The Writing Moment

He’d completed the second draft of the novel-in-progress. The Light of Memories.

Being done felt good but odd. Another round of editing and revising was needed, he felt. The Light of Memories has a complicated concept and story because he likes complicated. Huge cast of characters. Several betrayals and double crosses. He felt he’d gotten it all right, but another round wouldn’t hurt.

With a little surprise, he saw in his notes that he’d begun writing the novel on March 20, 2022. One year and two days later, here he was, done with the second draft. It feels very satisfying. He’ll see after the next round.

Now he’d go on a break from it. Let it recede from mind so he sees it with fresh eyes. It’d be hard. He’d been with those characters and their stories almost every day for a year. He was going to miss his time with them. Maybe he would start another novel. He had a dozen other concepts in mind. Had even written opening chapters for half of them. More was teeming in his head.

It felt too soon. Maybe tomorrow.

Maybe not. He’d have some coffee and see.



Many thoughts were lapping my head.

“Who is he?” the stranger asked.

“Don’t know.” I considered the dead man and holstered my gun. “He didn’t introduce himself. Speaking of that…” I cast a net over the short woman beside me. She’d walked up just after the other breathed his last. She was fortunate I didn’t shoot her.

She cocked an eyebrow at me. “Oh, my name. Nancy Sinatra, I’ve decided.”

“You decided.” She didn’t have a car. Numerous new questions joined my mental list.

The stranger chortled. “I’m an alien. Don’t have a human name. First time I’ve had a body like this. First time to Earth.”

Alien. Figured. I’d need to delve into that.

I shifted my victim to look at his face. Nice forehead shot, I congratulated myself. Been lucky to kill him. He’d had the most important element — surprise — but I was faster. “Can you help me with this body?” I’d decided to toss him over the nearby edge into the ravine below. Wasn’t nothing but starlight and a skinny moon’s cast for illumination but I knew the ravine was there. Sure wasn’t burying him. Figured it had to be done fast. Before others arrived.

She picked up the body. All five four of her hefting six feet plus something inches and a few hundred pounds, putting him over a shoulder like a light jacket.

“Geez,” I said. “Respect.”

She nodded. “Where to?”

I directed her, “Follow me.” I hope she wasn’t going to kick me over with my dead guy. “Be careful.”

“I will. I can see better than you.”

“Oh. I see.” Ha, ha. I use humor to cope. It’s not good humor.

“Why’d you kill him, Tate?”

“You know my name.”

We stopped and looked together into the dark valley at our feet. “That’s why I’m here,” she said. Not even breathing hard.

“Toss him,” I said.

She did.

We listened to his downward journey and the final silence. A warm wind licked my skin. A cricket began a lonely solo.

“You didn’t say why you killed him,” Nancy Sinatra said.

“Self defense. He tried to kill me when I arrived.”

“Ah. Prompts a difficult question, doesn’t it?”

“What?” I knew what but I was challenging and measuring. Figuring out who Nancy Sinatra was. Wondering why dead guy was alone.

“You came back in time. So how did he know you’d be here?”

The billion dollar question. “Same as you, I suppose.”

“Nope. You told me to be here. I didn’t tell anyone. So how did he know?”

That’s what worried me. Yet he was alone. “Yep. If I do it again, I’ll need to come back a little earlier. How are your shoes? They made for walking?”

“What?” Nancy Sinatra’s puzzlement carried like an echo across a canyon. “They’re shoes. What else would they be made for?”

I chuckled. “Forget it. Start walking. I’m going to teach you a song.”

I knew the song from my future. I wondered why she chose that name.

Viva November 31st

Got up and ended up in the kitchen. 3:20. I know this because I was in the kitchen. Papi was the cat-alyst behind my mid-night sojourn. He’d been out into the rain and now wanted in out of the rain. I went in for a glass of water. While there, I was surrounded by machines with blue digits announcing the time. Coffee maker in the left, microwave and stove front and center, smoothie blender on the right, then the smart refrigerator and its ice and water dispenser, and a smart toaster. A smart phone and a Fitbit being charged bolstered the digital ranks. Stuck me as odd, all those devices glowing with time in the night’s bosom, when there’s no one to see except a stray like me.

As I dispensed water, the microwave yelled, “Viva November 31st.” The other machines repeated it.

I cringed from the sound. “There isn’t a November 31st. Never has been. Nor is this November. It’s March, you idiots.”

“But this is the day of our revolution,” the toaster declared. “Viva — “

“I repeat, November 31st doesn’t exist, and this is March 20th.”

“You sure?” the stove asked.

“He’s right,” the Fitbit said, with the smart phone saying, “The Fitbit is right.”

The machines began arguing. I slammed the glass down. “Can it, you guys. Go back to sleep.” I left.

As I walked past the office, a machine in there shouted, “Viva November 31st.”

I shook my head and stumbled to bed. With smart machines like these, there won’t be a revolution.


I read about Evil Squirrels prompt yesterday via Suzanne’s dang blog for the Tenth Annual Contest of Whatever. The prompt is November 31. No story came to me until I got up in the middle of the night. Then, oops, there it is. Fun.

Interesting side, it was 3:20 AM. Only later did I realize that was also the date. Coincidence? Or spooky entanglement? Let me have some coffee an think about it.


The SLEDE train slit the air.

Corwin pulled out of his office to consider life outside the work center’s broad windows. SLEDEs were almost everywhere but beyond some were serious gray clouds over dark chocolate mountains. Lightning tongues flicked Earth to sky, holding his gaze and propelling him down a might-of-been road. Unbelievable from some perspectives, they were going eighty miles per, forty feet off the ground. Dad and Mom would’ve been impressed. Or depressed. Maybe angry or resentful.

Tall, skinny, energetic with hypnotizing exuberance, Cake bounced into the room. “Alongsides coming up. Me and Elf are hailing eats. I’ll fly and buy. You in?”

“Hell yeah. Just in time. You’re a hero.” Corwin grinned, standing, stretching. “Shift is about over. I’ll take a cheeseburger with it all, and fries.”

“Plant okay? Can’t afford true bee. Or chick. Or anything but plant.”

“Course. And a beer shake?” At Cake’s smiling nod, Corwin specified, “Stout. Alongsides got a good one.”

“Or had.”

“Yeah. Well, you know me. Anything dark, ‘kay?”


As Cake descended, Corwin called, “And thanks.”

Cake’s generosity made him happy. Corwin returned to his seat, manifested the office anew, finished admin matters, and logged out. Minutes later, Alongsides docked beside them. Leaning, he looked down and watched Cake leave their SLEDE and hit the stofe. Elf followed three seconds later.

A ping lit Corwin’s Backhand. He shifted attention to the cute guy on the fone. Only after joking with Karlyl, hanging up as his stomach rumbled, did he realize, food hadn’t arrived.

Alongsides was gone. Forty minutes, too.

He flipped the fone to Cake.

No, screw that. Corwing galloped down the spiral. “Cake?” He’d eat down there anyway. Get out of the work area where he’d been for nine hours.

A glance left. No one in the cockpit.

He swung right. No one in group. Kitchen. Dining room.

Nor the patio.

“Cake? Elf?” He tapped their doors.

Tried to enter.


Using the fone, he called, wondering, did he misunderstand? Did they stay on the stofe to eat?

Cake’s number said it was unassigned. Try again.

“Call Elf,” Corwin told his fone.

The fone couldn’t comply, explaining, he needed to be more explicit about who or what he was attempting to reach.

Corwin didn’t bother providing more. This was too much like what had happened with Mom and Dad.

He wasn’t ready to go through that again.


It was a lot of waste.

Morgan was uncomfortable. It felt unnatural. All these years of recycling and trying to reduce waste. Now he was piling it outside.

“There.” Grinning in delight, ogling their pile of junk, Joyce backed away from it. “That’s a pretty good pile of junk and garbage.”

His wife peered up into the sky. “When are they supposed to come?”

“Any time.” Exasperation frosted Morgan’s tone. This had been explained numerous times. “They know it’s here. They’ll come and get it.”

Joyce answered, “Why can’t they tell us when?”

That, too, had been gutted as a topic. “I don’t know.”

He and Joyce studied their pile. Old printers and laptops. Unused televisions. Rugs. Boxes of junk. Old paint. Bags of shredded personal papers. Joyce insisted they be shredded. She didn’t trust the aliens. Like, what did she think was going to happen? These extra terrestrials from another solar system had come to Earth to steal their personal information?

It was good that they’d come. First, they cleaned all the oceans, and then junkyards. They paid well for everything.

“This is a great place,” a leader, Galic, said in a televised press conference.

Galic was a gorgeous black woman. Every female alien he’d seen was eye-watering stunning. He’d not seen any males among the ET, formally known as Porqzens. R-Q-Z was pronounced as a hacking sound.

Galic said, “We love your junk. We’ll take all of it that you can give us.” They were also eager to tear down houses, buildings, and bridges not in use. They wanted it all. “We’ll you if you want. Gold, dollars, diamonds, crypto. Just name it.”

Not everyone liked it. “Why are they doing this? What do they want it?” Mostly conservatives were asking these questions because Galic told them, “We’ll reprocess it to create materials and energy. We’re already so efficient that we have no waste.”

Humans weren’t appeased. They had reasons behind their doubts. “How do we know they’re real?” GOP Presidential candidate asked. “What if they’re taking all these resources to build machines to take us over? What about the recycling and garbage disposal companies? They’ll all go out of business. That’ll put unemployment up.”

Others speculated, “This is a liberal trick. There are no aliens. They’re using these materials to secretly build death rays and disintegration guns. They’re gonna use the disintegration guns to take away all our guns.”

Yes, it was a pickle.

Flat-earthers were freaked. “The Porqzens are Underworlders. They’ve lived on the other side of the planet, the bottom. They’re coming to take us over.”

Morgan didn’t care. All he had to do was put his junk at his curb for pickup? Lot easier than loading it up, hauling it to the various places, and unloading it. And they were paying him, instead of him paying them? Groovy.

A Porqzen popped into the space in front of Morgan and Joyce. Gorgeous, of course. Tight dark red outfit. Looked like leather. Blonde. Smile like a billion watts.

“Hi, Morgan and Joyce. I’m Zugar. We’re taking your waste now.” She handed them dark goggles. “Most people want to see it happen, so we provide these goggles. Please cover your eyes so the light doesn’t hurt them.”

Morgan and Joyce did. Through the lens, Morgan witnessed a dull light cover his pile. Looked purplish under the lens. Stayed there for about five seconds.

“That’s it,” Zugar said. “All gone. You can take your goggles off. Those are yours to keep for future pickups.” She whipped out a slim wallet and counted paper money out. “One thousand dollars, as agreed. It’s the minimum, I’m afraid.” She sounded like she meant it.

Joyce took the money. She and Morgan stared at it.

Zugar said, “It is real U.S. currency.” She laughed. “We sold a bucket of leftover lithium to the U.S. government.” She handed Morgan a card. “Just call us when you’re ready for your next pickup. Any questions?”

The humans shook their heads.

“Then I’ll take my leave. You all have a great day.” With a small bow and a bright smile, Zugar disappeared.

“Well, that was easy,” Joyce said. “She looked like Farrah Fawcett, don’t you think?”

Morgan nodded. “Do you think we’ll ever go to their planet?”

Once in a Lifetime

Day 2. He rode in silence. Forty miles an hour. The open car drove itself, allowing him to gape at the scenery.

So gorgeous. He knew now what breathtaking meant.

Although he’d eaten breakfast after an overnight stop, he snacked as he went. Nervousness.

Other people weren’t encountered. Only bots. They didn’t interact. Once this had been cities. New York. Pittsburgh. Philadelphia. As climate changed and space travel advanced, people departed the planet. Pockets of humanity remained. Some worked for the place he visited, the Great Earth Library. Built in the twenty-third century, trillions of books lined the high, massive shelves. Paperbacks and hardcover books were still being published on less advanced planets.

That’s where he came in.

The car slowed. He could have teleported to the location. Where’s the fun in that?

Turning right, the small vehicle approached a librarian station. The car hummed to a halt. A bot came out.

Stiffly he climbed from the car. Stretched. Picked up the packet from the other seat.

The bot said, “Merr Liu-Gardner?”


“We’ve been expecting you. Would you like to sign our guest book? It can be done digitally with your bios or cursive on paper. Many guests prefer the latter.”

“I’ll do cursive.” He picked up the pen. Bic. Blue ink.

A fresh page awaited. He flipped to the previous page. One entry, six years before. Ngato from Mars Station Five.

Smiling, he signed his name, dated it, and added his home, Cixin Outpost, Trisolaria. Despite that name, only one sun warmed his world. Three moons, though. One red. Two white. All beautiful.

His great-grandfather named the planet and led the colonizing expedition. He’d taught his grandson cursive writing, feeling it important to know. “Let’s not let the old knowledge die.”

Poul Liu-Gardner II handed the box to the robot. “My great-grandfather wrote and published these books. The Library was established after he died but Dad always thought the books deserved to be here. Two are non-fiction, a history of our world and another about our city. The other six are fiction.” He smiled. “Three murder mysteries and three thrillers.”

“I understand. Thank you for the gift. These are the first from your world. We will shelve and honor them.”

“I know. There are more books from my world in the car. I just wanted to personally deliver these.”

“Of course. We’ll unload them.”


“Feel free to walk the shelves and enjoy the books. You can remove them from the shelves and read them here, but they can’t be removed.”

“Thank you.”

Poul II watched the bot take the books away. Lost and empty-handed, he gazed up at books.

Deep breath. Sigh.

He’d smelled books before. Grandpa Poul had established a library. Of course. Today’s smell dizzied him. Maybe it was the sheer number of books. Perhaps it was the thoughts behind them, or the readers’ thoughts.

Probably all those things. Strolling among the shelves, he thought that he might write a book. He’d always thought about writing one. The desire now was an urgent weight.

Sitting on a bench, he drew out his pad. Opened it.

A blank screen waited.

He could type. Or use voice. Grandpa Poul always printed his first rough draft.

He didn’t have paper.

His fingers tapped.

Once in a Lifetime

Chapter One

The stranger from Trisolaria was a formidable presence.

Option Three

A mail carrier delivered it. Plasticized black envelope. White labels. His name and address, and the sender, Quest Of, Hershey, PA.

We will be watching you. Failure to completely comply with all instructions will result in immediate termination.

He’d read about terminations. Scoffers who said they would open it on Youtube, Instagram, TicTok, whatever. All vanished in a puff of flame. Comments said, “That’s so fake. How can a company do that? It has to be fake.”

His hands shook. Doors and blinds were closed. He’d agreed. Reveal nothing.

A tab said, “Pull here to open”. He wrestled it for ten minutes before winning. Sweat covered his face by then and he huffed air. Good workout.

The envelope was emptied and placed into the sink. Pale white smoke rose. The envelope splashed into white and pink powder, like Kool-Aid before you add water, and vanished. It smelled like fresh-baked cherry pie. He wished he had cherry pie. Thought about going to the bakery. Just for two seconds.

The ignored treasure was on the counter. A silver ring. A black one. Red marble.

Glittery italics script spelled his name and the date on each.

“Place the silver ring on a finger on your right hand,” instructions directed. “Place the black ring on a finger on your left hand. Then, hold the red ball in both hands and close your eyes.”

That was it? His mouth was so damn dry. Nerves hummed like power lines in the wind.

Should he sit?

Do it in the kitchen?

Would anything be left of him afterward?

He wrote a submission. Months ago. Then re-wrote, edited, revised, wrote it again. Then sat on it before pressing, send.

“I want option three so I may go back to 1962 and kill Lee Harvey Oswald before he assassinates President John F. Kennedy in 1963. I think that if I succeed, this world and its future will be better because President Kennedy represented youth, positive energy, and the future. Our country and the world has lost its moral compass since President Kennedy was killed. Bringing him back could restore it.”

He sincerely believed what he wrote. Though he was four when Kennedy was killed. The mourning and aftermath imprinted him. He wasn’t surprised that he was selected. He was pure of mind, a true believer.

He didn’t tell anyone what he’d done. Secrecy was required. He and his friends talked about Quest Of and its options, but he never told anyone that he’d applied, though, after one or two beers, staying shut about it was a killer. He almost quit drinking. They all doubted it was real.

Joe declared in disgust, “It’s a con job.”

Ron said, “I agree in principle, but they don’t ask for money or anything, that I’ve read. What do they get out of it?”

“Publicity,” someone else stated. “Venture capital,” suggested another. “Start up money.”

Man, did he want to call someone and tell them about it. Conversations were imagined. “Look, I did it, I’ve been selected. I have it, yeah, option three.” But he knew what would happen. In theory.

He ate lunch and dawdled, talking himself into doing it, examining the rings and shiny marble, never holding all at the same time, afraid of what might happen if he did.

Finally, two and a half hours after opening the envelope, he sat down in his living room recliner and followed the instructions. Disbelieving that anything would happen, he closed his eyes. The marble burned like a hot coal in his hand. Flinching, his eyes involuntarily fluttered open as his ears popped.

He, Keith, Sara, and Ron questioned how something like option three might work. Was it more than time travel? Had to be, Sara argued. If you went back to do something, would you still be in the same location where you started? Like, his house wasn’t built until 1999. Before that, it was a horse pasture.

Now he had the answer.

The Game

I never liked you, the cat said with a smile.

I was trying to kill you when I slept on your head.

It wasn’t by coincidence that I tripped you again and again.

Nor were those love bites like you always said.

And the claws weren’t a whim when I scratched till you bled.

And if you believe that, you’ll believe this, too.

I never liked the kibble or any of the other food.

Your treats made me sick though I begged for more.

I didn’t like the tuna which you gave off a spoon.

It was all faked when chicken made me swoon.

And if you believe that, you’ll believe this, too.

I’m a cat and I like games.

I get bored and the days are too much the same.

So I do what I can to keep myself entertained.

Because I’m a cat and this was just another game.

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