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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April Twenty-second and Twenty-third locations:
Girl with Pen
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Home for Book Lovers
Have A Wonderful Day
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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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April Twentieth locations:
Casey’s Corner
Blog of Author Jacey Holbrand
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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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Laurisa White Reyes, Author
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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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April Eighteenth locations:
Millsy Loves Books ~ Site had Technical Difficulties
Little Ray Of Sunshine ~ Site had Technical Difficulties
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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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April Seventeenth locations:
Momma Says: To Read or Not to Read
Loves Great Reads Blog ~ Site had Technical Difficulties
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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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April Fifteenth and Sixteenth locations:
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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.”

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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

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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?”

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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.”

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How did you get your name?

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



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Apr 09 2018

I #AtoZChallenge Invert the Essence #Fiction #SFF


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



#AtoZchallenge Letter I on the Blog of author @JLenniDorner




“It means you either accept or reject me as your trophy.” She crosses her arms.

“And how do I do accept you? I’m not, I mean, I’d rather not,” I rub my hands over my face. “You’re not my wife, and I do not intend to have that kind of relationship with you. No offense.”

She sits on the mat beside me. “To reject me, you kill me, or send me out the door to be killed. To accept me you let me live.”

“That’s it? Nothing more?”

“I live by your hand or die by your hand. My life up to this point was spent preparing to be a trophy. I exist to please you.”

My stomach growls. “Sorry about that. And I’m sorry, for it sounds like your life is one of slavery. Can I do anything to improve that circumstance? Where are we? Maybe I know someone who can help you. My sister married a high powered attorney.”

She rubs my stomach. “You are very kind. My mother did not expect I would be given to someone like you. I do not know what an attorney is. The only person who can help me, change my circumstance, or improve my life is you, Attie of Earth.”

“I’ll do what I can. Not sure how you got stuck with just me though. Hey, why do you keep saying ‘of Earth’ after my name?”

“We are on Phaeton. I am your trophy because you won your first fight. You defeated Googahlack, as I said. Not an easy opponent. They say his kind can wipe memories and invert the essence from a body.”

I recall having no feeling, thinking I was dying. The slime.

Wait.

“Hang on. I’m where?”

“Phaeton.”

“You mean I was abducted? I’m on another world? When? How long have I been here? How am I alive? Are you an alien? Wait, I’m not on Earth… am I the alien here?”

She gets off the mat, walks to the wall, and presses it. A closet door opens. I see my clothing, folded, sitting on a shelf. There are other clothes, with colors and markings like hers, but they look heavier, like leather. She pulls a glowing cloth from a closet drawer. A moment later, she presses the cloth to my forehead.

“Calm down. You were given a choice to come here to fight. You have not been here very long, just since the first fight and the time we have spent together. I do not know how you define an alien.”

“Someone from a place other than my own. For example, I’m from Earth.” The glowing cloth feels cool and calming. Which is both nice and annoying, as I don’t want to be calm. I’m forgetting why I was so upset though.

“Yes, I suppose I am an alien. I am from Phaeton. My mother was from Earth, as was the mate she used to make me.”

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Do you believe there could be sentient life on other planets?



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Apr 08 2018

H #AtoZChallenge Hard Conversation #Fiction #SFF


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


#AtoZchallenge Letter H on the Blog of author @JLenniDorner



I try to stand and chase after her, but the ground isn’t solid enough to hop on one leg. “Come back. Please.”

I fall on what feels like a beanbag chair. Who would use those for flooring?

“You should stay on our mat. I mean,” she cries, “your mat.”

“Can you knock that off for a minute? I’m confused, hungry, and broken. I don’t know how long it’s been since I ate. My stomach is churning, my head is swirling, I’m a mess. And now I’ve upset you, a very nice stranger who tended to my leg.” I’m hoping she wasn’t lying about that.

With much effort and great care, I crawl to where I last saw her light. Feeling in the darkness, I rest my hand on what I hope is her shoulder. “Please forgive my rudeness. I should not take my frustrations out on you.”

Dad voice. It’s the same tone I take with my children when they’re crying irrationally. “I bet you’re a very sweet person. Maybe even very smart?”

She sniffles, the sobbing dying down. “My mother did see to my education.”

“Good, good. Education is important. Are there lights in here? Other than the ones on your clothing?”

“You do not like the,” she makes an inhuman sound.

“Is that was this glowing is? It’s very alluring, sure. But I like light, to be able to see where I am.”

She moves past me. I watch her glowing trail. Then my head explodes as brightness stabs my eyes. I feel her hands on me a second later.

“What is wrong, Attie of Earth?”

“Just a bit more light than I expected. I really wish you knew what coffee and aspirin are.”

“Mother warned me that some Earthlings are difficult to please. But we have not gotten to the parts she talked about. You are much stranger than expected. I hope that my saying so does not offend you.”

I laugh. It hurts my stomach to laugh, but I don’t hold back. “Being difficult. We have that in common at least.”

She helps me over to the mat. The floor isn’t made of beanbag chairs. It looks more like rock filled with green liquid and pebbles. The mat, however, has “Property of Roosevelt High School” stamped on it. It’s a blue square with a drawn on, large, white circle and a small, faded rectangle in the middle.

“Are we supposed to wrestle?” I sniff the wrestling mat. It smells like vinyl and sweaty gym socks, as expected.

“You were to accept or reject me as your trophy.”

I look at her, really look, for the first time since the light came on. Why I cared more about the floor and the mat than her, I don’t know. The outfit she’s wearing gives me pause.

“I have daughters. They’ve taught me not to judge circumstance based on clothing. It’s something I still struggle with, I admit. But they’ve made good points about clothing just being for survival, fashion, or art, not something veiled in meaning for others.”

“What are you saying?” She looks down at herself. After tilting her head, she twirls in a circle. The black cloth lights up. It’s harder to make out the beauty of the lines with the overhead light on. Still, I stare longer than I should.

“I’m asking what you meant when you said I was to accept you as my trophy.” I have a feeling a hard conversation is coming.

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Do you believe that certain articles of clothing always have implied meanings, and if so, what?

skirt or Burqa #StillNotAskingForIt



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Apr 06 2018

G #AtoZChallenge Googahlack #Fiction #SFF


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



#AtoZchallenge Letter G on the Blog of author @JLenniDorner



My head is throbbing. At least it’s dark in here.

Where is here?

This isn’t my couch in the basement, because there’s no bunched cushion lump under my back. It can’t be my bed, because it’s too small. And this isn’t my lawn chair. It’s far too dark and quiet for this to be my backyard.

I sit up and feel around for some hair-of-the-dog. There are no bottles nearby. Nor are there any gravestones. At least I’m not sleeping thirty-seven rows down between the second and third stones again.

I clamor to my feet, but fall flat on my face.

“What in the harbor?” My right ankle is wrapped with what looks like seaweed that glows when I move. I check for a way to get it off.

“Don’t touch.” A dimly lit gloved hand lands on mine. A veil streaked with dim light covers a head that shakes back and forth.

“Who are you? Where am I?”

Swirls that seem bioluminescent radiate from twirling fabric, outlining feminine looking curves. The light fades as the wearer settles beside me. The position is intimate, our bodies entwined like lovers relishing the moments after sex.

I scoot away.

“Do I offend you?”

Her voice is charming. The accent is one I haven’t heard before. Just a hint of the one my wife had though.

“I’m uncomfortable because I don’t know you, I don’t know where I am, and I don’t know what’s wrapped around my leg.”

Her gloves glow as she takes my hand.

“I am your trophy.”

I pull away. “Yeah, the trophies I have at home are made of metal. They don’t talk, glow, or cuddle. And none of them are the size of a person. Try again.”

“You won me, Attie of Earth. You defeated Googahlack. That is how you hurt your ankle. I applied healing worms while you slept.”

I rub my head. “Googahlack? Healing worms? Look, I need some coffee and aspirin, Miss… what’d you say your name is?”

“What are coffee and aspirin?”

“Hell. This is Hell. Funny, thought it’d hotter. So, are you a demon?”

Sobbing sounds assault my ears. Her fabric lights up as she moves. She flees several feet away before her fabric’s light fades to dark.

If there were an award show for upsetting females, I’d win every year.

Bioluminescent jellyfish by falco-negenman-250175-unsplash



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What’s your favorite bioluminescent creature?




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The lives and loves of a book nerd

The lives and loves of a book nerd ~ FB post 1
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Apr 05 2018

F #AtoZChallenge Feel #Fiction #SFF


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



#AtoZchallenge Letter F on the Blog of author @JLenniDorner



My scream leaves me gasping, then gagging. My lungs are on fire. The rest of my body shivers and shakes, fighting against the cold. A viscous, green, translucent fluid surrounds me. I’m going to drown in slime. Just one breath of air, just one, and I could maybe swim out of this.

But it’s so hard to move. Am I paralyzed? Maybe I’m chained? No, I’d feel chains, I think. This is different. I know I have limbs, ones I’ve used many times. They just aren’t responding. The shivers and shakes have stopped, I think. I can’t feel.

Either the fluid has no taste, or I’ve forgotten how my tongue works. Is there a smell? Slime should have a smell, shouldn’t it? Parsley water has a scent. Not a strong one, but a scent. It’s not as green as this. What could make this color?

Does it matter? I’m drowning in green slime, and knowing the shade of green isn’t going to change it. The only sound left is my heartbeat, which is slowing. Or fading. Maybe I’m going deaf. Can deaf people hear their heartbeat?

It’s gone. I feel nothing, hear nothing, taste nothing, smell nothing. Darkness will come soon, and I’ll be dead. My daughters will be orphans. But maybe I’ll see my wife and son again.

“Your newest Earthling!”

The words ring in my ears as I fall. A crowd cheers in the distance. Thousands of unfamiliar scents fill my nose. There are lights beyond the slime. I swim toward them. My limbs! I can move again. I can feel. I’m soaked in slime, and have never been more grateful to know it.

Someone grabs me.

“Earthlings have no worth here.” Something heavy collides with my head. I put up my arms in defense. The crowd chants words I can’t make out.



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Have you ever taken a moment to appreciate your senses?




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Apr 04 2018

E #AtoZChallenge Escape #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



I use Lyft to transport me to the warehouse address Brydanz supplied. There’s no way I’ll be sober enough to drive later. My phone beeps as I get out of the car. Mystic sent me a picture of Mercedes holding her planet Phaeton model. I reply with a smile and heart emojis, then shut off my phone.

“Ahh, there he is! Just in time.” Brydanz takes me by my elbow as he greets me. “I knew you would come. Smart man, smart man.”

“I just came to watch the fight.” That’s not true; I also came hoping to drink myself into tomorrow. Upset one kid by using the wrong word, another by cooking dinner, and the youngest by not buying her everything she wants. Not to mention the one spending his birthday in a grave beside my wife. I need today to be over.

“Strong fighter like you? No, no, you say you came to watch, but Brydanz knows. Look in your eyes, eh? Fuel for a fire. Too long have you locked it up.”

“Did we meet before today?” I look him over again as he unchains a warehouse door. I think I’d remember someone this peculiar. Then again, I wasn’t paying much attention back in my fighting days. Odd that the door was chained shut. Am I the first one here?

He laughs as he yanks the heavy, rusted door open. “No, you would have remembered. Interesting that you did not bring your truck. Escape not on your mind?”

I shrug. “Was hoping your arena had alcohol. Enough to inebriate me beyond the legal driving limit.”

Brydanz claps my shoulder, stopping me from going through the door. “You did not care about that earlier. In dead place, you had been drinking.”

“Yeah, well, I gave myself time to sober back up before I had to drive.”

His eyes narrow. “You were not hoping to die?”

“No. My kids need me. The children I told you about.” Maybe part of me wanted to die. To sink into the ground between my wife and son. Part of me has wanted that since the night they died. I don’t talk about it though. Ever. To anyone.

“So you have a reason to live, something for which to fight. Passion in bones.”

“I told you, I’m not fighting. I’m a dancer. Now, are we going to drink and watch some people bloody each other or what?”

His expression changes to the creepiest grin I’ve ever seen. I’d say he looks like he walked out of the pages of a Stephen King horror novel, but honestly, the look is even worse. Brydanz’s cheeks lift and puff out like two blowfish. The whites of his eyes are drowned away by his growing pupils.

“What in the harbor?” Everything around me is moving in my peripheral vision. Brydanz holds my gaze though; his eyes now swirls of black and white. I can’t make myself blink.

“Earthling.” I hear him laughing as everything fades away.

escape



line break

What do you live for/ what’s your passion?




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Apr 03 2018

D #AtoZChallenge Darcy or Daunte #Fiction #SFF


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



#AtoZchallenge Letter D on the Blog of author @JLenniDorner



The autumn vegetable soup finishes at the same time as the grilled cheese sandwiches Mercedes begged to have tonight. I debate allowing dinner in the living room in front of the television. Or maybe letting my kids eat in their bedrooms. But the soup could spill, and I don’t feel like cleaning it up. Plus, today would have been my son’s birthday, and he liked eating around the kitchen island.

“Hey, break time.” I kiss the top of Mercedes’ head. “Your other sibling upstairs?”

“Yup.” She glues one more ring around Saturn.

“Any idea which identity is on point today?”

“Nope. Want me to call her?”

“That would be nice. I have to pour our drinks and dish out the food.”

A second later, Mercedes belts out, “Hey, Turd wad, get down here!”

“Was that necessary?” I smack the edge of the counter.

“If you buy me a phone I could just send a nice text.”

“I’m not buying you a phone until you’re more responsible. Turd wad is not an appropriate name.”

Mercedes hops onto a kitchen stool. “Well, I didn’t want to misgender or whatever.”

I pass her a glass of milk. There just isn’t any argument left in me today.

Mystic walks in the door as I finish filling the soup bowls. “Hi, Sweetheart. How was group?”

“Dad! You know I can’t talk about it.”

I put up my hands defensively.

“Grilled cheese? Really? Why couldn’t we just have soup? Are you trying to make me gain weight?” She slams her keys on the countertop.

“I wanted it. Eat my stupid vegetable soup. I’ll take your sandwich.” Mercedes shoves her bowl toward Mystic, spilling broth on the counter.

“Yeah, like I’m going to eat two bowls of soup? Dad!”

They both stare at me. I remind myself I’m grateful for them. The bickering is better than silence. “No switching food. Any leftovers will be my lunch tomorrow. Where’s your sister?”

“Don’t you mean—” Mercedes raises a finger.

“You both know who I meant!” I slam my fist on the counter, shut my eyes, and count to ten.

I make it to three before a sniffle interrupts me.

“Why can’t you respect who I am?”

Crap. “I didn’t…” I pause. What’s my answer? I didn’t care enough to think about my words? I’m too upset because I miss my wife and other child? I’m tired and angry and feel like I have nothing left to give? Those are excuses, not reasons to upset my offspring. My preeminent role in life is to love and support this family.

“I didn’t choose my words carefully. I apologize. Dinner is ready.” I motion to the empty stool.

“Black pajamas?” Mystic asks. “How are we supposed to tell which pronoun you’re using? I thought you were going to wear a pink hair clip on Darcy days and the shamrock necklace on Daunte days.”

“Doesn’t seem to matter. My little sister calls me a turd wad and dad still thinks of me as just a daughter.”

I shove my hands in my pockets. The business card pokes my fingers. I have no interest in being a fighter for the weird guy in the graveyard. Right now though, I wouldn’t mind being in the audience.



line break

When you aren’t sure of someone’s gender, how do you avoid misgendering?




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Apr 02 2018

C #AtoZChallenge Craft #Fiction #SFF


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



#AtoZchallenge Letter C on the Blog of author @JLenniDorner



I pull in the garage, turn off my truck, and rest my head for a moment before getting out. The trash cans haven’t been brought in. It’s doubtful that anyone got the mail from the box. My neighbor’s dog has left a “present” at the end of my driveway again. Welcome home, Attie.

Inside I find my youngest, Mercedes, taking up the entire kitchen table and surrounding floor. Is she cutting up vegetables for dinner? Washing the dirty dishes? Doing any chores at all? No. Of course not. I should be glad she’s doing something other than watching videos on the computer. “Dare I ask what this is?”

“Science project. We had to either make a computer model presentation or a craft one. I decided to do the craft one since I don’t have my own laptop.”

I ignore the veiled message about wanting her own electronics. “Uh huh. And when is this masterpiece due?”

“Tomorrow.”

Deep breath. I turn around, open the refrigerator, and pull out ingredients for dinner. “The teacher certainly didn’t give you much time.”

“Yeah. I mean, she mentioned it once, one freaking time, like back in the first week of school. But then today was the first time she said it’s due tomorrow.”

“Mmhmm.” I nod as I picture the class calendar with reminders posted on it. I don’t have the fortitude to argue today.

“Mystic said to tell you that you owe her for gas and for these supplies.”

“I see. And where is your sister?”

“Duh. It’s Tuesday. She has group.”

I chop a freshly washed carrot. “Right. Glad she’s going.”

The grief groups had been too much for me. But today, of all days, I’m grateful that she has support. I take my knife to a butternut squash.

“So what is this science project, anyway?”

“A model of the solar system. Is Earth more blue or green? Or maybe brown?”

I mince the garlic cloves. “Astronauts nicknamed our world ‘The Blue Marble.’ Our oceans take up more space than our land.”

“Okay. Phaeton is green. Do they lack oceans?”

“No, it’s mostly swamp, we think.”

I toss the carrots and onion in a pot, letting them soften as they cook.

“Why don’t we know? I mean, it’s the next planet over. How come we haven’t been there?”

The onion gets to me. Just the onion, nothing more. “Many victories earned may please Justice straightaway, unless nothing progresses.”

“What?” Mercedes looks at me like I’ve lost my mind.

“It’s a mnemonic to remember the planet names and order. Mars is our neighbor. Phaeton is beyond that. And because of the way planets orbit, it’s usually on the other side of the sun.”

“Earth is about 93 million miles from our Sun. And Phaeton is about 221 million miles from our Sun. So Phaethon is 314 million miles away?”

“Sure.” I don’t want to explain the math. Tears run down my face. It’s from the onion. It has nothing to do with the mnemonic my son had come up with when he did the same project that Mercedes is doing now.

saturn



line break

Do you have a mnemonic to remember the planets of the solar system? (One that probably doesn’t include Phaeton. Ha ha.)




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Apr 01 2018

B #AtoZChallenge Brydanz Sulguni #Fiction #SFF


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



#AtoZchallenge Letter B on Blog of author @JLenniDorner



If I were sober, I could drive away. Somehow, I think my wife has sent this guy with his heavy accent as punishment for napping beside her grave. Again.

“Genuine leather? Cannot be very warm.”

“Full Grain. Genuine is crap.” I pull out my phone to check the time.

The man pets my left arm. “Ah, so it is. Not many wear leather fencing jackets in America, eh?”

I stare at him until he takes a step back. “I have places to be.”

“We all do.” He winks.

I drop the remaining half of my sandwich into the cooler, chug the rest of the water, and toss the bottle into my recycling box. My slamming liftgate is louder than I intended.

“Your black vehicle is called an Escape? How unusual! From what and where do you escape?”

“Listen, I don’t work for Ford. I needed a new truck, this was in my price range, so I bought it. The name wasn’t a factor.” This guy is creeping me out.

He nods. “So sorry. It seemed like a fact of interest, eh? Perhaps not. You have blue in hair.”

“Cake icing.” I reopen my liftgate, grab another baby wipe, and remove blue from auburn.

“Someone smash cake on you? That is odd custom. Waste of food.”

It’s gluing my thick waves together. Even with short hair, this task is impossible. I need a shower.

“No. Look, I have to go.” I close the liftgate again and head toward my driver’s side door.

“Something is on hand.” He touches the back of my left hand. I instinctively curl my fingers, protecting my wedding band from possible thievery.

“Yeah. It’s a tattoo.”

“Very strange. What is these markings?”

I’ve about had it with this guy and his questions. “Who are you?”

“Oh! So sorry. Manners. I am Brydanz Sulguni. I see you from over there.” He points to the sidewalk at the end of the parking area. “Thought to myself, why is such a strong looking fighter out here freezing? Maybe I can help, eh?”

“I’m a dancer, not a fighter. And I’m not freezing or in need of help. Thanks.”

He shakes his head. “You may dance, but you are a fighter. I know one when I see one.” He taps the tattoo on the back of my left hand. “Markings of wins?”

“Sorry to disappoint you. The black capital T with the red circle around it? That’s for the Boston commuter rail red line. Savin Hill is where my family is from. The thirteen little shamrocks around it represent my siblings and myself.”

“This is Philadelphia, city of brotherly love, not Boston The Olde Towne.”

“Go Soxs.”

“Both the Cradle of Liberty, like Switzerland.”

Who memorizes all the nicknames of places? This guy is like potato salad sitting out on a hot July afternoon. “Yeah. I moved here from Boston five years ago.”

He runs his finger around the circle of shamrocks on my hand. It’s strange how comfortable this guy is with touching a stranger. Must be a European custom. “Why not all green? Shamrocks grow in grass, no? They should all be like color of your eyes.”

Does he ever run out of questions? “There are five green ones. Two for my older brothers, two for my young brothers, and one for me. The seven white ones with the thin green outline represent my three older and four younger sisters. The orange shamrock is for my brother who died as an infant.”

“All your siblings have this tattoo?”

“No, just some of us. And my dad. I have to go. My kids are waiting.”

“You raise goats?”

“Children. Three girls.” I pause to correct myself, but decide it’s not worth explaining to this guy. “Nice to have met you, Brydanz.”

He reaches to shake my hand. “Good to have met you as well. Three girls? You must have much to arrange for them to marry well, eh?”

“They’re too young to think about marriage.”

And it better stay that way, or I’ll be burying boys in the backyard. Or lesbians, if they go that way. Whatever, it’s still too early. I rub my stomach and excuse myself as belch tasting of stout, cake, and the sandwich fills my mouth. Tastes like regret and sorrow. The guy stares at me as though he’s expecting me to answer a question. Did he ask me something important?

“My job is to get them through high school and into good colleges. Education is key. I really have to be on my way.”

“Dancing pays that well in America?”

“Yeah.” I don’t feel my fiances are his business. My stomach rumbles. I should have finished the sandwich. At least this interrogation has sobered me up.

Brydanz pulls a business card from his jacket. “Here. In case maybe you need more than dancing to send girls to university. Talk it over with family, with wife and parents, when you get home.”

“My parents are still in Boston.” I cram the card into my pant’s pocket.

He nods. “Of course, of course. Savin Hill train stop. Talk to wife about card, eh?”

I look to the graveyard. “Yeah. We’ll talk. Bye.” I get in my truck and drive off.


cake with blue icing

line break

What is the most unique tattoo you’ve ever come across?




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Mar 31 2018

A #AtoZChallenge Attie Connolly the American #Fiction #SFF


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

#AtoZchallenge Letter A on Blog of author @JLenniDorner

I let the upbeat song finish before I shut off my truck. One more deep, stalling breath. I get out, walk to the back, and open the liftgate. Cooler and blanket in hand, I trudge through the frosted, brown leaves. Thirty-seven rows down, two and three stones in, both engraved with “Connolly.”

“Happy birthday, Danny boy.” I lay the blanket out between my son and wife. Reaching into the cooler, I set a small cake by his stone and pull out two bottles of Irish stout.

“I hope you’ve been behaving for your mother.” Leaning over, I kiss my wife’s stone, then set her drink down.

“Fifteen. Big year ahead for you.” That’s as far as I make it before the lie, the facade, fades. Once again, I’m the weeping guy in the graveyard.

~~~

Ringing and buzzing in my jean’s pocket wakes me. “Yeah?”

“Is this Attie Connolly?”

“Yes. Who’s this?” I pull my phone away to glance. Just a number, no name attached. I put the phone back to my ear.

“One moment.”

“Dad? Why didn’t you pick me up yet?” Mercedes, my youngest, asks. “I had to use the school office phone to call you. See? Told you I need my own. Are you coming or what?”

“I, uhh,” I rub my eyes as I sit up. Six empty bottles surround me, as well as a half-eaten cake. I glance at my phone again, this time to check the clock. I realize my hand is covered in icing. That same blue icing is on my phone, covering the time. It is also in my ear and stuck to my hair. “Call Mystic. Remind her it’s the twentieth of November. Then tell her to come get you.”

“Fine. Whatever. Thanks for nothing.”

Nothing. I rest my head on my knees.

“This wasn’t the sort of birthday celebration you’d have approved of, is it?” My wife’s stone doesn’t answer me. Just as well. If I had passed out at one of our children’s actual birthday parties, she wouldn’t have spoken to me. Not that it ever happened when she was alive. This is the fourth time I’ve had to celebrate my only son’s birthday in a graveyard.

I stumble to my truck while shaking the layer of frost and leaves from the blanket. I drop the empty bottles into a box with other cans and bottles I’ve meant to haul to the recycling plant. There’s no need for my children to know how much I drink. My wife would say I’m setting a bad example.

Were she here to say that, I probably wouldn’t be drinking near as much. Is that irony? I’m too hungover to tell.

I pull a sandwich and a bottle of water out of the cooler. Baby wipes… baby wipes… Ah ha, I knew I had a box in here. I clean my hands and phone, then grab another for my face and ear.

“Hello there.”

I look in the direction of the heavily accented voice. A man in a heavy winter coat and ushanka smiles at me.

“Hi.” The graveyard seems like a place people wouldn’t make small talk. Guess he doesn’t know that.

“Are you freeze to death, hmm? Join others in this place?” He motions between my black leather jacket and the gravestones beyond the parking area.

“I’m fine.” I crack open the water and chug.

“Yes, yes, of course. You Americans know nothing of cold, eh? Warm bones.”

“Uh huh,” I take a bite of the sandwich.

Graveyard Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash
 

line break

Has anyone ever made small talk with you in an unusual setting?

 


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Style Me Fantasy -GUEST POST

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