April ’20 Twitter-splosion

All of April 2020’s twitter tales in a single collection for your convenience. April featured a serial tale of Ivy the fox…

fox GIF

APRIL

4/1/2020

Ivy the fox sniffed the country air, her empty stomach rumbled at the teasing aroma. Live #chicken. Hard to get, but worth the effort. Through the trees she glimpsed the farmhouse, lights out beneath the stars. Perfect for a silent raid.#vss365

4/2/2020

Silent as a night breeze Ivy pressed herself into the coop of sleeping hens. Her mouth watered as she crept forward one step at a time. Breath ruffled feathers, she held it as her open mouth reached for a neck. Clamp! The #kicking hen couldn’t even squawk.#vss365

4/3/2020

Clamping down tight on the neck, the hen’s fussing didn’t disturb the remainder of the birds. Swiftly, Ivy exited the coop through the door and traipsed across the pen. A clatter. She froze. Nothing happened. At her paw she saw a #rock rolling, the obvious source.#vss365

4/4/2020

Over the fence, one paw hold at a time, Ivy landed on the outside in silence. Her mouth watered for the dead hen’s neck against her teeth. A gust of wind sent a tree branch onto the tin roof. The yard burst into a blazing #orange light, the window bore cross hairs.#vss365

4/5/2020

This was a #classic scenario, Ivy thought as she stared at the blazing evidence inches from her paws that the farmer was awake. Shrouded in shadow the fox eyed the distance to the wood-line even as the thud of his boots reverberated in the silence. Freeze or dash?#vss365

4/6/2020

The hinges squealed as the door opened, boots thudded across the porch. The farmer stared down the sight of his gun. In the shadow of the moonless night, Ivy lay curled in a ball, the white of her tail tucked, bird hidden. Her glance into the #chrome bumper confirmed it.#vss365

4/7/2020

Ivy held her breath, the hen’s blood drew saliva to her mouth. She couldn’t move as she stared through the fur of her tail. Not until the farmer, who #craned his neck as he peered down the gun sight into his yard. Ivy’s heart throbbed against her ribs.#vss365

4/8/2020

“If someone’s there they’re about to join the 6-foot under #club.” The farmer hocked a loogie into the dirt right beside her. Ivy fought the urge to flinch, but the shifty eyes swept right over her as he wandered past the chicken coop.#vss365

4/9/2020

The twitch of the farmer’s finger #telegraphed his desire for vengeance for disrupted rest. Ivy suppressed a shudder as she glanced at the offending branch. The moment he looked away, her tail lashed out and knocked the branch toward him. He spun, gun muzzle first.#vss365

4/10/2020

If the farmer fired it wasn’t Ivy’s life she was concerned with, but those of her pups in #isolation. The den by the field’s creek. She held her breath as the man pulled the trigger. The bullet split the wood. “Stupid tree disruptin’ my sleep!” He stomped off.#vss365

4/11/2020

When silence descended Ivy peered through her tail. The light from the window was gone. The farmer’s desire to sleep had come to her #rescue, preventing him from examining further. The feast in her mouth, she uncurled and slipped through the wire fence, headed home.#vss365

4/12/2020

A true thief in the night, Ivy ran like a #desperado. With the hen in her mouth, she slunk though the underbrush. On the crest of a hill, the vixen paused, ears pricked as she held her breath, listening. Only her heartbeat echoed in her ears. She darted for the den.#vss365

4/13/2020

Safe inside the den Ivy greeted her squirming pups nose to nose. “1, 2, … where’s 3?”

“He went out to find you, mama. Across the #road .”

Ivy spun in the den, kicking the hen to the hungry pups, in a blur of orange she shot out chasing the scent of her wayward pup.#vss365

4/14/2020

Headlights flared, the roar of the engine deafened Ivy as searched from the #shelter of a bush for some sign of her kit. “Why does he have to take after me?” Ivy dashed out onto the stiff asphalt. The assault on her nose made it difficult to find her son’s scent.#vss365

4/15/2020

There it was, his scent in a wandering line, cut down the center line. Ivy followed the trail. Headlights appeared. A long silhouette with pointed ears stretched toward her. She’d never reach him. Tires screeched. She jumped, the shadow of the kit #tumbling into the dark.#vss365

4/16/2020

Once more the night lay silent. Ivy emerged from the protective brush and into the road. #Desolation. Nothing but asphalt beneath her paws to fill her desperate gaze. “Where are you?” she screamed into the silence. For her answer, silence remained unbroken.#vss365

4/17/2020

The impact of that silence #arrested her once racing heart. Ivy could not breathe, her paws rooted on the foreign asphalt. Her eyes stared out taking in everything and nothing. It seemed like an eternity before she found her voice, a soft pleading whine. “Are you there?”#vss365

4/18/2020

A toying scent on the wind cut through the oil reek. Ivy’s ears perked up. Paw by paw she inched toward the edge, ears pricked. The horizon tinged with a pale #blue, streaked with red. Morning had come and Ivy smelled blood.#vss365

4/19/2020

Ivy’s paws straddled the white #street line stained with streaks of blood. Fox blood. Patches of fur clung to the grass. Her heart stopped beating and sank into the pit of her stomach. Even from here she could smell it. Death.#vss365

4/20/2020

Ivy closed her eyes and raised her muzzle to the dawn, a long shrill cry of mourning left her throat. She did not have to see her son’s corpse to know he was gone from this world. A #dab of shadows drifted through the wood toward her.#vss365

4/21/2020

The shadow moved on soundless paws, edging toward Ivy. A voice soft as a breeze teased her ears. “You know what has summoned me.” Ivy’s gaze fell to the #ruby red stains in the leaves. She could not speak, but it did. “This is not your first loss.”#vss365

4/22/2020

Like some form of telegraph or #radio wave into her mind Ivy heard kit cries. A chorus from so long ago squeezing her heart until she curled into a paw. “Please! I beg you! Do not remind me of their fate!” The shadowy fox coiled around her. “But … I must.”#vss365

4/23/2020

“Death,” the black fox whispered, “is the price of life. Such a strange #oddity. None escape the great equalizer. Neither great nor small. Some however have a knack for evading me. Your kind is among the gifted, but not in their youth, Ivy, as you well know.” #vss365

4/24/2020

Tears welled in her eyes. “You are cruel!” Ivy creapt backward. The #damage was done. The black fox bobbed its head. “I am essential, sly one. It is I who ensures the continuation of your linage.” “By taking them?” “By eliminating the weak that the strong my flourish.”#vss365

4/25/2020

Ivy cringed at the decree. Plagued by the sensation of tiny paws against her fur. Little black #mittens, softly caressing from beyond the veil. What would they have been had the black fox not collected them so soon? His voice whispered, “Why, your death, sweet mother.”#vss365

4/26/2020

The black fox climbed upon her back. She had not expected a shadow to be a #heavyweight pressing her into the ground. In her dirt-bound struggle images sprang forth of verdant glades filled with butterflies … her kit-hood.#vss365

4/27/2020

Under the black fox’s paws Ivy struggled as memories turned. Blood drenched the dens. The #killing time and time again of kits and kin. “No!” She clawed at the ground, unable to free herself. “This can’t be!” In the field lay her own body. “Unless…” the fox whispered.#vss365

4/28/2020

The black fox flicked his tail and Ivy’s whole body tingled, engulfed in a gleaming #resurrection she leapt free of him only now realizing she had freshly healed wounds. The car…He glanced toward the kit’s lifeless body. “I must take one. Make your choice, Vixen.” #vss365

March Twitter’splosion

It’s been a weird month with the encroachment of the Covid-19. These micros area a reflection. Enjoy all of March #vss365 in one shot…

50 Creepiest Movie Psychopaths

MARCH

3/1/2020

Tensions built to a breaking point. Solutions seemed so obvious to those impacted, funds to rebuild. However, the elite knew how #bridging the gap could be achieved. They offered those made homeless from the disaster free packs of paper towels to mop up the flooding.#vss365

3/2/2020

He laughed when they said she’d intimidate him. He was, after all, a macho man. That was before he stood before her, subject to the fury brewing in her #Atlantic eyes. He’d met more than his match, and the siren displayed his false bravado for all to see.#vss365

3/3/2020

“Storm today.” Half-blind Pete gazed up at a seagull winging over the calm seas. Younger crews left port and laughed. That was until the gulls vanished as the #whitecaps appeared. The sky darkened at midday to black. Pete watched their ships sink from his docked ship.#vss365

3/4/2020

The great wide blue stretched from horizon to horizon below. The sky over the ocean—the dwelling of the #seagull. She soared over the tall masted vessels, guiding them to shore. Of course humanity had little patience, calling her kind rats with wings. That’s gratitude.#vss365

3/5/2020

The beach-side city stood tall and proud, ignorant of peril. Time demanded it pay #tribute to nature’s fury when the storm surge flooded the very foundations, washing away the land on which the city stood. A reminder that it never should have been built there.#vss365

3/6/2020

In the beginning #seventeen set out in the party to save their city. All seemed well, until their number became thirteen. At that point the paladin counted, recounted, and fled in a panic from his own superstition—right off a cliff. The remaining dozen returned victorious.#vss365

3/7/2020

I went cross-eyed for a moment staring at it. “Sir? There is a sizable gray box in the field of my vision.”

VP of Health answered, “That’s just a #patch.”

I blanched. “On a hazmat suit helmet?”

“Relax, you’ll be fine. The virus isn’t smart enough to get past the patch.”#vss365

3/8/2020

Beneath the oppressive pall society shut down, fearing that just one wrong move would land them in jail. Until a melody built in the air, a #spark of rebellion rapidly gained momentum and burnt a hole in the fabric, making way for progress.#vss365

3/9/2020

She trembled with every step toward the altar. Her heart thundered as she gathered the courage. The noble stood there, waiting expectantly for his obedient future wife. She halted at the bottom of the steps, took a deep breath and declared, “I am already #spoken for.”#vss365

3/10/2020

I leaned forward on the table as she returned. “So? What’s the #word?”

“He says he’ll tell you where he hid the ledger over his dead body.”

I moaned, “He doesn’t know?”

She caressed her crystal ball. “Nope, the stubborn ox is quite convinced he’s still alive. My fee?”#vss365

3/11/2020

She cooed at the puppy’s #unfathomable cuteness. “Oh my God, I’ve never seen anything more adorabl—OUCH!”

The foster laughed. “Nor useful. That pup is in shredder mode at the moment. Everything has a price, and for this one—it’s a pint of blood.”#vss365

3/12/2020

Skeletons lined very ash-strewn valley. Proof of the ravaged land’s #insurmountable challenge to the dinosaurs. Yet in the rubble life remained. Smaller, drought resistant, hearty. From the ashes the warm blooded mammals claimed the empty throne.#vss365

3/13/2020

“Is this #normal?” I looked at the desolate aisle, nothing but kittywampus empty shelves.

“Pretty much. When shit hits in the fan in prepper-ville folks want to make sure their ass is covered.”

“That was thousands of rolls of TP for how many residents?”

“Population twenty.”#vss365

3/14/2020

See the world, they said. Experience the sights, they said. There’s nothing like a #foreign country, they said. No one mentioned over two weeks forced to stare at the same four walls of my stateroom on a petri dish ship. Yup, that was an unbeatable sight.#vss365

3/15/2020

He ran his fingers through her hair. “I couldn’t love you any more, my little #stroopwafel.”

SLAP! For a long moment all he saw were flashing lights, til his vision cleared to her furious expression.

“What? I called you a cookie! Don’t go! Oh shit.” One crumby breakup.#vss365

3/16/2020

I blinked and looked again. Had that #mannequin just moved? No wait. A moment ago it didn’t have the top hat. Blink. Nor the ascot. What the…?

It smiled at me. “Never fully dressed without a smile, gov’ner.”

I ran and never returned to Mens Surplus again!#vss365

3/17/2020

Everyone stared, captivated by the speech, by the gestures, everything played out with precision. That was what gave it away for those with discerning eyes. Too precise. That “man” behind the podium was a #robot, programmed to deceive.#vss365

3/18/2020

Men in designer suits pounded fists, shouting over one another, they couldn’t possibly fund outreach programs the golf course came first. Ms. Peaches #kindergarten class lined the room edges in orderly fashion, waiting to address the council about tissue shortages.#vss365

3/19/2020

Bravery won Dirk the pirate captaincy when he sunk a navy vessel. That same bravery cost him his life when he attempted the same trick … with the avenging #armada. #vss365

3/20/2020

“Follow the checklist. We must be highly #organized here for safety reasons.”

“Boss, why is there a space in the storage rack?”

“Oh fuck! Who took a vial without signing it out of the microbiology lab?”

“How bad?”

“Oh God, oh God, we’re all gonna die.”#vss365

3/21/2020

Augustus was obsessed with anything Japanese, to his family’s displeasure. When he died he took cultural appropriation to an extreme. His epitaph was a stolen whimsical #haiku. Due to copyright most was removed from the stone. “Smile, cherry blossom” is all that remains.#vss365

3/22/2020

“Seriously, we’re never going to find the treasure. This clue is too damn hard!”

“Son of a–! I should have noticed the clue is an #acrostic poem. First letters spell CLUELESS.”

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t have a clue.”#vss365

3/23/2020

“I shouldn’t’ve run away. If there is one thing I’ve learned, life’s #short.”

I stared at the boy on the park bench beside me swinging his legs. We’d been talking for an hour when in the blink of an eye he vanished into thin air.

I dialed a number. “I love you, Mom.”#vss365

3/24/2020

Mama told me babies are brought by a #stork. I laughed and told her baby brother’s had it easy since he was so small. Mama cried and held me close, her eyes watching the crib where he lay still. “He didn’t come that way, honey. A scarlet ibis brought him on borrowed time.”#vss365

3/25/2020

The gull winged over the seaport. Below a #cosy village sprawled, draped in glorious spring blooms. She called out and waited for a reply, one that never came. Not a soul dwelt there now, a living one anyway. Each roof hid a collection of plague corpses.#vss365

3/26/2020

“Oh my God! After being stranded and going without food, this is absolutely #delicious! Is there any more?” No one gathered around answered Ralph as the sun-beaten life raft drifted onward. He shrugged and grabbed another hunk of meat from his silent partners. “Mmm!”#vss365

3/27/2020

“Do you think storms have feelings?”

“Good question.”

“Think about how calm things feel after a major thunderstorm.”

“Or a tornado. Hell, that’s the biggest #outblowing of them all. Even Mother nature needs a little stress relief.” #vss365

3/28/2020

“Damn it! He got everything he wanted, again! Meanwhile we didn’t get a thing!”

“Of course he did. I wouldn’t pay the price though.”

“What do you mean?”

“Not worth being that scumbags boot-licking #toad. I’d rather starve.”#vss365

3/29/2020

I never understood why Rocco chased his tail. Such a pointless activity. After weeks of self isolation revelation struck as I discovered myself spinning in circles in pursuit of my own #butt. The same four walls ran by a blur. I get it buddy, I get it now.#vss365

3/30/2020

“Is there a point to sailing the ocean forever, captain?”

“Any day now we’ll find it, #Finisterre!”

“The uh…the end of the Earth? Umm, you do know the Earth is round.”

“It’s fools like you who sail off into the void!”

“Right, and who’s done that?”

“Sven the Nearsighted!”#vss365

3/31/2020

“This AI shopper thing is going to far.”

“What now?”

“Well, it thinks I need a #zarf.”

“What’s that?”

“No idea, but apparently I have a set of them coming by breakfast tomorrow.”#vss365

February Twitter-splosion

In the leap year we get one more in February… so here is all twenty-nine Micro stories in a Tweet through the Twitter prompt #vss365. I didn’t do a theme this month. just wrote wherever the prompt took me. So get comfy…

safe for work puppy GIF

FEBRUARY

2/1/2020

Mother Earth fostered growth for eons. All across her surface animals of all kinds roamed in a delicate balance. Until one went off #script and declared itself removed from the animal kingdom. An age of tough love followed. The earth remains, the arrogant one is gone.#vss365

2/2/2020

“You’re excited about this? I mean, it’s a large rodent. I really have to question your #sanity.”

May waved her Groundhog Day banner. “Come on, sis, it’s just a bit of fun. No one really believes it.”

… Years passed in his shadow. Spring never came.#vss365

2/3/2020

The family gathering stifled her, as always. A stranger in her own skin. They never even noticed as she walked away into the secluded corner, one hand pressed against the wall. It glowed and open into her own world, her #fantasy, a reflection of the changling she was.#vss365

2/4/2020

It started as a little irritation. Just a nagging thought. Gradually it built, growing into a #frantic obsession until it drove me to distraction. I had no choice but to voice my concern. Now I have a wonderful padded room and a snugly fitting wardrobe to hug me tight.#vss365

2/5/2020

“I’m telling you, you’re wrong. Hold on a second. I’ll show you!” He disappeared into the library and came back with an #atlas dropping it on the table. Pointing at the map he declared, “See? The world is flat!”

It was going to be a long day discussing curved lines.#vss365

2/6/2020

Ben scoffed at me when I told him to toss spilt salt over his shoulder. “I have no place for a childish #ritual in my life!”

Well, he was right. At his apartment all we found was a scorch mark on the floor. No Ben. Hope he’s happy with his new job in hell.#vss365

2/7/2020

Sara banished disbelief as she entered the #enchanted forest. Wondrous beasts filled the wood. But her eyes scanned past them longing for the rarest. The thump of hooves caught her attention. She turned just in time for the disintegration spell. Unicorns are territorial.#vss365

2/8/2020

In a job market as poor as this, Jim didn’t dare to quit under the physical strain. His foreman worked him hard as the days grew longer. He didn’t notice the extra hair, the braying laugh, the lengthening of ears. At length he became another mindless #mule in the stable.#vss365

2/9/2020

There he was, all bluster and mane. The rogue came up to claim her. But the lioness’s claws slashed his hide. She’d had enough of their kind. Behind her in the grass, something far more precious. These were her cubs, not his to murder. He lost to mother’s #pride. #vss365

2/10/2020

“Just one #request, you must love me for eternity.”

When he asked me that it seemed such a natural answer. Of course, the son of a bitch didn’t tell me how much immortality sucks. Gah, why are they bringing THAT era back?#vss365

2/11/2020

I stood alone in the world. No, against the world. Not that I wanted to be. It’s just nature. Most of the time no one really knows the truth. But for 3 nights a month I have an #ally. The moon reveals my truth and sets my nature free!#vss365

2/12/2020

Muscles burned like fire consuming the grasslands. Lungs clogged with the smoke. Still I ran on with the flames singeing my fur. The rest of the pack already fallen behind. Our leader, a poor #judge of the danger, I feared we would all pay the price.#vss365

2/13/2020

The locust queen hovered in the sky and declared to her swarm, “Now we shall claim our #empire!” They spread across the land, claiming everything edible. For their ambition, they left in their wake a vast sea of carcasses in a desolate land. Not even the queen survived.#vss365

2/14/2020

Padding along in the Savannah in the hot sun, I didn’t spare a glance back over my shoulder. What was the point? Another painted wolf rode my shoulder. “We’re short one.”

“I know. Mother Nature’s a bitch.”

#Rookie mistake, never trust the water, crocodile domain.#vss365

2/15/2020

Death laughs at us all. You don’t believe me? Then why is the death mask a #parody of a smile? We find no humor in it, but assuredly someone does.#vss365

2/16/2020

Moonlight cast down through the broken arches. I sat alone, in silence, gripping a talisman to my chest. The bombs had ceased to fall, but they had taken all I knew. No, not all. Our #creed, I clung to that last vestige of my heritage: “Death first”. They would pay.#vss365

2/17/2020

“I know what’s best for the world.” The man spat into the microphone. “That’s why it’s good I control all this money.”

In the shadows the demon, #Greed, sharpened his claws, preparing a place in hell. “Lie to yourself all you want. The bill will come due.”#vss365

2/18/2020

I am one of you, all the outward signs informed. Passing through the defenses everything seemed normal. But the cells could not have been more wrong! Their mistake allowed the virus to #infiltrate, to hijack, and to force normal cells to replicate it from safely inside.#vss365

2/19/2020

She was so sad as she wrapped her arms around me and stroked my ears. My tail thumped on the floor as her heartbeat settled and her sobs dwindled. I licked her cheek. This was my job. This was my #purpose. Bring comfort to those who needed a warm paw.#vss365

2/20/2020

The words thundered in my ears in time with my heartbeat, in time with my steps. I was a #soldier of destiny. Before this moment I hadn’t known what that meant, just a mantra as we trained in barren fields. Now those fields were filled with blood.#vss365

2/21/2020

The boss cracked his knuckles, flanked by his goons. “I’ll give you one change to switch sides. You can either be part of the problem, or the #solution. So which will it be?”

I pulled out my knife, this was my turf. “Right now my middle name is Problem.”#vss365

2/22/2020

Millennia passed in a geologic blur populated by the chaos of the rise of man. Rise he did. After the fall to his own territorial devices, the animal kingdoms reclaimed their niches and #peace reigned for millennia more without his brutal tyranny scarring the land.#vss365

2/23/2020

“So there are different levels?”

The scholar folded her hands. “Indeed. There is the common, at fault by ignorance. Their is the huge, who seems to blunder. And then there is the #royal pain in the ass who knows precisely what he is doing in the worst way possible.”#vss365

2/24/2020

All eyes turned to her at the top of the stairs. Draped in the most enchanting fabrics she was a vision, the #belle of the ball. But that wasn’t why they stared. The viper coiled around her shoulders like a stole commanded their attention. She was not to be trifled with.#vss365

2/25/2020

“I’m telling you it’s the strangest thing.” The butler pointed at the decanter. “At 3am every night it empties. Stayed up and watched it!”

The maid laughed. “The previous owner died in this parlor during a party. It’s just him partaking of his favorite #spirits.”#vss365

2/26/2020

Towers of white stone rose towards the sky, a marvel of human innovation. From a distance it was stunning. Inside it was deserted to all save the bones of those who once lived here and the #vermin who brought them down crawling over them. The ruthless plague.#vss365

2/27/2020

Bjorn always had been the most determined viking. He lived by the saying “life’s a journey not a #destination”. When they tried to ignite his funeral boat it wouldn’t take, the vessel drifted off toward the horizon. Apparently he insisted death would be a journey too.#vss365

2/28/2020

The meadow lay cloaked in mist, submerged in #deathly silence. Welcoming as Death drifted through parting the fog to reveal the fallen soldiers baring colors from both sides. Their pointless wrath made Death’s job so much swifter.#vss365

2/29/2020

The cult lined up around him, screaming our praise and adoration. He stood on the dais in the center of the compound. “Humanity is sick. We will #purge it!” Their cheers reverberated, until his planted explosives blew a massive crater. He and his naive cult were no more.#vss365

December Twitter-Splosion

Every day a different prompt, every day a different tale in a Twitter! Here is all of December’s in one shot. A wild collection of humor, morbidity, and whatever else popped into my head.

DECEMBER

It’s been a year!

cowboy bebop finger guns GIF

12/1/2019

Blue sky, an ill wind blew as I soared over the white capped waves. No gull who longed to live ignored such an #omen. I opened my beak and cried out the warning. Squall! The tall ship sailed out of the harbor. Wind tore at my feathers as I fought to warn them. Turn back!#vss365

12/2/2019

“But mama, aren’t we supposed to hoard treasure and stuff?”

In the crystal cave Drhak’raria lifted her head and smiled down at her whelp. “Some dragons do. But you can’t consume gold. Eat your #crystal, dear so you can grow up strong enough to devour other dragons.” #vss365

12/3/2019

Hail fell into the high beams, #rice from the leaden heavens. I pushed the pedal harder.

“Honey, maybe we should pull over?”

“It’s the holidays, we can’t be late!” A second later, the road skidded out from beneath us.#vss365

12/4/2019

Never mess with a kitsune. There’s a reason those vixens have nine tails, it represents their #fickle nature. One minute they lavish you with the deepest love possible. The next their claws rake sufficient to make you wish you were dead!#vss365

12/5/2019

She turned and smiled at him. Not a comforting smile, but one that sent a shiver down his spine. Frozen he could not move. “They call me the sadistic #guru. And you, my foolish trespasser, are about to learn why.” He didn’t see the strike, but he felt it in his liver.#vss365

12/6/2019

“You’re such a nerd.”

“I am a #pixel warrior! I am undefeated! SHIT!”

“Except by a power outage.”#vss365

12/7/2019

Underneath the #amber lights the world shimmered in the rain. A beautiful sheen that lent a magical quality to the city. A place that lay in stillness populated by the bones left behind of a race that failed to adapt. Fate is a cruel bitch.#vss365

12/8/2019

She pads on paws soft as #velvet, silent against the pavement. Making her way through the city no movement escapes her eyes. There is a reason not even a mouse stirs on the Eve, it is her doing. The kiss of death, Holly, the master mouser of all seasons.#vss365

12/9/2019

Save the world, like real life is based on a novel starring a plucky hero. In reality I have as much #sway as a fly landing on a suspension bridge coil while some crazy yahoo standing on the deck cuts it with a chain saw. At least in my vision I have wings. He doesn’t.#vss365

12/10/2019

Light shimmers pierced the darkness of the chamber I have inhabited for what seems an eternity. Vision, a sense I have long forgone in my solitude. Is the light real? Or merely a cruel #mirage, painful to eyes that have not seen in years? Reality seems the illusion.#vss365

12/11/2019

“Heyya, Grandma? Quick, what’s the best way to #curry favor with a demon? Asking for a friend.”

“Why you lookin’ ov’r your shoulder?”

“Ummm … well … I may have opened that trunk you told me never to touch.”

“Then you shit out a luck, child. No one befriends that ‘un.”#vss365

12/12/2019

I stared at the #serpentine stone in my hand, squiggles of bright green seeming to swim, locked in a black sea. Like magic. I focused hard, remembering the tome’s words. The rock shivered, a hundred tiny eyes opened as my minions sprang to life.#vss365

12/13/2019

I flick the blinker on and glance over into the middle lane, waiting to merge. The red Porsche pulls forward, seeing a half car length between me and the van. She wedges the nose of her can in. Blocked. She’s lucky I #vow no vehicular aggression at a hospital driveway!#vss365

12/14/2019

Visions twist and turn to my will. I had always been a #lucid dreamer, shaping to my desires behind closed eyes. What a shock it must have been to see their world change before their eyes when mine were wide open too. Welcome to my twisted reality.#vss365

12/15/2019

Light spreads a #pastel hue into the velvet sky. Another day begins washed out and empty as I wander down the hillside for a visit. The stone cold on my back. The deep cut letters say you’re here. I linger locked in silence, waiting for the comfort of night to fall.#vss365

12/16/2019

“One cannot #wring blood from stone.”

The necromancer folded his hands and smiled. “One can if one possesses the skills and said stone is fossilized bones.” He snapped his fingers and the figures unfolded from the cavern floor. “Foolish mortal.”#vss365

12/17/2019

A stitch in my side. A tiny #sliver of pain nagging, nagging, always nagging! I long to forget, but the constant stab of the thing I cannot remove has become a part of me, driving me to madness as I long to scratch an unreachable itch. A vile memory eroding my sanity.#vss365

12/18/2019

“You will not have the world, sorcerer! Because I have the magical orb!” CRASH! “Shit!”

My companion buried her face. “Real #suave, butterfingers. You do know there was only one of those.”

“Mwhaha! You just paved the way for my victory. Bravo, hero.”#vss365

12/19/2019

I close my eyes and fade away. The pain, the suffering, the bitter rivalry that is what some call the real world. It’s vulgar and empty. I embrace my #virtual world. A place built to hide from the nightmare of reality. A place of healing refuge in the eye of a storm.#vss365

12/20/2019

“Some heroes we are. Stuck in a frickin’ cave! Alright wizard, time to magic us outta here so we can save the world.”

“Hrm, I have a #profound feeling we’ve seriously fucked up.”

“Geh! That better be sarcastic.”

“We have about an hour of air left. Last words?”

“Son of a-”#vss365

12/21/2019

The embers die into a soft cheery #glow framed in the stones. I smile, warmed by the crackle-pop of the flames deep within still eating away. Feast, my friend. Well, the documents said he got the house … he can have what’s left of it. Merry Christmas, asshole!#vss365

12/22/2019

Moonlight cast it glow across the floor, tinged red in time for the holidays. I sit in the easy chair warming myself by the fire, a glass of cognac in hand. Through the broken window the sound of blood dripped down the #icicle my hit man eavesdropped on. How festive.#vss365

12/23/2019

The table creaked under the weight of the largest dish of #pudding the village had ever seen. Narka held her hands high and silence descended. “Today we celebrate our victory! No more will our enemies call us weak. No more shall they speak!” Vengeance in blood pudding.#vss365

12/24/2019

I awoke in the locked room, my arms bound to my body, the odd sound like a #jingle bell tinkling from the hallway. I dared not call out as the white clad orderly peered through the slat, a ring of keys on his belt. What a Christmas present, committed to Bedlam by Father.#vss365

12/25/2019

Curled in my arms, his fur shifted against my cheek with every breath. All the years of his life counted in each tick of the clock. My heart ached to feel his shudder. Midnight chimed, before the last #grace granted Ashenpaw mercy. The bitterest Christmas morning ever.#vss365

12/26/2019

The snow is cold beneath my paws, a sensation I welcome in this new form after the ache of life. I faded from reality and embraced death thinking it would be a numb void. Instead I rise to #find a world of deep feeling. More alive than I was in life, I spread my wings.#vss365

12/27/2019

The world below the surface of the waves, my world. Smooth scales slid by pillars of #coral flashing delicate fronds of tiny creatures, my subjects. Bubbles rose up from the intruders, landwalkers performing their last task. A death wish. Venom filled my fangs.#vss365

12/28/2019

The moon shown over the valley cutting shadows into the fresh snow. My nose caught the scent in the tracks. One of them was injured. In my throat the cry arose, piercing the heavens. Moments later the pack answered in #harmony. The wolf pack’s litany of death.#vss365

12/29/2019

Behind closed eyes everything changes. A #circus of fantastic beasts dance in colorful rings bedecked in finery fit for the highest courts. All those who had vexed me during the day met their judgment by tooth and claw. The next day, I woke to find them simply gone.#vss365

12/30/2019

I swear the moment I walked into my grandparents no one recognized me. It was as if each family member had lived in a #cocoon for the last year, ignoring the hard work I had done. “You look terrible,” grandma said, “should take better care of yourself.”#vss365

12/31/2019

“Hold my beer!” He took a running leap off the roof, poorly executed thanks to the alcohol marinade. The result? A plummet straight down missing the mattress target and striking the trashcans. We clapped as he moaned, cheering, “#Encore!” My brother is a glutton for pain.#vss365

November Twitter-splosion

The collection of Very Short Stories from the #vss365 prompts on Twitter, all in one shot! This month it’s just an array of wild off the cuff craziness. You know, normal for me.

NOVEMBER

11/1/2019

Rumor has it, I got a short #fuse. It’s funny, I guess from their perspective the shit only just hit the fan. Well, in my shoes they’d know better. They’d know the impact of every word they slung my way recklessly. Well, corpses can never hurt anyone, who’s laughing now?#vss365

11/2/2019

I asked my grandpa if our lives were predetermined. He laughed, “Oh child, life’ll try all sort of tricks to keep you inline. Fate’ll #cuff to the wheel, if you let it. Thing is, you still have your hand on the wheel in a world without roads.” Grandpa’s had 8 accidents.#vss365

11/3/2019

Sam closed her eyes. The tedious complaints of the man in line #grated on her nerves. It wasn’t like the cashier could save the world. At last, Sam stepped up to the cashier, whose eyes filled with dread. Sam just smiled, and got a smile back. They savored blessed silence.#vss365

11/4/2019

I gripped the sack tight, this was my first harvest and I didn’t want to drop anything as I climbed through the cavern. The chamber opened up lined with the #crop of crystal shards. I touched a black one, and recalled the legend just as something stole my body. I turned …#vss365

11/5/2019

Amber smiled as she stared right where here friend pointed at. Everything, the whole universe would come into focus, they all told her. Just breathe. She inhaled the smoke and resumed her search for clarity in the resulting #haze. Wasn’t much, but it sure was pretty.#vss365

11/6/2019

The man sat down in my chair and removed his hat. “Just a #trim, please.” I grinned into the reflection of my razor, already she sang to me, hungry for rubies. I placed her fine edge to his throat and gave him the closest shave he’d ever have. Within an inch of his life.#vss365

11/7/2019

Legend says to #tread lightly if you have to go through Mirewood. Of course, legends also say that there are unicorns and little folk. I don’t believe those either. Besides, I brought my rifle … what the … That a horse with a horn? No way, so swuuuucckkkk!#vss365

11/8/2019

“Did you hear, Trudy has a #crush on Dan. That’s so sweet.”

I raised my eyebrows and watched a monster truck roll by, Trudy scowled behind the wheel. “Dude, check your ears. I believe her exact words were ‘I’m going to crush Dan.’ ”#vss365

11/9/2019

Their eyes burned into me as I stood barefoot on the pyre of their scorn. An ember caught on a torch and flared to life, fed by the hunger for my death. It did not matter to them I #spoke the truth. No—it did matter. Their unjust fear delivered me to this grim fate.#vss365

 

11/10/2019

“Welcome to the first transdimensional Convention. Please step forward and pay the #troll.”

“You mean, toll. Right?”

“Oh no, I mean Groont the security troll. Have a good time!”#vss365

11/11/2019

Maximus thought himself an innovative leader able to conquer any nation on the continent. All of that proved true. That was until he decided the continental empire wasn’t large enough, and neglecting to start a navy, he ordered his army to #march over the sea.#vss365

11/12/2019

Things were quiet on that little blue ball floating in space, Loki thought to himself. Perhaps it was time to #crank up the chaos. He snapped his fingers and Fenrir’s chain broke. The gigantic wolf leapt down, his claws raked both man and earth. “That’s more like it.”#vss365

11/13/2019

The #wind speaks to me. Sometimes a whisper bearing the ghosts of the past. Sometimes it screams to me of the ravages of time eroding the world. Sometimes it’s a lover’s caress biding me to be strong in a world that no longer hears the wisdom of the ages. I alone listen.#vss365

11/14/2019

“This is just another walk in the park. You know the #drill, boys.” That’s what I said, but as the sulfur and brimstone engulfed us at the cavern entrance I white-knuckled my spear. Thankfully it wasn’t every day a dragon moved into the neighborhood. “Eviction notice!”#vss365

11/15/2019

This place is all I have ever known. Born behind bars, I’ve heard of this thing called “a lawn”. Sounds nice. The boy points into my cage, his parents drag him to another dog … a whole dog. I limp back into the corner. One day I’ll leave the #pound, if I live long enough.#vss365

11/16/2019

Anubis rubbed his chin as he examined the world. “Things are not going as planned, Sekhmet. I don’t care what Toth says, this #draft of Earth is deeply flawed. The problem is all these humans.” Sekhmet flashed her teeth, “That’s easily solved, get your scale ready.”#vss365

11/17/2019

“That boy has a lot of #pluck. Do you think he’ll save the village?”

“Are you kidding? He’s nothing but a goose for the gods to tenderize. But don’t tell him that. The gods prefer spirited sacrifices. Maybe next years crops will be better, then we can sing his praises.”#vss365

11/18/2019

There was nothing like dancing the #jive with her. The weight of her body capturing the momentum only to twist and turn. He basked in the memories, gnarled fingers stroking the piano keys. Soon now he would see her again, in each other’s arms.#vss365

11/19/2019

Jim sat on the bumper of the car. Karma really was a bitch, he reflected. The sign he’d held, California or #bust, well, he didn’t mean it to be true. The driver that picked him up was still arguing with the cop whose fault the collision was. So much for Sunset Boulevard.#vss365

11/20/2019

“How do you spell his name?”

“Oh my God, please sis, I beg of you, #play nice!”

“I am. Just need his name so I can kill him … in my novel. It lasts longer.”#vss365

11/21/2019

The field glowed beneath the pale sky blossoming with the rising sun framed by the monoliths. They stood, every breath hanging in the air frozen until at last the blackbird greeted the dawn. Her #refrain warmed every heart. No day was promised until she sang.#vss365

11/22/2019

Rod heaved a sigh as he stared at the candle, hardly any wax dripping down the perfect cylinder. Like so many others it ended early. The first #date was always the last. He turned to Annabelle and picked the doll up from the chair. “Guess it’s still just you and me.”#vss365

11/23/2019

Charity heaved a sigh. “You’re asking a lot of me, typically this type of gig isn’t my thing.”

“It’s real simple, all you gotta do is crash this schmuck’s house and scare the spirit of Christmas into him. Any ghost can do it.”

“That’s a lot to #tackle, the guy’s an atheist.”#vss365

11/24/2019

The music wound into my soul, moving me in ways no one ever should be. I don’t have wings, but I flew! All around me the dance floor vibrated with the emotional impact of countless creatures. You’ve never lived until you’ve attended an underworld #rave.#vss365

11/25/2019

“Gah! Seriously? Stop breathing on me. Your breath smells like … like … ”

“The Army of Nabrille? It should, they were tasty.”

“Then eat a #mint, even dragons should have table manners.”#vss365

11/26/2019

Back and forth she wove the shuttle on the #loom blending the threads in a vast tapestry. I stood powerless to stop her as my thread joined others, wrapped in scarlet red and ashen black, blood and death. “Take up your mantle.” Damn the Fates.#vss365

11/27/2019

Under the #lash I serve my master, doing his bidding without question. My claws sullied by the blood of his enemies. That cursed tool is my true master, now in the hands of his sister I turn my claws at her command. The end of his bloody reign is the beginning of hers.#vss365

11/28/2019

My world is locked in darkness. Black so thick it bears fur and breathes. The cave of beginnings. I inhale the void and steel myself. Against the rock I #strike a match. The flame springs to life, a faint circle of revelation. Eyes stare back. The fur no longer imaginary.#vss365

11/29/2019

Jimmy smiled, wouldn’t the family be proud of him for getting the best deal online! This would be perfect for grandpa. He opened the front door and stared in confusion. That was a rather small box. The label read “chihuahua coffin”. What a bad funeral day #slip up!#vss365

11/30/2019

“Master, what do you want me to do with this #part?”

He glanced at the nerve bundled organ in his assistant’s hands. “Crap, there’s always extra pieces. Just throw it out. Can’t be that important. Alright, let’s juice it up and bring this bad boy to life!”#vss365

Thinkin’ It Through

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Thinkin’ It Through, Anthropomorphic Characters Are a Small Logical Leap Series

Just a dumb animal.” For how often humanity expresses this sentiment it is often more of a reflection of our ego, our need to be placed on a pedestal above the “beasts of the earth, sea, and sky”. How remarkably sad it is to see the brilliance exhibited in other creatures that is buried by such baseless remarks.

From the intuitive nature of man’s best friend to the keen perception that fuels the steel-trap mind of the crow we are surrounded by creatures of profound abilities. Abilities human often claim to be solely their own. Surprise humanity! You are special, but not that special.

PhoenixDemonDog

“In everything there is the potential for complexity. You only see it if you open your eyes wide enough.”

That Deep Down Feeling

Animals don’t have feelings.” That is a turd the size an elephant dumps. Anyone who has a multi-pet household that has suffered a loss will have witnessed the surviving pets mourn. Yes—they know what death is. I have witnessed my own dogs after sniffing the body of their previous housemate react. They grieve in just as varied a degree as humans. And it seems if they have witnessed more than one passing, they recognize it from a distance.

Ash010

Ashenpaw, Ion, and Presto

The first loss in our household Presto experienced he approached several times, close and circling. He sniffed as if trying to wake up his playmate. It took him time to figure out that it wouldn’t happen. This December when our oldest, Ashenpaw, passed on just shy of fourteen years-old from a long struggle with congestive heart failure, Presto lay across the room on his bed. He moped as our typically bright-eyed border collie never had before. Without sniffing Ash, he knew this time.

We also had Phoenix, our youngest border collie and aussie mix. She’s been training to become a therapy dog. With a mixture of confusion and caution she approached Ash’s body. Every key in her body language from ears to tail told me she was concerned about what she experienced. I have no doubt that my perceptive little girl was also reading me. She had heard me tell Ash that I would be alright if he let go just moments before. She curled up next to me and stared at Ash’s motionless body. Her canine mentor was gone.

DSCN3414

One of the last photos taken of our beloved silver-muzzle Ash.

Phoenix has demonstrated extraordinary perception of human emotion. As a therapy-dog-in-training she ventures into a senior community and spends time as an emotional distraction to the residents and staff. She loves her job, it’s obvious because she wakes me up eagerly every Tuesday morning without fail. Yes—my dog knows what day of the week it is without a calendar. Roaming those halls she tells me through body language which residents need more time with her. Contrary to popular belief, dogs do talk. Most people don’t take the time to learn how to listen (aka read their body language).

PhoenixTherapyDog

Phoenix, the big girl, waiting for a skills assessment.

Now, my little girl wasn’t my first therapy dog. Before her came Ion.

Ion34

Ion entering the hospice therapy program.

This collie was a vibrant star earning his status into the program at one year old. For those who don’t know, that is very rare. Most one year old dogs are not mature enough to be reliable. Ion just was. His tiny eyes and long snooter worked magic. Sadly, my empathic boy proved to be a bright star burning out in four years. He succumbed to complications of an unknown disease that claimed him before the vets could figure it out. He is missed as he knew just who needed his warmth. It’s been years now and people still remember how he would wander up to them: excited if they were happy that day, or more somber if they needed a dog hug. He sensed. He knew.

He is not alone. Many dogs who are not even trained for such supportive things are known to develop them. Whether it is simply lying close to a loved one with the flu or a migraine, or standing next to them ready to bear weight for stability for someone who had a surgery—this last is a recent case a friend shared with me. The dog has not been trained in this, he simply did it for her after she got home. Don’t just take my word for it, there are countless cases out there.

Problem Solving Perception

Learning is such an amazing process to watch. Funny thing is it works the same across species. I always loved watching my border collie Ashenpaw work with a brain teaser toy. He learned quickly that there were treats inside.

Check out Ashenpaw’s demonstration of impulse control.

Animals, including humans, learn via association. If they do this, this happens. If it’s good results, keep doing the behavior. If it’s bad, generally they try to avoid it. But that only works if the consequence is cleanly correlated. There are great examples of complex chain behavior building. The sport of agility is a great example. And also includes running dogs in an excited state. This state of mind is largely run on adrenaline which overrides a lot of cognition. Ever had a dog chasing a rabbit that completely blows their recall? Yup. This is what happened. Too much excitement, thinking side of brains shuts off. The trick is to work with the dog and over time alter where the threshold lies. In time you get a dog that can think in that excited stage.

The same is true for the human animal. Jobs involving high stress release adrenaline. This can short circuit problem solving. To be able to behave reliably we also need to train up the performance level. Think of ETMs, police, soldiers—all of these involve moments of extreme tension. Average minds freeze up, or knee-jerk react. But with training the mind learns to control. Most of us are not born able to do this. And I promise you, working with border collies you learn to see real fast that border collies are not born to control that shit either. Which is why a good lot of them are surrendered at seven months old for behavior issues. 90% of the time it’s because their owners failed to work impulse control.

Work that impulse control and you can unlock some seriously kick-ass potential. From dogs that can work hillsides of sheep on their own, dogs who can run an agility course on verbal command while the handler remains behind the start line, to dogs who have enormous vocabs.

Chaser is an amazing border collie who knows over 1,000 words. Put a huge circle of toys on the floor, ask for one, and you get it! What’s more fascinating is that she can exhibit the ability to process eliminate. If she knows two of three toys and you ask for the one she doesn’t know, you get the new toy. That is not a “dumb animal” behavior. That’s fairly advanced learning. This border collie has appeared on many talk shows as well as scientific programs demonstrating how animals are not that far behind if we acknowledge them. So many of the things deemed to make us human are exhibited in the animal world. We have our own instincts too.

The Murder of Crows

An astonishingly advanced bird is the crow. Experiments have been done by researchers uncovering complex social behaviors.

Crows have funerals. Yes. You read that right. And what’s wilder, not just for members of their own flock. Researchers placed the body of a dead crow near a gathering of crows. They came, checked out the body, and immediately began to mourn the deceased brother. Vocalizations, behaviors like dancing, and circling.

Signs 009

Behold the mystical crow. I tell yah, if a crow doesn’t trust a person, I’ll steer clear!

Using masks, scientists conducted further experiments on facial recognition. Using a face mask they fed the flock and gained a reputation with them. Then, being careful to use different masks, the same individuals performed a mock crow murder. When they came back wearing the murder mask on another day to feed the crows—warning cries filled the glade. Same person with the different mask later approached with food and no problem. The crows had distance facial recognition and were acting as a major form of security. The ultimate “eye in the sky”.

Scientists already knew that crows had incredible problem solving skills. And that they would even choose to share with another bird rather than hog resources for themselves. They exhibited a sense of fairness. Something we often see in children that is displayed to a lesser extent in adults. Interesting how that is. As we age, we tend to forget how to share.

DonQuilypsosLastStandMixedFinished

As we further explore the animals around us it becomes interesting to see how often they demonstrate the ideal human. Maybe this is why adults choose to confine them to a puerile state, because it further lifts the pedestal. After all, can’t have anything threatening that fragile human ego.

Next up: Egg-istential Crisis

Getting Lippy

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Getting Lippy, Anthropomorphic Characters Are a Small Logical Leap Series

The power of speech. Something many take for granted. So much so that the basics of the creation of sound often escape common knowledge. Write anthropomorphic works and I promise you this is a remark you will see, “But they can’t speak without lips!”

epicfail

“They said what? … no, no!”

Alright, for the purposes of the second entry in my series we will ignore the other forms of communication: body cues, sign language, writing. Today we’re talking about the ability of audible speech. I hope you have come with a sound mind, pun very much intended.

Inside the Voice Box

Most of us talk without thinking about how it is actually done. We developed the ability so long ago it’s subconscious. Inside our necks we have an organ called the larynx. This structure controls several things, including closing off your lungs from food when you swallow. But it also suspends the vocal chords. Controlling the air flow through these flaps of tissue is a large part of speech and pitch. What you hear is the vibrations of air. We’re basically wind instruments.

Most mammals have a version of this organ. Dogs have one very similar to our own, note the two diagrams provided. The parts correspond.

 

Birds have an organ called a syrinx. A bit more on that later. Reptiles, amphibians and even some fish have a simplified version, some utilize bone ridges to produce vocalizations. However some animals have opted to be voiceless and have evolved beyond the basic organ in favor of other adaptations. Yes, this does make it trickier to support the concept of the latter obtaining speech. The case is the strongest in mammals and birds. Remember, with anthropomorps we are talking about a fictional world with either a fantasy suspension of disbelief or a sci-fi explanation of genetic alterations or alien life.

Lip Locked

Dogs can’t talk, they don’t have lips.”

Well, there’s two things wrong with that statement. One, dogs most certainly have lips. I know, I have painted enough smiling dog lips as a pet portrait artist. Phoenix shows off her sweet smile, that fur-less flesh looking a bit like an earthworm along her teeth is her lower lip.

PhoenixLips

“You like my smile, no?”

Ashenpaw, my late border collie, disproves another aspect I have heard. That they can’t from shapes enough to effect sound. Oh yeah? Howling allows a lot of phonetic differences. And this old bad boy would grumble “momma” if I was late getting his dinner ready. There are quite a few videos online of dogs mimicking human speech, albeit limited by their real world physicality.

Ash111812

“I want my dinner now!”

Thing number two that’s wrong with the statement:Ventriloquism is proof that you don’t have to move your lips to speak, it’s merely easier to do so. Speech is largely the placement of the tongue in the mouth, where the tongue strikes the teeth (if at all), and internal mouth cavity shape with air flow. I am not a ventriloquist, but I love watching skilled performers like Jeff Dunham. Watching shows like this prove that even though the average person uses lip shape to form words, it is possible to produce speech without them.

Moot point though in animals that have lips anyway.

Stiff Lipped!

Of course birds don’t have any form of lip. Ever heard a parrot speak? That torpedoes any notion of lips being a requirement for speech.

Parrot

“Did you hear the one about the saltine?”

Parrots mimic human speech and other sounds through using the syrinx, an organ similar to the mammalian larynx, however the avian version is located at the fork between the lungs. This means they can actually produce two different sounds simultaneously by controlling the flow individually. Pretty neat. Parrots are capable of mimicking complete vocal patterns and are capable of forming associations if the context is strong enough, such as saying “Hello” when the phone rings. Some can form quite the vocabulary … including a colorful one if someone likes to cuss in their earshot.

As to why they copy so many different sounds including power tools, car horns, etc, the current theory is that in wild parrots could use the different vocalizations to determine where a potential mate was from and use that information for selection. It’s also recently been discovered that parrots have individual names for one another. There are unique sound combos used by parents to address individual chicks that they keep throughout their lives. Yes—this is in wild parrots.

Next time you hear a parrot screeching, it might be the avian equivalent of, “Johnny! Get your tail back here right now!”

Next in the series, Thinkin’ It Through

The Bone Connection

journeysthrougha-brass-quill

The Bone Connection, Anthropomorphic Characters Are a Small Logical Leap Series

The metacarpals are connected to the proximal phalanges. The proximal phalanges are connected to the intermediate phalanges. The inter—what? What do you mean what I am talking about?

Ok. Let me clue in those I have lost with layman terms. I’m talking about front paws. Do those bones maybe also sound familiar? If you’ve busted a finger I bet you’ve heard phalange before. It’s funny how most people commonly refer to the digits on a dog’s front paw as their toes, when technically the bones are fingers.

gorachlute

You should know Ealaidh by now. Would be pretty tough for her to play instruments sans thumbs.

Which brings us to anthropomorphism in writing: animal characters with human traits. This is a series exploring how fine a line writers are treading when they create anthropomorphic characters and worlds, why suspension of disbelief is nowhere near as difficult as it seems if you think about it logically, and why this really isn’t just kids stuff. Most of my works involve canines. The reason behind that is I have been a lifelong dog owner, or at least my family owned dogs when I was a kid. I am familiar with their form, their traits, their habits, their social mannerisms… and I love them. This is also the reason why most of my breakdowns in the series are canine-centric. I have examples right at my feet.

Hand and Paw Degree

Ok, now you won’t see me arguing that a real world dog possesses a full grasping hand. Scientifically they do not. They do, however, possess the same bones right down to the corresponding phalanges for a thumb. These can be found on dogs where the dewclaw has not been removed. The dewclaw is not a highly mobile digit for dogs, it serves as traction control for tight turning, as is seen in this photo of my agility dog, Ash.

DewClawTurn

Ashenpaw, my border collie, demonstrating a wrist layout as he turns. That joint is actually his wrist. The dewclaw grips the ground allowing a tighter turn.

The tendons attached to the digit are not lined up properly for motor control. But if you look at a paw next to a human hand, there is the basis for the ‘what if they were’ that good fiction is hung on.

PawHandCompare

Phoenix, my border collie/ausse mix’s left front paw and my left hand in a similar position. Think about it, dogs actually walk on their fingers and toes.

Anthropomorphism already implies there is a fusion, an evolution of the animal’s original structure to resemble a human. If you are reading a story with anthros this should be expected, rather like a ghost story has at least one ghost. Dogs already have on their forelimbs: the entire set of hand bones, the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints. The catch is that in the basic dog the finger bones are shorter, the ‘thumb’ lacks the muscles and tendon connections, the wrist is longer (what some call a ‘front knee’ is actually the wrist), and the upper arm bone is shorter by human comparison and with limited ability to rotate. We’re talking the alteration of a few features to create the ability to grasp something.

It’s funny, but spend time with enough dogs and you are certain to see them manipulate things with their paws, almost to the point of grabbing. I have watched my own curling their dexterous paws around objects and lifting them. Not enough to be considered fine motor skills, but DAMN impressive, none-the-less.

So why is the common adult reaction “How can they grab things without a thumb?” A reaction that happens even when writers have illustrated activities that couldn’t be done easily by a society without opposable digits: wearing clothing, lighting a cigarette, using a weapon, riding a mount, drinking from a tankard.

One issue might stem from the fact that anthropomorphic writers often use the terms paw in place of hand and footpaw in place of foot. This is part of world building, and is often used in a world built in absence of humanity. Consider an animalistic society, half of the world building is having it reflect their reality, not explicitly our own. Would they use hand or paw? I mean, I have asked my dogs and they stare at me before plopping their paw in my hand. We don’t know for certain what such a cast might use, but paw feels right to many of us and in an anthropomorphic world is intended to apply to a grasping, manipulating structure at the end of an arm. That is of course unless the degree is lesser and it is a real world animal narration like “Charlotte’s Web” or “The Art of Racing in the Rain”. It is usually clear in the setting which version is happening.

PawToHadEvolution_000017

From dog paw to half-anthro all the way to full-anthro paw.

Another fun fact, the general structure of the arm can be seen in a number of animals from reptiles and amphibians, to birds and fish. The bones are all modified versions, but the basic layout is preserved.

Posturing

EalaidhCampfire

“On the other paw … “

An anthropomorphic character will often be said to walk around on their footpaws. This posture is so commonly seen and accepted in children books and even classic fable artwork. Yet once we approach adulthood suddenly this is beyond the scoop of imagination. It is rejected, or categorized as a juvenile interest with few exceptions… say a certain foul-mouthed genetically modified space raccoon like creature? Apparently Rocket passes into the realm of acceptable for adult entertainment. As well as his anthropomorphic companion, Groot. Surprise, plants can be anthro too.

human dog comparison

Diagram of human and dog in relative positions. *

Animals and humans largely have corresponding bones throughout the bodies, including ‘tail bones’. Yes, humans have tails internally. The structure is a left over trait. In this above illustration showing a humans and dogs skeletons in similar poses it can be seen how many structures we truly have in common.

And yes, dogs and many other mammals can walk on their hind legs. It’s not hard to teach via positive reinforcement. I actually captured this behavior that Phoenix did naturally, now she can walk a few steps on her hind legs unsupported.

WalkingPhoenix

Phoenix walking bipedal

Among many examples, there are two border collies on Youtube who demonstrate a tremendous amount of tricks including going from a beg to a full stand on rear legs, bipedal walking forward and backward, carrying things balanced between their front limbs … seriously, Holly and Ace are AWESOME!

Now I can hear the rebuttals! “But they have been taught that! Animals don’t do it naturally.” Hrm, are we born capable of walking upright? Seems to me we crawl for a bit until we strengthen our core enough to be able to support and balance the bipedal posture. Walking upright is a learned behavior in humans, and one that can be taught to some quadrupeds. Bears and porcupines are wild animals who are occasionally seen walking upright from time to time.

Dog skeleton

Vintage anatomy diagram of dog skeleton *

Of course for bipedal posture to be a comfortable one there are a couple of changes. One is the neck attachment needs to be shifted to the base of the skull, most mammal spines attach at the back of the skull so the neck flows level. The other primary difference is the pelvic bone. Quadro’s have a narrow girdle, while a bipedal is typically wider/front facing. Again, since we’re talking alternate universe, or genetic manipulation, it’s within a stones throw. Writers are not creating anything that isn’t already there, just modifying it.

The Bare Bones of It

What does this all mean? That the bones are there, we’re just talking about altering connections, and developing support systems to create the form of a stable, bipedal animal … a humorous statement considering that humans are animals. Unless you think we are vegetables or minerals. Humans are in fact bipedal animals, pure and simple. Are we specialized? Absolutely. But we are still animals that followed an evolutionary course to obtain our form, abilities, behaviors, etc. There is nothing that says given enough time other animals might not follow a similar course. We already have seen animals using tools, solving complex puzzles, displaying empathy. But exploration of these will be part of this series.

Bottom line is structurally anthropomorphic characters are easily obtained from real world sources without much change. The leap is far narrower than what is required to believe in fire-breathing dragons, elves, dwarves, and sorcerers creating walking ice corpses … but who am I to speak? Just a humble anthro-writer of role models severely inappropriate for children. Til next time …

RoleModelEnfuego

Enfuego the chihuahua, a NOT safe for children creation of mine. She has been published in an adult humor anthro-anthology.

*Images marked with this symbol are not my artwork, used in Fair Use for information purposes.

Next topic: Getting Lippy!

The Anthropomorphic Stigma

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“This wouldn’t quite fit in our Fantasy department, and though we have a section for young people, I think this story would work better in a dedicated children’s magazine.”

“I would read the shit out of this, but I wouldn’t tell my friends I’m reading it.”

“Aww, this story has an animal in the lead. What a cute children’s story!”

EalaidhCampfire

What do all of the above have in common? They are actual feedback I have received on various pieces of my writing throughout the years. They are also proof of the bane of my existence as a writer. That bane is a blanket stigma that any work that includes animals (either a real one narrating through thoughts, or anthropomorphs that walk and talk like humans) is automatically relegated to the children’s story category. Yes–there are some that have managed to get listed outside of the young readers age group, but by and large the industry and public reaction is only young readers can possibly be interested in animal MCs.

Don’t believe me? Just try searching for Anthropomorphic Adult works. Or better yet, try submitting your own attempts and see what you get.

So, let me illustrate this for those who might not see the problem. It’s like having an epic Tolkien level world building in your mind all in high tech, 3D animation software so realistic you can see the hairs on your MC’s head move! You pitch it to a movie exec and they say, “Nice work. Here’s your box of 16 crayons and some construction paper. This should be enough to make it happen. Run along and play.”

Ididntdoit

Pheonix doesn’t understand why she isn’t allowed to mature.

Ok, yes, the children’s entertainment industry is loaded with many wonderful works that adults enjoy. I am a huge fan of many of them. So why aren’t we just happy playing with our box of crayons?

Because there are limits to what you can do with younger audience pieces.

There is a material maturity cap. Sure you can push the envelope, but at the end of the day there is a line you cannot cross, and a box you are not permitted to go outside of … all because your character is not human.

DonQuilypsosLastStandMixedFinished

“What do you mean I can’t say @#%?”

Alien? No problem! Get as adult as you like.

Werewolf? Well … that was human, so no biggie! Go for it!

DarknessAndLight

“Piss off, armor puppy! I’m a werewolf, I can say whatever the fuck I want!”

The spirit of a beloved dog becoming a sentient angel … (that was the story behind the opening remark). The unpublished short story that included a graphic description of animal abuse in the beginning–that’s just fine for a dedicated children’s lit, apparently. <facepalm>

CollieMemorial

“Sure, I get it. No adult would possibly admit to falling to shit about the loss of their pet. Ok, instead of my purpose of comforting them, I’ll go pander to the little kiddies. Just let me get my butterflies and rainbows.”

So yes, this topic seriously gets my goat as I go about creating the stories that I, as a fully mature adult, want to read.

HawthornandFlint

“They said don’t go that way, it’s only for the experienced, you know, mature, warriors only. We got fur, so we need not apply. Good thing I don’t give a shit what they say! ONWARDS!”

What it basically tells me is that my preference of character is not worthy of mature material. That Animal=Immature. What’s amazingly sad is that the fantasy genre is where this seems the most firmly rooted. An odd thing when one considers that fantasy readers are pre-set to toss reality out the window. Yet the industry only rarely allows an animal-centric book to enter above the children ranks. There are a few recent ones, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” comes to mind. But these are rare gems. I have to chuckle at “Watership Down” being considered a kid’s book–which some do consider it. That is a tome of a book with a glossary with unique rabbit lingo and an entire rabbit-centric mythology going on there. I don’t buy that Adam’s wrote it for children. Nor his “Plague Dogs”, a dark exploration of the danger of pathogens. How many young readers are going to be able dissect the core of “Animal Farm”? Yes, there are some advanced reading kids, but to get the sociological core of it is not a general grade school concept.

So why is human MC good, animal MC bad? Sorry, couldn’t help the reference.

PhoenixDemonDog

“Annnd how may I make you cringe today?”

I can assure you that there are actually plenty of adults out there that love anthropomorphic works. They flock to the children’s stuff that makes it out there because that is all we can find! “My Little Ponies” has an astonishing adult following including aiding in bringing some adults out of the gender closet. Serious mad props there! When the “Lion King” came out there was, and still is, a massive community of adults who create art, fanfiction, and role-play stories in that realm. Many of this include deep, mature content. And by that I don’t imply smut, I mean deep philosophy that has no place in a kid’s story. There are conventions across the nation where adults spend thousands on their costumes to walk around in. These cons are on par with other media focused ones–so don’t tell me adults aren’t interested. They are, and they crave older themed works that don’t have the kid maturity cap. The stigma cap bars the way.

scheming

“What are you doing?”  “Me? Just weaving a complex message into the narrative. Nothing critical or anything.”

So why is that children will pick up a book about anthropomorphic creatures and just go with the flow. Yet, in general an adult will look at the same story and in the first paragraph get stuck on pondering how the armor wearing dog is possibly able to hold her bow without thumbs? (I get this a lot. So much so that I now ALWAYS include a THUMB reference in the first paragraph of my anthro works to help the imagination-challenged.) Why? Why doesn’t a child have a hard time getting an animal world but the adult mind resists?

I wish I knew. But I am at a loss as to why. And before it is said, this is not isolated to my own writing. This post covers common venting from other anthro writers. Our interest is on the fringe. Our interest is regarded as a marginal thing. The impression we are left with is that if we want our work to be seen, we need to make the characters human so that readers will be capable of connecting.

We need to make them human …

Envy

“I like humans. In all of the mortal realm there’s no better stew of emotions and ambitions so ripe for corruption.”

The take away from this sadly ventures into a wider scope. One that reveals a deeper problem with our society. If society only believes that children have the potential to look through different eyes and adult do not … well, ok, just look at the news. We prefer familiarity and dislike being challenged to truly look through another’s eyes. Writing is the perfect medium for us to explore other perspectives, and yet there is a caution not to stray too far from the norm. Removing the potential for something more mature because of an MC choice is on par with the frustration of those who try to write a non-child’s story staring a child, or a non-YA featuring a teen. These are unfair leaps of logic. A child can be the star of an adult story–try to market one and see how hard THAT is. If you see humans as merely another animal and thus animals are not that different after all … you tread a very difficult path that the general human ego is not willing to swallow!

Well, guess where I dare to tread! I sharpen my word axe and prepare to cut my niche nice and deep because I know that the voices of my characters have value and worth maturity. Some have found homes, some have yet to be seen as valuable contributions. But in the end I refuse to make the something they are not. Human.

Anthropomorphic, don’t be afraid to see outside of your species box. That level of empathy is important, especially within your species in an age with such social disparity.

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Are you ready to see through the eyes of something else? When you are, I’ll be waiting.

All artwork in this post belongs to me.

 

Reflections, Lessons Over A Year of Writing–Seriously

The world of writing is a big old labyrinth without a map, guidebook, rules … logic (sometimes), you get the point. So here is one writer’s pause and reflection over a year’s worth of world crafting.

Last year I upped my game a bit in the writing world. I worked hard on the lessons flash/short story form teach about construction and took more chances on submissions. This paid off. I had twenty-two submissions over the calendar year of 2017 with three-and-one-half (I’ll explain in a moment) accepted for publication. The half comes from being asked to expand on a pitch and write a test draft, which ultimately didn’t make it in. Alright, so the three-ish doesn’t sound that great … but compare to that 2016 when I had thirty-nine submissions with only three acceptances. This increase was due to several factors. One, by working with a writers group I got better at the core craft. The stories I am churning out now are stronger and more focused thanks to their feedback and support. Two, I have gotten better at selecting the markets I was sending to instead of the scatter-shot of the first year. Three, luck. Never discount luck when submitting.

Alright, now anyone who knows me is well aware I like a meatier story. Novel length is where my plotting side goes to. Applying the lessons of short story format I have found it a bit easier to approach newer ideas on formation, and editing is a touch easier. But this is simple improvement that happens with time … let’s get into the nitty gritty in no real order of importance.

Lesson One: there is a story in everything! Some are flashes, some are shorts, and some are too large to be contained. The trick is realizing when you’re shoe-horning a big scope tale into a flash and instead of cramming, let it breathe! This year I grew frustrated with a short story that I have been trying to get out into the world for about two years. Every time it comes back. I asked my writers group to no-holds barred give it a rending and let me know what was triggering the rejections. The verdict came back from my trusted readers: There is more than one story in here–either cut back to one or expand on this other one. I scratched my head for MONTHS over this feedback as I couldn’t decide what to do. Then … Christmas came, and on the Eve at the stroke of midnight I lost my beloved silvermuzzled border collie, Ashenpaw. In my grief I wrote another story of an angel dog, joining Ion’s “Chain Lightning” … and it dawned on me. There IS more to this story. A whole lot more. 2018’s project is now to forge a full novel out of my vision of what happens when our beloved dogs pass on.

AshandIonAngels

Ion and Ashenpaw, the real inspiration behind the Ethereal Dogs Project, my WIP

Lesson Two: a writers group is invaluable. Writing is a grueling and lonely craft. Suffering the lows together helps. In the shorter format acceptance percentages average close to 1% or LESS. That means you are bound to see a lot of rejections even if you rock! This can be for many reasons: wrong tone for their collection, another story like it, editor had a bad day etc. Could have nothing to do with your skills. So you have to be able to gauge how you’re really doing. A good group will share success and failures, give honest and valued feedback, and ultimately teach you to start finding your writing self. Not every piece of feedback will work for you. 😉 Not everyone is Hemingway or King … which leads me to three.

Lesson Three: there is a lot of information on How To … out there, you CAN’T follow it all. So don’t! Learning how to critically evaluate these tidbits is important. But we can’t (and shouldn’t) all write like Hemingway! What makes for great King suspense/horror doesn’t work so great for Tolkien fantasy fans. The key is finding the elements you like to read and want in your stories then learn how to implement them. Good beta-readers in a writing group are awesome for this. You’ll be able to see what come across and what trips them up. You will also find loads of articles out there about adverbs/adjectives, ellipsis, dream sequences, prologues, dialog tags (said vs bookisms)–I could go on for an Illiad length saga. The point is everyone has an opinion. You won’t be able to satisfy everyone, nor should you try. Learn the basic rules, then learn how to stylistically break them. Good fiction isn’t written with pristine grammar. After all, in common English we break the rules all over the place. A grammar correct book can be boring. The key is to present your work in a way that the prose doesn’t get in the way of itself–see, I don’t mean free reign to do whatever you want, the result must be clear to readers. Again, betas who know you will help here. I’m not everyone’s cup of coffee in that I tend toward the purple-prose end. But this is my natural writer’s voice. In revisions I catch the areas that nag, but leave the rest because it suits my work. Style is something that comes with time. You can’t force it. Let it come.

Lesson Four: writing frequently helps, especially when you let the pressure off yourself. Do a fun short challenge. Use a random prompt and see what comes out of it. In a writers group do raw challenges with little clean-up time before posting to see what comes naturally. You learn a LOT by doing this. What comes to you first? How do you build a story (character, setting, threat)? What elements are you good at? What elements do you struggle with? These tidbits will aid you in identifying what your strengths are weaknesses are. Some writers are great at dialog, some are great at beginnings, some at endings, or actions sequences, or non-action scene buildings … etc. Use excercises like this to learn who you are as a writing. You can take these dabblings and expand them later if you love the idea.

Lesson Five: be fearless in your own space. Don’t restrict yourself. You have an idea? Explore it. You don’t have to show anyone if you don’t want. But you never know what comes from just exploring. A simple meandering story can turn onto a path you never would have thought of and spark a whole new adventure. Every page is a blank map of a world, don’t be afraid to simply wander for a bit. Editing is where you refocus after the discovery.

Lesson Six: be YOU. If you have a story to tell, tell it. Get it onto the proverbial page anyway you can, however long it takes. Don’t let anyone tell you not to. And if they do–they aren’t your audience. Writing takes bravery when we share our visions with the world. This isn’t easy, but if the story isn’t what you wanted to say it won’t come across right, from the heart. Keep your convictions. To me there is an older audience out there seeking animal-centric stories. I will write it, they will come.

Remember–there is no map, this journey is yours. Take the step, and the one after, and the one after that … see you on the road!