Into A World Unknown: Episode 1, part 1

As you enter the home of your grandfather, the cold hard lump in your chest grows heavier. How long had it been? 4 years?

He was a very secretive man and would often sneak off, but he always came back. A Key had come to you in a small white box with a note; your name written on it in his usual scrawl. The key, heavy in your hand, feels like your last chance to get to know the man who always had a wild tale to tell. He always claimed them absolute truth despite no one ever believing him. You hadn’t seen him in so long, to only find out now that he was missing…you guess people just figured he would come back. But hope was lost at this point.

You follow the instructions on the note to the wall at the end of the upstairs hallway, and stare wondering. The wall is bare apart from a photo depicting your grandfather and the grandmother you never met. You remove the photo and sure enough there’s a key hole in the wall. Sliding the key in and turning it slowly, there’s a click and a pop. The wall swings towards you and behind it, a small room with a cardboard box labeled “records”.

Upon opening the box you realize it’s filled with small containers, each container with a label and a few video chips. You close up the box and rush home with it. Back in your apartment you don’t have to worry about any interruptions. You pick randomly and pull out the container that says “The Beginning”.

Plugging the chip into the console causes the light screen to whirr to life and you see your grandfather, but he’s maybe 50 years younger. He’s with two other people, one of which is your grandmother. Your grandfather fiddles with the camera a bit and then points it directly at his face:

“Hello hello! This is Adventure Crew Extraordinaires and we’ve just found this weird stone statue in the middle of Cold Brook Forest.”

He points the camera towards the statue. A large cold grey robed figure stands as tall as the trees, the face is feminine and has a blank stare as she looms over those below her. Two arms seem to grow from her back and hold the robes shut. She is surrounded by autumnal birches, the ground littered with leaves and underbrush. The sun streams warm light down on the scene, giving it that eerie beauty you often experience when looking at statues in gardens. He turns the camera back to his face.

“We have no idea what it is or who made it but we’re gonna get a little closer and see if there are any engravings. Hey Holly, try to look out for traps, hunters come through here a lot!”

A female voice replies “Yeah I got it Jack!”

He points the camera towards the girl you recognize as your grandmother as she approaches the statue.

“That’s Holly, by the way, in case you didn’t know. I’m Jack, and over there is Gunderson, he’s kinda quiet.”

The larger man grunts and follows Holly. Jack begins following them and quickly they’re all standing before the hulking mass of stone. Suddenly jack points the camera down at his feet and bends down, brushing away the leaves. Beneath is a stone about the size of his palm, and it shines like opal on one side. A strange cracking noise sounds from above and they all move away quickly, fearing a piece of the statue may be falling.

Before them, the statue begins to move; the fingers curl around the edge of the cloak which suddenly moves as though made of fabric and pulls apart. Inside is a void-like darkness and a strange oval shaped door.

Holly is the first to speak, “Are you all seeing this or am I trippin?”

“No Holly I’m pretty sure we’re all seeing it and unless you spiked our water I don’t think so.”

Gunderson says nothing.

The trio falls silent for a few minutes and Jack cautiously approaches the statue again. The camera points down at the rock in his hand and then back up at the strange door in front of him. There’s no apparent way of opening said door, but Jack is quick to notice the impression in the door is shaped oddly like the rock in his hand. He inches closer and stretches out his arm, placing the rock inside its hole with a click, and the door swings open.

Inside the door is what looks like a wall of iridescent purple liquid. Jack slowly sticks his hand in but then pulls back quickly as if burned, but he laughs.

“Oh that is so weird…Holly! You gotta feel this!”

He points the camera at her as she runs up to him. Stupid kids, You think with a smile. She too sticks her hand in, but she doesn’t retract it nearly as quickly as Jack did. And you nearly feel your heart stop as she jumps through the door. Jack follows and the video becomes static for a moment before showing a truly strange sight. Jack and Holly, Gunderson trailing behind, are inside a giant domed room filled with doors of iridescent purple liquid. The room is round with three semi-circle alcoves, the group stands in one with another across the room. The last alcove is across from the hallway leading out.

The walls are a light grey and the ceiling is white. In the center of the dome is a shape like a four petal flower, which raises up into another dome, but made of glass. So many different creatures walk the floor here it’s hard to keep your eye focused on any one for more than a second. So many colors and such odd anatomy…. you’re pretty sure you just saw moth man drinking bubble tea.

The group scans the area several times, just standing and looking around, when one of the other beings seems to notice them. It makes its way over and begins speaking…..in English.

“Hello, is this your first time visiting Hub-A?”

In the most weirdly calm voice Jack is the first to speak: “What are you? And…where is this?”

“Ah, first timers…” he rubs his hands together and fidgets nervously, looking around the room before turning back to them with an exasperated sigh, “Oh where is Damien when you need him!” The being clears its throat and smiles, “My name is Welkins. You are currently standing in Hub-A, it’s a place where connections to certain other worlds and dimensions are strongest. I am Human, I am one of the many races you will soon come to discover.“

You pause the video and stare at the strange creature. How could this thing be human? Genetic alterations maybe. But if it was human, why didn’t it recognize that they were too? You stare at the screen and take in the being’s appearance. Its nose is so flat it practically blends in with the face, but the color running down it and the two nostrils give it away. Speaking of color, this person is powder pink all over, with the exception of its nose which has a streak of white running down it. its eyebrows are clearly applied with makeup; they simply do not look real. Its ears are like a cat’s, but instead of sticking up out of its head, they stick outwards from the sides. Its hair and eyes are the only familiar things about it; black hair held back in a bun and deep, chocolatey brown eyes. You absentmindedly admit to yourself this being is beautiful, then you hit play again.

“You are on the planet known most commonly as ‘The Crossroads World’ due to our strange situation. There is an information center this way, someone there will be better suited to help you find your way around during your visit.”

Welkins begins walking away and the group follows slowly, but it’s not long before Jack pipes up again.

“So uh, where’d you get your mods? They’re pretty intense.”

Welkins casts a glance over its shoulder, “Mods?”

“You know…Genetic modification? How else can you look like that and be human.”

You smile, seeing your grandfather was smart enough to ask that question.

“Ah, have you met others of my kind? Did they not explain it? Humans are something called ‘True Shapeshifters’, most humans don’t look alike because we can so easily alter our form. Granted this is my true form, most humans technically look this way though with variation.”

The look the being gets on its face tells you Jack is also making a face.

“I’m sorry, you can’t expect me to believe that. I mean, we’re human! And we’re not shapeshifters and that’s certainly not what we look like naturally. I mean you do speak English so that’s something. But seriously what is going on here? Is this a LARP thing?”

Welkins looks stunned and says nothing except a quiet “follow me” before turning and hurrying its pace. You think it’s a he actually, biologically, based on the voice, but you’re sure as hell not going to make assumptions.

It only takes a few moments before they reach a room filled with what looks like holograms, there are more beings here, of all shapes and sizes. The information center is the same coloration as the rest of this place; it even has domes to allow light to filter in like the main portal chamber. But the walls are lined with inset screens that depict strange landscapes, some more familiar looking than others. Each screen has a hologram next to it which will occasionally change to take on another being’s shape. As the camera scans the room you notice some of the beings in there are the same ones that the holograms portray. One particular massive and beastly looking being catches your attention and you pause. It looks like some sort of massive beetle…taur? It has a humanoid torso and the body of beetle beneath, but it is entirely plated and even has big bug eyes. Resuming the video shows Welkins walks right up to this very tall…man?… who seems to be exhaling bright blue smoke. He has to have at least 10 eyes on his face and based on Welkins you’d say this guy has got to be over 7 feet tall. He’s not as colorful as Welkins, being a rather bland tan color, but his eyes look like swirling galaxies of deep indigo blue. A single large and thick braid runs down the center of his head and hangs all the way past his hip. He’s wearing robes of some sort, a mix of blues and whites, delicate gold embroidered images of strange fish dance across the fabrics. They talk for a moment in a language you manage to recognize as French and then both turn to look at your grandfather’s group. Welkins quickly excuses himself making little eye contact with the group. The taller one walks towards jack who obviously has to crane his neck to look up at this guy.

“I am Damien Dorosov. Welkins has told me you claim to be humans who do not shapeshift.” His voice is soothing, a beautiful French accent with undertones of yet to be revealed wisdom.

“You gonna tell us our entire civilization is lying?” Holly pipes up, sounding incredulous.

“No, of course not. I’m not here to tell you what you know, I’m here to tell you what I know. There is a high possibility you are from what we call an ‘alternate dimension’. So far we are only aware of three, but no one would be surprised to know there is another. Though the idea that there are other versions of humans is fascinating. Andula will most certainly want to hear about this. But that can wait. I will answer as many of your questions as I am able. You have full access to this hall like anyone else. The holograms will tell you about the different worlds and dimensions this Hub has access to.”

At this point Jack makes no sound, but the camera shuts off. You sit and stare unbelieving at the screen, but then quickly scramble to find the tiny box labeled “The Beginning” and pull out the chip labeled ‘2’.

I Painted with Pastels???

I wanted to share this because it was fun and I am definitely going to be playing with this medium again. So for those who can’t tell how I did this SURPRISE its soft pastels! What I did was I found something with an edge and scraped it against my pastels to make little piles of powder. Then with a small paint brush I began applying it to my paper which i had sketched on with a light colored pencil. Once I was happy with the color I inked over it with a fine tip marker and in the end decided to give her that strange design on her head. I used a gold pen for the shiny details and a white gel pen as well.

Usually I’m not one to experiment in different mediums a lot but I saw someone do this for a sculpture and i thought, boy I bet that would look interesting on paper. So i gave it a shot and I loved it. I suggest anyone curious definitely give it a try, my piece here is small and not perfect, but I’m sure with more practice there are really cool things that can be done with this 🙂

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A Wall of Questions for the Aspiring World Builder

I find myself constantly trying to build up my repertoire of resources when I am working on worldbuilding. Especially with fleshing out my races. And I thought to myself this morning as I stumbled about my morning routine “Why is it so hard to think of things to write down for a race?” And my answer to that question was because I simply didn’t seem to be able to think of all the good questions in the moment of working on it.

So what I did was I went through a bunch of recent notes on races and noticed all the things i put down and turned them into questions. And from there more questions were created. So i figured i would share this resource in case there is some other writer in need of some guidance.Which, there usually is.

Are they nomadic or do they live in one place? Do they live solitary? In pairs? Or large groups? How big are their homes and what do they look like? What is considered to be a family in this culture? What kind of zones do they like to live in (temperate, tropical, etc.)? Do they build cities? Above ground or below?

  • ???

What kinds of friendly social activities do they partake of? What is there to do around town? Where does everybody hang out? Are they a social race at all or do they keep to themselves? Are there any race specific hobbies or jobs? Are they famous for a certain creation (game, object, holiday, etc.)?

  • ???

Who’s the head honcho? Government, president, monarchy, council? Nothing of the sort? What kind of hierarchy is there? Does it exist at every level of society? Does the hierarchy upset people or is it mostly accepted?

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Are they religion or science based? Or a mix of both? How many gods are there? Is there more than one religion? Practices, beliefs, taboos, superstition, and rituals? How strongly do people believe in and stick to their religion? Do the religious and scientific minds get along or is there conflict? Are there any religions you’re not allowed to practice? Are there any holidays/big special gatherings?

  • ???

Who raises the young? Is it live birth or the laying of eggs? Do the children go through schooling, if so what kind? Does the “mother” change in any way during pregnancy/after laying/ even once the young ones are walking around? Are certain parents meant to do certain things for the child? How many parents can a child have in this society? Is there a specific time/day/season for mating or is it year round? Which sex produces the eggs and which one fertilizes them? How are the children fed in early stages vs later stages?

  • ???

What sexes or genders are there? How do the different sexes interact? What kind of roles do the different sexes or genders hold in society? How do people of the same sex interact? Does gender change how you might interact with someone? What is considered more important/important to know: someone’s sex or someone’s gender? How do the different sexes behave differently from each other if at all?

  • ???

What do they consider to be romantic and non romantic? What kinds of relationships are there? How many partners/lovers is it common to have? Is the person they have children with the same person they spend the rest of their life with? Do they even have life long partnership? Are there any relationship taboos? Are there any sexual taboos? Are there any sex or romance rituals these people go through before they assume “lover” status with each other?

  • ???

Do they communicate in any kind of special way with each other? Do they have a special way of communicating with other races? Are there any genetic differences between people (men are bigger, some people have blue  eyes and some have brown, etc.)? Do certain weather conditions affect people? Are they night people or day people? Carnivore, herbivore, omnivore, fruitivore, insectivore, vampiric? What senses are essential to these people? What senses are lacking or missing entirely? What kind of diversity is there if any? Different cultures within the race itself? How do they tell each other apart (the sexes, the cultures, the religions, etc.)?

  • ???

Are these people naturally more violent or more friendly? How do they interact with each other vs outsiders? Are there any groups that are treated differently than everyone else? Are they territorial or do they share they space with other creatures/races? Are there any creatures they live alongside symbiotically? How do they handle threats? Are there any groups or races they simply can’t get along with?

  • ???

have Courage, Respect who you Used to be

I recently saw someone mention on Facebook that a certain character from the new Mass Effect game is trans. And when I clicked the link to twitter I saw many comments about how unrealistic it was for a trans person to admit to being trans and even sharing their birth name.

I feel very differently about this because I believe there can be a world where trans people do not feel uncomfortable with their past. Where they are encouraged to explore who they were, to better respect that person, and fully accept that that person isn’t bad or wrong. They were true as they could be and then one day something changed and they became a different person.

Our past selves are the people who had to learn the important lessons so we could become the people we are now. It doesn’t matter what kind of lesson it is, it will change you in some way.

I encourage people to teach this to anyone who will listen, trans or not: telling someone who you used to be does not disempower you. It shows that you have belief and courage in who you are now.

I am naïve. But I have hope that one day people will strive, not to be better than each other, but to better each other.

Cooking Without Anxiety

Something I’ve recently discovered is the freeing and fun feeling of throwing together a dish without much thought. What do you feel like having? What do you happen to have? Granted a basic knowledge of what would taste good with what (as well as many moments of finding things that don’t work) is pretty handy. I used to find myself getting stressed over making meals, following the recipe, doing everything just so. Now i just do whatever comes to mind and i do it in whatever way feels comfortable and appropriate.

These tend to be really simple dishes, but anything that tastes good and cuts down on my stress is awesome. Pictured below are a breakfast, two dinners, and a lunch. The breakfast dish is cubed ham, green pepper, and red onion stir fried and then tossed into some left over pasta. I topped it with shredded cheddar cheese and too over easy fried eggs. The first dinner is ground hamburger in beef gravy over jasmine rice, topped with roasted asparagus. The second is brussel sprouts and spaghetti noodles covered in a mushroom sauce. And lastly the lunch was ramen noodles (seasoning packet discarded) stir fried with onion, pepper, broccoli, and corn and seasoned with sesame oil, soy sauce, and ground ginger.

As someone who gets stressed way to easily (due to anxiety) i highly suggest anyone else who enjoys cooking, but gets unwanted stress in the kitchen, should try this out. It may seem innocuous, but it’s really helped to brighten my days. Not only is it almost immediately rewarding but it also keeps me busy for a bit, which distracts me from unwanted thoughts. Even if you haven’t cooked much before, try it, start small and work your way up, i really think this is something that can be of benefit to anyone who is similar to me.