Thursday, October 04, 2007

New Beginning 378 (short story)

A town perched on a long, high coast anchored 305. Jack Hanson arrived half a mile away, at the edge of a cliff that stooped to a foam-flecked ocean.

Back in 001, the smooth-faced technician had assured him she knew what she was doing. Yet one misstep in the daze that followed transition and he'd have been over.

He extended his arms for balance.

Sweat tickled the back of his neck and the scar where they'd inserted his co-processor itched to distraction. His head was fuzzy at first, but after a few moments the waves below him ceased to brush through it. Tasting the clean salt air, he glanced down at the sea, seeing it roil against rocks tumbled from the chalk cliff.

A stagger over scrubby grass and occasional blue flowers took him to the town. Its plain white houses reminded him of somewhere he'd once known, yet both time and place eluded him.

He wanted something for the itch, but the 830 wasn't open; food would have to distract him. He found a 961. A dump; they were all like this now, even 612. A waitress directed him to 441 where he sat and studied the menu.

"What?" The waitress scowled at him.

"I'll take the 102, the 733 and the 853." He wiped off the sweat with a serviette. He hated the 111 now. How did it get like this? How did the Chinese get so powerful?

Opening: BuffySquirrel....Continuation: Anonymous


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

A garish green moon rose out of the ship-filled ocean. The sky turned dark and purplish as it pixilated into an orange red sunset. Suddenly, his vision turned blue and the world slowed to a stop.

Why did I get the McUseless Windows interface, he thought. It was cheap but always rebooting. I should have gone with those Mac techs at the Burger King. Now I'm stuck in the McFricking Cone of Silence with the McFricking itchies under the scars and the McFricking screen of blue. Reboot is a bitch. At least, he got free fries for life.

--Dave F.

He accessed the directions once more. White house, red door, blue trim, black SUV in the drive. Simple enough.

Jack rounded the corner on the first street, pleased to see the first house had the markings he was looking for. Then he stopped dead.

The second house, the third house, the fifth house, the eighth house - all had the markings he was looking for. He shook his head. How many times would he have to ring a doorbell and say "Dogs barking can't fly without umbrellas" before he found his contact?


An insect launched itself from one of the flowers and landed on his arm. As Jack watched its awkward, eight-legged gait his memory brought up another familiar image. His voice cracked in a whisper.


He'd first seen him in a village just like this, on a distant planet with a small sun and even tinier moon. On a rescue mission for a tyro space-shifter. What was her name? Even her face was indistinct in his vague recollections. Her expression, though, he could remember that. The passionate, even predatory, look as her eyes devoured her companion, the handsome, well-built "alien," if that's what he was. An expression that probably corresponded to his own, Jack had to admit, remembering those abs rippling under Steve's metallic tee-shirt.

Then her face betrayed jealousy as Steve returned Jack's gaze, indeed had locked upon him. From that moment, it was as if the woman had ceased to exist for both of them. Except, of course, for her single-minded insistence on journeying back to the local shift-nexus where, heartbroken, Jack had been forced to leave Steve behind.

But now Jack had been returned to this place where they'd met. It couldn't be a mere transition misstep - the power of love had transported him across space! He ran through the village, searching for that little hostelry where they'd met - he was dumbstruck when he saw it, a glowing green and white sign now stretching across the front: "Starbucks." He was still on Earth, and Steve light-years away.

The implant in his neck sizzled, and his memory returned in sharp focus: back in 001, that smooth-faced transition technician, the triumphant sneer on her face as she activated the "shift." That bitch! Imogen!

--Paul Penna

Evil Editor said...

Nice hook. I want to know where and when he transitioned from and what his mission is. I don't like the waves below him ceased to brush through it. The meaning isn't clear. I'd delete the entire sentence, as the fuzziness lasts only a few moments, and you've already declared there's a daze that follows transition, so of course his head is fuzzy at first.

I usually think of a stagger as a momentary action, not a half-mile's worth of traveling.

"He'd have been over" isn't as clear as it might be, coming at the end of the paragraph after the one in which you mention the cliff. He'd have been off the precipice? He'd have plunged to his death? He'd have been ground chuck?

Anonymous said...

That first sentence throws me every time. Is there a preposition missing: anchored at 305, perhaps?

You're missing a comma in the fourth paragraph--I don't normally nitpick like this, but its absence threw me off. "Sweat tickled the back of his neck, and the scar..." As written, the sweat is tickling both neck and scar.

Ditto EE's comment about "stagger"--if a single stagger carries him half a mile, he's a giant.

Anonymous said...

Regular lurker here, but just had to post because the continuation absolutely flattened me. Gonna go have me a #6 for lunch now!

Author- I liked the voice. I agree with EE on the 'waves brushing' sentence, which lost me, along with the staggering.

Imho, don't be afraid to vary the writing between a somewhat obscure (and nicely written) internal monolog, and some plainer writing that clearly tells us who, what and where. I'm hooked, but having trouble visualizing.

none said...

Hilarious continuations, all!

Thanks for the comments, EE :).

Bernita said...

Think you've thrown the bare grid number at us to quickly - disorentied me.
On the other hand, unlike EE, I quite liked the idea of the sound of the waves brushing through his mind.

none said...

Missing comma, yes.

Missing preposition, no.


Sqrls always have troubles wiv commas.

Dave Fragments said...

Grey's Anatomy started the "McLabelling" silliness. I just set Macintosh computers at Burger King.

1. McDreamy: the first of this trend is a nickname given to Derek Shepherd by Cristina Yang
2. McMarried: said by George O'Malley after Meredith Grey finds out that McDreamy is married
3. McSteamy: Mark Sloan is given this nickname by the female interns. Before picking the name, the female interns were thinking about using McSexy and McYummy. This idea may have come from the episode "Into You Like a Train" when a nurse, Tyler, tells Meredith "McSteamy" came looking for her. He was mistaken for McDreamy.
4. McHot: Addison Shepherd is given this nickname by Alex Karev
5. McYeah: George agrees with Alex when he calls Addison McHot
6. McDog: the dog shared by McDreamy and Meredith
7. McLife: according to Meredith, after getting her McDreamy and McDog, Addison now has Meredith's "McLife"
8. McVet: given to veterinarian Finn Dandridge
9. McVomit: something George says he is holding back as female interns discuss other McNicknames
10. McGuilty: Cristina calls Derek this for having sex with Meredith and then asking her what their encounter meant.
11. McBaby: Cristina says this to Meredith while she's getting examined, because of her suspected pregnancy symptoms.
12: McFricking Cone of Silence
13: McDreamy was doing the McNasty with McHottie? That McBastard!
14: McFumble-Fingers can't open the McContainer

Dave Fragments said...

I'm with Bernita on the opening. This really slams the reader fast with the grid number and cyberpunk stuff. Take a few words to orient the reader to what is happening. Cyberpunk and its SciFi cousins, specialize in mind-computer interfaces. If you hit the reader with that too fast, you can lose them.
I almost hate to say don't let the reader struggle, but that's about what I am saying. Otherwise, you restrict your readership to a minority that like that type and style of novel.

Nancy Beck said...

Great continuations! :-)

That first sentence really threw me; still does. I like fantasy and will occasionally read SF, but that first sentence just put me off. Maybe a short explanatory sentence or paragraph before that first sentence so we know what the heck to expect?

The rest of it sounded cool, interesting.


Anonymous said...

Ah... perhaps my problem with that first sentence is that the verb is "anchored," not "perched"--i.e., I should be reading it as meaning "a town [that was perched on a long, high coast] anchored 305,"--"perched" describing the town rather than "anchored" describing the coast.

Yes? Maybe?

Chris Eldin said...

Wwrttnwrd made me look up wicca. All these years I assumed it was a southern way of saying 'wicker.'

Paca made me look up feichang. Had to muddle through an article on the Chinese diaspora before figuring out it wasn't the southern way of saying 'feng shui.'

okay, small talk aside.

Continuation was hilarious!

Buffy, I was a bit confused by this, but then read the Mordent piece and subsequently felt yours was just fine. I didn't get the numbers. And every time I google 305, I get references to the year 305 (Diocletian retires from office), a YouTube video, a telephone prefix (Florida), and other stuff.

McDave is pretty funny.

Anonymous said...

I agree with EE on deleting the wave brushing. Not only did the meaning stall me, but there's no longer much point in mentioning the waves in his head if the fuzzyness has already ceased and it lasted only a few moments. We already know about the foam-flecked ocean.

none said...

I could have written "305 was anchored by a town perched on a long, high coast", but then I'd have had the Evil Was Police after me ;).

Robin S. said...

Hi buffy,

I didn't understand the numbers or what was going on until I read the comments, but I like your writing.

Especially liked the "sweat tickling the backof his neck" and "the sea, seeing it roil against rocks". Neat word, roil.

Unknown said...

I'm just happy that entering "dr. mc" on the google toolbar calls up the suggestion "mcninja" before "mcdreamy."

Love that Dr. McNinja!

Robin S. said...

Hi church lady,

I just saw your "southern way of saying stuff". Wicca/wicker. Good one.

If you need any pronunciation help, differentiating between, for instance, the Low Country or the beautuful accents in Georgia, and/or the ear-jangling twang of the northern south, etc.,just let me know.

pacatrue said...

To be honest, I still don't understand the numbers. I kept trying to figure out how a town could anchor a road, the 305, like the 405. Perhaps it's the commercial center of the area, and the road would not be traveled with out.... I'm not making this up.

So put me down as another voice suggesting you need a few more sentences to anchor the clueless. I don't mind if you start off with the lingo, but help me figure the lingo out a little more as I go.

(Oh, and sorry, robin. I didn't expect anyone to bother with my "feichang ganxie" in the other comment thread for Xie Xie's opening. Xie Xie is just thank you in Chinese, and Feichang Ganxie is thank you very much.)

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Still laughing over Paul's continuation. It tickled me to see another opening and continuation married up with this one.

Buffy, I'm assuming "a stagger" is a pond use thing.

McKoala said...

'McLabelling silliness!'

*McKoala puffs up with offence and explodes into a pile of McSh...'

For the record, I Mc-d it first...

Liked the start; didn't completely understand it, but liked it. The only thing that jumped out at me was 'seeing it roil' - you could just say 'roiling' and keep us closer to Jack.