Saturday, September 28, 2013

Serial Saturday: Suggestion Box #10

Featuring the Suggestions of Andy Poole.

The List:
-San Fransisco Bay area
-Electric A-frame guitar

The Result:

"Thank God it's Friday," she groused to herself as she trudged along the Embarcadero of Fisherman's Wharf. As if the iconic location wasn't crowded enough with all the tourists, many locals took the Labor Day Weekend to enjoy the landmarks and sights. She scowled and twisted a lock of her dirty auburn hair as if it were a talisman to make all the people around her disappear. After a lifetime of just wanting someone to be with who actually cared about her, she felt the crushing irony of Fate's ever-turning wheel as she screamed at the jostling crowd, Leave me alone! Just go away!

Funny; just a few hours ago, she'd been screaming the opposite at the slamming apartment door in Los Angeles. One nine-hour bus ride later, and she felt like slamming the door in his face the next time she saw him. We'd see how he liked it then! She thought maliciously. See if he would think her too soft and too tame for him then! She kicked at a discarded beer can and bit her lip against the sobs. What would her mother say if she saw her now? Stop crying! The clear, strong voice echoed through the caverns of her memory. You brought this on yourself. Didn't I warn you he'd be trouble? Didn't I say that kind of love was fleeting? She had to stop and lean against the railing to catch her breath, losing the battle with her emotions.

Didn't you learn anything from the day your father left?

She gasped and heaved, willing the moisture back under her eyelids. Her stomach gurgled at her. She pushed off from the railing, and concentrated on guiding her steps toward somewhere--anywhere. This town was a stranger to her. She absently milled behind crowds of enthusiastic gawkers. Anything to take her mind off him--Off both of them, her mind advised her.

As she crossed what seemed like the umpteenth block, she heard music coming from somewhere--fresh music, not the canned stuff being pumped out of every tavern and passing car radio. She looked up, intrigued for the first time that day. At the end of the block, a white, old-style facade seemed to radiate welcome. She heard the warm twang of an A-frame electric guitar being strummed gently. She made for the entrance. A sign overhead proclaimed the Silver Cloud Restaurant. She slid in the door, taking advantage of the hostess' turned back to slip in the shadows.
There was a stage against the back wall, with bright floodlights aimed toward it. Sitting on a stool in front of the microphone was a tall young man with light brown, tousled hair. His eyes were closed to the crowd in front of him. She recognized the chord progression, but she couldn't recall where she'd heard it. He strummed a few more lines and then--in a strong, smooth, soulful voice--began to sing along. 

"I listen to her favorite song
playing on the radio
Hear the DJ say loves a game 

of easy come and easy go
But I wonder, does he know?
Has he ever felt like this?
And I know that you'd be here right now
If I could have let you know somehow
I guess

Every rose has its thorn
Just like every night has its dawn
Just like every cowboy sings his sad, sad song
Every rose has its thorn.

Was it something I said or something I did?
Did my words not come out right?
Though I tried not to hurt you
Though I tried
But I guess that's why they say

Every rose has its thorn
Just like every night has its dawn
Just like every cowboy sings his sad, sad song
Every rose has its thorn..."

She hadn't realized when her vision clouded over, but she had to wipe her eyes to return to the shadowy restaurant with the tousled-haired musician strumming away on the open mic.
She was spellbound. She couldn't move. She watched him as he bowed to the applause and ducked out of the spotlight. Some random chick got up and started wheezing out a drunk rendition of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand", and the spell was broken. 
The auburn-haired rover blinked and glanced over to where she'd seen the young man disappear. She had to meet him; what else could have prompted him to sing a song that spoke her exact feelings but Fate? She saw him duck out the side exit, guitar case in hand. She fumbled back toward the door.
She saw him climbing onto a motor-scooter. He would be gone by the time she reached that spot. One more hesitation and he'd be gone.

"Wait!" She yelled, running toward him.
He stopped and turned to her, with such friendliness and concern in his blue eyes that she stopped and caught her breath at the unexpected tears that seemed so eager to spill out lately.
They stood next to the scooter, he on one side, she on the other. She could only stand there and stare at him, willing the relationship and the connection to begin at once.
"I--" She willed the words out. "I liked the song."
He smiled (Can I even remember the last time Mr. Los-Angeles smiled at me? she thought). "Thank you," he said, and his voice washed over her again.
"I'm Suzannah," she gave her full name without hesitation. (Funny, she'd been going by Sue or Suzie for the last year or so
He extended a hand. She could feel the callouses on his fingers and palm as she shook it. "Hi, Suzannah, I'm Tony." He glanced down at the scuffed duffel by her side. "Returning home, or just arrived?"
Suzannah sighed. Home; Do I even have a home? "Just arrived in San Francisco. Not sure if it's going to end up my home," she shrugged.
Tony nodded, "Well in that case, welcome. Can I give you a lift anywhere?" He climbed into the seat and started the ignition.
Suzannah eyed the open seat behind him. "If it's no bother--"
"Sure, it's not," Tony nodded over his shoulder. "Hop on."
Suzannah clambered onto the seat and wrapped her arms around his waist.
"Where to?" Tony asked.
"Anywhere," Suzannah answered immediately.
Tony glanced back at her curiously.
She nodded. "Show me the city, Tony!"
He laughed at her enthusiasm and innocence. "Here we go, then!"
They took off under the star-spangled sky.

The 2013 Suggestion Box Series:

#1  #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12 #13

Monday, September 23, 2013

"Laurel of Andar" Excerpt: "The Haven of the Faithful"

Late one afternoon, Laurel drew her sword. After giving it a few experimental swipes, she went to put it back in its magnificent scabbard. As she did so, she noted with fright that the gold tip seemed torqued. Laurel tried to straighten it and was alarmed when it came off in her hands! A folded piece of paper was in the false tip. Laurel unfolded it and read:

Wenda-an-Mithiel, (Daughter of Mithiel)
Sometimes Fate will call us to the most unlikely place, but there in the heart of danger we find who we truly are. When you face what you fear, may you find sanctuary. Seek the Haven of the Faithful in Horbaroth; they await you there. Remember your name, Laurelindolonorina: the Raennalaerynn.

    Laurel stared at the note in amazement. “Grandfather,” she whispered. She looked out the entrance of the cave. Horbaroth’s ominous peak loomed in the distance. Were there really Andaru hiding there? Surely they weren’t all waiting for her! Laurel shook her head.

    Moraenor sat down hard. He could not believe what he had just heard. “You’re sure you want to go into Horbaroth?”
Laurel nodded, her mouth firmly set.
“Why?” Moraenor demanded. “You know that place is overrun with Hiromorni and lombrels! There are even some who say that wraiths now lurk in the shadows.”
Laurel gave him a queer smile. “Well,” she said, “you know those are only fables, at best.”
Moraenor raised his eyebrows. “You’ll get yourself killed,” he objected.
Laurel boldly stood before him. “Mori, I am twenty-one djenu old, thank you, and fully fifteen of those have been devoted to the study of swordsmanship. As you are my teacher, the appraisal is yours. Am I skilled enough to defend myself against a Hiromorn, should we encounter one?”
“Perhaps,” Moraenor conceded slowly, “but I doubt, young maid, that this the only reason you would dare enter a place like Mt. Horbaroth is to kill Hiromorni. What is the other reason?”
Laurel hesitated. “I’m… looking for something, searching for a secret.”
Moraenor folded his arms and looked at her, clearly unconvinced by this excuse. “And I may not know what it is?” he said.
Laurel sighed. “Well, all right; Moraenor, do you know of any Andaru still remaining in Glastor?”
Moraenor blinked, “There aren’t any—wait, you think they are hiding in Mt. Horbaroth, and that’s why you want to go?”
Laurel nodded, producing the note from Grandfather. “It could be they are waiting for me, though I cannot imagine why. You said yourself I am ready.”
Moraenor read the note carefully and looked up at his young ward. “I said your skills are adequate, but skills alone do not determine survival. Are you ready to do this, Laurel?”
Laurel took a deep breath and gripped the hilt of her sword.
“Let the battles begin,” she said.


Laurel was steadying her half-fainting companion when they heard the screams and yowls of the Hiromorni picking up their scent.
The Elves looked at each other in panic. “Run!” they cried in unison. Urgency brought strength to their battered limbs. 
They darted down a side tunnel and started running. The two groups ran on in this manner, with Laurel and Moraenor perpetually stopping and changing directions. In spite of all their efforts, the troop of Hiromorni never seemed to get any further away. After an hour of running, the pair found themselves back in the cavern where the whole adventure started. They could hear the voices behind them getting fainter; Laurel paused for breath. 
Moraenor collapsed. Panic seized Laurel. “Mori!” she cried. As if to answer her, the voices of the Hiromorni gradually began to get louder. Laurel struggled to lift Moraenor. He opened his eyes. “No,” he gasped. “Laurel, just leave me! Save yourself!”

“No! I can’t do this to you!” Laurel bit back the tears. “You’re all I have left,” she said brokenly. She gave one final heave, and both Elves rose unsteadily to their feet. Laurel flung his arm over her shoulder, and, half-dragging him, she made her way slowly up the path. As she labored up a slight incline, she raised her eyes to see what was at the top, and gasped. There were two Elvish guards standing in the shadows! Spurred on my hope, Laurel shifted Moraenor’s weight, and forged on. Two yards from the Elves, and definitely within hearing distance, Laurel gasped out, “Shelter! Shelter!” She reached the guards and was confronted by crossed spears. She repeated her plea.
The Elf on the left spoke in a dead tone of voice. Laurel heard more growls and howls behind her. She looked back and -- oh horrors! The Hiromorni had sighted her!
“Please!” she begged the Elf, “My friend is wounded, and we are being pursued! Let us through!”

The Hiromorni were getting closer by the minute. Then Laurel remembered Grandfather’s note. Seek the haven in Mt. Horbaroth. Remember your name, “LAURELINDOLONORINA-OY-RAENNALAERYNN!” she screamed. 

The Elf turned his head and looked at her for the first time. Realization swept across his face. He shouted something up the tunnel, then turned back to Laurel. “Right this way, Milady.” The other Elf supported Moraenor on the other side and they made their way up the corridor. Laurel was surprised to see many pairs of Elvish guards stationed two yards apart through all the length of the tunnel. As they entered the cave at the end of the corridor, two more Elves came and accepted the now unconscious Moraenor. Laurel, her mind fogged with fatigue, allowed herself to be led by two Elf-maidens to a crude, but soft, bed. She lay down, and slept as she had not slept for many days. This was a sleep of healing.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

"Inkweaver" Excerpt--In The Inkweaver's Cottage

Cold, white ash covered everything. Not even the rains had washed it away, almost as if the Wall had preserved the cottage from Mirrorvale, and not Mirrorvale from the cottage. Blackened stumps and spires bespoke a table, chairs, benches, a bed. I shivered and huddled closer to Belak. He moved forward to examine the heap of stones that once was the hearth. I was left in the corner by the former bed. A large section of roof covered the area, but a small movement in a gust of night wind drew me forward. Was it a whisper I heard? I leaned forward and impulsively pulled at the thing.
A sudden shifting of the rubble, a warning voice, Belak's arms pulling me out of the way—

We stood at the front of the house as the entire back section collapsed right where we had been standing. My arms clasped tightly to my chest, and my dress felt softer than usual. I noticed with alarm that one of the buttons had come undone. I closed the gap before Belak could notice.
He whistled softly. "Good instincts, running to me like that, Shereya."
I sighed with relief. "If you hadn't called when you did..." I trailed off.
Belak looked at me strangely, shining the lantern light on my face.
"I didn't call," he stated. "It must have been the wind."
I blinked; everything within me confirmed there had definitely been a voice that caused me to turn. If Belak hadn't spoken, then who had?

We made our way back to the Wall. Belak helped me through, and closed up the crack behind us.
Instead of the chill of dread, I felt the thrill of having done something I never knew I wanted to do. I had been through The Wall! I had entered the Inkweaver's cottage! I knew I needed to tell Larryn.
Belak saw the smile. "Feeling better now?" he asked.
I nodded.
He returned the lantern to its hook and the two of us reached the square just as the Banquet closed.

Mother saw me and ran over.
"Shereya, where did you go? We lost sight of you when the Matches began, and now you reappear after your most compatible suitor has left! Why did you run off?"
I accepted my mother's flustered embrace. "I was—" I glanced around. Belak was gone; he probably rejoined his family. "Belak—"
Mother clucked her tongue. "Oh yes, that was unfortunate, wasn't it? After all these years, we hoped you two would be a better match for each other!" She squinted closely at my face. "Shereya, you look positively wilted! Come home and rest. You'll be better in the morning."
Laying in my bed that night, watching the fire softly flicker reminded me of the lantern's flicker in the old cottage fireplace. Only when I heard the soft snores of both parents did I dare move a muscle. Carefully, I lifted my pillow and reached through a slit I had made in the fabric of my mattress. Reaching inside, I pulled out the cloth.

It was the same one I had seen in the cottage. The fabric made a whispery sort of sound as I ran my fingers over it, not unlike the whisper I had heard that made me jump out of the way of the collapsing wall. Somehow I had lifted it out from underneath ash and stubble and slipped it into the front of my dress without even realizing it. I desperately wanted with every fiber of my being to take it out and look at it, but I dared not; not here, not now. I would visit Larryn first thing in the morning, and I would show her and tell her what I had done.

Also from "Inkweaver":

-The Legend of The Wordspinners
-The Last Inkweaver  
-What Are You Afraid Of?  
-The Unfinished Tapestry 
-Tales of the Inkweaver: "The Three Daughters"
-In The House Of The Talesmith 
-"The Invisible Gift" and "Forward Unto Danger" 
-Escape From Blackrope 
-The Rise and Fall of Morgianna Plontus-Byrmingham 
-The Morning After 
-Tales of The Inkweaver: "The Four Travellers
-In the Court of Count Bergen 
-"The Four Travellers" Part 2 
-Do You See What I See?
-Welcome to Criansa
-Meeting Delia
-A Nice Cup of (Honest) Tea
-Saving Margo
-Interpreting The Stone
-Tales of The Inkweaver: "Four Animals in Partnership"
-Tark Trades People
-"Plotting" and "Meet Tark's Crew"
-Storytime for Tark
-Tales of The Inkweaver: "The Stone in The Road"
-Moon Valley
-Writer's Eyes

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Serial Saturday: Suggestion Box #9

Featuring the Suggestions of Pamela Poole.

The List:
Horatio Whistlestop
Uncharted Phoenician island

The Result:

The setting sun cast an amber glow over the dark sands of the island. Sprawled just beyond the ebbing tide was the form of a man. He was a man of average appearance, the rumpled tuxedo he wore contrasting sharply with his tousled, dark hair full of sand.

Horatio opened his eyes. He wondered briefly if this was a dream--and yet it seemed much more real than the last vague memories wafting over his recollection. He picked up his head, but even this new perspective did not yield much. There were trees, but entirely a different species than any Horatio had ever seen, even in his far-flung travels.
Movement began in his toes and fingers first, spreading up his arms and legs toward his trunk. At last, Horatio mustered enough energy to bend his arm and push upwards, rolling from his front to his back. Panting from the effort, he smeared the sand off his cheek and squinted up at the sun. How did it come to this? Horatio closed his eyes against the dying light and let his mind drift back to who-knows-how-many hours earlier...

The cruise ship was ablaze with lights of every color. A floating hotel, they called it, and for Horatio Whistlestop, it really was a home-away-from-home for him. The agents organizing the Mediterranean cruise joked that Horatio Whistlestop was better off owning a cabin on the AquaVita, since he never failed to participate in that cruise, and he always chose the same berth.
He exited his third-deck port-side cabin and adjusted his bowtie as a bevy of sequinned beauties emerged from the aft corridor, headed for the stairwell that would take them all to the dining hall. They waved; he smiled.
"Good evening, ladies," he crooned.
"Good evening, Mr. Whistlestop!" one charming specimen in an aquamarine shift tittered.
He shrugged magnanimously, "Please, call me Horatio." He offered his arm to the one who had replied. His new entourage twittered like the exotic birds they resembled. Horatio descended the stairs and drew the attention of everyone nearby--exactly as it should be.
Endless food and drink, lively music, and wonderful dancing dominated the ship's ballroom. Waiters in white waistcoats milled among the tables with trays full of fresh flutes of champagne and petite hors d'ouevres.
Horatio was never without a companion all night long. Their faces began to blend together; the only distinguishing feature Horatio could remember was the color of the dress. He dined with a woman in royal-blue silk, danced with a beauty in a red dress, and shared drinks at the open bar with a young brunette wearing a black, close-fitting, off-the-shoulder number. Horatio eventually began to feel the effects of drink; his head felt light, and the music buoyed his mind past the capacity for thought. Everything was light and sound and laughter and excitement--

Then the foghorns blared. Alarms sounded, and a voice erupted from the loudspeaker.
"Emergency! Emergency! Everyone please move toward the lifeboats in an orderly manner. Do NOT return to your rooms! Repeat, do NOT return to your rooms! Please follow thesssshhhh!"

The announcement died in a burst of static, but there was no time to comprehend the orders, as the lights flickered at the same time as a strange movement in the floor. An entire table setting crashed to the floor before one of the guests shouted out, "We're sinking!"

Pandemonium erupted, and everyone immediately began screaming and running for the nearest doors, or throwing themselves against the walls and columns in a panic. Horatio sneered from his position on a sofa; two little words, and suddenly everyone forgot how to stand or walk! He stood, and immediately pitched forward on the sloping floor. Horatio caught himself on an armchair and thrust his body back upwards. He straightened his jacket and bent his knees as he hobbled sideways along the slant, fighting to maintain his composure amid the hysteria. Once he made it to the outer decks, he broke into a stumbling run, trying to make it to the life rafts, even as he saw passengers throwing themselves over the railing and into the churning sea. 
Just twenty feet from the bank of boats, the ship gave a perilous lurch, and suddenly, Horatio found himself hovering thirty yards in the air, over the angry water, with nothing underneath. He was falling, falling--a pile-driver of cold wetness, and then nothing but warm darkness.

Horatio opened his eyes as the memory ended. He was still laying on the beach, but by now the sun was touching the horizon. Soon it would be night; a cool breeze was already blowing across the surface of--
Horatio heaved himself onto his feet. Where was he? There were no buildings as far as he could see, no people milling about, no familiar ports. He walked down the beach until he reached the edge of it. The whole land mass seemed completely isolated from the land. Far on the horizon Horatio could see shapes of other shores--but beyond the fact that this was somewhere near Greece, he had no idea where on earth he was.
Horatio shivered and hugged himself as a strong gust billowed around him, biting through his wet, salt-caked clothes. He needed to make a fire; when it was warm and comfortable, then he would worry about food and a return to civilization.
Horatio set about gathering dead branches from around the trees while it was still light enough to do so. His pile of twigs and sticks was barely visible in the twilight as he fumbled in his pockets. Never had the little box of matches felt so good in his hand. Horatio stopped to examine the small anchor printed on it, along with the name AquaVita. It took nearly the whole box, but at last he had a small blaze going.
A sharp snap severed his calm. Horatio looked off to the forest. In the dancing light of the flames, the shadows seemed to hide animals, even though he had been over most of the visible undergrowth and had seen nothing that indicated any other signs of life. Horatio slowly stood.
"Hello?" he called.
A rustle echoed through the brush, but it could have been the wind. Horatio stood, grabbing a long branch from the fire to use as a torch. Cautiously, he crept toward the treeline. Just ahead of him, a branch clearly twitched. Horatio stopped and gripped his torch with both hands.
"All right, you!" he yelled. "Come out of there!"
There was no response. Horatio stepped closer.
"I said," he reached forward, "Come out!" He yanked the branch suddenly. Something rough slapped him in the face. Horatio yelped and stumbled backwards. In the light of his torch, he saw that it wasn't an animal, but something attached to the branch:

A length of rope, tied in a peculiar style of knot around the branch.

The 2013 Suggestion Box Series:

#1  #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12 #13

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

ReBible: "Focal Point" Excerpt--The Invitation

when Vanessa sat down at her computer, a flashing envelope caught her eye. "TRICIA CARSON," it announced, "YOU ARE INVITED."
Vanessa's pulse quickened as she clicked on the envelope. Immediately, a small square of high-sheen paper dropped into the slot below the printer. Vanessa picked it up. Her face split into a huge grin as she read the message. She had won!

Across the hall, Michael Decker received a similar message. "How would you like to move into the Executive Sector? Peres Reno needs you!" Finally! Michael felt a keen sense of arrival wash over him. For so long he'd wondered if staying on after most of the others had left was really such a good idea; now here was proof that maybe the decision had been worthwhile after all. He heard Vanessa's excited squeal, and wondered if she had gotten a miraculous invitation as well.
"Daddy!" she cried, and he heard her run to the dining room.

Michael strode after her. By the time he reached the dining room, Vanessa was seated at the table, a paper clutched in one hand while the other massaged the toes she had stubbed on a cleaning droid again. Her eyes sparkled.
"What is it, honey?" he asked.
She waved the paper in his face. "I won! An all-expenses-paid trip to the main campus in Reno! There's some secretarial position open, and I'm one of the prospects they are considering hiring!"

Michael took the invitation and read it carefully.
"It's addressed to Tricia Carson," he noted.

"So?" Vanessa bobbed her head, "That's still me; oh Daddy—" she finally saw his dubious expression. Her mood dimmed slightly. "Should—should I refuse?" She had never been very good at guessing her father's feelings, even when she did pay attention.
Michael waved his hand. "Oh no, that sounds like a great idea. In fact," he showed her the message he had received on the glass tablet, "I just got promoted to a position in the Executive Sector as well."
"We're going together?" Vanessa grasped her father's hand excitedly.
"It looks that way."
"Let's both accept, then!" She immediately went to the kitchen computer and brought up the message from her screen. She hit the "Accept" button for confirmation. A further message appeared.
"Thank you for your response. A private limousine is on its way from the Peres Motorpool to carry you to your destination. Peres Corporation: The Name To Trust For Instant Gratification And Complete Satisfaction!"

"A private limo!" Vanessa breathed.

Michael confirmed his acceptance of the promotion. He, too, received a message.
"Thank you for your response. Please accept this free, All-Access Bus pass for the Peres Transport Line. Redeemable at any time within 48 hours. Peres Corporation: The Name To Trust For Instant Gratification And Complete Satisfaction!"

Vanessa frowned when she saw it. "You're not coming with me?"
Michael shook his head, "I guess not."
"But—" Vanessa dropped into the armchair. Her chin trembled. "How will I know what to do?"
Michael laid fatherly hands on her shoulders. "Vanessa," he said, "I am sure you'll have plenty of people to tell you where to go and what to do." He kissed her forehead. "And I'm positive they'll all love you."

Vanessa was slow to be convinced. She toyed with a lock of her hair as she asked, "Why did we decide to stay here in the first place?"
 "You mean instead of going back to St. Louis with the others?"
Vanessa nodded.
Michael chuckled, "You were barely a year old then, I never imagined you'd care much why we stayed. Haven't you had a good life here in Paristown?"
"Oh, no," Vanessa retracted her query quickly, "I mean, it's been fine, and I don't care, really. I just—well," she sighed, "I've just been wondering lately, that's all."
Michael patted his daughter's head. "Sometimes I wonder about that too honey; but God works in mysterious ways, eh?"
Vanessa shrugged. "I guess."
Michael slapped his knee, "Tell you what: let's enjoy ourselves till we leave. We have, what, a day and a half together? Let's make the most of it. What do you say?"
"What should we do?" Vanessa asked.

Michael's eyes twinkled. "Let's go to the beach for the day. How does that sound? We can leave as soon as we're ready today, spend all day Wednesday at the beach, and come back that night in time to catch our rides in the morning."
Vanessa clapped her hands, "Oh, that sounds like a great idea!"

An hour later, Vanessa and Michael rode the public bus out to a privatized strip of beach on the coast of California. Paristown residents could relax under large cabanas and stroll in the cool surf.
Vanessa kicked back in her red bikini and filmy sarong, just beyond the shade of the cover. Michael settled down with an entertainment console.

Vanessa turned to her dad.
"Why do you suppose they sent those?"
Michael switched off the display on the tablet. "Why did who send what?"
Vanessa propped herself on her elbows and fiddled with the seams on her swimsuit. "The promotion from Peres; what do you suppose it means?"
Michael pondered. "Maybe it means better times ahead for Peres. Maybe it means the employees from the old Integra company will have the chance at a better life because one of us finally reached an influential position in the company."
Vanessa let her head hang back. "I just don't know..."

"Vanessa." Her father's voice was sharper now. She looked at him as he frowned at her.
"You listen, now, and you listen good!" He shook a finger at her, "You've gone too far to back away. You can't look back; you can only march forward in the path before you. What have I always said? God helps those who help themselves. If we want Him to work a miracle we can't just sit around and wait for things to happen. We have to make something of the situation, because it's the fate of the company to rise again, and if God tries to get us in and finds us unwilling to seize the day and be successful, well, He'll just throw us aside like last season's fashion and use someone else. Would you want to be known as the Girl God Discarded because she wouldn't do what she was meant to do?"

"No!" Vanessa knew the right answer to that question. "I just—" she huffed and laid back against the chair. She hated when her dad got all "It's your destiny!" like this. "Do you really think this is what God wants us to do?"
Michael shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Within his heart a small voice insisted on reminding him, "If I had done what God wanted me to do, we would not have had to make this choice!" But he never let his daughter see the doubts.
"I would have told you if I thought it wasn't," he countered. “I chose to stay because I knew that the decent job that I have here with Peres would be better than trying to scrape together a living in who-knows-where, Missouri! Peres is on the up-tick, Vanessa!” He nudged his daughter’s shoulder.
She did not appear convinced, “Not so loud, Daddy!”
Michael chuckled, “President Xavier is the herald of a new age, Tricia,” he placed special emphasis on her pseudonym, just to be sure. “There has never been a company in this nation’s history as successful and prosperous as Peres. Trust me, we’ll be fine.” He returned to his vidscreen.
Vanessa sighed and closed her eyes again. Vision of the life they would soon be able to afford danced across her mind’s eye. Perhaps they made the right choice after all.

The next morning, the Deckers returned home and packed small bags of mementoes before leaving, as the invitations had assured them that everything else would be provided in Reno.
Vanessa's limo was first to arrive.
She embraced her father warmly. "I guess I'll see you there," she said.
Michael struggled to restrain the tears as he embraced her. "Oh, if only your mother could see you now," he choked. Father and daughter locked eyes. "This is it," Michael said, "Once you leave this house there won't be anyone to call you Vanessa. You'll be Tricia Carson from now on."
Vanessa gulped, "I know," she sighed.
"Good luck, my girl."
"You too, Daddy."


Michael sighed and boarded the bus for Reno. He saw several other men on board with him, even a few neighbors.
"Hey Mike!" one of them, a dark-haired man a bit younger than Michael, called, and waved him to an open seat next to him. "You got the summons, too? Oh, this is great!"
Michael smiled at the man's enthusiasm. "Thanks, Ferdinand."
The man raised a finger with a twinkle in his aquamarine eyes, "I told you, Mike, call me Ferdy, like everyone else. Say, did they tell you what position you'll fill?"
Mike shook his head, "Just something referring to the skills I have from my old job."
Ferdy casually withdrew a time-release capsule of kopetrine, the modern drug that had replaced many old recreational drugs, since it was cleaner, stronger and more pleasing. He popped it in his mouth as he continued talking.
"What was your old job? What did you do before Peres?"
Mike shrugged, "I was a security technician."
"A what?"
"You know, because sec-tech is usually decades behind regular technology. I would be working on Blue TV's and computers that broke down."
Ferdy almost spit his pill. "Computers? Dag, I didn't know people still used those things!"
Mike shrugged, "Some people couldn't afford the changes in technology, or they didn't want to have to relearn the manipulables, so they call people like me to rig the old system to be able to work with the new."
Ferdy shook his head, "You must be older than you look, Mike; I still can't picture you using an actual computer."
Mike smiled and patted his perm—a new kind of anti-aging appearance modifier that kept the hair looking the exact same color, all the way down to the roots. It was almost like having a natural hairpiece.
"I try," he told his friend, whose eyes had rolled back in their sockets as the kopetrine took effect.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Serial Saturday: Suggestion Box #8

Featuring the contributions of Lyon Richardson.  

*Apologies in advance for the undoubtedly brutal rendering of Arabic pronunciation... it was the best I could do with the audio feature on Google Translate.

The List:
Neal D. Parker
1930's and 2030's
a puzzle in 4 pieces

The Result:

Part I:

The Cord binds the Arrow,
True its flight
Strike the Oppressor,
Gain his might.

Doctor Neal Parker mopped the beads of sweat from his brow as he pored over the notes. They had been digging at a well-known treasury in Cairo for several months now. They had unearthed many treasures and artifacts from ancient times--and yet the verses still made no sense.

One thing was certain: where there was mention of an Arrow, there was also talk of the "Pharaoh's Might." Through quizzing the locals, Parker had discovered the legend that Narmer--the first great Pharaoh of ancient Egypt, had a repository of endless wealth that no one ever knew about, entirely separate from his royal riches. The legend held that, as he was dying, Narmer called his strongest generals and asked for a bow and arrow. Drawing the bow, Narmer shot the arrow into the night sky as his last living act, and told the generals that the arrow would show them the path to his secret hoard... if they could find it.

The simple verse that Parker pondered before him now was also a part of the legend, though no one could say whether Narmer himself provided the clue, or it was added later by someone trying to make the search more complicated.

Parker squinted up at the unforgiving sun piercing the cotton tent above him like a needle and bent over his notebook again. Every day he made copious notes, hoping that at some point, things would fall into place and begin to make sense.

September 14, 1932
Uncovered more pot shards and flagstones in the third hour. Definitely a dwelling of some sort. Royal seals indicate that the structure--if not the whole area--was under the rule/ownership of Akhenaten, the Sun King. "Oppressor" seems to indicate a certain Pharaoh--Ramses the Great, perhaps? Still researching the notorious Pharaohs for some additional clue to identity. "Cord" is still unclear. Some leather has been found, with remains of animals nearby; a stable of sorts, apparently. Nothing that could be termed as a "cord" though, and no idea as to whether the Arrow is something that can be--

"Sayyidh! Sayyidh! En'ha Wushadat, Sayyid'ha! Dusfi'ha!"  

Parker stopped midsentence as the cry rang out over the excavation site.
"By Jupiter," he whispered to himself, coming to the mouth of the tent and watching the cavorting workers. He translated their ejaculations. "They've found it."

Part II:

The sand-skimmer slipped smoothly over the dunes toward the ruins of Wudina Lysyan--the "City of the Arrow." Behind the wheel, Neal D. Parker III, better known as Trey, squinted under the Cairo sun as they approached the still-buried portion of the citadel his grandfather first discovered. Men in long linen robes nodded and salaamed as Trey skated past them.
The Parkers had become something of celebrities since that first discovery of the oddly-shaped metal pieces--one bronze, one iron--in small chests bearing the seals of both Ramses the Great and Mentuhotep, two of the greatest Pharaohs in Egypt's history. Further excavation did not turn up anything related to Narmer's Arrow before Neal Sr.'s death in the late 1960's, but the excavation of a hitherto-unknown municipality in the middle of the desert was remarkable enough to thrust the family into the local limelight. Now, one hundred years later, Trey basked in the princely attention while he dug deeper into the caverns beneath Wudina Lysyan, trying to find something else that would explain the two artifacts. Why were they in similar chests? Why couldn't he shake the feeling that they might interlock somehow? He'd tried dozens of configurations; the two pieces didn't seem to fit together. Could there be more to it?
Trey parked the sand-skimmer and ducked into the cavernous underground hall that might have been an ancient thoroughfare, now buried beneath the surface. This was the latest "base camp" for archaeological dig teams.
"What do you have for me?" Trey asked Dreya, the "dig chief."
Her dusky skin glowed in the dim lamplight and she pressed her full lips in appraisal. "Seismic imaging shows a chamber just a klick-and-a-half beyond the back wall," she explained with a flip of her dark ponytail. "Picked up readings of heavy metals--could be more of the trove, like we've been looking for."
Seismic imaging took sound waves projected through sand to produce three-dimensional digital images of topographic aberrations, or any kind of surface that was fundamentally a different substance than the one through which you were measuring. Hence, it could find things like pockets of air, flowing water, and metals--but the images produced did not account for individual objects, just the overall variation beneath the sand. Hence, what they were looking at could be a pile of treasure--or it could be an outcropping that just happened to be rich in metallic mineral deposits.
"Crypto found this, though," Dreya flicked through images on a digital tablet and showed him a rendering of hieroglyphic pictograms. It appeared to be a section of a much longer passage.
"Look familiar?" Dreya's impossibly-blue eyes twinkled.
Trey stared at the image. It had been stamped with the date: 9142032. One hundred years to the day from Grandpa Neal's discovery of the first two pieces and the answer to the riddle that had stumped him for years. He'd grown up with an affinity for Egyptology like his father and grandfather. He recognized the first sequence of symbols mainly because it was part of the family legacy.
"The clue to Narmer's Arrow!" He breathed.
Sure enough, in all it's ancient Egyptian glory, there was the simple verse that started it all:

The Cord binds the Arrow,
True its flight
Strike the Oppressor,
Gain his might.

This tablet went on with a second verse:

Seek the Arrow--with the Sun,
Light your eyes,
The Boy within the Son
Will also Rise.

Trey could feel his spine tingling with anticipation.
"Have they figured out what it means yet?" he asked.
Dreya shrugged. "Still working on that. Sure beats me! Cords and Oppressors and Suns, Sons, and Boys! If it didn't keep harping on the Arrow, I'd be tempted to shelve it altogether as just another archaeological find."
"Dreya!" Trey admonished her. "This is not just a find! Finds are the stuff of decades. This is the discovery of the century! We found a city, for Pete's sake! And we're on the way to proving that a legend of incomparable wealth just might be true! Get them on it! I want every Pharaoh researched, every generation! The first verse led to the discovery of evidence connecting Ramses and Mentuhotep--it could be that this second verse, with it's Suns and Sons, could very well be hinting at two other Pharaohs. Figure it out!"
Dreya shook her head and turned away. Before Trey decided himself to depart, she hesitated.
"Wait, Trey," she turned and stepped hastily back to him. "There's one more thing I forgot to mention."
"What?" he asked.
"You're going to want to see this in person. Follow me."

The 2013 Suggestion Box Series:

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