Monthly Archives: August 2009

The Turbotastical Challenge: A Story for Tyran

Fallen

Something woke her up.

It was the middle of the night and it took a moment for Kara to realise that it was the new pressure of her cat pressed against her leg, purring, that had brought her back to consciousness. Smiling sleepily, she reached down to pet it in the dark of her room but paused before reaching her hand out completely.

There was a warm fetid smell, like wet dogs running wild. She held her hand suspended above the cat, trying to identify the origin of the unpleasant smell. It made her uneasy; like the memory of something yet to happen.

To settle the unease the smell has aroused, she reached out again to the comforting feel of the purring cat. But as she pet it, the fur and rotting flesh came away in her hand, pulling off the mouldering corpse with sickening ease.

Her dream screams woke Kara in the conscious world, still in the dark, and still choking on the screams that she had started in her dream. After several shuddering deep breaths, she realised that the wet, gamey smell and the warmth against her leg had followed her out of her dream and into her damp, rocky alcove. That’s when she screamed, screamed for real, and startled the animal that was now sharing her small, damp shelter from the pounding rain.

The frighten animal lashed out and sunk its teeth into the fleshy calf of her good leg. In pain and terror she kicked out with her other leg, the leg where the ankle did not just feel broken, but shattered. As it connected with the haunch of the animal, driving it from the cave, she nearly passed out from the electric bolt of pure pain that snaked up her leg and spine to nestle at the base of her skull. But her survival instincts kicked in and kept her conscious; if there was one animal out there in the dark seeking shelter, there could be more. She would have to keep her guard up and protect herself.

Once Kara felt more in control, she gingerly felt down her left leg to the bite on her calf. Although the pain caused her to wince as she touched the swollen puncture wounds, she was relieved that there wasn’t more blood. But she knew that if someone didn’t find her, and find her soon, that loss of blood or shock would likely be the least of her problems. She sat up, eyes glassy and wide in the dark, holding her leg and trying hard to not think about how quickly rabies could work its way through her bloodstream.

Two nights ago Kara had headed out for a run in these woods, not five miles from her home. As she thought about that, it added a degree of ridiculousness to her situation. You always read how this kind of death is made all the more tragic because it happened so close to home. But she wouldn’t allow herself to think of that. To think of death. To lose hope. Not yet.

She had worked late and it forced her to head out a little later than she usually would. But the light was still good, the sun hanging heavy and golden just above the trees to the west. It was her favourite place to run and her favourite time to do it. A well-maintained but rarely used path through the woods near her home, with a thick dusty forest on one side and a dry ravine to the other. At this time of day it was cool enough to run, but light enough to do so safely.

Lost in the motion and her music, Kara overran the point at which she should have turned around to ensure she didn’t get trapped out here after dark. Instead she carried to the five kilometre mark, auto-piloting to the point where she habitually turned around.

When she saw the small, red trail marker, she snapped out of her reverie and cursed herself. In the time it would take her to run back to the car park it would be nearly dark. And with the storm she failed to take notice of moving in quickly; it definitely would be dark long before she made it out of the woods.

Unnoticed by Kara, the sky had taken on a hurtful, purplish cast and the wind was picking up, causing the trees to whisper with secret forest gossip. As she turned to start her long run back to the car, the first rain started to fall, heavy and pregnant with the promise of a good soaking.

It was going to be a good storm, moving fast. Flashes of lightning threw the ragged, rocky crevasses of the ravine at the trail’s west side into sharp relief. The rain started to fall in earnest, getting in Kara’s eyes and stinging her skin as the wind blew it hard against her face and shoulders.

What happened next was more difficult to recall. It must have been the shock after the fall that muddled her memory. The dark skies, the forest groaning as the wind pushed through it and the oppressive sound of the thunder made Kara feel uncharacteristically skittish and apprehensive. A tree must have fallen onto the path. It is the only reason she can think of; a tree must have fallen onto the path and she over-corrected to avoid it and fell over the edge of the ravine.

She had no recollection of the fall at all. She must have passed out, although she doesn’t remember that either. But she must have, because she remembered waking up. She woke at the bottom of the cliff, shaking and in more pain than she had ever been in before.

As she became aware of the various pains in her body she started taking stock, feeling every scratch and bruise and almost admiring the tight pains in her ribcage that came and went with every shallow breath she dared to take.

The worst was her right ankle. She tried carefully to stand on it despite how much it was paining her even without moving. She knew that if she couldn’t even stand she would have no chance of ever getting out of this ravine, out of these woods.

The pain was so intense Kara couldn’t even get beyond putting her good foot down and pushing up slightly from the ground with her hands. Even crawling was going to be an exercise in sheer will and determination to get through the pain. The exertion of moving just a couple of feet towards the cliff face exhausted her and she gave up, panting, lying on her back in the muck and crying into the rain.

Once the pain subsided slightly she assessed her situation. The edge of the trail was only twenty feet or so above where she was lying. With her ankle in the state it was in though, it might as well have been two hundred feet; there was no way she was going to be able to climb up it. Her only hope was that the trail was not as disused as it seemed – she had only ever come across other people a handful of times when running it – and that someone would be able to find her.

The more immediate danger was exposure. It was now fully dark and raining hard. Kara was already shivering and cold from the pain and shock. She looked at the cliff face and saw a small alcove where the rocky overhang would protect her at least somewhat from the storm. With her face set against the pain, she crawled into the small cave and, unmindful of what she may be sharing the space with, fell asleep almost immediately, exhausted from the pain and the fear of what had happened. And the fear of not knowing what was going to happen next.

That was two nights ago. That same fear gripped her now as she stared out into the dark, straining to hear if the animal she had kicked would return.

It was impossible to know how much time was passing in the darkness outside of the cave. She had just started to relax when she heard something else, something bigger than whatever had crawled into her shelter earlier that night. Something that moved with little fear or stealth; something that was moving in her direction.

She held her breath and stared with her eyes wide. She felt no pain as every cell in her body strained for silence. Strained to be undetectable to the animal moving outside. Strained to not call attention to herself, trapped in her small cave with no possible retreat.

That’s when she saw the huge shape of the animal. Black fur against the black rocks at the bottom of the ravine. Black outlined against the black of the sky. Black outlined against the black of her future. And she saw as it slowly, slowly but relentlessly, swung its huge head in her direction. And although there was no light, she saw the eyes seek her out in the dark.

Her heart was bursting in her chest, her breath rapid and painful as Kara watched the animal turn and move towards her, deliberate and taking its time as though it could smell that she was injured. That she was trapped. That she was easy prey.

The End

>*

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“As long as people are going to call you a lunatic anyway, why not get the benefit of it? It liberates you from convention.”

~Gregory Maguire, Wicked

Fizzy Milk

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Why was Fizzy Milk from Coca-Cola on the news this morning? News? Seriously?

In Korea they had a drink called “Milkis” that was essentially a fizzy milk. In case you are wondering, it tasted a little like ass. Brendan likes it. They sell it here in London’s Chinatown, if you’d like to try it.


Actually, saying it tastes like ass is a bit harsh. It sort of tasted like a float where all the ice cream had already melted. It was strange, but not horrible. But still Brendan was the only person I knew who drank it on purpose.

Has it just been a slow news week globally or what?

The Turbotastical Tales Challenge

>So I was thinking to myself: What should I blog about? And I came up blank. Utterly and completely blank.

I wanna blog, I do. But my idea bank is as empty as my money bank. So I was thinking you could help me.

Write one random sentence in the comments – any sentence – and I’ll write a story with that sentence in it and post it here.

This is something I used to do with my students when I was teaching and feeling too lazy to give them an actual presentation topic. They were often the best (and because it is me you can assume that by “best” I mean “most amusing”) presentations those little monsters ever wrote.

I’ll accept any sentence from anyone but I can’t promise I’ll a) write the stories in the order that the sentences are left, b) write anything interesting to read, c) acknowledge the sentence at all if left here by Stefan and/or d) refrain from deleting any sentences out of the comments that would lead to me writing a Penthouse Forum-esque story (unless that’s what I’m in the mood to do).

If anyone (read: my moms) doesn’t want (or understand how) to leave a sentence in the comments, feel free to email me (my handle is jodiwankenobi and Google handles my mail) the sentence and I’ll do it that way.

If no one leaves a sentence I’ll continue my banal blog posts about banal banality or worse; I’ll have nothing to write about at all. I mean, now that I don’t have poop on my walls or anything… I’m low on subject matter.

Let the games begin!

The Wii broke my crotch

>Alright, so it isn’t my crotch… crotch is just funnier than groin and groin is funnier than “inner upper thigh thingers” by which I suppose I would mean my quadriceps (which is a little funny, but in a far geekier way).

On Monday I played EA’s “Active” for the Wii. It’s pretty good, if a little cheesy (ie: the music, the trainer). With the game you get an elastic resistance band and a leg holster for the nun-chuck part of the Wiimote. You tell the machine some embarrassing details about yourself (age and weight) and create an character for yourself (mine looks disturbingly a lot like me, except I would never, ever wear a track-fucking-suit).

Because it is a game, I thought it would be pretty easy. So I sent the intensity on the highest level. I mean… how intense could it be? Turns out – pretty fucking intense.

I like the way it works – it keeps you moving and gets you sweating. I was awesome at the running but the kick-backs nearly killed me. The arm stuff was no problem at all. The trainer is very supportive and vaguely retarded (she’ll say, “you made that look easy!” when I’m panting, dripping sweat and begging her to stop making me do squats, which is either cruel or stupid).

So why does my crotch hurt so much?

First, the inline skating. Oh lord, the inline skating. It sounded so easy… crouch down to go fast, stand to slow down, jump to… well, to jump (duh). Easy, right? No, no, no. Do a deep squat right now and hold it for two minutes. Go on, I dare ya. I’ll wait. But while you are doing that, every few seconds toss a jump in there and get back into your squat. Make sure you do 24 jumps. Doesn’t feel so good, does it? Now, do that twice within a 30 minute period while you are also doing other inane things like jogging in place or shoulder raises. Does. not. feel. good.

Next, the lunges. At the time this seemed less pain-inducing than the skating (which nearly made me weep, I tells ya) but in hindsight I think this was the killer move. The reason is two-fold. First, the Wii knows you are moving because of the nun-chuck strapped to your leg. And unless you do a deep lunge, the game knows you are a dirty cheater. So you have to do a pretty intense lunge that is nearly the splits. Second, I’m an out-of-shape mutha-effa. So doing things like “exercise” hurts me. Apparently, hurts me a lot. For days.

Between the skating and the lunges, my inner thigh muscles are just killing me. I’ve been walking around like a cowboy with no horse since Monday. Obviously it was a good workout, but I don’t know how effective it is to hurt myself for half an hour one night and then not be able to move for the next three days. Seriously.

I’m going to give it another go tonight but with the intensity kicked down a notch. If my crotch is going to hurt this badly, I can think of more interesting and enjoyable ways to cause that. And none of them involve making a Wii-mii inline skate.

Someone’s out of shape… might be me

>Okay, I’m just kidding. It’s definitely me.

What brought about this revelation you might ask? It has nothing to do with my size (although it bloody should) or that I’ve been considering “pizza” a food group for the last few months. No, no. It has to do with the intense ache in my groin.

Well, not my groin (groin is just a funnier word). It is more the inside and back of my right thigh. I’m in pain, kids. I’m walking around like a gimpy old grandma. I should have a cane.

You know what I did to hurt myself? All I did to hurt myself? A few hours in the garden (I got scratched too – effing thorns!) and an hour playing Wii.

Yah, Wii. Screw you. I said I was out of shape! In pondering the pain brought on by relatively so little exercise I tried to recall the last time I exercised. Never mind the last time… I bet in the nearly two years I’ve lived in London I’ve only really-real exercised less than a dozen times.

Oh sure. I’ve joined the gym. I even went a couple of times. There was the week I was going to start running. I ran once. I bought a yoga mat and didn’t use it. An iPod shuffle for running. Didn’t run. And most recently I bought a Nintendo Wii so at least I would have to stand up to play video games.

I bought the Wii a few months ago whilst living in Aurghville while I still had something resembling a disposable income. I did play a few times, but it was so squishy in my room and the screen I was using so small that it wasn’t as fun as I had wanted.

Now I have a nice big lounge and thanks to Stefan and Caryn a screen that is bigger than the one on my phone. Last night Tyran and I set up the Wii and played for about an hour (thus some of the soreness today) and it was a lot of fun.

I don’t think that ultimately just goofing around with the Wii is going to constitute enough exercise to make up for two years of being a lazy sloth… but I’m hopeful that at least the yoga part will mean I don’t have to hobble around like a crippled geriatric the Monday after a single day of gardening.

>An open letter to the pop guy

>Dear dude who fills the Coke machine at work,

Diet Coke and Coke Zero are not the same things. Stop fucking with my emotions.

Warmest regards,

Capt. Turbotastic

Annihilation of my todos list

>I’m a tactile learner which means in order to make something stick in my brain, I either have to touch something or do something. Because I know this about myself, I create a lot of lists.

Throughout my work day I have to remember a lot of things – not just for myself but for the management team and for the office in general. Things that aren’t important to me (and therefore less “sticky”) have to be remembered. So I capture them by writing them down.

This serves three purposes – a) I have a written reminder of what I need to do/chase/think about/whatever, b) it makes it “stickier” because I’m making it tactile and most importantly, c) it also allows me to purge that item from my brain and leave what few brain cells I have left to focus on the next thing.

My todos lists have been the same for about a thousand years now and the system has served me well. I kept a few lists – “my todos”, “talk to (boss)”, “boss’ todos” and “reminders!” It has to do with the nature of my role… I’m essentially an extension of someone else’s brain. I have to remember what they forget and think of things before they do to avert crises that they didn’t foresee.

I’m less an assistant and more a wizard; I have to foresee the future and manipulate time (“I need an hour with Bob tomorrow.” “You don’t have a free hour.” “Make one.”) I’m also supposed to read minds, but I’m not finished the mail-in night course on that one yet.

But I digress… back to my lists! I’m finding lately that I don’t really want to make lists. My brain is revolting the structured, linear representation of my thoughts which are usually all over the place. I’m finding it impossible to structure the lists appropriately… do I sort them by priority? Priorities change constantly. By due date? Ditto. Alphabetically? Now that’s just silly.

Instead, I’m trying something new. I’m filling my notebook with clouds and squares and circles and arrows. I’m creating maps of reminders and tasks and random thoughts. I’m using colour and trying to let it flow.

So far, it seems to be working. By removing the rigidity of the serially structured list, it is allowing me to recall more details as I’m allowed to freely associate one thought with another and designate importance with exclamation points and red circles. And as I review my notes I can add further thoughts or next steps right where the original note was instead of having to rewrite the entire list.

I’m going to test it for a month and see how it works. I may find that this method doesn’t help me – perhaps the structures of the list have been the balance to the chaos in my mind. The new system certainly doesn’t look as organised, but I have high hopes for it. It is more creative, flexible and responsive to change. And as long as I remember everything I (and everyone else) needs to… perhaps this will lead to a more relaxed yet effective method of working.

>Never enough

>If I go one inch, I’m expected to go two. If I go two, inevitably someone will ask why I didn’t go four. If I came prepared with a rope when no one had ever had a rope before; I’d be expected to be a motherfucking cowboy.

And so it goes.

This seems to be the story of my entire life. No matter what I’m doing; it isn’t enough.

It can’t ever be enough. I can’t ever be enough.

>Twitter’s Back!

>Within seconds of my blogging that Twitter was down, it was up.

I’m obviously made of magic.