I’ve Got Good News and Bad News

I have recently come to the realization that things are not as bad as they appear. Despite the doomsayers and alarmist that are constantly assailing us from the TV, from the internet, and from the newspaper, if anyone bothers to read newspapers anymore, things are actually getting better.

Violent crimes are down in most places in the world. People are better fed, and better educated. Employment is up. People are living longer. We are treating people better than we ever did in the past. The reason that it doesn’t seem that way is that we are also better informed. We hear about the things that go wrong. Bad news attracts attention and attention sells advertising.

There are all of these outlets hungry for attention grabbing stories. There are people everywhere with high quality cameras in there cell phones taking videos of anything and everything that happens. Whenever something disastrous happens, chances are there is at least one and probably two or three cell phones taking a video of it.

So relax. The end of the world is no nearer than it has ever been. In fact, it’s probably not as near as it has been in the past. It’s like the old jokes about there being good news and bad news. The good news is that things are better than they ever have been. The bad news is that things used to be worse than we ever knew.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

A Couple of Insights

I sat down with Pam to watch “Chance” on Hulu tonight. It is a series starring Hugh Laurie as a Neuropsychiatrist. I loved him as House. Before that I loved him as Bertie Wooster in “Jeeves and Wooster”. I even loved him as the bad guy in “The Night Manager”.

As dark as “The Night Manager” was, it wasn’t quite as depressing as the first half an our of “Chance” was. It has all the signs of a great show. I just don’t need a show this dark right now. I intend to give it a shot later when I’m in a better mood myself.

I started therapy, “seeing a psychologist” as I sometimes call it, years ago. When I started, my major goal was to get rid of my anxiety. I recently figured out that I didn’t want to get rid of my anxiety, I just wanted to manage it. Anxiety is what motivates me to do good work. Anxiety is what helps me overcome my natural laziness.

I had a similar breakthrough today. Early in my therapy, I complained of mood swings. I admitted that I liked the elation of the manic swings of the cycle but was willing to give that up to keep from having the brutal lows of the depressive swings. My mother always told me to be careful what you wish for because you might get it. Today it occurred to me that the problem that I was dealing with now was the fact that my life had become a monotonous emotional gray.

I’m not unhappy but I’m not enthusiastic about anything either. I spend most of my time struggling to be an adult. I deal with common things, paying bills, domestic chores, caring for my family and my fur children. It’s rewarding in it’s quiet way but I think I could handle a bit of excitement every now and then. Even if I paid for it with a little depression. I don’t ever want to go back to the deep mood swings that I had in my thirties and forties, but I’d like just a little bit of spice back in my life.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Feeling a Bit Flighty

Today’s writing prompt:

You discover that you can fly. No one else can fly, only you. What do you do? How do people treat you?

It was actually a case of necessity, the first time that I ever flew that is. I don’t mean flew like in an airplane or a helicopter or even a hot air balloon. I mean flying all on my own.

I’m not sure how it works. I just jump real hard and I don’t come down until I want to. At least that’s what it feels like to me. The first time I was standing at the edge of a gravel road in the middle of nowhere. I had earbuds in my ears. I was listening to Smells Like Teen Spirit. I heard something and I turned around. There was a big pickup truck bearing down on me. It was about to hit me. I couldn’t jump to either side so I jumped straight up. Only I didn’t come down right away.

I flew upwards kind of like superman. I realized I was getting kind of high up and I started to panic. So, I thought about coming down again and I started sinking gently toward the ground. I stopped myself about twenty feet off the ground. I just hovered there for a minute or so and slowly looked all around. There was nobody around for miles.

I eased myself slowly down to the ground. I read the screen of my phone. I read somewhere that if you can read something it is a sure sign that you are not dreaming. I’m not sure if that is true or not but I could read so I had passed that test anyway. It didn’t feel like I was dreaming. What if I really could fly. What would everybody say? Would the government come and lock me up like some kind of laboratory animal. I didn’t intend to find out.

No, I was going to keep this to myself for a while. I’d have to be real careful when I flew to make sure that no one saw me. But how could I be sure that I wasn’t just delusional? It didn’t seem like I was hallucinating. I needed to tell someone. Let them see me fly so they could reassure me that I wasn’t dreaming. Who did I trust enough to keep my secret?

I couldn’t trust my best friend Bill. He means well but he can’t keep a secret to save his life, or mine. I couldn’t trust my dad. He’d insist that we tell the authorities and I wasn’t willing to take that risk. I could show Friskie, my dog but that wouldn’t really help verify my sanity, would it?

I walked home. It was about a mile down the gravel road to the main highway and then a quarter of a mile more to my house. I must have been really preoccupied because I didn’t remember getting home and going to bed. I woke up the next morning unsure if I had really been able to fly or not.

I hurried through my shower and got dressed. I ate breakfast and headed out for school. I stopped for a minute in the back yard to see if I could still fly. I jumped about three feet high and hung there for a minute. Then I slowly settled down to the ground.

“Nice trick.” Matilda, my neighbor said. Matilda is eight and extremely smart. I was startled but I thought fast.

“Thanks. I’m still working on it. Don’t tell anyone, okay.” I knew she would keep the secret if she thought it was an illusion.

“Okay. But I want to be your assistant if you start doing magic shows.” Matilda said.

“Sure, but I’m not ready to do shows yet. I’ve got a lot of practicing to do first.” I smiled at her and we went around front to catch the bus.

I don’t know where I want to take this story. It has a lot of potential but I haven’t thought about it enough. I also need to wrap it up for tonight so I’ll  just leave it there.

I’m not going to do the daily writing prompt for a while. No one wanted to join in and write their own story anyway and I have got to start planning my novel for NaNoWriMo. I may com back to it again after NaNoWriMo is behind me. Or, I may not.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Time Out for a Soap Box Session

Okay. I blew my blogging streak. I didn’t write a post yesterday. But I’m going to get back on the horse and ride. I’m writing this post today and I’ll write another tomorrow, and so on. Tomorrow, I’ll be back on schedule with the writing prompt that I posted yesterday. Today, I’m going to write a different post though.

Today, we took Pixie to be spayed. She came through the procedure with flying colors. But that was just the beginning of the day. When we got back from dropping her off for her procedure, Pam talked to her sleep doctor and he told her to go to the emergent care place to get her ear seen to. She had noticed blood coming from her ear yesterday morning.

It turns out, her ear drum was fine. She had an abrasion in her ear canal. The doc in the box gave her a shot of antibiotics and a prescription and sent her on her way until she can get in to see the regular doctor next week.

Then we went to Walgreens and Publix for necessities and came back home. After a quick lunch and a short break while I wrote in my journal, I got back on the road to go pick up Pixie at the vet. On the way home from the vet, I missed the turn to the interstate and took a state road half the way home, adding ten or fifteen minutes to the ride home.

I was doubting that I needed to take the whole day off when the day began. At the end of the day, I was amazed that I got everything done. I don’t know if the flavor of the day came through in this post but it feels to me like a microcosm of my life of late.

I set out to accomplish one thing and I manage to do just that. Along the way, I accomplish two or three other things that I didn’t even know that I intended to do. And somehow, I still manage to not accomplish the thing that I would have liked to accomplish if I was going to be an overachiever. Not that it matters, but in this case I would have liked to have spent some time writing on the plan for my National Novel Writing Month (http://nanowrimo.org/) project. Or playing my guitar. Or playing my mandolin. I haven’t played my mandolin in much to long.

I’m not complaining. I’m observing what happened. I’m trying to learn from what happened. Oh, another thing that I neglected to mention. I also watched NCIS, Bull, and NCIS: New Orleans. That was three hours that I could have spent writing or playing.

It’s all about priorities and will power. I need to examine my priorities and muster some more will power. I’m going to need it to make it through NaNoWriMo in November.

Tomorrow’s writing prompt:

You discover that you can fly. No one else can fly, only you. What do you do? How do people treat you?

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Story Time

Today’s writing prompt:

You discover while writing a story one day that everything you write seems to be coming true.

I sat and stared at the screen. The cursor flashed at me. My mind raced. I took a deep breath. I started to type. At first I just wrote about the fact that I was sitting in front of the computer trying to think of something to write. Then I unlimbered my imagination and wrote that there was a knock on the door. It would be a beautiful woman, a stranger with long black hair and sky blue eyes. As I typed the sentence, I heard a knock on the front door.

I got up and answered the door. There was a beautiful woman with long black hair and blue eyes. That was surprising enough. Then she said, “Are you Timothy Roth?”

“Yes, how did you know that?” I asked. She smiled and my heart melted.

“I was given your address. I wasn’t sure I had the right door.”

“Of course. Come in. What can I do for you?” I was a little bit amused with myself that I had assumed some psychic phenomena when the actual explanation was so mundane.

“Thank you,” she said and came in. I closed the door behind her and gestured that she should go into the living room. “I’m here to ask a favor of you. We have a mutual acquaintance. Elizabeth Morgan. Oh, my name is Lilly Montgomery.” She smiled again. I smiled back.

“Liz is a very old friend of mine. If she referred you to me, that carries a lot of weight. What is the favor?”

“I want you to write a story about me. A story of discovery and wonder. A story of a quest. I leave the details entirely up to you. You can do whatever you want with the story when it’s finished. I only want a copy for myself, no other rights to it than to read it. I’ll pay you whatever you think is fair for your time.” She was looking down at the coffee table as she talked but as she finished, she looked up and looked me right in the eyes.

“I think we can work something out. Can I get you something to drink? Some tea perhaps?”

“No, you’re very kind, but I have to go home and pack. I am leaving for a trip for two weeks early tomorrow morning. Do you think you might be able to have my story when I get back?” She smiled that beautiful smile again.

“Yes, I think I can. I’ll write you the story and then you can pay me whatever you think it’s worth.” After all, if it was as good as I expected it might be, I could sell it and more than make up for the time required to write it.

“You are too kind,” she said and got up to leave.

I shook her slender, delicate hand and said, “Have a good trip Ms. Montgomery.”

“Oh, you must call me Lilly. If you’re going to write my story we must surely be on a first name basis.” She smiled.

“Okay, Lilly. How do I get in touch with you?”

“I’m afraid I will be out of contact while I’m traveling. Here is the number of my assistant. She can help you if you have any questions or need anything. I’ll call you when I get back.”

I escorted her to the door and watched as she got in the black limousine parked at the curb. She had a uniformed driver and everything. This was definitely interesting.

I went back to my office and sat down at my computer. I recorded the events that had just transpired and then I projected myself into Lilly’s future. I imagined her getting up the next day and taking a limo to the airport. She flew first class to Prague.

I imagined that she was an art dealer and was investigating the discovery of a missing painting by a renaissance master. Her associate explained that he could show her the painting but only at his clients residence. The story flowed from my finger tips effortlessly. I made sure that she made good use of her beguiling smile.

She met the associate at an eighteenth century estate in an exclusive neighborhood in Prague and the painting was everything that he had promised. She made an offer for it on the spot. The owner said that he would have to consider the offer for a day or two. She agreed.

She decided to see the sites of Prague while she waited for her answer. She spent the next two days visiting museums and sampling the best of Prague’s cuisine. She was even able to get tickets to the opera. Finally she got a phone call from the associate. The offer had been accepted. She was to meet with the client at the offices of her associate to draw up a contract and make arrangements for the sale.

I had been working on the story for a week. I  had spared no detail in my descriptions of Lilly’s adventures thus far. I decided to call my friend, Liz and find out what she could tell me about Lilly. I wanted to see if maybe I could tailor the rest of the story to her personality a little bit.

The phone rang quite a long time. I was about to hang up when she answered. “This is Liz.”

“Hello, Liz. It’s Tim. I got a visit last week from a Lilly Montgomery. She said you referred her to me. I  have to thank you for that.”

“Oh, Lilly. She’s the daughter of Jack Montgomery. He’s an editor at my publisher. She’s an art student, I think. She wanted to meet you. She said she was going on a trip. To Europe somewhere. What did she want?”

“She asked me to write a story for her. She said she would pay me and I could keep the rights to publish the story. As beautiful as she is, I would have written her a story for free. I told her I’d write her story and she could pay me whatever she thought it was worth.”

“That doesn’t sound like you. You must be pretty smitten.”

“I guess so. It just happened so strangely. I had just written about a dark haired, blue eyed woman knocking on the door and then there was a knock on the door. It enchanted me, I suppose.”

“Ah, always a sucker for a mystery, I see. Well good luck with the story.”

“I’ve already written a good bit of it. I was just wanting to try to tailor it to her personality. Can you tell me anything about her? You said she was going to Europe. Do you know where or why?”

“I think she said she was going to Prague, or maybe Berlin. I don’t really know her that well. She used to come in to the office with Jack in the summer and sit drawing in the corner. Sorry but that’s all I’ve got.”

“Thanks. Tell Joe hi for me. I’ll take you both to dinner and tell you how this worked out.”

“That sounds good, Tim. Bye.” We hung up and I went back to writing. I decided to add a little bit of adventure to the story. I wrote about her meeting a handsome young man at the associates office. The young man was named Henry. He asked her out to lunch. They discovered they were both painters that made their living dealing art. He asked her how long she was going to be in Prague. She told him she would be there for another week.

The week went by in a whirlwind. He took her to see all the sites. They spent one afternoon drawing the animals at the zoo. He showed her the Astronomical Clock on the old town city hall. They visited so many museums and churches and historical buildings she could barely remember them all.

Then, on the night before she was to fly home, Henry took her out to the finest restaurant in town. Then they walked back through the mild early summer night to her hotel. He asked her if she would be coming back to Prague any time soon. She said she didn’t know. It all depended on whether she had another client that needed her services in Prague. He said he hoped they would see each other again. He asked her to keep in touch.

The next morning she flew back to New York. She was exhausted when she arrived. She went straight home and to bed. She slept for eighteen hours. When she woke up it was noon. She got up and took a shower and got dressed. She was about to head out to her office when there was a knock on the door.

It was Henry. He had wangled an appointment to the New York office of his firm. It was for six months initially but there was a chance they would extend it. She was ecstatic. She told him that she had to go to work and then she had a meeting that evening. She would be able to see him afterwards for a late supper around eight.

I looked down at what I had written. My phone rang. It was Lilly. “Have you finished my story?” she asked.

“Almost. I will be done by this evening.” I replied.

“Can I come by to get it around six?” she asked.

“That will be fine. Can I offer you dinner?”

“No, I have a dinner engagement at eight. I met this man named Henry on my trip. We’re having dinner.”

I was excited and I was sad. Had I written this story or had it written me? Was there any correlation or just coincidence? Who can say. The world is a mysterious place. Perhaps Lilly would tell me how much more of her story had come to pass.

Tomorrow’s writing prompt:

You discover that you can fly. No one else can fly, only you. What do you do? How do people treat you?

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Another Day in Babylon


Today’s writing prompt:

When you get up one morning you discover that everyone is speaking some strange language you don’t understand. No one can understand what you are saying either.

The first hour of my day was fine. I got up, had a shower, got dressed, made a cup of coffee, and headed out to work. The first inkling that I  had that anything was wrong was when I turned on the radio in the car. The voices were speaking some language I didn’t recognize. It wasn’t any of the common languages that everyone knows a smattering of. It was like nothing I had ever heard.

I called my boss to tell him that I would be a few minutes late. He was speaking the same strange language. I hung up on him. I didn’t know what to say. I turned around and went back home. There was no point in sounding like a babbling idiot at work. Unless I could figure out what was going on, I was going to have a hard time making a living.

I tried calling my brother. He was babbling the same nonsense that everyone else was speaking. I tuned around the radio dial. Everyone was speaking it. I was beginning to question my own sanity.

When I got home, I was greeted at the door by Dolby, my dog. He was wagging his tail and dancing on his hind legs. When I told him he was a good dog, he started whining and backing away from me. I went after him and he hid under the bed.

As I sat there on the bed, I saw this flash of silver on my pillow. I investigated and found a pair of small silver banana shaped objects, about the size of the head of a cotton swab and half an inch long. They had the texture of soft candy. For some odd reason I felt compelled to put them in my ears.

When I did, I heard voices in the living room. They were speaking English. I went to see what was going on. I had left the TV on and it was the local news. I could understand every word they were saying. I reached up and felt of my ears. I couldn’t find any trace of  the silver objects. I found a mirror and looked in my ears. There was nothing there but flesh.

I decided to give the day another try. As I was about to leave for work for the second time, I saw a reflection in the mirror. It was a reflection of the classical gray alien standing outside the kitchen window. I went into the kitchen to check but there was nothing outside the window. I went outside to look but there was nothing there.

I closed my eyes for a minute and went back to sleep. When I opened them again, the world was just as it always had been. I was on my way to work. It was going to be another day just like any other. Or was it?

Tomorrow’s writing prompt:

You discover while writing a story one day that everything you write seems to be coming true.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Some Days Are Better Than Others

Today’s writing prompt:

You start a new job in the morning. It is your dream job. Your friend calls you and asks for a ride to the other side of town to visit his girlfriend in the hospital. You take him but when it’s time to come home your car has been stolen.

I was really excited. I had prepared for years and tomorrow my dream was coming true. I was starting my new job as a computer game developer. I ate dinner and washed the dishes. I checked my email. I decided to go to bed early so I headed for my bedroom. That was when the phone rang.

“Hello, Tim?” It was my friend Jimmy. “Did I get you up?” He sounded a little bit sheepish.

“No, I was just heading for bed though.” I said, hoping he’d take the hint.

“I’m sorry but I have a big favor to ask of you.” This didn’t sound good.

“Okay, ask.” I said, trying not to sound to annoyed.

“Sheila is in the hospital in Pottsville. I wonder if I could get you to give me a ride over there and back.” Pottsville was forty five minutes away on the other side of Reid mountain. Reid mountain wasn’t a very high mountain but it was as high as any around here. That would mean forty five minutes on the road over their and forty five minutes back plus any time that Jimmy spent visiting. But Jimmy was a good friend. He’d always been there when I needed help. I just couldn’t bring myself to say no.

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll be there in five minutes. Meet me outside your place.”

“Thank you so much, Tim. I really appreciate it.”

I could tell he was worried. He didn’t talk the whole ride to Pottsville. We pulled up in the parking lot of the small rural hospital. “I’ll get a cup of coffee in the coffee shop. Come and get me when you’re ready to go home.” I said. Jimmy disappeared into the elevator and I went into the coffee shop and bought a cup of coffee. I sat at a table and opened the book that I had brought with me to read.

I would have gone up to visit Sheila but there was an awkward distance between us. I had dated her best friend, Emily, for three years and it had ended badly. It was a misunderstanding really but Sheila took Emily’s side and we had both agreed to leave it at that. Jimmy had told me that she was just in the hospital for a minor procedure but she had asked him to visit. I knew she wouldn’t want to see me.

Time passed quickly. It was a good book. The next thing I knew Jimmy was coming in the coffee shop, ready to go. “How was she?” I asked.

“Happy to see me. She was worried about the procedure. I reassured her. She said to tell you thanks for bringing me.” he said.

“I’m glad to help,” I said. “Are you ready to go?”

“I reckon so,” Jimmy said.

We went out to the parking lot. It was almost empty. Pottsville was a tiny little town. I didn’t see my car anywhere. “We parked right here in the first row, didn’t we?” I asked.

“Right here.” Jimmy said, pointing to the space where I remembered parking.

“You don’t think they towed my car, do you?” I asked, worried.

“I don’t see why. Let’s ask them inside.” We walked back in to the hospital. The nurse at the desk looked up from a book as we approached.

“Can I help you?” she asked.

“My car is gone from the parking lot. Do you have any idea what might have happened to it?” I explained.

“No. What does it look like?” she asked.

“It’s a black, 2008 Toyota Corolla,” I said.

“I haven’t seen it. You might try the police station. It is two blocks north on the other side of the street.” We thanked her and walked down to the police station. This isn’t how I wanted to spend the evening before I started a new job.

The officer behind  the front desk looked up as we entered the station. “Can I help you?” he asked.

“Yes. I parked in the parking lot at the hospital about an hour ago in my black, 2008 Toyota Corolla. When I came out just now, it was gone. Could you help me find it?” I asked. The officer had been writing down the particulars.

“When did you park it?” he asked.

“It must have been around nine,” I replied. “We came out just now, about ten fifteen and it wasn’t where I left it.”

“I see. Do you know your tag number?”

“Let’s see. It has Alabama tag 42G58A4.”

“Yes. I see it right here.” The officer pointed at his computer screen. “The sheriff over in Winslow County reported it as being used in a robbery of a little gas station over in Barlow. Let’s give him a call.” He turned around and rolled his chair over to a table with a radio and a microphone sitting on it. He picked up the microphone and said, “Bubba, this is Ralph over at Pottsville dispatch. You got a second?”

The radio was quiet for a minute and then a deep booming voice said, “I got my hands full with paper work, Ralph. What can I do for you?”

“There’s a guy over here,” he said as he looked at me.

“Tim Albert,” I prompted him.

“Tim Albert that is reporting his black Toyota stolen. He gave me the tag number you reported in that robbery a few minutes ago.”

“Tell him he can pick it up at my office in the morning.” Bubba said.

“I think he needs it to get home,” Ralph said.

“It will be after midnight before I can get all the paperwork filled out. If he wants to wait around until then, I can release it to him then. It isn’t in the best of shape to drive though.” Bubba said. I cringed.

“What does he mean?” I asked.

“Is the vehicle operational?” Ralph asked Bubba.

“How far is he going to drive it?” Bubba asked.

“To Stapledon,” I said.

“Will it make it to Stapledon?” Ralph relayed.

“Probably not. He’ll probably need a wrecker.” I was crushed. This was my first car that I had bought new. I had taken such good care of it. How was I going to explain this to my new boss?

“Tell him don’t go to any trouble tonight. I’ll pick it up with a wrecker tomorrow.” I said. Ralph passed on the message. Bubba was appreciative. “What’s the best way to get to Stapledon this time of night?” I asked Ralph.

“I don’t really know. There’s nothing this side of Stapledon, not this time of night. You might get a ride with Joe, my brother in law. He works third shift at the recycling plant in Stapledon. Shall I call him and see?” Ralph asked.

“Yes, thanks.” I said.

We got a ride with Joe. We left Pottsville around ten till eleven and he dropped us off at my house around eleven forty five. Jimmy said thanks again and he was sorry my car got stolen. I told him it wasn’t his fault. I didn’t totally feel that way but there was no sense making him feel bad. If I hadn’t taken him to see Sheila, my car wouldn’t have been trashed by some crazed outlaw. On the other hand, we never know what’s going to happen in life. A meteor may fall out of the sky and hit you on the head and kill you.

Jimmy walked the six blocks to his house. I went to bed around one. It was going to be a long day tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s writing prompt:

When you get up one morning you discover that everyone is speaking some strange language you don’t understand. No one can understand what you are saying either.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Another Wrong Number

Today’s writing prompt:

After getting a strange phone call offering help with stabilizing reality you start to notice that things keep changing inexplicably. For example, your phone number is not what you remember it being.

I was dreaming that I was swimming. Somewhere there was a bell ringing. I finally woke up enough to realize that my phone was ringing. I answered it.

A man’s voice said, “Good. We finally synchronized eigenstates with you. We need your help stablizing reality. The field could collapse at any moment.” There was a click on the line. I looked at the phone. It said call dropped.

I was awake. It was 4:45am and there was no way I was going to get back to sleep before my alarm rang at five. I sat on the edge of the bed and stared at my phone. I didn’t remember changing the desktop photo on it. Who was the kid in the picture. He looked familiar but the name just wasn’t coming to me. He looked a little bit like my little brother.

The cat came in from the other room and jumped up on the bed beside me. “Well, Sylvester, I guess it’s time to get up.” He meowed his agreement and head butted me. I gave him his morning fix of kitty bits in gravy and headed to the bathroom for my morning shower.

After the shower, I got dressed and was fooling with my phone before putting it in my pocket. I noticed that it listed my phone number as something different from what it had always been. I scratched my head for a minute and decided to call my provider.

“This is Melody, how may I help you today, Mr. Howard?” the agent asked.

“It seems that you changed my phone number without telling me?” I said.

“My records show that your phone number has always been (123) 555-4567 since you’ve had service with us. That’s been eight years, right?”

“I’ve been with you for about eight years but that’s not my phone number. It has always been (123) 555-1902,” I replied.

“We show that number being listed to a James Fletcher. Did you perhaps confuse your number with a friends?”

“No, I don’t know a James Fletcher. Perhaps I’m just confused. Thank you.” I was getting a little freaked out.

“Is there anything else I can do for you, Mr. Howard?”

“Just one more thing. What is today’s date?” I don’t know why I asked. Imagine my surprise at the answer.

“Of course. It’s September 31, 2018. Is there anything else?”

“No, thank you.” I hung up stunned. When had September gotten an extra day. I checked the calendar on the refrigerator just to make sure I had understood correctly. I grabbed my bag and headed out to work.

I got there half an hour early thanks to my early morning caller. I waved at Mary, the receptionist as I walked past. She waved and said, “Just a minute, Steve. Who are you here to see?”

“I work here, last I checked,” I responded.

She looked at me kind of funny and said, “You haven’t worked her in over a year, Steve. You left here to start a freelance business.”

“Oh, right. Sorry. Old habits die hard. Well… I guess I’ll be going then.” I turned and walked back out. On the way home, I noticed that the stop lights were blue instead of green. I got home and went to my office. I had been thinking about starting my own business. When had I taken the plunge? I remembered going to work yesterday. Why would I set an alarm for five if I worked for myself?

My phone rang. I jumped. Then I answered it. “Stephen?” The voice sounded tentative.

“Yes? Who is this?” I asked a little more emphatically than I meant to.

“It’s Carl. Your partner. We invented the Eigenshifter together.”

“The what? You mean like business partner?” I was trying to make some kind of sense of what he was saying.

“Yes, your business partner. The Eigenshifter. You know. The machine that changes which universe you are in. Only it isn’t working properly. We’re jumping randomly between universes and I can’t get it to stabilize. You’ve got to help me.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m not sure. The address on the door of the office here says 2200 Maple Street SW Suite 4b. Get here as quick as you can. The instrumentation is indicating a major shift in the next hour.”

“Stay calm. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” I hung up. I didn’t remember anything about him or inventing an Eigenshifter but in light of the strange things that had been happening this morning I didn’t have any better ideas so I programmed the address in my map application and headed over to the office.

When I got there the door was standing open. I went inside and closed the door behind me. “Carl?” I called. There was no answer. There was no one in the outer office so I went through a door to my right. It opened into a hallway. There was an archway about half way down the hall that opened into a lab area.

I called again, “Carl?” Still no answer. There was a machine on the lab bench. It was an electronic circuit built on one of those prototyping boards. There was an instrument with several meters and a display screen sitting on the shelf above the unit connected to it by several wires of various colors.

On the bench beside the circuit was a schematic. I was puzzling over it when a voice behind me said, “At last! I’m so glad you’re here.”

“Carl?” I asked.

“No, it’s Charles, your partner, remember. You designed the Timeslip and I helped build it.” He looked truly puzzled.

“Things must be worse than you thought. When you called me you said your name was Carl and the machine was called the Eigenshifter.” He looked at me with shock.

“You’re right. We’ve got to do something to stabilize reality before one or both of us disappears. Have at it.” He pointed at the prototype.

“I hate to tell you this but I haven’t a clue what this is or how to stabilize it.” He cringed. I looked back at the schematics. It had been a long time since I took electronics in high school but I didn’t want to disappear.

I was about to move one of the probe wires when a familiar voice said, “Don’t touch that!” I looked up and it felt like I was looking in the mirror.  “I think I can fix it and things will all go back to the way they were.”

“How do you mean?” I asked. “The way they were for you or me or Carl or Charles or whatever his name is? What reality will we go back to?”

“The one where this all started. You will still be part of me and Charles will be Charlie instead of Charles or Carl. It’s better than this random drifting through alternative universes.”

“Okay.” I said. “Do it.” He came over to the bench and took a few measurements. He turned a few nobs and then…

I was dreaming that I was swimming. Somewhere there was a bell ringing. I finally woke up enough to realize that my phone was ringing. I answered it.

A man’s voice said, “Hello, Sharon?”

“No, I think you’ve got the wrong number.” I hung up and went back to sleep.

Tomorrow’s writing prompt:

You start a new job in the morning. It is your dream job. Your friend calls you and asks for a ride to the other side of town to visit his girlfriend in the hospital. You take him but when it’s time to come home your car has been stolen.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Too Much TV is Bad for You

Here’s the prompt:

Your TV is receiving broadcasts from 24 hours in the future. You see a report about a tragedy and attempt to tell somone about it so that they can prevent it but no one will listen to you.

Here’s my story:

I turned on the TV to watch the morning news while I fixed breakfast. I was surprised when the weather man said it was Friday because I was sure it was Thursday. Maybe he was just confused. I looked at my smart phone. It said it was Thursday. I ate my oatmeal and watched as the news anchor started reading a breaking news story. A train had hit a car stalled on the tracks two blocks from my house. I was surprised that I hadn’t heard any sirens. I looked on the local news web sites on my phone. There was no mention of a wreck. This was starting to be a little strange.

I finished breakfast and finished getting ready for work. I was expecting a traffic jam. There was no sign of the wreck on the tracks. When I got to work, I called the TV station to ask about the story. They didn’t know what I was talking about. I thanked them and hung up. I had trouble concentrating all morning long.

I had to go home at lunch to get some paper work I had forgotten.  I turned on the TV while I was eating my lunch. There on the noon news was film of the scene of the accident. There was an ambulance, a medflight helicopter, a fire truck, and several police stations. It was the crossing near my house. I was about to call the station again when the news anchor read the date. He said it was tomorrow.

What was going on here? Was I somehow seeing a TV show the day before it was broadcast? Was I stuck in the Twilight Zone or something? I was beginning to doubt my sanity. I looked out the window and my neighbor was getting his mail. I stuck my head out the door and asked “What day is it?” He said, “It’s Thursday, of course.” I said, “Yeah, I just got confused I guess.”

I called the police station. I didn’t call 911. It wasn’t an emergency, yet. I asked to speak to someone about attempting to prevent an accident. The person on the other end of the phone put me on hold. When the line connected again it was a man’s voice. He said, “Could I get your name please?” I gave him my name.

He asked me to explain what I meant about preventing an accident. I told him what I had seen on my TV. He checked and there had been no accident that morning. He suggested that I was the victim of a sick prank. I assured him that it hadn’t been a prank. I had seen the local news anchor reading the story and the film of the accident. He said he didn’t know what they could do to stop it. I could tell that he didn’t believe me.

I thanked him and hung up. I called work and told them I was feeling sick and was taking the rest of the day off. I tried to think of something I could do to prevent the wreck. I called the railroad office. They were even less receptive than the police had been. I sat and thought and fell asleep.

When I woke up, it was supper time. I made supper and watched the news. The train wreck was the lead story. The name of the victim was still being withheld. After the news the Friday night line up of shows came on. I watched them for a while and then I decided to go to bed early so that I could get up early and try to prevent the accident.

I got up very early the next day and got ready for work. I got in my car and drove to the railroad crossing. As I was crossing the tracks, very slowly to see if there was any sign of a wreck, my car stalled. I heard a train whistle blowing. I tried to start the car again. It wouldn’t start. I tried to open my door. It was jammed closed. I could hear the crossing gates close behind me. I could hear the whistle blowing as the train got nearer. It was almost upon me. There was nothing I could do. I wished I had never turned on the TV yesterday morning.

Tomorrow’s writing prompt:

After getting a strange phone call offering help with stabilizing reality you start to notice that things keep changing inexplicably. For example, your phone number is not what you remember it being.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Writing Prompts

In high school I took a creative writing class. We did an exercise on several occasions where the teacher passed out a sheet with five premises on it. We were told to pick one and write a story based on it. We were given whatever was left of the fifty minute class period to finish it. This was in the days before personal computers and we had to write it out in longhand.

I haven’t thought about this exercise in years. I remembered it yesterday and went looking around the internet to see if anyone was doing anything like that. I should have known. There were a number of sites that were doing it. There was a subreddit that had codified the practice such that there was a set of coded tags to tell what kind of writing prompt you were posting.

There was another sponsored  by Writer’s Digest (big surprise when you stop and think about it). I narrowed the search to science fiction writing prompts. The results were still over a million sites. My idea is to post a writing prompt on my blog one day and then post my response to it the next day. That will give everyone a chance to write their own response before I post mine. Leave a comment pointing to your story if you write one or message me.

I actually thought of this idea while I was brainstorming an idea for a novel for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) which is coming up starting on November 1st. I’m still working on an idea for that.

Okay, here’s the first prompt.

Your TV is receiving broadcasts from 24 hours in the future. You see a report about a tragedy and attempt to tell somone about it so that they can prevent it but no one will listen to you.

I’ll write my story and post another prompt tomorrow.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the people you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.