(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Phil was written by Phil Henderson.)
It was raining—storming actually—by the time Kelly emerged from the mirror portal along with Rex, and they bickered. “…I don’t see what I have to just stand there and let that guy get away,” Rex was saying. “I mean, I had a clear shot. Why didn’t I shoot him?”
Kelly shook her head as she hugged a thick book to her chest and headed for the front of the Muse Shop. “That’s not who you are anymore. You’re not an assassin, remember?” She slid him a look. “At least that’s what you’ve told me repeatedly!” Coming to the counter, she slammed the book down upon it then reached for her keys attached to her necklace, and she took off the necklace and slid the key into the key slot behind the counter and opened a cabinet. Grabbing the book from the counter, she put it away while Rex turned his back on the counter, leaned back, resting his elbows on it and went on about his rant.
“Listen, I wouldn’t kill without cause, but he was threatening Sandra!” He shot her a fiery glance, and then he fisted his hand. “You know I wouldn’t stand for that! If he lay a hand on her…”
Sighing, Kelly reached up, grabbed the edge of the counter, and rose to her feet. She then halted at the sight of a visitor standing on the other side of the counter watching them. Caught off guard, Kelly blinked—surprised she hadn’t noticed his presence, but then she let the surprise fade as she smiled at him. “Phil Henderson? Welcome! I’m sorry. Just came out of a story.” She then grabbed Rex by his shoulder and pushed him away from the counter toward the mirror. “Go back home now. We’ll talk more about this later.”
“You haven’t heard the last of this!” He hollered as he was pushed away.
“I know!” With one final shove and a firm look to meet his glare, Kelly took a deep breath and turned back to Phil. “Sorry about that.” She wrapped off her hands then jabbed her thumb over her shoulder in Rex’s direction. “Argument with an assassin. Can be interesting. So, did you find the place all right? Sorry that it’s raining.”
Phil looked up from the typewriter he’d been inspecting. “Hey, don’t worry about it. It’s quite entertaining. And honestly, it’s been raining at my place quite a while now. In fact, I’d say over the past three weeks, we’ve gotten more rain than we usually get in a year.” He looks around. “You know, before I came here, I honestly couldn’t imagine myself having any sort of an interest in antiques. My aunt does, but I’m trying to distance myself from that side of the family. But I doubt you’re here to hear me gripe about them.”
Kelly shrugged. “Well, you could have chosen anywhere else to meet, but this isn’t your ordinary antique shop. Most of these items I’ve gotten from other realms.” She motioned to their surroundings. “Anything might open a portal to another world, or you might get bitten by plot bunnies that run around here.” She smiled. “You’re welcome to look around if you’d like…and if you don’t mind me following you around pestering you with questions.” She chuckled. “But first, tell me about yourself, what it is that you do, and how it ties into your writing.”
Phil turned to Kelly. “Hmm…well, making myself sound interesting has always been an uphill battle. I live in a small town in northern Utah. Currently I work two jobs–one as a phone surveyor. That just pays the bills and occasionally I get time between calls to write. Still, I’d quit it if I could. I haven’t because my other job only offers twenty hours a week, but I enjoy it immensely.” He began walking, clearly more comfortable with moving while he talked. “The other place I work at is a libertarian think tank. Though I try not to make the stories I write about them, my politics really shape my writing. I guess what I want to show people is that they shouldn’t be afraid of being able to run their own lives, and that most of them will be far better off if given the opportunity to do so.”
Kelly nodded as she listened to him. She snatched a few items off the counter and followed him through the shop, placing the items in their places on the shelves. “Totally agree with you about running your own life. That’s why I have this shop.” She smiled then took a small wooden box off a shelf and went to a table near the back to set it down and carefully open it and set inside strange, blue pearls that seemed to glow. As she did this, she continued the conversation, “So when did you start writing?”
Phil chuckled, feeling a little envious of Kelly being able to practice what he preached. The pearls caught his eye briefly. “That’s not really an easy question to answer. I learned how to read when I was three with a system my grandfather had developed as a developmental psychologist. I wrote just for fun from the get-go. My handwriting was pretty terrible too because I refused to do all those pages full of swirls and curls—I just didn’t get the point. Not until years later.” He paused for a moment, as if to collect his thoughts. “The first time I can actually remember writing a story was in the fifth grade. It was set in the distant future, and full of hoverboards, androids, and flying cars, and it was about as good as you’d expect a fifth-grader’s writing to be,” he said with a smirk.
“And fifth-graders can write pretty good stories.” Kelly closed the lid of the box and turned back to Phil. “I tutor some fifth-graders, and one of the girls is destined to become a writer. I can already tell.” She smiled then tilted her head as she furrowed her brows. “So if that was your first actual story to write, what kind of stories do you write now? Short stories? Novels?”
Phil cleared his throat, not quite sure what to think. Perhaps he was too hard on his younger self. Had that been what was always holding him back? He decided to drop the whole fifth-grader quip, glad that Kelly had decided not to dwell on it. “Oh, I’m doing a mix of both. One of my big, overarching projects is an alternate timeline of Earth’s history. I’ve planned a trilogy of novels for that one, and I’m setting the stage with a collection of short stories leading through the Twentieth Century. It’s in the same vein as Heinlein’s World As Myth, in which there are a near-infinite number of universes that are brought into being purely by will. There are several timelines that resemble ours in the World As Myth, and I’ve decided to add another–though not so overtly. Ultimately, what I hope to show is how humanity will not only manage, but thrive in, a society without government. A number of Sci-Fi writers, including Heinlein himself, have portrayed revolutions in their stories, but to my knowledge, none has ever actually showed how a free society actually would function. And that’s what I’ll be doing with the third novel in my trilogy.”
Kelly stared at him for a long moment, but then a smile spread across her lips. “Ah, that sounds complicated but fantastic! And different. I like different, so good for you.” But then she looked at the shelves then at Phil, took in his height, and handed the wooden box to him. “Would you mind putting this on that too shelf over there?” She pointed to a specific shelf. “These are rain seeds, and I don’t want anyone to get a hold of them and plant them, or we’ll have even more rain.” She then led the way to the shelf and motioned to it. “So do you have any works published? Or would this be your first?”
Being the tallest in his family, Phil was perfectly used to being asked to reach high places, and didn’t even feel like complaining. Besides, it felt like a subtle compliment. “Other than a few online articles that I did for free, I haven’t actually published anything. I’m thinking of doing some cheap romance and erotica under a pen name to help pay the bills. If that gets me to a point where I can quit the call center and still make my car and student debt payments, that’s when I’ll start looking seriously at writing full-time.”
“Well, that’s always an option, but don’t lose track of your main focus. Sometimes people are forced to stay in undesirable situations for a time only because at that time, the world isn’t ready for what they have to offer.” Kelly nodded her thanks when he put the box in its proper place. When he glimpsed at her, she offered him a smile of encouragement. “The time will come, and it will be the right time.” She then took some books off the shelves and headed to the front of the shop once more. “Who are your characters in this book? What are their main conflicts?”
Phil shrugged, not sure how to answer that. “Well, I’m not keeping too many characters from one place to the next. The collection of short stories is told by different players in the Twentieth Century. As to the novel trilogy, the first one is set around a group of anarchists who take over the White House–quite legally, mind you–and decide to overthrow the Federal government from within. It’s narrated in the present tense by the President’s chief advisor. He’s married to a Senator from Georgia who, while she doesn’t quite share his faith in humanity, still loves him and supports his mission since he seems to know what he’s doing. In the second one, their son leads a revolution plotted by a quasi-religious group that ultimately succeeds in toppling the government. And in the third, which takes place several centuries later, most of the world is stateless, and a few scattered warlords threaten the peace. The events in that one are based loosely on the Book of Revelations. As for what I’m doing at the very moment, well, it’s part of my short story collection. In that timeline, Japan declares war on the US, loses, and becomes the 51st state. As I’m sure you can imagine, overseeing a territory clear on the other side of the Pacific is no easy task, so they enjoy a relatively free reign there, which gives them a chance to develop their own space program, based in Okinawa. The story itself is set around the Inoue family—Kensuke and Cassandra and their children–who are the first people to colonize the moon. I’m looking at the cultural and economic implications of such a venture.”
“Wow, all those are quite different from one another. I’m impressed.” Kelly shook her head amazed, but then she moved behind the counter but then caught a glimpse of the clock on the wall. “Really? It’s already been an hour?” She glanced at Phil apologetically. “It appears our time has come to an end. I’ve got to get back to Cuskelom—have another interview. I would love to continue this conversation, but unfortunately I have to go.” She then glanced outside and saw it was only raining lightly now. “And look, the rain’s let up now, but you’re welcome to stick around the shop and browse.” She smiled at him. “I really do appreciate your time.”
Phil smiled and nodded. “Yeah, I really wish we could talk a bit more. If you ever have time, please, let me know.”
“Of course!” Kelly beamed. “Most certainly will. I hope you the best with your writing and that you may get published sooner than later and do all you want to do. And when you do release a book, let me know, so I can inform my customers. They’d love to know. But for now, it’s back into the story realm for me. Being a Muse is a busy job. You have a good day!” With that, she headed to the back where the mirror portal was to continue about her work.
Note: Phil Henderson’s book is titled ‘Land of the Rising Moon’, which is planned to be released in December. For more information, follow his Facebook Author Page: