Writing Prompts

I’ve been doing a couple of writing prompts on reddit’s /r/writingprompts and I thought I’d go ahead and share them on this site–trying to give it a little content, you know. Without further ado, here they are. I’ll put the prompt first with a link to the post on reddit in case you want to read anyone else’s interpretation.

First, the short one, and the one that I like better of the two:

[Writing Prompt] You are a human that cannot die of anything. It is well after the end of the universe and after being asleep for X amount of light years you wake up.

Time and space were no different. The universe was flat and it did not repeat itself. Ever.

At least that’s what they had said, at least that’s what they had said.

I had been soaring through nothing for who knows how long, who knows how far. If there is nothing what is time? What is motion? What is space?

My eyes opened.

Had I been asleep? Was I ever awake before then?

A flicker off in the distance. Wait, there wasn’t distance for so long, for so far, how was there–

Light. Bright, piercing, as immovable as me, darkness, yet ever moving all the same.

I blinked again and the light was gone, but I closed my eyes with the knowledge that it would soon return, even if I still had no idea what soon meant.

END

Then, one that’s a bit longer. And, yes, my gut reaction was to shoot them down, too, but I didn’t want to repeat that story because there were already a few like it. Click the link if you’d like to give them a read:

[Writing Prompt] To combat humanities current problems, scientists send the less fortunate 4 billion of the planet at light speed so they arrive a few hundred years from now. Humanity has been waiting for their return and has prepared accordingly.

Arrival Day

The flags were raised and the music played. Oh, what a splendid sight to see. After years of toil, preparing the way for the future, here they came. And what a future they would have. The only worry was–well, no. There mustn’t be any worries.

Geordi–yes, my Geordi, unbelievable as it seems–was put in charge of planning the party. I swear to you, he fainted when he got the news. I was there, I saw it with my own two eyes. When I finally shook him awake, he jumped into action–ordering me here and there, making phone call after phone call, and generally losing all capability of sleep. That was 6 months before Arrival Day. Geordi hadn’t stopped moving since.

On Arrival Day itself, I was telling Marissa–yes the Marissa who thought she should have been planning the thing instead of Geordi–well, I was telling her…something, I don’t know. It’s not important anyway. I was talking to her and Geordi came rushing out of the kitchen–his paisley tuxedo disheveled from running all over the party for this reason or that–and ran right into us.

Marissa–of course, she’s Marissa, we’ve been over this–well, she gives him this look like she wanted to kill him–and again, she probably did, she wanted to plan the party. Thank God it was too late for killing him to get her that or she might have done it right then and there. But Geordi, you know, he was busy, so he quickly apologized to me then stormed off to do some other important party planner work without actually acknowledging Marissa.

Ugh.” Marissa scoffed, shaking her head in disgust and trying to get me to complain about Geordi–I could tell. “What an asshole, am I right?”

I just smiled and nodded. Remember this is my Geordi we’re talking about. She was not right. Not in the least. She was just being a spiteful sore loser and trying to pull me down to her level. I wasn’t going to do it.

“I swear, I could have planned such a better party. I mean, red carpet? How cliché. What are you gonna tell me next, he plans on throwing out a big welcome mat for them? I bet he would.”

I held my tongue at that, still silently nodding but taking deeper drinks, hoping to finish the thing and have an excuse to leave before I got drunk enough to speak my mind. I knew that Geordi did have a welcome mat of sorts planned and I thought it was a cute idea. Marissa probably hated it because she had come up with the same idea and never got a chance to use it.

Marissa went on complaining and my drink wasn’t going fast enough even though I was pouring it down my throat like a funnel. I was on the verge of snapping at her when Geordi’s amplified voice called our attention to the stage where he was preparing for the countdown.

“Ladies and gentleman,” he said, and I took a few steps away from Marissa so I wouldn’t have to talk to her as the ceremony went on. “For hundreds of years we’ve waited for this moment. Here it finally comes. I’m not one who’s much for words, so I’ll leave it at that. If you’ll all count down with me now.”

“Ten, nine,” the entire crowd counted with him, myself included, though probably not Marissa. I didn’t really care so I didn’t turn to see.

“Six, five…”

We all looked up at the sky as we counted. We could see the ship, a little dot out in the distance getting bigger as our future approached.

“There it is!” someone in the crowd called.

“Four, three…”

“Is it getting too big?” came another voice. “It’s–it’s too fast.”

“Two, one…”

“Nonsense. It’s meant to do that,” someone else said.

I looked up at Geordi on the stage. He had stopped counting and dropped his microphone, but he wasn’t staring at the sky, he was staring at Marissa and shaking his head, as if to imply that she had something to do with it. Marissa, for her part, grinned and shrugged despite the growing noise and flames plummeting from above.

“Maybe I couldn’t have planned a better party,” she said, though I’m not sure I could hear her more than I read her lips or put words in her mouth.

I looked over at Geordi one more time, and–

“Zero.”

The ship came in too fast. The party was explosive and exciting, but a disaster nonetheless.

END

That’s all for now, folks. Expect more in the future. Maybe I’ll go look at the prompts now. Until then.

Outland Name Change

As much as I love the title Outland, I should have looked at the market before I got set on it. With the popularity of the Outlander series, I think it’s time for a little name change.

Without further ado, Outland shall henceforth be known as The Asymptote’s Tail, book one of the four-part Infinite Limits series. I thought it was a bit hard to say at first, but it’s growing on me. You should see it growing on the site soon, too. And I’m working hard on giving it the opportunity to grow on you.

Stay tuned, readers. The books are on their way. I promise.

Lionheart Lives Forever

Here’s another story from around June of 2013. This one is about graffiti writers in the ’80s and was highly influenced by the documentary Style Wars which you should definitely watch if you haven’t seen it. Enjoy.

Lionheart lives forever.

by

Bryan Perkins

Lionheart

I’ll tell you this much: Lionheart is gonna live forever. And he knew it, too. He knew it when the gravel crunched under his feet, walkin through the train yard at midnight. He knew it with the rattle of a fresh can in his hand, and when he breathed in its first puffs of fumes. He knew it puttin the finishin touches on a burner, and celebratin at the playground after a successful bomb. I know he knew it, because I knew the same things when I was bombin. But, I think most of all, he knew it on this particular day, with the smell of iron and grease in his lungs, and the afterburn of whiskey and adrenaline mixin in his stomach, starin into the early mornin sunlight creepin over the railway tunnel, waitin for the clickclack, clickclack, squeal, clickclack, clickclack, squeal of the Monday mornin run.

A few days before that day—you know, this is where it all started, or the idea came about, or whatever—but a few days before that, me and Lionheart and Trap, we were all sketchin at the 149th Street writer’s bench. We used to always go down there, you know—it was a subway bench—and we used to always go down there to sketch and to show off and to just hang out back then. And it was always filled with writers no matter when you went and every piece of wall and ceiling and ground was covered in tags. It was beautiful.

So we were sittin there, sketchin as always, when a couple of kids I had never seen before came lurkin around the bench and gigglin to one another like a couple of toys. And, you know, I could see they were lookin at Lionheart’s sketches when they were doin it, so I stood up to them and I thrust out my chest, like this—which, lookin back, probably wasn’t impressive at the time, seein as I was younger and smaller than any other writer there—and I said to them, “You got somethin to say?”

And one of em says back, “Nah, but it don’t look like none of you do either.” or somethin like that. And then he giggled some more and shook hands with his toyfriend like he had said somethin worth sayin.

That’s when Lionheart, bein Lionheart—because he was always like that, you know, so cool and collected—that’s when he said, “You got a problem with my style?” and he didn’t even look up from his sketches when he said it, like those toys didn’t deserve any respect. Which they didn’t.

And you know what that toy said back? He said, “Problem is: I don’t see any style.”

And I couldn’t believe what I heard. I don’t think anybody could believe what they heard. Everything got quiet. I mean, no one coughed, no one breathed, they even stopped sketchin. I swear, though, I could hear the sound of Lionheart starin through his sketchbook.

And when the silence had gone on long enough, I took it upon myself to break it by sayin, “You better watch yer mouth, toy. You don’t know who yer talkin to.” I had been ready for a fight all week, you know—for personal reasons unrelated to this story, let’s just say it had to do with money troubles, the trouble bein my mom didn’t have any—but anyway, it looked like one—a fight that is—had finally come walkin up to the bench where it knew it would find me.

And that toy didn’t stop there. He said, “Shit. I know who I’m talkin to. Lionheart the has been. The probably never was, I should say. And from the looks of you, you must be his little toy poodle Daz.”

And I couldn’t take it anymore after that. I jumped at him swingin but Trap was quicker than me and he grabbed me by the arm to hold me back before I could land anything.

“Looky, looky,” the toy said, gigglin some more. “He even gets his poodle to fight for him.”

And I wanted to pound his face in at that. I wanted to beat his nose to a bloody pulp while his toyfriend watched. The things I would have done to him if I could just get a hold of him. I’m tellin you. But before I could, Lionheart said, “There isn’t going to be any fighting.” And that ended their gigglin. Then he said, “If we have somethin to prove we’ll do it with paint.” And that calmed me down. Because I knew it was true. I knew it was the best way–the only way–to prove anything to these toys, you know. So I stopped struggling. And Trap let go of me. And I brushed myself off and I sat on the bench.

“You’ve got a lot to prove,” the toy went on and on and on, diggin himself deeper and deeper. He said, “I say your five-car bomb was a lie. I say it never happened and you could never do it again.”

And that sent the entire bench into a frenzy of argument. Sheeit, I remember yellin down Seen who for some reason was on the side of the toys and not us. I told him, “You’re toyfriend over there wouldn’t of said he couldn’t do it again if he didn’t know it already happened.” and that shut him up. Most of the voices I heard were in support of the truth, you know, in support of Lionheart, but I knew there were too many skeptics for him to let it slide.

And so he waited for everyone to shut up before he said anything. And he said, “Alright. Even though all of you know I’ve been all city longer than anyone here,”—and that was true—“and even though you all know I threw up that five-car burner—painting by myself”—and that was true, I knew, because Trap and I were his lookout when he did it—“I’m still gonna do you one more to talk about.”

And everyone held their breath at that. Waitin to know what that “one more” was. But those new toys were too impatient and one of em said, “Well, spit it out.”

And Lionheart didn’t like that. He didn’t like to be rushed. So, you know what he did? He waited a good half minute longer before he said, “I’m doing six cars this weekend. All in one night. And everyone’s invited to come to the unveiling on Monday.”

And after that the roar was louder than the arguments. And with the noise of it echoing through the subway halls behind us, Lionheart and me and Trap packed our sketchbooks and left.

The next Sunday, Trap and me got a ride from his cousin to pick Lionheart up at the bench. We got there first, but we didn’t have to wait long until Lionheart came up and said, “You don’t have to come. I’ll be out there a long time for six cars.”

“Sheeit,” I said to that. “You think we’d let you go alone?”

And Trap said, “We want to be a part of this, too. This shit is legendary.”

Then Lionheart stared at us all quiet for a while before he cracked a smile, and snickered, and said, “Shit is, isn’t it?”

At that the three of us shook hands and sat on the bench. This was the night we went down in history, and—like I said—we knew it. We stared at the wall for a while and I got lost in the tags and dreams about future burners I would paint until Trap said, “So, what’s your plan?”

“Paint fast, fuck an outline,” Lionheart said. And, “I don’t know. This is almost twice the cars I’ve ever painted in one night.”

Trap nodded at that and said, “Guess that’s all you can do.”

Then I asked him what he was plannin on writin and he got out his sketchbook to show us.  And, you know, I could tell that he had been thinkin about three-car burners for a while because there were so many designs to choose from. His sketches covered every style from straight letters and blobs, to blocks and arrows, to 3D and texture. I mean, there were so many doo-dads and bits that it was easy to get lost in the patterns.

“Sheeit,” I finally said when I had gotten through them all. “You think you can do two of these in one night? I mean, damn. You know.”

Lionheart just said, “I can do it.” Then he looked over at Trap—who was still lost in the sketches—and asked him, “What do you think?”

Trap didn’t take his eyes of the book. He just said, “Legendary.”

And it was legendary. I knew it. They knew it. We were ready for this. So I said, “Well, what are we waitin for?” And we packed up and walked out to Trap’s cousin’s car where Trap’s cousin was already ready to leave.

“Come on,” he yelled at us out of the window as we walked up. “I don’t have all night.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Trap said. “Whatever.”

As usual, he dropped us off a block away from the train yard. As usual, he reminded us that we had to find our own way home. As usual, Trap said, “I know, man. Shit.”

Then we walked the short block and we were there. My heart started beating faster with just the sight of the train yard, surrounded by one tall fence with razor wire at the top. You know what I’m talkin about? It’s the kind that if you fall into it, struggling only makes things worse. That’s what they say, at least. We’ve never tried to climb over the fence, though. We always just climbed through the hole that every writer knew was in the dark corner. You see, it was a small hole, and much harder to get into than out of, but I was small enough to climb through and make it easier for Lionheart and Trap, you know, from the other side.

When I climbed through on that night, I could see where it looked like they were building a new fence goin around the inside of the old one. “Two fences?” I said, and I laughed, holdin the hole open. “They think that’ll stop us? We’ll just cut another entrance.”

And Lionheart said, “I hear they’re putting dogs in between.”

And Trap said, “Dogs?”

“Between the two fences,” Lionheart said. “It won’t stop me, though. Nothing will. Now shut up.”

And so we were inside. And, I tell you, there’s nothing like the crunch of gravel you feel under your feet when you’re walkin through the train yard at night. It sends shivers up my spine just thinkin about it. And the smell of grease and trains, and their ghostly blue glow when the inside lights are left on at night. Sheeit, I’d almost be too scared to even be there if bombin weren’t the greatest experience ever. And, I have to say, the fear was a good part of the fun.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all grease smells and crunchin gravel. The train yard had its dangers, but they didn’t come from the trains or tracks as much as they came from the transit authority pigs who wasted their time chasin artists rather than robbers and murderers, you know. And all three of us were always lookin out for those exact dangers every second we were there in the yard. Well, Lionheart was up until the moment he felt that rattle, rattle, rattle of a fresh can in his hands—after that he got lost in the burner—but that’s why me and Trap were there: we were his eyes and ears while he was lost.

“Hand me that glossy green,” he said to me, without lookin away from the line he was painting. We were lucky, we found a train with three freshly buffed cars in a row in no time. As soon as we did, Lionheart started on his first car which said: “Just a kid”. It used a straight line style, you know, which was more like the original writers. And he did something most writers wouldn’t do, he added some smaller tags on it like TAKI 183, and Juno 161, and Eva 62, to the background as–you know–like a nod or whatever to some of the writers who invented bombin. You know. They were the first ones to do it and all they wanted to do was spread their names wherever they could. They had no real design or style. They just plastered their names up everywhere.

On the next car there weren’t any words, just two pictures of Lionheart. One, on the left, with his back to the world, paintin an “L” on the train, and the other, on the right, with his hands in cuffs, bein led off the car by a cop. He finished the second car and started on the third when Trap made a shushing sound. Lionheart stopped sprayin. My heart almost beat out of my chest. I kept lookin around to see if I could see anything, but it was just the blue glow of train cars.

Lionheart asked, “What?”

Trap held his finger up to his lips then whispered, “I think I heard something.”

“Where?” I asked, still searchin for the sound of steps or the flash of a pig’s light.

Daz took a step toward one of the trains, “Right,” he took another, “over,” with one step closer he screamed, “here!”and jumped back from the train. A fat, hairy rat crawled across the gravel after him.

“Sheeit, Trap.” I whisperyelled at him. “It’s just a rat.” And the disgusting thing crawled across the tracks to find some garbage can somewhere to eat out of.

And Trap said, “Rat, pig, what’s the difference?” But I could tell he was trying to play it off, you know how people do that, and he wasn’t doin a good job of it, you know. He was always too cautious and that could be a liability out there in the yard, you know. That was a liability. The rat thing as evidence.

Anyway, Lionheart just sighed and went back to paintin the third car which read “Growing up.” This one looked more modern than the first car. It had arrows and doo-dads, and so much camouflage I don’t think anyone who wasn’t a writer would be able to read it. When he finished, he dropped the can and took a step back to admire his work.

While he was, Trap said, “C’mon, man,” pickin up the paint and puttin it in Lionheart’s bag for him. “It’s almost three. You got, maybe, two and a half hours to paint three cars.”

Lionheart stared for a second longer at his work before he shook himself out of it and said, “Yeah. Let’s do it. Let’s go.”

Then It took too long to find another canvas: Three clean cars in a row. It seemed that our luck had run out for the night. The only thing we could find was two empty cars and a third with a toy-lookin “Cap” in terrible, half-buffed blob letters that were barely even filled. I mean, it looked like it took all of three seconds to throw up. And we even passed it once, lookin for another spot, before we gave in and decided we had to use that one. Cap would have to take his toy work somewhere else. And so Lionheart rattled his can and started from the last car going backwards.

The last car in the burner said, “Will you?” and it took almost an hour to paint. One thing I have to say, though, is that those words were the clearest most easy to read words I’ve ever seen painted on a train. Now, don’t get me wrong, he didn’t skimp on the arrows and doo-dads, but he didn’t camouflage the words, you know. He just gave them style.

Then, when Lionheart was almost done with the second car—“lives forever.” in the same lettering style—Trap shushed us again.

So I asked him, “You sure it’s not another rat?”

And he says, “Shhhh. Listen.”

But Lionheart just kept paintin. Time was tickin, you know, and he was just startin his last car, his masterpiece, the burner that would make sure he was remembered forever. It had to be exactly right, you know.

And then I saw just a little bit of light slip between the gravel and a train car up ahead of me, and I knew what it was so I said, “It’s a pig. What do we do?”

And Lionheart—like I knew he would before I asked the question—said, “I’m finishing. You do what you want.”

So, Trap—the cautious one he was—said, “Nah, man. C’mon. It’s not worth it. We can try again. We already did five and started the sixth. That’s more than anyone already.”

And Lionheart said, “I’ve done five. And I’m not leavin until I’m done.”

And Trap just said, “Man. We. I—“ Like he was stupefied by the reaction or somethin. As if he didn’t expect Lionheart to say that.

So before he could say anything else and make a bigger ass of himself I grabbed his arm—just like he had done for me with that toy earlier—and I said, “Trap. We can’t stop now. You know what we have to do.”

And Trap nodded, and he patted Lionheart on the back and said, “I’m sorry, man. Finish up. Get a clip if we don’t make it in the morning.”

At that Lionheart stopped sprayin for just a second. He said, “Thanks.” without turnin around then the sound of spraying came back.

Me and Trap took one look at each other then headed off in opposite directions, jumpin between cars and over tracks to put as much distance between us and Lionheart as we could. When I got to what I thought was a good distance away—you know, a couple of tracks or so—I climbed up to the roof of one of the cars and I looked out across the white backs of the metal giants. I could see Trap climbin up to the roof of another car across the yard and I couldn’t help but smile even though my heart was poundin and adrenaline was rushing through my veins.

When I saw that Trap was up and ready, I yelled, “Olly-olly-oxenfree! Soooooooiiie!” as loud as I could. The pig’s flashlight shot in my direction then started bouncin up and down as it moved closer to me.

After the pig got a couple of tracks closer to me, Trap yelled, “You’ve got the wrong guys, officer! We’re just here for the bacon!” And the flashlight did a one-eighty to point in his direction.

The pig took a step closer to Trap then couldn’t decide which way to go so I yelled, “You’ll never catch us!” and started runnin up the train, away from Lionheart—and away from the hole in the fence.

And then I was alone. Cut off from Lionheart. Cut off from Trap. Even cut off from the pig except for the thought of him chasing me which kept my feet movin. The metal of the train roofs gave and bent under each step I took, especially when jumping from car to car. It was so soft I felt like I could run like that forever, but I knew the train would end and I would have to find some way to dodge the pig. I took the chance to glance behind me and I could see that he was gettin further away even though he was still followin me. I knew it was my opportunity and I jumped off the side of the train furthest from the pig and rolled along in the gravel.

It took me a second to catch my breath, and I could feel the scrapes and bruises the fall gave me, but as soon as I was up I was runnin back the other way to try to get closer to the hole in the fence. And, I’ll tell you this, the crack, crack, crack of the gravel when you’re runnin away from a pig gives you such a different feeling than the crunch of the gravel when you’re first walkin to the yard at night. There’s the same adrenaline, you know, but it’s different. It’s tinged with fear and it’s shaky, you know, it kind of sits heavier on the stomach and works the heart harder. Well, it pushed me and it pushed me and it pushed me until I didn’t think I could take it anymore and I jumped between two cars and I waited.

I was just sittin there, pantin like a dog, cornered like a rat, waitin for the pig to find me, and, to be honest, I didn’t care if he did. I didn’t care if he took me to jail or told my mom or anything. I guess that’s why I just sat there. I knew it didn’t matter, you know. We had done it. We had given Lionheart time to finish his last car, to finish the first car: “Lionheart”. And I was a part of that, whether I got caught or not—probably more if I did get caught than if I didn’t—and Trap was a part of that, and all three of us would live on forever because of it.

And as I sat there thinkin about it, I saw the light. The pig was comin. From the look of it he couldn’t have been but two tracks over. I could even hear his heavy breathing. He was beat. He prolly couldn’t have caught me if I had bolted out right then for the fence, but that might have given Lionheart away so I just sat there and held my breath, hopin he didn’t hear my heartbeat.

And he didn’t. He walked by—after a short pause to catch his breath—without even seein me. I waited ten, fifteen, I don’t know how many minutes, lettin my heart calm, then I snuck back out through the hole in the fence and made my way to the playground where we always celebrated after a night out bombin.

When I got to the playground, Lionheart was already there, but not Trap. The first thing I did was bring him in for a handshakehug, sayin, “I got away. Did you finish?”

And he said, “Yeah. We did. But I haven’t seen Trap yet.”

And I just said, “Sheeit. You serious? That pig followed my ass. I figured Trap was home free.”

And Lionheart said, “He might still be. He just isn’t here yet.”

So I said, “Well, shit, two outta three ain’t bad. I can take a shot to that.” And I fished through my backpack to find my flask, took a quick shot, then said, “You want some?”

Lionheart thought about it for a second and said, “You know what. After that: yes. I almost got caught by a pig myself.” And he took a shot. When I reached out to take the flask back he took another swig and said, “Maybe two shots. Two shots for two burners.”

And then I said, “Be cool. There’s not much. That’s all I could sneak from my mom without her noticin. Sheeit, she’ll prolly notice that, you know. If I’m gettin whooped I at least want a few shots out of it.”

“Alright, alright,” he said, givin me the flask back. Then, “I guess we better get to it, anyway. Our audience’ll be waiting.”

And so we started the winding walk to the tracks, you know, where the trains came out in the morning. And this is where we were on that day that we knew we would live forever. We were starin into the early mornin sunlight creepin over the railway tunnel, waitin for the clickclack, clickclack, squeal, clickclack, clickclack, squeal of the Monday mornin run. But we weren’t the first ones there. A few writers from the bench were already there, and the two toys who didn’t believe Lionheart could do it, but we didn’t say anything to any of them. Most of them didn’t believe we could do it, so they didn’t deserve to be spoken to, you know. Especially those toys. So we stood a few steps apart from the rest of them, just starin into the sun in silence.

Then eight o’clock came and the clickclack, squeal everyone was waitin for. Trap still wasn’t there, though, but that was a small price to pay for eternal life. I shaded my eyes with my hands and took in a deep whiff of the greasy air because I wanted to remember everything about that day.

And when a few cars started rollin by that I recognized, I couldn’t help myself, I just kept sayin, “This is it. This is it, this is it, this is it, this is iiiiit!”

As I was countin cars to find ours, I tried to imagine what could’ve happened to Trap but I was too excited to think about it. I was so excited, in fact, that I was still repeatin, “This is it, this is it, this is it…” for a few seconds after everyone saw the burner before it registered in my brain. After that, there was silence for another second, with only the clickclack, squeal to fill it, then I said, “Sheeeeeit. That’s an unforgivable action, man. Unforgivable. That type of thing can’t ever be forgiven. I’m tellin you, man.”

And someone in the audience said, “That’s bullshit.” Because it was.

And Lionheart just stood starin at the cars as they passed, with three of them carryin his masterpiece, but each burner was covered in three squiggly, childish, barely filled letters: “Cap”. They had been defaced before they ever made it out for the world to see, in the same night that we got chased out of the yard by pigs putting them up. It was the most absurd thing ever to happen in the history of bombin.

And someone else said, “I wonder if he got the uptown cars, too.”

So I said, “He better not have. That would mean war.”

And Lionheart just shrugged and walked away from the track, sayin, “Whatever.”

So I jogged to catch up with him and I asked him, “Well, what do we do now?”

And you know what he said? He said, “We do it again. But with more cars this time.”

And that was exactly what we were going to do.

 

END

 

Tracey Gracey

This post is a throwback to a short story I wrote in June of 2013 which has never before been published. Here it is now for your reading pleasure. You’ll probably recognize the folk tale that inspired this one right away. Enjoy.

Tracey Gracey

by

Bryan Perkins

 

Tracey Gracey ran barefoot through the soft grass, her hair flowing in waves behind her. She leapt over a fallen tree branch, imagining her classmates–whose actual voices she could hear off in the distance–oohing and aahing at her performance. She played alone in a wooded hideaway near Epsilon Eridani Elementary’s playground. She didn’t have any friends among her classmates, and, as such, her imagination ran wild.

All at once she was an honorable space traveler, exploring unknown alien planets for signs of life with her laser gun strapped tight to her hip. In the next moment she was a brave knight from the Old Earth tales, her ray gun now a shiny iron sword used to fight the fiery red dragon and ensure the safety of the cowering villagers. At last she was a butterfly, floating on the wind, searching for a place to rest. Tired from all the adventure, she landed under a sprawling oak tree and drifted off to sleep.

Her dreams allowed her little rest. Amid images of flashing masks and talking cats she felt a hard thud on her forehead, waking her from her sleep.

Still lying on the grass, her eyes batting the sleep away, she felt lazily around for the culprit. Her right hand grasped an acorn which she tossed in the air and caught just before it hit her again. Up and down, up and down, she tossed the acorn until she heard a rustling in the leaves above her and felt another loud thud on her head.

“Ow!” She sat up and rubbed the growing lump on her skull. “Twice in one day?”

She felt around in the grass for the second acorn when she found a rough chunk of cement. Examining it closer, she noticed it was only rough on one side, the other side was smooth with a slight curve and it had been painted baby blue with just a hint of airy white puffs, almost like clouds.

“Wait a second,” she said. Having spent so much time alone she had developed the habit of thinking aloud, even when no one was there to listen. “That’s not baby blue, that’s sky blue. And those aren’t almost like clouds, they are clouds.”

She jumped to her feet and ran out from under the canopy of the tree to look up at the sky.

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “It couldn’t be.”

She looked back at the rock then back at the sky, back at the rock, at the sky, the rock, sky.

“The sky is falling.”

She shoved the rock in her pocket and darted out of the trees toward the voices on the playground.

“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” she called as she ran. The children on the playground stopped their game and gathered around her.

“What now, Tracey Gracey?” asked a round girl in the front of the group.

“Can’t you just leave us alone, you freak,” added another of the children, sending the rest of the group into a fit of laughter.

Tracey balled her fists. “The sky is falling.”

The round girl sneered. “Hah. Yeah right. The sky can’t fall. Everyone knows that.”

“It can.” Tracey fumbled in her pocket for the rock. “Look.”

All the children laughed.

“That’s an acorn,” one of the boys squealed.

“No, that’s not what I—“

The round girl interrupted Tracey before she could finish. She turned her back to Tracey and waved her hands like a conductor.

 

Tracey Gracey,
Everyone knows she’s spacey.
If something stinks
Everyone thinks,
There goes spacey Tracey.

 

After a few rounds of singing, the children grew bored and returned to their game of tag. Tracey stomped off toward the school, kicking the grass as she walked. As she turned around the corner of the building, she tripped over a boy who was crouching to pick something up off the ground.

“Shmeesh,” Tracey huffed, getting up and dusting herself off. “Watch where you’re standing, kid.”

“I—I’m sorry,” the boy stammered, adjusting his glasses.

“No, I’m sorry.” Tracey shook her head. “It’s not your fault. It’s those other jerks.”

“Yeah,” the boy said, looking away. “I know what you mean.”

“I’m Tracey Gracey, by the way.” She extended her hand to shake his. The boy examined her hand like it was an alien object before deciding it was okay to touch.

“Yeah, I sit in front of you in class,” he said.

“Oh.” Tracey blushed. “I thought I recognized you from somewhere.”

“It’s alright,” the boy said. “You don’t have to lie. No one notices me. I’m Dwayne Wayne.”

“Well, Dwayne Wayne, do you want to see something cool?” Tracey said, trying to make up for her mistake.

“Sure, I guess.”

She pulled the rock from her pocket and handed it to Dwayne who turned it over and over, examining it closely as he readjusted his glasses.

“No way,” he finally said. “You’re not going to believe this, but look what I just found.” He handed her a similarly smoothed and painted piece of cement that was slightly smaller in size than hers. “What do you think they are?”

Tracey kicked a piece of gravel on the sidewalk at her feet. “I’d tell you, but you would just make fun of me like the others.”

“I won’t.” He shook his head. “I promise. Cross my heart and hope to die.”

“Well.” She paused, trying to decide if she should tell him what she really thought and figuring there was nothing left to lose. “The sky is falling.”

Dwayne snorted, trying to hold back his laughter.

See? I knew you wouldn’t believe me.”

“I didn’t mean it. It’s just–The sky? Falling? Is that even possible?”

“Well, look at them.” She handed the rock back so he could examine both. “You see that? Exact same color as the sky. And those wisps of white, those are the clouds. What else could it be?”

“You know, I guess you could be right. Or, it could be some rock that someone painted and lost.”

“Yeah, right.” Tracey scoffed. “They just lost it on my forehead. I was laying under a tree with no one around. How could they?”

“Maybe someone threw it—“ As he spoke, a third rock fell from the sky and landed with a thump between them. Tracey picked it up and held it for him to see.

Hah! Now what?”

“I—I don’t—I guess—“

“Exactly.”

“But, what are we supposed to do?”

Riiiiiing.

The bell announced that recess was over. Tracey and Dwayne were the first inside because they were the only students not on the playground, but they lingered in the halls.

“So,” Dwayne asked, “what’s the plan?”

Students streamed in around them.

“I don’t know,” Tracey said. “We have to tell someone.”

“Tell someone what, Miss Gracey?” Mr. Lister, their teacher, said, coming inside from recess.

“The sky is falling,” Tracey blurted out without thinking.

“The sky is falling? Ha.” Mr. Lister laughed. “You do have quite the imagination, don’t you? But I assure you. The sky is not falling. Now, off to class with the both of you. Chop chop.”

“Yes, sir.” Dwayne started towards their classroom.

“But, it’s true, sir,” Tracey went on. “I have proof. Look.” She handed him the largest of the three rocks. Mr. Lister rolled it over in his hand, barely glancing at it before answering.

“What you have here is a painted piece of cement. Nothing more. Now. Off to class please. Don’t make me say it aga–”

But it fell from the sky.”

Now, Miss Gracey.”

“But…fine.” She slouched her shoulders and stomped off to the classroom.

After hours of watching the clock while Mr. Lister droned on, the day finally ended. Tracey hurriedly packed her things and was the first student out of the school doors. As she turned down the sidewalk towards her house, she heard Dwayne jogging up behind her.

“Tracey. Tracey, wait!” he called through gasping breaths.

Tracey slowed her pace slightly. “I’m off to find someone who’ll believe me,” she said.

“That’s what I came to talk to you about. Just wait.” He caught up to her and bent over, breathing heavily, in her path. “I’ve been thinking about it, and I think I believe you now. There’s nowhere else that third rock could have come from.”

“Good.” She walked on around him.

“So what are we going to do about it?” he asked, hurrying to keep up.

I’m going to go show these rocks to my mom. She’ll know what to do.”

“But isn’t she at work?”

“I’ll find a way to get there. I’m showing her and that’s that.”

Dwayne noticed a dog playing in the shade of a crepe myrtle tree and ran up ahead to play with it. “Hey there, puppy wuppy,” he said in a high pitched voice, patting the dog. “What are you doing? What have you got there?” He took something from the dog’s mouth and turned it over in his hand. “Tracey, come look at this.”

“What?”

“Another piece of the puzzle.” He handed the rock to her. It looked the same as the pieces of sky they had already found.

“This is serious,” she said, pocketing the rock and darting out into the street in front of a passing Colony Police cruiser. The car screeched to a halt and the officer jumped out.

“Excuse me, little girl, do you know how dangerous that was?”

“It’s important,” Tracey said, squinting to read the woman’s badge, “Col. Pol. Joel. The sky is falling.”

Psh, just stay out of the road, please.” The officer laughed as Dwayne jogged up, out of breath.

“But, look.” Tracey shoved the pile of debris they had found into the officer’s face. “They all fell from the sky. Something’s going on.”

“I’m telling you, kid,” the officer said, ignoring the pieces of sky in Tracey’s hands. “There’s no way that the sky can fall. We are perfectly safe. Please, move along so I can get on with my duty.”

“Isn’t it your duty to protect us?”

“That it is. So if you don’t listen to me and stay out of the road we might have to take a trip down to the station. For your protection, of course.”

“No way,” Dwayne said. “Please don’t.”

“You can’t do that,” Tracey said. “We’re just kids.”

“Well, are you going to move along or are you going to continue to impede an officer on duty?”

“I’m not impeding,” Tracey complained. “I’m trying to help you. Something’s going on—“

“Alright then. You leave me no choice. Get in the car.” The officer opened the back door to the cruiser and shepherded the two children inside. “What division does your guardian work in?”

“Meteorolol—meteorolial—meteor—she works in weather.” No matter how often she practiced, Tracey still couldn’t pronounce “Meteorological Engineering”.

The officer started the cruiser and pointed toward a giant towering structure in the distance. Tracey was excited. She had never seen her mother’s workplace before. She had barely ever traveled beyond the grocery store down the street from her house, which she eyed as they passed. She and Dwayne stared out of their respective windows, gawking at how familiar the scenery was. Each new street looked exactly like the last. She could have lived on any one of them.

After some time of repeating scenery, the houses and streets blurred into a single mass. Tracey barely noticed when the car slowed to a halt and Col Pol Joel got out, leaving the windows cracked.

“What seems to be the problem, Brother Smothers?”

Brother Smothers, the colony chaplain, stood in front of his car which was parked on the side of the road, waving his arms to hurry Officer Joel’s approach.

“Well, a band of hooligans, I’m sure. There I was, driving along, minding my own business, when Lord help me some little heathens threw a rock straight through my windshield. Take a look and see for yourself.” He pointed at his car before crossing himself.

The officer glanced at the windshield. “Yup. Do you have the object?”

“The object?”

“Yes, sir. The object. The item. The perpetrator. The thing. You know, the rock that broke your window.”

“Oh. Yes, yes. Lord, here it is.” He fumbled through his pocket and handed something to Officer Joel.

“What was that?” Tracey asked under her breath, nudging Dwayne with her elbow.

“I don’t know. I couldn’t see.”

“Yes, well, did you see who did it?” the officer asked.

“Nope, that’s the thing. It seemed as if the stone simply fell from the heavens.”

“Alright, Brother. I’ll keep my eyes open and let you know what I find.” She put the object in her pocket and got back in the cruiser.

Tracey scooted closer to the grating between the front and back seats. “What was that?”  she asked.

The officer started the car and drove away with a wave to Brother Smothers. “Nothing.”

Tracey put her nose up to the cold metal. “What did he give you?”

“A rock, if you must know. Some hooligans–much like the two of you–broke Brother Smothers’s window with it.”

Tracey poked her fingers through the little holes in the grating. “What did it look like? Can I see it?”

“Nope. Can’t do that. It’s evidence.”

“Exactly! Gah.” Tracey slouched back in her seat.

“You want to know what I think,” she whispered to Dwayne who nodded, re-readjusting his glasses. “No one threw that rock. I bet it was a piece of the sky that broke Brother Smothers’ windshield. Not hooligans.”

“I don’t know,” Dwayne whispered back. “Why would Brother Smothers lie?”

“He said himself that he didn’t see who threw it. It fell from the heavens. Just like when I got hit the first time. I’m telling you, this is the real thing.”

“I still don’t know.”

The two looked out their windows. The rows of cookie-cutter houses had long since given way to a lush green forest, their destination still towering above it all.

“Are we there yet?” Dwayne asked, smiling at Tracey.

“We wouldn’t be driving if we were,” Col Pol Joel replied.

“Are we there, now?” Dwayne asked, giggling with Tracey. The officer ignored them.

“You know my mom’s going to believe me, don’t you?” Tracey said, more of a statement than a question.

“That doesn’t matter,” officer Joel replied.

“It doesn’t matter? The sky is falling! How could that not matter?”

“What does matter is that you were playing in the middle of the street, and that you were impeding an officer on duty.”

“It can’t matter that much,” Tracey said. “Not if you have the time to bring us way out here. Is that your super important Col Pol duty for today?”

“You children are truants.”

“Truants?” Dwayne groaned. “My mom’s gonna kill me.”

“We can’t be truant,” Tracey said. “School’s already out for the day.” As she finished her sentence, they pulled up to a gate blocking the entrance to the now unimaginably tall structure towering above them–Tracey couldn’t even see the top of it, it just went on forever and ever. A magnet on the cruiser caused the gate to open and they parked directly in front of the tower’s entrance. The officer went inside alone, leaving the children in the car.

“I don’t like this,” Dwayne said. “What did you get me into?”

“Me?” Tracey scoffed. “I didn’t ask you to follow me.”

“Well, I didn’t think you would run out in front of a Col Pol car and get us arrested.”

“It doesn’t matter, anyway. Once my mom gets here, she’ll take one look at my evidence and set that idiot straight.” She laughed at the thought of it.

“How can you be so sure?”

“Trust me, she’s a super smart scientist. She knows everything about the sky. She can even control the weather. She’ll know what’s going on for sure.”

“I hope so. She doesn’t look too happy right now,” Dwayne said, pointing out the window behind Tracey.

She turned to see her mother, Stacey, walking out with the officer. Her mom had the same look on her face as the time Tracey got suspended for punching the kid who came up with “Spacey Tracey”. Of course, it didn’t stop anyone from singing that stupid song.

“Tracey, what’s going on?” Her mom said as soon as she was in spitting distance. “This officer tells me you were playing in the street. She said she almost—wait a second. What am I saying?” She turned to the officer. “Are you seriously telling me that you not only pulled me from my work, but you put my child and her friend in the backseat of your squad car and drove all the way out here because she was playing in the street?”

The officer blushed. Tracey nudged Dwayne. “I told you.” Her mom noticed and turned back toward the car.

“And as for you little miss, you’re not off the hook, either. Why were you two playing in the street?”

I wasn’t in the street,” Dwayne objected.

“We weren’t playing, Mom. I was trying to get her attention. Look.” She handed the rocks they had collected to her mom. “They all came from the sky. One of them hit me right on the head.” She rubbed her knot as she said it.

Stacey turned the rocks over in her hand, examining them closely. “It can’t be,” she said. “No way. No how. Tracey Gracey, you gift. You just might have saved us.” She hugged her daughter tight, driving the rocks uncomfortably into Tracey’s shoulder blades.

“What? What is it?” Tracey asked, squirming away.

“We need to get inside. Now.”

“What? What is it?” Col Pol Joel repeated.

“The SKY is falling,” Stacey said.

“What?” Col Pol Joel frowned. “No way.”

“I told you!” Tracey boasted.

“But how?” Dwayne asked.

“I don’t know exactly. That’s why we need to get inside. Let’s go.”

“That’s impossible,” Col Pol Joel said. “This dome is indestructible. We’re completely safe. A little wear and tear is natural. The repair bots will keep everything in tip-top shape. They always have and they always will.”

“Look,” Stacey said. “Some damage can happen too quickly for the automatic repair bots to keep up with. If we don’t take care of those damages fast, and somehow even a small hole forms in that dome, then the air is going to be sucked out of here in no time and there will be nothing we can do about it. Once the human body is exposed to a vacuum like that, you only have fifteen, twenty seconds tops before your saliva boils and you pass out.

“Now, we’ve already seen weather aberrations in the lab, and with these pieces of cement falling from the sky I’d say that we have enough evidence to take action. I’m bringing Tracey inside where she’ll be safe. You can come with us, but not until you alert the rest of the colony about the possible dangers, starting with your superiors.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’m on it, ma’am.” Col Pol Joel saluted and marched back to her cruiser.

“Tracey, come on. Bring your friend with you.” Her mom said, walking toward the tower and calling someone on her cell phone.

“Let’s go,” Tracey said, waving for Dwayne to follow her as she started towards her mom.

“I don’t know,” Dwayne said, looking back at officer Joel. “Maybe I should try to find my parents.”

“But you heard what my mom said. It’s dangerous out here. The sky is falling.”

“But, how can the sky fall? The repair bots have always taken care of it before.”

“Did you hear her?”

“Yeah, but…she could be wrong. This stuff happens all the time. You heard Col Pol Joel.”

“She’s not wrong. I’m not wrong. Look, I’m going inside. You should come, too. You don’t even have a way to get home.”

“I could ask Officer Joel.” Dwayne tapped his feet, looking back and forth between Tracey and the cruiser.

“Well I’m going now,” Tracey said. “Don’t take too long.” She ran toward her mom who was holding the tower door open and waving her hands at Tracey to get inside.

“What’s your friend doing?” her mom asked, still holding the door.

“He hasn’t decided yet,” Tracey said, shaking her head. “I don’t think he believes you.”

“Well, I don’t know how much time we have,” her mom said. “I need to get upstairs to run some tests. This could be urgent. I have no idea.”

In the distance, Tracey saw a large chunk of rubble fall from the sky.

“Mom!” she yelled. “Did you see that? Dwayne! Hurry!”

The trees around the tower bent under the weight of heavy winds. The clouds were sucked out of the sky. Dwayne turned from the cruiser and tried to run for the door but his pace slowed instantly. Tracey tried to slip outside and save him but her mom wouldn’t let her through the door.

“Tracey, no. We can’t.” Her mom pulled her back inside. The glass door closed with a pneumatic hiss.

Tracey banged on the window. “No! No! Dwayne, please!”

Dwayne fell over on the ground, holding his throat and convulsing. Tracey fell to the floor, red-eyed and crying.

 END

Stealing From Giants

Dear readers who are not there,

I trust that this void I’ve been screaming into will not be a void in the future. Do you trust me?

I didn’t know how I was going to use this platform when I first put it up and I still don’t. You’ve seen art and information from Outland–the novel I’m currently shopping–and a bit of poetry so far. Maybe there will be something else here in the future. Maybe there will be more of the same. To steal from that giant I mentioned earlier, this is not a blog. And for many of the same reasons the giant gave. So instead of rehashing it all, why not just read it in his own words.

I’ll be out here furiously editing so don’t expect me to pop in too often too soon, but try to take a peek back when I do. You can even subscribe so you don’t have to come lookin all the time.

Bubbles

"I love bubbles,” I said.
You asked if I really did.
“I mean, who doesn’t?” I shrugged.
“There’s a big difference between like and love.”

Bubbles, when you see them,
Are always shiny and new.
Ephemeral and airy
They blow with every breeze.

Sometimes, you reach out
To touch one
And the wind your movement creates
Blows it further away.

Others, you try to catch
One in your hand.
And maybe you do.
But it pops as soon as it touches you.

There are rumors of those
That’ll stay with you for a time,
But they too pop eventually,
Leaving you covered in sticky debris.

Still, knowing all this,
Being covered in bubble debris,
I can’t help myself but to reach out 
To a beautiful bubble when seen.

In the end
The wind takes them anyway
And even without your touch
They burst into nothingness.

Ellie McCannik

Ellie lives in Outland 5. She used to slip, snap, click but now she works in QA. She sits behind a conveyor belt, watching a screen until a word pops up, then ensures that whatever goes down the belt matches the word on the screen. This is a terribly boring job and the entire time she’s there she imagines drinking at her bar.

Here’s an illustration of her at her favorite place. It’s not my best but I do spend more time writing and editing than I do drawing so what else can you expect? Enjoy nonetheless.

Ellie McCannik