Influence

Content: Chapter 1

A glass of milk.  That’s all I wanted.  The mess hidden behind the fridge doors stood in my way.  It certainly wasn’t like this yesterday, and my mom was at home all morning, so it  wasn’t from a shopping trip.  The things once on the door were on the shelves, the things on the shelves were on the door, and any items with transient locations inside were in even more nonsensical places.  I got the idea of what was going on, but the near slamming of the door on my fingers before I could reach the hidden-away carton of dairy confirmed it. 

“Don’t. Touch. A thing,” My mother admonished me and swatted at my hand as she held the opposite door in place.

“I’ll put it back-“ I began.

“No, I’ll get it,” she huffed.  “I need to empty it all out again.  It looks precisely just how it should right now, though, don’t you think?”

I supposed it did.  “Yeah,” I replied with a shrug.  “What time are you recording?”

“In 20 minutes, so grab your moo juice and go, buster,” my mom, Ordelia, offered up her last words of warning.  For the next hour, the kitchen would be her domain, but not in the way that a regular mother would be protective over her cutting boards of prepped vegetables and pots rumbling with some loving stew.  It was her recording slot- filming for her channel where she ‘made home,’ in a sense.  An organizer?  A clean freak?  OCD?  Or just maybe just an intuition for all the things that were satisfying for people falling under such categories.  Whatever it was, her views and subscriptions kept up with the rest of the family’s.

“Remind your dad and Cameron know if you run into them,” she said as I silently decanted the white liquid into a glass.

“Remind me of what?” Cameron, my older brother, had sneaked out past us, making a beeline for the pantry.  He noisily began to dig through the bags somewhere in the back corner.

“Video day,” my mom noted, scooting around the clear containers she had bought to do what was likely a complete fridge makeover that day.  Groceries came out of plastic bins and bags from the store, and then straight into slightly nicer ones that would look good stacked and lined up perfectly on camera.  The ocean cried out in sounds suffocated in petroleum byproducts.

“Yeah,” I snarked, leaning into the pantry doorway.  “Don’t mess up anything in there,”

“Oh, the pantry is next week, so feel free to get it nice and messy for me.”

I sighed and let Cameron back out, holding his bag of triangular-shaped and cheese-seasoned chips.  I grabbed my glass of milk and cleared out, dodging the tripods and lights being violently unfolded in our wakes.

Cameron’s room was before mine down the hall, and he entered, never to be heard from again.  Seriously, though- his room was soundproofed with various layers of foam material, and no matter at what time of the day or night he was shouting at his shooting games while broadcasting to the world, there was not a peep to be heard around any corner of our house.  The only way to tell if he was awake was by the faint flashing and endlessly shifting rainbow of lights under the crack of his door.  

Macy’s room was next, and in fact, one could tell if she was awake and active too by the lights under the door.  Hers, though, was a bright, pale light in the shape of a doughnut that she used to illuminate her face while she talked to her phone.  She was out for the day, grabbing her next haul of clothes or jewelry or makeup or perhaps even an overpriced but snapshot worthy dish at some fancy restaurant.  

The final room at our end of the house was mine, lit mostly by daylight and sometimes the ordinary lamp in my corner.  It would have been comparatively plain were it not for the extravagant desk that my father, Chip, had made in his workshop.  His saying, likely since before me and my siblings were born, was that if you were good at something, to not do it for free.  Maybe that changed for him when he realized that there was better money in making online videos about carpentry projects than the carpentry projects themselves, but the saying definitely did stick for us, even myself.

At that aforementioned desk is where I write- fan fiction to be specific.  Okay, imagine your favorite work of fiction, and then imagine your favorite characters from said fiction, and finally imagine them on other adventures, or engaging in romantic relationships, or… well, you get the picture.  That’s the kind of stuff I write and post online, an art that existed long before any of the forms of media my family practices.  Not that I’m bitter, rather that I’m simply used to being the only one having to explain to people what I do.

Everyone uses those ‘new’ platforms now, follows the people who put up their favorite works.  Niche is now mainstream.  Everyone knows what a content creator does these days, or even knows of a person that fits the description.  For me, that’s my whole family.

Zoomers

An hour and a half.  That was all the time that remained of having to pretend I was paying attention to the horrid lesson over video conferencing.  Everyone’s faces were drawn with similar dull gazes, looking into the several-years-behind webcams built into the mass produced laptops we had been provided.  The teacher was no different, save being contractually obligated to make sure every minute of the session was crammed with an entire day’s worth of knowledge.  The best we could do to appease her was to nod our heads in response to her provocations of our knowledge.

“Everyone understand?”

Nodding.

“Alright, I’ll move on then.”

Nodding.

“Davy, are you chewing gum?”

Nodding- wait no.

I struggled to hit the unmute button to make my case. “I uh, sorry, I just-”

It had long since lost its minty flavor after being gnashed around between my teeth since before the meeting began.  The movement of my jaw to appease my ancient carnal instincts as well as my more modern anxiety had become secondary at that point.  “You know the school rules, no gum at school.”

“I’ll just spit it out-” I said, darting back and forth just at the edges of the camera’s field of view, looking for the wrapper or a scrap piece of paper.

“No, you’ve wasted enough time for us this week already,” Mrs. Kay huffed. “You were late Monday, and you had no answer for me when I called on you Wednesday.”

“That was-”

“And now you’re talking back to me.  You’re off to the principal,” she glared at me, or at least the camera she was sat in front of. “You have his link?  I’m sending him an email right now, so you better be there ASAP, buddy.”

Before I could defend myself, I heard the jingle of the call disconnecting me.  Somewhere deep in my emails encompassing weeks of assignments and communications, I found the link to the principal’s own ‘disciplinary’ meeting.  The waiting room welcomed me with a message of ‘Please wait to be dealt with.  Do not minimize or exit out of this screen, and do not leave your device unattended.’

Five minutes passed.  And then five more.  And then just when I was about to fall asleep at the wheel, the jingle rang out.  I was let in.  There was the principal; round-faced, bald-headed, and complexion red as could be.  I held my breath as he looked at me through his camera with studious eyes.  When his mic unmuted, I heard the chuckling in the background, followed by the man’s final guffaw and a huff to catch his breath.

“Funny ladies here in the office,” he mentioned.  “Uh, what brings you here?”

“Mrs. Kay probably sent you a message.”

The principal bit at his lip.  “Don’t tell me what probably or didn’t probably happen.  You’re here for a reason, aren’t ya?”

“Well-”

“Here it is,” he interrupted.  “Davy, three strikes.  Disruption, insubordination, violation of decency standards.  What’s this last one?” He asked with a puzzled tone.

“Gum chewing, proba- it was for chewing gum.”

The principal looked at me with a disappointed look. “You’re a junior, you should know that rule by now.  And in class, too.”

“I’m-” I began, glancing behind my back to the corners of the room that was certainly none other than my bedroom in a house whose mortgage was solely being paid for by my parents. “I’m at home.”

There was a finger snapping through the camera and mic at me.  “Look at me when you’re speaking.  Your house, my house, the school- no gum.  Anywhere.  If that were it, I could get you out of here, but that seems like it was the final straw this week.  Do you know how much Mrs. Kay and the other teachers work to keep things together, to keep teaching in these trying times?”

“Sure?”

“Sure.” He repeated, leaning back in his chair. “Well, as per the rules, we’re giving you an at-school suspension.”

“At school?”

“I’ll give you the link for Mr. Butch’s detention room, it will have to do.  Finish up the day there, and the rest of the week for good measure.  Any questions?”

“What.. should I do?”

“It’s detention, son.” The principal clicked his tongue. “No talking to each other.  Just sit there and do your work.  No goofing off on other sites.”


A hopefully farewell to all the zoom meetings held this year.

Departure

Remnant: Book of Tulefore Chapter 7 [Final]

Kiaren and Silvus had managed to exit the great hall with the Slanian prisoner by way of the unique guard’s knock to find Terren at the exterior. While Terren arranged for the castle guards to return to their normal posts, the others returned to the awaiting ship at the harbor. Danus had resigned himself to pacing a length of the quay while awaiting their arrival.

Some of Silvus’ men had descended from the ship to provide watch over Medan while he regained his composure. The heavy air was suddenly lifted as they spotted Silvus forcing the man down the stairs to their location.

Medan stood to examine the captive Slanian. “Fine work, Sir Silvus, Lady Kiaren. I imagine we can see to it that he does not cause any trouble for our voyage.

“He was of no great trouble,” Silvus sighed, passing the Slanian over to one of his men, “but I’m wary of what we will come across when we arrive across the sea.”

Medan folded his arms. “We’ll have plenty of time to discuss how we will proceed, commander. Now, let’s load up and not stall any longer.”

Kiaren slumped her shoulders. She passed by Danus, who attempted to stroke her back. Ignoring any further interaction, she planted herself against the stone embankment across from the docks.

Silvus examined the ship while Medan and the rest of the crew prepared for the final departure. His eyes drifted back to Kiaren, staring at the ground. She offered up a singular glance as he approached and said, “don’t waste any more time, Medan told you.”

“There is always time for you, my dear.”

“Don’t attempt to flatter me with your words, this late.”

“Flatter, no.” Silvus folded his arms across his chest. “You’ve enough flattery to last a lifetime. It’s restraint you need.”

Kiaren grit her teeth. “I suppose I’ll have much time to practice that.”

“You ought to listen to your brother more often, at least in some manners.”

“Nonsense.”

“As he said, there is an order to things, especially in the castle.”

Kiaren pushed herself up. “Such as the order to place your rank above mine?”

Silvus sighed. “It would be wise of you to apologize to the guards you treated so poorly back there. You’re in a position where respect must be mutual.”

From atop the deck of the ship, there was a call. “Sir Silvus!” Medan waved at them. “While the winds are willing!”

Silvus glanced back and waved a sign of understanding. “Kiaren… I shall return here one day. When I do, I shall hope that I will see you as the best version of yourself. Farewell.”


Keep an eye out, hopefully later this summer, for the remainder of the passages of This Prequel collection to the Sing Wars! As always, thanks for reading!