Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The High Schooler’s Unabridged Guide to Survival

Oh god this is incredibly old. It’s a letter I wrote at the end of my senior year for the incoming freshmen (as an assignment.) Figured I’d post it for gits and shiggles.

——-

The High Schooler’s Unabridged Guide to Survival:
Word Out and Heads Up to All You Crazy Students

Introduction
In life, you will conquer many enemies. You will ride many waves, and you will encounter many obstacles. You will meet many mornings, afternoons, evenings, and nights when you want to rip your hair out and scream your injustices to the world. High school, however, does not have to be one of those times. In fact, high school can be short-lived, uneventful, static, and boring. But then, what fun would that be? Let’s be real; no one is perfect, and everyone is a little wild in their own quiet or not-so-quiet way. What I’m about to bestow upon you, dear reader, is a complete, comprehensive, FREE Guide to a Not-As-Painful-As-It-Has-to-Be High School “Career”.

Have Friends in High Places


It’s a good idea to make friends with the administrators, so when you get into trouble, they’ll be on your side. Now, I’m not telling you that it’s ok to go out and do bad things and try to get away with it. It’s just that they tell you to “behave and you won’t run into any trouble.” However, the administrators who tell you “good guys always come out on top” are obviously new to the system and haven’t figured out how the real world works. There are times when some sadistic turn of fate will come your way no matter how wonderful a person you may be, and in these times of dire need, it’s always a good thing to have friends in high places.

I highly recommend getting to know the deans, the social worker, guidance councilors (all of them), the principal, and Mr. Sansone in that order.

The deans are the ones you get forked off to if you screw up. They’ll handle all of the disciplinary actions. Work to see if you can get to know them on a nearly first name basis, and I mean in a good way. Get them to recognize you as a good-doer through earning academic awards, becoming head of a club, and winning trophies for some random competition you may or may not have cared about.

Next you should get to know your school social worker. Social workers are people who are under-paid to be nice and helpful to you. The school social worker has influence within the school and county offices. If you have problems in school, with friends, or at home, the school social worker will always be there to help you.

Then you should get to know your guidance councilors. First and foremost, get to know your “personal” guidance councilor. They’re extremely busy people, and you will never ever get anything done in life if they don’t like you or don’t know you exist. I am personally known as ‘the girl who never gets her paper work in’, but hey, I have a name and that’s good enough recognition. By the way, they’re under-paid too.

Also, the principal is another important person to get to know. I highly suggest you do not get known as the person who placed his car on top of the third-story building as a senior prank. When you see Mr. Duffy in the hallway, say hello to him. This is the person who is allowed to say ‘yes’. He is the perfect person to know when you need an “ok” to work on special projects during class time or get funding for a club or class activity.

And last, but certainly not least, know Mr. Sansone. Mr. Sansone is the person who coordinates all of the senior events, and where this may or may not seem like a long time from now, it comes a lot faster than you think. I would have to say that seniors fear Mr. Sansone. He can be rather crabbish towards you if you walk into his classroom and ask a question about activities…. He also controls the parking permits for the school. Mr. Sansone is a very powerful person, and if you want to secure your social future at Charlotte High School, you must be his friend. Being kind to people pays off in the long run, never forget.

Know the Future of America
Believe it or not, that kid that’s sitting behind you picking his nose in world history class is actually the future president. The people you meet in high school do not disappear after you graduate. The people that you’re friends with now may become the helping hand you need in your career, and that kid that you turned down at prom with one finger up on each hand - he’ll be your boss.


It’s very important to remember these people’s names. I am ashamed to say that in my tenth grade year, I had no idea what the name was of the girl who sat next to me in second hour geometry class. Names are an extremely important tool to someone who wants to be a success in high school and in life. Names are how one human being identifies himself from another human being. They carry a certain value that cannot be matched by any amount of apology. All of those creepy yet powerful people, Fredrick the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolph Hitler, Bill Clinton, they all had an amazing talent for recalling names.

If you have trouble with remembering names, I’ll give you a bit of advice. This is a little trick that I learned from my dad. When you meet someone new, write down their name and some basic information about them. This information could be written down on the computer or in a log book. Then, each time you learn something new about them (like a phone number, address, what color underwear they wore last Tuesday) add it to your log. Also, each time you have a significant encounter with this person, write that down as well, and then the next time this person randomly calls you on the phone, you’ll know exactly who you’re dealing with. Just… don’t try to look like a stalker…or a creep. I think creeps are worse….

((*Note, this obviously was written before Facebook became a common tool.))

Record Everything
Have you ever wondered why that guy in the court house is always writing down everything everyone says and does? The answer is simple. Whoever is in charge wants to be able to recall anything anyone said at any one time so that he or she can hold it against whomever it is that said it. The lesson is to record everything.

I wish as a freshman I had known how valuable journals could be. I kept a casual online blog throughout my entire four years in high school, and now I can go back to the very beginning and read how melodramatic and slap-happy I used to be. Now, I can go back to the beginning and read about adventures with friends, about fights I had been in, about people I used to like and dislike. Now, I can go back and read about the people I’ve lost. I can read about friends that have died, friends that I’ve helped, people I’ve touched. A journal, or any sort of recording of your life, is the most rewarding effort that could ever be put forth in high school. It doesn’t matter if you write once a day or once a month. As long as there is something there for you to look back upon, you can see how far you really have come.

You grow up in high school. It’s an interesting thing, growing up. Four years from now, you won’t know that you’ve changed at all. You won’t realize that you were ever anywhere near immature. It would be a shame if you never knew yourself the way other people know you. Journals help you discover what you’ve actually done, where you’ve been, and where you’ll go in the future. Don’t let life pass you by without leaving its mark behind.

Learn How to Fight
One of the most important things in high school is fighting. You may not agree with me. I know I wouldn’t agree with myself if I hadn’t been there already. There are two forms of fighting: safe fighting and unsafe fighting. Unsafe fighting is when you get into a verbal or physical argument with someone, and you get into trouble for it. Anybody in the entire world can fight unsafely- as a matter of fact, they do. The key in high school is learning how to “safe fight”, which is actually a top-secret six-step formula of how to get away with anything. This formula can be taken literally or can be applied to any approach to life.

First, the enemy has to land the first blow. Second, you walk away. Third, they chase you. Fourth, they tackle you. Fifth, you claim you were frightened. Sixth, kick their butt.

At first this may seem like a stupid, weak option. In most cases, an argument will not escalate beyond the second step, thereby leaving both parties peeved and somewhat disappointed. However, in the event the situation does escalate beyond step two, you will agree with the formula when you get your sweet victory, and you get away with it.

Conclusion
There will be times when your life in high school could be rightfully described as a twisted freak accident. It is just important to remember that records, connections, and good communication are the three key ingredients to success. Some people will tell you that high school is worthless, and others will tell you it’s one of the best times of your life. I’m going to tell you one thing: it’s an experience. Of course, I’m just some stupid, faceless senior that thinks she knows what she’s talking about. You would be right, dear reader. High school for you will be like all other life experiences; you’ll figure it out eventually.

See You on the Other Side.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Your favorite writing project/universe that you’ve worked with.

Oh my gosh, my favorite changes depending on whatever story I’m working on at the time!

For the sake of this question, I’ll respond with this. My “favorite” universe I wrote in would have to be the one for Raise Holy Hex. This is my favorite universe because it’s the first time my friend and I really poured extensive amounts of research into world-building.

We created all the different races for this world, drew maps, developed a world history, country’s history, history that affected the story, discovered political leaders, designed architecture for different parts of the world, fashion for different cultures, entire languages. We plotted major rivers, figured out political alliances, used that to figure out trade routs, discussed economies of different countries and how it affected each other. Designed technology, different methods of transportation, figured out how nature affected the cities and viceversa.

Then we added another continent. We figured out how immigration worked between the continents, figured the climate changes, resources, magic differences between the regions. We created segments of history where the continents used to be aware of each other’s existence but due to a dark ages following apocalyptic natural disaster, they lost contact with each other and slowly their history fell into legend.

And finally, we wrote one story in this world. Then fast forwarded a few years and wrote another story. Then again. And then wrote stories for side characters, created alternate histories to see what we liked better. Raise Holy Hex turned into a sandbox for our imagination and the project just kept getting bigger and bigger. I don’t think we have any other project with world-building on such a grand scale.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Neither Whisper Nor Echo

It’s true, my relationship with Av was purely professional. I had certain talents in the social arena, and Av had certain talents in…other, less tasteful arenas. I won’t get into the details on how we met, but let’s just say it seemed only natural that we would work together.

We were, after all, two sides of the same coin.

There was a time when I held my composure around him. Whether out of pride, out of fear, or something in-between, we were both distinctly uncomfortable in our meetings. We needed each other, but we didn’t want each other. What would they say if a gentleman of my stature were to be found gallivanting with an individual of Av’s disposition? It was one matter to hire a thief, it was another to befriend one.

I would have to say it was the 77 First City coins that tipped the scales to our scandalous friendship. While trapezing the bars of Veilgarden, I overheard whisper that a set of coins could be found within the Museum of Mistakes. Further research (in and out of beds of one nature and another) revealed this to be quite true, and that the path into the museum would prove to be quite perilous.


“They go for a good price at the Bazaar. It may be worth your time.” At that time, any mention of a good penny was enough to capture Av’s attention.

Our relationship was monetary, after-all. I remember watching Av scratch at his chin (her chin? His? I’ve never seen a spot of stubble, at the least) and look upward in consideration. If Av refused my offer, I would be down thirty coins and up one very particularly vengeful monkey.

His massive shoulders shrugged. “Awright.” A man of few words, but always the correct ones. I expelled a tense breath, but a fraction too soon. Spotting my silent celebration, he added, “screw me and I rip you limb from limb, aight?”

And I knew he would.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

How do you come up with character names?

It varies, generally depending on how serious I am about the story. If I’m expecting that the story will be short or it might not hold my interest for long, the characters are the first interesting names that come to my mind (or more often, my friend’s mind: “I need a boy’s name!” “Johnathan!” “Thanks!”)

For stories that I have a feeling that are going to hang around for a while, I like to go to babynames.com and surf through meanings. Before I name a character I ask myself what his/her ethnicity is (or where the family line came from) so that I can shoot for something that fits well.

I have a fondness for nicknames. Usually I like names that are long and can be shortened to a nice single syllable. That’s likely because almost everyone in my circle of friends and family had short names. “Mom.” “Dad.” “Jack.” “Ross.” So the tendency caries over to my characters. “Clement” shortened to “Clem.” “Syaoran” shortened to “Sy.” and so on.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

True Story: Stimulus vs Reaction

Existential psychiatrist Victor Frankl taught that our lives have many spaces between moments of stimulation and moments of reaction when we have the power to choose a response. “In that response lies our growth and our freedom,” he said.

Saturday, Olivia was in her usual spot as goal keeper for her soccer club. It was the penultimate game of the season. She had only let two scores past her in the previous eight games and had already made a great stop on a free kick despite it being a windy day. Her team was in first place and she was looking forward to playing goal keeper for her high school whose season is about to start.

A ball was kicked at her, the wind caught it, made it “Bend like Beckham,” nothing she could do, it slipped past her into the goal. Frustrated that she missed it, she punched the goal post. Nevertheless, her team won 2-1 and also won Sunday’s game. It finished the season 9-0-1, in first place with 22 goals made vs. 3 goals against.

Of course, you know the rest of the story. Her boxing hand looked like it had a deep bruise so she had the doctor check it out when she was there for a regular appointment yesterday. He took x-rays, confirmed a broken bone, sent her to a specialist who she saw today, and she’s having surgery tomorrow morning. Likely she will be out for the whole high school season as well as the Thanksgiving club tournament where the college coaches come to check out the talent.

Never forget that you may not have the power to choose the stimuli in your life, but you do have the power to choose how you respond to it. Rarely does that choice lead to disastrous consequences like Olivia’s, but all those small choices you make every moment of every day will determine the direction of your life.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Best book-to-film adaptation

Battle Royale (2000)



For those of you who love INSANE Asian movies, you need to check this one out. Battle Royale is a story that covers the events of Japan’s high school “battle royale,” where a randomly selected class of students are placed on an island and forced to kill each other until only one remains.

It’s a lot better than Hunger Games. (It also came first.)

Is there a point to all the bloodshed? Perhaps. You’ll have to watch the movie and decide for yourself. The underlying moral of the story comes across better in the book, but this movie does such an excellent job of capturing all the entertaining parts of the book that I might suggest just watching the movie.

Strange for me to say that, but oh well. I do think that the book ends slightly differently than the movie (I’d have to watch it again) but I remember that both were satisfying, so you can pick your poison on this one.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Golden Oak

Golden Oak by Jill Hackett

At the edge of the world, there is only crashing waves. The frothy ocean goes on into infinity until it reaches God.

At one time, man built great ships to sail into God’s Land. They left Earth for different reasons. Some for exploration, more for riches, others in search of divine pleasure, but most for their desire to see and hear the One they loved.

God’s Land gleamed as the sun, and its beauty forever blinded every mortal that entered. With no eyes to guide them, the ships fell mercy to Winds Fate and Free Will. The sailors became lost among the diamond waves of heaven, and though no physical body could experience the suffering of starvation in God’s Land, separation caused their mortal hearts to writhe.

They prayed.

God grew sad that His children’s love had blinded them. So, He created a miracle. At the edge of the world He planted a grand tree and named it “Oak.” God then took rays of sunlight and tied one to the bow of each ship. He cast the rays forward and they fell onto Earth as ribbons made of gold that wound around Oak’s trunk. God could lay these miraculous paths for His children, but now being mortal paths in the mortal world, only mortal hands could touch them. So He waited, and prayed.

They drifted. The sailors had no vision, and so incapable of seeing the golden ribbons, they began to feel that God could no longer hear their sorrow. They grew resentful of Him, and with each passing moment in the glistening waters of God’s Land, they grew darker.

The ships began to weigh with the bitterness of their hearts. It became difficult for even Winds Fate and Free Will to move them. Water spilled onto the deck and washed around the worn feet of sailors, but their souls would not move. They were drowning.

Oak held fast to the edge of the world. The tree could not pull the ships in, but being a creation of God and a creature of Earth, it would bear the weight of all His lost children. Oak waited, and prayed.

A hand. As the ships sank and bodies drowned in the darkening waters, a single mortal reached out. For what, he did not know, but he grasped, feebly at first, as if giving a last farewell to the Earth he longed for and the God that had abandoned him. Golden cloth swirled in the current between those sorrowful fingers. It gently grazed. “At last,” it said.

The twist turned into a grip, of surprise and then of hope. The sailor’s spirit lifted and his body strengthened. He pulled. His might alone was not enough to raise a ship, but the man’s face broke surface. He breathed sweet air as if for the first time, and with it he cried, “Reach out! You have no need to see; reach out!”

On faith, hands sprang from the water like young sprouts, unraveling long tendrils at their ends in search of what they did not know was there to find. The ribbon flowed about their arms, and the sailors grasped. The ribbons grew taut.

They heaved and they hoed with all their resolve. Soon, the great ships began to rise from the sea, pouring gleaming waterfalls from every surface. They pulled, and they pulled, and together they could tread undulating deep through infinity until they reached their home…

Sailors no longer voyage to God’s Land, but they pass their story through generations. Oak still stands at the edge of the world, looking over the endless ocean beyond. Strangely, though every sailor returned to their home, several golden ribbons are still dutifully wound about Oak’s trunk. Their ends are adrift in the ocean, carried by the currents of Winds Fate and Free Will. No one knows who still lingers in the waters of God’s Land, but the sailors wait, and pray, “reach out,” until the ribbons-

-go taut.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Armadillo meat…?

My computer died, so I have to use my absent co-worker’s desk while I wait for systems to fix mine. The condition of the space was so horrifying that I took it upon myself to clean and disinfect everything in the cube. You know it’s bad when you, in all honestly, ask the question “My god, is that…is that armadillo meat?”

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Most anticipated film of 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)

Harry Potter Part 2

I think I was waiting for this movie for… over a year? I forget how long it was between the release of the Part 1 and release of Part 2, but honestly I was waiting to see the epic wizard battle on the big screen since the book was released.

Excellently done. I need to own this one- and I don’t say that very often. The whole Harry Potter series is going to go down in history as a classic, so it’s cool to think that I was there when it happened. Took them forever to get to it, though! I grew up with Harry so I know for a fact those actors were a few years over 17, haha.

Also, as a side note. Am I the only one who thinks Bellatrix has the capacity to be very good looking?

wow

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What would be a perfect dream to have tonight? Go as much into detail as you can, describing it.

Oooh the perfect dream?

I think the perfect dream would be a vist to the past. I’d like to have a DnD Friday night with all of my college friends again. Every Friday we’d meet over at JP’s house and gather around the dining room table and play DnD for hours. So much laughter, so much pizza, so many dice…

I don’t really see a need to go into detail about it though. Wouldn’t want to bore you with that, hahaha.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Delivered by Carrier Bat

My friend,

I must admit, the rooftops and docks are lonely without you, despite your incorporeal tendency even when you are present. The initiative has been taken by Maybell and myself to care for your lodgings, particularly your flock of endearing bats, while you are away. The, ah, ‘Out ta Lonch’ sign was removed as to allay suspicions of an empty and vulnerable boat.

Were you aware of my Maybell’s excavations in Spite? I became aware of her dealings after a ‘quid pro quo’ demand involving my injury. Oh, I just remembered you’d already spirited yourself away before that incident. Well, I was attacked by a lizard creature in the mushroom marshes and nearly had my leg torn off. Maybell was kind enough to care for me during my recovery, but only after I admitted the truth. I suppose claiming it was an injury inflicted by the Dutchess’s feline companions was stretching it a bit far, even for her wildly imaginative mind.

I’m writing this letter to divulge to you a concern of mine. While traveling the streets of Wolfstack one night, I stumbled upon a home with front doors wide open. The state of ease to which I could enter was alarming, and so having a curious spirit, I had to peer in.


It was horrible, dear friend, positively nightmarish. A…wolf-like creature, enormous, dark as night with glowing, terrible eyes was attacking a family. Blood had already been splashed about the floors and walls as if it were merely paint. I don’t have the heart to leave screaming children to the whims of such a beast, so I managed to beat it back, but not before it landed it’s own blow that’s marred my skin like no other scar I have previously collected.

Your bite mark from the Eater of Chains. My own is frighteningly similar…
I cannot bare to think of it much longer. Sleep has been difficult enough for me to wrest through. The more recent of my activities, and the one that you may find most interesting, is my guilty pleasure of inconveniencing the Jack-o-smiles. Since diving into the other forms of nightlife that Fallen London has to offer, I’ve developed a very acute sadistic streak involving the Jack-o-smiles. Ever since The Incident at the Men’s Club when he took it upon himself to dismember several of my esteemed colleagues and nearly myself, I’ve been struck with the desire to repay the favor.

Not by dismembering Jack-o-smiles’ colleagues (if he even has any) of course. I’ve found a much kinder way to feed my kindling flame of distaste for the creature. By saving the criminals he’s dibbed. The brilliance, I must say. Doing the public justice as well my more less-lawfully-inclined friends a favor, and simultaneously thwarting the being who has caused myself such trouble.

I’d almost consider it a sport.

Enough about me. I’ve simply missed our long silences and the rocking of your boat beneath the moonish light. Mushroom wine is best with good company. I hope that your bat has managed to deliver this letter to you without interception or suffering harm. It’s rather selfish of me to use her as a carrier pigeon, but of all the creatures of Fallen London, I suspect Oz is the most capable. She’s missed you deeply, and I hope she finds you well, friend.

Return wealthy and soon.
-The Puff

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Your first stories/characters.

My first story… Okay, I think I’ll talk about my first novel since I’ve been writing stories since the dawn of time.

My first novel-length story I started writing in 7th grade, which means that I was 12-13. It was a sci-fi story that followed a group of teenagers from an oppressed Earth-based colony who unwittingly unleash a rebellion against their oppressive militaristic government. This group of teens become icons for the rebellion, but their differing political views and social backgrounds puts them at odds with one another. The question ultimately becomes “will they unite despite their differences to end the war, or will they fall into chaos and lead the sides to mutual destruction?”

Interestingly enough, I was 13 years old when 9/11 occurred. Until now, I never thought about the correlation between my epic sci-fi war-story and 9/11, which was essentially the very first major political event of which I was ever consciously aware. Anyway, my lamely titled “Escaping the Power” was the story that started it all. Ever since that moment, I was consumed by writing.

Monday, August 15, 2011

An awful director

M. Night Shyamalan
M. Night Shyamalan

Questions like this make me feel like a horrible person, honestly. Because obviously the guy’s directed more movies than I have (which is 0. Unless you count my short film. Which would make it 1, which is still fewer than our good friend Shyamalan.)

But I got myself into this mess so now I have to get out of it by answering. So I’ve selected M. Night Shyamalan, and here’s why:

Evidence A: The Village (2004)
Evidence A: The Village

In Shyamalan’s defense, The Village was a decent movie. It was pretty much what I expected it to be going in. It didn’t wow me, but I did go with friends and I had a fun two hours in the theater. If I go to a movie and have fun while I’m there, I consider it successful. I present The Village as Evidence A, however, because this is the beginning of an eight-year landslide to train-wreck city. Most of the reviews for this movie were negative, and I can see why. If you go into it looking for the twist ending, you’ll be disappointed to find it’s obvious within the first twenty minutes.

Evidence B: Lady in the Water (2006)
Evidence B: Lady in the Water

I’m hard pressed to say which is more boring: Twilight or Lady in the Water. I suppose a redeeming quality of this movie is that it’s NOT Twilight.

Evidence C: The Happening (2008)
Evidence C: The Happening

A movie in which nothing happens.

And most importantly, I present to you…

Evidence D: The Last Airbender (2010)
Evidence D: The Last Airbender

It’s one thing to screw up your own movie. It’s another to screw up mine.

The Last Airbender is based off of this awesome cartoon. Of which I’m a huge fan. And this movie is an unforgivable slight against an exciting, well-developed, well-loved, respectable animated television series.

The Last Airbender is riddled with scenes that were obviously designed to hold kick-ass CG effects that weren’t there. The story deviates drastically (and for the worse) from the series. The races of the characters make no sense. It was anti-climatic. They repeatedly mispronounced the main character’s name. And worst of all, it gave the cartoon series a bad rep for anyone who hadn’t seen it yet.

To be honest, it’s this movie that makes me answer the question of “an awful director” with one M. Night Syamalan.

At least Appa was pretty cool.

Appa is the shit

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Welcome to American Sake

About American Sake
American SakeAmerican Sake ~ Comic (2004) by Me and Paradox Found
Lobo Wolfgang, an average American (wolf) transmute, is charged with the task of keeping the pieces of his large family together after his parent’s mysterious death. Stressful, but not so stressful as when he inherits the family business and discovers a secret that could change the lives of transmutes forever…

This story actually has an interesting story behind it that eventually leads to my interest in online graphic novels (well, visual stories in general) and the creation of OGN Studios, my first company of storyteller-visual-artists.

As all hard-core OGN fans know (all one of you, I’m sure…,) OGN Studios was born from lemons (yes, as in the sour, yellow, bulb-like things that grow on trees.) I used to say it was a long story and I wasn’t going to get into it, but here is the perfect opportunity to educate you on the origins of the OGN universe (And we said, “let there be light.” And there was. And we saw that it was good.) I will start from the beginning.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Secret Harmonic Motion

A weird collection of ideas from a series of surreal dreams I had.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Character Study: Shy, "Alone"

Stop. 

Wait.

The words echoed in Shy’s mind. Rattled against her skull bones and made the tossing at night worse.

Where are you going?

She didn’t know. She didn’t know, but she needed to get there. Her legs moved, struggled against sheets. Her arms swung and she rolled, squirmed, fought, anything as long as it was movement.

You’ll never make it alone.

Eyes snapped open.

She could see perfectly. Moonlight streamed in from the window, but it was more than just that. It was the dialation of her pupils, her sensitivity to her surroundings, the vibration in the air that told her what was there, what she saw. It was Aim’s room. Small, singular, above the city.

She shouldn’t be here.

Shy slowly sat up, pushed the wool blankets aside that made her skin itch until it turned red. Bare feet touched the thresh mat, let it crinkle as her weight settled upon it and she stood.

Where are you going?

In circles. She was going in circles. Around and around and her feet might have bled had it not been for the endurance of her skin. Sand packed itself into her lungs, weighted her breath, clinched her throat and no matter how many times she coughed, she could not get it out.

Nails scraped at the red. Where Aim felt nothing Shy felt everything. Aim might have bled but Shy could not no matter how hard she tried.

The contradiction made her laugh.

A hollow, open laugh. Airy. One that tilted her head back, grated against the sand in her chest until it began to upturn. Rise, and with it a trembling heat and volume and full body convulsions until the laughter errupted from her small frame like a volcano that had been quiet for too long.

The sand tore her throat until the sound had become high-pitched knives that sliced the air and rended it with the force of her anger.

Her body became unhinged and whiplashed outward. Claws drove into crates, thrashed until they burst against walls like firecrackers with desert supplies instead of arcing sparks. The mattress fell prey next, air became feathers which became pricks in her throat when she devoured them as sacrifice to her screams.

Glass shattered, glistening, reflective, angular, beautiful.

Shy froze.

The glass bled. A translucent red line that slipped along its edge. The window cried and Shy could only reach out with her own hands that cried as well. “I’m sorry.” she whispered, taking the bleeding shards into her hand. The sticky warmth pooled there. Pooled in her lap when she’d settled on the ground to cradle the glass that hurt so much she could feel it. “I’m sorry.” Feathers settled. “I’m sorry.”

You’ll never make it alone.

Fingers clenched and the glass clung tighter.

“I’m so sorry.”

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Character Study: Aim, "To Ambrosia"

They would need water. Even if they traveled only at morning and dusk, the afternoon heat would still shrivel them up in two day’s time. Aim ignored the worried look Shy had when she watched her. That expression seemed to make a permanent resident of itself recently. It marred a perfect beauty. “Here.” Aim tossed a wide-brimmed hat at the girl. “Put it on and never take it off.” Aim put her weight into the crowbar and snapped open another one of the large crates in her room. They’d leave in the morning. It would give them a good ten hours before anyone became suspicious of their absence. Shy held the hat, continuing to watch Aim with that same, stupid look of concern. Aim gritted her teeth and snatched the hat back from her. “Put it on, idiot.” She rammed it onto Shy’s head, perhaps a bit too harshly. “Make yourself useful. Fill the canteens.” Shy nodded, carefully picking up the sacks and slipping silently down the flight of stairs.

They would need water, Aim thought again. More water than they could carry and more water than they had containers for. Even if they could carry all the canteens, it would only last the two of them for three days, tops. Miahara was at least twelve days away.

She swallowed dryly, standing up straight for the first time since she began riffling through her supplies. Her back hurt, and her neck even more when she craned it back to curse god.

This was a suicide mission.

Eyes closed.

She’d known it was a suicide mission since the moment she told Shy they’d do it. This was a suicide mission that Shy would gladly give her life for. And Aim?-

Her breath was warm on her lips.

-Well. It would have to be.

The crowbar wheedled its way into the crate, and with an almost angry shove, it cracked open. Sand billowed as Aim kicked the top off, and she choked on it when she’d instinctively gasped.

Sitting carefully wrapped in protective plastic was the last thing Aim had expected.

The Key.

“Huh,” Aim said.

A grin slowly twisted its way across her lips. The hovercraft could carry the water. And reaching Miahara would still be seven days away, but Aim knew of someplace else she could make in three. Someplace they could stop to refill the canteens and then maybe, just maybe they could make it.

Ambrosia.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Character Study: Aim's Living Space

Aim lives in a three story building with Rocket, Fallon, and Sprigget. The first floor is The Shop. The shop always smells like grease. It’s lit with florescent lamps, a rarity in the city. There are several tables, always covered by Sprigget’s little inventions and experiments. There roof is very high, and there is a large garage door to allow large vehicles to enter and exit via the wide dirt road in front of the building. There is also a front door that leads to a small reception area, but it’s not regularly used.

They often keep the garage door closed to keep prying eyes out, but there are many vents at the top that let in breeze and streams of sunlight. It’s often very hot in the hangar since it’s hard to air condition such a large space, but they have several fans that they turn on during the day time. 

The building has electricity from the city, but it’s often shoddy, especially in recent times, so they often rely on a generator they keep in the basement. The generator collects energy from solar panels and can be used when switched on. The basement is concealed because that is where they store illegal goods. 

There is a set of old metal stairs that lead up to the second floor. Sprigget lives on the first floor in a back room that is also his lab, but on the second floor Rocket and Fallon live. There is a common area that functions as a “living room” of sorts, with an old well-loved couch and a small table that’s always covered, and also as a kitchen, with a large sink, a small ice box, a cooking stove, and plenty of cabinets to hold dried food. The floor is worn clay (it is concrete down stairs.) 

This is one of the few buildings that still have working plumbing, running water, and gas. This floor also always smells of grease, but less potent due to the higher elevation and the open windows. There is a set of three doors. One leads to a small bathroom that is very utilitarian in style. The other two lead to Rocket and Fallon’s rooms. There is a small spiral staircase made of iron and wood that leads to Aim’s room on the top floor. 

The top floor is only one room, once an attic and now Aim’s space. There are still crates in this room, remnants from before she moved in, that she uses as chairs and tables or storage place. She does not know the actual content of the boxes and is not too concerned with it, since she was told by Rocket when she first arrived that they were just junk parts and she hasn't thought of it much since.

Aim’s bed is a single mattress on the floor with a few thick wool blankets, one red, blue, and the other grey. She has a single feather-stuffed pillow. She considers her bed a luxery. Aim’s room has several small windows to let in light and fresh air. Being at the top of the house, it is usually very hot in here in the day time, so she does not spend much time in her room. However, she always opens the windows to keep it as cool as possible. She does have a set of wooden doors that open up to the second-floor roof. From this angle, she can see most of the street in either direction. She finds this high vantage point comforting, and will sometimes in the summer nights step out and sit on the rooftop and observe the quiet surroundings and listen to the wind that’s constantly moving past the buildings. 

Aim’s room is quiet at all times of the day. Often unoccupied, on the uppermost floor away from the bustle of the street and the hammering down stairs. The walls are whitewashed, but haven’t been repainted in a very long time. As a result, they tend to have a warmish yellow orange color due to the collection of sands that were carried on the wind. Aim does not leave papers or other possible flying objects in the open in her room. Aim spends time in her room to sleep, and in the mornings and evenings when it’s not overwhelmingly hot there. 

The morning is her favorite time of the day, though she often sleeps through it, because a thin amount of dew collects in the room and feels good on her skin. She does have a mirror on the wall that she uses to check herself in the morning. It hangs next to the door, at the foot of her bed so that when she sits up in the morning she’s forced to look at herself. There are also several drawings of interesting schematics drawn by Sprigget that she has collected and securely tacked to her walls. The paper is thin and delicate due to heat and wind, but she keeps them up nonetheless. 

The floor here is wood that creeks under her feet. When she paces at night, Rocket can hear her movements above him, though he hasn’t said anything about it. The ceiling is bare white with wooden beams. 

The building as a whole has a stone construction with the top two floors being constructed with packed clay walls. The ceilings are held up by wooden beams, and the doors leading to the outside are made of wood, but the doors on the inside are simply thick cloths hung from the doorway and pulled aside in the day time to allow a cross breeze filter through. The floor of the second and third floor is covered by a tight-woven straw-ish mat that is worn down where people usually walk. 

Aim has an empty crate turned on its side that operates as a nightstand and a storage area for her few personal possessions. She keeps the possessions in the crate with the opening facing her bed. The gas and plumbing doesn’t reach this floor, so she has a small oil lamp sitting on top of the crate that she can use for light at night. Her windows do have drapes but they’re never drawn, even when she’s changing clothing. Outside on the roof, she has access to an emergency escape ladder. It is made of metal, but is largely unused so it’s slightly corroded by the wind and sand. The bottom half of the ladder is pulled up and held by a crank that she has access to from the rooftop. The building only has three floors, but it is four stories tall due to the large garage.

Aim’s favorite place is in the crow’s nest on the train. Sitting in the worn, padded chair, slightly reclined with feet set on control peddles ready to swing her in every direction, this is the place where Aim finds the most value in her existence. Sharp reflexes, intelligent mind, and skill with the nest makes her feel worthy of the space she takes up in the world. The nest sits atop the first car of the train. It is a large circular platform with gears underneath that allows it to rotate 270* left or right. 

The nest features two things, the controller's chair and the giant launcher for the electromagnet used to reel in beetles. The controller’s chair is leaned back, ergonomically designed to keep the individual well seated even when jostled about. There is a harness that buckles in the center over the driver’s sternum. A pole stems from the back of the chair and has a sheet of glass that wraps around the chair at eye-level. When the computer is turned on, it displays information about the landscape and, primarily, the target specified by the controller. There are two large levers used to control the nest. The levers are used to adjust the angle of the electromagnet. There are buttons on top of the handles that Aim must press down on to launch the magnet. The rotation of the nest is controlled by the foot pedals, which are pressed down on to direct which way to turn the nest and how quickly.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Character Study: Doc's Living Space

Doc lives only in the train. The train has three cars, all connected. The first car is the engine, generator, and artillery. This is also where the driver sits.

The second cart is a compact living space for the crew. It features a common area with padded seats facing inward, large windows that can be opened for ventilation, and electric lamps. These windows are also shaded by a thick UV protective outer layer. It is dark enough that they cannot see well through the glass at night even with a full moon. The space is fairly squat, lending just enough room for people of average height to walk without hitting their head. Rocket has to duck under the metal construction beams.

At the back of the car is a water closet. Users here have access to a faucet at about mid height and a faucet above their heads. The floor is porcelain with a large drain in the center. Users pee standing up here. If you gotta take a dump, take it outside. The WC usually smells putrid so more often than not the crew will go outside to relieve themselves.

Below the common space is the storage area, extremely compact with supplies. Aim often handles the supplies due to her small size and can enter the cabin without too much difficulty.

Above the common space are several cabins for crew to sleep in. It is cramped, with only enough room for a thin cot and space to sit up. There are windows here too on either side so that air can flow through, circular in shape.

The last car is the captain’s car where Doc lives. This area has a storage space too where his personal supplies and the crew's water is held, but the living space is larger because there is no upper bunk. Doc has his own WC, electric lamps, and even a space for cooking that often goes unused. He has a bunk-like bed, enough room for only himself but comfortable. He has a desk that he sits at and sometimes drinks and writes there. He always says he’s working on his memoirs.

There are windows here too that are also UV shaded (all windows on the train are.) Every inch of the room is loaded with wartime memorabilia including his general’s swords which are hanging up above his bed. The train, despite all of its ventilation, is often stuffy, but is significantly cooler than the desert in the afternoon and significantly warmer at night. The train is made from metal, but it is beetle metal which is extremely strong, resistant against sand, and porous like concrete (the water tank is obviously not made of this material.) Doc’s clothing is kept in a dresser that is bolted to the wall. (everything here is bolted to something to resist damage from the jostling that occurs when a beetle is hooked.) His room smells faintly of a desert flower, thanks to a small sack of potpourri that once belonged to his wife.

Doc’s favorite place is his car when he’s parked the train by the irrigated fields beside the city. He doesn’t go into the city, but it’s close enough to get supplies without having to interact with too many people, the police included. The irrigated land is surprisingly green and fresh looking. Beetle pipes carry water from the underground stream to a higher level that the plant roots can access. There are several kinds of cacti used for eating and building, there are more delicate but scraggly green herbs used for trade, and the desert mammals used as livestock are able to graze on what goes unused by humans. The air here is slightly moist by comparison to the rest of the desert, but that’s not saying much. Despite that, Doc claims that he can smell the difference. On the horizon to the east, there are mountains.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Character Stydy: Crow's Living Space

Crow lives with Pax and Fonda above the community shop.

On the first floor is a sort of convenience store with everthing from food to clothing to home-living nesecities to odd imports from other cities and countries. If it’s useful, it’s at Fonda’s. The atmosphere is very warm (as in iviting) and Fonda goes out of her way to decorate the shop with nice things such as dried flowers/plants and painted walls.

Up a set of creaky wooden stairs is the living quarters. There is a kitchenette/common area which is small and homey. It features a low table with a vase on it. You can sit on the floor at the table to eat or read or anything. Fonda’s place is not airconditioned or heated, so there is a fire place here, which is used frequently during winter nights. They are fortunate enough to be able to afford to burn wood for heat, but Fonda will not burn it unless there are more people there other than her, Pax and Crow. This common area is frequented by the sick and needy. It smells of clay.

There are two rooms, one shared between Pax and Fonda and the other, smaller room belongs to Crow. Crow’s room always has the windows open and the door-sheet drawn open. He keeps it clean and tidey, has a normal-looking bed with sheets he tucks in in the mornings. His bed is against the wall with no window, with the head against the wall that has a window that opens up to the street. From his window he can lean out and see The Shop down the street.

His room was decorated by Fonda, and on the walls are small paintings in frames, mostly of desert flowers and oases. Crow enjoys them, though he would not have picked them out on his own. Crow has a chest at the foot of his bed that he keeps his medical equipment in, unlocked and always at the ready to help someone who is brought into Fonda’s shop. Under his bed is a box of vials and bottles that have different kinds of medicines, most of them being anti-venoms used against various snakes and scorpions that frequent the desert.

His floor is clay, though the common room has a thresh mat. It’s dusty in the corners but he tries to sweep out what he can for the most part. His window has an awning that provides further shade while allowing the breeze through. He has a dresser under the window for his clothing and on top keeps several books that he reads over and over. Crow likes to keep to his room in his free time, but between helping Fonda with the shop, chores, spending time with Pax, and healing the sick and wounded, Crow does not have much time to himself.

Crow’s favorite place is his room when he is undisturbed.