When he opened his mail he was surprised to see that his license had been suspended.
It was 2047, and for many, many years there had been requirements for all professions to be licensed. Doctors, lawyers, hair dressers, prostitutes—even general contractors had succumbed to licensing in one form or another.
The letter stated that his license had been revoked for failure to get the required number of hours of continuing education. In order for him to get his license re-instated, he would need to submit proof of the completion of required continuing education. There was a separate sheet that listed all the approved courses that could be used to meet the requirements—including some online courses.
He was warned that if he were to continue working without a proper license he could have his license revoked permanently. He was in shock that this could happen to him.
Trains come and go.
When the conductor says “last call,” all travelers had better be on board. But today’s travelers will get a bit of a
break. The train will not be leaving the station until the conductor himself verifies that the last person is actually on board. There is no “schedule” that the train must keep.
It is raining and the engine is sitting on the tracks trembling like a wet puppy. Its sheer weight and size speaks of a power and a strength that can be felt, heard and smelled—as well as seen. There is no question—the great engine will be able to do all that is asked of it.
This train has been waiting to leave the station for a long time and today is the day—just as soon as the last seat gets filled.
When Shelley started across the Deadly Black Wasteland toward Mud Pond, she thought she had plenty of daylight left to get to the other side. She knew there would be a bright half-moon coming up to light the way if it took longer than she anticipated. She had summoned all her courage and was ready.
Stories about the Deadly Black Wasteland were endless. All the families she knew had horrific stories of loved ones starting across and never returning—or returning maimed or emotionally scarred. Being totally out in the open and totally vulnerable to all manner of dangers was very risky even for the most physically fit and fearless. There were hawks and owls to worry about as well as beasts that had no wings or fangs. Even without wings those beasts were incredibly fast. Turtle language had no word for how fast these creatures were, and except for the noise and the fierce wind they made when they went by they were almost invisible. They were the scariest beasts of all because they seemed to have no interest in hunting for food like a normal enemy, and seemed to kill and maim with no interest at all.
It was winter underground.
The activities of many of the inhabitants of the underworld slowed down—and some slept. Those that could survive being frozen solid slept the deepest, but those that could dig themselves below the frozen ground barely slept at all. The earthworms were among those that chose to dig deep.
Annie (short for Annelida) was an earthworm and to her the whole idea of freezing solid was out of the question.
One day the King called his son, the Prince, to his bedside.
“Son,” said the King, “As you know I am dying and soon all of the kingdom will be yours. But first you must find a Princess and marry her.”
As a side note, the Prince was a pretty bright fellow and he considered the possibility that by strict interpretation of the King’s words, one might think that if the prince never married the King would never die.
The Prince knew this would be no easy task, as he had already turned down several options the King had suggested to him. The Prince wanted to make up his own mind. In the past there would have been no question. If the King had said you will marry this Princess or that Princess—even if she did have a wart on her nose as big as the back forty—you would have simply obeyed. But these were different times.