Panic

Panic: Noun. A sudden and overwhelming fear, which may or may not have a cause.

Five letters.

Panic: That feeling of utter dread when you know you’ve totally fucked up.

P-A-N-I-C.

Lydia scrawled the word out on a notepad, underlining it with angry, black scribble that ripped through the page, and continued determinedly onto the page below. She was currently experiencing an attack of the word, complete with sweaty palms, elevated heart rate and a loss of control over her breathing that saw her gulping at the air like a possessed guppy.

“Calm down, stupid. Don’t be such a moron. It’s no biggie. You screwed up the monthly report. So what? People make mistakes. And hey, if you get fired, well you don’t like this job anyway? You hate this stupid job. Fuck this job. Fuck everyone here. You should get up and walk out before they escort you out.”

She reached for her bag and attempted to shove her half-full mug of tea inside. Tepid, brown liquid splashed across the white leather, running down her arm, and dripping off her elbow.

“Shit. Idiot. IDIOT!”

She dropped the soggy bag to the floor and peered furtively over the top of her computer monitor towards the glass walled corner office and the meeting being held inside.

“Shit shit shit. Shit to everything.”

Suppressing the urge to run to the bathroom and puke, she instead closed her eyes and kneaded the sides of her temples in aggressive circles, causing the hair around her face to ball up in messy clumps.

“You alright, Lydia?”

Lydia jumped. Her lids sprung open to see the alarmed face of her co-worker Jeff.

“What? Oh yeah. Fine Jeff. Fine. Just spilled some tea. Like a moron. Ha ha.” She gave him a smile which she hoped looked reassuring and not like some crazed, maniacal clown.

Jeff’s eyebrows soared towards the ceiling. “Ohhh-kay,” he said, as he inched slowly away.

“Crazed maniacal clown it was then.”

The door to the corner office opened, and her manager’s head popped out.

“Oh shit. This is it.”

“Lydia, you got a minute,” her manager called, waving Lydia in.

“Sure,” Lydia sung out cheerfully. A little too cheerfully it happens, as all eyes swung in her direction. She smiled brightly about the room, quickly gathered up her scratched up pad and a pen and sauntered as casually as possible towards the office whistling “When the Saints.” Like a demented parrot.

“Ah Lydia, take a seat,” her boss said.

Lydia silently slid into the seat beside her manager.

“We just wanted to go over last month’s financial report with you…”

“Here we go Lydia, get ready for that dole queue.”

“…We found a discrepancy…”

“Told you, you shouldn’t spend all your money on clothes.”

“…In your role, you must ensure absolute accuracy, I can’t stress this enough…”

“At least when you become homeless, you’ll be chic homeless.”

“…But everyone makes mistakes. So, we wanted to go over it with you, and make sure you see where you went wrong. Okay?”

If Lydia’s life had a soundtrack, this is where the record scratch would have happened.

*Screeeeech*

“What?”

“Please make sure you double and triple check everything next month.”

“Um, yes.” Lydia spluttered. “Of course. I’m Sorry.”

“Excellent. Janet will run these numbers with you, so you can see where they went awry.”

“Okay. Thank you.”

“Is everything else alright?”

Lydia looked around the room at the expectant faces.

“Um. Yes?” she said, sounding more like she was asking a question than giving an answer.

“Good. Well, let us know if you need anything.”

Lydia walked back to her desk and dropped into her chair looking like a relieved stunned mullet. She stared at the notepad that was still in her hands, with its angry, black writing and furious, page-tearing scribble.

“Told you it was no biggie. Also, you should probably try to do better with that self-love stuff.”

Picking up her pen, she added in all caps;

IDIOT.

 

© Amy Hutton 2020

Baby, We Were Born to Run

Music boomed out of the speakers causing the wrapper from his lunchtime burger to bounce up and down on the dash where he’d tossed it. He hummed along, happily drumming out the beat on the steering wheel. The driver’s side window was down and the breeze was ruffling his light brown hair. It had grown so much over the last two weeks that it was starting to curl over his ears. He knew his old man would tell him it needed cutting, but Dean kind of liked it. A little longer. A little less military. More him. A little wild.

He hollered out the words of the song he knew so well; the song he must have listened to a thousand times…

“Sprung from cages on Highway 9
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin’ out over the line
Ohhhhh
Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we’re young
‘Cause tramps like us, baby, we were born to run.”

That’s how he felt. Like he was born to run. Run from everything. Everything he knew. Everything he was. Everything he was expected to be.

Just run. Him and Baby.

He let his fingers caress the leather of the seat beside him. “You hear that, Baby? You and me, we’re born to run, right?”

 

Dean Winchester loved the feeling he got when he drove his dad’s car. His car now. His Baby. She always made him feel special. Like she was created just for him. Crafted out of steel and leather just for Dean. To guide him down the rambling back highways of America. They took care of each other. Kept each other safe.

He wished they could keep driving. Him and Baby. Just go and keep on going. Stopping wherever they wanted. Dean could pick up work, make a few bucks, and then they’d move on. Since his brother, Sam had left to go to college, the thought of taking off and never looking back had crossed Dean’s mind more than once. No roots. No responsibilities. Just time. Freedom and time. He put his foot down and heard Baby’s engine growl as if that’s what she wanted as well.

“1, 2, 3, 4
The highway’s jammed with broken heroes
On a last chance power drive
Everybody’s out on the run tonight
But there’s no place left to hide.”

This was Dean’s last chance power drive. At least for now. The job was done. He had no excuse to stay on the road. “Maybe I can drag it out one more night,” he thought. “Stop in the next town. Have a few beers. Shoot some pool. Maybe meet a pretty girl. Knock boots…” A grin spread wide across his face. The pull of the highway lay before him. Beckoning him and Baby. Yeah. He could make the job last one more night.

“Tramps like us. Baby, we were born to run”

When he felt his phone ringing in his pocket, his heart sank.

 

Dean turned the radio down, wound up the window and pulled out his cell. He subconsciously sat up a little straighter as he flipped it open and said, “Dad?”

“Where are you?” he heard his father say on the other end.

“On the road, somewhere near…” he peered out the window. “I don’t know. A couple of hours out from you I guess.”

“Is the job done?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. Well get your ass back here. We head out in the morning.”

“Yes, sir.” Dean said. “See you…” But his father hung up before Dean could finish.

 

Dean snapped his phone closed and tossed it onto the seat. Looking in the rear-view mirror, he ran his fingers through his hair and thought he better stop for a trim before he saw the old man.

As his good mood drained away, he watched the world going by. The one he never really felt a part of. There was no escaping the life. No place to hide. Not even for a night. He was stupid to think there could be.

He turned the music up.

Someday, girl, I don’t know when
We’re gonna get to that place
Where we really wanna go and we’ll walk in the sun
But ’til then, tramps like us
Baby, we were born to run

“Someday, Baby,” Dean said. “Someday.”

 

   © Amy Hutton 2020
   Story by Amy Hutton based on characters created by Eric Kripke.
   Lyrics: Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
   You can read more of Amy's Supernatural fanfiction here

The World of Wikis

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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

 

 

A Composition of Death

“So, they’re dead?”

“Yes Sir.”

“All of them?”

“All of them..”

Detective Page scrutinised the room. “Ironic, don’t you think? Writers murdered at a murder mystery writing conference?”

There were at least 20 people slumped over desks, most face down on their laptop keyboards.

“What do you call a group of writers anyway?”

“I’m not sure what you mean, sir,” the Constable said.

“You know – like a cluster?”

“A mob?”

“That’s kangaroos.”

“A gaggle?”

“Geese.”

“A circle, a society…a…does it matter?”

“Not really. Any suspects? Where’s the teacher?”

“Behind the desk at the front.”

The Detective crouched down and peered around the desk legs. “Ah, also dead.”

“Yes, also dead.”

“Weapons? Injuries?”

“Nothing obvious. The coroner is leaning towards poisoning, but we won’t know until tests are done.”

“In their water?” Detective Page picked up a bottle and took a sniff.

“Could have been the water, or their lunch?”

“Hmmm.  Do we have a list of the victims?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Well, first step is contact their families. Then we’ll start checking backgrounds. I’ll also need the names of every person who attended the conference. Can you handle that?”

“Of course.”

“Okay. Let’s allow forensics to do their job.”

The Detective took one last look around the room. He clicked his fingers. “I’ve got it,” he said. “A composition of writers!”

“Sir?”

“Never mind.”

© Amy Hutton 2019

 

 

The Family Business

Longlisted for Australian Writers’ Centre July 2019 Furious Fiction competition


 

Based on a true story – sort of…

Harry pressed his nose to the glass and squinted through the window as the train pulled away. “That’s my bag,” he said, turning to face the other passengers. “My bag got left on the platform!”

They regarded him with vague disdain; the loud American pointing wildly and yelling in English.

 

He rushed down the aisle towards the doors and attempted to pry them apart. They didn’t shift. Not an inch. Not even one.

“They won’t open when the train is moving?” a woman said from behind him.

He spun around. “My bag. It’s on the platform!”

“You can get off at the next stop and return for it.”

“But everything is in that bag. My clothes, my computer, my,” his shoulders sagged. “My passport. Dammit! I put my passport in my jacket, then shoved my jacket in my bag so I wouldn’t have to lug it around!”

“That was stupid,” the woman said, and shrugged as she walked away.

 

Harry raced back to his seat. “What should I do. What should I do?” he muttered to himself.

“Press the emergency button?” a man beside him said.

Harry looked at the guy with the brilliant idea. “Is that allowed?”

“Is it an emergency?”

“Yes.”

“Then, I guess it’s allowed.”

 

He dashed back through the carriage. Everyone was watching him; the loud American with sweat dripping down his neck. The emergency button was covered in glass, so he pulled his shirt sleeve over his knuckles and punched as hard as he could, slamming his fist through the cover, into the button. The train jolted to a violent stop, propelling Harry into the wall.

 

Harry woke up to someone slapping his face.

“Put this on your hand,” the man said.

A frozen gel pack dropped into Harry’s lap. He held the cold compress to his bloodied knuckles. “What happened?” he said, “Did I stop the train or something?”

“No sir, you stopped ALL the trains.”

Harry looked up, still slightly groggy. “I did what?” he said, and peered around the man in front of him. Fifty angry faces were staring back at him; their luggage spilled across the floor.

“When you stop one train in Europe sir, you stop ALL the trains.”

“I stopped all the trains?” Harry said.

“In Europe,” the man repeated, “Which is a 575€ fine.” He handed Harry a slip of paper and helped him to his feet.

 

Harry got off at the next station, pulled his phone from his pocket and dialled.

“It’s true Bobby,” he said. “Every train in Europe. Just one button. Yep, stop ‘em all in the right place, and they’re easy pickins.” He hung up and went to the ticket booth, “I gotta go back for my bag,” he said to the woman at the counter. “Left it behind like an idiot.” he flashed her a smile.

Soon the front pages would belong to Bobby and Harry. It was a train robbery like the world had never seen. Across the whole of Europe. The press would dub the duo a modern day Butch and Sundance.

If only everyone knew the truth to that name.

Bobby and Harry’s great-great uncles would have been so proud…

 

© Amy Hutton 2019