Friday, January 31, 2014

Trilogy Bag Count: 50

The only thing yarn does when you work with it in the winter is to keep you warm while you’re working. I made an 8 pound blanket one time (it was meant to be more of a 4 pound blanket but I got carried away) and I was so snuggly while working on it. I never had the yarn stick to my arm or the wall, or cause me to get shocked whenever I touched something metal.
Plarn, on the other hand…
Another great reason that I keep it all wound up around a stick is so that I don’t have to peel it off the wall when I’m ready to use it.

Trilogy Bag Count: 50

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Thursday in History: Attempted

Today, the President is protected by many Secret Service Agents. They make sure he’s safe while he goes about the business of running the country. But back in the days when the country was still going through puberty, things were different.
Andrew Jackson is not known for his quiet and unassuming presidency. His term in office was a lot like the man himself: bumpy, full of struggles, and sometimes dangerous. There were times when he was popular, and there were times when he wasn’t. He was the first President to be attacked by a member of the public, and the first President to be the target of an attempted assassination.
Embezzling is never a good idea, because the inevitable ending is that you’ll be caught and kicked out of the Navy. Nobody told Robert B. Randolph this, however, and he was caught and dishonorably discharged from his post by Andrew Jackson. On the way to the dedication of a monument in Virginia in May of 1833, the former sailor appeared and punched Jackson in the face. He escaped, chased by those who were traveling with the President. Ultimately, no charges were filed against Randolph.
But maybe they should have been, because on this day in history in 1835, President Jackson was leaving the Capitol building after a colleague’s funeral and was attacked by a crazy person.
After his capture, Richard Lawrence claimed that he was the king of England (Richard III, in fact. Oh, those time traveling British monarchs), that the President had caused the loss of his job as a house painter, and that money would be plentiful with Jackson gone - he had once vetoed the National Bank.
The attempted assassination failed: both Lawrence’s pistols misfired, most likely due to the high humidity that day. Subsequent tests proved the pistols to be in perfect working order, but legend says that Providence was protecting Jackson, just as it protected the country he served.
The crowd around the President, which included several United States congressmen (Davy Crockett among them), fought back, and the assassin was defeated. There’s a rumor that Jackson himself whacked Lawrence with his cane several times before he was carted off, and though there’s no way to know if that report is true, it totally sounds like something Andrew Jackson would do.
An etching of the attempted assassination
(via wikipedia)
The United States Secret Service was not founded until April 14, 1865. Abraham Lincoln signed the legislation, and it was on his desk that night when he went to Ford’s Theater. It wasn’t until 1902 that the Secret Service took charge of the President’s protection. Our Presidents are safer now, and it’s better this way: “apprehended by the Secret Service” is much more civilized than “wrestled to the ground by a United States Representative while being beaten with a cane by the President.”

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Writing Prompt: Positively Perilous

Rosemarie Keough almost died taking a penguin’s picture.
Nature photographers live in danger. Lions on the savannah, bald eagles cliff-side in California, and diving to capture the underwater habits of adorable penguins are all a part of the job. The danger just makes it a little more interesting.
But this particular day, Rosemarie wasn’t in danger. It wasn’t even particularly cold out. It was slippery and there happened to be a steep hill nearby, but neither Rosemarie nor her companions were worried.
She crouched down to get a shot of her favorite little troublemaker. He hadn’t let her get in close, and always turned away right when her finger touched the shutter release. She adjusted the focus, and took the picture.
She got it!
She was sure she’d gotten it. She tilted the camera up to check the preview. Just then, the wind rose up and shifted her balance. She wobbled in her squatting position, readjusting so she wouldn’t end up on her rear.
She slipped.
Her companions watched as she tumbled down the hill toward the water and some nearby leopard seals. They were after her almost as quickly as she fell, and rushed her to the hospital for stitches and rest for her cracked skull.
But Rosemarie didn’t care about any of that. When she woke up, the first thing she said was, “How’s my camera?!” Unlike her, the camera was fine.
The even better news was that she got the picture.
Writing Prompt #798
To read the true story of how wildlife photographer Rosemarie Keough nearly lost her life, click here.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hesitance

I’m old enough to remember hand writing papers for high school. Sometimes I typed them up and printed them, but I didn’t start doing that exclusively until college. Today, I hardly write anything on paper, since the place I need it to be is on the computer anyway.
I use Google Drive to store my documents. All of them. Hardly any of my writing is stored on my computer’s hard drive, and the reason is simple: I don’t trust it.
Those three heartbeats worth of blind panic when you’re not daring to breathe as though that would bring back your lost file is not a moment that I enjoy living through. I’ve lost plenty of homework and personal writing work because the computer I was working on decided to die forever.
That Vader-esque “NOOOOOOO” feeling is not pleasant, nor is the look on the professor’s face when you’re asking for an extension to re-write what your computer lost, the one that is trying to decide whether the bags under your eyes are there because you waited until the last minute (and let’s face it, you did) or if they are truly evidence of your frustration with the faith which you put in your computer.
So my reluctance to use a writing program that stores things on my hard drive instead of my computer is understandable. I’ve heard that Scrivener is a really great program. It certainly looks interesting, with its vows to organize everything from various projects and its zillions of folders, but I’m still hesitant.
One thing I know I can’t do with Scrivener is easily share something online. And I can’t work on a problem sentence in the same document at the same time as my writing partner. Those are things I can do in with Google Drive.
I’m happy with the way I work. Learning a whole new software program seems like a lot of work for who knows how much gain. And what if my computer dies and loses all of everything? There’s no ‘undo’ button for a crashed hard drive.
I’m not sure about Scrivener yet. We’ll see… I’ll reserve judgement for when I’m done with this 80 page tutorial.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Review: The Desolation of Smaug

It makes the Lord of the Rings fan in me sad to say it, but I honestly was not that impressed with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Sure, we got to go back to Bag End and they got Martin Freeman to play Bilbo, but there’s tons of dwarves everywhere that you can’t keep straight unless you memorize them beforehand and Gandalf is acting like a super creepy dude, “hey I knew your mom so it’s okay for me to be here and by the way you should come with us on this road trip and you won’t mind if I bring a few of my friends?” There was some cool action, and the endearing The Hobbit-esque tendency of getting captured and nearly killed every time they turned around. (“What, really? Again?”)
When my husband asked me if I wanted to go see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, I shrugged and said, “Okay… If you want, I guess.” This weekend, we headed off to East Park, the last theater in town still playing it.
I’m not sure what I was expecting. Maybe the mediocre feeling I had after leaving the theater last year when An Unexpected Journey ended? I knew The Desolation of Smaug had plenty of things going for it: it was made by Peter Jackson, was going to be the same interesting story I’d read when I was eleven or twelve. Plus, I knew from internet rumor that Bilbo’s conversation with the dragon was in there. Maybe I didn’t want to be the same kind of disappointed by going in with hopeful feelings.
I did expect more party elk.
Of course, I loved it. Anything that can make the group’s trip through Mirkwood more clear is bound to be an improvement on the book, and speaking of improvements, I enjoyed the addition of Tauriel. The three Lord of the Rings movies had so much material to cover, it was understandable that some things be left out. When you’re making three movies based on one book, moviegoers should see the need for a little more material to be added. And everyone enjoys a good love story.
The barrel scene was great (though the “Bombur knocking orcs all over the place and then fighting from inside the barrel” gag was a little bit much), the conversation Bilbo and Balin have before he goes after the arkenstone was hilarious, and the banter with the dragon was awesome. And the ending was perfect!
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was such a fun movie. The addition of Evangeline Lily, Peter Jackson with his carrot in Bree, Stephen Colbert the king of all Tolkien nerds, and Stephen Fry made the original story more enjoyable. It was wonderful, and the best way that it differed from An Unexpected Journey was that it made me wish it was July so I could go see the next one!
We stood up and stretched as the ending credits began to roll, and listened to Ed Sheeran’s I See Fire playing over them. We left before the song was over, but the second I got home, I looked it up on youtube and hunted out the lyrics.
I see fire
Inside the mountain
I see fire
Burnin’ the trees
I see fire
Hollowing souls
I see fire
Blood on the breeze
The idea of fire “hollowing souls” perfectly captures what the people of Laketown would feel every day. Gazing up at the Lonely Mountain, they would have given anything not to see fire. Fire meant the end of everything to them: their boats would be charred and unable to aid them, their homes would burn, and their lives would be lost. The fire would hollow their souls, leaving them hopeless.
Bilbo’s final line of the movie, “What have we done?” shows that he understands what fire will do to the people who awaited the dragon’s wrath.
Desolation.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Cooking is When You Put Food Together and it Tastes Good or Sometimes it Doesn't

Hungry? Need a snack? Having a Superbowl party? Well, you’re in luck, because I have decided to share a secret recipe with you: my husband’s famous green chili dip.
You will need:
Some green chili (preferably frozen, or in a can if you’re a heathen)
An unspecified amount of sour cream (like a cup? and a half? maybe?)
Garlic salt (even the Dipmaster himself could not tell you how much. His only direction on this point is to put in “enough.”)
Mix these ingredients together and enjoy. If you’re not enjoying, you probably put too little or too much of one of them in; how could you do that? This is such a simple recipe! Put more of one or more of the ingredients in until you are enjoying. Then you’re done. Consume voraciously before someone else does until the dip is gone. Then make more.
Heaven help you if you run out of chips.
This photo brought to you by the fact that there is no one else in the house to steal my dip.
p.s. This dip is also good to make and eat when you're by yourself, that way you won't have to share.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thursday in History: Ghostly Testimony

Today, if a witness in a murder trial were to say something like, “my daughter’s good-for-nothing husband killed her, and I know because her ghost appeared to me and told me so,” she would be tossed out of court as an unreliable witness (and a crazy person).
Mary Jane Heaster was questioned by the prosecutor at the trial which would bring justice to her daughter, but he didn’t ask her anything about voices from the beyond. She was happy to share that particular story with the lawyer for the defense. He was hoping to show the jury that she was, as he assumed, a crazy person, but was defeated by the unwavering account she gave of the four nights that her daughter’s ghost visited her, and the story the apparition shared about her cruel husband who strangled her because he was displeased with the dinner she made.
Since the defense had made such a point of dragging out the whole implausible story, there was no way the judge could caution the jury to forget what Mrs. Heaster had said about the ghost turning its head all the way around to prove its neck had been broken.
The unfortunate widower was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, a life which was saved by the deputy sheriff’s quick action in disbanding a lynch mob that arrived the evening after the sentencing to mete out justice. He died three years later of an epidemic that swept the West Virginia State Penitentiary in 1900.
On this day in history in 1897, Zora Heaster Shue was found collapsed at the foot of the stairs in her home by a boy who had been sent there with a message from her husband. Important parties were notified, and when the tardy doctor arrived at the Shue household, he found that Erasmus Shue had taken it upon himself to dress his wife’s body for burial. Normally the women of a community performed this heart wrenching task to allow the family of the deceased to grieve, but everyone handles the death of a loved one differently. Shue’s way was apparently to hover around his beloved’s head, sobbing. These effusions of woe prevented the doctor from noticing much more than some bruising around the neck of the deceased, and he soon left the man to his mourning.
Zona Shue’s mother had never liked her daughter’s useless husband. She was against their marriage in the first place. He’d been a drifter before settling in Greenbrier county to work as a blacksmith. What did they know about him? Nothing! And the way he refused to move away from Zona’s body was suspicious. He’d shouted at several people when they’d tried to see Zona laid out in her coffin, and got especially worked up when they asked him why he was putting a pillow and a towel on either side of her neck. “To help her rest easier”?! She was dead and gone! How would a pillow help her rest? And no one believed him when he put that hideous scarf around her neck. “Her favorite,” indeed!
But she couldn’t ignore the fact that he refused to take the sheet his wife’s body had lain on before burial. She decided to keep it herself, and when she washed it, was astounded to find blood there. Hoping that her daughter, wronged and murdered by her husband, would return to tell the truth of it, she began a month of earnest prayers.
Whether Zona’s spirit appeared to her mother or not, the determined old lady badgered a local prosecutor into looking at the case, and he found enough suspicious things to order Zona’s body exhumed. No ghost was present to incriminate Shue at the inquest, but his words and behavior showed a guilty conscience: he protested against attending but was required by law to be there. Whining that he knew he would be arrested, he showed up, but also added that there was no proof that he had done anything wrong. The results were as he predicted: he was arrested after the examiners found bruising on his late wife’s neck, a crushed windpipe, and a broken neck.
The prosecution was not wasting time while Shue was waiting in jail for trial, and dug up certain things about his past: two marriages, one ending in divorce (accompanying accusations of “great cruelty”) and the other making him a widower for the first time, as his wife mysteriously expired soon after they were married. Shue threw caution to the wind as he awaited his doom in the cell, talking about his plans to marry seven women once he was let off of these proof-less charges.
Zona’s mother found some justice for her murdered child when the jury sentenced her son-in-law to life in prison on July 11th, 1897. The ghost of her daughter has not been seen since, and may never have been seen at all; the fact of the matter is that people who heard the story believed it, and that the events surrounding the murder of Zona Heaster Shue have been remembered.
West Virginia state marker, located near Zora Shue's burial site in Greenbrier County, West Virginia
Photo from gothichorrorstories.com

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Writing Prompt: Ze Accent

Writing Prompt #797
referencing Russians: Still the Go-to Bad Guys, by Steven Kurutz
What makes people interesting is their ability to choose and make decisions. This also goes for fictional characters: does the good kid pick up a rock and throw it when exposed to peer pressure? Does the strict teacher give students a break from homework when they've earned it? Does the bad guy with the heart of gold go back to rescue the hero? The power to decide be something different from what readers were expecting is what makes a character worth paying attention to.
It’s not okay to assign villainy to any group of people; if everyone living in a certain country was evil, how boring would they be? They’d be predictable, incapable of change, and uninteresting. No one wants to read about a character like that.
The situation of the world during and after the Cold War is a great setting for hundreds of wonderful characters. The world was changing, and the people in it were changing too. For those of us who grew up watching movies that were peopled with Russian bad guys found them interesting and exciting. Part of that is probably the complex history of the characters, but another large part is totally the accent.
Accents are cool! They make already compelling characters fascinating. And it doesn’t just have to be a Russian accent, either. A British accent works as well: “I will be king! Stick with me, and you’ll never go hungry again!” Or a German accent: “No, Mr. Bond; I expect you to die.” Or even French: “Fetchez la vache!”
A Russian accent gives a bad guy more awesome bad-guy-ness. Not because all Russians are bad, but because we’ve all seen enough movies with awesome Russian characters to expect that anyone with a Russian accent is going to be awesomely scary and a really cool villain. Making Russians into bad guys on the big screen doesn’t have anything to do with politics or hate. That accent is awesome, and it gives your villain an extra flair.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Yo

I’m not a huge fan of yogurt. I’ll eat it frozen (Ben & Jerry’s “Liz Lemon” is particularly good), but slurping it down for a snack is not my favorite thing. My daughters love it, and my husband buys it so he has something quick to grab in the morning on the way out the door. But there’s a strange phenomenon in our fridge with the yogurt: certain types seem to be tossed aside in favor of others.
“I don’t understand why he does this,” I told my mother over the phone as I grabbed a cast off flavor to favor my daughters with. “I know it’s probably just because he wants to try the different flavors, but he wants to eat the ones he likes first, but it just seems like he’s buying them all and then only eating the ones he knows are good.”
“Your father does that!” my mother replied. “I have to buy him peach yogurt. Only peach! And he just eats peach yogurt, all the time. I would think that the point of having different flavors is to try all of them; I’d want to.”
“He just knows what he likes,” I said. “It’s fun to try different things, but if you know you like something…” I fished around for a metaphor close to her heart. “It’s not like you make your steak different every time. You’re not like ‘ooh, I’ll cook this well done and see how that is.’”
“Hm, that’s true,” my mother admitted. She is a staunch defender of the rare-steak-or-no-steak agenda.
“if you’re not sure you’ll like it, it’s like you’re wasting your time.” I said. “If it’s gross, then you’re sitting there, wishing you’d eaten the thing you knew you liked.” My daughters chomped down on their Key Lime yogurt. “I win,” I concluded.
“Well, as long as it’s getting eaten,” my mother conceded defeat.
“As long as they like it,” I added. “And as long as I don’t have to eat it.”

Monday, January 20, 2014

It's Got My Name On It

Getting published is like having a baby. You hear the news, and you’re excited. You see proofs/ultrasound pictures, and you're even more excited. You get the nursery and the bookshelf ready and have a party, feeling proud of what you've accomplished. But the best moment is holding the finished product in your hands for the first time.
Especially if it looks like you… or has your name on it.
Forge Issue 7.3, Winter 2014, can be read at forgejournal.com or hard copies can be purchased through lulu.com.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Trilogy Bag Count: ...still 40

I did zero crafting this week. I did lots of sleeping and coughing and whining and drinking orange juice instead. I did cut up some more bags, so Bag the Bag Part 3: the Sequel to the Sequel did advance, in a way.
Really, it’s miraculous I got this much done.
Crafting goes much easier when you have materials to craft with.
Trilogy Bag Count: ...still 40

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thursday in History: First Post

On this day in history in 1986, a group of engineers met for the first time for the express purpose of making the internet run better. They were volunteers, and dedicated themselves to improving the internet from an engineering standpoint. Meetings are held three times per year, and are open to the public, so anyone can attend and contribute.
The Internet Engineering Task Force is dedicated to making the internet a better place… from an engineering standpoint. “We try to avoid policy and business questions, as much as possible,” says their Newcomers page at ietf.org. “If you're interested in these general aspects, consider joining the Internet Society.” Translation: “We’re engineers doing engineering. Go away and leave us alone unless you’re interested in engineering with us!”
The Internet Society was created to support the Internet Engineering Task Force: someone to answer people’s questions so that the engineers could concentrate on engineering. The engineers of the IETF work, and the Internet Society does the paperwork.
Happy Anniversary, Internet! It’s nice to know there are actually some people in the world working to make you a better place.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Writing Prompt: Portuguese Dragons

A strange occurrence in downtown Lisbon last Friday had employees of a local electronics company assembling a human ladder to verify strange reports of a dragon in the area.
“When I got to work, the whole building was wrapped up in a tarp, like it was under construction!” declared Izabel Almieda, 36, a secretary at Radiolux, Lda. “I’ve worked here for seven years! Everything was just fine yesterday!” Almieda waited for several other employees to join her, and they stood on the street for an hour or two just watching the building. “Didn’t seem like there was anything wrong with it,” she added.
The office manger, Bernardo de Santiago, 45, arrived to find six people not working and immediately leaped into action. “I didn’t know what it was about any more than they did,” he explained as he sent a project manager and a production engineer hunting around the building for a ladder. “We had to see what was inside before I put in a call to the CEO, none of us could understand why we hadn’t been notified about anything [regarding the shut-down building].”
“My office is just down the hall from the maintenance room,” said Rosario Pereira, a production assistant. “They weren’t going to find a ladder outside, and I told Senhor de Santiago he was wasting his time.”
It turned out that Pereira was right, but de Santiago wasn’t just going to give up. He organized the assembled employees into a human ladder, and sent Almieda to the top to peek into a second story window. “Everything was burned inside,” Almieda reported, “like there was a fire. But Maria [Silva], who’s a secretary like me, lives just down the street, and she told me she hadn’t heard anything or seen anything last night.”
At around eleven thirty, a representative of the fire department arrived to explain the situation. “A dragon!” Pereira exclaimed. “Rubbish! Where’s the proof?” de Santiago was forced to give his employees the rest of the day off as he investigated further.
“I’ve heard office gossip that one of the boys down in payroll fancied himself a dragon hunter,” said de Santiago, “but I didn’t think that sort of thing would have any impact on his work. I guess I was wrong.” He went on to say that the employee in question would be held accountable for his actions.
“He’d better be!” Almieda insisted. “I’ve got mouths to feed!”
The Radiolux Dragon is an ongoing investigation by both the fire department, police, and Radiolux executives. Updates on this interesting occurrence will appear in this periodical as they become available to reporters.
Writing Prompt #253

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Poem: Potions

Everything on the side
of the Nyquil bottle
and more
plus I don’t feel rested when I wake up.
Apparently I’m unable to write prose
when I’m sick
or maybe it’s a symptom.
I’d like to see Nyquil make a potion
that prevents poetry.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Friday, January 10, 2014

Trilogy Bag Count: 40

Previous Bag the Bag projects have seemed to be progressing both faster and slower than this one. I wasn’t stopping at predetermined points to look at how many bags I’d used, it was just “oh well, it’s Friday, time for a photo shoot,” and if I hadn’t made much progress at all, I’d feel bad, and if I’d made tons, I’d feel good. Since I’m paying attention to how much Bag the Bag I get out of ten recycled bags, it’s different. And since this project has a different handle-making process, I get confused.
The handles grow taller at a different rate than the rest of the bag. A handle needs a new bag about every fifteen or so bags tall in the body. The result is that last week, Bag the Bag Part 3: the Sequel to the Sequel got significantly taller, and this week, it didn’t seem to have grown much higher at all. I was a little sad about this until I remembered that I ran out of bag on all the handles and had to replace them, so I really only used six bags on the body instead of the usual ten. I have to keep reminding myself that doing the handles this way will save a LOT of time in the end, even though it’s a bit inconvenient right now.
I’ve also reached that point again; it’s time. I have to cut a whole bunch of bags. It’s an arduous process that involves lots of static electricity, plarn everywhere for several days, and discovering which of the bags I hadn’t realized were covered in something sticky. I always look forward to getting back to the crochet part after playing with scissors and winding plarn. I could just cut the bags as I crochet, but it’s nice to have a definite way to keep track of how many bags I’m using and it also keeps the plarn neatly in one place, all ready to go.
I wonder how much more plarn I’ll need to cut before this thing is finished!
Trilogy Bag Count: 40

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Thursday in History: Pix

Today, every single person carries a device around with them that can, among many other things, capture an image of a moment. But this wouldn't be possible if it weren't for the groundwork that was laid for it by French artist Louis Daguerre and his partner, inventor Nicéphore Niépce.
The first daguerreotype, taken by Daguerre himself in 1837
(via wikipedia)
On this day in history in 1839, the French Academy of Sciences announced the birth of photography: the invention of the Daguerreotype. In order to capture an image, the subject had to sit still for fifteen minutes. This was followed by a long, arduous process involving various chemicals and treating methods, after which the image had to be kept in a case under glass to prevent the image from flaking away.
The first picture of a person was taken by Daguerre himself. The scene outside his window was of a busy street in Paris, the Boulevard du Temple. The desertedness of the image is a lie: traffic was as thick as ever, but none of the carriages were still long enough to be captured on film. The men in the lower left, however, were.
The Boulevard du Temple in Paris; the first photograph of a living human, taken by Louis Daguerre in 1838. (via wikipedia)
Daguerreotype usage dropped off in the 1860s, when newer, easier ways of capturing images began to be invented. In the 1980s and 90s, however, artists began to become interested in it again, and daguerreotyping revived. There are less than one hundred daguerreotypes in the world today, and you can find their gorgeous works using this interesting antique medium at CDags.org.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Writing Prompt: Finding Fantasyland

“I understand you’re concerned, Miss, but three hours isn’t long enough to file a missing persons report.”
I wasn’t at my most calm and understanding. I was hysterical. I was crying and screaming at the unfortunate police officer who had come when I’d called 911. “He hasn’t been missing three hours!” I screeched. “It’s been at least five, I was wandering around out there looking for him myself for hours before I called anyone!”
He nodded in an understanding way. “Well, I’m sure he’ll turn up soon. Give us a call tomorrow evening if you haven’t found him.” He smiled reassuringly. “Good luck.”
“It takes a lot less than twenty-four hours for a person to die!” I yelled at his retreating back. More tears gushed their way down my face as he got into his squad car, turned off the red and blue flashing lights, and drove away.
I slammed the door behind me as though he was my stepdad and he could somehow be punished by my adolescent aggression toward the house. And as if he could still hear me. It was dark in my aunt and uncle’s cabin. I could have turned on a light, but it wouldn’t have illuminated the dark knot of worry in my chest. I let out one more anguished sob and collapsed on the couch.
This was supposed to be an awesome weekend. Our friends from high school were getting together for an informal reunion. We were going to eat junk food, play video games, and stay up all night planning an epic roleplaying campaign, which my best friend Brett was going to run. Brett was always our GM. He was the best storyteller, and a few of our friends liked to say that he would live in fantasyland if he could.
But Brett was better than a good storyteller. He was the core of our group, the one who held us together when life after high school threatened to tear us apart. He kept in touch with everyone, and helped us all to keep in touch with each other. It was because of him that we were all going to gather here for autumn break instead of going off to some warm locale to drink ourselves silly. The others were going to show up in the morning; it was a long drive out to my aunt and uncle’s cabin. Brett and I had showed up early to sweep cobwebs out of corners, roast marshmallows in the fireplace, and make sure the fridge was stocked with plenty of soda and snacks. It was late afternoon when he suggested we go ramble in the woods. “Maybe we’ll find a good spot for a goblin ambush,” he’d said, laughing.
We wandered for a while on the path, talking about everything: comparing professors, extracurriculars, and new friends. Then suddenly Brett said, “Whoa, Jill, check it out!” and ran off of the beaten trail and into the trees.
“What?” I said, following him as close as I could. “What do you see?”
He was crashing through the brush and making a lot of noise, when I heard him trip and cry out: “Agh, I stepped in a hole. What…”
“Brett? Where are you?” I called. Wherever he’d fallen, I couldn’t see him. I stumbled forward a little more, trying not to trip over him in the afternoon light, which was rapidly darkening to dusk.
“Holy crap!” I heard him say. “Jill, this is amazing! Wait until you―” That was the last time I heard his voice.
By watching the ground carefully, I spotted a hole, but not Brett. It wasn’t a very big hole, so it wasn’t like he could have fallen through it into some unknown cave below. I called his name for ten minutes, then screamed it for ten more. I wandered the woods calling for him as it got darker and darker, then when I’d finally made my way back to the path, I ran to the house and called the police.
I sat dejectedly on the couch in the dark.
Where could he have gone? It wasn’t like college students vanished into thin air in the woods. This wasn’t a slasher movie. I cast a glance over my shoulder at the kitchen counter, where my aunt kept a quantity of knives. I rolled my eyes and imagined the announcer’s voice on the movie trailer: “They only wanted a weekend of fun with their friends. Little did they know what would happen. Coming soon to a theater near you: Teenage Horror Stabby Doom IV: Revenge on Autumn Break.” Then I laughed. In the dark, empty house.
On second thought, if this was a slasher flick, it wasn’t a bad idea to be armed. I got up and helped myself to one of the steak knives. It wasn’t terribly sharp, but it was pointy, and more importantly, it made me feel better. Then I thought that I may as well go look for Brett by myself in the woods, since according to slasher movie rules I was probably safer out there than in the house.
I helped myself to one of my uncle’s big camping lanterns and headed off in the same direction that Brett and I had gone earlier. For some reason, yelling into the darkness while holding the only source of light around didn’t seem like the best choice, so I just retraced my steps the best way I could. Eventually, I found it. The little hole surrounded by leaves. I was pretty sure this was where Brett had disappeared.
Writing Prompt #600
The lantern light illuminated the bottom of the hole. It was less than a foot deep. There were some pine needles inside. I sat there staring into it, not sure what I was expecting. It wasn’t like Brett had fallen into it. I sighed. This was ridiculous. I’d wait until morning, and maybe even until  everybody else showed up, and that way I’d have light and help. I stood up and leaned down to pick up the lantern.
I gasped and dropped it when I heard rustling in the leaves nearby. There was no wind. “Brett?!” I cried. “Brett? Is that you?” I turned in the direction of the sound I’d heard, trying to keep track of the hole behind me so that I wouldn’t put my foot in it; that would be a stupid thing to do.
A squirrel jumped out at me, twittered, and then ran up a nearby tree. I breathed a sigh of relief and was just about to grab the lantern again when I could swear I heard Brett’s voice behind me. I spun around quickly, and of course fell over into the hole just like I had been planning not to do.
“Ugh, stupid hole,” I said to myself. Everything was dark. I must have fallen on top of the lantern and accidentally turned it off.
“Jill?! Is that you?!”
“Brett!” I yelled. “Where are you?”
“Right here,” he said. “It might take your eyes some time to get used to the light.”
“You jerk!” I cried. “You’ve been out here this whole time?! I’ve been looking for you for hours! I even called the cops!”
“You’ve been looking for… hours?”
“What, did you take a nap out here or something?” I asked, squinting to pull in some light, trying to see Brett or anything, really. He was silent for a moment, so I started feeling around for the lantern.
“Oh…!” he said finally. “Time must run differently!”
“What?!” I asked, annoyed. The lantern didn’t seem to be anywhere nearby, so I figured that I must have fallen away from it when I stepped in the hole.
“It’s like a Narnia thing,” he explained without explaining anything.
“What are you talking about?” I said, exasperated.
“You know how Adrian and Sara are always saying that I’d live in fantasyland if I could?” As he spoke, a reddish light appeared, though it seemed far away. I could discern Brett’s outline. I reached out to touch his arm, but it was covered in something hard and leather.
“Yeah…?” I said as he helped me stand up.
“I found it.” I could hear the grin in his voice, and soon I could see it because the torch was getting nearer.
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“I found Fantasyland.” Brett took the torch and stood back to introduce me to who had brought it. “This is Gar’fang, he’s, well, he’s my servant, I guess.” Brett said something to the thing and it bowed.
I blinked, not sure how to take this in. “What is it?” I said.
“He’s a goblin!” Brett said, grinning.
“A goblin.” I stared at Gar’fang.
“Isn’t it great?!”
I looked from Brett to the thing and back. “I think I must have hit my head on the lantern when I fell,” I said.
Brett smiled. “Come on. Let’s go back to my house.” He handed the torch back to Gar’fang and grabbed my arm to help me across the uneven floor of the cave we had been standing in. I looked up at the ceiling and didn’t see a hole, not even one too small to fit through but big enough to trip someone in the woods.
It took me a while to register his words. “You have a house?” I asked.
“I’m sort of the clan’s loremaster.”
“How…” I began weakly.
“I don’t know how much you heard after I got here, but right after I fell I was trying to tell you about the cave. I got interrupted by a hunting party, who took me back with them to the settlement and tossed me in lockup.”
“A hunting party of…”
“Of goblins,” he clarified.
“And they threw you in goblin jail.”
“I was there for a couple of weeks until I started to pick up words here and there. Goblin isn’t a very wordy language, but I wanted to learn enough to be able to say ‘I come in peace; take me to your leader.’ How awesome would that have been, right?”
“Awesome,” I agreed, still not really believing the entire situation.
“They don’t really have a word for ‘peace,’ but after a couple of weeks I managed to tell the clanmaster something like ‘I,’” and he gestured at himself, “‘here,’” pointing to the ground, “‘not war.’”
The fact that I was listening to one of Brett’s stories while we followed a goblin that was carrying a torch for a us through a rocky tunnel was suddenly incredibly hilarious to me, and I started laughing. I laughed and laughed and laughed until I cried. I doubled over, clutched my stomach, and giggled all my worry out. Brett was safe. He was happy. And he was telling me a story just like the one when he’d convinced our high school principal not to give him detention. I was expecting that when I stood, we’d be back in the woods, and Brett would be laughing with me, and we’d go up to the house and go to bed, waiting for morning so that we could tell Adrian and Sara the crazy story he’d come up with this time.
“Feeling better?” he asked when I stood. We were still in a dark stone tunnel, the light of the torch showing me that though Brett was happy to see me, he was slightly worried about me.
“I guess,” I said. “So this isn’t a dream.”
“You have a knife?” he asked, pointing at the piece of my aunt’s silverware that I still clutched in one hand. “You’d better give it to me before we get to the settlement. Not that I want to disarm you or anything, it’s just that it takes months to get these people to trust you (I would know), and the fact that you’re my friend won’t necessarily convince the clanmaster that you’re not dangerous.”
I shrugged and numbly passed it over. He ran his thumb along the blade and smiled.
“Who were you going to attack with this? It’s not even sharp enough to kill a squirrel.”
“I did get mugged by a squirrel,” I admitted. Brett gave me a look. “Well, it ran toward me and then ran away. At least I was armed at the time!”
He tucked the knife away somewhere and gestured at my jacket. “You’d better zip that up, too. The more armored you look, the more respect you’ll get.”
I did as he suggested, raising my eyebrow at him. “It’s just a sweatshirt,” I said.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said, the ghost of a grin in his eyes, “the clanmaster’s never seen a white girl before, so you’ll probably be okay either way.” I shoved him sideways and he laughed. Gar’fang glanced back at us and said something to Brett. He replied, and then said, “We’re almost there.”
“What were you doing in the cave when I showed up?” I asked.
“Oh…” Brett seemed to be blushing. “I… was… studying. You know, lore. Sometimes the settlement gets too loud, kids running around, hunters training, and everything. I go there to think about all the different stuff I’ve read about goblins in my old RPG books. I wish I’d brought a few of the sourcebooks with me, but it’s not like I was planning to arrive here when we went for a walk a year ago.”
“A year?” I cried. “It’s been like six hours for me!”
“Yeah, Narnia. Like I said earlier.”
“So we’re… in Narnia?”
“Probably not. At least, I don’t think so. Well, maybe. But I haven’t explored much. I’m too busy loremastering.”
We emerged from the tunnel into a forest that looked almost exactly like the one we’d fallen out of. There was even a tree nearby that looked like the one that my squirrel mugger had escaped into.
“My theory is that it’s just an alternate universe,” Brett said.
“An alternate universe in the woods behind my aunt and uncle’s cabin,” I said, looking around at the trees.
“Well, the door to get here is there,” he said.
Suddenly I realized the real reason he’d been in the cave. “But the door to get back…?” I asked.
He shrugged. “The clan’s shaman has a ritual she can perform that puts you to sleep. You wake up back where you’re supposed to be, but you can never come back here again.”
I watched his face as he said this. Brett didn’t want to leave fantasyland. Once he found it, he’d never want to go home. So why had he been in that cave looking for a way back? Or had he…
“Were you waiting for me?”
“What?”
“In the cave.”
“I…”
“You were waiting for me, even after a year?”
He didn’t answer for a moment, then he took my hand. “Even if you were having the time of your life, you’d still want to know you were missed, right? Like that semester you spent in Italy. Remember?”
My time in Italy was only one semester ago, when Brett had burned through a dozen international calling cards to make sure I heard his voice once every couple of days. I’d known that everyone at home was excited for me and the wonderful new experience I was having, and it had made me feel less lonely. For Brett, that was a year and a half ago. He’d been ‘speaking Italian’ without hearing the voice of a friend speaking English for far more than three days.
I jumped into his arms. “I missed you, Brett!” I insisted. “I practically verbally assaulted an officer of the law because he wouldn’t help me look for you, and you’d only been missing for a few hours!”
Brett returned the hug, laughing. “Thanks, that’s nice to know. Sometimes when I went to bed I’d think about you guys having a funeral for me, my parents crying, and my brother stealing my music collection. But it’s nice to hear that I’d have been missed if there had been enough time for you to miss me.”
Gar’fang’s voice intruded on our moment, and Brett and I turned away from one another to see that he’d deposited the torch in a large fire in the midst of a circle of small buildings.
“Are we there?” I asked.
“Yeah, this is the settlement,” Brett replied. He pointed at a hut on the other side of the fire. “That one’s mine, but I should probably take you to see the clanmaster right away.”
We headed for the fanciest-looking hut in the circle, and once inside, bowed to a tiny goblin wearing layers of animal skins. He looked surprised to see me. “Brett,” he said. “This is Jill.”
“You speak English!” I exclaimed.
Brett smiled. “He taught me, I taught him.”
“Loremaster teaches,” said the clanmaster. “The old ones, the small ones.”
I looked at Brett. “You’re a one-room schoolhouse teacher in a goblin village,” I said. He laughed, and translated for the clanmaster.
“He’s pretty fluent, but not when you speak quickly,” he explained to me.
“Tell him I said, ‘I, here, not war.’”
Brett laughed and started speaking quickly to the clanmaster in Goblin. I assumed he was relating the conversation he and I had had earlier about his arrival. Whatever the case, the clanmaster looked amused.
“Brett is good,” he said. “Loremaster…” he spoke a few words to Brett and Brett supplied him with the English word he wanted: “important.”
“You’re saying he can’t go back with me,” I said.
“Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t,” Brett said. “The way I understand it, our shaman can only send you back during your first sleep here. I’d already slept here too many times before I could even communicate, let alone make them understand I’d come from somewhere else.”
“Clan need Brett,” the clanmaster informed me.
For the second time that day, my eyes filled with tears. I’d had a long day; I yelled at a police officer, lost my best friend in the woods only to find him later in a mysterious cave, had to accept that he’d been living among goblins for a year as their loremaster, and now, on top of everything else, I was going to have to leave him here, alone, within the next several hours, and return to a world without him in it.
The clanmaster took my hand in his rough, wrinkly one and patted it with the other. He said something in Goblin that I didn’t understand, but it sounded comforting, so I thanked him. He passed my hand to Brett, who said something else and then bowed, leading me out of the hut.
It was getting dark in fantasyland, but I could still see Brett’s face. All I wanted to do was see Brett’s face; I was never going to see it again after today.
“Don’t cry,” he said. “Let’s just pretend it’s back when you were going to Italy. Let’s pretend it’ll only be a few months before we get to see each other again.” His voice broke saying the last word, so I decided he didn’t have any authority to tell me not to cry if he was going to, and hugged him.
“I’ll miss you,” I whispered. “I’ll miss you so much.” He didn’t say anything. He just squeezed me tight.
“Now we have to go see the shaman,” he said when we finished our hug He grabbed my hand and led me out of the village to a tree that had been painted with strange green symbols and had a hole in the ground next to it. Brett stopped and rapped on the tree with a stick he found on the ground and called out in Goblin. We waited for a few minutes, during which Brett pointed out the area where the hunters trained, and several trees nearby where the children of the clan liked to play.
I jumped when there was a moan from behind us and an ancient goblin appeared from out of the hole next to the tree. She was wearing the shirt Brett had been wearing earlier that day (or a year ago, fantasyland time) and appeared to have his jeans perched on her head like a denim crown, his sneakers tied by their laces to the end of the legs, which dangled down behind her back.
As I covered my mouth with my hand, I shot a glance at Brett to see if this was someone who would appreciate my stifled laughter. He have a quick shake of his head and adopted a very serious demeanor while I swallowed my laughter and did my best to banish my smile. As she and I studied one another, I figured that Brett’s otherworldly clothes were probably considered by this tiny goblin to be very powerful magical objects.
The shaman began to speak, more quickly than the clanmaster had. I thought maybe she was casting a spell, so I looked at Brett, but he didn’t look worried, so I went back to watching the shaman. When she was finished speaking, Brett bowed to her, so I followed his example. Out of the corner of his mouth he informed me that she had just blessed us.
“Loremaster,” she said in English, then rattled off a long paragraph in Goblin. Brett responded in the same language, and they spoke for a few minutes before the shaman held out her hand. Brett seemed excited as he looked at me, then he passed her the knife I’d brought with me. She said a few words over it, then passed it back to him and retreated into her hole.
“What was that about?” I asked when she’d gone.
“She’s going to get the ritual ready,” he told me.
“What was the deal with my knife?”
He smiled at this question. “Come on,” he said, leading me quickly back into the village. “You can pick something out at my house.”
“Pick something?”
He pushed aside the curtain that served as his front door. “You brought something with you when you came, and if you leave it here in exchange for something of mine, we’ll be able to talk to each other, like an interdimensional hotline!” While I stood, stunned, he continued. “I mean, it seems like we could probably talk if you sat next to the hole and I was in the cave, but that’s not as good as this! We’ll be able to talk whenever we want! You can read me the stuff about goblins from all the gaming sourcebooks, and I’ll figure out some way to write them down, and then they’ll have a written record of their people and history. Maybe I can even develop a written language for them and teach the young ones to read! I may never be able to come home again, but at least I’ll be able to hear about what’s going on there.”
While he was pacing in excitement, I sank down onto his bed and watched him.
“Brett,” I said quietly. He stopped pacing and looked at me. “What about the crazy time difference? I’ll go to sleep tonight and wake up tomorrow and you’ll be like 55 years old. And how will we hear each other? Will it seem to you like I’m talking really slowly and I’ll hear whatever you say in fast forward?”
“I… hadn’t thought of that,” he admitted. He plopped down onto the bed beside me.
I grabbed his hand and squeezed. He squeezed back.
I peeked at him, but he was staring at the wall. Brett had been my best friend my entire life. He’d defended me from bullies in elementary school, weathered my erratic behavior in junior high, encouraged me through high school, and been my shoulder to cry on, my cheerleader, and my sounding board all through college. He was the greatest guy on earth, but when I got back to earth, he wouldn’t be there anymore.
I loved him.
“Brett,” I said, “I love you.”
He sighed and put his arm around me. “I love you too, JJ,” he said. “I’ll miss your face.”
“I can’t leave you alone,” I moaned into his leather-armored shoulder. “I should stay!”
“You have a whole life,” he told me as he patted me on the back. “Besides, if you stay, no one will ever know what happened. We’ll have no way to communicate with anyone.”
“But you’ll be by yourself!” I protested.
“There might be humans somewhere in this universe,” he said. “In fact, I’m sure there are, because the goblins have a word for us. So there must be some somewhere. And there’s no way I’ll ever be lonely, because I’ll have you to talk to.”
“But…” I’d run out of excuses, no matter how good they were.
“It’ll be okay,” he whispered. “Like I said, we can act like I’m just overseas. It’s sort of like that anyway, except there are no flights home from here.” He laughed and I choked with amusement on my tears. “And who knows?” he added, "Maybe the shaman will find a way to send me back someday.”
I responded with a sob.
“Please don’t cry,” he pleaded. “You’ve got to pick out an international calling card.”
“What?” I said, sniffling.
“Something to take with you.”
“I want to take
you with me.”
He smiled.
“Fine,” I said. I wiped my tears and looked around. Brett had a lot of weird stuff in his house. That made sense, considering the shaman had probably taken all of his possessions. “Do you have anything… not so gobliny?” I asked.
He laughed. “Everything I own now is gobliny,” he said, “even the clothes they’ve made for me.”
“I’d look pretty weird walking around everywhere with this,” I said, picking up a strange object made of wood that sat nearby.
“You’re right,” he said, “It has to be small. Something that won’t be obvious. It’s not like anyone is going to look at me funny for carrying a knife around; that’s the sort of thing people (well, goblins) do here.”
We both forgot our distress and looked around his one room house for something that wouldn’t look out of place at home.
““What about this?”” we both said at once, turning to show off what we’d found. He’d grabbed a cord made of some kind of vine, and I’d found a small stone.
“You’re going to lose that,” he said. “This, you can tie around your neck.”
“I guess that’s true,” I huffed, pushing the stone around in my palm. “I just figured I could keep this in my pocket. It’s small enough, and that way no one will be asking me why I have a plant around my neck.”
We glared at each other, and then at the same moment, started laughing.
“We should get back to the shaman,” he said after we shared another hug. “We need to get this stuff to her as soon as possible so she can tie it into the ritual. After that we can go for a walk or whatever until she’s ready.”
“Go for a walk?” I said, smiling. “Isn’t that the sort of irresponsible behavior that got us into this mess?”
Brett laughed, but his eyes were sad.
We returned to the shaman and presented her with the objects we’d found and an explanation. She jabbered something, and nodded. He sounded happy as he replied to her, gave her both the stone and the cord. She returned to her hole without saying anything.
“She said it’ll be even better than she thought,” he reported as we started off on a walk. “Because both of us chose an object for you to return with, she can combine them, and I’ll be able to talk to people besides you, as long as you’re touching them. Isn’t that great?”
“So I just hand over the stuff…?”
He shook his head. “The link between us is through you, so you have to be the go-between.” He looked at the ground. “You don’t mind, do you?”
I gaped at him. “Brett, if you let me, I would stay here with you. Why would I mind sitting with your mom while you talk to her?”
“I feel like I’m getting the best out of this deal,” he said.
I stopped him and turned him toward me so that I could look him in the eye. “You’re not,” I told him. “I get to talk to you. That’s the best part. We could get into another fight about it if you want, but I’ll win.”
He laughed. “I’m going to miss you.”
“No you’re not,” I said, “because you won’t have a chance. I’ll be talking in your ear in your sleep.”
Brett grinned at me and linked his arm with mine, pulling me along out of the trees and up a hill.
“By the way,” I said as we climbed, “did you ask about the time difference thing?”
“Uuuh!” he whined. “I completely forgot. I’m too excited that you’re here, and I’ll get to talk to you and everyone else.” He sighed. “It was a long year here without you.”
“Yeah,” I agreed, “it’s been long day for me, too.”
“Check it out,” he said when we got to the top of the hill. He pointed at what I thought was a cloud in the sky, only it sparkled more than a normal cloud in a night sky should. “That’s what I saw that day, the day I ran off the path and fell into fantasyland.”
I stared at the cloud. It was shaped vaguely like a faerie from Legend of Zelda, only it was a lot bigger. “It sort of looks like…” I began.
“I know!” Brett interrupted. “How could I not chase it? And it was the proper size, then. I’m not sure what it is, but everyone I’ve asked said it wasn’t there until I got here. For a long time I thought it was probably my way home, but I don’t have any way to reach it.”
“Maybe it is your way home,” I said. “You should get started on a ladder.”
“Or a lasso,” he suggested jokingly.
“Or a catapult!”
We laughed all the way down the hill, and as we strolled back to his house, arm in arm, we enjoyed one another’s company for the last time in silence.
The shaman was waiting for us when we arrived. She handed me my aunt’s steak knife and gave Brett the cord and stone, which she had fashioned into a pendant necklace. After indicating that we should face one another and join hands, she spoke some words and gestured at us, and we each gave the other our gifts. At the shaman’s prompting, I laid down on the bed and closed my eyes. She said a few more phrases and then stepped back.
I opened one eye, and whispered, “ask her about the time difference!”.
He looked panicked and quickly said something to her. After listening to her answer, he informed me that by exchanging these gifts, we were linking our two worlds, and bringing them into alignment.
“So you’re giving me jewelry, and we’re tying our lives together,” I commented, “should I be wearing a veil? Are you going to kiss the bride?”
He grinned and tied the cord around my neck. “I now pronounce you bonded for life,” he said, and kissed me on the forehead. “Sweet dreams.”

I opened my eyes and saw the sloping ceiling of my aunt and uncle’s cabin. The whole of the day before flashed through my head in an instant, followed by one hopeful thought: “Maybe it was all a dream!
“BRETT!” I shouted, jumping out of bed and running out of the room. We’d decided the day before that he was going to sleep in the guest room across the hall. I burst through the door and leaped up onto the bed, not caring whether I jumped on him. “You have to hear about this crazy dream I had!”
“Gah, don’t yell,” came his sleepy voice. “I didn’t sleep very well.”
I started jumping up and down on the bed. “Oh man, wait until Adrian and Sara get here, they’ll love it! We should write it down and turn it into a campaign sometime!”
“Turn what into a campaign?” he asked.
“My dream!”
I hadn’t stopped jumping on the bed, and suddenly caught my reflection in the vanity mirror that sat along the wall across from the bed. The first thing I noticed was the black stone bouncing off a cord onto my collar bone. I bounded off the bed to look closer in the mirror. It looked familiar… something about my dream. Was it fading already? I turned around to tell Brett as fast as I could, so he would be able to hear as much as possible before I forgot all of it.
But there was no one on the bed. The covers were obliterated because of my jumping, but other than that, it didn’t look disturbed at all.
“Brett?” I called, my heart sinking. “Where are you?”
“On the floor,” he reported with a groan.
“Oh,” I breathed, relief flooding me.
I dropped to the floor and to look for him as he said, “Someone fell asleep in my bed last night, remember?”
I tried to cry as silently as possible, but it turns out it’s pretty hard to keep anguish from becoming audible.
“Oh, Jill…” Brett said. “Your dream…? You thought…”
“I thought I’d dreamed Fantasyland,” I managed to say between sobs.
“I used to do that,” he said. “But then I found it.”
I fought back my sniffles.
“There’s no reason to be sad. Be happy instead. I am. I get to be where I’ve always wanted to be, and I still get to talk to you. Be happy for me.”
I let out a huge sigh and wiped my eyes. “I am happy for you,” I told him. “I’m happy you finally found fantasyland.”