Sunday, June 29, 2014



If there is any expression I hate is the proverbial “temper, temper”. I have trouble dealing with self-righteous people who wave the flag of knowing-it-all and when they add that sanctimonious “temper, temper”, I wonder how a tragic fatality doesn’t inevitably occur.
Every now and then, there is someone who throws a single “temper” at me, going from a low pitched beginning to a dragged high pitched ending. I’m not really sure which is worse, to be honest.
So, to avoid losing my temper with all this temper business, I’ll wrap up, thinking that perhaps I should’ve written about… swords!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Torno Kohime Foundation

Final submission to
the MOOC Writing Fiction course, running between April 28 and June 22.


It was hard to believe that this woman in her mid-thirties, looking rather fragile, constantly staring at the floor, could’ve killed her mother in such a vicious way. For weeks, a parade of witnesses testified before two rows of shocked jurors about the horrors she perpetrated.

Natasha was strongly advised not to testify, but she did sit on the stand, swore she would tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. She uttered a few well rehearsed incoherent sentences, a few unintelligible words and absolutely no reply to any of the questions either the prosecution or the defense asked her.

At the end of each incomprehensible answer, she smiled the most captivating smile at the perplexed jurors. When her defense attorney threw his hands in the air for dramatic effect, her fate was decided. 

That smile, that innocent-looking deviously misleading smile, saved her from the electric chair. The psychiatric ward would become her home for the rest of her life.

As time went by, she grew impatient. She still had unfinished business to take care of outside and being caught by that smug rookie detective was definitely an unexpected drawback.

Determined to find a way out, she progressively shook off the image of being a meek, broken woman who struggled with abuse all her life and who, in a moment of sudden anger, killed her mother. She started metamorphosing back into her fierce and daunting self without anyone noticing.

Talking to the shrink seemed to help appease the growing demons inside. 

She told him about her past, her obsessively controlling and abusive cop father, at whose hands the kids suffered some of the most sickening punishments. He would yell at them to stand up for themselves, but he would beat them up if they ever did. 

She told him about her small sister who was found dead in her bed, some sudden breathing problem, they said. Natasha knew exactly what happened. She heard it all. She was only seven years old and her sister, four. 

She told him about her mother who never took the kids’ side, an accusatory tone fluttering in each sentence, the same accusatory tone Natasha fluttered at her mother the moment she did it. It took her a lifetime to prepare for that homicidal moment, but she didn’t tell the shrink about that.

The past, although increasingly distant and crowded by bizarre plans and disastrous certainties, reminded Natasha that moving along, day after day, was her only chance. 

The long corridors of the ward had a slightly disturbing feel of childishness as she walked from end to end, wearing her shinny long black hair in a tight braid, the sides of her head carefully shaven, her sneakers screeching on the bare floor. 

There were drawings of trees and flowers, and elephants and dolls and all sorts of things that would never fit in a corridor, she fabulated. “Aren’t these drawings nice?” she would ask the warden. He nodded. There were no drawings, only the cold whiteness of aseptic walls, but that didn’t matter. She wanted them to think she was still insane. 

However, there was indeed something on those walls. There was a door. Natasha knew it well, the door under the staircase, the door no one else remembered, her way out of there. She found this door by accident when looking for garden supplies. 

Shortly after being sentenced, she took up gardening as one of the occupational therapies the ward offered its patients. A Gothic gardener was something most wardens found quite amusing. She would wear her own black clothes, as patients were allowed to, her short nails painted in a deep black nail polish.

Although it did seem a bit odd, gardening soothed her inner turmoil. She didn’t like flowers though. They would die eventually. She preferred bushes, small trees. They would grow and bloom in their own particular, sometimes peculiar way. Just like her.

Her mind kept coming back to that door. It was partially hidden by an empty cupboard that she could easily slide to one side. She realized that it led to a narrow corridor, probably a discontinued way in for supplies. 

Natasha was almost caught a few times, snooping around under the staircase, but her relentless smile disarmed even the most suspicious warden. For some reason, that clown’s smile, a middle ground between innocence and devilish incoherence, made people think that she was an idiot, that she could not understand things too well. She could. She understood things far better than anyone, even better than most of the staff.

It was paramount though for her to orderly comply with the demands made upon her. She never grumbled; she did as she was told and she always took her medications, the same medications she would orderly and routinely spit out as quickly as she could.

One day, she found herself in the dining room, ducking just in time while a china plate sailed past her and smashed against the wall. Ruby, the most annoying inmate in the ward was causing havoc. She would throw a fit on a regular basis, which included tossing plates in all possible directions for no apparent reason. The wardens tried to catch Ruby, who ran around in circles behind the sofas and the tables and the benches. The patients yelled and screamed and hit their heads with their fists. Some drooled and laughed uncontrollably. 

This routine became quite annoying, however, the confusion, as expected, provided a unique opportunity for Natasha to go to the small door. Finally, it was time. She had gone through this moment over and over again in her mind. She slid out of the room and into the dark corner under the stairs. She was amazed at how smoothly everything went. It took her less than ten minutes to be free again.

The authorities looked for her for months in a frantic urgency, especially when a series of unrelated homicides with male victims caught their attention. There was the yuppie guy at the bar who groped her leg and waved a credit card under her nose. They found the credit card stuffed inside his throat. There was the old man who rubbed himself on her, pretending to reach for the darts stuck on the dart board. They found his eyes turned into two bullseyes. There was the biker dude who wore a black sweaty bandana, who grabbed her braid and pulled her head back to force-kiss her. They found him strangled, the black sweaty bandana waving in the wind. 

She was only doing what she had been taught, anyway. Plus, she was getting ready for that unfinished business she still had to take care of, that pesky matter of her father. 

He did try to visit her back at the psychiatric ward at some point. However, she vehemently refused to see him. Instead, she paid him a visit as soon as she was ready to start a new life. He was found dead, brutally murdered. He too wanted to scream. He too struggled for air when his face was smothered by a pillow. He too died of some sudden breathing problem.

Natasha still wears black jeans and black t-shirts under a black leather jacket, but she cut her braid off and shaved her head completely. She is called Jennifer now. The authorities never caught her again. “After all, tomorrow is another day," she uttered, smiling.


Relevant links:
MOOC, Writing Fiction - Reflections about the course
MOOC Week Two Final Task
MOOC Week Three Writing Task
MOOC Week Five Writing Task
Future Learn

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Water Reserve

Storm was his name. He was a guide at a park.
Storm never missed a day at work.
Storm was an example. Well, except for the hurry. People told him to slow down. He wouldn’t, ever. People told him that they wanted to enjoy the walk. He replied they could enjoy it fast.
Storm rushed through life as quickly as he could, until that day when he decided he needed a change. The midlife crisis, people whispered.
He crossed the street to the park slowly, enjoying the quiet moments before a day’s work and he got hit by a speeding truck.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


Skye Elgol

The massive wall had been built to create two worlds, the real and the unreal.

The crowds gathered on one side, effusively enjoying the reassuring calmness. They felt protected.

When the old man placed his cold hand on the wall, a cry of anguish erupted, followed by sheer horror.

At first, there was only a dry muffled sound. Then, as if in slow motion, the wall crumbled in a thousand icy fragments.

The real and the unreal could no longer be distinguished. People no longer had that soothing comfort.

Once more, they were doomed to face reality… and to think.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

An Unpublished Labor of Hercules

Milk Wood

“Tell me,” the detective uttered.
“I don’t know, sir… She was already dead,” whispered the beggar.
“What? Speak up, man.”
The beggar got closer and whispered a bit more.
As always, the detective stroked his mustache pensively. The beggar did have a point. The victim bore a remarkable resemblance to that writer, something Christa, Christine.
“She was just there...I almost tripped.”
The detective tried talking to the local police, but they went around, scratching their heads, not knowing what to think or say.
“We are doomed,” he mumbled.
It became obvious that now the darn thing would never be finished.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Story Waiting To Happen

Taka no Sakura

... Taka no Sakura (click here for full text).

This post is part of a series of monthly articles for the Virtual Writers 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. Enjoy!

Note: One of the characteristics of Second Life is the fact that it's constantly and rapidly changing. Sims come and go; others look quite different, as time goes by. Do take that into consideration when using the links provided. 

Taka no Sakura

This month, we visit the Japanese Role-play (RP) sim Taka no Sakura. It’s an absolutely impressive location, replicating the Edo period (from the 17th till about the mid-19th century), a period of remarkable stability and economic growth.

Society was divided in classes, with samurai at the top, followed by farmers, craftsmen and merchants. It is quite interesting to see how this village is remarkably well organized, a mirror of villages that were even rather autonomous.

I must say that I know of the Japanese history only what general knowledge has to offer. Beyond that, I am not familiar with the traditions, the etiquette or most importantly the nearly imperceptible details those schooled in the Japanese culture are able to recognize.

What I can promise is to take you on a journey in time and history experienced through the eyes of a stranger, a foreigner who just arrived at a land filled with unfamiliar yet fascinating settings.

I disembark at the secluded port located in a peaceful bay. The evocative and dramatic landscape, added to the gray atmosphere and the smooth quiet waters flowing towards the ocean, confer a sense of dreaminess.

The houseboat moored at the dock bank rocks slightly to the movement of the ripples in the water. Inside, an uncluttered decoration makes me think that an old samurai, my first character, lives here. I respectfully visit his quarters. From the front of the boathouse, I have an absolutely astounding view of an impressive waterfall that pulls your eyes up. There’s so much more to explore up here.

In a brief conversation I had with Sayouri Yuhara, the owner of this extraordinary sim, I learned that Taka no Sakura means Falcon of the Cherry Blossom and that is exactly what this sim brews in you, unreserved beauty.

Being an RP sim, I ask of you to be mindful of RP rules. Please don’t fly and do respect the fact that there are private houses. While in an RP sim, I tend not to address anyone unless I am addressed by role-players to avoid disturbing them. That seems to work beautifully.

I must say that at Taka no Sakura, I’ve only encountered very friendly and welcoming people. Wearing a visitor tag is not required. And onwards with our journey.

A large building draws my attention. I’m sure this is where I’ll be able to have something warm. The voyage was long and uncomfortable. It’s time to replenish my strength. There are a number of yatais, street vendors, with soup, warm food and water. While eating, I look at the mountains beyond the torii, a powerful symbol of transition. The past of this traveler seems to be already so distant.

I walk to the back and find the place where my second character works. He’s a calligraphy master. His table displays the tools and brushes of his trade. I wonder what he’s working on. There are two other tables, one with newspapers and the other with a flower vase and some flower scissors. Perhaps the calligraphy master has two apprentices.

Right next door, a poster advertises a show of traditional music and dance. I tiptoe inside. The place is empty. Small, cozy, and inviting, I’m drawn to a zither-like string instrument. Although I don’t play, I touch the strings softly and music seems to flow from them magically.

Outside, the pathway leads me to a watermill. The harvest was rich and the sacks are full of grain ready to be turned into flour. I’ll add the miller to my list of characters. He is right by the river and sees if anyone arrives by sea. I wonder whether he has any interesting stories to share.

Then, I walk up the hill into the most fascinating bamboo forest. Although I spot a bridge to my right, leading towards the higher areas, I decide to explore the path ahead of me first. At the top, a shorter stone bridge takes me to a secluded area where a red maple tree welcomes visitors and cherry trees blossom beautifully.

The garden gate before me is closed. I approach cautiously and the gates suddenly open. The beauty and elegance, its magic inspires both contemplation and aesthetic pleasure. A certain sense of agitation for being wrapped up in a completely different time gives place to an empowering sense of quietude and peace.

Right outside the garden, the view is astonishing. A small wooden bench with a pictorial block-book on it invites me to sit down. I wonder who left this book here. Perhaps it was a beautiful geisha, dreaming of a renownedsamurai she fell in love with. Perhaps it was the calligraphy master who writes sweet poems to a noble lady he’s secretly infatuated with. Or perhaps it was a child who dreams of becoming a samurai.

I walk back to the crossway and turn towards the bridge. It feels very symbolic, like leaving behind the increasingly tenuous link to the past and being more and more immersed in the culture and beauty of the Edo period.

The view from the bridge is breathtaking. To one side, the entrance to this secluded magical bay, to the other the impressive waterfall and the village, extending from the bottom of a quiet lake-like mirror of water, where a family of ducks swim happily and water lilies grow in generous numbers, all the way up to the top of the mountain.

I decide to explore the compactly built village and turn to the left. Perhaps you could explore what lies beyond to the right, when you drop by in search of inspiration for your stories!

I enter the water pavilion and realize tea is being prepared. Uninvited, I sit and wait. Inside the main hall, the impressive noise of the waterfall is kept at a soothing level by jalousies, some rolled down, and others rolled up halfway.

As I sit here, I imagine a noble lady sitting in front of me and smiling. She tells me about a mysterious stranger who arrived a few hours ago and whose looks and ways are perking up everyone’s curiosity. She goes on telling me about the sailors and travelers the sea has brought to this small village. She even tells me how one sat right here and had tea with her. I cannot help but think that she, in a pleasant way of course, is teasing me slightly.

After tea, I feel renewed and excuse myself. I have a town to visit and more characters to look for. Stories do need characters. She smiles, bows elegantly and assents.

As I walk up towards the mountain, I come across the workshop of a kimono maker. Astonishingly beautiful fabrics are the feedstock for fine-looking kimonos and traditional fans. I am told by a passerby that kimonos are an important sign of how wealthy its bearer is. Some of the richest merchants’ wives try to outdo one another with extraordinary displays of absolutely splendid garments.

I bid farewell to this friendly gentleman, perhaps a samurai himself, and walk up the side of the mountain to a plateau where a yoshino cherry tree blooms generously and invitingly. The gate to a private house is open and I dare walk into the garden, hoping to meet its owner. I then realize it’s not a private house at all, it’s a doctor’s office.

The medical poster on the wall, the herbs hanging from a stand to dry, a scale, an icepack for a feverish man lying down on a bed, make me wonder where the doctor is. I must talk to him. I find it absolutely fascinating how, also in the field of medicine, this was such a thriving time in Japan.

Next door, appropriately, I come across a bath house. Quite uncommon in the West, bathing practices have been a tradition for many centuries in Japan.

Whether for relaxation or therapeutic reasons, what was already very much a common phenomenon becomes today even more widespread, I’m told by a former yuna, a bathhouse girl, whose role was to bathe and massage clients. After they were banned for offering pleasure services in a relatively overt way, these women were forced to become waitresses in teahouses instead.

The massage room upstairs promises very relaxing moments, but the steaming hot water pool draws my attention immediately. It’s empty at the moment, but I imagine being in the water, at night, the mountain as a backdrop, the relaxing sound of flowing water and the birds chirping in the background. The floating lanterns add the final touch to a perfect setting. I am certain that many stories could take place here.

As I walk to the back, I spot a bathtub. It has a few adult animations. Perhaps we could write a story peppered by torrid eroticism and exotic geishas.

Leaving the bathhouse, I see a pathway leading downwards. Oops, it’s a private house, so I quickly walk back to the trail and up the mountain instead, rough stone steps leading the way.

At the top, there’s a purification pavilion, a bell and a temple. I walk past the impressive red maple tree and stand for a while at the top floor of the watchtower, overlooking the river. From this standpoint, I can, once again, observe the the torii I sailed through, the gate to a visit filled with stories.

It’s quite astounding how quickly a stranger becomes familiar with completely unfamiliar surroundings and, in this month’s journey, a completely unfamiliar country and time in history as well.

This utterly breathtaking sim takes us on an expedition into another world, a world of samurai and calligraphy masters, peasants, nobles, geishas, a doctor and a retired yuna. It offers an extraordinarily rich assortment of locations, faithfully depicting Japan in the Edo period, and it’s so tempting to write down all the stories emerging from each corner of the sim.

There are many more notable details to explore, unmentioned in this recount, but I’ll leave that to you, because… there’s a story waiting to happen at Taka no Sakura!



Disclaimer: Virtual Writers and I are in no way affiliated with any commercial business located in the simsfeatured in this column nor do we intend to promote them.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Skeletons Look So Real

Cerridwens Cauldron

Working at the restaurant was Kip’s bread and butter. He didn’t particularly enjoy being a waiter.
Nevertheless, he was friendly to the customers and people seemed to genuinely like him. But, in essence, his life was boring.
However, every now and then, he felt the lure of the illicit.
When his boss asked him how the restaurant should be decorated for a Friday 13 Scary Night, he knew exactly how.
The result was impressive. The skeletons look so real, said the customers, snickering nervously.
His boss was happy with the extra clientele. And Kip smiled deceitfully, pretending to be human.
100 Word Stories (Prompt: Butter)