Contest #84 shortlist ⭐️

75 comments

Contemporary Fiction Speculative

Just this morning we have received even more reports of looting as well as groups of vigilantes taking over urban streets in every major city in the country. Additional National Guard units have been called up by the President to deal with these problems as well as provide additional security outside the White House and at the US Capitol Building. Casualties just from last night's fighting were well over a thousand and are only expected to get worse in the days ahead.


The head of CDC has reported that we have reached an acceptable plateau and expects the deaths from the virus pandemic to begin decreasing. She thanks everyone for continuing to follow federal lockdown restrictions for the last twenty years and wearing masks when you step outside your home or bunker. Were it not for that, the virus deaths could easily have been hundreds of times worse.”


“Turn that radio off, Kathleen,” my mother called to me from where she was folding the clothes that she and I had washed and dried earlier today. “You don't want the vigilantes to be able to trace the signal to our bunker, do you?”


Today's weather's forecast is clear and sunny, and the level of radioactive fallout should be slightly less than yester–”


I shook my head, sighed, and turned the illegal radio off. “I just wanted to listen to the news. Not that there's much else to do here.”


“Our bunker is hidden and safe,” my mother said. “When conditions improve outside, we'll leave here. But not before.”


I nodded and went back to my bedroom. It really wasn't a room, though. It was just an alcove in one of the main room's walls. But it was all that I'd had since I was a baby.


Twenty years. Every time the government disease experts expected the virus to finally wane and people could slowly emerge and restart their lives the virus would mutate. Almost as if the virus was telling everyone: “Not this year, you silly humans. I'm still in control. Wait until next year.” But when the next year rolled around, the virus was just as potent as ever.


I laid down in my bed and picked up a framed photo of my father. I'd never known him when he was still alive. He'd sacrificed his life to make sure that my pregnant mother was safe and secure in the subterranean bunker he'd designed, built, and stocked a year earlier. My mother said that he was probably killed by roaming arsonists who torched our home as well as almost every other home in the neighborhood.


Nothing had happened to the arsonists as far as we knew. The authorities had given up trying to protect everyone from the day my mother began her subterranean existence. An existence that evolved into variations of sameness. The same daily routine, the same books and magazines (the bunker's storage had to be divided so that there was enough room for food, clothes, and reading material), and meals that were repeats of meals we'd already had.


My mother told me that the only day she was truly happy here was the day she gave birth to me. I was the sign of hope that someday we'd be able to escape from this infernal bunker.


That was twenty years ago. Twenty long years of isolation, of feeling like we were buried alive.


Before I was born, people had used the term “cabin fever” to describe being stuck at home for a very long time. It seemed laughable these days and didn't even begin to describe what my mother and I went through every single day.


We tried hard not to get on each other's nerves. We tried to find ways to pass the time as pleasantly as possible. But we humans weren't built for permanent isolation. We need our social connections, even if they're only verbal, not physical as well. We also sometimes get claustrophobic.


“Kathleen?” my mother called to me. “Do you want to play another game of Scrabble?”


I shook my head. “No thanks.”


I put down the framed photo of my father and picked up the VR goggles and gloves. They were wireless and the base unit was set in a slot in the wall above my head. I'd pretty much visited all the locations in the basic installation. Maybe it was time to try the locations in the intermediate installation.


Putting on the VR goggles and gloves, I turned on the VR computer system. The floating menu appeared about a foot away. I went to the intermediate menu for the first time and scrolled through the location choices. Europe looked interesting, but I decided to go to Seattle instead.


----------


The menu slid out of the way and a view of the Seattle waterfront took its place. It was as if I was standing near the bow of a ferryboat. The ferry dock and the terminal building steadily grew in size.


Beyond them, I could see the remains of a two-level highway. Like a really long bridge stretching from off to my right to way off to my left. A label flew in from off-screen and floated in front of the two-level highway: Alaskan Way Viaduct. Built in 1951, demolition to be completed later this year.


A menu popped up with a query for me: Where would you like to go next? It listed a dozen possible destinations. There was a thumbnail photo of each location which would expand to full-size if I clicked on it.


If I didn't want to go to those places, I could even ask for another list of possible destinations.


Pike Place Market sounded interesting. I clicked on that.


The waterfront flowed past me as I headed north. Then we turned right and “climbed” several flights of stairs. Eventually, we reached the street level. I looked at a manhole covering in the surface of the street. It read: Pike Street and 2nd Avenue.


On my left was a long, rectangular building. Labels explained to me that this was an extension of the Market building. This was where most of the vendors sold their wares.


Nearby, in an uncovered area of the concrete walkway that ran along the length of the long building was a large metallic statue of a pig. A label flew in and told me that the statue was called Bertha. Nearby was an upright piano with a bench in front of it. Another label flew in, giving me the chance to listen to someone play it. I clicked “yes” and saw a man walk up and sit down on the bench in front of the piano and begin to play it. When he finished, I clapped along with some of the visitors. As he played, a label flew in, asking if I wanted to add any ambient touches to the location. People talking, the sound of them walking around, as well as vehicles passing by. I clicked “yes” and suddenly I felt like I was actually there.


Ahead of me, on the left, were two counters, separated by a walkway, where seafood-vendors sold food and – hard to believe, but the label wouldn't give out false information – fish were sometimes thrown from one seafood counter to the other. A label asked if I wanted to see it in action and I clicked on it. I heard the men behind the counters chanting and then one of them suddenly threw a fish to the other man. There was cheering and a smattering of applause from a crowd of invisible people. (I'd forgotten to ask to see the visitors at the Market. Oops.)


I walked past them and two long stands on my right, where fresh flowers were sold. Without the olfactory software upgrade (an additional cost that my mother thought wasn't worth it), there was no way to smell the flowers. I would just have to imagine what they smelled like. At least I could “touch” the flowers as I passed them.


Exiting to the street, I walked past assorted parked vans and cars. The crowds in the street weren't really there. I could tell, because they and I walked through each other, without bumping into each other as we would've in the real world.


I glanced at the storefronts on my right as I walked past them. Nothing really caught my attention until I saw a label fly in and tell me that there was a bakery near the front of the building that was now on my right. The bakery was called The Three Sisters. It wasn't much bigger than the inside of the bunker. I watched as customers and employees interacted and then walked up to the counter. There were all sorts of baked goods available for purchase: loaves of bread, rolls, donuts, and assorted desserts.


A label flew in, giving the choice of “speaking” with one of the employees at the counter. That was something new for me, so I clicked on “yes”.


The female employee spoke to me: “Good afternoon. What can we do for you?”


“I wondered what you had for sale,” I said.


“All that you can see,” she said. “What are you interested in?”


A menu popped up on my right, showing a listing of everything they sold.


“Maybe a dessert,” I said.


“We have plenty to choose from,” she said. “Anything in particular?”


“Um,” I said, skimming through the list of desserts. “What are … Russian tea cookies?”


She smiled. “Oh, those are really good. You should try one.” Then she made a face. “Oh, that's right. You can't. But at least I can show what they look like.” She went to the tall, narrow shelves on her left, and removed an item from the middle shelf. It looked like a scone only it had powdered sugar sprinkled on it. “These are also called Swedish tea cookies and there's a similar item called Mexican wedding cookies. Would you like to purchase some? They can be delivered to your home address.”


“Um,” I said. “I'm not at home. My mother and I are … uh … camping. Maybe when we return home.”


“That's quite all right,” she said and put the Russian tea cookie back where she got it. “Anything else?”


“No, I guess that's all,” I said. “Thank you very much.”


She nodded and went to interact with another customer.


I walked away from the bakery. Where to go next? Stay in Seattle, or leave it and go to a different city?


A menu popped up while I was trying to decide, giving me a list of suggested places to visit in downtown Seattle. I chose the Seattle Art Museum. Streets, sidewalks, people, and vehicles flowed past me until I stood beneath a tall, dark moving sculpture. A label flew in, telling me it was called Hammering Man. I saw the arm holding the hammer rise and fall. Another label flew in, asking if I wanted to enter the museum. I clicked on “no” and “walked” across the street instead.


On the opposite side of the street from the museum was a long, wide stairway, going down a few levels before reaching the street below it. At every level was a narrow fountain, perpendicular to the street. One level had plenty of open space and there were metal chairs and tables on it. Further down the stairway, I could see the waterside buildings again, separated from one another, with an open plaza-like area between them. The building ahead and to the right said it was the Seattle Aquarium.


When I reached the sidewalk in front of it, I noticed a tall man standing there, holding a musical instrument upright next to him. He had shoulder-length dark hair and was dressed in old-fashioned clothing. A black suit jacket with tails, white ruffled shirt under it, black pants, and black boots.


“In case you're interested, it was once called Victorian,” he told me. “My clothes, I mean.”


“You're the second person who has spoken to me here in Seattle,” I said.


“There are others,” he said. “We're all part of the VR software. Haven't you been here before?”


I shook my head.


“Perhaps I could be your guide for the time being, then,” he suggested.


“Are you allowed to?” I asked.


“Unlike some of the others, I have been programmed to be able to move beyond my initial location,” he said.


I asked, “Do you have a name? Or do I have to give you one?”


“I am Edward Denny,” he said. “And you are?”


“Kathleen Evans,” I said.


“Then I shall call you Kathleen,” he said. “And you may call me Ned.” He paused, then explained, “These pier buildings date back more than a hundred years. They were originally mainly for storage. But they have been converted over time so that they could be used for different purposes. Standalone stores or indoor shopping areas, for instance.”


I looked over at the front of the Aquarium building.


“This one is the Seattle Aquarium,” Ned said. “Newly renovated. Would you care to go inside?”


“Maybe some other time,” I said.


“Do you have aquariums where you live?” he asked.


I shook my head.


“May I ask where you live, Kathleen?” he asked.


“Currently, I live in an underground bunker with my mother,” I replied. “I was born there. We've lived in it for the last twenty years while waiting for the pandemic to end.”


Ned looked thoughtful. “Pandemic,” he said, and was quiet for some time. “Ah yes. COVID-19 virus of the early to mid-21st Century. First discovered in China and spreading worldwide from there.”


“Do you know when it will end?” I asked.


Ned shook his head. “I am only aware that it is still happening. It may end today, or next year, or next century. I cannot precisely predict its end date. I am immune to its effects, of course, since it can only affect flesh-and-blood persons such as yourself.” He paused. “Would you like to continue discussing the pandemic, or choose a different topic?”


“Let's continue down the waterfront,” I suggested.


“Certainly,” he said.


At the bay-end of the next pier building was a Ferris wheel. I tried not to stare at it. Of course, I'd seen videos and photos of them, but I'd never seen one in real life, much less ever ridden in one.


“Ferris wheel,” Ned explained, noticing my interest in it. “First designed and built by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. for the World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893. The exhibition's organizers wished for a landmark and asked him to build one.”


“This one isn't that old, though,” I said. “It looks much newer.”


“The Seattle Great Wheel,” he explained. “175 feet tall and opened in June 2012.”


“Before I was born,” I said.


“And before my software was created,” he said. “Care to go for a ride in it?”


“Can we?” I replied.


“Of course,” he said, and we walked over to the Ferris wheel.


The man at the gate didn't seem to see us. We walked past him and climbed into the open capsule. The capsule's door closed soon after and the ride started up. We rose slowly toward the sky. It stopped when we were at the top, giving us a wonderful all-around view of the bay, the waterfront, and the downtown area.


“I wish I'd done this in real life,” I said.


“You still could,” Ned said. “Once the pandemic ends, I mean.”


“I couldn't afford to travel here,” I said. “My mother and I aren't what I'd call wealthy. To put it bluntly, we're rather poor.”


“I'm sorry to hear that, Kathleen,” he said. “Maybe it's good that you can at least visit here via the VR software. That way we could meet and spend time together.”


“Are you happy that we did?” I asked as the ride started up again and we rotated down toward the wooden floor of the pier.


“If not for you, I would still be standing where you saw me, waiting for someone to approach and speak with me,” he replied.


“Does that mean you can be happy?” I asked.


“Within the limits of my software code, yes, I can be happy,” he replied. “Or at least an approximate imitation thereof.”


“And when I take off the goggles and gloves,” I said.


“I will remain here, waiting for you to return, or for someone else,” he said.


“I'm sorry that you're stuck here, Ned,” I said.


“But I have met you, Kathleen,” he said and smiled. “And I am glad that we met.”


----------


“Kathleen?”


It was my mother calling me.


“It's dinner-time,” she said. “Put your VR gear down and help set the table.


----------


“I have to go,” I told Ned.


Like an old-fashioned gentleman, he took my right hand and lifted it to his lips. I felt him kiss my hand. “Until next we meet, Kathleen.”


I nodded, not quite sure what to say. No one had ever kissed my hand before. Not in VR, not in real life.


----------


I took off the VR gear, laid it on my bed, turned off the VR system, and went to set the table for dinner.


“How was your visit?” my mother asked.


“It was quite nice,” I replied. “Have you ever been to Seattle, Mom?”


“A long time ago,” she said. “I met your father there.”


“Could you tell me more about him?” I asked.


My mother nodded. “Such a nice man he was.”


“What was his name?” I asked.


“Ned,” she said.

March 05, 2021 23:38

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75 comments

Michael Boquet
15:43 Mar 19, 2021

First off, glad to see a story chosen from someone whose been active on the site for awhile. All year, with few exceptions, the judges have favored stories from newbies to the site. Seeing your story chosen gives me hope for my own. I like your concept and the correlation between growing up in a bunker and a program tied perpetually to VR software. Great introductory paragraphs, very exciting. I wish that same energy had permeated through the rest of the piece. Although it's well described, the narrative just becomes a tour of Seattle. Con...

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Delphine Hintz
17:47 Mar 19, 2021

I agree that the beginning really snags a reader's attention, but as other commentators have noted, the excitement of the piece drops off quickly. This is especially noticeable when the main character starts wandering around Seattle. While the actions give readers a good feel for what using the VR device would be like, the focus on that detracts from the main character's reactions which may be a factor in the loss of excitement. The description of the device and its usage are well described, however. Thanks for your story!

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Philip Clayberg
18:59 Mar 19, 2021

I'm not much of an action writer. That's where I think I'm weakest. I seem to be better at descriptions and dialogue. Maybe I should've been a playwright instead of a short story writer? You're welcome and thanks in return for your comments. Yours and Michael's. I wish I'd had all those comments *before* the weekly contest ended. Maybe then I would've gone back and cut more of the weak stuff and tried to add something more interesting. Maybe make things more Gothic and/or add unusual creatures that haunt the VR city (not just vampire...

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Philip Clayberg
18:53 Mar 19, 2021

Thank you. I just got congratulated by another writer. Being popular is something I'm definitely going to have to get used to. It did take me more than 30 years to get this far. I'm very grateful for the support and encouragement I've received (and continue to receive) on this website. It means a lot to me. (Oh, great. Now I'm going to cry. Fine. I'll cry, then. But I'll try not to do like Sally Fields once did when she received an Oscar, "You like me! You really like me!") I was trying to think how someone stuck inside a bunker ...

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17:24 Mar 09, 2021

Wow! I loved the ending. It literally gave me goosebumps. I didn't see it coming at all. I love the contrast of the confined, claustrophobic reality of the cabin with the freedom/but-not-really of the VR world. Some small queries that might be worth expanding: how do they get their food? Surely the father didn't stock up with 20 years worth of food? And also, how did her mum give birth completely on her own and manage the after-effects of that in isolation in a bunker? That would be quite a traumatic event, and I feel like maybe you cou...

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Philip Clayberg
18:56 Mar 09, 2021

Glad you liked the story. I didn't know it was going to end like that, either. I was sort of feeling my way along (like I usually do; I prefer to improvise instead of plotting a story before starting to write it). There were times when I wondered, "What's going to happen next?" And then I'd start writing what happened next. I wondered also if the story was going to go back to the real-world or not, and when it would do that. Once Kathleen's mother called out to her and asked her to set the table, I knew that was when the story would re...

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19:10 Mar 09, 2021

A sequel would be a good idea--maybe they could go on a food raid, or maybe they have a cooperative where they share foods? If they were part of an underground, connected system, the mum could have had some support with the birth, too. But I know what it's like to have a dozen projects on the go and they all end up on the backburner somehow!

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Philip Clayberg
23:53 Mar 09, 2021

A night-time food raid makes sense (as long as none of the vigilantes has a pair of night-vision goggles). Not sure about a Co-Op of food bank ... but having an underground (like the Underground Railroad prior to the American Civil War) makes sense. Maybe combine the two (as you suggested). Maybe Kathleen's father had a hidden escape tunnel made ... maybe behind a bathroom mirror? She'd need a flashlight, but I bet there's one in the bunker. As far as the underground (or Resistance, to copy the one in Europe during WW2) helping Kathleen...

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Courtney C
23:32 Mar 21, 2021

Hey Philip, congratulations on being shortlisted! Great idea in having a bunker bound woman able to explore the world virtually, very creative and out of the box thinking. Well written, as always, and I'm happy you got the recognition :)

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Philip Clayberg
23:43 Mar 21, 2021

Hi, Courtney, I *am* happy to be shortlisted for one of my stories finally ... I just wish it had been for one of my better stories. (But I'm not a judge, so I must abide by their decision.) That story got cut quite a bit in the editing process, and I might've cut it too much and in the wrong places. But I ran over the maximum word-count (I don't remember how much, but it was at least 200-300 words) and had to cut whatever didn't help the story along. For instance, the brief visit to the Seattle Aquarium got cut. Maybe if I write a seq...

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Amany Sayed
14:27 Mar 19, 2021

Congrats on the shortlist!

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Philip Clayberg
18:43 Mar 19, 2021

I'm on it? Whoa... That's a first for me. I'll have to check that out. As I've said in my updated bio, I'm not used to being this popular. My middle brother, however, spent most of grade school with the popular crowd (I'm not sure if he was equally popular when he was in college, though; he probably was. If you wonder what he looks like, I'd say he looks similar to the late Gregory Peck, the late Cary Grant, and Ethan Peck. I'm probably biased but I think that if it was just based on his looks, my brother would've had plenty of acting...

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20:07 Mar 22, 2021

Grats on the Short List.

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Philip Clayberg
20:57 Mar 22, 2021

Thank you. I'm hopeful that next time one of my stories gets shortlisted, it will be a much better story than this was. I think I cut too much out of this story when I was editing it (I had to get the word-count from about 3400 or 3500 down to 3000 or less). If there is a sequel, I'll try to add the material that couldn't fit into the first story. And maybe have a more interesting plot than just wandering around a city via VR gear.

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Gerald Daniels
20:47 Mar 19, 2021

Loved the story, pacy text and fascinating concept. Just my opinion, (not as criticism though) maybe a little more description of the virtual world? No purple prose, just a few more adjectives thrown in here and there? (now I feel bad) great story.

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Philip Clayberg
21:46 Mar 19, 2021

Glad you liked it. You noticed (as did two other readers on this website) that the story had its weak points. One of the drawbacks of having 3000 or fewer words to write with. The rough draft was somewhere between 3200 and 3500 words (I think, the latter). I had to cut quite a bit to get it to fit the word-count limit. Maybe I cut the wrong things out (I removed a short visit to the Seattle Aquarium, for instance), but I had no one else at the time to ask, "What do you think? Keep this part or not?" Still, it doesn't mean I can't add ...

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Maya
19:52 Mar 19, 2021

Congrats on the shortlist!!!

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Philip Clayberg
21:39 Mar 19, 2021

Thank you. I'm hopeful that next time it will be with a story that I think is worthy of the shortlist. Sometimes being limited by 3000 words can weaken a story because you can't include everything you'd like to put in it. Kind of like a recipe that has a finite amount of ingredients and you couldn't add more to it even if you wanted to.

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Maya
01:34 Mar 20, 2021

Oh true. Good luck with your future writing. :)

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Philip Clayberg
14:31 Mar 20, 2021

Thanks. You, too. It's wonderful being on a website where I get so much support and encouragement. I try my best to share that support and encouragement with anyone on here who might need it. It's one "disease" that I hope becomes 100% incurable (not just here but everywhere).

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Victoria Bogatz
17:15 Mar 16, 2021

I liked this story! Interesting twist at the end. I did not expect that! I got a little bored when the VR was being described, but otherwise great job. 👏

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Philip Clayberg
19:06 Mar 16, 2021

Glad you liked it. I was trying to think how to un-bore someone who was confined in an underground bunker for twenty years (since she was born there). VR seemed like one possible way to "escape" from it, even if only temporarily. Much as I enjoy games of "Scrabble", I could imagine that sometimes playing yet another game of it might feel like, "Oh good grief, not again. Please. Find me something else before I lose it. Something more interesting. VR Seattle? That might do the trick." As far as "Ned" goes, I'm not sure if he's modeled...

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B. W.
20:20 Mar 13, 2021

I was just about to start a new thread here when you mentioned it on the other one, so I guess we both agree that it was getting a bit small and stuff. I can tell you some other stuff about the characters? Like the main one with how they look and stuff. And I was hoping on making a new story with one of the prompts this week, but I don't think that I can even continue Otherworldly repairs or some of my other ones with these.

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Philip Clayberg
00:58 Mar 14, 2021

Thanks. When I see a reminder in an email message, the message from this website looks normal (nice wide margins). But when I see a long thread, the margins keep getting smaller and smaller and smaller (until it's almost like typing vertically instead of horizontally). Right now, I'm not used to your four main characters. I've been writing scenes about Cora, Axel, and Reboot for so long (okay, about a few months) that they feel much more familiar to me than your new set of characters (who feel like new students in a classroom, waiting --...

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B. W.
01:48 Mar 14, 2021

"They'd been running for what seemed like hours and Seven was already exhausted...or maybe that was just because he didn't expect any of this, and they were only running for almost 10 minutes. He looked back behind him to see if Nova and those two demi-gods were behind him, they were. But unfortunately...only Paz, the child of Set, the god of Chaos was behind him. Great. It looked like he was lost in the woods, and with some Demi-god, he didn't even care about. "H-huh?? Where did they go...??" Paz asked, trying his best not to panic." Nova:...

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Philip Clayberg
03:42 Mar 14, 2021

Okay. I've got all that copy/pasted to my ongoing document. Now if I have trouble remembering what a character looks like and their personalities and abilities, I can refer to what you've given me. Thank you for providing it. Whew. You do like having your character details (appearance, backstory, etc.) ready before starting a story. Do you ever just "wing it" when writing a story and just see what comes out of your head? I'd be curious to read that kind of story and compare it with your more structured stories. ----- That's an inter...

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B. W.
13:40 Mar 14, 2021

The four of them weren't being chased, they freed Koi and Paz from the building they were in and wanted to get away from it as quickly as possible, like before anyone noticed they had already left. Then they somehow lost Koi and Nova while they were running, though in the actual novel they probably will get chased a couple of times, though I'm not entirely sure. I have tried to 'wing it' a couple of times, but most of the time it's never really worked out. Though I think I did it at some point with "Dragon Watcher" and I think it at least tu...

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Philip Clayberg
16:39 Mar 14, 2021

I've copied the first two sentences of your paragraph into the document on my computer. ----- I'll just have to put on some inspiring mood music and re-read what you've given me and see where my creative curiosity takes me. For now, though, I'm going to have some lunch. Hunger and creativity aren't a good combination for me. ----- I guess not everyone has the knack for improvising. My late father was like you: he preferred structured creativity. Whether it was music or writing, he would know where he would start and where he would e...

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Monica D
21:48 Mar 07, 2021

I like the way it's written. Are you good at giving feedback on stories? I was wondering if you could check out my story? maybe?

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Philip Clayberg
21:56 Mar 07, 2021

(tries not to laugh) I wasn't expecting to end up an unpaid editor among us writers, but ... I guess that's what I am. I do try to read other writers' stories and comment on them (if I find the stories interesting). I'll see if there's anything you've written that gets my attention and then I'll read it and try to give you helpful editing suggestions.

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Monica D
22:00 Mar 07, 2021

Okay, thanks! sorry for asking though....

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Philip Clayberg
22:36 Mar 07, 2021

I just read and commented on "13". Again, thank you for writing it. I knew how 13 felt (even though I'm flesh-and-blood and not a robot), and then -- the next day in the story -- I knew how 14 felt.

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07:36 Mar 06, 2021

Quite well written. I like it. I have a two part thing up Flux part 1 and 2 and both a part of this weeks thing. Have a look if you like.

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Philip Clayberg
15:53 Mar 06, 2021

Thank you. Will do. I think my reputation for in-depth editing is getting around because another writer on this website asked if I could edit his stories. I said yes, but only the ones I wanted to read. I don't like having to force myself to read/edit a story that I'm not interested in, and I try not to.

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16:08 Mar 06, 2021

Well I don't think it is a bad story, just sort of in the beginning stages. Aurora is a lady I identify with as she and I both have a panic disorder. So there is some of me in that character.

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Philip Clayberg
17:52 Mar 07, 2021

Later in this thread, I tried to explain my reaction to your first Flux story (part 1). I tried to be polite but honest. To put it simply: What you submitted (what I read of Flux part 1) didn't read like a story to me at all. It was a confusing jumble and mostly read like free-association-type background/brainstorming material. I kept waiting for a story to begin and it didn't seem to. I finally just gave up. I'm sorry if that upsets you, but if you want an honest reaction, there it is. At least it's shorter than my other response, t...

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Philip Clayberg
16:07 Mar 06, 2021

I did try to read the Flux (part 1) story. It's not really a story I would choose to read. Also, I kept running into typos and sentences that could've been written better. But I just gave up. I'm sorry. Maybe if you proofread the story you'll notice what needs to be changed. This is as far as I got with my editing comments: On the most war like planets ["war like" should be "war-like"] exploitation by one race was common place. ["common place" should be "commonplace"] the less than dominate race [First, "dominate" should be "domi...

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16:11 Mar 06, 2021

I will look at it again then, got a week still. However that indent thing, I think their system might do that. I'm not a huge fan when it just happens and haven't figured out how to fix it yet.

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Philip Clayberg
17:48 Mar 07, 2021

Please do, when you are able to. I found it a confusing jumble most of the time. It resembled background/brainstorming material instead of a story. Thank you for understanding and not getting upset at me. I wasn't trying to mean. I honestly did try to read your first Flux story (part 1) and simply could not finish it. I've never had that experience on this website before. There have been stories I just want to read; that's different. In your case, I *did* want to read the "story" (after all, you'd asked me to and I'd agreed to), but ...

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Cristian Barajas
15:45 May 18, 2021

I really like the fact that you have included technology in the story, in this case Virtual Reality, the story was well described and entertaining. Something I would recommend is expanding on how they replenished their items. Overall love how descriptive it was, Great Work!

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Philip Clayberg
16:19 May 18, 2021

Glad you liked the story so much. I actually borrowed the traveling-via-VR idea from William GIbson's "Virtual Light" book. His character Chevette Washinton uses VR hardware and software to pass the time as her flight crosses the Pacific from Seattle to Tokyo. Except that she visits Venice, Italy, not Seattle, Washington. The simple reason why I chose Seattle for my story is because I know something of how it's laid out. I've been there many times during vacations to WA State over the last almost-30 years. But when it came time to edit...

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Philip Clayberg
23:46 Mar 05, 2021

I borrowed the visit-a-city-via-Virtual-Reality idea from a part of William Gibson's book, "Idoru". The main difference being the city visited via Virtual Reality equipment. In his book, the character visited Venice, Italy. In my story, Kathleen visited Seattle, WA (mainly because I know something of its layout). Also, in the book, a laptop was involved. In my story, no laptop at all. I hope that, otherwise, the two stories are different enough from each other. If not, I can delete my story to avoid any claims of plagiarism. I also f...

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18:01 Mar 12, 2021

Just so you are aware and since you like the Theta story and wanted to see what happened to Bruce..."What Happens to spies..." is up for this week. Finally a prompt that could fit the story.

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Philip Clayberg
22:23 Mar 12, 2021

Actually, Bruce wasn't a character I liked. I prefer Lucian (the lion) and Selena instead. Bruce seemed rather two-dimensional. There might not have been much you could do to make him more interesting. Kind of like Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter books. From what I recall, she didn't have a big role in the overall series (except for in "The Chamber of Secrets"). Unless you count getting married to Harry and having a family with him. If you have more about Lucian and Selena, I'm definitely interested. I'd like to know what happens n...

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00:23 Mar 13, 2021

When prompts allow. But the one offered allowed for what happened to Bruce.

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Philip Clayberg
02:38 Mar 13, 2021

Ah. I see. It feels like going through a maze sometimes when trying to choose a prompt and write a story based on it. Sometimes the path is fairly clear, sometimes it's like groping your way through thick fog. All you can do is try to do your best.

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Gabriela Wels
01:14 Jun 17, 2021

I nearly gasped aloud at the ending. Very good job, Philip! I enjoyed reading this and "experiencing" Seattle with Kathleen!

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