Category: Alternative Reality

New Venice

Centuries ago, New York perched on the East Coast, just as it does now, but there was no New Venice. Instead, there was a place called California. It had farms and deserts and mountains and forests.

It was beautiful in places, and overcrowded in others. Everyone who lived there knew that someday a “big one,” a massive earthquake, might come. But they all hoped it wouldn’t happen in their lifetime.

Of course, eventually the time ran out. There was a chain reaction of earthquakes and tsunamis and sinkholes. California became the New Altantis, sinking below the waves in a day.

It was tragic and horrible, and not as many survived as should have. The mountains were now islands, and desert sand was now beachfront property. There was a year of mourning. People came from far away to toss flowers and letters into the waves.

Eventually, people began to rebuild. First on the islands, and then in-between. They built over the water, a New Mexico City, spreading far and wide. The more they built, the more they learned.

Soon there was a New California, built over the wreckage of the old. People sent expeditions to the bottom of the ocean, to bring pieces up to add to the structures above. There were pieces of the old Los Angeles and Sacramento and San Diego in the new cities being built.

There were bridges of course, running between the new towns, but boats were always the most direct and reliable transportation.   When an old-fashioned gondola service became popular, people began to talk about the New Venice. And over time, the name stuck.

As New Venice built out into the Pacific, Hawaiian developers began using the new technology, much to the dismay of those who hoped to keep the traditional culture of the islands. Protestors fought each advance outward, but in the end, the developers had deeper pockets.

There were a few areas that were left alone, new national parks and monuments, but eventually, Hawaii began to reach out towards New Venice. People began to try to calculate when they would meet. Workers from all over the world flocked to New Venice as construction sped up.

Finally the day came. The bridge that first connected the two states was called New Junction. A large golden nail was hammered into the edge of the bridge and crowds on boats and in the narrow streets all cheered. Backpackers flooded through on the last leg of their coast-to-coast trips.

Now that the pace of construction began to slow again, developers turned their eye further westward. A few of the more enterprising souls put together a team and traveled to Japan. They were politely, but firmly told no. Japan would be happy to look into the technology on a limited basis, but they preferred the buffer of the ocean and the traditional lifestyle it supported.

They tried elsewhere, all around the world, but the answers were essentially the same. The great New Venice project would remain unique, at least for now.   And in time, what was new and different became old and commonplace.

California is now synonymous with tales of myth and legend. If stories are to be believed, in California cowboys were the ancestors of a city of artists, and the streets were paved with stars. Will another “big one” come again someday? Hopefully not in our lifetime.



Jake woke up when it was still dark out.   Something in his room was hissing softly. It was like a snake or maybe a bomb, but he couldn’t see it. “Mom!” he yelled. He waited for her, trying to hold perfectly still. He wasn’t sure if the smooth weight on his leg was blankets or a snake. Surely he could feel it moving? He whimpered.

His mom shuffled in and turned on the light.   “What’s wrong?”

“I heard something hissing. I think it was a snake!” Jake threw back the covers. There was nothing there. He looked under his bed. He couldn’t see anything unusual. He couldn’t hear anything either.

He looked up again. His mother didn’t look happy. “I have work in the morning Jake. I’ll leave the hall light on. Don’t call me unless you actually see a snake.”

Just as Jake was finally falling asleep again, he heard a tapping sound, like footsteps. Was there someone in the living room? He hadn’t heard Mom passing his room. He grabbed his baseball bat and crept down the hall.   He slowly peeked around the corner.   Nothing was there. He waited a moment, but didn’t hear anything else.

He went back to bed, but woke again thinking the roof was leaking. And again when he thought he heard someone clear their throat right beside his ear.   And when he heard something growl from his closet. And someone crying in the kitchen. And something tapping on the window.

Jake spent all day at school sleeping with his head on his desk. He stayed in at recess and didn’t throw grass in anyone’s hair or smear mud on their shoes. He didn’t claim the jungle gym and chase everyone away or laugh at people’s haircuts. He didn’t even have the energy to sit on the new kid. It was a pretty rotten day. The teacher sent him home with a note and said she’d call and leave a message.

Jake put the note in his collection under the bed.   Mom had about a thousand voice mails to listen to and she never had time, so she never did. Jake didn’t mind at all. He ate bunch of cookies and watched cartoons until mom got home.   “How was your day?” she asked.

“I was tired today,” Jake said.

“Me too. I kept hearing you get up last night. Stay in bed tonight, even if you can’t sleep, okay?” His mom said.

“Alright,” Jake said.

There was hissing and laughing and growling and moaning that night. Creaking footsteps and tapping on the windows and walls. Sobbing and whispering right by his ear if he nodded off.   He couldn’t sleep a wink. He pulled the covers over his head, curled in a ball, and waited for morning.

At school, he laid his head on his desk and refused to move. Not even for lunch. He didn’t tie anyone’s shoelaces together or throw away their homework when they weren’t looking. He didn’t spill glue in their pencil boxes or even trip anyone when they walked by. When the teacher tried to send him to the nurse’s office, he said, “no thank you,” without even looking up. The teacher sent home another note.

At bedtime, Jake didn’t turn his light out. He sat up on his bed and felt a little bit crazy and reckless. When the hissing started, Jake stood up and faced his closet, where the sound was coming from. “What do you want?” he asked.   “Whatever you are, tell me what you want. Please.” Jake rarely said please.

“I was paid to get back at you,” a raspy voice said.   “My great-great-great-great grandchild is not happy with you.”

“How much are they paying you? I’ve got some money!   I’ll pay more,” Jake said.

“I don’t need money. I’m being paid with tickets to the opera. I like having my own seat so that no one tries to sit through me,” The voice said.

“I could buy tickets,” Jake said.

“Nope,” the voice said.

“What if I promise to leave your great-great grandchild alone?” Jake asked.

“That’s great-great-great-great grandchild, and I don’t think that’s enough,” the voice said. The hissing began again.

“I’ll leave everybody alone! I promise!” Jake yelled.

“Fine,” the raspy voice said. “But if you don’t, I’ll know and I’ll be back. I can wait forever, you know.”

Jake suffered a few sleepless nights in the months to come, but he eventually became a fine, upstanding citizen. With an irrepressible fear of snakes and opera.


Castles in the Sky

As long as Jason could remember, his dreams had been architectural. He dreamed of arches and columns, colonnades, cupolas, and decorative shutters.   Some nights he dreamed of gazebos and landscape design.

He didn’t realize this was at all unusual until his third birthday. His grandmother gave him a lovely book of fairy tales and invited him to sit in her lap to be read to. He looked at the castles carefully and was thrilled to see one that somewhat matched a building in his dreams the night before.

“I dreamed this one,” he said. “’Cept it had a pretty building in the center with a round roof and the windows were pretty glass. The outside windows all had shiny metal bars.”

“You are good at remembering your dreams,” his grandmother said. “Who lived in that castle?”

“Don’t know.” Jason said. “I only ever dream the buildings.”

The adults thought this was funny for some reason and laughed a lot. After that, his mother started asking him each morning about his dreams. She would ask all sorts of questions about what people said or what happened next or if there was maybe a bunny or a dragon or a dinosaur. “I told you,” he said each time. “I only dream the buildings.”

The next time he had a check-up, his mother asked the doctor about his dreams. “It sounds unusual, but I wouldn’t worry about it. He doesn’t have any difficulty sleeping, and he doesn’t seem disturbed or upset by these dreams. It may just be a phase.”

She told his father about it at dinner. He thought for a moment. “Perhaps if we feed his interest, he’ll be satisfied and move on. If not, he may just become a gifted architect. It couldn’t hurt. I’ll pick up some books at the library on my way home,” his father said.

Father started to read to Jason in the evenings about porticos, reliefs, and spandrels. Jason now had names for the parts of the buildings he dreamed of, but he did not stop dreaming of buildings. He liked the dreams of castles best. He drew with a ruler to direct his crayons and added ramparts and battlements, turrets and keeps to his drawings.

His mother bought a dream dictionary. “Was there more than one door? How many were opened and how many were closed? You may have some regrets over missed opportunities. Do you want to talk about it?” It was all very confusing.

One day, Grandmother came to visit. “It’s a nice day outside. I brought you some sidewalk chalk. Why don’t you go draw out on the patio in back?” Jason thanked her for the gift and ran outside.

His dream the night before had been especially grand. He carefully drew the details of the castle and was rather pleased with the results. He’d even carefully drawn the portcullis up and the drawbridge down, to show that it was peaceful and happy, just like it felt in his dream.

That night something woke him unexpectedly, just when he had been wandering through a library full of secret rooms. A wispy, see-through person stood at his bedside smiling and waving.   If he was a ghost, he was a friendly ghost, so Jason wasn’t afraid.

“Are you a ghost?” he asked, just to be certain.

“No,” the man said. “I am a cloud person. Thank you for building us such marvelous buildings over the years. You are very talented.”

“I was building cloud buildings with my dreams?” Jason asked. Somehow it seemed true. The buildings he visited in his dreams seemed too real not to exist somewhere.

“Yes. And we finally found you when we saw your drawing of the Grand Duke’s new palace. He’s throwing a party to celebrate his new home and would like you to come.”

“How would that work?” Jason asked.

The man gave him a necklace to wear with a big round flat blue stone pendant.   After he put it on, Jason could see through his hands. They were wispy and ghost-like, just like the rest of him.

The cloud person pulled something out of his pocket. It looked like a handkerchief, but grew after he pulled it out until it was the size of a rug. It looked like a piece of rainbow. The cloud man sat on it and Jason sat beside him.

They flew up, up into the clouds and through a cloud city. Jason recognized many of the buildings and gardens from his dreams. The grand castle he dreamt up the night before was at the far end of town. It was just as lovely as he’d dreamed. The grand duke welcomed him as a guest of honor.

There was a tour of the castle followed by speeches and dancing. Jason didn’t really like the food, but everything else was amazing.   The grand duke himself took Jason home when the party was over and thanked Jason again before he left.

Jason gave him back the pendant and snuggled into bed, hoping to find himself back in the library. He did.   It was a great dream.

“I went to a party at a palace last night,” Jason told his mother the next morning.

She smiled. “That’s great! So, do you think you’re done dreaming of buildings, then?”

“I don’t think so,” Jason said. And he was right.


Vampires on Vacation

When vampires go to the beach, they go at night.   They like it best when it’s cold and foggy or rainy. They cover up from head to toe in heavy clothes and wear death preservers filled with lead weights so they can walk on the bottom of the ocean. They bring blood in thermoses and sit around a pile of kelp that’s inside a ring of stones. They tell scary stories about kids around a campfire with long sharpened sticks.

When it’s time to go home, they don’t gather shells or bottles of sand. They know that there will be shells and sand the next time they come. Vampires live a long time. They like the beach because it is always there and doesn’t really change, even though it’s a little different every time they visit. The shells may be different shells, but there will be shells. There will be sand and rings of rocks and kelp and waves. There will be moonlight and stars too, if they aren’t lucky enough to catch a storm.

It may be a long time between visits. Vampires live a long time and there are many places for them to see. The beach will wait for them, it always does. And when they return, they will let the fish swim in their hair and look for new shipwrecks to explore. They’ll shiver at the idea of impulsive children with deadly pointy sticks coated in sugar or cooked meat and applaud the fantastic lightning shows. Then they’ll make sand castles and graveyards and churches with crypts. And then they will go home and leave the shells and sand and kelp and rocks for the next time they come.



A Classroom Mystery

A month after the new term started, Kim was pretty sure that the girl who sat in front of her in math was a vampire. Her name was Veronica, which is a vampire-sounding name, and she glittered. Kim hadn’t read that popular vampire book, but she had heard that was a telltale sign.

Kim’s mom said that if you have a question, it’s always best to just ask. So, Kim tapped Veronica on her shoulder and asked. “Why are you all glittery?”

Veronica turned around and raised her eyebrows as though she thought it was a strange question. “My lotion has body glitter in it,” she said.

“Oh.” That made sense. “Are you a vampire?”

Veronica looked at her like she was crazy. And maybe a little bit rude. “No.”

“Okay,” Kim said. Veronica turned around again and Kim had almost decided she wasn’t really a vampire after all. Then she noticed the sunglasses clipped to the edge of her bag.   Hmmm. Weren’t vampires sensitive to sunlight? Maybe she needed to investigate some more.

The next day, she sat by Veronica and her friends at lunch. Veronica was sipping a protein shake. Isn’t blood mostly protein?   Suspicious, to be sure.   “Veronica,” Kim said, trying to sound casual, “would you like some of my garlic bread? It’s really good. My mom made it extra garlicky.”

Veronica gave her a weird look and said, “No, thank you.” Kim smiled, but inside was shouting, “Aha!”

Now that she was pretty sure that Veronica was a vampire, she needed to decide what to do. She seemed to be a pretty nice vampire, and if she could survive on protein shakes, then there was really nothing to worry about, right? Now if her classmates started mysteriously disappearing, Kim would have to do something. She would keep a really sharp pencil in her bag, just in case.

Weeks passed and not much happened. No one had puncture marks on their neck.   Anyone who was absent came back with a note. Kim began to look around for a new mystery. Then, one day, Veronica came to school looking especially pale. She had dark circles under her eyes.

“Why do you look so tired?” Kim asked.

“Oh,” Veronica said, “it was a full moon last night and all the cats in the neighborhood were yowling at the moon.   I didn’t get much sleep.”

Kim almost gasped out loud. The full moon? Was Veronica actually a werewolf? Could someone be a vampire and a werewolf? It was time to investigate. “Veronica,” she asked, “are you a werewolf?”

“No,” Veronica said. She rolled her eyes.

“A werewolf vampire hybrid?”

“Are you serious?” Veronica asked.

“Yes.” Kim said. “Are you?”

“No.” Veronica said.

“Hmmm.” Kim said. Veronica rolled her eyes again and turned around.

The next month, Kim had a plan. The day before the full moon, she tapped Veronica on the shoulder. “Hey, can I have your phone number? I may need to call you about the assignment tonight.”

“Fine,” Veronica said. She wrote out her number and handed it to Kim. “But I may be going out tonight.”

“Uh huh,” said Kim. “Thank you.”

“Whatever,” Veronica said.

When Kim called Veronica’s house, after dark, when the moon was up, no one answered. She heard howling outside, in the distance, and felt a little nervous.   Was it yowling cats? A dog? A werewolf?   “Mom! We need to lock all the doors now!” she said.

“Go right ahead,” her mom said. “Then come and help me fold the laundry.”

Nothing scary happened.  The next day, Veronica looked tired again. “I’m sorry I missed your call. My family went to a movie. We were out pretty late. Did you still have a question about the homework?”

“No, I think I figured it out,” Kim said.   Veronica seemed to be a pretty nice werewolf vampire. There were no suspicious reports about people being mauled last night, either.   Now that she knew to be extra careful, she could let it go. Unless people started disappearing or something, of course. “Thank you for offering,” she said. It probably wouldn’t hurt to be extra nice. Just in case.


Is Stan…Normal?

Awesome Guy came home from saving the world, happy to see that his wife, Dynamic Girl had already picked up their son Stan from daycare.   Dynamic Girl didn’t look as happy.   “Is everything okay, dear?” he asked.

She smiled a fake smile. “Stan honey, why don’t you go draw something for Mommy, alright?” she said, and sent Stan out of the room.   Once he was gone, she dropped the smile. “I’m worried about Stan.”

“Did something happen?” Awesome Guy asked.

“He’s not showing any superpowers. I think he might be normal,” she said.

“There’s nothing wrong with normal.”

Dynamic Girl flopped into a chair with less grace than usual. “I know,” she said. “But that’s not all. He’s so clumsy. He keeps tripping over his feet lately. I had his vision checked and his eyes are fine.”

Awesome Guy sat on the arm of her chair and put an arm around her shoulders. “Did you take him to the doctor?”

“Yes. He’s, well, normal.” Dynamic Girl frowned.

Awesome guy patted her back and stood up again.   “I’m sure it’s fine. A growth spurt, maybe?”

Just then, there was a loud thump in the next room.   Dynamic Girl sighed. “There, he just tripped again.” She raised her voice. “Stan dear, are you alright?   Come in and let me check on you.”

Stan came running in with his drawing and handed it to his mother with a grin. “I’m okay,” he said, and ran back out, darting around the coffee table with ease.

Dynamic Girl held up the drawing. “Look, he’s written ‘me’ at the bottom. It’s another self-portrait. Do you think he’s becoming a narcissist?” She gasped. “Maybe he’s really a supervillain?”

Awesome Guy laughed. “No son of mine is going to be a supervillain. I think you worry too much. Now let’s see what’s–“ He tripped.

“Honey?” His wife asked with a shaky voice.

He chuckled nervously. “I wasn’t expecting that.” He sat up and saw his son peeking around the door. “Come here, son. Did the noise scare you? I just somehow tripped over my own two feet. But look, I’m okay.”

Stan shuffled into the room and held out another picture. Awesome Guy smiled. “Oh, is this me? That’s great.” He stood and handed the picture to Dynamic Girl. “Look, honey, Stan just drew a picture of me.” She smiled and everything was right in the world. For a while.

A week later and Awesome Guy came home from saving the world, happy to see that his wife, Dynamic Girl had already picked up their son Stan from daycare. Unfortunately, once again, Dynamic Girl didn’t look as happy. “Is everything okay, dear?” he asked. He hoped that this wasn’t going to become a new routine.

She smiled and sent Stan from the room again. She frowned. “Stan seems to be alright, but now the kids and teachers in the daycare keep tripping. Do you think it’s something contagious? Perhaps it’s a symptom of some kind of weaponized virus?”

Awesome Guy sighed and sat in the nearest chair.   “Honey, if it is, it doesn’t seem to last long. And there aren’t any other symptoms, right?”

She nodded and her shoulders slumped a little. “That’s right. Maybe I do worry too much.”   She walked towards her usual chair and tripped.

“Honey, are you okay?” Awesome Guy asked. He hurried over and helped her up.

“Yes,” she said and brushed herself off, looking a little embarrassed. She glanced away and then smiled. Stan was peeking around the door. “Oh, Stan, is that you? Did you finish your picture?” She held out a hand and Stan shuffled over and handed her the picture. “Is this me? Thank you, sweetie!” She gave him a big hug.

“Ouch! Mom, that hurts!” Stan scowled. Awesome Guy laughed and everything was right in the world.   For a while.

A week later and Awesome Guy was on the superhero council organized to try to discover the source of the mysterious wave of tripping incidents. Celebrities from around the world were tripping, and there was no known connection or trigger for the incidents. There was a lot of arguing and posturing on the council, but nothing was resolved.

Awesome Guy went home, having not saved the world. The house was empty, so he left again and picked up Stan from daycare. One of the teachers handed Awesome Guy a stack of drawings. He flipped through them. “These are all people from the tripping case.” He looked at his son and felt proud. “Have you been keeping up with my work, son?” His son might not be a superhero, but maybe he would be a reporter instead. He couldn’t wait to tell Dynamic Girl! And everything was right in the world again. For a while.stan-10-26