The End?

February 8, 2013 Leave a comment

Pretty much if it weren’t for Chuck Wendig, I would never write anything. This past week he had a Three Haikus Tell One Story challenge over on Terribleminds. I thought it would be fun to write a story with some misdirection. My goal was for the story to appear to be about one thing, only to have the reader find out things weren’t what they seemed. I think I accomplished that quite well.

The End?

It happened like this:
One moment they weren’t here,
And the next, they were.

The invaders came,
They saw, they conquered, and then
They laid down and died.

In just an eye’s blink
We were defeated. Again.
CONTINUE? YES / NO

© Avri Burger 2013

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Categories: Fiction

Temporal Reset

December 7, 2012 Leave a comment

This is a three-sentence story I wrote back in June, but forgot to post until now. Yet again, it was for a contest over at terribleminds.com. Enjoy!

Temporal Reset

Ralph released the button, shrugged when nothing happened, then resumed mopping the floor. “What the hell,” he said when he finished, and went back to press the button on Dr. Einstein’s Temporal Reset Machine one more time. Ralph released the button, shrugged when nothing happened, then resumed mopping the floor.

© Avri Burger 2012

Categories: Uncategorized

Harold and the Fountain

March 17, 2012 1 comment

So, I completely forgot that the week before I wrote Moments Are Forever, Chuck Hogan had run a Short Short Story Contest over at Terribleminds. Just how short, you might ask? Try no more than five sentences, with a total of 100 words or less. Not so simple, eh? Anyway, I enjoyed the challenge, and it was much harder getting my story into five sentences than I had anticipated. I also never gave it a title, so something simple will have to do now. I hope you all enjoy!

Harold and the Fountain

After decades of searching, Harold had finally found the Fountain of Youth. His oft-ridiculed theory had proven correct: it was clearly alien in origin. The warm, viscous liquid soothed his ancient limbs as he waded into the shallow pool, and he sighed with relief as his whole body began to tingle. Several moments later, he gasped in horror upon realizing his heart had ceased beating. A pulsing light mocked him from across the basin, and, with the last of his strength, Harold lunged for the button.

© Avri Burger 2012

Categories: Fiction Tags:

Moments Are Forever

March 7, 2012 2 comments

I wrote this short story for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge of this week. The theme was to pull up a random song, the title of which would be the title of your story. The story was limited to 1000 words or less. The song my player came up with was “Moments Are Forever” by Moon Project. To see Chuck’s detailed instruction and for links to other entries, head on over to the contest blog on his terribleminds website.

Moments Are Forever

There was a time when Sarah would never have considered visiting a fortune teller. She used to believe that palm reading was bunk; that tarot cards were nothing more than a fancy, oversized deck of drawings; and that Ouija boards had a remarkable tendency to only answer you with what you were thinking. But now all that had changed. Now she had to believe they were all real, legitimate ways to connect with the spirit world. If they weren’t, she would never be able to contact Joe. She would never be able to find where her beloved, dead husband had hidden the $10 million. That son of a bitch.

She still remembered the morning after they “acquired” the money like it was yesterday: Joe had slept-in so late, it was as if he had been up the entire night—which, it turned out, he had. Sarah was horrified when Joe told her that he had stashed the cash “in a safe place” for a while. He said they needed to lay low for a bit, before they packed up and started off on a new life. Also, he didn’t trust her with the location of the money. Yet. A week later, the bastard died of heart attack in his sleep.

That was five years ago. Five long, agonizing years of her tearing the house apart, digging up the entire back yard, and visiting every medium she could find in the tri-state area—all of them hacks. But now, after all that time, Sarah was finally optimistic about this next visit. Her last reading, done by an old hunch-backed woman, was fairly accurate for a change. However, when the psychic failed to contact Joe, she returned Sarah’s money. “Go see my sister,” she said, holding out a card. “She is much better at this than I am.”

A slight chill trickled down Sarah’s spine as she descended into the cramped, musty basement room located in a run-down part of town. The place looked much like all the others, with the exception that it had no windows whatsoever. Looking around, she saw numerous framed pictures of sad-looking people hanging unevenly on the walls. Not a great recommendation, she thought. Sarah decided it was too creepy and was just about to leave, when she heard the rustle of a bead curtain behind her.

She was greeted by Madame Rosa, an ancient woman who looked exactly like her less-successful sister. Rosa was a pleasant lady and a perfect counterpoint to the odd decor. Moments later, they were seated in the center of the room, the fortune teller quickly overturning the cards of her craft onto the round table.

“Your dead husband hid from you something you hold dear,” Rosa said after studying the cards. It was not a question.

“Well, yes,” Sarah, shocked, replied. “Yes, I am looking for something. Shortly before he died, my husband hid my mother’s heirloom ring to teach me a lesson,” she lied. “You see, I was going to sell it.”

“And now you are hoping I can help you contact your husband’s spirit, so that you may discover the ring’s location.” Again, it was not a question. “There is a way it can be done, but I must warn you: it is not always successful, and it is certainly not safe. And, it is very expensive.”

“I don’t care how much it costs,” Sarah blurted out. “I’ll pay anything to speak to Joe. Anything.

“I must prepare something for you to drink,” Rosa said, and retreated through the bead curtain. She returned a few moments later, and led Sarah over to a reclining chair near the wall. “After you drink this, you will start to feel heavy. You will then close your eyes and think of the most vivid moment you can remember of your Joe. When you no longer feel heavy, you may open your eyes. If it worked, you will be living in that memory for a short while. It does not last long, so do not waste your time.”

Sarah greedily grabbed the offered mug and quickly gulped down its contents. She only had a few seconds to dwell on the particularly grotesque taste of the liquid before she felt like a ton of bricks was pushing her into the chair. Though the pressure continued to mount, Sarah found she was able to think with greater clarity than she ever had before. She easily envisioned that morning from five years ago and moments later the pressure released.

Sarah opened her eyes. There was the jerk, still sleeping at noon. She walked over to the bed, picked up the glass of water on the night table, and dumped it on his head. Joe spluttered and pushed himself up, but before he could say anything, Sarah slapped him. Hard. “Wake up, you creep!” she yelled. “You’ve been dead for five years, now tell me where the money is!”

Joe started to smile, then flinched when Sarah raised her hand again. “In the shed!” he blurted out. “There’s a false floor under the lawnmower!” Sarah grinned in triumph, then fell to the floor as the world shook violently.

When the shaking subsided, Sarah noticed some movement out of the corner of her eye. She walked over to a mirror and, instead of her own reflection, saw Rosa’s face—impossibly large. “I thank you for finding me that money. More importantly, I thank you for your donation to my picture collection. Now, go enjoy your most precious of moments . . . FOREVER!”

© Avri Burger 2012

Categories: Fiction Tags: ,

Could You Take My Picture? (Or Three? Or Five?) ‘Cause I Won’t Remember.

January 12, 2012 Leave a comment

This week I made my first HDR photographs! What is HDR, you ask? Well, it stands for High Dynamic Range. Basically, where the human eye can make out differences in brighter and darker lighting at the same time, a camera is unable to capture those same nuances in a single exposure. An HDR photograph bridges this gap by compiling a single image from multiple exposures of the same view. To get as much lighting detail as possible, the pictures range from underexposed to overexposed. The end-result is a highly-detailed photograph that, in comparison, could be considered hi-def. At the very least, the picture is incredibly cool!

Now, I need to amend my first sentence. While I created my first few HDR images this week, the pictures I used for them were actually photographed a few years ago. What can I say? I leave projects unfinished all the time. In any case, I first found out about HDR photography back in the summer of 2008, from a desktop wallpaper art website called InterfaceLIFT. I was stunned by the clarity and surreal look of some of the pictures and had no idea what “HDR” meant, so I quickly did some research. Armed with a basic understanding, I immediately set out to try to duplicate the process with my pathetic digital camera. I only got half-way through, though, since I did not have the necessary software to complete the task, and so it wasn’t long before I forgot about the whole thing (read: “gave up”).

Flash forward to a few days ago. I got into a discussion with someone on twitter regarding an HDR app that a programmer was working on. The discussion quickly led to my checking out another person’s HDR photographs taken with the same camera phone as mine. The pictures were beautiful. Naturally, I wanted capture my own shots like them. Thus, I finally decided to finish my years-old project.

It turns out that compiling an HDR image isn’t so difficult—you just need the right software. While there are quite a few programs that can do the compiling and subsequent tweaking, the most important one is Photomatix Pro. Armed with the very detailed, yet simply-followed tutorial by Trey Ratcliff, I was shocked at how easy it was to make the HDR. When I finished, I thought these exact words: Why didn’t I do this sooner?! Incidentally, Trey Ratcliff’s website, Stuck In Customs, has some of the most beautiful and stunning photography you will ever see. After viewing his gallery, all you will want to do is grab a camera and take pictures for the rest of your life. Anyway, enough yapping and on to the pictures!

Essentially, the best way to capture the necessary shots for an HDR photograph, is to attach your camera to a tripod and set it to burst mode, with each image having an greater amount of light exposure than the last. My camera didn’t have a burst mode, so all I had going for me was that I had a tripod. Thus, I painstakingly took multiple shots of the same subject with different settings. I’ll be honest with you: I never had high hopes for the series. I just wanted to try to do it. Boy was I surprised!

Here are the images I used. (Click on the images for a larger view.)

And here is the resulting HDR.

Not bad, eh? Of course, as can be seen in my next pictures, the software can make almost anything look good.

About half a year after I took the pictures of that plant (a potted maple seedling, by the way, which I have since planted in front of my house), I was at a wedding in New York. The wedding took place at the Marina del Rey, which is located between the Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges. My camera was unable to take decent nighttime pictures of the bridges, so I decided to take some time-lapsed exposures in the hopes that I might get something. Since I didn’t have a tripod with me, I set the camera on top of a low wall. The wall was not level, thus the angularity of the shots.

Here are the pictures I used of the Throgs Neck Bridge.

 

And here are two different HDRs I created by using different settings.

As you can see, a couple of tweaks to the settings can yield very different images.

Finally, here are the pictures I used of the Whitestone Bridge.

And here is the resulting HDR.

I think I like this last one the best. I’m not sure why, but I guess it’s probably because it looks the most real. Which is strange, really, since the whole “hyper-real” aspect of HDR images is what drew me to the form in the first place!

Well, I hope you like my humble (very much so) photographs. Perhaps I have even inspired you to try to make your own. If you do, however, do yourself a favor and don’t take three-and-a-half years!

Categories: Uncategorized

If It’s in a Picture, It Must Be True!

January 2, 2012 1 comment

Every now and then we experience something that calls up memories from long ago. When the memories are pleasant, we like to call that “nostalgia”—even when those memories come from a time when there was no internet. (Yes, I’m old enough to remember such a time. Rub it in, why don’t you?) A while back, my old friend Hillel Fuld (@HilzFuld) inadvertently reminded me of an event that occurred … 18 years ago?! NO, WAY! THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT! [checks date] Oh, man! I’m getting old!

This whole event started quite innocently, as most events do. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was meeting a couple of friends to go out to dinner. We met up at Ayala Gross’s house. Back then, Ayala’s mother, Netty, wrote for The Jerusalem Post. As it turned out, Netty—who was writing an article on the effects of aliyah on teenagers—had scheduled a photo shoot for that afternoon, and needed her daughter to be in that shoot. “Don’t worry,” Ayala said, “we’ll still be able to go to dinner. We just have to detour for this first.” “No problem,” I said, and hopped in the car.

The photo shoot ended up being done on the top of the world-famous King David Hotel. To this day, I still don’t know why that location was chosen. Secretly, I think it was chosen for one reason: There was no escape. Anyway, once everyone got up to the roof and the photographer started setting up, Ayala turned to me and said, “Oh, by the way, you have to be in the picture.” Stunned, I looked at her and stammered, “Um … err … WHAT?!” “Please don’t be mad at me!” she said, “My mom doesn’t have enough guys for the picture and she really needs you to be in it.” I fled to the edge of the roof and looked down. It was a long way down. But there was a pool! Alas, there was no way the pool was deep enough. Sighing, I joined the group.

Now, I want you all to understand that I didn’t mind being in the picture. I actually had a good time being there. I was just bothered that I was never asked to do it. Also, I had a feeling that as harmless as it was, there was some way this was going to come back to haunt me. Damn you foreshadowing!

Several weeks later, the article was printed. I went to town to grab a bite to eat before heading over to my football league game. Everywhere I went, people were smiling at me, waving, and congratulating me. “How does it feel to be famous?” one person asked me. “Can I have your autograph?” another league player joked. I laughed and joked around with them, but inside I thought, “And so it starts.”

It wasn’t long before I started hearing from friends who said their family had seen the article in the international edition of the paper, and were wondering when I had made aliyah. The next time I spoke to my grandmother, she mentioned the article as well. Finally, a month after it was published, I received the call I was dreading.

“When were you going to tell me you made aliyah? I have to read about it in a newspaper?!” my mother asked (in a rather hysterical manner). So, I told her the whole story of what happened. When I finished, she didn’t believe me—even though she told me she did. It figured. Eventually, it took my coming home in the Summer to convince her.

Ah, nostalgia!

Categories: Uncategorized

Well I’m Leaving on a Concord, Don’t Know When . . . I’m Back!

September 10, 2009 Leave a comment

For one who now cannot stand to travel, I certainly did a lot more of it than I thought I would this Summer. There was a time when I used to love to fly, but these days it just isn’t fun anymore. Thus, when I needed to reserve a flight on short notice several months back, I approached the task with great trepidation.

Now don’t get me wrong: for my nephew’s bris I would gladly overpay for a flight that would take me twice as long as it should. I was just hoping that I wouldn’t have to go to such lengths. Naturally, the first place I checked for a flight was with Southwest Airlines, but their prices weren’t all that great, and every time I checked out different flight times, the cheaper flights were gone. So it was with some skepticism that I then checked Air Tran.

To my great surprise, not only did I find a flight that was almost half the price of the cheapest one on Southwest, but it was also direct both ways. This was a very good thing, because as much as I thought I would go to any length to get to the bris, I’m not sure I would have been able to handle flying Air Tran with layovers. You see, there’s a really good reason why I didn’t want to check Air Tran, and though this story happened over four years ago, I still shudder when I think about it.

The time was President’s Day weekend, 2005. My wife and I had decided it would be nice to visit our family down in Florida over the extended weekend, and since we were going to be renting a car, we chose to save a few bucks on the tickets. This meant that we would have a short layover in Atlanta on the way down and back. Thank goodness we didn’t opt for long layovers.

On the way down, our flight out of Baltimore was delayed a little over an hour, but seeing as how we had a two hour layover in Atlanta, we didn’t think much of it. In the end, our 6 p.m. flight left at 7:15, but that still didn’t pose a problem. No, the problem came when we got to Atlanta. Our connecting flight had been delayed somewhere down the line and was “on schedule” to arrive two hours late. So, instead of our connecting flight being at 9:45, it was to be around 11:45. Well, our connection airplane didn’t actually land until 11:45. We finally left the gate at 12:15, and woke up my brother at 2 a.m. Having left for BWI airport at 3:30 p.m. the day before, and finally landed at 1:30 a.m. in Fort Lauderdale, that put our overall travel time at 10 hours. That was the good part.

The best word to describe our return trip would be “Nightmare”. Yes, with a capital “N”. We left for the airport that day at 1 p.m. Our flight was to be at 3:15, but inclement weather (of course) delayed our airplane’s previous flight for two-and-a-half hours. It didn’t even leave from the other airport until an hour after we were supposed to leave from ours! At one point, concerned that we would miss our 6:30 connection in Atlanta, we enquired as to the status of that flight and any other later flights from Atlanta to Baltimore. The answer: No, there weren’t any more flights to BWI after ours, but that was okay, since our connecting airplane was already three-and-a-half hours behind schedule!

Well, as luck would have it, due to missed flight windows and all, we didn’t actually take-off from Fort Lauderdale until a little after 6:30, and so when we arrived in Atlanta, we figured we would actually have a shorter layover than originally planned. Were we ever wrong. We ended up waiting for almost six agonizing hours until, at last, our connecting flight landed at 12:50. We finally unlocked the door to our house at 3:15 a.m., for a grand total travel time of 24 hours and 15 minutes!

As bad as that ordeal was, I still smile when I think about it. Now you must be thinking, what could I ever have to smile about, right? However, one of the funniest things I have ever seen was during this trip. No, it wasn’t the 45-minute (instead of two-minute) epic fail test of the Atlanta airport’s fire alarm at 11:30 p.m. While all of us laughed like drunken idiots every time the alarm started again and again . . . and again, it was really just because we all thought how fitting for us to have to endure that as well. No, what was truly special and unforgettable was this: the husband and wife Maryland State Troopers who were laughing their butts off while watching a DVD. It wasn’t that they looked silly, that they had funny laughs, or that it was just plain weird to see State Troopers laughing—I’ve seen stranger and funnier sights. So what made this sight so hysterical that it could be the saving grace of such a travesty of a trip, you ask? Well, after about 40 minutes of the cackles and guffaws, I worked up the courage to walk over and ask them what was so funny. While laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes, the man swiveled his LCD screen toward me so I could see. They were watching C.O.P.S.

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