Thursday, February 20, 2020

Microstory 1304: State School Candidate

State School Candidate: I don’t even know why I’m here. My brother went to this school, and he didn’t have an interview. This ain’t exactly ivy league.
State School Admissions Interviewer: We don’t do many interviews, no, except for certain programs. Are you interested in pre-law, pre-med, or engineering?
State School Candidate: No?
State School Admissions Interviewer: Then you’re only here because your parents requested it.
State School Candidate: Oh. Did they have to pay for that?
State School Admissions Interviewer: No, that would be illegal.
State School Candidate: I see.
State School Admissions Interviewer: It doesn’t matter if you want to be here or not; let’s just assume that you do. As a hypothetical, if you really wanted to do this interview, what would you want to get out of it?
State School Candidate: I guess I just need someone to tell me I can make it?
State School Admissions Interviewer: Have people been telling you that you couldn’t?
State School Candidate: All the time. Teachers, principals, other students...
State School Admissions Interviewer: Why would they think this of you?
State School Candidate: I’m not a great student. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a bad one either. I’ve never failed a single class, I show up on time, and I do the work. I just don’t get good grades.
State School Admissions Interviewer: I’m going to be honest with you, that would be worse than if you didn’t do the work.
State School Candidate: Why?
State School Admissions Interviewer: Well, even when I’m not conducting interviews, I meet a lot of students, and some of those students have had really terrible grades. For the majority of those kids, it’s because they didn’t try; they didn’t realize their potential. The dropout rate is, in fact, predominantly due to unrealized potential, but that can be learned, practiced, improved. On the other hand, there are some who really want to do well, but they still struggle with the material. I’m not calling you stupid, but I think you’re smart enough to know that not everyone can be Stephen Hawking. The only question is how far from being Stephen Hawking are you? The further you are, the less chance you have at succeeding. Take a moment to ask yourself that question in your head. Then answer out loud the only question that really matters: do you think you can succeed in higher education?
State School Candidate: Well, I’m very not Stephen Hawking, yet I know the answer you’re looking for is yes. I’m afraid I can’t give you that, though.
State School Admissions Interviewer: No, the answer is indeed yes. You can do this. Were you diagnosed with a learning disability?
State School Candidate: No, not per se—
State School Admissions Interviewer: Then I don’t care what your grades were in high school. What no one will tell you is that much of what you learn in college is introductory; or sorry, can be introductory. You can sometimes skip the one-oh-ones, but if you don’t, then they generally assume very little foreknowledge of the subject. They do this because, even though colleges and universities require a high school diploma at the very least, they can’t be sure what you learned, and what you didn’t. They have to get everyone in class up to speed, which makes any prior experience almost meaningless. Almost. Someone who has never had any education in their entire lives won’t be able to go to college, unless they were born with that Stephen Hawking-level intelligence, and they just get it. Someone who never went to high school would even probably have trouble. But someone—anyone—who managed to graduate high school, is smart enough for college; I guarantee that. You have to rely on good advisors, and tutors, and study groups, and professor office hours, but you can do this.
State School Candidate: I never expected you to say any of this. I figured you were just going to ask me to guess how many books are in the library, so you can gauge my capacity for logic.
State School Admissions Interviewer: No, that’s stupid. What I told you is the truth, and is what matters. A lot of schools will let anyone in for one simple fact: they’re getting paid for it. They don’t care if you’re smart enough, or whether you graduate or not, because they’ll get money out of you until you officially fail. They see it as a win-win, because they can’t take money from the ones they reject. We are not like that. We want you to do well, which is why our test policy is unconventional, and we spend so much money on resources designed to give you the tools you need to learn the material. It does neither you, nor us, any good if you just keep getting bad grades because all you had access to were the lectures.
State School Candidate: So, you think I should apply?
State School Admissions Interviewer: You definitely should, but don’t forget to find an advisor. They’ll make sure you have what you need. Few who do this alone do well.
State School Candidate: I think I can remember that.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Microstory 1303: Housewife

TDS Management Representative: Hello, and welcome to TDS Management. I’ll be your TDS Rep today. Go ahead and have a seat. Did you happen to bring in an updated résumé?
Housewife: Yes, I have it right here.
TDS Rep: Oh, okay. [...] Are you missing a page?
Housewife: No, that’s all of it. I’ve been out of the game for awhile.
TDS Rep: I should say so. Could you explain this twenty-year gap in your employment history?
Housewife: Well, it was about a year before the turn of the millennium when I found out I was pregnant. I spoke with my then-employer about taking maternity leave, and they were amenable to that. Then when I tried to return to work three weeks after giving birth—
TDS Rep: You only took three weeks!
Housewife: Uh, yes. That’s all they would give me. Remember, this was 1999; it was a different time. Anyway, they let me come back to work, but I noticed our department had an extra person. They seemed to have let the temp who had filled in for me stick around. That lasted about a month before they let me go, which my attorney explained was enough time for them to reasonably argue that it had nothing to do with the time I took off. My co-worker claimed he heard them talking once, though, and that they were worried I would keep getting pregnant just to take time off. Unfortunately, he couldn’t prove he had heard it—and I wouldn’t have wanted him to risk his own position by rocking the boat—so I just had to let it go, and leave.
TDS Rep: That sounds terrible.
Housewife: It wasn’t great. But of course, that doesn’t explain why I’ve been out of work for the last two decades. My husband is really superstitious, and he took it as a sign that I should stay home to raise our daughter. Our second daughter was born sixteen months later, and I’ve been at home with them until she went off to college last year.
TDS Rep: That is a horrible story. I’m sorry that happened to you. Hopefully we can find you a good fit, though. How long have you been looking?
Housewife: Eight months. Yeah, I know it’s a lot. Employers just aren’t looking for experience when that experience was so long ago.
TDS Rep: Well, we may just have to reframe the narrative for potential employers. They hire kids who are just out of college all the time. They have almost no experience, and their education is often not all that relevant anyway. Employers may be worried that you’re out of touch with modern standards, or they may be ageists who don’t believe you have anything to offer. I’m not gonna lie. The story you told isn’t unheard of. It’s seldom reported, because that kind of thing is usually impossible to prove, but employers can get away with all sorts of discrimination as long as they don’t leave a paper trail, and they can count on each other’s loyalty.
Housewife: But you think you can help me find something?
TDS Rep: I’m not sure what you remember being paid when you were working, but you may have to lower your expectations. It’s 2020; people are looking for work on job boards online. The people who come to me aren’t exactly in the running for executive management. I’m not saying your only option is a fast food joint, but you may have to start at the bottom, and work your way up.
Housewife: I don’t have very high expectations anymore.
TDS Rep: It saddens me to hear that, but neither of us is in control of the market. Being fit for a job isn’t enough. You have to convince a lot of people who would sooner let a wizard give them a purple pony who poops gold than spend money on an employee. That’s just the world we’re living in. I can’t guarantee you’ll love what you do, but I can promise you we’ll find something good enough for now. Let’s start with a base cover letter for you. This is your chance to explain to employers who you are. It’s important for everyone, but especially for you, since your résumé alone doesn’t tell the whole story.
Housewife: Okay, great.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Microstory 1302: Third Party Founder

Blog Reporter: If you would, please state your name.
Third Party Founder: My name is Third Party Founder, and I’m here to talk about my new political party; Ban Religion.
Blog Reporter: It sounds like a band name.
Third Party Founder: You’re thinking of Bad Religion.
Blog Reporter: And why exactly do you want to ban religion?
Third Party Founder: Religions have been destroying this country ever since it was founded, and before that...they were destroying the rest of the world already.
Blog Reporter: Yet, we are still standing.
Third Party Founder: Aren’t you supposed to be unbiased?
Blog Reporter: How would you go about banning all religions?
Third Party Founder: We will pass laws.
Blog Reporter: You’ll pass laws; the party, that is?
Third Party Founder: Yes.
Blog Reporter: You mean your candidates will do that.
Third Party Founder: What?
Blog Reporter: Parties don’t make legislative decisions on any level of government; be it federal, or local. All you can do is fund and promote candidates you believe will support your platform.
Third Party Founder: Well, yes, that’s...what I meant.
Blog Reporter: Of course. So, now that we know your platform, where are you in the process? Have you already registered as a party?
Third Party Founder: No, not as of yet.
Blog Reporter: How many signatures have you received?
Third Party Founder: Seven.
Blog Reporter: How many do you need?
Third Party Founder: Would you like to sign?
Blog Reporter: No, thank you. Which candidates are you backing in order to fulfill your goals?
Third Party Founder: Well, I’m a candidate.
Blog Reporter: For what?
Third Party Founder: I’m running for governor.
Blog Reporter: Of a whole state?
Third Party Founder: [clears throat]
Blog Reporter: Do you have any experience as a civil servant.
Third Party Founder: Well, no, but neither did Donald Trump.
Blog Reporter: And look how that turned out.
Third Party Founder: I really think you’re not meant to have a personal opinion.
Blog Reporter: I’m not a real journalist. As I understand it, I’m the only one who agreed to your requests for an interview. You’re clearly only interested in exposure, hoping to secure those thousands of more signatures you need to so much as register as a new political party.
Third Party Founder: The woman said I only need three hundred to represent my local area.
Blog Reporter: You won’t be able to run for office on a statewide ticket if that state does not recognize your party.
Third Party Founder: That’s why I’m trying to get the word out. Look, I may sound like a crazy person, but there are tons of atheists in the world, and we’re all tired of not having our voices heard.
Blog Reporter: You’re right; religion has been fading from American culture for years, but most nonbelievers aren’t going to back a candidate, or support a party in general, if your only platform is that you want to get rid of religion. Even if they’re radical enough to support the idea—and I make no judgments about whether it is or isn’t a good idea—they have other issues they’re more concerned with. For instance, what is your stance on firearm safety laws? What about the environment? Civil rights? Taxes? Government spending? Third party candidates don’t fail just because they’re not one of the big two. It’s also because they’re often built around a single issue, and no one can really tell who they are.
Third Party Founder: Well, you’ve given me a lot to think about.
Blog Reporter: You’re not crazy, but you are naïve if you think you’ll ever be able to move the needle. I understand that you want to make change, but I don’t think this is the way to do it. It’s just not practical. Don’t take it personally, really; few third parties have any real impact on social change. At the very least, there are too many of them for enough people to notice any one of them.
Third Party Founder: Yeah, that makes sense.
Blog Reporter: I’m not going to write or publish this story. My readers aren’t interested, and I know you think exposure will only help you, but the most it’ll do is make you the butt of a few jokes for the few website visitors who will actually bother.
Third Party Founder: This was a bad idea, wasn’t it?
Blog Reporter: Trying to start a new political party, or asking me to interview you?
Third Party Founder: Both.
Blog Reporter: I wouldn’t say that. You’ve made a new friend.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Microstory 1301: Transportation Inspector

Head Transportation Inspector: Hi, my name is Head Transportation Inspector, but you can just call me Head Inspector. Oh, firm handshake. We’re off to a good start.
High School Graduate: Yes, my uncle taught me how to shake a hand when I was a kid; never let me do it wrong.
Head Inspector: Is your uncle the one who raised you?
HS Grad: He did, yes. He took me in after my mother died, and raised me all by himself. He’s actually my dad’s brother, but we can’t find him, so Uncle stepped up.
Head Inspector: He got you this interview too, right?
HS Grad: He recommended I apply, because his friend works here, but I don’t think he’s had any influence on the process.
Head Inspector: No, no. I’m not suggesting he’s given you an unfair advantage. Even if he did, use your network; that’s what it’s there for. Never apologize for knowing the right people.
HS Grad: Sir.
Head Inspector: According to your resume, you have a high school diploma. Now, there’s no judgment here—this job doesn’t require a college degree—but I would like to get to know a little bit more about your life. Were you unable to attend college?
HS Grad: That’s where it gets tricky, and honestly, sir, I’ve struggled with other interviews because of it. My friends tell me I should kind of bend the truth, but I’m an honest person, and when someone asks me a question, I want to answer it. I could have gone to college. My uncle had enough money, and I could have applied for loans. I can’t blame anyone else for not doing it but myself. I just didn’t feel the need to spend all that time and money. There are plenty of really good jobs that, like you said, don’t require it, and somebody’s gotta do ‘em, right? I guess I was just anxious to get into the workforce.
Head Inspector: That’s not a bad answer. Don’t ever apologize for being honest. In fact, it’s incredibly important in this line of business. People’s lives depend on you being clear about what’s wrong with the vehicles. You can’t leave anything out of a report.
HS Grad: I understand. And I’m very detail-oriented. I’m sure a lot of candidates say that, but it’s very true of me. I notice when a book is shelved wrong, or a tire needs just a tiny bit more air.
Head Inspector: So you’re good with cars?
HS Grad: I am. My uncle couldn’t change the oil to save his life, but the neighbor kid is a few years older than me, and taught me everything he knows. I wasn’t a natural; it took a lot of work for me to learn the ins and outs, but I did learn them.
Head Inspector: Have you considered just becoming a car mechanic? The pay is comparable, and it seems you already have the knowledge.
HS Grad: I did. My neighbor offered me a job at his place, but then I heard about this, and I find it so fascinating. It’s also, as you mentioned, so important. I want to be the one to make sure these vehicles are safe for the passengers. They rely on us to do that.
Head Inspector: Okay, okay. Where do you see yourself in five years?
HS Grad: So, I wanna be honest again, My ultimate goal is to become an airplane inspector. That requires a little more training, so I was hoping to gain experience here.
Head Inspector: You look worried.
HS Grad: I’m worried you don’t like that answer.
Head Inspector: Eh, there’s this widely held belief that employers only want to hire people who plan on working for them until the day they die eighty years later. That’s not practical, and I want you to have ambitions. I want you to achieve your goals, and I would be happy to help you realize them.
HS Grad: Oh, good. So I got the job? [smiles]
Head Inspector: [laughs] You haven’t taken yourself out of the running yet; let’s leave it at that.
HS Grad: I understand.
Head Inspector: All right, let’s talk about your work history.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: December 3, 2271

Mateo Matic: Oh my God, it’s frickin’ freezing out here.
Leona Matic: Where are we?
Nerakali Preston: This is Peter Island. We’re about three hundred and fifty kilometers from mainland Antarctica, and a hundred and sixty from the prime location to see a partial solar eclipse.
Arcadia Preston: Why do we want to be here for that? It’s a partial eclipse; that doesn’t sound very impressive.
Nerakali: It’s not that big of a deal on its own—though, it is happening pretty close to midnight central, which is a little interesting. The reason we’re here is because this is the site of a hundemarke murder. In the next few minutes, after the eclipse begins, someone is going to be killed here, and someone is going to be doing the killing. It’s up to us to find exactly where that is, who that is, and get the hundemarke from them.
Mateo: We can’t just take it. If we try, a magical force field will throw us against a wall, and knock us out.
Leona: How do you know that? You act like you’ve tried before.
Mateo: No, I just...I must have heard it.
Nerakali: Well, you’re right. We can’t take it until it’s been used. We’ll have to let the murder play out.
Arcadia: That’s not entirely accurate. We can’t interfere as long as the hundemarke is active. While it’s operating, it’s maintaining a moment of fixed time, which cannot be altered. It doesn’t matter whether you kill someone during that moment, or not; it still can’t be changed.
Leona: How will we know when the user deactivates it?
Mateo: Is there a time limit, or a power threshold?
Arcadia: That I do not know, but it’s actually likely. I’ve never heard of a hundemarke event lasting more than a few minutes. What would the world look like if someone went back to prehistoric times, and just never turned it off? It would erase time travel.
Mateo: What would the world look like? Normal. You were born with the knowledge of nonlinear time, but most people have no idea that it’s real. They go about their days, thinking everything that happens—good or bad—is just the way it has to be from now on. If you used the hundemarke to erase time travel, the world would just look like that, but for everybody.
Arcadia: Are you sure about that? Just because people don’t know about time travel, doesn’t mean they aren’t impacted by it. You saved thousands of lives when you killed Hitler, which went on to affect millions more. Few are aware of your involvement, but billions are aware that it happened. Without time travel, would humanity have survived up to today? I’m not convinced.
Mateo: Wull...
Nerakali: No, don’t try to deny it, Mateo. Everyone knows you killed Hitler, then went back in time in someone else’s body, and killed him again. Old news.
Leona: We don’t have much time now. How are we going to find the site of the murder. Could it be anywhere on this island?
Nerakali: The coordinates aren’t precise, but I know it will be somewhere on this side.
Mateo: Is there a feature on these time power cuffs that would allow us to scan for life signs? I imagine there aren’t any other people here.
Nerakali: No one has so much as stayed at the resort since the 22nd century, but unfortunately, no. There is no way to seek the murder. We’re going to have to split up to cover more ground. When the time comes, I’ll initiate burst mode.
Leona: Won’t we all just teleport to the same place each time? That’s what the cuffs do.
Nerakali: I’ve programmed them to be almost as imprecise as the coordinates themselves. We technically will be teleporting to the same places, but instead of being a few meters close to each other, it’ll be measured in acres.
Arcadia: It’s almost time.
Nerakali: See something, say something. You all know how to use the intercom system. Let us know where you are, and we’ll come to you.
Arcadia: Okay. Break!
Mateo: Guys, I see it.
Nerakali [through the speaker]: Where are you?
Mateo: The screen says subduing.unpraised.soreness. What the hell does that mean?
Nerakali: Exactly what you would think: a coordinate system that designates three random and unique word combinations to each nine square meter tile on a map of the whole globe.
Mateo: Makes sense.
Leona: Who’s that?
Arcadia: Whose job was it to bring the binoculars?
Mateo: Will this thing work?
Leona: Where the hell did you get that thing?
Mateo: What’s the big deal? It’s just a spyglass.
Leona: It’s the Jayde Spyglass. I used it to bring you back from nonexistence.
Mateo: Oh, cool. Well, as long as I can see what’s going on over there...
Nerakali: No, don’t!
Stan Humphrey: What the hell just happened? How did you get here?
Arcadia: Dammit, Mateo. You can’t just start running around with temporal objects. You have to ask an adult first.
Stan: I mean it! Who the hell are you people?
Nerakali: You don’t get to talk. Arcadia, temporarily remove your cuff, and try to disarm this man for me.
Arcadia: Oh, you want us to be unlinked, so if the attempt kills me, I’m the only one who gets hurt?
Stan: Hey! Stop!
Nerakali: Exactly. See? You get it. She gets it. Leona, could you remove his future victim’s gag, so he can talk?
Leona: What is this all over you?
Vasanta Gadhavi: You need to wash your hands. He retched on me. He thinks it’s poetic justice.
Stan: It is! Give me my gun back!
Arcadia: Do you have to yell everything you say?
Stan: I do! It’s a medical condition called go screw yourself!
Arcadia: Oh, I have that. Yelling is not a symptom, faker.
Nerakali: Arcadia, please. Now. I don’t understand what’s happening here. This is meant to be a hundemarked moment, but you were able to take his gun.
Leona: Maybe it hasn’t been activated yet.
Mateo: Or this is part of the fixed moment. Maybe we were destined to come here and attempt to stop him.
Arcadia: Mateo...that..actually isn’t the dumbest thing you’ve ever said.
Leona: We need more information. Who are you, and why does this man want you dead?
Vasanta: My name is Vasanta Gadhavi. I’m a member of the rescue division of the salmon battalion. Stan here is all butthurt about a time when Saga and her then fiancée, Andromeda threatened his worldview by marrying each other? I don’t really understand his position. He’s basically a nazi, though. He’s just spent a decade of his life hunting the people who wronged him. Andromeda’s already dead, and Saga’s impossible to track down, but he found me.
Stan: It was eight years; don’t give yourself so much credit.
Vasanta: You’re the one who deserves all the credit. You walked through the haze on Durus, and got yourself transported to Ansutah. Then you traveled through time, so you could become a Comronian refugee, and be rescued by Gatewood. Then you made your way back to Earth, where you hunted me down throughout the timeline. That’s impressive. If you were a good person, you could have done great things with your skills. I could have used someone like you on my side. We could’ve even been partners.
Stan: I would never. I would sooner throw up on you again.
Vasanta: Oh no, I wasn’t offering. Vasanta Gadhavi is a good man, and you tried to kill him.
Leona: Why are you talking in the third person?
Vasanta: Am I?
Nerakali: I’m still confused. How have we interfered? This makes no sense. Arcadia, see if you can take the hundemarke from him. It’s probably inside of his shirt.
Stan: What are you talking about? Stop touching me! What the hell is a hoondamarka?
Arcadia: He doesn’t have it. How did you find out about this moment? We’re in the middle of nowhere, quite literally. People can get away with murder these days in a location this remote.
Nerakali: It was pinged. I don’t know what was meant to happen here, but it is a hundemarke moment. It has to be.
Vasanta: Oh, it is. You just frisked the wrong person.
Stan: Oh, shit! No, please! I’m sor—
Vasanta: Uh-uh-uh! Back up. If I shoot any one of you, the other two die. I only came here to kill him, and it’s done.
Arcadia: If you shoot me, you’ll die. My sister won’t stand for that.
Vasanta: I’m not worried. Mostly because I’m not going to shoot you. I would never. I was asked to get you to Mateo’s memorial services, and this is how I do that. You’re coming with me, Salvy.
Arcadia: What did you just call me?
Nerakali: Who are you?
Vasanta: I think you know. Goodbye!
Nerakali: Wait! Stop! [...] Oh my God.
Mateo: Where did they go? Can we track them?
Nerakali: Not a chance. He’s too smart for that. He won’t take her anywhere I would think to look.
Leona: It’s not a he, though, is it? That name, Salvy. What does it mean?
Nerakali: It’s short for Salvador, as in Salvado Dalí? Arcadia was the only one of us up in the Gallery dimension who legit loved art. Dalí was her favorite artist, and that makes sense, because he was a surrealist with a thing for clocks. Her whole thing is manipulating reality.
Leona: So, your mother always called her Salvy.
Mateo: I’m confused.
Leona: It’s an illusion. That wasn’t Vasanta Gadhavi. It was Savannah Preston in disguise.
Mateo: How’s that possible?
Leona: It’s like how Vito Bulgari can make things invisible, but instead of making it look like something isn’t there, she can make it look like someone else’s face is where her face actually is. The precision of such an endeavor, though; I can’t imagine how much concentration that requires. You didn’t know she had that ability?
Nerakali: No one does, throughout all of spacetime, as far as I know, except one person. He would have to be using some kind of temporal object that was imbued with Alyssa McIver’s power.
Mateo: Why do you keep calling her a he? I thought we concluded it wasn’t really Vasanta.
Nerakali: No, that wasn’t Vasanta, but you were wrong, Leona. Our mother never called her Salvy. We’ve been wrong this whole time. Savannah Preston probably has nothing to do with it. That was Erlendr Preston, our father. He’s the one behind all the hundemarke killings.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Dardius: Meliora Rutherford (Part VII)

Savannah Preston: Hello. I figured it was high time we met. Hi, my name is—
Meliora Rutherford: I know who you are.
Savannah: Are you sure? Because...
Meliora: Yeah, I know. I can see the hat.
Savannah: You can?
Meliora: Listen—wait, what do you want me to call you?
Savannah: Savannah will be fine.
Meliora: Fine. Listen, Savannah, I’m not going to interfere with what you’re doing. You think you’ve seen a lot, and it gives you some sort of entitlement to manipulate the passage of time on a grand scale. But you’re a little baby compared to me, and you haven’t seen past your nursery. I have been all over the bulkverse, and I can tell you that all pointless. You’re going to lose, and you know that, because you’ve seen the future.
Savannah: No future is immutable.
Meliora: That’s not entirely true, and you’re going up against the Matics.
Savannah: So what? They’re not so amazing. Mateo is a dum-dum.
Meliora: He is, and you’re right, they’re not powerful. He’s a salmon, and she’s a spawn with limited abilities. But that’s not really what we’re talking about here. What makes them so special is all their friends. People want to help them, and they do. You can’t beat them, not because they’re better than you, but because no one will let you. My God, Savannah, your own daughters are helping them. Nerakali and Arcadia are powerful, so you should be scared.
Savannah: I’m not worried. When this all comes to its inevitable climax, I can count on Arcadia to betray her new friends, just like she always does, and I can count on Nerakali to break down and go along with it.
Meliora: It’s over, Madam Preston. You have hundemarked everyone on your list, so why are you putting this off?
Savannah: I was hoping to get your help.
Meliora: Why would I help you?
Savannah: All powerful being to all powerful being.
Meliora: ...
Savannah: All right, very powerful being, at the least.
Meliora: What do you want from me?
Savannah: How do you do that thing you do?
Meliora: Are you going to elaborate, or just—I do many things. I really am all powerful.
Savannah: How do you jump to other universes?
Meliora: Very carefully.
Savannah: I’m serious. I want you to teach me.
Meliora: You think you’re done with the work you need to do in this brane, so you’re ready to move on to another?
Savannah: Isn’t that what happened to you?
Meliora: Yes, but I went to those other worlds to help people. And before you start arguing that what you’re doing is a necessary evil, spare me the apology. You know what you’re doing is wrong. The love of your long life died, you flipped out, and corrupted your own life’s mission.
Savannah: You listen to me now, buckaroo billy. I may not be the holy angel saint that you are, but I have my reasons, and I’m not evil. Mercury’s family had to die so he could become the hero his city needs. Mateo had to die so he could return through an extraction mirror with temporal invincibility. My daughter had to die so she could have eight more chances to be a better person.
Meliora: Why didn’t Arcadia earn the same gift?
Savannah: She already became a better person when she stepped onto The Prototype.
Meliora: And your son? Why did he have to die?
Savannah: That wasn’t me.
Meliora: It wasn’t? I thought—
Savannah: That I was the architect of the hundemarke’s entire journey? No. Plenty of people have used it to serve their own agendas.

Meliora: Well, I didn’t know that.
Savannah: Maybe you’re not as all powerful as you thought.
Meliora: That’s how you talk to someone whose help you’re asking for?
Savannah: Will you help? Is there a world where that happens?
Meliora: Well, there is one, yes.
Savannah: You mean...?
Meliora: I can’t teach you how to jump universes. It’s not a skill; it’s just something I can do.
Savannah: I was to understand you spent decades in training for it.
Meliora: I did, but it was always in me. No one else could replicate it. I can help you escape to another world when the time comes, but that will be your home forever, unless someone helps you travel somewhere else.
Savannah: You would do this for me? You would go against your own mother?
Meliora: Leona Matic is not my mother.
Savannah: No, Nerakali blended her brain. She remembers the reality where she and your father got married.
Meliora: Horace Reaver isn’t my father. Lincoln Rutherford is, because he’s the one who raised me.
Savannah: Everyone knows the story. Rutherford took you in when your mother died, and your father went to prison. He barely had anything to do with your life.
Meliora: That’s the story I spun. I was very young and stupid back then. I came up with this story about choosing ones and powers that be, claiming they were one and the same. I was trying to create a reality where people believed I could exercise more control over the salmon than I really could, and the best way to do that was convince people I was removed from foster care, and indoctrinated into the system. My birth father died in prison, and Lincoln Rutherford raised me for years, until I felt confident enough to go back in time and alter the past. Everyone calls me Meliora Rutherford Delaney-Reaver, but my name is Meliora Rutherford.
Savannah: Does he know that, the Lincoln from this reality?
Meliora: He knows everything. Literally. He is a great man, and I try to honor him everyday with my actions. So I’ll help you, but only to stop the dream team from killing you. If that future comes to pass, they will never recover from what they did to you.
Savannah: Mateo and Leona have killed before.
Meliora: I’m not talking about them. Your daughters will regret what happened, but since they used the hundemarke, they won’t be able to go back and change it. We all know what happens when a Preston spirals.
Savannah: We don’t know if they use the hundemarke on me. That’s a big mystery.
Meliora: You die from by means of the hundemarke; that’s no mystery.
Savannah: it can’t be changed. It really is inevitable.
Meliora: No, there’s a loophole.
Savannah: ...?
Meliora: The other world. Nothing is more powerful than the bulkverse; not even the hundemarke. It has consequences, though. Time will never be the same if you do this. In fact, it will undo everything you have ever done with the hundemarke.
Savannah: What?
Meliora: There is a reality out there where the hundemarke does not exist. All we have to do is get you there, and then you can leave. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll die, but not you you. It will be a different version.
Savannah: Well, why do I have to go to another universe, if I can just live in this other timeline?
Meliora: You can’t stay there forever. It’s unstable. You have to leave, and let it collapse behind you.
Savannah: Why would you do this for me? I came here asking for help, and you were very adamantly against it. What’s changed in the five minutes since we’ve been talking.
Meliora: It has been longer than five minutes for me. After you told me that you weren’t responsible for your son’s death by means of the hundemarke, I took a little detour, and investigated the timeline to corroborate your story. That was about a month ago.
Savannah: I must have blinked.
Meliora: No, I froze you in time for three seconds while I disappeared, and returned.
Savannah: Why are you like this? How did a salmon and a spawn...spawn someone like you?
Meliora: I won the lottery. It’s as simple as that. The fact that my birth parents experienced nonlinear time before conceiving me made it so that I was genetically predisposed to being born with time powers. At that point, it was a crapshoot which ones I got. I could have ended up with anything, and it just so happened that I ended up with pretty much everything.
Savannah: So now that you know I was telling the truth, and maybe I’m not as bad of a person as you thought, you’ll help me survive my hundemarke death?
Meliora: I will, but I won’t do it for free.
Savannah: What’s your price?
Meliora: As we’ve established, I’m very powerful, but I don’t have a mind like yours. You can see the threads of time, and make subtle changes to arrive at the outcomes you want. I need that gift now. There are several people who are meant to attend Mateo’s memorial services here on Dardius. They were all torn away from that, for reasons I do not yet understand. There is someone else; someone like you, who is manipulating events from the shadows. They’ve been destroying Nexus replicas, and causing other problems. My month-long sabbatical allowed me to rule you out as a suspect. I’ve also ruled out Mirage, Boyce, and Zeferino. I don’t have any reason to believe the powers that be themselves are involved, but I can’t rule them out yet. Either way, I need someone smart enough to combat their changes. I’m going to give you a list of people. I’m not going to tell you anything about them, but the list itself is dangerous. You could hurt a lot of people with it, so I have to be able to trust you. With your skills, it’s a simple task. Get these people to Dardius within the next hour, and I will help you. Miss even one of them, and our deal is off. Cause harm to any one of them, and not only is our deal off, but I will kill you myself. Like I said, your hundemarke crusade has been completed. This mission doesn’t interfere with that, but you can help a lot of people feel a lot better about themselves by helping them go through this catharsis. Mateo is important to people, throughout all of time and space, and they want to be there for him. Do you think you can help?
Savannah: I can make no promises. I would have to see the list first. Just a glance, to make sure there aren’t any conflicts of interest. You can erase my memories if I choose to decline because of something I see there.
Meliora: I agree to your terms. Here it is.
Savannah: This one is going to be tough. I know a lot about his timeline, and he would not be cooperative in later years; I can tell you that much.
Meliora: When would you suggest we take him?
Savannah: Uhh...2027.
Meliora: He didn’t even have his brain blended back then.
Savannah: I can arrange for it to happen early, if I have your permission. You said I’m not allowed to hurt these people, which I have no problem with, but this is a bit of a gray area. I don’t know who Pribadium Delgado is, but I think I can get everyone else with just a few historical nudges. This guy is more complicated, though, and brain blending isn’t exactly pleasant. He has a lot of really bad memories, so it’s going to be particularly bad for him.
Meliora: Do what you have to do, but he’s really busy in 2027, so make sure he gets back before anyone there misses him.
Savannah: They won’t even know he’s gone, until he...tells them about it.
Meliora: Okay, go ahead. You have fifty-seven minutes now.
Savannah: I only need one.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Microstory 1300: Nick Fisherman by Tavis Highfill

Tavis Highfill: Thank you for coming in. I know it’s easy for us to meet up with each other, since we share the same body, but it’s not often that we interact so directly.
Nick Fisherman: Thank you for having me.
Tavis: Now, you’re working on a new project, correct?
Nick: Yes. It’s a series called Interview Transcripts. I’ll be posting one each weekday, all the way through June, and then some.
Tavis: Tell me a little bit about that.
Nick: June?
Tavis: The interview transcripts. Are these real transcripts from real interviews between real people?
Nick: Absolutely not. I could not, and would not, betray someone’s privacy like that.
Tavis: So, where are they coming from?
Nick: My mindbrain.
Tavis: What the hell is a mindbrain?
Nick: It’s the hypothetical source of an original thought.
Tavis: I see. That sounds stupid.
Nick: Well, you came up with it, so...
Tavis: Are these going to be job interviews, or celebrity interviews, or what?
Nick: Yes, and yes, plus a lot of other things. I broke them down into eleven categories: employment, celebrity, journalistic, psychology, survey, police, court, college, clearance, suitability, library reference; in that order. There will be fourteen job interviews, but only four library reference interviews.
Tavis: What the hell is a library reference interview?
Nick: I don’t remember.
Tavis: ...
Nick: I’ll figure it out.
Tavis: Is this a fixed format, or can you adjust?
Nick: I can adjust, if necessary; for instance, if I can’t figure out how to write an intriguing enough suitability interview—let alone five of them.
Tavis: Are these going to be very good?
Nick: Probably not. But that’s not the point of my website. These are all experimental. Anyone can write seven books about a boy wizard, or three vampire fanfics. I’m not at all saying I’m the best writer in the world, but I do take risks, and I don’t worry about whether it ends up being good or not, because the experience alone makes it worthwhile.
Tavis: Is there anything else you would like your audience to know?
Nick: Ha! What audience!
Tavis: You know what I mean.
Nick: Yes. [Leans in real close] King Dumpster’s senate acquittal doesn’t mean he’s fit to maintain his seat. Vote him out in November. Thank you, and enjoy the series.

EDIT: These aren’t necessarily going to be entire interview transcripts. Some can be hella long, and ain’t nobody got time for that. If it looks like I ended the story without a conclusion, I guess we call that an interview excerpt? You’ll be okay.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Microstory 1299: The Soldiers and the Ceasefire

If you’ve never heard of the Christmas Ceasefire, I’ll bring you up to speed. Starting on Christmas Eve in 1914, hostilities between British and German soldiers during the Great War (what you may know as World War I) halted temporarily. Opposing forces not only allowed each other to bury dead and repair trenches, but even came together to observe the holiday. They sang songs and played games in the area between their two sides—generally known as no-man’s land. I’ve heard this story told a million times, and in case you’re wondering, it’s not a fable. It really happened, and it happened as it’s been told. According to sources, I’ve never heard any embellishments or alterations, probably because the original story seems so beautiful on its own that it doesn’t need to be changed to teach the lesson. But what exactly is the lesson? Well, if everyone who has ever told it is to be believed, the magical Christmas truce is meant to teach us that we’re all human. We all have red blood, and we want the same things, and we don’t have to fight each other to get them. Those things are true, more or less—though I would contend that I don’t give a crap what species you are, or what color your blood is; I’m not going to hate you for who you are anyway. The problem is that the Christmas Ceasefire story is an absolutely dreadful means of teaching this lesson. Why? Well, because the British and Germans were killing each other on and before the 23rd, and they continued to kill each other well after the 26th. The war raged on, and did not end until November of 1918. It was also not exactly the last war ever.

There’s this Latin phrase people like to say: si vis pacem, para bellum. It translates to if you want peace, prepare for war. People hear phrases like this, and they’re so short and concise that they don’t really question whether they’re true or not. It’s another example of an aphoroid, which I mentioned in the introduction to this series. In this case, people believe the phrase to be true only because history is littered with war. That’s all we seem to know, but guess what? When I was three, I didn’t know that two plus two was four. I had to learn it later. I recognize that sounds reductive, but I feel the analogy stands. We can learn to live in a world without war. We can achieve peace without it, and we can maintain that peace without the threat of it. The world has been changing ever since it coalesced, and I see no reason for it to stagnate just because we’re here. So I don’t really have a revised version of the Christmas Ceasefire story, because I don’t believe the problem lies in the story itself, but what people have taken from it. It’s great that the soldiers took a break from killing each other for a couple days, and it’s great that it wasn’t an isolated incident. What’s terrible is that these nations felt the need to fight in the first place. Ceasefires should be rare, because war should be rare, if not completely a thing of the past. The human race was built on a foundation of violence and hate, but the thing about foundations is that they are not immutable. All we have to do is tear it all down...and build a better foundation in its place.