Story Snippet: Hashtag

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

Author’s Note: Here is a short excerpt of something I’ve been working on lately.

The dressing room smells like hairspray and fear sweat. Halogen lights buzz over a crowd of would-be stars and Internet sensations. All have that need to go viral. Fifteen minutes of fame is now fifteen seconds unless they have the right slogan, the right catchphrase.

There’s a mom smearing makeup over her kid’s face. Large fingers rub over the small child’s forehead, cheeks, chin. “Hold still,” says mom. “You won’t look right if you don’t hold still.” The kid surrenders, shoulders slumped, eyes closed.

“Think they’ll let us on this time?” asks the kid between swipes of mascara and glitter lipstick.

“They’ll let you on,” says mom. “They have to.” Mom’s hands tremble, and the lipstick draws a line on the kid’s cheek. “Shit.” Mom wipes away the mistake.

The kid says, “You said that the last few times.”

“I know what I said,” says mom. Mom stops and grabs her kid by the shoulders. The kid’s feet stop swinging over the edge of the particle board table she’s sitting on. Mom’s staring into her kid’s eyes. “We are going to get you out there in front of those cameras.”

“Then I hold up the sign,” says the kid. She’s got it right next to her under mom’s purse.

It reads, “#SaveClara.”

A couple walks by, man and woman, dragging their kid behind them by the arms. The woman sneers at Clara and her mom. “You’d do better without any makeup,” she says. Without missing a beat, the couple scurries off out of earshot.

Clara’s mom sighs. Her eyes tear up. “It’s okay, mom,” says Clara. “Those people are assholes.”

Mom chuckle snorts, her hand moving to her mouth to stifle the noise. “Where’d you learn to say that?” she asks.

“Grandma said it the other day about Mrs. Tilley,” says Clara. “Mrs. Tilley was sweeping her stoop like she always does. She was watching the house again. Grandma doesn’t like Mrs. Tilley.”

“No, I don’t think she does,” says mom. Mom gets out the brush and finishes Clara’s hair. “And you’re right about the others. But I don’t want you talking like that.”

Clara frowns. If she’s right, why can’t she say it out loud? Grown-ups are weird.

My Take On Star Trek: Discovery & Picard

Photo credit: frhuynh.
Image courtesy of Stockvault.

It’s been almost a year since I wrote about my concern with the new Star Trek shows online. Looking back on it, I stand by what I wrote. The shame is that I hadn’t even seen the shows at that point in time.

Now, I’m current on Picard up to episode 4, and I’ve watched all of the first season of Discovery. They’re okay shows, with more F-bombs than the previous network offerings. The visual effects are much better than the previous shows. In these two shows, it’s easy to believe the galaxy is lived in by people. So, from a technical standpoint, the shows are a success.

From a story standpoint, the shows aren’t great. I can’t get into too much of the details because of spoilers. Suffice it to say that Discovery relies on heavy use of already established characters. Picard technically relies on meaningless off-camera history to push its story along.

The thing that makes this worse is that the new characters for the show are pretty good Star Trek characters. They’re memorable, have good dialogue, and the actors are all doing an awesome performance. It’s a shame that the writing is getting in the way of such talent.

Also, I’m not a fan that the portrayal of Klingons has all been switched over to the movie makeup. While it’s nice to see Klingon scenes in nothing but Klingon dialogue, I’m left wondering whether I’m in the Paramount version of Star Trek or the CBS version.

Regardless, I’m just disappointed that with all the people at CBS and Paramount, nobody there can create a Star Trek show or movie that doesn’t involve some sort of nostalgia. The things that made Next Generation, Deep Space 9, and Voyager work were new exploration of things. TNG built a galaxy. DS9 made it feel like it was lived in. Voyager brought things back to the roots of exploration (for a time, at least).

I think the shows are watchable. They are not re-watchable. Picard hasn’t finished its season yet, so I’m hoping that there might be improvement on that scale. Discovery is fine so long as I don’t have high expectations for it.

I suppose that what I’m trying to say is that these shows are fine for science fiction. I like them more than some other science fiction I’ve seen in recent memory. As far as Star Trek titles go, they’re not high on my list of favorites.

Quiet

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

The old house had been quiet for a day now. Its aged doors and floorboards didn’t creak. Plumbing didn’t whistle or hiss behind plaster walls. Everything existed in a state of perfect, tranquil silence.

The house’s owner preferred things this way. It had taken months of effort to make the place peaceful. Lesser people would have given up, admitted defeat, run away. Not this one. This one defended his quiet enjoyment with the ferocity of a mother bear and her cubs.

And then a drip, drip, dripping echoed through the decorated halls. Each drop was a violation, a trespass onto the owner’s hard-earned solitude. How did this happen? Who was responsible?

It wasn’t in the kitchen. The sink had been remodeled. Appliances re-plumbed. Windows sealed.

It wasn’t in the living apartments. Furniture had been mended. Renovations removed anything which made a sound. Even the floors had been torn up and put back down to ensure that a nail wouldn’t be the source of auditory agony.

The dripping continued. Splat. Splat. Splat. Liquid dropping onto accumulating liquid. Could a pipe have burst? Had a window been opened by the wind?

No. It was in the bedrooms. The owner bounded up the stairs and kicked doors open. First bedroom, empty except for children’s furniture. Second bedroom, exactly as the son had left it.

The third bedroom, the spouse’s former study, had been changed. The desk had moved three feet towards the back wall. The rug underneath it had a corner turned over. Floorboards underneath had been pried outward. That high-backed and favorite chair sat against the opposite wall, and on the seat there was a familiar, bloody ax dripping crimson onto the floor.

That ax wasn’t supposed to be there. The handle had been burned. The head melted down. It had served its purpose. It had quieted the noisy voices that wouldn’t shut up, that couldn’t shut up unless they were made to shut up.

“The house isn’t quiet yet,” something whispered. “Someone’s making noise. Something must be done about it.”

The owner nodded in meek acceptance. The house must be quiet.

No matter what.

“Shadows Like This Are Impossible”

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

That’s going to be the opening line of my next submission for my writing group’s short story collection. Every story will start with those same five words. Fiction, non-fiction, even poetry if our resident poets give it a go. I’m still working on the general idea for mine.

Horror seems like it’s too obvious a choice, along with science fiction, weird fiction, and maybe even fantasy. I love these genres, but I’m already writing about shadows in a horror setting. So I’m trying not to double up on similar ideas at the same time.

I have a week to get my first draft done, and I haven’t started on it yet.

At least I have the opening line!