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Visual Metaphors, Flat Characters, And Unfinished Thoughts

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It’s been a slow week. Mostly spent watching movies and pacing back and forth while music plays in the background, attempting to dream up story ideas.

I finally got around to watching American Beauty, and loved it. I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed well done visual metaphors; especially when the movie isn’t ALL visual metaphors. I am referring of course to the red rose petals that appear in the fantasy sequences during the film, which (I can only assume) symbolized sexual desire. And let us not forget the quirky characters; there is no substitute for a expertly written one. I really am a sucker for characters like that, which might also explain my love of Breaking Bad, Sleepy Hollow, and House (sure, Sleepy Hollow’s characters may not be “quirky” in the traditional sense, but they DO have a certain flair to them that I love).

I also ended up watching Zero Dark Thirty. I’ll say this for it; at least it didn’t portray every soldier as Captain America. You know, the sort of upstanding, patriotic hero that many people would have you believe soldiers are. That first scene had some good weight to it, and assuming you view the Americans as “the good guys” and everyone else as “the bad guys”, it gives a refreshing release from stereotypes. Hey, it’s not just the bad guys that do terrible things like torture.

Aside from that, however, Zero Dark Thirty sort of fell flat on its face for me. The main character felt like a cartoon, especially when she gets incredibly “hero on a quest” about one-third through the movie, making passionate speeches about how they need to be going after Bin Laden when everyone else has given up. I got this vibe that she was some hero from a small village who had risen up to battle the giant evil dark lord in his castle of doom, and it was hard to take the movie seriously after that. And honestly, whoever this person ACTUALLY was, I’m sure she had a bit more on her mind than Bin Laden 24/7. That was the entirety of her character. There’s a scene where she goes out to a restaurant with a co-worker (who felt like a stereotypical “girl” character, which was a bit annoying) who tells her to relax a bit and asks “do you have any friends at all?” And what does she do? She stares downward and doesn’t answer till the phone rings. If she was an introverted loner, that would be one thing, but this character didn’t seem that way at all. She was just far too single-minded.

In short, she felt more like a plot device than an actual character.

But enough of that. As far as dreaming up story ideas goes, I have accomplished a bit this week. Nothing too extravagant. I’ve been working on plotting a novel I’m writing, and have been occasionally writing bits of short fiction which were discarded very quickly after their creation. I’m horrible at sticking to stuff like that.

To give a few examples, let me show you a piece.

This is something I wrote late one night, not entirely sure what on Earth I was trying to achieve:

Is everyone like me?
Sam’s thoughts were often plagued with such frivolities. For it was frivolous to reflect on such things. It was the sort of statement pretentious morons thought up when they were being “deep”.
Deep into shit, maybe.
But he always did end up reflecting on that ever-persistent question, standing idly in his uniform with that one inconveniently placed mustard stain on his groin, the headset that didn’t work very well affixed to his head, the plastic so warm from the insufferable sun shining in through the drive-thru window that it stuck to his cheek, the microphone always seeming to tilt upward in just the right way so as to obscure his vision. Not to mention the way the headset seemed to turn people’s voices into unintelligible crackles.
Sam took another look around the restaurant, wondering if these people did the same things he did. Spend their whole day with this indifferent, superfluous attitude, then going home to turn on music really loud, dancing around their living rooms pretending they were the star of their own music video, imagining for a moment that they could actually sing, and didn’t look just a little too fat for television. Dreaming of a life where you were always happy and everyone respected you just for the sole reason that you were something good to look at. You’d stand out. You wouldn’t be a drone.
Sam hated being associated with these people. The ordinary, everyday street people. He’d had this moment, all the way back in elementary school, where he realized he was special. A cut above the rest. They were all going to be accountants and engineers and doctors. He, on the other hand, was going to be famous. He was going to make it big. He would prove all the others wrong when they doubted him. Even when they encouraged him, but sarcastically. Everyone was so very sarcastic. Sam could see right through them. They didn’t think he was hard-working enough to make it big in Hollywood, or publish some overnight success novel. He’d make it to stardom, and they’d all look at him and say “well, I have to admit it Sam, you were right all along!”

Sometimes I’ll start with a single line I want to include, or a feeling, a mood, even a title, but often I won’t know where I want to end up, and I’ll leave it partway through. Most of that last piece was taken from my previous experiences with working in fast-food, my high-school-era attitude toward life, and that feeling I actually had when I was younger, the idea that “I’m special, and destined for great things”.

I think I’m one of those people that needs to know the ending before I can begin to create the beginning and middle. I need a direction to head.

For now, I want to continue work on my novel, as I would love to have a completed manuscript on my hands instead of half-fleshed out scraps.

Less-than-eloquently yours,
Brendon “occasional cinephile” Regier

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The Importance Of Evil

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I’ve noticed something recently.

I was thinking about a lot of ideas I’ve had over the past few years, and about a lot of media that has come out in that time.

Now, this is nothing new, but most stories recently have been skewing towards a very dark, edgy tone.

I’ve certainly been guilty of this in the past as well. It’s something writers do to lend a feeling of depth to a project. It’s a complete hoax in many cases, but it’s still used a lot.

I’m not sure where this stereotype came from, but it is generally accepted that lighthearted, colorful stories are for children, and darker, gritty stories are for adults.

It’s not that this isn’t true. It is. It just isn’t true in all cases.

The problem is when stories go for a really edgy feel to them for the sole purpose of appealing to an older audience, or making the story seem more “adult”.

That, however, is not in fact the thing I noticed recently; I just thought some context was in order.

What I noticed was how important evil is in a narrative.

You see, I love discussing things I watch and read with my friends; it makes for very interesting conversation a lot of the time. What my friends would often do (and would sometimes spark debate on my part) is dance around a particular point that’s basically always the same: “I didn’t watch X show because it has Y in it.” Fill that in with what you will; didn’t watch Breaking Bad because it had drugs in it; didn’t watch The Wire because it was full of racism and violence; I’m sure you get the picture.

I was reminded of a time back in 2001 when a much younger Brendon was at his piano teacher’s house for a weekly lesson. We were talking about how our respective weeks had been, and I mentioned how I had loved seeing the first Lord of the Rings movie, which had just come out.

“Oh,” said my piano teacher. “I walked out of it with my family when the wizard’s duel happened. Too much magic and witchcraft in that movie.”

I was taken aback. She had missed everything past that point? The journey past Rivendell and that incredible ending sequence with Boromir, and all the wonderful, touching, and tense moments in between? I could certainly understand someone being unsettled by or objecting to witchcraft as a concept; but as a plot device to push forward an incredible story with an amazing message that has lasted and enthralled people for decades, finally realized on screen?

No matter my level of understanding on why she did what she did, I couldn’t help but feel a little annoyed at it.

And that sentiment has not changed over the years.

It is my firm belief that objectionable content, when used correctly, only adds to a movie. This clearly varies from film to film, and depends entirely on what the film is trying to achieve or the message it is trying to send. The themes that permeate it.

To have a truly moving ending, the character must pass through trials. The severity of those trials will determine how grand the climax and payoff is.

The easiest example I can give is The Pilgrim’s Progress, a story of a journey from The City of Destruction to The Celestial City. All thinly-veiled allegorical meanings aside, if this was simply a guy walking from one city to another, it would be both boring and lacking in anything that brings fulfillment to the journey. But luckily, it isn’t just walking. He has to pass through places such as the Slough of Despond, the Valley of the Shadow of Death, the city of Vanity, and The River of Death; all of which obviously sound like places you wouldn’t even want to go near (though it would be sort of badass to be able to say, “yeah, I live next to the RIVER OF DEATH”). The point being, he went through many trials, faced many dangers, and lost friends along the way. And the ending is more meaningful because of it.

I think it would be best to let Samwise Gamgee sum all this up:

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something.”

So I urge you today, if you are someone who has shied away from something simply because it contained an element you didn’t like, please reconsider.

Going back to the two examples I gave earlier, if I hadn’t given The Wire a shot because of all the objectionable material it contained (which is a lot), I wouldn’t have gotten to experience a very real, down-to-earth show that moved me and gave me new perspectives. It really has some incredible and touching moments.

And for everyone who hasn’t seen Breaking Bad simply because “it’s about drugs”… well, I just have to get this off my chest: you are flat-out incorrect. That show is about the characters that inhabit it. And those people are some of the best written characters I have ever seen grace the screen. Ever.

The darker the tunnel, the brighter the light at the end will seem.

Less-than-eloquently yours,
Brendon “fully realizes the title of this post was totally incendiary” Regier

Returning Home

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I have returned home.

By that, I do not mean the blog. When I say “home” I am referring to the metaphorical house of writing; the one thing I have lacked in the past few months, and the one thing I desperately need to get back to.

Writing, once left alone for a while, has a very strong allure to it. You can attempt to stay away, but it will always draw one back to itself.

So there it is. I’m home.

It’s a comfortable, familiar home.

When I first looked back on this site after my several months abroad, I was surprised to find most my old posts and reread them. Often I have wondered if people change over periods of time. Before I would have said no, that people are immutable. They can pretend to change, but they never really do.

Now?

Well, now I’d say that I was right before, but that I was also lacking perspective. Our experiences shape us, and through that, we become new versions of ourselves. When I said that people don’t change, I referred to deep-rooted mannerisms and character quirks. The little bits of ourselves that make us who we are. What I didn’t realize before was that once we gain new perspectives on things, we change in our grander outlook and become wiser.

So how have I changed?

Honestly, I’m not really sure how to begin to describe it. Over the past eight months, I’ve haven’t been doing anything amazing. Nothing most would consider noteworthy, anyway. I spend an incredible amount of time simply thinking about things far beyond my natural ability to comprehend. I tell you truly, it gives one headaches.

“Why are we here?”

“What is the purpose of life?”

“Is there really a God?”

Such is a sampling of my cognitive process of late. And I think about these sorts of things ALL the time. I’m in the middle of looking for a job, so a lot of my day ends up being looking through job listings, watching movies and TV shows, and gaming. I walk my dog a lot, and striding through the slush of melting snow, my mind tends to stray a lot. That, combined with the aforementioned watching of media and gaming, tends to merit me a lot of thinking time. Perhaps too much.

Let it be said that thinking too much leads to over-thinking and over-analyzing things, and over-thinking is the bane of many a good soul!

I suppose I could have tried to put down some of those thoughts on this blog. But when pressed, I just couldn’t think of what to say. I created this blog to post my musings and I have generally failed at that in recent times.

So then.

Now that I am at least declaring myself back, my plan for going forward is this:

1. Get a job (I feel very lazy every day I don’t have one, and let’s face it, money helps things.)
2. Write on this blog at least once a week (I used to do once a day, and burnt myself out faster than… um… something that moves really fast. Let’s not try that again for a bit!)
3. Plan some reviews (I have been thinking it’d be interesting to try my hand at video reviews of some movie I saw and enjoyed, or some TV show I like. So if this takes off, I’ll toss it on my youtube channel and link it here)
4. WRITE (This is the important one. I really, really need to write more!)

And there you have it.

I should probably clarify that by “write” I mean my novel, but I would like to get some more short fiction done as well. It’s fun to write a short story, and it gives me good practice.

Well anyway, if anyone on this website still remembers who on Earth I am, I have returned! Sound the trumpets and send the heralds forth across the land!

…actually, just a cake would be fine. Even a cupcake. A chocolate one. With some icing and sprinkles.

I just realized I’m starving; time to procure food!

Less-than-eloquently yours,
Brendon “Prodigal Son” Regier

Revisions And Olympians

Chances are a popular conversation starter these days is, “so, are you watching the Olympics?”

At least, that’s how a lot of my conversations seem to be starting. And it’s annoying.

I never watch regular sporting events, much less a large international gathering of them. I just find it boring.

I’ve sometimes tried to get into it. I’ll think about what people enjoy about watching sports. The anticipation of a point scored, the athletes giving their all, driving forward in a desperate attempt to surpass their adversaries. Tactical plays, fanciful teamwork. But it never clicks for me. I think it is a hazard of spending so much time immersed in fiction that I end up finding real events mundane.

And speaking of fiction…

I’ve been working on revisions to my novel recently. A lot less has been progressed upon than I’d hoped as I try to get my story straight. Ever since that epiphany a while back, I’ve been forced to rethink a lot of the future events in my character’s respective arcs. It’s a good thing; the original plans were laid, but the foundation was shaky. I don’t think it would have turned out nearly as strong as I had envisioned.

I’m just not used to reworking something I have already thought up. It’s tough. In the past, when I wrote a story, that was it; there was no room for change. I hated hearing how something wasn’t quite right with it, or having any criticism given. I felt like I had failed, because the one thing I refused to do was change what I already had; it felt like my original wasn’t good enough, that I was terrible at ideas.

I was very black-and-white like that.

Luckily, with this story, I’ve overcome a few hurdles of the past. I’ve built a greater focus on characterization, so my characters (hopefully) won’t be as one dimensional as they usually tend to be for me, and I’ve realized that going back and improving upon a previous idea is a good thing, not a bad one. Not an admission of failure, but a sincere desire to make this work the best it can be. I hope once this story is done I learn even more to make my next better, and so on and so forth.

It’s a learning process.

Onward, pen! Let us join together and conceive legends, that they may enthrall people for generations to come!

Less-than-eloquently yours,
Brendon “doubts his novels will actually do that well” Regier

Distractions

Today’s appetizer is a course of mushrooms, lightly infected.

Infected with musical qualities, that is! (I’m so witty)

These guys are Infected Mushroom, and the song is “Becoming Insane”. I ran into these guys when I was surfing online forums a while back and people were posting playlists they listened to while gaming. I gave one a try, and found this group.

Finding new music, meeting new people, and sharing my thoughts with (potentially) the world. The internet sure is a wonderful place, isn’t it?

Alright, that’s a bit of a loaded statement.

See, when I write I am constantly connected to the internet. I write on my computer (as I type a lot faster than I could ever hope to physically jot words down), and I constantly have access to any number of resources for research, if the need arises.

The issue, however, is all the things that come with this freedom. I am constantly pulled away from my writing by the allure of checking my Facebook, or chatting on Skype, or playing a video game, or watching a movie.

Don’t get me wrong, if I get in “the zone”, then I belong to writing completely. Hours pass and I’ll just sit at my computer, constantly inputting endless strings of text into my word processor.

It’s all the other times that concern me.

I get distracted quite easily. For example, while writing up to here in this post, I jumped to another tab no less than five times to watch a couple music videos, check social networking sites, polish up a few things in the chapter I’m working on, and browse wallpapers. This turned that first section of my post, which could have taken five to ten minutes to write, into a grand hour-long excursion.

It is quite a pain. But my attention span has never been long. Ironically, the perceived source of my strength, my creative mind, is also my weakness, as it latches onto random threads of thought and expands upon them until I am so bogged down in tangents that I nearly forget that I started a blog post and need to finish it!

In addition to blog posts, this novel I’m writing needs to get done. I’m constantly thinking about it; about things I want to happen, possible lines I want characters to say, themes I want to introduce, but when it comes down to actually writing, I so often lose myself in some random forum topic, or Skype chat, or another episode of Mad Men (which is a great show, by the way), and nothing ends up getting done.

I think I’ll hire some guy with a taser to stand behind me and give me a little jolt every time I lose concentration.

I’d like this novel’s first draft to be finished by the year’s end, after all. However, I seriously doubt that’s going to happen. But a man’s got to have a dream, right?

Less-than-eloquently yours,
Brendon “hey! look! shiny!” Regier

The Department Of Paranormal Medicine (A Short Story)

I was digging through a veritable graveyard of old writings yesterday when I stumbled across this. It’s a short story I wrote for a creative writing class (one of the few classes in high school I actually put effort into, I might add) about a secret facility that treats aliens who are visiting Earth. While I cannot say that I am particularly proud of this piece, it’s certainly an interesting link in the chain that is my journey of writing.

It is always interesting to see one’s growth in hindsight. Anyway, enjoy!

The Department of Paranormal Medicine:

The large steel doors burst open. A small group of men were wheeling a bed carrying the long, skinny body of an alien, down the long hallway, a sickly greenish light coming from the roof, doors lining the walls.
“We need an OR!” shouted one of the men as he ran.
A pause, and then another voice came from down the hallway.
“You’ve got OR 2!”
With the frantic rush of adrenaline laced medical staff, the group wheeled the alien into another steel room, walls lined with operating equipment. A surgeon took one of the scalpels on the tray sitting by the wall. Moving quickly, yet carefully, the cut open the alien’s chest, exposing the slimy organs contained within.
An alarm sounded, signaling cardiac arrest.
“Its heart is failing!” shouted an assistant.
“Which one?”
“All five of them!”
The surgeon quickly surveyed the failing hearts.
“Shock it.”
The staff attached small metallic objects to each of the hearts, connected to long cords. Stepping back, the surgeon picked up a small remote.
“Clear!”
Electrical energy shot through the objects, but all of the hearts were still in cardiac arrest.
“Clear!”
Still nothing.
“Clear!”
Still nothing. The medical staff looked anxious.
“Clear!”
Nothing.

It was a very hot day, sand stretching for endless miles. A lone truck was driving across the rough desert road. It slowly worked its way across the harsh landscape, eventually ending up at a gateway with a red sign that read “Restricted Area. No Entrance.”
Leaning out of the truck to a microphone and pushing a button down on a small console below, he spoke.
“Dr. Hal Madrid, requesting entrance.”
A moment passed, then a voice emanated from the speaker.
“Cleared for entrance.”
The gate opened, and the truck drove through.
Beyond the gate, there was a large complex of buildings. A sign over the largest one in the center was emblazoned with the name “The Department of Paranormal Medicine”.
The DPM had been around for more than 40 years, treating and housing extraterrestrials when they are ill and for whatever reason cannot get off Earth to return to their home planets. The hospital was equipped with state of the art tools and workstations, designed to be universally accessible to most alien species.
Hal walked through the doors, pausing only to show his pass to the guard. Just as he was starting to head towards his office, a shorter dark-haired man came running up towards him. Hal sighed.
“Morning Copper. Could this not have waited until after I had a coffee?”
Copper Briggs was a junior medical staff member at the DPM, and was named as such because he had been born in a quarry by a bunch of hippies.
“No Dr. Madrid, it can’t. Three patients in the OR as we speak.”
“And I’m not a surgeon.”
“No, but you need to be-”
“Then I’m going to get my coffee. Want one?”
Hal changed direction to walk at a brisk pace towards his office. Copper ran up alongside.
“Sir, it’s one of the patients. It was in a crash last night. Cardiac arrest across all five hearts, massive internal hemorrhaging.”
“Hmm. Tricky one eh? Well, put simply, I’d say your patient suffers from being-in-a-crash syndrome. If you want, you can call it B.I.A.C.S.”
Copper sighed. “No, that isn’t the issue. Alien’s been on the operating table all night. Bleeding. Its blood isn’t clotting. We can’t be sure if that’s a trait of the species or a medical anomaly, but if it loses much more blood it’s going to die.”
That stopped Hal in his tracks. Thinking for a moment, he spun around, took the file from Copper’s hands, and then continued walking to his office.
“I’ll look into it then.” He said over his shoulder, walking through the door to his office.
“Operating Room 2, sir!”
Hal went into his office, shut the door behind him, sat down and sipped his coffee. Leaning far back in his chair, he let out a sigh of contentment. After about three minutes of relaxation, he sat up and looked through the file in front of him. Frowning slightly, he got up, took the file and the coffee, and left.

Eight hours now. Patient had still not stopped bleeding. The nurses removed the blood soaked bandages and again began applying new ones. They all wondered what they could possibly do. Then the doors to the operating room burst open, and Dr. Madrid stepped in. He immediately began flipping through the patient file, talking as he read.
“So I’m assuming you’ve tried all the obvious routes?”
The Head Surgeon, Sam Kittner, spoke up. “Of course. The damn thing still won’t stop bleeding. We’ve even tried-”
“I’m sure you have, spare me.” Hal said quickly.
Slowly walking around the limp form of the alien, he surveyed it closely. Noticing the blood on the table, he dipped his finger into it.
“This is the thinnest blood I’ve ever seen… are you even sure it’s blood at all?”
A bandage on one of the alien’s wounds broke, and the thin blood started spilling at an alarmingly fast rate out onto the already drenched operating table, spilling further onto the floor. Hal stepped back quickly as the nurses ran in to re-apply bandage.
“Of course we are. It’s alien blood. Could be thin as soup or thick as sludge, who knows? This is the first contact we have had with this species.” Said the surgeon, stepping out of the way of the nurses, smoking an expensive cigar, which he would never have been allowed to have anywhere near the hospital had he not been one of the best surgeons out there who knew how to deal with aliens. He couldn’t afford to be lost.
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that.” Do some tests; see if this is actually our little red friend or some bizarre alien fluid.”
The surgeon blew smoke at him, clearly annoyed. Hal smiled and patted him on the back.
“Good man.”
Leaving the surgeon to his work, Hal walked off to get lunch.

The numbers raced by on the screen, blurred and choppy. The surgeon peered over the shoulder of Copper Briggs to survey the results.
“Well, whatever it is, it’s not blood.”
“Shall I run some tests to determine what the substance is?” asked Copper.
The surgeon looked grimly at the screen.
“You’d better do that. I have to go find out where this alien’s blood actually is, and whether it’s fine or not.”
Standing up, the surgeon started off towards the OR.

Chicken was about the best meal around here, in Hal’s opinion. The soup of the day was clam chowder, but Hal hated chowder soups. He was just about to begin eating when an assistant ran up to him.
“Doctor, we are receiving a radio message on all channels from an unknown alien source, I think you should hear it.”
“What am I, the radio attendant? Tell them to leave the Department Head’s a message.”
“Well sir, the message specifically asks for you, and it’s urgent.”
“…and alien radio signals are all of a sudden more important than chicken? Where’s the justice in the world?”
Looking mournfully at his plate of food, he accompanied the assistant to the broadcast center.

The alien was just plain confusing. There were so man lines running through its system, all filled with different fluids for unknown purposes. No sign of any blood anywhere. The surgeon just shook his head. The hearts were definitely pumping fluids, but it was not blood but various other substances, some thin, such as the fluid the alien was bleeding out, others slightly thicker, more like blood, but in various colors and hues. It was absolutely confusing.
“Prepare to take out some of these fluids. Run some tests, figure out what they are and what they are comprised of.” said the surgeon. “Time to find out what in hell the purpose of all this is.”

The broadcast center was a circular room with various people working all over the equipment that lined the walls. There were three circular desks, one that circled the wall, one smaller, and one even smaller than that and right in the center. The people working there directed Hal and the assistant to a communications device on the center table.
“We received a transmission about five minutes ago asking for the senior medical officer at this facility, and demanded urgency.” said a technician standing nearby.
“Well, hurry it up, or a chicken will have died for nothing.” Hal said in a flat tone of voice.
He picked up the receiver. The technician pressed a few buttons, and an alien’s voice sounded, a harsh, rasping voice, inhuman and yet still very intelligent.
“We demand to speak to whoever is in charge at once!”
Hal responded in an almost annoyed voice. “This is the senior medical officer at the Department of Paranormal Medicine, what’s your problem?”
The alien’s voice bordered on outrage. “You are unlawfully holding one of our citizens in our facility, and we demand immediate release from your facility!”
“Unlawfully holding? Well I suppose so, in the sense that we are trying to treat it after being severely injured during a crash landing of its ship, which by the way also almost compromised our alien-human interference laws.”
“That is no excuse! We must have our citizen treated by an appropriately trained medical priest, not your tainted doctors! I will not let your personnel near one of us any longer!”
“Your ‘Citizen’ is not yet well enough to be moved, at this point there is nothing we can do. Send over one of your priests if you want.”
“Unacceptable! Citizen must be brought to our ship, where the properly trained medical practitioners can treat him. We will land outside your facility, and you will bring it out to us.”
“I told you idiots already, it can’t be moved fr-”
Hal was cut off as the communication abruptly ended. Mind racing, he held the receiver in vain next to his ear, static noise ringing out through the tiny speaker. In a very short time, the aliens would land and demand their fellow be returned to them. If Hal gave it up to their care, then it wouldn’t last the trip into orbit, the aliens would undoubtedly blame him, and the already delicate relations with this species would be ruined.
Slowly he put down the receiver.
“Call the board of directors, all senior staff, and the security team to the conference room. The meeting begins in 10 minutes.”

The surgeon and Copper stared at the diagrams depicting the internal workings of the alien.
“So all we have is that the fluids flow through the body, triggering…what?”
Copper looked just as confused as the surgeon sounded.
“Sometimes the fluids trigger heartbeat abnormalities, sometimes muscle spasms, it all seems rather random.”
The surgeon continued to stare.
“I can see no pattern, but if it’s doing this much, it probably has a cognitive origin. Do a head scan; get me the results in two hours.”
“Right away.”
Copper walked off, leaving the surgeon still staring perplexed at the mess of diagrams in front of him.

All the required personnel were finally assembled in the conference room, except Copper and the surgeon. Hal stepped up to the head of the long table and in a slow, solemn voice, began.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a problem. We recently received a transmission from our patient’s government, demanding its return to the species. We cannot, however, move the patient, it’s in critical condition. I need options.”
Silence greeted him.
Hal looked around the room.
“Are any of your going to do your damn job?” He said, spitting the words out.
A medical officer spoke up. “Is there no hope of negotiation?”
“I wouldn’t have called you all here if there was. Give me more, we are on the clock, they are on their way to pick up this son of a bitch, and we need to cure it so it can go back home.”
The security chief spoke. “I will post guards at all entrances and exits. We can enforce a temporary lockdown, but the aliens may get violent and try to break through. You need time to find out what is wrong, here’s your chance.”
Hal looked around at the blank expressions on the doctors. “Well these bastards certainly don’t have anything better to add. Let’s do it. All medical officers follow me, we need to treat this patient.”
Hal and the medical team strode off towards the OR, and the security chief headed for the barracks.

The surgeon came in to observe the head scan in progress.
“Nothing too much so far sir.” Said Copper.
The surgeon lit up a cigar. “Keep looking.”
Walking over to the table where the alien lay, machines all around its head, scanning the brain tissue. The alien’s skin had taken on a purplish hue, and it looked thinner and more sickly.
“So strange… A few years ago, I would have called anyone who believed in other life forms in this universe an idiot, and here I am, treating one.”
Copper looked up from the head scan.
“Well sir, I suppose none of us would have an easy time believing any of this unless we had seen it.”
“Yes, I suppose.” Said the surgeon.
Suddenly the panel next to Copper lit up. Staring intently at the head scan, he called over the surgeon.
“Apparently,” said Copper as he read the data, “the brain experiences chemical changes every time those fluids pass through.”
“So the fluids could be controlling the emotions?” The surgeon blew a puff of smoke.
“Or at least the emotional responses, yes, setting off muscles to react to how it is feeling. If it’s angry it might lash out in rage, if it’s sad it cries, so on and so forth.”
“Do we know which fluid it was bleeding out?”
“I’ll have to analyze the reactions to find out.”
“Make it so.”

The Department of Paranormal Medicine sometimes had need of defense, for alien life forms are unpredictable at best. The barracks was a long building with a rounded roof, bare but for tables in the center, and lockers lining the walls. When the security chief walked in, it was crowded with the specially trained marines that were housed at the facility.
“This building is on lockdown status as of this moment! Step lively!”
The chief pulled a key out from his jacket, put it in a keyhole in the wall, and turned, revealing a panel with a keypad inside. He typed in a few commands, and the lockdown alarms started ringing.
“A and B squads, you are on door duty! Get your rifles and move out!”
It had begun.

The hallways seemed almost a blur as Hal and the medical staff walked down them. The doctors kept talking while they strode, trying to come up with answers.
“Perhaps the blood has been thinned out by a medical condition…”
“We weren’t even sure the substance was blood.” Hal said.
“If the alien had masses on its heart, drawing in and thinning out the blood…”
“The heart was clean, so were the other four as well. The surgeons will certainly have new data for us when we get there. Until then, shut up.”
The doctors stopped talking immediately.
Hal opened the doors to the lab, and with the entire senior medical staff behind him, calmly strode up to the surgeon.
“So, got anything for us, or were you people just sitting on your asses this whole time?” Hal had adopted a cheerful tone.
The surgeon chewed on his cigar thoughtfully before answering. “From the tests, hell, it’s a nightmare. Our latest head scan indicated that the veins running throughout its body are carrying fluids that affect emotion.”
The doctors just stared in amazement. Hal looked confused for the breadth of a second, then realized. “Do we know which fluid the alien was leaking out then?”
“Just waiting for results from the lab.”
One of the doctors spoke up. “Why would the loss of a fluid that controls emotion put the alien in the state it’s in now?”
“I wouldn’t know.” The surgeon said promptly, then turned to Hal. “What are all the staff here for?”
“Thought we might start the company Christmas party a little early.”
An explosion rocked the building, and the staff was thrown into confusion as some panicked and ran down the hall, some stood where they were, shivering with fear, while others curled up on the floor, terrified of the siege that now raged around them.
Hal looked over at his terrified co-workers, and then turned back to the surgeon. “I was thinking Thai food for supper. Care to join? Unless you have that patient to cure, I think the alien government might be a little pissed about it…”
The surgeon looked at Hal and rolled his eyes. “Test results should be back soon, we’ll see which fluid it was that he leaked out.”
“Until then,” said Hal, “we wait.”

Explosion. White Light. A loud ringing in the ears. As the security chief ducked down under cover, he realized they were losing. As soon as the aliens had landed they stormed out in force, demanding the return of their citizen. The chief had stated that they were working as fast as they could to stabilize the alien’s condition enough to send him over, but that seemed to only infuriate the aliens more, and not two seconds after that the entire group of aliens opened fire on the guards. It had seemed like hours since then, bullets flying all around, think as raindrops in a gale. The aliens kept tight suppressing fire on all positions the guards were at, keeping them from moving while throwing large masses of some sort of jelly into the posts, which then latched on to any human nearby and started to eat them alive. Looking through holes in the barricade, he saw the alien’s guns to be made of a long barrel with a strange apparatus at the bottom. The aliens had some kind of needle jammed into their hands when they put it in the apparatus, and were manipulating the gun through their complex nervous systems.
As all this rushed through the chief’s head, he awoke from his reverie to hear a voice on his radio.
“Sir! Our group was trying to flank the aliens keeping you guys down, but we ran into more of them in the southwest corridor! We might not be able to make it to your position!”
The chief responded with an urgent voice. “Hurry it up, whatever you do! We can’t last forever like this.”
“Yes, sir!”
There was a slight pause in the firing on his barricade. The chief, acting out of instinct, put his gun over the top and blindly fired into the mass of aliens. As soon as he pulled his gun back down into cover, another shower of bullets rained down. Picking up one of the shells, he saw it had notches all along the edges of the bullet to make it harder to pull out of the skin.
This was going to be a long fight.

Copper Briggs ran into the room, panting.
“I had to pass five firefights on my way here!”
“And I hope it wasn’t just to tell us you don’t have any results.” Hal said.
Copper rolled his eyes and handed him a sheet of paper, freshly printed. Looking it over, Hal looked intrigued.
Turning to the surgeon, he said “The fluid your patient was leaking out controls its ability to feel pain.”
The surgeon looked surprised. “But then why would the patient still be unconscious?”
Hal contemplated for a few seconds. “Bring me the scan results for its body and head.”
As the surgeon pulled them out there was a loud rumble preceding distant shouts. The medical staff looked around worriedly.
Taking them and looking them over, Hal said “the vein-like lines running through its body are connected to nerves. Perhaps when they tried to activate the pain feeling when it woke up after the crash, it had lost so much that the fluid wasn’t accessible, so its body just shut down.”
The surgeon turned to Copper. “Go take all that fluid it bled out, see if you can’t reproduce the stuff or just IV drip it back into the patient.”
Hal turned to the assembled medical staff, who had been silent the whole process.
“Now, why did I hire all you again?”

Copper Briggs ran through the hallways, all of them infested with smoke and flame, heading for the patient’s room, to administer the treatment. Gunfire rang all around. As he ran past an adjacent corridor, a ball of the jelly substance hit the floor underneath him. Looking in terror but unable to stop fast enough, he jumped over it. The ball exploded as he was in mid-jump, and the pieces of jelly splattered onto his left leg. He fell heavily on his side, giving a cry of pain, and then twisted around to attack the jelly slowly eating away his limb. He grabbed a burning piece of wood, a remnant of a desk that had stood there, and bludgeoned the substance. His vision was going blurry and red from the pain, but the fire had a very good effect on the jelly. It withered and started to die, giving off a putrid stench. After getting all of it off his leg, it felt very raw, and the skin burned. Pushing with his hands, he tried to stand. Pain ravaged throughout his senses, and he fell down, screaming. Bringing together all his will, he pulled himself up, he limped onwards to the patient room.

The security chief was at his last resort. The aliens had pushed them back to the corridor which contained the patient’s room. Throwing himself behind a desk, he just missed the first onslaught of gunfire.
“Return fire!” He yelled at the others.
Just as he said this, Copper limped around the corner. Looking in shock at the scene around him, he just stood there. The chief ran up quickly and pulled him behind the wall.
“Do you guys have a treatment ready?”
“Yes, I just need to pump some fluids into him.”
“Get to it then! I’ll cover you, but be quick.”
Copper began to run towards the door, but his leg started to convulse with pain, and he fell down on the floor, sprawled out in the middle of the hallway.
“Go, go, go!” Screamed the chief, shooting wildly towards the mass of aliens slowly advancing.

Copper crawled frantically, ignoring the burning sensation. Bullets flew all around him. As he entered the doorway, a jelly ball hit the wall opposite. Still lying on the floor, he kicked his good leg in a rapid windmill motion, kicking the door closed just as the jelly ball exploded. After a second had passed, hearing only the muted noises of war outside the room, he let out a terrified breath. His chest pounding, his leg still screaming bloody murder into his senses, he slowly lifted himself up once again. Limping very slowly, holding onto whatever he could, he advanced to the alien’s bed. Getting out the bags of fluid they collected from its body, he began the slow process of pumping the thin liquid into its bloodstream.

The security chief clawed desperately at his face. The jelly ball had exploded right next to his face, and now the substance was all over his head, eating away his cap, his hair, his scalp, his cheek, and his right eye. Getting a good portion of it off his head, he realized the substance has just spread to his hands and arms. As the jelly ate deeper, he began to writhe in pain, dropping to the floor and letting out the wailing of a dead man. The other few marines that had been left were still firing wildly at the oncoming horde. A few fell to gunfire. All time seemed to slow down as the jelly ate deeper, his vision in the right eye, consumed with a bluish hue, now went black, and a large mass that had once been a cheek muscle fell to the ground, covered in the blue substance. He saw his team give cries of helplessness, still emptying their clips into the aliens as the creatures walked calmly towards them, picking one or two off as they poked their heads out of cover. A few hour-long seconds later, the last of the valiant men who had stood guard were dead. Barely conscious anymore, he could make out a figure walking towards him, speaking words in a language human lips cannot replicate. Slowly, he moved the one hand that still hadn’t been completely eaten and pulled the pin out of his last grenade. Held in the remains of his hand, He looked up at the alien, who returned his gaze, its expression unreadable in its face, which seemed to the chief the face of an animal, crazed as he was with the pain and the frenzy of battle. As the muscles in his jaw started to give, he spat out his last words.
“Damn you to hell.”
Grenade clutched tightly, he punched the alien, and the conflagration of flame engulfed them both.

Copper had just finished pumping in most of the fluids he had found in the room when he heard the explosion. It unhinged the door, half wrecked as it already was. There was an eerie silence that followed. Copper stared, petrified, at the door, lying at an odd angle, exposing a few bits of the hallway, now stained with the debris of rock and flesh. An alien appeared at the door after a while, moving silently but swiftly, and kicked the door across the room. Leveling a gun at Copper, the alien stared into his eyes.
“Stop!” Screamed a familiar voice.
Hal and the medical staff ran up the adjacent corridor, towards the room, yelling protest at the aliens gathered outside it. A few aliens, out of instinct, turned and fired immediately. Two doctors fell, and Hal got a bullet in his side, then leaned heavily on the wall to support himself. Gasping for the breath that had just been knocked out of him, he spoke.
“We just cured him.”
A sharp intake of air was heard beside Copper. The alien opened its eyes, and looked around at where it was. Seeing Copper beside itself, holding an IV tube running into its body, and a heart rate monitor connected to its other hand, the alien let out a scream of remorse and started to rip the tubes out of itself. Copper, who was startled, just stumbled backwards out of reach. The assembled aliens looked at their comrade, and it seemed as though they emoted pity to Copper. An alien, a leader from its more colorful uniform, walked up to Hal and shoved its gun into his chin.
“You were not to use your blasphemous medicine on our citizen!”
Hal clutched his side in pain, but managed to speak clearly enough. “We couldn’t move it, you wouldn’t send any of your people down, and it was going to die if we didn’t do anything. We have an obligation to preserve life.”
“You have condemned it! Our people cannot give it anything anymore. It cannot trade with us, we will not let it mate anymore, not after being tainted with your filth. It’ll only be a matter of time before we convince it to take its own cursed life.”
“That is its choice. We didn’t have one.”
The alien stared at Hal for a long second, and then rasped something in the harsh language to the rest. They began to head back down the corridor they came. The alien who had been cured started after them, making a sort of whimpering noise, without a second glance towards the humans standing all around.

The weeks following the incident were boring ones. Everyone had had time to recover, go to the funeral service held for those that died, and sat through meetings with government officials, describing the aliens and their attack. The building had been largely repaired when Hal walked in, on his fifth day back at work. As he passed the guard, showing his pass like always, he saw Copper Briggs waiting for him, still walking with a cane, his leg not fully healed.
“Got another comatose patient bleeding out its emotions for me?”
Copper fell into stride with Hal. “Not today, Dr. Madrid. It’s some patients who have had serious seizures after eating some of our planet’s food. We did some tests, and found their brainwaves fluctuating all over.”
“Well find one of our doctors to do it. I’m sure as hell not going to do all their jobs for them. Lazy bastards. Now off with you. Today I want to enjoy my coffee.”

The Constant In A Sea Of Variables

I’ve noticed something about myself recently. When I get excited, my speech speeds up. If you’ve ever spoken with me in person, you’d probably know what I’m talking about. I start speaking really fast and everything gets jumbled and soon nothing makes sense. Everything is just spinning so fast in my head that it all comes out in a blur!

I sometimes think that when I’m out in the world, being sociable, interacting with people, and going about my business, I do it in a sort of trance. I get a little light-headed, just acting on instinct. I’ll usually speak whatever random thought pops into my head, and sometimes that gets me into trouble! I tend to be more lucid and reflective of my actions when I’m alone in the confines of my room. Sometimes I’m really surprised by something I did or said while I was out. I feel like a different person sometimes. Perhaps that is the clutches of persona. A mask I’m so used to putting on, I can’t take it off, especially when I want to.

A scary thought indeed.

I was on one of these reminiscing trips when I started to consider why on Earth I started writing again. You see, for a long time I didn’t do any writing at all. I was trying to pen a fantasy novel a while back, but that got so expansive and I didn’t feel any connection to the characters (always a weak point of mine), so I put it on hiatus and quit for quite a while. Nearly a year, actually. It has only been recently, in the past few months, that I’ve been starting up writing again with this new inspiration and this new novel (not to mention this blog).

Where did my decision to write come from, I wondered? Writing wasn’t always what I did. It wasn’t always a passion of mine. It’s been quite a journey to get to where I am.

Back in grade five, I used to draw comics. I loved comics, and superheros. Spider-Man, Hulk, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and X-Men were some of my favorites (I was always a Marvel guy, never liked the DC stuff as much; except for Batman. But then, who doesn’t love Batman?). So I started drawing my own.

And they were awful. Yes, this was grade five. I couldn’t expect anything of a high caliber to come out of those years, but even back then I was disappointed in myself. I didn’t feel I was any good at them. The stories were simple and the drawings simpler. It wasn’t worthy of a read in my eyes, and so I eventually gave up.

Here’s a taste, if you feel so inclined. That’s my superhero; Zoron, a diamond-headed alien who shot cosmic rays from his hands to defeat the bad guys.


Roughly around the time grade six rolled around, I had lost interest in comics due to my lack of talent at drawing and the simplistic plotlines.

Then I started making movies.

This phase went on right up until I graduated from high school six years later. I honestly thought I’d be doing it the rest of my life. I loved, and to a great extent still love filmmaking.

Ah, the panning, the tracking! I loved moving camera shots. I loved how much color could affect the mood of a scene. I loved the idea of being on a set and working with all that equipment. I loved bringing something out of your imagination onto the big screen.

But alas, this was not to be either. Just as with the comics, I was unsatisfied with the quality level of anything I produced. I could have gone to a post-secondary institution for filmmaking, but upon giving it some thought I decided not to. I wasn’t content to make films at a college or independent level. It was Hollywood blockbuster or bust for me. I realize that is a completely unrealistic thought process, and for most it’s a long ladder to climb, but that’s how important the visuals were to me. If you weren’t going to go all out on your production, then don’t bother starting, as far as I was concerned.

I was stumped for a while after filmmaking died down in my list of passions. I couldn’t figure out what I could do to tell the stories I wanted to tell. I looked back and thought of all the reasons I couldn’t do what came before. Comics I didn’t want to get into because I was terrible at drawing. Movies required a lot of planning and money, and the story got changed so much in the process by so many people. I didn’t know how well I could collaborate. Then I noticed the single thread tying all these separate mediums together, and all the other mediums I hadn’t tried yet. The constant in the sea of variables.

Writing.

Nothing came together without writing. You needed that first step to progress your story to the silver screen, or to the radio, or to the pages of a comic. It was the most raw form of storytelling I could think of (verbal communication aside). The best part was, it was easy to do, and it didn’t require anything extravagant beyond imagination. And I was overflowing with that!

So I started writing. And I felt at home.

It was beyond the other mediums. I felt a connection. I loved piecing together the puzzle of a plot, creating the characters and the worlds they lived in. Nothing was lost in the technical aspects of establishing a shot or drawing a scene; it was all in your head and the words on the page. Simple, elegant, and wonderful.

I love imagining things. Daydreams, fantasies, and the like. Now, after twenty years on this planet, I finally have a way to bring those visions to you, through the written word.

I can only hope if you ever read my work you’ll enjoy experiencing the story as much as I did writing it.

Less-than-eloquently yours,
Brendon “pen in hand” Regier