Welcome To the JUNGLE

pexels-photo-145939.jpegThis month, I’ve decided to adopt the theme of animals.  I want to dig into my wild side and examine a very underappreciated genre of books.

Some things you can look forward to this month:

A Focus on the Inhuman

One of the things I love are inhuman characters.  While it’s often enough to just describe the physical attributes of a non-human and be done with it, you can take it a step further and examine the psychological attributes.  I like aliens the best (and we’ll look at that in a later month), but animals are a great way to study the inhuman.  I had already made the decision to focus on animals this month when James Harrington spoke about the subject briefly on his blog, and I encourage you to check that out.

Why?  Everyone knows what a rabbit is.  Everyone has experienced a cat or a mouse, and a reader can readily judge if your character’s mental traits match what they believe about the animal.  We’ll look at how believability matters more than realism, how important research is for non-human characters, and more!  The bigger versions of these articles should come out on Saturdays, and the smaller versions on Thursdays.

Reviews of Animal Books

You can find a more detailed list of books and summaries here, but this month I’m reading the legendary Watership Down, the intriguing Indian tale The Wildings, and the new, anthropomorphic Longtails.  Look forward to these reviews on Tuesdays!

Animal Stories

On Sundays, I respond to a prompt from someone else’s blog.  This month, I’ll add another stipulation: it must be about animals, preferably with an animal narrator or main character.  I may also have a special, more well-edited story coming out on my Saturday ‘big post’ days.  Stay tuned for that!

In doing this, I hope to study how animal psychology should match physiology in writing.Sniffing a Flower

I hope you’re as excited as me!  It’s time to get WILD!

The Last and Most Special Snowflake

This week, I chose the prompt presented on Dragonition.  The prompt was a photo with a set of dialogue, and in this case I put the prompt in bold.  Because the prompt was pure dialogue, I chose to continue by writing only in dialogue.  I must also admit that the darkness in Carrie Ann Golden’s Extinction Event probably helped me set the tone here.  Thanks to all on WordPress who serve as inspiration to me!

‘You said there would be snow.’Photo prompt 04212018

‘There’s a bit.’

‘What, that tiny pile?’

‘I didn’t say how much.’

‘I can’t do anything with that.’

‘Add some sugar and make a snowcone.’

‘Gross.’

‘Did you come over here just to complain?  This is the last snow you’ll ever see, and you’re just going to grumble about it?’

‘Other people have snow machines.’

‘The weather’s never going to get this cold again.  Look, my snow’s already melting, and I don’t think it’ll last long.’

‘Ergh… fine, let’s get this over with.’

‘Here’s the sugar.’

‘Oh… oh, man, that is so good!’

‘I never dreamed cold food would be this amazing!’

‘Mother of God, that was awesome!’

‘It’s gone, now.’

‘Was it worth it?’

‘Yeah.  I got to share the most precious snowflake with you.’

– If I Only Had No Heart – Free Kindle Formatted PDF

Want a free book that you can take along with you?  My recently completed serial – If I Only Had No Heart – is available here, for free, in a Kindle formatted PDF.  You can put it on your kindle by surfing through your folders when it’s hooked up to your computer.

Click here to download – If I Only Had No HeartIf I Only Had No Heart_Small

Haven’t heard of the story yet?  Here’s a quick teaser to get you started.

Spirit, android acolyte of the machine goddess, performs her duties well and still yet absorbs much torment from her superiors. Thought to be a viral creation, the android is banned from speaking with the goddess until, one day, her friend Klavdiya hands her a prayer card. Spirit hopes that the prayer card will bring her peace, but the goddess has other ideas…

If that’s not quite your cup of tea, feel free to check out my sci-fi survival story, Evolution of the Predator.  In the near future, I plan on writing more short stories and look forward to meeting more of you!

Cheers!

 

The Wish’s Brew

On Sundays, I respond to one writing prompt I’ve seen throughout the week.  This time, I chose K.R. Summers’s Dare to Write IV prompt – “Anything on Earth.”  I also was inspired by Aak Fictionspawn’s Witches Brew story, and I hope that this isn’t too much of a copy of that excellent work.

The witch held the spoon up and blew on it, cooling the brew from her cauldron.  She smiled, then glanced over to the child sitting on a stool nearby.  “Would you like some, sweetie?”

He swung his legs beneath the stool, neck scrunched up near the straps of his overalls.  The little chin wiggled up and down in a nod.

The witch held up the spoon, just far enough away from the little boy’s chubby face that he couldn’t quite lean forward and sip it.  “Now before you take a sip, know that this is a special brew.  If you whisper a wish over the spoon before you drink, it will grant that wish.”

His eyes fluttered, the pupils focused her crooked nose covered in warts.  “Anything?”

She smiled coyly.  “Anything.”

He pursed his lips and, after a second, whispered over the broth.  She gave him the spoon, and he drank it up. His face knotted up, the taste less than pleasant.

“Is everything alright?”

The little boy’s brows furrowed.  “You lied.  You told me it would grant a wish.”

“It does, and the bigger the wish, the more unpleasant the taste.  Would you like to tell me what you wished for?”

The boy stuck out a lip.  “I wished that you wouldn’t be so ugly.”

The witch put her spoon back in the broth, then picked the boy up off the stool.  She brushed off his overalls, then took one of his hands.  “That’s the kind of wish that doesn’t work immediately,” she said.  She drew the boy towards her door.  “You see, I’m already beautiful.  You simply have to wait for the brew to work on you, to convince you that I don’t need to change.”

As the witch opened the door and ushered him out, the little boy looked up at her.  “That was a waste of a wish.  Will you have more tomorrow?  Can I try again?”

The witch shook her head.  “No.  You can only find my house if you are lost, and tomorrow you would be trying to get here.  You had your chance, and your wish will one day be more powerful than you realize.  Don’t regret what you did, dearie.”  She patted him on the back, pushing him away from the house.  A long, bony finger pointed to a nearby colonial with blue siding and white trim.  “Now run along home.  Your mother will be wondering where you were.”

So the little boy left.  Thorns and forest closed back over the walkway, his wish granted but never forgotten.

– If I Only Had No Heart – Chapter 15

Previous Chapters List

Into the Sunset

Her bag containing food, her ancient copy of the Manual, and her own instruction manual from the Colonel’s office, Konchet traveled through the halls. Though the blood still painted the floors, the noise and ecstasy of the mutiny had died down or at least consolidated in the chapel.

With some frustration, she paused on her way down the hall. The wheelchair she pushed had stopped moving, so she bent to investigate the cause. A pesky finger had gotten stuck in the wheel, so she pulled it out and tossed it to get back underway. A wail in the deep recesses of the hub echoed through the hall.
She knocked on the door to the recovery room to alert the people inside then pushed into the room, wheelchair in front of her.

Instantly, Galann’s eyes shot to her, shaking with fear. He screamed at her and pointed, “It’s the devil – our souls are going to burn with eternal fire!”
Konchet stopped the chair between Galann and Klavdiya, bending down to him. She put a hand to his forehead. He shivered at her touch, eyes going to the staple in her palm.

“Shh,” Konchet said, rubbing his head. “You’re doing much better, Galan. Do you think you can move your arm?” He yelped as she reached under his mattress, screaming blabber and nonsense. She pulled the card out, holding it tight with her hand as she dropped him.

“Don’t worry about him,” Klavdiya said. She scooted up in her bed, grunting as she did. “He’s just got his first enhancement, and he isn’t taking it very well.”

Konchet nodded, taking the chair over to Klavdiya’s bed. “It’ll be fine. A lot of people got their first enhancement today, in case you hadn’t heard.” She reached over to Klavdiya’s drawer, taking some of her clothes and putting it in the tray beneath the wheelchair. “Do you think you have the ability to get some clothes on about now? We’re going to need to move.”

Klavdiya blinked, lifting a brow. “Do I know you? You sound familiar.”

With a chuckle, Konchet took Klavdiya’s blanket, folding it and placing it under the wheelchair. “We’ll have plenty of time to catch up, Klavdiya. My name is Konchet.” She handed Klavdiya a skirt, thinking it would be easier to hop into than a pair of trousers.

“I’m sorry, miss, but I don’t know you. What am I supposed to be doing right now? Where are you taking me?”

Yonathen moved in his bed. “Hey – hey, what are you doing? You a caretaker?” He swung his legs over the edge of the bed, swinging them under the furniture made for human and elven occupants. “Or are we going on the warpath? No other reason to wear chain, is there?”

Konchet smiled handily, then put the skirt on Klavdiya’s bed. “Here, dear. Put this on, and I’ll be right back.” She left the card on top and pushed it forward with a smile. “Just a small repayment for everything.” Klavdiya’s face looked at the card and, jaw dropped so that sharp teeth showed, glanced back up at Konchet.

Before Klavdiya could open her snout and blow her cover, Konchet moved over to the water bucket. “Don’t you fret, Yonathen. You’ve done everything you thought you should, and the Machine will reward you for your sacrifices.” She picked up the bucket, taking it over to Yonathen. “Would you like some water, dear halfling?”

Yonathen nodded and reached up. “Yes, I’m mighty thirsty, after all. Thank you so much, ma’am.”

With a smile, she took the cup on the side of the bucket and drew out a meager sip to give to him. “Here you go.”

Yonathen nodded and took the cup. “This will be great. But honestly… do we know you? I thought I knew everyone in the hub after all these years, but I can’t quite put my finger on you.”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter,” Konchet said. She took the cup back, placing it in the bucket. “But I do remember you, Yonathen, and I think you won’t keep your mouth shut about mine and my friend’s escape from this place.”

Yonathen stammered. “What?”

Konchet grabbed the back of his head and dunked his face into the bucket.

Yonathen screamed and flailed, punching at her but finding no hold on her chain.
She held him down, his screams not enough to spill the water. She could feel strength in her mechanical arms, strength she’d never allowed herself to realize, and smiled.

Eventually, the halfling fell limp, but she kept holding him down. “No hard feelings, Yonathen. My goddess requires salvation, not mercy, you see.” She threw his corpse to the ground, the water spilling everywhere. “I hope that’s enough water for you, at last.”

She lifted her head back to Klavdiya, pulling up the gauzy eyepatch. With a broad smile, she rushed around the bed and offered a hand.

Klavdiya stared, shaking her head. “Spirit?” She stood on wobbly legs that whirred and eventually stiffened. Her eyes burned into Konchet’s soul. “That’s… That’s not you. The Spirit I know would never have done that.”

Konchet felt her pumps whir and her coolant flow. Her computers worked overtime. “I… well, things have changed. The hub is a disaster and we have to get out.” She gulped, feeling her legs loosen. “The Machine told me to get out. She…” Konchet fell to her knees, shaking. She reached a hand up to Klavdiya’s knees, holding it. “She told me to do this. She made me the high priest and told me to leave, so I am. There’s a mutiny against the officers, and there’s blood and fighting and – but I… I came for you, if you still trust me enough to come along.”

Klavdiya lifted beleaguered arms, clutching them around Konchet and holding her tight. “Oh, Spirit – Konchet, if that’s what you’d rather – you always were the loyal one.” She patted Konchet roughly. “But look at you! You’ve grown a backbone, my steel friend!”

While Klavdiya lifted her hospital gown and wrapped herself with the skirt, slipping her card in the waistband, Konchet worked her way back to her feet. “You’re… you’re not mad at me for killing Yonathan?”

“Him?” Klavdiya scoffed, pulling off her gown and grabbing the top Konchet had left on the bed. “By the Mainframe, no! He was a heretic and had treated you like dirt. He deserved it, had it coming. I just didn’t think you had it in you to stand up for yourself, that’s all.”

Konchet breathed easily, sitting back down onto Klavdiya’s bed. She put her head into her newly sewn hands. “Either way, we’ve got to get out. The hub has been weakened and there was a massive fight, but I don’t think this is done. The Machine wouldn’t have responded to a cardless prayer for just that. Something bigger is happening, I’d think.”

“Like what?” Klavdiya pulled the shirt over her scales, stretching it to fit over the steel pieces that were lodged in her back. As soon as her shirt was on, she plopped into the wheelchair and pulled her legs onto the rests. “Good goddess, Spirit – er, Konchet – that took a lot out of me. I hope you don’t think that I’m supposed to wheel myself out of this joint?”

“No, not at all.” Konchet took the handles on the wheelchair and released the brakes. “The first thing is just to get out, and then I guess we’ll figure out what we’re doing afterward.” She wheeled Klavdiya out, Galann blubbering in the corner, and into the bloody hallway.

Klavdiya looked at the bloody halls. “Wow. At least now I get to know where all that noisy ruckus came from.” She reached out a claw, scratching in the blood on the walls. “You know, I’m not really going to miss this place. The chocolate cake, absolutely, but literally nothing else.”

“I don’t know,” Konchet said, “I’m not really excited about going outside, myself. The air is so strange, and it changes temperatures. And plants – ugh.”

Klavdiya pointed to a body in the hall. “Hold up, hold up – who’s that? Push me over there, let me see.”

Konchet pushed her over to the body in the hall, letting Klavdiya grab the shoulder of the gnome, turning her over. An ocular device in her head, clear sign of modification done during the war, had been ripped out, leaving a cavity. “Haha, that little turd got what was coming to her. Keep this train rolling, Konchet!”

Konchet laughed and popped the front wheels of Klavdiya’s chair into the air, neighing like a horse to entertain her charge. They took off at as fast a pace as Konchet could manage in her chain, Klavdiya laughing. They swerved around bodies and pieces of organic flesh all the way to the front door.

Then Konchet stopped. Before her were giant steel doors, the handles high and heavy. On the doors were inscribed the words of blessing, “Koswimchet vepuchov; All who enter are One.”

Konchet took a breath, looking at the doors. She clutched the handles on the wheelchair.

“You ready, Konchet?”

She huffed out a breath. “No. No, I’m not.”

Klavdiya crouched down in her chair. “Well, I sure ain’t going to be the one to open the door. Look at my poor arm! Can’t hardly lift it up.”

Taking the hint, Konchet paced forward. She held onto the handle, the staple in her palm finally hooked up to her sensors and tingling a little bit painfully. Finally, she smirked and held the handle tighter. “No, this is ridiculous – the Machine told me to leave, and now I’ve got you here. I plugged my goddess in and started a war! I’m not afraid of a stupid door. Outside doesn’t phase me.”

Klavdiya scratched at the armrest. “Outside hasn’t changed. It still hates us.” She reached up to the door and took the handle, crackling metal fingers on it. “The difference is that, now, we’re ready to tear outside a new one. Open together? On one?”

Konchet nodded. “On one. Three.”

“Two.”

“One.”

They both pulled down on the handles and pushed against the steel, flinging the tall doors open. The sun was setting to the west, darkness pulling over the east, smoke from the fires of enemy armies floating silently to the reddening sky.

Konchet gripped the wheelchair’s handles. “The Machine’s judgment has arrived.”

“Said like a true high priest.” Klavdiya pushed herself out a little, onto the steel entryway. “If it’s Sterling, not a one of the hub’s believers will be left alive.”

“As the Machine wanted it.” She heaved a breath, pulled down the eyepatch, and arranged it so she could mostly see through the cloth. “Come on – we should leave tonight. They’ll probably attack by morning.”

“Hah,” Klavdiya added. “Let them! We’ll still be out there, spreading the word and repairing the organics and baking some cakes. Besides, our goddess is still in heaven. She’ll seek vengeance even if we’re not allowed it before we kick the bucket. What say you, high priest? You think the Machine’d agree with my loose interpretation of scripture?”

Konchet shrugged. “She does whatever she wants. We can only align with her perfection, after all, but I suppose we should work hard to get stronger and destroy everything that does not align with her perfection.”

“Death to the organics!” Klavdiya cried out, shaking a fist. “Onwards, Konchet! Onwards, bringer of the end, speaker of doom to all that live!”

And so Konchet and Klavdiya left into the wilds of beyond, inhaling the hateful outdoors and exhaling a fiery passion for their goddess.

One.

Previous Chapters List

This is the end of the story. Next week I will put up a .pdf formatted for Kindle that you can download for free.

If you enjoyed this chapter or any other, I invite you to vote here on my next project.

To Stop and Smell the Flowers

This flash fiction is in response to K.R. Summers’s Creativity Challenge #2. After reading the prompt I immediately thought of this dream, this nightmare that I’ve had hundreds of times, and wanted to write something that could draw a reader into the character, fear, and inevitability I’ve experienced so often. Thank you for the inspiration, K.R.!

***

 
The mouse touched the blade gratifyingly, sniffed the sweet water and natural sugars in the tender grass. The dew quenched his thirsty tongue as he bit into the bottom of the shaft and chopped the grass down from its former height.

He folded his prize, stuffing the sweet blade into his mouth so that it wouldn’t trip him on the voyage home. The mouse then took off through the lesser grasses, those that were too tall and rough or too young and spindly, navigating back using the homey smell of his own dandruff. He shook out his fox red coat, hoping to leave his scent here to remind himself where he’d been. The heart in his chest beat hard, each moment outside of the colony ever more dangerous.

Home sat over the next couple anthills, near the puddle made by elephant’s footprints. Each time the rain fell, the puddle welled up with cooling water from which the mouse enjoyed sipping.

The mouse paused, feeling the earth vibrating beneath his feet. Something, something heavy and in a hurry, thundered nearer. He stuffed the piece of grass further in his mouth and pushed apart the grass in his way.

An ant scurried over his foot, so the mouse hastily retracted his paw. He hid in the scrubby weeds off to the side, his breath rapid and shallow for a few moments. Upon settling, the mouse decided the light creeping of an ant couldn’t cause the movement in the earth that reverberated across the plains. He held tight his grass, the leaf litter underfoot soft though it shook with the soil underneath.

He took a risk and stood on his hind legs, peering over the growth to see what might have scared the ant to action. A whiff of the air, fresh and windy above the grass, brought information from upwind. The scent of elephants, of their fear, wafted toward the mouse.

A stampede encroached upon his territory. He had little time to make it back to the colony, underground, and hope for safety.

Though the earth moved with ominous jolts, a meager flower caught the mouse’s
eye. Ignoring for now the impending elephants, the mouse blinked and crept toward the four petals on a spindly stem. He pulled the grass out of his mouth and let it fall, the dust of the earth sticking to where he had slathered the blade with spit.

The delicate flower’s light, powdery scent flooded his nostrils. His sharp teeth nibbled lightly on the edges of the flower and tore off tiny bits of lovely purple, his tongue tasting the delightful violet.

The stampede rushed ever closer, the trumpeting of the elephants giving fair warning to the innocents in their path.

The mouse felt his heart throb, nearly coming out of his chest. It bit the stem of the flower and hugged it to himself.

A giant foot above him blocked off the sunlight.