What I'm Working On Now

Three short films are in Post-Production, soon to be submitting to film festivals.
Producing/editing a pilot for a new web-series inspired by the Alice in Wonderland tales.
Producing/editing a documentary on Gene Roddenberry and the genesis of Star Trek The Original Series.
There are a number of other projects in development, just waiting their turn to be produced.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

SHORT STORY: SCREAM FOR THE WHISPERER Script

Some of you may recall the short story by the same name that I posted a while back...well this is a screenplay based off of it in honor of Halloween.
*     *     *

          EXT. DINER - NIGHT

          MELISSA, a young twenty something, shut the doors to the
          diner behind her after a long days work.

                              MELISSA
                    Admit no one until seven o'clock
                    tomorrow morning.

          The air around the door quivered and the door LOCKED.

          EXT. CITY SIDEWALK - LATER THAT NIGHT

          Melissa walked down the street. As it was so late, her steps
          fell in rapid succession to get her home faster.

          A foot SCUFFED on the ground behind her.

          Melissa turned and looked but no one was there.

          POV from the alley: Melissa looked around one last time
          before resuming her walk back home. The hidden person
          followed close behind her. Right before the person could
          reach her, HEAVY BREATHING alerted Melissa to the person's
          presence.

          Melissa turned but again, no one was there.

                              MELISSA
                    Show yourself.

          The air SHUDDERED around Melissa but before her magic could
          take effect-

                              WHISPERER
                         (whispered)
                    no

          Melissa's spell faltered and the air reverberated back on
          her. Melissa stumbled and turned in panic.

                              MELISSA
                    What do you want?

          The Whisperer, still unseen by Melissa, leaned over her
          shoulder and whispered into her ear.

                              WHISPERER
                         (whispered)
                    a scream

          Melissa gave out a short CRY of surprise as she jumped and
          turned to look where the man had been moments before.

          She stood alone on the sidewalk.

                              MELISSA
                    Leave me a-

                              WHISPERER
                         (whispered)
                    shhh

          Before Melissa could finish her commanded, the Whisperer cut
          her off and the air around her mouth wavered and she could
          no longer speak.

          Melissa's POV: Turning every direction and running in short
          bursts, she tried to get away. At last she turned down an
          alley. Out of the shadows stepped a dark figure.

          The man spread his arms out in mock greeting as Melissa
          backed away. His eyes were missing, only black holes.

          The man flew forward with superhuman speed and grabbed
          Melissa, spinning her around and holding her back to his
          chest.

                              WHISPERER (CONT.)
                    scream for me, the whisperer

          Melissa screamed. She screamed so loud and so hard that
          blood began to sputter out from her tearing throat.

                              WHISPERER (CONT.)
                    thank you...now die

          CLOSE ON Melissa's face as her shriek reached its peak and
          her voice choked out on her own GURGLING BLOOD.

                                                            BLACK

*     *     *

Monday, October 29, 2012

IMMOLATION: CHAPTER 40

Cold. Why was everything always so cold? The walls, the floor, the chair, the bed...Everything around her burned and yet Joan stood there, shivering in the night. Before Melanie left, she'd asked again if she could see Joan's room and Joan had to turned her down once more. It had been weeks since she'd been allowed back inside her room, and while the enclosure was roomier, it was also open to the sky. Glass had originally made up the roof but her flame melted it and they hadn't found a suitable replacement for it yet. Joan focused her fire onto the ground surrounding her bed, heating it until it to glow red hot just as the rest of her fire burned off. Velvety blackness reasserted itself at once with only the glow from the superheated ground around her bed for light; moon and stars above were obscured by clouds.
Joan crawled onto her bed, a cold steel slab, and opened the bottom compartment that housed her bedding. So far, the compartment had been sufficient to protect the blankets, pillow, and bed roll from being burned. She spread out the bedding, tucked in the sides of the blankets and fluffed the pillow.
Why do you do that?” A voice asked over the intercom.
Do what?” Joan muttered, smoothing some wrinkles out of the blankets.
You're just going to be sleeping in it,” The voice said, “So why make the bed?”
Not sure,” Joan shrugged and she climbed into bed, snuggling beneath the blankets.
Radiant heat from the still glowing ground warmed her bed and she drifted off to sleep almost immediately.
Joan walked through an empty field. She couldn't remember how she'd gotten there, but it seemed like it should have been important. Signs of civilization poked out intermittently above the tall grass: street signs, lamp posts, remnants of fallen down buildings. Nothing else stirred in her sight.
Step and after step she climbed the sloping hill before her, drawn onward by vague hints of the memory she couldn't quite grasp. As she rose higher there came into sight two bare trees standing side by side on the hill's crest. Their withered form bespoke of stunted growth and a diseased end. Skeletal branches twisted about one another and at the tops of their canopy, barely higher than Joan's head, they wove together in a bowed cage.
Wind rustled through the grass as Joan crested the hill and with it came the scents of age and decay. So powerful was the scent that for a moment joan was unaware of what she saw, and then she began to scream. Fire burst from every pore of her body, incinerating the grass, the rubble, everything...except for the two trees. As the fire burned, pulsing ever outward, Joan felt herself growing weak and had to lean on the trees for support. Her fire continued to spread outward and eventually reached out of sight so that everything within her vision was aflame. From somewhere inside her mind she knew her fire would continue to spread until the world was consumed, if only she had the strength to maintain it.
Joan continued to scream but her voice became distorted and grew into a whine, and eventually into the buzz of an alarm.
Wake up!” The voice of the intercom shouted.
Joan's eyes shot open and at first she thought she was still dreaming because of the fire surrounding her. Then the wall to her left collapsed.
What's going on?” Joan shouted.
No response.
She shouldn't be burning, she had exhausted herself before going to bed like usual, and yet she was. What was more, she was burning much hotter than she had ever done before; the pool of molten steel around her that was once her bed proved that.
With a strain that threatened to tear her apart, Joan reigned in her fire and sat panting from the exertion of maintaining such heat for even the short amount of time that she'd been burning.
A sudden sharpness struck her in the chest and she looked down in time to see the end of a dart sticking out from her. As the world faded away she thought she heard her voice speaking of its own accord.
The world is burning,” Her voice said, “Burning...burning...burning with me.”
Blissful nothingness spread wide its arms and Joan fell willingly into them.
Unfortunately, it wasn't to last and Joan blinked her eyes back open. Sunlight flared into being and stung her eyes. Her mouth felt and tasted like she'd been chewing on cotton all night and her head was pounding. Joan tried to get to her feet but she stumbled and her head struck something solid and she crumpled back to the ground, cradling her bruised forehead. The world faded in and out of focus and the oscillation threatened to make her sick to her stomach. Joan shut her eyes.
Hello?” She called out.
Joan,” A voice replied, “How are you feeling?”
Who are you?” Joan called back, figuring that her state of being should be fairly obvious.
This is Judge Pederson,” said the voice again, “How are you doing?”
Joan's head settled back down and she ventured another peek from behind her eyelids. Her vision was still somewhat blurred but this time she could make out the heavy brick walls that formed a five foot square around her.
Where am I?” Joan shrieked and she began frantically searching for a way out. The walls began to fall in towards her. “NO!” Joan cried and she fell once more to the ground, throwing up her hands to protect her against the falling masonry.
Joan!” Judge Pederson cried back, “Are you alright?”

Judge Pederson waited for a response.
Silence.
Go check—
Fire burst from the kiln they'd built around Joan and he and the guards were forced back from the heat. Powerful fans switched on and the fire was channeled up and out through the ruined ceiling. Sprinklers kicked on a moment later to cool the outside of the kiln as Joan's fire continued to grow hotter.
We should go, Your Honor,” one of the guards stated.
Judge Pederson nodded and allowed himself to be lead back out of the enclosure, or what was left of it. Workers surrounded the perimeter as they endeavored to improve the structure in addition to repairing the damage already done to them. Most of the larger pieces of concrete had already been removed but a few exceptionally large chunks still marred the ground. Melted segments of re-bar jutting out of them.
If only we could just dump her off on one of the dozen countries causing us problems and let them deal with her,” The guard escorting Judge Pederson said wistfully.
They'd just put a bullet to her,” Judge Pederson chided back.
The guard held his tongue but the look in his eye betrayed him. Such a thing wasn't sounding so bad to him now that Joan's fire was getting so uncontrollable.
 *     *     *    
I may have come on a bit too strong with the dream, what do you think? Too much? Not enough? Also, how's the balance between dialogue and action (not just this chapter)?

Friday, October 26, 2012

POETRY: AUTUMN DAWN

Grey morn dawns upon the land,
All is still without,
Where have they gone those noisome birds,
Such preening calls their clout

Yestermorn brought loud and clear,
The calls of nature 'round,
Has the autumn come so swift,
That naught there be for sound

Oh, return my feathered friends,
Natures wake up call,
For now, without your preening cries,
My sleep, an alarm, must stall

*   *   *

I've fallen into the habit of waking up with the sounds of wildlife outside my window, but this week, all of a sudden, they were gone. No tapering off, no gradual loss. One morning they were there, the next I woke up late. Now I have to go back to using an alarm to get up on time and I'm not too fond of that idea.
So what about you? Have you ever relied on anything other than a standard alarm to wake you up? Has it ever failed? Are you like my brother who can simply tell himself what time he wants to wake up and he does, no alarm needed?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

SHORT STORY: PERF part 4

Wet, mossy stone scraped quietly along Perf's back as he edged his way around the Inner Wall. He could see the torchlight of the next guard post up ahead and Perf stopped short before walking into the perimeter of light. He had magics that would allow him to slip by unseen, and through the guarded portcullis, but the Augers would surely sense him then. His only other option was to bluff his way out, and that had all sorts of other dangers associated with it. Certainly, his uniform was correct, and he'd been studying the Palace Guard for some time, but all it took was one wary guard to sound an alarm. These men were a tight nit group and suddenly being confronted by an unfamiliar face asking for passage out...
Perf set his face, adjusted the sack on his shoulder, and strode forward.
Hold and Part,” Perf called out as soon as he entered the light.
Perf's uniform marked him as their superior but still they hesitated. Perf halted of his own accord before the men could go for their weapons.
Well,” Perf stated dryly, “You all must be half-wits since you seem capable of obeying only half of an order. Now part and let me pass.”
Perf casually rested his free hand on the hilt of his rapier, unlocking it from its cradle but otherwise leaving it alone. None of the guards seemed to have noticed.
I'm sorry Captain,” One of the guards, a Sargent, said as he moved to more fully block Perf's exit, “But no one is to allowed in or out until the intruder is caught.” He brought the point of his spear down to the level of Perf's heart. “And you of all people should know that.”
Perf found himself facing not one spear point, but seven as the other guards followed the Sargent's example and pointed their spear tips at Perf.
And what's in the sack?” The Sargent inquired.
Perf hefted it for them to see. “Clearly,” he said, “It's empty.”
Right,” The Sargent said and he moved his spear tip closer to the sack, “Then you wouldn't mind if I just gave it a little poke.”
Even the smallest cut in the sack would render it useless and its contents would be disgorged. They were well trained indeed since such knowledge was not exactly common. Perf returned the sack to his shoulder, narrowing his eyes, as the guards fanned out to surround him. The Sargent raised his signal whistle to his lips.
Perf snapped into action, biting down on his tongue and then immediately spitting the resultant blood at the Sargent. As the bloody spittle flew, it transformed into a series of crystal bobbles. For the briefest of moments the Sargent hesitated while he watched the magic occur. His hesitation was his downfall as the bobbles crashed into his face.
Such simple cantrips were taught to all prospective wizards, though generally not spit from the casters mouth. Most considered them useless unless entertaining small children, but as the Sargent took a face full of glass shards, Perf knew otherwise and he lunged passed the Sargent's spear, slashing his newly drawn blade across the throat of the surprised man.
Six spear points swung around to strike Perf even as their leader fell gurgling to the ground. Torchlight glinted off the first spear tip to strike at him and Perf parried it, rolling his body along the shaft of the weapon before elbowing the man in the throat, followed by a thrust of his blade the guards stomach. Already, more attacks were coming and before he could reset himself, Perf felt the hot searing pain of steel in his leg. Instinct threw him to the ground, riding the strike and lessening the damage.
Perf's leather armor, worn beneath his disguise, also helped to lessen the blow, but now he was lying on the ground looking up at five spearmen.
Yield!” One of the guards commanded.
Perf held back a grin at his assailants honor. It would prove their downfall.
I yield,” Perf said, releasing his rapier and beginning to rise.
As Perf got to his feet, he feigned collapse from his injured leg, a fallen spear at his side. Two of the guards fell for it, lowering their guard and moving in to help him. In a flash, Perf flicked the spear into his hands and slashed out with his new weapon and the two men fell, identical slits in their throats. Perf lunged backward immediately, going for his discarded rapier.
A whistle blow pierced the night and powerful magics were summoned into being, immobilizing everything that wasn't within the protected boundaries of the guard posts.
Perf rolled out of his lunge and turned, rapier in hand, to see the remaining guards, one of them frozen in the act of lowering the whistle from his lips. The guard was smiling. Perf smiled back knowing that the guards were only now realizing their mistake. Perf was standing in the archway that the guards were suppose to be guarding, and they had been drawn out of their protective circle. Perf set to work on the door, unlocking it with the keys he'd picked off the Sargent at the same time that he'd killed the man.
Outside the Inner Court, Perf discarded his uniform into a fire barrel making him look like nothing more than any other nighttime traveler. He made his way to the Outer Wall without further incident. Perf located the spot in the wall were some previous generation of riffraff had constructed a hidden door. A man dressed as a beggar sat beside it, hiding the lever mechanism. Perf tossed all the earnings he'd made that day to the man who eyed it with surprise. A single piece of silver would have sufficed.
Pity no one's been through this way all night,” Perf instructed as the piece of wall slide open, “And exchange the pieces as soon as you can, they may be traced,” Perf added once he was through and caught a brief glimpse of the mans displeasure before the heavy piece of masonry slid back into place.
I'm out, Perf told Percy.
So am I, Percy responded, Half mile from the city.
Perf got a mental image of where Percy was and began moving in that direction. In just another couple of days he'd be able to deliver the princess and collect the other half of his fee. Some people may hate Perf for what he did, perhaps even call him evil, but he couldn't quite get himself to care. Doing this was just too much fun.
 *       *       *      
 Sorry this came a bit late this week, had to make some last minute changes/improvements.
So what did you think of Perf's adventure? I'm a bit new to writing actions scenes, and as such I tried to keep this one brief, but how did I do? How could I improve it?
What did you think about the magic? Did it need more explanation? More detail? Is it fine the way it is?

Monday, October 22, 2012

IMMOLATION: CHAPTER 39

So, Mike forgave me and we're back together now,” Melanie said, “Though he made me promise to never hit him again.”
Joan found herself chuckling.
How long did the bruise last?” Joan asked.
Melanie thought as they continued to walk around Joan's enclosure.
Not sure,” She said at last, “It must have lasted for three or four weeks at least.”
Hmm,” Joan said, relishing the thought of a black eyed Mike, “Serves him right for trying to turn me in.”
He was just trying to protect me,” Melanie said and she ran her fingers along the wall.
Bits of concrete fell away into her hand. Melanie stopped walking and Joan followed suit.
What's up?” Joan asked, noting Melanie's puzzled look as she ground the concrete flakes between here fingers.
Is this suppose to be so crumbly?” Melanie asked.
Joan ran her own fingers along the wall. “I'm getting hotter,” She said.
Guards hitting on you again?” Melanie asked.
That's not what I meant,” Joan snapped back and gave Melanie a light shove.
So tell me,” Melanie began, a gleam in her eye, “How hot are you?”
Stop it,” Joan groaned as Melanie feigned being overwhelmed by Joan.
Oh,” Melanie gasped, “Oh Joan, you're too hot, I can't take it. I just can't take it.”
Joan shot a burst of hot flame down her arm, the one brushing the concrete wall, and Melanie fell back in earnest from the heat waves.
Ouch!” Melanie cried out, shielding her face.
Joan reined back in her fire and waited for Melanie to recover. “Sorry,” She said, “But look at the wall.”
Melanie recovered and checked herself over for scorch marks. There were none and Melanie looked to where Joan had burned. The concrete was still flaking away, adding its fine powder and flakes to the already existing pile at the ground.
That's not good, is it?” Melanie asked.
Joan could only shrug. The guards and the new Judge had already expressed their displeasure, but like Joan they didn't know what to do about it.
The walls are pretty thick,” Joan stated, “So even with my burning hotter it'll take a while to get free.”
You mean you're doing this on purpose?” Melanie asked.
No,” Joan sighed, her depression threatening to overwhelm her as the walls of her enclosure seemed to move in towards her ever so slightly. “But I can dream, can't I?”
Melanie nodded and smiled encouragingly at Joan as they resumed their walk.
Besides,” Melanie began, “Who wants to be on the outside these days?”
Joan raised her hand.
Yeah, well,” Melanie said, a note of seriousness in her voice now, “In the last few months that you've been in here, things out there have been getting pretty bad.”
Worse than in here?” Joan scoffed.
You remember all those nuclear plants that got sabotaged?” Melanie asked.
Yeah.”
Well, after those last two went,” Melanie explained, “They've shut down all the others, across the world.”
Aren't they over reacting a bit?” Joan asked. “I mean, there are hundreds of nuclear plants.”
Melanie shrugged and rubbed off a bit more of the wall.
Millions of people died, Joan,” Melanie paused, rubbing the concrete powder in her hand, “The last one to go was the worst, and it just freaked everyone out. They're still working on cleaning it up, and people are still dying because of the fall-out.”
Have they figured out who's responsible?” Joan asked.
Melanie shook her head. “No, and now the oil fields are having problems.”
What?”
Yeah,” Melanie said, “It began a few weeks back with some refineries breaking down, and now it's gotten so bad that some of the major oil suppliers are having difficulty meeting demand.”
Wow.”
Yeah, gas prices are going through the roof and some countries have even gone to war over it.”
The world's a mess,” Joan sighed and she leaned against the wall.
Melanie joined her and they stared across the enclosure. The scorched ground, the occasional bits of metal furniture, the heavy sealed doors. Melanie gazed up at the ceiling, the skylights being the only source of light now that Joan's fire had become so powerful that electric lighting had become unrealistic.
Yup,” Melanie agreed, “The world's a mess.”

Friday, October 19, 2012

POETRY: HAIKU DREAMS

Climb ever upward
Five days without ropes to aid
Handhold fails, I fall

*

Birthday cake on fire
Dancing creatures laugh at me
I can't blow it out

*

Eating mashed taters
While they beg and plea I stop
A monstrous meal

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

SHORT STORY: PERF part 3

The cobbled stones of the High Square each bore warding symbols, meant to prevent anyone from passing over them who wasn't permitted. The Royals, their attendants, and their guards were the only ones who could pass freely over the wards. The only merchants and performers who ever got this far into the city were there on special invitation and had to carry with them Writ of Passage. Those without a Writ quickly found themselves immobilized by the wards.
Perf had no Writ, they were person specific and so stealing one would be useless. And besides, the Writ of Passage had a dual purpose. Anyone carrying a Writ was automatically known to every Palace Auger, preventing them from sneaking into places they shouldn't be. It was because of this that Perf had to make his way much more slowly than he was comfortable with. Climbing along the sides of the walls was difficult, doing so without being able to climb up onto rooftops for fear of being spotted by the Palace Guards was next to impossible.
Percy, Perf thought, directing his thoughts toward a specific part of his mind, a part that was other than himself.
Perf waited, clinging to the side of a wall where he could brace his feet on a window sill. If ever he slipped, come within a foot of the warded ground, he'd be caught. A minute passed but Perf did not grow impatient. Another minute: Perf's legs began to shake with the strain of holding himself in such an awkward position. At last, the sound of skittering, tiny feet reached his ears and Perf allowed himself a sigh of relief. A rat rounded the corner, walking freely over the warded ground; it had no effect on animals, and Percy was, technically, an animal.
Check the rooftops, and quickly, Perf instructed and the rodent turned obediently, scurrying up the side of a nearby building and onto the roof.
Perf closed his eyes and concentrated, his mind sensing what the rat, Percy, was seeing. The roofs to the South were clear, as well as the ones to the East but the North and West were heavily watched and that was exactly where he needed to get to.
They know, Percy thought.
They suspect, Perf countered, If they knew, we would never have made it this far and the princess would have been taken out of the city.
Perf thought for a moment, his grip on the wall slipping. At last, he decided to risk it and pulled himself up onto the rooftop, laying flat in the small gutter that ran around the top of the building to direct rain water.
Return to me, Perf thought and before long Percy had scampered up onto Perf's chest, tiny nails pressing uncomfortably deep into his chest.
Perf wasted no time as he instructed the rat in extracting specific items from his pockets. He didn't dare move himself since his hiding spot was feeble enough without him rummaging around on a rooftop, silhouetted against the city watch fires. Percy, however, they would ignore as being just another rat digging through some refuse.
Once Percy had gathered the needed items, a pinch of soot, a vial of falling water, and a sprig of creeping vine, Perf placed them all in his hands, quietly chanting while he mixed the components.
Bite me, Perf instructed at the apex of his chant and the rat sank its sharp teeth into Perf's thumb.
The blood mixed instantly with the rest of the components and energy flowed out of Perf and into the components. Before they could activate, though, Perf rubbed them into Percy's fur and his body absorbed it all.
Now go, Perf told the familiar, The Augers shouldn't have noticed it yet.
Percy took off at a run.
Wait until you're between me and the guards before releasing it, Perf thought, and then find somewhere safe in the Main Square to hide. I'll collect you on my way out.
The Augers would sense the magic, there was no way around it, but they would be searching for the caster, which in this case would be Percy. It would be too late once they realized their mistake and Perf, hopefully, would already be through a Passwall and out of their reach.
Perf steadied his breathing, waiting calmly for the moment when Percy would release the spell. It was a difficult thing for Percy to do, getting from rooftop to rooftop without getting skewered onto the end of a bored guards spear. But Percy was an agile rat and he'd been with Perf through situations like this before.
All at once, blackness exploded from the North-East and Perf leaped to his feet. His eyes pierced the blackness, as per the spell, and would blind everyone else. Perf ran as fast as he could, jumping rooftops and zipping past stumbling guards. The Palace windows were in reach and Perf made one final leap, crossing the void and grabbing hold of the masonry before pulling himself up and into the Palace.
Perf steadied his breathing, smiling. Few wizards were capable of such physical feats, relying on their magic to sustain them, rather than their bodies. That was why Perf was special, why he could do what he did, why he was so expensive. Few wizards could have gotten more than a few steps into the city without needing their powers. True, he'd needed to make a few Passwalls, but those were necessary and minor. The chances of those being noticed by an Auger, with all the other random bits of magic going on in a city this size, were next to nothing.
The darkness wouldn't penetrate the castle walls. They were old, and powerful in their own right. Perf doubted he would even be able to cast torchlight on these walls. But he didn't need to and so he didn't worry about it. He knew where he needed to go and he made his way along the corridor as quietly as he could.
The section he'd landed in was the servants quarters, and that was the only reason the floors weren't warded. Early on the Royals grew tired of having to call the Palace Guards to go and release some servant's child who'd forgotten its Writ. The floors had been replaced and it was this weakness that Perf now exploited. He crept along until he reached the fifth chamber, the one belonging to the Princess' nurse maid. The only servant allowed into the Princess' quarters at all times.
Perf pushed the door open and slipped inside, shutting the door with a soft click behind him. The woman lay on her bed, snoring slightly as she slept and Perf moved to her bedside. He reached into the secret pouch of his guard uniform and withdrew a thin silk cloth, tied in a loop. Without waking the nurse maid, Perf slipped the silk loop around the maids head. The magic in the cloth was weak, too faint for an Auger to sense, and would never work against a conscious host. But the maid was sleeping, her mind helpless against his intrusion.
The maid sat up, eyes open but unseeing.
Go fetch me the Princess,” Perf instructed her in a soft whisper, “Say whatever you must to make her believe you and to follow you here.”
The nurse maid got out of bed, put on her night robe and left the room. Perf closed his eyes and gripped another silk cloth in his hand. He saw through the maids eyes as she wandered through the halls, out into the Palace halls and, eventually, to the Princess' bedroom.
Sweety,” The maid called pleasantly, “Sweety, are you sleeping?”
A small figure rose from the bed beyond.
No,” came the faint response, “What is it?”
I'm sorry to bear this bad news to you, but there's been an intruder.”
Perf frowned.
You're to come with me and stay in my room while the guards search.”
The Princess didn't move. “Sleep in your room?” She asked, barely hiding her indignation at the thought of sleeping with servants.
Not sleep, my Sweety,” The nurse maid cajoled, “Only wait while the castle is searched. The Captain said it would be the last place anyone would think to look, and you'll be under his personal care the whole time.”
The Princess wavered, but eventually she got out of bed and threw on her night robe. Together they made their way back to the servant's quarters and Perf sat in the corner, pleased with how smartly the nurse maid had lied, how brilliant, and how much easier it would all be now. In the dark, he could pass for the Captain of the Palace Guard quite easily. For a while, at least.
The door opened and Perf bowed the Princess into the room, followed by the nurse maid. The Princess only glanced at Perf before turning her young and inquisitive eyes on the servant's room. Certainly, this was the first time she had ever seen anything that was less than royal. With her attention distracted, Perf pounced. In a flash the sack was over the Princess and Perf cinched it closed around her feet. She kicked and struggled but no sound came from the sack. Perf hefted the young girl up and righted the sack, turning the girl onto her head and her feet slipped the rest of the way into the sack. At once the bag went limp as though nothing were in it and Perf slung it over his shoulder easily.
Go back to bed and return to your sleep,” Perf told the nurse maid and she complied.
Perf removed the silk loop and stowed it back inside his shirt.
The window he'd come in by was far too high up for him to safely jump out of, and there wasn't enough room for him to get a running start. Perf set down his sack and reached inside. In a few moments he extracted a rope with a grappling hook tied onto one end of it. Perf quickly secured the hook into the window's masonry and tossed down the rope. It kept uncoiling until it reached the bottom. Another bit of unavoidable magic, but still slight enough that he hoped it would go unnoticed.
Perf slung the sack back over his shoulder and he began the long descent to the courtyard below. The rope was knotted every few feet so it helped with the grip but the climb was still not without its dangers. The darkness he'd given Percy to cast earlier had either worn off or had been dispelled and so anyone who knew where to look would spot him. Still, it was dark and he wasn't wearing anything reflective and he made it down to the ground without any incident.
They've found me, Percy's voice intoned inside of Perf's.
Have they caught you? Perf asked.
What do you think? The rat returned and Perf had to fight down a chuckle.
Finding a rat was one thing, catching was an entirely different ordeal.
Get to the river, Perf suggested, They'll have a time of it trying to follow you once you get into the aqueduct.
Percy didn't respond but in the part of Perf's mind that connected him to the rat, he knew the rat would obey.
I'll pick you up down river. Perf told the rat and and he continued to pick his way through the Palace lawns.
At last came the difficult part: getting back out of the Inner Court. Certainly by now the Augers were on high alert.
*     *     *
So it's looking like I'll need at least one more installment to finish off this short story. Are you enjoying it? What do you think of Perf? Is he likeable/interesting enough, even though he's kidnapping a little girl? Is he a good guy or a bad guy?

Monday, October 15, 2012

IMMOLATION: CHAPTER 38

But what did you do with Judge Dervin?” Matt asked more pointedly.
Dr. Muto furrowed his brow.
Well?” Matt pressed.
* * *
The room was dark. That much he could tell. For some reason his body wasn't responding as it should and his senses were dulled to near uselessness. A light was flickering somewhere in front of him but he still couldn't get his eyes to open. Or if they were open they weren't working right. Muted sounds seemed to follow the flickering light but, again, his senses were too muted to be of any real use.
Judge Dervin shook his head, trying to clear the fog from his mind.
...be alright...minute...” A voice murmured from somewhere close by.
His eyes opened and his vision swam.
...few days now...” The voice said and Judge Dervin could make out the blurred outline of a figure sitting beside him. “...should wear off quickly now...”
Judge Dervin gave himself another good shake all over. His wrists and ankles didn't move and a strange tightness kept them immobile. And he was sitting, which was odd since he rarely ever fell asleep while sitting.
Did I miss my taxi?” Judge Dervin finally managed to ask. “I'm suppose to get back for a hearing.”
Hmmm,” The person to his side responded, “Must've been a fair blow to your head. Don't worry, I'm sure you're happier not remembering, unlike me.”
Judge Dervin's vision cleared at last and he stared, blinking, over at his companion. The man's face was bruised and bloodied, though the blood and bruises looked to be several days old. His tweed jacket was torn and stained and his wrists were swollen where tight bonds had been tied around them to keep him strapped to his chair.
The reason for the tightness in his own wrists and ankles became suddenly clear. He looked himself over and, sure enough, he too was bound, though not so tightly that the ropes were digging into his flesh as they were on the other man.
Where are we?” Judge Dervin asked.
Oh, well,” The other man said, and Judge Dervin realized his companion was British. “This use to be my place...until,” He glanced down to his bonds and Judge Dervin nodded.
What happened?” Judge Dervin asked.
I was suppose to kill someone,” He said as though it was the most natural response to give. “What about you?”
Judge Dervin rubbed his head against the back of his chair to massage the lump there. Memories were coming back now, memories of his revelation, of his confrontation with Dr. Muto.
They kidnapped my daughter,” judge Dervin said, “and I found out who one of them was.”
Kidnapped your daughter?” The Englishman said in shock, “Whatever would they do that for?”
She was a nuclear physicist,” Judge Dervin said, “and I think she may have been working for them.”
The other man sat quietly for a moment.
I see,” He said at last. “So sorry to hear that. Her name wasn't Samantha, was it?”
Judge Dervin perked up, “Yes, that's her!” He exclaimed excitedly. “Do you know where she is? Is she alright?”
The man was silent for a time and Judge Dervin's heart sank deeper with each passing moment. Finally, the man spoke.
She was here for a time,” He said, “Stayed in that very chair,” He nodded toward Judge Dervin's chair. “But she...left...shortly before you arrived. I'm sorry.”
Tears ran down Judge Dervin's face and his throat constricted as though it too were being bound by ropes.
She was a brave soul,” The other man went on, “Never gave up on trying to escape, always hopeful, always strong until...” He faded off and Judge Dervin turned his attention to the only source of light in the small room.
A television set, showing the news with the volume down low and the subtitles on.
...have been forced to shut down all remaining nuclear reactors across the nation,” The reporter on the television was saying. “FEMA's been working around the clock as they try to contain the spread of the most recent nuclear disaster.”
She was going to try to put a stop to all that if she got out,” the man beside Judge Dervin said. “Pitty.”

Friday, October 12, 2012

POETRY: LITTLE MAN

This little man sits hands entwined
So calm and peaceful at this time
Content to sit wrapped in a quilt
From time to time he'll laugh and tilt
Soon he'll want some juice or milk
Free refills he would gladly bilk
I'll offer him some other choice
But he'll refuse and raise a noise
We might be able to compromise
A sage solution, I hypothesize
Though most likely it will be
He gets what he wants, the little baby

*     *     *

       This is about my son, as I watched him over the past few mornings, content to sit on the couch by my side while I read. His happy contentment lasts anywhere from 15-60 minutes, depending on the morning, and then he'll demand some liquid sustenance. He's not very fond of the 'solid'  solutions I try to offer him, and usually I end up giving him a bottle with the understanding that he will eat some real breakfast once his bottle is consumed. Any of you ever had similar experiences?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

SHORT STORY: PERF Part 2

The Mid Square was busier, louder, and more fragrant than the Main Square. True, the smells here were those of perfumes and spices, whereas the Main Square smelled of refuse and bodies, but Perf still covered his mouth and nose with a silk cloth. The guards here were much more relaxed, their presence here was mainly to discourage any peasants who might have sneaked in looking to steal a coin purse or two.
Hold,” a guard said, stepping out in front of Perf and stopping his progress.
Perf frowned, this was the second guard to stop him since he'd arrived in the Mid Square.
What is the problem?” Perf asked, showing a his blatant impatience at being stopped. City guards were rarely of noble birth and most nobility saw them as just above peasants.
The guard hesitated and Perf scowled even more strongly.
Well?” Perf demanded at the same moment that the guard had begun to speak. “And haw dare you try to interrupt me, what is your name?”
The guard wavered but held his ground.
Jarel, sir, and I was just needing to see your papers,” Jarel stated, holding out his hand. “We've had a number of imposters of late and—
Perf cut Jarel off with a quick motion of his hand, indicating where his papers had been posted to the side of his cart. The guard shrank slightly at not having noticed them before. Perf doubted that the guard actually checked them, considering how quickly he waved Perf on, but that was the whole point of intimidating the guard. Had
the guard really inspected them he might have found a flaw in the forged papers.
In the future, Jarel,” Perf said to the guard as he trundled passed, “I suggest you do not allow your personal failures to become the problems of your betters.”
Jarel said nothing and stomped back off to his patrol while Perf's frown deepened. The city was on alert. Perf pulled his cart up to an empty stall and quickly unhitched his horse and tethered it to a post with a bag of feed around its snout. Back at his cart, Perf began to uncover and to organize the sundry bottles, vials and powders that he carried. In no time at all he had converted his cart into an alchemists shop, complete with simmering pots and bubbling pipettes.
Perf breathed in the scents coming from his cart and he unwrapped his face. The smells of sulfur and other chemicals completely overpowered all the other stenches of flower petals and such ilk that the other vendors used to perfume their wares. For their part, the other vendors wrinkled their noses and the ones closest to Perf shifted their stalls further away from his. Few if any alchemist creations actually smelled so foul, and the other vendors knew it, but the stench was the sign of an alchemists sign, the stronger the scent the better the alchemist, and Perf's stench filled the Mid Square. Perf waved cordially to the perturbed vendors around him even as his first customer arrived.
Do you have anything for sleep?” The woman asked.
Perf shuffled through his wares until he found the bottle he was looking for.
Two weights of silver,” Perf said and the woman paid him.
The thin silver coins plinked brightly into his strongbox and Perf set about mixing up another sleeping draft to replace the one he'd just sold. The day passed quickly, with Perf making a fair bit of coins.
City gates close at next watch,” The guards called out and the vendors took that as their cue to begin closing up shop.
Perf replaced his wares into their padded boxes and pulled the tarp over the top, securing it at the corners. His horse was well rested and clambered eagerly in the hopes of being able to move about once more. All the while, Perf kept careful watch on his surroundings. He took his time with the horse, brushing it down, waiting for the other vendors to begin moving away and for the guards to get called on to help with the unavoidable traffic jam. Sure enough, with half of the watch already passed and the slower merchants eager to get out of the city before the gates closed, the Mid Road became clogged with handcarts and horses and the shouts of the lesser nobility carried easily to Perf's ears.
Perf checked on the pouch that, like the one in his beggars clothes, had been stitched onto the inside of his garment. He reached inside the neck of his robe, pretending to have an itch, and removed the solitary item enclosed: a pinch of roughly ground glass. He gritted his teeth as he rubbed his fingers together, breaking the skin and mixing his blood with the powder. Power slipped out of him and he quickly drew the symbols onto his horse, cart, and himself. Perf made one last look around to make certain that no one was watching and then muttered the words.
Jarel walked a final round through the Mid Square. He could have sworn that the alchemist hadn't left yet, but his spot was empty now. He should go and check with the Gate Guard to see if the alchemist had left, but he didn't exactly look forward to another degrading incident. So he let it go and returned to the guard post where a mess of stewed meat was waiting for him.
Perf let out the breath he'd been holding once Jarel was gone. Being invisible didn't prevent one from making sounds. The horse and cart were already back through the passwall but nothing but the low light of dusk had prevented Jarel from seeing the chalk drawing. Once the guard was gone, Perf set about obscuring the drawing. Once again, Perf had changed clothes, this time to look like a member of the Royal Guard. The only thing out of place in his costume was the large sack he had strapped onto his back. There was nothing to be done, he would need the sack and he could only hope no one would stop and question him about it.
The invisibility would ware off at about the same time that he would be reaching the palace. He wished he could maintain it longer than that, but the city Augers would most definitely find him then. They watched the palace with such vigilance, and understandably, you could never tell when assassins might strike.
*     *     *     
I'm hoping to get more into the magic system of this world, but at the same time, this being a short story, do I need to? Would it only distract from the story at hand or would it add another level of complexity (in a good way)? Also, what do you think of Perf as a character? Is he too flat? Am I keeping too much to myself as the writer? Should I give a bit more about his past and/or inner thoughts and motivations?

Monday, October 8, 2012

IMMOLATION: CHAPTER 37

The street lamps were just starting to turn on when Matt left his apartment. He'd spent the greater part of the day checking on his things, making sure nothing was missing or out of place. If the police had taken anything, he didn't know what it was because as far as he could tell everything was still there.
It felt good to walk. Growing up, his family had often gone on walks together. The little town they lived in was ideal for such a thing, and the nearby foothills provided beautiful nature hikes whenever they were feeling adventurous. The city was, by comparison, flat and gray and uninviting. But still, Matt thought a walk would do him some good.
His shoes scuffed along the ground and he kept one hand in his jacket pocket, holding the slip of paper that policeman had given him. The piece of paper with the phone number he'd been instructed to call, but not with his own phone. Matt looked around and there weren't many other people out and about on the sidewalk. Cars still passed by with some measure of regularity but he doubted stopping one of them to ask to use their phone would likely end well. Most of those scenarios that he played out in his mind ended with him getting run over by a startled driver. Matt wasn't even sure he wanted to call the number. It could be a trap, set by the police, to see if he would call the number, acting guilty for them and giving them an excuse to arrest him.
Matt saw a couple on the sidewalk ahead of him, walking with their infant child between them. The small boy, probably no older than a year, had to hold onto his parents hands to keep from falling over as he took uncoordinated steps. Matt walked passed them without a word, silently smiling at the little boy and his squeals of delight when his parents lifted him off the ground to swing him forward a couple of feet.
I'll ask the next person I pass, Matt told himself, I didn't want to interrupt their family stroll.
Matt passed the next three people he saw. Each time finding an excuse to not ask to borrow their phone. Too hurried...Too young...Too mean looking...
And still the slip of paper sat in his pocket like a weight, reminding him of what he'd done. The police were right to search his apartment, right to question him, right to think him guilty, and that thought terrified him. Matt looked around. There wasn't anyone on the sidewalk ahead of him and the guy he'd passed by earlier had already disappeared, but on the other side of the street was a group of teenagers just sitting on the steps of some apartment building. Matt pulled the piece of paper from his pocket and read it over one last time before jogging across the street.
Hey,” Matt said, getting the teenagers attention, “I was wondering if I could borrow one of your cell phones so I could make a call?”
They stared at Matt for a few moments before one of them tossed him a phone. Matt dialed, all the while aware of the fact that the teenagers were all still staring at him. It reminded Matt of when he'd been in high school and why he'd been so excited to graduate early.
Hello?” A voice said on the other line. Matt didn't remember hearing any rings on the other side before the voice answered.
This is Matt Wellis,” Matt began, “I...um, I...” He didn't know what else to say, especially with the teenagers all right there.
Where are you right now?” The voice asked.
Matt answered.
Stay there,” The voice said, “A car will be there soon to pick you up,” And the call ended.
Matt stared at the phone for a few moments before handing it back to the teenager who had given it to him.
Thanks,” Matt said and the teenager nodded.
Matt walked a short distance away to the next apartment over, sat down on its steps, and waited. The teenagers watched him for a little while longer before losing interest and they left, en mass, walking down the middle of the road and yelling at cars when they honked and swerved to avoid hitting the kids. Soon Matt couldn't see the teenagers, and not long after that he couldn't hear them or the offended cars.
A police car turned onto the street and Matt stiffened. The voice on the other line never said what kind of car was being sent. The police car drew closer and Matt sat petrified on the step. The only part of him that seemed able to move were his eyes as they followed the police car up the road and closer to where he was. Sure enough, the police car stopped right in front of Matt and an officer stepped out.
Hi, officer,” Matt said, accepting his fate at last.
You see a group of kids walking in the street?” The officer asked.
Matt paused as he was about to offer his hands up to be cuffed.
What?” He asked.
Did you see a group of kids playing in the street?” The officer repeated. “I got a call about them being in this area.”
Um, yeah,” Matt said, shocked at his luck, “They went down the street that way.”
Matt pointed in the direction the teenagers had gone and the officer got back in his car and drove off. Before Matt could finish breathing out his sigh of relief, however, another car pulled up in the spot the police car had just vacated. The driver waved to Matt and motioned for him to get in. Matt didn't move. The car was not what he had been expecting. It was a gray, old sedan with nothing special about it. No tinted windows, no purring engine that bespoke power and maneuverability. Just an ordinary car.
The driver waved again and this time Matt responded. He got up and walked around to the front passenger door. The driver leaned over and unlocked it, no power locks, and Matt got in. The driver didn't say anything and they drove for several minutes in silence until they passed out of the city limits.
Where are we going?” Matt ventured.
The driver pointed to just ahead of them to where another car was parked in the emergency lane. The driver pulled the car over and they stopped just behind the one the driver had pointed out. Matt, guessing what he was supposed to do, climbed out and walked over to the second car. This one was also fairly nondescript, though its windows were at least tinted. The back passenger door opened as Matt approached and he climbed in. Dr. Muto was there, waiting for him.
The car began to drive as soon as Matt's door was shut.
What's going on?” Matt asked immediately, cutting Dr. Muto off from whatever he had been about to say. “When you said you were going to take care of Judge Dervin, I thought you were going to call the police, tell them that he'd attacked you and that –
Things are not so simple,” Dr. Muto interrupted, “Judge Dervin knew things that he could not be allowed to tell anyone else.”
A chill ran down Matt's back.
What do you mean?” Matt asked. “What did he know?”
Dr. Muto ran a hand through his immaculate hair.
Matt,” He said, “This world is dying. We're killing it with our pollutants through our addiction to fossil and nuclear power. People like Judge Dervin are so addicted, that any threat to their way of life terrifies them. He knew we were building a Heat Machine, and he was determined to stop us.”
Matt shook his head.
No,” He said, “If that were true he would have attacked us both. He was only interested in you.” Matt thought for a moment and then added, “You and someone named Early Bird.”
Dr. Muto rubbed his eyes as though exhausted but gave no other sign that this was the case.
Matt,” Dr. Muto said in a softer tone of voice, one that Matt hadn't heard from him in several years, “You have to believe me, everything that I've done has been done so that your invention can succeed, and Judge Dervin was trying to stop me from helping you. By yourself, Judge Dervin didn't believe that you could succeed, but once I realized my past mistakes and began helping you...”
Dr. Muto trailed off and Matt looked out his window, watching as they returned to the city.
 *     *     *
Sorry for the awkward ending of this chapter, I'll see about fixing it soon, but until then, what do you think? Did I come into this chapter too soon? Too late? Did Matt respond appropriately to the secret message with his not wanting to call the number, etc.?