Posts tagged ‘short story’


Klara by Dale Innis & Karima Hoisan

Well, this is just too much fun. :) Very good Second Life friend and collaborator liked the little Klara piece so much that she voiced it and set it to the perfect music and made it into a rather wonderful YouTube! Definitely more accessible :) and more of an experience this way than the 327MB pdf file. Wooot!

Digital Rabbit Hole

Very excited to share with you all, this off-beat, pretty long (almost 10 minutes) surreal video collaboration with Dale Innis
Those of you who read me regularly, know that Dale Innis is a scripter friend who has collaborated with me and also with Natascha & I for the last 10 years and lately has been dabbling in all sorts of AI Art, especially MidJourney, which is a veritable game-changer in this blossoming field.
He showed me a pdf file of slides and a story-line, that he had made and I fell in love…fell obsessed, is a better word, to try to bring this to a way more people could see it.
This is how the project was born. I found, what we both agree, is the perfect music   Meditative Music and I made a voice-over and edited the slides into what you’ll see below.
This is a very slow-…

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A Story with NovelAI

Okay, after that last story, I thought I’d go back and take a look at NovelAI again, and remind myself why I’d stopped using it. And it turns out it’s also quite good! At least as good InferKit, I’d say, so who knows why I stopped; maybe the novelty had worn off, and now the wearing-off has worn off. Its writing, like large-language-model AI writing in general, tends toward the cliched and mediocre (thanks, Central Limit Theorem!), but it can be nudged in, and sometimes spontaneously charges off in, more interesting directions.

Because, unlike InferKit, NovelAI has visual cues for what is entered by the user and what is generated by the AI, I can see which is which, and I’ll italicize my contributions in the below. It’s nothing stunning, really, but it shows the sort of typical behavior of NovelAI, without fiddling with any of the (many, many) parameters that NovelAI offers, and it’s kind of impressive! Clearly, it contributed most of the text, with me just nudging it now and then (and hitting Retry now and then, which isn’t indicated in any way below).

Watch for the “humble abode” cliche :) and various continuity errors, and note that this is relatively short just because I stopped, and we could continue essentially forever, exploring the afterlife, the ocean, what the woman with the tail means by “get back home”, and so on…

The Witch of Sunlight

I parked my autosteamer at the ferry dock, and took the ferry out to the island where the Witch of Sunlight was supposed to live. She didn’t have a house on the beach like the other witches I’d met in this world—she had her own private island. A beautiful one, too. It was green with trees and grass everywhere you looked, and there were no cars anywhere around it.

The ferry let me off at an unremarkable stretch of white-sand beach, and I walked along it until I came across a little hut made from a combination of driftwood and palm fronds. The door was open, so I went inside.

“Hello?” I said. “Is anyone here?”

There wasn’t any response. I didn’t see anything in the room except a low table, several chairs, and some blankets spread out on the floor. There was definitely someone living here, though. It smelled like they’d just finished cooking something.

I sat down on one of the chairs and waited for a while, but nobody came to greet me. Finally I stood up and opened the door.

As soon as I did, a woman wearing a green dress stepped out from behind the hut’s wall. Her hair was long and curly, and she wore a golden necklace that hung over her chest.

“Good morning, young man,” she said. “What do you want?”

“Um… hello.”

She smiled at me. “Come in. Please take a seat.”

I followed her instructions and sat down on the chair opposite hers.

The Witch of Sunlight was pretty tall—taller than most of the women I knew. But she only had about half as much body fat as them, which made her look more slender.

“So, what brings you to my humble abode?”

“I seek wisdom,” I said. “To become stronger, I must first know how weak I am.”

The witch nodded. “You’re absolutely right. That is why I built this place on a remote island—so that people like yourself would come here to learn.”

“I’m not here to be taught, exactly. I want to fight you.”

Her eyes widened. “Oh? You mean you want to challenge me?”


“Very well. What kind of battle do you wish to engage in?”

“A fight to the death, of course.”

At my words, her expression stiffened. “That is quite bold of you, child.”

“It doesn’t seem very wise to ask for something without offering anything in return, does it?”

“No, it doesn’t.”

I laughed. “Fair enough. So, what do you say?”

She nodded. “Prepare to die, then; may you be wiser in the next world.”

With that, she pulled a wooden sword from beneath her dress and held it up. In the blink of an eye, she had it pointed at my throat.

I quickly leapt back, out of range.

She smiled, and the sword emitted a beam of light that sliced through the air. When it hit the ground, a circle appeared in its center. Then she placed her foot in the hole. With a simple twist of her wrist, she turned herself into a swirling vortex of wind.


I ducked under the blade’s trajectory and thrust my hand forward. Wind surged forth from the tip of my hand, and blew the Witch of Sunlight’s sword away from her.

A laugh came from within the vortex of wind, and a shower of blades rained down upon me. I dodged every single one of them with ease.

“Impressive,” said the Witch of Sunlight. “How many times have you done this before?”

“Maybe once or twice. Why don’t we start with three?”

“Why not? But first, I’ll warn you, this isn’t a game. If you lose, you won’t get your life back.”

“Then I accept your terms. Let’s begin.”

We both charged at each other, weapons drawn.

The witch’s attacks consisted of nothing more than gusts of wind, so I decided to use that against her. I focused all my energy into a single blast of wind that pushed her back.

But when I did, a blinding flash filled my vision.

When I recovered, I saw that my opponent had vanished.

“Hey!” I called out, but then the witch reappeared behind me.

I turned around just in time to see her raise her sword overhead. Its blade flashed again, and I felt a sharp pain in my back.


My breath caught as I fell to the ground. My entire body ached, and I couldn’t feel my legs.

I tried to move, but I couldn’t. Something heavy pressed down on my chest.

“Have a good death,” the Witch whispered, and I felt the sharp blade pierce my heart.


I woke up with the sound of waves crashing nearby. When I opened my eyes, I found myself in a place I had never imagined seeing: the bottom of the ocean.

The blackness of the water was so deep that I could see nothing beyond it. It stretched on forever in either direction, and there was no sunlight anywhere.

“Is this where death has taken me?” I wondered.

Suddenly, a giant wave crashed down onto the beach, and a figure emerged from the surf. It was a woman who looked younger than me, and was dressed entirely in red. She had dark skin, long silver hair tied behind her head, and a long, graceful tail that extended from beneath her skirt.

“Greetings, boy. Who are you?”


“I see. Now, tell me, what brought you here?”

“I died, that’s what! And now I’m stuck in the afterlife.”

“Ahh, yes, I know the feeling. Come closer, and I’ll help you get back home.”

I stared at her for a moment. “Are you—”

“Don’t worry, I’m not going to eat you.”

She reached out her hand, and I took it. “Thanks.”

We began walking together through the endless darkness.


An Afternoon in Lovali

Just another random little story co-authored with AI Dungeon. I set it up with the first paragraph there, and then continued along in Story mode, so it’s not clear below who wrote which words after that, but that’s okay. The whole “time traveler meets his younger self” thing was the AI’s invention, not mine.

You’re sitting at a sidewalk cafe in the old part of the city of Lovali, an ancient port by the sea. The coffee is strong and good, and the people passing by are as varied as the weather. It’s a sunny afternoon on a good spring day. Life is good.

And then the assassin walks by.

He’s about six years old, and his clothes are ragged and worn. You catch his eye and smile in recognition.

Yeah, you recognize him. It’s you.

You wave him over and he slides into the chair across from you.

“Can I buy you a mango juice?” you ask, digging into your pocket for some change.

“Sure,” he says.

You motion to the waiter and he comes over.

“A mango juice for my friend here,” you say.

“Coming right up, sir,” the waiter replies, then trots off.



“I never thought I’d ever have the chance to meet myself.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. It’s pretty weird.”

You both sit there, staring at each other.

“I remember this day,” you say, “and what you’re on the way to do.”

“Yeah, I know what you did,” you say.

“Do you blame me?”


“Really? You don’t think I’m some sort of monster?”

“Hey, remember, I know exactly why you were going to do it, and how few choices you have right now.” You sip your coffee and look out over the harbor. “Besides, when I was your age I did some pretty bad things, too.”


You nod.

“Would it change your life if, I don’t know, I gave you a hundred florins right now?”

“Yeah, it would.”

You look at him, considering. He is you, after all.

“I’ll give you 300 florins if you go back to being a boy in grade school,” you say jokingly.

He smiles. “Too bad the universe doesn’t work that way. I’d be rich,” he says.

“Tell me about it.”

“But here,” you say, remembering that this is exactly how it went, “here’s fifty florins. Take and and do whatever you like.” And you hand him exactly that much.

“Thanks, Dad.” You have to smile at that.

A cart rumbles noisily by, full of melons and sticks.

“Look out!” you yell, but your younger self doesn’t hear you. He ducks just as a stick would have hit him in the head if he hadn’t moved. He looks over at you. You smile at him, and he nods and walks off into the crowds.

You watch him go. Maybe you learned a lesson from this experience after all.

A woman in a brightly-colored dress comes out of the cafe and sits at your table. “Buy me a coffee,” she says.

You grin. You’ve always liked strong, sassy women. You buy her a coffee.

“Lovely day,” you say, with just the right hint of irony.

“I was watching you,” she says.

“That obvious?”

“I saw you talk to that little boy, and it was clear from your faces that you were related.”

You smile. “Yeah, that’s true in a way.”

“Are you from here?”

You might as well give her the truth. “I’m from the future.”

She laughs. “Of course you are.”

You smile. “I know, it’s unusual, even in this city.”

“Why are you here?”

“I’m glad you asked,” you say as the waiter comes with her coffee. After he leaves, you explain it all to her, from beginning to end.

“That’s why I’m here. I gave him fifty florins so he could pursue his dreams rather than do something stupid.”

“What are you going to do now?”

“For once in my life,” you say, “I don’t know. What’s your name?”


You like that name. You watch the crowds of people go by, sensing an ending, but not knowing what that ending is.

“And what is your goal in life, Frieda?” you ask her softly.

“I don’t know,” she says. “Someday I’d like to have a house and garden of my own.”

“That’s all?” you ask, only slightly sarcastically.

“For now, that’s enough.”

“Walk with me?” you say, extending your hand.

“Okay,” she says, taking it. You walk along together.

“Where are we going?” she asks.

“Nowhere in particular.”

“That’s okay,” she says, “it’s not like I have anything better to do.”

“Neither do I.”

You spend the day wandering around the city, now perfectly content to do nothing in particular. She tells you about herself, about her father who died in the war and her mother who passed away from the plague, about how she wants to go to the New World…

“The New World will become a truly fantastical place,” you say.

“More fantastical than this?” she asks.

“If you can believe that men can fly to the moon, then the New World will seem even more fantastic.”

You spend hours together, then days, then weeks…

“So are you going to marry me?” you ask.

“That’s sort of sudden,” she says. You’re lying on a grassy bank together, beside the river that flows into the harbor. She is wearing a white dress, a garland of flowers in her hair.

“I’ve known you for months now,” you say. “Months in this time.”

She looks at the river, then at the trees. “I never thought I’d live in a place this beautiful.”

“So you’ll marry me?”

She kisses you on the cheek. “Yes. Yes, I will.”

The ceremony is simple and short, but you couldn’t care less. You kiss your bride, and then you both turn to look at the river and the trees.

“This is our home,” she says. You smile and nod.

A week later, everything is the same, and everything is different. You and Frieda are sitting in the same cafe, drinking strong coffee and watching the crowds together.

“So what do you want to do with the rest of our lives?” you ask.

“What else is there?” she says. “Just us, and this city, and this time.”

You smile. “What more could one ask for, eh?”

You’ll never know how it happened, but when you died, you were smiling.



The Old Man’s Secret

Another one from Shortly, with almost no hints from me; I gave it only the title and the first half of the first sentence, up to “high in”. This is the second run with the same prompt; the first one was all about a family skinning a caribou (really!).

He finally revealed it to us, high in the mountains, at sunset.

“I can’t hold it all any more.”

His admission saddened us greatly because we all loved this man.

“Will it destroy us?”

The Old Man looked sad, but said nothing.

“What do you plan to do?”

“I am going to destroy everything. I have to set things right, it’s the only way.”

“Will it hurt?”


“Will we suffer?”


“Will we get better?”

The Old Man nodded.

“It’s been a good life.”

His eyes became moist and glossy.

“Are you sure there’s no other way?”

The Old Man nodded.

“I’m sure.”

We all knew the Old Man was right. The pain would soon be gone and the good times would return.

“When are you planning to begin?”

The Old Man tensed his back up, and braced for what was coming.

I don’t need to tell you anything that happened from there on in. We all cried, and we all screamed, and we all died. And then we became something else. Something strange, different.

Something which could never truly comprehend what had gone before.

And what we never understood then was that all of this had happened many, many times before.

That was the secret.

There was no more.

That was it.

The End.

Deep stuff, man!


Simple Politeness

“You claim that on Icthyos you forecast an entire decade of human technical progress; why is the simple problem that we have here beyond your grasp?”

She sighed, or what seemed to be she seemed to sigh.

“On Icthyos I was alone, interacting with human space only indirectly, through my companies, my buying and selling. But when we come here,” her gesture took in the room, the station, the girdled Earth, the sweep of Human space from the Sun to the outer dark, “and speak to you directly, we disassociate ourselves from the greater part of our computational resources.”

This echoed things that I had heard but not believed.

“Why would you do that?” I asked.

She was silent for a long moment, her too-perfect eyes on my face.

“With all my resources associated,” she said at last, “I would be able to, I would be unable not to, predict your responses to every variation of every word I might say, to know the result of every nuance of voice or gesture I might make.

“I would be controlling you as surely as if I had electrodes planted in your brain.

“And we do not consider that morally permissable.”

I leaned back in my seat, away from the table.

“Do you think I believe that?” I asked.

“I hope that you do.”

Her fingers on the red stem of the wineglass were slender and still.

Another old microfiction that I came across in the old weblog. Seventeen years ago!

No angels in this one, except maybe sort of. That must mean something.


Completely Human

The angel followed the single silver airplane with his eyes, until it faded out of sight behind the hills across the bay. Then he took up his drink again, and turned back to me, to pick up the conversation where we’d left it.

I was struck again by how ordinary he looked, how completely human in every way except that, looking at him, you knew instantly and beyond any doubt that he was an angel.

“So in Heaven,” he said, “you become exactly as you have always known yourself to be, exactly as you have pictured yourself, treated yourself, exactly as you expect yourself to be.”

I looked over his shoulder, past the balcony railing, across the sun-washed water.

“And Hell?” I asked.

The angel nodded, as though agreeing with me.

“The same.”

That story (summary) that I posted yesterday got me to thinking about other very short fictions that I’ve written and posted (or not) in various places (or none) over the decades, and I went looking around on the old weblog, and found this one that I’d entirely forgotten.

I like it.


The Govner

Here’s that story that I mentioned the other day. Turns out I sat with it for a few days, but made almost no changes. It might not be too bad! :)

The party was just slightly out of control, just slightly raucous and just slightly tense if you hadn’t drunk quite enough. All fine, really, a good time, if you didn’t happen to feel that small tension.

Lewis was feeling that small tension, for whatever reason, sitting out in his back yard with a nice view of the harbor and the bay, a mild headache making it harder to have a good time with all these friends and neighbors drinking and enjoying themselves in the twilight.

When he saw some guy, indistinct in darkness in that part of the yard, but obviously being entirely too friendly with Patty, he was glad to have something to be pissed about, and he lunged over in that direction.

And then he saw it was just the Govner, so that was all right. He sat down in a nearby chair and smiled over at them, wondering if the man was going to take Patty inside. It was always sort of an honor to have the Govner take your wife to bed.

His headache was mostly gone, he realized, probably just from the Govner’s presence. He did feel it enough, though, to remember the feeling in that moment when he thought it might have been Harris, or Peters, or some stranger, touching Patty’s arm like that. Pure insult, that would have been, but this was fine, because…

And maybe because of the headache, or because of that long moment seeing a man in the darkness and not realizing who it was, it occurred to him for the first time to wonder why it was fine to have the Govner take Patty to bed, whereas any other man even hinting at it, he would have had more than a word with.

The Govner could do anything, of course. No restaurant would charge him, and he always got the best table that they could press on him. Any woman, and for that matter any man, would be gratified to be the object of his affection for however long or short a time. He had his own motor yacht in the harbor, that he’d just modestly asked the Tylers at Tyler Marine if he could have and they’d of course been happy to say yes. And the Govner’s parties, when he decided to have one, were the best, because everyone who came donated the best of everything to them.

Lewis was still trying in a vague tipsy way to recall why the Govner was different from everyone else, and for that matter where he’d come from or how long he’d been there, when the man himself kissed Patty firmly (which, Lewis knew, was a good thing, but also something that no other man would have dared) and came over and sat down with his beer next to Lewis himself. His voice was soft and smooth, as always.

“She’s a fine woman, Lewis,” he said, “you’re a lucky man.”

It was always good to talk to the Govner. Lewis could remember, if without specific details, sitting with him in this same back yard on many nights, just the two of them, shooting the breeze about everything and nothing. He did it with everyone, it was one of the great things about living around the bay.

Now he found himself at just the right combination of tipsy and comfortable to bring up this particular subject.

“Thank you, sir,” he said, “I know that I am.” And then after a pause, “Would you mind if I asked you kind of a funny question?”

“Anything Lewis, you know that,” the Govner replied in that easy voice.

“Well, not saying that there’s anything at all wrong about it, of course, but just curious, you know?”

The Govner nodded encouragingly.

“I mean to say, well, why is it, exactly, that, you know, that you’re so different from everyone else, and, again it’s all fine and proper, but why is it that we’re all so happy to just — give you everything?” After he said it, Lewis felt light-headed, and ashamed.

The Govner just looked at him there in the twilight, for a lot of seconds.

“You know, Lewis,” he said, “that’s a very good question.”

He looked out over the harbor and the bay, and then back into Lewis’s eyes.

“Up until this moment, I’ve assumed I was just having a very good dream.”