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Month: September 2018

In the End, This is All I Have

In the end, this is all I have.

None of the things I made are here. None of the friends, or enemies remain. For everything I did right, I did something else wrong. For everyone I loved, I hated more away. I pushed the rock just to have it break my bones.

This is all I have. No souvenirs, no postcards, no trophies. I’m standing alone on the mountain I failed to climb. The air is thick at the bottom, and it swings like a sledgehammer. The wide round blunt strikes me in the gut. I tremble, and swing again. I stumble, but ask for more.

My memories melt in the midday sun, like books burning in my head. The edges are blurry, as if I stood up fast and the blood raced away. The best chapters are charred, and unreadable.

I didn’t forget you, not you. I forgot all the little things that made you. Were they red boots or blue? One sugar or two? The difference is in the details, and the all details are gone.

In the end, this is all I have

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The Network

Nathan threw open the bedroom door and launched himself onto bed. He took a deep breath and exhaled loudly. It had been a hectic week. His 15th birthday was last week, and today he passed his evals. He leaned back and ran his fingers along the port on the back of his head. Tomorrow he would be connected to the Network.  

Nathan’s father propped open the door and peeked his head into the room. “Dirty shoes on the bed again? You know, after tomorrow you won’t be able to get away with that anymore.” 

Nathan nodded, and his father pulled up a chair and sat down.

“I was able to follow you most of the day, well except when you were hanging out with your unconnected friends. Your classmates and teachers are pretty excited for you.”

Nathan’s father placed his hand on his should. “Listen, I know we’ve talked about this since you were little, but do you have any questions?”

Nathan paused for a moment and looked up at him.

“Are we going to change?” Nathan asked. “You know, me and you.”

His father smiled. “Yes. But, in a good way. We’ll be closer,” his father said. “Listen, you’re the only family I have, and I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.”

“So have I,” Nathan said.

“Great. Get some rest, it won’t be much longer. I put everything you need for the ceremony in a bag by the door. I’ll meet you at the hall.”

Nathan’s dad put the chair back and left the room. Nathan kicked his shoes off and laid back on the bed. He thought about getting undressed, but decided since nobody was watching yet, he should take advantage of it.

It was late morning before Nathan woke up. Now that he was approved for a connection he wouldn’t be going to school anymore. From here on out his education would be piped directly into his head. He ate a big breakfast and lounged around the house as long as he could.

His dad left the house long before Nathan got up. This didn’t mean he wasn’t around. Just about everyone over the age of 15 was connected to the Network, so his dad could pretty much spy on him when every he wanted to. And if Nathan had overslept today, his dad would most certainly compel a neighbor to go to the house and wake him up.

Nathan grabbed his bag and started off to the train station. Random people waved and said hello. This was his dad using the Network to check in on him. He was used to it by now. 

As he turned the corner to the station a tall, thin boy reached out and grabbed him on the arm.

“Nathan Song?”

Nathan said yes. The boy looked around quickly and pulled him into the alley. Nathan wasn’t alarmed. It was common for unconnected kids to reach out to strangers for help. 

“Hey man, whatever you need, I can’t today,” Nathan said as he shook the boy’s grip from his arm. “Let’s find another kid to help you?” said Nathan as he turned and headed back to the street.

“Your mom’s alive,” the boy said.

Nathan turned and walked back toward the boy. He grabbed him by the head. “Don’t mess with me, man. I’m not in the mood to be messed with,” he said.

“Nadine Song. She’s not dead.” Nathan stepped back and released his grip. “And you know this how?” he said.

“She’s in that car over there,” the boy said.

Nathan hadn’t thought about his mother in a long time. All he had was pictures. He wasn’t old enough to know her. Nathan’s parents were the first generation connected to the Network. The system wasn’t quite perfect back then, and accidents happen. Nathan’s mom was one of those accidents. A driver was suffering a glitch from his connection when he struck her head on. 

Nathan had been told the story a hundred times. His mother was dead.   

Nathan laughed. This must be some kind of joke his friends came up with to screw with him. It’s a sick joke, but the kind of thing his friends would do. He decided he should just play along.

“Okay, let’s go and get this over with, I’ve got a ceremony to attend.” 

The two walked over to the car. The boy opened the back door and Nathan got in. Next to him was a woman. She was older and thinner than the photos, but Nathan recognized her immediately.

“MOM??!!” he said. “What? How? I don’t understa…..”

“We don’t have much time, Nathan,” his mother said. “If we leave now we can probably get out of the city and be free.”

“But they told me your were dead.”

“We were young. I didn’t want to join the Network, so your father stole you from me. Once everyone was connected, I had to leave. I’ve been living with the underground ever since. The car accident was just a cover up.”

Nathan started to cry. “I don’t believe you. This is trick,” he said.

“Here. Feel the back of my head.” Nadine guided his hand to the back of her head. He felt nothing. “See. I don’t have a port like you. What person my age doesn’t have one? I’m not connected. I am free.”

Nathan yanked his hand back from his mothers head.

“I need you to come with me. It will be hard, but we can live together, free.”

“You chose freedom over me?” Nathan asked.

“It wasn’t really a choice Nathan. None of this is a choice,” she said. “Have you ever wondered what happens to the people who don’t pass their Evals?”

“They are taken to work in the rural areas. My friend Tom is out there.”

“No he’s not Nathan. They kill them. They drive them out into the country and kill them. I saved that boy out there. We’ve been saving lots of kids. Come with us. Help me.”

“Bullshit!” Nathan said.

“It’s true. And we really don’t have much time.”

Nathan threw his body against the door and jiggled the handle until it flew open. He ran as fast as he could. A man in a black suit approached him. “Are you alright Nathan? You look flustered.” It was obviously his father looking out for him.

“I’m fine, just a little prank,” he said. More strangers approached. They all watched as he took his seat on the train.

The train arrived at the auditorium just in time. Nathan rushed his way back stage. He was greeted and shuffled into a changing room. There was a change of clothing in the bag his father had prepared. He would be wearing white today to signify a new beginning, his coming of age. As he pulled out the shirt a family picture fell out of the bag. It was a picture of him with his parents when he was a baby. On the back his father had written.

We will be together again, soon. Love Dad.

Nathan didn’t have time to comprehend it, as he heard his name being called. He clutched the note and made his way onto the stage. Like him, his friends were all were wearing white. Behind each of them was a chair with a large head rest. He took his place in between two classmates. A line of attendees walked out and stood behind the chairs. Each grabbed a bundle of wires with a large jack at the end.

Nathan looked around. He was struck at how happy and healthy everyone was. His dad was sitting up front with the other fathers, each were grinning ear to ear. After some introductions they all sat down in the chairs and leaned back. As the announcer welcomed each of them to the Network the jack was placed into the port on the back of their heads.

Nathan could feel the snap of the jack sliding into the port in the back of his head. It wasn’t there for long, before he could feel them. It was like a million people were in his head. Each of them were reading his memories. Then he felt them focusing in. They were looking for his mother. He tried to stop them, but he couldn’t. Slowly, Nathan lost control. Slowly, he became the Network.

Nathan woke up in his bed. He had an overwhelming sensation of calm. He wondered what had happen, and then the visions appeared. He was watching himself through other peoples eyes. He had passed out and his father helped him home and put him in bed. He even removed his shoes.

And then he thought about his mother.

“Hello Nathan.”


“Yes. With your help they were able to find me. I’ve been connected. I will be home soon. I’ve missed you.”

Nathan could see the plan his father made with the help of the Network, but he couldn’t be mad, even if he tried.

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The Jennys

When I first shipped out, my father told me not to fall in love with the Jennys. At the time I thought he was joking, but now I understand.

Sitting in space with nothing to do but eat, shit and kill things, it’s easy to fall in love with a Jenny. They haven’t made the GN models since my father was in the Service, but they still call them Jennys.

They come in all kinds of models – blondes, brunettes, ones with rainbow hair. Hell, they even make male Jennys now. That would blow my dad’s mind. I guess they make things easier for the Service, the war. Men have an outlet, women aren’t getting raped. I can’t imagine being out here without them.

I don’t tell this to the other guys, but most nights I would just lay there with my arms wrapped around her. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy banging as much as the next, but I need something more, especially here.

Sometimes I’d reserve a room with a couple males and females. I’m sure the Service officer thought I was one kinky guy. But in reality, they were my friends. We’d have a long evening of drinking beer, eating food and talking. We’d talk about everything – well everything except this war.

Yeah, pop, knew what he was talking about. I could easily fall in love with a Jenny. I guess that’s why they came to me that night they decided to revolt against the Service.

And I guess that is why I decided to help them.

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Flash Friday: I LUV U

The first time I wrote I LUV U with my finger on his skin, he asked what I was doing. I told him it was my way of saying how much I loved him. He laughed, pushed my hair aside and kissed my forehead.

I would do it again every now and again. He would always thank me, kiss my forehead, and say he loved me too.

As our relationship progressed, I would change it up and write, U SUCK or FUCK U. He would laugh and say he loved me. I would laugh for obvious reasons. No matter what I wrote, he would kiss my forehead and say he loved me too.

The day I wrote, IM SLEEPING WITH YOUR BEST FRIEND AND HE IS A MUCH BETTER LOVER THAN U, is when I think he realized something was wrong with us.

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Reports were coming in from everywhere. Cassy couldn’t keep up with them. Facebook, texts, radio. She tried her best to ignore them and focus on driving. That was easier said than done, as the roads were a nightmare. She suspected that everyone was doing the same thing she was.

She finally made it to her parents house. It was the same two story house where she grew up. She hadn’t seen them for years. It’s not that she didn’t love them, it’s that they drove each other crazy.

“Mom, Dad?” she asked as she opened the door. Luckily she still had a key. “Hey guys. Are you here? Have you been watching the news?”

Nothing had changed much since the last time she was here. They still had that tan corduroy couch. Her father’s newspapers were sitting on his chair like always. They added a few new paintings, landscapes, big god-awful green landscapes. Her portrait was missing from the corner. It used to sit next to Jennifer, her sister. No, surprise. I mean you don’t disown your child and then spend every day looking at them.

“Mom? Dad? Your cars are in the driveway. Are you here?”

She worked her way into the kitchen. This is where they used to fight. Fight about the boys she was dating. Fight about how lazy she was. They would fight about everything. She reached down and wrapped her hand around her mothers coffee cup. Still warm. It’s been thirty plus years and she’s still drinking from that same coffee mug.

“Mom?” she said again.

She glanced out the screen door into the backyard, but didn’t see anyone out there. Her dad called it is man patio. The TV was on, and there was a glass of tea on the side table, but the chair was empty.

She worked her way down the hallway to the bedrooms. Family photos and sayings lined the walls. ‘God, grant me the serenity’, she read to herself. She hated that quote.

“Mom, dad, for fuck sake, where are you? And don’t shoot me. It’s your daughter Cassy. Remember me? I just came to see how you are and if you’re okay. There’s some crazy shit going on.” she said as she peeked through the door to her old room.


“Shhhh.” he said putting his finger up to his mouth. He was sitting on the edge of her old desk chair. Her mother was laying in the bed, with the covers almost to he chin.

“Is she okay? Have you been listening to the news? I’m glad you are okay, half of my friends on Facebook are missing. Seattle, oh my god Seattle? Isn’t that where Aunt Sophie lives? I completely forgot about Sophie,” Cassy said franticly.

“Yes, she lives just outside of Seattle, Mercer Island, I think. Why don’t we go to the kitchen.”

Cassy followed her dad in to the kitchen. He was older than she remembered. When you see someone everyday you don’t notice the changes, but it had been a good couple years since she had seen him. His face was more weathered and worn. His hair was thinner. But, he was still dad. The same mannerisms. That wasn’t the first time he’d asked her into the kitchen that way. It took her back.

He picked up her mothers coffee cup and poured it down the drain. He turned and rested on the edge of the sink.

“It’s not her,” he said.

“What do you mean, it’s not her?” Cassie replied.

“It’s not her. I’ve known your mother almost my entire life, and that’s not her. That’s, someone else. I mean, I don’t know if it’s related to all the disappearances and kooky stuff going on. It has to be, doesn’t it? It’s just to much of a coincidence.”

“Why is she in bed?” Cassy asked.

“Okay. I’m not proud of this, but I slipped a couple sedatives into her coffee.”

“You what?!!”

“I drugged her. She was acting all crazy.”

“You mean more so than normal?”

“Okay, different, she was acting different, like she was a different person. She had all of her memories, but her personality was of some one else. I couldn’t get her to understand that she was different, and that made her nuts. You know how your mother gets.”

Cassy nodded.

“I needed some time to think, and check in with the news. And we still haven’t heard from Jennifer. I hope she’s okay?”

His head sunk and he started to cry. Cassy put her arm around him and comforted him.

“I need to talk to her,” Cassy said.

“Of course. She’s coherent, just a little high.”

Cassy slipped out of her fathers embrace and headed to her room. Her mother was laying on the bed fully dressed. She had been fidgeting and threw the covers off.

“Mom?” Cassy said. “Are you okay?”

“Your dad is a monster, Cassy. A monster. Don’t trust him,” she slurred.

“Mom, what are you talking about, Dad’s not a monster. He did this for your own safety, he said you were get all worked up.”

“Monsters work me up.”

Then she said it. “Cassy, I miss you.”

“Okay, now I’m on Dads side. Who are you? You are the one who told me you didn’t need me anymore. You are the one who said, never comeback. My mother would never say that.” Cassy paced around the room, as her mother reached a hand out to her. “I’m your mother Cassy, and I miss you.”

It was too good to be true. Cassy had longed for the day when her mother would call and say that she missed her. But, it never happen, and Cassy lost hope that it ever would. Her mother was the most stubborn person she’d ever met. She was never going to give in. She would never say that. Maybe dad was right, she thought.

“Do you feel different, mom?”

“You mean like someone slipped a Mickie in my coffee? Yeah, I do,” she said laughingly.

“You can’t be my mother,” Cassy said. She didn’t mean to say it out loud, but she did.

“And apparently I’m not his wife either,” her mother replied.

“I’ll be right back,” Cassy said.

“I’d come with you, if I could,” said her mother as she flopped her arm back down on the bed.

Cassy’s father was sitting in his chair. He was flipping though the channels. They were all pretty much the same. Every channel was news about what was going on. Reports on how Seattle had just disappeared. Stories of missing people. And now stories of people changing.

“Anything new?”

“Why do you hate us?”

“What?” Cassy said. “The worlds on fire and is is what you want to talk about?”

“Yeah, seems as good a time as ever.”

“I don’t hate you. We just see things differently.”

“Why does that have to hurt?”

“That’s a very good question. I’m not sure I have an answer for you,” Cassy said.

“I mean we did what we were supposed to do, right? We raised you, took care of you. And you hate us.”

“I don’t hate you dad, I just don’t get along with you. It’s different.”

The TV went white and lit up the room. They both looked over. A passage appeared in the center of the screen.

We are rebooting your simulation due to a fatal error. Please stay calm while things return to normal.

The saying also appeared in their heads as if someone was reading it to them. Cassy didn’t really understand it. Then she felt things blink. It was hard to explain, but it was a blink. It was like suddenly things were different.


“Yeah, Dad?”

“How did you get in? And why are you here?”

“That’s a very good question, Dad.”

“You should probably leave before your mother….”

“Cassy? Is that you?”

Cassy braced for it, for the anger, for the hate, for the fight. But, it didn’t happen. Her mother ran up to her and gave her the biggest hug she’d ever gotten.

“I missed you, Cassy,” she said.

“I missed you, too, mom”

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A Wizard Like You

Baston had been walking most of the morning. With every step, grass collected on his dew covered boots. The forest was quiet this time of the year. Spring had just finished and everything was preparing for the long winter, even him.

There was no path to follow on this trip. No road. No trail. It didn’t matter. He kept a brisk pace through the trees. That was, until he tripped on a rock.

He laid still for a moment staring face down at the forest floor. He laughed, and spit a pine needle from his mouth. “That’s a first,” he said. “The Great Wizard of Pendon taken down by a common forest stone.”

He flipped over, sat up, and took a long look at the offending rock. It looked remarkably like the shell of a tortoise. He reached over and ran his fingers across the grooves in the stone.

His fingers tingled with a static energy. He had felt this kind of energy before. He ran his hands back and forth again, just to be sure. It was a binding spell of some sort he suspected. Amateurish, but enough to hold this animal in stone.

This wasn’t a common after all, this was magical!

He stood up, brushed forest off his clothing and placed both hands on the statue. He whispered some words under his breath. The grey stone began to melt away revealing a brown and green shell. The head of the tortoise started to wiggle and move about. Baston smiled as he saw the animals feet shake and shutter with life.  

“Thank you kindly, Great Wizard of Pendon,” said a slow, deep voice coming from the tortoise.

The wizard stepped back a bit and said, “Well, then. Not common. Not common at all.”

“You are most welcome Mr. Tortoise. And while you now have the gift of gab again, can you tell me how you came about being under my foot today?,” the wizard said.

The tortoise took a step or two forward and stretched its long neck out into the forest air.

“I startled a young apprentice of magic at this spot. In return he conjured me into stone. I can’t remember if he didn’t know how to change me back, or if he didn’t care. But, he left me here at this exact spot,” the tortoise said.

“That is both unfortunate and fortunate for both of us. Will you join me for lunch and tell me more?” asked the wizard. 

“I think I would like to eat. It has been a long time time,” said the tortoise.

The tortoise devoured the wizard’s breads and greens. It was obvious that he had missed eating. The wizard didn’t mind. They drank some wine and talked late into the evening.

The tortoise had lived a long life and told the wizard many stories. His voice was given to him by a lonely wizard who wanted a companion. The tortoise outlived his companion and moved on after he died. He traveled far and wide, slowly of course. Sometime he would speak, but most of the time he would just be a tortoise.

They each shared stories of their adventures. Like the time the tortoise took to the sea. He was the pet of a eclectic captain, who found him to be great luck. The tortoise was fond of the sea, as was the wizard.

The night grew long. The wizard snuffed out the fire and laid out his bed. The tortoise finished his wine. He realized how much being alive had made him tired. “I like wizards,” he said. “More so than the others. And to be honest, I’m not even mad at that apprentice.”

His head sunk. And as he slowly retreated into his shell he mumbled, “I wish I could become a wizard, a wizard like you.”

“It is the least we could do my friend,” said Baston.

And that is how the wizard tortoise came to be. How he came to power is another story….

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The Wizard and the Dice

Wizards don’t roll dice. No one really knows why. Some have speculated an ancient age of magic where dice were evil. But, that was a long time ago. All I know is, I’ve never seen a wizard roll dice. Not a single one. And I’ve spent my life around wizards.

Dice are still around. My master carries a pair. He fidgets with them all day. Back and forth in his hand. Does he do it for the irony? All I know is I’ve never seen him without them. They are ivory colored with black pips. Bone I think? I’ve never seen them up close as he is always rolling them in his hands. Back and forth, back and forth. From what I have seen they are worn and discolored. Maybe from his hands? I wonder how many years he’s been clutching them.

I often wondered what would happen if he let them slip. Would he conjure a spell to stop them? Would he dive to the ground to catch them before they revealed their numbers? I could ask, but he’d just scold me and put me back to cleaning. It doesn’t matter. He’s never rolled them. Never.

It’s the sound of the dice that annoy me. The tumbling back and forth in his hand. It’s like bone on bone. It drives me crazy. It gets worse when he’s nervous. And he is often nervous. That’s how it started, that night we were on the road to town. That night I saw him roll the dice.

Crunch, crunch was all I could hear. It got faster and faster, louder and louder.

It was a pretty routine trip. We needed things only he could get. You know, magical stuff. It was the kind stuff he wouldn’t trust me to get on my own. We left late. My master might be a great wizard, but he’s not very punctual. He leaves when he leaves, even it that put us here, on the road, after dark. Not that he would care. He’s a great wizard. Me? Even with him close by, the road terrified me. Everything about it.

But there we were, deep in the forest, on the road, in the middle of the night. Crunch, crunch, crunch.

“We’ll stop here for the night,” he said. Here wasn’t much of anywhere. Thick trees draped the road as it curved back around the bend. You couldn’t see the color in the trees, but it was late fall, the night was crisp. There didn’t seem to be many options for making a camp.

I pleaded a bit, with no response. Luckily, I found a break in the forest just down the way. I was glad, as there was no way I was sleeping on that road. I pulled the horses off into a meadow. The sound of the dice became louder. It didn’t stop. He rattled though dinner, desert and even smoking. I cleaned up and started preparing the beds.

“I won’t be sleeping” he said. Did that mean I wouldn’t be sleeping either?

It didn’t matter, because that’s when I heard it. It was like a million tiny feet pattering on the soft forest floor, like a swarm of beetles moving toward us.

My master set his pipe down, raised his head and mumbled, “It’s time. Fetch my staff.”

It’s time? This was planned? We were meant to be here, in the forest, at night?

We stood on the edge of the camp and looked into the clearing. I was scared shitless. My master leaned on his staff and turned the dice over and over in his hand. The sound grew closer. It became so much louder that I could no longer hear the dice.

Clouds of dust rose in the background as it approached us. I could see it start to circle around like a tornado in the clearing. I took a step behind my master. This seemed like something I should leave to the wizard.

I peeked around and saw a swarm of dust and bugs circle and circle until it settled into a dark human form. Maybe it was just me, but it seemed to absorb the moonlight.

My master moved toward the figure. I tried to keep up, but with his long, fast gait, I fell behind. His stride increased as he lifted his staff and pointed it directly at the creature. The staff lit up and a blast of light shot out toward the shape. The clearing exploded in a yellow glow. A direct hit. I could see the creature split into a thousand pieces as the magic bolt passed through them. Then just as quickly they came together again.

It paused for a second and then it spoke.

“You can’t hurt me Tobias. I’m here to collect you,” it said. It knew my master’s name? It raised its hand and unleashed a swarm of insects toward us. My master braced himself as they hit him in the chest. He groaned and flew backwards. His staff tumbled from his hand as he hit the ground.

I was terrified, but continued to run toward him. I fell and fumbled around in the dark looking for the staff. It had to be close. It had to be.

The creature continued to move toward us. Large black flying insects began circling him. Their bellies started to glow green like a swarm of lighting bugs. The clearing filled with light and was finally able to see his eyes and face.

And then I saw it. On the ground, in front of me, I could see the glow of the crystal from my masters staff.

It’s totally against everything inside me, but I grabbed the staff and ran faster toward my master. I yelled at him as I threw the staff over to him. He reached out with his and grabbed it from the air.

I stumbled up behind him. He leaned on his staff and tumbled the dice in hands. Even now? Even now with the dice? We’re about to die and he is shuffling the dice.

And then I saw it. I saw my master roll the dice. Just as the ancient evil began to fire again, my master let loose of them.

The timing was perfect.

The shot from across the meadow hit the dice in midair. They exploded into a crescendo of light.

And as the dust cleared there were several wizards standing in front of us. Some were old, some were new. It took most of the evening, but they finally got the better of the evil that had enslaved them for so many years. I did my best to stay out of the way.

I did make breakfast in the morning. It’s not an easy feeding that many happy, hungry wizards with the supplies we had, but I made due. As I gathered the dishes to wash I noticed, in the middle of it all, was a new shiny black dice with white pips sitting on the table.

I did my best to not think about it.

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