Monday, November 3, 2008

Part I, continued

  • Ok, a empty line for paragraphs, three dots for a time gap. A little better handle on tense after listening to Polly read Fablehaven to the girls.

The repairs to the fuels cells took several weeks. The fault was easily traced to one of the custom made circuit boards Sam had designed for one of the numerous voltage controllers. Tracing the smoke and acrid smell back to the board had been easy. Spotting the flaw in the circuit design had taken him several hours. It would have been a quick fix had not the board been completely destroyed by the heat and flames the fault had created. By three am. he had uploaded the revised design files to the circuit board manufacturer, and began the real task of waiting for a shop in Singapore to etch and drill the board and mail the results back. For only a few extra dollars he had a second one made as a back up. What he couldn't afford was the astronomical charges the board makers levied for expedited orders. He would just have to wait.

Sam filled the days that followed pouring over the numerous other circuit designs. Where there was one failure, other were surely another lurking in the wings, waiting for a chance to ruin the show. It was obvious the overall design had worked, if only for a few seconds. What he wanted to avoid was another major failure. He was going to need to keep the hole open and stable for long enough to work with it. What was more, he needed several orders of magnitude more power to get it to the size he had calculated he needed. That was the job of the fuel cells. He hadn't found enough of an electrical load between the barn, the house, and the trailer to create much of a test for them. Hours of staring at circuit diagrams and layouts had left him blurry eyed and mentally numb. The few mistakes he found were quickly solved in a few minutes with soldering iron and some jumper wire.

. . .

Sam sat cross-legged beneath the large knotted oak tree at the edge of the meadow across from the barn, his head in his hands with his elbows resting on his knees. "Oh baby, I miss you," he whispered almost inaudibly. A small stone marker was before him, ringed with low growing flowers of many colors. It had been the only routine he had been able to maintain after her death, outside of the numbing hours spent working on The Machine. John had lost interest in helping with the solemn gardening long ago, after a Sunday School teacher had convinced him that his mother's spirit was in heaven, not under the tree on the edge of their property. Sam had welcomed the solitude that came with John's absence. He had never known what to say to him. Any kind of conversation always led to questions, questions he didn't have answers for. His wife's spirit wasn't in heaven to him. She was back in that cold rainy morning in May when he had said goodbye on his way out the door. She had been kneeling in front John, trying to get the zipper up on his rain coat, getting ready to take him to daycare on her way to work. She had turned her head as he opened the door. "See you tonight," she called out. "Have a good day at work."

He had played that sequence over in his mind a thousand times. When was the last time he had said, "I love you". It hadn't been then. "See ya," was his normal exit, and he was quite sure that the last words he ever spoke to her. "See Ya?" Would it have helped if he could have said goodbye with "I love you?" He had never said it enough. He had always felt that love was something you did, not say. He played it over in his mind time and time again. She would still be gone, trapped in this grave beneath beneath oak tree, as he continued living on, numb in a bleak world without her. At times he wished he could climb down into the damp earth beside her, to hold her once more as he had so many times before, this time to be covered up, cold and still as the oak tree grew old and died, and time faded into a future without either of them. It would be better than the long cold evenings spent restless in half sleep in the bed he used to share with her. "Hang on, baby," he said in a strangely even tone, his mind snapping to the image of the machine in the barn behind him. "Not long now."

. . .

He spotted the brown UPS truck as it turned off the main road and on to the long driveway leading up to his parents house. He had followed the progress of the package ever since it had shipped more than a week ago. It had been marked "arrived" in Albany the afternoon before, listed as "out for delivery" since five a.m this morning. It was the first thing he had checked after rolling out of bed in the trailer that morning. "Today is the day," he told himself.

Within minutes of signing for the delivery, Sam had the new circuit boards out and begun soldering components in to place. He had spent so many hours going over the design that he barely looked at the printouts as he placed component after component into the board, soldering them into place as he went. Less than an hour later the board was complete. Sam hooked several leads from a power supply on the self above his work bench to it and began probing it leads to a meter sitting next to the board. He wanted this one to be right. Even though he had a spare board, his didn't want to find any errors out the hard way again. Satisfied he had it right, he walked to the machine in the center of the barn, dropped to his knees, and slid down on to his belly as his upper body disappeared under the pedestal holding the ball up off the dirty and cluttered barn floor. Moments latter he began to squirm and grunt as he worked his way back out from under the machine. He rolled onto his stomach, rose to his knees, and came to a standing position before walking over to the console. "Looks like we a back in business," Sam exclaimed after a few keystrokes and a glance at the monitor.

With the all the tubes at speed, Sam entered the commands to start the fuel cells. This time, Sam was ready and watched intently as the pop and flash occur in the center of the ball. Even expecting it, the event causes him to wince. When he looked again, the glowing bubble was there, vibrating like before. "Let's see if we can open it up," Sam whispers breathlessly. He typed again on the keyboard and the pitch increased in response. Vibrations on the surface of the bubble became instantly smaller and begin moving in the opposite direction. Sam took a step away from the console to get a better look as the size of the bubble began to grow. Then without warning, the bubble began began to expand and contract rapidly, the pitch following suit. With each expansion, the bubble was noticeably bigger, growing almost exponentially. Sam winced and stepped back to the console. His hands hovered above the keyboard as he tried to make sense of what the display was telling him. The pitch grew, descended, and grew louder yet still. Sam's hands came to his ears as he tried to focus on the display, grasping for an answer. The sound seem to vibrate every bit of his body at once. Suddenly, the sound reverses, and seems to drop. Sam looked around the console in time to see the spinning tubes emerge as the bubble contracts. The sound drops again as the tubes shimmer in to the expanding bubble. His jaw slowly dropped and he reached his hand up to touch the bubble which was just reaching the edge of the console. Sam felt a tug forward as the bubble encompassed his hand. "This can't be," escaped his lips as the bubble expanded once more, this time encompassing his arm up to his shoulder. He had grabbed the edge of the console to counter act the tugging, but it is clear that he will loose this battle. As the bubble contracted back to his elbow, he looked back at the keyboard, desperate for some way to stop what is happening. The disappearance of the high pierced whine of the spinning tubes had left only a menacing hum, oscillating with each expansion and contraction on the bubble. As it began to expand once more, Sam turned to face it. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes as the bubble encompassed his face. His fingers slipped from the console, and his body jerked violently into the hell he had created. In apparent free fall now, he rotated slowly to look up and see a shimmery vision of the barn seemingly expand and fade as he lost consciousness.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Part I, continued

  • OK, this is going to be harder than I thought. I'm struggling with tense and point of view. I also can't use tabs here to make it more readable. I'm hoping something clicks, but for now you are stuck with some pretty raw material . . .
Through the open barn doors, a circular object set upon a pedestal is visible. The object, eight feet in diameter, looked like a soccer ball with no covering. It was a truncated icosahedron, to be exact, a buckyball formed of three inch shiny black tubes connected, three at a time, to a triangular metal boxes with bundles of multi-colored wires streaming out and dangling toward the floor. The various wire bundles slithered along the floor like snakes, writhing one over another, meeting at a console on one side of the ball. The object and the immediate area shown like daylight under the harsh glow of banks of florescent lights dangling at a level just above the top of the ball.
Sam, a full week unshaven beard on his face, was kneeling in front of an open panel at the side of the console, one hand full of wires, the other pointing a flashlight inside the opening. The handle of a small screw driver was perched precariously between his clenched teeth.
"We are going into town Sam," came a voice from a dimly lit figure outside of the glare in the center of the barn. "Do you need anything?"
Sam, startled at the intrusion on his intense focus, flinched visibly. "No mom, I'm fine," he replied. "Thanks."
"We are taking John," she said in more of a question than a reply.
"O.K., thanks," came the reply from Sam who had already gone back to concentrating on the wires.
"You know, John is probably old enough to help you with some of this," said mom, looking at the clutter of equipment and tools that ringed the object. "He would love to help."
"I don't know mom," Sam replied. "It is not real safe in here."
"Mmm, you might be right," said mom, shaking her head in agreement. "Still, it wouldn't hurt you to spend some time with him." She paused, hoping for some sort of agreement. After an uncomfortable moment, she changed tack. "It looks pretty good. Are you getting close?"
"If I could get the wiring right the first time, I'd have been done a week ago," Sam said bitterly. If I can get all the servo controllers on-line, I should be able to start the calibrations. I'll have a better idea once that is done."
"O.K., there are some leftovers in the fridge if you are hungry," mom offered as a final outreach. She was torn between her desire to see him succeed and the hope that failure would bring him back to a reality that included his son.
"Thanks mom" Sam replied.

"Here goes nothing, Sam said to himself, "again." He typed a few commands into the keyboard and the simultaneous click of relays accompanied a flicker in the lighting. The low hum of motors under strain filled the quiet of the barn and several of the black tubes began slowly rotating. The pitch of the motors raised as the tubes slowly gained momentum. Another set of relays click, and another set of tubes begin rotating. "Two," Sam murmured, eyes intent on the moving numbers on the screen in front of him. Another click, and another set of tubes begin to rotate. The din created by the motor grows larger as each set of tubes begin turning and the pitch raises as the tubes gain momentum.
"Come on baby," Sam murmurs under his breath. I final set of clicks and the last of the idle tubes begin to rotate. "Yes," Sam exclaims. "We are going to make it." The pitch inside the barn has reached the point where the loose boards on the west side of the barn begin to vibrate, adding a lower, more organic sound to the medley. With all the tubes up to speed, Sam is still glued to the monitor. "Rotation synced," he whispers, "time to put the fuel cells on line. Another set of clicks on the keyboard is answered by another flicker in the lights. From beneath the low pedestal, a low hum emerges. Sam continues to watch the monitor as the rapidly changing number signal the progress. "And now for a little EMF," he says, typing a final command sequence. A loud pop and flash of light emanating from the center of the spinning tubes breaks Sam's trance at the monitor. "I hope that is good," he exclaims. A shimmering disturbance has appeared in the center of the ball, a bubble with rippling waves making it appear to be rotating slowly. "That is it," Sam exclaims in disbelief. "I can't believe it. It works." Sam's gaze goes from the center of the ball to the picture taped next to his monitor. "It works baby, it really works."
A large electrical crack breaks through the deafening noise of the room, and the overhead lights go out, leaving the barn bathed in an eerie blue light emanating from the shrinking bubble in the center of the ball. The hum of the rotating tubes immediately begins to lower, and the glowing ball slowly shrinks and is gone. Sam raises his fist as he rises from the chair he has been sitting. He brings it down on the desk with a metallic thump as he emits a primeval scream of anguish. A pencil rolls of the desk and hits the floor. The acrid smell of overheated electronics fills the air.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Part I, section 1 (The first 1000 words)

[I'm not worried about grammar or spelling at this point. It is all supposed to be about word count. I'd be interested in feedback on plot and character development.]

Part I

He awoke with a start, disoriented from crossing the space that fills the void between dreams and reality. He rubbed his eyes and looks around the dimly lit room. The glow of LEDs and computer screens lit the walls with an eerie glow of red, green and blue. His eyes came to rest on the monitor glowing in front of him. On the screen in front of him was something that made his heart jump. The Answer! It must be a dream. He had run these calculations so many times that the appearance of negative results had become routine, expected. After hours of churning through billions of calculation, the computer was displaying a diagram on the screen was evidence that the calculations had been successful. He lurched to a standing position in front of the monitor, the chair wheeling backward in an uncertain trajectory, both hands pressing his head as if struck with another in a series of painful migraines. "Just dreaming", he murmured to himself, eyes tightly shut as his heart beat slowed from the thunderous pounding the revelation had started. He had been working on this problem for so long the hope for a solution had faded long ago. It had been months since the last major breakthrough. He had been at the end of a series of experiments that were looking more and more improbable the farther he pushed the parameters. But with the denial that came with many addictions, he had decided to run another analysis with the variables set well outside of what he believed was reasonable. It had taken hours of computing time, but the answer in front of him told him that it had payed off.

He went to the window, pulled the shade aside, and stared out into the dimly lit surroundings. It felt like dawn should be showing, but it was clearly still a ways away. The light of a partial moon outlined the trees across the empty meadow beyond a crooked fence. The faint shadow of the nearby barn sliced across the unkempt grass surrounding his trailer. A look at his watch told the truth - 3:45 a.m. His head felt clearer, and his belief in the reality of the situation solidifying. He turned to look once more at the glowing monitor with its unexpected display. He walked over to the desk and flipped the switch on the lamp that hovered over over a disorganized pile of papers and note books. The open notebook on top of the stack contained the scribblings and notations of what would have seemed to him to have been alien all but a few years ago. Now he glanced over the equations with a weary familiarity that had come from years of intensely focused study. He checked the underlined figures with the inputs list on the screen. Yes, they checked. He looked again at the three-dimensional graph that rotated slowly in the results window. It was just has he had imagined, although the reality of seeing it there in front of him had yet to full sink in. Had he missed something? A long line of assumptions had to be verified. A new set of eyes on the problem. Who could he trust? He pulled a cell phone from his back pocket, flipped it open, and began scrolling down the contact list. Marshall would have to look at this. He was the one who had put him on this line of investigation. He would surely be the one to tell if it was right. Before the first ring could escape, he snapped the phone shut. He should probably wait for office hours. The relationship was strained enough as it was without 4 a.m. phone calls. He looked up at the portrait resting on the self next to a precariously stacked pile of journals and books. "Hang on baby, I'm coming."

At 8 a.m. Sam was seated across the disorganized desk of Marshall Robinson, Chair of the Physics Department at the University. Marshall, who's PhD thesis on the theoretical possibility of stable inner dimensional worm holes, had attracted Sam attention, was leaned backed with the printout just inches from his nose. He looked young enough to be a student, but the glasses, tweed jacket, and wall full of certificates spoke otherwise. "Are you sure these are right," he asked, sharing Sam's initial disbelief at the apparent outcome. "I've run it twice," Sam replied. He had been unable to go to sleep after the discovery, and had filled his time waiting for Marshall's office hours by running the simulation again while surfing through the wasteland of late night talk show reruns and infomercials. "With or without the algorithm tweaks we talked about last week?" "With". "Both times?" "Yes, the very definition of insanity", Sam replied, "doing something twice and expecting different outcomes." Einstein's quote didn't seem to include computers, which always seem to behave in unexpected was. The more complex the algorithm, the more unexpected it behavior could become. "This whole thing has been insane from the beginning, Sam, only now you have results that say otherwise." "You think this is right," Sam asked. "I can't see where it is wrong," replied Marshall. "We could have someone else look it over, or you could just move on to the experimental phase," Marshall suggested, "but I think you should publish first. This is pretty major." "Who is going to believe an out of work computer software engineer made a major breakthrough in theoretical physic," Sam asked, "even with you as a co-author?" "Science is science Sam," Marshall replied. "If you publish, it will also get the experimental physicists in the game." "I've already got the plans for that," Sam replied. "If the theoricals are correct, I've already got a line on the experimental. That is what this was all about in the first place." "Well, you've move past the point where I can help you. Let me know how this turns out," Marshall said with an air of resignation as he handed the papers back to Sam. He had been suffering Sam's periodic visits with patience and interest. Over time Sam had gone from an over inquisitive nuisance to a knowledgeable and capable theorist without much guidance from him. He seems to grasp every new concept quickly, and applied well known principle in ways he would have never have thought of. More than once he had asked Sam to enroll at the University and make their relationship a more conventional teacher and student one. Sam had shrugged him off and continued on his narrow and dogged focus on worm holes. Now that he was really on to something, it was clear he was only interested in knowledge as a way to achieve something. He had his own agenda. He really did wish him well, but couldn't imagine him getting far. Of course, he hadn't expected him to get this far either.


My idea is to follow the outline from the Broken Bride album from Ludo. It goes as follows:
  1. Part I: Broken Bride - A man's wife is killed in a tragic car accident in 1989. He spends the next 15 years trying to build a time machine to go back and prevent her from dieing. The machine fails, sending him back to prehistoric time where he is driven into a cave by pterodactyls.
  2. Save Our City - In the far distance future, a city is under attack by evil forces. The mayor makes a feeble attempt to defend before giving up hope and committing suicide.
  3. Part II: Tonight's the Night - Back in prehistoric time, the man decides to brave the dinosaurs and make another attempt to return to 1989 and save his wife.
  4. Part III: The Lamb and the Dragon - The machine fails again, and the man to cast into the far future where the city is under siege by evil forces. To save them, the man travels back to prehistoric times and brings back the pterodactyls to help in the battle, saving the city. As his reward, he is sent back to 1989 to be allowed to say goodbye to his wife, which he realizes he cannot save.
  5. Part IV: Morning in May - The man finds himself back on the day his wife dies. He spends the morning with her, and when she goes to leave, he decides to join her.
I'd like to keep true to the album, but obviously there is a lot of room to fill in pieces and characters. This should be interesting!


Along with Lynn Rivett, I'm trying to write a book this month as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Don't ask me why. It sounded like a good idea at the time.

The goal is to write 50,000 words in a month. That doesn't sound to hard, right? That is only 1,700 words a day. I thought it would be fun to put my daily output in a blog so you can follow along, comment, and suggest.

I can't promise a linear progression, but as the story doesn't either, it shouldn't matter to much. I'll post the outline so you can figure out where I'm at.

I hope this turns into something readable. I hope you'll follow along and help! Here we go . . .