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You learn more from your mistakes than your successes.
So here I am to try, and to fail, so I can learn.
Paul Fail. For The Win!

29 January 2010

The Barrier Crossroads

"Just remember," she said to me with a professionally charming smile, "Whatever you do, do not try and open the barrier door until the green light is lit.  But don't wait too long either."

"I understand the not going through too soon," trying to talk to her and help play down some of my own nervousness, "I just don't know why they warn you about hesitating."

"Well, sir," she replied with an obviously often stated response, "It is just *different* once you get there.  It is a big decision you've made and, once you're at the crossroads, there's a hesitancy to pull away from taking that step."

"But it's not like people would do this on a whim, would they?  It just seems too much of a commitment to back away now."

"It's not really about backing away," she continued, and I was surprised when I realized that this wasn't part of the standard answer, that this was the true her, "It's about shying away from the enormity of it.  Imagine you're standing on a sheer cliff looking down into a lake.  Behind you is a forest fire that will consume you if you don't jump.  You know that.  You know you'll be consumed if you stay and safe if you jump, but still, on the precipice itself, you hesitate."  I looked through her light brown eyes into a woman of deep thoughts, spirit, and feelings.  Her short red hair only just brushed her shoulders, and I realized that, for the first time since I'd lost Faye, I was looking at a woman I could love.

The outer door opened, and as she waved me in I saw the ring on her finger.  It only made sense, after all, that a woman such as her would already be taken.  It actually made the decision all the easier.  I walked in with a lightness that I hadn't felt before.  I stopped and turned to thank her, but I could see already tell that her professional demeanor had returned, cutting of any further connection beyond client and greeter, "Once the outer doors close, there is no moving back; only forward."

"Good luck," she added with the briefest lifting of her emotional veil, "I hope you find what you're looking for."

The outer doors closed.

The chamber I was in had plain, white walls behind me, and a single huge glass wall in front of me.  A door was cut out of the glass with two lights overhead.  The red light was solidly lit and the green was off, but I scarcely noticed either one.  Before me was the Time Barrier.  It ebbed and flowed as a visceral cloud of colors, ebbing and flowing against the glass.  The colors cycled through in gentle patterns that could be seen as deeply evocative in one way, and frighten disturbing in another.  It was beautiful, terrifying, and thoroughly overwhelming.

The Red light started flashing, and I understood why some hesitated.  The cloud waves were flowing with more regularity, and the flashing was starting to sync with their motions.  All I had to do was open the door when it turned green, step through, and my consciousness would be returned in time to a place before I lost Faye.  Open the door and step through, and all the pain will end.  The lonely days and lonelier nights would be gone, and Faye... Faye would be back.  Open the door-

The cloud was staying longer and longer against the door, the flashing was slower and slower, and I knew it would be green any second.  I was jarred out of my reverie by a sudden mental image of the girl in the lobby.  I didn't know her name but I suddenly saw her smile, her obvious depth; her passion.  A jagged flash of memory hung in the air before me: the picture of her waving me into the room.  The ring was on her middle finger.

Maybe she wasn't taken?  The smile, her eyes, they all flashed past me one after the other.  I suddenly knew that she saw me as differently as I saw her.  Or was I misreading her?  Was it all just some last minute ploy by my mind trying to keep me from Faye?  How could this stranger's smile be suddenly more familiar to me than Faye's?

The light turned green.

21 January 2010

For Mother's Love and Father's Honor


I remember most the way that Mother's voice would blend into Father's.  Mother was always the loving one.  She was hopeful, optimistic; she thought each and every one of us would be fine.  That we were all going to make it.  Father was more pragmatic.  He loved us all, of course, he just knew the odds.  Of the forty-two of us, only ten or so would really make it on our own.  I took solace in knowing that that time was still a long way off, but I still tried hard to listen to their advice.

"I just, I just don't understand, Father."  I had finally broken down and said it.  My Father explained things to us slowly, carefully, and with tremendous patience.  He took time to give the extra detail that my slower siblings needed, but I had always understood right away.  He had taken so long with one of them though, that I had zoned out.  I hadn't tuned back in until Father was well into another lesson.  What chagrined me the most was that he knew it, too.

"Fine," he replied.  Patient as always, but I could tell he was frustrated with having to go over it again because of me.  It was a warm Spring evening, a light breeze blew around us, and it took all my concentration not to lose myself to the freshly scented air around us.  I fought to focus as he continued, "It all comes down to Honor.  We all know the odds.  Me even more than you.  I only know of three of my siblings that made it."  His voice got softer as he touched the memory.  We could all tell it was hard for him, and we respected him more because of it.

"All of you think you're different.  All of you think you're one of the lucky ones who'll survive.  All of you think you'll all survive.  But soon enough, as you get older, you'll wonder.  When you hit the Change a lot of you will lose hope, too.  You'll wonder what it's all worth.  You'll feel discouraged, sad, and you'll wonder why you even need to give so much effort with so little hope.

"The reason why, even at your darkest, is Honor.  You are our people's future.  You carry our people's hopes and memories with you, and they are relying on you to give your hardest efforts to carry that burden.  That is your Honor..."

His voice would give way to Mother's and she'd remind us again how loved we were.  How important we were; how much she wanted us all to make it.  And she was so sure we all would.  We knew our lives were difficult, but we were still optimistic.  We were still growing strong, and we were still strongly connected to them.

Then the Change came.  We grew more, but as we did our connection to our Mother and our Father weakened.  It was like the bigger and stronger we were, the more precarious the contact.  It was frightening, and, sad as I am to admit, Father was right.  That loosening made me doubt.  Having been so close to everyone in my family for so long, I felt bleak sadness at the thought that I'd soon be alone.

We talked about it amongst ourselves when we thought Mother and Father weren't listening, but I think they always were.  There were a few times when I felt like all I had to keep me together was Father's words about honor, Mother's about love, and the confidence they shared in us; different as they were.

It happened towards the end of a late summer evening  Mother was telling us how proud she was of us when what felt like the hand of God ripped us out of our home, throwing us aside.  Mother and Father were silent long enough that we felt even more distant from them.  We huddled together, scared.  Finally my Father spoke.

"I'm sorry children," he said with resigned sadness in his voice, "This day was always going to come, it just happened sooner than we wanted.  Your Mother and I, well, one of the truths we never told you is that when you leave us, it is our time to sleep forever."

"You mean die?" one of my siblings asked.

"Yes." he said simply.  "It is our peoples way.  We prepare our children for their release, but once they are gone, there is nothing left for us.  The rest is up to you.  That day happened sooner.  That's all.  Just... sooner..."  As his voice faded, we felt ourselves feeling more energized.  They were giving their essence to us.

My Mother's voice chimed in, calm and demure, "Remember my darlings, I've always loved you.  Always..."  Her voice trailed off, too, and we never heard it again.  But we also knew it was okay.  It was what was meant to be.  By morning we had all grown substantially, the last gift of our Mother and Father.  A breeze came up and, feeling looser and more independent, we knew it was time to scatter with the wind to find our own destinies.

It was a rush like none I'd ever known could exist.  I wanted it to never stop, but remembering my Father's words, I stopped myself from drifting when I found a suitable spot.  I worked the soil.  I put down roots.  And I know I'm going to grow strong enough to one day raise children of my own, to tell my story to, and to carry on our traditions as I did.

The same morning that freedom came for the siblings, a man walked out to his lawn.  The dandelions he pulled out the night before were still there, but they had all gone to seed overnight, and were already scattered across his lawn.  Already dead, they'd given their life to their children.

With a deep sigh he knew that, although he had won the battle, he had lost the war.

20 January 2010

About Last Week's #FridayFlash

"The Light Around the Doorframe" started out all along as horror, it just didn't necessarily begin in quite so disturbing a fashion.

I got up one morning, turned the heater on in the bathroom, left to get breakfast, and when I came back I realized I had left the bathroom light on.  The door and frame were silhoutted by a thin line of light around it.  Even though I wasn't worried about there being someone, or something, in there, I knew I had a decent framing (ha!) for a story.

I ended up hanging out with some friends while they did homework that evening, so I pounded out the rough draft in about forty-five minutes or so.  I let the story rest overnight and went back to it, checking the wordcount.  It was at 670 and most of the story was there.  The only things missing were the confontations with the fan, the heat lamp, and the vanity light.

My bathroom actually has five switches by the door, fan, heat lamp, overhead, and vanity.  (The fifth is I guess there as a back-up.)  So I decided that each one would be a different haunting.

I tried to figure out what each haunting would be.  The heat lamp immediately suggested itself to a darkroom, and I decided that that would be a good high school darkroom bit.  Eduard is not a very good guy, so I figured voyeurism would be right up his alley.  I wanted something with the other kids not liking him either, so I used the fan to segway into their laughter.  Then came his mother in front of the vanity.  Of course.

The original story had the kids laughing at Eduard and his mother being the prototypical alcoholic mom who hated him.  A friend read it and it came across as simply depressing.  No real suspense, just depressing pity.  So I went back and tried to change Eduard into a psychopath.  This being late Thursday night, I was only marginally succesful.  If that.

All told I spent far more time trying to fine tune the story and add nuances than I did int he first initial writing.  The structure of the story, with the alternating of line and paragraph I think worked well to give it a lyrical quality.  Since the story is actually taking place more in purgatory than in the real world, I think that's a bene, too.

15 January 2010

The Light Around the Doorframe


Eyes are the window into the Soul.

Eduard woke up. The blankets were on the floor again, but he was still warm despite the early Winter chill. He looked into the hallway and saw the light in the bathroom on, lighting the frame of the closed door. The light in the bathroom, which he turned off every night, was on. The door he left open every night, was closed. The light, was on.

Yet Eduard was alone.

He got up, feeling his heart race. He put on his robe and slippers and slowly, agonizingly, headed towards the door. He wanted to run. He wanted to crawl back into bed, pull the covers over his head, and wait for it to all go away. For the door to be open. For the light to be off. For this overwhelming, loathsome dread to be gone.

Still he crept forward.

His slippered feet slid across the carpet. He grasped the ends of his robe's belt and pulled them tighter. They were a tangible, physical tie to the real world; an anchor bracing him against this nightmare's edge. He reached the wall next to the door and let go of the robe's belt. He felt along the wall and slid his fingers along the smooth wallpaper until they reached the frame.

He clutched his robe.

He put his head to the door and placed his ear on its cold panel. He listened intently but couldn't hear anything over his rapidly beating heart. He inhaled deeply, and holding his breath heard voices; the soft, intermingled ghosts of words. They were as real as the wisps of smoke from an extinguished match, and just as easy to grab.

Hesitantly, he reached for the handle.

A static charge arced from his thumb to the handle, visibly hanging in the air as a crisp blue line. It bit his thumb hard enough that he yelped in surprise, recoiling from it. As he turned away the light went out and the door was open.

A shadow stirred.

Eduard watched himself dash into the cold bathroom scarcely aware of what he was doing. He frantically stabbed for the light switch, desperately trying to cast some light into the Erebus dark. His hand was pounding all along the wall until he felt the plastic faceplate of the switches and clicked one.

The fan whirred overhead.

The humming fan's drone turned into the harsh laughter that kids save for groups far away from adults. Eduard felt their eyes boring down on him as he looked at the splintered, plastic remains of his General Lee model. Joshua stepped on it one last time, grinding it into the ground with his foot, before smirking at Eduard. Eduard remembered watching that smirk disappear after he pinned Joshua later that afternoon. When Joshua was alone. Eduard particularly remembered the smell of the model glue still crusted on the X-Acto knife he used to cut out Joshua's horrified eyes.

The fan stopped and the heat lamp came on.

Its electric drone and ruddy light cast him back to his high school's darkroom. To the red lit room with the constant buzz of the large, black timer, and the lingering quiltwork of chemical smells. He felt the developer wet his fingertips as he pushed the print under its surface. As the image of Alesia changing emerged from the blank page, he felt himself stir and harden. He was so focused on her bare breast in the picture that he didn't noticed the teacher approaching until it was too late. Grabbing the print, he ran outside into the light, mourning as the print turned instantly to black. He would never get another chance to sneak up on her from behind again.

The heat lamp cut out and the vanity lights above the mirror came on.

They showed his Mom sitting in front of the mirror. The sleeves on her white, silk robe billowed as she put on her make-up. "You're such a little angel, Eddie, I can't believe you don't have more friends," she droned while preening in front of the mirror. The open bottle of diet pills had been knocked over again, spilling them unnoticed across the counter. Her saccharine words washed over him unheard as he jumped up and down behind her, screaming for her to notice him. Even though she never looked. Emotionally spent, he slumped behind her, burying his face in his hands and crying.

Finally, mercifully, the main light came on.

The bare, corkscrewed bulb slowly came to life. It started dimly, but with enough light for him to see the room was now empty. As its intensity rose, so did Eduard's spirits. There was nowhere to hide in the little white paneled bathroom, so everything must be gone! Eduard looked around. His confidence renewed, he pulled aside the shower curtain with a dramatic flourish as a relief to his obvious delusion. Laughing, he looked behind the toilet for the Boogey Man. Giggling, he checked under the sink for evil goblins. His raucous laughter rose as he made merry of his own imaginings and old embarrassments.

He caught his reflection in the mirror.

His face was sallow, almost bloodless. His hair was in tattered, mussed patches and his cheeks were cavernously withdrawn. Even his nose looked pinched and corrupted. But the worst was his eyes, or, where his eyes should be. He looked right through them, right through his head to the door. It had closed. Again. Trapping him inside the mildewed walls of the bathroom. Again. Thrusting him back into the endless nightmare of memories.

Eduard's soul had died long before he had.

13 January 2010

Has it Really Been 2 Months?

Yes.  Yes it has.  The quick update is Thanksgiving, Christmas, a week in California, a week in South Carolina, 6 weeks of 60 hour weeks, 1 trial, a failed attempt at NaNoWriMo, my 21 year old stepson coming back to live with me, and, well, a New Year.

So, more on each in detail a bit later, but for now I wanted to post my New Years Resolutions.  For me at least its not the typical half-baked attempt at change that falls by the wayside by February, but more a codification of things I've wanted to take control of and change for awhile now.

(You might notice a theme about use of time, too...)

2010 New Year Resolutions 
(1) Write, write, and then write some more at least for 20 minutes a day.   
(2) Edit. Take an hour or two on the weekend to revise what has been already been written.   
(3) Keep writing blog updated.  Participate more in writing conversations.   
(4) Take the time to be creative. Use an hour or so a night to be productively creative.  Do it instead of just watching TV.  
(5) Get Gym membership and work out at least 3 days a week.  By the end of 2010 be able to do the P90 series workouts.   
(6) Powerwalk the dogs for at least 30 minutes every night, regardless of weather or how "tired" I am.   
(7) Be mindful of eating.  Think about what I am about to eat, and why I am about to eat it.  Make everything I eat a conscious decision. Save "bad" eating for when I am with friends instead of when I am alone.   
(8) Be mindful of the money I spend.  Don't spend money frivolously, understand that there are times when I simply have to say no to going out with friends, even if it might be embarrasing.   
(9) Invest more time in contacting old friends and family.   
(10) Don't shy away from confrontations when they are necessary.  Also, do not provoke confrontations if they are not necessary.  i.e. do the unpleasant tasks that feel like work but still need doing.   
(11) Get the sleep I need.