Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Flash Fiction - The Excavation, Part Two

Good evening,

 Sorry I'm late. Let's pick up from where we left off.

***


            The pain kept him awake. Rocks had served as his cushions. His back ached and his neck throbbed, but he focused on the searing agony in his leg. He faced upward. The archaeologist had no immediate idea of how far he had fallen. The never-ending darkness and the pin-point of light above him gave a hint.
Okay, Calum Grady told himself, I’d say I’m five, six miles down? But how am I still alive?
Memories from the past few moments replayed in his mind. He remembered the fall. He remembered the rocks tumbling below and around him. Above it all, he remembered his once-rapid descent becoming a slow drop. At the time, he thought his mind was playing tricks on him. When he felt the way the air cradled his body, however, and when he felt the pressure around him, it told him another story. It did not stop the hard landing, but it softened the blow all the same.
A low-gravity field, he reasoned, Cushioned my fall on the way down. Probably something the natives installed to prevent workplace accidents. Thank god for dead civilizations.
            He flipped a switch on his belt and fiddled with a small dial. Slowly, he unhooked a com-wire and brought it to the side of his head, fixing one end into his ear and the other to his mouth. “Anyone there?” he grunted, pausing to play with the dial some more, “Anyone? Andrew? Joan? Can anybody hear me?”
The reception settled. Static cleared away. His comrade barked on the other side: “– lum? Calum Grady, this is Joan Holliday! Come in! Are you there?
 “I wish I wasn’t,” he groaned, pushing himself up. Aching, his eyes focused in the darkness, “I seem to be in some huge chamber. It’s so dark I can’t see anything, and I left my torch with –”
Never-mind that! How the hell are you still alive? I can’t even see you!
“Never a bad time to believe in miracles, I guess. Where’s Carter?”
He fainted. I radioed the Department, though. A rescue team’s on the way.
“Of course he’d faint,” he grumbled aloud. He winced. Fire screamed through his leg. Gingerly, he brought his fingers down it. Halfway-down, he felt it bending at an irregular angle, “I think my leg’s twisted.”
“So much for miracles.”
“I’m fine,” he said, struggling to his side. “I’m going to try and work out my surroundings, maybe see if I can make sense of where I am.”
Setting his hands to the ground, he pushed himself up. He slid his good leg in front of him and put his weight on it. Calum recalled his training. Years before, he took courses in acrobatics. Calum Grady knew how to fall and he knew how to keep balance, and he knew how to carry himself in case his limbs were incapacitated.
On the other end, Joan heard him struggle and gasped a little, “Good god, Calum. Are you trying to stand?”
“I get bored easily,” he joked, rising and steadying his body. He levelled his arms at his sides and smiled to himself.
“How dense are you, exactly?”
“Ask the missus,” he said, hopping forward a little, “She has all kinds of stories.”
            He almost heard Joan shake her head. There was silence for a moment. “Tell me about her,” she suddenly said, as though genuinely interested.
            Calum rolled his eyes. He thought the conversation was over, “Why?”
            “It’ll take your mind off of the pain.”
            “I’d rather keep my mind on my surroundings,” he lied, hobbling left, “Who knows when the floor’s going to collapse again?”
“Do it for me, then,” she told him, “I’d rather not sit here and listen to you grunting, anyway.”
He huffed through his nose. “For you, then.
“We met fifteen years ago,” he told her, stumbling around a fallen stone, “My friend’s a journalist. One of his articles exposed a massive mineral smuggling ring founded by Alde Pharmaceuticals. There was a big gala hosted by the Department of Justice in his honour. All of his friends and all of his friends’ friends were invited. It was a mess, at first. I spent the first half of the evening nursing my drink, not bothering anybody.”
I can picture that,” Joan said, “You don’t seem like the social butterfly.
“I didn’t see the point,” Calum admitted, “Sometimes, I still don’t. I don’t know what songs are popular. I avoid all the hot gossip. I live in the past. I swim through history. What am I going to say to other people? Hell,” he laughed, putting his hands in front of him, “What are they going to say to me?”
What did you see in her?
“I’m getting to that,” he said, as his fingers grazed a wall in front of him. Stone ridges met his hands as he eagerly brought himself close to it, “Anyway, my friend had enough of me guzzling wine and glaring at the guests, so he brought me over to join his friends. I found myself face-to-face with five journalists, two dignitaries from Persia United, and her.”
And who was she?
“Back then, a bookkeeper for the Department of Communication.”
“Was it love at first sight?”
His hands slid along the wall, “Not at all. Her world was all digits and barcodes, budgets and balances. She hated reading because it bored her. Ancient history was all dreams and fairytales. We had nothing in common. But, later, we met at another gala, and then another and another until... I don’t know, I guess we realized that that wasn’t important.”
What’s her name?
He pressed against a ridge that was wider than the rest, “Her name? It’s –”
Something buzzed in the dark.
In seconds, the ceiling flickered. Circles of lights flashed off and on in the darkness. A low hum bubbled through the air. Calum Grady turned his body around to face the vanishing gloom.
Rows of glass cylinders lined the sides of a wide and circular room. Walls coloured a deep shade of purple flanked Calum on all sides. The cylinders were affixed to large metal structures with a silver coating. Display panels and buttons dabbed the sides. Blue lights flashed along their exteriors. A whirring noise sounded throughout the room.
It was then that one of the cylinders opened.
***

 By the way, have I mentioned that I am writing for BlogTO. Because I am.

 This yarn concludes next week!

See you next time!

-RWI

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Flash Fiction - The Excavation, Part One

Good day,

 I've decided it's time for a longer story.

***


            The drill broke through another layer of granite. They had been working away at the side of the old structure for the better part of the evening. Gears ground together and engines whined as the machine halted. Its top slid off and the crew began to exit it. Calum stepped off of the digger first and looked at the hole they made. A long hallway stretched into deep shadow. A faraway light shone through and illuminated a dark point in the distance.
From the colony, their destination looked like a mountain, but the closer they got to it the more they made out its features. The ridges on its sides were far too level. Deep indentations once suggested caves, but the theory was dashed when the edges of each had perfect angles. In addition, no mountain was layered in quite the way that this one was. It was a building, a tall and proud ziggurat and possible evidence that intelligent life once resided on this ruined world.
Calum Grady led a small team to investigate the base of the tower. He did not need as many people as his supervisor proposed. Two assistants would suffice, he told them. He never needed more than that. It saved the Department of History a significant amount of money.
He looked back at his team. Lithe and young with his hair tussled by alien winds, Andrew Carter followed him. He was fairly new to exoplanetary archaeology; Calum could tell. Every step he took was calculated, like he was walking on egg-shells. In spite of that, the boy had his use. Behind the control panel of the digger, Joan Holliday checked the read-outs one more time. He had worked with her before; seasoned and cool, her relaxed attitude served as both a boon and a burden.
“What do you make of that?” Calum asked, pointing down the hallway to the lighted spot.
“It’s, um,” mumbled Andrew, looking to the lighted spot, “It’s certainly over there, sir.”
“Oh for gods’ sakes, calm down,” Joan hissed, reading one of the screens in the digger, “We did a thermal scan earlier today. Nothing’s alive in here.”
Andrew shot a look her way, “That doesn’t mean the place is safe. Remember the ruins on Juno?”
“A fluke,” she said, bluntly, “Just because a meteor hit a starliner doesn’t mean every starliner is meteor-bait.”
“Whatever the case, we should stay on our guard,” Calum stated, entering the hallway, “If this place has a security system, it could still be operational, and I’d rather not return to my wife in a box.”
Joan’s mouth formed an o-shape, “I didn’t know you were married.”
“Few do,” he admitted, laying out his equipment.
            “What’s your wife like?” Joan asked. It seemed so mundane, but she asked the question like it meant so much to her.
            Calum shrugged lightly, producing a scanner from his belt, “Normal, I suppose.”
She sighed, “Okay, wrong question. Is she a girl, a woman, or a bitch?”
            The commander shuddered, “What?”
            Joan rested on the control panel, “Honestly. Is she a girl, a woman, or a bitch? You know the difference, right?”
            “Is this really the time?” Calum muttered, running the device over the walls.
“I’m curious,” said Andrew, folding his arms. The topic seemed to put him at ease, “What’s the difference?”
“It’s easy,” Joan mentioned, sliding out of her seat and onto the ground, “Women are stable, decent and honest who want reliable friends with good men with good hearts. Girls are too concerned with getting ideal homes, ideal guys, and ideal friends to comprehend reality. Bitches treat their men like banks and their friends like accessories.”
Andrew folded his arms thoughtfully. “Huh,” he huffed, “Never thought of it like that.”
“Nobody does,” she said, as Calum calculated readings on his scanner, “Most guys tend to throw a blanket over that half the species and label them all as batshit. Knowing the subtle differences will save you. So, chief, is your wife –”
“Whatever my wife is, she is inconsequential to us finding out what this place is,” snapped Calum, grabbing a chisel from his belt, “Carter, lend me your carbon-dater.”
“Y-yes sir,” stuttered the young man, shuffling next to his boss. He produced a long cylinder with an opened end and a box with a display panel on its bottom. Gingerly, Andrew Carter passed it to him.
Calum took it readily, stabbing his chisel against a flat part of the wall. He looked up at it. The flat surface was as wide as him, and impressively tall, vanishing into the darkness above. In his mind, he guessed it to be a pillar, one of the support structures for the building.
He set the carbon-dater underneath the chisel and stabbed again. Little rocks fell into the cylinder. The leader set his chisel away and pressed some buttons on the display panel. A series of numbers and symbols spun past. Six settled on the screen and blinked off and on into the face of the commander.
“A hundred thousand,” he said aloud, pulling back, “This place is over a hundred thousand years old.”
“Okay, wow,” Joan admitted, looking up at the ceiling. “So where do you think the owners went?”
“Entombed in the upper levels, perhaps?” Calum proposed, putting the carbon-dater on his belt. He walked ahead a few steps, taking in his surroundings, “We should try and map out this place. Holliday, radio the Department and –”
The ground gave way.
Calum’s foot went through part of the floor. Stone plates crumpled beneath him and the earth loosened. He lost balance. Joan and Andrew called out to him. He felt fingers brush uselessly against his arm in a desperate attempt to seize him. Screaming, Calum Grady fell alone into the darkness.

***

 To be continued!

See you next time,

-RWI

Sunday, March 11, 2012

If I Did - The Hangover Part 2


Good day,

            As you’ve guessed, I have decided to keep going with this “If I Did” thing, mostly because it didn’t take long for me to churn out another What If scenario. So I figure this is the perfect place to put it up.

            I write a lot of comedy. I know a lot of it must fail from time to time, but I enjoy banter and surreal scenarios all the same. As such, I enjoy a good comedy movie, and sometimes I find it in the strangest places. I found The Hangover was to be strangely endearing and entertaining, for example, and it worked very well as a self-contained story. Then I heard about the sequel, and immediately I thought ‘This can’t go well’ and by god did I turn out to be right.

What if I could save it, though? What if you gave me a time machine and sent me back to the room where all those movie execs started planning the sequel? Well, I’d have them all locked in a safe before they could make such a stupid mistake, but if they broke out the chequebooks before I closed the door on them then I’d change my tune. Maybe.

            I admit it; part of me believes that Hangover 2 could have been a good movie if they changed up a few of its fundamental elements.

            Namely, the main cast.

            See, The Hangover is a wonderful coming-of-middle age tale, the story of an unconventional rite of passage that four friends go through in order to discover the truth about themselves and their absurdities while on the vacation from hell. As far as I’m concerned, their arc is done, and it’s time for a new batch of characters to take the stage. Let’s not just make a new group of characters, though: let’s cast them!

            So our four new mains would be just as diverse as the main four from the first film. In this case, we have four university students in Thailand on an exchange program: Honour Roll student and all-round keener Billy Cummings, athlete and playboy Tyler MacAfee, quiet introvert HueySullivan, and Christian fundamentalist Emma Clay. The four of them lucked out and got a chance to explore Bangkok for two weeks. On their final night, their teacher, Phil Wenneck, takes them out for drinks. Tyler decides to spice things up, though, when he spikes his colleagues’ drinks with some drugs left over from a Full Moon Party he attended the previous week.

            And then comes the next morning. The four students wake up to find that they are all scattered across Bangkok. Huey awakens in a wrecked car on the far west end of town with half his clothes burnt and the police on his tail. Emma awakens in a Buddhist monastery with her head shaved, her possessions compromised, and their faith allegedly renounced. Tyler is the only one to wake up in their hotel room, but he’s not alone – he’s joined by Bang, a young shemale prostitute he apparently saved from gangsters the night before. Billy, meanwhile, is in the biggest pickle; he’s now in the employ of a nationalist group hell-bent on assassinating the Vietnamese President when he arrives that evening.

            Long-story-short, the movie becomes a race to get to the airport before their flight leaves. Emma flees the monastery and has the monks in hot pursuit; Huey gets a lift from two Australian swingers who proceed to make all kinds of unsavoury stops on the way there; Tyler and Bang get followed by the gangsters – led of course by LeslieChow – and end up in an intense chase no doubt involving fruit stands, monkeys, and fried cricket vendors; and Billy becomes an unwilling suicide bomber and sent off in a taxi. On the way there, though, Billy runs into Stu and JadePrice and gets the police called on him when they see the bombs underneath his shirt.

During the chaos leading up to the end, we find out that Huey and Billy torched a bar in the downtown core using only a pair of pliers and Tyler’s undershirt, which is how Billy got scouted by the nationalists and why the cops are after Huey. Meanwhile, Tyler eventually gets over his discomfort towards Bang and begins to fall for her while Emma re-baptises herself at the Bangkok International Church of Seventh-Day Adventists. Eventually, everyone meets at the airport and everything gets sorted– the Nationalists get ratted out, Billy gets disarmed, and Huey’s crimes are instantly forgotten when he says that Lesley threatened him, resulting in the police chasing the Chow gang away.

The youngsters and Phil get pulled aside by the border police, who give them a stern tongue-lashing and prepare to not only ban the five of them from Thailand, but also abolish the university’s exchange program. Suddenly, the new American ambassador appears before them: Alan Garner. He proceeds to pardon the gang and prepares to set himself up in the Bangkok embassy.

Then we get our ending. Emma boards the plane with a fresh conscience while Huey and Billy vow never to touch anything remotely resembling an intoxicant again. Tyler, meanwhile, exchanges e-mail addresses with Bang, gives her a kiss goodbye, and returns to America with a better understanding of himself. The gang line themselves up in their seats, and prepare for a long ride back home. Then for the sake of trolling the audience, I’d have Mike Tyson and his tiger as the co-pilots.

            And there you have it: a better Hangover 2. Well, certainly better than what we ended up with.

See you next time,

-RWI

Monday, March 5, 2012

If I Did - Twilight

Good day,

 I've decided to do something a little different. Not long ago, I had the chance to watch this video, which I found informative and clever and stirred the pot among my friends who are more into the whole Star Wars thing than I am (I refuse to acknowledge anything past the original trilogy).

 Point is, I started thinking along those lines. Well, I've often wondered what would happen if some studio was brave/stupid enough to give me a story concept and collection of characters and said "do whatever." This, however, is the first time I ever decided to put idea to digital paper and post it online for the world to see.

Hence the dawning of a new series of posts: If I Did.

This week: If I Did Twilight


            First things first: my Twilight would not be a series. My Twilight is one book split into three parts.

            Part One is New Moon. This part focuses on Isabella Swan and her father Charlie. The two of them have moved to Forks, Washington after Charlie pissed his company away and his wife Renee filed for divorce as a result. Isabella settles into her new school, but finds herself getting cow-eyed over a hot young stud named Edward Cullen, who somehow accepts her advances. She brings Edward to the house, but Charlie is sceptical of this boy and his creepy swagger – especially since he talks like someone who is way older than seventeen.

            Edward then brings Isabella to his house, which turns out to be a huge mansion on the edge of town. Apparently, Edward lives with his legion of servants and no-one else. Isabella ignores this weird fact, though, when Edward has her waited on hand and foot. Things go well until three strangers named James, Victoria, and Laurent arrive and launch an attack on the couple while they’re walking home from school. This is when we discover the vampire angle as Edward immediately beats back the trio. Isabella is afraid, but her beau assures the na├»ve girl that he won’t turn on her.

            At school, one of Isabella’s friends – a native boy named Jacob Black – enforces her father’s view that Edward shouldn’t be trusted, but she just assumes that he’s jealous. That evening, Isabella waves off Charlie’s concerns and hits the town with Edward. While they are enjoying a nice romantic moment by the lake, however, James appears and tries to assassinate Edward. Isabella distracts the attacker and helps Edward get the kill. Edward turns to Isabella, brings her in for a kiss... and then bites her neck.

            Part Two is Eclipse. Charlie notices that Isabella is growing increasingly distant, and that she’s taken to spending more time with Edward than she should. During one particularly fretful night which also involves a fierce telephone argument with Renee, Charlie is visited by a concerned Jacob Black. Charlie takes to the boy’s kindness, and Jacob’s words inspire Charlie to follow Isabella the next night. He finds her in the woods with Edward, who is seen drinking from her neck. Edward attacks, but is swatted by the vampires Victoria and Laurent, who are then joined by a newcomer – Jacob.

            This is when Jacob reveals himself as a werewolf and when Charlie finds out about vampires, too. Edward makes his escape with Isabella, but as Charlie gets ready to pursue them he’s held back. At this point, he’s going a tiny bit crazy, but is given solace by Laurent. Victoria and Jacob strike a deal – that they will join forces until Edward is brought to justice. Jacob takes Victoria, Laurent, and Charlie back to his reserve so he could solidify his tribe’s alliance with the vampires. To bring Charlie up to speed, he leaves him with the village alphas, Jacob’s parents Billy and Sarah Black.

The alphas explain that long ago there were five kingdoms – The Air Kingdom, hosted by angels and vampires; The Wood Kingdom, populated by skin-changers like the werewolves; The Sea Kingdom, run by merfolk; The Sand Kingdom, hosted by rakshasa and the walking dead of North Africa; and The Stone Kingdom, run by humans. With the passing of the ages, though, many of these folk either died out or went into hiding as humans invaded and took over their kingdoms. Many fought back and died, but some found ways to live among humans in silent harmony.

The Black pack and the Cullen clan were living peacefully in Forks with the human settlers, until the youngest son of the Cullens stopped seeing the point of sharing the land with his food and rebelled. He turned on his kin, killing or enslaving those who fought against him, and set himself up as ruler. Humans in Forks have since offered tributes to Edward Cullen in the form of their young daughters. Reports from Emily Young, a skin-changer spy hiding within the Cullen estate, now say that Edward’s not satisfied with being god-emperor of Forks, and wants to use dark magic to take over the world – and that he plans to use the not-quite-yet-turned Isabella to achieve this goal.

Charlie leaves the tent and speaks with Laurent and Victoria. They reveal themselves to be emissaries of the Volturi, the lords of what remains of the Air Kingdom, who learned of Edward’s plan through their own spies. Victoria then tells him that the magic Edward wants to use would involve creating a demon-child inside Isabella. Charlie is warned that saving Isabella could mean destroying her womb and her chances of procreating. He offers to join the fight.

Part Three is Breaking Dawn. A vampire legion led by Volturi agent Bree Tanner arrives on the reserve with a charm needed to cleanse Isabella’s body of the vampire taint. Jacob, meanwhile, gathers a skin-changer gang, and prepares farewells to his girlfriend Kim and their litter of children. Before leaving, Charlie calls Renee and has a long talk with her, trying to avoid the talk of dark magic and werewolf-vampire alliances. They make up; Charlie apologizes for his past mistakes and begs that they become a family again. Renee sees the man she fell in love with and says she’ll come by at the end of the week, giving Charlie the will to fight.

Charlie and the gang attack the Cullen compound, cutting a swath through Edward’s servants. When they break into the building, they find that Edward’s fled to a chamber beneath his house. They make their way in, but end up fighting more of Edward’s cronies and his harem. Laurent and Victoria die in the assault, but not before taking down a host of Edward’s henchmen and leaving Charlie with the anti-demon charm.

Charlie, Jacob, Bree, and the last of the army make their way to Edward’s throne room. The man himself is there with Isabella. Cue a huge fifty-on-one fight, with Edward dominating. Jacob is ripped to shit in the battle, and the demon child begins to form inside Isabella. Isabella begins distracting her former love with taunts and maybe a ‘no-one-is-meant-to-be-ruled’ speech. This allows Jacob to use his last bit of strength and tear off one of Edward’s hands, which in turn allows Charlie the chance to behead the vampire king with a fire axe. Using Victoria’s charm, he heals Isabella and we get a nice scene of the father and daughter reconciling as the corruption leaves her body.

The final scenes would involve the burying of Jacob Black, sending the charred bones of Laurent and Victoria back to Europe with Bree, and Charlie giving words of thanks and condolences to the remaining monsters. Isabella is given medical treatment for her wounds, but there’s no sign of her womb being in danger. Isabella and Charlie leave the hospital and head back to their cabin, finding Renee there. After a teary reunion, Charlie and Renee declare their love for each other and three agree to return to civilization.

So there you have it: Taken Meets Castlevania. That's how I would do Twilight. Send me money.

See you next time,

-RWI

PS: This will no doubt put me on the shit-lists of every Team Edward/Team Jacob fangirl in the universe. I don't mind. I have my own team.