I set sail with the morning sun over my left shoulder. The way generations of local lore told us never to go. I didn't sail out of hubris or naivety. But because the only thing worse than death is not knowing.
I took a small vessel and lef(more)t alone, without ceremony.
For a number of days, little changed. The coastline slipped out of sight. The pattern of the waves shifted from a languid, landward guttering into an inscrutable fabric, constantly reworking itself.
During the idle hours, I would try to make sense of it. The minute you had the knowing of it, something intangible would change, as if it knew it was being watched. I began to wonder if the water behind me went still when I looked away.
I began to wonder if there was a world behind me at all.
Then subtle differences began to emerge. What life there was would not stray nearer. The numerous familiar fishes that would typically prowl along the hull became vague shapes in the distance, then disappeared altogether.
Slowly it seemed as if color was draining from the world at both ends. The sky became more pale, and the water more like the sky. It became harder and harder to remember what everything had been like before.
Food and water began to run very low, but I hardly noticed. Days passed, and it was rare if at all that I felt like eating or drinking.
Then, one day, I looked around and everything was white. The boat still lurched gently on tired legs, but sky and water were inscrutable. I looked over the edge and saw nothing. Then felt the boat jerk sharply to a halt, as the prow ran into something hard, heavy, and immovable.(less)
Our lives were designed to be short, and our sense of foresight was designed accordingly.
We came from thickset forest and fields of tall grass. At any given time, our entire world was a short sight line about half the radius of a circle. Objects flitted in an(more)d out of our existence, and we flitted in and out of theirs. We moved forward through a thick sea senses, with the goal of surviving today and letting tomorrow take care of itself.
And most of the time, tomorrow would come.
It doesn't work anymore. I suspect our ancestors always knew it wouldn't last, too. But that fact was constantly weighed against the immediacies of the day, and found wanting.
It was different back then, though. The world was small. We survived by moving. If there was no hope where you are, press onward, and in a few feet, everything might change.
Today, the nature of our existence has changed fundamentally. But our minds haven't. We still think in immediacies. We still use whatever resources we see in our short half-circle line of sight, and press forward. We have leaned on the institutions of the past for too long, and it has caused us to keep borrowing from our future, at higher and higher cost.
The scale of the world we navigate today is massive. A time will come when there is nothing else 'onward' in which to push. And I fear that, in our short-sightedness, we won't recognize that end until we are well and truly over the edge. (less)
We were a family of wrenching anxiety and hidden scribblings, prayers and other secrets, yet in our need to know more than was good for us we intruded on each other always. We didn't respect locked doors. We fought to have the last word, even if it was only(more) shouting at each other to shut the fuck up, shrill as uprooted mandrakes.
You needed a crochet hook to open my brother's bedroom door. I slept with my mom in the laundry room, and my dad slept on the couch. My brother had the only private domain in the trailer and it lured me. It had everything I wanted to know more about. He had Metallica posters and cassettes stacked against the wall in precarious Jenga piles. His room smelled like missed curfews and spare change. A litter of dimes and nickels, crumpled cellophane from cigarette packets was strewn on his dresser; he always complained about how broke he was and yelled at dad for not having any money. Yet I counted $15 in coins, at least. Budweiser labels had been peeled off umpteen bottles and papered his wall. There was the manic, layered debris of a life lived too fast to tidy up behind.
He worked as a pizza delivery driver to get money to buy Lee jeans and Converse sneakers - "Cons" - white leather with fat puffy tongues. It was the 1990s.
He had to fight our dad, who never had a job himself. Dad didn't want to lend him the flashlight so he could look at the different house numbers. It had cost $30 and they fought over it. Dad never helped my brother. My brother was bad, so I understood, yet I saw how constant derision ground him into dirt and wore him out young. (less)
Why the hostess, blonde and 20 years too young, waited until the guests were here to polish the banister with artisan bee pollen is maybe the biggest mystery of the night.
"Miracle stuff from a little apiary near our place by the lake," she says. "He's a wonderfu(more)l guy. He and his partner were bankers who just gave it all up and started a bee farm!"
We're supposed to chuckle. Some of us do.
I came here to try to be friendly, because I know in my soul that I am lonely and, if nothing else, an awkward night out would justify another couple dozen spent alone.
Out of earshot of the guests croning about Trump, I cross the living space and pick up the host's guitar, set in a corner stand.
"Ah," he says, sidling up, his fanfare the clinking of his drink ice. "You've found old Trigger."
It's a worn Martin, islands of separating nitocellulose blotching the spruce top, the fretboard ornate with aquamarine inlays. Probably 70 years old, but no twisting. Great shape.
"My beautiful Trigger," he says again. "I found it at this delightful boutique near- Dennis!" He sees another face and jerks out of the conversation like his parachute went off.
My thigh rises to balance the guitar's body and my fingers remember a G chord. I grip it a little too tightly. It's not mine to drop, after all.
Instead of the gentle, private, controlled hues of GBDGDG, I get a plastic flutter. On the strings near the bridge, six little red pieces of tape, an indicator by some luthier months ago that the guitar's action had been set during service and was ready for sale. They'd never been removed.
I leave through the patio door, too socially poor for this marketplace of bullshit.(less)
Fortunately, the only thing she found was the porn.
There were way worse things on there, diagrams of 3D-printed guns, parcel bomb schematics, a couple lists of names I'd typed up when my temper ran a little too hot. When she stumbled into the folder-inside-a-folder-inside-a-folder and popped open(more) a couple .MOV files, she figured she'd hit the motherlode, the dirtiest of dirty secrets, enough to convince any judge that her ex-husband was too gross, too corrupt, too deviant to be of any benefit to her children's upbringing -- well, other than the cheque every month.
Truth is, judges usually agree with women regardless of any kind of evidence. Bad father? Enough said. Take the kids and half the paycheque.
I wasn't going to do anything with the schematics and diagrams and lists, probably. Honestly, they served the same purpose as the porn: a momentary escape, release some tension in a fantasy world, something to believe in for fifteen minutes. I wasn't going to hurt anybody.
And really, wasn't it her fault we were here anyway? "To honour and to serve" was a bigger lie than any of the ones I told.
Ah, there. It just happened again. Sometimes it freaks me out how much I've memorized off those diagrams. It always bubbles up when I think about her. How the spring (40 cents from the hardware store) kicks out when the tension from the push plate ($1.75 per square foot from the machine shop) releases at the box flaps are opened, how the 18-gauge wire pulls the blast door open and the friction on the flint creates the spark...
No one can resist opening a package, especially when it's a surprise. Kaczynski said that. And I'd never do it. It just feels good to imagine if I ever could.(less)
Pollen probably killed my father, a decade before the drink. More than the mess he left, the fist holes in the drywall and the scars on everything else, I remember his breathing, rattling like a spray paint can, hissing like a cobra.
(more) That was his spring, 47 times and then no more.
Maybe it was the smell of opening tree buds that drove him up to the attic with his father's rifle and a single bullet. I suppose that takes the blame off the gun's original owner. A childhood spent dodging backhands and curse words right out the kitchen door, trying to time his nightly re-entries into the home until after the Smothers Brothers ended plus two drinks' worth of minutes, then waiting for the light to switch off so he could slide the wooden window frame open, pray to God the joints where he sanded the old paint wouldn't squeak, and then lay on the floor (the bed springs were enough of an assault on the peace to draw the old man's cannon fire retort) and wait, wait until the predictable footsteps would drunk-stealthy creep down the hallway to the bathroom, then the piss, flush, and faucet, then back to the master bedroom. Then it was safe.
You'd assume people would learn to run from pain, not to wield it. But we do. We admire the knife that guts us, we want to swing the club that breaks us. We just want to balance out the damage done, push out as much as we take in.
It's a stupid goddamn system, but still we keep it running, humming somewhere in the background din until that moment, if only a flash and instantly regretted, that we decide we need it.(less)
Just start. Momentum matters. Like overcoming rejection, or public speaking, or working out. Waiting for the right moment to start hardly ever works. There are refined techniques. There is an art to it. But first you need to get better at the act of doing.
(more) Don't worry about loving it. You won't. Not right away, at least. It takes a few passes. Like many things in life, you'll set out with a goal, and that goal will probably not be where you end up. You'll find new meaning as you go. The process will change you. If it doesn't, keep going. It might just mean you're not there yet. You can always find your way back later if you really want to.
You are not fragile or delicate, and neither is your writing. Don't deify it. Don't get hung up on past accomplishments. We are not athletes who peak young. Give yourself more credit. As long as you keep working at it, your best ideas are yet to come.
Rules are made to be broken, and nothing is beyond reproach. Readers are blindingly diverse. No matter how good other writers are, there are gaps they can't reach. Read what you love, and write what you feel is missing.
Make a job of it. Even if you love writing, you must build it into your life. Time slips away too easily when you don't trap and measure it.
Don't forget to wander from time to time. Some stories can't be found by looking.
There are no guarantees. You can be spectacular and the world might never notice. It doesn't mean it's not worth trying. Trying will always take you farther than giving up.(less)
Feng had recently gotten a stunning red dress, and Dwight fumbled on a generator, so Ace didn't hesitate before bursting into a sprint towards the red-cloaked figure.
It's not his fault that she had the same idea, and so when the(more) Pig is halfway standing instead of moving to the side they collide with each other.
Ace lands on top of her, and behind him, he hears Dwight gasp and then the sound of footsteps bolting away.
"Claudette? Shit, why didn't you move?"
"Get off me, asshole!"
Well. That's not Claudette's voice.
Nor is it any of the other girls that he recognizes.
Ace pulls away, even though he's extremely confused until he recognizes the snout looking back at him.
"Shit!" he barks and then lets out a sharp laugh. It doesn't make him feel better. He hears the Pig sniffle and then the strangest thing of all happens. In front of him, she takes hold of the snout of her mask and lifts it up enough to expose her mouth and a bloody nose.
"You idiot," she says, though her voice comes out nasally. "You shouldered me in the fucking face!"
"It's fine! See?" He waves the medkit in her face. "I'm your hot doctor."
Ace is aware of generators being finished around himself as he cleans the killer's face off like she's just another teammate. Perhaps in another life, she and he could've met. He's only spoken to the Pig a handful of times, and she's...interesting. One of the most human killers.
And a damn sadist at that.
"Get the hell out of here," she says, once he's finished. All the generators are finished.
"No RBT?" Ace asks, surprised.
She stands up, still shorter than him. "No. Guess it's your lucky day, Ace."(less)
There used to just be milk. It was white. It came in a glass bottle, or a waxed cardboard carton. That was what you got, and you either take it or leave it.
I think about that fact while staring at a wall of milk varieties in the(more) supermarket. Items that used to stand on their own as single entities are now categories, and contain multitudes.
I should appreciate the bounty. But this bothers me, somehow.
I think it's because I feel like we're being tricked. The world provides us with the illusion of great breadth, but really we're just slicing the same few component categories into finer and finer parts.
Next aisle over: jams, jellies, preserves, marmalades, compotes. About fifty of them. No help there.
I wonder if the frumpled man in line ahead of me at the hot food buffet thinks about these things. I try to make a whole person of him in my mind, but I can't. He doesn't look like he even buys groceries.
He feels like a character meant for another story who got lost in this one. In fact, he doesn't seem to know what he's doing here, either. He pokes at the chicken curry for a little while, despite not having a self-serve container to put any food in, before wandering off to parts unknown.
It's about then that I start to hear the susurrus in the back of my mind. I start to wonder if I forgot to take my meds today, or if this is just what the world feels like now.
The words "dark acceleration" solidify themselves in my brain. I don't know what they mean.
I pay, slink back to my car, drive home, and try not to think about tomorrow.
The driver's side door on my work vehicle won't open from the outside any more. Supposedly some latch inside the door-panel is broken, and the whole thing has to come off in order to fix it. I wanted to do it myself, but the screws they use to attach(more) the panel are neither flat nor phillips-head, but some custom screw head that requires its own special $50 tool to open.
So I'm borrowing a different car for work right now. It rattles when you hit seventy on the highway, and doesn't have a fob.
My tablet computer's GPS wouldn't work today. I tried to fix it for about thirty minutes before accepting that I just need to use it broken. I should be grateful that we live in a world where handheld devices can connect to a magical network of satellites orbiting the planet, but instead I was just grumpy about it.
I bought a new pair of boots just a couple months ago. There's a tiny leak somewhere in the right one that I can't find. Just enough of a trickle for my sock to be soaked with foul-smelling water after an 8-hour day in the swamp.
I clogged the toilet in our apartment twice this week. I think the cardboard our landlord used to prop it at just the right angle to work is finally starting to give way. There's also wetness in the cabinet under the kitchen sink. The landlord acted as if it was new. The linoleum stains I found buried under a couple year's worth of hoarded plastic shopping bags suggest otherwise.
None of these things ruined my day. It's nice to vent about it all the same.
Joey ducked his head, glaring at Susie through the eyes of his mask. "Go away."
"But you got hurt in there."
"So what, Susie? Go away, stop bothering me."
"But Frank said-"
(more) "Shut up!" Joey snapped, glaring at her through the eyes of his mask. She shrank back from him. "Frank doesn't know anything, he just saw some blood. It's from one of those stupid idiots I was chasing around earlier."
Susie sighed, watching Joey rise from his seat and head into the chilly outdoors.
He passed by Julie and Frank as they walked in but spoke to neither of them.
"Well," Julie said, lifting her mask and setting it on the top of her head as she sat beside Susie. "Someone's grouchy."
"Frank, you said he was hurt! But he said he wasn't."
"Joey's a liar," he said simply, sitting down and slinging his arm over Julie's shoulders. "I'm serious, he doesn't wanna look stupid. I guess if he says he's fine we can just leave him."
Susie shivered as she followed the fresh prints in the snow, making her way to the small cabin where they ended. Joey was sitting inside, curled up with a hand stuck under his mask.
"Joey! Come on, I won't tell Frank or Julie. Promise. Was it one of those survivors?"
He was silent for a long minute.
"...she had some kind of shank," he muttered. "Cut me badly with it."
He finally lifted his mask.
The cut stretched all the way from below his jaw to just under his eye. It had already stopped bleeding but the pink skin was a sign that he would have a scar by the time it healed.
"Don't laugh," he muttered.
"I'm not laughing," Susie insisted, offering a wobbly smile instead.(less)
"This sucks," Quentin hissed, sucking in a heavy breath through his teeth. His lips were a light purple and his hands a bright pink thanks to the cold. "I didn't think the Entity even knew WHAT snow was."
"Tell me about it," Jake mumbled, swearing under his breath when(more) the generator exploded thanks to his numbing fingers. "Shit. We should move."
The hid just in time to see the Legion rushing towards the generator. It was a girl this time, and after a second she cried out, covering her face with a hand before turning and running towards another noise in the distance. "She looks so small," Quentin murmured, a strange ache in his chest as he watched her sprint, vaulting over a pallet in her hurry. "There's no way she belongs here."
"No point dwelling on it, okay?" Jake asked. "We're almost done here. Be prepared to run."
Quentin nodded, shaking his head to dislodge the snow that had fallen on his eyelashes as he'd been working.
By the time they arrived back at the campfire, with only Jake and Quentin alive, both were shivering and their teeth were clattering. "Bloody hell," David said in quiet wonder. "Is that snow on ya' both?!"
"Sure is," Jake muttered, brushing some off his shoulder onto the ground. "There's a new place. Some old resort."
"It's cold," Quentin said, rubbing his hands together and plopping himself a foot away from the campfire to relish in its heat. "The whole place is freezing. Kate and Dwight couldn't get any work done because of it."
"Aw, hell," David said, taking a seat close to Quentin but farther from the fire. "You're shaking like a leaf. C'mere."
Confused but too tired to protest, Quentin reluctantly inched away from the fire to sit beside David instead. (less)
In grade 2 we learned about Sadako and her 1000 paper cranes. Sick with leukemia, she'd become obsessed with folding. Accomplishing 1000 paper cranes would buy her life back. Her atom bomb disease would reverse itself and she'd get to leave her hospital bed and walk back into everyday(more) life and live normally. If only she folded enough origami birds to flap their paper wings and peck the air when their paper tales were pulled.
It was a Catholic school and we were steeped in superstition. We believed in good luck charms, the Stations of the Cross, and patron saints. We believed we were always under observation from Jesus himself. It was not a far stretch to believe in the restorative power of paper birds. Perhaps with enough paper cranes we could reverse history. Fold an impossibility of cranes and the atom bomb would not fall at all. Through such innocence it became our fault. If we could fix it, it meant we could stop it. This is the way of believers. It is the way of the ignorant. We folded cranes feverishly, never knowing how to locate Japan on the map, ignorant of geopolitics but certain we might rewrite history somehow. (less)
The old hotel by the ocean is being gutted, its walls torn off like wings from an insect, the skeleton left open to wind and roosting birds. The concrete-and-rebar spine has been left to support whatever expensive, reimagined new condos will be bolted on. Soon the vintage holiday rooms(more) will feature floor-to-ceiling glass walls, quarrystone countertops, the inevitable Subzero fridge, dully gleaming and as roomy as a morgue drawer.
The view of the sea was wasted on a hotel where the rooms were too small and ill-fitted to ever command the sort of prices commensurate with a view of the sea that leaves your heart feeling both crowded and lost at the same time. And meanwhile on the street below the falafel places are folding up. The barbers are being evicted, as are the stores selling cigarettes, cat food, and oranges. The neighborhood is transitioning to wealth: pricey coffee to linger over, small and costly lunches, cheaply-made summerwear at stiff prices.
That hotel is where I had my first anniversary. The room was white and tan and when you were inside it you were conscious of the thickness of years and visitors and secrets. The bourbon in the bottle on the table matched the carpeting and the sea surged 17 stories below, silent behind windows that didn't open. This was our city but we didn't belong here; our own basement apartment was across town. This was a "staycation." The building seemed to sway in the wind and rain sheeted down outside. It felt like an eagle's perch, precarious. the bed seemed damp and grainy, as with blown beach sand.
Years later when I observed the renovations, the husk seemed appropriate to my memory. The weather could blow in. There had never been safety, and I'd known it on that holiday.(less)