Interactive Story
A Walk in the Park

* 1 *
". . .bricks," said the voice with absolute conviction. "You can start with the fireplace and work your way up the chimney. It doesn't matter. They're all fakes. Replicas. . . of real bricks. Counterfeit! I know. I saw them. . ."

I quickly walked past the open doorway without slowing down -- counterfeit bricks fading behind me in the well-lit hallway. In my mind I knew that counter-intelligence, security and paranoia embraced each other in an ardent ménage de trois, but what, exactly, was I getting myself into?

The closed door facing me at the end of the hallway was no different than any of the others except for the small red light above it that winked out as I arrived.

I knocked, and a woman inside said, 'Enter.' Not, 'Come in,' or 'Who is it?' Funny how a single word can evoke memories. The last time I'd heard that command was in boot camp at Parris Island as I stood at attention outside my drill instructor's office door. Perhaps it was the ring of authority the woman's voice carried. Who knows? But I squared my shoulders and stiffened my upper lip as I opened the door.

Semper Fi, once a Marine, always a Marine.

"The admiral is expecting you," said the receptionist behind cool grey eyes. Her voice, and now her eyes told me that the attractive young woman sitting before me in the dark blue business suit was more than a secretary. I had been measured and catalogued in an instant. If I wasn't who I was supposed to be, her response would have been entirely different....smoothly competent in any situation. I wondered where she had been trained. The Farm in Virginia, perhaps? But for now she only smiled -- a reserved smile, but on her it looked good -- and waved me toward the inner office door.

* 2 *

As I reached for the admiral's brass doorknob, almost in a whisper she said, "Keep your eyes open, handsome." Then she gave me a quick wink before she turned back to shuffling the papers on her desk.

So, the coiled steel spring wasn't as cold as I'd thought.

With her wink bouncing around in my head like a stray atom caught inside a cyclotron, I opened the big, oak piece in my hand long before the big cat standing before me finished licking her paws....into a lush, green jungle complete with vid, sounds, and smell.

I don't know how the old boy got such realism out of a holo-vid, but I just stood in the doorway, my eyes definitely wide open, taking it all in. The black panther looked up from licking her paws and saw me standing right in front of her. She yawned lazily, gave me a 'catch-you-later' grin, and loped away at right angles to the path that snaked away from the doorway until it lost itself between the mangroves. A crocodile, a big one from the sound of it, coughed somewhere ahead and off to my right. The pungent odor of decaying vegetation mixed with methane and fish -- nothing less than a tropical rain forest -- assaulted my senses. I wondered what the black dirt would turn into if I reached down to pick some up. I holstered my piece.

"Close the door, captain," she said behind me. Now, I could definitely hear the amusement in her voice. "You're in a secure area."

I smiled back at her and winked as I closed the door. Two could play this game. Then I took two steps forward onto the path and, smiling inwardly at my cleverness, I turned around.

The strangled sound in my throat was coming from me. The doorway was gone. I was standing alone on a path in the middle of a jungle. If this was a holo-vid, a startling breakthrough in technology had been achieved.

Another big cayman bellowed somewhere ahead and to my left. Instinctively, I checked my shoulder harness. Extra clip in the belt and one in my briefcase. Standard procedure....for urban operations.

I looked down, and my question about the dirt had been answered. It was mud, black and clinging to my leather street shoes. I was sweating beneath my navy blue business suit. My tie felt like a noose, and a swarm of tiny insects circled my head. Why hadn't I been briefed...?

Yeah, some briefing that would have been. Wear your guerrilla suit. Bring your survival gear and carry your M-20 carbine up the elevator to the sixteenth floor because it's a real jungle up there.

So, this must be some kind of test. I withdrew my 45 and clicked off the safety. Two could play at this game too. I loosened my collar and carefully advanced along the path.

Something very large, much larger than an elephant, crashed through the jungle about a quarter-click away on my right. I couldn't see it, but I didn't need to. I could hear it. Lucky it was heading in the other direction. I stared at my 45. Suddenly I felt out-gunned. It would take an awful lot of firepower to stop whatever it was that was snapping off large trees like twigs a half-click away.

I quickened my pace.

* 3 *

I was just about acclimated to the jungle -- according to Lin Wu environment is a mindset -- when I rounded a mangrove and, about thirty meters off to my right, what had to be the biggest croc on the planet lay beside a stagnant pool sunning itself. Damn thing had to be at least seven meters long, and its reptilian eyes were following me like it had just found lunch.

Some test.

I froze, waiting for its next move. My heart skipped a beat as the croc, all seven meters of it, swung around to align itself to me like an arrow waiting to be shot from a bow. I looked for something to climb, but the mangrove roots were covered with slippery green moss. Too risky. I could picture myself sliding down into its waiting jaws. The other trees were too wide to climb, and they were covered with the same moss. I was on my own, on the ground without much cover to slow down a croc that size.

I spotted the stoutest tree in the bunch about five meters further along the path. If I could put the tree between me and the croc, at least I might be able to get off a few good shots.

At my first step, the croc moved to cut me off. It's hard to believe that an animal so large could move so fast. We arrived nearly together, but I managed to get the tree between us, the croc's snout coming around the tree to my right, its jaws wide open and ready for lunch.

I squeezed off three quick shots that hit between its gaping jaws, but the damned thing didn't even slow down. Hitting its pea-brain was a long shot.

I dove to my left and rolled upright as its jaws clamped shut, ripping skin from my calf and a piece from my pant leg. I got off three more rounds, hitting it right between the eyes, but the croc kept coming. I emptied the rest of the clip into it and was wondering what it would feel like to be crushed between those jagged teeth when suddenly the croc's head and jaws just disappeared, lasered out of existence.

"You must be Jack Trent," said the tall man in the khaki safari suit and jungle hat as he lowered his laser. "Ian Holmes, at your service. We've been expecting you, captain." The headless croc rolled and writhed against the tree, its huge tail flailing back-and-forth, digging a furrow in the soft mud.

I stepped back and wiped the mud from my hand on what was left of my pant leg. "It would've been a lot smoother if you'd met me at the door," I said as I extended my none-too-clean hand.

"Actually, you've done quite well, old chap," he replied, shaking hands. He was ruddy-faced, very British, and he grinned back at me. "We've found that the transition works much better if you Yanks jump right in with both feet, so to speak. We'll get you outfitted after you've joined The Club."

* 4? *

Credits (and links if you got 'em) will be given at the end of the tale as each segment is written:

Segment One written by C.W.Smoke 3/7/99
Segment Two written by C.W.Smoke 3/13/99
Segment Three written by C.W.Smoke 3/21/99

March 28st 1999

This week's continuation has been suspended (again no writers) because I am doing research on how information is being disseminated (by both sides) concerning the conflict in Kosovo. It is abhorrent to me, personally, that some news services put a music sound track (what next, a laugh track?) to war and killing. I'll be back next week with the latest segment to the interactive story (provided there are no other entries).

March 21st 1999

OK, I could bitch and whine that I'm not getting any support here. I could, but I won't. Do you know why? Well, I'm gonna tell you. It's because I've discovered something by having to write these segments over the last few weeks. Having a deadline (of sorts) has put me on a higher (storytelling) plane. Since I began this unilateral 'interactive story,' I have written two of my (very) best tales, and I have no doubt that both will be purchased and published. So, I've broken out of my lethargy and tapped into my creativity by 'forcing' myself to write more. Go figger. I guess if it works, don't knock it. I do know one thing, however. I'll get down on my knees (before jumping for joy) and be grateful if I can regularly produce tales like, 'Trick or Treat' or 'Last Call.' You're all still welcome to jump in and write a segment anytime, but I'm not gonna hold my breath. Oh, well. It's 9:00AM Sunday morning. Might as well write seg 3 -- don't really have a clue as to what I'll write -- let's just see what comes out *smile*

March 13th 1999

Apparently I should have allowed extra room to comment each section as it is completed. The first week's selection is extremely easy since there were no entries. I suppose my being a writer, not a promoter, is partly to blame for the slow start. Of course, being a writer means that now I'll have to do what I do, and write the second segment.

If this unilateral participation becomes a trend, at least I'll have a 'new' method (for me anyway) of generating tales in weekly installments. Or perhaps my initial premise was wrong. Maybe the vistors (to my site) are readers not writers....passengers not drivers....pacifists not activists. Maybe they just don't want to become involved in a non-paying enterprise. Whatever. Enough ranting. I'll give it a chance, and see what happens...

Second installment posted on March 13th 1999 -- oops! gotta run! -- I'm goin' to the St. Patty's Day parade to drink some green beer and (maybe) jump into the green river. They say that if yer wearin' green, ye'll float. Be seein' ya!

-- FAQ --

OK, I've never done an interactive story before, so I need feedback. Here are my thoughts as I begin:

Rules? -- There are no stinking rules (for example, the first person character in the initial segment could be delusional, suffering from dementia, and the 'admiral' could really be his 'doctor'). You get the idea. Multi-genre is fine. The only (sensible) request that I can think of is to end your segment at a decision, a fork in the road, so to speak. You'll notice that at the end of the first segment the character is opening a door that could lead anywhere. Try to write a segment that is logical (onto itself and the story). Use your imagination. Experiment. Take chances. Have fun with it.

How do I know where the story left off? -- The story ends where it ends on the webpage. You will be writing the continuation of the latest posted segment.

How does *MY* segment get onto *YOUR* webpage? -- Send your continuation to by midnite Friday of the current week. Include your segment in the body of your e-mail. Please do not attach it as most attachments are not decoded by my mailer.

Frequency? -- Once a week, beginning on Sunday March 14, 1999 at high noon Central Time (Standard or Daylight depending upon which Chicago is on at the time -- see the clock in The Library if you have Netscrape), I will choose the 'best' continuation and post it on the webpage. I would rather that someone else made the choice, but, at the moment, no one has come forward *smile*

What does Smoke get out of it? -- Besides increased web traffic, nothing. I won't release e-mail addresses (unless you want me to with your posted segment) -- I won't promise to 'Get You Published' -- I won't charge any fees. I will (constructively) critique your submissions (if you request it), and I will get to meet some of you on a professional level. Other than that, who knows?

I believe in Free Speech on The Web, but excessive sex and/or violence isn't/aren't necessary unless they are ABSOLUTELY intrinsic to the tale. That's all there is to it. I've surfed the 'Writing' Webrings, and there's plenty of talent out there. At the very least this is a good exercise to strengthen your writing. Go for it!