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Infinite Library Part 3: The Initial Conditions of Another Universe

“So in conclusion, with my device, lab time, research and the help of Dr. Martin Carrus I was able to study exactly what is going on in the empty space of atoms. It’s common knowledge that the space is not empty, but is composed of electrons and protons that exchange photons and heavy gauge bosons. I was able to not only observe these interactions on low form particles but was able to measure them.

“With sufficient funding and of course this board’s approval of my thesis defense I would like to go on and investigate how my lab could interact and even harness the energy of these interactions. Thank you for your time, are there any questions?”

The five professors and two doctoral candidates applauded Rodney Brown’s presentation. And while this was the moment Rodney had been looking forward to for the past fifteen years of his life it felt empty. The man that Rodney had been working under and learning from for the past six years had not made an appearance at his thesis defense.

Dr. Martin Carrus hadn’t made an appearance to anything in the past week. Rodney had been covering the man’s classes, running the lab, and preparing for his defense for the past few days. The professor had disappeared and the police, after investigating the man’s house, found no trace of him leaving. They found his house locked from the inside.

Rodney answered the other professor’s questions succinctly and to their contentment. He had spent days brainstorming the different questions they might ask so he could be as prepared as possible. A technique Carrus had shared with him. Then the dean asked a question that Rodney hadn’t expected, “How long until you think until you’ve prepared this technology for commercial use?”

Commercial use? Rodney was baffled. These men were scientists, sure the school had bills to pay and the college had been severely underfunded for years but were they going to sell his work for commercial profits? “I don’t understand the question, sir.”

“Well, the implications are clear. The last man to harness the power of the atom put an end to World War II. Then we went on to create nuclear power plants. So, how long until you think that we could move your work into the private sector for some real profits? At a minimum, we should be selling your measurement device to colleges and companies with the ability to buy them.”

Rodney began to stutter out an answer. He stopped, took a deep breath and composed himself, “I appreciate your support. But to be completely honest we haven’t begun to interact with the particle let alone understand how much energy it might put out. It would take at least two years to get to a place where we would understand this well enough to begin pitching the private sector. That’s assuming that what we find is worth anything to them. But under the current circumstances,” Rodney gestured to the empty chair at the front of the room where the candidate’s professor traditionally sat, “I don’t even know if the lab will be able to continue.”

The dean responded with, “We’ve been meaning to talk to you about that Dr. Brown.”


Rodney Brown unlocked the door to his new office and surveyed the two cluttered desks. I guess I should get to work clearing this stuff off, Rodney thought to himself. He spent the entire morning and the better part of his afternoon cleaning up Dr. Carrus’s desks, bookshelves, and filing system. He hated to throw anything away, especially when he didn’t know which notes might be important and what might be critical.

After nearly everything had been stacked, sorted, and filed, He moved the man’s trinkets to a small box that once held printer paper and pushed it into a back corner of the room where it would stay for years. The mirror, the Woodstock tickets, and his whiteboard remained hanging on the walls. The professor’s papers took up the bottom two drawers of the filing cabinet leaving Rodney with only the top one for himself. Maybe one day I’ll scan them in and file them electronically, but for now, he was content with a clean desk.

Along with the mess, the office, the class work and the lab Rodney had inherited the man’s financial stresses. At least those related to the school.

He also inherited the one thing he wanted nothing to do with. The inhuman book still sat on the man’s desk. Its purple and black cover dancing in the light from the window. Rodney refused to take it at his last meeting with the man. I guess he found a way to give it to me anyway, Rodney thought.

The tables were cleaned for the most part, and Rodney realized that the room had far more space than he ever imagined. He picked up the book and thumbed through the book again. It was gibberish. So he thumbed through Carrus’s notes. There were equations, Feynman diagrams, and statistics littering the pages. Although the sheets of paper were lined Rodney noticed that Carrus had a hard time using them as guides. Most of the notes were scribbled crooked in the margins and seemed to have brief but vague insights. “Something doesn’t add up,” was written in multiple places. Rodney studied the notes on the clear desk and scattered out what he could make sense of. The book sat untouched in the corner of the desk. Rodney felt like it was watching him work out the mystery.

Nine pm rolled around, and Rodney had made no progress. Worst of all, the studying had undone all the progress he had made on cleaning the desk. He looked around desks filled notes and open textbooks. He observed the mess and agreed with Carrus; something didn’t add up. It was as if all the rules of physics that he had studied as a boy didn’t apply to this book. Meaning that the book wasn’t about physics or the universe it was from played by other rules.


Rodney returned to the office before dawn the next day. He had slept like a rock and didn’t remember dreaming. When he walked into his office, one thought was kept coming to the front of his mind. Play by different rules.

He looked over the Carrus’s notes again. The man was evidently trying to use physics to translate the book. Each equation he had deduced out of the book seemed to rhyme with an equation that Rodney found in the textbooks. But none of them matched up quite right. Carrus would discover what a number looked like in the foreign language, apply it to other places, and then end up with an answer that didn’t make sense.

Rodney fiddled his thumbs and sipped his coffee as he stared at the pages of equations in front of him. Then, like rare but truly great ideas do, he had a thought that opened the floodgates of his mind. He looked at the equations and realized the thing Carrus had gotten wrong.

For years physicists used constants to compensate for truths they didn’t quite understand. Newton used the gravitational constant in the gravitational equation, and Maxwell had both vacuum permittivity and vacuum permeability in his equations. Particle physics had its own cacophony of constants, and Carrus was using them as critical factors in determining what the alien numbers were. But if this book was indeed from another universe, and the equations were too, then there could be a fundamental difference between the laws that their nature operates under. Comparing it to ours, and using our constants would give us the wrong results, Rodney thought, I need to know their constants and I’ll discover their universe’s initial conditions

He got to work trying to solve for the constants instead of the variables, and by 2 pm when the dean walked into his office he had made progress.

“Dr. Brown do you have a moment?” The dean asked. The man made himself comfortable in the chair that Rodney once sat in.

“Of course,” he said finishing up an equation, “What’s going on?”

“I know that it’s only your second day in this position, but I wanted to go over your lab’s financial situation. I don’t know how transparent Dr. Carrus was with you before he ditched us but the lab is not in good shape.”

“Yes, he mentioned some of that.”

“Additionally, we looked over your apparatus, the one you used for your thesis and the bill of materials you submitted is too expensive to duplicate. If we were to sell the apparatus to other universities, we would be unable to turn a profit. We’re going to need you to design one that’s less expensive.”

Rodney frowned, “With all due respect sir, there isn’t a less expensive design available. Carrus gave me a shoestring budget, to begin with, and I was barely able to deliver on that. Most of the sensors are custom made to save money, but they took years to build and test. I don’t believe we can produce a machine on anything less than the original budget.” Rodney then considered protesting on the entire concept of selling his machine for profit but held himself against it. There was no point in making waves this soon.

“If you can’t make it less expensive then you will have to add some functionality to it. Is there anything it can do without having to modify the design significantly?”

“I would need a year, maybe two to figure that out, sir. I haven’t been able to make it to the lab yet. And I have classes to run tomorrow. Midterms are coming up, and I don’t think Carrus had a test written for them yet.”

It was now the deans turn to frown. “Dr. Brown, we expect a lot from you. We know you’re the youngest professor at this university, and we will cut you some slack for that, but there are responsibilities to the school you now have to fulfill. If we can’t make a profit from your design or your lab, then funding for your research and position might not continue to work out. You must understand that this school has to keep its lights on somehow.”

“I understand sir,” Rodney lied. “I will do my best to improve the design.”

“Good, I will schedule a meeting for updates every Wednesday. I want to help you succeed at this. We expect big things from you. I’m sure you’ll be able to fill Carrus’s shoes and then some.”

Rodney thanked the man as he left the office. He looked back at the pages he was working on before he was interrupted. Math would bring him a distraction and relief from the dean’s pressures.

He looked down at the constants he had come up with. They were so wrong that if the dean had seen them, he would have probably fired Rodney on the spot for the elementary mistake. But from the translations Carrus had already made he realized that according to the inhuman book these constants were right. At least for that universe.

Rodney spent the afternoon in the lab. The schools IT department had accessed Carrus’s files, and Rodney was able to use a midterm from a few years ago for the test. He had a grad student, Maria, help him work on the bringing the price of the apparatus down. However, he didn’t share with her how important it was to do it. By 9 pm she left and by 3 am he had dozed away at his desk in the lab.


The sun blasted through the window of the lab and warmed his back to the point of discomfort. He woke up and looked at the clock. 4 hrs of dreamless sleep, he thought. Beign slumped over his desk uncomfortablely hadn’t even phased him through the night. He looked at his notes from yesterday and thought of how much trouble he would be in if he had a meeting with the dean next Wednesday with only some incorrect constants to show him.

Then he had an idea for improved functionality.

Rodney skipped his morning coffee and began to tinker with his machine. At 1 pm Maria came in and reminded him that he had a class to teach. Rodney politely asked her if she could cover for him and she pointed out that she was a student in the class. He looked at the machine, his notes, and then remembered he hadn’t prepared a lecture.

He shuffled through his notes, found the page he wanted, circled a few equations in red ink. Handing the sheet of notes to Maria he said, “put this on the board and tell them to solve it.”

“Will this be on the midterm?” She asked.

Knowing no one would care about it if it wasn’t he responded with, “Yes.” In reality, he wanted someone to check if he had calculated the constants correctly.


Dinner came and went, but he didn’t feel hungry. Rodney worked and worked and worked. Maria returned with a few attempts, but none of the students had the confidence to finish the equation once they saw they had the wrong constants.

“What are you working on anyway, Rodney?”

He gave her a vague answer saying, “I’m trying to improve the functionality per the dean’s request.” If he explained the details, he would be admitted to a psych ward, at a minimum his newly awarded Ph.D. would be revoked.

By 9 pm, long after the sun had gone down he finished the final technical touches. Hours later he was still calibrating the modified machine. But instead of calibrating it to the constants that he had grown up with he used the new alien combination that he had discovered only days ago. He synced the machine with them and turned it on.

At first, his readings showed nothing. He was disappointed but wasn’t surprised. What he was trying to do should be physically impossible. Then he saw a blip on his read out. He examined the screen closer. Then a small pop went off near the machine, and the readout went blank.

A fuse must have blown, Rodney thought. He turned around and saw that every sensor on his machine had been burnt off. The machine was dead. How did this happen? He wondered. He printed off the recorded data and looked it over. There was no way he would be able to afford to replace the machine’s sensors. Discouraged he poured over the data that he had accumulated from the short test.

He ran the numbers from the test. He discovered that he accomplished exactly what he had expected it to do. Exactly what the Law of Conservation of Mass said he shouldn’t be able to do. His math from the reading proved otherwise. He had created an atom with his device. He had formed matter and broken a key law of physics.

Except he hadn’t, the atom had to have been somewhere. It was in the same universe the book was in. He had merely summoned it to his world using the ‘wrong’ constants he had been studying for days.

“Hows that for increased functionality?” He said to the empty lab. He went home pondering how to explain this to the dean without sounding like a mad scientist who got information from a magical book. Magic books weren’t trusted very far in his field.

He slept through the night and most of the morning. But this time it wasn’t dreamless. He had a constant feeling of being watched. And before he woke up he had a vivid dream where he couldn’t move, and a black figure with red eyes was watching over him.

The Overwatcher was waiting for him to make his next discovery.


Photo Credit: gamal_inphotos, mathplourde, wfdt2004, J. Sibiga Photography, Lyle58, Clint__Budd, Internet Archive Book Images, cowlet

The Only Mystery Worth Solving

Author’s Note: This is a continuation of last week’s story An Ancient Inhuman Book. This story is stand alone, but if you enjoy it then you will definitely enjoy the first part of the story. Rodney will be back next week, but I can’t guarantee that his professor will be. Enjoy: The Only Mystery Worth Solving.


“You want answers to the mysteries of the universe, kid? Then take this,” Stanley said as he shoved a book into the frizzled young man’s grasp.

Martin Carrus clutched the book before it slipped out of his grasp and hit the ground. “You think it has answers?”

Stanley shrugged the question off, “I don’t doubt it has answers. But I think it will fill your life with more mysteries than anything else.”

Martin thumbed through the book, the words were squiggles, and the figures were equally mystifying. “Is there a translation, or at least the start of one?”

Stanley, whose age and adventures had brought wrinkles to his face chuckled softly. “No there isn’t. It took the university’s best linguists months to decipher what the cave had written in.”

“You found this in a cave?” Martin responded with disbelief.

“Well, it was a cave that was being used as a temple. And I’ll tell you what, it was a bitch to get to. I think I still have some mosquito bites from that expedition.”

“Why are you giving it to me?” Carrus asked.

“Lots of reasons,” the man said with a snicker. He took a drag from his cigarette, let out a small cough, then offered it to the young scientist. “You’re probably going to want some of this. We’re about to get into some heavy shit.”

The joint hung between the old adventurer and the young scientist. He had a rule that he didn’t smoke while he was working, but then again he wasn’t sure how close to work this was going to resemble. He took a short drag from the cigarette figuring he would split the difference.

“Good, now let’s get into this before the shrooms kick in,” the man said while relaxing in his armchair.

“The what?!?” Carrus asked in shock. His mind immediately went to the tea the man served him, and he stared at his cup. It was already half empty.

Stanley let out a laugh that filled the apartment’s living room. Even the thick shag carpet couldn’t absorb the sound. “Don’t worry my friend. I didn’t waste any on you. I took them a few minutes before you arrived. The joint helps with the transition and the tea helps me stay hydrated.”

Martin wiped sweat away from his brow. “Then I guess we should get into this quickly,” he said while looking back at the book.

“You asked me why I gave it to you,” Stanley started, “And I don’t have a simple answer for you. The best answer I have is that it feels right. My brain wants to make a dozen excuses for why I should, but truth be told, it’s just pure animalistic instinct.” Carrus nodded and let the conversation continue. “The book, as far as I can tell, relates to something scientific. And my university has had it in our anthropology department for long enough. They’re not getting anywhere with it. Anthropologists are a bunch of tautological hobbnoggins.”

Carrus laughed at the word. He was feeling a little light-headed, so the comment came off funnier than it should have. He then proceeded to point out, “Aren’t you an Anthropologist?”

The old man smiled and nodded, then protested “Yes but I made that choice under duress. They said I would only be able to go on the cool archeological explorations if I had a degree.”

“You must have been a hell of a student,” Carrus remarked wondering what kind of students he would have once he got his doctorates and became a professor.

“Anyway, where was I?”

“You were complaining about Anthropologists.”

“Yes, yes, yes, they can only get us so far. And they won’t admit this, but they’ve hit a wall with this book. You see when trying to translate something from another language you need to establish a common ground. The translators need something that will connect the foreign language to your native language. With indigenous people, this is in the form of pointing at something and getting the word for it. But that doesn’t work with written text. Sometimes we can extrapolate from present text or context from the site, but the writing in the cave temple doesn’t match the writing in the book.”

“That makes sense. You mentioned that this book was not from our world.”

“Yes, exactly, there’s no related language like this so we can’t learn what it says.”

“But if the anthropologists and linguists can’t figure out what the book says how the hell am I going to? I’m an American physicist, the only foreign word I know is ‘prost.'”

The old explorer lifted his teacup and made a cheers gesture at the young scientist. “I’ll drink to that.” He took a sip of his tea and made the most serious look he could, considering that he was a little stoned. “You do share a language with this book though. This book is about how worlds interact. It’s about science. Something that no anthropologist will ever spend time learning. I believe that’s the common ground between mankind and that book.”

Carrus looked at the book and thumbed through a few pages. “There’s not a single equation in here.”

The man shrugged and smoked the last of the joint. He put it out in the small ashtray, finished his tea and leaned back in his chair. “That’s what the anthropologists told me. You know what I think?”

Carrus looked up from the mystifying pages and shook his head.

“I think we have bigger problems than their numbers looking slightly different from our numbers.”

Carrus looked down at the book. It was open to a page with a large figure displayed. At least Martin assumed it was a graph. The coordinates were perplexing and the axises that were labeled he couldn’t read. Carrus concluded that the man was grossly uninformed, whatever wrote this book wasn’t just using a different symbol for numbers they were using a completely different number system or thought process. But Stanley could be right, math could be the same across worlds, and if it was maybe Carrus could beat his head against the book long enough to get a translation out, but he suspected it would take all his life.

“There’s more to this book,” Hastings added. Before Carrus could respond with oh great the man continued. “I told you that it’s not from this world and we did end up translating the temple’s walls.”

“Mhmm,” Carrus responded.

“Well, the cave talked about a room that they had accessed. It might have been deeper in the temple, that’s what a lot of the archeologists took the translation as since parts of the cave had collapsed and we didn’t have the funds to excavate them. Me and the other ‘forward thinking’ explorers thought the linguist could have translated a word the indigenous people used differently.

“You see it read like ‘transcend’ and most just thought that meant travel, like from room to room, but I think it indicated travel in the way our spirit travels through different heavens and hells when we die.”

Martin had never bought into any religion. He blamed it on his parents, the science he did didn’t have much room for a bearded man who could snap a world into existence. Because of this, he responded with, “what do you mean spirit?”

The man smiled and leaned forward in his chair, “There’s more to this world than your science can explain. Every religion and culture since the beginning of man has brought up the idea of a spirit or consciousness. This cave-temple we found was no different. It mentioned the ability to move their spirit from room to room. One room they found was called the Infinite Library.”

“They called it that?”

The man giggled, his high hadn’t worn off, but Carrus was as sober as a Quaker. “They didn’t have the word for library,” Hastings responded, “They didn’t have the word for infinite either, but they used a word like vast, endless, and enormous. Infinite Library sounds much more impressive than ‘enormous endless room of writings.'” He laughed at his joke realizing that Martin wouldn’t. “Lighten up. This isn’t even the fucked up part.”

“Let’s get to the fucked up part then,” Martin said. The corners of his mouth weren’t bent in a frown or a smile.

“Ok but one last thing. I don’t know how they got there, but they described what they found. It was a room full of books. There were books written in thousands of languages. Languages they couldn’t read. But they didn’t all match the book you have there. Some were written in their native language. Chances are there were some written in English. They described it as a wealth of information. I suspect it has every book ever written. But I have no logical reason to believe that.”

“What if a race that didn’t wear loincloths had access to it?” Carrus asked.

“Then I have a feeling the hydrogen bomb would be the least of this planets concerns. But don’t mock the loincloth, it’s comfortable, and they got into the library, we haven’t.”

Carrus sat back in his chair. The jet-black book lay in his lap. He looked at the gold pattern on the front, but he couldn’t stare at it for long. The inhuman design disturbed him.

“Well,” the man drew out the syllable, “Aren’t you going to ask me?”

“Ask you what?” Carrus responded. A score of questions entered his mind, but he couldn’t form them into words.

“The obvious question, everyone asks it.” The man paused waiting for Martin to chime in. He didn’t so Stanley continued, “Don’t you want to know where they all went? Everyone always wants to know how the indigenous people disappeared.”

The thought hadn’t even crossed Martin’s mind. He shrugged and asked the question his friend wanted him to ask, “Where did the indigenous people go?”

Stanley Hastings smiled looked at the young man and said, “Nobody knows.” He said it in his most mysterious tone like he was beginning a haunted house tour.

“Then why did you make me ask?” Martin complained.

“Well, we have a pretty good idea. And by we, I mean a few other people who were at the site and me. Let me warn you that this is quite an unconventional belief.” The man smiled and showed his friend his palms.

“I have a feeling most of this conversation isn’t a conventional belief,” Martin retorted.

The man ignored the jest and went on with his theory about the original owners of the book. “They traveled. I’m not sure how they induced it, I’m inclined to believe it was through psychedelics. But the travel seemed to invite a type of demon into their tribe. The natives called them watching people. They never interacted, just watched the natives go about their travels. Some of the archeologists working on the dig called them librarians. They might have been right. I was inclined to call them Overwatchers. It sounds more ominous, and I believe that is what these things are, ominous and malicious.

“There were drawing of these things on the walls of the cave. Black figures with red dots as eyes. These were discounted as just being how the librarians or priests of the temple dressed, but I think it was more than that. They watch you, Martin. They just sit there and watch you talk, or sleep, or read. They don’t interact with you or the book. But inevitably once they watch you for long enough they make their move and take you away. Maybe they take you to the Infinite Library, more likely they take you to whatever dark universe they came from.”

A shiver went down Martin’s spine, and a cloud must have floated in front of the sun because the once well-lit room seemed to be as dark as the explorer’s words. “The temple had writing that described this disappearance?” Martin asked.

The explorer shrugged, “not in so many words. If it did explain it, we never got to the point of translating it.”

“Then how do you know?”

“Well, it happened to the three anthropologists who were studying the book I just gave you.”

Martin looked down at the now deep purple book and its disturbing gold design. “They took the archeologists away?”

Stanley nodded his head.

“How? When? Why?” The scientist asked.

“Each of them mentioned dreaming of the Overwatchers, then they complained about seeing them in real life. I chalked it up to poor sleep due to the nightmares and being overworked without making progress on the book. Then they disappeared.”

“Disappeared?”

“Yeah, like they stopped coming into work, their car was still in their driveway. Their doors were locked from the inside, and one of them even left the oven on. The Overwatchers have the power to transport through worlds, that’s obvious from the ruins we found. What I don’t think was mentioned was that they can transport people too.” The explorer shivered and looked at his empty teacup.

“If you knew this would happen why did you give this cursed book to me?” Martin accused.

“Because you wanted answers about the universe, you’re a physicist after all. And I’ve been having dreams about the Overwatchers. Sometimes I see them when I’m awake. It’s terrifying, and it freezes me. One has been watching us since I brought them up in this conversation,” He said this with a smile but kept his gaze locked on Martin.

Martin looked around the room slowly trying to find out where the monster was hiding. The man laughed at the scientist’s panicked gesture. “It’s been sitting behind you. Don’t know why. It’s not interested in you yet, just me right now. I’m surprised this worked so well.”

“What went well about this?”

“Typically I freeze up when they’re around. I can’t do anything but move my lips, and that takes all the effort in the world. But right now, I’m carrying on a conversation.”

“Why?”

“Why can’t I normally move? or why can I hold a conversation?” He asked looking for clarification.

Martin had none and responded with “both.”

“Well I don’t know why I can’t move, it might be their control of time and space. As for why I can move right now, well, that has to do with the shrooms I ingested before you got here. It was a theory I had. Psilocybin has some interesting effects on the brain and its perception of time. I thought it might help me combat the freezing up. Maybe, when they inevitably come for me, I’ll have a fighting chance.”

“Good to know,” Martin said unenthusiastic, “How long until they come for me?”

“Hard to say,” Stanley said nonchalantly. “It’s different for everyone. The first archeologist held on to the book for ten years but then the next two disappeared months away from each other. I’ve been holding onto it since then, about five years. After you mentioned that you were a scientist looking to solve all of the mysteries of the universe I started having more dreams about the Overwatchers. I took it as a hint and figured I’d give you something to focus on.

“I’ve learned a few things, and at the risk of sounding old and showing my age, I’ll tell you, don’t try to solve every problem you come across. Pick your battles and fight them until the end. The universe holds many mysteries. In time, science will solve as many. But if you try to solve all of them, you’ll be pulled every direction. Focus on one battle and learn everything you need to conquer the enemy.”

“This is a mystery worth solving?” Martin said looking down at the book that would soon become his most important work.

“Martin, this is the only mystery worth solving. If you figure this book out, then you will be able to unlock answers to questions no one ever conceived of.”

Martin considered refusing the book and the challenge. He could set it on the man’s coffee table and walk out the front door. The man’s delusions of monsters that Martin couldn’t see would remain in the house. But Martin trusted his friend. The man had told him dozens of stories, as many were true as were false. And because of this Martin had trained his gut to be able to smell one of Stanley’s tall tales. His gut told him this one hadn’t strayed far from the truth. “Thanks for the book,” he replied, “I guess I should get to reading it.” Martin stood up. His legs were shaky either from the drugs or the lengthy conversation.

“One thing,” Stanley said as he stayed in his chair.

“What is it?” Martin was curious what other oddities the man would add to his life.

“Would you mind leaving through the window of the bedroom. I left it open. Overwatchers tend to get scared off when doors open.” A smile flickered across his face.

Martin looked at the front door. It was bolted shut. He had no reason to protest the man’s strange request. “I can do that. See you next week or something.” Martin reached out his hand to shake his friend’s hand

“See ya,” Stanley replied as they shook hands. “Forgive me if I don’t get up. You know how these things can be,” He gestured at the ashtray.

“Of course,” Martin replied.

The young scientist climbed through the open window and went to work. His life became busy, and he didn’t get around to calling his friend for a month. The explorer was a known recluse, so after not picking up Martin’s phone calls he determined he would visit the man at his house. When Martin arrived the door was locked, and no one responded to the bell.

Martin checked the bedroom window and it was still open. He climbed through and went to the living room. Nothing had changed, the house was as messy as ever, and two empty teacups sat between the armchairs.

The only new thing he found was a note marked up with sloppy handwriting. It read, “I guess I’m going on an adventure.”


Author’s Note: What do you think of the story so far? This is an idea that has been rattling around in my head for awhile. I will probably write a few more parts to this story to bring Carrus and Rodney’s story to a conclusion. Although, similar to the book itself, I hope this story will bring you more questions than answers.

Photo Credit: CJS*64, Ted’s photos, Thomas Hawk,

An Ancient Inhuman Book (Infinite Library Part 1)

Rodney Brown walked into his professor’s messy office holding a binder under his arm. The binder contained his thesis which covered his process of measuring and studying quantum vacuum fluctuation. He needed to review his work with his professor before he defended it next week.

Dr. Carrus’s door was open, but Rodney knew this did not guarantee the man would pay attention to him when he entered.

Martin Carrus sat at his computer switching his gaze between the computer screen and the notebook next to him. Dr. Carrus’s office felt small because he insisted on having two desks, the standard issue desk was not enough for his multiple monitors, spare electronics, and mounds of research papers. Rodney assumed that if the man were a little more organized, he would be able to get by with having just one desk.

The grad student knocked on the door and startled the man from his focused work. “Oh, hey there?” The professor said in a tone that added tension to the room. The man’s typically frazzled hair was somehow more unkempt than usual. His old eyes had heavy bags under them that would probably need to be gate checked if he was traveling.

“Is everything okay?” Rodney asked the professor.

The man nodded slowly, but this did not reassure the student. Rodney looked at the only other chair in the office. It was covered high with papers and binders. The most peculiar thing about the stack was an old book that sat on top of the pile. The only way Rodney could describe the book was inhuman.

Carrus jumped out of his seat once he noticed where Rodney’s gaze fell began clearing the stack of binders off. There wasn’t much room for the junk on the floor or bookshelves, but the professor found a home for enough things that Richard was able to take a seat. The strange book gained temporary residence on top of the professor’s keyboard.

Rodney repeated his question, “Is everything okay Dr. Carrus?”

The man let out a deep sigh, closed the door to his office and put his computer to sleep. He picked up the book that leaned against the keyboard and gave his student his undivided attention.

“Rodney, nothing is okay,” he said. His dread and discomfort were not hard to hear in his words.

The mood was unusual since Rodney picked Carrus for graduate work because of the man’s notoriously carefree attitude. A professor who displayed his Woodstock tickets on the wall of his office was the last professor Rodney expected to start a conversation with “Nothing is okay.”

The man continued, and Rodney listened, “I have been looking into something for, well for awhile, longer than you’ve probably been alive. I haven’t told many people about it, the ones I have told are, well they aren’t with us anymore.”

Rodney felt like the atmosphere of the room had gone dark. As if by beginning this conversation the two men had invited a demon to come into the office.

To attempt to alleviate the situation Rodney asked, “Should you be telling me about it?” He added a dry laugh as a last-ditch effort.

The professor’s eyes went to the door as if to make sure no one came in. Rodney’s gaze followed and the professor finally answered. “No, I probably shouldn’t,” The professor said. “Unfortunately you were inevitably going to find out, and I’m afraid this may be my last chance to discuss these things with you.”

The worst thing Rodney could imagine came to his mind. His professor was sick with a terminal illness and was going to pass all his research onto the young grad student.

“You’re the only person qualified to believe me though. Years ago I discovered something unbelievable. Thanks to you it’s finally starting to make technical sense now.” He gestured to the book that was in his hand. “This is not an ordinary book.”

Rodney nodded his head in agreement. The cover was a color that skirted the edge of jet black and luminescent purple. It had a golden design on the cover with curls that ended in pointed spikes. It was a pattern that no human would have ever created. Rodney knew nature was random and uncouth sometimes, but this design didn’t resemble anything organic. In addition to the strange design and colors, the book seemed to be both ancient and new at the same time. Rodney spent most of his childhood around books and could tell that this book had been cared for.

“This book is from the Infinite Library,” Dr. Carrus said as if he had just revealed an entirely new reality to Rodney. The student’s face reflected that the professor had not only failed to disclose a new reality and instead had added more confusion to Rodney’s life.

“I’ve never heard of an infinite library,” Rodney admitted, “But if you’re about to give me another paper on astrophysics to review I have to tell you I am pretty swamped with the thesis stuff. My defense is next week, and I want some feed-”

The professor waved his free hand frantically to dismiss Rodney’s comments. “No, no, no, your thesis is nothing compared to the knowledge that is in this book.” The professor scolded.

The words cut Rodney. He had spent four years on research for his thesis two of them were in the design of a low-cost machine that would be able to measure what he was studying. “What are you trying to say?” Carrus had assigned him the project instead of the one Rodney wanted to do because he had deemed it cutting edge. Then the student made the connection it. Whatever was in that book covered his thesis. From the size of the text, he figured the author had even expanded it.

In his mind, he cursed the private sector, and their unrestricted grant money and profit-focused actions. His lousy lab could barely sustain itself with the measly funding the school gave him.

“Give me the book Dr. Carrus,” Rodney said in a tone that nearly demanded his elder to take action. The old man gave him an unsure look but released the book into Rodney’s possession. Rodney let the binder that held his thesis fall to the floor and held the strange book with both hands.

All his life he had been learning physics from books. His mother would bring him home library books about subjects that no 13-year-old boy should be reading, but she was just happy he was demanding books instead of expensive video games. When he finally saved up for a computer he used it to read physics forums and learn programming languages for physics simulations. Rodney’s life had been physics, and the past four years of his life had been used to study how electrons exist in all places, and no places at the same time.

He felt a power when holding books especially one that he knew contained new information. This book made him feel more powerful than any other book he had ever touched before. He suspected this was because it held all the information he had been working on until that point in his life. It could have also been from the weight his professor’s stare as he examined the book. The design was eerie. With the book in his hand, he felt the darkness of the room grow deeper than it was before. He felt the need to check the door to make sure no one had wandered in, but then determined the urge was silly.

Rodney cracked the book open and flipped to the first diagram he found. He studied the figure, but it didn’t resemble anything familiar. He looked at the words on the page for guidance and saw only squiggly symbols he couldn’t read. “What is this? Farsi?”

The professor shook his head.

“It’s not Chinese or anything of Asian origin,” Rodney said as he flipped from page to page. As he studied it and noticed that the formatting was different from any other research paper he had ever read. There were no figure numbers to start with, and the graphs looked like they using a mutated polar coordinate system.

“Who wrote it? How old is it?”

“I don’t know,” The professor answered.

“Which part don’t you know?” Rodney asked. He felt the knowledge that the book held and didn’t want it to slip away. “Where did you get it? Why do you have it?”

“That’s a story in and of itself. I’ll tell you in a bit,” Dr. Carrus answered, “What’s important is for you to know that this book contains some resemblance to your thesis, although I suspect it goes more in depth and covers much more.”

“Is there a translation?”

The professor let out a boisterous laugh, “Rodney I don’t think you understand. This book, it’s not from earth.”

Rodney shook his head, “You’re saying this book is alien?”

The professor scoffed under his breath, “No I’m not suggesting something that ridiculous. This book is from another universe, another time, another dimension.”

Rodney stared at the professor unable to believe what he just heard.

“That may be the only book on this planet that is written by another species. And it just so happens that it covers your thesis.”

“What are the odds of that?” Rodney wondered out loud.

“Pretty good since you applied for a grad position under me two days after I got a vague grasp of what the book was about.”

Rodney looked at the man dumbfounded. “Tell me, professor, how long have you had this book and where did you get it.”

“I met a man named Stanley Hastings at Woodstock and became friends with him throughout the seventies. He was an explorer of sorts. Although, by the time I met him, he was mostly doing his explorations with psychedelics. Regardless, we became fast friends and when he discovered I was a scientist he gave me this book. Two months later he disappeared.

“Most thought he went off on another exploration, but I am pretty sure the Overwatchers took him.” Carrus paused as if to let Rodney speak.

More questions entered Rodney’s mind then the man was answering but before he could ask them the professor stared up again.

“I don’t think the Overwatchers want us to have this book and I think they’ve caught on that I have it. They’ve been visiting my dreams more often, and sometimes I see them when I’m awake. But they can’t touch the book. I don’t know why, but if they could, they would have taken it long ago.”

“What is an Overwatcher?” Rodney asked now uneasy holding a book that had such a noxious past.

“Humanoid black figures with red eyes. I’ve dreamed of them since I was a kid. They would stare at me as I lay in bed, and I wouldn’t be able to move. I knew they were watching me sleep, but they were also looking at something else about me. Then they would disappear,” he made an explosion gesture with his hand, “poof out of existence like the electrons you study.”

Rodney tried to smile but couldn’t muster the emotion. He wanted to believe that the man was crazy. Rodney questioned how much of this was a joke and wondered how much effort his professor had put into the fake book. But as he tried to figure the trick out the room became more ominous.

Then Dr. Carrus became as still as stone. He gazed over Rodney’s shoulder at a mirror that hung on the wall.

“Is everything okay?” Rodney asked for the third time since walking into the office.

The man seemed to be fighting for the ability to speak. Then he let out a few labored words, “There’s one behind me.” The old man gasped for breath and was able to add “Do you see it?”

Rodney shook his head. He didn’t see anything behind the professor.

But the fact that his professor had frozen up was not funny to Rodney. The man was old and probably suffering from a severe heart attack or stroke. Rodney got out of his seat. He knew there was an AED device in the hallway that could start his teacher’s heart back up. He opened the door and as soon as he did he heard the man behind him say, “Stop, don’t leave.”

Rodney whirled around, looked at the man who had gone from completely tense to merely shaken up. The darkness that shrouded the room disappeared. “What’s going on Carrus?”

“I’m not sure, but I don’t think I have much time left. I need to explain everything I know about the book so that when I’m gone, you can continue to study it.”

“Is this a joke?” Rodney asked finally discussing the fear he harbored the whole conversation.

“No young man, this may be the most serious discovery of all humankind. I wasn’t able to open the library doors, but you’re young and may have a chance. Sit down and listen to me. After a while, you will understand and believe that I’m not crazy.”

Rodney was dubious. The professor would be fighting an uphill battle to convince Rodney of something that wasn’t written in a physics textbook.

 

Photo Credit: Thom Watson, Skipology, Visual Hunt

The Passion of the Sea

Derek awoke his passion for the sea every time he looked off a boat’s deck and into the rolling blue waves. Then he would proceed to vomit. After that, Derek would meander below deck to recover until the excursion was over. He had no logical reason to love the sea. He couldn’t explain his feelings for it. In his mind, this was what it meant to have a genuine passion.

People, mostly his exes and shrinks, would relate his love of the sea back to his father. Derek’s father was an avid sailor and had won many awards. He sailed his entire adult life, up until the day he traveled through the Strait of Sanmir. Derek’s family never learned the details of the sailor’s death, but the Coast Guard found shrapnel of the man’s beloved boat.

More than anything else Derek wanted to be a sailor. He continuously signed up for sailing classes. He lived in a condo next to a pier so that he heard the ocean at night. It was a method to get over his seasickness, but it just made him nauseous in bed. No matter what Derek did, he couldn’t get over his seasickness.

Derek had tried everything. Including, but not limited to, Dramamine, Hypnotherapy, Patches of every color shape and size, and bracelets with dirt from twelve different islands. Absolutely nothing worked for him.

Meeting the Gypsy Woman

While Derek sat on the beach one morning, meditating on the sea and trying to keep his breakfast down, an old gypsy woman approached him.

Without waiting for him to acknowledge her, she said, “Young man, I will cure your sickness for you.”

She had peaked his interest, but he was dubious as most people should be when offered a cure from strange gypsies. “How do you know I am sick?” he asked.

“I can see it in your eyes, boy.”

Sarcastically he said, “Of course you can see it in my eyes. I’m looking at the ocean.”

“NO!” She said smacking him on the head. “I see the sickness, the longing to love something that your soul is not compatible with. It is common among men,” she paused, “and women. I see it for pets, lovers, jobs, and occasionally the sea. However, I have not seen a sickness like yours for many years.”

“I’m not sick,” he claimed adamantly. It was an impulse response from the dozens of times he had been asked and embarrassed by seamen. “I just get sick every time I look at the sea from an object that isn’t dry land.”

“That sounds like a sickness to me boy.”

He shook his head in protest.

She ignored him, “I’ll fix it for you. And you won’t even be that cursed afterward.”

“What do you mean not even that cursed?”

The old woman shrugged, “I’m a gypsy woman I can’t give away my cures for free.”

“Can I buy you a churro instead?”

“I’m more in the mood for falafels and a gyro,” She answered. There’s a man, three piers south who makes them just like the old country.” She said this with what would be a toothy smile if she had possessed many teeth.

“I’ll go get it!” He agreed as he jumped up.

Who knew falafels and a sandwich could solve my problem, he thought as he ran to the restaurant. And even if it didn’t work, I could at least say I’ve tried everything. He rushed to the restaurant a few piers down and bought the woman a meal. To ensure the falafels were fried fresh he paid extra.

He eagerly came back to where he had left her, but there was no gypsy woman in sight. All morning he searched, continually tempted by the smell of the fresh food. Slowly the hot lunch got cold but it still tempted him. Lunchtime turned into happy hour then happy hour turned into dinner. His stomach growled, and he wanted to eat the sandwich he had carried all day. Dinner turned to after dinner drinks, and he had given up hope. Derek sat in the spot where he had started the morning. He had no cure, only box of cold falafels and a soggy sandwich.

The lunch had been taunting him all day. Finally, he slammed down on the gyro and the fried chickpea balls thinking to himself, if this is what the food in the old country tasted like I don’t blame the gypsy woman for coming here.

The Next Day

He woke up early for a sailing class. He had, begrudgingly, scheduled it weeks before with the knowledge that he would never have the stomach to sign up on the day of the class. As he headed down to the dock, he pondered what kind of boat he would be on and how rough the weather would be that day.

He got to the dock and saw that it was a small sailboat. Of course it’s a small boat, he thought. Small boats were the worst for him because the wind and waves easily manipulated them. As he waited for others to arrive, he worked to hold his breakfast down despite still being tied to the dock. Once all the other students were there, they set off into open waters.

As they got further and further away from the docks, Derek became more and more worried. However, he did not become any sicker. He was genuinely able to focus on the teacher and not spend his time fighting off early symptoms of puke-you-stomach-up-itis.

As the morning passed the class got to the point where things were hands on. Derek took to the ropes as a natural. He had learned something from all his classes after all, despite spending most of them below deck. Excited about his new ability Derek took the next course and the one after that. He blew through his certifications and became a genuine sailor.

Years Later

After years of practice and training, he became a renowned sailor. He won multiple regattas and was often hired to do challenging voyages that most sailors wouldn’t dare take on. He experienced strong storms that could only be caused by Neptune’s sons bringing home bad test grades three months in a row. All the challenges fueled him and relit the fiery passion for the sea. Not once did Derek become sick.

Over time he got married and had a son named Jacob. He loved his boy more than anything in the world and wanted to share the passion with the kid as soon as he could walk. The problem was that Jacob had seasickness worse than Derek ever had.

In an attempt to help his son with the illness Derek began to set out falafels and gyros every week. He placed them in the spot where he had first met the old gypsy woman. Alas, she never showed. Derek consistently returned to the dock to the sight of seagulls eating away at the meal. Not once did it mysteriously disappear as he had hoped.

A Fateful Storm

His son grew and continued to be sick. Still, the boy had as much interest in the sea as his old man. Derek set off on a trip to sail through the Strait of Sanmir for a lucrative but risky voyage. The area was historically fraught with storms.

One night a storm picked up and Derek, alone on his boat, had to navigate it. He drew in the sails and manipulated his anchor to a position that would help him. As he reached off the side to fanagle the anchor on to the ship, he heard a crack of thunder from behind him.

The thunder’s crack sounded like a cackle, and it got his attention. He turned, not sure if he should expect someone behind him. Instead, he saw a low mast swing towards him. The wind had caught it, and it was accelerating towards him. Derek jumped out of the way, and the mast swooped over his body. If he hadn’t ducked, he would have been thrown from the boat and into the raging waters.

He weathered the storm and spent the rest of the trip in solemn contemplation. Once he returned he tied up his boat to its dock, cleaned out his valuables, and listed the ship for sale.

D&J’s Falafels

With the money, he made the trip and proceeds from the boat he opened a small food stand. It was located near the pier he lived. Derek and his son Jacob fried falafels and cooked gyros. Their homemade pita was the most popular around. Jacob learned to cook gyros better than his old man could ever hope.

The shop expanded and the family was able to get a seating area and waitstaff. It funded Jacob’s college and the two men were always near the sea they loved so much. Jacob went to school and left his father to work alone during the spring and fall.

One cool spring morning Derek saw a woman that looked familiar. He brought her fresh falafels and a warm gyro sandwich before she could order.

He sat down across from her as she snacked on her chickpea snack. A question had been on his mind ever since he survived the Strait of Sanmir. Now, he was finally able to ask her. Derek said, “Why did you let me survive?”

After finishing a slow bite, the woman had somehow lost more teeth in the time since their last meeting, she answered, “Of all your ancestors, you waited the longest time to eat the lunch.”

 

Photo Credit: jmbaud74, avlxyz, silas216, Lee Edwin Coursey

Free Short Story: My Ex-Girlfriend’s Vampire Wedding

Author’s Note:

This story is longer than usual. So, I put the first 1,000 words of it here. If you enjoy it then fill out the form below. It’s absolutely FREE. I’ll email you the rest of the story in PDF format and you can finish it. All you need to do is simply fill out your email below and confirm that you are not a robot. Then, I’ll send you the rest to read. I hope you enjoy it!


My Ex Girlfriend’s Vampire Wedding

Kate and I broke up three years ago and I didn’t understand why she invited me to her big day. She seemed to be getting along fine without me, hence the wedding. I, on the other hand, was far from fine, hence the lack of a plus one. I sat on the bride’s side and leafed through the brochure an usher handed me when I walked in, hoping it would inform me of the groom’s name.

No dice, it was an advertisement for the venue. Who would want to hold a wedding here? I wondered. Dim candles were all that illuminated the place, and the interior decorator seemed enjoy the challenge of using only a black and grey color pallet. The building felt like it was trying to be a church, but the architect seemed like they had never been inside one before. The designer just went with what felt like the right kind of design.

The music started from nowhere cutting through the silence. The grim organ player belted out a low and dull tune. I saw the musician perched above the crowd shadowed by a onyx top hat. The man’s hand and face were nearly translucent.

Bridesmaids walked down the aisle. I recognized only one of the three. The other two were ash grey, and I had never met them before. Both seemed to resemble the groom’s side. Anemia and a disdain for anything that resembled a tan seemed to be the family’s theme. I assumed the maids were sisters or close relatives to the groom.

The groom himself appeared at the front standing at what I hesitated to call it an altar, much like I would hesitate to call the man behind the podium a priest. The groom nor his groomsmen made a sound getting up there. Each resembled the other they had pale faces and sharp features. They all looked far too old for Kate. The only way I could pick out the groom was because he had a bright red poppy on his lapel. Why not a rose? I wondered.

The thought was cut short by the familiar tune of “Here Comes the Bride.” The top-hatted organ player enthusiastically banged the keys of the instrument as the tune echoed through the somber room.

My ex, Kate, walked down the aisle looking as beautiful as ever despite the unorthodox black dress she wore. It looked like she was showing up overdressed to a funeral instead of her wedding. She always had a flair for the dark and abnormal though, which explained the venue… and the groom.

She stood at the altar, clad in black, the groom matched in his black tuxedo. The officiant between them said a few words in a foreign tongue. I hadn’t brushed up on my Latin, or even studied it in the first place but I felt like it had far too many hisses, and v sounds to be genuine Latin. Despite it, they both agreed and said, “I do.”

The groom had a slinky smile that cut across his face horizontally from ear to ear. The officiant then said, “Peter Tariq you may now kiss your bride.”

They kissed passionately, and I felt the blood boiling in my ears. I noticed the groom’s side of the family look across the aisle. They had a ravenous look in their eyes, and I’m sure they were excited about the reception dinner to begin. I felt my stomach grumble and agreed.

I made eye contact with one young man, he looked about my age. His eyes seemed to be glowing red. Probably one of those eccentric contacts, I thought, tacky even for this wedding. I looked back at the front of the room in an effort not to stare, the bride and groom had stopped kissing.

In a grand gesture that befit a man from 200 years ago, he waved his hands out like ominous wings. “It is my pleasure to unite these two families as one.” I examined the odd groom on stage, and his eyes also seemed to be glowing red. Must be another strange family trait, I told myself wondering why I hadn’t noticed it before. Then he clapped his hands in front of him, and with a lightning quick motion, he went back to kissing his bride. Except this time, it was on her neck. Which, in my opinion, was a bit lewd for a wedding.

I looked around to gauge everyone else’s reactions. It was odd, but I threw out the expectation of Kate to be normal years ago. I heard some gasps from the rows behind and in front of me. When I looked back at the stage, I saw blood running down Kate’s neck. The thought, probably why she didn’t want to wear white, bolted through my mind. The bride’s face held a look of pure ecstasy that I had never seen before, despite my past attempts.

The groom removed his face from the pit of her neck. His face was no longer pale white but flush with blood. “May the reception feast begin,” he said. A pearly white smirk was smeared on his bloody face. He immediately jumped onto the least pale of the bridesmaids.

In confusion I looked to the groom’s side. The family that was there was poised to launch towards my side of the aisle. Some were already across, throwing pews around. The room echoed with bloody screams, leeching sounds and a the top hatted organ player’s music.


Author’s Note:
This story is longer than usual. So, if you want to keep reading then I’ll email you the rest of the story in PDF format. Simply sign up below confirm that you are not a robot and I’ll send you the rest to read. It’s absolutely FREE. I hope you enjoy it!

A Journal Entry That Has No Business Being Published

I have this habit of writing every day for an hour. I’ve made it over 400 days as of this post being published. Somedays the hour is great and I pump out a few hours of work. Other days I have no motivation to write. On days where I have no desire to touch the keyboard I will write a ranting Journal Entry to myself. Below is one of those entries. I’ve edited it for clarity, and readability. I did my best to not edit the content, and I definitely didn’t cut out any of the curse words. So if you have sensitive ears, consider yourself warned. I hope you enjoy it.

July 27th 2017, Down Day and a Motivation Talk

I DON’T know what to write. Today and yesterday were awful. I don’t know why. Maybe I need someone in my life to help me professionally. Not like a therapist but like a coach or mentor. Just shoot me in the skull is all I can think right now. I just want to be watching It’s Always Sunny right now because it’s the easy thing to do. Maybe I will watch it after I write this. I don’t know why I sit here and write every day. Or why I even avoid getting a new job.

I understand why I quit my last job, and my life has been better since I walked out. But right now I’m dying, or at least I feel like I am. I’m just unmotivated to do anything. And I know I’m not supposed to rely on motivation and 80% of the time I don’t. I’m usually really good about following my productivity planner and focusing on doing the most critical task. But for some reason yesterday and today have been a drag. Which is really shitty because I felt like Monday started off strong. I even did my miracle morning this morning and everything.

Why I’m losing? I don’t want to be losing these days, but I feel like I have so much that I’m responsible for, and when I’m overwhelmed I’m never productive or in a good state. But I want to put out the most things I can, be the best I can be. I want to push myself to be better. But I don’t do that. Why not?

WHY NOT?!?!?

Is it because it’s easier to watch It’s Always Sunny? No, I don’t think so because most days I can get my work done without being immediately tempted by the television. Am I sick? Am I dying? Ha, we’re all dying.

Am I scared to put my work out into the world? No, I’m more scared to keep it to myself!

I’m bothered that I set the same goals for myself week after week, and I rarely hit them if they are out of my control. Sure I can read and write my target amount. I can’t get people to give me money or hire me or reply to my emails. When other people become involved I suck.

Are there metrics for others that I can use to measure? Like put out more phone calls (I can control this) instead of getting X# of people to pay me money (Uncontrollable)

Where My Opposing Minds Start Arguing

Yeah, it could be that the phone calls are what scares me. Or at least the bit I don’t have a system for. Then spend a week building a system. I like this. But which week, or day or hour?

Don’t bother me with the details just tell me when it’s done.

Fuck you

I push things off until the last possible second. Why?

Because that’s when you feel comfortable sitting down to do it.

Soooo why do I wait? I would be far more effective if I didn’t wait.

I don’t know, no one knows!

Could I give up now?

Sure, will you?

No

Why not?

Because it’s not worth it. It’s too easy to continue my streak, especially compared to what it would take to build it back up. There’s an excellent example of using every day to its fullest. I’ve sat down to write for almost 250 days. Those are 250 days that I used to the best of my ability to write something. And look at what I’ve gotten out of them. A whole hell of a lot. Almost two books, it will be two books by the time the year is over. Hopefully it will be a few short stories too.

Then what about client work? Is there a streak you can build there?

Sure when I’m more motivated.

Why do you depend on motivation, Dumb ass?

Because right now I’m in a bad place and if I push myself to do anything challenging then I will be overwhelmed and won’t get any better.

So when are you going to do it?

Tuesday.

Why Tuesday?

Idk it was the first day that came to mind.

Fuckin’ Tuesday.

Shoot me.

Still?

Nah, but it just feels like something useful to say. Like dropping the F-bomb.

That’s fucked up.

I know.

Should someone be worried about you?

No, it’s not worth the effort. Besides, I’ll get better

When?

Next week, next month, next year.

What would it take to make you better?

Nothing and everything. Being overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time.

Half a million dollars.

Yeah, that should do it.

That’s doable

I’m cash flow negative right now!

Yep, but you can fix that anytime. Your real issue is emotional, or psychological.

I’m doing better.

Yeah, you are.

I’m dying

We’re all dying

No, but really…

Shut up

Can I…

No, whatever it is no! I’m talking now. And I don’t have anything to say, but it’s better than hearing your whiny ass.

I…

The Motivated Brain Steals the Mike

Nope shut the fuck up! I’ve got ten more minutes of writing, and I’m going to try and do something with them maybe it will be garbage, but I want to do the talking and the typing for now. I want to put out something that will motivate you to be better, do better when I’m not around. I want to show you how to fight to become the person you want to be. To heal yourself and push yourself to get out of bed in the morning and create good art. To create work that pays you and that you’re proud of. Even if no one ever wants to buy it you should be confident in what you’re doing. And I know 90% of the time you are. You just have some rough patches and that’s fine. It happens to everyone.

Hell take the rest of the day off. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do. I’m giving you the permission to do it. I encourage it. But tomorrow I want you to hit the ground running. Do something for others, and do something for yourself. You have freelance work waiting for you from a client. There is also work from friends who would pay you. You have money to be made, it’s on the table. You just need to pick it up. There’s more out there that you can earn

Yeah, it will take some work. Sure it will be scary but you will learn it and you will know how to do it forever. Once you try it. So go out and work, you should be making mistakes and failing at contacting clients. But your issue is you don’t have clients, well then go forward and fail at finding them. You can do this!

You said it yourself last night. You’re a decent writer, hell you might even be a good one. With thirty more years of practice through teaching, publishing, and writing you might actually be able to make something memorable.

Sure you have shit days, this isn’t the first, and it wont be the last but you’re getting better. In all aspects of life you’re improving. Do you remember where you were a year ago? You were in your room on Reddit, or in Lubbock on Reddit or doing something stupid that involved Reddit.

You weren’t worried about how to start a new publishing empire or even how to make money from fiction. All you were worried about was if anyone would like the stories you wrote. Honestly, you doubted you could be a writer because you didn’t believe in yourself.

Now you have that, now you’re a writer, you wrote something, and it was decent. It will get better… this all will get better.

Take the day off, call it a win and cool down. Watch something you enjoy. Hell read something if you feel like it. There’s a dozen ways to celebrate how far you’ve come.

I permit you to do all of them. Why? Because I know that you will show up tomorrow pumped to work and make it ten thousand more steps. That’s how far you’ve come so far. You know that right? You were no where near where you are now last year. And next year you will be so far ahead of yourself that you will read this and won’t be able to imagine it.

You can do this. So go out and do it. Because you’re the only one who can go out and do it. Take the day off but come back tomorrow stronger. Because I can’t afford to have you be weak again this week.

Maybe next month you can have another fall but right now I need you sharp.

Push yourself to go further and do more. Believe in yourself because everyone else wants to believe in you. They really do, and most of them do. They just don’t say it because you don’t give them the room to talk. Go and push yourself to be awesome! You’re finding your passion. You know your dreams and dream job. You just need to go out, push yourself, and discover where you want to be. People want you to succeed. You want yourself to succeed. SO move it. Go on and do it. Push on and don’t give a shit.

YOU GOT THIS.

Make a plan, move forward, remember to look back at your accomplishments.

Where I am Now

This was written on July 27th 2017. About six months ago. I was working on my second rough draft for a novel and I finished it. I even re-read it and will probably publish it eventually. Since then I wrote another, novella. It’s title will be something like: The Needle of Loss, Todd’s Story. This week I put the final touches on it and am now working to put it in the hands of an editor. I hope to self-publish it before the end of March 2018. This is a huge win for me!

The Motivated Brain said “celebrate how far you’ve come.” This Friday I want to take some time to do that. I want to encourage you to do it too reader! Look at where you were a year ago, 5 years ago, or 10 years ago. You’ve done so much!

Whether you’re my family, friends, or someone who found me through the magic of the internet, I appreciate everyone who reads this blog, thanks for reading this. Each of you have helped me come so far in your own way!

Photo Credit: Tatertot707, Lugh-an-laochra, Storymypic.com

A Monk’s Gift and the White Seed

Reading time: 8 mins

Younger generations are  always eager to learn the wisdom of their elders, without having to go through the effort of experiencing it. Yanquin, a young monk, was no different. As he traveled with his teacher back to their monastery, he questioned him vigilantly.

“Shifu,” He addressed his teacher, “You are renowned across the land as a powerful healer. How did you get that way? What is the lesson has brought you the most renown?”

The teacher walked through the healthy green forest without a response. The student listened to the master’s footsteps waiting for the man to finish contemplation and answer. After five minutes of not hearing anything from the old man’s mouth, the student said, “Is it that hard of a question to answer sir?”

The monk chuckled and smiled at the boy, “No it is a simple answer, but I can not tell you, you must see it, try it, and then you will know it.”

“But sir,” The young monk began to protest. He was cut short by the sound of horses galloping on the road.

 

The Lord With a Need

Around the bend, a young and wealthy lord appeared followed by an entourage of soldiers and advisors. He stopped in front of the monks looking down on them. The student quickly pulled two rugs out of his little bag and placed one in front of his companion and one in front of himself. The student kneeled followed by the older man.

“Rise,” the lord said in a tone that showed he cared neither one way or the other if they listened. The two monks got to their feet their robes spotless thanks to the mats.

“What do you have to pay Lord Holstead tribute?” The lord’s soldier demanded. Paying homage to passing lords was customary in these parts.

The old monk gave a subtle shrug as the young one emptied his bag of its contents. He searched for something of value, but it was only full of necessities like bedrolls and fire starters. They didn’t even have food because they were supposed to be home by the end of the day. Finally, he produced a pair of shoes that a thankful patient had donated to the monk for his blessing. He offered it to the lord and a servant took them away. Everyone looked at the older monk expectantly.

“And what do you have to give, old man?” Lord Holstead said looking down his nose.

“I own nothing but the clothes on my back, but I can offer you blessings for safe travels sir,” the monk said.

The lord scoffed, “I do not follow your bogus religion, and I have a priest of my own to bless me. As for safe travels, my caravan of thirty men can ensure that. You must offer me something of value.”

The monk looked around then walked away from the caravan into the forest. The guards shouted out in protest. It was most disrespectful to leave a lord without being dismissed. The monk stopped a few paces into the woods, paused and returned. His hands were full of smooth and bulbous red berries, and he offered them up to the man.

“You have the gall to offer me berries? I could have my servants go out and pick the berries my self if I wanted to, these are of no value.” Then he kicked the monk’s hands and the berries scattered to the ground. “You are lucky I don’t order you to be captured or executed for your disrespect, but you are not even worth my time.” The Lord turned his horse and proceeded to march on. His company followed and as the long caravan passed the horses stomped the berries into the ground making small splatters of red stained dirt on the road.

 

Passing Comments

After the company passed and the monks were alone again the student started questioning his master again. “Shifu, how are you so well known and respected if you do not respect others?” The student asked. “We must respect the lords because they are the ones who donate to our temples and keep the peace so we may practice our beliefs.”

“I cannot help someone who does not see the true value of things.” The monk replied solemnly.

“There was no value in your berries sir. I mean that with the utmost respect.”

“Did the lord look like he valued the shoes?” The master replied.

The student shook his head then replied, “But they were made of fine leather, and he may pass them along as a gift to someone else.”

The master hummed in understanding, and the holy men kept walking.

 

The Disillusioned Beggar

After a few hours of travel, the two men came across another traveler on the road. This man was scratched and what clothes he had were torn. “Poor beggar,” The young monk said. “How can we help you, sir? We are holy men of the nearby city.”

“Do you have food, water, or shoes?” He asked in a dry voice. “I have a long way to travel, and I’m afraid I won’t make it as I am.”

The young monk shook his head in despair. He had just drunk the last of his canteen. “I’m sorry sir, we cannot help you. But we can give you our blessings.” He began to chant a holy psalm.

While the young man was doing his prayer, the old man looked around. He disappeared into the woods, and by the time he reappeared the other monk had finished his blessing and was ready to go on his way. The monk walked to the beggar and handed him a small pile of red berries.

The beggar scoffed at the man and said, “Are you trying to poison a helpless man monk?”

The old man shook his head to disagree with the accusation. In a measured voice, he said, “These are not poisonous, I assure you.”

“You lie!” the man exclaimed. “I ate those same berries and had hallucinations for days. I wandered through these woods, lost all my supplies and cut my feet.”

The old man laughed as if the man had told the classic joke of the paladin, cleric, and druid walking into a bar. “No traveler, the berries you speak of are not the same. Those have small white seeds and curved tips. These berries are bulbous, and as you see, there are no seeds on them. Instead, their seeds are inside.” The monk bit into the berry and revealed a pit the size of a fingernail clipping. “You could eat it if you wanted to,” he informed the man, “but I never do. They get stuck in my teeth and distract me during my meditations.”

The hungry beggar, persuaded by the monk’s logic, cheer, and willingness to eat it himself gobbled up three of the berries in the man’s hands as if they were going to evaporate.

“These won’t give you cover for the road, but the health properties of the berries are immense. You will feel rehydrated and full after a few more. And it will give your blood the power to heal your sore feet as you walk. It’s not as good as shoes, but you will make it to the next town in a day or two with these.”

“Are these berries common in these parts?” The lost man asked.

The monk laughed with resonating cheer, “as common as the White Seeds. Keep an eye out for them both, and you will be fine. Safe travels young man.”

“Thank you for all your help,” the man said as he went on his way.

“I wish I had kept my pair of shoes to give him,” the young monk lamented after they had passed. “If only I had the wisdom of you to keep the shoes for the man. Did you know I would have another need for the shoes, master?”

The monk laughed, “I know as much of the future as you do young one, it is other knowledge that keeps me wise.”

“What is that sir?” He asked, “It’s what I’ve been trying to learn from you.”

“I’ve been trying to teach you, but you don’t see it yet.” The monk answered. He hummed the rest of the way back to their holy house.

 

Emergency In The Holy House

Days passed, and the monks settled back into their daily routine in the holy house. The young monk asked the master questions, and the master taught the stubborn young man as best he could.

One day the old monk was studying in the small library as his student rushed in and informed him that an emergency had erupted in the court yard. “Your wisdom is needed there, Shifu.” The monk packed up his fragile books methodically and was soon on his way to help.

In the courtyard, two outsiders were surrounded by other monks trying to get a hold of the situation. One man was hurt badly and was thrashing around. He was being held down by a few of the house’s brothers. The other man was a robust traveler who’s shirt was covered in blood. The cart behind him was full of crates and also stained with blood.

“We think that this man attacked the bleeding man,” the student said, “but I don’t know why he brought him here. He will not speak to anyone. We can only assume they both went mad in their travels.”

The old monk let out a soft chuckle and approached the two men. When the robust man saw the wise monk, he immediately bowed his head and produced a sealed piece of paper. The monk took the letter, broke the royal seal and read it.

 

Dear Holy Monk,

Firstly please excuse my messenger’s manners he is a mute. I did not have the chance to get your name, but I told him to find the oldest monk in your house. I knew your temple thanks to your holy and clean robes. Thank you for your help on my travels, to pay you back for saving my life I have sent you a gift of herbs, spices, bandages and other rare medical supplies. If there is anything else that you or your brothers may need my family will be happy to donate it to you.

Lord Loquin Dillows

 

The Gift’s Full Cycle

The old man folded up the letter and thanked the blood-soaked messenger. “Did this man come with you?” He asked.

The messenger shook his head no.

The old man looked at the squirming and bleeding man and vaguely recognized him. “You found him on the road.”

The messenger nodded in agreement.

“Did he have anyone with him?” The messenger shook his head.

The older monk walked up to the man that was squirming around and recognized him as Lord Holstead that they had passed on the road a few days ago. He examined the man’s condition and rantings from a safe distance. The man was reacting to things that weren’t there and had hurt himself badly in the process.

The healer looked at one of the brothers holding the Lord’s arm and said, “I believe he has ingested the White-Seed, do we have an antidote?”

The brother shook his head and explained, “no we ran out of toad’s root months ago and haven’t been able to make it since.”

The wise man looked at the bulky messenger and asked him, “Did your lord happen to send us Toad’s Root?”

The man nodded his head and walked to the back of the cart to open a crate. As he did it, the student approached his teacher. “What is going on here master?”

The old monk smiled and replied, “The value of gifts are bestowing their blessings.”

A Failing Father’s Strange Rose Colored Glasses

Unfortunately for you, Reader, I can’t tell you from where this story came. The weird thing about hosting a small site on the vast Internet is that you get some very strange visitors. Every once and a while someone fills out the contact me page and I get a fascinating tale from a passing onlooker. Jerome, the main character of this story was kind enough to let me share the story with all of you on this site. I thought you might find his invention of reality augmenting rose colored glasses as interesting as I did.

Inventing the Rose Colored Glasses

Jerome Balquin is a single father, an avid hobbyist. For his day job, which most of us have despite our best efforts, he is an engineer at company that is far too large. When this whole situation took place about three years ago he was down on his luck. His wife passed away a years before, and the company he worked for was “strategically reorganizing” a well-known code for constant layoffs.

In his garage, he tinkers, and he decided to try his hand at augmented reality. With some well placed code and fascinating optics that even I’m astounded by, he created what he calls the Rose Colored Glasses. They do what you would expect, everything he sees through them is absolutely positive.

His overdue bills looked like love letters from his lost sweetheart. Instead of reading failing test grades on his son’s schoolwork he saw the teacher’s praise him for being a fabulous father. Best of all the pile of half-finished inventions now sat on his workbench in their full working glory ready to be sold to help him escape his job. Jerome, for once, was thrilled by the invention.

Unfortunately he couldn’t justify living in this augmented world. He left the glasses to rust on his workbench expecting to only pick them up in time of deep depression.

Missing Glasses and Poor Grades

A few weeks later he came home from a particularly rough day at work, on top of that his son had brought home a report card. He wanted the glasses to keep his son’s grades from seeming too lousy. Yet, he had no luck finding the glasses. Without their aid, he opened up the report card and was unsurprised to see nothing higher than a C.

He walked into the living room prepared to have a chat with his son about the atrocious grades. “Hamil,” he addressed the boy, “we need to talk about these grades.”

The young teenager looked up at him and beamed. “Aren’t you proud dad?” He asked.

Jerome reexamined the grades thinking he had missed something. “You aren’t serious?” The father scoffed.

“Yeah I am! I looked at them before I gave them to you and they were all above a C unlike usual. Also, Mr. Reinhart returned my English paper with a raving note.” The boy pulled a neatly folded essay out of his bag.

Jerome unfolded the essay and read the red script at the top “F incompetent understanding of the subject and the language as a whole.” Then he scanned through a dozen grammar and spelling errors his son had made. He looked back up at his son who was carefully studying a social studies textbook at the kitchen table.

Confused, the father examined the grades and his studying son. He admitted it took him too long to put things together. However, he finally figured out that his son was the one who had filched the spectacles. He decided to let the sleeping pup lie since his son was eagerly studying at the kitchen table.

Hamil’s “Problems” In Class

Things went along like this for a few weeks until Jerome got a call from his son’s teacher. “Mr. Balquin,” the teacher started, “I’d like to talk to you about your son’s very peculiar habits in school.”

“What seems to be the problem?” He replied. Calls like this weren’t rare. His son often misbehaved in class.

“He refuses to do any work without a particular set of glasses on. Does he have vision problems?”

Jerome could have cut his losses and simply lied to get out of the whole situation. However, through my conversations with the fellow, I can tell you he is an honest man and lying isn’t in his character.

Instead, our inventor friend said, “Well Mrs. Reinhart, his glasses help him see the positive side of things. He studies better with them, so I encouraged him to keep wearing them at school.”

“The positive side of things?” The teacher scoffed. “Your son takes tests and does most of our in-class assignments wearing them. He is constantly answering questions, most of the time wrong, but he doesn’t seem to care.”

“How are his grades?” Jerome asked.

“He hasn’t made anything higher than a B all semester. And while he completes every assignment, most of the time they are so far from correct I can’t understand why he continues to put so much effort into the assignments.”

The father hummed in thought. I’m sure any reader who was a student, no matter how atrocious, will realize that a low grade is far more valuable than a zero to your overall GPA. Jerome replied, “I’m sorry that he is still answering questions incorrectly. We are doing our very best at home to study every night.” His son had been nagging him to study every night because of the encouragement his teacher gave him.

“I assume there isn’t any problem with him continuing to use the eyeglasses in class,” Jerome asked the teacher.

“Hamil tells me that it doesn’t connect to wifi or any other kind of internet,” The teacher stated, “I wanted to make sure that was true because it’s so hard to tell what these kids’ technology can and can’t do these days.”

“The glasses do nothing of the sort,” Jerome assured her, “They are not giving him any answers. His continued poor grades can assure you of that.” The man said this with a chuckle hoping the teacher would lighten up.

“Very well sir,” the teacher said, “I see no issue with letting him continue to use them. I am sorry that I have had to call you with such a disturbing and ill news about your son’s studiousness, but I’m sure with some time he will finish high school, or the GED, and get a promising job as a janitor.”

“Thank you very much, Mrs. Reinhart,” Jerome replied with a smile, “I’m glad that you took the time to fill me in on how my son was doing in class.”

Hamil and Jerome Today

Jerome explained to me that this conversation was an indication his son was on the right track. He says that young Hamil has been far more studious over the past few years since he stumbled upon the glasses.

When I inquired about what happened with the lenses and if Hamil still uses them Jerome informed me that he made a more conspicuous pair so that Hamil wouldn’t catch any more flack from his teachers. Hamil is now a junior in high school. He has aced both his SAT and ACT exams and is has applying to a handful of ivy league colleges. The father says Hamil has already received an acceptance letter from some. The boy plans to dual major in astrophysics and applied mathematics to the excitement of his father.

Jerome himself keeps me updated from time to time about how his glasses are improving. He hopes to bring his augmented reality design to market in the next few years. So far he has a few angel investors who have enabled him to quit his job. He now pursues his invention full time.

If you have a student, who isn’t doing too well in school or have a boss that you want to quit reading nagging emails from, then keep an eye out for Jerome’s rose-colored glasses. And if someone seems to be having a great day despite how dreary the world around them is ask them about how they do it. They might be a Beta Tester of Jerome’s new invention.

Author’s Note:

This was a work of fiction, I hope you enjoyed it. However, there is some really cool evidence that what you wear effects how you perform at certain activities. It’s called Enclothed Cognition and there are facinating videos and articles about it.

Photo Credit: Derek Gavey, Darron Birgenheier, Ken Banks, Matt Anderson,

You Get Better at What You Do

I was sitting in Ecuador listening to a talk from the blogger I had come to see. Halfway through his speech, which was more like a fireside chat than a lecture, he made a comment that shifted my mindset. He uttered the words casually as if everyone already knew it. Maybe they did, and I had missed the memo. He simply said, “you get better at what you do.”

Sure everyone knows “practice makes perfect.” But what he pointed out to me is that I get better regardless of whether or not I mean to. I quickly put two and two together and realized I could use this to my advantage, and unfortunately, I wasn’t. Since thinking about it and looking for it in the world around me, I now believe that the adage is true and might be a law of nature.

Works Both Ways

Without looking at it both ways, it seems like an unimpressive adage. “You get better at what you do,” is almost common sense. It sounds like the definition of practice. But this wording, to me, pointed out that you get better at ANYTHING you do. Whether you want to or not.

I write every day, it’s an innate habit at this point, and I’ve gotten better at it. Everyday I take time out on purpose to write and get better at writing. I also watch TV while eating lunch every day.

So every day I get better at watching tv at lunch. I’m better at finding a tv show to watch. I’m better at craving that entertainment while I eat. And worst of all, I’m getting better at getting off track, because to be honest I rarely stop at watching just one show at lunch. Meaning I say goodbye to any chance of afternoon productivity.

The worst thing that this has happened with is Netflix during the beginning of my sabbatical. I spent all day watching Netflix. I’m not exaggerating. There were days when I laid in bed for 10 hours and just binged whole shows. Not whole seasons, entire series of shows!

It’s not easy, and most people can’t do it. But I got better and better at spending my day consuming Netflix, and I finally got to a point where ten hours in front of my computer watching videos was no problem.

It’s easy to do something boring and unproductive or even actively run away from your problems. The issue is that you will get better at doing those things. I was depressed and didn’t want to do anything but watch Netflix. I didn’t want to work on writing, so I didn’t. The writing was hard, so I never put time into it. I never got better. I watched Netflix and got better and better at binging it. Netflix was almost a fatal error.

It’s an Advantage

I want to be awesome. More importantly, and realistically, I want to be better every day. I need to push myself, and sometimes that’s in the form of rigorous practice. But most days it’s simply showing up and doing something as best I can.

Think about it, if I do it the same thing every day, am I going to be worse at the end of the day? I’m not gonna lie, it might feel like you are, but I’ll be better over time.

Sure there are issues with having poor form, and in most cases, if you practice wrong you could make the whole thing worse. However, not showing up, day in and day out, isn’t going to get me to my ultimate goal. And the more I show up, the more I put my butt in my chair and write, or show up to the gym, or even bike to work, the more I will learn and the more I will be able to iron out the form issues. Because reading another article online about how to do something starts giving me diminishing returns compared to genuinely trying something and making mistakes.

If you spent a year, two years or even a decade singing for ten minutes a day are you going to be any worse? Unless you hurt yourself, no. Are you going to be the same? Probably not. Chances are you will be better, after a decade you will be significantly better. You might not be Mariah Carey amazing, but you won’t sound like my father singing happy birthday either.

A Simple Solution

If you’re spending time on something that you don’t want to get better at a simple solution is just to spend a little less time doing it. For me, this looks like only watching a YouTube video at lunch instead of a show on Netflix. I’m not quitting the habit cold turkey, but I’m not spending as much time on it, so I’m not getting much better at it.

I am putting in a little bit more time writing every week. I only track the first hour of writing every day, but I am confident that I spend more than 7 hours writing a week. It’s probably not double, but it’s not nothing. That little bit of extra time makes me a bit better, and it has helped me get this site launched and running.

So I’m curious. What skill do you want to improve? And what do you do on a daily basis isn’t the best use of your time? For me, today, it’s writing and watching TV at lunch. This week and the next I’ll try to implement my simple solution. So far It’s been doable and helpful. If I’ve found myself wondering lately, is this something I want to get better at? My time is my most valuable asset, I don’t want to waste it on too many idle tasks.

So be careful what you spend your time doing. Good luck in your creative endeavors and I hope you find a little less time to spend on the skills you know you don’t need to be improving.

Photo Credit: Brian Evans, Hanno Rathmann, Vassilis

This is the Bermuda Triangle that is My Life

I saw the light turn from green to yellow as I sped down the street. Can I make it? I wondered, Can’t afford not to. The signal turn from yellow to red as I dashed through the intersection. Five seconds later I saw the lights on the roof of the car behind me turn from clear to blue and red.

I pulled over into the first available parking lot. After rolling down the window down and I started to dig through my glove box for my insurance card. Three dozen napkins, from a six different fast food places but no registration to give the cop. Shit, maybe it’s in the center console. I went to open it, and it was sealed shut. I pounded on it, once, twice, three times and it came open with a plastic cracking sound. That’s new, I thought.

“License and registration, sir.” I heard a female voice say.

“Yes, sorry, one second,” I turned my attention from the wire and cigarette filled consol to the officer of the law. I read the name tag, Henshaw. I looked up to see a familiar face in the officer’s uniform.

“Emma?” I asked.

She looked at me confused, then a glance of recognition circled her face. “Ricky? From Sierra Pass High?”

“Yeah, holy shit, what are you doing in Atlanta?” I asked.

“I’m a cop,” She said gesturing at the golden shield on her chest. “What are you doing?”

“I moved here three weeks ago. Still trying to get my shit together.” I gestured at the console and glovebox that was left open. “Let me grab my license. My insurance is around here too I promise.” I dug out my wallet from my back pocket hoping it hadn’t disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle that was my life.

I slipped the Colorado license out of the clear pocket where it lived. I flashed Emma the best smile I could. Was she still mad at me for dumping her at prom? Probably not. She grabbed the license and said “I’ll go ahead and run this. See what you can do about the whole insurance situation while I’m gone.” She gave me a smile that didn’t run very deep.


No Progress on the Insurance Card Front

“Any luck?” She asked unimpressed by the pile of empty cigarette cartons that were now taking up the passenger seat.

I put my hands up in a cartoon shrug. “Sorry, I think it got lost in the move. Is there any way we can get around it?”

She scanned the car up and down. The tan Jeep Grand Cherokee I called Lilly hadn’t explored the past five years of her life very well. The cross-country trip to get from Colorado to Atlanta wasn’t the best thing for it. She was on her last legs.

“I’m giving you a ticket Ricky,” she said, “You ran a red light going fifteen over. You don’t seem to have a medical emergency on your hands so here’s we will do to get around the insurance bit. I’ll write you an additional ticket for lack of registration, and if you have insurance, and god I hope you do on this piece of shit, then you can take it down to the courthouse to prove it. They will waive the ticket for you, after charging a twenty-five dollar court fee.”

“Twenty-five dollars, just because I don’t have my registration on me.”

“Well it might be a little more, I don’t keep up with it.” She shrugged. “I’ll go fill out the paperwork.”

“Wait, hold on, Emma, come on.” I hoped it didn’t sound like a whine, “Isn’t there anything I can do? Like, come on what are the chances that we would run into each other on the other side of the country. And you can’t call Lilly a piece of shit. We had some good times in her back in high school.” I put on my best smile.

“It is quite serendipitous that I finally got around to pulling you over. Honestly, I feel like if anyone else had pulled you over today, they would have let you go. I’m sure you would have pulled some story about being on the way to an important business meeting, or a relative’s funeral or something equally unrealistic.”

“It was a studio recording,” I gestured to the guitar case that took up most of the back seat. “Hoping to put out my first album in a month or two.”

“Of course it’s something that absurd. I can’t believe you’re still doing that. Did you even get around to going to college?” She scoffed and continued. “Regardless, today’s my lucky day. You’re not going to get to talk your way out of your ticket today.”

“Wait are you still salty about high school?”

She laughed, “You mean how you dumped me at prom because you felt like the music was calling you to do something else” she used air quotes around what I could neither confirm or deny were my words.

“Em, that was high school, I was probably high or something.”

“Are you high right now?” She asked giving me a look down her nose.

I opened my mouth about to give an honest answer and closed it. I began again by saying, “Look, just write me the ticket. I’m sorry this reunion didn’t go any better, and I’m sorry I didn’t treat you any better. I really should have done a lot of stuff different back then, but I was young. You did alright for yourself. You’ve got a solid job. You’re doing better than me. Write me the tickets. I’m sorry I ran the light and the other stuff.”

She turned around and went back to her car. I watched the lights switch between blue and red for a few moments.  In a few months a twenty-five dollar ticket will be the least of my struggles.

I thought through the logistics trying to reassure myself. There’s no reason to sweat this, the studio will still be open if I’m a few minutes late. I looked at the clock in my car it read 5:36. Looking at the GPS on my phone, I saw a quote that had me arriving at 6:02. They’ll stay open for the next Elvis Presley. I’m sure of it.


Home Free Again

Emma returned to the car and handed a small clipboard through the open window. “Can you sign this to acknowledge that you received the ticket.” She said in a dry voice.

I signed on the thin black line at the bottom of the page and handed the clipboard back. “Can I get the pen too?” She asked.

I handed it to her, trading it for a slip of paper. I feel like a native trading a mass of land for a single bead.

“I’m only giving you the speeding ticket. But make sure you get the car insured ASAP. You should also probably change your registration and license to reflect your current Atlanta address. But just don’t miss your court date.”

“Thanks, Emmy,” I said with a simple smile. “Say, do you want to get dinner sometime?”

“No Richard, I don’t. Now get out of here before you give me a reason to change my mind.” She said with a wave of her hand before she turned around and got into the cop car. The lights shut off and I dragged Lilly into gear.