Read the comments. They are fantastic.
According to an index developed in 2015, Earth is not the most habitable planet found yet.
Kepler-442b, a rocky near-Earth-sized exoplanet that is 1206 light-years away from Earth, has a rating of 0.836. On the other hand, Earth has a rating of 0.829.
The paper introducing the… pic.twitter.com/A98Z4pyb24
— Massimo (@Rainmaker1973) November 30, 2023
I got this particular writing prompt from here. I love stories that can have a happy ending even though I write a lot of dark material as my wife has recently pointed out. Hope you like it.
Artwork by Adobe Firefly
Billy Jones slowly opened his eyes. His mind working to try and figure out exactly what day this was. Saturday? Yes. It was Saturday he determined. The sun shone brightly through the open bedroom window and into Billy’s eyes. He squinted along with an accompanying “yep” for good measure. Billy jumped out of bed and got dressed. Saturdays were way too short to be lounging around in his house all day. He needed to get there and see what his friends and the neighborhood were up to.
The first thing Billy noticed as he left the front door slam closed was that the for sale sign was missing from the old Chapman residence. The second thing he noticed was a angry middle aged mother yelling at him to stop slamming the front door. Oops. He wondered what kind of family would move in next door. The Chapman’s were a nice enough couple but they didn’t have any kids. Billy often wished they did. Finding someone to play with on Saturday mornings would have been so much easier.
The first stop was to the local pharmacy. He didn’t need medicine exactly but they did have something he desperately needed. Chewy sweet and sour candy. It had to be a specific kind too. Ridman’s. They were simply the best. George Watkins was manning the counter as he usually did on Saturday mornings. George wasn’t a pleasant man. Billy often wondered why that was. He figured it took more energy to be unhappy and miserable than happy and content. Billy grabbed a pack of his favorite candy and set it on the counter. George grunted. Billy gave him the money. The transaction was concluded and the only sound through the whole exchange was the cash register beeping and George grunting.
Candy in hand, he walked the extra couple of blocks to Felton Court. It was a really cool new skateboard park. Billy didn’t ride skateboards and really had no interest in it. He didn’t go to the park to participate. He went for the people watching. In particular, he went to the skate park to watch Amanda Fisher. While she watched the skateboarders, Billy watched her. He was fascinated with her. She was pretty, for sure. He could feel something else when he stared at her. He wasn’t sure what it was but as long as he could get away with it, he watched. When she would glance his way he would stare off in another direction. He couldn’t make direct eye contact. He’d be found out and his fun time would be over.
Lyle Henderson slid up next to Billy. “We doing this again?” Billy jumped and looked in the direction of the speech. “Damn it, Lyle. You scared the crap out of me!” Lyle smiled from ear to ear, “It makes my day buddy. I’d ask you what you’re doing but I’m pretty sure I already know. They call that stalking, I think.” Billy laughed, “It’s not stalking. She just happens to be here at the same time I am. I don’t even talk to her.” Lyle smirks. “That’s your problem buddy. Maybe you should. Anyway, I got to roll.” Before Billy could respond, he was gone.
After leaving the skate park, Billy walked around visiting the usual spots where his friends usually hung out. It was unusually quiet today. It was the peak of vacation season so he guessed that most of them were off having fun somewhere. His family took vacations but only when they could get a “deal” which usually meant off season. The problem with that was his friends were home while he was away. There was always the xBox. Out of other options, Billy headed back home.
The old man rocking back and forth on the old Chapman porch was hard to miss. He waved at Billy. Billy returned the wave. The old man motioned for Billy to go over to him. Having nothing better to do at the moment, he decided an investigation was in order. After all, he could get the story of how this old man came to be here. There was always a story. “I’m Billy.” He said. “We share the same name young man but you can call me Bill. I always thought that Billy was a name you used for the young.” Billy sighed. “I’ve never thought about it.”
Bill motioned to the seat next to his. “Have a seat young man. Tell me all about your day. I often wonder what being young would be like now.” Billy sat down and looked over at Bill. “I’m not really supposed to talk to strangers but since you bought the Chapman house, I guess that makes it ok.” The older man smiled. “The young mind is so curious. Is that what brought you over here? Curiosity?” Bill asked. “Yes. I liked the Chapmans but they didn’t have any kids. I was hoping that whoever bought this place would have kids so I’d have some new friends.” Bill laughed. “What’s wrong with the friends you have?” “Nothing,” Billy said. “They are ok but variety is always nice.” Bill looked at Billy and smiled again. “Indeed.”
Bill gave Billy the dime store version of the things that he had done in his life. None of it seemingly glamorous or interesting. Bill took jobs selling cars, short order cook, and as bookkeeper. “Yes young man. None of these things were great professions or jobs to say the least. My life would have taken a different direction though if I would have paid attention.” Billy looked over Bill. “Paid attention to what?” Bill sat back in his rocking chair. The motion soothing his aching old bones. “Have you ever looked at someone and felt something that you couldn’t explain or understand? You just know there is something worth noticing?”
Billy felt a bit light headed. How could the old know? Was he in trouble? “I see you know what I am talking about young man.” Bill stopped rocking in his chair for a moment. His face projected trust and warmth to Billy. All of the sudden, he no longer feared that he was in trouble.
“Here is what I know about your situation Billy. No. You aren’t in trouble. I’m here to help. I’m here to tell you to follow your heart. That feeling that you can’t describe. The longing you feel to go to the park just so you can watch a girl that you never talk to. That feeling is what you’ll later discover as love. You’re too young now to realize it.” Billy looked at the ground. “You seem to know an awful lot about me. What do you mean by follow my heart?” He asked the older man.
Six weeks later…
Bill rocked back on his chair on what was shaping up to be a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Right around the time he expected it, a young Billy Jones strolled up to what used to be known as the Chapman place. He walked up onto the porch with what looked like a glow that the older man had never seen. “She said yes!” He exclaimed. “I asked her to come over to play xBox this afternoon and she said yes!” The older man’s smile could no longer be contained. Was that a tear in his eye? Not a tear of sadness Billy suspected. Perhaps, a tear of happiness. The old man looked out into the beautiful Saturday sunshine and thought to himself…
…It is amazing how much life can change when you make the right choices. Amanda Fisher was going to live.
Rant mode on.
This drives me bonkers.
On iOS, if you have LIVE photos turned on your camera won’t make a sound when you press the shutter.
I like and need sound, especially if I am using the timer.
I’m usually not using LIVE photos so every once in a while it gets turned on by accident and then it takes me a few minutes to figure out why.
Rant mode off.
Apple’s link to the topic here.
The idea of history being altered in any way always has fascinated me. It just seems to open up so many possibilities. This story came to me while I was in the shower this week. The end result wasn’t quite what I was thinking about but these things seem to go in whatever direction they want to. Here is this week’s tale. I hope you enjoy it.
Artwork by Adobe Firefly
The Purple Hue
“They are extremely rare.” Harvey Newcastle said as he fiddled with the ample pile of paperwork of his office desk. Mark Winfield sat across from Harvey and tried desperately to look him in the eye as polite society demanded while posing his question. “But sir, according to the last survey Earth contains the most concentrated events on this side of the galaxy.” “Earth,” Harvey said. “Is that what they’re calling it these days?”
“I’m sorry Mark. I can’t sanction a trip right now. The Antares Cluster is falling apart at the seams and I need all of the able bodied people I can spare.” Harvey pushed the stack of papers aside as he let out a sigh. “Look, I can’t sanction a trip through the bureau but I also can’t tell you what you can and can’t do on your own time. Can I?” Mark’s face began to light up. “I suppose not, sir.” Like most agents that had the opportunity to talk to Harvey Newcastle personally, Mark had a difficult time keeping his gaze on the man himself.
Harvey’s big corner office was full of relics and books from all around the known galaxy. It was a treasure trove of knowledge. The smells were a bit overwhelming to Mark but the room seemed more like a library than the office of the controller. “I’m happy that you stopped by Agent.” Harvey said as he stood up extending a hand for Mark to shake. Mark took his hand and shook it enthusiastically. “That you for taking time out of your busy day, sir.” “No trouble at all, Mark.”
Mark left the office of the controller and pondered his next move. Harvey was certainly right about the Antares Cluster. That place was a nightmare. However, no one could argue that he wasn’t doing his fair share if he paid a visit. He decided to go to the nearest transport pod station and see what he could do in the cluster. As soon as that unseemly business was concluded though, he would be heading straight for Earth. On his off time, of course.
Three days were all Mark could stand before returning back to the home system. If he were being completely honest, the Antares Cluster should be removed from the universe. The smell. He smelled now. It was in every thread of cloth he was wearing. He was happy he didn’t have a partner to go home to so he wouldn’t have to try and explain any of this. He felt dirty and violated. No one at the bureau could say that Mark Winfield wasn’t pulling his weight. At the end of the day, whatever it took to give him time to work on his side project was worth it.
A hot shower and a warm meal began to work their magic on Mark’s tired body. He sat down at his quaint little breakfast nook and grabbed his tablet. Why Harvey fussed with paper always puzzled him. Tablets were so much more efficient for this line of work. Besides, paper wasn’t going to blink red and give you the numbers you needed to see. Mark looked at the map of Earth and plotted a few locations for probability monitoring. He wasn’t going to the cities on this trip. He wanted to start small and work his way up. The chances that he would find what he was looking for were slim but most times, the outliers were where the target usually was.
He studied the clothing and language bases. Earth people were close to his species, albeit a bit more colorful, so playing the part wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for him. He programmed the fabricator and sat back down while the machine did it’s work. In a few moments he would have the clothing he needed to blend in. He folded down the tablet and downloaded the human characteristics into the storage unit next to it. The unit would help create a mask around his body that would mimic human appearance. It was almost impossible to detect.
The fabricator beeped as Mark grabbed the garments contained inside and began changing clothes. He was excited. It might be more accurate to say giddy. Human society fascinated Mark in a way that he could never seem to explain to his closest of friends. He concluded that they simply lack his appreciation for the complete and utter chaos that Earth was capable of. Without it, Mark and the rest of the officers at the bureau would be out of a job.
Standing in front of the portal, Mark quickly set the coordinates for the trip and climbed onto the pad. In a few short moments, he vanished and reappeared on a dirt road outside of what he hoped was the small town he was looking for on a planet the locals called Earth. As he pulled the tablet from his coat pocket he slowly began looking around and scanning the area. A few minutes after Mark’s arrival, the scanner application on the tablet began to display a purple hue. Mark nearly fell to his knees. It couldn’t be possible, could it?
He supposed the tablet could be malfunctioning but that wasn’t very likely. He tapped a couple of onscreen controls and brought up the location markers. The device confirmed a purple contact and Mark couldn’t believe the next part. It was coming right toward him in some kind of vehicle. Mark did the only thing he could think of and walked to the middle of the road. He wasn’t sure that the vehicle would stop but this was a purple contact after all. He had to try.
The white SUV slowed to a stop as Brian Presley looked through the windshield at an oddly dressed man waving his arms around frantically. People walking around these parts was something you didn’t see very often and this fella didn’t seem like a weirdo so, he stopped. “Excuse me sir, I was wondering if you could answer a question for me?” Mark asked as he walked to the driver side door. His arms were out and visible so as not to scare the creature. The pulsating light from his pocket was so bright he was hoping the young man wouldn’t notice. “Sure mister.” Brian said. “I don’t see many people walking out this way. Are you ok? Do you need a ride?”
Mark smiled or at least he thought that is what the gesture meant and brought up the disintegrator from his pocket in a slow graceful fashion. He leveled it at Brian’s head and pressed the trigger. In a few nanoseconds, Brian Presley was a pile of ash on the seat of his mother’s new SUV. Mark’s smile grew bigger. This was too good to be true. A purple contact? He couldn’t believe the good fortune.
He opened up the tablet to its full length and rotated the screen to landscape mode. A picture of Brian’s head spun around the screen with data all around it. Everything in a bright purple hue. The projected number below the spinning head was frighteningly large.
“Wait until Harvey Newcastle hears about this!” Mark said out loud to no one. With a small motion, his thumb or what passed as a thumb for his species moved down the screen exposing two very important words after the enormous number on the screen.
Photo credit – My wife
-*From The How Did We Get Here Series*-
The black SUV made its way through the incredibly long line at the local McDonald’s drive through. Danielle was in line 2 and both lines seemed to be progressing along at a snail’s pace. She looked over to her left as she started to round the corner towards the pay window and saw a small plastic container of Salsa stuck in a tree branch. Danielle began laughing as she tried to piece together the events that must have occurred to have the Salsa stuck in a tree.
Mavis Gomez was hungry. I guess you could call it “Hangry.” If starving wasn’t bad enough, she had been asked to park her car until her fish sandwich could be made. She didn’t understand what was so hard about not putting tartar sauce on it. Adding the sauce was an extra step. Her rage was beginning to flare up.
The reality was that her order only took an extra 5 minutes to prepare. Since she arrived at that “sweet” time between breakfast and lunch, she was able to get a fish sandwich for herself and grab a breakfast burrito for her husband Sal. He would nod his head which was his way of saying “thanks” but Mavis could only focus on the fact that she was starving…to…death. She glanced in her rear view mirror and caught the uniformed person running out to her car to deliver her order.
She grabbed the bag barely having time to say “Thank you” before tearing open the bag and grabbing her sandwich. This was the moment she had been waiting for. She peeled back the paper and took a big bite, right into tartar sauce! Her rage had kicked into high gear now. The uniformed person was long gone but it didn’t matter.
Mavis opened her driver side door and reached into her bag grabbing the first item that she could. She pulled the item from the bag and threw it with everything she had at the small picture of Ronald McDonald on the menu sign. She wasn’t very good at throwing so the Salsa container landed in the tree next to the sign. It would have to do. Her rage having been satisfied, she climbed back into her car and drove off.
This week, the story was written in the “pantsy” style. That is a term that describes the writing process. In most cases, I have a good idea of where I want to take the story and have some form of outline to guide me. In this story, I had an idea of how to start but didn’t know where it would go. It is like writing by the seat of your pants. Even I was surprised by the ending. I hope you enjoy it.
Artwork by Adobe Firefly
It was a last minute thing. Carter wasn’t sure if his friends would be able to get away for the weekend. The cabin had just become available and the owner was expecting an answer within the hour. His friends seemed to be scattered all over the town of Wilson. Most times, they responded back rather quickly. He conceded to himself that the fact he needed a quick answer meant that most of them would have to decline. It was Friday afternoon after all and the snow had already begun to fall.
Jody looked down at her phone. She saw that she had a couple of text messages with one of them being from Carter. Jesus, what did he want now? They were friends, sure. But, the breakup was still rather fresh in her mind even though it had been six months now. She still cared about him. Truth be told, she probably still loved him too. That wasn’t going to help her heal. She tried seeing other guys but the whole thing felt hollow. She’d let him stew a bit before answering. Whatever it was, she was fairly certain it wasn’t that important.
Dale couldn’t believe his luck. He asked Sandy for a date and she said, yes. He had been trying for what felt like an eternity. He had always been laser focused on Sandy. He just knew that she was for him. It was a feeling. It wasn’t sexual although he wouldn’t take that off the table. He was only human after all but it wasn’t the real reason for this feeling he had. He couldn’t explain it. He tried explaining it to Carter but he just laughed and eluded to the fact that Dale was probably only interested in sex. Dale knew deep inside that simply wasn’t true. Taking Sandy on a ski trip would show her that he was much more sincere then that.
Logan rounded out the list of friends that Carter had sent the text message to. Logan wasn’t the type of guy that had his cell phone attached to his arm. Life was too short and he probably spent far too much time looking for his phone than actually using it. Besides, it was better off someplace else besides underneath the car he was currently working on. He liked to tinker with cars. Got the bug from his grandfather, he supposed. It was calming. Working on cars allowed the world to flow away. He liked to get lost in his thoughts sometimes.
Carter was sitting on his couch and getting a bit nervous. He had to give the guy an answer and the clock was ticking down. He only had 31 minutes until he lost out on the cabin. Should he send another text? He shook his head. If they didn’t answer the first one they surely wouldn’t answer the second one either. This called for drastic measures. He would have to call them directly. He felt confident that when they heard the name Ravenwood, they’d be very interested. Everyone in town knew about the Ravenwood cabin rumors. The cabin wasn’t haunted but most people that had gotten a chance to stay there would call it “enchanted.” That sounded nice to Carter. The owner had a stupid rule for occupancy that required at least four. Carter didn’t understand it but he finally got an opportunity to stay and he didn’t want to waste it.
Jody answered the phone after a rather dramatic conversation with herself over whether or not she should. Carter had always talked about going to Ravenwood. She thought the name seemed evil in a way but she was probably just as curious as Carter. Without much coaxing, she agreed to go.
Dale was not as easy to convince. He would have to reschedule his date with Sandy if she would be willing and also purchase new lift tickets. She finally said yes to a date and he didn’t want to screw it up. After Carter’s suggestion of bringing Sandy along, Dale had to agree with his logic that Dale’s circle of friends might make her feel like he was genuinely interested in Sandy for her and not her “assets.” Carter seemed to think that the less intimate approach might work.
Logan wouldn’t pick up his phone. Carter, Jody, and Dale met up at the town pizza shop which was technically their base of operations. At least, until they got kicked out which was usually every other day. After a quick pizza and sodas, they decided to visit Logan’s house to see if he would be interested in going. It took some “sweet talking” by Jody and a promise of adventure by Carter to convince him but he cleaned up and the four climbed into Logan’s vintage SUV to see if they could persuade Sandy to join this little gang. Again, Jody’s girl logic won the day and Sandy climbed into the SUV with a feeling that she might actually have some fun in her life for a change.
Carter had already confirmed the booking with the owner. With the money transferred and the cabin owner happy, they were officially on their way to Ravenwood for the weekend. The drive would take an hour an a half so the ride was full of jokes, a little bit of singing, and some embarrassing stories about Dale told for Sandy’s benefit. If you asked Dale, his so-called friends weren’t helping and he wasn’t sure they were really friends.
The cabin sat alone in the middle of a medium sized forest. If Carter thought about it, most forests around their town seemed medium sized. What was full-sized? What was small? He wasn’t sure but the sight of the cabin looked a bit ominous. The outside seemed to be magically lit with bright lights all around it. It had been dark for about twenty minutes and the cabin with all of the lights gave off a magical vibe to Carter.
The kids made their way inside after fumbling with the combination lock on the front door. The cabin contained objects that seemed to be hand crafted out of the finest woods and materials. It was luxurious and more than what they should have gotten for the price they paid or so Carter thought to himself.
Jody tried to contain her excitement as she approached a dial made out of what seemed like precious gems and stones. The dial was displayed on a stand near the adjacent wall. The dial was divided into five sections. Each section had a name. BEACH, SAILING, SKI RESORT, PRIVATE ISLAND, and JONUS (the name of the town where they were now). She called everyone over to look at the dial. In typical fashion for this group, they took a vote on which place to move the dial and decided to try BEACH first. Jody moved the dial.
The group looked at each other puzzled. “Well, I’m not sure what it was supposed to do but I don’t think anything happened.” Jody said. They looked at each other and at the same moment, collectively heard the sounds of seagulls coming from outside the cabin. Logan walked to the closest door and opened it. The smell of the salt air was overwhelming. The sky was pure blue and the sun was shining brightly. Overhead, the sounds of seagulls could be heard as they flew in erratic patterns over the long beach. Carter no longer wondered what the word enchanted meant when used to describe this cabin. Logan shut the door and walked over to the dial. He turned it back to JONUS and then walked back to the door and opened it. The gang stood looking at him in shocked silence.
Instead of the beach, seagulls, and sun he stared at his dark green SUV. He looked back at everyone else still huddled around the dial. They still seemed to be in a state of shock. “You know Carter, I seriously considered telling you to buzz off this afternoon when you asked me to come here. I’m glad I didn’t.” Dale looked at Sandy and then at Carter. “Me too.”
Sandy smiled at the group and then back to Dale. “When you take a girl on a date, you really take her out on a date.” The group looked down at the dial and back to each other. Carter being the one who booked the cabin felt obligated to ask the only question that needed asking right now.
“I mean, where should we go first?”
“Relax. Your rumination, analysis, worry, and need to control the future are robbing you of the current moment. Yes, there is a time for preparation, but continually thinking of the future guarantees you’ll never enjoy in the present.”