Thursday, January 21, 2016

Moments to Reflect - Happy Birthday to her New Back!

Today is a look-back in time kind of day, and a day to be thankful, to be hopeful, and to reflect on the long road travelled and a long road ahead. Most of you know me here as a writer, as a speculative fiction fan, and as an audiovisual professional. Last year around this time I allowed myself the indulgence of discussing family in this space, specifically a very serious and major back surgery my lovely wife, Karine, needed to correct was was at the time an over 60 degree curve in her spine. Many of you helped us with donations to a crowdfunding page to help us defray the cost of her recovery and the months we knew she'd spend not working. Many more have - and continue - to offer well-wishes. We thank you and appreciate it. Today marks exactly one year since the big event. As I write this we are exactly twelve months removed from our arrival at the hospital for what would be over nine hours on the operating table.

Today she says "Happy Birthday to her back!" and looks back to a time when walking for five minutes was an accomplishement. The struggle isn't over, but we're on the path together. Today she's not back to what you or I would see as normal, but can already do so much more than she could a year ago.

The Story - Abridged
The day of had a surreal quality as it happens which it retains in my mind. It's a thing which is serious and frightening and important, but also something about which we as family members can't do all that much. As an AV person, of course, I noticed that the digital signage TVs were running video on a windows application which had frozen with a Windows update dialog box. Was this an ill-omen? A metaphor? A sign that my mind, in anxiety over the event, was fixated on the familiar? Some combination?
Signage Failure!

That day represented hours of work for the surgical team, hours of unconciousness for Karine, and hours of waiting for the rest of us. So we waited. We stepped out for lunch. I read an entire novel from cover to cover (John Scalzi's Lock-In for those who are for some reason curious. A terrific book but, as it deals with a mysterious and strange illness, is perhaps not the best choice to read in a hospital waiting room. But I digress).  We waited.

Reading and waiting.
And waiting. 
And we saw her briefly in the recovery room, then waited some more. And more. I'll hold private most of the details of the next days as this is more her story to tell than mine, save to say that it was nine days in the ICU before we moved to a recovery room. Then, quite suddenly, in-patient rehab was denied by the insurance company and, in an eyeblink, I was on my way to the city for the long trip home. (This was a joyous disaster. Joyous because the ordeal in the hospital was over. A disaster because it was frightening and painful. She was still getting used the the changes in her body, was barely recovered, and the long drive home was, quite simply, agonizing. Of the many painful memories, the feeling of helplessness as I drove and she suffered in the passenger seat remains in the forefront). And, in an almost too-neat closure of the above signs and portents, the day I picked her up was the very first day that damn digital sign in the lobby was actually working. Yes, it took over a week for someone to notice and click "OK" on the windows dialog box.

And then began the long year.

It Takes a Village - In which I give thanks
I've already thanked my friends - in the audiovisual community and elsewhere - for your contributions and support. The process also served as a reminder that we're not alone. January of 2015 was a tough time to do this; it was a bitterly cold winter featuring at least one dreadful blizzard. Travel to and from the hospital was a challenge, as was the rest of life. Until her trip home, Karine was likely the least affected by this: in the ICU room she didn't even have a window to the storm outside. Some heroes of the week:

Our new neighbors. For shovelling what looked like a solid foot of snow from our driveway and front walk. This was not asked for, not expected. It was appreciated and helped cement the feeling that, in moving out to Long Island, we'd stumbled into a community.

Thanks, Neighbors!
Marc and Alexa Suskin (and kids!).  Karine's brother and his family for housing our children through the snow days along with their three children in a Brooklyn apartment nowhere nearly large enough for quite so many people. The kids had a great time with distractions such as homemade "icecream" made with newly fallen snow from their balcony.

Malou Suskin - Karine's mother. For holding down the fort when the kids had to return home. She also earns a civilian "Purple Heart" for slipping on the ice and managing to break her shoulder in an attempt to set out the trash cans. Thankfully she is well-recovered from that injury as well.

This is, perhaps, what we expected and should expect, but the surgery was a starting point rather than an endpoint.

  • It wasn't over after the surgery
  • It wasn't over after leaving the ICU
  • It wasn't over after returning from the hospital.
  • It wasn't over after the end of physical therapy.
  • It isn't over today.

One thing that the surgery and its aftermath highlight to me is just how interconnected a human body is; The surgery didn't merely straighten her back. It tore and rearranged muscles, it effected her shoulders, legs, hips, etc. Those things too took time to heal, as much as the actual back. And today, in body, she is changed.
  • She has perfect posture, as if there's a straight metal bar in her back. Because there is (two metal bars, in fact).

  • She stands nearly two inches taller than she did before.
  • Her clothes hang differently on her.
  • The way she moves has changed.

Inside, beneath all of that, she's still the same woman with whom I fell in love. My heart sings to see her recovering, and weeps to see her suffering still.

It is, as I said a journey. Not a straight climb towards a better future, but two steps forward and one back. Still, we move forward and still, we get a little better, day by day, week by week.

I'll close with a cheerful story and a final thank you:

One thing that saddened us  deeply is the idea that she might never be able to hold our then three-year-old son again. He was getting bigger and she had literally months of not being able to lift anything heavy. Like a child. Last week I saw her standing with him in her arms, clinging to her with arms and legs. I didn't know that would ever again happen, and it brings a tear to my eye to see that it did. Something which could have been forever lost was not quite.

A final thank you
I am truly grateful to friends, colleagues, family, neighbors. Most of all, as I look back on the year and the decade before, there's one thought above all others. That I can walk this path and others with my lovely bride because she chose me as her partner with whom to share all of life's adventures.  The last - and deepest thanks - are to her. For having the courage to face these challenges. For pushing herself in her recovery to care for our children. And, most of all, for giving me the chance to share the journey with her.

Thank you, I love you, and I'll be there for you.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

On Star Wars, the Force Awakens, and Sharing Bad Literature with your Children

Warning: Herein lie spoilers for The Force Awakens. Proceed at thine own risk!

Yesterday I finally saw Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. While it was not, in my estimation, a particularly good movie, it is a good Star Wars movie. A series of discussions I had with Chloe (regular readers of this blog know of Chloe, the now-nine year old with whom I've been sharing my love of fantastic literature), I was pondering how some (but not all) of our beloved classics are, in various ways, deeply flawed. Can you still love something with problems?

The initial discussion was about Return of the Jedi, particularly the revelation that Luke and Leia are brother and sister. Her question (as she saw a part of it out of context) was WHY this was. It lead to a nice chat about the love triangle between Leia, Luke, and Han along with what a love-triangle does in fiction in the first place. I then pointed out that making Luke and Leia siblings after teasing the relationship for the first two movies can be read as a cheat. It resolves the conflict without having to have one of the two rivals "lose". It was a nice discussion that lead to more of a chance to teach about the shape of stories. And this brings us to The Force Awakens.

The biggest and most obvious weakness, to me, is how closely The Force Awakens tracks the plot details of the first trilogy. It's almost as if someone made a checklist:

  • Black-masked, lightsaber-wielding supervillain
    • Killing a beloved mentor (repeated in Ep IV, I, and and now VII. With a scream of "NO" each time)
  • Stormtroopers
  • Young dreamer on a desert planet
  • Hot-shot pilot.
  • Death Star. Even bigger death star!
    • With a small vulnerability
    • Destroyed moments before obliterating the Rebel base.
    • (Death Stars were destroyed in Episodes, IV, VI, and VII. A droid command ship was destroyed in similar circumstances in Episode I)
we also get Han Solo, the Millenium Falcon, Princess Leia, a new Emperor-like figure. It is, in its way, a better film than A New Hope; most notably, the acting and dialog are far better (although there are a few parts - especially near the beginning - in which it's a bit too far on the snappy side). Kilo Renn is a more interesting character than Darth Vader, yet he's less menacing. Vader was, in some ways, more of a force than a character. He had no facial expressions, showed no emotion, existing as a pure threat to the heroes. Renn, on the other hand, is emotional. In the Star Wars mythos of the "Dark Side" of the force being fueled by negative emotions, he's the first we've seen really feed on uncontrollable anger. It also makes him less of a credible threat, but more of that later.

As in all Star Wars films, the plot in  The Force Awakens relies heavily on coincidences. Landing in the one part of the planet where another important person lives. The one dessert scavenger who can use the force stumbling across the macguffin. Etc.

It's not without its charm. I LOVE the new "Jedi to be" character Rey; there was a moment early in the film in which she was in danger and it appeared that the male lead was going to rescue her. He then watched, almost slack-jawed, as she fought off multiple attackers on her own. Less convincing is her emergence as a budding force-user. We see some tricks from the standard Jedi playbook: the Jedi mind trick, the grabbing something from a distance with her mind, fancy lightsaber fighting.  Where it breaks suspension of disbelief (for me) is that she does all of these things almost instinctively, after revealing earlier in the movie that she didn't even believe for certain that the Jedi were real. We even saw her sneak through an enemy base in a scene very reminiscent of Obi Wan Kenobi on the Death Star in Episode IV.  It was, from my mind, too much from this character too early.

This was echoed in my mind later when she fights Kilo Renn. It's a great lightsaber battle in which the untrained, young woman who has never before held a lightsaber defeats a foe who had destroyed the new Jedi order and sent Luke Skywalker into hiding. It's a moment which, to me, not only did not feel "earned" but is the wrong shape for the story; I'd rather have seen the hero defeated in a hard-fought battle rather than emerge triumphant. This leaves something more to which to build for their next encounter. As things stand, he's been beaten once. That will make it mean less when he is beaten again. 

Was the movie fun? It absolutely was. It looked like Star Wars, with all the rough edges and beautiful decay we've come to expect. Harrison Ford gave a very memorable performance as Han Solo and, sentimentality aside, did an excellent job showing us the once-swashbuckling hero as an older man, hanging on to the things he knows how to do after facing a tragedy. Ditto for Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia. Overall, though, what bothers me the most is how safe it felt. It's like a once-great band on a reunion tour playing their greatest hits from back in the day. Yes, we still like them. And yes, it's fun while it is happening. At the end of the day, though, it's not "art" so much as a package: as what we expect wrapped up in a pretty box for us. Disney spent four billion dollars on Lucasfilms. 
 What they got is a cash cow to milk, nostalgia to sell back to us. 

Was it a good Star Wars movie? Ultimately yes. A good movie? For that it would have had to take more risks, break more new ground, give us something to say.

And that is today's lesson: it's one which would be harder to tell with a better movie. To look critically at film and literature and see it for what it is, not what we want it to be. 

So endeth the lesson.

May the force be with you.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Flash Fiction: Small Flames

A bit of flash fiction to light your way this winter season.

Small flames, and a callback to an old, old story. These stories are our heritage; they only live so long as we remember them, retell them, reinterpret them.

Small Flames

by Leonard C Suskin

Winter, still,  is a time for small flames. That serves as a small blessing to me, me who left this world through the comfort of the smallest of flames. It's grey here between, so very grey, but sometimes I can see backward through a small flame.

Yes, it's true, what he wrote about me. Are you surprised that I know? People did once read by dancing candlelights, or even gaslamps. But now, as I learn more and grow into a flickering shadow of what I might have been, now candleflames are for lovers, for birthdays, for mourning. Yes, time still passes here and my innocence has faded but still I was never a lover. The dance of flesh in counterpoint to the flickering candleflame holds little longing, little interest for me. Perhaps a small measure for the closeness, the touch.

I do so miss touch.

Sometimes I glimpse a birthday. Through the flickering lights of the slenderest candles I can see their eager faces, see families whole and in love, see sweet cakes stacked on garish-colored plates. Everything smells of smoke and soot, but I can still see and, sometimes, still remember. If I listen closely I can hear a child's wish.

A bicycle.

A pony.

A reunion with a parent, sibling, or even beloved pet who's passed on.

Fear not, small child. The last wish will be the one granted. Not in this life, but the next.

Sometimes I show them. I still carry with me the image of the Christmas dinner that never was with my grandmother and hers, that one scrap of warmth that eased me into the cold. To show it again to a small, sad child is no hard trick, and I think they always see theirs at the banquet. I think it's comforting.

Anyway, like I was saying, winter is the time for small candles. For years I'd look forward to it, to a chance to linger about Christmas trees strung with popcorn and adorned with flickering tiny flames. Then more and more the candles went away, replaced by cold, dead, electric fire encased in hard glass. To look through no longer brings comfort, but an icysharp pain, a view of a world too sharp and too hard and too real. It breaks my heart to be driven from Christmas.

But it is winter and it is, as I said, a time for small flames. They aren't my people, but there are some who light candles, one more on each day, tiny flickers of living fire. Tiny windows for me to peek into the world.

There's a part of my story they never told, not in any of the times I read it by candlelight.

When I passed, I clung to the dead matchstick like a talisman and, even in this place, I still feel it with me. I drift, drawn to the small flames, have not yet joined the banquet myself.

I've yet to meet Him.

Very few stop here to stay with me with the candles, in between. You're the first in a long time. I'm sorry, but thank you.

Anyway, like I was saying, there are still candles, and still people who light them. I don't know the language, but I know they're calling to Him when they light them. I know they do because I can feel the light getting brighter, I know because I feel an unnatural warmth spreading from the flame. I know because for a moment - just a moment - the scent of beef stewed all day in root vegetables and the oily smoke scent of cooking overcomes the ashes and soot. For that moment I can step into the flame and join the banquet myself.

It might be soon time for me to leave this place between, to join Him and all who came before me and lose myself. To cast off this dead matchstick I carry.

Perhaps soon.

Will you take my hand? Will you come with me?

Or will you linger for a time beside the small flames brief flickers dancing across all too brief moments of life?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Lovecraft, Defoe, and the Syrian Refugee Crisis

This contains politics again, but also discussion of fantasy fiction. Fear not, this is not becoming a political blog! Some things are important, and sometimes thoughts on fiction and the real world intersect. This is one of those times.

The HPL bust won by
For those not in the know, the World Fantasy Convention annuals gives the World Fantasy Award to a distinguished work of fantasy literature from the previous year. Up through this year (but no longer!) the award took the physical shape of a bust of early twentieth-century horror writer HP Lovecraft. Lovecraft is tremendously influential in the world of horror fiction but also, in both his personal life AND in his work, horrifically racist, even by the standards of his time. 

After winning the WFA, African-American writer Nnnedi Okorafor shared the following poem of Lovecraft's from 1912 as a shockingly blatant example (you should read Okorafor's words on the topic here; as both a WFA winner herself and a Nigerian-American writer she is far more qualified to speak on the topic than I):

by H. P. Lovecraft

When, long ago, the gods created Earth
In Jove’s fair image Man was shaped at birth.
The beasts for lesser parts were next designed;
Yet were they too remote from humankind.
To fill the gap, and join the rest to Man,
Th’Olympian host conceiv’d a clever plan.
A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure,
Filled it with vice, and called the thing a Nigger.

Not someone whom we should choose to honor, and racist even by the standards of the early twentieth century. What's nearly as bad to me, the main theme within Lovecraft's fiction is fear of the outsider. Not only are the most famous of his creations otherworldly creatures barely comprehensible to (and completely inimical to) us humans, Paired with the author's racism, we are left with an oevre  focused on protecting "our people" from "others". To read Lovecraft uncritically is to exercise that part of ones mind which seeks out the familiar and sees anything foreign as not only incomprehensible, but dangerous and degenerate.

Yes, Lovecraft was influential. I see his influence in much the same way I see that of Daniel Defoe; both cast long shadows, the works of both are important historical artifacts. Both stand - to one extent or another - as works of art. Both are also dreadfully problematic and contain major themes far outside the way we would like to think today. They are to be read, respected for what they added to culture, but not honored uncritically.

This brings us to recent events. Last week the city of Paris suffered several terrorist attacks, which seem to have been carried out by French and Belgian nationals with ties to the Syrian militant group ISIS. The response here in America was the same response our own Lovecraft would have made: keep the others out. In this case, it served not only as an pretext to halt our policy of accepting Syrian refugees, many of whom are fleeing the very terrorists claiming responsibility for this action, but it also escalated already high levels of rhetoric against Muslims. Much has been made of the parallel between refusing to accept Syrian refugees now and refusal to accept European refugees on the eve (and in the early days of) the second World War, including the following official statement by the United States Holocaust Museum and Memorial:

WASHINGTON, DC—Acutely aware of the consequences to Jews who were unable to flee Nazism, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum looks with concern upon the current refugee crisis. While recognizing that security concerns must be fully addressed, we should not turn our backs on the thousands of legitimate refugees.  
The Museum calls on public figures and citizens to avoid condemning today’s refugees as a group. It is important to remember that many are fleeing because they have been targeted by the Assad regime and ISIS for persecution and in some cases elimination on the basis of their identity.
I say that today's response, tragically and shamefully, is well within certain aspects of our historical character. It's the legacy of slavery, the legacy of Jim Crow and, yes, the legacy of Lovecraft. To not only accept such works unquestionably but also to honor them is to embrace this part of our legacy. There's no proof that Syrian refugees are any more dangerous than anyone else, or at all responsible for acts of terror. Yet they look different. They speak differently. They worship the same god as most of us in a slightly different way. Their culture is different.

Lovecraft knew. Different is scary. It's what he continues to teach us.
Are we, today in the twenty-first century, the same people we were a hundred years ago, when we saw those from other continents as half-human degenerates? Are we the same as we were two centuries before that, when we saw non-Europeans as savages over whom we needed to take our rightful dominion? Is this who we choose to be?

Part of the choices in who we are is who we choose to honor, how we choose to honor them. Yes, Lovecraft was an interesting prose sylist (once he got past his early adjective-laden career phase) and created some memorable imagery which casts a long shadow on the horror fiction genre. He was also a racist and a xenophobe. Is this a legacy we should choose to honor uncritically? 

It is not what I choose. It is shameful that it took a half-decade after Okorafor's personal essay for the World Fantasy Award for the bust to change. It's shameful that our first impulse is still to fear those other than ourselves.

It is shameful that it is 2015 and we are not yet better than this.  

Friday, November 13, 2015

On Welders and Philophers, Certification and Education

Warning: This post contains politics.

Last week I engaged in an interesting discussion across several blog posts with Mark Coxon and Gary Kayye regarding the CTS (certified technical specialist for those not in the know) certification from Infocomm, the audiovisual industry trade group. It was an interesting conversation on what certifications mean, why we seek them, how they can be better valued or made use of. I was quite ready to put this discussion to bed and move on when I saw this statement from Presidential hopeful March Rubio:

"Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less [sic] philosophers"

I'll set aside my grammatical pet peeve about allegedly educated adults not knowing the difference between "less" and "fewer"; as less and less value is given to education as an end to itself, fewer and fewer people will take the effort to make this distinction. What struck me most is that Mr. Rubio sees education as a whole as akin to a certification process; education is the process of learning how to do something which will earn one the most money. In this context, it is quite easy to measure the value of education: see what graduates earn, see what it costs to get a degree, compare. It's the same process by which one would measure ones investment in a mutual fund.

It's also a poor and reductive way to look at such things.

In the title I mentioned Dr. Carson. There's no question that Carson is a bright man with as impressive a set of educational and professiona, credentials as one could expect: Yale, University of Michigan,  and, finally, Johns Hopkins where he served as the head of neurosurgery. What fascinates  - and terrifies - me is that a man with such an obvious education can hold bizarre, couterfactual beliefs:
  • President Obama was born in Africa
  • The earth is 6000 years old.
  • The Great Pyramids of Egypt were built for the purpose of grain storage.

The last one is truly head-scratching, and pretty much wilfully ignores literally everything we know about the pyramids except for the fact that they are large and located in Egypt. How can an educated man think this way? I know because, a long time ago, I was on the path to that sort of education.

My education wasn't to be in medicine, but electrical engineering. The school to which I went was small, selective, and very technology-heavy. We studied math. We studied science. We studied chemistry. And, each semester, we took one humanities course. One. As a freshman, it was a two-part "Western Civilization" survey. That's right, all of "Westery Civilization" in one year. History. Literature. And, yes, philosophy. One. Year. After that, there was a requirement for one elective. That was it. If one had to design an education to create the kind of stereotypically anti-social, narrowly focused technologist-nerd completely lost in the larger society one could do no better. I wasn't the greatest student and never graduated, but it was the parts of an education which I was never offered that I missed most and have, on and off, been chasing through my adult life. It's been poetry, it's been literature, it's been philosophy. Yes, I'm glad to have learned the math I did, but that is, as I say about technical ideas, just "stuff".  

What have  gained since trying to broaden my education? I feel that I can think better and more broadly. I can understand people who think differently than I do, and why. In the realm of literature, I read more mindfully and learn more from a good book and, I hope, can communicate more and better in my own writing. More to the point - and this is a harder thing for which to find a metric - it's bought an element of joy and pleasure to my life as well as some much-needed depth. I see knowing more as an end in and of itself, and one which I hope to continue to pursue throughout my life. I only wish I'd had more of the foundation sooner.

I've gained a measure of humility in seeing the very edges of the depth and rigor of thought which lie behind various worldviews. Philosophy is not just the caricature of robed figures in an ivory tower gazing into their navels; it encompasses many schools of thought which I accept that I'll never have the time to deeply understand. That doesn't stop me from reaching for, at the very least, a broader appreciation. 

My technical education, of course, is also a life-long project. The difference is that this is results-oriented as much as concept oriented; I need to know what IGMP protocols are so I can design network-based audio-video systems. I educate myself on arts so I'll be happy (and yes, I've neglected that over the past months; time gets in the way, but it's a luxury on which I should spend more time). 

People like Rubio, on the other hand,  see only the technical "certification" part of education: as a means to an end and naught else. That is valuable, but it is not the highest and best use of higher education. I'd even argue that it isn't even the best use of primary and secondary education; we've become so fixated on STEM, on economics, on winning the next big tech race that we don't pay enough attention to know the destination to which we're racing. 

The irony? Rubio is talking about how to allocate scarce resources, what skills and knowledge we should value, how one should live ones life. These questions are, at their heart, philosophical. What's more, his beloved welder is, by casting a ballot, going to be making these choices for all of us. In a democracy we don't merely need philsophers, and we don't merely need welders; we need welder-philosophers, versed in the theory and practice of how to think about such things. We need philosophers to help us learn to navigate an ever changing world, and answer the big questions of what it means to live a fulfilled life. We need artists and writers to make the journey worth living. 

We do not live on bread alone. 

This is not "The Treachery of Images"
I'll close with an anecdote: one of my very well-respected colleagues was shopping online for a present for himself: an art print. When I asked what, he gave a guarded "I'm going to have to explain this" look and told me it was a print of a painting my Magritte called "Treachery of Images". Fortunately, I was aware of it and we were able to even discuss it a bit; it's an interesting statement about what art it, what communication is. A thousand-word restating, perhaps, about the aphorism about the finger pointing at the moon. Can I draw a line between his appreciation for surrealist art and his creative and sharp thinking in technical matters? Perhaps I can, perhaps not. Either way, it is a small thing which enriches his life. 

Yes, we need welders and mechanics and brain surgeons. We also need artists, philosophers, and those who appreciate them.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Nightmare Fuel, Day the Eighteenth - The End

A sweet little deal with the devil story.

Inspiration slightly from Goethe, but mostly from the Simpsons. 


"The End"

It's near the end now, now question. And I'd have had a good run were it not for the constant fear.

I thought I was smart. I hadn't asked for incomparable wealth, to be king of the world, anything like that. Just a full life, health for my wife and children, comfort. What we had didn't seem like much out of the ordinary; the house with the white picket fence, two kids who grew into healthy adults themselves, jobs that were fulfilling and challenging enough without being a grind.

A few years after work ended to enjoy ourselves and eachother, living out the rest of our years as empty nesters, still always learning, exploring hobbies, still engaged. The one thing I'd failed to wish for was health for our pets, but they did OK; we always had cats living in the house and the heartache as they passed on always healed. I wish they'd lived forever, but they, too, had full lives.

And now it's almost over. 

I read a great deal in my later years, and took solace in the number who tricked the devil himself, who left with their souls intact. Even Faust himself ascended to heaven at the end. 

And now it's ended. 

My modern trip to hell is like a long elevator ride, far past the sub-sub-sub basement. As it travels I feel younger, feel the years and decades fading as I recede from the world.

I wrack my brain for a loophole, but can't think of one. Ah well... at least my family enjoyed the comforts I wished for them.

Soon it will be over.

At long last the door opens. 

I see dark shapes moving in the halflight, at knee level. Demons? Devils? The crawl about on all fours, their motions smooth and predatory.

Cats. Sleek, healthy, young housecats.

Ever pet I've ever lost and buried.
They languorously wander about, rubbing against eachother. One enters the elevator, rubs against my leg. 

Now I feel claws on my back as one jumpclimbs up by spectral body, leaving deep scratches before it alights on my shoulder. The elevator fills with small furry bodies. My soul now intact, the elevator door closes and heads back upward.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Nightmare Fuel, Day the Seventeenth - The Girl in the Lake


No commentary on this one; I much like this image, and might return to this with some more detail. 

"The Girl in the Lake"

You don't know to use the word ritual, but that's what your trip to the lake is.

Every day you endure the words.

You're ugly.
You're stupid.
You're worthless.

So every afternoon in what you don't know to call a ritual but most certainly is you walk to the river.

The other you is waiting there, on the otherside of the water, looking sadly up at you, tears welling up in her eyes.

You turn your head, not able to look directly at her, but you see her there, watching you through the corner of her eyes which are yours. 

And there at the river, in what you don't know to call a ritual, you pass along all the small cruelties. After all, there's not meant for you, not for meek, quiet, calm you. They're meant for the girl in the river.

You half-whisper:
"Why can't you be more like your brother?"
"You're useless."
"You're just like your mother."

She always does her part, in what you don't know to call a ritual, staying the whole time, as meek as you are, until you walk slowly away from the river. 

You wonder where she goes when you're gone, what the world is like across the river, but you don't wonder for long. After all, you can return from the lake, quietly, to gather another day's worth of petty hatreds for the girl in the lake. 

Until one day, in what you never knew to be a ritual, you blink and find yourself looking up, looking through the calm water,  up at her face backlit by the sun and unreadable.

You feel the weight of all the petty cruelties you've cast into the water dragging you down and away, as she turns and walks away, looking as meek as you but hardened by years underwater. 

You tell yourself that you'll meet her eyes when she returns, but you never get the chance.

You fade, reflecting nothing but the angry-red sun, pain wearing smooth like a river-stone,