The Interview – Friday Fictioneers

I am a bit late to this week’s gathering of the Friday Fictioneers, a community of writers who contribute a 100-word story based on a photo prompt.

Thanks to our gracious host Rochelle Wisoff-Fields and to Shaktiki Sharma for this week’s cool photo.

Ahem…I went over just a tad. I had a hard time ending it….

PHOTO PROMPT © Shaktiki Sharma

Sci-Fi (106 words)

The Interview

Addison fell into the hot seat.

Across from her, Gemma sat with her feet and knees touching. She held no resume. None was requested and Addison hadn’t sent one at such short notice.

Basking in a glow of stillness, Gemma resembled a touched photograph, except for her lashes which moved like the wings of a butterfly in slow-motion flight.

Addison formed words to questions she didn’t hear. Voices echoed. Something about data analysis.

“I studied philosophy,” Addison stated.

“How is it that you know you’re here, Addison?”

Addison jolted upright. “I don’t.” But then she knew that she did. Her insides hurt, raked and combed through.

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For more stories from the talented Fictioneers, click here.

A Light Caress – Friday Fictioneers

Thanks to Rochelle for hosting and for a wonderful year of leading this group. Thank you, thank you!!

Thanks also to Roger Bultot for contributing his photo for this week’s prompt. I just love diner stories.

A little sci-fi/romance this week. Sure, why not? Hope you can make sense of this.

And good news…this just happens to be my 500th post!!

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Photo Prompt © Roger Bultot

(Sci-Fi/Romance: 103 words)

A Light Caress

His head felt foggy. Patrons shoveled food in their mouths and didn’t look up from their plates.

“More coffee?” The waitress was already tipping her pot.

Jake nudged the cup toward her and dropped a dollar on the counter.

She grabbed it instantly. He’d never seen a waitress so desperate for a single dollar bill, only she look displeased by the whole thing.

“What did I do?”

“This don’t work here. Your scan?” The waitress turned over his arm. “You need to go.”

Jake wandered the barren street, thinking only of the waitress and her light caress. He had to see her again.

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A bit of a Charlie Brown tree this year (long story), but still shining bright with a little love and some lights. 🙂

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Wishing everyone safe and happy holidays!!

Road Fever – Friday Fictioneers

It’s time for Friday Fictioneers, hosted by our fairy blog mother Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week’s photo was provided by Al Forbes. Thanks, Al.

All are welcome to join in. The challenge is to write a 100-word story based on the photo. Give it a try.

I learned from a news story that driverless cars are not so far away. They say 10 years or less. Are you ready?

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PHOTO PROMPT – © Al Forbes

(100 words)

Road Fever

The Otto-Moto Driverless Car was Kevin’s solution for his sanity. He could sleep, eat, read, text, whatever the hell he wanted. Simply stress-free. No more anger. Not to mention, no more annoying searches for lost keys.

His driver Otto was more than willing to please. Driven by voice command, Otto was keenly aware, if not downright clairvoyant. When Kevin was near, the doors unlocked.

“Drive to work,” Kevin said. Otto ignored him. “Hey, wrong turn. Where are you going?”

“None of your business,” replied Otto. He proceeded to ram another driverless car off the road. “Punk. Learn how to drive.”

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For more stories from the Fictioneers, click here.

Check out my post about Rochelle’s novel Please Say Kaddish for Me. You’ll love this book! If you haven’t already read it, you really should. I know you’ll enjoy it.

Aside

Genre: Apocalyptic (103 words)

Dancing Orbs

The observatories lined the hillside like a strand of shining bulbs on a Christmas tree. Their orchestral mirrors probed the skies to deliver bewildering images beyond explanation. Certainly they must have answers about the icy dust covering the planet.

The two dotted figures slogged through the snow, dragging their icicle brick feet up the mountain. They plunged ahead, transfixed by the glow of dancing orbs.

They were greeted with smiles and then doors slammed behind them.

“Our volunteers have arrived,” a man whisked them down a hallway.

“Wait. No.”

“Congratulations. You’ve been selected to save the human race.”

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This prompt was for the Friday Fictioneers weekly challenge, where a group of writers across the globe write a 100-word story based on a photo.

I apologize for my lateness, but I will admit that this prompt really stumped me. I gave it a go anyway! I’m not that pleased with my story, but here it is.

All are welcome to participate. If you are interested, join in!

Thank you to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting and to Doug MacIlroy for this amazing photo.

Click here for more stories from the Fictioneers.

Dancing Orbs – Friday Fictioneers

confessional.com


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She turned her wheel looking at me in my rearview mirror. What did she expect me to do? Who made eye contact for Christ’s sake? Doesn’t eye contact mean anything to anyone any more?

Bitch. My hands shook while I poured my coffee. Fucking bitch. I burnt my toast. My stomach grumbled. Fucking, self-serving bitch. Did she expect me to worship the ground she walked on? Or drove on rather?

As I thought it, I knew it was ridiculous.

It happened at the line of cars at the school drop off. Morning, people in a hurry to get to their next destination, shuffling kids around. I tried to let her go in front of me. She was in such a hurry, but then she got so pissed. We called each other names into our rear-view mirrors.

I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror. She’s probably forgotten all about it my now.

I thumbed through my mail. Abigail Tribly. I saw my name appear on bill after bill. No one called me Abigail, not even my parents. It was always Abby. Whenever I saw my name printed on a piece of mail, I thought of Abigail as the wrong addressee. Just who is Abigail? Could she let this whole drop off disaster go? How could I have lost such control in such a short amount of time?

If Doreen were here, she would make me feel better, the only decent person I could trust and who didn’t judge. Doreen Henderson, she’d tell me to buck up, thicken my skin, and drop it. If only I could hear it from her lips. I called her. No answer, so I left a voicemail.

An hour later, this woman’s face kept flashing before my eyes, even when I closed them and tried to meditate. Especially when I tried to meditate. I couldn’t seem to get away from her. She had that scowl, fuming at me, revealing the most uncomfortable expressions. Oh, if she could only see herself, she would stop making those expressions instantly, on the spot. Did she really think she was such a badass for yelling at me in a minivan packed full of kids. Way to set a good example for our youth; our promise for a brighter tomorrow.

My chest tightened when I saw her face. I exhaled deeply. Again and again. There she still was. Then I marveled and lambasted myself for wasting all my time on her; time this precious resource so easily thrown away. I could have confessed it to “The Confessional” by now and been done with it.

Doreen had told me all about it at her house over a glass of wine after the kids were in bed. The Confessional was an anonymous website where anyone could go to confess. It’s just like it sounds. So long as you’re at least 18 years old and have a credit card, and a pair of standard device glasses handy, you could sign up and participate. That’s the thing though. You must participate. You can’t sign up unless you agree to confess. Doreen made that clear. Besides, everyone was doing it these days.

“Like who?” I asked, dipping my pita chip in humus. Doreen was the kind of person who provided snacks with the wine. A decent person, as I said.

“I don’t know. A lot of people do it. Just people you wouldn’t expect. My boss did it.”

“Oh,” I was genuinely surprised she had known this intimate detail about her boss, even though I knew she was infatuated with him. Entirely innocent, of course. “Well…did you get any bits?”

Doreen’s eyes turned glassy, and she was absolutely still. She surveyed the room like it was new and unfamiliar.

“It’s not like anyone talks about it. It’s kind of secret. That’s kind of the point.” She poured more wine.

“What about murderers? Lurkers?”

“That’s not allowed,” Doreen said firmly. “That’s against the ‘Rules of Engagement.’”

“Is that like the Ten Commandments?” I teased.

Doreen pursed her lips. “Kind of.” She was deadly serious.

“So you’ve done it,” I said, surprised.

She didn’t respond with a verbal reply, but I saw it in her eyes as she greedily returned her wine glass to her lips. She’d done it, and more than once as I had suspected.

If she did it, why couldn’t I? Just one time.

I typed in “confessional.com” to a sea of happy, uplifted faces, posing by sailboats, riding bikes, and walking dogs. A family joined at a picnic. Everyone smiling, all ethnicities represented. It wasn’t the self-punishing, sinister, dark-alley confessional I had imagined. This was happiness, like fall colors or an ice cream cone enjoyed on the seashore with salt spray in your hair. A joy inflated with ear-to-ear grins. Something was unsettling, but Doreen had seemed to place so much value in it.

A yellow arrow indicated the starting place. One click and a video screen appeared. The presenter was a good-looking man, forties, wearing a business suit. He probably drank protein drinks every day, and his glowing white teeth looked like tall white shutters. If this guy accomplished nothing else in his lifetime, he would at least have this set of glossy veneers to flash for the screen.

He sat awkwardly on a stool, the background portrait studio tan. He spoke:

Confess it here among friends. Lighten your outlook on life. You are not alone. People are here, just like you, to get through a difficult time and to talk about how they’re feeling in the comfort of their own home. There’s no need to hunt down a therapist. If you’re here, I’m betting you have something to get off your chest.

A montage of more happy people and then a few testimonials from participants.

You’re going to love the Confessional. People here just want to share and help.

Since I’ve signed up, I rest easy at night.

Okay, I was ready. I wanted to just get it over with. I tried to stop the video and got flashing text: “It is highly recommended you watch this video. Opting out of the video requires you to sign a waiver to participate.”

Fine, I clicked to continue. A woman appeared onscreen now, Mr. Protein Drink’s counterpart, equally lovely, African-American, in a tan business suit.

This isn’t a gossip colony or a place to spread rumors like other websites. This is about you. Don’t worry. Your privacy is guaranteed.

More rambling about requirements of confessing, support groups, setting up a profile. I almost forgot my confessional altogether. The urgency was almost all but lost until the screen blinked, “Are you ready to confess?”

Had I not talked to Doreen about it, honestly I just as easily could have closed the site. I had work to do, deadlines, but I had already invested twenty minutes watching a video. I pressed on, as my confession loomed; but more than anything, I wanted to experience it.

Clicking the button brought on a whole new subset of conditions. I picked an avatar from a selection of homely looking cartoonish male and female characters. I could select from male or female and then dress them up with glasses, or ribbons, a tie, or a mustache. If desired, I could further accessorize with a dark cloak, much like a monk. A character was also capable of expressing emotion, indicated by emoticons on the screen: sad, happy, angry, fearful, or joyful. Just the five emotions.

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After I positioned the glasses device on my head and pushed the green “Start” button, I was inside “The Confessional.” It appeared as a maze of rooms with dark hallways poorly lit by glowing candles; more for effect than function. The tunnels and stone walls resembled a castle. We were all knights and princesses now? I thought of role-playing games and wondered if there was a different setting. Instantly, I felt claustrophobic, surrounded by columns and dark cloaks milling about outside the rooms.

A bubble of text flashed onscreen dictating my next move. “You may now choose a room.”

I vaguely recall this got a mention in the instructional video, although it was a bit fuzzy. I hadn’t expected so many bodies.

As if feeling my unease, a new set of instructions surfaced asking me to rate my confession on a scale of 1 to 5: one, being soft and five, severe. What was soft? Severe? What about a middle ground? A reference would be helpful, and then I felt ridiculous for playing along with this obvious scam. Once again, I was on the ledge of jumping back and quietly shutting my computer down. Something told me it wasn’t going to be that simple anyway. They had all my information.

I wandered into a random room, not knowing the assigned category of soft to severe. It didn’t help that every time I thought of soft, I wanted to lay down on a pillow. A rambunctious fellow in a hooded cloak and red tie was in my face gesturing some kind of sign language, and I wanted to crouch in a corner; I saw others had flocked to the corner like wallflowers at a dance, their hoods in the shadows.

A red light glowed on my screen and within seconds a queue of texts formed on a sidebar. Another item I had glossed over in the video was that apparently I could write my confession, which would appear as text; I could have it spoken for me, or speak it myself. Undoubtedly, users chose to have their voices disguised, as this was also an option. A male or female voice was a choice, similar to the avatar selection.

Momentarily, the thought occurred to me that I could have a male avatar and select a female voice, not that anyone would really know. More blinking lights than a ride at Disneyland flickered on-screen. I laid back in my chair and watched. Showtime.

More text streamed and then one-by-one, a series of confessions:

I pissed on my sister’s plant.

I masturbated out in the parking lot.

I’m in love with my boss. I flirted with him in a meeting. Now everybody knows.

No doubt a sexual theme permeated this room. The “time remaining” ticked away and I clicked in another room worried about supply of minutes. In this new room, I noticed a change in mood with the voices more edgy and tentative.

I stole money from my mom again for a fix. She thinks it was for a doctor’s bill.

I stole underwear and pajamas. It’s not my fault if they’re not paying attention.

My confession was like a tickle fight on the playground and dwarfed in comparison to these maniacs. I wanted to run for the door, except there was no door. I was tempted to disband the eyewear and then a blinking button appeared as if a personal message, “Are you ready to confess?”

I slipped into yet another room with fewer participants, and for this reason, felt more calm. With less confessions, the time in between seemed more relaxed. There wasn’t this big jump to reveal your innermost secret. It appeared as if these confessions were a bit more drawn out, more conversational, more personal is how I would describe them. Here avatars were sitting on a couch as if in therapy. I listened in:

He doesn’t have to cry about it. It’s not my fault if the team lost the game. It’s just a goddamn game. Whoever thought people would let it rule their lives?

And then a few activated voices, most likely disguised but wavering.

I’m tired of my life. I want a happy Facebook life. I’m almost forty and got nothing to show for it.

This seemed more of a life crisis than admittance of any wrongdoing. I paused to look on the screen for more clues, still familiarizing myself with the dashboard.

I want to sleep with my therapist. What should I do? I need to be in therapy because of therapy. Therapy is never going to work.

This was juicy soap opera fodder and my mind referenced people in my own inner circle. Did I know anyone going to therapy? Was it someone I knew? Probably not, since these people could conceivably be from anywhere. On the other side of the world perhaps…or were they?

Another warning button flashed and then a voice articulated, “Confess or prepare to pay a penalty. Time remaining: two minutes.”

I clicked to the grey queue area and, within seconds, it was my turn. After all that listening in, I was completely unprepared to throw my confession into the ring.

I clicked for the voice option since my hands were shaking too much to type; my confession felt stupid and pointless. What did I want? Validation for confessing? Support for being a dumbass? I almost wanted to make up something else, something better, but my ability to form coherent thoughts was questionable. I could do nothing but go with my gut. What was the saying: if you told the truth you don’t have to remember the lie.

Here goes nothing.

I selected “Male” to generate my words as I spoke into the microphone on my computer. There was a slight delay in projecting my words to the group of avatars still posed on the couch, which gave me the sensation of speaking into a cavernous room, the voice echoing. It was unexpected and threw me off. I couldn’t even think straight, but the words left my lips:

I flipped off this woman in the parking lot at my kid’s school this morning. She got so pissed. We yelled at each other in our rear-view mirrors and I…I..I

my voice echoed….

I lost it. I called her names.

That was it? All this trouble and this was all I could muster? I continued, even though it looked like my turn was over.

I wanted to wring her neck.

I improvised that last remark, although certainly I had felt that way. Had I not? A group of five or six avatars nodded, and I felt reassured by their bobbing heads. No one expressed silly emoticons.

I clicked for feedback when the session was over, buying additional time as needed. The few that remained said things like everyone has their best intentions at drop off in the morning and that it could happen to anyone. It really could, too. I felt my face ease in a more relaxed position. I may have even been smiling.

And then there was this exchange:

I was a bitch this morning, too. I don’t even know what happened. I wasn’t being myself at all.

A pink heart landed in my avatar’s hand that said “hugs.” Could this hug-thrower actually be my accused? The woman I wished to inflict bodily harm upon only hours ago, and mentally bashed with insults? Could be or might as well be. Wasn’t it enough? Could it be enough?

How I could feel liberated by a bunch of pixellated images identified as mere numbers was beyond reason. It had felt like the most transparent exchange I had encountered in some time. A camaraderie of the spirit, of being human, of acceptance.

I felt cleansed, ready to take on the day.

I felt something else, too. I recognized it right away.

I wanted to do it again.

photo credits: Anglepoise Apple iMac and Windows via photopin (license)Karim Grib (Le Lab) via photopin (license)

We Are Not Alone – Friday Fictioneers

The gelatinous goo coated plants, trees, and rocks, its gentle beginnings unnoticed. “It’s nature’s way,” was a constant refrain heard in villages.

A scientist pounded his fists on the counter, “It’s done it again. Every time.” He spoke into his recorder, “It’s a ghastly, vile, revolting, parasitic pile of snot,” he paused, “capable of burning through equipment.”

His assistant laughed, “That’s your scientific analysis? That’s winning.”

The malfunctioning of communication systems prompted finger-pointing. Climbing buildings, oozing over rooftops, and dripping through ceilings, the slime devoured the global economy.

“Where are the little green men?” a man shook in the corner.

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Genre: Sci-Fi (100 words)

Photo Copyright: Madison Woods

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Click here for more stories from the Fictioneers and here if you’d like to join in on this challenge.

Thanks to the lovely Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting and to Madison Woods for this delightful photo. I hope you weren’t eating or anything like that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow-up on Tessa

I’d like to thank everyone who read my Tessa story, or any part of it. To all who liked, commented, or read it, even in secret, I’m grateful for every read. Special thanks to Carrie, Michelle, Jim, and Ralph who read every entry. You guys deserve a prize. I wish I had t-shirts or coffee mugs, or something! When I write my book (notice I said when, not if!), you will receive a free copy with my autograph. That’s if you want it!

I also want to extend thanks to my frequent readers: Sandee, J.D., Marina, Antonio, Dianne, Dawn, La La, Roy, Tom, Melanie, Frank, Virginia, Jackie, Trent, JWo, Guapo, Nan, Mark, David Dixon, David Stewert, Stephen, Chris, Russell, Ileana, Jen, JE Lattimer, and Mihran. I want to especially thank Mihran for the reblogs! I’m sorry if I’ve forgotten anyone. My eyes went a little buggy looking at the buttons, trying to figure this out. Just know that if you read it, I’m truly grateful. It was a long story, written over a great length of time, and I understand how difficult it is to read a continuing story on the blogs. So, yes, yes, I appreciate it, from the bottom of my heart.

Thanks for your comments, too. If I’ve thought about something over and over in my head, it’s difficult to know how it will read. What seems obvious to me may not make any sense to you. And anytime you are pulled out of story, even due to some small detail, well, that needs to get fixed. So, I appreciate all your thoughts.

Now for a bit of background on my story. Initially, my inspiration was a Fedora Man moment in true life, although he didn’t wear a fedora. It so happened I was at Ulta one day, when a man, who said he worked for Channel, whisked me back to a counter with moisturizers and proceeded to rub by fingers with lotions and serums. Yes! It happened. It was surreal.

A couple of entries into my story, I came across this article on Mashable, where it talks about this new field called Beauty Technology. The idea is that basic accessories, like fingernails, eyelashes and makeup are built in with electronic components, called wearable tech. And, it’s disguised. It goes on to describe it, as such:

 

While wearing the accessories, people can accomplish everyday actions like opening doors or flipping through TV channels by blinking their eyes or snapping their fingers.

 

Here’s a video demonstration. This is worth watching if only for the headpiece alone! Understand, the woman here is controlling her headpiece by blinking her eyes.

Here, another video from NewScientist, shows a few more tricks:

 

Wild, huh? Fascinating stuff. So, of course, I stretched it a bit to suggest this wearable tech could be weaponized. Remi/Ronald makes a failed attempt. I don’t want to see this ever happen, although I could definitely see it in a James Bond film, couldn’t you?

My next plan for Tessa is to give my story a name. I think I’m going to go with “Lash.” I hope that doesn’t give the story away. I have yet to read my story from beginning to end. I’m a little afraid, but when I do, and I’m sure it will get a round of edits.

After that, I plan to put it on WattPad. Plus, I get to put a cool cover on it! That’s all the reason to do it right there. So, a cleaner version will be out there, probably in chapter form. I’ll let you know when it is out there. Has anyone else used WattPad? Any thoughts or tips?

Lastly, I may serialize the characters of Tessa, Joelle, and James. I think of it as Chick Lit meets Sci-Fi, or should I say, actual technology that is really here but we don’t know it. I think it’s an untapped market, a new genre, perhaps. I think a lot of technology will be like this. It will be under our noses, and then it will be everywhere. Take camera drones, for example. Did you know that you could have a camera drone, too, and it doesn’t cost that much. Imagine a bunch of camera drones flying around in the sky.

Mostly, I wanted to explore the friendship between Tessa and Joelle, and life of a twenty-something woman in the twenty-first century. I think it’s a lot of different from what I experienced in my young adult life. It’s also meant to be humorous and light, and above all, I hope entertaining.

Thanks again for all your support.

Photo credit: Dicky Ma