Heading Back to Elementary School

Heading Back to Elementary School

Sometime between sixth grade elementary and seventh grade junior high, my father brought home a tape recorder that was designed for hearing or vision impaired students. It was bright orange and all the buttons were colored and had braille on them. But besides being such a vibrant styled tape recorder, it had two other unique functions: variable speed and play-in-reverse.

It was AMAZING! I could slow recordings down, speed them up, play them in reverse (slow or fast). But, being a fan of radio plays, record albums with stories, and most of all, the Orson Wells version of War of the Worlds radio broadcast, I was able to reproduce many of the cool effects I heard in audio recordings.

In sixth grade, having been recently exposed to Star Wars (which was life changing for me) and being a fan of Cracked and Mad magazines, I had started writing stories that were parodies of my favorite shows and movies. Specifically, a series of stories titled “Star Crack” about a goofball captain named Captain Joke and his trusty science officer Mr. Pimple. They were, of course, amalgams of myself,  my best friend at the time, and a couple of TV characters you may be able to guess. He, the funny class clown, and more popular was Captain Joke, and with my newly sprouting acne issues, and more academic mindset (not to mention my ‘by the rules’ activity that landed me as a Safety Patrol officer), I was Mr. Pimple.

I won’t bore you with the adventures of the USS Refuse (the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy) or their first trip to the planets Caramel, Chocolate and Nougat foiling the nefarious Klingtoes evil plot by creating “Milky Way” candy bars to make them all fat. NO! I won’t bore you with that or their other adventures, but I will tell you what happened as we entered seventh grade.

No, not the awkward teenage issues (there were many) or bullies (there were some…that all seemed to have the name Tony for some reason) OR the Friday night skating rink adventures. NO dear reader, I will tell you of the librarian who asked if my friend and I would be interested in recording our stories, creating art, and making slideshows to set up in the library in a listening pod.

I was SO excited and, of course, fearful of being judged. Honestly, and more precisely, I was fearful that my crush – who shall remain nameless – wouldn’t think I was ‘cool.’ Not that she ever did. But other people liked them. So I did a few more and kept writing odd stories ever since. But those audio programs were just plain fun.

Some 40 years later, I remember recording various sound effects with some electronics kit I had, a trip into a black hole that slowed time (and lowered voices), as well as creating echoing voices in the empty underbelly of the USS Refuse’s empty bowels (ewwwww).

All this reminiscing got me thinking about all the tools, software and experience in production I have. So, dear readers, I decided to transform one of my recent short stories into an audio program. Not quite an audio drama, but more than a simple reading.

Below is a culmination of about 8-10 hours of production (and a few more hours of brainstorming and researching). Of course, I’ll get faster as I learn. Already I’ve found some great podcasts, gotten some good information on equipment, and otherwise stupendous feedback on how to make each one better. I won’t lie. I’m not going to pull a George Lucas and keep rerecording stories, but I’ll try to learn as I go along.

I’ve been trying to write and post a new short story every month and am currently at tad behind due to, well, you all know… life.

I hope you all enjoy this audio version of Palengenesis. You can visit the link if you prefer to read. I’ve added the audio version on that page as well.

Palengenesis

by Eric Huber | Stories from the Edge

Notes: I found a photo and video showcasing what is referred as a book player from the Telex corporation circa 1975-76


© 20016 Eric Huber. Palingenesis is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Artwork by Eric Huber

©2017 Audio recording by Eric Huber. Music from FreeMusicArchive.org | Kwartet Japonski I by Maciej Żołnowski | The Warbird EP by Tri-Tachyon | Additional audio from NASA

The Piano

The Piano

The Path

The feeling of the brisk air on his face, the sound of the wind shaking leaves from the trees, and the smell of pine in the woods on a beautiful sunny fall day all combined together did absolutely nothing to offset the feeling of utter loss Joe had experienced just a few short weeks ago.

As a man, Joe was taught that you were supposed to be the strong one. The one everyone leans on. He was not expected to feel loss, pain, or even suffer like his wife when a miscarriage occurred. And while it’s true that the experience is not the same, it doesn’t mean that a man, like Joe, could simply move on or ‘get over it.’

And when he found out that it was much, much worse than a miscarriage, that it was a trauma of such magnitude that children were not even a possibility anymore, Joe’s world fell apart.

He fell to his knees.

He actually broke.

But we all heal.

Scars cover the wounds.

And after time passes a man, such as Joe, begins to feel something besides pain and sorrow again. Every now and then he laughed. But immediately he felt guilty as he realized the enormity of what was lost.

It’s not just the loss of a child, but the loss of the entire future imagined ahead of him, his wife and the child, and the child Joe and his wife named Joy.

She was actually going to be named Joy. The irony left Joe and his wife with sorrow instead.

It wasn’t long before well-meaning people started saying, “You can always adopt.” Trying to give hope for building the family they had planned and talked about for several years. And while they could have done so, and it would have been wonderful, the thing they were ignoring was what was lost.

You see, Joe got to hold Joy in his arms on the day she was born. He stayed up with her at night when his wife was too tired. He watched her first steps. Made her laugh uncontrollably. Joy would run to Joe when she was scared in the middle of the night because monsters lurked under the bed, in the closet, or in the shadows. She would fall asleep in his arms after a long day of playing, laughing, and exploring the outdoors. Joe would carry her from his parent’s house to the car as her head lolled to one side completely oblivious to the world; trusting so completely that she never stirred. And when he tucked her in at night, she’d would curl up on her side and softly snore as she tightly hugged her favorite bunny doll next to her.

His wife stayed at home with Joy taking time out from her home business to play, cook, dress up, draw, sing, dance, and learn. They’d have entire performances ready for Joe to watch after he’d get back from a long day at the office.

Their inevitable trip to Disney World when she turned six was miraculous. Watching her wide-eyed amazement of all the movie characters come to life was sheer happiness for Joe and his wife.

Her first school dance. Her first heartbreak. Her first solo. Her graduation. Her acceptance to college. Her first big job in her chosen career. Her husband. Her first born.

Joy was a dancer and an actress and a scientist and a mother.

But none of it happened. None of it would happen.

It was all gone.

Other people just didn’t get it.

They didn’t understand what was lost.

Joe and his wife didn’t talk about it either. Probably not the best approach, but they knew they’d just break down. Joe and his wife stayed focused on what they could do in front of them each day and tried to take the time to just heal. They spoke to their pastor and found some solace in their faith, even if not understanding God’s plan. They believed there was a purpose. There had to be.

But sometimes, a man has to break away and step out of his life for a time to just get some perspective. Perhaps even some enlightenment elsewhere to be free of his daily routine that keeps him locked into his feelings and his loss.

Joe had been strong. But he needed to not be. So Joe arranged for his wife’s sister to take her away for a few days to break her out of her daily rituals and Joe planned to do so for himself. Luckily, his wife silently understood. She knew Joe needed to grieve as much as she had to.

And so, he found himself hiking in the woods, passing other hikers who smiled and commented, “Beautiful day for a hike, isn’t it?” Joe would smile back and say, “Amazing!” or some such thing until they passed and he could let his happy visage slip away.

His trip to the woods was on a day after several weeks of cold wet weather. But the trails had dried up enough for hiking and they were packed with people from town ready for some sunshine. It was one of the reasons Joe chose this as his escape from reality as well.

But there were too many people. He grew weary of the pleasantries and decided to go off the trail and create his own path in the woods.

The Cliff

Joe must have just gone into auto pilot as he plunged headlong into the woods. One foot in front of the other. Mechanical. Methodical. Meditative.

The woods, usually fairly spacious, started to close in with a lot more underbrush than Joe ever remember. Where there weren’t underbrush, there were huge boulders. He had to slow down and consider his footsteps more carefully.

As he moved through the underbrush, he looked up for a moment and noticed the sun was reaching the noon hour and clouds were coming together. As he did, he managed to step into a leafy patch that had nothing beneath.

His left foot rolled sideways and Joe felt tendons pop. Keeping his wits about him, he tried to roll to the left to keep his foot from slipping down further and possibly breaking. Unfortunately, a large boulder was all that he had to catch himself. He missed with his hand and, instead, hit the boulder hard with the left forearm and raked it down across it before finally hitting the ground.

Pain and fire shot across his arm, which he was sure was not broken, but definitely scraped and bruised – perhaps even lacerated. He quickly freed his foot from the hole he’d slipped into. He could move his toes, but the ankle was definitely sprained and swelling.

Joe laid there for a while, cursed a bit, and yelled in frustration a little more than he’d admit to others later. It was like he had to let out some primal screaming with the hell he’d been through – they both had been through.

It felt good. So still laying on his back, he screamed again. He screamed until his throat was raw.

The pain, sorrow, and loss were still there, however.

It didn’t vanish.

He didn’t know how long he had laid there screaming. He started to wonder if someone had heard him and grew concerned that someone may think he was in real trouble and needed help.

Slowly Joe sat up and took stock of his condition.

Besides his throat being sore, and his abs aching from the spasms of crying, he rolled up his left sleeve to find that his arm was pretty scraped up and a little bloody. He could twist his arm, flex his fingers and no blood was gushing out, just really bruised and battered. It wasn’t broken or fractured and definitely still usable.

Joe’s foot, however, was a little different. As he removed his hiking boot, and rolled off his sock, Joe found the ankle to be crazy swollen and the side of his foot, where he felt the tendons pop, were bruised and swollen as well.

‘Great.’

Sitting there, he again flexed his foot and wiggled his toes, all without any serious pain. While the foot was throbbing, there was no piercing pain. He thought that was good and counted his blessings.

Slowly, Joe rolled his sock back on and put his boot back on which caused some discomfort. He then laced up the boot tight and tried standing up.

‘THERE’S the pain!’ Joe thought as it shot from the whole foot up to his brain.

He quickly used the boulder for balance (instead of a cheese grater this time). Joe put a little weight on his foot and it was a little less painful. He took some time to take some short steps, and it got even a little better. The problem now was that he was a little off balance.

Looking around, Joe found a wood of some weight, length and strength and started using it as a walking stick.

Before moving on, however, Joe sat on the boulder and broke out his pack to clean up his bloody arm. While there, he also took a short lunch break and considered how he would proceed with his hike from here on out.

With the weather still nice, but cloudy, Joe decided to keep hiking. He hadn’t been to this part of the woods and was interested in what may lay ahead.

With his arm cleaned up, foot taking his weight, and pack all stowed, Joe grabbed his new walking stick and made his way through the brush which was still surprisingly dense.

The wind started to kick up and he could hear the sound of water flowing ahead. After some time and effort, the brush started to thin to the point where he just had to duck and dodge a few branches.

With just a few steps more, there was a sudden break in the tree line and a huge outcropping of stone lay ahead. Joe stepped out from the tree line and saw it was a rocky ledge overlooking a valley with a small river that flowed below – the source of the water sound he had heard.

Joe stepped closer to the cliff to get a better view just as the sun broke free of the clouds and shined a beam down upon the valley. It was glorious. All the pain and suffering of the hike made this moment especially fantastic to see.

Finally having a bit of a good feeling was nice, but as always, it didn’t last long.The guilt kicked in. Joe dropped his shoulders and slumped. His head dropped  looking straight down. When he did, he got a bit of the vertigo feeling and started to step back from the ledge. But just then, a thought hit him, ‘Why not just fall?’ Why not let go of all this pain and move on?

But Joe stepped back from the ledge suddenly and reflected, ‘What if I didn’t die and just ended up paralyzed? My wife would have to take care of me the rest of our lives… if she even would after everything else.’

Joe sat down and stared at the view.

There were no sounds now but the wind above and water below. No traffic from the trails. No highway noise. No planes. Joe was surprised there were no trails to this spot with such an amazing view.

He pulled his pack off and laid back on it using it as a pillow and stared into the sky.

After some time, he noticed two eagles played on the currents of wind nearly directly above where he lay. They seemed to just hang above him in the air at times as the wind was so strong and steady. He wondered what it would be like to fly on the currents of the wind. He wondered if these events were simply currents that needed to be coasted upon instead of fighting against them. The eagles didn’t fight. They soared.

Joe’s mind cleared. He stayed in the moment watching the eagles.

He listened to the water that flowed in the valley below.

He drifted into sleep.

The Dischord

Joe woke with the sound of music.

It must have been a dream. As he sat up, there was nothing but wind and the water nearby. The eagles had flown away. And the sun, still behind the clouds, was definitely lower than it had been when he nodded off.

Joe tried to remember what music was he dreaming about.

Getting up from his nap, he adjusted his pack over his shoulders and used his walking stick to stand up. Once again, the pain in his foot was jarring, but the more he moved around, the less it hurt.

He turned to gain his bearings and decided he should probably head back and that an overnight in the woods with the injuries he had may not be the best idea. While he had brought a tent along, he thought it might also be too cold in his present condition to sleep well.

Joe noticed that he had come through the trees a little further from the top of a ridge that the rocky outcropping and cliff seemed to run up to. He decided to go higher, walk along the ridge and head back to the trails and, eventually, his car.

As he he made his way heading up the ridge, over the shuffling of his feet and the other sounds of the woods, Joe heard a single noise that sounded like a piano key. A single high note coming from the woods.

He paused for a few moments, but the sound never returned.

He shrugged it off and continued up to the ridge.

As he approached the top, he turned and headed into the woods again. ‘It’s only mid afternoon and I still have plenty of time before dark,’ he thought to himself.

It was just as he entered the tree line into the rustling leaves, that Joe  heard another musical note. This one was lower than the first. It repeated several times before only the sounds of the wind in the trees returned..

Joe turned around several times listening for the sound to return and to try to get a bearing on where it was coming from. “Once? I’m imagining. Twice? I could be hallucinating.”

The music returned. A few ethereal notes played together floating gracefully and harmoniously through the trees. And then they stopped.

Joe locked in on the music and it was coming from straight ahead just over the rise. “It has to be coming from there.”

He limped and hurried as fast as his bruised and swollen foot would carry him.

Muted and rich deep sustained tones now carried on the wind drawing him ever closer to the source of the music.

But as Joe reached the crest of the ridge, he tripped and went tumbling head over heels down the other side hitting rocks and sticks along way down. Piles of leaves came sliding down with him as he skidded down the hillside. After what felt like forever to Joe, he came to a sudden and jarring halt as his his head hit the base of a tree with a sickening thud.

“SON OF A …. OWWWWWW!” he shouted face down into the leaves that had tumbled down the hill with him and under him.

Joe slowly rolled onto his side and managed to open his eyes to get his bearings as dizziness engulfed him and fire lanced across his chest from where, he knew, ribs had been broken.

Something warm and wet flowed down his forehead and into his right eye. He wiped his hand across his face and discovered it was now covered in blood.

Slowly sitting up, and as his vision cleared, Joe saw something that his brain wouldn’t let him believe was really there.

There, in the middle of the woods, in a very small clearing, was a grand piano. A squirrel sat on a few keys with a pecan in its paws. It gnawed on the nut and then tried to bash it against one of the keys making a repetitive plinking sound. The nut broke, and the squirrel shoved it in his mouth and leaped off the keys, landing on the lid, and scurrying across the back side finally leaping into and up a tree.

While Joe’s first thought was, ‘Oh, the squirrel was playing the music,’ his second thought – which should have been the first thought – was, ‘Why the hell is there a grand piano in the middle of the woods?!’

Dizzily, Joe struggled to his feet. He definitely bruised his back and side in several places, cracked his head, ribs (not broken, but hurt enough that it was hard to breathe), and discovered that his knee cap was also in considerable pain. But that was all overshadowed by the discovery of the piano.

Joe thought it was weird enough that the piano was there in the first place, but what was even more odd is that it looked nearly brand new with no weathering at all. There was no way anyone could have put it here. There were no trails. And although this was a clearing, the trees surrounding it would not have allowed for any kind of vehicle to bring it here, especially without leaving ruts or some kind of mark in the dirt.

‘I suppose a helicopter could have lowered it here,’ Joe said to himself looking up past the trees. But he shook his head as he realized the stupidity of the comment.

There was also a piano bench.

‘Why wouldn’t there be one?’

Joe hobbled over to the piano, a little scared, a little in wonder, and a little confused. He pulled the bench out and decided to lift the lid. There, inside, was a single piece of sheet music.

Joe picked it up and stared at it. The color drained from his face and he dropped the walking stick and grabbed the piano as if the world had started to shift beneath him.

He didn’t exactly sit on the piano bench, but rather fell onto it perfectly seated and still clutching the music in one hand and the piano with the other. His eyes never left the sheet music.

Slowly, he put the music on the stand, already propped up ready for the sheet to be placed there. Tears welled up in his eyes as he shakily placed his right hand on the piano keyboard, only remembering a few parts of music from his high school days, but enough to know a basic scale. In a steady rhythm, he looked at the first two notes, he recognized, were on the treble clef and an E on the scale. From there he ascended one key to F and then G. Repeating G, then down to F, then E, then D and finally landing on C twice before progressing back up to D, E and repeating E but holding a slight bit longer before briefly hitting the D key and then hitting it again.

Joe leaned back holding the last note for a moment before letting go of the note and staring a the keyboard for several minutes.

He looked around the woods, but no one was there. Not even the squirrel that had been there earlier was still around.

Joe looked back at the sheet music.

It was Beethoven’s piece, Ode to Joy.

The Melody

Joe sat staring at the sheet music for a very, very long time. So long, in fact, that the sun had started to set. And yet, Joe sat staring.

“I’m dreaming. This is a dream,” was a recurring thought that was accompanied by a numbness that felt akin to being drunk, stoned, or otherwise isolated from all outside thought other than what was right in front of a person.

Finally, Joe stood as if in a trance.

He gathered wood, cleared a space near the piano, and started a fire in a ring of stones he had painfully moved to the clearing. He unpacked his tent and set it up, hammering in anchor pegs, and unrolled his thermal sleeping bag. From time to time, he would stop, turn, and stare at the piano and the sheet music that never moved, even though a breeze would kick up from time to time strong enough to move leaves on the ground. But the sheet music never fluttered.

Night fell and Joe cooked food on the fire, constantly staring at the piano and the music. The fire illuminated and danced across the finely polished surface of the piano’s housing.

As the darkness of the forest enveloped his campsite, Joe slowly retired to the tent for the night, his eyes never wandering too far from the oddity that lay before him. His mind never wandered either. Nor did it wonder. It simply fixated on the music of Beethoven and the piano that existed where it should not.

The wind had died down and the only sound was the crackling of the fire.

As Joe slipped into slumber, he realized he no longer felt the pain he had in his body. The emotional pain was gone as well. There, in the silence and tranquility of the forest, something seen and unseen was moving about him. He didn’t understand why. Just that it was.

While the fire kept Joe warm, he dreamed of his wife and of Joy. Of days in the park. Of days of conflict. Of days of laughter. Of days of sadness. He dreamed of how he and his wife had come together and created this being of light who never got to shine, and yet affected them so deeply and forever.

Finally, Joe dreamed of standing on the cliff that he had slept upon the day before. Joy was by his side holding his hand. She appeared to be a young girl of ten. He could remember all ten years of their time together. And none of it.

He looked down as she looked up at him, smiling taking his hand.

“You didn’t lose me, daddy. I’ll be with you forever. Besides, I would have tortured you as a teenager.”

“You would have been perfect,” Joe said to her. She smiled.

“I have to go. It will be okay.”

“I know. But it’s hard.”

“You’ll know when it’s easy because of this moment,” she squeezed his hand.

“I know.”

Joy turned to Joe and he lifted her into his arms and hugged her hard in an embrace that he hoped he would never forget. An embrace of warmth, connection, and love.

She kissed him on the cheek and said, “I love you, daddy.”

“I love you too. You have fun, okay? Maybe I’ll see you again someday,” Joe said to her as he set her down.

“You will.”

Joy smiled and started skipping and dancing away. The wind picked up and it appeared to take her away and she dissolved into the sky as Joe watched.

Joe woke at peace, but still sad.

He slowly sat up, sore, bruised, battered, and yet, a feeling of acceptance. He was, by no means, over his loss. But the visions, dreams and strange occurrence in the forest gave him some peace.

As he opened his tent, he was not at all surprised that the piano, bench and music were gone from the clearing. No sign of it existed. Not even an indention in the ground. He accepted the experience as it was without any question.

Joe slowly packed up his campsite, strapped it all on his back, grabbed his walking stick, took a last look at the clearing, turned away, and headed home.

The Prophet

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet,
excerpt from On Joy and Sorrow

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises
was often times filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being,
the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find
it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth
you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board,
remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver,
needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Author’s Note

I love stories with a twist. And I also love finding weird occurrences in the world. This story was inspired by a news article in 2008 about a woman in Harwich, Massachusetts who came across a new piano fully tuned in the woods while on a trail and no idea how it got there.

But a weird news story is not a story. You have to have a human connection. Someone to travel with to experience the strange event. And it has to have some meaning or why make a story.

I wrote this story shortly after a series of losses that occurred closely together. Loosing both uncles on each side of my family (my dad’s brother and my mom’s brother) in the same year was more difficult than I care to admit. My mother died nearly twenty years ago. A member of our spiritual community also died in an accident. It brought up lots of memories.

I used the words of Kahlil Gibran from The Prophet in my own mother’s eulogy and have gone back to the text many times.

The point of the story, of course, is loss and hope and how part of our existence is filled with duality and extremes. I hope you all realize that even the worst experiences in life give us the contrast for the best experiences that life has to offer.

Ode to Joy

If you’re not familiar with Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, here is a magnificent flash mob that builds and builds and builds. I like that this version is triggered when a little girl throws a few coins into a hat and stands there and watches the whole performance completely transfixed, but disappears at the final crescendo and final notes.

She also appears to be about 10 years old.

Coincidence?

© 2017 Eric Huber. The Piano is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Photo from Unsplash.com photographer Ryan Holloway of https://unsplash.com/@hollowaykryan

2017 Theme: Accepting the Glass is Half Empty Too

2017 Theme: Accepting the Glass is Half Empty Too

2016 was rough, ya’ll.

I’m not going to sugar coat it, and I won’t go on a diatribe listing what all happened. Because, really, some GOOD things happened along with all the bad. SOME good things came out of SOME of the bad as well.

But here’s something I haven’t shared and that doesn’t often present itself in public: I’m angry a LOT.

Not that kind of angry that I take it out physically on others, and don’t always lash out verbally. More of an internal rage that builds and builds until I feel like my head is going to explode. Sometimes, and more and more often, because of all the anger, I DO lash out much more vocally than my reputation of cool-headedness would otherwise be the norm. I can think of three instances that I wish had not.

Now, here’s the thing; I research, I try new things, I listen to stuff, I read, and more. All this to try to understand WHY I’m so angry a lot. I’ve sat in a group to exorcise it. I’ve drawn images and burned it. I even tried stuffing it WAY DOWN DEEP inside into a little ball and forgetting about it (just kidding…sorta).

One thing I read said, ‘anger lets you know when boundaries are being crossed.’ That held some truth, but it wasn’t really hitting the mark.

So what the heck? WHY DO I GET SO ANGRY?

Anger Sharks by Eric Huber
(based on a line from Anger Management)

Another Disappointment

Christmas is, traditionally, the beginning of fun, family, friends and time off from work from my business. A time to recharge. A time to plan for the next year. To set goals. To reconnect. To… relax.

This year, as part of the whole 2016 debacle, there was loss of a relative, a loss of a friend, and I got sicker than I have been in many years basically putting me down for nearly the entire break. The GOOD was that I did get to enjoy Christmas and felt a little better to be with friends and my sweetie on New Years Eve. But overall, it was a bust for what I had hoped for.

But a strange thing happened over the break. A random video popped up on a non-account YouTube channel that presented a title that gave me pause: “How Not to be Angry All the Time.”

Ding. Ding. Ding. Of COURSE I watched it.

And MAN did I disagree with it. A lot!

But there was something about it. Some nugget of wisdom. And I decided to stay open with it and ‘play’ with the idea.

Might watch it and then read more of what I’ve decided to try…

PESSIMISM? Really?

I’ve nearly always been a glass is half full, or even the funnier, “Even if the glass is empty, you can refill it” kinda person. My philosophy has been, “Hope for the best. Plan for the worst.” I always thought that made me a pessimistic optimist… or an optimistic pessimist.

But this video is saying that my anger is all from being disappointed that my deep deep hopes are being crushed by reality. That I should just accept that everything is horrible in the world and be a pessimist and life will be better.

I disagreed, as I said above, a lot. But I decided to stay open and see when I got angry and why.

Low and behold, I got angry when things didn’t go as I had ‘hoped’ or ‘planned’ for them to go.

What does this mean for my persona? My very soul!?? Do I need to become a pessimist to be happy?

 

Going to the Well

So… I researched, asked questions, even talked to my dad (who, most likely, was a source of my optimistic pessimism). Within a few conversations, people disagreed, but then came back to an interesting point. And, to my surprise, it was my father who said, after confessing he got the same message from his dad, “Maybe instead of ‘Planning for the worst and hoping for the best,’ it’s more of ‘Planning for the worst and accepting whatever happens.'” (I may have paraphrased). Accepting what ‘is’ then?

Realizing this sounded familiar, a friend said, ‘That’s Buddhist; Acceptance of what presents.” And my smart, learned, lovely wife shared, “You should let go of how you think things should be and accept them as they are.”

Man, they all pissed me off!

Just kidding.

 

The Theme, Then…

No, I’m not going to be pessimistic in life, but I think I understand. I believe I have, in some situations, adopted that belief.

The video says, “Despite all life experience proving otherwise, Fred has a deep deep hope that…” he’ll get the outcome that he wants. And when he doesn’t, he gets angry. I’ve experienced that with airline flights and I now expect that I will always have a delay. I don’t. But I expect it now. My reaction if it is delayed is simply, ‘meh.’ And when it runs on time, ‘cool!’

My theme for the year is to do my best to see situations as they really are, to listen to people where they really are, and to look at myself, where I really am. The glass is half-empty, sure. It is also half-full. Plus, it is a glass, and can be emptied and refilled. That’s how glasses work.

Here’s to an amazing year ahead. But if it’s not, that’s okay too.

Whoa. This might just work.

Palingenesis

Palingenesis

SYSTEMS CHECK

“Ground Command, this is Leo Station. Ground, Leo. Over. Ground Command, this is Leo Station. Do you read? Over.” Commander Su’e Inana finished her daily call to Ground Command for the 393rd day without response. Only occasional static was ever returned and the monitor screen continually displayed ‘no signal.’

She gave a slight sigh as she finished her broadcast and then turned to her duties to ensure the integrity of Leo Station. The station was located on the solitary natural satellite that orbited around her home world of Egom. They named it, Naan. There was no atmosphere on Naan and it had taken her people many decades to develop the technology to reach such heights after seeing it in the skies for millennia. A network of stations had been planned to spread across the surface and beneath, but due to various political and global situations, once the Naan had been reached, plans for expansion were delayed.

Su’e started, as always, by reviewing all of the command center’s various monitors, systems and readouts before taking a quick glance at the exterior of the station for any problems by way of cameras located outside on the surface of the Naan.

Seeing nothing out of the ordinary and with her mind at ease, Su’e left the command center on her way to the rest of the station. Before leaving, she paused and spoke, “System: Play ‘Ocean Sunset’ on all station speakers. Quarter volume.” A series of tones followed by the requested music that began to play. She smiled and manually closed the door to the command center careful to ensure the seal of the door was secure.

Su’e headed to engineering at the far end of the station to check all of the equipment operations even though the command center showed nearly everything was functioning nominally. She liked visual confirmation just to be sure. Once there, nearly all readings were in good shape except one, as she expected. She didn’t seem too concerned about it, but simply gave a slight sigh. All the equipment was running well, batteries were at peak charge, and the geothermal equipment looked like it would not fail for many many years in the future.

She headed to the dining hall to get some breakfast and passed the crew and guest quarters along the way. At it’s height, Leo Station housed over three dozen scientists, students and citizens who focused on expanding knowledge for the world of Egom. Most people only stayed for a week or two, serious researchers a few months, but the permanent staff of five stayed for six months at a time to ensure continued operations and station integrity.

She sat alone eating and drinking in the hall that easily housed ten to fifteen people at a time when the station was buzzing with activity. While there, she looked over at a screen and spoke, “System: Play last message received from my daughter.” Again, a few tones were emitted as the music stopped and another series of tones began and were followed by moving images and sounds of a young beautiful woman in her early twenties. Her long dark hair fell across her shoulders onto the rich bright blue material of her blouse. Around her neck, she wore a bright green scarf that nearly matched the vibrant color of her eyes.

“Hey ma-ma! I just wanted to send you this. I know we’re not scheduled to talk until this weekend and you’re probably in a sleep cycle, but I couldn’t wait.”

The woman raised her hands and pulled away the scarf revealing an intricate necklace of polished crystals, stones and wood. At the bottom of the necklace rested two strands forming a knot: the traditional symbol for an engagement. The young woman then screamed in excitement and joy to Su’e on the recording.

A young man poked his head into view smiling, “Hope you’re okay with this, Ma-ma!”

Her daughter kissed the young man on the cheek and turned back to the screen, “Can’t wait to talk to you about all the plans we’ve made…”

Static appeared in the recording and the screen’s colors and image shifted and twisted for a moment and then resolved.

“..and you’ll love the place the we picked…” and then finally the screen went black with a total loss of signal.

Su’e stared at the screen for a moment, a slight smile on her face, but her eyes showed sadness. She sighed, returning to her meal and finished her last bite. As always, she picked up her plates and made sure to wash them and stow them away. As she left, she powered everything down and turned out the lights.

It was time for her to get busy in the library. Su’e went to inspect all the work stations and banks of crystals that stored much of the world’s knowledge accumulated by her people over the past several thousand years. At least up until fourteen and a half cycles of Naan ago. Once she was satisfied that everything was in order, she wandered over to one of the larger screens and took a seat.

“System: Playback log date 3751.15 northern hemisphere.”

The screen flickered into action and showed a beautiful blue and green planet with clouds floating over land and sea. Much was covered with grand glaciers, but where it wasn’t, vast lush green areas of forests and fields spread across all the visible continents.

But it was on this day, fourteen and a half months ago, that the unthinkable happened. Su’e watched it unfold on the recording, just as she had seen upon awakening that day and had forced herself to do every day since then.

On the screen, she watched as Egom slowly rotated in space. Dawn was just hitting the western most coast of her home continent. Suddenly, a burst of light in the northern hemisphere appeared. The light becomes a streak of light for a few seconds before suddenly impacting one of the northern glaciers and becoming a massive explosion on the surface. While horrifying in itself, this moment was followed by three more smaller burst of light that ended in explosions; two more on land and one impacting in the eastern ocean. Each one emitting such an intense flash that the exterior cameras were temporarily blinded. As she watched, she could see the red hot blaze radiating from each point of impact and debris being thrown up miles into the atmosphere. Pressure waves emanated in all directions and she could see the clouds being forced away from the blasts all the way to the equator and beyond. Watching the recording made Su’e hold her breathe every time until she finally gasped for air.

No contact with anyone on Egom had been established since that day and even trying to reach someone using the man-made satellites in orbit for relaying signals yielded no results.

She finished the playback, and made sure to file the recording properly before turning off the monitor and getting up to leave. Su’e left the library shutting down all additional power and lights.

From the library, she went down past the medical bay ensuring all power was turned off there, and headed to the exterior hatch to do an external inspection. She donned a space suit, sleek in design and with a wide vision helmet. After checking her supply of air and ensuring her suit was adequately secure, she equalized the pressure in the room inside the hatch and exited the station.

She walked slowly across the surface of the Naan and rounded to the side where the greenhouse, now dark and cold, was located. She looked up into the night sky to her old home world. The skies were dark over Egom and the once vast green lush lands were blackened. Some fires still burned after all those long monts ago. The coastlines weren’t recognizable any more as the glaciers had nearly all melted. And since nearly eighty percent of the world’s population had lived by the oceans, she was fairly certain that anyone still left in the center of the continents would not have lasted long.

A ring of debris was visible around the planet she once called home creating an amazing banded ring. It was both beautiful and terrible at the same time. She knew she’d never see Egom from the ground again, let alone the sight of the rings from the same perspective. No one was left.

Su’e looked down to the burial mounds where she had buried her fellow crew members over the past months. None of them had been able to deal with the catastrophe or the fact that their days were numbered on the Naan. Each one died by their own hand and own manner and were kind enough to not to do anything too drastic that those remaining would have to clean up. However, someone did need to remove the bodies and bury them. Su’e took it upon herself to give the final rites upon each passing.

As the commander, Su’e knew she would never kill herself. With the others gone, the food and air lasted much longer than they normally would have. However, without replenishing, she had calculated the time remaining, and while not obsessing, she decided to find a way to allow Leo Station to last as long as possible, just in case someone finally did make it back to the Naan.

After changing out of the space suit, Su’e powered down the rest of the station. One thing she knew, from various studies, was that allowing everything to keep running after all the air was gone, without people performing maintenance, could result in an accident that could destroy the facilities. So her next step was to power down all the equipment except the last bit of energy provided by solar and batteries. She left engineering and headed back to her quarters where she picked up an image of her daughter and a pillow before heading up to the command center.

All lights and power were now turned off in the station as she closed and latched the door to the command center. Su’e set the photo of her daughter on the console in front of her and sat down in a chair placing the pillow on her lap.

“System: Record and broadcast to Ground Command,” the system gave a series of tones as always.

“Leo Station to Ground Command. Leo to Ground. This will be the last recording and report from Leo Station, Commander Su’e Inana reporting. It has been fourteen months and fifteen days since the asteroids impacted on Egom and we have never been able to regain contact. While I wish more people had been here on Leo Station to survive the disaster, instead of back on Egom while we were in a maintenance period, we wouldn’t have lasted but a few months. The members of the crew all passed on in their own way and lay interred outside the station.” she paused and reflected.

“I have no idea if anyone will ever get this message, or if anyone will ever reach the Naan again to find what is left here, but my hope is that someone will one day and with no atmosphere here, the facility and all the records will remain and that the technology is easy enough to use for someone to understand. I’ve spent the past fourteen months attempting to find ways for those with different languages to be able to interpret the knowledge stored here. Hopefully some of our technology will survive. I’ve set the station’s system to remain in low power mode, but be triggered by any communications it may pick up. The system will trigger a low power signal back. Hopefully, it will be before all the power drains.”

Su’e picked up her daughter’s image, “Dearest Aribel, I hope you did not suffer and you and your love were together as the asteroids fell. I’m glad you were happy and hope you did not feel much fear.” She set the image down gently.

“If you find this message, this station, or me, know that the disaster that fell upon our world was one that could happen at any time. We focused so much on ourselves, what was happening around us in our daily lives, and what might happen tomorrow, that we forgot to look outside and see what may be coming. Too shortsighted in thinking of the timeline of the universe that we had only just begun.”

“If you find this message, and you have come from Egom, I hope you plan for the future of our world and our children. While this disaster may be the most horrible thing to have ever happened, I am at peace.”

“System: End recording.” A final series of tones indicated that the recording and system were completed.

Su’e pulled the pillow from her lap and laid it on the console. She carefully laid her head down on the pillow with a view of her daughter’s image and a view of Egom through a window. A quick glance at a nearby monitor showed that air would last for approximately two hours more. As she drifted off to sleep for the last time, she held onto her memories of holding Aribel in her arms and watching the sunset over the hills from their home in the hillsides of Egom.

EPILOGUE

Millenia passed.

The debris of thousands of asteroids impacted Naan.

Dust, rocks and debris covered Leo Station from the asteroid impacts and destroyed some of the weaker parts of the structures that still stood.

Egom’s rings disappeared, the debris pulled back into the planet by gravity.

The skies cleared and the glaciers returned for few thousand years and then receded again in a much less disastrous and more natural way.

The system on Leo Station began to falter. Every now and then, it picked up a random signal, something with a pattern, but Su’e had programmed it only respond if more than a few random signals were picked up and within a certain range.

The batteries were failing, no longer being fed by sunlight, and the geothermal energy had long ago stopped working.

And then it happened.

The system picked up a signal.

Strong and local, right on the surface of the Naan. A few key systems powered up in the command center where the body of Su’e still lay entombed. An ancient monitor flickered with a tiny bit of light showing an image of the Naan’s surface coming from some visual feed. Static from barely functioning speakers vibrated against the dust of ages. The images came into focus and a voice came from the speakers for the first time in nearly thirteen thousand years.

“Houston. Tranquilty Base, here. The Eagle has landed.”

© 20016 Eric Huber. Palingenesis is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Artwork by Eric Huber

©2017 Audio recording by Eric Huber. Music from FreeMusicArchive.org.

Audio credits at end of story.

Revised Intro to “Black Dragon”

Revised Intro to “Black Dragon”

First stab at my first rewrite of the intro.
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A low rasping moan echoed through the dank dark entombed ruins causing sleeping bat wings to flutter as well as small rodents and thousand-footed insects to scatter back into holes for safety. No light had reached this place in a millennium and no living soul had entered in at least a quarter as many years. And yet, as frequently happened, the rhythmic sound of shambling footsteps paired with the dragging of wood on stone began to rise in the darkness. Even though the cave dwellers that lived in the pitch black of the ruins could not see, they recognized the smell of death and could hear it’s scuffling progression as it passed them by in their hidden burrows.

They waited, as those that survived over the years had learned to do, until the sounds faded into the distance until even the occasional rasping moan could not be heard. Only then did the normal sounds of the underground return.

One small rodent scampered out to sniff out the path of the creature in search of any morsels to eat. In a short time, it finally patted out far enough to discover a bit of dried flesh. If anyone could have seen in the darkness, it was obvious that with a twitch of its nose and a turn of it’s head, the discovery was not pleasant at all. It scampered a good distance away from the droppings and came to a quick stop.

The rodent lifted his chin up and it’s ears rotated hearing something unusual. Quickly, it scampered away as part of the ceiling collapsed with a cascade of water, rain, dirt, rocks, wood, and a body that was screaming as it fell some twenty feet down into the ruins. The screaming stopped as it hit the ground with a muffled thud.

“Kaelyn! Are you okay? Hold on, cousin! I’m coming down,” a panicked voice called down from a gaping hole where the first light in ages came flooding down onto Kaelyn’s motionless body.

Copy © 2015-2016 by Eric Huber
Artwork by Sean Wong