First Love

There was a boy
that I once knew
meant more to me
than any jewel
found in the castles,
churches, ancient tombs
we once explored.

I watched him grow
older, farther,
born anew
a man with beard and brawn and
booming voice,
a wife, (a child soon?).

I linger on in memory
with no path of my own
I wonder at the boy, the man
who once was mine alone.
I see him still
from time to time and
my love is born again.
But always now he ventures off
and I must search
for other berths
to dock my
wayward
heart.

Déja Vue

A whiff of smoke, or the open sewer
The sound of cars swooping by

Too close

A grey sky broken
By tower’s silhouettes
A hint of Romance
Underneath
The sounds of English

My heart grows heavy in my chest

I ache I pine

Europe calls, proud and tattered
Old crumbling face
In a mossy stone

If only I could answer

Violent Meditations

Blank

a sleepy static buzz
threaded
through with silence
There is nothing there
where
has it all gone

Summer’s burning
but
the searing wind on sweat-drenched skin
creates a chill
as the red storm rises
high
in a rattle
of window panes and the silent
shadows
that flash across the tile-work
as lighting
fills the dusty sky.

A minute Ten

It’s over again in a hush
dripping

Silence

The Tailor

My body is bound,

bandaged, braced

(but not yet broken);

in swaths of fabric

I have tied up my

identity.

Unwrapping the cloth

tugging, spiraling around my frame,

sloughing my detergent-scented skin

upon the carpet–

I unravel reality

(unseen by any but myself, I know)

tugging at worp and weft

I wonder if

some day

I will fail to reweave it

(forget the intricate craft of knitting denial and personal illusion)

and in the face of such

absurdity

be left in stitches.

Short Story Idea: The Tale of Benedette

This is another short story idea I had. Does it sound promising? I wasn’t sure about the inclusion of sci-fi elements, so those might get cut if I continue the story. 

The smell of coffee and cinnamon drifted through the air, a spicy, warm back drop for the lively chatter that spilled out of the building in a flood of light every time the door swung open. It was something of a tradition to gather after classes in one of the various coffee houses that littered the surrounding city, and by five o’clock the places were all but vibrating with the collective energy of the chemically-alert clientele. This particular place–The Black Wire, often simply called, The Wire–was not one of the most well-known establishments, but it was popular enough with certain crowds to stay in business. Exactly what it was that this crowd did was uncertain, but it seemed to necessitate the wearing of dark suits, artfully rumpled and individualized through the creative use of socks, ties, and the occasional belt buckle. It also seemed to require that it’s members to be fully alert at all times, which would explain why they hung around the Wire: the place specialized in coffee (or tea, if you swung that way) dark enough to shame the Devil and strong enough to put him in his place if he ever tried to reclaim his honor. It was the promise of the unusually strong coffee, more than the crowd, that drew Benni towards it. She was currently lingering around the corner, debating on the likelihood that someone she knew would be there, and that they would want her to join them in their evening cup. Refusing would be rather rude, not to mention baffling to others. It was tradition, after all, to drink and chat with one’s acquaintances over a cup of caffeine-infused beverage.

Not that Benni had ever participated in this particular tradition, or given anyone any reason to think that she would want to join them. Benni did not, in fact, partake in hardly any traditions, save for the grand tradition of becoming educated. Other than this Benni kept to her studies and amused herself with mostly solitary pastimes. She didn’t see the point of going out like the people around her did, traipsing about in large groups doing nothing in particular or getting their eardrums blown out while making themselves sick and sweaty. Nor did she see the point in going out to chat for hours with people she only occasionally liked, and with whom she rarely had much in common. No, Benni liked to be at home or go to work–anything else seemed to be fruitless. Of course, both being at home and going to work seemed somewhat fruitless too. Everything seemed somewhat fruitless, but being at home and going to work (a designation that included classes, as the whole point of taking classes was to prepare to become a high caliber worker) were necessary, and so they were the fruitless activities that Benni deigned to participate in. She would be the first to admit that she was bored.

Unfortunately, Benni could hardly remember a time when she hadn’t been bored. Life plodded on around her, and she plodded with it, never really seeing the point but never having anything better to be doing, either. On more than one occasion she had found herself gazing off into the middle distance, wondering if praying to God to set off the Apocalypse might make life a little more interesting. Then she’d realize what she was thinking and start wondering what kind of person she was that she’d absently consider praying for such a thing. It’s not that she wanted the world to end, see would fret to herself, she just wanted to feel something.

These were the thoughts that were drifting through Benni’s mind this evening. Bothersome as they were, she had sought out a distraction to keep her mind from spinning its wheels on such useless, unkind thoughts, and the distraction she had come up with was The Black Wire. As she watched, the door swung open again and three people–two men and one person of uncertain gender–sauntered out, their loose, unhurried strides perfectly matching their loose, un-tightened ties and loose, untucked shirts. Benni plastered herself to the wall and tried to look uninteresting. She was astoundingly successful, although she rather suspected it had been wasted energy–Benni had noticed a strong, negative correlation between the looseness of a person’s tie and the degree of interest the person had in people like herself. (Exactly what people like herself were, she wasn’t sure, but she thought it sounded better than just saying, “herself.”). All three of these people had very loose ties. Unfortunately, even the loosest-tie-wearer will notice someone stepping out right in front of them, so Benni had to wait for the ambling company to pass before she could slip around the corner and into the café. Extreme measures, perhaps, but she was in a particularly bad mood and she did not trust herself to be civil with anyone right now, especially not with people who would surely inform her that she really needed to just “loosen up.”

Loosen up. The phrase tumbled around her head as she made her way to the counter, dancing on her toes to avoid all the waving hands and awkwardly placed chairs that came with impassioned conversation.

She needed to loosen up.

“Hello. What can I get for you this evening?” the barrista said. He was one she had seen before, quite frequently, in fact. He was unfailingly polite and exuded a subdued cheerfulness that always made Benni feel somewhat better. Truth be told, he was one of the reasons she liked coming here. Today, however, her mind was too crowded with dark thoughts, and she could not muster even a polite smile.

“I would like a small, wet cappuccino, please.” Loosen up. It was people saying things like that to her that made her want to set the world on fire. She did not understand why they (and by “they” she meant the children she had gone to school with, the students she had studied at university with, and all the authority figures who seemed to think it was their duty to not just teach knowledge, but also those aggravating things known as “life lessons”) thought it was any of their business how “loose” she was. What did that even mean? Benni had always felt she was quite laid-back. She did not yell, she rarely ranted, and she tried to be polite even when she was feeling less than gracious. Yet all and sundry told her to “loosen up,” to “have some fun once in a while.”

Fun.

Benni was not really sure what the word meant, only that everyone wanted to do it rather than work, and it seemed to make everyone deliriously happy. Benni had never been deliriously anything. She knew she liked to write, and read, and, to a certain extent, study; but she was not sure she would call any of those pursuits “fun.” It seemed a useless word, describing useless, boring activities, yet people threw it at her  in the same way they used “loosen up,” and so she did not like it. It all came back to people. Boring, irritating people. She scowled at herself, then, realizing that rather than halting the aggravating train her thoughts had been on, being in a public place was only making things worse; the Apocalypse loomed large in her mind.

“Small, wet cappuccino for Ms. Benadette.” The sound of her name startled Benni enough to halt the fiery mental imagery and sent a sharp lance of anxiety through her. She had been sure that no one who knew her was here, she had looked quite carefully as she had walked in. All strangers. Then the first part of the phrase registered, and her eyes landed on the drink on the counter. The cup was porcelain, the kind given to customers who liked to sit and enjoy their drink, and the thick foam had a bird drawn on top and covered with cinnamon feathers. “Bndt” was written on the side of the cup in black marker. Reaching for the cup, she opened her mouth to thank the barrista, but what came out was, “How did you know my name?”

“I’ve been asking you for it for months, every time I take your order. I figured that it hasn’t changed in the week since you were last here.” He said this without inflection, and with only a hint of a smile. Benni was not sure if he was teasing her or not, nor what her response should be. So she did what she always did when she found herself in a social situation without a script: she stared at him. He stared back. She put a tip in his jar, picked up her coffee, and walked to an empty table on the other side of the room, making sure to hold her head high as she was still not sure in what spirit he had made his comment. She wished people came with footnotes. However, she did not fail to notice that the interaction had effectively halted her downward mental spiral, although she was not sure she liked the alternative route her thoughts were now taking any better. Not dark, but much too complicated. Benni was never good at understanding those sorts of things. She frowned down at her cup, letting the steam fog up her glasses and breathing in the calming smell of coffee, warm milk, and cinnamon. She breathed out slowly and reached for calm, wrapping both hands around the cup and willing the warmth to soak up into her bones. Heat spiraled out from her throat and stomach and into her extremities as she took the first sip, and her mind settled slightly.

Coffee always calmed her, despite the coffee-sellers claims that it was supposed to do the exact opposite. Benni figured it had something to do with her emotional attachment to the drink: drinking a morning cup of coffee had been a ritual her parents had never failed to complete, she had adopted it sometime in her teens. A three o’clock pick-me-up was an equally cherished ritual that her parents had instilled in her, and most of her best conversations had been had over a bitter, hot, and foamy cup of espresso. The drink was warm, familiar, and riddled with good memories–not even the constant threat of insomnia kept her from seeking out a cup whenever she was feeling less than cheerful.

As she sipped, Benni glanced around the room. She felt comfortably removed from the subjects of her gaze, a distant, third-person observer watching the world with an impartial stare; this was how she preferred to operate. When she was agitated, she felt the isolation that such behavior engendered, but when she was calm, as she now was, it left her feeling as if she was in her own, safe bubble. No one could touch her, because she did not exist to them–she was simply the narrator. Pleased with her thoughts, she finished the last, luke-warm sip of her cappuccino with contented relish, tilting the cup up as far as she could to allow the final dregs of coffee to seep through the left-over foam. She set the cup down and licked off her new, frothy mustache, wondering what it was like to lick off a milk-mustache when you had an actual mustache, and if–

“Are you done with that, Miss?” Benni’s whole body jumped and a brief, improvised juggling show commenced as she attempted to keep the cup from crashing to the floor. It had jumped right along with her and then continued on up into the air (the thought that physics was really quite remarkable briefly slipped along the edges of her mind, the part that wasn’t shrieking in bewilderment and angst). This was the problem with behaving as if one is not a part of the world: the world doesn’t always get the memo. It does’t realize that there is a fourth wall that is not supposed to be broken unless the narrator pulls a rather tricky and clever stunt, and when it then breaks that fourth wall, without even the courtesy of giving fair warning, it can lead to rather unpleasant (and wretchedly unscripted) scenarios. Such as this one. Luckily, the mortifying possibility of being that one customer who breaks the dishes was averted, although the mortifying possibility of being that one customer who almost breaks the dishes and draws the unwanted attention of the whole establishment had come to pass. It was a quick mortification, at least, with people turning away almost as soon as she managed to stabilize the cup and assume the most unassuming posture possible. The barrista starred at her. She glared at him. He was, to her bafflement, unaffected*.

“Are you done with that, Miss?” He asked again, as if he had not, in fact, just caused a horrible incident, disturbing her Calm and ratcheting her irritation levels back up to through the roof.

“No,” she answered. Her voice was carefully devoid of any emotion and she promptly turned to stare in the other direction, silently but blatantly signaling that he should GO AWAY. When she looked up several seconds later, the barrista was once again behind the bar, polishing the old espresso machine so that the copper plating gleamed. It caught the last rays of the setting sun as they streamed low through the window, bouncing them onto the rows of syrups and liquors that sat next to it, and making starbursts on the walls. There was almost no one else around to see the light show, nor appreciate the amount of polishing that it must have taken to create it. Benni hadn’t realized how late it had become.

The Black Wire did not post hours. Ostensibly, it was open whenever it needed to be open. Benni, at least, had never seen it closed, nor ever been forcibly removed from it due to a fast approaching closing time. Still, as she watched the third-to-last group waltz out, arguing loudly about whether or not the separatist parties of the Outer colonies were gaining a foothold in the Lunar-Mars corridor, she wandered if she ought to leave. Surely the barrista wanted to go home (she was also not entirely sure she wanted to be alone in the shop with him–he had already tried to speak to her several times, what if he tried again and she couldn’t put him off?). But the image of her tiny apartment swam into her mind’s eye, cramped, cluttered with things she neither wanted nor needed, and utterly silent. Not the gentle quiet that lets you sleep peacefully, or read pleasurably, no, the silence that filled her rooms was suffocating, so absolute that its presence was as distracting as a sound-system cranked up to full volume. It screamed at her, making her restless and anxious, causing many a sleepless night and unproductive day. Benni quickly rose, picked up her cup and a five dollar bill, and strode over to the bar to ask for a refill.

*A brief not about The Glare of Benadette. Throughout most of school, Benni’s classmates were, to varying degrees, terrified of her. They claimed that she had a Death Glare, and a particularly potent one at that. It froze their hearts and made them sweat bullets if she so much as looked at them. Benni didn’t really understand this, as in her memory she had never given any of them a serious glare. Because of this she had to conclude that there was something about her face that made people think she was terrifically angry at them, and while inconvenient when trying to make friends, it did come in handy when ever she actually WAS angry at someone. Because if her look seemed like a Death Glare, she assumed that her glare must send the receiver into the fiery depths of their own personal Hell. 

– –

Time trickled by and so did the patrons. The second-to-last group walked out when Benni had drained her cup to the half-way point, and the only other person left now, besides herself and the barrista, was a older person of ambiguous gender. They were wearing a wide brimmed hat and a shapeless black cape, trimmed with yellow. A thick and nameless book was open on their table, and Benni briefly entertained the idea of asking what it was. Very briefly.

By the time Benni had gotten down to the dregs of her second cup, she had to admit that her excuses were running out and the barrista’s painfully polite glances (literally, Benni thought he must have practiced to be able to throw such a perfectly unoffensive glance with such violence) were becoming a bit too much even for her. However the be-hatted figure also remained. Perhaps she’d wait until they left? But when she looked up, the barrista managed to catch her eye and he gave her such an emotionless, unworried, so-sharp-you-didn’t-even-notice-you-were-bleeding look that she promptly gathered up her things and fled to the door. Honestly, and she had considered this barrista pleasant. Internally shrugging, Benni put it down to a bad day and mentally forgave him. She was hardly the poster-child of good social behavior, after all, and nobody liked to stay at work longer than they had to.

The last rays of the sun had vanished at least an hour ago, and what warmth there had been during the day was fast being swallowed up by the nightly chill. The Frost would soon begin. Benni shrugged her cape on, a long, black, all-weather affair with a deep hood, a buckled belt, and a flair for the dramatic. Her mother always said she should try to add some color to her wardrobe, but Benni liked black, and you didn’t have to wash it near so much. Besides, she thought as she walked away from the café, it made it easier to hide if she ran into trouble when she went out at night.  As if mocking her smug defense, the street lamp that shone over the alley she had turned down flickered, gleamed brightly for approximately five seconds, and went out. There was not another for some ways, and Benni pulled the hood of her coat up with a scowl. She really ought to have left sooner. Sending up a prayer to the God she was never quite sure if she believed in, she set off, her rubber-soled boots silent despite her quick, loping strides. For all that she felt like a rabbit darting, wild-eyed, to the nearest bolt hole, her dark silhouette was that of a wolf–lone, proud, and potentially dangerous. There was a reason no one ever bothered Benni.

Ten minutes later, when she was almost back to her little apartment, the moon came out from behind a cloud and lit up the night, turning it into a silvery-blue dreamscape. Looking up, Benni could just make out the shadows of the Lunar colonies. They had been spreading across the moon’s visible face for some years, now. Benni would have given anything to be up there. She had long dreamed of exploring the Lunar cities and even of preparing for the longer journey to the Mars colonies. Occasionally she even pondered the journey to the ones beyond Mars. The ones that you couldn’t come back from. She knew most people were frightened of that fact when they heard it, even those who were really interested in what might be out there; the idea of a one-way trip to who-knows-where made them clutch their mother’s apron strings and plant a garden, hoping to ground themselves in good, solid earth, in things that were very real and very here and not going anywhere at all. Benni wasn’t afraid. She was bored, and if anything she was afraid she would die from it. Die without doing anything remotely interesting, anything that could even come close to being called a Good Story. It was a depressing thought, and Benni wondered why she never seemed able to think of things like rainbows or smiley faces or any of the other things that content people must populate their mindscapes with. In any case, she thought, looking at the sky would only serve to make her anxious and restless and depressed about her current life. With this thought she turned her face from the sky and looked determinedly ahead for the last leg of her journey, staring with false intensity at every silver-lit crack in the sidewalk.

Benni lived in an old building, as most of the buildings in the area were. Wedged between a structure that consisted of a house, stacked on top of a bookshop that fancied itself as a salon, stacked on top of bakery; and an ancient, semi-hydroponic and mostly vertical farm that was held together by little more than the iron will of the owner, a woman called Agnes who resembled an Amazonian warrior and was well-known for her expert technique with a frying pan (part of the reason Benni liked her location was the safety provided by Agnes’ reputation). There were seven apartments in the building, with the large bottom apartment occupied by the owner of the building. The face of the building was brick and small plants grew out of the many cracks, crevices, and crumbles. The Nature’s-taking-over feel was further enhanced by the fact that most of the residents, including Benni, kept small gardens on their balconies. By a stroke of magnificent luck, Benni had managed to obtain one of the two apartments in her building that had access to the roof. The other apartment that had access shared a wall with her, but she had never seen the occupant. The only reasons she knew someone actually lived there was the occasional strains of piano that drifted from beyond the wall, and the sound of soft footsteps darting down the stairs shortly before she left for classes in the morning, or darting up the stairs as she was reading in the evening. In her mind she fancied that she lived next door to the gatekeeper of another world, which had an entrance in the always-locked basement of the building. She knew this was likely false, but she figured it did not particularly matter whether or not she made up elaborate stories about her elusive neighbor. Of course, she could have made their acquaintance, instead, but such things rarely occurred to Benni. She had ever been a creature of solitude.

Entering the foyer, Benni quickly moved towards the stairs, went up two steps at a time, spent thirty seconds jiggling her key in her lock to get it to open, and slipped into the darkness of her rooms. She promptly tripped. A loud yowl accompanied her own shriek, and she cried out as she landed, hard, “Morpheeeuu~uuus!” Morpheus, a large, mostly white cat with a black splotch on his right ear, another on his left flank, and a third on the tip of his tail, did not respond in the way one guilty of transgression ought to respond. Indeed he seemed to be under the impression that it was he who had been wronged. This he communicated with a low, rumbling sound that could be classified neither as a meow or a growl. It was that unique sound that a disgruntled cat makes, the mrowl. Benni, who had a talent speaking cat (even though she was never quite sure what she was saying), growled right back and matched his glare. Although the gleaming, oil-slick-rainbow of his eyes created an eery effect, Benni won the stare-down and Morpheus slunk off into the dark to lick his tail in a show of wounded dignity. For her part, Benni decided to call it a night and began to prepare for bed.

– –

Although for the past week the weather had been convinced that autumn was still arriving it seemed to have finally gotten with the seasonal program. The cold had crept up with lightning speed shortly after Benni had gotten in the night before, and by the time she had to get up again it had slipped through the cracks in the old building and settled deep into the floors. As she slowly approached consciousness, she could feel it lurking outside the warm wraps of her blankets. Waiting. She had suspected it would Frost last night, but this was ridiculous, she thought, peeking out at the ice-stars on her window. The day, unfortunately, would not wait. And so, grumbling and groaning, shivering at the very thought setting foot onto the freezing floors, Benni slowly, ponderously, rolled. Out of the bed. A dull thump followed and less than two seconds later Benni recalled why she had sworn, on many previous mornings, to stop performing that particular action: she bruised like a peach and her joints and hipbones had no fat to cushion them from the wood (all her fat was in un-useful places, like thighs; thighs never hit anything, but elbows, knees, and hips smacked into everything and hers were a constant, if varying, shade of purple). After lying on the floor for several moments to recover and breathing out a long, soft, “oooo~oowwwwoh,” Benni tucked up her sprawling limbs into a ball and rocked up onto her feet. She stepped, lurched sideways, and stumbled gracelessly out of her tiny bedroom, grabbing her heaviest robe as she passed. She stepped over Morpheus and plodded into the equally tiny kitchen. Squinting out of one eye*, she fumbled with the coffee pot, fingers already numbing with cold, and began the ritual she had been performing every morning since reaching puberty.

First, fill the pot with water. Second**, ground up the coffee beans. Benni hated the noise of the coffee grinder, how it shattered the soft stillness of the morning with its thunderous whirring and “skchz, skchz, skchz-ing,”  but the whole beans stayed fresher, longer, and Benni loved the smell they released. Heaven was the smell of freshly ground coffee. The third and final step was putting it all together and pressing the “on” button. Going through this ritual as she always did, Benni pressed the “on” button and washed her favorite mug while she waited, with mild anticipation, for the machine’s gurgling to begin. It took longer than it ought to have, due to the fact that the machine was an ancient, behemoth of a thing whose shiny black surface was scratched and burned from countless years of service. It had belonged to her brother before her, and to her brother’s girlfriend before him, and she had gotten it second-hand from God-only-knows-where. With a cough, a splutter, and a belch of fragrant steam thick enough to fog up Benni’s glasses, the machine began to dribble out a dark trickle of coffee. The dribbling slowly speed up, stopped suddenly, then with a hiccup and a whine the machine started to produce a steady stream. As she watched, waited, and waited some more, Benni slowly slid down the side of the kitchen cabinets, wrapping her robe tight about herself. With each minute that past, she came closer to the point where her feet would be too far out from under her and she would drop, bruising her tailbone. Still, the pot continued to gurgle and she continued to slide, eyes closed and half-asleep. She was jerked into wakefulness right before she would have ended up having to put ice on her back by a loud, “MEEP MEEP MEEP!” The coffee was done. It was time to start the day.

Or at least open both eyes at once. Once this was achieved with the first cup, several others followed and Benni became progressively more awake. Such was the morning routine, and nothing happened to disturb it for about a week. Days bled into each other in a wretchedly wearisome fashion and passed out of thought and memory, having nothing interesting in their content that might hold them there–by the end of the week Benni’s thoughts had once again drifted in an apocalyptic direction.

“I am bored,” she told Morpheus one afternoon, flopping onto her bed with a sigh. Morpheus glanced at her once, then resumed licking between his legs. He obviously thought that she was, indeed, Bored, and no he would not like to meet her. Benni sighed again and turned her head towards the ceiling. She had painted glow-in-the-dark stars on it, with all the constellations placed as accurately as possible. “I wish I could go up there.” A dream that was unlikely to be realized, Benni knew. Only Very Special People were picked for the space missions, and all of her applications had been turned down. None of her talents were of the sort that the robber-barons who ran the space industry thought would be useful in a space colony, or as a crew member on a ship. Benni had even applied to be a janitor. They hadn’t even taken the time to send back a rejection letter. Lifting her had, Benni traced an imaginary line to the Alpha Centauri system–that was where the space industry planned to head to next. Alpha Centauri. A whole new solar system. A whole new place that know one had ever seen before. Brilliant, surely beautiful, if only–

BAM!

Benni started and nearly fell off her bed. She stared at her wall, where the noise had come from. She waited. She chewed her lip. Was that the mystery neighbor? Were they okay? Should she go check? Should she ignore it? the noise had been very loud, and not the sort of Bam that one might make when doing something…intimate. It was the sort of Bam that occurred when you tripped and split your head open, or dropped a Very Large and Heavy Object on yourself. Or a bookcase fell on you. Or an Alpha Centauri bound star ship slammed into your house. And decided that you were excellent star-crew material after all and whisked you away to see the universe. Benni decided that investigating would really be the only decent thing to do, even if it was sure to be unbearably awkward if it turned out that no help was needed. Couldn’t let someone die beneath a fallen bookshelf just because she was shy. And certainly couldn’t refuse to help a star ship captain relaunch their vessel. Certainly not.

*When tired, Benni had a tendency to only look out of one eye. Rather like a flamingo stands on one leg to rest the other, she would only have one eye open at a time so that the other could indulge the urge to go back to sleep.

**There was actually a step between the first and second step, which was “go to the bathroom.” This was because the sound of running water always reminded her bladder that it had not been emptied for approximately eight hours. 

The Scientific Process

This paper would like to propose–

Stop. Rewrite: first person=assert.

I will be analyzing the differences between several–

Stop. Specifically.

I will be analyzing the differences between twelve homeowner’s yards in terms of temperature and humidity–

Stop. Reduce.

I will be analyzing the temperature and humidity differences between twelve yards spread throughout the Phoenix metro area. Each yard has a different landscape composition, but they all fall under one of three categories: xeric, mesic, or combination. The yards will be further classified by their percent shade. I–

Stop. Why?

There have been many studies done on the urban heat island effect, and on possible mitigation scenarios–

Stop. What’s new?

There have been many studies done on the UHI and potential mitigation strategies, particularly the use of urban forestry. This option, while shown to be an effective cooling strategy (cite), is potentially problematic in an arid city such as Phoenix, Arizona, where the is intense and water resources scarce. Indeed, many cities in the metro area currently offer rebates to homeowners who voluntarily turn their yards into a xeriscape–

Stope. Define.

…into a xeriscape (a common term for low-water landscaping, typically consisting of a rocky ground cover and native or low-water plants). Yet several different studies have concluded that xeriscapes exacerbate the UHI (cite) and may or may not significantly lower water usage, depending on how carefully the homeowner waters what plants there are (cite).

Much of this climate data has been collected on a macro or mesoscale, working with satellite imagery to determine heat signatures or relying on climate models. Few studies have focused on the urban climate at the microscale–

Stop. Go back. Define: macro, mess, micro.

Much of this climate data has been collected over entire cities (the macroscale) or over sections of the city containing multiple houses, businesses, and the like (the mesoscale).  Few studies have examined the urban climate at the level that people actually live at–the microscale. This is the area in a 1m to 10m swath, such as occurs in a persons front or back yard, along a pedestrian walkway, or outside of the workplace entrance. I propose–

Stop. Go back. What’s new? 

Short Story Idea: Haunted

Any comments on this would be appreciated. Does it seem like a good beginning? Should I try to keep it going? Thoughts?

There he was again. That biker. It was the third time in two weeks that Beni had seen him and it was starting to unnerve her. Not that he hadn’t unnerved her the first time she’d seen him. Dressed all in black with a skull mask on his face and his hood drawn up, he had ridden past her slowly. He hadn’t turned her way, though it was impossible to see wear his eyes were looking. She had very determinedly not starred at at him. Beni figured that if she ignored people (or bears or wolves) and didn’t meet their eyes they would be less likely to approach her. The skull-face biker hadn’t, at least, but his frequent appearances were unwelcome all the same. She had never seen him around before. Where had he come from? After she was sure he had passed her by she turned around to watch him: he kept pedaling, slowly, steadily, until he turned a corner and disappeared. Beni felt in her pocket for the little bottle of pepper spray and wrapped her fingers around it. It’s smooth, metal sides were warm with her body heat and she felt reassured; surely she was just being paranoid. She continued on her way.

Reaching the cafe, Beni darted inside to see if she could snag a table. She was relieved to see that the place wasn’t terribly full today. It was awfully cold out and she had no desire to walk back to her apartment without even a hot drink in her stomach. The cafe was called The Black Wire, often simply called, The Wire. It was not one of the most well-known establishments, but it was popular enough with certain crowds to stay in business and to, every so often, fill up and spill out its clientele onto the cramped, brick-and-vine patio out back. There had been a cold snap last night, though, and the patio was empty of all but the wisps of fog that were resisting the weak, new autumn sun. Beni approached the counter and ordered a hot, black Americano. Or rather, she opened her mouth to do so and the barrista beat her to it.

“One hot, black Americano, right?” he asked.

“Yeah…That’s right.” Beni said. She hadn’t really been paying attention, but now that she looked at him she realized that she had indeed ordered coffee, quite a few coffees, from this particular barrista. His name tag labeled him as Bran. “Thank you.”

“Beni, right?” he asked, holding a cup up in one hand and twirling a black dry-erase marker in the other.

“Mm hm.” She looked down into her wallet very determinedly and dug through every crevice to find the exact change, which she then handed him. “Here. Two dollars and 25 cents.” She added another 75 cents to the tip jar and spun about to stand over by the pick-up counter. She very determinedly did not look back at him. She waited. She stared very determinedly at the stack of papers by the door. The local headlines were all about the plummeting temperatures and the disappearance of a third girl. Suicide pacts? Murders? Kidnaps? Runaways? And in this weather it was doubtful that any searches could turn much up. Too much fog, too much rain. Threats of snow. A real tragedy, a law enforcement folly. Was this global warming? Was–

“Americano for Beni,” the barrista called out. Beni had nearly forgotten that she had been avoiding the barrista. Now she glanced up at him as she took her coffee, sighing and calming slightly as the warmth spread up her fingers.

“Thanks,” she said, much more sincerely. He nodded and smiled slightly before turning away and starting to clean up the giant espresso machine that dominated the wall behind the counter. Beni turned away as well and went to her table. Picking up the paper that someone had left on it, she returned to her perusal of the headlines. All weather and missing girls. Even on her day off she couldn’t escape them, and all the papers could talk about was how the police department had failed their community; it said nothing of the rangers who had scoured the woods and mountains day and night, regardless of inclement weather, or about the crushing despondency that oozed out of the lead detective and everyone who touched the case. Beni couldn’t quite believe that she had touched it. That she was working on a case, and actual law enforcement case had yet to hit her. She was an observer, not a participator, yet it was her team that had found the first girl lying in the woods, dirty, cut up, bruised, but mostly fine. Physically. She had yet to talk. In fact all she did was stare listlessly at the wall, according to a conversation between a sergeant and the lead detective that Beni had overheard. Overheard because, while the police force obviously found the ranger’s familiarity with the woods and city edges useful, they did not think of them as law enforcement and so did not really tell them what was going on. Only where to look, and for how long, and for what. Little girls, little girl things–or older girl things, now, as the last girl to go missing was fourteen years old. Dirty blonde hair, curly and long and tied in a ponytail. Blue eyes. Glasses. Tall, large but not fat. Jeans, a t-shirt with the Batman symbol on it, and a black sweatshirt that zipped up the front. Recently diagnosed with Depression. That was the key point, the connector between al the girls–each had been recently diagnosed with a mental disorder, although none by the same doctor. The first had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Even now, sitting in the hospital and refusing to speak, the girl tried to wash her hands to such an extent that she had to be restrained. Her small hands were so red and raw, when they found her, that she had looked to be wearing a pair of scarlet gloves. Beni hadn’t thought she’d ever see something like that again. Hadn’t wanted to see it again. But she hadn’t wanted to ever think the words Depression or General Anxiety, the diagnosis of the second girl, again either. She snapped her fingers together twice and picked up her coffee. Sipping it, she looked out the window and tried not to think. A man dressed all in black pedaled by, his face masked by a grinning skull.

It was a month ago that she had first met the Detective. He had come knocking at her door, looking for information. Information that he had been told she, or rather that her friends, had. Beni was just a curator, though. The Detective wouldn’t say who had lead him to the little apartment on the edge of the city, (It was classified, of course, as all witnesses were. Or so he said. Beni rather thought he just liked being difficult.), but even after she had told him that she believed he had been mislead he insisted on questioning her.

“Whether or not you think you can help me, Ms. Tabnor, I would like to ask you a few questions,” he said, leaning on her door frame with all the authority of the State at his back. Beni was peeved, and more than a little unsettled. He still hadn’t actually said what he wanted, only that he had heard she…knew things. Which was ridiculous. Beni’s roommates knew many people and were deep into the culture scene, and this was where Beni got the information she put on her blog. Information about bands, concerts, restaurants, artists, and various cultural events. Her own art and writing made up most of the rest of the website, with music and guest posts from her friends and acquaintances. It was not the sort of blog a policeman would be interested in. Except that seemed to be exactly what the Detective wanted to know about.

“Alright, but I really can’t see what a culture blog has to do with detective work,” she said, unlatching the door chain and pulling the door wide. “Would you like some tea? Coffee? A snack? I always cook too much and nobody’s ever around to eat it.”

“I’d love some coffee, actually. I was planning on picking up a cup when I left,” the Detective said. His eyes were roaming around the room, picking up details Beni was sure she’d never notice and casting judgement on it all. Beni felt like she had done a Terrible Deed. She darted quickly into the kitchen and poured the coffee.

“Would you like any cream or sugar, Detective?” she asked.

“No thank you,” he said, his voice coming from directly behind her. Beni jumped a mile. Turning around, she gave him her most reproachful look.

“Apologies.” He watched her curiously, though, as she handed him a mug and took her own.

“What?” she snapped, “I thought you were here to ask me things, not stare at things.”

“I just thought a ranger would be less keyed up about a policeman being in her house,” he said.

“I’m like this with everybody,” she said, “And since it appears you already know about my occupation I would like to know what else you know about me, and why you want to question me.”

“The thing is, Ms. Tabnor, your blog seems to be terribly up to date on the comings and goings of just about everything in a ten mile radius of this apartment. And I’m sure you’ve heard about what’s been going on in the woods not far from here.”

“The disappearances. You think I know something?”

“I think that you are in a good position to know something, yes. Have you heard anything suspicious?”

“Everything’s a little suspicious when you’re looking at it through the lens of crime, but I really ought to tell you that I’m not the one that collects all this ‘info’ that you think I have. I just organize it and post it. It’s my friends that know people, do things, you know. Go places. I just narrate.” Beni fiddled with her cup, looking at her reflection in the dark liquid. She was only a narrator. Not an actor, not a Person of Interest. Her reflection seemed, for just a minute, to grin. Black fingers reached out, licking at the edges of her mind, trying–

“Right. The three sisters. You’re the third, then, the ‘Curator,'” he said. Beni nodded slowly, her brow wrinkling. Why was he here if he already knew everything that she could possible tell him about her activities? “Well your ‘narrating,’ ‘curating,’ or whatever you want to call it, is highly informed no matter how you go about doing it. If anything comes up, I would appreciate it if you could let me know. Even if it seems silly, anything could be of relevance,” he said, trailing off into a murmur “this case is so fucked up already…” Beni’s feelings suddenly shifted from feeling hunted to sympathetic. This was probably exactly what he intended to do, but he seemed like a decent sort so far, and Beni decided to allow it. It must be dreadful, being in charge of that case. So many disappearances, still no explanation. He must be getting a lot of heat from his superiors, not to mention the newspapers. Beni had seen the headlines; they weren’t pretty.

“I’ll keep a look-out.”

“Thanks,” he said, washing the word down with a large gulp of coffee. They were silent for a few moments, sipping coffee their coffee. “Watch out in the woods, too,” he finally said, getting up and stretching. “Those disappeared from the edge lands and whoever’s doing it doesn’t seem to have a limit beyond ‘not elderly.’ You wood keepers might get pulled into this yet, I’ve heard the boss talking about stealing away some rangers to act as guides and searchers in the rougher areas.” Beni nodded and assured him again that she’d keep an eye out and, if drafted, would do her best to help. Draining his coffee, he walked to the door and bowed, ever so slightly, as he left. Beni would have died before admitting it, but she was rather charmed. And was then rather startled at her being so. “Charmed” was not a feeling a man had ever evoked in Beni, and she was intrigued at the new sensation. She shook her head, violently and suddenly, trying to dislodge the thoughts from her head. Frivolous. Useless. She tossed the rest of her coffee in the sink and marched to her room to get ready. She had been called in for a a night watch and the weather was supposed to be wretched.

By the time Beni reached headquarters, the sky was clogged with black clouds and the temperature had plummeted enough that, upon stepping out of her car, Beni promptly cursed and dropped everything to squirm into her standard issue, woolen overcoat. As she struggled with the last button near her throat, something pale flickered at the edge of her vision. Pale but dark.

Three weeks after the Detective knocked on her door, it happened. Beni became Involved.

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