Tag: new voice

Life After World War III

Tristan rolled his eyes. “Hey, dummy, guess what? We didn’t finish that quiz earlier.”

Tristan often used the word “dummy” when talking to Jake. Long ago, when Jake was only five, he and Tristan had sat in the living room floor in front of the mega screen one morning, watching an old cartoon. One of the characters had mumbled the word “dummy,” and Jake had gone into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Puzzled, Tristan stared at Jake for a few minutes as he rolled around on the carpet. Since then, whenever Tristan wanted to lighten the mood, he dropped the word “dummy” into the conversation.

“Okay,” said Jake. “What’s the next question?”

“Who’s the current president of Phoenix?”

“Um, I don’t remember,” Jake yawned. “I think his first name is Tiberius.”

“I’ll give you partial credit for that one. His name is Tiberius Vaughn. You see him on The Official Information Channel all the time when you’re walking around in the corridors. He’s the skinny guy with black hair and blue eyes.”

“Oh yeah!” Jake blurted, raising his eyebrows. “That spooky guy who never smiles.”

“That’s the one. You know why he never smiles? Because he doesn’t have a soul!”

Suddenly, Jake leaned toward him. “Really?”

Tristan waved his paws around. “No, I was being sarcastic.”

Jake smiled, slumping against the tree trunk. “Oh, I didn’t know. A lot of times, I don’t know when you’re joking. Sorry.”

“Um, it’s okay,” Tristan said.

“What’s the next question?”

“This is the last one,” said Tristan. “Where did the name ‘Phoenix’ come from?”

“Uh, they call it that because it sounds cool?”

“No, dummy. The phoenix was a mythical bird that burned to death and then came back to life again. It rose up from its own ashes. That was the idea they had in mind when they were building this city. If the whole world was wiped out, they wanted America to rise again.”

Jake nodded slowly as he reflected on this. “So what’s the next question?”

Tristan waved a paw in the air. “That was the end of the quiz, Jacob. We’re all done now.”

Jake yawned again and closed his eyes. As the muscles in his neck began to soften, his head dropped.

“Don’t ever tell anybody I said this,” Tristan added, lowering his voice to a whisper. “But President Vaughn doesn’t have any real power at all. He’s just a distraction. He’s just a bunch of noise. Phoenix is actually controlled by a group of people you hardly ever hear about.”

Jake mumbled something Tristan didn’t understand.

“Sometimes, you see these people on The Official Information Channel, having their little meetings,” Tristan continued. “And sometimes, if you stay up late enough, you see them on another channel too. That’s when they talk about the juicy stuff. But they like to turn off the camera when things get really interesting. Oh, that makes me so mad.”

Tristan was mainly talking to himself now, just venting, but he was surprised when Jake didn’t respond. Then he looked up and realized his friend had gone to sleep.

Tristan lay back in the grass and relaxed under the electric sun. Through the tree branches, he saw holographic clouds scrolling by. For a moment, he imagined what it would be like to live on the surface and see real clouds. He wondered if clouds even existed anymore. There was no telling what the atmosphere was like these days.

Under the Electric Sun is a young adult novel that takes place in a luxurious underground city beneath the ruins of Washington, DC. Jake is a dimwitted young man with a kind heart. Tristan is his electronic tutor designed to look like a raccoon, complete with synthetic fur and rubber paws. Under the Electric Sun is available on Amazon. The paperback version is $6 plus shipping and handling. The Kindle edition is $2.99. You can click here to order.

Copyright 2013, 2015, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.

Back to School

Last year, I met up with my friend Misty at the school we attended when we were kids. Sadly, it’s not a school anymore. It’s just a few empty buildings on the side of the road. No kids, no electricity, no life. All the playground equipment is gone except for a few random pieces of wood. In front of the principal’s office, there’s a flower bed full of weeds – and a dirty old mattress.n 2001, the teachers and students moved to a brand new facility up the road. Afterward, the old campus became an “alternative school,” a dumping ground for all the unruly kids in the community, the ones who were too evil to attend a regular school. I remember feeling sad when I learned my old school had become a children’s prison. But eventually, the Board of Education stopped using it as an alternative school. They sent all the bad kids somewhere else, I guess. After that, a local charity organization rented the school for a while and stored old clothes and furniture in some of the classrooms – but then they moved on too.

Now the place is a ghost town. Eventually, bulldozers will come and wipe it all away. That’s why Misty and I wanted to take pictures.

The doors to some of the buildings were unlocked. Some of the doors were wide open. And some of the doors were completely gone. We walked freely into all the buildings, wandered down the dark hallways, opened the doors to the classrooms, and peeked inside. I was hesitant to look inside the rooms, but Misty wasn’t. She’s completely fearless. She drives a tanker truck for a living and cuts down trees in her spare time. Nothing scares her at all.

Not all the rooms were empty. We found office desks in some of them. We pulled open drawers and flipped through old books. In one classroom, a TV set was mounted on a wall. In the library, bookcases were still in place – but the books were long gone. In a supply closet, we found giant rolls of colored paper, the kind teachers use for decorating bulletin boards.

Even though there were old desks and supplies here and there, the whole place felt dead and dismal. It was like a tomb.

Except for the gym. As soon as we walked into the gym, we were amazed by the way it smelled. It smelled exactly the way it did in 1991. It had the same metal bleachers on one side and the same scoreboard mounted on the wall. It had the same carpet with those black lines and circles printed on it. Paper cups and pieces of trash were scattered on the floor, but the gym still seemed like a living thing. It seemed like little kids could still have a basketball tournament in there at any minute.

But the longer we stayed there, the more I felt like I needed to get out. This was partly because I was afraid the police might show up and drag us away – although we weren’t doing anything illegal. I had asked the principal of the new school if it was okay to come and take pictures. It was fine to be there. And we didn’t take anything at all. We left everything exactly the way we had found it.

As I thought about it later, I realized why I was itching to get out. I felt like I had trespassed into the wrong decade. At one point in my life, I belonged in those buildings. That was my everyday life. But not anymore. Life has moved on. I belong somewhere else now. I’ve learned that if I reminisce too much, I’ll get stuck in the past. And I won’t appreciate all the good things in my life right now. It’s important to live in the present, to enjoy today.

It felt good to visit my old school, but it also felt good to walk away from it.

My books are available on Amazon in paperback and e-book format. Some are science fiction. Some are Southern Gothic. One is a collection of humorous essays. You can click on this text to take a look at my Amazon page.

Copyright 2016, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.

Drake Novak

An excerpt from Finding Drake Novak

Drake didn’t know where his clan had originally come from. None of them had ever mentioned a home planet. They had always rambled through the galaxy in stolen ships, landing on remote planets, inflicting pain on the natives, feeding until those people were dead, and then searching for another planet. They crushed souls to stay alive the same way vehicles burned fuel in order to move.

One day, his clan settled on a jungle planet where all the people lived in grass huts. Right away, Drake’s family burned down all the huts and enslaved the locals, forcing them to build castles. Drake and his people lived in the castles, of course, while the natives suffered and shivered outside in the rain. Their sadness and anger provided nourishment for the entire clan.

Then the Galactic Police arrived in their white, round spaceships and shot Drake’s parents and siblings with shrink rays. The police snatched them up with tweezers and dropped them into glass tubes. Drake was the only one who dodged the shrink rays and escaped. He jumped into his father’s star cruiser and fled into the sky, scrambling as fast as the engines would carry him. He grieved for his lost family, but he kept on moving.

Eventually, he stumbled across Earth. The planet was a wonderful food source, oozing with despair and misery. Drake glided over North America and landed in the state of Georgia. He found a plastic factory he liked. He sucked the life out of all the bosses and took control of the company. Once Drake was comfortable and happy, he dismantled the star cruiser and sold the pieces for scrap metal. If he had left the ship intact, the Galactic Police could have easily traced it and found him. Drake didn’t mind tearing the ship apart. He had no intention of ever leaving Earth. It was a smorgasbord of sorrows. He planned to drink the sadness of humanity forever.

Drake’s office had two windows in it, one on each side of the room. The left window gave him a view of the parking lot, the street, and the vacant lot nearby. The right window was his observation window, allowing him to look down at the workers and watch them struggle.

Today, Drake stood at the observation window with his hands tucked behind his back and his head tilted to one side. Down below, an elderly woman crouched next to her machine, sobbing and eating nerve pills.

“Look at all those people down there,” Drake said to Mr. Neighbors. “Look at all that delicious pain. Do you know who my favorite employee is? Do you know which one I enjoy the most?”

“No,” Mr. Neighbors said. “Which one?”

“That one,” Drake said, pointing a long white finger. “Brenda May. The little old woman who limps all the time. I love the elderly. They have so many aches and pains. Brenda May can barely walk, but she has to support two young grandchildren. She hates every minute of her life. Her agony tastes so sweet.”

Finding Drake Novak is a dark comedy about an alien who draws his nourishment from negative energy. Malpheus Mallock, a rookie officer from the Galactic Precinct, travels to Earth to arrest Novak. But Malpheus has a problem. His tracking device doesn’t work correctly. Malpheus lands in the front yard of an elderly couple named Carl and Christine. They introduce Malpheus to fried chicken, sweet tea, and Atlanta Braves baseball. The whole time, Malpheus desperately tries to fix his tracking device so he can capture Drake Novak.

Finding Drake Novak is available on Amazon. The paperback is $6 plus shipping and handling. The Kindle edition is $2.99. You can click on this text to order a copy.

Copyright 2016, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.

Lost

Munich, 1998

We found an auditorium where a heavy metal band was playing. Thick smoke floated above our heads. Red laser beams flashed in the air. People danced with their eyes closed, waving their arms in slow motion, grasping at imaginary objects with their fingers. I watched them with nervous curiosity.

After the show was over, I stumbled into the street with Greg and Jesse. It was time to return to the youth hostel. We walked down a staircase in the sidewalk, into the concrete labyrinth where the subway trains lived. We boarded a train and rode through the tunnel a few minutes. Then we stepped off and climbed another set of stairs.

When we reached the top of the stairs and looked around, we didn’t recognize the signs and buildings around us. We had gotten off at the wrong stop. We didn’t know where we were. It was almost eleven o’clock. And we couldn’t call our teacher on our cell phones because we didn’t have cell phones. It was 1998.

So we rambled through the streets, asking strangers for directions to the youth hostel where we were staying. Most of them were friendly and polite, but they had never heard of the Jump In Youth Hostel. We even found a black taxi cab parked indiscreetly on the sidewalk, a common practice in Germany. The driver sat behind the wheel, sipping coffee and listening to the radio. We eagerly asked him to take us to the Jump In Youth Hostel, but he shook his head and started pointing, giving us directions in German. None of us understood German well enough to know what he was saying. We mumbled “danke” and walked away, disappointed and discouraged.

We walked through the subway and found a group of policemen playing cards in a small, dirty room with pictures of naked women plastered on the walls. We explained our predicament to them.

They also gave us helpful directions. In German.

You’ve been reading an excerpt from How to Make an Artist Miserable, available on Amazon. It’s a book about my journey as an artist and the ways I’ve learned to deal with my frustrations. I share a lot of personal stories in it. The paperback is $5 plus shipping and handling. The Kindle edition is $2.99.

You can click here to order a copy.

Copyright 2015, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.

Books

I started writing when I was twelve and never stopped. Now I work in a factory, driving a rickety old forklift, but I still write books in my free time. Writing is more than a hobby for me. It’s a basic need like food and water. I mostly write science fiction stories filled with dark, twisted humor. Sometimes I write madcap comedies set in the South. I also write a little bit of nonfiction.

Finding Drake Novak combines science fiction and Southern Gothic. Drake Novak is a malevolent alien with bloodshot eyes and a black business suit. He draws his nourishment from the pain and sadness of other living things. He takes over a factory in rural Georgia and keeps all the workers as miserable as possible. He absorbs their frustration and despair the way a plant absorbs sunlight. Then a young policeman from the Galactic Precinct comes to Earth to arrest him.

Under the Electric Sun is a book about a robotic raccoon and a boy named Jake. They live in a luxurious underground city beneath the ruins of Washington, DC. One afternoon, as they relax in a room full of plastic trees, a giant praying mantis arrives and tells them it’s safe to live on the surface again. Their lives change forever.

I also love to draw. Sometimes, when people find out I’m an artist, they hound me to draw portraits of their kids. Or they describe tattoo ideas to me, asking me to draw all kinds of ridiculous, complicated things. Some people are downright rude and pushy about it. How to Make an Artist Miserable is a book about these annoying people and the ways I’ve learned to deal with them.

All my books are available on Amazon in paperback and e-book format.

You can click here to order.

Overthinking

I possess an uncanny ability to take simple, easy situations and make them much harder than they should be. I do a lot of my work in colored pencil, a tedious process that gobbles up hours and hours of my life, especially when I’m filling in a large background. I can easily spend a whole week coloring a blue sky or a brown desert landscape. Because colored pencil drawings demand so much time, I don’t want to get halfway into a picture, make a mistake, and ruin the whole thing. So I like to draw countless sketches and write notes to myself before I begin the final product. Sometimes, I spend a whole month working on one colored pencil drawing.

Many times, when I’m finished, people glance at those colored pencil drawings and show no interest whatsoever.

But if I sit down with a graphite pencil and knock out a little doodle in five minutes, people go bananas over it.

The less effort I put into a project, the better it seems to be.

Since I was a teenager, art teachers and other artists have told me I need to “loosen up” and stop drawing in such a “tight” style. They insist that my manner is too rigid, too forced. And they’re right. I know my work looks better when I relax and stop trying so hard, when I enjoy what I’m doing and have fun with it. I drew the Jack White picture in less than a week, much faster than my usual colored pencil drawings. And people seemed to like it more than the others.

You have to listen to your brain and your heart. If you never think ahead, your life will be brutally short. You will be struck and killed by a bus while you’re walking across the street. But if you think too much, you’ll never cross the street at all. You’ll spend your entire life standing on the sidewalk, biting your fingernails.

For years, I’ve wondered why I make my life so complicated. It’s still a mystery to me, but I’ve discovered two possible reasons.

First, I like to feel like I’ve accomplished something. In the same way an Olympic athlete trains vigorously for years and years in the gym, working tirelessly to claim a gold medal in a particular sport, I like to work vigorously to finish a piece of art. Sometimes, when my priorities get muddled and my common sense slips away, I become more focused on the sense of accomplishment rather than the piece of art itself. In the back of my mind, I want it to be hard. I want it to be challenging. This way, I can revel in the feelings of victory and accomplishment when a project is finally complete.

Secondly, a work of art is a living organism. It grows and develops on its own, often in ways I don’t expect. I tend to plan out every detail in advance to give myself the comforting illusion of control. I use the word “illusion” because I’m not really in control at all. The harder I pull on the reins, the more I strangle it to death.

You’ve been reading an excerpt from How to Make an Artist Miserable, available on Amazon. The paperback is $5 plus shipping and handling. The Kindle edition is $2.99. You can click here to order.

Copyright 2015, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.

Plastic Trees in the Underground City

Here’s an excerpt from Under the Electric Sun

When he stepped through the doorway, his feet landed on soft green grass. The large room was filled with towering oaks, tall pines, azaleas in full bloom, and clusters of bluebells along the ground. Bird songs echoed in the air, even though no birds were visible. In the center of the park, there was a clearing with a playground in it. A group of children squabbled over which one of them would go down the slide next. The dome-shaped ceiling of Bailey Park was painted a pale shade of blue with an electric sun burning brightly in the center. Holographic clouds glided across it, moving so slowly that they barely appeared to move at all.

The grass was artificial, while the trees and bushes were made of plastic and other synthetic materials. The birdsong came from tiny speakers hidden in the leaves.

Jake sat down in the grass and leaned against a tree trunk. He let out a long sigh, which seemed odd to Tristan. It was the type of sound an older person would make.

Tristan sat in the grass beside him. For a moment, they were both silent.

“Just get some rest,” Tristan said, trying to conceal his worry. “And then we’ll go to the pet store. Esmeralda might be working today, you never know.”

A cloud of sadness seemed to hang in the air around Jake. Tristan was hoping it would evaporate at the mention of Esmeralda’s name, but it didn’t. Jake had been enamored with the girl ever since he had first spotted her in the pet store two years ago, sitting cross-legged on the floor and changing the batteries in a light brown Chihuahua. Looking up at Jake and Tristan with her coffee-colored eyes, Esmeralda had remarked that Jake didn’t need an electronic pet. He already had a talking raccoon on his shoulder, which was far better than all the non-speaking animals in the pet store. Flattered, Tristan had thanked her. As Esmeralda had zipped up the Chihuahua’s abdomen, she had talked about her own tutroid, a hoot owl named Matilda. Unfortunately, Matilda’s brain was defective and she preferred to remain perched on the headboard of Esmeralda’s bed, babbling about the French Revolution.

As Esmeralda had talked about her faulty tutroid, Jake had stared at her with a dazed look in his eyes. She didn’t seem to mind his delirious gaze. She had kept right on talking about her love for Matilda and her fascination with electronic animals in general.

“It doesn’t matter,” Jake said now, leaning against the tree in Bailey Park. “Esmeralda’s too old for me. She doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. She just wants to be friends with me, that’s all.”

Tristan shrugged. “Hey, that might change one day. She’s only three years older than you. When you guys get older, that age difference won’t matter anymore. You’ll both be adults. Who knows what will happen then?”

Jake didn’t reply. Tristan desperately wanted to cheer him up, but he had already played the Esmeralda card. He couldn’t think of anything else to do.

“So what do those big blobs look like?” Jake asked finally.

“In the meeting, they said the color changes depending on how you look at them,” Tristan said, relieved that the conversation was taking a new direction. “From one angle, they’re blue. From another angle, they’re red. I’ve been trying to picture that in my mind.”

“I still say they’re giant mushrooms,” Jake insisted. “And they’re mutant mushrooms, because of the war.”

They had argued about it all morning on their way to the vehicle museum.

“No,” Tristan said, staring up at the rounded ceiling of Bailey Park, as if he could see the surface of the earth if he strained his eyes hard enough. “I think they came here from another planet. They just popped up out of nowhere two months ago. And they’re as big as mountains. How do you explain that?”

Under the Electric Sun is available on Amazon. It’s a book about a boy and his electronic tutor. They live in a luxurious underground city beneath the ruins of Washington, DC. The paperback version is $6 plus shipping and handling. The Kindle edition is $2.99. You can click here to order.

Copyright 2013, 2015, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.