Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Microstory 2153: New Future Business Partners

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My new future business partners have come into town. They decided to fly in a day early to see the city. They’ve never been here before, so I toured them around. I did my best with it anyway, it’s not like I’m some kind of an expert. Not only am I from an alternate version of Kansas City, but I’m just not interested in that sort of thing. Still, I did a little bit of research, and found a local company that specializes in itineraries for tourists. We’re going to have our meeting tomorrow, so this was just something fun before all that. We ended up spending so much time together that we had lunch in the early afternoon, and dinner tonight. That’s why this is posting so late. We stopped for ice cream in between meals, so I’m probably not going to feel great for the next few days. I’m not lactose intolerant, I just tend to go overboard. I’ve never done anything like this before, with people that I’m not related to, I mean. Anytime I’ve traveled, I’ve gone with family, because I never had any friends. It was surreal, socializing with others, but I got through it, and I’m glad that I did. I won’t bore you with the details, or regale you with the juicy ones that we talked about over the meals, because it’s none of your business. I’m sure that I’ll have more that I’ll want to say after our meeting tomorrow, but I’m equally sure that I won’t actually be able to say any of that either. Perhaps in a few months, it will be declassified. Anyway, I’m super tired, so I gotta get to bed. I still have to work in the morning, and am only taking a couple hours for lunch to discuss business matters. This new partnership won’t be interfering with my regular job.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Microstory 2152: Stop Stopping Moving

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I’ve gone back to being bored and boring, and that makes me nervous. Every time that happens, I get sick, and then something too crazy happens as a result of that. I’ve sort of exhausted every kind of infection that you can get, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get another one of the same type as before. To shake things up, when I had some free time, I returned to the nursery where I used to work to see my old friends and boss. It was a little awkward, because I didn’t leave in the best way. It wasn’t combative, like what sometimes happens with former employees, but it was really weird. To make things less uncomfortable today, I bought a few pots, and some seeds. I mostly chose daisies, since that’s my dog’s name, so it’s fitting. It’s not like I can’t do with a little bit more color in my apartment. I have a history of having very sparse dwellings. I don’t put up photos or paintings. I was born in 1987, so everything I ever cared about was in the cloud by the time I moved out of my parents’ house. If I wanted to look at a picture of someone I cared about, I could just take out my phone. It never seemed better to be able to see such things along the hallways. Walls are just there to hold up the ceiling, and I don’t see blank walls as problematic. All of those pictures are lost to me now, and no matter what I do, I will never get them back. I’m thinking about giving a description of my dogs, Sophie (who is no longer with us) and Daisy, so I can have drawings of them, though they may not be very good, because I have a notoriously bad memory. I am barely confident that the artist could even get close, and I’m not at all confident that we could figure out what my human family looked like. Still, it’s not a bad idea. It would certainly give me something to do with my days besides working, writing, talking about my feelings with my therapist, updating my parole officer on nothing, and sitting in jail. I should make a list...a list of things I can do, which may not necessarily improve my life, but perhaps just make it different. I’m a shark, so I should stop stopping moving.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Microstory 2151: But Not Covertly

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Nothing has officially changed since we last spoke. I spoke with my boss, and my boss’ boss, and my boss’ boss’s boss. I may be limiting my hours in the future, but only if I end up doing other things with my website. If I don’t, then there would be little reason to leave. I’m not struggling to keep up with my site schedule right now. I’m kind of embarrassed, but as we talked it out, we realized that the only reason my blog has been at all successful is because I do other things with my life besides writing the blog. If that’s all I do, then I’ll have nothing to write about. Sure, I’m still intermittently going to jail, but that will end eventually, and I already have to be careful with my details. Speaking of which, that business opportunity I’ve been teasing is moving forward. We have a meeting later this week. Normally, a new partner would come to them, but I can’t leave the area, so they’re flying in to my location. I told you about those offices in this apartment complex, so I think I’ll be able to actually make use of that amenity. It won’t be until Thursday, though, so everything else is going to be about normal until then. Jail was normal too. People are getting used to me, so I’m no longer the center of attention, which is nice. I was worried that that would never happen. People are still asking questions, and sometimes making snide remarks—often literally behind my back, but not covertly—but everyone experiences some of that. It’s hard to lay low in a place like that, because it’s ironically easy to notice anyone trying. Boy, this installment wasn’t very interesting, was it? I sure hope I don’t lose readers for this. I’m sure I will. That’s okay, I’m not one of those content creators who is going to beg you to “like and subscribe”. Do what you want, I’ll just be here.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 27, 2448

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Once Ramses was safe and sound in the Garden Dimension with the rest of the team, the Horticulturalists decided that it was time to kick everyone out. Even though the Memory Magnolia had apparently made its own decision about sending Marie to rescue their last remaining member, she was the one who partook in the fruit in the first place. She made that decision, and these were the consequences of it. Everyone else was being kicked out just for being associated with her, and they had no problem with this, because they needed to stay together, and as pleasant as the garden was, it was time to get back to work. Before they left, they warned the Horticulturalists that Bronach Oaksent and the Exin Empire were seemingly trying to get into the garden themselves. Nothing else made sense to explain why Ramses blowing a hole through the hull of Ex-42 would send them down the river towards the Magnolia conflux. If they wanted to protect their specimens from those who would truly harm it, they needed to seriously rethink their defensive strategies.
The Team was now back on Earth. They asked to be returned to the Vellani Ambassador, which was parked and invisible in the Goldilocks Corridor, but no one in the garden was capable of accommodating them. Whatever was indeed responsible for this detour in the first place was located at that end of it. They could try to investigate it themselves, whether the Horticulturalists wanted them to or not, but first, they had to figure out how to get back there. Their first thought was to seek help from Team Keshida on the Jameela Jamil, which could get them to that region of space in under five hours, but they didn’t respond directly. A voicemail message from an apparent quantum autoresponder informed Leona that the JJ was on a mission in the Miridir Galaxy, which was where Dardius was located. Quantum communication allowed FTL signals to reach vast distances, but the technology still had its limits. If they were in Andromeda XXI, they were too far away to talk to in realtime, and once they did receive the message, it would take them a month to return to help, assuming they weren’t too busy there to return at all. They were surely that far away for good reason.
Leona popped her lips several times. “Welp, back to the Nexus?”
“Yeah, the Nexus seems like the right call,” Mateo agreed.
Everyone else seemed amenable, so they teleported to the Pacific Ocean Nexus, directly inside the building, which was still neutrally buoyant just under the surface. “Venus Opsocor, are you there?”
No one responded.
“Venus, can you hear me?” Leona reiterated.
 Still no response.
“You two on the outs?” Ramses asked.
“I’m sure she’s a very busy superintelligent god,” Leona presumed. She walked up the steps, and tried to enter the control room, but the door was locked. She tried to just teleport to the other side of it, but it didn’t work either. Venus was icing her out. She must have wanted her to stay here for some reason. She let out a frustrated sigh, and banged on the door before turning around to go back down the stairs.
A man opened it from the control room, bleary eyed, and trying to block the lights from hitting him. “Can I help you? It’s a little early.”
“Do you live here?” Leona questioned.
“Yeah,” he answered, like he had every right. He blinked a lot, and looked around. “Wait, do I? Where the hell am I? Why am I inside?” He jerked his head around to look back into the control room. “Where is my apartment? Who are you people? What did you do to me!”
“Please try to relax, sir. We did nothing to you. We did not expect to find you here. What is the last thing you remember?”
“Uh, I fell asleep on the couch. My couch, in my home. Now I’m suddenly here. I could have sworn that when I heard you banging, I woke up on my couch too. It was here a second ago. Could someone please tell me what’s going on?”
“I’m going to ask you a few questions, sir, and they may sound weird, but trust me, they’re important. Just answer them honestly. We are not going to harm you, or use anything against you. We’re here to help. What year is it?”
“It’s 2024, dumbass.”
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t assume that you’re the bad guy here. I’ve seen this move a million times. A group of people wake up in a cube, or on an island, or a weird building in the woods with a giant window-slash-mirror, where monsters watch you for fun. Or it’s a torture chamber, or a shower stall, or a spaceship, or a lobby in heaven—”
“Sir,” Leona had to repeat yet again. “You’re talking about the You Wake Up in a Room trope. I don’t think that’s really what’s happening. We came here on purpose, we just didn’t expect to find anyone else, and there is a way out. Let’s keep going. We know the year. Where is your apartment? What city?”
“Silver Shade. Silver Shade, Kansas.”
Leona nodded. “I’ve never heard of it.”
“It’s in Mineral County,” the man added.
There was no such place as Mineral County as far as she knew. “I should have asked this before, what’s your name, friend?”
“Baylor. Baylor Alexanderson.”
Leona proceeded to introduce herself, and the rest of the team.
“Those are some interesting names you got there,” Baylor mused. “Do you have any more questions for me, or are we gonna be able to get out of here?”
Leona consulted her watch, even though she had already looked at it as soon as they left the Garden Dimension. “I have some bad news, Baylor, it’s not 2024. It’s 2448, and given the fact that you’re from a city and county that doesn’t exist here, I can only assume that you’re in the wrong world. Given your description of answering what you thought to be your own door, my guess is that you went through the Westfall, though it’s not supposed to take you somewhere this altered. You’re supposed to think that you’re still on the same world. At least that’s how it was explained to me.”
Baylor stared at her for a moment. “What the shit are you goin’ on about?”
“I know it’s disorienting, but I’m still going to do all I can to help you, if Venus would just kindly respond to me!” she increased the volume of her voice, as she looked up towards the Nexus drum. She could never quite tell where Venus’ voice was ever coming from, but it always sounded like it was from above. “Hello?”
“Wait, is this one of those—wadya call it—Voldisil things?” Baylor asked. “Are you a fabled Voldisil?”
“I’ve never heard of that either,” Leona admitted.
“I don’t believe in ‘em,” Baylor explained. “They say that this kid out east can heal people, but I don’t put stock into such rumors. I’m sure it’s all a big hoax. I mean, he charges rich people a ton of money, and then he gives his poor patients some of that money, in addition to healing them? Does that sound right to you?”
“I don’t know, sir, that’s not my world, as I said.”
“Well, if I’ve been sent through the dimensional planes, or whatever, how do I get back? Tell me what to do.”
“You could...try to...close the door?” Leona suggested. She didn’t know how it worked, or whether it could ever be undone.
“Is that a question?”
“I’m not an expert.”
Baylor sighed, tipped an imaginary hat at her, and then closed the door.
She tried to open it again right  away, and was able to this time. Baylor was nowhere to be seen, and the lights inside the control room were starting to come on. “Guys, I think it worked. Or it sent him somewhere totally different.”
I’m here, Leona,” Venus’ voice answered.
“Venus, how long ago did I ask for you?”
It has currently been eight point seven seconds.
“L-O-L.” Mateo laughed at the coincidence.
“It’s been longer than that for me,” Leona told her. “We’ve been interacting with a man we believe to have come through Westfall.”
I did not register his appearance, but that’s the one thing that could have interfered with my temporal association, and my response,” Venus said.
“That’s okay, I think he’s back home. We were wondering if you could do the same for us. We left our ship in the Goldilocks Corridor, around a planet called Ex-659. Have you heard of that? It’s about 16,000 light years away.”
I never have,” Venus answered.
“There may or may not be a working Nexus on a planet called Ex-371. You and I spoke while I was there sixteen years ago.”
I have no recollection of that. Either my memory was purged, or it has not happened to me yet.”
“Okay.” Leona thought about it. “Can you take us to the Dardius Nexus? I have the term sequence.”
I’m afraid that the Dardius Nexus is presently offline at this point in history.
“That’s disturbing.” Leona took a deep breath, and centered herself. “Then we have one last option. Could you please send us to the Nucleus?”
“Captain, that’s not safe,” Marie warned.
“It’s the only place I know that can travel such distances, unless you can put us in touch with one of the Al-Amins?”
Marie put her tail between her legs.
“Venus?” Leona went on.
I have heard of that,” Venus said. “I can send you there, but there is no Nexus there in 2448, so you will not necessarily be in control of where you go next.
“We rarely are,” Leona responded.
Step into the cavity, please.
“We appreciate your support,” Leona said genuinely as she was taking up the rear.
The light rained down from above, and dispatched them to purported the center of the universe. They did not exit to another Nexus, as Venus had explained. They were in the same expansive room that Marie had come to while she was searching for Angela, which they both confirmed. It was mostly empty now. A man started to jog over when he noticed them, but then he suddenly stopped, and continued more slowly. “You came here on purpose,” he said to them, almost accusatorily.
“Yes, it’s only a pit stop,” Leona answered. “We’re trying to get to the Goldilocks Corridor.”
“I’m afraid we don’t take requests here,” he tried to explain. “My name is Intake Coordinator Pontus Flagger. Our only job here is to keep you healthy, fed, and comfortable, until the universe decides where to put you.”
“The universe doesn’t decide anything,” Leona argued. “There must be someone in charge, even if it’s an intelligence beyond our comprehension.”
“Like I said, the universe,” Pontus repeated, as if they were talking about the exact same thing.
Leona sighed. “Have you recorded any patterns? What kind of people come here, where they go, where they’re standing when it happens; that sort of thing.”
“No pattern detected,” Pontus said apologetically. “We’ve been looking for one.”
“How long have you been measuring?” Leona asked.
He acted like that was an impossible question to answer.
“Right. Time.” She looked over at her crew, who were waiting patiently for her guidance. “So, you got a suite for us, or something?”
“Right this way, sir.” Pontus spun around, and began to walk away.
“That won’t be necessary,” came an electronic voice behind all of them. His identity was being masked by an actual mask, as well as a sound distorter. He wasn’t alone either. Thousands of black-clothed stormtrooper types were standing behind him, all pointing their space rifles at the crew. They looked exactly the same, in the same positions, as if there was only one of them, and he had copy-pasted himself over and over again. Maybe that was the truth.
“Funny, I didn’t hear you come in,” Leona said.
“Um, they didn’t,” Pontus replied. “We have alarms for mass arrivals.”
Leona nodded, and lifted a hand. She sent a ripple of light towards the crowd, using her own holo-powers to disrupt and fade the image of the holographic army.
“Shit,” the only enemy there said. He reached over to his wrist, and switched off the ruse. Leona wasn’t quite right. There were actually still two of them, rather than only the one. “I need to regain the higher ground.” He shot Leona right in the chest.
The thing about these special suits being bulletproof was that they prevented most projectiles and energy blasts from piercing the layers. They couldn’t protect the wearer from everything, but they were extremely advanced, and Ramses had already bolstered their strength with a little bit of tinkering. And anyway, Leona fell to her back, and slid across the floor, because the concussive force was still strong, and she wasn’t magnetizing her boots at the time, not that that would have been the safer option.
“You are all now conscripted into the Resonant Parallel Coalition, whether you like it or not,” the shooter demanded in his weird little voice.
Leona stood back up, almost entirely unhurt, and arched her back to get the kinks out. She looked back with the confidence befitting a captain of her calibre. “Oh, no thank you.”

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Orthogradient: The Hawthorne Family (Part II)

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Limerick started to run up the stairs, hoping to get to his family in time. Some kind of weird giant train thing had just appeared out of nowhere, and was sliding down the road. People didn’t really use roads anymore, not for driving anywhere, but they were still there, and necessary bridges between two places that people needed to walk to. He couldn’t tell if anyone was hurt, but his only concern right now was his wife and daughter. He met them on the landing, and his heart jumped back up to where it belonged in his chest. Once he caught his breath, he said, “go back up to the panic room. I’ll figure out what’s going on here.”
“I know what’s going on,” Treasure explained. She didn’t say it out loud. Instead, her voice was coming through a silver tiara on her head that he had never seen before. “That’s the Transit. Azura has come back for me.”
Limerick’s eyes darted over to Freya, who shook her head, having not yet heard the story either.
Treasure sighed. “I’ve been traveling...without you. I spent weeks in multiple branes, and I’ll explain later, but right now, I have to go meet my friend.”
Limerick shook his head. “If that thing is from another brane, then it can travel through time, and literally anyone could be in there. It could be your friend, or it could be your enemy. It could be a fictional character from your favorite movie. You just don’t know. You’re not going anywhere.”
“I’m an adult now, you can’t stop me.” Treasure started to pass her father.
“You turned eighteen already?” Freya questioned. “You said you had been gone for weeks.”
“Maturity isn’t just a number, mother. I’ve seen some shit. That’s why I’m an adult. Now, if you’ll excuse me...”
“Why are you talking like that? Why don’t you move your lips?”
Treasure was growing ever frustrated and impatient. “I either don’t move my lips, or I cut myself. Which would you prefer?” She started to hop down to the first floor.
“Why would those ever be the only two options?” Freya shouted to her.
“Why isn’t she wearing her necklace anymore?” Limerick questioned.
“Haven’t you heard?” Freya popped back as she was following her daughter. “She’s seen some shit now.”
The three of them went outside. Limerick tried to walk between Treasure and this giant spacetrain thing, but she was confident, and completely unworried. A woman stepped out from the second car from the front, and looked around. “Azura!” Treasure cried, louder than expected. She was amplifying her voice using the tiara thing.
Azura started jogging down the ramp. “Treasure! You found your way home!”
“It wasn’t easy,” Treasure admitted. “We didn’t come straight here.” They took each other into a hug.
Azura could clearly see that Treasure’s parents were not happy. “Mister Hawthorne and Madam Einarsson—”
“Missus Hawthorne,” Freya corrected, “and I suppose you can just call me Freya.” She took her husband’s name when they married to further distinguish herself from her alternate, Saga Einarsson.
“Limerick.” He shook the stranger’s hand while his wife did not. “You came in pretty fast. Did you hurt anyone on your way through?”
“Dad,” Treasure scolded.
“It’s a valid concern,” Azura admitted. “No, sir, we did not. The Transit is designed to seek out the closest entry point to the given coordinates that is unimpeded. An impediment can mean an empty car on the road, or a tent full of party people.”
“What exactly is your relationship with my daughter?” Limerick went on.
“Dad!” Treasure repeated herself with far more indignation this time.
The nearest portal trees suddenly began to shake. “That’s probably the government. Do not resist. They are more powerful than you may imagine.”
“We come in peace,” Azura insisted.
Several people came through the portal, four of them being a security contingency. They maintained a circle around the others, keeping their heads on swivels, but paying special attention to the Transit. One of the others was Treasure’s teacher, Thack Natalie Collins, and another was the Principal Guide, who was the leader of the entire world. Limerick did not recognize the third person. The fourth was the Treewalker, who kept his distance behind everyone. Principal Guide Rao brushed her guard away when he tried to stay between her and the Transit, much in the way that Limerick had tried with his own charge. “Azura of Ansutah, my name is Principal Guide Usha Rao. Allow me to be the first to officially welcome you to Voldisilaverse. Before we proceed, please understand that we have rules here. You will keep your onboard weaponry deactivated at all times. You will keep all of your mobile weapons inside the Transit walls at all times. All shore leave requests must be approved by my office. Fighters will not be allowed to congregate in groups more than two, but crewmembers will be allowed to group in fours.”
“I understand, and accept your terms,” Azura said, then shrunk a bit in embarrassment when she realized that the Usha wasn’t finished yet.
Usha didn’t flinch. “Furthermore, one guard will be posted next to each car of the Transit, on each side, and one will be posted on top of it, for a total of three local guards per car. A number at my discretion will be allowed into the Transit to monitor activity. They will stay out of your way, but this is not negotiable. I will also need a full manifest of your current crew and army, as well as obviously your intentions on my world. Do you accept all of these terms in full?”
“I do,” Azura replied without hesitation.
“Very well,” Usha said. “Please return to await the security detail. You will be alerted when it’s time for our debrief and negotiations.”
“Thank you, sir.” Azura went back towards the machine.
“No,” Miss Collins said when Treasure tried to follow.
“But I—”
“I know,” Miss Collins interrupted. “And the answer is no. Your debrief begins right now.”
“Don’t you already know what I went through?” Treasure figured. “Weren’t you watching me the whole time?”
Miss Collins took some time to respond. “For your” She turned around to head back to the portal trees, followed closely by the Treewalker. “Come along, dear,” Miss Collins urged. “You may come as well, mom and dad.”
The Hawthornes stepped into the portal, and exited on the other side of the country, where Miss Collins lived and worked. They continued in silence, into her work building, and up to her office. Treasure went out to the computer lab down the hall to retrieve a chair for herself while her parents sat down in the two that were already there.
Miss Collins took a breath. “I have been watching over your daughter for her entire life. I’ve been there for your whole family, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Absolutely,” Limerick said.
“Yes,” Freya concurred quickly.
“As you know, I can witness events on any of the nearest branes to ours, and that comes with a heavy weight of responsibility. I have never been able to give Treasure my undivided attention, so she is lucky to have two amazing caregivers to pick up the slack in that regard. You might not want to hear it, but your little girl is all grown up now, and it’s time for her to make her own way. She was never going to wait until she turned eighteen. I could see that, even though I can’t watch events in this universe unless I’m standing right there. I think you knew it too. She is an Einarsson, who is patient, thoughtful, and careful. But she’s also her father’s daughter. That makes her impatient, reckless, and unpredictable. You, I, and her other teachers, have all done what we can to teach her to be a good person, and as a lifelong learner myself, I don’t believe that ever ends, but at a certain point, your personality is kind of locked in.
“She is an amazing young woman, destined to do great things throughout the entire bulk. Whatever she just experienced during her first solo mission was a test that she gave herself, and only she can tell us whether she passed. So, how about it, Treasure? What was your score?”
Treasure squirmed in her chair. “I dunno...” She cleared her throat, even though she wasn’t using it to speak. She tried to look away, but Miss Collins didn’t allow that when they were having a conversation. “Can’t you just look at what happened now?”
“No. I must be careful about what I see, and when I see it. My spirit ability is a constant threat to the continuity of time. We wouldn’t want a paradox to destroy the multiverse, would we? I’ve taught you that.”
Treasure stood up to pace around the room a little, gathering her thoughts.
“I got shot.”
“What!?” Limerick and Freya exclaimed simultaneously.
“Let me finish,” Treasure requested. “When I screamed, I went to Azura’s universe. Well, it wasn’t her homeworld. She’s from Ansutah. She’s half-human, half-Maramon. At any rate, the space station where she was working was attacked, and I was caught in the crossfire. They shot me in the neck, and Azura pulled me to safety. She was trying to save her one escape route for later, but she used it to save me. I managed to illustrate that I needed to go to Salmonverse for help, and that’s how we ended up finding the Transit. A bunch of the attackers accidentally came with us. She fought them off single-handedly, and then patched me up. Over time, while we were all stuck there together, we grew close, and worked hard to figure out how to get out of there. We started to go to other universes, asking for help with power sources. It did not always go well, but I survived. I made friends, I fell in love...I think. He’s waiting for me in a random brane out there. Or maybe he’s not. Maybe when I go back, only seconds will have passed. The point is that my journey was not without its speed bumps, but I persevered. Did I get a perfect score? No. But did I pass? Yes, I should think so. Parental unit, you haven’t told me everything that you’ve done with your lives, but based on the stories that you have told me, my life is not unlike yours. Hawthornes end up in dangerous situations all the time, and we make it through. That’s what we do. That’s what I’ll continue to do, and I would love for you to be on my side, and to support me in that, but it is not a requirement. I’m Treasure Hawthrone, natural traveler of the bulk, and I’ll be damned if I do nothing with that responsibility.”
Her parents and Miss Collins didn’t say anything, stunned by the logorrhea that just spilled out of Treasure’s mouth.
She plopped back down in the chair, and slouched. “Oh, and I wear this tiara, because it translates my thoughts into audible sound. I have to do that, because my body metabolizes bulk energy, but it leaks out every time I speak, so if I want to keep it in, I can’t talk anymore.”
Freya stood up, and gestured for Treasure to do the same. She took her daughter in a warm embrace. “I love you, and I support you. But I’ll also always protect you. You don’t go anywhere without telling me. I don’t care how much bulk energy you lose, don’t rely on Miss Collins to update me on your whereabouts. No more secret trips, okay?”
“Okay,” Treasure answered.
Limerick stood up to hug her too. “Does this boy know how you feel?”
“Pretty much, yeah. His name is Quino. He was part of the attackers, but he wasn’t a fighter. He just carried stuff.”
“What did you give him?” Limerick asked.
“What, you mean, like, a present...or an STD?”
Limerick just flinched.
“I didn’t give him anything,” Treasure clarified. “He gave me a gift.”
Limerick gave his wife a kiss on the forehead. “We’ll be back.” He walked towards the door to punch the air. It wasn’t really the air, though, not when he was opening a shatter portal. He reached back and punched it again. He kept punching and punching. It made the objects in the room jiggle a little, but not enough to break anything. He punched and punched, and punched until the portal was wide enough to climb through. Then he reached back to offer Treasure his hand.
Without knowing exactly what was going on, Treasure accepted it, and went through the portal with him. They landed on a gorgeous field of various flowers. To one side of them was a pristine beach, and a calm turquoise sea. To the other a forest. In the distance were snow capped mountains. Treasure noticed all of the color around them. It felt like they were standing inside of a painting.
“I want you to pick out, or make, a gift for this boy. This is what Hawthornes do to show our love, respect, and commitment to our partners, especially in the beginning. I should have taught you this before, I just didn’t realize how much you had grown up until it was too late. It can be anything. When we were on prehistoric Worlon, I made your mother a garland chaplet out of twigs, leaves, grass, and flowers. But it doesn’t have to be hand-crafted. There’s a village where we can barter a few kilometers that way, and a city not too far from that.”
“You’re not mad? I thought you would hate Quino just from hearing he existed.”
“No, I’m not mad, hon. We’ll have to meet him, of course, but you’ll need a gift regardless. Even if the next time you see him, you break up, you must go with a gift.”
“Okay.” Treasure did want it to be something special that she made herself, rather than a heartless trinket from the market. She looked around; the field, the forest, and the beach. In the end, she made him a charm bracelet out of sea glass, seashells, sand, and stones.”

Friday, May 17, 2024

Microstory 2150: Phone Calls in Jail

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I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but I have some things to think about now. When you start reaching an audience of a million on this platform, it starts looking like you can focus on that fulltime, and not have to worry about any other job. If I were to push myself towards multimedia content, endorsements, and even public events, I would be at the point where I not only could quit my job without suffering, but also should, since it would free up my time for those other pursuits. I’m still working on that partnership I told you about not too long ago, but I remain reluctant to branch out into other types of content, and I don’t really want to make public appearances. Someone once told me that I have a face for radio...and a voice for print. It was mean, but they’re right. Even without all that, if my readership keeps growing, I may be able to quit anyway. I didn’t even say that during my interview for this job. My interviewer brought it up unprompted, acknowledging that I may not exactly be destined to retire from there. Now, I’ve not made any decisions yet, but it’s definitely becoming an option, which I know could be weird for you, since you still don’t even have a clue what I do for a living, let alone who specifically I work for. The great thing about quitting a job for a form of self-employment is that I can take my time with it. If I were to transition over to somewhere else, I would want to do it within two weeks. That’s standard practice in this country, and beyond. But here, I can hold off, and wait for them to find my replacement, and perhaps even train them. Not forever, mind you, but longer. I’m sure I’ll be getting a call from my boss as soon as this installment posts, but I’ll be in jail by then, so I will not be able to answer. There is a way to take phone calls in jail, but it doesn’t happen all that much, because we’re all only in there for a couple days at a time. And other people have families that they want to stay in contact with, so I wouldn’t want to take any time away from them. I’m alone whether I’m in there, or out here. Maybe I should get a pet. Now that I’ve made friends with my neighbor, I might be able to leave on the weekends without worrying. That’s yet another thing that I need to be considering, but I’ll put it on the backburner.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Microstory 2149: A Million of Anything

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As you might have deduced from the title, I’ve reached one million readers. Is that right? Is it deduce, or is it induce? I’ve heard that deduction comes from removing all wrong answers, but that’s probably wrong, and I really don’t know what induction is. Here’s the thing, I have a pretty decent vocabulary, but there are still some concepts that I struggle with. I’m also very logical, but I’ve also always particularly struggled with explaining my logic through accepted standardized terms, like straw man or if and then. I can tell you my logic, but I’m not going to sound very smart while I do it, and I’ll stumble over all of my words on my way there. In seventh grade, I was failing English class. We were on a topic called Greek and Latin Roots and Stems. I was paying so little attention that I didn’t even know what that meant. I’m sure I was daydreaming a lot. I didn’t crack open my workbook once, and in fact, would just leave it in my locker. We had a test the next day so I actually had to call a classmate, who gave me hers to photocopy. It was kind of late at night, and really weird, and humiliating, and my dad was angry with me for it, because like I said, it was twelve or thirteen, so he had to help me with everything. So anyway, I got the workbook, and started looking through it, and I’m like, “this? This is what my teacher has been talking about? I know all this. It says that -ing means continuous action, because of course it does. This is why my teacher called my parents, and got me in trouble?” Needless to say, now that I understood what I was missing, I aced the test, and ended up with one of the highest grades of all classes combined. So I’m pretty good at language.

Still, it’s still not clear to me how you induce something, at least not in any practical sense, and my definition of deduction may come from my strong sense of linguistic morphology, not from how the word is actually used in this subject. I remember intuiting that the word division meant separating objects in half when I was a toddler, which misses the fact that it’s not always by half specifically. Why am I talking about this? Oh yeah, a million readers. A million people read my stories now. Well, a million unique IP addresses access my website on a regular basis. I think it goes by the month, but it’s the middle of May now, so is that based on April’s metrics, or is it just from thirty days ago to now? I’m not entirely sure how to read this section of the blog service. Whatever, I’ll take it, I trust the analytics. For years, this is what I wanted, for people to read my stuff, and to keep coming back for more. I’ve never been great at non-fiction, so I didn’t think it would turn out like this, but I guess I didn’t think I would travel to a different world either. Or different worlds, as it were. I wonder how many readers I would be able to get if people in all of the universes that I’ve been to could navigate to the site as well. That would be a lofty goal, and I should really just be focusing on what’s here and now. Thank you. Thank you for reading. I’m sure my alternate self on my homeworld is super envious of me right now. Oh yeah, he’s pissed. I can feel it. His readership still sits at approximately zero. He would take a million of anything if it also meant a million readers, even slaps in the face. I’m not going to celebrate this milestone, because I have a binge eating disorder, which is triggered by the mentality that positive events should be marked with food, but I’m glad anyway. Let’s see how long it takes to get to two million, and then after that, I think the next one should be five billion?

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Microstory 2148: Wokest of Folk

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I agreed to have dinner with my neighbor yesterday evening. She framed the invitation as a friendly stranger passing by me in the hallway, but she knew who I was, and has read some of my blog. She’s not a crazy stalker, though, if that’s what you’re thinking. I’ve just been pretty good at marketing my site in the local area. There’s a bulletin board in the lobby of our apartment complex, for instance, where people can post lost animal flyers, or musical instrument lessons. I printed out a slip of paper that just gives my address, and tacked it up there. It doesn’t even say what the site is, so people have to try it to see. There aren’t enough people living here to make much of a dent in my readership—especially not these days—but marketing is all about cost versus return, and it cost me almost nothing. Anyway, the dinner went well, she was very nice, and a really good cook. She’s a vegetarian too, so I didn’t have to worry about making her feel bad about making something special on my account. She prepared us sweet potato and black bean enchiladas with avocado crema. Sweet potatoes are one of those foods that I had to grow to like later in life, and I’m glad I did for this situation. I’m sure you’re all wondering if sparks were flying, but please don’t. Where I’m from, it’s annoyingly taboo for a man and a woman to be friends. Even the wokest of folk think that it doesn’t work, but as an omnisexual, I say, what even is a man, and what is a woman? Your “theory” may stop making sense when you answer that. There’s nothing romantic going on between us, and there wouldn’t be even if I weren’t loyal to Cricket.