SDW1: Zero Hour

It was a cold night. Fall, I think, about twelve years after the phone lines went down. The wind was up, but not enough to catch the flag. I didn’t have any laundry drying that night, I think. It’s funny what you remember and what you don’t.

Spore levels were normal, and the electricity was on. I had a leftover burger in the cooler. I had some empty pots left over from the Homegrown Initiative but there wasn’t anything in them. You know, because all the plants died from the spores.

I was sleeping… I think. I know it sounds weird, but I’m not sure I was really asleep… I was hearing things, feeling things. There was sun on my skin, air in my face. Everything was bright and beautiful… I could hear someone calling from faraway, calling for me to… I don’t know. I can’t remember. It was a woman, and in the dream I knew that she was my mother.

I woke up when I realized that. My mother had died in the lab explosion all those years ago. I laid in bed for a few moments, but then I got up.

I went over to the corner under the stairs. That was where I kept the, uh – there’s not really a word for this, is there? Light, maybe? Anyways, I went over to the Light and I tried to – speak? – to it. I thought that maybe the dream meant that she would answer.

It was so strange. I didn’t hear any reply, but I felt… my pulse, my Light pulsing, the pulse of the stars, the universe breathing. I felt the tips of my ears, and I felt like if I looked in the mirror I would see myself – really see myself, see Jayme Tovar and not Aurora Brinkley.

The feelings passed. I shook off my daze and went over to my comm rig. Well, yeah, it was illegal, but it was all I had. I put it together myself, actually – took me months; I had to get all the pieces smuggled separately. I don’t know when or why I decided to put one of these together, but once I did I got obsessed. I had just been surviving, keeping myself afloat, and then this – it was hope. Having the machines, having even the chance of hearing something from the outside world – for the first time, there was hope. There was a chance, however small, that I could make contact, that I’d break through. Every night I went into it thinking, tonight will be the night.

That night… I was sitting there at the rig, when suddenly static filled the air. Voices began speaking, a multitude of languages, all saying the same thing: Mother. I tried to hail them, but there was no response. They cut off as abruptly as they had begun, leaving me wondering if I was still dreaming.

I dunno how many hours I spent searching after that – less than usual. I was still thinking about the message. I was really spooked, so I shut the rig down and grabbed my violin.

I wasn’t planning on ever playing again when I bought it. I just knew when I saw it that I needed it. Maybe it needed me too. It looked like a piece of junk, and the seller was asking for a lot of money – but it called to me. We were the same, the violin and me: lost. Out-of-place. I couldn’t refuse it, so I forked over the cash and swore never to touch it. That night, though, I couldn’t help it. I picked it up and it all came back to me – the lessons, the recitals, the feeling of the bow on the strings. The disappointment in my mother’s eyes when I quit.

I played until dawn.

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Zero Hour Draft

It is night over the low roof of the underground shelter. A cold desert wind blows through the fraying ropes of the clothesline, but there is no laundry drying right now. The flag affixed to the concrete-slab roof does not catch the wind; the seal on it is unreadable.

Inside the little shelter, a makeshift light on the wall lets off a dim glow. The strange apparatus on the folding table bubbles with a dangerous purple. Plant pots issued for carrots and potatoes lie empty and unplanted. There is no ice in the plastic cooler.

In the government-issued cot by the far wall, a girl is sleeping. Is she old enough to be called a woman? Her brow is furrowed with difficult dreams, dreams of faraway light and the calls of a mother.

Unable to sleep, she rises, mechanically pulling the rough sheets back into place. The desert is cold at night, and even underground she feels the chill in her thin cloth shorts.

Her stocking feet pad silently across the dirt floor to the corner under the stairs. Between the mirror on the wall and the portable lamp sits a capsule, strange and sleek. It is made of materials not to be found in terrestrial ground, forged with techniques known to no child of this solar system. All that remains of Celestia Brinkley’s light is in this shelter: her empty capsule and her daughter Aurora.

The girl, Aurora, mutters to the capsule. Mother, was that you? For a moment she feels that if she looked into the mirror she would see someone else – someone it would be dangerous to acknowledge.

She can’t sleep. Shaking off the strange feelings of her dream, she turns to the table of mechanical equipment. Any part of this rig would be contraband; assembled, it is treason. She powers it on and plunges herself back into her search. She has pinned her hopes on these machines, on the little spidery chips that she has slipped into shoes and poked into buttonholes. They need to work. They will work, she tells herself – it’s only a matter of time.

With a sigh, she shuts off the machines. Tonight has been fruitless. Dawn will come soon, and there will be things to do. She crouches by her bed and picks up her one little comfort: a violin, made from scrap wood and spare parts. In some yesteryear she had another violin, a child’s instrument; this one she built herself.

It is almost morning over the desert that once was a town called Strangerville. Soon, the inhabitants of the shelters that dot the sand will soon crawl out of their beds and into the sun. If one of them were to pass by this little bunker, they might still hear the faint strains of a violin.

It’s Always Darkest

Marielle Larsen was not pleased to see the young woman in the raincoat. The bench outside of her apartment in the Fashion District was a favorite of the homeless – she’d had to chase several squatters out in the past month, and just this morning she’d been accosted by a definitively Erratic man on the subway. She wasn’t in the mood to be screamed at about plants by some Paranoid weirdo in a tin hat.

As Marielle approached the woman she braced herself for the stench of weeks-old bladder failure but was met only by a slight whiff of haven’t-showered. Wrinkling up her nose, she took a deep breath and selected some choice Forbidden Words to Shout should the encounter go south.

However, before Marielle could even call her a llama’s daughter, the woman groggily blinked and lifted her head, then sat up slowly. Awake, she seemed a lot younger than Marielle had originally thought – maybe even a college student. Marielle sighed and spoke.

“Hey. You.”

The woman rubbed her eyes and started, noticing Marielle for the first time.

“You can’t sleep on these benches. They’ll kick you off.”

The woman opened her mouth, then closed it again. Marielle could see fear in her eyes.

“…Look, there’s a shelter on 14th and Wright. If you go there–”

The woman shook her head. “Went there. It’s mixed-gender.”

“You can’t–”

“No.”

Marielle bit her lip and closed her eyes, then sat on the bench next to the woman. “How old are you?”

“…Eighteen.” The pause before the word didn’t go unnoticed.

“I’m going to ask again. How old are you?”

“Eighteen! I’m a senior.”

“I’m nice, not stupid. How old are you?”

The woman – girl – looked down. “Sixteen.”

Plum. “What’s your name?”

“Ka– Kaitlin Galloway.”


Marielle watched Kaitlin eye the beat-up elevator and internally berated herself for her weakness. As Kaitlin turned around and opened her mouth, Marielle cut her off.

“Just for tonight, okay? Tomorrow you’re going to the shelter.”

Kaitlin looked at her feet. “Okay.”

“Good. Now come in and take a shower.”

Marielle turned abruptly and stalked through the door, leaving Kaitlin in the hallway. After a minute, her muffled voice sounded from inside the apartment. “Well, are you coming in or not?”

Kaitlin looked at the open door and smiled slightly. “…Thank you.”


Marielle rubbed her temples. From in the kitchen of her tiny apartment, she listened to the shower running in the bathroom. Sixteen and alone on the streets… and scared to go to a mixed-sex shelter. Duck with plum sauce, how did I get myself mixed up in this?

Shaking herself out of her reverie, Marielle opened the fridge and looked inside. Milk, takeout, pizza… In the bathroom, the shower turned off. Marielle poked around a little more and called out to Kaitlin. “I’ve got some baby carrots and half of a grilled cheese. Whaddaya want?”

Hearing no response, Marielle poked her head into the living room. Kaitlin was curled up on the couch, asleep.

Marielle looked at the girl for a moment. Then, swearing softly, she picked Kaitlin up and carried her into the guest bedroom.


On the other side of the wall from Kaitlin, Marielle paused a moment and listened before getting into bed. Despite herself, she smiled. Kaitlin’s snores were carrying quite clearly. Pulling a pillow over her head, Marielle drifted off into a dreamless sleep.

Truth

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Aylin was cheerful that morning.

“I thought you might like some pancakes,” she said without looking up from the stove. “I don’t get very many chances to cook, so I always like guests who enjoy food!”

Sylvia stacked pancakes onto her plate and drizzled them with maple syrup from a ceramic jug. Her conversation with Ingram the night before was still stuck in her mind. White and black, chess and go – where did it all fit?

08-26-18_8:52:49 PM

Sylvia looked at Aylin, who was staring off into space. The angle of her chin, the shape of her eyes…

“Aylin?”

Aylin didn’t look over. “Yes?”

“I met with Ingram last night.”

“She didn’t hurt you.” Sylvia bit her lip. Aylin had stated it as a fact, rather than asking.

“No. We played chess.”

Aylin closed her eyes. “Ingram is very good at chess.”

“Have you ever played against her?” Sylvia thought she knew the answer, and she was pretty sure that Aylin knew that she knew.

“The pancakes are getting cold.”

Sylvia was undeterred. “Aylin? Are you Ingram?”

08-26-18_8:53:21 PM

Black smoke surrounded Aylin as she lifted off her feet in the dark form transformation that Sylvia knew well. When it cleared, Ingram floated to the ground.

“Eat your pancakes.” The voice was Ingram’s, but something about it seemed distinctly like Aylin.

08-26-18_8:54:30 PM

Sylvia stuffed a piece of pancake in her mouth as Ingram walked around the table and transformed back into Aylin. The pancake was thick and sweet, but it tasted like cardboard to her.

08-26-18_8:56:18 PM

Sylvia finished her pancakes and got up from the table as Aylin put the rest of the stack away. She went down the back stairs and into her room without making eye contact.

08-26-18_9:15:41 PM

In the bottom of the closet in her room, Sylvia found a small red backpack. She put her homework book in it, along with a few old books that she hadn’t finished reading. For a moment, she paused and looked into the fire. Why would Aylin have lied to her and hurt her like that?

08-26-18_9:17:42 PM

“You can keep the books.”

Sylvia turned away from the voice. She hadn’t heard Aylin come into the room, but she had expected her to show up.

“Would you like an explanation?”

Sylvia didn’t say anything, but she nodded.

08-26-18_9:19:29 PM

Aylin sat on the fainting couch along the wall. After a moment, she started speaking. “Ingram…”

“She’s you. Or you’re her.”

“Not exactly. Ingram and I are linked in much the same way as a day form and dark form, but we’re not the same person. We might once have been, but it was a very long time ago.” Aylin smiled. “I don’t remember it, to be honest. We are two minds who share one body.”

“So you don’t know what she’s planning?”

Aylin looked at Sylvia. “Ingram is not evil, Sylvia. She’s less afraid to use violence, but she’s not evil. To answer your question, while we can… ‘speak’ to one another, I know no more than what she chooses to reveal.” She sighed. “I could probably find out more if I chose, but that’s a two-way street. In general, we don’t conceal things from each other.”

“Then you knew she was going to hurt me?”

“I did not. I should have suspected.” Aylin stood up. “I wish you all the best.”

08-26-18_9:23:08 PM

Sylvia didn’t hesitate for an instant. Before Aylin could leave, she wrapped her arms around the mysterious woman’s body. Aylin stiffened with shock for an instant, then relaxed and returned the hug.

“Aylin, I trust you.”

08-26-18_9:24:16 PM

Aylin smiled. “Thank you for your faith, Sylvia. Here.” She pulled a gift box from behind her back. “Something for the road.”

08-26-18_9:26:50 PM

As Sylvia walked through the gates of Aylin’s yard, she knew that Aylin hadn’t told her everything – but she also knew that the plot would unfold itself in time. Hefting her new sunproof umbrella, she took her first steps back towards the place she belonged: her home.

Renovatrix Episode 0: Pilot

Tired of her boring day job designing office buildings, master architect and designer Maggie Madison decided to start fresh. Now she travels the world renovating houses of all shapes and sizes, stopping occasionally to bring you new episodes of…

RENOVATRIX!

Hey, it’s me, Maggie, and boy am I excited to show you what we’ve got today! This week, we’re taking a bargain buy and turning it into a bargain beauty! Show ’em the house, Jake!

09-07-18_11:13:55 PM

Pretty nice little house, right? Solid construction. The plants are a little brown, but that’s because winter’s only just ended here in Willow Creek. Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s head inside!

09-07-18_11:15:14 PM

Well, I can see why this was such a steal. These floorboards are going to need refinishing, maybe even replacing, and the walls will need plaster and paint. We do have some old furniture the previous owners left behind, but not much else.

09-07-18_11:15:45 PM

Kitchen… Oh boy, these cupboards are going to need replacing, not to mention the appliances. Looks like we might need to put in a bookshelf too. I shudder to think of the code violations hiding in that plumbing.

09-07-18_11:16:11 PM

Well, the bathroom isn’t too bad. The tub is vintage, so replacing it with a newer model might be a good idea for a couple of reasons – retrofitting will be hard, but people who like vintage furnishings will jump at the chance to take it off our hands! We’ll have to replaster the walls, though, and the flooring is too chipped – it’ll have to go.

09-07-18_11:16:33 PM

The bedroom isn’t strictly bad – for a cheap apartment in San Myshuno. For a first home, we want something a little cozier, definitely a couple or real dressers. The carpet’s going to need cleaning, and we’ll want to get new wallpaper in here.

09-07-18_11:16:47 PM

And finally… a completely empty room! Once we get everything cleaned up, this is going to be the most fun, because we get to decide what goes in here! I’m thinking that we want either a kid’s room or a study, and at the moment I’m leaning towards study, but we’ll see what happens once we get the carpet replaced!

09-07-18_11:17:13 PM

Ooh, almost forgot! Outside, we have this little glade. Some would say to tear it up, but I think we can work with what we’ve been given here. A little rock moving, a little light paving…

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Well, here goes! I’ll see you with a work-in-progress soon!


Hello there, renovixens! It’s been about a week on the site, so let’s see what we’ve got done!

09-08-18_10:04:47 AM

Here we have the living room and kitchen! The brand-new flooring is in! We don’t have the new walls in, but we’re going to go with plaster and paint.

09-08-18_10:05:07 AM

Here’s the empty room! We have the new paint, but we’re still stripped down to the baseboards. Once we have new carpet in we’ll start with furniture plans.

09-08-18_10:06:16 AM

The bathroom looks pretty plain, I know, but we’re busy putting in all the new plumbing right now and you do not want to see the mess right off-camera. We’re going to put in the wall and floor tile once we’re done!

09-08-18_10:06:28 AM

See you at the finish line!


Well, folks, we did it! Look at this lovely! We extended the overhang on the roof to catch rain and replaced the windows, so the new owners will be ready for every season!

09-10-18_3:48:52 PM

Welcome to the new living room! We kept the old couch but reupholstered it, and yes that is a brand-new bay window! It matches all of the new windowframes and the new door, and it will provide plenty of light to the room.

09-10-18_3:49:37 PM

Here’s the new kitchen! Fully furnished, with room to add cabinets, and a dishrack by the sink. Sturdy appliances will last for generations!

09-10-18_3:50:12 PM

Bathroom ahoy! Fresh tile on the walls and floor, and a tub that can withstand the slipperiest of toddlers. The other fixtures could stand some work still, but we wanted to keep the house affordable with furnishings.

09-10-18_3:50:49 PM

Aaaaand welcome to the study! Yes, the empty room is now a study, but it could be easily converted for kids with a little work. The desk oughta be a keeper, though – we found it at a garage sale, chair and all, and it just took a little varnish to get this one looking swell.

09-10-18_3:51:00 PM

Finally, the bedroom. New dressers, new lamps, and of course a new bed. We eventually went with all-new carpet to keep the room looking fresh, but it didn’t really eat into the profit margins so we went for it.

09-10-18_3:51:27 PM

Oh! How could I forget? We rearranged some rocks, sprinkled in some paving stones and added a bench, and voila! One little garden getaway, right in your own backyard! There’s plenty of room to add a gazebo down the line and to landscape more, too.

09-10-18_3:51:50 PM

Now, this might seem unlikely, but this house is on the market! Yes, right now! This bargain beauty is up for sale for only 20,000 simoleons, including furnishings! If any viewers are looking for a new place to live, they might want to check this out – and if any viewers have a big renovation project coming up, they might want to give us a call at REN-OVA-TRIX !

Well, that’s all for now – see you next time on RENOVATRIX!

Juntas

¡Oye! Buenos días.”

08-16-18_11:44:01 PM

Buenos días to you too, sleepyhead. El desayuno is almost ready.”

08-16-18_11:39:10 PM

Ay, María, what would I do without you?”

“Go hungry. Eat.”

Te amo.

Tambien te amo, cariña. Now eat.”

For a few minutes, the only sounds in the small house are clinking forks on plates.

Savroso como siempre. You are a good cook!”

Ay, no me digas.

Ruf!

08-17-18_12:38:00 AM

“Ah, sorry. I gotta walk Daisy. See you after work, sweetheart.”

08-16-18_11:41:52 PM

“Oh, you are not getting away without a proper kiss, you!”

08-16-18_11:42:53 PM

¡Dios mio! Someone’s in a mood.”

“Well, maybe I am. So what? Aren’t you happy to get a kiss from your girlfriend?”

“Of course I am! See you later, chica.”

Hasta luego, cariña.

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08-17-18_12:36:34 AM

“Hey, I’m home! I brought tamales–”

08-17-18_12:44:54 AM

Juana pauses. María is nowhere to be seen.

¿Cariña? Did you go out while I was at work?”

She pokes her head past the dividers that separate the bedroom from the rest of the house.

Mierda.


“Do you have any idea how hard it is? I get that you have problems, but you can’t just sleep all day!”

“Juana–”

08-17-18_12:47:39 AM

“No! You will not cariña your way out of it this time! It’s been two months, María! ¡No puedo seguir así! No–

¡Juana, me quedé sin medicamentos!

Juana stops.

¿Qué pasó?

Los tomé a todos.

María…” Juana trails off. “María, why didn’t you tell me this before?”

08-17-18_12:48:33 AM

“I was afraid.”

“Of what?”

“I don’t know. All I know is, I was afraid.”

“María, you need to tell me these things. I can’t help you if I don’t know.”

“But Juana… What if you leave me someday? What if you go out and you don’t come back?”

“María, I will never leave you. Nunca te dejaré, okay? Now let’s eat. I’ll make some mac-n-cheese.

08-17-18_12:52:24 AM

As Juana begins peeling off her tank top to go to bed, María stops her.

“Juana?”

“Yes?”

“Can you stay up with me? Just a little longer.”

“Of course.

08-17-18_12:33:58 AM


Love isn’t about loving someone in spite of their problems.

It’s about loving them and accepting that they will need your help.

Love takes work. It takes patience and hope, it takes trying and failing, and it takes getting back up again and trying again. It’s not easy. It never has been.

But for love, it’s worth it.

Handyman

T’s been really handy around the house lately. We had a tense moment where it felt like all of the plumbing had broken at once, but she fixed it all without me even needing to call a repairman!

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She did, however, make some changes in the bathroom that I’m not so sure about.

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I know, it’s just a toilet… but it’s got all these buttons and things… T says I’ll love it, but she also says that it’s got a simple AI that can perform basic conversations… Isn’t that a little much for a toilet?

Maybe I’m just getting old.

Teen

How? HOW?

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My little girl is a teenager already… how did this happen? She’s not allowed to grow up! She has to stay young and precious forever!

On the other hand, she can help out at the clinic now. Still…

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I liked her room better when it was full of kitty patterns.

 

Clinic

Well, I did it. I finally have my own little clinic. It isn’t much, but it’s mine. So long as I pay the rent.

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Isn’t it nice? I can’t believe how affordable the rent is either. Dr. Ien only charges a percentage of the profits, he lets me use all of his equipment, and he let me set up a little play corner for Theremin so that I don’t have to leave her alone at home after school!

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Finally, I’ll be able to do what I really love.

Blog

Hey, internet!

Oh, god, I just got a weird sense of déjà vu. Happens all the time, though. Nevermind.

I’m Landon Rivera, part-time lab tech and veterinary student. This is my daughter Theremin and her cat Thermidor.

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And…

I’m starting this blog because I have amnesia. I forget things. Last time I forgot eight years of my life, including my own daughter.

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She said she was okay, she was used to it, but I found her crying in the bathroom with an old toy car. So, I’m starting this blog so that I can read it and remember next time.

I’m so sorry, Theremin. You deserve someone who won’t forget.