Writing Practice and Reflections, March 31 2020

So, in the interest of full disclosure, I am incredibly tired and I caught myself making several typos and other errors during these pieces. I’m not going to go back and edit since I’m a little past my bed time, so please forgive any errors.

Five prompts, four pieces. One is a continuation of the Renee story from the 29th and 30th, the other three are new.

Also, I’m not sure if it’s clear or not, but I write the descriptions of images from memory and not during the practice write itself.

Images 1 and 2 belong to the same story, and I’ve left out the divider between them.


Image 1: Aerial photo of a city with a clear division between a residential district and a commercial district. I’m not actually much of a city person, so I can’t say what it made me think of in terms of places. Most of the actual visual elements in this passage were drawn from imagination, not the prompt: the photo depicted a sunny day.

I watched from the helicopter as we passed over the city. The others weren’t quite as invested as I was, and just sat in their seats, faces unfocused or turned downward. Some of them were sleeping, somehow. Alex just fidgeted his fingers, twirling the imaginary cigarette that he hadn’t had before we took off.

The glittering golden building at the center of the horizon had to be our destination. It housed the headquarters of a half-dozen companies, most of whom were multinationals. Technically, they were all owned by a shell company, but at a certain point I just couldn’t make myself care.

I checked to make sure I was ready to meet with the outgoing chief of security for the first time. I wanted to look good, the sort of corporate military chic that spoke to my status as a discerning mid-21st century businessperson.

The rain crashed hard over the buildings, and there was a clear division between the haves and the have-nots played out both by the height of the buildings–there may as well have been a wall between the corporate enclave and the good old American parts of Eastbridge–and the amount of lights and glamor I could make out on our approach.

Image 2: Aerial photo of a city, in a golden haze, with a large body of water between the viewer and the city. The water was still.

The rain gave way to a haze that made the mid-day look like a late afternoon as we touched down and waited to debark. Rapid weather changes. The whole city was built on a barge in the middle of the sea, and from the Future Arcologies tower I could see out over the edge to the Pacific’s waters. Eastbridge had been named to help its inhabitants forget that it was little more than a very large boat with a city built on it.

The outgoing head of security, a middle-aged woman with too much worldly experience and not enough patience, was about ready to tear the head off of the helicopter pilot. We were already two minutes late.

Of course, knowing what I knew about the situation, two minutes of a security lapse was a major disruption.

Henksen was here to replace her, and from what I gathered she wasn’t too happy about being replaced. I wouldn’t have been either.

But I’m just an operative. The politics at the top aren’t my problem.

“As you know, there have been plans…”

My eyes were open, peeled, looking at everything. I’d fought in five different wars over the course of a decade, and some of them got dirty enough that I didn’t need to worry about staying awake on duty anymore.

Of course, sometimes you wake screaming. It’s the price you pay.


Image 3: Mountains and snow. A few prominent boulders.

Out in the frozen north, every step mattered.

There were a few considerations for every traveler, but anyone who would be out for more than a couple days had to remember that food just didn’t exist out here.

Sure, if you got really lucky, you might see an animal, but if it’s made to be out here and you ain’t it’s gonna get away.

Every step was a little bit of energy that Philip knew he’d never get back. Not until he was back home safe, enjoying the warmth.

His sled trailed behind him, though he noted that he wouldn’t need it to haul stuff much longer. Something in him found the whole situation funny.

At least it wasn’t violently cold. It was chilly, but with the right gear you can make do in chilly. Just don’t let anything freeze on your face, and you’ll be fine.

Philip was more concerned about getting hungry out in the cold.

He told himself that thinking about it wouldn’t help. An image from an old cartoon, back when they were vapid and mindless Saturday stuff for kids, stuck in his mind. Two guys stuck in a canoe out at sea. One pictures the other as a big ham. The other sees his fellow passenger as a ribeye steak.

It doesn’t end well for either of them, but of course they don’t starve in the end.

Starving isn’t funny, and it’s a lot better when you’re adrift than when you’re trudging through foot-deep snow.


Image 4: Right half: a forest rolling into the horizon as seen from a hill or mountain. Left half: a waterfall visible  not far from the vantage point of the photographer.

The next weekend I took Renee out to the nature path. I hadn’t been up there in years, not since her mother died. It was a clear day, and it was just about the most beautiful thing I’d seen. The hills rolled gently, fully hidden behind a neat layer of trees. If you really wanted to, you could pick out individual pines on the crest, but as they came closer it was harder to pick out individual trees in the dim light of the valley.

it was a few miles from where we’d parked to the waterfall, but Renee didn’t ask me to carry her once. I was proud, and a little afraid.

She’d grown up so quickly, and I’d still stayed the same. My fingers ran over the coarse beginnings of a beard, wondering if she’d think of me as the man who only shaved every other day because he just couldn’t bring himself to it.

Of course, it wasn’t like I was a bad father. I kept the house more or less in order. I helped with homework, made her lunches, showed her off to school every morning.

But I knew she had to notice. I’d been coasting off investments for years, something I was lucky enough to get away with. Start a company, sell it to live a normal life.


Image 5: A record player.

The needle dropped onto the record, starting with a brief scratch before playing back the song. It was some Beethoven, the moonlight sonata. She told herself that it was a perfectly acceptable tune, though she’d heard it more times than she really had wanted to. That’s how it went.

The radio had been banned some months earlier, but she turned it on, careful to keep the volume below that of the record. If she’d thought, she would have gotten something more exuberant to cover up the sound.

Maybe some Wagner. That would’ve been a perfect cover for subversive activities, she thought.

Or maybe it would’ve drawn attention; Beethoven was nice and as apolitical as anything could be. And nobody thought you were using Moonlight Sonata to cover the noise from a Radio Free Europe broadcast.

But she needn’t have bothered with any of it. There was no message in the broadcast, at least not one that she recognized. She wasn’t sure if she should feel relieved or frustrated. She hadn’t signed up to sit around. Doing nothing wasn’t an absence of risk.

It just meant that every hour that passed was an hour wasted.

And there was always the chance that the door would erupt with a barrage of angry German, and they might find the radio. They probably wouldn’t be lenient if they found it.


Broad stuff here. We have the cyberpunk stuff in the introduction, the sort of slice-of-life of the Renee story, and the Jack-London inspired survivalism in the third piece. Then there’s a little historical fiction in the fifth.

One point of these practices is to do a little delving into genres I’m not currently working on, to give myself a little variety. You’ll notice that I try to have a couple different points of view in each practice piece, which is part of the reason why I was so heavily focused on the Renee and Lao stories the past couple days. I don’t necessarily force myself to write one way or another, but I do think about getting the variety in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.