Pollyannaism

She was smiling. Kelly always smiled, but this was his favorite photo of her. They had gone to the pier after the beach. It had been his day off. No one was there and the attendant at the Ferris wheel seemed less than thrilled to get any customers, but Nathan hadn’t let anything ruin that day. They went simply because they could. They had lived in the city for a decade and had never gone. At the top, she pulled out her phone and snapped the picture.

He still looked at the photo every day even after he began seeing the numbers. The first time he saw them was during his last night shift in the ER. An elderly man came in complaining of dizziness. He was on several medications, but Nathan knew Hydralazine would stabilize him. There was absolutely no doubt. He calculated it perfectly. 10 cc’s. Not a drop more. The numbers appeared as he pushed the drug into the man’s arm. They ticked down, and when they reached zero, the old man’s eyes grew vacant and left his body behind.


Nathan wandered to the pier every morning on his days off. He would stare out at the ocean and take in the salt-sprayed air for an hour or so. He’d buy a ticket to the Ferris wheel from a bored attendant. They were different each time, but now they all had numbers. The young man this time had a healthy 63 years, 22 hours, 41 minutes, and 36…35…34…

He didn’t know what it was or how it came to him, but he kept the numbers secret. He knew the idea of them would sound insane to anyone else. At first, he thought they were a punishment, a sign that whatever he did meant nothing, but he realized they were a blessing when he pulled a young boy out of anaphylaxis. He watched the minutes rise one by one as the boy’s breathing returned to normal. He knew the urgency of each patient with a simple glance. He started his rounds with the patient with the lowest number and ended with the highest. The nurses found his method sporadic, but he was always where he needed to be. They gave him nicknames that he tried to ignore.


At the top, where he could see most of the city, he would pull out his phone and stare at the photo of his wife. The zeroes above her head were daggers, but he taught himself to look past them and see her smile. The smile that reminded him of the day they spent at the beach six years ago. When they had gotten out of the water, plopped down on their towels, sprawled out on the sand and Kelly told him she was pregnant. She said it so bluntly he’d almost missed it. She had looked at him with that beaming smile and started laughing.

It was infectious, even across the years. Nathan found himself smiling when he got off the empty ride and onto the vacant pier. He headed into the city of a million people.

Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is Misery by Stephen King. This is the first recommendation I’ve made for a book by Stephen King, which seems strange considering how influential he has been in the writing industry for the past fifty years (almost, his first book, Carrie, came out in 1973). When I was a young, stubborn fool, I fell into a regrettable pitfall of human thought and refused to read any of Stephen King’s books simply because he was so well known and popular and everyone raved about his writing (including a few of my friends). I grew older and out of such naive thinking but still didn’t read any of his novels until I was in college. The first book I read by him was his book On Writing (which is amazing for anyone wanting to know more about him and know his thoughts on the subject). I’ve only read a few of his other books so far, and one of them was Misery.

Misery is the story of Paul Sheldon, a writer who finds himself held captive by an insane super-fan (the word fan does stem, or is a shortening of, fanatic). He is forced to write the revival of a character he recently killed off. A character that made Paul a popular novelist and who was the center of a long series. A character that Annie Wilkes loves so much that she goes to unimaginable lengths to make sure the character comes back in an acceptable way. This book is also somewhat two-fold. You get the “real” story of Paul and his predicament (for lack of a better word) and the story Paul is writing which is enticing in itself.

Stephen King mentions in his book On Writing that the fictional pain drug in Misery called Novril, and the book itself, were both slightly metaphorical of his own addiction to cocaine. Misery was written in 1987 (I believe Mr. King had defeated his addiction by that time if my memory serves me right).

I had the pleasure of seeing Stephen King in person last year (it’s okay to be jealous). He is the first I’ve checked off my authors-to-see-in-person bucket list. It’s hard to check these off when not many touring authors come to the St. Louis area.

Though I have not yet seen it, I know there is an excellent movie adaptation of this book starring Kathy Bates and James Caan. Even though I haven’t seen it, I’m always biased and suggest you read the book even if you’ve seen the movie.

Happy Reading.

Ramshackle Memories

Snow blew in through the open window and Mathew watched the saturated flakes pile onto the hardwood floor. He didn’t move. Something in him refused to. He knew he would have to clean it all up before long or the wood would warp or stain or become imperfect in some way, but he couldn’t stop thinking that it wasn’t the end of the world if the floor became flawed. Whatever happened to it would be his responsibility. He was the man of the house now. His inheritance was everything his father “would take care of tomorrow.” The loose step out front, the broken microwave handle, the run-down tractor sitting in the barn that was meant for “tomorrow” a few thousand yesterdays ago.

“Mathew!” His mother walked across the snow-covered floor to shut the window. “What are you doing?” She stepped carefully through the slush to where he sat against the wall. She stood in front of him still wearing her black dress. “Mathew, honey, you must be cold.”

He didn’t say anything.

“It’s freezing in here,” she said, shivering. She stared at him for few seconds before walking to the closet and grabbing a blanket. She came back, placed it over his curled-up figure, and tucked in the edges. “We’ll get through this dear,” she said softly, “Everything will be okay.”

He didn’t move. He only stared at the snow in the room.

She stood. “Dinner will be ready at five. Aunt Mindy is making it for us. Be sure you thank her before you eat.” She shut the door behind her.

He watched the white snow gradually turn translucent and transmogrify into a grey lake. He could see his reflection on the surface. He wished himself as small as he felt so he could take the folded gum wrapper in the corner and make it a canoe and row out onto the lake inside his room. He would weave through snowflakes like icebergs and spend the afternoon making his way to the other side where he would land at the foot of the bed. The oak leg a sequoia he would climb until he reached the duvet he imagined would feel like burlap clouds.

He dreamt of his escape as the blanket trapped what little heat remained in his body. He grew warm but the numbness never fully went away.

“It’s five o’clock,” his mother’s voice reached him from downstairs. Dinner was always at five. Even when his father’s heart stopped, the routine refused to budge. Nothing would change. That’s why nothing was fixed. There was never time because every day was the same. His father would wake up, work in the field, come back for lunch, feed the animals, go back to the field, check on the cattle, eat dinner at five o’clock, maybe run to town, get things ready for the next day, then fall asleep in his chair trying to catch a bit of news just after the sunlight faded from the window.

“Tomorrow” was always a dreamland where there was time for anything and everything. Time enough to fix the tractor or the microwave or the loose step out front. Time enough to play catch. To teach a boy how to shave. To help with homework. To go to the doctor so they could find the clogged arteries.

He didn’t want to go downstairs. He wasn’t hungry, but he also wasn’t two inches tall sailing across the puddle on his bedroom floor.

Mathew decided then not to replace the floor even if it did get damaged. Even if mold started growing beneath the floorboards, he wouldn’t be around long enough to deal with the constant swollen eyes and coughing. He wouldn’t fix a damn thing in this house, because you fix what you intend to keep.

Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s recommendation is: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Seriously, if you haven’t read this book already, get on it. Even after 60 years, it’s as relevant and thought provoking as ever. Fun fact: most dystopian novels mention a perpetual war happening somewhere outside of the story being told.


 

This was my second book recommendation after I started doing recommendations. It was originally only posted on my Patreon page and decided it needed to be posted here also. This book is great. HBO released a movie based on it this past weekend (May 19th) and I hope it lives up to the book. I’m sure they will change a lot, but we will see.

It was a pleasure to burn. Such a great first line. My original recommendation does state that you need to read this if you haven’t, and of course I stand by that 100%. I know it is often required reading in many schools. If you originally read it in school, read it again because it gets better the older you get (as most books do). This book is fairly short at around 150 pages. You can probably read it in a weekend if not a day. Go to your library and read it.

Happy Reading.

To Own A Galaxy

Public transport had been the best option. It had been the only option, but it was beneficial is two ways. It was filled with hundreds of other passengers going off world for whatever reason they desired, and it left the authorities with only a rough time of departure and possibly thousands of ships to trail. Mya hoped the guards hadn’t noticed Prince Kayden’s disappearance for at least several hours. The longer they waited, the better their chances were. Kayden was notorious for running off from his studies so it wouldn’t be too far out of the ordinary for him to be somewhere he wasn’t scheduled, but Mya was also gone and therefore not present to offer an explanation of the prince’s whereabouts. That is why she worried.

They sat on the observation deck watching the planet shrink behind them. Mya kept her eyes out for any small, imperial ships. She hoped that if any arrived, they would be small and would search the passengers briefly before letting them continue. She had already found a place where she and Kayden could hide during the search. Her greater fear would be the emperor arriving himself in his personal ship The Eclipse. If that happened, she was dead. She could see it now. The emperor not even asking to see her. He would only ask for the button that would expel her into the void.

Kayden watched in wonder as the other ships passed by and the stars slowly changed as their ship shot further into space. Mya couldn’t help forgetting everything as she watched him. This was the first time he had been off planet. It was his first time even outside of the palace. Everything was new to him and his sense of fascination filled her with love and inspiration. She was never able to have children and Kayden’s mother was killed before he could know her name. If she hadn’t taken him away, he would have grown into a more ruthless version of his father. She couldn’t bear to the innocent child before her become a monster.

The stars stretched as the ship accelerated and the planet behind them disappeared. Kayden gripped her leg, frightened, and she patted his head.

“It’s okay little one,” she said, “we will be to our new home soon.”

The boy looked up at her with his big eyes. She smiled.

“Come, let’s go get something to eat.”

She took him by the hand and guided him down to the dining area that was filled with nearly fifty other passengers. They waited in line and humbly accepted their bowls and bread. Mya was concerned the clothes she had picked out for him were insufficient, but no one looked at him twice. As far as they knew, the prince was in the palace and this was some random kid. Too clean to have come from Entori, but perhaps that was now working in their favor.

They found a table in a small alcove where they could sit and eat. Once full, Kayden began to nod off. Mya picked him up and took him to their small room. She hoped they would sleep the remainder of the trip.

 


Lunder’s men were suited up. If his info was correct, the ship with the prince would be arriving in this sector shortly. It would only stay a few minutes as its crew re-calibrated for the next jump. He kept his hands on the controls.

“All your helmets on?” he asked over the comms.

“We wouldn’t hang out in the EVA door without them on.”

Lunder grumbled. Ryker was always a smart ass.

The cruiser popped into view and Lunder hit the accelerator. “Show’s on boys.”

“Could have warned us before sprinting this junkheap,” Ryker chimed in.

“Shut up or I’ll conveniently forget to reel you back in. Get ready to jump.”

The small freighter moved alongside the cruiser. Lunder checked the thermo-scans. “Nearly everyone is asleep except for some of the crew. The boy is located on the third floor center hall. You know the drill.” He punched a button and the EVA door opened. The six men jumped out, shooting small jets of air to maneuver around the cruiser. They got into position and Lunder listened as they checked in.

“Charge one set.”

“Charge two primed.”

Each man pulled away when finished and Ryker commed to Lunder with the all clear. “Ready to burst the bubble, boss.”

“Do it,” Lunder said.

Explosions lit up the side of the cruiser ripping a hole in its side. Contents spilled out into the emptiness. The the frozen void now littered with rubble and bodies. The six men weaved through the debris and onto the ship. They detached their harness ropes as they entered the cruiser.

“You’ve got a straight line to the boy, but security is coming in fast. Make it quick.”

“I hear ya,” Ryker’s voice chirped over the comms.

Lunder watched his men comb through the halls checking rooms for the boy. He kept an eye on the other heat signatures racing down the stairs. His boys were good in a fight, but he didn’t want to risk a gunfight with the boy inside.

 


Mya had woken to the rumble through the ship. The alarms started a few seconds later. Kayden woke up and clung to her. He was frightened, as was she, but she soothed him. The alarms tone shifted from blaring to a quiet clamor as the captain’s voice came over the speakers to alert everyone that the ship had been boarded. He asked everyone to secure themselves in the nearest room possible and fit themselves with EVA gear if possible.

Mya looked around the room but didn’t see any gear for either of them. She cursed herself for choosing a common room that didn’t offer the basic emergency equipment. She knew the emperor would have ordered the ship seized without damages before being searched thoroughly. The captain mentioning EVA gear meant the hull had been breached, which meant whoever was boarding the ship wasn’t working for the emperor. If they were simple raiders…she wished her luck wasn’t that bad, but if they were, there was a chance they knew nothing about Kayden and would loot the ship quickly and leave. She hoped security would take care of the problem soon.

She heard a noise outside the door. Then a muffled voice say, “You sure this is the one?” Pause. “You better be right.”

They had no where to go. She held Kayden closely to her. He began crying. The door crashed inward and two men walked in. They barely fit in the tiny space. She looked at them but only saw the black masks and black EVA suits. No signifying markers. They had paused, looking at her as if confused. The one by the door pressed is fingers to his ear, then said, “Alright.”

He pulled out a bag and threw it over her and Kayden. She tried to prevent it from landing on them but the other man wrapped it around them both and zipped it up, pressed a button, and the material hardened into a rectangular container.

“Let’s move.” Pause. “We’ve got the package. Heading out now.”

 


Lunder watched the heat signatures as three of his men engaged security while the other three, including Ryker, hauled the boy back to the tethers. The small hallway provided no cover and two of his men went down fast and permanently.

“Get us the hell out of here,” Ryker yelled over the comms.

Lunder switched two buttons and the two men who had tethered the package began reeling toward the ship.

“Hurry it up Ryker. I won’t wait for you.”

“Then don’t you wimpy bastard.”

A third man fell in the hallway as Lunder hit the switch and Ryker ran for the tethers, shooting behind him the entire way. Every tether began winding toward the ship. Ryker jumped and gripped the packaged. He flew through the debris and was nearly pummeled by a section of wall. A few security guards shot after him but he was well beyond their range.

As soon as the EVA door was secured. Lunder floored the accelerator.

 


He sat watching an entire galaxy spiral before him. A drink in one hand paused halfway toward his lips as the table to his right alerted him of an incoming call. He tapped the surface a few times and Lunder’s voice popped out of the speaker in the room.

“We have what you want.”

“Good.” He never took his eyes off of the galaxy below. “Bring him to me.”