Friday, August 26, 2016

Jay Lure

The extraction is successful until it isn’t. Which is not a remark to put in any report, official or not. Roberts has retrieved the item; I have disabled the beacons and am considering promotional possibilities as we exit the operating theatre. Roberts stops dead outside the containment field. Swears.

The human male who stands as if he was waiting for us sighs. “Even for a secret government agency, stealing cell phones from a motel must be a new low. It is not as though you are with the FBI or NSA. You’re not Black Chamber because they don’t deal with such things and the Border Patrol would have used explosives and a lot of guns.” He looks ordinary, but worrying power thrums through his voice. “Talk.”

Roberts has been trained, at least as well as one can train a human. He has shields and protections for his mind, a dozen sigils and items that might protect him from harm. They do nothing at all. “We are from Project Containment,” he says.

“Ah. Of course. Something new. Explain.”

“The Border Patrol’s successes in stopping incursions from Outside the universe have been deemed too costly in terms of both human life and equipment. Project Containment contains Outsiders and releases them against threats, it being our hope that they will exterminate each other in battle.”

The human blinks. “This actually works?”

“Field testing is due to begin any year now.” Even under a compulsion, Roberts manages to sound defensive.

“I’d be amazed if that works at all. However, none of it explains why you’ve broken into a motel to steal the cell phone of an eleven year old boy.”

“According to our scanners, it contains more Outsiders than any other item on the planet by a factor of at least ten. We seek to reverse engineer it to aid us. This is in accordance with the Apple Accords.”

“Well, Jay’s cell phone is at least one generation ahead of the market, but I imagine that isn’t the kind of Apple you mean. Sleep.”

Roberts collapses to the ground as the man – the magician – turns to me. “I don’t see many Greys interacting with human agencies of their own free will?”

“I am part of an outreach program.”

“Hmm. And one that is drastically low on hard data. I suspect that every government agency worth note must have a file on Jay by now even if they don’t believe most of it.”

“You are a magician. This matter concerns your kind as well,” I snap. “Even my people could not make a containment field that can hold this many Outsiders at once: we need to learn more about it.”

He raises an eyebrow; the we is more than just humans, after all, and he catches that. “You could have considered asking. Not that his explanation would have helped. As far as Jay is concerned, he has been playing Pokemon Go on his phone and capturing Pokemon. I haven’t had the heart to break it to him that he hasn’t actually caught a single Pokemon but instead a great deal of Outsiders by mistake.”

“What?” I have been trained to make my telepathic sendings mimic human voices. I fail entirely this time.

The magician grins. “The Outsiders are mostly safe in stasis fields though I believe there is one chronovore that is still utterly confused as to how it could even be trapped in any form of stasis given that its nature is to devour time.”

“Such things are not possible.”

“Oh, ordinarily I would agree. But Jay is from far Outside the universe for all that he is eleven. And he is far more concerned with making friends, having adventures and being jaysome than whether something is remotely possible or not. The phone, please?”

He told as out a hand. I give him the phone. There will be consequences for this. Reprimands. But I think they will be nothing compared to what might happen if Jay were to come looking for his phone.

The magician walks back inside. Roberts wakes, confused. I spin an easy lie as we head back to our vehicle and prepare for transit back to the Project. I am wondering if this is a test. I am wondering if I failed it.

I am wondering if there is any way to succeed at all.

Friday, August 19, 2016

And Vacations (also prompts :))

“But this is a jaycation,” Jay says, “which means we have to do important things, Charlie!”

I close my eyes, count to ten. Someday, I worry this might even help. I open my eyes and stare down at the earnest eleven year old kid who isn’t human at all. “It is not even eight in the morning. You have managed to have three adventures already, kiddo. And, believe me, travelling with you is not some automatic vacation.”

“But it is jaysome since I am,” he retorts with a huge grin.

I like to think I’m a good person. If the wandering magician wasn’t dealing with the fallout of Jay making friends with a virus, I maybe would be a better one this morning. I’ve already had two cups of coffee, so there is nothing I can justify to escape what I say next: “And?”


“And you think being jaysome is always good, Jay? That your desire for adventures isn’t dangerous?”

“Well, there are some oopses,” he says. “But an adventure that is boring isn’t one at all!”

“How would you know if you’ve never tried that?” He blinks, gapes in shock. “One day without anything jaysome. Is that too much to ask?”

“But that’s me!”

“It’s a word you made up. That’s not the same as it being you, Jay. You’re Jay even if you aren’t jaysome,” I snap, because some mornings it’s too much. Jaysome this, and jaysome that. I didn’t even know my annoyance had reached something past a pet peeve until now, but I can’t find it in my to stop myself.

Jay’s mouth snaps shut. “But ... it ...”

“Not that word. Not today.”

“But a Jay who isn’t jaysome isn’t a good Jay at all!”

“The wandering magician is trying to stop an outbreak of the plague because you decided to make friends with a virus, let it inside you, and then let it go again because it ‘asked nicely’. Plague, Jay. Thousands, maybe millions dead.”

“I’m not stupid, Charlie! I know it was a huge oops and I know it would have been way worse if I wasn’t jaysome,” he yells, and vanishes between moments. Going somewhere, hiding. I have no idea which.


There is no response at all.

I pour myself a third cup of coffee slowly. I don’t say I’m sorry. I’m not. Sometimes a little Jay goes very far indeed. But something crosses is face, when he said not being jaysome would be worse. There was fear, and maybe something eager as well. I have a very bad feeling that Jay intends to make sure I don’t consider the word jaysome to be a pet peeve ever again.

Which means whatever I just set into motion is liable to make a plague look like a prank. I text the wandering magician two words ‘Defcon jaysome’ And then, after: ‘My fault.’

I can do a lot of things. I can contain energy, police gods, perform exorcisms, and the god inside me can do more if I let it out. None of that is anything next to what Jay can do if he’s serious. I drink coffee, fingers barely trembling.

And I wait.


There is a knock on the door of the cabin. I’m on coffee number four, trying to pretend it doesn’t taste bitter on the tongue. The knock is once, soft and firm. Not Jay then. Jay bounces through doors or knocks on them a dozen times because ‘doors love knocks’.

The man standing on the other side is taller than I, and twenty one. I’ve never opened a door and just known someone’s age before. He is human, but – not ordinary. I step back without quite knowing why.

He smiles. The smile is small, sad, matching his eyes. But I know that smile. In any form, I would know that smile. It is a punch in my gut this time. “Jay.”

“Charlie.” He says my name in a careful way I’ve never heard from Jay before. There is no wild enthusiasm, no huge grin in the word. Just my name, with iron control over the emotions behind it.

“I intervened in this affair,” he murmurs. “Jay was going to bring himself back from when he is 13, perhaps 14. I am not certain you would have survived the experience.”

I walk back to the kitchen table of the cottage, sit back down. “Survived.”

“He was going to show you a Jay that is not jaysome.”

“Oh.” It takes effort to even manage that word.

He sits down across from me, movements sure and fluid. “There are limits to how far even I can move through time. Things I cannot do lest I break my own past. At eleven, I did not grasp this. He visits his future, makes friends. Helps us rediscover his kind of jaysome. Self-help by way of the Self.” He chuckles, low and amused.

“He has no idea how hard is it to see him. All we remember. All we have lost. What it was like to be so innocent that I could be arrogant. We don’t let him know how much it hurts. Hide the reasons behind certain changes.”

“I didn’t mean to,” I say. I mean too
Many things with those words to keep talking. I want to grab this Jay and hug him, but I know he will not let me. There is a distance here, and it was won at a terrible cost.

“The Jay you know is gargantuan,” he says, but does not speak my name at all. “I am more, yes, but he is larger in what he believes, how he lives, in everything he feels and knows. His emotions are gargantuan, which you know but do not understand. You need only say you forgive him and it will be fine.”

“And you?”

“You would need to believe it. And perhaps that would not even be enough.”

“Oh, Jay.”

He does not move, but what crosses his face is cold and alien. “Care for him, and perhaps – just perhaps – I will be a little less myself some days.”

“That is a hugey burden,” I say.

He lets out a small, soft laugh. “All burdens are. But that is what makes them something more.”

And he is gone between moments. I finish my coffee slowly, trying as hard as I can not to cry. Because that would not be jaysome at all.

Jay Prompt

“Did you know the neighbours are having a barbecue?!”

Charlie looks up from playing a game on her phone, stares at me. “Jay. We are staying in a cabin because the wandering magician asked it to let us in, and it did because the owners aren’t here and it is lonely. The neighbours likely would not understand that, given they probably know the owners. Nor would they invite us to a barbecue.”

“Oh. But I maybe kinda invited myself,” I boast, because I am pretty jaysome at a lot of things.

Charlie blinks. “You invited yourself?”

“Well, I asked the barbecue and it said yes since it will have lots and lots of food on it, and a Jay can eat a lot so I’d be doing a big helping. Also, the barbecue doesn’t like that they’re called Barbies because he thinks he’s more a Ken. Which was a joking!”

“Barbecues make puns. Of course they do.” Charlie puts her phone away and stands. “And you want my help making sure the people invite us, too?”

I nod. “Cuz if I ask, I might use bindings and that would be mean and not a proper asking and I am pretty hungry like a Jay.”

“So, what happens if I say no?”


She laughs at that and ruffles my hair as we depart. “For a kid from far Outside the universe, you’re really ease to tease.”

“That’s just because I’m hungry.”

“You had breakfast an hour ago, Jay.”

“But that was only my first one,” I explainify, because Charlie sometimes forgets.

And the neighbours do have a hugey barbecue and Charlie talks to them all charliesome so we get to eat and it’s entirely okay and they’re not cooking a Bigfoot or gods or even people, all of which Charlie suggestified on the way because sometimes we have a lot of adventures even when we don’t mean to. But this one is just eating food, and I am pretty jaysome at that so I impress lots of people and make Ken the barbecue happy and even take extras for Honcho to eat when he comes back from the deep part of the woods.

“We didn’t have to do anything appalling, or stop anything that was even worse.” Charlie glances over at me. “Which, given how you find adventures, is rather astonishing.”

And she says it with this really waiting pause after. “Well, maybe there was one person who kinda wanted to do not-nice things with Ken but I did some bindings and fixed it all up so you didn’t have to.”

Charlie stares at me. “What qualifies as ‘not nice’ to a barbecue, just out of morbid curiosity.”

“A lot of cleaning and painting Ken pink,” I explain, “which I said was weird because pink is a really jaysome colour but sometimes people cook food pink too and Ken gets really sad over that so I can kinda understand it.”

“Ah. Well, we got invited to dinner as well. I think Mr. Chow was rather impressed at how much you ate.”

“Uh-huh. I even didn’t eat too much so they wouldn’t be suspious of us!”

Charlie blinks. “Three chickens in under ten minutes,” she says, but to herself and not to me at all, so maybe she just wishes she’d had more chicken too :D  

Jay Visits

The castle is cold where the dragon’s breath does not warm it. I wait in the tower. Others have been captured by the dragon and tried to escape, their bones and ashes joining those of various knights and knaves who have tried to best the dragon down the centuries. I wait, because a prince of the Realm knows about waiting. It is a cousin to duty and a crown is all about duty and nothing else at all. Not love, not friendship, nor even kindness – all such concepts are cast aside for the good of the kingdom. So I wait to be rescued from the dragon, because if I am, the wealth of the dragon’s horde will allow the kingdom to prosper as never before.

The dragon roars far below, faint warmth seeping up through cracks in ancient stone, the roar cut off oddly. There is silent, and odd roars. Ones without fire to them, though the castle shakes and shudders with quakes all its own. I remain in the bed. The bed is protected by old magics, even by the standards of those who made the palace.

The door opens. No one has reached the door before, but what enters is not a knight at all but a boy of eleven who offers up a grin of such innocence it takes my breath away.

“Hi! I’m Jay and I got told there was a prince in a tower so I’m totally hear to rescue you.”

“You defeated the dragon?”

“Uh-huh. Dragons are really ticklish,” he says with a pride even the king would be hard-pressed to match.

“And you are here to rescue me?”

“Prince Dorran of the Realm, yup. Oh!” He snaps his fingers. “Only if you’re one of those ones who has to be kissed, I’m not good at that part. I haven’t had many dates at all.”

I flush, unable not to. “It is true that I do not sleep with women, but neither do I sleep with boys,” I snarl.

Jay blinks. “Huh? But your bed is really big and two people could sleep in it easily you know.”

“It means to have sex,” I say.

“Nope. Sleeping isn’t the same at all. Even I know that, and I don’t do sex with humans cuz most humans aren’t jaysexual,” he says.

“What – wait, you aren’t human?”

“Nope! I’m a Jay,” and he says that as though it should explain everything.

A child prodigy magician, then, no doubt sent to die and as an insult to the Realm. “Very well. Lead on,” I snap, heading to the door.

Jay bounces out. Actually bounces, and skips down the ancient narrow stone steps. I am beginning to think this child is touched by the gods, and not in a good way at all.

The eldest dragon west of the Great Sea is on top of the hoard, and snoring. Jewels and items of power are scattered everywhere, and Jay ignores every single one of them.

“You have not slain the Great Beast?” I demand.

Jay stops and turns. “Why would I do that? He’s pretty friendly and would be tons happier if no one bugged him and left him alone, you know!”

“Friendly,” I repeat.

“Yup. He only tried to burn me to ashes once.”

I stare at Jay, but there is nothing save honesty in his face. I wonder how powerful his magics are, and then am giving a demonstration as I ask about the Realm and he almost casually makes a hole in the world leading to the royal palace. A hole that ignores every ward and protection the Realm has.

My father the King offers rewards, but Jay it turns out just takes them and gives them away to commoners before leaving as strangely as he came. I, on the other hand, have returned without a hoard or any use at all save to bankrupt one of the royal treasures with the cost of my salvation.

It is less than a month before I decide what I must do, and a few more months of learning to understand how it can be done. I leave the palace, one child of the royal line among many, barely noticed for days. Almost no one recognizes me on the road since I spent years as a prisoner to the dragon. The dragon is in his castle, and studies me with eyes of endless fire.

“I have learned how to tickle a dragon,” I say in the tongue of dragons. “And a spell to protect me from fire. This, also, I know: that a dragon can take the form of a human. I do not wish to presume, but you have been lonely for a long time and I – I have nothing to offer the Realm at all.”

“Jay said you might return,” the dragon rumbles, “if you learned anything of jaysome. I did not believe, even knowing something of what Jay is. This is, at least, an adventure.”

And he smiles.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Rebeca’s Choice

The house isn’t on a hill. I think that’s it. Part of it. But I don’t know. One by one, everyone just moved away toward the cities. I hear news, though I’m still not sure how it works anymore. But my solitude no longer contains silence, even if no one has been here in at least ten years. The house sits vacant, and nothing else was developed in the valley. The orchard was going to become lots, but everyone moved away. I don’t think it was my fault, but I don’t know. Some things are hazy. Distant, like the memories of a stranger I once was.

Sometimes I don’t recognize myself in mirrors. I’ve learned to cope. I’ve even learned to drown out the sounds of the world, the signals in the air just background noises like the ocean grinding against the shore. Which is why I don’t notice him until he comes inside. The boy is alone with a glowing phone in one hand, wearing shoes meant for hiking. I know of cell phones, though until now I’d never seen one. He cleans off glasses. It is raining outside. I hadn’t noticed.

“H-Hello?” he says, his voice trying to be loud. “Is anyone here? My name is Damien, but everyone calls me Dami. I’m just here to find a haunter?”

I manifest. I don’t normally, but it has been years and he came without the machines and incense and crystals the others came with long ago. And the deepest parts of me like to see them run.

Dami stares at me. I don’t know what I look like to the living. I have had some run screaming. Some weep. A few faint. This boy just looks offended. “You’re a gastly?” he demands.

“Excuse me?”

My voice is the cold wind between places.

Dami pales visibly at it, but stands his ground. “You’re a gastly, aren’t you? Haunters are quite different.”

“Pardon me?”

“I know you’re a Gengar. And a Haunter is better than a Gengar any day. Do I need to level you up?”

“... what?” My voice is strange even to my ears. Even the insane would break and run by now, but there is something within him resisting me.

“Wait, the app update doesn’t mention –.” I have no idea what the boy is talking about, but I see the moment when he flatters, realizing I am real. Humans like to pretend ghosts exist, but they don’t truly like to encounter us and have realize the world they built their lives around isn’t how they understood it to be at all.

“My name is Rebeca.” I think it was that, at least once.

“You’re not a haunter? I really need one for my pokedex.”

“I am the spirit that haunts this place.”

“I know that,” Dami says. “But I really need to find a haunter.” And he turns his phone toward me, showing an image I don’t understand at all. I do hear the phone. Noises coming from it, into it. This is how the world speaks to me though I am here. In energies passing between phones and other places.

I am not sure what to make of this. “I am the only ghost in his valley.”

I am certain of that much. I think there were others, once. But there is only me left.

“Do you play pokemon?” he asks.

“I have no idea what you are talking about.”

Dami grins. He grins at that, in delight. Delight. “Mom and Dad won’t come looking for me for hours. They generally take a long time to anyway,” he says, dusting off one of the couches to sit down on it. “I can teach you how to play it, if you want? You could help me capture a lot of pokemon, Rebeca.”

I have been dead for a long time, and a ghost for perhaps even longer. I draw my nature about me. I can kill, with the cold between places. I can pull a human into the darkness and leave nothing behind. I have done this before. The memory of doing it hovers about me, whispers in voices I almost know.

“Please?” he says. “There aren’t any other pokemon here and teaching someone new will help me remember things too.”

There are shadows in his eyes he doesn’t own. Darkness he somehow sidesteps, and this – this pokemon is the why of it, the how and the means. It is not a power I know or understand, but he stands in the house of hauntings, and I swear I feel smaller. Not in a way that hurts, but still smaller in directions I can feel but not name.

It has been so long since a human came here. So long since my hunger was sated. But he offers his faith as a meal without knowing, and it has no end that I can feel at all.

“Tell me,” I say, and he begins to explain pokemon, and has to explain his phone, and television, and he talks for so long and so fast I am almost wondering if he is going to talk until he keels over and becomes a ghost as well when he gets a message on his phone.

“Oh! I didn’t get a new achievement, but Mom and Dad are looking for me.” He bounces to his feet. “I should find them before they try and take my phone away.”

Not before they get worried. Not before they get scared. He understands his parents even if he does not understand them at all. “They are not good pokemon trainers, then?” I say, using the words he has taught me.

“No. But I think I can be, for you. If you want to learn more?” he asks, suddenly shy.

I am not certain who is more surprised when I say yes.

He leaves, and is not a reflection I carry with my in the mirrors. I walk the house. I float. I try and haunt, in the manner of the haunters in pokemon, but his faith is not the kind to change another. I dust the house, for the first time in many years. I remember everything he has taught me. I think of questions to ask Damien the next time we meet. And I wait.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Plans and plots (and things to never do)

"Let's talk about legitimacy. I think that's always something to talk about with hitman websites."

That was part of research on YouTube a couple of nights back. That and some harrowing videos I had to FF through and barely watch because people are the kind of monsters fairy tales warn you about. I tend to start gathering research for stories very early when they need any and eventually everything you come by counts as research.

The plot for the story is as follows: 'Near-future scifi where everyone lives off grid, and the real rebellion is living on the grid, being exposed, part of corporations and governments and with few secrets to your life at all. Most everyone lives off-grid following the PrivAct Wars – which some call Privacy Wars, other Pirate Wars; depends on what kind of history one wants to remember. The idea that being open, being known, is scarier and far more transgressive than hiding ever is.'

I figured the rough idea out long before the various election fiascos though I'm not about to pretend they won't influence the story. Science-fiction is, after all, a reaction to the present, and to the kind of future we see it leading toward. Often, the issue of privacy is pitched as that one can have freedom (privacy) or security, but you can't have both at once. This can be seen as a false equivalence, however - privacy advocates are generally not against 'here is data, we can use it to stop crimes' but where it reaches the point of thought-crime they are. But this is a novel, so it is going to go to extremes in both directions.

My notes include the line that 'History is the blade that informs how deep the wound is' and this is a deep part of the story. Much of the history of the setting is data. Most of that has been post during the PrivWars when advocates for privacy went far off the deep-end and wiped census records, tore apart databases in the deep web etc.  To be fair, it was reactionary. Also to be fair, a lot of it was earned. Immigration rules had been tightened the world over, insurance companies using data on citizens to only further their own goals (money) and many corporations doing the same. Governments, hemorrhaging money, were selling private data on citizens to keep the lights on. Everything was going sour and both sides wanted to protect the future.

The end result of the wars is that over 90% of the world lives off-grid, with many cities half-empty shells of themselves and the internet entirely decentralized, with cloud storage being spread out over the world and encrypted to hell and back (we're talking post-quantum cryptography, and probably stuff even further down the line) in an effort to be private and off-grid. This of course makes it much, much easier to do really dark shit and never be caught.

Governments still exist, in the ideal small-government form and mostly just provide very basic services such as trade arrangements, some import and export issues and basically keeping control over - and an eye upon - the much smaller and transparent corporate sector of society. If you work for the government, your life is an open book. To anyone. Ironically, this also keeps them far more honest and upright than other people ever need to be. The MC works for the government and the story is going to be about an assignment they are sent on and their exposure to the wild and dangerous 'world' of freedom.

And also fun things on cultural stagnation and how the obsession with privacy and freedom has limited the growth of technologies, nations etc. and issues over at what point the drive for anything goes too far and how the quest for pure freedom can created a totalitarian regime all its own. Should be very fun to work on.  If the research doesn't get Authorities knocking on my door, of course :)