Monday, April 14, 2014

#2 Flash Fiction B&W Challenge - Daisies

Tatty Soup
#2 Flash Fiction B&W Challenge


Lost in the woods, an elderly man lived alone. His name was Patrick. 

By the side of the pathway to his house, he grew white daisies, hundreds of them. He loved all sorts of daisies, but he had a special fondness for white ones. They reminded him of snow. 

During winter, he could see the orange dots on the snow and that always made him think of spring. He didn’t know why his daisies bloomed all year long, while others only bloomed during spring and summer. He didn’t know why he never had to replant them either. He wasn’t much of a gardener. However, he was sure that these plants wouldn’t last decades. His did. He would water them every day. He would look at them, smile at them, touch them softly and even talk to them. They never replied, of course, at least not with words. Yet, there they were, framing the pathway leading to his house.

One day, Patrick saw a young man walking up the path, coming from the woods. Now, that was strange. No one ever visited him. He didn’t think anyone cared, honestly. He had no family, no children and definitely no neighbors.

The young man wiped his feet on the rug and knocked. Patrick stood still behind the door, hardly breathing. Perhaps the young man would go away. But the young man went back on the path and walked around the house towards the back. Then, he knocked on the glass window of the kitchen.

This is all I needed, thought Patrick, someone snooping around.

The young man wouldn’t give up though. He walked back to the front of the house and sat on the steps, taking his coat off. Patrick waited. He waited for an hour, and for another hour. It was close to sunset when Patrick decided he wouldn’t wait anymore. He opened the door abruptly, startling the young man.

“What do you want?”

“My name is Patrick and I was walking about in the woods. I enjoy long walks, you see.”

“And…?” asked old Patrick impatiently.

“Well, I spotted the beginning of the path leading up to your house. It’s beautiful. All these daisies are absolutely…”

“Yes, yes, yes… What do you want?”

Young Patrick smiled. “I was wondering how you manage to keep them so beautiful.”

“You bother me for hours to ask me for gardening tips?”

“I just wanted to tell you what a wonderful job you’re making. I am sure you enjoy them much as you walk to town and back.”

“I never walk to town.”

“You should, you know. There are a few orange daisies at the edge of the path that are just the right color.”

“White daisies, you mean.”

“No, no, orange.”

“There are orange daisies on my path?” asked old Patrick perplexed. “That cannot be. That is wrong.” And he started pacing back and forth. He had to solve that. “I need to pluck them out.”

“No! They are amazing. Don’t do that.”

However, it was too late. Old Patrick walked in the house, grabbed his gardening tools and hurried away up the path. Young Patrick struggled to keep up.

When they arrived at the edge of the path, the woods opening up to a clearing where a road would take them to town, old Patrick looked at the daisies and he simply couldn’t see any orange ones.

“Where are they?”

“They are right here.” And the young man pointed towards the town. 

The first building he could see was the local pub. In the flower pots at the door grew dozens of orange daisies.

“Those are not mine,” replied old Patrick, ready to head back home.

“Wait. They are. I saw the white daisies every year, as I grew up, and I always wondered how we could bring you back to town. So, one day, I thought I could plant some daisies of a different color, something that would draw your attention when you reached the edge of the woods. But you never did notice. And today, I decided to go fetch you. You see, we have daisies too!”

At first, old Patrick became quite irritated. He didn’t understand what the young man was trying to say.

“This is nonsense. I’m going home.”

Young Patrick grabbed him by the sleeve and gently pulled him towards town.

“My parents told me about you. They told me how you decided to live away from everyone after your wife and daughter died in a terrible car accident in town, many years ago. They told me people tried invite you over, but that you never walked away from your daisies. I know why you chose daisies…”

“Let go of me.” Old Patrick desperately tried to free himself from a past the young man was forcing him to revisit. 

“We are here for you. Always were. Look.” Young Patrick pulled old Patrick farther into the main road of town.

That’s when old Patrick noticed it. All the houses, with no exception, had planters with daisies. White, orange, blue, pink, yellow, purple daisies, there were daisies of all colors. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

“Unlike yours, these daisies have to be replanted, but they never go to sleep at night. We kept planting them over and over again, as many as we had to, as often as we had to. We haven’t forgotten you, we didn’t go to sleep.” And the young man continued. “Do you know which day it is today?”

Old Patrick made an effort not to remember. He kept silent.

“It’s been 30 years since your wife Margaret and your daughter Daisy died, my parents told me. Today is also my birthday. It seemed like a good moment to let you know we thought of you every single day. Come.”

Inside the pub, young Patrick’s parents waited. The place was crowded. There were all the familiar faces old Patrick knew from back then, plus a crowd of new faces, their children and grandchildren. He was speechless.

Old Patrick couldn’t help noticing the daisy carved on a dark wood panel, hanging behind the bar; underneath, the pictures of his wife and daughter.



Since that day, he walked his path many times to enjoy the company of the town folk. 

And whenever old Patrick told young Patrick he had become a good friend, the young man would protest vigorously.

“We’ve always been friends. You just didn’t know it yet.”

*

Note: daisy (n.) Old English dægesege, from dæges eage "day's eye," because the petals open at dawn and close at dusk.

#1 Flash Fiction B&W Challenge - Crash

Waterland
#1 Flash Fiction B&W Challenge

Event: 500 Word Snatch
Location: Book Island
Host: Harriet Gausman
Virtual Writer's Prompt: Your plane crashes into a frozen wasteland. There are few survivors.
Time: 30 mins


She sat at the table of the Italian café. Months had passed since the crash. She could still feel the cold under her bare feet. It seemed ridiculous to remember it, but kept thinking about her shoes lost in that wasteland forever.

It takes time, they said, to heal. She knew that to be true. Yet, there she was, sitting at the table of the Italian café, staring at her phone, unsure of whether to call him or simply forget about it.

“Thank you, Luigi.”

“Prego, Signorina,” replied the owner’s son, after placing a fresh cup of coffee in front of her. He was in his late forties, as she was too. They had known each other since the beginning of time. His father, Don Amato, opened the place when he arrived from Sicily, back in the 50’s. “Can I get you anything else?”

“No, thank you. I’m good, Luigi. I’m not really that hungry today.”

Luigi stood next to her table for a few minutes. She knew he wouldn’t walk away as long as she didn’t explain what was happening to her. And she didn’t feel like explaining. She didn’t feel like talking. Paradoxically, she didn’t feel like being in silence either. She didn’t feel like staying or going home. 

“I’m ok, really.”

Luigi shifted the weight of his body to the other leg and tilted his head sideways.

“I am,” she tried to sound sincere, but the hesitation in her voice betrayed her.

“Is it still the crash?” he asked, pulling up a chair and sitting down.

It was. “I don’t know how to explain it, really… There is this sort of melancholy, you know, it takes over from inside. There’s no real reason to be sad. Nothing happened to make me feel discouraged about life. I survived a terrible accident. Many died. If anything, I should be happy to have missed such a close call.”

He nodded and slowly gathered the grains of sugar on the table onto a small mound.

“But here I am, feeling distraught and lonely. You know I have a wonderful family and an amazing group of friends. They have been there for me all along. However, that doesn’t help at all…”

“And how about… him?”

Luigi knew about the man who pulled her out of the plane, the screams of other passengers trapped at the back as the emergency doors got jammed by the impact; he knew about their feeble attempt to save each other and pull each other back towards a life that would feel normal. He knew about their failure.

“I haven’t talked to him in a long time.”

“Why not?”

“I…” She didn’t really know why not. They had drifted away as the months went on. “We stopped calling each other. I guess I reminded him of what happened.”

Luigi glanced at her. She had changed. She looked the same, but she had changed. As always, she was impeccably dressed with the latest fashion, but her eyes would get lost somewhere behind Luigi’s left shoulder, beyond the window of the café, beyond the building across the street. She was wearing a necklace that resembled a snake and that made Luigi feel terribly uncomfortable.

“Call him.”

“No.”

“Call him.”

“No, no, Luigi. I thought about it just now, but… no.”

“Why not?” 

The other customers left to their own fortune were growing impatient. She pointed at them.

“Call him.”

She grabbed her phone and selected the number. “It’s ringing.” It rang for a long time until someone finally picked up.

“Could I speak to Logan, please?”

A long silence ensued during which her eyes got lost once more, beyond reality.

When she hung up, not another word uttered, she looked for the number in the phone’s agenda and deleted it.

“What did he say?” asked Luigi.

“He told me to leave him alone.”

Luigi stood up, put the chair back in place and walked away. Their relationship was based on the acceptance that there was absolutely no need for social politeness.

She stood up and followed him behind the counter. She felt like breaking their lifelong agreement. “Thank you, Luigi.”

He smiled and handed her a box.

“What’s this?”

“Open it when you get home.”

It was a cake, a birthday cake. The candle bore the number “1”. On the top of the cake, she could read “You need only yourself”.

She went to the drawer of her nightstand and grabbed the small plastic container. Then headed to the bathroom and emptied it in the toilet, flushing away weeks of planning and saving sleeping pills for that one last night she would never wake up from.

The next morning, she would sit down at the Italian café, have a cup of coffee and a slice of her cake. She would take one for Luigi as well. He would like that.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

How to Write Something Saying Nothing

Machinima Open Studio Project - LEA 20

#1 Set your heart on blabbering randomly... I mean, writing serious stuff.
#2 Waste... aham, spend some time browsing for inspiration.
#3 Look outside the window while trying to come up with a story.
#4 Squander ... that is spend even more time checking your five email accounts, the ten thousand social networks you signed up to, and your cat.
#5 Brew coffee.
#6 Hash... Hash...
#7 Brew more coffee.
#8 Right, you do need to write something. Now, think.
#9 The cat's snoring. Perhaps a nap would help you as well.
#10 Ok, procrastinate indefinitely. All that coffee is begging for attention and you don't really want to take a nap at 10 am.

Milk Wood
Hash can be a few things, and sure enough, it can be a lot more than I thought at first. Between cryptographic hash functions, fragment identifiers, spatial data structures, a sports mark of some sort, even a military decoration and a running club, it was a bit difficult to choose one direction for this week's story. So, after procrastinating the whole week, rattling on aimlessly seemed like a tempting option, considering that I, for some reason, didn’t want to write about hashish. Wait a second… What? A hundred? Really? Already? Well then, more next week! Where's the delete button again?

(Prompt: Hash) 100 Word Stories

Prelude To a Novel

Izzies
Event: 500 Word Snatch
Location: Milk Wood, Second Life 
Host: Lizzie Gudkov
Prompt: Write a short prelude to your novel.
Time: 30 mins


Time corrodes even the most resilient relationships. Routine, boredom, money problems, children are but a few of the reasons behind an inevitable outcome. The middle-aged couple, Jenny and Blake, was no exception.
They couldn’t really pinpoint the exact moment when their lives became practically separate. It was a slow process. At first, it seemed to be an effective way of dealing with the overbearing every-day-life problems. Dividing tasks amongst the two made it easier to survive the hustle and bustle of a busy family life. Then, each took on their own tasks over and over again, becoming totally independent from the other, making decisions without the need to ask for the other’s opinion. And without even noticing, they had a separate life.
Jenny went to work and dealt with being the money maker of the household and Blake, after leaving a job that made him miserably unhappy, became responsible for the kids and the house.
This apparently successful strategy paved the way to flexible schedules, additional hours they could manage on their own, and more room for lies.
Inevitably, the couple drifted away from each other and it was only a matter of months, and the right set of circumstances, until both found someone else who made them feel special.
Jenny’s lover, Lucas, was a bright young man with a shady past and a history of trickery, whose strangely charming manipulative ways found a safe haven in the needy, still very attractive, middle-aged woman. In his mind, this relationship was a business deal. On one hand, he would make her feel sexy and wanted. On the other, she would accept his mysterious and often seemingly eccentric rules.
Blake’s lover, Chrystal, who was recovering from a messy divorce and had recently moved to a house across the street, became the perfect addition to his life. She was young, fresh, bubbly and full of life. She was her own boss and had no one to answer to. Moreover, she was the ideal person to make her wife jealous. Blake wasn’t sure why his wife still hadn’t reacted to the hints he threw in here and there about a certain Chris, but he believed she would eventually notice them.
So, this was a recipe for disaster. And disaster did happen.
Detectives Michelle Bisset and Vic Klein had a plateful of inexplicable evidence to sort through in search of answers, especially because local thugs, a gang from out of town and a sweet elderly lady were determined to be as unaccommodating as they could possibly be.
The local thugs seemed to be unwavering in solving things on their own. The gang from out of town caused a commotion and took off as quickly as they could. And the sweet elderly lady, who knew everyone and everything about everyone, single handedly managed to confuse everyone with her nosy ways.
Who did what? When and how? These are only a few of the answers brought to you by the novel Obscure Connections.
(This novel was written for NaNoWriMo and is in the process of being edited at the moment)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Kipling’s Study Group

Whispering Wind
That dreadful day at the Kipling’s study group, composed of an eclectic group of people, was rife with unexpected events and Timmy, the host, was beside himself. The Egyptologist blabbered something about fish, a net and stockings and everyone understood he was wearing fishnet stockings. A drunken Jesus showed up claiming to be able to find the alien sparrows. Suddenly, someone hit the switch. Total darkness. As the light got back on, Timmy’s face bore suspicious shades of blue while his morally conservative socks were wrapped around his neck. “Well, why not?” added the ventriloquist. “This is better than cable.”
100 Word Stories

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Story Waiting To Happen...

Hazardous

... Hazardous (click here for full text).

The third of a series of monthly articles about sims in Second Life that could be inspiring for writers. My goal is to trigger ideas for new stories, new characters and new settings.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Who Do You Miss?

Vice City
The roller-coaster was closed. A crowd of people stood at the gates of the Carnival. The media gathered, awkwardly silent except for one reporter. 
“Who do you miss?” he asked. 
“I miss my friend Tom,” replied the kid. 
The reporter motioned his cameraman to go back in the van. No report would come out of this... 
He took one last glance at the crowd of sad people, poor souls. They had all been decapitated by that darn roller-coaster and apparently they didn’t know it yet. 
Of all things, the reporter couldn’t help thinking “I would’ve replied… I definitely miss myself”.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Any Town but Funkytown

Betelgeuse 5

The right place was also the wrong place. This yin/yang theory seemed valid, at least while Peter was aware of the fact that he walked a fine line of certainties and hesitations in a world of constant change. He would cross town to make sure his theory was right, lingering in shabby neighborhoods, only to realize that all the wrong places could never be the right places. He wanted to give up, but always gave in. That line before him became a harsh reminder that what was once perfect was really nothing more than a lie in shades of white.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Where Has The Time Gone?

BWC Village
“Mark my words, son, time flies.” The six year-old Tommy nodded diligently. His grandfather surely knew about these things. “One day you’re young and the next…” Tommy wasn’t quite sure of this though. When he was born, his grandfather was already old. He had gray hair and wrinkles. “Let’s go. We still have a few hours till sunset.” And they played football. His grandfather moved quite well for an old guy. Years later, when his granddad died, all Tommy could think of was that afternoon. “Time does fly, granddad,” he whispered softly, looking at the sun hiding behind the horizon.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Not That Private

Betelgeuse
Private matters are difficult to handle, especially if those involved are married. It’s tricky, confusing, and even murky to meddle in affairs that are none of your business. That’s exactly what Nolan thought when he decided to hop in the time machine to try to solve marital problems. It was the almighty Marriage Committee’s business, granted, but wasn’t it his marriage after all? Unfortunately, a revolutionary thought for his time, he knew… Well, the machine broke, and Nolan got stuck back in 1974. He spent the rest of his private life haunted by the possibility of marrying his own great-grandmother.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Worse Than the Plague

Frisch
Event: 500 Word Snatch
Location: Milk Wood, Second Life 
Host: Lizzie Gudkov
Prompts Siclit Prod: medieval marketplace, 1348; brush, itchy, invisibly, death
Time: 30 mins

1348 was a wonderful year filled with richness, health and… No, it wasn’t… There were a lot of those dreadful itchy people roaming the marketplace. The clothes were the worst possible thing, the poor, the smelly, and all the illnesses. And death, oh, death… That bothersome Black Plague. Why did Douglas have to live in these tormented times? Why couldn’t he live in the, say 21st century? Real richness, health, and… 

For a second Douglas felt that something was not right. A shadow lurked in the darkness. He turned around, but couldn’t see anything. Then he moved to one side of the room and hid just behind the long heavy curtain and waited patiently and invisibly. The figure walked close to the walls and paced back and forth. He tried to make no noise; however, even his own breathing seemed to echo from the thick walls. Suddenly, the shadow jumped towards him. He twisted his torso to one side and the shadow bumped against the stone wall with a shriek of agony. Douglas grabbed the man by the collar and shook him mercilessly.

“Who are you?”

The man tried to speak, but all he could do was mumble.

“Speak up, man!”

“I, I… I came from the 21st century to spy on the 14th century.”

Douglas was stunned. He was just now thinking of the 21st century!

“Well, good man,” he said, trying to smoothen things slightly. “Tell me about that century of yours.”

“I… I am here to take the Black Plague with me.”

“For Heaven’s sake, man, why would you do that?”

“There are too many people where I come from. We need to get rid of a few millions, and they decided to add the extra touch of this old, original, purer plague, so to speak.”

Douglas was appalled.

“So, you came here to spy on behalf of the future?”

The man looked left and right and whispered.

“I came here to steal. Actually…”

And that was it. Douglas saw nothing else, heard nothing else. There was a whoosh and he was in the future.

*

When he came to himself, he heard some people talking.

“Where’s the plague?”

The pretense spy pointed at Douglas.

“He’s the plague?!”

“That’s what his wife always said, every single day I spied on them. She actually said Douglas, you’re worse than the plague.”

Their problem was not the plague anymore, but whether to return Douglas to the past, taking the risk of him talking total nonsense, or simply eliminating him.

They decided to send him back and Douglas bothered so many people with his story of traveling to the future that it was not only his wife who thought he was worse than the plague, the whole town did.

Again

Enoshima
Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest one of all?
She had a toolbox full of aids,
And these were shinny little blades.

Mirror, mirror blocking the way,
Who will jump and who will slay?
He tried to run as fast as the wind,
But she was faster and got his skin.

Mirror, mirror playing tricks,
Who forgets and who forgives?
She looked around for more.
All she got was a funky door.

“Mirror, mirror full of shades,
I’ll stay away,” she uttered, twisting her braids
In her own little private hell,
A cell, again a lonely cell.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Story Waiting to Happen...


This is my second of a series of monthly articles about sims in Second Life that could be inspiring for writers. My goal is to trigger ideas for new stories, new characters and new settings.

Note: A special word of gratitude goes to London Junkers for the concept, design and creation of the logo for this column. Thank you!

***


Gehena Vampire Clan

The literary world is rife with vampire stories. I must admit I am not a fan of the genre. Yet, I have been a regular visitor of several vampire sims simply because they provide a rich environment to find new ideas for my writing.

So, this month, I have decided to take you on a visit to the Gehena Vampire Clan sim located in the virtual world Second Life.

Instead of the usual “Beware”, I’m happy to say “Enjoy”. This is not your typical vampire sim with people sending a nerve-wracking string of bite requests. Oh, no. This is a quiet place where you can sit for hours without being disturbed or distracted. Visitors do drop by, but everyone is extremely respectful of everyone else’s work and peace of mind.

As a matter of fact, I have talked to Builder7777 Vhargon, the sim owner, and to Loulou Teichmann, the manager, and both were vehement in stating that the key aspect of the Gehena Vampire Clan sim is friendship and respect.

The first impression I have upon arrival is of sheer tranquility. Two horses graze at an open area where a water pump and a cart packed with hay linger on. An old dinghy cradles rain water and a cloth flutters in the wind.

Across the small field, a boat sails away and I am intrigued by the fog that surrounds it. Could it be that someone is trying to escape? Perhaps run away from something?

There is a dark church building on the opposite side of the river. I decide to walk there. Don’t let the bright lamp, the inviting wooden bench and the chirping bird bath fool you. The cemetery lies dormant, but definitely not lifeless.

Curiously enough, I spot another ship sailing away. I try to engage in conversation with the turmit, a sort of bird, thinking that perhaps I can get some information to write a fable, but it seemed quite aloof, minding its youngest, and I decide to move on.

As I walk around, I stumble upon a vampire’s tomb, empty. This sends chills up my spine. I look left and right, trying to make sure he’s not around, and it’s only later that I realize I forgot to look up. The branches in the trees did appear to be a mighty interesting place to perch on and investigate unsuspecting visitors.

The two black bird cages on the floor are empty, a third thrown on its side, and I cannot help but think that… Well, vampires do need to be nourished. Would birds suffice? I decide to pull the collar of my coat up just in case.

At the top of the hill, there’s a house, one of four. I climb the rocky steps all the way up. What Loulou Teichmann told me makes perfect sense now. She tried to create a Tuscany village. So, with a strong Mediterranean feel to it, I am greeted by a sack of fresh apples and cabbages. There’s no one home and I go inside. I was told by Builder7777 Vhargon that all areas are open to the public, so do feel free to explore around. This house most likely belongs to a fisherman, I imagine. There’s a pile of fish on the floor, forgotten. I wonder where he went.

The second house lays half way up to the dark tower. An eerie feeling takes over me. Two chimneys pipe out a storm of smoke and a few bats circle above the pathway leading to the tower, up on the hill. I decide that while I build up my courage to go there, I’ll explore around the second cottage.

It’s a friendly place. The table is set in the garden, a rich table with wine and bread and fruit. The fire is burning merrily next to a rug and some pillows. An empty greenhouse, its doors wide open, looks like the perfect place to start a winter garden. As I walk to the front door, I spot a fireplace and an oven. Whatever is being cooked smells good. I go inside and wonder who lives here. There’s a table with food on it and someone is writing a diary, or perhaps even a story. On the wall, a collection of tiles makes my mind travel to the South of Europe, where they are such an important part of culture.

After admiring the framed tiles for quite a while, I know it’s time. I take a deep breath and walk up the ramp to the dark tower. The bats seem to greet me, in circles, flapping their wings hurriedly. Is it really a welcome or a warning? I knock at the first door I come across. This is where the vampire lives, I am sure. No reply. With a strong sense of relief, I move onwards to the second door. No answer either. I step in slowly. It’s the living-room quarters, the black top hat on the coat hanger, a small bottle of laudanum on the desk, right next to the teapot. By the window, I notice more birdcages, empty… There’s a staircase up to the bedroom, but as I see a bat flying inside the room I decide not to stay too long. That was definitely a warning. There is one more door, a bedroom as well. Four books sit on a round side table with an envelope on top. The envelope has a four leaf clover on its back. I wonder what that means, perhaps good luck, hopefully good luck!

As I walk down the ramp, getting ready to visit the third house and being impatiently watched by a black crow, I can’t help but notice the amazing view of the whole village. The vampire has its herd under control. Or doesn’t he?

To get to the third cottage, I must cross a field with a chicken coop, a few horses grazing, and a small farmer’s cottage, abandoned.

Could there be someone in the third house though? I hurry my pace, eager to meet its owner. At the entrance, I see a wonderful birdhouse, alive and chirping. I knock at the wooden gate. There’s no one. I tiptoe inside. Well, well, well. There’s a writer in this village. The desk is covered by writing material; the bookshelf is filled with medical and herbalist books. Umm, perhaps he’s a doctor and rather than a writer. What catches my eye and intrigues me the most is the fact that the frames on the wall have no pictures. Could it be he took them with him when leaving in a hurry? Or perhaps he took them down, ripped them, in pain, for having lost those portrayed? Perhaps… perhaps there was some sort of quarrel between the vampire and the doctor. Maybe they loved the same woman.

Outside, a big fireplace and two wooden stools suggest the owner of this house was in the habit of entertaining guests, one or more, if we consider the table set for five. Who were these five people? Did they gather here for a fun dinner? Or did they have some ulterior plan they were working on?

Before I arrive at the fourth house, I drop by the old watermill. It’s still working, although it looks crumbly and neglected. I am drawn by mysterious Gregorian chants coming from inside. As I turn left inside the mill, what I see completely takes me by surprise. There’s a coffin right by the window. I approach it carefully. After all, I haven’t seen the vampire anywhere yet. One thing puzzles me. Wouldn’t it be more natural for the coffin to be at his tower rather than hidden here in the old mill? I wonder if the town folks stole it from him, so he couldn’t shelter himself during the day. I wonder if that’s not what they were plotting around that table. And the chants? What are the chants for? Interesting.

I approach the fourth cottage. There’s a birdhouse here as well. The way the villagers love birds seems to contrast with the dark bird cages by the vampire’s cemetery. Perhaps they freed the birds the vampire held captive. Perhaps the birds were people’s souls, trapped. So many questions, so many stories, but, Lizzie, move on! Inside, a rocking chair glances onto the patio. There are pictures in the frames on the wall and an old radio promises a comforting thread of classical music.

The sun is setting and a bright full moon is rising on the other side of the village. So, encouraged by the extra amount of light, I decide to go back to the vampire’s tomb and notice there’s a pathway I hadn’t seen between the fenced wall and the massive wall of rocks. Although I feel a bit more confident that the vampire is not around, I am still slightly weary of coming face to face with him. I tread lightly and as silently as possible until I see another cemetery. I think I saw a few ghosts there, but I really don’t stay long enough to make sure!
The misty water by the shoreline and the threatening bird screams, I believe crows, push me forward across a small stream of water. And I arrive at the asylum. But the screams are louder and a black panther growls warningly.

I take a few steps forward. It looks like the asylum was transformed into an area for dark get-togethers. A pool covered by a wire grid, seizes the middle of the room.  I take a few more steps, cautiously. I mean no harm. Suddenly, the panther purrs softly. Inside the pool… oh my, inside the pool, swimming and pleading, is a beautiful white mermaid. I wave and try to talk to her. She doesn’t reply. She’s trapped, in a place, in a body, in a muted world, with her faithful black guardian, who is divided between warning people off and begging for their help. Who was it? Who did this to you? The panther purrs. The birds echo a story I am trying to find.

I don’t want to leave her behind, but I must. And the crows seem to point the way “Yes, right there, that’s where they used to meet, a beautiful lady and a fair gentleman, who one day turned to the dark side.” And there are cats guarding the place, where an abandoned pram plays a broken lullaby.

This could be a story of vampires, of plots and dark spells, of animals and mermaids, of people being as fragile and as strong as only people can be.

This is a sim that enchants us with the promise of a story in each corner, a sim filled with rich details, a sim created with care. There is so much more to see and draw ideas from. Turn your sound on and enjoy.


A few final notes, as you may know, the Virtual Writers Inc. created the 500 Word Snatch Challenge, i.e. to write 500 words a day throughout the whole year. Why not drop by this amazing sim and make writing a story inspired by it one of those 500 words? If you decide to take my challenge, leave your story in the comments. We’d love to read it.

As I get ready to leave this now familiar sim, I notice a deer on top of the cliff; is it really a deer? I try to focus. I wonder what it’s doing up there… Could it be that…? Or maybe… Well, ad this is where I leave you, because… there’s a story waiting to happen at Gehena VampireClan.

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Disclaimer: The Virtual Writers Inc. and I are in no way affiliated with any shop located in the sims featured in this column nor do we intend to promote them.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Wicked Ring

Tim's Dreams
Event: 500 Word Snatch
Location: Milk Wood, Second Life
Host: Lizzie Gudkov
PromptsSiclit Prod: faery ring, 1849;  dance, shimmering, wickedly, mushroom
Time: 30 mins (I needed more time…!)


It was 1849. The annual dance would take place in the main mushroom. The floor was cleaned, the walls repainted. The shimmering ceiling lit up with sparkling party lights, hanging from a web of strings. The fairies hopped back and forth, creating havoc in the most charming way. The elves took the pillows out of their places and hid them wickedly underneath the fire logs. All other communal mushrooms were smaller than the main one; however, the main mushroom was not nearly big enough to accommodate everyone who wished to attend. This created the uncomfortable need for the organizers to establish priorities. The red beret elves would go in first, leaving the green berets to fight for the remaining places. Now, everyone wanted to win the big prize, the faery ring, a wonderfully carved silver ring with a massive red beautifully laminated ruby, simply because that would increase their chances of finding a bride. Unhappy about the preference given to the red berets, ever since the organizers were red berets themselves, a team of green berets decided to crash the party and take the ring for themselves. When night came and the main mushroom was bursting with life, singing and laughter, they sneaked in and stole it, sniggering all the way back to the green part of town. When the time came for the ring to be drawn, it was gone! There was an indescribable commotion. Accusations flew in all directions. The organizing team was dismissed and the annual dance was cancelled until further notice. The only detail they didn’t consider was the fact that the ring had a mind of its own. Being stuck in a wooden box under the bed of a green beret was definitely not its idea of being the center of attention, as it was used to for centuries. So, let’s say that all green berets involved never got a chance of getting a bride and finding their own lives became an illusion as they got swollen by the ring’s red precious stone. Still today, if you bring the ring really close to your eye, you’ll see them waving and pleading to be set free.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Formula

Caimito
I stayed at the hospital for a week to undergo a routine treatment. Unexpectedly, the treatment provided had a new formula. Despite my heated protests, that’s what I was given. It’s more effective, they insisted stubbornly. However, I felt different. I tried to keep things under control, but my vision got blurred and I started seeing people's insides as if they were being scanned by a 3D x-ray machine. I looked away. I closed my eyes. I couldn’t stand it. Yet, their intestines, their stomachs, their lungs almost jumped out of them. Curiously enough, I didn't see one single heart...

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Fairytale Forest

Beltane
16. February 2014
Location: Book Island
Host: Harriet Gausman
Picture Prompt: Fairytale Forest
Time: 30 mins

The sun peered through the thick wall of pine trees and the stubby shrubbery shone a glossy shine of whiteness. Somehow, trying to find my way, I got startled by each branch cracking under my footsteps. The noise echoed from all directions, making me look left and right. I always thought the sun would give a warm tone to everything it touched, but this time its kisses were white. The clearing ahead promised a tempting opportunity for a well-deserved rest, or so I thought. And yet, it seemed to mock me. It would move farther and farther away from my need to rest, increasing it, setting it into a frantic state of anxiety. It was just right ahead of me, I could see it clearly and it was quite implausible to me that walking as fast and as determined as I did, I couldn’t simply… get there.
Suddenly, I opened my eyes. I couldn’t breathe for a few seconds and felt totally overpowered. I was having a nightmare… I inhaled violently, trying to free myself from the claws of immobility. I sat upright and looked around. I was safe, I thought.
The breeze swirled languidly around me. I must’ve left the window open during the night.
I tried to stand up and heard a branch cracking under my knee. Was I still dreaming? I stood up and looked about. The light was intense. I closed and opened my eyes a few times so they could adjust. And I took one step, one single step.
No. No. No. How many days ago had I made the worst decision of my life? Go experience the space, don’t imagine it, and just go there. A forest is a magic place, you’ll be able to write the perfect fairytale if you go and see it for yourself.
I was still lost. I was still in the forest. And there was still no clearing. And still no fairytale, only the forest, the never ending forest.

Coward

Vice City
The town coward picked apples from a tree in the park when the town bully walked up to him and yelled "Coward!" This was a routine they had since the early days of high-school. As a matter of fact, the whole town knew it would happen each time the two now adults crossed paths. One day, the coward yelled back "Bully". He didn't know why he had done it. For a few seconds, he even regretted it. The town folk laughed hard and the bully, caught by surprise, walked away, feeling for the first time the bitter taste of humiliation.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Soon

Retropolis
“When will we get in the lifeboat?” asked the mother of two.
“Soon,” replied the crew member while the ship sunk dramatically. The empty promise loomed in the air until the mother asked again.
“When?”
“Soon,” he repeated.
Escape was all she could think of. She frantically pushed her children into the lifeboat.
The crew member tried to stop her, but there is no stopping a determined mother. So, when the lifeboat rocked to one side, he fell into the frigid waters.
Everyone screamed for help, but it took so long… “When will someone do something?”
The mother whispered “Soon…”

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Story Waiting to Happen...

Collins Land


This is the first of a series of monthly articles about sims in Second Life that could be inspiring for writers. My goal is to trigger ideas for new stories, new characters and new settings.
Thank you to Harriet Gausman (Andie Pring) for the invitation to become a guest author at the Virtual Writers Inc.

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“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” William Wordsworth

Collins Land

When Harriet Gausman, the owner of the Virtual Writers Inc., invited me to be a guest blogger and write a series of monthly articles about sims that could be inspiring to writers, I immediately thought of Collins Land to begin this extraordinary writing journey.

The garden tools, the pots with lilacs and the garden supplies in the old greenhouse seem to evoke a promise of renewed possibilities, of growth and life. Small details carefully placed trigger an array of ideas immediately upon my arrival.

The first time I visited the sim located in the virtual world Second Life (SL), I was so fascinated by it that I wrote to its owner, Cerys Celestalis, to thank her for having her private estate open to the SL community. She invited me to enjoy the land and bring friends over. So, let’s go for a walk.

A picnic blanket and a basket sit right outside the greenhouse. The Siamese cat watches me carefully while the playful weasel hides somewhere beyond a tree trunk. Who was having a picnic and left in a hurry? And why did they have to go? Suddenly, I realize there’s a toy on the floor, forgotten, fallen on its side. There was a child here. Perhaps she was the one playing Scrabble near the cat, perhaps she is hiding somewhere beyond the trunk too. A river is flowing somewhere. I can hear it. But where is it? Or could it be a waterfall? What if the people having the picnic had to run to the river because the child was…?

And a myriad of questions, the beginning of every story, explodes in my mind.

I decide to walk down the hill and explore a bit more, trying to keep the disarray of ifs and whys in my mind under control.

At the first bend of the road, I come across a deck where a set of binoculars point to an island at the bottom of the cliff. Interesting, there’s a slider rope right next to it, but I decide to move on downhill first. I’ll visit the island later.

Another turn and I stumble upon a camping site with… a waterfall. Three tents linger about by the fire and a few log tables and benches are so inviting that I decide to sit down for a bit. The tents have sleeping bags, each with two pillows, so they must belong to a group of couple friends who decided to go camping together on a romantic trip perhaps; St. Valentine’s is, after all, right around the corner. A log burns up in the fire; I poke it a few times and it burns a bit hotter. However, I cannot spend much time here. I have a sim to explore and an article to write! Nevertheless, I can’t help but wonder where the couples went…

I continue down the road until, with undeniable surprise, I spot a fishing boat turned on its side by a rock close to the shore line. The weather is fine now, yet I have the feeling that something terrible must’ve happened to that boat and its crew.

Still seeking answers, hints to stories untold, I arrive at the lakeside boathouse. The mailbox is full and some letters are scattered on the floor. I try to figure out where the mail came from, but the rain hopelessly blurred the ink on the envelopes.

The lower floor of the boathouse has an interior dock where an old dinghy rests by two wood lounge chairs and a cooler with beers. I wonder who lives on the top floor. It’s a small, one room apartment and I think its owner has something to do with art. As I look around, I notice the vintage posters above the veranda doors, each a story in itself. A quarter past six, whispers the clock on the wall with a ding. I must hurry.

After all the walking I did downhill, the bike rack is so inviting that I grab a bike to go back up. That fishing boat is indeed intriguing; I wonder where the crew went...  Ok, eyes on the road. This is a steep climb that gives me time to enjoy the scenery, not without having to make a sharp twist or two of the handle bars to avoid plunging into the said scenery I was so admiring.
When I arrive at the top of the hill, I see the Collins home. It’s a public area, I assure you. I was careful enough to ask Cerys, so you can walk about as much as you like, inside and outside.

This is most likely the home of a well-off family, decorated elegantly and with many rich details. A cat is meowing somewhere, I don’t see him. The clock strikes half past.  I walk outside onto the veranda and… hah, the cat, a Siamese, just like the one at the greenhouse. Perhaps they are siblings and they roam the sim making sure everything is in its rightful place, as cats do.

At the far right corner of the veranda, an easel is set and someone started painting something. I draw closer. It’s the gazebo right across the water. It stands alone, no access but by boat. I wonder if it was a tribute to a lost love.

Looking at the gazebo reminds me that I still have to check that grout I spotted from the dock up the hill. So, I start walking back, promising myself that I’d explore the upper floor and the basement of the main house in a future visit.

However, something catches my eye right before I leave. A book, its pages open and floating away, a mere hint of freedom, almost lost in the whiteness of a table where a few figurines tell stories of pirates and secrets and wondrous travels around the world.

I move on. Living up to the adventurous spirit evoked by these fragile figurines, I confront myself with having to do some rappel. I take a deep breath and slide down to the small island where it rains copiously. Shelter is only a few steps away, inside a cave warmed by a fire crackling inside. The two barrels next to an abandoned rowboat outside didn’t go unnoticed; contraband maybe or a castaway who floated all the way to this island from across the ocean.

The cave is a curious place. I look around, trying not to disrupt anything just in case, while taking a quick peek at a book entitled “How to Be a Wicked Witch”. By its side, a potion tray promises sleeping draught, invisibility and insanity amongst other terrible fates. I decide that it’s safer not to give in to curiosity. So, I don’t touch anything. Nevertheless, what would happen if I...? Would I disappear, sleepless and insane forever? Or would the drawing on the wall save me from a cruel destiny of eternal condemnation?

I sit down and… oh! This would be an entirely different story. The sofa and the chairs have adult animations. Erotica could be an option for a story too.

 As I teleport away from Collins Land, my mind frantic with stories, I cannot help but feel that there was still so much more to share. So, I strongly encourage you to visit this wonderful place and draw from it inspiration to your work. It’s a rich location with an ample range of story possibilities that will increase your archive of information for both ongoing and future writings.

Two brief suggestions before I wrap up. Touch everything; there are animations in the most unexpected places. Also, try changing the sun position; how different things look!

Now, it’s time to go. I recall the words from that delightful book at the main house with a smile, “I could barely take a breath.”

And these would be the first words of my story about a fishing boat mysteriously abandoned, a missing crew, a boathouse owned by a painter, a home of a family of four and a lover’s hideaway in the forest.

But, Lizzie, you never mentioned any hideaway, I can hear you say. Well, that’s for you to find while you roam around, because… there’s a story waiting to happen at Collins Land.