otherside

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Yma sometimes thought she saw a person on the other side of the Mirror. A little girl, like her. Only strange. Distorted, like she was composed out of warped glass. All of the glass on Yma’s side was smooth.

She told Amam, but her mother only smiled, said, “That’s silly,” and continued her favorite game of pulling silver ribbons from the air and tying them into Yma’s hair.

Yma knew it was silly. More than silly. It was impossible. How could anyone live outside of the Mirror?

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Hungry

Trou noir / Black Hole

I’m hungry.

It’s funny, that’s the one thing, I think, you can never get used to. I got used to being lonely, a long time ago. I got used to being bored. I got used to that weird feeling that we never had any reason to come up with a word for when it’s been so long since you’ve spoken to someone that, no matter how much passion or rage or lust you once had for them, you can no longer remember their name.

I can’t remember anyone’s name. I don’t even really remember what that means. Name. It’s like playing racquetball, or having blood. I remember that those were things and that once I care about them, but I have no sense of what they actually were.

I’m used to all of that, now. If it bothers me in moments, I don’t recognize it for what it is. It has dissolved into the slurry of what remains of my existence. But the hunger. I don’t think you can get used to that. If I haven’t, no one can.

When I was a small child of whatever sex I was—whatever that means—there was a picture about people who were trapped together in the mountains. Mountains were big and cold. I remember that. That’s what I remember about mountains.

These people were trapped in the mountains and they had no food, and nothing to hunt. Eventually, the living decided to eat the dead. It was a big controversy among people. Would you do that? Would you eat the dead flesh of your own species to survive.

It’s funny. Some people thought they wouldn’t. That’s funny. I think about that sometimes, and it makes me laugh.

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One Last Time

Light in a Dark Room

“We’re going to die,” she said, her voice flat. “They’re not going to let us go.”

He looked at her, at her face. His dying phone barely lit the closet the two of them were squeezed in, but he knew those features too well. They were blank. She said the words in perfectly matter-of-fact tone, like she was telling him the local Quizno’s was closed for St. Patrick’s day. She, who got emotional over socks.

He knew what that meant.

“Damn,” he said.

“Damn?” she raised an eyebrow. “I say we’re going to die, and what you come back with is…damn?”

“Well what the fuck am I supposed to say?”

“You’re supposed to argue with me!” She tried to throw her arms in the air in indignation, but the space was too cramped. It almost made him laugh. Almost.

“You always argue with me,” she said. “Last week I bought a Powerball ticket and you wouldn’t shut up about the fact that I should have gone for the Mega Millions. You argue with me over every…” she fell silent. “You’re not arguing.” She looked into his eyes. They were tender, curious, bewildered. Her eyes. “Why aren’t you arguing?”

He shrugged. “Because you’re right. When you talk like that—all flat like a golf announcer–it’s because you’re right. It’s always because you’re right.”

“You…you believe me?”

“Of course I believe you. You’re the smartest woman I’ve ever met.”

She fell silent again. He wondered what was going through her mind. If she was about to break down. He wouldn’t blame her.

He wondered if he should hold her, wrap his arms around her so tightly that she might break. That’s what he did when her mother died. It was the only thing that calmed her down.

“I didn’t know that,” she said.

“What?”

“That I…that you thought I was smart. I didn’t know that.”

“I…what? Of course you are. You know, like, practically everything about everything. That’s why I fell for you in the first damn place.” He kicked the wall in frustration. For a moment he worried that the people outside would hear them. Then he realized it didn’t matter.

“You never told me that,” she said.

“Of course I did,” he snapped. Wait, had he? Had he ever actually uttered those words? “I didn’t think I need to. I thought it was obvious. I mean, how could anyone know you for more than five minutes and not realize how brilliant you are?”

“Then why are you always arguing with me? Telling me I’m wrong?”

“About what?”

She rolled her eyes. “About everything. You tell me I’m wearing the wrong lipstick to go with my dress, or that I hold my chopsticks wrong when we go for sushi. Or that I use Google wrong when I’m trying to find the names of they guy who wasn’t in the Beatles.”

“Almost everyone who has ever lived wasn’t in the Beatles,” he said. “I think you mean the Beatle who was replaced.”

“See! You’re doing it now.”

“No I’m not,” he said. “Okay, maybe I am.” He wrapped his fingers around themselves and clenched tight. “I argue about…about stupid things. Little things. It’s not you. It’s just…I do that to everybody.”

She shakes her head. “You do it to me more.”

“But…not about real things. Not about things that matter. On those…I mean, you…” He took a deep breath. “I let you figure that stuff out. Because I’m not…smart enough.”

The silence hung heavy between them.

“Damn,” she said at last.

He laughed. He couldn’t help it. She looked at him like he’d just tried to eat a tire iron. Then she started to laugh, too.

“You really mean that, don’t you?” she said. “You think I’m brilliant.”

“Of course I do.”

She fell silent again.

“I wanted you to argue with me.”

“Huh?”

“When I said it, that we’re going to die, I…I knew it was true. But I wanted you to argue with me.”

He nodded. It made sense.

“I…I like when you argue with me.”

He started. “What do you mean?”

“You heard me.”

“But all you ever do is complain about it.”

“I know,” she said. “I’m sorry. I don’t…I don’t know anything.”

“Yes you do.”

“I don’t feel like I know anything. Not until, not until I’ve said it to you. Not until I’ve made you shut up about it.”

He laughed again.

“Always happy to help.”

“I need you,” she said. “You know that, right?”

He looked at her. “You’re the most important thing in my life. You know that, right.”

She grabbed his hand and squeezed. “I didn’t.”

He shook his head. “Neither did I.”

She smiled. “We actually had something here, didn’t we?”

The past tense gripped at his chest, but it was strange. He felt calm. Scared, yes. Even terrified. But calm.

“I guess we did,” he said. “I wish we had…”

“No,” she cut him off. “Don’t do that. Don’t go that way.” He nodded. She was right.

It’s good to know,” he said. “Before it ends. I mean, I don’t want it to…”

“It’s horrible,” she agreed. “But yeah. It’s good to know.”

A creaking sound echoed through the corridor. Light spilled in. Whoever was out there was coming.

They squeezed each others hands tightly, then they looked at each other. For the first time. One last time.

Seven and Three Tales To Tell

Sword

The last few months inside of my creative space have been a whirlwind of research into schizophrenia intense enough to briefly give my the symptoms of schizophrenia, conceptualization of the properties of a Qlippothic sub-verse, attempts to sculpt the clay of wishes and emotions and background details into the flesh of actual humans.

I’m trying to write a novel. Nothing new, and in fact I think society has a quota that at least 20% of a nations citizens have to be attempting to write a novel at any given time in order to officially count as Civilized. Fortunately, the 20%–or 64,220,727 of us in the case of the US–don’t all have to be writing the same novel. Separate endeavors are fine.

This novel I’m working on is pretty ambitious. More so than I thought when I started with a neat idea and boring characters while walking through the cold one day. I quickly came up with much better characters, who I have largely abandoned, and a less neat idea that is ultimately more interesting.

I never know which of the ideas my brain spits up from the solution of creative digestive fluids that pools in my unconscious is going to stick. This one did, and I was far, far too deep before I realized the staggering amount of research I was going to need to do in order to get the characters and the world even close to correct. It was interesting research. Stuff I was already fascinated by, so I figured even if I didn’t right the novel I would learn a lot.

Several months later, I have, indeed, learned a lot. I could keep learning forever and not be ready, because that’s how these things work. That being said, I realized at some point that I was ready. Ready to write a messy first draft, anyway. I wouldn’t know for sure what additional research I’d need to do until I ran into it, and the attempt to amalgamate every real-world esoteric and mystical system ever probably wasn’t strictly necessary to start writing.

So I started writing. Or at least, I tried to, only to discover that I didn’t remember how to write. Oh, I remembered how to make the little squiggles. I could even make them manually, without using the plastic clackers hooked up to my electronic porn machine.

What I forgot how to do was tell stories. I mean, I forgot how to take characters and concepts and a plot outline–all of which I had!–and flesh that out into a the “words on a page” thing that people seem to find oh-so-essentially to novels these days.

I used to be able to do it. I also didn’t used to be able to do it. I know plenty of writers who never struggled with this most basic element of writing, but I’ve never been one of them. Taking any given idea and weaving it into a story is something I only got skilled at here, on this blog, by doing it a lot.

So here I am. I’m going to doing it a lot. Again. With a new challenge!

This one is as follows: I’m going to write three stories a week, every week, for seven weeks. Three stories seems doable. And seven…well, I have a theme here. The plan–the oath!–is to post Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, starting this upcoming Monday. Why Monday? Because that’s several days from now.

The challenge is called “Seven and Three Tales to Tell,” and if the math doesn’t work, if the poetry is a little off, if it sounds more pretentious than well-crafted…well, I said I was out of practice. Hopefully by the end, I’ll have a better name.

The Maturity of Death

 Rest In Peace

The last thing Death wanted to do was grow up, no matter what the adults said. What could that even mean for someone like him? Death did his job. He traveled to the beds of aging widows in their moment of despair, took them by the hand, and carried them off to his Fields. He delivered the final moment to the swarms of things eaten by plague, or consumed by exploding stars.

It was a lot of work. What did it matter that he spent just as much time dancing through the lands consecrated to his image, or collecting the feeble wards the denizens of the universe made in a vain attempt to keep him away? What did it matter that he loved it? This was what he was supposed to do. He didn’t know what the others were always going on about.

Death didn’t spend much time with the others. It wasn’t because he was anti-social, or a loner by nature. Everyone else was just so boring. Matter lacked imagination, Entropy was too pessimistic. The less said about Momma the better.

Life told him she didn’t regret having him, but Death didn’t believe her. All they ever did was argue. There wasn’t a single subject that they agreed on. Even the ones where Death was obviously right, which was most of them. She was smart. He had to admit that. He respected her, in that way where you’d use a different word than “respect” if there was one because it wasn’t quite right.

The other youngins weren’t any improvement, far as he could tell. Light was so self-righteous, and cousin Gravity was just too dense. The pun always made Death laugh, but none of the others appreciated it. No one except his uncle.

Out of all of the adults in the universe, the only one worth hanging out with was Uncle Time. Uncle Time had been around longer than any of them. He was deep, but in a kind of strange way that somehow didn’t make him dull. Just about every worthwhile conversation Death ever had was with his Uncle Time.

“Just how old are you?” Death asked him one day, as he danced around the edge of a black hole as it drank up the remains of the last Living Nebula.

“Older than you will ever be, boy,” said his uncle.

Death scrunched up his face. “How can that be? Sometime I’ll catch up to where you are now.”

Time laughed, and it sounded like a thousand thousand old men, laughing so quietly a body could hardly hear it at all.

“You’re only as old as you are right now,” said Time. “I’m always as old as I will ever be.”

Death let that bounce around his skull for a few minutes, then nodded.

“That makes sense. Uncle Death, why are you the only one who ever talks sense to me? The others all treat me like I’m a little kid. Even Momma, who ain’t so much older than me, the way folks like us reckon it.”

“Do you think age matters, to our kind?” asked Time.

“I suppose not,” said Death.

“They don’t treat you like a boy because of how many or how few stars have gone out since you came into being. Or of how many life forms you’ve kissed goodbye.”

“So why, then?”

“They treat you young because you have not grown up yet.”

Death laughed. “Folks like us don’t grow. Everybody knows that.”

“But we do change.”

Death thought about that. “Even you?”

Time nodded, and Death saw the rising and setting of universes in his uncle’s brow.

“I change. I’ve already changed, and I’m done changing, and it all unfolds in this moment. But I change.”

“So you’re saying they treat me like a youngin because…because I act like a youngin?”

“Thats right.”

“But what about you? Why don’t you treat me no different?”

“You know the answer,” said Time. “It is already here.”

That was something else Death liked about his Uncle. He didn’t spell everything out so plain it’d be clear to anyone, no matter how dim. He didn’t treat Death like a moron. Death reckoned that might be because Time knew for a fact what his nephew would and wouldn’t figure out for himself, but he appreciated it all the same.

It did mean Death had to put a bit more thought into his conversations with Time than he did at other times. Taking lives came son natural—he was what you might call a prodigy. But this deep thinking, that was a challenge. But it was worth it. So Death sat there and thought, long and hard, before he answered.

“You don’t treat me different because, because you know what I’ll be like when I’m grown up?”

Time smiled every smile that had ever been or would ever be smiled.

“So what does it take?” Death asked. “What do I have to do to get grown up?”

“Are you in such a rush to change? Do you not relish your youth, of prancing through the graves of the lifeforms and species you have brought into your fold?”

“I can still do that when I’m grow’d up,” said Death. “I just wish the others would respect me. Like they do to…each other.” He stopped himself from saying, “like they do to Momma.”

“If you wish to know, I will tell you.”

“But I figure you already know whether you are gonna tell me or not,” said Death, grinning.

By the light of the dying stars, Death once against saw every smile that would ever be adorn his uncle’s face.

“Nevertheless,” said Time, “it is your choice. It has always been your choice, and it will always be your choice.”

Death stopped himself from opening his mouth and forced himself to ponder. That’s what his uncle would advise, and he was the smartest man Death knew. He let it the thought roll around him for a few decades. It didn’t matter much. His conclusion was the same as it would have been had he spoken right away.

“I want to know.”

“Very well,” Time took a deep breath, and exhaled the beginning and end of of everything. “You will grow up when you get an education.”

Death rolled his eyes.

“You sound like Momma. What am I supposed to study, then? How to sew myself some better robes?”

“You are to study medicine.”

Medicine?” Death spat the word out like a child forced to eat his sprouts.

“Indeed.”

“But I hate medicine. I’m Death, for dying out loud. I make people die. Medicine is for making people live. For…for fighting disease. What would I want to go and do that for?”

Disease was one of the things Momma and he fought most about. He put it together when he was little, back when Momma didn’t care so much about him playing with her stuff. He thought she would be right proud that he’d found a way to make some of her tiniest and least interesting creations that much better, that much more capable of expressing themselves. To give them a new way of living. She wasn’t.

“You only see it that way because you’re young,” said Time, shaking the first third of the universe in dismay. “That is what the others see when they look at you. That is why they believe you immature. Medicine is not your enemy. Indeed, it will be one of your greatest creations.”

Death furrowed his brow. “My creations? But medicine already exists.”

“Something they call medicine exists,” said Time. “It is but a pale echo of what it will be. It its fullness, it will save and extend a great many lives, and allow those who use it to spread across the universe. In time, it will lead them to change themselves, remake their scions, and forge your mother’s work into forms unimagined in this frozen slice of moment.”

Death grimaced. “Why would I want that?”

As one, a trillion of oceans crashed upon a trillion shores, all to the sound of Time’s sigh.

“Can you not see it?”

That was Time favorite phrase. It contained within it infinite frustration, and infinite patience. Sometimes Death wondered how his Uncle put up with the rest of them. To see—to be–everything that would ever be, right now, and have no one to talk to but regular old temporal beings like Death. He asked his Uncle about that once, and he got the same answer. “Can you not see it?”

Death knew by this point that it meant a great revelation was hovering nearby, just out of reach. The problem was, “just out of reach” could be a billion years from now. It also meant that his uncle would not give him the answer. Perhaps he couldn’t, in some way that Death didn’t quite understand. He would have to get there himself. So he tried.

“If I study medicine…” he started, “and make it into something real serious—powerful, not like it is now–If I do that, then people will live longer. And…and they’ll have more babies.”

“Good,” said Time. “Go on.”

“And those babies won’t give up their ghosts so easily. So they’ll grow up to have more babies of their own.”

“Yes. What then?”

“Then…there’ll be more people,” he was starting to see it. The edges of it. He continued, excited. “More people born every day. More people alive in the universe, and more crops to grow, more livestock to feed. More wars to fight, more disease to spread.” He turned to his Uncle, his eyes wide. “If there are more people alive, more people will die! Every single day!”

Out in the universe, races and beings far flung and unrelated in space and time took their chisels and their hammers and their cutting lasers, and all of them carved the face of man they never knew, and would never see, every one of them smiling. And Death saw all of them, at once, in his Uncle’s face right now.

Death turned away. “But…medicine. It’s so…”

“Yes,” said Time. “I understand. This, what you say now, is very similar to what she said, when I had this conversation with her.”

“She?” asked Death. “You mean…you mean Momma? She had…she went through the same thing?”

“Nearly identical, and completely different. She, too, wished for respect.”

“The others, Matter and Entropy and those folks, thought Momma was immature?” Death couldn’t decide whether to laugh or gasp in surprise.

“They did. Until she, too, sought knowledge and education. Until she, too, created something she could not have believed, until that moment, she would ever wish to create.”

“What did, what did Momma create?”

Before his uncle said anything, Death already knew.

“My boy,” he said, with the calm of a billion cooling supernovae, “she created you.”

Death paused, and he pondered. For a time—short to him but lifetimes to others—he did nothing but ponder. Out in the universe, in a thousand civilizations, they called it the Undying Time, or the Golden Age of Life. A strange, impossible time where nothing and no one died. Their descendants would not believe it, and it would live on only as myths, and the fragments of memories.

Death knew all about change. Uncle Entropy might have invented it, but that was only the boring kind. Change didn’t have color, it didn’t have poetry, until Death got a hold of it. The kind of change that folks cared about, that they lived for, that belonged to him. He knew all about change. He knew that people thought it was slow. It wasn’t. All change, all true change, happened in an instant.

“I’ll do it,” said Death. “I’ll go off and create medicine. Proper medicine, like the kind what you said. I’ll do it. I want…I want to grow up.”

Time nodded in approval. Death loved that nod. Anyone could nod their approval at you all day long, but not everyone could make you feel it. Uncle Time made him feel it. He wouldn’t have taken no advice on how to get himself some respect from anyone else. Uncle Time treated him right.

No, that wasn’t quite it. Uncle Time treated him more than just right. He treated him like an equal. An equal? Could that possibly be true? Him, little Death, the equal of Time himself?

Just like that, Death had another major revelation. His fourth, he reckoned, just in this conversation. He would be the equal to his uncle. If Time thought it, then it must be true. To Time, right here, right now, he already was.

The Good Spots

Sleeping cat

 

Amelia, with great poise, crawled up the roll top desk
and nestled, between the cable modem
and the wire of the bronze desk lamp

Then she look at me, and told me
in a casually transcendental moment
of lucidity and articulation
that as a cat, it is her job
to find all of the good places to rest
so that when the day comes,
for us all to lay down our heads
and sleep
we’ll know the good spots

I asked her, a bit alarmed
if that day was coming soon
if I should worry, if I should panic,
if I should settle my affairs

She stared a moment, unrushed,
then yawned, baring her teeth,
deadly, and gentle, in the way only deadly things can be gentle
and she said, who knows?
It may come soon, it may come later
it may be tomorrow, or it may never come
but it’s best to be prepared
just in case

Then she closed her eyes, in trust,
and fell asleep
And as I watched, I thought
that I probably would’t fit
in that place where she sleeps,
between the cable modem
and the wire of the bronze desk lamp
but it’s good to know it’s there
just in case

an apple in the bathroom

The Apple

 

 

an apple in the bathroom
a prose poem

 

There’s an apple. In the bathroom. It’s been there for a while.

Months. Maybe years. It can’t possibly be years. It feels like years. Things don’t change.

It hasn’t gone bad. It’s been cold. And apples have that way of lasting forever. Back in the day they used to put them in barrels.

Because they had a lot of barrels. And nothing better to do.

But the apples lasted.

It’s a little pitted. The apple. In the bathroom. It’s not rotten. But it’s a little pitted. I’ve seen apples. In the supermarket.

That were worse.

I won’t eat it. Not even to make applesauce. Because it’s been in the bathroom. For months. Maybe years.

That makes it dirty. Everyone understands that. It’s meaningless. But everyone understands it. I don’t have to explain.

It isn’t rotten. But I wouldn’t eat it. Even if it hadn’t been in the bathroom. It isn’t rotten. But it’s dead.

That happens to apples. They look fine but you bite into them and they have no flavor. Their sisters had flavor. But not this one. It looks fine but its spirit has fled, and took everything about it that matter. Only the pulp remains.

Sometimes I feel like that. Sometimes.

I think about throwing it out. At times I don’t because I know I would miss it. I don’t care about it but I would miss it because it’s in my life. Like when you break a mug that you never really liked. And you have more than enough mugs. But it’s sad because it was yours. Now it’s gone.

Or maybe I don’t throw it out because I don’t notice it. It isn’t anything. Trash turns to clutter turns to scenery. A stain on your wall that’s been there for nine months isn’t a stain. It’s texture. Why throw away a single leaf that’s fallen off a tree in autumn? There are so many more.

But mostly I can’t be bothered. On those certain days, days when I have no flavor, even throwing out an apple is too much. Picking it up and chucking it to the bin is too much. I could do it. But it won’t matter. Why does it matter?

One day I’ll throw it out. Maybe because it finally decided to rot. But probably because I just want to. Some piece of glass will dislodge from my brain and the clutter will turn to mess. I won’t think the apple is interesting anymore. I won’t think it is beautiful just because it is there. Out of place. A goldfish in a slinky factory.

So I will throw it out. And I’ll feel accomplished because it’s been there for months. Maybe years. I’ll feel cleaner. I’ll feel triumphant.

Then, soon, I’ll feel sad. I won’t regret it. Not really. I don’t need an apple. In the bathroom.

But I’ll feel sad. Because it was there. Because it was mine. And then it was gone.