Until We Die – A Virtual Reality Short Story

“Is he still in there,” Director Laura Stiles walking into the room, stilettos clicking on the marble floors. Her thick brown hair was drawn back into a ponytail. The assistant director Charles Flint was checking the candidates stats at the medical station. He wrote a few numbers down and join Laura at the viewing glass. There, behind thick glass, a man laid on a gurney with a slight incline to keep him from swallowing his tongue. Leather straps held him in place.

“His heart rate spikes every few minutes before returning to normal. Other than the fact he’s been under for 18 hours, he’s doing fine,” Charles explained.

“We’ll need to get in on an IV, maybe even a feeding tube. Is there a next of kin who’d be able to sign off on this,” Laura has never seen this before. 18 hours in VR stasis was unprecedented.

“He has no next of kin listed and no has sign complete control of his physical well being into our hands,” Charles said.

“Brave,” Laura said.

“And maybe a little strange. I get the feeling he’s not just a thrill seeker. This guy is on his last dime. This might be his way out of a situation,” Charles said, sounding concerned. “Laura,” he said quietly. “I don’t know about this.”

“We need to see what’s going on in there,” ignoring Charles all together. Charles is always so careful. There is risk in progress, she’d told him before. “What’s the word on getting an observer in there.”

“We haven’t been able to get the observer to work properly. We get a few slight images but that’s it.”

“Oh come on. Aren’t we the ones controlling the VR world? We project the images directly into the ocular receptors in the candidates eyes and all him to use his nervous system as a controller to move around. Simply tap into the feedback system so that we can monitor what our voyager is doing in there. What program are we running?” Laura began to sound annoyed.

“It’s the garden program.”

“The garden program. You mean our guy over there has been prancing with the lilies and smelling roses for 18 hours.”

“He’s not like the rest, Laura. There is something distinctly different about this candidate. We were able to few the others, though the VR strain sent them running, we saw them. After the first 45 minutes we’d lost contact with this guy. Laura something isn’t right” Charles hated when she got like this. Laura was entirely too passionate about her work.

“Something, Charles? That’s all you have is something? Charles, we need results. The garden is for beginners. Okay, let’s pull him out and see if he will jack into another program,” she said ignoring him.

“Laura, we’ve tried that,” Charles said more forcefully, getting her attention, but also drawing the attention of the laboratory personnel. “We tried that,” lower now. “when we initiate the disconnect, it is refused.”

“Well, hell, force him out!”

“We can’t do that without severe mental, psychological damage,” he said. Charles knew he had to breech the subject with her, but he didn’t know how. He just had to come out and say it. “We don’t know how to get him out.” Laura’s eyes bulged.

“What?”

“We’ve tried…”

“We have to get in there. We have to see what’s going on. This is unprecedented. This is huge!” excitement written all over her face.

“This is huge.”

Charles stared back with a blank look on his face. He didn’t know what to make of her reaction.

“You know what. I want to go in there. I’m rested and ready to go right now.” Laura started towards her office. The lab coat was already in her hands.

“But Laura!”

“Right now Charles. Get me in there,” she said as she closed the door to her office. Moments later Laura emerged in scrubs and barefooted. She walked with determined steps to the gurney bed and laid herself down. Charles was still getting everything ready and the other little bees in the lab were fluttering all over the place. Laura started attaching cables and wires to her own head. She had no time to waste. This guy might wake up any second. She might never know what really happened in there.

“C’mon Charles let’s go,” she said impatiently. Charles walked into the room. Laura’s gurney was next to Jack’s. All their male candidates were Jacks and females Jills. All the cables were already connect. He placed a VR helmet over Laura’s head. “Count me down.”

“Director are you sure about this,” Charles had gone formal. Reminder her that she was head of this department by stating her title. Nice one Charles, she thought.

“Count me down,” she said calmly, betraying the excitement she really felt inside. Charles pulled a syringe and injected a sedative into Lara’s forearm.

“You won’t have as much control as our friend here, but you’ll be able to explore the world with him. If you find him, you’ll be able to speak with him also. Okay Laura, here we go.10..9..8..7..6..5..4..3..2..and..1”

Laura felt her head swim. The light emitted by the VR helmet seemed to go black. Then, like waking up from a nap, Laura’s eyes opened. She was laying on her back staring into thick stormy grey skies. Strange, she thought Charles said the garden simulation. There should be perpetual golden sunshine and blue skies. The flowers had all wilted. There was a broken down old house off in the distance. That looks so familiar.

“Hello, Mr Woods,” Laura shouted, eyes fastened on the house. There are no houses in the garden simulation. No houses like that in any simulation. The garden was there, but the flowers were dead.

“What the…?”

“Do you like what I’ve done with the place?” A man appeared next Laura.

“Oh my god, you scared me,” Laura hand to heart. “You did this?”

“You like?”

“Why,” she asked confused. “Why change it to look like this.”

“Why? You mean you don’t like it,” his voice crestfallen. “Laura I thought you’d recognize the place.”

Laura swiveled her head towards him. How did he know my name, she thought. “How?”

“This place, I’ve turned into my art work. It’s beautiful. It’s wondrous. I spent hours putting it all together just for you. And to think I didn’t even get a thank you,” Jack said.

Laura was speechless.

“I don’t know what you’re getting at but…”

“Well you didn’t like all my other artwork. So I figured if I recreate your childhood home you’d at least appreciate that. But not even a thank you. I’m so disappointed, ” Jack shouted the last word.

Images from newspapers. Magazines clippings in the mail. Weird phone calls in the dead of night all from burner phones.

“A restraining order Laura, a restraining order?”

“Charles pull me out. Charles, pull me out now.” voice sounding desperate now.

“He can’t hear you. I’ve changed the code of your little world. It was so easy. I just had to crash the code of a single flower and I was in. Laura, we can finally be together. Just you and me, until we die.”

This story was inspired by a writing prompt on Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/comments/glunv0/wp_you_work_for_a_company_that_has_developed_the/

For more about me, check out my Youtube Channel: A Novel Escape

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu [Book Review]

This book has a lot going for it. It is a nebular award winner and for good reason. One of the things I mention in this review, is that the first half of the book reads like a literary novel, really focusing on character. The author establishes who these characters are, their desires, their goals, where they’ve come from, so that when they finally undergo hardship you understand why they make the decisions they do.

I hope you enjoy this work of art

Secret Invasion – A Sci-Fi Trilogy

I think finding a process that works for me has become very important when writing. Taking part in NANOWRIMO and also authoring “Do You Think Your Mother Would Like Me,” has taught me so many things. For one, how to prepare for the writing. There are some books that are easy to write, because they follow convention ideas. Some books are easy because you can simply take popular philosophies and throw them into a story and critics read it and call you brave.

In my new sci fi alien book, I’ve decided to really think about it. Really dig deep into the human psyche. There are a ton of videos on youtube analyzing the Dark Knight. Was it because of amazing special effects? There were many, but simply not the best out there. Was it Heath Ledger’s performance? Yes, but there is something else that made Ledger’s performance really mean something. That thing is story. The story of the Dark Knight went beyond the typical superhero movie. It was unlike any other Batman created and every other DC film to come after pales in comparison.

What made this movie special was the look into human nature and exploiting something deep in it. This movie looked at fear and the instinct for self preservation and placed those things on trial. We the viewers get a glimpse of what it would possibly take to really overcome a life threatening fear of our own mortality. When a movie dares to go so deep, it touches a cord on the inside of all of us. Instant Classic

Attempting to write a book as ambitious as the Dark Knight was a movie can totally backfire. But I believe in the process. I believe the process will be the greater reward; because even if I fail, I will fail forward. I will be in a far better position than I was if I didn’t try.

So here we go; “Secret Invasion” a alien sci fi novel. I honestly don’t like the name, so i’m hoping something better will come later. I plan for this to be a trilogy and have basic ideas for the second and third books already. I’ll certainly update you as I write.

This is Trevauhn (T. A. Grant), I’ll catch you later.

Hagseed by Margaret Atwood (book review)

Warning:

This book does contain adult material. Cursing and some of sexual references. Definitely not suitable for kids. This is adult fiction after all. I attempt to be very careful with the books I read. I didn’t find there to be too many of the author’s personal philosophies interwoven into the story. Though I realize, not putting your own philosophy into such a well thought out book is hard to do.

What’s the novel about?

This book is a retelling of the Shakespeare play, “The Tempest.”

Disclaimer: I was never really big on Shakespeare, so this was my first time hearing of the Tempest. I had to go back and do a bit of looking around. After doing so I understood a lot more about Margaret Atwood’s book. Of course, you don’t need to know the tempest before hand, but I’m sure it would deepen the experience if you at least knew a bit of the plot.

This is not a new book but was published back in 2016

Margaret Atwood, being Margaret Atwood, takes an interesting spin on this story. Of which I’ll elaborate in the discussion.

How is He Written?

This story is written in 3rd person, yet Margaret Atwood makes it feel as though you’re in Felix’s head. It has a 1st person feel to it. Her writing is rather reminiscent of Stephen King and Donna Tartt.

About the Main Character:

Interesting? I found the main character very interesting which is what carried me through this book. The way Felix chose to deal with his loss. The death of his wife and child made me want to find out more.

The way Felix sees the world is fun to read. He’s not a nice guy, but his theater background is used in his very colorful description of the world around him.

Likable?

Is he likable? Not at all. But I don’t think that’s the point. His arrogant, flamboyance, makes him fun. But not in the same way other authors choose to make their characters likable. When writing a character you hate to love, authors often make that character do bad things for good reasons. Felix on the other hand is doing bad things for his own personal gain. Though, because of his age and maybe his mental disposition, I understand why he would go to the lengths he did to get his revenge.

Flaws?

The flaws, as said previously is what carries this book. For our main character, he knows he’s flawed and yet he feels like he needs his flaws to survive. He feels as though his flaws are no big deal and necessary considering what he’s been through. He embraces his flaws as a coping mechanism. Felix, I would say, outgrew his flaws by the end of the story. The way Ms Atwood writes the story, his flaws aided him in accomplishing his devious desires.

Can you identify with him?

For me, personally. I don’t identify fully. With this book I felt as though I was a deeply intertwined spectator of a very entertaining character.

Antagonist?

This story did not have a well defined antagonist. The story starts out by introducing an antagonist. But after those few chapters, the story focuses on Felix, our main character. All the trouble he faced was mainly of his own doing.

Satisfying Ending?

The Tempest seems to show itself more towards the end of this novel. Then when it is all said and done you realize how beautiful Hagseed was written. It was certainly a satisfying ending. Not as explosive as others, but seeing Felix finally execute his revenge was especially satisfying. I like!

Metus Chapter 3: The Girl

“Really, no really. Can’t you cut me some slack,” Joshua roared in anger at nothing in particular. The universe maybe? Or whatever god was available to listen to his angry pleads. Joshua walked to the block his mom had dropped him. If he could only get his hand on a cell phone then he could call his mom to pick him up. That’s as good a plan as any. There were small shops up ahead, he should be able to borrow a cell-phone. Josh came across an antique store towards the entrance of the Plaza. He’d not remembered seeing the shop before. He’d driven through this section of town quite a few times. The store must’ve just opened, he thought. Maybe he’d just not noticed. Mom was always complaining that he was in his own world. Nothing wrong with that. His own world didn’t include bullies and a student body laughing at his abuse. Funny, he remembered going to that same pizza parlor next door to the antique store. But for some reason hadn’t noticed the creepy looking place. The closer he got the more his skin crawled.

Josh was strangely attracted to creepy places and creepy things. Living in Jax, short for Jacksonville, he’d had pet frogs. His mom hated the idea of a snake in the house, so he was forbidden. The frog was bad enough, she’d said. What others thought as creepy, he always considered with a different perspective. His taste was simply more peculiar? Yes, peculiar was the right word. Another word might be unique, like a gentleman sipping a 50-year-old whiskey while watching over his killer sharks from the comfort of his living room. Something he’d seen on TV. That was not creepy at all. Just a matter of perspective. What was really creepy, not to mention scary, was going to those school dances and flopping around like a jellyfish. Do they even dance at those things? Kids probably just stand around in their tuxedos looking like a bunch of penguins.

Either way, he needed a cell phone and he needed it quick before the rain began. The closer Josh got to the store the more the hairs danced around on his arms. There was something definitely creepy about this place, he thought. For a brief moment, he forgot his troubles. He became entranced by the mystical place he was about to walk into. His pace slowed. He became weary of his environment. It was as if someone or something was watching him. Must be his imagination. He’d recently sneaked watching the Stephen King movie ‘IT.’ Josh half expected a demon clown to poke its head up from the manhole. Something impossible for a regular human being, but totally possible for ‘IT,’ Pennywise or whatever ‘IT’ was. Josh had never before felt like this. He thought of going to another store. The pizza shop next door seemed a far safer prospect, but his curiosity was piqued. Joshua set his face into firm determination, strode up to the door, and kept walking hoping no one saw him make a fool of himself. He couldn’t go through with it. His logic overrode his curiosity. “Stupid, I am so dumb,” Joshua said to himself disgusted at his own cowardice. There was nothing to be scared of, but he was afraid. The creep factor was way off the charts for that store. He’d find a cell phone somewhere else.

A voice called out behind him, freezing him in place, “Hey, hey you!” It was the voice of a girl. A sweet voice. It was kinda melodic, as though she about broke out into song and dance. It frightened Josh. Had she seen him walk up to the store, reach for the handle only to shy away in complete horror? Joshua’s thoughts escaped him. Turn around. No, don’t turn around. He felt his head might split in two from the sheer embarrassment. He knew this was foolish. But after literally bearing his soul to 15 of his classmates, he wasn’t quite ready for anymore socializing. He knew he should at least respond, as that would be the polite thing to do. A reasonable response was as far as a kite stuck in a tall tree. Adrenaline, run and hide, fight or flight; or just keep walking, pretend he didn’t hear her. But then he remembered how he tried running and hiding all day and what that got him; deep sea diving in the boy’s toilet. He has to make a stand, here and now. No turning back. A girl is not a runaway train you fool, he thought. What is he so afraid of? He heard footsteps, the approach of a dangerous female tiger. No, not dangerous, just a girl. He could imagine the great cats on the plains of the Sahara. His tongue instantly cleaved to the top of his mouth. If it’s just a girl, why was he so nervous? He became instantly parched. Of course, this would happen when he needed his voice the most.

“Hi, I saw you walk up to the store just now. Was there something that caught your attention? Maybe I could show it to you,” Josh turned, locked eyes, and nearly gave up the ghost. She was gorgeous. She smiled sweetly at him; perfect teeth and the cutest dimples. Josh’s heart melted in his chest. This is not happening.

“I, I, I, just, just, ahh” words, were are the words. Oh no, he thought, I’m making a complete fool of myself. The pretty girl chuckled. Josh’s heart broke. Great now, she’s was laughing at him. A small fire welled up within him, “what are you laughing at?” Josh spoke more solid, the anger sparking his courage. She must’ve seen the look on his face. Her own face echoed the horror.

“Please, I wasn’t making fun,” she said, hands raised with a slight look of embarrassment. She smiled and Josh’s belly did backflips. “I just thought you were kinda cute.” Stunned! Totally stunned! All thoughts escaped him. Her smile wide, warm, reaching her eyes. She was amused by his total bewilderment. It melted Josh’s icy fears to mere puddles.

“I was only looking to borrow a phone,” he tried explaining. His words came out jagged. He wondered if he made any sense.

“Oh okay, sure, my cell phone is in the shop,” the pretty girl turned and started towards the shop’s entrance. She turned and looked back at him. “Are you coming?” Her words were like a spell releasing Josh from his cursed stupor. He trotted after her, nerves bubbling, heart pounding.

Metus Chapter 2: Flush


Josh had only a block’s walk to school. As soon as the car was out of sight he went in his bag, pulled out a hoodie, and slipped it over his head. He placed the hood low, shading his face. He couldn’t keep the hood up during his classes, but that was not his concern.

Thankfully, the day rolled on without a hitch. Josh’s plan to remain inconspicuous had worked. He had to stay out of the cafeteria and going on a forced fast was a small price to pay for his life. The day was almost done. His nerves had finally lifted when he walked into a solid wall of muscle.

“Hey, watch where you’re going,” the muscle said, it was a voice Josh knew all too well. It was the very voice he’d been avoiding all day. It was the voice of the one who would bring about his untimely death. It was Ronnie. Ronnie, the six feet six inches, 235 pounds, big man for the school basketball team, Ronnie. Oh crap, it’s Ronnie, who has a 3.5 GPA because he beats up on other kids smaller and smarter than himself to do his school work. You mean Ronnie, the person for whom Joshua had not finished the term paper due last Friday. It is more than likely that Ronnie will suffer a debilitating blow to his grade in his English class. Yup, it was certainly Ronnie, Josh’s future murderer. Joshua’s heart sank.

“Oh, ahh, sorry,” Josh did an about-face without looking and ran into another wall of muscle. Funny, that second wall wasn’t there before. This one more wiry but musclebound nonetheless. Crap, he’s in deep. It’s official, the crap is rolling downhill. No, not rolling. It’s a freaking avalanche crashing down on his head.

“Hey guys, look it’s Joshua Patterson,” the wiry wall of muscle known as Mikey said. This is not going to end well.

“Oh, what a pleasant surprise, Joshua Patterson,” Ronnie said with a crooked smile plastered to his face.

“Hi guys,” Josh said, giving a little wave; unable to hide the tremble in his voice.

“Funny, I’ve been looking for you all day. Thought I’d see you in the cafeteria and for a while, I thought you’d be out again, but to my surprise, here you are,” Mikey gave a little chuckle at this.

“Yeah, here I am,” the words dry on Josh’s lips.

“Now, I distinctly remember my English paper being due last Friday,” Ronnie spoke as though Josh wasn’t even there “I showed up to class fully expecting an award-winning essay. And you know what I had guys?” He was just having a casual conversation about the weather. “I had nothing. This jerk off didn’t show,” Ronnie’s voice slowly grew, sounding more and more pissed.

Every word from Ronnie’s lips sent blobs of spittle sprinkling Josh’s face. Eeck, one got on his bottom lip. It took everything he had not to try to wipe it away. He didn’t want to geode the muscle-brain into thinking he was trying to make a move. This is really not going to end well.

Josh had gotten food poisoning, probably from a bad pack of ramen or something. Not that it would matter to Ronnie and his goons. They only wanted an ‘A’ in English so they could keep playing basketball.

“You know guys, a funny thing happened,” Josh started.

“Oh please, tell us all about it,” Ronnie retorted, suddenly very interested in everything Josh had to say. “Yes, let us hear the amazing tale of heroism and crap you had to go through why I don’t have my term paper which has now landed me a lowsey C plus in Ms. Trotterfields class.” To Josh’s horror, he realized no excuse would do. He was sure Ronnie stood at a comfortable B and this paper, if done well, would have put him at a B plus. With a few more completed assignments, Ronnie would have been well on his way to an A. But all that was gone. He could probably get back to a B, but an A seems out of the question. It was all Josh’s fault. He screwed up big time.

“Well…there was this bad package of ramen and…I puked all over the floor,” Josh stuttered.

“Yes…yes, go on. Please, feed us all the bull we can stomach,” Ronnie splayed his arms which highlighted a growing crowd.

“I was sick…yeah, I was sick,” Josh finally got the words out.

“Sick huh? So sick you couldn’t email it you dick weed,” Ronnie said through gritted teeth. His pale white freckled skin went red. This is going to be bad. Josh felt as though he’d be sick right now. His heart pounded so hard, he fully expected it to protrude from his chest.

“Guys what should we do to this little dick weed,” Ronnie turned slightly, addressing the growing crowd.

“Atomic wedgie,” one kid shouted.

“Yeah and take his wallet as payment,” someone else said.

“No,” a pretty young blond strode up to Ronnie. “I know what you should do.” She whispered in his ear and Ronnie’s eyes lit up.

Moments later Joshua’s head was being flushed down the toilet of the middle stall in the boy’s restroom. Josh must’ve had particularly good luck, there were no floaters or used toilet paper in the bowl, and much to Ronnie’s disappointment. To make up for this obvious failure, the boys took the opportunity to relieve themselves in the same bowl Josh would eventually be baptized head first. And for good measure, they took his clothes. Joshua was left naked and afraid.

The walls of the restroom were blue and white subway tiles. Varying students had taken the opportunity to illustrate colorful words, declarations of love, and cartoon drawings of penises. His skin was no barrier to the cold which crept into the restroom. “What did I do to deserve this,” Josh said to no one in particular. Not loud enough for anyone to overhear. He had to be careful not to slip up again. Someone might overhear and report it back to Ronnie which would land him in even more trouble. “I hate those guys. I sincerely hate those idiots.” He thought of telling his mom. She would more than likely get him out of this crap school and put him somewhere the student body wasn’t complete buffoons. He hated them all. No one had even offered to help. No one said a word. They all stood there, phones out recording him being dunked into piss stink water. No one cared enough to do anything to help him. The welts on his forehead burned. He’d hit his head a few times against the porcelain.

He was alone in the boy’s restroom with an hour before the end of school. Josh knew at this point that he wouldn’t make it to its final class. He was so dumb to get caught by a bunch of monkeys with the IQ of goats. He would find some way to get back at them. He was tired of running and hiding. It did him no good to hide. Being the fly on the wall was only an invitation to being smacked. But no more. He would die before he’d hide again. For now, he would keep his peace and pine away in the middle stall of the boys’ restroom. But this will never happen again, he assured himself.

It wasn’t until 45 minutes after the final bell rang when Joshua felt safe to exit his fortress of solitude. He walked the halls, bag tightly covering his privates, quietly praying no one would see him. The halls were empty. Joshua sneaked into the boy’s locker room, found his gym clothes neatly tucked away. He donned a pair of sweatpants, a jacket, and sneakers. Without a moment to lose, he dashed out the front doors of the school. He’d missed the school bus and would have to catch a city bus to get home. He cursed at the thought. All his money was in his other pants and who knows where those douche-bags put those. It’s probably apart of their secret stash of boys clothes they use to get aroused, Josh mused. Images of Ronnie taking deep whiffs of his pants flashed through his mind. His cell phone was gone too. Now what, this day couldn’t get any worse. As if some strange fate was out for spite, Josh heard a rumble in the sky. The sun was gone and there was nothing but gray skies. Rain clouds drew to him like flies towards a half-eaten honey bun.

Metus – Chapter 1 (short story series)

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“Honey, you look so nice,” Joshua’s mom said as she looked him over. Her eyes approving the job he’d done getting himself dressed. He knew she would approve and her approval meant he’d be flying below her radar.

“Thanks mom,” he replied with a smile which didn’t quite reach his eyes.

“Well, breakfast is on the table and when you’re ready I can take you to school okay?” She said before heading to her room and pulling the door behind her.

“Hey mom, you really don’t have to. I can totally take the bus. It’s completely okay,” Joshua replied trying not to overdo it.

“Well I have to go in early today, so it is not a problem,” she said shouting from behind the partially closed door of her bedroom. The door opened again, her voice resuming its normal volume, “plus, I feel like such a bad mom making you ride that bus every day.” She often said the bad mom line as though she needed to justify doing something a normal mom would do. Maybe she felt she was intruding some on some sacred ritual of high school teenagers and doing so would be punishable by the gods. Who knows why moms do what they do. They are strange creatures, minds unyielding and far too complex for teenage boys to understand.

Joshua kept his eyes low, locked in a penetrating staring contest with his eggs and waffles. I have to come up with a new plan, he thought. His mother was a naturally suspicious woman. Pushing the issue would only set off alarms in her head. Josh could already hear the sirens, red lights, and a panicked voice over an intercom signaling impending meltdown moments from happening. And like an agent for the CDC dressed in a hazmat suit, mom would swoop in, quarantine his room and place him under surveillance until the threat was neutralized. Josh would hate for her to get involved.

The ride to school was smooth enough, mom kept going on and on about her new job and how great things are going to be. This was her ongoing argument since we packed all our stuff in the middle of the night and left Jacksonville and my dad behind. This was her argument as we slept in cheap motels and ate ramen on the floor of the new apartment. Josh didn’t really think mom had ever been out on her own. She’d gotten together with dad right after high school. Mom had left her home to live with dad in Jacksonville, Florida. Not long after, Josh came along and things must’ve gotten complicated with a baby in the mix. She didn’t talk about it much. But to her credit, things have slowly gotten better. Though at times it seemed as if mom was stumbling through a dark room attempting to find her way. She’d stumbled into a few dead-end jobs. She’d accepted help from the wrong people. Then finally she wised up and went back to grandma and grandpa for help.

Josh understood her reluctance. He felt bad when grandma finally came out said, “I knew you shouldn’t have married that good for nothing man.” Mom said nothing in reply. It was probably best to suffer her embarrassment in silence. But mom would go and work in grandpa’s grocery store.
“You’ll have to work your way to the top like everyone else,” grandpa said. But he’d slipped his little girl enough money for rent for a few months.
Things were still rough and Josh knew she felt far more pressure than she was letting on. Not to mention the pressure she placed on herself. So Josh would’ve totally believed her if it didn’t sound like she was trying to convince herself.

“You know what mom,” Joshua spoke up attempting to sound concerned and supportive. No, not panicked because his stomach was not doing backflips. He was being supportive. “You can just drop me on the corner and keep going.” His Mom’s eyes narrowed and he knew instantly that she would disagree. “It would be easier for you to hop back on the highway, instead of going through the school zone driving 15 miles an hour.” Joshua paused and an awkward silence filled the space. He was being supportive. He was not hiding anything from her. As long as he kept telling himself that, his emotions might very well pick up on the cue to calm the hell down. Did she suspect something? Crap, he’d sounded too desperate. Great, now she’s going to start asking questions. Would he tell her the truth? Josh hated lying to his mom. He looked over at her, with a mask of cool concern. If he hid his face she would know for sure. She peered over at him briefly. Joshua was sure that his mother could see past his illusions.

“Alright Josh, your mother can take a hint,” she said. Josh swallowed his heart. Her eyes were back on the road again. “I’d hoped the day would never come where you would be ashamed of being seen with your dear mother. But I guess it can’t be helped. They grow up so fast,” she continued wiping mock tears from her eyes.

“Whatever mom,” Josh said taking his eyes away from her. He breathed a quiet sigh of relief. “You know that’s not what it is.”

“You know, when your mom was in high school she was a total knock out,” she continued.

“What?!”

“I’m sure I can still turn a few heads,” she said sounding serious.

“Mom really. C’mon! I’ll see you later.”

“Sure,” she said with obvious sarcasm. The car slowed and came to stop on the corner. Josh made to get out the car, “aren’t you going to kiss your poor lonely bewildered mother goodbye?” Her face was in a screw. Eyebrows knotted.

“Really mom? You’re holding up traffic.” Josh replied whining and face equally a screw. A small bit of payback for her sarcasm. “Fine!” He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. “Love you mom,” he whispered in her ear, meaning it. They said their farewells and he was on his way to hell.

 


 

Netflix’s ’13 Reasons Why’ blamed for teen’s suicide attempt

The Change is Here

I’ve recently realized a truly disturbing trend in many of our young adult tv shows and books of today. This is actually not something new but attention to it has been exacerbated by tragedies of rising school shootings and teen suicide. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really realize it until I sat down with my seven year old son and started watching some of the shows he was watching. As he grows, his taste begins to change. Cartoons like, “Go Diego Go” and “Team Umizoomi,” no longer fit the bill. The shows which usually appear on Nick Jr and Disney Jr has been replaced with more preteen oriented shows on Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and The Disney Channel.

At first glance, the change seems subtle. But as I sit there consuming the content my son finds enjoyable I begin to feel a bit uncomfortable by the underline message many of these shows portray. My initial intention, was to simply spend time, then an uncomfortable realization crept over me. The parents of these shows are seen as goofy, unrealistic, and often times unlike any parent I’ve ever come across; really not parents at all. The parents are often the comic relief, while the real living and problem solving, crime fighting and healing of hurts are all borne by the teenager or sometimes preteen of the story. Parents are perpetually sidelined, while the teens are left to solve, sometimes adult situations, all on their own.

Orphans Make Good Protagonists

In our YA and Mid-Grade novels the parents often meet an untimely end at the very beginning of the story or before the story starts. That way, the young protag can run off on an adventure without the restricting hand of a guardian.

The Transition

To see this very trend carry from a mid-grade audience into the young adult world is actually quite troubling. A child raised on television would have endured hundreds of hours of programming. I’ve met teens and even adults fresh out of their teens years express their disappointment in their parents. “They don’t understand me. They just don’t get what I’m going through.” It’s hard not to believe that the shows of today play a part in this disconnect in the family. When a child for many years grows up believe parents are incompetent. And to be honest, if my friends don’t have the answer then I sure enough don’t expect my parents to know.

Head In the Sand

Now, I do understand that there are parents who remain aloof as to the well being of their children’s mental and spiritual well being. I understand that a parent is the first line of defense and many of the issues can be nipped in the bud with a mildly attentive parent. All too often, parents leave it up to the child to find their way. They want to allow the child to quote and quote, “FIND THEMSELVES.”

You Can Do IT

Shows like “13 Reason’s Why,” and others tell our kids how to feel, think, and behave. How will they find their way? Parents need to know that their wisdom is valuable. Parents, you have something to give. Even if it’s a different perspective. Even if it’s undying love and support when you’re feeling especially speechlessness. Your input into your child’s life from an early age into adulthood is sorely needed. The teen suicide rate is proof of this. Lead them and don’t just leave your child, new to the trickery of the world, to fend for themselves. I guarantee there are many mediums out their vying for their attention. No…not only their attention, vying for their identity.

 

This article was inspired by this Fox News report on Teen Suicide.