Monday, January 18, 2021

Microstory 1541: Dreaming of Days

When I was in ________ grade, our ________ asked us to start ________ a dream journal. It was a simple enough ________. Some ________ had more trouble with it than others, because some ________ just don’t remember their ________ as well. I’ve never been one of those people. I remember my dreams vividly, though I wouldn’t call that a gift. They aren’t frightening most of the ________, but they are boring. It was during the other students’ ________ that I realized everyone else dreamed of ________ things, like a world in negative colors, or having ________ for feet, and ________ for hands. I just dream about ________; about regular daily life. I wake ________, drink some ________, go to work at a boring ________, come home, eat alone, and go back to ________. Or sometimes I come ________ to a family, or a ________, or a bird. It’s never the same ________, but it’s never exciting either. I’m not myself in my dreams, but ________ else, and I don’t even think the same someone else, because I keep taking ________ routes to different jobs. Fortunately, I wasn’t the first to do my ________, so this gave me enough time to fib. I made up ________ that were more fantastical and interesting, because no one wanted to hear the true ________ if they were going to be that sad and ________. After that, I moved on with my life, but I would continue this ________ of making up my dreams, instead of relating the real ones to ________. It’s not like the subject came up a lot, of course, but people did ________ ask me about them, and I got used to the lying. I got so ________ at it that when it came to figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, being a ________ writer made the most sense. Things were going ________, I wasn’t the most famous ________ in the ________, but I was making a ________ living sending short stories to various ________ magazines. I kind of made it my thing to claim that my work was inspired by my dreams. I don’t think there’s any legal issue with that. I hope not, at least. One ________, I even slipped in one of my real ________, just to see how it would be ________. It didn’t get great ________, but they actually weren’t that bad. There were just fewer of them this time, because fewer ________ were ________ in providing their ________. It was only an ex____, so that’s fine.

Anyway, my critics and ________ aren’t the only people who get a hold of this story. A ________ contacts me, demanding to know how long I’ve been ________ on him. I tell him I’m doing no such thing, that I don’t know who he is, but he’s not ________ it. He starts ________ my latest story, which...whatever, anyone can do that, but then he adds details that I never released to the public, because they’re even more ________ within the boring. He mentions the ________ of his briefcase, and the look of the novelty clock in the ________. This ________ was somehow in my dream, and I have to find out how the hell he did it. So against my better ________, I agree to meet him at his apartment two ________ over. It’s not just familiar, it’s exactly the same ________ I saw in my dream. He takes me back down____, and down the ________, and all the way to where he ________. I’ve seen it all before, this is from my dream. We continue on our ________ through town, trying to work out what’s going on together. I start to realize everything feels ________. All of my dreams, though no two are the same; they all apparently take ________ in this same town. I think at any ________ I will wake up, and this will also turn out to be a dream, but I never do. I go back ________ to consult my ________ journal, and I start mapping out the ________. Then I return to this town to meet other ________ whose lives I’ve borne witness to. They all exist, they’re all ________. Then we go deeper, and check the ________. I’m not just watching other people’s ________, but events that would not happen to them for another ________ days. I can see the ________, but only in this one town, and that’s what makes it the least impressive power I’ve ever heard of, because the more time I ________ here—as fascinating as the ________ itself is to investigate—the more bored I become.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Wednesday, July 23, 2138

Leona started shaking Mateo, but he did not stir. He wasn’t dead, though, that much was for sure. Nerakali evidently sensed that something had happened, and teleported in to investigate. “What was he doing just before he fell unconscious?”
“We were just standing here, talking,” Jeremy explained. “It looked like his neck hurt.”
“Yeah,” Angela corroborated. “Those alien bugs stuck something in the back of his neck to stop him from jumping to the future. They got it out in the other universe, but who knows what kind of lingering effect it might have on him?”
“Nerakali,” Leona began. “You can tell when someone has a consciousness, right? I mean, if their mind was transferred to another body, and there was just nothing there, you would know.”
“I would. It’s necessary for my brain blending power to work.” She knelt down and placed her hands on either side of his head. She stopped, and pulled back, not frightened or surprised, just curious.
“What is it?”
Nerakali placed her hands back on Mateo’s head to get another reading. “It’s...very similar to how people feel when they’re asleep. Not just asleep, but dreaming. You’re not always dreaming when you’re asleep, but he definitely is, and...”
“And what!” Leona was growing impatient and nervous. Being asleep didn’t sound so bad, but it was troubling that they couldn’t wake him up.
“Oh, I remember. He’s lucid. Lucid dreaming. It reads a little bit differently, and I don’t blend people who aren’t awake, so I had to remind myself what it felt like. Yeah, so he’s fine.”
“Why won’t he wake up?” Obvious question, Leona figured.
“I have no idea,” Nerakali answered apologetically. “But he is neither dead, nor dying. Nor is he in a coma, or some kind of fugue state. He’s just...dreamin’. I hope it’s a good one. Perhaps the jump to 2139 will wake him up. Until then, I can stay and monitor him if it’ll make you feel better.”
“It would,” Leona said. She was sick of shit happening to her and her family.
Mateo could feel himself coming together, like a billion beams of light converging on a single point, and building upon one another to form a solid object. He found himself standing-floating in a technicolor void, like something out of a Dr. Strange movie. The lights spread out from him, and wrapped themselves around his body, and danced in the distance. He was alone for an eternal second, and then more figures came into view. Dozens of people were float-standing around him, enjoying their own personal color show, until the beams let them go. They all drifted in one direction, but it wasn’t down, because down didn’t exist in this crazy world-between-worlds. They smiled and waved at each other, like they were all arriving at a family reunion. It was then that Mateo noticed one man was separated from the others, shrouded in a haze. He was crouched, and probably would have been up in a corner if corners existed here.
The reunion continued without this mysterious other man. They were doing their best to ignore him, but would every once in a while look over and scowl. It took them a surprisingly long time to notice Mateo, but once they did, they realized that he too did not belong. One of them came over and scrutinized his face. “Who are you?” He looked back to the crowd. “Who is this guy? He’s not part of the family.”
A woman came up, and Mateo realized he knew her. He just couldn’t remember her name. “It’s cool, Tiago. He’s...an exception.”
Mateo finally remembered. “Sandy Clausen.”
She smiled. “That’s right.”
“What is this place?” he asked. “This is your family?”
She smiled wider. “When we met, I told you that I come from a bloodline of dreamwalkers. Once in a generation, a child will be born with the ability to transmit thoughts to other universes.” She breathed in deeply, and gazed upon her domain. “A friend built us this place so we could all be together in the same moment. We’ll be here once, and then never again. We’re calling it The Last Dream.”
“How did I get here?” Mateo questioned.
“I’m not sure,” Sandy replied, unperturbed. “You were possessed by him once, but that can’t be it. He possessed a lot of people.” She gestured towards the lonely man.
“Wait, him? That’s the guy who possessed me, and had sex with someone using my body?”
“Well, we don’t know the details, but...yeah. He is...you don’t need to know his name. He’s just the...bad egg, I guess. To be honest, I’m surprised there is but one. Look at this crowd. Fifty-six of us, and only one black sheep.”
“There are only fifty-six people in your bloodline? The power disappears?”
We disappear,” she answered. “Bloodline ends. It’s fine. Most of us aren’t there to see it, and it’s not like this big battle, or anything. We just stop makin’ babies.”
Mateo nodded, and watched the other family members enjoying getting to know each other. “I won’t keep you.”
“I’m all right,” Sandy assured him sincerely. “I’ve actually met most of them. We’re all dreamwalkers, but they’re more into creating new worlds, and I like to travel to  the ones others created.”
He nodded, and waited a moment. “Have you ever heard of the Ochivari?”
“I didn’t technically fight in the Darning Wars, but my team and I worked against them in our own way.”
Mateo reached to the back of his neck, even though he was pretty sure he wasn’t in his body anymore anyway, and this was about as real as any dream. The patch was gone, as was the pain, but he still felt some connection to it. Perhaps he always would. “Two of them put this implant thing in my neck. It suppressed my time-jumping pattern. A surgeon got it out pretty quickly, but could that have something to do with how I’m here?”
Sandy thought about it. “Hm. I suppose they could have given you some of their blood, be it by accident, or on purpose. With your history of brane possession, it’s the start of an explanation at least.”
“If this has given me some kind of universe-hopping ability, I don’t want it.”
She laughed. “I doubt it’s that powerful. I mean, there’s not enough Ochivari blood in the bulkverse to give someone the power to travel on their own. It takes one of them to open a portal long enough for just two others to pass.”
He understood what she was talking about as much as his little baby brain could.
“That wasn’t very nice, Superintendent,” Sandy scolded.
“It’s fine,” Mateo said honestly. “That asshole can say whatever he wants about me. What other god lets you get away with calling him an asshole?”
“That’s an enlightened way of looking at it.”
“I’m quite used to other people being in control of my life.” He decided that he wanted to change the subject. “How long does the reunion last?”
“Forever.” She waited a good moment before shaking her head. “No, people will start fading away pretty soon. It lasts as long as we stay alive.”
“Wait, you’re all dying?”
“Yeah, I called it the Last Dream, remember? These are our collective dying moments. We wanted to be together once, but...no more than that. We led our own lives, across centuries, and throughout the bulkverse. Most bloodlines don’t even get this.”
She was right. They started disappearing little by little. Those remaining did not frown, but let tears roll down to their smiles. And then they too disappeared, along with all the rest, until Sandy was the only one left. Oh, and that other guy.
“I hope you find your way out of here,” she said. “If you’re not dying, I really don’t know.” She did kind of frown, and then she disappeared.
Only now did the possessor stand up. He looked around, and while Mateo could still not see a face, he was somehow exuding a deep sadness. Mateo approached cautiously, growing worried he would recognize the guy from somewhere else, and it would shake him to his core. Or maybe the darkness in his soul was hiding everything about him except for the sadness, and the form of his face didn’t really matter. Mateo took a calculated breath, and let some time pass. They just stared at each other for another eternal second. “I forgive you.” The man said nothing, and then he died.

Mateo woke up in a bed, having spent an unknown amount of time in the void. The lights didn’t just blink away. They faded over time, as if also dying, until he was left alone in the remote darkness. His return to the world was a welcome relief.
Leona was beside him. It was nice to know that whatever his body looked like while he was gone, that it didn’t worry her. She sensed his alertness. “You’re back. Oh my God, what happened?”
He told her the story.
“But you’re okay?”
“I’m all right. It was hard, watching all those people die, but I’m fine. Let’s not tell anyone else about this. It was kind of a dark and personal experience. I’m not traumatized, but I need to carry it with me, and I don’t want help.”
“They’ll understand,” Leona agreed.
“These Ochivari,” Mateo began. “They’re going to become a problem in the future.”
“Angela said that our universe was safe, that we stop negatively impacting our environment, and they choose to leave us alone.”
“Yeah, but...”
“But what?”
“When I was in the void, I had a sort of special connection to the Superintendent. I couldn’t read his thoughts, or hear his narration, but I did kind of get a sense of the oncoming story. I can still kind of feel him. We have a lot of work to do in our universe, that much was clear, but...there was something else.”
“Something, like what?”
Mateo was trying to recall the feeling that the Superintendent was likely attempting to hide from him. “The Ochivari might not come back to destroy our universe, but I think we’re gonna fight in the war anyway. It won’t be tomorrow, but that train that keeps showing up and recruiting people? One day, I think we’re gonna get on that train. I think it’s just not our time yet. They conscript fighters, and we’re not that now, but we might become that over time. Hell, the Superintendent may even be preparing us for it.”
Leona nodded solemnly. “Then we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
Little did they know how right she was about that bridge.
“What was that you said?”
Don’t worry about it.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Exemption Act: The Ends Justify the Means (Part III)

Carbrey spent about a month studying this universe’s technology, so he would understand how it worked before he even thought about engineering something real. He picked it up pretty quickly seeing as the tech wasn’t too dissimilar to what he was used to, but he said he would rather be safe than sorry. The laws of physics, he claimed, were exactly the same, so that was nice. The facility they were staying in was mostly a gigantic underground hangar, with a few other rooms attached to it. They each had their own place to sleep, but it was nothing fancy. This place was obviously not designed for boarding. Freya wondered what they once kept in here, and why it was abandoned. While they were relatively close to the nearest population center in Kansas City, Khuweka assured them that no regular human would show up. A few temporal manipulators were aware of it, but none had much reason to use it in this particular time period. There appeared to be at least one, though. They were eating lunch together in the middle of the hangar when a ceiling suddenly appeared above their heads, starting from a single point, and then extending outwards. Of course, there already was a ceiling, but it was many stories above them. This one was only a few stories up, and while that was more than enough room to clear their heads, the force of its abrupt arrival knocked them all to the floor.
“What the hell just happened?” Limerick asked as he was sitting up and massaging his head.
“I don’t know,” Khuweka said honestly. She had been thrown down as well, but Maramon were physically superior to humans, so she wasn’t hurt at all.
Andraste, on the other hand, was very hurt. Blood was seeping out of the back of her head, and spreading out on the floor. Her eyes were closed, and she wasn’t moving. When Landis saw this, he started crawling towards her. His wing appeared to be hurt as well, perhaps broken, but he knew that Andraste was priority. He took a deep breath, and exhaled over Andraste’s body. “Injuries heal faster than terminal diseases,” he explained, “but it will still be a few minutes.”
“What if she’s dead already?” Zektene asked. “I don’t mean to be negative, but can you cure death?”
“Death is a process,” Landis answered. “It doesn’t happen in one moment. I can’t go digging up graves, but if she died, it was quite recent, so it should be fine. She will not have even experienced permanent brain damage, which is the one thing I cannot repair.”
“Khuweka,” Carbrey began, “what is that thing?”
“I think it’s a ship,” Limerick assumed right.
“Zek,” Khuweka said, “could you take Mister Genovese to investigate? Jump back here at the first sign of trouble.”
“Okay,” Zek replied. She took Carbrey by the hand, and teleported away.
A minute later, Andraste sat up, and checked the back of her head, not out of pain, but because it was still wet with her blood. “What happened?”
They told her.
“Do you feel okay?” Freya asked.
“I feel great,” she answered. She started opening and closing her hands. “I think my arthritis is gone.”
“Yes,” Landis said. “I’m a holistic healer. I couldn’t cure only one disease or injury if I wanted. It’s all or nothing.”
“We should all get treated,” Limerick suggested excitedly. “I know my liver could use a little TLC. You guys know what that acronym means?”
“Yes,” they replied in unison.
Five minutes later, Zek and Carbrey reappeared before them. “It’s an interplanetary warship called The Sharice Davids.”
They all looked to Freya. “I’ve never heard of it. Sorry.”
“Is there anyone in it?” Khuweka asked.
“Totally empty,” Zek said.
“Based on what little of the system I saw,” Carbrey started to say, “an emergency escape maneuver recently completed its sequence. It was traveling all throughout time and space, spending only seconds at any one point, evidently so no one would have time to board it. It had to stop eventually, though. This last jump depleted it of all its power, except for what little was able to eke out in order for me to get this information, but then it died completely.”
Limerick was staring up at the bottom of the vessel admiringly. “We should keep it.”
“It isn’t ours,” Khuweka argued.
“Why did you choose this hangar?”
“Because no one else was using it.”
“No one else is using this ship either.”
“You don’t know when they’ll be coming back,” she contended. She turned to face Freya. “It is your job on this team to know these things, or find out. Please make some inquiries for us. Meanwhile, Carbrey, power up some of the internal systems, just to gather more information. We’ll only refuel if we all decide we’re allowed to.”
“How do I...?” Freya began to ask, but thought better of it. She was right, this was her job. She had to figure this out herself, or she should just quit. Out of everyone here, she was the most dedicated to the cause. Not even Zek totally wanted to be here. She mostly joined the mission in the first place because she didn’t want Freya to be alone. “I’ll take care of it.”
“I’ll go with you,” Zek offered for the upteenth time.
“Good, because I need a ride to Giza.”
They teleported to the benbenet of the Great Pyramid of Giza, which was invisible to all who did not know it was still there. A man was standing before them. “Stargazer,” Freya began, “you once told me that you owed me a favor, even though I had done nothing for you.”
“Not you, per se,” Stargazer corrected. “I consider alternates to be equals. Another version of Saga helped, and I honor that.”
“But if you do me a favor, am I not taking it from her?”
“You are not. What can I help you with?”
“We need to find someone familiar with advanced temporal technology, specifically in regards to a spaceship,” Zek said.
“This is my friend, Zektene Cormanu,” Freya explained. Stargazer was polite and accommodating, but wary of strangers. “She’s cool.”
He nodded with his eyes closed, then turned to Zek. “What time period?”
“This one, I think,” Zek answered. “It’s called The Sharice Davids.”
Stargazer was taken aback. “That should not be here in this moment. You must take it away. It is too dangerous. The future depends on no one else ever finding out it survived. I didn’t even know, and must now have my memories erased once you leave to protect it.”
“We’re sorry,” Freya said with a frown.
“No, it’s quite all right. It’s good that you came to me, since I know what to do with this information.”
“It’s only an interplanetary ship,” Zek pointed out. “Where could we possibly hide it?”
He shook his head. “It was designed to protect against external threats to the solar system, but it eventually became outdated, and time travelers later retrofitted it with interstellar capabilities. It was destroyed before reaching its first exoplanet, so if it was put back together, it means some very powerful people came back to reclaim it for themselves. You cannot let that happen, so you cannot trust anyone.”
Freya looked for answers in the layer of sand on the floor. “There might be a way to get rid of it.”
“Tell me nothing,” Stargazer warned before she could continue. “I’m happy to erase my memories, but the less I ever knew, the safer the information will be.”
“Understood,” Zek said. “But just to be clear, there is no one in this timeline who deserves this? Does it not belong to someone else?”
“It does,” Stargazer confirmed, “but it is best that they also believe it was destroyed. The knowledge should not go further than you two.”
They winced.
“You’re not the only two, are you?”
Freya straightened up, and put on her poker face. “I will tell you nothing. No comment.”
He smiled. “Good. Carry on.”
They returned to the hangar, but no one was there. A hatch was open on the bottom of the Sharice, suggesting that everyone made their way into it while they were gone. Zek transported Freya up to the bridge, and then began sweeping the corridors using a series of rapid jumps. A minute later, she returned to ferry Freya to the group. They were in an auxiliary control room, which Carbrey said was where the emergency temporal displacement drive was housed. Based on its remoteness and lack of signage, he guessed that very few people were made aware that this TDD existed. Freya and Zek relayed what they had learned from Stargazer, and it seemed to mesh well with what Carbrey was able to learn from the computers.
“So, not only can we take it, but we actually should?” Limerick was happy to hear this.
“I’m not sure that’s true,” Khuweka disagreed. “Stargazer wants us to get this thing out of the timeline, and the safest way to do that is by sending it to some other universe. That’s not something we can do, and even if we could, we need a ship to get to Worlon first, and this can’t do that if it’s supposed to remain a secret.”
“Aren’t we going to Worlon before anyone else arrives?” Andraste reminded her. “We should be able to keep it secret until the mission is over. Perhaps this is fate. It certainly came at the opportune time. Mr. Genovese was just about to start building us a new one, and now he doesn’t have to.”
“It’s not that simple,” Carbrey said, pulling himself away from the screen. “I was working on a minimalist design. It would incorporate the reframe engine, but it was otherwise only large enough to accommodate the seven of us. This thing is far more than we need, and I don’t think it has a reframe engine.”
“We don’t need it if we can travel through time,” Limerick noted.
Carbrey shook his head. “The TDD is gone. It was only ever meant to be activated once, and as it was sending the ship to this last location, it evidently self-destructed somewhere else in time. The logs called it a...” he squirted at the screen, and rediscovered what he read before, “Lucius last resort. Whatever that means.”
Something was distracting Freya from the conversation. “Landis, are you still hurt? Can’t you heal yourself.”
“I can’t,” Landis answered. “I cannot heal myself. After I got my foundation going, my security detail was composed of hundreds of people.”
“Anyway. I think we’re destined to use it.” Limerick was so sure of himself. “Build the reframe engine thing, put it in here, and let’s get on with it. I know it’s not easy, but you still have two years.”
“That doesn’t help us with the real problem,” Khuweka reminded him. “Once we destroy the Ochivari, someone would have to take the ship to the Triangulum galaxy, or something. I’m not sure anywhere is safe, not when considering time travelers.”
“I thought you said I could travel to other universes,” Limerick said.
“Yeah, you can, and other people can follow you through. You can’t create a shatter portal large enough for a spaceship, and even if you could, you can’t breathe in outer space. You would have to be outside the ship to make it happen. Look, the Sharice came back here for a reason. It believes this is the safest place for it. I say Carbrey builds us what he was going to all along, and we just leave it alone.”
“I can’t accept that,” Limerick fought. This is a warship, and we’re in a war. And who knows, maybe our mission will change enough about the future to stop these evil future people from even existing? I say the ends justify the means.”
“I agree with him,” Freya finally said. They looked at her, a little shocked, but not completely surprised. They knew she was all gung ho about killing the Ochivari, but she was also quite protective of her universe, and if keeping this ship around put it in danger, was that worth the risk? As they were arguing, she was working through that conundrum in her head, and ultimately decided that yes, it was. “We don’t know what we’re going to encounter out there, and this is our best shot at surviving. If we don’t succeed, we can use this in the war, and we’ll always keep it far enough away from whoever is trying to steal it. I don’t know how we’ll actually get the damn thing to another universe, but that’s not our problem at the moment. Let’s stop the Ochivari, then worry about that later. Hell, we might even find a solution on Worlon. We still don’t know how it is they were born with the ability to bulkverse travel. Perhaps it has something to do with their home planet. We can take whatever that is for ourselves.”
“I think it’s too dangerous,” Khuweka said, shaking her head slowly. “But I am nothing if not a fair leader. I will concede to whatever the group decides.”
They continued discussing, letting Andraste moderate the debate. In the end, they decided to use the Sharice Davids towards their own goals. At least if they always had it with them, they could control other people’s cognizance of it. They figured it was better than just leaving it here, and hoping that no one happened to show up.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Microstory 1540: First and Last Blood

I have never been to the ________ before. Or should I say that I’ve never been to any sort of medical ________ for any reason. I haven’t even ever needed to go to the ________ nurse for a tummy ________. I’m twenty-five years ________, and I’m only now starting to realize how ________ that is. It’s not something most ________ are aware of; how often they don’t have ________ problems. I should have kept it to myself, but my old college ________ is in town, telling me about her recent ________ surgery, and it came up. Now she’s ________ by me. She tells me she’s seen this movie, and that I have super____. I’m supposed to start walking through ________, and lifting ________ above my ________. I don’t know about all that, but if it’s true, I don’t suppose it could ________ to let her cut my ________ real quick—or try to, anyway. If I’ve just been lucky all my ________, then the worst that can happen is I need to wrap the wound up in a ________. But if she’s right, who knows what will become of my ________? Maybe I should be a ____hero. I can’t believe I’ve never thought to ________ this before. We leave the ________, and head to my ________, because we don’t want anyone seeing us do it. She grows more excited the ________ we get, and she can barely contain herself by the ________ we reach my door. I roll my ________, and take a kitchen ________ out of the ________. I hand it to ________, and before I can lay down some ________ rules, she slides the ________ across my ________. It ________. I don’t know what I ________ was going to ________, but not this. This hurts. This is what ________ feels like? ________ feel this all the time? I have to say that I’m not a fan. She seems even more ________ than me, and that’s saying a lot, because this is my first ________ ever. I tell her it’s okay, that we can ________ it up, but she’s watching the ________ flow out of my ________, and she can’t handle it. She desperately tries to cover it up with a paper ________, but it soaks through, so she grabs another, and another. Then she uses a ________ towel, but it’s no good either. She calls ________ services, but I don’t think they’re going to make it here in time. I don’t know how much blood the human ________ is meant to hold, because of course, that’s not something I’ve ever considered before, but this looks about that amount. The ________ is drenched in a matter of minutes, as is much of my living room ________. She apologizes, and tells me she was ________ about everything. I still don’t understand what’s happening. Is this why I’ve never been ________ until now? Am I actually more susceptible to injury then other ________, and some unseen force has simply been protecting me this ________ time? I’ve never just not been hurt before, but I’ve never gotten close. I never fell off my ________, or ran into a ________ ________. This must be why. Something out there has been guid____ me through life just so this very thing wouldn’t happen, and now I’ve gone and ________ it. The last drop of blood leaks out of the unstoppable cut, and the world turns black.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Microstory 1539: The Case for Skipping College

I did not like ________, so I’m not sure why I’m being asked to attend ________, let alone speak to my ________ class about some nonsense or ________. I wasn’t bullied, or ________, but I was always very ________. The subject ________ never mattered to me, and I barely ever tried. You can actually make pretty good ________ as a car ________. Some treat it as this really ____y job you have to get if you’re not ________, but that is not ________. First of all, you do ________ have to be educated; it’s just the kind you’re not going to get from ________ school. Sure, some ________ have special programs, but that takes up a lot of ________, and costs ________. It’s much easier to ________ by having a car—preferably a really old and beat up ________ that needs a lot of ________—and working on it on your ________. I could not convince my ________ to let me opt out of college, but I’m doing it ________, so they’ve pretty much disowned me. They’re only here ________ because they’re hoping ________ across this stage is somehow going to magically change my ________. It’s not. I’m not going to spend ________ years and thousands of ________on a waste of ________. It’s 20__, we don’t have to do this stuff anymore. Plenty of ________ don’t go to ________, and they lead very ________ lives. Not ________ can be the CEO of a multinational ________, and it’s foolish to dig yourself into a mountain of ________ just on the fraction of a ________ chance that it all comes ________ for you. I choose to be ____istic, and I won’t ________. Don’t worry, I’m not going to say any of this during my ________ speech. I just have to get it out so it doesn’t weigh on me. The ________ is that I don’t care about any of ________, or any of these ________, and nor do ________ care about ________. I was only asked to speak because I managed to ________ up the highest number of ________ service hours. I did it on my own, and didn’t tell my ________ in the hopes that she would have me recognized. I was just trying to explain why I never got into ________ or other after school ________, because I was too busy. I don’t know how to talk about ________, or the things that I ________. I was just trying to ________, and the way I see it, getting ________ for it publicly defeats a lot of the reason I do it. So, what do you ________? What should I tell these numbnuts that’s both what they want to ________, and what still lets me stay true to ________?

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Microstory 1538: Lost at Sea

I’m lost at ________, and I don’t know how I got ________. The last thing I ________, I was trying to wake ________, only able to catch ________ of a ceiling passing by. ________ must have been wheeling me down the ________ on a gurney. Before that, I was just ________ my own business at the ________ shop across the street from my ________ building. I don’t know if I was ________, or rescued, but whatever these people’s reasons, something seems to have gone ________. I saw fire on the ________, and dark shapes in the darkness. It was hard to tell where the ship ended, and the sky began, if it was a ________ I was seeing at all. I’m sure it was, but what do I ________? I’m dehydrated and starving, but at least I’m not ________, presumably because I slept pretty much all the ________ here. I look ________, and scan the horizon, hoping to catch ________ of land, or some other survivor, if only so we don’t have to ________ out here alone. Even if it’s one of my captors, it would be ________; they might be ________ to give me some answers. There is nothing, and no one. I mean, all I see is ________; not even one piece of debris. It all sank or ____ed away by the time the ________ came up. The ocean is so still, and so ________, I feel like I can see the curvature of ________. I lie ________ and watch the clouds go by ________, like ceiling tiles in a strange ________. I am acutely aware of the passage of ________. My ________ and hunger grow worse with each passing ________. An hour, another hour, two more. Several more after that, and then half a ________. The sun does not disappear. It does not even ________. It’s stuck in the ________ as much as I’m trapped on this ________. I think at any ________ that I should ________ up and discover this is nothing ________ than a ________, but that never happens. Perhaps a ____ulation? The ceiling ________ belonged to a virtual ________ company. Yeah, that must be the ________, right? I call out to the simulation ________, begging them to let me out. I don’t want to ________ anymore, or they’ve made their ________, or they’ve learned something about how people react to their ________. I don’t know, I’m just ________. Desperate for anything that ends this ________. My skin is ________ and peeling, and may even be bubbling. This all feels pretty ________ to me, and the virtual reality angle seems a little unlikely, even though being ________ abducted for no clear reason, and then ________ surviving a sinking ________, also seems unlikely. After another two ________ come and go, with no end to the sun’s harsh death rays, I start to ________ slipping off this ________, and letting the water fill my ________. I recall ________with similar premises. The hero always survives—or at least one of them does, if there’s ________ than one—and they move on with their ________. This is not a ________, and I am not a ________. I don’t die, though. The sun keeps ________ me, and I keep ________ here, and the ________ barely ever moves. After a few weeks of this, I realize that the reason I can’t ________ is because I already have. And I can’t ________ through the water either, because my ________ just won’t go that way. This is just my own ________ hell, and it will never end.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Microstory 1537: Grave Error

I’ve always loved going to ________, and in fact ________ to when I’m feeling ________ from work. They make me ________ calm because of how remote they are. Even the ones they ________ inside the ________ seem distant from ________ else, as if crossing through that ________ puts me in a different ________ altogether. I suppose I could just go ________ through nature, like the ________, or ________ ________, because it’s not like I ________ this fascination with ________. Then again, maybe I do, because I do like ________ the names on the tomb____, and especially the ________. I like looking for the ________ grave in the ________, and the most ________ life spans. I guess I can’t say that I ________ it; more like it’s a compulsion. I want to ________ who the youngest person is in ________, and who the ________ is. I saw one a few ________ back where the ________ date was the same as the ________ date. What ________ there? I mean, I ________ what happened ________. But how did the ________ react, and what became of ________ afterwards? It ________ have been heart____, I don’t know what I would have done if I were a ________ of that ________. The oldest ________ I’ve ever found up until ________ was a hundred and ________ years old. I can’t ________ that either, seeing all your ________ ones die as you go ________. I did a ________ research into her and her ________. All five of her ________ passed before her, and all but ________ were pretty old at the time. No one would have scoffed at their ages, but she ________ outlived them, and that must have been pretty ________. Now I’ve found someone who appears to be so much ________ than that, and I don’t know if I can ________ it. This guy’s marker reads ________ 1812 to ________ 1979. That is a hundred and sixty-seven ________. I mean, come on. The marker itself looks ________, so I’m thinking it has to be some kind of prank. I lift up on it, as ________ as that sounds, because I figure if it’s ________, it won’t be stuck in the ________ very well. The marker does move, but not because it hasn’t been ________ for long, but because it’s some kind of switch. The ________ where the grave ought to be ________ over like a trap ________, revealing a ________. A small group of ________ are sitting around a ________. They look up at me, unsurprised by my arrival. “Welcome,” one of them says. Now that you’ve found this ________, you must join us. Or ________.”

Monday, January 11, 2021

Microstory 1536: Talking Animals

This was probably the best ________ of my life, and that’s saying a ________, because I have had a lot of ________ great ________. My life is ________; I don’t let things get me ________, and I don’t suffer ________ who want to make me work too ________, or get ________. I was sitting on the ________ in my backyard when a little ________ came up to talk to ________. And I don’t mean that proverbially. He ________ started talking to me, as if we ________ the same language. It ________ English—in fact, I couldn’t tell ________ what it was—but it was absolutely a complex ________. I could make out separate words, and there were even a ________ cognates in there like ________, ________, and ________. Things seemed to be going ________. We were using ________ gestures to get our respective points ________, and picking up a few words here and ________, just based on ________ context. He appeared to be enjoying the ________. I was trying to hide how ________ I thought this was, for obvious reasons. I didn't know that ________ could talk, but I’ve always ____ed to * with ____s. I've been so ________ curious what they're ____ing about, how ________ they are, and most importantly, what they ________ of humans. I am no linguistic ________, but I did study it in ________, and this is a ________ opportunity. I try to work with ________, so we can have a better understanding of each ________, but I know I’m going to need some ________. I try to convey this to ________; that I’m going to need to contact a real ________ to help us, but he freaks ________. He starts ________ faster than he was before, and I stop being ________ to tell the separation between words or ideas. Then he ________ up to attack me, and I’m forced to ________ back. That’s why I’m here, doc. This isn’t just  any ol’ ________ that could be put down. You have to ________ him. He might be unique.