Category Archives: A Running Stand
I’m hoping that all two of you reading thus far have been enjoying this maiden voyage of SnapStory1000 for all it’s worth. I also want to take this opportunity to thank the multi-talented and heroic Masafumi Matsumoto for pushing my crazed keyboard clatters at your direction. Doubtless if it’s not my own tweet that lead you here, it’s Masa’s. If you haven’t seen his site, by the way, please do. He’s one of those human beings that somehow reminds of St. Francis of Assisi’s quote: “Preach the gospel at all times and, when necessary, use words.”
As I wrap up this first small series and move on to a different genre, there is an explanation merited to how this all started. Like many westerners living in Japan, I currently make my living as an English teacher. While I predominantly work in the junior high schools of my small town, I also do some small conversation courses in a nearby community hall.
Since the point is to just keep people talking, I sometimes bring out some pictures of mine – usually just the runts of the litter that I couldn’t figure out what else to do with. Then the students make up a little story about the image. I’ve heard Shinto shrines become private haunted residences; a teddy bear keychain become the key to a long-lost love in New York and the Odaiba Gundam coming to life for a full-scale war against alien invaders. However, I’ve never actually done it myself and figured it’s high time I eat my own dogfood and hopefully kick myself out of my madness while dragging others into it. You’re welcome.
Think that this particular series is starting to be more about the writing than the photography when I want both to play in harmony as opposed to one overpowering the other. So, enjoy the last part of this sci-fi story. Any feedback, positive or negative is appreciated.
As the over-charging Persuader took a bumpy slide to underneath the PAR’s Hover, Mikela knew that the odds were against her getting everything worked out. Even if she took one out of them out, the other was still going to be there to deal with. A hunting-class Persuader was designed specifically to prevent overheating. Fortunately, a few people back in the city who could tinker about with the devices knew that it was a simple matter of soldering a couple of diodes into submission. The problem was knowing how much of a kick it would give. Even at full blast it might only be little more than an overgrown firecracker.
Fortunately, even a firecracker at point-blank range can do some damage.
The seconds stretched long. The PAR’s soothing voices became more agitated, yet they would not move. They raised their weapons, red dots appearing on her chest and head. She was almost awed with respect. ‘They thought of everything.’
“Mikela Sheon, your resistance is ill-advised. We are aware of The Outsiders operations and…”
The whistling of the Hovers was drowning out the whine of the Persuader underneath it. She was hoping that the timing would work out in her favor for this whole thing to work or else.
As desperate measures often go, things thus far hadn’t been working out as they planned. Mikela remembered what brought her to this point. The City was a comfortable existence but as she toiled to keep the power flowing as a maintenance manager at the The Plant, she knew that it was only a matter of time. The power was proving harder and harder to provide for all the machines running the place. Food production had been steadily falling. The writing was on the wall and it was saying “RUN.”
The Outsiders, as they called themselves, shared this view. They had not seen the land beyond the Outskirts but they were convinced that something more lied out there. After all, the PARs were there to prevent that from happening. The conclusion was obvious as the initial reason was inscrutable – if there isn’t, in fact, anything out there, why keep people in? That was the logic and it seemed sound. If the world is going to Hell in a handbasket, then even a failed escape with a few civilian-level hunting weapons and a small supply of food would be preferable to watching all that they knew slowly fall apart within their lifetime.
Ideals are often easier to deal with than the realities they entail. They were a group of five when this started. The idea would be to see if anything was Out There. How that information could get back was a matter of seeing if anything out there could produce a radio wave that would overcome The Tower. Needles in a haystack, but a needle that could undo the stranglehold and allow things to continue. If not the system, then the people.
A group of five to try to continue the chances of hundreds of thousands. They agreed to meet at sunset, among the drone of power surging through the City. Power of the people. Power of the powers. Power of the operation. Power was the cause, the reason and the result prayed for.
Now there was one. The PARs at the border were effective enough to squelch them to two within minutes of even trying anything. It was little time before those two became one. Between the elements and his wounds, he had given up. The last thing he did was throw Mikela his Persuader just after hers ran out of power and provided a distraction to the previous patrol so that she could take them out as they “cleared” Angeli. Now it was Angeli’s turn to save her as she provided a distraction.
“We beg your pardon?” this type of response was not part of the PAR training.
“We’re sorry to say that refus-”
Whatever followed next was lost to Mikela’s ears as she dived between the two officers. The beams singed her back as the little Persuader-cum-firecracker unleashed whatever power it’s draining battery could muster. She could tell that she had caused one of them – the female one – to lose footing and that was about the best chance she could have. Either she would overcome the ghosts or become one herself.
Mikela rolled over to the source of the explosion and grabbed the PAR from behind, trying to get a hold on its neck while there was still confusion to profit on. Despite the thickness of the weather/velocity-proof uniforms they wore, Mikela found the body to be surprisingly light. In his rush, the PAR on the other side reflexively aimed and fired at their direction, striking his female counterpart in the chest. Mikela instinctively screamed at the mutually shared shock of the Persuader’s beam and groped the fresh corpse for one of her own as she felt her strength draining.
The soft fibers gave way to cold steel. Bingo. The weight compared to the one she had just detonated was unexpected. These sorts of things can make the difference in a life-or-death scenario. Change one variable and everything goes nuts. Fortunately, for once, the guys on the chase were having far more to contend with than the one on the run.
The other PAR had given up on the pretense of negotiation. The next shot would’ve found its mark had Mikela not already moved towards him and not the left as he was anticipating. She had a weak, but clean grip on the trigger.
She closed her eyes and pulled. She felt consciousness slipping from her.
Silence took hold on the Outskirts once again.
Finally, Mikela opened her eyes again to the red hues of the rising sun.
In the rising sunlight, all there was to see was wasteland, and two dead officers.
Along with a practically intact Hover.
She scrambled to take the magnetic boots off of the body that had become her unwitting blanket for the night and strapped herself into the device. Certainly even when at half-power, she had more of a fighting chance with this than her feet, clad with shoes that were already giving out to terrain they were wholly unsuited for. Of course, she also strapped the Persuader on her belt.
The Tower could still be sighted in the far distance. Why hadn’t it already sent out reinforcements wasn’t for her to think about. After all, it had been two days since the last one that got Angeli. There was only one thing to think about: In the Outskirts, there were no roads.
She had to make her own.
“A Running Stand” End.
Even three days in, it’s a challenge to find time to find a picture that will fit the story and where you want it to go. This particular story will most likely end tomorrow followed by three independent ideas. Kind of a shame considering that I’ve liked where this one has been taking me. The bursts of writing that will probably embarrass me should I ever look back on them seriously. For now, though, I’ll play ball with this. After all, that’s what the point of this endeavor is.
Noise had always been a part of the City. After all, there was the constant humming of the climate control machinery. The Tower at the city center was by far the most distinct though. Constantly sending radio signals to God-knows-where, as unlike the unbroken meditation of electric currents, The Tower was more like a chant – long concreted streams broken by clicks and cracks as whatever information it carried broke itself up into digestible chunks.
If climate control was the melody and The Tower was the voice, then the whistle of the Hovers was a discord in the harmony. They were compact enough to comfortably strap to one’s back yet solid enough to support a human body and let them glide at high speeds while still enabling the user full freedom of upper-body movement. They proved devastatingly effective when used as replacement for tanks and cars that were clunky in close-quarters combat during the recent wars. Also proved useful in chasing and apprehending fugitives on the lam. The downside to their maneuverability was that, whatever mechanics allowed such capabilities produced a distinct whistle, high-pitched and could be felt even when not quite heard.
The sound piercing her ear, she looked behind. Sure enough there were two Hovers, ridden by “Protect and Rescue” officers, packing the Persuaders that they used to “find” their quarry. The reports in the City spoke often of these units. Outside of the odd research unit, they alone bore the trying privilege of roaming the Outskirts, searching for any potential threats. Expert marksmen and brilliant with the Hover, the PAR officers would often hold exhibition events that would be seen by large crowds and doubled as both mass spectacle and personal training.
The green sashes glittered in the moonlight even from the distance. Those sashes were awarded only to those who had made it to the top five slots in the tournaments and they publicly wore them during duty to intimidate enemies and comfort the weak. The best, of course, received red ones.
She almost felt insulted. Send the best but not the very best? Then again, this could just be the powers that be hedging their bets. There were always bigger problems to be dealt with, after all. She reached into her pocket and pulled out her own Persuader. It wasn’t military-class, but a few well-timed shots from even the authorized hunting-class models could put some hurt into people.
“Mikela Sheon, are you there? We are here to clear you from the Outskirts,” called out the silky feminine voice from one of the PARs. The euphemism was trained into them as to assuage so-called “Orphans” that they were merely a rescue operation. She had seen “clearing” before and barely survived by the skin of her teeth. Angeli, however, wasn’t so lucky.
It was an open field and the lights were already illuminating her face. Hiding wasn’t an option now. However, Mikela had an idea. It was a literally a long shot, but there wasn’t exactly time to think. White flags sometimes had to be drawn to keep fighting.
She raised her hands, exposing her Persuader to the PARs.
“Mikela Sheon, how could you have gone so far from the City?” The soothing voice sounded like a mother who was undeniably upset but couldn’t bear to stop loving her child.
“Mikela Sheon, could you drop your persuader, please?” The other PAR had a slightly gruffer sound, the “please” thrown in almost as an afterthought.
Mikela didn’t say a word. The thing was starting to burn anyways.
She dropped the gun.
And kicked it.
As many readers may know, yesterday I wrote about SnapStory1000 and the breakdown of the rules for it – one photo per day with an accompanying story to go along with but not about the photo. Realizing that a madness is best explained with a method, I guess I should explain the reasoning behind doing something like this. It’s a very simple one really:
I want to write more.
Back in my childhood, I used to write. A lot. Nothing very good, mind you – basically picture Orwell mixed with “The Matrix” and whatever a healthy dosage of generic anime/Japanese RPG cast members. However, as naniwrimo teaches us, to get to the good stuff you gotta sweat out an awful lot of crap.
Hence here we are. Consider this the equivalent of a niche genre film. Except, instead of bad acting and good kung-fu, we’ll have bad photography and bad kung-fu. Oh wait. I meant mediocre photography and execrable writing. At least at the beginning. Hopefully by the end, there will be at something nice to be said about all of this. This particularly story will be serialized to the best of my ability, but I kind of like to think of this SnapStory thing as a type of radio signal: ideas fade in…they fade out… and, if they’re strong, we’ll stay attuned to them.
Now onto today’s SnapStory:
Ghosts are somewhat of an absurdity when thought about. The very idea of anyone wanting to stick around this dustball after nearly a century of life was just absurd. The science and faith could be debated forever, but neither made much sense. If God is real then we all get judged and go to Heaven or Hell with no room for the limbo of the physical. On the other hand. if he wasn’t, then there just wasn’t much point to sticking around. Life, with all its assorted miseries and absurdities playing a strong secondary role to ephemeral joys forever sought, was something to be cherished, enjoyed, then ultimately discarded in preparation for something else.
That’s what she used think anyways. However, not even one week into her venture outside the city and already she could see ghosts of the past clouding up the night. Those overcoats brought back memories that felt a lifetime away. They were all the rage in the City, especially now as temperatures had been falling lately. The climate control devices had been starting to fail. The distrust and the tension in society was starting to rise.
Yet still there were people who were trudging on with their overcoats on bags. Life will find a way. It has to march on they say. The world may be falling apart but you gotta keep going. Gotta make your own, as her mother once said.
Were those the ghosts of what was once here, she wondered. Surely, the Outskirts used to be a place bustling with life. Even before the research outposts or whatever test site the government put out here away from prying eyes. Life had found a way, before the madness, in some bygone era that she only had heard the vaguest rumors of.
The rumors. Those whispers that lead her out here in the first place. Whispers of something beyond the City. Yes, the life was better Over There. That’s what the whispers had said. Life beyond this one.
She thought of the ghosts before her again. Yes, her rational mind knew they were mere delusions wrought upon by a week alone after an adolescence that was based upon daily security and scrutiny, but there was a certain irony to be savored from the spiritual side of it. Perhaps these ghosts were also looking for something beyond their life. How tragic that if even after actually moving past life they were merely doomed to forever repeat their old ways?
“No more,” she whispered to herself with a certain sharpness as if breaking a spell. No time for dilly-dallying. This was an old research center after all. There would no doubt be patrols coming here in no time. There was only one option now.
She ran. As she dashed past the ghosts, they seemed to dissolve like a misty fog into the pale moonlight that shone on her cropped black hair.
She had transcended the transcended. Savoring the moment while still hearing out for that unmistakable shrill whistle…it wasn’t the wind.
I shouldn’t be one to talk about creating ambitious photography/writing/art projects. After all, this humble site languished for nearly the whole of 2010 until I threw $80 at the good people at Photocrati.com to let me use one of their templates. Plugs aside, I resolve something to myself for 2011, and I propose something to whoever may be reading this for January of that same year. I’m calling it “SnapStory1000″ until I come up with a better name or someone else does.
The idea is simple:
- Upload a photo, that you have taken, to your blog once per day and write a story involving it.
- NOT the story about how you took the picture, what techniques you used, what did the model say to you, etc. No, that’d be too easy, too cut and dry.
- HOWEVER, it has to involve the image in some way.
- Other than that, go nuts!
While I’m calling it “SnapStory1000,” that is not to imply that there’s any word count rule of any kind. Indeed, if there was a 1000 word rule, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to meet my own expectations! I guess if the number has any meaning beyond easy googlability, it’s that I wish there to be at least a 1000 people engaged in this meme. While it’s most likely a pipe dream, it’s best to not let aspirations be constrained by reality.
To get myself revved up, my first entry into this blog will be the start of my own SnapStory1000, taking over the course of a week:
“Roads are just lines on a map. You gotta make your own.”
Those words echoed into her ears. Over and over again. The irony didn’t escape her – to be able to make her own roads she had to shown the road to making her own road. A Möbius strip of advice. Creation begging more creation. Life will find a way, she once heard some science program telling her. Life will find a way.
Her breath weighed heavy in her chest. It’d been at least a week since she’d been able to stop running. Life had found a way, alright.
The asphalt before her was surprisingly intact. Then again, this patch of land was a former part of the Outskirts Research City. What a disaster that turned out to be. Still, the vague reminder of the home she was running from couldn’t help but compel her. The zebra stripes of the street seemed to dance in her blurry eyes, shifting up and down in a dance that swayed to the melody of the wind whistling through the stillness.
Still, this road was not hers to walk on. You gotta make your own.