First New Story In A While

A while ago I met a friend of mine to catch up. We used to room together when we were younger, but ended up going our separate ways when he moved back in with his father to take care of him in his waning years. His father had a rough life by his own hand, if you understand what I mean. He was never really a good dad, or even a good person, but my friend decided he didn’t want to leave him alone or in the care of strangers. There was no love between them, more of a determined obligation on both their parts.
We met up and went to a park because my friend was an avid nature lover and never felt more at home than when he was amongst the trees. We chose a long path and began with the normal pleasantries, talking about jobs and hobbies and what all of our old acquaintances were up to. When we stopped at a particularly appealing tree, my friend jumped up to a low branch and began to climb, only a few dozen feet, and I tried to follow.
About the time I reached him he had settled onto a branch and before he could pull his shirt back down, I saw a large scar running from his navel to his mid back across his side. It was a gnarly scar, not one that had received immediate proper attention. He saw me notice and I finished to climb to sit beside him right as he began to speak again. A warm summer breeze blew through the park and ruffled the leaves all around us. “I’m sure you want to know what happened. Get comfortable, I’ve wanted to tell this to someone for a while.” He face grew pained as he started his story.
“Around the time I went back to keep track of my dad, he’d started getting worse than ever. Not just his health, he’d been losing his mind. I’m ashamed to say this, but it never hurt me to see him like that. We both knew he was closing in on the end of his life. I was, honestly, relieved. I’d hoped for this as a kid, before I knew what it meant. After I’d even thought about making it happen, after everything he put my mom and I through. Maybe I never had the courage to follow through, or thought better of it at the time, I don’t know. But eventually we both escaped him and I put it out of my head. Still, the day I went back and saw him for the first time in all those years, it was like he knew what I had thought, what I was thinking.”
“He gruffly told me to get out, he would die when he was ready, but I just replied that mom and asked me to come here since she couldn’t stand to be near him. He turned away after that and we barely spoke. I put my stuff in his extra bedroom and made dinner. We’d eat silently, I’d head out to be somewhere besides there, and I’d come home to him asleep. In the morning I’d make us both breakfast and head to work before he got up. That’s how most days went, over and over again. He’s always greet me the same way. After a month or so he got delusional. I had to stay home to keep him from hurting himself. One day he started trying to peel the wallpaper off of the living room walls. He swore there were people under it who were spying on us. I asked for him to give me the knife back that he was using. When he refused I tried to take it, and he slashed with it and cut me right across my side. I hit the ground screaming. I couldn’t get to a phone because I couldn’t stand.”
“When I tried to crawl away, he came after me. He reached down for me but I’d scream and punch at him as hard as I could muster. It seemed to take forever for me to blackout as I inched towards the door. I decided that if I was going to die, if he was going to kill me, he’d hear exactly how much I hated him. I only got a few sentences out before he hit me in the head and knocked me out. When I woke up, I was sure I couldn’t be alive. But there I was, surrounded by blood, mind foggy with his morphine pills, my gut stitched together with sewing thread and dripping with his whiskey. I don’t know how long I stayed on the floor, but when I lifted my head, he was there in his armchair, drinking from his bottle. ‘Those were some terrible things you said son.’ He was slurring more than usual. ‘Now you don’t say I never did nothin’ for ya.’ I murmured more insults as best as I could. I still wasn’t sure I would live. When I was out of profanity, I tried to wiggle myself towards the door again. ‘Don’t go no where, the medics won’t find ya.’ I saw that he had my cellphone right before I passed out again. I woke up once to a medic yelling for another stretcher before I finally work up in the hospital.”
“If it hadn’t been for the fact that I couldn’t even shift my weight in bed without feeling like I would rip open my wound again, I would have sworn it was all a bad dream. The nurses said I’d been there for just over a day. I didn’t say anything, just stayed lying in bed for another day. I never asked if anyone was checking on my dad. After I told the staff that I didn’t want any visitors at all, I tried to just put him out of my mind. Figured he was in a jail cell somewhere. On the third day, when the doctor came in to check on me, he said he had some bad news. ‘Of course,’ I thought, ‘I got tetanus from the knife or some crazy infection or something.’ But that wasn’t it. They’d redone the stitches when I arrived and filled me with antibiotics and vaccines. No, it was my dad. When the medics had arrived, he’d been shot in the chest. They figured it was suicide, but they couldn’t be sure. I froze. My dad was dead.”
“I didn’t think it’d bother me at all, but I cried. I cried for hours. Maybe it was relief. Maybe it’s just instinctual. I still haven’t figured it out. But despite how horrible he was, I felt a little empty inside. What really got me, though, was that I felt free now. Safe. And I could go and live my life. My own life for me. And I beat myself up for liking like that for a while, until I realized that that was exactly why my dad did what he did. Could be just about the only good thing he did for me other than be a warning, and show me what not to be when I grew up. He set me free from himself during a brief fit of lucidity. I’ve gotta tell you, I still don’t quite know how to feel about that.”
I was stunned into silence. Even now, my friend’s eyes were cloudy with tears, and neither of us had anything to say that could appropriately fill that moment. So we let it fill with silence, and the sound of trees and wind. That moment stretched on eternally. The sun didn’t move any closer to the horizon and no one walked past that tree for as long as we sat there in silence. I finally reached over and grabbed his hand, and he seemed to appreciate the gesture. It’s hard to say, because I couldn’t begin to know how he felt. All of the sudden he leapt forward and wrapped his arms around a branch, swung back and forth a bit, and dropped to another, making his way down. I climbed down carefully, back the way I’d come, and met him back on the park path. We started walking again and I asked “So, what are you going to do now?”
He responded, with a smile, “I have no idea.”

Advertisements
First New Story In A While

The Other Side Of Fear

It has been said that fear brings death. That it is to be avoided, defeated, and surpassed. But that isn’t the truth. Fear is one of the greatest assets you have. It’s the primal motivation, the darkness of the abyss that keeps you moving, climbing, struggling and striving for more and better. It’s the virtuous poison; in the wrong circumstances it can drag you down and make you sick, but in others it fuels you with a reserve you didn’t know that you had left. Fear is power and energy. It’s the tickle in the back of your neck that lets you know you’re alive and it keeps you that way. Fear drags you up out of the dirt when all else fails you and kicks you in the ass until you start running again. When kindness and hope and trust and anger and sorrow all fail you, and believe me they will, fear will be your companion. It was there before all of the others, and it will be the last one to remain, unto your very last breath. Casting off fear is walking a never-ending tightrope with no net below it. I suppose in a civilized society, for people who’s biggest problem is, compared to survival, infinitely shallow, fear could be considered a bad thing. To those who let fear rule them, it could be desirable to overcome it. For those who can’t use fear, who don’t understand it, it can be a problem to surpass, to try and feel superior to because they “conquered their fear.” But for a hundred thousand years, fear was the only thing that kept us from the darkness, from obliteration. Fear is the reason, the only reason, humans ever made it to the point that they could consider fear a “problem.” It’s more ingrained in us than the need to eat and breed. However I, for one, will ever consider fear a friend, a motivator, a coach, and a mentor. I fear being mugged, so I train my body and learn to fight. I fear mediocrity, so I go to school and write stories and poems to better my mind. I fear death, so I strive to live a healthier life. I fear being alone, so I work to cultivate relationships with friends and family. I’m not particularly good at any of those, not yet. But I’m trying. I’m striving. I’m bettering. All because of my fear. Because a life without fear is stagnation, and complacency. Without fear, you’re already dead.

The Other Side Of Fear

Some more musings

Human beings have been cursed with an intelligence that creates a desire for a meaningful life without the existential knowledge to know how to do that outside of the primal need to procreate. Being fundamentally unable to cope with that conflict, the brain creates a filter for the world to make it make more sense. It identifies the struggle as soon as it has developed enough, before it even becomes a conscious thought, and begins to filter all incoming information from the world around it so that it can seem to have a mastery over it, to feel control, however false it may be. And that grows into a perception that essentially gives you an entirely different universe than anyone else. There is no one who can see anything for what it “really” is, though people try; the monk’s meditation, the stoner’s drugs, the scientist’s night spent staring at stars or cells; but it will always be altered by our inability to handle the knowledge thrust upon us. This great mockery of our arrogance. We exclaim, “Look at all we know!” while ignoring the infinitely more profound and complex things we could never hope to, and who’s gravity literally warps the fabric of “reality” around us. As pitiful and insignificant as this may make us, as terrifying and difficult as it is, it’s also in a huge way a beautiful experience for us. This may not be what “real” can be called, but if no one can see that anyway, it doesn’t really exist does it? What you have is all of existence before you, ready to be experienced and explored in a way that no one else has ever or will be able to do, because they aren’t you. But it still has enough in common with other people’s universes, or perceptions thereof, to overlap and create shared experiences. And when you do that, when you interact with people in any way, you are sending ripples though an entirely different universe, even so far as to change how that person perceives things that they have already experienced. You are a god, acting blindly upon things you can’t see, because of forces you can’t conceive, on infinite worlds around you, because you can’t handle the truth, and the truth is this. You are not only have the potential to be the most important thing to everyone and everything you meet, you often are whether you try to be or not, and you are the least important thing to changing your own perception because that requires effort, and all it takes is an offhand comment from someone else. Everyone is in this position, everyone has this power. Everyone is unique, but no one is special. You spend your days wading through a sea of the most beautiful cosmic tapestry of constantly evolving, overlapping, and colliding universes, and you have to try your hardest to even see your own for what it is, the joke that is human knowledge.

Some more musings

Bit of a rant from a certain perspective

We were taught to gravitate towards isolation. The way modern culture works is to praise self-reliance, favoring stories of heroes and personal might over that of anything else. Stories like Hercules, Mulan, Rocky, Taken, The Matrix, e.t.c. all glorify taking a stand and being able to succeed all by yourself to the point that it has become the most desirable trait you can have. All our lives people have solidified this idea in our minds. Sure, they try to teach us teamwork as well, but in the same breath they reward us for succeeding without any help. While we used to value community, family, and the village mentality, we are taught that being able to stand on your own two feet and get where you want to go in spite of everyone else (as opposed to because of the help of everyone else) is what makes you a valuable person, be it a man’s man or a strong, independent woman.
The most we are taught about community is to be courteous to our neighbors and strangers, but never to rely on or even ask them for help unless you are in dire straits, in which case the favor must be re payed, preferably two-fold to show that you have now come far enough by your self to be able to help those who helped you without a second thought. Never should it cross our minds that a kind deed is simply a kind deed that was payed to us with no expectation of return. Oh no, it must be re payed. And look at where it leaves us. Successful, alone, in the top room of an ivory tower. Safe, surrounded by the structure you’ve spent so much energy building, lording over the other villagers and towers. A sight to behold, to aspire towards. Something parents point at and tell their children “You could have that some day if you work hard. You could achieve that. That is desirable.” They say that because they have never been, and must assume it’s better because you’re in that beautiful tower that’s so high up. Or because they have been and are still so deeply disillusioned by their “success” they want the next generation to have what they had.
But the truth is, it’s lonely. And it only makes you desire loneliness all the more because that empty feeling at the top makes you think “I must not have built high enough.” But the higher you go, the harder it is to remember how it feels at the bottom. The grass, the sun, the wind; no, that is for the weak. You follow what they told you and you will have a happy productive life exactly how they planned for you. But that is never what a heart wants. A heart wants to love and hate and hurt and cry and laugh and sing and feel that it is at the mercy of something bigger. It wants to flow with emotion so natural and raw and that even happiness can bring tears. But you’re told that’s wrong, not in so many words, but that’s what they’re teaching you.
So you isolate. So you can think, and feel, and nurse that dying flame in your chest that society has tried so hard to snuff out so you don’t get hurt and can just live out your life as painlessly as possible. You isolate so you can make the world around you make sense, so you can feel that surge of emotion of having achieved by yourself, because it’s one of the only feelings left to you. And then you look around and see all the other stories of literally everyone else you know, all singular hero stories about what they have overcome. So why do they all seem like assholes? Because they were all taught to believe that they have achieved great things and they have done those things by themselves, and they should be glorified for it. No matter what it is, if they did it all by themselves, they should be praised for it. That’s why people who had it bad look up at the smug people at the top and wonder, “Why do they act like they’ve accomplished so much!? Look at everything I’ve been through! They haven’t done a damn thing next to me!”
Well they have. They had their own obstacles and though they may not have been as treacherous or numerous as your own, they had obstacles that they overcame, all by themselves, which is commendable in their eyes. And it’s normal to feel that anger at them. They let you feel that too. Because it drives you to overcome more, to isolate more, to fight more, to climb more, to build more until your tower, from it’s jagged foundation to it’s smooth glass top, is larger than theirs. And then they want you to feel accomplished. That’s how modern society works. That’s how they want you to feel. Well, it’s wrong. Everyone feels exactly the same way, just not at exactly the same time or because of the exact same things. This is not how people are meant to be. This is not how communities are supposed to act. This is not how you are meant to live. This is not how a heart grows. This is not how a soul finds fulfillment. This is wrong, it is very, very wrong, and it’s up to you to do something about it.
Bit of a rant from a certain perspective

Alright so…

It’s been more than a week. Three posts a week turned out to be much too rigorous a schedule to maintain with everything else I have to do, so I’m relaxing my blog’s form from here on out. Expect less structured posts, more writing exercises and personal articles, and spaced out short stories. As usual, let me know if something is entertaining or not. I’ll do my best to keep bringing you content around my busy schedule.

Alright so…

Taking a week off

I hope my abundance of loyal readers won’t be too heart broken, but I’m taking the week off. I’ve had a crazy two weeks and barely kept up with this, and now I need to spend a week getting my life back together before I can find time to write on here. So I’ll see you again on Monday, hopefully with a bit of fresh tasty fiction for you. Have a good week ya’ll.

Taking a week off

Riley’s Blog – Entry 2

Emotion is what drives me. Emotion is what I want to capture in my writing. Emotions are also what drives you, what drives everyone. They are everything to us. Action movies are exciting because they can pull make us feel, powerfully. Watching Leonardo DiCaprio crawl out of a shallow grave after being attacked by a bear puts goosebumps on the back of by neck and gives me a shot of adrenaline. (If you haven’t seen the trailer for the referenced movie, “The Revenant”, go here.) Romance makes us feel affection, Horror makes us feel fright, and Drama makes us feel sorrow. Without emotion, all creative media is dead. So I write about things that make me feel, powerfully, in a way that does the same, in the hopes it that you will make you feel the way I do.
I don’t know as of yet whether this is folly or not. I’m still new to the writing game, and I don’t know what works and what doesn’t. But in the hopes that I am an average person, and what works for me will work for a lot of people, I write. If you’ve read anything I’ve written on here so far, you’ve probably gathered that what I write about is kind of dark. I wouldn’t say I’m a naturally negative person, at worst I’m nihilistic. But negative stories can get a feeling out of me. Seeing despair and horror moves me. I started reading a collection of H.P. Lovecraft and had to stop because it disturbed my sleep to the point that I couldn’t get rest at night. I’d have nightmares, wake up in the middle of the night, and never actually manage a REM cycle. I loved it. I swore H.P. Lovecraft was legitimately a sorcerer that imbued his works with a curse.
In contrast, arguably
my favorite book series in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.” Despite rereading it and realizing how silly and childish it is, I holds a special place in my heart. My genre of choice is Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and Hitchhikers has it in the most ridiculous ways. Every sentence is either humorous or thought-provoking (usually the latter). But what really cemented it in my top 3+ books was a passage about how alone Arthur felt when he was stranded for 5 years on a prehistoric planet without Ford Prefect, who’d been there with him since Earth was destroyed. Here I was having a great time reading about the comic adventures of Arthur and Ford and suddenly I was struck with such a feeling of ennui that I had to put the book down. Adams did such a good job conveying that feeling of isolation, and I immediately fell in love with his writing. I recommend you just go read them, and then the Dirk Gently books too.
So I like to feel. Even when it sorrow or pain. Because it makes me feel alive. That’s why I write, that’s what I want to do. And now that it’s off my chest (again), I’ll get back to writing stories. I’m been crazy busy this week and falling behind. Hopefully I can change that this weekend.

Riley’s Blog – Entry 2