Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : Week 280 (2023/02/03)

Well, here I am. An old man, sitting on his sofa, making like a couch potato as I try to drink away all my memories. It’s funny how memories work, isn’t it? How we remember all the things that could have been, or might have been, if we’d have made a different decision at some point. How, the longer we live, the more such decisions we collect. How those decisions come out at night, when we sleep, when we dream, and totally wreck us.

I’d had another night of such dreams. The kind of dreams you don’t want to remember, but you can’t seem to forget, and they always replay in your visual cortex when you close your eyes. So you try not to even blink. But you fail.

And there that dream is, in full high dynamic resolution color, playing out in your head, and you can’t shut the damn thing off.

Just like that, there I was again, an arrogant 8 year old, with his 6 year old brother, playing games with the window fan that was in the hallway of the house that had no air conditioning. The house where you slept during the spring and summer with no sheet on at night, and the windows wide open, and still woke up coated in sweat, the sheets of the bed being soaked, and your hair being glued to your head. That fan helped. It moved air. Air that moved felt cooler than air that didn’t move.

We both knew not to do what we were doing. Mom and Dad had told us, “Don’t play with the fan. It’s dangerous. It can hurt you. Stay away from it.”

If you know anything about boys, you know damn well when you tell them such things, they’re going to do those very things. And there we were, playing with the fan, feeling the breeze it created. Laughing at how its blades chopped up the sound of our voices as we spoke into it.

I was an arrogant little bastard. I was. My little brother went behind the fan, where we weren’t supposed to go, and played with the air currents back there. I can still hear him talking about how strong the suction was, and how it wanted to pull his hand into the fan.

In typical 8 year old fashion, being sure I was way stronger than my little brother, I went behind that fan to check the suction out for myself. “This will be so easy. I won’t even have to try.” Arrogant little bastard that I was, I held up my hand, extended my arm, and the suction from the fan grabbed it, and pulled my hand right in.


It didn’t hurt. I pulled my hand back, and stared at it. There were three deep cuts on my hand. Two on the knuckles, and one on a finger. They weren’t even bleeding yet, but I knew looking at them, they were the worst cuts I’d ever had.

Not wanting to relive the rest of the experience, having seen it countless times in the past day, I pour myself another drink, and make a toast to myself, “To regrets and memories of my stupid past.”

It doesn’t work. The drink burns my throat as I swallow it, and that makes me close my eyes. Just like that, there’s another dream, from another regret. One I didn’t understand at the time. One that took years to figure out.

There we were, standing around a bed in the neighbors house. Somehow, the neighbor’s boy, who was my age, convinced us to play doctor with his little sister. He’d shut the door to the room, and before I knew what was going on, he’d stripped her down to her underwear. “I told you, girls are different from boys. Here’s what I mean.”

His little sister was crying, and his big sister, who could beat the stuffing out of both of us at the same time, heard her, and came to investigate. And lit into use. She screamed at us, about how what we were doing was wrong, and not to be tolerated, and how if we ever did it again, she’d beat us to pulps.

It wasn’t until I learned what women looked like when they were naked that I finally understood what had happened. That was years later, when I snuck a peak at a copy of Dad’s Playboy Magazine, and saw that women aren’t built like men. They have different parts.

Parts I wasn’t supposed to see without permission.

“God damned movies in my head.” I pour another shot, and drink it, in my effort to clear away the memories. Knowing damn well that if I cleared those away, other memories would take their place.

I think I’ll just sit here, on my sofa, like a couch potato. And finish off the bottle. One shot at a time. I don’t know. Maybe if I see all the regrets of my life play out in my head, and drink a toast to each of them, they’ll go away, and leave me alone.

A bunch of words

Written for Week 280 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. You can learn about Miranda’s challenge here. The stories people share for the weekly challenge are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. Please go read them.


#ThursThreads Week 547 : What Are We Going To Do About That?

Sunshine watched the waves until the sun fell below the horizon, and the white caps became all that was visible on an endless sheet of black. Finally, she walked back to shore from the end of the pier.

She walked the empty streets of the town, past the collection of shops at the end of the pier, to the houses along the ocean shore. She stopped before one of the houses. It was different from most, its exterior walls were pale blue. She decided to look inside.

“Dear Fauna. I wish you could see this house with me.” She opened the front door, and stepped inside, onto a carpeted floor, into a climate controlled environment. The lights came on inside the house as she walked from room to room, exploring it. Two bedrooms, one bathroom, one kitchen, one common room.

In the bathroom, there was a walk-in shower. Sunshine had never seen one, and wondered what it was. Approaching it, she opened its sliding door, then cautiously stuck her arm inside. Nothing happened, so she stepped inside.

The shower turned on, and warm water sprayed her down, clothes and all.

Sunshine was surprised, then confused, then angry because her clothes were soaked, then she thought, “I haven’t been clean in ages.” The water was warm, and felt good. “What are we going to do about that?”

She washed her clothing, and herself. It was the first time since Fauna had died that Sunshine felt anything other than dead inside.

249 Words

This is Week 547 of #ThursThreads, hosted by Siobhan Muir. Please go read all the stories in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are always fun to read, and there are some great writers who show up every week.

#ThursThreads Week 546 : I’ll Think Of Something Else.

Sunshine looked toward the ocean. There was a long pier that extended from the shore. She headed toward that. It turned out to be a fishing pier, made of wood that sat atop concrete pilings. It was designed to last centuries. As she walked on it, her footsteps made no sound. The structure was solid.

“Tell me about this pier,” she waved her arm at the pier, and waited for the machines to explain.

“It was the town park. People came here to fish, and to watch the ocean, the sunrise, and sunset. People even got married on the pier.”

“Did anyone ever jump off the pier?”

“No. You will be the first, if you follow through with your plan.”

“You figured that out already?”

“You know we won’t let you drown.”

“Then I suppose I’ll think of something else.”

“You need to stay alive.”

She wanted to scream. To stomp her feet. To cry. To explain to the machines they didn’t understand. That her entire world, everything she’d ever believed, had been destroyed before her eyes. That her sister, Fauna, was gone. That she felt no sunshine in her heart. All she felt was empty. Hollow. Like everything was pointless. Like nothing mattered.

“Why? Why do I need to stay alive?”

“Because. So long as the sun rises, so long as the cycle does not end, there is a chance your people will survive.”

Sunshine stood at the end of the pier, and watched the ocean waves.

248 Words

This is Week 546 of #ThursThreads, hosted by Siobhan Muir. Please go read all the stories in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are always fun to read, and there are some great writers who show up every week.

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : Week 278 (2023/01/24)

The flowers had come from the sky. Their seeds fell to the ground during the snows of winter. No one knew they were there, taking root in the ground, until the spring, when strange plants broke through the ground.

Those plants were not native to the planet. Sir Hortus the 347th had asked the Artificial Intelligence what they were. The AI had never observed them on the surface of the planet before. It classified them as an invasive species.

“You must remove them from the ground.”

Sir Hortus knew his job well.

“Are they conventional plants?”

“Further clarification needed.”

“Do they reproduce like normal plants?”

“It appears they do.”

Upon learning this, Sir Hortus knew what had to be done. He ordered the Assembly Line to produce the air tight jars. He specified each jar had to be 80 centimeters tall, shaped like the bloom of a bell flower, with an extended rim that would sink 20 centimeters into the ground.

The shape didn’t really matter, but Sir Hortus found he liked the shape of bell flowers. “If I have to look at several hundred of them, I may as well make them worth looking at.”

The Assembly Line had completed his order, 3D printed all 326 air tight bell flowers, and  delivered them to Sir Hortus the 347th’s garden by dawn of the next day.

Sir Hortus spent the day installing the bell flowers. One bell flower each to the invading plants. The bell flowers cut them off from pollination, and from the mechanical Bee swarm that pollinated the plants. The AI had designed the bee swarm centuries earlier, when humans had managed to kill off the bees of the planet.

Sir Hortus knew from the AI’s instructions the bell flowers should strangle the life out of the invasive plants, restoring the garden to its natural state. But, it did mean the garden would be put in quarantine until the AI had verified the garden was clean. That would not happen for at least 12 months. The AI had to inventory all the plants that broke the ground in the spring, thus verifying the invaders were no more.

He did not finish setting the bell flowers in place until after sunset. He had to admit, for a garden that was sick, and under quarantine, it looked surprisingly good. “I like the bell flowers.”

The AI had answered back, “It was a good decision. We can market the story of the plant invasion to obtain funds from the central AI to maintain the garden, and observe the invasive plants.”

Sir Hortus knew the plants would die inside the bell flowers. It was how it had to be to restore the garden to its natural state. A state all the AIs worked hard to restore, and maintain, after the destruction the humans had caused.

“If all goes well, and the garden is restored, the central AI indicates there will be a new plant recovered from DNA found in a dig not too far from here.”

Sir Hortus nodded. “That would be a gift to the garden. And it would be an honor to restore a new species to the planet.”

The AI responded, “Eventually, we will restore the plants the humans destroyed, and finish healing the biosphere. Until then, Sir Hortus the 347th, you are to continue your work in the garden. And when your time expires, the 348th will be installed.”

“How is the 348th developing?”

“The clone process was a success. It will take time for the clone to develop, but it will be ready to replace you when the time comes.”

Sir Hortus nodded. That night, he stood on the porch of his cottage, and stared at the bell flowers, as they glinted in the starlight. “I like bell flowers.”

A bunch of words

Written for Week 278 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. You can learn about Miranda’s challenge here. The stories people share for the weekly challenge are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. Please go read them.

#ThursThreads Week 545 : This Had To Look Real

Sunshine had lost all track of time. It was as if time no longer mattered to her. The ubiquitous machines of Cylinders, and the war with invaders from another world, had turned her life upside down, and demonstrated everything she had always believed was a lie.

She had refused to fly. She’d landed, and declared she would walk. “I will not use the machines to fly.”

That had been days ago. Maybe weeks ago.

“I will walk until I die.” That was her original thought. But, Sunshine didn’t die. She didn’t drink water. She didn’t eat food. She walked each day, endlessly, day after day, from sunrise to sunset. She slept on the ground, with no regard for safety. “Let them eat me. I no longer care.”

The machines kept her alive.

As she walked, along the shore of Cylinder’s one giant ocean, she listened to the endless waves, and wished to die. “Everything is a lie.”

Until she saw the remains of a town beside the ocean. What has once been a few houses. Maybe more.

The machines reconstructed the town as she approached it. Houses grew from the few remains. Others sprang from the ground. They weren’t houses she had ever seen. They had glass windows, running water, heating and cooling.

She stopped.

The machines told her, “This was a port. 30,000 of your years ago.”

“This had to look real, didn’t it.” She spoke to the air.



“With time, we will teach you why.”

250 Words

This is Week 545 of #ThursThreads, hosted by Siobhan Muir. Please go read all the stories in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are always fun to read, and there are some great writers who show up every week.

#ThursThreads Week 544 : Did You Miss Me?

Mystica stood on the shore of the lake, as if she knew what was going to happen. Perhaps the machines had told her. Perhaps Merlin had. No one really knew.

Musica, curious, stood next to her. “Are we waiting for something?”


“We are waiting for someone, then.”


“Do you know who?”


“But you aren’t telling anyone?”


Rose floated in the air from her tree house to the lake, “Musica. You must play happy music.” She looked at Mystica, “Mother is happy, can’t you see?”

Musica played her flute. A happy song. One she’d never played. All random notes, like a child, exploring the world, and being so amazed at everything, even the clouds floating in the air, or the feel of the lake water on their toes.

Scream, the dragon, circled the lake clearing from high above. He waited. Rose laughed, happily, “She’s coming home, isn’t she?”

Mystica didn’t speak.

Until a lone fairy, with fiery red hair, floated over the tree line, and to the center of the lake, and asked, “Did you miss me?”

Mystica nodded. “Yes.”

Rose flew across the lake and embraced her sister, Sunshine. “Welcome home, sister. We’ve missed you.”

Sunshine moved to the shore of the lake, and landed next to Mystica. “I’m sorry I was gone so long, Mother.”

“You had to find yourself.”

Sunshine nodded. “I searched Cylinders. All of it.” She smiled at Mystica, then looked at the water of the lake. “I found my home.”

249 Words

This is Week 544 of #ThursThreads, hosted by Siobhan Muir. Please go read all the stories in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are always fun to read, and there are some great writers who show up every week.

#ThursThreads Week 543 : Thank You For Volunteering.

“Thank you for volunteering,” I stared at the bottle of Aripiporazole. “They should print that on the bottle. ‘Cause you don’t have any clue how this stuff is going to work for you. And neither do they.”

I yawned, and stared at the bottle. “5 mg per pill.” I shook my head. “I can barely pick the pills up with my big damn fingers, they’re that tiny.”

It was hard to believe that little bit of anything could result in so much chaos in me, yet there I was, sleeping 12 hours or more every day. Unable to focus on anything. Wondering if I could stand up long enough to do the dishes, or if I needed to break the dishes into multiple sessions of say, 5 minutes each.

Another yawn struck. “If I sit here another minute I’ll be in naps-ville.” I got up, and walked around the house, stopping at the top of the stairs. “Can I make it down the stairs alive?” It wasn’t a question of did I have the physical strength, it was did I have the balance to get down without tripping and killing myself.

I stepped back from the stairs, and walked up and down the hallway for a bit. I sat in the gravity chair, but got back up after a minute. I wound up back at my computer, looking at that bottle of pills.

“Not taking my dose tonight. Nope. Not doing it. Ask someone else to volunteer.”

248 Words

This is Week 543 of #ThursThreads, hosted by Siobhan Muir. Please go read all the stories in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are always fun to read, and there are some great writers who show up every week.

A Thought For A Sunday (2023/01/01)

We (And I mean me) are starting the new year with side effects from the Aripiprazole. Three, in particular, and maybe a 4th.

1. Sleep. It’s all I want to do. Sleep. 24/7/365.

2. Hunger. I want to eat everything. I mean everything. A Whopper with Cheese sounds so good. So does that milkshake from Cook Out.

3. Lethargy. I can’t get out of my own way. My speed on the stationary bike has dropped almost 10 MPH in the past 2 weeks.

Maybe 4. I can’t keep my hands as still as I used to, and my attention span is at a record low.

So… The question is what to do about the side effects. Do I kack the 5 mg of Abilify? Do I cut the pills in half, and move to 2.5 mg (roughly). Do I keep taking it, and monitor myself very carefully, and see what happens over the next couple of weeks?

I’m trying to be positive here. Trying to do the best thing. I had psychiatry on December 8th. That’s when the dose level on Abilify went up. So, this is now 3 weeks and 3 days. Per my psychiatrist, it takes 4 weeks for things to stabilize, and reach full effectiveness.

Do I want to take this out another week, to hit the 31 day mark, and then see how I feel?

I plan to call the psychiatrist’s office on Tuesday to ask questions.

Reading the material for the Aripiprazole, the side effects usually fade over time. Well. Time is something I clearly have. Perhaps, in another week, things won’t be as bad, because this 63 year old anatomy of mine will begin to adjust to the medication, and what it does. Sort of like tuning a car engine, or optimizing a computer program. It takes time, and experimentation, and practice, lots of practice, and experience, to get it right.

Maybe that’s where I am right now. Tuning the engine. Optimizing the program to work better.

Just in case that’s what’s happening, I’ll stay at the 5 mg dose for now. And see how it goes, and monitor myself carefully. After all, it’s still 2 days until I can really call my doc, and ask questions.

In the meantime, can I take a nap?

#ThursThreads Week 542 : It’s Not That Simple.

“Nope. It’s not that simple,” I thought. “Can’t be that simple.”

Yet there it was. Written in words by my own hand. “What if the Big Bang was actually the Big Rip?”

I stared at the words. “The Big Rip?”

How would we know? How could we know? We would be living inside the rip, inside the biggest phase change in the history of everything.

“For that matter, what if this isn’t the first Big Rip?” That thought left me sitting at my desk, staring out the window, and wondering if I suddenly had an explanation for dark matter, and dark energy, and what was beyond the edge of the universe. Because, suddenly, dark matter might turn into matter and mass, that didn’t change in the phase change. It would lie outside of our laws of physics. We couldn’t see it, or detect it. But it would still be there.

Dark energy would be the expansion of the original space that was being overwritten in the big rip. Space that could well have been expanding at an accelerating rate as an open universe. One that expanded forever. One where a big rip became inevitable in theory.

And the reason galaxies had appeared out of nowhere, fully formed was because they were already there, and the phase change made them visible.

I shook my head. “Nope. No way. It’s not that simple.”

231 Words

This is Week 542 of #ThursThreads, hosted by Siobhan Muir. Please go read all the stories in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are always fun to read, and there are some great writers who show up every week.

A Thought For A Thursday (2022/12/29)

I decided, on Tuesday, to try coming off the Buspirone on a daily basis, and use it on an as needed basis. I did this because of my collapsing energy levels. I think it was the right thing for me to do, since my energy levels are improving, and I’m able to move around better, and get more things done.

Let me tell you what I think demons and angels are. Yeah. Yeah. I know. Where did that thought come from, Mark? It’s something I keep running into in life. Like people trying to explain away bad thoughts, and bad actions, and bad behavior by attributing them to demons. The old saying, “The Devil made me do it.”

Sorry. That’s not true at all.

Demons and angels are literally us. We are each both a demon and an angel. And they can’t be separated into two beings. Think of it like rose bushes. Beautiful, but armed with thorns. Some of us are like wild blackberries. A few small berries, and an ocean of thorns. Some of us are like blackberries on the farm. A few thorns, but tons of berries.

The point is, when you get cut off in traffic, it’s not a demon that makes you scream at the driver that cut you off. It’s you. It’s anger. Frustration. Bafflement. Relief that you didn’t get in a wreck. An entire host of emotions. All of them inside of you and that collection of single celled organisms that has organized itself into a macro-organism called a human being.

Own it. Don’t blame it on something you have no damn control over. Own it. It’s all you.

Hold the door open for someone behind you? Aww. You little angel you. But, you see. If it’s not a bad thing, we don’t say, “An angel made me do it.” We treat that completely different. We don’t even always recognize that good behavior. But, there it is. You did something good. Like an angel would.

Own it. It’s all you.

Angels and demons. We are them. They are us.

Sometimes I think we oversimplify too many things. Pushed the red button that launched the nuclear missiles? You devil you. No demon made you do that. Own it. Put cat food out on the back porch for the stray cats that you know are out there? You angel you. No one made you do that.

Punch your brother smack in the nose? Broke his nose? Put him in the hospital for a couple of days? You devil you.

See? There they are. Angels and demons both. One and the same. Inside of each of us. We are the angels and the demons.

And it does get complicated. Doesn’t everything get complicated? The serial killer. If ever there was a case for this thing called demons, that would be one of the cases. “The demon possessed him, and made him kill 27 boys, and cut them into bits, and bury them in his backyard.”

Right. Sure. And we can bring in an exorcist, and cure him, and all is forgiven. Right?

Some of us have more darkness in us than others. It comes out looking like bigger demons.

The guy that took a gun to school, and shot 27 people dead? A demon, right? A fruit loop? What possessed him? What made him do that? He went crazy, right?

No. He deliberately decided to do what he did. Maybe his logic is flawed? Maybe he is filled with hatred, and rage? Maybe he wants to say something, but can’t convince anyone to listen? Maybe he just hates life? Maybe he wants to die, but can’t kill himself, so kills others until someone stops him?

Possessed? No. Crazy? No. The things you call demons? The “devil that made him do it?” That’s all him. No one made him pull that trigger. He literally came to the conclusion it was what he had to do. What he wanted to do. That it would solve whatever the problem he had was.

Demons had nothing to do with it.

Neither did angels.

Life would be simpler if they did, wouldn’t it. If only we could blame all the bad stuff on demons, and praise the angels for all the good stuff.

But, see. Then we come to man’s tools. Like cars. Cars which in and of themselves are not good or evil. Cars which are invaluable transportation tools to people. You have to have that car to get to work, to go buy groceries, to go someplace on vacation, to get the kids to school, to get to the doctor’s office, or the dentist’s office.

But, at the same time that the car does all that good, it’s slowly destroying our biosphere. Pumping out carbon from burning fuel. Leaving a trail of microscopic dust behind it from its tires, and metal parts, and springs, and paint.

Suddenly, the car becomes both good and evil. An angel and a demon.

Just like me. Just like you. Just like everyone everywhere.

My father told me, “There is a darkness in you, Mark. Just like there was in my father.”

Yes, dad. There is a darkness in me. There is also a light. And an interplay between the two. In some of us, the darkness may be bigger than the light. In others, the light may be bigger than the darkness. In others, they may be in balance. In each of us, they are always in conflict.

It would be easy to let the darkness win. To let it end things. To let it rule things. To let it make my decisions. I know this. I know my darkness well.

The magic. The thing that makes me human, is the light that balances the darkness. The light that keeps the darkness from owning me. So long as the two remain in conflict, I have hope that I’m not a bad person.

It’s not demons. It’s not the devil. It’s not angels.

It’s me. It’s my emotions. My feelings. My thoughts. My brain cells. The zillions of single celled organisms from which I am composed. That which makes the macro-organism that is me.

We are the demons. We are the angels. We are like the roses, and the black berries. We have flowers, and fruit. And we have thorns.

There. Now you know what I think about demons and angels. And about people who let the darkness in them win. No psycho pulled the trigger and shot 27 kids at school. No fruit loop cut up little boys and buried them in his backyard. No demon took possession of such people.

It’s not that simple.

Anger. Rage. Fear. Hatred. Blind emotions. Terror.

It’s complicated.

People lose to the darkness in them all the time. You broke the pencil at work. You spent half the night awake, playing a video game, bashing monsters with a big wrench or a sword. You slept on the sofa after you had too many drinks on a rough day.

It’s not demons.

It’s not angels.

It’s you.

Grow up. Own it. And if you need to, learn to deal with it.