Skinwalkers, XX

Nathan found most of hardware upkeep monotonous and repetitive. Given his and Shin’s current location inside Carapace, however, his senses were acutely more strained. He stole a glance at his friend. Shin wore the same introspective expression he’d modeled at Check In.

Nathan withdrew a tray and bowed over it with his currentmeter. Under cover of verifying a key bus, he studied Shin more closely. His friend sighed as he worked at a pace that would shame a lamed elder. His brows drew together; his face drew together. A small storm cloud hung over Shin’s dreary, hunched form. Nathan set his personal anxieties about Carapace aside.

“So, what’s itching you?” He casually asked.

He was rewarded with the nearly silent *clink* *clink* of a circuit board against metal side mounts and the eternal hum of machines and fans. Shin exhaled loudly, then answered, “Nothin’, Nathaniel. Thanks for asking.”

They finished a rack. Five down, thousands to go, thought Nathan. He and Shin stood and stretched their arms and legs before squatting in front of Rack #6. Each man removed a tray and began inspecting it.

“I’m not buying that,” Nathan said, in between trays.

“Good,” Shin quipped, shaking a tray slightly toward him. “‘Cause you can’t even afford a capacitor on this.”

Nathan laughed. “Nice.” They worked in computer silence once more, before he tried again. “You know what I meant. You look like my Grams at a deathing.” He glanced over and caught the end of Shin’s smile, just before it sunk back to its habitual frown.

They stretched, then opened Rack #7. “I gotta leave,” Shin mumbled. Nathan almost didn’t hear him.

“What? Why?”

*Clink* Hmmmm *Clink*

“Are you running?” Nathan asked. Shin didn’t seem the sort to be in trouble, but one never knew these cycles. Even he, Nathan, had gotten tangled in some less than legal dealings recently.

Shin coughed out a bitter laugh. “Nah, N. I just ran out of charge.” They each withdrew another tray from the tower. “The place is getting deactivated tomorrow,” he explained from a pretend-close scrutiny of the circuitry in his hands.

“Oh,” Nathan said. “Sorry.” The housing in the city may not have been picturesque, but he knew eviction black-marked one’s record for years. They worked their way through racks 7 thru 10 without adventure. “What are you going to do?”

Shin shrugged and returned a tray to its rack. “Go back home, I guess.”

“Oh.”

“Probably get stuck in a shaft before payment.”

“Oh? The mines are that bad, huh?”

Shin didn’t answer; just smiled sadly. “I’ll send you a shiny rock before it happens,” he offered.

Nathan forced a laugh, attempting a lighthearted sound. “All right, Shin,” he said. “But if it’s not shiny, I demand an in-person replacement!”

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, XIX.
Read to Skinwalkers, XXI.

This Blogging Thing

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Guess what?!

We are super close to my one year anniversary as a blogger. I’d like to thank The Academy, the search engines, my husband -but, really, all you people with eyes and fingers who help me believe that my writing’s worthwhile.

A year seems hardly that much older, yet I feel more comfortable about the whole blogging thing than when I first started.

I’m sure you know the questions I had when first starting: What if no one reads what I write? What if no one likes me? What am I going to write about every day? Will a talent agent ask me to publish right away, or do I have to wait a few months? What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

So, yes, I have learned the answers to these questions. The short answer to all but the last is that people will read you if you read them, and no one on this ole internet thingie gets anywhere without a lot of work.

As part of being all experienced and whatnot, I decided to create a WordPress site solely on the topic of the book I hope to one day publish: I Didn’t Want to Be a Mother. This, right here, is a self-promoting blog post to get you to check it out sometime.

….I’d better go write some more entries over there.

Until then; thanks again, and keep reading!

“Every one of us is one Google search away from a list of instructions, that if you follow any of them, it will change your life. But how do you get out of your head and stop thinking about what you need to do and actually do it?

…If you’re stuck, that’s the problem. The problem is you’re in your head, you’re thinking. That is the universal problem; and it all starts with this knowledge of what to do and then you hesitate and you think about whether or not you feel like doing it.”

-Mel Robbins, The Secret to Self-Motivation (9:54)

Wilhelmina Winters, Forty-Eight

She walked the course she often trod alone,

Perceiving little more than faceless crowd.

A shadow trailed beyond her body’s own,

As silent as the roiling mass were loud.

 

“Wil,” it spoke, out from obscurity.

Its target jumped and yelped in real surprise.

“It’s me,” Hope said, unnecessarily.

As Wil saw, true, Hope’s smiling face and eyes.

 

“I know you have but little time,” Hope said,

She turned and walked along the hall with Wil,

Matching Wil in gait, balance, and tread,

Causing Wil to marvel at such skill.

 

They reached Wil’s locker ere she e’en knew it.

She spun the combination absently.

The presence of Hope flustered her a bit,

Although, Wil thought, she should feel diff’rently.

 

“I’ve had two thoughts about your case,” said Hope.

Wil glanced at her, up from the task at hand.

She tried to meet Hope’s gaze, while fingers groped

And dial turned; its tri-code numbers scanned.

 

“The first I recommend is just to wait,”

Hope said, “Although that may be hard to do.”

Wil’s face showed doubt and restlessness innate;

Her patience never lasted long, she knew.

 

“I find my parents tell me what I seek,

When given time enough to organize,”

Hope said. The locker opened with a creak,

And Wil withdrew her backpack, books, supplies.

 

“The second, if you’re sure you want to look,”

Continued quiet girl with piercing glance,

“Is think where you hide what you don’t want took:

Beneath a pillow, bed; or drawers, by chance?”

 

Wil nodded, then asked anxiously, “Oh, but-

How do I move, and not make so much sound?”

“Well,” Hope thought, “Just try to sneak somewhat,

And, use distracting noises all around.”

 

So speaking, shadow nodded once, then left,

Melting subtly as she had advised

Among the crowds. So, leaving Wil to theft

Or patient wait -whate’er she would devise.

 

Continued from Forty-Seven.
Keep reading to Forty-Nine.

A Little From Column A

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I’m fairly private about religion, political opinions, and social security numbers of family.

I keep the last item private for obvious reasons; the first two are more complicated. Mostly, I hate being categorized. My husband doesn’t get it.

“I love being put in categories,” he says. “I don’t understand why you don’t.”

I sigh. “Because I’m not ever put into good categories.”

My 18-40 white male breadwinner who works in the technical industry and has above-average intelligence looks back at me, confused.

From the limited mental capacity of over a decade of child-rearing, stay-at-home housekeeping, and intentional numbing; I attempt to talk expound.

Problem is, I have difficulty. Maybe it’s that limited mental capacity thing I admitted to just now. That, and I am nearly crippled at the idea of conversation. Challenges within conversation take out any other remaining limbs. Finish off with a general uncertainty and low self-esteem, and you’re lucky you caught the words I thought to type tonight.

I do not want to be categorized because of the limitations that puts on my character.

know that others’ opinions ought not to play into my self-esteem at all. I hear that I should just be me and everyone will love me for it. I think, sometimes, to try it out.

Then, telling the mother of an acquaintance that I think unborn babies preaching the gospel to spirits in heaven sounds wonky gets me labeled as anti-her religion. Asking a close friend to not disparage feminist viewpoints lands me in his radical/liberal/male-stabbing/unreasonable/lesbian camp. Suggesting that making one’s kids dress nicely for special events causes a sudden drop-off in the number of texts from the mother I suggested this to.

Where are all these people who will like me for who I am? Are they hiding in their own categories somewhere?

How can I expect to enjoy the sensation of being stuffed in a box when I’m left to sit uncomfortably, in the dark, and listen to the retreating steps of the one(s) who put me in there?

Picture Source: Pixabay

Strange Room, Strange Bed

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I don’t know what was up with the world this morning.

I was enjoying one of my favorite dreams: the one where I’m all alone on an island and my dishes and laundry disappear when dirty, and magically reappear all clean.

Instead of a blue-sky island dissolving to the usual wake-up call of pattering feet and yelling children, however, a far-off rooster’s crow drew me back. Hesitantly, I opened my eyes. A low, dark ceiling loomed above me, supporting a broken, swinging fan. Where did that come from? I wondered. I’d never owned a fan in my life, nevermind attaching one to my ceiling.

In my usual calm fashion, I sat up and looked around the room like a panicked rabbit. This isn’t my room. This isn’t my bed.

A shadowy object in the corner was the only other piece of furniture besides the strange bed beneath me. Gingerly, I slid off the dark covers and walked a barefoot tread across a dusty wood floor to investigate.

It was a vanity. I think. Given that ceiling fans were considered a luxury, I’d certainly never seen a vanity in person. The low desklike part, spindly stool, and oblong mirror fit some mental idea from my subconscious of its identity.

After such profound musings, I did the logical thing and sat before it. I glanced in the mirror, and inadvertently proved the stool to be more sound than it first appeared.

It fell to the floor as I rapidly fell off of it, causing echoing clatters of wood-on-wood in the tiny room. I warily approached the mirror again. It reflected the exact shock I felt, but the similarities ended there. Someone else’s disjointed, enlarged nose and blood-encrusted lips stared back at me from widened eyes -widened, bruise-circled eyes. Some other girl’s bumpy, hair-shorn head felt suddenly cold; then had the hand I raised caress it to be certain of its authenticity.

Just as I began to hope this new person was also prone to fainting, I heard the sound of carefree singing from somewhere beyond the wall I faced. Besides the off-key tune, I realized a regular, even tread of footsteps. Each noise seemed associated with the other and both drew nearer by the second.

Assuming nothing worse than a tone-deaf singer lay beneath the bed, I scurried over to it and quickly scampered into the clouds of dust and dirt it hid under its mattress. None too soon: a creaking sound and spreading triangle of light announced The Singer’s entry. Fortunately, he/she/it had stopped his/her/its identifying noise.

Right when I realized the obviousness of my hiding place, a weight pushed down on the bed and a large, green, ferocious, upside-down face leered directly in front of my view. Just before I released the loudest scream this side of Kentucky, the monster asked, “What are you doing under there?”

Skinwalkers, XIX

The corridor Nathan and Shin entered was light like the aftermeal air outside, but without ambient smog and fumes. Carefully mirroring his friend, Nathan took a deep inhale of pure air. Shin looked back at him, and they shared a smile.

“Now, that is tasty,” Shin commented. They proceeded down the enclosed hallway, breathing drawn-out intakes every few steps and grinning like addicts.

Soon they reached a terminating wall. There did not seem to be an access pad of any sort. “Hello?” Nathan called, glancing at edges and corners in case of surveillance. He saw none.

“That’s odd,” Shin said. He rubbed his chin, though Nathan could see that his facial hair had been burned within the last week.

Just then, the wall swung inwards in a sudden and violent manner. Nathan caught a shadowy, disapproving form before intentionally dropping his eyelids partway closed. He lowered his shoulders, hunching slightly, and leaned against the glowing wall. Shin did not notice. He stared at the humanoid apparition like a mental, fixated on his own surprise.

The shadow spoke. “Ware Tech, I hope.” Its androgynous tone gave nothing away of its feelings besides the usual contempt for laborers. Nathan heard a shift of heavy feet on tile as the person walked away. As he and Shin followed, it added, “You idiots never try opening the door.”

Nathan and Shin shuffled along. They knew better than to answer their guide. They valued employment more highly than personal honor.

Although the hulking human shape leading them took up most of the hallway, Nathan was able to see that their path ended in a polished wall just ahead. Accordingly, they stopped upon reaching it. “Jo, is that a plant?!” Shin exclaimed. Their guide, ignoring this further proof of idiocy, removed a comm and ran it behind the fern Shin had just noticed.

*Ding* sang a pleasant note, and the wall opened to reveal a lift. They entered, just behind their guide. The wall closed. They rode in semidark silence for a long, silent jiff. Another chime drew the lift door to the side, revealing a darker, colder hallway.

The Carapace representative took the lead again, though Nathan hardly saw the point. This corridor held no exits nor entries; it existed solely for leading laborers like him and his friend down its burrow-like length, to terminate in one possible place.

Sure enough, the unnamed employee led them to the inevitable end: a set of green doors. Nathan hadn’t seen real, industrial doors since his childhood. The ones before him glared from metal-grid windows set in green metal sockets. They resembled the shed doors of the only doctor’s office in the small community Nathan had grown up in. Having little population and little funding, the doctor had resourcefully run his entire business from that shed.

Without hesitating, their large guide activated the door with its comm. They all entered, and all stood for at least a moment in awe. Racks and desks and shelves and hooks held row after row of hardware. The entire room hummed and whirred to the stirring samba of a million cooling fans.

The overweight overseer gestured to a far cluster. “You’ll start there,” it said, then folded its arms expectantly.

“Oh. Of course,” Shin answered, when Nathan did not.

He and Nathan lifted their satchels more securely over their shoulders and proceeded to the suggested cluster. “This won’t be easy,” Shin mumbled.

“Nope.”

“Bet we can’t even listen to streams.”

“Probably not.”

Nathan and Shin reached the cases The Lump had more or less indicated. Sighing their usual preamble, they got to work.

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, XVIII.
Read to Skinwalkers, XX.