Sunday, March 5, 2017

exercise #10: sci-fi

note to self - stop writing in cliches!!

This isn't really a full story. Or a short one either. Just a way to get my mind off the fact I'm starting a full-time job tomorrow (!!!)

How many times this cycle had she checked the post? Probably a few hundred times, trying to continually bump it up the queue, hoping someone would give it a glance. That was the problem since the beginning - too much noise, not enough signal.

She sighed and swiped away her carefully formatted text, exposing the current stream of posts vying for attention. She would get a notification once her post had dropped below the 1000th position, reminding her to aggressively push back to the top with view-bots and post-bouncers. It wasn't exactly legal to set up such a program, but they hadn't found her yet - her post frequency wasn't automated and still looked human.

This particular forum she was working on was one that had the most employer involvement. She scanned the posts as they flew by, looking for job postings or employer guides. Work was increasingly hard to come by - the stream of applicants increased every cycle, without a change in the number of jobs available.

[SAFE WORK FOR INTERESTED APPLICANTS - 3 YEARS REQUIRED EXPERIENCE]

[$1700 FOR A 2-DAY JOB - IF YOU DON'T HAVE A PLANETARY PASSPORT DON'T BOTHER APPLYING]

[3 3 1 2 7 8 74 9 - SOLVE CODE FOR APPLICATION]

She continued her search, trying to find that golden nugget in the river of whiny pleas for help and vapid self-promotion. Not that she was any better, of course - you had to post, or risk having your account de-ranked and cast to the Pits of Hell (an aptly named forum for the torturous employers that posted hellish jobs for the desperate).

Pulling up her own profile, she automatically incorporated the subtle changes into her story that the newest guides had recommended. It was a tedious task and there had been no measurable difference in her chances, but she did it anyway. There was nothing to lose.

PING!

A notification flashed on her screen: [RETAIL JOBS A-PLENTY! APPLY NOW FOR 10% INSTANT PAY RAISE!]. She pushed it away with disgust. Spam-bots took you off the market for a cycle or two filling out tedious applications, and then promised they would 'get back to you'. She had once wasted about five cycles waiting for a reply, anxious that if she went back to the forums, she would lose her chance. But as soon as she dived back in, another spam-bot was waiting for her anyway.

Ugh.

PING!

The notification pulled her back to the present. Her post had fallen to 1053rd place. She fired up her network of bots to help her climb the ranks again.

Back to work.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

,

exercise #9: love

"Oh uh...where were we again?"

Dana (6 years old last Thursday) looked up at her grandfather, sullenly staring at his wispy grey eyebrows. She smacked her grandfather's thigh where she was sitting, with all the strength she could muster to convey her annoyance.

"You and Grandma were hiking up the mountain, and you came across this big lion, and then this big bear attacked it and then you bopped it on the head with your walking stick and ran away...and then what?"

He chuckled, "Oh of course, the lion and the bear. How could I forget?

"Weeeell, it was still early in the afternoon, and your Grandmother wanted to get all the way to the top of the mountain before the sun set. By the way, I think it was a lioness that was stalking us - must have been tailing us up the mountain for the better part of a morning. And that bear must have been 4 metres high!" He waved his hands ferociously (but carefully, of course) above her, demonstrating how fierce the bear was, and how big his paws were. After a few moments of terrorizing his grandchild with playful tickling, he continued.

"We still had such a far walk to go, and I complained a lot (though I'd just bopped a bear on the head!), just like you do when you're tired and you don't want to walk to the shops. Your Grandmother absolutely hated me that day! I kept complaining and complaining - 'How long til we get thereeee?', 'I'm tired', 'I'm hungry' and 'Let's go back!'. I wanted nothing to do with that summit. That fight with the bear had taken a lot of my energy - and there was much more fun things to do down the mountain anyway. It was a dumb mountain and, as I told you yesterday, it was a long hike. I wanted to go home as soon as we'd seen those dangerous beasts.

"But she wouldn't let me - 'Thomas,' she said. 'When I want something done, it will be done, and -

"- if you try to be more happy, it'll be more fun!" Dana interjected excitedly. Thomas laughed at her imitation.

"Exactly. She hasn't changed in 40 years! Always harping on with that damn phrase, she was. I'll never know where she picked that silly thing up.

"But when we got there, it looked brilliant, absolutely radiant! The sun was just about to drop below the horizon, the wind was refreshing; the view was absolutely spectacular! We stayed up there and watched the beautiful sunset and then-

- and then she turned to him, with her big, round, brown eyes and whispered to him the four words he had long wanted to say himself. He stared, surprised and dumbstruck, as she had just pre-empted what he had planned at the bottom of the mountain for them. It was just like her, to anticipate his every move, and beat him so soundly at it. It was what he loved about her. It wasn't just her hair, or her eyes, or her style. It was how she could persuade him that up was down, the way she curled that little tuft of hair as she ate, her pursuit of beauty in everything he did, and the annoying way he would never, ever be able to beat her at planning. The only thing he would ever be able to organize better than her were his vows, and that was because she was in charge of literally everything else. His vow was a promise, a dedication, a binding oath of what their lives would be in the future, and what he would do to bring it about (hers would be rushed, but still beautiful). He squeezed her hand, and thanked the heavens that this ray of sunshine sent down to him would love him with all of her heart and illuminate the dark places within him. He trembled as he spoke, knowing of the amazing life they were going to share...

"Yes." - 

- and then we ran all the way back down, being chased by all the lions and tigers and bears on the mountain. I think your Grandmother even hit one on the nose on the way down!" He tapped her on the nose as he said this. The doorbell rang, and Dana rushed to the door.

"Mum! Dad! Grandpa told me about how he hit a bear and then ran away from all these LIONS!"

"Oh really? He must be very brave, huh?" her dad said. Dana nodded.

"One day I'll have to go up there and see them for myself!"

"Well then, you have to practice being brave now and go get dressed so we can go out!" her dad chased her up the stairs and she yelped "No!" to the prods and pokes as she clambered up.

"Hey, Dad," Thomas' daughter approached him, speaking softly. "Let's go help Mum."

Thomas gruffly nodded and took up his walking stick.

She'd need all the help he could give.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

,

exercise #8: loss

drip....drip...drip...

Must be the damned tap again, she thought to herself. It had been loose ever since they'd moved in, and she had tried fruitlessly to tighten it herself many times over since the incident. Each time, it would stop for a moment, just enough so that you would walk away, go about your day, and faintly hope that it wasn't going to drip again...

...but when she got home, it would be dripping - incessantly, painfully.

How hard can it be to fix a tap? she fumed, while staring up at her yellowing, moldy ceiling. The plumbers and landlord had been in a couple of times, making vague airs about the price of the work, and the tiring labour that would be involved. Complaint after complaint - it was nearly worse than the faucet itself! It's not that she couldn't fix it, it's just that, well...all this sort of stuff used to be sorted out by hi-

No, she shook her head angrily, restlessly churning the sheets like milk in her bed. None of that now.

She settled slowly on to her side, enveloped in the warmth of the doona wrapped around her. Staring unfocused out the window, she saw as life just...happened outside. The clouds reflected her apathy by lazily carving out their paths in the sky. Barks of laughter rang out in the distance; people enjoying the splendor of life. After a while, a small, striped tabby cat stalked along the fence of her backyard and stopped right in view of her window. It stared at her in the snobbish, elitist way that cats can stare, and then haughtily walked off. She sighed.

Getting disrespected by a damn cat, she thought ruefully. Am I that-

drip...drip...drip...

It never used to bother her. The sound used to be just one of the comfortable creaks of the house, assuring her that everything was running soundly (except, of course, for the faucet). But now...it was just a reminder of what used to be them. Every so often, she would halfheartedly try and do what he used to, striking a certain part of the wall behind the bed so that the faucet would temporarily tighten (somehow, he was able to defy the laws of physics). It never worked for her, even after the countless times being taught the method, and he'd always tease her about it. When she became sullen about the faucet, he would switch gears, joking and cajoling her back to a sunnier state of mind.

And now, she thought with sorrow, he couldn't be here to do that any more.

No more whispering about the shapes of clouds, or the stories they concocted. No more sharing the stupid laughter and chases in forests, beaches, mountains, anywhere. No more Tuesday nights shit-talking the latest movie, stretched out on the couch together. No more wandering the city streets, comfortable in each others presence, whether speaking or silent.

No more fixing the faucet.

The tears came silently.

drip...drip...drip...

Thursday, July 2, 2015

,

exercise #7: exposition, longer form

This is an attempt to write longer paragraphs that include long descriptions or more vivid exposition of a certain scene. Also, I plan to try and make writing more fun for myself by creating more comedic metaphors :D Time will tell how good I'll be at it!

-----

What do you see when you close your eyes, when the darkness slowly overtakes you, its tendrils snaking over your world-weary body? How do you feel when you sink deeper into somnolent trance, sinking like you had a gift of concrete boots?

Perhaps...your life now, eh? But better? I'm sure you would be familiar at the sights and sounds of your present life - the solemn boredom, the quiet desperations (or maybe not so quiet), the brash confidence you attempt to project daily - no-one's buying it, you know. They'd sooner buy an old boot from a leper than listen to more of what you try to sell of yourself. But if you squint, perhaps they are happily smiling at your every word, adoring of your every action, hung up on every gesture you make. Such a fun way to live, ain't it? Maybe one day, you could be the knight that slays the dragon for some fair maiden. She'll fall into your arms gratefully, maybe give you a peck on the cheek, stroke your hair, tend to your injuries. The populace will fawn over you and shower you with adoration. But no, that is not the life you get to lead. You're just the drunk in the tavern, slurring your arrogant proclamations, fighting ferocious fictions from your own mind.

Or maybe...you'll go on an adventure! Yes! You escape from the dull life you're leading, taken away by an exotic, mysterious lady and her precocious, hairy wolf. Her hair will be black as ink, her skin as pale as ice. She grasps your arm, pulls you out, and...you're floating? Wait, why are you in a spacecraft? Are those aliens? They look an awful lot like octopi...but with bird-like facial features. Oh, it doesn't matter, you'll be FLYING out of the galaxy! Look, a flash of red - must have just passed Mars. The rings of Saturn, shining beautifully oustide your window; who knew that dust could looks so marvelous? And as you reach out for Jupiter, it seems so much more...furry than you expected. Like petting an owl, or reaching for a child's first art project - it's never what you expect it to be.

Whatever it is, I hope it gives you some escape from your world, from the tired world and dull routines of life.

But for now, I'm tired.

Maybe I should go to sleep.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Recently borrowed a book called 'Wizards of Odd', a short story collection of humorous fantasy and science-fiction. Trying my hand at humour in stories!

I'm not very good at it...It's quite rough here. Oh well! I shall practice more :)

---

"Hello, I'd like to buy a pencil, please," said Henry.

Henry was a normal-looking man, albeit on the more portly side of the scale, hair styled in the most fashionable cut of the time. His hairdresser had looked at the cutout that Henry had been clutching desperately, and thanked the gods that his prices were high enough that he could afford to deal with this betrayal of fashion. Only, the hairstyle didn't work with his face shape, which was as round as a clock face, and ticked people off just as much. So, maybe not as normal-looking as you would think.

The shopkeeper stared at this abomination looming in front of him, with this messy shock of hair and small patches of pink all down his body where the shirt had given up trying to hide the horror below. His pants were no better, though instead of pink patches there were more conventional patches of off-colour fabric and patterns that would make a cat regurgitate the past week's food just to compare colours.

"They're over there on the aisle," the shopkeeper croaked gruffly. "Go get 'em yourself - they're in the Stationery section."

Henry gaped at him. He looked around the shop, as if looking for a lost bird, and then swung his head ponderously back towards the shopkeeper. He moved his lips silently, as if possessed by some 18th-century spirit needing to be exorcised. Henry looked up, and addressed his next statement to a space 10 cm above the shopkeepers head.

"But this whole shop is stationary," he replied warily. "Is this a joke? I just want a pencil."

"...Are you pulling my leg, mate?" the shopkeeper countered. "The section marked 'Stationary', you dim-wit." Sensing some discomfort, Henry lumbered in the vague direction that the shopkeeper had pointed his gnarled, lead-powdered finger. The shopkeeper's angry muttering was the enigmatic soundtrack to his journey for a pencil.

The section marked 'Stationery' was, as expected, immobile. Henry was faced with an absolute sea of colours and shapes and sizes that boggled the mind. There were blue ones and red ones and black ones and yellow ones, ones with horses, some with levers and cogs, and one with a curiously shaped...nub on the end of it. Where were the normal, tried and true, honest to god, sturdy 2B pencils?! Was that one made of metal? Was this one a zebra? What the hell is the nub on the end of that one?

Faced with utter uncertainty, Henry decided that it might be easier to ask for more information. He slowly shambled back to the shopkeeper, who sighed (almost comically) at the return of the fool.

"What now?"

"Er...I want to buy a pencil."

"Yeah, I told ya, the 'Stationery' section over there," the shopkeeper jabbed his finger violently at the same place as before. "And yeah, it ain't moving neither!"

Henry stared at the finger, noting the whorls and arches that were put in stark relief due to the muted grey paintings of graphite on the shopkeepers skin. His mind was running at the speed of a sloth, but even he knew there was trouble ahead.

"There's...too many choices though," he said imploringly. He then tried to use what could only be described as his...'puppy dog' look, though really, the end result was horrifying. He put his head down, looked up, widened his eyes, cocked his head at an angle and tried to pout like a puppy. This was (from his research) the way to look cuter and hopefully get people to pity you. He'd tried to turn his ear inside out once while practicing, but that had been far too painful, and the nice man who'd come from the Hospital had given him a good talking to. Unfortunately, in reality, the final result was the same as a wet fish, in both aesthetic and emotional effect.

Bewildered, the shopkeeper asked, "What do you need it for mate?"

"I want to write a letter," Henry tried to right his face to a more respectable expression, aiming for 'stern', but instead landing on 'bug-eyed'

"Which one?" the shopkeeper asked spitefully.

"Errr...what?," Henry paused, thinking of his next words. "I want to write a letter to my dog."

The shopkeeper, who had, in his opinion, been as patient as a monk in a monastery (which was, coincidentally, where he wanted to transport himself to right now), decided to stop dealing with this buffoon. Exasperated, he threw his half-used, worn down pencil at Henry, who deftly caught it, surprinsing both himself and the shopkeeper.

"There, now get out of my shop!"

"But I haven't paid for it," Henry replied conscientiously.

"Just leave already!" the shopkeeper kicked at Henry, who flinched and half-ran, half-fell over towards the door. Remembering his manners, Henry called out behind himself as he left.

"Thank you!" he said cheerily.

Once outside, he proudly looked at his acquisition. Reaching into his bag, he pulled out a notebook to test the pencil. On the first page, he started to draw an 'A', when suddenly...

Crack! The pencil tip snapped instantly, causing splinters to shower the pavement.

Oh well, Henry thought to himself. I guess I need another pencil.

And then turned around to enter the shop.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

What happens to rich people? Do they still get paid more? They have to keep a richer lifestyle with richer things - and are paid more for rare experiences. Do people try and acquire weird, new experiences to keep the cycle going?

Can they stop people from being paid by NexCorp? i.e. the service industry has their trans' taken away from them, or maybe they aren't getting any 'rare' experiences due to the fact that everyone in that household has pretty much the same experiences. Or maybe their information is super cheap.

That's why couples can still get trans' - there's something unique about their experience that no-one else can share. 

NexCorp should not be the only company. Too many stories write about ONE corporation taking over, but in reality there would probably always be competition. 

 ----

"Jarald, is dinner available yet?" the young boy, Tyrand, snapped. "I've been waiting for a quarter hour for this surprise." Sarcasm roasted his every word, melting into the air between them.

"Not to worry, sir, Chef will have it done in a moment," Jarald replied, standing to attention next to the door. His fancy formalwear was a stark contrast to the modernity of the dining room. The old master had wanted to see his household run "just like the old days, my dear boy" and something about the blasted abbey somewhere downtown near the pier. Who knows what rubbish those damn nuns had put into his head.

"Are you sure?" Tyrand kicked the table leg, pouting at the clean, glossy black table. "I hate waiting."

"Now, now, sir, think of all the new gadgets you could buy with your creds!" he replied, his smile seeping into the room to try and defuse the tension. "I'll go check on it right now."

He signalled to Karyn, the nursemaid, to take over his place as he efficiently palmed the door open, leaving no trace of any sound to disturb the room. He fiddled with his trans-earpiece, depressing a small button on the device near his earlobe.

"Short Update - go:

SERVICE - quarter hour to exhaustion by T, more meditation required

RESPONSES - added sarcasm has increased tonal variety

Jarald Out. Send"

The earpiece beeped faintly as it went rushing out to Magna's servers. One of it's distributed agents set on the mansion would deliberate and transfer funds relative to the uniqueness of the data from it's own observations. After all, if a robot could do it, what was the point in rewarding the human?

Shaking these thoughts from his mind, Jarald marched down the corridor to the Chef's Lair. Old Merryn would be in for some cred-punishment if he didn't hurry up!

"Where is the- OW!" he cried as the steam slapped him in the face.

"Yeah, yeah, it's done! Take it over," Merryn's wizened, gruff old face peered out at him from fogged up spectacles. "The damn steam from cookin' it has been pissing with my stuff - couldn't get the trans uplink the whole time I was cooking! Would've been some fresher information, but at least the robo can't claim it from me because of the steam," he jabbed at the vaguely white figure in an alcove under the table. Jarald laughed.

"Oh Merryn, one day that robot may be taking over your job," he winked, grinning. Everyone knew Merryn was irreplaceable to the old master. They'd been through all the Federation changes together, and Merryn had been put in charge of experimenting with the old ways - ostensibly so that the Magna robots could learn, but mainly so that the old master could rack up his creds. The newer the food, the better.

Jarald hefted the dish and left Merryn grumbling to his trans that he had jabbed open on the bench. The dish was gold-plated and had a design of a dog fighting a dragon - the old master's sigil. He wondered what the letters around the sides meant when he heard a familiar beep.

"Service reward of 0.0005 credits," a silky female voice fed into his ear. "Possible upgrade - inject own sarcasm into replies. Expected reward 0.03 credits with multiplier. End reward."

Damn, he thought. That might be considered a breach by the old master of talking back. However, he had no time to ruminate on this as his legs had automatically taken him back to the dining room, placing the grand dish in front of Tyrand.

"Here we go! A lovely sai-fish and goat tongue, surrounded by a sea of tiger's blood," Jarald said, beaming at his charge. "Tiger's blood is the most unique item in this dish, but when coupled with goat tongue, Chef says it'll fetch at least 5 creds."

Tyrand lit up as the creation was uncovered. He poked at the food, seeing the steam rise in whorls and arcs above his head, a fingerprint of the food itself. Slowly, he took a bite of each item, closing his eyes and feeling his food, just like Jarald had taught him. Jarald himself salivated at the design of the dish - he might even get a whole cred just by looking at Merryn's creation. He was startled out of his reverie by a sharp click from Tyrand, who had opened his trans terminal and was furiously typing. The lengthy description grew as Tyrand popped more and more of the rare flavour into his mouth.

The tapping slowed as the plate finished. Jarald cleared the table, and fed the utensils into the robo installed next to the wall. With a smooth motion, the table top rose up, folding out the utensils for the next meal. Jarald expertly flipped these into their correct positions as a familiar beep sounded for Tyrand's terminal. Craning his neck, he could just make out the words on the screen.

"[Reward - 7.8 credits! A fine description of a combination of rare, unique flavours. Magna thanks you for your contribution. End reward]"

Tyrand turned to Jarald, face flushed.

"Jarald, that was awesome! Tell Merryn it was an absolutely disgusting dish. I loved it!" He turned back to his trans, surfing the myriad experiences he had yet to try. Jarald bowed, lower than necessary. He was sure this would work in his favour.

"See you at dinner, sir."

Saturday, June 6, 2015

,

nugget #1: Bureau of Information

Ideas that come to me. Nuggets, unformed flavours to be fleshed out.
Notes -  name the AI, name the Log, name the trans, name the Credits, name the local authority


Lauren ran to the door to see off her husband.

'Goodbye darling!' she cried. His eyes lit up, and planted a soppy wet kiss on her lips.

'I miss you already,' Gordon whispered softly to her. He jerked open the door, a blast of icy cold air invading the household temporarily, and then stepped out. The invaders, devoid of reinforcements, promptly surrendered to the warmth.

Lauren's face fell, sapped of energy. She jabbed the terminal next to the door.

'Log open - record:

'KISS- type: wet, flavour: breakfast, response: affection.

'WARMTH - open door led to a sharp 2% drop in temperature' - she consulted the numbers appearing next to the window - 'over a 15 second period. Equilibrium restored within 30 seconds.

'PERSONAL NOTES - it is tiring to continue loving him. But it seems to have the desired effect.

'End Log. Transmit.'

Her message was sent to the local authority. As it would not take long to return, she shambled to the kitchen and switched the food processor to 'breakfast'. She waited at the sink for the kettle to fill. A soft 'ting' registered on the screen they had just installed next to the stove.

'[EMOTIONAL RESPONSES REGISTERED]' it flashed. '[0.24 CREDITS EARNED]'

She sighed. It was better than their average 0.2. She wondered what Gordon had earned...

---

Flustered, Gordon pulled out his trans to record the trip, as he sat down in his allocated seat on the pod-train. All around him, others were doing the same thing, generating the trans-bubble to shield their communications with the local authority.

'Transmission open - start:

'WEATHER - sharp, bitter. The wind chill seemed to pull down the intended temperature.

'FOOD - breakfast was 2 seconds early. Digestion was suboptimal.

'EXERCISE - invigorating, but unprepared. Fitness increase possibly required. Path to pod-train was relatively smooth - no obstacles to complain of.

'SIGHTS - nothing new to report. The Jones' were still late, as usual - I could see the lights were still on.

'PERSONAL NOTES - relationship with Lauren seems to be...better.

'End Log. Save, submit.'

He took a moment to watch the greenery flash by him. In the olden days, greenery were called 'trees', and there were probably 'flowers' somewhere in those 'forests'. He had seen pictures of them in his job. But now the greenery was either the banners of NexCorp, or the gaudy, plasticky decorations that adorned reflective buildings, cheap imitations of 'nature'. His trans beeped, taking him out of his reverie.

'[RESPONSE REGISTERED. REWARD EARNED - 0.75 CREDITS]' the words flashed in his bubble.

'[FITNESS REQUEST PROCESSED - DEDUCTION OF 0.2 CREDITS FOR UPGRADE]'

Surprised, he plugged his trans into the chair's arm-slot for the upgrade. Lauren must have done well if he was able to get a fitness increase on such short notice! Or had he finally got bumped up the list somehow? And the 0.2 credits for an upgrade was a steal - they would usually be at least 0.5! He tapped his trans as it was downloading.

'Message open - go:

'Praise be to NexVac, the Almighty Authority!'

'End Message. Submit.'

A small vibration registered that the message had been sent. Generosity would be rewarded, he remembered from the countless slogans plastered on street corners. But Gratitude is required.

He sat back in his trans-bubble, waiting for the download to finish. With a brief gesture, he turned on Bach, the concerto's harmonious melodies blocking out cacophony around him.

The pod-train came to a stop. Another day at work had begun.