Category Archives: The Inner Geek

Science Fiction, Double Feature

If you’re anything like me (and a lot of other people on this wonderful planet), the moment after reading the title of this post, a very particular melody popped into your head.

Doctor X will build a creature…

You may currently be envisioning a pair of giant red lips.

See androids fighting Brad and Janet…

Or maybe not. Maybe you’ve jumped straight to picturing Tim Curry in suspenders.

Anne Francis stars in Forbidden Planet…

And any moment now, you’re going to feel an almost unstoppable compulsion to stand up and jump to the left. And then step to the righ-igh-igh-igh-ight.

Oh-oh, at the late night, double feature, picture show.

If you’re reading this, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve seen Rocky Horror Picture Show at some point. Very possibly at multiple points. I know I have. But last week I had my first opportunity to go and see the show performed live on stage, with Craig McLachlan starring as Frank-N-Furter. It was, in a word, AMAZING.

Rocky Horror

It was everything Rocky Horror should be, and time seemed to disappear into a vortex and fly by at the speed of a super-sonic mansion-shaped alien spaceship.

When we came out of the theatre, I was grinning and glowing. The world was a different place — slightly less predictable, and an awful lot more exciting. Around me, 1999 other people (the show was sold out) were exiting the theatre with the same loopy grin on their faces. When people made eye contact with each other, no one looked away in awkward embarrassment at being caught staring. Instead, they shared a secret grin. People jostled each other, not in their rush to leave, but in that casual way that friends and intimates make occasional body contact, as if assuring themselves that they’re in good company.

And the thing that stood out to me, even more than all of that, was the variety of dress and age of the patrons.

Costumes; wigs; diamond jewelry; suits and ties; after-five gowns; fisher stockings; bright red lips; pale pink nails; sensible shoes; 3-inch heels; pearls; cuff-links.

Eighteen year old kids, and seventy year old couples who clung to the handrails for support as they walked, and everything in between.

And all of them, all of them, grinning and laughing and smirking and walking with just a little bit more hip-swivel than usual.

My friend and I left the theatre, and wandered down the strip looking for a place to sit and have coffee and cake. And as we walked, we talked about Story.

Rocky Horror Picture Show is almost forty years old. Those frail-looking septuagenarians? They were younger than me when the movie came out. They probably saw it at the picture theatre. And here they are, still moved by the story of innocent young lovers, and the sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania. As for the 19 year olds? They weren’t even a gleam in their parents’ eyes when the movie came out. But they’ve paid a small fortune to go to the theatre and see it performed live on stage.

But, why?

What is it about Rocky Horror that makes it so enduring?

What is it about the story that keeps us coming back for more? Is it the sexual liberation? The costumes? The catchy songs and dance numbers? Or just the overall antici–*

There have been so many other movies and stage shows over the last forty years that take the theme of sexual liberation even further. Seeing a man in suspenders is no longer quite as risqué as it used to be. And while the songs and dances are great, if that’s all it was about, we’d just buy the music. Or see a performance of the songs, rather than the whole show. But, no. We don’t do that. We don’t put the movie in the DVD player and skip through the boring bits to the songs.

Well, I don’t.

So what is it about the Story of Rocky Horror Picture Show that continues to draw the crowds?

“It’s timeless,” my friend suggested. “People can still relate to it.”

But… can they? I mean, obviously they can, or the show wouldn’t be playing to a sold-out audience every eight times a week for five weeks. In Brisbane. But what about it is timeless? Brad and Janet certainly don’t represent modern teenagers. And the whole “we have to go to the the spooky castle and ask if we can use their phone” is quaint and possibly completely unbelievable to the 19-year-olds in the audience.

So what is it that makes the story so timeless?

“You’re over-thinking it. It’s just a great show.”

That wasn’t my friend. That was a random lady who just happened to be walking in front of us, also having come from the theatre, and also in search of refreshments.

“Yes, it is,” I said. “But we’re writers. We like to try to work out what makes the story so great.”

She and her friend slowed and joined us. “It’s just great,” she said flippantly. “I remember sneaking into the cinema when the movie came out — because we weren’t old enough to get in and see it, but things were more relaxed back then. So we snuck in and watched it, with no idea what it was going to be about. And it was just… It’s the story of Brad and Janet who are so innocent, and they’re exposed to this world… It’s like they go through this whole experience, and then… Oh… The hug at the end. Where they run into each other’s arms…”

The two women looked at each, and one fanned herself with her hand. “It’s like… After everything they’ve been through, they realise they still love each other, and their love is even greater than it was to start with, because they’ve experienced so much more. And they’ve both done it, and they’re still there for each other, and…” She trails off, her voice full of emotion.

The other woman adds, “It’s like a fairytale.”

And that’s what it is.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a fairytale.

It’s the tale of a young couple, separated by a wicked (and yet incredibly sweet and high-heeled) witch, forced to undergo emotional trials and come face to face with themselves. But in the end, despite everything that’s happened, they run into each other’s arms.

Safe.

Loved.

Forever.

And the wicked witch, a man so desperate to be loved that he would do whatever it took to create the perfect man — and discard the “failures” on a whim — is bested not by an outside source, but by his own excesses and hubris.

It’s a modern fairytale. A coming of age story that is timeless, because as we start to navigate the adult world, one of the most terrifying things we have to face is our own secret desires and appetites.

Also, there’s killer music, costumes, characters, and a whole lot of antici–

“When we were fifteen and we saw the movie for the first time,” my mystery friend said, “we came out of the cinema, and it was like we had been changed. It didn’t feel like we’d watched a movie. It felt like we’d been to another planet ourselves, and we were entirely different people. Like we suddenly saw the world the way it really was. And now…” She trails off and a little smile plays at the corners of her mouth. “Now, every time I watch it, I feel exactly the same way I felt when I was fifteen.”

And that, my friends, that is what makes a story timeless.

Did I over-think it? Under-think it? Why do you think The Rocky Horror Picture Show has such timeless appeal?

*pation.

11 Comments

Filed under Opinion, The Inner Geek, Writing

The “How to be a Super-Hero” Party

130510 - The Batman

Like most boys his age, Big Brother loves super-heroes. He’s not too fussy about which ones, although Spiderman and Batman are probably his favourites. So his answer shouldn’t have come as a shock to me when, a few months ago, I asked the fateful question: “Shall we have a birthday party for you this year?”

“A super-hero party!” Big Brother said, with the type of enthusiasm usually reserved for… well, super-hero parties, I suppose.

“Sure,” I said, in that Mummy-tone way that actually means: “I’m not sure, actually. But it’s a few months away. And maybe you’ll change your mind between now and then.”

But he didn’t. So, two weeks before his birthday, I had to actually admit to myself that it was going to happen. We were going to have a super-hero party for him and his school friends.

The trouble is, I suck at children’s parties. I’m no good at running party games (as I discovered a year ago, when Big Brother turned five). And the idea of a group of five and six-year-old boys running pell-mell around the house without direction or parental control fills me with the kind of dread usually reserved for… well, children’s parties.

But do you what I don’t suck at?

Storytelling.

So the challenge was: How do I turn Big Brother’s 6th birthday from a super-hero party into a super-hero story?

As it turns out, it was easier than it sounds.

We had the birthday party in a local park on a Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago. (Several hours after Big Brother woke me up by excitedly yelling, “Mummy! It’s my birthday! And I’m six years old!!) Four of Big Brother’s school friends were there, along with their parents and three little sisters.

“Do you like super-heroes?” I asked the children. “And would you like to be a super-hero?”

With two resounding answers of Yes!, we started the day’s activities.

130505

All the children sat down, and I gave them each a plain white t-shirt and some fabric markers to design their own super-hero costume. When that was done, they moved to the next table to colour in their own super-hero mask.

The children loved it. So did the parents — some of whom spent more time designing the costumes than their children did. (If I did this again, I’d definitely have adult-sized shirts on hand as well!)

We had a Neo-Flash, a Neo-Batman, a Neo-Superman, Z-Man, and the Golden Arm of Justice. (Also a couple of Princesses and Fairy Queens.) When the children were dressed in their costumes, they super-heroed around for a while until everyone was done. And then we moved on to the next part of the party.

“Do you like stories?” I asked.

Another resounding Yes!

So I gathered the children together, and we sat down in a circle on the grass for a story.

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“This is the story of Rocky the Rabbit,” I began. “Rocky the Rabbit was a very special rabbit. He wasn’t a flesh and blood rabbit living in a field. No, he was something much better. He was a money-box rabbit living in a playroom. And at night, when all the children had gone to bed and the toys came out to have their own adventures, Rocky the Rabbit dreamed of being a super-hero.”

And then I told them the story of Rocky the Rabbit — a story I wrote for the occasion.

Rocky the Rabbit wanted to be a super-hero, but he didn’t have any super-powers. But during the course of the story, he rushed to try to help everyone who needed him. And at the end of the story the toys all gathered together to throw a party of Rocky.

“But I’m not a super-hero,” Rocky said. “I’m not super-fast, and I’m not super-strong, and I can’t even fly.”

“You may not be super-fast,” said the toys. “And you may not be super-strong. And you certainly can’t fly. But when you heard someone calling for help, you hop-hop-hopped over as fast as you could, and you found a way to help them. And that’s what makes a real super-hero.”

And then the toys presented Rocky the Rabbit with his very own shiny cape. And from then on, every night after the children had gone to sleep, Rocky the Rabbit would put on his cape and hop-hop-hop around the playroom, looking for people to help. Because he really was a super-hero.

The children loved it.

And when the story was done, I presented each of the children with their very own shiny cape. We attached them to the back of the super-hero shirts, and off they flew to do super-heroic things.

Soon after, we gathered the children together so Big Brother could open his presents. And then we had cake.

130505 Or cakes. With an s.

For some reason, I decided on the spur of the moment that cupcakes would be a better idea than a large cake.

Do you have any idea how long it takes to decorate 30 cupcakes?

A long time.

But the children loved them, and that’s the important part. In fact, the hard part was getting the children to leave them alone until after the candles had been blown out and the birthday song sung. Then they attacked the cupcakes with gusto, everyone grabbing the symbol of their favourite super-hero.

So I count the decorating as time well spent.

After cake had been consumed, it was almost time to wrap up the story party. So I called all the children over and told them we had a little present for each of them to say thank you for coming to Big Brother’s birthday.

130505

Once the children had all lined up, excited faces and hands outstretched, I tried to open the box of goodies.

But it wouldn’t budge.

“Oh no,” I said. “It seems to be stuck.”

I tried again to no avail. “Wait. There’s a letter here.”

The children watched with wide eyes as I read it out.

Dear super-heroes,
Ha ha ha. I have locked your presents away in this box and sealed them in there with my magic power ring. I’ve hidden all the other magic power rings in the world, so now you will never get your presents. Ha ha ha.
Your sincerely,
Super-villain X.

“Oh no!” I cried. “What will we do?!”

The littlest super-heroes got it straight away. “We have to find the magic power rings!”

And off they went, running as though their presents lives depended on it. They searched high and low, around trees and benches and fences. And before long, they all had at least one magic power ring to their name. (Some had as many as six. Trust me, you can’t have too many magic power rings.)

When the children were all back, I got them to all line up. “Maybe if we all point out magic power rings at the box and say the magic words really, really loudly… Does anyone know any magic words?”

“Abracadabra!”

“Monkeys!”

“Please!” (Bless. Not my child, but he had the best magic word of them all.)

We worked out a combination of magic words, and then all the children pointed their rings at the box and yelled and —

130505 - Power Rings— it worked!

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The box opened.

And I gave everyone their party favour: a real Rocky the Rabbit money-box.

Complete with cape.

The children flew their Rocky the Rabbits around for a while, and then it was time for everyone to go home.

It was a great morning, and everyone enjoyed themselves.

As everyone was leaving, one of the parents said to me, “This was great. I can’t wait to see what you do next year!”

Right. Next year.

You mean children have more than one birthday?!

What have I gotten myself into…

Have you had any particularly good (or bad) children’s birthday party experiences?

19 Comments

Filed under Life With Kids, The Inner Geek

The Future is Conveniently Dystopian (Inside the Mind of a Writer)

Pay Pass

Do you use this fabulous new technology to pay for purchases without the time-consuming need to sign your name or push five buttons?

I’m talking, of course, about Mastercard’s payPass and Visa’s payWave.

If you’ve got the payPass/payWave technology on your credit or debit card, you can lightly tap your card at the checkout and your transaction is processed without any mess or fuss. I think it’s incredibly cool, in a “Hey, we’re living in the future!” kind of way, so I generally try to use it as often as possible. Even if that means spending an extra two minutes digging through my purse trying to find my payPass card rather than using my “old fashioned” card.

I was at the liquor store buying my daily weekly supply of booze, when I found myself in exactly that situation: digging around looking for my card so I could quickly and conveniently have my husband’s hard-earned money removed from our bank account instantaneously (rather than just using the cash in my purse).

“These things are great, aren’t they?” said the cashier.

“Yeah,” I said, finally locating my card. I tapped it and waited for the friendly beep that indicated Approval.

“It’s amazing what they come up with,” he added.

“It really is,” I said, already thinking about getting home and opening the first bottle of booze to my family.

“It’s so convenient to be able to wave your card past it, and not have to remember numbers or anything. It makes things so much quicker,” he said.

I looked at him, my brain whirring. “I know. Soon everything will work that way. Our driver’s licences already have chips in them. Then it will seem silly to have multiple cards, so we’ll be able to choose to have all our details put on the one card. Banking, Licenses, Insurance, Medical records, the whole deal. It only makes sense, right?

“That’ll be even more convenient, because we’ll only have to carry around one card.  But why carry a purse or wallet just for one card — because, let’s face it, who uses cash anymore? — and so someone will come up with an idea for a watch or a bracelet that has your details on it so you can just scan your wrist past the chip reader.

“The bracelet will have a fancy name, of course. Some marketing guru will come  up with it. Like… I don’t know… A Personal Identification and Monetisation Passport? Then we’ll be inundated by ads with fresh-faced twenty-somethings visiting exotic locales while wearing their bracelets. The slogans will be: ‘PIMP your life with Visa!’ and ‘A PIMPed life? Priceless.’.

“Of course, that will cause all sorts of trouble. When someone can steal your identity just by taking your PIMP band, people will try to find all kinds of ways to keep them safe. So the magical boffins in lab coats will say, “Hey, we have this great microchip technology that’s getting better every day! Why not really PIMP your life, and have your PIMP card injected under your thumbnail?”

“It has to be the thumbnail. Because that way you’ll need to press your thumb against a pressure pad so your details can be scanned. And everyone knows that’s how the future looks.

“And that will be awesome. Until, of course, the inevitable rise of a corrupt government power who asserts its dominance by wiping the PIMP cards of radical thinkers thus removing them from regular society, and creating a sheep-like population striving for mediocrity and a seething underworld of disenfranchised rebels forced to exist in an antiquated culture using a barter system and tokens or notes to represent wealth.

“But one day, a small band of rebels will rise up against the government’s oppressive rule, and–”

Okay, I didn’t really say any of that. But I thought it. Loudly.

Out loud, I said, “Yeah.”

Then I went out to my car and drove home.

What do you think? Want to PIMP your life?

20 Comments

Filed under Opinion, Random Stuff, The Inner Geek

Spider-Man Saves You Time

Like many of us in the modern world, I often feel that there’s not enough hours in the day. That logically translates to there not being enough days, weeks and months in the year. It’s something we all complain about ad nauseum, but there seemed to be no solution. Until now.

All those self-help gurus who tell you that “Everyone has 24 hours!” and “You can do more in the time you have!”? Yeah, they’re lying.

When there’s just not enough time to accomplish what you want to accomplish, when you find yourself sitting around in December wondering what happened to the rest of the year, there’s only one person you should call.

Spider-Man.

Because this is the calendar we bought Big Brother for 2013.

Spiderman Calendar

I can only hope one of those extra months is called Spidember.

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Filed under The Inner Geek

The Hobbit: My Secret Shame

The Hobbit

Ask any fan of speculative fiction, and they’ll doubtless list The Hobbit  as one the must-read books of the fantasy genre. It’s the book that precedes The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and sets the stage for one of the most dramatic and epic stories of all time; one that spawned the ideas for thousands of other novels, movies, songs, and artworks and forever changed the world.

Am I over-selling Tolkien’s work? I don’t think so.

In a few days, The Hobbit will be the name on everyone’s lips. The first installment of Peter Jackson’s trilogy based on the book will hit cinemas around the world, and people of all stripes will be engrossed in the story of Bilbo Baggins as he ventures forth from Hobbiton in search of treasure and adventure. It’s an exciting time.

Several years ago, my sister expressed her enjoyment of the Lord of the Rings movies. She’s never been much of a reader, but she mentioned that she’d quite like to read the books. So I picked her up a lovely boxed set that included all three LotR books as well as a copy of The Hobbit. Being the type of person who likes to work through things systematically, she decided to read the first book first. (Makes sense, right?)

A few months later I was talking to her on the phone and asked her how she was going, and if she’d finished reading The Hobbit.

“Yes,” she said. “Well, no. Well… Yes.”

“What does that even mean?” I asked.

“I was almost at the end, and I was really tired. So I stopped reading on the second last page. But that’s really the end. The story’s really over.”

And that was that. She never did read the last page of the book. I mean, sure, there’s no likely to be any grand surprises, but really? It just seems crazy to me.

So my husband and I were chatting last week about seeing The Hobbit in the cinema, and he reminded me of my sister’s unfinished book. I nodded and smiled and agreed that it was funny and then tried to change the subject. But it didn’t work. He talked about his favourite parts in the book, and told me about the first time he’d read it, and got all excited about seeing the movie, and then turned his attention to me.

How old was I when I read it? How many times have I read it? What were my favourites parts?

And that’s when I had to admit my secret shame.

I haven’t read The Hobbit.

Look, it’s not my fault. No, really, hear me out. See, when I was a teenager I was largely introduced to the sci-fi/fantasy world by a guy named Adam. He also introduced me to role-playing and war-gaming and the joys of Iron Maiden. (I had a crush on him, okay? He had a fair chance of introducing me to just about anything.) So he was reading The Lord of the Rings and I showed an interest in it because, you know, then we’d have something else in common, and so he loaned me his books one after the other so I could read them, and I read them all and LOVED them and thought they were the best things ever and then we started roleplaying MERP — which is the original Lord of the Rings roleplaying game — and I got to play a half-elf and go on adventures, and that only made me love LotR more, and…. okay, I’m getting off topic.

The point is, I read Lord of the Rings without any idea that The Hobbit existed. And when I learned about The Hobbit years later, it seemed silly to go back and read it. I was 16, and at that age where reading “kids’ books” was super uncool, and besides — I already knew basically what happened. Why read the beginning of the story after you’ve already read the middle and the end? Right? Right?

And then time went on, and people assumed that I’d read The Hobbit because… well, who hasn’t? And I went along with it. I read the wiki on the book so I knew the plot, and I got involved in conversations as though I knew what I was talking about.

Yes, I faked it.

But no more!

I admitted it to my husband and now I’m admitting it to you. Because the time for faking it is gone. Now is the time for reading it.

So if you’ll excuse me, I need to go update my TBR list and put The Hobbit at the top.

Have you ever faked having read a book? What books are you secretly ashamed never to have read?

14 Comments

Filed under Reading, The Inner Geek

A Letter From the FBI

Picture by cliff1066

When I was a teenager, I was what most people considered to be a “good girl”. Sure, I skipped class on a regular basis, talked back to teachers, and occasionally lied to my parents. But who doesn’t, right? I didn’t take drugs, drink underage, or sneak around at night. I got good grades at school. And I didn’t commit crimes.

While many things have changed over the last twenty years, I’m still not a criminal.

So I wasn’t at all worried when I discovered I’d received an email from the FBI.

And not just some random person at the FBI, either. A couple of days ago I got a letter from one Mark F. Giuliano. According to the signature on his email, he’s the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Atlanta Division. But I know better than to believe everything I read on the interwebs, so I did a quick google search to double-check.

(Yes, I do see the irony in using the internet to check the validity of something I saw on the internet. And my response to that is here.)

According to a National Press Release from the FBI on October 3rd this year, Mr Giuliano was, indeed, named as the Special Agent in Charge  of Atlanta Division. So this letter is clearly legitimate. Sure, it came from an IP address located in Japan, but that was clearly just the FBI being secretive and tricky…. Right?

Without further ado, here is the letter I received. (I hope posting it here isn’t illegal. Please contact me if there’s any problems, Special Agent!)

From the office of Agent Mark F. Giuliano
Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Atlanta Division
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Intelligence field unit
2635 Century Parkway N.E,
Suite 400 Atlanta, GA 30345 USA
  
Urgent Attention:
  
I am Special Agent Mark F. Giuliano from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Atlanta Division) Intelligence Unit. We have just intercepted and confiscated two (2) trunk boxes at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta international airport, and are on the verge of moving it to our bureau head quarters.
  
We have scanned the said boxes, and have found it to contain a total sum of USD$4.5M and also backup document which bears your name as the receiver of the money contained in the boxes. Investigations carried out on the diplomat who accompanied the boxes into the United States has it that he was to deliver this fund to your residence as your contract/inheritance payment which was due you from the office of finance Minster of the federal government of Nigeria.
  
We cross-checked all legal documentation in the boxes, and were about to release the consignment to the diplomat, when we found out that the boxes is lacking one very important documentation which as a result, the boxes have been confiscated until the required document is provided.
  
According to section 229 subsections 31 of the 1991 constitution on release of unclaimed consignment payment, your consignment lacks funds ownership certificate and for that reason you must contact me for direction on how to procure this certificate, so that your consignment can be legally cleared and okay for delivery to you.
  
You are required to contact this bureau within 72 hours or we would take it that you do not want your consignment, and would move it to the treasury Also, you must not contact any other bank for any payment, because your payment is here in care of our storage vault team and will be released to you once you follow my directives
 You have been warned.
  
Yours in service,
Mark F. Giuliano
Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Atlanta Division

 

Although I’m very pleased to get this letter, and to discover that all the emailing I did a few weeks back with that Nigerian Prince has paid off, I’m a little concerned. In fact, I’m more than a little concerned. I’m fairly sure that diplomat was trying to steal the funds that rightly belong to me and the Prince. What other possible reason would he have to fly into Atlanta, when my arrangements called for the funds to be brought to me in AUSTRALIA.

I’ve written back to Mr Guiliano, of course, asking that he immediately arrest the diplomat and send the money back to Nigeria so it can be forwarded to me with a more reputable ambassador of the Prince. Hopefully I’ll receive notification from him soon that my arrangement is back on track.

But in all seriousness, I’m impressed that the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Atlanta Division would have taken the time out of his busy schedule to contact me about this, and that he didn’t simply keep that $4.5 million for himself. Gods bless the FBI.

Have you ever had a letter from Mark F. Guiliano? How about other FBI agents?

57 Comments

Filed under Random Stuff, The Inner Geek

Dream a Little Dream of Awesome (Now with Extra Firefly!)

It’s my friend R’s birthday. He’s having a get-together with some friends. I didn’t think we’d be able to make it — my husband has to work — but after lunch I spontaneously make the decision to put the kids in the car and drive to his place.

We arrive at his place, but it’s different to the way I remember it. The property is huge. There’s a big, old barn to one side, a more modern building to house the horses on the other, and a ramshackle old farmhouse smack bang in the middle of the yard. The house has a sagging balcony wrapped around the wooden building, a couple of slats missing from the five-step staircase, and old sofas and bean-bags scattered on the deck and grass.

I take the kids to look for the birthday boy. The place is packed. There’s an indie band playing on a makeshift stage. I don’t recognise the musicians, but their music is familiar. There are people lying around on the sofas, other people chatting near the barbecue, and through one of the open windows I can see a group of guys playing some kind of networked computer game.

After some searching, I find my friend. “Happy birthday!” I say to him. He gives me a hug, makes a lame joke full of sexual innuendo, and tells me to grab a drink and make myself at home. Then he returns to the computers inside.

I spot a group of kids playing together out back and take my boys out there.

“Hey,” says a familiar figure. “I’m Jayne. I’m watching the kids while they kick a ball around. Want me to look after yours as well?”

“Sure,” I say.

I leave the kids to play and head back inside, looking for beer.

I sit on a sofa with my beer and put my feet up. The band is really good. I groove along to the music for a while before I realise I need to go to the bathroom. I walk inside, but can’t find anything. Every time I walk through a doorway, I end up back outside. I can see computers through the window, but I can’t find the computer room inside. I start to get frustrated. And I really need to pee.

“What are you doing here?” someone asks. I look over. It’s a girl I haven’t seen in years. (We’ll call her A.)

“Hi!” I say, happy to see her. “I’m here for R’s party. It’s great to see him.”

She stares at me. She’s angry. I don’t know why. Just as she’s about to walk away, I ask, “Do you know where the bathroom is?”

She scowls and says, “Fine. I’ll show you.” Then she stalks away.

I follow A to the left, along the balcony. We go down a set of stairs, climb through a barbed wire fence, and then scramble over a mound of discarded and broken furniture. On the other side, the air is colder and there’s no grass growing. I look around, but there’s no sign of the house and I can’t hear the band.

“There,” A says. I follow her pointing finger and see a broken, porcelain toilet bowl. “It’s that or nothing.”

She’s gone and I survey the toilet. I wouldn’t even consider using it, except I really, really need to pee. And there doesn’t seem to be any option. I tap my fingers against my thigh. Then I start undoing my jeans.

I stop.

There’s no one around. And it’s not like there’s a door (or walls) to give me any privacy anyway. I look around and realise  there’s a row of trees and bushes over to my left. Why use a broken toilet when there’s plenty of other options available to me? I leave the trash heap and relieve myself in the bushes, and then return to the party. There’s no sign of A.

I settle back down with my beer on a sofa and watch the sun shining in the brilliant blue sky.

“Hi,” a girl says. “Mind if I sit here?”

“Sure,” I say. I sit up and leave her enough room. There’s something very familiar about her. “Do I know you?”

She looks me in the eyes with a startling intensity and says, “I don’t think so.” Then she smiles again and holds out her hand. “I’m Sasha.”

We shake hands and I introduce myself.

“What do you do?” I ask.

“Lots of things,” she says. “I just started work as the editor of Speculate, a new Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine.”

We talk about books and stories and the appeal of speculative fiction for a while. Then she asks if I’d like a free subscription to the magazine. “Since you’re R’s friend,” she explains. I agree and give her my business card. She leaves to go talk to the band.

It’s late afternoon. I’m lying on a sofa thinking I should go find the kids and go home when Sasha returns. This time she’s followed by half a dozen other people. “Hi again,” she says with a strangely seductive smile. “You didn’t tell me you were a writer.”

I’m surprised. “How did you…”

“I always google people I meet,” she explains. “I’ve just been on your blog, reading your flash fiction. It’s really good.”

“Wow,” I stammer. “Thank you. That’s… that’s great.”

I feel weird and anxious, but she smiles at me again and all those feelings disappear. “I was wondering,” she says. “That story you wrote about Captain Aldo… There’s a lot that’s not explained.  Let me ask you a question: Is Aldo a good man or a bad man?”

I struggle to remember the story she’s referring to, but can only recall the bare basics of it. “Well, I left the ending ambiguous intentionally,” I say. “So people could make their own decision.”

Her expression doesn’t change, but she’s disappointed. Some of the other people turn to leave. I’ve said the wrong thing. I speak up quickly, “But my intention… He thinks he’s a good man, but he often has to do bad things to protect the people around him.”

Sasha smiles. Everyone else smiles. Someone starts to applaud. “That’s great,” says Sasha. “I’m also a movie producer, and I’d like to make a movie of your story about Captain Aldo. I need you to write the screenplay. And I know exactly who will make the perfect Aldo.”

She looks past me to the man lying on the sofa behind mine and Nathan Fillion shakes his head. “Uh-uh. No way, Sasha. I’m not interested.”

He sits up and starts putting on his boots.

“Come on, Nathan,” Sasha says. “You haven’t even read the screenplay yet! It’s perfect for you. Trust me!”

“No,” Nathan says, drawing out the word. “Too many times, Sasha. But not this time.”

“But–”

“No,” says Nathan. “This isn’t like the other times. You left me standing at the altar. I’m not taking your word for it again.”

Sasha closes her eyes and looks away. Nathan finishes tying up his boots and stands up. It’s now or never.

“Nathan?” I say.

“Yes.” He’s angry and hurt, but when he looks at me, he shoots me that familiar smile. I smile back. I can’t help it.

Sasha’s right, he’d be perfect for Captain Aldo.

“I just wanted to say that I’m sorry we won’t be working together,” I say. “I’m a big fan.”

I stand up and walk off the balcony. A few minutes later, they join me together. “I’m in,” says Nathan. “When do we start?”

Sasha smiles at both of us. “Right now,” she says. “I’ve got my people getting the barn set up for the first shot. Nathan, make-up is waiting for you.” She turns to me. “I hope you can get the first scene written and ready to go quickly. We start filming in half an hour.”

We all head towards the barn, and…

…and I woke up. Come on, you knew this could only end one way, right? Yes, it was all a dream. You can’t possibly tell me you’re surprised.

(Although, just to be on the safe side, when I woke up and phoned R to wish him a Happy Birthday, I asked if Nathan Fillion was there. You never know.)

I woke up feeling happy and at peace, confident that I’m on the right path to fulfill my dreams. Sure, that path may not involve writing the screenplay for a movie starring Nathan Fillion (in half an hour, no less!), but it’s the right path for me. And that’s all that matters.

Have you had a dream that changed or reinforced a decision you made? Do you pay attention to your dreams, or is that just me?

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