Friday, November 1, 2013
I'd record a date, but dates are meaningless in my peculiar state. I can't trust any part of my reality, so lets just record the number of days I've been keeping this journal.
That wasn't so hard, was it? Now, what the hell do I write?
Begin at a beginning. Not the beginning, because who the fuck knows what the beginning is anyways. Even physicists and cosmologists can't stop arguing about it.
Anyway, a beginning. Today's beginning for me. That sounds like as good a place to start as any.
My eyes peeled open against the crust of sleep to a darkened room. Only the light of a microwave with no clock set illuminated the heavy shadows before me. My body ached enough to assure me the temperature of the room was cold, probably below 60F. It was the only thing that made my hands hurt like this.
I kicked the sheet and twisted blanket from my naked legs and relished the sweet feeling of cold air caressing my sweaty skin. I had wrapped myself too well last night, and my automatic temperature control had failed to free me in my sleep.
Slowly rolling over, I looked to the laptop next to me, pushed closed before I slept to silence the noises of the fan and hard drive, and to end the ceaseless glare of LED screen. Lifting the lid and stroking the mouse, the screen sprang to life with an unforgiving brightness, tempered only by the nighttime effects of f.lux. The colors were soft and orange, not the blue starkness of the morning sun.
The screen filled with the movie I had paused before sleeping. I couldn't remember what movie it was, or what it was about. Something senseless to cool the incessant chatter in my head of thoughts, worries, and concerns. Apparently, it worked. I didn't quite feel rested, but I did at least feel alive. That was more than some days.
Mustering a fleeting thread of consciousness, I checked my email. Fifteen messages since last I looked. Peering blearily at the oldest unread message, it looked as though I had been sleeping since before 6 pm. It was now, oh, hell. Only 11:47 pm. The rest of this morning would likely be a battle between the desire to sleep and the unyielding voices that prevent me from succumbing to the rejuvenating mists each day.
Fuck it again. Looking closer, I didn't see a single message that drew me in enough to read it. I minimized my browser and started to lay back, to stare at the shadow of a ceiling in the darkness. It was then that I noticed how much I really had to pee. My bladder taught, like a distended kickball suspended in my belly, the urge to urinate fierce inside of me, I tried to stand carefully, without stepping on anything, and without tripping over the detritus of my bachelor life.
The dirty carpet was noticeable only as a lack of coldness below my feet as I stumbled in the bare reflection of the laptop bouncing from the wall it faced. I nearly stumbled over the cardboard of broken down boxes I'd never taken to the trash. One box slipped under my foot as I took a careful step.
I squeezed my eyelids tightly as I felt the bathroom wall for the switch, flipping it, then cringing at the sound of the fan I'd turned on instead of the light. Flipping it again, then sliding my fingers the scant inch higher, I tried again, forgetting to keep my eyes closed, and wincing as the blinding bulbs sent their piercing photons crashing into the back of my cranium like spears, and every bit as painful. So much for a gentle introduction to the light.
I squinted at the toilet, fooled once again by the cracked porcelain at the base of the bowl into thinking something was inside of it. With a bit of a glare at my reflected visage, I sat, and sprang a leak worthy of a race horse, on and on, letting out the accumulated poisons filtered through my kidneys, and making me wonder yet again why we were supposed to drink so much water. Surely something the body works so hard to rid itself of on a daily basis can't be all good. I sighed at this casualty of this ongoing battle of hydration being waged daily at the boundaries of our corporeal essence. Attack from the mouth, another liter of water consumed. Counterattack from the urinary system, another pint expulsed.
Finally, the near painful pressure subsided, and my consciousness allowed for more to the world than this primary function of biology. I tugged and prodded at the interior of my mind and planned the next few minutes of my life. Coherence seemed neither particularly near, nor particularly far. I had no pressing thoughts consuming me, nor urging their expulsion, but neither did the phantasm of sleep seem to be close enough to haunt my mind as yet.
I rose from the toilet, turned, and flushed, noting that once again, my urea was nearly colorless. Dehydration did not seem to be a current problem, though how it couldn't be when I had seemingly expulsed the contents of the ocean, I had no idea. Turning to the sink, and once again facing the stark reality of my reflection in the mottled mirror, I twisted the faucet and reached into the frigid water to wash my hands. I splash cold water into my face and immediately regretted both the ineffectiveness at removing dried sweat from my brow, and the chilled blood sent seemingly directly into my brain.
I turned off the water, grabbed the towel that had somehow found its way down to the floor, and made a mockery of drying myself with its resultant dampness. I hung the red terrycloth, smelling faintly of mildew, back over the shower curtain rod. There was one piece of cloth that needed to make it into the next load of laundry.
I moved the various muscles of my body, feeling ache and tightness in my shoulders, between and under the shoulder blades, down along my spine, and up along my neck. With fingers, I sought out tight muscles well up my next, extending to my temples. Without release I didn't have the patience for at this time of not morning, I was bound to have a headache later. I worked my fingers into the muscles, pushing harder than was pleasant, but hoping against hope that it would be enough. I massaged back along the scalp, then worked my fists into the rock of my neck and felt a slight give. It just might be enough.
My knees and ankles creaked as I tested them for function. I rolled my right ankle in circles and sure enough, crack, crack, crack, creak, then nothing. I'd read recently that dissection of corpses revealed muscles would fuzz together, and ever since, I'd lived in terror of waking one morning to muscles that refused to function, my body finally committing the coup it threatened after every surprise workout punctuating a lifetime of idleness. I shook and bounced, and put the hopefully nonsensical fear aside.
Looking through the open door, I saw the pile of unfolded clothing dumped artlessly on the floor looking short and sparse. Laundry day was coming, if not today, then very soon, but yes, I saw underwear, a shirt, and pants. I could go at least today without. I flipped the switch again, and the bathroom went dark.
I walked through the darkness, which seemed even more impenetrable than when I'd awoken, and rounded the corner into the kitchen, kicking the scale on the floor. Cursing and hobbling, I flailed at the wall and managed to turn on the light. None of the fruit on the counter appealed to my still sleeping stomach, and I pulled open the refrigerator. Fresh ingredients were plentiful, tomatoes, fennel, lettuce, raw fish, and grass fed beef. A couple half gallon mason jars with water and tea, and multiple sizes full of chicken stock. Butter and hot sauces in the door. Not one thing was ready to grab and to eat though.
I was out of eggs, out of milk, hadn't had bread in, well in a long damn time. I grabbed a pear, a couple tomatoes, and closed the door. From atop the fridge, I opened a ziploc container full of nuts, and grabbed a handful of those. With full hands, I mashed the lightswitch off, and headed back to bed, munching nuts along the way.
Laying back in bed, setting the two disparate kinds of fruit beside me, I pulled the sheet over my body, fluffed up my pillow, and covered everything in my only blanket. I briefly closed my eyes and allowed myself to drift, before attention lit its wriggling fire in the neurons of my brain. I sighed, opened my eyes, and turned back to my computer.
Coherent thought was still so far from the annals of my mind, but sleep was busy haunting others just at the moment, the Sandman was fled or dealing with his own troubles and had not the time to deal with mine. YouTube or Facebook would have to do.
I alt-tabbed back to my browser and took another look at the near meaningless jumble of bits and letters until I recognized one from a game site I've wasted many a meaningless hour upon. Clicking on the link, I see markers of inaction and I wait. After an endless period of waiting, feeling like more than ten minutes, yet probably lasting that many seconds, I noticed the not so subtle signs of a lack of internet. Once again, I cursed the crap I call a provider.
I popped open another tab and connected to my router. Typing my password at this hour of the morning takes longer than I care to admit. I navigate to the utilities and reboot the router. "I'll be back," it proclaimed in its best Schwarzenegger impression (which is in fact quite terrible). 75 seconds, I'm expected to last before it returns. I resisted the urge to leave my bed and watch the router lights. No amount of staring will be enough to make this molded shell of plastics and silicon more reliable or less frustrating.
Finally, the page reloads to an error page, not even the interminable 75 seconds being long enough to allow diseased hardware and software to communicate with the behemoth mother ship. I glare at the connecting icon in my system tray, and suddenly it is connected. I type google in the address and sure enough, up comes a page that any thousand script kiddies could probably recreate and simulate in their sleep, and I believe I'm home free, connected, alive again.
I close the tab and reload my email. By now, the meaning of every word has been forgotten. Sleep has returned from whence it fled and is quite willing to haunt me again. The Sandman has finished his mission, and is prepared to give me another dose of slumber. But no, now my stubborn will is engaged. I can't allow a shitty service provider to send me back to bed.
I argue, fight, and claw. Seeing an email from Amazon listing wonders of instant viewing, I seek out some banal crap which might allow me to return to sleep on my own terms, instead of those of enforced inaction. I'm not even sure what I chose. Within scant seconds of the sounds emanating from my speaker, my eyes are closed. Sleep blindsides me like a ghost train whipping the life out of a pedestrian dropping dead on the empty tracks.
Saturday, October 5, 2013
As you wait to move into base housing, a process that can take days to years, depending on more details than I am aware, you often have to find temporary housing of some kind. As I recall, we spent a few weeks in a hotel in Caribou not terribly far from the library. Visiting the library has always been a special kind of joy for me. The library is a place of wonder, and with each book, there is no telling where it will take you.
I've no idea what first prompted me to smuggle a book out of the library. Was I frustrated by the limits? Was it a book I wouldn't be allowed to check out? Were there any books I wouldn't have been allowed to check out? I think, perhaps, that at first, it was just a challenge and a puzzle; could I actually do this thing?
Whatever the reason, I swiftly became the kleptomaniac of books. In just a few weeks, I had accumulated an entire box of books that I kept hidden in the closet. It was my success that was my eventual undoing. Hiding the presence of the box of books was impressive enough, but hiding the presence of an unexplained box full of books was impossible as we moved into our eventual housing. They were discovered. I was confronted. I was made to return the books and explain to the library what I had done.
I'd like to say that the event was some kind of transformative event in my life. Honestly, while I recall some shame, I don't really remember returning the books. I'm not even sure I ever regretted taking them. The whole episode appears in my memory as an adventure of a boy much in need of adventure. At least I'm glad the books returned to their home, and may be enjoyed by generations of people after me.
* Special note: I try to be as honest and truthful as possible in the stories from my past. The truth is that I have a very tenuous thread of memory the further back into my childhood you go. While I know for sure that I smuggled a box worth of books from the library, was caught, and returned said books, some of the other details of this story may unintentionally be factually incorrect.
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
prepared to hear, and not what is said to us.
Johan was a tidy, clean man, with nothing particular standing out as
he walked through the doors of the library except a preternatural
calmness and palpable capability. He was, it seemed, an man who had
not only found his calling in life, but was remarkably good at it as
well. In this, he was quite unlike the bevy of authors who usually
found their way to the research desk of the university library at 3
As he approached me, I became aware of his unwavering gaze bearing
uncomfortably down upon me, as though he could see inside the
blackness of my soul and was condemning me for my crimes. This idea
was so preposterous that I nearly laughed out loud. In fourty years,
no one had ever even raised my name in an investigation. I was
careful, methodical, and meticulous in my preparation. So far as I
knew, not once had any of my crimes even been linked to each other.
Still, he made me squirm inside.
"May I help you, . . sir?"
"Johan, please call me Johan."
"What can I help you with, Johan?"
"I'm here to write."
"Write what, a paper? Are you a student?"
"No, I'm a writer. I'm here to write you."
"An interview? At this hour? Oh, hell. It isn't like I've got
anything else to do. Go ahead."
Johan set his black leather attache case on the desk between us and
reached inside. He set a card on the desk for me then reached back
into the case.
At first, my mind couldn't make sense of what was written there.
Finally, I realized he wasn't a writer at all, but something very
different. The words fully registered in my mind as the first
silenced bullet entered my brain through my left eye.
Johan Sebastian Black
Righter of Wrongs
Delivering justice where it most belongs.
Monday, June 17, 2013
The anger that you try to hide
Blazing, burning, razing all
Demanding that you heed its call
Frustration seeded fertile ground
Heart plowed under loam and soil
Left to rot in sundered pieces
Words dividing pain’s decay
Make it all just go away
Twisting roots to seek it out
Turn the battle into rout
Walking, stumbling, trudging on
Until this hurtful rage is gone
Friday, June 14, 2013
Listen, children, and hear my story.
On a cold, damp day, as the drifts of snow melted off the final shaded crannies of the forbidding stone structure, Sprout was born. Hers was not an auspicious birth, with nary a soul to be found amidst the haunting halls of the long forgotten bastion of a race that had long since passed on.
Sprout's first days on earth were hard and desperate. Tendrils shot in every direction, questing for the smallest morsels of life giving earth or water and finding naught but the occasional dusty corner.
Then, when it looked as though Sprout was not meant to survive in this desolate place, she found a tiny crack partway up a wall. It wasn't much, but it was enough to hold moisture against the brutal rays of the violent sun, and it held just enough earth and dust to support a bit of growth.
By now, Sprout was aware of other growing things, not exactly nearby, but within sight of her scrabbling struggles. One and all, they heaped scorn on her humble beginnings. "You cannot grow there, you pathetic thing," they told her, whilst laughing and lapping up the waters of the nearby stream. "You'll never survive," they mocked, as their roots took hold in the gentle soil of the earth outside.
Still, Sprout was not one to lament her terrible situation, and she quested deep into the crack and grew patiently. "You'll be crushed in that tiny space," they said. She ignored them. "You can never grow there." She grew on. "Pathetic child," they mocked, "you'll be gone in no time."
Over the years, Sprout watched the plants outside, with their easy lives, as hardness befell them. She did not judge, but was oft surprised as flowers, grown big and tall in the fertile soil, were torn away by the winds of a storm, or as the shrubs died when the brook dried up that one year. Time and again, she saw the plants who had everything destroyed when they faced hardship they had never known.
Every day, Sprout push and strained, struggled and fought, sought, and occasionally found. She grew strong, but the strains of her life were apparent. The plants outside scorned her gnarled shape, and mocked her mottled surface. "You are not beautiful," they said. "Why do you go on?" She never answered.
Thrice, and thrice again, and thrice three times more, did the seasons change from spring to summer, summer to fall, fall to winter, then back to spring. Sprout had watched easy lives end many times, and had become quite stoic. Still she struggled and fought, silently, until the day when there was a racous crack that whipped through the air. The pressure all around her eased just a bit, and what had been a smallish crack in the wall was now a veritable rent.
Sprout had only known a hardscrabble life of toil and hard fought growth. She continued in this brief respite as she had always done. Though she soon filled the available space in the crack as she had before, her roots quested ever deeper. Year after year, she reached into the depths, for the crack had sheered straight through the foundation capstone, and let her into the crumbly sandstone, limestone, and shale beneath. Strength built against basalt was more than sufficient to work its way through these softer stones.
Sprout was patient. She continued to grow and fight. She persevered until her roots extended all the way to the aquifer below. Then came the calamity years. The brook dried up. The earth outside became fallow and poisoned. The soft plants who had mocked her for her entire life began to disappear, until none were left.
Sprout had no idea what events had transpired to cause the calamities, but it was with a deep and abiding sadness that she watched the passing of all other nearby plants. Still, she weathered on, drawing nutrients and water from far below.
Time passed, and Sprout grew weary. She had been alone for so long that she barely even remembered the times of teaming life outside of these stones. The calamities had gone, and the world around her had returned mostly to normal, but the verdant life had not returned. Still, she was stolid, and she continued working, growing, expanding in her inexorable way.
It was so very cold on that day. Rain had seeped into the crack with her, and was slowly freezing and expanding. Her roots ached from the added pressure and the chill. But then, between the work she had done for so many years, and the added work of the weather and the expanding ice, the crack crunched, shifted, and half the edifice which had trapped her for so long fell away. The crushing weight and pressure of stone was gone.
Sprout stretched her weary body, and began to spread out. For the first time, she had the space to thrive and access to all she needed to grow. Reaching into the fresh soil, she spread her leafy arms out and began to grow in earnest. All at once, she blossomed, and with joy, released many young sprouts to be.
Our world was populated with life anew. Sprout passed on into legend, and we still remember her to this day as the mother of all.
Now, children, when you see someone tired, struggling, or just fighting to survive, remember what you have heard this day. Do not heap derision and scorn on the unfortunate. Their strength may be all that stands between a world of life, and the world of death it could become.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Bit traveled down Neuron Road and past Synapse Way. The further he got from headquarters, the more intimidating the surroundings looked. Tenements, like stark prisons, securely guarded by tight faced guards severely limiting the passage of the craftsmen and their resources. Some muscles looked cramped and dark, frightful in their claustrophobic closeness.
Thankfully, Bit's trip was a short one. HQ to the neck in no time flat. Arriving in the appropriate place, Bit surveyed the area around him. He couldn't imagine more tenseness after a tank assault on Tienanmen Square. Shrugging, Bit took another look at the instructions that came with this communication. He was going to need a boost for this one.
Pulling out his megaphone, Bit drew himself up to full power and blasted, "HURT!" Bit cringed as the effects of his message were absorbed by the surroundings. He really hated working headache duty.
The majestic aspen colony grew strong and proud on the shoulder of the mountain. The white bark seemed to shimmer in the early light as the sun crept its way up over the the distant peaks. The air was crisp and clear and the leaves of the colony languorously basked in the life giving rays.
The solitary pebble that came strolling between the boles, rudely bouncing off this or that tree was unusual, but none gave it much thought. The morning was too fine, the sky too clear. Life was too comfortable to worry about some rude stone beyond a sly curse thrown its way and soon forgotten.
When a frond's worth of stones, sized from the smallest pebble to one almost half the size of the aspens' trunks, came bounding in shortly after, there was some concern. Even the babbling of the nearby brook seemed tremulous.
Soon, there seemed to be a great roaring, as of a thousand bears roaring into a thousand waterfalls all at once. The air grew cloudy, and then it happened. A great wall of rushing dirt, stone, mud, snow, and beasts unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, crashed into the leading edge of the colony with the force of a mountain dropped from a cliff.
Leaves, limbs, and trunks were all torn asunder. The crashing destruction was terrible. Not a single aspen was left standing. The broken, splintered remains joined the pressing mass hurtling down the side of the mountain, only coming to rest, finally, in a valley far, far below.
It had been a month since the avalanche tore through the colony like an elk through a spider's web. It was another fine morning. Clear, crisp air with just a hint of spray from the nearby brook. The weather took no notice of the havoc that had been wreacked in this once idyllic scene. Tentatively, the first green shoot of new aspen swam up through the last bit of soil and found the sun.
Five miles away, in the valley, another shoot found light, and another colony of aspen was founded.
Once, a very long time ago, at least as far as our protagonist is concerned, there was a small girl. She was an extraordinary girl, though you needed the right perspective to see it. You see, not so many people can see the wonder of a child anymore. They have been overwhelmed by the deluge and distractions of modern life and no longer see details and potential. Anyway, this little girl was quite extraordinary.
One morning, long before the rest of the world would awake, for entire adventures could happen in the imagination before then, her eyes opened in that darkest of darknesses before the dawn. It really wasn't so dark, as the clock had lights, and her parents still left the hall light on in the night so the bar of light beneath the door was like a nightlight, but we all know the cliche, so it was darkest before the dawn. So there.
Now, there is no understanding why there was a clock in her room. At four years old, her life was not one of rigorous schedules, and even if it was, she hadn't learned to read yet, but still she loved to look at the glowing lights in the darkness. Sometimes, she even saw them change, melting from one to the next like, well, like something. But this is not a story of the lights.
What kind of story is it, you ask? Honestly, I don't know? I'm not even sure she knows. Maybe we will just wait and see? How about that, dear reader? Shall we wait and see what kind of story this is? I mean, there is an extraordinary little girl, isn't that enough? No? Oh well. I guess we can't have a story without a theme.
I don't have a theme. I don't know what she did that morning. I was hoping to find out as I wrote this, but there you are. Many rambling words and not a point nor theme to be found.
Sally opened her eyes, eyes so innocent and happy they nearly glowed in the darkness, and saw the darkness above her bed. Some children her age were afraid of the darkness, but not Sally. She knew that in the darkness lived imagination, and her imagination was bright with things she didn't know the name of, but which we would call hope, joy, fun, play, and excitement. Sally had never learned the world contained things to be afraid of. It wasn't that she was too protected. Sure, she had burned her hand on the hot stove once, and fell off the swings in the park that one time and had bloody hands and knees, but the darkness had never contained monsters. She was a fortunate child.
Staring into the darkness, Sally's imagination started to play. She closed her eyes, and pressed her tiny little hands against them, and watched the dancing lights to see shapes emerge, then opened her eyes again. Strangely, when she opened her eyes, the shapes she had seen were still there. Dancing fairies, shimmering butterflies, and one single dragon, peering coyly from the other side of the room.
Sally smiled and giggled, but just when the figures began to get organized, there was a scratching at the door. Each of the lights faded and winked out, the tiny figures going back from whence they had come. Sally climbed out of bed, laying her belly flat across the mattress and dangling her feet as she slowly slipped closer to the ground, then padded over to the door in her pajamas.
Opening the door, she smiled at Boots, the tiny black kitten with white socks. Boots mewed, and Sally picked him up. Carrying him back to the bed, she placed him by her pillow, ponderously climbed back into bed, and lay her head down next to him.
Boots purred and snuggled up against her cheek, and in mere moments, both were sound asleep again.
Time is an unusual thing to a stone. To understand this, you must understand the impenetrable belief stones have in fate.
Long, long ago, when the earth was young, and stone flowed hot and free about the surface, the philosopher "molten swirls of magma and rapidly melting meteorite" (As you can imagine, stone names don't translate well to English.), successfully presented an incontrovertible oratory demonstrating beyond a shadow of doubt that everything in the span of stone is already written, and nothing could ever change it. So powerful was his argument, that since the day of his presentation, no stone has ever chosen to do a single thing.
The lives of stone are as leaves upon the river, though, admittedly, a river that moves quite slowly indeed. Without a belief in choice, stones have no reason to do anything at all. Events just happen. Some stones become statues, other gravel. Some go on long journeys down rivers, but fate never calls them back. Over the course of its life, a stone may be in turns a cliff side, part of a rioting avalanche, a human memento, part of a wall, a meaningful paperweight, a pet, a sculpture, and a skipping stone, but never once will it choose any of these things.
To be a stone is to be at peace, content in the knowledge that what will be, will be. And to this day, no stone has ever proven otherwise.
One day, after countless generations of torture and holocaust, the trees finally came to a consensus. From the towering sequoias, to the day saplings, to the world tree at the heart of the jungle, all were of a single mind. The importance of this event cannot be overstated, as trees are not beings who act while there is disagreement to be had. As long as man had walked the earth, trees deliberated. For many, many years, only the hothouse trees were stood for man, but finally, even they came to accept the truth. Something must be done.
Then, something which had never before happened came to pass, for you see, though something has never happened before, does not mean that it cannot or will not happen, though man's imagination often failed to encompass that. Across the surface of the earth, the trees pulled up their roots, tore earth asunder, and ponderously began to move.
In an inexorable advance like the coming of the tides, trees green and tall, or lithe and small, or ponderous and many limbed, or sleek from massive winds, one and all they stooped and bent and swarmed and tore, and rent all the works of man one stone from another, board from nail, cloth from cloth.
Through it all, no human was harmed by tree, but as their world crumbled around them, many a human did for others or for themselves. Much death was shared, earned, delivered. Though mankind could not survive on what was left, the trees had decided this evil was necessary, that things must being anew.
Of course, man was born to war, and did not stand idly by, but when the shattered fragments of a long permanent fixture of the world becomes malleable, well sanity did not last long in most capable of great violence. Would next metal, or stone, sand or water come against them? People grew to mistrust every facet of the world around themselves, even those which might allow them to wreak havoc on the plan of the trees.
Not that fighting would have effect. Once they had mad a decision, the trees would carry on until the last spoor was gone.
Then finally, one day, when they had made unrecognizable every work of man, the trees stopped. They put down roots, drank of water, consumed nutrients, and became once again the mostly inanimate entities that took a natural course through life and death again.