Greenman Ridge

Jack Rivers looked at the clock and then at the telephone. Nearby a mexican-wave of car alarms sounded. He couldn’t wait any longer.

He pressed each button with a single minded focus which looked as though he was struggling to remember the number. It was a number he’d never forgotten.

It rang for over a minute before the line picked up at the other end.

“Hello…”

“Jason, it’s your Dad.” There was silence on the other end, then the sound of a throat clearing. “I need you to holoport yourself to this destination. Have you got a pen?”

“Christ Jack, I don’t have clothes on, let alone a pen. Call me in the morning.”

“Jason. Don’t hang up. There isn’t time to explain.”

“There never is.”

“Please Jason, there won’t be another chance.”

An explosion shook Jack River’s home and he covered the phone to attempt to drown out the noise.

“Where the hell are you?”

“I’m calling from home and… Jason, I…”

Another explosion sounded closer.

“Get to the nearest holoport and punch in these numbers – 873415.321.”

“Hold on. Hold on.”

Jack could hear his son swearing, things being knocked to the ground.

“Ok – I’ve found a pen.”

“873415.321. Repeat it back to me.”

“Look-”

“Repeat it.”

“873415.123.”

“No, no, no. Point Three Two One. And Jason – break in if you need to. I won’t matter.”

“Dad – what aren’t you telling me? I don’t hear from you in five year and you call me at 3am to tell me to go log myself into Holo-Life.”

“Just go. I… I–”

The phone was dead before Jack could finish the sentence.

Jack spent the last minutes in his home securing it then carrying the cans of black market bio-diesel down into the cellar. Jack could only hope, as he fuelled the back-up generators, there was enough time and power to see one final sunrise with his son. Once he holoported out, there was no control of what happened with the data server and with his own physical body. There would be nothing to come back to.

Jack stood for a moment taking in his life’s work – columns of electronic equipment crowded the cellar. It was the equivalent a cerebral cortex – the nerve centre of Holo-Life. As such, Jack had never trusted it to an off-site location. Hanging on hooks were a collection of Holo-Bands, from the very first ones he’d designed and built through to the latest model released just a month ago.

He reached up for the brand new one and tried not to think about the email which had arrived three days after its release. The phone call to Jason should have been made then, but his pride and then guilt stopped him. Finally it was the immediacy of the situation and now…

Jack strapped the band to his ankle, activated it then punched in the code he’d given Jason. Setting the timer for 60 seconds he settled into the old dentist chair he’d used as his holoport from his very first test jump and waited for the temporal shift.

The air was still and cold and Jack clasped his arms around him. His eyes adjusted slowly to the dark and when the thicket of trees stood out in the distance he began walking. Greenman Ridge had been his original test site, but it had been more than twenty years since he’d jumped here. It was was more sophisticated than Holo-Life, running on neural vibrations mapped from Jason as a child.

At the camp site he lit a fire, to ward off the bone-deep chill. It would help Jason find his way. The flames threw awkward shadows and Jack fed log after log into the pit, as he waited. The fire settled into a bed of hot embers and Jack began to worry. Finally he heard a twig snap, and amoment later Jason appeared with a dog at his feet.

“How did you get the dog in?”

“The same as me – strapped a band to his leg.” Jason’s hand rested no the dog’s head. “I wasn’t leaving Barney behind.”

“Didn’t think you liked dogs.”

“That was you Jack. You said a dog was too much trouble. A bit like what you thought of me.”

“It will be dawn soon,” Jack stood, ignoring his son’s jibe and stretched, pocketing a flash light from the canvas chair he’d been sitting in. “Let’s walk up to the ridge and watch the sunrise.”

They walked single file up the path with the flashlight cutting a narrow swath of light through the darkness. Jack heard Jason stumble and fall several times but didn’t stop. They were both breathing heavily when they reached the top. The dog moaned and slumped to the ground.

“How long until sunrise?” Jason asked, sitting down on a rock.

“An hour maybe.”

“So where are we?”

“Greenman Ridge.”

“Greenman Ridge is gone.”

“I built a version of Greenman Ridge as my beta area.”

“So instead of spending time with me, you were hanging out here what – pretending every was OK.”

“I wasn’t easy when you’re mother died.”

“Tell me about it.”

“I should have called you three days ago. I got an email from a friend telling me what was about to happen.”

“What’s three days Jack at the end of the world. Really..”

Jack looked out to the horizon waiting for the first smudge of dawn. It would be any time now.

“I couldn’t go without you.”

“You’ve never worried about leaving me behind before.”

“This is different Jason.” His mouth was dry. He willed the sun to come up. It had to.

“Can’t you call me Dad – just once.”

“No. You have to earn. I don’t even know why I’m here.”

An alarm sounded and Barney whined. Jack willed the sun to rise out of stubborn blackness. The transponder light on his leg band was flashing. The link was breaking up.

“Is it wrong to want to save my son.”

“I died in your eyes when Mum died – we all know that.” Jason ran his fingers through the dog’s long hair. “We’re all going to die now, so it’s kinda a moot point.”

“I bought us here to escape.” The words tumbled out of Jack’s mouth. “This isn’t Holo-Life. This where you flew to as a boy. I mapped your neural vibration in the sleep lab one –”

“What the hell-”

“We’ve transcended the base physicality of existence. We can stay here, even when our bodies die.”

“I’d rather be dead.”

Jason moved towards the dog and Jack threw himself across the divide but he was older and slower. The return button depressed on the dog’s leg and then Jason’s and Jack fell through the air where his son had been.

I didn’t get a chance to do a third rewrite on this to pull it down to the 1000 word mark as I’m about to head off to Melbourne for the opening of a writing festival and won’t be able to post otherwise.  As always, critical comment is welcome.

This is loosely based on the [Fiction] Friday prompt  #156 for May 21st, 2010: “A boy and his father awaken early to watch the sunrise from their mountain campsite, but they begin to panic when the sky remains dark long into the afternoon.”


Photo of the Day 1

I’m reviving a mini version of the 365 day photo challenge, which went by the wayside a few months ago. I’ll be publishing my favourite photo of the day.

This is the gorgeous lady who greeted as at Avalon airport when we arrived yesterday afternoon.

Dad tells me these type of statues are scattered throughout Victoria… so looking forward to finding more. And it is OK – as far as statues go, they are pretty tame, despite being traumatised forever by Stephen Moffat’s Weeping Angels.

Day One: In Transit

Today was the first day of our trip to Victoria.

My wonderful Dad shouted us plane tickets so I could attend the Emerging Writers Festival and he could hang out with Mr Almost-Six for a week. Win-win. Knowing I was heading off my gorgeous friend Chris Chartrand (stranded in whoop whoop Maine, USA) asked if I’d give him a chance to live vicariously (because hell – we all want to travel with a small child!)… here I am. Hi Chris!

The fire in the lounge room is burning (something I miss terribly living in Brisbane and without the means to have a fire) and I’ve got a red wine close at hand. Mr Almost-Six is playing Playstation with my Dad and all is good in the world.

The only weird, noteable item from today was the fire alarm going off in the QANTAS departures lounge for more than five minutes. The alarm is loud – beyond annoying and to the point where you think your brain is going to explode. When it went on for more than 30 seconds people began to rouse from their seats, shop keepers and barristas wandered out from their post and stood looking in a worried, though vacant fashion. Mr Almost-Six looked up, with a serious look on his face and asked if there was something really wrong? I told him it was OK – but I knew alarms don’t go off like that for no reason. Especially for an extended length of time.

We walked in the opposite direction looking for somewhere to eat and to get as far away from the alarms as possible. While we were waiting to collect our food order, a voice came over the speaker to say a fire alarm had gone off and people were to prepare for the possibility of evacuation. It was like the CW fairy had siddled up to me whisperings “I heard you’re writing about an airport… and travelling today!”

Turned out it was a false alarm. But it was an interesting study in psychology. I wonder how long it will take, how many years, before we’re totally comfortable in being in public spaces in a potential emergency? Or were we already like that before 9/11? Is it only now we think the absolute possible worst?

Catastrophes beside… the look of joy on the face of my Dad and Mr Almost-Six is just magical (I wish I could bottle it up) when they came together in the arrivals lounge. There is something about seeing my Dad as a Grandfather which had given me a new appreciate of family – and the ever changing nature of it.

Until later… I’m going to snuggle up on the couch with my book and wine, as the crackle of the fire competes with the engine revs from the PlayStation (did I mention Mr Almost Six is in 7th heaven at the moment?)

2010 Month in Review: 3rd Month

What I planned for last month was promptly revised in the wake of a Mercury Retrograde inspired back to basics epiphany. This meant less time on eMergent projects, including Chinese Whisperings but more time for writing and beta reading.

This is how the month panned out for me.

Reading

Goals from last month

1. Mists of Avalon – Marion Zimmer Bradley

2. Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson

3. 36 :the collected short stories – Jeffrey Archer

4. Thieves and Scoundrels – Absolute Xpress’s FFC #3 winners

As it was Mercury Retrograde I chose to go back and read some favourite novels, something I have done over the last three Retrograde Periods and really enjoyed. It ended up being a failure, with me completing no books – the first time in 2 ½ year which was rather disappointing. I was unable to get into Mists and didn’t even open Snow Crash. Fed up I started The Secret Life of Bees.

On the other hand the short story reading found feet again and I’m on track to complete Jeffrey Archer’s 36:the collected short stories. Problems with my wifi connection with my iPhone has prevented me from shifting the eBooks I was planning on reading as short story catch up.

Blogging

Goals from last month

  • Just blog and enjoy doing it.
  • Put together some ideas on what I’d like the blog to look like – and do it!
  • Accept the two blog awards I have outstanding.
  • Read and comment on a blog a day.

The just blog and enjoy it lead me to the decision I needed to get back to basics… of which blogging is one important element. I haven’t been quite as organised as I would have liked but I’m getting there. I’m am getting around to more blogs though (still not one a day though) and I’m still to officially accept my blog awards.  My favourite blog at the moment is Tony Noland’s Landless – even if we beg to differ he’s actually made landfall and no longer adrift.

As for the redesign of the website – the creative investment in blog looks went to setting up the Hartog site – though I do have ideas for how I’d like to change my personal one.

I have been invited by Anne Whitaker to contribute a guest post for her blog about astrology and writing too. Put it out to the Universe and it will come back to you.

#blog posts (not short story posts) for this month: 3

Writing

Goals from last month

  • Four Fiction Fridays for the month – or four #fridayflash pieces
  • Finish novella… only two episodes to go
  • Submit Pearls of Wisdom
  • Write first draft of Dirty River (nee Summer Girl)
  • After Mercury Rx – send in Graceville
  • 4/4 for the Writing Races
  • First draft for FF#4

This month past was all about returning to writing. When I look at my goals I can see what I was straining to achieve – but it required a shift of priorities to make it happen. Without the shift back to a focus on writing there is no way I could have achieved what I was looking to do.

[Fiction] Friday is back in the forefront of my mind, and while I wrote to three prompts, I only successfully finished one – which was an outside story of the Captain Juan series.

I completed three pieces – “Pearls of Wisdom”, “Don’t Tell, Alice” and “In Their Own Good Time”. Pearls was a work in progress and I had my mind on submitting it to Australian Women Online and then got cold feet when I saw what was already up there – not wanting my story to end up in ‘contemporary romance’ – so time to find a new home for it. Don’t Tell, Alice was from the 2008 back catalogue, written to a FF prompt, later revised for my 2008 anthology and then forgotten!  It was polished up rather easily – with some tweaking of the narrator’s voice and a brand new ending.  In Their Own Good Time ended up as my entry for the 4th Flash Fiction Competition and was submitted, lost in transmission (literally) and then resubmitted. Phew! The Goddess was watching over me that day.

I got 4/4 writing races and enjoying interacting with the folk there. I haven’t been writing any Hartog – but the plan from here in is to use it for that. The last two weeks I utilized it to rewrite ITOGT.

With the emergence of a new hashtag search #TuesdaySerial Hartog has his own blog now and I’m itching to get writing – so Tuesday will from here on in, dedicated to Hartog as was my original intention (competition entries aside!)

Dirty River has been put on hold. I want to do a bit of research in to the band scene and into what Brisbane as like in the last 80s. And the plan is to use it as my submission for One Book, Many Brisbanes at the end of the year.

The novella is unfinished – but that’s OK. The creative vibe went in a different direction. With the desk cleared somewhat, I’m going to collect up all the episodes and have them printed out – and then see what fires from there.

Editing

  • Rewrite Pearls of Wisdom
  • Complete my editing duties for BOFF.
  • Rewrite the next four installments of Hartog
  • Edit my final installments of Captain Juan

The ending of Pearls, got rewrite after rewrite until it settled and the correct ending found its place. I completed over the ANZAC weekend my final BOFF story and found it to be a really rewarding experience. So much so – the writer in question emailed and telephoned me to say thank you.

Hartog hasn’t seen a rewrite or edit, though the final instalments of Captain Juan went up (finally – only a year after they were originally written.)

In the lead up to the closing date for the AXP’s 4th FFC the beta reading was falling from the sky. I beta read for Annie, Dan, Chris and Tony. In addition to that I had the honour of looking at Dan’s final piece for his Open University course and got to call him and chat “in real time” with him about it. While beta reading can be long and arduous – it binds communities of writers together and I’m glad to be doing it.

Professional Development

The only thing on the list last month was to book for the EWF – which I did. I have a Golden Ticket and looking forward to traversing Melbourne’s emerging literary scene under the cover of night with some good, old mates.

Movies

Date Night*

Iron Man 2*

Robin Hood

2012

New Moon (again)

The Boys Are Back

Hallam Foe

I also saw the stage adaptation of Jane Eyre which was mind-blowing and have been devouring Torchwood series one when I’ve had the opportunity to visit annie.

Projects

Chinese Whisperings

Everything has sort of been put into a holding pattern with The Yang Book in terms of my editing – but stories continue to be written. I spent time with Dale trying to unearth his character and was sent through Jon’s story.

After weeks of missing each other for a live catch up, Paul and I finally got hold of each other and we’re not going to let ourselves be blocked any longer from getting the Red Book published –which means I’m in the market to get myself a credit card. How nice!

eMergent Publishing

Goals from last month

  • Finalise the website for GP – including the dial up version of the site
  • See the first of the money flow in and the downloads flow out.
  • Map marketing ideas
  • Get an eMergent website up (we finally got an URL which is more in keeping with what eMergent has become)
  • Become a legal entity (finally)

We haven’t yet managed to get the Gnarly Planning site completed. Dale’s got a job, and I’ve been focused on writing, but we do have a list of marketing ideas.

We also have ideas for the eMergent site and Paul’s organising the paperwork to become a Limited Liability Partnership.

Captain Juan

Is back! Spurred on by my back to basic approach, I knew it was time to revitalise CJ. We agreed to invite Chris Chartrand to join us. And a flurry of emails resulted. The entire scribblings are now compiled – an impressive 74,500 words! And there are big things to come. How exciting to finally be able to type that… and we’ve even managed to badger Paul into coming back to write.

Reclaim Sex After Birth

Three speaking engagements book. Well the Universe is telling us it is time to breathe some life back into this project. Funny how you decide to have a back to basic approach and the Universe comes to the party.

The Great Adventure

Staring at and conquering the blank page was adventure enough. I never thought I would say that. The theme of adventure seems to be a little misplaced I think… but perhaps I just haven’t sought out the opportunities. It feels good to be living the dream again.

Goals for this coming month to be posted shortly. Have a lot to think about in terms of the best utilisation of my time – spurred on by Benjamin and his weekly word count (and how he reminds me I haven’t set one every Monday via twitter) and Jim Wisneski’s guest post at Scribo Ergo Sum (online home of Jen Brubacher) today. The renovation of my creative life continues.

Friday Flash: Mrs Simpson

“I’m told tomorrow would have been your wedding anniversary,” the officer said, glancing down at the charge sheet in her file.

Mrs Simpson ignored the comment.“You’re new here,” she pulled her chair a little closer to the table separating them. “Did they bring you in especially to investigate my case because none of the other detectives could sit here and accuse me of the things you are. Not Hardy. Not Morcombe. Not any of the guys who served with Doug. Who’ve sat at my dinner table and eaten my pot roast, been family friends for fifteen years.” She slammed her fist on the table. ‘This is a sham. I want to be released. I want to go home.”

“Your case is serious ma’am,” he cleared his throat and flipped through the pages of her file. “The department wants to ensure you are given a fair investigation and trial.”

“Bull shit!”

Mrs Simpson’s chair screeched across the floor. She kept her back turned staring through the one way glass wondering who was on the other side watching. Was Doug up there?

“You lot want to make an example of me. Show that you give no preferential treatment to your own.”

When the officer said nothing, she walked away, pacing back and forth below the window, knowing whoever was up there wouldn’t be able to see her from that angle.

“I know my rights,” she said evntually, turning around. “I want to be assigned a legal representative of my choice.”

“You know Mrs Simpson there will be no legal representation.”

“This is not a cut and dried case like you are treating it. I was set up.”

The officer picked up a remote control and a large screen at the opposite end of the room lit up. A grainy film of Deirdre Simpson leaving Adam Hogart’s apartment building flickered to life.

“My husband sent me there to collect some high school memorabilia.”

“You and Adam were at high school together were you not?”

“We all were? Me, Doug, Adam.”

“And you and Adam were lovers.”

“No!”

“But you are now.”

“No. It is not me having an affair. It is Doug. He’s been having an affair with a woman named Amy.”

“And you decided two could play at that game.”

“No.”

“You are seen on film leaving his apartment.”

“It means ntohing.”

“You had sexual relations with Adam Hogart on the afternoon of May 12th sometime between one and three pm, at his apartment. ” The officer picked up a piece of paper with forensic results. “Science doesn’t lie.”

“I was forced into an internal examination,without my consentl. Which is a breach of my civil liberties.”

“In accordance with the Adulterers Act of 2021, Mrs Simpson, you forfeit any of your civil rights when a charge of adultery is bought against you.”

“And I fought tooth and nail to stop that law being passed.”

“That comes as no surprise, Mrs Simpson.”

“Who the hell knew I was there – to pick me up when I came out. Only Doug knew where I was. I am telling you – this is a set up. He wants to get rid of me.”

“Mrs Simpson, we are vigilant to those who threaten the very fabric of society. Adulterers like you.” He opened the file and replaced the forensics report. “I’m not here to listen to fairy stories about how things may have happened. Or why they happened. I am only interested in the fact they did happen. And now my job is to determine whether this is a moral or criminal case.”

“Where’s Adam? Why are you not questioning him?”

“Mr Hogart is not married Mrs Simpson. Only you have a charge to answer.”

“He’s a witness. He can corroborate that we’re not having an affair.”

“Mrs Simpson, you had sex with the man who is not your husband. Consequently, you have committed an act of adultery.”

Mrs Simpson walked back and forth again, dragging her hands from deep in the pocket of her crumpled jeans to push the hair off her damp forehead.

“Correct me if I am wrong officer,” she stopped and stared at him. “If I went to visit Adam with the intention of breaking my wedding vows then you find me guilty of a moral transgression of the sanctity of marriage – and you shoot me. If it was a moment of passion – you’ll commit me to seven years re-education as having committed the criminal act of adultery. At the end I’ll be released. Reformed. It’s kind of a no-brainer really.” She laughed. “I knew it was a mistake the moment it was over.”

“I’m sorry Mrs Simpson. It’s not as simple as just confessing to the realisation of your crime after the fact and avoiding the executioner’s gun.”

He pushed a blue piece of paper across the table. Mrs Simpson walked back to the table and picked it up, read it and then sunk into her chair.

“Husbands on the force don’t tell their wives everything.”

Mrs Simpson put the consent form for memory mapping back on the table top.

“We can pin point whether you knew it was a mistake before you entered Mr Hogart’s apartment, but went ahead with it anyway. Or whether it was – as you say, a crime of passion. You can sign now or I can get a court order.”

*-*

They watched on the other side of the window. The officer handed the blue form over and after a few minutes, Doug’s wife pushed it back unsigned.

“Where’s Adam?” Amy asked, clipping her badge to the pocket of her suit pants.

“Back at Dr Pietersen’s clinic. He’ll be back at work in a fortnight and all he’ll be sure of is he wanted to forget something  so emotionally wrenching he paid to have it erased.”

“You’re confident her case will be dispensed of that quickly.”

“It won’t matter. Even if Dierdre were to somehow get legal representation and a proper trial – Adam’s memories have been erased. There will be no trace of the fact I asked him to see if he could seduce Dierdre.”

“You still can’t be certain Doug.” Amy’s face was pinched as she watched Dierdre turn and stare up at them.

“I don’t leave anything to chance.” His fingers brushed the side of her leg. ” I paid one of my informers to ring the house and pretend to be you, just before Diedrie was leaving to pick up the trophies for the twenty year reunion.”

“I don’t know whether to kiss you or slap you.”

“What’s a man to do?” Doug grinned, running his hand over her arse. “Three terms of a Puritan Government, the revoking of the Family Law Act and no access to Divorce. A man’s got to get creative if he’s to marry the woman he wants.”

This piece of flash fiction is based on Write Anything’s [Fiction] Friday prompt #155: “I knew it was a mistake the moment it was over.”

Author’s Note: Dr Pietersen and Adam come compliments of my wonderful friend and long time collaborative writing partner Paul Anderson, who first introduced us to these characters back in 2009 in his podcasted stories and gave me permission in November of that year, to base my NaNo around ideas he had presented in this series of stories.

In Their Own Good Time

Twenty-four hours on it is hard to believe there wasn’t a story yesterday.

This is the way it often happens. A story comes from no-where when small snippets of information, thought, conjecture, song lyrics and personal encounter collide. In this case it was being unable to kick my mind out of a birth rant spiral about inductions.

One of my pet peeves about the birthing industry is it happens on the medico’s and parents time table and not on the baby’s – despite the fact we know babies trigger the labour process, but scientists are still unable to tell us how.

I’ve often wondered what it means in the greater scheme of things, when babies are brought on before their time. I read a few years ago that there seemed to be a “cosmic understanding”, of everything happening in its own good time. That babies were born with their ascendents in the same astrological sign as the moon was in when conceived. The midwife in question had observed this phenomenon over the course of her long years attending women.

Having come before my time, because the doctor in question did not want to be called back from his Christmas vacation – I have an obvious vested interest in the subject. And it turned out to play a pivoutal role in my story.

I wrote the first draft of  “In Their Good Time” with Absolute Xpress’s 4th Flash Fiction Competition “Inhuman” in mind. Since the theme was announced I’ve been butting my head against the creative wall trying to make a story walk. And there – just like a summer rain shower… it was there.

The slant on humanity I’ve taken is that “free will” is something which is central to the human experience, but like everything it should be a balance of rights and responsilibities. And when that balance is thrown… things start to go wrong, every wrong … for everyone, in this case. It also bounces off the ideas we’ve been talking with Dylan, about reincarnation and also the Doomsayers, End of World predictions for 2012.

But I’m feeling rather raw as a consequence of writing it. It puts my Pagan leanings out on show. It challenges accepted spiritual beliefs – both mine and those of others. And it talks about birth – which is always a sore nerve anywhere in my family. This is the first overtly birth orientated short story I have ever written  and comes with my obvious bias towards nature birth and my antagonism and disgust at the medical profession. After reading Dan Powell’s draft “The John School” earlier in the week, I felt empowered to find my socio-medico-political voice.

There is nothing like walking with deities to bring you down to earth! (Part of me still feels – how dare I!) I’m not sure if the story comes off naff, soap-box-styled rant or whether I got it right. Time will tell. And there will be at least three maybe more drafts to follow.

“In Their Own Good Time” has just been farmed out for beta reading. This is the part of writing I can’t stand… the anticipation of waiting to hear back. And because it is SO left of centre of what I normally write, I’m feeling even more on edge.

At least I will have something for submission though – whether or not it is accepted, is another thing.

Here’s what didn’t make the 1000 word cut:

“Below she looked at the four faces of herself. The maiden, untamed, full of youthful wonder and energy. The mother, bountiful, selfless responsibility and creative expression. The crone, the survivor, wise, fierce and self assured. And sitting, shrouded in shadows, the dark face of the feminine, unpredictable, terrifying and hopeless, but at the same time redeeming and transformative. And sitting beside them, the matched faces of the masculine.”

“They do not see technology for what it is – holds them captive to the television, enslaves their children with video games, traps them in steel machines which pollute the environment and cause nations to war over oil, disconnects them from personally relating to each other. They need a wake up call.”