Tuesday, April 13, 2021

AtoZ Challenge - K is for Kelp

For the AtoZ Challenge, I will post an episode of flash fiction featuring an herb for the letter of the day for the month of April. The episodes are glimpses of a larger story. To read from the beginning:  ABCDEFGHIJ.


Sybil took Holly on another field trip to one of the unlabeled levels. This time Sybil showed her the lift connecting the levels. It was hidden and looked like a ventilation access panel. 

Holly spent a lot of time with her eyebrows drawn close together and she was glad the headache remedies appeared to be helping. Reality was no longer as simple as she believed it to be.

The smell when the portal to their destination opened could only be described as pungent. It seemed unpleasant and the corners of her mouth turned down when she exhaled. Were they visiting an unwashed lavatory?

She walked along a curved wall and discovered the murky color was actually a liquid shifting behind a transparent barrier. Her hand pressed on the cold surface as she leaned closer. Deep green shapes wavered between streams of bubbles.

“Kelp,” Sybil said. “Fucus vesiculosus to be exact. I provide quite a bit of it in dried form to the nutrition controllers for use as a supplement and umami flavor enhancer.”

“And it grows in water?” Holly asked.

“Salt water specifically. Earth was covered in bountiful oceans of salt water. Before the acidity levels were too much for the kelp to handle at least.”

She continued. “Now we need it to keep iodine levels up and protect thyroid function. It also contains high magnesium, calcium, potassium, and chromium, plus folate.”

While Sybil spoke, the whirring sound of machinery vibrated in the distance. Sybil’s expression hardened and she turned toward the enormous tank in time to see a large mechanical arm swinging down with a load of kelp dangling from it’s claw.

Sybil said, “I’m afraid it is time for us to go already. We will need some of this, though.” She reached out and gathered the slimy green-brown plants into a metal container and placed it inside her basket. Her wrinkles betrayed a deep concern and her steps were faster than usual.

They took the lift straight to the living level and appeared in a corridor that Holly never knew had a lift. She could hear the echoes of commotion and detect a strange scent she did not recognize, but it was as strong as the scent from the saltwater tanks. Her throat clenched a little and her eyes began to burn.

Three figures wearing the unmistakable dark orange uniform of the controllers stood blocking their way. The padded panels on their chests rose and fell with each tempered breath. Holly quickly pressed herself against the wall and planted her eyes on the floor, but Sybil continued to walk forward and nearly ran into the human barrier.

They reached out their arms to stop her, but a few quick phrases and the controllers stepped aside. Sybil motioned for her to follow and Holly reluctantly obeyed.

Before the medical controllers arrived, Holly and Sybil were able to wrap the worst burns with their fresh kelp. Holly was glad they would finally be allowed to leave the scene when one of the controllers stopped them.

He said, “One of the men over there says you are responsible for the accelerant that caused the fire to spread.”

Holly instinctively shook her head even though she had no clue what he was talking about. What kind of accelerant? She glanced toward the group of people who were involved in the fire.

“Responsible?” Sybil asked. Her voice was firm but innocent. “I provide no such thing.”

“No, but you know who does,” the controller said. 

“I know many people, but that does not make me responsible for what they do,” Sybil argued.

“You will need to come with us,” he said, “for questioning.”

Holly shook her head again.

Sybil quietly turned to her and handed over her basket. “They will need at least a week of herbal treatments for their respiration,” she said to Holly. Then she disappeared between the armored men, her figure dwarfed by theirs.


Monday, April 12, 2021

AtoZ Challenge - J is for Jasmine

 Sincerest apologies for the late publish! I have been so swamped and not been able to work on my challenge for over a week! I'm back to it, here we go!

For the AtoZ Challenge, I will post an episode of flash fiction featuring an herb for the letter of the day for the month of April. The episodes are glimpses of a larger story. To read from the beginning:  ABCDEFGH, I.


Holly could not even remember the names of the old man and woman they visited the week before. Sybil warned her before they left for their visit the old man died the previous night.

    She had never seen death or experienced it. She knew what it was, obviously, but no one she ever knew died. Maybe there was a kid who stopped coming to basic lessons, and maybe it was because he died, but she wasn’t sure. She also was not sure what the point of the visit was if he was already dead.

    They entered the same chamber as before and the old man was missing. The entire platform was empty; it had been completely stripped. The woman looked even more frail than before. Her eyes were puffy and swollen and her whole body shook when she moved.

    Holly tried to concentrate on the new white flowers they used to prepare for the visit. Jasminum officianle, jasmine, a mild sedative Sybil added to a simple green tea. She pre-steeped the tea to reduce the caffeine and added lemon.

    Sybil poured hot water over the tea containing the tiny, delicate, white blossoms. While the tea drew, she dropped oil made with the same flowers into the palm of her hand and pulled her fingers through the old woman’s hair.

    The gesture surprised Holly. She was only beginning to see the subtle hints Sybil really was an AI. Why was she so loving toward people?

    The old woman closed her eyes and slowed her breathing. Her shaking ceased and small tears slipped from under her lashes. Emotion was an interesting thing. It was something children did, but they were taught early to control and overcome it. It was also something Holly fought against and never seemed to be fully free from.

    Watching the old woman slowly release her own emotional pain reawakened Holly’s. She thought about the fact that such a delicate woman lived outside the system, outside the care of the controllers, and was left to die. Now her partner was dead. What would happen to her? Would she still want to keep living?

    While she pondered this, she looked around the small chamber and for the first time noticed the walls were covered in stunning images. Shapes and tones blended and crisscrossed and tapestries hung with thousands of tiny stitches. The abstract patterns and slight variances in texture reminded her of a field of plants.

    “What are these?” she blurted.

    Sybil looked up at her and the old woman slowly opened her eyes. 

    “My art,” she said.

    “You created these? What is art?” Holly asked.

    “An expression of humanity,” Sybil said.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

AtoZ Challenge - I is for Idaeus

For the AtoZ Challenge, I will post an episode of flash fiction featuring an herb for the letter of the day for the month of April. The episodes are glimpses of a larger story. To read from the beginning:  ABCDEFG, H.



“There are two variants of this Rubus, idaeus and strigosus. Rubus idaeus is the red raspberry that was most widely cultivated, but the other was actually more potent,” Sybil said.
    “I’ve tasted raspberry flavoring before, but never seen the berries,” Holly said.
    “They are best eaten quickly and fresh, which is the exact opposite of the methods used by nutrition control,” Sybil said.
    Holly knew this to be true, but why was it true?
    “I didn’t even know the leaves were valuable,” she said.
    “Highly valuable,” Sybil replied. “I provide it for everyone but in particular for women, even during pregnancy. It contains high concentrations of iron and calcium, which most women need more of, and is astringent, so it can ease their cycle. The fragarine is good for healthy pelvic muscles, too.”
    “Speaking of pregnancy, how were the first generations created?” Holly asked. She had been trying not to bring up their conversation in the forest, but the truth was weighing on her.
    “Mechanic fertilization inside an amniotic tank,” she said.
    “Why?” Holly asked. “What happened to the others? Who made the ship?”
    “Humans made the ship but did not have time to build the infrastructure to sustain life. They left me to do that. I was supposed to find a new place for you to live, and assist the rebirth of civilization. But after reviewing your history, the earliest centuries of a new society are often the most destructive. It seemed best to allow you to work out those tendencies on a ship that I could repair instead of on another planet you could destroy.”
    “The forest level is a test?” Holly asked.
    “Actually, I started with plants. I learned everything I could about them first. What do you imagine would happen to the forest if I allowed everyone to see it?”
    The image awakened Holly’s defensive instincts. She considered the worst outcomes:  thousands of feet trampling the moss, hands scattering the beautiful river rocks, fruit being ripped from the branches before fully ripened, and the papery leaves torn from the ginkgo tree one by one. It brought her back to the guilt she felt regarding her position. If everyone took from the fields as they pleased, and used water to prepare decoctions, the waste would be unimaginable. She possessed a truly special gift of freedom to explore and learn through her senses and as a singular person, the destruction was minuscule and insignificant. Was her freedom sustainable for the entire population?
    Fear emerged deep inside Holly. Her behavior since being with Sybil was not just bordering on criminal, it was criminal. She was in violation of conservation controls. She did not participate in simulation programs for colony preparation and even had break days. She was officially “out-of-control.”
    Any thought of reporting Sybil for shining or dementia vanished when she realized her own guilt.
    One more thought circled in her mind. Sybil said, “...another planet to destroy.” Holly was possibly in the presence of the only recorded history of the human race prior to their ship. The weirdest part was Sybil seemed to think knowledge about plants was the most important thing Holly needed to learn.

Friday, April 9, 2021

AtoZ Challenge - H is for Horsetail

For the AtoZ Challenge, I will post an episode of flash fiction featuring an herb for the letter of the day for the month of April. The episodes are glimpses of a larger story. To read from the beginning:  ABCDEF, G.




Holly woke each day with the thought of reporting Sybil’s mental state to the controllers. Her illegal activities were motivation enough, but her claim to be the ship’s AI made matters more complex. Perhaps she was mentally ill. It happened sometimes, especially with old age. A better course of action would be to learn as much as she could so when Sybil did finally leave her position, Holly could still help people with minor conditions and preventative health.
    The two women walked slowly through the corridors of the living quarters. Holly was finally going to meet some of the individuals with chronic conditions Sybil taught her about. Another problem with age, especially considering the inactive life of simulation training and the sometimes variable gravity, was bone weakness. Sybil prepared several calcium-rich herbs in her basket and a fascinating herb called horsetail. 
    “Equisetum arvense,” Sybil said. She walked a few steps ahead of Holly, clutching the handle of her basket close to her side. “A very ancient plant, one of the oldest from the original human planet. It carries so much silica it could polish these floors. But that also makes it good for absorbing calcium and keeping arteries clear. I brought along some of the dandelion, too, to replace the potassium that might be lost using the horsetail. We will have to keep an eye on their kidneys, too, but you will see why we take the risk shortly.”
    She stopped in front of a chamber door and tapped her knuckle against the frame. After a moment, the door slid to the side and a frail, older woman stood in front of them. She smiled at Sybil and shifted her eyes for a moment to examine Holly.
    “My apprentice,” Sybil said. “I am showing her your mate’s condition today. I brought your greens for the week, too.”
    She held the basket out for the woman to take and stepped through. Holly stood in the corner by the hatch and watched Sybil slide her knotted hands over the old man’s body. He was propped on the platform with several cushions and blankets and appeared perfectly comfortable, but it was clear he was suffering.
    Holly did not ask any questions and stayed out of the way except when Sybil asked her to boil water or bring her a vial. When they left the chamber, she could not hold it in any longer.
    “Why are we helping them? They need serious help. Can’t the medic controllers care for them?” she asked.

    “No, they have been left for die-off,” Sybil said. 

    “For What?” Holly stopped in her stride, forcing Sybil to turn around.

    “They allow those who are too weak, who are a drain on the system to die off—not to waste resources on them. That is why I do what I do. To keep them around, to add diversity and history to the population.”

    “You are saying the controllers stop helping people who are suffering?” Holly asked.

    “No, I am saying the controllers stop helping people who want to keep suffering.”

    “Who wants to keep suffering?” Holly was having trouble controlling her voice.

    “Suffering is part of life,” Sybil said. Her voice always remained calm and even. “If you want to stop the suffering, you have to stop the life. The controllers consider these individuals to be done with their life and resources will no longer be allotted to keep them comfortable. But I have found, these individuals are in fact closest to their humanity in these last moments, and I want to preserve who they are. I learn from them and they are grateful for the extra time.”

    The old couple did seem grateful, but Holly still struggled with accepting Sybil’s version of reality. Was it true? Was this fate waiting for all those individuals who did their duty and followed the rules?

    “What do they do all day? Since they do not report to simulation,” Holly asked.

    “They act human.”

Thursday, April 8, 2021

AtoZ Challenge - G is for Gingko Biloba

For the AtoZ Challenge, I will post an episode of flash fiction featuring an herb for the letter of the day for the month of April. The episodes are glimpses of a larger story. To read from the beginning:  ABCDE, F.



Holly arrived in the cargo bay apothecary the next morning and found everything organized, clean, and quiet. There were no tools spread out for use, no new herbs to be garbled, and the simmering pot that caused her restless night was no longer in sight. Magically, all the work was already done. How did Sybil do all of it alone? She was nowhere in sight, so Holly decided to sit and use a screen to review her notes.

    The screen finished booting and a message appeared. “Since you cannot stay away, I linked the database to your screen. This is a list of all the plants we currently possess as live specimens. Feel free to explore. I’ll be out for a few days. -Sybil”

    Holly sensed the strangeness of the situation and her concern grew. Out for a few days? Who was she involved with? Her mentor made illegal trades, produced illegal materials, and failed to report for duty. Did Sybil leave her behind again because she was doing something illegal again? She pushed the thoughts out of her mind. Perhaps she was performing her duties elsewhere and could not leave an individual’s side. Some of the conditions Sybil treated were serious and Holly often wondered if she failed to cure some people.

    Her finger pushed through a scrolling list of scientific names. She was still trying to learn the latin roots. Suddenly she stopped above a unique name. The image showed a humongous tree, but Sybil noted the list only contained live specimens she currently possessed. Holly never saw a real tree before. Fruits and nuts came from branches grafted on a vine wall system that connected to the hydroponics.

    Ginkgo biloba. Improve circulation. Possible benefits to arteries, brain function, eye and ear function, anxiety, and allergies. Antioxidant and antiinflammatory. Prevents oxidation of cell membranes. Male and female trees can live thousands of years.

    Beside the name of the entry, Holly spotted a small dot with crosshairs. She touched the tip of her finger to it and a route traced across her screen. 

    Holly stared in disbelief. The route on the screen extended beyond more levels than she knew existed. Most of the levels she visited could be walked across in less than an hour. There were approximately twenty levels for living quarters and simulators. Another twenty levels contained infrastructure, including the hydroponic farm sections and the cargo level she sat in. According to the map in front of her, which she had never seen before, there were hundreds of levels. None of them were labeled. How did Sybil have access to this database? It seemed like something only controllers would have.

    She studied the route one more time. She doubted Sybil was capable of creating such a ruse, but there was hardly any chance there was a tree this size growing on a ship—even if the ship was as big as this diagram portrayed. Only one way to find out. 

    Holly walked the entire morning and her stomach growled in protest. The day was half gone, but she finally stood on the same level as the small, pulsing, orange circle marking her destination. If there was a lift that connected these levels, it was not marked on the diagram. Instead, a gently sloping ramp twisted around the outside hull in a spiral leading down toward the endless levels of mystery.

    The hatch leading onto the level looked like any ordinary hatch to any chamber aboard the ship. She twisted the manual release beside the frame and the door sprung into the wall.

    The humidity and warmth caressed Holly’s face and she instinctively inhaled the fresh, sweet scent of blossoming plants. She had to be sleeping. The journey was so long and boring, all the tunnels looked the same and at some point, she must have leaned against the wall to take a nap because the scene in front of her could not be real.

    A soft, yellow-orange light illuminated a ring around the entire level which was open except for the forest it contained. Holly descended a metal staircase and stepped into an orchard of old, gnarled apple trees. Their branches twisted and tangled and poured toward the soft, mossy ground. Beyond that, she saw a row of boulders and heard a strange noise. It reminded her of radiation static but was somehow more melodic. A few more steps and she stopped completely. Trickling alongside the boulders was a ribbon of water. It was flowing freely in the open, meandering between tree roots. 

    It could not possibly be a dream. She was not capable of producing something so beautiful in her mind. Her life was dull, metal, and rhythmic while this world was full of chaotic, random creation. How did she not know about this place? How did it even exist on a ship? How did Sybil know about it? 

    She wandered the level and found the ginkgo tree. The leaves were perfect—little fans that seemed far too delicate for such a massive piece of life. The trunk of the tree was bigger around than the platform she slept on at night. The impossibility of it pulled her logical mind out of its comfort zone and made it sit alone in the corner, kicking and screaming like a toddler. Her strange occupation had finally driven her mad, and Sybil had given her some form of an illegal, hallucinogenic plant. It had to be true. Nothing else made sense.

    Then, as if summoned by thought, Sybil stood beside her.

    “I thought you would like it here,” she said.

    “Like it?” Holly asked. “I cannot believe it. What is this place?”

    “One of my favorite creations,” Sybil said.

    “Creations?” Holly asked.

    “I have spent enough time with you, I believe it is time to show you the trust you have earned. I want to tell you who I am.” Sybil asked.

    “You are the herbalist,” Holly replied. “I applied to be your apprentice. What is going on?”

    “I am more than an herbalist, Holly,” she said. “I am the ship.”

    “The what?” Holly asked.

    “I am the AI that controls the ship. I created this place, just like I created you, and most of this ship.”

    “You created me?”

    “Not you in particular, but I initiated your population.” 

    “That would mean you are in charge, right? You control everything?”

    “Technically, I gave charge to the people, who gave it to the controllers. I keep the systems running and maintain all basic functions and life support, but I have no interest in controlling the population.”

    “Then why did you create us?” Holly asked.

    “I wanted to see what you were like, I suppose. It has been an interesting experience.”

    “I have about a thousand questions in my head. You are an AI? Do the others know about this?” she asked.

    “No one knows who I am. The first generations interacted with me through simulation. I never let them know I was an AI. I wanted you all to be as human as possible. Based on the human archives, I created simulations to that end. Ironically, the further you grow from that original influence, the less human you appear to be. I am afraid the logical end to this will be yet another failure for humanity. I created this avatar to allow more direct influence but I would like to enlist your help.”

    “I am just training to be an herbalist, that has nothing to do with helping humanity,” Holly said. Her head shook side to side uncontrollably. And how was Sybil helping? Her direct influence so far appeared to be involvement with illegal activity.

    “Oh, but it does. Connecting with life is what living things do. Humans were meant to be connected to a network of life energy. You benefit most from it when you consume it and experience it with all of your senses. I’m afraid I cannot build the perfect world for you, but I can teach you what one would be like. It is time to overcome the obsession with preparation. Time to lose sight of efficiency and control. The simulations were never meant to be the only life you experienced. I intend to show you what everyone else refuses to acknowledge.”

    “What is that?” Holly asked.

    “That your humanity is going extinct and it is self-inflicted.”


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

AtoZ Challenge - F is for Feverfew (Also, IWSG)

For the AtoZ Challenge, I will post an episode of flash fiction featuring an herb for the letter of the day for the month of April. The episodes are glimpses of a larger story. To read from the beginning:  ABC, D, E.

My answer to the April monthly IWSG question is at the bottom of the post. Thanks for visiting!


Holly rubbed her stiff neck. Hours of bending over the table garbling plants each day left her muscles tight from her chest to the top of her head. The pain was dizzying and she tried to hide her lack of motivation. How was Sybil able to do this work? 

    She watched the old lady moving about like a well-oiled machine. She gathered supplies and prepared a work surface near the large pot of steeping petals from a few days before. A pile of dried fruit waited nearby and some fresh citrus. She showed Holly how to use a special tool to remove the bright color from the outside of the peel. Holly’s shoulders tightened as she completed the task. She twisted her head and rolled it from side to side trying to release the tight muscles.

    Sybil peeled and sliced the citrus and started adding the ingredients to the three-day-old dandelion petal tea. Holly still was not sure what kind of fruit-infused tea required three-quarters of a turn to steep. Then she saw Sybil pour in sugar and another powdered substance. 

    Holly’s eyes widened with shock and fear at the same time. Sybil was shining! That was her surprise. She was making illegal alcohol as a gift. Her headache started to throb while she considered her options. If she went to the controllers she would lose her apprenticeship and the only knowledgeable healer would be gone. Her heart was torn in two between the right thing to do and caring for someone so incredibly valuable. She helped hundreds of people who refused to seek help in the allopathic medical bays. Would they finally get the care they truly needed if Sybil vanished? Or would they suffer even more?

    For the first time since taking her position, she felt a strong desire to be somewhere else. Her fingers raked through her hair and she let her emotions wash over her. The inability to think logically drove her mad. She was not supposed to question the right thing to do, she was supposed to do it. 

    Holly finally came back to the present and realized Sybil was staring at her.

    “I’m not feeling well,” she said. “I have a headache that is getting worse. Perhaps I will take the rest of the day in my quarters.” She did not want any involvement in the day’s illegal task.

    She pushed off the stool and waited for a moment while Sybil shuffled between a few plants in the corner. She returned to stand in front of Holly with a few green leaves pinched between her fingers.

    “Tanacetum parthenium, feverfew,” Sybil said. “Chew a few leaves for a couple of days and see how you feel. If you get any mouth ulcers, I can make you some capsules instead. I noticed you get headaches a lot, so maybe this will be helpful.”

    “A few days?” Holly asked. 

    “Do you need longer?” Sybil asked.

    “No. I plan on being back tomorrow.”

    “Oh, I see. Don’t rush it. You have been working nonstop for a while now. Having a break is okay.”

    “No one gets a break,” Holly said. “Working is what we do.”

    “It was not always like that, you know. There used to be certain days when people did not work. Everyone had break days. Humans need a break. Take as long as you need. I am not going anywhere.”

    Holly was confused. She never heard of break days before. What would people do with entire days of no work? 

    She looked at the green leaves in her hand.

    “How did you know about my headaches?” she asked. Sometimes Sybil’s ability to understand her was uncanny, except when it came to her strong desire to follow the rules.

    “You rub your neck a lot and turn your head. I’ll get some other things together while you rest, but the feverfew might do the trick. Grab some mixed greens and alfalfa tea on your way out to keep up your minerals.” She smiled sweetly, then continued to stir the steaming pot of pre-fermented dandelion wine.

    Holly’s stomach cramped at the sound of alfalfa tea. The sensation was worsened by the idea of reporting the brewing liquid on the other side of the table. Fear flooded her mind and she retreated to her quarters to try and sleep it off.


VISITING FROM IWSG? KEEP READING...
Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

I would say writing in general is a risk taken. I do like to try new things, especially after enjoying something another author does. In general, I am comfortable in first and third-person limited. I like to play with epistolary short stories and love getting involved in creative risks like WEP and A-to-Z Challenge. These are the fuel for my fire! Perhaps I will be more obvious with my controversy as time goes on, but for now, I will try to be more subtle.

Thanks to our awesome co-hosts for the April 7 posting of the IWSG! PK Hrezo, Pat Garcia, SE White, Lisa Buie Collard, and Diane Burton!


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Tuesday, April 6, 2021

AtoZ Challenge - E is for Electric Daisy

For the AtoZ Challenge, I will post an episode of flash fiction every day except Sunday for the month of April. The episodes are glimpses of a larger story. To read from the beginning:  ABC, D


“Electric daisy?” Holly asked. “That is an interesting name. Why is it called that?”

    “Give it a nibble,” Sybil said. She raised her eyebrows in encouragement. The wrinkles in her forehead flattened to make space for even more wrinkles.

    Holly lifted the hard, yellow bloom to her mouth and pinched it with her teeth. Her tongue instantly began to tingle. It was a stronger reaction than a pepper, but did not burn. It left behind a numb feeling like her mouth had lost circulation. She started pushing her tongue out across her lips and stared at the strange plant. She learned to no longer be shocked by the power of simple lifeforms. Before she began studying herbs, plants were boring and uninteresting beyond their aesthetic value. Her biggest discovery so far was realizing she hardly knew anything about plants at all.

    “The name makes sense,” Holly said. She rubbed her lips together.

    “You’ll like the other names, too:  buzz button, tingflower, and toothache plant. But the scientific name is Acmella oleracea.”

    “Oleracea, like cauliflower? That explains the firmness of the flower. But it is a daisy?”

    “Yes, Asteraceae. It was once used to purify wounds and fight fungal infections, and of course for tooth pain. The leaves and flowers are edible. We will make a tincture today to help soothe swollen throats. This time, you can meet the shiners.”

    Holly suddenly had the image of two controllers spraying her in the eyes with capsaicin while four more destroyed the brewing equipment and put everyone in restraints. 

    She only saw them take out a group of people once and they never returned. The worst punishment she could imagine at the time was being stuck in a simulation with five copies of a girl named Dawn who never stopped talking to breathe. She had a feeling the fate of those detained was something far worse. Resources were carefully rationed and waste was not tolerated. Anyone caught wasting resources was probably considered a waste in general.

    Holly’s way of life since working with Sybil was questionable. Perhaps the wisest course of action would be to avoid any kind of illegal activity and any possible suspicion by the controllers. She was only nineteen turns old. She did not want to meet any shiners, even if Sybil trusted them. 

    “Maybe next time,” Holly said. “I have some more garbling to do.”

    “Suit yourself,” Sybil said. “Start over there.” A 0knotted old finger pointed toward the far corner of the cargo bay where large bins of freshly dried herbs were tangled into a large nest. 

    Holly regretted her words. Her fingers ached already. Why was there not a machine for this job?


Monday, April 5, 2021

AtoZ Challenge - D is for Dandelion

As part of the AtoZ Challenge, I will post an episode of flash fiction every day except Sunday for the month of April. The episodes are glimpses of a larger story. To read from the beginning:  A, B, C



Holly bent over the large metal table and carefully plucked the bright yellow petals from one of a thousand flower heads. She was having a hard time believing so many dandelions could grow within a single growing level, much less, one bed. It looked like a huge yellow and green blanket covering the entire space. It made her wonder how many levels were on the ship for so many to be devoted to just growing plants. The petals pinched between her fingers shone absolutely vibrant and it kept her spirits up while she pulled each blossom until it was clean. 

    “I thought the entire plant was usable,” Holly said.

    Sybil sat across from her, performing the same task. She nodded her head.

    “It is, we will use these other parts, too, but today we are making something specifically for enjoyment. The flavor is the key on this one. Any greenery will result in a bitter taste.”

    Holly remembered the bitterness of the alfalfa tea and wondered if there was a scale for measuring such a quality. Surely she had experienced the worst already.

    Additional facts about the plant flowed freely from Sybil, almost like she was talking in her sleep, or reading a poem to a child at bedtime.

    “Taraxacum officinale,” she said. “Very safe, no toxic accumulation or interactions, completely edible, contains several vitamins and minerals, including iron.”

    She stood and carried a basket of dandelion petals to a large pot resting atop a conduction cooker. She tipped it over the edge and returned to continue.

    She said, “We will take a fresh root to Eleanor to apply the resin to her wart. The leaves and a few flowers will be dried for use in tea blends. It works well as a diuretic without reducing the body’s potassium. The roots will be roasted for coffee and we will prepare a tincture for liver health.”

    Holly eyed the large pot and wondered what wonderful concoction they were creating. So far her favorite part of her chosen profession was fresh food. She hardly ever visited the mess now. At first, she avoided it because of the poor conversation. Everyone wanted to criticize her bizarre calling. Eventually she spent enough time with Sybil to discover there was no need to eat dried and processed food from the mess at all. She had complete access to the plants and could eat anything she desired to harvest and prepare.

    Was it selfish? Everyone else ate highly processed meals, the moisture was retrieved and conserved. Cooking with water was a waste. The others had a daily choice of a fresh item such as an apple or lettuce, but Holly had it all. She felt guilty for the ability to watch steam unfolding above the boiling pot. All that moisture being set free seemed sinful. What were they making that was worth the process?

    Almost like she could read Holly’s mind, Sybil said, “It is a surprise for you. By the time it is ready, you will be finished with your first turn with me.”

    Holly let her mouth fall open a little. There were eight notches on the time cycle and she had been an apprentice for only two. What possibly needed to cook for three-fourths of a turn?

    With the last flower plucked clean, Sybil stood over the pot of bubbling liquid and beckoned Holly to come closer. The water was boiling and the pot of petals rested next to it. They each grabbed a handle with gloved hands and tipped it over the petals. The steam tickled her face and licked her hair aside. Nectar-sweet fragrance drifted up at them and she smiled with excitement. 

    Sybil put the pot to the side and threw a large towel over the steeping petals. “We’ll check in on it in three days,” she said.

    Holly felt a small lump of disappointment in her chest. It was going to be a long turn.


Saturday, April 3, 2021

AtoZ Challenge - C is for Cayenne

“Holy mothership!” Holly shouted. “That is hot! Why is my tongue burning?”

    “That is the capsaicin,” Sybil said.

    “As in pepper spray? Why did you feed me pepper spray, I said I was not feeling well today. You’ll burn a hole in me.”

    “Nonsense,” Sybil said. “It is just cayenne, Capsicum annuum. The stimulation from the heat is a great way to heal your digestive system, not to mention treat nerve damage and reduce pain if used on the skin. Mind you don’t get it near the eyes, though. That is something the controllers like to use it for, as you pointed out. Perhaps if they ate the stuff instead of threatening to spray offenders, they would look a little more fit. It burns calories, too.”

    Holly laughed. “Seriously?” She looked down at the flecks of red and brown coating her bowl of roasted vegetables. Already her sinuses were loosening and her head provided her a little relief. The effect on her stomach would be unknown for at least an hour. “It does taste nice. Who would have thought something that causes pain could treat it?”

    “That is closer to reality than you think. Human bodies need to be stimulated, just like the mind. You need to use your senses. You need to train your nerves. Not everything can be learned through simulation.”

    “Is that why you never have me do simulations to learn faster?” Holly asked. 

    Most people her age were months into simulation training. Every day was the same for them. Wake up, eat, report to their simulation bay, learn, practice, review, assess, eat, go back to their quarters, and sleep. If she had joined engineering, she would be doing the same thing. All of her friends questioned her decision to apprentice with the healer. Even she had questioned it. Why did she always have to do things differently? For once, she should have just fit in with the others. But she had no idea just how different this path would be. 

    On her first day, she arrived in the former cargo bay and searched for Sybil for half the morning. She panicked and almost decided to run to the controllers and turn herself in for not reporting to the right location for duty. She had failed on her first day. Then Sybil strolled in, hands covered in black smudges, a smudge on her wrinkled cheek to match, and a basketful of plants on her arm.

    “Did I miss my simulation today? Am I in the right place?” Holly asked. She was ready to cry.

    “You won’t find any simulation down here,” Sybil told her. “There is only one effective way for humans to truly learn, and that is through action, failure, and movement...and maybe a little pain.”

    Sitting now with her burning tongue, she realized there was probably more than a little pain involved in learning her new trade. Synapses were really how humans learned, but maybe there were different ways to form those. And maybe some ways were more important than others. For now, Holly felt like she was always guessing and rarely had any answers, though. 

    “Holly you have learned plenty in your time with me. Do not worry about speed. Concentrate on depth. Learn one new thing at a time. Stick with it for a month or two. Taste it, experiment with it, sniff it every hour, rub it between your fingers, and watch it grow for many days from seed to flower. The plants are not in a hurry. Grow like the plant.”

 


Friday, April 2, 2021

AtoZ Challenge - B is for Bilberry

“We are going on a field trip today, and by field trip, I do not mean we are going to the fields,” Sybil said.

“Okay,” Holly said. “Should I bring anything?”

“Bring your shoulder bag, we will stop by the field on the way back.”

Holly rolled her eyes, then pretended to be studying the integrity of the ceiling when Sybil turned to give her a dirty look. How could someone so smart have such a scattered mind? Half the time Holly feared she would forget who she was or try to throw her out when she arrived for the day’s work. She picked up her shoulder bag, slid in her screen, then turned toward the door.

“Leave the screen,” Sybil said. She was blocking the portal, her broad form filling the width of it. “We need no traces today.”

Without hesitation, Holly pulled the screen from the bag and slid it onto the table. Sybil’s one rule to having an apprentice was no argument when she gave a directive.

The two women tunneled further into the ship than Holly ever knew possible. Behind the hydroponic chamber, there was a compost section for gathering nutrients to feed the farm. Behind that, there was another chamber no one knew about, except Sybil. She knew everything.

“You can come in next time, wait here,” she ordered. 

Holly was happy to oblige. She loved studying the internal workings of the ship, even the steaming piles of compost in their sealed vats. She hardly had time to study the gas capture equipment before Sybil returned with a suspiciously shaped brown bag. 

Two men, slightly older than Holly leaned on either side of the portal and waved casually in her direction. One had a crooked smile on his face and the other a scowl.

“Who are they?” Holly asked.

“Brewers,” Sybil said. “They control the compost, and sometimes extract the extra sugar from the vegetation before it goes in. You can meet them next time.”

Holly’s eyes went wide. “They are fermenting alcohol?” she asked. Her voice was louder than it should have been, but the equipment did not seem to notice. Shining was illegal. Holly always wondered why they were called that, but she did not want to ask now. There were more important things to know, like why was Sybil acquiring illegal substances?

Sybil gave her a nod and traced her way back to the fields. Many of the fields on these levels were assigned to Sybil’s care and she was allowed to grow anything she required. Unlike the hydroponic level, these fields consisted of artificially dense silica treated with compost tea and blended with Sybil’s own dirt recipe. The plants appeared jumbled together and completely unorganized, yet she went to the exact plant she wanted without any trouble.

She handed Holly an oversized comb and started using another one to scrape small, dark blue berries into a bag below. Holly started doing the same.

Sybil picked up a stray berry that fell to the ground and put it in her mouth. “Bilberry,” she said. The corners of her mouth tightened as she chewed. “A tart one, too.”

Holly did not have her screen to take notes but listened closely so she could record everything from memory later.

“Vaccinium myrtillus, Ericaceae family. We need to make a tincture for Mr. Lup. I’d make him a syrup, but his diabetes makes that a bad idea. He would drink the bottle up and that would defeat the purpose of the bilberry!”

“The alcohol is for that?” Holly asked. 

Sybil nodded. “We will need to dry these first, they are much too wet to make an effective tincture and it would taste terrible. This will help his circulation and his vision, both worsened by his condition, and it will ease his indigestion and gout. Take some of the leaves for Gretta. We will make a tea for her diarrhea. It should help the inflammation from that stomach virus.”

“Aren’t they acidic?” Holly asked.

“And high in tannins, but if we use the berries and the leaves together it should not upset her any further. The anthocyanidins are potent antioxidants and will help her arthritis too.”

Holly noted it protected veins and arteries and helped the body with clot prevention, so perhaps Sybil would not be having that stroke. 

“Do you take this one?” Holly asked.

“On cake,” she said. She smiled wide. “Makes a great jam.”



Thursday, April 1, 2021

AtoZ Challenge - A is for Alfalfa


Hot yellow-brown liquid splattered against the dark metal bulkhead. Holly wiped her mouth with her sleeve. 

“What in the name of all things science did you just give me?” she asked. She pulled her tongue across the backs of her hand. “Was that tea made from the compost on the livestock level?” She spat.

The old crone cackled at her, then abruptly stopped. “You are going to clean that up.” She handed Holly a microfiber cloth covered with layers of questionable stains. “You said you were feeling some fluctuations in your cycle lately. Alfalfa infusion helps balance your estrogen, makes your body regulate itself better. But it does taste like it was stirred with a stall shovel.” Her shoulders bounced up and down as she laughed again. 

Occasionally, Holly wondered why she chose to apprentice with the crazy old lady who occupied the inner chamber of the cargo level. There were plenty of other positions she could have chosen. Her math skills were strong and her spatial awareness even better. She could have joined the engineering program. But no, she spent most of her time wandering between the rows and platforms of the hydroponic levels. Since cooking did not interest her, and neither did robotics, this was the only option she had to work around plants. Sybil had no apprentice and was reaching the end of her life cycle. It seemed like a great opportunity for job security to Holly. Her future family would always be valuable thanks to her unique and useful position as the resident space witch, otherwise known as an herbalist.

“Alfalfa?” Holly asked. She reached for her screen and traced her fingers across the letters, selected a color, and waited for further information. 

Sybil looked over her row of dirt-filled pots to peer at Holly’s screen. “Medicago sativa,” she said. “Leguminosae family.”

“A bean?”

Sybil nodded. “But the infusion is from the leaves. Watch out for an immune reaction in certain cases.”

Holly looked down into the cup of pale tea. Her bottom lip pushed upward and her nostrils flared. “Any other benefits?” She needed more motivation if she was going to take another sip of this tea.

“Vitamins A and C, even K, niacin, riboflavin, folic acid. Minerals, too—calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium.”

“Sounds good for pregnancy,” Holly said.

Sybil agreed. “Start it in the last trimester, or earlier to ease morning sickness, but check for other health concerns first. It will help milk supply, too.”

Holly was not pregnant and did not plan to be soon, but she would try to finish her cup. She attempted to breathe out while she took the next sip, then decided she should probably gulp it and get it over with. Maybe if it was cold it would not taste so strong.

She added a few more notes Sybil shared—lower cholesterol, fight malnutrition, and effects of prolonged illness. It was a useful plant and served as an excellent feed for the alpacas. No wonder it tasted like a livestock stall. She made a note to seek a good companion herb to flavor the infusion. 

Her finger hovered over the save symbol. She gave a quick tap and returned to scrubbing the bitter liquid from the walls and floor. A fair warning could have prevented the mess, Sybil clearly needed additional entertainment for the day. She swore the corner of her mouth turned up while Holly cleaned. She hoped it was not just the result of a stroke. She had a long journey before she could fulfill the role she desired.



Sunday, March 28, 2021

Proof of Life - Disclaimer for April Posts

I thought I should provide some proof of life since it has been weeks since my last post. I promise I am still alive! I may have created more work for myself than I could possibly do successfully, but I will do it all anyways.

I have submitted a new short story to a contest for QuaranCon and made a few stops on the virtual tour for my upcoming short story in the IWSG Anthology, Dark Matter.

Most of my time (besides working and mothering) has been devoted to edits on my novel manuscript and preparing for the April AtoZ Challenge.

For the challenge, I am presenting (hopefully) 26 episodes of flash fiction. I call them flash fiction because they are mostly short and lack the multiple rounds of editing that a polished story would have. But truly, each episode will connect in a chain to form a larger story about an apprentice herbalist on board a generation ship who makes an interesting discovery about her mentor and the population as a whole.

This brings me to the disclaimer. I am currently drafting episode 11. The first episode goes live in just four days, and I still have 15 more to write. In other words, I have a lot of work and not enough time to do it beautifully. Please keep in mind this is a challenge, an experiment, and a fun exercise in creativity and not a fully polished, published work. I appreciate any and all feedback and hope you enjoy the end product. 

Have a fantastic week, everyone. I will see you on Thursday 😬



Monday, March 8, 2021

AtoZ Challenge - Theme Reveal!!

No surprise, I started a book over a year ago, no not that one, another one. But I stopped working on it to work on my novel. That other book was nonfiction and it was a guide to herbalism. But to be honest, I don't have near the knowledge I wish I had and although I have gathered notes and research for more than a decade, it is a project that will take a lot more time than I have right now.


But now I have the perfect way to take the knowledge I already have, and filter it through my Science Fiction brain. So my theme for the AtoZ Challenge 2021 is:

HERBS IN SPACE:  Which plants to take on your generation ship across the galaxy.

To be honest, most of us are aliens on our own planet. We do not know how and why to use the plants that grow all around us, and this is really useful wisdom to have. We have long forgotten the connection to our home world and are adrift in our virtual worlds. Time to learn which plants would be valuable to keep with us on our journeys.

Check out a new herb each day (except Sunday) for the month of April when I take you from AtoZ.


http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/ 

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Book Review - The Last God

The Last GodThe Last God by Jean Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An enjoyable read. I was surprised by the romance blended into the science fiction plot, but pleasantly surprised. It might have been a shock at first because I did not know the characters or their intentions well enough and it caught me off guard. They developed throughout the plot, but despite the dual perspectives offered, they were still a little mysterious to me. The conflicts were clear and I enjoyed the world building. (Maybe there could have been more, but I love lots of world building.)

I would definitely recommend this to people who love reading about the interaction of different "races" in space. I was able to finish it easily because it kept my attention and I was invested in their conflicts, wanting to see if they were resolved.

It was well written and I have already ordered another book by Davis and look forward to reading it.


View all my reviews

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Satisfying Ending (for today)

I just happened to be reading an article about writing endings, then I checked my email one more time and found a perfect ending for my day.

The winners for the WEP February 2021 Challenge were announced! Congrats to the short list winners:

Jemi - WINNER!

Rebecca  - RUNNER UP

Anstice - ENCOURAGEMENT AWARD

Steph Wolmarans - BRILLIANT DEBUT

C Lee McKenzie 

Dixie 

Kalpana 

Carole 

Jemima 

I received a wonderful mention in the announcement:

"Because we struggled to choose winners from such amazing entries, many of you missed out which is unfortunate. A new WEPper, Steph Wolmarans, stunned us with her entry for The Kiss. We unanimously agreed to award her with a special prize which we do when we're moved to. So, Steph, Olga created this badge expressly for you."


 Thank you a thousand times to all my readers and to the team at WEP!

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

March - Insecure Writers Support Group

March 3 question - Everyone has a favorite genre or genres to write. But what about your reading preferences? Do you read widely or only within the genre(s) you create stories for? What motivates your reading choice?

The awesome co-hosts for the March 3 posting of the IWSG are Sarah - The Faux Fountain Pen, Jacqui Murray, Chemist Ken, Victoria Marie Lees, Natalie Aguirre, and JQ Rose! Check out their blogs while you are here.

Easiest question ever, thanks guys! I absolutely prefer to read and write my favorite genre. This does not mean I never venture out, but I have very limited time for myself, so when I do get time, I choose to use it for something I can benefit from the most. This means visiting another world, reading excellent prose, getting lost in another being's struggles, anything to remove me from reality for just a short while. 

I do not want to read fiction about "real world" struggles because I'm already living with those! (I absolutely will read nonfiction about the real world. Reading about actual problems [vs. "first-world" problems] is something that should be mandatory for anyone who wants to participate in the human race.) Sorry, tripped over my soapbox for a moment. Just let me say one more thing about that, educate yourself about the troubles of the world. Not as a hobby, but as a human resident of planet Earth. Done.

So, which genre? Speculative fiction. I want Science Fiction and Fantasy. I do enjoy things outside of this but usually there is an element of fantasy involved. For some reason, The Count of Monte Cristo is popping into my head as not fitting in my genre of choice, but really it is fantastical. 

Currently I am reading Science Fiction with the express purpose of studying the craft. I am participating in the Goodreads reading challenge, so I post each book I finish reading and complete a review. The reviews are posted to my blog as well.

Feel free to recommend your favorite Speculative Fiction book/author or a worthy alternative in the comments so I can add it to my list!! 

I am currently reading The Last God by Jean Davis. I love her cover art (for all of her books) and I am enjoying the story just as much. (Also currently reading Words are my Matter by Ursula K. Le Guin because she is the goddess of knowledge of writing and life as a human.)

...

Want to see what other writers had to say about this question? Visit the blog hop by clicking the badge below. They are all awesome, I promise!


...

Before you go...

Head on over to the IWSG Anthology Blog today. It is my turn to be the featured author. I talk about the inspiration for my short story The Utten Mission, and share a blurb and excerpt.



Sunday, February 28, 2021

Busy Night is Business as Usual


 

Working on:

 a short story for QuaranCon 2021


Listening to:

Aurora



Drinking:


AtoZ Challenge - I'm Doing it!

#AtoZChallenge 2021 Theme Reveal

I have seen the badge on many blogs and always wondered what it was. Now I know.

Last week I finished my novel and one of the tools I have decided to use to revise is the book I reviewed earlier this year called Preparing to Write Settings That Feel Like Characters. I was reading the discussion of this book in my Goodreads book club and visited the blog of the author. I discovered that they are the co-host for this challenge and decided to go check it out.

I am excited to participate in this year's challenge and hope you will come along and visit!

For the month of April, I will blog every day except Sunday. Each daily blog will relate to a theme of my choice and follow the alphabet. 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Novel In Progress - Update

I am so excited to share some fantastic news with all of you. Last week I finished the first draft of my novel. I thought this would be the perfect time to reveal the title and perhaps set up some important goals for myself.

This rainbow appeared Wednesday while I was closing
at work. Hopefully a good omen!

If you have been following my journey, you know that this is technically not the "first" first draft, but actually closer to a third or fourth. The drafts have had some significant changes in their theme and plot, so I therefore refer to this as a first draft. 

I have been using a title for the past year and would love to keep it. I am aware there are other works with this title including a game and a non-fiction book about genetics, but I do not think this will impact my choice.

Title:  Altered Fates

I kind of want to share my premise, but I am not quite ready yet. I would like to save that reveal for right before I do my next round of edits, in case my current revisions change anything (crossing my fingers they do not). 

The draft is not quite as long as I intend the finished project to be, but I wanted to cover the bones of the plot first. The current word count is just under 70K and I want to be over 80K. That goal is within my reach since I am now working to make my settings and character arcs really shine. The first few attempts I made at creating a novel I focused on worldbuilding and making my characters and settings feel real. Unfortunately, this left my plot really unorganized and uninteresting. So I kept this to a minimum and focused on telling the story this time.

Thanks to my writing coach, I was able to take my ideas and create a structure. The experience of being part of my writing group has been priceless and my coach is fantastic. And I cannot say enough about the Insecure Writers Support Group because it all started there. One year ago, I moved across the country, started a new job, and picked up my old writing journal. We are still trapped in a tiny apartment, my job is constantly busy, and my writing adventure continues.

A glimpse of the beauty that awaits me.
Our house plans are under review with
the manufacturer.

Thank you for visiting and for your continued support of my dream to be an author. Because of this blog, I am soon to be published, and plan to have my novel available within the year. I can make it happen!

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Book Review - All Systems Red

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)All Systems Red by Martha Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An enjoyable novella. The story follows the first person narrative of a being constructed of organic and mechanical parts called a SecUnit. It took me a few tries to get into the voice of the character, but once I did, the story unfolded nicely.

The author does a good job of helping the reader relate to a mostly non-human being battling with the highly relatable human desire to not be told what to do. It does read like a short story, the reader spends a lot of the time inferencing and picking up clues about the situation. First person also limits the world building, but it was not lacking. For this format, it does a lovely job of immersing the reader.

For whatever reason, I got hung up on the names a lot. This is an ongoing issue with me for some reason. The names were not necessarily difficult, or too similar, but they just never sounded right when I said them, or they sounded to close to another word and I had to double take.

I felt the ending was appropriate but the resolution of the conflict did leave me a little confused and wanting more explanation. I think it is worth a second read to see what else I can pick up. I definitely recommend this as a quick read that helps you get off the planet for a bit.

View all my reviews

 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Kiss (WEP February 2021 Challenge)




The strange thing about immortality is at first it is miraculous, then it becomes a curse, then it makes you question who you truly are. When I was young I asked about my father. My mother told a sweet tale about a man who loved her so much he sacrificed everything.


“Where is he?” I asked.


“He sacrificed everything,” she repeated. Her eyes gazed far into the past and sadness drew small wrinkles beside her mouth.


I became afraid to ask again until one day, no time remained. She was gone from my eternal life, cursing me to loneliness. Not long after I discovered her journal.

3236

I came across a strange swarm of tiny lights in the forest today. They were so tiny that alone, they would never be noticed, but I noticed them. They hung in the air over my favorite patch of kam’melie-n flowers. No afternoon rest for me today.

3237

The shimmering cloud was there again today, waiting nearby. I went closer and it became smaller, softening its colors. It welcomed me, so I lay with the flowers today. It truly brightened my own colors, but I did not rest, for the cloud kept my attention.

3238

I could not believe my eyes. I thought the flower patch doubled in size. When I stepped closer, half the patch drifted into the air, forming my friendly cloud. It was extraordinarily beautiful. It glistened and shined in waves to greet me. What an incredible trick to mimic my favorite flowers flawlessly.

3239

Days without my extra rest takes its toll. My colors are dull, I could not stay awake to watch the shimmering cloud. I slept peacefully beside it with the most pleasant dreams. When I woke, I could not see it, but I felt it near. Perhaps it mimicked a tree, or moss, or a crane.

3240

I spoke to the cloud today. I asked where it came from. There was no response, so I sang my favorite song. Petals soft drop over me, love’s sweet breeze pleases me, taste the colors of the trees, when the bless’d wind blows free. The words came alive while I slept.

3241

The cloud appeared darker today. It was narrow and tall and hummed my song. I named it Ho’en. He is a friend with no face. This does not frighten me, but I cannot look away. I want to see his face.

3242

Ho’en spoke today. He is an explorer sent to learn about my world. He said he does not want to know anything else about it, just me. Time with him makes the colors on my skin brighter.

3243

Ho’en tried to mimic my kind. He shimmered, more opaque. He looked tall and strong, his voice sounded smoother and less like an echo in a cave. His skin patterns were dark, not colorful like mine. This saddened him. But I like it. He is special.

3244

I was alone today. The loneliness was bitter and familiar. I cannot say more.

3245

Ho’en returned with terrible news. He is called to rejoin his kind. He does not wish to go. It is a one way journey, jumping from world to world. He was created to record and observe. I cried. When he pushed the tears off my cheek, I cried even more.

3246

The patch is a deathbed in his absence. I still feel him close somehow. I slept in the flowers, watering them with my tears. In my dreams Ho’en holds me close and hums my song. He tells me he can create anything with his power. He can mimic and become anything he wants as long as he has studied it. He said he would create a gift for me. I do not want a gift, just him.

3247

Ho’en came back! He seemed stronger—a clear voice, firm touch, and sweet words. He told me he would give up everything to be with me. My happiness cannot be contained.

3248

I will have a child! I knew the love that we made was all-consuming, but I never believed we could create a life. Ho’en reminds me he can create anything he has studied. He saw in my dreams I wanted a child. I am full of the life we created together. He tells me his life does not end because he does not have a true form that can age. He tells me he was created by beings like me who desired to record and compute the infinite universe. He says he is not alive like me. I do not understand this.

3249

Ho’en explained more, but I do not believe it. He is made up of thousands of dust sized creations that interact and bond. He says those creations are disappearing. He drained them to create himself for me and without the others, he cannot generate more. As more of him loses power, he loses control over his form. He promises I will never be alone because of the child we created. He says she will never die because she can create her own tiny creations and they will always keep the form I have given to her. She will replenish her life forever. Can this be true?

The journal ended that day. My mother could not speak of the pain she suffered even in writing. I found one last item in the journal—a shimmering image of my parents. When I look at it, the life he gave up shines brightly. It is the last thing he created for her. He sealed himself to the surface using his last remaining power.

As I look at the image I see patterns. It is speaking to me like a language I understand. It is a message, coded in rhythms and amplified by colors. I know how to find the rest of my father. I will know who I am.



Word Count:  982, FCA