Author Archives: AJ Niblock

About AJ Niblock

I am an aspiring novelist.

July’s Prompt

Standard

  
I am traveling in a car right now and I just realized July is almost over. And… I have yet to post a prompt for the month. And… I don’t have any excuses. I have been just enjoying my summer vacation and writing has not been on my mind. 

The prompt for this month comes from Adventures in Writing: The Complete Collection by Melissa Donovan.

The book is a collection of writing prompts and ideas. I really like a lot of them. 

This month’s prompt:

Write a story about two characters who fall in love while staying in a hospital for the mentally unstable. 

Story due: July 31, 2015

Happy writing everyone! 

A Brief History of the Psittacines

Standard
Mars

 

Once terraforming tech was developed and improved on, everyone assumed the entire surface of Mars would be re-scaped and colonized. In reality, the harsh Mars environment was too overwhelming for the best tech. In the end, only about 2% of Mars was terraformed. Of the people who helped terraform, many remained behind to join the first colony rather than return to Earth.

The original colony consisted of only 10 families from Earth and the handful of terraformers. Amongst the adults was an ornithologist, Dr. Eva Devens. She and her family were selected to be a part of the colony because she was going to observe birds and how they adapted to the Mars environment.

Even in the year 2150, how birds used Earth’s magnetic field to navigate was a bit of a mystery. Dr. Devens was tasked with finding out if the birds behaved similarly on a new planet. In truth, she didn’t expect most of the birds to live through their first year.

So, along with the first colonizers of Mars, traveled 100 eggs. All were carefully monitored and were being incubated to hatch shortly after the colonists settled. They were 50 species of birds that could fly, and a good portion of the eggs were Psittacines, or birds of the parrot family.

Dr. Devens had personally selected all of the eggs, and she was very fond of parrots. She admired their beauty and intelligence, plus she believed they had the right kind of plucky attitude that could help them survive on Mars.

The trip to Mars and initial settling was uneventful; everything had logistically fallen into place. About 2 months after the colonizers arrived, the eggs began to hatch. The birds were raised in an enclosed environment until they were ready to leave their nests. Then they were released into the large forested region of terraformed area. Dr. Devens continued to feed them to help supplement their diets and many of them thrived.

Of the original 100 eggs, only 82 hatched, and of those 82 birds, 77 were released into the forest. Dr. Devens had implanted every bird with a tracking device prior to release. She carefully monitored their behaviors and movements. When she was in the forest observing the birds, some of the parrots and macaws showed signs of intelligence that surprised Dr. Devens.

In particular, a pair of African Grey Parrots and a group of various colored Macaws would gather around her every time she came to see them. She assumed that this behavior was just a part of their curious nature. She talked to them and even sang sometimes. And she was not surprised when they learned to mimic her words.

The first year on Mars passed and in the spring, many of the birds in the forest laid eggs and the first generation of Martian birds were born. As Dr. Devens was collecting data in the forest, she noticed that the size of the parrot and macaw eggs were considerably larger than she expected.

When the babies hatched, they surpassed their parents’ size within a matter of months. By the time they were a year old, they were roughly the size of a beagle and each weighed about 30 pounds. The exponential change in size was unexpected and Dr. Devens could not find a logical explanation for it. None of the other birds who had survived showed any physiological changes. Not only that, but no other species of animal brought to Mars had changed in any noticeable way.

In addition to an overall change in size, they demonstrated remarkable dexterity with their wings. Dr. Devens often observed them picking things up and moving them about. The new generation definitely demonstrated amazing strides in intellectual development. Back on Earth, the average parrot was said to have the intelligence of a human toddler. This new generation was more equivalent to human teenagers.

Of course, these changes were recorded and the information was forwarded to scientists on Earth. The birds would even join Dr. Devens when she would have teleconference sessions with Earth. The interviews were recorded and aired globally. Somehow, a new race of intelligent beings was emerging on Mars, and everyone on Earth was captivated with them.

By the 10th year on Mars, the parrots outnumbered the humans in the colony. The most recent generation to hatch was closer to human size and very clever. Each generation inherited their instinctual behavior from their parents, but they also seemed to pass along knowledge. Dr. Devens noted that the younger generations learned speech easier and much quicker than previous generations. However, other than Dr. Devens, the settlers were not as fascinated with the changes in the birds.

A meeting was held to decide what to do with the growing population of anthropomorphic avian. As the colonists gathered, one of the young African Greys who called himself Dale joined the gathering.

He was just over 5 feet tall and had predominantly grey feathers all over his body and bright red tail feathers. On his face his coloring was lighter, highlighting the observant intelligence behind his eyes.

congo-african-grey

“This meeting is to establish a course of action,” said one of the colonizers.

“I don’t see that anything needs to be done,” said Dr. Devens.

“Of course you don’t, but let’s face it. We are currently outnumbered by these birds and…”

The colonizer was cut off by Dale, “Excuse me, but we don’t like to be called birds.”

The collected humans looked baffled, except Dr. Devens. “What would you prefer to be called then?” one asked with sarcastic undertones.

Dale answered, “We call ourselves Psittacines. We are not like the other birds who live on Mars or on Earth. You do not call yourselves monkeys or apes just because you have a common ancestor. We would ask that you show us the same consideration.”

Not one of the humans had a response to that, but Dr. Devens sat there smirking.

Finally after an awkward pause, one the colonists continued, “Let’s get right to the point. Many of us want to return to Earth.”

Dr. Devens said, “You can’t be serious. This is our task. We can’t just leave. Do you realize how much investors spent to establish this colony?”

“As a matter of fact, we do. However, many of those same investors are already in the process of deciding on another place to colonize.”

Dr. Devens was shocked. Clearly talks had been going on behind her back, and decisions were being made without her input.

“If I can add something,” said Dale. “We would also like for the humans to leave.”

Dr. Devens was taken aback by this. “You want me to leave?”

“No. Not you. If you wish to stay Eva, we would allow it.”

Dr. Devens honestly didn’t know what to say. They would allow it? What was happening?

The decision was made and within a few months, the first colonizers minus Dr. Devens and the eggs returned to Earth. The Psittacines and Dr. Devens kept in touch and continued their reports to Earth.

Dr. Devens lived with the Psittacines for the remainder of her life. When she passed away, Dale oversaw her funeral. She was the only human to be buried on Mars.

With her passing, some of the Psittacines felt that perhaps it was time to have less contact with Earth, but Dale felt that Dr. Devens had worked hard to maintain contact and he respected her plans.

The truth was that people were no longer fascinated with the Martian birds like they were in the beginning. Another colony was established on Venus, and there was a thriving colony on Earth’s moon. People were looking to the future and making plans to spread to other planets.anthro macaw

When Dale was nearing his 60th year, the Psittacines were basically at max capacity for the terraformed portion of Mars. Something would have to be done. Dale understood that either they would need to have population controls to prevent overcrowding or some of them would need to move elsewhere.

During a teleconference with Earth, Dale told the scientists his concerns. The scientists sprung into immediate action and began to discuss the possibility of establishing a Psittacines colony on Earth.

Dale was overwhelmed by the support that was shown. He thought they would be quick to reject a new species living amongst them. He even joined the first group of Psittacines to relocate to Earth.

June’s Prompt

Standard

Let’s start by addressing what should have been posted in May, but didn’t get finished till yesterday.

Read my May story if you get the chance: “Return to the Island.”

Also, my friend Jennifer Clark has been writing with the prompts each month. Read her May story too! “What She Doesn’t Say.”

The May Prompt used the story cubes. See below to see what I rolled. And then see if you can find all the elements in both Jennifer’s and my story.

IMG_2072For June, I am going to use the theme for a writing contest that I am entering. I am actually working on two stories. I am submitting one to the contest and the other is going to be my June story. And since the contest has a deadline, there is a good chance my story will actually be posted on June 30 like it should be.

I am hoping to enter the Gernsback Writing contest being done by Amazing Stories. If you are interested, see the rules.

Even if you don’t want to enter, but want to join me in writing a story this month, the theme for the contest and for June is:

spac explore

What will our solar system look like 250 years from now –

a positive take on the exploration, colonization and exploitation of Sol system.

I am very excited about this prompt and can’t wait to share what I’ve written. Working on the contest is part of what delayed my May story (only partly though).

Happy reading and writing this month. Story to be posted: June 30!!!

Return to the Island (My May Story — Very Late)

Standard

sheep

Seamus left the island the minute he turned 18. He took the first ferry he could get and left for the mainland. When his mother called to see how his life was going, she always mentioned how things were changing.

When he’d lived there, the island had a population of around 440. Forty people and about 400 sheep. He couldn’t imagine that any of that had really changed, but 20 years later, he was finally going back.

His sister was getting married. In fact, she was marrying a guy his age that he’d graduated high school with – Finn. Seamus didn’t have many memories of Finn. He vaguely recalled him as someone who was always scheming and trying to make a quick buck. Hopefully that had changed. Seamus wanted someone more grounded and financially stable for his sister.

Seamus didn’t plan to stay long. His mother wanted him there a day early for the rehearsal dinner. He agreed to be there for the dinner and to stay long enough the next day for the wedding, but he was taking the ferry home that night after the ceremony. He also made his mother promise not to make a big deal about his homecoming.

When Seamus stepped off the ferry, his mother was waiting. Alone. She must have changed in the two decades since his leaving because she didn’t even attempt to hug him. She opened her mouth to say something and changed her mind.

Apparently the island was changing too because on the way to the family home, they passed a department store and even a few chain restaurants. When he’d been here, everything was a small local establishment usually named after a family member who had started the business. A couple of new stores though were not enough to change Seamus’s mind about leaving as soon as he could. In addition to the island’s makeover, Seamus was equally surprised at his mother’s self-control – they drove all the way home in silence.

As they pulled into the drive, Seamus saw his sister, Gwen, taking laundry off the line. She turned in his direction and nodded then continued her task.

Even from the drive he could smell bread baking in the house. A man stepped out onto the porch. Seamus didn’t recognize him but the man waved at him. This must be Finn.

Finn came toward them and said, “Hey stranger. Glad to have you home.” And then without stopping to catch his breath, he continued, “Darla, the morning ferry brought the octopus and it’s not breaded.”

Seamus’s mother nodded. “Not to worry. I think I know a thing or two about frying food. Why don’t you two get reacquainted, I will go look and see what needs doing.” Darla left Seamus and Finn on the porch.

Seamus didn’t say anything. He couldn’t think of a single thing to say to someone he hadn’t seen in over 20 years, especially because he hadn’t known him well to begin with.

Finn, though, wasn’t shy and filled the awkward silence by striking up a conversation. “Can you believe your sister wants calamari at the wedding?” He raised his eyebrows but Seamus wasn’t sure what the gesture was supposed to mean. “Octopus. She’s a strange one – your sister. But that’s what I love about her.”

Seamus just nodded. He was wondering how long he could actually go on this trip without saying a single word.

That’s when Finn smacked him on the back. Finn said, “Look at you. You look different. You must work out. I remember you being a skinny, quiet guy.”

Seamus didn’t respond again. Truth be told, he did go running on a regular basis but he didn’t think he was that different looking than when he was a teenager.

Finn didn’t let the lack of response keep him from talking, “Still quiet though.” He laughed at what he thought was his own cleverness and then smacked Seamus on the back again. Finn continued, “Guess that is a good thing to be. Your mom says you sit around all day reading. I could never go for a job like that. Too much time at a desk.”

Seamus felt the need to defend his job. It was his life’s work after all. “I work for a test company. I edit questions before they are used on standardized tests throughout the whole country. I am also responsible for fact checking the questions.” He felt himself puff up a little and a hint of pride slipped into his tone. “In a way I help shape the future of high school students all across the nation. An accurate and well written test is the key to a good future.”

Finn was nodding along but Seamus could tell that he wasn’t really interested in what was being said. “I get that,” Finn said. “I too am worried about the future. But in this case, I am thinking of my future.” And after a couple of seconds, he added, “And your sister’s too of course.”

“Of course,” Seamus said.

“Hey, why don’t you go put your stuff in the house and I’ll take you to the site.” Finn looked really pleased when he said ‘the site.’ He added, “We will have plenty of time to get ready for the rehearsal dinner after.”

Seamus entered his family’s home for the first time in 20 years. He thought he should have felt something more but he didn’t. In fact, he felt like he was entering the house of strangers. He heard his mother in the kitchen working on something. He went in the living room and set his backpack on the couch. Then he walked to the kitchen and told his mother where he and Finn were going. Darla just nodded.

Seamus and Finn rode through town out towards what used to be the Benbro Inn, established and ran by the Benbro family. It had been replaced with not one, but two hotels – a Best Western and a Motel 6. Nearby the two garish hotels that didn’t quite fit into the idyllic scenery of the island was a construction site surrounded by a privacy fence.

When they got to the gate, Finn hopped out and opened the lock. This action surprised Seamus, when he’d been a boy on the island, people didn’t lock up anything. Finn returned to the truck and they drove onto the site.

Finn and Seamus hopped out.

Finn said, “Isn’t it amazing?”

Seamus wasn’t really sure what to think. If the two franchised hotels looked out of place here, what Seamus was looking at actually seemed otherworldly in this setting.

Before him was a miniature golf course. It was called “Adventure Park.”

Finn said as he gestured to the various parts of the set-up, “We were going for an Indiana Jones slash World Traveler theme. So, what do you think?” Finn didn’t wait for an answer. He continued, “It’s going to be a hit. It is going to draw tourists here. Who knows? Maybe someday we could be famous for it.”

Seamus couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Seamus took a step towards the course to take it all in a bit more. One hole had a tomb theme and at the end, the player’s ball had to be hit into a key hole. Another hole had the player shoot around arrows, which were supposed to be like the tomb being booby trapped.

Finn was talking again, “My personal favorite is the last hole. The player aims for the dark stairs. But they’re not really stairs; it’s a collection system to reclaim the golf balls.”

Seamus sat down right there in front of the ugliest thing he’d ever seen. He wasn’t sure what was happening, but he knew he didn’t want this monstrosity on his island. It didn’t belong.

golf

May’s Prompt

Standard

The May Prompt is a 72 hour story challenge.

My prompt this month comes from Rory’s Story Cubes.

IMG_2071These sets of cubes have pictures on each side and you can use them to play a game. However, I am using them to create a prompt. I took 3 cubes from each box (each set has 9) and rolled them. Here’s what I got:

IMG_2072So for May, my story will be about:

Sheep, a keyhole, an arrow, clothes drying on the line, a person lifting weights, someone reading, an octopus, a backpack, and a dark stairway.

Also, if you get a chance, check out my April story. My friend Jennifer has also been writing a story based on my prompts each month. See her stories on her blog.

Next story to be posted on May 31, 2015. See you in 72 hours!!

The Bloodstone (My April Story — Very Late — Sorry)

Standard

“All you have to do is concentrate. Visualize the wick of the candle bursting into fire.”

I really was trying and concentrating, but at the same time, I was also thinking how I didn’t belong here.

“Trainee Ella, are you concentrating?” Mage Orvan was standing over me glaring.

I rolled my eyes and received a smack upside the head. Apparently it didn’t matter that I was the only female ever allowed to train with Mages. I was treated exactly like every other trainee, and I hated it.

I had been training for nearly a year and was making very little progress.

Mage Orvan seemed especially determined to aggravate me today. “Your year one review is tomorrow. At this point in your training, your level will be determined.” I already knew that, but he continued stating things I already knew, “Being the only girl in history capable of magic, one would think you would be capable of the higher levels.”

I sat there staring at the candle for another two hours and then walked back to my quarters. My “special quarters” as the other trainees called them. My quarters were in a tiny room above the kitchen. In the past it was used as an overflow pantry for when the kitchens were well stocked. I actually liked my room. It usually smelled like fresh baked bread and roasting chicken.

Most nights I found sitting in my room relaxing, but tonight I couldn’t stop thinking about what Mage Orvan had said. I often wondered why I was the only girl capable of magic. There had to be a reason. Tomorrow I would find out if I really belonged here or not. When trainees were tested, they had to be at least a level 5 Mage to train at the College. Levels 1-4 were apprenticed out to active fully trained Mages. I wanted badly to test as a level 5 or above, but I had no idea what the test even consisted of.

The Mages were a very secretive group and even amongst themselves there were things they didn’t often talk about. One of those things was the test at the end of year one. Even though I had no idea what the test might be, I had read enough to understand the levels.

Level 1 was a Mage capable of manipulating and controlling air; one of the essential magical elements. Level 2 was a water Mage, level 3 was an earth Mage, and level 4 was a fire Mage. A level 5 Mage could control all four of the essential elements. The levels went beyond that too, but I didn’t have any hope of reaching into those levels.Merlin

Level 6 could control light and dark. Level 7 could manipulate the structure of living things. From what I understood in my reading, a level 7 Mage could make plants grow instantaneously from seeds and things like that. A level 8 could control the will of living things. That was a sobering and terrible thought. Level 9 could control other magical beings, including other Mages. And the highest level could control time itself. Only one Mage in history had been a level 10. Merlin. Everyone, even non-Mages, knew Merlin’s story. He was the only Mage that could control all the elements, light and dark, life, and time. He truly was all-powerful. And then one day, he vanished.

I needed to clear my head and decided to go for a walk. I was minding my own business when I heard snickering behind me. Without even turning I knew it was some of my fellow first years preparing to taunt me. At that moment I would have given anything to be able to control them. I decided to just ignore them.

“Trying to decide whether you are going to be a cook or a maid after tomorrow, Ella?” I knew that question had sprung from the mouth of Trainee Jared. He loved to point out that I was a girl who clearly didn’t belong here. Although, I do recall he struggled with lighting the candle today too. I just shook my head and bee lined back toward the kitchen. I could hear their chuckles and snide comments the whole way.

The next morning I awoke when the smell of oatmeal and bacon began to waft into my quarters. I didn’t remember falling asleep last night. I was too nervous to eat, so I headed to the dining hall with just a cup of tea. The trainees, even those who heckled me last night, were noticeably quiet this morning. It seems that even bullies get serious when their fate is about to be decided.

Mage Orvan gathered us all out of the dining hall and led us to the assembly chambers. We often had lectures and courses in the hall, but today it looked a little different. We were told to line up outside the door and we would be called in individually to test.

I was the last one waiting in the hallway and I thought I was going to be sick. Every trainee but me had been in and no one had come back out, which meant they would all be watching me as I was tested.

Orvan stepped into the hall and looked at me. He opened his mouth to speak and then decided against it. Instead he gestured for me to enter the assembly.

I walked into the room and my fears were realized. All the other trainees were sitting on benches to one side and would have a front row seat to my shame.

Orvan swept past me and stood behind a small table. On the table was a stone. “Do you know what this is?” asked Orvan.

I thought I did but I’d never seen one, only read about them. I took a stab at it anyway. “It’s a bloodstone.”

“Correct,” Orvan said. “This is the test. You will pick up the stone and hold it for exactly one minute. In that time, the stone will transform and this will tell us what level of magic you possess.”

A bloodstone. That was the test? I couldn’t believe it. A bloodstone was a crystal that recognized magical energy. When a Mage picked it up, it would change from it’s normal clear resting stage to a shade of red or pink. The more powerful the Mage, the redder the stone changed. When the Mage set the stone down, the stone returned to it’s normal state. It was actually a very good use of the stone’s properties.stone

“Pick up the stone.” I could hear snickering coming from the section where the first years were seated.

I took a deep breath and picked up the stone. When people look back at their lives, they say there are moments when they felt time stand still. Well, this was one of those moments for me. I picked up the stone and whatever being watched over us, paused in her labors to look down at me. I could feel every eye looking, not at me, at the stone. In the instant I picked up the stone, it changed.

The stone was deep crimson. It certain light, it looked almost black and then the light would shine on it and you could see the red swirling within.

When I remembered to breathe again, I looked at Orvan. He looked confused and for once, he didn’t look mad at me. I also noticed that every Elder Mage that was sitting behind him was now standing. There wasn’t any snickering coming from the other trainees.

One of the Elders spoke, “It must be a trick.” And like that, time began again. I couldn’t focus on what was happening around me, but I picked up snippets.

“She’s just a girl.”

“Cheated, clearly.”

“There’s no way she’s a higher level than me.”

“Unprecedented.”

“Silence.” Orvan spoke finally. “Sit the stone down, Ella. The Elders must discuss this.”

I returned the stone to it’s cushion and took a step back. I looked down at my feet. I didn’t know what any of this meant, but somehow I knew I was not to blame for what happened.

I stood there for several moments and there was talking and whispering all around me. And then the room got quiet again. I looked up to see Orvan staring at the stone very intently.

The stone had not returned to it’s resting state. The stone should have been clear again by now, but it remained crimson.

Orvan stood up very straight and addressed the Elders. “My friends, we all know what this means.” The Elders nodded in unison.

“All trainees will return to their quarters now, someone will be along later to report your levels. You are dismissed.” As the other trainees shuffled past me I saw many emotions on their faces – curiosity, rage, jealousy, confusion, and even fear.

I was left alone with the Elders and Orvan. The Elders gathered around a group of statues. The statues were a permanent part of the assembly room. I remembered the first time I saw them, I thought they were very life like. All of the statues were animals of various shapes and sizes. They were true to life in size.

Orvan spoke, breaking my train of thought, “Ella, these statues are your final test.” He must have seen the confusion on my face. “Pick up the bloodstone and place it at the feet of one of these statues.”

I still didn’t really understand what was going on but I realized this was part of my test. “Which one should I pick sir?”

And for the first time since I met him, Orvan smiled at me kindly. “I cannot tell you that. Pick the one that resonates with you.”

I didn’t have the foggiest idea what that meant, but I walked amongst the statues looking at each one. There was a unicorn, a house cat, a dragonling, and even a dire wolf. I walked past others and thought what on earth could all this mean? I had no idea which one to pick. Then I stopped in front of an owl.

This was the one. I don’t know how I knew, but I knew. I put the stone at his feet and the statue burst into flame.

I was so shocked I fell back. Smoke clouded my vision and I thought I heard flapping wings. I heard other Mages cough and felt the air swirling around me. Before I could cry out for help, something landed on my knees.

The smoke cleared and I was surrounded by the Elders, all of which we clapping or smiling. What on earth was happening? I looked at what was now perched on my lap. I was staring into the eyes of the owl. The owl who moments ago had been a statue. And then before my brain could process any of the thoughts passing through it, the owl spoke.owl

“Hello, Merlin.”

“I’m not Merlin.” I managed to stammer before I really knew what I was saying.

The owl turned its head sideways at a very disconcerting angle and said, “You are, and you aren’t. But you will be.”

April Prompt… Better Late Than Never

Standard

So… this month I forgot to post the prompt. It has been crazy. Ever since spring break, I have had multiple tests every week at school, plus I started volunteering at the SPCA. I feel like I’m running at full speed most of the time, and I just crash on the weekends to sleep.

However, I do have a prompt for April, and I even picked it out on the first of the month, but it has been sitting on my desk.642-things

The prompt for April comes from a book titled 642 Things to Write About. I bought this book years ago, and every once in a while, I flip through it. It has journaling ideas for personal writing and story ideas for fiction writing. This month I picked something simple.

The prompt for April:

“Set something on fire.”fire

That’s it. Happy writing.

Story to come….. April 30, 2015.