Sonder

My six favourite episodes of 99% Invisible

Consider this a starter pack.

Episode 93: Revolving Doors

The story goes like this: Theophilus Van Kannel hated chivalry.  There was nothing he despised  more than trying to walk in or out of a building, and locking horns with other men in a game of “oh you first, I insist.” But most of all, Theophilus Van Kannel hated opening doors for women.

 Episode 101: Cover Story

You know the saying: you can’t judge a book by its cover. With magazines, it’s pretty much the opposite. The cover of a magazine is the unified identity for a whole host of ideas, authors, and designers who have created the eclectic array of stories and articles and materials within each issue. And, some would argue, this identity extends to the reader as well.So if, say, you’re seen with an issue of Vogue, you’re don’t just own that copyyou become a Vogue reader.

Episode 139: Edge Of Your Seat

“A Chair is a difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier.” — Mies van der Rohe.

Episode 140: Vexillonaire

You’ll remember from episode #6 that the principles of flag design, according to the North American Vexillological Association, are:

1. Keep it simple

2. Use meaningful symbolism

3. Use two to three basic colors

4. No lettering or seals of any kind.

5. Be distinctive

For some reason, cities of the United States seem to have a lot of trouble with principle #4.

Episode 145: Octothorpe

If you want to follow conversation threads relating to this show on social media—whether Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, Tumblr—you know to look for the hashtag: #99pi. In our current digital age, the hashtag identifies movements, events, happenings, brands—topics of all kinds. The “#” didn’t always have this meaning, though.

Episode 161: Show of Force

The crazy idea was this: The United States Army would design a “deception unit”: a unit that would appear to the enemy as a large armored division with tanks, trucks, artillery, and thousands of soldiers. But this unit would actually be equipped only with fake tanks, fake trucks, fake artillery and manned by just a handful of soldiers.

Sonder

In Praise of Mike Montiero

Mike Montiero:

But while someone can certainly make the case that an AK-47, or any other kind of gun or rifle is designed, nothing whose primary purpose is to take away life can be said to be designed well. And that attempting to separate an object from its function in order to appreciate it for purely aesthetic reasons, or to be impressed by its minimal elegance, is a coward’s way of justifying the death they’ve designed into the world, and the money with which they’re lining their pockets.

I work where I work because I made the choice to design more ethical things. I largely have Mike Monteiro (mostly this book, this podcast, and his twitter account) to thank for getting me off my ass.

That's not to say where I used to work made guns or anything. It was fine. But before my current job, and before I really starting taking Montiero's advice to heart, I didn't particularly care what I made. I did whatever the job asked of me. And that sucked, and I sucked. And now it's better. So, thanks Mike.

And to get back to the article I linked to, I've heard this "well-designed gun" argument from lots of people, and it never felt right. It always seemed like a removed and inhumane way of looking at an object whose purpose is to remove humanity.

Notes

On Completing Chapter 1

I just want to pause here for a second and reflect on the last few months of my writing process, because it's a good day for me and therefore the world.

Today, I published the first draft of a "completed" chapter 1 of my new book.

Four months ago I was pretty depressed about writing. Sprites, Jets, and Elves just wasn't the story I wanted it to be. It was the fourth story I'd begun and not finished in four years. I saw the failures of my work with Gredunza Press and Lattice, and I didn't know where to go.

For some reason, I started reading a lot about github, the popular code repository. Coding isn't something I've ever done, but there's no difference in between coding and fiction. Literally, none. You pick a language and then try to write a compelling argument. That's all writing is. If you write well in code, an application runs and it feels like magic. If you write a good story, the reader's imagination runs and it feels like magic. What inspired me about Github is their versioning system. Scrivener, the writing app I use, has a versioning system baked in that I've never used before. Whenever you feel like it, you just click "new snapshot" and it keeps a nice backup of your document, so that you can mess with it without worry.

I'm currently using a process I outlined here, and it seems to be working thus far. If the numbers are confusing, don't worry about it. I'll make a big deal when a chapter is "finished" and you can read those and just skip the in-between releases. I'm not nearly as anxious to delete or replace, and I'm spending less time chewing on phrasing and more time getting everything down. That's one of the reasons I put quotations around "complete" when I linked to the chapter. It currently stands as version 1.2.9, but I will likely make a 1.2.10 with various "bug" fixes.

Obviously, adding in a new structural component doesn't explain why I've fallen back in love with writing. But the other things are less tangible. The other things are feelings, and they'll be in the book itself, if I can actually wrangle them properly.

None of this should really be important to you, the reader. I just hope you like the chapter. But it's important to me, because it helped me get to a point where I could offer you a chapter. It's been about three years since I've finished a chapter I've actually been proud of. Thanks for your patience.

Sonder

Ways To Beat A Creative Block

Warren Ellis:

Turn off the internet, turn off the television, read a book, listen to music, let yourself get bored and empty.  Put away what you’re working on right now and lock it in a drawer for two weeks.  Invite your most brilliant friend over, kill them, find and eat their adrenal glands and then wear their skin as a shamanic cloak until the next full moon.  Strap cats to every part of your body and tell everyone your new name is Pussy Fang Dervish.  If you live in a city, go to nature.  If you live in nature, go to a city.  Buy a cheap notebook and write down every stupid idea you’ve ever had.  And then write down the five most important things you want to achieve once the block is broken.  And then stand up, remind yourself that your name is Pussy Fang Dervish and you can do anything, and then go and give it another try.

Daily Fiction

Corona Gale, nightly build 1.2.8

Changelog:

  • First up, I'm going to try doing a changelog. Now, the text will be behind a click, and you the reader will have some idea as to what's new. If I'm going to do drafts like software, I might as well go whole hog (and maybe publish on Github).
  • This is a fairly big release. Changed a ton of description throughout. Tighter sentences in the first scene (including the first paragraph).
  • Roughly 1,500 new words at the tail end. There's only one more scene to go in the first chapter.
  • Footnotes are now at the bottom of the post, as opposed to baked in brackets. If you want to ignore them (they're really more for me than you) now you can.

Sonder

The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life

Man, it kills me when i begin building a plot and character set, only to look it up on TV Tropes and find the results so crushingly robust:

What you do for a living is typically a big part of who you are, and when you start getting serious with a boyfriend or girlfriend, you probably like to talk about how your day went. But what if you spend your day saving the planet from alien invasions? Or hunting down vampire serial killers? What if what you do for a living is so fantastical telling them about your Secret Identity will convince them you are a liar (in which case they dump you), convince them you are insane (in which case they try to have you committed and/or dump you), or horrify them to the point where they (guess what) dump you? Of course, the people you work for in this fantastical world may insist that should you ever tell your significant other, you'd have to immediately kill them.

Daily Fiction

Corona Gale, nightly build 1.2.7

Kate Foley snored[She sleeps like the dead with him, and with other boys, but only when she wasn’t at work. She never slept much while on the job.] alone in bed, deeply asleep in a way her boyfriend never could snore, who shared the bed and in fact owned it, in fact owned just about everything in the apartment, had still not in months become used to the noise or gravity of that mountainous inhalation. It came from nowhere he could ascertain, not her throat or chest or deeper. But he’d grown to it, and it wasn’t wonderful but what could he do?[Repeat this.] He stood barefoot twenty feet from her, his back to her and a wall between them, his downturned sleepily half-watching the foggy brim of water turn from still to feverish, half-watching his phone[Ollie always has a phone in his hand.] in the other hand, flicking, flicking, flicking. He’d been awake since the snoring broke through his dreams, as it did every morning she stayed over, which was invariable as of late, since he asked her to basically move in and she basically did even though she brought basically nothing, which caused a suspicion he brought up during third-beer rants about privacy and trust, her defense being she didn’t like to own things, as if that was a rational stance about anything[Repeat this.].

Ollie poured water into a contraption that eventually produced decent coffee, not worrying about making noise. Cups clanged on the breakfast tray, a small silver plate with foldout legs, a pattern of an aluminum flower against an aluminum sky underneath two cups of coffee and a plate of bacon, scrambled eggs, leftover sausage. Ollie made or reheated these things while listening to a dulcet podcast[Ollie listens to podcasts about nicer versions of the things he does.] about fancier ways of making coffee. He put the tray down on the floor beside her, and he sat on the bed and put his hand gently on her hair, petting it slightly. She didn’t stir, but she stopped snoring and started to sort of purr, and then in a few moments rose to consciousness, a vacation smile appearing on her face as she remembered where and who she was.

“Do I have to get up?” She asked like a six year old.

Ollie said, “I made you breakfast. Then you can do what you want.”

“I’m going to try to not get too used to this,” she said. “You spoil me. You treat me like a princess.”

“I treat you like a person,” he said, getting up and heading towards the shower. “It’s just that most people don’t know how to do that.”

Next to Kate on the reclaimed alabaster nightstand sat an alarm clock, black, analogue, with hands that glowed in the dark. She had bought it as a joke, because it was her second one. The original sat just right of it, digital and glowing with green numbers, an army of buttons above and behind them to help out with settings and radio preferences. Sitting comfortably just behind the original was a third, this one a cute Japanese ball clock shaped like the head of a cat. To snooze, you had to pull a level in the back that slowly lifted up again to trigger the alarm every ten minutes. There were two other alarms, but they didn’t matter. What mattered is that her nightstand was just alarm clocks, 5 trinkets recognizing hearty ambition and futile practicality. She would buy a new one and within days her unconscious muscle memory would figure out the exact motion needed to not only hit snooze but disable the alarm entirely. She had no real power to stop it. At first, she had them trigger all at the same time, so she would need to exert some real effort to kill them all. Later, she scheduled them at 5 minute intervals. Nothing helped. She sleepily gazed over at her collection of attempts at a possible morning. None of them really did the trick.

Kate chewed on bacon in bed. She flipped around on her phone, liking posts and deleting spam. The coffee was perfect and nothing hurt[This is a reference to something. Find it?]. She’d been seeing this guy for about six months, and he knew how to wake her up and not ask too many questions. She hadn’t once thought of running. Well, she’d thought about it as a routine measure, but not because of anything he did. In his bed, eating his bacon and using his wifi, she considered the possibility of it actually working out. Could she just coast like this forever? She’d lied well enough. He wasn’t suspicious of anything. He didn’t seem to stress about the unknowns. Ollie didn’t seem to stress about anything, as if he’d bottled the ability to glide through life. Did this bother her on some level? She asked herself this before, and the answer was no, then. It was still no. So many problems she usually ran into with her life and with her relationships was still turning up no. She almost didn’t know how to deal with it, except with the dumb reminder that there was nothing to deal with. So long as she could keep up a healthy facade, there was no drama.

“Oh!” Ollie yelled from the shower. “You got a letter. This morning. It’s on the desk in the living room. Three hours before the mail guy usually comes. And even though you don’t live here.”

Kate’s toes tightened, head cocked out to the window. She stood, consciously feeling the adrenaline that came to her in these moments.

Ollie yelled from the shower. “Did you change your mailing address?”

Kate found her shirt and shorts crumpled on the floor at the foot of the bed, everything wrinkled and tired and yesterday. She buttoned up and scrambled to find the letter. It was the only thing on the living room table counter, save his laptop and her purse. She snatched it up, as if the haste of possession would wipe away the fact that he knew about the thing, and they could go back to normal. But as she fingered the lip and tried to suss out its contents without actually ripping the thing open, she knew this would make things curlier than she was willing to handle.

There was the further complication of the letter arriving on a Saturday.

Neither Kate nor Ollie had to work today. They hadn’t made plans. They hadn’t made plans past Friday night. It wasn’t the first weekend where this had happened, spurs dug deep in the moment. A date turning into a weekend. Kate smiled at this rarity in her life. Ollie made her feel like she didn’t have to worry about mysterious mail. But yet she did, as such a thing was in her hand, brought to his attention by the fact that this wasn’t even close to her address, was a whole day off from normal mail hours, and would surely prompt at least a few questions.

About the topic of work, Kate had been thin. In the blurry first few months of this relationship, Kate had equally blurred what it was she did. He knew there was an office she occasionally visited. He knew a lot of correspondence happened over email, and that the work seemed both important and classified (at least, classified from him). Ollie asked few questions, but the ones he did ask illuminated borders around the answer.

“So what is it you do with your days?” He asked once while on an early date in his most mid-western American accent, something he did when making fun of dating tropes. It was an accent that came a little too easy for him, as if he had family or business of his own south from Alberta.

 She answered with nonsense. “It depends on the day.” On this date, they sat opposite each other on a long bench, christmas lights above them spidered around planks that let in the moon, creating an atmosphere of old country idealism, the smell of months of barbeque and endless summer in April. There were other people flanking both of them but nobody noticed one another until they wanted to be friendly. She said, “Some days I file reports. Some days I stop buildings from exploding. Some days I make people fall in love. And some days I stop that.”

Kate didn’t know how Ollie took this, except that he picked up another rib bone and smiled and said, “That sounds like quite the job,” and somehow didn’t ask any questions about any of the obvious things to ask questions about. He didn’t pry into the actual goings on, her odd hours, the unbelievability of anything she’d said in this moment or in similar subsequent scenarios. Kate and Ollie went on a lot of dates. He knew so many great hidden places in a city not particularly known for its mystery. The night before the letter appeared, they’d eaten in the kitchen of a Kensington second floor. A friend of a Facebook friend cooked them duck in her kitchen and played George Jones songs on the violin in the other room while they enjoyed her view.

And now Kate sat full and hungover, needing more coffee and time and not needing the drama that comes from letters that had no business here. They couldn’t have sent it to her house? They couldn’t have just emailed her? The act was upsetting, but not entirely without precedent. They did know where she was just about all the time. What employer didn’t these days, if they wanted to? This wasn’t the first item they’d sent to her out of nowhere. She’d had this job for close to ten years. Other pieces of unwelcome mail had made it into her hands, sometimes very far away from home.

She did not want to open the letter with Ollie around. She’d have to explain its contents, but mostly her reaction. She decided to fetch coffee for them, from the third closest coffee shop two blocks away. She chose it for distance, and their dynamite dark roast. As well, nobody bothers people who open their mail in busy coffee shops.


“I’m just going out to get us some coffee, back soon!” She stubbed her toe on a baseboard near his door. She didn’t bleed. She wasn’t even sure if Ollie heard her. Sneakers on, she exited into the daylight, walked down his steel steps[Detail: Ollie lives in a second-flooor walkup.] and found the street. Beaming daylight, evaporating a little bit of morning hail.

Kate’s laceless blue[Shoe detail.] sneakers make no noise. When she bought them, she felt like a cat burgler. She exclaimed, “for sneaking!”[Homer the Vigilante. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Recap/TheSimpsonsS5E11HomerTheVigilante] in her most fangirl voice when the salesgirl asked her if she had any special plans for the shoes. Her excitement mostly proved accurate. They were exceptionally helpful when sneaking was required. Kate could get right up behind a person—and sometimes right in front—without them noticing, which afforded her the moments that eventually got her paid. She wondered what sneaking she’d have to do for this letter, besides the paper bastard thing itself.

She reached the doors of the coffee shop. She still had no idea what the coffee shop was actually called, since there was no actual signage. Still, everyone knew about it and at eight on a Saturday was almost full. Of the dozen or so seats, there were only two free. Kate sat down near the window looking out on the street. She could see out a lot easier than she could see in. Holding the letter in her hands, she took a deep, experienced breath, and tore a corner.

“Kate?” An excited voice echoed from several feet behind her.

Kate pulled the letter to her chest, moved it down into a shorts pocket, then turned.

A tall, fit girl in difficult-looking long red curls approached Kate with the slick confidence of finding lost treasure. “Holy shit, I can’t believe it. How are you?”

Kate’s eyes went wide as performance. “I…great. I’m great.”

“You look amazing,” the girl said. “I mean, you always looked amazing, but it’s been forever, you know? What are you doing now?”

The girl stood and towered over her by a few inches. The stool made her feel inadequate, but standing up to greet her wouldn’t really help with that.   

Looking past the girl, it was then Kate noticed the man. He sat on a couch next to the sugar and milk table, and the traffic from that area concealed him half the time. What she mostly noticed about him was that he was looking back at her. He wasn’t doing that thing you see in coffee shops, where people look around and maybe linger on a pretty face or an engaging conversation. He looked like he was searing her image in his head, as if she’d wronged him in his ancient past, and he’d just found her after all these years. It was entirely possible. Nobody had ever tracked her down, but she’d entertained the idea that someone she had altered would figure out the whole racket and track her down, try to rattle the truth from her somehow, exact a kind of revenge, though she had no idea what sort it might be. But perhaps he was just a creepy guy in a public place. These things do happen.

Perhaps this wasn’t the place to open something like a Saturday letter after all.

Kate’s face thankfully didn’t communicate how much of a misfire it had been to come here. Of course, the moment she needed some proper city privacy someone (possibly two people) would recognize her (possibly from two different pasts). What it did communicate, however, was that she had no idea who this girl was. She thought maybe the best thing to do was be clear about that much, at least.

“Sorry, maybe it’s your hair, which is goddamn awesome by the way. It must be a lot of work, and maybe leave-in conditioner? I’m seriously envious of the colour. But yeah, I’m sorry, can you just remind me where we know one another?”

“Are you serious?” the girl responded, her ego maybe a little bruised. But she bounced back. “It’s fine. You’re Kate Foley. Of course you don’t remember me.”

“What’s that supposed to…” Kate stopped herself. “Do I do that?”

The girl nodded. “I’m Alice.”

A beat went by.

“You know, Alice.”

Kate reached in her mind for an Alice file of any kind. She had a turtle named Alice when she was six. The girl was probably not her turtle come back to life with curls out of a Victorian-era BBC series.

Alice stressed, “I used to live with Shawn.”

“Oh right!” Kate lied with the exclamation of an amateur. “Alice. How are you? How’s Shawn? How’s everyone? Everything?”

Alice blinked twice in acknowledgment of her own apparent forgetfulness. She shrugged.

“Look, there’s a thing tonight if you want to come. Shawn might be there. I don’t know. He’s…well, I guess you haven’t kept in touch.”

Alice shifted her weight, waiting for Kate to grow some curiosity about this whole side of things she’d left alone for apparently more years than she’d realized. Where had it gone? She was friends with these people at one point. It felt like she’d just left the room, gone to do some other thing for just some small amount of time, and then eight years went by. Kate apologized in recognition.

“It’s fine,” Alice said. “It’s just really nice to see you, to see that you’re doing all right.”

Across the room on the couch, the man who was looking at her wavered. He instead looked down, and was probably looking down to his phone, likely typing with a vigor of an early teenager, the type who’s primary computer was their phone, had in fact never become good at the old big keyboards adults felt were the “real” kind. She couldn’t see all of him so he appeared to just be pushing his hands into his crotch. It wasn’t the best visual, but it was just so common that she knew exactly what was happening. There were two other people in the shop doing it. But he did look up for a moment and lock eyes with her. That he knew she was looking back did nothing to deter him. Her heart rate did not go up.

“Let’s get back in touch,” Kate said. She surprised herself. It’s not that she was hoping Alice would just disappear, but Kate didn’t always look forward to the unexpected. She had to do unexpected for work. She did not call unexpected up for more later. But she pulled out her phone and made a new contact. “What’s your number?”

Alice smiled again, like she did when she first saw Kate a few moments ago, before the awkwardness. She typed her number into Kate’s phone and handed it back. They hugged, palms touching shoulders, but no fingers, and Alice excused herself, saying she needed to get to work.

Kate waited until the last polite second and asked, “Will Scott be there?”

Alice turned on her heel and looked down, opened her mouth, and lifted and eyebrow. “Why the fuck would Scott be there?” She didn’t wait for an answer. Maybe she didn’t even want Kate to show up, now, having been so far removed.

She checked back to the couch to see if the man was still watching her. Her face flushed when she found an empty seat. He may have had nothing to do with anything. This happened, from time to time. She had visions of being followed, or led, watched, or studied. She pictured a larger ring of influence on her. What kind of file did they have on her? When would they strike? Or would they never? Would they just watch her, forever, to make sure events in which she stood key went as they wanted.

Kate reminded herself. A side effect of knowing that there’s something bigger going on is dreading the ever bigger thing going on. How big does it get? How far up does it go? She told herself, *all the way to the top, usually*. This is normal. This is expected. She should be wary of strangers who leer a little too long. She should watch out for the quiet ones. She was right to notice him. This is just how it was.

She remembered the letter in her pocket. Finally alone, she walked up to the till and asked a woman with the most dedicated half-pompadour she’d ever seen for a pair of coffees to go. After waiting seven minutes, she sat back down again in the corner seat near the window, unopened and unsweetened black coffees sitting beside her elbow, and placed a fingernail in the envelope’s crevice.

Kate read nonsense. She knew better to just minimize it like that, but that’s how she usually took these things at first. She’d re-read it until a meaning arrived, or until an event or person came into her life that gave the cryptic bastard[Sinfest lil’ Buddha.] a home in the universe. But until that time, it would be gibberish. But Kate knew that was also kind of the point. A physical letter could be read by anybody. It couldn’t make all that much sense. It had to look like the ramblings of a fan fiction enthusiast. Kate kept an eye on the shop as she read, but almost every person just stared at their phones. What was the point in being paranoid in a world where nobody cared about anything? You could conspire about the worst things imaginable out in the open, and most people would just assume you were talking about a tower defense game.

“Agent F,” it began, as if that was a thing she’d ever called herself. She’d accumulated a couple of nicknames she’d liked[Come back to this later.], but her official designation was never cool. “In ten days, you’ll board a ship that’ll eventually take you to Pago Pago[http://www.princess.com/excursion/exlistfordestination.do?portid=PPG&t=H&exType=S]. The trip will take approximately two months[Modify this with facts later.]. More instructions to follow.”

Kate’s job required her to be in certain places of the world for long enough amounts of time to make sure the things she affected actually worked. She would sometimes have to spend months holed up in small hotel rooms while watching a single street with binoculars. She’d spent six weeks frequenting a single internet cafe in South Korea, so much so that she succumbed to a lol[League of Legends.] habit that still itched. Kate lost a year of her life “married” in “Minnesota.” Two months was a short trip in comparison, but still long enough to make her swear out loud, alerting none of the several people close enough to hear.

Notes

Minion Yellow Pantone

This sentence might be the worst I've read in many years:

The partnership was born when Pharrell Williams, who helped create the music for the Despicable Me franchise, came up with the idea while the Pantone Color Institute, the research arm of the company that charts global color trends and studies how color influences human thought processes, emotions and physical reactions, noted the desire of the consumer to add more energizing color into their lives.

It's one thing to co-brand a new colour with a movie franchise. That's...fine, I guess. Whatever, it's your company. It's another thing to make a poor PR writer juggle all that corporatese and not let them use semi-colons.

Notes

Street Fighter II coming to vinyl

Fans of physical media will be treated with a double album that features liner notes by Yoko Shimomura and Polygon.com writer Matt Leone. Additionally, and for the first time in the series history, we will present with Capcom a limited edition vinyl release, carefully and especially remastered in translucent colored vinyl, with art prints sourced from the Capcom archive.

There isn't a person alive who's played Street Fighter II and doesn't have at least one track permanently stuck on repeat in their head. I hope the final product looks at nice as this. It's definitely getting hung in my apartment.

Focusing on the emotional moments between insanity

Whenever I read about the writing process of science fiction/fantasy authors, I see them talking about the "human moments" that happen in between all the otherworldly zaniness. I agree that it's an important element of fiction to ground the plot and characters in real-world conflicts and circumstances. But it also seems a bit like the writers would like to discard the human element entirely. They're not really interested in telling a human story in an alien world. They want to write about a cool alien world, and the relatable stuff is just there to help keep the reader from getting too lost.

The human element in these stories are really the only things I like about them, though. I only ever get invested in a story when principles get tested in a way I understand. Common enough tropes in fantasy writing are those of strength (not having enough), trust, loyalty, and adherence to an individual's principles. Okay, these are tropes in most fiction, but they get pressed on in fantasy fiction because it's often how to tell who we're supposed to care about.

I'm writing a new version of Corona Gale, and I've thought a lot about what I want to have happen. I don't particularly like how I wrote the "mission" Kate Foley went on, to stop (and fail to stop) a madman bent on sailing a cruise ship directly into a tornado (that may or may not have time traveling capabilities). That's a lot of plot in one sentence, and it played out clumsily. In the new version, almost none of that is going to happen. Instead, I'm going to focus on the human element I baked into it: whether or not she would give up on a budding relationship.

Kate Foley has a strange job that sends her on missions for long periods of time. She can't talk to anyone about it, but it's not clear (and I'm not planning on making it clear) if she isn't allowed, or can't bring herself to. I'm not really planning on revealing too much about it. It worked as a mysterious token in No Chinook and it can work here (so long as I tear away just a little of the edges). What she does isn't the point. That it gets in the way of her having the kind of life she might want is.

In a way, it's a little bit of a "can she have it all?" story. There's a negativity to those stories, because it's often looked at as anti-woman (men don't seem to have trouble "having it all" in popular fiction). But I don't think it'll turn out that way, anyway, because Kate is a bit of a villain (read No Chinook if you haven't). She doesn't have many troubles, and she mostly always gets what she wants. But who is she? What does she actually want? Is Ollie it? There's a lot to unpack in ten chapters.

This isn't a story about a regular person in a regular world. There's definitely stuff just off screen. The monster under your bed is always scarier than the monster in front of you. What I like about taking that approach is that fear becomes a roving metaphor for every road not taken, every choice about the future.

Daily Fiction

Corona Gale, nightly build 1.2.6

Kate Foley snored[She sleeps like the dead with him, and with other boys, but only when she wasn’t at work. She never slept much while on the job.] alone in bed, deeply asleep in a way her boyfriend never could snore, who shared the bed and in fact owned it, in fact owned just about everything in the apartment, had still not in months become used to the noise or gravity of that mountainous inhalation. It came from nowhere he could ascertain, not her throat or chest or deeper. But he’d grown to it, and it wasn’t wonderful but what could he do?[Repeat this.] He stood barefoot twenty feet from her, his back to her and a wall between them, his downturned sleepily half-watching the foggy brim of water turn from still to feverish, half-watching his phone[Ollie always has a phone in his hand.] in the other hand, flicking, flicking, flicking. He’d been awake since the snoring broke through his dreams, as it did every morning she stayed over, which was invariable as of late, since he asked her to basically move in and she basically did even though she brought basically nothing, which caused a suspicion he brought up during third-beer rants about privacy and trust, her defense being she didn’t like to own things, as if that was a rational stance about anything[Repeat this.].

Ollie poured water into a contraption that eventually produced decent coffee, not worrying about making noise. Cups clanged on the breakfast tray, a small silver plate with foldout legs, a pattern of an aluminum flower against an aluminum sky underneath two cups of coffee and a plate of bacon, scrambled eggs, leftover sausage. Ollie made or reheated these things while listening to a dulcet podcast[Ollie listens to podcasts about nicer versions of the things he does.] about fancier ways of making coffee. He put the tray down on the floor beside her, and he sat on the bed and put his hand gently on her hair, petting it slightly. She didn’t stir, but she stopped snoring and started to sort of purr, and then in a few moments rose to consciousness, a vacation smile appearing on her face as she remembered where and who she was.

“Do I have to get up?” She asked like a six year old.

Ollie said, “I made you breakfast. Then you can do what you want.”

“I’m going to try to not get too used to this,” she said. “You spoil me. You treat me like a princess.”

“I treat you like a person,” he said, getting up and heading towards the shower. “It’s just that most people don’t know how to do that.”

Next to Kate on the reclaimed alabaster nightstand sat an alarm clock, black, analogue, with hands that glowed in the dark. She had bought it as a joke, because it was her second one. The original sat just right of it, digital and glowing with green numbers, an army of buttons above and behind them to help out with settings and radio preferences. Sitting comfortably just behind the original was a third, this one a cute Japanese ball clock shaped like the head of a cat. To snooze, you had to pull a level in the back that slowly lifted up again to trigger the alarm every ten minutes. There were two other alarms, but they didn’t matter. What mattered is that her nightstand was just alarm clocks, 5 trinkets recognizing hearty ambition and futile practicality. She would buy a new one and within days her unconscious muscle memory would figure out the exact motion needed to not only hit snooze but disable the alarm entirely. She had no real power to stop it. At first, she had them trigger all at the same time, so she would need to exert some real effort to kill them all. Later, she scheduled them at 5 minute intervals. Nothing helped. She sleepily gazed over at her collection of attempts at a possible morning. None of them really did the trick.

Kate chewed on bacon in bed. She flipped around on her phone, liking posts and deleting spam. The coffee was perfect and nothing hurt[This is a reference to something. Find it?]. She’d been seeing this guy for about six months, and he knew how to wake her up and not ask too many questions. She hadn’t once thought of running. Well, she’d thought about it as a routine measure, but not because of anything he did. In his bed, eating his bacon and using his wifi, she considered the possibility of it actually working out. Could she just coast like this forever? She’d lied well enough. He wasn’t suspicious of anything. He didn’t seem to stress about the unknowns. Ollie didn’t seem to stress about anything, as if he’d bottled the ability to glide through life. Did this bother her on some level? She asked herself this before, and the answer was no, then. It was still no. So many problems she usually ran into with her life and with her relationships was still turning up no. She almost didn’t know how to deal with it, except with the dumb reminder that there was nothing to deal with. So long as she could keep up a healthy facade, there was no drama.

“Oh!” Ollie yelled from the shower. “You got a letter. This morning. It’s on the desk in the living room. Three hours before the mail guy usually comes. And even though you don’t live here.”

Kate’s toes tightened, head cocked out to the window. She stood, consciously feeling the adrenaline that came to her in these moments.

Ollie yelled from the shower. “Did you change your mailing address?”

Kate found her shirt and shorts crumpled on the floor at the foot of the bed, everything wrinkled and tired and yesterday. She buttoned up and scrambled to find the letter. It was the only thing on the living room table counter, save his laptop and her purse. She snatched it up, as if the haste of possession would wipe away the fact that he knew about the thing, and they could go back to normal. But as she fingered the lip and tried to suss out its contents without actually ripping the thing open, she knew this would make things curlier than she was willing to handle.

There was the further complication of the letter arriving on a Saturday.

Neither Kate nor Ollie had to work today. They hadn’t made plans. They hadn’t made plans past Friday night. It wasn’t the first weekend where this had happened, spurs dug deep in the moment. A date turning into a weekend. Kate smiled at this rarity in her life. Ollie made her feel like she didn’t have to worry about mysterious mail. But yet she did, as such a thing was in her hand, brought to his attention by the fact that this wasn’t even close to her address, was a whole day off from normal mail hours, and would surely prompt at least a few questions.

About the topic of work, Kate had been thin. In the blurry first few months of this relationship, Kate had equally blurred what it was she did. He knew there was an office she occasionally visited. He knew a lot of correspondence happened over email, and that the work seemed both important and classified (at least, classified from him). Ollie asked few questions, but the ones he did ask illuminated borders around the answer.

“So what is it you do with your days?” He asked once while on an early date in his most mid-western American accent, something he did when making fun of dating tropes. It was an accent that came a little too easy for him, as if he had family or business of his own south from Alberta.

 She answered with nonsense. “It depends on the day.” On this date, they sat opposite each other on a long bench, christmas lights above them spidered around planks that let in the moon, creating an atmosphere of old country idealism, the smell of months of barbeque and endless summer in April. There were other people flanking both of them but nobody noticed one another until they wanted to be friendly. She said, “Some days I file reports. Some days I stop buildings from exploding. Some days I make people fall in love. And some days I stop that.”

Kate didn’t know how Ollie took this, except that he picked up another rib bone and smiled and said, “That sounds like quite the job,” and somehow didn’t ask any questions about any of the obvious things to ask questions about. He didn’t pry into the actual goings on, her odd hours, the unbelievability of anything she’d said in this moment or in similar subsequent scenarios. Kate and Ollie went on a lot of dates. He knew so many great hidden places in a city not particularly known for its mystery. The night before the letter appeared, they’d eaten in the kitchen of a Kensington second floor. A friend of a Facebook friend cooked them duck in her kitchen and played George Jones songs on the violin in the other room while they enjoyed her view.

And now Kate sat full and hungover, needing more coffee and time and not needing the drama that comes from letters that had no business here. They couldn’t have sent it to her house? They couldn’t have just emailed her? The act was upsetting, but not entirely without precedent. They did know where she was just about all the time. What employer didn’t these days, if they wanted to? This wasn’t the first item they’d sent to her out of nowhere. She’d had this job for close to ten years. Other pieces of unwelcome mail had made it into her hands, sometimes very far away from home.

She did not want to open the letter with Ollie around. She’d have to explain its contents, but mostly her reaction. She decided to fetch coffee for them, from the third closest coffee shop two blocks away. She chose it for distance, and their dynamite dark roast. As well, nobody bothers people who open their mail in busy coffee shops.


“I’m just going out to get us some coffee, back soon!” She stubbed her toe on a baseboard near his door. She didn’t bleed. She wasn’t even sure if Ollie heard her. Sneakers on, she exited into the daylight, walked down his steel steps[Detail: Ollie lives in a second-flooor walkup.] and found the street. Beaming daylight, evaporating a little bit of morning hail.

Kate’s laceless blue[Shoe detail.] sneakers make no noise. When she bought them, she felt like a cat burgler. She exclaimed, “for sneaking!”[Simpsons, cat burgler episode.] in her most fangirl voice when the salesgirl asked her if she had any special plans for the shoes. Her excitement mostly proved accurate. They were exceptionally helpful when sneaking was required. Kate could get right up behind a person—and sometimes right in front—without them noticing, which afforded her the moments that eventually got her paid. She wondered what sneaking she’d have to do for this letter, besides the paper bastard thing itself.

She reached the doors of the coffee shop. She still had no idea what the coffee shop was actually called, since there was no actual signage. Still, everyone knew about it and at eight on a Saturday was almost full. Of the dozen or so seats, there were only two free. Kate sat down near the window looking out on the street. She could see out a lot easier than she could see in. Holding the letter in her hands, she took a deep, experienced breath, and tore a corner.

“Kate?” An excited voice echoed from several feet behind her.

Kate pulled the letter to her chest, moved it down into a shorts pocket, then turned.

A tall, fit girl in difficult-looking long red curls approached Kate with the slick confidence of finding lost treasure. “Holy shit, I can’t believe it. How are you?”

Kate’s eyes went wide as performance. “I…great. I’m great.”

“You look amazing,” the girl said. “I mean, you always looked amazing, but it’s been forever, you know? What are you doing now?”

The girl stood and towered over her by a few inches. The stool made her feel inadequate, but standing up to greet her wouldn’t really help with that.   

Looking past the girl, it was then Kate noticed the man. He sat on a couch next to the sugar and milk table, and the traffic from that area concealed him half the time. What she mostly noticed about him was that he was looking back at her. He wasn’t doing that thing you see in coffee shops, where people look around and maybe linger on a pretty face or an engaging conversation. He looked like he was searing her image in his head, as if she’d wronged him in his ancient past, and he’d just found her after all these years. It was entirely possible. Nobody had ever tracked her down, but she’d entertained the idea that someone she had altered would figure out the whole racket and track her down, try to rattle the truth from her somehow, exact a kind of revenge, though she had no idea what sort it might be. But perhaps he was just a creepy guy in a public place. These things do happen.

Perhaps this wasn’t the place to open something like a Saturday letter after all.

Kate’s face thankfully didn’t communicate how much of a misfire it had been to come here. Of course, the moment she needed some proper city privacy someone (possibly two people) would recognize her (possibly from two different pasts). What it did communicate, however, was that she had no idea who this girl was. She thought maybe the best thing to do was be clear about that much, at least.

“Sorry, maybe it’s your hair, which is goddamn awesome by the way. It must be a lot of work, and maybe leave-in conditioner? I’m seriously envious of the colour. But yeah, I’m sorry, can you just remind me where we know one another?”

“Are you serious?” the girl responded, her ego maybe a little bruised. But she bounced back. “It’s fine. You’re Kate Foley. Of course you don’t remember me.”

“What’s that supposed to…” Kate stopped herself. “Do I do that?”

The girl nodded. “I’m Alice.”

A beat went by.

“You know, Alice.”

Kate reached in her mind for an Alice file of any kind. She had a turtle named Alice when she was six. The girl was probably not her turtle come back to life with curls out of a Victorian-era BBC series.

Alice stressed, “I used to live with Shawn.”

“Oh right!” Kate lied with the exclamation of an amateur. “Alice. How are you? How’s Shawn? How’s everyone? Everything?”

Alice blinked twice in acknowledgment of her own apparent forgetfulness. She shrugged.

“Look, there’s a thing tonight if you want to come. Shawn might be there. I don’t know. He’s…well, I guess you haven’t kept in touch.”

Alice shifted her weight, waiting for Kate to grow some curiosity about this whole side of things she’d left alone for apparently more years than she’d realized. Where had it gone? She was friends with these people at one point. It felt like she’d just left the room, gone to do some other thing for just some small amount of time, and then eight years went by. Kate apologized in recognition.

“It’s fine,” Alice said. “It’s just really nice to see you, to see that you’re doing all right.”

Across the room on the couch, the man who was looking at her wavered. He instead looked down, and was probably looking down to his phone, likely typing with a vigor of an early teenager, the type who’s primary computer was their phone, had in fact never become good at the old big keyboards adults felt were the “real” kind. She couldn’t see all of him so he appeared to just be pushing his hands into his crotch. It wasn’t the best visual, but it was just so common that she knew exactly what was happening. There were two other people in the shop doing it. But he did look up for a moment and lock eyes with her. That he knew she was looking back did nothing to deter him. Her heart rate did not go up.

“Let’s get back in touch,” Kate said. She surprised herself. It’s not that she was hoping Alice would just disappear, but Kate didn’t always look forward to the unexpected. She had to do unexpected for work. She did not call unexpected up for more later. But she pulled out her phone and made a new contact. “What’s your number?”

Alice smiled again, like she did when she first saw Kate a few moments ago, before the awkwardness. She typed her number into Kate’s phone and handed it back. They hugged, palms touching shoulders, but no fingers, and Alice excused herself, saying she needed to get to work.

Kate waited until the last polite second and asked, “Will Scott be there?”

Alice turned on her heel and looked down, opened her mouth, and lifted and eyebrow. “Why the fuck would Scott be there?” She didn’t wait for an answer. Maybe she didn’t even want Kate to show up, now, having been so far removed.

She checked back to the couch to see if the man was still watching her. Her face flushed when she found an empty seat. He may have had nothing to do with anything. This happened, from time to time. She had visions of being followed, or led, watched, or studied. She pictured a larger ring of influence on her. What kind of file did they have on her? When would they strike? Or would they never? Would they just watch her, forever, to make sure events in which she stood key went as they wanted.

Kate reminded herself. A side effect of knowing that there’s something bigger going on is dreading the ever bigger thing going on. How big does it get? How far up does it go? She told herself, *all the way to the top, usually*. This is normal. This is expected. She should be wary of strangers who leer a little too long. She should watch out for the quiet ones. She was right to notice him. This is just how it was.

She remembered the letter in her pocket. Finally alone, she walked up to the till and asked a woman with the most dedicated half-pompadour she’d ever seen for a flat white[Open to substitutions if people think Kate would drink something else.]. After waiting seven minutes, she sat back down again in the corner seat near the window, and placed a fingernail in the envelope’s crevice.

 

Sonder

"I have a theory that one of the reasons we have not yet banned nicotine outright in this country is that it is the cheapest treatment for anxiety that we have, in the sense that majority of the people suffering from the mental issues that are somewhat soothed by nicotine will pay for the drug without any kind of government or employer subsidy, and if we actually got rid of cigarettes the true cost of treating everyone who doesn’t even know that they’re smoking to be less sad would maybe break the country."

Alex Balk

Daily Fiction

Corona Gale, nightly build 1.2.5

Kate Foley snored[She sleeps like the dead with him, and with other boys, but only when she wasn’t at work. She never slept much while on the job.] alone in bed, deeply asleep in a way her boyfriend never could snore, who shared the bed and in fact owned it, in fact owned just about everything in the apartment, had still not in months become used to the noise or gravity of that mountainous inhalation. It came from nowhere he could ascertain, not her throat or chest or deeper. But he’d grown to it, and it wasn’t wonderful but what could he do?[Repeat this.] He stood barefoot twenty feet from her, his back to her and a wall between them, his downturned sleepily half-watching the foggy brim of water turn from still to feverish, half-watching his phone[Ollie always has a phone in his hand.] in the other hand, flicking, flicking, flicking. He’d been awake since the snoring broke through his dreams, as it did every morning she stayed over, which was invariable as of late, since he asked her to basically move in and she basically did even though she brought basically nothing, which caused a suspicion he brought up during third-beer rants about privacy and trust, her defense being she didn’t like to own things, as if that was a rational stance about anything[Repeat this.].

Ollie poured water into a contraption that eventually produced decent coffee, not worrying about making noise. Cups clanged on the breakfast tray, a small silver plate with foldout legs, a pattern of an aluminum flower against an aluminum sky underneath two cups of coffee and a plate of bacon, scrambled eggs, leftover sausage. Ollie made or reheated these things while listening to a dulcet podcast[Ollie listens to podcasts about nicer versions of the things he does.] about fancier ways of making coffee. He put the tray down on the floor beside her, and he sat on the bed and put his hand gently on her hair, petting it slightly. She didn’t stir, but she stopped snoring and started to sort of purr, and then in a few moments rose to consciousness, a vacation smile appearing on her face as she remembered where and who she was.

“Do I have to get up?” She asked like a six year old.

Ollie said, “I made you breakfast. Then you can do what you want.”

“I’m going to try to not get too used to this,” she said. “You spoil me. You treat me like a princess.”

“I treat you like a person,” he said, getting up and heading towards the shower. “It’s just that most people don’t know how to do that.”

Next to Kate on the reclaimed alabaster nightstand sat an alarm clock, black, analogue, with hands that glowed in the dark. She had bought it as a joke, because it was her second one. The original sat just right of it, digital and glowing with green numbers, an army of buttons above and behind them to help out with settings and radio preferences. Sitting comfortably just behind the original was a third, this one a cute Japanese ball clock shaped like the head of a cat. To snooze, you had to pull a level in the back that slowly lifted up again to trigger the alarm every ten minutes. There were two other alarms, but they didn’t matter. What mattered is that her nightstand was just alarm clocks, 5 trinkets recognizing hearty ambition and futile practicality. She would buy a new one and within days her unconscious muscle memory would figure out the exact motion needed to not only hit snooze but disable the alarm entirely. She had no real power to stop it. At first, she had them trigger all at the same time, so she would need to exert some real effort to kill them all. Later, she scheduled them at 5 minute intervals. Nothing helped. She sleepily gazed over at her collection of attempts at a possible morning. None of them really did the trick.

Kate chewed on bacon in bed. She flipped around on her phone, liking posts and deleting spam. The coffee was perfect and nothing hurt[This is a reference to something. Find it?]. She’d been seeing this guy for about six months, and he knew how to wake her up and not ask too many questions. She hadn’t once thought of running. Well, she’d thought about it as a routine measure, but not because of anything he did. In his bed, eating his bacon and using his wifi, she considered the possibility of it actually working out. Could she just coast like this forever? She’d lied well enough. He wasn’t suspicious of anything. He didn’t seem to stress about the unknowns. Ollie didn’t seem to stress about anything, as if he’d bottled the ability to glide through life. Did this bother her on some level? She asked herself this before, and the answer was no, then. It was still no. So many problems she usually ran into with her life and with her relationships was still turning up no. She almost didn’t know how to deal with it, except with the dumb reminder that there was nothing to deal with. So long as she could keep up a healthy facade, there was no drama.

“Oh!” Ollie yelled from the shower. “You got a letter. This morning. It’s on the desk in the living room. Three hours before the mail guy usually comes. And even though you don’t live here.”

Kate’s toes tightened, head cocked out to the window. She stood, consciously feeling the adrenaline that came to her in these moments.

Ollie yelled from the shower. “Did you change your mailing address?”

Kate found her shirt and shorts crumpled on the floor at the foot of the bed, everything wrinkled and tired and yesterday. She buttoned up and scrambled to find the letter. It was the only thing on the living room table counter, save his laptop and her purse. She snatched it up, as if the haste of possession would wipe away the fact that he knew about the thing, and they could go back to normal. But as she fingered the lip and tried to suss out its contents without actually ripping the thing open, she knew this would make things curlier than she was willing to handle.

There was the further complication of the letter arriving on a Saturday.

Neither Kate nor Ollie had to work today. They hadn’t made plans. They hadn’t made plans past Friday night. It wasn’t the first weekend where this had happened, spurs dug deep in the moment. A date turning into a weekend. Kate smiled at this rarity in her life. Ollie made her feel like she didn’t have to worry about mysterious mail. But yet she did, as such a thing was in her hand, brought to his attention by the fact that this wasn’t even close to her address, was a whole day off from normal mail hours, and would surely prompt at least a few questions.

About the topic of work, Kate had been thin. In the blurry first few months of this relationship, Kate had equally blurred what it was she did. He knew there was an office she occasionally visited. He knew a lot of correspondence happened over email, and that the work seemed both important and classified (at least, classified from him). Ollie asked few questions, but the ones he did ask illuminated borders around the answer.

“So what is it you do with your days?” He asked once while on an early date in his most mid-western American accent, something he did when making fun of dating tropes. It was an accent that came a little too easy for him, as if he had family or business of his own south from Alberta.

 She answered with nonsense. “It depends on the day.” On this date, they sat opposite each other on a long bench, christmas lights above them spidered around planks that let in the moon, creating an atmosphere of old country idealism, the smell of months of barbeque and endless summer in April. There were other people flanking both of them but nobody noticed one another until they wanted to be friendly. She said, “Some days I file reports. Some days I stop buildings from exploding. Some days I make people fall in love. And some days I stop that.”

Kate didn’t know how Ollie took this, except that he picked up another rib bone and smiled and said, “That sounds like quite the job,” and somehow didn’t ask any questions about any of the obvious things to ask questions about. He didn’t pry into the actual goings on, her odd hours, the unbelievability of anything she’d said in this moment or in similar subsequent scenarios. Kate and Ollie went on a lot of dates. He knew so many great hidden places in a city not particularly known for its mystery. The night before the letter appeared, they’d eaten in the kitchen of a Kensington second floor. A friend of a Facebook friend cooked them duck in her kitchen and played George Jones songs on the violin in the other room while they enjoyed her view.

And now Kate sat full and hungover, needing more coffee and time and not needing the drama that comes from letters that had no business here. They couldn’t have sent it to her house? They couldn’t have just emailed her? The act was upsetting, but not entirely without precedent. They did know where she was just about all the time. What employer didn’t these days, if they wanted to? This wasn’t the first item they’d sent to her out of nowhere. She’d had this job for close to ten years. Other pieces of unwelcome mail had made it into her hands, sometimes very far away from home.

She did not want to open the letter with Ollie around. She’d have to explain its contents, but mostly her reaction. She decided to fetch coffee for them, from the third closest coffee shop two blocks away. She chose it for distance, and their dynamite dark roast. As well, nobody bothers people who open their mail in busy coffee shops.

“I’m just going out to get us some coffee, back soon!” She stubbed her toe on a baseboard near his door. She didn’t bleed. She wasn’t even sure if Ollie heard her. Sneakers on, she exited into the daylight, walked down his steel steps[Detail: Ollie lives in a second-flooor walkup.] and found the street. Beaming daylight, evaporating a little bit of morning hail.

Kate’s laceless blue[Shoe detail.] sneakers make no noise. When she bought them, she felt like a cat burgler. She exclaimed, “for sneaking!”[Simpsons, cat burgler episode.] in her most fangirl voice when the salesgirl asked her if she had any special plans for the shoes. Her excitement mostly proved accurate. They were exceptionally helpful when sneaking was required. Kate could get right up behind a person—and sometimes right in front—without them noticing, which afforded her the moments that eventually got her paid. She wondered what sneaking she’d have to do for this letter, besides the paper bastard thing itself.

She reached the doors of the coffee shop. She still had no idea what the coffee shop was actually called, since there was no actual signage. Still, everyone knew about it and at eight on a Saturday was almost full. Of the dozen or so seats, there were only two free. Kate sat down near the window looking out on the street. She could see out a lot easier than she could see in. Holding the letter in her hands, she took a deep, experienced breath, and tore a corner.

“Kate?” An excited voice echoed from several feet behind her.

Kate pulled the letter to her chest, moved it down into a shorts pocket, then turned.

A tall, fit girl in difficult-looking long red curls approached Kate with the slick confidence of finding lost treasure. “Holy shit, I can’t believe it. How are you?”

Kate’s eyes went wide as performance. “I…great. I’m great.”

“You look amazing,” the girl said. “I mean, you always looked amazing, but it’s been forever, you know? What are you doing now?”

The girl stood and towered over her by a few inches. The stool made her feel inadequate, but standing up to greet her wouldn’t really help with that.   

Looking past the girl, it was then Kate noticed the man. He sat on a couch next to the sugar and milk table, and the traffic from that area concealed him half the time. What she mostly noticed about him was that he was looking back at her. He wasn’t doing that thing you see in coffee shops, where people look around and maybe linger on a pretty face or an engaging conversation. He looked like he was searing her image in his head, as if she’d wronged him in his ancient past, and he’d just found her after all these years. It was entirely possible. Nobody had ever tracked her down, but she’d entertained the idea that someone she had altered would figure out the whole racket and track her down, try to rattle the truth from her somehow, exact a kind of revenge, though she had no idea what sort it might be. But perhaps he was just a creepy guy in a public place. These things do happen.

Perhaps this wasn’t the place to open something like a Saturday letter after all.

Kate’s face thankfully didn’t communicate how much of a misfire it had been to come here. Of course, the moment she needed some proper city privacy someone (possibly two people) would recognize her (possibly from two different pasts). What it did communicate, however, was that she had no idea who this girl was. She thought maybe the best thing to do was be clear about that much, at least.

“Sorry, maybe it’s your hair, which is goddamn awesome by the way. It must be a lot of work, and maybe leave-in conditioner? I’m seriously envious of the colour. But yeah, I’m sorry, can you just remind me where we know one another?”

“Are you serious?” the girl responded, her ego maybe a little bruised. But she bounced back. “It’s fine. You’re Kate Foley. Of course you don’t remember me.”

“What’s that supposed to…” Kate stopped herself. “Do I do that?”

The girl nodded. “I’m Alice.”

A beat went by.

“You know, Alice.”

Kate reached in her mind for an Alice file of any kind. She had a turtle named Alice when she was six. The girl was probably not her turtle come back to life with curls out of a Victorian-era BBC series.

Alice stressed, “I used to live with Shawn.”

Notes

Corona Gale version numbers

Scrivener, the writing app I've been using for nearly ten years, has a version control feature called snapshots. I haven't used it a ton (I always just put older drafts in folders), but for daily writing it's kind of amazing. Much like Time Machine on a mac, it'll let you roll back to any previous version you make of that section. It's stupid simple and helpful when writing daily, as loads of things change.

The best part about it is that I don't fear that something I've deleted is gone forever. I can make a new snapshot, delete stuff, and then go back to it later if I feel it was important. But Scrivener only shows a date and the word "Untitled snapshot." You can rename that, so I've been thinking about how I can better organize my drafts.

I'm ripping off software builds here, but it's a system writers could benefit from pilfering. If you've noticed odd numbers at the end of my draft titles, here's what they mean: 

The first number is the Chapter number. So if you see 1.5.4 in the title, you're reading something from chapter 1.

The second number is the draft number. I'm working on the second draft of Corona Gale right now, so you'll likely see a 2 there for a while.

The third number is the snapshot number. It's like a draft, but more incremental, with fewer changes. The difference between 1.1.1 and 1.1.2 isn't going to be a lot, but the changes between 1.1.1 and 1.2.1 should be substantial. The third number is likely to go into the double digits, and I hope to post a new one almost every day.

Daily Fiction

Corona Gale, nightly build 1.2.4

Kate Foley snored alone in bed, deeply asleep in a way her boyfriend never could snore, who shared the bed and in fact owned it, in fact owned just about everything in the apartment, had still not in months become used to the noise or gravity of that mountainous inhalation. It came from nowhere he could ascertain, not her throat or chest or deeper. But he’d grown to it, and it wasn’t wonderful but what could he do?[Repeat this.] He stood barefoot twenty feet from her, his back to her and a wall between them, his downturned sleepily half-watching the foggy brim of water turn from still to feverish, half-watching his phone in the other hand, flicking, flicking, flicking. He’d been awake since the snoring broke through his dreams, as it did every morning she stayed over, which was invariable as of late, since he asked her to basically move in and she basically did even though she brought basically nothing, which caused a suspicion he brought up during third-beer rants about privacy and trust, her defense being she didn’t like to own things, as if that was a rational stance about anything.

Ollie poured water into a contraption that eventually produced decent coffee, not worrying about making noise. Cups clanged on the breakfast tray, a small silver plate with foldout legs, a pattern of an aluminum flower against an aluminum sky underneath two cups of coffee and a plate of bacon, scrambled eggs, leftover sausage. Ollie made or reheated these things while listening to a dulcet podcast about fancier ways of making coffee. He put the tray down on the floor beside her, and he sat on the bed and put his hand gently on her hair, petting it slightly. She didn’t stir, but she stopped snoring and started to sort of purr, and then in a few moments rose to consciousness, a vacation smile appearing on her face as she remembered where and who she was.

“Do I have to get up?” She asked like a six year old.

Ollie said, “I made you breakfast. Then you can do what you want.”

“I’m going to try to not get too used to this,” she said. “You spoil me. You treat me like a princess.”

“I treat you like a person,” he said, getting up and heading towards the shower. “It’s just that most people don’t know how to do that.”

Next to Kate on the reclaimed alabaster nightstand sat an alarm clock, black, analogue, with hands that glowed in the dark. She had bought it as a joke, because it was her second one. The original sat just right of it, digital and glowing with green numbers, an army of buttons above and behind them to help out with settings and radio preferences. Sitting comfortably just behind the original was a third, this one a cute Japanese ball clock shaped like the head of a cat. To snooze, you had to pull a level in the back that slowly lifted up again to trigger the alarm every ten minutes. There were two other alarms, but they didn’t matter. What mattered is that her nightstand was just alarm clocks, 5 trinkets recognizing hearty ambition and futile practicality. She would buy a new one and within days her unconscious muscle memory would figure out the exact motion needed to not only hit snooze but disable the alarm entirely. She had no real power to stop it. At first, she had them trigger all at the same time, so she would need to exert some real effort to kill them all. Later, she scheduled them at 5 minute intervals. Nothing helped. She sleepily gazed over at her collection of attempts at a possible morning. None of them really did the trick.

Kate chewed on bacon in bed. She flipped around on her phone, liking posts and deleting spam. The coffee was perfect and nothing hurt[This is a reference to something. Find it?]. She’d been seeing this guy for about six months, and he knew how to wake her up and not ask too many questions. She hadn’t once thought of running. Well, she’d thought about it as a routine measure, but not because of anything he did. In his bed, eating his bacon and using his wifi, she considered the possibility of it actually working out. Could she just coast like this forever? She’d lied well enough. He wasn’t suspicious of anything. He didn’t seem to stress about the unknowns. Ollie didn’t seem to stress about anything, as if he’d bottled the ability to glide through life. Did this bother her on some level? She asked herself this before, and the answer was no, then. It was still no. So many problems she usually ran into with her life and with her relationships was still turning up no. She almost didn’t know how to deal with it, except with the dumb reminder that there was nothing to deal with. So long as she could keep up a healthy facade, there was no drama.

“Oh!” Ollie yelled from the shower. “You got a letter. This morning. It’s on the desk in the living room. Three hours before the mail guy usually comes. And even though you don’t live here.”

Kate’s toes tightened, head cocked out to the window. She stood, consciously feeling the adrenaline that came to her in these moments.

Ollie yelled from the shower. “Did you change your mailing address?”

Kate found her shirt and shorts crumpled on the floor at the foot of the bed, everything wrinkled and tired and yesterday. She buttoned up and scrambled to find the letter. It was the only thing on the living room table counter, save his laptop and her purse. She snatched it up, as if the haste of possession would wipe away the fact that he knew about the thing, and they could go back to normal. But as she fingered the lip and tried to suss out its contents without actually ripping the thing open, she knew this would make things curlier than she was willing to handle.

There was the further complication of the letter arriving on a Saturday.

Neither Kate nor Ollie had to work today. They hadn’t made plans. They hadn’t made plans past Friday night. It wasn’t the first weekend where this had happened, spurs dug deep in the moment. A date turning into a weekend. Kate smiled at this rarity in her life. Ollie made her feel like she didn’t have to worry about mysterious mail. But yet she did, as such a thing was in her hand, brought to his attention by the fact that this wasn’t even close to her address, was a whole day off from normal mail hours, and would surely prompt at least a few questions.

About the topic of work, Kate had been thin. In the blurry first few months of this relationship, Kate had equally blurred what it was she did. He knew there was an office she occasionally visited. He knew a lot of correspondence happened over email, and that the work seemed both important and classified (at least, classified from him). Ollie asked few questions, but the ones he did ask illuminated borders around the answer.

“So what is it you do with your days?” He asked once while on an early date in his most mid-western American accent, something he did when making fun of dating tropes. It was an accent that came a little too easy for him, as if he had family or business of his own south from Alberta.

She answered with nonsense. “It depends on the day.” On this date, they sat opposite each other on a long bench, christmas lights above them spidered around planks that let in the moon, creating an atmosphere of old country idealism, the smell of months of barbeque and endless summer in April. There were other people flanking both of them but nobody noticed one another until they wanted to be friendly. She said, “Some days I file reports. Some days I stop buildings from exploding. Some days I make people fall in love. And some days I stop that.”

Kate didn’t know how Ollie took this, except that he picked up another rib bone and smiled and said, “That sounds like quite the job,” and somehow didn’t ask any questions about any of the obvious things to ask questions about. He didn’t pry into the actual goings on, her odd hours, the unbelievability of anything she’d said in this moment or in similar subsequent scenarios. Kate and Ollie went on a lot of dates. He knew so many great hidden places in a city not particularly known for its mystery. The night before the letter appeared, they’d eaten in the kitchen of a Kensington second floor. A friend of a Facebook friend cooked them duck in her kitchen and played George Jones songs on the violin in the other room while they enjoyed her view.

And now Kate sat full and hungover, needing more coffee and time and not needing the drama that comes from letters that had no business here. They couldn’t have sent it to her house? They couldn’t have just emailed her? The act was upsetting, but not entirely without precedent. They did know where she was just about all the time. What employer didn’t these days, if they wanted to? This wasn’t the first item they’d sent to her out of nowhere. She’d had this job for close to ten years. Other pieces of unwelcome mail had made it into her hands, sometimes very far away from home.

She did not want to open it with Ollie around. She’d have to explain the letter, but mostly her reaction. She decided to fetch coffee for them, from the third closest coffee shop two blocks away. She chose it for distance, and their dynamite dark roast. As well, nobody bothers people who open their mail in busy coffee shops.

“I’m just going out to get us some coffee, back soon!” She stubbed her toe on a baseboard near his door. She didn’t bleed. She wasn’t even sure if Ollie heard her. Sneakers on, she exited into the daylight, walked down his steel steps and found the street. Beaming daylight, evaporating a little bit of morning hail.

Daily Fiction

Corna Gale, nightly build 1.2.3

Kate Foley snored[1] alone in bed, deeply asleep in a way her boyfriend never could snore, who shared the bed and in fact owned it, in fact owned just about everything in the apartment, had still not in months become used to the noise or gravity of that mountainous inhalation. It came from nowhere he could ascertain, not her throat or chest or deeper. But he’d grown to it, and it wasn’t wonderful but what could he do?[2] He stood barefoot twenty feet from her, his back to her and a wall between them, his downturned sleepily half-watching the foggy brim of water turn from still to feverish, half-watching his phone[3] in the other hand, flicking, flicking, flicking. He’d been awake since the snoring broke through his dreams, as it did every morning she stayed over, which was invariable as of late, since he asked her to basically move in and she basically did even though she brought basically nothing, which caused a suspicion he brought up during third-beer rants about privacy and trust, her defense being she didn’t like to own things, as if that was a rational stance about anything[4].

 

Ollie poured water into a contraption that eventually produced decent coffee, not worrying about making noise. Cups clanged on the breakfast tray, a small silver plate with foldout legs, a pattern of an aluminum flower against an aluminum sky underneath two cups of coffee and a plate of bacon, scrambled eggs, leftover sausage. Ollie made or reheated these things while listening to a dulcet podcast[5] about fancier ways of making coffee. He put the tray down on the floor beside her, and he sat on the bed and put his hand gently on her hair, petting it slightly. She didn’t stir, but she stopped snoring and started to sort of purr, and then in a few moments rose to consciousness, a vacation smile appearing on her face as she remembered where and who she was.

 

“Do I have to get up?” She asked like a six year old.

 

Ollie said, “I made you breakfast. Then you can do what you want.”

 

“I’m going to try to not get too used to this,” she said. “You spoil me. You treat me like a princess.”

 

“I treat you like a person,” he said, getting up and heading towards the shower. “It’s just that most people don’t know how to do that.”

 

Next to Kate on the reclaimed alabaster nightstand sat an alarm clock, black, analogue, with hands that glowed in the dark. She had bought it as a joke, because it was her second one. The original sat just right of it, digital and glowing with green numbers, an army of buttons above and behind them to help out with settings and radio preferences. Sitting comfortably just behind the original was a third, this one a cute Japanese ball clock shaped like the head of a cat. To snooze, you had to pull a level in the back that slowly lifted up again to trigger the alarm every ten minutes. There were two other alarms, but they didn’t matter. What mattered is that her nightstand was just alarm clocks, 5 trinkets recognizing hearty ambition and futile practicality. She would buy a new one and within days her unconscious muscle memory would figure out the exact motion needed to not only hit snooze but disable the alarm entirely. She had no real power to stop it. At first, she had them trigger all at the same time, so she would need to exert some real effort to kill them all. Later, she scheduled them at 5 minute intervals. Nothing helped. She sleepily gazed over at her collection of attempts at a possible morning. None of them really did the trick.

 

Kate chewed on bacon in bed. She flipped around on her phone, liking posts and deleting spam. The coffee was perfect and nothing hurt[6]. She’d been seeing this guy for about six months, and he knew how to wake her up and not ask too many questions. She hadn’t once thought of running. Well, she’d thought about it as a routine measure, but not because of anything he did. In his bed, eating his bacon and using his wifi, she considered the possibility of it actually working out. Could she just coast like this forever? She’d lied well enough. He wasn’t suspicious of anything. He didn’t seem to stress about the unknowns. Ollie didn’t seem to stress about anything, as if he’d bottled the ability to glide through life. Did this bother her on some level? She asked herself this before, and the answer was no, then. It was still no. So many problems she usually ran into with her life and with her relationships was still turning up no. She almost didn’t know how to deal with it, except with the dumb reminder that there was nothing to deal with. So long as she could keep up a healthy facade, there was no drama.

 

“Oh!” Ollie yelled from the shower. “You got a letter. This morning. Three hours before the mail guy usually comes. And even though you don’t live here.”

 

[1] She sleeps like the dead with him, and with other boys, but only when she wasn’t at work. She never slept much while on the job.

[2] Repeat this.

[3] Ollie always has a phone in his hand.

[4] Repeat this.

[5] Ollie listens to podcasts about nicer versions of the things he does.

[6] This is a reference to something. Find it?