Monday, March 17, 2014

The Banshee

It was nearly dusk and he was completely turned around on the forest trails. He hoped he was going in the
direction of the cabin. After a few more minutes walk, he could hear the soft swoosh of water rushing over rocks.

His lungs took a calming breath and let it go slowly. There wasn’t a creek anywhere near the cabin. He was lost. The canteen was almost empty. He should fill it while he had the chance.

With the sky turning a pinkish gold overhead, he made his way off the trail toward the soft splashing sounds. As he moved closer a soft voice humming blended into the sounds of the creek. Maybe another hiker and he wasn’t as lost as he thought.

He stepped through the brush toward the song to the rocky edge of the creek. His hand gripped a hanging tree limb to keep his footing on the moss slickened stones as he picked his way along the edge. He kneeled on a flat rock and watched bubbles float upward as he held the canteen below the water line.

The bubbles calmed as the last of the air was replaced with refreshing cool liquid. He capped the canteen and cupped his hands to scoop up a drink and bathe his face and neck. As his hands dipped under a face appeared in the water not his own.

With an unmanly yip he jumped back and looked behind him. No one was there. He sighed and shook his head. “I’ve been out in the sun too long today.”

As he stood the humming became louder clearer. He turned and saw a young redheaded woman. She sat on the rocks at the creek edge with a washboard.

He blinked, was she there before? Maybe he was just too tired from the long walk to notice. He watched her pick up a large bar of soap and rub it up and down the board as she continued her song, seemingly oblivious to his presence.

She had to live near by. “Excuse me…. Miss?”

She picked up a shirt from her basket and started to scrub up and down over the washboard. He stepped forward and lost traction on the damp stones. He hit the ground hard enough to see stars. His eyes watered with the ache in his head as he sat up.

The woman had stopped her song and now looked at him as she turned the shirt and continued to scrub. She turned back to her work as she spoke. “Does it hurt?”

He rubbed the back of his head. “Not really, I think I just showed how much of a city boy I am.” His lips curled in a soft grin. “I’m completely turned around on these trails. Do you live near the campground?”

She glanced up for a moment, then rinsed the shirt in the creek and examined it carefully. In the dying light, he could see the white shirt was still stained. She sighed and began to scrub it up and down the board again. “I live in the wood.”

He raised a brow at the short answer. Maybe she was one of those Rainbow People he was always being told to be cautious of. They traveled to different areas, sometimes camping out in the forest like a wild hippy commune. Maybe she, her family was a bunch of cannibal axe murderers on the run or weird apocalypse get back to nature groupies.

If he was lucky she had a phone and he could call for help before she went all Blair Witch on him. “It must be nice to live out here in the quiet. Could I use your land line to call someone to pick me up? My cell is useless out here and I am totally lost on these trails.”

She continued to push and pull the cloth over the board. “There is no phone.”

His spine tingled as he moved closer to her, more carefully over the rocks this time. He made a silent promise to pay more attention to signs and maps next time if hiked. “There’s no phone? Could you give me a ride back to camp? I’ll be glad to pay you for the gas and trouble. I’m sure you get a lot of lost hikers up here.”

She held up the shirt, in the dying light, the dark stain glistened. He thought it looked larger than it had before. The woman seemed satisfied as if it should be worse not better.

“You’re not lost, Thomas.” She began to sing a little louder this time as she worked the cloth once more.

He swallowed, how did she know his name. He rubbed his arms as gooseflesh covered them and chill filled him to the bone. “I really need to get out of the woods. My friends are going to wonder where I am. Is there someone that can give me a ride to camp or town?”

The woman’s lips curled ever so slightly. “Soon, he will come for you, Thomas.”

She stood her hair flowing around her as she turned and pointed. “Don’t worry so, you’re not lost.”

Thomas felt a knot of fear in his throat as he gazed down the line of her finger. His knees felt weak as he walked back to where he had slipped. He looked down at his own face, eyes open, blankly staring at the rising moon. Blood still glistening covered the rock beneath his head. “No… this… isn’t real.”

She put a dainty blood speckled hand on his shoulder. “Some fairy tales are very real, Thomas.”

His chest rose and fell rapidly, his pulse beating in his ears. She said… “Who is coming for me?”

She turned and picked up her basket with its bounty of stained clothing from those she had called for today. Silently she stepped back into the wood disappearing from sight.

He looked up and down the rocky bank as hoof beats began to fill the empty night air. Thomas stood frozen at the sight of the black coach drawn by a demon horse with red eyes. As the coach drew near he could hear the woman singing again. Only now the soft, sweet song had turned into a wail. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Filmbook the ebook’s granddaddy Read an Ebook Week 2014

This week we celebrate the ebook. The last few years have seen a drastic change in the publishing industry thanks to the growing popularity and convenience of this simple invention.

1923 Optigraph 
But ebooks aren’t something new fangled. They’ve been around for a very long time. In 1923 the International Filmbook Corporation patented an early microfilm reader, the Optigraph Reading Machine. Books were photographed onto microfilm and wound into cartridges that were inserted into the machine and the image mirrored and reflected onto the reading glass. Readers moved through the pages turning a crank on the side of the machine. 

In 1936 ‘canned libraries’ were introduced in the form of a microfilm reader called the Teledex. Books and other media were put into cartridges the size of a 12-gauge shotgun shell that was inserted into the machine and the ‘filmbook’ projected onto a screen for reading. The idea of this canned library was to save space for schools and smaller community libraries. 

1936 Teledex
In 1945 scientist Vannevar Bush introduced the world to his idea for condensing entire libraries into one machine called a Memex. In his Atlantic Monthly article, As We May Think, he describes the method in which books and other media are compressed onto microfilm. Bush says, “Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of a mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at random, “memex” will do. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.”

 Bush’s idea differed in that individuals, such as authors could write directly into the machine to save their work onto microfilm. (Anyone else getting a Steampunk vibe here?) This device wasn’t very portable, though. The machine and all of the content were constructed into a desk. Instead of the filmbook cartridge, the Memex stored all the volumes in the body of the machine. Like a computer and hard drive today.
1945 Bush's Memex machine
As computers developed into more efficient storage devices inventions such as the 1968 DynaBook. The DynaBook looked like a giant Kindle with a grayscale screen and keyboard. Books or documents stored on the 2lb device could be read. Later, Toshiba would use this design to create one of the first laptops.

I’m sure early librarians, authors, and readers went through the same emotions and conflicts over their precious volumes being squished into these shotgun shell cartridges that we have felt in recent years with the explosion of the ebook market.

1968 DynaBook
Filmbooks and ebooks will never be able to fully take the place of a print book. After all the elevator hasn’t taken out the necessity of stairs. Even in Star Trek they still collected and coveted their printed volumes. The ebooks and ereaders are just another way of enjoying the timeless stories we’ve always loved. Aren't you glad you can sit on the beach and relax with your Kindle or Nook instead of pulling out your Optigraph or Telex? 

In celebration of Read an Ebook Week, my books Don’t Touch and Half will be 50% off on Smashwords March 3rd - 8th. Just use the code REW50 at checkout to get your discount off my and other fantastic reads this week.

2014 Kindle Paper White
My ebook reading this week will be finishing up the Numbers Game by John Stanley then Dark Murders Collection by Carolyn McCray and Ben Hopkins. So what ebook are you reading? Do you prefer ebook or print book? How do you read your ebooks?