Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis

By Sara Codair

 

“I keep getting worse,” I say looking down at the black veins creeping towards my heart.

“You should not have let the demon bite you,” replies Raquel. Her dark eyes show no sympathy.

“Was I supposed to just let it eat that kid?”

She shrugs. “The ‘kid’ is a mortal.”

“He’s only ten. He might have 90 years ahead of him.”

“Nine decades pass in the blink of an eye. We endure when we are smart. Your decision was not smart. You gave up eternity to allow a mere mortal a few pathetic decades. For all you know, he will get hit by a bus on his way home and perish in spite of you sacrifice.” Raquel picks of her bag and walks away.

I sit down on a tree stump, watching her body move with serpentine grace. However, even a being as cold as she cannot hide all emotion. Her fingers quiver, and her heels dig deep into the earth.

#

As the sun goes down, the woods come alive. Owls hoot and hunt, competing with the bobcats and foxes for the small mice and voles scurrying across the forest floor.

The poison continues to rise in me, turning my veins to black rock. It doesn’t hurt. In fact, I can’t feel much at all.  

“This will be a good death,” I say to the critters.

It’s not right to endure forever. Here, my body will fade back to earth, feeding the never-ending cycle of life and death. I have no regret about my decision to save the boy.

The crickets are singing by the time my chest goes numb and my heart stops beating. I’m prepared to cease when pain tears through my back. A blinding light consumes me as wings sprout from my spine.

End

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This story was originally written for Cracked Flash.On March 3, it became my first win in their competition. Later, it was entered into another contest but did not place. It is one of my favorite 300 word stories that I have written.

©2016 Sara Codair

 

Flying Mouse-Squirrel-Bird Thing

When I decide to write a flash story after spending the day grading papers, I end up writing stories inspired by cat toys. “Flying mouse-squirrel-bird Thing” is one of those. My cat has this crinkly, furry toy that is flattened like a flying squirrel but with the face and coloring of a mouse.  It has strings dangling of off its arms with bird feathers. Combine that with a Cracked Flash prompt and you get something like this*:

Flying Mouse-Squirrel-Bird Thing
by Sara Codair

“The princess claims it was the dumbest assassin she’d ever seen, but I find it quite brilliant,” said Marcy.

Her face was like a stone with a small frown etched into it. She glowered at the corpse of a flattened gray rodent, which was covered with both fur and feathers. It had the body of a flying squirrel but the head of the mouse.I had no clue how she had managed to look so serious. When I saw the flying mouse-squirrel-bird thing dive bomb the princess, I just double over laughing so hard I pissed my pants.

“And you are the dumbest bodyguard,” she continued. “It may have looked ridiculous, but its claws were sharp enough to pierce through skin and puncture an artery. Thankfully, it was dumber than you.”

I wanted to respond with something witty, but I could hardly breathe, let alone speak. Of course, Marcy hadn’t even cracked a smile. While I was laughing, she gallantly tacked the princess out of the thing’s way and crushed the doomed creature under her black combat boot.

“Gather your wits. We have an investigation to conduct!”

When I failed to gather my wits, Marcy’s steel-toed boot slammed into my gut. Now I had a more serious reason to gasp for air. She glared while I forced my oxygen deprived body into standing position.

“Alright, I admit it, I screwed up.” I finally managed a few steady breaths. “It’s pretty obvious who is behind this. The Gene Guild was furious when the Princess refused to remove the ban on cloning.”

“But we can’t prosecute a whole organization. It could have been one member acting alone.” Marcy’s eyebrows twitched on her outcrop of a forehead, eventually meeting over her nose.

I stared at the now flattened genetic mashup. “That really was the dumbest assassin. He left his name on the murder weapon.”

“Indeed, it appears he did.” A true smile cracked across Marcy’s boulder-like face as she stared at the initials branded onto the creatures ruptured gut. “I guess we’ll be paying Dr. Horrible a visit.”

Grimacing, I prayed I didn’t die laughing in the mad scientist’s lab.

Marcy rolled her eyes and walked towards our steeds while I chucked in her wake. This certainly was the most interesting case I’d work on in my three month stint in the princess’ secret service.

The End…or To be continued?

This seems to end a scene, not a whole story. Perhaps I will return it it one day soon.

*I will note that I made some revisions to this based on the comments I received from one of the Cracked Flash judges, Si.

End Elitist Information, Democratize Academia

End Elitist Information, Democratize Academia

By Sara Codair

 

Diamond is a slightly better average reader in her twenties. She reads novels when she has time, but a majority of reading happens on her smart phone: buzzfeed type articles, blogs and flash fiction. She finds herself drinking a lot of green tea and decides to research it. Google gives her millions of results, and most of the ones on the first page are lists of things about tea, like this: https://authoritynutrition.com/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-green-tea/ or http://www.nutritionsecrets.com/health-benefits-green-tea/.

They are short, written in clear, concise language and full of pretty pictures to keep the reader engaged. They are also laden with advertisements about diets that flaunt images of skinny, clear skinned woman drinking tea that is practically glowing.

It’s only been a few years since Diamond had to suffer through First Year Writing courses at the community college she studied at, so she hasn’t forgotten her English teacher’s warnings about internet sources. The advertisements mean that the site is out to make money. The author isn’t a scientist or doctor, in fact, he only has two more years of college than Diamond does. It leaves her skeptical, so she heads down to her alma mater’s library to try and find more credible sources.

The librarians don’t look as friendly as she hoped, so after a few minutes wandering in the stacks, she finds herself on the computer, skimming through databases. The first article that “Green tea and health benefits” gives her is “Emerging evidence for tea benefits.” The title seems to be exactly what she was looking for, so she clicks on it and downloads the article. The first two sentences seem to be written in plain English, but then she comes to this: “The mechanism may relate to bioactive compounds found in tea, which exert anti-arteriosclerotic, anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects.” She is persistent, reads it a few times, looks up “arteriosclerotic” and presses on. Sentences like “For weight management, modest, positive effects were found for green tea when ingested by overweight/obese adults, possibly related to thermogenic effects,” make sense, mostly, but she doesn’t know what to do with things like “As shown in Figure 1, green and white teas are not oxidised, thus contain large amounts of polyphenols, also known as catechins, which include (–)–epicatechin (E), (–)–epigallocatechin (EGC), (–)–epicatechin- 3-gallate (ECG) and (–)–epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). A typical cup of green tea (2 g leaves and 200 ml water) contains 240–320 mg catechins, with EGCG providing 30–50% of that amount (Grove & Lambert 2009; Oliveira et al. 2013),” and “In terms of mechanisms of action, animal studies indicate that green tea extract (at doses of 50 mg/kg) may reverse endothelial dysfunction (Minatti et al. 2012) with the catechin EGCG being associated with reduced hyperplasia in the intima region of the carotid artery (Orozco-Sevilla et al. 2013).”

She skims the article enough to know that researchers did find evidence of at least some of the things mentioned in the internet articles. However, if she read carefully, she would see that scholars are reviewing studies are done by other people. There are a lot of words like “indicate” and “may” in the article, showing that while the studies are promising, they are not exactly definitive. They are starting to come together, but haven’t fully proven the benefits to the scientific community. On the other hand, the list articles are more definitive, proclaiming the health benefits as undisputed truth. She files that away in her head, and applies a little more skepticism the next time she reads online health articles.

The problem is, not everyone has a college education, and a good portion of the ones that do forget everything they learned about reading and writing classes as soon as they get that degree in hand. A less dedicated reader might have lost interest at the third sentence of the academic article if he or she even found it at all. A less dedicated reader would have just read things published on websites like Buzz Feed, or for a more credible source, the New York Times.

However, even publications known for their journalistic integrity are not the best sources for scientific information. They are business, after all, and they need to make money, which is especially hard when they are competing with the masses of free content available online. As a result, the public gets filtered and watered down versions from money making news outlets like the Atlantic or New York Times who spin the information to attract readers. We don’t need big brother telling us what we can or cannot read. Researchers and scholars do that for him by coveting their status and keeping the masses out of their smart people club.

Scholarly academic writing is often boring, needlessly complex and inaccessible to the average person. Maybe those who are not part of academia don’t care about knowing the details every study ever done. That is okay. However, one should be able to get the results and implications in a clear and accurate manner. Perhaps if academics wrote more engaging prose, more people would be willing to be read them, resulting in a more educated public.

The first hurdle faced by a person who his unaffiliated with an academic institution is access. Scholarly articles are not free online. Academic journals are more expensive than popular publications. So you either have to pay astronomical subscription fees or be affiliated with an intuition that pays those fees if you want to even see the article. Now, as a writer and adjunct, I can understand why the articles aren’t free. However, $75 is a steep subscription fee for a journal that only publishes three times a year. That’s what it would cost for someone who is not a student or NCTE member to subscribe to CCC or a similar publication. Science journals, which might be more relevant to the average person than articles about teaching writing, can cost even more. It isn’t easy to get information directly from the source, and that is a problem.

Do you remember playing telephone in elementary school? Did the sentence ever stay the same as it moved through the classroom? It never did in my experience. I find it terrifying when I realize that scientist and the media are playing a game of virtual telephone with information. In 2012, neuroscientist Molly Crocket gave a ted talk about how science in her field is misrepresented by the media. “Beware the Neurobunk” documents the journey of information as it transforms from facts to headlines.

What started out as study involving a nasty tasting drink containing a chemical called “tryptophan” morphed into headlines about how cheese and chocolate make people smarter, simply because they also contain that chemical. She gave several other examples of studies that have been misinterpret by the media. I could summarize more if it, but if you are interested, you should really just go watch the ted talk.

Essentially, it proves the public isn’t as educated or informed as they could be. Why? Why do academics need to love in a little elitist bubble? Yes, they do need to publish the professional lab reports for the peers, but why can’t they also publish a shorter version themselves that boils down the methods and limitations and focuses more on discussing the results and implications?

When journalist and bloggers act as middlemen, the integrity of the work is diminished. If the short versions were written by the scientist themselves, instead of a network of people playing telephone, the information is sure to me accurate, and less manipulated. And perhaps if researchers made more of their findings accessible to the public, they would get more support for the research. Imagine being able to get funding directly from the people – supplementing hard to come by grants from the government and corporations with money with crowd funding? Researcher wouldn’t be led by the whims corporations, the government and members of the 1% who seek to control what we know; it would be controlled by the people. It would make academia and the good work its people do more democratic.

Please feel free to continue the conversation in the comments. I’d love to hear what you think about this issue one way or another. Feel free to challenge me if you think I am wrong.

 

Almost there

I still have a lot of grading to do before the semester is truly over, but today marks the last day of my regular teaching schedule for Spring 2016. So I’m taking a little break to write and poke around the garden before I dive into the grading. Everything is growing so fast!

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©2016 Sara Codair

Deceit in the Dark

Deceit in the Dark

By Sara Codair

The vampiress hissed. “Mortal fool! Challenging me will be your doom!”

The knight arched one eyebrow. “Perhaps it will be your doom.”

She screeched, hoping to intimidate him. Her most terrifying, earsplitting howl failed to impress the knight. His eyes and skin were like ice and snow. His was hair weak sunlight glistening on the polar ice. He still had that damned eyebrow raised. It was so unfair that he could arch his right brow so perfectly. She had been practicing for three centuries and had never mastered the trick.

“You’re a fool, challenging me at night in my own castle. Every man and woman who has tried before you became my breakfast.”

The knight laughed.

She rolled her eyes.

A sharp pain pierced her chest. It was the first pain she had felt since Count Dracul had turned her on her 18th birthday. Looking down, she marveled at the iron stake sticking out of her chest. She watched her skin shrivel and turn to ash. She clung to consciousness long enough to see the knight peel off flesh colored gloves, revealing the green skin of a pixie.

“Green bastard!” she yelled. She never would have rolled her eyes if she knew he wasn’t a slow mortal.

“New technology. It lets us blend in with humans and not be burned by iron.”

Count Victoria wanted to curse him one last time, but her throat was already gone.

His blonde hair turned coal black; his face grass green. “I’m no mortal, and certainly no fool.”

The rot and ash reached the vampiress’ brain, and she was no more.

The End.

©2016 Sara Codair

This story was originally posted on Cracked Flash as an entry for their weekly writing contest. It was the week’s honorable mention.  The judge, Mars, suggested I remove the first few lines, and really, she was right. The originally piece started with the line “But the night belongs to me.” I either needed to add more dialogue before or just cut it, and since anything I could think to add would be boring, the first few lines went bye bye, making the piece shorter and catchier (at least in my opinion).

 

 

Faith in Eternal Stars – by SARA CODAIR

Star Wars has survived the apocalypse. So has its rival, Star Trek. Find out how in this survivor’s tale that was just published by Sick Lit Magazine.

  Faith in Eternal Stars   We said, “Save the world or die trying.” Most of us did the latter. Things like extinction or total annihilation were never certain. We just knew the demonic al…

Source: Faith in Eternal Stars – by SARA CODAIR

Faith in Eternal Stars – by SARA CODAIR

Star Wars has survived the apocalypse. So has its rival, Star Trek. Find out how in this survivor’s tale that was just published by Sick Lit Magazine.

SICK LIT MAGAZINE

Faith in Eternal Stars

We said, “Save the world or die trying.”

Most of us did the latter.

Things like extinction or total annihilation were never certain. We just knew the demonic alliance used their fire and magic with no regard for the destruction they caused.

We tried to preserve the earth. She was our mother. We couldn’t bear to harm her, even in her own defense.

They won. We lost.

For a long time, I thought I’d died and gone to Hell. I floated in cold darkness, never quite awake, but never fully asleep. I couldn’t get warm. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t scream.

The Christians had said Hell was hot, but I’d fought too many ice-demons to believe it was all fire and brimstone. Even as I floated in stasis, I wondered, if this was Hell, where were all the demons? Had they all abandoned their home realm…

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Short Stories Reviewed

I’ve seen plenty of blogs and websites that review longer works and movies, but I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled across a website called “The Short Tale Review.”

At first, I thought they were a literary magazine specializing in flash fiction, but I quickly realized they published short reviews of short stories. They featured classics, like Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” as well as brand new works by contemporary authors.

When I saw they were accepting submissions, I emailed them asking for a review of one of my stories, and a few days later, they posted a review of Beach Glass Blues.

Here is a brief excerpt:

“As an ‘adult’ story about the world of mermaids, mermen and merfolk this could be, let’s be quite honest, a bit silly and childish in the wrong hands. Even more so when used as a device to question sexual politics. Thankfully Sara Codair is an adept enough storyteller to navigate us through these potential pitfalls.”

Read the rest here and don’t forget to check out some of their other reviews.

Their sight is a great way to promote and give the often overlooked short story authors a taste of the kind of attention they might get if they were publishing novels.

Finals Week and Chicken Soup

As the semester comes to an end, it can be hard to remember to eat at all, let alone eat healthy. This was true for me when I was a student, and still is true now that I am a teacher. Since women cannot survive on chocolate alone (though we often want to), I believe it is critical to make sure that I do not let the stress get to me.

No matter how chaotic it gets, I need to eat and I need to take time to make sure I don’t burn out. Writing, cooking and taking pictures are often therapeutic for me, so before I dive into the grading this morning, I am taking some time to make food and a blog post.

Friday night, I was too tired to do much cooking, so my husband picked up a rotisserie chicken from a local grocery story, and I boiled some Jasmin rice.  We barely ate half the chicken, so I decided to save to rest for soup.

I started with vegetables:  Half a large onion, a quarter of a bell pepper, one large carrot and one stick of celery. I cut them up and sautéed them with olive oil, thyme and parsley.

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Next, I added the left over Rotisserie Chicken.

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More dedicated and experienced cooks would use the whole thing to make stock, but I have a very limited amount of time allowed for writing and cooking this morning, so I just ripped off some white meat and threw it in the pan. I didn’t use all the leftover meat, so I put it back in the fridge in case my husband (who is a much better cook than me) wants to use it for something.

We did have some jasmine rice left over from Friday, maybe a 1/3 cup, so I added that to the pan next.

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I stirred it, letting it all simmer for a few a minutes, then added a box of organic chicken stock.

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I’ll let it all simmer while I grade. At noon, when I need  a break, I’ll have a bowl of soup, giving my body some veggies, protein and grain to help it power through the next round of papers. I’ll put the left overs in the fridge and take them to work for lunch on Monday and Tuesday, guaranteeing that I will have something healthier than cookies to eat between my classes.

©2016 Sara Codair