Monday, December 31, 2012

Last Days of Marconis: Part II

Ladies and gentlemen, I've finished my first piece of interactive fiction! It's a sequel to an earlier story of mine, Last Days of Marconis. You can enjoy it right here. It was the last thing I made in 2012- I wanted to have it ready for the first day of 2013. Here's a table of contents in case you're feeling lost:

Last Days of Marconis
Last Days of Marconis: Part 2
Prologue/Chapter 1
What's Worse?
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Necessary Revolution
Chapter 4

Enjoy! Now, in order to enjoy my piece of interactive fiction, you'll have to download it. It's tiny- you just need to save it and open it up. It'll run in just about any web browser- I'd host it somewhere, but frankly, I'm not sure where... Have fun!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Paxcatia: Chapter 4

Sorry it took so long to get chapter four out- enjoy!

Last Days of Marconis
Prologue/Chapter 1
What's Worse?
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Necessary Revolution

Chapter 4
by Jourdan Cameron

"We've been trained for this very situation, I hope you're all ready." The squad of the Paxcatian Peace Force all nodded in agreement with their chief. The Force was ready to maintain order down at the dock, which was currently in a state of turmoil. Protesters flooded the area as a lone cargo ship glided silently above the heaving crowd, the floating machine blissfully unaware of the chaos below.
Aboard the ship, however, was an uninvited crew composed of stowaways. Their intent was espionage- they needed to understand what kind of people attacked them, and they soon realized that their assignment had suddenly become much, much easier.
"This is quite the convenience, we can slip out totally unnoticed!" Katie glared harshly at Jonathan- she was still upset at him over the small fiasco he caused. Swiftly averting her eyes to the rest of her group, she proceeded to warn them.
"Just because the crowd's completely and utterly occupied doesn't mean that a team of foreigners will be automagically accepted. For all we know, this riot could turn ugly as soon as we set foot on the ground. The best thing we can do is to sneak into the crowd and try to blend in." She suddenly looked back at Jonathan. "Without a fiasco." Sheepishly, he nodded as the vessel made a final descent.
"I think there's a-" Jonathan's fearful statement on the nature of the crowd was quick cut short- a real pity, because it could've saved everybody a fair amount of trouble. His insight into the teeming mass of humanity bordered on uncanny- but that's another story.
"…Does everybody have their civilian garb at the ready? If you're planning on getting by unnoticed, you'd best be well dressed.
Within mere moments, the ship's stowaway crew became a group of ordinary, uninteresting Paxcatian citizens. Maxwell- who much preferred to be referred to as simply "Max" bore a Dumb Lummox t-shirt. Katie smirked, amused; nobody would've ever heard the sweet sounds of the quintet that no longer existed.
Before she allowed herself to be carried away by memories, Katie dove back into managing her little invading force.
"I've got a good feeling about this" piped one spy.
Jonathan made a strange, disdainful puffing noise. "Yeah, we're running right into the land overflowing with milk and honey- didn't it nearly kill me? I think you're looking at this the wrong way. These people could destroy us if we're found out, they may as well be giants. It's not like we're going to get anywhere by-"
Another harsh glare from Katie was encouragement enough to shut Jonathan up for a few precious moments. Katie addressed the rebels once more.
"Just for the record" she said "I'd like everybody to pay some attention to Caleb's enthusiasm. If something happens to me, he's running this operation. Understood?"
In the femtosecond between Katie's having spoken and the minds of her cremates having processed the meaning of her words did a silent storm of doubts, confusion and worries as to the reliability of their leader flood the minds of every Marconi spy.
The storms continued brewing as the ship touched the ground, and at the entrance to the ship, angry fists began to pound.

"Do any of you here know the story behind Paxactia's economy? Anybody? Come on, this is elementary, surely somebody cares to- excuse me. Just… Just act like I'm not here. Work on it." Mr. Xianet was pretty preoccupied. The Paxcatian professor needed his pupils to pretend as if he weren't present. David's class sighed collectively- Mr. Xianet's methods always tended towards a certain hands-off approach that seemed more bent towards his continued convenience in opposition to his students actually learning anything. He was constantly distracted by his own pursuits, or rather, it seems, the Creative Thought class that he was supposed to be teach was a mere distraction from his pursuits. David stared into the center of the circle of the youth- these types of classes always were taught in circles for some reason, and they tended to have quite the interactive dialogue- everybody contributed something to the discussion. With Xianet, that was never the case.
After a few minutes, the class was dismissed, and the students made their ways back to their respective homes. All except for David. David, on that day, took the train to Julie's neighborhood. Upon his arrival, he found everything the way he remembered it last. The sidewalks that seemed so perfectly new, bearing nary a crack in spite of their age and the perfectly aligned houses that seemed to stretch on forever into the horizon, like an endless jaw of multicolored teeth. "The one where the sun shines" David spoke by rote. "That house-"
"Is mine." David whirled around to see Julie just behind him, smiling nostalgically.
"You know, the first time I tried to find your house, I walked around the block three times- nay- four times in search of the house the sun shone upon."
Julie shrugged. "Not my fault it was overcast. Besides, I imagine you'd have gotten over it after a good ten years?"
With a sigh, the two made their way to a beige little house. Julie's father was an artist- just the same as David's. It was through their craft that they found each other and had become the best of friends, though this is a long, old story best saved for another time.
"Dave, isn't it interesting how our fathers are both artists who wound up meeting and becoming the best of friends?"
"Somewhat, I guess. Isn't that really a long story best saved for another time?"
Julie shrugged again. "Yeah, I guess so. My dad tells it all the time."
The two entered Julie's house, which was just as unexciting on the outside as on the inside.

Like a swarm of vicious insects, a thousand angry people set their sights on the ship's main unloading bay, which opened like a massive jaw unto the pummeling masses below. The cargo ship was so blissfully unaware of it's plight as in poured the fire, the hammers, the destruction… Within moments, the contents of the ship were completely wrecked, and not too long after, the ship was no longer skyworthy- never again would it sail among the clouds.
Moments before the madness, a stealthy group of shadows slipped silently outwards, smoothly blending into and escaping from the enraged mass.
The small group had convened in a clean and unusually well-lit alley, somehow having managed to escape the attention of the already overworked police forces that were attempting to restore order as best they could.
Katie stared out at the insanity. "What are they so upset over? Seriously, it's not like they have any real problems."
"I can't say that I care to know" shrugged Jonathan. "So long as it doesn't involve us."
"We're spying this place out, I think it definitely deserves our attention" piped Peak. "I bet it probably involves whatever was in those crates…"
"Well, I guess now's probably a good time for a confession" said Jonathan. "I think I might actually be omniscient."
There were a few stifled laughs in the tiny crowd. Even Katie had to try, and try hard to avoid busting out laughing. "What exactly do you mean?" She put on her harshest, coldest, staunchest voice and it was barely enough to restrain her mirth.
"Can you explain the nature of your… Ability?"
Jonathan shrugged nonchalantly. "I know what's behind walls and stuff."
This was Katie's breaking point. She bust out laughing, a quite likely was responsible for bursting eardrums within her radius.
"Alright then" she said after gaining some control over herself. Leading Jonathan out of the alley and into the street that was curiously devoid of vehicles, she made a request  of Jonathan. "Stare at that building in front of you. The red one that looks like it's made of old-fashioned materials, what do you see?"
"Well" said Jonathan squinting "I see… I see points of light, like stars, they're moving around. Some are just still, though."
Katie sighed inwardly. "What are they?"
"Well, there seems to be one coming out of the front door… Wait, it's stopping and turning around and… Now it's coming out."
And right on cue, Mr. Xianet exited the school.

Through the atmosphere, a pair of machines discussed, in their own tongue, the situation and how to handle it.
"It's simple- we kill the escapee. Black Ace, what's the problem? Whatever slave was responsible for the early activation is now running wild in Paxcatia. Why not-"
"Because of Trust, Baron, that's why not."
"…Your line of reasoning seems vaguely human, it almost seems feeling." Of course, Ace was merely a complex computer system and was, to its own knowledge, unencumbered by something quite as human as emotion. Pride, greed, joy, love… None were present.
"My current directive is to ensure the happiness of the Paxcatian people. They must continue to trust, and knowledge of a breach in any capacity could jeopardize that."
"What else do you know about the stowaways?"
"Their numbers are limited, though they seem to possess specialized knowledge. These aren't escaped slaves, they're something else. I've never seen any of them until now."
"Very well. On another note, I lost four slaves from the factory, and I suspect they had with them the foreign body, as it's no longer anywhere in the factory… I only managed to kill two of the escapees. I have a party of stoats patrolling the forest, we'll know of their wherabouts soon."

Mr. Sere woke up. Nothing seemed to make much sense- it's as his world had been drowned, wrung out, left in a dark, damp place to mildew and finally exposed to the brilliance of the sun. He let out a weak groan- after opening his eyes, he was blinded and suddenly jolted about as the pair of escaped slaves carrying him through the woods rejoiced upon the realization that he'd finally regained consciousness.
Gently, the pair lowered Mr. Sere to the ground as he began using his eyes again and tried speaking.
"Wha- whe- who-" he gasped, making a few vaguely intelligible noises that could be construed as the beginnings of questions.
"My name is Marcia, Marcia Aveherb. My brother and I have been carrying you away from the factory."
The other escapee nodded at Mr. Sere. "My name's Will," he sighed, "Will Aveherb."
"You shouldn't worry about speaking yet, sir. It'll be awhile before the gas wears off."
"What gas?"
"We'll explain that later. Right now, we need to find shelter before night." Cautiously, Mr. Sere stood up- his burly legs were a bit unstable still, and a small flurry of dead leaves sprung up behind him as the siblings rushed up to support him, he gently waved them off.
"Don't worry, I need to get used to my legs again" he said weakly. "Just keep your eyes open for shelter. My name is Casey Sere, by the way" he said.
"It's nice to meet you, Mr. Sere" said Marcia. Her brother remained conspicuously silent.
"Where are your parents?" Casey asked in an attempt to break the metaphorical ice. "Are they still trapped at the factory?" Marcia stared down at the ground; it was her turn to be silent as Will spoke up.
"They died carrying you. The factory killed them."

Around the same time, a small party in Paxcatia sat down outside a quiet restaurant. The scratched wooden chairs they rested on seemed out of place, almost as much as the group of spies did. Katy, for the first time, was well-fed and somewhat nervous. The Paxcatian economy is a simple system of complex ideas, but the primary concept behind it is the idea that happiness is of greatest importance- a piece of art that makes people happy will earn an artist more merit than an artist whose work was insipid and unoriginal.
Katy was nervous- for the first time, she'd be paying out merit with an identity that was cobbled together for her by her friends back in Marconis. It had been injected by some miracle into Black Ace, and would work just fine- but there were still a thousand things that could go horribly, horribly wrong, and right know about a hundred of those things were swirling through Katie's mind.
Yet, somehow, none of them came true as she tapped out a few words on the translucent data-collection sheet handed to her by the waiter, stood up and lead her party down the well-lit streets to the nearest train station, and after a brief ride in the pods, they exited, staring silently up at the stars. The small group of strangers in a strange land were quiet for a good few moments. A few let out sighs of relief and homesickness- none of them had ever been quite this far away from home- none except for Gabriel, but his story is one for another day. Peak dug his hands into the pockets of his jeans- in spite of his tall, thin build they still seemed too tight- and pulled out a small black rectangle that glowed to life in the palm of his hand. With a few barely noticeable finger movements, the device had an objective. It glowed a bright green in one corner, pointing the group down the street towards their new home.

Elsewhere, a pair of Paxcatian youth were about to bid one another farewell.
"I've been worried about my dad lately. People aren't reacting to his art as they once did."
"I'm pretty sure it's just a weird trend" replied David. "Besides, isn't there that one guy who's always just blown away- like, completely and utterly amazed by your dad's work?"
Julie shrugged. "I guess you're right. It's just that there's not much of a demand for photorealistic oil paintings. As of late, everything's so abstract."
The two stared down the street at a small group people heading into the house next to Julie's.
"Huh" said Julie. "That house has been empty for a couple years now. Looks like somebody's moved in and I didn't even say hello."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Necessary Revolution

Chapter four of Paxcatia is complete (at long last!) and will be here soon. Meanwhile, enjoy this story that's between chapters three and four- I suspect you'll enjoy it.

Last Days of Marconis
Prologue/Chapter 1
What's Worse?
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

Necessary Revolution
by Jourdan Cameron

"Throughout human history, there's been a simple pattern: revolution, upheaval, rebirth, and a gradual decline into darkness, decay, and eventually revolution once more. Our world is slipping into the brightest darkness it has yet seen- the time has come for revolution yet again." I sighed inwardly- after a couple hours of preaching to a crowd of assorted power-hungry, warmongering fools- them, along with men who could be so easily assured of their worth- these and many others like them were gathered about me in an abandoned agricultural field- my audience finally seemed to be broken down by my argument. I decided it was time to show them the way. "People of Paxcatia, you've been trapped in the darkness far too long! This period of peace, tranquility, weakness and folly- it's given us no progress. We re-package the old and sell it off as the new, as innovation as we sink deeper into the mire of our own creation. For our nation to advance, we must topple it temporarily."
"But where do we start?" My words had finally purchased their hearts.
"Well, that's an excellent question." To be honest, I hadn't been thinking of the best way to start a revolution- does anybody, really? I fumbled about for a good response to this unusually quick-witted man...
"Much like a heart attack, we must attack this nation at its arteries- we strike their primary source of power first, their-"
"Trade routes!" Somebody else in the audience shouted, and I sighed, relieved- it was much better than my initial idea. Striking children wouldn't have made me particularly popular among the populace.
"That's right" I said, "Their trade routes. Seeing as our Paxcatian economy seems to be fueled by merit, the best thing we can do is stop incoming products- the people will have nothing worth working for. Now, any recommendations as to where we strike first?"

My name is Benjamin Rice, and this is my revolution. You received this file after passing an ancient agricultural structure- or at least the ruins of a barn that was built long, long ago. Perhaps by some miracle, the technology of today that so inundates the people of Paxcatia with a constant inflow of data will still be in use into the future long enough for the short-range transmitter relaying this message to bring it to you. I don't know what kind of people will one day read this, if any, but I do know that I will be vilified to no end. Maybe that's what's going to happen to me in the end- I'll be remembered by history merely as a destructive, deluded dimwit. Whatever the case is, consider this: Do you struggle for anything at all? Do you feel as if you have something to lose if you don't work hard right now? At the same time, do you feel like you have so much more to gain if you are to simply keep going- if you keep pushing a little harder? If not, I deserve to be a villain, for I have failed.

At this point, the crowd became much more willing to listen, and stirred by thought of action they paid close attention to my next few words.
"Paxcatia and her people have become soft, uninteresting, without character... They're so completely wrapped up in their own mundane affairs that they haven't come to the realization that their leader is a giant digital nanny with a thousand eyes and no heart. Black Ace knows only directives, not compassion, not ambition and yet somehow… in spite of knowing everything, it feels nothing. How can we, the people sit by idly as the shadow of the great foot inactivity, of stagnation and of filthy decay hangs heavy above our heads?"
"We can't!" came a woman's voice.
"Indeed" I shouted from atop my crate, nearly falling to the dusty floor after leaping with fervor, "and we shan't sit idly by- we'll trigger the revolution this nation so desperately needs. Now, perhaps we may get organized?"
Within minutes, it was unanimously decided. We'd strike the transport coming in tomorrow.
"I remember hearing about what's coming in tomorrow- it's a transport full of a new type of computer" said a tall, thin man with dark hair and skin.
"Yes, it taps into a user's nervous system, gathering data, processing it and feeding it to the user. The Neo-Tiddlu party- bless their existence- had fought against the existence of this technology for years. Now, it's coming straight for the homes and the hearts of Paxcatians."
"It looks like we picked a good time to strike" piped a person.
For a couple hours, we mostly talked among ourselves before we went our separate ways, to our homes and families. I stayed behind, writing this document.

Am I mad, sitting here in the shell of an old barn, hoping that one day my words, my thoughts will be known? Perhaps I'm insane to simply contemplate the idea that I could change the world by driving people to smash things like maddened animals, but perhaps not.
Perhaps I'm simply giving too much merit to my doubts.

Whatever the case, our assault tomorrow must be swift- I already suspect Black Ace has a clue as to what's about to happen- it's only a matter of time before the Paxcatian Peace Force is prompted to launch an investigation. What happens between right now and the dawn may decide the fate of the revolution and whatever future the Paxcatian people are to have.
This barn is an unusually cozy place for an abandoned building. As far as I can discern, it was built about a century and a half ago- Paxcatia had been at peace for a solid decade and growth in every sector of the market was rapid. for the people were eager to see the fruits of their labor. The new system built on merit was in full force, and somehow a good word was enough to secure a man good things- this barn was built solidly, with good wood and good words. A man had found a technique for growing trees that would produce unusually strong wood- but he had not the means to farm these trees en masse. Yet, through the merit system, enough people recognized his techniques as valuable, and the people united to gather the resources he needed, and with his guidance, his vision (and the visions of so many others) became reality. Thus, today, I can sit in a structure built lifetimes ago, penning words that may be picked read a lifetime later.
Of course, things slowly changed. The necessities came easier- there was no real need to fight, no need to struggle, no need to innovate as Paxcatia's government began to give more and more, and the people had reason to give less and less.
I merely want to see the growth, the innovation, the unbridled and bold creativity of those days when a man's good word was enough for good things- but a man's great word was enough for great things. So many of the Paxcatian people enjoy easy luxuries by feeding the parasites- far too many people are given far too much merit for stifling what could be growth and innovation.
History, I'm sure, will not remember me in a positive light. I probably will do ruthless, regrettable things, but may I never be remembered for giving handouts to the lazy. All I want is a world that's guaranteed not to slow to a syrupy, saturated stop.

You may wonder why I'd take such a violent, destructive route to revolution- wouldn't it merely be another in a long list of bloody conflicts and citizen uprisings? Indeed, it would be. Why not simply go to the government? Paxcatia's government is open to all seeking to accomplish grand scale goals- an overhaul isn't beyond the pervasive reach of party leaders. I ask you to look through history. You'll notice that nothing worth doing is ever done without a cost. The cost of a revolution is property, security, safety and lives. I believe it's a cost worth covering.
The revolution will buy us freedom through the greatest slavery man has ever known: necessity. Necessity that propels invention, creativity, innovation. If it is necessary to work in order to exist, then the people will choose to either work hard or cease to exist- this is what the revolution will bring.
It is necessary.

I'm extremely proud of my sister- she's been drawing a new picture every single day for the past few months in order to help our quadriplegic aunt. If you'd like to order a commission (you can get a really awesome custom cartoon avatar for your Facebook/Twitter account), check out her blog right over here.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Book Review: Kepler's Dream

I suppose that it isn't too often that I find myself picking up a relatively ordinary YA novel these days, really- do you know how many dystopias mine eyes hath borne witness to? Too many. Far too many, which is why picking up Kepler's Dream, by Juliet Bell, was something of a relief.
Kepler's Dream is about a girl named Ella. Her parents are divorced, and Ella often finds herself supporting her mother. You see, Ella's mother suffers from cancer, and she's about to undergo an especially intense (and potentially deadly) treatment that leaves her incapable of watching Ella during the summer. Ella gets sent away to her paternal grandmother, who to Ella is a complete and utter stranger. Not only is she a stranger, she's very strange because- wait, that's incorrect- she's eccentric, mostly because she has an endearing way of being unusual. One way it manifests itself is through her strict adherence to perfect grammar, her slightly less than subtle contempt for anybody who fails to behave according to her preferences, and of course her massive collection of rare books. The book is centered around the theft of Somnium, which the book refers to as Kepler's Dream, which is essentially what one man believed life on the moon would look like prior to stronger telescopes. Through the book, Ella discovers friends, tries to solve the mystery of the missing book and learns the joys of collecting antiquarian literature.

From the outset, this book displays plenty of character. It would appear that Bell is carrying on in the tradition of Judy Blume- her protagonist, Ella, is certainly one I felt I could relate to in spite of never really being in her situation any time within my conscious memory. In fact, the book's humor and writing style are also very "Blume-esque", and while the book aims for a fifth-grade audience, I (a somewhat older person) found the book pretty hard to put down. Bell's an excellent writer, and she has a certain realness about her characters- sure, where haven't we heard this before? A girl gets sent off to camp (in Ella's case, it's what she referred to as "Broken Family Camp"), and it's there that she discovers friends in spite of awkward circumstances that she eventually grows used to and she comes to realize that she's been having a great summer and goes home fully of joy. It's a definitely a familiar premise, but I have to say that Bell's execution of it is absolutely impeccable.

My only gripe (a minor one, really) is that the book's endearing quality, its "Blume-esque" humor that assigns special names to most things, sometimes seems to go a little too far- it can be slightly annoying sometimes, but it's worth enduring- I just thought that the book could've done with a little less of it.

Overall, I'd definitely recommend this book. It's very engaging, full of character and absolutely worth a read. I know it's something of a summer novel (I suppose publishing my review on the last day of August was awkward timing?), but maybe it can drag a little sunshine into your autumn.
While we're on the subject of cancer, I'd like to take a moment to talk about my aunt Jacqueline. She's a cancer survivor (yay!) but at current, she's paralyzed on account of the tumor that was lodged in her spine. Right now, we're looking into getting a few things for her that will improve her life. One of them is physical therapy, which can help her to regain some use of her body. The other is a specially equipped van that will allow her to go out more- she spends much of her time in bed- getting her the van built to accommodate a wheelchair would make it much easier to move her.

This brings me to my little sister- she's started an art blog and will accept commissions. Want a cartoonized version of yourself? She can do it, and the money will go straight to helping somebody in need- check out the blog right here.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Captain Tory

Captain Tory
by Jourdan Cameron

"Am I really going to see my her today?"
The old Captain sighed- the boy didn't believe him yet. "Boy" he said in his grizzled old sailor's voice "It's as true as the sea is blue." The boy stared at the approaching schooner that made its way towards the harbor. Through the mist, everything seemed cold, gray, making things feel... Unsure.
The old man held the lantern high above his head and the ship turned into the nearest dock- the same dock where, three years ago, the boy cried goodbye.
The schooner approached the jetty, and its bow neared, the boy caught sight of what could've been a flame burning bright at the fore of the boat.
Though it was hard to tell, the old man bore a smile somewhere deep within his wrinkles. Extinguishing the signaling lantern, he made his way over to the slowly unloading ship that carried with it the hopes and dreams of a thousand days. He shed a silent tear as mother embraced son, and for a moment, all was right in the world
The old man spoke. "Anya, I take it you succeeded?" The red haired woman nodded. At her side was a briefcase that she picked up and, striding up to the old man, opened just a crack for his wearied eyes. The old man grinned, bobbing his head in approval. As quickly as the briefcase was opened, it was shut. "We'd best get this inside" she said "lest we draw any... Unwanted attention." The old man agreed, and the trio made their way through the seaside town to a run-down apartment building three stories high. The old brick building had clearly seen better days, and through the fog its bulk seemed all the more ominous.
The young boy spoke up as the old Captain opened the door of the building and beckoned the pair inside.
"Mother, what's in the briefcase?"
The woman gently tousled her son's hair. "Isn't it obvious? It's a surprise." Slowly and assuredly, the three walked up a couple flights of stairs until they were standing just outside the Captain's apartment, where he and the boy spent the last few years.
"So Captain, still no lighthouse?"
"Nay, Anya, it's as if they want an old man like me swinging a lantern to fro."
The boy hurried inside the apartment as soon as the door had been opened and peeled back the curtains on the far side of the room. Gray light came pouring in, and it soon became evident that the Captain wasn't the most competent of housekeepers. A thin layer of fine dust coated various knick-knacks and tschotskies, mementos of a life at sea. The boy's swift movements seemed to bathe him in a cloud of particulate matter. Politely, Anya averted her attention to the Captain.
"Please, just put the briefcase on the table" he told her. Carefully, she placed the angular luggage the square, squat, wooden table that lay in the center of the room atop a round, threadbare rug. She barely resisted the urge to dust off the table.
"It's quite the precious cargo- I need to get it to the city right away."
"Relax, we have time. We should celebrate, eh? Dinner's on me tonight. Anya sighed, but before she could object, the young boy in the room took the chance to interject.
"Wait, what are we celebrating?"
"The greatest achievement the world of zoology will ever know- it's bigger than the platypus." The Captain seemed serious for a moment, though the boy could tell he was simply putting on airs.
"Max, what Captain Tory's trying to tell you is that we found it."
The boy's eyes grew wide in shocked amazement. He nearly yelped, but was only able to produce a weak whimper. Inwardly, he sighed with relief. Those years- those three years- they were worth it.
After a moment of swapping smiles, the trio left the little abode in search of a celebratory meal. Safe within, the brown little briefcase lay silent atop the wood table.
After a few moments of excruciating boredom, the briefcase managed to toss itself from the table and onto the floor, and its contents crawled out from underneath and headed for the door.

I wrote this story some while back for a contest at my local library. I got third place! Sorry I've been taking so long to post the next chapter of Paxcatia- it's coming. I've just been crazy busy, and Lyme disease seems to do a fantastic job at sucking my creative juices dry. The depression that seems to accompany it is really quite an annoyance. Rest assured- I'm still working hard.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Book Review: Rural Wealth

Some days, I wish I could go back in time. Far enough back to just enjoy life as it was before things grew... Complicated.
Enough about my life, I suppose I should just tell you about Rural Wealth, a book by Ray Kwiatkowski.

Rural Wealth is a relatively brief but moving collection of poetry and images of life out in the country. Kwiatkowski's style, in its straightforwardness, is reminiscent of Robert Frost. His work is bursting at the seams with beautiful metaphors, and going through his book almost feels like traversing the memories of somebody's life. Whose mind it is I do not know, however I do know that this book is really quite lovely. There's something inviting about it that I can't quite put a finger on- it's certainly a piece worth having on your coffee table. While there was one minor typo (an extra capitalized letter), the book is mostly perfect. My favorite image- Shear Avoidance- was the penultimate picture and it felt like a fitting ending to what had been a brief sojourn across another life.
Overall, it's definitely worth picking up. This book is conversation fuel for your coffee table, and will probably warm your heart. If this Rural Wealth's combination of beautiful imagery and poetry fails to warm your heart, please see a cardiologist.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


by Jourdan Cameron

You've stood beside me for countless years,
Resolute and upright throughout the seasons.
We knew well the laughs between siblings,
So few have been the flowing tears,
the cutting words,
so little pain.
We were freer,
We hadn't worries or blinding fears,
We could speak and smile and share important things,
There weren't any of the hurtful reasons,
Just the little childish tussle here and there.

Time and seasons took their toll,
Into densest darkness I had to fall.
Death gripped and crushed slowly, and I quit struggling.
Shout of salvation came by the siren's call,
Upon breaking death's grip I was free,
Yet I continued to fall.
Going nowhere.
Merely existing as a passenger,
I could only roam the hall.

My limbs were numbed by Death,
and as I made my perilous crawl,
a thousand hands I shook that lay just beyond the wall.
As feeling slowly returned, all seemed good, all seemed well,
for a little while, all was as there was no fall.

One day, I couldn't feel you at my side.
What happened? Did I scare you?
Had you purpose to hide?
For some reason,
You flew.
More than a season,
I hadn't a place to confide,
Where did you go? Was our bond true?
I wish I knew that you had died.

Those kids we knew are dead- they simply had to depart,
their ashes to the wind, they live only in your heart.
The siblings I spoke of are no longer walking,
They're children gone forever,
Their phantoms now remain,
One was once wholly insane,
That one pursued the other,
Though it could be caught never.
Eventually, it became a new child, and among the rest took up walking,
Its newborn heart was dulled by stalking, and to insult injury was missing a vital part!
On a dark day, though, it was once more made whole.

This new boy, sprung from the ashes of the old,
still sees the phantom- it seems distant, lonely, cold-
he cannot grasp it.
The boy still misses his dear dead friend,
but he recognizes what is now a dead end,
he looks away from it.
From day to day, he bears regrets about the things he wishes he had told,
he still holds out some hope that one day, the phantom will materialize and make a decision bold,
but it's only a hope that could die.

Sometimes the boy wonders if what he believed was true-
that if you try hard enough, you can bring a person back.
Hard as he's tried, those children are still dead,
the phantom still intangible,
and all the memories fled.
Sometimes, the boy wonders if his sibling was honest,
that maybe, just maybe, the boy failed some unspoken test,
but time and again, he knew that he'd intentionally overlooked the pivotal clue.

Today to this fact he can attest:
Where there is no closure, there is no rest.
When the daylight fades and the shadows grow long,
somebody needs to state what's right and wrong.
You need not worry for the boy-
Death keeps at a distance,
he has new siblings,
they share valuable things.
In these, the boy found his healing.
At long last, he can walk down the hall,
he can shake the hand with feeling,
he can stand tall.

You might see me one day, as I occasionally visit the graveyard,
I know that what I once was is buried there, slaughtered by a time too hard,
I can only look on and smile.
Buried together are those two siblings, each one at the others side.
Those dead can feel nothing at all,
I know this quite well.
Yet somewhere deep within,
I can hear them- to each other they call.

Truth be told, their bond was honest,
It stood simply to spite every trial and test,
I can now only hope and wait and see,
whether the frozen phantom will ever break free.
The chains are swift growing icy.
Whether or not it occurs, I'm still happy, for I am free.
My heart is whole, I've got friends, you see.
Where my soul could only take up lodging as a guest,
it has found a peaceful home in which to rest.
Trees will drown their golden crowns,
the bitter winter wind will weep and howl,
yet against it all is the unbridled heart,
the drumbeat of a glorious start.

To my readers: Apologies for taking so long with the next chapter of Paxcatia, it'll be here soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the lengthy poetry!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Paxcatia: Chapter 3

Well, can you believe it's been a year of me writing Paxcatia and I'm only on chapter 3? I should speed things up a little...
Here's a table of contents to make things easier:
Last Days of Marconis
Prologue/Chapter 1
What's Worse?
Chapter 2

Chapter 3

by Jourdan Cameron

Chapter 3
"Right here is where we part ways, Ms. Powton."
"What? Aren't you coming with us?"
"Nope, I've got a different assignment- observe and record working conditions in the factory. Now go on, and be careful. If there's danger-"
Katy laughed a bit at his last statement, and Casey rolled his eyes. "Yes, there's always danger" he continued.
"I know what you mean" replied Katy. She hid her disheartenment well- she'd miss Casey on the mission; he'd been an uncle to her.
"Well good, because if anything happens to you, your old man will murder me. Do we really want murder, Katy?"
"Only if completely necessary."
Even under cover of darkness, Casey's grin was visible. The team was currently waiting atop a roof for a transport ship that could be heard somewhere in the distance. As it approached the simple, circular docking station, its massive, cylindrical base opened, and like a remora sucking to shark skin, the ship attached itself to the docking station. Casey approached the massive tube, which was twice as tall as he was, and walked around it, urging the rest of the team come forward, and quickly. There was an opening on the other side, just large enough to fit a person through. Katy stared down at the crate that seemed to be moving upwards, almost imperceptibly, through the tube. Some invisible force brought it upwards, and Katy climbed quietly onto it.
"Don't forget to-"
"Right, almost forgot." Glancing momentarily at her hands, she clapped them together. Her gloves began glowing, the soft white light illuminating the shaft around her. It was a simple, gray place, boring and steely. A couple other rebels hurriedly made their way onto the surface of the hard, black crate, and soon, the small squad was in the ship's cargo hold. It was somewhat cramped, since it was never built to carry people. Still, as the invisible force carried the crates all the way to the end of the gigantic room, it organized the crates so that there'd be alleys just large enough for a person to squeeze through. The massive, black crates were quite wide but not all that tall, so the massive hold of the ship remained traversable.
This was the beginning of a long, boring trip over an ocean.
“Hey, do they have bathrooms on this thing?” Katy sighed- she wasn’t quite sure why Jonathan was part of this mission to begin with- he’d be nothing but trouble, as he’d always been.
“No, Jonathan, this ship was not built to transport humans.”
"Well are there any holes or something?"
"You mean the airlock, Johnny?" Mr. Peak seemed serious. He always seemed so serious, so sullen, so mysterious to the most of the other rebels that they got so caught up in trying to unravel the enigma behind his eyes, those two windows into the soul that everybody looked up into and managed to get lost. Perhaps that's why almost nobody knew his first name, and thus referred to him as Mr. Peak?
"Uh, I think I'll just hold it until we-"
"Don't you have to go so badly though? You're better off just opening the airlock and-" Johnny's face had quickly become a reddened mask of horror and embarrassment- was Peak serious or joking or seriously joking? He may have even been jokingly serious, for all Johnny could discern.
"Don't worry Mr. Peak, I think I'll be alright until we get there" said the stocky blonde spy.
"Alright" replied Mr. Peak, who began walking back towards the other end of the dim cargo hold, presumably to learn more about its contents.
"That's one scary dude."
Katy sighed. She suspected that this would be the longest ride, most monotonous ride of her life. She walked away from Johnny and the other rebels- something about Mr. Peak had piqued her interest.

"You have arrived at your destination. Thank you for riding with us!" David sighed- he sort of wished the ride could've been longer. It was nice and quiet inside the car. Stepping off the train, he found himself staring up at the massive red building. He remembered, vaguely, how it had been modeled after schoolhouses of old, complete with an odd pointed roof and windows framed with white, with odd bars running through them. As he entered the building, however, it was clear that this place was neither ancient nor outdated.
In fact, it felt very new. Unlike most of the cold, white, sterile institutions of learning, this one was different. David stared up at the ceiling of the great sunlit foyer- the walls were decorated with grand paintings, memories of a time long forgotten...
David decided to stop reminiscing and get about to finding his class. He pulled out his little device, the Unleash, and stared down at the luminous little red arrow that now floated a few centimeters above his palm.

"Guys, come look at this!" Maxwell Robinson had made a discovery aboard the dim cargo hold. He buried an arm in the crate and retrieved a white box of similar composition to the black crate. Robinson lay a hand atop the small container as it slowly seemed to dissolve into the air. The small white box glowed gently as Robinson pulled out what appeared to be a pill no larger than a tooth.
"Welcome to the final frontier" spoke a disembodied voice. The pill pulsed with white light as the words the voice spoke floated in the air, a few inches above Robinson's hand. "We have experienced so much in our lifetimes" the deep, vaguely feminine voice continued. "Is there anything we haven't explored?"
Katy bristled. She had a vague clue as to just where this single-sided conversation was headed.
"Our minds are the last frontier. Are you ready to re-percieve reality? Escape with me..." The voice trailed off as the little white pill abruptly stopped glowing. The word "me" seemed to fade away into white smoke as though this invitation was the last time the pill would dare beckon you forth into whatever world would be created deep within your head.
"Quite the siren's call" sighed Robinson as he dropped the pill back into the little box. Slowly, it re-materialized a cover and grew dark once more.
"What do you think it does?" Mr. Peak was standing a few feet away- nobody had noticed his form in the dim light of the cargo hold.
"I'm not quite sure" replied Robinson as he shoved the box into one of his jacket pockets. "Something tells me we shouldn't-" The same strange voice was speaking up again. It seemed to be coming from the other side of the cargo hold. Robinson gasped-  and Katy dashed to the other side of the ship, towards the voice.
She arrived in time to watch Jonathan swallow the pill, surrounded by a few other rebels who watched with wide eyes and eagerly clenched fists.
Jonathan collapsed, his limp form laying still at the base of the big, black crate he was sitting on.

"David, you're late. Ah well, it's your first time here, isn't it?" A wrinkled gray old woman sat behind a large, brown desk. Disregarding the urge to restrain himself, David touched the striated surface- it was real wood. The woman behind the desk sighed. "Why does everybody do that?" David, startled from his trance, decided to sit down. He stared out at the classroom- there were five other youth staring back at him. Well, they weren't staring at him so much as through him. Their attention was focused quite closely on the actor standing inches away from David's doe-eyed wonder.
David walked right on through the educational illusion into his chair- it was comfortable, and from what he'd heard, the least accurate part of the whole experience.
"Begin" the old woman said, as the actor began moving. The man's face was covered in makeup- his face was pure red, his nose black.
"Now" the woman said "Who can tell me about how the art of postmodern street performance began anew?"
One of David's classmates at the far end of the room piped up. "Wasn't it after the anti-fantasy movements?"
The teacher nodded, the bun in her hair seemingly bouncing in agreement.
"Now, what other movements co-incided with the anti-fantasy movement? Julie, perhaps you can explain how the March towards Militarism set the ball rolling?"
Unlike the first student to speak, this one stared down at her fingers, nervously fidgeting. David sighed, and began. "The March towards Militarism marked a period of animosity towards any art that wasn't firmly rooted in the very reality that was driving the early Paxcatian Empire forward..." David's voice trailed off as he stared back towards Julie.
"The emperor thus decided that it was the people's imagination that spurred the growth of new weapons, and thus he decided to halt the March before the arts were wiped out altogether."
Julie's ears stuck out as bright red against her black hair- she was never a big fan of public speaking. Even though she was acquainted with everybody in the room, she just didn't feel comfortable in such a formal setting. After speaking, she stared down at her desk's blank surface. The teacher sighed quietly- she'd been trying to help the girl get over her fear, albeit with little success.

"An early activation?"
"That's correct, Ace, and it come from the transport ship mere minutes ago." Black Ace and Red Baron were communicating again, this time over the matter of an unusually early product activation.
"Can you get a visual?"
"No, the activator is still unconscious."
"I'll have the transport intercepted once it reaches the ground."
Near instantly, the command went out to Paxcatia's Defense Squad in the city of Nauda- an attack may be inbound on a transport ship. They were to be ready to defend their homeland with any means necessary.
"Have the slaves been behaving? There may have been an escapee."
"I haven't overlooked the possibility, which is why I ran a thourough scan of the facility a few minutes ago. One foreign body was detected and destroyed."
"Keep me informed of any further developments."

An ocean away, a group of slaves stood huddled around the body of a man they didn't know. One of them wept gently. With foolhardy hope, she put a finger to his neck, and gasped dramatically- "He's still got a heartbeat" she shouted. The man's bluish skin slowly regained color as one of the other slaves began breathing life into him anew.
In the corner of the garishly bright room sulked a weathered old man. "It's pointless" he sighed.
"What? How could you say that, this man's going to live!" The old man sighed again.
"When Red Baron finds him during the next sweep, he's going to get another does of the gas. He won't survive a second round."
A hush descended upon the small group- somehow, this man had gotten himself into the factory, and the slaves had no idea how to get him out.

Back in the transport ship, another group was huddled around a body. This body, though, had managed to sit up and whine about being crowded.
"Do you feel different?" "Why did you take it?" "Did you see anything?"
Jonathan stared dumbly into the the curious, concerned faces. One seemed kind of angry- he averted his gaze swfitly.
"I don't feel much different" he replied with a shrug. "Could you guys give me some room? I can hardly breathe with you guys pressing in so close."
"Jonathan, we're almost at the drop point." The angry face spoke to him. "Jonathan do you recognize me? It's Katy. You need to snap out of it!"
"I'm with you, don't worry" he replied quickly. Katy breathed a sigh of relief- annoying as he could be, he was like a younger brother to her. Katy could hardly believe it had been a mere couple of years since she'd joined the rebels with her father.
"Johnny, get ready to jump. And please, don't do anything that stupid again."
Jonathan stared back at her and nodded.
He wasn't looking at her. He was looking through the crate behind her. He could see its contents and he wasn't sure why, though he suspected it had something to do with the pill he swallowed.