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Story Line for Rats and Saps (Part 7)

This is what you’ve all been waiting for — the final part of the storyline. Starting next week I start expanding each line item of the 7-part storyline into a full-fledged chapter, one a week hopefully. Enjoy the read.

Part 7:

  1. The Sector Commander’s assistant knocked on his commander’s door and waited for permission to enter the office. The Sector Commander answered gruffly, “Enter.” The assistant opened the door and saluted smartly from the doorway. The commander returned the salute cursorily and scowled, “What do you want?” “Sir,” the assistant held the closed file in his outstretched hand, “We have not been able to raise the unit commander in Sector 127 for the last half hour.” “Did you try his second in command?” the commander looked out the window. “Yes sir,” the assistant answered. “The second doesn’t answer. Neither does the medic, the chaplain, or the cook… Nobody for the last half hour.” “Well, keep trying to raise someone on the STU for another half hour or so,” the commander ordered. A half hour later the assistant once again knocked on the door. After receiving permission to enter and saluting, he reported that there was still no response on the STUs. The commander was exasperated. “Get me the governor of Sector 127 now!” he ordered. The assistant ducked out of the room. A couple minutes later, the assistant returned and reported that the governor of Sector 127 was on the other STU. The commander thumbed his STU and growled into it, “Sector 84 Commander here. As you know, we have a commando unit operating in your territory near the river.” “No, I didn’t know,” the governor answered coldly. “Well, now you know,” the commander sloughed off the governor’s impertinence, “I haven’t had radio contact with my unit commander there or anyone else for that matter for the last hour.” “Well, what do you want me to do about it?” the governor asked, not wishing to extend his resources or volunteer anything to this pompous sector commander. “I need you to send a couple of scout balloons over the area for a look-see,” the commander said irately. “Who’s gonna pay for my men and balloons?” the governor asked thinking about his budget and his financial opportunities. “You’ll get your money!” the commander scowled. The governor asked for the last coordinates reported by the commandos. The commander nodded to his assistant, who pointed to their last known location on the wall map. The commander read the coordinates off the map to the governor. The governor said he’d let them know as soon as his balloon scouts got back.
  2. The governor called in his assistant and requested him to send one of the scout balloons over to Dead River at Point 23 and float down as far as Point 27, looking for any sign of the commandos Sector 84 had lost. “Have him back before nightfall, one way or the other,” the governor ordered. The assistant nodded and returned to his desk to call the duty pilot. The duty pilot scowled, got up, stretched, and ambled over to the quartermaster at his own slow pace. The pilot asked the QM for a fuzzcoat, STU, map of Dead River, and a monocular. The pilot signed for everything he took and ambled over to the balloon master. “What do you have ready to go?” the pilot asked the BM. “Number 3,” said the BM, stifling a yawn. “I thought 3 had been retired,” the pilot grimaced. “I thought you’d been retired,” smirked the BM. The pilot signed for the balloon and walked out the door in search of 3. It had more patches on it than his grandmother’s quilt. He climbed into the basket with his bag, checked the air-burner frames, and told the guard to cut him loose. The balloon started to rise tentatively into the air, while the pilot looked for a breeze blowing in the direction of Dead River. He shivered at the thought and put on his fuzzcoat. The pilot radioed his position to the assistant. He glanced at the map and checked his direction. The balloon floated on, mostly silent except for the times he had to turn on the airburners to maintain height. The sun was high. He leaned over the basket and saw his shadow running along the ridges and valleys underneath him. The pilot saw the thick grey clouds in the distance. When he saw the river, the pilot glanced at his map and saw he was approaching Point 23. He released air from the balloon to drop altitude until he was floating downstream parallel to the river on his left, keeping a respectful distance from the river, the roiling clouds, and those damned lightning bolts. The ridges and valleys moved slowly under him. He passed over a clearing in the woods and saw something that made his blood run cold: two naked corpses hung upside down from th limb of a skag tree. One of them was a woman. Well, it was a common enough sight. “They must have been Rat-lovers,” the pilot told himself. He trained his monocular on the dead woman a little longer than was proper or necessary. The pilot thumbed on his STU and reported the hanging bodies and their position to the assistant. “That’s none of our business,” said the assistant. “You’d better be looking for those commandos, if you know what’s good for you.” The pilot flicked off the STU. He adjusted the altitude to take the balloon in a little closer to the river. Then he saw the three deflated balloons on the beach. As he approached the gutted balloons, he saw the commandos lying every which way on the beach. Not a one of them was moving. The pilot reported what he saw to the assistant and asked him what he wanted him to do. The assistant told the pilot to return home. “Put as much distance as you can between you and that river,” the assistant ordered. “I wouldn’t want your balloon to be hit by some stray lightning bolt.” The assistant laid his STU on his desk, walked over to the governor’s office, and stuck his head inside. “Sir, the scout balloon found the commandos at Point 24,” the assistant told his boss. “49 of them, all dead, and 9 dracs. 6 of the commandos looked badly burned. The rest looked blue in the face. Oh and the pilot saw two corpses, a man and a woman, hung upside down and hour northwest of Point 24… probably Rat-lovers.” The governor nodded at his assistant and called the Sector 84 Commander.
  3. The Sector 84 Commander ordered a unit of 10 men to go to Sector 127 to recover the equipment and bring back the remains of his commandos for identification and determination of what the hell happened. He ordered the unit to bring back the two Rat-lovers for identification in case they could be linked to others.
  4. The doctors examined the recovered bodies two weeks later. They were badly decomposed. The six burnt corpses were balloon pilots. They had been killed apparently when their balloons exploded on them. The burnt holes in each of the balloon skins were probably caused by lightning. The rest of the commandos, all present and accounted for, except for the one that was missing, were blue from cyanide poisoning, probably from the cyanide gas canisters that had burst open on the rocks. The missing commando was Sangor. So was the male corpse found hanging from the skag tree. The woman was his wife, Sirka.
  5. Sangor had been a captive of the Rats. Maybe they turned him. Maybe his wife caused him to betray his species. The sector commander ordered a unit to round-up Sangor’s neighbors for questioning, along with his fellow captives. The former captives confirmed that Sangor had spent a lot of time with one of the Rats and did not seem to share their enthusiasm when they talked about escaping. Some of what the former captives said was just jealous speculation, but some rang true as a bell. The picture of defeat and betrayal was becoming clear to the commander. What was also clear was that the Rats were preparing to launch an attack on them, the likes of which they could scarcely imagine.
  6. Sector 84 Commander requested an urgent meeting with the president. He outlined recent events in the Rat wars and presented his conclusions. “Our civilization is in imminent danger of extinction,” the commander raised his voice dramatically while scanning the blank faces around the table, before resting respectfully on the president’s face. “… Unless we eliminate the Rats once and for all.” The commander nodded at his assistant, who rose to address the faces. “Sir, as you know, we have been working on a top-secret project for five years now.” The assistant clicked a button on the box in front of him and an image appeared on the screens on every wall. He described the cobalt bomb and the super cannon that was capable of shooting the cobalt projectile from the eastern area of Sector 84 into the middle of the Uncharted Areas. The trajectory was suborbital and would bring the shell down through the clouds over Rats’ unsuspecting heads. Although the bomb had never been tested, the scientists involved on the project assured them that the kill radius would be at least two weeks in every direction. “Why didn’t you test it?” the president interrupted the assistant’s presentation. “How do you know it will work?” The assistant explained to the president that there were only two places they could test the weapon: “our place or their place, and besides, the Saps did not want to lose the element of surprise… Let’s just call this operation against the Rats our first test”. There was a sound of conspiratorial smirks around the table. The president banged his fist down hard on the table. The image of the kill radius and encircling damage radii jumped on all the screens. “What say you all?” the president demanded of the blank faces around the table. The votes were unanimous. “When is the test to be scheduled?” The assistant looked at his commander, attempted to swallow down the dryness in his throat, and croaked up the date. “Make it so … and the devil take your miserable soul if the test fails!” the president said in a harsh and guttural growl.
  7. There was a quiet murmur in the cave as the representatives of all the Rat families found a place to sit in the vast cavern. As soon as Lem and Yani sat down, traces of red lights appeared to slice the air in front of them but stayed suspended. There were bright points along each line. The points seemed to sprout new traces that branched out in all directions. The lines bred more and more lines until the central space of the cavern took on a solidity that looked like a star. A few lines leaped out of the star. Lem spoke. “What you are looking at is a map of Sap and Rat timelines. Each line is an individual from birth to death. Each point is an event on that individual’s timeline. Each event is a point from which alternate timelines spring forth. This is just a representation of what we all see and know for ourselves. I made this so we could discuss what we see and know, even though we don’t have words for these things yet.” Lem looked around at the familiar faces of his friends. He saw agreement on their faces. He also noticed a parenthesis of mirth in their blue eyes at his childish scrawls etched on the diaphanous walls of space-time. Everyone had an internal language that allowed him to think about what he saw. The only problem was that everyone had a different internal language. The common language they used to communicate among each other was inadequate to express their thoughts and conceptual structures. Someday their common language would be as rich as their internal languages but, for today, Lem’s barely adequate light display in the cavern would have to suffice. “Instead of the constantly expanding cone of timelines we should expect to see,” Lem continued, “we see a convergence of timelines into a vortex culminating in a single point and whose lines branch away conically.” A voice arose from the darkness of the cavern. “Please expand the convergence point for us, Lem.” Lem thought about the point and it expanded into a cobalt bomb explosion in the atmosphere above their lovely valley and then another explosion and another in a chain reaction of world-rending blasts spread across the sky from horizon to horizon. Air turned to fire and fire turned to scorched earth and water boiled until it was no more.
  8. There was a silence throughout the cavern. Light and shadow ricocheted against the stone walls. Lem said, “It is time for us to do what we were always meant to do, what the Saps told us all along that we must do with their words and their actions.” He paused and then said a single word: leave.
  9. It had taken them five years to build it. It was a shame that it would be destroyed after they used it only once. It really was not much to look at – just two doors and a tunnel between them. The beauty was in the simplicity of it. Like most of the products of genius, the simplest things were often the most elusive. It had always been there if only they could have seen it. The only problem would have been explaining it to a being who was sentient in only three dimensions. They all lined up at the door. Nobody pushed or raised his voice. The Rats knew there was just enough time for them all to go through the door to the other side safely. Lem opened the door for his friend. Yani stood at Lem’s side and smiled at the friend as he passed through the doorway.
  10. The assistant’s neck was on the chopping block. There had been two delays in the scheduled test. He had been hauled in front of the president each time. The next time he’d be hauled in front of a firing squad in the words of his fearless leader. Today was D-Day. In another few moments it would be H-Hour. The countdown had already begun. The shell was loaded in the canon. The magnets were spinning up their fields. 3 – 2 – 1 … The assistant lowered his arm and the artillery officer pushed the button that armed the shell with an opposing magnetic field. The cobalt shell hissed out of the canon at ten times the speed of sound, causing a series of deafening booms, as the shell disappeared above the clouds on its trajectory to the Uncharted Areas.
  11. The last ones through the doorway were Lem and Yani. Lem closed the door behind him. He took Yani’s hand and they walked together toward the light. It seemed like no time at all before they reached the other door. As Lem and Yani emerged from the tunnel, all their friends greeted them with smiles and waves. Lem closed the second door behind him. They walked with their friends into the fresh night air of a valley much like their own beloved valley. It was so quiet you could almost hear the stars sing. Someone pointed at their sister planet as it rose majestically above the eastern mountains. The air became heavy with sadness. “Look!” someone said and their heads all turned to the planet hovering expectantly above the mountain tops. A flower of light blossomed silently plains, another flower, and another flower. Soon there was a whole bouquet of light as the atmosphere of the sister planet caught fire. It seemed the Sap planet was becoming a star, but there was no danger to the Rats anymore. After a few day-night cycles there was no atmosphere left to burn and the bouquet withered.

Mike Stone

Raanana, Israel

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Story Line for Rats and Saps (Part 6)

Finally, I figured out Part 6. It feels like there’s going to be one more part, all in all seven, and then I can start writing the chapters. I believe Part 6 will definitely grab your attention.

Part 6:

  1. Sangor looked across the table at the Rat. He had never seen an adult Rat in his life, only Rat children. Even though they were both sitting, it was obvious that the Rat would tower over him, standing up, though Sangor was not considered short by any means. Small head, long neck, lanky muscular body and arms, dark blue skin, blue eyes, and blue hair. He looked like he’d come straight from the mine his father had worked in, that had eventually killed him. That Rat would be invisible in the mine if he’d strip off his clothes and close his eyes. Sangor calculated the odds in his head: there was just him and that Rat. Maybe Sangor could take him. Maybe not. Anyway he wasn’t sure how he’d find his way back to the river. His best bet was to check out the lay of the land. Funny how they had no maps of this part of the world. He wondered about that. Sangor should try to find out what he could and then, when the time was ripe…
  2. “Where are my friends?” Sangor asked Lem testily. Lem responded after a moment, “Are you feeling any better now?” Sangor said cautiously, “I suppose so. What about my friends, the other captives?” “They are facing the same dilemma you are facing at different tables in different parts of the forest,” Lem answered. “What dilemma is that?” Sangor demanded to know. “Whether your time line ends abruptly or extends into a future that you cannot imagine,” Lem answered. “What do you mean?” Sangor asked his captor. “Whether you choose death or life,” Lem explained patiently, “but you’ve already chosen, haven’t you?”
  3. Sangor had already chosen life. He had concluded from his captor that the Rat army was vastly superior to the Sap army and, one on one, they seemed quite formidable. It was also clear that the Rats knew the Uncharted Areas far better than his friends and he could hope to know. The smart thing to do would be to bide his time and wait for an opportunity to present itself. As it turned out, the choice was not so obvious. More than half the captives chose death; well, they didn’t actually choose death per se. They decided they’d be damned if they were going to play nice with the stinking Rat sitting across the table from them. They’d overcome the Rat and make a break for it or die trying. Almost before the Sap captives thought about lunging across the table at their captor or running away from him, the Rats reached across and snapped their time lines, almost as easily as snapping their necks, and all the Rats were Lem.
  4. Lem stands up from the table and tells Sangor to walk with him. Lem brings Sangor out of the forest to a cliff overlooking a fertile valley, dappled by sun and clouds. Beneath the clouds were sheets of rain that seemed to disappear after a few moments. The terraced hills on either side of the valley appeared to be pocked with holes. Sangor saw people, Rats, entering and leaving the holes. Lem led Sangor down the narrow path descending from the cliff into the valley.
  5. Lem brings Sangor into his home, one of the caves Sangor saw from the cliff. Yani offers Lem and Sangor a cup of water and a plate of fresh fruit. They sit down opposite each other. Lem says to Sangor, “You don’t remember me, do you?” Sangor looks at the Rat with genuine curiosity. He struggles for a moment with his rebellious memories and gives up the effort. “No,” he answers. “Should I?” Lem says to him, “No, I suppose not” and then, “You and I were children in the same day care facility in Sector 87. I built a fortress of wooden blocks and you knocked it down.” Sangor started to remember images and feelings from his childhood. After all, he had not encountered many Rat children in his life. He remembered one or two, but not much else; certainly no interactions with them. “Now, do you remember?” Lem asked Sangor. Sangor was confused. Suddenly he saw and felt what he saw and felt that day when Lem’s mother had brought him to the day care facility and the Rat child had built a fortress of wooden blocks. Sangor had been envious of the Rat’s ability to construct something so tall and was so frustrated when the Rat was able to avoid his blows so easily. The old hatred came back to him. “How are your parents, Javid and Dorka?” Lem brought Sangor back to the present. “Hmm?” Sangor responded. “My father died a few years ago. My mother is in good health, as far as I know… Why did you spare me? … I would have killed you if I’d had the chance.” Lem answered, “It was not necessary to kill you at that time.” “Will it be necessary for you to kill me at another time?” Sangor asked defensively. Lem told Sangor that he would not understand the answer to his question.
  6. Lem bids good night to Sangor after showing him to his room for the night. Lem tells Sangor they will have breakfast together in the morning and talk.
  7. The next morning Lem shows Sangor around the cultivated fields and the cave village. Sangor asks many questions. He asks about his friends. Lem tells him he is welcome to visit them and takes Sangor to the captive compound. Sangor tells Lem his place is with his friends. Lem tells Sangor he may stay with his friends if he wants.
  8. His friends plot to break out of the compound and make a run for the river.
  9. The escaped captives run up the paths they remember descending and into the thick forests. After several days they reach a clearing. Looking through the clearing, they see the fields of the Rats and their caves. They realized with sinking hearts that they had come full circle. They ran in another direction following a new path, careful to run straight as an arrow. After two days and nights of running and scarcely resting, they arrived haggard at the same cliff overlooking the Rat fields and caves. Disheveled, disheartened, and weak with thirst and starvation, they descended the narrow path to their cave and gratefully wolfed down the food that had been set on the tables inside the cave.
  10. Sangor asks to see Lem. Sangor says that he does not want to return to the Saps. He would like to cast his lot with the Rats. Lem said that would be a very difficult decision for Sangor and he would be lonely and depressed for the rest of his days. Sangor said it’s what he wanted more than anything. The problem was that Sangor had to go home to fetch his wife and bring her back with him. Lem said that would be very dangerous for them both. If his friends or countrymen found out what he intended, they would certainly kill them both. Sangor said that he was prepared to take that chance. Lem told Sangor that he must betray the Rats. It was the only way his compatriots would trust him and let him live long enough to escape with his wife. Sangor said to Lem that he would not betray the Rats, even if his life depended on doing so. Lem told Sangor he must do so, if he wished to survive. The Saps would learn all you know about us. They would plan an attack to overwhelm us at our weakest point. The attack will not succeed, you may be assured.
  11. One of the Rats leads those of the captives who wished to return home to the river where it could be forded. When they reached the river bank, three of the captives turned on the Rat to turn the tables on him. They had planned in secret to overpower him and take him captive or kill him, but he was nowhere to be found. They looked everywhere within a radius of 30 steps, careful not to lose a line of sight to the rest of the group. Frustrated, once again, they climbed into a flat boat that had been tethered to one of the trees overhanging the river and paddled to the opposite shore.
  12. Sangor arrives home in Sector 84 and reports to the governor. The army sector commander was called. Sangor reported everything he could remember since falling captive to the Rats. Sangor is awarded a medal for his cunning and bravery. He goes home to his proud wife. The sector commander calls a staff meeting and comes up with a plan of attack.
  13. Sangor tells his wife what really happened with the Rats and that he wants her to go back with him to start a new life there. She resists at first but finally agrees to go with him wherever he goes.
  14. The plan is to fly over the Uncharted Areas with manned balloons. Commandos would fly under the balloons in metal baskets. When they found the fields and caves they would drop cyanide gas bombs that would kill every living thing in a three-day radius.
  15. The sector commander orders Sangor to lead the commando unit back to the point where he crossed the river from the Uncharted Areas. Sangor asked to bring his wife with him. Sangor’s unit commander tells him to leave his wife at home. The battle field is no place for a woman. Sangor asked permission to say good-bye to his wife. He tells his wife she must follow the unit and keep an eye out for Sangor to come fetch her. He planned to lead the unit to the wrong point along the river, break away from them, and come fetch her. He had stolen an STU and pressed it into her hands. He said she was not to speak into it, only to listen. He would click the transmit button twice to indicate he had escaped and was on his way to fetch her. She would count to ten in her head and click thrice to acknowledge. Then once a minute she would click four times to indicate her position. He would try to triangulate her position with his STU. When he found her, he would take her to the correct point along the river. When they crossed to the other side, Sangor was sure that Lem or one of his friends would find them and bring them safely to the village. Sangor kissed his wife long and hard, and rushed back to his unit.
  16.  The unit sets out with a wagon train pulled by a team of dracs. Three wagons were filled with mounds of folded cloth and coiled rope. Three wagons contained light-weight braided metal baskets and air-burner frames. The last three wagons were loaded with large heavy disarmed cyanide canisters. Some of the commandos rode on top of the wagons and some walked along side. They made good time marching through the sector, much to Sangor’s consternation. He hoped and prayed his wife would be able to keep up with the unit, without being spotted.
  17. Sangor’s wife has no trouble keeping up with the unit. She had sold their home and bought the first drac-drawn cart she could find. She followed the column of dust the commandos and dracs kicked up on the long march, at a half-day distance, parallel to the dust column on the other side of the valley. When they stopped she would stop. She listened to the military chatter on her STU, careful not to brush against the transmit button. She did not allow herself to sleep. She worried about Sangor and their future. What had happened to their whole world? Sangor had come home from the Rat wars a decorated hero. The high commanders praised him. Their neighbors talked about him admiringly. Then Sangor came home and the world turned on its head. He told her the Rats were good and our people were evil. He said the Rats were strong and smart, and they would win the war against us. He said our government would lead us into catastrophe and extinction. The Rats knew how to rise from the ashes. The Rats did not hate us. They were only defending themselves. They would help us survive. Sangor had asked his wife whether she knew how many Rats fought against our army. Just one, Lem, he said without waiting for her to answer. They can control the weather. They can appear suddenly and just as suddenly disappear. They can be many places at the same time. They see the future like we look across a field. She did not know what to believe. Maybe Sangor had been brainwashed while he was in captivity. She had heard of such things. He certainly was talking crazily. She felt sure the things he said about the Rats could not be true, but she knew many of the things he said about our army and our government might very well be true. What was a person to do? A voice from the STU gave the command to move. She snapped the whip over the inert drac’s back and started to lurch forward.
  18. By the end of the week, they entered Sector 127. Sangor scanned the hills around them with his monocular for signs of his wife. He saw none. He could not decide whether to worry that she had gotten lost or worse, or be pleased that she had kept herself well hidden. The skies looked ominous, dark and heavy. There were lightning bolts splitting the sky in the direction of the river. Heavy drops of rain began to fall. Sangor feared for his wife. His finger itched to press the transmit button of the STU under his poncho but he withstood the temptation. The commander ordered the commandos to move out.
  19. The commandos reached the river bank by mid-morning the next day. They were being pummeled by hail the size of rocks banging down on their dented helmets. Sangor hoped the weather was better where his wife was. The fog moved inland from the river making it difficult to see more than two steps in any direction. Now, he thought! Now was the time to escape. He walked through the fog to the edge of the clearing, behind a clump of skag trees, opened his pants, and relieved himself in a long arching stream. Sangor closed his pants, ducked down, and moved as quietly as he could through the fog into the thick forest, pelted on his back by the hail. The sounds behind him began to die away. He looked back in the direction from which he’d come. He couldn’t see anyone. He ran up a hill and down into a ravine. Sangor heard his name called in the distance. He did not answer. Again he heard his name. Again he did not answer. He pulled his STU out from under his poncho and clicked the transmit button twice. Nothing. He heard nothing. Then he heard three clicks. His heart raced with joy. He rushed head-long up the slope to the top of the wooded ridge. He listened to his STU and was not sure whether he heard clicks or static. Then he heard his name spit out harshly on the STU. Why hadn’t he thought about selecting a private frequency after the first two clicks and the three-click acknowledgement? Now they’d have to share their frequency with the commandos. Sangor heard his name again on his STU. The unit commander ordered some scouts to look for Sangor. There wasn’t much time left before they’d find him. Sangor was desperate. He shouted into his STU “switch frequencies — Sangor’s compromised this one!”
  20. It worked! Sangor could not believe his luck. The frequency had gone quiet all of a sudden. Then the silence was overwhelming. Where was his wife? Click Sirka! For God’s sake click, he thought. He heard four unmistakable clicks, weaker though than the three clicks of acknowledgement he’d heard before. My God! I’m moving away from her. He looked back in the direction from which he’d escaped. Sangor would have to run around the commandos who were widening their circle in their search for him. He ran along the ridge, just below it on the far side to avoid being seen by the commandos, until he thought he had outflanked them, and ran back down the slope into the ravine and back up the next slope to the top of the hill. He waited for a minute and heard four clicks, stronger this time. He continued running in the same direction, stopping to listen, and running again. The clicks were louder now. Sangor had a sharp pain in his rib cage from running but he continued breaking through the dense skag growth until he found a drac path. He ran up the slope and over the ridge. He slid down the loose rocks between the trees that parted into an open field. Sangor’s blood ran cold. His wife’s naked white body hung upside down, her ankles coiled by rope to a thick branch of a tree on the other side of the clearing next to a boulder patch. Blood trickled down from a gash in her side. He dropped to his knees in the dry grass. He heard four clicks behind his back and everything went black.
  21. The commandos carefully loaded the cyanide gas canisters into the balloon baskets. They ignited the air-burners and the heavy cloth patchwork began to unfold and fill up with hot air. When the balloons were perfectly round, two commandos jumped into each of the three balloons, and the balloons started to lift slowly off the ground. The balloons tugged at their anchor ropes. Three of the remaining commandos hacked through the three anchor ropes and the three balloons rose slowly in the air. When the balloons were two barn-heights above the unit commander’s head, the airborne commandos picked up a strong headwind blowing across the river. The balloons moved smoothly over the rushing river torrent and then they seemed to stop in mid-flight. The airborne commandos increased the flame in their air-burners in an attempt to rise up in the air and possibly catch a stronger headwind blowing them toward the Uncharted Areas, but the winds kept blowing their balloons backwards toward their comrades. When the balloons reached a point high above and directly over their comrades and commander, three lightning bolts split the grey sky, exploding the balloons, which dropped like rocks to ground. The baskets hit the ground hard killing the commandos inside instantly. The canisters also hit hard. The commander and the rest of the commandos near the crash site looked in horror at the bursting canisters as a scent of bitter almonds wafted through the air. The commander frantically fingered the button on his STU and shouted into it, “Commander, the mission is …”

Incidentally, I’d love to read some comments. I’ve seen a flurry of hits the last few days but the well of comments is as dry as a scorpion’s throat. Please don’t be bashful or lazy.

Mike Stone, Ra’anana Israel

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Interlude

Sorry for being incommunicado for a whole week. I was on the other side of the moon without a QEB. I’m working on the storyline of Part 6. It is intriguing as it unfolds in front of my frontal lobes but each twist and turn is executed in its own pace, in its own obscure timeline, but while I’m working on it (in Real Time), I’d like to talk about some other things too:

I just saw that Amazon has made my sci-fi novel, “Why is Unit 142857 Sad? or the Tin Man’s Heart”, searchable inside so that everyone can have a look-see to let them decide whether it’s worth forking over $18.95 for the chance to read a truly challenging and original book. As far as I understand, it will eventually be Kindlized but why wait?

Incidentally, my poetry, parables, and journals, “The Uncollected Works”, has been searchable on Amazon for some time, so have yourselves a gander at that. They are not your grandmother’s book of poems by any stretch of the imagination. They are pretty much a tour of the lanes of my memory.

I will try my best to post a new entry on my blog at least once a week, probably Friday or Saturday, if you want to check back from time to time, but are afraid to subscribe to my blog (or follow it) for fear that I might charge you or spam you or something else I’d never think of doing.

In the meantime, here’s some Raw Material to pluck your inner chords and that will probably find its way into future poems:

  • Human being is what folks do when they are being human.
  • There is a fear that flows through us like spilt blood from the stone cold heart of Jerusalem.
  • How can one ever hope to fill such emptiness with only more emptiness?
  • Sometimes I feel lost like / a snowflake in a sandstorm / like a whisper in a mushroom cloud / like a prayer in a galaxy
  • All men are islands and all writing is a note stuffed in a bottle cast into the waves.
  • Suddenly his trembling hands / are my trembling hands./ Slowly we become nothing / but whispers around an open grave.

Here’s a poem I wrote last night:

“Ambiguities”

Ostensibly it was about the child

Or was it the old man?

Something he said at the time

I wish I could remember

Not that it makes any difference now

How many years has it been?

Something about specific ambiguities

Or was it static ambiguities

Like the San Francisco fog

Moving in off the bay toward the city

And standing there thick and corpulent

For hours until the sun climbs

High enough in the sky to burn it off.

What did he mean by that?

He had a knack for saying things like that.

I think he said them not for the meaning

But for the sounds of the words.

He once said words were not something

Hollow you could look through to see

The true meaning of a thing.

He said one word could never mean another word

Just like one snowflake could never

Mean another snowflake or a butterfly.

 

Mike Stone, Ra’anana Israel

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Story Line for Rats and Saps (Part 4)

The tension builds to “Shock and Awe” levels, but from which side? I did not say it before, but each numbered paragraph in the storyline will expand to one chapter or more. If you just tuned in in the middle and feel lost, please go back to my earlier posts, starting with Background, etc. Another couple posts and I’ll start heading into the Chapter previews.

Part 4:

  1. A shuttle from a robot trading ship landed in Sector 87 with supplies. While the robot was waiting in the local pub for the humans to offload the supplies they needed and load their meager food stuffs and mined minerals, he overheard two humans at another table talking about a new species of humans they called Rats.
  2. When the robot returned with his shuttle to the main ship, he reported what he overheard to the Office of Human Affairs on his home planet over the QEB. The watch officer suggested that the robot take the shuttle back down and scout around the other sectors and Uncharted Areas to see whether there were any signs of this new human species. The trader robot took the shuttle back down to the surface and sectors known to be inhabited as well as the Uncharted Areas. The robot found signs of human habitation in the infrared range of the spectrum and set the shuttle down nearby. The robot jumped down from the shuttle and started walking in the direction of the infrared blobs. He walked into a forest and found himself surrounded by dark blue humanoids.
  3. Lem led the robot to his home, accompanied by the rest of the group. Lem explained to the robot the differences between Homo Sapiens and themselves. Homo Sapiens called them “Rats”, a pejorative term for “Rationals”, their dominant characteristic, aside from being blue-skinned. They had accepted the name, Rats, good-naturedly, and referred to the Homo Sapiens equally good-naturedly as “Saps”. Saps were rather exclusive in their concept of humanity, whereas Rats were far more inclusive. No intermarriage of Sap and Rat had ever produced offspring, although a few Rats were born of Sap parents, like Lem and Yani. Most Saps would prefer a Rat-free world. There had been a number of Rat births from Sap parents. Maybe it had to do with the cyanide compounds mined for processing gold ore in some of the sectors. Most Sap parents killed their Rat infants after child-birth. A very few, like Thort and Evanor or Kivo and Thana, let their Rat infants live and raised them as Sap children.
  4. The robot asks Lem whether the Rationals need any special assistance from his bosses. Lem said there wasn’t very much the robots could do for the Rationals. They could see where they were going and they knew what to do. Their problems had to do with the Saps, who did not know where they were headed and certainly did not know the right things to do. The Saps would never accept the Rationals, although they could use their help and they would continue to attack them, even though they did not stand a chance. In any event, the robots did not share the Rationals’ time line, except to intersect with it once every 64 years. Lem did not tell the robot that the Saps only shared their time line up to a certain point.
  5. The robot said finally that, if there is nothing the Rationals need from the robots, there is probably nothing they have or want to trade off-world with them. Lem and the rest of them concurred. The robot promised to stop by just to check on them once every 64 years, no strings attached. Lem said somebody would always be here to welcome him.
  6. The Rats had a good year, actually a good 10 years. Farms were thriving, but even better, the successes appeared to be sustainable. People were healthy and nobody went to bed hungry. There was no government, no laws, no judges, and no police. From time to time, a forum of people would meet to deliberate apparent conflicts of interest that were too difficult for both sides to resolve. The assumption was that both sides were right and their intentions were good, but there was probably a challenging paradox involved that warranted group deliberation. All human societies have complex needs and the Rats were no exception. It did not make sense for everyone to be a farmer; besides, there were enough farmers producing enough food for everybody. The Rats could have produced enough food for the Saps too, but the Saps hated the Rats more than they loved eating. The Rats began to specialize their labors. In addition to farmers, there were doctors, teachers, builders, researchers, transporters, and broadcasters. Nobody received money for any products, services, or work, so there was no need for money. Everybody did what was necessary to maintain a sufficient level of abundance in his area of specialization. It made sense. Once you were born, you have to do everything you can to survive until the day you die. If there are people in a society who lack the means to survive, that society will break down.
  7. A mob of worked-up Sap neighbors set fire to Evanor’s small farm. They drag her out of bed and tie her to a tree. They pile twigs and tinder around her legs and douse everything with oil. Evanor is set on fire. She screams until she dies.
  8. Another mob captures Kivo and Thana. Their neighbors hang them side by side from the same tree branch.
  9. Laws were passed at the sector level and regional levels to mandate that all blue infants be terminated immediately after birth, whether or not they were deemed viable. The various rag-tag mobs in each sector are consolidated into a more-or-less regular army. Officers are appointed to develop a viable strategy to track down and kill the Rats once and for all. It would require crossing into the Uncharted Areas. The Rats did not see the need for a hierarchical military organization. They would defend themselves and their families as best they could, but each man, woman, and child knew what had to be done, come what may, and there was no need for any general to command them to do it.
  10. That year there was another drought and the only crop farmers like Styg reaped in Sector 87 was dust. In Sector 84, Javid, Thort’s neighbor and co-worker at the local mine, passed away. His wife, Dorka, said it was from Blue Lung. Javid had been coughing up blue phlegm in the worst way the last few months. The company doctors said there was no such thing as Blue Lung. They explained that Javid had probably smoked and drank too much.
  11. The Sap army moved through Sector 127 toward the Uncharted Areas with scouts, infantry, cavalry, heavy artillery, observational balloons, and logistics trailing behind. Command and Control Centers were set up just behind the forward units. Communications antennae were planted on hills behind the CCC’s. It was an impressive display of military power and organization. The weather was difficult though. There were constant electrical storms throughout the sector with horizontal lightning streaking across hilltops and through valleys. The ground was soggy at best and at worst the foot soldiers and the drac-drawn carts sank down in the mud. Thick bullets of ice hailed down on their dented helmets and thwacked the soldiers on their insufficiently padded shoulders. It was impossible to set up camp that night prior to crossing into the Uncharted Areas at dawn the next morning, so the soldiers hunkered down for the night and tried their best to ignore the relentless hail and the terrifying lightning.
  12. Dawn arrives, not much different from the previous night, and the men, animals, and carts move forward slowly. They reach the river bank and look across to the mists hiding the far side. The black river current is faster in the middle than along the bank. The field commander sends scouts up and down the river to find a place where the river may be safely forded. The scouts are ordered to return before evening. Radio silence must be maintained. Two scouts are sent in each direction. By nightfall none of the scouts had returned.
  13. The next morning at dawn cavalry units accompanied two fresh pairs of scouts up and down the river. The scouts and units were to return before evening. Again radio silence was to be maintained at all costs. Night descended, not much different from the day, but neither the scouts nor the cavalry units returned.
  14. The morning after, the field commander divided the infantry, cavalry, heavy artillery, observational balloons, and logistics units into two equal groups, each with its own group commander. Each would move in opposite directions up and down the river bank until they found a point where the river could be crossed. Both groups would use encrypted radio signals to communicate with each other. The two groups would meet up on the other side, possibly organizing a pincer movement around the Rat enemy although they had no idea where the Rats were. The upriver group slogged its way around the bend and soon was out of sight of the downriver group, which moved slowly downstream.
  15. The upriver group marched three days before they found a point apparently shallow enough to ford the river. The scouts and cavalry units were never found. There were rumors that they had been beheaded or skinned alive and left hanging upside down from a tree. The rumors served to increase their hatred of the Rats and their resolve to massacre every last one of them. No mercy would be shown. Among many of the soldiers, however, the rumors served to make them afraid and to wonder whether this military campaign was really worth sacrificing their lives. The upriver group commander called the downriver commander over the STU. The downriver commander had not reached a point where the river could be safely crossed but was optimistic that it was only a matter of time until they found it. They had not found any sign of the scouts or cavalry units sent downstream. He feared the worst had happened. His men were itching to kill the Rats with their bare hands.
  16. The upriver commander, being senior in command, decided to cross the river without waiting for the downriver commander’s group to cross. He ordered some men to wade across the treacherous rapids with heavy coils of rope slung over each shoulder and shot-blasters held high above their heads. The rope coils were tied around thick trees and boulders growing stubbornly from the river bank. The stones below the white water were sharp as axe blades and provided slippery footing at best. The lead man slipped and hit his head, opening a bloody gash across his cheekbone. The second man caught him by the collar but lost his shot-blaster downstream while scrambling to maintain his footing. He waited for the third soldier to reach him and together they dragged the unconscious soldier to the other side. They laid the soldier on the sandy beach of the far bank and looped the ropes around gnarled tree trunks. One of the soldiers carried the excess rope back across the river to the near side. The ends of the rope were tied so that a long low hanging loop of rope crossed over the river. A hundred or men tied themselves to the ropes overhanging the river and waded across with their weapons aimed at the forested hill tops on the far side. They reached the other side and established a beach head facing their weapons inland, the direction from which they thought the Rat attackers would come. The remaining soldiers built several rough-hewn rafts and thick staves to pull the carts, animals, and heavy equipment across, while trying to brake the strong downstream currents. The sun seemed to break through the thick roiling clouds hiding the treetops on the cliffs surrounding the beach they had secured. Some of the men were heartened to see a keyhole of golden sunlight, the first rays in more than a week, what with all the dismal weather they had slogged through. Some men wondered how in God’s own hell were they going to scale those cliffs. Small but sturdy piers were built under the ropes on either side of the river. An empty raft was tethered to the rope and to the pier and pushed, sliding into the water. The first drac and cart were driven reluctantly onto the unstable raft. The drac snorted and brayed, swaying his head and neck left and right, and nearly charging off the edge of the raft. The cart held a heavy cannon battened down for the river crossing. The rope to the pier was released and one soldier pulled the raft via the loop rope while another soldier planted the stave into the riverbed to keep the raft from flowing downstream.
  17. When the raft was halfway across the river, a lightning bolt ripped through the grey sky and blasted the thick tree to splinters, around which the crossing rope was looped. The looped rope catapulted uselessly into the air and the raft capsized, drac, cart, soldiers, and cannon. The rope held onto the raft as it swung along the radius downstream of the tree trunk on the far side of the river, that is, until a second lightning bolt blasted the tree trunk into splinters. The capsized raft, now released from any and all commitments, flowed downstream until it broke up on one of the sharp rocks jutting up from the riverbed.
  18. The upriver group commander was undaunted by the singular bad luck he had witnessed with his own eyes. He would not be deterred and resolved to cross the river again but the grey light was waning and soon the night would render it virtually impossible to cross the river. He called his men across the river to make camp as best they could for the night and the logistics units would bring provisions to them in the morning. He watched with his monocular the camp fires sputtering across the river. His own men made camp and settled in for the night. He ordered two standing guards and two roving guards to patrol the perimeter. He gave the same orders to the unit commander on the far side of the river.
  19. At the crack of dawn, the commander scanned the far side with his monocular but saw only the grey mists. He called the unit commander on the STU but only a dead silence issued from the earphone. He called the downriver group commander for position and status. The downriver commander reported they were about to break camp and continue downstream looking for a safe place to cross the river. The upriver commander told him about the two lightning bolts and the lost cannon, cart, and drac. He had an eerie feeling about those lightning bolts but he did not mention it to the other commander.
  20. The upriver commander slipped the STU into his backpack. He ordered some soldiers to tie a new rope around one of the other thick trees on the near bank of the river and some other soldiers to tie the other end of the rope around their waists. The first group of soldiers fed the rope out slowly as the second group waded into the river with their weapons trained on the cliff tops. The men in the river moved slowly, trying to maintain their footing in the rapids. They disappeared into the mists. After twenty agonizing minutes, the commander heard his STU bleeping gratefully. “Sir, we reached the far bank of the river,” the voice reported, “but we don’t see any of our guys. There’s no tracks in the sand or mud either.” “Keep looking!” the commander ordered. “There’s gotta be something left behind, a cigarette stub, a food bar wrapper, a smoking pile of dung, something…” “We’re looking again sir,” the voice crackled with static, “but we’re not finding anything.” The commander ordered the men on the other side of the river to stop searching and to secure the perimeter immediately. He told them to call him every ten minutes to update their status whether or not there was anything to report. Two men looped the rope around another tree. One of the men waded back across the river with the excess rope.
  21. After the rope loop was hanging across the river, another raft was shoved through the mud and sand down to the river side beside the pier. A drac and cart were driven onto the raft. The drac roared fire and the raft nearly capsized. The cannon was carefully lifted into the cart and tied down. The raft inched across the strong shallow currents with one soldier pulling the loop rope and the other staving off the pull of the downstream. The raft reached the middle of the river with great difficulty and then a single lightning bolt split into two tines slamming into both trees on either side of the river, replacing them with ash and smoke. The rope flew upward in a diabolic smile of flame. The raft flowed sideways downriver until it hit a half-submerged tree and the cart, cannon, and drac upended over the side of the raft and splashed under the grey water. The men were shot off the raft into the water as it flipped over. During the excitement of this rolling disaster, the commander had forgotten that he had not heard from his men on the other side of the river for more than ten minutes. He called the voice he’d talked to earlier that morning, but there was no response.
  22. The downriver group continued to move forward, keeping the river to their left. Around every bend, the river seemed to widen until the opposite bank was lost in the undifferentiated grey mists. Just before nightfall at the end of each long march, the group stopped to set up camp and draw up lists for guard and patrol duty. The commander called the upriver commander every hour from sunset to sunrise to give and receive status updates. The downriver commander was appalled to hear of the losses in men and material. He was even more appalled to hear about the lightning bolts. He had to consider that the Rats had succeeded in weaponizing lightning.
  23. The next morning the downriver group breaks camp and begins another long slog. You can’t really march in mud up to your knees. They slog parallel to the river looking over to the other bank as it recedes into the distance. Everyone suspects the uselessness of the effort and that the river will probably become a lake before it becomes a creek. The rain turns to hail, which turns to rain again, and then hail. The soldiers are indifferent to the weather. The rain softens and beats down the cloth protecting their backs and shoulders, so that the hail hurts even more against their wet skins. Their minds are elsewhere, in warm and dry local pubs or in warm and dry beds. The grey afternoon darkens into evening as the soldiers round a bend and enter a boulder strewn inlet. They set up camp for the night, sip cold soup from crusted cups, and curse their downriver commander more than the Rats.
  24. It seems an endless senseless cycle of night and morning, dreaming and waking. Some men have been feverish for several days and they move in and out of hallucinations, effortlessly, passively. One soldier faints headlong into the mud. His comrades lift him up, barely conscious, supporting him with their shoulders under his armpits, taking on his backpack or shot-blaster along with their own. The fog moves in low, covering the muddy ground, the sandy bank, and the river itself. The soldiers’ feet trudge along blindly, not knowing where to step. One man stumbles sideways into the river. The rain pours down straight from the low clouds in thick globules, beating away the low-lying fog, until once again the feet knew where to step. Grey morning slips unnoticed into grey afternoon and afternoon into grayer evening. The last light starts to fade from the rain. They stop to set up camp. Lists are drawn up for guard and patrol duty.
  25. Just before dawn, the last-watch guard entered the downriver commander’s tent and fired his shot-blaster into the commander’s snoring face. One of the other guards dragged the commander’s corpse through the mud to the river bank, waded in until he was chest deep and the corpse floated in the current, and released it to float downstream. The other men started to wake up, one by one, and tend to their personal needs. They ate in silence and then began to move upriver and homeward. The STU beside the downriver commander’s cot squawked in high-pitched tones to the emptiness of the tent.
  26. The upriver commander called his commanding general on his STU and reported that his troops had sustained a 75% loss of personnel and materiel against superior Rat forces deployed along the river bordering the Uncharted Areas. Apparently the Rats had superior technology, including the ability to control the local weather to their advantage and even to use lightning as an accurate and effective weapon. He recommended to his superior officer massive reinforcements to overcome the enemy, to make them regret the day they were born. The commanding general said there were no more troops available. It would take months to organize and train them. “Sir, in that case,” the upriver commander said to his superior, “I recommend falling back with our remaining forces to defend our home sectors from a Rat counter attack.

Mike Stone, Ra’anana Israel

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Story Line for Rats and Saps (Part 3)

Now it’s starting to get interesting. This is the part in which the story begins to talk to me. See whether or not you agree.

Part 3:

  1. Lem remembered when he was very little, much younger than he was now, before he knew what words meant. He needed the milk of his mother’s breast. He considered how best to capture her attention taking into consideration the limited control he had over his body.
  2. Lem smiled only when Evanor sang; otherwise, Lem was a rather somber infant. A keen interest would often flash through his watery blue eyes for no good reason at all, as far as normal people were concerned, but Lem only smiled when his mother sang.
  3. One evening, a month or two later, Thort came home carrying an elongated black bag under his arm. Lem opened the bag, looked at the bow, then at the fiddle, and his eyes flashed keenly. Lem closed his eyes and smiled. Thort grumbled, “There go a month’s wages.” Evanor caught Thort’s hand and nodded toward Lem. “Look at him. He’s never smiled so long. Let’s hang it on the wall where he can look at it whenever he wants.” Thort hammered two pegs into the plaster wall and hung the fiddle and bow from them.
  4. Thort and Evanor could not afford for Evanor to stay home from work and care for Lem, so Evanor brought Lem to work with her and deposited him at a communal day-care center nearby.
  5. When Evanor had left, Lem waited expectantly for the children to call him into their group. When that did not happen, he waited for the old woman to give him instructions. When that did not happen, he walked over to some old wooden crates filled with large wooden cubes. Lem built a fortress around himself with the cubes. Sangor got up from his group and walked over to the fortress. Then Sangor pushed one wall of cubes inward and the whole fortress toppled on Lem. Lem put the cubes back in the wooden crate in the same order in which he had found them. Lem rebuilt the fortress as before but there were no wooden cubes. Sangor pushed the invisible wall inward, lost his balance, and fell on the floor, hurting his chin and knee. Sangor rushed at Lem with fists flailing but Lem avoided his blows quickly, easily.
  6. Thort and Evanor take Lem with them to visit Kivo.
  7. Lem meets Yani.
  8. Thort and his family return home to Styg’s farm but the barn door is locked. Thort walks over to Styg’s house and knocks on the door. Styg opens the front door, brandishing a shot-blaster. “You git off my property now or I’ll blast you all, startin with your son and thin yer wife…” Thort shouted at Evanor to take Lem and run for that line of trees they had come through and he would bring their bags and worldly possessions. When his wife and child were safely out of shot-blaster range, Thort turned his back on Styg, picked up the bags in both hands, and started walking slowly toward the tree line. Thort could feel the shot-blaster pointed at his back as he walked away slowly. It was almost physical the way the aiming of it dug into the center of his back, and then it became physical, as Styg’s finger twitched on the trigger. Thort was already half-dead when he heard the blast.
  9. Lem whirled around at the clap of noise, in time to see his father collapse onto the ground and Styg recharge his weapon. He took Evanor’s hand and shouted into her mind, “Don’t think – just run with me to the trees!” Evanor was in shock and her mind did not work anymore. Lem ordered her legs to run as fast as his, synchronized with his zig-zag motion as they nearly flew across the open field. Shots sang shrilly past their ears and kicked up hot clumps of dirt near their feet. Lem heard Styg recharging his weapon again. They reached the tree line and Evanor almost collapsed, her legs wobbled so much. Lem helped her sit down with her back propped against a boulder behind the tree line, facing away from Styg’s property. Lem whispered in his mother’s ear to wait for him to return. There was something he had to do before they could leave.
  10. Lem rose slowly, quietly, from behind the boulder and scanned the field looking for Styg. Lem saw him at the edge of the field poking his shot-blaster between some bushes and trees a short distance away. Lem moved behind the tree line towards Styg until he stood in front of him, scarcely two drac-spans distant. “I know yer in there,” he mumbled, “I’ll find you … just you wait’n see.” Suddenly Styg shut up. His shot-blaster began to move upward in short jerking motions until it was pointing at Styg’s own face. Styg heard a child’s voice in the dark night, “Can you feel me inside you?” Styg nodded his head twice. The smell of hatred was replaced by pure fear. Lem explained to Styg, “I am going back to Mother now. We will leave the sector. You are going to stay here until morning with the barrels of the shot-blaster in your mouth and your twitching fingers on the trigger. If you try to move or make a sound before morning, you will pull the trigger and that will be that. You will bury my father before the second moon rises on the eastern horizon.” Lem backed away into the night and returned to his mother.
  11. Lem and Evanor stop along the way at Kivo’s place to tell them Thort was dead and they were leaving the sector.
  12. Lem leaves Evanor to join a Rat commune in an uncharted area of the world.
  13. Lem comes back to visit Evanor and plants a secret message in her mind for Yani.
  14. Yani tells Kivo she needs to find Lem. Kivo takes her to Evanor where she divulges Lem’s location to Yani.
  15. Yani goes alone to find Lem.
  16. The Rat commune accepts Rat refugees from every Sap sector in the world.

Mike Stone, Ra’anana Israel

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Story Line for Rats and Saps (Part 2)

Part 2:

  1. Thort takes his family down south, through Sectors 85 and 86, and finally arrives in the dry warm climes of Sector 87.
  2. They live off the land for a few days and eventually find a farm inhabited by an older couple. They let Thort’s family live in their barn.
  3. Thort works in the fields with Styg and earns dinner for himself and his family. Evanor helps with household chores. Lem quietly amuses himself.
  4. One evening at the dinner table, Styg mentions to Thort that he had heard of another family, three days distant, with a blue child. Quiet people, minded their own business and kept to themselves. Styg never actually saw them himself; just heard talk about them.
  5. Styg asks Thort to take one of the stronger farm animals, hitch it to the two-wheeled cart, and drive to the next village to bring back supplies. Thort hitched up a drac (a rather ugly dragon slightly larger than a mule) to the cart and drove off uncertainly in the direction of the village. Styg hrumphed to himself about Thort’s choice of animals. Everyone knew that dracs were contrary as hell and dumb as all get out.
  6. By mid-day Thort finally side-steps the drac and cart into the village, ties the drac to the nearest hitching post, and starts looking for the general store on foot. He finds the store eventually, walks in, and looks around with his list in hand. While he is looking for sacks of seed, Thort meets Kivo who is closely inspecting an open sack of seed. Thort gets to talking with Kivo and finds out comes from a village 3 days from this one. Kivo has a wife and mumbles something about a little daughter. Thort and Kivo exchange a few humorous anecdotes at the expense of their respective wives, but Kivo deflects any discussion about the younger generation. Truth is that Thort doesn’t volunteer any specific information about his child either. He’s just asking to be polite and to keep the conversation from dying off. Kivo looks Thort in the eyes sadly and says he’s got a blue daughter about 5 years old. Thort grabs both Kivo’s shoulders with his large hands and says incredulously, “What? You have a blue kid too? We have one ourselves, a blue boy named Lem, about the same age as yours!” They compare notes and part company amicably with promises to visit sometime.
  7. Thort told Evanor about Kivo and his blue girl that night as they lay beside each other in the unbaled hay. Lem’s eyes were shut but his ears were listening.

Mike Stone, Ra’anana Israel

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Story Line for Rats and Saps (Part 1)

This is the first part of the storyline. There are five parts so far.

Story Line

Part 1:

  1. Evanor’s story. She is the mother of the main character, Lem.
  2. Hard life on Draco.763.3b in Sector 84; history of colonization from colony’s heyday until current time.
  3. First blue baby is born; not deemed viable and killed.
  4. Another blue baby is born, another, and another; reports from different sectors; roughly 0.5% of all births are blue; all killed.
  5. Evanor and Thort, from Sector 84, give birth to their first child, Lem, who turns out to be blue; the baby cries and coos; the young parents don’t have the heart to kill the child.
  6. Evanor and Thort are ostracized by their neighbors; the local preacher calls Lem an abomination in the eyes of God; the local doctor refuses to receive baby Lem at his clinic.
  7. When Lem turns 3 years old, Evanor takes him to communal day-care; Sangor, one of the neighbors’ children, tries to bully Lem; Lem is blamed for the incident and Evanor has to take him home; a brawl between Javid (Sangor’s father) and Thort (Lem’s father) ensues and the co-workers only pull them apart when the assistant manager shows up.
  8. After work in the mine, Thort goes to the local bar to drown his troubles in some good brew with his buddies, only his buddies don’t make room for him at the long table; he sits by himself at a small table nearby and drinks his brew alone; Javid is drinking with the buddies at the long table and telling everybody his side of events at the mine.
  9. Thort is ordered to come to the assistant manager’s office where he was fired on the spot.
  10. Thort and Evanor take Lem and leave Sector 84 to look for farming work in Sector 87.

Next post will be Part 2. Stay tuned!

Mike Stone, Ra’anana Israel

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About the Method of Writing and Why There’s No Synopsis Yet…

Hi! Before I launch into the background, setting, characters, and storyline, I wanted to explain a bit about how I write a story. It’s strange how different the method of story writing is from the method of poetry writing. I’ve been writing poetry for over 40 years, but I’ve never been able to figure out how I write poetry. I promise to let you all know as soon as I figure that one out, but I am beginning to understand how I write a novel, this being my second novel already. I really thought my first novel, Why is Unit 142857 Sad? or the Tin Man’s Heart, was destined to be a singleton, a one-off. My father was always the story-teller. I read stories to my three sons but I was never able to spin yarn the way my father could so naturally, until about a month after he passed away. That is when I got the knack. I don’t want to talk about genetic transference or passing on the torch from generation to generation. It just happened. Accept it.

Stories can’t be forced into existence, good stories anyway. Stories start out as the germ of an idea. The idea can be a rough storyline, like a war between two human species but one in which we are the  more primitive, it can be a set of main characters, it can be a setting like another planet, or it can be a combination of these elements. The storyline creates a kind of carrier wave on which the interactions among the characters transpire over a backdrop of the setting. If the story is viable, it will start to write itself. I mean it will evolve organically. Stories, the viable kind, have their own logic, which can be as persuasive as any axiom or syllogism. You have to listen to your story as you are writing it and be ready to change directions, if the story demands it. You have to trust the story. It wants to be written as much (if not more) as you want to write it.

While I am waiting for the story to start writing itself, I map out the terrain of the story. That is done relatively quickly. It feels a little like the way the Israels conquered the Sinai Desert in 1956 and 1967. They flew over the enemy fortresses and soldiers and parachuted down into the Mitla Pass near the Suez Canal. Then they worked their way back attacking the enemy from behind. I write down a few segments of the beginning of the story, jump to the end and write a few more segments, then work my way backwards and forwards from the middle, filling in the gaps until I achieve critical mass, the point at which the story becomes viable and starts telling itself. When I’m mapping out the terrain, I don’t write sequentially. I see a gap between two story points and I figure out how to fill it. Even before the story becomes viable, it starts to talk to me. The more there is of it, the more it talks. That’s why you have to get it out of your head and “on paper”; otherwise you won’t be able to hear it talk or, if you do hear it, you won’t remember what all it said to you.

That is why there is no synopsis yet. I am still mapping out the terrain of the story and I still don’t know how it will end; however, as you will see for yourselves, it is quite a storyline. The next post will discuss the background, the characters, and the setting. The one after that will discuss the storyline.

Sit back and enjoy the blog. If you are a budding story writer yourself or you would like to see how the story turns out, you might subscribe to this blog. I’d love to get your comments. If you like it, hit the button.

Mike Stone, Ra’anana Israel

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Filed under about writing, Prose, Stories and Novels