I Need Your Opinion On Something…

Calling All Readers!

 

There’s a particular story that has haunted me for over a year now, and I’ve been dying to get it out. The problem is that my time is at a premium right now, so I have to prioritize everything, and I need to be sure that most of what I’m writing holds the highest value. As much as I love this story, it spans across a huge amount of time, and is actually two different series that combine into one big plot, so once I get started on this one I’m going to have to roll with it pretty steadily.

I’ve taken a moment to write the prologue, which explains the time period and generally sets the scene, but the story itself expands away from that significantly over time, so much so that it becomes almost unrecognizable in comparison. Because this story has my dream character in it I’ve drawn up big plans for it, and currently it’s looking to be my Harry Potter series (I’m not saying my books will do that well, just that it’s an intricate, highly detailed line that’s going to take me years to complete).

So, if you could take a quick moment to read the prologue and let me know what you think of it I would be eternally grateful. Every bit of feedback I get helps me immensely. Even if you only have enough time to say “your story sucks” it’ll still help me in the end. If you want me to scratch your back in return for your review and check out some of your samples/excerpts/early drafts I’d be happy to do so. If that’s the case then drop me a line either through email or the comments and I’ll get on it.

 

The Variformer Series

Book One: First the Crash

Prologue

 

In the second half of the 21st century it became painfully clear that humankind had outgrown its birthplace. The population continued to grow with gaining speed as the number of newborn babies per day increased every week. Though some had anticipated the looming trouble ahead of time they were unable to convince others of the imminent issues our immense population would create. When the problem was finally acknowledged by enough people for it to be actively combated it was too late; the snowball effect of our compulsive expansion had quickly stretched beyond our control. The peaceful, democratic nature of the Centralized World Government meant that any solution that involved innocent deaths was off the table, and regulations preventing couples from having as many children as they wanted also didn’t sit with them very well, either. The best course of action was obvious: colonization. It was unanimously voted by the world’s leaders and scientists to boost the current space program and seed new planets as soon as possible.

Once our fate was decided, the immediacy of mankind’s plight spurred the greatest minds on Earth to action. Just as the threat of complete societal and ecological collapse crescendoed, a small group of intellectuals discovered a method that allowed them to construct ship engines that were efficient enough to power vessels large enough for mass migrations. Since other task forces had already pinpointed potential planets for colonization, it was only a matter of building the impressively huge ships and loading them with the supplies and people needed for their voyages. As the construction crews scrambled to build the ships a selection process was initiated to determine who would be lucky enough to escape the decaying Earth.

Dozens of colony ships were dispatched, spreading out in every direction conceivable, but only a small fraction of them were able to reach and successfully establish themselves at new planets. Many colonists lived their entire lives, from birth to an old-aged death, on their ship because of the relatively slow progression, but the knowledge needed for surviving on a planet was passed from generation to generation so the venture wouldn’t fail during its final step. There were no guarantees that every colonist would thrive on their new planet, but the ones who did were sufficient to perpetuate the human species.

Centuries later, people have both regained and surpassed the previous glory they had enjoyed on Earth, and the flourishing technological and scientific understanding of those who survived the emigration into space has inspired a sophisticated, advanced civilization that spans the vast stretches of the Milky Way. In the midst of such a changed society, some traditions and cultural aspects from the ‘old world’ were retained and adapted. It was just such a practice that resulted in Variformers: performers who are skilled in a wide range of traditional and contemporary arts, such as dancing, singing, acrobatics, gymnastics, and other physical forms of expression. Only the most skilled of performers can aspire to become a Variformer, which requires a wide knowledge of various types of entertainment and an extreme level of physical prowess. They must be strong and adaptable enough to handle complex motions and vocalizations. Variformers have become the superstars of the modern world, and are more revered than most planetary officials.

In the process of obtaining the abilities needed to keep up with the ever-increasing difficulty involved, many Variformers have turned to medical science for help. Among the popular adaptations are joint supports, stabilizers and assists for heart and lungs, pain reduction procedures, skeletal reinforcements, sight enhancements, vocal augmentations, and cosmetic adjustments. The popularity of appealing to surgeons has grown so much that just about everyone who earns the status of Variformer had to seek their help to do so. Bodily upgrades have become so common that most view them as inconsequential, but some, a select few of the Variformers, don’t feel the need to partake in the practice. When one such ‘purist’ arises their unusual status always causes them to become a major focus for the public, which typically causes consternation for the enhanced humans and creates tense working relationships between them.

Jaidelyn Costin is considered a purist Variformer, and our story starts with her.

 

So, What Do You Think?

 

Please keep in mind that this is a very early draft (the first, actually). Does this sound like a story that would intrigue you, or does it seem like a snooze fest? If you’d like a quicker method for speaking your mind then please feel free to use the poll below.

Thank you!

 

 

 

A Ghostly Family Reunion

NOTE: This post is a continuation of a previous fiction article I wrote in response to a Daily Prompt. If you haven’t already done so, please take a moment to read the opening of the story here. Thanks!
 

Dinner With The Dead – Part Two

 

As promised, here’s the second part of my response to today’s Daily Prompt.

 

A Ghostly Family Reunion

 

An unidentifiable sensation on my face demanded attention, effectively drawing me back to the present. The damp daubing on my forehead felt almost like a tongue swiping my skin. The ludicrous mental image that raised was enough to grant my mind some control over my body once again. As I fought to open my eyes my mind forced my mouth to function.

“Wha… hapen?” I slurred, my tongue still lethargic. My sight cleared enough to find Daniella hovering above me, a small towel in her hand. It was then that I finally realized I was laying on my back, the underside of my dining table before me. A sharp pain suddenly flared to life in my head as Daniella gently brushed the cloth along a tender spot at my temple, causing me to hiss in reaction.

With a sigh, Daniella detailed the incident. “You fainted. It’s a pretty common reaction, really. I take great precautions so no one gets hurt, which is why we always perform summonings while sitting down, but usually my clients slump forward, so the table saves them. Unfortunately, you fell sideways, which also made it impossible for me to catch you in time. You also hit your head on the edge of the table on your way down. It’s pretty bad, so I think I should take you to the hospital.”

I closed my eyes for a moment, hoping it would not only help them focus, but also help me sort out the details floating throughout my muddled thoughts. Little bits of recent memory were easy to recall, but the whole picture eluded me. The babbling of several different voices finally penetrated my mind, delivering a jarring reminder of the strange task we’d performed just before I’d reacted so strongly. “No!” I exclaimed, denying the idea of getting professional treatment. I attempted to sit up, but my movements were too hasty, and a distressing dizziness assailed me. Resisting the combination of my disorientation and Daniella gently pushing me back to the floor was futile, so I conceded and settled back into a prone position. “You told me we could only keep them here for a few hours. I’ll see a doctor after we’re done here.”

Daniella considered my face for a moment, an expression of indecision that I’d never seen her wear before pulling her eyebrows together. She looked as though she might protest my foolish decision, but she knew better than anyone that I probably wouldn’t get the chance to repeat tonight’s event. Our success was practically a miracle to begin with. Grudgingly, she nodded her assent, and gently assisted me in getting back into my chair.

“Here,” Daniella said in a bland, commanding tone as she handed me the wet cloth she’d been using on my wound. “Keep that on you left temple, and be sure to moisten it every so often from that ice water.” She indicated a mixing bowl on the table in front of me, then took her seat.

The vocalizing that had droned on during my interaction with the floor abruptly ceased, and every person in the room, both dead and alive, granted me their full attention. It was disconcerting, to say the least. “So.” I said weakly, unsure of where to start in such a strange situation. Before I could begin to voice the dozens of questions swirling through my mind a man siting on the other side of the table seized control.

“Have you got anything decent to eat?” The man demanded, his thick Scottish accent in keeping with the kilt he wore and the bristling beard he wore, which happened to be a similar shade to my own hair. His voice, which was the type that carried well, reverberated as if the room couldn’t contain the cacophony as he continued. “I’m starving. I haven’t eaten in about 600 years, y’ know.”

I turned to Daniella, the question of whether the reanimated dead could digest food or not on my lips, but a snort of derision preempted me. “Bloody Scots! Always more concerned with trifles.” The male tone was rife with disdain, the inflection blatantly English. I turned my attention to the speaker, finding a young man who looked to be barely out of his teens. His accouterments suggested he’d lived sometime in the 16th century. The Scotsman glared at the Englishman in silence, the tension between them growing to uncomfortable heights. Everyone present could sense the waves of hostility circulating between the two men. A young woman I hadn’t noticed before, who was wearing an elaborate dress and had cowered in the corner, hunkered down into her protective stance even more. The fear on her face was painful to behold.

Before I could circumvent the imminent violence brewing around us I was interrupted yet again. I ground my teeth, my anger burning every part of me from my most hated of slights, as the altercation escalated. The Scotsman rose to his full height, his figure imposing, and drew a large sword for the scabbard on his back, pointing the tip directly at the Englishman’s eye. “I should do everyone a favor and take of your head here and now.”

My ‘bull shit cup’ finally ran over at that threat, causing me to leap onto the table, my balance still shaky. My ire pushed me beyond normal concerns, assisting me in climbing into position. Once I was looming above the antagonistic males I released my own brand of fury. “Enough!”

My bellow took everyone by surprise, causing the girl in the corner to whimper. I pushed away the guilt from frightening her and concentrated on appearing as imposing as impossible, which wasn’t an easy feat considering my size. I pinned the men back with my most aggressive of glares. “I didn’t ask you guys here so you could bicker, and we’re a tad short on time. A lot’s changed since you were alive, and your behavior is no longer acceptable. So I want to you sit down, shut up, and be civilized. Understood?!”

The Englishman gave me a bland stare before taking on a bored appearance, but the Scotsman was a little more stubborn, meeting my eye directly in a challenge of superiority. “And since when do women give commands?” His eyes narrowed, his posture hinting at how dangerous he could truly be. Unfortunately for him, I was made of sterner stuff than the generally submissive women he was used to.

I cranked up my ‘evil eye’ stare, then quickly scooped up the little bronze statue Daniella had brought for the ceremony. It depicted an attractive woman, but beyond that I had no clue what the figure symbolized. The meaning behind the hefty object had no bearing on my use for it, however, so I set my grip around the slimmest section of it and wielded it like a baton. The man’s shock at being openly contested by the opposite sex froze him in place, giving me plenty of time to pull back and swing my makeshift weapon at his head. The fact that he was already dead meant I didn’t have to worry about doing severe damage to his thick skull, so I happily packed a good deal of force behind the wallop, aiming for the very top of his head. The contact between metal and empty head caused a curious noise, part thud and part metallic ching. He swayed on his feet for a moment, taken aback from the attack, but he retained consciousness. Without another word, he complied with my demands for decency and took his seat.

“Now,” I said with authority and I tried to step down from the table with dignity. Once I was back in my seat I continued in a business-like manner. “I haven’t called all of you here just so we could hang out. I’d like to ask you some questions-”

“Who are you?” A new voice asked, which was smooth and deep. It belonged to an older man, one of the four Native Americans that sat clustered together. His eyes were bright with intelligence and curiosity.

“I’m sorry, that was rude of me.” I said, somehow not offended by him interrupting me. “My name is Anna and all of you are related to me in some way. You’re my family.”

I’ve never met you before,” another of the Native Americans stated in a suspicious tone. She was a rotund, substantial woman, and until that moment she’d spent every second granting glares to the light-skinned compliment of the gatherers, myself included. “I know all of my family.”

“Well, I can assure you that I am a member of your family,” I said slowly, my irritation at her stubborn behavior irrepressible. “You don’t know me because all of you have been dead for quite some time.” The woman grunted in response and turned her attention back to starring balefully at anyone who fit the classic description of the ‘white man’.

DEAD?! What do you mean, dead!? I can’t be dead!” A strident female voice, filled with hysteria, sprang out from the corner of the room. With a sigh of resignation, I turned toward the girl who had forced herself into the corner. I expected her to have the same frazzled expression as before, but the wild look in her eyes, like she was on the verge of having a nervous breakdown, caused a stab of worry to run through my chest.

“It’s alright,” Daniella said, forestalling the appeal of help I was about to voice. She rose from her chair and began to slowly pace toward the girl in the corner, her hands held out in front of her body as if she were warding off an angry animal. As she walked past me she gave me a look that suggested that very bad things were about to happen, and that those horrid happenings would be entirely my fault. My apprehension grew by leaps and bounds. “It’s alright”

“No! IT’S NOT!” The girl suddenly screamed at the top of her lungs, just as Daniella had drawn near her. Before anyone could react to the overt hostility the girl was projecting through voice and body language she attacked, moving so fast that my eyes couldn’t follow her. Before I could comprehend just what had happened a blurry version of Daniella flew past me, not a single inch of her touching the floor. Now that I knew the truth behind people like Daniella I was aware that they couldn’t, in fact, fly, or float, or levitate, so I knew it wasn’t some parlor trick on the practitioner’s part. The speed of her passing generated a wind that caressed my face, causing tendrils of my hair to follow in her wake.

I watched in stunned silence as the strong, self-assured woman flew across the yards of open space and connected with the opposite wall, the force strong enough to knock her out entirely, her body slumping to the floor with an appearance that I devoutly hoped didn’t signal death. As one, the living complement, and a few of the ‘others’, in the room turned to regard the ghostly assailant. Silence reigned supreme once again. What had once been a pitiful looking girl, scared out of her own mind, now stood tall and large as an antagonist, a fierce expression a testament to her inner darkness. The girl slowly scanned the occupants of the room, finally settling her attention on one lone figure: me. Before I could react she was on me, her attack indefensible.

 

To Be Continued (Again)

 

I know this is going to get annoying, but this story is becoming a lot of fun and I think one more installment will make it just the right length. So keep a look out for Dinner with the Dead Part 3! I’ll be sure to post a link here. Thanks!

Dinner With The Dead

I’m Back in the Saddle Again

 

I know it’s unlikely that everyone was biting their nails in anticipation of my next post, but it’s still no bueno for me to just disappear for extended periods of time. With several birthdays, Mother’s Day, and urgent obligations I had no choice but to abandon my digital refuge for a while, but I plan to rectify the situation and make up for lost time. I have so many things to write about, so I almost don’t know where to start. Luckily, today’s Daily Prompt is quite interesting (as was yesterday’s), so I think I’ll start there. Let’s take a look.

 

 Today’s Daily Prompt is:

Modern Families

If one of your late ancestors were to come back from the dead and join you for dinner, what things about your family would this person find the most shocking?

 

This question delights me since I’ve always had a strong interest in my bloodlines (and that of others), and anyone who knows me is aware of my ability to seize any moment possible to discuss such matters. When most people first meet me and take notice of my strawberry blond hair, blue eyes, fair skin, short stature, and slim build they usually think one of two things: This girl is really Irish! and/or Is this girl an albino or something? (I’ve actually had people flat-out ask me that question). Those speculations amuse me to no end because my lineage is unexpectedly convoluted, so when I reveal the truth of the matter most people end up on the verge of shock. Some people even think I’m lying when I tell them ‘the whole story’ behind my family.

Because of my family’s link to a handful of different cultures, I’ve decided to approach today’s Daily Prompt with a broader method. Instead of meeting just one of my ancestors I’ll present one from each of the major ethnic groups, thus provided a sort of ghostly family reunion. I had thought to write this out as an article, but I think it would be more entertaining if I just use fiction to tell the tale. Keep in mind that the characters themselves will be entirely fictional (for sanity’s sake, since it would take forever for me to track down the records of my actual relatives), so don’t expect to find historical stories about these people. Alright, time for the fun part.

 

Dinner with the Dead

 

“Are you ready?” A delicate, smooth voice asked me. I directed my glance to the woman standing to my right, meeting her gaze steadily. I hadn’t known Daniella long, but the confidence and professionalism she projected had caused me to trust her rather quickly. A calm quirk of her lips did wonders with settling my nerves, bolstering my own certainty of success in the strange ritual we were about to perform. I gave her a short nod in response and silently moved with her to take our seats, she at the head of my dining table and myself directly to her left. The four other people, who were quietly conversing in a corner, followed our cue and took their places, their positions spread out around the substantial oak surface.

As Daniella assembled the tools she required for the task we were about to undertake I examined the appearances of the other so-called shamans, still skeptical of their prowess. They all looked entirely ordinary, one of the men even dressed like an investment banker, every element of his impressive business suit well made and stylish. Daniella herself looked like a typical suburban housewife, like she belonged in a mini-van full of kids bound for a soccer game. If it hadn’t been for the assurances of several of my trusted friends and family members I never would have considered handing over the thousands of dollars she required as a fee for her services. Daniella’s efficient completion of her preparations curtailed any further speculations I might have had, her voice demanding I heed my attention to her and nothing else.

“Have you the sacrifice, Anna?” Daniella asked me, referring to the object we’d discussed a week before. She’d explained that our ambitious goal required a good deal of power, saying that I’d have to prove my willingness to the Great Power by relinquishing an object that I deeply loved. It had been a tough decision for me, but I’d eventually found the perfect sacrifice. I retrieved the baby blanket I’d owned since the day I was born from under my chair and reluctantly handed it to her. She reverently caressed the soft fabric, her eyes expressing her empathy with my loss. She then placed my tattered childhood treasure on the table and examined her peers. “You all remember the steps I emailed you, right?”

The nods of affirmation from Daniella’s comrades held no hesitancy. Clearing her throat and closing her eyes, she drew in a deep breath and the others followed suit. I remembered from our previous conversations that their acts were meant to clear their minds, allowing them to gather their inner power. Their slightly odd behavior only lasted a short moment, and once they opened their eyes Daniella picked up my baby blanket and swiftly ripped a strip of fabric from it. She placed the strip to her right, laying it flat on the table’s wooden surface, then proceeded to tear another shred from my most beloved possession. Her face was filled with concentration, a testament to the incantation I knew she was reciting in her head. Once she placed the second piece of blanket to her left, in the empty space between us, she passed the remainder of the blanket to the woman who sat to her right.

The process continued with the rest of the spiritual practitioners, each one violating my memory-laden blanket to produce the two strips, each one arranging the fruits of their labor in the empty spaces along the table. When the last man was done with his part he situated the remaining portion of the abused blanket on the exact center of the table, thus bypassing my participation in the routine. I let out the breath I’d unwittingly held during the entire process.

“Alright, Anna,” Daniella broke the silence, addressing me directly. “I need you to focus as intently as possible on our goal for tonight. You can use any kind of meditation techniques you know, even close your eyes if you have to, but you must clear your mind of everything but our intent.”

“I understand,” I assured her gravely. She had explained numerous times just how important this step of the process was, so I mentally conjured the best methods I’d researched over the previous weeks and began to calm my thoughts.

Once Daniella was satisfied with my acquiescence she stretched her arm across the space between us and clasped my hand to hers. She repeated the process with the woman on her right and the others along the table’s edge completed the circle. Complete silence descended as we all did our part to accomplish the impossible. As time lapsed I began to lose heart, but my tenacity pushed me on. Just as a nasty headache was beginning to settle in the back of my head a hazy figured appeared, perched in the chair across from me. My sharp intake of breath caused Daniella’s eyes to snap in my direction, their strict message clear: Don’t stop!

I forced myself to continue, watching as the blurry form coalesced into the unmistakable shapes of a young woman. Before she fully formed several other indistinct images appeared around the table, each positioned in front of a corresponding shred of fabric. Once achievement was in sight everything seemed to happen quickly, the simultaneous appearance of our ethereal guests too fast to entirely follow. Before the full weight of my shock could settle in eight new bodies had joined us, looking as real as any other living human. Each one wore the clothing typical of the times they’d lived in, varying from roughly constructed bits of hide and leather to the elaborate dress expected of more ‘civilized’ cultures. When Daniella released my hand, folding her own in her lap, I couldn’t resist the urge to slowly reach out to the gruff-looking man on my left, my finger quivering as they made contact with solid, warm flesh. An excited giggle built in my chest, escaping my lips despite my attempt to retain my composure. But it wasn’t every day that one was able to meet their long-dead ancestors in the flesh, so to speak!

As my eyes traveled around the table, voraciously recording every detail of my kin to permanent memory, a strange sensation washed over me, faint but undeniable. I tried to shake the weakness away, but it only intensified. The pounding of my heart extending into my extremities, its reach growing until it resided in my head. A few deafening thumps later, a startling darkness overwhelmed my vision, the sensation unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. I didn’t have long to ponder the curious ailment or its onset since a minuscule moment later I collapsed into nothing, awareness eluding me entirely.

 

To Be Continued

 

I know this is annoying for readers, but it’s far worse to publish an article that runs on and on in my opinion. This post was beginning to get quite unruly, so I’ve decided to split it into multiple parts. Don’t worry, the continuation will be posted shortly, so you won’t have to wait a week for the conclusion or anything like that. I’ll post the link here as soon as it’s published, which will include a rather strange conversation and a minor bludgeoning. See you there!