Tag Archives: stories

I Still Aten’t Dead

*tumbleweed rolls*

So, hi. *waves*

It’s been so long since I blogged, it took me fifteen minutes of trial and error to remember my password. To all the people still hanging around to read this: Thank you! If you’ll excuse me, I’ll just put down this oversized cardboard sign…

I aten't dead

It’s been a busy full months full of busyness. Between parenting, writing, and learning how to cope with the changing seasons in a largely outdoor living arrangement, there’s been little enough time for life. But I’m back, and I shall endeavour to remain back for the foreseeable future.

So, how are things going? Funny you should ask. (I’m going to assume someone asks, and I’m not just shouting into the void.)

I’ve been busily writing-writing-writing, and loving it.

I’ve almost finished the final round of revisions on Clock Struck Twelve. (Stay tuned, I’ll be posting about my writing process for that manuscript over the next few days.) It’s been a long journey, and every time I think I’m finished, I come up with something new to add. But this time — this time — I’m sure I’m about done and ready to start querying.

I also started a Facebook group dedicated to writing short stories. Ray Bradbury famously said:

Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.

And so, the group Bradbury’s 52 was formed. Each week we have a series of prompts (a character, a location, an item), and members write a short story based on those prompts. We’re up to the 11th challenge this week, and it’s a lot of fun. If you’re interested in stretching your short story writing muscles, come along and join us.

Once uponFinally, I’ve started writing a new story. I estimate it will be about 75,000 words when completed, and I”m at the 4000 word mark at the moment. Early days, but my characters have taken on a life of their own, and I’m excited to see where they end up.

In other, non-writing-related news, my children are growing.

That is all.

Okay, that’s not all.

Sometimes I turn around and wonder how it is that the little baby I held in my arms, who locked his beautiful dark eyes with mine and grabbed hold of my heart in both hands, could possibly be seven years old — and looking me right in the eye while he argues that he really, really and truly, really needs a new Lego set, and he’s got a whole list of ones he’s wishing for, and if I don’t let him buy one with his pocket money right now — right now! — then I am officially the worst mother in the whole entire universe.

And when his little brother, a respectable three-year-old looks me in the eye while actively choosing to ignore every word that comes out of my mouth, I fondly remember the days when he couldn’t actually move at faster than a crawl, and I could make him smile with little more than a cuddle.

And then Master Three walks up to me out of the blue, puts his beautiful (and probably dirty) hand on my cheek and tells me he loves me. And Master Seven gives me an earnest smile and says, “It’s okay, Mummy, I’ll make us lunch today. You can keep writing your story.” And I realise that growing up is a beautiful and wonderful thing.

And it would be even more beautiful and wonderful if they could do it without arguing every freaking five minutes.

*deep breath*

All is well in my little corner of the world. The sun and the wind and the rain challenge me, and the stars look down on me at night. And all ahead of me is vast open fields of happiness ready to be explored.

So, what’s been going on in your life?

Five points to Gryffindor* if you can name the book the title of this post comes from.

*Or the House of your choosing if Gryffindor** isn’t to your liking.

** Gryffindor forever!

 

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34 Comments

Filed under Opinion, Writing

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.

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Filed under Opinion, The Inner Geek, Writing

Flash Fiction: Sparkle Wish

Yes, you read that right. After popular demand, I’ve written some flash fiction and would love to share it with you.

This story came about based on a writing prompt provided by a friend in a small writing group I belong to. We each had to pretend we only had 15 minutes to live,  set a timer for 15 minutes and write the story that had to be written. The inspiration for the story was to be the following quote:

We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

When I started writing, I had no idea what my story would be about. I just relaxed and let the words flow through me; writing the story that had to be written.

I was very pleased with the final result. A quick spit polish later, it was ready for human consumption. My friend Tonia Marie Harris asked if she could share it on her blog, and I happily agreed. So please, click on over there, have a read of Sparkle Wish, and leave me a comment letting me know what you think of my first foray into Flash Fiction in almost a year.

Here’s a little teaser for you.

Once upon a time, in a forest far, far away, there lived a fairy named Sparkle.

Sparkle was tall and willowy, with shiny hair and sharp eyes, and cute little nubs of wings peeking over her shoulders — a remnant of bygone days when fairies could fly. She lived in a cozy little treehouse, and dined on forest fruit and dewdrop wine. She had everything a fairy could want.

Except one thing.

What Sparkle did not have, was courage. …read more…

Picture by Scared-Princess, shared under CC licence.

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Filed under Flash Fiction

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.

130505

“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.

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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?

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Filed under Life With Kids, The Inner Geek

Do You Believe in Dragons?

Dragon 1

“Mummy, are dragons real?”

Big Brother is five years old. Nearly six. He loves stories of knights and dragons. He wants to be a superhero when he grows up so he can protect people.

“Are they extinct?” he asks.

I don’t know how to answer.

I feel like I’m standing on a tightrope, my position precariously balanced between two core beliefs.

I believe in honesty always.

But I also believe in fairies and dragons and elves.

Salvatore quote

So I stand, unsure how to cross the gaping chasm between truth and imagination in a way that doesn’t disrespect my son’s question.

I must delve into my own beliefs. I question them; turn them over and over in my mind; put them to the test.

(This is one of the great wonders of parenthood — the way our children push us to examine our own feelings and become better, stronger people.)

I do believe in dragons.

But do I believe dragons are out there, ready to fly forth from their hiding places at any moment and raze our cities to the ground?

Dragon 2

No.

Probably not.

It’s fairly unlikely.

Do I believe that was true once-upon-a-time?

Yes.

Scientists tell us that dragons were never real, but scientists aren’t always right.

As a friend of mine recently bloggednot finding something doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t there. And scientists learn new things every day.

The Brontosaurus never existed. Dinosaurs may not have been cold-blooded reptiles. New living species of plants and animals are discovered every day. Who’s to say what will be discovered in the future?

Maybe we’ll find dragon fossils.

Maybe we’ll find dragons.

But even if we don’t…

I’ll still believe in dragons.

I stand on that precipice while my son watches me expectantly, secure in the knowledge that his mother knows everything. Not yet old enough to understand how much I don’t know.

Dragon 3

So I look him in the eye and I say…

Nothing for a second. Instead, I gather my thoughts.

Then I cross that chasm of doubt, the chasm spanning untruth and disbelief. And I do it one slow step at a time.

“No one has claimed they’ve seen a dragon in a very long time,” I say.

“In fact, it’s been so long, most people don’t think dragons were ever really real. Some people think dragons are just stories. Some people think dragons are still alive but they’re very good at hiding. And some people think dragons are extinct.”

My beautiful son looks up at me, and his lips curl into a smile.

“I knew it,” he says. Then he skips off to play.

A minute later, I hear him telling himself a story about dragons and I smile.

I believe

Do you believe in dragons?

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Filed under Life With Kids, Opinion

Wherein I Retain My Sanity (At the Cost of a Little Bit of Magic)

Big Brother is five and a half years old. But he doesn’t talk the way I imagine a five and a half year old boy should talk. Take the exchange we had yesterday morning, for example:

Me: Please eat your cereal properly
BB: I’d prefer to eat it like this
Me: You may eat your cereal properly, please. Drinking the milk from the bowl is impolite
BB: (thinks for a minute) No, I think you’re incorrect.

Seriously, is that the way most five year olds converse? Please tell me that’s completely normal.

But it’s not just the words he uses (all children describe their dinner as “delightful”, right?), it’s also the way he can’t just come out and say anything directly. There always has to be a story.

“When I was in Dinosaur World, my four uncles and I went to the zoo one day. But it wasn’t a zoo where they kept dinosaurs in cages, it was a zoo where dinosaurs could go and see people in cages. But it was okay because my uncles and I all dressed up as dinosaurs. I was a velociraptor, Bear was a T-Rex, Mole was a pachycephalosaurus, Kizzay was a brachiosaurus, and Silly was a pterodactyl. And when we wanted something to eat we had to go to the shop and buy some food, and they had lots of different things to eat, like chips and hamburgers and hot dogs and salad and sandwiches and bread rolls and lots of other things, and also sushi. And my uncles all had sushi for lunch.”

Long pause.

“Can I have sushi for lunch today?”

As you may remember, I’ve been sick for the last couple of weeks. My patience is not exactly at an all-time high. And the one thing guaranteed to send the remnants of a mother’s patience spiralling into oblivion is the need to remind a small child to eat their dinner over and over and over and over (and over) again.

“Eat you dinner please, Big Brother.”

“I am eating. I’m chewing. See?”

“Keep eating please.”

“Okay. But first I’m just going to build stairs with my cutlery….”

“Are you eating, Big Brother?”

“No, I’m drinking. Which is a kind of eating. Only it’s drinking. *starts laughing* Wouldn’t it be funny if eating was drinking and drinking was eating and you had to drink your food? That would be so awesomesauce.”

And so on, and so on, ad nauseam.

The other night, after at least thirty minutes of this type of conversation interspersed with brief moments of peaceful respite as he actually consumed some of the dinner I’d cooked, I’d had enough. I couldn’t take it anymore. I told Big Brother I’d be back soon, and I fled the dining room to hide for five quiet minutes in the bathroom.

Three minutes later, the door was gently pushed aside and Big Brother stood there. Watching me. With a big smile on his face.

“Mummy?” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered in what may or may not have been a less enthusiastic tone of voice than usual.

“One time in Dinosaur World–”

And I interrupted him. Because my sanity could take no more long, convoluted tales of imaginary worlds and people. “Big Brother?” I said. (If I was inclined to use dialog tags other than ‘said’, I might have chosen to replace this one with the word ‘pleaded’.) “Can you just tell me what it is you want? I don’t want to hear a story, okay?”

And he looked at me, his beautiful blue eyes all wide and innocent. And his voice trembled a little as he said, “But I like stories.”

And somewhere deep inside my own story-loving heart, a little piece of magic was lost.

Do your children tell stories? Do you ever accidentally damp their enthusiasm?

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Filed under Life With Kids

Flash Fiction: You Can Quit

This week’s Flash Fiction challenge on TerribleMinds was a bit different. We were given five possible settings/scenarios, and had to choose one of them to write about. The options were:

  1. In the middle of a prison riot.
  2. Chinatown during a hurricane.
  3. In the Martian suburbs celebrating the Red Planet’s independence.
  4. In a haunted mountain pass.
  5. On the battlefield during a way between two races of mythological creatures.

I ruled out number 2 early on and then number 3, but it took me quite a while to settle on number 1. The story was also inspired by my husband musing about what type of prison you’d need for a non-super-powered super-villain. Please enjoy and leave your comments, thoughts and feedback below.

You Can Quit

Curtis took a long draw on his smoke and dropped the butt on the dirt. He ground it into the dirt with his heel then exhaled slowly. There was time for another, but he hesitated. Doris had been at him to quit again, telling him long, rambling stories about friends with mechanical voices and multi-coloured chemo drips until he was almost prepared to give up just so she’d stop.

Almost.

A young woman, maybe twenty-five or thirty, rounded the corner. “Excuse me, do you know where I’d find Warden Cole? He’s not in his office.”

Curtis was glad he hadn’t lit another smoke. Even forty years on, he was haunted by Sister Mary Margaret’s reaction when she caught him smoking behind the bike shed. That’s why he hid around the corner when he needed a nicotine hit.

“You’re lookin’ at him, Ma’am,” Curtis said, tipping an imaginary hat.

“Good afternoon,” she said with a smile. “I’m Veronica. Am I interrupting?”

“No, Ma’am. Just admirin’ the view,” Curtis said, tilting his head toward the desert landscape behind her.

Veronica smiled and then fixed her gaze on his face. “I heard there was a riot going on out here.”

Curtis sighed. Word travelled fast. “Surely is,” he said. “You listen, you can hear it through the wall. Nothin’ too bad this time, it’s just gotta run its course. You here to visit someone?”

“It sounds like you’ve had some experience with riots,” Veronica said.

Curtis hitched his trousers up over his belly. “That I have, Ma’am.” He frowned. “Course, a riot used to be about somethin’. Food or treatment or somethin’. Now…” he shrugged. “Now it’s all just politics.”

The word was an ugly one, muttered in the same way he’d say pornography or prostitution. “It’s them Mutants,” he said. Another dirty word. “Stupid idea, puttin’ ‘em in the lock-up with common folk. But politics says we gotta do it. We gotta treat ‘em with ‘equal rights’ an’ all that.”

Veronica didn’t blink. “Is a Mutant responsible for the riot today?”

Curtis laughed like a wounded hyena. “Responsible? I s’pose. But if you ask me, it’s the Governor’s fault. He transferred the Empath here.”

“An Empath started the riot?”

Curtis frowned and glanced at his watch. “I should be getting back, Ma’am. I’ve got a reporter comin’ to film me any minute. Got a speech I gotta give him, courtesy of the Governor.”

“Does the speech say an Empath started the riot?”

“Hell no,” Curtis said with a laugh. Then he remembered his manners. “Pardon my language, Ma’am. But the Governor’s not gonna say that. Politics an’ all. I just gotta say one of my guards ‘acted inappropriate’.” He made the air quotations he wouldn’t be able to make during the interview.

Veronica kept her eyes fixed on him. “Did a guard act inappropriately?”

“Nah,” Curtis said. The noise from behind the walls had died down. Maybe the riot was over. “The Empath transferred in last night, drugged up to the eyeballs to keep him quiet, and freaked out when he woke up. Started projectin’ fear and anger and next thing you know, his cellmate’s headbuttin’ the door tryin’ to get away. A couple o’ guards go in to settle things and soon the Empath’s projectin’ that shit everywhere. Half the guards fled and the inmates started fightin’ each other to be the first out. I hadda lock the place down. Damn Empaths shouldn’t be around people, you ask me. But you put ‘em in solitary and you have the human rights folks actin’ like you’re the one doin’ somethin’ wrong.”

Curtis shook his head in disgust. “They got that fancy prison for Mutants down in Dallas. Every time a Mutant gets caught they gotta build a new cell. They got  electrocuted walls so the Freaks can’t walk through ‘em, and rooms made o’ plastic and titanium and mercury and other crazy stuff. Costs taxpayers a fortune so they can’t do it for all of them. They gotta send the low level Mutants here. We get Empaths and Mind-Readers and Flyers and this one time we had a Freak who could hack computers with his brain.” He shook his head. “We’re just a prison. Ain’t got the facilities for Mutants.”

“So what’s the solution?”

The riot was definitely over. There was silence behind the wall. The only sound now was the muffled buzzing of his cell as it started vibrating in his pocket. He ignored it. “Simple. Put the Mutants on an island somewhere in the middle o’ nowhere. Let ‘em live out there, ‘stead of botherin’ good folk.”

“The Mutants convicted of crimes? Or innocent Mutants as well?”

“Innocent Mutants?” Curtis laughed his wounded-hyena laugh. “Ain’t no such thing. You give some Joe the power to walk through walls or read minds or make money outta nothin’, they’re gonna break the law. It’s just a matter of time.”

 His phone was still vibrating and it was past time for the reporter to arrive. He gestured for Veronica to accompany him back to the office. “Who did you say you were you here to visit, Ma’am?”

Curtis rounded the corner. An empty news van was parked in front of the office. There was no movement from within the vehicle, but a TV mounted on the roof showed the back of a man’s head as he walked toward a familiar building.

“What—“ Curtis breathed. He spun around, expecting to see a camera pointed at him. But there was only Veronica. Veronica with her odd, unblinking eyes. “You’re—“

“The reporter,” Veronica interrupted. “Broadcasting live.”

Curtis slumped. “Fuck,” he said. His voice echoed from every TV screen in the prison, the city, and the state.

In a daze, he pulled out his cell. It vibrated angrily. The caller ID said ‘Governor’.

As Sister Mary Margaret said, “You make your choices, you take your lashes.”

He lit a cigarette and answered the phone. At least he’d be able to tell Doris he quit something today.

 

 

 

 

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