Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Update & some calm Short Fiction (because we need calm right now)

Hey folks, I hope you are alright out there in a world turning for the worst every next minute you look away. We are okay here in Leipzig, although it feels as if the hammer could drop any minute. Some hammer ... it seems like the world is coming apart at the fringes. Anyway. I'm still here, writing stuff towards completion. Gaming on and there might be some more blogging in the near future. Until then I'd like to share a some micro fiction I wrote (I know, I do that rarely here). It's nothing special, just a little story about a little boy exploring the forest behind the house. Something straight forward and simple to keep sane. I hope it does a little bit of the same for you guys out there. Stay safe, friends and neighbors.

Neal’s Day out in the Wild

Neal’s plan had been foolproof: he’d sneak past the kitchen where his mom was doing some cooking. The half unwrapped packing boxes in the hallway would provide plenty of cover. Once he was on his way out he’d give his mom a call that he’d be out and he’d be way over the porch before she could tell him otherwise. Definitely far enough away to claim he didn’t hear her!
He came as far as the shoe rack, but one of his boots betrayed him and made things difficult so that he stumbled back a bit against one of the bigger boxes and grunted even.

Neal? Is that you?” asked his mother from the kitchen. “Yeah, mom, just wanted to go out for a bit.” he was still struggling with his shoe. Not all was lost … there! He made a run for it, the shoe laces still unbound. He could do that later, now gaining distance was the prime directive. His mom was on his case, though: “Did you unpack in your room Neal?” Still to close, he couldn’t ignore it: “Yeah, mom, gotta go ...” He couldn’t let his shoes unbound either, so he stopped on the porch to bind them. He heard his mother moving some dishes in the kitchen. “Don’t be too long, love, there’ll be cake later.” That was good news. The tree line just across the lawn was calling him. He was good to go. “Take Boomer with you!”

And off he went, calling over his shoulder: “Yes, mom. Boomer! Come!”

The head of the golden retriever appeared around the corner of the house, the ears all perked up. Neal laughed. “Come, Boomer, we go exploring!” He was half across the lawn when the dog caught up, making little enthusiastic jumps. Together they entered the forest behind the garden for the first time and the world around bloomed with possibilities. “Where should we go, Boomer?” asked Neal, not slowing down. Boomer barked, but had no other say in the matter. Neal scanned his surroundings for opportunities. “We have to gain higher ground. Follow me!”

Running up slowed them down a little bit, but not much. They scared a squirrel and Neal laughed with joy as the squirrel cackled it’s anger from high up in a tree. “Sorry, Mr. Squirrel.” And then they where high on the hill behind the house. He climbed a small rock to get an even better view turned around and saw the little town they had moved to and a bit of the coast with some white boats in the harbor. There was their new house just below. His father and brother had come back with another car load of stuff and they where carrying boxes into the house, all small and in the distance. Ha! He had dodged that bullet.

The dog was at the foot of the rock looking up and barking. “Yeah, you are right, Boomer. We have not come here to look at the boring town. Just a second. Let me take a look. Good boy!” On the other side of that hill was what he came here for. What would he see? Old Ruins? A mysterious shack? An abandoned junk yard? He couldn’t wait to find out.

At first glance nothing jumped to his attention, though. All he saw was rolling hills with lots of tree tops and playing birds below him in the evening sun. The forest wouldn’t give up its secrets that easily! He had to change positions, so he climbed down the rock and up a gnarly fir to look a little bit more to the east. Boomer followed him to the tree, paying attention and wagging his tail. “Look, Boomer! We found something!”

There was a small lake just down the hill and it had a little island. An island! Maybe it had rafts, too, and the could paddle there. Who knows what could be hidden on an island! He regretted that he’d left his pirate hat at home. That would have been something! But it was definitely lost in one of the boxes in his room and he’d never see it again. No matter! He would go see that island. “Come on, Boomer, we have to check that out!” He took the last meter of the tree with a jump and went off downhill, jumping, dodging and laughing, every now and then checking if Boomer was still with him, motivating him to go faster. Not that the dog needed much motivating. He was having a blast too.

Soon the lake appeared between the tree. At first glance no rafts or boats, but maybe he could improvise something. He went through his options as he closed the distance. He could build a raft, he thought, and already imagined himself on a small boat with a sail, heading towards the island. However, without a crew the endeavor was pointless … and then he reached the lakeshore, checking left and right. No boats, no rafts. He took a closer look at the island, making himself as big as possible in the hopes he’d see something interesting. Nothing.

Swimming over there was out of the question, but his eyes where already looking for alternatives to do on this side of the lake. And sure enough, there was a big rock just on the shoreline, half hidden by reeds, and something moved on it. He immediately went into a crouch and shushed Boomer, who seemed to contemplate jumping into the lake. Neal silently moved towards the rock, a smile on his lips. He grabbed a stick lying there. Just In case. Boomer made a little jump, expecting some flying wood in his immediate future, but got shushed again. What was moving on that rock? Neal needed to know.

He whispered to Boomer to stay and kept the reeds between him and the rock as he sneaked forward to get as close as possible before he could be made. It was dark green and as big as a football, but he couldn’t see any details until he bent a little to the side. It was a turtle! Lying there, enjoying the heat of the stone, blinking into the sun, just one meter distance from where he was. He couldn’t help but whisper “Woah!”, but it was enough to have the turtle glide into the water immediately. Neal half jumped on the rock to see it swim, and caught a glimpse of it diving away.

He turned to Boomer, smiling: “That was something, wasn’t it?” The dog was sitting there, wagging his tail in some dry leafs, looking at the stick in Neal’s hand with intent. “You want the stick?” the dog made a small leap and sat down again, still wagging his tail, looking for possible stick landing zones and back to the stick. So they played fetch for a couple of minutes before Neal decided it was time for some iced tea ... and something else nagged on his mind. Something his mother had said. He just couldn’t remember, shrugged and called Boomer. He’d find out soon enough.

He considered going back over the hill as boring and decided that going left looked more interesting than going right. They took their time and Neal hit bushes and low hanging leafs leaves with his stick. Boomer was sniffing all over the place and marking territory. They were half around the hill when they heard the laughter. It was a bright and young kind of laughter. A girl. Close by. Neal changed course to check it out.

Nearby was a glade with some big rotting lugs and a small group of kids was huddling there between some high grasses. One of them was a brown haired girl with a yellow dress. She must have been the one who had laughed. Neal hid behind some bushes, hoping to get a glimpse of what those kids where doing. He heard some whispered talk and giggling, but could glean nothing.

He was so fixated on the scene on the glade, that he’d totally forgotten about Boomer and the dog wasn’t having that. As dogs would, he got a little agitated, hoping for attention. Seeing that being wiggly didn’t work, he did the next logical thing and barked. Way too loud. All time stopped. Neal froze down, the group froze down. Boomer wagged his tail, waiting for a reaction. The girl reacted first. She stood up and looked in the direction the bark came from, while the other sheepishly stayed down and tried to sneak a peak, obviously hiding something. She must be his age, Neal thought, probably younger. Nine, maybe. She looked nice, for a girl. He stood up as well and waved at her. She waved backed, still a questioning look on her face, which was exactly the moment Neal remembered the cake. So he waved her goodbye, said “Gotta go. There’s cake!” and ran off into the woods.

He’ll like it here, he thought while running back home. 

Found this AFTER writing the story ... nice :) [source]
And that's that. Some proper content and announcements will hit the blog in the near future (I hope ... this shit is stressing me out and I'm not as productive as opportunity would dictate, I'm afraid). Until then I'd like to remind you nice and beautiful people that Monkey Business, the extensive jungle crawl adventure module I published a couple of years back, is still out there and PWYW. That should keep you busy for a while ...