Announcement: Las Musas Mentorship Program

I am so incredibly excited to announce that I have been selected for Las Musas mentorship Spring 2020 as a mentee, an Hermana. I’ll be collaborating with my Madrina, Amy Tintera, author of the Reboot and Ruined series. We’ll be working on my current novel in progress, Belina, a young adult sci-fi retelling of the Thumbelina fairytale.

Las Musas is the first collective of Latinx women and nonbinary authors in kidlit writing across middle-grade and young adult. They aim to uplift and support each other’s debut and sophomore novels in children’s literature in the U.S.

The collective consists of Madrinas and Hermanas, mentors and mentees, respectively, that range the Latinx spectrum. They are truly a reflection of the diversity in the Latinx community, and continue to grow.

I’m honored and excited to become a part of this community as a mentee. Congrats to my fellow Hermanas! I can’t wait to see what we all do. Find a full list of Hermanas here.

Learn more about Las Musas.

Unexpected Company

Toyota pickup truck (Image by Nick Magwood from Pixabay)

I dropped the glass on the ground and watched as the glowing blue liquid oozed off the broken pieces of the slide, toward the toolbox where I’d just stored the jar. My breath caught in my throat as I watched the specimen wiggle its mass between the seal of the toolbox. My hands shook as I reached for the latch to see where it went next.

As I suspected, the blue liquid defied gravity and pushed itself into the seal between the jar and its lid, reuniting with its original contents. Sweat dripped down my forehead as what I’d just witnessed settled in.

I ran for the house calling Sean’s name. My partner came running out of Emily’s room to meet me at the threshold. “Phil, what’s wrong?”

“It’s not safe, Sean. The thing, it just, moved, and it went back to the jar, and—”

“What?”

I gulped in air and caught my breath, steadying my nerves. “I put the jar in a toolbox, and then picked up the sample slide from Em’s desk. Next thing I know, it’s sliding on its own across the glass. I dropped the tablet and it slithered into the toolbox, into the jar with the rest of the stuff.”

“Holy cow.” Emily’s voice was behind them. “That’s so cool.”

I shook my head. “It’s dangerous. I think we need to leave. Get the kids to your mom’s house for the night.”

Dylan came out of his room, rubbing his eyes. “What’s going on?” he yawned.

“Dyl. Get a jacket and grab what you need. You too, Em.” I was on the verge of hysterics. “We’re taking you to Nana’s for the night.”

“Phil, are you sure that’s what you saw?”

“Yes, of course I’m sure.”

“Okay, okay.” He put up placating hands. “We’ll get the kids squared away, come back, and call someone.”

“Call who? The police? The army? National Guard? Who do you call about an alien substance you dug up from an oiling rig and brought home to your kids?”

Before Sean could say one more thing to try to calm me down, there was a knock on the door. We all looked toward the front hallway. None of us were expecting anyone at this time of night.

“Hello?” came a voice from the outside. “Is anyone home? We’re looking for our pet.”

I laughed, relieved. Sean chuckled too and turned on the hall light to go answer the front door.

“Hi, sorry we haven’t—” Sean’s jaw dropped as he opened the door and saw standing before him what looked like humanoid lizards.

I stepped in front of the kids to shield them, but I felt as their hands grabbed my waist to look around me.

“I’m so sorry, I know our appearance must startle, but truly, we mean no harm.” The creature on the left had a feminine voice. “We’re just looking for our pet. Well, part of it, anyway.”

“Uh…looks like oil, turns solid, then glows blue?” Sean asked.

The lizard man on the right nodded its head with excitement. “So you’ve seen it?”

I stepped forward and took a gulp. “I’m sorry, what—” I took a pause to choose my words carefully. Alien or not, I didn’t want to be rude. “Or rather, who are you?”

“Gracious,” laughed the one with a masculine voice. “So rude of us. I’m Hal, and this is my partner, Hedra.”

“Pleased to meet you. We’re not exactly from around here.” Hedra smiled.

“No kidding,” whispered Dylan.

I gave him a sharp look. “Dylan.”

Hal laughed, a sound that sounded like hissing. “It’s quite alright. We’re not human, so we know you’re unaccustomed to our kind.”

“We don’t surface often, and we rarely interact with your species since, well…” Hedra gestured to her and her husband’s faces and bodies. “But in this case, it was an emergency. We lost our dear Iggy.”

“The sludge’s name is Iggy?” laughed Emily.

“It’s not sludge, dear,” said Hedra with amusement. “It’s a sentient being known as a janopy in our world.”

“You said you don’t usually surface. Does that mean your world is underground?” Emily stepped around me now to get a closer look at the lizard people. I tried to pull her back, but she was already standing by Sean’s side. He put out a hand to stop her from stepping outside the house.

“My, you are a clever one.” Hal gave the girl a warm smile. “Yes, we live below the surface, many, many miles. Very close to the Earth’s core, in fact.”

“We like to go camping sometimes up here,” Hedra added. “The drilling your people do for oil makes for easy tunnels for travel.” She gave me a wink.

“Well, we have a jar full of the, I’m sorry, janopy?” Sean asked.

Hedra nodded.

“Yes, it’s in our tool shed.” I stepped forward now, tentative, with Dylan close behind. “I can get it for you.”

“Oh that would be splendid, thank you.” Hal bowed his head with hands pressed together and pointing forward.

I looked to Sean to give him a silent, Stay here with the kids, before heading back out to the shed. I grabbed the jar and found the liquid had paled its blue light and was almost back to the original state we’d found it in.

With the jar in hand, but held out at a safe distance, I walked back to the house and placed it in Hal’s outstretched hand.

“Iggy, you scoundrel,” Hedra cooed. “Where is the rest of you?”

Sean and I looked at one another and started laughing.

“Sorry, folks, your Iggy is far from home,” Sean teased. “But we can take you to it if you’d like.”

I tilted my head. “Sean, the kids—”

“Can come with you,” piped up Emily. “We wanna see the rest of Iggy.”

Dylan nodded in agreement. Sean had that look on his face again, like a kid on Christmas. I rolled my eyes. “Fine, fine. Everyone comes along. But I don’t think we can all fit in the truck.”

“No worries, my good man.” Hal clapped me on the back. His touch was surprisingly warm. “We have our own mode of transportation. You just lead the way.”

I looked around the yard, seeking some vehicle I’d missed before in the dark of the night.

“No, no, darling. It’s us,” laughed Hedra. “We’re the mode of transportation.”

Emily and Dylan were already in the truck and honking the horn.

“Wait, are you saying you run?” Sean’s eyes looked about ready to fall out of his head.

Hal nodded. “Up to sixty miles per hour. These days at least. Not as spry as we once were.”

Hedra smiled. “Yes, when we were younger we could go as fast as one of your steam engines. Now, age has caught up to us.”

“Exactly how old are you?”

“Sean.” My face turned red as a crab.

Hal laughed. “No offense taken, gentlemen. My partner and I here are about two-hundred and fifty years old.”

“About?”

Hedra shrugged. “You lose track of time when you live this long.”

Emily honked the car horn again. “Iggy is waiting. Let’s go.”

Sean held out a hand. “Since you’ll be running, would you like us to hold the jar for you?”

Hedra handed it back to him. “Yes, dear. Thank you so much.”

We got in the car, the engine already running thanks to Dylan, and settled ourselves in for the long ride. It would take at least three hours on the highway to get back to our drill site.

“You think they can keep it up for that long? The running, I mean.” I looked to Sean as he pulled out of the driveway. He gave me the devil’s smile he knew I loved. “Let’s find out.”

This is part 4 of a serialized short story I wrote called “Better Than Fiction.” See the rest below.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

The Voyage

It’s blue in all directions
with a smooth blanket in front
and ahead, and rippling waves
below. Even that line where they
meet is a cloudy blue that wavers
in the light. We sit back on the outer
deck with our feet kicked up on
the railings, not a care in the world.
This vessel is taking us to paradise.

Originally shared here.

Meagan Reads Poetry: Forget Me Nots by Tiffany Manbodh

Forget Me Nots: A Poetry Book by Tiffany Manbodh, Self-Published

Forget Me Nots is a self-published collection of poems by Tiffany Manbodh that explores the journey of finding one’s way back to self after experiencing trauma. Trigger warning: the content of the book references sexual assault and violence.

The book is divided into three sections: “The Great Fall,” “Healing & Restoration,” and “Thriving.” It’s a smart way to help readers identify the journey elements. The poems travel through time as the speaker comes forward about their trauma, learns to heal from those wounds, and eventually gets to a place where they’re no longer just surviving, but thriving.

There are lines and poems that create a cadence with a classic feel to them, like in “Eve in the Garden.”:

“But there is a God who watches over all things/So, come let us make supplication and sing.”

Tiffany Manbodh

Manbodh employs the use of rhyme schemes throughout the pieces to create an approachable structure. The language and rhyming makes this collection a good introduction to poetry for readers who are often intimidated by the genre.

But there are moments where it felt like the confines of the rhyme worked against the poem. Certain poems did not feel fleshed out to their full potential as the poet adhered to keeping the end rhyme scheme in the lines. It would have been nice to see what those poems could become without those restrictions.

One of the most interesting elements Manbodh employs in certain poems is sensuality. In a poem titled “Ice Cream,” the speaker states:

“We shared a cone/Here and there, a sigh and even a moan…”

Tiffany Manbodh

But the poem finishes with the speaker telling the other to go play their fantasies out elsewhere. In a poetry collection that delves into the experience of sexual trauma, pieces like this highlight the importance of both giving consent and taking it away.

Aside from the use of rhyme scheme, Mabodh proves adept at rhythm within the lines. The way the poems read forces the reader to slow down and take in each word as it relates to the next. They flow like song lyrics, creating a melodious feel when you read them.

In the poem “Pressurized,” the speaker makes smart use of metaphor to describe their experiences. The poems opening lines detail exploration of the body and testing boundaries, but not in a sensual way. Instead, it reads more like an allusion to colonization.

Some pieces in this collection read more like a diary entry than a poem, but that isn’t a bad thing. It creates an epistolary style that further invites readers to delve into poetry in an environment that doesn’t seem above their heads. Introspective lines like, “Did he love me somewhere in between?” indicate the speaker’s struggle in a way that will resonate with others who have had similar experiences.

There’s a strong sense of familial and cultural influences on the speaker’s journey to healing. One poem is called, “Guilt and its cousin, Shame.” In another poem the speaker says, “Shame and her cousin doubt paid me a visit.” This comparison of such negative feelings to a family blood tie symbolize the power the speaker’s family has. This is something many survivors contend with when healing, especially those that come from cultures that don’t talk about these things.

The standout poems in the collection are “Craft Group” and “Lavender.” The former paints a picture of a women’s support group that come together to help one another heal through feminine hobbies. It’s a wonderful depiction of the power in the female. “Lavender” creates a lush and relaxing tone that’s appropriate for the subject matter. The languid lines combined with a reverent tone put the feeling of holistic healing into words.

All in all, it’s a promising debut collection of poetry. Manbodh’s use of language and classic poetic devices show she has the potential to only get better and master the craft.

Meagan Reads YA Horror: Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal

I had the opportunity to see Cardinal speak at a panel at the Miami Book Fair in November 2019. The panel had four authors speaking about Caribbean mythology and storytelling. Needless to say, it was an excellent event. I picked up a copy of Five Midnights that day.

Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal, Tor Teen 2019, with the Puerto Rican flag

I will try my best not to include spoilers, but please be wary if you plan on reading this book.

Five Midnights is a young adult horror mystery that follows Lupe Dávila as she spends the summer with her uncle, the chief of police, on the hunt for a killer from legends. Five childhood friends are hunted one by one.

Some believe it is their shady pasts finally catching up to them. Others believe it is El Cuco, a mythical beast of Latinx lore that is used to scare children. But what if El Cuco isn’t a myth? What if he’s real? It’s up to Lupe to find out and save her new friend, Javier Utierre.

What I appreciated the most about this YA novel is the authentic Puerto Rican voice. Coming from a Boricua family myself, I could clearly hear my mother’s and grandmother’s voices within the characters and narration. Cardinal creates that genuine voice by using a lyrical rhythm and cadence reminiscent of the breeze blowing through the trees and music on every street corner.

The island comes alive with Cardinal’s deft descriptions. From the mouthwatering details of alcapurria and chicharrones to the sounds of the busy streets of Old San Juan, all the senses come alive when the characters talk about their love for their culture.

But Cardinal does not shy away from the less shiny neighborhoods that tourists don’t see. She creates a candid picture of the communities broken by gentrification. As tourism pushes the locals out, many kids turn to a life of crime to make ends meet.

The issue of how tourism and outsiders taking over the natives’ island coincides with Lupe’s character growth as she reconciles her two cultures. Her father’s side of the family is Puerto Rican, but her mother is American. She grew up in Vermont in a middle-class family. Throughout the novel she’s blamed as part of the problem by some and classified as a tolerated outsider by others. Lupe is often set on edge when she has to pass the, “How Puerto Rican are you?” test.

Lupe feels belittled when the native-born Puerto Ricans call her Gringa and tell her she’s not really one of them. This is especially irksome as she inherited her mother’s pale complexion and is white passing.

Her anger is understandable, but so is the ire of those who grew up on the island, especially those feeling the push from colonial influences in the poor neighborhoods. Lupe doesn’t fully understand her privilege in comparison. At the same time, islanders like Javier and Marisol don’t understand the life she leads.

Though Lupe comes from a middle-class Vermont household, she lives with an alcoholic father who checked out after her mother left them. At 16 years old, she takes care of herself and watches her father waste away, no longer expecting anything from him. She is lonely and disconnected, as her father is supposed to be the lifeline to her Puerto Rican heritage.

The constant questioning of her true identity is one many kids in her situation understand. Coming from more than one culture, it’s easy to feel lost when one belongs to multiple identities and yet belongs to none of them. Lupe’s character development throughout follows the journey she takes to find her place among the people of the island and the role she plays outside of that identity.

The story’s pacing is excellent, as the pages fly by during action sequences but slow down when the characters stop to reflect on their experiences. The language and syntax create that rhythmic ebb and flow of moving foward and pausing for breath.

Toward the end as the action comes to a climax it feels a bit fast, especially with so many jumps in point-of-view as they battle their enemy. The ending also catches the reader off guard, as it feels abrupt and like there’s a page or two missing for the denouement.

The end of this horror novel highlights the power of belief and myth within a culture. Lupe starts the book as a nonbeliever but by the time the clock runs out to save Javier she’s willing to take a leap of faith.

This is especially interesting as the skeptical side of Lupe coincides with her Americanness. But the willingness to believe in the legends of her father’s culture brings her closer to her Puerto Rican roots. The story’s focus on Latinx mythology brought to mind a discussion at the panel I attended.

Cardinal and the other authors talked about how as time and society progresses, the new generations take a more pragmatic view of the world, deferring to logic, education, and facts.

But the belief in the supernatural is, “just a fingernail scratch away beneath the surface”, as one writer said. Belief and mythology are so intrinsic to these culture, it’s what keeps the new generations connected to their ancestors. It’s a reminder of where they come from.

I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the next in the series, Category Five, coming out June 2, 2020.

Who else read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments and share!

Into the Ancient Past

It’s a million broken stones to see
but we mill our way through, up
and down the halls that hold marble
busts and headless torsos. Though
our feet glide over smooth, clear
Plexiglass our eyes take in the ground
below, into clay and beige dirt with
indiscernable shapes of what was once
either a kiln for fire or designated
chamber pot space. Either way, it’s
safe to say we’ve made upgrades.

Originally shared on my Instagram page here.

The last few weeks have been busy and I’ve been taking travel breaks with friends and family. Plus with the holidays and new year coming, I need some time to regroup and figure out how I’m going to proceed with my blog and website. More updates and upgrades to be made soon, so thanks for sticking with me. Happy holidays and happy new year!

What I Learned From NaNoWriMo

Drafting a plan (Soure: Image by Pexels from Pixabay)

November is known as National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. I’d heard about the event for several years, but there was always something keeping me too busy to participate. This year, as I found myself self-employed, time was abundant. I finally took the plunge and aimed for the 50,000 words to get a book started.

Since I’d never done it before, I had no idea how to prepare. I’ve never been much of a planner or outliner as a writer, but I thought for NaNoWriMo it might be best to go in with a blueprint. For the first time ever, before endeavoring to write, I made notes for a general idea of the novel and created character charts for the most important new players (I decided to write the sequel to my current work in progress).

I planned out chapters, which is the extent of preparation I usually do when writing. I can’t see so far ahead in my story that I know exactly what happens in the middle and how it’s going to end. But if I take it one chapter at a time I don’t feel so overwhelmed.

However, since the goal was to reach approximately 1,667 words per day, outlining chapters didn’t give me enough momentum to work with. Instead, I took some advice from a writing workshop I’d attended led by Janice Hardy. She spoke about scenes, what they were, how they were structured, and how to create one.

Once I broke down the chapters by scene, getting to my daily word count became easier. Then about a week and a half passed and reaching my word count got harder. Not because I didn’t have the outline to guide me, but because I kept lacking the focus and energy.

That’s when I switched to breaking my daily word count goal into smaller hourly goals throughout the day. I still had my freelance writing gig to consider, so trying to hammer out nearly 2,000 words for NaNoWriMo and another 1,000 for each article I wrote for work took its toll.

I started dividing my day by three-hour intervals. In the morning I’d write 600 words and take a break between meals. Then I’d start my writing for work and break for lunch. After that, I wrote another 600 words for my novel and took another break to hydrate or just veg out. I finished my work article and then broke for exercise. When I was done with exercise, I’d write the last 600 words for my NaNoWriMo day and finish with dinner.

This worked for another week and a half, but I found myself losing steam halfway through week three of the writing challenge. I stuttered out at the end, managing about 1,00o words on a good day and 300 on my worst. What happened?

Writing every day. That’s what happened. I wasn’t used to it. When I wrote my last two books, I grew accustomed to mashing out a full 5,000-word chapter over a weekend. But I’d never challenged myself to write every day. I thought, “Oh, I write for a living. How hard can doing it for fun be?” Turns out, incredibly hard.

It starts off easy, the excitement and adrenaline propelling you forward. But much like exercising, the endorphins only motivate you for so long. Working out every day or at least three to four times a week in the beginning is harsh. You start off determined and ready to get fit. It lasts for about a week, maybe two, but soon life makes its presence known and before you know it, you’ve fallen off the wagon and gone back to a sedentary lifestyle.

Writing is similar. During NaNoWriMo I was expected to write every day, so naturally life started getting in the way again. It became harder to make time for it. I still managed to get just over 35,000 words in the end, which for a beginner I think is decent. But now that I’ve done the challenge, I understand what it takes to train for it.

Like a marathon runner, I have to spend at least a few months in advance getting my mind and body used to the idea of every day. Beyond that, I need to learn what works to keep me in the habit, not just make the habit. I’m not sure if I’ll participate in NaNoWriMo again (ask me next year). But I do feel better equipped to handle writing on a daily basis now.

Have any of you participated in NaNoWriMo before? Was this year your first year also? What are your techniques to get through the challenge? Let me know in the comments!

Wanderlust: Otavalo, Ecuador

Simón Bolivar Park in Otavalo, Ecuador, July 2018

After visiting the village of Cahuasqui, my family and I stayed the night in Otavalo, the major city closest to the village. I’d visted Otavalo the last time I went to Ecuador as well, but this was my first time spending the night in a hotel in the area.

We enjoyed the cool summer evening, watching the locals hang around Simón Bolivar Park. Teenagers sat near the statue with their skateboards and a speaker playing music loudly. Mothers pushed strollers along the walking paths. Toddlers ran around the grass, dancing to the music playing from all sides of the park.

My uncle had a toddler of his own that we towed around town, walking down the streets and peeking into the shops. Rows upon rows of clothing and shoe stores abounded the city’s streets. Of course, food was also interspered among the shops. One group of friends stood on the corner eating fully-loaded hot dogs from a vendor as one would do in New York City.

The next day we stuck around long enough to do some shopping at the Plaza de los Ponchos. This colorful display is filled with handmade wears from the locals who sell their trinkets, clothing, and food to visiting city dwellers and tourists. You can test your haggling skills to the max at this flea market that Otavaleños put out every weekend.

It’s always the colors that fascinate me at these markets. I’m in love with the bright and vibrant blends and patterns they use in this community. It’s a beautiful tradition that pays homage to their indigenous roots. I picked up a jacket with a mesmerizing purple and gray pattern made from alpaca wool. It’s my new favorite winter wear. And it was perfect for my trip to the mountains the next day, but that’s a story for the next installment.

The Plaza de Ponchos offers fresh fruit, produce, and snacks to munch on throughout the day. The shortbread cookies from a local baker were my favorite that day.

We also saw performers singing and dancing for tips at a few different stalls. It’s an experience that reminded me how alive the people of my father’s country are. There is joy and celebration in the smallest of moments and in the everyday.

Have any of you visited Otavalo? Do you want to see it after reading this post? Let me know in the comments.

See the rest of my Wanderlust series here.

The Scientific Method

Microscope ( Image by felixioncool from Pixabay )

Sean tilted his head.

“It’s a jar of dirt.” Dylan sounded disappointed.

“That’s not dirt,” Emily added. “I’ve seen dirt. That’s not it.”

Sean and I gave our daughter a questioning look. She shrugged. “I’ve been studying different things with the microscope you bought me last year. Dirt is mostly what I’ve studied since that’s all there is around here.”

We laughed, but held the jar out for the kids to see. “The thing is, sweet pea, this wasn’t solid when we found it and put it in the jar.”

“Yeah, it was liquid. Which is why we thought it was oil.”

“How did it turn hard so fast?” she asked, reaching out a hand to touch the jar.

I pulled it out of her reach before she could even graze it with her fingertips. I shot her a warning look that made her pout. “We don’t know what it is, and now this turn of events is mysterious.”

“Sorry, Em. It’s just not safe.”

“But it’s in a jar.”

“And it seems to have changed within the jar. Who knows what could happen if you touch the container now,” I said.

“You’re touching it,” Dylan pointed out.

Sean gave him the mind-your-tongue look. “We’re grownups.”

Dylan rolled his eyes.

“Well, what if the grownups put a sample under my microscope and let me take a look?” Emily flashed her sweetest smile.

“Oh, no sweet pea, I don’t think that’s a great idea.”

“Pleeeeeaaase?” Dylan and Emily pleaded together, clasping their hands and dancing in place.

I looked to Sean for backup, but should have known right away that was useless. He merely gave me the same puppy eyes as our kids.

Georgia popped her head in from the kitchen. “Alright, you lot. Have fun with your science experiments. I’m out.”

We all waved goodbye to the kids’ grandma and heard the screen door slam behind her as she left. I listened to her car engine turn on in the driveway and the crackle of the tires over the pebbles. I’d have no backup from her.

“Maybe we could just put a little piece on a slide.”

“Sean—”

“We handle the sample ourselves, with gloves and tweezers, slide the glass onto the microscope, and supervise her as she looks through the lens.”

Emily nodded vigorously and looked at me with wide eyes. Dylan followed suit until finally even Sean was begging for the experiment.

I let out an exasperated breath. “Okay, we’ll take a look under the microscope, but no touching, either of you.” I emphasized the point with a severe finger wagging.

They nodded in unison. Sean and I grabbed the materials while the kids went to Emily’s makeshift lab in the tool shed to prep the microscope.

“Sean, are you sure this is a good idea? What if the stuff is radioactive?”

“It would probably be glowing if it was radioactive.” His sweet smile that had first enticed me to marry him played across his face.

“Sean, I’m serious. We don’t know what this stuff is.” I held up the jar and squinted at the substance. It was still in the new solid form it had taken almost an hour before.

“Honestly, Phil,” Sean said, “I think it’ll be fine. It might just be some kind of fossil thing. Like the tar pits, but once we removed it from its environment, it solidified. Change in temperature and pressure and all that.”

I smiled. “So you’re a scientist now?”

“I’m just trying to be practical. Not let our imaginations get the best of us. Besides, we’re always encouraging the kids to be curious and discover the world.”

“I know, I know. But telling them to be curious in theory is great. Letting them do something that could be dangerous is different.”

“I’m sure it’ll be fine. Now let’s get out there before Em starts shrieking for us.” Sean leaned in and kissed me, pouring in every ounce of reassurance he could offer.

Out in the tool shed, the kids had cleaned the desk space, sanitized the microscope, and pulled out fresh glass slides. They both wore gloves and greeted us with big grins.

Emily reached out a hand with a slide. “Here, put a sample on this.”

Sean and I glanced at one another, having one of those moments that said oil or no oil, we have all we need right here. I opened the jar and let my partner chisel off a piece with the tweezers. It came off easier than expected, like it was a clump of dirt.

He placed the fine powder onto the slide and placed it under the microscope. Emily started to adjust the slide, but I stopped her with a stern glare. She paused and let her dad do it for her.

“Alright, Em, just the microscope and its controls,” Sean cautioned.

She nodded. Dylan stood nearby and followed his sister’s instructions when she asked for more or less light and help adjusting the lens.

“Well, what do you see?” Dylan asked eagerly.

“Definitely not dirt.” She kept her eye on the microscope lens. “It doesn’t have the same composition as what’s in our backyard.”

“What composition does it have?” I asked.

Emily looked up at us and shrugged. “Not sure. Nothing I’ve seen, but then again, I haven’t seen much.” She laughed.

Dylan nudged his sister to let him take a look. He pressed his eye to the microscope. “Whoah, cool.”

“What’s it doing?” Emily pushed her brother out of the way again to see into the lens.

But even Sean and I could see what was happening. The sample from the slide radiated a blue glow. I grabbed my partner’s hand and took a step forward to pull the kids away, but Sean stopped me.

“Relax. It’s probably a microbe thing, like the Bioluminescent Bays.”

“Fascinating,” Emily exhaled.

“What is?” Dylan peered around the microscope at an angle, trying to get a look at what his sister was seeing.

“Its composition changed. I still don’t recognize it, but it’s different than before. Almost like a kaleidoscope.”

Emily stepped back and let Dylan look again. She turned to me with bright eyes almost the same as the sample’s glow. “Papa, look.” She pointed at the jar we’d left on the desk.

The substance had changed once more to liquid, but this time almost translucent, and also glowing blue. It didn’t just glow though; it pulsated, like it was sending out a beacon.

“That’s…odd.”

“Okay, we’re definitely in a sci-fi flick now, Phil. This has gotta be alien.” Sean’s face was lit by the jar’s blue light, giving him almost a panicked expression.

“Enough science project for the night. We’ll find a lab to send this to in the morning.”

The kids began to protest, but I put a hand up in silence, indicating the final word.

“Your papa’s right, kids. We’ve played enough with this new thing for one day. Let’s get you both to bed now.” Sean turned to me. “Wanna lock it up in something for now?”

I nodded. While Sean escorted Emily and Dylan back to the house to get them ready for bed, I emptied out an old steel toolbox to put the jar in. With my hands still in gloves, I picked up the sample slide from the microscope and looked around, unsure of what to do with it for a moment. Before I could decide though, it began to squirm and move on its own.

This is a continuation of a short story called “Better Than Fiction” which I serialized for my blog. See the other parts here: Part 1 | Part 2

Let me know what you think in the comments!