Archive for June, 2013

30 Stories in 30 Days #13 – “Memories”

Posted in 30 Stories in 30 Days, humor, Stories with tags , , , on June 30, 2013 by oneoveralpha

MEMORIES

Taking a sip of her coffee, Laura said, “So, tell me something about yourself.”

Ed shrugged and took a sip of his coffee.  “What do you want to know?”

“I don’t know.” Laura looked around the coffee shop and saw a flier for a “Christmas in July” sale from some local business.  “What was the most memorable thing you ever got for Christmas as a kid?”

Ed looked at her for a few seconds, then began laughing.

“What’s so funny?”

“The most memorable thing I ever got was a severed foot.  In my stocking.”

Laura took another sip of coffee before slowly saying, “Okay.”

“My dad is a big practical joker.  When I was eight, I woke up Christmas morning and went downstairs.  The rule was us kids could go through our stockings, but we weren’t allowed to touch our presents or wake our parents.  My brother and sister had stockings full of candy and little toys, but mine seemed rather empty.  I dumped it out to find a plastic severed foot; a leftover from Halloween.  It was maybe half-an-hour later that my dad got up.  I met him at the bottom of the stairs and showed him the foot.  He just said I must have been really bad for Santa to leave a severed foot in my stocking.  He then laughed and went and got me one of my presents, which was a box with all the stuff that would have been in my stocking.”

With a smile, Laura asked, “Was your several foot the best toy you ever got?”

“Not really.  I forgot about it until my older brother Tom – who’s as big a joker as my dad – tied a string around it and hung on the tree as a decoration.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah.  Mom wasn’t too happy, but between dad and Tom I think she knew fighting it would be a lost cause.  For years afterward it was one of our tree decorations.  I think it was the first year that Joan – Tom’s now wife – spent with us that it didn’t make it up.  But it’s probably still in one of the decorations boxes up in the attic.”

“Sounds like you have an interesting family.”

“That’s a nicer way to put it.  I usually just say my family’s nuts.”

Laura had just taken a sip of coffee and almost had it come out of her nose.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah.  You just caught me off guard.”

Ed smiled.  “So, what was the most memorable gift you got as a kid?”

Laura thought for a moment.  “I don’t know.  I don’t think Barbies compare to a severed foot.”

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30 Stories in 30 Days #12 – “Woggy”

Posted in 30 Stories in 30 Days, Stories, Writing with tags , , , on June 24, 2013 by oneoveralpha

WOGGY

 

“Are things that bad?”

Anne swiveled her chair around to see her husband Tom leaning against the door frame.  “What?” she asked.

“I’ve been standing here for a couple minutes watching you stare blankly at your laptop.”

Anne glanced at her laptop and said, “It’s mocking me.”

With a drawn out, “Okay,” Tom stepped behind her and put his hands on her shoulders.  “How is your laptop mocking you?”

“It’s sitting there, ready to be typed on, but I can’t think of where to start.”

“The beginning,” Tom suggested.

Anne jabbed back with her elbow, but missed Tom’s leg.  “Funny.”

Tom rubbed her shoulders and asked, “What’s the real problem?”

Anne put her hands to her temples.  “There are so many words flying around in my head.  They all blend together into a soup.  It’s like driving through a fog.”

“A word fog?  A wog?”

Anne groaned.

Tom chuckled.  “Just as long as it’s not a … swog.  A smoky, word, fog.” Running his fingers through her hair he explained, “That would mean you’re burning some brain cells.”

Shaking her head, Anne said, “Perhaps I should take a break from trying to write and call a divorce lawyer.”

Tom kissed the top of her head.  “Are puns cause for a divorce?”

“They should be.”

“And with me out of your life, you can be all alone … with your mocking laptop?”

Anne just sighed.

“Come on.  Get up.”

After several prods, Anne slowly stood.  “Why?”

“You’re not going to do anything here until the wog lifts.  You need to get out into cleaner air if for no other reason than to help your mood.”

“What’s wrong with my mood?”

“It’s moody.”

Anne stared at Tom for a few seconds, then grabbed a pen and wrote something on a pad of paper she kept on her desk.  She then showed him that she had written “Puns = divorce!”

Tom smiled.  “Hey, you wrote something.”

30 Stories in 30 Days #11 – “Directions”

Posted in 30 Stories in 30 Days, Stories with tags , , , , on June 22, 2013 by oneoveralpha

DIRECTIONS

Something woke Peter.  He glanced around his darkened bedroom, but couldn’t see anything.  Then he heard what sounded like someone bumping into his kitchen table, followed by a muffled curse.

Peter rolled out of bed and landed in a crouch.  He reached under his bed and found the baseball bat he kept there.

Standing, he rushed to his bedroom door.  He eased it open and looked out into his living room dimly lit by a streetlight.  At first, he didn’t see anything, but then a tall man wearing a silvery uniform stepped out from his kitchen.

Peter slammed the door open and flicked on the light switch.  Stepping into the room he pointed the bat at the man and yelled, “Who the hell are you?”

The man squinted in the light.  “I’m dreadfully sorry,” he said.  “I didn’t mean to intrude.  Would you happen to know how to get to the Battle of Hastings from here?”

Peter blinked a few times.  “What?”

“Hmmm.” The man looked at his left hand and holographic images of red spheres and cubes appeared above it.  The man studied them for a few seconds then touched one of the cubes with his right forefinger.  The figures turned green, and the man said, “Ah.  I should have turned left at Alpha Centauri.”

He nodded to Peter and said, “I’m sorry to have inconvenienced you.  It won’t happen again.” He then vanished with a fairly loud pop.

Peter dropped his bat and slumped down onto the floor.  He sat there for several minutes before he got up and checked out his apartment.  He was alone and the door and windows were still locked.  But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t fall back asleep that night.

30 Stories in 30 Days #10 – “For Want of a Pen”

Posted in 30 Stories in 30 Days, Stories, Writing with tags , , , on June 20, 2013 by oneoveralpha

FOR WANT OF A PEN

“David, open up!” Sarah pounded on his door a few more times, then paused to listen.  When she didn’t hear anything, she pounded some more.

A door opening behind her made her turn around.  Across the hall an older woman was peaking around her door.  “Is there a problem?” she asked.

“Hi, I’m Sarah Walsh, David’s sister.  I haven’t heard from him for several days, and I’m starting to get a bit worried.”

“He mentioned he had a sister,” the woman said.

“That would be me.” Sarah pointed at David’s door.  “You wouldn’t happen to know if he gave anyone a spare key?”

The woman looked Sarah up and down, then nodded.  “He gave me one.  I’ll go get it.” She closed the door.

Sarah waited.  And waited.  She was about to knock on the woman’s door when it opened.  “Sorry,” the woman said as she held the key out.  “It took me a moment to find it.”

Sarah took the key and said, “Thank you.” She went back and unlocked David’s door.  “David?” she called when she opened the door.

When she saw what was in his apartment, she cried, “David!” He was slumped against the wall; his skin grey and his eyes blank.  Sarah ran to him, but she didn’t need to touch his cold skin to know he was dead.  She took him into her arms and cried.

At some point, she looked up and saw the neighbor staring at the wall.  Sarah turned and saw that it was covered in words, written in blood.

 

Four months later

Sarah knocked on the door.

For ten or fifteen seconds, there was the sound of someone moving around inside.  Finally, the door opened a crack and an older woman looked out.  “Yes?”

Sarah smiled.  “Hi.  I don’t know if you remember me.  I’m Sarah Walsh, my brother lived across the hall.”

“Of course.  How are you my dear?”

“I’m doing okay.  Thanks.  I just wanted to make sure you got this.” Sarah held out a thin book to the woman.

The woman took it and read the title, “For Want of a Pen.”

“It’s a collection of David’s poems.  I self-published them for him.  If his pen hadn’t run out of ink, maybe he wouldn’t have finished them in blood.”

30 Stories in 30 Days #09 – “Heartbeat of the Night”

Posted in 30 Stories in 30 Days, Stories with tags , , on June 16, 2013 by oneoveralpha

HEARTBEAT OF THE NIGHT

“Daddy?”

A small hand on his shoulder woke Mike.  He half-opened his eyes and said, “Hmm?”

His seven year old daughter Cindy whispered, “I hear something outside.”

This brought Mike fully awake.  He sat up in his sleeping bag and fully opened his eyes.  It didn’t matter because it was pitch black and he couldn’t see through the plastic tent side anyway.

He expected to hear something scratching, or perhaps snuffling, but when he stopped to listen he heard – as if from a great distance – a low, short thrum.  This was followed by another, and another in a slow, steady rhythm.  His half-awake, overactive brain at first thought of it as the heartbeat of the sleeping mountain.  Or perhaps it was calling the creatures of the forest together to march off to war.

The image of a marching drumbeat, along with the fact that he now heard another noise mixed in with the thrumming, allowed Mike to identify the sound.

He laid back down and explained, “Somebody’s playing music Cindy.  Very loud music, very far away.” He unzipped his sleeping bag and she crawled inside, snuggling up against him.

Once he zipped his bag up again, he wrapped his arms around her on the outside of the bag.  Kissing her forehead, he told her, “It’s nothing to worry about.  Go back to sleep.”

Of course, now that he knew it was there, it was impossible for Mike to not hear the distant music.  Eventually, the song ended, and another with a faster tempo began.

After a few songs, Mike managed to fall asleep again.  But strange creatures of the night marched through his dreams.

30 Stories in 30 Days #08 – “A Not so Different Future”

Posted in 30 Stories in 30 Days, humor, Stories with tags , , , , , , , on June 12, 2013 by oneoveralpha

A NOT SO DIFFERENT FUTURE

Opening the control panel, Melanie exclaimed, “What a mess.” She put her hand on her husband John’s shoulder and said, “Just sit right there.”

John – watching robotic gladiators pummeling each other – replied with a grunt.

A few minutes later, Melanie returned with a can of compressed air and a duster.  She gave a quick spurt from the can and a small cloud of dust filled the air.  “Oh my.” With each successive spurt, the clouds became smaller, until the dust was gone.

She set the can down and with the duster brushed away what dust had fallen on John’s shoulders.  She closed the control panel in his skull and said, “You know, if you used your brain more often, it wouldn’t get so dusty.”

John grunted in reply.

“Is that all you can do?  Grunt?”

John turned his head to her and shrugged.  He then went back to watching the gladiators.

Shaking her head, Melanie said, “I don’t know why I even bother.”

30 Stories in 30 Days #07 – “The Buzzing of Flies”

Posted in 30 Stories in 30 Days, Stories with tags , , , , , on June 11, 2013 by oneoveralpha

THE BUZZING OF FLIES

March 11, 2015

There was a low murmur in the nearly full conference room as the reporters took their seats.  On the stage a couple of people were checking the three microphones at the table.  Without fanfare, they were joined by three middle aged people.

The larger group talked and laughed a bit, but then the three took their seats, and the others left.  The reporters quieted down.
On the far left of the table, a woman leaned forward and clicked on her microphone.  “Welcome,” she said.  “For those who don’t know, I am Doctor Alice Hechter, Director of the Weaver Science Council, and I’ll be leading this announcement on the latest information about 2015CE26.  To my left is Doctor Colin McCrum of the Space Telescope Science Institute, who will have some details to share with us later.”

The man in the middle waved to the crowd and said, “Hello.”

“And on the other end,” Alice continued, “is David Hoffman, Deputy Administrator of NASA.”

David leaned forward and said, “Administrator Laslett was scheduled to be here, but is apparently suffering from a bad case of food poisoning.”

“Well, I’m sure she’s watching,” Alice said.  She waved to the camera and added, “Know that we all wish you a speedy recovery.”

Alice took a sip of water and began.  “Today we will be announcing the latest discoveries about 2015CE26, which has been called the Alien Asteroid.  I’d like to start with some of the backstory.  Most of this has already been widely reported, but I think it best to make sure everyone is on the same page.

“The object 2015CE26 was discovered on February 10th by the CASP, or Comet and Asteroid Search Project run by West Chester University, and partially funded by the Weaver Science Council.  As part of the project, they take several photos of a section of the night sky and put them into a computer, which compares the images looking for anything that moves.

“There are millions of asteroids out there – most of which we haven’t detected yet – and hundreds are discovered by such programs each week.  But 2015CE26 quickly stood out as something interesting.  The first indication of its uniqueness was that it was relatively bright.  Most small object in the outer solar system are dark.  Billions of years of cosmic radiation alters the chemistry of the surface layers leaving them as dark as charcoal.  Given that assumption, for 2015CE26 to be as bright as it was, it needed to be very large.  The initial estimates had it at nearly 600 kilometers in diameter, which would put it just larger than the largest asteroid, 2 Pallas.

“But more importantly, the second most interesting thing about 2015CE26 was its orbit.  Or technically, its lack of one.  The initial orbit calculated for the object showed that it was not in orbit around the sun; meaning, it originated in another star system and was just passing through ours.

“As you all know, the reports of an ‘Alien Asteroid’ sent the internet ablaze.” Alice stopped for a moment before continuing.  “I’m both happy and sorry to say that what we will now reveal will make the last few weeks look tame.”

Most of the reporters sat up straight after she said that.

“There are two additional factors of the uniqueness of 2015CE26 that we will now reveal.  The first surprise were the results of the spectrographic analysis, which was like no known object.  Doctor McCrum will be going into further detail about that later.  But more importantly, was the fact that the original orbital calculation for 2015CE26 wasn’t correct.  All the astronomers who were pointing their telescopes where it was predicted to be, were having trouble finding it.  At first, it was assumed that there was some outgassing from the object which was altering its trajectory and thus throwing off our calculations.  But given that the object was near the orbit of Saturn, the sunlight reaching it should not have been enough to warm the object to cause outgassing.

“It was then realized, that the reason the projected location was wrong was because it had been assumed that 2015CE26 was traveling at a constant velocity.  If you assumed it was decelerating, then the projected path matched what was actually observed.”

The reporters had been silent, but now several began muttering and texts began being sent.

“2015CE26 is slowing down,” Alice stated.  “If the deceleration continues, it will come to a stop somewhere within the Asteroid Belt.  To our knowledge, there is no natural manner for this to happen.  Therefore, we have come to the conclusion that 2015CE26 is not just an asteroid from another star system, but some sort of craft from another star system.”

As one, the reporters jumped up and began shouting questions.

April 22, 2016

“We are now ten minutes away from Alpha’s closest pass with the alien ship.” The newscaster smiled and nodded to the panel of scientists, including Alice.  “Actually, as you have all explained – repeatedly – the closest pass happened three minutes ago.  But the radio signals of that pass need almost thirteen minutes to reach Earth.”

“You’re started to catch on Jim,” Alice said with a smile.

Jim shrugged.  “Well, when you hang around scientists for a year, you do manage to pick a few things up through osmosis.”

Some of the scientists were glued to their computer screens, but the ones who heard his comment chuckled.

“But enough about my science education,” Jim continued.  “What do the latest images show?”

The image changed from the news studio to one showing two objects on a black background.  One was a gray, irregular triangle.  This was a previously unnamed asteroid now referred to as Star Port.  Next to it was a smaller, silvery cylinder: the alien ship.  It had been over a year since humans had detected the ship entering the solar system.  It had decelerated and stopped next to the asteroid.  Scientists theorized that the aliens were mining material from the asteroid for repairs or resupply.  The scientists didn’t know for sure, because despite countless messages beamed toward the ship on all conceivable frequencies, no signal had ever been detected in reply.

If the aliens didn’t want to return our calls, we would have to go visit them.  And while thousands of people volunteered for a – possibly – one-way trip to meet the aliens, there was no spacecraft ready to launch them.

Thus, a fleet of robotic probes – rushed through construction – were launched to make contact.  Since nobody could agree to what to call our first robotic ambassador – Magellan, Gagarin, Armstrong, Peace, Mir, Hello, Terra, Explorer, Voyager, Eagle, Prometheus, Contact, etc., etc., etc. – the new United Nation Commission for Alien Contact with Alice as Chairwoman just named it Alpha so everyone could get to work on the other thousand things that needed to be done.

Alpha was little more than a camera and a transmitter.  It was designed for the sole purpose of flying by the ship at a distance of about one hundred miles, taking as many photos as it could, and letting the aliens know we were curious about them.

Assuming the aliens didn’t just blow up Alpha, Beta would make an even closer flyby in fifteen days.  Then in three months, Gamma would arrive.  But instead of flying by, it would slow down and fly in tandem with the ship.  All would beam messages to the ship at their closest approach, hoping to finally get an answer.

Now, just minutes before the images of Alpha’s flyby reached Earth, everyone was pouring over the images that the probe had already sent back.  “The latest estimate,” Alice explained, “is that the ship is cylindrical with a diameter of 580 meters and a length of 1420 meters.  There are also hints,” here red circles appeared around faint points between the asteroid and ship, “of what may be shuttlecraft.  We’ll have to see what the closer images show.  If they are shuttlecraft, that would advance the theory that the ship stopped to make repairs or to take on supplies.”

A new image appeared and the asteroid and ship were just noticeably bigger.

“Everything still looks good?” Jim asked.

“Yes,” Alice replied.  After a moment, she added, “I may be mistaken, but it looks as if there is … something at the center of the cylinder.  It may be markings, or an opening.  To a shuttle bay, perhaps.”

As the minutes passed, and more and more images came in, the detail of the asteroid and cylinder grew.  Eventually, the probe was too close to see both in one view, and the camera switched to focus on the ship.  The something Alice spotted turned out to be an opening.  And given that the smaller, cube like ships looked to be flying in and out of it, it was most likely the opening to a shuttle bay.

One image looked almost directly into the bay, but at first glance nothing could be made out because the inside was in shadow.  “With image enhancing,” Alice said, “we may be able to see some detail of the ship’s interior.  But that will have to wait.  The very next image will be from closest approach, which is estimated at 101 miles.  Right after it sends us that image, Alpha will send its greeting to the ship.”

The next image came in, but not much of the ship could be seen because Alpha was now looking at the shadowed side.  What could be seen was just a smooth, silvery surface with no hint of markings or protrusions.

“Telemetry shows that the message has been sent,” Alice explained.  “If they didn’t notice the probe flying towards them, they now know we’re there.”

For the next hour, Alpha sent back more images of the ship and asteroid, but didn’t report on any signal from the ship.

May 9, 2016

The room hushed as Alice walked on to the stage and up to the podium.  She cleared her throat and began.  “Three days ago it was reported that the alien ship had left the asteroid called Star Port.  This came from observations made by telescopes here on Earth and in orbit, as well as images returned by Beta, which flew by last week.  The space probe Gamma is ten weeks away from going into orbit around Star Port.  It does not have the fuel capability to pursue the alien ship.  Therefore, it will go into orbit as planned so we may finally figure out what they were mining.

“The probes Delta and Epsilon were put into Safe Mode to preserve fuel and the launch of Zeta was put on hold.  If the ship was just moving to another asteroid, it was hoped these craft would be able to join it there.

“But further observations indicate the ship is not moving to another asteroid.  Nor is it heading towards Earth.  It appears that the ship is accelerating in order to leave the solar system.  We will track it for as long as we can, but we do not have any probes capable of following it.”

Alice was silent for a few seconds, then said, “Why they were here, we may never know.  Their arrival was the biggest thing to ever happen to humanity.  But to them, our actions with our probes may just have been as the buzzing of flies is to us.”

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