Sunday, December 26, 2010

Story a Week 4 - G. R. Inch

Hello everyone! I've got a special Christmas story for you this week. The Frank saga will continue on next week, but for now, I give you "G. R. Inch".
"Geoffrey Russell Inch!" came a shrill voice.

'Oh jeez,' Jeff thought to himself. He looked around the mall food court. Seeing that no one was paying any attention, he turned to see his mother storming her way across the food court heading in his direction. He turned back to his lunch and rolled his eyes. 'She's so dramatic,' he thought.

Jeff took a bite out of his sandwich as he waited for his mother to get to his table. A moment later she was standing across the table from him. "Why don't you sit down, Mom?"

"I'm too angry to sit down!" she blurted out. Jeff noticed that some people looked over when she yelled and his mother must have too because she blushed and quickly sat. "Why didn't you tell me your wife kicked you out of your house?"

Jeff sighed. He wanted to say, 'Because I didn't want to.' Instead he said, "I didn't want to worry you."

"What happened?" his mother asked. Her tone was serious and showed that she wasn't going to give up that easily.

Sighing again, Jeff replied, "Oh, I don't know. We've been fighting a lot since Thanksgiving."

Jeff and his mother stared at each other for a long time before she asked, "And why is that?"

Jeff hesitated. When his mother motioned impatiently he rolled his eyes and said, "Oh, I don't know. She keeps saying that she doesn't like my attitude or something like that."

His mother stared fiercely at him and said, "I don't like your attitude."

"Oh, come on, Mom. My wife just kicked me out. I think that I'm entitled to a bad attitude now," Jeff growled. "Anyways, it was about my attitude towards Christmas, not anything else."

For the first time in the conversation his mother's gruff exterior changed, into a confused one. "You have an attitude towards Christmas?"

"Yes, I do. I'm almost thirty. Christmas used to be an awesome holiday that you got to spend with all of your family. Now it's a commercialized event devoid of any of the meaning that the holiday used to have," he paused for effect. "I work in a mall. I see the fools here at three in the morning the day after Thanksgiving throwing their money away on crap and it sickens me. I can't stand it anymore."

Jeff's mother stared at him blankly for a few moments. Finally, she said, "Your wife is right, your attitude sucks!"

As she got up, Jeff said, "Great. Have a good day, Mom."

She paused next to him as she was walking by and said quietly, "If you think that is all that Christmas is about, I feel sorry for you. You need to try to remember the real meaning of Christmas." Without another word, she kept on walking.

'The real meaning of Christmas...' Jeff thought, 'what the hell does that mean?'

Jeff picked up his lunch tray and headed back to work. After a few hours of work he left and headed back to the hotel he was staying in. "Merry Christmas," the clerk said to him as he passed by the front desk. Jeff ignored the teenager there and kept walking. When Jeff got to his room, he sat at the table, sighed heavily and booted up his computer. As he waited, he got up and went to the bathroom. When he returned he saw a Skype message from his wife. It said, "Your daughter wants to talk to you."

Jeff got a little smile on his face as he hit the "video call" button. A moment later he saw his daughter's smiling face on his computer. "Daddy!"

"Hi, Ashley! It's good to see you."

"I miss you Daddy. When are you coming home?" Ashley asked.

Jeff's heart sank. He hated disappointing his daughter. "I'm not sure honey. Mommy and I need to talk together to figure that out."

Ashley seemed to accept that. She said, "It's Christmas tomorrow, Daddy. I have a present I made for you. Do you want to see it?"

Jeff laughed and had to suppress tears from his eyes as he said, "No, honey. Let's save it for Christmas." As he finished that sentence something clicked in his mind. He said, "I need to talk to Mommy, can you get her?"
Ashley ran off the screen and a few moments later his wife's image replaced her. "What is it, Jeff?"

Jeff repressed a sigh and said, "I think I get it now, Amber."

Amber appeared irritated, sighed and asked, "Get what?"

"The meaning of Christmas," he paused for a moment to gather his thoughts. "You've been right. I have had a terrible attitude. I can't believe that I didn't see it before. While I do still think that Christmas is over-commercialized, it doesn't matter. All that matters is the majesty of the holiday and sharing that majesty with others. Especially our children."

Jeff waited patiently for Amber to respond. After a few moments, she said, "Alright, Jeff. You talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?"

Jeff was confused, so he asked, "What do you mean?"

Amber, a slight smile on her face, said, "You have a couple of hours to get a couple of more presents for your family before the stores close. After that, you can come home and we'll all spend Christmas together."
Jeff almost leapt out of his chair that moment. With a big smile on his face he said, "I'll see you in a few hours!"

Then, he did leap out of his chair and began throwing his belongings into the two suitcases that he had been living out of for the past week. He walked up to the front desk and told the kid there that he was checking out. As he was leaving he paused to say, "Merry Christmas!"

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Story a Week 3 - Frank Saga, Part 3

Here's the third installment of my story a week thing that I'm doing now. I've gotten a little bit of response on these and it sounds like people like what I'm doing here. Like I've mentioned before, writers like to hear what their audience thinks. Please keep the feedback coming!

Without further ado, here's the third part in the Frank saga. If you haven't read the first two, I would recommend it.


Frank knocked on the door and waited for someone to open it for him. A few moments later the door opened to reveal Frank's mother standing on the other side. "Mom! I didn't know you were going to be here," Frank said, excitedly. As he entered the house he added, "Is Dad here too?"

Frank's mother smiled and nodded. She gave Frank a kiss on the cheek and said, "He's in the living room with your brother."

Frank followed his mom into the living room. The two men were standing together with their hands behind their backs. Suspicious, Frank asked, "What's going on?"

The three of them had big smiles on their faces as Mark, Frank's brother, led him to the chair. "Oh, nothing," Mark said.

After Frank was sitting, his father walked over and handed him an envelope. "What's this?" Frank asked.

The three of them looked at each other with smiles on their faces. "An early wedding present," his father answered.

Frank blushed and opened the envelope. Two airplane tickets fell out. "What the heck?"

Frank's mother said, "We know that you and Anne have always wanted to go to Europe. The three of us chipped in to get you tickets to Madrid."

Frank started to tear up when he heard, "Frank, time to wake up."

Frank opened his eyes and saw Hugo standing over his bed. "Why do you always wake me up when I'm having good dreams?"

Hugo replied, "Sorry, Frank. We've only got a couple days left before we have to do a demo of your capabilities to my bosses."

"Let's get to it then. I think I can beat the other army a lot faster this time."

Hugo shook his head. "That's not what we're doing today. We're going to try something new."

Suddenly, Frank and Hugo were standing in the security checkpoint of a large airport. Frank looked down to see himself dressed in the uniform of a TSA agent. Sighing, Frank asked, "What is this a metaphor for?"

Hugo explained, "So far you've fought battles against enemies that you have known the identities of beforehand. Now, we're going to go the other route. You don't know which of these passengers are going to be enemies. If you let too many through, then they'll sabotage the kernel and you'll lose. Oh, and you need to keep the traffic flowing. You have a quota of passengers to get through." Hugo faded out.

Frank turned to look at the situation. The other agents were going through the motions and letting most of the passengers through without much hassle. Occasionally, one would be stopped and searched seemingly at random. The line leading up to security was long and there was a constant stream of passengers queuing up. "Must be the holidays," Frank said to one of the other agents.

The agent looked at him blankly before saying, "Whatever you say, sir."

Smiling to himself, Frank looked at the status board above the checkpoint. They were letting in many more passengers than the quota required, so he started barking out orders. First, every passenger would have their ticket checked to make sure that they were supposed to even be here. That didn't slow things down much and Frank already saw a passenger turned away before reaching the checkpoint.

Frank noticed that every passenger was plainly dressed and they were each wearing one of several colored shirts. He stopped the nearest other agent and asked about the shirts. The agent rolled his eyes at Frank and said, "They represent the different communication protocols."

That didn't explain a lot to Frank, so he grabbed one of the travelers and pulled him off to the side. He was wearing a blue shirt. "What communication protocol are you?"

The man quickly answered, "UDP, sir."

Oddly, Frank knew what that meant. He let the man go. He looked around confused as to what he was supposed to do. He basically had no idea how to prevent bad traffic through security. Frank was wandering around security when he noticed a group of orange shirts just starting to go through security. He stopped one and asked, "What communication protocol are you?"

"FTP, sir," came the quick reply.

Frank knew what that meant and didn't think that made any sense. He picked up his radio and called into it, "Kernel, this is Frank."

"What is it, Frank?" came the reply.

"Have any of the processes running initiated an FTP transfer?"

"No," the Kernel replied.

Frank looked up quickly at the rest of the security check point. A couple of orange shirts had gotten through, but he could still stop this. "Quickly, round up all the orange shirts and turn back the rest."

Hugo appeared next to Frank and patted him on the shoulder. "Good enough, Frank. You did let through a lot of bad traffic. We saw you floundering out there, so we threw you a bone with the FTP transfer."

Franks shoulders drooped. Hugo added, "You did do well by rudimentarily screening each packet as it came in. That did prevent some bad traffic. Also, it was good to contact the kernel about the transfer. You wouldn't want to stop a legitimate transfer. Want to try again?"

Frank considered for a moment and replied, "Not quite yet. I'd like to do some research first."

Hugo smiled and said, "Excellent. I was hoping you'd say that."

Friday, December 10, 2010

Story a Week 2 - Frank Saga, Part 2

Hello dear reader! Welcome back! I'm posting this a day early since I'm stuck on a plane and don't have much else to do and tomorrow is going to be a busy day at home anyways.

This story is a sort of continuation on the last one. So, if you haven't read the first story, please do before you continue reading this post.

Also, if you have any feedback, please post a comment. I, like most writers, like to hear how we're doing. Now, on with the story!


"Where are you off to, mister?" Anne asked as Frank put on his motorcycle jacket and picked up his helmet.

"I told you that I was going to my brother's house to watch the Twins' game," Frank replied.

Anne nodded and playfully said, "I know that, silly. I was just wondering why you were leaving without giving me a goodbye kiss."

Frank smiled and thought, 'I'm going to marry this woman in a couple of months.' Aloud, he said, "I wouldn't dream of doing that." He approached her and, dropping his helmet, grabbed her, leaned her back and kissed her.

After a moment or two, Frank righted his fiancée and the two of them separated. Anne faked fainting as both of them laughed.

"Frank, wake up," said a gruff voice.

Frank, startled, sat up. It appeared as though he was in his house and bed, but he knew better. He was still stuck inside of a supercomputer. He looked up at Hugo and said, "I was having a dream about the day I died."

Hugo sheepishly asked, "Not a bad one, I hope."

Frank sighed. He had gotten to know the scientist pretty well over the last week, but he wasn't prepared to share anything from his previous life with the man, yet. Frank stood up and stretched. "It doesn't matter. What are we doing today?"

Hugo said, "It amazes me how you've kept up a lot of the habits of being a human. You still sleep; you just stretched when you stood. Amazing."

Frank shrugged. "It just feels natural. I don't get tired, but I still feel the need to relax once in a while and sleeping is nice. I still have emotions, you know."

Hugo emphatically nodded. He said, "Of course, and I am pleased that you retained those. I had always theorized that this was possible."

Frank nodded and repeated, "So, what are we doing today?"

Hugo replied, "Oh, right. Sorry. I think that you're accustomed enough to your environment that we're going to take you out of your comfort zone. We're going to practice some computer defense."

Suddenly the two of them were standing inside the walls of a medieval castle. Frank was dressed in full armor with a sword in his hand. As he looked around, he said, "I know that everything in here is a metaphor for something going on in real life, but can you explain this to me?"

Hugo nodded. He pointed to the parapets and said, "Let's go up there." As they climbed a set of stairs, Hugo elaborated, "The castle is a metaphor for the computer. Its walls are a metaphor for the firewall."

They reached the top of the parapet and Frank could see half a dozen doors on the wall they were standing on. Worriedly, he said, "Why are there so many doors? Isn't that dangerous?"

Hugo smiled and nodded. "Yes, but as you can see, each one of those doors has traffic flowing in and out. Some of this is friendly traffic and some of it will be bad traffic. Since this is all very new to you, we will begin by making the unfriendly traffic quite obvious." As Hugo finished his sentence an army appeared at the top of the hill opposite the walls. "One more thing." Hugo turned and pointed to the tower in the center of the castle courtyard. The two of them could see a king pacing back and forth issuing orders to other people inside. "The king represents the kernel of the operating system that allows you to control the computer. If any of the bad guys take the king, you will lose control of the computer and they will likely delete you."

Frank let out a worried laugh. "No pressure," he sarcastically replied.

There was a mighty yell from the hill and the army began running towards the castle. "You better ready your defenses," Hugo said as he faded out.

Frank quickly glanced around and saw a group of soldiers standing around the courtyard. He yelled down, "You three, close the doors on this wall! You two, go round up the rest of the troops! The rest of you, man the walls! Protect the king!"

The men in the courtyard let out a battle cry and ran to do Frank's bidding. Frank turned around and the sword that was in his hand turned into a longbow. Shrugging to himself, he grabbed an arrow from the quiver leaning against the wall and let loose some arrows. As he was raining death upon his enemies, he noticed that several battering rams and many more soldiers were coming down the hill. Frantically, he turned back to the courtyard and noticed three catapults that hadn't been there before. Soldiers were running out of the barracks and up to the wall.

"Man the catapults! We have incoming battering rams!" Frank looked down at his bow and realized that he needed to lead, rather than try to fight himself. He glanced at the other walls in shock as he saw the doors were still wide open and enemies were starting to pour through. "The walls are breached! Close those doors and drive out the enemy!"

More soldiers poured from the barracks and went to the defense of the courtyard. Frank saw that they would never reach the doors to stop the flood of enemy troops pouring into the courtyard. Soon, the western side of the courtyard was controlled by the enemy. Frank kept yelling out orders, but nothing he said or did seemed to stop or slow the enemy down. He saw several enemy troops reach the tower and enter. Frank knew that the end was near. He watched in horror as the enemy troops entered the throne room and bound the king. The enemy troops looked out the window at Frank and began to laugh.

Frank closed his eyes, preparing to be deleted. A moment passed and he opened them again. He and Hugo were once again standing in his house. "Wh-what happened?" Frank asked.

"You were defeated. It was only a practice run put on by my team and me. We didn't want to overwhelm you too much on your first try."

"You didn't want to overwhelm me? The whole battle was overwhelming!"

Hugo laughed and replied, "Believe me that the battle you just saw is nothing like what the real thing will be like. We took it easy on you." He paused, and then continued, "I did notice, however, that you were starting to use your abilities to manipulate your environment. Even if it was subconsciously."

Frank paused to consider Hugo's words. "You mean like when the bow and catapults appeared?"

Hugo's smile grew. "Yes. Eventually, you will realize your potential. We'll try again tomorrow."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Story a Week 1 - Frank Saga, Part 1

As promised, here's the first of many short stories to come. I think this one will have a follow up story or stories in the future. I haven't come up with a title for this one, yet. I'll update this post if I think of one. Please let me know what you think!


"Thanks for coming, Frank. I'll see you next week. Drive safely!" Frank's brother, Mark waved to him as Frank walked through the yard to his motorcycle at the curb. Frank glanced at the sky with some apprehension. The weathermen said that it wasn't supposed to rain today, but he could tell that it was already raining over Apple Valley a few miles to the west. Steeling himself for the ride ahead, Frank said to himself, "I'll make it home before the rain gets here."

He sat down on his Honda motorcycle and started the engine. As he drove the few blocks to the onramp for the highway, he noticed it was getting darker out even though it was still early afternoon. After he merged with traffic and got in the middle lane, the clouds opened up. "Shit," Frank swore.

Since there wasn't a good place to stop to take shelter, Frank, like the two semi trucks on either side of him, slowed down. Frank saw the semi to his right start to drift into his lane. "Dammit!" he yelled to himself as he moved left within his lane. He was paying so much attention to the truck on his right that he didn't notice the truck on his left start to change lanes until it was too late.

The next thing Frank knew he was dry, dressed in a suit and tie, and sitting across a desk from a man he didn't know. Startled, Frank stood up and said, "What the hell?!?"

The man smiled and said, "Good, you're up."

Frank glared at the man and replied, "Up? What the hell are you talking about? The last thing I remember is that I was about to get squished between to semi trucks!"

The man's face grew somber and he nodded. He said, "Yes, I had heard about that." The man paused and sighed, then continued. "That happened over three months ago."

Frank was shocked and quickly sat down. He stammered out, "Th-three months ago? Was I in a coma or have amnesia or something?"

The man shook his head. "No, nothing like that. Maybe I should introduce myself."

Sarcastically, Frank said, "Yeah, nothing would please me more."

Ignoring Frank's tone, the man said, "I am Hugo Argnatius. I am the lead project manager of AI Solutions at Cray Supercomputers." Frank's confusion must have been evident on his face as Hugo continued his explanation. "My team and I have figured out a way to map human consciousness into computers."

Still confused, Frank asked, "And I volunteered to have my brain patterns mapped into a computer?"

Hugo shook his head. "No, not exactly." He paused and wouldn't meet Frank's gaze. Finally, he blurted out, "You died that day. We were able to save your brain and used it to map your patterns into one of our supercomputers."

Frank sat in stunned silence for many minutes. "I don't know who you think you are, but that's not funny."

Angrily, Frank stood up and turned away from Hugo. He looked at the wall, but didn't find a door to walk out of. Turning back around again he noticed that there weren't any doors. "What the hell? Where's the door? I want to get out of here!"

Shaking his head again, Hugo said, "There's a problem with that. This isn't a real room. I was trying to tell you...we're inside of a computer. There's nowhere to go."

Hesitantly, Frank sat back down. "If I'm really part of a computer, are your brain patterns mapped inside this computer, too?"

"No, I'm using a virtual reality device to communicate with you. I'm actually standing inside the device right now, next to your computer." After another long pause, Hugo continued. "I know that this will be hard for you, at first, but I think that you'll soon come to enjoy your new existence."

Frank shot out of his chair again and turned to the wall that had been behind him. Tears ran down his cheeks as his fists pounded against the wall. "Things were going so good for me. Why did this have to happen to me? What about my family? My job? For Christ's sake, how could you do this to me?"

Still sitting, Hugo said, "Calm down, Frank. Let me tell you about how you got here. This idea has been my life's work. I always thought it would be possible to move a human consciousness into a computer. After all, computers and humans are built remarkably alike. They both have short term and long term memory, information processing centers and input and output peripherals. I've been designing supercomputers for over thirty years. My theories on Artificial Intelligence and the human brain were read by the executives at Cray and we started the AI Solutions department seven years ago."

Hugo paused in thought for a while, and then continued, "It was rough going at first. Our budget was low and even though I knew that we wouldn't have a sellable product for some years, we were under constant pressure to release something within the first five years of the project. I split the department into two sections, my team and the AI development team. The AI team has since released several products that have been used mostly by the government in network defense and strategic testing. They have been our main source of funding for the project ever since.

"We've made constant progress over the past seven years and about six months ago, I requested a donated brain to run our first test. You wouldn't believe all the governmental rigmarole involved in getting permission to test on even deceased human body parts. The day before you died, we finally got permission to obtain a human brain from a deceased person. Yours happened to be the first acceptable one that we had access to."

Hugo let that sink in for a few moments before he said, "I'd like to personally thank you for being an organ donor and wearing your helmet."

Frank started hysterically laughing. "Fat lot of good it did me!" He continued to laugh hysterically as Hugo sat there looking uncomfortable.

After Frank had settled down again, Hugo said, "Yes, well, I'm going to leave soon. I want you to get used to your environment for a day before we begin your training."

Frank looked around and replied, "What environment? This is a single room with a single desk. There's nothing else here."

Hugo chuckled. "Right now it appears this way because I wanted to keep things simple for our first meeting. We're inside a computer. Eventually, your surroundings will be determined by you. We're going to supply you with your surroundings for the next week or so. What I really want you to do is to explore your abilities. You will be able to subtly change your surroundings at will over the next week, within the restrictions that we've placed on you. Until you've fully realized your potential, these abilities will appear as abstractions of what is really going on in the background."

Frank shrugged and said, "I don't understand a word you just said."

Hugo smiled and said, "You will."

Creative Commons License
Untitled by Erik Mason is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, December 3, 2010

First External Plug!

Hello dear readers. I just discovered that I've been plugged on one of the blogs that I read regularly, Hipster Please! I'm very excited about it. You can read the post here! Z, you rock!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Story a Week

Dear loyal readers of my blog: I've decided to make a pre-New Year's Resolution. As you may or may not know, I am a big fan of Wil Wheaton. I read his blog and listen to his podcast. The reason I bring this up is that he's doing a "Do Something Creative Every Day Until the End of the Year" thing right now. It's inspired me to do something similar. While I don't have the extra time or creative energy to write every day right now, I do want to do something else. I would like to submit, for your perusal, a short story every Saturday until my birthday. By my calculations, that will mean that I will be writing nine short stories.

The reasons that I am doing this are two fold (who says that?). One, I mentioned about Wil Wheaton. And two, I didn't do one post in November. There are many reasons for that, all of them lame excuses. So, to make up for it. You can expect nine new, original short stories from me every Saturday until my birthday.

That means that you should check back on Saturday for the first one. I already have the idea for it and I've, internally, created a timeline and some dialog. I'm shooting for five hundred words, but I really, at this point, have no idea how long any of them will be.

In other news, work has been hella difficult for the past six weeks or so. That's one reason for my silence on this blog. It has been making me feel down about myself for a few weeks now. I've felt myself become more frustrated and my patience has been short. Lately, I have often found myself thinking, "What the hell are you doing with your life?" Don't get me wrong, I am very happy with my family and my general situation. I'm just not very pleased with how my job is going. Again, don't get me wrong, I'm very good at my job and most of the time I like my job. It's just that when things go wrong and things get really stressful for a long period of time, I just feel like this isn't the job for me. I often think that I may have chosen the wrong line of work.

Sigh. Deep down, I know that things will improve. In fact, they are already better than they were a few weeks ago. I've gotten a lot of help from the people added to my project, so I've been able to do my own work well enough now. Anyways, that's enough pity partying. Thanks for letting me get that out.

As I've done in the past, my current favorite song is: Brad Sucks - Bad Attraction