Kortena’s Voice

Hello, friends.

I hope everyone had a stellar and covid-safe 4th of July. It’s been awhile since my last post. A bit of editing, but mostly mental preparation to share a new novel. Like most writers, or people in general, I suffer from impostor syndrome. Not that I’m a successful writer by any means or that I know I’m an amazing wordsmith, but I’ve received enough positive feedback and won various this’s and that’s to accept that I’m also not terribly lost in the craft of writing.

Even so, dealing with impostor syndrome and remaining positive can be challenging, especially when beginning new books/story/poems—truly anything. And sharing with the world—or my world of 20-30 readers usually—which is an awesome improvement from a month or so ago!–still conjures fear and thoughts of rejection.

Now to the important part. The novel. Kortena’s Voice. It’s far different from anything I’ve ever written, and maybe for that reason, I’m attached to it. The style if jarring and harsh, but purposefully so. I could say more, but books really should be left to the reader’s interpretations.

I will say that writing this book was extremely challenging, in that I was in a difficult period of my life and had nearly surrendered writing due to depression. Honestly, at that time I wanted to do nothing more than sleep and play easy video games. I didn’t even know what depression was—not really—and nor was I self aware enough to understand my own mental state, apart from the lack of motivation. I’m far better now, thankfully. After a ton of meditation that I need to start again, a few years of therapy that may return to—it’s awesome and I recommend everyone give it a try—and stopping caffeine cold-turkey. Incredibly difficult, but it changed my life for the better.

That’s enough about me. I hope you enjoy the book.

Kortena’s Voice

-1-

The Most Neutral Voice Inside My Head

The ship plunges deeper, deeper, far deeper than I think possible. Far deeper than I want to be possible.

I’ve never liked the ocean, and now, without the talking dolphins and chromatic jellyfish and those whales with the horns, the horned whales, and the other whales, the singing whales that sound all bluuuuuuuu bluuuuuuu eeeeeeeuuuuu—but like a whale and not a human person—without all that swill stuff, the ocean is just dull.

And deep. And dark. And we’re going deeper. Sups deep.

The ocean’s way bigger than I had thought.

If there’s two things I dislike, it’s darkness and water, which explains why I chose to vacation hundreds of miles beneath the ocean. I mean, I don’t remember booking the vacation, and I don’t remember ever wanting to go, but I must have, since here I am sups deep in the ocean and out thousands of credits. That’s what happens when you pay for all your friends to vacation with you.

You’d think I’d choose somewhere not so dark and watery. A desert or a mountaintop resort. I don’t like heights either, but anything’s better than here. But Thade and Milinda and whoever else came along—I don’t even know who’s here and who stayed on Earth3’s surface—seem mega excited about Sealandia. Not Seal-andia, but Sea-landia. I was confused at first. I thought it was all about seals and I was way hyped. Seals are swill. But it’s more about sharks, the kind with teeth and fins. And telepathic whales that sing in a language all their own, or maybe I’m making that up or saw it somewhere.

I guess it boiled down to visiting Sealandia or staying on Earth3, laying on my bed with the I471NeoGreat Unit Model 771 Infinite Plus ExtremeForceDelta, but we just call her Kortena. It’s a shorter and more funner word to say, and that’s what everyone calls her, Kortena, since that’s her name. Kortena. She’s the voice, the brain of the unit-thing inside my brain, and all brains should have names.

Kortena’s why I’m here, how I heard about Sealandia in the first place even though I don’t remember. But there’s a lot I don’t remember, a lot that Kortena shows me. She entertains us and teaches us things about other things, the sort of things you can’t just go out and learn on your own or find in a book. The sort of things that only Kortena knows. Like facts about the past and the best way to brush my hair and what kinds of calories are in mayonnaise and hairspray, and how velvet feels on your tongue.

But I can only lay in bed and listen to Kortena for so long. Maybe a few days before my legs start itching, all numb but itching and saying hey maybe you should get up and jog your legs real good. Eventually I go outside and listen to Kortena, or walk through a mall listening to Kortena, or play throwball—it’s a sport with a ball that you throw—listening to Kortena, since she knows basically everything and always has better ideas than I do, like how to throw a ball to make it go far. She’s a lot smarter than us. Sometimes I sit on park benches and Kortena warns me about outerside pollution levels, the domesphere’s depleting condition, the ozone, whatever that is, and what birds should be flying around me but aren’t. What the squirrels would do, the nuts they would eat, and the trees that would grow from those nuts. Or leaves. I think squirrels eat leaves. I know birds ate leaves, back when birds still flew.

But instead of listening to Kortena on Earth3, I’m plunging through the abyss, on my way to Sealandia and whatever’s waiting there. Dolphins, I guess. Or whales, like I said. Seathings. I guess I have a crush on whales, which is good considering where I’m going. I just really like whales. I’m sups swill about them, like gaga. And dolphins, which are just smaller whales that don’t sing as much as the bigger whales. They have less lungs. They’ll be a lot of seathings, and other cooler stuff, like a resort, hopefully with lasers because lasers make most things really swill.

Everyone likes lasers.

“Trev, you’ve been staring out that window for weeks now. Nothing’s out there,” Milinda says. “Well, there’s water, but there’s never anything in water.”

My eyes are actually shut since I’m thinking real hard, but I open them to Milinda’s voice. “We’ve only been sinking for a few hours. Three, I think. And everything’s out there. We just can’t see it. Not unless you really look. It’s not the sort of thing you just see without looking.”

Milinda frowns and scrunches her nose like some sort of animal. Kortena suggests a chipmunk and shows me a picture. Milinda’s fine and all, her face sort of round, but the chipmunk is a lot cuter and fuzzier. Milinda huffs and twirls her bright blond hair. It was black yesterday. And brown. And, I think, a deeper shade of blond, but hair color changes so fast that it’s hard to keep up. Everyone’s got these, I don’t know what you call them, follicle implants that change color according to your moods or desires. They can also grow and shorten and change shape and all this other swill stuff that keeps you current and new. You don’t want to look stupid with out of date hair.

“Well it feels like weeks,” she says. “I didn’t know the ocean was so dark. So dark you probably can’t swim, like it just…and you…and the water…it’s wet.” Milinda’s hands smack together and slowly drift apart, her fingers dancing and twirling and eyes wide and blue and bright like big dolphin eyes. “You know?”

“Definitely. I know.”

“Good, so don’t be so gloomy. This was your idea and now you’re all anti and errgged about it. You know how much I hate when people are anti. Then everyone else gets anti and errgged about everything, and we’re all just like ughhhhhh, this is stupid and dumb, and no one likes anything and they just lay there and zone out. It sucks. I don’t want to be errgged or anti. Just, you know, not.”

“Yeah, that would be a lot better,” I agree. At least I think I agree. “But this wasn’t my idea. I hate the ocean.” I try to smile but Milinda just huffs and turns away, shuts her eyes and probably watches whatever Kortena shows her. Milinda usually broadcasts for everyone else to see, but not this time. She wants to be alone, so she’s probably errgged even though she just said I’m not allowed to be.

“What’s swill, Trev? Piss me Milinda again?”

Thade’s sitting behind me, beside Bruno. I didn’t know Bruno came but apparently he did, which is okay since he’s not so bad and everyone likes him a lot more than I like him, which must make him better than I think he is. I can be different like that. Not liking what everyone else likes. Last year everyone was crazy about these tiny lizards you’d stick under your tongue. You’d hallucinate and start talking with words no one’s ever heard before. Old words, I think. Lizard words. Then you’d wake up somewhere else, like on the street or in an aquarium, or this guy I knew, he woke in a totally ruthless district and someone had stolen his foot. A clean cut, done by a professional laser, but feet are important and expensive to replace and he had a hard time walking home on the stump, even though it was totally smooth. Anyway, I hated the lizards. I don’t like putting living things beneath my tongue, and too many people accidentally swallowed the lizards and got mega sick. The lizards were poisonous even though they came without warning labels.

Hallucinating is awe, but not with lizards. I rather just use Kortena.

“Trev?” Thade asks again. Beside him, Bruno is either asleep or lost within Kortena. He’s a real ugly guy, Bruno, his eyes different colors and hair real greasy since he sprays this butter stuff in it, but now he looks peaceful, like he’s dead. I don’t want to sound like a jerk. I don’t dislike him because he’s ugly. He’s also dumb and selfish and arrogant, but everyone else likes him so he must be a swill guy.

“I was thinking that Bruno might be dead,” I say.

Thade pokes Bruno’s side. “No, I don’t think so. He’s breathing. His ribs are breathing.”

“Then I guess I was thinking that I want off this ship. You didn’t tell me it would take this long.”

“What, you think Sealandia is just a dive away?”

“That’s one of the slogans,” I remind him. “Sealandia, Just a Dive Away! You’re wearing the shirt. Where’d you even get that shirt? We’re not there yet.”

Thade points his long arm to the stewardess, the oversized shirt hanging off his scrawny frame. “She’s selling them.” He frowns at the shirt. “I forgot I was wearing it. Sealandia’s deep, Trev, like sups deep, in one of those trenches. You know, the water trenches, the deepest parts of the ocean. Haven’t you asked Kortena about it? We’re almost there, and once we arrive you won’t want to learn about it. You’ll want to experience it. You should really ask Kortena.”

I shrug. “I don’t like water.”

Thade opens his mouth like he wants to say something. Shuts it instead and shrugs back at me. “Whatever. You didn’t have to come. And remember, this was your idea. You can’t be all anti now.”

It wasn’t my idea. Really. But he’s right about me not having to come, so now that I’m here, I may as well make the best of it. So I shut my eyes. I don’t need to—I can hear Kortena with eyes open, eyes shut, eyes ripped out of my skull. But it’s better this way. More serene, Kortena’s voice so calming. Neutral, she suggests, and once I look up the definition of the word, I agree.

Kortena is the most neutral voice inside my head.

Feeling lonely? Miserable? Plain depressed? Do you own too many cats and even they’re starting to hate your mopey face and slumped shoulders? Improve your posture! Do they meow their frustration at you? Be happy! You have cats! For a limited time only, a single pill can solve all your problems! Try Haphapopehline, the Happiest Pill in your medicine closet. Guaranteed results, guaranteed happiness. Guaranteed to make your cat love you again!

A lengthy warning notice. Side effects include death illness blood vomiting unhappiness sort of happiness a general malaise death again bloody eyes face hands nails falling off more death blindless. It all blends together. It all blends together.

I don’t want to hear warnings about the dangers of happiness.

It all blends together.

It all

blends

together.

“It is easy to love less less often than to make love less important than you last thought.”

“I know, Baron Handsome, I know! But I can’t control my fickle heart when I’m around you! I’m swooning. Swooning! Swooning maddeningly! I’m but a lost girl looking for love, and you…you are the Baron of Earth2.”

“Am I?” A stroke of the chin, swish of his long black hair, raven tears drawn asunder, cracking the sky in its midnight brilliance! “Or did Earth2 just blow up as we made love? Did our love destroy an entire planet? The lives, the lives that love destroys!”

“Noooooo! It cannot be! Not Earth2! It was my favorite of the Earths!”

Becca faints as Baron Handsome stares off into the distance, his hand clutching the last soliloquy he wrote on Earth2. “It didn’t have to be this way.”

He places the poem in his mouth, chews, swallows after minutes of chewing. “Who would have thought that my love and this poem would be powerful enough to blow up a planet? Words,” he whispers, then erupts in a scream. “Wooooorrrddddssssss!”

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