Today I’m Saving the World (A Little Bit)

 

When this posts, I’ll be lying on a Red Cross table, donating 2 units of red blood cells in a process they call “Power Red” automated donation. Basically, an apheresis machine will draw out twice as much blood as during a typical donation, separating the blood cells from the platelets and plasma. Then it returns those to me along with some saline; this keeps me from being too dehydrated afterward, and lets me give more blood cells than I could otherwise.

Donating blood is one of the most useful ways to help those in need. Unlike money (which can be spent on a charity’s “infrastructure” instead of going to those the group claims to help) or food (which is hard for food banks to manage and often a waste of time/money), donated blood can’t be “spent” on anything but saving a life.

Listen, the world in general is a cruel and uncaring place for most of us. But as individuals, we’re largely a decent group of creatures worth supporting and even saving, if necessary. Time and again we’re show definitive proof that we can’t go through the world alone — we need family, friends, safety nets, and social programs (including ambulances, emergency rooms, and fire crews) to get ahead and stay there. Everyone has to contribute whatever they can, so that everyone has the opportunity to succeed, or only the truly lucky will.

I’ve been scheduling a blood donation as often as they let me since I moved to Ithaca over 5 years ago. It’s the one thing I’ve been able to commit to, consistently, that is entirely about giving someone else a hand. There’s no glory in it, no reward, other than being selfless for 30 minutes, a couple of times a year.

I don’t have a lot of time to donate toward saving the world, and no money. I can do this, though, and so can you.

Bills to Pay and Words to Write

Updated 7/19/2017

It’s sometimes hard to make ends meet as a full-time freelancer. I’m always looking for new editing clients, applying for contract jobs, pitching for writing gigs–if you know of anything, please send it my way.

In the meantime, I’ve been taking prompts from friends and fans who contribute to my rent and expenses, and writing them into flash length fiction stories. So far in this round, I’ve posted:

If you want to inspire your own story, you can get on the list by donating any amount via my PayPal, HERE. (Seriously, any amount. I appreciate the help.) You don’t need a PayPal account to use that link.

You can give me a phrase, like “Dachshunds from Mars”, or individual prompts, like “forest stream, tall and short, violet, bunny, moons.” You can give me a name you’d like me to use for a character, or tell me what genre/time period your story should be in. (I reserve the right to say no, but as long as your ideas don’t include gratuitous sex or violence against vulnerable people, I probably won’t.) From your idea, I’ll write a flash fiction story of about 1000 words. I send the stories to the person who prompted them for review, and then post them here with a note about who gave me the prompt. You get credit for your ideas 🙂

Thank you.

Free Flash Fiction: “The Scent of Food is Memory and Love”

The Scent of Food is Memory and Love

Azedah took the leaves off of the last small, round eggplant, then cut through the dark purple flesh until she had turned it into a pile of thick slices. She added them to the others already simmering in olive oil in her largest frying pan, so wide it covered most of the cooktop on that side of the stove. When both sides were golden brown, she lifted the eggplant pieces out of the pan and put then aside to drain. Quickly, her fingers moving with long experience, she chopped a large yellow onion; the fine slices sizzled when they hit the hot oil left in the pan.

“Azedah,” the house said. “The visitors have arrived.”

“Ah, they are early! Is Yasmin out of the shower?”

“Yes. Yasmin is in the study,” the house replied.

Azedah stirred the onions with a worn wooden spatula, and the smell of their cooking spread across the large kitchen. “Ask Yasmine to greet our guests,” she said. Behind her, the pressure cooker beeped, its cycle finished. She tapped the “natural release” icon, and turned back to the stove.

She reached to her left – but her hand closed on empty air. Continue reading

Free Flash Fiction: “A Revised History of Earth”

A Revised History of Earth

“I don’t care about any of that,” Sherla said without looking up from her nail polish.

“But the tests are conclusive,” Mattie said, shaking her tablet at the other woman. “I’ve got it all right here.”

“Don’t care,” Sherla repeated. She applied another strip of opaque black polish to a blank nail and watched as it slowly expanded to cover her nail perfectly.

“You don’t care that the ruins we found on Planet X are actually older than any known civilization on Earth?”

“Nope.”

Mattie sat down on the edge of her bed with a heavy sigh. “I mean… that’s a big deal to me.”

Sherla was lying on her belly on her bed, only a few feet away in their tiny cabin. She turned her head to look Mattie in the eyes, while still blowing her nails, now finished. “I care that you care, honey. But I think we just see this two different ways.”

Mattie shook her head, barely ruffling her close-cropped curls. “How’s that?” she asked.

“Well, as you and most of the scientists on board see it, this expedition has proved that Earth was some kind of colony, right?”

“Yes, I think that’s got to be our working theory going forward from here,” Mattie said, relaxing a little. “We’ll have to go back and revisit all of the old site maps, build a new history of human civilization. New textbooks, new arguments. Oh no, those ancient alien crackpots are going to have a field day!” she added with a sudden grin. “I don’t envy the folks back home who’re going to have to listen to all of that nonsense on the off chance there’s even one hypothesis that matches up with what we’ve found here.”

“Right,” Sherla said, “because you’re not going back to Earth.” She blew on her nails one last time.

“Well, no, I – the expedition is moving out of our solar system to follow the star charts we found during the excavation.” She frowned a little, her dark eyebrows drawing closer together. “That doesn’t make our find less important. It’s actually the whole reason we’re still on the ship.”

Sherla pushed herself up off her elbows, turned, and sat down on the edge of the bed facing her friend. “No, Mattie, it’s why you’re still on the ship. And I’m glad for that, ‘cause you’re a whole sight better than the last girl they stuck me with.”

“The snorer?” Mattie asked, sympathetic.

“The snorer,” Sherla agreed, and for a moment, they both smiled. Then Sherla leaned in, put her hands on Mattie’s knees, and said with a serious face, “I’m not a scientist, honey. I’m enlisted. They didn’t put all us soldiers on this ship to help dig, and we’re not all heading out into the great unknown for anything other than one reason: someone with more brass than me decided I might have to kill some things.”

Mattie bit her lip. “I know that,” she said after a moment, “but that’s statistically unlikely, you know. Whatever might have been out there has probably been dead for half a million years, and Earth has what remains of its refugees.”

Sherla sat back. “Maybe. I hope so, really. I’d love to spend the next couple of decades learning new things and staying pretty instead of developing any serious holes in any part of my body that I can’t live without. But I have to wake up every day and train for the possibility that what’s out there didn’t want us to find it.”

All around them – the floor, the ceiling, the beds – began to shake, and a quiet hum started, grew louder. Sherla stood up.

“That’s ignition, which means we’re officially under way, and that means the goodbye party is about to start. Come on, honey, tell me how pretty I am.” She put her hands on her hips and posed.

“You’re very pretty,” Mattie replied.

“Which means you’re drop dead gorgeous,” Sherla told her, “and it would be unfair to deprive the folks in Aft Lounge 6 of the chance to see the two of us in all our glory.” She held her hands out.

Mattie took them and let herself be pulled to her feet. “You’re a terrible influence.”

“I plan to be, honey,” Sherla said with a grin. She kissed her roommate on the cheek, leaving a faint red stain behind in the exact shape of her lips. “There,” she said. “Now you’ll look like you started the party early, and everyone will be dying to find out just how fun you are.”

“I should get back to monitoring the digital reconstruction of the dig site,” Mattie said, but didn’t sound certain.

“Tomorrow,” Sherla said as she put her arm around the other woman and steered her toward the hallway. “Tomorrow you can worry about how to find our celestial ancestors and I can worry about how to fight them.” She tapped on the side of their door, which slid into the wall. In the distance, they could already hear the sounds of music, and distant voices.

“Tonight…” Sherla paused, and squeezed Mattie gently. Mattie leaned into her friend and nodded.

“Tonight,” Mattie finished for her, “we’re going to say goodbye to Earth, and drink until we forget that we’re never going home again.”

“That’s my girl.”


Greg Bennett gave me the prompts for this story: “Planet 9 discovered and in close orbit to solar system, woman led exploration mission, ancient ruins, discovery that Earth’s inhabitants are actually refugees…” It took me a little while to think of a way to do that without sounding like Battlestar Galactica, but once I realized I could start after that stuff has already been discovered, I knew the moment, the part of this story, I wanted to write.

This is the 4th story I’ve written for this year’s Flash Fiction Challenge, and it’s about 890 words long.

If you liked this and want to inspire your own story, you can get on the list by donating any amount via my PayPal, HERE.

You can read more about that, including last year’s flash stories, here.

So far, I’ve posted three other stories. Read them here:

Free Flash Fiction: “Breakfast on the Moon”

My third story in this year’s flash challenge was inspired by Anthony Jutz, who gave me the title. This story comes in at 1220 words, and is one of the few times I’ve written a in 2nd person PoV/present tense. (It doesn’t usually work for me, but in this case, I like how it turned out.)

Grab a snack and enjoy:

Breakfast on the Moon

Your AI beeps at you until your eyelids flutter open and your eyes, slowly, adjust to the screen in front of you, projected inside your helmet.

“I’m awake,” you mumble. “I’m awake. Stop… making… sound,” you add, struggling a little to find the words. The beeping stops but in its absence, the throbbing in your head actually feels worse. You check whether you can move your limbs, which, yes, are all there, and then scan the readouts for a sign of what’s happened to you.

“Armor is at 45%,” you say to yourself. Your AI already knows of course, but you want to figure this out for yourself. “Everything’s intact, though left leg and left forearm show radiating fractures. So, an explosion, close enough to knock me out, far enough away that I didn’t sustain any serious injuries.”

You make yourself stand up to be certain. You ache everywhere, but your bones support your weight and your armor remains airtight.

“Distance from the ship?” you ask.

“Approximately 340 kilometers,” your AI tells you, then adds, “but it’s in pieces.”

“Figures,” you say, mostly to yourself. “Which direction?”

“The ship is not operational at this time,” you’re told.

“I understand that, but we can salvage from it. Just tell me where to go.” You look around. You’re in a small gray valley, round, undistinguished. There’s a few pieces of twisted metal lying scattered near you – nothing identifiable. The sky is mostly clear, night-black, and full of stars. “C’mon now, buddy,” you say impatiently. “Let’s go.”

“The ship is approximately 340 kilometers–”

“I know that already.”

“Above you.”

You look up again. There is a smear of cloud above you that you’d already decided to ignore, except now that you think about it, the Moon doesn’t enough of an atmosphere to get clouds, so it’s a smear of something else, thinned out and spread across the sky.

“Hey buddy, did the ship explode?”

“Affirmative.”

This valley does look unnaturally round. More like a crater.

“Was I… onboard at the time?”

“Technically, you were falling toward the Moon’s surface at a high velocity when the ship detonated.”

“Okay. This is starting to make sense.” Sort of. “So… what made the ship explode?”

“You ordered it to self-destruct.”

“Why would I do that?” You shake your head but your memories are still in pieces.

“You said it was the only way to kill the Hive ship that had attached itself to us, and the Drones that were breaching our hull.”

“That is… one way to do that, I guess. Can’t go up, got to go somewhere. Is there a base nearby?”

“There was an outpost established 12.5 kilometers from this location. However, it is not currently transmitting on any known frequencies.”

“It’s a place to start,” you say. “And moving is better than standing. Which way?”

Your AI gives you the heading and magnetic declination. It takes longer than you’d like to climb out of the crater, and you can’t feel your left foot at all. Your knee itches, though.

The sensation is familiar.

Once you’ve finally scrambled over the rim, you can see the vast landscape sprawled out on all sides of your position, painted in shades of gray and white. You start walking. You tap open the screen on your arm, and scroll through comm channels, looking for a friendly voice.

It takes two hours to check and double check every frequency. You only hear static.

The itching seems to have moved further down your knee, into the top of your calf. It might have been… your arm? Maybe it was broken once? Or… fell off?

“Hey buddy,” you say, waking your AI. “I’m having some trouble remembering stuff. Did I maybe die a little?”

“The impact did end your biological functions.”

“Huh. Okay.” You look down at your foot. That part of your armor does look newer than the rest. “And then what happened?”

“Repair procedures were initiated. Due to the limited materials available, it took some time.”

“Do I want to know how long I was dead?”

“Protocol suggests that you do not.”

You don’t argue. Instead, you focused on putting one foot in front of the other, trudging across sand and rock, hundreds of thousands of miles from home. While you walk, you sort through the memories you do have, trying to put them into some kind of order.

“Hey buddy,” you ask after a while. “What’s ‘fish’?”

“As a noun, fish is an aquatic Earth animal, and as a verb, it is the act of harvesting that animal.”

“But it’s a food, right?”

“Affirmative.”

“Spam?”

“Food, and a slang term for unwanted communications.”

“Chicken?”

“Food, and the animal the food comes from.”

“Hmm. I think I’m hungry,” you say.

“That is not unreasonable, given the circumstances.”

“Because of how long I was dead?” You remember the protocol. “Right, no asking. Sorry, buddy.”

After another few kilometers, your proximity alarm beeps. There doesn’t appear to be a structure nearby, only soft dunes. You climb one until you’re standing at the coordinates your AI gave you.

“Is this maybe the wrong place?” you ask.

“The entrance to the outpost is no longer above the lunar surface.”

You think about that for a moment. “So I have to… dig?”

“Yes.”

Digging with only your hands takes time, but the ground is pliable enough that – after a few hours – you bump against a metal hatch. You wrench it open, and go down into the darkness.

Your AI sparks up your suit so you’re your own flashlight, and the helmet display includes a thermal and motion sensor readouts; it’s obvious this outpost isn’t just momentarily empty. Good old Earth military: there’s maps on the wall showing the way to all of the important places. You make a note of the infirmary, just in case, and head to the cafeteria.

Among the detritus left behind, you find a couple of crates of meal pouches, permasealed and (probably) still good. You crack open an “omelet” and a “pancakes with syrup” with one hand, grab a crate of pouches with your other hand, and take a seat at one of the tables.

“Hey buddy,” you say between bites. “This place was abandoned a long time ago, wasn’t it?”

“It appears so,” your AI admits.

You finish the pancakes and root around until you spot an “oatmeal with raisins, hot”. You tap it against the table to activate the heating coil. You don’t want to eat too much too fast, but your ankle really itches, and your brain has finished taking inventory of everything you should remember, but don’t. Besides, it’s not like you’re going to have to share with anyone else for a while.

You need something to eat the oatmeal with, though, and you can’t quite find the word for the thing you want. Shovel? Tool?

Your brain is starting to itch now, too.

“Okay, buddy. I think it’s time you tell me what happened.”

“Protocol – ”

“I don’t care. I’m overriding your protocol.” You stand up. “You are going to fill me on everything I want to know, and I’m going to find a spoon.” You pause, realizing your accomplishment.

“Hey, buddy,” you tell your only friend, “I think this is going to be a pretty good day.”


If you liked this and want to inspire your own story, you can get on the list by donating any amount via my PayPal, here:

You can read more about that, including last year’s flash stories, here.

Last week, I posted two other stories. Read them here: