Monday, April 08, 2019

Fight Therapy for Writers: Backtalking the Thought Police

But most importantly, thinking about the work in progress and how to really make it better. Trolling the cultural fussbudgets is just a sweet bonus.

Smarter, funnier people than I could have a grand time roasting the absurdities in the digital flyer below, presented with an Uncanny Valley earnestness by the same pointed and vacuum-sealed skulls who give you today’s TV commercials and magazine ads. Smarter, funnier people than I run daily blogs doing nothing but roasting such things, and I admire their energy and focus. Being a mere genre indie-novelist who dabbles in photo essays and poetry (see the links on the black bar above) (if you dare), it’s best I use this to talk about the books I’ve written, the book I’m writing, and how my interaction with these fashionable stupidities helps me put it all together. Maybe my example will help you with your project. It’s worth a shot.

For those new to the blog, I write zombie post-apocalyptic fiction. I have two books of a trilogy out now, with a third I’m hoping to finish sometime...soon. Simply thinking of applying this mindset to the digital pulp I write is funny in itself as any given action genre, being about uplifting heroics in the face of overwhelming evil, is naturally resistant to the hectoring of the No Fun Allowed, Only Moral Lessons/ Have You Met Your Assigned Quotas, Comrade? cultists. We are, so to speak, in our own little world. We’d better be.

Although I will indulge a few easy shots at these silly-billies, I wish to emphasize that such things as put out by today’s professional pseudo-moralists are not worth getting angry about. You’re also playing into their hands if you express any indignation over things like this. Like that amorphous energy blob on the classic Star Trek series, they feed and grow more powerful on your negative reactions. Don’t feed the blobs. Instead, let’s have some fun with casting characters the right way.

Presented here for review purposes and Copyright © Association of National Advertisers, the same people who murdered the tradition of fun and entertaining Super Bowl commercials in favor of...ah, never mind. Don’t be sad no one knows how to make a proper Super Bowl commercial anymore. Be glad they once happened.

Before I start, I was brought up short by the notice of the average U.S. woman’s weight in the lower center of the Numbers Good Comrade Should Mind When Crafting Socially Uplifting Entertainment for the Masses section. I had to look that up. 

Insert “needle scratching across a vinyl record” noise here.

Good Lord deliver us, they were actually telling the truth, at least according to the Centers for Disease Control.

For perspective: At 166 pounds (75 kg) I’d still be two pounds overweight in terms of BMI. (Which works perfectly well as a health indicator, Tubby; the only way you can skew the numbers is if you’re a professional-grade weightlifter, which most of us, you included, are not.) At 5’ 8” (172 cm) 160 pounds (72.5 kg) is as heavy as I should get, and only after a particularly heavy meal. As of this writing I’m 177 pounds (80 kg) and increasing my fasts from 16 hours to 20 hours every other day to chisel this down.

Talk about living in a dystopian future. Back in the day people would be looking at my belly and saying, “Could stand to lose a few, huh?” In the 1970s and ‘80s, 20 lbs over was fat — even 10 pounds over was time to take notice — and you got called out for it. Today I’m told how good I look. Because looking around today....

So what’s our directive, Frau Kommissar? That every woman I write be an adorably rotund fleshwad of smarts and sass? I could probably get away with a thin, fit woman in my narrative — these are the ones with the best chances of survival in my particular fictional setting, after all — but only if she’s “balanced” with a grotesquely massive creature to bring up the average to 166 pounds. And only if the horrorfat is a computer scientist, or something to do with STEM. And make her the bestest computer scientist STEM person in the whole wide world! And make all the boys love her, but she’s too busy and cool for them! Because equality. Or something.

Keep these slick, sweaty folds of yeasty-smelling thought within your grasp. I’ve got all the “representation” and “visibility” you can eat in my zombie post-apocalypse series.

Question: How pathological of a narcissist do you have to be to demand to “see yourself” in fiction written by others? Answer: You should be locked in the basement ward of a state mental hospital and beaten nightly by the guards. I don’t even want to see myself in my fiction. I want to see heroes doing hero stuff, villains doing villain stuff, and everyone going home feeling like they’ve been somewhere and done something when all they did was sit on their butts and read stuff. Meanwhile, some fat chicks are demanding I put fat chicks in a setting where food is scarce. Ha-ha, good one. Now go away.

For general writing instruction purposes, the checklist questions at the bottom of the flyer lends itself well to  Socratic back-and-forth. Snicker along as it starts off stupid, and then repeats itself. There’s brains and blood to be had from this turnip, though. Let’s get squeezin’.

Do your female characters significantly contribute to the plot?

They’re not hanging out in bikinis smiling pretty and saying nothing, if that’s what you’re concerned about. I keep ‘em busy.

Does your female character’s primary plot contribution involve being the victim of violence or deciding whether or not to have a romantic or sexual relationship with a male hero? 


But seriously, folks...what’s wrong with men and women falling in love? People in love have something to fight for. “Something to fight for” is what drives a plot, any plot. If you know enough about male-female relationships to make that “romantic or sexual relationship” believable, you’ve given the reader a stake, too.

You’ll note the quotes around “romantic or sexual relationship.” The use of such sterile language reveals the emptiness of the authors’ hearts here. No audience cheers or fears for a mutually beneficial partnership between two self-interested independent contractors. Thus it is not out of mere reactionary contrarianism that I declare there should be love between my hero, Derek Grace, and his wife, Agnes. Not a mere romantic relationship. Nor, heaven forbid, a mere sexual one. Love.  

What seems obvious to you and me, Dear Reader, is going over the heads of these people for the eleventy-millionth time. You might as well get angry with a musk ox for smelling musky, so let it go. 

My wife made this ground turkey sandwich with cheese and caramelized onions for me. Why? I didn’t ask for it. I never ask for these things. She just brings them right up to my office. Why would anyone do such a thing? You better believe I’m grateful to have someone in my life who not only doesn’t feel the least bit devalued in caring for others, but takes pride in how well she does it. I imparted this now nearly extinct ethic to my character Elyssa in The Wrong Kind of Dead, which will make for entertaining conflicts when she encounters women of a more contemporary outlook.

As for the “victim of violence” bit, everyone save for the sheltered citizens of the Redoubt Network has either dealt directly with horrific violence, or been forced to watch. It’s a feature, not a bug, of civilizational collapse. If it makes you feel any better, the living dead don’t discriminate when it comes to whom they attack and eat. 

This is also going over the heads of “equality in representation” cultists. These people would have everyone fighting each other over the dumbest things until the dead overtook the main characters and put the audience out of their misery. Fortunately for fans of zombie post-apocalyptic action-adventure, the only numbers I care about are how many fictional bodies I can stack, which I’m not counting, either. I just know I need a fat mess of ‘em to make this work.

tl;dr: Don’t be afraid of love. You already know it isn’t worth living without it in the real world. Why are you leaving it out of your fiction? Because a gaggle of overpaid hens who can’t find love for themselves say so? The (fit, intelligent, self-possessed) boyfriends they’ll never have don’t care what they think. Why do you?

This is what “diversity” genuinely looked like to Huffington Post editor Liz Heron when she posted this photo on Twitter by way of boasting of her staff on 20 May 2016. No kidding. Google “huffington post staff photo” and read for yourself. Hilarity ensued.

For the record, though, Agnes Grace’s and Elyssa Godwin’s primary plot contributions in my series aren’t solely in being victims or suffering for my hero’s love life. Agnes drives a flame-throwing monster truck that comes in handy in the mortally combative narrative environment, and Elyssa takes care of the mothers and children in the group so Derek and Agnes can fight the living and unliving monsters alike. Of course, taking care of others is demeaning, so....

If you completely removed all your female characters from the story, would it be inconsequential to the plot? 

We answered that with the first question, and then elaborated upon that answer in subsequent queries. Do you even proof, sis? And yet here you are, telling me how to write. I’ll bet you’re adorable when you smile. Next:

Are any of your characters over the age of 40?  

My main protag, Derek Grace, is a mid-40s kinda guy, but we both know that’s not what you’re asking. What you want to know is that I have two lady characters over the age of 40. Not one, but two. Do I get a prize?

Alas, Martha and Loretta are quite matronly and traditional. They take care of children and other noncombatants so the main characters can fight to defend them all. They don’t even have the wit to feel unfulfilled in this. They’re actually proud to do what they do. Yeah, you’d hate ‘em.

Could any of the following words describe your female character’s personal attributes: strong, intelligent, ambitious, charismatic, creative, reliable, successful, courageous, or confident? 

Absolutely not. They’re all weak, stupid, indolent, unattractive, witless, flaky, fail-bombing cowards scared to speak up.

Seriously, you’re expecting a straight answer here?

Let’s just say they’re all on a scale from weak to strong, stupid to intelligent, indolent to ambitious, etc. Just like people. I’m not giving you any percentages, either, Frau Kommissar. I’m a writer, not a statistician. 

Could your script pass the Bechdel test—does it include two women talking about something other than a man?

My story is told in first-person by the hero, so this is tricky. But I’m sure Derek has caught Agnes and Elyssa talking about stuff other than him, what with how they pretty much run the general day-to-day affairs of the tribe in his name. The wimmenz, they are tricksy hobbitses.  Just like...people.

Is there a range of body types among your female characters? Do any of your female characters have a disability?

Martha, former head of Sisters Keep at the Abundant Life church settlement, is a classically stout, late-middle-aged matron. Her over-40 compatriot, Loretta, is better at self-care, and therefore of normal weight for her sex, height, and age. I imagine 18- to 19-year old Elyssa as lithe and bird-boned, a couple of inches taller than farm-raised strong, military-fit and mid-30s Agnes. I honestly haven’t given much thought to what the rest of the ladies in Tribe Grace look like. Pickings are slim for good men and women alike in the zombie post-apocalypse, but I like to think they’re pretty. No one’s cheering for an ugly duckling unless they’re sure there’s a swan coming out on the other end of the story. It is what it is. I don’t make human nature.

Of course, when people who put these kinds of checklists together say “a range of body types” they really mean...well, we all know what they mean.

It makes sense to presume there wouldn’t be anyone in the zombie post-apocalypse who could stand to lose a few pounds, let alone 200 of them. But today is everyone’s lucky day, Gentle Readers of the Dark Resurrection. Your humble scribe runs a different kind of corpse-bites-man show.
Bo Hemoth from my second book Grace Among the Dead doesn’t count, because he’s obviously male. We think.

In The Wrong Kind of Dead, our heroes learn where the elites went when the dead arose to feast on the flesh of the living. A lot more people than you’d think end up not only surviving, but avoiding the zombie apocalypse altogether. The elites require a lot of support staff to maintain their lifestyles. They’re already stretching a bit in saving their pet movie stars and pro athletes.

Keep in mind these support staff are all top-tier upper middle class people serving whom Paul Fussell in Class: A Guide Through the American Status System described as “the top-out-of-sights,” those so wealthy and powerful you’ll never know who they are and what they do unless they want you to. (Not all billionaires enjoy the limelight. For obvious safety and security purposes, a majority of them avoid it.) The support staff jealously defends their gates against entry from outsiders and is vehement in regards to how they deserve their salvation versus the commoners from the Wilderness.

Although obesity and general slovenliness are hallmarks of the common low-IQ, low-self-control peasant (there would be no obesity epidemic if this class/fashion factor was emphasized in the mass media), there has been enough loosening of social mores to permit the more aggressive and assertive fatties to move into positions of minor power. That “human resources” departments, which serve as gatekeepers to upper middle-class jobs, are full of lard goblins who delight in denying opportunities to better looking, better socialized people than they, is already a longstanding cliché .

So why not make that cliché work for me? Imagine a bunch of fatties already insecure about their places in the world—especially one that has, if you’ll pardon the expression, narrowed considerably. Now they have the power to deny the “lesser people” sanctuary from the hell created by their world-murdering masters. (In my book, the elite may or may not have engineered and released the Final Flu by way of reducing the world’s population. I leave that part deliberately vague, as it would be in real life—but I also make it clear that the elites are indifferent to the sufferings of those beneath them, even as their gatekeeper class delights making them suffer. Just like in real life.)

So, good news. I’ll have a whole crew of Class II obese and up monsters where the Family Grace is going, and, yes, they will indeed contribute to the plot. 

They will also get everything they have coming to them. I’m always angling for a happy ending to any given story I’m writing. Nihilism is for losers.

Good thing I abandoned my original roman à clef for zombie novels. My real life, however fictionalized, wasn’t a whole lot of fun back in the day.

As for disabilities, I’d count being obese as one. Everyone in the Family Grace has post-traumatic stress disorder to one degree or another.  A lot of people count that for a disability. As for physical cripples and the autistic, unless they were attached to the correct family when the deal went down, they got eaten. “Like they were supposed to,” I can imagine one of these gatekeepers declaiming. Not because they were crippled or autistic—why, that would be wrong—but because they’re stupid peasant trash.

Don’t come flashing your middle-class bona fides at me. If you were left to die among the living dead in that part of the country deemed “the Wilderness,” you’re a peasant. Take it up with the nice ladies in H.R. I don’t make these kinds of decisions. (Helpful hint: bring a snack to share. These beasts love their treats.)

Just like these beasts. See, equality works!

Does the dialogue of the women of color tend to include more profanity and focus more on sexuality?

I detest the expression “______ of color” on general principles. That said, I don’t have any ethnic minorities in my story at all except in Bleeding Kansas. What happens to them does get called back on in The Wrong Kind of Dead. As for what happens to them...well, I can’t lie, it’s awfully convenient. I know very well the grief I’d catch for so much as thinking of writing someone not of my ethnicity. In damned-if-you-do/ damned-if-you-don’t situations—of which this “representation matters” nonsense is a prime example—the sensible position is to do nothing. 

And don’t blame my story’s hero for what happens, either. He doesn’t have the power to send in the black helicopters. We’re dealing with another kind of warlord here than you’ll find in most zombie post-apocalyptic fiction. Bigger fish to fry, and all that. Next:

Over the course of your story arc, does your female character evolve and show personal growth?

Does anyone? What makes me laugh, not just as a writer, but as an older guy who’s been around the block, is the grim knowledge that most people don’t change, no matter what befalls them in life. 

That’s just a little too real for fiction, though. My ugly duckling analogy, that no one cheers for an ugly duckling unless they’re sure it’s turning into a swan later, is especially relevant here. So, yes, everyone gets a chance to develop. Everyone gets put through their changes. Not just the women.

Do your female characters have careers where they are in leadership positions or in science and technology fields?

For the eleventy-gazillionth time, a storyteller’s job is to tell a story, not right imagined wrongs in the percentages of women CEOs vs. male CEOs, or women’s involvement in the STEM fields. If you’re trying to right social wrongs with your fiction, you’d damn well better be Charles Dickens. Even he wasn’t all that successful at it. No one knows who Upton Sinclair was or what he wrote anymore, so forget it.

Now here’s one last piece of good news. Brace yourselves, #7 will shock you:

If a little girl wants to become an engineer, a rocket scientist, etc., she will. She won’t need my encouragement. She’d likely prefer I stay quiet. Your patronizing attitude won’t help, either. Please shut up and stand out of the way. 

Not that you will. It’s your nature. We get that. I only mention it so I can say, “I told you so” later when one of these fine ladies turns on you and puts you in your place. 

As for my characters, if the story didn’t require their presence, they wouldn’t be there. That’s all.

They’d be just another rotting face in the crowd. However, I am striving to explore the notion of compassion for these monsters. They deserve it more than the living humans who should know better already.

So here we are, at the end of my longest blog post yet. I confess to doing a poor job of tamping down my irritation at yet another group of pompous, self-styled moralizers telling me how to write even more unbelievably fictional fiction by way of helping them Build a Better World for Everyone™. I have no doubt fed a blob or two. As Saul Bellow once noted, the best response is a good book. Back to work, then.
C’mon, pick it up, dust it off. You’ve got this.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Random Thoughts Upon Completing My 3,000 Week on Earth

It’s April. Say something!

Do you know what day of the week you were born? There are calculators online that count units of time from certain dates. You can get as personal as the very time you emerged from your mother’s womb if you need to know how many minutes you’ve been around.

Anyway, recently I learned I completed my 3,000 week on Earth the other day. As I remarked on Facebook, this would be a delightfully creepy and/or motivational counter to have on one’s computer monitor, ticking off how many minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months you’ve been alive. Not that I’d want such a thing. I’ve all the help I need harshing my bliss. But maybe you would.
The wild red plastic flamingos of spring have arrived.

Maybe it was the brush with cancer last year (my prostate, R.I.P.), the sudden illness and unexpected death of one of my closest friends the year before that, the unnerving coincidence of reading about so many 57 and 58 year olds who have died, but I’ve been obsessed with passings and passages as of late.

So many things that used to be a Big Deal are now just something that happens because it always has happened and no one has the heart to shut it down. Consider the numbers of how many comic books are sold—mere thousands, and to whom?—versus movie tickets for films featuring the same characters. Consider how many people in a country of 325 million actually bother with late night TV shows, the long-since legendarily unfunny Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons, etc. If they’re lucky, it’s close to one percent of that 325 million.

Many of these skewed numbers are a result of the mix in demographics. If The Ed Sullivan Show was on today, and The Beatles were playing...well, it would be very “niche,” to put it politely. It wouldn’t be the unifying cultural event the original February 1964 broadcast is remembered for today—if people can even imagine such a thing.

I know I’ve covered this before, so here’s a new one you might not have thought of: ever notice how TV shows just go on for so many seasons now? Although I don’t watch television outside of the occasional episode of Supernatural, social media does much to keep me filled in on what’s out there and what’s popular. Still, every now and then I come across a television show I’ve never heard of that’s already starting its fifth season or thereabouts.

Talk about your niche markets. There was a time when either everyone knew about your TV show, or no one did, because it was already canceled for lack of viewership numbers.

I suppose now you need just enough.

I live in a sort of “niche” town. I just drop the “h” and say it isn’t for everyone, because it isn’t.

A passing that no one else but me seems to notice is Google Plus, or G+. Admittedly, the only time I posted on there was when I had a blog post to promote, but it was still fun to browse the feed from time to time. 

I suppose the Internet is the new 1960s-1970s prime-time TV, because this show got pulled for low ratings. People used it, but it wasn’t the new Facebook as Google had quixotically hoped. Some would say it went on for years longer than it needed to. They’d have a case. It was started in June 2011, so it did have a fairly long run before the 2018 data breach and the decision by the brass that it was more trouble than it was worth to maintain.

Say whatever, it’s gone. Google Plus, R.I.P. I’ll miss it, but that’s probably just me.

What else is there? Nothing, really. I think of all the people and things I know that are gone and sometimes, in my darker moments, I wonder what I’m still doing around. Aside from that final book in my zombie series people are waiting on me for, it’s really quite simple. 

I want to see what happens next.

Note to self.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Passages, Small, Medium, and Large

“All things must pass,” as a once-young and alive man once sang.

The changes came one by one. On Monday I cracked 99K miles on my 2001 Jeep Wrangler. That I’m still under 100K miles for a vehicle I’ve owned for 17 years is a source of amusement to my son, who remembers me driving him to pre-school in it when we lived in Alaska. Later, in Colorado, he’d be driving it himself to Civil Air Patrol meetings, and then to work, before purchasing his own conveyance.

Despite the relatively low mileage, this Jeep and I have a lot of history together. We’re about to turn that corner, though. So I pulled over and took a picture. And then got right back on the road, because time isn’t stopping, and I, with any luck, still have miles to go before I sleep. Many, many more miles.

Yeah, she’s long overdue for a detailing. Weather’s warmer now, so there’s no excuse.

Tuesday is when the sandhill cranes left. Most of them, that is, I was surprised to see one large flock heading north at dawn on Saturday morning. I had watched them heading north from the wildlife refuge south of town at dawn, and coming back to roost at sundown for a month already. Tuesday was the day I didn’t see any come back in the evening. I think it’s safe to say they’re done for 2019.

In this video you can hear the strange trilling they make as they fly over. They’re chatty little things.

The arrival of the sandhill cranes on their migration back north is a sign of spring in the San Luis Valley, and of especial interest to Monte Vista where I live. The city hosts a Sandhill Crane Festival the second weekend of March and outside interest appears to have grown in leaps and bounds with each year. At least one churl on Facebook has had to point out twice that I know of that farmers here hated the racket the cranes made so much they would fire off cannons to frighten them away. Not everything has to change for the worse, thank God.

Wednesday was the first day the temperature cracked 70°F (21°C), making it the first day of the year in which I worked with my office windows open.

To think I’d had some posts in draft lined up in which I was going to talk about the passing of the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards as major media events. I may yet finish the one on the Super Bowl, if only out of fond remembrance for Super Bowl parties past.

There are other cultural passages going down. Many institutions we presumed were immortal are dying of cultural and technological obsolescence. I find it all very fascinating, but in writing this I realize I have to keep my eyes on the real prizes. The sun, the sky, my wife, my children, my cats, our house, our vehicles, the world immediately around us. We can work out from there, but quite honestly, most of what’s in the news is someone else’s problem. 

Farewell, March, and the first quarter of 2019. I’m a little bit closer to finishing my last book. I need to get a lot closer. See you in April.

All photographs in this post Copyright © 2019 by Lawrence Roy Aiken.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Difference Between Coke and Pepsi Explained at Last

I never for the life of me could tell the difference between a Coke and a Pepsi — unless one tried mixing that Pepsi with rum, and, holy chemical spill, Batman! What is this foul poison (and will it work on broadleaf weeds)? 

Pepsi is the Great Deceiver. The godly mojo of the rum forces it to reveal its true evil nature.

From the Wholesome Memes of Traditional Morality Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Kafka Would Know Better Than To Get Into That Thing

More fun with flying cars. It’s an obvious tale, I know, but some people may need reminding of how these things can go.

Promotional art from Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc.and Copyright © to them as well. Call it Fair Use or cross-promotion, it’s all good. Forget that long-dead neurotic Czech, you know you want to ride.

In the news recently was one of those pieces you wonder isn’t a straight-up press release. It’s the same feeling I got reading information technology trade magazines in 2009, when they were crowing about SAAS (software as a subscription service) and everything being done from “the cloud” (someone else’s server). To the detriment of consumers used to paying one fat fee up front for software they can still use when the Internet goes down, some of this actually came to pass.

Ten years later I’m reading aviation trade magazines and there’s quite a bit of buzz for eVTOLs, short for “electronic vertical take-off and landing.” In plain, non-jargony English, electric helicopters. These aren’t your standard single big rotor on top with a smaller stabilizer rotor at the rear, though. In place of the rotors are six ducted fans that tilt like a Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey for flight. 

As high-end CEOs and the like have had rooftop helicopter service taking them to the airport for some time now, I’m guessing this is about bringing this service to The People™, or at least the middle managers. It’s notable that the transport-for-hire company Uber is putting a lot of money into eVTOLs. I can see this becoming the new limousine service in which people of lower income ranges can splurge to show off for special occasions, prom season, etc. Here we are on the rooftop of the Foo-Foo Arms getting ready to board our ride to the airport for our honeymoon. #HighStylin #HatersGonHate #YouWishYouWasUs 

View from the rear seats of the cabin of the Bell Nexus. These lovelies will seat four plus a pilot.

Now imagine a warm spring evening. You call for an Uber. You arrive at the rooftop pad in time for the flying taxi to alight. The turbo fans hum softly on standby as you approach the hatch and flash your credit card, a special screen on your smartphone, or whatever is required to identify yourself. The hatch pops open and slides back. You duck inside.

Strapping in, you hear the faintest whine rising inside the cabin as the fans spin up and the craft lifts gracefully from the top of the skyscraper to the sky. (The noise reduction factor is a major selling point for eVTOLs.) There is no pilot, but those are just for the reassurance of tourists and the prom kids, anyway. For the sake of avoiding collisions with the many such craft in use about the metro area, air traffic control is regulated by sophisticated, self-teaching, super-adaptable software. The voice command “airport” is all you need to get going. I imagine one saying it directly into an app on one’s phone, all the better to facilitate accounting of who’s riding and how the ride is paid for, whether on the company dime or monthly billing. Voice recognition software would provide another level of security. 

Full-tilt boogie. No deafening whup-whup-whup, either. Just hummin’ along.

The sun winks behind the horizon. Yellow tatters of clouds fade to orange across the deepening blue. You look down at the angry red taillights of the traffic glowing like so many demonic eyes from the abyss of the concrete canyons below. Heh. Better to look towards the sunset those poor drones are missing, despite moving only inches per minute.

You chuckle to yourself. “Drones.” That’s what some people still call these remote-control taxis. Irony or coincidence? Coincidence, of course, because it’s clearly a case of one word meaning several different’s then that you realize something’s wrong.

If you lived’d be awful nice.

You’re moving at a wrong angle to the sunset. This isn’t the way to the airport. You pull out your phone. No signal. Which makes no sense, because you have to use your phone to communicate with the taxi.

Please remain seated with your seat belt fastened,” says the pleasant female voice from the surround-sound speakers. “Emergency landing protocol in progress.”

You fight back panic, and listen for what could possibly be wrong. All six of the ducted fans are working fine. You don’t smell anything burning. You look towards the setting sun, now well off to your right. 

In the long minute you’ve been off-course you note you’ve passed several rooftop landing pads on this side of the city. “Why can’t we land there?” you wonder. The voice recording repeats, and you realize you’ve been squirming against your belt and shoulder harness.

At last you begin to slow. There’s that sound as the ducted fan housings swivel upwards to face the sky, the fans themselves reversing for landing protocol. They sound like they’re working fine. So long as you’re over a pad, all’s well that ends well. You look through the window and down.

A crescent shape blacker than the encroaching night stands about the pad. You recognize the strange bristles as your eyes focus in the dark. They’re none other than the downward-pointed rifle barrels held by law enforcement officers in full tactical gear.

Please remain seated with your seat belt fastened,” the pleasant female voice repeats from the surround-sound speakers. “Emergency landing protocol in progress.”

Your seat belt and shoulder strap are locked. 

Your phone still reads no signal.

You’re descending to the pad.

Your eyes become level with the darker-than-darkness of their body armor. You can’t see them, but you know those rifle barrels are up and pointed straight at you.

What can this possibly be about? Why did they jam your phone? Who could they have possibly mistaken you for?

Your hands are already on your head as the hatch doors on either side pop open and slide back, and the first officers approach. You can only hope they don’t beat you too badly before you have a chance to clear this up.

Please remain seated with your seat belt fastened....