Prompt — Simulation 528

“Simulation 527, Day 202. Progress minimal. The subjects have been on the cusp of space mastery for years in their time, and have not made efforts to utilize their new technology to its full capacity. Accurate hypotheses for why this might be occurring are impossible for an ecosystem this vast, but my hunch that the evolution program is flawed is proving to be true. The ‘earthlings’, as they’ve taken to calling themselves, are simply too absorbed in their original coding and cannot properly make the logical next step in their civilization.”

She ended the note with a frown, staring at the screen. She would have to pull the plug soon. This simulation was getting nowhere. “It’s such a simple step,” she said to her teddy bear. “How can a program so smart get stuck on something so stupid?”

She was certain the evolution program was the heart of the problem. As brilliant as the coding was, it left no room for two intelligent species. Competition breeds progress, which makes achieving “sentience” easy, but once it got there, there was no reason to push for more. There would be no changing the coding, though. One misplaced character and the entire system would break.

The teddy bear on her desk looked up at her with its cute little pout, and she smiled. “You’re the best thing that ever came from Simulation 527,” she said, patting the stuffed animal on the head. “I don’t know how to describe it, honestly, because you’re also an example of the root of the problem. Exploiting emotions and others for money…”

A program to design and improve until it won would halt its progress once its conditions were met. That was 527’s problem. It succeeded as a species, and its only function now was to continue succeeding on the short term, rather than progress. Manipulating the code would be a bad idea, and she couldn’t modify the rules once the whole simulation got started.

“I think I’ve got it,” she said, getting up from her chair. The computer server running the simulation filled most of the room, the soft hum of fans and the buzz of the screen filling the rest.

“Simulation 527…” she said, pressing a few buttons, and finally pulling a lever. “Off. Goodbye Earth.” Many of the lights changed color, and the server powered down as she went back to her desk to modify the conditions of the test.

“I think slight adjustments are best, here. We’re almost there, we just need to make minor changes. The physics is fine. The planets scaling and elements are all in order…” She looked to the teddy bear. A relic of a now extinct world. “What we need is more things like you. So… let’s see… population growth rate for Ursidae is increased by fifty percent. What do you think?”

The teddy bear didn’t respond.

“Right. Well, this is just a test run. That number might be too high. Simulation 528 may not even evolve into real intelligence, and we might skip right into 529 within a few days. But if this works as well as I hope, we should achieve a post-reality AI by Simulation 8,000! I’m not going to get optimistic, though. Here we go.”

She stood back up from the chair, flipped the lever back up, and pressed a few more buttons. “Simulation 528… Begin!”

 

Prompt: https://orange-magik.deviantart.com/art/Teddybear-592830122

Me — Indulgences

This is going to be a rambling throwaway post because I’m tired and don’t have the energy for anything else. I still have to get my words in, though, so feel free to skip today’s post.

I found out today that, in general, being upset makes me tired. I got a solid amount of sleep today, and even relaxed for a good portion of it. I was pretty rested. But then something happened and it’s sort of consumed my thoughts for the rest of the day, and I didn’t like it.

Being in your early twenties means learning about yourself and what you like and where you fit in the world. As such, I’ve adopted a sort of laissez faire attitude as far as the things I do. Sometimes I’ll do things I’m apprehensive about because even if I know I won’t like it, I still might learn something about the world or myself out of that experience.

Today I seriously considered doing something that would require an apology, merely because I wanted to do it first. And I had to ask myself if I could honestly apologize even after having that thought. If you know something is wrong, and it doesn’t stop you from actively thinking about it, or even doing that thing, how do you not conclude that you’re a bad person? What does that say about your character if you think about the possible repercussions and it doesn’t dissuade you?

Obviously, life is about making mistakes. But when you’re a child, you don’t know any better. When things go bad you are told so, and after a slap on the wrist you go about your business.

I can only imagine what life was like back when the Church wrote out Indulgences. I thought it ridiculous that people would go to their place of worship to buy forgiveness for sins that they hadn’t committed yet. Sins they fully intended to commit. How genuine can the apology be if it was prepared before the crime happened?

Do I think I’m a bad person? No. But it brings me no peace to know that I’m more than capable of wrongdoing. Not just in the “lie by omission” or “not doing good enough” sort of way, but in an actual “This was bad and you should have known better” sort of way. Did know better, in fact.

Part of me knows that, really, this probably shouldn’t be public. That’s half the reason why I’m being vague. Obviously, I have to publish something, and I’m writing this, so why not? But I also want to put this as sort of a time stamp. I want this blog to serve as something of a chronicle as my journey as a writer, and that means putting in some personal stuff.  I doubt that I’ll be able to identify what event I’m referring to a year from now, because in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t that big. (No, I did not murder anyone. At least, not today.)

I’m not looking for a shoulder to cry on, or moral support, or anything. I just needed my five hundred words, and hey, here we are.

Expect a solid flash fiction piece Friday!

Review — Death Note (2017)

Alright, here’s the rundown of Netflix’s original live action adaptation of Death Note. Overall, I thought it was good. Not amazing, by any means, but long story short, the problems I had didn’t involve the actors, the character choices (well…), or any of the obvious changes they made to the original story. My biggest problem was the plot holes.

But before we get into that, let’s talk about something first. Obviously, comparing any movie adaptation to whatever it was based on is going to be bad for one of them, which ostensibly means that, of course, “the book is always better”. But that really isn’t fair, because the book will have several hours more than the movie will to establish everything, and to be blunt, there is more going on in movies. More people involved. I think that, and a number of other reasons, makes changing the original story to fit two hours forgivable.

I think Death Note did a good job with what it had to work with. The opening shot made sense, and was cheesy. A book falls out of a sky, and the protagonist is confused. He looks up to figure out where it came from, but it starts raining really hard really fast, so he takes it with him as he gets out of the rain. Curiosity is the primary reason he takes it at first, and it isn’t forced or cheesy. Plus, the sudden rain shows the unnatural power involved with this thing, and as a bonus it does a great job setting the tone of the movie.

That said, the progression of everything that happens makes a lot of sense. The thing I liked about the anime was that a lot of the time, Light was clever and did things I never would have thought of to hide his identity, so it was even more impressive when L narrowed it down eventually anyway. I really didn’t get the sense that Light was brilliant in this movie, though. I know I just said comparing it to the original is bad, but hear me out. The wit involved in both characters actions and interactions was what made the anime for me. If this was just some shmuck with the power to kill people I wouldn’t be interested because I wouldn’t believe that he would avoid being caught. But Light isn’t that clever in this movie. He’s not (that) stupid, mind you, but he’s no genius. So it makes it a little annoying when L doesn’t figure it out right away. Obviously, they have to fill the two hours, but I’m watching this for character brilliance, damn it!

(Minor spoilers here: Specifically, L publically threatens Kira and, when he doesn’t die, deduces that Kira must need a name and a face in order to kill. The problem is, this is speculation, not proof. He claims that if Kira could have killed him, he would have, but then, he also knows Kira is human. Humans are petty, so it could simply be that Kira is arrogant and wants to see how competent a detective L is. The fact that L doesn’t consider this as a possibility is, frankly, a little odd.)

Another great thing that the movie does is that it plays with the “rules” of the magic of the notebook, and does it in a way that makes sense. They aren’t hard to grasp onto once the audience is shown that it can work, so when things go wrong because rules are twisted in ways you didn’t expect, you have to give them credit.

A few times, though, it bent the rules without explaining. There was a time that Light wrote a condition describing how somebody would die if they took an action. As far as we know, though, writing the name in the book kills them. There is no “if” about it. The movie doesn’t confirm one way or another how this works exactly, so it seems weird. Another time was when Light threatened to write the name of his death god, Ryuk, in the book to kill him. Ryuk basically says, “Good luck. The furthest anyone has gotten is two letters.” Except in an earlier scene, the book has some notes in it that says “Don’t trust Ryuk. He’s not your friend.” Sounds like his full name has already been written in the book, so how is he not dead? Is there some rule that you have to have deadly intent when you write their name? Because that’s not established in the movie.

All in all, it’s a solid movie. It has some good scenes (the one where Ryuk is introduced is very well done), and the story is really dramatic, as you might expect. Also not surprisingly, it’s very graphic. Also, this one is certainly way better than the other live action Death Note, of which I remember nothing about. I consider that a blessing.

Me — Too Many Ideas

The problem with getting so many good ideas is that you can’t use all of them. Couldn’t even begin to. I’m sure I’m no different from every other creative person in that I have a list of cool ideas I don’t want to lose, but I know half of them (at best) will never see the light of day.

I just thought of a really cool idea for a game, that I could maybe turn into a short story, and then while watching a movie today I caught the tail end of an aesthetic I really enjoyed. I could perhaps marry the two ideas, but in the end, the idea I have is for a game, not a story. I’m not going to say what that idea is (though I will tell you, Dev, next time I get the chance to talk to you in person), but it has a chance of being the story that publishes on Friday. On one hand, this is good. Having good ideas you don’t have time for end up saying a lot about the ideas you do end up putting effort into. But on the other, it’s frustrating.

I had a really cool idea about a novel where the protagonist was one of a million in an army against a small group of (we’ll call them) adventurers. The idea wasn’t so much of putting focus and sympathy into one of the orcs that gets decapitated by Aragorn’s sword, but rather the angle I had presented looked more like “these four people are bad news, and have godlike powers compared to the common man. How can we make the common man have a fighting chance?”

The ten second pitch for the idea was “imagine playing chess where one side only has 16 pawns and the other side has a knight, bishop, rook, and queen”.

I’ve tabled that idea for now, though. Not because I don’t like it or because I ran into problems. Actually, the only reason I haven’t already tried my hand writing that story was because the idea for Spear Gate swooped in while I was putting it together, and it whisked me away. I still plan on visiting it. I even tried framing it into Spear Gate. But in the end, it didn’t work. There’s a lot to the framework of the story that I didn’t explain, and that framework clashed with what I had in mind for Spear Gate. So it’s been on the back-burner for a while.

The worst part is I still haven’t been able to figure out how to hold my personal interest in the novels I’m working on. I resolved to write Spear Gate until I reached the end, but I’m starting to doubt if I can. I really need to get out of the habit of quitting on long projects before I’m even halfway through, but I don’t see how that’s possible when that new cool idea comes along. I would highly doubt this is a rare problem authors face, and yet I’ve never seen or heard any advice on how to tackle it.

Sometimes, new ideas can be a curse.

 

Spear Gate — Chapter Thirteen, Pt. 2

The inner courtyard of the palace was large. The stage of his execution was near the front, and cobblestone paths made beelines towards the Spear Gate, which loomed in the very center of the area as an ominous guardian to the carefully cultivated foliage around it.

He had no idea how to open it. Wasn’t even conscious when it had opened a few days ago. The only person anyone had ever known to open the gate was Rozire, and even that was hearsay.

His life depended on his use of magic. He didn’t even have any proof it existed, and now his fate would be the result of his trust on people he hadn’t known for a week.

But he couldn’t hesitate now.

He approached the bronze-colored obelisk in a huff. People were after him, but his surprise had gained him some ground.

He inspected the monument, looking for any monuments or handholds, or anything that looked suspect. He doubted there would be a hand imprint that would cause the portal to open once he touched it.

There wasn’t, of course. The surface of the entire object was smooth, and the dark reflection of a terrified young man stared back at him, willing him to hurry up.

Shouts came from behind, commanding him to stop. A quick glance behind him revealed that the half dozen guards running after him already had their weapons drawn.

“There’s no time to meditate,” Maelys muttered to himself. “Mind projection is out. Varra said I ignited Rozire’s staff when she first found me, but I don’t have that now.”

What would Rozire do? Open the Gate, of course, but how?

He closed his eyes and pressed both hands against the obelisk. The cold, smooth metal seemed to push back against him, as if it was a wall testing his resolve.

He thought about the Spear Gate. He envisioned it opening the way Varra and Eathe had described. A blue beam of light shooting into the sky as the obelisk shattered and reformed into the shape of a doorway. When nothing felt different, he pushed harder against the Gate.

The clamor behind him grew louder, and he could feel his heart speeding up along with it.

“By the Maker’s five hands, I command you to open!” The stone remained silent. “I’m going to die making a fool of myself,” he muttered.

Maelys tried for the thousandth time to think of any hidden meaning in any of Rozire’s lessons. He tried to think of an often repeated phrase, or a suspicious hand gesture his master might have employed.

Nothing came to mind.

Helpless, he lowered his arms and turned back to face the approaching guards. They raised their weapons with intent to use them.

He looked up at the sister-planet in desperation. The dark spot loomed in the sky, gazing down at him in disapproval. As if he had failed the test.

The first guard finished closing the gap, sword raised to slash down through his shoulder.

What would be the point of raising his arms in defense? He couldn’t fight six armed soldiers unarmed. He doubted he could even win a fight against one soldier, even if Maelys was the one that was armed.

In that moment, two thoughts popped into his head, slowing time as if they would not allow Maelys to die until he had considered them long enough.

The first thought was Rozire. What had happened to him? He wasn’t one to turn back when things got difficult. If anything, he pressed on with more determination. Varra was fairly certain none of the constructors had killed anyone the night she found him dying of Red Teeth, but since Upper Terrace was literally on a platform raised high above the Meadows around it, nobody could have entered without being spotted.

The second thought was what Rozire had said to him on the last night Maelys had seen him. His master was looking for his mother, and commented that he had been searching for her ever since she left Upper Terrace. Maelys had never known his mother, and in that moment he had first brought it up, Rozire had instilled a dream in him that he had never known he had.

He wanted to see his mother. To at least know who she was and why she had left.

The sword came down, and the world went white around him.

Prompt — Painted Windows

(I’ve narrated this story and published it on YouTube! Go check it out if you would rather listen!)

 

There was something strange about the little beings of light that hovered around Aerell. They swam through the air, unbound by gravity as they gathered around the wand she held in her hand. There was some fairy tale that had spoken about a wand with the power to create things. Aerell, of course, had dismissed such stories as nonsense.

But these dreams were getting more and more vivid, and these beings — these creatures — seemed almost alive. The way humans were alive. They looked and moved and reacted to her as she held her hands out, looping around her arms. She couldn’t help but giggle as they seemed to be playing with her. Such curious little things.

“You must be echoes of the little things from the old world,” Aerell laughed. “I’ve read about you, you know. You were called… squirrels!”

One perched on an outstretched finger of her free hand, its sharp little feet wrapping around it as it tilted its little head back and forth. It seemed to be trying to speak to her, but as always, the only sound she could hear in her dreams was her own voice.

The dream was nice. She didn’t want to be saddened by the fact that she couldn’t speak with the little squirrels. So instead she drew her wand up, light flowing outward at the tip, and swirled it about herself. The creatures swam about the air around her, following the trail of light.

“Aerell!” one of the creatures said. Surprised, she turned around. “Aerell!” it said. It was her mother’s voice. “Your breakfast will be cold if you don’t get out of bed soon!”

And with that, the creatures of light faded, along with the wand in her hand. She was no longer wrapped in long flowing robes that escaped out into infinity. Instead, she found herself tangled in the warm embrace of the blankets, and with how much of the heavy fabric had already fallen off the bed, it was threatening to pull her down now, too.

She wanted nothing more than to remain in bed and succumb to the warmth of the blankets. It was so soft, so cozy. But her mother wouldn’t be happy with her if she did. She looked to the spring clock at the other side of the wall. Eyes half open, she couldn’t make out the details, but the big hand seemed to read seven.

With an annoyed grumble, she tore herself from the covers and rose to her feet. She paused to stretch and yawn, then clothed herself before going upstairs. She didn’t bother to fix her hair. That was always a nightmare and a half, and was never worth the trouble.

“G’night,” she said as she walked into the small dining room, lit by the hand crank lantern on the table. Her mother was spooning more cramseed stew into her father’s bowl even as he was eating it. He was wearing the new shirt Aerell had just finished knitting him, and it was already covered in stains, but she couldn’t be upset. It was only a matter of time.

“Good night indeed,” her mother replied in a huff. “The sun’s been down for half an hour, young lady, and you know good and well we need more water. You’ve wasted valuable time that could be spent outside collecting it.”

Aerell frowned. “But you made stew for breakfast? Why would you do that if we need water?” Her father nodded thoughtfully in between bites.

Her mother glared at him, then back to her. “Young lady if you have a problem with that then you are more than welcome to skip breakfast and just go straight up to get more water. The sooner we can purify it the sooner we can drink it.”

“No ma’am. Sorry,” she sat down in a rush and her mother placed the giant bowl of stew on the table for her to use.

The table was silent for a moment while they all ate. Well, as silent as it could be with her father slurping up the cramseed.

“Where’s Rayek?” Aerell asked after some time, only just realizing that her mother never left a bowl out for him.

“Your brother has been out collecting wood since noon,” her mother said. “He’s insistent on going down to the Ravine next week to sell as much as possible.” She sounded angry, but Aerell noticed her lower lip quiver. The way it did when she was worried.

“He wore his suit out, right?” Aerell asked.

“Yes, yes, but who knows what could happen? What if he gets snagged by a twig and it tears it open? Or if a rock falls on his head and he gets knocked out? And he runs out of breathable air?”

Aerell looked to the outer wall of the dining room, where the painting of a window depicted the illusion of a beautiful green landscape. A distant forest covered the background of the painting, bearing a resemblance to the real forest up on the surface about a mile away. Aerell was familiar with it, as it was her job to fetch the water from a river inside it. “I’m sure he’ll be okay,” she said, still looking at the painting. Then, after letting the subject fall, she returned her gaze to her mother. “I dreamt about the wand again.”

Her parents exchanged looks. Her father shrugged as her mother bit her lip. “You’ve been told not to discuss such things, Aerell,” she said.

“But it was wonderful! I used the wand to create these little creatures! The books called them animals, right? They floated around me and they seemed alive! I think the ones in my dream were squirrels. You know, the little flying ones that lay eggs and build their homes in trees.”

“Aerell—”

“And one of them sat on my hand and—”

The room went dark, and silence followed it. Aerell heard her mother sigh and the sound of hands tapping the table, looking for something. The sound of methodical, practiced cranking followed, and soon the lantern turned on once again. Her father placed it back down onto the table without complaint, but the conversation did not continue.

Just as Aerell was finishing her meal, she heard the outside door opening from upstairs. The tension in the dining room immediately dissipated, and she threw her bowl down to meet her brother.

Rayek was still removing the reflective suit piece-by-piece when she finished ascending the stairs. When he took off the helmet, his face and hair was a mess with sweat, but he had a grin on his face. “Good night, sister,” he said.

“Good night, brother,” she replied. She furrowed her brow in amused suspicion when she noticed he held a hand behind his back. “What’s that you’ve got?”

“Just something I found in the forest today,” he shrugged. “Thought you might be interested.” He revealed his hand, which held a small straight rod that glowed at the tip.

Aerell looked up at him, astonished. “Where—”

“It’s not important,” he smiled. “But what is important is that you stop telling us about the dreams you keep having and that you start showing us.”

 

Prompt: https://sandara.deviantart.com/art/spirits-318260379

Me — Daily Habits

Daily habits are a tricky thing. The bad ones are hard to break and the easy ones are a struggle to maintain. For me, my biggest problem is continuing because not seeing immediate results is discouraging. When 2018 hit, I wanted to hold myself accountable for things and not simply force myself to do things, but to do them so often that they became routine.

I had already been meditating for about fifteen minutes every day. It was something I had been doing since November. With this I wanted to find a more peaceful way to handle stressful situations. I’m one of those people that always has to be doing at least two things constantly. Even when I’m relaxing by playing video games I’m usually also listening to an audiobook or podcast. So meditation was supposed to teach me to accept tuning that part of me down a notch.

I haven’t meditated in almost a month now. Not because I can’t or that I don’t have the time or anything like that. Honestly, I just skipped a day and felt no difference whatsoever in my mood. My attitude didn’t change, my stress levels didn’t change, nothing. So I felt no reason not to skip the next day… and the next, and so on. Some time ago I also tried to start a habit of drinking more water every day, but the only difference I noticed was that I had to pee a lot more. So I just stopped.

Part of it, of course, is that these changes take time. You’re not going to suddenly feel great about yourself just because you drank an extra liter of water throughout the course of the day. But it makes me wonder: how much of that habit really changes you, rather than your outlook on the world and your day as a result of you having the fortitude to keep up that habit?

As soon as January started, I also wanted to get into the habit of reading every day. Nothing major, just one chapter every night before I went to bed. This one, of course, doesn’t change anything about your health or day. It’s just good (especially for a writer) to always be reading. But I’ve never been able to reconcile the fact that I’m a visual person. I have to look at each word and read it to myself in my head, and it makes for very slow reading. One chapter a night usually means over forty minutes of reading, and the first book on the list was Return of the King.

I’m starting to think that I’m not reading at the right time. Before bed is just not a good time slot, because that’s usually my relaxing time when I spend time with my brothers playing video games. I can’t do both (not really, anyway). I could perhaps make it the first thing I do every day, but that would only work on days that I don’t have school.

So, despite my attempts, daily habits still elude me. At least I can still be proud of the fact that I can write every day. That’s one of the biggest reasons why I don’t beat myself over falling short — writing is by far the most important of the four habits I’ve mentioned.

I still hope to make all of these part of my daily routine one day. But just like Aragorn said: “Maybe tomorrow instead.” That’s the quote, right? I don’t know, I haven’t read the book yet.