The Beardly Writer

Some write from the heart. I write from the beard.

Month: April, 2014

The Importance of Adventure

hiker

When I was a child, one of my favorite movies was Without A Clue, a farcical spoof of the Sherlock Holmes stories starring Sir Ben Kingsley as Dr. John Watson and Sir Michael Caine as Sherlock Holmes. In the film, if you’ve not seen it, the roles are slightly reversed. Under the public’s watchful gaze, Watson serves as Holmes’ companion and biographer, but behind the closed doors of 221B Baker street, Watson is the genius detective and Sherlock is merely a drunk actor playing the role. I first saw the film while in 6th or 7th grade, at the same time I was discovering I loved to read and that some people made their living as writers. Had you asked me at the time I still would have told you I was going to be a paleontologist like my hero Bob Bakker, but I daydreamed at some point I might try my hand at writing, too, just as Bakker did with his novel Raptor Red. Early in the film, Caine confronts Kingsley about his most recent article for The Strand, in which Watson records Sherlock having made a mistake. Watson’s reply has always stayed with me: “A writer must write of which he knows.”

There was a time in my life I took adventures. College was an adventure for me. I wasn’t the stereotypical quiet kid in school, but I wasn’t outgoing, either. I didn’t, and still don’t enjoy many things people use to get their heart going like climbing, skiing, and  white-water rafting; basically anything that requires more than casual exertion. After high school, I stuck around home and worked a simple home-healthcare job. I decided I didn’t like working and so made my way to college two states away in Illinois, just outside Chicago. It was new and exciting. I can’t say I took advantage of everything college and Chicago had to offer, but I had fun. I poked an eye and finger out of my shell and realized it wasn’t so bad out there. Then I took a leap and spent a semester in Europe. Every weekend a new city or country: Rome, Paris, London, Budapest, Geneva, Florence, Normandy, Munich, Salzburg, Milan, Vienna, Zurich, Naples, Interlaken… It was everything it could have been. It was a bona fide adventure. Three years later, my job would take me to The Netherlands, Wales, and Tanzania. Then, after Tanzania, nothing. For the last 6 years, no travel, no airports, no adventures beyond the occasional weekend road trip. Where are the new faces and new places to feed my soul?

A writer must write of which he knows. A writer cannot write in a vacuum. True, I have grown more as a writer these last few years than ever before, but I feel I have drawn off everything my experiences had to offer. I am depleted. I need more. I need adventure.

But it frightens me. I’m older. I’m out of shape. What if I’m not as resilient as I used to be? What if I find my adventurous spirit ends at the jetway? What if I’m not up to adventure’s demands?

Life is a serious of steps. Some are baby steps. Some take us over the edge of unimaginably tall cliffs, and there’s not always a safety net. Some cliffs we tumble over blindly, while others we strap on a parachute and dive headfirst and smiling. Adrenaline junkies say they feel most alive when closest to death. When was the last time I felt alive?

I’m working temporarily at a data-entry company. I sit at a computer. I read. I type. I click the mouse. I breathe recycled air. I eat my packed lunch. Suffice it to say, it’s not an adventure. When the job is over, I think I’ll be due some adventuring. I’ll have earned it.

I have a friend going on an adventure in September. She’ll be gone for 11 months, during which time she’ll visit 11 countries. As happy and excited as I am for her, I can’t help being a little jealous. I know how hard it will be for her, but I also know the rewards are worth it. I am proud of my friend. She inspires me. Because, no matter the fear, I know I need another adventure.

We all need adventure. It doesn’t look the same for any of us. My brother and his wife are beginning a new adventure soon: they are expecting their first child in October. For others, adventure might be changing jobs, moving to a new city, buying the house of their dreams, climbing a mountain, or losing weight. My adventure is travel.

We live in a big world. I’ve been to a few places and seem some amazing things. But there’s more. More to see. More to do. More people to meet. And the more I know, the more I write.

The world and its stories are waiting for me. It’s not polite to keep them waiting.

Solitary

SCI-FI-LONDON: THE 48HR YOUTUBE STORYTELLING CHALLENGE 2014

My story was written according to the following criteria:
Title: Solitary
Line: The decision cannot be made without more information.
Theme: Consciousness transfer – Save dying people by transfering their consciousness into healthy family members.
Time: 4 – 6 minutes in long.

SOLITARY

Jonathan Hausman spat blood into the stream in which he knelt. Red ribbons like ink drops bloomed and were swept away in the current. With his right hand he brought water to his lips to wash the taste of copper from his mouth. With his left hand he kept pressure on the hole in his side out of which more blood seeped. “I can’t have much more of that to spare,” he thought, and then laughed at the irony of it. What he wouldn’t give for real blood to bleed.

A twig snapped behind him and Hausman spun around with more agility than a wounded man should possess, drawing his pistol and scanning the trees for his attacker. Movement in the underbrush to his left drew his attention. With unnatural silence Hausman approached the disturbance, his finger tickling the trigger. Promptly a small brown lump of fur rolled out from the bracken and lay at his feet. The lump gurgled and coughed. Hausman holstered his gun and picked it up, recognizing it by its stumped tail.

“You poor thing,” Hausman said. “How did you get here? Where are your brothers?”

“It was Ladyhawk,” the mouse said. “She stole me from outside the farmer’s house. I managed to bite my way free, but the fall…”

The field mouse coughed again, its milk-white eyes closed shut and its body folded in pain. Hausman pitied the animal. He knew creatures could die in this place, he had seen it often enough, but he still cringed to think what it might mean.

“Hang on, little friend,” Hausman said. “I’m almost there. The gate should be just beyond those trees.”

“It’s a myth,” the blind mouse said. “Just a fairytale.”

It was the same story he’d heard since waking up in a strange bed seventy-five years ago. In all that time, he hadn’t aged a day. What he had done is walk, run, swim, drive and fly back and forth across what he eventually learned to call his prison. By his estimation it was a perfect square, each side measuring approximately 210,000 miles. With its vast landscapes, rich resources and varied people, towns, and cities, it might have been called paradise. But to Jonathan Hausman, waking up in that bed with no idea how he’d gotten there or even who he was, it was a nightmare.

In bits and pieces his memory came back to him as he wondered the strange land. It was two full months before he remembered his name, and another six before he realized he wasn’t simply making new memories of the places and people he came across, but that they were his memories. There were no strangers, he knew or knew of everyone, and sometimes hundreds of times over. A thousand memories of his brother became a thousand incarnations, each leading separate lives in different towns. There were even younger versions of Hausman, all living out the memories they came from. Every book he’d read, every movie he’d seen, every fevered dream or secret fantasy he’d imagined took to life in his prison. And everywhere he went there were whispers, rumors of a portal or gate that led to another world. Hausman knew it was to this other world he belonged, and that the proof would lie with the gate itself, at the very center of his prison.

“I don’t know what lay ahead, little one,” Hausman said. “But I expect a rough time of it. Are you up for the journey?”

The mouse managed only a weak nod. Hausman placed it in a pocket of his satchel then set his face onward.

At the edge of the forest Hausman could see into a valley, at the bottom of which stood a hospital, the final piece of the puzzle. The memories came rushing back. The doctors. The diagnosis. The failed treatments. The strange man and his mysterious offer, too fantastic to be true.

“I assure you, it’s quite true, quite real. But time is against us, Mr. Hausman.”

“Why me? I’m not special. I’m not rich, or famous or important,” Hausman said.

“It is precisely for these reasons, Mr. Hausman,” answered the stranger.

Hausman searched for a reason to say no. “I need time to think. I, I need…”

“The decision cannot be made without-“

“…More information.”

“-Your consent. We are ready to move NOW,” the stranger insisted.

Hausman had doubts, a lot of them. But more than that, he wasn’t ready to die. He didn’t even ask who the recipient was. When he agreed, he was immediately given a sedative, and moments later awoke in a prison of his own mind. They had done it! Successfully transferred his mind, his memories and consciousness, onto a hard drive. But where was the promised second half of the process? He was supposed to awake in a new body. Seventy-five years spent wondering the corners and passages of his memories. Would the stranger still be alive? Would anyone remember the experiment or that a man was trapped inside a computer, lost on some shelf in a madman’s basement? Forgetting his wound, Hausman ran for the hospital. “If there is a way out of here, that’s where I’ll find it,” He thought.

As he neared the entrance he heard a crash in the forest behind him. Hausman turned and blanched. His attacker had returned. A beast of extended proportions, it had the bearing of a man but none of the beauty or soul. Its features grotesque, its skin pallid, its eyes intelligent and baleful, there could be no mistaking his pursuer: Frankenstein’s monster. Hausman burst through the doors, his only chance was his slight lead on the creature. The last thing he remembered was his hospital room, so the portal must be there. Up the stairs he leapt and heard the monster explode into the hospital below him. Fatigued by endless searching and loss of blood, Hausman dragged his tired body onto the third floor and into his old room. Crashing in the stairwell; the monster almost upon him. Hausman ripped the dividing curtain aside only to find the stranger facing out the window. A bellow from the hallway announced Hausman’s imminent demise. He reached out for the stranger but found himself strapped to the bed, unable to move. The beast appeared in the doorway, dwarfing the room. The stranger loomed close over Hausman and placed an IV in his arm. The monster’s enormous hands stretched out as he lunged toward them. Hausman braced for impact.

A buzzer sounded and a single food pellet dropped in front of Hausman. The stranger hovered impossibly large over the prison. Hausman picked up the food with his front paws and began to eat. The stranger checked the wires leading from Hausman’s brain to the computer softly humming nearby.

“Seventy-five minutes,” The stranger said and clicked his tongue. “That’s your worst time yet.”

He reached into the square maze and lifted Mr. Hausman, petting the mouse’s chin with a gloved finger before ripping the wires out of its brain. The lab mouse shook then lay still. The stranger dropped the lifeless body into the bin and reached behind him into one of dozens of cages of live mice.

“Let’s try again, Mr. Hausman,” said the stranger.

48 Hour Storytelling Contest

Sorry about last week. I was out of state visiting family and had no access to internet. “I prostrate myself before you and beg your forgiveness.”

Good, thanks. With that out of the way, if you watched the video above you may have already deduced that I plan on participating in the contest. If you hadn’t deduced that, or if you haven’t watched the video, I plan on participating in a 48 hour YouTube storytelling contest going on this weekend. Hooray!

It’s a bold move. What if I chicken out? What if my story sucks? What if I don’t get it done in time? What if a meteor falls through my house and breaks my fingers and mouth and I can’t type or dictate a story? Meh. These are the risks we take.

The contest is being held by Sci-Fi London, which means that yes, in all likelihood the story will be of a science fiction nature. As terrific as it would be to win and have my story published on their website, what I really want is for my story to be chosen and included in a future edition of Late Night Tales and to be read by none other than Warwick Davis! How cool would that be? Very, is the answer. Duh.

So, if you’ve got nothing else going on this weekend, or like me, if you have plans but don’t care because who needs sleep, why not join in the storytelling fun? Also, this contest starts on April 12th, also known in my house as My Birthday! So, yeah. Story gods, please, for my birthday, allow me to crush the other participants, to see them driven before me, and to hear the lamentations of their women!

Contest details here.