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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Each month, the wonderful Sonia M. over at doingthewritething presents her fellow bloggers with a writing challenge, usually to create a piece of microfiction that fits within a particular word limit and based on a simple prompt. It’s a great way to connect with other writers, and it can only help to boost your creativity. Isaac Asimov even wrote under similar limits, once crafting a short piece of fiction designed to fit on the back of a postcard. The man was a genius, but I digress.

This month, Sonia’s challenge for us was “First Impressions and Famous Last Words.” We were allowed to write any genre, but we were limited to one hundred words and told to create either the opening or closing lines to a story. Here’s my contribution.

*     *     *     *     *     *

The explosion shook me off my feet, hurling me into the bulkhead. The airtight doors around me began to seal, red hazard lights flashing as artificial atmosphere vented. I scrambled for my emergency oxygen mask, knowing that precious seconds would make the difference between living and dying. As soon as I was breathing normally, I looked around again, pleased that my training had saved me but terrified of what could’ve caused such a catastrophic failure in the compartment. My communicator was still attached to my belt, but it had been damaged in my fall. No signal. I was truly alone.

*     *     *     *     *     *

Was it the first or last hundred words of a story? I don’t know. I like that it could be either one.

Three and a half years ago, Stephen King released a short story collection entitled Just After Sunset. Twelve of the stories in the book had been previously published, leaving one new title to bring the total up to that wonderful number of thirteen. That story was N.

N. was one of the most terrifying stories that I’d read at the time I first encountered the book, and it still chills. King crafted a phenomenal series of layers of narrative. N. is the story of a psychiatrist named John and a patient referred to in his records only by his first initial, the titular N. N. is suffering from insomnia and severe obsessive compulsive disorder that he claims stem from a visit to a field near John’s home town. When N. eventually commits suicide, John is driven to investigate more, to see if there was something that he could have done to save his patient.

The outer layers of the story focus on John’s investigation and the impact that his own visit to the field has on his family and friends. It’s eventually revealed that part of the madness that comes upon the people who visit Ackerman’s Field derives from a series of standing stones in the middle of the field. There are seven stones (a bad number) there when the field is viewed by the naked eye. Gazing through a filter of some sort such as a camera, however, reveals an eighth stone. Is it there? Touching each of the stones in turn seems to prove that there are eight, but the other stone isn’t always there. N. believed that something, some Lovecraftian horror, lurked in the center of the stones, and as long as there were eight (a good number), it would be contained. “Eight stones would keep them captive, but if there were only seven…they’d come flooding from the darkness on the other side and overwhelm the world,” he said. Was he right, or is it only a delusion?

I recently returned to the world of N. Marc Guggenheim and Alex Maleev collaborated with Stephen King to transform his novella into a skillfully paced graphic novel.  If you’re a fan of well-written horror, I would highly recommend giving N. a read, in either format. The graphic novel maintains the delightful and terrifying prose that King is known for, and shows just how unsettling uncertainty can be.

King himself has said that, despite the Lovecraftian atmosphere of the story, it’s actually inspired by Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan, of which Lovecraft himself said “No one could begin to describe the cumulative suspense and ultimate horror with which every paragraph abounds.” Time to add that to the list of stuff to read tonight.


And then it was that we arrived atop that mountain

And gazed around at the world below us, the valley

We had left that morning cloaked in clouds, the

Mountain topped with pine and fir. The cold wind

Swirled around us, and you drew your cloak tight

Over your shoulders, shivering in the afternoon sun.

Across the vale we could see our destination, floating

In the clouds and fog, shimmering in the distance,

Kissed by the light and I kissed your lips lightly.

It seemed a place from another world, a gulf beyond

Measure keeping us from the castle in the sky.

And then it was that we remembered

When together, we can fly.

Hohenzollern Castle, Germany

Number Two in my series of microfiction stories inspired by Cowboy Bebop episode titles, this is Stray Dog Strut. Some influence comes from the same source as the poem I posted. It’s also set in the same universe as the other story in this series, Asteroid Blues, and my earlier piece, Trans-Planetary Express. Reading any of the other stories is non-critical to understanding, but you will see further references to them as time goes by.

Stray Dog Strut

My name is Dog. Well, it is now. It’s not a real name, I suppose, but it’s one that I go by out here. I’ve gone by a lot of names in my life, so Dog is as good as any.

I used to work for the Express back in the day. That was right after things really calmed down in the colonies on Deimos. With half of the other moon blown to hell, tourism dropped off big time. The layoffs hit everyone hard, but people in my line of work usually found something to do, whether it’s private security or public military service. But not me.

Things just never seemed to go my way after I lost my job with the Express. Without the cash for a ride home, I was stuck on Mars. They’d built the planet into an ecumenopolis after the terraforming, and they called the city Valentine, like it would have any connotation for the illiterate masses flooding in from Earth and Luna, or the few surviving Phobian refugees. I don’t like it here, but I don’t have a lot of options at the moment. I’m keeping my head up, though. I knew a guy who let it get to him. Last I heard, he was on Phobos at the time of the blast, and might’ve even been involved. No thanks. Not my bag, not anymore. I got out of that lifestyle years ago, and the Express hired me.

The new transports are faster and nicer than the Express was, even in her glory days, but they lack the sentimental quality she had. Now it’s all surgical steel, emotionless smooth bulkheads, spartan quarters. They’re more expensive and not as nice. The TPE, now she had everything. She was a spaceliner, though, built for affordable luxury travel from Earth to Mars. I’m sure that I could find work on one, if I really tried, but I need to get myself cleaned up before I try.

Out here, I’m what they call a stray, so going by this name is all the better for me to fit in until I feel like the time is right. Maybe I will get back to Earth eventually, but here, I’m a person who can accomplish things for the rest of the strays. Valentine’s beautiful, but not without its flaws. There are others out here who depend on guys like me. We look after each other. Besides, it’s Earth. From what I’ve head, it’s almost back down to 2023 in terms of population, so that’s a good indicator that things are looking up, despite the exodus to the colonies. They’re talking about building Io up into a global city too, so I’ve got no desire to move further outward again.

My great-great grandpa owned a little piece of land back home. Should still be family around somewhere. Maybe I’ll try my hand at farming. It’d do me good to get out of the cities for a while. Anyway, I should get on my way. I’ve still got to find a place to bed down for the night. Good luck to ya, son. Thanks for listening.


 As April is National Poetry Month, I present to you an older piece, one that I did two years ago in a class on Poetry and Social Justice. I’ve mentioned it once or twice before. This poem, “Dog,” was published in Active For Justice back in 2010, and I’ve linked to it previously, but now I’ll present the poem in its unedited entirety. Enjoy.


My face is new to you today, but you say hello to me

Anyway. I’m tired as hell, feeling sick, and my feet are

Already sore. It’s not a big deal, though, not in comparison.

Anyway, we’re not even halfway through this walk.

I’m young. I can handle it.

You smiled honestly as we walked up to you, as if

You knew what we were going to say and what we

Were going to offer you. Yes, you say, it’s a byooo-

Tee-full day outside today, but it’s going to get chilly

Tonight, when the sun sets.

I don’t know what your real name is. Out here you’re

A nickname. It’s protection. No one can hurt you if

They don’t know who you are. That’s the idea, at

Any rate. But no one can help you if they don’t know

That you’re here.

It’s a little after noon. I shouldn’t be so tired, and it

Really shouldn’t be an issue, not when I’m seeing

How you and your friends live. Not when I’m seeing

How badly you might need medicine, or propane to keep

Warm, or even just a damn toothbrush.

You don’t say “fucking” in front of us. You try to maintain

Some sort of air of being a gentleman in front of the lady in

Our group. She’s touched by this, and the fact that you call
Her byooo-tee-full, Despite that you’re wearing an inside-out

Hoodie and a bandana, and rarely put down your beer.

You know why you’re here today. You know that you’ve made

Some mistakes. Trusted people you shouldn’t have. Not trusted

The ones who would’ve helped you. Doesn’t matter now. You’re

Here, among friends, fellows, living together in a canvas city

Beside the creek.

You’re glad to see us walking the trail today. My tiredness and

Physical weakness is forgotten as you shake my hand and I feel

Your strength. Strength that you long to put to use for the benefit

Of a society that has shunned you because you don’t conform to

Its standards.

I wish that I could stay to chat with you longer, but we’ve still got

A lot of trail to cover. You’ve got places to be too, now that your

Natty Light and your hand-rolled smokes are done with. Lunch time’s
Over. It’s time for you to grab your bike and move on for a few hours,

But you’ve inspired me more than you’ll ever know.

I hope I see you again, under better circumstances.

                                    -Philip Krogmeier

                                January, 2010

I wanted to lie down

There, on the grass

On the edge of green.

Blue skies hid between

The clouds and the

Branches of cherry blossoms.

I wanted to rest there,

If only for a moment.

Just to see how it feels.

I wouldn’t have minded

The stares from passers-by.

Very few people could spy

Me there between the rows

Of white marble.

One of my fellow wordpress bloggers recently “liked” one of my posts on here, and so I decided to look at her blog to see what she had to say. I was fascinated when her blog contained this. You see, Joanna is a fan of my favorite anime series of all time, Cowboy Bebop. She also happens to be a writing blogger, and she has given me great inspiration. She’s working on a series of short fiction pieces based on the titles of the episodes that make up the series. Please note that this series will not attempt to directly reference Bebop or its universe in anything other than the titles. This isn’t supposed to turn into fan-fic. This is #1 in what will hopefully be a 25-26 piece series of original microfiction. Here I present “Asteroid Blues” for your reading pleasure.

Asteroid Blues:

You don’t expect the depression. It sneaks up on you in a place like this. You can do whatever you want to try to find a way around it, or a way to fight it. Doesn’t do you a damn bit of good. I’ve seen it a lot, so much so, in fact, that I didn’t recognize the symptoms in myself until after I’d seen to half of the crew being sent off. I just dismissed the signs, telling myself that it couldn’t happen to me. I was the strong one. I was in denial.

The Kuiper Belt is no place to make a living. The corporations set up the mining facilities and a few of the basic necessities, then they left. Now we’re here, sucking out ice to transport back to Earth. I’m sick of it. I’m tired of having nothing better to do when I’m done with work than going out and drinking. I’m tired of being so far away from my wife.

I know that I can get better. I just can’t shake the feeling that something big is about to go down. Something. My last memory of Earth was walking to my car, getting ready to leave for this job. It was the first real week of spring, and she was standing on the porch in a cotton dress, waving goodbye to me and whispering “I love you” in the breeze.

Why does that sit in the front of my mind, six months later? Because she’s gone…I got word today. The accident took her. Now there’s no reason to go back. Her funeral was a week ago, and I just found out. Guess I should leave the damn bar and go home, but I don’t really know what I’d be going back to. Maybe just one more beer…