Friday, December 04, 2009

Magical implements

Sorry for another hiatus from the blog, but it's been a busy time. There are now nearly 40 items in my Etsy store, including some handmade "magical implements" that you must see to believe. Magicians and vampire hunters will be glad to know their accessory needs are being met.

Also, I'm still working on two longterm projects: a novel version of the "Traveler" chapters from my "366 Days" project; and a novel about my "Tom Caliban" character (working title "Tender Mercies of the Wicked").

I'm on vacation next week, and among all the things I hope to accomplish are completing those two projects and catching up on my reading. (Also clearing the DVR of all those old "V" episodes I recorded during the Syfy channel's recent marathon.) I'm thinking of posting a sample from the Caliban project here. We'll see.

Hope your Christmas holiday season is getting off to a good start.

Peace.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope this finds you healthy and happy. Happy Thanksgiving! (As I type this, my wife has just about finished all her cooking, but she's deep into work on making one of my Grandma Massey's famous pies using recipes we got from cousin Eric.

Here's the latest of my rewritten work now available online:
Book Explores Adults with Unrooted Childhoods

And here's a notice that the pulp detective novels at my Etsy store are running at a special Thanksgiving weekend sale price through Monday. Check it out.

Peace.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pulp Fiction

I have begun posting my pulp fiction finds at my Etsy store. Check out this beauty from 1954:

I also have posted two more resurrected and repurposed features at Suite101:

River Jordan Breathes Life into Southern Tales

and

Artist Wants Public to be Touched by His Angels

Right now (well not this moment, but for a few days now and for a few days more) I'm reading "The Tomb," the first of the Repairman Jack novels by F.Paul Wilson. About 60 pages in, and it still hasn't developed a plot, just introduced lots of characters with problems for Jack to fix. But it's part of his "Adversary Cycle" about cosmic forces battling for the earth, so I'm expecting it to pick up steam pretty fast. (Wilson is the author of The Keep, and this story is an offshoot of that, so I understand.)

It's Today's Pick.

Peace.

Oh. Okay. One more for the road:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Vintage 'MidnightOnMars'

I opened an online store at Etsy.com recently. You can find it here under the name of MidnightOnMars. I'll be offering vintage books and handmade "art" - look for my vampire hunter kits, magic wands and other fun stuff soon.

Currently, I only have five books listed; I posted 2 on my first day and they sold overnight. I'm hoping the rest will take off that way.

Today, yard saling with the wife, we came across a woman selling totes full of old pulp detective novels in very good condition from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. I bought 311 paperbacks for $10. I'll be posting them at Etsy in the next few weeks. If you like pulp books, you'll love these, and the prices will be lower than you'll find elsewhere (one of the books I picked up is listed "Buy It Now" on ebay for $65; I'll probably put it on sale for $20, for example).

Anyway, I also posted a couple more re-written features from earlier in my career. (These could also be categorized as "vintage MidnightOnMars," eh?) Check these out:

Florida Crime Keeps Author Tim Dorsey in Stories
and
Caricaturist Dean Minton Lives Exaggerated Life (look for an update on this one soon, as Deano has a new novel coming out soon and I'll be providing a preview of it)

It's been a long, busy day. I'll visit more tomorrow, with any luck.

Take care out there.

Peace.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lunch and other Delights

Had a pleasant lunch with author Michael Morris, his publicist Kathie Bennett, her brother (and Panama City mayor) Scott Clemons, and reading specialist Milinda Jay from FSU-PC. We had sandwiches and tea at The Rabbit Hole downtown and spent an hour talking about everything important under the sun — family, friends, writing, writers, publishing, trends, newspapers, web sites, and on and on.

Michael asked if I blog, and as I intended to direct him here I decided I should have something fresh for him to read. (Hi, Michael!) So you have him to blame for this.

Kathie kindly offered to take a look at some of my work and see if she would be amenable to representing me as an agent, so I will be bugging her over the next couple of weeks. It will also mean I'll be focusing on what I really want to do with my life rather than posting rewrites of old articles so much.

Speaking of which:
Author Silas House Shares Southern State of Mind
is my latest, in case you're interested.

I plan to post something more substantial about Michael soon. (I'm planning to attend his Thursday night presentation at FSU-PC.) Meanwhile, you can check out my recent Sunday column about him.

And for those late arrivals, here are some more links to my online work:

— My latest blog at newsherald.com is about Grandma's Car
— My latest Undercurrents columns, collected at newsherald.com
— Most of my 366 Days short stories project

I'm trying to get these folks to buy into Twitter too. If you want to follow me, sign up at twitter.com and add @midnightonmars

Peace.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Test Post

This is just a test post to see if you're out there and receiving me (those five who have signed on to follow me).

Sorry for the silence recently. I've been distracted by mundane matters. I hope to spend some time catching up this weekend.

Peace.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A couple of things, and then goodbye

... that is, if you are expecting any further email notices from Feedblitz after this week. Just saying. You can come to the site and sign up with Google and get alerts (and have your photo in my box of followers).

Meanwhile, here are my latest freelance pieces you might enjoy:

Delta Bluesman Slim Fatz is an American Original
and
Top 10 Tips for your First Sci-Fi or Comic Con

Tonight, I was well into a piece on dealing with holiday blues when the "easy back" function of IE7 made the page go back when I drifted left with my finger on the laptop's touch pad. What does that mean? All my work was lost in cyberlimbo. The frustration was mightier than my will to continue. I'll go back to it tomorrow.

And now for something completely different:

I had a nice discussion with Kathy Bennett about the upcoming visit of Michael Morris. Kathy is the sister of our current Panama City mayor, quite a sweet person, and a literary agent and publicist for some of my favorite regional authors. Michael is the talented writer of Slow Way Home, and the only person who has ever claimed in public (or at least in a group of other writers) to be my cousin when he is, in fact, not. We have similar senses of humor, I think. I hope to spend some time in the weeks to come talking with them and sharing those talks with you.

Check out the links. And buy Michael's book(s).

Peace.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

New stories

Are you still there? Feedblitz hasn't dropped you yet? Please come over to the blog and sign up as a follower in the box you'll see to the right of the homepage.

Meanwhile, here are two new stories I recently published to suite 101:

Alice's Long Strange Trip to Become Syfy Series
and
High Moon a Winning Mix of Westerns, Werewolves

In the spirit of the upcoming holiday, I've been posting spooky stuff to my blog at newsherald.com, and here's just a little something to send you off with:






Now, that's a Scooby Doo movie I'd pay real money to see. It comes from this talented artist. You should check some of his other projects (I'm partial to the steampunk rayguns he builds.)

Say G'night, Velma.

Peace.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Heads up: You're about to lose the feed

Those of you following this blog on FeedBlitz are about the lose the feed. In the next week or so, FeedBlitz will become a fee-only service, and I can't afford to carry a fee for this. So I'm encouraging you to go to the site, look for the helpful "Followers" widget and sign up under Google or Yahoo or one of the other choices. This one is free and should remain free.

Don't delay. You know how important these updates are to your mental and emotional wellbeing.

Peace.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A new effort

I've been trying out a new place for freelancing online. Hasn't generated any fundage as of yet, but you might want to check it out. So far, I've put up rewritten versions of stories I've done for other outlets. Here are links:

Warehouse 13 makes Syfy ratings history

Life Legacy of Princess Diana now a Comic Book

Stargate Franchise launches into Dark 'Universe'

This is just for starters. I will be posting many more in coming weeks, and I'll link you to them in case you're ever interested.

Meanwhile, I'm recovering from outpatient surgery. Had a faulty gall bladder removed. So I'm somewhat sore, sometimes in actual pain, occasionally just grumpy. I've been clearing the over-abundance of TV on the DVR, and greatly enjoying IFC's 6-part documentary on the beginnings and behind the scenes antics of Monty Python's Flying Circus.

It's Today's Pick.

Peace.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Busy, distracted, life



What a bunch of days, and things to have happen within them.
Monday-Friday: Work, work work, work work work.

Saturday: Son visiting home, sister-in-law and brother-in-law stop by, usual Saturday activities of house chores and errands, and then, in evening, going to the Rader Family concert in the intersection of Harrison and Fourth in downtown Panama City during Oktoberfest. Some photos:



(She doesn't look as enthusiastic as he does, does she?)

Sunday: Still visiting with folks, lunch at Coram's on 23rd Street, and head over to see The Phantom Tollbooth at Gulf Coast Community College. I laughed until I cried, as much because of the antics of the actors as because I know some of the kids personally and it was HIGHlarious seeing them act up like that. Here are some photos of the meet-and-greet outside the theatre after the show:



Meanwhile, we've been prepping for an epic yardsale (100s of CDs, DVDs, books, comics, magazines, etc. -- watch for the ad) -- and I've been searching the interwebs for freelance work, gathering samples, etc. Got to get some liquidity up in here.

All that to say: Not much creative writing going on. HOWEVER, I spent a sleepless night this weekend plotting a short film based on some crazy ideas I've had bubbling in the recesses for a while. Total cast: 2 (already cast). Total lines of dialogue: 1. Total run time, less than 5 minutes, depending on editing and timing. Anybody want to help out? All I'll say is it involves a girl, a baseball bat, high-tension power lines, an aluminum foil hat, and a zombie (of course).

Okay, so I'll get back to you on that as it develops.

Peace.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Another day older ...

... and deeper in debt.

Don't get me started on that. I'm working on it. Maybe I'll have something to show for it soon. I'll let you know. (I'm seeking freelance work online, preparing to open an online store, and gearing up to start an online quarterly magazine version of 'City Limits' with a new title, edgier design and content.)

It's busy in my brain right now.

Meanwhile, check out my recent story about the tomorrow's premiere of Stargate Universe, the latest incarnation of the longrunning franchise, to see what you might want to watch (or record) Friday night. (There's video at the second link.) It's Tonight's Pick.

Also just got added to the DC Comics media reviewers list, meaning they will be sending me advance copies of some of their publications for preview/review purposes. (I used to be on the Marvel list way back in the 20th century.) Anyway, I should have plenty to keep you entertained in coming months, so tell your friends and neighbors they ought to be reading this blog.

Today's Word: Freelance.

Peace.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Artsy stuff

The promised photos from Arts Night at the Unitarian Universalist Church last Friday:


ABOVE: Ken Sizemore played selections from the 1940s and 1950s, including a singalong to "Ghost Riders in the Sky" and "Cool Water." (He was nice enough to run out and get his guitar when the scheduled artist didn't show up.) That's Chris' wife, Melissa Arrant, to the left.
ABOVE: Lynn Wallace, Chris Arrant, and me, Facebook-style.

Artist Kelly Duncan, center, speaks to Mary Keith, right. Check out more about Kelly here.

Chris gave me a couple of comics, including his Princess Diana biography. The other was HIGH MOON, by David Gallaher and Steve Ellis. You know my lunar fixation, if you've read any of my recent short stories here. This is a Sergio Leones werewolf tale, with steampunk elements thrown in. The art is stylish and full of energy. The story took some time to get into, seemed a little choppy, but was overall very effective. It originally appeared as a web comic under DC Comic's "Zuda" brand. You can find more at http://www.zuda.com/
It's today's pick:


Peace.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Word from Arts Night

The word is IMPROVISE.

We had to do a bit of that, as the musical guest was a no-show. Instead, a member of the group hurried home, grabbed his guitar and came back to sing some Sons of the Pioneers for us, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I'll post photos tomorrow and tell more about the evening, but I want to give a big shout out to my hosts, Chris and Melissa Arrant. Chris also gifted me with his latest comic, which is a nice, slick production, well illustrated and well-written. It has been getting press all over the world, so he has much to be proud of. You may have heard of the subject, if not the comic:


It's Today's Pick.
We'll talk more tomorrow. I'll fill you in on what we find at the yard sales, and you can tell me ... whatever you'd like to share.

Peace.

Another Arts Night is upon us

The Unitarian Universalist church in Panama City has its celebration of the arts tonight. Click the link for the details.

I enjoyed the last time I was there quite a bit. Click here for photos and more info about that night.

I plan to read a couple of my short stories from the "366 Days" project. Anyone who has read those is welcome to make a suggestion in the comments.

Unfortunately, this is the same night that Northview High School plays the local Bozeman school in football, and my niece is on the Northview flag corps. The fam is going to see the ballgame and support Megan, but I have this prior commitment I need to keep.

Sometimes, don't you wish you could be in two places at once?

Anyway, come out and see me tonight. Or, go to Bozeman and see the game and cheer on the Northview flag corps.

Later.

Monday, September 14, 2009

R.I.P. Patrick Swayze


"I'm trying to shut up and let my angels speak to me," he said in an interview with Barbara Walters last fall.
Tonight's pick:

Say g'night, Patrick.
Peace.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Anagnorisis

It's today's word. It's a moment in a play or other work when a character makes a critical discovery, according to Wikipedia.

Chew on that for a while, and I'll get back to you as soon as possible.

I apologize for the absence, but things have been hectic. Updates to follow, and a new story as well.

Peace.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Never the Twain

Going here tonight:

(Read the story.)
---

Had this run-in with a U.S. Congressman this week (listen for me to set him straight): (EDIT: Tried embedding the video but failed. Follow this link instead.)


Chew on that, Blue Dog.
----

Bought these at a yard sale last week:











Plus a few others I just don't have time right now to locate and will tell you about later. Note: Hardbacks were $1, paperbacks were 50 cents, DVD box sets were $5. All in like-new condition. Thankyou, my yard sale addicted wife.

Monday, August 10, 2009

John Hughes, R.I.P.

I wrote about John Hughes for my Sunday "Undercurrents" column. You can read it here.

But far more moving is this blog about Hughes and the pen-pal relationship he had with a girl throughout her teen years. Read it.

Peace.

EDIT: Also, you should check out this remarkable piece of artwork by one of my favorite comic artists. It's the Teen Titans in the iconic pose from the "Breakfast Club" soundtrack album cover, complete with a "final essay" addressed to Batman that echoes the voice over at the end of the film. Check it out.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Strangeness

So the last story didn't quite fit the surreal image I had in my head. It came close, though.

And today, I'm just feeling strange. Off-kilter. Maybe I'm coming down with the bug my kids have had. Maybe I'm just moody. Whatever.

Recently acquired a copy of Wolverine: Origin from the 23rd Street Goodwill store; cover is worn, but the inner bits are in good condition. I'm about two chapters (i.e., issues) into the tale, and so far only the artwork is blowing me away.

Just watched Taken, the movie with Liam Neeson as a father with a "particular set of skills." Written by Luc "The Fifth Element" Bisson. I have no fingernails left, so, yeah, awesome suspense and action. Highly recommended.

Also loaded several more photos for my family album. And yes, Brady, it wasn't just DC heroes: For me, it was always about Batman:


See you tomorrow, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.

Peace.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Drive in Saturday

The zombies were restless. I should have seen it coming.

The cowboys had barely cleared the screen, and a steer lingered among the credits. The randy teens from Camp Crystal Lake were laughing in the wings, chugging beer and smoking pot, practicing their fart jokes and flashing the guy in the hockey mask. They really shouldn’t do that, but you can’t tell teenagers anything. One of them shouted, and the steer moved off, stage right.

Anyway, the sci-fi cop guys were on next. Car crashes and explosions. Rotoscoped laser beams and chest-bursting alien puppets. That part made the zombies moan and point. I checked my list and called for the next reel.

Popcorn danced by, twirled with a long-legged soda and box of Sugar Babies. Zombies gagged. A teen in a smoke haze led the whole band of miscreants to the concession stand for munchies.

Screams grabbed my attention away from the screen. One of the zombies was jaw-deep in the hairline of one of the teenagers. Hockeymask Guy was chopping and chopping the braineater, but he aimed too low. Body shots wouldn’t stop it. A shot rang out, and the zee’s head popped open, and I looked around again. The lantern-jawed lead sci-fi cop blew the smoking end of his gun barrel.

Horns honked. The screen was white. The next reel hadn’t loaded. There were shouts from the audience. Doors opening and closing. That was all the temptation the zombies needed. I ran for the projection shed as they stumbled into the parking area.

Inside the shed, one of the girls from Camp Crystal Lake was having monkey sex with a cowboy; their antics had switched off the projector. I hit them with my clipboard until they ran out the door. The cowboy gave up trying to pull his chaps back on and drew his sixguns and started firing into the zombies.

I got the reel moving. Night of the Living Dead. The zombies turned away from the audience parking area and shuffled toward the screen. Some of the former audience joined them, dragging their feet, blood on their t-shirts.

I lined up the next reel, got the teens back to the wings. Checked the cars and restrooms for stragglers. My manager winked a flashlight at me and I headed over to the concession stand. He handed me a large Coke.

“Don’t you just hate these all-night festivals?” he said.

I shrugged. “Nah, at least it isn’t raining.”

-----
(c) 2009 by Tony Simmons
"366 Days" continues

Friday, July 31, 2009

E5 pictures

'Fu' shoots Giles and TJ

Girls at the cookout


My beautiful daughter and wife



Dustin and Chris, the masterminds behind E5


Me and Matty J

Swank

That's the word, apparently, for the evening. Only the "swanky" will be allowed into the E5 offices for their Issue No. 1 debut party tonight. We'll be heading there in mere minutes. And you might want to check out the shindig. I'm sure they'll post photos in the next couple of days, but there's a whisper that the party will be streaming live via video for the next couple of hours. It's not up at the moment, but that could change. Check it out.
Peace.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

11 Days Later...

Today's word: Prodigal. (And I'm referring to the way I squander time...)

A lot has happened since July 19, my last post, and I apologize for being away from this particular outlet for so long. Mostly I've been working during the days and exhausted at night. A few evenings in the pool. A few days and nights working on the garage and attic. Reading a pre-publication copy of my friend Michael Lister's upcoming novel. Reading "The Living Dead."

Reading this:

Which I got for my birthday, and which deserves a full review of its own. (Short version: Lovely. Highly recommended.)

Reading this:


Which my friend Brady Calhoun loaned me, and which also deserves a review of its own soon. (Short version: eh. Despite my utter regard -- Brady might say "man crush" -- for Neil Gaiman, it left me cold.)

-Watching Leverage, Being Human, Primeval, Doctor Who, The Philanthropist, Moonshot (which also deserves a review). Google'em if you're curious.

-Working on turning "The Traveler" from my "366 Days" project into an actual novel.

-Scanning old family photos to share with the family. Like this one, for instance:

Say G'night, kids.

Peace.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More is Never Enough

Mellie grabbed the sandwich she had made, scampered out the back door, down the wooden steps, across the back yard and through the gap in the old chain link fence. Then down into the creek that ran through a gully behind all the houses on her block, up the other side and into the woods behind her neighborhood. She could hear Sue yelling at her not to get dirty. Sue hardly cared. It’s not like Sue would give her a bath or wash her clothes if she came home dirty. Sue probably wouldn’t even be awake.

Mellie liked roaming the woods, even though sometimes the bums in there tried to scare her. It’s not even like it was a big woods. There were other neighborhoods nearby, and on one side of the woods was a shopping center. Sometimes, she found the packages of things people had stolen from from the stores. Sometimes, she found places where bums had slept -- old blankets, cigarette butts, empty bottles.

This time, she found a sick man. She almost didn’t see him as she skipped along a trail the bums had carved among the pines and the trumpet vines. His skinny, crooked fingers with their curved nails lunged out of the brush and almost grabbed her ankle, and she squealed when she jumped out of reach, dropping the half of a sandwich she had yet to eat. The man didn’t pursue her, or even make a noise. His twitching fingers folded back against him and his mouth opened and closed without a sound.

He was wrapped in old rags and shivering under a palmetto. His skin was gray and slick. His few strands of hair were plastered against a gray scalp. He smelled sweet and sour at the same time, and reminded her of how her dog had smelled just before he died last year. She started to say something, but he reached again, this time grabbing the half of a sandwich she had dropped. He sniffed it, peeled off the bread, licked the thin slice of ham, and swallowed it in a gulp. He moaned and shook.

“More …” he whispered.

Mellie went to the place where the homeless men sleep sometimes and took the blanket they had left there. It smelled bad too, in a different way, like sweat and alcohol and sour garbage, and poo. She held it at arm’s length and went back to the place where the sick man was. He wasn’t still there, though. He had gone. She whistled and tromped around. She heard a noise up the trail and saw him crawling under a stunted magnolia tree. She came close to where he hid and tossed the blanket at him, and he snatched it close before it could flutter all the way to the ground. He rolled in it and tangled himself, sniffing and snorting. Then he froze very still and stared at Mellie.

His eyes were milky and slick and gray, and they didn’t blink. It made Mellie scared. She decided to run home. But she didn’t want to run past the sick man to get there, she was afraid his fast skeleton fingers might reach out and grab her. So she backed away from him and headed in the direction of the shopping center.

She heard him snorting and moaning behind her, and she ran.

She ran right into a man standing at the edge of the woods behind the shopping center. He smelled of sweat and alcohol and sour garbage and poo. He grabbed her by the hair and held her on her tip toes and yelled in her face, and she screamed. He let go, and she ran again, past the back doors of the stores in the shopping center, along the edge of the parking lot, and down the street to her neighborhood. She didn’t stop running until she was in her house again and Sue was yelling at her for getting dirty.

She told Sue about the sick man who ate her sandwich, and the bum who yelled at her, and Sue put Mellie over her knee and spanked her and spanked her, and sent her to her room. Mellie sat in her room and cried for a while, and listened to Sue bump around downstairs, and she thought about things. She heard glasses clanking together, heard the TV come on. After a while, the only noise was the TV. And a little while later, she knew Sue was asleep. It always worked this way.

Mellie went downstairs quiet and empty as a promise. She looked at Sue asleep on the couch, and the bottles and pills on the table by Sue gave Mellie an idea. She dropped a couple of pills in one of the bottles that still had liquid in it. She made another sandwich, and she scampered out the back door, across the yard, through the fence, down the gully and up again, into the woods.

It wasn’t dark yet, but the sun was low and the shadows were long and deep. She listened as she walked. She looked hard at the bushes on the sides of the trail, and she still almost didn‘t see the sick man before she came upon him. He had come further along the trail, closer to where it leads to the gully. She didn’t like the idea of him coming to her house, even if it wasn’t much of a house. Not yet, anyway.

She broke the sandwich into halves and then half again. She tossed a piece at the sick man, and he let it fall in the dirt. He watched it for a while, then his hands snaked out and brought it to his face. He sniffed and snorted. He peeled away the bread and licked the meat. His tongue was a cracked, gray thing and poked and prodded. Then he swallowed the piece whole and quivered.

“More …” he moaned.

She ran past him, dropping a second piece as she passed, hoping that the offering would distract him from reaching for her. She was correct. Again, he grabbed the hunk of sandwich and took it apart and finally swallowed the meat. This time, she could see the sharp yellow teeth encircle the meat before he gulped. He moaned and trembled and crawled out of the underbrush, crouching on the tips of his bony fingers and toes like a crab wrapped in a colorless old blanket.

“More …” he said.

She skipped along the trail then, headed to the place where the bums sometimes sleep. She dropped a third piece on the trail and heard him scuffling in the dirt to attack the meat. She didn’t pause or look back to see him wracked with tremors and moans. She kept moving, right up to the place where the bum was sitting under an oak tree, having given up looking for his old blanket.

He wore layers of shirts, wrapped with twine and scarves. His face was carved and wrinkled, coated with dirt and scabs and wiry gray hair. He scowled at her, exposing black teeth.

“Mister, I’m sorry, but I took your blanket for the sick man,” Mellie said.

“You better give me back my --” he started to say, but then his eyes landed on the bottle in her hand.

“I brought you this,” she said, and held the bottle toward him.

He eyed her. He moved onto his knees and reached toward her. She could tell that he was expecting a trick.

“What is it? Did you pee in this bottle?” he said, and she laughed.

“No, silly! Smell it.”

He took it from her and sniffed. It smelled legit. He tipped it back, letting just a bit touch his tongue. It tasted right. He looked at her again, wondered for a second why she was holding a piece of sandwich in her other hand, and shrugged. He turned the bottle up and drained it. It was a good, cold beer.

He laughed. He sat back against the oak tree. He asked her why she’d brought him a beer.

“I told you,” she said. “I gave your blanket to the sick man. I thought it was fair to bring you the beer.”

The bum laughed again. He was feeling warm, now. Happy. It didn’t even disturb him to see his old blanket come shuffling up the trail behind the little girl on spindly legs. He had a vague realization that something wasn’t right, but most of him didn’t care. He heard the blanket -- or was there a man under there? -- when it demanded “more.”

Mellie tossed the last part of her sandwich at the bum. The thing in the blanket sprang forward. She stood very still as it passed her and fell upon the homeless man and began to eat, peeling aside the clothing to uncover the meat. She saw the sick man’s tongue darting, heard his yellow teeth clicking, watched him tremble and moan.

Mellie didn’t like having her hair pulled.

She liked spankings even less.

She ran back through the woods to the gully, across the yard, and through the back door. She collected a few clothes and things in a plastic bag. She was taking money from Sue’s purse when she heard the back door swing open and slam shut, and she was running out the front door when she heard a voice calling, “MORE!”
-----
(c) 2009 by Tony Simmons
For the '366 Days' project
(Written between 9:15 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. tonight. First draft.)
-----
Today's Pick:

Anthology of stories including work by Gaiman, King, Barker, Brite and many more. Borrowed this week from the Bay County Public Library.
-----
Peace.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Station to Station

They call it the dark side of the moon, but that’s a misnomer. It’s the side perpetually facing away from the earth, and thus receives no glow of reflected earthlight, but it gets as much sunlight as starlight, and the shadows only grow deep when the earth eclipses the sun.

The terrain is more rugged than the earth-facing hemisphere, however, with more impact craters and fewer wide, smooth “seas.” So you’ll understand why we use “hoppers” to cross the distance between the stations, rather than the old rovers.

Why am I telling you this? That’s a reasonable question. Just be patient. I’ll get to that.

Not that you’re supposed to know about any of this. Far as anyone back home is concerned, we’re not even up here. I mean, it was something like 37 years ago that Apollo 17 called it a day, folded up shop and went home. I wasn’t even born then. That happened more than three years later, Summer 1976, after Station 1 was fully operational and the go-ahead was given for population growth.

I was supposed to be a symbol or something. A Bicentennial moon baby, born on the Fourth of July on our nation’s 200th birthday. It was all carefully planned, and when I was late, they brought me out by caesarean. Someone thought having a symbol of our colony’s success might be important someday, even though the mission was a secret; someday the nation would know about us, they figured, and my birth would have meaning, give them hope.

Whatever. I’m 33 now, and only a few other people ever cared that I was alive. And God only knows where they are now.

I make this trip between the stations every month. Basic maintenance. Cleaning CO2 scrubbers, trading out water filters in the recycling sumps, and fixing minor glitches in the solar panels. Department of Air, Water & Light, that’s my gig. The hopper makes the trips easy, floating low over the craters on its retro rockets, but I have to be careful not to break radio silence while en route or get my picture taken by some rogue satellite. We track all the space junk, and there’s a blind spot programmed into the official orbiters so they don’t see our landing platforms, but you never know when something could go wrong.

Like today, for instance.

Station 3 was dark when I arrived. No radio contact, of course. The five stations communicate with each other via phone cables buried in 1974, during the excavations for the initial construction. All the stations are buried under the lunar rock, covered with powder, with only small landing platforms for the hoppers to dock. Stations of the Cross, I call them, though we have only five rather than 14. But seen from above, if they were at all visible, they form a cross with one elongated leg reaching to Station 5 on the edge of the Aitken basin. Google it, if you’re curious, if they have Google whenever you are. I have time to wait.

The docking airlock opened for me, since it draws power from the hopper. It’s a security feature. Ensures only hopper personnel can access the stations. That way no pesky Chinese cosmonaut comes knocking down the door uninvited.

It wasn’t until I was inside the station that I realized something was wrong. Main power was out. The corridors were lit by battery powered lights, and the place was absolutely silent. Not even the air units hummed. The atmosphere was getting stale. I didn’t take a look around or head to the control center to ask questions; I opened a floor hatch, slung my tool kit over my shoulder, and took a ladder down two levels to check out the generator room.

Everything was intact. Someone had just turned it all off. I switched it back on, waited for the computer to reboot, and watched the indicators as it cycled through its diagnostics. Nothing was wrong anywhere in the system. The automatic controls reset and the air started cycling again. A breeze moved against my face and the lights came up.

I tried the intercom, but got no response. I tried the phone by the entry, but there was nothing but static, so I rode the lift back to the topside level to check in.

There was no one in control center. No one on monitor duty. I tried the phone again, with the same result. I opened the intercom to all levels and did an all-call. Nothing. No departments checked in. I was nervous now. I had seen all the sci-fi films you’ve probably seen. I never considered aliens, but it was entirely possible that someone had gone nuts, managed to fashion a weapon of some sort, and herded everyone into a room somewhere and killed them.

I didn’t have anything even close to resembling a weapon, just the low-power tools in my kit. I settled on a wrench, and held it in one hand as I called the other stations.

No one answered.

Let me make this clear: None of the stations answered. None of the department heads or grunts at any of the numbers I regularly call. My parents didn’t respond. My girlfriend. My wife. Nobody. I broke protocol and used the scrambled channel to call Ground Control, but no one responded. The channels were open; I got the ping back that indicated my calls were being received. It’s just that no one picked up and said hello.

I clutched that wrench and walked through the station, opening every door and locker and hatch as I went. It took me hours. I stopped to eat at one point. I stopped to throw up. I used the waste recycler. I stopped to cry like a lost child. I passed out. I slept. I woke up and ate again. I showered and changed into someone else’s abandoned clothes. I searched again. Got to keep searching and searching.

There were no bodies. No sign of a struggle or damage. It looked for all the world like everyone had vanished into thin air. Or they'd gotten a call to abandon the base, and they'd turned off the lights before they closed the doors.

I gathered some supplies, just in case the other stations were in worse condition than this one. Food and water, extra air tanks. I loaded them into the hopper. I went back to Station 2, where I’d come from last. There I found the same thing. Empty rooms. Power switched off. I restarted the power and searched the empty rooms and moved on to the next station of the cross, and the next, and the next.

I’ve been driving like a demon from station to station for days now. I’ve combed every inch of our little part of the moon. And I’m the only person I have to talk to.

Yes, it has occurred to me that I am not well. That none of this is really happening. That I’m actually lying in a hospital bed somewhere, making all this up in my head. That these are the things of dreams. That men don't really live on the moon. Should I believe that I’ve been stricken? I don’t know.

Maybe the others will return as mysteriously as they left. Maybe I’ll awaken from this dream.

I have considered equipping a hopper with extra fuel, somehow, and driving to the nearside. Trying to catch the eye of some watcher on the earth. Setting off an explosion at one of the Apollo landing sites. Trying to signal someone on the International Space Station. But I suspect that no one is there to see me or hear me. It’s too late for that. It’s too late.

But with the stations remaining operational, I can hold out for years, so long as I keep them maintained and the hydroponics farms running. I’m no farmer, though. We’ll see. Meanwhile, I will record these messages to whoever might find me here, or so I can remind myself why I’m still trying, one small step at a time.

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(c) 2009 by Tony Simmons
T-minus-15 days
Somehow inspired by this song, and intended as part of my 'Paradox Kid' comicbook project, retasked for '366 Days' instead.

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Today's Pick:

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Is there anybody out there?

Yes, I know tonight was supposed to finally be the Dark Side of the Moon, but it has been a long day. So I went with a different Pink Floyd reference.

Hello? Is there anybody out there? Just nod if you can hear me. Is there anyone home?

If so, leave a comment. Send a tweet.

Peace.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Moonage Daydream

I just sat down and looked at the earthrise over a horizon too near. The gray powder and rocks rose ahead of me toward a distant mountain range, and behind the low gray hills was a black sky with the blue orb of earth climbing into view. Clouds obscured the surface, and I couldn’t tell what continent or ocean was turned toward me.

I would have liked to have seen my homeland once again, to imagine saying goodbye to my loved ones. But it was not to be.

I did not cry or curse or beat my helmet against the closest boulder. No reason to get upset, and no reason to fear. The suit would fill with my own carbon dioxide exhalations long before the cold got me or the vacuum. I’d gasp myself to sleep, never knowing if the lander received my distress signal.

I could feel it happening already, as I sat there and watched the earth. I didn’t think about the leaking tank that had left me without enough air to make it back to the lander. I didn’t think about the rover that had skidded into a crevasse, wedging itself sideways, or the struggle to free myself from the wreck and clear the cracked moonscape, only see my O2 indicator dropping.

Honestly, none of this crossed my mind at that moment, because I could see the insects coming out of the crevasse to investigate.

They moved slowly, wings held close to their bodies. The size of men, but walking on six legs, they clambered out of the shadows and over the skeleton of the rover, then noticed me sitting on gray dirt nearby. One of them pointed a foreclaw at me, and the others began to close in.

I wanted to panic, but the thin air in my suit wouldn’t allow it. An odd peace fell over me as the insects came close and surrounded me. Now I could see the way their faceted eyes caught the images of each other and me, and duplicated us a million times over. I could see that their heads were encased in some kind of rough crystal.

They reached for me, and I didn’t try to fight them off. I thought of it, but had no strength to do so.

It occurred to me that I was about to be eaten by moon ants.

They lifted me onto something, and I realized they had draped me over the back of one of their fellows. It carried me quickly toward the crevasse, skittered around the rover and into the darkness. I continued to have a sense of motion, but the darkness was total. I think I may have passed out.

When I came to again, I was in a cavern lighted by glowing stones in the walls. And my helmet was missing. I was exposed to some kind of atmosphere trapped in this cavern, cold and crisp. I was breathing oxygen inside this cave, deep below the surface of the moon. And I was surrounded by more of the oversized insects.

They no longer wore the crystal helmets, and I could see the details of their faces, some of them obviously softer and younger, some of them gnarled and ancient. They saw that I was awake, and began to close in around me. One of them carried my helmet. The creature had a sash of some kind draped around its neck, and a beard of white wiry hairs on its creased mandibles. It placed my helmet back on my suit, secured it, and reconnected the lines running to my O2 tank.

The creatures lifted me up again, and the “old man” creature carried me into the darkness of a nearby tunnel. My eyes never adjusted, as the darkness was complete. Then all at once, I saw stars overhead and the orb of the earth. My transporter clambered over the rover and set me on the dirt where I had been sitting when they found me.

It set me down gently and faced me, showing me that it had donned one of those crystal faceplates during our journey. It tapped its faceplate, then tapped my helmet playfully before it turned and hurried back into the crevasse.

Just then, the second rover came around a rise of boulders and discovered me. Carson found me. He replaced my faulty O2 tank and put me in his rover to get me back to the lander. I was barely conscious most of the way, but I saw my tank when he changed it. Over the gash where it had leaked, it now had the same crystal coating that the insects used.

That’s the story, sir. I’ve told it how many times now? There’s no way my O2 would have held out that long on its own. I swear it’s true, sir. Have you checked the crevasse?

What do you mean? No crevasse? Just a crater?

No, sir. That’s not possible. I saw it.

What about the oxygen tank? Nothing? Are you sure?

I don’t believe it. I can't. I know what I saw.

There were insects. Insects in the moon.

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(Originally posted at PCityLive as part of my '366 Days' project)
(c) 2009 by Tony Simmons

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Today's Pick:

This movie, and the story it was based on, was obviously one of the inspirations for the story above; the other was the title of this song. The tale was originally plotted as part of a comic series I call 'Paradox Kid' and was retasked for 366 Days. I read the novel by H.G. Wells in eighth grade, and saw this movie sometime around then on Channel 5's afternoon "Big Show." Or maybe on the latenight "Popcorn Theatre" show on Channel 3. Maybe both. Anyway, it scared me pretty good, thanks to Ray Harryhausen's magic.

Peace.
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(And maybe tomorrow we'll get around to the dark side of the moon...?)

Monday, July 06, 2009

Ticket to the Moon

Today's Pick:

Produced by Tom Hanks for HBO in 1998, this series follows the history of America's moon missions, playing like an extended version of The Right Stuff and Apollo 13, from Kennedy's vow to reach the moon before the end of the decade, right through to the end of the program. One character remarks, "We stopped going up just when we were getting really good at it." (This was my Father's Day gift this year. Highly recommended.)

Today's Music: Ticket to the Moon (ELO)
"Remember the good old 1980s? When things were so uncomplicated? I wish I could go back there again, and everything would be the same....I got a ticket to the moon..."

I'm thinking about the moon because the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing will be July 20. I can remember watching it on our TV in Century, and hearing my Papo talking about how it couldn't be real, because such a thing would make the moon turn to blood and be a sign of the endtimes. (Although, admitedly, I can't be sure that's exactly right. But I recall looking up at the moon and wondering what he meant by that.)

The splash down was on my fifth birthday, July 24, 1969.

"...Fly! Fly! Through a troubled sky, up to a new world, shining bright, whoa-whoa!..."

Here's a repost from part of my "366 Days" project -- chapter 27 from my novella, "The Traveler," in which Cain imagines a parallel reality where he and Gabriel (who has forgotten he's an angel) are astronauts on the moon:

From the Book of Cain:

There is a medieval legend that I wandered the earth until, one day, having walked every part of the land and having nowhere left to go, I went to the moon. There, in that barren place, I finally settled, having only the bundle of twigs I had carried with me.

I never went to the moon. The fact that I have to tell you this is a sign of the wonders you have seen. That you could believe such an incredible thing might have happened? You have witnessed strange things indeed.

But let’s say that I lived into the 1960s. And let’s suppose that I worked my way into the space program. Is it impossible that, among my many personae that I have adopted over the ages, I might have become an Air Force pilot and then an astronaut? And that, one day in the early 1970s, a few trips into the moon missions (I will not reveal which one), I set foot on the lunar dust and planted seeds in the powdery surface.

I only wish my gift had been returned to me before that time, just to see if the moon could have yielded to the blessing of the creator and given forth fruit in abundance.

And as I stood there and looked across the void at the little orb on which I had been born, you stood there beside me. An angel without wings, without even the memory of wings, but who had found a way to break the bonds of earth and soar again among the stars.

And I knew who you were, even if you did not. I turned to you. I asked you a question.

"Do you believe in God?"

You didn’t answer right away, and I thought perhaps you pretended not to hear. I didn’t repeat the question.

"I believe in that," you said, and pointed at the earth.

"What you can see?"

You kicked up some moondust, and you grunted. "I can’t see gravity," you said, "but I’d be stupid to say it didn’t exist. And yet, I also long to defy it."

I thought about that, and I asked, "Given the chance to defy God, would you do so?"

You didn‘t hesitate: "If I thought I was right."

And that’s when I decided you wouldn’t have an unfortunate accident there on the moon. That’s when I knew you had been a good choice for the mission Shekinah had in mind. You were the hand of God, but when you stood with God against Lucifer in the time before time, it was because it was the right thing to do, not because of blind devotion or a lack of free will.

And you would stand against God for the right reasons. You would stay his hand if need be.

I only wished you would recall our time on the moon when next we met. What things we might talk of then!

I held up my gloved hand and pretended to squeeze the distant planet between my fingers.

"It’s like a big, ripe tomato," I said.

"It’s like a dream," you said.

And we were both right.
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(c) 2009 by Tony Simmons
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Tomorrow: Dark Side of the Moon.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Patterns of Forever (366 Days redux)

The woman had a severe sunburn. I winced when she came up to the counter and said she wanted a tat. She didn’t ask how much or pause to let me ask about her burn. She pulled up her loose shirt tail and showed me the pattern on her stomach.

That’s when I noticed that the burn was only on her front half. The backs of her arms and legs were a normal shade made pale by the red on the front half of her body. Obviously, she’d fallen asleep lying on her back at the beach. But the pattern she showed me:

“It’s where he placed his hand,” she said. “I was drowsy, and when he came up out of the water and lay beside me on the blanket, I asked him to make sure I didn’t sleep, make sure to wake me so I would turn over and not burn. He said he would. He was out of breath from the boogie board and the waves, but he assured me he was wide awake.

“When I woke up, I was mad because he’d fallen asleep too. I shoved his hand aside. But he wasn’t asleep. Massive heart attack. Right there on the blanket beside me. Never made a sound. But he had reached for me there, at the end. He had reached for me and put his hand on my stomach. He tried to tell me. To wake me. He left it there while I slept and he went away.”

I looked at the pale pattern of a left hand print on the lower right side of her stomach. I told her what I’d charge to outline it in black. She waved her hand, dismissing the cost. She didn’t care what it cost.

“Make it red,” she said. “Fill in the pattern the same color as my skin is now. Make it last forever.”
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(c) 2009 by Tony Simmons
Originally published at PCityLive.com
Eric Darnell's favorite of my early 366 Days project.

Once upon three haiku

Once upon a time,
Happily ever after
was what we wanted.

In the meantime, though,
Happily ever after
became but a dream.

When we awoke, we
retold the fairy tale,
once upon a time.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Quick one: The Wall of Voodoo


I have many old albums. Some I have never listened to, and only purchased from yard sales because I was amused or intrigued by the cover art. I change the display of art on my wall whenever the mood strikes. This photo above was from the wall circa May/June. Below is the new one, which will probably last through July.

Peace.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Strange Days

It's my son's 21st birthday, so +21.

(His girlfriend turns 20 on the 20th in 20 days, so that's T-minus-20.)

Everyone at my workplace got a 5-percent pay smackdown today, so -5.

E5 magazine debuted today, and I managed to find one at Starbuck's tonight, so +2.

Both my wife and I feel sick tonight, so -2.

I don't even care about math, so -1 for me. Where does that leave us? (Naught, carry the naught, ... oh, I give up.)

Today must have been one of the strangest days...

Peace.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Awakening from the Dream


Oberon better hope Titania doesn't find out about Cobweb.

More photos from Saturday's closing show of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," this time from after, as the troupe met the crowd.

Puck and Mustardseed.


Titania greets a couple of young fans.

Oberon greets his grandmother. See the family resemblance?

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Today's Pick(s):



My favorite movie version of this (I've only seen two, but still...). Kevin Kline is incredible as Bottom, and everyone else is pretty dang awesome too.



The 1960s hippy-trippy version with Mrs. Peel (Diana Rigg) as Helena and (young) Helen Mirren as Hermia and Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) as Puck and Jack the Ripper (David Warner) as Lysander and young pre-Dame Judi Dench (nude) who puts the first three letters into her role of Titania. Very strange, very 60s mod British filmmaking. But you have to see it. I'm just glad that this exists in my world.



And this one I know nothing about, except Nathan said they watched it before doing the play this summer. James Cagney as Bottom (and thus, also, Pyramus)? Teenage Mickey Rooney as Puck? I have to see this. Maybe you'd want to also.

And if we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended:

Peace.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Midsummer Night's Dream Images

Puck turns invisible.


The closing performance of Shakespeare By The Bay's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" was Saturday at Pier Park's outdoor amphitheater. Here are some of the stranger images I managed to capture:

Oberon is translated, or perhaps transubstantiated.

Oberon is passed by insubstantial fae folk.


Mustardseed materializes.

Oberon observes the mortals.

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(More photos later.)