Thursday, July 29, 2010

For You: A Short Story

A friend of mine is testing out an iPad for work, and I was able to liberate it from her for about half an hour. The word processor it comes with is very VERY basic, so I kept my project simple. I didn't think much while writing it, but the friend was so happy when she got her iPad back that she sent me a copy of the story and suggested I post it here. So here you go - Enjoy!

The Roman Dead

The heat reflecting off the asphalt was enough to peel the bronze of the Collosus' crotch. The heat would have caught the thatch roofs on fire if the humidity would have allowed it, but instead the adhesive merely melted and exposed whatever hid inside the houses to the pounding rays of the sun. Among them huddled Portia and her two sons, Marcus and Gaius, all three sweating profusely before the sun had spent three hours in the sky.

Portia had watched her husband march of with the rest of the Roman legionnaires last week, and grew sick with worry when word would not come of their victory. When word did come, it was of the armies being overrun, and the blight's continuous progress toward Rome, and she was nearly mad with fright. Soothsayers declared that Apollo would give his people mercy and guide them to the River Styx before the horde could claim them, and watching her neighbors collapse under the sun maddened Portia, for she could not discern why her own sacrifices had been ignored by the son god. By the time the Undead arrived and began feasting on what survivors risked being outside, Portia had gone so mad that, when compared to the calamities that surrounded her and her family, she acted perfectly sane.

Marcus squirmed as another tuft of thatch slid off the roof and exposed another area of floor to sunlight. Portia didn't know what the boy wanted to do in response, it wasn't as if the monsters outside cared about the state of the lands they were conquering, only the state of their "prisoners." Perhaps that is why the legions had proved so helpless against them, she supposed; every enemy they'd faced before had wanted Rome, be it for its fertile lands or prodigal architecture or tomes of wisdom or the peerless beauty of its women, and for this they were predictable. The horde outside only wanted food, and was oblivious to the uniforms that food wore. Rome could outsmart just about any foe, but against such mindlessness there was no defense, except perhaps Portia's, if only she could keep young Marcus and Gaius still.

For four days the Undead scourged their land, and for all that time Portia and hers had hidden still as the Parthenon, hoping to wait them out. Where the horde had invulnerability they still had to work, still had to search, and for that they might tire before finding them - it was small chance, but more than the Caesars had apparently. The stench outside was killing whatever appetite they might have had, and they'd more or less gotten used to the moans, but thirst was breaking them apart. Portia was checking her arms for veins she could open so that her sons might have some moisture to sustain themselves when a new sound assaulted them and gave her new plan pause.

From outside could be heard a hundred clumsy butchers and prophets dropping their entrails on the floor. The soothsayers may have told truly that Apollo meant to assault the lands, but as to His purpose they were in grievous error, for in the oppressive and constant heat, the flesh of the Undead could not hold and sloshed off the bone. Portia heard the pounding of wet meat onto the dirt, then of bone without the means to support itself, and it was only after an hour's silence did she then risk a look through the window. Surely, what she saw she could only call a miracle, and did with what strength remained took a pail to the nearest well for water. Though a few Undead remained mobile, this mobility was so reduced that, after enduring their threat for so long Portia found herself laughing among them.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The More Things Act Like They Change

After fits and starts, my contract with Butler is signed and I am officially going to teach in the fall. My main stressor with that development is getting all the material read and some notes taken before the class begins in earnest. I know I'm not going to have time to read it with the students, since I'm going to work full time in the Mail Center as well, but I figure if I've read it in the past year, that's good enough. I'm almost done with Dracula, which may be the densest book of the course.

It doesn't help that a friend of mine just got me hooked into the Dresden Files series. If you've never heard of it before, it's Sam Spade meets Harry Potter (to put it vulgarly) - Harry Dresden is the world's only practicing magician that advertises his services for private investigations, for $50/ hour plus expenses. The premise may not seem phenomenal, but the execution is very well done, it treats itself smartly without coming off as pretentious. It treats cliches well while adding twists where appropriate. Basically, it's fun reading that soaks up hours and days of your time, and when I didn't have many of them free to begin with, I can say freely that I hate my friends sometimes.

I've been focusing on my novel project (when my digestive system isn't invaded by legions of viral centurions), and I'm getting deep enough into it that I'm having to go back and forth in the story to set things up for later payoffs. As I do this, I find out more things about the world the characters live in that I have to go into other documents to record and explore, and then go back to the text and rewrite one scene or start another. It gives me a whole new respect for the people that do this full-time - there really is enough work to be done to constitute calling this full-time work.

Friends warned me against playing Final Fantasy 13 for various reasons. I won't go deep into my personal experiences, mostly because the game isn't worth the space. There was an essence the Final Fantasy games had, something that made you dump days and weeks into them without giving you the sense that you wasted your time. The gameplay may not have been extraordinary or the stories captivating in any special way, but it was enough that you felt you got a good return on your investment. Whatever that essence was, the series has lost it.

I'm going to visit my sister next week, and it's going to be awesome! She lives near a beach on the West Coast, so it'll be a cool bit of role-reversal from the time she visited me in Cornwall. Less Arthurian sightseeing, more boozeries!