Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Hole in the Ground

Authors note:

This story was one of the rare stories that just came to me. I read the prompt, the setting appeared before me, and then it wasn’t that hard to imagine the girl and her friend the bird. Concerning the plot, I had been cringing at the thought of writing a complete story within 1500 words; however, once begun, the whole thing seemed to flow like water (or any other substance in a liquid state).
Now, believe me when I tell you, this is very unnatural for yours truly. Upon discussing possible future writing prompts with my co-authors, my mind has drawn several blanks and most stubbornly refused on giving any leeway whatsoever. That being said, however, I am happy to present this story which has allowed me to put it, without inordinate struggle, upon paper for your enjoyment.

The Hole in the Ground
By Aaron
Once upon a time, there was a forest. This forest was made of tall, old trees and shrouded itself in a cloak of golden mist. The trees stretched on and on as far as the eye could see, and looked almost like green hair on the head of the world. Amongst the tall, red, spear like trunks, the pink sunlight shot its shafts through the saturated atmosphere to warm the faces of the ferns on the forest floor. It was an enchanting place to be sure, and it constantly chimed and rang with the music of bird-speech.
In the very centre of the forest there rose, tall and narrow, a single spire of red stone. Its peak was higher than the highest trees (which were very tall I assure you) and on its very tip grew a single tree, so bent and snake like that it looked like it was trying to keep its balance. It was strong, to be sure, and very secure on its perch yet, nevertheless, it possessed an air of precariousness that caused one’s hair to rise.
In the midst of its branches lived a single occupant. Not a monkey or an orangutan, a bird or a flying squirrel, but a girl whose long, red hair was so used to rising that it was stuck that way: shooting straight up from her head like a copper flame. “Why would a girl live in such a perilous place?” one might rightly ask. The answer is that she was brave, and that is all the reason that is needed.
Every morning when the sun came up, she would stand out on the farthest bow of her tree and wave good morning to that kindly king of fire. In return, he would shoot out his beams and transform the mist, which had turned silver during the night, back into warm gold again. She would curtsey and thank him for the lovely morning because she knew it made the sun happy when his work was appreciated. Then breathing deep through her upturned freckled nose she would feel quite alive and, of course, very brave.
Again one might ask, “Wouldn’t a little girl get lonely up there?” To that, the answer would be “yes,” that is if she was alone. You see, even though there was no civilization for miles, this does not mean that she was lacking company.
Every day, after the sun had risen, a single bird would flutter out of the forest canopy and wing his way to the tree of the brave girl. This bird was her closest friend and some time ago she had christened him, “Mr. Finch,” seeing as his given bird name was too difficult to pronounce. He called her “Miss. Ears,” partially on account of the way her little ears stuck out in the most elfin way, and partially because if she did have a name, she had long since forgotten it.
Mr. Finch being much larger than the usual archetypes of his species was, in fact, very large, making it possible for the daring Miss Ears to climb on his back. So situated, they would often go for a flight into the cool forest below. There they would pick luminescent moon flowers amongst the branches and catch giant butterflies the size of one’s face in large glass jars (of which she had an inexplicable supply). They would then shoot down to the moist forest floor where Finch would eat worms for breakfast and she would stuff her pockets with lightning toads which she would later bring back with her to her tree (lightning toads in conjunction with moon flowers provide excellent illumination in the nighttime hours.)
Now, I must tell you at this juncture, that birds have no need to be brave. They merely sore over it all: fear, peril, problems, and so they really haven’t the slightest clue about the subject. This difference between them was quite intriguing to the friends and both were full of questions about the other. The girl would tell the bird all about what it was like being brave: the fear, the excitement and the wonderful feeling of just getting out of something you were sure wouldn’t end well. In turn, the bird would tell the girl about what it was like not to have to be brave: the boringness, the peace, the happy tranquility. They where each quite content with their own situations; however, it was nice to hear about another one from time to time.
It was one day, however, that something out of the ordinary, even for the little girl, happened. It was later in the morning, and they were just about to return to the tree for a cup of silver bark tea when they found something. There on the forest floor, like a great open mouth upturned towards the sky, was a hole, wider than two Mr. Finches placed wingtip to wingtip. It was very deep and dark, so dark that you could not see the bottom.
Miss Ears thought this was marvelous and thought they should fly in, but Mr. Finch, for the first time in his life, felt uneasy. She said that it was good to be uneasy, for how can you be brave without being uneasy first? But still he resisted and said they should go get their tea. However, the little girl’s will proved stronger and he, trusting her knowledge in the field of bravery, dove down the hole with Miss Ears on his back.
They dove and dove, and the light of the opening above them slowly grew smaller. They went an hour or two, and then perhaps a day or maybe two weeks, neither she nor Finch could tell in that black place. The rustle of his feathers melded into a delirious absence of time or context and it seemed that she slept for an age.
Somewhere in that emptiness it seemed that instead of gliding down they were flying up. It was true, for in two weeks, or maybe a day and then an hour or two they saw a little dot of pale sunlight slowly growing above them. Finally, they must have turned about unwittingly in that labyrinth of emptiness and would soon be back in their beloved forest. But when they reached the opening, it was not their home. They were in a forest, but it was rather grey and foggy and the trees were rough and skinny with prickly needles.
They looked at each other in shock, and Finch almost jumped out of his feathers. My goodness what had happened to her? What did he mean, good Finch? Why, it was almost as if she had... well.... grown up.
It was true! Somewhere in the time between going in one end and coming out the other the little girl had become no longer little. This came as quite a shock and upon looking at her reflection in a pond the fact was confirmed. Her hair was the same, but the face had been molded and chiseled in those unmistakably grown-up ways. She cried for a little, something she had never really done before, but with the support of Mr. Finch she was soon consoled. There were worse things that could happen, he told her, at least they weren’t lost down there anymore. She would have to be brave now, he said, be brave and find out what all this grown up busyness was about. The girl was brave, she could not help but be that way, so she took Finch’s advice and trudged into the new unknown. She shared her stories with all that she met, and some would listen while others wouldn’t, but she was never dissuaded, and her tales left quite a wake wherever she went.
It was in following this wake that I happened to find her. I had been trolling about the English countryside, a young writer seeking out good stories, when I stumbled across a small town on a large moor. Upon entering the local pub, I began to inquire upon my purpose. They hadn’t got many storytellers about there, the old bartender said, but there was an old woman in the east of town, she had appeared out of nowhere sixty years ago and she had stayed ever since and she was always known to tell a story to whomever would listen. It being a promising prospect, I sought her abode, which was not hard to find. She was pleasant and kind, offering me some tea, which was nothing compared to the silver bark stuff she said. Her hair had never fully stopped rising, and so her white waves created a snowy frame to her smiling, wrinkled face. Her story was regarded by most, including myself, as purely fanciful; however, upon a table amidst pictures of her husband and children, there was one image that puzzled me greatly. Tucked into a large frame, sat a single, tattered sepia photograph of a very, large, finch.
The End


Monday, July 14, 2014

The Red Thing

Introductory Note:

The Red Thing is one of the strangest stories I have ever written. Not in that its content is all that bizarre—per say—but in its very differentness from my typical style. Nevertheless, after trying four times with four completely different ideas, I am content, if not happy, with it. I hope you enjoy, and I hope that I get the opportunity to write about Avi and her world again. 
This is the first story published from out current challenge, "The Secret Life of a Brave Girl Whose Best Friend is a Bird," and trust me when I say that, out of the stories submitted mine is by far the most disappointing. We have plenty of time to submit more, so if you have any ideas and you would like to send us something, do not hesitate! The next story should be up within the next couple days. 

The Red Thing
By Jeff
There were two guns pointing at Avi from the front, and nine hundred and seventeen tiles pointing at her from below. Seven flies were ticking like second-hands against three plastic, flickering tube lights, but they weren’t pointed at much of anything.
Three small, robotic eyes stared at her from the sides of the helmets that faced her, and her own small robotic eye stared back. She could feel the hum of electricity in those wires, and buzzing in the back of her own head, and in the walls.  
“Identification and function, now,” demanded one of the two men with the guns. The third man—she counted him separately—was blinking at her, behind the desk; the other small eye did not blink. It zoomed in, to read her badge.
Something clicked in her throat so that she could speak. “AVI Unit 197,” she said with a voice that sounded not unlike an old typewriter, in the way that it projected every word, hammered it out, as though beating the very letters.  
The man behind the desk read the information the little eye gave him, through the glass window of his helmet. He grunted. “You belong in Radiation control. Ward Seventeen. What are you doing here?”
Her response was clear as possible. “Avionics reports indicate a radioactive anomaly. Function suggests investigation necessary.”
With a frown behind his glass, the man at the desk narrowed his eyes. “I didn’t see any report of radioactivity. Located where?”
“Sector 742,” she pounded.
He scowled, and looked at his suddenly blank screen. He scowled more. The lights flickered completely off. The two men with the guns nearly fired in the sudden darkness, and Avi sensed it. Their heart-rates were increasing steadily in her senses. Dim red lights clicked on, whirling and screeching, which did little to slow their breathing. In fifteen seconds, the lights would come back on. Avi knew that.
It was it was her job to know it. To count things. Only she never really counted them; she just knew them. In the same way that she knew the humidity of the air to be seventy-nine percent, the temperature to be eighty-three degrees Fahrenheit.
She was programmed to know this. Because that is what her eyes told her, and what the speeding words in her head confirmed. Even when she dedicated her attention to studying the men in front of her, her focus was split. Subroutines. Parts of her were counting the ceiling tiles, tracking how the flies had gotten in and the fastest way for them to get out, wondering at how erratically and purposelessly they moved in the dark.
“What happened?” Barked one of the men. He was moving towards her. “What did you do, you clanker?”
He came right up to her and jabbed her in the chest with his gun, in the black-and-yellow badge. The gun hurt; it always hurt, when the guards did that, and they always seemed to put the blow in the same place, as though somehow striking the ID badge would fix what they imagined to be a misbehaving subroutine. But this was a different kind of blow. The man seemed really, properly afraid. He was not just scolding her.
The other man with the gun was on the other side of her, with his gun against the side of her head, the muzzle digging into her buzzed scalp. “I bet you nearly got away with it, trying to escape out there,” he snapped. “Probably feeling mighty good about yourself, aren’t you?”
She looked up at him with something akin to confusion, straight down the barrel of his gun. “It is not my function to feel,” she stated. Sixteen seconds had gone by. The red lights went off, the white lights came back on. They were a second late.
“Just EMP testing in Ward Fourteen,” said the man behind the desk, with relative relief and agitation both. “Get your guns off her.”
“What do we do with her?” One man asked.
The man behind the desk shook his head, reading. “Report’s come through. She’s telling the truth.” He rose from his seat, walked to the panel on the far end of the wall and opened it. When he hesitated to press the numbers, Avi chimed out loud.
“The activation code for Door 3, Sector 9, is 37561205.”
He looked back at her with a strange smile, and nodded. “Yes it is. Thank you.”
“You are welcome,” she replied. The door at the end of the room finally opened. Bolts, bigger around than her arm, were pulled into the wall; mechanics frizzled and wires spat. The door opened, and she stepped out into a blinding world of green and white, and the heat of the sun through glass.
The tunnel was long, gently sloped, and should have been full of clean, indoor air. But ventilation systems were down. By the time she escaped the tunnel, sweat was in her eyes, as she had no eyebrows to catch it. She enjoyed the function of eyebrows; she liked to watch them on other people. The function of hair was harder to grasp.
Here, in the silent world of trees, she let her toes grope at the ground, and forbade the subroutines from counting leaves; there were too many, and this was not her Function.  
Here, alone, she reached up in a very ill-practiced motion, and followed the cord that linked the camera—bracketed to the side of her head—to the metal socket in the back of her skull. There were dozens of similar sockets, but this was the only one used on that day. As she touched the plug, words shot across her eyes.
Warning. Do not remove. AVI Unit 197. Removing External Hard-Drive is against programming and can result in severe damage to Unit Visual Receptors.
This was not a lie; but it was not entirely true. She was advanced enough to know this. She pulled the plug, and the robotic eye blinked and did not reopen. She could blame the terminated transmission on radioactive interference later. No one would question her.
It took twelve seconds for the first glimmer of movement to catch her eye, and for that very strange thing to happen to her mouth. To describe that change, was rather like the affect made by two hooks, digging into the skin of her face, and pulling her mouth wider. It was a smile. But on a face as plastic and inflexible as Avi’s, it was no small change. And it certainly was not her mouth’s function.
The bird, that had caught her attention, dropped down onto the branch right above her, and met her pale eyes with its very dark, shiny ones. It was red, for the most part—so said the wavelengths she translated—and it was so very loud that it nearly hurt Avi’s ears. She liked it, even if she couldn’t understand it. Even if not a single computer in the entire Control Center had any knowledge of this red thing that could fly.
She pointed at it fiercely. “Identification and function, now,” she demanded.
It chirped, hopped to another branch, and stared at her. That strange thing happened to her mouth again, and she felt her skin wrinkle. She wondered if it might tear, but it didn’t. “Identification,” she said, “Red.” It whistled at her again. “Function,” she said, and pointed. It chirped and fluttered. “Function!” Avi barked. It chirped even louder, and something very strange happened to Avi, then.
The pull on her mouth crawled down into her, and a very strange noise came out that was not issued by any typewriter, and sounded so bizarre that she couldn’t decide whether it was her voice or not. It was a foreign sound; a burbling one. Like water in a broken pipe. Like the sound she sometimes heard from certain of the guards.
It was a sound that, to her knowledge, had no function. And therefore it was very unusual to hear it from her own mouth. It was, though much less graceful and ill-practiced, very much like the song from the Red thing.
“Function,” she hammered quietly. She looked up the tree at it. “You have no function.” 
It was very odd, to be confronted with something of that sort. Something pointless. Inside the Control Center, nothing was pointless. Everything had a function. Maybe things were different, outside; maybe things didn’t have to have a point. It was a surprisingly wonderful and terrifying sensation.

The bird made her happy. What a peculiar and pointless function it seemed to be, to sing. Only to sing. But it was a function nonetheless. A function that made Avi’s mouth behave oddly. And in the forest, unplugged from the robotic eye she was free. “Come, Red thing.” She said to the bird, and pointed. “Function.”

Saturday, July 12, 2014


By Necessity, the Introduction

After some prolonged and unsuccessful attempts, I am finally happy to introduce and reveal to you all, the Writers' Collaborative blog. The premise in itself is simple, and one that I am very, very excited about: Every week (a theoretical temporal limit) we are going to post a new Writing Prompt, in one form or another, and the three of us will all write, edit and post our own rendition of our various story ideas, from it. 

It has been an idea long in the making, and finally coming to full existence this glorious summer, in which we shall begin our creative endeavors. The three of us, all old friends, have been attempting to manage something of this variety for a while.

But I like to think that this is not simply going to be another writer's blog; the thing that I think will make this idea stand out and be more exciting is that I want YOU (the readers) to SUBMIT YOUR OWN VERSIONS OF OUR WRITING PROMPT CHALLENGES!! 

Yes, that's what I said. I want people to send us stories. Our only limitations are...


 a constant 2000 word limit, all stories (unless stated otherwise)

Clean content (this is a no-brainer, but I said it anyway)

It needs to be obvious that it is from the same prompt. (Not to crush creative juices, only because if it doesn't tie back in somehow, then everyone will just go crazy and lose their minds. Accurate prediction.)

So please, submit your stories to 

thewriterscollaborative@gmail.com

To see them published here. 


Remember, none of us are pros. And we are meant to have fun with this. I hope that you enjoy reading and participating with this old idea of ours, and humoring our fanciful fancies by subscribing and coming back to read again. If you do wish to submit stories to us, to have them posted regularly and become part of out Authorial Team (it could happen!) send me an email at the address above! 


Until then, Meet your Authors!

Aaron

My name is Aaron, and I am a dust collector. This does not mean that I am an idle sloth of a person, it merely means that I have an affinity for old things: sepia photographs, steam engines, gears, waistcoats, top hats etc. Although I greatly enjoy reading or writing a good sci-fi story, the past is my primary inspiration. Being an artist as well, I love drawing anything in a tweed coat, waistcoat, riding boots, ascot and bowler hat, whether that be a monster, a mummy, or an old gentleman with exaggerated side burns. I can have bouts of melancholy, but am usually in good spirits, and there are few things more enjoyable than a skillfully told story filled with characters who are so real they become your friends (speaking of which, I should really read David Copperfield again).



                           I like: a good bike ride (where does this street go?), playing guitar and violin, 20's era big band (I said I like old things), cloudy Autumn days and skeletal leafless trees (I find seeing the world as a black and white photograph inspiring). On the other hand, I love the new life of spring, the exertion and joy of summer and the company of good friends.


I dislike: Clich├ęs, spiders ("Someone help it's crawling right at me!"), myself (at times ;), high school graduations (sooooooo looooooong), small dogs (bug the living daylights out of me), and flan ("how about some nice flab pie!").

I look forward to sharing my world through words...


Elisha
My name is Elisha. I’m a girl with my feet roaming in the woods and my head soaring on dragon wings above the clouds. My life belongs to the One True King, my lord and savior who created me. I love to laugh, and devour good literature with a ferocious appetite, which then inspires me in the creating and dreaming of my own worlds. I am frequently caught with a glazed look in my eyes, oblivious to the world and staring into the realms of imagination. I feel most at home among (or better yet, IN) tall trees, but a portion of my Montanan heart will always long deeply for the ocean and its crashing waves.

I like: Dragons! (I’m a little obsessed with them… ok, a lot obsessed with them; How to Train Your Dragon is my all-time favorite movie.) I also like: Steampunk, ruffles, and leather lacing (can’t we all just dress as if we’re from the 1800’s or medieval times? Please?); creating (whether drawing or painting, writing stories, or designing costumes); assuming someone else’s personality and singing my heart out beneath the spotlights of the stage (THEATRE!!!); music and the way it stirs the soul; hiking peaks and climbing the tallest trees in an attempt to dwell in the sky; the power and excitement of a thunderstorm; bare feet; and the joy of close friendship.

I really don’t like: deep water overgrown with seaweed (who knows what could be down there!?!?!?), calamari (it’s squid tentacles. I don’t care how good it tastes, I won’t eat it), large hairy spiders (“Why don’t YOU squish it?!”), humidity, and love triangles (unless it’s The Phantom of the Opera.)

My mind creates stories, and I write them down.

Jeff
My name is Jeff (Current Curator and Compiler of the creative attempts on this blog). I am a writer of words and occasional thinker of thinks, who gravitates regularly towards oversized works of fiction or fantasy, in reading and writing. I am a servant of King Jesus, a lover of good friends and great literature (of all eras). My soul is seized by strange things, like water on rocks and wind in tree branches and the way sunsets turn raven's eyes gold. 


I am overly fond of: (perpetually) Bare feet, coffee (hot or iced), summer evenings, autumnal avenues, bonfires, giggling water, tree-breezes, T-shirts, music (I listen to it, I do not attempt to make it) cooking, fresh sharpies, hammocks, and on rare occasions I twiddle my Montanan toes in photography and attempts at the artistic. 


I do not like: poor literature, fire ants, pine trees (I know, I know), the month of February, lack of coffee, thistles (refer to bare feet), insects (except bumblebees), "sweet tea" that tastes like water. 


I am prone to the metaphorical, and always attracted to the fantastical. More importantly, I see things differently, and I write what I see. 
(Follow me at www.jeffwriteswords.blogspot.com or on Twitter @jeffzanmiller)


I hope that you all return and continue to read, subscribe, submit, and enjoy this collaboration of writers!