Archive for the ‘Jeremiah Tolbert’ Category
The Plague of Plagues Incident
Thursday, February 14th, 2008
In the early years, the passengers of the generation starship Open Waters had nothing but time on their hands. The ships systems were self-sufficient and fully functional. Traveling at two percent the speed of light, they were not arriving at their destination any time soon. The complete tools and knowledge of mankind were at their disposal, as well as all the works of art. Every film, every album, and every book had been uploaded to the ship’s network. But those things had no meaning or relevance for those born on the ship. Perhaps it was inevitable that they would make their own entertainment. The Designers had failed to take into account just how dangerous boredom could be.
It began with the Gen-4 in their biotech class. They were assigned the task of creating the genome of custom bacteria. They did their homework, but something about the work sparked a sadistic streak of creativity in some. Those children spent their free time making their creations fight one another for dominance of a Petri dish. Gen-2 and Gen-3 turned a blind eye to the games. Then one of the more precocious children discovered retroviruses and the plague fights began.
The viruses were impressively creative but mostly harmless. One plague turned girls, and only girls, bright pink. Another caused the infected to lose all their hair. One particularly popular virus mimicked the effects of Tourettes Syndrome. Each day, something new popped up in the ship’s populace and spread from family clade to family clade. Gen-4 found the plagues hilarious. The bald, sometimes pink, and uncontrollably swearing adults failed to see the humor in the outbreaks.
Gen-2 launched a crackdown. Sequencers were locked up. The genetics database was password protected and access only given to Gen-2 and Gen-3 adults. Agar became a controlled substance, harder to find than a bottle of whiskey from the ship’s stills. Possession of a petri dish was punishable by four weeks hard labor in the fertilizer plant.
The ship’s medical team created vaccines against the most embarrassing infections, and with time, the plague fights were forgotten. Forgotten, that is, until curious Gen-12 children found mentions of the debacle in the archives and decided to start their own plague fights. This time, things were not nearly so harmless…
–From Open Waters: A History of the Grand Failure by Mark Claude Tobin Speers-Grubin IX.
Thursday, January 31st, 2008
A late 20s Arts & Crafts bungalow sits on the corner in a disused neighborhood, its yard overrun with weeds. The shingled roof sags in the middle and the windows are boarded up with plywood. The porch stretches wide like a smile with missing teeth.
They already tell stories about this place. It is a perfect canvas on which to work your craft.
You break in through a basement window to do your work. The beams are exposed here, and your ink seeps deep into the grain of the wood. You write the ghost’s story from north to south, using each crosswise beam as your carriage return. You write:
Susan Beech was an old maid who went mad and strangled neighborhood children in her attic. She lured them into her home with the promise of cookies and sweets. The neighborhood caught on to Susan’s hobby and murdered her in the attic among the bones of her victims.
The backstory is set simply, and the plaster walls shiver with anticipation. Now, the postscript, so to speak.
The ghost is dowdy, cold, white, with long bony fingers that make frost on glass and chill the spines of the young with an invisible touch. Her doors open at midnight and the smell of fresh baked goods beckon to the late night passerby. The scent comes from everywhere and nowhere at once. When a passerby steps through the threshold, the doors close, and the ghost does her dark work. Hair whitens, hands tremble, evermore.
The ghost is a variation on a theme, the woman driven mad by a lack of love. All ghost writers have a theme, and this is yours. Write what you know, they say.
The pain fades with each haunting story until one day when the hurt is all but gone, you will write yourself into the hard oak frame of an ancient Colonial. You will lay down beneath the foundation in the sandy clay and write no more. Your bones will rest. Your words will wander the rooms above. The only afterlife is the one we write for ourselves.