IT and Stranger Things

For anyone who follows me on Instagram, you will know that IT is one of my most anticipated films of 2017. The book is one of my favourite Stephen King novels, I am currently debating between “IT” and “The Shining”, and I was excited to see another adaptation that would hopefully be closer to the book. Any long-time readers (the few) will also know that I do not hesitate to write about the level of stupidity that can be found online, whether it is the rising scourge of the “I’m not racist but” brand of bigotry or simple issues of reading comprehension.

IT brings up another realm of stupidity. When the first trailer was released, people began comparing the film to Stranger Things. I didn’t mind this comparison originally since I thought most people were still capable of reading the “From Stephen King’s Terrifying Novel” banner that accompanied the trailers, but apparently I was wrong. There are YouTube reactions and plenty of online comments that make it clear people don’t understand the film is based on an older book (1986) or that IT is another adaptation of the book, like the 1990 miniseries.

I have already discussed the people who are comparing this version of Pennywise (or what we have seen so far) to the 1990 version, and criticize the 2017 version because it is too different. These people make it clear they never read the book, and so do the hordes who keep comparing 2017’s IT to Stranger Things. Let me rephrase. What bothers me most are the people who insist that IT takes visual cues and inspiration, in terms of filmmaking, from Stranger Things. 

It (1986) inspired works that came after it. That is how time works. I saw influences from IT” and “Firestarter” in Stranger Things. People may say the filmmaking techniques or the visuals for 2017’s IT could be drawn from Stranger Things. Fair enough. Let’s take a look at the most common similarities people point out:

A group of kids fighting a monster. That can be traced to “IT”.

The older time period, especially the 1980s.  That can be traced to “IT”, which cuts between 1957/1958 (when the main characters are kids) and 1985 (when they are adults) . The film is updated to cut between 1989 and the present day. I can easily argue that the decision to put the kids in the 1980s is a decision meant to modernize the second film, where the kids will be adults. Either way, the characters were going to live in the 1980s for some part of their lives.  How can the 2017 adaptation of IT, then be inspired or influenced by Stranger Things?

Yes, the productions share an actor, Finn Wolfhard. Does that invalidate all the other influences that I just pointed out? One common actor invalidates the flow of time? If you think so, comprehension is your issue, not mine.

Unless you have actually seen the film already via an advanced screening or a country where it was released earlier, you can only go off the trailers that I have seen too. I have avoided watching any clips or tv spots, so if there are some other similarities I am missing feel free to point them out.

Alive

As I’ve discussed previously, I completed a draft of my third book, Alive. I am now in the process of editing it. This edit encompasses everything from spelling and grammar, to fleshing out some characters more and making sure that I am showing, not telling.

Another part of the editing is ensuring that the book doesn’t start too slowly. The one time I was able to get an agent to review my work, her only criticism revolved around the novel’s pace. Her two sentences of feedback made it clear she took months to give my work a cursory glance, but I still want to acknowledge the feedback I was given.

Alive begins with an origin story of sorts, detailing my character coming to terms with the new abilities that his werewolf bite gives him. Although these parts were interesting to me, I realize they represent a slow start for my potential audience. With that said, I have begun to think about what I want the book to start with. Below is an excerpt I am considering moving to the front of the book, before using flashbacks to fill in the gaps.

*********

Mason’s head was pounding as he rose from his slumber. The sensation reminded him of nights where he drank himself to sleep, waking dehydrated and red-eyed. Mason eyes weren’t open yet, they felt like they were weighed down with miniature sandbags. He tried to bring his left arm to his head, but it was being held down by something. Mason tried again, but was barely able to move his arm an inch before it was pushed down again. It was the same story for his right arm, and his legs. He could feel the surface beneath him, definitely not a cot. His senses were slowly waking up as his brain did. He could feel stiff, cold metal on his skin, it reminded Mason of an unpadded stretcher.

Keeping his eyes closed, Mason tried to listen to the world around him. He was sure that six days of drugging would dull his senses, but he needed to start using them as soon as possible to escape his mental rust. The room felt colder than his Torville cell. He was likely underground again. Sounds came first. Like the Torville cell, there weren’t many to speak of yet. Mason’s headache worsened as he tried to focus, picking up on the sound of water dropping somewhere behind him. He heard one drop at a time, with each one sounding like a firecracker going off. It was likely a tap with a leaky faucet.

As Mason thought of the water he realized how dry his throat was.. He tried to lift his arms again, exerting more force this time. He felt the resistance again, probably leather straps. The straps slowly stretched on either side of him as he continued to push. He didn’t feel as strong as he did six days ago, but it seemed like he was still stronger than the average man. His body wasn’t immune to drugging, but perhaps its rapid healing was helping him to recover faster.

Mason opened his eyes, seeing a concrete ceiling about ten feet above him. The concrete extended to the surfaces all around him, forming a cage that was about fifty feet wide. There was a metal door ahead of him. Metal bars, which allowed someone on the other end to peek in, broke up the last few feet of the door. There was no one there now but Mason was sure that there would be soon. Mason’s red uniform contrasted with the brown straps that were holding him down. Craning his neck, Mason could make out the gold crest on his left breast and the golden belt across his waist. He was a soldier now, being sent to do someone else’s bidding.

There was an opportunity to escape now; nothing was tying him to this cell. He had no loyalty to Torville or Alexandria. He and his mother travelled to Alexandria when he was fifteen. For his mother it was a vacation, for Mason it was the possibility of a new life. Mason was at the age when his naiveté was quickly being assaulted by reality. He started to realize the real reason that teachers advised him to aim for a realistic career. By this time he already suspected that it played a part in having few friends and no girlfriend. Even his few friends were never comfortable inviting him into their home. He and his mom were always given the worst seats at restaurants, even when others were free. People crossed the street to avoid them whenever possible. Mason went to Alexandria hoping that things would be different. That idea alone demonstrated his naiveté. For some reason he thought that a location was enough to change people’s beliefs.

The only thing Mason was sure of now was that he was going to transform again. Actually, Mason couldn’t even be sure of that. It was the council’s educated guess at this point, educated by folklore. If that guess was wrong Mason could be in for days of torture before he was beheaded. The problem was what he would do even if he escaped. If he got away and transformed in the wilderness he would still be as mindless as if he transformed in Alexandria. Of course there would be more casualties in Alexandria, but Mason didn’t really care. He found that there was normally a tendency to romanticize strangers, imagining that they have the personality and values you admire. Mason learned to stop doing that long ago, mostly because his fantasies rarely came true. William was one of the few exceptions, but Mason didn’t want to overestimate how many Williams there were in Alexandria. It was easy for his anger to justify casualties, especially since he wouldn’t remember, but Mason’s conscience was more powerful. He knew he wasn’t a murderer. Let alone a mass murderer. He had to escape.

His head continued pounding, with the pain emanating from the center of his scalp. His throat and mouth felt dry. He licked his lips and felt chapped skin. He felt something pushing at the base of his throat, and tried to take deep breaths to alleviate his nausea.

Mason heard a door open somewhere in the hallway outside. There were footsteps now. Mason didn’t need his enhanced senses to hear boots making their way towards the gate. If someone saw him trying to escape while he was still locked in the room he would have to break the door down to escape. He doubted his strength would allow him to do that. He laid back and closed his eyes just enough to make out the doorway. Hopefully anyone looking in would think he was sleeping.

Someone appeared behind the bars a few seconds later. Mason could only make out a bearded face from his angle, someone who looked to be about fourty.

“Still sleeping,” the main said as he turned to his right.

The man lingered for a few seconds before Mason heard a key at work. The door swung open, with its hinges screaming in protest, revealing a stocky figure enclosed in a gridded leather uniform. The black, long sleeved shirt was stamped with Alexandria’s insignia, a red wolf’s head. Mason knew that was Alexandria’s military uniform. As the bearded man entered, two more followed behind him, who were likely prison guards. They were wearing blue uniforms with armoured chest plates comprised of a thin sheet of red metal that wrapped around their torso.

From what Mason learned in school, many armies no longer used such armour, preferring to craft their uniforms out of thickly padded leather. The armour posed too big a sacrifice for mobility in close quarter combat, and still left the head and neck too vulnerable to attack. It was possible to armour soldiers from head to toe, but even Alexandria probably didn’t have enough metal to afford that. In long- range combat, a hail of metal-tipped arrows could pick up enough velocity to tear through armour like butter. The armour only made sense for prison guards, who would only need an added level of protection as they attempted to restrain one unruly prisoner at a time.

The trio moved closer and Mason had to shut his eyes completely to make sure they didn’t realize he was awake. He could hear two people moving to either side of Mason, until they were both standing by his shoulders. The one to his right placed his hand on Mason’s neck, and Mason felt it rest on his pulse.

“Still alive, pulse feels stronger than it did yesterday.” The man said.

“It’s been a day now; I guess he’s in some kind of coma.” It was the bearded man’s voice; he was still standing close to the door.

“How long do they want us to keep him here commander?” The voice was from his left now.

“Don’t think they were expecting him to be unconscious this long. We’ll have to see what they say. Doubt it will be more than two days. Week’s almost done; any info he has on guard rotation won’t be much use after that. We don’t need much else from them at this point.” The bearded man said. He was in charge of this group, but it seemed like he still reported to someone else. The ranks were probably similar to the ranks in Torville, where commanders held rank over prison guards and a small group of soldiers, while also reporting to a Marshal.

“Are we done here then?” The guard on his left said.

“Almost, I want to rule something out,” The commander said.

Mason heard the commander walking over to him, with his steel-toed boots clicking off the concrete. There was the unmistakable sound of a weapon being unsheathed. It didn’t sound as loud as it did when Lance drew his. Maybe it was quieter because the commander was further away or because Mason’s senses were still recovering. However, he hoped it seemed quieter simply because the blade was smaller.

The commander got closer, Mason tried to isolate his heartbeat, finding it and tracking it until he was right beside Mason’s feet. The commander pulled up the left leg of his uniform, and Mason stopped himself from shivering as cold air hit his calf. He knew what was coming next, and braced for it.

The commander tore through his skin with his blade, making a shallow ring around the left side of Mason’s calf. Mason’s own experiments on his body caused him to barely feel the cut. The commander was convinced he wasn’t playing dead, but now there was a bigger problem. His body would start to heal itself in a few seconds, and he’d either be experimented on again or promptly burned.

“Rayner, get a medic to patch up this…”

Mason felt the burning itch spreading across his calf. The commander’s heartbeat was accelerating like a horse freed from its gate. A hand grabbed Mason’s ankle, and Mason could feel warm breath blowing on it.

“Everything okay commander?” The guard on the right said.

“Rayner, go get Marshall Talbot. Tell him this is an emergency.” At this moment, Mason missed William’s curiosity and excitement. The commander barely made it through his sentence, pausing and stuttering like a toddler trying to read a book. Burning or beheading seemed like a more likely fate by the second.

There were footsteps to Mason’s right as Rayner ran to the door. Mason focused on the footsteps and heard Rayner make a left turn. If Mason wanted to live much longer, he’d probably have to follow Rayner soon. He tried to follow the footsteps for as long as he could, but they disappeared ten steps outside the door, and his headache intensified to thank him for his effort.

“What’s happening commander?”

“Raleigh, come here.” The commander said.

Raleigh walked over beside the commander, and Mason now had two people staring at his calf.

“Do you see a cut?” The commander said. His voice was a little steadier now.

“No, but I saw you make one. I saw it bleed.” Raleigh said. Now his heart was joining the race.

Something cold touched Mason’s calf, likely a sleeve. It wiped away the blood and left his calf truly bare again.

“I saw the cut heal, right in front of my eyes.” The commander said.

“How’s that possible?” Raleigh said. Now his voice was starting to shake.

“These people like witchcraft, probably learned how to do it from his parents.” The commander said.

“I’ve heard that too, we can’t keep him here.” Raleigh said.

Raleigh was giving orders now, but the commander didn’t seem to notice.

“Of course not, I’ll convince the Marshal.”

“How do we kill him though?” Raleigh said.

“Beheading, fire, maybe both.” The commander said.

Maybe the marshal would insist that Mason be kept alive, but that was a long shot now. Mason couldn’t play dead anymore. Either he tried to escape now or risk getting killed when the Marshal and more soldiers made their way to this room. The straps felt like they could break, but if they didn’t the two men with him could panic and end his life.

He was tired, dehydrated and nauseous, but he couldn’t let that stop him now. Mason clenched his fists, pushing himself up from his torso. The straps went taut as his arms pushed against them.

The commander and Raleigh both stepped back, with their gaze averted from Mason’s legs to his face. The commander stood a few inches taller than Raleigh, and he still had an unsheathed knife in his right hand. It was Mason’s turn to panic as the straps around his arms held taut for a few seconds before they mercifully snapped. As they did, the commander rushed forward, with his long arms guiding the knife toward Mason’s neck. Mason legs tore through the straps and his right leg connected with the commander’s elbow. The knife sliced through Mason’s left shoulder, grazing flesh but missing bone. As the commander’s arm followed, Mason grabbed the wrist and twisted it as hard as he could.

The knife fell to the floor but Mason barely heard it over the commander’s scream. Looking at the hand, Mason realized that the palm was now facing the opposite direction. The bones in the wrist were shattered, leaving the hand flopping around like a dead fish. Mason grabbed the commander’s graying hair and slammed his head against the stretcher. He could hear the commander’s nose break and caught a glimpse of blood spatter on the stretcher before he threw the man aside, hearing the body crash to the left of the stretcher.

There appeared to be a reason Raleigh was only a guard. Mason’s eyes darted back and forth between the commander and Raleigh for the past few seconds, and Raleigh stood rooted to the spot, with his hand on his sword’s hilt. He probably wasn’t even used to having a sword; it could be a liability when dealing with some prisoners since they could try to take it. Whenever Mason was brought to a cell in Torville a squad of unarmed guards, who basically served as glorified orderlies, accompanied him.

Now Raleigh was in a situation where he needed to be a soldier, and he was struggling to make the transition. Once the commander’s hand was broken, Raleigh finally sprang to life, unsheathing his sword. Mason grabbed the sides of the stretcher, using it to anchor himself as he pulled his left leg free. He jumped off the stretcher before a blade came crashing onto it. While Raleigh raised the sword again, Mason rushed towards him and tackled him to the ground.

This time, Mason heard bones breaking in Raleigh’s chest. Raleigh didn’t scream but the air rushed out of him, sounding like a draft from an open window. Raleigh collapsed, with his arms around his chest and Mason stumbled to the ground. It was already obvious to Mason that he wasn’t going to cope with sound well if he got outside. Not to mention the nausea and fatigue that was still plaguing him.

His shoulder burned as the cut sowed itself back together. As Mason got to his feet again, he felt his stomach squeezing its contents upwards. He kneeled forward and a stream of green, acidic vomit hit the floor, splattering onto the door and the walls. It was as if a pair of hands was wrapped around his stomach, desperately trying to wring out its contents. The vomit continued pouring out in one painful burst after another.

When it stopped Mason collapsed backwards, with his hand on his stomach. There was pain there now; making him feel like his stomach was stepped on. He probably only lost a minute or two, but every second counted now. Mason realized he was barefoot, and tried to tiptoe through the puddle of his own making. He felt the acidic vomit on his toes as he reached the door and turned left.

There was a dead end to Mason’s right, but the concrete labyrinth continued for about one hundred feet to his left. The concrete was jagged, and threatened to cut his feet as he ran, but Mason knew that a few cuts were the least of his worries now. As he came to a stop at the end of the hall, Mason felt his head spinning. The hallway looked like it was doing a cartwheel. He rested against the wall on his right, trying to regain his balance.

Peeking around the corner, he saw two guards flanking a single stairwell about fifty feet ahead of him. Both guards were armoured from head to toe. One sheet of armour wrapped around each leg, another around the torso, the arms and a helmet for the head. The helmets had metal flaps at the front, which were currently raised as the two guards talked to one another.

Despite their mundane conversation about food, their costumed figures still filled Mason with fear. The dark red metal evoked the image of a bloodied knight. Even though the armour would hinder the guards’ mobility, the narrow hallway wouldn’t offer Mason much room to maneuver either. This was the type of environment where such bulky armour would give someone an advantage.

Mason thought back to his escape from his cell. The commander looked like he was at least two hundred pounds, and Mason remembered how he was able to toss the commander to his side. He remembered the commander’s feet actually leaving the ground before he crashed to Mason’s right.

With that memory in mind, Mason took a few deep breaths, relieved to see that the hallway stopped spinning in front of him. There was no more time to waste. Mason planted his legs and bolted around the corner, feeling like he was running faster than he ever had before. He was three strides in before the guards turned to face him.

The flaps on their helmets went down and their swords came out of the sheaths. One guard held his sword out to his left, the other to his right. If they were to swing, the swords would create an arc that would cover the entire length of the hallway, cleaving Mason’s torso from the rest of his body. The stains on the concrete made it clear that some unlucky prisoner met that fate previously, and Mason was determined not to join them.

Even with his enhanced vision he could barely make out their eyes staring out from above the metal flap, four orbs encased in metal. The stairway behind them led to a closed door. It would be another hurdle for Mason if he got by the guards, but it also prevented them from calling for backup.

The swords were about four feet long, so Mason waited until he was just out of their range before leaping. His jump took him over the swords, leaving them sweeping through the air, and he landed at the foot of the staircase as the guards tried to reorient himself. A quick look at the door showed there was no way to open it from the inside. Before the guards turned around, Mason grabbed the top of their helmets, hooking his fingers in the eye slit and pulling the helmets off. The guards turned to face him as their helmets hit the ground. Their swords started to swing in his direction but the swords fell to the ground as Mason slammed the guards’ heads together.

As their bodies hit the ground, Mason grabbed the man on the left, hooking his fingers under the armoured torso and lifting the man onto his shoulder. Another bout of dizziness hit him and Mason’s knees buckled for a few seconds, but his balance returned and he started carrying the man down the hallway and back to the cell. The soldier probably weighed at least three hundred pounds with the armour on, but he only felt slightly heavier than a bag of wet concrete.

Turning the corner, Mason dropped the body on the floor, where it wouldn’t be visible from the doorway. He then ran back to the other soldier, and repeated the process. By his count, his whole escape took about ten minutes so far.

Mason stripped one of the soldiers of their armour, and then grabbed one of their pairs of boots. The boots were too small for him and felt like they would crush his toes with each step, but they would do for now. Between the armour’s weight and the boots, Mason was forced to slow his pace as he walked towards the door. With every step, he was worried that the door at the end of the hall would swing open and reveal the Marshal with a squad of soldiers behind him. That thought got Mason’s heart racing more than anything he’d done in the past ten minutes.

Mason’s legs were shaking as he reached the top of the stairs and banged on the door. His metal covered fist hit the door three times before a portion of the door slid aside to show someone’s face on the other end. Mason noticed the sounds that filtered in, chatter all around him. There was wind coming in from windows, the shuffling of paper, the clicking of boots. The panel was a few inches below Mason’s face, and the majority of its length was taken up by a face leering up at him.

Mason took the armour from a guard who was about the same height, but he was worried his skin would give him away. The guard below would only be able to make out a thin sliver, but it could be enough.

“What is it?” The man said. He looked to be about Mason’s age, probably a young guard hoping that he’d be able to move up the chain soon. He’d be eager to impress, and Mason’s experience told him these were the worst guards to deal with. However, he realized he could manipulate the guard’s eagerness to impress.

If Mason had any luck left, the guard wouldn’t notice that his voice sounded different. The door seemed to block out most noise so maybe this guard didn’t hear the other two speak much.

“The prisoner’s up. The commander’s worried he might wear down the straps if he keeps pulling on them. He just wants a third person to help hold down the prisoner while he loosens the straps and reties them. You need to come quick though.”

The words barely left Mason’s mouth before he heard a lock come undone. The door swung open and the guard stood revealed in front of him, forcing Mason to look back down the hallway to hide his face.

“Just head down there, they’re waiting for you.” Mason said.

The guard rushed past Mason, nearly becoming a blur as he jumped down the flight of stairs. Mason quickly stepped out of the underground cavern and pushed the door closed. The guard looked back at him as he got halfway down the tunnel, but it was too late by then. The metal panel slip closed and the guard’s voice would be drowned out until the marshal came by.

As Mason turned to face the room he was greeted by another guard. The man was standing at a wooden desk about twenty feet ahead of Mason, staring back at him. The desk spanned most of the length of the floor, leaving only about ten feet on either side. Orange brick boxed it in, leading to an open door that was about one hundred feet away. Mason could make out doors on either side of him, leading to other areas of the station. Most of the chatter he heard before was coming from that direction. The regular holding cells were likely back there. It seemed like Alexandria also treated him like a special prisoner. He only had one hundred feet separating him from freedom now. There were two more guards stationed by the door ahead,

“Your break isn’t for another twenty minutes. Get back in there.” The guard said as he quickly resumed his review of the papers in front of him, making his sword bob in its sheath. He appeared to be in his thirties, with a fatigued voice that made him sound much older. Days of monotonous work were taking a toll on him.

Meanwhile, Mason’s senses were taking a toll on him now. Six days of drugging, six days without practice honing the senses. Everything was coming in a flood now, especially his sense of smell. There was the scent of vinegar from the mixture used to wipe the floors, onions wafting off of the guard’s breath. His stomach started to feel uneasy again, like he might festoon the station’s floors for a second time.

“The commander told me to send the other guy in and go on break now. You can ask him if you want.” Mason said.

Mason knew he made a mistake before he opened his mouth. This guard would definitely be well acquainted with the people working for him. He would know that the voice sounded different. The guard lost interest in the papers in front of him and quickly turned back towards Mason. Mason looked at the ground to hide his face but he could hear the guard walking towards him.

“Don’t hide your face when you’re talking to me,” the guard said.

Mason heard the guard snap his fingers, and soon there were two sets of footsteps coming towards him.

Three pairs of boots came into view as he examined the white tiles beneath him. There were three armed men less than ten feet away. Mason knew what he had to do. He rushed forward, pushing through the phalanx ahead of him. He heard someone’s bone break on impact, and heard two more cracks as the trio landed on the ground. Even if he didn’t have enhanced strength he doubted the three soldiers would stand a chance against his armour.

Mason realized how wrong he was as the central guard managed to slide his sword into the thin groove between Mason’s torso and his legs. It was what they were trained to do, another reason that heavy armour wasn’t that practical anymore. Mason wished he’d remembered that tidbit earlier.

All three guards were sprawled on the ground, one was clutching his arm, one was clutching his chest and the third appeared to be dead from landing on his neck. The damage was already done. The sword was nearly at a ninety degree angle, with the tip lodged somewhere in his chest, but fortunately missing his heart. Mason could see another foot of the blade hanging down from his torso, with the hilt hovering halfway down his thigh.

The pain reminded Mason of the mauling that got him here, the pain of having chunks of flesh torn out of his body. However, he realized that the mauling was far worse. He could still stand, and as he made his way around the desk it was clear he could still walk. The sword missed his spine. Some of his organs were probably skewered but strangely, it didn’t hurt as much as he thought it would. Mason knew he could just be in shock, but he also knew that Torville’s testing increased his pain tolerance and his curse seemed to increase his pain tolerance. Each step brought increased pain, causing the blade to shift and tear through more veins and muscles.

Although the pain might be dulled, his body was still struggling to cope. He could feel another wave of nausea hitting him. The coppery taste of blood was haunting his throat, and he saw that the sword’s blade and hilt were being baptized by their new home. Looking ahead, Mason saw the open door. He couldn’t see any people ahead of him.

The stone path outside seemed forked to the left, where it likely led to the front entrance. Mason could make out horses neighing somewhere behind him, the stable would be too far behind to reach without being spotted. The horses were almost drowned out by the sound of footsteps and Mason knew that at least ten other soldiers were making their way towards him.

He grabbed the sword’s hilt, feeling it bury itself deeper as he leaned forward. With his hands on the hilt, Mason pulled downward, feeling the sword leave severed veins and punctured organs behind. By the time the sword crashed to the ground Mason could feel the burning itch running from his chest to his hips. The pain from the stab would be temporary, but beheading was permanent. Mason made his way over to the side of the desk, knowing that his blood was creating a trail right to the door. He looked back, seeing the door on the left side of the desk.

The brown tiles continued into the next room, where five guards were now running towards him. They were all armed, and they didn’t have bulky armour slowing them down. There were likely more men coming from the other side of the station as well. The hall continued down for hundreds of feet but it wouldn’t take the guards that long to cover the distance. Once they did, there was a good chance they would turn Mason into a kebab.

Mason tried to run again, even with his strength, the armour and the injury prevented him from getting anywhere close to his full speed. A light jog got him to the outside. The path forked to his left, where it led to a wooden gate where two more guards were standing in wait. The gate was about fifty feet high and continued all around the station, where the moonlight was reflecting off the barbed wire at the top. The doors on either side of him were held open by nails bolted into the earth in front of them and as Mason expected, the door could only be locked from the inside.

Going back wasn’t an option, and if Mason tried to go around to the stables the gate would still trap him. Trying to go straight through the gate would likely result in death, the guards at the door already had their eyes on him and trying to cover that distance would give the other guards more time to catch up and surround him.

The gatekeepers didn’t know anything was the matter now, but they would once they saw men chasing after him. The shortest distance to cover was to Mason’s right, where the gate was only about fifty feet away. Mason hurriedly started pulling the armour off, hoping to make a run for the fence and climb over. The torso would take the most time so he didn’t bother trying to remove it. His helmet came off first. Then his arms, boots and the armour over his pants. By this time, the guards could tell his skin was darker than theirs and they were making their way over. They would have about two hundred feet to cover.

The guards in the station were moving past the desk when Mason took off for the wall. The guards by the gate were about fifty feet away. He could feel muscles and organs in his body stitching themselves back together. The burning sensation made him feel like his heart was on fire. The blood flow from the injury was slowing down already, morphing from a spring into a leaky faucet.

Even without the armour, he was only able to muster a light jog as he made his way for the fence. His legs felt heavy, as if he was trying to run through wet sand. His wound was healing fast, but it seemed like it was stealing more energy from him in order to do so. There was little chance of making the gate in time and Mason didn’t feel like he had the strength to fight all of the men off.

Images started dancing through his head. His head flying after a slice to the neck. His intestines hanging loose after a slash across the stomach. After everything he’d been through, Torville still managed to send him to his death. He always thought he would go down fighting if a day like this ever came, but like a lot of his other dreams, it seemed like it would remain a fantasy. He might be able to fight off a few of the soldiers, but their numbers would overwhelm him quickly. He’d be hacked to pieces and likely follow in his mother’s footsteps.

Warm tears cut through the dirt on his face, cascading over dry skin before they hung off his cheek and fell to the stone path. They sparkled briefly under the moonlight before they splattered beneath him. The guards from inside the station were now outside, and the men from the gate were just a few feet behind them. Despite the danger in front of him, Mason’s eyes were suddenly drawn upward.

My Next Stop On The Road to Publication

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Analytics show that most of the people reading my blog posts are registered users of the site. Therefore, most people reading this will know that I have been trying to get my first novel published for a while now. For the past few years I have relentlessly pursued the goal of getting traditionally published, where I try to get an agent, who then tries to get my book published a major publisher (Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster etc.). I rejected self-publishing because I knew the struggle I would have as another nobody trying to get recognition for his work. With traditional publishing, there is still a very small change of huge sales, or even profit, but it always seemed like a worthwhile struggle. I think I held onto the possibility that I would be the 1 author in a million that becomes a bestseller, even if that meant years of struggles trying to get an agent.

Now, I’ve exhausted the list of agents that represent science fiction in the US and Canada. A new one might pop up every few weeks, but I’ve been rejected by the bulk of them. I have dozens of copies of the same generic rejection letters. I even spent over $1000 to attend a writer’s conference in New York last summer. I was in no position to spend this money frivolously, but I understood that the value of some experiences can exceed a price tag. I was excited about the opportunity to network with other writers and learn from published ones. I was also excited about the opportunity to pitch my book to agents in person. I got 4 offers to send queries, and I finally felt hopeful again. I edited my story, sent it off with high hopes, and got 4 generic rejection letters again. They weren’t form letters at least, but they still lacked any insight on how to improve: “Thanks for the opportunity…not right for me.” The opportunity to pitch to agents, the “pitch slam” was an extra $200. I don’t want to come across as entitled, but if people pay extra for the opportunity to pitch their letter to you, instead of just sending an email, then I think they are entitled to some constructive criticism that can actually help their writing. It doesn’t have to be an essay but even a sentence saying “starts too slow”, “opening is cliched” etc. can be a big help to an aspiring author. I guess the agents figure getting to pitch to them in person was more than enough reward.

 

25

 

Me after my 4th rejection

I haven’t tried to take an easy route with getting published. I originally finished Elseworld in 2008 and after my initial attempts to get an agent failed, I went back to the book and rewrote it. Every time I got an idea of how to make the book better I did whatever I deemed necessary, eliminating characters, subplots, changing the ending, adding more character development etc. I finished this current version of Elseworld last year, and was confident that I finally cracked the code to getting published. I felt more confident about it than I ever had, which made me confident I could get an agent. Maybe I sound delusional but I always hear that self-confidence (to a certain extent) is necessary to succeed. I edited my query letter (a short pitch that is emailed to agents), changing it to resemble the pitch I gave at the Writer’s Conference. Although the book was rejected, I at least knew that my description of it could pique someone’s interest.

Armed with an improved book and query letter, I took on the task of getting an agent. The same pitch that worked on four agents, failed with a horde of them yet again. Two of the agents who were intrigued by my work at the “pitch slam” were two who previously rejected email pitches. I guess being face-to-face made an agent less likely to say no. Unfortunately, this meant that my email pitches (the standard method) were dead in the water again. More form rejection letters and more questions of what it was going to take to get an agent. I interned with one, and she agreed to take a look at my work. The agency didn’t represent science fiction though, so that plan died in the water too.

It’s been months since my last email query, and I completed another book in the meantime. My original plan was to forget about Elseworld for now and try to get this book published instead. At this point, it still requires editing before I will be comfortable submitting any queries. One option is to complete editing by the end of November, in order to get a polished version of the manuscript and start submitting queries. It can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months for an agent to respond with a form rejection letter, or perhaps a request to see more material. If I go with this plan, another year could pass, and I could be in the same position by the end of it.

My other option, is to bite the bullet and attempt to self-publish. I am not interested in independent self-publishing, where I print the book myself and hire artists for the book cover. There are plenty of platforms that supposedly offer decent readership and the chance for more exposure. Of course, blogging is one, but that hasn’t exactly paid big dividends yet. Medium is another, also little impact so far. Wattpad was recommended to me by a friend, who is considering using it himself, and it may be another avenue I pursue.

wattpad-4

 

 

Like any tool, I am cautious of using it. I already shared my brief experience with Inklitt, which is nothing but  a scam. After looking into Watpadd it does appear to be a legitimate platform, where readers can post their work online, typically chapter by chapter. From what I have researched it also has its faults. Its main readership are female teens and young adults, who gravitate most to romance, teen fiction and fanfiction. Genre fiction, like science-fiction is also pretty popular but gets overshadowed by the latter genres. From what I hear, a lot of the writing is horrible, so my work could be overshadowed by a wannabe E.L. James. I’m not saying I’m Ernest Hemingway but that is a disheartening concept. Yet it may still be one of my best options.

Originally I was considering putting Elseworld on Wattpad but I think I’ll put The Visitor on there instead.  As I’ve mentioned before, The Visitor‘s length would make it more difficult to publish traditionally anyway. Taking inspiration from a friend, I might upload The Visitor under a pen name and then continue trying to publish Elseworld traditionally. If The Visitor manages to get enough traction with Wattpad, and attract publisher attention (like it has for some people) then I could use that to better market Elseworld. That is the next goal. Success is obviously not guaranteed but I’ve got to make a plan to move forward.

An Excerpt from The Visitor

Hello everyone,

I’ve been getting more rest to fight off a cold but I wanted to make sure I stay somewhat productive. Below is an excerpt from my second book, The Visitor, a story of inter-dimensional travel.

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Another cycle was complete. The teleporter successfully sent Adam from the lab to his home two months ago, and the tank came through the portal three days ago. Adam submitted every bodily fluid for testing and military doctors checked his vitals every night when the military came by for their closing sweep of the lab. For the moment, the teleportation didn’t appear to have any ill effects. Adam didn’t physically feel any different.

Mentally, he felt lighter and clearer than ever. He felt like a sprinter getting gold at the Olympics after years of trials and practice. Adam was never a good athlete, but it was the best metaphor. He was on his way to forging a legendary career, his name would never be forgotten by the scientific community, or the public. He would be a national hero.

“See you in three weeks Abel,” Dr. Rowan said as he extended his hand.

Adam froze for a few seconds, this was the first time Dr. Rowan offered a handshake. Adam doubted it was out of respect or courtesy, otherwise it would have come a long time ago. Dr. Rowan knew he would benefit from the work Adam did as a physicist and as a guinea pig. Dr. Rowan was simply the popular girl, showing some semblance of affection when Adam made himself useful. As much as Adam wanted to ignore the gesture, he knew it would be immature. He’d faced enough immaturity from the seniors around him.

“See you then, thanks for everything.” Abel said as he took the hand in his.

The other physicists followed, until Abel was left with Dr. Calvin as usual.

Cages of white rats normally flanked the left side of the lab, but the military removed them once human testing began. Adam had become accustomed to their scuffling in their cages, and the lab felt eerily silent without it. The only sound now was the air conditioning humming silently. All the tables were wiped down, and the teleporter was resting on one of them, waiting to be collected by the military. So much smaller than any bomb or missile, yet still more effective as a deterrent. It wasn’t just a weapon of war, it was a tool that would reshape the social and political landscape.

“Ready to go,” Dr. Calvin said as he hefted his bag.

“Yes, guess I could just teleport back home again.” Adam said.

“If anything, you should teleport me home. My body doesn’t cope with the long drives as well as it used to.”

“I’d have to keep your car then, how would you get back to work?”
“Good point,” Dr. Calvin said.

“I know they’ve tested you as well as they can but I always worry there could be some longer term effects of using the teleporter.” Dr. Calvin said.

“It’s been a few months for the rats now, still nothing there. Let’s hope my body doesn’t fall apart a few years from now.” Abel said.

“I’ll pray for you, metaphorically speaking.” Dr. Calvin said.

“Appreciated.” Adam said.

“On a serious note, I have some errands to run in the city. I was thinking of saving them for tomorrow since I’m dropping you back, but if you’re fine with taking the teleporter back I could take care of them today.” Dr. Calvin said.

“Sounds good to me.” Adam said.

He grabbed the teleporter off the desk and headed down the stairs to the testing area.

“I’ll call you once you’re through to make sure everything’s alright. If you don’t answer I’m going to send an ambulance to your house. I don’t mind driving you either.” Dr. Calvin said.

“I’ll be fine. It’ll be nice to get home early,” Adam said.

“Alright.”
Dr. Calvin took a few seconds to double check the coordinates before pushing the trigger. Adam took the time to savour the air conditioning, knowing that he would be entering a stifling home once he exited the portal. His eyes were closed when the portal opened, but he could see the white light filter through his closed eyelids, attacking the darkness as it made itself at home.

Adam opened his eyes to face his mentor, knowing that he wouldn’t see him again for a few months. Dr. Calvin was going to be tied up with speaking engagements once the project was officially announced in a few days. Adam didn’t have many engagements with news organizations, but he would be travelling to military bases to instruct the military on the use of the portal. Dr. Calvin assured him that this was standard, the youngest member of a group often received the least media attention. Dr. Rowan and the others might try to downplay Adam’s work but Dr. Calvin would be there, speaking with reporters, to assure the world that Adam made a valuable contribution to the project. Christmas break would be here soon and Adam could ring in the New Year as a world-renowned physicist. Things were finally falling into place.

“See you Dr. Calvin.” Adam said.

“Go home and relax Abel, you deserve it.” Dr. Calvin said. His smile revealed an unrivalled level of happiness.

Adam felt himself smile for the first time as well, and the smile was still on his face as he stepped through the portal. His smile vanished as he landed on the other side. There was no change in temperature this time. As Adam entered the hallway of his home, he could feel the air conditioning hitting his face and arms. Adam knew he always kept it off. Evelyn must have turned it on at some point, even though he had told her they couldn’t afford it. It was yet another thing they’d have to fight about.

Adam didn’t want to let the AC ruin his mood though, not after what he accomplished. He rushed towards the end of the hallway, making his way for the main unit to shut of the AC. As he glanced to his left he noticed that every piece of furniture in the living room was different. The worn black couch in his home was replaced by a brown one; the glass table in front of it was now marble. The television that normally sat on a table was now mounted on the wall, and appeared to be at least ten inches bigger. More importantly, the living room floor was covered in carpet, instead of wood.

Turning to his right, Adam saw the kitchen for the first time. The dining table was also covered in a plain white cloth, like the one in his home. The similarity ended there. The stainless steel fridge was an upgrade from Adam’s, and so was the marble countertop. Either Evelyn managed to get all of this changed today, or Adam wasn’t in the right house. Dr. Calvin must have made a mistake with the coordinates. Fortunately, no one was home.

It didn’t seem like Dr. Calvin called him yet. Adam’s hand shot down to his pocket and pulled out his phone. No missed calls. It had been at least one minute so far, Dr. Calvin said he’d call as soon as Abel got through. Adam was considering waiting for a call for a few minutes, when he heard footsteps from the floor above him. The steps were muffled at first but soon became more noticeable as they hit the creaking wood of a staircase. The staircase sounded the same as Adam’s, and if this home had the same layout, the staircase, was in front of the living room. Once someone reached the bottom of it, they would see him As Adam’s head swiveled to the stairs, he caught a glimpse of a family photo hanging above the television. Four black faces were staring back at him.

“David, is that you?” A woman’s voice said. It wasn’t Evelyn’s.

Adam didn’t need any further prodding. He dashed back to the portal, and reemerged in the lab. He nearly slipped on the lab’s metal floor, seeing Dr. Calvin standing on the upper level with the phone in his hand. Dr. Calvin saw him and abruptly hung up.

“Close the portal, now.” Adam said.

“I wasn’t joking when I said I’d call an ambulance. Why didn’t you pick up?” Dr. Calvin said as he reached for the portal.

“I never got a call from you.” Adam said. Adam didn’t consider himself athletic but fear and adrenaline allowed him to bound up the steps. Dr. Calvin pressed the teleporter’s trigger as Adam reached the main level and Adam looked back to see the portal disappear.

“Look.”

Dr. Calvin looked at the phone’s display, obviously surprised to see that Adam was telling the truth.

“You’re number is 905-876-2999 right?”

“Yeah, you sure that’s what you called?”

“Positive, I tried three times. Are you getting bad signal at your house?”

“Got a call there his morning. Reception’s fine at my house, but I’m worried that I wasn’t in my house just now.”

“I made sure they were the right coordinates. I guarantee it.” Dr. Calvin presented the teleporter to Abel, and it was his turn to be surprised.

The coordinates were displayed on one of the teleporter’s surfaces, on a small screen directly above the keypad. The numbers were right. Adam was in the right coordinates for his house.

“What happened?” Dr. Calvin said.

“The furniture was different. The tv was different, and there was a family photo in the house that wasn’t my family. That wasn’t my house.”

“Could it have been a neighbours? Maybe the teleporter malfunctioned and sent you somewhere close by? We’ve had this issue before, I thought we fixed it but,”

“No. I’m not best friends with them, but I’ve seen them before. Neither of them are black and that family photo showed a black family.”

“Someone down the street?” Dr. Calvin said.

“How long since we’ve had that issue?” Adam said.

“Nearly a year,” Dr. Calvin said.

“Right, since then, we have teleported people a few feet away and even from other continents. We’ve spent entire days testing it. Every time, people end up exactly where we want them to. What are the changes that the teleporter has malfunctioned now?” Adam said.

“Low, but nothing is 100% predictable.” Dr. Calvin said.

Adam wanted to believe that the teleporter didn’t send him to different coordinates. The teleporter was hours away from being collected by the military for use. The military would be trained on how to use the teleporters and they would be the ones taking the time to carefully survey each world, enlisting the services of a field of scientists like botanists and geologists to study every world’s climate. The government already considered the project a success and announcing a setback now could lead to the governmental council becoming an enemy, not an ally.

If the teleporter was working, then that would alleviate one worry, but also lead to an even bigger question. If the teleporter did send Adam to the right coordinates for his home, why did he end up in someone else’s house? There was one possibility, but Adam had a hard time accepting it. Yet it was the only one that made sense. It made even more sense as he considered one detail that he ignored until this point. A calendar was hanging on the fridge, but the fridge originally took all of Adam’s attention.

The calendar had a variety of notes attached to it, but Adam couldn’t read them from where he was standing. What he could read was the date, displayed in bold black lettering: 2010. Adam realized that the calendar could be an old one, but it didn’t make sense to have a six year old calendar displayed, with dates marked all over it. If the coordinates were right, then there was only one explanation for where Adam just travelled to.

“Adam? What are you thinking?” Dr. Calvin said.

“I’m thinking we just made another breakthrough.” Adam said.

#

Quick Update

Hello everyone,

I’m currently writing another piece for comicommand, which will hopefully be posted tonight or tomorrow on the site. I’ll then have it posted here after.

I have been posting more fiction to the wmoviegrapevine instagram. I started off posting short excerpts from some of my older poems, but then drifted towards non-fiction more since I started using daily life as more of an inspiration for my blog pieces and my instagram posts. I started returning to posting fiction pieces more often on wmoviegrapevine over the past week and have found that there has been greater engagement with this pieces: more likes and followers. I am nearly at 100 now, and was able to amass 20 new ones in a relatively short time.

Posting fiction pieces more also means that I have nearly exhausted the material from my poetry pieces. For that reason I want to start writing fiction pieces for the site more. I can then use these fiction pieces for the instagram posts and continue to build an audience. I think that this will also help me as I continue writing The Visitor again.

As I mentioned in my last update, I was caught up in vanity metrics for a while. I was paying attention to followers and likes, losing track of the main purpose of the account: getting more followers to the site. I have now installed Google Analytics but wish I had done it earlier. Now I can’t see if anything I’ve done with my social media since the beginning has helped to increase site traffic. All I can do now is monitor the traffic from this point on.

 

 

Inklitt and The Pursuit of Publication

 

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As some of you may know, I have been trying to get a novel published for the past few years. Generally, the most lucrative way to get a book published is through traditional publishing with one of the “Big 6” publishers: Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Random House, MacMillan and The Penguin Group.
For the most part, these publishers do not accept direct requests for publication. One must first get a literary agent, who helps to edit and pitch the book. If the agent manages to get a publisher, the agent then helps you to market the book. Once the book is on the shelves, the agent then typically collects 15% of the earnings for domestic sales and 20-25% for international sales.
Self-publishing is always an option too, where an author prints and markets the book themselves. Obviously, this is an extremely tough route to take for someone who does not have a large built-in audience or platform, such as myself. Stephen King has self-published some of his more recent works, but he is Stephen King. He can easily reach out to media outlets, his audience etc. and get marketing exposure.

For someone such as myself, an unknown 24 year-old, self-publishing is not a practical route. A friend was recently trying to persuade me to look into it, thinking that I was avoiding hard work. Let’s be clear though, trying to get an agent is not easy either.

The publishing field is ridiculously competitive and agents need to have complete faith that your idea is not only good, but that it will sell well enough to compensate for the time and effort they will put into it. You might hear about a lot of New York Times Bestsellers, but they are the lottery winners, and help to disguise the thousands of other writers who will never get their work published because they couldn’t get an agent. Even once your book is published, there is no guarantee it will sell. Half of the books in a bookstore will never sell a single copy. Additionally, half the writers with one published work will never get a second one published. Even with the support of a big publisher, a book can fail to make a profit. Which is why self-publishing is not a route I am interested in.

I went to a writer’s conference last summer, where I was surrounded by nearly 1000 other aspiring authors. It was a very supportive atmosphere but it does not negate the fact that hundreds of those people could be competition for getting a science-fiction novel published: Hundreds of people from just one conference in one city.

However, I still attempt to beat the odds and get an agent. Most agents like to be contacted by snail mail or email. Very few will accept an entire manuscript. Instead of sending the entire book, most agents request a query letter, which is basically a one-page letter with details such as the book’s genre and word count. The query also includes a brief summary, similar to what you see on the back of a published book, and any info about the author that is relevant to the book. It is especially good to include details on any previously published work. Some agents might also request that the query include a synopsis or chapters of the book. Therefore, it’s important to read each agent’s guidelines closely.

Many agents get hundreds of queries in one week, so it takes most of them weeks to respond to one. I have submitted countless queries over the past five years. Since completing my last rewrite of my book two years ago, I have submitted at least thirty more. Most have been rejected.

Back in March 15, I had one-agent request the first three chapters of my book, after reading the query letter. This would be a great first step. The agent rejected the first three chapters last week and I am back to square one in my pursuit.

This state of disappointment and desperation is what led me to Inklitt.com. I received a message on twitter six days ago, saying that “Linda” of Inklitt would be delighted to see my unpublished manuscript in their “Grand Novel Contest”. I got the message prior to the rejection by the agent and didn’t pay much attention to it, since I was foolishly optimistic about the response I would get from the agent. After the rejection I went back to my twitter messages and promptly posted my book on the site. I had to upload the book chapter by chapter, which allowed me to correct a few remaining spelling mistakes. That is probably the only good thing that came out of the experience.

Inklitt’s conditions says that whoever won the contest would have their story pitched to an “A-list” publisher, like the Big 6 ones. If a Big 6 publisher accepted it then the author will receive 85% of net earnings. If a Big 6 publisher did not accept it then Inklitt will publish the novel and give the author 50% of earnings. The first thing that bothered me about the contest was the fact that the submission period was March 7-June 7, while the voting period is March 7-June 14. Anyone who submitted their work earlier is eligible to get more votes for their book, which would lead to them winning the contest. It seemed like a poorly designed system and made me wonder why someone would reach out this late in the contest to request new submissions.

I then searched for Inklitt on Twitter and found the same message I originally received from “Linda”- on 10 other accounts.

Hi (username)! I’d love to see your unpublished manuscript in our contest: https://www.inkitt.com/grand?utm_source=twb&utm_campaign=grandcontest&utm_medium=twb2&utm_term=1462732439 … Love, Linda

“Linda’s” page, @BookBookRest has 28 followers, which seemed like little for a reputable online publishing company. It was also a bad sign that, aside from the spam, the content of the account did not seem related to Inklitt.

I then did what I should have looked into before, and researched the company. Googling “Inklitt” just led to the site so I Googled “Can I trust Inklitt”. The first result was a blog post describing how Inklitt posts received a temporary ban on Reddit due to the frequent posts. Once my novel was submitted Inklitt gave links to promote it on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. Since Reddit does not allow self-promotion in most of its “sub-reddits” my post was promptly flagged. It seems like any reputable company should have factored such information into their marketing plans, instead of using the logic that “Reddit users love to read”.

This blog post also describes how Inklitt’s founder, Ali Albazaz, was inspired by the success of Fifty Shades of Grey. Albazaz liked how E.L James published her fan-fiction online, getting exposure and feedback before the book was officially published: “Don’t publish in two years when you’re finished. Publish as you go, get feedback from other writers and improve.” I have heard countless times that Fifty Shades of Grey is poorly written so it seems obvious that Albazaz is just out for money. Obviously every agent wants a book to sell well, but part of the reason a good agent will choose to represent it is because they like the story too. Albazaz claims that their system has a good algorithm for identifying the contest entries with the most engagement, which allows them to pick the best options for publication.

Googling Inklitt more revealed many more articles that advised people to avoid it at all costs. It was at this point that I removed my submission and all traces of it on my social media. I looked back on the submission and chided myself for wasting the time to put my novel up. It seemed so obvious that I should have reviewed the company first, but the offer came at a time when I was less likely to do so. Recent rejection by an agent, after waiting to hear back from the agent for two months, made me desperate to think that my time had come. It hasn’t, and who knows if it ever will.

Elseworld

For this week’s blog post I wanted to share the first five pages of my science-fiction novel, Elseworld. I am still seeking publication for it and I am also working on a second novel in the meantime.

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Chapter One

Bitham knew that a bloodstained planet was somewhere west of him: Thousands, maybe millions of miles away. Despite that distance, the planet was still a constant presence in his life. It motivated him to pursue a career in law enforcement, and now it was going to give him a promotion. The bloodstained planet had been uninhabited for centuries, but newer generations of its people now lived on Bitham’s planet. Confined to their plantations, they were now a key source of labour, still paying off their ancestor’s debt. Bitham knew some people who still thought that the slaves should be exterminated, the same way their people tried to exterminate his.

Escaped slaves protested their treatment the only way their race knew – with violence. The deadliest of these terrorists were somewhere in the city of Mari, the city that Bitham was now living in. Which brought Bitham back to the thought he didn’t want to confront: he owed something to the people who were terrorizing the planet. Did that thought occur to the nineteen other men sitting in the room with him?

Bitham didn’t sit too close to anyone else. Ahead of him, he had a clear view of the podium and forty rows of chairs. No one bothered to remove the extras to accommodate this meeting. With golden tiles at his feet and metal walls all around him, Bitham felt like the room represented the combination of royalty and military that he would become, once he beat his competitors. Some of the other men were conversing amongst themselves but Bitham stayed alone – conversing with an opponent might give away information that could help them defeat him. He also did not want to get emotionally attached to people he would probably never see again.

The walls echoed sound all across the room and although the men all spoke quietly Bitham could make out snippets of their conversations: Names, cities, and occupations. They were all policemen, but policemen drawn from all across the planet. Each police force would have its own strengths and weaknesses, and Bitham wanted any information that could prove useful for the tests ahead.

He heard one man say he was from Varos, the neighbouring city. He would probably be one of the best drivers here, trained to manoeuvre through Varos’s dense web of skyscrapers. Bitham knew driving skills would probably be irrelevant for the tests since the uniforms here would enable policemen to fly. Even the most skilled driver would be starting from scratch.

Bitham already determined that it would make more sense for the tests to focus on intelligence and fitness. If that was the case, he had no doubt he’d succeed. If he miscalculated, then the tests would be much more difficult than he hoped.

Instead of eavesdropping on the conversations ahead, Bitham looked to his right to admire the poster of the man he hoped to meet someday. The ruler of Mari and the entire planet of Gabun: Damiak. The poster covered most of the wall, save for a few inches on the four corners. Damiak stood at an outdoor podium, standing high above an audience of admiring Gabuns. His arms were spread to his sides as he gazed at the crowd below him, with the golden sun behind him adding an ethereal glow. With this opportunity, Bitham could meet Damiak one day.

A door opened ahead of him and Bitham’s attention returned to the front. All chatter died immediately, with unfinished sentences bouncing off the metal walls before they died. A man was now entering the room, using a door positioned behind the podium. He was around six feet tall, with a slim build. Bitham knew he was about fifty, but the man’s face belonged to someone ten years older. Everyone already knew he was Eccaus, the city’s minister.

As Eccaus stopped behind the podium, he launched into a speech most definitely handed down by Damiak. Everyone knew that with Damiak’s strict control of his planet, Eccaus and every other ministers answered to him and all of their political decisions could be overridden. Having someone else to speak for him was only a convenience meant to ensure that Damiak’s time was not overly consumed and that he remained protected. Despite that, Eccaus and his position were greatly respected. It was still the greatest milestone any citizen could hope for.

“Good afternoon. You are the twenty people in all of Gabun who the government views as law enforcers of exceptional integrity. None of you have a wife or children; you understand that if you are granted this position all of your time and loyalty will be devoted to your ruler. You will all have an equal chance of ascending to the position of Gabun’s newest police division, the Order of Malvag. The Order of Malvag will act both as detectives and enforcers that work with the police to eliminate any threat to Damiak and his people. The suits you will receive were created by our planet’s best engineers and scientists, and designed to make you far more adaptable and efficient than any other policemen.”

“Only two will make it through this program. There will be eighteen challenges, and at least one person will be eliminated after each. I will not give you briefing on what the challenges constitute. Being able to succeed in an unplanned situation is a valuable skill in police work. Starting tomorrow, you will meet in this room every morning at seven, in your police uniforms. If you are late you are automatically disqualified. That will be all; you have the rest of the day to do as you please.”

Eccaus left quickly and Bitham followed suit: He left the room before his competitors stood up. The golden tiles continued into the hallway outside the meeting room, and so did the steel walls. White light bathed the floor, emanating from a cylindrical bulb that was built into the roof and covered by bulletproof glass. Bitham passed other rooms, knowing that officers were hard at work, perhaps compiling evidence or doing paperwork in each one that he passed. Yet he couldn’t see or hear anything.

Bitham knew the architecture in this city was once decadent and impractical, but the threat of terrorism made it important for that to change. Every room in this building could serve as a bunker if the building was ever attacked. Fortunately the terrorists never attacked it. Aside from the sentries, authorities thought that they avoided attacking this building due to its position at the northern end of the city. Most of their attacks were concentrated near the center of Mari, supporting the theory that they were hiding somewhere in the southern end. Bitham was determined to be one of the people that solved the mystery.

Reaching the end of the hallway, Bitham ascended the staircase to the building’s lobby. There was one desk positioned to the left of the staircase, where a police officer stood, waiting for any criminals to be brought in for processing. There were small piles of paper arranged all over the desk, everything from travel permits to kits for fingerprinting. Bitham nodded as he passed, only receiving a stare in return. That didn’t matter; he’d be the man’s commanding officer in a few weeks.

As Bitham stepped foot outside and onto the station’s behemoth parking lot, the sun’s rays greeted him, replacing the white light from the bulbs. Hundreds of parking spaces were empty. It seemed like most of the vehicles – the levpods, were being used for patrols all across the city. The parking lot was bigger than it needed to be, but it provided a flat and unobscured area that extended for nearly one hundred yards. Bitham looked towards the roof, seeing that two police snipers were still stationed there, with a tarp shielding them from the sun’s heat.

Instead of heading for the residence building, Bitham flashed the visitor badge around his neck to the snipers before walking around the right side of the building. As he passed the building’s east side, he realized how accustomed he was to peaking in windows. Instead of seeing officers hard at work, Bitham was only greeted by blue stone: Another precaution against the terrorists. Homes all across the city were redesigned over the past three years, with stone and steel, to resemble this building.

A much smaller parking lot, maybe only fifty feet long, gave way to a grassy field in the backyard. Bitham heard footsteps and glanced up to the roof again, seeing two more officers patrolling the northern end. Instead of concrete, they could admire the view of the lake that bordered the police station’s northern end.

A wall was erected hundreds of years ago to create the peasant quarter, and in addition to segregating the poor, the wall also obstructed the natural flow of numerous rivers. The lake behind the police station was carved out to relieve the water pressure. Bitham didn’t care about the poor, but if they had been allowed to die he would be denied the view.

The water’s torrents rushed away to his right, bathed in sunlight and creating a white trail that led into a heavily wooded forest on the horizon. In addition to the view, the scent of freshwater was a welcome change from the bleached surfaces in the police station.

Bitham remembered all the sacrifices he had made to get here: The friends he lost, the childhood summers spent in government training camps… the list went on, but Bitham felt no regret. Everything had been worth it to this point; he knew he would make his leader proud.

There was no better time to prove his loyalty.

My Next Book

So while I work on getting my first novel published I wanted to avoid procrastinating and put in a conscious effort to work on another one. For now I am just trying to stay consistent with one page a day. I thought I would share the first three pages of “The Visitor” with you all.

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Abel had seen his reflection enough to know that the man standing on his doorstep was almost an exact copy of him. Abel was planning to give his visitor an earful for incessantly banging on his door, but he found himself speechless. Despite the thick beard and the soiled clothes, Abel was still drawn solely to the identical facial features.

“It seems like you recognize me. Sorry for not being dressed to impress at the moment.” The visitor smiled, seemingly amused by Abel’s blank expression.

“Who are you?”

“I have a lot to explain, can I come in?”

Abel wasn’t normally keen on inviting unannounced strangers into his home, but this time he didn’t hesitate to step aside. His visitor entered the foyer, scanning his surroundings as if he was searching for something: making Abel realize he may have made a foolish decision.

“Who-,” Abel began as he closed the door behind him.

“It’s complicated, and if I tell you you’d probably think I’m insane.” The visitor redirected his attention to Abel, and Abel felt his skin crawl as he made eye contact.

“I don’t think it’s much of a stretch if you say we’re related.”

“Not quite. Anyone else home?” Abel shook his head, and his heart began to race as he realized he might have made a mistake letting this stranger into his home.

The visitor raised his hand, revealing a cylindrical object about a foot in length.

Instead of making a dash for the front door, Abel’s fear immobilized him, keeping him rooted in place.

“What is that?”

“You sound more curious than worried. Good.”

Without further hesitation the visitor pointed the cylinder toward Abel’s living room, and then pressed one of several buttons located on the left side. A stream of light issued from the opposite end of the cylinder, spiraling out from holes located on the right side.

Abel jumped as he witnessed the spectacle in front of him, not knowing what to expect. He could feel his hair standing on end as the spirals of light created a single solid wall of white light that enveloped the space in front of him, the light stretched from the floor to make a perimeter around the walls. The visitor was obviously used to this sight and looked back at Abel to gage his response.

“Now that I’ve shown you this, I think it’s a better time to tell you that I’m not related to you. I’m not from this planet. I am from a different earth in a different dimension. I am here because I need your help. Follow me.”

The visitor might not be insane, but there was still the possibility that he was dangerous. Abel knew it would still be wise just to head for the front door and leave. But where would that leave him, scared to return to his home. And how would he explain this visitor to the police?

Abel’s curiosity was now overpowering his fear. He wanted to know what was on the other end of the portal. Abel dashed to the closet and took a few seconds deciding what shoes to bring, as if inter-dimension travel was a regular occurrence. Abel figured that since he didn’t know where he was going, he wanted the most practical shoes and selected a pair of sneakers.

Abel hesitated as he reached the portal, feeling a sort of gravitational pull emanating from the portal’s center. The pull wasn’t strong enough to drag Abel in, but it was enough to make him realize what a sudden turn of events he’d been subjected to. The intensity of the light began to blind him as he stood in front and it led him to take another leap of faith.

So my Mac is water damaged.

Note: I wrote this piece on my Aunt’s computer, mostly as a way to take my mind off my situation and stay somewhat productive. The tenses came out a bit weird in this, since it starts with past tense and transitions to present. My professors would hate that.

Anyway…

So for those of you who saw my tweet, you’ll know that my mac got water damaged n Wednesday morning. Just how I wanted to start my day.

How?

Like many times before I had a glass of water nearby while I was working. A shift of a table mat was all it took to fill me with regret. Like many online help forums told me, I was an idiot for having water near my computer in the first place. Thanks guys.

As my mom says, accidents happen when careful people slip up. While many forums pretty much said I was screwed, some offered more helpful advice that could possibly help me and save me the trouble of repairing my computer or buying a new one. All the advice was pretty much the same: disassemble(really tough with a mac), let it sit in a warm room positioned so that it can drain the water for a few days. The tips were helpful but I was worried I already fried the computer by trying to turn it on within a few minutes of the accident. At the time I was panicking and did not realize that could just cause it to short circuit.

Throughout most of wednesday and thursday I worried. Worried about the cost of a repair or new computer (which I couldn’t afford), recovering my book, recovering the work I did as a research assistant, falling behind on my job search etc.

I knew that worrying wouldn’t help, but taking my mind off my potentially fried computer was easier said than done. I’m trying to to take my mind of things. I caught up on video games, watched a Jays game and went for my first run in a few months. Yet the mac keeps coming back to my mind. Most of my to do list depends on it. I like being productive, and my relaxation is tainted knowing that I was only relaxing so much because my main work tool is out of commission.

Worrying doesn’t help but I have to face the possibility of my mac never turning on or working again. I can’t help but think of the best case scenario, that my Mac turns on again and keeps working. I know some people online say they have had luck but I don’t know if I am as lucky as they are. I know that life simply sucks sometimes. As I write this on thursday I can only that luck is on my side this time.

The Visitor

His parents were asleep in the next room,
The family dog rested by the foot of his bed,
Aside from their breathing, there was no other noise in the home,

The child seemed innocent now,
Turning four next week,
With his small hands resting beneath his face,
I knew the innocence would not last though,

This child would grow into a dictator and a murderer,
If he was not killed, the future could not be avoided,
That is why I am here,
I could not wait for a weed to grow before I pulled it out,

I had watched my family, my friends and my wife die,
All as a result of the person in front of him
I gave up on getting rid of the problem in my own time,
Each day that passed left me feeling like Sisyphus,
Doomed to repeat a task that I can never complete,
If one act could undo everything that happened to the ones I loved,
I knew I could no longer hesitate and hide behind a veil of morality,

I ignored my conscience and unsheathed my knife from my waist,
As I raised my knife above the child’s head,
I knew I was stopping his metamorphosis into something else, like preventing a caterpillar from morphing into a butterfly,
This was different though; humans didn’t start off as something grotesque,
They began as beautiful creatures and became something grotesque as they grew older