2008/02, February 2008 Photofictional, A Daily Blog Posting By Bryan Costales

Some bow with respect before entering a bar
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Today's episode continues yesterday's story yesterday link

Creek Fire and his large dog Pebble arrived tired and hungry on the next landing. "Was that more steps than last time?" Creek asked himself more than Pebble.

This time, instead of a window, an arched doorway stood open ahead of them, a warm light glowed from within. Creek approached but stopped short as a young man passed him on his left and entered the doorway.

"Hey you," Creek called, but the man took no notice.

Creek followed the fellow in and saw him bow, respectfully, then take a seat at at table against the near wall. Then the man disappeared.

"What the heck was that?" Creek asked Pebble.

Then the same man passed them again. This time Creek noticed the man's face and thought it might actually be a woman. She bowed again, and again took the table by the wall and again vanished.

"Is this magic?" Creek asked Pebble. But another word popped into Creek's head, "Projection."

The woman came and entered and bowed and sat three more times before it dawned on Creek that he was supposed to sit at that table. Creek stepped to the base of a short step that led to the table. There he bowed, then went forward and sat at the table. He feared the woman would return and sit at the table so he sat across from that seat.

There were water glasses on the table filled with water. Creek picked one up and sipped it. "This is real."

A bowl filled with chips rested in the center of the table. Creek ate one but didn't like the salty taste. He emptied the bowl and poured a water glass into it. He set the bowl of water on the floor for Pebble.

Pebble drank noisily.

A new woman entered from behind him. Creek was surprised when she stopped at his table. She carried a tablet and a writing stick. "What can I get you?" she asked the empty chair across from Creek. Then she paused. She appeared to listen "Good choice," she said and wrote something, "Fish is brain food." Then she vanished.

The woman returned thee times before Creek realized he was supposed to sit in the chair across from him. He stood, and moved around Pebble who had laid down on the floor to sleep.

In the other seat, Creek noticed a menu on the table that he had not noticed before. On one side was a picture of a fish. On the back a picture of glass of purple liquid with a lightening bolt striking it. Creek rubbed the menu. The pictures looked very real.

The woman returned. "What can I get you? she asked again. Only this time she faced Creek and spoke to him.

Creek said, "Fish."

"Good choice," the woman said. "Fish is brain food. Can I get you something to drink?"

The last question was unexpected. "The purple drink," Creek told her.

"Good choice. We're not very crowded," she waved her arm showing Creek that only one other couple sat in a far corner. "Your food will be right here."

Facing the back of the place, Creek now saw her enter a door in the side wall part way back.

"Ready for food?" Creek asked Pebble.

Pebble lifted his head and looked at Creek. Then he yawned and laid back down to sleep.

Food just appeared on the table. A platter filled with fried fish, surrounded by fruits and plants, all over rice. A bowl of bread covered with cloth and a tall glass filled with the purple drink.

Creek sipped the drink. It was a flavor he had never before tasted. Unbidden, the phrase, "Banana Smoothy," floated into his head and Creek believed this unfamiliar phrase described the flavor.

Creek dumped out the bread and split the meal in two. Half he scraped into the bowl and gave to Pebble. "Hah," Creek said. "Not too sleepy to eat huh?"

Pebble got to his feet, shook and smelled the food. It must of smelled good, because Pebble began to gobble the food down.

Creek finished his meal and wiped the plate clean with some bread. He didn't feel full, but was no longer hungry.

Curious, he stood and walked over to the couple eating in the back corner. They sat and talked but he could hear no words. He tried to touch the man but his hand passed through as if the man was made of smoke.

On his way back to the table, he noticed the door the second woman had come out of to take his order. It was just painted on the wall.

Creek gathered is backpack and staff and lead Pebble back out to the platform. More steps led down from there. Like last time, Pebble led him to the stairs and looked down.

"Down again?" Creek asked.

Pebble looked back and seemed to ponder. With care, Pebble formed a single word, and said it as, "woof."

Photo Posted Monday, February 4, 2008   •  (2008) Old Town, Sacramento, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Mirror catches unwary boy in the act
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Today's episode continues yesterday's story yesterday link

Doug Goshkin heard a boom from the back of the railroad museum. Because he was a kid, he looked around to see if his folks had heard the boom. But they hadn't, or didn't seem to, because they kept on arguing.

Doug wandered toward the back of the museum to see what made the noise. To his annoyance, his younger brother, Joey, trailed along. "Go back," Doug said.

"No," Joey said.

"Stay in sight," his mother called from behind.

Doug arrived at the back of the museum and saw nothing out of the ordinary. Large railroad engines stood parked and silent.

Doug thought he heard something from the back of a big black engine so he hurried over to it. He pressed his ear to the metal but could hear nothing.

"Wait for me," called Joey.

"Go away," Doug said, irritated by his brother. "I'm trying to listen."

Joey came trotting up. "I want to listen too." He yanked on Doug's shirt.

"What is it?" Doug asked.

"In the mirror," Joey said. "A man."

Doug looked up and sure enough there was a man standing next to them in their reflections. Doug looked around franticly, but the man wasn't there at all on his side of the mirror.

"A doggy!" Joey said and ran toward the mirror.

Doug studied the reflection. It was a man, younger looking than his dad. The man held a walking stick in one hand and a large dog sat next to him on the other side. The man didn't appear to see them.

"Doggy, doggy!" Joey cried and whacked his hands against the glass of the mirror.

From behind the boys they heard an older man yell at them, "You. You there. You kids. Don't bang on the mirrors. Cut it out, you hear me?"

Doug stepped up to his brother and pulled Joey back away from the mirror.

"Where'd the doggy go?" Joey asked.

Doug looked up and the man in the reflection was gone.

"Doug," called his mother. "Joey. Come here. We're leaving now."

Joey ran back to this mother calling, "A doggy. I saw a doggy in the mirror. I saw a doggy in the mirror."

Their dad asked, "How much is that doggy in the mirror?" Dad laughed but nobody else did.

Their mother mentioned ice cream.

Doug followed his parents and brother out. He didn't look back at the mirror. In his mind, he mulled the possible flavors of ice cream.

California Railroad Museum   •  Photo Posted Saturday, February 2, 2008   •  (2008) Sacramento, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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That old dog loved to play guitar and sing
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Today's episode continues yesterday's story yesterday link

Creek Fire and his dog Pebble had descended more stairs than either of them had ever seen in their entire lives. They had found the source of the boom the day before, a huge hole in the ground with stairs leading down into a dark interior.

They reached a broad landing, dim but for daylight filtering down from the opening far above. The stairs and landing were damp as if steam had recently condensed on them.

"A place to rest and eat some jerky," Creek said to Pebble. Creek took off his pack and propped it upright against the wall. That wall looked abnormally smooth to Creek, like one of the rare glass windows he had seen. He touched the wall and it felt warm.

The wall glowed causing Pebble to bark.

Creek stepped back and held his staff in front for protection. As he watched, the wall grew transparent and revealed a scene unlike any Creek had ever before seen. On the other side stood huge machines, monstrous black machines. And they were lit by a defuse light that seemed to come from the sides rather than from above like normal daylight.

Most remarkable of all, a young boy peered through from the other side at Creek and Pebble. "Two little boys," Creek said to Pebble. "Look there, next to the big black thing. Another boy."

Pebble made a low growl and just looked from boy to boy without moving toward them.

Creek realized that the boys were not moving. He approached the wall closer and studied them. He was sure of it. Both were frozen in place as if statues. "What kind of trick is this?" Creek asked Pebble. He placed his hand on the wall as the scene faded to nothing. The wall now felt ice cold. Frost started for form on the wall.

The light began to turn orange. Creek picked up is pack, "Maybe we'd better get out before it gets dark." But Pebble led the way to the first step, they looked back at Creek and waited. The light faded faster than Creek expected.

Looking back up he saw the stairs were dark. But looking down he saw that the steps glowed with a strange green glow. "I guess it's down," he said.

The walk down was not as far as the first. The air on the stairs was comfortable, neither hot nor cold. Before long they stood on another landing.

Creek touched the wall and waited. The wall cleared and revealed a man and a dog on a bench. They sat side by side and both appeared to play the guitar.

Creek expected them to not move like in the last scene, but he was fooled. Right away the man began to strum his guitar and sing. And as the man sang, the dog woofed and howled right along.

Creek glanced at Pebble. His dog sat next to him, attentive, watched the dog in the window sing.

Creek didn't understand all the words, but gathered the gist of what was being sung. It was a warning about something bad that was destroying the world. The rhythm on the guitar matched Creek's heart beat. Strum, strum, strum went the guitar, beat, beat, beat went his heart.

Creek concentrated and tried to make out the meaning of the words better. The words throbbed in his head and lulled him. Creek felt his vision fade. Creek felt his mind begin to fill, begin to fill like a pitcher in the rain. Drop by drop, drip drop drip, into his waiting, sleeping, dreaming mind.

Pebble woke up first and licked Creek's face. Creek sat up and found the platform dimly lit with daylight again from above. The wall was dark.

He and Pebble shared half the food and water. "Hope we find more," Creek said as he repacked.

Like last time, Creek stood and found Pebble waiting to continue down. "You sure?" he asked.

Pebble just looked back at him, and methodically, almost purposefully said, "woof."

Photo Posted Sunday, February 3, 2008   •  (2008) Sausalito, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Statue of a hug near the carriage ride
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Creek Fire had been walking since he had become a man. His hunting dog, Pebble, trotted along, always on the side opposite his walking staff.

Creek had been traveling for two years and had visited dozens of villages. Because Creek had also been trying to map his travels, he soon discovered that all villages in his world were laid out on a perfectly square grid. He'd once counted his steps and decided one village was always fifty thousand steps from the next. Always seven day's travel by foot.

A fine, late summer morning found Creek and Pebble entering the latest village. This one was full of people, and was named Sack Toe. Creek happened to enter by way of the river and found the usual statue there, a woman hugging a child.

Creek wondered why every village had the same statue in the same place, always overlooking a river or creek. Some, like this one, rested on well-cared-for benches or platforms. Others were fallen and encrusted in weeds, some in burned out and abandoned villages.

A boy ran up along side Creek. "Can I pet your dog."

"Sure," said Creek. "His name is Pebble."

"You here to kiss the statue?"

Creek paused. The boy began petting Pebble, and scratching the dog behind his ears.

"What do you mean kiss?" Creek asked.

"Don't know. Everybody does."

Creek approached the statue and was surprised to find the woman's lips polished bright, exposing the bronze underneath the statue's green corroded surface.

On the bench back was tacked a small sign. "Kiss the women," it said. And that was followed by a large X.

"Why women?" Creek asked the boy. "Do you have more than just the one statue?"

"Just this one," the boy said. He kissed the dog on his nose, said, "Bye," and ran off.

Creek remembered his map and rubbed the X with his finger. If I connect opposite corners I get an X, he thought.

Creek decided to revisit towns he'd already seen. Starting with Sack Toe, he kissed his first statue. Then in each of the towns to follow, careful to travel the diagonals, he also kissed the lips of the women in the statues.

His fourth, and last, town was as he remembered it. Only one family lived there, and they stayed on the side away from the river. The statue was fallen over and face down.

While Pebble watched, Creek used his staff to lever the statue over. Finally face up, Creek leaned and kissed the last set of lips, on the last statue, in the last village on his map in the form of an X.

Pebble whined and dropped his tail. Creek stood and looked around. In the distance, back the way from which he had come, he heard a loud boom.

The sound reminded Creek of thunder. At the far end of town he watched the only family step outside to see what the noise was. Beyond them a pinkish cloud rose into the far sky.

"What do you think?" Creek asked Pebble. "Shall we go see what that is?"

Pebble wagged his tail.

Creek picked up his staff. He knew he should be afraid. But he wasn't. He couldn't believe that four kind kisses to four statues of women hugging children could be bad.

The ground rumbled. The statue made a soft ping sound and turned to sand. With a quiet hiss, the sand settled into a heap.

"I wonder if all the statues turned to sand?"

Creek noticed the man from the far house walking toward him. "What should I say?" he asked Pebble.

Pebble said, "woof." And wagged his tail.

"You're right," Creek said. "Mums the word until we find out what happened."

Photo Posted Friday, February 1, 2008   •  (2008) Sacramento, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Terry gives Silvie a hug
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Today's episode continues yesterday's story yesterday link

Creek Fire and his large dog Pebble arrived surprisingly refreshed at the next landing. "That meal must have been really fine," Creek said to Pebble.

This time, instead of an arched doorway, Creek found a simple open door and in front of that, a pretty, young woman.

"Hello", Creek called to her. But she ignored him. She appeared to be tapping her foot and waiting.

Pebble spoke a decisive, "Woof." He trotted up to the woman. She smiled and greeted him.

Hard as Creek tried to hear, he could hear nothing she said. She was speaking in an animated fashion to Pebble, but the landing remained, to Creek, completely silent.

The woman touched Pebble's neck and Pebble sat. She pointed to the ground and Pebble laid down and rolled to his back. The woman kneeled by Pebble and rubbed his stomach, all the time talking in silence.

Creek approached the woman and touched her shoulder. But his hand passed through her as if she was just composed of air. "A projection," muttered Creek.

He couldn't understand why Pebble was acting the way he was. "Pebble, you okay?"

Pebble lay on his back and enjoyed having his stomach rubbed. He ignored Creek.

Creek backed toward the steps and rubbed his chin. This made no sense to him at all.

The woman stood, and as she stood, so did Pebble. She turned and walked into the doorway and Pebble followed.

"Pebble!" Creek called as they vanished inside. He rushed to the door and through it.

Creek found himself in a well lit long hallway that stretched away into the far distance. There were no side doors and no side halls. Just an empty hallway.

"Pebble, Pebble!"

Creek stepped back out to the landing. It too was empty and silent. "PEBBLE!" Creek yelled, but his voice cracked. "Pebble," came the faint echo back.

Creek returned to the hallway and stood staring at the corridor. He felt lost and alone. "Pebble," he said sadly.

Photo Posted Tuesday, February 5, 2008   •  (1968) Location Unknown, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A universal kiss within Universal steam
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Today's episode continues yesterday's story yesterday link

Creek Fire walked the long corridor for what felt like days. Whenever he became hungry, he just thought about the fish meal he had eaten and, like magic, his hunger was gone. Whenever he felt tired or discouraged, he just thought about the purple drink and his energy returned.

Creek was walking at a steady pace down the boring corridor, when he found himself in fog. He stopped. He looked around but could see no details. So he took a step back and found himself in the corridor again. Like it had for the past few days, the corridor stretched forever in front of him.

Creek took a step forward and was in fog again. He moved cautiously ahead. After a hundred or so steps a large round structure began to appear. On it was the mysterious word, "Universal."

At the base of the structure, watching him, was the same woman who had taken Pebble.

Creek hurried up to her. "Where's Pebble? What have you done with my dog?"

The woman held up a hand palm toward him.

Creek stopped a half pace from her. "How did you manage to take Pebble? He's totally loyal to me."

"I will begin your education," the woman said to Creek.

Creek noticed she was talking to a point a little to his left, so he moved left so that she would talk directly to him. "What do you mean?"

"You are a created human. Your dog is a created dog."

"Not created. I was born. I saw Pebble born."

"Inside you and the dog are switches. We turn them on. We turn them off. But only to educate you. I will demonstrate."

The woman reached and took Creek's hand. He was in love with the woman. He wanted to be with her always. He ached to hold her. He took her in his arms and kissed her.

The woman gently pushed Creek away then withdrew her hand.

Creek was facing a stranger. He tried to remember the love but couldn't. This is a projection, he thought.

The woman gestured that Creek should follow. "I will now lead you to the place where your education starts."

Creek wanted to ask a million questions, but the woman took his hand again and again he was lost in love. Like a puppy, he accompanied her, hand in hand, through the fog.

They left the fog and arrived in another corridor, this one more like a cave with stone walls.

The woman let go of Creek's hand.

Again he found himself standing with a stranger. He turned to ask her a question, but she was gone. Behind him was a flat stone wall. There was no way back.

Creek tried to remember the love he felt but the feeling was slippery then gone. Creek tried to remember Pebble, but even that memory was beginning to slide away.

Creek took a tentative step forward. The floor of the cave was soft. Walking would be easy.

Creek set out on the next step of his adventure. An adventure, he felt, that was turning out to not be fun at all.

Photo Posted Wednesday, February 6, 2008   •  (2008) Burbank, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A once but no-more phone
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Today's episode continues yesterday's story yesterday link

Creek Fire walked but a single day to find another opening. A small room opened off the corridor, warmly lit inside. Creek stepped in and looked around.

Three fences of some kind of thick wire net formed a wall around the enclosure. Beyond the fence were plants as far as he could see, which wasn't far.

In the far corner an open box stared back at Creek. It was an ugly green, overgrown with weeds, and appeared empty. Creek approached it and reached to touch the metal.

His hand stuck. It felt like being mired in sap or tar but not unpleasant. Creek felt a tingle in his hand, then his arm, then pictures formed in his mind.

A voice in his head said, "There are two of you. You stand a little ways apart and hold the ends of a strong string."

Creek found himself standing in white nothingness. Across from him was himself. He held a string.

"Now take up the string slowly until it becomes tight and straight."

Creek did so, and so did his double. When the string was taut the voice said, "The shortest distance between two places is a straight line."

And so it went. Later there were three of him, then four, sometimes dressed the same, sometimes dressed in other color clothes. Creek learned about points and lines, then shapes like triangles and squares. He learned that parallel lines would never meet, that the legs of a triangle were further to walk then the diagonal.

Creek awoke in the corridor. The opening was gone. His staff lay on the floor. Creek always stood his staff on end. Someone other than his self must have placed it there. But who, and was it really him?

The corridor looked the same in both directions. Creek remembered the fish meal of long ago and the purple drink and stood, alert and ready to go. But which way.

Creek bent to pick up his staff and noticed the floor. It wasn't woven rug like he assumed, but something else. It was soft but solid. Then he noticed that the design was made of thousand of tiny arrows all pointing the same direction. "I guess that's the way I go," he said.

Creek took a step and felt something far away tug at him. Then the tug was gone and he moved forward. "Pebble?" Creek asked. But there was no answer.

Photo Posted Thursday, February 7, 2008   •  (2008) 4th at Brannon, San Francisco, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Shooting the bay with a flash in daylight
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Today's episode continues yesterday's story yesterday link

Creek Fire found many more side rooms in this corridor. The stone texture of the corridor walls prevented him from noticing any until he was upon one. Then he would stop.

Each time he would wonder, Should I go in this one. The last one was kind of interesting. But the one before that was a little frightening. But no matter what he thought, his curiosity always overpowered his reason, so he went in.

This time he found himself on a metal floor that moved under him. Ahead was a white rail and beyond that was a vast extent of water. Creek had never seen an ocean before, but the words popped into his head, "Pacific Ocean."

People, or rather projections of people, stood along the edge and watched the water. Most were dressed for cold weather, but the air, to Creek, felt warm.

Creek approached the rail where there was room, between two projections. The one to his left was an old man leaning on a cane. To his right was a woman looking through a black device. The words formed in his head, "A camera."

Creek touched the railing and floated up. He quickly let go of the railing, but continued to float up anyway. Below him he saw a boat. A large boat made of metal. The deck was full of people. Around the boat swam huge fish. The word, "whale," entered his mind. He continued to float up.

"The world once possessed vast oceans filled with many kinds of sea life." It was a woman's voice this time, pleasantly melodic. "Two thirds of the area of the world was once covered with deep oceans." Creek was pleased he had learned, "fractions."

Creek continued to rise. The sky above him began to darken despite the sun still shining. The world began to appear round like a big ball.

"Then global warming caused the onset of a vast ice age. The poles both grew larger and larger until they almost reached the equator."

Creek watched as the world below turned whiter and whiter. He noticed the oceans shrinking.

"The ice age was so severe, the oceans themselves were turned into mere rivers. Most of the grand animals that inhabited them were lost. All life, human and other animals, was driven to share a narrow band around the equator."

Creek began to descend. Below him was only ice and snow and a narrow area of green. He fell and fell and saw the boat again, half buried in ice. He landed on the deck. The projected people were gone. He began to feel cold, bitter, biting cold.

Creek quickly backed out of the room and into the corridor. "My god," he said. "I didn't know."

Golden Gate Sausalito Ferry   •  Photo Posted Friday, February 8, 2008   •  (2007) San Francisco Bay, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Motorcycles in blue
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Today's episode continues yesterday's story yesterday link

Today, Creek Fire stood on another bridge in another alcove. He leaned over and watched a road underneath. Thousands of huge machines streamed underneath. He looked carefully and noticed a single person sat in, and controlled each. The smell and the noise made him feel sick to his stomach. Sometimes a giant machine would pass under and he'd feel the floor vibrate.

"Too late," the voice in his head spoke. "Too late we found that our values were inverted. Too long had we burned oil for transporation. Too long had we poisoned the air we breathed. Too long had we pumped carbon dioxide into the atomosphere."

Creek's view changed. He next stood on a plain of sand surrounded by small, stunted trees.

"Deserts grew as the land died. Trees thousands of miles from roads were harmed in ways we barely understood."

Creek found himself in farmland. But only withered crops grew there. He watched as people in rags dug with their hands trying to find anything to eat. One man found a potato. But before he could eat it, he was set upon by others who beat him and took the potato.

"Crops failed world wide. The world experienced famin as never before. Billions died. Then the cold came."

Creek watched time speed up. Storms blew in and covered the field with snow. Many layers of snow. Summer came and the snow never completely melted.

Creek felt cold. He stepped back and was in the corridor again.

Creek was beginning to learn. Creek walked down the corridor again, and wondered if the corridor would ever end.

Photo Posted Saturday, February 9, 2008   •  (2008) Old Town, Sacramento, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Wooden blinds reveal a totally false exterior
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Today's episode continues yesterday's story yesterday link

Creek Fire came upon a room that, at last, appeared restful. A chair and small table sat against a wall under windows covered with horizonal sticks. Outside the windows Creek saw the warm, but indistinct, glow of other buildings.

Creek sat in the chair.

A drinking glass appeared on the table. Creek pick it up and smelled. "Hmmm," he said. "Another purple banana smoothy." He drank the cool liquid and leaned back to relax.

His arms became mired in something sticky that oozed from the arm rests of the chair. Creek tried to lift his arms, but couldn't.

"Hey," he said. The glass dropped from his hand to the floor.

"Don't struggle," a voice spoke to him. This time it was a fatherly man's voice, calm and authoritative. "Relax and lean back. This won't take but a moment."

As Creek watched, a tube snaked from the wall with a pin on its end. The tube's pin stuck itself into Creek's arm. As he watch, his blood filled the tube. It didn't hurt at all, so Creek tried to relax.

After a few minutes the tube withdrew. The pin hovered over Creek's arm and squirted a patch of white over the place where it had just withdrawn blood. Creek's arm came unstuck so he stood. The white patch was soft but Creek couldn't peel it off.

"Rest for day," said the voice. "We must analyze your DNA to see if the information is intact. While you rest, you will learn."

A doorway opened across the corridor from the alcove from where Creek stood.

Creek walked over and through the doorway. He stood in a grassy glade. A cabin rested at the top of a nearby hill and a stream filled with jumping fish gurgled nearby. From inside the cabin, Creek heard, "woof."

Pebble bounded out. Creek reached his arms out and greeted the impact of the large dog with blind happiness. Creek felt whole again.

California Railroad Museum   •  Photo Posted Sunday, February 10, 2008   •  (2008) Sacramento, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Bay Point station at night
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Today's episode continues yesterday's story yesterday link

Creek Fire and his large dog Pebble rested for a day. The second afternoon a man opened the door and leaned in. "All ready for your next step?" he asked.

Creek stood, but didn't go forward to greet the man. Creek had learned that everyone down here were projections.

Pebble, who had been napping, lifted his head to look at the man, then yawned and lay his head down again.

The man strode through the room. "Okay everyone, rise and shine." He approached the wall at the far end of the room and waved his hand. A double door appeared.

"Let's go," he said. "We have a train to catch."

Creek picked up his pack and walking staff. Pebble rose to join him. Together they followed the man through the double doors.

"Oh, no," Creek said. "More stairs."

They went down a dozen steps to a landing, turned the end then went down a dozen more. This repeated several times until, at last, they emerged through another set of doors onto a platform.

"Night?" Creek asked, then realized he was deep underground.

They stood on a long platform. In the distance rose tall buildings. To their left was a long coach. "Train," popped into his mind, then "Transit."

"This is heavy rail transit built long ago. When you first triggered the riddle and found your way down here, these trains began to charge their batteries. They are now ready for a one way trip north."

The doors of the train opened all along its long side. Creek and Pebble entered. Creek sat in a cloth covered seat that was very comfortable. Pebble dropped to the carpet-covered floor beside him.

The man stood at the front of the train car and clapped his hands.

Behind the man, in the next car, Creek saw another man in the next car also clap his hands.

"May I have your attention please. We are about to travel far to the north. The trip won't be long, so make yourself comfortable."

The train doors closed.

The man blinked. Then he blinked again. Then he looked directly at Creek. "Too bad," he said. "We'd hoped there would be more of you." Then the man vanished.

As the train sped north, unheard by Creek, and far away, the original hole he'd descended rumbled and collapsed inward. What little light had shined from it, extinguished. Soon all that was left was an empty field.

In all the towns and villages for hundreds of days travel around, all the statues of women hugging children made a loud "ping," at once. Then simultaneously all the statues turned to dust and collapsed.

Creek and Pebble sped north and passed under one of those towns.

An old man in that town leaned on a cane. "Bad weather," he said. "I feel it in my bones. Bad weather. A storm coming in from the north."

Three shots combinded with Photomatix   •  Photo Posted Monday, February 11, 2008   •  (2007) Bay Point, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Leafs observe shadows of brethren
(12 of 29) (57185 views)


Today's episode continues yesterday's story yesterday link

The train ran for two days and two nights before at last stopping at a platform much like the first. Creek and his large dog Pebble emerged from the train rested and feeling good. A new man-projection appeared and called to them.

"Gather up everyone. This way. This way. Follow me."

Creek and Pebble followed the projection to the end of the platform then up a long ramp. At the top of the ramp were glass doors that opened when they approached. Like magic, Creek thought. Then realized it was "technology."

"This way," called the projected man.

Creek and Pebble found themselves inside a huge room. A room so large, Creek could not see the far end. Above him was a ceiling far, far above, that appeared to be made of steel and glass. Only the center portion of the ceiling was free of snow and a dim daylight glowed through.

Hundreds of lamps hung from the ceiling. All but a few were dark. One, near to Creek's right glowed, and below it Creek thought he spotted some green.

Pebble must have spotted it too, because he said, "woof," and started to lead Creek in that direction.

Under the light grew a patch of green plants perhaps a half-dozen paces across. Bright red fruit hung from the plants.

Creek looked around. Other than this patch of green, all the other plants, everywhere, were withered and dead. In the distance, the projected man said, "Go a head and pick something. It's all safe. But only one. Only one please."

Creek picked a red fruit and tore it in half. Red juice and seeds leaked over his hand. He gave half the fruit to Pebble and ate half himself.

Only a few times before had Creek eaten real food like that. He felt his first stomach close so the pure nourishing food could pass straight into his second stomach. "I don't know what this is," he said. "But it is real food."

Pebble licked the spilled juice from the dirt.

The projected man called, "Gather around. Gather around please. I have much to tell you."

Creek and Pebble wandered back to the projected man, the taste of real food echoed in their mouths.

The projected man waited, then began. "You have probably deduced by now that you people are not really human. And you dogs have probably concluded by now that you are not really dogs. And you pelicans have probably reasoned by now that you are not really birds."

"Pelicans?" Creek said. He looked around. It was just he and Pebble.

"You look puzzled," the projection said. "But I guarantee you, all will become clear soon enough."

Photo Posted Tuesday, February 12, 2008   •  (2008) Howard near Spear, San Francisco, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Fire escape hidden behind denuded tree
(13 of 29) (57454 views)


Today's episode continues yesterday's story yesterday link

The projection led Creek and his large dog Pebble through the barren landscape. The light was dim causing Creek to watch the ground and walk carefully using his staff.

"And over there," the projection waved his arm. "You see those. Those are apple trees. Yum. Apple pie and fresh sliced apples with cheese."

Several times, Creek had tried to interrupt the projection and explain that everything was dead. But the projection ignored him. Creek finally gave up and just followed along on the tour.

"And here we are," the projection stopped and indicated something ahead.

Creek peered ahead and saw a building just beyond a group of dead trees.

As they walked over dirt and the crunch of dead leaves on the ground, the projection said, "A lawn. You can come out here any time to enjoy the sunshine."

Inside, the building was dimly lit like the outside.

"Your rooms," the projection waved his arm indicating the whole corridor. "On the second floor is the kitchen and dining room. The top floor houses the library."

Then the projection vanished.

After the earlier piece of red fruit, Creek felt hungry again. Clearly the fish meal had been an illusion like the projected man. "Come on," he said to Pebble. "Let's scare up some food."

The second floor was a bit more brightly lit. On shelves surrounding the walls were stacks and stacks of silver packages. Creek picked one up and read it.

"Beef over Noodles. Fold open top, add boiling water, wait one minute."

Creek looked at Pebble and noticed Pebble seemed to be studying him.

"Interesting, huh? I seem to be able to read now."

Creek couldn't find any way to heat water so he ended up hauling a pot and a dozen meals out to the yard. There he built a fire.

A projection appeared and said, "Fires are not allowed."

Creek ignored the projection. He and Pebble ate well. It was their first real meal in a week and both felt much better afterward.

Photo Posted Wednesday, February 13, 2008   •  (2008) Sacramento, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Ferral cat gazes with disdain at camera
(14 of 29) (57425 views)


Today's episode, copyright 2008 Bryan Costales, continues yesterday's story yesterday link

At last, Creek and his large dog Pebble made it up into the library on the third floor. The floor was filled with large black pods, some tall and some short. Pods also hung from the ceiling. The appeared to be some sort of machines with inviting openings.

Creek stepped into one of the tall pods and sat in a comfortable chair. He looked around for Pebble and saw his dog enter a short pod.

A series of images presented themselves while a voice told a story. The images that Creek saw were cities and bridges and people, thousands of people. The images that Pebble saw were other animals, some familiar like badgers, others he had never seen, like cats.

The voice spoke to Creek.

"Toward the end, humanity was undergoing a sharp decline. Without some way to undo what had been done, humanity would become extinct within twenty to thirty years.

"Scientists devised a plan. A plan so audacious it just might succeed. New races were genetically engineered. A race of human-like people, a race of dog-like animals, and a race of bird-like pelicans. Each was engineered to survive and excel in an environment in which humanity could not.

"The human-like people, for example, were covered with hollow body hairs for warmth and two hearts. The digestive track was modified so that any food from bare grasses to meat could be eaten. A fatty sack under the shoulder blades could hold water for a month during drought.

"In addition, the DNA was doubled. Only half of the new DNA defined the creation. The other half stored the information needed to resurrect humanity after the environment recovered.

"Special, long term facilities were built underground to store the equipment and knowledge needed to recover the stored DNA. Your trip here was instrumented using that very special equipment.

"Your DNA has already been extracted and used to start the growth of new humans. These children will be raised in the underground garden. As adults they will begin to farm and will gradually resume their dominion over the Earth.

"Your DNA has been triggered. You will now begin to release a phoneme that will infect other human-like people as you. The infection prevents conception. Your race will gradually die out of old age, and be replaced by the original human race.

The recording ended. Creek sat in silence. Pebble appeared next to him. Then Pebble did something he almost never did. He growled.

Belgrave Avenue above Stanyan Street   •  Photo Posted Thursday, February 14, 2008   •  (2007) San Francisco, California   •  © 2008 Terry Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A fitting conclusion to Irish Coffee
(15 of 29) (57374 views)


Today's episode continues yesterday's story yesterday link

Creek had found some packages labeled, "Instant coffee." Mixed with warm water the taste was bitter, but had a similar effect to the purple drink he'd had earlier. Feeling energized, Creek wandered out to the field of dead plants. His large dog, Pebble, followed.

Near one of the few green areas, Creek looked up at the hanging lamps. He judged the distance, then picked up a large stone and threw it. The stone arced and fell, far short of the lamp.

"That didn't work," he told Pebble. "What's that over there?"

In the distance, toward the really dark area, Creek spotted a hut of some kind. "Let's look."

The hut contained piles of tools that Creek didn't recognize. They looked vaguely similar to the farming tools with which he was familiar. In one corner he found a pile of heavy metal rods. He picked up one and hefted it. If felt like it could do some damage.

Creek carried the rod out of the hut and looked up. "You know," he told Pebble. "If we can find a way out, we might be able to use this rod to break the glass overhead."

Pebble said, "woof."

Creek looked at Pebble and found the dog looking at something moving in the field. Pebble wagged his tail.

A young boy appeared from behind dead trees. He was dressed in a white gown. When the boy spotted Creek, he smiled and waved.

Pebble led, and Creek followed, to meet the boy. The boy appeared young, perhaps nine or ten, and a little too short. His chest seemed too small, and his back, between his shoulder blades seemed strangely sunken.

Pebble's nose was the same height as the boy's face. He sniffed the boy, then announced, "woof."

"Yes I am hungry," the boy said. Then to Creek, "How come your dog can talk?"

Pebble said, "woof."

The boy smiled and said to Pebble, "I sure would!"

Pebble left with the boy and appeared to be heading toward the main building.

Creek felt the heavy weight of the metal bar in his hand. He looked at it. He asked himself, "Who am I to try to kill humans?" He tossed the bar on the ground.

Creek looked up at the hanging lamps again. This time they looked different. Now, instead of wanting to break the lit ones, he wanted to light the dark ones. As he stood there and thought, a strange phrase entered his head, "Plan B." He had no idea what it meant.

Skates Restaurant by the Berkeley Pier   •  Photo Posted Friday, February 15, 2008   •  (2008) Berkeley, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Stairs by fence lead to locked gate
(16 of 29) (57545 views)


Today's episode continues yesterday's story yesterday link

Creek Fire awoke as usual just after dawn. He wandered out of his cabin and found his large dog Pebble already up and supervising the children.

A year had passed since the first child appeared. The snow covering the glass dome was almost totally gone. The once dead field under the dome was now filled with towering green plants.

As usual, the first boy waited for Creek to emerge. "Today?" he called. "Is it today? Will you give us names today?"

Creek gave the boy a hug. "Not today. You know I can't name you. Not until I know what's going on here. And there is still so much I don't know. And there's nobody here I can ask."

Pebble trotted over and said to the boy, "woof."

The boy brightened. "That's right. We found another room yesterday. It's above the library."

Pebble said, "woof."

"Pebble says it contains an answer machine."

"Really?" Creek said. "Let's go see it."

Creek still had not figured out how the children could understand Pebble, but he could not.

Creek and the boy walked through the fields toward the main building. Thousands of children worked and played. Pebble disappeared off somewhere showing children what to do.

"Look," the boy said and pointed. "Carrots are almost ready to eat."

"I have to admit," Creek said. "I've never had so much good food before. I guess fixing those lights last year was a good idea."

They entered the main building. Creek smelled food cooking. They followed the stairs up to the top floor. But where there had previously been a blank wall opposite the door at the top of the landing, a section of wall had been partly torn open and more stairs appeared.

Creek followed the boy up and into a small room. In the center of the room was a chair. There were no windows. The only light came from a small window in the ceiling.

"Just sit in the chair and ask your questions," the boy said.

Creek sat. He didn't know what to ask, so he just said, "What should I ask?"

A woman projection appeared in front of him. "You ask any question you wish. Our knowledge base is huge. If an answer exists, we probably have it."

Then she waited.

"Creek," the boy said. "Ask her if you should name us."

Photo Posted Saturday, February 16, 2008   •  (2008) Ft. Mason, San Francisco, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Last minute phone call to spread the word
(17 of 29) (57392 views)


Today's episode continues yesterday's story yesterday link

Creek asked the projection, "Why do the children understand Pebble, and I do not?"

The projected woman said, "One moment." She vanished.

Another projection appeared. This time it was a young man, fancy dressed, with a small device pressed to his ear.

"Yes," the man said into the device. "Okay." He looked up at Creek. "Yes, twice the DNA, four times the brain power. Got it."

The man folded the device an put it in his pocket. The he addressed Creek. "You know from prior meetings that your DNA is twice this size of a normal human's DNA, and that the same is true for your dog."

Creek nodded. He wasn't sure if this was one of the projections that could see him.

"Good. Now when a normal human hears a normal dog." The man indicated the boy standing behind Creek. "All that human hears is, 'woof'." The "woof" came out sounding like an actual dog sound.

The man indicated Creek. "Similarly, when a created person like you hears a created dog, you hear, 'woof' too. But when a normal dog talks to a normal dog, those dogs can communicate. And when a created dog talks to a normal human, they too can communicate."

The man paused. He saw that Creek had no more questions, so continued.

"You have the ability to lean languages effortlessly. You are now speaking a ten-thousand year old language, an extinct language, as if it is your own. You learned this language so effortlessly, you were not aware you learned it."

Creek nodded. Then he asked, "Why can't I understand Pebble? If I can learn languages effortlessly, I should be able to learn his language."

The man took the device from his pocket, unfolded it, and put it to his ear again. "Yes," he said. "Yes, I understand." He looked at Creek. "The answer is that we just don't know."

The man vanished and the woman appeared.

"Names," the boy whispered from behind Creek.

"Why should I name the children?" Creek asked.

The woman smiled a kindly smile. "You and Pebble are the only adults. These children were grown from information in your DNA. They have no actual parents. Human children need identities. Human children need names. It is your responsibility to name them."

Creek looked over his shoulder at the boy. "Firstboy," he said. "I name you Firstboy."

Valentines Day Pillow Fight, Prelude   •  Photo Posted Sunday, February 17, 2008   •  (2008) Justin Herman Plaza, San Francisco, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Vaillancort Fountain echoes mood of photographers
(18 of 29) (57404 views)


Today's episode, copyright 2008 Bryan Costales, continues yesterday's story yesterday link

Creek walked among the children naming them. He would stop by each where he and the child would study each other. Then he would announce, "Red," or "Fresh," or "Rose," or "Snowball."

Creek had no problem remembering each name after it was given. In fact, he was surprised that by naming each child, he now could more easily recognize them.

A child was listening to his dog Pebble. The child laughed.

"What's so funny, Snowball?" Creek asked.

"Pebble can't say my name right."

Pebble said, "woof."

Snowball laughed so hard he fell to the ground holding his stomach.

Occasionally, when bestowing a name, Creek would catch, just in the corner of his eye, a glimpse of tall thin people flashing lights at him. But, whenever he turned his head to look, there would be nobody there.

Creek asked the kids if they saw anything, but none ever did.

Creek finished naming all the children then paused and added up the names. "Two thousand, exactly," he said to himself.

"Look," some of the children called. Several pointed up.

Creek looked up and saw a broad swath of birds flying outside the glass of the dome. Creek had never seen so many birds at once. "Hmm," Creek mused while he watched the birds. "It might be time to visit the answer chair again."

Valentines Day Pillow Fight   •  Photo Posted Monday, February 18, 2008   •  (2008) Justin Herman Plaza, San Francisco, California   •  © 2008 Terry Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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"You won't beat me," the second duck calls
(19 of 29) (57424 views)


Today's episode, copyright 2008 Bryan Costales, continues yesterday's story yesterday link

Creek stood looking at the birds flying over the glass dome when Snowball pulled on his sleeve.

"A door!" Snowball said gleefully, bouncing with excitement. "A door has opened into the outside." Snowball pointed.

Creek looked and sure enough, a large door stood open letting sunlight in. He took Snowball's hands and walked together with him out the door.

Below them, in a shallow valley, Creek saw a wide lake. Over it, ducks and geese flew and many landed in the lake. But Creek didn't find that nearly as interesting as the presence of other domes. At least a dozen domes stood atop rises surrounding the lake.

"Look," Snowball said, and pointed. "Other kids."

From doors in four of the other domes streamed thousands of kids. But the doors in the other domes stood open and empty.

Creek felt sick to his stomach. He didn't know there were other domes. He didn't know there were other lights to fix. He didn't know, and the answer chair had not told him. He hoped other children had not been born in those other domes, but he feared they had. And if they were born into darkness, they would have starved.

"Well," Creek said, to take his mind off the empty doors. "I guess I have more names to give."

Another child, the one named Wind, ran up quickly, calling, "Creek, Creek." She sped up to him. "Creek," she said. "There's a man in our answer chair. A strange tall man. Someone new."

Then Wind noticed the other kids. "Look!" She yelled.

"We know, we know," Snowball said.

"A stranger?" Creek asked.

Photo Posted Tuesday, February 19, 2008   •  (2008) Lake Merritt, Oakland, California   •  © 2008 Terry Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Sunshine encourages some to nap
(20 of 29) (57412 views)


Today's episode continues yesterday's story yesterday link

Creek thought that perhaps one of the larger children was napping in the answer room again. Half heartedly, he accompanied Snowball up the stairs in the main building of their dome.

They entered the room and found Pebble already there. The large dog lay on the floor and studied a man sitting in the chair. The man, Creek saw, was unusually tall and thin. He appeared to be dressed in a soft flowing fabric that glowed subtly inside.

The man noticed Creek and Snowball and stood. As he unfolded, his head almost reached the high ceiling. The man gestured with his hands and images floated in the air in front of him. The man spoke but his words were foreign. Creek studied the images and listened to the man jabber.

Hours seemed to pass. Pebble had fallen asleep. Snowball had left the room. The tall man gestured and more pictures appeared. Creek noticed the man's hands for the first time. He had two opposing thumbs on each hand and six fingers between. Creek remembered number bases he had learned. He realized the man must count in the base sixteen. That one bit of information seemed to unlock Creek's mind. Suddenly all the words and pictures of the last few hours collapsed inside his mind and he could understand the man's language.

"I can understand you," Creek said.

"Excellent." The man dropped his hands to his side. "I am from a race that watches other races on other planets. We seldom interfere, but we saw something special happen here.

"This galaxy has many thousands of planets that could support intelligent life. Of those, only one in four-thousand eighty-six ever develops intelligent life. And of those, only one in one-thousand twenty-four ever survives.

"On this planet, a race arose, prospered, then destroyed itself. But unlike other world's we've seen, this world's first race created an inheritor race. Your race. A new race that could survive harsh environments and survive a destroyed ecosystem, waiting for the world to heal.

"We were impressed by the audacity of that first race. We were equally impressed by the race they created. But we disagree that the inheritor race should die to make room for the original race's return.

"All the member's of your race, the inheritor race, have been moved to a new planet. There they can live and evolve in peace without threat from an inferior creator race.

"I am here to explain this to you because you must remain here."

Creek felt Pebble stand next to him.

"If you were to join others of your kind, you would cause them to become sterile. You would kill your own race. For that one reason, you must remain here, on this planet, with the race that wants you dead."

Firstboy pulled on his sleeve. "Who's that?"

"A stranger," Creek said.

The room filled with a gentle white light and the man vanished.

"What did he say?" Firstboy asked.

Pebble said, "woof."

Firstboy burst into tears and fled the room. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

Creek looked at his dog.

Pebble left the room without looking back.

Photo Posted Wednesday, February 20, 2008   •  (2008) Lake Merritt, Oakland, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Porticos line the east end of the lake
(21 of 29) (57527 views)


Today's episode continues yesterday's story yesterday link

Creek met Firstboy under the shade of porticos that had been constructed on the lake's shore. They provided an area of meditation, nearest the first dome.

Creek had been startled when he found out originator humans only lived for a paltry sixty or seventy years. Creek continued to look young despite the past sixty years, whereas Firstboy was now old. Creek would live for a thousand years, or more, yet.

Firstboy limped up using a cane. "Creek! My friend," he called.

"Firstboy. It is so good to see you again. How's your wife Snowball?"

"Fine, just fine. She asked me to give you a kiss. But I won't."

They sat together in the shade. Firstboy pulled a cloth from his pocket and patted his forehead. Then he cleared his throat and began. "We have a problem. Or rather I have a problem. The Council of Elders is split. Half of them feel the rule should be 'to each according to his worth.' Others feel it should be 'to each according to his need.' I am at a loss for how to smooth the waters. The arguments grow heated."

"The answer chair?"

"If you wouldn't mind. You know it stopped working for us twenty years ago. But it still works for you."

Creek placed his hand on the shoulder of his friend. "Firstboy," he said. "It will be my pleasure."

They stood.

Pebble, Creek's large dog, trotted over to join them. Pebble said, "woof."

"Why thank you," Firstboy said. He patted the dog's head. "And you're right. Firstboy is a silly name for an old man."

Photo Posted Thursday, February 21, 2008   •  (2008) Lake Merritt, Oakland, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Man shows size of fish he didn't catch
(22 of 29) (57522 views)


Today's episode, copyright 2008 Bryan Costales, continues yesterday's story yesterday link

Creek led Firstboy and Pebble through the now-abandoned first building. It was dark and smelled damp.

"How can I fight words?" Firstboy asked. "Ideas can be so persuasive. It is hard to maintain the peace."

"When I was a young boy," Creek said. "My dad told me about a man in the river who was asked, 'Catch any fish?' The man held his hands wide and said, 'One this big, but it got away.' Now if the man had a history of catching fish, one should believe him. But if the man has never caught a fish, one should doubt him."

Pebble said, "woof."

"Oh, I see. Thanks Pebble," Firstboy said.

The answer room was dusty. Creek sat in the chair and the usual projection of a woman appeared. "Do you have a question?" she asked.

"Ask her," Firstboy said.

"You may ask me yourself," the woman told him. "For so long as a Nanny Race sits in the chair, you all may ask questions."

Firstboy stepped forward. He asked the question about need versus want, and which was right.

The woman vanished and Firstboy found himself in a field. Bright flashes all around him, smoke and people blown to bits. Then on a cliff, below hundreds of people slaughtered by arrows. Then on a street, children being hacked to death with large knives.

This presentation went on for two hours. Finally it ended. Creek turned and saw that Firstboy was curled up against Pebble on the floor. Firstboy was shaking.

Creek stood and approached his friend. He knelt.

"Monsters," Firstboy wailed. "We are the children of evil. We are the spawn of the worst imaginable kind of past."

Creek laid a gentle hand on Firstboy's old shoulder. "Should I show this to the others in the Council Of Elders?"

Firstboy shook his head sadly. "No. I'm afraid it might give some of them ideas." Firstboy looked up at Creek. "You're smart. Don't you have a good idea how we can solve this?"

"Firstboy, my old friend. In all my years I have learned the hard way that there are no good ideas. Not a one." Creek helped Firstboy sit up. "No, my friend. There are no good ideas, there are only good people. And you, my friend, are a very good person."

Pebble said, "woof."

"I think I see," Firstboy said. "Thank you Pebble."

Photo Posted Friday, February 22, 2008   •  (2008) Lake Merritt, Oakland, California   •  © 2008 Terry Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Woman walks in tunnel under tracks
(23 of 29) (57255 views)


Today's episode continues yesterday's story yesterday link

For the past four hundred years Creek had continued to name every child born. But as the humans increased in numbers and as they spread far and wide over the land, visits to any given town became longer and longer between. At first he was a couple months late. Then half a year. Then a year late.

At almost five hundred years old Pebble was beginning to feel stiffness in his hind quarters. The loyal dog accompanied Creek on all his travels. Just as loyal, Creek walked more slowly to keep Pebble comfortable.

So it was, that grey and cold day in fall, that Creek and Pebble came upon the distant town of Wet. A tunnel carved in the stone led from a narrow river-side road to the town. Creek and Pebble had arrived. But they were three years late.

The town arbiter greeted Creek. "If I may be frank, we feared that something may have happened to you. We doubted," and he bowed his head. "We doubted that our god could live forever."

"No," Creek said and gently lifted the mans head so that they could talk face to face. "It is I who should apologize. I am three years late for the naming."

The arbiter leaned close, "We have a disbeliever. We have a man who named his own child."

Pebble said, "woof."

"Of course," the arbiter said. "This way. I will lead you to him."

As they walked the narrow streets toward the disbeliever, other of the town flowed from doorways and settled to follow. When they arrived at the house, the crowd had grown to over a third of the town.

From inside the house came a delicate music. A tinkling of tiny bells. The door swung open and the disbelieving father stood there.

"Sawworthy," said the arbiter. "This is Creek and his dog Pebble. Our gods have come to punish you for naming your own child."

Sawworthy's mouth opened and he said nothing. He seemed genuinely surprised. He stepped back and let them into his house.

Pebble led and Creek followed to a room near the back from which the music came. Inside, a young boy was using a metal spoon to play music on tin cups and cans. Pebble sat. Creek listened. Behind them the town was silent, waiting.

Creek listened to the most beautiful music he had ever heard. The young boy was a gifted and brilliant musician. The boy finished playing and looked up. "Hi," he said.

"What is your name?" Creek asked.

"Sandstone," he said. "I'm named for rock that can be carved."

"I am Creek. The namer of children." He approached the boy and leaned over and touched the boy's head. "You are special," he said. "Very special indeed."

Creek stood and turned. To the father and the arbiter he said, "I shall name this boy. And this shall be the last child I will ever name. There are too many of you people now. It takes me too long to visit all the towns. From this day forward you are all now all free to name your own children."

The father smiled. He seemed relieved.

"For over five hundred years there is one name that I have never re-used. One name that is special to me and one name that has come to be revered by all. I give this boy, this very special and talented boy, the name Firstboy."

Tears welled up in the father's eyes. He dropped to his knees and wept from happiness.

Beyond and outside, those of the town that had been listening, let out a cheer. Others ran, ran like the wind to spread the word.

Pebble passed Creek and faced the arbiter. The dog looked the man in the face and said, "woof."

The arbiter's face went ashen.

Pebble looked back at Creek, and together they walked from the house. They walked slowly, of course, because Pebble's hips were bothering him.

Palo Alto Caltrain Station   •  Photo Posted Saturday, February 23, 2008   •  (2008) University Avenue, Palo Alto, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Reproduction of rare broken tablet
(24 of 29) (57480 views)


Today's episode continues yesterday's story yesterday link

Creek walked into the cool, shaded room to see how Pebble was doing. The old dog was six hundred years old, and near the end of his life. He had been running a fever for the past couple days.

Young women in colorful robes worked in an endless stream. The brought in fresh cloths soaked in alcohol to cool Pebble's paws, and removed the old spent cloths.

Creek knelt near his old friend and scratched him behind his ears.

Pebble opened his eyes and said, "woof."

Creek, in that moment, remembered the tall man from so long ago. Creek remembered how he talked and talked until Creek could understand him.

"Pebble," Creek said. "If you are strong enough, try talking to me until I can understand you."

Pebble's tail wagged against the floor twice. Then he began. "Woof. Woof. Woof, woof. Woof woof woof." Pebble closed his eyes to rest, but kept talking.

An hour passed, then a second. Creek was beginning to despair. Then he noticed a difference. Instead of "woof," he heard, "worfer, grwoll." Creek listened more closely. Gradually, like blinking water from his eyes, the words began to flow into focus. "I am talking to you Creek. I don't know why the humans can understand me and you can't"

"I can understand you!" Creek said. He leaned over and hugged Pebble.

"You know," Pebble opened his eyes. "Until now, the only thing that I regretted about my life was not being able to talk to you."

"And now you can."

"And now I am happy. Now I can sleep, at last, with no regrets."

Pebble closed his eyes. His breathing stopped. Two of the attending girls entered the room and both gasped.

The noble dog seemed to deflate as he breathed out his last long breath.

A week later, Creek arrived at the original lake. A few humans followed him but he ignored them. He had carried Pebble's body the entire distance on his back. Now, at the lake, the prepared a raft.

Creek gently laid Pebble on the raft. He piled dried branches over his body.

"Goodbye old friend," Creek said. He lit the branches aflame, and pushed the raft out into the lake.

From behind him he heard a moan that seemed to flow like the wind. He looked back and saw the hill behind him filled with thousands of humans. The were all weeping. Some waved goodbye to Pebble. Some, he noticed, had wandered to the waters edge and were throwing flower pedals.

Creek looked back at the raft. Black smoke rose from it.

Creek watched and thought. Then carefully said, "woof."

Photo Posted Sunday, February 24, 2008   •  (2008) Lytton Avenue, Palo Alto, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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One kayak battles with another mid lake
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Today's episode, copyright 2008 Bryan Costales, continues yesterday's story yesterday link

The first Council of Elders set in law three main concepts. Killing, even in war, is a crime. There shall only ever be one language. And the number of children allowed a person is based on the good they do.

Over the years these rules were added to and evolved into codes of conduct. And for seven hundred years there had been peace.

A town on the far side of the vast desert decided to become a fort. They surrounded themselves with a moat and established royalty and a royal language.

Other towns tried to invade, but the prohibition against death presented an obstacle. Opposing sides would fight from boats on the moat, knocking the others into the water. There grew a custom from this conflict to not rescue those who fell in the water. The royalty decided that failure to save was not the same as killing. The royalty also decided that success at battle was a measure of good.

Creek arrived at the shore of the moat in the spring. He watched that day's battle. A man was knocked from a boat and drowned. The battle subsided as the fighters noticed Creek.

When all eyes were on him, he walked into and under the water. With his extra lung capacity he could hold his breath for twenty times longer than a human. The fighters were talking among themselves, wondering what happened to Creek when he emerged from the far end carrying two bodies. He lay them on the shore.

"Who killed these men?" He asked.

One of the men, a leader, said, "No one killed them. They drowned."

Creek glared at them. "Who among you chooses to drown?"

The men all looked at each other. The leader said, "None of us. Of course."

"Did either of these two men choose to drown?"

"They knew the risk. That one," he pointed at the man in the blue uniform. "Is our enemy."

"While I was under water," Creek told them. "I switched the uniforms."

The leader could think of nothing to say.

A man in a robe, wearing a crown, strode down to the shore. He spoke gibberish to Creek, but Creek understood him. The man said, "I am king over all I see. Who are you to defile my shore?"

Creek looked the man up and down. Creek thought about Pebble and the way he had of saying just the right thing. Creek closed his eyes and pictured Pebble in his mind. Then he opened his eyes and looked directly at the king. Carefully forming his words for best effect, he said, "woof."

The king's eyes went wide. He began to shake. Then he fell to his knees and bowed to Creek. In the traditional language he said, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

Photo Posted Monday, February 25, 2008   •  (2008) Lake Merritt, Oakland, California   •  © 2008 Terry Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Man in moose hat with dragon behind
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Today's episode continues yesterday's story yesterday link

Creek was somewhere around eight hundred years old. He lost track of his exact age a while back. Because his legs were beginning to ache, he tended these days to remain at home.

Creek used to wander the land of humans, visiting them where they lived and helping them solve their problems. Today he sat in a chair and waited for humans to come to him.

Many humans volunteered to help him. They fed him, they did his laundry, they screened others who wanted to ask him questions. His assistants turned away thousands daily, those with trivial problems. Only a few each day would come before Creek. Creek liked that system. He could spend more time with each.

"This morning," an assistant said. "We have a young girl. She asks questions we don't understand."

Creek waved a bored hand. Most questions, even the screened questions were seldom inspired.

The girl entered and stopped before him. She bowed deeply as was the custom, and waited for Creek to speak first.

"Please ask your question," Creek said. He suppressed a yawn.

The girl said, "woof."

Creek was startled. He became aware of the piano playing in the next room. An etude by the great composer Firstboy. He heard the wind blowing outside and birds singing in the trees.

"That's not a question, that's a statement," Creek said.


Creek remembered kissing the statue of the woman. He remembered the ground opening. He stood on the edge, with Pebble, and looked down. He wondered if he should go down. "I chose to go down because my life had been dull. Humanity was reborn because of my boredom."

The girl smiled. She appeared satisfied. She bowed and began to back up.

"Wait," Creek said.

She stopped, still bent at the waist.

"Would you like to be my assistant?"

She looked at him and smiled.

"Stand," he said. Then, "woof."

His new assistant jumped up and down in joy and clapped her hands.

Creek decided that his old age might not be so boring after all.

Rain before Chinese New Year Parade   •  Photo Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2008   •  (2008) Main Street, San Francisco, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Ashly's yellow tennis shoes
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Today's episode continues yesterday's story yesterday link

The new assistant grew into a young woman, living up to her name, CloudLining, because she always offered all she met a profound hope. Creek spent many hours talking with her and eventually asked her to marry him.

Word spread of the wedding and thousands of well wishers came to visit from far and wide. Some, who did not know the system, brought gifts. All such gifts were politely refused.

A great feast was followed by a splendid wedding. And that was followed by a night of music and dancing until dawn.

All these eight hundred years, Creek had believed he had been rendered sterile. But it turned out that he was only sterile to others of his kind, not to ordinary humans.

In the spring CloudLining bore a male child. The child looked more human than not. Creek and CloudLining named their son Firstboy. CloudLining thought Creek meant the Firstboy that was the great musician. Then Creek explained about the actual Firstboy.

CloudLining wept with joy.

CloudLining lived for ninety years. Creek came down with a fever soon after Firstboy was born. Afterward he could no longer sire children, so Firstboy was their only child.

Firstboy was across the great ocean and could not return for the funeral for his mother. She was buried in a small ceremony, and a tree planted on her grave.

After CloudLining's death, Creek withdrew into his own mind. He decided to see the world for one last time. He took a curtain rod as a staff and left. He spent the rest of his life visiting towns. He took to wearing long robes and was seldom recognized.

The world of man, he discover, now had seven distinct languages. Wars were common. Borders became guarded.

Creek traveled and observed and aged.

Photo Posted Wednesday, February 27, 2008   •  (2007) Main Street, San Francisco, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Well commented doorway
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Today's episode continues yesterday's story yesterday link

Alpham awoke to his mother knocking on his bedroom door. Alpham lived with his adopted parents in a bad part of town. The streets were narrow and covered with graffiti. His adopted dad barely eked an existence selling fresh baked breads.

The door swung open and his adopted mother leaned in. "Up up up, lazy bones," she called. "We're pulling you from school today and taking a trip."

Alpham had just turned ten, and was still heady from his party. He leaped from bed. "A trip? Where? Why?"

"It's a secret," was all his adopted mom would say.

Five days later they disembarked from the electric rail car into a hot, moist climate. Thousands of people milled around the station. Alpham's adopted dad led the way to a solar tram. They were the only passengers allowed on.

The tram moved silently past thousands and thousands more people lining the dirt road. They passed through gates opened wide with a sign saying, "Origin Lake Archaeological Dig. Entry without Permit Prohibited."

The tram at last stopped by a large tent set up alongside a lake. Alpham noticed, at the edge of the lake a huge pile of wood.

Inside the tent they were met by robed dignitaries. One separated Alpham from his adopted parents and led him to a deserted corner of the large tent.

"I am PrimeOne. We had hoped to not have you learn this too soon, but your great, great, great, great, grandparents were the god Creek and the mortal CloudLining." PrimeOne paused.

Alpham hadn't studied mythology yet, so he didn't recognize the reference. "Who are they?"

"It is believed that humanity lived once before, eleven thousand years ago. But those first humans died out. We believe they created a god to live through the dead times, and to resurrect the humans when the world could again support life."

"Okay," Alpham said cautiously.

"That god had a son, who went on to explore the world. He, in turn had children, and they had children. An so it went until you were born. But evil forces are loose in the land. Your parents were killed when you were a baby. You would have been killed too, if we had not saved you. That is how you came to live with your adopted parents."

Alpham had no chance to ask more questions. He was caught up in a fury of preparations and training.

The next afternoon he stood at the edge of a lake. He held a lit torch in his hands, a bit heavy, but he could hold it. He felt a bit humbled because he now knew that the body of the god Creek lay inside that pile.

Speeches were given. Sad words were said. Then a bell was rung. Alpham lit the pile of wood aflame.

Two strong men used heavy polls to push the burning pile into the lake where it became a burning raft. It coasted slowly to the center of the lake and stopped.

Alpham never saw the smoke form into a cloud above. Alpham never saw the lightening bold strike the raft and sink it. Alpham never heard the prayers said by a hundred thousand voices lining the lake shore. Alpham felt the torch knocked from his hand. Then he was enclosed in a dark sack and picked up and carried. A strange smell inside the sack forced him to sleep.

After the lightening struck the raft, the dark cloud of smoke dissipated. All that was left was a calm lake, on a sunny afternoon, surrounded by people-covered low hills.

Photo Posted Thursday, February 28, 2008   •  (2008) Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Rainbow hues peek from center of splash drops
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Today's episode, copyright 2008 Bryan Costales, concludes yesterday's story yesterday link

In the year 2000 post rebirth, the great scientist Yman One spoke to a young audience on the tenth anniversery of the founding of the first Mars colony. The title of his talk was, "Double DNA and the X9 marker. Myth or science?"

After his speech, which drew a standing ovation, Yman was approached by a tall young woman, marred by a slightly hunched back. "Excuse me," she said. "But I have the X9 marker in my DNA. I don't understand how you can claim it does not exist."

Yman looked at her oddly, as if he hadn't heard her. "Every single human on earth was tested when we started universal health care last year. And not a single person showed the X9 marker. Clearly you are mistaken."

The girl scrunched her face. She closed her eyes and seemed to concentrate before answering.

Yman was about to turn and leave when she spoke.

She said, "woof."

Yman's eyes went wide, startled. "Your parents, of course. They live here on Mars with you. I hadn't thought of that."

Then Yman felt unaccountably sad and said, "I'm sorry."

The girl asked herself, "How did I do that?" Then she turned, her head filled with new questions, and ran off to find her parents.

The End

Photo Posted Friday, February 29, 2008   •  (2007) Riverfront Park, Spokane, Washington   •  © 2008 Terry Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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