Saturday, March 29, 2014

The A-Z April Blogging Challenge

You've probably noticed that large new icon off to the right, proclaiming the upcoming April blog challenge and wondered if that means, maybe, that I'll be posting a little more frequently.  It does!

That's right, prepare to be dazzled by the number of posts this little blog is going to launch out into the world over the next few weeks.  Each with their very own alphabet letter.  And not about The Silent Room serial either!   (Though no panic attacks that I've dropped the end of the story off a cliff somewhere not to be seen again till June or July, as I will continue to post on that too,.)

Look for a post a day Monday to Saturday through the entire month of April, and if you are wishing for more things to read, check out the list of other people who are going on this same crazy challenge HERE.

I will probably keep most of the posts short (maybe 200 words or so), and they will be a mix of topics from reflections on life or process tools, random fun internet "art games", a few short bits of fiction, and whatever else happens to come to mind on my way from letter A to letter Z. I'll even take requests! So if you have something you'd like to hear me ramble on about, post it in the comments, and I'll see what I can do.

Wishing you Joy as we head into spring.


Friday, March 28, 2014

The Silent Room, Part 18

WNP: The streets of New Jersey which once teemed with people were now abandoned canyons taken over by wild horses and birds of prey.


A penetrating, high pitched scream of sound ripped through the blackness that enveloped him and returned him to consciousness, shivering down the length of his spine and the bones of his forearms with an icy chill. For several terrifying seconds there was nothing but fear and repeating screams and darkness.  

When sight came back to him, it came in a shifting series of sliding frames that gradually picked up speed. A flash of blinding gray white sky. A shaft of black. A tall fractured building. A shaft of black. A chipped strip of road with fading yellow paint lines. A shaft of black. The swooping head of a pterodactyl. A shaft of black. The long slow curve of wing tilting back up as the pterodactyl wheeled around. A shaft of black.

The relief at something besides darkness filled him, even as the images themselves confused him. Memories of the past few "realities" clawed to the surface of his mind, and he clung on to the knowledge that someway, somehow this was all virtual and not reality. And then the lines of black and light bled together at the edges until he stood, panting and dripping with a fine sheen of sweat, on a street corner in a city. The images from before coalesced into a single seamless panorama of broken abandonment against a steely sky.  His eyes followed the flight of the pterodactyl for a moment, before turning to study the buildings around him. There was a tall, shattered office buildings in front of him, standing next pile of rubble. The first floor of the building behind him  appeared to house the hollowed out remnants of several small shops, their fronts still barred and locked for the day.  Even excepting the pterodactyl, he was pretty sure this was not a place he had ever been before.

Underneath his feet the ground began to rumble and vibrate.  A moment later a herd of wild horses whipped around the corner of a nearby alley, nearly knocking him off his feet in their headlong flight of frenzied fear and motion and dust.  He backed up against the barred locked cage front of the building behind him, trying to get as far out of the way as possible. 

The rush of the stampede had finally begun to lessen when a fierce growl erupted to his right.  Turning he was just in time to watch a wolf leap onto a small colt who had drifted to far out from the rushing, moving mass. The gray beast brought it to the ground. The sounds were deafening in their intensity.  

Grenfelder edged a step back in the other direction. Eyes wide as he watched.  He stopped trying to make sense of this new world.  It didn't matter if he had been here before or if it was "only" a virtual world. Now he just wanted out.  Pulling his eyes away, he took a moment to quickly scan the area around him. The next building over had a fire escape bolted to its side, the bottom ladder hanging just low enough for him to reach if he jumped for it.  Height could be good.  At a run he started for it. He had a geranium to find.  And FAST.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Silent Room, Part 17

WNP: She signed the document first, then he signed next to her name.

Dr. Adelheid

Team C14. Mandatory debriefing and training. Departure time eighteen hundred hours.

The notice had come through in her time feed this morning, and it was still burning a hole in her mind, threatening to sidetrack her concentration. Already the day had slipped away, and departure time was closing in. Only three more intervals, and she would walk back to her sleeping room, collect her travel bag, and leave with her team for the next unknown number of days. The shortest training she had ever undergone had lasted four days. The longest had gone on for nearly three weeks. Months of just waiting, and now, just when it was critical, she was going to have to be somewhere else.

Somehow she managed to keep her hand steady as her mind faltered on the word critical. She forced her mind to focus on the work. Study a clip of a slack-faced, unmoving patient. Pink cheeks. Check. Groomed hair. Check. Clothes straightened. Check. On down the list. Sign the form that the review has been completed. Repeat with the next slack-faced, unmoving patient. The vids were all the same.


The screen went black as the break tone sounded on her terminal. She took a moment to look away from the screen. A long narrow circle of doctors and assistant watchers wound in and around the great hall, all working on similar screens. She kept her face motionless, rolled her shoulders and neck. Stretched her fingers. Didn't let her mind calculate how many patients they represented.

She turned her attention back to the podium screen. Another silent vid appeared. She lifted her hand and began again. The back of her mind struggled to keep her anxiety at bay, to keep her darker fear buried. That after all, it didn't matter if she went away for even as long as six months of training.

That after years of waiting for the moment, that after risking life and health to get that message to the patient, that after doing everything she could not to look like she was watching every shadow or studying every face for a flicker of emotion or awareness, that after running The Plan through her mind again and again on endless repeat, that after feeling vaguely nauseous and jittery for day after day, in the end none of it mattered. 
The patients had no further moments of restlessness. There was no summons by the review board. The one time she had dared to look in on the patient, he sat slumped against the stone wall as blank faced and boneless as all the rest. Nothing had changed. Nothing was going to change.

She had prepared herself for everything to go wrong. She had prepared herself for action if by some impossible fluke their plan actually worked. She hadn’t prepared herself for nothing.

She let herself recognize the heavy stone weight at the base of her gut for what it really was. Hope dying.

She knew that somewhere outside the Institute, probably in the line of trees they called the woods, others of the Resistance were gathered. They were risking their lives, as she had risked hers, on the slender thread of hope that they might make an actual difference in this hidden war against the Watchers. Trading safety for the chance that maybe they could make a strike for real change against the unwavering, placid control of the Watchers. She wondered how long they would wait before they too realized the truth. Her covert mission had failed.

This time she kept her eyes down for the break, moving her neck slowly from side to side. She let the full weight of the stone settle into her bones. It didn't matter anymore. She had done her part. Now all that was left was to go on doing her small insignificant bit as a cog in the great Watcher machine, as she had done for so many years already. It was time she faced that.  She turned the key on hope and threw it away.


She started in on the last round of vids. Minutes draining away as so much sand. A number flashed in the corner. Only five vids remaining. She heard the first of her colleagues finishing and beginning to move toward the exits with a soft ruffling shuffle. Two more patients left to go.

The next patient appeared on her screen. Somehow she managed not to startle at the face peering back from her screen. A restless face. The Patient’s face. She almost held her tap a moment too long in frozen stillness. Then she tapped a careful steady check, check, check down the list as she always did. She braced herself against the hard desperate edge of returning hope lest she give herself away now. She locked her knees. She kept her head held still. She kept her hand moving smoothly through screens. His face disappeared. She continued on with her last patient vid. She waited for the tone that would end her shift.


She shifted slightly in place as if loosening her joints. She reached slowly down by her side for her bag, sliding it silently up over her arm. She turned and took her place in line. She waited for her turn to exit. Somehow she kept an ordinary pace. Somehow she kept her face blank and unemotional. Somehow she didn't let herself think. She had run The Plan through her mind a thousand times already. There were no decisions left to make.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Silent Room, Part 16

WNP: The light streamed through the keyhole.

Number 11

Putting his foot down on the grass was like turning into a live wire.  As an itchy crackling prickle passed over his skin, the hair on his arms instantly dried itself of sweat and slowly stood straight out. He could feel the hair on his head was beginning to do the same.

By the time he had got his second foot onto the grass, the entire landscape had circled in on itself, dropping the curtains of dusk so instantaneously it took a disorienting minute to refocus his eyes in the dim and dusty gray-blue light. He might have stepped back then, in sheer surprise if nothing else, but he was too tired and exhausted from long trudging, too relieved for some change in this place, to fall back now over something as simple as light. He paused though, drawing in deep breaths, reorienting to the strange thrum, letting the strange energy pulse into his weary bones. The world between the past and present seemed thinner in that moment. As if he could join them together if he chose. As if he could remember who he was, if only he pushed at the tenuous barrier.

Once the house was back in focus, he stepped forward more fully into the circle. Small crackles of light, pale green flashes of static, arced between his shoes and the grass with each step. Nothing moved, nothing differed, yet…  He tensed, sensing. 

Somehow it felt as if his earlier nightmares had spread themselves out, thinned themselves into a giant bubble around this little corner of the world. Memories of the dreams that had haunted him earlier crowded in.  He turned around in a long slow circle, taking in the shadows, searching for the long-legged men and their fluttering capes. He felt a tingle race across his skin. They were here, even if he couldn't see them. He felt their whispers, calling to him with urgency. “Come back to us. Come back to the fields and the open sky of daylight.”

He weakened. Daylight sounded so lovely.

The darkness crawled in, heavier and thicker. Encroaching. It urged him back out of the grass. “Let us show you an easier way.” One of the voices added  more clearly with its cold metallic bite. He remembered the eyes. Those strange burning eyes set in an unearthly, gray face. His mind reeled back from tantalizing voice, filling instead with icy fear.

Whirling, he shot across the grass toward the porch.

This time as he approached the front porch, he could see that there was light streaming through the now hollow keyhole of the front door. Behind him he could hear the whispers rising,fingers reaching. He leaped the stairs, put his hand on the door. He remembered who he was, who the Watchers were. He felt powerful for the first time since he had woken up in the grass yesterday morning. No… Longer than that. In the whole of his life. For the first time he could win against the Watchers. Do something that they didn’t want him to do. He let go of preconceptions. Allowed the vibrancy, the very life and thrum of the air to seep into him.

With a single motion, he shoved against the door with all his might. It gave easily, and he tumbled forward into blinding brilliance. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Courage: To Finish

As I've been thinking about my writing over the past weeks,  its begun to solidify in my mind that while last year often focused on practicing "pieces" of writing, working at getting at the details or the minutia of the image, this year I need to be working on taking that smaller work and growing it to finished, whatever it looks like for that particular piece or story .

The picture above is a collage style vision board on the process of finishing a story from beginning rough drafts and fluid floating ideas at the bottom to finished story at the top...  I didn't have this particular idea in mind when I started; I was thinking about the word courage as I selected photos from a stack of discarded magazines from work simply by what appealed to me emotionally. I made the cards, arranged them how I felt they worked visually, and then sat back in surprise to find it speaks far more clearly than I have so far been able to articulate to myself in words.

 I also have to confess that I stole the idea for using tags from the textile artist Karen Thiessen of Canada. She was a presenter at the recent Mennonite Arts Weekend. Look for more thoughts and inspiration on her work in my upcoming round of posts on process titled "Scratchpad". I also mentioned her here in an assignment for the (free!!!!) CalArts' A History of Art for Artists, Gamers, and Animators.

Addendum 3/7/14  Came across this great blog post on just this topic.  Thought I'd add it here in case anyone else is struggling with finishing things.   How To Complete Every Writing Project You Start: Become a Completion Addict