Thursday, July 30, 2015

Three From Freefall

My last two posts were long and dense, so:

Here are three pieces from my Friday Freefall group. We are a cheerful bunch, where we choose a “prompt” and then everybody “freefalls” by writing swiftly without second thoughts or revising. Then we go around the table reading our stuff out loud. Each week, everybody wonders how I will turn a prompt into a science fiction piece.

Everything today is first-person. Two celebrate prairie life, winter and stampede, old trapper and young physics nerd. The middle piece, about exploring a mysterious building, takes place in the future. Yes, I made it science fiction.

Prompt-(celebrate the) solitude

The foothills had a new blanket of snow. The wind fluttered, never quite dying down. The sky was half overcast, which I decided meant no snow on this new day. Good, because I couldn’t take anymore. My nephew was running my trap line, my niece had my old cabin, and what was I to do? I would enjoy God’s good land. I was retired, and I deserved it. Tromp, tromp, tromp across the fresh snow—a little icy, if truth be told. But there was no one to tell it to. Down a little hill and along some brush. No friendly rabbits. No sound of birds. Up to another rise and along a long expanse of ground. I’d surprised some grouse along here, a few times, a few years ago—heck, a decade ago. Time had fled somewhere, and people I know had all fled too.

Tromp, tromp, tromp. In the Iliad their shades were grabbed and they went groaning down to Hades. I guess all the Greeks hated winter. It wasn’t bad for me but, under the winter sun, there was no one to turn to and say, “I wonder what Ajax and Achilles would say?” or “If I have to tromp around I’d rather talk to Hector and Paris than to the Greeks.” No, no scholars in this white cold solitude.

I hate it when my hands are cold and there’s nobody around. But the land abides. I could arc around and by mid-day I’d be at the old cabin. I bet it would be warm with my niece baking apple pie. Oh boy!

prompt—I got it

It’s a spooky awesome building, with stone fascia and flush dark windows, more squat than tall, raising up to five or six levels. The colors are more than light gray and dark grey windows; there are also rich vermillion, scarlet, and ultra-violet peeping at the edge of perception. What mad eye framed this fearful edifice? I approached with the same feelings as its fractured face. We were both beyond cubism—I felt awe, fear, rejection, mystery, gloom and a glimpse of a world that maybe I didn’t want to know about.

Surrounded by a large expanse of half dead grass, in a never-developed industrial park (or so I assumed) the building squatted devoid of any human touches. No one sauntered out to any picnic tables, no cheerful deliverymen. Only silence. The front doors were armour-glass, dusty. I felt a chill shoving the door open but I really wanted to know. Why? Who? What was this place doing here?

Somewhere a generator hummed, the lights shone, but none of the people this sort of place attracts were around. The lobby desk had a dead rubber plant. Maybe this place preferred plastic plants. I don’t get it. I moved about, walking silently, taking in the pictures on the wall. I saw a Martian landscape picture I recognized, by one that I didn’t, by a Martian crawler, by one with people in orange jumpsuits posing in front of a crawler. Another landscape, and then a big portrait of a man I had seen in childhood. It was Dick Branson.

Was this his place? He was certainly the sort of visionary to build it. You never heard of him since those quick plague years, but yes, if he was part of the crew that brought the plague back then that would explain a lot. I got it. What a sad, sad answer to this mystery building. 

Prompt-fake it till you feel it

Don’t you just hate this stupid stampede? A German blundered into the comic store and said, in his immortal words, “This store is the only good thing about this silly stampede.” So of course we had to write down his words and put them on a sign: Stampede Sale!

I like when Joss Whedon made his movie about the far off frontier planets. People had horses, but… If you’re going to make an action movie, you have to have a hover-car chase! And so they did, while firing their six-shooters.

Do you know why English literature is not popular? No ray guns! No car chases or explosions. Now, what’s up with that? At least in the comics old Aunt Agatha will swing a mean samurai sword.

So every year we nerds have to endure stampede. At least there’s lots of beer. Ya, but you can swig beer at a Star Trek convention—at least there’ll be one on the following weekend. At lot of guests come to the CON after using Stampede as an appetizer.
My friend—the lady who always goes as Princess Lea (complete with slave costume) tells me to just fake it until you feel it.

So here I am, with a physics degree, master of the dark forces, responsible for twelve gigajoule servers, and you want me to feel like, “yee-haw”? I’d rather be on a see-saw. Let’s wear our gothic clothes over to the park—oh you make such a fine Lolita— and go sit on the teeter-totter.

Sean Crawford

Footnote: Do you want more such fiction, or do you only want my serious essays? 


  1. I love your fiction and your essays. Keep up the great work!

  2. Thank you Cindy for your feedback. I feel heartened to keep at it.