May 26 2018

May Goals Organize

Got Goals Bloghop
https://gotgoalsbloghop.blogspot.com



I fell so far behind that I didn’t even publish my goal post at the end of April. And this one is a day late. I also have my ORGANIZE post for Blog All About It smack in the middle of this. So break out the potato, because this is gonna be long.

What I loved most about March’s blog all about it challenge was the number of people who declared a love for the scent of old books.

I found a cool reading bingo challenge in April:
Tsundoku Bingo Spring 2018

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The MAIN LIFE GOALS:

  • Publish two decent-selling book series (speculative fiction)
  • Survive at least another 37 years
  • There’s also the Bucket List.



Current Writing End Goals

From the End Goals of an Author post.

  • Self-publish Anah’s Story by March 20Naughty List because @JLenniDorner failed to accomplish this goal
  • Find a way (emotionally, mentally) to complete the high fantasy short story.
  • Redo the longer version of the tribal story, then self-publish it in 2018.

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2018 Resolution:

#NewYearsResolution

  • This year I resolve to be more engaged in my online writing community by regularly commenting on fellow writers blogs every month, leaving book reviews, and publishing another book.



2018 Goals:

blog about it challenge 2018 try something new square 2018 book reading challenge all about the trope 2018 book reading challenge

2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
J. has
read 0 books toward
their goal of
50 books.
hide


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Goals for June:


  • Read and review 4 books
  • Work on spreadsheet organizing my TBR by page length
  • Comment on 20 blogs
  • Write my Growl post for the blog all about it challenge
  • Write
  • Keep voting at WRiTECLUB
  • Find Debut Authors for July
  • WEPFF June 2018 Challenge
  • Fix more Photobucket broken links
  • Follow more All Author group members on Twitter


  • Review of (unpublished Naughty List because @JLenniDorner failed to accomplish this goal) Goals for May:


  • Work on my blog’s newsletter problem With the new rules, I don’t even know if I should try to fix it. Maybe it’s one of those “blessing in disguise” things that it’s broken.
  • Read and review 6 books At the moment, I have yet to reach that number.half credit because @JLenniDorner accomplished part of this goal
  • Bout of Books Mischief Managed because @JLenniDorner accomplished this goal
  • Get ready for my book tours Mischief Managed because @JLenniDorner accomplished this goal
  • Comment on 50 blogs half credit because @JLenniDorner accomplished part of this goal
  • Write Naughty List because @JLenniDorner failed to accomplish this goal
  • Keep voting at WRiTECLUB Bugger. I missed some. half credit because @JLenniDorner accomplished part of this goal
  • Finish 2018 A to Z challenge duties Ongoing
  • Find Debut Authors for JuneMischief Managed because @JLenniDorner accomplished this goal
  • Think about the WEPFF June 2018 Challengehalf credit because @JLenniDorner accomplished part of this goal
  • Fix more Photobucket broken linkshalf credit because @JLenniDorner accomplished part of this goal
  • Follow more All Author group members on Twitter Naughty List because @JLenniDorner failed to accomplish this goal
  • Work on spreadsheet organizing my TBR by page length Mischief Managed because @JLenniDorner accomplished this goal
  • Write the Organize post Mischief Managed because @JLenniDorner accomplished this goal
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    blog about it challenge 2018

    Spreadsheet Organizing my ebook TBR by page length

    I’m not even 1/3 of the way through the ebooks. But this is what the spreadsheet looks like. I wish there were a faster way to make this. Actually, I wish I didn’t have to organize this myself, because it seems like someone at Amazon would be able to write a code that books could be searched by page length (the site IS where I go to get the information) and /or by genre (again, guess where I get the info…). And for the few ebooks I have that aren’t available on Amazon, I surf over to Goodreads (which, I’m pretty sure, Amazon owns or partnered with).

    So this, in theory, could exist elsewhere, but doesn’t. I asked about it, and they suggest searching by file size. Let me tell you why that’s unwise: A children’s picture book has a huge file size, because of the pictures. Certain fonts have a higher file size (Twilight — Edward’s handwriting). If the author adds a map, or an image with the chapter number, or anything along those lines, it alters the file size. #TrustMeIAmAnAuthor

    Anyway, that’s my current organizing project. Here’s a screeenshot of part of it:

    organize blog-all-about-it-challenge

    On a side note, as long as I’m going mention ways Amazon could improve, my cousin-in-law has a whole rant going on. If you’re a reader or a writer, this is important to you:

    Also see this on Pinterest

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    Review of Goals for April:


  • My book tours! See the post where I reviewed them. Mischief Managed because @JLenniDorner accomplished this goal
  • Comment on 300 blogs I actually made it to 310, and there are STILL ones I wanted to hit and didn’t!Mischief Managed because @JLenniDorner accomplished this goal
  • Vote in WRiTECLUBMischief Managed because @JLenniDorner accomplished this goal
  • #AtoZchallengeMischief Managed because @JLenniDorner accomplished this goal
  • Find Debut Authors for April and MayMischief Managed because @JLenniDorner accomplished this goal
  • WEPFF April 2018 ChallengeMischief Managed because @JLenniDorner accomplished this goal


  • A to Z #atozchallenge 2018 friendly badge WriteClub





    @JLenniDorner is the Interviewer for the Operation Awesome blog Debut Author Spotlight on Wednesdays

    NOW FILLING 2018 SLOTS!

    Please share the debut author image. Thank you!




    Will Grammarly improve your writing?




    Have goals? Need encouragement? This blog hop is for you!
    gotgoalsbloghop.blogspot.co.za




    potato-983788_640
    Potatos for the long post.

    May 21 2018

    Reviews #BoutOfBooks and #BlogTour #BookTour





    I read three books during this read-a-thon.






    King’s Cage
    #WeNeedDiverseBooks #SpecFic 5 star rating image on the blog of @JLenniDorner

    This book has important (though unnatural) weather, and therefore counts toward my goal for the “all about the trope challenge.”

    I am really enjoying this series. Even though I found the book really good, I’m going to start out by virtually high-fiving the author for the end of the acknowledgments section. I truly enjoyed reading that.

    Back to the story. It almost feels like she wrote it backward from the traditional story arc set up. The ending I somewhat saw coming, but it still made it a tough pill to swallow (in a good way, reader-wise). There were a lot of lines to love in this book. And it really does mirror society and holds a warning. I thought, at the end of Red Queen, that this might be more sci-fi than fantasy, that it might be a book with a future setting. The map at the start of this book, and a reference or two in the story, confirms that. So it is Speculative Fiction, a fantasy set in our possible future, dotted with horror, a splash of romance, and bits of science-fiction all rolled together. Like tossing the Lord of the Rings books and the X-Men graphic novels, and maybe one Star Trek book and a few pages of the CliffsNotes on Diary of Anne Frank, all in a blender together. That’s what it feels like to me. And I love it!

    There are different heads to be in during different chapters. I’m generally not fond of that approach, but it was well-done and reasonable here. Afterall, the first half of the book has the main character separated from the supporting cast. Evangeline’s POV was especially interesting, as her thoughts are so different from the character she portrays herself as.

    I love the diversity in the book. I imagine Mare as a teenage Michelle Rodriguez (actor). Universal has been talking about making this series into movies for years. (I wonder what the hold up could be, given that this is perfectly suited to slide in with the Marvel and DC films dominating the box office.)

    V-Card 4 star rating image on the blog of @JLenniDorner

    I have not read anything by this author before, so this book counts on toward the “try something new’ challenge.

    This was certainly more romance than erotica. As the title suggests, the main character is a virgin who is looking for the guy to change that before she’s 21. She’s good-looking but has comically bad luck. Everyone in the book but her knows that someone has a crush on her. (Including me, as I read it, because it seemed ridiculously obvious.) The story is totally predictable and ends with heartwarming, traditional feels. What makes it good is the humor weaved throughout. The make-out scenes have plenty of heat. But the scene you know is coming (again, look at the title) is all heart and very low on the heat scale. As I said, it’s romance, not erotica. That big climax scene is PG-13, not R, certainly not X. The book seems to draw a reader in with lust but ends by giving love. I don’t read enough of the genre to know if that’s a trend. It was well-written and the humor was right up my alley. Quite good if this is the sort of book you’re looking to read.

    500 Low Glycemic Index Recipes 4 star rating image on the blog of @JLenniDorner

    I have not read anything by this author before, so this book counts on toward the “try something new’ challenge.

    What do you do when your family member gets diagnosed with an overwhelming health issue? Run out and get a book that could help. What did Dick, the author, do when he was diagnosed? Wrote a bunch of books to help people like himself. The author is not a doctor, dietitian, nutritionist, or professional chef. He’s a guy in Maryland, near my neck of the woods. Some of the recipes are beginner level, and some are a little more advanced. (There’s one that includes sausage as an ingredient, for example, and the instructions just say, “cook the sausage,” but do not say how. Only a few are like this though.) Most are stovetop or oven, but some are grill or slow-cooker. (Though the person I bought this feels that the author doesn’t get the Crockpot concept of tossing everything in there with no other steps besides returning a few hours later.) I was impressed that there was an Amish dish included. And a different take on salmon soup that interests me. (It wasn’t something I grew up with, but something someone made for me a few times. Canned salmon. Such an unusual ingredient for a book like this.) Everything in the book is also low-sodium or sodium-free. There’s a great introduction in the book that details the reasons. The family member I got this for already has a dozen pages flagged with recipes to try– and this is not a person who cooks or enjoys being in the kitchen, so consider that a high praise by itself.

    try something new square 2018 book reading challenge all about the trope 2018 book reading challenge= weather

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    I had paid to do two virtual book blog book tours in the last few weeks. Here’s a quick review of each, in case my fellow indie authors are curious.

    Silver Dagger Book Tours:

    Excellent communication. Enjoyed working with the person who ran my tour. 48 successful stops on the tour. (Some bloggers signed up to take part but did not. That happens with anything like this, and I certainly don’t blame Silver Dagger Tours for it.)

    Books Sold during tour dates: 3
    Reviews given during tour dates: 0
    Cost I paid/donated: $140
    http://www.silverdaggertours.com/sdsxx-tours/fractions-of-existence-book-tour-and-giveaway

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    Chapter by Chapter:

    There were 13 stops on this tour. Several places called me “J.” instead of “J” (something that happens as a result of Facebook, long ago, not letting me use my name without a period after it, and that linked to my Goodreads account). At least one site/ tour stop either changed my gender or thought the person from Chapter by Chapter was offering the prize that went with the giveaway. (I didn’t run it, but I will be the one paying for it once they pick a winner.) I really liked the tour banner.

    Books Sold during tour dates: 0
    Reviews given during tour dates: 1 (On Goodreads and a blog)
    Cost I paid: $55
    http://www.chapter-by-chapter.com/tour-schedule-fractions-of-existence-by-j-lenni-dorner/

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    May 13 2018

    #AtoZChallenge 2018 Reflections and such


    #atozchallenge Reflection 2018



    AtoZChallenge Theme 2018 J Lenni Dorner #SpeculativeFiction
    26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner



    survivor #atozchallenge 2018



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    Reflections



    I’m so grateful the 2018 blogging from A to Z Challenge happened. I’m thankful to have been such a huge part of it, taking on the role of team captain. Next year will be the TENTH ANNIVERSARY. That’s incredibly exciting.

    There were a LOT of bumps along the way. Our website went down for a few months before the challenge, and it was a bear of a time getting the domain back. Then Twitter chucked us out, and a newsbot took over the feed. Facebook changed the algorithm and rules, so it was hard to reach out to folks there. I won’t even get into the madness that is Google Plus. And we had to figure out a way to make a list because we lost hundreds of people trying the comment-link-only method in 2017.

    But you know what? We did it. The team pulled together. Jayden joined in and worked magic with the Google Forms and Sheets. John busted his hump attacking technical problems like he was Neo flying around the Matrix. Zalka Csenge got her groove on handling things left and right. Jeremy brought not one, but TWO, logos to the table. Arlee put out the fires that kept cropping up. And I rallied time and again to keep the trains on time (even when Blogger switched our freaking timezone location).

    Running a blog hop of this magnitude isn’t easy. There’s a reason we need a whole team. Honestly, we should have one more person exclusively to handle the social media sites. But every May I reflect back and realize I’m grateful to have been a part of it. This hop is something special. It’s about making a cyber community. Taking all these people with different interests and viewpoints and bringing them together with a common goal. It’s giving people a support system where one wouldn’t naturally exist. A blog is just you and your computer shouting to the world, hoping to be noticed, perhaps wanting not to be forgotten or overlooked, maybe to make a difference. Blog hops provide an audience. This is the basis of friendship, for those looking for such a relationship. It’s the, “hey, I know that person!” of our online world. The #AtoZChallenge is something special.



    As for reflecting on the last twelve weeks of my life…

    There were complications at my day job that sent me into an emotional spiral. My book tour didn’t yield the hoped-for results. My spouse was sick enough to require an emergency room visit. Then I fell ill. Twitter locked me out after someone hacked my account. My assistant/ cousin-in-law was hospitalized for several days. A story I wrote didn’t make it into a writing competition final. (It’s about a society where elders trade their “golden years” to work for medical care for their grandchildren. There are a few places they train for new jobs. One of these places has them wear special suits when they go through portals to other worlds. One world is called Earth, and the primary target inhabitants look a lot like them. The first missions are simple, just taking a sock or a food storage lid. But an elite few are chosen to abduct people from Earth. Most of the abducted survive and are returned. But there’s something about the task that has driven many who do it to madness– one famously so. For the main character, it’s a chance to save his family from poverty and death, but something could change this grandfather’s mind. Maybe I’ll self-publish it.) Also I turned myself into an outcast at a co-workers cookout party. (Tip: If you volunteer to bring food to a party in the American suburbs, get it at a grocery store. People freak out if they can still see “animal” with their meat. And if you normally collect firewood to cook over, those fancy grills are a trap– it’s indoor cooking that has been safely moved outside. Trust me on that. Also, don’t invite me to a cookout, or to go “glamping.”)

    I’ve fallen behind on much of my computer/ electronic activities, duties, and responsibilities because I went off to the woods several times in May in search of respite. (I’d be out there right now if the rain hadn’t freaked my Snookums out. One ER trip was enough for my other half, so I agreed to pack it in and come back to “civilization.”)

    raining

    My second virtual book tour just wrapped up (chapter-by-chapter.com/tour-schedule-fractions-of-existence-by-j-lenni-dorner ) I’m excited about Bout of Books on Monday. I still need to post my current goals. And then the A to Z road trip starts. Plus, I’m hoping more people will take the After Survey. I intended for next year’s tenth anniversary to be the best #AtoZChallenge yet!



    #atozchallenge badge
    https://goo.gl/9f9mfR
    Click for the MASTER LIST

    of all participants who signed up
    for the #AtoZchallenge 2018!


    Apr 30 2018

    Z #AtoZChallenge Zero #Fiction #SFF


    AtoZChallenge Theme 2018 J Lenni Dorner #SpeculativeFiction
    26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner



    #AtoZchallenge Letter Z on the Blog of author @JLenniDorner


    “Attie, we have to go.” Jenesis holds my face in her hands. They’re slippery.

    “Your palms are sweating.”

    She gives me a sympathetic look. It’s not right; sympathy looks wrong on her. “It’s not sweat, is it?”

    Her thumbs rub my cheeks. She kisses my forehead. “You have to help me. We need to go. I know how to read the panel, but I don’t know what to press or turn.”

    “Neither do I.” I wipe my nose on my sleeve. Ximena is blindfolded, so she doesn’t yell at me about it. But she’s not my Ximena. Maybe this one wouldn’t yell at me for using my sleeve as a tissue. Or maybe I’d get a pass, given what I just witnessed.

    Jenesis leads me to the panel. I have no idea what to do there. How did Sammy know?

    “Do we tell them?” I ask Jenesis so quietly that I have to repeat the question for her to hear it.

    She looks at Ximena, Quinn, and Teressa before answering me. “No. We need them calm while we escape.”

    I look from my blindfolded family to Brydanz. He’s still struggling against my acid-soaked uniform. I march over and pull it from his head, wrapping it instead around his throat.

    “We kept you alive to clear Sammy’s name. He’s gone now.” I spit the words in his face, keeping my voice low so the others don’t hear.

    Brydanz gasps and pleads. Layers of his face have melted off. He can’t produce his hideous grin like this.

    “Let me go. I’ll activate the portal, I’ll send you to Earth,” he gasps between each word.

    “Not good enough. I need to know that you won’t come back. No one else from Earth will ever be abducted. The connection to Phaeton has to be cut.”

    He pulls something from his pocket. “Please, Great Fighter. Spare me. Take this and, once you reach your world, use it to destroy the portal.”

    I take the green key. I’d seen him use it the night he took me. “You used that on the lock on the chains. I remember wondering why the door was chained shut, especially if there were people inside.”

    “Turn once to unlock the chains, twice to lock them, thrice to destroy the portal. You need a Phaeton touch. Jenesis can do it.”

    I tug on my uniform around his neck, pulling him to his feet. “I can use you to do it.”

    “Someone must stay to operate the portal.” He points to Jenesis. “She knows this.”

    I look to her. She shuts her eyes.

    “My father was a coward. He left me here.”

    I shake my head. “What? I thought you didn’t know how to operate the panel?”

    She rubs her upper arms. “You should leave me, Master Attie of Earth. Samuel was going to sacrifice himself. He was going to stay behind.”

    “Dad?” Quinn calls out. “You have to come with us, Dad!”

    I curse under my breath. “No one is getting left behind. Be quiet, Quinn.”

    Teressa cries. Ximena moves closer to her, working against the restraints to comfort her child. The room not only stinks, but it’s filled with negative energy. This is a place of horrors.

    “You should leave me. I planned to leave you.” Jenesis falls to her knees and presses her forehead to the floor.

    “Get up,” I command. “You were desperate to be free. I cannot fault you for that.”

    I pull on my uniform, forcing Brydanz toward the panel. “Open the portal.”

    He turns a dial and holds it in place. A round, swirling door of silver and light appears.

    “How do I know that leads to Earth?” If I were him, I’d send us to a world without atmosphere. We’d be dead in seconds.

    “I’ll go,” Ximena says.

    “What?” I turn toward her, yanking hard on Brydanz’s leash. The portal fades in and out as his grip on the dial loosens.

    “I will not lose a father of my children. Nor will I allow someone who has never been to Earth to go first and report back with a guess.”

    By the way she’s phrased it, the shake in her voice, I can tell she knows that Sammy is gone.

    “Jenesis, help Ximena out of the blindfold and binds.” I tighten my uniform around Brydanz’s neck and lean toward his left ear. “She will cross to Earth, then report back that it’s the correct location. She will be unharmed. Anything else, any harm, and you’ll quickly discover that you were right to abduct me. Samuel was trained by me. Ximena will return, or I you will witness firsthand what an unstoppable champion I would have been. My loss record is zero. Do you understand?”

    “Yes, Great Fighter.”

    Arms wrap around me. I turn from Brydanz to see Ximena. Tears flow from her eyes. I kiss her cheeks.

    “Sam?” She mouths.

    I shake my head. “Yellow blobs,” I whisper in her ear.

    Her chin quakes as she nods. She takes my face in her hands. “I will be right back. Keep the children safe.”

    I shake my head.

    “Say it, Attie.”

    “Quinn and Teressa will be safe.”

    I give a tug as I address Brydanz, “Ximena is going. Does she need anything to get back?”

    “Not while I hold this open, Great Fighter. If you give her the key, she could lock it or destroy it. There’s no need to unlock it while it is open.”

    I watch my wife, no, not my wife, the alternate Earth version of my wife. She kisses the children and tells them not fear, that she’ll be right back. Then she backs into the portal.

    The silver and light swirls round and round as we wait. I can’t look away. Once again, I find myself hating that I don’t have a way to tell time here.

    “I left my jacket,” I mutter.

    “Will you require me to go retrieve it, Master?”

    “Stop calling me that.” I shake my head. “No. I suppose I’ll buy another one. It’s just that it has my wallet, which would be useful. My phone would be good, too, but that’s been dead since I got here, and I wasn’t carrying a charger.”

    How many times did I yell at Mystic and Darcy for not carrying a charger? Or Daunte. We fought over that the night I left, didn’t we? Such a foolish thing. I’ve killed beings here without knowing their name or gender.

    The portal shakes, interrupting my thoughts. Ximena steps through. “It’s Earth.”

    She runs over and hugs me, soaking my shoulder with her tears.

    “Take the children and Jenesis. Go. I’ll be right behind you.” I kiss the top of her head.

    I wait until they are gone.

    “We know where Phaeton is. I will tell my people, my government, what you are doing here. I suggest you find some other world.”

    Despite the lack of flesh, I swear I see Brydanz grin. “Yes, Great Fighter. Thank you for sparing my life.”

    I walk backward through the portal, watching him. And then it’s dark. Someone taps my shoulder.

    “Come, we must lock the portal.” Jenesis takes my arm. The sun is rising outside. I’ll be with my children soon.

    Ximena in kneeling on the ground, tending to her twins. I still don’t know how we’ll explain anything. One step at a time.

    I lift the chains on the door handle, putting the lock in place. “One,” I count aloud as I turn the key.
    “Two,” I shouldn’t destroy the portal. I should get the government to launch nuclear weapons into it. How long would it take to convince them? I was there and I barely believe it. Phaeton could send others to attack. How many like Myndi exist?

    “Three.”

    The lock, key, and chains all turn to dust. The five us head to the sidewalk. Ximena carries Teressa, and I carry Quinn. They won’t stop crying. They don’t understand why Sammy isn’t with us. I know how they feel.

    A pick-up slows for a moment as it goes by. A man in the back chucks a pile of newspapers onto the sidewalk.

    “The date!” I run toward the stack. How long was I gone? Days, weeks, months… years?

    I stop dead in my tracks as I stare at the cover.

    “What? What’s wrong?” Ximena looks at the paper.

    “The Philadelphia Inquirer?”

    Ximena tilts her head. “Yeah?”

    “It’s not the Globe.” My eyes widen, unable to look away.

    “Attie, what are you talking about? It’s the Boston Globe and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Always has been. What’s wrong with you?”

    We’re on her Earth, not mine.

    Here, all of my children are dead. On this version of Earth, Phaeton isn’t a planet; it’s an asteroid belt.

    I stare at my dust-covered hands. Brydanz won.

    The-End- image-from-matt-botsford-610989-unsplash

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    I hope you enjoyed the month-long story. Please let me know if you think I should publish it as a free ebook novella as is, or just leave it as blog posts. (Or other ideas.)



    #atozchallenge badge
    https://goo.gl/9f9mfR
    Click for the MASTER LIST

    of all participants who signed up
    for the #AtoZchallenge 2018!



    Part of the
    Stories of #AtoZChallenge 2018
    Bloghop list for stories.




    Fractions-of-Existence-tour

    April Thirtieth locations:
    Books a Plenty Book Reviews
    Bound 2 Escape
    Triple A
    a small girl, her man and her books

    Please stop over there to say hi.


    FoETour
    April thirtieth/ May First locations:
    Chapter by Chapter ~ schedule
    A lot a books 13
    T H Hernandez
    A book addicts bookshelf
    Please stop over there to say hi and enter the Amazon giftcard GIVEAWAY!!


    WRiTECLUB — Voting is open!

    Two stories (under 500 words) face off. You, the reader, decide which author is worthy of moving one step closer to a prize. Voting there is a good deed for the day! Please take the time to make a real difference. Please go to dlhammons.com to vote. Thank you.

    Apr 28 2018

    Y #AtoZChallenge Yellow Blobs #Fiction #SFF


    AtoZChallenge Theme 2018 J Lenni Dorner #SpeculativeFiction
    26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner



    #AtoZchallenge Letter Y on the Blog of author @JLenniDorner


    “Technically, she’s a widow. On her world, you and her four children all died. She practically jumped at the chance to be abducted. Phaeton isn’t a planet there. It’s an asteroid belt, not one more dot in the night sky. Granted, they lied to her about the life she’d have here. But she was so depressed when I met her that she didn’t have a mind to care.”

    I hear Samuel’s words. They flow over me like a babbling brook. “She’s alive. I’ll see her again.”

    Jenesis sits beside me and takes my hand. “She’s had children with your brother.”

    Slowly, I turn toward her. “She cheated on me. Again.”

    “You’re dead where’s she’s from,” Samuel says.

    I bury my head on Jenesis’s shoulder. “How will I explain to my children that their mother is alive and with their uncle?”

    “Really?” Samuel kicks the table. “I have to tell the mother of my children that her alternate Earth husband is alive and wants to take our family to his world. And, oh yeah, that you’re bringing another woman.”

    I look up. “I’m not having an affair with Jenesis!”

    “You’re not sleeping with your trophy?”

    “No.”

    Samuel huffs as he crosses his arms. “Always have to one-up me. Look, we’ll figure the complicated stuff out later. We have to go before you have another fight. They don’t know enough about humans to pick proper opponents for our kind. But, eventually, you could meet one who is impossible to defeat.”

    “You didn’t.” I cross my arms. I’ve had larger muscles than Sammy his whole life. It’s something that’s always bugged him.

    He snarls as he uncrosses his arms. “I got lucky. This Ximena is a trauma surgeon instead of a financial adviser.”

    I shrug. “Jenesis has healing worms.”

    “Art, I’m not going to argue who has the better trophy. Just meet us at the room with Green Portal B in ten minutes.”

    “I don’t know where that is, I’m not allowed to leave this room, and I have no way to measure time!”

    Samuel presses the palm of his hand to his face. “How many times did Dad tell you to wear a watch? Not that it’s accurate for measuring time here, but you and I could agree on the quantity. It doesn’t matter. I’ll come back for you. Won’t look at all suspicious, walking around with a bunch of trophies and another fighter.” He mutters his sarcastic last line as he walks out.

    ~~~

    “The room where Green Portal B is located is on the left after this tunnel,” Sammy says.

    Our group moves in a line, him at the front and me in the back. Both women and the children have been blindfolded and tied with a glowing, blue rope. Sammy tells anyone who asks that he’s teaching a lesson. Then he cracks his knuckles and chuckles. Being a champion, no one has bothered to argue with him.

    “Does Brydanz live down that way?” I ask.

    “What? No. You weren’t serious about taking him with us, were you?” Sammy replies.

    “He’s the best way to clear your name.”

    “We’ll think of something else, Attie. This is dangerous enough.” He motions to the four people with us.

    The Green Portal B room stinks like rotting fish steaming on a sewer grate. I hurl, much to everyone’s annoyance. It does not freshen the air.

    “There’s a control panel over here, but I can’t read it,” Sammy says.

    “May I try?” Jenesis asks.

    I free her from the blindfold and restraints. She and Sammy work together. I stand behind Ximena, smelling her hair. She doesn’t have the same scent as my wife. I see her shiver, the way my wife always did when I stood behind her like this. She’d shiver, then I’d wrap my arms around her, and she’d lean into me. Mercedes was conceived after such an encounter.

    This Ximena hasn’t seen me yet. She doesn’t know it’s me standing behind her. I shut my eyes. What will it be like to see her in my brother’s arms?

    “Well, well, well… look who is planning an escape.” Brydanz’s voice slithers into my ear as he pulls my arms behind my back.

    “Release him,” Samuel commands.

    “He is not your trophy. Neither are those two. You are not in charge of what happens to them.” I can’t see his face, but I know Brydanz has that despicable grin growing across it.

    Two yellow blobs slide into the room. “We have runners. Sound the alarm,” Brydanz orders.

    Samuel’s fist connects with our abductor’s head. Brydanz releases me. He shoves Sammy into one of the red blobs. Jenesis screams as she rushes over, kicking Brydanz hard behind his knees. As soon as he’s on the ground, I pull out my costume and wrap it around his head. Muffled cries come from under the cloth. He tries to pull it off, but his fingers can’t hold it. The acid works.

    “Everything is going to be okay,” I say to Ximena and the children. They’re crying; no doubt scared of what they can’t see.

    “Attie? By the stars, I’m dead!”

    Crap. “You’re not dead. Just calm down. I’ll explain soon.”

    “I know my own husband’s voice. I’m dead. I couldn’t hear you if I weren’t.”

    The children cry harder. “Ximena, stop saying you’re dead. It’s upsetting your offspring. Jenesis, finish activating the portal so we can get out of here. Sammy, stop playing with the red blob.”

    Jenesis takes my hand. “He can’t.”

    “What?” I look at her.

    The yellow blobs slide toward the door, one with my brother trapped inside.

    “He’s gone. Those are body disposers.”

    “Sammy isn’t gone. He’s right there. I can see him.” His hands and feet are difficult to make out, but he’s still there. I reach out, but Jenesis stops me.

    “It’s not something you can argue with, or something you can fight. They’re part of the planet. It’s why the arena is here. On your world, bodies are buried or burned. On Phaeton, remains are absorbed by those.”

    “No.” I try to break her hold. “No!”

    I watch as the yellow blobs leave the room. Sammy is just a torso, neck, and head. He looks angry, ready for a fight. The blobs slide to the fork in the tunnel. As they turn, my brother vanishes.

    line break

    Cemetery, mausoleum, bio urn, cremation… what Earthly way do you prefer?



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    Apr 27 2018

    X #AtoZChallenge Ximena #Fiction #SFF


    AtoZChallenge Theme 2018 J Lenni Dorner #SpeculativeFiction
    26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner



    #AtoZchallenge Letter X on the Blog of author @JLenniDorner



    “I’m not fighting my own brother to the death! Jenesis, clothing.” I bark the order. As soon as her shaking fingers peel my uniform from my torso, I apologize to her.

    A small group of aliens walks in, hauling my victory table. They arrange the victory feast quickly, and leave moments later.

    Samuel pulls a picture out from his pocket. “Look at them, Attie. You have to get back to there.”

    I stare at the picture from our parents’ forty-fifth-anniversary party. Fake sapphires adorn all thirteen children they’ve had, the ten spouses their children married, and the twenty-two grandchildren they have.

    “One for every year.” He says.

    I glare at him. “Four less on Earth right now.”

    “That’s why you have to do it. You could take Quinn, Teressa, Jenesis, and one of my bonus trophies. The five of you could get through the portal.”

    I lift my legs, one at a time, as Jenesis finishes taking my costume off and putting my other clothing on me. “You could take us to the portal. Together, no one can stop us. Jenesis said that was how her father left. He just went, and no one could stop him.”

    “Go back to Earth to be convicted of vehicular manslaughter?”

    “We’ll blame Brydanz. He was the passenger, wasn’t he? That’s how you both vanished after it happened.”

    Samuel grabs my shoulders. “How would we prove he exists? It’s going to be hard enough to explain who are trophies and my children are. Think, Attie, think!”

    “We take him.”

    “Abduct Brydanz? Do you not understand his powers?”

    I grip my brother’s arms. “Sammy, I just ripped a giant flower apart. I kicked a bull-like creature in the gonads. And I’ve ripped a clawless lobster to pieces. I don’t understand anything that happens on Phaeton. But I know I’m not leaving you here to die. And I’m damn sure not killing you. So yes, we abduct the monster that abducted us. We’ll throw my acid-covered uniform over his stupid face, grab our people, and get the hell out of Dodge.”

    “Because we’re not in Kansas anymore?” He smiles at me.

    “Precisely. Come, let’s have something to eat.”

    We sing terrible songs as we sit around the table enjoying the victory feast. It feels like old times. There’s no alcohol to drink, yet we sound like a couple of drunks. Dad would say that we’re living up to our Irish cliche.

    “I need to get my daughter and the trophy I’m taking with us,” Samuel says as he rises and pats his stomach.

    “Does the trophy have a name?” I smile.

    “She does. Brydanz didn’t bring her here. She’s from another Earth.”

    I nod. “Okay. But on that Earth, people have names, right?”

    “Yeah. They abduct fighters from our Earth, they abduct trophies from the Earth in the next dimension. I’ve debated, since the moment I met her if I should try to take her to our world. It wasn’t until you arrived that I knew for sure.”

    I raise my eyebrow. “What do I have to do with that decision?”

    “When Brydanz and I left, I didn’t know the outcome of the crash. He told my sister-in-law and nephew were… you know.”

    “Killed,” I supply as I cross my arms over my chest.

    “Yes.” Sammy looks at the floor. Quinn slurps a blue noodle into his mouth and then belches. In unison, Samuel and I tell him to excuse himself.

    “I had hope,” Samuel whispers. “Maybe they lived. The hospital wasn’t far. My car’s emergency service notice was going off as Brydanz dragged me out.”

    “Still not hearing what this has to do with your decision to free a slave.”

    “She’s a trophy, not a slave.”

    I shake my head. “It’s a prettier word, but the meaning is the same.”

    He rubs his hands over his face, stretching and mashing the skin. “I can’t call her a slave. I can’t bear for you to believe that I think of her that way. I’ve protected her since the day I won her. We’ve laughed together, cried together, and yes, I’m ashamed to admit to you, we fell in love. And the punishment for that was our two beautiful children who were marked for the trophy life as soon as they were born. I should have taken her from this world before she gave birth.”

    “So why didn’t you?”

    “Because I cannot go to her world. There’s already a Samuel Connolly there. And I didn’t know if she was on our world. But I do now. You told me as much.”

    “What are you talking about?” I rise from the table.

    “It’s Ximena.”

    “My wife?” My legs turn to gel. I fall back to where I was sitting.

    line break

    Ximena was the first character I named when I wrote this story. I knew right away that her name would first be mentioned in the X post. How did you come up with your X post?



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    Apr 25 2018

    W #AtoZChallenge Winner #Fiction #SFF


    AtoZChallenge Theme 2018 J Lenni Dorner #SpeculativeFiction
    26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner



    #AtoZchallenge Letter W on the Blog of author @JLenniDorner



    Samuel and I look at Quinn, who is curled up in Jenesis’s arms.

    “You can’t lose. I’ll offer to take your place in the next battle.”

    “And when Myndi makes that same offer over and over again? How long until I have to face her?”

    Chimes sound in the distance. Jenesis lets go of Quinn and heads to the closet.

    “You need to prepare,” Samuel says as he takes a step backward, toward the door.

    “I need answers. I need to know what really happened that day.”

    “Fight first. Focus on winning. Keep Quinn safe.”

    Jenesis kneels before me, tapping my leg in an effort to get my attention. I know she wants me to slip into my fighting costume. But I need to know.

    “Tell me. Should I hate my own brother? Or is it the face of Brydanz I should picture when I step into the ring next?”

    He looks at Quinn. “Attie, please. There’s more to it.”

    “Tell me.”

    “Or what? You’ll throw the fight? Look at Quinn! Really look at him, Art.” Samuel heads to the door. “I’ll be back after the fight.”

    “Even if I am not the winner?”

    He hangs his head. “Yeah. Even if I have to come back to say goodbye to another child.”

    ~~~

    My opponent looks like a yellow flower. A yellow flower half the size of the Bunker Hill Monument. Every blow I deliver results in my being showered with liquid. It feels like lemon juice, acidic enough to be annoying but not enough to do real damage, so long as I keep my eyes protected. I worry because it just stands there, letting me beat on it, not fighting back. Is there a killing blow coming? Do I just keep hitting until I die of exhaustion?

    “Worst. Opponent. Ever.” I give it a hard kick. My foot slides into the stem. I jump up and kick with the other. That foot eases in. I grin as I kick-climb my way up.

    At the top, I grab a petal. “She loves me,” I yank it out. Acidic lemon-juice-like liquid erupts, soaking me. My opponent bends.

    I grab another petal. “She loves me not,” I laugh as I tug. The petal, my opponent, and I all fall to the arena floor.

    ~~~

    “You won?” Samuel asks as I’m escorted back to my chamber.

    “Yes. I ripped a giant flower apart. I’d love a shower.”

    “It’s not a flower. That acid kills other species. You shouldn’t clean your uniform. Quinn, come over here and hug your Uncle Attie.”

    Quinn runs over and wraps himself around my leg. I tilt my head as I stare at Samuel.

    “Myndi can’t go near that acid.”

    “Maybe I should challenge her now, while I’m fresh off my win and covered in the stuff.”

    Samuel shakes his head. “No. There are other ways she could kill you without getting near you. I’m the one you’re going to have to fight. It’s my place that you’re must take. That’s how you’ll get off this world.”

    line break

    Have you ever pulled petals from a flower while playing the fortune-telling game?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/He_loves_me…_he_loves_me_not


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    Apr 24 2018

    V #AtoZChallenge Victorious #Fiction #SFF


    AtoZChallenge Theme 2018 J Lenni Dorner #SpeculativeFiction
    26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner



    #AtoZchallenge Letter V on the Blog of author @JLenniDorner



    I slam my fist against the wall. Stupid, soft wall. The collision makes no sound. None of my fury is exchanged for pain. Worthless room.

    “Attie?” Jenesis touches the back of my neck, stroking it softly. “You should ask to be alone. There will likely be another fight soon. I’m sure you want to prepare.”

    “I have to know,” I say between gritted teeth.

    Jenesis moves between Samuel and I. She kneels down and bows her head.

    “Please, great champion, my fighter has a question. Take your anger, sorrow, and pain out on my flesh, but please answer him.”

    “What?” I shake my head. “Jenesis, I don’t want that. This is between my brother and me.”

    She doesn’t move. Quinn cries. It’s the loud sob of a scared child, a cry that is meant to bring any parent running. Two green blobs the size of manatees slither in. Myndi enters behind them.

    “Quinn, come here,” I say as I look between the boy and the champion who would eat him. “Now.”

    He sniffles and wipes his tears. He chokes on his cries as he plods toward me. Samuel reaches out. I shake my head.

    “Myndi, how grand to see you again.” I say the words as loud and clear as I can, staring at Samuel, hoping he’ll realize the danger.

    Samuel shakes himself like a wet dog. He wipes his face as he rises. “And scene!”

    There’s a fake smile on his face as he takes several bows, rotating away from me and toward the door. I clap, playing along.

    “Clap your hands,” I whisper to Quinn as I usher him behind me. I reach over and tap Jenesis on the shoulder.

    “Rise and clap for the champion.” She lifts her head, looks around, and then claps as she gets up.

    Myndi tilts her head. Samuel squawks and waves his arms. Myndi squawks in a low pitch as she leaves.

    “Thank you for attending the end of our performance. Go away now.” Samuel gives a dismissive wave to the green blobs, who slither out.

    I rub my hand over my face. “Quick thinking.”

    “Not really. I’ve explained a lot of my actions by saying that acting is how Earth fighters from my tribe learn to fight.” Samuel rubs the tattoo on the back of his hand. “Channeling you, I guess.”

    “Yeah.” That was what I told him when he was young and didn’t want to fight. I told him the bullies were acting, and the fighting wasn’t real. Showed him action movies where someone fought to the death, and then another movie where the same actor was just fine. It was a well-crafted lie that kept my brother safe. One he believed for more years than he should have, probably.

    Brydanz saunters in. “Ah, you’ve found each other. Not in the arena, as I hoped, but still!”

    “Should you be here?” Samuel crosses his arms and stares at my abductor.

    “I heard there was acting. Not many here know the meaning. So few on Phaeton have been to Earth.”

    “The show ended. You can go.” Samuel waves him off. Unlike the blobs, Brydanz doesn’t move.

    “I come on behalf of Myndi.”

    “She was just here. Obviously she can show up on her own behalf.” Samuel says as he crosses his arms.

    “Ah, but this is protocol. She wishes to issue a challenge, an offer to fight Attie the Earthling, a chance for him to be a champion.”

    “He declines,” Samuel spits out.

    Brydanz looks to me. “Do you decline the champion’s offer?”

    “I have no reason to fight her.”

    “Then if you are not victorious in your next battle in the arena, she will take your bonus trophy.” Brydanz gives one of his wicked, face-altering smiles as he backs out of the room.

    line break



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    Apr 23 2018

    U #AtoZChallenge Uncle #Fiction #SFF Blog All About It Challenge – Art


    AtoZChallenge Theme 2018 J Lenni Dorner #SpeculativeFiction
    26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner



    #AtoZchallenge Letter Blog of author @JLenniDorner



    Jenesis and I pass the time by sparring. I hold back, at first, not wanting to hurt her.

    “Oww. Uncle!”

    “You said you are Quinn’s uncle. What does that mean?” Jenesis asks as she twists my arm.

    “Just… let go. You win. Are you sure you weren’t supposed to be a fighter?” I rub my shoulder.

    She shakes her head. “I am a trophy. Not everything you face out there is human. And, unless you challenge a champion, you never know who you’ll face in the arena.”

    “But they always know, don’t they. The champions. They can prepare for who they’ll fight. They’ve seen the battles. How would someone like me even know who the seven champions are, if I wanted to pick one to fight against?”

    “You already know two. The more fights you win, the more likely that a champion will stop by.”

    I shake my head. “It isn’t right. We’re locked in here, and they can do as they please. If I never meet them, I can’t decide to fight them. It isn’t as if I can invite them to dinner to figure out which one I’d like to fight.”

    Jenesis raises an eyebrow. “Is that an Earth custom? Invite someone to dine with you before fighting to the death?”

    “I… uhh… maybe.” On the one hand, she makes a good point. On the other hand, it does sound like something that could have happened in the history of the world.

    “There would probably be poison in the food and drink, and the host would be immune to it.”

    I turn toward the voice. I never heard the door open, never heard someone enter. Quinn comes bouncing in with the man. I hadn’t expected him to show up.

    “Samuel.” My younger brother. We were so close once. Sammy Shadow.

    “Hey, Art.”

    “It’s Attie.” I cross my arms, fingers digging into my elbows. I don’t want to hit my brother, not in front of his son.

    He looks around my quarters. “Yeah. I guess they don’t let you hang anything that might keep you calm. Certainly no images that lead to great conversation. No one here would care what emotions a painting is trying to convey. There’s no music or dance, either. We aren’t here for our minds or our culture.”

    “No. We’re here to rip each other to pieces. Jenesis? Could you take Quinn to play in the corner?” I wish I had more rooms. I want to be as alone as possible with Samuel.

    He lowers his head. “I wish they could see you dance. I wish they valued the art your body makes, that they could feel what I always felt when I saw you on stage.”

    “I danced for her. My crowd has shrunk since she died. Until now, maybe. Seems rage is worth more than a Cossack dance.” My jaw trembles. I’ve missed dancing almost as I’ve missed my children. I hadn’t thought about that part of me, about my soul, since I’ve been here. Damn Samuel! He has always known how to break me.

    “You didn’t send my son with a message to discuss your old nickname.” He rubs the tattoo on his hand as he states the obvious.

    “I have to know how to get home. I’ve heard that champions can leave. You’re a champion, but you stay here.”

    “That’s right.”

    I uncross my arms and crack my knuckles. “Are you here because you were afraid to come home and face me? Is it your fault my wife and son are gone?”

    Quinn touches my leg as he runs past. “Don’t yell at my dad!”

    I watch him wrap around Samuel’s leg, hugging him. It looks exactly like the pose Danny and I are eternally striking in the picture I keep in my wallet. Tears stream down my face. I hear Samuel say something, but I can’t make it out.

    “My fault,” he cries as he kneels beside Quinn.

    Sadness and fury overtake my mind.

    line break
    blog about it challenge
    Blog All About It Challenge ~ The Herd Presents


    Do you have a favorite work of art?



    My current choice is by Jayne Pope. I have only found it on Pinterest, where it’s called “Summer Sunlight in Ixworth Forest.”
    I’m drawn to the use of light and various greens. The geometric properties that make a surreal forest. It feels like an illusion and yet real.


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    Apr 22 2018

    T #AtoZChallenge Teressa #Fiction #SFF


    AtoZChallenge Theme 2018 J Lenni Dorner #SpeculativeFiction
    26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner



    #AtoZchallenge Letter Blog of author @JLenniDorner


    The number of people I want to save from this world keeps growing. “Sister?”

    Quinn nods.

    “Hang on,” I rub my temples. “My brother had been gone for four years on my last day on Earth. You’re older than four. How old is your sister?”

    “Teressa is my twin sister.”

    I look at Jenesis. “I already told you not to measure time using surface world standards. Trophies grow to meet demands.”

    “You’re living beings. Stop talking about yourselves like objects.” I roll over. Neither of them stops me from going to sleep. Of course not. They’re trained to be obedient. I hate the entire planet of Phaeton. They know what’s going on and they don’t stop it. They encourage it, they profit from it, but none of them stop to think about these trophies, these slaves.

    It goes on back home, on Earth. I know about it. I’ve heard the stories. What have I ever done to stop it? I don’t even know where to start. Am I any better?

    I war with myself as I drift off to sleep.

    ~~~

    Once again, the food is gone when I wake up. Do I sleep that well, or do they drug us? The least of my worries.

    “Quinn, you will go to training. If you can find your dad, tell him I need to speak to him.” I point to the tattoo on the back of my left hand. “Your dad has this same mark, yes?”

    “Yes. He said it’s about family and home. He doesn’t like when people look at it.”

    All things considered, I’m not surprised. “You tell him Attie needs a word with him. Tap on this shamrock here.”

    I point out the one that represents myself. I’ve started at the one that represents my brother, the brother who I believed killed my wife and son. I’ve known it for the last four years, known it as sure as I know the stars in the sky. Seems I don’t know much these days.

    Jenesis waits until Quinn leaves before she asks me about my brother. I don’t know what to tell her. I need to know if I should still hate him. If I still have the right to be angry.

    “You look conflicted. Lenape Lifelong wrote a story about a turkey, wolf, and a turtle. They had wars within. Perhaps you should read that?”

    “This is beyond the lessons of a children’s book.”

    line break

    Have you ever done anything to stop or reduce human slavery or trafficking?



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    Apr 20 2018

    S #AtoZChallenge Sister #Fiction #SFF


    AtoZChallenge Theme 2018 J Lenni Dorner #SpeculativeFiction
    26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner



    #AtoZchallenge Letter S on the Blog of author @JLenniDorner



    After we all finish eating, we relax on the mat. I wonder what life would be like for Quinn if I were the sort of guy to use Jenesis sexually. She’s indicated more than once that trophies often exist that way. If I lose a match, he could be passed on to someone else. What if…

    I shutter. “Jenesis?”

    “Yeah?”

    “How do you know so much about Myndi?”

    “I told you, my parents were champions. I was allowed to visit my mother. Not to eat her food or stay in her quarters, but I could visit. Myndi did not approve of my mother’s fondness for me.”

    “Why couldn’t I see? When I was holding Brydanz by the neck, I went blind.”

    Quinn and Jenesis answer in unison. “She has that effect.”

    “How?”

    “It’s part of her magic. Myndi can kill ten different ways with little effort, and twenty more when she’s trying.”

    “Oh,” I gulp at the answer Jenesis gave. “But my brother is somehow also a champion?”

    I look at Quinn. “Does he know I’m here?”

    Quinn shrugs.

    “There should be a way to tell him. I have so many questions. Most of all, I want to know if it really is his fault that my wife and son are dead.”

    “I could ask him.” Quinn moves closer to Jenesis, resting his head on her arm.

    “We’re locked in here,” I point out.

    “Unless,” Jenesis plays with Quinn’s hair, “a young bonus trophy can be required to continue attending training classes. Most fighters don’t care. You could. Sending a bonus trophy to speak with a champion on behalf of a fighter is against the rules. But if Quinn happened to speak to his champion parent, it would be allowed, so long as the champion permitted it.”

    “Dad jogs when the class is in session, which puts him right next to the classroom. Do you jog, Master?”

    “It’s Uncle Attie, not Master.” I rub my sleep-heavy eyes. “What if my brother refuses to speak to his own son?”

    Jenesis looks at me, silently communicating the answer. Death. I nod and look at Quinn.

    “Dad likes me. He could only keep one of us, and my sister needed him more.”

    line break

    Do you jog? What is your favorite way to exercise?



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    Apr 20 2018

    R #AtoZChallenge Raw-lencantabes (alien species) #Fiction #SFF


    AtoZChallenge Theme 2018 J Lenni Dorner #SpeculativeFiction
    26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner



    #AtoZchallenge Letter R on the Blog of author @JLenniDorner



    R #AtoZChallenge Raw-lencantabes (alien species)#Fiction #SFF

    Darkness.

    I can still feel Brydanz under my grip, feel him struggling to stay alive. But I can’t see anything.

    A squawking sound comes from behind me.

    “She says to let him go,” Jenesis translates.

    “Make him answer me first!” I can’t see, but I can still punch my target in the mid-section.

    More squawking. It rings in my ears. The thing is, I’d sooner go deaf than let Brydanz go.

    “Attie, please.” I feel Jenesis against my leg. She must be on her knees. “Do what the champion commands.”

    It’s not what she says so much as the way she says it. There’s no win for me here.

    “This isn’t over,” I say as I let him go. My vision returns a moment before Brydanz leaves. The champion and I stare at each other. Body like an upright bull, legs ending in over-sized spiked paws, and the neck and head of an over-sized Shoebill. I recall the science report Mystic wrote on those birds, how incredibly deadly they are and that they eat baby crocodiles. Looking at this champion, I realize that she could literally bite my head off.

    She squawks again, though the sound isn’t deafening this time. A massive, black skin-wing unwraps from around her body. Claws run along the span, as if she were part chainsaw.

    Jenesis wraps herself around my leg, the way my children did when they were toddlers. “The champion says you are a brave fighter and a good looking human. She hopes not to have to kill you in the future.”

    I turn my gaze slowly from the champion to Jenesis. She looks terrified, as if she’ll piss on my leg any moment now.

    “Oh. Right. Well, could you thank her for me and tell her I feel the same?” I look back to the champion and smile, careful to keep my lips closed. Flashing teeth probably wouldn’t be a good idea.

    Jenesis unwraps one arm from around my leg. She makes three sickly sounding squawks and waves her arm.

    The champion squawks, moves her bat-like wing, and leaves. Once we’re locked in our quarters, Jenesis lets go of my leg.

    “Are you all right?” I ask her.

    “Other than the fact that you nearly got us killed? Sure.” She looks to Quinn. “Welcome to your new home.”

    Quinn is curled up in a ball under the winner’s feasting table. I crouch down near him.

    “Sorry if I scared you.”

    Jenesis grabs a piece of food from the table. “Raw-lencantabes prefer to eat the live young of other species. No doubt that is why champion Myndi was so close by. If you declined your bonus trophy, she would have feasted on him.”

    “That’s my nephew! There will be no talk of anyone eating my nephew.”

    Quinn comes out from under the table and wraps his arms around my leg. Jenesis shrugs.

    “Just sharing a fact, Attie. Myndi has been a champion for a long time. She is what they threaten us with during trophy training. Misbehave or fail, and you’ll become her next meal.”

    I rub the top of Quinn’s head, trying to soothe him. “But that doesn’t really happen, right? It’s something they say. Big Bad Wolf and Boogieman type stories.”

    “I have no idea what those stories are.” Jenesis points to a marking on the tablecloth. It’s faded, so it’s hard to make out, but it’s there. “Food for humans. That’s what this symbol means, more or less. Everything on this table has been tested and approved; it’s all guaranteed not to kill or weaken you, a human Earthling fighter. Myndi’s table is much different. And, as a champion, she eats whenever she wants to eat. Her table is never empty, Attie. Never empty.”

    line break

    Have you ever heard of the Shoebill bird before?



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    Apr 18 2018

    Q #AtoZChallenge Quinn #Fiction #SFF #WEPFF


    AtoZChallenge Theme 2018 J Lenni Dorner #SpeculativeFiction
    26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner



    #AtoZchallenge Letter Blog of author @JLenniDorner #wepff April 2018



    Jenesis and I finish the winner’s feast in silence before falling asleep together on the mat.

    “Attie, wake up.” She rubs my shoulder.

    “Why? Is there breakfast?”

    “I don’t know what that is. You need to prepare.”

    I laugh. “Just hand me a leftover bite of food.”

    “There is no more food. They took the scraps while we slept. If you wish to have more, you must win it.”

    My life cannot be endless battles. I roll over, away from her.

    “Attie! Did you not hear the sound? You have another fight.”

    “Hopefully it’s another lobster alien.”

    Jenesis pulls off my clothing. I protest at first. But I know she’s doing what must be done, and putting on the fighting costume is what I must do. This is how we will survive until I can figure out a way off Phaeton.

    “Stupid world. I miss my children. My family must be beside themselves. How long have I been here? How much time has passed since my abduction?”

    She motions to the padded walls. “Only those who have been to surface worlds speak of time in such ways. Sleep, fight, recover, eat if you are lucky, and repeat. That is how you should measure time.”

    I run my fingers through my hair, finding sweat and grime. “Any chance I can win a shower?”

    “I don’t know what that is.” She moves my arm, helping me stretch.

    “Of course not.” I run my tongue over my teeth. I’ve never gone so long without brushing. My mother was a stickler for oral hygiene. “My mother is probably heartbroken. She had thirteen children, and now she’s down to ten.”

    “Ten?”

    “One died in infancy. I’ve been abducted by an alien, not that anyone would suspect that. Vanished. Just disappeared.”

    “And the other?” She rubs my calf. The healing worms have done their job.

    I shake my head. “Don’t know, don’t care.”

    “You do not care what happened to your sibling?”

    “Nope.” I swing my arms across my chest. “Hey, what you said before we went to sleep, about trophies rarely raising a child, and fighters never meeting their offspring?”

    “Yes?” She stands as her fingers run along my outfit, sealing me in.

    “Then how did your mother raise you?”

    “She was a champion. Champions do what they want, eat when they want, go where they want.”

    “Huh.” I scratch my chin. A red beard is growing on my normally shaved face. “So your father was a trophy?”

    Jenesis huffs at me. “He was also a champion. When she died, he left.”

    “Left? Champions can leave?”

    She raises an eyebrow. “Who on this world do you think could stop them? Do you not understand what a champion is? The seven best fighters. Leaving is the road less traveled, for there is nowhere that would treat a champion better.”

    “That qualifies as important information. I’m ready. Bring on the fight.”

    This battle is nowhere as easy as the previous one. A creature closer to an abominable snowman is my opponent. His fists are hard and heavy, like two boulders. But his trophy, if he has one, doesn’t take the care in costume design that mine did. Jenesis keeps my “dangle bits,” as she calls them, wrapped against me. Not this guy. I drop to the ground and kick upward. The roar makes my ears ring. They keep ringing as I’m taken from the arena.

    Brydanz waits for me in my quarters, again. “Another win for Attie the Earthling.”

    I flip him off. “How’d you get your job? Abducting people against their will, forcing them to fight or starve, that’s gotta be an interesting application. Did you study for that?”

    His evil grin unfurls. A mouth shouldn’t be able to do that. If he’d done it when we first met, I might have pegged him for an alien. Or a creature from a nightmare. Probably the nightmare thing, since we did meet after my nap in the graveyard.

    “I’ve brought you another trophy. Younger than most, but he is fathered by a champion.”

    “Lovely. I’ve already got one with two champion parents.”

    “Indeed,” his grin gets wider, sicker, the way it did the night he took me. “This one is special though. See if you can guess why.”

    A red-haired boy steps out from behind Brydanz.

    “Danny?” My legs give out, landing me on my knees. The world shatters, time stops, my lungs fail. “My son? How?”

    The boy digs the tip of his right big toe into the mushy floor. “Is that my new trophy name? Father called me Quinn.”

    I wipe my eyes. The voice, the movements, it’s not my son. I look up at Brydanz.

    “Will you keep this trophy, your nephew, or shall I dispose of him?”

    Adrenaline burns as it courses through my veins. I’m on my feet in an instant. My hand wraps around Brydanz’s neck, lifting him off the ground and pinning him to the wall. His every rancid breath is mine to permit or deny. His thunderous alien heart misses three beats. My snarl replaces the sound.

    “You. You abducted my brother. Was it before or after the cars collided? Did he kill my wife and son, or was that your doing?”

    line break

    WEPFF critique badge http://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2018/04/welcome-to-wep-writeeditpublish-april.html

    873 words, FCA


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    Apr 18 2018

    P #AtoZChallenge Pregnant #Fiction #SFF


    AtoZChallenge Theme 2018 J Lenni Dorner #SpeculativeFiction
    26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner



    #AtoZchallenge Letter P on the Blog of author @JLenniDorner



    Jenesis repeats the question. “Would you have preferred your wife to all others on your world if she couldn’t bear children?”

    I move away. The silence churns the air in the room, making it hot and difficult to breathe.

    “Attie?”

    “Is there a fan? Something to bring the temperature down?”

    She fetches another glowing cloth from a closet drawer.

    “Thanks.”

    “You’re welcome. The room is not warmer. You have a rise in blood pressure, perhaps from the question you have not answered.”

    “Well, what kind of question was that!” I chuck my empty goblet across the room. It bounces off the soft wall and rolls on the floor. No satisfactory breaking, no sweet sound of glass separating into shards.

    “It’s a two-way street, you know. There’s a good chance it wouldn’t have mattered.” I flop down on the mat.

    “Explain,” she says as she joins me, her feather-like movements causing her garment’s lights to illuminate.

    “She did not prefer me to all others in the world. I found that out not long before she passed. It came out during the argument, when I asked her if it was just one time, if the guy had been a one night stand. I asked dumb questions like how long she had thought about cheating on me. Questions I didn’t want answered. Or… maybe I did. Maybe I needed to hear that she had been considering it for years. That she was planning to break up with me just before she found out she was pregnant the first time. But she didn’t think someone else would want her. And there I was, a total sucker, willing to alter my whole life to be with her and raise a family. So why don’t you hail the dead and ask her these questions instead of me?”

    We’re silent for a long time. Jenesis strokes my hair and hums softly.

    “If not for the pregnancy, if she had left me, no, I wouldn’t have preferred her to all the people in the world. I probably would have tried to win her back. But if I saw her happy with someone else, I’d have let her go and moved on. If I honestly knew, back then, before the children, that I wasn’t who she wanted, who she needed, I’d have let her go.”

    “You are here now, in this place. She is not. You already have children. Do you know your sexual preference?”

    “Are you assuming I do not want more children?”

    She rolls against me and whispers in my ear. “You would not raise them. Children of fighters become trophies. A trophy sometimes gets a hand in raising their child. A fighter never does, unless they are a champion. Most never even meet the child. Is my life one you’d want for a child? If so, make me pregnant right now.”

    “I am not going to impregnate you. But I am going to find a way for us both to get off this planet.”

    line break

    Would you want to make babies if you knew they would become slaves?



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    Apr 16 2018

    O #AtoZChallenge Open to Exploring #Fiction #SFF


    AtoZChallenge Theme 2018 J Lenni Dorner #SpeculativeFiction
    26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner



    #AtoZchallenge Letter O on the Blog of author @JLenniDorner


    “Stop. Hush.” Jenesis takes hold of my face. “You cannot bring him back. He was just a bonus trophy. Why are you so upset?”

    She wipes my tears as I search for words. “I didn’t know that would happen. I didn’t know.”

    “First trophies die when their winner dies. Bonus trophies die if they aren’t wanted. Come, you need to eat and drink.”

    “How can you be so callous? That was a life! It’s gone because of me.”

    “And yet you have no regret in taking the life of Miwinhaiz.”

    “That was a giant, blue, clawless lobster. It isn’t the same as a human or a half-human.”

    She strolls over to the buffet table. It was carried in while I screamed. No one cared that I was screaming. Blood from the body of the dead boy was wiped up as unceremoniously as if it were spilled milk.

    “Why is death so acceptable here? How violent is this planet?”

    Jenesis covers her full mouth as she laughs. She swallows before answering. “Phaeton is a world at peace. Citizen spectators view the fights to remember why such behavior isn’t tolerated. The fight broadcasts to others are this world’s biggest trade income. The lesson there being that Phaetons are better than those who would pay to see violence and enjoy it instead of learning from it.”

    “That’s messed up. I need to get back to Earth.” I pick up a goblet and drink, unsure of the liquid. My throat aches from screaming. Whatever I’m drinking soothes it.

    “This isn’t a liquefied worm, is it?”

    “I wouldn’t know. I’ve never had a winner’s fest before. But, speaking of worms, as you call them, I need to attend to your leg.” Jenesis sets down what looks like an orange and maroon striped chicken leg and walks to the closet.

    She helps me change out of my fighting clothing. I watch as she cleans and dresses my wound.

    “I must wash everything later. Take off the rest.” She tugs at the black wrapping that was serving as my underwear.

    “Hey! Whoa,” I use my hands to cover my manhood. “Could you at least warn me before stripping me bare?”

    “I have seen your body before. Besides, I did not think you cared for my company, so why would nudity matter? I expected you would take the bonus trophy to satisfy those needs. But you didn’t care for him, either. What preference are you open to exploring?”

    “My wife.”

    “The one you said is dead? Is there a different meaning on Earth? Or do you prefer the dead?”

    “No! I just,” I retrieve my boxers from the closet and slip them on. I don’t know how to answer this.

    “I guess I never really thought about it.” It isn’t true. I’ve thought about it a lot. I just never figured out the answers.

    “Sexual preference isn’t something you think about, is it? It’s just something you feel.”

    I tap my fingertips together. “Maybe. I mean, sure, I guess for some people it is just something you feel. Like the first time you eat triple chocolate cake. If you eat it and feel that’s it, that’s your favorite food, and you want to eat it as often as possible for the rest of your life, that’s great. But what if, even more than that cake, you really want to be a nutritionist or something? What if that matters more to you than the delicious taste of that cake? The chocolate floods your mind with euphoria. It quenches your hunger and satisfies you longer than all other foods. Every time you lick it off your lips and let the last remains melt in your mouth, you’re there, in paradise. But that cake won’t let you be a nutritionist. People will judge you for not making tofu with pineapple cake or something. And yeah, you could try using words like “moderation,” but you’ll feel like you never fully committed to being a nutritionist.”

    Her fingers collide with my lips. “Are people this hung up on whatever cake is, where you’re from?”

    I shut my eyes as I tug my hair. “Children. I wanted to father children. The traditional way. Yeah, I can see how I might have used a surrogate or maybe even adopted if it came down to it. But the thing is, I didn’t have to consider the other methods. I knocked up my high school girlfriend. Not on purpose, by the way. The protection failed. Then we got married. My wife was my triple chocolate cake made of tofu.”

    “I do not know what tofu is. Did you prefer her, your wife, the mother of your children, to all other people in the world?”

    “Yes. Not that I know all the other people in the world. But that was never a factor.”

    She nods her head. “Would you have preferred her if she couldn’t have had children?”

    line break

    When was the last time you ate or drank something without knowing what it was? How did that experience turn out?



    cake Photo by Will Echols on Unsplash


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    Apr 16 2018

    N #AtoZChallenge No #Fiction #SFF


    AtoZChallenge Theme 2018 J Lenni Dorner #SpeculativeFiction
    26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner



    #AtoZchallenge Letter N on the Blog of author @JLenniDorner


    The light shimmers along the blue shell of the six-legged Miwinhaiz. To me, this opponent looks like an upright pistol lobster. Probably forty pounds. Wouldn’t fit into one of my traps. Undoubtedly, this fighter has no idea that my first after school job was as a lobsterman. And now, here I am, starving, and facing an opponent who looks like something I’d boil alive and dip in butter.

    “Hi,” I say as we circle each other. I don’t know the rules here. Will a bell ding? Is there going to be a referee telling us to shake hands or something? My first fight was so confusing that I didn’t even know I was in one. But this time, I’m fully aware.

    Miwinhaiz lunges toward me, gashing my left leg.

    “Oh, that’s how it is?” I stomp on my opponent’s back. It’s awkward fighting someone only knee high.

    It takes awhile, but Miwinhaiz gets out from under my foot. Then slashes at my left leg again, nailing the same spot. Blood spurts out of my calf.

    “You know what? I’m done being polite.” I grab Miwinhaiz from behind and snap off a leg. Then another.

    A terrible screech fills the air. I hear the audience reacting to my making Miwinhaiz cry out, but I don’t care. I’m hungry. I’m going to win. Miwinhaiz, in my mind, becomes nothing more than a lobster. Rare, thanks to the blue shell, but never less, this is food, and I’m no vegetarian. Once all six legs are laying in the ring, twitching uselessly, I bend my opponent backward. Bits of shell breaks off.

    “Winner! Attie of Earth!”

    I’m escorted back to my quarters. Behind me, the crowd sounds mostly like it’s cheering.

    “Guess who isn’t dead,” I call out when Jenesis comes into view. She claps.

    Someone else claps, but it’s slower and harder. “Well done. I knew you wanted to fight.”

    Brydanz steps out of a dark shadow. My knuckles crack as my fists tighten. “You abducted me!”

    He shrugs. “You came willingly. Not the point. You are here, and you have killed. Meet Miwinhaiz’s last trophy.”

    A young man steps out. This so-called trophy looks mostly human. A college frat boy who got a bad haircut as part of his initiation. Scars obscure his facial features. He kneels before me.

    “I don’t need a second trophy. I need food, water, and a way home.”

    Brydanz waves his hand. “So be it.”

    A blue creature touches me as it passes. It looks like a floor lamp with a fencing sword. Without a word, it rolls over to the young man and slashes his throat.

    “No!” I scream the word over and over as the body is dragged out.

    Blue Lobster Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

    line break

    Did you know that a pistol lobster is the nickname for a lobster without claws?



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    Apr 13 2018

    M #AtoZChallenge Miwinhaiz of Mossmion #Fiction #SFF


    AtoZChallenge Theme 2018 J Lenni Dorner #SpeculativeFiction
    26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner



    #AtoZchallenge Letter M on the Blog of author @JLenniDorner



    I barely made it through my first day of Kindergarten. Three fights. One on the way into the school, where an older boy pushed me. The next was when some kid tried to take my finger paints. And the third was because I dropped a cracker and someone stepped on it as I went to pick it up. That first day of school was when my older siblings pulled me aside and explained that my parents didn’t protect me at school. They’d do what they could outside of class, but I was going to have to learn to fight. I found out what people meant by a “rough neighborhood.” Before, I thought people were just complaining about the multitude of potholes and crumbling buildings, things that felt rough to the touch. But no, it was a reference to the violence. It was about how few people walked with their heads held high, unafraid of anyone. My siblings explained that my choices were to be intimidating or to be intimidated.

    Fighting was a means of survival. Everyone around us was poor and wanted more. People were laid off and dependent on government handouts. Not so much our family. But, as I came to learn, my dad walked a gray line when it came to the law. And, sometimes, he flat out broke it. That’s why our house looked nice inside. Why we had a new water tank installed the same day when the old one broke. Other families had crumbling ceilings, cardboard in the window panes, rats chewing on exposed wires, and mold eternally growing on the walls. We weren’t rich by any means, but we were doing better than our neighbors.

    Mom would deliver food every Sunday to two dozen houses nearby. She said there wasn’t a point to going to church if we weren’t going to implement at least some of the teachings. My wife lived next door to one of the houses. Her parents didn’t go to church. They wouldn’t speak to my family. But I saw her every week when I dropped off food to her neighbor. She was outside, the first time we talked. I offered her a biscuit. She looked over her shoulder, back at her house. When she decided her parents couldn’t see, she took it and crammed the whole thing in her mouth.

    She hated when I fought. Any cut or bruise, you’d think I broke her expensive china. Not that we ever had china. It was just how she treated me, like I wasn’t meant to use my body in this way. I stopped fighting because I hated how sad it made her.

    And now, here I am, about to enter a ring. In this fight, am I good or evil? If I die, Jenesis dies. If I lose, we go hungry. If I win, we eat. What are the stakes for my opponent? And what if Jenesis was wrong, or lying, about my stakes? What if a loss would be my ticket back to Earth?

    I glance at the tattoo on my hand. The thirteen little shamrocks around the T remind me of home, of my family, of the lessons about being intimidating instead of intimidated. An announcement comes on as the ring lights up. I don’t understand the first dozen languages, but finally they get to English.

    “Attie the American Earthling versus Miwinhaiz of Mossmion.”

    line break

    Do you agree with “be intimidating or be intimidated”?



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    Apr 12 2018

    L #AtoZChallenge Lenape Lifelong #Fiction #SFF


    AtoZChallenge Theme 2018 J Lenni Dorner #SpeculativeFiction
    26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner



    #AtoZchallenge Letter L one the Blog of author @JLenniDorner



    “You must win. Killing is only required against a champion. The opponent may surrender, but at great cost.”

    “What about knocking them out?” I rub my arms. The suit still feels too tight.

    “Not all beings can become unconscious.”

    Fantastic. I’m fighting aliens. “You know, on Earth, some people think we’re the only life forms. There are stories about space aliens, but most people think they’re lies.”

    “Stories about food are not lies. Focus on those. Your world is far less advanced than Phaeton.”

    I laugh hard enough to split the seams of my tight jumpsuit, if it had any seams. Which, of course, it doesn’t, as far as I can tell. “My people think your world is just a swamp. How advanced is this planet?”

    She grins. “Advanced enough to convince your people that it’s just a swamp.”

    I think of the sci-fi stories I read as a child. Phaeton was always getting blown up, creating an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Or, in one, it didn’t exist at all, there was just the belt because the world never formed. I wish those were true now.

    Come to think of it, I only know of one book where Phaeton was a world with life. It was by Lenape Lifelong, a reclusive writer who no one knew anything about. Dozens of books, all listed as fantasy or science-fiction, but more than one turned out to be mostly true.

    “You don’t have any books around here, do you? Maybe something by Lenape Lifelong?”

    “Books… books… oh, yes, my mother mentioned how words are kept on Earth. Odd custom.”

    “So that’s a no.” I sigh as Jenesis helps me stretch.

    “Lenape Lifelong is my favorite author. We have the words, but in a different storage method. Win the fight, and I’ll show you after our victory meal.”

    Stories that exist on multiple worlds? That’ll be interesting.

    Part of the wall vanishes. A voice comes from the dark opening. “Is the Earthling ready?”

    Jenesis replies with a honking sort of sound and shoves me through the hole.

    Photo by h heyerlein on Unsplash

    line break

    Have you ever read a fantasy or sci-fi book that seemed plausible?



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    Apr 11 2018

    K #AtoZChallenge Kill #Fiction #SFF


    AtoZChallenge Theme 2018 J Lenni Dorner #SpeculativeFiction
    26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner



    #AtoZchallenge Letter K on the Blog of author @JLenniDorner



    There’s a loud sound, almost like a gong, outside of our room.

    “You must prepare.” Jenesis goes to the closet. She pulls out the clothing I noticed earlier, the ones that look like a heavier version of her own.

    I look down at the black wrapping I’m wearing now. “Any chance I can get my boxers back?”

    “Boxers? Those are a type of fighter on Earth, yes? My mother told me her father knew many of them.”

    “Well, uh, yes, technically that’s true. In this case, I meant my underwear. A bit more comfortable than this wrapping.”

    She shakes her head. “You are lucky your dangle bits were not torn off.”

    I put my hand over my crotch. “That happens here? Hang on, how do you know they weren’t?”

    She holds up the clothing, a black jumpsuit that looks like it’s made of leather. “I am the one who tended to you after your fight. That is one of the duties of a trophy. Now come, put this on. Or sit so I may dress you.”

    “What did I fight in last time?” I step into the outfit. She pulls the healing worms off of my leg before closing the suit. To my surprise, the pain is gone.

    “You wore your Earth clothing. I was able to wash them before being sealed in our room.”

    “How’d you clean my jacket? That takes special care. Wait, hang on, did you say we’re sealed in here?” I tug at the collar of the jumpsuit. Lines in the fabric glow as I move.

    “Of course. Only champions and key-masters are free to move about the fighting floors.”

    I’m a prisoner. Locked up. There’s a key to this cell and I don’t have it.

    “The suit is too tight. Get it off!” I try to free myself, but I can’t figure out how she closed this suit. There are no zippers, hooks, or buttons.

    “Attie,” she grabs my face, one hand on each cheek. “Take a breath. You will leave this room in a moment. It will be time to fight for nourishment. It would be better for you to die in the ring than for us to suffer slowly in here. Remember that.”

    My stomach growls as if it agrees with her. “Who or what am I fighting?”

    “I do not know. I must wait here. If you die, they will come to kill me. But if you live, we will have a meal like I have never known. There are stories of the food of winners. I wish to stay alive long enough to at least know if the stories are true. Can you handle this?”

    “Do I need to kill for us to live?”

    line break

    Have you ever been locked in a place without a way out for an extended period of time?



    locked in Photo by James Sutton on Unsplash



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    Apr 10 2018

    J #AtoZChallenge Jenesis #Fiction #SFF


    AtoZChallenge Theme 2018 J Lenni Dorner #SpeculativeFiction
    26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner



    #AtoZchallenge Letter J on the Blog of author @JLenniDorner



    “Wow. Okay. You’re the first alien I’ve ever met.”

    “You met Googahlack. That monster was not from Phaeton or Earth.”

    She’s got me there. My stomach growls again. “Sorry. I’m really hungry.”

    “A first fight is for a trophy. The second fight is for nourishment. Win, and we will eat.”

    “Great. What if I lose? I’m a dancer, not a fighter.”

    She smacks me. “You came to fight. You will fight. And you will win.”

    I rub my cheek. “I didn’t come to fight. I met up with a weird guy named Brydanz at a warehouse. Then I was here.”

    “Why did you meet Brydanz? To fight, yes?”

    “No. I just wanted to watch and get drunk.”

    Her eyes widen as she stares at me. Then she spits in my face.

    “What the…,” I wipe off her saliva. “Hey, I thought you were supposed to be a nice trophy! Spitting on me isn’t pleasing.”

    “Oh, so sorry, Master Attie of Earth.” I drown in the sarcasm dripping from her words. “You tell me that we’re going to die, that I will die because you are not a fighter, and I am expected to what? Hug you? Pleasure you with my body? Jump for joy? What reaction to imminent death would you like your trophy to have?”

    “Death?” I pull the cloth off of my forehead.

    “You fight or we die. Brydanz only brings Earthlings who wish to fight. He claims there are plenty of them on your world; he needs only determine which to take. I have heard his boasts many times, for he has held my future in his hands since the day it became clear that I am not a fighter.”

    I rub my temples. “You’re not a fighter but I have to be? That’s great. Look, I want to go home. I have children.”

    “There is no going home, only fighting. You are a fighter, I am a trophy. My life is tied to yours, to your wins.”

    “Until when, Trophy Girl? And why don’t I know your name yet?” I get up and pace along the mat.

    “When? There is no when. There are seven champions. That is the highest rank, which is why they live on the top level. Champions can be challenged by any fighter at any time. A champion can only be defeated by death. When you die, I die, unless I carry your offspring, in which case I live until giving birth. As for a name, you haven’t given me one.”

    Questions swirl in my head. I grip the cold wall, hoping it would be hard. It feels like it’s filled with gel. Great. This is a padded room. Maybe I’m hallucinating.

    “You don’t have a name? Nothing someone has called you since birth? Your mother didn’t give you one?”

    “A trophy is named by their winner.”

    More questions. I know nothing about Phaeton; and not much about this woman. Her skin color reminds me of the pine cones my mother use to bake and then decorate with, from our pitch pine tree out back. Darker than my wife’s skin, but light enough to show an abundance of freckles across her nose and cheeks. She has thick, wavy brown hair that would resist a baseball cap locking it away. Her eyes, I can’t decide if they’re more green like mine or brown like my wife’s.

    “You’re staring.”

    “Sorry. I’m trying to pick a name for you. Maybe something with a J? Jennifer? Josefina? Jemima? My wife named our children. How about Jenesis?”

    “Jenesis?”

    “Yeah. I think it means the beginning, something new.”

    line break

    How did you get your name?

    This topic is also on the A to Z blog today!



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    Sapphyria’s Book Reviews
    Mello & June
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