“I hope she’s not ugly. Or fat.” James F. Jones, or Jimmy Jo to those who knew him best, or knew him at all, was no prize himself. But that lady at Portal Dating Services assured him that the match was very, *very* good.
He rinsed his mouth out with moonshine – his own, naturally – and took one last look in the mirror. “Madame,” he said in a deep voice, bowing slightly. He wiped the sweat off his forehead, blotted his armpits one last time, and headed out.
The Blight had only lasted 15 years, but wiped out 99.9% of the human population.
Like most things Jimmy Jo owned, his car was stolen. Borrowed, really. Long-term. He got the Z28 Camaro from the same place he got his flat-screen TV. Not much gas any more, and not much TV any more, but things were getting better. He even had a new neighbor a few streets over. He made a point to smoke his tires in front of their house at least once a week.
Anthropologist Bill Ziegler calculated that we didn’t have enough diversity left to re-populate humanity and would interbreed ourselves into extinction if we didn’t just fade away first.
Some said Bill was full of shit.
Jimmy Jo saw it on the only channel he could get on his fancy TV – that Hugh Everett and his many-worlds theory, it turns out, was right. After the Blight, a team of scientists scavenged classified documents from scientific research around the world. Some top-secret research in Russia and in Switzerland completed Everett’s theory.
The first portal was opened 3 years ago.
This world was the only one that had reached the apex of the Blight, so this world was the only one that could open the portals.
“Shit, flowers!” Jimmy Jo pulled over by a field and picked out a few flowers, pissed on the rest, and got back in the car.
One eye on the road, Jimmy swerved a bit as he re-read the directions on the folded paper. “What in the hell… where do I know that address?”
Bill Ziegler seized the opportunity – the parallel universes could simply take lost souls, the poor, despondent folks that were suicidal or imprisoned for things that aren’t crimes in our world, or that had diseases that could be cured here. We could forcibly repopulate our world!
Outraged, the survivors threw Molotov cocktails at Bill’s house, killing him in his sleep.
The idea was hatched, however, had merit. The Council of the Living had a more benevolent idea – a dating service.
“Tired of life? Down and out? Seeking new adventures in new places? We’ll help you leave your old life behind you.”
And the Portal Dating Service was opened for business.
Jimmy Jo revved up the engine of his Z28 for effect as he pulled up into the driveway. He picked his teeth in the rear-view, grabbed the flowers, fumbled for the portal key, and walked into the house.
The Service always chose a deserted neighborhood – couldn’t have any more portal jumpers, could we?
Jimmy Jo sighed and closed his eyes, whispered something to himself, held out the key, opened his eyes, and clicked the only button.
Some of the people from parallel worlds weren’t too happy to be tricked into coming. Some of them freaked out. Jimmy Jo hadn’t seen the Ford LTD trailing him by a couple of miles.
The woman that stepped through the portal looked strikingly like Jimmy Jo, and introduced herself as Jenny Jo.
Jimmy Jo scrambled back and dropped the flowers. He turned to run and only made it to the driveway before he saw the LTD parked at the house next door, and the man leaning against it, looking straight at him.
The Service never reminded you that the people were from parallel worlds. That’s the whole idea, right? Only the problem is that the parallel worlds are infinite variations of the world we’re on, so there are an infinite variations of yourself on these other worlds.
The man leaning against the LTD shot Jimmy Jo once, hitting him in the leg. He pressed a button and a portal opened up and swallowed poor Jimmy Jo to a dark world.
I was reading about the wonderful craft of writing on Writer’s Digest. I like these articles not because I generally agree with them, but they are tips from published writers. You do, however, get a lot of repeat information, or different takes on existing information (such as a rehash of the Hero’s Journey).
One of the articles really struck a chord with me, though, and that was the one about R.L. Stine.
Turns out, he writes a lot like I do. He doesn’t start from the ending, he doesn’t endlessly plot out structures, he writes a lot of horror, and he doesn’t seem to do a lot of things that you are “supposed” to do. Instead, he typically thinks up a good title (or just comes up with one during the course of the day) and proceeds to write.
Really, that’s the majority of his “secret.”
A couple of things stood out for me, though.
Stine doesn’t think that you should have to work at writing, you should just really like doing it. Otherwise you’re not a writer. I fully agree with this. I have been writing, even if it’s just rambling, since as early as the seventh grade. At least that I remember.
I’ve loved spinning yarns for the kids for a long time, too – like the time I told my son that you can’t look at the Mr. Pickles kid in a costume on the street corner – if he sees you, he switches places with you and you have to trick someone else into taking your place in the hot, stinky pickle costume. Oh, no! Don’t look! I like to mess with people, and can think up stuff on-the-fly. Mostly, I’m a devious little shit.
Also, he writes. A lot. He’s published over 300 books and keeps going at it. He developed a routine that pumps out books every month or so. For years and years and years he’s done this. He wrote comics and TV shows and dabbled all over the place. One time, and this is my favorite part, someone joked that he should write about a Blind Date.
…fateful lunch with Stine’s Scholastic friend Jean Feiwel, she asked him a simple question: Have you ever thought about writing young adult horror? And she made an equally simple suggestion: Go home and write a book called Blind Date.
“I said, ‘OK, sure, no problem,’” he recalls.
And the amazing thing is—and this is a hint at what makes Stine stand out from millions of other writers, a testament to how much of a born storyteller he truly is—he actually did it. He outlined for a month. He wrote for three. He spent a month revising. He sent it in. It came out in 1986, and became an instant bestseller.
Let’s repeat part of that – “…makes Stine stand out from millions of other writers… he actually did it.”
Yup, folks, there’s the secret sauce: showing up. And the inspiration for today’s story because, you see, I like to be in the company of kings.
p.s. I’ve never read any Stine books – I was already 13 when he wrote Blind Date and didn’t seriously consider reading Goosebumps. I can certainly guarantee that my story is vastly different, and experimental (for me), but, damn it, I wrote it.