The Worms

Oct. 20th, 2017 02:10 pm
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There are two worms, and the first is called destruction. It festers at the roots of things and sends them tumbling down. 

The second crawls among the ruins with all the squirming creatures, and whispers in our ears and says: 

"There is profit to be made." 


Oct. 2nd, 2017 06:44 pm
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Here and there a whole new world is lurking, just waiting to be written down. It comes in hints and references, one word at a time, the terms breeding and multiplying with one another. There's the loamy, fertile medium of established tropes, everything so commonplace as to be beneath notice: the Elves and Dwarves, the Mages and Rogues, all the inbred and indistinct cousins. And then there are the seeds of something new. An Arachnid race that skitters up the sides of cliffs and rains down arrows. Cultists who amputate their limbs and features and organs to replace them with the Void. Brands that sear onto forearms and lash out with flame, instantly identifiable, impossible to remove. Just add a single, barely-original idea - a single simple word, sometimes - and cross-reference it with the components of an already exhausted world. And just like that, you'll have created a Fantasy of your own. 

The beauty of Fantasy is in its taxonomy - lists of races, and racial traits and abilities; classes, attributes, skills and specializations; artifact and weapon types of all varieties; schools of magic and the laundry lists of spells to choose from; bestiaries teeming with monsters and their modifiers; elemental alignments, resistances, weaknesses; subclasses, domains, clades, and orders; any category you could imagine. This is the potential of human imagination: going down a list of options and ticking off the boxes. Modular fantasies, units of prefab inspiration, mix'n'match 'em as you please. Select a race
[Dwarf. Elf. Goblin. Human. ]
                                         and from there pick your class.
[Rogue. Bard. Fighter. Mage.]
Take up a weapon,
[Sword. Spear. Staff. Bow.]
name a home from which to start 
[Plains. Mountains. Forest. Swamp.]        
          and with just 16 words there are 256 different people you could be, 256 different identities to inhabit. Add a new column, a new set of modifiers, and watch the possibilities multiply exponentially. Select male or female, and double the possibilities. Select an alignment, select a main stat, go through the skills and count all the combinations. Add to the lists at your leisure. Make up new names, new variables to multiply with. Be a Chalk Giant. Be a Chirurgeon. Be a Half-Breed. Be Undead. Dual-wield. Dual-class. Multiply them, and multiply them again, and again, and again, and again. What did you want to be when you grew up? Could you have imagined a thousand, or four thousand, or twelve thousand, or all the multiplicity of options open to you? 
Listen. We could be anything we wanted.

Our daily wanting's just so stunted in comparison, so dull, so undefined. Try to imagine a world of your own, without restriction: speak of your dreams, your fears, your barely-repressed anxieties, your hopes, the deepest parts of your soul. How rich and diverse and variegated of a world and its inhabitants can you create? Write, and write, and write, and see how long it takes to get as far as a table of 16 worn-out words would take you. Or, if that's too hard, imagine yourself as you are now. You are a thermodynamic miracle, a multiplying of improbabilities whose existence is nothing less than astonishing - the improbabilities of existence, of life, that your parents and your parents' parents and so on ad infinitum should all happen to meet. But without the statistics, without all the tables and factors multiplied against each other, how can you qualify that, how can you separate yourself from the crowd, how can you earnestly convince yourself that there's something unique about you compared to every other person in the world? How could you possibly live accordingly?

What do you live for? What do you most desire? Fight for your class, your race, your nation, the god you worship - and fight the ever-gnawing sensation that none of this is meaningful. There's none of the cleanly-differentiated factions of Fantasy here, no single words that set in stone your alignments and alliances. Don't all your most precious identifiers Balkanize and schism and drift and blur and crumble into obsolescence over time? Can you imagine your children's children living in the same world that you lived in? Don't even your mortal enemies likewise laugh, yearn, sicken, bleed, don't they share with you some same essential humanity that's impossible to strictly define? Isn't there some empathy there, some inescapable recognition? There's a part of you over there, on the other side. There's something that knows what it is to want, to delight, to suffer. There's nothing inherent about you or your clan or your ancestry. All that separates us is the arbitrary and reversible benefits of circumstance, of old debts left unsettled.

What would you want to be then? What's worth wanting? What speck of identity can you claim other than being Yourself - and what's left for you to aspire to then? Change everything you can about yourself, change your job, your nation, your allegiances, immerse yourself in different schools of thought, reinvent yourself entirely - and all you have is the same simple skein of flesh stretched along some other imaginary axis. A different set of delusions, a different set of arbitrary values to defend. Deep, deep down, aren't we all the same? Then how could you hope to ever be anything different? 

Real life has no discrete variegations, it all just slurs together into points on a spectrum. Fantasy's when you delineate all the options. Fantasy's when you read out all the rules. Fantasy's extrapolation from a series of variables, combinatorics, because math is so much more imaginative than any human could ever hope to be. All our identifiers in real life are arrangements of convenience, blinkered, tribal allegiances designed to set us against each other. We're born and raised in largely pre-generated roles, all attributes neatly correlated, a series of predetermined futures for us to imagine. Fantasy takes our inbred biases and abstracts them - Good and Evil, Black and White - makes them clean and distinct and separate, and lets us believe in the possibility of assembling something new.

There's a monster I've created, and it's nameless, faceless, voiceless. There's a monster I've created, and it's utterly one-of-a-kind.


Sep. 20th, 2017 06:06 pm
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Do you ever worry about getting fatter? Like,

absent any immediately threatening concerns - you're not unhealthy, no,

nor is it visible on your frame. You look, when clothed,

much like you always have. It doesn't weigh on you. You might not,

by strict definition, be putting on weight.

You've always had that pudge on your belly, the creases

when you slouch; you could take a pinch of your gut and get a handful,

let the rolls slide over each other -

You're healthier than the average person, I want to reiterate that, thinner, just -

Soft. Fleshy. Undefined. Of an average build. You're used to it.

You really should be used to it by now. And yet

you think your jeans are getting tighter - still perfectly wearable, mind you.

You don't need to change, that's the gist of it. You could eat

just as you have been eating. And yet -

and yet and yet and yet - you

can't stop squeezing at  your stomach again and again, in an

absent-minded attempt at revulsion. You have learned

to appreciate hunger, that gnawing sensation

that tells you there's a hollow somewhere within all that fat,

something being eaten away. You manage your portions. How much

do you need to eat to stay alive, really? How many mouthfuls, how many

swallows of water? Take a nibble, and maybe

that'll satiate you. There's no strategy to this, no calorie-counting,

no rigorously-followed diet, no numbers, you see, no

weights on a scale, no tape measures. Because you didn't do this

to lose weight, you see. You didn't start this with a goal in mind, a summer bod,

an old pair of jeans, a body you would like when you looked in the mirror.

All you have is the creeping, unconfirmed sensation that

you are getting fatter.


Sep. 20th, 2017 06:05 pm
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(shamelessly stolen from Beast: The Primordial)

All categories, by their nature, are human constructs, artificial. We may pretend there's a difference between a thing warm-furred and a thing with scales that crosses the sea, but link blood to blood and you'll find a tangled skein of nerve and vein. We all crawled out of the water, once. We all burnt in the heart of a star.

So here's the difference between the kin, just a blood-thick membrane between them.

Nightmares of Helplessness
to walk and feel the world shudder beneath you

You are the giant, the earthquake, the storm, the enormity that sends humans cowering. Some may say you represent the fear of Power, but the truth is much simpler: humans are scared of things bigger than they are.

Cruelty comes naturally to you, with every shift and rearrangement of your limbs, as if effecting pain from a great distance. You have been dimly aware of others' suffering, their fear, but there have always been more consequential things to focus on. Namely, your own satisfaction. You have never had quite enough food, enough space, enough opportunity to exert your will. No matter. You continue striving. This is not ambition, or even appetite, not any more than it is your lungs' ambition to take in air. You're a growing child. You need to eat. It's as simple as that. You've crushed people, animals, heard their bones break, heard them whimper and beg and scream. You are of the Gygas. All this is beneath you. 

Nightmares of Vulnerability
to reach out from the darkness to extinguish a flickering flame

You are the boogeyman, the stranger, the hidden knife, the thing lurking in the darkness. Humans feel the hairs stand up on their necks and know fear of the Other. They live in terror that there's something out there that wants to hurt them. .

There's something absent from you, you've always known that, and so you've lived so as not to attract attention. People nod past you, take you for granted, and that's how you like it. Humanity fascinates you, the mundanity of their day-to-day lives, and you enjoy playing with them at your leisure. You are never bored, but very easily distracted. Sometimes you want to see them joyous. Sometimes you want to see them suffer. You've never known satisfaction, satiation. There's only ever the dull disappointment at the end of your most in-depth pursuits, after you've finally revealed yourself to them, after you've broken your toys to see what's inside. Still, no matter, it's not as if there's a shortage of humanity anyway. You are of the Noctis. They're all equally beautiful to you.

Nightmares of Insignificance
to study a mirror and look upon an empty face

You are the depths, the abyss, the leviathan, the gaping maw that threatens to swallow everything whole.  Humans all know fear of the Void, and perhaps that proves the truth of it: they fear that everything they have wrought so far is worthless.

No matter where you look, you see yourself. In the television screen, in the shrieking invective online, in a politician's smile, in the averted eyes of your fellow subway passengers. There's a pleasing reliability to this pattern, as if you could extend outwards and outwards and outwards until there's just the molecule-thin membrane of your skin encompassing everything. People are mostly horrified by you, once they see you clearly, and yet none of them can ever look away. You would be happy alone, and you are. If there's any disturbances that happens around you - a spate of suicides, a doomsday cult, a lost generation - it's hardly any of your business. These things happen, and you happen right alongside them. You are of the Abyssi. The end of the world comes turning on its axis.


Nightmares of Contamination
to turn your gaze upon the world and reveal it as diseased

You are the plague, the swarm, the rotting corpse, the inevitable revulsion humans feel at their world. Some may say you are the fear of Entropy, but what humans really fear is seeing the world without delusion.

You've never been satisfied with the easy answers, popular narratives, the trends and factions of the day. Inconsistency rankles you, all the little blind spots people have in order to continue living their comfortable lives. Everything you've previously believed, you've since reevaluated and judged as lies, all the twisted hypocrisies standing out in knots on the back of your mind, crawling up the back of your neck. In truth, you take a great pleasure in gouging out the hypocrisies one by one, like so many wriggling maggots. There's a verdant beauty in it. Flesh rots, and the maggots and bluebottles swarm in and feed. People may resist your accusations, but more often than not the dizzying reality of it becomes too compelling for them to deny. You are of the Nirgali. You cannot help but see the truth.

Nightmares of Exposure
to claw out the heart and feed on dead flesh

You are the vulture, the ghoul, the gawker, the set of leering eyes that see humans at their worst. Humans are wracked with fear of Judgement, but in simpler terms, humans are scared of each other.

Unlike your many siblings, you were human, once. That part of you is long since dead now, a distant memory, but you can still recognize it in others, with a sort of yearning that verges on nostalgia. Other people become precious to you, fragile sparks of potential that you hope to cradle and nurture into fully-actualized human beings. A hot red reminder of what you once were. The marrow in the bone. Of course, it never happens. The past is the past, and all the yearning in the world won't turn back time. People are stumbling, nervous, fallible, perhaps even more so under your gaze, incapable of realizing their full potential. That's fine by you, though. The appeal of nostalgia is in its bittersweet tang, the delicate stirrings of loss. You are of the Strygoi. You could watch them struggle and fail forever.


The Tyrant

Jo's a ball-buster, quite literally. She's crushed a man's testicles, felt them pop in her grip. All fully justified, of course: he got violent first, and as a woman all her self-defense classes tell her to go for the groin, the eyes, the throat. Jo's blunt, assertive - enough in itself to arouse resentment - and she's learned to target men with violent tendencies and poor self-control. It's not that she's after pleasure, or revenge. Too many men view violence as posturing, a show of strength. Women don't have that luxury; they have to aim to disable, to kill. Jo's just marking out her territory.

Reynold's a health inspector for the city, and sometimes he likes to go above and beyond the call of duty. He visits sites ahead of schedule, incognito. He looks up employees' personal details, follows them on social media, occasionally takes a drive out to their houses. Most people hold quite a bit of resentment for their jobs, and Reynold puts that to use. When he's doing his inspections (stringently thorough, of course), he asks all the right questions, knows what to look for. He feels a certain ownership of them. He wants them to succeed.

Ari's a cabbie and he's assembled quite a collection of regulars by now, knows their schedules - people who'll hail his cab and have him drive them around for hours, going nowhere in particular because they have nowhere they want to be. The guaranteed income's nice, of course, but really Ari just likes the driving, the long and empty side streets, the skyline blotted out by buildings, the numbing hum of traffic. Sometimes his passengers can't stop talking. Sometimes he lets them sit in silence. Sometimes they tell him to drive out to a bridge overlooking the river, or to the entrance of a subway station, or to the front of a skyscraper, and that's the last ride they ever take with him. He always makes sure they reach their destination.

Ms. Blaise is an assistant principal, and she's absolutely diligent with dealing with problem students. She makes calls to parents, asks about their home lives, sets up meetings, is always perfectly understanding. She can always get right to the heart of the matter, tell you why a student's acting out. It's such a tragedy, though, that none of her cases ever seem to get any better. The parents are always indignant, belligerent, the children always lashing out and resentful. All her insights only ever seem to give them more cutting insults to hurl at each other. She never gives up on a student, though. That's just not her way.

Dave's a self-made man, worked his way up from the mail room. Did night school, got his MBA, was promoted to supervisor, and now he's got a corner office. He's given a commencement speech at his alma mater, does volunteer work at the local homeless shelter where he talks up job opportunities and shares his story. Every time one of his guys gets hired, or gets the slightest promotion, Dave's always there to hype it up beyond all measure. Sometimes he stands at his window, looks down at everything beneath him, and imagines a tower teeming with his little people, all crawling atop each other in an attempt to reach the top.

The Hoarder

Zmei's been arrested for theft, sure, done time for it, but more often than not he just takes what he wants. If a man or woman takes him home for the night, in the morning he'll help himself to their food, any money they leave lying around, any shiny bauble that catches his eye (he's partial to silver). "A gift for me, yes?" he'll say, daring them to deny him. If he can't find anyone for the night, he'll turn up at an old acquaintance's without warning, and leave with what he likes. He doesn't use violence, of course. If anyone's strong enough to stand up to him, he'll leave empty-handed without any fuss. After all, there are so many more people out there who won't dare to speak up.

Rose collects teeth, children's teeth, and it's slow but rewarding work. She doesn't take them by force, of course not; children lay teeth out for collection all the time. The key is the timing: there's only a single night in which to strike, before the teeth are secreted away by the parents to disappear somewhere into the trash. That's fine by Rose, though, there's a certain joy in just watching, night after night, being privy to a child's development, waiting patiently for the harvest. Rose has a full set of baby teeth from a single child, pieced together over years, and that's the prize of her collection, her pride and joy. Lately, though, a thought's been turning over in her mind - oh how she'd like the full set of adult teeth as well. 

Yin's hometown lies on the coast, and the storm a few years back was one of the worst they'd seen. That's history now, people are rebuilding, but Yin's found a little hollow just off the coast where the floodwaters ran back into the sea, where everything washed through and a few things stayed. That's where she dives deep, in that murky hollow full of things not worthy of salvage, rotting timbers and rusted metal and the refuse of houses and homes and lives. She goes down there once a day, sorts it as best she can according to its previous owners, rebuilding a hollow effigy of her town beneath the waves. Every few years, she adds to her collection.

Tim's a culture vulture, an outsider artist, and his photos of roadkill have gotten him quite a bit of acclaim. They're like diagrams of a death, a life turned inside-out. Anyone can look and see that here's where the tire crushed the spine, flattened fur into the asphalt; here's a tiny paw outstretched in a panicked attempt to flee. There's also an unnerving clarity of background to his photographs: he renders quiet neighborhoods and scenic roads into crime scenes. The dead dogs and cats are what get the most attention, sure, but they're not Tim's favorites. He only shares his most precious photos with a very select audience: the drivers who helped him make his art.

Anya owns a picturesque apple orchard just outside the city, a momentary retreat from the cares of the world. Many of her employees are previous customers of hers, lured by her charm and very generous employment benefits to give up city living and start a new life. She has each of her new employees plant and tend to their own sapling as a symbol of their growth. And then, weeks or months later, when their dreams inevitably fall apart, she transplants their saplings into a little out-of-the-way grove. They flourish there; they're well fertilized. Anya makes sure her guests always leave a little bit of themselves behind.

The Stalker

Darius has never laid a hand on her. Certainly, he's carved gouges into the door of her house, screamed for her from the street, smashed the windows of her car. He's forced his way in more than once, circled her smashing dishes to the ground and overturning furniture, as if she was the eye of the storm while she screamed and begged for him to stop. He's broken her brother's arm when he tried to intercede. But he's never laid a hand on her, not once. She's his, after all. Why would he ever hurt her? 

Father Landon isn't the only predator in his diocese. He keeps careful watch as the more troublesome priests are shuffled around, unearthing their past sins. First, he tracks down their previous victims, collecting testimony, mementos, vital bits of evidence, all in his own unique way. Then he plants his little scraps of bait where his fellow priests are bound to find them. Sometimes they have a breakdown and confess. Sometimes they're driven to reoffend. Father Landon doesn't have a preference either way. He's just in it for the hunt. 

Brianna hit her Awakening early. She's in middle school now, captain of the swim team, and there's a special initiation ritual she's established. They sneak down to the beach, a quiet spot with no one to watch them, and then they swim out to sea. It's always just Brianna and the new recruit, swimming as far as they can until their limbs weaken, until the current's too strong and they're gasping for breath, as the rest of the team watches from the shore. No one ever drowns; Brianna makes sure of that. She just wants them to get a taste of what it's like.

Vanessa likes blood, likes the uncovering of it, the revelation of what lies beneath the skin. She's learned to sniff it out from behind long sleeves and scars, learned to recognize those who have already gone digging, or those who have the gnawing urge to start. She shows them her own designs on her forearms, tempts them, coaxes them, arranges it so that they can both bleed together. There's never any completion to the designs, never any sense of fulfillment, just the constant urge to keep digging deeper. Vanessa lives vicariously through her prey. At least for them, there's eventually an end to their search.

Dawson owns the big empty house on the south side of town, full of big empty rooms with high rafters where he invites people to stay. They're always just temporarily out of a home, just until the next payday, just until they can get back on their feet. He provides them with toiletries, food, all the basic necessities, accepts their promises that they'll pay him back. And then the weeks stretch on into months, and they're still living in the big empty house, huddling in the empty rooms, helplessly indebted to him. He's always very compassionate when he turns someone out. They've had their chance, after all, and there are always so many more people who need a place to stay. He never really abandons them, though. There's little difference between the inside of his house and the outside of it.

The Judge

Ogre got his nickname back in high school, where he learned that the only thing you're worth is what you're owed. Hurting people got inconsistent results at best. Being on the wrestling team, with a set of rules that laid out just what he could expect when he hurt people - now that opened up the world to him. Ogre likes rules, oaths, contracts, promises, IOUs and debts. He's good at collecting what's been promised to him, and even better at extracting promises from people. His real pleasure, though, is when they can't pay up. That's when he gets to exact the consequences of denying him what he's owed.

Even among zir fellow monsters, Jess is a boogeyman. No one knows zir real name, or zir gender, what ze does in zir human life. No one knows how ze hunts, or who ze hunts. It's just, sometimes people disappear. Sometimes some terrible secret emerges in the wake of their disappearance: child abuse, or date rape, or sexual harassment. But more often than not, there's just the absence: the absence of motive or meaning or justification, the absence left in other people's lives. That's the way Jess likes it. There's no moral reasoning to zir actions. There's just an overwhelming hunger.

Ahmed and Patrick are a pair of Abyssi lovers. Patrick's an interior designer, and maintains a collection of photos of the homes he's so carefully crafted: intimate, almost intrusive pictures that reveal how his clients live. Then Ahmed uses that knowledge to go sneaking in. He keeps watch as the inhabitants of his lover's homes grow uneasy, dissatisfied, until the homes and possessions and lives they thought they wanted begin to box them in. He waits until they lash out, disrupting his lover's designs. And then he tears their homes apart for them. 

Angela studied the law so that she'd have a comprehensive understanding of all its foibles and biases and cruelties. She sees who are treated lightly, and who are grist for the system; who are boxed in with little recourse, and who are allowed to get away with murder. She does a lot of pro bono work, fighting for those who would otherwise be strong-armed by the law. It's exhausting work, and her victories are few and far between. It's a good thing, then, that her goal isn't to win in court. It's to demonstrate to herself the insufficiency of the law of the land, making her own brand of justice that much sweeter.

When Benjamin comes for people, most of them mistake him for an angel.


Grace is fascinated by cars, by how even the puniest person can command two tons of metal and send it hurtling through the world with deadly force. She thinks it gives people a sense of what it feels like to be her. When she goes joyriding, she revs the engine at stoplights, cuts in, taunts, challenges, dares other drivers to stand up to her. She relishes races, flares of road rage, other cars racing alongside her until she inevitably swerves the wheel and sends them slamming into each other into a carnage of steel and glass and bone and blood. It's almost comradely, she thinks. Almost like making a friend.

Lester loves breaking glass - windows, picture frames, mirrors, display cases. There's something about the fragility and transparency of it that appeals to him, as if people have erected the flimsiest of barriers between themselves and the world, ones that can shatter with a touch. He comes in the dead of night and breaks into people's homes and shatters their delusions. His real pleasure, though, is staying hidden and watching how they react as they have to clean away the shards.


Amon breeds spores, breeds poison.



Aug. 18th, 2017 04:54 pm
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these are the bones of it
purposeless, needless, left bleached out 
in the middle of the desert, removed from any causality or blame
we could trace these bones back a hundred years 
(or fifty, or forty, or ten)
and find your ancestors here, or mine - 
what face did this skull once wear, what
quivering brood begat here once -
we could argue over the history 
of this place, the tribes that fought and conquered
whose bones these are 
and what killed them, what broken path
led us to this

(we could imagine something living)
but I tell you now these bones 
are no different from the rock or sand, worn into
their shapes by wind and grit and time
I have cleaned these bones myself and made them
sterile, scraped the meat from them until
my fingers bled, I have dragged them
into obscure designs
I have labored here
to make them unrecognizable

a living thing is too much yet to bear
too fickle, too vacillating in its intentions, too uncertain
(I cannot adequately defend it) 
too much prone to revision

there is nothing left to understand
but the bones of it

a thing that once here died

Blue Whale

Aug. 18th, 2017 02:11 pm
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I think it might be a cruelty to talk so glibly about this. You know, talking about something that could very well have happened. Talking about something true.

1. On the arm blade cut f57 (blue whale, 4: 20)
2. Wake up at 4:20 and watch scary video
3. Cut lengthwise veins of the arm (not deep) only three cuts
4. Draw a whale on a piece of paper

The game's called the Blue Whale Challenge because whales beach themselves. Mysteriously, inexplicably, alone or in groups. Salt-slick carcasses heaving up on shore, drawing attention to themselves by their sheer mass, the weight of their existence warping the world around them. Who knows what's going on underneath the sea. Who knows why they did this. Who knows why they had to die.
5. If you're ready to become a whale you write "yes" on the blade leg, if not, do with their hands whatever you want (doing a lot of cuts and so on)

You count one day at a time. One step at a time. From one to fifty. A psychological build-up. A ritual. You carve in the symbol Day One and you follow the rules and on Day Fifty, you kill yourself.

6. In code
7. scratched f40
8. Write in the status #I'm a Whale
9. Should overcome your fear

It's children playing it, of course. Teens. Adults wouldn't need fifty days to get to the point.
10. Get up at 4:20 and go to the roof
11. It is necessary to scratch out a whale on the hand (or make a drawing on the hand)
12. The whole day watching scary video
13. Listen to music that curator send to you
14. Cut the lip

The game has all the qualities of internet creepypasta. Suicide by meme. The list of instructions flickering and obtuse, poorly-translated from the Lithuanian. There's a boogeyman here. Someone's sending these instructions to our kids, someone's doling out the rope, someone's whispering in their ears. The "curator," a sinister corrupting figure always just off-screen. Our kids are being manipulated, or blackmailed, or terrorized, or coerced.

They wouldn't have done this on their own.

15 .Poke the needle arm
16. Make yourself hurt

It's all bullshit, of course. Moral panic. Urban legend. Oh sure, there are people playing. Type #f57 as a public message, ask for a curator and maybe someone'll get in contact with you. But all it is is some rando online, as likely to hit you up for money as to lead you to your death. Oh sure, sure, there are the dead children, hundreds of them. But you can't seriously think it's some stupid internet game that made them kill themselves, can you? There's a meme, there's an outward sign, there's a thought that they were toying with. Cuts on the arm. A picture of a whale. Some fucking hashtag status.

And then there's everything that was going on underneath the sea.

17. Go to the roof of the largest and stand on the edge
18. Going to the bridge
19. Climb on the crane
20. Check to trust

There's no secret sequence of instructions that'll program a kid to kill themselves. No master of psychology wrote this. It's not even good fiction. You start out by cutting yourself and progress to posting statuses online, watching music videos. There's no design here, no sense of escalation. Just vapid fluff, idle chores, a transparent series of branding exercises.

If anything, you should be grateful it's all so clumsy. Dragging this bullshit out over fifty days might at least give someone else the opportunity to notice something's wrong. Cuts and codes and disrupted schedules. Fifty days to cry out for help.
21. It is necessary to talk on Skype with a curator
22. Sit down on the roof of the feet
23. Again, the job with the code
24. Secret Mission
25. meet with curator

Kids have killed themselves. I don't want to minimize that. Rina Palenkova was seventeen years old when she jumped in front of a train. She posted a selfie right before she killed herself. She talked about it online. She went viral.

26. You say the date of death, and you must accept

It's all sites trying to drive traffic, you know. Trying to attract attention. Collating every one of her last words, making some up, commemorating her death in morbid detail. Some of it's sickos online looking for a perverted thrill. Most of it's the media, slavering in open-mouthed credulity over yet another tragedy to sensationalize. Here she is, the very first victim of the Blue Whale Challenge. Here's the malignant root of teen suicide. Here's where it seeps in, here's where it spreads. Here's the name of what you are most afraid of. Here it is, always just out of your reach.

27. 4:20 go to the rails
28. Do not talk with anyone
29. Give an oath that you're a whale 

We call him the curator because he's the one who turns us into art.

From 30-49 you every day you wake up at 4:20, watch videos, listen to music, and every day doing one cut on her hand, talking to a curator. 
We jump (hangs up, jump out of the window, you go under a train, negativeside tablets)
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Compassion's an animal virtue, but it's all we've got! 

The Snail

Jul. 30th, 2017 06:54 pm
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"I have no hands," said the snail, "and so everything I own I acquired through mere accretion." It sprawled limply across the ground, its body slack and undifferentiated, as if even the effort of speaking was too much for it to bear. "Everything I crawled through, everything I rasped up against, everything I took up for a moment and forgot to set back down - they all left their traces on me, particulates -"

Its voice dripped with disgust. "The crumbled remains of bone," it said, "left rotting in the damp places. Wood-ash. Broken shells. Limestone and sediment, fossils, debris - things dead for decades. There was something living wrapped in these once, something vital, and I -" Its voice hitched. "I don't remember how or when I got them. I only remember their presence as they are now, atop me, this fossilized arrangement. I passed through the world and I kept things beyond all worth of keeping.

"There was no plan in this," it said, and gazed up at the spiraling tower of its shell, eyes dull atop its stalks. "I mixed no mortar, laid no brick. I never once imagined living here. This began as a tiny lump on my back from the moment I was born, a calcified knob of bone. I resented it at first, this useless vestigial thing, longed to be rid of it. I flexed my back, strained myself hoping to pry it loose as it cut sharply into my flesh. But instead I've scabbed over the edges again and again, built it up imperceptibly along the lines from which it was first formed. It has grown, and grown, and grown, beyond my control or volition, from everything I've ever abandoned, ever forgotten -  

"Is it beautiful?" the snail said. "It is beyond my comprehension." Its eyestalks swayed and reeled, tracing spirals, until it grew dizzy and lowered its head. "I could not have made this willingly. And yet I bear it all the same, and watch it overshadow my flesh ..." It stretched out its neck, twisted and turned to show the glistening texture of its skin. "Am I beautiful? Or do I carry beauty with me, distinct and separate, as a thing that will outlast me? A thing I only came to build by gnawing habit. That I could never again reproduce. A thing that I could not help but build if I was to keep living."

The snail let out a breath. "Well, yes," it said. "It is quite useful, I suppose. I retreat into it for shelter, and for comfort, and it is smooth and well-formed against my skin. I could not live without it. But, you see - 

"I have a cousin, a slug," the snail said, its voice trembling. "And we are otherwise alike, in form and capacity and function. My foot is no less strong than hers, I can climb and crawl just as well. Except - except I carry everything I own with me.

"And she survives, just as well as I do, and finds comfort and shelter and - and that sense of safety, all without a shell to hide her.

"That's all usefulness is, isn't it," said the snail, and shrunk back, resigned, disappearing backwards inch by inch until only the shell was visible. "It's everything we've accumulated that we can no longer live without." 
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The Questing Beast was not named for the fact that it was quested after (although it was, perennially), but for the howls and yelps that emanated from its belly, "the noise of thirty couple hounds questing." Such confusion is understandable (and perhaps intrinsic), as the Beast by its nature conflates two different definitions of what it means to quest

As a transitive verb, to quest means to ask, or to search for, and thus is necessarily used with an object: there must be something to quest for, be it treasure or an ending or an answer. As an intransitive verb, however, quest refers to the baying of hounds on the hunt, and needs no such object of desire. The Questing Beast's name derives from the latter definition: the sound of thirty pairs of hounds howling aimlessly, never ceasing or relenting, never biting down, never satiated, constant as the rushing of blood through the Beast's arteries. 

Questing after the Questing Beast was thus a confusing proposition, as it was difficult to determine whether it was being hunted or not - whether or not the questing was transitive or intransitive, and what exactly (if anything) one was tracking. From a distance there was only the baying echoing through the woods, which might have been the sound of one's own hounds, or the hounds from another hunting party, or (very rarely) the Questing Beast itself. The hounds themselves were similarly confused at trying to track down something that sounded exactly like they did, and at times kept up the baying simply out of a confused excitement, or sheer comradely instinct. Attempts to capture the Beast frequently devolved into a farce of hunting parties chasing each other in circles.

Adding to the confusion was the fact that there was never quite a clear consensus on just what the Questing Beast looked like. The most widely-distributed description held the Beast to have the neck of a snake, the body of a leopard, the tail of a lion, and the hooves of a hart - in other words, a medieval attempt to construct a giraffe. Perlesvaus, on the other hand, described it as a snowy white creature somewhat larger than a hare and smaller than a fox; i.e., some sort of stoat or weasel in its winter coat. So at the very least the boundaries were set: the Questing Beast must be no larger than a giraffe and no smaller than a hare, its color anywhere between a tawny orange and a snowy white (though theorists would differ on where white should stand on the color scale, and thus on which spectrum of colors was plausible). In the heightened atmosphere of a hunt, with the baying of the hounds omnipresent, any hapless animal that should happen to cross paths with the party could easily be taken for the Questing Beast - and who knows, any of them could very well have been the Beast itself. 

From strict point of fact, there was no reason to hunt the Questing Beast at all. There was no danger it posed if left to roam free, no rewards promised for its capture. Even the howling emanating from its belly was interpreted as a sign that the Beast's days were numbered: it hosted a brood of snarling children that would eventually tear it apart from within. Any mystical significance it held was as a symbol of some internal threat that would eventually lead to society's collapse - for some it was the tragic of King Arthur's incestuous coupling with his own half-sister; for others, it was the Jews. In any case, the Questing Beast was merely a grim portent instead of a threat itself, and was certainly nothing that should be deliberately sought out. 

We may imagine that those who hunted the Questing Beast were simply confused by its name, and took it as an imperative rather than a description. Or, rather, we can imagine that the Beast successfully conflated the two possibilities so that there was no longer such a distinction. King Pellinore, for example, hunted it simply because his father had, as had his father's father before him, and so on - a duty passed down hereditarily, like kingship, and with no more reason for it. For Sir Palamedes, on the other hand, hunting the Questing Beast functioned as a form of displacement for his frustrated romantic impulses - as Palamedes could never win the favor of his love, neither could he slay the Beast (a parallel that defeats the purpose of displacement entirely). In any case, both men hunted the Questing Beast without any hope of ever catching it, suggesting that, much like a hound, they were preoccupied with the action of questing itself. 

Hunting for sport, after all, is an end on its own, and may be counted as a success regardless of whether or not one returns with game. The goal of hunting becomes simply to be hunting, to feel the thrill of the chase, to view all of nature as potential prey, to take the sound of hounds baying for blood as music. For a knight, this would be akin to the fulfillment of a single-minded devotion, taking up their swords for a quest of unimpeachable cause. Perhaps, then, it was to the benefit of all concerned that the Questing Beast could never be caught, could never be narrowed down into a single form or species, could never be resolved or be found wanting. Rather, as a portent of some impending calamity, it was ever just beyond reach and yet imminently attainable. It lurked in every forest, its howls emitting from every mouth, it wore a thousand furs and skins. It was monstrous and yet endlessly pursued. It justified every expense and effort taken to capture it. With every fresh hunting party and every pack of hounds, the Questing Beast was born into existence.

We may imagine, given all these ambiguities, that the Questing Beast simply never existed to begin with. That it was a convenient fiction invented by those in power. Except when we turn our attention to the woods and from the depths hear the sounds of questing - ever-present, inexplicable, keening and bloodthirsty, the sounds of a savage brood tearing apart its mother from within - the Beast unmistakably sounds its call and it becomes impossible to deny the truth. 
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My first impulse would be to say that I was "violently unhappy"
always that particular phrasing,
as if I can only understand unhappiness through demonstration
as if, when left untreated, unhappiness lashes out,
resorts to violence, makes itself visible 
in form of lash and tear and welt,
as if it forces its way out through the skin 
as if we had moved past the usefulness of advice and frank discussion
as if I had to be restrained somehow,
through urgent intervention,
made unable to hurt myself or others
before any further progress could begin

You'll note the subtext here
"as if," 
meaning that I was lying
not just about the nature of unhappiness, mind you,
but the idea that I was ever unhappy to begin with 

If I had been unhappy 
instead of just malingering
surely I would have been able to identify, however vaguely,
the source of my unhappiness,
surely I would have had some conception of something lacking -
this absent happiness, what it might look like,
and how I might achieve it - 
instead of just these fantasies of violence,
of wanting to be unhappy,
to be helplessly, uncontrollably, congenitally unhappy,
just to have some irrefutable evidence of my distress

If I had been unhappy
surely I would have wanted something better for myself than that
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If you're pretentious enough for it, start your story with an epigraph. A quote without context becomes an artifact, something to be displayed in a museum. The line might have been  unremarkable in the original work, a pretty line serving a purpose as banal as exposition. But when displayed on its own, all we can see is the strangeness of it. Every word takes on a disproportionate significance. A pot can be used to carry water back and forth to the well each day in quiet thoughtless necessity. Or you could shatter it and put the shards in a museum, and extrapolate an entire culture from the pieces.

Avoid adverbs. Adverbs sum up tone and emotion and purpose in a single word - haltingly, nervously, knowingly, kindly - obliterating the nuances of what actually occurred. Don't say, "He smiled kindly." Who are you to say how he felt at the moment, what was going on inside his head? Even from your third-person omniscient point of view, even if you stripped him naked and vivisected him and probed every nook and hollow of him, where would you find "kindness"? All you have to go on is induction, a fallible, falsifiable conclusion based on the sum of his actions. You might very well be mistaken. You might be deceived. You may be deluded.

Avoid generalizations, avoid abstractions. Thought is an abstraction, as is emotion. A story isn't something you think, or something you feel, but rather something that occurs. Say, "She was happy," and the words are vacuous. They're a Rorschach test. Every reader will imagine something different, and most of them have poor imaginations. What more do you have to offer them? Might as well splinter your pen and blot ink across the pages.

Write such that your writing is non-reducible to a simpler state. Take an Aesop's fable, a genre of story so straightforward that the moral comes attached at the end. WORK TODAY AND REAP THE BENEFITS TOMORROW. And yet, the story of the Ant and the Grasshopper is incomplete without the image of the once-joyous Grasshopper slowly starving to death. Take the themes of your story and then distort them through a character's voice, obscure them in metaphor, until they're buried within the scenario you've created and you realize that the message you started out with has in some fundamental way been proven untrue. If writing were as simple as communicating an idea, we could skip the stories entirely.

You may believe that the purpose of writing is to provide insight - to take a vast, overwhelming world and to put it to narrative. To find the perfect arrangement of words that crystallizes the reality of our lives and makes it meaningful. But there's no great skill in that. People instinctively reduce their life experiences to easily-communicable summary: Kindness. Loneliness. Joy. Pain. Any number of abstractions. Words are Rorschach blots; you can see an entire world in them. Everyone already understands for themselves what these words mean, understands the depths within them. If they didn't, living would be impossible. It doesn't take a writer to see the world for what it is, or to make it comprehensible.

Build a hollow facade of a world and people will populate it with themselves, read their own experiences into anything you write. Just write something as trivial as, "They were in pain," and already you'll have evoked that spark of recognition that passes for authenticity. Write about Death, or Love, or Hope, or Loss, in stumbling and generic terms, and somewhere out there will be someone who's had those experiences for themselves, and who will be satisfied with the simple acknowledgment of them. There's no art in evoking emotion, in writing down the right trigger phrase and letting the world do your work for you. A writer should aspire to something better than that. 
Common advice to writers is to work in concrete details, as if to reproduce the world via its gross material constituents. Don't talk of kindness or happiness or pain. Rather, have your characters move through the story atomically, anatomically. Document every twitch, every idle gesture, where their eye falls, what their hand gropes for, all the subtle alterations in their posture. Write with the alien eye of an anthropologist. Know your characters and setting like the back of your hand. Document hairstyles, clothes, brands, all the status symbols that combine to constitute a society; build a city brick-by-brick and uncover the people buried there. Take a world that everyone understands and render it in such intricate detail so as to make it startling again.
I myself do not perceive the world in concrete details. I wouldn't be able to tell you my characters' eye color, or race or height or weight or form. I could not tell you what they were doing with their lives in the split-second before the story began. I can't tell you what I'm doing with mine now. I could not describe happiness to you, or its signs, in any degree of detail. I'm not sure I've ever seen it. I'm not sure it exists. The most I could do is gesticulate around its absence. I could not describe to you the world at all. I've only ever inhabited a tiny portion of it at a time.

All I can do is tell you a story.

I'm looking down at the backs of my hands as I type this. They're mottled pink and brown and yellow and green at the veins, slightly translucent at the tips. The skin bulges out and bags at the joints, is raised on the knuckles in a crudely quilted triangular stitch. This is an absurd description that evokes nothing to anyone. You'd think I'd never seen my hands before in my life.
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Here's the truth: I find you fascinating. That's a sick confession now, a display of prurient interest. It's like the worst thing in the world right now is to be boring. It's fine to be cruel or sadistic, to take pleasure in one another's misery; it's fine to be belligerent or selfish or predatory, to command a gibbering squad of harassers, to claw and tear each other down. The real crime is to not be worthy of the attention we've been given.

There's another idiot on Twitter shrieking about the end of the world - the end of their world - and a couple of thousand idiots all clamoring behind them. There's another white male savior. There's another public intellectual rephrasing common knowledge, stumping for the status quo. There's another armchair revolutionary. Pick who to follow, who to subscribe to, hold your mouth open for all the little trickles and daubs of opinion. This is what the world is now, this is what it means to be aware. All we are is enablers for the worst of us.

We can outsource our morality now, our aesthetics, our ideology. We're cyborgs, and the internet's all an extended repository, all the information and emotion in the world ready to be called up at a command. Reblog something, and it's someone else's best impulses, most artful phrasing, co-opted as our own. Or, conversely, we have our supporters hanging off us like prostheses. It's the loudest of us that thrive in this world, the most shameless, the most reducible into soundbites and snark. A stray neuron sparks in the brain and the body lurches, mindlessly, destructively, tearing apart lives at a whim.

Spin the wheel and take your pick. Are any of them worth listening to? Are any of them worth killing? If any of them were evil - if they were some urgent and existential threat - we'd be compelled to kill them or die trying. If they were evil they'd at least be interesting. But no, they're only people, in all the dull banality of the word. If it wasn't them, it'd be another figurehead babbling roughly equivalent words in their place. A person doesn't mean anything anymore. At most we're an echo, an appendage, swarming and replaceable. An individual is just a weak link, after all - a flaw, a vector for attack. It's the ideas that matter, the vast and monstrous ideologies that crush us by the thousands. Kill your idols. Aim your sights higher.

Take the worst person in the world and isolate them, and they're so fallible, so pathetic, so full of chaff. Without their followers they'd be useless. The worst thing that can be said about them is that so many gave them the time of day.

So who am I to say you're the one worth the attention? Are you so much smarter, kinder, gentler, braver, nobler, more insightful than your fellow man? But I can't help it, I find you fascinating. I could watch you for hours, over months, over years. I could watch the walls, watch matter transition between states, harden over and crack, lose its viscosity. I could watch the shadows of leaves on grass moving almost imperceptibly into night from behind the glass. There's a hundred landscapes in there, as if you could connect them all side-by-side and have a panoramic view of the world from your backyard. I could listen to you talk for hours about your petty thoughts and complaints, about the fleeting thoughts across the internet that you happen to reblog, I could listen to you talk about nothing at all.

Listen: art's greatest failure is in its purpose. In theme and theory, in climax and conclusion. It's over, yes, and satisfying, self-contained, but it's over. It's already receding backwards into memory, partially eclipsed by the next new thing, the logical progression. I can't read the same book twice because by then I've already consumed the story. It's in me, digesting, moving via peristaltic motion ever closer to being shat back out. You'd think if a work of art was so great I could keep coming back to it forever, that it wouldn't go inert with time and familiarity. That I wouldn't turn to it one day and find nothing left that I needed.

Life grinds all attempts at illusion to dust. We tell ourselves we are righteous, we conscript history to our side and convince ourselves our enemies will peter out and die. When all history is, is the the slowly-eroding surface of the world, the bodies fertilizing fields, nations boiling over and collapsing. We've subsumed ourselves in story, and even though it's not over yet, we've still projected an ending forwards, rehearsing our lines, worrying away at them like gravel between our teeth. We turn to history to vindicate us and see only the slow mindless convulsions of it, the lack of direction or conclusion.

We tell ourselves we're part of something bigger, and it grows and grows and grows. Until it is bigger, until it's something vast and amorphous, until it's something so big that it encompasses the whole blindly-whirling world.

You're a nothing compared to that. So many puffs of air. So many breaths, so many heartbeats, so many days, so many nights. So many pores gaping open on your skin, so many farts, so much dead skin. So many fuck-ups, so many fleeting passions, so many false starts and failures. So many fragments, so many half-formed thoughts, so many vitriolic opinions. So many insecurities, so many trivial needs and desires going unfulfilled. So many anxieties, so many conflicting hopes, goals, that you latch on to and nurture. So many little acts of kindness. You could go on forever without completion or purpose in sight.

I could watch the grass grow. I could watch the paint dry. I could watch the world keep turning. I could watch you forever.


Jul. 4th, 2017 07:09 pm
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The dogs are dead. I don't want to see what's inside of them. That's the cruelty of a dog, or a cat, or a rat, or a weasel, or anything furred and open-mouthed, anything that licks its young, anything that pants or snorts or purrs or growls or wafts moist breath against your hand, anything warm-blooded, that you can put your palm against its torso and feel its heart beat.

(Have you held a shrew? it feels like they're dying. It feels like an insect beating its wings against the inside of your hand, battering itself to death.) 

The cool intelligence of a reptile, or an insect, or a fish, is mostly all projection. There is fear there, sure, but indistinguishable from the mindless thrashing instinct not to die. Like a magnetic shaving being repelled from its polar opposite, like scraps of paper picking up the updraft from flames and flying away to safety. They don't make faces. They don't show terror. You don't hear them screaming.

When they crawl or swim or glide across your skin, there's no intimacy that lets you make-believe they love you.

That's the cruelty of being mammalian in a world ruled by hairless apes. There's all the capacity for emotion there, expression, joy and sadness and fear and loss and deviousness and greed and smug self-satisfaction, and no capacity to live privately. They're naked, every fucking emotion jolting down their nerves and involuntarily wagging their tails, standing their fur up on end, gleaming in their eyes and mouth and tongue. That dumb animal awareness exposed to the world with no option to tamp it down and put on a neutral face and go about your day without every eye on you.

No animal is born for scrutiny. We're social animals, not societal ones. We only really see each other through a web of necessary relationships. Parents, children, rivals, subordinates, superiors, lovers, mates, siblings, caretakers, predators, prey, symbiotic ties. I know you because I need you, because I depend on you in one of a hundred different ways, and that necessity is what endears you to me. We're hideous alone, patchwork products of evolution, simple-minded, feeding our own biases, focused on building scaffolding to support our own self-interest and well being. Who could love you, objectively? Who could tally up your pros and cons and conclude that another person should depend upon you for their continued happiness? We invented a God to tell us that we were loved, and concluded that we absolutely weren't worthy of it. That's what Grace is, isn't it? The conclusion that we otherwise shouldn't be allowed to exist.

Go into a shelter and argue for a dog's right to exist. To eat, to breed, to piss and shit as it will, to wander the streets and bark and scream at every stranger, to mark off its own territory, to defend its life with claw and fang. Argue that a cat should be allowed to predate, to fend off all perceived threats to its safety. Go ahead, argue for a rat's right to be happy.

A human can at least dissemble. A human can withhold. A human can put on a public face and offer that up to the world. If we're excoriated, revealed to be two-faced and hypocritical, all our flaws put on display - at least there's always the option to say: that's not the real me. That's not my entirety. You don't know me like my friends know me, like my family knows me, like I know myself. I'm here, underneath all of it. I'm just slightly displaced, always one step away, just beyond your judgement. I'm here.

Or worse, imagine being abruptly thrust into a celebrity you were totally unprepared for, imagine that fannish idolatry, that validation from strangers, and having it come and go, ebb and flow with the attention span of crowds. Imagine living like that, imagine being responsible for a thousand strangers' happiness. But even then there's always the small consolation of restraint, of fading gracefully, of the intellectual understanding that all those people never saw the real you at all. They were following a trend, validating their own biases, picking out the bits of you that they liked. They were looking in a mirror, seeing the possibility of their own acceptance, their own success, a place for them in the herd. All they were seeing was a person to teach them how to be, a position they could occupy in your wake.

A dog doesn't have that luxury of knowledge. A cat doesn't. A rat, a hamster, a weasel. Anything furred. Anything bright-eyed and screaming. There's nothing to an animal but boisterous fulfillment, nothing but bare affection. Feel them licking at your fingers, watch them dancing at your feet, understanding nothing but kindness and cruelty, food and hunger, affection and neglect. A dog can't understand why it's loved, it can only pant and wag its tail and prick up its ears and prance. A dog can't understand why it's being yelled at. A dog can't understand why it's needed. A dog can't understand why it's being killed, or being left to die.

We see a dog and think, if only we could be so happy. A dog only understands loyalty, you know? The words, 'can I pet them,' a stranger's hand running through its fur, cooing baby talk in a stranger's voice. A dog only understands itself and the other. A dog can only understand that it must have somehow been their fault.

The dogs are dead. There's something I could have been, probably. There's a thing absent of affection. There's a thing that used to be. There's a thing that screamed.
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No. 8.
One Lady and one Gentleman. 
The gentleman must stand on a chair in the centre of the room, while the lady-auctioneer, pointing to him, says, "Adonis for sale!"  She must then enumerate all his charms, qualities, and attractions.  The company then bid anything they please for him—such as a red-herring, a tea-kettle, a curb-bridle, a magic-lantern, the old grey goose, a lump of sugar, &c.  The bidding is to go on till the Lord of Misrule bids a pound of soft-soap, when the lot is taken to him by the auctioneer. 

No. 15.
One Gentleman and six Ladies. 
The gentleman sitting in the middle of the room must be complimented and paid attention by each lady in turn.  Without rising, he is to respond by every species of grateful manner; first murmuring, in a whisper, "I'm too happy,"—increasing in the tone of his voice each time, till reaching the highest note, he rushes out of the room. 

No. 17.
Eight Ladies and eight Gentlemen. 
The ladies each successively go and fetch a gentleman and place him for a quadrille, according to the value of their respective numbers. 
This is my chicken for roasting. 
This is my calf's heart for mince-meat. 
This is my wild duck to make game of. 
This is my lamb's pluck for putting in a stew. 
This is my green goose for stuffing. 
This is my calf's head for my brain sauce. 
This is my flat fish for a vol au vent
This is my pigeon for cutting up with brain sauce. 

No. 27. 
Two Gentlemen and all the Ladies. 
The ladies all remain in their places, and two gentlemen in shawls and bonnets or caps go round, one with a saucer of milk, the other with a teaspoon, with which she gives a sip of milk to each, saying, "Take that, my pretty puss!" to which, after taking it, "puss" must gravely answer, "Mew." 
No. 30. 
One Gentleman. 
He must go round and pay a bad compliment to every lady in the room, who is to answer, "You horrid man!" 
No. 47.
One Gentleman--one Lady; seated in front of each other. 
   Are you Adonis?
   No, Miss. 
   Are you Juno? 
   Oh no! 
   Are you Cupid? 
   No, stupid. 


Jun. 21st, 2017 12:59 pm
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Lightning strikes.
Lightning spikes.
Lightning spills and stains the sky.
Lightning crackles.
Lightning shivers.
Lightning spasms, shrieks, and dies.

Lightning sings. 
Lightning stings. 
Lightning cleaves the world asunder.
Lightning threads through gale and thunder.
Lightning strips the leaves from trees - thin bare branches, stark and grasping
at the wind in helpless tremors.
Lightning sets down roots and sighs. 
Storm is coming. 
Lightning sends the people running, lights the raindrops,
draws a jagged line between us
and the darkness. Lightning flickers,
shows the world in all its glory
right before the gloom moves in and
lightning cracks the vault of clouds, makes the rain come tumbling down.
Lightning, fine-veined, many-fingered, writhes and reaches for the ground.
Lightning hangs untouched, inverted, looming rocks far overhead.
It could kill us.
Just a word, and lightning plummets
from the heavens,
torches burning for the dead.

Lightning shatters.
Lightning scatters.
Lightning bathes the world in fire.
Lightning flashes.
Lightning lashes
out obliquely, groping, seeking,
churning air into a frenzy. Lightning quickens.
Lightning rages in the distance.
(please don't see us)
Lightning punctuates a chorus,
echoes through the world unhindered
in the great and lowly places.
Lightning stoops to kindle fire. 
Lightning leaps atop a spire, splits the crown 
of tree and tower, tears stone down,
anoints the sacred site with ash. 
Lightning lingers
for a moment,
imprints itself in afterimage,
as we huddle, glancing skyward, 
for the storm to pass. 


Jun. 17th, 2017 04:39 pm
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He sneezed six times in quick succession
Like waves breaking upon the shore
Each time the buildup, then the crest
Then spray and salt and nothing more

He drank two glasses of water with dinner
Like pouring it all down the drain
The glass sat empty in his hand
Ready to be washed again

He set his shoulders and clenched his stomach
Trying to will himself to piss
A dribble came, and then a spurt
All water was reduced to this


Jun. 14th, 2017 05:27 pm
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Write out your grievances on a piece of paper. Fold it in half, and then in half again, and then again and again until the paper starts to resist you, pushing back against your fingernails. Put it between your lips, under your tongue. Let it settle.

When you're ready, reach to your lips as if you're performing a magic trick. Unfold it like a flower blooming, like a scarf from a sleeve, like a map being spread out against a table. Flourish it, show them the ink that's been set, that's smeared and dried and smeared again, undeniable.

The secret to the trick - the trick to the secret - is the kernel of truth, the grounding in the familiar, the space beneath your tongue and down your throat and up your sinuses. Everyone will be astonished that it was in you all along.

Walk around stuffed with grievances, one for every occasion, ready to perform the trick on command. Write them down as they occur to you, fill pages with them, tamp them down between your lips and gums in a paper mache sneer. Use your teeth as mnemonics. Run your tongue across your gums, so many benign lumps on the inside of your mouth. Each one ready - at a moment's notice! - to emerge from their cocoon.

Your mouth will taste like paper, sure, but that's a benefit. They''ll leach up your spit, leave your mouth dry, tasting the hollow of air. Never forget you're lacking something. Never forget how badly you want to want to spit.

Paper's non-toxic. There's no danger in this. If the opportunity never emerges, no harm done. The little wads will wear against each other, dissolving into pulp. You'll carry them with you until your mouth slackens, until a moment of forgetting, and you'll absently brush the leavings off your lips, or you'll swallow them. As easy and as painless and shedding skin.

And if you find your chance and reach for your lips and unfold a paper rich with spit, only to see that you've revealed the wrong one - who cares? They're all the same, aren't they? All wadded together and indistinct and indivisible. The magic's in the reveal of it, not in the information. The magic trick is that you were unhappy all this time.

Keep your grievances close to your lips, as little acts of wonder. Plant them, and let them decompose and die, and give them the chance to bloom.
sadoeuphemist: (Default)
You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile
Give them something to eat, and they'll bite at your hand
You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile
You've seen this play out, why don't you understand

You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile
Show them the horizon, and they'll want to fly free
You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile
Sure as the shore's worn away by the sea

You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile
And there are only so many more miles to claim
You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile
Pace out your borders, let them to do the same

You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile
You'll measure in inches the progress you'll make
You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile
The least you can give, the most they can take

You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile
And be not one inch closer than you were before
You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile
Still a mile between you, a mile and more

You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile
And you'll be left wondering at how far you've gone
In the space of that inch, they imagined a mile
You gave them an inch, and the lines were redrawn


May. 21st, 2017 06:47 pm
sadoeuphemist: (Default)
Hold this, she said, and I gathered up
a fist of her hair, undoing her frame from behind,
unbuttoning the knobs of her spine,
unlacing the tendons in her neck and shoulders
to the musical twang of her ribs popping free

Her lungs escaped her like a sob,
unfolding, spilling out like a rumpled dress
that I arranged atop the tiles,
one hand smoothing out the wrinkles,
gliding across her skin until she sighed,
exposing her pale back to me in its entirety

It's amazing how much there is to a woman:
silk and bone and a thousand scribbled notes inked onto her innards,
unwritten love letters, angry scrawls,
knots of twine and rawhide that I fished out
and laid delicately against the tiles like a diagram,
careful to memorize their places

Her heart, sluggish and warm and tough as leather,
and indistinguishable from
all her other organs,
years of padding and upholstery unseamed until
the bathroom floor resembled a butcher's palette,
and she hung loose and slumping, dozing gently,
with so much of her to still unpack

There's room for happiness in there, I think,
there's so much else in her

There's room for everything I lack
sadoeuphemist: (Default)
My parents did not raise healthy children.
There's nothing to be done about it, I suppose,
just a quirk of genetics.
A new malady would periodically surface, each
removed from the last, as if
it was simply in our nature to be sick, absent
any particularities: 
violent allergic reactions that burst
out in hives across
our groin and thighs and the backs of our hands,
dry eyes,
asthma of the skin,
sensitive teeth,
sudden pains in our knees
that kept us from the gym
for months on end,
tendons tightening in our necks,
inexplicable bald spots,
open sores that we scratched into our skin.

And each time, our parents would schedule a doctor's appointment
after it became clear
our condition wouldn't go away on its own.
We'd sit silently in the waiting room,
waiting to give non-committal answers: 
"No, I don't know what caused it"
"No, I don't remember that far back"
"It kind of hurts"
"Sort of"
"Not really"
"No, I haven't eaten anything unusual"
"No, here's been no change in my schedule"
"No, no undue stress"
"No, this is - you must understand -
"There has been no change in our lives since before this started" 
"This is how we live"
"This is how we have always been living"

And the doctors, faintly puzzled,
would scribble down their prescriptions anyway and
treat the symptoms.
Our parents paid the consultation fees, paid for
the MRIs and the urinalyses,
the blood tests that revealed no proximate cause,
paid for the physical therapists and
the sedatives and cortisone creams,
as we hovered around
all the while unable to shake
the conviction that we were wasting
time, bleeding away money,
that this was all bearable, somehow, or had progressed
to the state that it was bearable
by the time our parents had brought us here. That we were
too far removed now from sickness, from dysfunction,
that we would heal on our own,
or grow used to it,
or progress to the point that our suffering
was unmistakable;
that despite our parents' urging -
"Be specific. Tell the doctor
what he needs to know. You can't get better if
you don't pay attention
to what's going on with your body."
the cause of sickness was so inherent
so as to be invisible, that we might wake up the next morning
having forgotten how to sleep, how to eat,
how to look at things without crying,
how to breathe unencumbered, how to walk, how to
not tear apart our own skin.

We'd take home our tubes of creams and our
artificial tears and neat rows of pills and
we'd smooth this patch over.
We'd wait to get better.
We'd wait
until everything
was normal


sadoeuphemist: (Default)

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