Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Some Serious Sci Fi : The Slide

I'm still having a hell of a time getting some words down on "Hayden Smith : Sardonic Space Cowboy", so I decided to give some serious type sci-fi a try. I wrote this short story on Sunday. It probably needs a bit of editing, but as a first draft, came out pretty well, I thought.

It's not hard sci-fi, but it's serious. Hard sci-fi being all about the science and atoms and gluons and such.

It was a pretty easy write since it's written as a retelling from the main character's point of view. It basically became a very long dialogue piece without the quotations. And for better or for worse, I do find dialogue to pretty much write itself. It may not be good dialogue, or witty, or interesting, but damnit, it helps me hit my word count targets!

Short story in the comments.


Niteowl said...

The Slide
Oh the heady days of summer. Headier twilights. When dark is just creeping up on the day, and night is a foregone conclusion. How it was all humid, hot, sweltering. Somehow, you know, the night, the real, deep dark night, only seemed hotter. I don’t know how it is. But then, back then I didn’t know how alot of things were.
     I didn’t know that that summer, the summer our President got shot, the summer of so much promise and strife, would be the summer where I stopped believing what adults said. Whatever it was. The more serious they would tell me things, the less I would believe. And how, maybe wrongly, I began to listen to the stark raving lunatics on the street; all smelling of cheap cooking wine and days upon weeks of not bathing.
     There was a time, you know, when those ‘crazies’ those stark eyed other minded lost souls who stand at street corners and soup lines, were listened to. Really listened to. Armies were rerouted, crops were planted, marriages were arranged on just their advice, their visions.
     There might be some truth to that. I might not believe that as much as I used to, but I do believe it to some extent. In any case, I’d believe a loon sooner than I would an adult.
     I know, you’ll look at me, an older man, a man in the twilight of his years, and say, ‘you’re an adult, you’re more than adult’. Then you might call me an endearing nickname that, were I a few years younger and that this arthritis grabbed a hold of my joints, I would’ve cracked you one across the jaw for saying. Like gramps. Old timer. But I can see you’re a respectable sort. You wouldn’t say such things. Heck, you’ve listened to me this far, haven’t you?
     So back to those heady days. There was a hint of promise and a hint of something dangerous in the air. I might not have known it. Not right away, and maybe not in so many words. But I could see in the way the adults talked, the way the older teenagers would swagger in a jilted way. I knew. I knew things were on the horizon.
     Maybe that’s why I still played in the playground. I told myself I wasn’t doing it for the swoosh and slide, the rush of air and the feeling of flight. I told myself that I was just practicing to be an astronaut, maybe, or that I was just there to see the local high school seniors drinking bootlegged liquor at the bottom of the hill. Away from the peering eyes of the highway. Not that not everyone knew what kids did down there.
     Anyways, I did it at night. I crept out in the middle of the night just to play on the playground. Wasn’t letting go of my childhood. I think I knew, even then, that my childhood was racing away from me. Leaving me in it’s exhaust. How languid it moves, it idles, when we are right in the thick of it. But as it’s leaving, boy does it get legs, lays down a patch, if you will, and just speeds off into the distance. I knew that then. I know it even more now.
     It made it easy, you know, my home life being all that it was. We didn’t call it a broken home back then. But it definitely wasn’t working. Not working at all. Maybe because my ‘parents’ were my aunt and uncle who would just as soon not have me. It’s not that they hated me, it was just that they didn’t know what to do with me. That, and, well, they were too busy hating each other, or drinking themselves to amiability. They had sent me off to bed, which was enough for them.
     Sometimes I’d meet Brian down there. He came from a good home. He told me he sneaked off. But he’d always bring some cookies or a sandwich for me. Especially the sandwich, it had the look of a mom’s hands on them. His parents never let on that they knew about the late night playground time. But his mom was always extra nice to me. Enough for me to be embarrassed about it.
     Brian was a good kid. Had that shockingly blonde… platinum blonde, I think you call it now? Made him look like he belonged in California, surfing the waves. Anyways, we talked a lot, about stuff. Talked about the stars. Or, more like, I told him all the stuff I knew about astronomy. It helped me in my reading. Just trying to teach him about it. Clarified a few things in my head. Not that any of that book learning helped me that one night.
     It was later than usual, I know that, because Brian was bugging me more than usual to turn in. It was a particularly large gathering at the bottom of the hill that night. We were just going to watch for a little while, then go back to the playground, but a fight broke out. We’d never seen a fight like that before. We couldn’t be sure, but knives were used, I think. Lots of screaming from the girls anyways.
     So we eventually make our ways back to the playground. It was a hazy night. Even the nighttime couldn’t chill out the heat, the dark brooding heat of summer. The moon was just a sliver, we almost couldn’t find our way back the playground, it was so dark. We weren’t thirty feet from it when we saw the three men.
     They were all dressed a little bit differently from each other. One was in workman’s clothes, another was in a suit, and a third, well, he looked like he had just been let loose from an Asylum. I mean, uh, a mental hospital, I guess is the term.
     They were all gathered around the slide, if you can imagine that. Full grown men, around the slide. Actually, the man in workman’s clothes was under it. He had a toolbox open beside him, and was working on something.     
     I remember that look that Brian gave me. He was scared. Really scared. He started to stutter a bit. And he hadn’t stuttered since second grade. He really wanted to get out of there.
     I tried, in my best impersonation of someone who knows more, that they were probably just from the parks board. Fixing the slide. Maybe maintenance, or something. I mean, they didn’t look like criminals or anything like that. They looked real calm, real nonchalant, like they didn’t care who saw them. They looked official like, actually. I sauntered up to them. Brian just hit the deck. Like something from a war movie, he just hit the ground. I don’t know what he was thinking, that these men would start shooting or something. Open fire! Fire in the hole! All that nonsense. It’s funny what people think of when it’s dark, it’s hot, and there are no adults about. No adults that could be trusted, I mean.     
     I didn’t know that at the time, of course.
     So I asked them what they were doing. They all ignored me at first. I had to repeat myself three times. The guy in the suit eventually turned to me, as if he was just continuing a conversation we’d been having. Told me they were fixing the slide.
     I was old enough to know that no one would fix a slide in the middle of the night. But the man had a suit on. Had to trust a man in a suit. That’s just the way it was back then. He even had a moustache, like the cops in the movies. He put his hand on my shoulder, spoke in real reassuring tones. I only nodded dumbly, like it was the most normal thing in the world.
     The man in the overalls eventually got out from under the slide. He gave the man in the suit a disapproving glare. That’s what didn’t seem right to me. People in overalls didn’t give upbraiding looks to people in suits. Not back then. Not in my world.
     The man all in white just kinda shook where he stood, he had a dumb smile on his face. I think he might have been drooling, but it was dark, like I said. But was uttering all sorts of weird phrases like ‘way home’, ‘home home home home’, ‘is it fixed yet’, ‘here too long, here too long’, ‘they all know’. I was scared of him.
     I looked back at where Brian was hiding. I could see his shock of blonde hair, even in that low light. The man in the suit asked if I was looking for someone. If I was out on a late night, out with a friend. I said no. It was the first thing out of my mouth. Without even thinking, I had said it. It was like my mouth knew that I wasn’t to give a straight answer even if I wanted to.
     So the coveralls man pulled out a small glass oval like sphere. Kind of like an easter egg, but not. It glowed slightly. It might have been the trick of the moonlight, I probably told myself as much too, but looking back, it was definitely glowing. He set it at the base of the slide. And somehow, it just starts growing, growing and growing until it looked big enough to fit a grown man. It’s perched, barely. And then, lights blinked on and off down the sides of a slide. Like a runway. Exactly like a runway. I looked back at Brian, he was gone.      
     Suit man gestured to the pod. He asked me if I want to give it a try. I ask him what. Try what? He says yes or no. I remember that, him asking me yes or no. As if I knew what he was asking. As if I was just playing along, joking with him.
     I didn’t trust him. I didn’t’ trust any of them. The man in white’s speech was getting more and more erratic, he started motioning, pretty violently, actually, at the sky, and every so once and a while, his wild eyed gaze brushed over me. The night had gotten cold. I knew it was hot, but the night was cold. For me, right then, it was freezing.
     Who knew what might have happened if I refused? But even my backup, even my buddy Brian had left me. I said, sure, mister. Just like from Opie from the Andy Griffith’s show.
     I stood next to the pod. In a flash I was in it. I don’t know how. Whether one of the men lifted me inside or what. I don’t know. There wasn’t anyway to open the pod. I remember thinking that this was the weirdest way for me to die. I wouldn’t have seen this coming in a million years. Dying in a glass pod. What a way to go. I might have banged up against the sides of the pod. I screamed, I remember doing that, because it was so loud int here. A deep humming, a tinkling sound, like someone was playing an out of tune piano.
     And then the pod launched. Launched right from the slide. Up up up into the dark night, into the sliver mooned night, through the heat, into space. I saw so many things out there. The earth, a gentle blue bubble in a sea of black. The moon, off in the distance. All planets. As soon as I could notice anything, the pod seemed to speed up. The thrumming died down to a low murmur. Or I got used to it. And then I don’t know how long I was gone. Hours, years? Decades maybe. I came back a man. To a different world. A world where no one trusted anyone, least of all the government. A place where the heat of summer were even hotter, but not hot from the sun, hot from something else. Something less clean. Man, maybe.
I came back to find a world thirsty for answers. And so that’s the book I wrote. With the help of al I saw and learened and experienced in that pod, I wrote a mere sliver of what I came to understand as a shade of truth. And how everyone has loved it. The book that let me buy this slide, this slide right here. The one you swing your legs off of.
Did you like the book? You seemed so interested in it. The book for which I’ve done so many author’s interviews. But yours is the only one I’ll say the truth to. Because you’re young. Because your readers are young. Because you can wait a little longer to have and adult lie to you. But how would I know, maybe you are well worn, well weathered, cynical to an extent I had not even imagined.
But I wouldn’t lie to you.

The Nighthawk said...

Dude, excellent stream of first person narrative. Love it.

Niteowl said...

Thanks for the support Hawk!

andrea said...

interesting take on the POV...doing the whole "adult recalling childhood" thing. Keep writing niteowl =) you can post your next entry now :P