Shimmering in the Night

Shimmering_in_the_Night

When we realized that Dr. Hadarian’s new development allowed anyone to, for fairly cheap, convert lumps of organic material into animals of just about any shape, we were ecstatic. Of course, the first animal we made was a unicorn. The physical traits where just as we coded them to be, but the mental attributes manifested as a result of the physical ones, and we had no control over those.

We knew that everyone was going to want to see the unicorns, ride them, or even have one of their very own. Immediately we made plans to take Jane’s family ranch, which hadn’t been a real, working ranch for some years now, and start breeding and training unicorns. The three of us (Jane, Billy, and myself) moved out there and started our trial period with just the one unicorn. His name was Sparky, because of the way his hair glistened and sparkled in low light.

Things went well for the first few weeks, though I don’t think any of us realized how much waste an animal the size of Sparky created until we were trying to figure out what to do with huge piles of excrement that we were scooping out of his stall. Billy had the brilliant idea that we should keep it, because once we got a few more unicorns, we would be collecting enough to start selling it as fertilizer. “Who in their right mind,” he had asked, “wouldn’t want to use unicorn fertilizer?”

We all agreed, at the very least, that the opalescent quality of these particular road apples should make them a bit more valuable than the usual kind. So we kept them in a big pile behind the stable under a tarp.

My bedroom in the ranch house had a south-facing window. I had picked this room specifically because it had a nice view of the large hill out in the pasture. Unfortunately, that also put it on the same side of the house as the stable. Night after night Sparky would wake me up roughly an hour before midnight. He would kick and neigh, trying desperately to get out of his stall for the next hour and a half. If I pulled my aching body out of bed and let him out, he would run off, up to the top of the hill. At exactly midnight, he would rear up on his hind legs, point his horn directly at the sky and whinny. Some nights I didn’t get up, and he would quiet down by about half an hour after midnight, but on the nights that I did let him out, it was the same thing every time.

It just kind of made sense, though. Perhaps that’s why pictures of unicorns often had them in that pose on a backdrop of stars, it just seemed natural. As reasonable as it seemed, it was still annoying, after a long day of caring for the beast to have to get up and let him out at midnight for his ritual. So, after ensuring that the perimeter fence was secure, we decided to just leave the stable open and let him roam free at night.

I awoke a few nights to see him standing at the peak of that hill in all of his glory. It was actually kind of nice when I didn’t have to get out of bed.

The real problem started when the storms came. The night of the first lightning storm, I learned an interesting lesson. On their hind legs like that, at the highest point in the area, a unicorn makes a perfect lightning rod. Sparky, it seemed, had more instinct, than brains. He died in a magnificent display introducing irony into his name.

We have lost four unicorns that way now. We’ve given up on the idea of training unicorns, but we keep making them because the steaks are much more delicious than beef. The best part, though, is that they cook it themselves.

 

My friend Laura posted a story about unicorns on her blog yesterday, which encouraged me to retaliate with this one.
Hers is pretty great, you can find it here:
http://ecoslastword.blogspot.com/2015/01/unicorns.html

Portland Adventure

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Multnomah Falls

This last weekend my special lady friend and I went on an adventure to Portland!
I knew that I would like it, but I didn’t realize just how much.

Today my sister called me and asked what we did on our trip. I proceeded to talk for an hour straight, and didn’t cover everything. Point being, we did a lot, and I’m only going to hit the highlights. I’ll cover the negatives first because there were very few and they all happened in the beginning.

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Rocking Frog Cafe

We rented a car and they gave us a Kia Soul. That car was horrible. Some people seem to like the way they look, I can respect that but disagree. It was pretty good on gas, which was really the point. My problem was that the car had a bad turn radius and the worst blind spots I’ve ever seen (I used to work valet, I’ve driven a lot of cars). Being able to see and turn around would have been nice, considering that parking downtown was not the sort of thing that informed people attempt and street signs would have been more visible if someone was trying to hide them. Those are all of the negatives. If you never drive a Kia Soul and you keep in mind that parking will be a bitch if you ever visit Portland, then they wont be a problem for you.

We ate a lot of food… so much delicious food… particularly sweets. We tried Blue Star Donuts, which was great.
We ate at The Rocking Frog Cafe, which I really liked. All their sandwiches were named after writers, the atmosphere was nice, and they had donuts that they didn’t make until after you ordered them… I wanted to hang out there all day, it was probably my favorite place we ate for atmosphere.

Pip's Original

Pip’s Original

Another donut place that we went to, which was amazing, was Pip’s Original. They also didn’t make their donuts  until you ordered them. I think that Pip’s was my favorite donut.
We were told a few times to try Voodoo Donuts too, but the line was always too long.
There was wonderful ice cream at Salt & Straw which was great. Though, it was so salty, that we probably should have split one.
Moonstruck Chocolates was a little pricey, but they had great truffles AND a box for chocolates… that was made of chocolate, which was rad, they also had tea from Smith Teamaker.
The Red Nectar tea that I got there was delicious. The next day we went to Smith Teamaker and got a flight of teas for a taste. If you are ever in the area, and a fan of tea,

Smith Teamaker

Smith Teamaker

I suggest this.

Not everything we did was food, despite how it might sound.
We checked out the Leprechaun Park, the smallest park in the world, and also (according to the wikipedia) “The only leprechaun colony west of Ireland.” There, our Lego people hung out with a Lego Leprechaun… there’s a picture of this somewhere below.
We also went to a bar arcade called Ground Kontrol that was exactly what I would imagine all bars would be like if Tron had been a turning point in American society (an alternate reality that I’m having fun imagining).
I had just finished reading Hemlock Veils by my twitter friend Jennie Davenport that takes place in a made up town east of Portland. I enjoyed it so much that we went looking for Hemlock Veils, but ended up on the wrong highway, because I’m a dork

Lego us with a Leprechaun at the Leprechaun Park (AKA Mill Ends Park).

Lego us with a Leprechaun at the Leprechaun Park (AKA Mill Ends Park).

and, as I said, street signs are not Portland’s strong suit. I still got a taste for how beautiful the area was and was not disappointed when a short drive to the east on 84 brought us right near Multnomah and Wahclella Falls. They were gorgeous and to call the trip to see them “a hike” would imply that it was much further and more strenuous than it was. Short, easy, rewarding; I suggest them both.
Then there was Powell’s Books… Oh my goodness. So many books. I thought I knew what to expect, I was wrong. Words can not describe how awesome such a gargantuan bookstore is, especially to a book nerd like me.

We did so much more fun stuff, I’m going to just flood the rest of the page with images. My end message, though, is that Portland is an amazing and magical place. Visit it if you can.

Pretty view from Mt Tabor Park

Pretty view from Mt Tabor Park

This sign was rad.

This sign was rad.

A flight of teas at Smith Teamaker.

A flight of teas at Smith Teamaker.

We have more friends in Portland than we do in San Diego because they keep moving there and not coming back... Now I understand why!

We have more friends in Portland than we do in San Diego because they keep moving there and not coming back… Now I understand why!

Baby Turtle

Baby_turtleCorey burst from the sand into the cool night air. He waved his tiny sea turtle legs wildly, pulling himself onto the surface. The white sand around him bubbled to life, exposing the heads of his brothers and sisters digging their ways out as well. Nobody ever told him his name was Corey, he just knew. He knew the same way that he knew to aim for the sea, or to avoid the gnashing bird beaks on the way.

Now, above the sand, the long process of digging finally over, his muscles ached. He, though, was far from done. The next stage was a sprint through the deep sand of the beach to the crashing waves. Even then, though, he couldn’t rest until after he paddled his little heart out to sea, paddling for almost an entire day. Corey worried briefly that his muscles might not hold up if they were tiring already. Had he overexerted himself while digging out? He had been the first to make it to the surface, maybe that was because the others knew something he didn’t.

Knowing that worrying wouldn’t bring his strength back, he shook his head to clear his mind and charged down the sand toward the water. He could hear the waves crashing in the distance, the sound seeming to come from all directions at once, but he knew he was headed the right way.

A few of his brothers and sisters had passed him and he started to fall behind a little. One of them was Jill, she hadn’t done really any of the work during the dig. Now, though, she was running ahead. She was going to make it down the beach faster, it wasn’t fair. He tried to run faster but his muscles burned so badly that he had to settle for just glaring at her while pushing along at his slower pace. He watched her get further and further in front of him.

Then, suddenly, the birds were attacking. Corey watched Jill get snapped up by a black beaked monster. Cold terror coursed through his cold blooded veins as he pushed on, watching another bird swoop in and try to take Jill from the first. The two birds pulled on her and Corey could hear her flesh give way as she was torn in half. Next he saw Mark get snatched up from his left in a spray of sand and carnage. Corey wondered if maybe he could turn back, but didn’t dare take the time to look behind him.

A beak landed in an explosion of sand no more than a fin’s width from his head as a bird missed. Corey charged on. He charged on when the last of those ahead of him were snatched up by vicious beaks. He charged on after another bird snatched him up, but fumbled him, dropping him back into the sand intact but with a long, deep gash in his shell. He charged on until his muscles screamed for him to stop. But then the sand started to feel damp beneath his flippers and he knew he was getting close.

He could hear the birds screeching as they snapped up his brothers and sisters, but he also heard the frantic shuffle of flippers on sand just behind him as some of them navigated their way through the bloodbath.

A wave crashed and reached up the beach towards him, it stopped so close that he could feel moisture come off of it onto his face, but it turned around and headed back down the beach without him. He charged on. The sticky sensation under his flippers slowed him down, but it meant that if he could just survive until the next wave he would be free of the birds.

He charged on, pulling each step from where it sunk deep in the sand. There was a loud crash of another wave, then water started to rush up towards him and Corey thought, finally, that he was going to make it.

But then there was a quick snap and he was lifted into the air by a bird who thought, “Glad I caught that one, wasn’t sure I’d have enough energy for migration.”

Then the bird ate Corey and it was excruciatingly painful for the baby turtle, because that’s how nature works.

The End

7 facts

I was recently tagged by my twitter friend Mia Sandara (@triadvstrinity) in this blog hop thing with the following rules and intent:

“This blog hop is designed to show our readers a more personal side to ourselves. We’ve been challenged by another author/ blogger (somewhat like the ‘ice bucket’ challenge) to list seven interesting facts to help cast light onto that tough writer’s/blogger’s persona we all like to project. But we want to show that behind every story is a story, our story, my story, and like everyone else I have dreams, hobbies, problems and goals. This blog hop is a way to share some of them with you, my readers.

The rules are that I share 7 Lovely Facts about myself, and links to at least 15 blogs that I enjoy reading. If I’ve nominated your blog (see names below) please don’t feel any obligation to join in but, if you do, please link back to the blog of the person who nominated you…share facts about yourself and nominate 15 blogs (or as many as you can).”

Being a grumpy, sort of old man, I usually don’t do this sort of thing, but thought this one might be kind of fun… and if I didn’t respond to Mia’s request I feel that there’d be hell to pay. Her post can be found here: https://triadvstrinity.squarespace.com/blog/2014/12/29/blog-hop-7-facts-about-me
Mia is pretty rad, you should check her out.

This is my second post of the week, don’t worry, it won’t be replacing any fiction, just extra. Make sure to check out this week’s fiction, On a Leash (https://imasillypirate.wordpress.com/2015/01/06/on-a-leash/) especially if you are a dog lover. As always, there will be something new next Tuesday.

7 Facts about me:

1) I have two siblings, both older.
My brother is the oldest, my sister is in the middle. My sister is working on her PhD in Cognitive Science. My brother does DevOps for an internet security company. All three of us are pretty fantastic.

2) I can’t snap.
I’m not sure this needs an explanation, it just doesn’t happen. People try to teach me, they all say the same thing, “No, no, it’s easy, I’ll teach you!” then, at the end they give up because it just doesn’t work.

3) I can wiggle my ears.
When I was younger if I sat up straight while on the toilet I could see my face in the bathroom mirror. Naturally, I made faces at myself… all the time. One day I smacked my head and, for a few days, had a big lump on the top of my noggin. I noticed that certain facial expressions hurt. Thus, the next time I was on the toilet making faces at myself, I explored what parts of my head hurt to move. All of a sudden, my ears (and really my whole scalp) was flapping away.

4) Caffeine makes my heart beat irregularly.
As much as I love tea, I stick to herbals and whites. If I have anything with much more caffeine in it and my body freaks out. I know everyone’s body freaks out a little when they ingest caffeine, but my reaction is… not so little.

5) Most of you know that I’m a physics Grad student, but my area of interest is gravity.
I like general relativity. My senior project for my undergrad (at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo) was looking at Einstein’s field equations in lower dimensional systems and exploring a potential wormhole solution (If you are curious, you can find that project here: http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/physsp/65/ ). I also did a presentation about this work at an APS conference. The video of this presentation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJT-vlgIN2Y) is pretty funny, because my computer crashes and I freak out.
My research for my Master’s thesis at San Diego State University involves looking into the properties of matter inside rotating neutron stars and how it changes as they slow down. No fun links for that yet, but in the next 6 months, there will be (better be). If I remember, I’ll add them as edits to this post.

6) “Dogs are my favorite people.”
The above quote from Jack O’Neill in Stargate SG1, I feel, is a two-fer as far as revealing information about me. If I had to pick a favorite TV show, it would have to be Stargate SG1. Also, I like dogs more than people, and am deeply saddened that dogs can’t read my blog on their own. Feel free to share it with them.

7) I often think in cartoon
If you could project the images that I see in my head onto a screen, you would find that many of them are cartoon. I only recently found out that this wasn’t how everyone thought. It might go a long way to explaining why I think certain things are funny while everyone around me stares at me slack-jawed and not in the least amused.

So, I was supposed to tag 15 other bloggers, but I’m not going to tag that many.
If you like my blog, I suggest you check out the 5 that I do tag.

Laura ( @elastword )
http://ecoslastword.blogspot.com/
Her response: http://ecoslastword.blogspot.com/2015/01/7-facts.html (It’s pretty funny, surprise, surprise.)

Mike ( @michaelsteeden )
http://mikesteeden.wordpress.com/

Danielle ( @Danielle_Urban2 )
http://universalcreativityinc14.wordpress.com/

Rena (@originallyrena )
http://renaolsen.com/

Dieter ( @dieterrogiers )
http://300stories.wordpress.com/

If you guys respond, let me know and I’ll link to the specific post here as well. If you don’t, it is totally okay. No pressure, I just figured you might enjoy the invitation to participate.

On a Leash

On_a_LeashChuckles and Larry ran around each other excitedly; their feet leaving little scuffs in the hard packed surface of the dirt road. They wrestled and bit and swatted at each other while moving every which way, allowing Doug to meander at a pace fit for a pondering mind without them getting too far away.

He watched them playing with envy. The carefree lifestyle of less intelligent beings, someone else got to worry about where their food would come from, and when they would get it. As long as they remained at least semi obedient, they got a free ride, because they were so damn cute. As any animal lover, he didn’t begrudge them their whimsy or silliness. In fact, those were the reasons he enjoyed their company. And he knew they would never leave him.

The creatures were stupid but loyal down to their calcium filled innards. He referred to them as brothers, but they weren’t related. They weren’t even the same breed, just being raised by the same individual, who fancied himself as their father.

Chuckles was the bigger of the two. He was a little older than Larry and a different color. While Chuckles was covered in thin blond hair, Larry was a chocolaty brown.

Doug walked slowly along the dirt road that ran around behind the power plant watching the two play and explore, feeding from a seemingly endless well of curiosity and wonder. As he watched Larry roll in something, he reflected on the fact that if Clara hadn’t left him last week, she would be livid that he let Larry soil his new sweater. Doug still wasn’t sure how he felt about clothing his pets. Most individuals seemed to think that putting sweaters and hats and the occasional pair of pants on a pet was ridiculous and Doug agreed that most of the clothing designed for this purpose was, in fact, horrible and flamboyant. He did, however, think that perhaps during the winter, a sweater served some utility, especially for Chuckles and Larry, who had such short hair.

Doug pulled his own jacket tighter around his body as they made their way around a sharp turn in the road. The chill in the air had been worse the last few days than usual and he was glad that his two friends had the sweaters, wishing a little that he could give them more. Chuckles stopped in the middle of the road and looked back at him happily, his tongue hanging out of his mouth in that stupid way that never failed to make Doug chuckle, precisely where the dog had gotten the name. His heart lifted as he looked into Chuckles’ brown eyes. Life wasn’t so bad, at least Clara had left him these two.

“Come here boy,” Doug called out, suddenly feeling the need to scratch a buddy behind the ear.

They both came. They circled around him, dancing as they made little excited whimpering noises.

“You are good boys!” he said, stuffing the leashes into his pocket and ruffling the hair on both of their heads. “I don’t need anyone but you two, do I?”

He dug into his pocket and pulled out two treats. Their eyes lit up when they saw his motion and both immediately sat down in the road as trained. Out of curiosity he had once taken a bite of one of the biscuits and had immediately regretted the decision. They were always so excited about the treats; he didn’t understand. By the way they stared longingly at his dinner while he ate every night, he knew that their tastes couldn’t be much different from his own, but they loved these biscuits, which tasted like nothing he would intentionally put in his mouth.

“Good boys,” he said again, giving them each one. Chuckles crunched on his, a few times then swallowed it, Larry set his on the ground, then tore pieces off.

“Go get a stick!” Doug yelled as soon as they were both done. He pointed to an area under a Pylack tree that grew next to the road, where he could see a few sticks about the right size. “Go get a stick!” he repeated. He hadn’t needed to repeat it again, they were smart enough to know what it meant and were sprinting headlong toward the tree already.

That’s when the truck came around the corner. Both animals scrambled as best they could to get out of the way, while Doug just stood there, watching in horror.

The truck swerved, but not as much as it could have. It missed Larry, but Chuckles was hit dead on by the front bumper with a hollow thud. He tumbled several times striking the underside of the truck in a tangle of limbs. He was out behind the truck before it came to a stop.

Doug and Larry both ran toward Chuckles. Before he got there, though, Doug could tell that chuckles was dead.

As he knelt over the mangled, broken form, watching blood move in an expanding pool, he heard the truck’s door open.

“He’s dead!” Doug spat at the driver without looking.

“He shouldn’t have been in the road,” the driver responded, no small amount of reproach in his own voice. Doug could hear Larry whimpering and feel him tucking in close to his legs.

Doug looked up, finally making eye contact. The driver wore the dark blue uniform of the power plant.

“YOU should have been looking where you were going.”

“Look fella,” the driver said, raising his hands, “he should have been on a leash.”

“What’s your name?” Doug asked, “Bruce, the director of that plant, is a friend of mine, and I will have your job if you don’t-”

Putting the driver’s job in jeopardy finally got to him. “Hey, Hey,” he said, “look, I’ll… uhh…” he paused for a moment, then dug into his pocket, “I’m sorry about that.” He took a few steps towards Doug.

Doug took a long slow breath, fighting with everything he had to not jump on the driver and punch him over and over again until his smug face wasn’t more than a splatter of red goo on the surface of the dirt road.

“I’ve only got sixty on me,” the driver said holding out a fist full of money, but that should be more than enough to send to Earth for another one, right?”

Doug took the money and stuck it in his pocket. “Yes, I’ll just buy a new best friend, that’s how that works, asshole.” He still very much intended to report the driver for his irresponsible driving, but knew that not much would come of it. Despite his threat, the man probably wouldn’t lose his job. He’d probably only get a slap on the wrist and a lecture about how he should be more careful, “Next time,” Doug could hear Bruce’s lecture now, “it might not be just the neighbor’s pet, but a life that actually matters.”

“So, are we good?” the driver asked, leaning down to pet Larry on the head. Larry growled at him, pure hate in his eyes. Doug wished he could react in the same manner, but being a higher being, he was expected to behave in a civilized fashion.

Without another word from either of them, the driver backed to his truck and got in.

Out the open window, just before driving away, he called out to Doug, “You should keep your humans on a leash.”