A Lost Opportunity

Mars Opportunity has not been heard from since June 10th, 2018, after a global dust storm swept across the Martian surface, most likely covering the solar panels with a layer of red dirt, too thick for NASA’s attempts to clear it away before Opportunity’s on-board batteries drained  against the cold winter months.

 

Today, NASA has announced it will stop trying to reach Opportunity–a time to say goodbye.

One of my favorite images from Opportunity was the tracks lit left behind, leading back to the horizon.  The things Opportunity saw…. Postcards wishing you were here.

Rover tracks disappear toward the horizon like the wake of a ship across the desolate sea of sand between the craters Endurance and Victoria on the Meridiani Plains. Opportunity took the image while stuck in the sand ripple dubbed Purgatory for over a month. This panorama (only partly shown here) was named Rub Al Khali after the “Empty Quarter” in the Arabian Desert.
Image Number: WEB13648-2014
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University

Fifteen years ago, Opportunity landed on Mars and was only anticipated to last ninety days.  Congratulations to all the NASA engineers and staff, to all those who contributed the financials, to all of us on Earth who followed this journey.

To see the raw Images taken by Opportunity over the past 15 years, click here.

So long for now Opportunity, we will see you when we get there.  And one day, when all who visit and move to Mars, I am sure you will have a proper place in the Mars Space Museum among your peers told for and lost, who will have made our visit and stay possible.

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Total Lunar Eclipse of 2019

Call it a Blood Moon or Wolf Moon Or Super Moon, the point is, this January 20th, when the Moon is in perigee (closest approach to the Earth), we will also experience a total lunar eclipse. Weird things happen then….

On Jan 20th, 2019, the United States and Canada, with the eastern seaboard having the best view, will see the eclipse of the moon completely immersed in Earth’s shadow. The duration of totality will be longer than normal (1 hour and 2 minutes). The more south you can get the higher in the sky the eclipse will be (NYC about 70 degree, South Florida 80 degrees, Cuba 90 degrees from the horizon).

The reason this is called a Blood moon is that just prior to the totality, the umbra of Earths shadow casts a penny bronze ochre hue on the surface of the moon. The term Blood Moon is simply marketing hype….. Regardless, I saw the eclipse three years ago and it was awesome, but that eclipse occurred just before sunrise…. this one is occurring at midnight (east coast) and will be awesomer-er-er. Don’t miss this event….. Look up folks!

See the chart below for the time. Easterners, you all need to stay up past midnight, a small sacrifice for front row seats….

This event can be read in its entirety on SPACE.COM

Isn’t The View Delicious

End Of Days Series

“Can we see the basement now?” Frank asks their realtor.

“No, I would not recommend that,” Julie replies.

“Why not?”

“Because that is where people get murdered.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes. Everyone gets murdered in the basement. Let’s move onto the bedrooms upstairs.”

“But if you are going to show us this house, then we’re going to want to see everything about it,” Frank volleys, waiting with his arms held out to catch her response.

“I’m not going to show you the basement, Frank. That’s it. No argument.”

Frank drops his arms in frustration, “Gina… I’ll be right back. Go with Julie.”

“Frank, I wouldn’t do that,” Julie cautions, never missing the opportunity for a pose; her arms crossed, her perfectly manicured nails strumming lightly along her forearm to the clank of bangles and bracelets on her wrist, her balletic legs one in front of the other to reveal the tautness of her Peloton shaped calves.

“Julie… I’m a big boy,” which draws a muffled laugh from his wife. “I can handle this,” he says addressing Julie’s concern as he winks at his wife.

“There’s nothing to see down there, Frank… Nothing! It’s a basement. It’s empty… sort of. The solar hot water heater and state-of-the-art hybrid furnace are in the garage. There aren’t even windows down there–for a reason!” The basement is where people get murdered,” she fires off in quick succession. Her agitation making Gina’s and Frank’s choice in a realtor, questionable.

“Julie. it’s okay. I’ll be right back. Please show Gina the bedrooms and I will join you shortly.”

Julie closes her eyes and takes in a slow breath through her nose and exhales lightly to calm herself. “Fine… you want to get murdered, Frank? That’s fine with me, but you might want to ask your wife if that is okay with her,” she offers, uncrossing her arms and gracefully inviting Gina to weigh in.

Frank sees Gina’s brows rise and her lips pinch as if holding back a laugh. Not sure what to make of this, he says nothing and heads back through the kitchen toward the basement door, with it’s industrial bolt snuggle into place.

With Frank’s exit, Julie storms out from the dining room, commanding Gina to follow her, the heels of her Louboutins stabbing at the travertine tile leaving the clatter of echos in her wake.

Gina is keeping up, thinking about Julie’s talk of people getting murdered in the basement. It’s silly, I know it, but her conviction seems so believable. And it’s weird. Weird like in… If Frank does indeed get murdered in the basement I would never forgive myself. She tries to clear the silliness from her head and follows Julie up the staircase, her hand sweeping along the curved cherry banister that feels so smooth to the touch as she admires the finely tapered rungs that hold it from beneath.

Julie parades Gina through the two finely appointed guest bedrooms and adjoining bath adorned in quartzite counters and glass vessel sinks that with a touch of the faucet the vessels light up from below. She lead Gina down the hallway and surprises her with a sliding door that opens into a laundry room fit for a queen. Before entering the master suite, Julie steps aside with a wide grin, a ta-da moment affording Gina the unobstructed and spectacular view through the floor to ceiling window to the russet green and autumn gold of the marshland beyond.

“It’s breathtaking. Frank is going to die when he sees this view,” Gina says, pulling up her shoulders in such anticipation and surprise.

Julie responds with a quiet ‘hmm’ as if to say, we’ll see about that. “Yes. Isn’t the view delicious,” she mutters. A compulsory response as she dusts off a fleck from her lapel.

“Speaking of which, where is my husband?” Gina says stepping back from the threshold past Julie to the staircase in hopes of seeing him. When she turns around, Julie is looking at her watch, leaning against the frame of the doorway with her Arms folded.

“Well. We might as well be going,” she says pushing off the door frame. “I’m afraid this home–as lovely as it is my dear–is not for you.”

Gina is confused. She hasn’t even stepped into the master suite and loves everything about this home. “But I love this home…. Oh, I know I should never tell a realtor that, but you already know I just love it. Don’t tell Frank I told you,” she says in a hushed whisper.

“You will not need to worry about what Frank will think,” Julie comments as she straightens her Channel jacket and starts down the staircase, leaving Gina shocked.

“Wait!” Gina calls after her from the top of the staircase, watching Julie take each step in disappointment, a sale gone to waste. “Shouldn’t we wait for Frank to see the Master? That Spectacular view?” With no acknowledgement, Gina having once found Julie’s peculiar personality almost charming is now ebbing to the point of anger. Who’s the client here, now finding herself following Julie down the staircase like an abandoned puppy.

Never looking back, Julie loops her finger through the lockbox that lays upon the emerald veins of the Biedermeier console in the foyer then opens the front door, ushering Gina to step out behind her so she can lock up the house.

“Stop… Just stop! ” Gina screams out facing the street with her arms locked straight down by her sides. She spins around to face her and stomps past Julie back into the house.

Julie knows it’s pointless to call her back and goes about her business of shutting the front door and securing the lockbox in place before returning to her Tesla in the driveway, cell in hand about to dial her next client.

Gina hears the door shut behind her–the last straw–It’s time to get a new realtor. She stomps through the dining room and thought the kitchen sweeping her hand along the deeply turquoise granite island to the open door leading down into the basement and stands at the top of the staircase, the dim Edison bulb illuminating the stairwell to the basement floor.

“Frank!” she calls out.

There is no answer.

“Frank!” she calls again. A slight crack in her voice this time as she apprehensively starts down the staircase, ducking her head below the transom of the ceiling, taking each step slowly until she reaches the unfinished cement floor and the souls of her feet feel the crumble of cement pellets while stupid thoughts from Julie get the best of her. She walks out a few steps and stops at the edge of the light looking into the pitch of blackness beyond.

“Frank… Come on…. I want to show you the master,” expecting Frank to jump out from the shadows at any moment. Nervously, she brushes back her hair, crouching slightly with her knees pointing inwards. “It’s not funny, Frank!” Come on. Julie’s left us…. She even locked us in! We need a new realtor, Frank!”

She feels a cold sweep of air brush by her leaving the smell of dank wetness in her nose. She can’t understand why people build basements in the first place. She will never use one let alone go down into one. But here she is.

The light switches off and she hears the door at the top of the staircase shut.

“You Fucker! That’s not funny, Frank. Turn the light back on!”

There’s no answer and fright is settling in. She is truly scared. The stupid thoughts Julie put into her head taking root with Frank taking advantage of it.

She jumps and screams out when she feels a hand on her shoulder. She reaches up to feel her husband’s hand, a hand she knows is his, the smooth top and callused sides from his craft as a sculpture. She holds it and brings it to her side but it seems too light, no resistance, then she realizes there is nothing attached to it. The next scream never left her mouth…..

Please visit my WattPad site for more stories in the End Of Days Series and other works

A Sci-Fi Limerick

I have been a contributor on wattpad for several years now.  This site has been invaluable to me as a writer of Sci-Fi, where I can test the waters with potential stories, treatments, character studies and just general fun.  Which brings me to this.  There was a recent competition to write a Sci-Fi Limerick… A first for me and a challenge I could not pass up.  They must have liked it as much as I did because they gave me a great lead in:

We have the “most greatest” honour to host, today, The exceptional @DavidNadas, the Limerick specialist of the group.  Let’s let him entertain us with wit and music.

 

There was an Alien from Venus,

Who came to Earth to greet us,

When he stepped off the ship,

We heard his pants rip,

And out rolled his un-Earthly…

Well… you know.

To see other poems and nursery rhymes click here:  Tevun Krus (#59)

The Past Life Of Writing

Looking at this picture of my past I can remember everything about that day: How I felt, whom I was with, where and why I was there.  I can recall the smell the salt in the air and the heat of the sand beneath my feet.

But an odd thing happened the other day while attending a wedding in upstate NY.  My wife and I took a short trip from where we were staying to see the home that our dear friends once owned; it was a warm and beautiful home, a camp as it is referred to, and one  we had been to many times, tucked away in the Adirondacks along Upper Saranac Lake.  This place became the inspiration for the ending to my Sci-Fi novella, November Seed.

When we arrived at the camp, I got out of the car to snap an image and was overcome by a strong sensation of a past life that was my own.  I realized I was standing in the exact location of where a very graphic scene of my story took place.  One I had conjured up in my mind months after leaving here for the last time.

But I was not just standing on that road up in the Adirondacks remembering this scene; I was standing in the road where my main characters were dealing with the end of days, protecting their families and friends. I could see the entrance to the Point down the road and feel the tension rising within, my back pressed against the bark of the oak tree, the Moss 10-gauge held along my thumping chest. I could hear the pick-up truck approaching, its tires crunching along the snow-packed gravel and the tick of the engine getting louder. Then taking a few quick breaths I stepped out into the road with one hand along the trigger, the other signaling the pickup to stop….

I walked over to that tree and held my hand against the bark then turned to look back along the gravel road.  The smell of sulfur in the air seemed so real to me and I looked down at my feet expecting to see the litter of spent cartridge shells sizzling into the snow.   

This is what I enjoy most about writing, dissolving into a hyper-reality where I am alongside my characters; watching and feeling everything they see and do.  If I can go the real-world location and relive what took place there, then I know I have created the perfect scene.

A Time To Krill

HollywoodBefore every surf session I warm up on the beach.  It keeps me loose and responsive when I hit the water.  I’m about to go through a final full edit of my upcoming novel Silversides and below was my warm up exercise. (This short has nothing to do with the novel Silversides)

A first-person Sci-Fi detective named Stasch, titled A Time to Krill

Primal. It was the first word that came to mind when I entered the building, but it was the smell of sour tapioca and human waste that hit me square in the face. It seems that everything we do, for the sake of hygiene, is designed to mask this smell, but Natural Selection is an unrelenting force and this scent stays with us; humanity’s true signature.  I’m convinced it was our key to survival because no predator wanted any part of us and moved onto better smelling prey. I mean why is it that a day old kitten or puppy has enough sense to walk away from its own feces but a human baby would be happy to remain in a pile of it until removed? HA! I never lose this argument at a club, talk’n to the ladies with their designer scents, Eau de CRISPR, but then again they see me as an asshole and leave before I can close the argument. It’s what I need to do in my business. No one wants to hire a nice guy in what I do.

Stepping back outside I took in some fresh air and held my breath before reentering the conservatory (what a joke) then waded through the tide of human husks shuffling under the flickering lights of spent ballasts, their opened smocks and stained thighs as disturbing as seeing their arms curled up before them like human krill. They were staring beyond me, their mouths turned down and opened, sucking in on the pain, the intravenous bots at their sides like lamprey.

When I approached reception the waist-on-up android behind the glowing countertop was happy to great me, its hands folded neatly, the wig plopped on top neither male nor female in style.

“My name is Mauri. May I help you?” it said.

It was an outdated androgynous model made during the height of PC-tarianism and at least a decade old, its lips slightly out of sync with the synth box buried within.

“My name is Stasch. I got a tXT from a…” and I rolled my wrist to glance at the pane on my sleeve. “From a Milo Kee-van-is-tov, I said trying to pronounce it phonetically?”


The android gazed through me searching its DAT. “I’m sorry. We do not seem to have a guest here by that name.”


“Maybe Milo isn’t a guest.” I responded. “Maybe Milo works here.”


The android seemed to freeze as if stuck in a processing loop. “Ah yes. Milo Kivanastov. SubOS Custodian. He no longer works for us.”

“Check again. I received a stream from here, from Milo, early this morning…” glancing again at the pane, “at 04:32 to be exact.”


Another freeze, longer this time.  I couldn’t help but look up to mirrored wall beyond the android as if someone were at the controls.

“Milo’s contract ended with us at 06:00 this morning.”

“How convenient. You mean he was terminated.” I added.

“We try to avoid the phrase, terminated, here at the Lodge,” the android replied with a loving smile and tilt of the head right on queue.


“Can you tell me the SubOS outfit Milo worked for? I would like to apply for the vacancy,” I said knowing that if I asked where I could find Milo I would get a canned response of privacy protection. Which is crap. Nothing is private anymore.

“I do apologize, Mr. Stasch, but our CIS appears to be offline at the moment. Routine maintenance. Please try back later.”

“Never mind. I’ll run my own scrub on Milo,” I answered smartly with a wink to the mirror. My talk was shit, but I might as well make the string-puller sweat for a minute or two. My scrub search on Milo would turn up everything about Milo, but without Milo there would be no payment. I should have dropped this contract right then and there but I had nothing else going on and something bothered me about this one. There was no human activity around me other than the damaged trolling the halls and the android behind the counter was concealing, not something androids are known for.

I dropped a vCard to the android and left.  Let’s see who tugs on my line.

Figuring Milo ran the night stack and was a bit of a scumbag I walked the nearby streets looking for shitholes he might frequent. If I were Milo, I’d want some coffee and a vape and I found one called the Wanda Inn–bamboo shades drawn down tightly with a tilted flickering pink LED OPEN sign in the window. The door handle was sticky and a synthetic gong announced my entrance when I stepped inside. It was beyond dim as if night itself had not yet awakened and the air was crisp against my throat.  Behind the empty counter was a stocky woman, I think, whose arms were almost as big as my own but not as pretty. I placed my hands on the countertop where they could be seen.

“You must be Wanda.” I said in a raspy voice.

“You want coffee, fuckhead?” said Wanda with a raised chin and deep voice, which convinced me she was a he.

“As dark as the lighting in here,” I answered.

Wanda turned and grabbed a mug from the shelf and blew into it to rid the dust then poured a viscous stream of blackness to the brim and sloshed the mug onto the counter in front of me, the burnt smell of chicory an assault on my senses.  I hate chicory.

“Thanks. But not for the coffee,” I said and tapped on my pane to transfer two-hundred DASH to the address chalked onto the mirror behind Wanda and waited until Wanda’s wallet chirped and he looked down to see the transfer. “You ever serve a guy in here by the name of Milo?” I asked. “That would be a yes or no.” and I leaned in a little closer. “But a No and the next two-hundred DASH never reaches you. However, an answer of YES and you need to tell me something I can use.” I then whispered in my best Hollywood DeepOps voice, “But if the information turns out to be shit, I will be back to kick your ass.  And I mean that literally. I will sneak up and give you a swift kick in the ass and disappear before you can get up. You will get pissed-off, but with no one in sight you will move on.  And then a week or so goes by, maybe at a bodega, CryptoTeller or charging station, I give you another swift kick, a little harder this time, and you stay down a little longer because something feels broken.  And this goes on and on until you start to look for me everywhere you go. Trust me, no sane person wants that. Is that understood, Wanda Bergen of 8518 NE Banyan Street? You live just around the corner from here, right? Dirty white stucco duplex, top right corner? Blue awnings, one of which is a little ripped?”

Wanda’s voice was suddenly an octave higher and a little more compliant, but it was probably the promise of the additional two hundred DASH that made him talk.

“Yes… Milo did come in almost every morning… a little after six.”

I raised my brow for Wanda to continue.

“He worked the night shift at the River Lake Lodge. You know… God’s waiting room, two blocks up from here?”

“Was he here this morning?“

No.” Wanda replied. His mouth suddenly dry and he poured a half beer from the tap and took a quick sip, waxing a foam mustache and a lick clean of the tongue.

“Did he ever talk shop with you?” I asked.

“Only that the inmates… I mean the guests,” he said as if I were PC concerned, “were basket cases and once in awhile he would… you know?…. “ Wanda said taking another sip and a lick.

I raised my brow again.  Wanda was a quick study.

“You know…. the pretty ones,” he said with a forced smile.

I understood Wanda’s meaning, but that was not what I was after. “Did he ever tell you anything about the place itself or the people running it?

“Not that I–”

I slammed my fist on the countertop, startling not only Wanda, but also the detritus hibernating in the booths behind me. “Think Wanda.  Was there anything Milo said that made you curious? Anything such as activity happening after hours, strange people coming or going… shipments in or out, missing guests?…. That kind of thing!” I felt like I was getting nowhere so with one hand I opened my vest slightly to reveal the stock of my Russian made tecNIK while my other hand ran my down my face for whatever reason people do that other than it feels right to do it out of frustration.

Wanda took another slug.  He was visibly shaken and just where I wanted him.  

“Well…. he had this hidden chair between some cabinets just off the lobby in a camera dead spot and told me about a conversation he overheard about something called Triplex.”

Another raise of the brow.

“Ah.. I never heard of Triplex.”

“Did he say he knew who was doing the talking?”

“No.  Other than the tin can sitting at the desk he never met anyone who worked there.  They worked in another part of the building he had no access to.”

”Did he ever tell you what was going on in that area?”

“No… I don’t think so.  He said the tin can warned him that if he ever tried to gain access he would be terminated.  The tin-can creeped him out and he needed the job.“

I transferred another two hundred DASH to his account and left.

The sun was making its way over the canyon tops, shrouded in blue haze from the constant fires—La blue as we call it.  I hopped onto my bike and headed home to just below the ruin of scaffolding where the Hollywood sign once stood.  I have lived here as long as I can remember and where my famous grandparents lived before me. I was told this area used to be desirable, where the hillsides were rimed with swank and out-of-sight priced homes of former stars and movie moguls.  But when appSTAR made directors and producers out of everyone and avatars became the new stars, their human likenesses were reduced to ribbon cutting and signing autographs and could no longer afford to live here. Well that and a few large quakes……

TO BE CONTINUED AT SOME POINT.

On this date, five years ago. Somewhere in NYC, I began to write.

It is hard to believe that five years ago, on this date in a NYC coffee shop on the upper east side, I started my writing career. You can see other frustrated writers around me, but this cozy place became the catalyst for putting pen to paper, or in my case, fingers to keypad.  Since then, my debut novellas, November Seed & From Europa With Love, continue to have steady daily downloads on Amazon and the fan base, spread over eight countries, is still growing.   So thanks to all who support and push me onwards.

For the past few years I have been working on a full-length novel called Silversides which  takes place on Gliese 581 g.  As a new writer, I discovered why only the most seasoned writers leave the planet to tell a story and why most extraterrestrials come to Earth to kick our ass… because when you leave the planet you have to invent everything.   Along the way, I have written out weak characters and developed new ones, dragging along Kulcin who is the protagonist in, From Europa With Love.  Writing is a process of one step forward, two back but I have made some great plot changes with refined twists and developed a new ending the reader will not see coming.  Finally I can see the light at the end of the editing tunnel having received great feedback from Betabooks.co 

I do not follow a linear path and have several other novels in the treatment stage that I am equally excited about, such as: HUM, Suicides Of Spring and Glycerine to name a few.  Recently, I have joined forces with a fellow writer (G+’er) to compile a list of shorts we have written and put out onto various sites, such as: Offworlders.com (my favorite), Wattpad (where one of my shorts made it into their premiere eZine, TEVUN KRUS).and other author/reader sites.  But it is G+ that has taught me to be a better writer because of the  invaluable advice and knowledge learned and shared by such super cool folks.

Sargassum and the art of writing about what you know

Sargassum, as seen here in the curl of the wave, drifts ashore when the winds are steady, rolling into massive piles along the littoral zone, crucial for the ecology of barrier islands. Is it coincidence or by grand design that it is washing ashore during a super moon, when the highest of tides will push it further up onto the beach, trapping the sand with it to build up our dunes? Here in FL, there is a strong conservation not to clean this up as other states do for the benefit of tourism. A mistake. Some folks see this as an annoyance, their tender virgin feet having to touch it on their way to the water.

But Sargassum serves such an important role in the nurturing of juvenile species of marine life, some who will spend their entire lifecycle within the floating mass known as the Sargassum Sea. Sargassum is one of my favorite seaweeds in the class Phaeophyceae. In fact, my upcoming novel, Silversides, has most of the characters named after a class of macroalgae: Phaedra, Rhodes, Kora, Cody and my protagonist, Nori. Kulcin (main antagonist) on the other hand comes from a previous work, From Europa With Love, and what an antagonist he is. Of all the characters, he refuses to let me write his dialogue. Stuborn….

 

Writers are taught, “Write about what you know.”  But Sargassum?  It does not always need to be a subject matter that you are an expert in.  What it does require is for you to connect with your story in terms that you are an expert in.  In my case, once I named my characters after classes of seaweed, I was able to connect with those characters like never before and my story came to life.

“Cover” makes it into Wattpad’s #1 WattZine!

I was very pleased to see my Sci-Fi short (Cover) make it into Wattpad’s  #1 and longest running WattZine:  Tevun-Krus #49 – Best of 2K17

For the full list of Sci-Fi shorts, click here.

Wattpad has been such a great platform for me, as a writer, to test the waters (no pun intended) with short stories and plots to see how they are received.  In fact, the success of both  novellas, November Seed, and From Europa With Love started as a short story entries in a SciFi writing contests.

Wattpad is such a great place for readers to get early access to drafts of some great stories being written that move on to become great novels.  It is such a great platform for writers to connect with readers , readers to connect with writers, writers to connect with other writers and readers to connect with other readers… there… I think  I covered it all.

Thanks Wattpad, Thanks Team Ooorah.  Thanks Tevun Krus,  and to all the readers out there. see you in TK:50!