Thursday, March 27, 2014

Short story project: Unidentified Flying Object, Part 6

I took several long steps back. “I don’t want your help.”
Jason stared at me, leaning forward like he wanted to eliminate the gap between us, but he held his ground. “I can help people like you.”
People like…me?
“Didn’t you think there were others?” Jason kept his voice low as he stepped closer.
Every inch of my body screamed to back away, to run back into the library, but I stayed put, crossing my hands over my chest. “Of course,” I said, keeping my voice low, and my gaze locked on this strange young man. “Of course, I assumed—”
Jason opened his mouth.
“—but I don’t care.” I pivoted and my heel, headed for the library at full steam, chucking my cigarette on the pavement when I reached the wide front stairs. I took two steps at a time, gasping a little in my hurry.
“How can you not care?” The ever-athletic-seeming Jason had caught up to me, and kept pace. He didn’t even have the decency to appear out of breath.
“Because I don’t.” Because in this case, I doubted safety was in numbers. Groups of people with “special skills” would create a larger target for someone to hunt us down; to capture us and lock us away in the top secret government facilities I imagined had to exist somewhere. Living on my own meant that I had no one but myself to depend upon. I felt safe alone.
“You don’t, or you won’t?” Jason stepped in front of me, barring my way—his habit of doing that was growing annoying.
“Take your pick.” I said, then pushed past him. I was only a couple of strides away from the entrance.
“Stop pretending you don’t care, Claire.”
I froze, my hand partially extended toward the door. “I’m not pretending.” I clenched my teeth.
“Then why are you still standing here?” An irritatingly smug smile spread across Jason’s face.
I levelled my best glare at my…companion…as the muscles in my jaw grew sore. Why was I standing here? Maybe because Jason was pleasant to look at, or because despite my best efforts, I actually needed human contact, so much so that the desire to be touched was building into a humming sensation across my skin. Or, it could be because he was so infuriating I couldn’t think rationally.
“Look,” Jason inched closer to me, checking over his shoulders then mine as he moved. “The other night, when we met, I was trying to break into the research offices where my girlfriend used to work. She disappeared—”
“So call the police.”
“She was like you, special.” His voice was so low I could barely make out what he said. “She could run fast. Faster than the high speed trains in Japan, and her employers found out.”

“I-can’t-help.” I clenched everything. My teeth, my fists, every joint tensed. Then I forced myself forward, my gaze locked straight ahead of me. I wasn’t going to get involved in this. I yanked back one of the front doors to the library, my feet pounding against the floor as I steam-lined it to the elevator. I didn’t bother to check behind me to see if Jason followed, I sensed by the cool breeze at my back that he wasn’t there.
To be continued...check back for more of the story on Tuesday, April 1st (no fools!)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Short story project: Unidentified Flying Object, Part 5

Light streamed in from the living room windows when I woke up several hours later. I’d passed out in the entrance of my apartment still wearing my jacket, my key chain cupped inside my hand. It took me several minutes to remember everything that had happened the night before, but it came back. Would there be backlash in response to my careless exposure? It might depend on what that man was doing on the roof of the Sears Tower, and why he’d chased by the second man with the gun.
I spent both Saturday and Sunday night out at the north end of town, although it turned out that there were no apartment buildings tall enough to get a good view of the city from. Instead, I spent most of my time walking the street, and keeping my head down. Monday at work was dreadful, I’d slept so little all weekend, a trend which continued on into Tuesday and Wednesday, that I could barely keep my eyes open. By Thursday, when I’d received no unexpected visitors dressed in dark, nondescript suits, I decided it would be safe to enjoy the return of fine weather and eat my lunch outside.
Thursday was sunny, and warm, and I peeled off my jacket a few minutes after sitting down on a bench across from the library. I dug through my purse for a moment searching for my cigarettes, which I eventually found in the bottom of the bag, then rifled through the contents a second time for my lighter. Leaning back, I raised my cigarette to my lips and lit it.
“You know, those things will kill you.”
My heart pounded and I nearly dropped my cigarette. The speaker’s voice was nightmarishly familiar. I took another drag, and fully exhaled before I looked up to confirm my suspicions. For a mysterious, possibly dangerous man, he was alarmingly attractive…and young. “So will jumping off of buildings,” I said as calmly as possible.
“You remember me?” The man smiled, then dropped onto the bench next to me.
I stood up, and scanned the sidewalk. Everything looked normal, everyone looked busy, hurrying to appointments, shopping, whatever people did on their lunch breaks. No one was interested, or even cared that I was here with this strange young man who I’d saved from plummeting to his death a week ago.
“How did you find me?” I took a wide step back to make sure I was out of arm’s reach. I couldn’t take off in the middle of the day, but I could probably sprint back to the library without anyone noticing my feet weren’t touching the ground.
“You said you were a librarian, Claire.” He grinned.
“Hm,” was the best reaction I could muster. A little warning bell rang in the back of my mind went off. How long had he been looking for me? His determination was nothing short of alarming. Despite the warm weather, goose pimples flared up along my arms.
“I’m Jason, by the way. I don’t think I’ve said that.”
He held out his hand to me, but I only stared at him.
“Would you care to sit?” Jason motioned to the spot that I’d vacated.
“I’d prefer to stand,” I said, then took another drag on my cigarette.

Jason popped up from the bench and shoved his hands in his pockets, causing his shoulders to hunch forward slightly. He looked uncomfortable and nervous as he paced in front of me, not like the highly trained government-agent type. “Look, I need your help.” Jason stopped mid-stride and pivoted toward me. “And I can help you.”
To be continued...look for more of the story on Thursday, March 27th, 2014.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Short story project: Unidentified Flying Object, Part 4

The man latched onto my wrist again. “No need for thanks? You saved my life. The least I could do would be to buy you a drink—I think I need a whiskey at least.”
I continued forward, swinging my arm as I tried to free myself from the man’s hold. I couldn’t get into the air with someone hanging off me. “No thanks, I don’t drink.” Breaking his grip I broke into a run.
“A coffee then?” The man jogged along beside me, then cut in front of me, blocking my path.
I stopped, but checked over my shoulder to see if anyone had appeared at the far end of the alley. “Look,” I scanned the space in front of me, calculating whether or not I had the room to side step the man and take off. “It was nothing. Forget it and definitely don’t mention it.”
“Of course I won’t, but—”
“Good.” I knocked shoulders with the man as I pushed past him. Time was wasting and I needed to get in the air, it was a miracle that the man with the gun hadn’t caught up with us already. I started to jog.
“I can help you.”
I tripped and stumbled into a pile of boxes, but managed to stay upright. Pausing only a second to catch my breath, I continued down the alley. If I couldn’t get air born, I could walk to the nearest subway station and take public transit like a normal person. “I don’t need help.”
The man caught up to me, but rather than trying to get me to stop, he kept pace with me instead. “I know what you are, I can—”
“I’m a librarian, nothing more,” I said as I reached for a cigarette. “The only way you can help me is by saying nothing, just like how I won’t tell anyone you were…trespassing, at least.”
“I can help you,” the man said quietly.
We walked the remaining length of the alley. I smoked, while my companion remained silent. When we reached the street, I dropped what remained of my cigarette to the ground, then viciously stomped it out with my heel. “I don’t want help, I don’t need saving, I’m just Claire, nothing more.”

Then I turned, took two hard steps generating as much momentum as I could, and launched myself into the air. I shot up as fast and as hard as I could to get out of easily identifiable range. It was risky to take off from the street where I could be seen, at least it was late Friday night, and most of the pedestrians out were probably drunk. I had to get home. I was starving. The two jet-paced accelerations this evening had drained me. At this point I’d be lucky if I made it back to my apartment without tumbling from the sky.

To be continued...look for more of the story next Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Short story project: Unidentified Flying Object, Part 3

I rocketed after the man, focusing every ounce of my energy to become as aerodynamic as possible, to slip through the air and catch up to my target. The cool air stung my eyes, causing them to tear and blur my vision, and I blinked rapidly to clear my sight. I reached out, struggling to extend my arms against the forces pressing me, stretching as far as I could to grasp the man below me.
My fingers brushed his collar, but I couldn’t grab enough to pull him to me.
I concentrated harder, urging my body to move a little faster, my arm to extend a little father. My toes were pointed, my legs glued together and I reached once more.
Got him.
My right hand closed around the leather collar of the man’s jacket, and as I pulled up on him, I twisted myself vertically so I could hold him around the waist, and angle my feet toward the ground. We plunged another twenty feet before I managed to control the speed of our descent. Craning my neck, I spotted for the ground, which was coming up alarmingly fast. If I didn’t slow us down farther I was going to be rewarded with a broken ankle for my troubles.
I flexed my feet, and pushed against gravity, disrupting the flow of air around me, like the flaps on the wings of an aeroplane. Seconds later the soles of my sneakers brushed the pavement Soon I’d be out of this ordeal.
My arms aching from the strain, I dropped the man who crumpled into a ball, and thrown off by the sudden loss of weight I stumbled on top of him.
“Sorry.” I mumbled as I worked my way to my feet. Standing, I glanced around the alleyway to determine the best route of escape, and get myself air born again. The gun-toting man was probably on his way down the Sears Tower now, and I didn’t care to be here to give him a second chance to aim his gun in my direction. I set off at a sprint further into the alley.
I heard the scrapping of shoes against the pavement behind me as the man got to his feet. I neither waited nor looked back. He knew my secret, and I needed to get out of here as soon as possible.
“Wait, please.” The man’s second plea only spurred me to go faster—only apparently not fast enough. A hand clamped onto my wrist, and the sudden loss of movement caused me to sling-shot back around to face the man. “I just want to thank you.”

“No need for thanks.” I twisted my wrist, forcing him to break his hold. I turned on my heel and pushed further down into the alley, I needed a couple of strong steps before I could take off again.
To be continued...check back for another part of the installment on Thursday, March 20th.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Short story project: Unidentified Flying Object, part 2

I should have jumped the moment I’d realized I wasn’t alone, but I didn’t. I don’t know why I hesitated, surprise maybe? Instead, I twisted to see what was going on. The door that led up from the building was open, and a man was running across the roof at full tilt. He probably hadn’t seen me, as he appeared focused on crossing the tower, and then what was he going to do? Jump? Did he think he could fly? Anything was possible.
“Stop.” A second man shot from the door, as the first reached the building edge. The latter gave a momentary glance behind, but his pace didn’t alter.
The second man slowed as he reached inside his jacket, then came to a halt, poised in such a way that I had no doubt of what he’d reached for. A bullet to the shoulder had ended my short-lived superhero career. I’d been trying to help a young man—who’d been more than happy to accept my assistance—unfortunately, the three men after him weren’t so keen to see him get away. Fun wasn’t the word I’d use to describe the ensuing visit to the hospital. Trying to explain how I’d been shot without winding up in police custody had been a challenge, to put it mildly.
The sequence of events that followed probably took no more than twenty seconds or thirty seconds, but it felt much longer.
The first man, the prey, didn’t stop. He vaulted onto the ledge of the building, and without hesitation leapt off.
The second man, the hunter, fired his gun.
I screamed.
Then the second man advanced towards me, his hand raised, the gun pointed at me. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
My attention was diverted by a series loud grunts and scratches. Looking across the space between the buildings I realized that the first man hadn’t successfully completed his jump. He was clinging to the ledge by his hands, trying to gain a purchase with his feet, and lever himself up to safety.
“I said, who are you?” I snapped my focus back to the man holding the gun. He was inching closer to me, the barrel pointed straight at my chest. He was too close to miss. “Why are you here?”
I should make up a story about being custodial staff, up here of for a smoke break. Basically, I should try to get out of the situation as fast as possible, while remaining alive. That’s what I should be doing, but my gaze drifted back to the other man, the one dangling over the building. His fingers must be getting tired.

“I pick up the garbage—” I said, preparing to launch into my lie, then the first man dropped, and before my brain had the chance to tell my body to stop, I dove off the Sears Tower.
To be continued...check back on Tuesday, March 18th for more of the story.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Short story project: Unidentified Flying Object, Part 1

When I was ten years old I discovered I could fly, although back then I didn’t so much fly as hover a few inches above the ground. This unique skill was revealed to me one lazy summer afternoon while I was climbing the trees that lined the north most boarder of my parents’ farm. I wasn’t supposed to, but like any self-respecting child I disregarded my parents’ orders and climbed them anyways. I was near the top of a particularly tall maple, trying to find a way to manoeuver up those last few feet when I lost my footing. For a brief moment I continued to hold on, flailing my legs uselessly, then my grip gave out. I screamed, and tensed the muscles in my body preparing for the impact—but it never came. When I unclenched my eyes, I discovered that I was floating, my horizontal body brushing the top of the grass.
Now, seventeen years later I was seated on the edge of the roof of the Sears Tower, more than thirty stories up. I swung my feet as I looked out over the darkened city. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, just...looking. When I was in university I tried to play superhero, but I quickly learned that my services were frequently undesired or unhelpful. More than once I earned a solid slap or punch from a young woman I had, from my vantage point, judged to be in danger. And, as a relatively thin young woman myself, oversized victims would often weight me down and we’d both wind up in jeopardy. I wasn’t superman.
I pulled my flimsy denim jacket closer around my body, then dug into my pocket and pulled out my iPod and a half-empty pack of cigarettes. My numb fingers fumbled to untwist the earbuds, but managed to sort out the wires and jam them into place. As loud music filled my ears, I withdrew a cigarette and tapped it on the pack before I lifted it to my lips. The inevitable, rumbling cough followed my first inhale. I’d never enjoyed smoking, I hardly even did it out of habit. It was more total disregard for my health that kept me lighting up. I’d been given my unusual talent for some reason, and sooner or later I’d be made to pay. The way I figured it, my smoking gave me some limited power in saying when that debt was going to be collected.
Nothing much happened in this part of town—a conscious decision on my part, so I wouldn’t feel compelled by any heroic compulsions to do something stupid. Those out at this time of night were mostly young lawyers, financial analysts, or government civil servants staying late at their offices, trying to get ahead in their fields. A shiver rocked my body, almost causing me to drop my cigarette, and I knew it was time to go. Stubbing the remains of my cigarette out on the ledge, I shifted forward so I could jump off when a noise erupted behind me.

To be continued...check back on Thursday, March 13th for more of the story.

Monday, March 3, 2014

We're making beer, Part 1

This year for Valentine's Day I gave Andrew a kit from the Make Magazine store to build a circuit board in the shape of a heart with red LEDs that flashes messages, and a book on making beer, Brooklyn Brew Shop's Beer Making Book (also advertised on the Make website). The goal had been to be geeky, but cute, but also useful. The heart kit allowed him to go to the Artist Asylum, and play with electronics. The beer book allowed him to well...start brewing beer (something we've both wanted to do for a while).

We made wine once before. Maple wine. We made if for our wedding, and I think considering it was made from maple syrup, it worked out pretty well. In the course of making the wine, we also managed to make maple brandy (the fermentation process stopped at one point, leaving us what we fondly referred to as Maple Death...I wish we still had some of that). Since then we've often commented that we wanted to try making more wine, or beer, so when I was searching for gifts the beer book struck me as a great idea.

Andrew browsed through the book while I was at the aerials workshop, and figured out where we'd be able to pick up the necessary supplies. We agreed that for the first time that it would probably be for the best to go with one of the pre-packaged kits produced by the authors of the book. Although many of the recipes sounded appealing, we based our decision on what was available at Whole Foods. Four or five different flavours were available, but opted for the straight up IPA as we both like IPAs, but also because it's one of their best sellers and we figured it had to be decent if it was popular. If this batch turns out well, we'll probably try future recipes on our own (there's a fairly well stocked home brew store in Cambridge where we can get all the necessary ingredients).

The beer making kit, fresh out of the box.
Me adding the malt to a pot of hot (not boiling) water to make the mash.
The mash. As the book says, it's a lot like making oatmeal at this point.
Andrew straining the malt the first part of the step called the sparge.
The second part of the sparge, which is straining hot water through the malt. The strained liquid then gets boiled as hops are added.
Once the hops have been boiled for an hour, the mix is placed into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
Finally, the fermenter. It sits for about two weeks before we have beer and it get's bottled...although it's still not ready to be drunk.
The bottling process should take place sometime over this up coming weekend.

As a further note, rather than throwing out the spent grains, I've been using it to make bread. Last weekend, it was a simple bread recipe that we found on line, this weekend, I made my traditional multigrain sourdough baguette, but instead of using multigrain I used the spent grains. Yum!



Saturday, March 1, 2014

A short story project for Lent

Last year during Lent I completed a self-reflective exercise, looking at my character flaws, and also considering my thoughts around work fulfillment. I'm not planning to do that again this year. I hope I haven't developed more flaws...and I'm not sure how well I've managed to over come the ones I identified last year.

Instead, I was thinking about doing a short story project. I'd aim for two short posts a week (between 250-500 words), starting this week, and going until Easter (April 20th--yeah, it's really late this year).

The slight hitch in my current plan is I don't have a story idea yet. No characters, no plot, nothing. So, I'd love suggestions! I'm not looking to make this religious or a self-discovery journey, it's meant only to exercise my writing skills. I'm willing to go for comedy, tragedy, romance, speculative, young adult, or older adult, whatever!

If you have a suggestion, feel free to comment here or on Facebook, or even Twitter, if that's how you'd prefer to correspond.

Then I'll see what I can come up with.