#31AmazingDays : Week 3 Roundup

Well, this week was busy, all right. It was so busy, in fact, that I got behind on my daily Twitter posts twice and had to play catch-up. There were plenty of amazing things that happened, though, and I’m happy to share them all here.

Day 16 was EPIC. I went to a special Toastmasters meeting where lunch was served in honor of Bosses’ Day, and then I went to church to participate in formal training to be a chalice-bearer, for the first time. I get the privilege of doing it this coming Sunday, October 28. I’m a little nervous, but I think I can do it. Just like in marching band, the most important thing is to maintain your composure and your professional demeanor, so that you always look like you know exactly what you’re doing.

It was the next part of the day that was truly awesome, though. I went to visit Edwina Nolan (a deacon at our church; name has been changed because she’s fairly well-known in town) to help do tech support for her iPad. She has a Mac desktop in her house, but it’s school district property and she’s retiring this year, so they’re going to take it away at the end of December, so she needed me to help her figure out how to transfer all her documents and contacts onto the iPad she’d just bought to replace it. I had never even had the opportunity to play with an iPad before, but I was familiar with the basic principles on which all Apple software operates, because I used to use that same kind of Mac desktop at a computer lab at UCSB, and because I have iTunes on my PC and used to have an iPod nano. Using a combination of that background knowledge, my general background knowledge of personal computer technology, reading the manual, reading the “For Dummies” book Edwina had, and some Google-Fu, I figured out how to get her e-mail contacts onto the iPad, and how to transfer documents. She said the people at the Apple Store had told her that her email contacts would show up automatically on the iPad, and didn’t understand why they weren’t; I figured out that it was because she had been using a third-party email client, not the native one that comes with the Mac OS. I had to export the contacts from that client (Microsoft Entourage) as a text file, then import them into the native Mac Address Book, then check all the settings in iTunes, then press Sync. She was delighted when her contacts showed up on the iPad. 🙂 I also found the way to transfer documents using iTunes. It’s a very tedious, multi-step process in iTunes, but I carefully documented it all for Edwina, and we got some of her documents onto the iPad. She was extremely grateful for all my help, and took me out to a really nice dinner at a local restaurant called Crave. I said I would like to come back sometime before the end of December to get iCloud working for her, and she said that would be fine. I’m really proud of the tech work I did last Tuesday. I solved the problems, accomplished the user’s most important goals, and learned some things myself.

Day 17 was fairly stressful for me at work, although it was productive. In the evening, I finally got all the stress that comes with my new job off my chest by talking to Ernesto after our Via Media class. He was very loving and supportive. It really is such a blessing to have someone here who supports me.

On Day 18, things went much better at work, but the best part was when I got home. During this past week, my apartment complex had had Cox Communications technicians come out to upgrade all the cable wiring in all the apartments, so that there would be functioning cable outlets in all the bedrooms, not just in the living room. On the evening of the 18th, after EfM, I came home to discover that not only were there shiny new cable jacks in both of the bedrooms, but the cable guys had also rewired my living room so that there was a functional cable jack on the right-hand side of the sliding door to the patio – the side where I had decided to put my TV. When I had first moved into the apartment, the only functional cable jack in the room had been on the left side of the sliding door, forcing the tech who installed my table to drape a long length of black coaxial cable over the bracket that holds up the blinds on the sliding door. Evidently, the cable guys who had come to do the upgrade had decided to fix that and put a cable jack on the same side of the room as the TV, so the room wouldn’t have to have the cable above the door.  The former cable jack on the left side of the room is now covered up with a plain, plastic socket cover. They didn’t have to do that, but they did, which really made me smile.

On Day 19, I received a compliment from a coworker on how helpful I was with troubleshooting. In the room where I work, there are several different teams that troubleshoot various kinds of problems, and we often have to work together to isolate and classify a particular problem. On Friday, I helped out one of the software application support teams twice, and was thanked for all my help.

After work, I went to the annual Trivia Night and Basket Raffle at my church. The questions were about pop culture, history, advertising slogans, and sports. It was the sports and history questions that really got us. Even though I was on a team with Ernesto, Susan, their friend Verlyn, and a couple of other people who I didn’t know, we didn’t win any prizes for trivia. However, I did win two of the baskets that were raffled off. One of them was filled with tea, shortbread cookies, a cute throw blanket, and a selection of books. The other contained two hand-knitted pot holders, a bag of sugar, a bag of chocolate chips, a whole bunch of baking spices, and  a plastic container of homemade chocolate chips. This was the basket I had really wanted, so I was really excited to win it. Before Friday, I hadn’t had any spices in the house at all except for salt and pepper shakers, Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, and the ones Ernesto gave me as a housewarming present. Now, I have all the spices I need for my holiday baking. 🙂

Day 20 was a quiet, pleasant Saturday at work. I got caught up on email, got some required online training done, and learned more about how to do my job and what is expected of me. Then I came home and did some voice-acting work, including finally making a new set of sample recordings to give out to prospective clients on Fiverr. My old sample recordings no longer reflect my product accurately, because they were recorded in completely different rooms with completely different acoustics than my current office. Now, I have sample recordings that I can distribute with pride and confidence.

Day 21 was awesome. I started my day by going to what was, sadly, the last farmer’s market of the year. There won’t be any more until April or May of next year. I bought most of the ingredients I needed for the chili I plan on making tomorrow morning. Then I went to church, where I learned that we are putting on  Trunk or Treat event for Halloween. (For those who don’t know: We’re all driving to church, parking in the parking lot as a group, and distributing candy to kids out of our car trunks.) I was excited about this, and since it was a beautiful, sunny day and I had tons of energy, I decided to go out and get ready. I decided that if I was going to buy Halloween candy and costumes, I was going to support locally-owned, independent businesses when I did, so I went to Mangelsen’s for candy, pumpkin-carving tools, a decorative garland for my door, and a candy bowl, then bought a pumpkin from a farmer’s stand in their parking lot, then went to a local Goodwill store, and then to Fairytail Costumes, where I found a good vest, sash, and pants to improve on my pirate costume from Talk Like a Pirate Day. Then I sat at Starbucks and did some reading for EfM, and then I went to the grocery store, where I got regular groceries, the rest of the stuff for my chili, and a second pumpkin (one will go on my balcony, the other outside my door). That was a really fun day.

Today, Day 22, has been pretty low-key so far. When I got home last night and looked at my receipt from the Goodwill store, I realized that I had bought two shirts, but they had only rung up one of them. So I went back to the store and explained what had happened, and that I wanted to pay for the second shirt. At first the cashier said I didn’t have to worry about it, but I said something like, “Are you sure?”, and she agreed to accept the $3.85 for the second shirt, but also give me a $5 Goodwill gift certificate. Wow! I wasn’t expecting a reward like that. 🙂

Next week’s update will not be the last. I will continue to write weekly updates about what’s going on in my life on this blog, although I will stop counting the days, like I have been.

October 22, 2012 at 1:28 pm 1 comment

#31AmazingDays : Week 2 Roundup

Wow, is this challenge half-over already? Here’s the roundup of the amazing things I did during the second week of the 31 Amazing Days Challenge. (And yes, I will be posting one of these posts every Monday for the remainder of October.)

On Day 9, I attended my second Toastmasters meeting since I moved, and officially committed to joining my local club. I also invented my own main dish for dinner: broccoli trees wrapped in bacon and sprinkled with the sandwich spice mix from Penzey’s Spices, a local business just up the street from me. This was my first time using the spices that my godfather had given me as a housewarming present. My creation was pretty tasty. 🙂

On Day 10, I used my new health insurance card for the very first time, to get a company-provided flu shot at an on-site clinic set up in one of our meeting rooms. I also put up my scarecrow decoration on the door of my apartment, adding a touch of autumn cheer, and I spent part of the day relaxing and reading some good books.

Day 11 was a work day. I beat my previous personal best for the number of productive tasks completed in a single workday, for the third time this month. I also donated money to a friend in need. (I won’t give any more details, because I said I wanted to be anonymous.)

On Day 12, I took my problem-solving and troubleshooting at work to a new level of effort. I also went into my Mint.com account and updated my monthly budget information, which I had originally put in about a year ago. Things have changed a lot since then, of course.

Day 13 was a Saturday at work, and I got the opportunity to learn not just one, but two new skills from one of my coworkers. I also collaborated with two coworkers to troubleshoot a particular problem, an experience which is now officially my first funny tech support story. The guy we were talking to over the phone was from a location where they were working on their internal network, and they had decided to plug one of their end devices directly into our router, so it would still be on the network. With a regular straight-through cable. My colleague, Patrick, and I both knew perfectly well that that was not going to work; it will work if you use a crossover cable, or if you do the normal thing and put a switch in between the two. I politely suggested that the client do the latter, and he did, and it worked. I maintained a professional demeanor until after I got off the phone, but it was funny.

The other cool thing I did on Day 13 (Saturday) was transfer Kindle books checked out from the Omaha Public Library onto my phone for the first time. That was really, really cool. I’m grateful that my library provides this service. You check it out through the library’s Web site, and get the book through your Amazon.com account. The book file stays on your Kindle or device with a Kindle application on it (in my case, my new phone) for 7 or 14 days, depending on what you select (I selected 14), and then automatically disappears from the device.

On Day 14, after church, I felt really energized and wanted to go on an adventure, so I went out and explored a new shopping center, Village Pointe. While I was there, I went to a restaurant for lunch, where ran into my friends the Vann family from church, and we chatted for a bit. In the evening, I took a writing test that required me to write a sample article of at least 200 words on my choice of ten different topics. I chose the only one I felt I had any kind of expertise on – interviewing for jobs. Today at around noon, I discovered that I had passed and had been awarded the $10 bonus that was promised to everyone who passed. There will be a second round of reviews of the quality of the articles, and those writers who make the cut will be offered the chance to write more articles for more pay in the future.

Once again, today, Day 15, has been amazing so far. I picked up and put away a few things this morning, and completed my paperwork for my new Toastmasters club. Then I went to volunteer at Food Bank for the Heartland, which I do every other Monday. The last two times, I helped pack food in boxes, but this time, I got to do something different. I helped stick labels on plastic bags for the Backpacks Program, and I helped sort food donations into bins. That was, hands down, my favorite volunteer task that I’ve done there so far. I hope I get to do it again next time. While I was there, I also learned that there will be a Chili Cookoff there next weekend. I plan to enter. After that, I went and dropped off my recycling, and then I came here, to my favorite hangout (Jones Brothers Cupcakes) to write this blog entry. This evening, I plan to do some laundry, some recording, and maybe watch some of the special features on the DVD I currently have out from Netflix. I watched the movie, The Italian Job (the original version with Michael Caine) last night.

After two and a half months of living on my own, I think I’m finally starting to find my groove. I’ve finally found the self-motivation to get things done on a daily basis, like managing finances, taking care of my apartment, and working toward personal goals. I think this challenge has really helped me to find and embrace this now state of mind, a state of mind in which fulfilling everyday responsibilities and achieving personal goals feel less like burdens to be avoided and more like opportunities to be enjoyed. I’m pretty happy about this. 🙂

This upcoming week will be the busiest and most exciting week I’ve had since I came here. Check back next Monday for a complete rundown.

October 15, 2012 at 4:37 pm 1 comment

#31AmazingDays : Week 1 Roundup

31 Amazing Days is an event, a challenge, a celebration, and a conversation that’s going on throughout the month of October 2012. The idea is to choose to make every day of the month amazing by doing something awesome each day, no matter how seemingly small that something may be, and to share what you did via Facebook and/or Twitter. To read the official introduction to the challenge and what it entails, go read this blog post.

I didn’t find out about 31 Amazing Days until day 2, when I saw that a good friend of mine had shared the Facebook page for the challenge. When I read about it, I was instantly hooked and signed up right away. As some of you may know, I love getting involved in month-long challenges. (You’re looking at an eight-time National Novel Writing Month participant and five-time winner, who has also at least attempted several Script Frenzies.) This one was just what I needed in my life right now, to get me motivated to accomplish all the things I have the freedom to accomplish now that I have an awesome, career-quality job with an awesome schedule. (Getting ready for this year’s NaNoWriMo is one of those things, as are some other writing, beta-reading, and podcasting projects I’ve been putting off for way too long.)

I’ve been posting my amazing experiences to Twitter almost every day since October 2nd, only having to play catch-up today (October 8th). I’d like to say a little more about what I’ve done for the challenge than will fit in a tweet, though, so I decided to start a weekly series of blog posts about what I did each day. In these posts, I’ll expand on what I said in my daily tweets.

Day 1: I kicked off the month of October with a visit to Vala’s Pumpkin Patch outside of Gretna. (For those readers who may not already know this, on August 1 of this year, I moved from Southern California to Omaha, Nebraska, to work as a network technician.) It was a lot of fun. The other amazing thing I did was finally finish setting up my new desk, which was delivered to my apartment as a box full of parts. I put most of them together myself, but I had to have a friend come over to help me move it into place because it was so heavy.

Day 2 was amazing because I went to pollworker training and learned that I’m really going to enjoy being a pollworker this year. When I went out to pick up my very first pair of prescription glasses, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, and I walked around a nearby park just enjoying the sunshine. After that, I expanded and updated all the descriptive text on all my Fiverr gigs, a project I had been putting off for a while. I was really pleased to get that accomplished.

On Day 3, I broke my previous record for productivity at work (I keep records myself, on a spreadsheet) and attended a meeting of the Young Professionals group of Habitat for Humanity of Omaha. This trend continued on Day 4, when I beat the record I’d set the previous day (only by 1 point, but hey) and also came to this realization: I started out knowing basically nothing about computer networking, and look at all the new things I’ve learned since then. Learning more new things on top of those can’t be that much more difficult. I can totally do this.

On Day 5, I met my new seatmates at work and used them as a resource to solve a problem I had. Also, I transferred my Kindle books from my old phone to my new one.

Day 6 saw the first major network outage I had experienced since I assumed my regular job duties, which was three weeks ago now. I’m on the team that deals with those, figuring out what’s wrong, setting the repair process in motion, and doing damage control. I contributed to the second and third tasks on those lists, handling most of the second one myself (with help from a coworker), and I’m pretty dang proud of the fact that I contributed all that and didn’t freak out about what was going on.

On Day 7, after celebrating a lovely Feast of St. Francis with an impressive turnout of family dogs (plus two cats and a small mammal of some kind in a cage), I went to another, much bigger and better corn maze with some friends. I also experienced my very first game of laser tag. It was very short, only 10 minutes, but I’m glad it didn’t go on any longer, because the tagger was heavy and I was getting tired of carrying it.

Day 8 has already been pretty amazing. I finally started really getting into my Education for Ministry curriculum again, and getting excited about it. I also supported my local independent bookstore (always something to be proud of) by buying three books: Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin, Lucid by Adrienne Stoltz and Ron Bass, and Son by Lois Lowry. I’m finding that my old love of and excitement about reading is resurfacing now that I have more leisure time and fewer worries about my future and my own situation. I’m also finally getting excited about being in Education for Ministry, after I sat down this afternoon and really studied this week’s chapter, something I haven’t done in far too long.

This challenge has been really good for me so far. One of the reasons I love month-long challenges so much is that they offer me accountability for what I do. Having this goal and expectation that I will find something amazing about every single day is really making my outlook on life more positive. I’ll see you again next week (most likely next Sunday) with more updates on how things are going!

October 8, 2012 at 2:23 pm 1 comment

An Appeal: Please Support My Trip to the 3rd Deadpan MMMMMeetup

What is a Deadpan MMMMMeetup?

A Deadpan MMMMMeetup is a weekend when the most dedicated fans of Jack Mangan’s Deadpan Podcast get together to spend quality time together in person. We record podcast episodes, we go to restaurants, we hang out with each other and other cool and creative people, and we go sightseeing in Central Arizona.

The weekend of May 4-6, 2012, will be the third time we’ve all gotten together. This one will be even better than the previous two because, for the first time ever, our international members from both the UK and Canada will be in attendance.
At the beginning of January of this year, I lost my main job. I’ve been trying to get by with my part-time job, Fiverr, oDesk, and Amazon Mechanical Turk, but it’s a constant struggle to get enough work to make any money. My Deadpan friends are important to me, and I haven’t seen them in person since 2010. I really want to go to the upcoming Deadpan MMMMMeetup, but if I want to go, I have to turn to my friends, and their friends, and their friends.
Your money will go toward airfare between Ontario International Airport in Southern California and Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, Arizona, and meals while I’m there. More importantly, it will support a meaningful, in-person friendship, something some say is going extinct in this virtual world. Save the real friendships. Support my trip to the 3rd Deadpan MMMMMeetup.
(And no, that’s not a typo. It’s an inside joke among this group of friends.)

Click here to go to my ChipIn page and pay with PayPal.

Or, if you want to hire me for voice acting, proofreading, or rewriting (not original writing, just rewriting), visit my Fiverr page.

April 4, 2012 at 8:47 am Leave a comment

The Transmuted: Day 11’s Writing

[Sorry – had too many other things to do today]

“I see,” said Enrico. “So all we have to do is find the homes or shops that bear these crests or symbols and deliver the letters there.”

“Precisely,” said Lorenzo.  “There’s a set route in which we usually visit the houses when we’re delivering letters within the city.  We usually start with Birmingham Manor and then travel around the city from west to east.  Are you ready for your first task?”

“I believe so,” said Enrico.

“The carts are designed to be pushed by both of you, working together,” said Lorenzo.  “Good luck.”

August 11, 2011 at 9:55 pm Leave a comment

The Transmuted: Day 10’s Writing

“You… are you mad?” Lorenzo asked.

“No, good sir, I simply care that much for him,” answered Richard.

“I look forward to getting to know you better. You are willing to work, though, correct?”

“From what I can gather, I don’t have a choice. It’s part of the spell.”

“So it is. I’ve seen transmuted attempt to shirk. They cannot. The spell simply forces them to work against their will. Some of them despise the tasks they are set at so much that they feel they simply must scream, even though they have no mouths. Unfortunately, that means that the rest of us have to hear them screaming in our own minds. It’s not pleasant.”

“I see. In any case, yes, of course I’m willing to work. Even if I did have a choice, I would still do it willingly.”

“Very well. That’s quite enough time for chat. Efficiency and hard work are expected of us transmuted, especially in the matter of delivering letters. Come here, and I’ll teach you how it’s done.”

“Are you the director of this operation?” Enrico inquired.

“In a sense,” said Lorenzo. “I’m only six weeks away from the end of my term of sentence, so I’ve been around for a long time by transmuted standards. I often volunteer to show newcomers what their jobs are. Markus knows this and considers me trustworthy to perform that function. Among ourselves, though, we really don’t have anything like a system of superiors and inferiors. We know we’re all criminals sentenced to the same punishment.”

“Oh,” said Enrico.

Lorenzo showed them to one of the handcarts. “These letters are all going to destinations within the city,” he explained. “They have all been sealed by their senders, but as you can see-” he took out one of the letters to show them- “they have all been marked on the other side with the crest or symbol of their intended recipients.”

August 10, 2011 at 9:53 pm 2 comments

The Transmuted: Day 9’s Writing

“Isn’t it,” agreed Lorenzo. “But, from what people who knew me before have told me, when other people hear my voice in their mind, it sounds exactly like my voice did before.”

“Oh,” Enrico thought. “Well, that’s reassuring. Hey, Richard, are you hearing this?”

“No, I’m not. Can you send thoughts to more than one other person at once?”

“Yes, you can,” Lorenzo answered, “but only by consciously willing it. I’m doing it right now, as a demonstration. Hello, new Eighty-nine. I’m Lorenzo, what’s your real name?”

“Richard Pulsipher. Pleased to meet you.”

“Pleased to meet you, too. Aren’t you a native citizen?”

“Yes, actually I am. How can you tell? Do I still have an accent when you hear my voice in your mind?”

“No, you don’t. There are no accents in thought-speech among the transmuted. There are also no differences of language. I’m ‘hearing’ what you’re saying in Kelzian, and, if I’m not mistaken, you must be hearing what I’m saying in the language of $Kingdom.”

“That’s right! I am! Incredible! Have you been hearing my voice in Kelzian all this time, too, Enrico?”

“Yes, I have,” thought Enrico, “even though I know the language of $Kingdom very well.”

“What does my voice sound like?” thought Richard.

“It sounds completely natural.”

“This is how the spell ensures that all the transmuted can work together with no problems,” explained Lorenzo. “Many of us are from Kelzia, but not all of us are. And you, Mr. Pulsipher, how is it that you came to be transmuted? We’ve never had one of your people here before.”

“I know,” said Richard. “I believe I may be the very first of my people to be thus punished. Actually, I chose to bear half of Enrico’s punishment for him, to make it more bearable for him. I’m his friend.”

August 9, 2011 at 9:54 pm Leave a comment

The Transmuted: Day 8’s Writing

They ended up outside the entrance to a circular, freestanding tower with a conical roof. There were rows and rows of small handcarts surrounding it, each one consisting of a basket with a lid that could be tied down.

“This, newcomers, is the message depot,” said Markus. “It’s a good place to get you started. Most of the transmuted spend a lot of their time coming and going from this building. This is where we collect all the letters that people write to each other, sort them, and get them delivered. Every single one of those handcarts there has at least one letter in it. The ones on the east side have just come in from the countryside, and the ones on the west side are going out to various residences. Now, I don’t know where any of these things are going, but I do know that you transmuted people can all hear and talk to each other in your minds when you want to. You’ll have to ask one of the others where to take your handcarts. Follow me.”

Markus strode to the door of the tower and entered. Inside were several more carts and many long tables covered with letters. There were at least a dozen other transmuted people here, shuffling and sorting the letters.

“Oy!” Markus shouted to the room at large. “Hold up for a minute and listen up!”

All the activity in the room stopped immediately.

“These are your new numbers Eighty-eight and Eighty-nine,” said Markus. “This is their first day. Someone put them on a route and get them going. A short one, now. I don’t want them straying too far away.”

One of the transmuted nodded to Markus. He nodded back.

“Very well,” he said. “Twenty-eight here will give you your assignment. Goodbye.” Markus left.

“My name is Lorenzo,” said a disembodied voice in Enrico’s mind. “I’m currently number twenty-eight. Welcome.”

“I’m glad to meet you,” answered Enrico. “This is so strange, not being able to tell who is speaking at first.”

August 8, 2011 at 9:59 pm Leave a comment

The Transmuted: Day 7’s Writing

He and Richard moved down the stairs as quickly as they could. They couldn’t run quite as fast as they could have in their natural forms, but they were standing in front of the doorway in a few moments.

“That’s better,” said the man. “You newcomers, you always act out of turn at first. That won’t last long.”

“What’s he going to do to us to punish us?” Enrico thought. “It’s not like he can take away anything good. We don’t have anything good.”

“He can give us extra work, I suppose,” thought Richard.

“That’s true.”

“My name is Markus,” said the man in the doorway. “I am the Taskmaster for the Transmuted. As long as you are here, every time you get your marching orders, they will be coming from me. I’m told you’re only here for six months, and that you, Eighty-nine, are actually a native-born citizen and not a spell-dodger at all. I hope neither of you think that the amount of work you do is going to be any less than anyone else does just because your circumstances are different, though. It won’t be. You’re just more workers to me. In fact, I have your first assignment for you right now. Follow me.”

Enrico and Richard followed Markus out of the stable and across the castle grounds. This was the first time either of them had seen what was inside the castle walls, and they couldn’t help looking around at the strange, new sight. The entire place bustled with activity, with natural humans and transmuted ones alike attending to their various chores.

August 7, 2011 at 9:44 pm Leave a comment

The Transmuted: Day 6’s Writing

This new information only made the experience Enrico had just gone through harder to comprehend.  He sat down on the floor in the middle of the central corridor of the stable and put his head in his hands.  Richard sat right next to him, watching to see whether the other man would welcome an arm placed around his shoulders.

Enrico wanted to cry, but realized that this was now impossible, which only upset him more.  Sitting down with his legs straight out in front of him, he took stock of what he had just become.

He had seen the transmuted many times before.  They were a fairly common sight around $Kingdom.  Many people from many different lands chose to come and live there, but some of them chose to do so in secret, avoiding the test of character and loyalty that had been in place there since the days of the current king’s grandfather.  As for those who were caught doing so, as Enrico had been, this was what happened to them.

What made this transformed state a punishment was the fact that those who were in it were, in many ways, less than human.  Their forms were similar to those they had in their natural human state- they still had two legs, two arms, a trunk, and a head- but their transmuted forms were more regular and measured than their natural forms.  Their limbs were flat, sturdy brass bars, the trunk was a hollow rectangular box, and the head was perfectly spherical.  All their joints were exposed and visible- ball-and-socket joints at the hips and shoulders, hinge joints at the knees, and an intricate sort of hybrid joint at the elbows, so that the mechanics of moving about were not very different from what they had been before the transmutation.

The hollow trunk had doors in the front and back sides, and the lower halves of their legs had spoked iron wheels and support struts built into them.  The transmuted could kneel down, connect the support struts to the sides of the trunk, and travel on wheels instead of walking, carrying goods, and sometimes letters, within their hollow bodies.  They often worked in teams to carry goods in large quantities. Since they were a little under four feet tall when standing, they always had to look up at the people they served, and this was even more true when they were on wheels.

Enrico lost himself in a dark cloud of horror, pondering all this.  He didn’t know how long he sat there before he remembered that Richard was there, too.

“Richard,” he thought.

“Yes,” Richard replied.  “I’m here.”

“I don’t understand.”


“Anything.  How I can be alive and yet not alive.  How you can be here with me.  How we are to live in these forms.”

“I don’t understand it, either.  It is most strange.  Such is magic, though.”


“Haven’t you ever met anyone who was punished with transmutation and then returned to normal?”

“I have.  Those of us who have been through this don’t like to talk about it very much, though.  We’re ashamed of it.”

“Oh.  But after one completes this sentence, one’s life goes back to normal, does it not?”

“Well… mostly.  We do go back to our families and our normal lives, but we bear the shame of having been caught and punished.  You’re not quite the same person after being worked like a horse for a year, either.  It’s hard to recover your confidence, your dignity.  Some people never do.”


“Did you know that would happen to you when you agreed to take the punishment with me, Richard?”

“No.  I didn’t.  I was only thinking of you.  A year is a long time.”

“It is.  I can’t understand that, either.  I only have to be like this for six months, because you took on half my punishment for me.  Such a thing has never been heard of before.  What makes me any better or more deserving than anyone else of my people?”

“I can’t compare you to all the rest of your people.  I hadn’t really gotten to know any of them very well, before you.”

“Most of your people don’t get to know any of my people very well, not even when they are landlord and tenant.”


“Most of them either act as if their tenants aren’t there, or expect them to work as house servants as payment for their room and board.”

“Yes, I know.”

“You were different, though.  Why?”

“I understood that you were working in the fields to earn both your own keep and freedom for your family.  I respected that, and understood that it would just be too much for you to do my work in addition to your own, so I never expected you to.”

“But you didn’t pretend that I wasn’t there, either.  You wanted to know about where I was from, and how I was getting on.  You treated me like a person.”

“You are a person, Enrico, and so are every one of your people.  Don’t ever forget that.  Especially not now.”

Enrico started, suddenly remembering where they were and what had just happened to them.

“What are we doing, talking about all this?” he exclaimed.  “You seem so calm!  Don’t you realize that you’re a magical automaton?  Aren’t you afraid?”

“I am,” answered Richard.  “I’m choosing to think about you and how you feel, to keep my mind off how I feel.”

“But if you’re afraid, then we feel the same way!”

“True.  At least we can be afraid together.”


“I don’t want to go up to my room yet.”

“Neither do I.”

“This strange thought-speech might work through walls, though.”

“Do you want to find out?”

“All right.”

Richard and Enrico climbed the stairs to the third level. Enrico went into room 88, and Richard went into room 89.

“Can you still hear me in your mind, Richard?” Enrico thought.

“I can,” Richard thought back.  “I imagine you can hear me, too.”

“Yes.  It’s not the same as being next to you, though.”

“No.  Let’s go back out onto the walkway.”

The two transmuted men came out of the room and sat next to each other on the walkway.  Richard decided to let his legs dangle over the edge.  After seeing that Richard could do it without losing his balance and falling off the walkway, Enrico followed suit.  He found that sitting this way was much more comfortable than sitting on the floor, as he had been previously.  Transmuted knees were designed to only bend one way, just like natural human knees, so when Enrico had been sitting on the floor with his legs out in front of him, the wheels built into his lower legs had forced his knees to lock into place and his legs to rise up from the floor at an angle, rather than lying flat against it.  His new mechanical hips could accommodate this, but it had nonetheless felt very unnatural.  This felt much better.

Enrico held his left hand out, palm up.  His forearms were made of two separate flat iron bars attached to different parts of the hybrid elbow joint, making this still possible for him.  Richard put his right hand in Enrico’s left.

“How strange!” thought Enrico.  “I can feel the weight of your hand, but not the sensation of our hands touching.”

“I feel no such sensation, either,” thought Richard.  “Let us trade positions, so I may find out whether I feel the same thing.”

They did.  “Indeed,” Richard thought, “it is the same with me.  I feel the weight, but not the sensation.”

Enrico was dismayed to find that even the touch of another was denied to the transmuted, but he did not share this thought with Richard.  He simply kept his hand where it was and took what comfort he could in the presence of another alongside him.  They sat there, not sharing any thoughts with each other, for a long while.

Chapter 2

“Eighty-eight!  Eighty-nine!”

A new, rough-sounding voice was shouting from the entrance to the stable.  Enrico looked down from the third-level walkway and saw a burly man standing in the doorway.

“Is that you two up there?”  The man was now looking right at Enrico and Richard.  “I was told there were new occupants of rooms 88 and 89.  What are you doing?  Get down here this instant!”

“We were just trying to get used to all this!” Enrico thought desperately, before remembering that natural humans couldn’t hear the thoughts of the transmuted.

August 6, 2011 at 9:31 pm Leave a comment

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