From Embark! (YA Fiction)
Alena laid down in the grass, the night had completely set in. She threw down her pack with a swift toss beside her. It collapsed in a heap, but a silver ball escaped from the top of the bag. Alena attempted to grasp at it, but it rolled quickly out of her clutches. The ball moved effortlessly through the grass for a few feet and then began to take a new shape. Its contents folded over on itself at fluctuating hinges and edges, a steely frame emerging from the sphere. Alena huffed with agitation, “I don’t have time for you tonight…” Stubby legs and arms protruded out from the frame, with deep lines that outlined the metal appendages. It now took a near aggressive stance standing in the grass without any support. The legs were small rectangular wedges that carried the newly emerging body with surprising balance. A head began to rise among the turning and churning of pivots, first through the stomach and then the shoulder joints. The small rectangular prism locked into position and a voice chirped with enthusiasm, “I am Tiny Man!”
The robot pumped one of his bionic arms, followed by a short jump and kick that brought Tiny Man’s legs suspended above the tips of the grass for a nanosecond. It was the same dramatic routine with each reboot—not Alena’s idea. With a fluid landing and apparent gusto for fleeing the containment of Alena’s bag, Tiny Man checked his surroundings with a swivel of the head. “Where have you brought me tonight Miss Thomas? The temperature is pleasing.” He strode in circles as if analyzing the field’s conditions, his circuitry pulsating with hues of blue and red.
“We’re at Lookout Point Tiny Man, and…” Alena selected her words carefully. His emotional software took every word to his metaphorical heart. “…you managed to get yourself free.”
“That I did Miss Thomas! In a turn of luck your rucksack toppled with enough force to propel me from my cloth container. A small probability I will add, given the care that you take to protect me.” He pounded his tiny claw-like hands together with a clank!, and bowed. “I am very grateful for your constant care.”
Alena’s smile passed through Tiny Man’s visual scanners, which made his circuit boards glow a dark purple. Alena gave Tiny Man the ‘I need to protect you’ speech whenever he asked why he didn’t get more time to spend in the ‘free world’ as he called it. It was Alena’s way of saying ‘you’re in the bag because you’re a meddling repair bot who has a horrible track record of getting me into trouble’ without harming his sensitive, imaginary soul. “It’s really not a problem. I’m glad that you’re getting a chance to stretch your legs.”
“Miss Thomas, I really don’t stretch. I bend.” He made his knee joints open and close to demonstrate.
“It’s an expression that we use to signify someone having the chance to escape from a setting or environment that is possibly tedious or stressful. Function, Add to memory,” Alena said.
A blue light flashed behind his head and an automatic response was drawn out from Tiny Man’s vocal module. “Adding to memory…complete.” Alena struggled to make any updates or improvements to Tiny Man’s central engineering, but her pride and joy was the lexicon drive that facilitated his language abilities. Daddy’s close friend, Jean Paul, helped her install it to give Alena a personal project that she could take responsibility for. It was right at her level—a good mixture of personal interest and research to build for her portfolio. For a repair bot his size, Tiny Man had incredible functioning on many levels of communication and emotions. He could hypothesize about a cause and effect situation, identify non-verbal cues, and even do a decent job of maneuvering through sarcasm. Alena’s favorite function (or malfunction depending on how you looked at it) of the lexicon drive was Tiny Man’s talent of complimenting people in direct and obvious ways. It made for interesting interactions with the citizens of Cerulean. “Your nostrils are like two tiny caves. Beautiful!” “I’ve never seen such hair that so resembles a bramble bush. How unique!” Most of the townsfolk and regulars knew of his antics, but to those who hadn’t received a Tiny Man compliment, the reaction was consistently memorable for Alena.
“Well, I feel like I’ve had a good chance to stretch my legs tonight. Sometimes I need to get out of that old house and feel free. Kind of like you and my bag Tiny Man, right?” Alena watched Tiny Man strut through the blades of grass, who decided to sit down for a moment. He sat cross legged and looked from side to side. There was an air of innocence and wonder that made Tiny Man a charming companion when he wasn’t asking his constant questions. “Should we get back home Tiny Pants? Daddy will be wondering if his supplies came in,” Alena said.
Tiny Man moved one robotic arm in front of his legs in a sweeping motion, signaling to his lower half. “Although you continue to use variations of that phrase involving my name, it still contains no trace of meaning, and as you can easily see, I have no need of pants. Secondly, your father knows perfectly well that his supplies are in. The magna-trains keep the same schedule every week and every month. Why does he need you to report back to him?” Tiny Man shook his head in near disappointment. “Humans can be a headache. I wish you could input an instruction manual for homo sapiens to my main hardware.”
From Microwave Horror Story (Middle Grade Fiction)
City Slicker to Suburban Slug
My life is seriously messed up.
You think you’ve got problems? Really? Kids bullying you? Dog died? Didn’t make the basketball team? That’s nothing. Try moving into your new house, only to find a microwave that sucks one of your friends into another dimension.
Yeah, like I said, my life is seriously messed up. That’s only the beginning. The stupid thing can’t make up it’s mind. Sometimes it spews monsters into our world, and me and my friend Spike have to figure out how to stuff them back into the microwave. Then it goes scary vacuum on us, and we try not to get pulled into whatever place it takes its victims. I can’t make up stuff like this, man. I’m not that smart.
It all began when my dad decided that he needed a fresh start. New school district, new friends, new job. He’s a behavioral therapist. Basically helps people with their problems. I’ve secretly listened in to some of his conversations with mom. The people he works with can be pretty weird. He blamed the move on his lack of free time and the fact that he needed time to enjoy his hobbies. Whatever that means. Dad doesn’t have any hobbies, at least I’ve never seen him do anything fun. Suddenly he wants to learn the dulcimer? What’s up with that?
He told us that if we moved out of the city, we could go on more vacations, have more family time, and buy a bigger house. The only part that was of any importance to me was a bigger house. I did mention I have three sisters, right?
I didn’t need vacations or more family time. I was perfectly happy coming home from school and running into the streets until it got dark. My friends and I played football every single day. I played quarterback and there was this kid, Milo, who was my wide receiver. I picked him for my team every game because that kid had hands. It was like playing with Spiderman. I could throw it anywhere and he’d bring it down. It was glorious. All we had to do was make sure not to get hit by cars. We’d direct traffic and get right back to it, running the next play.
From Neighbors in the Supernova (YA Fiction)
August 12th, 1995
“You are going to do everything I want you to do. No hiccups this time.” Frank fixed his eyes on the pristine model rocket on one of the oak bookshelves. Recoated with a glistening green, it sparkled sitting next piles of dusty book covers. “Not a single thing will go wrong this time,” Frank said, directing his words towards the rocket. He broke into an ominous grin.
Bookshelves scratched the ceiling at every corner. It formed a solid wall, releasing its scent of dust and paper into the cramped space. Frank had a bit of everything. Dictionaries, encyclopedias, self-help books, classic adventure tales, and old magazine collectables littered the ledges of his personal library. They towered over the other furniture, which consisted of a few aged coffee tables, several offbeat lamps, and his recliner. He stood directly in front of the bookshelf with the rocket, examining his collection. “Seems a shame that I’ll have no use for these anymore,” he said. He took in a breath, his lungs filling up with the sooty particles of idle literature. “Never again,” he exhaled.
He lumbered over to the window and put his hand on the sill that faced the side yard. The neighborhood was quiet. There was no one on Clay Street this afternoon. Moving his eyes to the homes across the road, Frank didn’t see a single person. The only life was a few trees swaying in the summer breeze. During the humid months of summer, there were usually a few youngsters hanging around in front of his house. Frank would peer out a window and see them playing home-run derby or street hockey on rollerblades. Their laughter and shouting was as constant as the sun, even after dinner when Frank was trying to watch his shows. However, today on Clay Street there were only empty yards and the rotating of sprinklers.
But wait. There was Meredith.
He noticed his hermit neighbor working in her garden and gave her a wry smile. She, like him, didn’t care to get to know anyone else in the neighborhood. Frank had only conversed with her a handful of times through the years.
Alarmed by his sudden appearance in the window, she clumsily shot up her gloved hand to wave. The hose sprayed her square in the face and she staggered about in the dirt, trampling her tomato plants and treading on the lima beans. Her sun hat blew off her head, and her curly brown locks were now a sopping mess. Completely embarrassed and aggravated at the loss of her plants, she threw down the rubber hose and marched to the back of the house without looking back. Frank chuckled with a twinge of delight. She’s always been so nice Frank thought, mocking the awkwardness of his neighbor. Water guzzled from the abandoned spray nozzle. Do you want me to turn off the hose Meredith?
“It’s time,” Frank said softly. He spun away from the window and his sight locked on the model rocket. It was placed between two large volumes that read A Conceptual Study of Physics and Light and Sound. Each contained over 500 pages of mathematical equations that hypothesized the mysteries of the known universe. Removing it from the shelf, Frank cupped the rocket in the palm of his hand and kept it steady. The fins were smooth and well preserved. The initials F.T. were inscribed on the body of the ship. Carrying it like a precious gemstone, Frank moved from the living room through the kitchen to a staircase that led to the basement.
Before descending the stairs, a mirror hanging on the wall caught Frank’s eye. He sniffed and inspected his snowy mustache that slightly curled upwards at the ends. As he stared at his reflection, he noticed the papers that lined the mirror’s frame. It was an eclectic collection sorts consisting of clippings from professional journals, printouts from websites, and academic articles. For old time’s sake, Frank began to read.
“I was present for the opening of the CAC, and it was a transformative experience to work near to Dr. Tolovski. He was a great mentor.” -Riley Squares, Feynman Award Winner 1990
The next quote came from the Los Angeles Times, accompanied by a yellowish photograph. He looked vibrant and full of life. A team of his best friends and fellow scientists gathered around him.
“I don’t know how I got so lucky to do what I do. Whether it’s by hard work or sheer luck, I’m in a position to change the way we look at space. That’s all that matters to me.” -Frank Tolovski
One note hung from the bottom of the frame. It was a yellow sticky note that read:
My man. No time to waste.
“Jacque Bellamy”, Frank started. He scratched his waist where his belt was cutting into his hip. He had worn that belt every day for who knows how long. “We had fun, didn’t we?” A slightly twisted grin appeared on his face, and Frank adjusted the mirror so it hung straight. “You more than I, I’m afraid. You had all the fun. But don’t worry Bellamy, I will be there soon.” He snorted and spoke under his breath as if emitting flames. “President Bellamy…president of the Ameri…what a joke…” He tore the note from the mirror and crumpled it in his hand. Frank threw the paper scrap down the hallway, and looked if there was anything else he would like to part ways with. He scanned the mirror and frame searching for any other trace of Jacque Bellamy, but gave up the pursuit.
Frank complained one final time before he trudged down the stairs. “Between you and me, I was always the one with the big ideas, the great ideas. You were just a sounding board. A stupid one at that.”
He descended slightly bow legged, supported by the banister. The steps creaked in indignation with each heavy step pressing into them.
The staircase ended abruptly, as there was approximately a foot and half in between the last step and a round door. It was barely tall enough for Frank to go through. He turned the handle and entered. A long hallway was glaringly lit and Frank continued his walk. Single steel chains hung from the ceiling, with small light bulbs connected to the last link of each chain. They were fragile light fixtures, but gave off a surprising glow.
Pictures were hung in curious ways on the walls. At the beginning of the hallway were solid black pictures with tiny white dots barely in focus. Others were connected in giant spirals that looked like the long arms of galaxies. One sequence of pictures ran the entire length of the hallway. It was a panoramic view of the solar system, with text describing every known characteristic. Finally, there was a concept drawing of a supermassive black hole. This depiction showed a star being devoured, with jets of silver wisps winding together thanks to the intense gravity.
Frank stopped when he arrived at the end of the hallway. On the right there was a door, and on the left, a photograph. Frank turned to the portrait. It was a girl, no more than seven wearing a goose down jacket, relaxed on a mound of snow. The pile sat in a corner of a parking lot, edging up to a row of cars. Her fuzzy beanie covered straight brown hair that streaked out the sides and back, and with one mitten raised, she greeted the photographer with a cheery smile. Clearly she was experiencing snow for the first time. The snow glistened on her cheeks. Happiness captured.
Frank turned back to the sliding door. He pushed it effortlessly like it was a curtain, and it derailed. Frank whispered a few choice words. He lifted the door and put it back on its guide track, securing its rightful place. No matter what he did, the lock never worked quite right and the door never lined up to the frame. “You’re the only thing that I can’t fix,” Frank groaned. Once it was back in a useable position, he passed through the doorway and out into his backyard. The lawn was a tiny plot of grass, which was overrun with dandelions and prickly weeds.
It blended in with the terrain beyond his property line. An open dirt field numbered with rugged bushes struggled to survive. It looked like the rough plains of the Wild West. The field was soon to be developed into another immaculate neighborhood run by the HOA. Companies were throwing up new homes in a hurry. Building sites were littered with timbers and unfinished frames spread over concrete slabs. A signpost announced Marco Homes—Starting in the $220’s. Framing your home for a better tomorrow!
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