his hip out of its holster.  Mark swallowed hard, licked his lips and tried one more time, "Heather, turn around, please."  His side arm was already pointed at what he thought was his wife's head, but instead of her beautiful face, he saw the stretched, black skin, and bulging eyes of a Rasling, framed in a wig made to look like Heather's hair.  The Rasling flashed a quick grin, and Mark loosed two shots that ruined the couches Heather picked out a couple of months before.

For a decade, Mark worked on The Interplanetary Dignitary Defense Force (INDDF), a special task force made up of several races from different planets, set up to defend against threats on planet's leaders.  Mark got tired of chasing down Traconian terrorists, and decided to quit and be a police officer on earth.  A few years later he met Heather. 

While on the force, he had dealt with Raslings on many occasions, so he wasn't too worried about Heather, not just yet anyway.  To be fair, Raslings weren't really so much intergalactic threats as they were the-obnoxious-uncle of the Universe Family Christmas Party, the one who likes to jump out from behind doors and scare people, but doesn't know that it's not funny when he does it to the great aunt with a heart condition.

Mark, and the rest of INDDF saw them as a rock in their shoe.  They weren't after galactic conquest, or embargo deals, or even money.  They really just enjoyed scaring as many people as possible just to see the looks on their faces, and they found that putting leaders of planets in danger was the easiest way to do it.  In the beginning, INDDF would try and talk Rislings down from their pranks, but found that whenever they did, the Rislings would blow something up, or kill someone just to get a reaction out of the on-lookers, so instead, INDDF officers learned to shoot first and ask questions later.  The Risling community didn't even get offended by it, they saw their pranksters being killed as an occupational hazard.  "At least they got us a few laughs before being riddled with plasma blasts."

So, Mark knew Heather certainly wasn't dead.  He also knew she wasn't in the house anymore.  Rislings had already gagged her and carried her off long ago, they just dressed up one of their people for a chuckle.  One thing didn't make sense though:  Rislings always went after the biggest group of terrified people possible, so what did they want with a botanist?  Especially one from a planet that had never recovered from being technologically behind any planet within 3000 light-years?  There were only a handful of people on earth who would even know she was gone.

At any rate, he was going to have to get her back, he couldn't do it alone, and he knew that the first person to call was...

Okay, so I've been gone since late September, and I feel like I should probably tell you all where I've been.  First, I had school, which I already explained.  I was officially a college graduate on December 15th.  We went out for Chipotle burritos to celebrate.  I thought I'd rest over the Christmas break, then hit writing head on in January, along with hitting the treadmill (I haven't been on a work out regiment since before I got married, and all that busy college food has not done good things).

January is when all the fun really started though.  Literally on January first, our internet stopped working.  It had always been spotty, but January first marked the day when it seriously quit.  Then, a couple days later I was in my parents' basement lifting when I sat a dumbbell down wrong (lift and set down with your knees you youngsters).  This re-herniated a disc in my back, which put me either on my parents' living room floor, or my own for the past month (I'm literally typing this from my own right now).  Along with this, both my baby and my wife have been sick.  It's been fun.

Last night, my internet got turned back on, my baby slept really well, and this morning I was able to take a good long shower and put my pants on without laying on the floor.  To celebrate, I thought I'd start blogging again.

If you read through all of that, I thank you.  The story at the top came to me last night, and I've been thinking for a while that two of my greatest writing weaknesses are Sci-fi and action, so I thought I'd give myself a writing exercise this morning that would stretch me in both of those areas.  Let me know how you thought I did either in the comments below, or on facebook.

For those of you still interested in Stacey (I'm looking at you all my family members who keep asking my mom if I'm ever writing again), I have not forgotten about him. In fact, I have all kinds of places I want him to go, and will start writing that story again soon, I promise.

Have yourself a great day.