Storytime Mondays: Working

The following story was written for a creative writing class in September of 2000. The assignment was to write a piece of “microfiction,” a short story in under 250 words.

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I remember the day my father died.  It was a long day, with more long days to follow.  More than anything I just remember the papers.  Since I was his only daughter, his only living relative, I had to take care of everything.  They had me fill out the admission forms to get him into the hospital.  Then I had to tell them if he was allergic to anything.  As if that mattered when someone was in a car accident.  But they needed to know, so I answered all of their questions.  Then I had to fill out a police report, even though I hadn’t seen what happened.  There were witnesses who had been there, but they had all been too close, and were injured by the accident. I had been at home, so I was the only one who wasn’t hurt.  While the witnesses were being treated, I was the one who had to keep working.  Later came life insurance information, hospital bills, funeral charges.  I had to sign forms to validate his will, and talk to his lawyer about paying off his debt.    So busy, in the days after the accident.  There was so much work that needed to be done, and I was the only one to do it.

But throughout everything, I still found time to cry.

Storytime Mondays: Kit Freytan

The following story is the first piece I ever wrote for Kit Freytan, explaining her origins and setting the stage for what was to come next. Chronologically, this story takes place some months before “Fragmented.” The events shown here might shed some light on what is happening in that other story.

Also, sorry that this is going up so late. I’ve been busy and running late today, and I didn’t even have time to revise this at all, so I had to leave it as a first draft. Let me know what you think.

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Kit Freytan was born with half a brain.

More accurately, she was born with only one functional half of a brain.  The other half was completely dead.  When friends of the family asked, they had never been able to get a straight answer from her parents as to why it had happened.  They had always been evasive, and always showed signs of guilt.  It was suspected that her mother had, likely as not, been on narcotics during the pregnancy.  Either that or her dad had beaten her mum quite frequently while Kit was in the womb.  Spirits knew he had done it often enough during her childhood.  Few would be surprised to learn that either of those factors had been the cause.

The most anyone could get out of her parents was that there had been ‘complications during delivery’.  Which was their way of telling people they didn’t want to talk about it.

Kit had spent the early years of her childhood in a half-retarded state.  The damaged portions of her mind, among other things, had included her centers for communication, emotions, artistic talents, creativity, and imagination.  The only portions that remained active were those that were centered on purely logical concerns: mathematics, science, problem solving, reading, and writing.  She had therefore, until the age of eight, been seen as something of a savant.  Unable to speak, nor even to communicate her thoughts or emotions in written form, she had been a shut in who was incapable of any real personal interaction.  Yet at the same time, she was able to read and understand books, and could write extensively on any subject other than her own thoughts and feelings.  She had been sent to a special institute that helped educate her in ways that a mainstream school simply couldn’t, yet there had always been limitations.  They had helped to sculpt her damaged mind into something that could cope with her broken place in the world, yet they had been unable to offer a way to cure her.

That is, until Trimola came around.

Trimola, also known as the Tri-provincial Machinery and Organics Laboratory Association, had offered her parents a solution.  At no cost to them, Trimola would install an artifical brain into Kit’s damaged head, to take over the functions that her natural brain simply could not handle.  The procedure had been highly experimental; fully artificial brains had existed for some time, as had small-scale chips that could be installed to take over certain functions, but nothing had ever been attempted on someone with a brain as badly damaged as Kit’s.  It wasn’t at all uncommon, in certain provinces, for people to have chips installed to increase their brain functions, teach them a foreign language, repair damage caused by a head injury, or correct someone’s impaired motor functions.  Installing a full half of a brain, however, one which could control all of Kit’s communication functions, dictate the way she interacted with others, and spark an artifical imagination and creative drive within her… this had been cutting edge technology.  The particular group of scientists in this branch of Trimola had been confident that their new designs would change the way cybernetic minds were sculpted for years to come.

That is, until it turned out to be a catastrophic failure.

After the installation, Kit had still been unable to communicate.  She had still shown no signs of artistic talent, no hint of imagination, and no indications of what emotions might be running through her frail, thin body.  The entire venture had been declared a failure, Trimola had told Kit’s parents that they were lucky their daughter had survived the process, and the science team responsible for Kit’s new brain had been dissolved.  Life, as it were, should have returned to normal.

They day after she got home from Trimola labs, Kit had run away.

Something had, in fact, been sparked in her mind that day.  After the damaged sections of her brain had been cut out and replaced with the hardware that housed the new circuit pathways of her cerebral cortex, a new understanding had started to emerge within her.  When electrical signals passed from computer chip to gray matter, her thoughts flowing from the artificial to the natural, she had come to a revelation.  Emotion, as dictated by the intricate programs of the new parts of her brain, had emerged for the first time in the newly rebuilt girl.  She experienced her first true emotion the moment she had awoken in the recovery ward of Trimola labs.

She had felt fear.

Her artificial imagination had started spinning tales of what would happen from here, as she pictured a life in a lab, being poked and prodded so that the scientists could unlock the secrets of her mind.  In this vision she had, they kept her in a quiet, comfortable room, filled with toys and books and clothes, all in an attempt to let her ‘feel’ normal.  All the while, they studied her, scanned her, and tested her.  Even her playtime was nothing more than a series of tests, her would-be friends chosen for specific traits and personalities, so that they could gauge her reactions to different individuals.  Her meals were selected so that they could judge how well the artificial emotion programs reacted to tastes both pleasant and foul.  Her feelings, new and unknown to her, were toyed with, studied, cut open and laid out on a slab.  She recoiled from this fate, and her newly awakened creative mind formulated a plan.

Play dumb.

When the Trimola scientists came in, she had sat and stared.  She heard and understood their words for the first time in her life, but she ignored them.  They tried to prompt her with kind words, touching stories, and later videos ranging from horrific to hilarious, all in an attempt to provoke an emotional response.  They brought her kittens, hoping to get a reaction, then when that failed, one of the scientists went so far as to snap the neck of one of the poor, defenseless creatures, just to see if he could get a reaction out of her.  Her emotions had been forced to detach themselves, then, her artificial mind cutting off contact with her biological parts until the emotions had passed.  Deep inside the circuits of the new parts of her brain, she had cried.  She had screamed and lashed out and tried to take the other kittens away, protecting them.  Yet those urges remained locked away in the imagination of her programming, while the rest of her sat, stoic, and watched as the kitten’s body grew limp and lifeless.

She had waited only long enough to be sure she was no longer being watched, before fleeing the city.  She had spent many long weeks as a patient in the labs while they tested her, hoping for some sign that the procedure hadn’t been a failure.  For weeks she hid her emotions, while her newly programmed creativity worked through plans of escape.  For the first time in her life, she was able to see beyond the moment, and think about the future.  ‘Future’ had been a concept her old, damaged mind had never been able to conceive of before.  Now that she understood what the future was, and could imagine the many possible paths her future might hold, there had been no way she could consider letting her future remain in the hands of the monsters at Trimola.  So she had planned, and waited, and as soon as she was able, she had escaped.

Today was Kit’s fifteenth birthday.  For seven years she had lived on her own, on the streets of Keshor, in the northernmost of the three provinces.  Here she was anonymous, just a street rat and a thief.  Her anonymity kept her safe, for the first emotion she had felt, the fear, had never truly left her.  She always avoided any buildings with Trimola’s logo displayed on them, and never showed off her cybernetic traits to anyone.  In a way, she was one of the lucky ones.  While her mind had been altered, her outer body had not.  She looked just like a girl, a short, lanky girl with a frail body and barely any curves.  Dirty blonde hair framed her small, dust-covered face, and large brown eyes scanned the streets for signs of danger.  Her clothing was old and worn, stained brown from sleeping in the streets.  She had no shoes; shoes were a luxury, and Kit couldn’t afford luxuries.  What money she could find went to food.

A bank terminal sat right across the street.  She watched it carefully, as she had been watching it all morning.  Fingers scratched at the pale spots on the side of her face and neck: violet, a sign that she had come from the western province.  She wore fingerless gloves to hide the darker, more detailed spots that covered the backs of her hands and the arch of her thumbs.  To someone with the determination to check, those spots would mark her heritage.  The patterns were always unique to each person, yet they also bore signs of the genes a person had inherited from their parents.  Genealogists could trace those patterns back seven generations on each side, and that made Kit’s hands a surefire way to give up who she really was.  Most people kept their hands uncovered, wearing their heritage with pride for all to see.  To Kit, her heritage was a sign of both danger and shame.  It reminded her not only of a drug addict mother and an abusive father, but also of the labs she had escaped from.  Trimola would have Kit’s gene spots on file, and if they ever decided to come looking for her, anyone who had studied her spots closely enough could give her away to the people she feared the most.  She never took that risk, and never went anywhere without gloves.

The bank terminal was empty.  She had been trying to work up the bravery for hours.  There was always a risk with hacking.  Anyone could walk up, wanting to use the terminal, and realize what she was doing.  It was a big risk… but her stomach was grumbling, and it spurred her to bravery.  She hurried across the street, her brown eyes scanning each way for signs of danger.  There were no Constables in sight, and no signs of anyone with a Trimola ID badge.  She should have time.

She rushed into the terminal, which was wide enough only for one person to stand in.  The computer screen flared to life when it detected her presence, an artificial voice chiming, “Welcome to Tri-Provincial Bank, your one stop for all your financial needs!  Please scan your ID rod now…”  Kit didn’t have an ID rod, and never intended to get one.  The flashing red light on the front of the terminal prompted her where one would be scanned, the small sensor sending out a signal that would link to any ID rod waved before it.  Kit leaned over, pressing her eye close to the sensor.  Her right eye, the one that was connected to her artificial brain.  The flashing light shone in her brown eyes, digging deep inside of her, shining into the depths, flashing like a beacon to a ship lost at sea.  She searched for the cyber-shores in the distance, beyond the darkness, letting that light guide her mind in to safety.  Deep through her brown eye it poured, streaking through viscous flesh and gray matter, until it found the electric pathways of her cybermind.  She followed the light, and let it guide her to shore, skimming past the rocks that jutted out from the churning waves of artificial reality before her.  She brushed past them, feeling them threaten to break her, crash her down into the depths, if but for a moment she were to slip and hurl her mind onto their sharp edges.  Yet she coasted by with ease, the shore ever approaching closer, the light growing brighter in her eye.  Her feet touched down upon sandy shores, wet beneath her bare, spotted toes.  There she dug, dropping down to her knees to search for the treasures buried beneath the sand.  She heard the sounds of distant ships approaching, and knew they were coming for her light on the shore.  She dug faster, her hands frantically tossing wet sand aside.  Each passing of the artificial tide poured more sand back into the hole, threatening to bury the treasure once more.  She dug faster, refusing to relent, ignoring the spotlights shining on her from the approaching ships.  They had found her, but they couldn’t get to her in time.  Her hands touched metal, solid and cool, and she dug around to find the edges so that she could pull the chest free.  She laughed, setting the chest upon her knees, and lifting the lid to release pure light that shone upon her face…

“Thank you for using Tri-Provincial Bank.  Have a Perfect Day!”  The voice of the computer broke Kit from her trance, and she blinked, severing her connection to the cyber realm.  A stack of credit chips was being ejected from the machine into the small bin at her waist.  She gave off a quick hoot, and grinned wide as she gathered them up, shoving them deep into her pockets.  She had to work hard to suppress the joyful laughter that wanted to slip past her lips, excitement and joy filling her.  Kit turned to leave, bumping face to chest into a tall man who was blocking the exit from the terminal.

“Excuse you,” he grumbled.  He wore a professional looking suit, and pinned to his lapel was a Trimola ID badge, with the words ‘Engineering Division’ printed across the bottom.

Kit’s brown eyes went wide, and she had a moment of panic.  Quickly she severed her artifical mind from her biological, and all emotion drained from her.  She looked up at the man, unable, just now, to understand who or what he was.  He was a thing, and that thing stood in her way.  Blank eyes stared past him, and she stepped around the thing to cross the street.  Kit’s biological mind had no inkling of where she was going, nor did she care.  She lived in the moment.  She knew only immediate concerns, and needs.  Food was a need, and it was one she pursued.  Food could be acquired from retail establishments.  Credit chips could be traded for it.  She had credit chips.  She therefore could acquire food.

She headed down the streets, the inner depths of her mind letting out a sigh of relief that never touched her pale, stoic lips.

Linda and David Exercise

I just talked about this on Twitter, and figured I’d post it here as well. This is an experiment given to my Interpersonal Communication class at Rowan University. The purpose is to read the following scenario, and rank the people in the story from 1 to 5 (explained below).

I got some help from some friends on Twitter for the class assignment, but since several others expressed an interest, here is the scenario. If you like, you can post your comments on the exercise (along with your rankings) below (though I already got the content I need for the assignment, it still might be fun to see what people think).

Linda and David Exercise

            Linda and David love each other very much and wish to see each other.  But they have a problem.  A wide river separates them, David on one side and Linda on the other.

Steven owns the one and only boat that is capable of crossing the river.  Linda goes to him and tells of her plight.  She asks Steven if he will take her across the river in h is boat so she can see her love.  He says that he is willing, but only if she will sleep with him.  Initially, Linda says no, however, later seeing no alternative, she consents.

When Linda arrives at David’s house, she is wracked with guilt, so she tells him all that has happened.  He becomes enraged and throws Linda out of the house.

Linda happens to have a very good friend who also lives on that side of the river and goes to that friend for help, but the friend says, “I’m sorry but I don’t want to get involved,” and sends Linda on her way.

Finally, Linda tells an acquaintance, Michael, what has happened.  He gets angry and returns to David’s house with Linda.  Michael gives David a sound beating.

Having read the story, rank each of the participants from the most (5) to the least (1) despicable, using numbers 2, 3, and 4 for those in between.

Your ranking:

_____  Linda

_____  David

_____  The Friend

_____  Michael

_____  Steven

No Time

I’ve mostly given up on making any decent progress with anything until the end of the semester. Every time I start to get caught up on school work, something else gets added on. I am just treading water to stay on top of it all now.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel, though, for a few reasons:

1. Of the 12 textbooks I’m supposed to read this semester, 7 are done, finished, over with, an 8th is optional for an assignment I’ve found out I won’t have to do (basically it was extra credit I do NOT need), and the 9th and 10th I’m halfway through. That leaves only two more to read front to back, and one of them is short.
2. One of my classes was only half the semester long. It’s done now. I have two TINY things to finish for that class and submit online to have my obligations met. If I can do those over spring break, that’s over.
3. Another “class” is a single assignment in the form of a semester-long project that I haven’t started yet. BUT if I just get some free time, I can bang it out uber fast and easy cause it’s nothing I consider complicated. It’s just been one of those, “Nope, don’t have time for this” type of things.
4. Once these things are all done, there shouldn’t be anything ELSE to interfere with my revisions. 

So… Here’s hoping?

Storytime Mondays: A Hard Life in the Big Easy

Draw.

Gabriella drew the bowstring back, the fletching of the arrow grazing against her cheek. Hold it steady. Don’t be afraid. Three men were running at her across the woodland terrain, dodging past trees and moss covered rocks. Don’t think about all three of them. Just focus on the one.

Focus.

Wind howled around her, whipping her dark brown hair. She flicked her head back briefly to get it out of her eyes. Stay on your game. Don’t be distracted. They were getting closer. Don’t think about that. Don’t rush. Take your time. Aim.

Release.

The arrow flew through the air towards the closest man. It flew wide, streaked past the man, and embedded itself in the trunk of a tree. Don’t worry about one miss. Worry about the next shot. They were getting closer. The nearest man had metal spikes of some kind growing out of his arm. She didn’t want to get anywhere near those. Stay on your game.

Draw. She raised a second arrow and aimed. Slow. Steady. Precise.

Focus. Adjust for the wind. Watch the path, he’ll have to move left to get past that tree. Wait for it. Pick the good shot.

Release. The arrow flew swift and strong, then pierced the man’s chest. He went down. Maybe not dead, but not continuing the chase either. Gabriella didn’t let herself heave a sigh of relief. She had to stay focused. There were two more coming.

The second man had shot lightning at her earlier, before she had briefly lost them in the woods. He’d be dangerous, once he got close. He was still too far now, and her arrows flew farther than his power. He was nearly in range. Be careful. Don’t panic. Remember, fear makes it worse.

She drew another arrow as the man raised his fist. Sparks of energy flew from his fingertips. A bolt of electricity flew towards her as another arrow flew away. The lightning only struck a tree nearby, but the arrow struck flesh. The man staggered, but didn’t fall. He was getting closer. Don’t think about that. She drew another arrow from her quiver, refusing to rush. Rushing made her shots sloppy. She couldn’t afford to be sloppy.

Release. The arrow struck. The man went down. A final surge of energy from his body sent bolts of lightning into the plants and set fire to the underbrush. The third man wove around the flames and closed the distance. He was almost on top of her. No time for another shot.

Run.

Gabriella turned and ran through the forest.  She slung her bow across her back to keep her hands free. She tried her hardest to control her breathing. Stay calm. Don’t be afraid. Fear makes it worse. The man was faster than her. His muscles bulged with power. Supernatural strength. Powerful leg muscles propelled him forward. She had to keep her lead. She scanned the forest ahead of her and picked out paths in the impossible terrain.

Run to live. Don’t run out of fear. Just run to stay alive.

A fallen tree leaned against a slope, its trunk a slippery ramp. She ran up it, keeping her footing steady. The far end was a good ten feet off the ground. Gabby ran straight for it. She raced along the trunk and leapt off the edge. Her hands shot out and she grabbed a low-hanging branch from another tree, using it to swing forward, letting her momentum carry her. She landed in a crouch to absorb the impact of the fall, then sprang right back to her feet and rushed forward. Thick bushes blocked the way in front of her and scattered boulders dotted the forest ground. There was no easy path around. She jumped towards the nearest boulder and planted one foot on it just long enough to push off to her left towards another. Without pausing she pushed off the second boulder, bounding to her right to make contact with the trunk of an ancient tree. She planted her feet against the trunk just long enough to ensure her balance, then leapt forward, somersaulting through the air and landing on the ground beyond, putting her hands out to catch herself from the fall. She landed on her hands and used the momentum of the fall to roll across her shoulder, then came out of the roll with her feet back under her. Her pace never faltered as she was pushed herself up and kept running.

She snatched a quick glance back towards her pursuer. He was closing in. He had the strength to barrel past the obstacles in his way without slowing down. Damn. There was a ridge ahead. Wet. Slick. She heard the sound of running water nearby. She ran up to the ridge and saw a drop too far to jump. She jumped anyway, then twisted in mid air as she fell so she could grab a thick root that hung over the ridge. Pain shot through her arms as her weight jerked to a stop and she clung to the root. She swung on it for a moment, bringing her feet close to the ridge wall. Once her momentum stopped she let go, and her foot touched down on  a small outcropping, no more than a foot wide. It couldn’t support her, but she used it for a moment’s balance to keep her in control of her movement. She pushed off the ledge to the right, dropped down a few more feet, and planted her foot against another small ledge, using them as stepping stones to keep from falling too fast.  A few steps later she was landing on the ground below. She landed in the stream bank and mud splashed around her, staining her clothes and splattering on her face.

Mud. Mud was bad. It got her feet stuck, slowed her down. She wrested herself free and back onto the grass. The stream flowed by on her left, and an open field stood at the forest’s edge to her right. She dodged right. She heard a loud thud behind her, and glanced back. Her pursuer had taken the ridge in a single leap, landing with enough force that he should have broken his legs. He looked unfazed. He was also getting closer. She pushed herself for all she had as panic started to grip her. Don’t be afraid. Fear makes it worse. He was closing in. She reached the field and raced forward. Far off, in the distance, there were city lights. Way too far to reach. Just run.

She could hear the man’s breathing behind her now. His breaths were thick with exertion, like hers. Heavy footsteps pounded the ground. Her breath caught in a panic. She glanced back. He was within thirty feet. No good, no good. Run! She tried for more speed, but her legs felt like jelly. Her hands started to shake. She heard him let out a grunt of effort as he closed the distance. She looked back again. Twenty five feet. Don’t be afraid! Please please please don’t be afraid, you’ll only make it worse. She glanced back. Twenty feet.

Damn.

The man chasing her was struck with a surge of energy that made his muscles ripple. It emboldened him. Gabriella let out a strangled yelp and tears flooded her eyes. The man’s muscles grew stronger, and that made each step easier. Each step brought him closer to her. Each step made him stronger. Adrenaline was pumping through him, along with renewed energy from seeing his prey was almost within reach. Ten feet. His steps sounded like a jackhammer hitting the ground behind her. Veins in his neck popped out. His face turned red. Five feet. Fear was all Gabriella’s mind knew now, and it only made the man stronger.

He reached out, grabbed her backpack, and yanked her back hard. It felt like whiplash. She screamed. He pulled her back and threw her to the ground. Her breath was knocked from her lungs. Her throat closed tight. His bulging fist came down, and she barely twisted aside in time. This close, his strength was so great it left a crater in the ground next to her head. Dirt and grass flew everywhere, getting in her eyes and mouth. Shaking sobs escaped her lips. She fumbled to get free, and lashed out with her belt knife. She couldn’t remember drawing it. She tried to stab the man, but he knocked the knife aside with ease. Her wrist flared in pain and nearly broke. The man’s veins quivered with the energy coursing through him. His heart must have been racing beyond control.

About to burst.

Her eyes locked on the bulging veins. As the man’s fist came up a final time, Gabriella grabbed his arm. Energy erupted. Power. Raw mana. It rushed through her and made him stronger. Physical contact was the worst, worse than the fear even. The man’s strength grew so high he could likely level a building. With one motion he could rip her clean in half. There was nothing else to do, though. His fist rose to strike. She closed her eyes tight.

The man staggered.

When the blow didn’t come she opened her eyes. The brute wore a wide eyed expression. His hand trembled. His skin ripped and burst along both arms, the muscles bulging beyond possibility. He wavered, his right hand moving to his chest.

Gabriella leapt to her feet and tried to run. Her attacker’s left hand still gripped her backpack. She went nowhere. The man’s arm was bleeding and quivering, his arm going numb and his fingers growing limp. He dropped to his knees and struggled to hold on to her. Panic was in his eyes. He obviously didn’t know what was happening. He wouldn’t have understood that the strength had grown too much. His heart was giving out. His fingers went slack, and she ran. Ten feet, twenty, thirty. The strength left him, and he slumped over. The energy faded and he returned to his normal state, but his heart had already given out. He fell to the ground, dead.

Gabriella just kept running, her tears changing from fear to relief. She wiped the dirt and tears from her face and forced herself to keep moving. The men chasing her had been after her power. A ‘pet’ that made them stronger, they thought. Keep her around, and they would be the most powerful anywhere. Men not unlike gods, or so they believed. But the very power they sought was deadly. The last man, his heart burst inside his chest, was the proof.

Finally Gabby’s pace slowed. She had nothing left. She collapsed to the ground, struggling to catch her breath. Then, after a long struggle to regain her strength, she forced her weak limbs back into motion, heading towards the distant city.

Storytime Mondays: Fragmented

The following story was originally written as an assignment for a class at Rowan University.  The assignment was to write a story with four different segments, each with a different “voice.”  My response was to create four “voices” that were all inside the same head: The Dual Mind, The Virus, The Damaged Mind, and The Disconnected Mind.

Fragmented

                Kit Freytan had a dual mind.  Cybernetically enhanced, her brain was half organic, half artificial.  The two halves worked in perfect unison, with thoughts and memories passing between gray cells of brain matter and circuit pathways of computer hardware.  A careful balance was required, for her biological mind was, by itself, damaged and flawed since birth, incapable of emotion, imagination, communication, or abstract thought.  Those things came from the implanted artifical half, which itself was incapable of processing logic, reason, or rational thought, the programs that ran it being purely intuitive and imaginative.

Kit was running.  Her breath came in ragged gasps as her arms and legs pumped fiercely.  She sobbed as she ran, the events of the night crashing down on her with a mountainous weight.  She tried to claw her way clear, but was unable to keep up with what was going on.  A gunshot rang out behind her and she screamed, ducking halfway over as she ran, covering her head with her arms.  Panicked breaths now, she sought escape, unwilling to look behind her and see the face of her pursuer.  She didn’t want to know him, didn’t want to remember him.  She just wanted this horrible day to end!

She turned to the nearest building and pushed on the door.  It wouldn’t budge!  She pulled and banged and rattled it, trying to force it open.  Why wouldn’t it open!?  Footsteps approached from behind, and she turned away, still not looking back.  She winced and squealed as another shot blasted into the brick wall beside her, feeling warmth across her face as shattered fragments of the wall pierced her delicate flesh and set her young blood free.  Then, as her steps continued, something slammed into her head.  She screamed, sure it was a bullet, but no, this was a more intangible assault.  Pierced, penetrated, violated, her mind cried out in horror at the ripping, clawing, gnashing monster that had reached inside her.  Her hands clutched at the side of her head, and she felt torn in two.  Something was in her head: something foreign, something diseased, something horrible!  Her muscles spasmed and her legs faltered.  No, she couldn’t fall now!  She had to keep running!  Her vision began to blur, her breath became thick and warm.  Darkness closed around her, and her ears felt stuffed with cotton.  Her mind ached and ripped, and she was torn in two.

* * *

     Eden Tech Industries Cybernetic Assault Artificial Intelligence Virus Version 3.1.04 reporting data log.  Virus has accessed subject’s cerebral cortex.  Initiating transmission.  Access to home servers granted.  Compiling report in real time, activation in three… two… one… mark.

     Target penetrated.  Virus spreading through subject’s cerebral processors.  Encountering Virus Guard resistance… Resistance terminated.  Cerebral penetration complete.  Virus now has full access to target’s systems.  Initial scans indicate target is experiencing extreme stress levels.  Heart rate is accelerated to over two hundred beats per minute.  Scans indicate rapid breathing, excessive oxidation of muscles, and minor lacerations of subject’s skin in parotid and submandibular regions of left facial structure.

     Initiating cerebral assault.  Accessing protocols.  Subject is operating Trimola Industries Souldream System Ver. 1.0.0.  Hardware: TI 9X-A1 Processor… System is currently online.  Initiating subroutine VX 1.0.3, forced separation of cybernetic components.  Penetrating outer defenses.  Subject’s pain receptors firing in response to penetration.  Heart rate increasing.  Initiating assault procedure alpha.  Disrupting muscular functions.  Subject experiencing muscle spasms and shortness of breath.  Initiating assault procedure beta.  Disrupting sensory signals.  Subject experiencing level four sensory deprivation.  Visual and auditory stimuli degrading.  Initiating assault procedure gamma.  Disrupting cybernetic signal transmission and software processing.  Disruption complete.

     Subject penetration and separation complete.  Virus will now auto-purge from subject’s systems.  Ending transmission.

* * *

            She ran.  There was no destination in mind.  Destination required forethought.  Forethought required planning.  She had none.  She merely reacted.  Pain had been experienced.  Pain was undesirable.  She would continue running until the source of the pain was no more.

A thing followed her.  It made noises.  Pain followed the noises.  Pain was undesirable.  To avoid the pain, she must avoid the noises, and therefore avoid the thing which made the noises.  Moving faster would get her away from the thing which made the noises.  She ran faster, still with no destination in mind.

Her muscles ached.  This ache was also undesirable.  Ceasing to run would end the ache.  Yet ceasing to run would bring the thing that made the noises closer.  That would bring pain.  Pain was also undesirable.  To end both the pain and the ache, she needed to stop running without letting the thing get closer.

Past experience had led to conditioning.  Conditioning told her that when running was no longer an option, hiding was an alternative.  Hiding would prevent the thing that made the noises from getting closer, and thus prevent the pain.  Hiding would mean she was no longer running, and thus prevent the ache.  Therefore, hiding would bring an end to both the pain and the ache.

She hid, ducking into an alley and finding a dark corner.  A low opening appeared in the side of the building.  She crawled into it, moving as far back as the space would allow.  She sat, and hugged her knees to her chest in the position that caused the least amount of ache.  Her eyes stared blankly at the opening.  The thing could no longer be seen, the loud noises it brought could no longer be heard.  They were therefore irrelevant.  Only the moment was relevant.  She would rest now, until the ache stopped.

* * *

AHHHHHHH!  No, no, no, No, NO!  I’m trapped, Trapped, TRAPPED!  I hate this, hate being disconnected, it’s like a prison in here, trapped in my own mind, let me out Let Me Out LET ME OUT!!  I’ve got to escape, got to run, got to go, Go, GO!  That man is still out there, he might find me!!!  I don’t want to think about all the things he might do to me, God all the pain no no no don’t think about it don’t dwell on it I can see it I can feel it all the violation and blood and ripped limbs torn clothes bruised flesh broken dreams shattered innocence make it stop Make It Stop MAKE IT STOP!

            MOVE, YOU IDIOT, MOVE!!  Why won’t my body move why won’t it run don’t you know that man is STILL OUT THERE!?!?  Stupid damaged retard brain is GOING TO GET US KILLED!!!  Reconnect, damnit what’s wrong with these stupid transmission ports, reconnect, Reconnect, RECONNECT DAMN YOU RECONNECT!!!  Why, why, WHY can’t you work why are you broken you stupid worthless part of me Damaged Part Of Me USELESS PART OF ME WHY CAN’T YOU UNDERSTAND!?!?  Don’t just sit there, you idiot, run, move, flee until you drop don’t stop moving don’t stop running you’ve got to get away why aren’t you moving Why Aren’t You Listening WHY CAN’T YOU RECONNECT stupid stupid stupid damaged brain how did I ever survive with just the broken parts of this useless mind, I need the programming, need the emotion and understanding need to think beyond the moment and you useless broken doll you CAN’T DO THAT WITHOUT THE ARTIFICIAL PART!!! 

             Wait, what’s that… system… diagnostic, yes, Yes, YES fix it fix it fix it NOW, no don’t start up in safe mode, don’t open the help files, just reboot NOW!  15% come on that’s too slow, hurry, Hurry, HURRY, 30% damnit why didn’t they give me a faster processor, stupid useless labs, 55% come on come on come on he could still be right outside 70% too slow Too Slow TOO SLOW!  80% wait what was that is that him I know I heard something 85% react already can’t you understand that noise is footsteps and footsteps means he’s still OUT THERE 95% HE’S COMING HE’S ALMOST HERE YOU’VE GOT TO MOVE WHY DON’T YOU MOVE 99% HURRY HURRY HURRY 100%

* * *

             Kit’s eyes cleared, then blurred, covered with static, then snapping back into focus.  The footsteps had stopped right outside.  She was trapped…


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Vote for Storytime Mondays

I have a huge number of available stories that can be posted here, and I’m having a bit of trouble trying to decide which one should be tomorrow’s choice. So I figured, hey, let’s see if anyone has a preference.

So if you’re interested, you can vote for one of three options by posting a comment here. Whichever option gets the most votes will be the story I post for tomorrow’s “Storytime Mondays.”

Option 1: “Time for Reflection”, a medieval fantasy short story, originally written around 2000, in which a pyrokinetic man named Ketrin explores the abandoned ruins of a mine.

Option 2: “Fragmented”, a futuristic Sci Fi story, originally written spring of 2012, about a girl named Kit. Kit has a dual mind (half biological/half computer) that starts to break down, leaving the two halves exposed and vulnerable.

Option 3: “A Hard Time in the Big Easy”, a modern fantasy story originally written February 2011, which is a story about Gabby. This is actually the first story is ever wrote about her, long before I “rebooted” her for “Manifestation.” (Note: The original story was part of a collaborative storytelling site, and as such I can only post my sections, leaving out the later segments that were written by others. Therefore this story will be in the form of a stand-alone sample chapter. It stands quite well on its own, though.)

If there is enough overall interest, I’ll carry over the two options that don’t get picked into next week, add a new third option, and hold a new vote. That way each week there’d be a new selection, but the initial options would stay in the running each week until they get picked.

So which story would you like to read?