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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Debts in the Dark (NYC Midnight Short Story Competition 2013)

Johnny Flanders saw three new text messages from “Unknown.”

“I’M COMING TO SEE YOU,” read the first. Johnny wasn’t expecting any visitors.
“SEE YOU REAL SOON,” read the last.
Johnny sent back a text: “Who is this?”
Within a minute, he had his response: “238279. I’M ONLY A NUMBER TO YOU PEOPLE AFTER ALL.”

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Just a little Saturday diving

Last week I had a dream about diving. I slowly waded into the bay until I could no longer see the ocean floor beneath me. The sun was hot and at my back, imploring me to descend beneath the surface. I leaned forward and looked beneath the surface of the water: there was life. Dozens of yards beneath me I could see entire ecosystems at play: Kelp forests, rocks encrusted with barnacles and sea stars, fish swimming in schools and small sharks moving quietly above them. I raised my head with a gasp, waking myself up in the process. What would I do if I saw any sharks? Would I freak out or just be silently impressed? Since watching Jaws as a kid, I'd always been afraid of the ocean; diving, and enjoying diving, was a small step towards releasing those fears.

Today, the Dive Club of Silicon Valley had a few planned dives at Breakwater Cove in Monterey; early in the morning, followed by/accompanied by a rescue dive training session, and then another dive in the afternoon. I opted to drive down solely for the afternoon dive knowing full well that my time in the car would probably be equal to my time in the water. By the time I got there folks were just beginning to come up from the beach after a dive, threw some burgers on the grill, and waited for their next safe dive. For about an hour I stood in the sun, toting my gear to the distant side of the lawn from the parking lot and talking to my dive buddies-to-be.

When burgers had been eaten and nitrogen levels had dropped, we suited up and made our way down to the beach. We waded through the waves then swam out for a good five minutes. At long last, we had reached our point of descent. Orienting ourselves to the beach, we signaled each other to descend and released the air from our vests. Down we went, slowly but surely...or at least, for about two feet.

I could not descend. My buddies checked for operator error: was I holding the release valve at the highest point? Yep. Was my vest totally empty? Yep. Perhaps my breathing wasn't quite right; maybe I was too excited and couldn't release enough air. We tried that as well. At one point we opted to "jump start" my descent using the assistance of kelp to pull myself down into the next level of buoyancy. At about five feet, I knew I was being propelled back to the surface. I just didn't have enough weight on me.

We swam back to the beach. I loaded up more weight (I'd made a miscalculation when I initially loaded my weights and double-counted six very important pounds). We swam out again, a bit less air in our tanks. This time, we dropped a bit closer to shore and followed a small pipe along the ocean floor until we found another, larger pipe to follow. The surge was fairly strong and the visibility low; my sight was directly limited by what looked like tiny pieces of fish flesh, or perhaps fish poop. Whatever it was, it was everywhere, filling every view with visual static noise. The ocean floor was crowded but not very busy; what wasn't covered with bits of kelp and sea stars was littered with various sea anemones and holes in the sand promising unknown (to me) treasures.

We swam slowly along the pipes, past occasional fish (lingcod and some other, unknown-to-me smaller fish) and a plethora of giant sea stars. One in particular was about two feet wide from point to point and whitish grey, though there were innumerable of smaller size, usually bright orange or deep purple. On my way out, I came across a tiny jellyfish that could have certainly fit in the palm of my hand. On the way back to shore, one of my buddies had a light and illuminated a tiny jellyfish (possibly the same one, but probably different) illuminating it in vibrant purple hues. I'm not sure I've ever seen something as delicate as a jellyfish amid its underwater flight.

Apparently when we turned around to return to shore, I just missed seeing a small sea lion and a rather large jellyfish. Oh well. I saw a large jellyfish on my first dive to Breakwater Cove and was so surprised by its sight that I fell to the floor like a rock, not an ounce of breath left in my chest.

All in all, it wasn't a very long dive; 31 minutes underwater, the deepest point at 42 feet. It was tiring, having to swim out twice just to submerge, and in that brief hour in the sun my skin browned like a chicken under the broiler (but I needed a little more color, so it's okay).

The drive back to the bay felt quick, though the sunburn and swim exhaustion was already beginning to take its toll. I threw my gear in the bathtub to rinse the sand off but ended up taking a nap on the floor (so as not to get my bed dirty since I was still a bit salty).

It was a good day, and I'm especially glad to have joined the Dive Club of Silicon Valley. I feel like I'm more prepared for my upcoming dives in Curacao next month. More than that, I'm so glad that I started this new hobby.

I'm not sure why I didn't start it sooner.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sylvia (NYCMidnight Short Story 2012, Round 1!)

Sylvia, where are you?
Sylvia, why didn’t you come back?
Sylvia, why did you stop returning my calls?
Sylvia, will you appear in front of me and make everything better?
            Gil’s thoughts moved aimlessly, his heartbeat audible in his ears, though it no longer sounded like a muted drum. No, the only sound he heard was the rise and fall of her name: Sylvia. Her name was a whisper, just out of reach: Sylvia. Sometimes Gil imagined that his train of thought was on a circular track, like the set from his childhood; even when it passed by the station it was only for an instant. In his mind, he could see Sylvia standing on the platform, waving as his train went by. He opens his mouth to shout her name at the instant the conductor blows the whistle. Still, despite the deafening trill, all he hears is Sylvia.
            Gil looked down at his stack of half-graded tests.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Filigreed Key

The wind blew sand over my eyelids as I slept, tickling me gently and rousing me from my slumber. Before I could think twice, I opened my eyes and let a dusting of fine grains seek the crevices beneath my lids. My hands raced to my face, my voice suddenly a hoarse cry. As suddenly as it had started, the irritation was gone, slight traces of tears meandering down my cheeks through my week-old whiskers and my vision returned.

OK, I probably wasn't sleeping in THIS canyon...
The sun was still rising, a pale glimmer above the canyon wall. It was time to wake. It was time to drink from the cold stream, while the water was still fresh and before the sun withered it into dust. It was time to check the traps for a fresh hare, and to check my boots for scorpions; either would keep me alive for another day. Either would get me a step closer to the filigreed key.

The stream was chilled but full of silt. My teeth crunched through the grit when I had taken my fill and weighted my skins. My traps were empty, as were my boots. I still had a few bites of jerky to get me through the day, but then I would be on my own. I wouldn’t miss the taste of the old salted beef when I’d seen its yesterday; I definitely wouldn’t miss the way its fine strands managed to become lodged in my teeth for days at a time. I wouldn’t miss the way my mouth became dry and desert as the ground I’d slept on the night before. I would miss the cow, though.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

“Hello? You still there?” Pete pulled the phone from his ear and stared at the display. It was dead.

“No, no, no! This can’t be happening!” Pete ripped through his bag, searching for the one thing that might make everything okay, but to no avail. The charging cable wasn’t there.

“Fuck!” he cried, drawing stares from several women walking their grocery carts across the street.

“There’s got to be one around here somewhere...” he murmured as he started up the street. Taquerias, Jewelry stores, restaurants; none of them had what he needed. He had to get her back on the line. He couldn’t leave things like that, not without knowing what she’d said.

He ran. Sweat poured down his arms, lubricating his hands. His phone slipped, for just a moment, tumbling through the air towards the sewers, but he caught it, just in the nick of time.

2 Years, 3 Months and 17 Days

In space, no-one can hear your lonely cries. They used to send teams up to counter-act the solitude, but they discovered there was a cheaper way to handle it. They gave us the Internet. Inadvertently, they gave us dating sites.

She’s lovely. I type into the chat box and pressed Send.


“Hey back.”

Whoa, ‘Hey’ never works! Maybe she liked the picture of me skydiving... Maybe there’s something wrong with her.

“So... I kind of stink at this part.”

“What, chatting?”

“It’s not chatting, it’s the first chat. I never know what to say.”

Really. Never. I hate starting with some interest she mentioned because everyone does that. It never works for me. ‘Hey’ never works either, but it’s a lot less to type.

“You’re doing fine. I usually just look at the guy’s interests and find something to talk about. You work in photography?”

It must be different for women.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good

                “You really want to know?”
                “Yes. Tell me.”
                “All right, then. I was on my way to work when I saw her. She was nice enough to look at, I guess, but a bit old. Older than me, at least. She was crossing the street and had one of those little hand-carts you see people using to drag their groceries behind them, but she didn’t have any groceries.”
                “What was in the hand-cart?”
                “If you let me finish, I’ll tell you.”
                “As I was saying, she was crossing the street. She didn’t have groceries, though; she had puppies. Lots of puppies. I dare say dozens of puppies. No, that doesn’t sound right. Maybe just one dozen. Maybe a baker’s dozen. Does a baker’s dozen of puppies conjure up the wrong idea? Like ‘ten and twenty blackbirds, baker’s pie?’ I’m pretty sure these puppies were not intended for food, if that sets your mind at ease. Anyway. Puppies.