We Found Oil

At first, we thought the black liquid was oil, that we’d struck it rich and that we’d be able to retire and live in leisure. We actually started writing down all the ways we’d spend the money. Our first choice was a private island. Actually, that was my first choice, my husband and daughter wanted other things.

MY LIST

private island

sports car – probably a lamborgihni

MY HUSBAND’S LIST

pay off debt

big house

retire and do nothing

OUR DAUGHTER’S LIST

lots of cats

She is eight and loves cats. My husband and I really just wanted a way to be out of debt. We were still paying off the fee that allowed us to have a child. The government closely regulated how many people could be born every year. Over population had almost destroyed our planet once, they weren’t going to let it happen again. At least, not without making money off of poor people like us first.

This discovery could change everything for us. The trouble was we weren’t sure how to let someone know without losing our rights to the liquid. If it was oil, we wouldn’t just be rich, we’d be set for life. Only 150 years ago, fossil fuels had run out. That’s right. Gone. We were warned it would happen, but most people didn’t do anything to prepare for the loss of oil as a fuel source. Since then however, people had scurried to set up alternative energies. Most people preferred solar.

Without oil, our world didn’t come to an end, but there were many years of hard times for the average person. It happened before I was born, but my grandparents talked about those times like they were only yesterday. The stories from that era were troubling. People got desperate, and when people got desperate, they did things they wouldn’t normally do.

We would have to alert someone about our findings in a way that wouldn’t allow them to just come in and take it from us. We deserved compensation. After all, this was our land. We made our living selling “clean” water from a spring we’d inherited from my kin.

But oil… oil was not water. Water paid our bills, but oil could shape our lives.

My husband worked from sun up to sun down monitoring the bottling process. He had good people working for us but water was still a commodity worth stealing. With him tied up all day, he was leaving it to me to decide how to proceed.

I debated calling my best friend, Amy, but if she told someone, word would spread and I would lose my chance to get my news out my way.

I didn’t call Amy, but I did call my momma. After all, she still owned shares in the family business. We would cut her in on whatever this discovery brought us.

I told her about the discovery. She didn’t believe me. I told her to come over in the morning to see for herself.

She said she’d see me then. I hung up and went about my nightly routine.

The next morning my momma showed up bright and early. We went out to the dig site and after looking at the black liquid, my mother stood very still and said nothing for a long time. I didn’t say anything. My momma was a hard working woman who ran the water business after my daddy left us. She didn’t speak a lot, but when she did, she meant every word of what she said.

“This is oil,” she said.

“I know,” I answered her.

“This is gonna change things,” she said.

I admit that at this point I expected a bit more. My momma didn’t usually state the obvious. I didn’t say anything again.

My mother interrupted, “Who’s that?” She was pointing behind me towards the road leading up to our land.

I turned around and saw several large trucks of various kinds coming towards my property. I didn’t know the purpose of all of them. I saw some vehicles that I recognized. What mostly caught my eye was that the trucks were being led to my land by a quintessential navy sedan. navy sedan

“God damnit,” I said. “Momma, did you tell someone about this.” I was so angry that she would have blabbed.

“Calm down. I didn’t tell no one,” she said as she looked offended I would accuse her of such betrayal.

“Well, I didn’t tell anyone but you.” My mind was racing. How had our secret been discovered? There is no way that my husband had told anyone. He didn’t particularly warm to any government representative. They had a tendency to take what they wanted and leave nothing for the rest of us.

I ran back towards the house with my momma hot on my trail. I grabbed the radio as soon as I could reach it in the kitchen.

I yelled, “Honey, get up here now. The feds are here. We are about to have company.”

All my husband said was, “Yep.”

I went and stood on the front porch and watched all the vehicles line up outside my house. As they drew nearer, I noticed that several of them had men with weapons. As they parked, the armed men jumped off their vehicles and surrounded my front porch.

The person in charge got out of the front passenger side of the navy sedan. He buttoned his jacket as he walked towards me.

Before he could reach the porch, I said, “Something I can help you with?” I gave him my if I only had laser beams shooting out of my eyes glare.

“Ma’am. Please go back into your house.” As he said this, several of the armed personnel moved without saying anything and pointed rifles at me and my momma.

My momma grabbed my arm. “Let’s go, dear. Do as they say. It’s not worth it,” she said barely above a whisper.

We went back into the kitchen and sat down. Within seconds, I heard foot falls on the porch and then black paint started to appear on all the windows. “What the..” I said as I stood and headed for the door.

“Don’t bother,” my momma said. “It’s too late. We have lost control of this situation.” She seemed reserved and small; this was nothing like the strong woman who raised me. She would never have given up so easily. I’d never seen her go up against the government before and there was clearly fear as well as history there.

“Fine,” I said. I sat down at the kitchen table and folded my arms across my chest in an outright display of stubbornness. She sat across from me.

We had only been sitting for five minutes or so when the door opened again and my husband and daughter were thrust into the room. The door was promptly slammed shut.

My husband sat down at the table too. I looked at him expecting him to say something, anything really. He didn’t. We all just sat there looking at each other.

My daughter came over to me and gave me a hug. I told her to go play in her room while we figured out what was going on.

After about an hour, a large heavily armed group of men came in through the kitchen door and dropped off bottles of water. They didn’t say anything but left again.

Then the man in the suit who I saw get out of the sedan came in. I opened my mouth to yell at him and demand answers. He raised his hand to silence me.

“No.”

I hadn’t even said anything.

“Just listen.” He paused and when none of us had anything forth coming to say, he continued, “You will remain in your house until you are told otherwise.” And then he turned and left.

Either from shock or just complete disbelief, we didn’t do anything. Not a single one of us thought to ask a single question. We just stood there.

After he left, we could here the people talking on the porch, but their voices were too muffled to be understandable.

At this point, we discussed if there was anything we could do. The consensus was that this was a no-win situation for us. We would just do as we were told for now.

Early the next morning we began to hear sounds like large equipment working on our land. I tried to look through the windows, but they had painted all of them black. We had no idea what they were doing, but it didn’t take a genius to figure it out. They were stealing our oil.

oil well

This continued for the better part of three weeks. The noises from outside were continuous. They would bring in water and food through the kitchen door and leave again without saying anything.

One morning when I awoke, I didn’t hear any noises. I went down to kitchen and walked out the back door. They were gone. That day my husband went back down to the bottling plant and starting bottling water again.

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Frozen in Writing

It is time for my mid-process check in. As part of my plan to write 12 short stories this year, I am also going to write posts about my road blocks while writing.

Ironically the main character / narrator of my story this month is facing a similar problem to one I am going through in real life. Before I get into that, here is a reminder what this month’s prompt is:

At first, we thought the black liquid was oil, that we’d struck it rich and that we’d be able to retire and live in leisure. We actually started writing down all the ways we’d spend the money. Our first choice was …​

I have been working on my story. I have some characters, I have a basic plot, and I even have an idea where I would like the story to go. However, my main character seems paralyzed. I cannot figure out how to get the story going again. I am not sure if this is that I am too determined to make the story happen a certain way and am not letting the story take on a life of its own, or because I feel that way right now in my own life.

My husband and I are waiting to find out if he is going to lose his job this year. It would be a HUGE life changing event for us. It’s all I can think about. We know roughly when we will find out and knowing that date has made it even harder for me. I feel like I am frozen in place waiting for someone to say “unfreeze.” I don’t want to do anything right now. I just want to know one way or another. 

freeze_tag_king_by_nickseluk-d5ihir7

I feel like my character is stuck too. She can’t act because she is too afraid to. Any choice she makes could lead to things going horribly wrong. Maybe I should just let it go wrong for her and see where that takes me. Or maybe her fear prevents her from acting and the story is just what’s going on in her head.

Can nothing happening be a story?

I am curious what others think about that. What type of story do you prefer to write? Should event A lead to event B which in turn leads to events C-Z? Or do you like stories where there is more insight into the thoughts of the narrator(s)? Do you want your narrator to be thinking for you or do you want to watch everything play out and think about it for yourself?

And how do you handle the emotions of your characters? Do you tell the reader what the character is feeling, i.e. Bartleby is sad. Or do you prefer to show them through the events of the story and let them form the emotions for themselves?

Or do you just prefer to write and not overthink it? (Which is the other problem I am having in real life and while writing right now).

However you go about writing, keep it up!

Happy writing and reading this month! 

Welcome to January 2018!

It’s been awhile since I’ve been on here. Since July 2015 apparently. So then, why am I back? To be honest, I miss writing. In the last couple of years I made a career change to a completely unrelated field, and I haven’t been writing. I still read — a lot, but I haven’t made writing of any kind a priority. I want to change that. I miss it.

One of my goals for 2018 is to write 12 short stories, one a month, and post them on this blog. I will probably write more than that, but that is going to be my goal to start. I am going to get back in the habit of trying to write a little everyday too.

write1

For my monthly prompts, I am using a book called Complete the Story. I will share the prompt for each month on the first and then sometime between the 20th and end of the month, my story for that prompt will be posted. I am making choosing the prompts simple; I am just going to use the book in order. I am really looking forward to this challenge. If you want to join me, let me know what stories you write too. I am intrigued by the different routes people take when given an idea and told to run with it.

2018 is going to be a great year! How do I know? Because I said so that’s why.

Happy writing and reading everyone! And make your year a great one.

And before I go start my amazing / productive year of writing, here is the prompt for January:

At first, we thought the black liquid was oil, that we’d struck it rich and that we’d be able to retire and live in leisure. We actually started writing down all the ways we’d spend the money. Our first choice was …

July’s Prompt

  
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

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

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)

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