Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Red Elevators

So I've been writing a novel. I haven't been making terribly amazing progress, sadly. I've barely cracked 11,000 words. But cut me a break, ok?! It's been a crazy couple of days. Anyway... even if I'm not going to make 50,000 words, I AM making a novel I'm enjoying. I thought I'd post a little tidbit here. Fair warning, this is mostly unedited. This is from chapter five...

"Red Elevators Excerpt"

Penny had fallen in love with her fuzzy gray blanket. She was wearing it now like a robe, her face hidden in shadow by an impromptu hood. I had forgone such comforts myself, leaving my sweater in my room. It was in dire need of a wash. I had scavenged for clothes, but— wouldn’t you know it, everything I found had four armholes. Luckily Thea had come to the rescue, offering me one of her father’s shirts. It was far too big, but it was better than nothing, at least until I could get my own things clean. 

The moment we exposed the ship to this new world’s atmosphere, a wave of powerful fragrance wafted into the room. The exotic smell of the flowers was overwhelming, almost sickening. Penny grabbed my hand as we walked down the ramp, her slender fingers cool and dry. Thea glanced at us but made no move to do the same. 

The ground was unexpectedly rough. It was uneven and hard, as though we were walking over rock or cement. And yet the flowers grew voraciously, covering every living surface. Most of them had large pink petals that were so fat the plants could only drape themselves across the ground. The stamens, the thin wire-like things inside the bud, stuck out on many of them. The only other kind of flower was small and ivory, with a cup-shaped body. They grew on thin, lacy vines, often intertwined with the pink flowers. 

When I looked back, I realized that the Clunker had cracked through the upper layer of the earth. That explained our rough landing. The ground here seemed to be heaps of jagged stone, with the vegetation growing in whatever cracks the rock might afford. 

The horizon was all pink nonsense. I couldn’t see anything beyond the haze of pollen and petals that flittered through the air. There might have been tall shadows in the distance, but I wasn’t quite sure. Behind me, I could hear the ship popping and clinking and groaning as it settled and the engine pods cooled. 

Gently releasing Penny’s hand, I knelt and plucked one of the pink flowers. A rosy haze puffed into my face. I snorted and snuffled, falling onto my backside in surprise. Penny laughed aloud, a sudden and sharp sound.  I realized it was the first time I had heard Penny laugh since the blackout. Thea too was chuckling as I stood. “Laugh it up,” I murmured, but truth be told I was glad to have been able to provide a little levity, even though I was beginning to feel strangely dizzy…

I stood a little wobbily and Penny at once grabbed my hand again. She dragged me forward, and I had to take care not to lose my footing on the uneven ground. I thought maybe Penny was dragging me toward a tall outcropping of stone just ahead. Like everything else within sight, it was overgrown with plant life. 

“Doesn’t all this strike you as strange?” Thea asked. The girl was standing very still, not far from the ramp. She seemed to be studying everything very intently. Cautiously.

I was certainly feeling strange, but I didn’t admit it. “What?” I asked.

“All of it! The flowers, the ground… something isn’t right. Don’t you remember the view from space?”

“What about it?” I asked, beginning to feel dumb. Suddenly sleeping sounded nice. 

“This whole side of the planet was like this! Very peculiar…” 

Penny wriggled her hand out of mine. I barely noticed. I seemed to have lost my ability to multitask. I focused in on Thea’s question. She had a good point. I didn’t know much about the universe, but this planet did seem odd. 

Suddenly the redhead gasped, and all the color drained from her face. “This is a cemetery.”

“What? This field?” I asked. 

She glanced at the millions of flowers surrounding us. “It’s the terraforming… they only do the bare minimum that they need to. Just enough to support life. This isn’t a world for living, just for visiting. There are dozens like them in this galaxy. You see, people bring flowers when they visit their dead, right? And those plants, they’re it, really. The only vegetation that gets consistently introduced and reintroduced enough to where it can survive.”

“What are you saying?” I asked. I swayed on my feet a little bit. I hoped she wouldn’t notice. I was having a hard time understanding her. I was hoping she wouldn’t notice that, either. 

“I’m saying,” she replied with maybe a little impatience, “this whole world is a graveyard.”

New poem

For my educational technology class, we are making a group smart board presentation on butterflies. As I was reading, I learned that some varieties only live for a few weeks. I was so struck by this, I wrote a poem about it. 

"Two Weeks to Live"

Out of the shell,
two weeks to live
Unfurl my wings, 
time slips through the sieve
Two weeks to live.

Two weeks to savor
Two weeks to dream
Two weeks to live
No time to scheme 

Can I build a kingdom?
Two weeks to live.
Can I travel the world?
Two weeks to live.
Can I have even one dream?
Two weeks to live. 
Take a lover
Lose a lover
Now I am old and withered and weak
Where did the time go
Where are my children
Two weeks to live

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Day I Will Never Forget

We all have days that we will never forget. There are some days that, either for one reason or another, become permanently lodged in our minds. I can still remember the moment I became a Christian. I remember when I first cracked a fire hydrant in fire academy, and I remember when I failed one of the final exams. I remember when I finished all three of my novels. I remember where I was when 9/11 happened. I even remember when I beat my first Zelda game.

One such memory is the day we found my dog Isabella. We had been on vacation in Missouri to visit my grandparents, and we were on our way back home. I had to pee and we were in the middle of nowhere, so a stop by the side of the road became necessary. I soon found myself exploring. We had parked by a huge drainage ditch. The hill leading up to the road was rather steep, and at least four feet high with weeds. At the bottom there was a little cement pathway for water. As I was walking, I heard a rustling and saw a red flash. I immediately thought "fox!" and decided to quickly scramble back to the car just in case it was dangerous. As I got back inside though, we all turned back to see a tiny puppy straggle out of the weeds. She was skin and bones, half starved and covered in ticks. The poor thing had been abandoned.

Needless to say, she found a home with us. For nearly thirteen years she was my best friend, my walking companion, my roommate. She slept by my bed nearly every night. A week ago she began to have trouble breathing. A trip to the veterinarian revealed essentially the worst news possible: an advanced case of terminal lung cancer and pneumonia. She was suffering terribly and had a mere week left to live.

Five days later, today, and I couldn't get her to take her medicine. Couldn't even convince her to get up. Despite my best efforts, she also would not eat. In a last resort (after steak, Chipotle, and a breakfast burrito), I even made her eggs. When she wouldn't touch them, and turned her face away, I am ashamed to say I got so frustrated and upset I punched a wall. I was out of ideas. Isabella tried to climb the stairs and only made it two steps before she fell. When she looked up at me, sprawled on the ground, so sad and so resigned, I knew it was over. After a conference with my parents, I had to make a trip to the vet alone. I think my dad would have come, but he was at work in the mountains.

That walk into the animal hosptial was one of the hardest I have ever had to make. I couldn't help crying as I guided my poor, listless dog inside. I cried again as I waited in the exam room while they prepared everything. They sedated her first. It was the first time in a while her breathing had not been painfully labored. She drifted off in my arms, laying her head on my lap. Then the next needle came, the one that took her life away. When it was done, I had to ease her head back. I kept expecting her to move. When I looked at her eyes, I expected them to move, too. It is so strange and absurd to hold someone when there is no life in them anymore.

Though I miss Isabella terribly, I know that she is out there somewhere, perfectly fine. I cannot explain how I know, and you are welcome to scoff if you must, but I know. I am not saying I think, or I'm guessing, or maybe. I know. Perhaps it is a secret privilege of those who have held someone as they left the world. Regardless, where I used to have just a little room for doubt in my mind about the existence of an afterlife, there is now none whatsoever. But that is neither here nor there. I write this post to honor the memory of my dearly departed Isabella. Goodbye my friend, and thank you for looking out for me all these years. Until we meet again.

Today was a day I will never forget.

The first thing my mom would say is that there is
junk in the background of this photograph
but I like it so I had to take the risk. 

This is only photo I could find of both of us together.
I don't look very happy... I guess I was bored. The
animal hospital we are at in this particular
 photograph was not very good to us.