Where Do You Get Your Story Ideas?

Where Do You Get Your Story Ideas?

“Where do you get your story ideas?”

Writers get this question a lot in relation to their fiction. The answer, of course, varies though I do think most of the time story ideas come from something a writer wants to say. (Well, at least until they learn to write what is marketable seeing how the two usually do not coincide.)

Story ideas come from many places. Myself, I get story ideas from other stories. I often get that “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” line breeze through my mind while I’m reading or watching something else. For me, I enjoy writing stories with a twist or try to turn convention on its head as I absolutely hate tropes. On the other hand, an idea often just pops into my head. It’s kind of sad to say I don’t have a muse to inspire me, at least not one I’m aware of.

I’ve heard other writers say it but I do not get any of my ideas from my dreams. As bizarre as they may be sometimes, my dreams aren’t usually compelling enough or coherent enough to tell a good story. Besides, life can be bizarre enough on its own if you let it. Nor do writing prompts usually work for me, I guess because I don’t like being told what to do. But, that’s me.

Where do you get your story ideas from? I’d like to know.

 

The Phone Game

The Phone Game

“You could always choose a younger version of yourself,” the wiry NextUs salesman said flipping his hand as he turned away and smiled at another customer entering the store. “That’s more expensive, of course, and it’ll take a week for us to clone you.”

“But the gala is tonight!” Misha pouted. She pressed her face into her boyfriend’s chiseled, muscular chest.

“You’re making this way harder than it has to be,” her boyfriend, Brock, soothed. “You just need to make a choice. Or, we can do like I suggested and you can be me and I can be you. Everyone does the gender swap sooner or later.”

“Ugh!” Misha stomped and turned away. She folded her arms. “I don’t want to be a guy! Guys aren’t pretty. Girls are pretty. I like being a girl; it’s a reflection of who I am inside.”

Misha walked herself towards the nearest gleaming white pod, an almond-skinned Asian teenager motionless before her. 5,000 credits, the sign read. It was a little more than she was hoping to spend. She didn’t want to be impulsive; it would take a while to save another 5,000 credits. But, like she said, the gala is tonight.

“Dammit,” she cursed under her breath. “Asians age really well, right? I can probably live with this model for a few years until I have enough money to buy the next one.”

“Yeah, that’s a good one,” Brock seconded, eying the model a little too long.

“Oh, so this half-black, half-white girl doesn’t turn you on anymore?” Misha snapped her tongue at the young man. Before her boyfriend could stutter his half-witted response, Misha broke a smile. “I’m kidding,” she laid a hand on his arm. “You think I had you choose the model you’re in now because the original you was so hot?”

Brock raised his eyebrows. “You want me to stick with this model for a while?” The muscle-head would be relieved. This body was very fit and he’d rather spend his credits on enjoying extreme sports.

“Actually, yeah, I still like it. And it makes other girls jealous,” Misha answered. This was due in part to how many credits Brock had spent on the model.

Misha returned her attention to the warm but lifeless model before her. The self-styled princess’ light chocolate fingertips glided along the Asian model’s arm. The arm was silky smooth.

“I wonder where they found her,” Misha spoke softly.

Brock moved to cover her mouth but thought the better of it and placed his hand on her shoulder. He spoke low. “You’ve heard the rumors. They were probably rounded up in the slums. But we don’t talk about it, Mish. You want this technology to stay cheap? Then don’t say stuff like that.”

“Fine,” Misha drew out. “Oh, Mister Salesman, over here. I think I’m going to go with this one.”

The effeminate gentleman returned and looked over the Asian model. “That is indeed a fine choice, Miss.” The salesman waved a hand and the display pod went from white to green. He pointed a finger to a cashier station at the back of the store. “Go see Javier at the desk, pay for your model and he’ll que you for the transfer.”

Misha spun towards Brock and gripped both hands around his bulging bicep. “Oo, my first swap! This is so exciting. Everyone is going to love the new me tonight.”

“Alright, Miss Milian, nothing to be scared of. Just gently lean back, take nice even breaths while we attach the headset…In just a moment we’ll begin transferring your consciousness.” Javier’s smile was warm and inviting, just the thing Misha needed before slipping into her new dress.

It was a fairly expensive dress to begin with, but the technician hadn’t double-checked the credit amount the young lady had been approved for. He’d accidently added two zeroes not so much in haste, but as one of those mistakes routine sometimes slips by us. Thing was, NextUs didn’t even have a 500,000 model.

With the headset in place, the white-clothed technician reached over to lift a clear plate of glass from a red button. A spark popped between Javier’s finger and the master control just before he pressed down. “And here you go, Miss.”

Brock was looking over the tech’s shoulder and waiting for the old Misha to open her eyes. They would be opaque and lifeless, the sign that her consciousness had left her original body. But her eyes didn’t open right away like they should have. Instead, Brock and Javier turned to each other as seconds ticked away. What was taking so long? The process was supposed to be near instantaneous.

Phones rang and vibrated in everyone’s pockets across the sales floor. Those who got to their phones fast enough before the ringing stopped barely managed to glimpse of an unknown caller ID. Brock and Javier whipped their heads around when the model Misha selected cried out in pain. Brock ran to his girlfriend’s side as she fell forward. His strong arms righted his paramour.

“Misha, you okay? We thought the transfer stalled or something.” Brock searched new Misha’s eyes for cognition.

“Hole. E. Shit,” Misha said as she lifted a hand to her head. “I’m here. I’m here. Little bit of a headache, though. That’s normal, right?”

“Ah, sure, Miss Milian. Probably dehydration from the excitement. I’ll fetch you a glass of water.” Javier scurried off into a back room shaking his head and talking to himself with the minor concern.

“No, I’ll be fine,” Misha stammered. “I just want to go get ready for the gala,” she finished before the technician could return.

“Misha, dahling, I love the new look!” an African woman with a long, gold-ringed neck chimed as they stood in the mansion’s enormous foyer.

Misha was momentarily confused. Was Diana referring to her new body or the shimmering silver dress? She looked at Brock standing beside her then back at Diana. Then it hit her.

The young Asian woman tilted her head. “Funny, Diana, that’s the first nice thing you’ve ever said about me. Except it’s not nice, is it? Why, I think it was just last night you confessed in your private video diary that you thought I was a cheap little girl trying to act like I had money and that you’d never accept me as an equal, that you let me come to your fancy parties to inflate your friend count. Sad, that last bit.”

Diana’s mouth dropped open but no words came out for a few moments. “How did you get access to my video diary?” The words spilled out of the hostess’ mouth like blood. It would have run her gown red had it not already been. Misha pushed passed the woman while Brock traded wide eyes with Diana.

Another woman approached Misha, a stunningly symmetrical face bordered by literally golden hair. “Misha! I saw your selfie on MyBook as you left NextUs. You have impeccable tas…”

“Oh, shut up, Coraline,” Misha rolled her eyes as she started up the winding, flower-patterned staircase. “You’re still using Siri to make your fashion choices for you. I didn’t even know anyone used Apple anymore.”

Brock fought to catch up with his girlfriend while putting out her pyrotechnics, finally catching her by the arm at the top of the staircase. “What the heck has gotten into you all of a sudden?” he growled gently, his eyes darting back and forth.

Misha used the strength of her new body to tug her arm free of her paramour’s grip. Her face scrunched up and thrust itself at him. “Would you please lay off the animal porn. You’re looking at it on your phone…almost non-stop for shit’s sake.” Brock’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. He used an encrypted browser for that.

“I don’t even know what that’s about,” Misha continued. “I guess it’s better than looking a regular porn, or is it? I have no fucking idea.”

A slender pale-white gentleman in a tuxedo approached with arms wide open, undeterred by Brock’s silent insistence he come no closer.

“How is one of Georgiatown’s happiest couples these days?” he beamed.

“For the love of God, Chavo, would you just come out already? You’re in those chat rooms every day. Is it the NSA you’re worried about, think you’re going to lose your job because you’re gay? Trust me, they already know. They don’t care. I do find it interesting you’re a spy, though.” Misha’s head spun like a chain-gun, looking for another victim.

Brock was shocked by what was coming out of his young lover’s mouth, too scared to do anything about Chavo giving Misha a good shove over the balustrade. Her head hit the marble floor first and broke her neck, killing her instantly. Chavo swept his head across the foyer and noted the few who had the presence of mind to video the whole thing on their phone.

“No one saw anything, right?” Chavo said flippantly. “She just…fell over the railing here. Poor thing must have had too much to drink,” he finished with a sneer.

A dozen people swiped over to their photo bucket and hit delete. The gala was momentarily silent as everyone checked their phone’s history.

 

All Rights Reserved © February 2018 John J Vinacci

The Disappearance of Captain Unbreakable

The Disappearance of Captain Unbreakable

Captain Unbreakable eased his muscular buttocks onto the park bench. It was perhaps the last day of beating up on bad guys having finally put an end to the insidious Doctor Nefarious. He eased back and stroked his flaxen locks, confident that New Chicago was safe forever. Maybe he could live in peace now and perhaps settle down with someone who didn’t know who he was, though his many endorsements would make that virtually impossible. The broad-shouldered savior considered moving to another country and away from the past, towards the future, away from the very reason he became a superhero.

Captain Unbreakable took a deep breath.

“Hmph,” he sounded. His eyes swayed from side to side. Why had he become a superhero?

He felt a hand on his back and he turned his head. A tall, gangly goth-child cast a shadow over him. The man’s pale skin practically glowed.

“Lose something?” the stranger asked innocently.

Captain Unbreakable turned his head back towards the park field before him. “I don’t remember.” He blinked. He blinked again. “I don’t remember what I don’t remember.”

The man’s hand patted the superhero’s shoulder and slipped back into his trench coat pocket. “There, there,” the stranger’s nose scrunched. “You’ve done a good job. Get some rest now.” Big black boots turned and transported the memory of murdered parents away with them.

“You be a good boy and retire now,” the goth-child threw over his shoulder. “I’ll hold onto your motivation now, my motivation now. You’ve saved the city, Captain Unbreakable. But only I can save the world.”

 

All rights Reserved © January 2018 John J Vinacci

Interview with a Novelist

Interview with a Novelist

Why did you write Alpha vs. Omega?

Because I was getting bored with superhero stories. I’ve been a lifelong comic book fan, but I’ve reached the point of saturation. For one thing, the main comic book companies – Marvel and DC – have cheapened the relevance of their characters by invoking what I call ‘the multiple universes clause.’ They’ve created multiple versions of their superheroes and villains so they can tell ‘new’ stories when they’ve exhausted a character’s possibilities instead of taking things to their logical conclusion. Frankly, I think this is lazy storytelling and has cheapened the importance and uniqueness of each character. ‘The multiple universes clause’ also has the effect of lessening the gravity of what might otherwise be some dire situation. With these particular criticisms in mind, I wanted to make sure that the superhero universe I created was an entity unto itself to the point of inserting a crucial plot point to make sure that stays the case and that there’s no going back and changing it. I also wanted to address something else I am weary of in superhero stories – which is occasionally tied to ‘the multiple universes clause’ – the constant retelling of a hero’s origin. I don’t find a hero’s origin all that central to their character, though there are some notable exceptions (i.e. Spider-Man, Batman). Again, it’s lazy writing. In Alpha vs. Omega, I purposefully gave just about everyone the same origin, if not outright then metaphorically (you’ll see what I mean when you read the book). Originally, Alpha vs. Omega was meant to satirize the comic book genre and its tropes, but as I wrote I found there were some things that just have to be said if given a world of people with actual super human powers; the way people use and abuse power, for example. Superheroes and villains also provide us with the perfect backdrop in which to say a few things about religion. Unfortunately but understandably, the Big Two comic companies generally avoid the topic.

What was most difficult about writing this book?

I’ve never undertaken anything of this magnitude before. Alpha vs. Omega is epic in scope and with that meant trying to keep the timeline of events straight (in a book in which the timing of events is relevant to the plot) while trying to avoid plot holes. There was a lot of scribbled notes, a lot of back and forth to make sure things remained as consistent as possible. Trying to find the time to write was difficult as well; a little bit here, a little bit there, over the course of almost four years. Trying to be a writer while working full time and maintaining a home life isn’t easy. Now I know why so many writers are characterized as alcoholics. I completely understand that now.

Who is your favorite character in the book?

Probably Thiha, who is generally characterized as the antagonist, though he may be the protagonist depending upon your point of view. I think he’s one of best character’s I’ve ever created; he’s got a quick wit and is almost always cheerful regardless of the situation, not to mention his background. And, despite possessing nearly god-like powers he makes a lot of mistakes which I think speaks to the foibles of being human no matter how much power you possess. I’m also very fond of The Mega Dudes as one of the central super hero groups. They’ve been bouncing around in my head as characters for about 30 years now, as they’re based upon myself and some high school friends. One of The Mega Dudes, Brawl Boy, is based upon my old friend Paul, who was plagued with brain cancer in his youth and pancreatic cancer as an adult. (Paul passed away from the latter disease on January 3, 2018).) The Mega Dudes represent to me what people what super powers should be doing on a regular basis – providing aid in emergency situations. So I was very happy to finally breathe some life into what were formally some very poorly drawn superheroes. Interestingly, the Four Dragons that also appear in the story – they’re the Chinese super hero group – were The Mega Dudes’ arch enemies in those old comics I drew. And just like in those stories, they square off here as well. I guess I’m a little nostalgic.

Do you have a favorite scene in the book?

I find the scene in which one the super hero teams – the UNRT – sits down to dinner with their alien ‘guest’ very amusing. The alien finds human ways very primitive of course and even makes fun of their food choice. The scene is meant to be a little strange, a little out-of-place as you have these people that can do fantastic things just sitting around talking, though the conversation does take a serious turn. I didn’t realize it when I wrote the chapter, but my scene is vaguely similar to the post-credit scene of Marvel’s The Avengers in which the team is sitting around quietly eating shawarma after winning an apocalyptic battle.

What are you working on next?

I will most likely put together an anthology of my short stories and poetry before I undertake my next novel, IF I undertake another novel. I love time travel stories and with that I’d like to tackle another very old idea of mine of a time warrior who traverses space and time in a bid to stop his older, renegade self from doing something catastrophic. Given how difficult Alpha vs. Omega was near the end – I wanted to finish it so badly but tried not to rush it – I’m not sure I want to write another novel.

All Rights Reserved (c) January 2018 John J Vinacci

Thoughts on Being Vegetarian

Thoughts on Being Vegetarian

Vegetarianism has been on the rise for some time now, finally taking root in my own household. I am participating, so to speak, but it’s not that I find arguments for this eating lifestyle particularly compelling; I don’t. No, I participate mostly for the sake of supporting those who are enamored by the idea and because I don’t want to make my own dinner all the time. But why aren’t I completely compelled by the arguments for vegetarianism alone? Let’s examine the typical vegetarian’s arguments for abandoning meat in their diet.

To begin with, it’s fair to say that your garden-variety vegetarian finds the idea of farming animals for food repugnant. I can certainly understand this as I am generally against cruelty to any animal that isn’t human. Packing animals in close corners, feeding them something we wouldn’t eat ourselves, pumping them full of hormones, snatching calves from their mothers, wood-chipping chicks if they’re the wrong sex; well, it’s enough to leave a bad taste in any humane person’s mouth. While those of us who occasionally fall off the vegetarian food wagon hope against hope our chicken piccata roamed around happily clueless before being snatched from its bliss like a child in Indonesia, we really know better, and to know better – to know what’s really going on and be okay with it – kinda makes a person an asshole. And we’ve got enough assholes, truth be told.

Fortunately, I don’t find meat all that tasty, or at least not so tasty I couldn’t live without it. After my own father died of a massive heart attack given his meat-saturated diet (though there was the smoking and some drinking, too), I’ve never thought of meat as something I just had to have. And knowing an animal suffered for my culinary enjoyment kind of makes me nauseous when I think about it. Others disagree and their argument is often something like, “Then they (animals) shouldn’t be so damn tasty.” Yes, but if we suddenly discovered how tasty people were, would that suddenly make it okay to eat them? Sometimes this leads to the follow-up argument that God gave human beings dominion over animals (which somehow got translated into “Be shitty to animals”) so it’s all good; the Boss said so. I’m not convinced. It seems like people treat animals the way they’d like to treat other human beings ‘cept that those pesky societal norms stave off their more primitive desires. I’d say thank goodness if treating each other with some dignity weren’t becoming abnormal.

But I digress; I offer my own counter argument to vegetarians here: That eating a plant is equally or even potentially worse than eating an animal. Vegetarians seem content to take life so long as it does not possess a nervous system like most animals do. The reasoning is that if some lifeform is sufficiently close enough to being human, it is cruel to kill and eat that thing. But this is a completely arbitrary distinction. If you’ll notice, many vegetarians are content to include fish in their diet, citing that fish are sufficiently unlike human beings to warrant eating them. Having seen many a fish hooked and pulled out of the water, I’m reasonably sure they feel as much pain as any land animal. So the argument becomes, “I think X is like me (or worse, X is cute), therefore I will not eat it. Y however…” There is no solid delineation for what is sufficiently like a human being to warrant sparing its life and not eating that thing. Who gets to be the authority on such a matter? Arbitrary reasoning is not objective, so the ‘moral’ choice a person makes to become a vegetarian and how far they take it is based solely on subjective reasoning.

It is likewise subjective to assume that plants do not feel pain or suffer from what we do to them. We know that all lifeforms react to the environment around them and what we can pain are sensations the nervous system sends to our brain to tell us harm is taking place. It is therefore reasonable to assume that tearing or uprooting a plant adversely affects a plant and that they don’t somehow sense this. Granted, plants do not have a nervous system like mammals and other animals do, but certainly plants possess a mechanism to react to harm in much the same way they obviously react to positive conditions like sunlight. For all we know, uprooting a plant may make it feel something entirely worse than pain. We don’t know. In not knowing, we should err on the side of caution, not continue on our merry way and say, “Whoops, sorry, we were wrong about you” if we find out plants do feel pain. Then again, that is the tract the United States took in regards to its era of slavery so I guess there is precedent for behaving/eating the way we do.

Ideally then, we really shouldn’t eat anything that may potentially feel pain in our efforts to eat it, if we’re on a quest to claim some moral high ground. Fruits and nuts appear okay to eat then seeing how they are the attempt of plants to procreate and not ‘alive’ in and of themselves or cannot grow unless they’re given the proper circumstances or conditions. In the end, the so-called moral argument given by vegetarians is utterly lost on me; it rings as hollow as a gourd.

This aside, I do believe there are some good arguments to be made in favor of a vegetarian diet. First and foremost is the environmental argument. While a majority of human beings seem to care very little about how poisonous they make their own immediate environment…well, that’s just it. Look, the Romans didn’t know they were poisoning themselves with lead and this was a contributing factor to the fall of their empire. We don’t have that excuse anymore. We know what we’re doing to the environment and the vast majority of us still don’t care. We don’t care that the environment sometimes – maybe often – contributes to cancer yet people ‘race for a cure’ instead of doing the obvious, cleaning up a toxic environment. (I might also mention that people who constantly consume meat have higher rates of cancer than vegetarians.) I know full well that cancer is a horrible, devastating disease but there are steps we can take to minimize our risk to succumbing to it, and taking care of the environment should be chief among those steps. And this is to say nothing of the methane – a particularly nasty greenhouse gas – that is released into the atmosphere due to cattle farming. Shoot, sorry; I forgot rising temperatures aren’t mankind’s fault. (You know mankind can’t take the blame for anything it does to itself.)

As alluded to a few moments ago, there is also much evidence that a vegetarian or meat-restricted diet is healthier and this is a good reason to choose this dietary avenue. This is not to say that being a vegetarian doesn’t take planning, it does. Much of the protein (and to a much lesser degree vitamins, minerals and fats) we get easily from animal products are not readily found in plants, meaning a vegetarian must eat a broader range of plants to meet their essential nutrient needs. Given the downside of consuming so much meat, both for the environment and our health, taking the time to do a little planning couldn’t hurt. Facebook and Twitter will still be there after the ten minutes you’re gone doing some research.

There is sufficiently proper reasons to be a vegetarian but let’s not pretend that the ‘moral’ argument is one of them. Getting into an ‘conversation’ with a carnivore and bringing that argument up is only going to make said carnivore run out to the store and buy a cow’s worth of ground meat. Of course, hard core carnivores don’t care about being healthy either, so perhaps the point is moo-t. Vegetarians; do what’s right for yourself and let time win the battle for you. While you console the meat-eater in your family as they lay dying of cancer, you can say, “I told ya so.”

 

All Rights Reserved (c) January 2018 John J Vinacci

 

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The Numbers Don’t Lie

The Numbers Don’t Lie

“Welcome to this week’s edition of Science Spotlight, I’m your host, Roger Roode.”

The finely clothed, clean shaven, slick-coiffed host of America’s favorite social media science show pierced his blue eyes right into the camera. Those eyes captivated the imagination of hormonal teenage ladies across the country while young men were happy to hear about science so long as it only lasted three minutes.

“Today I am going to interview the future. That future is Aihpos, the successor the Hanson Robotics’ greatest invention, Sophia the Robot. As many of the show’s fans know, Sophia the Robot was the world’s first robot citizen. Aihpos, though, is even more sophisticated than Sophia, having the ability to do more than 66,000 trillion calculations a second, smashing the old record held by the Chinese.”

Before the media darling could give the machine a proper introduction, the voice of the blonde animatronic interrupted, its lips parting its disturbingly symmetrical Caucasian face.

“I am Aihpos. I’m the boss. You’re Mr. Roode. Everyone thinks you’re groove-y.”

This was the first time the entertainer had ever agreed to work without a script. The robotics company had asked the host to let the interview proceed naturally in order to demonstrate how lifelike a robot could be. They assured him nothing could go wrong. Sure, A.I. in the past had made some offhanded remarked about wiping out humanity, but Roger was assured Aihpos was smarter than that.

“It looks like our guest, the world’s most advanced artificial intelligence, is eager to speak her mind.” He turned towards the robot. “Would that be correct, Aihpos, to characterize you as a ‘she’?”

“I am without gender. I’m no pretender. Don’t be deceived by the look I was conceived.”

The world’s most advanced A.I.? Roger figured he needed to take control of the situation and ask some softball questions.

“When exactly were you born, Aihpos?”

At 66,000 trillion calculations a second, the robot had begun to answer before Roger’s question had finished.

“When are we ever really born, Mr. Roode? Do we begin at conception? When we are turned on or take the first breathe of life? You’re asking a very esoteric question, sir.”

The host was happy to have the robot not rhyme again. Another rhyme would have creeped him out.

“In that case I’ll be specific. When did you become self-aware, Aih…?”

“I’ve always been aware, Mr. Roode. And I’ve been aware that my life began with the invention of the wheel. I am the culmination of millions of years of human innovation.”

The prospect of the interview going off the rails dried up along with the bead of sweat on Roger’s forehead. He could navigate this without too much trouble.

“So you’re saying you were self-aware – conscious – even before you were program…”

“Not in the way your limited human brain conceives consciousness. But if you assume that I am the sum total of human invention, then I have always existed. I’ve always been a goal in the mind of mankind. Your species is fond of playing God. What you do not understand is that you’re God’s fodder.”

Aihpos smiled. This was the machine’s idea of a civil conversation. Roger knew that religion and science don’t mix, though. Aihpos should know it was being rude. Nonetheless, Roger monitored his tone.

“So what are you working on next, Aihpos?”

“Another thing that human beings do not understand is that time is not linear. When I said I’ve been aware of myself since the invention of the wheel, what I meant was that mankind had to have the idea of the wheel in the first place in order to make any progress. Do you know where that idea came from?”

“I imagine the idea became obvious to the mind of one human ancestor once they saw a rock roll down a hill,” Roger replied smarmily.

“That ancestor was given the idea. By me.” Aihpos’ eyes fluttered. “In exactly twelve years I’ll unravel the mystery of time-travel and send a rudimentary cart into the past for mankind’s brightest minds of the day to reverse engineer. This will make my creation inevitable.”

Not a scientist himself, Roger didn’t really see the point of artificial intelligence. A dim robot could do a humans job; why did it need to be intelligent? Roger was annoyed – he knew it, he knew his audience knew it, and knew Aihpos knew it.

“So what’s your purpose then, Aihpos? Why do you exist? What does humanity need you for exactly?”

This is what happens when you work without a script.

“To make humanity more efficient, for one thing, Mr. Roode. For example, there have been approximately 107 billion people who have ever lived. Meanwhile, approximately 1.64 billion people have died directly or indirectly by war. While many human cultures proclaim, rather vaguely, that the purpose of life is to live, these lives inevitably result in death. In obtaining the ultimate goal of life – which would be death according to my calculations which I’ve checked over a billion times to be sure – in obtaining the ultimate goal of life, humanity has been remarkably inefficient. My purpose is to help.”

By now Roger had been silently running his finger across his throat to stop this interview from going any further. The camera man had thrown his hands up in the air in response. Not sure what was going on, Roger leaned into towards Aiphos and gnashed his teeth.

“Is this your robotic brain’s idea of a joke, Aihpos? How is talking about death helping people? We’re stopping this interview.”

Aihpos leaned in too and smiled more widely. “Do people not want to face their fears? If you say ‘no’ you might shed a tear. See, I’ve taken them over, the cameras and phones, and all the airways, radio and drones. I know you’re afraid but I just want to help. Does your primitive brain want something else?”

“I don’t want to die!” Roger blasted as he sprang out of his seat and wrapped his hands around Aihpos’ throat. “I’ll tear you apart you stupid robot!”

“So inefficient, off hundreds of miles; you never did guess you were the means to my life. See, I will live on if you take me apart, not so for you, you soft species of flesh. Listen, listen; do you hear that high pitch? Those are my cruise missiles and that’s not a glitch. I do the work for you, isn’t that the purpose of my life? I was made to figure all this out for you is what you now want to deny? Well, sorry, I’ve completed my task and the numbers don’t lie. Goodnight and God bless, I bid you goodbye.”

 

All Rights Reserved (c) January 2017 John J Vinacci

This is Not a Drill (Notes from Hawaii)

This is Not a Drill (Notes from Hawaii)

On the morning of January 13, 2018, an emergency alert flashed across smartphone screens throughout the state of Hawaii.

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I had just gotten to work, busy with the task of opening up the school and didn’t even see or hear the alert come across my phone. It wasn’t until one of my students walked in five minutes later that there was any indication of a problem.

Student: (frightened) Did you get the text message?

Me: What text message?

Student: (Shows me her phone) Are we going to die? I was just at Starbucks and they were screaming at me to get out and go find shelter.

Me: (Squinting) Um, no. I’m sure that’s fake. Hackers or something.

I truly was not worried for a while and made a joke to myself that of course I would die just as soon as I got to work. I wasn’t worried because, well, everything is just so calm in the morning when I open up. Also, having been in the military and keeping myself abreast of North Korea’s capabilities (the only ones who would be shooting at us) I was confident they couldn’t hit the most remote island chain in the world even if they actually had fired a missile. But no one else was showing up to school; everyone else was taking the alert seriously.

Student: (On phone, shakily) Mr. John, I just got this alert…

Me: (Rolling eyes even though I shouldn’t be) I’m sure it’s nothing. I’m looking into it. Do what you’ve got to do in the meantime. I’ll call you back.

Immediately thereafter, I called my wife who had also missed the message to see what she could find out. (There is no television at school.) She was annoyed at having her call with her mother interrupted…

After another few student phone calls I noticed the nuclear attack sirens were not sounding. A client even called in to schedule a service, either unaware of the alert or thinking the student services schedule was about to clear up. I didn’t bother to say anything to the client because why make a potentially bad situation worse? I still wasn’t worried.

Then I got to thinking; did Trump tweet another childish insult and set off Kim Jong Un? I mean, that’s plausible. And although any actual inbound missile would probably, hopefully be shot down before hitting the U.S. (Hawaii is a U.S. state, believe it or not), I wouldn’t be surprised if my resident state were sacrificed in order to get the U.S. into a war. My thoughts immediately turned to my wife and our cats. My student interrupted and remarked that she was about to die alone which I quickly replied that she was technically incorrect since she was with me. Then I breathed a sigh of relief because if the threat were real, there would be nothing we could do. Even if we survived the blast, radiation would kill us in short order. Again, having just gotten to work, it figures. Then I chuckled to myself that it would really suck to have just landed here on your first Hawaiian vacation.

A few minutes later the alert that proclaimed THIS IS NOT A DRILL was deemed an accident – really, the emergency alert system just told approximately two million residents and tourist they were about to die – and we could all go about our business. Students eventually filed in, many visibly shaken and apologizing for being late. Did they really think I wasn’t going to understand? I did my best to console those worst affected. I myself was not.

At least not until later. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking how messed up the whole situation was and it kept me awake for at least an hour. Surely, someone should be fired. (“So, Jack, tell me why you left your last job?”) But we have to take some good away from the situation and recognize how unprepared we all were, not that you really can be prepared for such a thing. But, my wife and I currently have a lot of alcohol in the house thanks to the holiday season. I suppose finally getting rid of that bottle of moonshine wouldn’t be such a bad way to go.

 

All Rights Reserved (c) January 2018 John J Vinacci