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Archive for the ‘fiction’ Category

The Clockwork Girl: Chapter II

Posted by Charles Gray on May 10, 2018

The first thing Terri was aware of as she slowly woke up was that she was cold.  Freezing, in fact.

And hungry. Very hungry, a growling emptiness in her belly and her mouth feeling parched, like she hadn’t had a meal or something to drink in ages. Terri tried to open her eyes, but her eyelids seemed to be stuck, crusted over. She reached up, feeling odd pains running through her arms, and rubbed her eyes clear, blinking as she took in the room she was in.

For a moment, Terri just lay there in shock. There was a hole—an actual hole in the ceiling, through which she could see star-speckled night sky. Terri shot upright in the bed and then cried out in shock as the blankets seemed to just come apart around her, along with her nightgown.

“What-what?” Terri said in horror as the dusty remains of the clothes rose up around her, the thick dust causing her to start hacking and coughing, spikes of pain running through her parched throat with every hacking cough. Terri rolled off of her bed, the rough, debris-strewn floor, sending another spike of pain through her bare knees when she landed on it. She suffered through another coughing fit and then staggered to her feet, grabbing the edge of her bed.

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in fiction, Post Apocalypse Writings, The Clockwork Girl, Uncategorized | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

The Clockwork Girl Part I

Posted by Charles Gray on May 9, 2018

This is a beta of an upcoming story that I’ll be putting out on Kindle and other ebook publishers probably in a few months.  As a beta, there may be errors here that will be corrected by later editing. If you see anything, story or otherwise, that really throws up a red flag, I’d be appreciative if you could toss me a comment!



“Terri?”  Mom called from the living room. “How’s dinner coming along?”

“Fine, Mom,” Terri said.  She checked the paper stuck to the wall, verifying that she’d put the right amount of eggs and fish onto the plate.  Then there was a dollop of ketchup, carefully set to the side of the plate.  Mom would not eat her fish unless she had some ketchup for them.

Mom has strange tastes, Terri thought. She also seemed to eat a lot. Lot’s more than Terri did, but when she’d asked, Mom had just smiled and told her that Terri had a more efficient stomach than she did.

Doctor Simmonds had also agreed with Mom, ruffling Terri’s hair and telling her that all she needed to do was make certain Mom ate enough food to be healthy and that Terri’s diet was just fine.

It’s still weird to put ketchup onto fish.

Finally, Terri flipped her braid of dark black hair back over her shoulder so it wouldn’t fall into the food and then brought the steaming plates out into the living room.

Mom was already sitting at the table, looking tired.  These days, she always looked tired. Terri frowned at that thought.  The doctor said she was doing better but…

But even a year ago, she wasn’t this thin.  No matter how much she ate, she kept getting thinner.  Doctor Simmonds had talked with her about how her mother’s treatment was hard on her and when she should summon help.  But for the most part, she just had to make certain mom kept eating regularly and always had someone there to watch her.

I suppose that’s why I don’t go to school anymore, Terri thought, as she put the plates down.  She’d already set the milk out, along with the bread and butter. I wish my old friends would call me now and then. Terri shook her head at that. They were still going to school and once she and Mom had moved away, her friends probably had better things to do. It wasn’t as if they could just go hang out at the mall anymore, now could they?  On the other hand, she wasn’t exactly alone—there were Mike and Kim and David, all helping to take care of their parents.

Maybe if everyone is off tomorrow we can meet to play in the park, she thought. She’d like to go to the mall, but it had been forever since she’d been the mall. In fact, she sometimes had a hard time remembering much about the mall, except that it was fun…

Shaking her head, Terri went back into the room and got her own meal, a small slice of ham and a single egg, with a glass of milk to wash it down.

“Dear, be certain to eat it all,” Mom said.

“Okay, Mom.”

Mom didn’t like to talk when they were eating. It damaged the digestion, she had told Terri. Terri wasn’t certain about that but well, it was Mom.  It was important not to do stuff that got Mom upset. Once they finished eating, Terri quickly cleaned up the table, while Mom walked off to the living room.

Terri nodded to herself as she put the dishes away. That was good. Mom would watch the news before she went to bed. Whenever she just went straight to bed, she never slept well.

By the time Terri finished cleaning up the dining room table and came back into the living room, Mom was already sitting down on the sofa, her hand on the remote control for the big screen. Terri had seen some nice holodisplays over at Kim’s house, but Mom said she preferred the old-fashioned flat screens. Moments later, the screen came alive as Mom called up a news channel.

Terri frowned. Mom always hated the news. Doctor Simmonds had warned her to not let Mom watch too much news, especially given what was happening now.

“In recent news, the use of autonomous combat units over the disputed Kashmir region has resulted in extensive civilian casualties.  Both Indian and Pakistani governments have claimed that this was due to the use of extensive ECM that rendered it impossible for the ACUs to effectively determine whether or not a given target was civilian…”

“Oh, those poor dears…”  her mother said.  Terri frowned as the cast went to another story, another battle using robotic units, this one somewhere in Latin America. This time, the announcer wasn’t talking about nations, but rival towns, fighting over some dispute that was over a hundred years old and doing it with the latest robot killing machines. It seemed like that was all the TV had on, these days. Watching out for Mom didn’t give Terri a lot of time, and she spent most of that decorating her room or thinking of other things to do to make the place better for Mom, but she had spent some time on the Internet and the growth of ACUs was a common story.

Smart enough to fight, not smart enough to revolt, Terri thought, remembering a special she’d been watching before Mom had seen it and told her to turn it off.

“Rumors of the development of “home built” ACU’s continue to be widespread, especially in the aftermath of the June 5th New York attacks, along with the development of biological weapons by non-state organizations. We go now to our correspondent at the CDC for more information…”  The screen blanked as Mom called up the menu, nodding happily as she found a list of TV shows from when she was a kid, decades ago.

“Oh, I think I’ll watch this…” Mom said with a smile. “It’s been so long since I last saw it, I remember sitting with the chi—” she fell silent and closed her eyes for a moment, then shook her head as the screen came up with the opening credits, showing a spaceship gliding across the screen. “Terri, Dear…” Mom said. “Why don’t you go to bed and shutdown… I’ll just watch this and we can have an early morning tomorrow.”

Terri opened her mouth to refuse. After all, Doctor Simmonds liked it when she was watching Mom, but she was suddenly just exhausted, barely able to keep her eyes opened as she yawned.

“Okay Mom,” Terri said, kissing her mother on the cheek as she walked back to her small cubbyhole of a room.

Opening the door, Terri frowned at the tiny room. She remembered her old room, with the big pink canopy bed and all of her toys and stuffed animals that sat on her dresser and bed, with the nice window that looked out into the park that fronted their old house.

She missed it. This room just had a narrow bed and a closet for her clothes.  It didn’t even have a place for her schoolwork, which Terri supposed wasn’t a big issue since she didn’t go to school, but she still didn’t like it. There was hardly any room to paste her newest sketches up!

Terri shook her head as another yawn overcame her.  She put on her nightgown and practically fell into the small bed. Terri didn’t know why she was so tired, but she was, and she had to be ready for tomorrow.

Because she’d have to take care of Mom.



Posted in fiction, Post Apocalypse Writings, Science Fiction, The Clockwork Girl, Uncategorized | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Posted by Charles Gray on April 3, 2017

I saw an interesting webpage yesterday, about using containers for indoor farming.


From the company’s website:


What is a Leafy Green Machine?

Also known as the LGM, the Leafy Green Machine is a pre-assembled hydroponic farm inside an up-cycled freight container. It is capable of producing yields at commercial-scale in any climate and any season.


It’s an interesting concept, and one that could be very important in coming years. In terms of society, it’s another example of moving from food as farmed, to food as a manufactured product. You don’t need to find good soil, or a place with decent rainfall/river resources, because you provide all of that inside the container. If you can get water and power, you’re good to go. Take a look at all the places in the city where you can fit a TEU and you’ll see a potential farming site.


“Son, Cabbages are in this year. Better go add some more containers to the back 40…”



Why should we care?


Well, one thing that is likely to be coming for the world is increasingly unstable weather conditions, and understand, I’m not just talking about droughts.  Rain at the wrong time can kill a crop just as effectively as a drought can.  The more we can decouple food production from exterior weather conditions, the better off we’d be.


Even better, using containers lets you avoid the question of “how do we get the money to build a big-ass skyscraper farm?”  This is an incremental solution that could be funded by a trickle, instead of requiring an immense amount of funding from the start. Believe me, that’s more important than a lot of people give credit for— it’s a lot easier to get the government, be it national or local, to fund something that isn’t demanding tens of millions or more for the initial start up. Even better, it makes it more open for private actors.


But since this is a writing and sci-fi blog, let’s ask: what other developments could this see?


Well, the big one is the further marginalization of rural America. Not now, not in the next year, but let’s look ahead to some distant time when A growing percentage of the nation’s food supply is provided by things like these designs. What happens then?  Does big agribusiness go away (note, before people tell me I’m full of it, I do know that the the “profitable price point” for lettuce and things like grain are radically different things. We are, after all, talking about the future.

We’ve already seen how ugly the rural/urban divide can get, so does it get uglier? Or does the ability to decouple a city or a town from larger supply networks see a growth in smaller towns?

I don’t know. After all, sci-fi writers have explored both concepts— the death of the rural society in favor of the megalopolis, and the death of the megalopolis in favor of smaller rural settlements.

And the amusing thing is that many of them have something like our modern day developments in containerized or factory farming as the impetus for the change, or all that they usually fluffed it as “food factories”. It looks like, for good or ill, we may be moving into their future.

Posted in fiction, technology, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

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