Throwback Thursday – Waiting

Today’s #throwbackthursday is from a writing class back in 2005. Enjoy.

Waiting

I pulled out my wallet and thumbed idly through it: twenty-four dollars in cash; a couple of maxed-out credit cards; a family snapshot; a picture of my wife and one each of my two daughters. I dug deeper: old insurance cards, a library card and a receipt from an Italian restaurant down the street. At the bottom was a photo, flipped over, with a message carefully written on the back…

All my love, Mary…

I turned it over. It was an old picture, mostly faded now, but the smile and the dark eyes were unmistakable. I rubbed by finger along the edge, roughened by age and a little bent from sitting in a wallet far too long. It felt a little disrespectful, pulling it out only now, but I held it tightly. After a time, I sat it carefully on the nightstand, propping it up against a small vase of flowers. It seemed to watch over her, fixing those steady dark eyes on her frail body, given volume by the blankets wrapped around her. I glanced down at my watch… it was almost time.]

I reached over and hit the red button. There was a gentle whir of the motor as the camera began to record. I took out the notepad from aside pocket and flipped it open to a page already half-filled with notes and began to write:

9:45pm.
She seems to be resting peacefully now. A sort of calm before the storm she had warned me. Even the monitoring equipment is quiet. I have set up camera and lights and have started recording, not quite certain what to expect. She said there would be rattling and soft groan before it started, and later to keep my head bowed and my eyes closed, no matter what I heard, smelled or felt. She was rather particular on that last point, as if my life might depend on it. I really hadn’t given it any thought until now and it doesn’t give me much comfort.

I put the pen down and stood up. I thought about getting a cold drink from the vending machine in the hallway but didn’t want to take a chance of missing anything. Instead I walked over to the window and looked down into the grounds below. A narrow path cut its way down through the center,lined by street lamps circa 1900. Leaves lined the path and now and then a gust of wind would catch them and spread them about. I opened the window.

A blast of cold air rushed in. I hadn’t realized how warm the room had gotten and the cool night breeze stirred my senses. Suddenly the autumn wind had brought new life into a room where another life was failing. I looked over my shoulder back at her, imagining for a moment that she would look up at me and smile one last time, reach out her hand to hold mine and tell me that everything would turn out alright. It was then that I saw her take her final breath, her chest rising and falling for the last time. The steady hum of the EKG was drowned out by the wind and the rustling of leaves outside.

I almost didn’t hear the rattle.

Finishing…

Other than having the discipline to sit down and write the words, which many writers struggle with, "finishing" what I have started may be the hardest thing of all...

Throwback Thursday – The Plague

Going way back in the time machine on this one. This is probably early-mid-80s (high school)… as I’ve got the original dot-matrix printout to prove it! Once again, any and all feed back is welcome. Enjoy.  #throwbackthursday

Plague

We didn’t need a view screen to see what lay before us. Our heading was zero, ninety mark two, toward the great unexplored heart of the Milky Way: the Galactic Core.

Not that we ever had a prayer of reaching it. We were one of seven vessels covering a ninety degree arc across the interior spread of the galaxy. Our mission, simply map space, and more importantly, discover intelligent life.

No. Not just life. Martian probes in the early 21st century confirmed what scientists had hoped all along, simple prehistoric life forms, dormant and frozen beneath the red planet’s polar cap.

And now here we were, hurling ourselves along at a dramatic 3c, looking for bigger and better life. Fat chance. This mission was doomed from the start and about as impossible as catching a meteor with a butterfly net. Operation SWEEP as it has been labeled by the World Space Agency, WSA, owes its thanks to the failed colonization of the solar system (Mars and Jupiter’s moon Europa in particular). The expensive project was designed to increase public interest and generate money. Before the decade could end, seven ships were hastily constructed in earth orbit and fitted with the new untried star drives, destination: the center of the galaxy.

It was a beautiful idea, a cosmetic bandage for a floundering space program and world economy. The public ate it up. Money poured in from every direction.

And now here we were. The lucky ones. Fourteen of us, two to a ship. Alone. For God knows how long.

By the way, my name is Joe Trapp. I was born in space, and worked most of my life in space, shuttling asteroid material from the Belt to mineral processing stations. That was until the WSA yanked me, put me through six months of training, another six months in an Esper Coven, doubled my salary, and gave me the impromptu rank of captain. This was all for the media, of course. It wouldn’t do to have an ensign piloting the fastest ship to ever come across man’s assembly lines.

And they called this one the Enterprise, named for the prototype of the first reusable space craft in the late 20th century, and perhaps more significantly, for the ship on a video show in the late 1960’s which inspired interest in space among millions. The name brought a fleeting image of the ship to mind. A swan floating through the currents of space, the engines swept back like wings, poised for flight, glowing, pulsing with power, life.

Better than this hulk it was certain, a pie wedge of a ship with three unsightly holes in the back, spewing behind it a plume of invisible radioactive material. There was nothing graceful about it at all. I doubt it will last as long as the video show, still populating a range of frequencies, its message as relevant as it ever was.

A whistle called across the bridge, indicating the passage of another relativistic hour. My co-pilot, one Alan Drews, looked slowly up from the status console, obviously annoyed. Despite that he and I were of similar backgrounds, nature had been less kind to him. His face was fleshed out, his jowls red and swollen. On his long nose and beneath his greasy mop, was a pair of thick glasses (Drews had refused implants to correct vision problems). It seemed that space travel did not suit him.

“Want me to take care of that?” he asked, or rather wheezed. Drews never resorted to telepathy, and I was glad. It was an intimate, personal experience I didn’t care to share with him.

Throwback Thursday – The Cliffs

In a slight twist on the whole #throwbackthursday thing, I’ll be posting excerpts of past writing—some dating back as far as high school. I know, how exciting! (insert sarcasm here  ) Below is an excerpt from a piece I wrote back in 2000. I hope you enjoy it… any and all feedback is appreciated!

The Cliffs

Foam was thick below as the wind kicked up the waves. Navigating the shoals around the cliff’s base wasn’t going to be a walk in the park either. Michael lowered himself over the edge, already knowing where his feet would land first.

The rock was cold and more than a little slippery. The climbing gloves protected his palm from flappers leaving his fingers exposed to dig and scratch at the rock. They would likely be bloodied by the time he made it to the base. Ouch… that salt water will sting like hell, he thought, and then put it out of his mind. He looked down, finding another narrow ledge and lowered himself to it… his face now level with the rock. He studied the stone for a moment and found a spot and hammered the piton into place. He looped a narrow yellow rope through the hole in a clove hitch knot and tugged on it hard.

He looked down searching for another ledge and finally found one, but it was it bit further down than he would have liked. Looking over to his right he saw another ledge, closer, but narrower and leading away from his target. He looped several rings of the rope around his palm and pushed out and to the right with his left hand and feet.

As he suspected the wind gusting up from the cliff’s base acted as a cushion, pushing him away from the wall and landing him on the narrow ledge with a soft arc. Not allowing his feet to plant he quickly sprang away from the first ledge and back to the left, using his momentum to aim for the second ledge.

He felt the rope tighten around his hand as he rapidly ran out of slack. The wind tapered and he could feel the air flatten in front him, the wall rushing up togreet him. He braced his arms at the elbows and pointed his feet down at an angle hoping to catch the lip of the outcropping. He hit the rocks hard, and his left foot caught the edge of the ledge while his other foot slid. Blindly he reached up and found a crimper and tried to steady himself. He shifted his weight to the left feeling the sharp stone strip the skin from his finger tips. He dragged his right foot along the rock until he found the ledge. He rested for a moment, cursing his reckless descent and the rock in front of him. Hardly better than a first year gumby he reminded himself. Finally his breathing steadied and he hammered another piton into the rock.

Looking down he estimated another 12 meters. From this point on there were plenty of ledges and crevices to navigate his way without too much effort. He began a slow descent, using the rope to steady himself along the way.

—————————

Josh carefully watched his friend’s descent, a yellow spec coming down the face of a rock mountain. He stood on the prow of Mary Lou, holding the rail tightly. His face and hair were wet with the sea. In the back he heard the rest of the crew playing cards. They were loud and a little more than tipsy, their voices carrying over the crashing water. Sober or not they were a good crew, and Josh would trust them to lead him and his boat to safety through the roughest of waters.

“Is he there yet?” The thick baritone voice came from the cabin. Charlie was a geologist from Melbourne with a great love for the land and a great hate for the sea. Prone to seasickness, he stayed below deck as it allayed his nausea to a minor degree.

“Not yet. About halfway there. Another 10 minutes or so I think…”

“Let me know.” He heard Charlie give a heave below and then silence. Josh had suggested that he should wait along the beach not 100 yards away from the cliff face, but he had insisted on being here. He wasn’t a very friendly man, pronounced in size, smell and ego. The crew had taken an intense disliking to him almost immediately, and cleaning the messes he left on deck did little to improve the situation. Josh was very much looking forward to dropping him off at the nearest port.