Today, I learned something. I couldn’t go to work, because I could barely walk. I can’t get in to see a doctor til next Thursday. My room mate, “Constance” and I, took her son to pay off a fine he had. She uses a walker; I use a cane. In addition to her needing the walker for her situation, she also has a sprained ankle. So, here we are: guy with cane, chick with walker, both under fifty, barely creeping along through a parking lot. See it? Amusing. Neither of us expected to find ourselves in our forties looking like Ma and Pa Kettle, but there it is.

Anyway, I said I learned something. Last week, I went to work every day, left the cane behind the counter, and ran (figuratively) all over the shop. Grabbing saxophones down from the walls, moving the stand-up bass around, whatever. Carrying on like a regular person. A while back, Constance was feeling, as she put it, “cocky” and decided that her sprained ankle wasn’t that bad, and hopped all around on it.

She fell and re-injured her ankle.

I must’ve over-done it, and now can’t even lift my feet. I am walking like a shuffling zombie, a Scooby Doo monster.

We sat in the lobby of the DMV together, commiserating. I thought I should be getting better, not having days where things get worse. She felt the same way. What she said, however, was this:

“I don’t look at it any more as, ‘my ankle’s getting better’. I look at it like ‘today my ankle is doing good’ or ‘not so good’. We gotta learn to take the good days when we can get ’em.”

Hope you are taking the good days when you can get ’em, you lot.

This picture is called "Pretty Good Match" because I used a photo editing tool to blank out a weird looking dark blotch on it. I took it on one of the "good" days, so it's appropriate.

This picture is called “Pretty Good Match” because I used a photo editing tool to blank out a weird looking dark blotch on it. I took it on one of the “good” days, so it’s appropriate.

 

 

 

words and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

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Posted: February 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

From my other blog about pictures and stuff and things.

Behold The Image!

British Deli_cious in beautiful downtown Dunedin, FL. Allison and Garrett create a welcoming atmosphere in this cozy little place, playing great music and providing a taste of the U.K. to ex-pats and ‘Muricans alike. Check it out if you’re in the area.

words and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

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The bus ride  seemed to stretch on for a cold, overly air conditioned eternity. It was crowded – everyone in Pinellas County seemed to be on this one bus. The seats are close together. This means that someone with long legs such as myself can find no comfortable way to sit in a bus seat. In short, it was your typical bus ride.

After I had seen a few more sunrises and sunsets, I finally arrived at my destination. A car ride here would have taken, maybe, 30 minutes tops. But, on the bus, it takes you sooo much longer. I hobbled off the bus and went into the office of the MRI device.

“We’ll need you to fill out this ream of paper work before we begin,” the nurse told me. “If your pen runs out of ink, just ask us for another one at the desk.” I am, now, officially tired of seeing my own name. I think I filled out less paperwork the last time I bought a car.

“Do you have claustrophobia, mister Ward? There’s not really much we can do about it if you do, we just I want to be able to say why when you start freaking out.” And with that I was loaded into a tube, with headphones placed on my ears and a plastic cage over my head. “What kind of music do you want to hear?” the technician asked me.

“Uh, reggae?”

Soon, Bob Marley begin singing about his 3 little birds in my ears. Only to be immediately drowned out by the sound of the world’s largest electric toothbrush committing unspeakable acts. This went on for the better part of half an hour. I closed my eyes, clenched my teeth, and thought of England. (Why are so many medical procedures reminiscent of the sort of things that you find in an S&M dungeon? Not saying it’s a bad thing; just wondering.)

It finally ended. “Shabba!” And just like that, I was extracted from the tube. I was dazed, I was confused, but I wasn’t happy about it.

“Your doctor will let you know about the results in a few days,” the tech said. I had noticed that he and the other techs were dancing in the little room that they check on the progress of the MRI. Glad someone could enjoy the music.

“Can I take a picture of that infernal machine?”

words and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

So, I finished the rough draft of the first book of Allosaurus. I did a quick and dirty word count, and it comes out to just around 19,300 words. Those of you who are familiar with National Novel Writing Month know that the goal is 20,000 in one month.

Took me seven.

Still, it’s the first time I’ve written that kind of volume without being on some sort of manic episode – thus, putting the tales of Fran and Palmetto-Bug Man ahead of the original Ashland* by leaps and bounds. Also, the original Ashland has been, mercifully, lost. So, yay meds.

A lot of people look at writing as homework that you have to do, every day, for the rest of your life. Forgot who said that. It doesn’t feel too far off the mark. But there was also an element that felt like I was compelled to write. Even on days when I was tired, or didn’t “feel” like it, Fran and company beckoned. I could see her in my head, arms folded, foot tapping. “Dude, let’s go!” she’d exclaim, while Fenris and Pamela checked their watches. “I got asses to kick! C’mon!” And so I’d follow them along, writing as I went. When I would try and write something that was out of character for them, they would look back at me, incredulously. “You know I wouldn’t do that,” Mister Vanglorious would say. This made it a bit difficult to stick to the original plan of my story, in which Fran dies. It also allows me to go further in exploring what I really want to write about with these characters, which is the way a person can become a monster – and how they can, maybe, win back their humanity.

Speaking of Mister Vanglorious, there are several characters that I “borrowed” from my best friend Doc. Doc’s a hardcore gamer, with experience working in the industry designing peripherals. He’s that serious. He came up with D – Nforcer, Vanglorious and Arctica Winters as avatars for DC Online and Champions Online. Thing is, he more or less killed them off in the games, so I was only too happy to give them new life in Allosaurus. Thanks, Doc.

 

*Ashland is a story I’ve been writing on and off for about twenty years, in all honesty. The basic theme of Ashland is the way things lose their real value when everything has a price. I stopped writing it because, as a satire, it slowly became indistinguishable from reality.

This is a long one. It is also the last one. Thank you for following along. I hope it didn’t suck much. Go back to the beginning, or go to the previous episode. Again, thanks.

Cheryl ran on tip-toe down the hall. Her hand hurt like a sonuvabitch, but it had been worth it. Just because you had a last minute change of heart about me, she thought, doesn’t make up for what you did. This thought, however, made her stumble a tiny bit.

Somewhere in this trap they’d set up, Fran was looking for her. Trying to save her.

If Fran only knew, Cheryl thought. A wave of guilt shook her, shook her violently. She flashed back to that night, two years ago, at the Midnight Moon. Terrible things happened. Cheryl inhaled sharply.

You gotta make it out of here, she thought. Make it out of here or you won’t be able to … make things right with Fran.

Cheryl rounded a corner, and gasped.

Fran stopped dead in her tracks, and gasped.

Wordlessly they ran at each other, so hard that Cheryl almost knocked Fran over. The embrace lasted forever, but not nearly long enough.

“We gotta get outta here,” Cheryl blurted. “This is a trap.”

“Shh. I know. Perfect bait, too,” Fran replied with a grin. “But we can’t go just yet. Me and Killswitch got some unfinished business – ”

“And we’d be only too happy if you stayed around,” came Franklin’s voice; seemingly from all around them. He appeared from around a corner, briefly; just long enough to point something that flashed twice. Cheryl and Fran dropped to the ground.

Now, how do I move them? “Fenris! A little help?” Franklin called.

~~~

Sub-vocals and hand signs. Signals. The SWAT team moved into position. Breaking through the roof, the windows, the doors. Palmetto-Bug Man/ Ping Bai Mah heard them. Sloppy. In China, such sloppiness would not have been tolerated. A group, three or four, approached him, guns drawn.

It wasn’t enough.

Bullets bounced harmlessly off Ping Bai Mah, just like in the good old days. Palmetto-Bug Man felt oddly rejuvenated as he bent their rifles into balloon-animal shapes. It was as if knowing the truth had set his aging process back. Something to muse on as he beat one officer with another officer. When they were all incapacitated, Ping Bai Mah moved on. By memory, he made his way to what he knew must be the command center. He had some things to discuss with his handlers.

~~~

Vanglorious heard the SWAT team breaking in. Sloppy, he thought. If I were in charge of them, I wouldn’t tolerate it. He heard gunshots, then a laugh; muffled and choked screams followed. He hoped that it wasn’t Fran.

“Don’t move.” A voice from behind him. Female. “Flinch and I will put large holes in several of your organs. Do you understand?” Vanglorious nodded. “Hands straight out to your sides and fingers spread, please,” the female voice continued. He complied, dropping the metal staff he carried. It clanged on the ground, then shrank to a rod about a foot long.

“Hm. UHY-97 Bo Staff. Memory steel. Unlicensed, I’m sure.” Bamela Divers, Bureau Agent, nodded in admiration. “An elegant weapon, wouldn’t you say? Nothing loud and sloppy like the SWAT team. Now, carefully – and I can’t stress this enough – carefully kick that back to me. Then turn around.” Vanglorious did what she asked.

“You’re that ‘Mister Vanglorious’ guy, right? What are you doing here?” Bamela asked, stooping to retrieve the staff while never taking her eyes off Vanglorious.

Vanglorious shrugged. “I got lost,” he answered. “A friend of mine told me about a little Hurricane Melpo party.”

“Right. I think I got the same invite.” Bamela nodded.

“Okay. You got me.” Vanglorious casually remarked. “Now can I put my arms down? They’re getting tired.”

“Slowly,” Bamela answered. The gun never wavered. Vanglorious yawned. This triggered needle darts that shot out from hidden shooters in his sides that sped towards Bamela. They hit home, slowing her reflexes. She fired, but too late. Vanglorious wasn’t where she was aiming anymore. He snatched the gun out of her hand. As Bamela lost consciousness, she saw Vanglorious shrug.

“Sneaky and old’ll beat young and quick every time,” or something like that she heard him say, as she slumped to the ground.

~~~

“What do you think we should do with ’em?” Fenris asked.

“Whaddya  mean?” Franklin replied. “We follow the plan. We’ll film Commando Girl here, we chop off her head or whatever, then we do the same with her friend.”

“What are you going to do with the traitor?” came Forbes’ voice. He had Pamela by the arm, a gun in her back. “I had my suspicions about her ever since the school incident.”

“Let her go.” Fenris’ hands reflexively formed into fists at his side.

“Shut up.” Forbes shouted.

“Freeze!” Officer Smith yelled. The SWAT team, minus the several that Ping Bai Mah took out, burst into the room.

“我会毁了你!” bellowed Ping Bai Mah.

“So, we’re all here,” Forbes called. “Good! I’ve been waiting for this – ”

Fran was groggy. Slowly she came around. There she was, tied up. There was Cheryl, next to her, tied up as well. She could just barely make out voices, all yelling, all at once. People-like shapes swam in and out of her consciousness, her field of vision. Someone pointed a gun at Cheryl.

Then, it got weird.

Fran was free! She didn’t know or care how. She jumped in front of the gun. It was her unprotected head, and not the bullet proof vest with the target painted on it, that intercepted the bullet. Dead, instantly.

Fran was free! She didn’t know or care how. She grabbed at Cheryl, pulling her out of the way of the bullet at the last second. Somehow, there were brains and skull bits on her bullet proof vest, right near the target she had painted on it. They ran from the room.

Fran was free! She didn’t know or care how. She leaped at the face wielding the gun. There was a shot. She heard a scream.

Fran was free! She didn’t know or care how. She tackled the swat team. All of them. At once.

Fran was free! She didn’t know or care how. She took Ping Bai Mah down a second time.

Fran was free! She didn’t know or care how. She met up with Vanglorious in the hallway. “Come on!” she yelled. “The shit’s goin’ down!” Vanglorious followed.

She kicked Franklin in the throat.

She broke Fenris.

She snapped Forbes’ arms like twigs.

She stood and stared at Pamela. She couldn’t bring herself to do anything to her.

She paused to glance at the twin sister, Bamela. Bamela slowly came to, a look of comprehension dawning on her face.

All these things happened at once.

Bamela shook her head. “You figured it out,” she sighed. “The dis-entangler.” There was a small army of “Fran”s, one for each possible choice Fran could have made at that instant. Several had died. Others were kicking ass. They won.

And then they vanished.

~~~

“Way I see it, we need each other,” Bamela said. Vanglorious, Fran, and Cheryl, had separated themselves from the crowd of police and EMTs. A quick badge flash from Bamela was all it took to quell any questions or double takes.

“Wait,” Cheryl asked. “What’s gonna happen to them?”

“Who? Franklin and Fenris are going away for a long time. Forbes too, most likely.  Palmetto-Bug Man is the Bureau’s responsibility. He’s a clone with a limited life span. We’ll try to calm him back down, let him live out the rest of his life in peace. My sister has some explaining to do. Did I leave anyone out?”

Cheryl thought for a moment, then shook her head.

“Who needs who?” Vanglorious asked.

“Ms. Braithwaite needs our training. She’s a natural, but there are some things you don’t learn at the community college annex. And the Bureau could use her – she’s the first person who’s ever figured out how to work with the dis-entangler.” Bamela looked across to Vanglorious. “We could use a man with your resourcefulness as well, Mr. Douglass. – Oh, don’t look so surprised. The Bureau’s been keeping tabs on you since you got all ‘Black Power’ -y back when Flava Flav mattered.”

“Do I have a choice?” Fran asked. “I think Vangl – Mr. Douglass could use some help from me, too.”

“There’s always a choice, Ms Braithwaite,” Bamela answered. “You of all people should know that.”

“Good. We’ll let you know.” Fran nodded. The three of them left.

~~~

“Fran, there’s something I have to tell you.” Vanglorious had dropped the two of them off at their apartment. The wind was dying down. It was too – damn  -early – in  – the  – morning thirty.

“You’re leaving? I knew that part.”

“No, that’s not it – shit, this is hard for me.”

Fran put a hand over hers. “Take your time.”

“You know, two years ago, when – ”

“Yes. What about it?”

“I … I saw what was  … happening. I saw you, struggling, hurt, the fear in your eyes. I could’ve stopped it. But I … I didn’t. I was too scared.”

Fran grinned a little ruefully. “I know.”

“WHAT-” Cheryl blurted.

“Listen. Shh. Let me tell you what happened.” Fran stroked Cheryl as she pulled her close, leaning against her. “I saw you. I saw you looking so terrified. I saw the guilt come over you in the weeks and months later. Did you think I was just out to get revenge?”

“Well, yeah, kinda.” Cheryl shrugged.

Fran nodded. “‘Well, yeah, kinda’,”, she mocked. “There was that. All the people I fought for, that I tried to save? I knew that they’d have someone at home, someone who’d beat themselves up all the time because they thought they’d failed their friend, or their spouse, or kid, or whatever. I saw what that did to you. I couldn’t stand the thought of that happening to anyone else, ever. They didn’t fail. You didn’t fail.

“You were a human.”

The End (of book One)

words and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

Posted: January 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

From my other blog. Took some pictures in Dunedin, FL.

Behold The Image!

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Here are some pictures of Dunedin, Florida. Not to be confused with the one in New Zealand,  or the one in Scotland. taken with the L G motion phone slash camera, this time I used paper pictures to augment some of the shots of downtown on a Friday morning.

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This has been a rough month. Lost my apartment, my uncle, and for a  time,  my ability to speak. Here’s the next – to – last chapter of Allosaurus. Here’s what happened before.

Vanglorious looked at his watch anxiously.

A couple of minutes later, he looked at it again. Satisfied that time was still moving forward, he looked out the car’s window. The wind howled. The rain beat against the windows in waves: now intense, frighteningly so; now, calmer. This cycle repeated a few times. Vanglorious looked at his watch once more. Another two or three minutes passed. No one had come out of the warehouse: not Fran, not Killswitch, no one. He sighed, opening the door against the storm.

“I don’t do ‘waiting’,” he muttered. He ran toward the door. It had been kicked open; it was bent, twisted, broken. “Ah, subtlety,” he smiled ruefully. He drew his weapon of choice – a telescoping quarterstaff made of a proprietary “space age” memory steel. He blended into the shadows and started to hunt for Fran.

~~~

Commissioner Cohen didn’t have time for this. Whenever there was a hurricane, there were always idiots who wanted to go surfing in the huge waves out by the Causeway. There would be fights and altercations at the supermarkets as people beat each other up over the last twelve pack of beer and bag of potato chips. This time, there were also reports of some of the mask-and-spandex crowd breaking into the old warehouse connected to the meat processing plant. Some annoying, faceless lady agent from some Federal government bureau or whatever was demanding to see him. And now, of course, word had gotten to Tricia Gutierrez from Channel 2. Someone else wanting something from him. Cohen wearily looked up from his desk at the detective in front of him.

“Get a SWAT team over to the warehouse,” he began. “Tell Gutierrez ‘no comment’ for now. And let me see this agent, uh, agent – ”

“Agent Divers,” the detective finished.

Cohen nodded. “What’s she from, again? Some alphabet soup or other?”

“Dunno. Bureau of Weights and Measures, I think?”

“Yeah, fine. Whatever. Send her in. I wanna know why all this exotic weaponry is showing up in my city, and if she’s the one who can tell me, then great.”

~~~

All of the buildings, and all of the cars, were once just a dream in somebody’s head. – Peter Gabriel

In this case, Larry Forbes mused, this warehouse was a dream in the heads of an architectural firm that wasn’t very imaginative. They tended to use the same designs over and over again. For example, the Bureau had commissioned a facility from this very same firm. Larry knew that Ping Bai Ma, usually known as Palmetto – Bug Man, would feel right at home here; would even be drawn to the very room he’d suggested that Project Killswitch set up their base of operations.

There are no accidents or coincidences, Larry thought.

No accident, then, that it would be Ping who would take down the Bureau. Their precious little project if they been working on so diligently for years. Forbes would see to it that their Frankenstein’s monster would go berserk, just as he had planned.

Fire him from the project, would they?

~~~

” Did you remember to charge the stun net?” Franklin asked.

~~~

I really don’t think that you have thought your little plan through.

Shut up.

~~~

… then, there was the time that they used me for target practice, and weapons calibration. I will enjoy snapping their necks.

~~~

“This better not be another wild goose chase. I got better things to do than be out here in this stupid hurricane-”
“You need to silence the chatter, officer Smith,” the captain broke in. “Word from the Big C himself is that the commando girls and the killswitch lunatics are going to be here. Watch it!”
“Sir, yes sir,” came officer Smith’s chastised reply.

~~~

“Looks like your friend brought some back up,” Fenris teased Cheryl. “That’s kinda too bad. Guess she’s not mad at you anymore?”

Cheryl didn’t look at him. She didn’t look up. She stared at the ground. In her head, she cursed Fran out, and prayed for her at the same time.

Fenris smiled. Pamela looked at him. It was full-on beatific now; he seemed to have finally found his element. Where was the shy, stuttering bookworm she’d known since they were children? That boy was gone, she realized. Gone and replaced by this … person. Bent, beaten, molded, into a revenge machine.

Just like me.

Pamela glanced at the closed circuit monitor. Fran was coming.

Just like her.

Pamela turned her attention to Fenris. “Go tell Franklin – ”

Fenris started to protest. “Code names!” he barked.

“-Kracko, then,” Pamela sighed. “Go tell Kracko that she’s getting closer. Help him with the flash grenades or something.”

Fenris eyed her suspiciously. She shrugged. “Or don’t. I’m just saying. He wanted to know.”

As he sauntered off, Pamela recognized her Fenris again. Whip-smart and armed with a most advanced bullshit detector. She waited for him to get out of sight before she began untying Cheryl.

“What-”

“Sh!” Pamela ordered in a whisper. “Twenty yards down that hall. Back stairs. Leads to an exit. Take it!” Cheryl blinked rapidly, processing. “Why?”

“You wanna get killed? Get out of here!” Pamela hissed.

“Well,” Cheryl mused, “I probably should make it look like a struggle, or something.”

Later on, Pamela rubbed her jaw and thought. Who knew bass players had such devastating uppercuts? 

words and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

Next: The Commando Girls.