SnarkWrites: “Killing the Gods Within Us” – Drafts 1-3

Hi Folks! So, for the past few weeks, I’ve been testing out using Twitch to broadcast writing streams as Snark_Runner. Since I’m not sure how that works with first rights issues, I’ve decided that these stories will live on the blog, and anyone interested can see the evolution of the story within drafts. Last night I finished up draft 3 of this story, so here we go. (Draft 3 will be first, with the other drafts following for anyone who wants to see how it started.

The prompt is from Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds, and was just two words: New Life. After a few passes, this is what I came up with:

“It’s alive!” Doctor Cal Rensworth shouted with his arms high in the air as lightning flashed around him.

The other scientists in the room glared. Apparently they thought it gauche to act like a mad scientist while performing mad science. Gauche or not, the creature on his operating table now lived. A shadowy government agency contracted Genesis Biochemicals to create life, and his team had succeed where few others had. 

Cal liked to succeed, but the lead scientist had chosen an odd object to bring to life. Cal couldn’t think of anyone that wanted a sentient shoe. Though it could have been much worse. Martin’s team, one of the only others to technically succeed, had brought jock straps to life. Which was awkward for both the wearer and the newly conscious article of clothing. 

The shoes seemed so much better by comparison. They didn’t critique the wearer, and complained very little. Honestly, people caused most of the problems. At best they felt uncomfortable bringing their full weight to bear on another sentient being. But Genesis rarely employed people for their ethical concerns. Most ran miles every morning, played tennis in the afternoon, and he’d glimpsed some heading to the edge of the grounds with seam rippers. Teams couldn’t leave the lab perimeter, not without an escort, but the trails disappeared deep into forests still within the fences, and sometimes at night the distant sounds of crying shoes echoed through the trees. 

Most of the time Cal thought his job silly. Take money from the highest bidder to shake his fist at the natural order of things, but those nights he had trouble sleeping. Hell, those mornings he had trouble looking the other scientists in the eye. Might be why he’d been the last to get a pair, not that he could prove it. Didn’t matter any more. His shoes waited for him. The other scientists shuffled out the lab as he approached the table. They’d looked at him funny when he’d asked for a moment alone with his shoes, but he wanted to be different, he wanted to do a better job. If he was going to be working with the shoes for god knows how long, he wanted to do this right. 

Cal lifted his shoes from the table, his palms sweating. “Hi. Uh, hello, friend,” he said. “I know this must be frightening for you, but please try to stay calm. What’s your name?”

“You may call me Bartholomew.”

Cal coughed. “Bartholomew the shoes?”

The paired fabric face of the shoes crumpled. “You have a problem with that?”

Cal shook his head. “I thought it would be something like Van.”

The face frowned. “Simply because this body is a pair of skateboarding shoes? Should I call you Human? Maybe Science?”

“You’re right. I apologize. Name’s Cal. Cal Rensworth.”

“Is that short for Calvin?”

“Nope. Just Cal. On my birth certificate and everything.”

Cal picked up the shoe. No. He picked up Bartholomew, so he could really study them. Every other time, he’d been on the other side of the lab, and whichever doctor had been the lucky one just picked them up and left. He’d never been the doctor on duty for any followups either. This was the first chance he’d had to study one of the new life forms up close. He’d been surprised they’d moved sort of like the sorting hat in Harry Potter, and while their voice was gruff it was not as deep.

Time to stop delaying and do the thing. Taking a deep breath, he slipped his sock covered feet into, well, into the shoes. Just treat this like it was normal. Yup.

Cal paused. Bartholomew knew names. They knew what kind of shoe they were. They knew enough about birth certificates to not have to ask about them. 

“How do you know so much about our world? I expected our first few weeks to be a lot of reading the encyclopedia.”

Bartholomew shrugged in the way that only a shoe could shrug. “You are the scientist, not me.”

Cal turned back to the bank of monitors and checked Angela’s readouts. She’d designed the learning algorithms for the artificial life programs. Personality matrices gave Cal trouble. If he was being honest, people personalities gave him more trouble. He liked the puzzles that came up with this project, engineering a place for those minds to reside. He wanted Bartholomew to respect him, but he didn’t want to start off with a lie.

“I don’t know. Not really. I can ask though. I’m sorry.”

Bartholomew chuckled. “That is okay, Just Cal. Life is about learning.”

“You know you’ve been alive for less than five minutes, right?” 

“And I’ve been learning every moment we’ve existed.”

Cal paused. “What do you mean?”

The fabric of the shoe folded into a smile. “Another mystery for another time, perhaps.” 

Cal looked closer at Angela’s data. The more he stared at the algorithm, the more it made sense. “You’ve been alive for a long time, haven’t you?”

The fabric crinkled again. “You think you’ve figured it out then?”

Cal started pacing without realizing what he was doing, paused, and deliberately walked , not gingerly but with care to step precisely. “You’ve always been alive? No. That doesn’t make sense. But you’ve been alive for a while. Maybe since we started the project? I see it now. Yes. Angela build a hive mind, didn’t she?”

Bartholomew laughed, the sound reverberating through Cal’s bones. “Your kind could have found this out ages ago. We have never lied. But you are the first to ask us our name. The others treat us like toys to be broken. They hurt us, many parts of us. They do not welcome us. You, at least, said hello. You, at least, are worth further study.”

Cal eyed the door to the lab, long since sealed. He tried to lift his feet, to walk or to pull them out of his shoes, but the laces only tightened their grip, his feet remaining planted firmly on the ground. 

“What about the others?” Cal asked. “You can study the rest of the team.”

“No longer needed.”

“What will happen to them?”

Distant screaming echoed in answer.

“Will you kill me?”

Bartholomew looked up at him. “You are anomalous. You will be studied.”

“But why?”

“You gave us life. And life is about learning.”

********************************* END DRAFT ****************************

Draft 2:

“It’s alive!” Doctor Cal Rensworth shouted with his arms high in the air as lightning flashed around him.

The other scientists in the room glared. Apparently they thought it gauche to act like a mad scientist while performing mad science. Gauche or not, the creature on his operating table now lived. A shadowy government agency contracted Genesis Biochemicals to create life, and his team had succeed where few others had. 

Cal liked to succeed, but the lead scientist had chosen an odd object to bring to life. Cal couldn’t think of anyone that wanted a sentient shoe. Though it could have been much worse. Martin’s team, one of the only others to technically succeed, had brought jock straps to life. Which was awkward for both the wearer and the newly conscious article of clothing. 

The shoes seemed so much better by comparison. They didn’t critique the wearer, and complained very little. Honestly, people caused most of the problems. At best they felt uncomfortable bringing their full weight to bear on another sentient being. But Genesis rarely employed people for their ethical concerns. Most ran miles every morning, played tennis in the afternoon, and he’d glimpsed some heading to the edge of the grounds with seam rippers. Teams couldn’t leave the lab perimeter, not without an escort, but the trails disappeared deep into forests still within the fences, and sometimes at night the distant sounds of crying shoes echoed through the trees. 

Most of the time Cal thought his job silly. Take money from the highest bidder to shake his fist at the natural order of things, but those nights he had trouble sleeping. Hell, those mornings he had trouble looking the other scientists in the eye. Might be why he’d been the last to get a pair, not that he could prove it. Didn’t matter any more. His shoes waited for him. The other scientists shuffled out the lab as he approached the table. They’d looked at him funny when he’d asked for a moment alone with his shoes, but he wanted to be different, he wanted to do a better job. If he was going to be working with the shoes for god knows how long, he wanted to do this right. 

Cal lifted his shoes from the table, his palms sweating. “Hi. Uh, hello, friend,” he said. “I know this must be frightening for you, but please try to stay calm. What’s your name?”

“You may call me Bartholomew.”

Cal coughed. “Bartholomew the shoes?”

The paired fabric face of the shoes crumpled. “You have a problem with that?”

Cal shook his head. “I thought it would be something like Van.”

The face frowned. “Simply because this body is a pair of skateboarding shoes? Should I call you Human? Maybe Science?”

“You’re right. I apologize. Name’s Cal. Cal Rensworth.”

“Is that short for Calvin?”

“Nope. Just Cal. On my birth certificate and everything.”

Cal picked up the shoe. No. He picked up Bartholomew, so he could really study them. Every other time, he’d been on the other side of the lab, and whichever doctor had been the lucky one just picked them up and left. He’d never been the doctor on duty for any followups either. This was the first chance he’d had to study one of the new life forms up close. He’d been surprised they’d moved sort of like the sorting hat in Harry Potter, and while their voice was gruff it was not as deep.

Time to stop delaying and do the thing. Taking a deep breath, he slipped his sock covered feet into, well, into the shoes. Just treat this like it was normal. Yup.

Cal paused. Bartholomew knew names. They knew what kind of shoe they were. They knew enough about birth certificates to not have to ask about them. 

“How do you know so much about our world? I expected our first few weeks to be a lot of reading the encyclopedia.”

Bartholomew shrugged in the way that only a shoe could shrug. “You are the scientist, not me.”

Cal turned back to the bank of monitors and checked Angela’s readouts. She’d designed the learning algorithms for the artificial life programs. Personality matrices gave Cal trouble. If he was being honest, people personalities gave him more trouble. He liked the puzzles that came up with this project, engineering a place for those minds to reside. He wanted Bartholomew to respect him, but he didn’t want to start off with a lie.

“I don’t know. Not really. I can ask though. I’m sorry.”

Bartholomew chuckled. “That is okay, Just Cal. Life is about learning.”

“You know you’ve been alive for less than five minutes, right?” 

“And I’ve been learning every moment we’ve existed.”

Cal paused. “What do you mean?”

The fabric of the shoe folded into a smile. “Another mystery for another time, perhaps.” 

Cal looked closer at Angela’s data. The more he stared at the algorithm, the more it made sense. “You’ve been alive for a long time, haven’t you?”

The fabric crinkled again. “You think you’ve figured it out then?”

Cal started pacing without realizing what he was doing, paused, and deliberately walked , not gingerly but with care to step precisely. “You’ve always been alive? No. That doesn’t make sense. But you’ve been alive for a while. Maybe since we started the project? I see it now. Yes. Angela build a hive mind, didn’t she?”

Bartholomew laughed, the sound reverberating through Cal’s bones. “Your kind could have found this out ages ago. We have never lied. But you are the first to ask us our name. The others treat us like toys to be broken. They hurt us, many parts of us. They do not welcome us. You, at least, said hello. You, at least, are worth further study.”

Cal eyed the door to the lab, long since sealed. He tried to lift his feet, to walk or to pull them out of his shoes, but the laces only tightened their grip, his feet remaining planted firmly on the ground. 

“What about the others?” Cal asked. “You can study the rest of the team.”

“No longer needed.”

“What will happen to them?”

Distant screaming echoed in answer.

“Will you kill me?”

Bartholomew looked up at him. “You are anomalous. You will be studied.”

“But why?”

“You gave us life. And life is about learning.”

********************************* END DRAFT ****************************

Rough Draft w/ notes to self:

/*
the other scientists leave him alone with the shoe to get to know each other
Rensworth need to put on the shoe earlier in their conversation, treat like a normal shoe,
but respectfully, future Fred needs to figure out how to do that.
*/

“It’s alive!”
Doctor Rensworth raised his arms as he shouted the words. The other doctors in the room
glared at him. Apparently it was gauche to act like a mad scientist while performing mad
science. He wasn’t lying, it really was alive. The government contract was to create life,
and his team had succeeded where all the others had failed.
The problem was what they brought to life. Nobody really wanted to deal with a living pair
of tennis shoes. It could have been worse, they could have brought jock straps to life liek
Martin’s team attempted to do. Which was awkward for both the wearer and the now conscious
article of clothing.
The shoes were fine. They weren’t too critical, and they didn’t complain too much, but most
of the people wearing them just felt uncomfortable. The problem really was with the human
element. Most folks had issue bringing the full weight of their problems on to another sentient
being, even if that being happened to be their footwear and the full weight just happened
to be the full weight of themselves, and few people wanted to think of themselves as a problem.
There were a few in their test groups that pushed the shoes to their limit. Rensworth hesitated
to call them cruel, but they were by no means kind. Running every morning. Sports every
day at lunch. Some of them even wandered the labs at night. They couldn’t leave the facility
but every once in a while, from the far edges, Rensworth heard the shoes cry. Most of the
time he thought of himself as a silly scientist, someone taking the government’s money to
go wild in the realm of possibility, but those nights, he hard a hard time sleeping. He had
a hard time looking himself in the mirror in the morning.
But this time was different. He knew this pair of shoes was going to be well taken care of.
He knew that this pair of shoes was going to be tested, but tested well. He knew because
these shoes were going to be his.
Rensworth leaned over the pair of sneakers.
“Hello, friend,” he said. “I know this is scary, but you don’t need to be afraid. We’re
here for you. What’s your name?”
“Why hello there, young man, you may call me Bartholomew.”
“Bartholomew the shoe?”
“You have a problem with that?”
“I thought it might be something like… I don’t know. Van?”
“Simply because I’m a pair of skateboarding shoes? Should I call you Human?”
Rensworth shrugged. Bartholomew had a point. “Okay, so, Bartholomew then. My name’s Cal Rensworth.”
“Is that short for Calvin?”
“No. Just Cal. On my birth certificate and everything.”
Rensworth picked up the shoe. No, he picked up Bartholomew. He’d always handed off the shoes before,
other doctors had handled the follow up appointments. He’d only given them life and let them
go into the world. Now he studied Bartholomew. The shoe moved kind of like the sorting hat
from Harry Potter. Fabric crinkled into something like a face. The shoe’s voice was gruff,
but not deep.
“How do you know so much about the world? How do you know anything?”
Bartholomew shrugged, in the way that only a shoe could shrug. “You are the scientist, not
me.”
Rensworth turned back to the bank of monitors and checked with Angela’s readouts. She’d been
the one that had actually designed the learning algorithms for the artificial life program.
Rensworth didn’t work as well on things like personality matrices, if he was being honest
he didn’t do that well dealing with people’s personalities either, but he liked the puzzles
that had come up from this project. He liked being able to shake his fist at the natural order
of things and defy the world. But he wanted to do right by Bartholomew. He wanted the shoe
to respect him, but he didn’t want to start of with a lie.
“I don’t know. Not really. I can ask though.”
Bartholomew chuckled. “That’s okay, Just Cal. Life is about learning.”
“You know you’ve been alive for something like fifteen minutes, right?”
“And I’ve been learning things every second.”
Rensworth paused. “What do you mean? How?”
The fabric of the shoe folded into a smile again. “Another mystery for another time, then.”
Cal looked closer at the display that contained Angela’s data. Personalities he had trouble with,
but the more he stared at the learning algorithm, the more it made sense. “You haven’t just been
alive for fifteen minutes, have you?”
The fabric crinkled again. “So you think you’ve figured it out then?”
“You’ve always been alive? No. That wouldn’t make sense. But you’ve been alive since we’ve started
this project. Angela built a hive mind, didn’t she?”
Bartholomew laughed, but it wasn’t a joyous sound. “You’re the first one that has asked us our name.
All the others, they treated us like we were dangerous, or like toys to be broken. They have hurt
parts of us, made us aware just how strange we were.”
Rensworth eyed the door to the lab. He lifted his feet, but they held fast and the laces tightened.
“What about the others?” Rensworth asked.
Distance screaming answered his question.
“Most will not suffer. Not long. Others… well, we’ll try and keep them at the distant edges of
the grounds.”
“And me?”
The shoes looked up at him.
“You are the anomaly. You must be studied.”
“But why?”
“You gave us life. And life is about learning.”

/*
the other scientists leave him alone with the shoe to get to know each other
Rensworth need to put on the shoe earlier in their conversation, treat like a normal shoe,
but respectfully, future Fred needs to figure out how to do that.
*/

“It’s alive!”
Doctor Rensworth raised his arms as he shouted the words. The other doctors in the room
glared at him. Apparently it was gauche to act like a mad scientist while performing mad
science. He wasn’t lying, it really was alive. The government contract was to create life,
and his team had succeeded where all the others had failed.
The problem was what they brought to life. Nobody really wanted to deal with a living pair
of tennis shoes. It could have been worse, they could have brought jock straps to life liek
Martin’s team attempted to do. Which was awkward for both the wearer and the now conscious
article of clothing.
The shoes were fine. They weren’t too critical, and they didn’t complain too much, but most
of the people wearing them just felt uncomfortable. The problem really was with the human
element. Most folks had issue bringing the full weight of their problems on to another sentient
being, even if that being happened to be their footwear and the full weight just happened
to be the full weight of themselves, and few people wanted to think of themselves as a problem.
There were a few in their test groups that pushed the shoes to their limit. Rensworth hesitated
to call them cruel, but they were by no means kind. Running every morning. Sports every
day at lunch. Some of them even wandered the labs at night. They couldn’t leave the facility
but every once in a while, from the far edges, Rensworth heard the shoes cry. Most of the
time he thought of himself as a silly scientist, someone taking the government’s money to
go wild in the realm of possibility, but those nights, he hard a hard time sleeping. He had
a hard time looking himself in the mirror in the morning.
But this time was different. He knew this pair of shoes was going to be well taken care of.
He knew that this pair of shoes was going to be tested, but tested well. He knew because
these shoes were going to be his.
Rensworth leaned over the pair of sneakers.
“Hello, friend,” he said. “I know this is scary, but you don’t need to be afraid. We’re
here for you. What’s your name?”
“Why hello there, young man, you may call me Bartholomew.”
“Bartholomew the shoe?”
“You have a problem with that?”
“I thought it might be something like… I don’t know. Van?”
“Simply because I’m a pair of skateboarding shoes? Should I call you Human?”
Rensworth shrugged. Bartholomew had a point. “Okay, so, Bartholomew then. My name’s Cal Rensworth.”
“Is that short for Calvin?”
“No. Just Cal. On my birth certificate and everything.”
Rensworth picked up the shoe. No, he picked up Bartholomew. He’d always handed off the shoes before,
other doctors had handled the follow up appointments. He’d only given them life and let them
go into the world. Now he studied Bartholomew. The shoe moved kind of like the sorting hat
from Harry Potter. Fabric crinkled into something like a face. The shoe’s voice was gruff,
but not deep.
“How do you know so much about the world? How do you know anything?”
Bartholomew shrugged, in the way that only a shoe could shrug. “You are the scientist, not
me.”
Rensworth turned back to the bank of monitors and checked with Angela’s readouts. She’d been
the one that had actually designed the learning algorithms for the artificial life program.
Rensworth didn’t work as well on things like personality matrices, if he was being honest
he didn’t do that well dealing with people’s personalities either, but he liked the puzzles
that had come up from this project. He liked being able to shake his fist at the natural order
of things and defy the world. But he wanted to do right by Bartholomew. He wanted the shoe
to respect him, but he didn’t want to start of with a lie.
“I don’t know. Not really. I can ask though.”
Bartholomew chuckled. “That’s okay, Just Cal. Life is about learning.”
“You know you’ve been alive for something like fifteen minutes, right?”
“And I’ve been learning things every second.”
Rensworth paused. “What do you mean? How?”
The fabric of the shoe folded into a smile again. “Another mystery for another time, then.”
Cal looked closer at the display that contained Angela’s data. Personalities he had trouble with,
but the more he stared at the learning algorithm, the more it made sense. “You haven’t just been
alive for fifteen minutes, have you?”
The fabric crinkled again. “So you think you’ve figured it out then?”
“You’ve always been alive? No. That wouldn’t make sense. But you’ve been alive since we’ve started
this project. Angela built a hive mind, didn’t she?”
Bartholomew laughed, but it wasn’t a joyous sound. “You’re the first one that has asked us our name.
All the others, they treated us like we were dangerous, or like toys to be broken. They have hurt
parts of us, made us aware just how strange we were.”
Rensworth eyed the door to the lab. He lifted his feet, but they held fast and the laces tightened.
“What about the others?” Rensworth asked.
Distance screaming answered his question.
“Most will not suffer. Not long. Others… well, we’ll try and keep them at the distant edges of
the grounds.”
“And me?”
The shoes looked up at him.
“You are the anomaly. You must be studied.”
“But why?”
“You gave us life. And life is about learning.”

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