WEP December 2019 “Footprints” challenge piece

The “footprints” theme for this challenge proved more difficult than I originally thought it would be. Initially, I considered writing a narrative focused on the pursuit of a dangerous monster into the ancient woods it calls home. Telling the tale from the perspective of hunter, as he tracks the creature using the impressions left behind in the snow. Which after I wrote the introduction paragraphs, I realized that it wasn’t a feasible option despite how it catered to the theme. Building on that idea, I pondered transforming it into the story of serial killer fleeing the police. Unfortunately, I ran into the same problems as the previous idea.

Erasing the metaphorical idea board, I starred at blank page uninspired. Managing to discover an idea from a place I overlooked without much thought. My imagination channeling my love of Punk Rock, and its ideologies into something I could shape to fit the theme. Taking inspiration from the songs of various bands and musicians including Beans on Toast, Chuck Ragan, Against Me, Frank Turner, and many more. Telling a tale of a musician who lives on the road and on the stage, acting as a pilgrim of music. Along with taking slight lyrical insight from Frank Turner’s song The Road, which can be listened to below. Underneath that, I humbly present the tale I titled, A Pilgrim of Punk.

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A Pilgrim of Punk

The rain bombarded the bus window, creating a faint melody with each drop that landed against the tinted glass. In silence, I watched from my seat at the passing of the blurred city-scape. Noticing how close we were to the town, I removed my earbuds before casually placing them into my jacket pocket. The screen of my phone brightening as a reaction, allowing me a moment to see it was just past three a.m. Rubbing my thumb and forefinger over my eyes, I glanced around the sparsely full overnight bus. My six fellow passengers strangers following their invisible roads of fate on this gloomy night. All of us would soon depart this bus, leaving behind a ghost of our current selves.

Just before dawn, the Uber pulled into the familiar motel parking lot. The driver popped the trunk before, stepping out to unload the single, worn suitcase that accompanied me when I traveled. In silence, I exited the vehicle with my time-tested guitar bag in hand. I thanked the driver for his assistance in unloading my luggage. I wrapped my hand around the short handle of my duffle bag before, making my way towards the hotel’s front desk after walking through the set of automatic doors. Sitting behind the hotel counter was well-dressed women in a dark red blazer, with the miniaturized version of the hotel logo on the left breast pocket.

She stared up at me through wireframe glasses, asking, “Can I help you, sir?”

I responded, “I’m here to check-in to my room. The reservation is under the name Skibba.”

She nodded and typed the name into the computer that rested in front of her. The blue light from the screen was reflecting into her glasses, casting a brief silence between the two of us. A short ding erupted from unseen speakers, likely built into the monitor.

She said, “I found your reservation, sir,” digging something out from within the desk, handing me an unsealed vanilla envelope, with a few pieces of laminated papers protruding from it. “You are in room number 212. Take the stairs to your left and then turn right. Is there anything else I can do for you, sir?”

I responded, “That should be all for now,” grabbing the envelope and tucking it inside my empty jacket pocket.

The woman nodded, dismissing me with a simple gesture. I walked away before heading up the split-level staircase, following her unneeded directions. I traced the footprints of memory, while I made my way towards my room for some much-needed sleep.

*****

Squashing the dying remains of a cigarette under my boot backstage, a habitual ritual I performed every time before, stepping onto that evening’s stage. I starred out at the audience, aware that I was retracing the footprints of a forgone youth. Grabbing the microphone, I said, “This isn’t the first time I have played this familiar stage,” strumming softly on my guitar. “I see some familiar faces, and some unfamiliar faces here tonight. Hopefully, all you enjoy have enjoyed this evening so far and will continue to,” starting to play the intro for Shackles and putting every fiber of emotion into the song, belting out the lyrics.

I refuse to imprison myself in your shackles.

Instead, I choose to follow my own path traveling the road to unknown places.

Playing overcrowded pubs and undersold stages alike, tracing footsteps that aren’t my own.

Having drinks with strangers in dive bars the world over, understanding that living on the road was the key to my freedom.

Creating new paths in cities familiar and mysterious, traveling the road a pilgrim of music all my own.

Watching the crowd near the stage start to stir, jump, scream, mosh, and dance around, creating a simple, primitive display of musical jubilance. In my several hundred, if not thousands of times playing this song, the meaning of the tune had transformed over time. When I wrote the lyrics for the first time, it was about the horrible terms of the unfair contract and how the legality of it controlled my art and life. Now, it represented something more than that, standing for the roller-coaster, nomadic lifestyle of a musician. I continued to play, moving my fingers about the nickel-plated strings of my guitar without a thought. The individual strings of my guitar acting like an old friend that brought me a constant stream of pleasure and pain. Each chord I played a cathartic release of raw emotion, that metaphorically left me exposed to the world. Yet, I found myself reinvigorated by the relentless energy of the frenzied crowd. That ethereal sustenance a spring of strength I used to perform each night.

Watching the energy of the crowd wax and wane throughout my two-hour set and short encore. My callused fingers playing the last few chords, while the stage lights began to dim, the speakers echoing out the final note of the evening to an exhausted audience. I was carrying my guitar backstage, walking along a well-traveled invisible path. Ready to create more footprints on the endless road that was my lover and life-long friend.

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Word Count: 853 Critique level: Full

A brief update

The month of March seems to have flown by, with my sole creative focus being pieces to submit to the Z Publishing Anthology for 2019. With the word limit quadrupled from last year, it allowed me to craft tales with more complexity and details then previously. Along with giving me the ability to craft four unique entries in different genres that kept to my writing style while keeping under the 5000 word limit. While I have yet to hear back regarding the status of anything I wrote, I know that my submission did go through Friday afternoon. Now to wait and see what their decision regarding the acceptance of each piece.

A news update

This year seems to be flying by for me, even if I’m not particularity sure why. However, I do have some news to share with my social media followers.

The first item of news being my award for the WEP writing contest for last month. To my surprise I managed to win the award for most comments, and I would like to thank Denise, Laura, Nilanjana, and Olga for that. Along with thanking everyone who read, commented, and critiqued my entry for the contest. Which for any new followers can be read by clicking the link here: https://christopherscottauthor.wordpress.com/2019/02/18/wep-february-2018-contest-entry/

Secondly, I have been asked to submit pieces again for the Z Publishing House anthology for 2019. With the submission deadline for my state coming up in a month, it will likely be a main focus of my creative mind. Given the increased 5000 word limit for this year, I doubt I will have time to write much else. Wish me luck.

WEP February 2018 contest entry

When I first saw the theme for this month’s contest was 28 days, I wasn’t particularly certain I would enter. Thinking it over for a few days after sign-ups began. Finding unexpected inspiration in the extreme cold that seized the northeast at the end of January and the beginning of February. Inspiring me to craft an epic style poem, where entities of myth live inside the cold. Along with bringing to Earth a champion for humanity, who would fight back against the cold and the creatures that live within. A piece of flash fiction I call, “Forces Of Nature.”


Twenty-eight days have passed since the cold cast its icy hand upon the northern part of the world. It is somehow bringing with it entities both physical and ethereal in its wake. Creatures that have more of a place in mythology than in the real world. There was one strange bright spot in this frozen land, in the form of a man. Perhaps man is a bit of understatement to describe this stranger to our world. A stranger who seems to radiate an intense amount of heat from his body, almost as he can somehow focus and amplify the fiery nature of the sun. While the survivors of the cold world have given the stranger many names, I have taken to calling him Cinead. Watching this mysterious man from afar as he fights back the creatures of the cold.

Twenty-eight additional days have passed since this unnatural age of cold began. Cinead has fought back against the creatures of the winter on behalf of the human race. He was miraculously winning enough fights to bring his existence to the attention of the seldom seen Beria. Her name was only whispered in the direst of times, casting an almost mythic atmosphere around her. From what little information I could gather from both people and prose, she had a spiritual link to the cold. The cold that was beginning to take a visible tole on the survivors. Despite Cinead creating spots of warmth to shelter humanity from the dangerous and intense chill, forcing Beria to issue a hollowed challenge to Cinead. A provocation I believed that if lost, humankind would bear the ultimate consequences.

Twenty-eight days had passed since Beria announced her challenge to Cinead. Beria’s summons for combat was answered and agreed too. They are bringing about an unstable sense of peace between the creatures that took shelter in the cold and their hostile stance on the remaining survivors. Combining their incredible powers to shape and alter the landscape to create a neutral battleground. The hopes of humanity keeping an invisible watchful eye on the area, to make sure the fight would be fair.

Another twenty-eight days had passed since the challenge had been agreed to, and the arena created. Cinead and Beria stood on opposite sides of the makeshift coliseum. Each starring in silence at each other like pugilists before a championship fight. Except for this time, there was more on the line than just a shiny belt. This battle could ultimately decide the fate of humanity. From an unseen corner, I watched staying undetected by the champions of fire and ice, waiting for the fight to move past the tense staredown and commence the altercation. Greatswords of crimson fire and sapphire ice rested over their shoulders, ready to strike.

Twenty-eight minutes passed before Cinead and Beria charged at each other. Their blades forged of the elements themselves colliding. Each impact was releasing bursts of steam into the air. The steam was growing at an exponential rate until it began to obscure the two fighters. Each champion was becoming a radiant beacon of color in the dense fog. The energies emitting from them both were releasing flashes of light into the mist, giving me some idea of what was happening. Cinead and Beria were fighting with an almost inhuman pace, with neither of them appearing to tire. With a furious pace, the two continued to struggle, with each strike releasing more and more light into the fog. The colors were starting to blend into a dark shade of violet at the center of smog obscured arena.

An additional twenty-eight minutes passed before the fog began to dissipate at a steady rate. The colors that filled the air vanishing with it. An intense and radiant glow of orange light piercing the remaining, thinning fog. Cinead appeared to be victorious over Beria, who was lying impaled on the ground by Cinead’s flaming greatsword. Her sword of ice resting far outside of her reach. With both hands, Cinead reached out towards the midday sun. The air was starting to sparkle between his hands, almost as if Cinead was conjuring something from the sun’s light. Cinead’s body began to emit a pale orange glow. With what I imagine was an incredible focus, the glow radiated around his body, like a fiery aura. This aura was moving up his body at a steady pace towards his hands. Cinead somehow was shaping the energy into a long cylindrical pole of pure flame. The tip of the pole was starting to emit and produce a short curving blade. With a slow arcing two-handed swing, Cinead brought the flaming head of the ax down on Beria’s neck. Cinead repeated the precision arcing movement three more times before decapitating her fully. With its purpose now fulfilled, Cinead let the ax vanish from his grip. The champion of the cold now resting defeated and dead.

An additional twenty-eight days passed before the dangerous arctic chill released its grip on the world. With the cold vanishing, some semblance of normality and civilization returned to humanity.


Critique level: Full Word count: 854


The tease of a blank page, and unfinished ideas

I doubt I’m the only writer who feels the blank page is often a tease for the creative mind. The empty page poking, prodding, and challenging the imagination for a reaction, almost begging to write on. Yet, the responses to all that probing seem to be split between turning the creative juices on, or deeper into a state of dormancy. In some ways, the probing is the equivalent of fencing for the mind. 

For some that dormant state is one of their worsts fears. While for others, the is one often overlooked fear, that of an unfinished idea. Usually, ideas that appear and disappear with all the ease of lighting a candle. While the potential of the rough ideas could be argued at an almost indefinite length. Should one attempt to relight the inspirational candle of the concept, hoping, the original inspiration will come back or is it better to move on. I’m curious to know what my fellow creatives think about that. Is returning to the idea a worthwhile use of time, or is it better to toss the idea away?

Is too much creativity a good thing?

With the end of the year approaching, I’m looking back at the past year. Realizing I may have too many projects splitting my focus, without losing sight of one or another idea. Along with trying to learn the new WordPress format to create posts. It makes me wonder if an excess of creative energies is a good thing or a bad thing? 

 

Granted the excess is better than having creative blocks but can be overwhelming at times. Trying to balance the new and the old ideas without getting them muddled within each other. Even worse, losing the inspiration behind the idea in general. At a certain point, it conjures this image of a waiter carrying a tray of food. Each food representing an idea, with the waiter’s tray representing the mind. The more food you add, the heavier the load becomes until it becomes unmanageable. 

Does anyone else agree? Disagree? How do cope with both the excess and the dry spells? 

Ummm…where was I going with this?

Looking past my platform, I carefully glancing over the bloodstained white masked faces of the surviving graduates of this year’s trails.  Out of the fifty potential candidates who were eligible for the trails, only eight remained alive. The trails had eliminated the weakness from the group. Leaving behind the ruthless and toughest survivors. Each one more than capable of doing anything and everything required to survive the dangerous world they were about to enter.

“You eight are the only survivors of your class. Enabling you to leave the academy you have called home since you were nothing more than mere children.  With the skills and lessons instilled in you here, you will endure any and every hardship you may encounter in your work above.  The custom built gear is waiting in suitcases in your rooms. Welcome to the Legion, graduates of this year’s class.”


I’m not even sure what I thought when I typed this. There is something more here, but my mind fails to recall what it is. Any ideas?

Hmm….What happens next?

“The Arks are almost at capacity sir,” looking into the cracked screen of a broken computer monitor.

Nodding his head once, before commenting “Then began the sealing process and cryogenic gas release after that. Once life signs are almost gone, release the nanite gas into the arks. The window of saving humanity is closing.”

Obeying his command, I began remotely sealing the Arks. Listening to the analog style countdown clock tick away. With the Arks wholly sealed, I initialized the release of the cryogenic gas. Knowing the process with the nanite infiltration of the human body had to be performed when they were unconscious. Minutes had passed before life signs on the arc began to rapidly diminish. Starting up the release process of the nanite gas, before looking at my boss.

“Any last words sir,” I asked, watching the progress of things.

The commander ran his thumb and forefinger over his eyes. Taking a deep breath before grabbing the broadcast microphone. Pushing down on the small red button, before commenting “With minutes remaining before the countdown ends, there are so many things that should be said. To ensure humanity endures the collision, some will have to be sacrificed. What happens after the collision will no doubt be fraught with challenges. All I can say is good luck, and may God have mercy on you,” as the countdown clock hit zero.

May’s End

Hard to believe May is almost over already. At least it has been a productive month; I wonder if that is why it flew. Even though I have been writing/working on several pieces, I keep forgetting to post anything here. Granted writing most of them by hand makes that a slightly time-consuming task to perform. Even though some are continuations of ideas, I have posted here previously like Thief in Neon, and my Steampunk/Magic hybrid idea. In addition to a few old ideas, that I put on the back burner since the inspiration faded on them. I did submit to Z Publishing House for their writers’ anthology I was emailed about over my vacation. Still waiting to hear back but I doubt that will happen before the end of June.

 

WEP April 2018 Contest Piece

Continuing the “-punk-” subgenre challenge I set for myself for this year’s WEP contest, I thought about what I could do with the April theme “Road Less Traveled.” While I originally considered doing an “Atompunk,” themed piece, I realized after a few paragraphs I would break the word limit. After a few days being stalled in the idea mill, I concluded “Raypunk,” would make an oddly good choice. Raypunk started out in the 1930’s as speculative ideas focusing on space travel, rayguns, robots, jetpacks, and rockets. Trying to focus on most of the key ideas behind Raypunk, I realized I could take some inspiration from the Space Race. Intertwining the ideas of the two, and the theme for this month’s challenge, I started writing. Managing to create a retro-inspired science fiction tale, I titled “Journey into Unknown Space.”


Journey into Unknown Space

The mission control room was busy going over last-minute preparations for tomorrow’s mission. Deputy Administer Smith had brought in every person he thought was necessary, filling the room with scientists, engineers, and, human calculators. Turning to ignore the chaotic crowd of people behind me, I peered out the window. Archimedes rested on the launch platform, bathing in the vibrant orange and red light from the setting sun. Contrasting the colors of the sunset with ivory and sapphire colored shell. The ground crew was running about the platform, walking over fuel lines and in-between passing vehicles. If things went well with the launch, this would be history in the making.

After an early morning test of my space suit, rocket pack and experimental ray gun, I walked over to the small stage where the press eagerly waited. My expecting wife and ten years old sat next to my boss. Setting my helmet down on the podium, I glanced at the media. Letting the flashbulb cameras and video cameras record me for a few seconds before speaking; “Various members of the press, I welcome you on this warm October morning. Today marks the end of years of work, and the beginning of my journey into the universe,” waving my family forward. Pulling my wife to my side, before taking my son’s hand. “There are a lot of people to thank, but first I want to thank my wife and son for the enduring love and constant support leading up to this day. Along with the numerous staff at National Space Exploration Agency for making this day possible,” kissing my wife on the cheek and ruffling my son’s hair. Grabbing my helmet, giving the press one last picture before walking to the launch platform.

Climbing up the stairs into, where the lid to Archimedes was hinged open. Stepping into the cramped red pilot seat with care, making sure not to start the launch prematurely. Securing myself to the seat with durable cloth straps that ran crisscrossed over my shoulders and chest. Reaching up and grabbing the lid’s handle slamming the top down. Feeling a slight pressure over my body as the airlock was sealed.

The in-helmet microphone crackled before the voice of Deputy Administer Smith came through, “You’re all clear on this end. Launch when ready, John.”

I said “Affirmative, Deputy Administer Smith,” grabbing both control sticks. Feeling mission control angle the platform holding Archimedes toward the sky. Pressing down on the ignition switch, just seconds later. The four secondary rockets were building up thrust against the clamps, making Archimedes tremor. “Releasing clamps now,” before pushing the second button on my right. Using the pent-up thrust to accelerate the rocket forward rapidly. The incredible g-force was pushing me back into the seat. Pressing down on the primary rocket’s ignition switch at my feet, increasing the g-force exponentially.

Breaking through the atmosphere, feeling the weightlessness all over my body. The moon and stars were bright against the darkness of space. A mesmerizing sight to behold this close up. Pulling both control sticks back, activating a prototype wormhole drive. Encapsulating my ship in a bubble of spacetime, protecting it as the ship rocketed through the universe.

 

Archimedes was slowing down rapidly as planetary designation Terrutius came into my view. The sphere was possessing an Earth-like appearance, except with a different layout. Deactivating the primary rocket, letting my ship go forward. Feeling the planet’s gravity pull Archimedes towards it nose first. Carefully rotating the wings holding the secondary rockets, using the thrust to turn the ship. Bringing Archimedes a whole hundred and eighty degrees feeling the ship begin to warm the more gravity pulled it downward. Quickly deactivating the secondary rockets to accelerate my descent.

Managing to land on Archimedes on a flat piece of land successfully. Releasing the lid with a powerful pull-back, breaking the airtight seal in the process. Undoing the straps before carefully getting out of my seat. Turning my jetpack onto a low thrust setting to land on the ground with ease. Glancing out at the surrounding land, seeing something had cleared this land in a perfect square. Dark brown twisting helix looking trees with broad hexagonal green leaves encompassed the cleared area. Unlike the sky of Earth, this place had a burnt orange hue to it. The temperature seemed mild enough for life to exist here somewhere. Taking a few cautious steps forward, my hand hovering above my raygun.

Pausing as something dropped down from the nearby trees. Keeping my raygun holstered, I saw a bipedal creature at the tree’s base. Its skin changing hues from green to a light blue color began to appear around its muscular body. A segmented tail was wrapping itself around the creature’s waist. Two arms of different lengths erupted out of the shoulders of the alien life form. Each was having almost claw-like fingers at each end. Two unblinking black eyes stared at me, as the one on the things slightly elongated forehead blinked rapidly. Hiding behind a series of pincher like attachments was a thin line, I assumed was its mouth. In silence, we studied each other with unflinching gazes. Seeming uncertain what would happen next, as more of them dropped out of the trees.

****

Two years have passed that historic day that changed my life. Improving the lives of the humanoid life forms on this planet. Feeling it was time for me to return to earth, confirming we weren’t alone in the universe. Stepping into Archimedes once again, looking out the crowd. Feeling saddened to leave yet optimistic about returning home to see my wife and child again.


Critique level: Full Word Count: 936