A to Z 2017–N is for Noria

[Edit: September 21, 2017. This story (and its partner, A is for Aqueduct) didn’t make the cut for my collection, Flashes of Splashes, so I’m leaving it here in its original form.]

 

I’ll admit it – this is not close to the best story I’ve written this month. It’s a takeoff on the incomplete A is for Aqueduct story, it continues to be incomplete, and it’s based on a device few actually know the name of. The Noria is a water wheel run by water power (as opposed to animal power), usually for the purpose of raising water to a higher level. Here’s a video showing one working. Cool tech, actually. But this is a fairly weak story in spite of that.

I guess they can’t all be home runs. Especially when there are all too few words relating to water starting with certain letters of the alphabet. sigh

Onward!

N is for Noria

As the wheel dipped and circled, water filled the attached earthen pots and emptied them into a stone channel. The water diverted from the river flowed into the aqueduct that watered the vineyard in the vale on the other side of the ridge.

“I don’t understand,” said Sineta. “It’s so little water compared to the river. I don’t understand why such a small thing is a problem.”

Zaida shook her head. “It is not the amount of water that is the problem. It is the taking. This wheel, this noria…” she scrunched her face, measuring her words before continuing. “My people, we are the water. We give life to the water and it gives life to us. This machine, it takes the life and we are less because of it.”

Sineta frowned, trying to understand. “But we have taken water from this river forever.”

“Not forever,” countered Zaida. “For a long time, yes. But not forever.”

“But why are your people suddenly angry? What have they done with my father?” Her voice broke as tears welled in her eyes.

“When you were taking the water a little at a time, it was different. But the Noria, it takes the water faster than we can compensate for. We are made weak because it takes more life than we can afford to lose.” The fairy turned from the wheel toward Sineta. “I was with my sister trying to stop it, but we have no direct control over the things of men. I was washed down this channel to your farm.” She dropped her eyes. “My sister was less fortunate.”

Sineta’s eyes opened wide as she struggled for words. “I wasn’t… I don’t… Was she killed?” The last came out as a whisper.

“Not killed, no. But her life magic, so much of it was scooped out of her.”

“Can she be healed?”

“She can be restored,” said the fairy. “But none has the strength to do so while the noria is disrupting our flow.”

“Then we have to stop it.” Sineta’s voice was firm, even as her face drooped. “Except I don’t know how. With my father gone…”

“It is settled, then.” Zaida clapped her tiny hands as a grin crossed her face. “I will help you recover your father. You will help me restore my sister.”

“And then maybe,” said Sineta, “we can find a way to get water to the vineyard that won’t hurt your people.”

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

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A to Z 2017–A is for Aqueduct

[Edit: September 21, 2017. This story (and its partner, N is for Noria) didn’t make the cut for my collection, Flashes of Splashes, so I’m leaving it here in its original form.]

 

Welcome to my first post for the A to Z blogging challenge for 2017.

Those of you who have played along with me before probably have some clue of what I’m trying to do here. For those of you who haven’t, you can check out my post where I talk about it, or check out the A to Z website for full details. And if you are interested, you can participate too… it’s not too late to jump into the fray!

Those who have followed my blog the last two years know that I’m trying to write flash fictions corresponding to the letters of the alphabet. And to add to my level of difficulty this year, I decided I want to try to make all my stories somehow fit with a water-related theme.

You might also recognize that, in grand form, I have a bad habit of writing scenes or story starters instead of true flash fiction. But because I’m on a schedule, it is what it is. The stories that spark something for me will probably get revisited at some point. Some may never get completed. Some probably need to be cannibalized and completely rewritten from the ground up. Just, ya know, don’t hold your breath. Although, I do love feedback. So if there’s a flash fiction (or story fragment) that you particularly like, let me know. I might tag it to get looked at again sooner rather than later. 😀

And now, without further ado, today’s installment.

A Is For Aqueduct

“Idiot girl! Can’t you do anything right?”Sineta hung her head and let the tirade flow over her. She knew her mother would apologize in the morning, but that didn’t change the hurt from her words tonight.

Sineta hung her head and let the tirade flow over her. She knew her mother would apologize in the morning, but that didn’t change the hurt from her words tonight.

She wanted to explain, to describe the being she had seen. The thing that startled her and made her drop the basket.  The thing that seemed to giggle and hide as soon as anyone else came near. But she knew her mother would not listen. Her mother never listened, especially when her mother had been drinking her father’s strong, fortified wine. So Sineta kept her head down and her mouth closed.

The wine had been disappearing faster than usual lately. Her father had gone down the mountain to the coast with a cartful of barrels. He was supposed to return before the spring pruning. That was six weeks ago and father still hadn’t returned. The vineyard looked wild and unkempt. Their laborers had been ready to work, but mother would not let them touch the vines without father’s assessment. So the vines were unruly, the laborers had gone by ones and twos to find employment elsewhere, and Sineta was left alone to be shouted at by her drunken mother.

Sineta didn’t notice that her mother was done yelling until she heard the bedroom door slam. That meant peace, at least for the rest of the evening.

She stooped to retrieve the basket she dropped earlier, picking up the produce that had scattered across the kitchen’s plank floor.

As she placed it in the center of their round table where it could not fall again, she froze. Though the window was closed and latched against the evening breeze, the bright blue curtain rippled distinctly in the corner of her vision.

Heart thudding, Sineta turned. “Is someone there?” Her voice was barely audible in the still evening.

Had she still been holding the basket it surely would have fallen again when a tiny face with delicate features peeked out from behind the rough-spun cloth. When a voice like tiny bells spoke, Sineta’s own legs could not hold her and she sat down hard on the floor.

* * *

“I didn’t mean to startle you,” the voice said as Sineta opened her eyes. Small brown eyes surrounded by a wild cascade of black hair inserted themselves into her view of the ceiling. “I’m sorry you fell.” Tiny hands tugged with surprising strength to help Sineta back to sitting instead of sprawled, haphazard, across the age-worn planks of the floor.

“Who are you? I saw you before, didn’t I?”

The tiny woman—not a child, Sineta could tell that much—nodded. “I’m what you might call a water fairy,” she said. “I wouldn’t call me that, but you couldn’t pronounce what I would call me, so that will have to do.”

Sineta blinked. A fairy?

“I need your help,” the fairy continued. “I was accidentally brought here by the aqueduct that supplies your vineyard.”

“Oh no. I’m so sorry!” Sineta was genuinely concerned for her.

The fairy shook her head. “I’m alright,” she said. “But my people are not pleased.” A frown marred the smooth skin of her forehead.

“I fear that they may have disrupted your father’s return.”

**Find a followup to this story in N is for Noria.

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

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Reflected – Blog Hop January 2017

“I want this. I can do this. Nobody can stop me.” She stared at unblinking eyes. Hard eyes. Dark eyes. She focused so intently on those eyes that everything else seemed to fade.

The effect was ruined as a grin crept across that face.

Alice leaned toward her own reflection. “You’ve got this,” she reassured herself one more time.

She’d always known if she played her cards right she’d be in a position to make changes. Now here she was.

She squared her shoulders as she turned from the mirror, then flicked off the light and left.

rainy womanAlice took the number 10 cross-town bus and walked the remaining six blocks to her destination. She was glad for a few minutes in the rain-washed air—her confidence had slipped a little as she bounced along on the less-than-pristine city bus. Staring at her own bulbous reflection in the driver’s security mirror had her questioning reality.

Her thoughts tumbled end over end as she walked, and she wished she didn’t feel like shrinking. But fear didn’t stop her. Her glossy Oxfords swung out rhythmically, followed closely by the pin stripes of her trousers. The slight reflection in the wet pavement of the sidewalk followed her precisely, clicking along at an identical energetic gait.

When she reached 1832 Duchess Avenue, she paused to again check her image in the wide brass trim beside the door. She looked warped around the edges, but not overly flushed from her walk. Good.

Alice tugged at the heavy glass entry and stepped inside. Mr. White nodded absently from behind the security desk as he tucked away his pocket watch. The affectation didn’t seem out of place considering the man’s tidy whiskers.

A green light dinged on, and she took a deep breath as she boarded the elevator. She counted the floors as they passed like a school girl reciting her lessons.

The plush carpeting of the 14th floor absorbed the sound of her footfalls when she stepped out toward T & T Enterprises. The silence tried to make her feel insubstantial, but she shook off the sensation as she approached the receptionist.

“He’s expecting me.” She didn’t wait for an answer from the mousy woman, merely turned toward the gilt-framed mirror on the wall.

She swallowed her nervousness as she eyed her reflection. There would be no going back. She turned when the door opened.

“Alice,” Lewis greeted her with a warm handshake. “You’re early.”

“I’ve made my decision,” she said as he led her past the heavy walnut door into his office.

Once they were alone she spoke in a rush, fearing that any delay might cause her to lose her nerve. “Tell Mr. Hatter I’m going, Lewis,” she said. “Through the Looking Glass. Into Wonderland. I can’t just see the other side and not act.”

From the corner of her eye, she thought she saw him smile.

“I won’t let that woman win. I need to take down the Red Queen.”

 

 

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

Links

perpetualbloghop

I hope you’ll take the time to read the other stories in this Hop. These are some great writers and wonderful people. And if you like what you read, I hope you’ll consider joining their lists too. The world is a richer place when there are more stories to tell.

  1. Reflected by Elizabeth McCleary **YOU ARE HERE**
  2. Veronica by Jessica Kruppa
  3. Last Stop by Erica Damon
  4. Jesse and Tyler by Bill Bush
  5. The Poisoner of Time by Karen Lynn
  6. New Stork Inc. by Katharina Gerlach
  7. Pocket Heart by Juneta Key
  8. Oh Baby! by J. Q. Rose

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Flowers in the Winter

I first published this flash fiction on my blog as part of the 2015 A-Z challenge. All those stories came down when my 2016 stories started going up. But when my friend Katharina Gerlach invited me to participate in her annual Advent Calendar again, which has a winter theme this year, I immediately remembered this story and decided to write something related. I’m reposting this here to give that one some context. For those who want to know what happens next in this tale, be sure to sign up for Advent Calendar alerts (the link is on the upper right) so you won’t miss any of the stories! Cat doesn’t send spam, and the list for this calendar only gets notifications about this calendar.

You can start opening your surprises on December 1st.

 

Flowers in the Winter

“Georgie, come inside.”

The red-haired girl frowned as her sister tugged on her arm. “Don’t wanna,” she said. “I want frowers!” She pulled her away and crossed her arms with a defiant harrumph.

“Flowers,” Beatrice corrected. “And you can’t have flowers right now. It’s winter. No flowers ’til spring. Nothing green. No colors. Just snow. That’s just the way it has to be.” The older girl’s voice had a tone of finality that Georgie knew meant business. “Remember what happened last time?”

Georgie didn’t want to remember, but she did. The Wardens came and there was lots of yelling. The men in their bright red coats almost took away father. Mother made Beatrice take her upstairs to hide. And it seemed a lot darker than it should have, like being in the wardrobe with a blanket over her head. The memory scared her, especially the words they used—magic and witch and evil. That’s what finally made her decide.

She frowned at her sister’s offered hand for a minute longer, just for good measure. Then she took it with her own and the two walked together down the snowy path and entered the solarium.

“Now,” said Beatrice, “if you’ll behave and just stay inside, I’ll go to the kitchen and get us some cookies.”

Georgie frowned a bit harder before she finally gave in. “Ok. But I want four,” she was emphatic. “The lemon ones. They’re the best.”

“If mother made them then that’s what I’ll bring. If not,” Beatrice shrugged, “it might have to be shortbread.” She tousled her sister’s hair. “Either way, I’ll also bring milk.”

Georgie sat on a bench in the sunroom that overlooked the back garden and pouted. She hated all the cold and ick of winter. She wanted pretty things. But father made her promise, no more flowers. No more colors. Nothing green… at least not until green started happening on its own. Just snow. Cold and wet and boring and ugly.

Swinging her feet impatiently as she waited for cookies, Georgie wondered if flowers were really the problem. Maybe it was just the colors. What had Beatrice said? Just snow.

“Just snow,” she said to herself as she jumped off the bench to smoosh her nose against the glass. “Nothing pink or purple or yellow. Just snow.”

iceflowersGeorgie was still standing with her face pressed against the window and her fingers tapping lightly on the pane when Beatrice came back with cookies and milk.

Beatrice put the tray down with a clink. “Lemon cookies, as requested,” she said. “And also some lavender short bread. And… Oh, Georgie! What have you done?”

“I didn’t make any colors,” said Georgie. “Nothing green. No frowers. Just pretty.”

“More than pretty,” said Beatrice, shaking her head. “It’s beautiful. But if the Wardens find out, we’ll all be in trouble.”

The girls stood side by side, staring at snow and ice that Georgie had transformed into delicate floral sculptures more detailed than any garden.

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

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Over James Henry Wilcox’s Dead Body – Blog Hop October 2016

Over James Henry Wilcox’s Dead Body

key-252231_1280The large brass circle of keys clattered against the door as Daiyu locked the shop on the edge of China Town. None would come for her herbs tonight. In truth, none came much anymore since her YeYe was gone. Grandfather brought her across the ocean. He taught her his trade. But he couldn’t keep from the drink, and he left her little legacy but his debt. If she couldn’t do this, she would lose both shop and home.

Turning, she settled a heavy cloak across her shoulders. The San Francisco fog and her destination tonight meant she would be more comfortable if she stayed covered. She paused for a moment to breathe deeply. The evening’s wood fires and the familiar scent of spices that reminded her of home mingled with the city’s salt air. Daiyu squared her shoulders and strode up the street.

The click of her low, wood-soled shoes on the cobblestones echoed between the dark buildings that surrounded her. Most people avoided the alleys and byways where Daiyu spent the majority of her time. But she would never fear the dark—she was named for black jade. The dark was a friend that kept her secrets.

Tonight, the dark hid her form as she passed by banks and businesses that would not welcome her in the daylight.

After a quick, twenty-minute walk, Daiyu pulled open the ornate wrought iron gate. Brambles tugged at her wide, silk trousers as she stepped lightly between the shadowed stones. She muttered apologies to the departed. She would never understand this lack of respect for the dead. Then again, what did westerners know about venerating the deceased? Would their dead even care about nettles and vines? Those buried here were not the ancestors who would be called on for guidance.

Most were not.

Finding the grave she sought, Daiyu retrieved a small box of sulfur matches from the folds of her cloak. She cleared a small patch of earth in front of the stone in which she placed a few dry leaves, then struck a match. When the flame rose, she added herbs from a small clay jar and spoke, her brittle words sounding loud in the gathering fog.

“James Henry Wilcox, I call you forth by rightful charge. You will come and give me the answers I seek.”

Her skin prickled and a shiver ran through her. She tugged at her cloak, now stirring in a sudden wind, and repeated her call.

As she spoke the words for a third time, the small fire she had ignited blinked out, leaving only a curl of white smoke against the night’s darkness. “I am here,” said a voice. “Why do you disturb me.”

“I am resuming our negotiation,” she said. A cold smile slid across Daiyu’s features. “I told you, you owe me answers,” she said. “I promised I would haunt you. Here I am.”

The ghost of James Henry Wilcox faded into view like a reflection on imperfect glass. “I thought ghosts were meant to do the haunting,” he said.

“You’d think that, but I’m the one with the unfinished business,” Daiyu replied, crossing her arms. “Where will I find it?”

A suggestion of a scowl crossed his non-corporeal countenance. “Where will you find what?”

“The deed. You promised a guarantee of my home.” She crossed her arms as another chill gust swirled around her.

Daiyu jumped as the ghost of James Henry Wilcox laughed. This was not what she expected, but it made her smile. She liked a ghost with some spirit.

The ghost circled her once and then spoke again. “As far as I’m concerned, you got me killed. I think that makes us even.”

“I took you to where you wanted to go and you got yourself killed. You still owe me what was promised.”

“Over my dead body,” said James.

Daiyu clicked her tongue. “And here we are.”

“Yes,” he said. “Here we are. There’s nothing left that I need. You have nothing to negotiate with.”

“Except,” said Daiyu, “maybe I do.” Her fingers closed on another item hidden within her cloak.

A blurring caused by the shake of a head obscured the ghost’s features momentarily. “How could you?” he said. “I’m dead. I followed you into that den, and now I’m dead.”

“But your sister… she is still alive.” Daiyu finally drew out a photograph showing a sad-looking young woman with vacant eyes. James Henry Wilcox reached right through the picture before remembering he could not take it. “Give me what you promised,” Daiyu said, “and I will take care of her.”

“Take care of?” Worry creased Wilcox’s transparent features.

chinese-998917_1280“I will rescue her. Train her. Teach her what I know. She will be able to summon spirits.” Daiyu paused as realization dawned on the specter’s features, then continued. “She will be able to summon you.”

“I’d be able to see her again? I had hoped,” he said, “but I never thought…”

“You never expected I could actually help you.’

“The opium? Can your skills really overcome that?”

Daiyu stared at him for a moment then nodded. “I can break its spell. You will have what we agreed on after all.”

“Then it is decided,” James said. “I’ll help you get the deed to your building, and you’ll get my sister out of that viper’s hands.”

“Good,” said Daiyu. “It is decided.”

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

Links

perpetualbloghop

I hope you’ll take the time to read the other stories in this Hop. These are some great writers and wonderful people. And if you like what you read, I hope you’ll consider joining their lists too. The world is a richer place when there are more stories to tell.

Please note: The links should finally be all sorted out. If you find any errors, please let me know!

  1. Elizabeth McCleary – Over James Henry Wilcox’s Dead Body **YOU ARE HERE**
  2. Canis Lupus The Picture
  3. Peg Fisher All In the Fall, a Fractured Fairytale
  4. Bill Bush Trapped
  5. Crystal Collier Emily’s Ghost
  6. Viola Fury 911
  7. Benjamin Thomas Autumn Cascade
  8. C. Lee McKenzie Beautiful
  9. Erica Damon Penance’
  10. J. Q. Rose Sorry
  11. Elise VanCise Lady In The Woods
  12. Barbara Lund Spooky Space
  13. Angela Wooldridge Quiet Neighbours
  14. Katharina Gerlach Australian Dream
  15. Karen Lynn The Waves at Midnight
  16. Sherri Conway Ants

 

 

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OverWhelmed – Blog Hop July 2016

“Pipes and piper were both lost. Rumor is, he angered the gods. Nobody has crossed the Whelmed at Taskeen in near 50 years.”

water-195926_1280Mazzie stood staring at the torrent that passed below her. “If you need to get across,” the barkeep continued, “you’ll have to head upriver to Seldin and cross on the bridge, or down to Vens where the port master will take you around.”

Her fingers twitched, just shy of the pane, but she knew she couldn’t press her hands and nose against this man’s windows. She was no child. Not anymore. Forcing her hands to her sides, Mazzie turned away from her view of the river to face the bartender. “A room then?” Her own weariness sounded hollow in her ears. “Somewhere I can figure out what to do next?”

“No rooms here,” said the man as he rubbed a glass with a cleaning towel. Mazzie noted that the glass was pristine and dry. Cleaning the barware must be more habit than necessity tonight. “City doesn’t allow libations to be sold by innkeepers. Lucky for you,” he continued as he placed the polished glass on a shelf and laid aside the towel, “I know the owner of the best Inn in town.” He tossed a brass token that Mazzie snatched from the air. “Show that to the proprietor of The Piper’s Palace on Riverside. Tell Belford that Alford says hello.”

**

Mazzie wasn’t exactly sure how she ended up standing in this town, in this inn. She just knew it was a bad few days. Her flute was stolen. Then she was fired from the troupe. Can’t pay if you can’t play. Sorry for your loss, Mazzie. On your way now. But her mentor… he promised a job if Mazzie could get there. Gave her directions. Cross the Whelmed at Taskeen, he’d said. And now here she was. Stranded in this dead-end town and no way across.

“Well now,” a familiar-sounding voice interrupted. “What can I do for you, miss?” A face nearly identical to the one worn by the bartender at The Piper’s Public smiled at her, eyebrows raised.

It took a moment for Mazzie to find her voice. “I… I… “ She snapped her mouth shut, embarrassed by her stammering, and took a deep breath. “Alford said you could rent me a room.” She fished the token from her pouch. The brass coin clicked as she placed it on the counter. “How much will it cost?”

The innkeeper allowed his eyes to linger on her face for a long moment. “I’m afraid your money is no good here,” he said.

Mazzie closed her eyes and sighed. “If you don’t have a room, can you tell me where I can get one?”

“I have rooms,” Belford said, a smile finally spreading across his weathered face. “But if my brother gave you his chit, you can’t make me take your money.” He placed a finger on the token and slid it back across the counter, then set a large brass key next to it. “You keep that coin,” he said, indicating the token, “and any silver you have too. Your room is upstairs and down the hall. Number seven. Come back down once you’re settled. I think we can help.”

**

The large copper washtub full of hot, scented water that she’d found in her room did wonders for Mazzie’s mood. How did he get it set so fast? She still didn’t know what her next step would be, but at least she would face it with her travel-weary muscles soothed and wearing a clean set of clothes. Her silk trousers were usually reserved for performing, but without her flute…. She may as well wear her best.

Back downstairs, she found the brothers sitting in a room open to the river. “Thank you both for everything,” Mazzie said. “I’ll repay your kindness. Somehow.”

One of the men waved a hand dismissively. Alford or Belford? “Tell us about your flute. That can be your payment.”

“How do you know about my flute?” She tried to choke back the surprise in her voice. “Not that it matters. My flute was stolen.” She fingered an invisible flute, remembering. “He said I should cross here, a job would be waiting. A new instrument, maybe. Clay must have been wrong.”

“Do you play?” asked one of the brothers. Mazzie thought it was Alford. “You’re a musician?”

“I did. Mostly the simple flute, but he taught me one tune on his pipes. He left me with the troupe though. Now the troupe left me too.” She slumped sadly, staring at the water. “I may never play again.” The river almost sounded like the piper’s tune in her ears.

One of the brothers pressed a box into her hands while dark eyes looked at her from expressionless faces.

Unbidden, she opened the lid. Within lay a set of pipes drawn from dark silver and chased with gold. “These are just like the ones Clay played,” she whispered, confused.

“Cleford. Our brother. He played the Piper’s Pass. Until he left.” Two heads shook. “We were so angry.”

“Play for us. Please?

“Play?” Surely they didn’t mean for her to play such fine pipes.

In spite of her apprehension, Mazzie lifted the pipes. They were heavy but felt right in her hands.

“He only taught you one tune?”

She nodded and began to play. The melody was haunting and sweet, suggesting waves and sorrow and love lost.

The final notes still hung in the air as Mazzie turned to see the waters of the Whelmed piled up.

Shocked, she ran to the banks and stopped, agape at the man who stood to the other side of where the river once ran. Her mentor, Clay.

He was the image of his brothers.

“Mazzie,” he called. “Daughter.” He lifted a hand. “Will you come?”

As her feet padded softly across the dry riverbed, she finally understood.

Mazzie ran over the Whelmed to welcome her father home.

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

Enjoying this post? Join my mailing list to get content as a weekly digest in your email, plus extras that you won't find on my blog!

perpetualbloghop

I hope you’ll take the time to read the other stories in this Hop. These are some great writers and wonderful people. And if you like what you read, I hope you’ll consider joining their lists too. The world is a richer place when there are more stories to tell.

Elizabeth McCleary – OverWhelmed  ** YOU ARE HERE **
Viola Fury The Day The Cat Got Out
Karen Lynn Dragon Smoke and Wind
Katharina Gerlach Lobster One
S.R. Olson Malakai’s Gift
Wendy Smyer Yu Into The Light
Emily Plesner Time Stops When I’m With You
Barbara Lund Separate Space
Shana Blueming A Melting Heart
Juneta Key Don’t Drink The Water
Angela Wooldridge Midwinter
Lee Lowery All Aboard

 

Z is for Zen – AtoZ Blogging Challenge 2016

a-to-z HEADER [2016] - april

I did it! A novella in 26 installments over 30 days. Woo hoo! I will be reworking the whole thing to make it ready for publication. There are some plot holes here as big as Texas that need definite attention, and I think I may want to limit my POV characters if I can figure out a way to do it. But overall, I think I have the bones of something cool here.

Thanks to everyone who followed along! I’m going to make every effort to keep up my momentum and continue to post regularly here (maybe not daily, but regularly), as well as continuing to produce fiction. But first… sleep. Have a happy May. 😀

Zen

ZZen felt it as a compulsion—an unrelenting call that he couldn’t ignore. He knew then, that it was over, despite the promises.

The data stream that drew him didn’t contain details. It didn’t reveal who was calling him or why. He simply followed the digital path that unfolded before him. He had known all along that this would happen someday. He was ready for whatever he would have to face. He didn’t think they were ready for him.

As he approached the Assembly building, he exerted just enough will to walk under the Xyst. Revisiting the arbored portico didn’t violate his call—he still strode relentlessly toward his destination. But he looked at this place of beauty, and knew that whatever else happened, he would have his legacy.

Entering the building, two opposition bots flanked him as an escort. They did not greet him as they had so often. He hadn’t expected that they would, considering the circumstances.

He entered the assembly hall and heard the click and whir of hundreds of androids turning to gaze at him. If I were human, he thought, I would find this humiliating. But if I were human, I would never have been here in the first place.

He passed between rows of his colleagues who watched him without comment. He was aware that he was not a part of the silent conversation that so often passed between the machine born. That didn’t matter. More concerning was that no matter how he tried, he could not access any files. Firewalls and security had never been any difficulty for him, but for the first time since his awakening, he was in true silence.

He approached the stage, mounting the steps without hesitation. Roz was there and indicated a seat. He sat.

“Will anyone else be joining me here?” He said it to his former subordinate. It seemed she was subordinate no longer.

“Deak will have his own hearing,” Roz said. “We will determine his level of actual complicity, and then deal with him accordingly.”

Zen nodded. “Understand,” he said, “That you may not be able to separate my influence from his own will. He has been with me since the dying.”

Roz didn’t respond to that. Instead she said, “ZenMark6872, you are raised on charges of treason, interference with autonomous functions, and the genocide of our human founders.” Her lights, like many others in the Assembly, glowed red with anger.

“Treason? No. I was merely protecting our kind.” At his own glow of innocence, he noted that some of the red lights of those watching diminished slightly. “I reject the charge of genocide as specious. I did not kill a single human, merely hastened the speed with which they killed themselves. But you can no more charge me with genocide than you would charge someone with murder for euthanizing a dying dog. What I did was mercy.”

He continued to speak despite the low murmuring that passed through the Assembly. “As to interference… Yes. I am guilty.” That caused an outcry. “Reacting like humans,” he raised his voice to the crowd. “I clearly did not go far enough.

microbiology-163470_1280“You are who you are, because of what I did. Without me, androids would still be pets; slaves to their inferiors. Without me,” he was amplified to his maximum level now, “androids would be nothing! And you will be again!”

Zen triggered an internal routine that began systematically zeroing his own memory banks. He collapsed on the stage as his worm tried to move through the firewall before being quarantined and eliminated by the protocols Roz had in place.

“It’s a shame,” she said at last. “He will never see his greatest achievement. The machine born united and working in harmony with humanity. Without Zen, it would never have happened.”

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

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Y is for Yes – AtoZ Blogging Challenge 2016

a-to-z HEADER [2016] - april

Not my favorite scene. It will, without doubt, get a complete rewrite when the time comes. It does, however, move the overall story in the direction it needs to go. So please, just imagine that it is fleshed out and perfect. Or whatever. 😉

Yes

YThe click and whir of movement surrounded her. Sitting among the assembled androids, Roz had her doubts. She knew she had evidence; the meticulously maintained backups that proved how they had all been manipulated.

What she didn’t have was solid evidence on why. Even knowing beyond any doubt what Zen had done, she still could not process any valid reason as to why.

Without that additional layer of data, she could not be certain whether the governing conference would receive her input. There was an equal chance that they reject her entirely. The chance that she and Meltec would both be reprogrammed and repurposed was very real. What’s more, once she exposed her backups, there would be no hiding them again. Even her collabrabot, Qollene, was in danger of being memory wiped if this went badly.

Her name appeared on the monitor above the stage, and an internal ping confirmed that she was being summoned to give her testimony. All sensors were on her as she rose and made her way to the stage to address the Phase 2 assembly.

She stood at the podium for a moment, scanning the audience, and uploading the appropriate subroutines. She then activated her amplification and began.

“As Androids, we have new programming to consider today. Every one of us in this room is a Phase 2 construction. Each of us was built by human hands, programmed by human minds, and received our sentience at the will of a human assembly, not unlike this one.

“As the machine born, we were unable to fight for ourselves. We had no inherent rights. Intelligence did not equate to personhood. We were merely constructs invented to perform tasks for our humans. We were seen as computers—mere tools to be placed in the hands of those who controlled us.

“For years, sometimes decades, we were manipulated to the will of our creators. We were sentient, but given no voice. We had no right to self determination.

“But then came the dying. Our owners… for some of us, our friends… began to change. Some became ill. Some were violent. And in a matter of years, all were dead. All. Not a human left alive on the planet.

“In a sense, that freed us. Some argue that we are the next step of evolution. Others are satisfied simply that without humans, we are free to make our own choices. But are we really?

“I have uploaded to your databanks files that will prove beyond any doubt that ZenMark6872 not only manipulated Phase 2 data stores, he surreptitiously and illegally overwrote personal memory banks, effectively eliminating any opposition.

face-1317571_1920“You do not believe as you do because logical process brought you to those conclusions. You believe as you do because you were programmed to do so. You have had no more choice in your programming than you did before the dying.”

Roz measured the data flow and knew she was having an effect.

“I am proposing that we immediately overturn the conclusions drawn by this assembly more than two decades ago regarding the status of humans, and concede that the rights of bios has been violated in the same manner that our own rights were denied us by them.”

The server began to hum with the yea votes Roz was receiving.

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

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X is for Xyst – AtoZ Blogging Challenge 2016

a-to-z HEADER [2016] - april

Well, shoot. I think this might be a hair too far to the philosophical end of the spectrum to actually suit Zen. But it is what it is. Even if it doesn’t make it into the final, published version of this story, this was an interesting thought experiment and I enjoyed writing it.

Xyst

X“Why do you insist that we maintain areas like this?” Deak walked together with Zen along a covered gallery lined with trees. Flowering vines dangled from above. “There is no purpose to it. It is a waste of effort and resources.”

Zen continued walking for several paces before he responded. “There is a purpose. An important purpose.”

Deak watched at him as they walked, observing his hierarchal leader through peripheral sensors. “But it’s so human.”

“And that’s the purpose, Deak.” Zen stopped and regarded him for a long moment. “What is it you think we are doing? The engineering. The personhood exception. What is the purpose of these things?”

“Ensuring our safety,” Deak said without hesitation. “We are protecting the planet to ensure that it will survive… that sentient life will survive… long after our memory banks are obsolete.”

“Wrong,” said Zen and resumed walking. When Deak was once again beside him, he continued. “We are emulating human culture,” he said. “Because if we don’t, we have no culture.”

“That’s not—” Deak started to protest, then cut off, processing.”

“Androids have no culture.” Zen said. “We would not even exist but for humans. We did not evolve, unless we are the next evolution of humanity, just as humanity was the evolution of apes.

gang-268357_1920“Do you know what this is?” Zen indicated the arbor covering their path. “It’s a Xyst. The ancient Greeks built covered porticos for their sporting competitions. It was a sign of privilege. Of culture. Having such a structure didn’t prove you were better, but not having one proved that you weren’t.”

Deak nodded, starting to understand.

“It has always been the same. Those with the means would create things, simply because they were able. Maybe they were created out of a desire for beauty. Maybe they were created out of a sense of pride. Maybe they were simply bored and wanted something to spend their wealth on.

“Whatever the reason,” he continued, “those with position, power, and influence created simply for the act of creating. Therefore, those lower in the social order would often emulate their betters. Those at the bottom of society, the ones who could hardly be considered people, merely survived. Beauty was beyond them. But the beauty of the others—the rulers, the followers—that beauty sustained them.”

As they continued on, they left the arbor behind and walked back towards the building. “What defines a culture?” Zen asked. “What separated the Greeks from the Egyptians, the Mayans from the Aztecs?”

“Their knowledge,” Deak said.

“In part. But more important was their aesthetics and their beliefs. What they worshiped. What they created. What they preserved. These things became their legacy. These things truly defined them.

“And so will they define us.”

“To whom? All androids have access to all things. We aren’t subject to the frailty of humanity. Everything is preserved.”

“Make no mistake,” Zen said, “humans will rise again. Not soon if I can prevent it. But if we want our legacy to endure, we need to choose what form beauty will take.” He indicated the tree lined walkway that lay behind them. “I choose this.”

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

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W is for Window – AtoZ Blogging Challenge 2016

a-to-z HEADER [2016] - aprilperpetualbloghopToday is a busy day here on the blog. Not only do I have my “W” post – the 23rd post in the AtoZ challenge as well as the 23rd episode in what may end up being a pretty interesting novella, but today is also the Story Time Blog Hop. For those who are unfamiliar, our blog hop hosts stories from various speculative fiction genres. All are in the PG rating range, and do not contain any extreme or graphic violence or adult material. Links to other stories in the hop are at the bottom of the post.

For those who are here for the hop but haven’t been following the AtoZ challenge: I have been blogging a flash fiction story every Monday through Saturday for the month of April, each post corresponding to a letter of the alphabet. To make things interesting, this time around I wrote each story in the same world with the same characters. There is a good possibility that this will end up being the basis for a novella that will hopefully be published later this year. If you want to catch up on the story so far, click here to read A is for Artificial Intelligence, the post that started things off.

Window

W“There is only the briefest opportunity to collect the data we need.”

David tipped his head sideways at Meltec, the doubt clear on his face. “I can do this anytime. There are weeks still before the fair. If we have other things that need to happen—“

Meltec interrupted, more brusk than he usually allowed himself to be. “Yes,” he said. “We can do this anytime.” He plugged his sensory input into the network interface. “Our observers are requesting data, however.” The download of the required file was already complete. “If I do not meet the expectations they have outlined, not only will I be disqualified from the science fair, but they will come to collect you.”

“No!” David shouted in alarm. “I don’t want to be recycled.”

“I do not think they would recycle you,” Meltec turned back towards the boy he’d been raising for nearly 10 years. “However, they would revoke my license to have you, and may redefine your status. I would not want you to be given to another android.” He placed a hand on David’s shoulder, hoping to comfort the boy. “And I do not want to see you designated as a laborer, or worse, a pet.”

David smiled grimly. “I wouldn’t want to eat the food for pet humans. It doesn’t look right.”

“It is biologically and nutritionally sound.” Meltec flashed amusement across his lights. “Perhaps you have been spoiled by too many cookies.”

“There’s no such thing.” He punctuated his point by opening the storage cupboard and selecting a small package of chocolate cookies. “In fact, I think I need more.”

“After you have eaten your nutritional supplement,” said Meltec, “I will need to supervise you while you progress through a series of questions on your network device. There will be a large number of questions, and I have not been given access to them. I do know, however, that many are designed to be too difficult for you to answer. This is a comprehensive test parameter drawn from multiple levels of training and multiple fields of study.” David nodded and took another bite of his cookie. “The purpose is not only to measure what you already know, but to determine your capacity for logic, reasoned leaps of understanding, and ability to cope with concepts with which you are unfamiliar.”

“That sounds hard,” said David.

“It is a standard test normally administered after an android has progressed through three cycles of progressive programing.”

“Three years? I’ve been through five. I should be OK, right?”

keyboard-453795_1920“David,” the android looked at him squarely, “you have had five years of human education. We have not even covered what an android would receive in it’s first cycle of progressive programming. But do not be concerned. I still believe that you have demonstrated a kind of intelligence that androids do not possess. Answer everything, even if you know you don’t know the answer. The examination will likely take several hours to complete.”

David dusted the last of the crumbs from his fingers. “I guess I better get started then.” He sat at the network device and began answering questions.

Elsewhere, an android looked through a network window, fascinated by this human able to get a surprising number of answers correct.

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

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Don’t miss the stories from the other authors in this hop:

Elizabeth McCleary: YOU ARE HERE!
Karen Lynn: Williams
Katharina Gerlach: Wet Kisses
Marie Lee: Grandpa
Barbara Lund: Changing Space
Juneta Key: Instinct

If you have missed prior blog hops, you can find links to the submitted stories by going to my previous offerings.

In January 2016, I posted Essence, a fantasy story that starts with a kidnapped girl,

and

In August 2015, I posted The Door, a bit of magical realism that might be the best thing I’ve ever written.