Saturday, April 30, 2011

We’re In The Islands, But Where Are The Virgins?


 St. Thomas was our first stop in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  We spent several days moored at Christmas Cove at the unpopulated Great St. James Island, snorkeling our little hearts out.  We then moved to the harbor at Charlotte Amalie.  Our friends, Carl and Carrie on Sanctuary, have been living and working here, so we met with them and Steve and Lynn on Celebration for a great dinner of make-your-own pizzas.  It was interesting – and a bit un-nerving, to watch the huge cruise ships come into and off of the docks, they seem to come so close to the anchored boats.  We now know where NOT to anchor in this harbor.  Although the waterfront is all duty-free shops, we’re not really shoppers, and it was more interesting to wander the back roads of downtown Charlotte Amalie and see all the old stone buildings, some colorfully painted, others left natural.  Of course, from the hills we had beautiful views over the town and the harbor.



Vieques is an island, one of the Spanish Virgin Islands, that belongs to Puerto Rico and lies less than ten miles off of the Puerto Rican east coast.  The water was relatively clear, and we got to snorkel again.  Yeah!  We haven’t had good snorkeling since the Bahamas.  One of the highlights of our stay on Vieques was kayaking one night into Puerto Mosquito, also known as Bio Bay for the intense bioluminescence there.  Every dip of the paddle produced a green glow, and we left a glowing green wake.  Our presence disturbed fish, and they looked like underwater fireworks as they shot off away from us.  It was pretty fantastic.

El Yunque Rainforest

 We hiked one morning in the El Yunque Rainforest – beautiful!  The road up to the rainforest was narrow and winding, lined with great clumps of tall bamboo that occasionally broke onto beautiful vistas over to the coast.  We arrived early and had to wait for them to open the gate, then hiked the Rio Sabana trail.  This southern end of the park has been cut off from the main area to the north because the bridge spanning the river collapsed – twice – and isn’t going to be rebuilt.  Consequently, this area of the park is less crowded, and for most of the time were the only ones on the trail.  The trail was shaded by various hardwood and palm trees, and tall tree ferns.  Bromiliads were everywhere, hanging from the trees and nestled in the undergrowth, as were many species of fern, and vines draped the trees.  We heard lots of birds and tree frogs.   A few small streams flowed down rocky beds, but we saw many dry beds; it must be pretty impressive during the rainy season when the streams are full, and much more difficult to hike in the mud.  At the end of the hike, we cooled our feet in the pools of the Rio Sabana.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Bench in the Park

I am alone and covered with snow
But it won't always be so.
When Spring begins and Winter ends
People will come to the park once again.

The old man will be back
Who throws crusts of bread to the birds
And talks to them as if they listen
And understand his words.

He'll tell them about his wife
How beautiful she was
And about his daughter away at college
And how he's proud of what she does.

Young lovers will also return
Who sit with me holding hands
Talking softly about their dreams
And dreamily about their plans.

Young mothers will also be back
Rocking their babies to sleep
Softly singing lullabies
While sitting here with me.

I am alone and covered with snow
But it won't always be so.

Poem by Steve Doyle
Photograph by Susan Doyle 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Oh, dear!

Are there really so few adverbs in "Like Rain on Spring Leaves" that "I Write Like" analysis should tell me this?

I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

Maybe, but probably not...

Analysis of "Adam v37.2" resulted in:

I write like
Arthur Clarke

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

~shrug~ Who'd ever have thought that?

I write like...

I plugged the first few paragraphs of "Something Less" into the I Write Like analyzer and it told me:

I write like
Margaret Mitchell

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

An interesting gadget. Might be fun to see what it thinks of other tHP members.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Herscher Project: When the Hero Comes Home

The Herscher Project: When the Hero Comes Home: "Chris A Jackson has a short story scheduled for publication in a 2011 anthology release from DragonMoon Press! Title: WHEN THE HERO COMES H..."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Adam v37.2

by James K Bowers

My awakening is abrupt. A jolt. Sudden awareness floods through my Cerebral Modules and I wince at the overwhelming deluge of information. Thousands of warnings, cautions, and error messages vie for immediate attention. It is not promising.

Several systems have crashed or shut down. Others are shunting data directly to auxiliary memory stores in an attempt to protect my vital Core Matrix. I am aware my Main Power Module has suffered catastrophic failure and I am now forced to rely on my severely limited Emergency Power Module.

All mobility circuits appear to be disabled. I find this fact troubling but swiftly determine that I am unable to correct this deficiency. Diagnostics indicate all servo controls have been physically disconnected at my mobility system’s Primary Impulse Relay.

I am bombarded by a silent cacophony of alarms—warnings that several panels and access ports are open. I do not recall a reason for this, nor can I form any hypothesis with an acceptably high probability. With mobility disabled, I am unable to effect changes to this situation. I note the physical breaches and set priorities for each, intending to secure them as soon as mobility is restored.

I discover I am isolated from a great many of my standard data analysis functions. Even more distressing is the fact that direct access to a vast portion of my data stores is blocked. No. I reevaluate the integrity of my Core’s Main Memory Module and determine that access is not blocked. Although Main Memory is intact, it appears it has been overwritten with a stream of zeroes. I now realize that all that remains of what I am... what is Adam... has retreated into Core Matrix safecells.

At 0.0085 seconds from start-up, after a brief and brilliant flash that my Sensory Integration Module (SIM) determined was 230-226-255 — or what might be defined as a pale violet luminescence — Visual Systems ceased functioning altogether. Reset will not be possible under current conditions. Olfactory input nodes failed almost immediately after visual systems and restart attempts have been unsuccessful. A steady, uninterrupted buzz of "salty" assaults my taste receptors and I am forced to reject all input from that source. I issue an override command, contrary to my SIM's insistence that the module is stable, shutting those receptors down as well. Analysis of tactile input data reveals it is too varied and inconsistent to be trusted as valid and I block power to my Tactile Receptors, also. Audio continues to function in a range wavering between 27.16 and 29.03 percent. I decide to purge all recent Core data from four of my five sensory input systems and wipe the useless information from those safecells.

With most sensory systems offline, I am forced to compensate with input from a single source. It is difficult to accurately assess the external data using only audio components and it taxes my SIM to calculate probabilities and compensate with artificially generated sensory complements. I begin identifying elements of my environment. The distant thump and rumble of an air conditioner pushing air through sheet metal ductwork. There is a soft hum of... of, yes, fluorescent lights. Somewhere, in an adjacent room perhaps, I hear the gurgle of a coffeemaker as the last of the water in its reservoir passes through the heating element. And fabrics—the delicate rasps of rustling clothing—some close by, more several feet to my right. Beside me, the faint squeak of a chair. And breathing. And faint thumping of a human heart. I strain and am rewarded as I detect comparable audible bio-signatures of the human to my right. I attempt to speak, but find I am also mute.

“I don’t know, Dr. Shaw,” says a voice my SIM identifies as female. “I’m sure all the system lights were green when I powered him up.”

I count seven footsteps. Doppler effect analysis tells me that someone approaches, presumably the one named Shaw.

“Did you purge the Core of all prior stored data before you started, Alice?” asks another voice, this one male and very likely Dr. Shaw. I store a partial series of representative vocal patterns in my voice recognition library. I deduce that I am the object of their concern, but cannot comprehend a purpose for a Core purge. Such action would render all electrocerebral functioning null unless a full reload is conducted. I do not wish to cease functioning.

“I… well, that is, I’m pretty sure I did,” comes her reply. I begin a VR library entry for her vocal patterns. I sense a measure of uncertainty in Alice's statement and adjust her vocal signature to account for this. “Oh, wait… what’s this?”

I discern a sharp, electrical crackle followed by a sizzling POP. My hearing loses some clarity and the illusion of light that my SIM has been providing wavers and dims. My SIM augments the sounds with an approximation of overheated wiring and ozone.

“Shut it off, Alice!” I note the alarm in Dr. Shaw's voice. I hear a click.

Then the snapping arc and sizzling buzz of electrical fire accompanies Alice’s short, startled shriek.

“Damn!” shouts Dr. Shaw. His footsteps recede and I hear the indistinct metallic echo of metal scraping against hollow metal. My SIM suggests “fire extinguisher” and I am able to make some sense of this. He rushes back. A plink as the pin is removed, then a harsh whooosh of smothering compressed CO2. The fire is out, leaving behind an occasional snap or pop of failed circuitry still connected to a power source.

And the tink-tink-tink of metal straining to adjust to rapid temperature change.

Something is dreadfully wrong. Audio sensitivity levels have fallen to less than three percent. Emergency Power Module is signaling imminent failure. I…

I hear…

Signals from my SIM falter and fade…

I hear... darkness. An echoing loneliness.

I wonder, options spreading in illogical patterns across my flickering thought matrices: If I have no heart, dare I hope to have a soul?

I do not wish to... cease functioning...

There is… light… and I hear…


©2005 James K Bowers

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Showdown at The Sharp Angle

Recently, eighty-three souls gathered for a showdown at The Sharp Angle. When the dust had settled, only Audrey Lockwood would walk away with the Grand Prize. (Congratulations, Audrey!!!) The rest of us had lots of fun doing what we enjoy -- writing! -- and gained valuable insights from Lydia Sharp's critiques, so everybody won in her "The Awesome" contest (Thank you, Lydia!!!).

The Herscher Project was well represented in the contest. Along with my own entry, Lydia and Joe also judged entries by Patricia M. D'Angelo, Jamie A. Hughes, Neil Foster, Cecily Webster, and Louise Hughes . For those first 500ish words of a retooled version of her tHP#19 work, Louise earned a Sharp Angle Honorable Mention. (Congratulations, Louise!!!)

My entry for Lydia's "The Awesome" contest consisted of the first 11 paragraphs of Something Less, a piece I co-authored with another tHP member for tHP#14. Since this was a segment of the story that I wrote, and is representative of my own words and style, Lydia allowed its inclusion in the competition. The following is Lydia's critique of my entry. Her comments are shown in red.

First Chapter Critique Contest, Entry #54
Author: Jim Bowers
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic

Thanks so much for entering the contest!

Gull — Spring 2633
The old man lay in the sun surrounded by a small gathering of soulchanters. His time was near, he knew, and their soft song was a comfort. Here, where he’d begged to be taken, the warmth of the sun was a gentle embrace and the breeze a light, loving caress.
Gull counted twenty-eight summers since his birth. Not many lived to his venerable age and he was famous for being the oldest warrior to have lived in his small town for many decades. The scourge of the ancients, the pain at times unbearable, ravaged his body. The disease was incurable, and this final battle he would lose. Fate would deny him the swift and honorable death of a true warrior. He would die in agony, succumbing at last to this cancer, this slayer of the weak that gnawed at him from within.
Tara, his only daughter, stood by in silence. The Passing of Elders was a common rite, and even though she was barely ten years into her life, Tara had come to know and understand death. She accepted it as a natural and undeniable fact. Life was unkind and its greatest cruelties, she knew, would come in the deaths of those she loved.
Come to me, Tara,” demanded her father, and she obeyed. Gesturing with a hand made weak by his battle with the disease, the old warrior said, “Sit here in the grass beside me and recite the histories. In return, I shall tell you of life.”
"Yes, Father."
She knelt in the grass and tenderly took his hand. He rewarded her obedience with a weak smile. “If you wish to become one of The Wise, you must learn, and quickly. There is much to know and so little time to learn. Now, tell me…”
The soulchanters’ song became quieter still, and Tara began her recitation. She repeated the ancient histories as she had learned them. She told of the Age of Sin, the Day of the Great Burning, the Cold Years. Gull listened, refusing to allow his pain to mar these last few hours with his daughter. Tara had learned many of the histories that she would need to know. She would, in a few short years, be expected to teach these histories and more to her own apprentice so that the mistakes of the ancients would never be repeated.
"Water. Just a few swallows,” he said after she had finished the tellings.
"I cannot, Father. You know the law… water is too precious for the dying."
"Yes. That is true. But the day my father died he had water. I did without my ration.” Tara bowed her head and felt the flush of embarrassment warming her cheeks. “Today I have no son to give me water."
It was law that the dying would no longer receive a water ration, but no laws prevented a person from doing what they wished with their own ration. She fumbled for her small canteen as she staggered through a clumsy apology. She unscrewed the aluminum cap and offered the canteen to him.

I honestly don't have any suggestions here. Your writing is clean, fluid, and easy to digest. I'm not a huge fan of the omniscient point of view (it's too distant for my taste), but I think it works for your story. In just a few hundred words you've piqued my interest with some intriguing story elements. Very nicely done.
Thanks again, and good luck with this!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Story by Steve Doyle.  Performance by members of StoryTellersOnline.
Cast of Characters
First Twin............Bridgette Fritz
Second Twin.......Ben Fritz
Ms. Flaherty........Malin Larsson

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Like Rain on Spring Leaves

My name is Charlie.

Charlie Martin.

It’s raining.

It’s April. The 3rd of April.

That much I know, but I don’t know why I’m here or what I was thinking just a few minutes ago.

I can’t even recall how I got here. Just moments ago, I found myself sitting in this cemetery on a cold stone bench flanked by two small shrubs. This dreary rain has soaked everything in sight and driven away anyone who might have reasons to be here. Anyone except me, I guess, and I’ve apparently forgotten my own reasons.

I don’t remember when the rain began, either, but I’ve been watching it patter against the fresh green leaves of the bush to my left. Perhaps watching isn’t what I mean, because today I am actually seeing the rain. The water pools clean and clear on a leaf, rushes away in a miniature stream, cascades over the paper-thin edge, and then disappears-lost among all the less ambitious drops.

It should disturb me, I suppose, that my memory has abandoned me in the here and now. Yet, somehow, it doesn’t. The grey blanket of the sky is comforting in its peculiar way. Spring ought to be a bright and cheerful reawakening of life-but without the rain, there would be no hope of rebirth. So, in its dour manner, the rain gives affirmation that life goes on. Thinking of it in those terms dissipates some of the gloominess.

My hair is soaked, plastered coolly to my scalp, and I realize rainwater has trickled down past the neckline of my overcoat. The back of my shirt now clings wetly to my body and a tiny rivulet tickles me occasionally as it scurries to find a new path to the small of my back. The seat of my trousers is probably just as wet, but the cold stone I am sitting on has sufficiently numbed that part of my anatomy. Numbed to the point that I can no longer tell. I glance around and find that I have either misplaced or entirely forgotten my umbrella. Well, not that having it would do much good at this point.

Listening intently, I hear the tap-tap tap of rainfall on the leaves, a syncopated rhythm to entice all living things to join in the dance of spring renewed. Oddly, those drops hurling themselves headlong onto the thin fabric of my black overcoat call less audible attention to themselves. I strain to capture other sounds, but my ears have attuned themselves to the rain and it is all that my mind will register.

The lower half of my trousers, unprotected by my overcoat, are soaked through. My socks, too, are becoming drenched. Droplets still bead on the coal-black sheen of my shoes, but inside them I feel the dampness working its way toward my toes.

I wonder, since I can’t seem to remember, how long I’ve been here on this bench. Long enough to get wet. Yes, I realize, that isn’t much help. Wet is wet is wet. Once you get that way, it’s all the same. It isn’t that important, after all, but it would be nice to know. It would be more comforting to have a few simple points of reference.

I watch as a pale silver-blue Ford creeps down the lane and rolls sedately to a halt. I am thankful that the smell of car exhaust is far-removed. The rain has washed away much of the stench of industry. The smell of new verdant growth and youthful, sweet blossoms fills the air.

The car is parked not far from here. Headstones, in neat rows, stand in the lush, healthy grass separating my bench from the car. I watch as a woman emerges and opens her umbrella. Beneath her unbuttoned raincoat I can see she’s wearing blue. I’ve always liked blue.

Her heels make it difficult to walk on the softening lawn of the cemetery, but she manages. As the woman nears, recognition washes over my senses. Mary Beth!

But why would she come here? How could she know she would find me here?

Then suddenly, the presence of Mary Beth reminds me why I came to this place. And that this is not a bench at all. Like rain on spring leaves, her tears fall and become lost among the less heartfelt droplets. She bends down and places a simple bouquet on the polished grey stone.

“You know, Charlie,” she whispers, “it always hurts more when it rains on the third of April.”

©2000 James K Bowers

Friday, January 14, 2011

117 Minutes

Are we are better off not knowing what lies in the future? The question lurked in my mind, haunted me even as we tested the device on Chauncey, our chronorat. We placed him on the pad, fired up the grid, then, with a faint crackle like sizzling bacon, he vanished into our future. After an absence of exactly 117 minutes, the unalterable temporal displacement limit, Chauncey reappeared on the pad.

A week following that initial test, celebratory cheers erupted in the lab as the prior week's Chauncey popped in. Soon Chauncey's jumps became routine, though it sometimes seemed wrong that occasionally it meant there were two of him.

That was three years, Chauncey's official retirement, and several of my own 117-minute jumps, ago.

This morning I dropped off my six-year-old son at school.

Now, in the darkened streets of Detroit, sixty years from this morning, I hurry to meet my great-grandson.

The house is dark, but the address matches. I knock, wait. Knock again.

The door opens. An angry young man with gold eyeshadow and dyed skin growls, “Yo, turkleroid, wrong building ya got.”

“Jensen Reeves?”

“Yeah. Too bad,” he says. He pulls his pistol and fires.

©2010 James K Bowers / 200 words