Thursday, October 30, 2008

Friday Fiction for October 31st, 2008

This week’s Friday Fiction is from the third story in the Eridanus series, Eridanus Comes. In this scene, the main character is passing through a terminal – the future meshing of airport, bus station, and subway – en route to the Embassy in the Oregon district.

I enjoyed imagining what this future terminal might be like, and particularly some of the more aesthetic aspects of it. The concept of the “solar art” is one I read about many years ago in a magazine, and which I imagine will be played with by different artists from time to time throughout the coming years.

Next week, I expect to post an excerpt from my NaNoWriMo work in progress, which I have decided will be a restart of Precocious by Design. Elements of the previous excerpt from that story will make their way into the rewrite, but the manuscript itself will be written from scratch – no “copy and paste”. Until then, I hope you enjoy this short scene.

An Insulated World
From the novel, Eridanus Comes
By Rick Higginson

The Baum Memorial Transportation Terminal in Manhattan was a modest facility, serving a mid-sized community’s needs for air, surface, and subterranean conveyances. While capable of supporting shuttles to Midpoint Station, the market didn’t warrant direct to orbit schedules from the Kansas District city. For that matter, the majority of the residents of the area didn’t want the noise and other side-effects of shuttle traffic over their homes.

The corridor leading from the surface gates to the airborne transportation pads was made from a green crystalline material, bathing the various travelers in emerald hues of filtered sunlight. By some trick of color mixing, though, the moving walkway he stood on appeared to be made of gold colored rectangles. He’d never seen it, but once a year the sun would line up just right for a few minutes with protruding stones in the main outside wall, and would cast a shadow of a witch. Six months later, similar construction on the opposite wall would spell out “There’s no place like home” for an equally brief span. “Shadow Parties” took place on both occasions, as folks from all over gathered to watch the carefully calculated and constructed solar artwork.

David had lived within a short distance of the terminal his entire life, and had never once attended either party. Rumor had it the same artist had traveled to Centauri Proxima and constructed a special piece that would act similarly just once, when the two stars of the binary system aligned just right. He wouldn’t be there for that one, either. Then again, if the rumors were true, he’d have to live an unnaturally long lifespan to be there when the rare alignment took place.

Arriving at the departure lounge, he presented for identification and was admitted to the waiting area. It would be at least another half-hour before they started boarding, and he took a seat near one of the large windows that looked out over the tarmac. One of the smaller transports lifted from the pad and pivoted off towards the southwest, corresponding to the monitor’s display of the flight to Cabo San Lucas.

His Aunt S’Bu had offered to send the Embassy’s private transport for him again, but he’d elected to travel via the commercial system. For some odd reason, it just felt better at that moment to be surrounded by strangers, many of whom would file aboard the transport for the Portland Terminal at the appointed time along with him.

The Cabo transport vanished in the distance, leaving the sky empty for the time being. A child ran to the window near him, looking with anticipation for any sign of activity in the air or on the tarmac. The remote that shadowed the girl indicated she was between nine and fourteen years of age – old enough to travel without a responsible adult accompanying her, but not old enough to be left totally unsupervised. The remote monitored her behavior and would summon terminal personnel if she started doing something she shouldn’t, and would serve as a potent deterrent to anyone foolish enough to attempt criminal activity on the child.

He’d once wondered how he would feel the first time he sent one of his sons off on a trip with a remote guardian overseeing their safety. He knew it couldn’t feel worse than sending his sons off to grow up calling another man “Pa”, or “Dad”, or whatever Bertie had them call him. He wouldn’t find out anyway; by the time he was allowed to see them again, they would be young men capable of independent living.

He had to quit thinking about it. The decision was still painful enough without rehearsing it over and over again in his head. He looked around the lounge; that time of day during the workweek, the majority of the passengers were lower level managers, and most of those were busy on their portable terminals. They paid him no attention, focusing instead of whatever it was that would benefit their corporations, their careers, or their accounts. That was the life Rosa had wanted for him; always pushing ahead and reaching for more. He’d seen enough of them to know he wasn’t suited to such pursuits, and that too many of them died still trying for that next plateau of success.

A food-service remote rolled up to one group, dispensing drinks without requiring them to look away from their terminals. The remote wasn’t programmed to care about courtesies or tips; waiting passengers placed their orders on their terminals and the drinks were delivered.

Remotes were insulating people from each other throughout the most developed areas of the Archipelago. A small cafĂ© such as the Sirius Question in Earthrise still worked the old way, with a human taking the order and delivering the food. As likely as not, the arrangement was due to the expense of buying and programming a remote as it was devotion to any form of tradition. Still, it had made the modest restaurant seem warmer and friendlier. Remotes didn’t converse with customers; they didn’t trade quips the way Marcie had with the rover. They didn’t tease, and while they could be programmed to recognize repeat customers and greet them by name, it wasn’t the same as the affection one person could feel for another. Remotes might be convenient in many ways, but there was just something about knowing the person who delivered your food or your drink actually cared whether you enjoyed it.

Some progress just wasn’t really progress, he reflected.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


My Dad passed away at 2:29 a.m. on Saturday, October 18th. He and Mom had been married for over 52 years, and I consider myself extremely blessed to have learned from his example as a husband and father.

He has exchanged a failing body that was reduced to frailty by cancer, for the new, perfected body promised to us by our Messiah. Dad's life verse was 2 Corinthians 5:17:

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (NKJV)

Dad's old body has passed away, and he is truly a new creation now.

Friday Fiction will be back on October 31st.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Friday Fiction for October 10th, 2008

I missed Friday Fiction last week, due to being on a road trip to Himalaya Bay, Mexico for our scuba certification dives. I’m glad to be back this week.

Earlier this week, I made a comment on the Faithwriters Forums regarding poetry. It has been many years since I wrote much in the way of poetry. I have to be in the right mood to compose it, but I’ve always preferred a recognizable rhyme and meter pattern to my poetry. Maybe I’m just not creative enough for the “freeform” poetry that is popular today, or maybe I’m just old-fashioned and too locked-in to the traditional form.

Regardless, this is a poem I wrote for my wife very early in our relationship. It has resided for nearly thirty years in a “Nothing Notebook” I bought during our courtship to preserve our lovenotes and other such memories. This poem was folded along with a copy of the short narrative that follows it.

By Rick Higginson
For Nancy, circa 1980

She’s just laid her head down low,
Closed her eyes to sleep;
And you’ve come, her fantasies to know,
Her weary dreams to keep.

Guide her steps down clouded ways,
Lead her peacefully.
Lift the veil from her shrouded gaze,
Please lead her then to me.

Morning brings the rising sun;
Calls reality.
Then you close your box and rising, run,
And take her fantasy.

You are called the Dreamkeeper,
You know what we see.
You know the mind of my own sleeper.
Dreamkeeper, lead her to me!

Seems he comes to my room night after night, this shadowy figure. He only enters after I close my eyes to sleep, and he brings a strange little cloudy box guarded religiously at his side. Standing over me as I sleep, he smiles smugly; so confident in his calling. Some have called him Sandman, and say he carries the sand of sleep in his cloudy box, but I know him for who he really is.

He opens his box and ponders the contents thereof. Though I have never peered into his box, I feel what is in it; for in his cloudy box is all that I desire, all that I love, and all that I fear. He selects an item and studies it carefully, examining the possibilities it poses, and then modulates my mind with the story he has chosen.

He can make me fly. He can excite me. He can disturb my peace with visions of phobias long recessed. He plays every fantasy in his cloudy box, teasing me with visions of greatness and glory, or of futility and shame. Yet, every morning I long to continue the game - he beckons me to. He tempts me to forever stay in my dreams.

He is Dreamkeeper.