History in the Trees


I returned to Virginia during the winter and visited a few parks where I spent a lot of time growing up. These pictures are from a park in Newport News, VA. It’s the city park that surrounds the city reservoir. Not only does it serve as a natural buffer for the reservoir, but it has historical significance as well. All of these leaf and water filled trenches are earthworks from a Civil War battle that was fought here. There is always a strange feeling walking through an area with evidence of war. The earthworks are now populated with trees and the trenches between them are reservoirs for rain water. How I feel when walking through these areas is indescribable. People fought and possibly died around these earthworks, and the area is now replaced with the serenity of nature surrounding a reservoir that supplies water for the living. I just wanted to share the pictures and these thoughts with you.

© 2019 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.

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Missed the Mark

A glitzy sphere is lowered on a rail.
Elation swells,
confetti clogs the street:
a paper mâché fog.

Far away,
I sit in a chair,
aware that the New Year
will be greeted by the same
folly from the year before.

Changing the kitchen calendar
does not lead to metamorphosis.

I rise from my chair,
resolve to do better,
but can I?
I am the past.
The glitzy sphere decreed it so.

Memories, insecurities, dreams,
Fears, hopes, beliefs still survive,
Polluting the nascent temporal waters

I stand near a mirror.
A reflection returns my stare.
How I wish to shatter that image.

Its pathetic, stern face
prophesies a consistent state of failure.
Though it has no skill in divination,
its unflinching stare
can push me to my knees.

In earnest, I say “Someday.”
It is a deception.
I cannot flow through eternity
By waiting.

© 2019 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.

Happy New Year, Echoes! May the switch to a new calendar lead to interesting times. I have plans for this site as well as other aspects of my writing that, I hope, will lead to interesting times for all of us this year. See you around!

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Instagram Update

Hey Echoes,

In a weird attempt to increase my social presence, I have joined Instagram. I’ll be posting photos taken on my trips there. It will be a preview for whenever I am working on another vagabonding story or a trashy story. It will also be a repository to remind me what I should be writing about. So, come join in on this awkward social experiment!

CJ’s Instagram


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Twitter Update

Hello Echoes,

Well, I did it! I have joined twitter, so you have more ways to connect and interact with me. It’s also another way to get news about the work I’m doing when I don’t have time for a lengthy blog post. See you out there!

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Red Touch Yellow

It was a foggy morning. It was still, but I heard the murmur of the city just beyond the low tree line. The fog isolated me from the residential area not too far away from the wetland trail. Fewer people were out on this gray day to enjoy nature. I was out here and I photographed an animal I had hoped to stumble into again. I thought I saw a coral snake on a bike trip in the area earlier in the year, but I was moving quickly and only wanted to avoid running it over. This time the little snake was stretched out on the trail, and I was only hiking. So, I got a few pictures, before it disappeared into the foliage. The close pictures are a little blurry, but I took them quickly, before I lost my model.



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A Shout Out

Hello Echoes,

I would like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to a dear friend who runs Five Day Photography. He recently returned from a cross-country road trip. He took some amazing pictures, building up his portfolio. Check out his journey and give him a like.

Just Laugh,

CJ Staryk

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Chapter 9: The Shadow

New to the story or need a refresher, check out the Table of Contents!

“There you have it, Eric,” President Jim Marsen said as he slumped back into his chair. His right elbow rested on the table, his fingers holding a phantom cigar.

Eric gazed at the thin LCD screen on the center of the table. The probe’s diamond shape visible from low orbit. It was old footage from the Theseus before the Curtani attacked.

“And you think it is still out there?” Eric asked.

Jim nodded. “Looking for a new place to set up shop. Its pattern appears to be seeking out habitable worlds. Well, worlds with a suitable atmosphere, at least.”

“A terraforming probe,” Eric said in a whisper. “But every other time the probe jumped, this time it imploded.”

Jim stood up from his chair and stepped next to his colleague. “Yes. The military is assuming that was a defense mechanism.”

Not worthy.

“Not certain,” Eric mused.

“What are thinking, Eric?”

“It did nothing to prevent the Curtani from landing on it, nor did stop our team. It imploded only when we got inside and it had scanned us.”

“Searching for something?”

Eric nodded. “Something familiar.” He passed his hand over the screen, returning to an earlier slide depicting the probe’s zigzagging path through this quadrant of the galaxy. With a deep exhalation, he exclaimed, “Not possible.”

“That’s what our chief investigator thought too.” Eric felt a smile cross Jim’s face. “We are only somewhat versed in your father’s work. It’s hard to find these days.”

Eric craned his neck closer to the red line. “That is a fair assessment. Wild, debunked hypotheses are usually not the best investments.”

Jim chuckled and placed a hand on Eric’s shoulder. “And yet, you believed it.”

Eric craned his neck to Jim. “No, I was just interested in the similarities between three different sentient species in three different systems. It could support common evolutionary traits among distant, life-bearing worlds.”

“Even down to city planning and philosophy?”

“Possibly, a lack of communication does not mean separate civilizations wouldn’t follow similar architecture and philosophy, similar to pyramids and ancient Earth civilizations.” Eric stood up.

“So, does Management seem to think the probe is interested in these extinct cultures?”

“We don’t know. It is one hell of a coincidence.”

“And there is no evidence of a previous civilization on this rock?”

“Also, we do not know. We are assuming so.”

The LCD display switched off and the room lights bathed everything in a dull yellow.

“Since you’re onboard, I’ll bring you to meet the rest of the research team.” Jim headed for the door. “Follow me. I’ll show you why the probe, or another probe, is still out there.”

Eric followed Jim down several intersecting corridors. They stopped at a heavily guarded door. The troops saluted Jim and rushed to open the doors for them.

The research lab inside was a buzz with activity. Several scientists were crowded around LCD displays of the probe, the current planet they orbited, and recordings from recent events. Eric walked quickly passed one such recording of his own corneal implants. He saw Emb in it. A LCD projection of a spherical star map was in the center of the room. A red line shot meandered through the projection with a several large red spheres connected by the line. A young, short-haired blonde woman was locked in conversation with a taller, light-blue skinned Metamorph at this projection.

Eric swallowed hard. He fought back tears.

“Lieutenant Nascern, this is Eric Reeves, the xeno-researcher who survived the latest encounter with the probe,” President Marsen, stopping a few feet from the Metamorph.

The woman’s voice trailed off into a murmur. Nascern, the Metamorph, turned and stepped forward and presented his hand to Eric.

Eric shook Nascern’s hand with a weak grip. The woman stepped up beside Nascern.

Nascern motioned toward the woman. “This Dr. Cynthia Morse. She is my brightest post-doc on this assignment.”

Jim shook her hand, Eric followed.

Morse stammered, “I’m so sorry what you had to go through. I can’t imagine . . . ”

Eric’s response was flat. “Don’t try.”

Morse dropped the rest of her statement. She pulled her hand from Eric and stepped back.

Eric leaned toward Jim. “Why am I only being introduced to this team now?”

“There wasn’t time, Eric. You were called up quickly to rendezvous with the Theseus while we were still in route.”

“So, expendable.”

“I wanted you on this mission.”

“I doubt the Board agreed with your call.”

“They did not.”

Nascern clapped his hands together and cleared his throat. “So, now that you are part of the team, what do you wish to know?”

Eric stepped passed Nascern to the star map. The points on the map were labeled with the names of the systems the probe had visited.

“How have you been tracking it?” Eric mused.

“We aren’t,” Morse replied, moving next to him.

Eric raised an eyebrow. “Really? Are you just following a hunch that it’s tracking a series of lost civilizations that my late father discovered?”

Morse shied away from meeting his gaze. Eric felt his chest swell. He was nearly a foot taller than Morse. He chastised himself, he must have sounded like his doctoral advisor many years ago. Good one, Eric.

Jim nodded at Nascern and the Metamorph stepped to Eric’s left. “Yes, we have been tracking it. We have new tech that can track a ship through phase space.”

Eric’s eyes widened.

Nascern continued. “It is still a bit glitchy. We have techs working on it as we move. Refining it. That’s how we tracked it out here. Well, I should say we are tracking a disturbance, the techs call it the ‘shadow’.”

“The ’shadow’?”

Nascern grinned. “The probe doesn’t travel alone, it has a shadow.”

Nascern motioned Eric to follow him. He headed toward a console near the back of the room.

“The phase sensors are not fine tuned enough to follow something as small as the probe.”

“But I was told it has grown larger at every system it has entered.”

Nascern raised a single, slender finger. “Yes, after it arrives. When it phases, it is the same size. That’s why we do not believe it was destroyed with this last implosion.”

“So, it has a mother ship?”

Nascern stopped at the console and a holographic projection appeared in the air before them. It was a red mess to Eric. It depicted a visible representation of static, phase static. Phase space had long been too noisy to see behind its mysterious curtain. The only thing any vessel could do when jumping was to ride a gravity line from its entry point into phase space and its destination point in real space. Like walking a tight rope over a gorge in a windstorm blindfolded. If a vessel strayed from its navigation points in phase space, they could be lost in the static, forever.

Nascern passed his hand over the console and refined the red spherical image. He filtered out the noise of phase space and revealed a black image. There was still enough noise that the mass was an irregular, amorphous shape.

“That is our probe’s escort. It is estimated to be about three to four times larger than this survey cruiser.”

Eric whistled. Out there just beyond the time and space was an amorphous shadow looking over them. What was it contemplating?

© 2018 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.

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Not Dead . . . Yet

Hey Echoes,

I did not intend to be quiet this long. I’m a bit ashamed of it. Life has been busy and not entirely pleasant. High stress, high anxiety, and major depression do not make good writing companions. In any case, my soul searching was put on hold for a long moment of wallowing in self-loathing. It’s still there, but I need to move forward. This whole site was partially made for that purpose. I lost sight of that. I lost sight of a lot these past few months.

I tried getting advice or help from a number of people, but it always felt hollow. Although, I am thankful for the assistance. I did realize that using another’s crutch is not going to help me. So, I’m attempting  a more relentless approach of throwing off the fear and diving headlong into life again.

I have updated the table of contacts for the Artifact, so all the chapters are easy to find again. I need to do an edit on A Terran Problem to make the next two chapters work better, which should be coming out soon. It’s a public work in progress, so there was always the chance for a change here and there.

Also, NaNoWriMo is coming up in November and I will dive into that again. Shooting for a total of 50,000 written words this year!

Anyway, I will chat with all of you later.


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Life in the Way

Hey Everyone,

This is just a quick update. I’m still writing and have plans to keep posting here. I just ran into a few snags in the real world this summer. My real job really kicks into high gear for the summer and it has been exhausting.

I’m also writing a short story for a friend’s site. I hope it will get accepted and I’ll be able to send you the link when it happens. It’s been tough going, but I think I found my stride.

I may do some small flash posts about observations I make in my daily life. Exploring something wonderful from the ordinary. If anything, it will help keep these fingers writing and you entertained.

Personal issues have also slowed me down a lot. I’m working through them. I’ve wondered whether or not to make them part of the blog, but that requires a level of vulnerability I’m unprepared to present. It deals with mental illness, which is personal. On the other hand, if I could show it in ways others could understand, maybe I can be another light on things that have been left in the shadow for too long.

Thoughts to ponder.

You’ll hear from me soon enough,


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Brazos Bend: There be Gators

This year, I made a second trip to Brazos Bend State Park. I was there to find alligators as my last trip was unsuccessful. I arrived at the park early, and I headed out to the trails near the lake. I took an early detour along another trail surrounded by tall oaks. I love the oaks in this park. They are tall, old, and draped with Spanish moss.

Afterward, I hit the trail looping around 40 Acre and Elm Lakes. I assumed that the alligators would be hard to spot in their natural habitat. I regretted not bringing my binoculars along to catch sight of the beasts. Turns out the binoculars were not needed. I rounded the bend out of the moss-covered oaks and saw this beast just feet from the trail, sunning itself.


It was such a surprise that I froze in place. After the shock had passed, I gave it a wide berth and continued on. Warily keeping an eye out for alligators anywhere in the vicinity, especially on the sides of the trails, I saw them everywhere, near the trail, in the water, and resting on distant islands.

The last photo in this collection is my favorite. The branches appear to be a small shrub as if the alligator attempted to disguise itself.

I snapped several pictures of water fowl species on the edges of the trail too.

On the trail, I noticed striking dark brown bisecting the trees near the trail. It was another water line. I went to Brazos Bend two years ago after flooding rains had soaked Houston, and I saw an ankle-high water line where the Brazos River overflowed its banks, flooding the park around it. This nascent water line was nearly eye level with me. This is evidence of the flooding that occurred after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, moved north, and nearly stalled over Houston. It was incredible how high the water may have been. I wonder how fast it flowed. It was humbling. I wondered how many adult alligators got displaced due to the hurricane.

The picnic areas where the trail begins, and where my day ended, were filled with more large oaks. So, I will end this post where it started, in the shadow of these looming giants.

© 2018 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.

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