Story a Day (II)

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Camlost

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« Reply #45 on: September 09, 2015, 06:03:06 pm »
When I was a child my parents used to take me to my grandparent's house on weekends. It was an old Victorian-style country home in the foothills outside Anytown, America. It had a long dirt road approaching it and an old barn behind. On two sides the property strayed off into woodlands and was bordered by a thick stream on the third. It was idyllic, the literal embodiment of the literary pastoral.

I used to lay out on their verandah playing with toy cars or trying desperately to keep my crayons between the lines while they silently finished their breakfast in the shade. They would often sit for hours afterwards drinking their tea, seldom making a sound.

In my youthful naivete I had assumed it was because they had nothing more to say to each other, that they had been together so long that they no longer had any stories to share that they didn't already know. But I grew up, and so too did my notion of that silence between them.

By the time I was in my mid-teens my parents were on the verge of divorce. It was easy to avoid the constantly raised voices and angry arguing by hiding at friends' places or the library in the evenings after school, but the approaching summer posed a different problem altogether. I found refuge at my grandparent's house. It became my escape from the domestic turmoil that had begun to characterize of my family life.

My grandfather put me to work immediately and without hesitation. He taught me how to split logs for fire, how to fire a rifle, and how to track game for food. And in the evenings my grandmother would take up the mantle and show me how to mend clothing, how to knot rope, and prepare livestock. Despite the long days, my summers seemed to vanish like the autumn sunsets.

Although, looking back on them they were full of lessons and much learning. Having grown out of my childhood obliviousness, I discovered that besides their indulgence of a long breakfast, my grandparents were rarely idle, they forever had some project that needed attending and they seemed to move in perfect concert with each other despite an apparent lack of communication.

It was during this time that I had come to alter my former belief regarding the pervasive silence in which the two of them lived. Where as before I had believed they knew each other so well they had nothing left to say, I now firmly believed it was because they knew each other so well that they needn't say anything at all. I fancied they knew each other's minds so well that words were simply wasted breath. And I held that belief for many years.

Until the day I was required to take ownership of my grandparent's property. It was many decades after those summers of which I held such fond memories. Their will had specified it be passed on to their son, and had my father not hit the bottle following the divorce and fallen into the back of a cop car or had my mother not hit an airport and fallen off the grid, then the old house and the plot on which it sat might not have fallen into my hands.

I took a summer off from work and moved into the house to get affairs in order before putting the house up for sale. Even in their absence something of that silence that had come to define them in my mind still seemed to reverberate throughout the empty house. I had initially found it warmly nostalgic, but at some point as the weeks wore on it began to unsettle me, enough to sometimes raise the hairs on the back of my neck. The feeling grew and unable to shake it, I began to hasten my efforts.

My plan was to pack up anything worth keeping, sell what I could, and donate the rest. That was until one evening I accidentally discovered a loose panel within one of the closets while I was clearing it out. Puzzled, i removed the panel to reveal a low wooden stairway that crawled up and out of sight.

The fading sunlight filtered through the wooden siding of the house in places along the stairway's length, enough that I was able to make out a track of shuffling footprints in the thick blanket of dust that otherwise covered everything else in the narrow passage. The idea that my grandparents knew of, let alone used, this passage seemed entire incongruous with the lifestyle I had come to cherish about them. Imagining my grandfather hunched low and climbing the old stairs had seemed to finally confirm the absurdity of such in my mind, so I let my bafflement grow to curiosity and made my way up the stairs.

The stars were out by the time local fire control managed to quell the fire. When they had arrived already half of the house had succumbed to the flames. Before they could even install their pump in the well, a large section of the second floor collapsed into the first leaving little worth saving. The horizon had begun to take on its own orange by the time they had finished.

All the while I sat staring blankly from the back of an ambulance, paramedic blanket around my shoulders, ruminating on that which I had found at the top of those stairs. The very notion of it all might still seem impossible if not for those journals of dreadfully familiar handwriting. I had watched the flames eat those leather bound chests filled with stacks of letters and documents before calling for help.

After that, I sat silent the rest of the night through. That silence grew in me all the while smoke obscured the stars above and the sun came to rise on ashes. It grew until there was no room left; and that is when I finally came to understand the silence that hung between my grandparents. It was the silence of things that must never be said.

(It feels a bit rough to me, disjointed in some places, but I hadn't posted in a while; feedback ought to help smooth it out a bit too)

Madness

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« Reply #46 on: September 09, 2015, 09:57:30 pm »
I like readings your offerings, Cam, as always. But I didn't connect your character's revelation in this one. What was the takeaway?
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Garet Jax

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« Reply #47 on: September 09, 2015, 10:47:42 pm »
I liked this one as usual, Camlost, but I have the same questions as Madness.  The only thing I could think of, which was a large leap on my part, was that they were Nazi's or murderers.


Care to turn on the lights?

Camlost

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« Reply #48 on: September 10, 2015, 12:01:13 am »
Same question came up from a friend of mine. Honestly, I felt the same way about it. There feels like too much of a gap because I left the attic out.

When I was originally writing it the idea of Nazis was in the back of my mind, but when it came down to the final reveal it almost felt to forced for me. I tried to strike some balance where the reader could just fill in what was in the attic, but it clearly didn't come across that way.  Any suggestions?

Did you guys infer that he had started the fire himself upon his discovery, or was that too stretched as well?

I'll probably take a few days away from it and come back with some fresh eyes. Thanks for the feedback

Madness

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« Reply #49 on: September 10, 2015, 12:23:10 am »
Lol, how did you guess Nazis, GJ?

Camlost, I got that he set the fire himself. But my mind went fantastic before it went historically villainous (maybe, because I'm halfway through Throne of the Crescent Moon and read a good bit of the beginning of The Black Company).
The Existential Scream
Weaponizing the Warrior Pose - Declare War Inwardly
carnificibus: multus sanguis fluit
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Camlost

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« Reply #50 on: September 10, 2015, 01:55:22 am »
Quote
Lol, how did you guess Nazis, GJ?

Camlost, I got that he set the fire himself. But my mind went fantastic before it went historically villainous

I had thought to go occult at one point, but I've been working on something else a little longer that deals with that area. It felt too similar when I was teasing out whether it would work or not. Lol, I realize that none of you would have known, but it felt like cheating to me

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« Reply #51 on: September 10, 2015, 01:52:59 pm »
Did you guys infer that he had started the fire himself upon his discovery, or was that too stretched as well?

Definitely got that he was the one that started the fire.

"All the while I sat staring blankly from the back of an ambulance, paramedic blanket around my shoulders, ruminating on that which I had found at the top of those stairs. The very notion of it all might still seem impossible if not for those journals of dreadfully familiar handwriting. I had watched the flames eat those leather bound chests filled with stacks of letters and documents before calling for help."

"impossible if not for those journals" - made me think murderers.  Like they documented all of their atrocities.

"leather bound chests filled with stacks of letters and documents" - made me think Nazis or spies.  But, I don't think he would have burnt down the whole house over a little spy work?


Honestly, there was such a gap that I thought Camlost had purposely made us come to our own conclusion, but would have left some type of clue upstream.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2015, 01:59:06 pm by Garet Jax »

Somnambulist

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« Reply #52 on: September 10, 2015, 03:03:29 pm »
I enjoyed that, Camlost, thanks for sharing.  My takeaway from it was something akin to Lovecraft, something vile and unmentionable, horrors from the dark.  But I'm a fantasist at heart, so everything murky skews that way for me.  :)
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« Reply #53 on: September 10, 2015, 03:13:18 pm »
I am similar to GJ - initially, before the fire, I assumed that the grandparents were hiding Nazi refugees. After the fire I took it as evidence they were complicit in helping the Nazis - I never went the fantastical route. Very interesting.

Camlost

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« Reply #54 on: September 10, 2015, 10:37:51 pm »
I appreciate all the feed back guys. It's consoling to know that while I missed, I wasn't completely off the mark. As to all those with leanings towards the fantastic, like I had mentioned, I have another piece I've been slowly puzzling together that might be of interest. I'll throw a little more focus its way for your sakes.

Also, if you're ever inclined, feel free to comment on past posts if something stands out. Always looking for ways to improve

Camlost

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« Reply #55 on: September 12, 2015, 08:30:09 am »
Quote
Honestly, there was such a gap that I thought Camlost had purposely made us come to our own conclusion, but would have left some type of clue upstream.
That was kind of what I was chasing after all along. I don't know that it necessarily worked out the way that I had intended, but it got a lot of attention otherwise; and they're not all wrong.

A few days later from having written this, I can see some faults, even more so than was pointed out lol. You're a forgiving, if not quiet crowd.

There are a few things I'd like to change about the post previous to your submissions, and I'll do so in time, but lots of things distract me between most posts. Eventually I'll find time to either update or repost

My last query is, where are the rest of the poor fiction submissions?

Camlost

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« Reply #56 on: November 10, 2015, 09:42:07 pm »
I've been studying the vampire mythos for a long time. It's rather easy when you predate most of them.

I've traced its growth from fireside tales told in hushed tones for fear of the dark to the mass consumption the pop culture machine produces, and all the wild permutations in between. I'll let you in on a secret though; Dracula was less fiction than Stoker would have you believe. I slipped up that time.

I've even started a few of those myths myself, one such being the need for blood; although, there is a sliver of truth to that one. You see, we don't need blood. It is not so much a necessity as it is an obsessive desire. An addiction. We long for blood.

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« Reply #57 on: November 27, 2015, 12:43:10 am »
I like it, especially the sly little authorial wink and also the "not needing blood" part. Maybe I'll post some fragment of my vampire story here, but I have to dig up the newest iteration. It was actually the first (and thus far, only) novel I completed, but I've messed around with it many times in little ways since then, I know someone here read the beginning of the most recent attempt.

Let me know if you're interested in actually developing a vampire story, I'd love a collab on that (or any other) project.

Camlost

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« Reply #58 on: November 27, 2015, 06:43:22 am »
"Did you have time on the return flight in to sift the data cores Drone?"

Whether this was the twisted humour of a man who had lived to see his second century or Hurlodin's memory was finally beginning to betray him, I don't know; nevertheless I lied, "No".

It's not that there hadn't been time, it's just that I could no longer bring myself to pry into the final fleeting moments of another man's life, however valuable they might be.

He grumbled in response, thinly veiling his annoyance, and pointed to the wall of helmets, "Bring me the one on the bottom left then". Surely there was no mistaking his memory now..
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

"These are the Helms of the Fallen. This database was salvaged from the wreck of the Apollo many years after the catastrophic encounter with the Callidan empire. What was initially meant to be a repository of information from mankind's exploration of the cosmos quickly became a monument to the horrors of deep space."

All of us gathered stared in awe of the Greek model helmets that were mounted upon the wall of the derelict ship--one of the two remaining that belonged to the original Akkian fleet. It was an antiquated ship even when compared to the transport jalopy that had transferred us from Mars I Training Academy to Hestia's docking bay, but it was a legend and despite having been refurbished as stronghold of administrative power in more recent decades, it still managed to invoke awe among the anxious recruits fumbling through her halls. Myself included.

The ominous helmets seemed to issue their own silent command, for the crowd of recruits pressed forward in an anxious mass as if mere proximity could bring them closer to those destinies of which they dreamed, back to a golden age when men were heroes. I was no exception. Standing among my peers, feeling the inexorable surge of bodies, the CIO's saturnine voice fading until it was lost in the ambient sounds of the ship, I felt as if I stood upon the very fulcrum of history. I wasn't staring at a sprawling wall of circuitry and armour, ripped from the hull of a ruined ship. I was gazing upon a megalith of mankind, something forged in blood and steel and the endless void.

We had all been schooled in the history of those conflicts before being shipped to the Hestia: the unexpected encounter with another sentient race, one far more sophisticated than our own, and the cataclysmic conflicts that ensued, as well as the tragedies that were born from well over a century of interstellar war; but the ignorance of our youth blinded us to what we really gazed upon, and as I looked from the wall to Hurlodin, his grey eyes seemed to say as much.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Hurlodin had been Chief Information Officer of the Akkian fleet even when I first began my initiation aboard the Hestia. He unwillingly found himself the recommended candidate for promotion in the vacuum of command that followed what only those in positions of authority referred to as the “Callidan encounter”. While Hurlodin had been old even then, the geriatric medicines administered to space travelers had kept him youthful beyond his years.

Now however, leaning over the table in his baggy unwashed uniform, he looked veritably ancient, as if the sands of time had become a desert about him, leaving him wasted. His eyes were cloudy with age and long nights working by candle--an affectation he had stolen from the Greeks--his hands were gnarled from endless writing, and his back was hunched by hours of poring over data. He had let his hair and beard grow long and they were wild and unkempt. He had become thin and sickly looking, as if the exclusivity of his focus had drained something from him, leaving him hollow.

But for all the years accumulated about him, he looked like a monk illuminating a manuscript. His fingers were stiff and slow, but they moved with an artful assurance.



Just something I've had percolating for a while. Clearly not finished or coherent at this point, but this seems a decent place to leave this for the time being. It is meant to be disjointed (an idea that will get fleshed out as it grows). Thoughts?
« Last Edit: November 27, 2015, 07:19:23 pm by Camlost »

mostly.harmless

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« Reply #59 on: November 27, 2015, 01:56:37 pm »
I have no useful thoughts for you, but I like it a lot. I want to know more :)