Heaven

Music filled Lily’s ears. A bright, familiar tune that always made a smile stretch wide across her face. She walked with the crowd along the pristine street. The sun was shining and sounds of joy floated on the warm, summer air. Pink and purple blossoms dripped from baskets, and the brass on the lampposts they hung from, positively gleamed.

Lily gazed up at the sky. It was the most perfect shade of blue she had ever seen. “Of course, it is,” she thought. “Could the sky here, be any other way?”

It was still early, so she joined the waiting throng of humanity, soaking up the buzz of their anticipation. Their excitement. Their hope. Their dreams. This place was always awash with dreams. She looked at the little girl beside her, bouncing up and down in a pink, princess gown, her hair piled on top of her head behind a diamond encrusted tiara. She was beaming. Everyone was beaming. It was the only place Lily knew for sure, where everyone was always happy.

Lily closed her eyes and enjoyed the hum of the people around her. She imagined the taste of deep-fried dough and the feeling of its sticky, crystals of sugar that would inevitably wind up coating her lips. The sweetness as she licked them clean. A rush of pleasure whizzed through her at the memory.

Then suddenly, the crowd began to cheer. It was rope drop time and Lily opened her eyes just as the Cast Members cried out, “Five, Four, Three, Two, One! Have a magical day!” A sea of bodies surged forward, and an army of prams barrelled past as they raced towards their favourite land.

But no one saw Lily. Because technically, Lily wasn’t there. Not in the living sense, anyway. Lily died just over a week ago. But a little dying wasn’t going to keep her away from Disneyland.

She drifted through the park, silent and invisible, remembering the irresistible scent of the churros, and the cold tang of Dole Whip ice-cream on her tongue. She remembered how the wind had felt in her hair, as she sat unseen beside a single rider, and raced around the Thunder Mountain Railroad track, screaming unheard screams. She jumped the queue at the Haunted Mansion, and floated amongst the spirits in the ballroom, and laughed as she stood thumb out beside the famous hitchhiking ghosts. She skipped down Main Street at the front of the parade and giggled like crazy as she danced with an oblivious Mickey Mouse. She stood on the castle bridge, and watched in awe, as the fireworks exploded above her in deafening bursts of spectacular colour.

Lily had always said she didn’t believe in Heaven, but the truth was, she always did. And as she sat on a bench with the statue of Walt and Mickey behind her, and her ashes secretly scattered in the flower bed below, she now knew she was right. This was it. This was her very own Heaven. And it was the Happiest Place on Earth.

© Amy Hutton 2020

Spinning Her Wheels

God. Look at him rippling.

She puffed as she peddled, the beat of the music mixing with the throb in her butt cheeks.

He yelled empowering words, leaning forward on his handlebars, causing his shorts to ride up his muscular thighs.

Those legs. My god.

She caught his eye and he smiled.

She peddled harder while his gaze was on her, hoping she looked okay in her new leopard print shorts. Trying to make it all appear effortless. It wasn’t.

Sera had been working out at Soul Cycle ever since the day she met Chris. She had locked herself out of her apartment and was on the street waiting for a locksmith to arrive, when Chris walked by. He stopped to ask if she was okay. She answered yes and made an awkward joke about what an idiot she was. He tossed his head back and laughed, before saying, “We’ve all done it,” and smiling so bright, Sera nearly gasped.
He asked if he could wait with her and reached into his satchel, pulling out a bag of red liquorice vines. She said, that would be fine, and peeled a vine from the pack, holding it between her fingers, too shy to eat it. He placed a vine between his lips and Sera watched him twirl it, moving it in and out, as they chatted about the weather, and the oppressive summer heat. When help finally arrived, Chris handed Sera a card and invited her to, “Try me out.” He meant his spin class. Sera hoped he meant something else. Four weeks later, and she was the fittest she had ever been in her life.

For Sera, every day revolved around the heart pounding hour she spent with Chris. Hot and sweaty. Grinding. Pumping. Up and down. Bodies glistening. Moving as one.
She arrived at the studio early to make sure she was always in the front row. She remembered the tracks he played and downloaded them, so she could learn the words and sing along. She made a mental note of every moment with him. Every shoulder-squeeze. Every wink. She told herself each day would be the day he would ask her out. And each day, she went home disappointed.

“Great work, guys,” Chris yelled, when the class was over, and everyone was packing up.

Sera slowly pulled her gear together, taking her time, hoping to be the last to leave. She felt her stomach flip as Chris approached.

“You’re looking great, Sera.”

She blushed through her already beet red face. “All because of you, Chris.”

He smiled his bright smile.

“Um. Chris?”

I’m going to do it. I’m going to ask him out.

He looked down at her, his sandy blonde hair hanging in his too blue eyes. “Yeah?”

“Um…um…” She sighed. “See you tomorrow?”

“You know you will!” and he squeezed her shoulder and winked.

Sera picked up her bag and hobbled out the door. Every part of her ached.

But mostly… her heart.

© Amy Hutton 2020

Killing Christmas

Celeste stuck the last bow on the last gift with a satisfied sigh. She had promised to be more Christmassy this year. Put up decorations. Buy presents not vouchers. Send cards not texts. She even went to the post office for Christ’s sake. Like it was 1985 or something!

Pouring herself another wine, she proudly surveyed the room. It looked like a Christmas warehouse had thrown up all over the place, leaving sparkly puke dripping off every surface. Checking her phone, she was shocked to see it was nearly midnight. She had to get up in six hours to put a damn turkey in the oven. Why had she agreed to do the family lunch? Because she was being Christmassy! She was surprised when she wobbled a bit as she lifted herself off the chair. She’d downed a whole bottle of red without noticing. Probably be hungover tomorrow. As she stumbled to bed, she pictured her sister rolling her eyes.

Celeste woke with a start. She was parched. Like a desert had decided to take over her mouth. She was reaching for the glass of water beside her bed, when she heard a noise below her. A bump. Her arm froze mid-stretch. Another noise. Was that a jingle?

She fumbled around for her phone. It wasn’t there. She cursed herself. Another noise. This time a dragging sound. Celeste sat bolt upright. Someone was in her house. Worse still, someone was stealing the presents from under her tree. The one’s she’d battled the Christmas crowds at the shopping mall for. Fuck that!

She silently rolled out of bed and tiptoed to her wardrobe. Groping around in the dark, she found a metal box, opened it and removed a small pistol. She bought the gun last summer after a spate of home invasions. At the time she wondered if it was an over reaction, but as she heard another sound from the floor below, she was suddenly glad she had it.

As quietly as possible, she stepped onto the pitch-black landing. Then onto the stairs, one hand grasping the banister, the other the gun. Her heart was pounding in her chest. Her hands, trembling. As she reached the final step she froze. There was the hulking shape of a man crouched in front of her Christmas tree, backlit by the fairy lights she’d failed to turn off. Celeste panicked. She stumbled backwards, accidentally squeezing the trigger as she fell. A shot rang out. A wisp of smoke sizzled into the air. She heard an “ooff”, followed by a groan, then a thud, then silence.

Celeste pushed herself up and carefully felt her way around the wall to the light switch, flicking it on with a click. A large sack lay beside the fireplace, brightly wrapped boxes spewing across the rug. A smear of blood trailed from the tree to the the sofa. A pair of black boots poked out from behind it. Shiny. Black. Boots.

The gun dropped from Celeste’s hand hitting the floor with a clunk. Her knees buckled, and she landed heavily beside it. She gaped at the grisly scene in front of her. Behind her sofa, eyes open but unseeing, blood splatter staining his snow-white beard, was a very dead, very fat man. In a red suit.

Well fuck, she said, as she hoisted herself up off the floor. After all shopping. After all the decorating. After all the work she put in to making Christmas perfect, what does she go and do?

She kills Santa.

Typical.

© Amy Hutton 2020

Crime and Sacrifice – A Flash Fiction

Five bodies lay sprawled across the small auditorium stage. The rest were slumped inelegantly in their seats. Senior Detective Wesson did a rough count. He figured there was twenty plus people in the room. Twenty plus very dead people. He pulled on his gloves with a sigh, and made his way towards Remington, who he nicknamed Steele, even though Remington was too young to get the joke.

“What’s the story, Steele?”

“Twenty-three people deceased. Cause unknown.”

“A mystery! That should be right up your alley.” Wesson slapped Remington on the back. “By the way, how’s the book coming?”

“Slowly,” Remington said, picking up a water bottle. He unscrewed the lid and put the bottle to his nose.

“What are you looking for? Poison? You’ve read too much Agatha Christie.”

“Poison, or airborne,” Remington said, ignoring the jibe. “Something killed these people, and it was either ingested, or inhaled.” He replaced the lid and carefully repositioned the bottle on the fold-out table attached to the arm of the chair.

Wesson surveyed the crime scene. He hated a mystery. Never understood why people read them. He liked things cut and dried. Questions led to more questions, which led to long nights, and he was too old for long nights. “Where’s the person in charge?” he said. His mood already beginning to colour his voice.

“Over there. The one with puke on his shoes.”

***

Wesson walked towards the gentlemen with the puked-on shoes, who was sitting by the door with a paramedic crouched at his feet.

“You in charge here?” Wesson said. His mood already making him brusque. “Up for some questions?”

The man wiped a handkerchief across his face camouflaging a sob. “I’m not sure what I can tell you?” he said.

“Let’s start with why they were here.”

“For a writing workshop. True crime”

Wesson stifled a laugh. “Well there’s some irony for you,” he muttered. “Hey, Steele,” he called to the younger man, “You should include this one in your book! A silver lining, yes?” He nodded enthusiastically.

***

Remington gave Wesson a tight smile. He hated Wesson. The moron. The man had never opened a book in his life. Remington was sure of it.

He cast an eye around the room. Twenty-three bodies with no obvious cause of death. The press will have a field day, he thought. He could see the headlines now. “The True Crime Murder Mystery.” He’d make sure to drop that line in the interviews he was bound to do. Then naturally, that would become the title of his book. His best-selling book. He smiled to himself at the genius of it all. Write a brilliant true crime story, and then turn that story into a reality. All it took was a little research and a dab of poison on a heating grate. He’d have to wait a while before he could publish, of course. He wouldn’t want to raise suspicions. But he should have the book on the shelves by Christmas. Then there would be the television appearances. The podcasts. Fame and fortune were in his grasp. And all he had to do was kill a few people. Well, twenty-three people.

But then, doesn’t all good writing require sacrifice?

© Amy Hutton 2020

The World of Wikis

yellow pikachu plushmascot
Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

So, you sit down to watch the new season of The Walking Dead, you wish you’d had time to do that rewatch of last season like you meant to do, but oh well, you’ll be fine, after-all, you love this show! Then suddenly, you’re confused because there’s a guy saying stuff about a thing and you know you should know who he is, but you just can’t place him. Is he from The Kingdom? Or was he a Saviour? Was he even in last season? You’re sure you’ve seen him before but…WHO IS THAT GUY?!

Never fear, the wiki is here!

Wiki’s have become a stable in the lives of fans. A central encyclopaedic housing of information about television shows, movies, gaming, book series, anime and even entertainment brands. A wiki is a free, collaborative space that brings together detailed knowledge, and passion under one umbrella of awesome.

A wiki can feature anything from episode breakdowns and transcripts, to cast and character biographies. They explore the canon and lore of the Universe they’re dedicated to, and catalogue weapons, vehicles, animals, music, and some even document fan life and fan projects.

But with so much information to cover, what makes a good wiki, and what does it take to manage a wiki and ensure it remains relevant.

A good example is Supernaturalwiki, which went live in August 2006, just shy of a year after the TV show premiered. It is an independent wiki, that is not-for-profit and ad-free. With over 3700 entries, and around 40,000 visitors a month, the Supernaturalwiki, AKA SuperWiki, is not just a source for fans worldwide, it is also used by the media, and the people who produce Supernatural including the writers, production crew and cast.

With over 2000 users having contributed to the site, Managing Editor, Jules Wilkinson knows that a good wiki must not just be accurate, it must also be detailed, well-organised, and importantly, up to date.

“Keeping the site current is a challenge,” Jules says. “As people can choose to contribute what they contribute and when, so a particular entry or category may languish as editors change. We do have an organised roster for completing episode recaps and transcripts, in order to ensure they are updated soon after an episode is broadcast.”

Part of Jules’ role is to support new contributors, helping them to learn how to code, and understand the Wiki conventions and helping them get the most out of their involvement. In any given week there are usually around 20 people actively working on the SuperWiki, all adding their own perspective and talent to it, whether that’s copy editing, or contributing their expertise on Egyptian mythology or Simpsons references.

For Jules, “Being an editor should be creative and enjoyable and people should feel they can make their mark on the site. I review edits for accuracy and appropriateness and identify areas of the SuperWiki which need updating. We have always been a very harmonious site,” she adds. “It’s only very rarely there will be conflict over some interpretation of canon.”

What makes the SuperWiki unique though, is that it documents the Supernatural fandom alongside the show. It not only covers what happens on the show, it covers behind the scenes, conventions, charity projects, fan fiction, shipping and other creative fan endeavours whether it’s a cookbook or a podcast.

“These aspects are not kept separate,” Jules says. “For example, you can read an entry about the character Jack Kline on the show and follow links to the JackLovesNougat roleplaying account on Twitter.”

Another thriving wiki site is Fandom, an international entertainment company and the home of wiki pages formerly housed by Wikia. It is a free of charge and for-profit site, which currently hosts several thousand wikis in all different languages.

Like Jules from the Supernaturalwiki, Fandom’s Managing Editor of Australia, Jeremy Ray believes in the importance of keeping a wiki current and ensuring its accuracy.

“I love it when a wiki is very up-to-date,” says Jeremy. “And of course, accuracy is very important. It’s very helpful to know when you can reliably check a wiki for the contents of the latest weapon crate in CS:GO, or to find out all about the new Overwatch character.”

At Fandom the larger wiki admin teams function somewhat like mini-governments. They meet regularly and vote on policy decisions, manage and assist newer members, and moderate contributions from the public, liaising with the content team as necessary.

Primarily the wiki admins own their space at Fandom, if they feel rumours, guides, tips, etc have a place within that space, then that’s their prerogative. Though some prefer to keep their spaces for lore only.

“Like our Wookiepiedia,” Jeremy says. “Which refers to the events of Star Wars as if it’s actual history.”

One of the complex issues a wiki editor may face is where there are multiple entries for the same character, or brand. For example, on the SuperWiki, if there are alternate reality characters do you house their information on the original version of that character’s page, or do they have their own page, because in essence they are their own character, even though they share a character name and actor. Or at Fandom when you have a character/brand overlap, which means there’s a Mario page on the Nintendo wiki, the Mario wiki, and the Smash Bros wiki. This is why structure and organisation are so important. A fan is not going to use a wiki that is difficult to navigate, so part of the editing and management of a wiki is discussing and dealing with these types of issues, to ensure the fan experience is protected.

“We try to assist in those situations,” Jeremy says. “To make sure the content can easily be found by both the user and Google.”

Jules adds, “There is on-going discussion with editors about whether it is better to have one large entry on a topic or several smaller pages and how to catalogue something within the site so people can find the information. Accessibility also includes ensuring images are properly captioned for those with visual impairments.”

 Both Jules and Jeremy agree this teamwork is vital in running a wiki as it’s simply too much work for one person to handle, but more importantly that wikis would not function without the support of the fans who have helped to grow and develop them.

“We fund our web hosting and tech support costs through donations,” says Jules

A wiki is there to empower fans to dig deeper into the thing they love and follow their passion by contributing their own knowledge and unique set of skills to the larger community. The people who build and shape the wiki pages dedicate thousands of hours to ensure that the latest information is available when someone needs to check an item of lore in Final Fantasy or find out how many times the Winchester brothers hugged in season 14. Fans can build their own wikis, create their own spaces, contribute entries that reflect their own particular interests, or simply explore the thousands and thousands of pages of information about that thing they love by people who love it too.

“It might be cheesy,” Jeremy concludes. “But we had an old motto that was to “help fans be better fans,” and I think that sums it up.”

So, next time you can’t remember who that character is, or you need to know how you kill a Leviathan or get a detailed family tree of the Great Houses of Game of Thrones, check out a wiki! They’re the ultimate in fans giving back to fans.

Thanks to the SuperWiki and Fandom for their help with this article
and to the fans for all the work they do.
Follow on Twitter - SuperWiki @SuperWiki and Fandom @getFANDOM

© Amy Hutton 2019