Monday Stories: High School – Chapter 03

Amy sits near the door of the shelter. Her fellow students and classmates huddled in smaller groups. Their conversations are a low din. Some are doing homework. Others simply spend the extra time talking to one another. The teachers either walk about, helping students with assignments, or stand in small groups talking. The young girl leans against the wall just as Zoe appears.

She flashes the smaller girl a bright smile.

Amy nods back in answer.

“Whatcha doing?”

Amy shrugs and Zoe chuckles. The second girl looks across the room at the students. She relaxes against the wall. Both girls observe the rest of the students. Some are playing video games. Others work on their homework. The walls are covered with screens, displaying news and movies.

“Bit noisy, right?”

Amy nods her head.

“I wonder how long we’ll be down here.”

Before Amy can offer an answer, a wall of white light emerges from the left side of the room. It passes through the room without pausing. Devices flicker and the screens falter as the wave moves through the crowd. After a few moments, the screens and devices go dark, triggering a wave of outcries.

A moment passes and the devices come back to life.

The student exchange glances but without a few moments, they returned to what they were doing.

“What was that?” O’Connelly asks with concern.

“Was that an EMP?” A small girl with dark brown hair asks. Her voice shakes.

“No.” O’Connelly answers, “If it was an EMP, none of the devices would be on right now.” He offers a warm smile, “More than likely it was just an update. Most of the time the updates happen at night.”

“Oh.”

“Don’t worry. Most people don’t know what the updates look.”

“Oh. Thank you.” She smiles.

“No problem.” He sticks out, “O’Connelly.”

“Amber.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“And you.” She shifts uneasily, “Uh. I better get back to homework.”

A low buzz passes through the speakers. The games and the displays fall silent.

“Greetings. This is Principle Richards. All students may return to their regular schedules now. As the pulse that passed through a few moments ago, I am told that is nothing more than an update.”

The students laugh with quiet relief.

“Told you!”

“Students.” A professor calls out, “Please line up in an orderly fashion.”

“Well.” Zoe says, “I’m heading back to chemistry. What about you?”

“History.”

“Oh, fun.”

Amy manages a small smile as they join the long line. Amy glances out the window. To her surprise, she sees one of the zombie characters shambling through the schoolyard. She comes to a stop and studies the sight.

“Move along miss.” One of the professor says, “We need to resume classes.”

“Why?” One of the boys calls out, “Lab rats aren’t going to get far in life.”

His friends chuckle as an answer.

“Come on!” One of the other student snaps at him, “That was uncalled for.”

“Why not? She’s as dumb as they come.”

“She’s smarter than you!”

“Annabell!” The professor snaps, “That is uncalled for! Detention!”

“For what?!?”

“For attacking him.”

“But he was attacking her!”

“Regardless. He comes from a hard life and we must allow for his behavior.” His eyes narrow, “Unlike you who had life handed to you because of your family money.”

“Mister Vindi is correct.” A second professor approaches. Her heels click against the floor, “This is where such behavior can lead it racism and insensitivity.”

“Yes, professors.”

“Good. Now. All students return to your classmates.”

X

Amy closes the door to her locker. She waits by the locker as her classmates stream pass. Most chat to each other in a casual manner. Some move quickly to get to after-school jobs. In a few minutes, the hallway is empty save for a dozen zombies wandering through the halls.

She takes a deep breath and walks out the front door.

The teen watches as a bus shifts gears and leaves the school grounds. Another bus rolls in to take its place. With growing dread, Amy boards the bus. The bus is almost full. She finds a spot just behind the driver.

The gears grind as the shift and the bus rolls out again.

The young student focuses her attention on the world outside. The various sports teams are already hard at practice. Several smaller groups of students are walking together. They are hunting zombies and other generated game characters.

The travel back to her home doesn’t seem to take as long.

The teen walks slowly back to the trailer park. She stops at the edge. Next to the park is a small area overlooking the city. Amy smile to herself as she sits on the park bench. The young girl studies the city. A complex train systems threads through the city. A wide river cuts its way through the city. Bridges for walking and for driving cross over the river. As the sun disappears, lights flicker to life.

Her small phone buzzes.

Amy pulls the phone out of her pocket. She stares at the display for a moment before taking a deep breath.

“Hello.”

“Hi, honey.”

“Are you coming home?” She asks hopefully.

“I’m sorry. No. I can’t. I just wanted to talk to you. I’ll probably here all night long.”

“Why?”

“Because something happens at the Ryoka. There was an accident. I can’t go into much more than that.”

“Oh okay.”

“I’m sorry honey. We’ll celebrate tomorrow after school. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Amy hangs up. She looks up at the city again. Without warning, pillars of white light explode throughout the city. Energy pulses and lightning crackles between them.

“What in the world is that?”

Her phone buzzes again.

The teen glance at it. On the screen is a single word in bold, capital letters.

BEGIN

To be continued…

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Friday Thoughts: Time

In recent weeks I have been running into the problem that I just don’t have time.

Time to run. Time to learn a new language. Time to sleep. Time to work. The list goes on and on and on. And that is just for personal time. Work time is even crazier because there is a lot of hurry up and wait. Then two hours to the end of the shift I am flooded by a half dozen designs that all need to be done by the end of the day. At the end of this week I realized I need to get a better grip on how I spend time. Step one: figure out what is eating up my time.

First big consumer is work. I work 8 hours a day, at least. Then of course sleep. After that, commute. My commute is about an hour and half one way. Each night, I get about two or three hours to get cleaned up, eat, and ready for the next day.

As I was sitting down and working on a plan that would allow me to get more work done, I realized that a big part of health is being able to recharge. Like going out for a weekend and visit friends. Or staying in and not interacting with anyone. Granted, I can be described as an introvert so my recharge time appears different.

In this fast pace digital world, time management is more important than ever.

I can lose two hours scrolling through Facebook or play games till midnight. Or I can spend the night designing artwork and videos for work. Both have their places but there goes my evening. In light of this, my solution to getting more time is becoming more discipline.

The Train

Beneath harsh light
Standing on formed stone
I wait
Hood pulled up
Bag held tight
The night grows long
And day is near
Yet the sky is gray
And the world is dark

Beneath flickering light
Standing on cracked stone
I wait
Busses creak to a stop
Others rumble off
Still I wait
By the rusty metal tracks
Alone
Without a friend or lover

Beneath white lights
Standing by worn stone
I wait
The rumble comes first
Shaking the ground
A shriek in the air
Heralds its coming
It rounds the corner
Screeching to a stop

Beneath soft lights
Sitting on hard seats
I wait
The city of my birth
Slowly fades away
Pulling my memories with
Like a bad dream
With one last whistle
I am finally free

Monday Stories: High School – Chapter 2

“Alright, kids.” The bus driver growls out, “Watch out for those zombies!”

The front of the bus erupts into groans. Amy looks out her window and she sees several teens walking into the brick building. The oddest thing was a teen standing off to the side with what appeared to be an extra from a zombie movie. Several more are seen moving around the campus in groups or alone. Several students are holding brightly colored weapons and are attacking the zombies. Some disappear in a cloud of dust.

The extra was of average height and had the dried out corpse look. It was also chewing the top of the student’s head. His friends snap photos with their phone as he makes different faces.

“Oh yeah, the new game came out. The one for the full immersion system.”

The students at the front of the bus work their way off the bus. Zoe and her circle of friends follow suit. They pass the group of teens with the zombie. One of the girls steps forward drawing out a yellow sword.

“Come on! If you don’t get out of the way, I won’t be able to get the points before school starts! And you know this becomes a null play zone.”

“Right.” The boy says as he steps away from the zombie. “But it does tickle.”

“Oh, that feeling.” A muscular teen answers, “Is the projection field interacting with your body. Especially your own body’s electrical field.”

“Really?”

“Do we really want to know?” The girl says as she steps towards the zombie as it staggers in place. It swings around and takes notice of the girl.

“Whatever.” The zombie lurches forward as the girl steps forward.

It growls and waves its arm weakly at the girl. As she approaches, the number three appears overhead. White lines form a box around the number.

With two quick strikes, the zombie falls apart. It turns to dust leaving behind a small white window. On it is a display for points and in-game currency. She taps the floating screen. It spins and disappears into a small device attached to her belt. A chime emits from her device.

“Happy now?”

“Yes.” She says with a smile, “I’ll get my next level soon.”

The teens make their way into the school. Here and there students walk past with screens floating above their watches or their eyes covered by semi-transparent visors.

They stop next to a row of blue lockers.

Each child taps their access number into their locker. It opens with a small chime. They pull out their school books while putting their belongings into the lockers. Scattered throughout the hallway are small, fantasy creatures and zombies meandering throughout the hallway.

Amy stops to watch a girl with bright red hair duck it out with a zombie marked with a ten floating above it. Three other zombies shuffle towards the girl. Each has a floating number that between ten and thirteen.

The kid grins as she clicks her watch. From the menu that appears, she selects two icons. Bronze-gold scythes appear on either side of her. Her smile broadens as she grabs the floating weapons. The teen moves quickly and takes out the first zombie with ease.

The bell begins to ring. All at once, the zombies scattered around the campus vanish. In their place is a small message box informing players that the area has become a null zone– an area where gameplay is not allowed.

The girl groans and stares at the ceiling.

“Come on!”

“Well.” O’Connelly says as she gives the redhead an odd look, “I’m off to chemistry.”

“And we’re off to history.” Zoe and Maria say.

Amy waves at each of them slowly before turning towards her own class. Hundreds of students clog the hall as they make their way to classes. The crowd jostles Amy. Many don’t even notice she is there. A few minutes later, the teen enters a classroom.

At the front, a teacher smiles warmly at her. He finishes turning the computer on. The board mounted on the way comes to life. It flashes a logo for Imporium Technologies.

“Good morning class! Please take your tablets and pull up your Knox book. Turn to spot number 337. Today, we are discussing Full Immersion System and how it has changed the world as we know it.” He smiles as the screen displays a cylinder-shaped device with multiple rings mounted to it.

“This is an Immersion Generator. The largest one is five feet in height and two feet in diameter. The smallest is about half a foot high and a quarter in diameter. The smallest one can deploy a field of sixteen feet in diameter. The largest one produces a sphere measuring twenty miles. Within this field, the digital world is now part of the physical world. Most cities hold anywhere from ten to a hundred units. Providing full coverage. This allows us to interact directly with the internet. Much like the smartphone a century ago, this system revolutionized how we did business, socialize, and interact.”

“Uh, we know this already.”

“True but do you know some of the pitfalls?”

“Pitfalls?”

“Yes. Technology, inherently, is neutral. In most cases. There are always exceptions. But what you do with it is what makes it evil or not. Today, you will partner up with one other person and research technology that has been used for good and for evil.” The teacher looks around for a moment, “Actually, let’s do this. Groups of four. I want each of you to discuss the different aspects and impacts of the system.”

Amy sighs and looks around. The students scrape the floor with desks and chairs as they form groups. Every now and then, a student will glance her way but then inch away.

“Mind if I join you?”

Amy jumps at the sound of the voice.

An average teen smiles down at her. The first thing Amy notices is that he isn’t wearing anything flashy. Just a simple jeans and a simple shirt.

“Mind if I join you?”

She shrugs.

“Great.” He drops into a seat next to her. “What do you think?”

“I think you need to wait for the rest of us.” A black haired girl with pale skin. Next to her is a light brunette girl with skin that is fair with a touch of brown. “I’m Ravin. This is one is Robin.”

“Hi.” The boy answers, “I’m Charlie.”

“Amy.” She answers.

“Alright, class. What do you need now is four techs.”

As Robin, Raven, and Charlie begin arguing over which piece of tech is the best choice in the history books. All around her, the thirty other students argue back and forth.

“What do you think of the full immersion system?” Raven asks.

Charlie shrugs, “I wasn’t around before then so I couldn’t tell you.”

Raven rolls her eyes, “Bud. None of us were here before then. We’re all fifteen. Remember?”

“Um… Yeah.”

“Anyway!” She says with a wave of her hand, “the FIS, or FISH as it is often referred to, consists of four major components. The generator system is the main component. It allows the second element, pixels, to function. The small crystals are biodegradable and are able to reuse. The crystals can be grown like trees. The last components are simple computers. The last thing to make the system to work is the Interface. A simple rectangle block that allows individuals to interact with the system and to pull out the data.”

“Right, Miss Raven.” Their teacher interrupts, “Now. How can this be used in the wrong way?”

“Uh, it can’t be?” One of the other students opens his arms wide, “The system is infallible.”

The teacher laughs, “There is no system is infallible. Given enough time, it will be broken. Tell me how can it be broken?”

“Well… I guess it is the old way internet works. False information. Invasion of privacy.”

“Sells of illegal copies of stuff.”

“Fine.” Another teen says, “But why are we talking about this? Everyone knows this!”

“What about the reason behind the creation of the system?”

“What?”

“Why is the system in creation?”

“Uh duh. Better communication system. Everyone knows that.”

“Are you sure about that?”

A low wail fills the air. It reverberates. The windows shake and the ground and rattle the windows. The professor glances out of the window.

“Hmm. Must be the test of the emergency system.” He smiles, “Class. Please move to the designated safety zones.”

Amy stands up and follows the rest of the class. She pauses just at the door. The young teen notices their professor looking out of the window. He frowns in thought. The adult notices the kid is watching.

“Go ahead, Amy. I’m right behind you.”

To be continued…

The Worlds I Live In

Piled in corners
Stuffed in shelves
They lie still
Gathering dust
Falling into ruin
Sealed away in their covers
Are words written long ago
Hidden in their pages
Are worlds made long ago
Each one is different
Each one was once new
Each day I walk among them
Each day I pass through their pages
Leaving this world
Of pain and hurt
Of sorrow and regret
And escape to another world
Where inner demons can be fought
And purpose can be found
These are the worlds I live in
Not in the pages of sports or celebrities
But in the world of elves and swords
These are the worlds I choose to live in

Virtual and Physical

What a strange time to be alive
To be able to explore ancient ruins
To fly with dragons
To fight skeletons
And unlock ancient tombs
While never leaving your room

To speak with a friend
From across the globe
Or read a translation
From an ancient language
While never leaving your room

To exchange ideas
And to create a project
While never setting foot
In the same city

What a time to be alive

What a strange time to be alive
To have the time to stop and feel
The wind upon your face
To see the clouds in the sky

To go and hitch a ride
On a machine that can fly
To travel across the ocean
In hours instead of days

To be in one country in the morning
And be halfway around the world by evening
To see the ancient ruins
And eat different foods

To go and learn a dozen languages
And be able to explore the world around
And not worry about bandits, disease, or animals
All with your own money

What a time to be alive

Some say the virtual world is better
Other say the physical is real
I like to say I live in both

Beauty of the City

Long had I held
That the city was ugly
With its monolithic giants
And shaped stone
Long had I thought
The towers as walls
And the highways bars
The smell of cars
And constant noise
Were hammers against my skull

But the night came
And I was filled with awe
Of the setting sun
Behind the sky line
Of the towers dressed in light
Or the rivers flowing through
In the quiet moment
The light shown
Softening the hardness of the city
Painting the sky with lights

There is beauty in the city
Through I find it hard to believe
Perhaps this place
Is not the prison I first believed