Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I dueled....

And conquered....?

Anyhow, I got challenged to a duel on Romance Divas and wrote the following 750 word ditty for it using the same exiled demon/fallen angel characters that I've been playing with. Here was the challenge wording:

Your characters are trapped in a runaway 2team horse drawn carriage. The reins have been dropped, so they can't simply pull back. The road is getting rough and it'll only get worse with a turn ahead that will surely turn the carriage over. How do they get off without killing themselves?

Include Knee-high socks, thread and candy (your choice;can be chocolate, toffee, ice cream, whatever)

750 words, PG-13 and 48 hour limit. You get one bonus point for being under 24 hours

The two-horse carriage tossed violently over the deep craters in Hayden's Keep Road, pitching the occupants first to the left, then the right, sending them crashing into the sides piled on top of each other. On a particularly hard bump the reins tore from Justin's grip and fluttered in the horses' wake for a few tantalizing seconds before dropping to drag on the ground.

He groaned as he weighed his chances of getting the thin piece of leather back. Things didn't look good, and the carriage was headed for Deadman's Curve, a sharp u-turn suspended over a mile-high cavern.

"This was a stupid idea!" Doth clung so tightly it squeezed the air out of his lungs.

"It was your idea, moron! Let go of me!"

"We're gonna die!"

Justin rolled his eyes heaven-ward at the irony of an exiled demon worried about his own skin. "Get off me!" With a hard shove he pushed the demon to the other side of the carriage. The urge to strangle him hit strongly. But he had a better idea.

"Go!" Justin pushed hard against the demon, shoving him against the side of the carriage hoping the fabric would give and they'd both tumble over the side. No matter how far they fell, it would be better to break a few bones than be tossed to one's death in this unholy outdated contraption.

The fabric held.

His roar split sunny skies as he reared back and shoved again with all his might. The fabric held again though it's white threaded seams strained and popped.

"Damn it! We're gonna have to jump from the front!" As he yelled, he pulled Doth towards the front of the carriage with him. Almost at the curve now, time was preciously short. He made to shove Doth sideways but the demon, screaming, "Get down!" threw himself on top of him, flattening him onto his back on the floor of the carriage.

"What the hell did you do that for?" he screeched as his hands clawed for purchase to draw them both up. But at the carriage rolled on he knew in his heart their last chance to escape had passed. Then he heard the unbelievable, unmistakable rat-a-tat-tat of a Tommy Gun ahead. What the heck?

Seconds later, the horses stumbled forward, their knees collapsing under them and their shin bones scraping along the dirt. The carriage lurched to a halt. Caught up with the momentum, both Justin and the demon were thrown over the horses' heads to land on the hard dry road. The impact knocked the wind out of them and they laid there for God knows how many minutes in the hot sunlight blinking themselves back to consciousness while listening to the horses' struggling last breaths.

Dear God. Let them not suffer. Forgetting he was no longer an angel and had no powers at all, Justin laid hands on the nearest muzzle and prayed. Soon the horse stilled, whether it died peacefully because of him or it was a mere coincidence it died at that moment, he would never know. He tried the other one, and then rolled up to standing, half expecting to see a crazy drug-addicted Mafia type holding a gun demanding some sort of repayment. He couldn't have been more wrong.

Gun toting she was, and she popped her fragrant cherry flavored gum loudly, but she was no Mafia queen. No. She, wearing black knee socks and a black habit with a white colf over her head, was most definitely a nun. And from the looks of things, she favored Cuban cigars.

"Sorry about that boys. Didn't mean to frighten ya. Just thought I'd better stop those horses before they got up the hill to my property."

"You - you live up here?" Doth came to his feet and appeared shaken.

"Rudy? Rudy? Is that you?"

Justin's gaze swept from the nun's wide-eyed look to Doth's and back again. They knew each other?

"Mom?" Rudy's child-like voice trembled with the one word as he ran towards her, arms out for a full embrace.

"Son!"

As the two clasped each other tightly Justin reflected on his luck. Of course. The exiled demon, his gun-toting nun mother and a fallen angel save humanity. He could just see the headlines now. Doth's idiotic face next to his mother's next to his next to an especially demonic looking portrait of Malik.

His hands clenched into fists. Malik. He'd kill him this time, he vowed. No matter what it took.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy pagan holiday and...

....Love and peace on Earth. For yaks too:



But one wonders - and to add to my list of things that freak me the heck out - what exactly are we wishing on one another when we say love? What is love anyway? Do any of us know for sure?

Is it an emotional state? Hmmm...it makes me kinda wary to identify it thus. Emotions are often fuzzy or a complicated tangle and most times hard to pin down. And after all, he might have something to say about that choice.


Namely, that emotions are fleeting and by and large not to be trusted, though others have certainly claimed otherwise over the centuries, and done so quite eloquently I might add.





Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt the sun doth move,
Doubt truth to be a liar
but never doubt thy love.
-- William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act II, Scene II

Another thing that's a bother is that one's notion of what is love changes over time. When I was younger, I seem to recall a Tina Turner video on MTV for a song called, "What's love got to do with it?" Gads, I hated that song. I loathed that song. Being so young and smart and possessed of such a sure notion of what pure love was, I didn't how see Ms. Turner could be so dumb as to even ASK that question. How could she have been so confused?

Years later, I found out Ms. Turner is a Buddhist, which helps to explain the song on one level at least. It's still not my favorite, but again, he would certainly approve:



Questioning one emotion brings us to question the reliability of other emotions too. For example, more than once I've also wondered about the emotion of fear as well. You know, how we have nothing to fear but fear itself (FDR). After all, if an emotion can't be relied on to empirically demonstrate or even define love, then can fear be clearly defined either? Perhaps more easily, some might say. That rush of adrenaline is a dead giveaway, but I've found not always 100% accurate.

Fear protects us from death, as this guy says, but it also keeps us back from things, in the sense that it keeps us from expanding our boundaries by encouraging us to protect our own small and of course highly inaccurate personal understanding of reality (is this ultimately self-love, then?) or our hopes, our dreams, or even our concept of self. And the Buddha would quickly assure us that our concept of self is just as flimsy, if not more, than those pesky emotional states such as fear or love. So perhaps we should blithely ignore fear in our daily lives with the idea that, like ourselves, it just isn't real.

But then, should we also ignore love as well?

And again, what exactly is love?

The Wikipedia article on Love says this:

In Buddhism, Kāma is sensuous, sexual love. It is an obstacle on the path to enlightenment, since it is selfish. Karuṇā is compassion and mercy, which reduces the suffering of others. It is complementary to wisdom and is necessary for enlightenment.

Adveṣa and mettā are benevolent love. This love is unconditional and requires considerable self-acceptance. This is quite different from ordinary love, which is usually about attachment and sex and which rarely occurs without self-interest. Instead, in Buddhism it refers to detachment and unselfish interest in others' welfare.

So, if ordinary love is about attachment and sex, is spiritual love the only love that is real? The Buddha taught compassion, even went out of his way to say that without developing compassion, one will never attain Nirvana. (Sound familiar? Not coming to the father but through me, etc. After all, it is Christmastime, so thought I'd throw that in there.) But how do you define compassion then? Isn't that just an emotion too? Or is it a state of mind?

I wonder.

When does love cease to be an emotion and cross into a state of mind? And, can we choose for that to happen?

Can we unlearn what society and books and movies and parents and life's choices have taught us and cross emotions off our list of definitions and instead look for evidence of -- what?

Openess?
Unselfishness?
Non-attachment?

Well. That certainly smacks of enlightenment to me!

Instead of wishing for universal love, then, shouldn't we be wishing for something more precise, such as a universal loving state of mind?



After all, as Tina Turner says, what's love but a second-hand emotion?

We are indeed left to wonder....

She's still alive. Maybe we should call her and find out?

Love,

Bratty




Thursday, December 17, 2009

On Johnson Super Beaver


I surprise myself A LOT when I look backwards in time.

Really I do!

Looking back at old school docs from 2001-2002 and etc. I was quite surprised by the content of my prose.

And then there's this little gem: Johnson Super Beaver.

It was an ill-conceived attempt at a fictional story that I made up by talking out loud to myself on the way to Plain, WA in the middle of a blizzardy snow storm. Johnson Super Beaver is a Native American man who has decidedly Hindu spiritual experiences. At the time, I was probably reading a Sherman Alexie book, though I can't say which one. Whichever one has the "Indian hole in the heart, not dot-on-the-head" quote, most likely as that seems to have stuck with me. And I may have been reading a book I can't remember the name of which tells the story of a knight's journey while surreptitiously using the chakra colors and energies throughout the tale.

Just for fun, I thought I'd just share with you the chapter titles. It looks to me like I have them arranged by the major Chakras.

1. How he fights for his new life (red)

2. Emma (orange)

3. What Young Dancer said to him (yellow)

4. How Johnson Super Beaver came to a conclusion regarding a Hindu God named Ganesha (green)

5. Johnson SB tells the whole truth (blue)

6. For miles he sees, and for miles he listens (purple)

7. Nobody came home the other night - or - I'd gladly shove your microphone up my ass and fart Cuba to freedom! (white)


Well how do you like them apples? They sure made me laugh!

I guess I'm going to have to go back and read this one. It's only 8 pages long. I wonder what it says?

I may be surprised to find out! I'll bet that if I found out how he got his name, there'd be a story there.

<3

Bratty

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I meant to write....


No, I didn't write anything tonight. I came home, read more of Stieg Larsson's Girl with the Dragon Tatoo ate dinner, and went to the gym. After my workout I drank wine and sat down to write, then chatted with April Taylor for a half an hour on Facebook.

Well, that's the way it goes sometimes!

Now it's 9:30 and I need to think about sleep. I like sleep. Sometimes though, it freaks me the hell out. Here's a list of things that sometimes freak me the hell out:

1. Sleep. Where do we go when we sleep? There is no guarantee that we will wake up. And sometimes just thinking about falling asleep makes me trepidatious. Where is the real me? Is it the one sleeping or the one awake? Or neither? And who is really in control - me, or my body? Am I just an overly large organism that exists to propagate DNA or am I something other than that? If so, what?

1A. And speaking of sleep, have you ever woken up before your body? You know, that state where you are still unable to move? It makes me feel grossly out of control of my body. And frankly, I don't like it!

2. Skin. Skin, my old landlord Lorin Hager once told me, is your largest organ. Okay then. But really it's just a cover over muscles, bone, and blood vessels. Again, the question hangs over my head, where is the real me? What is it made of? If not contained by the skin, then where?

3. Carpeting. I was at the CWH pharmacy today and the carpet in the room about gave me panic attack. Don't ask why. I think it was the pattern. Golly. I didn't know bad carpet could do that. On the other hand, hardwood floors always make me happy. I slide across them in my sockies just like I was four. And I ain't gonna change now.

4. Snow. Since I was younger, snow falling in a streelamp has always mesmerized me. When you drive, it as though you drive through a snow tunnel with the snow wafting around your car. It's nice. Not a scary thing, but it could be if one say, got too mesmerized and started to zone out while driving. Oops!

5. Pets. The concept of pets is freaky. Here's this animal, and I'm gonna call it mine, own it, and then what? Feed it, take care of its needs, scoop its poop, etc. Basically, be its slave. Um...what's wrong here? Who owns who? The whole concept that we OWN anything in this life is just plain odd.

6. Dreams. Dreams where I see a face with eyes and the texture isn't the same as the rest of my dreams or the rest of the stuff my imagination regularly produces, but instead has an almost physical quality to it. That's freaky. And it's always eyes of some animal or creature looking around. Big watery eyes. Almost as if it is in another reality and trying to get through to this one? Freaky big time!

7. Tweaked out hamstrings. I don't know about you, but when I do squats, sometimes I overdo it. Especially if it's been a while. And then, I get that really freaky feeling that my inner thighs have tightened into a knot and won't let go. It feels like a big cramp that I can do nothing about except stagger around the gym looking like an idiot.

Well, that's enough for now. There are more, of course. But I can't go into them all here.

People might think I'm strange!

:P

Bratty


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Flash Fiction 12/13/09

FF 12/13/09

Okay. I see a couple of different ways the story could go from here.

1) Henry sends her back to reality, she is pissed, and sets about trying to help them all escape along with her sidekick Anita.

2) She gets trapped there. The evil ones deciding that they like her spunk better than say, one of the other participants. They keep her and send another person back to reality. In that scenario, Bri and Henry have to fight their way out alone, or Bri’s best friend Anita has to do some work on the outside to help free them.

3) The bomb comes into play. Bomb. Bomb what? – and everyone is freed. But where? In reality or in the alternate space?

4) A showdown with the “others” causes enough problems that Henry’s continued existence seems iffy.

5) Either the good doctors have lost control of the experiment or the experiment has control of them?

Well, let us continue and see what happens to Briana and Henry…..note: it won’t be good! Keep in mind this is totally pantsted work. That’s life on the Dark Side, folks! Wa ha ha ha ha!




Okay, why after looking at a picture of Darth Vader and Cookie Monster did my mind flash to Derek Jeter of the NYY’s heavily oiled, tied up and flogged for my pleasure? Hmm…..maybe I should stop referring to pantsting as “the dark side” before I end up writing like Stephen King!
:o





Henry laid Briana down in the condo’s white guest bedroom which was quickly darkening to black. Shadows played along the walls next to the bed off of light coming in from the hallway. To chase them away, he clicked on the tiny bedside lamp, then fetched a package of frozen peas and returned to hold it on her cheek, which was already warm from the brute’s assault. How any man could ever hit a woman, Henry didn’t know. He’d simply been raised with better manners.

And there was the problem. The brute that hit her, well, hadn’t been raised in the traditional sense at all. He sighed the weight of the world out his lungs, which seemed far too small for the task. Had he known things would go so horribly wrong when he’d signed up for this gig, he never would have done it. Now, it looked like he’d be lucky to get out of alternative reality B, better known as hell, alive.

“Henry, what’s going on?” Her voice sounded groggy, but she was awake enough to place her hand over his on top of the cold peas.

Warmth shot through his hand. He hadn’t felt the warmth of a woman’s touch in about a year, and he’d missed it dearly. Images of his now ex-wife flooded his brain and his neck muscles automatically hardened with tension. Scenes of them when still together, making love. Cooking dinner. Then, fighting in the hall outside her attorney’s office. Her backstabbing him in the bar. He rotated his head and his neck cracked as he forced the images from his mind. That part of his life was over now. But it had led him to this.

Briana on the other hand, wasn’t supposed to be here. He’d hoped he’d never see her here again. The fact she lay here before him meant something had gone wrong. Terribly wrong.

She half sat up and fixed him with a curious stare. “Where are we?”

He sighed. He’d known she’d ask. She had to want to know. Curses. His fingers picked at the bedspread, his fingers so close to her thigh that it made his dick start to harden. He willed it back down. “We are in an alternative reality state specifically generated so that we can interact with an intelligent life form that needs to …learn from us.”

She sprang all the way up and the pea package dropped away from her face. “A what? Are you kidding me? That’s insane. Who the hell would we be interacting with?” She shuddered. “Don’t tell me those goons that attacked us are the ones?”

“Well, yes and no.”

A voice issued from the dark form perched against the doorjamb. “Tell her Henry. She deserves to know.”

He rotated his torso towards the door, regretting at once removing his full attention from Briana. “Silas, she’s not even supposed to be here. She doesn’t need to get mixed up in this.”

“But she already is. This is what, her third visit here? You think is by accident? You’re dreaming if you do. You’d better come to terms with the fact she’s here for good.”

He rose. “She’s going home as soon as possible. She’s not staying.”

“And you think you decide that?” Silas stepped out of the shadows and went toe to toe with Henry. He cocked his head to the side as if amused. “Look around you Henry. You aren’t in charge here anymore. None of us are.”

“Henry? What’s he talking about? In charge of what?”

She came to stand beside him. He felt her touch on his arm and his first instinct was to push her away. His second he refused to listen to.

“Listen, I’m getting her out of here, tonight.”

“How?”

“I’ll find a way. Believe me.”

“Henry, wait. I don’t want to go. I came here to try and help you. Let me stay. Please.”

He turned his head to her and barked. “No. You are going home tonight. End of discussion.”

“And you’re going to find a way?” Silas’s taunt ricocheted off the walls and the room’s energy snapped with hostility.

“I am. And nobody better try to stop me.”

***

Briana didn’t know what to make of the fact that Henry looked ready to deck Silas, or that Silas seemed to be challenging Henry to smack him one. All she wanted was to get Henry alone and talk to him. She sidled up to him, put her arm around his waist and drew him towards the other door, which looked like it opened onto the kitchen. A bathroom instead, she pulled him inside anyway and kicked the door shut behind them.

“Henry, what the hell is going on here?” She found herself almost whispering, though she couldn’t say why.

Instead of replying, he shut his eyes and rested his head against the back of the door.

“Damn it, Henry, talk to me. Why do you want me to go home so bad? And why is Silas so in your face? Tell me what’s going on.” When he didn’t move, she paced the small room, her feet treading the little powder blue throw rugs and pounding the pile down flat.

“I don’t know what’s going on, Briana. And I don’t like it.” He shoved his hands in his pockets but brought his head up. “You don’t belong here. You’re not one of the group.”

“What group? You mean, the others?”

“Me, Silas, and eight others volunteered to take part in a human-nanite experiment.” He raised his hand when she looked at him like he was completely cracked. “Just let me finish. The doctors administering the test are Harvard-trained and the components come straight from NASA. I wouldn’t have gotten involved in this – this – crazy scheme if it had been otherwise.”

She closed the distance between them with her hands on her hips. “So, you’re telling me you signed up for this for scientific purposes?”

“No.” His eyes darkened as his chest fell. “I needed the money.”

He looked so sad all the sudden that she reached out and laid a palm against the side of his face. At least this version of Henry Manchester looked alive and well. Depressed, yes, but not pale and lying too-still in a hospital basement. “Henry, they have you in a coma in the basement. You and all the rest of them.” She swallowed back her concern. “I saw you.”

The corner of his mouth quirked sideways for a second. “I’m sorry you had to see that.”

“That’s why I came back, Henry. I want to help you…and whoever …get out of here. Please, tell me what to do.”

He pushed off the door and grabbed her arms hard. “No. You can’t help us, Bri. Just get yourself out of here and go back to your life. Please, Bri. You need to go.”

She flashed him her best scowl as her eyebrows lowered. “Don’t tell me what to do.” Never mind that he’d used the diminutive of her name twice now. Almost as if he liked her. Well hell, he should like her. She’s thrust her face into a bully’s hand for him after all.

He propelled her towards the door and she reared back out of grasp. The look he cast her was pure frustration.

“Then tell me how to end this. Tell me what to do when I get back that will get you out of here.”

“We can’t leave, Briana. We’re stuck here.”

“But something’s gone wrong, hasn’t it?”

He refused to answer.

“Silas. He said something was not in your control anymore. What isn’t, Henry?”

She saw the muscles in his jaw tighten.

“The others. There are too many of them. They … they’ve adapted and absorbed too much information from us too quickly. They’ve changed, introducing a random element to the equation. And if they keep on changing and adapting,” he stopped and sighed as though the thought hurt his brain, “I don’t know what will happen to us.”

Icy cold crept around her then settled into the pit of her stomach. “Henry, how long was this experiment supposed to last? Isn’t there a fail safe? A password? A way out?”

His head thunked against the back of the door once more but this time he drew her to him, wrapping his arms around her shoulders.

She didn’t know whether he needed her support or he thought she would need his.

“Ten days. The experiment was supposed to last ten days.”

Her mind quickly recalled the information on the charts. He’d said ten days, not ninety days. “Oh my God, Henry.”

He squeezed. “I know. Believe me. I know.”


And now for something totally different.....

I came across a photo of the hot sauce wall at Double D D Meats while looking at Google photos of the sundial at Gasworks park in Seattle. I/we used to go to Double DD and buy the "pork pack" of freezer meat and while we were there, often times a bunch of hot sauce, since somebody is addicted to the feeling a flamethrower coming their arse. (Hint: not me!)

In case you think I'm joking about the hot sauce, here's a pic:




As you can see, it's quite impressive. I think I recognize the Tapatio bottle from here....

Anyway, I also ran across a blog post about the store here.

Here is Double DD Meat's address: 5602 232nd St SW, Ste 104, Montlake Terrace, WA.
If you are ever in town, stop in.

And if you happen to run into these guys on the way, well, I hope you don't have any gold on ya:








Yes, Seattle has changed my friends, but some things remain the same - like hot sauce!

<3

Bratty

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Flash Fiction 12/12/09

FF 12/12/09

More laughter. While it rang in her ears she watched for an opening. Any opening. Yes. As they laughed they stumbled around. Patting each other on the back. Bent over their knees. The crowd loosened, separated. She sprang for it.

Halfway there, she powered it up. Thighs burning, she poured on more steam. Behind her, cigar man barked an order, but the guys were slow to move. They managed to catch her hand as she sped by, but she yanked it out of their grasp and ran. And kept running to the only place she knew to go.

Ballard had the longest blocks. Endless, it seemed. Her lungs burned though the air she sucked in was crisp and moist. Long blocks, all the way down the stretch of downtown. Past the restaurants. Past the little grocery stores. Past the tourist fish ‘n chips places. Until finally she curved around the last one of them and drove her feet through the parking lot at the locks.

When she reached the admin building she at last looked back. Nobody followed her. Alone again. She released the lip she hadn’t realized she’d been biting all this time and forced herself not to think about how strange those men were. Time enough for that later. Yet they’d seemed somehow familiar…

Briana slowed her steps and made for the spill way. While holding on to the rail she glanced around her. The dark blue ominous sky held a fireball jewel of a sun hidden behind thick clouds. And the wind was kicking up again. Fiercer this time, coming faster and whipping her hair into her face with force. Gritting her teeth, she bent against it and held. When it stopped for a breather she saw him. Standing in Commodore Park in a circle.

“Henry!” A local shout that didn’t go much more than five feet around her. Then she saw who his company was and his name tore from her lips. “Henryyyyy!”

Her voice must have carried on a gust of wind that picked up, for he paused, and for his efforts was immediately flung to the ground by his assailants. Similar to the ones she’d tangled with downtown – dressed in flannel shirts, jeans, and possessing a silent threat of violence, or rather, a threat that erupted into a fist fight - four of them circled him like sharks.

God damn it. Before she knew what she was doing she’d crossed the spill way and barreled up the grassy hill. When she reached the crowd, she pushed the first man aside and then the second. The way cleared, she knelt down to examine Henry’s face. Yes he was alive. A little bloody, but alive. He gave her a weak grin, his eyes full of concern.

She could have sworn she heard him say, “get out of here,” seconds before one of the thugs dragged her up to standing and punched her in the face. After that, everything went blurry. In slow motion several confusing things happened at once. Henry got up, growing taller by the second, and laid into the men around him. Someone holding her arm let go. And she inhaled the scent of fresh cut grass as she watched what must have been the ballet segment of the dancing show. The dancers, they moved so slow.

***

“Briana. Briana, can you hear me? Damn it, why did you come back?” Henry grit his teeth as he grasped her shoulders and shook gently. This wasn’t supposed to happen. She shouldn’t have gotten involved. Those bastards. They should have left her alone. They already had the ten they needed for the experiment, so what the hell did they want with her?

“They need to leave you alone,” he snarled, his anger tying him up in knots. He didn’t like her lying so still, looking so vulnerable on the cold grass. He needed to get her someplace safe. Now.

His chest fluttered in sync with her eyelids, and hope squeezed his chest. “Bri? You there? You okay?”

She moaned softly and blinked. Signs of life. He wondered how bad her cheek hurt. The stupid asshole that nailed her hadn’t held much back.

Neither had he when he’d kicked him in the ribs. He’d found the audible crack quite satisfying.

Her eyes opened and she exhaled his name. “Henry.”

Time stopped as he leaned over her and pushed the strands of wayward hair off her face. He’d noticed her beauty the first time, even in the murky green light of the fish ladder observatory. The second time, he’d been too busy trying to warn her to take in much else, and she’d been too busy running away. But now, seeing her at last still in one place he had the chance to explore it. Deep brown eyes and porcelain skin, mousy brown hair and a mouth made for kissing, he longed to learn more about her. And hated himself for it at the same time. He pushed up and dragged her up to sitting.

“Hey!” Her protest was weak. She must have been dizzy as her hand came up to her forehead as though the world spun.

“Hey yourself.” He wanted to chew her out for even attempting to butt into that fight, but he couldn’t waste the time. “We need to get you to some place safe. Come on.”

He stood her up and she whined, leaning heavily against him. He hugged her closer enjoying the feel of her body close to his for just a second, then started them up the hill.

“Come on. Don’t be such a sissy.”

As she let loose a long string of heart-felt expletives, he knew she’d be okay and smiled to himself as he half-carried and half-dragged the girl of his dreams to his temporary digs.







The tiger's song 12/12/09




My first impulse is to push the car
off the f**ng cliff
My second is to kick it
Or swing a sledgehammer
and smash the windows, snarl and prowl

But after the dust settles
I'm still here on my knees
with my arms spread wide
Begging you to tell me
whatever secrets you hold

If I hadn't wanted to know
I wouldn't have asked

But still you leave me
Smashing the walls and
holding you in my arms
Ripping the door off its hinges
and kissing you on the mouth
Setting loose fire on the wind
and running my hands down your body.

And hanging on for dear life
inside the whirlwind
of emotions you stir up inside me.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Flash Fiction 12/11/09

FF 12/11/09

After four super-sized cups of coffee, night time television took on a whole new slant. Sitting wide awake in her bed, eyes bugged-out open and riveted to the screen, she dew quick breaths as the dancers slaughtered the fox trot. How the hell she’d ever missed the singular importance of this show, she’d never know.

The commercial came on and she sat back in the bed and bit her nails. Outside her door the intercom beeped, nurses shuffled by with quiet footsteps, and the hospital slowed its frenetic pace to something approaching evening induced serenity. Another nail bit the dust and she clicked off the t.v., then flung back the blankets and got up.

She didn’t feel the coldness of the floor this time as she paced. Back and forth, back and forth. The way Dr. Samuelson had looked at her niggled at her. And the names on the charts. Samuelson and Bradley. Were they in cahoots? Over what? And why?

But that wasn’t the only thing bothering her. Henry had looked so pale and lifeless lying in that bed, she’d longed to put her arms around him. Stop overreacting. This is Seattle. Everybody’s pale. No, it’s not just that. He seemed … so helpless. Was he helpless right now?

She paced faster, hoping to outpace her guilt. Not an easy task with Henry stuck in her mind. If Henry was in trouble, she wanted to help him, but how? By helping his body?

A deep breath escaped her in a long sigh. I’m not a doctor. What can I do? Dr. Bradley and Dr. Samuelson are doctors. Why aren’t they doing something to help them? Maybe they don’t know what’s really going on. Snort. Yeah right. Tell them about the special dream land and they’ll lock me up for good. Crap.

Her hands twisted around each other as she perched on the edge of the bed, feet dangling above the floor. All the sudden she felt a chill in the air around her and reached for the blankets. Drawing them over her, she laid on her side.

I’ll just lie down for a minute.

Caffeine still buzzing through her veins, she watched the clock intently. The little hand was on the yawn, and the big hand had just passed the big z. She yawned and blinked back exhaustion. No question about it, the operation had taken a lot of her. At thirty seven, she wasn’t as young and able to bounce back as she might have thought. Eyelids grew heavier. The fog rolled in and right on down the street.

God, the old brick streets of Ballard were creepy at night. Dark and abandoned, they called forth images of skulking ne’er do wells and old fog-socked London streets. She checked her clothes – no, not Victorian dress. Probably a good thing. Except….

Damn! I’m dreaming again! Damn it I fell asleep! Now how the hell do I get out of here?

The doorway to the bar across the street creaked open like an old Detroit iron. A shady looking character emerged with his red checkered flannel shirt sleeves rolled up to his elbows and a cheap cigar dangling from his lips. She cringed back. The man considered her, then tossed his cheroot on the sidewalk and came towards her.

Her feet pounded the pavement as she ran up the hill. Had to get away from him. Fast. Something not right here. Never saw him before. Henry. Have to find Henry.

At the top of the hill a gang of men emerged from the shadows. They stood shoulder to shoulder blocking her access to the street. All she wanted was to head towards the locks. Towards Henry.

From behind, she heard the cigar man’s voice.

“Briana, is it? Nice to meet you, Briana. I’ve been waiting to see if you’d come back.”

Not by choice. Teeth clenched to stop the chattering, she turned her head as he came up beside her.

“My name’s Chinni. Antonio Chinni.” He held out a hand.

Her eyes flitted from the group to his hand as her ears listened for anything helpful. Refusing to shake, her hand tightened into a fist. “Why have you been waiting?”

“To see if it took.”

Both eyebrows lowered. “To see if what took?”

Cigar man shared an amused look with his pals, then shifted his stance. “Our little experiment. You know…” He raised his eyebrows, as if she were in on the joke.

“What experiment?”

That got her a laugh from each of them. And snickers.

“I fail to see what’s so funny. Would you mind sharing it?”

More laughter. This time, practically doubling them over for several seconds. When he straightened, Chinni had tears in his eyes.

“Oh, that felt good. Yes. Laughter really is the best medicine!” His smile could have lit up the night had he been phosphorescent.

But the smile curdled her stomach. It didn’t seem right somehow. Like a voice that sounds tinny. His laugh sounded…mechanical. With all eyes on her, she had little choice but to play along though.

“Well, have you heard this one? A woman gets on a bus with her baby. The bus driver says: ‘That's the ugliest baby that I've ever seen!’ The woman goes to the rear of the bus and sits down, fuming. She says to a man next to her: ‘The driver just insulted me!’ The man says: ‘You go right up there and tell him off – go ahead, I'll hold your monkey for you.’”

  

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Flash Fiction 12/10/09

FF 12/10/09

Okay, time to get back to work. Enough stuffing myself with cookies and smoked meats. Enough lazing about and falling asleep on the couch (what an exciting life I lead!). Time to put some ideas to the test.

Or, a girl just gets tired of nothing but research after a while.

And now the question: to restart or plunge ahead and change later?



…plunging ahead

Gulp. Dr. Bradley’s grip on her arm was certainly not medically necessary. If it didn’t leave bruises she’d be a monkey’s uncle.

Shuffled into a small conference room with a fake oak table and eight swivel chairs around it, she had barely enough time to register the two other occupants before being shoved towards a seat. She elected to remain standing.

“Mr. Bradley, is this the patient you wanted to consult with me about?” A dark-haired white-coated man stepped forward and peered into her eyes.

She took a step back.

“Yes. She’s been exhibiting, well, strange behavior.”

“And you suspect some form of neural shock?” The doctor leaned closer.

“Interesting. May I Charles?” The second doctor, another male, strode forward with a competitive air about him. His name tag read Samuelson.

The first doctor refused to move out of his way. “I got here first, Samuelson.” He turned towards Bradley. “What kind of symptoms is she experiencing?”

Bradley fidgeted. “Um, sleep-walking. I-I just found her downstairs. She’d left her room shortly after my examination. When I left her she was sound asleep, I assure you.”

Her eyes widened and Dr. Charles took the opportunity to grab her chin and stick his fingers on both top and bottom of her eye to pry it open even further. Good thing he wasn’t a tonsil doctor. Her mouth had gaped at Bradley’s description of events.

“Fascinating.” He stood back and released her eye. “I’d like to run a full exam on her, starting with an MRI. Is she available this afternoon?”

“Why yes-“

“No! I mean. What are you people talking about? I don’t feel any-“

Stupid Dr. Charles stroked her arm with his fingertips in the same God damn area Bradley had bruised it. “Now just relax, miss…miss…”

“Strauss. The patient’s name is Briana Strauss.” The nurse snapped the chart shut with quick efficiency.

“Miss Strauss. I just want to-“

Twisting her torso, she managed to put a little more room between them. “I think I want to go back to my room now. I feel like I’m going to be sick.”

Samuelson looked up from cleaning his glasses and spoke quietly. He had the kind of eyes that never missed a thing. “Miss Strauss. Do you know where you are right now?”

In a conference room with four goons in white lab coats. “In a conference room in the Mercy Street Hospital?”

“That’s right. And where were you just a few minutes ago?” His smile might have been meant to relax the viewer, but behind it, a springing tiger hid in the grass.

Briana glanced from him to Dr. Bradley and then Charles. All waited for her answer. “In the TBI ward.” Her voice had gone all small again. She hated that.

Samuelson put the glasses back on and clasped his hands in front of him. “And why were you there, Miss Strauss? Can you tell us that? Was there something there you wanted to see? Or someone?”

She nodded. “H-Henry.” The word popped out before she could stop it. Damn it but words needed an ‘unsend’ button. If she told them the truth…they’d lock her up! She swallowed a very large lump in her throat.

In the pause that followed, nobody spoke. Stunned glances were traded all around. Finally Samuelson broke the silence.

“She seems all right to me, Charles. I mean, she’s cognizant of where she is and can verbalize her intentions. I don’t think you’ll find any abnormalities of any size to concern yourself with.”

Dr. Charles sighed. “I suppose you’re right.” He clapped Bradley on the shoulder as he exited. “Call me if you need me again.”

She got a bruise on the other arm as Dr. Bradley pushed her towards the door. On the way out she glanced back at Samuelson. He stood gazing out the conference room window. A view of the parking lot that simply couldn’t be missed.

Once outside, Dr. Bradley let out a sigh of relief. “Whew. That was close.”

He’d whispered the words on an out breath, but her hearing was pretty darn good. “What did you say?”

“I said, it’s time for you to get back to your room Miss Strauss.” He faced her forwards down the hall and hissed in her ear. “And this time, stay there.”

Anita squealed and jumped off the bed as she entered the room. “Thank God you’re back. I was worried about you.”

An atomic glare seemed to get the message across.

“Look Bri, I’m sorry I squealed, but they were gonna stick a needle in me! I had to do something.” She rubbed her arm as though suffering from injection after effects.

“Don’t be such a wuss, Nita. For Christ sake.” She tossed the jacket at her and plopped into bed, still turning over the incident in the conference room in her mind.

Anita sat down next to her. “Well, what did you find out?”

“Nothing really. Nothing at all.”

Except that all the patient charts she’d looked at had Dr. Samuelson or Dr. Bradley on their charts. And all of them had gone in for routine operations and were now in a coma. And for all she knew, she’d be next.

Or she’d gone crazy.

She picked up the Styrofoam cup and gulped the contents, then shook the empty at her Benedict Arnold friend. “Anita, can you get me some more coffee before you go? Thanks. I really need it.”

Because if I fall asleep again, I’m done for.






Monday, December 7, 2009

Notes on bacteriophages


From wikipedia:

Bacteriophage

A bacteriophage (from 'bacteria' and Greek φᾰγεῖν phagein "to eat") is any one of a number of viruses that infect bacteria. Bacteriophages are among the most common organisms on Earth. The term is commonly used in its shortened form, phage.

Typically, bacteriophages consist of an outer protein capsid enclosing genetic material. The genetic material can be ssRNA, dsRNA, ssDNA, or dsDNA ('ss-' or 'ds-' prefix denotes single-strand or double-strand) between 5,000 and 500,000 nucleotides long with either circular or linear arrangement. Bacteriophages are much smaller than the bacteria they destroy – usually between 20 and 200 nm in size.

Bacteriophages may have a lytic cycle or a lysogenic cycle, but a few viruses are capable of carrying out both. With lytic phages such as the T4 phage, bacterial cells are broken open (lysed) and destroyed after immediate replication of the virion. As soon as the cell is destroyed, the new phages can find new hosts. Lytic phages are the kind suitable for phage therapy.

In contrast, the lysogenic cycle does not result in immediate lysing of the host cell.

To enter a host cell, bacteriophages attach to specific receptors on the surface of bacteria, including lipopolysaccharides, teichoic acids, proteins or even flagella. This specificity means that a bacteriophage can only infect certain bacteria bearing receptors that they can bind to, which in turn determines the phage's host range. As phage virions do not move independently, they must rely on random encounters with the right receptors when in solution (blood, lymphatic circulation, irrigation, soil water etc.).

Phage therapy is the therapeutic use of bacteriophages to treat pathogenic bacterial infections. Although extensively used and developed mainly in former Soviet Union countries for about 90 years, this method of therapy is still being tested elsewhere for treatment of a variety of bacterial and poly-microbial biofilm infections, and has not yet been approved in countries other than Georgia. Phage therapy has many potential applications in human medicine as well as dentistry, veterinary science, and agriculture.

Bacteriophages are much more specific than more common drugs, so they can hypothetically be chosen to be indirectly harmless not only to the host organism (human, animal, or plant), but also to other beneficial bacteria, such as gut flora, reducing the chances of opportunistic infections. They would have a high therapeutic index, that is, phage therapy would be expected to give rise to few if any side effects, as opposed to drugs, and would not stress the liver. Because phages replicate in vivo, a smaller effective dose can be used. On the other hand, this specificity is also a disadvantage: A phage will only kill a bacterium if it is a match to the specific strain. Thus, phage mixtures are often applied to improve the chances of success, or samples can be taken and an appropriate phage identified and grown.


In the West, no therapies are currently authorized for use on humans, although phages for killing food poisoning bacteria (Listeria) are now in use.

Phage therapy is generally considered safe. As with antibiotic therapy and other methods of countering bacterial infections, endotoxins are released by the bacteria as they are destroyed within the patient (Herxheimer reaction).







Resistance rising

According to the CDC, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) accounted for nearly 60% of nosocomial S. aureus infections in 2001—a figure that had nearly doubled over the previous decade. Although most MRSA can still be treated with powerful antibiotics, some superbugs can shrug off even the strongest drugs. The first reported case of resistance to Pfizer's (Groton, CT, USA) Zyvox, the last line of defense against MRSA, was reported a little more than a year after the drug was approved.

Nor is S. aureus the only problem. The CDC estimates that in some areas, 30% of pneumonia caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae is resistant to penicillin, whereas virtually all cases were susceptible in the 1970s. Vancomycin started failing to keep some Enterococcus (faecium and faecalis) infections in check in late 1988, necessitating new aggressive combination regimens. By 1993, according to the NIH, more than 10% of hospital-acquired enterococci infections reported to the CDC were attributed to vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) faecium. Aventis's (Strasbourg, France) drug Synercid was introduced in 1999 as a new weapon against VRE, but some resistance was observed before it even reached the market.

For every bacterium known on this planet, there are legions of bacteriophages—tiny viruses that seek out bacteria and use them as a breeding ground, almost invariably destroying their prokaryotic host in the process. In their single-minded mission, phages ignore every cell but the strain of bacteria they have evolved to inhabit.

A single phage can make hundreds of progeny, which then burst out of the bacterium and go off in search of new hosts, all in the span of about 30 minutes.

"They almost always use cocktails," says Elizabeth Kutter, a microbiologist at Evergreen State College (Olympia, WA, USA) who has observed many phage treatments in Tbilisi (Georgia). A typical off-the-shelf phage therapy for purulent infections, she says, might include 30 phage strains going after five different types of bacteria. And that preparation may vary from hospital to hospital.

Phage zombies

A conceptually related approach is being pursued by a research team at the Medical University of South Carolina (Charleston, SC, USA), working in conjunction with Hexal Gentech, the research and development arm of German pharmaceutical company Hexal (Holzkirchen).

Working with the filamentous coliphage M13, the researchers created a sort of zombie phage—a regular phage body that still seeks out a specific microbial host (in this case, E. coli) but that has had its head emptied of the usual DNA necessary for replication. It instead injects only a lethal protein system, killing the host cell but not leading to the lysis of the cell or new phage production.

Michael Schmidt, a professor at the university and member of the research team, theorizes that the potential for bacterial resistance could be reduced by introducing multiple killing systems into the engineered phage, making it harder for the bacteria to mutate around their demise. And unlike other phage, filamentous phage do not have a strict limit on the amount of genetic information they can encapsulate, which has endeared them to many genetic engineers over the years.

The potential challenge is that filamentous phage are thought to infect only bacteria with a pilus, a spear-like protein tube required for the phage to gain entry. Not all bacterial species, nor all strains within common species, have a pilus—meaning that filamentous phage may not always be the best choice of vector for antimicrobial agents.

And this from Popular Science

Although there have been no reports of adverse effects resulting from mutations, phages that don't normally nest inside the human body could potentially swap genes with other phages that do and produce foreign proteins that trigger an immune reaction. And it's impossible to say exactly how a virus might mutate when exposed to different bacteria, says Paul Sullam, a microbiologist at the University of California at San Francisco.

As viruses go, phages are relatively benign. They're the most abundant naturally occurring organisms on Earth. They can be found virtually everywhere—-in soil, drinking water, sewage. In fact, each one of us naturally has billions of them in our bodies. They prey only on bacteria, never human cells, they rarely spread from person to person, and, perhaps most important, bacteria have trouble becoming immune to them. As living organisms, phages are constantly changing and adapting in tandem with their host bacteria to kill them more effectively.

In fact, studies published over the past several decades, based on trials conducted at Eliava and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, have shown that phage therapy has an 80 to 90 percent success rate against bacteria likely to show antibiotic resistance, such as Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. In contrast, many antibiotics fail outright against the evolved forms of these pathogens. In June 2005, a bacterial strain resistant to the first-line antibiotic imipenem ravaged more than 50 patients at New York City hospitals. Among patients whose infections infiltrated their bloodstream, the death rate was 47 percent.

For Wolcott, who watches hundreds of patients die every year from seemingly incurable infections, these medicinal viruses can't arrive in the U.S. fast enough. "Phage needs to be fast-tracked. It works. It's completely natural. Why can't you spray this stuff on a kid's throat right now?"

The difference, according to the FDA, is the application: Spraying a phage on lunch meat makes it a food additive. Give it to someone with an infection, and it becomes a drug.

Every week, Wolcott's study participants arrived at the clinic and received their phages through a handheld ultrasonic device, a high-tech upgrade to the IV drips common in Eastern Europe. The device simultaneously sprays on saline-based phage solution and destroys blackened or dead tissue, allowing the phages to penetrate deeper into the wound.

A U.S. Patent on bacteriophage usage

See also:


Inactivation of Surface Viruses
Journal article by Chunchieh Tseng, Chihshan Li; Journal of Environmental Health, Vol. 70, 2008

and

MicroPhage Obtains CE Mark to Sell World's First Rapid MRSA/MSSA Test in Europe
Anonymous. Business Wire. New York: Dec 7, 2009.

About Staph Infections

Staphylococci are frequently implicated in bloodstream infections (BSIs) with high morbidity and mortality. In a multinational study3, 36 percent of bloodstream isolates were staphylococci, 61 percent of which were Staphylococcus aureus. In a prospective cohort of patients with hospital-acquired BSIs in the United States, S. aureus was a primary cause, accounting for 20 percent of cases. The incidence of S. aureus bacteremia has increased significantly over the past decade, largely due to the increasing use of intravascular catheters and invasive devices. There has also been a significant rise in rates of methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA). Almost 60 percent of S. aureus bacteremia in the U.S. is now caused by these resistant strains.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Flash Fiction 12/06/09

FF 120609

... this one’s a bit longer. Sorry!

“Well, you’re certainly taking the loss of your fertility in most mature manner.” Anita closed the door behind her and made her way over to the bed, sparing a glance at the television mounted to the wall opposite the bed as she passed. “Or has The View got you all wound up again?”

Briana scowled at her best friend, who flashed her back a smirk and sank into one of the two guest chairs in the room. As usual she sat sideways in the first one, and swung her legs over the other one. From her denim coat pocket she withdrew a Dum Dum, unwrapped it, and started sucking on it. The scent of cherry wafted over to the bed, making Briana’s stomach gurgle.

Anita removed the candy from her mouth with a popping sound, and waved it in the air as she talked. “So, you all ready to go? You packed? Or you planning on staying here another night?”

Right now, Briana couldn’t think of anything better to do than go home. Getting out the hospital and back into her own bed in her own apartment seemed heavenly after what she’d been through yesterday and this morning. Maybe now that the anesthesia had worn off she’d have no more nightmares. An involuntary shiver raced down her back as she remembered the wind circling around her below the control tower.

The Dum Dum popped out again and Anita raised her eyebrows. “Cold? Want my coat or something?”

She shook her head. No. What she needed to was to get up, get dressed, and get the hell out of here. “Is the doctor on his way? Did you already talk to him?”

“Dr. Bradley?” Anita rolled her eyes at the mere suggestion of the man. “Yeah, I saw him. He was about two doors down on the other side of the hall when I got here. Mr. Perfect should be here any minute.”

“Help me get dressed then.”

Her arches raised up off the cold hospital tile floor seconds after her feet touched it. Brrrr. Damn. With just a gown to warm her, she hurried to the closet and flung out items out of her bag until she found a pair of socks and jammed them on her feet. The fabric helped, somewhat.

“Here, put these on.” Anita handed her a pair of jeans, nothing fancy.

She shoved her legs into them and then lifted her gown so she could see to raise the zipper. When she did, a small square white bandage peeked out between the edges of the material.

Anita gasped and reached her fingers closer. “Is that your scar? Can I see it?”

Briana rolled her eyes. Leave it to Anita to be totally non-grossed out by it. “Later. First, I need to get dressed so I can get the hell out of here.”

The door creaked on its hinges and Briana zipped up and crossed her arms over her chest.

Dr. Bradley strolled in looking characteristically flawless – except for the firm set of his jaw. “Miss Strauss, where is it you think you’re going?”

Her mouth opened in shock.

Anita’s cherry Dum Dum popped at the same time.

“Home?” She regretted the whiny pitch of her voice but couldn’t do much about it. “I thought I’d be released today. Didn’t you say it was an outpatient procedure?”

Dr. Bradley placed a hand above her elbow and gently guided her back to the bed. “That was when I thought we’d just be taking out an ovary. That, yes, is an outpatient procedure.” He waited while she sat on the bed and motioned for her to swing her legs up as well and lay back. “But taking out a tumor the size of a grapefruit is not an out patient procedure.”

“But I’m fine, really. Look. I feel good. I need to get home and-“

“Briana.” He used his authoritative tone. An especially dry grating one. Then it turned less confident. “Have you ever had any reaction to anesthesia before?"

“No. Why? Did something happen?”

He shrugged. “It’s probably nothing. Sometimes people have a reaction to anesthesia for no discernible reason. Could be stress. That’s all. But I’d like to keep you one more night for observation.” He patted her shin with a placating gesture. “We got all of the cancer out though. That’s the important thing, right?”

Her fingers twisted in the thin bleached white blanket, a discomfort she couldn’t name rising with each passing second. One more night in this place and she feared she’d go mad. She forced a swallow and a weak nod. His ra-ra-ra attitude wasn’t helping any.

He put the clipboard down. “Good, now let me just take a look and see how you’re healing.”

Anita hovered over his shoulder. “Can I see too?”

Briana and Dr. Bradley answered in her unison: “No.”

“Crap. I’ll be outside if you need me.”



By the time Anita re-entered the room, Family Feud was on television, and her mood had sunk to a funk. Dr. Bradley had quietly explained that she’d suffered a bad reaction to the anesthesia during the operation. But he wouldn’t answer all her questions, and doubt nagged at her.

She forced a smile for her friend who plopped down in the same position, took another Dum Dum out of her pocket, and proceeded to fill the room with eau de root beer.

“So. What’d he say?”

A heavy sigh escaped her and the urge to pout curled her bottom lip up. “I don’t get to go home till tomorrow.”

Her friend shrugged. “No big deal. You sleep here tonight and I’ll pick you up in the morning.”

At the word sleep, alarm bells went off in her head. Fear shot through her. Images of the last two dreams she’d had returned full force and her hands trembled. She wrapped them around each other to hide it. “Sleep? Why would I want to sleep?” She didn’t realize she’d mumbled the words out loud until she spied Anita’s confused frown. “I mean, what I could really use is a cup of coffee,” she countered quickly. “A really big cup. Yeah. That’s what I need.”

Anita's feet came down off the chair and she sat like a normal person. “Okay…regular or a latte or what?”

“Black. Just the biggest blackest cup of coffee you can find. Please? I’ve got some money.”

“’Sokay. I think I’ve got it.” Anita stood up and her cell phone clattered to the floor.

As she stooped to pick it up off the cold hospital floor, Henry’s words haunted her.

Where are you right now? You’re in the hospital. Either under anesthesia, or asleep in a bed. You aren’t really here.


How would Henry know that unless he too, were in the same hospital with her? Was he watching her? She shuddered at the thought. Probably some pervert invading my dreams. Still, he’d invaded them twice. And the second time he’d given her name. A specific name.

“Anita, can I borrow your phone?”

“Um. Yeah. Sure. Be right back.” She handed her the phone and strolled out, popping the root beer sucker back in her mouth as she went.

Briana reached for the phone book and looked up the hospital’s main line. Dialed. “Hello? I’m checking on visiting hours a friend. His name? Henry Manchest-“ Damn, she hadn’t let him finish. “What? Yes. Manchester. Thank you. When can I see him? And where is his room located? Okay. Thanks.” Click.

Still wearing her socks, she slithered out of bed and crept up to the door. The little window didn’t let her see much, so she cracked it open a little and peered down the hall. The good doctor ducked into another room three doors down. He was moving quickly now. Making good time. Must have a spate of ingrown toenail removals on the remainder of his rounds.

Anita’s form appeared at the end of the hall and Briana hurried back towards the bed.

“Here you go. One big-ass black-as-the-ace-of-spades coffee.” She plopped the white Styrofoam container down on the bedside table and peeled back the cover of the sip hole.

“Thanks. But now I need to ask you another favor.”

"What?"

“I need you to sneak me out of here. I need to get to level B.”

“Do I get to see your scar if I do?”

“Oh for God sake. Yes. You can see it. All right?”



Level B stood for basement. Not Cardiac wing. Not Intensive Care Unit. But basement. As in down below where the steam and the heat and the inbound boxes of hard goods arrived. Oh yeah, and the extra cold bodies were kept until pick-up by the long purple station wagon.

Briana tugged Anita’s denim jacket tighter around her as she stepped off the elevator. The downstairs of the hospital didn’t offer a lot of warmth. No damn way was she taking her shoes off. The painted sign on the ceiling read: TBI Unit. The navy blue arrow pointed jauntily around the corner. She had no idea what TBI meant, but the distinct feeling her visit to the unit would be anything but jaunty dogged her steps.

Instead of entering, she hung back at the double door’s threshold. A nurse in white zipped past her out the door, not even noticing her presence. She took a risk and peeked inside but didn’t see much. Another door beyond the first one mostly covered with frosted glass blocked her view.
Damn it.



She steeled her nerves and pulled open the door. No alarm bells pealed. A deep breath and two more steps and her hand pushed open the second door. It whooshed closed behind her leaving her alone in a room full of white privacy drapes and the sound of beeping equipment. Her in-breath stuttered and she stood stock still turning her head from side to side as she counted the beds. There must have been twenty beds in that room, maybe more. Twenty curtains between them. Twenty charts hung at the ends of the beds.

One foot slid forward a tiny increment and the other followed with a step. At the foot of the first bed on the left she paused and gazed at the face of an older woman with short graying hair. A picture of peaceful slumber, it made her shudder all the same. After the last 24 hours, the words peaceful and slumber might never be tied together in her mind again. She moved on.

The next bed’s occupant obviously wasn’t Henry Manchester unless in reality he was a child no more than ten years old. She glanced down at the chart. Tony Hendrickson. Admitted for appendicitis. Operated on March 12. Went into a coma after the operation. Had been there for two months by her calculations. She frowned and dropped the chart back into place.

Bed number three. Occupant: Silas Bolton. Thirty six years old. Admitted for routine gall stone surgery. Operated on March 20. Went into a coma after the operation.

Bed number four. Occupant: Heather Rader. Twenty seven years old. Admitted for optional breast augmentation. Operated on March 29. Went into a coma after the operation. The urge to peek at the woman's boob job assailed her. She glanced towards the door and saw no one, then had an attack of conscience and thought better of it.

Bed number five. Occupant: Allison Simmons. Thirty two years old. Admitted for xxxx

Bed number six. Occupant: Henry Manchester.

She dropped the chart and looked up. A pale face nestled into the pillow, the side of his head turned away from her. She couldn’t be sure from this far away, so she skirted the side of the bed until she reached the top. One look was all it took.

“Henry.” His name came out of her lips in a hushed tone but she needn’t have bothered. This wasn’t the library. Her hand clasped his arm and pushed. “Henry. It’s Briana. Can you hear me?”

Henry’s head wobbled on its stalk but he didn’t wake. A sick feeling started in the pit of her stomach. Not only did Henry Manchester exist, he was here in the same hospital. How could her brain have just made that up? It couldn’t.

Dizzy, she clasped the bed rail, bent her knees, and lowered her head. Fighting the urge to toss her cookies, she gulped big breaths in and out and waited for the world to stop spinning. This can’t be real. It can’t be.

As the nausea subsided she made her way to the end of the bed again and picked up the chart. Forty two years old. Admitted for bleeding stomach ulcer. Operated on April 12. Went into a coma after the operation.

She grimaced as she let the clipboard fall once more and stared at the man of her dreams – literally.

“Henry, what the hell is going on here?”

The door behind her pushed open and Dr. Bradley sped in with a nurse close at his heels.

“Miss Strauss, I think you’d better come with me.”

Oh, this is good....

So true...they must have been reading my mind!


The link to the Web site is here.

Cats are evil!

Love it!

Bratty

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Flash Fiction 12/05/09

FF120509
(Partial --- oh hell, let's just admit TOTAL - re-write of 12/04/09)

…continued

One heavy eyelid rose and then the other. They fell closed again almost immediately but she forced them back open. Around her, the white hospital walls and cream colored electronic monitoring array exuded order and serenity.

Relief cushioned her entry back into reality. Sighing, she sunk further into the pillow and stared at the brilliant white recessed lit ceiling. The fish ladder and the shadow man were both gone now. It was just a dream. A bad dream.

One she hoped to forget forever. She pressed a palm to her forehead, making small circles. Her eyelids drifted lower again as a measure of peace returned to her soul. This torment too, would end, she realized.

Sleep. I just need to sleep it off.


A humming noise like the sound of machinery whirred in the background of her thoughts but she ignored it. She accepted the presence of the machinery attached to her bed, dangling from the ceiling, plugged into the wall. All of it there to watch over her, protect her, ensure her safety. A simple hum was an annoyance she could easily put up with.

On the outside her breathing slowed and became regular and even. Her limbs softened. Inside, she rode the hum like a magic carpet all the way to unconsciousness. It deposited her in dream land in a very familiar place.

Where am I?


Rushing water slid through the tainter gates dumping fresh water into Lake Washington. Above, the sky was unusually bright blue, cloudless and eerily still. Around her, unmanned boats bobbed and banged fenders as they lay tethered to the sidewalls of the locks. Her chest tightened as she realized no people were about.

Oh no. Not again.

The sky darkened and a sudden cool breeze played over the surface of the water stirring tiny whitecaps and knocking the abandoned watercraft together. It pushed at her back, tossing and whipping her hair in front of her face and urging her body forward. The cold rush of air chilled her bones but she dug in her feet, hung onto the railing and waited it out. When it subsided she straightened and pulled her hair back, looking behind her towards the admin building. Still no one.

She cast a glance in both directions – in front of her lay the spillway, and behind, the main entrance – and decided to head for the entrance. Fifty feet lay between her and the pedestrian walkway on the other side of the lock. She headed for it and the gray security of the admin building on the other side.

The air rippled around her as she passed under the control tower. Almost like a bomb had gone off and moved the clock ahead to twilight. A shock wave of the ripple impacted her, tossing her into the cement base of the tower. At the same time, a high-pitched howl that certainly wasn’t the wind caressed her eardrums, and she brought both hands up to her head. The wind increased, and she crouched down making herself small and less of target. With the wind whipping around her she couldn’t tell where the howl had originated. She didn’t want to think about what made it.

Another howl, and this time she pinpointed the direction. It came from the entrance.

Her feet got traction quick. She rose and ran, keeping her fingers in contact with the railing as she dashed across the spillway. The constant niggling fear of something or someone at her back kept her head turning around but she spied no one behind her, at least not physically, though some unseen presence was there. Spray again hit her in the face and she flinched though this time she wore a maroon colored long sleeve tee and jeans. When she reached the other end she paused and looked back again but saw nothing.

“Who’s there? Who’s following me?”

Breathing heavy, she turned frantically in circles but saw no one at all. Not one person at the entire locks. A violent shiver ran up her spine and fear socked her in the gut. From behind her came another evil wind that penetrated her flesh like needles. She clutched at her chest to fight the rising panic and forced herself to think.

To her left lay the entrance to the fish viewing station. To her right, the terraced green hillside of Commodore Park. Above it lay the streets of Magnolia. Apartment buildings and condominiums. Civilization. It didn’t take her long to make her choice. If she never saw the fish ladder again it would be too soon.

She started towards the park and stopped.

How odd.
None of the condos had a light in the window, and no cars drove down the street. No sounds. No people. Only silence. Not even a gaggle of geese fertilizing the park with their plentiful defecations.

Still, there had to be safety in numbers. People had to be somewhere if not here.

“Briana.”

Her name, carried on the wind, blew at the back of her head and cinched her shoulder blades closer together. She turned only her head towards the sound, knowing exactly who she’d find there.

“Back so soon?” Shadow man shook his head in apparent pity. “Not a good sign.”

She pivoted 90 degrees and stood firm. “Who are you, and how do you know my name?”

He cocked his head to the side like a dog and considered her as though she were an unusual object d’art. “You’ve been here before, Briana. We all know your name.”

Before she could ask, “all who?” he extended a hand towards her.

“Come. You can meet the rest.”

Two steps backward, then two more. She considered turning and running her best option. Getting away from him outweighed her need to know what the hell was happening to her.

“You can run Briana, but there’s no where to go. This isn’t reality as you know it.” He sighed and his shoulders slumped a notch and remained at their new height. “And if you don’t get help fast, you won’t ever leave.”

That was rich. Anger bubbled up, sharpening her tongue. “Look shadow man or whatever the hell your name is-“

“Henry. My name is Henry Manches-“

“Fine. Whatever. Look, I’m leaving now and I’m not coming back. Do you understand me?” She jabbed a finger towards his chest. “Now leave me alone.” Spinning on her heel, she turned and strode briskly away.

“Briana.” His voice, soft a whisper, relentlessly followed her form. “Where are you right now?”

Her footsteps pounded into the walkway, keeping an even pace with the blood pounding furiously in her head.

“You’re in the hospital. Either under anesthesia, or asleep in a bed. You aren’t really here. You know that, right?”

Punching up the effort, she sunk one foot and then another into the nearly vertical hillside and violently pushed against the Earth.

“This isn’t a dream, Briana.”

Yes it is. That’s all it is. And that’s all you are. Just a dream. Just a dream and I’m going to wake up now.

Her breath full and heavy with exertion, she paused at the top of the hill as she reached the edge of Commodore Way and glanced both directions. The streets were quiet. Too quiet. Then she caught movement to her right in her peripheral vision.

Was this supposed to be some sick ongoing joke?


Hanging upside down from a branch, swinging back and forth, was the man from the fish ladder. In his hands another white sign. It read: Scream. Nobody will hear you.

Air filled her lungs as she stumbled back and pressed her fist against her mouth. At the touch on the back of her neck she did scream. Long and loud.

Her body jackknifed up in the bed, back in the land of white on white as the last traces of the yell bled out of her. No signs. No fish. No wind. Just a white empty room.

Frustration bloomed inside her. She banged her fists against the mattress and screamed again in despair.

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Excerpt:

The god didn’t whisper to his mind as before but spoke through the white nightmare holding Silhara’s gaze. “Come forth, Avatar. Do you not know me, Son of Lies?”

The voice, hollow as an empty grave, rose above the insectile buzzing and snapped Silhara out of his stupor.

He gasped and spun away from the parapet. Racing into his room, he careened into the bedside table, sending the pitcher crashing to the floor in a shower of water and broken pottery. Silhara skidded in a puddle as he grabbed the crossbow and bolts stashed against one corner.

Rage burned his spirit clean of Corruption’s bewitchment. “Neith crawls with unwelcome guests this evening.” He nocked a bolt into the quarrel groove and strode to the door. “But I am ever a civil host.”

He nearly ran Gurn down on the steps leading to the great hall. The giant teetered on the stair’s edge, clutching his oil lamp until Silhara shoved him against the wall and squeezed past, snapping out orders as he leapt the steps two at a time. “Lock the girl’s door and stay in the house with Cael.”

The first floor corridors were sepulcher-black, but he never slowed, fueled by anger and a fevered compulsion to confront the god on his terms.

He kicked the back door open and found the cadaverous dog awaiting him. It slinked toward him, monstrous and reeking worse than corpses left in the sun. Silhara swallowed back bile and leveled the bow’s sights on the creature. “What do you want?”

The aggravating drone ceased abruptly, and Corruption spoke through the dog’s rictus of teeth. “What you want, Avatar. Homage, respect, power.”

“Then you have no need of me. You are the god here, not I.”

The dog cocked its head to the side. A stream of worms poured from a rotting ear. They writhed in a slick heap near Silhara’s feet. He didn’t think the thing capable of smiling. He was wrong. The heavy jowls stretched back in a death head’s grimace, exposing curved canines gleaming silver in the dying light.

“Oh, I need you, Master of Crows. Do you not wonder why I call you Avatar?”

The spectral voice changed, turned oily and cajoling. “I know your mind, sorcerer, and your spirit. Your hate burns hot for the priests–these men who spit on a dock whore’s bastard. Surrender to me, and I will see them destroyed in your name.”

Silhara pulled the trigger. The bolt struck the cur in the eye with a hard thunk, and the animal collapsed in a heap. Ashen skin and fur melted away, exposing a jumble of bones and more of the putrid worms. Even those soon dissolved, along with the fired bolt, leaving only a coil of smoke in a patch of ruined grass. Silhara waved the smoke away impatiently and spoke to the grove’s deepening shadows.

“I hate many things and many people; none are worth subjugating my will. You’ll have to coax me with something better than a few dead priests.” He spat, a mix of blood and spittle striking the ground. “Until then, stay out of my mind and out of my grove.”

Workshop

Title : Story Sense/ Story Logic
Date : January 4, 2010 - January 31, 2010
Presented by : Beth Daniels, aka Beth Henderson, J.B. Dane

It doesn't seem to matter whether the story I'm reading is someone's manuscript or a published book, the element that is very irksome to find missing is a sense of Story Logic, or Story Sense.

I define Story Sense as the actions of the characters remaining true to how they are being portrayed. Story Logic is much the same thing, but has more to do with the way the plot plays out.

For instance, if a hero is going to take on a terrorist or a mugger, he needs to have a background that included any martial arts he now unveils to save the day…and the writer should have alluded to his expertise early on, not waited to spring it on readers.

Or perhaps the author is spinning a tale where characters are either older or younger than she is. In that case the twenty-something heroine can't prefer listening to Cole Porter or Gershwin tunes or talk about Cary Grant movies, not even if she was brought up by her grandmother who enjoyed these things. She has to be a contemporary woman. Likewise, if a character is a decade or more older than the writer, it isn't likely that they will head to a modern dance club, or suddenly go goth.

Story sense and story logic go hand in hand, but they can easily be lost or overlooked. And they are far more subtle than the above obvious examples. The trick is to catch, recognize, and repair things before they leave home to nest on an editor's desk.

Because it is far easier to spot things in other people's work, students will be urged to post their synopsis, or post a free-write in which they spin the elements, or steps, that they plan to take along the way.

More info including payment instructions at http://www.passionatein.org