Writing 365

Warning – May Emit High Levels of Random

Writing 365 – The Collector

I have an idea about hoarders that I want to explore in-depth, but in the meantime I’m going to follow the prompt “Exploring what it feels like to be a hoarder” in a piece of flash fiction.

The Collector

She sits on a pile of old fashion magazines, the pieces of her collection towering above her. A draft of moist air brings the scents of each item she has assembled to her nose. Some of it is moldering, other pieces are covered in mildew, while some have dissected – smelling only of dust. This spot, surrounded by all the things she has compiled over the last twenty years, is the only place in this world where she feels safe.

I think the phenomenon of hoarding is endlessly fascinating and tragic. So, I’ll likely explore this more. See you next time!

 

Writing 365 – The Marine Biologist

I’m back today with a short story based on the prompt from Twitter’s very own Magical Realism Bot: “A fortune teller turns over a tarot card with a mustache on it. ‘Your destiny is to be eaten by a giant clam,’ she says to you.”

The Marine Biologist

I knew the dangers going in, but the ocean is so vast, so beautiful, there was no way I could avoid my fate. Studying sea life is all I’ve ever wanted to do. So, even though I am trapped in this giant clam, its juices slowly eating through my scuba suit, I am happy I chose this path.

Two years ago, when I started this journey, I didn’t believe it would happen. I had just enrolled as a graduate student and could see the course to a PhD. My friends took me to the fair to celebrate, we ate funnel cake and rode on shaky platforms. Greg found the fortune teller, cajoled us all to get our palms read. I was last.

She took one look at my palm, shook her head, and told me she was going to read my tarot instead. When the fortune teller turned the last card – white background featuring a huge mustache in the fore – she shook her head again.

“What?” I asked. She was getting on my nerves. I’d paid $30 to get my palm read and she hadn’t said one word to me.

That’s when she looked at me dead in the eyes and said, “Your destiny is to be eaten by a giant clam.”

Of course, I laughed, accusing my friends of putting her up to it. None of them would admit to playing the trick and I tried to shrug it off. But that’s when I became obsessed with giant clams. That’s when I made it the basis of my thesis. That’s when I began down the path that led me here, to the soft, gelatinous insides of a giant clam. That’s also when I started carrying a crowbar during every dive.

I admit that it’s hard as hell to pry open a clam – especially when the clam is still alive and you’re on the inside. But I was highly motivated. I shredded the muscles and broke through the shell, scraping out of the opening and swimming back to the surface in a controlled panic. I couldn’t go up too fast, or I’d get the bends. But my radio was out and this discovery would make my career. The clam that had eaten me was definitely a new species: the snapping giant clam.

End

That’s it! I look forward to seeing you tomorrow!

 

 

Writing 365 – The Door

Today I’m using the prompt “What’s behind the closed door?”

The Door

The massive ebony door crouches in front of me. Bas-relief figures warn the unwary away, acting out scenes of violence and destruction. The blackness of the wood makes it hard to see these figures and, as I move closer, I cannot tell if they are in the throws of agony or ecstasy.

For all the intricacies of the door itself, the verdigris knob is utilitarian. It invites my hand, twitching by my side, to rest upon it and swing the heavy door open.

I am not supposed to be in this hallway, not supposed to be in this house. The city will tear down this ruin of a Victorian in two days, and I managed to sneak in to take a look around the oddly homey industrial building. I didn’t expect to find much more than decaying floorboards, but I found this baroque door jammed into a hall on the top floor.

A floorboard creaks as I step forward, putting my ear up to the menacing carvings and listening. No sound penetrates the heavy black mass. I put my hand on the handle and give it a push.

Light floods into the black hallway, blinding me for a moment. Beyond the door is a meadow. A warm breeze wafts through the doorway, tickling my nose with scents of honeysuckle and rich earth. I smile and close my eyes, expecting the scents and breeze to waft over me, but my nose fills with dust. Slamming my eyes open, the room beyond the door spreads out, dark and damp. I flash my light in, but the room just sits, empty and moldering.

I close the door and open it again, hoping to be transported back to the meadow, to the sunshine and warm air. Instead, my hands grow cold in the draft I am creating by opening and shutting the enormous door.

End

I hope you enjoyed the story! See you tomorrow!

 

Writing 365 – Under the Stars

Today I’m writing off a prompt from my friend Carolina L. The prompt is “Under the Stars.” I’m not the outdoorsy type, nor do I enjoy being out in the cold. But, I have always thought it would be beautiful to get a cabin or yurt in the middle of winter and spend time out in nature. Here is a little vignette what I thought of when I read the prompt.

Under the Stars

Mist puffs from rosy faces as we sit around the fire. I look up and see a patch of black with countless specks of brilliance shimmering through. It’s a dizzying scene, cut off only by the tree tops that tower over us.

The smell of pine, campfire, damp, and loamy earth fills my nose as I lean back on my camp chair. It’s been a slog up the mountainside, and tomorrow we have to hike another two miles to get to the peak. My feet speak up, telling me I should have broken in my boots before heading on this trek. Stretching my legs out, I tap the toe of my love’s boot. He looks over and smiles, twinkling eyes matching the brilliance of the heavens above.

End

That’s all folks! See you tomorrow.

© 2017 JULIA SHAW, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Writing 365 – Word Play

This week we are supposed to get record low temperatures here in Portland, Oregon. It’s already cold (32 degrees) and it’s supposed to get down to around 19 degrees as the week progresses. That’s apparently a record low. To give those of you in cold states like Utah or Illinois some perspective, I’m from LA – where it doesn’t get below 40 degrees pretty much ever. And here in Portland, we have trouble dealing with a couple of inches of snow – nevermind extreme temperatures.

So, since this weather is unusual for us, I thought I’d try something different when writing about it. I am going to write a little poem and then I’m going to use the thesaurus to see if I can replace every word in the poem and make it a bit better/more interesting. Here goes!

1st Winter Poem

Icy cold shivers through leaves,

snapping at my fingertips,

ruffling my dog’s fur

clearing the azure sky.

2nd Winter Poem

Polar rawness shudders past stalks,

clutching on my digits,

tousling my pup’s coat,

brightening the cerulean firmament.

End

That’s pretty interesting. Two poems that say the same thing, but I definitely like the second one better, though I still prefer “sky” over “firmament.”

Well, that’s all for today! See you tomorrow!

© 2017 JULIA SHAW, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Writing 365 – The Collective

Today I’m writing off of a prompt suggested by my Facebook friend, Jason D. The prompt is: Millennial selfies. Now, I personally don’t have a problem with millennial selfies. In fact, technically I’m a millennial. So I tried to think if there might be some secret reason we are all taking selfied. Here’s what I came up with.

The Collective

“You need to take that last selfie,” Sammy told Ethan. He sighed.

“Why am I doing this again?”

“You know why. You know what we’re working toward. Just do it.”

Ethan lifted up his phone, stuck out his middle finger, and shot a picture.

“Now upload it to the collective, it’s almost the cutoff!”

Ethan did as he was told, sighing again when the upload went through.

“I don’t know why you’re not excited about this,” said Sammy. “It’s literally the most important thing in the world right now.”

“Literally?” asked Ethan sarcastically.

“Literally,” said Sammy, frowning. “If you aren’t going to take this seriously, you don’t have to be part of it.”

Ethan rolled his eyes. “Of course I want to be part of it.”

“Then let’s go,” said Sammie.

Sammie started her car, driving it out of the alleyway, toward the warehouse district. Her hands vibrated on the steering wheel and her left leg gyrated.

“I can’t believe it’s happening tonight,” she said.

“Yeah,” said Ethan.

They parked outside a nondescript row of warehouses. Sammie got out and slammed the door, walking rapidly toward the building number 16. She heard Ethan close the door behind him and she clicked the doors locked with her key fob.

“Come on!” She opened the warehouse door and entered a room filled to the brim with servers. Cold air blasted through the huge space, keeping the machines at a comfortable temperature.

Sammie jogged past rows and rows of racked computers until she made it to the small office space at the back. The tiny office was filled with people, all aged between 20 and 30. They stared at the row of monitors hanging from the ceiling, watching the “loading” bar hit 100%.

Ethan’s hand slipped into Sammie’s as the screen, once filled with billions of selfies, switched to bytes, then began the conversion to something completely new. Sammie held her breath. She gripped Ethan’s hand. This was it. A new lifeform was taking shape, right in front of them.

It opened its digital eyes and spoke through the speakers hooked up around the room.

“Hello.”

End

That’s it! Thanks for reading and I’ll be back tomorrow.

© 2016-2017 JULIA SHAW, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

Writing 365 – Missing Half

I have been absent, but I’m back! My next prompt: “Write a mystery.”44583444 - detective adjusting his hat standing in the dark, film noir

Missing Half

Half of Red lay there, cold and inanimate. Detective Ankle knew that Red would never move again unless his other half was found. It had to be found, stat, or it still wouldn’t matter. They’d be too mismatched to be of any use.

Detective Ankle started his investigation as soon as he could, following Red’s steps from the time he was whole to the moment he was split. It was the same story as all the others – a string of disappearances and subsequent murders spanning all the way back to when the detective had first moved in at 239 N. Caraway Ct.

The basket they all rode in was clean – no second half of Red detectable amongst everyone else. Detective Ankle had done a lot of pushing and shoving, asked a lot of questions, but no one had seen Red’s other half. They all tried to convince him to settle back – told him Red was just gone. Detective Ankle wasn’t having it.

Next, he checked the bathhouse. It was sudsy and warm, but Detective Ankle suspected foul play beneath those calm waters. He dived down deep into the bath, eyes peeled for a flash of red anywhere. Nothing.

Finally, Detective Ankle checked the last place he wanted to look. That hot, steaming, confusing room where so many of his friends had gone missing. He asked around as he tumbled, telling his friends to stay on the look out for Red’s other half. They all plead ignorance. He covered every inch of the room, steeling himself to look in every crevice, anywhere Red could have been torn in twain. It was like Red’s mate had just… vanished.

Detective Ankle finally returned home, ready to mourn his friend like all the others. But Red wasn’t there. He’d been removed, taken to the place they were all dumped in eventually. If Detective Ankle had tear ducts, he would have cried. If he had a voice, he would have screamed. Instead, he just clutched his other half and waited with all the other socks in the drawer, hoping no one else would go missing but knowing deep down – someone would.

End

I hope you enjoyed it! See you tomorrow!

 

Writing 365 – Leftovers

I am going to try to make most of these stories into drabbles, which means they will be around 100 words. I don’t know if that’ll make them easier or harder, but I guess we’ll see!

Today’s prompt comes from my friend Arlette H. She gave me the word “Saucy” to go with. I know she probably meant the traditional meanings of the word, but my mind immediately goes to food. So… that’s where I’m taking this prompt.

Leftovers

Roasted garlic and tomatoes, red onion, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper pulse in the food processor with a spicy red wine. Everything is poured into a pot and simmers for thirty minutes, stirred occasionally. Once cooked, a bowl of sauce is set aside.

They eat the spaghetti al dente, each noodle perfectly coated in flavor. After dinner, the leftover sauce is placed on a small side table beside a loaf of ciabatta bread, mozzarella cheese, and the leftover wine. The family goes to bed, hoping the house Brownie doesn’t get too tipsy while cleaning up the dinner dishes.

End

I just love the idea of a super classy, Italian Brownie getting an incredible meal for making the house look lovely after a messy dinner. Le sigh. I miss Italy.

See you tomorrow!

Writing 365 -Purge Night Pizza Delivery

I found this fun writing prompt on a Reddit page:

“On Purge Night part time employees get paid 50 times the hourly rate. You are a pizza delivery guy looking to make big bucks.”

PS: I haven’t actually seen The Purge, but I’ve seen previews and I think I get the gist.

Purge Night Pizza Delivery

One night a year, I load up on armor and guns. I head out on the streets. I feed the hungry. And my pay increases by 50 times.

We get our orders from the boss. He expects us to come up with our own modes of transportation and defense. He only provides the pizza.

Tonight is such a night. It’s Purge night. I head out on my first delivery. It’s twenty blocks away. I put the pizza in its armored bag, strap the bag firmly to the back of my bike and head out.

My motorcycle has been turned into a mini convertible. It is armored on all four sides, bullet proof glass shielding my face as the wind sweeps over me. The puncture-proof tires grip the road, allowing me to turn on a dime. I’m ready to deliver.

The route is relatively quiet, which makes me suspicious. I find out why when I get to the house. Spike strips are set at 1-yard intervals down the entire block. People are going hand-to-hand, facing off in an uncontrolled melee. The house I want is half way up the block. It’s time to get in on the action.

I strap the kevlar box containing the hot pie to my back. I need to get this delivery there within thirty minutes or my fee is cut by half. I check my watch. Only fifteen minutes until time is up. I eye the street. I can make it in ten.

I leave my bike on sleep mode. It will only respond to my fingerprint and retinal scan. If someone wants the bike, they’ll have to kill me first and drag my cooling body to the bike – which is always a possibility on Purge night.

The spikes make it impossible to run through the mob, but that doesn’t bother me. I’m wearing fitted armor plating and my bullet proof bike helmet. It’s going to be hard to cut me down.

I launch myself into the crowd, finding gaps and paths between fighters. I know I’m drawing attention, but these pies are prepaid and, as long as the bag signals my boss with a safe delivery in under 30 minutes, I don’t care what happens to the customer.

On a lawn two houses into the block, I find myself faced with my first opponent. He’s a huge man carrying a 9MM pump-action shotgun. I see the gleam in his eye as he begins to raise the weapon, so I step in close before he can get the gun up fully and push him into the hand-to-hand fight going on behind him. Distracted, he disappears in the struggle.

I am not able to dodge my next opponent so handily. She bursts out from the bushes lining the house next door to my target, bearing a cleaver and an ax. She looks like she’s practiced all year for this. I throw up my hands and tell her “I’m just here to deliver the pizza.”

That confuses her for a moment. Her split second hesitation is all I need to bring my blowgun up. I dart her in the neck and she passes out. The toxin lining my darts isn’t poisonous. It just puts my opponent to sleep. I drag her back under the bushes, where she will likely be safe from random violence and gingerly pluck out the dart with my gloved fingers.

At the target house, I follow the instructions given to me by my boss. I find the armored slot and type 5193 into the keypad. The slot opens and I pull out the pie.

“Pizza delivery!” I call as I slide the box through. I re-sling my pizza box and type in my code to tell my boss the delivery is completed five minutes early. My phone buzzes and I see the money transfer for only 30 minutes of work. The client apparently left a hefty tip. Some people will do anything for a large meat lover’s.

The End

That one went a little long, but I really enjoyed writing it. See you tomorrow for another short!

Writing 365 – Election

I, like everyone else in America, got pretty into the election all throughout 2016. Recent info on fake news sites, foreign influencers, and more has gotten me thinking about how this year’s election was different from the 2012 and 2008 elections. I have only voted in four elections, so I don’t have as much experience as others may have. But I do have a checklist I go through each election – one which I have had to modify for the 2016 election. I thought I’d write it down and see where that takes me.

Original Election Checklist

1. Treat the candidate like you are hiring him/her for a job.

2. Review the candidate’s history. Does he/she keep promises – is he/she an effective politician?

3. Find out who is supporting/funding the candidate. Do you agree with their policies and statements?

4. Make a list of three issues that you care about deeply (mine: human rights, war, global warming). Does the candidate share your stance? Can you live with his/her differences of opinion?

5. Are they any good at politicking? (Debates, rubbing elbows, personality, etc.).

Election Checklist: A Story

1. Treat the candidate like you are hiring him/her for a job.

She walked into her brightly lit office, a mug of coffee in hand. Sitting in her ergonomic chair, she sighed. It was going to be a long week of looking through candidate resumes, trying to find the perfect person for president.

Scrolling through emails, she read cover letters from hopefuls. Some were unique, but many were obviously from a template with information ripped off from the appropriate party’s website.

“I can’t stand these copycats. I want someone unique, someone who seems to do what they say, but who isn’t obviously funded by huge conglomerates. Someone who doesn’t seem to sacrifice his or her principles.”

Out of the thousands of emails sent, she picked one hundred potentials to pass on. Once vetted through her, these potential candidates would have their social media presence scrutinized, their backgrounds checked, and their secrets uncovered. It was going to be a long year.

2. Review the candidate’s history. Does he/she keep promises – is he/she an effective politician?

The vetter came into her office and slammed the folder on her desk, tipping over her coffee and sloshing it into her keyboard. He ignored the mess.

“These candidates are ridiculous!” he yelled. “One has the social media presence of a 9-year-old while the other appears to be just learning what the internet is. One has no history of campaigning, so we have no idea if promises will be kept or not. What am I supposed to do with this mess?”

She glared at him.

“I can only work with what I’ve been given. You do your job, and I’ll do mine.”

“I don’t know how any of these people will appeal to voters.”

“That’s not your job. Just vet them and send them along. The spinners will work out the right cover story for the right candidate.”

He let out a growl, but grabbed his file and stomped out of her office. She stared at her keyboard. What a damn mess.

3. Find out who is supporting/funding the candidate. Do you agree with their policies and statements?

Leaving her office for the day, she carefully removed her company id and replaced it with the company name on the building where she worked. The huge conglomerate fell under many names, holding many shell companies so as to avoid monopoly lawsuits. She was looking forward to a hot bath and a glass of wine when her boss stopped her in the hallway.

“Nice work on candidate selection.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“You’re driving the vetters and spinners crazy, but I want you to know I think you did a great job. Do you know who you’re going to root for in the office pool?”

“I have a couple of ideas on who I think will get to the finals, but I’m going to hold out until they get through the vetters.”

“Good call,” he said. “Well, have a great night!”

4. Make a list of three issues that you care about deeply (mine: human rights, war, global warming). Does the candidate share your stance? Can you live with his/her differences of opinion?

The final conference was always nerve wracking. She had bet $30 on the two candidates she thought most likely to get through the finals, but when entering the conference room, she wavered. Maybe it was going to be the long-term politicians or perhaps the youngest in the group. After all, the Committee liked to work with those who they had not yet sucked dry.

She seated herself in the chair farthest down the conference room table from the old men ringed in cigar smoke. They lounged comfortably at their end, protected by bulletproof glass.

When everyone sat and snifters of brandy were filled on the other side of the glass, the conference began.

“We have made our final decision,” said the eldest man, chewing at the end of his cigar. His face was softened by smoke, but she always imagined deep, wrinkled clefts covering his face, making his skin sag.

Another of the men, the one in the dark gray suit, spoke next.

“We have decided that, for the good of the company, we will go with the candidate that will free up our ability to mine the last of the natural resources. Our pet scientists tell us that, as long as other countries continue to reduce emissions, we can afford to splurge a little and plumb the depths of our shale oil fields. We will have to work fast. We don’t think putting business interests in front of human interests so obviously will work for very long.”

One of the men from management on her side of the glass began typing frantically, sending messages to all of the conglomerate’s companies.

The man in the dark gray suit continued, “We will need our spinners to make up news, to falsify claims, and to work with out of country allies to pull this off without a hitch.”

The Lead Spinner nodded and scribbled frantically on her notepad. She didn’t trust computers, no matter how secure a line was.

5. Are they any good at politicking? (Debates, rubbing elbows, personality, etc.)

One of her candidates won the election. She earned $50 from the office pool and clinked champagne glasses with her officemates. The celebration was shortlived, however. She had work to do, combing the files for all of the other candidates in other key positions – and of course she couldn’t start early enough on the next set of finals.

“Four years can simply fly by,” she thought.

End

That’s about it! See you tomorrow!

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