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Chemistry by Agnes Ong

Chemistry

by Agnes Ong

It had been five years since Frank relocated from Ireland to Malaysia. He loved the sunny weather which was a stark contrast from the dank, wintry days of ice and rain in his home country. As much as he loved the sun, his face did not. It always turned red with overexposure, like he’d been drinking too much. However, the days in December were cooler with a light breeze, so Frank took every opportunity to stay outdoors.

Only two of the five tables outside the Starbucks café were occupied. The locals preferred to sit inside to enjoy the air conditioning. Frank was alone, except for a young couple sitting across from him playing with their smartphones and not talking to each other.

He watched the people milling about the nearby shops as he sipped his espresso. The bitter aftertaste reminded him of burnt toast but he drank it anyway because it was the hip thing to do.

Halfway through his coffee, a girl with silky hair joined him. “Hi Frank, sorry I’m late.”

“Nah, I’m just enjoying the coffee. Mocha Frappucino for you?”

Joanna nodded and shifted in her seat. As Frank ordered her drink, she ran her fingers through her hair while checking for messages on her phone. He watched her from the counter and knew that something was on her mind. After he returned to the table, he did not push her for an answer. Experience told him that she would just clamp up. They waited in silence until the waiter delivered her drink.

“So, you can’t wait until tomorrow to see me, huh?” Frank asked, cooing in the deepest, sexiest voice he could muster.

Her lips curved into a smile which did not reach her eyes.

Frank grabbed her hand but she pulled it away to tip the straw to her mouth. “What’s wrong, darling?”

Still avoiding eye contact, Joanna took a deep breath before she said, “This is not working.”

“What’s not working?”

“Us. We can’t see each other anymore.”

“Are you breaking up with me? Why, Jo?”

Silence.

“You said I was the perfect man for you. I gave you flowers, took you out on romantic dinners, bought you expensive gifts…”

“Money is not everything.”

“I didn’t mean it that way. I care for you. I took care of you when you were sick last month.”

“That’s the problem. You’re too perfect.”

“What? What’s wrong with being the perfect man? Isn’t that what girls want?”

“That’s not the point. You are great but… but I don’t love you.”

“I don’t understand.”

She sighed. “When we first started dating, I thought you were the one for me. You were kind, romantic and rich, everything a girl wants. Then, something changed in the last couple of months. I don’t get excited anymore when you call. All those candlelight dinners are becoming a bore. Every time we sit down, we make small talk, but we don’t connect.”

“Let’s talk now. What do you want to talk about? We can talk about our life ahead…”

“No, Frank. Stop!”

Joanna yelled a little too loud. The couple at the other table looked up from their smartphones for a moment, packed up and headed into the shop.

“Don’t you understand, Frank? I don’t want to talk about us. I never felt comfortable talking about our future because I just don’t see myself sharing a life with you.”

“Why not? I’ll make a wonderful husband and a great dad…”

“I’m sure you would … but just not for me.”

At that moment, Joanna’s phone beeped. She picked it up at once. Her eyes glinted as she read the text message. Frank thought he saw her lips curved up a little but he wasn’t sure.

“Sorry. I gotta go. It’s a work emergency.”

“On a Sunday?”

“Yes!” Joanna said a little too forcefully. “Please don’t make this any harder than it already is. I’m sorry. I’m sure you’ll find a nice girl.”

Frank looked intently at Joanna as she stood to leave, willing her change her mind. She put on her oversized sunglasses, shutting him out, before walking away.

Sitting alone, Frank sipped the remaining espresso, the bitterness of defeat lingering on his tongue.
XXXXXXXXXXXX

CASE #L9035

SUBJECT: Joanna Woo, Female, Age 32, also known as JW

OBJECTIVE: To study brain chemical reaction in subject through interaction with the ‘Perfect Man’ persona

ENTRY #48

JW made contact today to terminate the human contact process. Neurotransmitter Scanner was activated as soon as subject approached. Fluctuating levels of serotonin and norepinephrine indicating a minute imbalance was detected, a mild anxiety condition, consistent with the body language displayed.

Attempts were made to justify the cause and effect leading to JW’s action. During this timeframe, the subject exhibited increased level of dopamine and decreased level of serotonin. Such indicators mirrored the brain chemical state during the early stages of this process – attraction. However, this state of mind contradicted JW’s intense determination to sever all forms of communication and interaction with me even though the subject’s brain still transmitted signals of infatuation.

Then, JW received a text message. Accessing the said information caused a surge in adrenalin in her bloodstream, a common stimulant associated with fear or pleasure in humans. In this case, JW showed signs of experiencing pleasure confirmed by the flood of dopamine at that instance. The contrast between the negative situation and positive state of JW’s mind suggested a discrepancy in information relayed. Hence, this led to the conclusion that the subject may have been hiding some facts in this process, which could be the key to her seemingly irrational decision.

CONCLUSION

The ‘Perfect Man’ persona failed to secure fruitful human interaction. Cause of failure is unknown.

Prolonged interaction and integration into human existence has weakened my ability to regulate my neurotransmitters, which was confirmed by the abnormal readings of serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin in my system as shown in the Self Systemic Assessment Report attached. Other symptoms included:
• Lack of objectivity in judgement
• Irrational obsession over a subject
• Inability to assess and control emotions
• Withdrawal from interaction due to repeated abandonment by previous subjects

Diagnosis: Infected with LOVE and LONELINESS, human conditions with no known cure.

RECOMMENDATION

In view of this recent discovery, I will not be able to perform my duties as a Universal Research Agent efficiently. Hence, a Foreign Extraction Order must be issued with immediate effect so as not to jeopardize the findings of this study group.

Agent #XZ89 a.k.a. Frank Linton


Frank finished typing the report on his laptop, printed it out, and folded it into a hexagon shape. He then went to the kitchen, dropped the paper into the left slot of a toaster, and pressed the switch down. The paper disappeared with a spark. Frank sat down and cried.

Interview With Agnes Ong

Interview With Our Winner!

by jcaska

 

1. How did you come up with the idea for your story?

I was reading a short story with a sci-fi angle and thought it would be cool to turn a love affair into an alien experiment.



2. How long did it take you to write Chemistry?

Over a span of two days, about one hour spent in a day working on it.


3. What was the writing process involved in creating this piece?

It was mostly in my head at first. The dialogue was quite easy to write but the scientific report took a little researching to get the terms and logic right.


4. Are there any quirky parts of your writing process that helped you write Chemistry?

I had to do a little research on how the brain chemistry works when one is in love and that was quite interesting.


5. Was there anything surprising that came up in the story - something you maybe weren’t expecting?

The theme ‘loneliness’ came across stronger than I expected.



6. What was the revision process like for this story?

Surprisingly easy with the help of the F2K mentors.


7. Is there any aspect of your writing in Chemistry you could identify as something you’d like to change, or perhaps improve upon?

I would have liked to add more back story to both characters to get a deeper sense of who they are and where they came from.


8. What aspect of your F2K learning feels the most significant to your success with Chemistry?

The support and feedback from classmates and mentors were very encouraging. It gave me the confidence to produce the story which otherwise would never have been written. Of course, the well-structured course outline was great help in pointing me in the right direction to improve my writing style and prose.


9. What reaction from the story’s readers has most surprised you, or disappointed you?

Many people like the twist at the end of the story. Some noted that they never saw it coming which means I nailed the element of surprise. This comment gave me great pleasure.


10. What, as a writer, scares you the most?

The thing that scares me most as a writer is that one day I would sit in front of my laptop and totally draws a blank, not a single can come out me, not even spelling it. That would be the end of me as a writer. Shivers down my spine just talking about it.


11. What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Keep at it no matter how good or bad your writing may seem at first. It’s better to have written something which you can work on rather than having nothing to work on at all.


12. Do you have any plans for Chemistry beyond publication in the F2Kzine?

Yes, I am submitting it to be considered as a short story in a locally published anthology.


13. What direction is your writing taking now?

I am currently working on a short story compilation of my own, hoping to finish it soon and start pitching to publishers.


Author's Bio: (Please tell us a little bit about yourself, 150 words or so)



Agnes Ong is a freelance web content writer and novelist in the making, as well as an occasional blogger at Angie Creative Ink (www.angiecreativeink.com/blog) based in Malaysia. Coping with an unknown nerve condition all her life has presented many challenges and it is through writing that she finds solace, escape and revelation. She hopes that her work will console, excite, delight and inspire others to live beyond their limitations. Her short stories have been published in Love in Penang: A Fixi Novo Anthology and Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction, both available on Amazon. She is currently working on a short story compilation of her own and looking for more avenues to submit her stories. Follow her on Facebook at Agnes Ong (https://www.facebook.com/agnes.ong.750) or Angie Creative Ink (https://www.facebook.com/angiecreativeink).

Interview With TJ

Interview With our Winner: TJ (tjmteb1)

by jcaska


1. How did you come up with the idea for your story?

After lesson 5, I had a pretty good idea what I was going to write.  I ended that lesson with Raffael receiving a mission.  It was just a matter of troubleshooting the idea until it panned out.

2. How long did it take you to write it?

The first draft took about 45 minutes to write, but editing took about 3 hours.

3. What was the writing process involved in creating this piece?

I go through a troubleshooting phase, where I work out all the details, then write the story from start to finish.  After it’s written, I read through it multiple times for editing.

4. Are there any quirky parts of your writing process that helped you write your story?

Well my troubleshooting is kind of quirky.  I go through a “texting” type of conversation with my characters.  I will go through every aspect with them, in this case Raffael, and together we figure out how the story is going to progress. A lot of times, this takes longer than writing the story.

5. Was there anything surprising that came up in the story - something you maybe weren’t expecting?

My initial idea was to have a large hobgoblin as the leader, but during troubleshooting it worked out that it was a better story to have a human leading them.  Also, the part where Heroff died was unexpected.  That sort of popped in there as I wrote the piece.

6. What was the revision process like for this story?

I didn’t do any major revisions after it was initially written.  It was all finding misspellings, grammar errors and punctuation issues. I did have to cut a small bit to keep within the word count, but that was primarily descriptive and didn’t affect the story.

7. Is there any aspect of your writing in the story you could identify as something you’d like to change, or perhaps improve upon?

I struggle with getting the senses involved.  I have to consciously put those descriptions in and wish I could get better at it.  The same is true with showing instead of telling.  I think I’ve improved on it, but I would like to get even better.

8. What aspect of your F2K learning feels the most significant to your success with this story?

I think the interaction with other writers.  All through this course my classmates have given me outstanding feedback and encouragement.  They let me know what worked, what didn’t and because of them, I was able to create this story.

9. What reaction from the story’s readers has most surprised you, or disappointed you?

Well, I came into this class with the purpose to develop Raffael further.  The reactions I have received with this story and the lessons before it were beyond what I could have imagined.  It seemed that Raffael wasn’t just developed, but also was very well received by those who read about him.  It made me excited to know that he was an interesting and memorable character.

10. What, as a writer, scares you the most?

What scares me is the prospect of running out of stories to write.  I had just begun writing not so long ago and have grown to love it.  I would hate to not be able to write.

11. What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I have received came from Von last F2K.  She told me it doesn’t matter what I write, as long as I keep doing it.

12. Do you have any plans for this story beyond publication in the F2Kzine?

No.  This story was strictly for F2K.  But Raffael is a major character in the novel I am working on, and he will be the main character for the novel I am planning next.

13. What direction is your writing taking now?

I am currently working on a full size novel as well as working on a series of short stories and flash fiction pieces.

BIO:


TJ Marshall is a father of two adorable girls, a career soldier and a writer of fiction.  TJ just entered the world of writing in January 2012 when he enrolled in the F2K creative writing course.  Since completing the course, he has gone on to join Writer's Villiage University and participated in this year’s National Novel Writer’s Month for the first time and won.  He is currently working on his first novel, a fantasy adventure titled The Finder’s Tome. It is scheduled for release in late spring, 2013 as an e-book. In his spare time, TJ enjoys creating custom designed dream catchers and spending time with his girls.

We are Volunteers

Every one of your Mentors is a Volunteer. They have gone through the F2K course, usually more than once, and are also members of WVU, our parent organization. Your F2K Mentors do this because they believe in the course, and are living out the motto of Writers' Village University: "Writers Helping Writers."

TJ's Winning Story

tjmteb1 – (wc 1500)

Raffael sat on top of Aegis and guided him through the dark forest. Lemma  and Heroff, the two Wolf Riders he chose to accompany him, followed far  behind and to either side. He stopped his mount and pulled out a crinkled  parchment. If he read the poorly scrawled map correctly, the third possible  location for the hobgoblin camp should be over the next ridge.

The first two sites had showed signs of recent activity: over-turned fire  pits, footprints, bits of litter scattered about. The second even had a  deserted tent. A quick search had revealed it had been cleared out, but it  served as proof the monsters had been there.

An orange glow flickered momentarily through the trees. Raffael stood in  his stirrups and squinted through the shadows. His night vision made the  forest seem like dusk, but it didn’t reveal the source of the light. His  whiskered nose twitched. A hint of burned cedar hung in the air.

He glanced over each shoulder and chattered.

Moments later, Heroff rode up from the right. He pulled his black wolf next  to Raffael’s blue-gray one. Lemma joined them from the left riding his own  tan wolf.

“A fire burns ahead.” Raffael pointed toward the ridge where he saw the  light. “Heroff and I will creep forward and get eyes on it.”

He studied the woods around him. The ridge fell at a gentle angle from the  south down into a valley to the north. “Lemma, I want you to position  yourself on the high ground over there. You’ll be my eyes and ears if  anything tries to come behind us.”

Heroff shifted in his saddle. He was the youngest of the group and had been  a member of the riders for only three years. Raffael chose him because he  was deadly with the sword. Lemma, on the other hand, had been a rider for  nearly as long as Raffael and there wasn’t a Forest Kin alive who could  match his skill with the crossbow.

“Heroff, follow me, but stay off to my right.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“We all set?” Raffael looked at the two. They each nodded. “Good, let’s  go.”

Lemma turned his wolf uphill and disappeared into the woods.

Raffael dismounted with his sword, then gave Aegis a paw signal to remain.  Heroff followed his lead.

They walked toward the crest of the ridge. As they neared the top, Raffael  dropped to all fours and crawled the remaining distance. The smoke grew  stronger as they climbed.

At the crest, the captain stopped and surveyed the scene. His eyebrows drew  in as the odd sight registered. Below them and about fifty paces was a  small lone campfire. It illuminated the center of a narrow clearing.  Raffael searched the woods, but saw no other signs of hobgoblin presence:  no tents, no litter; nothing disturbed the ground other than the little  fire.

Raffael looked to the younger Rider. He held a paw up and shook his head.

He rose slowly and started down the hill. His peripheral vision confirmed  Heroff followed. His head swiveled left and right. He couldn’t understand  why this fire was here, but nothing else. They took two steps into the  clearing when a short chatter came from uphill. Raffael halted and twirled  a half circle.

Deep roars surrounded them. Hobgoblins appeared from all sides. They  brandished maces and crossbows and were armored lightly just as the one he  had encountered a few days prior. These, however, were covered in dirt and  leaves masking their scent. The monsters surrounded them.

Heroff drew close to Raffael and held his sword in front of him. “What now?

The hobgoblins closed in tighter, but did not attack. A tall man dressed in  fine green leather and armed with a serrated long sword, pushed his way  past the hobgoblins and entered the circle. “Drop your weapons!”

Heroff looked to Raffael; his eyes were dark.

Raffael saw he wanted to fight, but now wasn’t the time. He bent slowly  over and laid his short sword on the ground. “What’s the meaning of this?  Why have you come to our woods?”

“I’ll be the one asking the questions here.” He took a step forward, kicked  Raffael’s sword away and curled his upper lip at Heroff. “Now you!”

Raffael gave him a nod and the Forest Kin did as ordered.

The man brushed Heroff's sword to the side and stepped back. “Now call to  the one you have hidden. Tell him to approach unarmed.”

Raffael raised his head and chattered to Lemma. The signal was returned.  “He will be here momentarily. Now, why have you captured us?”

“You will tell me how best to breach your puny village’s walls.”

“Never!”

The leader pointed his sword at Raffael’s chest. “You will tell me, or you  will die.”

A long low howl echoed from the valley, followed by another higher pitched  one. The hobgoblins turned toward the sound.

One monster fell forward, landing on his face next to Raffael. An arrow  stuck in the back of his head.

“Now!” Raffael sprang and rolled in the grass toward his weapon. He grabbed  his sword and allowed his momentum to bring him back to his feet. He swung  at the nearest hobgoblin. Blood spewed from the creature’s stomach.

He looked back toward Heroff. His sword was a blurr. He sidestepped and  lunged, then sidestepped again. The two monsters in front of him swung  their weapons, but only found air where the Forest Kin had once stood.

Raffael spun, cleaving his way through another hobgoblin. He reversed  direction and found himself facing the human.

Two creatures behind the man fell; Aegis stood over them and bit at their  faces.

The leader swung his weapon at Raffael’s head. He ducked and swiveled his  hips. A breeze ruffled his fur as the sword passed overhead. As he turned,  he struck out at the man’s leg. As soon as the weapon hit, he reversed  again and attacked the other.

The human screamed. He dropped to the ground on his knees and attacked  again.

Raffael parried. His arms vibrated from the impact. He kicked the human’s  chin as hard as he could.

The man’s head flew back. Raffael thrust his sword and impaled the man at  the base of his throat. A sickening gargle escaped his mouth as he fought  for breath.

Raffael pulled back on his sword and kicked the man to the ground. He  searched the clearing. Aegis and the black wolf both hovered over fallen  hobgoblins. Nothing else stood. A dozen monsters with sword wounds or  arrows protruding from them, dotted the clearing.

“Heroff, gather on me.” Rafael turned searching the woods. The young Forest  Kin wasn’t in sight. “Heroff!”

A groan called from across the clearing. Raffael ran toward the sound. A  furry blood-soaked arm reached out from underneath a dead hobgoblin with  bite marks on the back of its neck. He rolled the monster aside.

Heroff lay on the ground, eyes closed. The fur on the side of his head was  gone, scraped away by a mace blow. Blood flowed profusely from the wound.

Raffael’s heart threatened to beat from his chest. He dropped to his knees  and placed his ear against his companion. The hollow flow of air was quick  and short. He heard Heroff’s heart pound out two beats then stop. Air  hissed from Heroff’s mouth.

“No!” He grabbed the Forest Kin’s shoulders and shook him. “Wake up!”  Clawed hands grabbed him from behind. He turned and swung his fists.

Lemma blocked the blows. “Raffael. Let him go. He’s gone.”

“No!” Tears soaked the fur around his eyes.

“Raffael, we have to get going! We don’t know if there’s any more out  here.” Lemma’s head turned left and right.

Raffael wiped his eyes then stood. “You're right. Bring Heroff’s mount. We  can’t leave him.”

Lemma secured Heroff’s body to the black wolf as Raffael searched the dead  human leader. In one of his pockets, he found a rolled up scroll. He  brought it to the dying fire and unrolled it.

The scroll detailed a plan to take over Jargon Woods using the hobgoblins  as their muscle. Afterward, the man, named Darrius Radtke, would claim the  area for himself, then wait the arrival of his human troupe of thieves,  bandits and assassins. The plan’s goal was to use the area for his  headquarters and resupply point for illegal activities.

Raffael rolled the document. He would need to report this to the Council.  Although the leader is dead, the others may not be far behind.

He walked over to Lemma and patted him on the back. “Thanks back there.”

Lemma nodded. “He was a good Kin and would have made a great Rider one  day.” He embraced Raffael in a one-armed hug. After a moment he stepped  back. “You ready?”

“I think so.” Raffael turned his head and whistled.

From across the clearing, Aegis ran to Raffael’s side. The captain hopped  onto his saddle and pulled the reins. “Let’s go home, Boy.

Welcome to the F2K E-Zine!

The F2K E-Zine is an online magazine for the Students of F2K, as well as the members of WVU who might be interested. We intend to publish the finest examples of each Classroom's Lessons, each week, right here.

Your Mentors will select what they think are the best examples of that week's lesson. They'll publish them right here. In the end we hope to choose the best of Lesson Six as part of a contest. The Lesson Six finalists will be voted on by the members of F2K, as well as any interested members of WVU.

The winner may receive a small cash prize and be highlighted on this page. Guidelines for this contest will be posted in your classrooms, and those guidelines will be strictly enforced. Now is the time to pay attention to publishing guidelines, and you will be ready to submit your writing to publishers out in the big, wide world of Publishing. :)