• NaNoWriMo 2016 – Wrong Exit – Week 4

    “OK,” I said as I approached the intersection. “Where are we going?” “Anywhere,” said Scott from behind me. “Just head north.” I shrugged. “OK,” I said as I pulled into the right lane and onto the on-ramp. “What is it you want me to do?” There was a long pause. Finally, Diane spoke. “I want you to get me pregnant!” I whipped my head around to look at her, causing the Jeep to swerve into the adjacent lane and provoking a blare of horns. I immediately swung back and swerved back into my lane. “What?” I asked when I was back in control. Diane had looked away. “We… we’ve been trying to get pregnant,” said Scott. “Well.. I’ve been trying to get her pregnant. She and Donna had agreed at some point that when one of them got pregnant the others would as well. Well… Donna is pregnant and we’ve been trying but… it isn’t happening.” I felt uncomfortable. “So what is it you expect me to be able to do?” “I want to be first!” said Diane suddenly. “You say you changed your car and everyone thinks you’ve always had it. You can change it so I was pregnant before she was!” I grimiced. “Wait, when did I wind up back in the 1950’s? Is this really what you want?” I heard a sigh. “Please Dale, don’t be judgmental. We had all talked about this before we graduated even.” “We?” I asked. “Was Lisa in on this?” There was

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  • NaNoWriMo 2016 – Wrong Exit – Week 3

    As I drove, I kept thinking about what Trenton had said. Could I really influence things? How could I test that? He had mentioned Lisa, but I really didn’t want to think about her; too many painful memories there. I started thinking about Sara instead; she was the only other woman I had had any kind of interaction with over the past few months. I started thinking about her then thought against it. I wasn’t sure what I would do if that somehow worked. Instead, I thought about my car. Trenton had given me a hard time for driving a Corolla so I decided to see what I could do instead. I couldn’t decide what I wanted though. I’d had this car for years, since I had been in college. I had always planned to replace it once I graduated but… well, that never happened. I wasn’t sure what I would want instead. Something like a Jeep would be nice. Plenty of space in the back for my deliveries and a bit less dull than my Corolla. I laughed. Hell, how about a Jeep like one of those from the *Jurassic Park* movie. People had them; I’d seen them in the DragonCon parade. And I had a *Jurassic World* costume; I had worn it to the office Halloween party last year. If I had a Jeep like that I could take it to the Con myself next year. Maybe I could even get a big stuffed dinosaur of some kind

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  • NaNoWriMo 2016 – Wrong Exit – Week 2

    The next day was normal. The first few times I pulled onto or off of the Interstate I half-expected to have Nichole reappear, but she didn’t. Nothing at all happened until I was on my way back towards the office when my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number but reflexively punched answer anyway. “Hi, it’s Dale.” “Where are you?” It was an obviously synthesized voice; grating and mechanical. “What?” I asked. “Who is this.” There was a pause. “Did you not get my message?” “What message? Who is this.” There was another pause. “We left you a message Sunday.” I paused. “I saw that. I thought it was from someone else.” Again, a pause. “Are you in Atlanta?” I grimaced. “I’m heading back. And I have to stop at my office in Kennesaw.” There was a pause again. “Do you know where the Vortex is?” I nodded. “Yeah, downtown. And why don’t you just talk to me instead of taking the time to type your answer into whatever voice synthesizer you’re using. It’s annoying.” There was a longer pause than usual, then a man’s voice. “OK, fine. Can you be there at 8?” I glanced at the clock. “8pm? I suppose.” “Be there.” The line clicked off. I drove alone in silence for a while. How badly did I want to know more? — Badly enough, apparently. I dropped off my records for the day then immediately drove into town. I was at the Vortex, on my second beer,

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  • NaNoWriMo 2016 – Wrong Exit – Week 1

    I was still thinking about what to do the next morning as I picked up my deliveries and set out. I was heading out 20 east when I thought of someone. I hadn’t talked with them in a while and… to be honest when I talked that time it hadn’t been on the best of terms. But, I needed to talk to someone about this, and they were the only ones I knew well enough that they might hear me out before deciding I was insane. I hesitated, but eventually pulled out my cell phone and dialed it, flipping it onto the car Bluetooth. The phone barely rang once before I got an answer. “McPhearson Engineering. This is Scott!” I took a deep breath. “Hey Scott,” I said, trying to sound as casual as possible. “It’s Dale. How’s it going?” “Dale!” He hesitated for a moment. “It’s been a while man, haven’t seen you much since you moved to the north side. How’s it going?” “Pretty good, pretty good. And I can’t complain about the commute anymore.” He laughed. “Isn’t your whole job commuting?” It was my turn to laugh. “No, no, I do my driving *outside* of town.” I paused, wondering how to tell him what I had found. “So…” I said, stalling, “How’s Diane doing?” “Fine,” he said, “everything is great.” It was his turn to pause. “Say, we’re doing a game night tonight at our place, Jeff and Donna will be there, why don’t you come down

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  • NaNoWriMo 2016 – Wrong Exit – Week 0

    Some days, when I’m driving down the Road, I still think about how it started. Strange, isn’t it? After everything that has happened to me, everywhere I have been since then, all that I have seen, but those first few days still stand out like they were yesterday. Back then I was a driver for a courier company; basically door-to-door delivery for small packages and the like that people didn’t want to trust to the big shipping companies. In my case I mostly worked with a medical supply outfit. I carried things like prescription drugs and supplies to small, independent pharmacies and doctors across Georgia. No schedule 1 stuff, but still things that need to get to where they’re going and that our suppliers really didn’t want going through the regular mail. So I spent a lot of time drivng around to smaller towns. One day I was heading up I-75 towards Dalton. I was feeling a bit tired and distracted and decided I needed a coffee stop. (And a restroom stop for that matter.) I knew there was a Quik-Trip just past the Dalton exit so when it came up I pulled off. In retrospect I should have known something was wrong immediately but I overlooked it at the time. When I got to the top of the exit ramp there was a road heading off to the left and right but no sign of the Quik-Trip I was expecting. Nothing else either, just a road through north Georgia

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  • Camp NaNoWriMo 2016 – Portals – Week 4

    2 Years ago There was immediate reaction to the discovery of the Portal. Nations world-wide started demanding access to it. The Canadian government claimed control of it. The Merones sued to get control of it because it was their child who had “discovered” it. The US demanded that it be turned over to them and actually started moving troops into Seattle and along the Washington state border; almost threatening Canada with invasion if it wasn’t given to them. The Squamish were the voice of reason in all of this. Almost immediately after learning of what the Portal was they sent a representative to the United Nations in New York. There, they offered access to the Portal to everyone, as long as everyone worked together to learn whatever secrets it held and shared what they found with everyone. There was argument. There were denials. There were threats. But in the end, there was nothing anyone could do. The fact that the Portal existed was known. The fact that it went to someplace else was known. And the fact that the Squamish had control of it was known. Only by agreeing to their terms could it be explored and exploited. So, in the end, everyone had to agree with what they wanted. The United Nations soon created the International Portal Research Organization; the IRPO. Anyone wanting access to the Portal had to go through it. And their first order of business was finding people who could actually go through the Portal. This

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  • Camp NaNoWriMo 2016 – Portals – Week 3

    2 Years Ago The video was played dozens of times on hundreds of stations. At first Cable News had tried to keep it exclusive to them but soon gave up as the footage was quickly copied and rebroadcast by station after station and network after network. Within 24 hours news of the Portal and what was on the other side had spread around the world. On the footage the transition from Vancouver to what we now know is Central America is abrupt. One moment there are dozens of people and a view of a well-maintained park then the next there is a riot of color, mostly green, as Jackson followed LeBlanc through the Portal. For several minutes Jackson expressed shock as LeBlanc, who had been in shock himself several minutes before, tried not to laugh. Eventually she collected herself enough to start filming the area. They were in a jungle, that much was obvious. The foliage within a few dozen meters of the Portal was stunted and shrunken, assuring that the area around the Portal was clear. We didn’t realize the significance of that at first, but later we would realize this was normal for an active Portal. In fact, we later would learn that that the maintenance crew at the Vancouver First People’s Center had been having trouble getting the grass to grow around the Portal, but we didn’t even know to ask at the time. Once she had recovered Jackson and LeBlanc made their way down the path

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  • Camp NaNoWriMo 2016 – Portals – Week 2

    Interlude – 12 years earlier Everyone knows about how the first portal was found, but it occurs to me that you, reading this, may not. Well, not about ours anyway. I know this is supposed to be my story but since I don’t know where you may be reading this, I probably should give some background as well. When we first found the first Portal we didn’t even know what it was. Some kayakers on the Columbia river were the first to see it, exposed by some recent erosion caused by the same rains that brought them to the surging rapids in the first place. They apparently crawled all over the ring without anything happening. Anyway, they wound up posting pictures and video of the ring on-line. Others started stopping along the river to take selfies with it as well. Eventually someone in authority noticed and sent someone out to look at it. It was on the Canadian side of the river and after a few months a team from Montreal showed up. They didn’t notice anything about it beyond the fact that it was obviously man-made and obviously quite old. With nothing else obvious they contacted the Squamish, the First People’s tribe from the area. The Squamish didn’t immediately recognize anything about it either. It was obviously artificial and obviously pre-dated the European arrival in the Americas, but it was nothing they recognized. They took custody of it and the pedestal it had apparently stood on and immediately put

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  • Camp NaNoWriMo 2016 – Portals – Week 1

    Day 1 The quad landed in the courtyard of what I would have guessed was an old British castle back home, but here it was somewhere in what would have been upstate New York. As the engines whined down I could hear the other quad coming in behind us as well as some music blaring from somewhere in the castle. I guess the weird silence here got to everyone. I adjusted my dust mask as the pilot popped the canopy. She was a skinny black woman who had spent the entire trip with a pair of earbuds plugged into her ears, nodding along with something playing on an archaic iPod. I had talked to her long enough to learn that her name was Dierdra but that was about it, After that I had done nothing but stare out at the dust-covered landscape as we flew the several hours north towards the site, over surprisingly intact cities sitting alone and uninhabited amidst empty stretches of blowing dust. Still nodding to the music, she pointed towards an entrance to one side of the courtyard where several people were exiting and walking towards us. “Thanks for the lift!” I said. I’m not sure she heard me. She was already engaged with dragging a charging cable over from the solar array back to the quad. I grabbed my pack from behind the seat, wincing as I did. My muscles had cramped up during the several hours in the quad after all the work I

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  • Wrong Exit – Part 3

    I’ve suddenly got more progress in this, and it happened a lot faster than I expected. And I think I know what Caleb found. I was back at work this morning. A couple of people asked if I was feeling OK and I blamed my absence yesterday on some bad south Georgia bar-b-que. I picked up my deliveries and set out. Things got weird on my very first stop. I had expected to be making my first delivery; a stack of schedule two stuff to a couple of independent pharmacies up near Chattanooga. I should have noticed something as soon as I got of the Interstate, the landscape had suddenly gotten a lot flatter, but it wasn’t until a few minutes later until I hit buildings that I realized where I was. There was a BP station to my right, a couple of other gas stations and fast food places, and a strip mall with a large sign advertising “Boot Scooters”. I was back where I had been two days before. I drove up to Boot Scooters and got out. As usual there were no other cars or people around. I got out and went inside. The interior was the same as before. TVs displaying static, empty tables and the smell of something grilling in the back. I got curious and stuck my head into the kitchen. There was food cooking on the stove tops and the grills but no one around. I wondered why none of it had burned.

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