I’ve written a vast amount over the years. By vast, I mean tens of thousands of pages. Mostly bad, but Hemingway said it takes a million written words to finally find your writing voice. I tend to agree, so hopefully I’m approaching a million.
My obsessive nature is partially to blame, but it’s also my love for all things literary, the fact that people like you and I can create such remarkable stories out of nothing more than thoughts. Creationism at it finest. But more than I’d care to admit, writing has provided me an escape from reality. An escape, I realized in the past three weeks, that is not at always healthy and somewhat in need of a remedy. Or at least a shift of perspective. That said, I know I’m not alone in this problem. Most of the population can be classified as escapists. Reality, and our most inner thoughts, often the same thoughts we don’t let out or share with people, are terrifying monsters. Monsters that will refuse to go away unless we shed light onto the root causes.
But as someone far wiser than myself recently told me, “this is the world and we have to accept it. Maybe it won’t get better, but it’s still our world”.
Quite true, and distressing, but only if you let it be. Acceptance comes first. From there…well I’m still not entirely sure. Maybe that’s for next week.
Back to escapism. Like work is for some, or being with friends is for others, or video games and music and fitness and so many other examples, writing has provided me an avenue to turn off my brain. The brain that constantly ponders the real world and its countless flaws. As well as my own. The brain that can think too deeply, too analytically, and too often, with too much self judgement, and explores possibilities you can only hope never become realities. We all face these struggles. I’m not alone. Neither are you; it’s simply a matter of if we want to shed light onto the darkness and accept the truth. From then, we can vanquish that darkness with a far greater and truer light.
But I won’t drone on too long, as much as I’d like to. Writing about myself and sharing my thoughts is quite therapeutic, and gods know I’m in need of some therapy right now.
Instead, I’ll share some fiction I wrote years ago, during a time of internal turmoil that taught me a great deal–these are the times we learn the most, are they not? Lest you’re wondering, I’m not just copying and pasting old junk to make content. If that was the case, I would have had hundreds of posts by now. Rather, I’m returning to pieces I find worthy of sharing and polishing the good and removing the bad. I’ll share in pieces, as I tend to write in long scope.
Thanks for reading.
Here is the ground we walked on
so long ago
when sky scrapers stood erect
and shined so silver
like that moon we saw
and the stars we saw
on that night
when so much went to hell,
when all we could do was watch
the world burn and char
and the those alpine alloy frames
scorched in the flames
so twisted and black
as it all crumbled
and crashed for us to walk on
hand in hand
hand in hand
over the jagged rubble once so proud
but now a statice and Queen Anne’s lace
purple and white and pure,
a smoldering and sparking burial,
unfettering a sweet smoke
I remember so well
when I coughed and wheezed in your name
and you coughed and seized
and called it a quaint fog.
everything would be alright,
that the sky scrapers were beneath our feet
for us to walk on
so that in ten or twenty years
grass would grow
for us to walk on
hand in hand
hand in hand
and then, finally,
would be alright.
There came such soft rains.
The world is hard now. Hard, and vacant apart from where life still stirs and memories still haunt. But the rains—the rains are soft, and warm, and when the skies open, the stargazers gather to stare into the somber gloom and feel the rain so soft and so warm.
So soft and warm.
The softness and warmth ends there. The rest of the world is cold and gray, as if autumn has set in and refuses to leave. Not quite winter. Not yet. Someday, perhaps. Those who can be thankful are thankful for winter’s delay; snow would bring their deaths, so frozen and austere, a white blanket atop the gray already settled across the world.
But autumn still carries a chill, and a bite, and memories, and winds that waters the eyes and goosebumps the skin and seizes the breath. Breathe in the ash, the ash that falls. Autumn strips leaves off trees, but the trees are already bare—most of them—leaves blackened and crisp and loud on the ground.
Rain falls and softens the world, dissolves the leaves, liquefies the ash, and all evanesces other than the water so clear and warm and running, running, streaming down silent streets and into stormdrains, cascading down hills and flooding lakes and rivers and eventually the sea. A sea that reflects the sun, if there was a sun, but there isn’t.
There’s little of anything.
There’s music, somewhere. Forlorn. Searching.
The rains flow and leaves fall, to where the world rusts and a song plays unseen but not unheard. Somewhere better, perhaps, where the ground is soft like the rain and the sky holds more than shadows that spill across a gutted profile of what once was.
There will come so many things.
He wakes to the undusted light of day. A single beam, narrow and muted, angles down from the ceiling. The walls are white and padded, the floor soft beneath him. Also padded. The ceiling is padded, which makes little sense to him.
None of this makes sense; he understands nothing.
He hears a piano, the notes of a piano, minor and melodic.
Now it’s gone, never existed.
He cannot move his arms and does not know why. Looks down, finds himself in a straight-jacket, believes this cannot possibly be right despite that he remembers very little. Nothing, in fact, but that could be the sleep refusing to wear off, fatigue clouding his mind, dreams dominating his thoughts. Only he can’t recall the dreams quite yet. Sorrowful music and beautifully dark eyes, but no more, and none of the dreams are concrete. They are fleeting, nearly forgotten.
He has slept for a very, very long time. At least this much he knows. His legs feel weak and unsteady even as he lays unmoving. Little more than bones, skin stretched taught across. A brittle and bewildered man. The ruins of one. Beneath the off-white canvas of the straight-jacket, he assumes his arms and upper body are very much the same—bones and muscle that have forgotten movement, what means to dance and live. He hungers and thirsts, stomach cramped and throat raw, vision blurred as he tries to see but finds only shadows.
Blurred vision means little here. The room is small enough to see everything. A door, cold steel and slightly ajar, with a window of thick glass in the middle. A skylight above him, from which the deadened light enters and the shadows spread. His only company.
The door being ajar alarms him for reasons he cannot explain. Penumbra outside and seeping into his room. It is his room, he realizes, and is not pleased about the fact. Wants to get out, escape, more than he wants to lay here staring at the ceiling. Why would anyone pad a ceiling?
He stands, or tries to stand, and fails. Standing is not easy when your arms cannot help and legs refuse to work. Grunting, he rolls over, across the padded floor, to the padded wall, and pushes himself against it, painstakingly rising to his knees and resting once he gets that far. Short of breath, he leans over and breathes deeply, finding the air stale and decayed, polluted by ash and the loss that fills this place. He desperately wants to leave. Now. Forces himself to stand while still leaning against the wall, stays that way for quite some time. Although not wanting to move in fear of falling and completing these steps all over again, he pushes himself off the wall and wobbles on his own two legs. This regretfully feels like an accomplishment.
He has fallen so far.
He stumbles across the padded room, for the first time noticing his feet are bare and nearly translucent, veins throbbing in the gel of white.
A flash of the mind.
Images of the world outside, a park with trees, and trees of green, and green becomes red and yellow and orange. Autumn. A woman sits in the grass reading a book. She looks up at him, smiles, and vanishes. Now just a park with trees, those trees of green, and green becomes red and yellow and orange. Autumn. It vanishes as his vision fills with stars so bright and blinding that he must stop and gather himself once again, wait for sight to return, and when it does, the door opens easily and soundlessly, the steel hard but light, almost weightless, like the leaves of autumn. Red and yellow and orange. No longer green.
Outside the door, in a hallway where the gray walls are nearly pinched together, the floor coming up at him and the ceiling crashing down from above, the world feels older and harsher, a tomb belonging to the past. No padding. Fall here and bruise your knees. Fall here and maybe you will never stand again.
The floor, tiled blue and white and blue and white and blue and white, is marred by scuffs and dirt trampled in from afar. Dried blood streaked and puddled. Or maybe not so far. Along the ceiling for the hallway’s length, until it turns sharply to the right and vanishes into shadows, the lights are off. Darkness has settled here, made itself a home, impeded only by the pale gray light cascading through soot-covered windows every ten or so feet. Near sunset outside, timeless inside. Time seems to slow where the light tries to shine, particles of life and death and deathless life floating ever so slowly, the dust like stars in the night sky. He reaches out to grab a handful of dust, a fistful of stars, and comes away with nothing.
This, he feels, has happened before. He has come away with nothing.
The door to his room should be shut, so he shuts it and reads the clipboard on the back of the door. Trent Rette. A name he doesn’t recognize, meaningless. His reason for being here must be the long word below his name. Doctor scribble and illegible. Some medical term far beyond his understanding. But the word doesn’t matter. The disease, or illness, whatever it is or was, has passed. He feels fine, the straightjacket an unnecessary burden, a problem he must soon fix. He’ll need his hands, eventually.
He has always used his hands to create, only he can’t remember what or how.
I’ll use my eyes to draw you in, until I’m beneath your skin.
Not his words, he thinks, but a memory from long ago. Perhaps not even his memory.
One foot in front of the other, he sways down the hallway, as if the hallway is drunken and moving and he has never been more sober. The windows are shattered, glass littering the floor, glistening where a single beam of light enters, glistening like sunken treasure just below the surface, visible yet indistinct, rippling and obscure.
There’s no treasure here. Just glass, and glass cuts.
He stops at the first window and peers out, squinting into the dying day. Perhaps forty feet above the asphalt, the hospital wing—it must be a hospital—connects two hulks of steel and cement, all cold and gray, unlit and unmoving. Emergency parking places along the sidewalk below, without cars and ambulances. No symmetry here, no order or sense. Broken glass along the roadside, every window shattered and reflecting a thousand realities. A stretcher lies on its side, on the sidewalk. Everything is upside down. Sideways. No drivers or passengers or pedestrians. No one. No sound. Not even that of birds or distant discussions carried by the wind.
There is no wind.
Dusk is silent other than a soft rain.
The world is hard now.
The rain falls for a long ways, as far as he can see, down the asphalt lanes bordering the hospital and across a parking lot empty of cars. The rain dampens the overgrown lawn beyond the parking lot, and the rows of trees, mostly pines, beyond the lawn. A windless dusk, the rain falling just audibly, as if not wanting to leave him alone in this condition. The grass and pines are very green, almost bright and too healthy, while the oaks and maples and mingling trees evince autumn. Decayed yellows and blood reds, fire oranges deep within the coals. Such intense colors when everything else is so dark and from the grave. Each leaf is disturbingly bright and seemingly out of place, belonging to another world, a world of endless autumn. There should not be color here.
His room, all white. The hospital, grays and blacks and stained whites. The blood streaked red. The street is the street, the lawn the lawn. But the trees, other than the pines, grandstand their vibrancy, brandish their leaves, tarnish the somberness and bleak tranquility of all else.
There has always been something beautiful about autumn. Fall, he prefers to call it, because the leaves fall, and the temperatures fall, and, eventually, all things fall.
It is then he notices the ash falling from the sky, how the rain dissipates it upon reaching the world.