Monday, June 15, 2009

Castaways Part II

Image(s) © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

On the Piker Press this week, part two of Castaways.
I really like the second half much better than the first. The first needs some more polishing.
A special thanks to Sand, editor at the Piker Press and exceptional artist for the great illustration. Just for that, I am going to have to check in on Bob and Larry - see what those two crazy guys are up to!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Poached Eggs -vs- Chocolate

Today I welcome a guest writer to A Thousand Words. My wonderful daughter Claire. This is an assignment she wrote for school. I couldn't get a digital copy to add here, so you will have to do with scanned images of the pages. Enjoy! (By the way, the image quality of the document scan is much better if you actually click on it and open it in a new window.)
**Update** So my layout cuts the images in half anyway... so you HAVE to open the images in another window to read them all. Stupid interwebs...

© 2009 Claire Willson. All rights reserved - Used with permission.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Sale - Part Two

A continuation of the randomly generated story plot I began here. Remember that everything you read here is an absolutely rough draft. If something turns out to be worth polishing up, you will probably eventually see it on the Piker Press. If not, then it will remain here indefinitely...

Part Two - The Sale

Leonard emerged from the lecture hall with Martha on his arm. They both moved just a bit more slowly than the crowd around them, savoring each delicious moment like a tender morsel. Tom felt his stomach heave. He would never understand why people allowed themselves to be in such a vulnerable position. Life was hard enough without giving someone full and complete access to your heart.

Choking back his distaste, he forced his mind to center on the sales pitch he had perfected over the years.

"Mr. Leonard Price? My name is Tom Pritchett and I represent ArchoSoft media solutions. I believe we have a lunch appointment?" Tom stepped in front of the entranced couple and stuck out his hand.

"Why don't you ditch the skinny ball and chain and let's head to the nearest strip club and see if we can pick up someone for dessert?" Harvey's voice was faint and fading, but the medication was slowly kicking in and Tom easily ignored him.

Leonard sighed, visibly annoyed to be interrupted. Then his eyes narrowed as he recognized Tom as the one who had disrupted his lecture. Martha's eyes never left his face, as if Tom existed in a completely different dimension.

"ArchoSoft is a very reputable company. I would have thought that their sales staff would be a bit more..." he paused, looking down his nose at Tom in disdain. "...well mannered." he finished. Tom flushed, and Harvey's laugh echoed through his mind.

"I am extremely sorry about that. I had a bit of an.... emergency to attend to. I assure you, until I was forced to leave, I was throughly thrilled to simply be in the presence of a renowned archivist such as yourself." The lie slipped off his tongue easily, the first of many he would gladly tell to secure this sale. Leonard raised an eyebrow skeptically. He knew Tom was lying, but he liked the sound of the story. Tom pushed on, seeing his opening.

"And this must be the lovely new bride. It is a distinct pleasure to meet you Mrs. Price, an accomplished archivist in your own right. It was with great interest that I read your theories on the benefits of random data selection using asyncronous algorithms for secure backup storage. Fascinating concept, and one which I hope the industry will soon implement on a large scale." Tom's shameless flattery paid off and he watched in satisfaction as Leonard's skepticism melted away as he beamed at his blushing bride.

"I didn't think anyone outside the industry would even know about those ideas." Martha said, grinning broadly. Tom nodded enthusiastically. "Well, I wouldn't exactly call myself an outsider. I have been involved with the archive industry for years."

Leonard wrapped an arm around Martha's shoulders and pulled her closer to him.

"You know Tom, we have been shopping around for the right firm to develop that very concept for the market. If we were to get a sweet deal on your new quantum storage servers for our new facility, it sure would show us that you are really interested in competing for first license rights..." Leonard winked conspiratorially at Tom, who returned the wink and grinned broadly. This was going to be a much easier sale than he had thought.

Lunch was long over, the waiter had cleared away the dishes to make room for the various brochures and charts that Tom had spread across the table. Although he was still confident of making the sale, Tom's patience was wearing thin. Every time he thought he had Leonard pinned down on the requirements for his project, he would wander off in some other direction. Several times Tom had thought that he had all of the information he needed to put together a proposal when out of nowhere, Leonard would request specs on an entirely different line of servers, or a different technology altogether. Sometimes the conversation would wander completely off topic and Tom would patiently push and prod and lead until they wandered back to the topic at hand. Finally, Tom decided he needed a break.

"Leonard, I need to use the little boys room. While I am gone, why don't you go ahead and finalize your requirements for me so that I can take them back to the office and work up a proposal for you?" Tom stood without waiting for an answer and hurried back towards the restrooms. When he got there, he bent over the sink and splashed cold water on his face. He stayed in that position, breathing deeply and doing his best to calm his thinking. After a few minutes, he felt better and reached for a paper towel to dry his face. When he was finished he opened his eyes and froze in horror. Harvey and Mr. Mouse were back. Harvey was standing at one of the urinals, his pants around his ankle and Mr. Mouse was reclining in another, munching contentedly on the urinal cake. Tom stared at the reflections for a moment, reminding himself that they were not real.

"Hey Tom, I think we ought to take the geek and his pretty wifey for a ride somewhere. I bet if we ditch him and get her drunk enough we can convince her to dump him for us. Whatcha think?" Harvey's thin reedy voice was unaturally loud in the small restroom, and Tom flinched as he realized how much he wanted to obey Harvey's advice. Mr. Mouse nodded solemnly on Harvey's shoulder, giving his long earlobe a yank for emphasis. Tom wanted to close his eyes and shut them out. He wanted to run screaming from the restroom to get away from them. He wanted to dig out the bottle of pills and take one to make them go away. But more than any of that, he wanted to do what they told him.

"That's right Tommy boy. She wanted you from the moment she saw you. She only hangs out with that geek for his money. You show her what a real man is..." Tom's eyes widened as he suddenly saw the lie in Harvey's words.

Martha had not taken her eyes off of Leonard all night long. Only when Tom directed a comment or question at her directly did she even acknowledge his existence. Once again, Harvey had nearly convinced him to believe his outlandish stories. He remembered now how many times Harvey had led him down dangerous paths with twisted logic like that. With a heavy hand, Tom reached inside his jacket for his pill bottle. Harvey snarled menacingly and Mr. Mouse's eyes narrowed and glowed red.

"You don't want to do that partner. You know you want us around. Without us you are just another deluded stuff-shirt running around trying to fit in. We are the real you. Why can't you just give in and be yourself?" Harvey's argument, as well worn as it was, gave Tom pause. He didn't always like his boring, normal life. It was true, he dreamt of breaking loose, of selling his practical sedan and buying a Harley and hitting the road. Living off the land, drifting with the tumbleweeds. Doing whatever felt good at the moment, the hell with tomorrow. Harvey nodded knowingly, and Mr. Mouse hopped on a tiny motorcycle and started riding it around the restroom, slaloming in and out of the legs of the stalls.

"The hell with this sale Tom. Go on out there, tell that geek what you think and grab the girl and leave. Don't take no crap off of him. You been kissing his butt so hard I bet he can't even walk out of the restaraunt anyway."

At that moment, the door opened and Leonard walked in. Tom looked up, his eyes momentarily wide with panic.

"I was starting to wonder if you fell in or something!" Leonard joked as he walked towards the row of urinals. Tom gaped as he walked right through Harvey and Mr. Mouse. This was enough to yank him back to reality long enough to get the pill bottle out of his pocket and yank the lid off. He threw a pill in his mouth and bent over the sink for a drink. He looked back and saw Harvey standing behind Leonard pretending to spank him with a very large paddle. Mr. Mouse was now riding his miniature Harley in dizzying circles around Leonard.

"Well old buddy, " Leonard spoke over his shoulder as he continued to urinate. "I think we finally got this deal hammered out. How long you think it will take to write up that proposal?" Tom flinched as Harvey produced a long samurai sword and began slashing through Leonard with it. Steeling himself, he answered as calmly as he could.

"I can have it to you by tomorrow afternoon. Do you want a hard copy or can I just email it on over?" Leonard seemed not to notice Tom's labored voice. "E-mail is fine. This is the twenty-first century isn't it?" he answered, zipping up his pants. Tom was relieved to see that Harvey and Mr. Mouse were now translucent and fading fast. Still, the campfire they had kindled around Leonard's feet looked pretty real to him. He fought the urge to cry out a warning to Leonard and instead bent down to the sink to wash his face again. The cold water felt good, and gave him something concrete to anchor himself to. When he had dried his face a second time, he opened his eyes and found himself alone with Leonard once again. Leonard was standing next to him washing his hands. Tom sighed a heavy sigh of relief.

"E-mail it is Leonard." Tom answered, hoping his voice was not nearly as shaky as it felt. He handed a stack of paper towells to Leonard who dried his hands and tossed them at the garbage can. He missed by nearly a yard, but he laughed and clapped Tom on the shoulder.

"Can I give you some advice friend?" He said, his voice cheerful and friendly. Tom felt relief wash over him. He knew that his episodes were very rarely discernible to any other person, but in his head he was always worried that everyone else in the world could tell what was going on in his head. "Never turn down advice from a friend is what I always say Leonard. Say on!" He answered, trying to make his voice light and cheerful. Leonard grinned broadly and stepped to the restroom door. As he opened it and stepped through, he looked back over his shoulder.

"Harvey may be a crazy old bat, but that Mr. Mouse scares me. Watch out for him. He's gonna do you in someday."

The door swung shut behind Leonard, and Tom was left alone in the dim restroom with only the sound of Harvey's laughter for company.

To be continued...?

© 2009 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

Monday, June 8, 2009

Front Page!

Remember that Random Story Plot story that I wrote about a month or two ago? I polished it up a bit, and it was selected for the front page of the Piker Press today!

Go check it out!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Another Random Plot... Part 1

Another random story plot courtesy of Seventh Sanctum.

The theme of this story: humorous thriller. The main characters: unstable trader and newlywed archivist. The start of the story: lecture. The end of the story: advice.

"...As such, the technologies used for modern information archives fall roughly five categories. The first category is of course good old-fashioned optical media. This media is still around after so many years because..."

The lecturer's voice droned on and on, reverberating in Tom's head and lulling him rapidly to sleep. The caffeine buzz from his coffee had long ago worn off and it didn't look like this guy was going to be wrapping it up any time soon. He was enjoying the boring, tedious details of preserving information for future generations way too much. Tom wanted desperately to simply stand up and leave. He stayed because he wanted the comission for this sale way too much to offend the man with the power to say yes or no to the deal. 
For what seemed to be the thousandth time, he picked up the styrofoam cup and tipped it back, hoping against hope that some small drop of coffee would emerge. For the thousandth time, he was disappointed. At least it gave him something to do. 
"Guy's a pompous, pretentious fool isn't he?" The man in the purple jacket grinned his toothless grin as he perched birdlike on the seat next to Tom. Except for a slight twitching of his facial muscles, Tom ignored the man. Along with the fading effects of the coffee, his morning dose of anti-psychotics must be wearing off and the imaginary people were starting to reappear. 
"I know you can hear me Tom. Whether you want to or not. Let's blow this pop stand and find someplace without a cover charge where we can get totally smashed and..."
Tom stood up suddenly, the squeaky springs of the lecture hall seat complaining loudly as the seat hinged back up towards the back. The coffee cup fell to the floor and began rolling towards the front of the hall as Tom shuffled sideways down the row of seats headed for the door. Sale or not, he could not afford to have Harvey get into his head today. He needed to take a pill, and he needed some water to take it with or else he would be in much worse trouble than a lost sale. 
When he finally reached the aisle and started walking quickly towards the exit, he noticed more than one audience member glaring angrily at him. 
"These archivists are sure a fanatical bunch aren't they?" Harvey's cackling laugh followed him up the stairs. "Is crying fire in a lecture hall as bad as crying it in a theatre?" the voice continued in Tom's head and his heartbeat increased with the desire to turn and scream at Harvey. "How about instead of crying fire, we actually start one? Wouldn't it be a gas to watch all of these archo-nerds stampede all over each other to get out?" Tom's stomach lurched with the desire that image summoned. He fumbled in his pocket for the pills that he carried wherever he went. Just as he reached the door, he noticed a very pretty woman sitting in the last row. Instead of glaring at his rude and disruptive retreat, she continued staring entranced at the speaker, her eyes glistening with unabashed adoration.
Then Tom hit the crash bar on the door and was out in the foyer. Harvey was there before him. And Mr. Mouse was with him.

Leonard loved information. Nothing gave him greater pleasure than sealing the fasteners on a data container and knowing that short of a super-nova that future generations would be able to enjoy the information as much as he did. Of course, it was doubtful that anyone enjoyed information nearly that much.
The only thing in life that even came near was his new wife Martha. He still caught his breath when he remembered her walking down the aisle towards him in her beautiful dress, smiling that smile that nearly broke his heart with its beauty. Even more, she loved information preservation nearly as much as Leanard. In his life he had never met another human being, let alone a beautiful woman who would happily listen to him prattle on for hours about storage media and backup schemes like she would. She had even happily agreed to combine their honeymoon with a lecture tour that Leonard was taking. Never before had he been so happy.
He realized that he was lost in his thoughts, and had to scrabble at his notes for a second to find his place. 
"So with the advances in quantum storage devices, we can see that never again will anyone have to worry about losing their data. And never again will you have to listen to that lame old excuse: 'We don't have the storage space!'" The audience laughed at that, and Leondard felt the rush of pleasure he always did with a good audience. He was not sure he would get them back after the loud and very disruptive exit a few minutes ago, but it only took a few minutes for the audience to forget all about it.

For Leonard, life was pretty good right now.

© 2009 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

Another poem in the Piker Press!

Another poem in the Piker Press yesterday. And next Monday, my story Castaways will be the front page article!

Diving at Midnight