Last night I was texting with my friend while he was at work (he’s a manager, he can get away with it.) Meanwhile, I was just sitting back and enjoying some video games. It really made me appreciate the position I’m in with my job. Five days a week, same time each day, no weekends. No surprise overtime, and any meetings are planned at least two weeks in advance. It’s really nice working for a place that has its stuff together. At the deli, I was lucky if I got my two days off side-by-side.
Today I went out on the town, and by that, I meant doing errands. I was driving my new car, toting my new smart phone– I’m not bragging, there’s a point to this. I also came from work, meaning I was dressed slightly better than usual. Heading out of Costco with my pack of sparkling water and bag of coffee beans, I realized that I had taken my first steps into being a middle-aged yuppie.
I guess you have to start somewhere.
The school district, over the summer, changed all student passwords from something easily memorable to the dates of their birth. It may come as a surprise to you, but many kids 10 and under aren’t actively memorizing their birthday. I know dear, it was two weeks ago, but we’ve got to be more precise than that. (This is not their fault. They’re lovely.)
Happy Monday Greasers!
“Please hold out your arm.” The man in the white coat scooted forward slightly, legs of the stool grinding irritatingly against the gritty tile surface.
Lyla sat up neatly against the edge of the bed, paper rustling under her seat. Running her palm against the opposite arm, she could feel her touch stimulating the tiny hairs atop her skin. The end of limb was blunt, rounded over just above where her elbow would have been, old wound sealed shut with a tiny line of skin, scar tissue rather.
“It’s healed well. The x-ray hasn’t revealed any abscesses forming.” The doctor ran the tips of his fingers up her bare arm. “Have you experienced any discomfort?”
“No…” Lyla mumbled, watching the metal bell of the stethoscope dangle in front of the man’s paisley tie.
“Good, good.” The doctor spun around atop the stool to the counter behind him, peering into a long rectangular box. “Before we get you fitted with something permanent, I’ll allow you to take this home and get used to the feeling.” The doctor pulled a sheet of tissue paper out from the box, followed by a peach-colored plastic arm, held together with a glaring stainless steel hinge. “Get used to operating it, as well.”
“It looks gross.” Lyla looked up at the device, dangling various cords and electrodes off the back.
“Well…” The doctor spun back around, producing a small mesh pocket shaped to the stub of her arm. “The permanent version will be matched to your skin color, and will have much of the mechanical stuff tucked away, hidden.”
Setting down the prosthetic, the doctor slipped the cloth over Lyla’s arm, pulling it snug. He quickly picked the arm back up, grabbing the wires in his fist and tucking them by Lyla’s side as he matched the socket at the end to limb.
“This will hold on like this.” He continued, fiddling with the strap to go around Lyla’s back. “Now, if you just hold on to this and tell me when you feel the muscles in your back start to react to the stimulus.” The doctor grabbed the vinyl pillow off the bed behind her, placing it between her hands, new and old.
The man moved beside her, and Lyla could feel the cold electrodes move underneath the strap on her tank top and attach to various points on her shoulder blades and spine. The weight of the new arm pulled down on her arm, but the strap could be felt pulling against her neck and shoulder, dragging the piece of equipment up and down with her troubled movements. The muscles up her back tensed, and the pillow in her hand twitched as the new hand slowly tightened around it.
“Can you feel it?” The doctor came back to her front, looking down at the now twitching fingers on Lyla’s fresh hand.
“It feels… so numb. Like it isn’t real.” Lyla looked down at the pillow just as it fell from her grasp and onto the ground with a soft thump.
“Let’s test your range of movement, your grip.” The doctor offered his hand out towards hers. Lyla lifted her fresh hand towards his, fingers clumsily wrapping around his. “Imagine you’re picking up an egg, or… picking up a pet, your child perhaps. Imagine pulling your fingers inwards towards the palm. Softly.”
Lyla concentrated, back muscles twitching, eyes fixated on her own hand. Between her fingers, The doctors’ sat, relaxed, before pulling in slightly. The man quickly stopped, attempting to pull back. Lyla’s face twisted up in concentration, frustration. The doctor’s face turned to a grimace, unable to pull his own hand away. A loud cracking sounded through the room, and the two intertwined hands twisted and buckled suddenly.
Lyla quickly jumped back in surprise from the sound, arm now limp. “I’m… sorry. I just…”
The doctor pulled at his wrist, shaking it back and forth. Tugging at the torn vinyl glove, shreds of the material came away, revealing mechanical joints of his own, connected to a length of plastic material extending up his sleeve. “It can take some time to… get used to the lack of feeling. But, we can work through it.”
So I got a new car. Rather than boring you with walls of text, come with me for a ride.
I have a car payment now, though, but it’s cool, because people are going to buy my books, right….?
Joking aside, I want to provide my thoughts on something. I originally created this blog to accompany my full-length books up on Amazon. I have pretty much stuck to mostly writing on here, leaving stuff more about me for my YouTube channel. However, I figured recently that most people burying their heads in books aren’t spending time watching videos online. So, as many authors seem to do these days, I’ll use this increasingly as a forum to talk about my semi-uneventful real life.
For now… I’m working on putting together my physical copy of ‘Above A Whisper‘ to go on sale… partially because I really want one for myself. It’s about 20 thousand pages longer than the first book in the series, so it will definitely feel better in my hands and gain a prominent place on my bookshelf. My friend came through town a couple of weeks ago, and I gave him a signed copy of Mother of Mars, because he was one of the first people to read the story as it was coming together. I guess I have to get another copy for my own use too.
I saw someone talking about Fahrenheit 451 today online, and now I want to read it again. I don’t know if I actually still have my copy, though.
You would think that you wouldn’t need to tell most sensible grown-up people that you shouldn’t look up at the sun. Yet, it seemed like they wanted to reinforce it so badly. I mean, the draw of something that only happens ever 8 or more years or so really makes people want to do something potentially harmful. I get it. People take precautions, though. Those crazy glasses. Tiny viewers with peepholes. Tutorials on how to record it on your camera without burning out the sensor. They say you can take in the experience, but it’s still behind a filter. It isn’t the real thing.
My boss told me not to look at the sun. The morning news squeezed it in between the traffic updates and the weather. Even Twitter, in that little “in case you missed it section,” that never goes away despite trying to block it– that was saying it too. I decided to ignore it. I’ve worn glasses since I was in the fourth grade, and gone through at least seven different stages of prescriptions. It’s not like my vision can get that bad. I mean, I’ve gotten to see Eiffel Tower before, so it’s not like I’m missing out on much either.
The time came, it began passing over. The dark disk started to move into place, crawling like something out of a cheap sci-fi horror of Alien invasions. I had my glasses just in case, but the moment the sun went into full eclipse, I removed them, looking deeply into the void of blackness. It’s a finite point in time that it’s directly in front of the sun. That’s when I saw it. A quick blinking, followed by a quick glint of strange light like I had not seen before. Up above at the edge of the disk, a man in light blue coveralls, on a footstool, holding what looked like a burnt-out bulb, stood. Then, he disappeared, and the orb of light began creeping back out. People started heading back in to their places of work, unknowing.
But I saw.
Outland: Chapter 19
The long road out of the city seemed busier than any city I had ever visited back in the states. I could see people clearing out of the way, looks of fright and intrigue on their faces, and I piloted Gulliver the best I could. Lining the streets were many stalls holding all types of merchandise from clothes, handbags, food of all imaginable type, as well as shady looking stalls chucking flip phones and various sorts of beaten up technology.
We wandered out off the long city streets out into the slummy suburbs, eventually leading into a sort of no man’s land, covered in filth and remnants of civilization. Some of the children from the city had chased me out on the street, but eventually lost interest and trail off. I took a look back at the old port, with the boat as tiny speck out in the distance.
Carefully treading through bits of trash, I had Gulliver wade out into the water, the waves sitting just below the windows of the cockpit. Flipping the switch to put the solar array up, I finally took a breath preparing myself to speak.
“Well, Gulliver. We’re here.” Continue reading “Strange New Land”
Outland: Chapter 18
The cold spray flew up in my face, causing me to reel back and almost fall on the slippery ground, if it were not for my grip on the railing. The unpredictable movement of the waves had not ceased to surprise me like that. Tasting the salty residue on my lips, my stomach churned, and I quickly leaned over the edge to dry heave, swaying back and forth on my heels the whole time.
“What are you doing out here?” The call came out, just barely audible over the sound of the water.
“Grabbing something.” I hoisted the plastic bag over my head, filled with my various maps.
“Can’t it wait?” Johnathan, the first mate, pulled at my long sleeve.
“I don’t want the let the opportunity pass.” I quickly followed after him, shoes carefully treading against the ground.
Stepping inside, I pulled off the lift vest and heavy coat, both mostly soaked. “You have to understand…” I caught my breath. “That mech is my home. Everything I own is in there.” Continue reading “The Expanse”
Outland: Chapter 17
I never ended up seeing any other active ports along the coast like that man down in Los Angeles had told me of. I fully prepared myself to take time travelling underwater to avoid any more of the same situations like I did down there. Luckily, both for my sanity and the speed of our progress, I never was able to spot any more telling lights in the night.
I could feel the cold outside start to penetrate Gulliver’s metal skin. For the first time in almost a year, I opened up the mechanical access panel to turn the knob on the boiler to high. It had been set on the lowest setting to simple be able to heat water for drinking and the occasion shower, but never enough to send hot enough water to circulate into the cockpit’s radiator. I knew it would decrease the efficiency a bit, by my teeth chattering at night from the near hypothermia told me it would be a necessary thing to do. Despite that, my blanket became a permanent installation around my body as I sat inside the cockpit during the day. I cured the fact that none of my old work uniforms had proper, insulated long sleeves.
Long stretches of water were bordered by tall cliffsides that stretched up even farther than the rising tide. Rather than be pushed around by the chilling waves, I chose to pilot Gulliver up top, despite the often thick foliage that we had to push our way though. Many of the trees were taller than Gulliver himself, and the undergrowth was dense and rich. In a way, it was mesmerizing, like some sort of scene out of a sci-fi movie where adventurers find themselves on a strange planet that is inhabited by nothing but trees.
When the sun eventually set, however, I learned that it was increasingly more difficult to spot any lights on the horizon. My fears were confirmed one night when sets of lights flickered on somewhere on the other side of a patch of trees. Startled, I grabbed the controls and stopped Gulliver abruptly. If it hadn’t been for his own systems taken over, we could have possibly toppled over.
“Andrew, I must stress that you must take care while performing such an action.”
“Sorry, Gul. I can’t risk any other run-ins like the one down south.”
“I understand. You see lights?”
“Some just came on out there. They’re probably on some light sensor or timer by the look of it. There’s a lot of them too.” Continue reading “A Way”
Outland: Chapter 16
I could already tell that the days were becoming shorter. The daylight hours were comfortable and cool, but the maps I drew out each night seemed to dwindle off short of the distance I was used to. Occasionally, rain would cut our travel for a day or more, with anxiety taking a hold of me.
The coastline slowly became more green and lush in comparison to the almost desert-like landscape of down south. The few remaining signs of any human life seemed swallowed up by the overflowing landscape. It wasn’t long, though, before I could start to see the leaves of the trees starting to take an orange brown color at their tips. Even worse, overcast skies would threaten rain, and take time out from when we would be able to have the solar array active.
“Gulliver, how many hours of sunlight did you record yesterday?” I awoke one day to the rising sun poking through the dense fog.
“According to the current cycle of the sun rising, we should have had 7 hours and 46 minutes of sunlight yesterday.”
“And we spent about three of those hours, after I awoke, to continue charging. It’s frustrating.” Continue reading “The Cold Air”