ysabetwordsmith: Paranormal detective Brenda in a wheelchair (PIE)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith

This is the freebie for today's fishbowl, inspired by prompts from [livejournal.com profile] janetmiles and [livejournal.com profile] kestrels_nest.  It also fills the "unexplained noises" square in my 9-11-14 card for the Halloween Bingo Fest.  It belongs to the series P.I.E.



The Tears of the Sky


"I thought you should know,"
Zephyr said one day,
"that the police station is weeping."

"Okay," Brenda said slowly,
"what exactly is going on,
how do you know about it,
and why is this my problem?"

"I am uncertain about the nature
of the event," Zephyr said.
"The electromagnetic signature
does not match my records.
People are complaining that
they hear someone crying.
Water is leaking through the roof
and triggering the flood sensors.
You are good at solving mysteries."

"I'm a private detective, not a plumber,
but all right, I'll see what I can do,"
Brenda said.  "Show me your data."

Zephyr turned on the computer screen
and displayed readouts for the police station,
which had a comprehensive set of sensors
to discourage people from breaking in or out,
along with a robust data storage system.

Brenda was able to map the seep of water,
minor enough that it really should not
have caused as much trouble as it was.

"So the roof has this little crack,
rain soaks in and -- have you checked
to see if the rain is contaminated?"
Brenda asked, poking at the screen.

"The nearest weather station has not
reported contamination," Zephyr said.

"Maybe something about the police station
itself, then," Brenda mused.  "Water, weeping ..."
She typed busily, trying different combinations
of search terms and browsing the results.

"There are water elementals," Zephyr said.
He highlighted several articles for her.

"They deal in emotions," Brenda said.
"A police station is full of intense feelings.
The roof leaks, water lets in elementals,
they feed on the emotions and amplify
what people are feeling ... this is not good."

She pulled out her smartphone and called Darrel.
"Hey, Brenda," he said, his voice low and dull.
"Can we do this some other time?  It's been
a crappy week here at the station."

"That's why I'm calling," she said.
"Have you heard weird noises, like crying,
especially around water leaks?"

"Everyone is hearing noises.  The pipes
must be busted or something," Darrel said.
"There's a drip in the hall that even a bucket
won't catch all of, and it's depressing."

"Could you hold the phone near the leak?"
Brenda asked.  Darrel didn't reply, but
she could hear his slow footsteps.
Then came the plangent sound of water
falling into the full bucket.  "Okay, thanks."
She let Darrel go.

Colored lines wiggled across her computer
as Zephyr sorted out the human voices,
then isolated the noise from the leak.
It did sound eerily like someone crying.

"Hydriads riding a ceiling leak," Brenda said.
"Well, I guess we need to find banishments.
What about good old salt?  That's for Earth."

"Water nymphs include saltwater and freshwater,"
Zephyr pointed out.  "They probably do not mind salt."

"Hmm ... Fire opposes Water, so we could try ash,"
said Brenda.  "That might make them stop."

"It is likely to solve the short-term problem,"
Zephyr agreed.  "However, the pressure
could easily build enough to wash away the ash."

"Obviously they need to repair the roof,"
Brenda said.  "I wonder if we could
give the nymphs some other way down ..."
She looked through lists of things that
corresponded with the element of Water.

Then Brenda went down to the police station
to see Darrel.  "You have a pest problem,"
she explained.  "Water nymphs are
coming in with the rain from the roof
and stirring up people's emotions."
She held out a plastic bag.  "I asked Nick
for some ashes out of his fireplace; this
should repel the nymphs already in here."

"Okay," Darrel said.  "Thanks.
The roof is scheduled for repair
at the end of this week."

"That's good," Brenda said.
"I can sprinkle the ash around.
People here know me well enough
by now that it shouldn't raise eyebrows.
I'll need you to hang this, though."
She gave him a roll of silver wire.
"Run it down the lightning rod to give
the nymphs a more appealing path
to the ground than through the station."

While Darrel went up to the roof
to rig the silver wire, Brenda
went through the station
to distribute the ashes.

Zephyr followed her through the smartphone,
showing a map of the building with the leaks
marked in purple over pale blueprints.

On the lower levels, though, the ground
blocked out the signal and Brenda
had to rely on the individual flood sensors
and other equipment networked indoors.

Finally she finished the task and
went back to where she could talk
with Zephyr more easily.

"I dusted all the leaks," Brenda said.
"Check for weeping water nymphs."

"They seem to have left the building.
Still, it is frustrating to find so many places
where I cannot go," Zephyr grumbled.

"I hear you," Brenda agreed.
"We'll just have to work around
the limitations as best we can."

* * *

Notes:

Water sensors send an alert when they get wet, useful in basements or near equipment that needs to stay dry.

Hydriads are one type of nymph, elemental spirits that may appear as young women.  They can be very distracting.

Problem solving may require brainstorming and applying more than one solution.  Don't stop with the first thing you think of and just assume that you're done.  Check to make sure it's working.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-09-17 01:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kestrels-nest.livejournal.com
SMILE. I love this, especially the way Zephyr and Brenda interact and understand each other.

Please give Zephyr my apologies for the error in pronoun.

Thank you!

Date: 2014-10-02 12:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> SMILE. I love this, especially the way Zephyr and Brenda interact and understand each other. <<

I'm glad you liked this so much. Zephyr is still new, but learning, and Brenda is pretty good with people in general.

>> Please give Zephyr my apologies for the error in pronoun. <<

That should have said "it" instead of "he" above. Fixed now.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-10-02 01:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kestrels-nest.livejournal.com
Hey, I could see a sentient AI choosing to use a gendered pronoun, especially for dealing on a more equal footing with organic people who know it only as Brenda's secretary.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-10-02 01:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
*nod* Some of mine do, others don't.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-09-17 02:11 am (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
I like this. I had to go back and refresh my memory about Zephyr -- it's good to see an AI written as a character with realistic disabilities and motivations.

Thank you!

Date: 2014-09-17 02:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> I like this. <<

I'm happy to hear that.

>> I had to go back and refresh my memory about Zephyr -- it's good to see an AI written as a character with realistic disabilities and motivations. <<

Yeah, someone wanted to explore the idea of Zephyr's limitations. I figured that traveling along signal bandwidth would be frustrating because there are a lot of places that don't get a clear signal. The main hardware is immobile, and the core personality tends to stay there, but Zephyr can still reach out to people through mobile devices -- as long as there's a way to connect.

The world looks very different when you think of accessibility from the perspective of technology rather than pavement.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-09-17 05:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] westrider.livejournal.com
This is great. One of the things I love about your work is how rationally the supernatural systems work, and thus solutions to problems can be reasoned through, rather than just looked up or known by rote, like in so many other supernatural works.

Thank you!

Date: 2014-09-17 05:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> This is great. <<

I'm glad you liked it.

>> One of the things I love about your work is how rationally the supernatural systems work, and thus solutions to problems can be reasoned through, rather than just looked up or known by rote, like in so many other supernatural works. <<

Yay! There are many different magical and supernatural systems. Almost all of them contain patterns and logic. I should probably add references for elemental magic when I have more time -- all the connections are valid.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-09-17 07:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rix-scaedu.livejournal.com
I enjoyed this poem but one thing stuck out for me in this section:

"Brenda
walked through the station"

Is this the verb that should be here?

Thank you!

Date: 2014-09-17 07:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> I enjoyed this poem <<

I'm glad you liked it.

>> but one thing stuck out for me in this section:

"Brenda
walked through the station"

Is this the verb that should be here? <<

That should say "went" and it's fixed now.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-09-17 08:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rix-scaedu.livejournal.com
I'm glad I could help. It didn't seem to gel with what I knew of the character.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-09-17 04:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janetmiles.livejournal.com
For what it's worth, I have an acquaintance who uses a wheelchair, and she does use the verb "walk" to describe moving around in her chair. However, the plural of anecdote is not data, so I could be wrong. And I apologize if I've just been guilty of "well, *my* [marginalized group] friend doesn't mind being called [derogatory term]".

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-09-17 08:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kestrels-nest.livejournal.com
Not just your friend; one of my mentors was in a wheelchair courtesy of polio. As she put it, "Of course we're going for a walk. Going for a roll sounds weirder than we are!" I still miss her.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-09-18 01:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
That's useful to know, thanks.

In person, I think it works better than in print, where it's easy to read as erasure.

For my part, I tend not to say "walk" for a single person in a wheelchair, but will say "walk" for someone in a wheelchair with someone on foot. I see nothing wrong with "roll" for two people in wheelchairs; it sounds much like "stroll." Any of the synonyms -- stroll, amble, mosey, hustle, etc. -- I'm comfortable using for wheels because they relate to a flavor of motion more than a method. "Trundle" is a favorite for crossing rough ground on wheels.

It's interesting to see how the vocabulary builds around something like this.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-09-18 01:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kestrels-nest.livejournal.com
I think that it matters who uses it, as well. The person in the chair isn't as likely to be taken as erasing herself. I've used "stroll" fairly often - though with Judy, it was more likely to be a dash. Very few people could keep up with her if she was in a hurry.

I do love trundle - it's perfect.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-09-18 01:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> I think that it matters who uses it, as well. The person in the chair isn't as likely to be taken as erasing herself. <<

Agreed. So then, in the context of this poem, "walked" as part of the narrative is more risky than if Brenda said something like, "Darrel and I walked around the city today."

>> I've used "stroll" fairly often - though with Judy, it was more likely to be a dash. Very few people could keep up with her if she was in a hurry. <<

Yeah, Brenda is fast on wheels too.

>> I do love trundle - it's perfect. <<

Yay! That's in a couple of this week's poems, I think, for the adventure stuff.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2017-07-18 06:37 pm (UTC)
callibr8: icon courtesy of Wyld_Dandelyon (Default)
From: [personal profile] callibr8
>> "Of course we're going for a walk. Going for a roll sounds weirder than we are!" <<

[personal profile] mdlbear likes to walk and can move fairly quickly. His partner uses a mobility scooter. When they go out for a "pedestrian" excursion, he calls it a st/roll. :-)

Re: st/roll

Date: 2017-07-18 06:57 pm (UTC)
callibr8: icon courtesy of Wyld_Dandelyon (Default)
From: [personal profile] callibr8
Thought you would, and wasn't sure whether you'd seen it. Glad to introduce you to the term!

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-09-17 08:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I have heard that too. I suspect it's either akin to using a common term loosely, as some blind people will say "I see" for "I understand," although it could be simply interpreting "walk" as "to move by person-power."

Linguistics is different from some other fields in that its data-gathering really is primarily collecting what people say or write. Scholars may then make different interpretations of how that works or what it means. But if you've got people using a word a certain way, it's data cropping to claim that nobody uses it like that.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-09-18 07:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rhodielady-47.livejournal.com
Another thing about problem solving--never assume you have only the one problem. In the real world, problems often occur in groups like nested IF statements and each one of those problems has to be solved before the situation is resolved.
Perhaps a poem about that?
:)

Yes...

Date: 2014-09-18 07:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Another thing about problem solving--never assume you have only the one problem. In the real world, problems often occur in groups like nested IF statements and each one of those problems has to be solved before the situation is resolved. <<

True. One problem may come from many causes, or one cause may start many problems, which often need to be addressed separately. Even different causes and effects may overlap in the problems they create, so that you have to consider the whole batch together in finding your solution(s).

>> Perhaps a poem about that? <<

It's worth keeping in mind, yes.

Re: Yes...

Date: 2017-05-29 09:33 am (UTC)
kengr: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kengr
>>> Another thing about problem solving--never assume you have only the one problem. In the real world, problems often occur in groups like nested IF statements and each one of those problems has to be solved before the situation is resolved. <<

True. One problem may come from many causes, or one cause may start many problems, which often need to be addressed separately. Even different causes and effects may overlap in the problems they create, so that you have to consider the whole batch together in finding your solution(s).

>> Perhaps a poem about that? <<

It's worth keeping in mind, yes.<<<

It's been done...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijc1eJVR9Qw

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-05 03:14 pm (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
Ooooh, I like this. I like seeing Zephyr's reaction to his limitations. It's different from Brenda's, though I'm not entirely sure how to word the difference since it's subtle. (And I read Halfway to Heaven last and Brenda's reaction feels different to how it is in the other poems, which makes sense since it's set while she's still rebuilding her life.) There's a different calmness to Zephyr's frustration.

I liked the way Brenda and Zephyr worked through the problem too. I really like how you're building up teamwork in this series. It's never one person who has all the answers. It's always (or almost always) at least two people thinking together that comes up with the solution. ^_^

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-10-08 09:05 am (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
So that gives a very different accessibility and problem-solving footprint.

I'm not sure it's what I was trying to get at. ^_^; It's not (or not just) that their limitations are different, but that they're different people. Even if they had the exact same limitations, they'd be approaching them differently because their personalities are different.

I've only had limited opportunities for that in real life; more often people try to take advantage of me.

Boo. I'm sorry to hear people treat you that way. *good thoughts*

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