Around the Corner

I’ll never forget the night I returned.

It was my first good night of sleep in weeks, the night I finally stopped crying ’til three in the morning and wishing I were anywhere or anyone else in the world. That was the night I won myself back.

The third track of my once-favorite punk rock CD was echoing its second verse through my headphones as I sat curled up on my bedroom floor surrounded by a mix of tear-stained sheets of paper, torn photos, and used tissues. I would have stayed there all night, like I had every other night, if I hadn’t opened my eyes just then and seen something that made me scream.

A person was standing there, staring down at me with a look of sheer disappointment. I was terrified, not because I had never seen her before, but because I knew exactly who she was regardless. Her face was a little more mature and she might have been slightly taller than me, but there was no mistaking her: this was myself from the future.

“Hello,” she said the moment I pulled my headphones off. “Nice to see you again.”

I stared at her in silence.

“Twelve years,” she continued. “In case you’re wondering.”

It must have taken me at least five minutes to find my voice, but she didn’t seem to mind waiting.

“I see we’re not over him yet,” she said, looking around the room. “He really did a number on us, didn’t he? I remember this mess. Took us weeks to clean up. Depression is the worst stage of grief.”

“Wha–” I finally stammered. “What are you doing here?”

She shrugged. “Isn’t it obvious? I’m here to help you.”

Those words made my heart skip a beat. “Are you here to make me feel better? To tell me that everything’ll be okay? That he and I can still be friends?”

“Not exactly,” she said, leaning closer to me. “You see, I told myself that if I ever got the chance to travel back in time, the first thing I’d do was visit my sixteen-year-old self and…”

She reached out and smacked me square across the face. It stung like a dozen white hot needles in my skin.

“…slap her for being so stupid.”

I faced her again, one hand on my cheek. “Ow! What the hell’d you do that for?”

“To knock some sense into you,” she replied, standing up again. “You don’t understand this now, but you’re way better than this. At least, you’re going to be.”

“What are you talking about?”

“This!” She gestured around the room. “Love letters? Photo albums? Emo music? Come on, girl, get it together! It’s over! He doesn’t want you anymore. He’ll never want you again. It’s time to move on.”

“But…” I sniffed, the ever familiar tears welling again. “But I can’t imagine my life without him!”

“Oh, please! You’re sixteen! You can’t imagine your life without Evanescence! And trust me, they’ll get old faster than you think.”

I looked down, blushing. “Did you come here just to humiliate me?”

“No, I just have to be blunt with you first. Things are going to get worse before they get better. As soon as you think you’re getting over him, you’re going to see him with someone new, and it’s going to crush you. You’ll start wondering what you did wrong, what’s the matter with you, why can’t he love you like you love him. You’ll think you drove him away and this breakup really is your fault. It’s not. You don’t realize this yet, but the guy you’re so heartbroken over right now is a total jerk. You may still care about him, but he never really cared about you.”

“That’s not true!”

“No? When was the last time he complimented you or went out of his way to do something nice for you? Heck, when was the first time? Face it, he used you to boost his ego, that’s all. And now he’s tired of you and using some lame excuse about focusing on school to keep your hopeful little heart on a string while he moves on. You have to get over him, and soon. I don’t want you, us, to be hung up on him a minute longer than we have to.”

“So what do you want?”

“To show you this.” She handed me a photograph pulled out of her coat pocket. In the picture was a tall, sandy-haired man, about thirty years old, with soft brown eyes and a smile just imperfect enough to give him a quirky sort of charm. I looked up at the future me and shrugged.

“Who is he?” I said. She smiled.

“That, my dear, is your future best friend… and the man you’re going to marry.”

I wasn’t ready to believe it, until I saw her wave the diamond ring on her finger at me. I can’t remember exactly how I reacted. Maybe I just stared, maybe I smiled, maybe I froze for several minutes before I shouted with joy. All I remember after that moment is my future self crouching in front of me and looking me in the eye as she spoke in the kindest voice she had used yet.

“He’s going to fall in love with you because you’re smart and adorable and incredibly loving. You’re going to fall in love with him because he’s sweet and funny and genuinely cares about you. He’s going to ask you to marry him because he can’t imagine his life without you. And you’re going to say yes because the way you think you feel about your ex-boyfriend right now is the way you’re actually going to feel about him.”

I looked down at the photo again, this time with the biggest smile I’d given in months. He was pretty cute, now that I thought about it. So this was my future husband? And I’d only have to wait less than a decade to meet him? It was the first hopeful news I’d heard since being dumped. The future me took the photo back and placed a hand under my chin.

“See? It’s not the end of the world. So dry those tears, keep your chin up, and remember that every broken heart is the start of a new journey. True love is just around the corner.”

And with that, she rose to her feet, stepped back into the shadows, and vanished, like she was never there. I might have believed she wasn’t, that it was all a dream, had it not been for the wide grin brightening my face and last night’s hastily scribbled note sitting on my nightstand when I awoke the next morning.

I’m glad I decided to return to that day and talk some sense into myself. I did eventually get over my ex, start dating again, move on with my life. I found love a few years later, waiting for me around the corner just as I’d promised myself, and since then, I’ve never been happier.


Dedicated to my wonderful boyfriend, the love and light of my life. Happy Valentine’s Day, sweetheart! I love you!

What If? Writing Prompts: Fantasy / Science Fiction VI

My apologies, but I must leave you all with another set of “What If?” Writing Prompts this week. As I finish preparing for the defense of my Master’s thesis, it seems the only thing on my mind these days is science, so I thought it would be appropriate to share some more fantasy and science fiction prompts. Have fun writing new stories from these ideas, and feel free to add more of your own!

What If - Parchment and QuillWhat if… a massive meteor were heading toward Earth… and only you knew how to stop it?

What if… you found a capsule in your backyard containing an alien artifact?

What if… you were granted the power to shape-shift into one magical creature of your choice?

What if… you could learn the ability to breathe fire or ice?

What if… magic were a field of science?

Good luck spinning more tales of fantasy and science fiction!

If you have any “What If?” writing prompt suggestions (for any theme), please feel free to share them in the comments below. Ideas I like may be featured in future “What If?” posts, with full credit and a link to your blog (if you have one)! Also, if you’ve written a piece based on an idea you’ve found here, be sure to link back to the respective “What If?” post. I would love to see what you’ve done with the prompt! Thank you!

Stories in the Stars: Finding Creative Inspiration in Space

No Man’s Sky came out this month, ending a three-year wait for the biggest space exploration game ever made. Published by indie studio Hello Games for PlayStation and PC, the game is set in a massive open universe (read: 18 quintillion planets) that procedurally generates almost everything from star systems and planets to the alien lifeforms that occupy them. I haven’t played it myself yet, but I have been watching someone else play, and if nothing else, it’s definitely creative and makes for great artistic inspiration, in no small part for its representation of the endless possibilities in space.

No_Mans_Sky

So today, I’d like to dedicate this creative writing post to that someone special who keeps on inspiring me with his passion for space. There’s a lot of creative inspiration to be found out there in the Universe, so let’s explore! Enjoy!

Tales in the Sky

Since the time of ancient civilizations, human beings have been fascinated with the stars and the mysteries hidden among them. Early cultures associated celestial bodies with divine beings and used the study of the stars to understand the phenomena of Earth, making astronomy the oldest natural science in history. Constellations have been a big part of mythology and storytelling throughout much of history, while modern science continues to make a splash in nonfiction by unraveling the great mysteries of the Universe. Whether you’re an artist or a scientist, there’s always something exciting to find in the cosmos!

Zodiac_Constellations

The twelve signs of the Zodiac

The stars have always inspired me with their mysterious beauty. Sometimes when I’m feeling starved for creative inspiration on a clear night, I like to look outside at the sky and get lost in daydreams (nightdreams?) about space and all the amazing things that could be waiting out there in the Universe. I’m fortunate to live in a suburban area where there’s a good view of the stars at night (not as perfect as in unpopulated deserts, of course, but much better than in big cities), so I’ve had many opportunities to enjoy open skies with countless stars and bright moons, which often make excellent inspiration for poetry. So beautiful!

Stargazing is extremely relaxing, and an excellent practice for artists who either need inspiration to overcome a creative block or simply want to unwind after a busy and tiring day. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area without too much light pollution, I recommend taking the occasional break in the evening just to gaze up at the night sky. You may find it’s exactly what you need to spark your creativity!

“To Infinity and Beyond” / “It Came From Outer Space”

Mention “science fiction” and the first images that come to mind are usually alien lifeforms, spaceships, distant planets, and intergalactic exploration. With its continuing popularity from the old Star Trek series to the new Star Wars films and beyond, outer space often seems to be the poster child of the genre, and it remains one of the most well-known themes of science fiction today.

Interstellar_Poster

Theatrical poster for Interstellar (2014)

Science fiction is one of my favorite genres, and some of my favorite sci-fi stories use space travel as a major theme. Films like Interstellar and The Martian fascinated me with their use of real science to tell amazing stories, while The Force Awakens blew me away with its creative and exciting contributions to a classic sci-fi saga. A couple of the reasons I love science fiction are its infinite possibilities and its power to reconcile science and art, and some of the best examples of science fiction stories encompassing both these points are the ones with themes related to outer space.

Naturally, space-themed stories don’t always have to involve traveling outside Earth; sometimes it’s fun to imagine what would happen if space came to us instead. Alien invasions are another popular theme and often come up in lists of science fiction writing prompts. Outer space also contains plenty of dangers that could threaten life on Earth, making it a great source of inspiration for apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction as well. There’s no end to the strange things that could come from outer space; the only limit is the imagination!

With all the writing ideas it provides, it’s no surprise that space is such a popular theme in science fiction. After all, why limit your stories to Earth when there’s an entire universe out there to explore?

Exploration Beyond Earth

Circling back to the introductory topic, I’ve been watching my boyfriend play a lot of No Man’s Sky lately, and I have to say it’s been quite an interesting journey so far. Mixed reviews aside (because of course there was “too much hype” around it), the game does offer a relaxing atmosphere in which creative introverts like my boyfriend and me could easily get lost for hours. We’ve enjoyed discovering different kinds of planets and especially naming the strange creatures we find together, which has turned out to be a great exercise for me as a sci-fi/fantasy writer. Maybe I’ll even use some of those alien names for a future novel!

While it may not be everything it supposedly promised to be, my impression is that part of the appeal of a game like No Man’s Sky must come from a fascination with space in general and its infinite potential stories. These don’t have to be entirely fictional, of course; another game my boyfriend loves is Elite: Dangerous, a space exploration game which, despite being set over a thousand years in the future, is heavily based on the real Milky Way galaxy, even containing a handful of real star systems alongside the procedurally generated ones. He loves how relaxing it is to explore deep space alone, and in a 1:1 scale open world galaxy, he’ll never run out of space to discover!

Elite_Dangerous_Asteroid_Field

Elite: Dangerous screenshot taken by my boyfriend

From constellation mythology to science fiction to astronomy, space is full of inspiration for creative writing. Whether you’re a poet seeking that perfect verse in the stars or a speculative fiction writer doing research for your new novel, your next spark of creativity could be waiting for you among the stars. So the next time you find yourself at a creative block, why not take a break to explore the stories in the Universe? It’s the only other source of inspiration as infinite and boundless as the human imagination!

What about you? How do you find creative inspiration in space? Have you ever incorporated elements of space in your writing?

What If? Writing Prompts: Fantasy / Science Fiction V

Okay, so this is a little embarrassing, but it seems I’m having trouble keeping up with blogging again. It’s hard to manage so many things at once, so for now I’ll have to tide over my creative writing topics with some “What If?” Writing Prompts. Thanks for understanding! Since I haven’t featured some in a while, now may be a good time to share a few more fantasy and science fiction prompts. See what stories you can create from these ideas! Enjoy!

What If - Parchment and QuillWhat if… you and your pet switched bodies for a day?

What if… you had the power to rewind time at will?

What if… you found a portal to another dimension hidden in your own basement?

What if… all humans were naturally born with different magical abilities?

What if… you discovered that your computer had the ability to think for itself?

Have fun writing more fantasy and science fiction tales!

If you have any “What If?” writing prompt suggestions (for any theme), please feel free to share them in the comments below. Ideas I like may be featured in future “What If?” posts, with full credit and a link to your blog (if you have one)! Also, if you’ve written a piece based on an idea you’ve found here, be sure to link back to the respective “What If?” post. I would love to see what you’ve done with the prompt! Thank you!

Decontamination

Never leave the incubator unattended.

That’s the first lesson they teach you when you start at the lab. I wish I had listened.

Thankfully, the explosion was contained to the one room. The building has been evacuated as per safety protocol, and the cleanup crew is busy decontaminating the area while the head of the department has me fill out a statement for the report. I’ve never felt so guilty in my life. That’s saying something.

I have a bad history of putting living beings in danger. I squashed my sister’s hamster as a kid, ran over my neighbor’s cat as a teenager, and lost my friend’s dog on the street in my first year of college. And now I’ve endangered at least a dozen human beings by accidentally unleashing bacteria all over the laboratory. Unknown, unpredictable bacteria. There’s no telling what damage I could have caused if I hadn’t been alone when the incubator burst.

The cleanup crew has finished their work and is filing out of the lab. I’ve been told it’s safe to go back inside. While everyone else leaves, I throw on my cleanroom suit and head in to grab my notes. As I pass by the busted incubator, I feel a horrible sinking sensation in my stomach. Years’ worth of research has been lost tonight, and it’s all my fault.

I open my notebook and flip to the last filled pages. I want to figure out what went wrong. Could I have set the incubator temperature too high by mistake? Was there a malfunctioning piece in the machine? Or is this all just happening now because bad luck follows me wherever I go?

A tear splashes on the corner of the page. I wipe my eyes as I take a pen from the table and scribble a quick note about the explosion. After replacing the pen and skimming through my notes one last time, I close the notebook and glance up at the clock on the wall. It tells me I’ve been here over half an hour, much longer than I’d anticipated. Better start heading out.

Replacing the notebook on the table, I hurry back to the adjoining chamber to remove my suit before I head out, but I stop just inside the doorway when I hear voices in the hall. They must think everyone has already left. Standing still, just out of sight, I listen to them talk about the incident. I recognize two voices: the head of the department and the director of the lab. The director is saying it was lucky no one was injured by the explosion, otherwise the consequences could be catastrophic. The results from the last lab mice test came back this morning; they’ve just discovered that the bacteria we’ve been studying induce a lethal reaction in the subject.

My heart starts to race and I break into a sweat, but I dare not make a sound. The department head asks if we should quarantine everyone in the building, but the director reassures him that the bacteria are not airborne; infection only occurs from direct contact with the subject’s blood. Even if anyone had been contaminated, they wouldn’t last long enough to spread the disease beyond this isolated research facility, as the infection is fatal within hours. The head of the department mutters a curse against “that damn clumsy student”. He wishes I had never set foot in the lab in the first place.

I’ve heard enough. Moving away from the door, I turn and hurry back into the lab. This time I don’t bother with the suit, heading straight through the door toward the notebook and pen on the table before making a beeline for the room on the other side of the floor. Tears return to my eyes as I rush past the broken incubator.

All your faultAll your fault

I’m no stranger to being cursed. Most people who know me end up wishing they’d never met me, usually after my bad luck causes them some sort of injury. Nobody likes me. Nobody ever wants me around. I don’t blame them. I’m a jinx, a curse, a disease.

You’re the real infection

I rush into the freezer and slam the door behind me. I lean back against the wall, open the notebook, and start scribbling words on the blank pages in the back, important notes to all the people I’ve loved and wronged. By now the tears have blurred my vision so much that I can barely see the letters anymore. Tremblingly, I rip the last page from the notebook and clutch it close to my chest. Now all that’s left to do is wait.

A strange calm overtakes me as I flip through my notebook for the last time. This is best for everyone, I tell myself. Everything happens for a reason, right? Yes, they’ll all be better off this way. Shivering, I get to the last of my notes, the secret of how some loose shards of shattered glass and metal struck me in the explosion.

My strength begins to leave me and I stifle a cough. I close the notebook as well as my eyes and pull my sleeve down, covering the gash in my hand where the glass tore right through my glove. This is how they’ll find me in the morning, tears frozen on my cheeks and a piece of paper clutched tightly in my hand, containing a single word that says everything…

Contaminated.

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