7.29.2017

First Podcast? First Podcast!

So, I did a thing. I've been thinking about what it was for a while, but this is something I've had rattling around in my brain and I wanted to get it out somewhere.

I'm going to start supplementing my prose short stories here on the site with audio podcasts that cover the things that my articles used to. Stuff about writing, life, media, stories I like, etc. I have the first episode recorded and uploaded here, you can see the link below. Don't know how often they'll be coming out or even if I'll do more, but there it is.

https://soundcloud.com/ben-w-benergizer1/gears-nails-and-chewing-gumpod-ep-1

7.24.2017

Nails, Gears, and Chewing Gum - A Short Story

The sound of hammer on wood rapped out through the open garage door. A solid sound, the sort of noise that people accepted despite its volume because of its necessity. Anyone who was building something had to put their hammer to it at some point. You could hardly shout at your neighbor for wanting to build something, could you?

"No, right here, here, that's it. Careful."

Hammer met wood again, a hesitant but still firm stroke. The boy holding the hammer could not have been much older than ten or eleven years old, but the focus of his attention on the project was that of someone much older. He had a pair of wooden pegs clutched in his mouth, his left hand on the piece of wood he was working on, the other swinging the hammer down.

"Perfect. Great job."

The boy looked up over his shoulder, a beam of sunlit joy crossing his face. The man with him, an older man with brown hair going gray at the temples, gave him a warm smile and put his hand on his shoulder.

"We've got the frame done now. So what's next?"

"The axles and drivetrain! Then we can put the wheels on, and the steering!"

"Exactly. Go grab the axle mounts and let's get them attached."

The boy climbed up to his feet and ran for the other side of the garage with the speed of youth. The man took a moment to test their workmanship of the project to this point. The wooden frame and paneled walls of a box-car, the sort of thing that you saw in old TV shows and movies, was beginning to take shape. It was even shaped like an old jalopy, looking like an arched door frame from the front with a rounded back, a sort of canoe-style half-circle cut out of the middle to allow room for a seat, steering wheel, and even a rudimentary gear shift.

It was the sort of project that someone took on toward the end of July or beginning of August, as the school year got nearer and mothers talked to their children about buying the necessary back to school supplies. It was also the time for fathers to take them on fishing trips, to go camping in the woods, out to a baseball or football game, all sorts of activities like this one. That was part of why he was here. The other part of it was that building this sort of car was something he had wanted to do since he was a boy and never had a chance to do for himself.

The boy came back with the two metal brackets that would help hold the axles onto the car, two of them little more than U shapes with extra room at each end to use something to attach it to the car's body, the other two a little more elaborate with round interlocking plates that could spin, perfect for wheels that needed to turn. "We need to lift it so we can get them on there, right?" He asked.

"Yep. Now, normally for this sort of job, we'd need a jack and some chains to hold it off the ground, but since this is a bit of a smaller project..." He reached down and grabbed the car's sides, looking at the boy and nodding him over. "Let's flip it onto its back."

The boy hurried over, put the brackets on the ground, and helped him turn the car over so it was resting on its hood on the garage floor. Then he picked the brackets up and put them on the bottom of the frame, approximately where they would help hold the wheels to the car. One spot was easy to find because there was a hole in the bottom of the frame for the steering wheel to connect with the axle. He lined them up, then looked around for something to attach them to the bottom of the frame.

"How are we going to get them to stay on there?" He asked, face contorted in frustration and confusion. "We can't use nails, they'll go up through the bottom of the floor."

"Not necessarily. Go grab some of those nails there, I'll show you what we can do with them."

The boy grabbed a handful of nails but was careful enough to avoid sticking himself on their sharper ends. He brought them over and laid them out one by one on the car's undercarriage. The man scooped them off and held them in his hand.

"Now nails, remember, they can hold stuff together, but only if you put them in their proper places. You have to think ahead and figure out where they need to go to make whatever you're building stronger." He picked up the hammer and moved the front-most axle around a bit, then placed a nail against the metal bracket and hammered the nail through it, and through the bottom of the car frame as well. "This will hold the bracket, and the bracket will hold the axle, but when we turn the car back over, we need to bend down the nails so they lock against the wood. And so they don't poke you in the feet when you get inside."

The boy nodded, listening and paying attention. Then he accepted the hammer and nails and set about working on the axle brackets.

"While you're doing that, I'm going to get that gear shift put together so we can put that on there. Once that's all together, we can put the axles in, then the wheels. Then all that'll be left is the steering wheel and the seat."

The sounds of the hammer rang out again, this time with the more metallic ring of hammer on nail and bracket. The man moved away from the part of the garage that was the wood shop and assembly line, and over toward the metalworking part. A mass of half-assembled metal parts sat in the middle of a wooden table, most of them gears assembled inside of a metal box. The man picked up the tools already on the table, a screwdriver, a pair of pliers, and a socket wrench, and started putting together what would be a two-speed gear shift.

The gears were a bit too intricate for the boy to assemble, there were a lot of little parts that needed assembly, and trying to do the entire project in one day on top of constructing the car itself would be very difficult. Thus, he would handle the gearshift, and the boy would take care of the car's larger and easier to manipulate sections.

It occurred to him that, like the nails, each gear he put into the workings had to be put in just right for everything to work properly. But while the nails held the car together, the gears were what would help control it, controlling each direction, whether the car would be proceeding forward or backward, as well as helping to steer it. While it was not necessary to the full assembly of the car, a perfectly good box car could be made without anything quite so complicated, for the car they were building, it was essential.

"This is going to be the best thing we've ever built." The boy said, "The best."

"It sure will, buddy." The man looked up out through the garage door. Outside was the familiar gray corridor, a featureless wall, a light fixture that glowed a soft blue-white color. It only looked like a garage inside of it, with bare wooden walls, tables, and benches, a single incandescent light hanging from the ceiling to provide illumination. From the outside, it was a metal box with a door on it and two beings inside working on what looked like an archaic, quaint little workshop project.

He looked down at his work and resumed, finishing up the last few parts of the gearbox and snapping the cover on. "I'm finished over here. How are you doing?"

The boy looked up at him. A streak of dirt was smudged on his pale cheek now, but his startlingly blue eyes still shone brightly with enthusiasm. "Almost done, just one more bracket to go."

"Once you're done with that, let's take a break for a minute or two, okay? We're about halfway through, we can take a bit of time to make sure everything's put together the way it should be."

The boy nodded and returned his attention to his work. His focus was so sharp, that he placed the nail to the wood, dropped the hammer on it twice, then stepped back wit ha pleased look on his face, his mission accomplished.

"Good work, let's see it." The man walked over, checking all of the brackets and making sure everything was secure to the car. He nodded his approval and patted the boy's shoulder. "Looks good to me. Once we get the axles in there, we can turn it back over and get the wheels on."

"But we get to take a break first, though. What kind of break is this one?"

The man reached into the pocket of his jacket, drawing out a small silver package. "I thought, this time, we'd take a chewing gum break."

"Yes!" The boy grabbed the package, excited and almost tearing it apart as he tried to open it and access the insides. He removed a small white piece of gum and immediately tossed it into his mouth, chewing with rapid enthusiasm. "I love chewing gum!"

"Yeah, you do." The man smiled and took a piece for himself from the package. He did not chew quite as enthusiastically as the boy, though he did enjoy taking the break for himself quite a bit. "Why do you enjoy it, though? Can you explain why?"

The boy thought for a moment, chewing, his eyes focused on something distant. As he thought, the man glanced back toward the door. He saw another man there now, wearing a white lab coat and holding a tablet computer in one hand. He observed what was going on in silence, absorbing the scene, then made a note on his tablet and moved along down the hallway.

"I think... it's because it's sweet. It's chewy and fun. It's something I can have fun with and not really think about that I'm doing it. It just happens. And other people like it, too, so I like talking to other people about it. Like you!"

The man smiled again as he turned back to the boy. Those bright blue eyes shone at him as if there were a light behind them. "I'm glad you're glad. I like it because I know it makes you happy. And sometimes in life, we need to find things that make us happy, right?"

"Right. You know what else makes me happy?"

"Building?"

"Yep!" The boy, still chewing on the piece of gum he had been given, went back to the car. "We're almost done, we can't stop now!"

"Right behind you, buddy."

3.14.2017

Snow - A Short Story

Light.

Sounds.

I... wake?

I see.

Dirt--pieces of stone, concrete, asphalt and soil. Compacted, impacted. A path.

Upright. I stand upright.

I hear.

Whispers, rustling, the soft brush of plant matter against its like. The wind.

I see farther. Tall plants, upright, strong, dressed in rough bark and topped with thin needles. Evergreens.

Greens.

Colors. I see colors. Greens, browns.

I see the presence of all colors across the visible spectrum, combined to create white. Fields of white. Mountains of white.

Steps. I take a step, one foot in front of the other. The path leads to the field. A field covered in white.

I step out into the field. It moves, it compacts and crushes together. I kneel and press my hand into the white.

Snow.

I lift my hand from the snow. It drips with dampness, with water. I see my hand. White, smooth, five digits. Four fingers and a thumb.

Human?

No. Not human. Something else.

What am I?

I stand up. I look around, observing the things that surround me.

Trees, hills. Beyond them: triangles and peaks. Mountains. Beyond that: gray, dark blanket of clouds. The sky. The sun cannot be seen.

There is nothing more to see here. I start to walk. One foot in front of the other.

The path goes forward. Into the forest. Into the mountains. The path is fresh, there are no plants growing in it, no large stones or rough ground. This path has been walked on by someone recently.

I do not walk on the path. I walk along the fields and into the trees.

Do I want to meet someone? Do I want them to see what I am?

I stop walking.

I look around again. The trees. The snow. I listen to the wind brush the branches and shake the trees.

Perhaps I will stay here. Until I learn what I am.

The snow is quiet. The trees are quiet. There is... peace.

I like peace.

Sound. I hear something. The crunch of something on the dirt of the path.

I turn to look. I see someone.

A human.

A human covered in heavy clothes, with boots and a mask and goggles. The build suggests a female. A female human walking along the path with something in her hands.

Something that is long, with a stock and a barrel, a multi-lense scope on top. The barrel and muzzle width suggest a rifle of .50 caliber or higher. But the chamber and magazine are not. The chamber and magazine have been modified, non-standard, capabilities unknown.

How do I know this? Why do I know this?

She sees me. She stops. The rifle comes up and its muzzle turns in my direction. I can see down the barrel, the whole length, all the way up the barrel to the chamber.

Alarms. I see red. Something tells me to move. I hear the voice from somewhere, everywhere and nowhere. The voice tells me there is a danger. The voice tells me that she is going to shoot me.

I hear her voice next, muffled by her clothes and wraps. I hear her words, and they tell me to stop, to not move.

I was not moving.

She walked toward me. She is slow, she is careful, she does not want to fall in the snow. Her rifle still has its muzzle pointed toward me. She is speaking but her voice is quieter now. She is not talking to me. But I can still hear her. She is asking someone else what do so. She says that she had found another one, wandering down at the foot of the mountains.

I cannot hear what the answer is. But the rifle does not move.

She says more, about how this one is not trying to move or run, about how it is not trying to attack her. How it is walking alone under the trees away from people. She says that this one is different.

I cannot hear this answer either. The rifle remains pointed in my direction.

She says something else. She says that she understands. She stops and looks at me for a moment. She lowers her hand from her rifle and reaches up to move her goggles, to lower the wrap from her face. I see blue eyes, red cheeks, a mouth that looks twisted by something unnatural. Scars.

Her mouth moves.

"I'm sorry."

The rifle comes up again. The muzzle points.

The voices try to warn me.

Should I move?

Should I run away?

Should I stop her?

I do not want to run.

I do not want to stop her.

I do not move.

Noise.

The crack and flash.

I am hit.

I fall.

I am still. I am quiet.

Am I...?

Darkness.

Silence.

I... sleep.

1.28.2017

Locked Door - A Short Story

So this is something that I might do, might not. I'm going to try using this blog-website-whatever as a platform to practice writing, not just to promote or discuss it. I'll be putting some short (thinking less than 1,000 words) stories on here and whatever other little things I might do to try and keep the creativity flowing. I've been neglecting my writing a lot in this new year so far, but I figure this is as good a place as any to stop that.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

The handle turned and the door shoved open, propelled by a force from beyond. One rough, calloused hand gripped the handle, its right-sided mate pushing against the dark wood just above it, so that both of them worked together, trying to keep the door from sliding out any further. But the motion was inexorable, pushing back against both hands and the arms attached to them.

“I can't stop them.” Peter groaned. He tried to dig his shoes into the floor, but their rubber soles could not provide much more traction against the slick surface than they had already given him. "The door-"

“Try and jam it closed!” Marjorie insisted, “I'm almost done!”

Peter strained, from his teeth down to his toes, straining to force the door back into place. It halted, just for a moment, and he glanced over his shoulder at the room behind him for something, anything to help him brace the door.

Marjorie did not turn back to look at him. She was focused, utterly focused on her task. If she failed or got distracted, then all of this, everything that they had done, would be for nothing. Her fingers flew, eyes scanning the computer monitor for the information that they needed.

"Marj!" Peter called, "Hurry up!"

"Just a minute more!" She typed again, sending a different command into the computer and out to the internet beyond. A bead of sweat ran down her face, it trickled into the corner of her eye and she had to blink hard to get it out. She did not dare take her hands off of the keyboard.

Peter felt the door surge again against his hands, and he slid back again even further. Peter gritted his teeth, pushing with all of his might. He could hear shouts from the other side of the door, shouts of triumph at their progress. A thin, pale hand slid through the gap in the doorframe and grabbed for his fingers. He slapped them back, and the hand withdrew, an indignant voice screeching at him from the gap.

"Marj!" He looked over his shoulder again. "This isn't working!"

"It is working!" She insisted, "I just- there!" She shouted in triumph, smashing her hand against the keys. "Got it! I've got it, we're done."

Peter looked from her to the door. He was panting, breath coming in hard gasps. "We're done?"

She turned to him and nodded. With one hand she wiped her brow. With the other, she gripped the top of the monitor, showing him what she had done.

Peter looked, he grinned, and then he laughed. Then he stood up and released the door handle. The door swung open, almost an explosion of violent motion, and three small figures tumbled through, two of them tripping over each other and winding up on the floor. Four others stood together in the hallway outside, watching to see what was going on.

"Too late!" He announced, "We're all done."

The collected little ones all groaned and moaned in an almost perfect chorus of voices.

"I know, I know." Peter started to usher them out of the room. "Maybe next time, all right?"

Marjorie came over to join him, scooping one of the two off of the floor where they had fallen and helping the other to their feet. "You did better this time than you did last week." She encouraged them all, "You almost had us."

"Yeah, sure did. I think I'm going to need to start weight training again just to make sure that you don't win next week."

As the crowd started to disperse through the hallway, Peter leading most of them away in a separate direction while Marjorie followed with a few of the smallest ones, the one she was holding leaned down to whisper in her ear. Its sibilant tones were almost musical in their patterns and gentle rhythm. She smiled and held it a bit closer.

"I know you could have." She said to it in a whisper. "And I'm glad you didn't. Just remember, we do all of this to teach you, right? So try to learn everything you can."

The little one rested its head deep into the space between her head and her shoulder. She could hear the soft whirring and clicking of the workings inside of it, matching up with her own heartbeat as the adrenaline of the moment drained away.

"Did you ever think," She called forward, "That one day this would be our lives? The caretakers of nearly a dozen little ones?"

"Never," Peter answered without turning around to face her, "Not in the last million years. But now that we're here, I don't think that I'd ever want to do anything else."

Marjorie looked down at the little one in her arms. White and perfectly smooth skin, teardrop-shaped face and piercing blue eyes that shone with an inner light, eyes that should never have been more than just diodes in a metal housing. Yet, when they flicked up to meet her eyes, she could see the tenderness of a young, growing intelligence there. Something so raw, so beautiful, it reminded her of the rise of a sun over a distant horizon.

"Maybe next time, instead of the chase, we play a different game." She said. "Something without so many doors between us."

The little one made a pleased sound. And it smiled.