Popular Girl

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I’ve seen him sitting in the back of my art class sketching intently and never speaking. His name is Dylan, he’s a senior and plays guitar in a local rock band. Dylan is too cute and probably dates a girl with piercings in odd places and a killer singing voice. I’ve admired him from a distance but never had the nerve to speak to him. As he came around the corner the familiar theme music started up and he swaggered to the beat. I felt a cramp in my stomach as he walked over to me.

The music stopped when he spoke so his dialogue could be heard. “Hey, what’s up?” He was so casual, as if we talked every day, as if it wasn’t a pivotal moment in my uncool freshman existence.

“Uh, h-hello.” I concentrated on being casual and feigned indifference to the fact that this hottie was talking to me.  Luckily I’d painted my eyeliner on in a way that made me look perpetually bored.  I stared up at him through bangs that had grown so long they tickled my eyelashes.

He gave me a half smile. A single perfect wave of blonde hair had come unraveled from the man bun at the top of his head. He offered me a flyer with something written on it.

“I know it’s a school night, but White Rabbit is playing at Starforce tonight and I’d really like to see you there.” He squeezed my shoulder and gave me a wink.

I think I might have died of shock right there but I realized his gesture required a response from me. “Sounds cool. I’ll be there.”

“Great.  I’ll put you on my list so there won’t be a cover.  See you tonight, Ardis.”

He knows my name? OMG the hottest senior in school knows my name!

As I watched him walk away my own spirited theme music started up. It was a cue that my next scene would be a montage of me trying on various outfits in my bedroom.

 

***

I took care to arrive somewhere in the middle of the lineup so that I missed the first band but had plenty of time to see White Rabbit. I didn’t see Dylan anywhere and guessed that he must be backstage getting ready. I was thankful that the music was too loud for talking because I’d come alone and I didn’t see anyone there I recognized. I pretended to be intently interested in the band on stage and my skirt swayed as I moved back and forth to the beat. I decided to try my luck at the bar with my newly minted fake ID when a hand tapped me on the back. I turned around to see Dylan smiling down at me. He looked hot as hell in his tight black pants and almost threadbare t-shirt. He took my hand and I think I peed a little.

Dylan lead me backstage and introduced me to the rest of his band. “Guys, this is Ardis, she’s my special guest for tonight.”

He didn’t bother telling me all of their names so I just gave them a quick wave.

“Do you mind if we have a little privacy?” he asked them.

An Asian kid with a shaved head snickered and earned a punch in the arm from Dylan. “Nothing’s funny, Shinjayu.” The kid rubbed his arm and glared at Dylan. “Don’t be stingy, either.” He stretched out his hand and opened his palm. Shinjayu dropped a ziploc baggie into it and left.

“Finally,” he said.  Dylan grinned at me as he removed the contents of the bag and produced a lighter from his pants. “Want to smoke?”

“Uh sure.” I didn’t want to tell him I’d never smoked so much as a cigarette before and that I really hated the smell. As he handed me the joint I  had a horrifying realization that I would take any drug if it would make him like me. I tried to copy what he’d just done. I took one long inhale and immediately started coughing my brains out. It felt like something tickled the inside of my throat.

Dylan laughed at my reaction. “So I guess you’re not much of a smoker?”

I shook my head because I was unable to form words in between coughs.

He took the cigarette from me and inhaled then brought his face so close to mine that our lips nearly touched. He blew the smoke into my face and I breathed it in. I felt as if I were walking on air. When he finally kissed me he had to hold me to keep me upright. His right hand held the back of my head and his left circled around my waist and lifted my jean jacket.  I felt a tingle from the middle of my back all the way down to my toes. When he finally pulled away from me I was breathless.

“Sorry, I’ve wanted to do that for a long time.”

“Don’t be sorry! I really liked it.”

AND CUT!

The Director walked over to us with a stern look on his face. He put his arm around me and pulled me aside so Dylan couldn’t hear. “Look, it just isn’t working for me. I feel no chemistry between Ardis and Dylan.”

“I can do better, please let me try one more take?” I knew my popularity ratings had slipped in the past few weeks but I had no idea how bad things had become.

“You know there’s nothing I can do, Ardis. It isn’t even up to me, it’s the audience. Just take a look.” He pointed to the meter hanging on the wall that gave a numerical value to the likeability of each character. Dylan’s was at 96.2 percent and mine had dropped to 54 percent. I tried not to look at the meters while we were shooting, now I wish I’d paid more attention. I grabbed onto the director’s jacket with both hands and pleaded with him. “There has to be some mistake! You know I’ve never been below 90.”

“That would have been true a week ago.” He interrupted our conversation to speak with a nearby PA. “Get a cleanup guy out here, would you?”

I looked around for help but there was none. Dylan was already being introduced to the new Ardis. My voice rose in panic. “Please, don’t do this!” I’d always known this was a possibility, but I’d never imagined it would happen to me.

As the Director reached for the 9mm on his utility belt I fell to my knees. Tears stung my eyes and spilled out onto my cheeks.”

“Now if you could have just shown this much passion with that scene it wouldn’t have come to this.”

I had time for one last pleading sob before he fired.

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You first, everything else second

When I sat down to write you wanted my attention and put your body between my hands and the keyboard. How could I have ignored those soulful eyes that  tried to stare up at me but instead stared into darkness? Your innocent expectation melted my heart. I gathered your familiar weight in my arms and recognized you’ve grown fatter in the past month. I haven’t given you as many treats anymore, but I think you’ve been stress eating because you don’t like your new baby brother. I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t like it if someone was always leaping on my back and I had no way of seeing it coming.

I stroked your head in that spot you like until you fell asleep in my lap. My feet rest on a box speaker under my desk and it is very uncomfortable. I won’t move for anything. You are so often disturbed and upset, stumbling through life with those beautiful but sightless eyes. I won’t rob you of your peaceful dreams. Your mouth and front paws twitch and I imagine you’re dreaming of hunting. Maybe you’re chasing birds, lizards or chipmunks like the one I took from you earlier this year. I’m sorry about that, but he was just a baby and I didn’t want you to kill him. In  your sleep I hope you run through uncut lawns with cool grass tickling your belly. I hope you climb trees without fear. Most of all, I hope you’re happy.  I’m sorry my sneeze was so loud it just woke you up.

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Sleeping like an angel faced baby with his sister Snifferz.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lful eyes that stared up at me although they don’t

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing fun with friends

So I’ve got my manuscript with one agent and my first 50 pages with another. Besides that I have queries pending with five others. I’ve done the responsible thing and started the outline for book 2 in my planned dystopian trilogy. I’ll have a more definitive answer the next time someone asks me how long it will take to crank out book number two. In the mean time I decided to give myself a break and play a little game with my writer friends.

I’m not sure what the term is for this but we started with one paragraph previously written as a writing prompt and flipped a coin to see who would continue the story first. The person whose turn it was with the story had 3 days to complete their section. We hadn’t yet determined the exact length of sections, but we did decide that the writer would owe a drink to the other two participants if they didn’t finish on time. I won the coin toss and was given the first opportunity to continue the story. I typically use every excuse in the book not to sit down and write but having a deadline helped me focus. I finished my section with a few hours of receiving the first paragraph and by the end of the night the others had each finished a section as well! Before I knew it the writing was back around to me again.

This exercise has turned out to be the highlight of my day for three entire days. I am delighted every time I open my email and see that the story has gotten a little longer! The first round was not more that a few hundred words each so the story still isn’t very long yet but I’m excited about the SciFi direction it’s heading in. I’ve decided to post a little of it here in hopes that others will enjoy it as well.

Untitled SciFi Adventure by Curt Shannon, Logan Grey and Mary Beecroft

(Round 1)

 

Jessie stood by the open window, bathing in the morning sunlight. Once again I marveled at how settled she appeared, despite all she had been through. She had decided to keep her head shaved after the accident – the scar that ran across her skull from ear to ear still pulsed bright red.

She tapped her long fingers on the window sill, then turned to me, frowning.

“When will they let me out of this place?”

“That depends on you,” I said. “It’s common with a brain injury to lose some short term memory. What do you remember from before?”

She turned to look at me. Her cold blue eyes held me with an intensity that only came with years of training. She had seen horrible things and didn’t want to remember them, that much was certain.

“I don’t trust you. You’re not here to help me. You only want information.”

“And what do you want?” I had been trained in interrogation tactics and knew that I had to find some connection with this woman. It was a difficult task becase there was so little known about her. For instance she had several identities and I wasn’t even sure of her planet of origin.

“Do you have a cigarette?”

I reached into my suit jacket and pulled out a pack of camels that were partly crushed. I  managed to find at least one that wasn’t ruined completely and handed it to her along with a lighter from my pants pocket.

Jessie, if that was her real name, didn’t light the cigarette but tore off the paper instead and poured the tobacco into her mouth as if it were a powdered pixie stick. This action left no doubt in my mind–she was from Mars. I found it interesting that she chose to reveal herself in this way. “I take it you haven’t been on Earth for long?”

“Only for about six months I think. But it’s hard to say for sure.”

“It must have been a terrifying experience, the crash I mean.”

She smiled with one side of her face and showed me a bit of teeth dotted with brown tobacco flakes. “What happened before the crash was much worse.”

I looked away, feigning interest in the soldiers filing past the window. Although it would be a stretch to say I’d grown fond of Jessie, I’d found myself admiring her fortitude. But a Martian — she was a goddamn Martian. Her memory might not have been all there, but apparently she hadn’t forgotten their disgusting habits. I breathed out and turned to her with a much practiced look of concern. Not only was I her psychiatrist, I was her interrogator. I had no choice but to play nice.

“Please start from the beginning. Do you remember why you came to Earth?”

She took her time running her tongue across the front of her teeth. “I’m not a spy,” she said at last.

“I didn’t say you were.”

“I’m also not an idiot.” Her smile was even colder than her eyes. “A face,” she said, shifting her gaze out the window again. “It’s the only thing I clearly remember.”

“Someone you knew?”

She shook her head and brought her arms in tight over her chest. “Not even human.”

“Like in those pictures you’ve been drawing?”

She stepped back, out of the sunlight and into the corner. She ran a hand over her scar. “You people have no end to your questions. All these fucking questions. But no one’s really listening. Why won’t you listen?” I didn’t like the sound of her voice — nervous, desperate. This wasn’t like her.

“I’m listening, Jessie.” I moved toward her and set a hand on her shoulder. “You know you can tell me anything.”

“That face, I didn’t escape it.” She grabbed my hand with a strength that startled me. Her eyes flickered to mine. Up close they seemed more than cold, distant. They were terrified. “It followed me here.”

   I opened my mouth but was interrupted by the shrill cry of the facility’s alarm.

Jessie’s eyes darted to the door. I knew I had to stay calm no matter what.

“It might be a false alarm, like the other times.”

Jessie shook her head and said, “No, it’s different this time.”  Now her voice was calm again. Had she known this was going to happen, some kind of precognition? There was so little I had found out about her since she had arrived.  

She tried to slide off the examining table and stand, but instead collapsed in a heap on the floor. Without gravity adjusters, she couldn’t hold up her weight and certainly couldn’t walk. She tried again to stand, but failed. She cried out, a mixture of pain, frustration, and fear that sounds the same in every species.

I could hear people yelling and running outside, among them Professor Klingor. “Michael, open the door. We have to get her out of here.” But Jessie looked up to me and motioned silence, while Klingor banged on the door incessantly.   

Somehow I knew Jessica was telling the truth. I walked to the metal cabinet at the back of the room and stared into the retina scan lock, waiting anxiously for the recognition protocol to kick in.  It finally did and the cabinet door swung open. With shaking hands I found the grav braclets and tossed them to Jessie. She couldn’t raise her arms fast enough to catch them and they clattered on the floor behind her. She turned and shambled over to them.   

I took out the disruptor and set it to max strength.

At that moment, the alarm abruptly stopped. There was only silence beyond the door. I turned and waited.  Was it my imagination or was something happening to the door? The frame groaned as hinges unbuckled and the blue-gray metal of the door seemed to begin collapsing into itself. And beyond the door, I caught a glimpse…

Jessie was right.  It was different this time.

I was about to fire the disruptor when I heard a cry and the sound of shattered plexiglass behind me.  I turned to see Jessica standing at the now-open window, her hand bleeding, the jagged edges of the double-paned plexiglass security window still falling around her. She kicked at a low-hanging shard of glass and it fell, shattering on the floor.

“How did you…?”

“No time to talk.  Time to run.”  She stepped onto the ledge and adjusted the gravbracelets and floated just outside the window. Without thinking I raced to the window and leapt into her arms.

Please visit Mary Beecroft’s blog for travel adventures and reviews: marybeecroft.wordpress.com.

To find out if Curt Shannon dreams of Electric Sheep please stay tuned.