Encounter With Ship 47

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Digital drawing. Five silhouettes against a window, all face a luminous spiraling phenomenon beyond. At top left, a human in a chair that’s hovering over the heads of the others, in partial right profile, with left hand raised to the window. Below, from right to left. A caterpillar-shaped being sitting on the window ledge, with two antennae raised to the window, tail dangling from the ledge. A being with a squid head, with five tentacles held up against the window, standing on what appears to be three knobby or segmented legs. A human standing with both hands pressed against the glass at head level. A being shaped like a central stalk with fuzzy hair at the top, two pairs of loops protruding from the sides, and knobby plumes rising from the loops. A wall to the left displays some glowing lights and panels.

“It’s my favorite chief mechanic,” the captain said.  I looked to my left and saw her smiling as she glided toward me.

“I bet you say that to all the chief mechanics,” I said, feeling the tablet tucked under my hand slide a little as sweat suddenly appeared on my fingertips.

“I do, but I only mean it when I say it to you.”

I chuckled.  We joined up and started down the main concourse, both on the way to our duties as the first shift of the day started.

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The Desk of Professor West

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Digital drawing. View looking down at a weathered antique desk, composed of a tabletop and a hutch with a central cabinet, various slots, a dome top, and drawers, one of which, at left, is open and empty. The whole desk and hutch appear empty except for an envelope lying on the tabletop. The envelope bears a wax seal. Just above the open drawer is a butterfly in midflight seen in three-quarters view, trailing two afterimages and a soft glow of light that suggests its flight path. At right, a hand emerges from out of frame, holding by the blade what appears to be a dagger with a cross guard whose ends curl down and a handle resembling a spiral horn.

I’d seen pictures of his desk, several of them.  They were slightly different, but there was one thing in common with every single one.  It was cluttered.  Piles of files, pencils lying in constant danger of rolling off the edge, a half-empty cup of coffee or tea or maybe flat soda, a wadded up piece of paper, a stack of books, no two of them aligned at the edges.  It seemed like the desk of someone who would start working on every idea that popped into his head, so he wouldn’t forgot.  A person who didn’t use sticky notes or devices to help him remember.  But in the most recent picture I saw of Professor West’s desk, all of that was gone.  There was just one thing left on the desk, a letter addressed to someone he’d never met before in his life, and who’d never met him. 

A letter addressed to me.

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The Surgeon’s Secretary

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Digital Drawing. A woman seen from waist up, facing forward, tilted to the right, holding an open book before herself. Her right hand is visible poised over the book loosely holding a fountain pen. She’s wearing a shirt, tie, aviator’s coat, and glasses with round lenses that each completely obscure her eyes and reflect the silhouette of a woman in profile with her face and arms thrown back, her hair and clothing streaming backwards. A rainbow overlay of that same silhouette lies over the image.

“Here, you see?” the surgeon said, as he pointed with his scalpel.  “At the nexus of the heart and the brain?  Between the eyes and the throat, right at the back of the mouth, where the voice is on the verge of emerging?”

The secretary peered past the gleaming scalpel and tilted her head.  There was nothing to see at the moment, other than the expected anatomy inside the mouth.  The corpse that lay on the dissection table had been long vacated.  But the surgeon claimed that he had cut through at just the right time, the fleeting moment right after certain death. 

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Transdimensional Top Hat

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Digital drawing. A young woman at center seen from knees up, dressed in top hat, ruffled shirt, and a jacket with coattails. She stands facing forward, turned slightly to the right, arms raised and bent, hands flourished. From her right shoulder, a flock of a butterflies fly up to upper left corner, one of them perched on her right index finger. Bottom right corner, waist-high to the young woman, stands a classic style robot made out of blocks and circles, with right arm raised, see from mid-section up.

“Maybe this is my destiny,” Ro said, as she swept the top hat off the table and perched it on her head. 

She spun around to show her cousin who laughed, gave her a thumbs up, and continued browsing the crates full of old magazines.

The two were at an estate sale that had intrigued Ro because it was for the former belongings of a magician. 

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The Shadow of Victoria Lockhart

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Digital drawing. Silhouette of a figure in a dress with bell sleeves and a hoop skirt, holding up a parasol in the right hand, with a gauzy veil flowing to the right. Bright light shines from above and behind the figure. Extending below the figure is what appears to be a shadow. Leafy, bushy foliage frames the top half of the image, extending down either side of the frame into dark shadowy patches in the foreground and hazy patches in the background. The image appears to be right side up, but would still be so if it were flipped vertically.

Victoria Lockhart, like many of those in both the cast and crew of her feature film debut, had heard about their director.  His genius.  And his…moods.  That’s what they were called back then.  Moods.  And only directors were allowed to have them.   She’d been so excited on her first day.  Even after she saw him throw a chair at one of the writers.  Even after she’d seen him take a swing at the cinematographer.  Even after she’d heard him say things to his assistant in front of everyone that made the woman crumple at his feet in tears.  Victoria told herself that she would never trigger his ire.  She would make him adore her, respect her, and treat her as gently as he treated that favorite suede jacket of his. 

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Citizen Forsaken

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Digital drawing. Center left, a humanoid figure seen from waist-up and in profile reaches out with the left arm toward a ball of light surrounded by hazy light at top right corner. The figure has six digits on their hand and an elongated ear that rises into their flowing hair and above their head. Bottom right, dark hazy shapes suggesting skyscrapers and high-rises at night. The sky appears filled with iridescent clouds. Ghostly after images of the figure appear around the figure.

When the disaster happened, or the event, or whatever it was—I still don’t know to this day—I hadn’t yet noticed how much yellow there is in the lower city. 

There’s not a lot of yellow where I come from—except for light and that’s different—but here, in the lower city, it seems to be everywhere.

Maybe I’m from here now.  After a year, maybe I’m from Los Angeles.

I’ll say that to myself, sometimes aloud as I stare at the silent, solid bathroom mirror. 

As I try to stare into the mirror.

Home used to be that close.  I stepped through a mirror and I was in Los Angeles.  And I was supposed to step through a mirror and be right back home again.

But now there’s nothing to see but my own reflection.

And home may as well be a galaxy away.

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Storyfeather Year 8

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Year Eight is finished! As always, thank you to everyone who read even a single story. Thank to you everyone who liked or commented. Thank you for your time and interest, and for being a part of Storyfeather, especially Year Eight.

This was the Year of Revisitation, in which I went back to a story I’d already written and wrote a new standalone story based on a character, object, continuation of events, or some other (sometimes flimsy) link to the earlier story.

A lot happens in the eighth year stories.  While investigating a murder, a single-celled detective is led into a world full of bacterial filaments, proto-multicellular colonies, and a new concept called “love.” The most popular wrestling show in five galaxies is somehow in danger of being shut down, but then the wrestlers—including the show’s first human—jump into action to save it. In the 400th story, six kids explore the possibility that dogs have been trying to warn humanity about a terrible enemy in their midst…the vacuum machines. And a kitchen mishap leads to the accidental invention of the most powerful ice cream in the world.

I did something new and made a year-end trailer for The Year of Revisitation. It’s posted here, and it’ll be on the Trailers page for a few weeks.

Music: “Space Discoveries” by Andrew Sitkov

I’ve written over 400 stories now, and produced over 200 podcast episodes. And yes, I do feel mighty. I do wonder if I’m repeating myself sometimes (I probably am, but maybe it’s okay if it turns out to be fun). It was more challenging than I expected to revisit older stories. Part of the challenge was that when I first started writing, I often added too many elements to a story. I still sometimes do that, but I believe I’ve gotten better at recognizing and streamlining. There were times when I wanted to revisit a previous story, or some element from the story, but in a longer work. Perhaps, in the future…

This year, I launched a few new features in the hopes of making it easier and more fun to navigate through all those hundreds of stories, and find the ones you’re most likely to enjoy.

  • Trailers page: The trailers for the most recent stories and podcast episodes, and links to older trailers.
  • Portals page: Buttons with images and taglines for recent stories. The buttons (portals) lead to the introductory pages for each story, which contain the trailer and more information. My hope is that I can add to these introductory pages in the future (more trailers, behind-the-scenes info, etc.).
  • You can also listen to the three most recent podcast episodes from either the Trailers or the Portals pages.
  • Hub pages for the current story year and podcast season, to make it easier to scroll through and read the titles and taglines of the stories, and either go directly to the story, or go visit the introductory page.

    In case you didn’t know about all these pages, or just haven’t checked them out, the buttons are at the bottom of this post. I also ran a couple of showcase campaigns to highlight stories that shared a theme. I plan to continue this effort with more navigation tools in the next year. So if anyone has any suggestions or other feedback, please feel free to reach out.

Expanding beyond this site, I also launched a new online course to help anyone who wants to write short fiction, and I’ll soon be launching a new online store with merchandise that features artwork from the Storyfeather stories.

All of these new things are exciting (sometimes grueling) but the stories are still the core of this endeavor.

Storytelling is still my true love, still my destiny, still my path.  Stories have been my hope and my haven all my life. First, the stories of others, and then my own stories as well. This year, stories and storytelling have also been my anchor.

Year Nine is coming.  The Wheel of Fiction. The theme is a continuation of Year Eight’s theme, but with a twist (pun intended). Season Five of the podcast is coming soon. The journey continues! I hope you’ll come along.

I have stories to tell you.
Nila


Portal Button. Elongated rectangle with rings of colored light emanating from the center. Text appears over the rings, reading "Storyfeather Year 8" and below it in larger font, "Revisitation."
Portal Button. Elongated rectangle with rings of colored light emanating from the center. Text appears over the rings, reading "Storyfeather Year 4" and below it in larger font, "Creatures."

[Summarized Video Description: Trailer. Duration, 96 seconds. Music: “Space Discoveries” by Andrew Sitkov. Title card with the Storyfeather main logo and “Year 8” and the story title are displayed in front of the image from the story “The Union of the Spyglass.”  The logo and title card fade. A watermark of the word “Storyfeather” appears at bottom right. Images from various other Year 8 stories appear and disappear in a series of wipes and animations. The following words appear and disappear, “Galactic! Microscopic. Hand pies! Aliens! Quests. Mischief. The 400th story” The video slows down as the image from the four hundredth story appears, “Attack of the Vacuum Machine Army.”  More images and words appear and disappear, “Dreams. Visions. Other Realms. Horror. Magic. Myth.” The video slows again as the final image appears. The watermark fades as the logo reappears at center, and above it, the words “The Year of Revisitation.”]

One Wicked Warlock

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Digital drawing. At center, the shadows of two figures cast against a stone wall. The figure at left is reeling backwards, arms outstretched, left leg raised and bent, chest pierced with a long spiraling horn, neck entwined with a segmented whip-like tail ending in a stinger. The figure at right stands upright, face in profile, right arm outstretched, holding a vial out above the first figure’s face. The vial is filled with a glowing substance. A green glow appears at bottom right. The left and right frames of the image depict the faint outlines of brickwork.

There is a tall tower to the north.  It is made of stone that looks a common gray from afar.  But I have been close enough to see the stone shift hues, to glitter with the gilded veins of an otherworldly ore, to fade into a pale so utmost as to be nigh invisible.

A warlock once lived there, it is said.  Now the tower is abandoned.

But that does not mean is it safe.

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