Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Little Zebulon Fiction

By Robert Wyckoff

Winter is coming, and the deadline for entering The Zebulon Contest is fast approaching. November 2nd, noon MST. Is your entry ready?

If you’re still undecided about entering, consider M.B. Partlow’s list of reasons to enter a writing contest: http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2014/09/why-you-want-to-enter-a-writing-contest/#more-99395

If you’re still undecided, consider Rezi Edwards and her story of entering The Zebulon.

***


Like any highly evolved, adolescent, pimple-bedazzled Homo sapien, I was born in the watery confluence of two stories. That’s me floundering in the river right there: Resina Edwards. Nineteen year old non-prodigy.

My father’s story—or his river if you’re interested in extended metaphor—flows straight and true, through mountains and not around them. Arthur Edwards is my provider of physical necessities, the renowned astrophysicist, and the stalwart defender of the logical and the mundane. He wears his emotions on his lab coat sleeve—and his sleeve is always starch white.

I admire my mother’s story for her lovingly sculpted prose and meandering plot. Annabella Dahl had been my muse, the elementary school teacher, the author, the wandering warrior of words and worlds. I remember she laughed only with her jade eyes because she believed laughing with her throat was cliche and revealing.

Nineteen years ago, when tectonics and erosion allowed my parents’ rivers to meld, to spring forth the Resina River, they fought like rapids for my name. My father the amateur DNA researcher championed ‘Amber’ because—and I couldn’t make this up if I tried—he liked the Jurassic Park movies.

“Scientifically absurd and unrealistic,” he reportedly said. “But I’m quite in love with that chap’s mosquito-amber cane. I want one.”

My mother couldn’t stand naming her child anything remotely common, so she convinced him to name me Resina. As in, you know, amber resin.

Massive, exasperated sigh.

So here’s me. My friends call me Rezi. Or they would if my friends existed.

More sigh.

I’m sick. Not like oh-surprise-this-is-a-tragic-cancer-story sick, but dizzy sick. From spinning in my computer chair.

I stick my feet—fuzzified in adorable green alien slippers—down to slow my spin.

“EEEYYEERRRH,” I say, trying very maturely to mimic squealing brakes.

I stop. I wait for the world to quit swimming.

When it does, I’m looking dazedly at the alarm clock on my desk. 11:30 A.M., November 2nd, 2014.

I have half an hour to enter this…

I squint at the computer monitor.

Zebulon Contest…thing.

If my life was a story, this would be a ticking time bomb plot. Thirty minutes before the human ambassadors fail in negotiations, and the aliens abduct all of our cows. Thirty minutes left for Rezi, Badass Space Pirate Princess, to steal aboard the mother ship and sabotage the cow-beamers, thereby ensuring the survival of American fast food culture.

Thirty minutes until the real Rezi, nineteen year old girl from Nowheresville, Suburbia, must make the ultimate choice.

I sigh, looking at the two windows open on my monitor.

Submit my sci-fi novel to this writing contest? Or submit this college application to MIT? Novelist? Or astrophysicist?

Hmm…

Whoops. Another ten minutes lost to The Navel Gaze. Twenty minutes left.

I whirl to face the windowed wall of my bedroom/office/Lair of Eternal Navel Gazing. Beneath my old One Direction poster—which is now scribbled on to read ‘No Direction’, with the boys colored green and wearing jetpacks—is a half-sized filing cabinet. Heaps of never-submitted, half-complete novels and short stories litter the top and base of the gray metal. I’ve never considered organizing them into the cabinet because that space is reserved. Special.

My mother’s old photo album lies within.

I deliberately keep it hidden, yet easily accessible. In my darkest moments, when my ship’s out of oxygen and I’m lost in the void, I take the album out to remember her smiling jade eyes. She injects air into my lungs and direction in my bones.

But when I’m only slightly adrift, systems not critical, seeing her in only two dimensions fogs me up and turns me about. Scrambles my nav systems. Makes me really damn sad.

I consider taking her out of the cabinet, but only briefly. Star Rezi One isn’t quite that lost on this mission.

I sigh, turning back to my computer. Ten minutes left.

Jiminy, propped up in a sitting position behind my alarm clock, seems eager to say something.

“Hey, Conscience. What advice do you have?” I say, picking him up in one hand.

Jiminy Space-Cricket is a doll my mother gave child-me, presumably because she was tired of watching Disney’s Pinocchio approximately eight billion times a week. But I’ve since made some wicked cool alterations to this little green man. In place of his top hat, suit, and opera gloves, I donned him in an astronaut suit I Frankensteined from a futuristic Ken and Barbie set.

This is how I make friends.

“Let your Conscience be your guide,” I say in a squeaky voice, tilting Jiminy’s space-helmeted head in a sagely fashion.

“No duh, dude,” I say. “So guide me.”

Jiminy says nothing.

I stare at him, and finally begin the same argument I’ve cycled through a hundred times. “My father would tell me to think of my mother,” I say. “Her writing never amounted to much more than financial strain on the three of us. She was depressed. In the end, she was too depressed.”

Jiminy says nothing, and I feel like shaking him.

“In the end,” I repeat, feeling the familiar itching heat in my jade eyes. “She was too depressed.”

Jiminy says nothing.

“My mother would say….” I feel the cool wet slide down my cheek. I remember how she rocked me to sleep, singing. “When you wish upon a star….”

I swallow hard. The alarm clock is blurry now. Five minutes left.

My voice is broken as I sing. “Makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires, will come to you.”

The glow-in-the-dark stars on my ceiling seem to whisper to me. The final frontier. Astrophysics. Science Fiction.

“If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme, when you wish upon a star, as dreamers do.”

I grab the computer mouse. It’s stupid, I know—but it’s shaking in my hand. Depression is stupid. It doesn’t always make sense.

But writing helps. It’s my reserve oxygen supply. A heat shield for my plummeting ship. A wishing star to steer by.

And now it’s time to find out if I’m any good at it.

The mouse cursor twitches over the submit button. I’ve checked the formatting a hundred times. I’ve put in the sweat and tears and blood.

One minute until the cow-thieving aliens win. One minute until my river changes course forever.

I take a breath.

I close the window, and hit the submit button on my MIT application. Then, mouse hand darting, I open the Zebulon Contest window. And I hit submit.

I hold Jiminy tightly. He doesn’t seem to mind.

In the end, there was no decision at all. Rivers on Earth flow one way: downhill. But I’d like to think that on some worlds, perhaps, rivers flow up.

Toward the stars.

* * *

The moral of the story? A cow is abducted every minute you procrastinate.

Find out details about The Zebulon Contest here: http://www.pikespeakwriters.com/contest/






About the Author: Writer. Game designer. Cubicle monkey. Robert Vincent's hardly started on his writing career, but has already won honorable mention in The Writers of the Future Contest and has won the PPW Zebulon Contest. He attributes his lack of publication credits to poor bio-writing skills. Robert's currently working on his epic fantasy novel, living in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with his beloved Companion Cube. Find him at http://robertvincentfiction.com/

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