On October 11, 2106, Reginald Farris was sentenced to die.
One week later people flocked from all across Thomasia, to the capital city of Alvany, to watch him lose his head.
Under a bruised, ominous morning the makeshift platform leered. It had been built special just for the occasion. And then raised when the estimated turnout climbed too high, so those in the back could see.
And then raised again.
Farris was something of a legend and for the most part it was earned. Though sometimes the stories outgrew their reality and took on lives of their own. It wasn’t uncommon to hear about the time he’d taken forty armed bluecoats with a pocketknife, all while seated and smoking. Or the time he led his rebel organization, the Farisia, through twenty miles of woods just to flash their faces at the palace and strike fear in the heart of the King.
While there was no forty-man pocketknife massacre, there were stories just as impressive—these true.
As a teenager he devised a hand signal among his men, in case any of them were ever captured by the authorities and goaded into wearing a wire. Given the Capitol was chomping at the bit for his location, he figured it was only a matter of time. Sure enough, one of his lieutenants was picked up when the blackmarket arms dealer he connected with turned out to be a cop. He was hauled into the station and promptly given an ultimatum—the wire or the chair.
Feigning reluctance, he chose the wire.
At their next meetup he flashed the signal, and Reggie saw.
He didn’t blink. He didn’t so much as change his tone. He simply spoke on, as before. “I’m going to be meeting a man,” he said, “in the alley between Gordon’s and the old pharmacy. We’ll be exchanging information on some new tech.”
“When will this be, Sir?” the lieutenant pressed eagerly, knowing full-well every word said was a lie.
“Monday night. Nine sharp.”
On Monday, at nine sharp, bluecoats were staked all around the alley. They only emerged from their hiding places when a tall man in a raincoat and widebrim hat showed himself, drifting to meet what looked like another man. They charged the broad alley, shivs of rain now coming down. They leveled their rifles at the men, only to find two drunkard bums in costume, who claimed a stranger had commissioned their services, and paid a generous sum at that.
Before the knot of confusion could untangle, a flood of rebels materialized from every direction, jumping from rooftops and rising from dumpsters, emerging from nooks and manholes. Descending from the vast array of fire escapes overhead, combat boots clambering against the metal-grate steps.
The cobbled alley soon turned to a slaughterhouse.
Even the clouds seemed to shy back, as red slaked the ground and lashed the walls. Men were hacked to pieces in a wild frenzy, disassembled like dolls, shot apart and left gaping in wide-eyed terror at a sky they could no longer see.
There were curses aplenty. There were cries of defiance, but as the weight of the situation pressed in these were slowly stemmed off, replaced by cries for mercy, for backup. In the throes of a breakdown one young recruit cried for his mother.
The few who still had their vision looked to the alleymouth. It was as though a magnetic force drew their eyes—something compelling, irresistible. Past the ragged rebels dealing their ends, they found the culprit. Standing there, in the wide gait between buildings, was a young man. He wore a dark tweed suit, his coiffure neat and black. He kept his hands unseen, clasped behind him. And he watched from the stygian veil, his face a void.
He never had to lift a finger.
For many, he would be the last thing they would ever see. On this wretched night and other nights innumerable.
But on this night it was different.
On this night he was only seventeen years old.
Two months before his eighteenth birthday, the last of the mainline rebels dissolved. There was only the Farisia now. It had siphoned all other organizations down to nothing.
A middle-aged Farisian prospect took note, and asked him: “What ever became of the mainlines?”
He clasped his hands, elbows biting his desk. Behind his threaded fingers there was a boyish face and an oil-stain glare.
“We ate them,” he replied, simply. “They’re mine now.”
“Ate?” the prospect seemed to fret.
“They work for me. What did you think I meant?”
“Nevermind,” a sigh. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Did you think I meant we were cannibals?”
"If you were,” the man laughed, “it wouldn't surprise me one bit."
By thirty, he sat in a cage at a maximum security facility.
Were he to die there he concluded he would have no regrets. And he was set to die that very morning. But he didn’t necessarily plan on it.
Outside his cell the bluecoat guards on duty were switching up. Bluecoats offered the best entertainment, especially the newer ones. They hadn’t the expertise to deal with a thing like him, so they would often scramble to compensate. Fight, flight, fawn. The works.
There was a lanky young man who would thump peanuts at him like he was an exhibition at the zoo. A kindly older woman who offered an ear if he wished to speak. (She seemed to genuinely care, though by nature he had his doubts.) A blusterous round vulgarian who relished knowing Reggie couldn’t reach his throat for the bars. He would slur him and curse him, drunkenly. Well over half the words Reggie conjectured he’d made up.
He took it all in stride, with the stoicism of a scholar. Never did he react. Never did he so much as blink. With one exception.
One fateful ‘changing of the guard’ saw the peanut-thumper leaving a bag of trailmix halfeaten on his desk. The young woman replacing him noticed it, while sipping her canteen. She reached for it, and Reggie finally spoke up.
“It has nuts,” he said.
She angled her face over. Hearing his voice felt alien, surreal.
“That stuff,” he elaborated. “It has nuts in it. If I recall, you’re allergic.”
She regarded him with a skeptical look. “They told me should you ever speak, to do the opposite of what you said.”
“Go ahead and die, then.”
He said nothing else. It seemed the palace had been so stringent in its fifteen-year campaign against him, the current batch of bluecoats saw him as the Devil incarnate.
The woman ate, if only because he’d told her not to.
And when minutes later she fell retching and gasping from her chair, he was left to watch. Finally he took a quartersize crumb of the chipping wall and flicked it, the trajectory just right to hit her emergency alert button. She was well-unconscious by then.
He never found out if she survived.
They blamed him, of course. And that strange instance was relegated to legend with all the others. It morphed, and grew. Look what this creature did. He got her through the bars. And if he can get her through the bars, he can get you.
His newest guard was a fresh face, young and freckled. She looked about twenty, tops. Her hair was wiry red and her eyes were afraid. They observed from a distance, not daring to lock with his.
“Not a word,” she was quick to preface. “I hope you understand. You’ve singlehandedly swayed half the island to do your bidding. I’ve read some of the reports and—yeah, I shouldn’t have to explain why I don’t want you talking to me. In fact, don’t even breathe in my direction.”
She hung only as close as she had to, and watched his feet.
“You’re scared?” he asked.
“Shut up!” she cried, face ripening to match her hair. “I will put you in solitary!”
“I’m already the only one in here.”
Calmly, he complied.
“I’m not about to risk it,” she continued. “I-I’m not the most aware person. I try, but still. I get taken advantage of really easily.”
“This probably isn’t the best job for you, then.”
“Nooo!” she covered her ears, theatrically, “I can’t hear you!”
Every guard they sic on me is clinically insane, he lamented. Every. Single. One.
There was a brief stint of silence, till she glanced over and noticed his position. He sat crookedly in the corner, right shoulder crammed against the wall.
Minutes later, she brought him a pillow, tossing it through the bars. “You looked…uncomfortable.”
“NO!” hands to the ears. “SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP!”
Around midmorning, a male guard came in to fetch him for transit. He was well-armed. In fact, he looked equipped enough to do battle with every rebel in the country.
The man noticed Reggie, perched in his cage. By then he had five pillows, two blankets, twelve books, and a steaming cup of coffee.
The freckly redhead was beaming.
“Oh, they’re here! They’re here! Whew,” she declared, “I’m kinda proud of myself. All this time alone with you and I haven’t been manipulated at all.”
The male guard, Mr. Ray, was not impressed.
“What is this?!” he exploded. “Did you give him half the prison?!”
“Eep! No, Sir, I—” she paled, and grasped, and answered, “He looked sad.”
As Mr. Ray dragged him away in cuffs—a dozen more guards in tow—Reggie grinned.
“I like her.”
The gruff bluecoat shot him a glare.
He prodded him on.
The coterie of guards led him from the complex, and loaded him into the back of an armored transport truck. Several crowded in around him, guns in plain view. They wanted him to know he was trapped.
Mr. Ray sat closest, perhaps so he could taunt. He was Reggie’s least favorite kind—the kind that picked “fight”. He could tolerate fear and flattery, but mockery tended to wear thin. And this guy. This guy…
“Best enjoy that brain of yours while it still works,” Ray dogged, “Before the hour’s out, it’s gonna be laying in a bucket, with the rest of yer pretty little head.”
On the surface, Reggie was unconcerned at best. He held his unreadable scowl. His pleasant-if-anything poker face.
When Ray insisted on continuing, he figured up a way to silence him. "Have you ever heard of the Vampire of Düsseldorf?"
“What are you yammering on about?”
“It was the moniker of a serial killer from the early twentieth century,” Reggie replied. “Peter Kürten. When faced with the guillotine, some of his last words come to mind. ‘Tell me, after my head is chopped off, will I still be able to hear, at least for a moment, the sound of my own blood gushing from the stump of my neck? That would be the pleasure to end all pleasures.’”
“Ew!” Ray snapped. “How do you know that?! Do you just sit around memorizing this—”
"WE'RE HERE!!!" the driver called back, through the chainlink partition separating the cab from the haul.
Ray sighed, and nailed Reggie with another glare. “I’d tell ye to get a life, but, well…”
Reggie smiled genuinely then, for the first time in weeks. He made sure Ray saw it. Once he offloaded with the guards and was intercepted by the higher palace authority, Ray made a face.
“Ughhh,” he languished. “They get creepier every year.”
Reggie was guided up the steps of the platform, to the cacophony of over twenty-thousand spectators. The guillotine waited, at the edge of a manmade precipice. The view was like that from a rooftop.
Amusingly enough, there were concession stands lining the road to each side. People held everything from salted pretzels to mixed drinks. Children licked their cones of shaved ice. A couple smartalecks had set up lawn chairs and umbrellas. Vendors peddled their wares, calling out in tandem with the jeers and the slurs and the laughter.
Not many supporters of his dared show their faces.
He watched the animated crowds with dispassion, disinterest. He was lost in his own thoughts—unfazed by the effigies of him hanging from makeshift gallows, lit afire and left to shrivel in the sweltering midmorning sun. Posters that bore his likeness waved, the eyes X’d out, all sorts of graffiti employed to ugly him. Someone even drew cat ears on theirs. And lipstick. And blush. He didn’t know what they sought to accomplish, and odds were, neither did they.
The Devil horns made more sense. He supposed the rumors had gotten around. Of course they had. It was inevitable.
Anything propagated by the palace seemed to catch like wildfire, and grip the diehard Loyalists, which were still a noteworthy majority.
He watched. And he resolved. If they wanted a devil, he would give them one.
The bluecoats manhandled his arms, and with wrists still cuffed at his back he was dragged along, closer and closer to the serrated maw of death. The lunette was open and ready.
Before he could be pushed to his knees, a bearded bluecoat stepped forward holding a charcoal-gray blazer. He motioned to Reggie’s handlers. “Unlock his cuffs for a minute,” he ordered, “and have him put this on.”
“What, you afraid he’ll catch a cold?” one retorted.
“We need him to look presentable,” the bearded man said. “He’s a legend, after all. The more ‘larger than life’ he comes off, the more of a message it’ll send when we dispatch him.”
“It’ll take more than a jacket to make him look presentable.”
The scrappy handlers stepped aside nonetheless. They drew their pieces and leveled them at Reggie, as the jacket-bringer unlocked his cuffs. With at least five rifles and two revolvers aimed at him, Reggie slid the jacket on. He felt the plated knuckles hidden in the sleeves, and the gun holstered in the inner-pocket.
His hands were recuffed by the jacket-bringer. He made sure to play along and pretend they had locked.
He knelt, placing his neck in the lunette. There was no top piece. The guillotine was a barbaric rig. Even the blade was rusty and worn. Perhaps they had picked this one in the hopes it would be too dull to do the job. It would sever just enough to leave him wounded and dying.
The sadism wasn’t lost on him. And he didn’t appreciate it.
An orator was summoned to give the sendoff. He wore a three-piece suit and a tie of mulberry silk. A hush swept the crowds; and those who refused to quieten were scolded and shushed and threatened into submission.
“Sir Reginald Farris,” he began, when all had settled, “for ordering the assassination of this nation’s great King, His Majesty Frederick I, the murder of numberless others, at your own hand and by proxy, and all other measures of atrocity you’ve committed since assuming your role as puppetmaster of the rebellion—you are hereby given to death. Death and all that will surely follow. Son,” a pause, “I’m real glad I ain’t you.”
The orator regarded him like a soggy piece of trash, held at arm’s length.
“Have you any last words?”
“Have you?” Reggie asked.
“Ay. Your trickery won’t work this time,” the man scoffed. “You’re caught as a chick in the claws of an eagle.”
“Let’s get this over with, then.”
The crowd opined. “Lop his head off already!” “Feed his body to the pigs!” “Mount ’is mug in the palace john!”
Off to the side, Farris noticed two children, standing among the throngs. The boy looked maybe ten, the girl maybe five. Neither shared in the joy of their neighbors. The boy’s face was juicy with tears, and the girl watched with a somber catatonia. They were discrepancies in a sea of vulgar revelry. And there was a reason. But all in due time.
The orator—Mister Van Dien—knelt low, till he was at eyelevel with the condemned. His true colors surfaced. He gifted him a cynical grin. “How does it feel to know in a minute or less, you’ll be seeing Hell?”
There was a strange silence that swelled, along the thunderhead sky.
Meanwhile he pinpointed every face of significance among the revelers. Ray stood with them, near the front. The redhead girl too. They in their crisp uniforms; his seeming to hug his rotund body, and hers seeming to swallow her whole.
The déclic was pulled and the mouton dropped with all the vigorous lethargy expected. But in the seconds leading up Farris freed his hands. They retreated into his sleeves and emerged with metal plates at each fist. Then they deployed, and stopped the blade above him with a sharp clash. It halted maybe an inch from the nape of his neck.
And that was the cue.
“DEATH BEFORE SURRENDER!” the cry swelled with the thunderheads. And a strange, autumnal wind began to blow.
In a blink, every bluecoat on the platform lay shot, most dead, some dying. Despite the vantage points already being vetted for snipers by security, it seemed a few had weaseled their way in. But that wasn’t the worst of it.
As Farris stood to his feet, pushing the mouton up by his plated knuckles, a blotch of black was forming along the east. It swirled together, a sentient and chattering thing. It blotted the sun and hung over the city square. An abominable ceiling comprised of who knew what.
From the ground they looked like insects. And they were fast to attack, lighting into anything in uniform they could find. The bluecoats would be swarmed, mobbed by the tiny black creatures. They would eat them from beneath their uniforms, and still upright the uniforms would stand for a moment before crumbling to the ground. Some would force their ways in through the orifices of the face and fill their screaming prey, dispatching them from the inside-out.
Though a humble illusion, the scene left an initial impression as some precursor to the end. An apocalyptic tableau. A plague poured out upon the land.
The crowd scattered, trampling and clawing and shrieking as though the air itself was laced with poison, and had to be expelled from their lungs.
The orator stood docile and stunned at the platform precipice, bearing a useless witness to it all. He shrank in his suit; eyes wrought with a distillation of terror so pure and true you’d be pressed to find it replicated in the annals of history. Men and women bayed below, like fearstricken jackals in a pen. They fled and tumbled and turned vendor carts on their side. Tables were flipped to the ground, wares shattered. Aristocrats in tuxes and gowns ran as they likely never had before, faces wrung aghast. The fire from the effigies soon caught on the debris, and small pockets of flame began to crop up in the terrorized valley between buildings.
The road ran red, and it mixed with the collections of pooled rainwater from the day prior, and it frothed pink along the curbs, lapping like some ghastly aquaplane at the point of contact between ocean and earth.
The orator stood docile, until a rustle at his back—the light scuff of footsteps—stirred him. He pivoted to face the source, and there he found Reggie, all suited and smiling. Wireskinny, eyes deceptively polite.
He moved to back away, a quavering note sticking in his teeth. It was low and shapeless, a thrum of the damned.
He reversed himself toward the precipice, and the fifty foot drop it offered. Reggie followed, walking toward him at a leisurely pace.
“What was that about me seeing Hell?” he asked. “Usually my memory is spotless, but I’m having a bit of trouble recounting. Perhaps it’s because you never finished the thought...” His voice was sickly and timid. In context, it was a subtle mockery. “So feel free, Mister Van Dien. Finish it.”
“Yck—stay back!” Van Dien cried, his mind moving to bargain. “I was a patron of your father’s park! A key investor! Before he lost his mind and started sympathizing with the rebels, I was one of his best friends…in the world, yes, in the world…” The precipice was nearing. The drop. “You had a comfortable childhood because of me! I lent him millions!”
“Well, now I’m really calling my memory into question, because I don’t seem to remember you at all.” Reggie dropped the plates from each fist, and stood barehanded before him. “Maybe you’re just that forgettable.”
Van Dien stopped, his heels cusping the edge, hanging over. He glanced back and that quickly proved a mistake. All of a sudden the drop seemed twice as far.
He flitted his eyes back to Reggie.
“You see my hands. They’re empty,” Farris said. “So why do you look so afraid?”
Caught up in the throes of deliberation, Van Dien fidgeted and trembled and soon the fear overtook him, causing him to lose his balance. Whether intentional or not, he fell from the precipice, and landed in a screaming tangle. Limbs folding impossibly. A bloodied signature on the cobbles.
Reggie glimpsed him briefly, leaning himself over the edge. He put his hands in his pockets then and turned, continuing his leisurely stroll to the stairs.
***the man that got away***
People were running in every direction, like chickens freshly-beheaded. Those deranged enough to accidentally cross paths with Reggie found themselves reeling.
From a distance he was an idea, a blur. But. With that distance closed they got to see him, really see him, in all his uncanny splendor. Thirty was young enough for his vast oeuvre of accomplishments. But up close he looked even younger. He looked like a collegiate sophomore at oldest.
He descended the platform steps and walked casually through the fleeing crowd—to the alcove where Ray and the guard girl were hiding, behind the overturned tables of a trashed vendor stand.
He stopped in front of them, and pulled the gun from his jacket. The redhead girl lost her wits then, drawing her knees to her chin and shrinking behind them and whimpering past all control like a beaten pup. Ray could only blubber and push himself back by his heels. His eyes were enormous, pupils contracted and shivering.
Reggie put a bullet in the leftside of his head. It corkscrewed clean through, one temple to the other. The exit wound erupted, plastering a fine red mist onto the wall behind. Some of it even hit the mousy redhead. She made a strange and guttural noise; perhaps it was a scream caught crossways in her throat, swallowed down so not to draw attention.
But she had his attention, undivided.
He watched her for a moment, then smiled. “You might want to consider a new line of work,” he said, polite and soft-worded as before. “I don’t think you’re cut out for this.”
With that, he drifted on.
She spent the first twenty minutes of her second chance puking her guts out.
Past the mud-trampled corpses and the bleeding injured and the inflamed cordillera of rubble, Reggie saw the armored transport truck that had delivered him minutes before, idling. In the driver’s seat sat one of his spies, bluecoat uniform bright and spotless and convincing as any other. The actual driver lie dead on the ground, a bullethole between his eyes.
Reggie loaded into the open haul, where a couple spies and both children from earlier sat gathered. He seated himself among them, eyes peaceful, serene.
“I noticed a few familiar faces in the audience,” he addressed the kids. “You showed up to cheer me on?”
“To see you…off…” Felix, the lad, sniffled. “I thought…I thought…”
“Where’s your faith, my boy?” Reggie admonished, quietly. “Take a page from your sister. Not a tear to be found. You knew all along, didn’t you Nyce?”
She nodded, with conviction.
As the transport truck drove from the town square, a figure watched its departure. She stood atop the dome of the bank, the highest vantage around. Her clothes were baggy, black and gold spangled. Her skin was painted purest white. And her vampish makeup was skewed partly by a netted veil. She made sure the truck was untouched, siccing her insects on anyone who would dare pursue.
Sure enough it left the bounds of Alvany and headed into the wooded country. In the back the spies were conferring. Mainly on plans for how to celebrate their victory. Reggie was quick to interrupt.
“It’s not over,” he warned. “Frederick may be dead, but there’s still his wife and son. I heard she’s in hiding now. She’s probably not even in the country anymore. And if that’s true, the kid’s likely in hiding too.”
“So, you think the palace is empty?” the younger spy asked.
“Of royals, yes. But I’m sure there are plenty grunts in position to hold down the fort.” His smile faded. “It’s pathetic really. To fight and die defending an empty castle. In support of the leaders who abandoned you.”
Another spy piped up, when silence threatened. “We missed you Boss.” The others nodded in consensus, and every nod was genuine.
“I’ve missed myself,” Reggie jested. “A month I’ve been biding my time in that rathole. That’s a lot of hours to dedicate, even for a payoff like this...” his mind trailed, “When we get back, they better have a briefing ready. I wanna hit the ground running.”
“Jennifer Richards, reporting live from the Alvanian Square, where earlier today the execution of mass murderer Reginald Farris was halted by a rebel attack. Farris is said to have escaped the city, aboard a commandeered military vehicle. Sources claim he’s since switched over to a black Victoria. The Capitol requests that all citizens stay alert. Anyone with any information is encouraged to phone the tipline. Do not approach Farris on your own, as he is said to be armed and extremely dangerous.”
“Everything happened so fast, yanno. One minute they had his neck in the guillotine and the next, there were bodies everywhere. I counted forty, fifty… It was hard to tell who was moving, because everything felt like it was moving, yanno. And those forty or fifty. Those were just, yanno, in my field of vision.”
“The bugs…the bugs…”
“I saw a bluecoat pick him up in the transport truck. A bonafide kingsman. I never thought I’d see the day that monster had kingsmen on his payroll…”
“Before today, I’d only heard stories. I’d come to believe he wasn’t even real. And seeing him…he looked like a vampire. Like something not quite human. His skin was super pale, like paper. Like, dude needs some serious Vitamin D.”
“The bugs…the bugs…”
“He walked down the platform steps, and into the crowds. I actually came pretty close to him. He smelled like teakwood candles and stale cigarettes. He was nuthin terribly special. But I suppose if he was he’d be a pretty lousy assassin.”
“He can overthrow my kingdom any day.”
“GRANDMA EW WHAT THE—”
“The bodies, yanno, some were downright ventilated. There was sniper fire coming down from everywhere. You just heard popping from the rooftops. Pop, pop, pop. And, yanno, I was outta there, I wasn’t about to stand around and gawk at the people shooting at me…”
“Now back to Darren in the studio.”
“Thank you, Jennifer. Casualties from that catastrophe are said to stand at 327, for the time being. But accounting all the injuries, that number is expected to rise.”
Upon receiving word of the Alvany incident, the palace dispatched a squad of trained assassins to track down Farris and his brood. They came a hair’s breadth from sending Heidre Marcos, but then thought better of it. Too much carnage.
She was a last resort.
Instead they sent some middlegrade professionals, people with enough restraint about them not to raze the country.
The hit squad set up shop along the road leading to Vaudeville, a decades-old, abandoned theme park the rebels had claimed for their lair. The interior was too populated with Farisians for any self-respecting kingsman to enter. So they kept far enough out that any encounter would be manageable—maybe a sparse peppering of enemies at most.
The forestry to each side of the road was thick, thick enough that anything could lurk beneath the foliage unspotted. The assassins decided to use Farris’ own terrain against him, positioning themselves under several layers of branches. Whenever the Victoria he hijacked would pass, they’d open fire on it, blow out the tires, and even lob a grenade or two if necessary.
All was ready.
Their greatest adversity now was impatience.
“I thought he’d never shut up,” the elder spy complained of Van Dien.
“Yeah. I’ll admit I almost poked the bear,” Reggie acknowledged, from the backseat of his new Victoria. “You’re still not done? At this rate I’m poised to live a very full life up here.”
The driver was the same bluecoat impersonator from the truck. The elder spy got the passenger seat. The younger spy had stayed with the truck, to dispose of it. (Which was just a fancy way of saying ‘light it on fire’.)
Felix and Nyce sat, to each side of their father.
Just when Nyce was about to say something, a loud popping noise cut her short.
One of the royal assassins spotted a black Victoria coming up the little dirt road around evening. He called out to his comrades and the hail of gunfire began. Soon metal and glass rippled like water, under the brunt of a thousand bullets. A grenade was tossed for good measure. It rolled under the sagging automobile before igniting.
A ball of fire consumed what was left of the mangled heap. The blast was so great it propelled the driver clean through the windshield and into the road. He was marred by a patchwork of cuts and burns, evidently dead. A gash in his stomach let on. And his unblinking eyes cemented the verdict.
Slowly the assassins emerged, reluctant to survey the damage.
Could it have possibly been that easy?
“Oh…man,” one groaned, having browsed the contents of the driver’s pockets. “There’s an ID,” he sighed. “This isn’t the name we were given.”
“W-what?” another piped in disbelief.
“The traitor driving Farris went by ‘John Hadley’. And he was middle-aged. This guy’s probably twenty-five, tops.”
“Maybe Farris swapped drivers. Seems like a stunt he’d pull.”
“There’s no one else in the car,” a third called over, having given the wreckage a thorough sifting.
“Would you be able to tell?”
“Yeah. Even with fire like that, there’s usually traces. I know what to look for.”
The first man hesitated, utterly speechless. Finally he yanked his cap off, lashed it against the dirt and swore.
“It was a decoy,” he seethed, when he’d managed to gather his composure. “He knew… I bet that kid we cooked was one of them, one of those rebel cultists. Majority of their outfit is under thirty. Bunch of psychotic upstarts with no real grasp of life or death or consequence.”
He looked to the dead falltime branches, amiably joining hands overhead.
“The country wasn’t like this forty years ago,” he shuddered, if only to himself.
“What was that?” Nyce inquired of the popping.
“Oh, probably just a gravel that got picked up in the tire,” Farris shrugged.
“What’s that up ahead?” Felix asked, having scoped a strange sight. In the middle of the road—like an island born amid an ocean of dirt—smoldered the remains to some kind of vehicle, with metal ribboned and twisted and charred. A few people had collected around the scene. Farris recognized them at once.
“Mr. Hadley,” he said. “I have a request for you. When we pass this group of gentlemen up here, lay on your horn, alright? And step on it.”
Mr. Hadley obeyed.
On their way past, he laid on the horn and gunned it. The royal assassins snapped to attention, some attempting to load the remainder of their ammo. A dwindled hail of gunfire ensued, but nothing so precise as to hit the right Victoria.
It was too far gone, whizzing, galloping.
Farris and his patrons careened merrily away.
Author's Note: I copy/pasted the Kürten quote to avoid typos. (The sheer quantity of commas is distressing lol.) I was also lazy so...
Genre: General Fiction/Fantasy(?)
Age Range: 15+
Word Count: maybe >60,000 words (it’s not all the way finished)
Author Name: Owlie Costello (pen name)
Why: I have an unusual style that you’ll hopefully find fresh and engaging. (This story kind of subverts the “rebel equals good, royal equals bad” trope. The rebels are basically villains, though nuance is present. It’s a testimony to how easily hate can become blind and irrational, if left to fester.)
The Hook: The shadow of the father falls heavy on the son.
Synopsis: Hank was just a regular boy…until one day a brutal attack gives way to the revelation—he’s next in line for the throne of Thomasia, and people want him dead for it. Now that power has fallen to him, young Hank must navigate his new role with the help of his eccentric staff. But a vestige of his father’s reign still lingers, a vicious rebel organization known as the Farisia. And their leader is a force to be reckoned with...
Target Audience: 15-35(?)
Bio: I’m a relatively young, aspiring writer who’s not had the best luck getting discovered, but I’m hoping to change that. I’d say my biggest literary influences are Markus Zusak and Cormac McCarthy.
Experience: I’ve written since I was little.
Personality/Writing Style: I like fast-paced storytelling with odd characters, unexpected twists, and the occasional flair of philosophy.
Likes/Hobbies: Writing and singing
Operation Bed Tundy
How do you accidentally become an assassin?
Leave it to me to find out. One minute I’m driving down the fourlane and the next I’m being pulled over, silently cursing my lead foot (again). Many don’t believe me when I describe the leaden-ness of my foot. Can’t really blame them. I suppose the inability to distinguish between sixty and a-hundred-and-forty miles an hour would be hard to believe, to one on the outside looking in. And with a condition this unbelievable, your only recourse is to keep your mouth closed and take what comes. Explanation is futile.
Twelve tickets in six months.
I tense to think this might be the one that gets me time.
Imagine my surprise when a mitigating opportunity presented itself. I say mitigating because this option allowed me to forgo a court appearance. All I had to do was follow some government guys to a shady looking outpost (that looked more like an outhouse) in the middle of nowhere, and board an elevator car wherein I descended into an enormous underground compound replete with all kinds of futuristic tech.
They told me if I agreed to this super important mission all my tickets and subsequent charges would be waived forever. I should’ve taken the fact that they didn’t tell me what the mission was as a hint. If it was something pleasant, the payoff probably wouldn’t have been so generous. When I learned what it was, it was too late. I’d signed on, with no chance to renege.
The mission, should I choose to accept it—and stupidly I did—was to be a guinea pig for time travel. But not just any guinea pig. I was to travel back in time and assassinate none other than Ted Bundy, before his killing spree began.
Them twelve tickets weren’t looking so bad right about now.
I loaded into the time travel pod thing (I made straight Fs, so don’t judge me for not getting more technological), and prepared to probably die, but lo and behold I didn’t. The circles of light slid up and down my body, no de-atomization or nuthin. When the pod split open I found myself in an empty field. The giant oaks having surrounded the government outhouse (sorry, outpost) were twigs, and even the sky had that sepia-old look.
Now I’d been armed to the teeth with a bunch of gear, so I wasn’t totally defenseless in the belly of this new world. They’d printed and minted a bunch of money with the dates changed so not to rouse suspicion. Why couldn’t they have just used real old coins, you may ask. Well, real old coins are rare. They’re collectible for a reason. And I needed a lot. So the fake ones had to do. And it was the government that did it so…I don’t guess it’s illegal.
I found the beat I was supposed to walk and lingered there a while. Bundy apparently frequented that road.
It wasn’t long before a rust-bucket paid me enough mind to slow. A young-ish man with brown hair called out the window.
“Need a ride, Ma’am?”
I climbed aboard the rattletrap and settled into shotgun. The government dudes had given me a special needle of stuff to inject him with. Shooting was out of the question since any bodily trauma might damage his brain in the long-run. Oh yeah—they wanted me to bring his head back for scientific observation. Guess I forgot that part.
I still brought my own gun, just in case things went south. At ninety-three pounds soaking wet I’m not exactly apt to fight off a hulking man.
I smalltalked with Ted for a few minutes, an attempt to get his guard down. But before I could strike, the destination I’d made up came into view. Huh. Guess Boswell Gas Station was a real place.
Our ride now shortened by this unforeseen hitch, I reached for the needle. It was now or never. So, in other words, never. Ted read my movements a little too well and swerved his rust-bucket sharply, sending my head bashing into the window. I don’t even think he saw the needle, which meant... All the while I was planning to move in, he was apparently planning the same.
Regrets ebbed and flowed, as he slowed the car to a crawl. My original plan had been to force him to kidnap me at gunpoint. And before you say that sounds stupid: That way he’d have seen the gun from the jump and known not to mess with me. Also, nobody would’ve believed him if he managed to get away.
“Officer, it wasn’t my fault! She forced me to kidnap her—at gunpoint!”
No chance of that flying.
Alas, I’d gone with option B. And I was paying for it.
We wrestled back and forth, him grabbing me by the wrists and holding my arms apart. A headbut later and I was nearly out. Through my disorientation I could see him drawing a big hunting knife. He smiled at me, jaggedly.
“This is for your vocal cords, little deer.”
I didn’t know which half of his sentence I felt worse about. The part about severing my vocal cords or the creepy “little deer” addendum, which were it a physical being would need to be killed with fire, the ashes launched into deep space with twelve nukes attached.
Sorry. It just creeped me out.
In the throes of sadistic revelry (or maybe he had a stroke—I dunno’ what that was), he hesitated.
I swung my stiletto up and kicked him square in the neck, my heel possibly puncturing something. So much for no damage. But the government could suck it up. It was him or me.
As he sputtered and spat, blood slipping from the corners of his mouth, I took the wheel and hit the accelerator, launching us off into the grass, past a shabby treeline, and into a big reservoir of water.
I can’t win, can I?
As the waterline climbed up the windows and slowly immersed us, I rushed to open my door. Ted had me by the ankle, but that didn’t stop me from trying. I shoved and it parted away, sending a surge of muddy water gushing in. The tide smacked him upside the face and knocked him off me. I writhed my way out, swimming and swimming until I felt the ground kiss my feet.
From the grassy shore, I watched the water slowly suck Ted’s car under.
I was grateful to be alive—but hoo boi the government was not gonna’ be happy.
Then, something weird happened. Which in the context of this story, is saying something.
The tide coughed up a big hunk of something. I rushed over and poked it. It didn’t move.
Upon closer examination, I realized it was Ted. He was dead—waterlogged and bluish.
His brain probably wasn’t in the best of shape. I realized this.
I brandished the metal plate the government dudes had given me, holding it up to his neck. A click later and a blade had discharged, severing the head and encasing it in a bubble-like, malleable skin. The coating would preserve it.
After some time walking the backroads, a severed head tucked neatly under my arm (guess that’s why nobody offered to pick me up), I found my pod and climbed in. I was pretty eager to get back to the present, all things considered.
When I stepped out in the lab again, I presented the head. One of the scientist dudes examined it carefully, a look of great displeasure crossing his face.
I was quick to justify myself.
“He was gonna’ cut my vocal cords! I had to drive us off into that reservoir—”
The displeasure intensified.
“It’s not that…” the man garbled, indignantly.
“THIS IS NOT TED BUNDY!!!”
“You incipid, brainless embarrassment of a human being!”
“Do I still get my tickets waived?”
The scientist sent me a glare that was scarier than the one not-Ted Bundy had sent me.
“I can make this up to you,” I shrugged. “Maybe I could go after Jack the Ripper, or Jeffrey Dahmer, or the Zodiac Killer…”
“Jack the Ripper, Jeffrey Dahmer, and…”
“The Zodiac Killer?”
“What is a ‘Zodiac Killer’? You’re just making killers up at this point,” he pinched the slack between his eyes, exhaustedly. “You know what—get out.”
I tried to object, but he’d already shuffled me to the door.
“But dude! I think I—”
Long story short, the government wasn’t too terribly impressed with my work.
And my tickets did not get waived.
Writing and I have a difficult relationship.
Our relationship has been especially difficult as of late, since my return to Wattpad. Wattpad and I *also* have a difficult relationship, but to stop this from becoming a five-thousand page tome I won’t comment, apart from: it’s *really* hard to get noticed on bigger sites, despite the quality or social relevance of your work. You submit what you believe to be your magnum opus for editor’s pick, just to get no response. So you write another magnum opus, more tailored to what you believe acceptable. Second verse same as the first. At the end of the day, I will not relinquish my authorial experimentality. If I can’t write my weird heart out, I don’t wanna’ write at all. And if I have to write what’s wanted—i.e. good girl/bad boy romances and BTS fics—then I’d just as soon relocate. BTS is great; I just feel the fic market is saturated enough without my input.
My interests lie elsewhere, in the philosophical, the spoopy, the bizarre. I’m not a romantic by nature, so that puts me at odds with WP from the jump. Interestingly enough, these interests once put me at odds with talent itself. Should I go into that yet? Why not.
I’ve written for the majority of my sorta-brief life on this planet. As a wee lass I’d scribble my fantasies. The fascination was always kind of a fixture for me. A hiatus found me a bit older, rustily returning to the game, ambitiously trying my hand at a concept a decade or so too mature for where I was at. I am convinced the result was one of the worst, most bloated acts of pretension ever committed to paper. It was AGONIZING.
The warm-up was better, a story about abused animals turning against humanity. That one was neat. But this one—an endless diatribe packaged as a character study, affectionately dubbed “The Love”—was unclean on a cellular level. It centered around a gritty young orphan, from losing her mother to consumption, to being snared by the streets, taken in by an orphanage, befriending a sheepish boy, and defending said boy when bullies tried to rob him. That defense culminated in a few of the bullies being killed. So by nine the co-protag is a killer, hauled in to a sanitarium, and forced to live among every shade of mental illness imaginable. Her story elapses in tandem with the assassination of the country’s king, and the ascent of his young son to the throne after spending his early childhood in hiding. A royal ball is thrown and Warri, the co-protag, manages to escape the sanitarium and attend. It’s there she actually talks with the young king, and they strike up a bond. But the king is soon arranged to marry another girl, who’s really spoiled and bratty. A bunch of stuff happens, that I don’t care to remember. The spoilt princess ends up dead at Warri’s hand, igniting the ire of her father. To save his mother in exile, and of course the guilty party Warri, the young king gives himself over to be punished for the killing. But at the last minute Warri steps in and rightfully takes the rap. And they bid their farewells as she’s flown away to prison.
The concept, as mentioned, is decent. Flawed, but decent. The story...is mostly just flawed. Younger me seemed to conflate “wise writing” with “endless big-worded rambling” so that’s what you usually got. Younger me also seemed to conflate descriptions of nature (and the neverending onslaught of metaphors and similes it entailed) with...prodigious writing. And that’s okay to an extent. I’m not one to knock a good metaphor. But when you spend like thirty pages describing the sky, it tends to wax tedious. The sky descriptions were probably longer than the actual scenes they encompassed. Though I don’t know for sure. It’s been a small eternity and I’m not going back to check. I know characters did like to monologue, so it might’ve been a tossup. Adults liked to monologue. Children liked to monologue. I think there was even a toddler that monologued, and no, I am not making that up. Younger me tried to naturalize it by playing her off as a genius. In reality I just couldn’t write for a toddler. I also couldn’t write for nine-year-olds. Or adults. Or humans in general.
The interactions were probably mind-numbing.
Another one of my problems was hoarding. That’s not often a word you hear associated with writing, but let me explain. I was a hoarder of sentences. I’d describe something decently, and be so impressed by my own description that even if there were two other close-proximity descriptions describing the exact same thing...I’d still keep the third, and fourth, and fifth. That was probably more of an ego thing, in hindsight. Imagine! A girl so young stringing sentences together so beautifully! Sure, she’s saying the exact same thing over and over, but every iteration is so majestic we don’t care.
I filled so many notebooks with this story. I should probably apologize to the trees for that.
Hopefully my wordletting helped expel the cringe from my system. It didn’t expel all of it, by far. Cringe runs deep for a young, aspiring author. I tried my hand at a bunch more stories, but they usually fizzled out before the end. I could complain about those too, but then this post would balloon to unnerving lengths and I think it’s already ballooned enough.
Instead I’ll just leave you with this factoid.
The first sentence of The Love mentions the sun. I think it’s setting. Rising? Setting? Whichever one it was, I got the direction wrong. Either the sun was rising in the west or setting in the east (I still had to look up which ways were right, ngl).
So if openers are supposed to be indicative of things to come—this one succeeded.
Whenever my high horse discovers stilts, I have to remind myself that for every “the gunmetal sky was already beginning to tarnish” I still have ten ‘suns rising in the west’, so to speak. I’ll stumble across the dumbest mistakes, which shall in turn re-rouse the adage of a wise philosopher: “Sit down. Be humble.” (Kendrick Lamar)
(Oh. And the genius toddler was Warri. Warri was a genius.)
The world went dark on July 20.
Fortunate for my family and I, we still had some of our garden left. By the time the supermarket shelves were ransacked and the riots hit, we’d gathered four twenty-gallon buckets of tomatoes, seventy cucumbers, four dozen banana peppers, ten plump bells, and nine watermelons. We wasted no time dragging it all inside; we knew it wouldn’t be long till the riots overflowed from the city and came our way. They’d sweep through, a wall of greed and disorder, and ravage our land.
Phones were down for the few who still had landlines, and cells were inoperable for loss of signal, which meant no 911. (Criminals...were acutely aware of this.) I took plenty issue with the notion of being inevitably robbed without recourse, but in times like these you kinda’ had to suck it up. We were thirty miles from any police station. Smith and Wesson was our only fallback.
This was social anaphylaxis, an allergic recoil from the sting of primitivity. And like anaphylaxis I figured it would eventually subside.
Scariest were those who depended on technology like a lifeline. We didn’t have news to tell of the suicides. I would’ve been afraid to ask anyway.
A week in and you had stray influencers wandering the streets, lost and despaired, looking like something the cat coughed up.
And I wondered. Had we fallen so far as a species that survival hinged on something as recent as electricity? I kept telling myself how two-hundred years ago there was no such amenity, and the residents endured just fine.
My mind kept circling back to a show I used to watch. Dr. Stone.
A mysterious flash of light leaves humanity petrified, and a handful of humans awaken 3,700 years later to a world devoid of modern means, reminiscent of a Stone Age. Aided by the supergenius Senku, they have to start over from scratch, meaning relearning everything from agriculture to architecture to the reinvention of more luxurious articles like automobiles, phones and cola. I loved that show; I just never thought I’d have to live it. Had I known this was coming I would’ve taken notes. But the extent of my note-taking was when I’d recorded the ingredients for cola on my Pages app. Which was now out of commission. Bruh.
Maybe I don’t really have room to judge the technologically bereaved.
The Stone World residents had it a bit tougher, I’d dare to say. At least we still had standing civilization, skyscrapers, cars. We had battery powered fans; we just lacked a way to charge the batteries.
What ground my gears was knowing all the writing I had logged away on my Pages app. All I knew was, when signals were restored my work better not’ve been lost. I probably had over three-hundred documents.
My anger dissipated a little when imagining the scope of effects brought about. Hospitals would be in trouble. Generators could only get them so far. And what about winter when farming was an impossibility? Hunting would have to suffice, but with the population so high could wildlife really sustain us all? I chose to be hopeful. It was really all I could do.
TV made this look easy.
There was an Amish commune a little ways from our farm. Dad bought wood from them regularly, so we had something of a rapport. Three months in we drove out to see if there was any wood left they could sell us. Winter was coming and our furnace supply was lower than usual. We’d had to start using it early for the cold nights. I met Isaiah out by the barns and he looked nothing like what I’d remembered. He was always so jovial for our wood runs, a man with a countenance of steel. But all the while he was explaining to us, he looked so beat down. He said some outsiders had hit their commune about a month back, and killed a couple of their men. The looters made off with as much as they could carry.
Fear does things to people. Things you can’t really explain. More than just fight or flight, these things hardly ever make sense. Perhaps it’s a narcissistic, impatient, nearsighted drive that fuels it. Why vie for cordial discourse when violence could get you so much further so much faster?
Isaiah told us the names of the dead. A few of them I’d known.
One of them was only a year older than me.
They could only spare a quarter-load of wood, but we were grateful. Isaiah refused money.
Dad gave him a gun and told him to protect his family. Reluctantly, he nodded and took it.
Driving back in our family pickup, I watched the sky. It looked so dreary anymore.
Again my mind circled back to Dr. Stone. Just a few of the petrified had been revived, and even then they managed to find conflict. Enemies were quickly made, and a war eventually followed.
The first thing I heard was the sound of shattering glass. The window at my right shoulder exploded. Dad gunned it but we didn’t make it far. A loud popping noise sent us rolling, ground turning to sky. Next thing I knew, I was in a ditch, about a hundred feet from the truck. I could hardly feel my body, my mouth tasted like copper, and my sight was barely clear enough to make out the faces eclipsing my periphery.
“She alive?” a gruff male voice called.
“Yeah, looks like it,” another replied. “What about the old man?”
“He ain’t moving. Big dent in his head. I’d say he’s a lost cause.”
“I got ’is wallet. He only had about seventy bucks.”
“You think she’s got anything on her?”
“Na. I don’t see no jewelry. And she looks about fifteen, so forget cash...”
“Wanna’ check? I mean, what would it hurt?”
By then, all I could see was black.
I felt myself being rolled over.
“Nothing... Told you.”
“She looks pretty bad, man. You didn’t tell me it would go like this.”
“Well, how could I have known?”
“So what, we just leave her here?”
“You got a better idea? Wanna’ take her to a hospital?” Sarcasm. Even concussed I understood that much.
“What, you feeling guilty now? If you don’t wanna’ leave her then be a man and just put her out of her misery.”
Silence. He’s thinking about it. I don’t know how I can tell, but I can.
“I can’t... I’ve never actually shot someone...”
His voice...he sounds so young.
“Fine. Just leave her. We’re moving out, though. I ain’t sittin’ around nursing some stranger’s kid till dark.”
Footsteps. The grass is rustling. They’re leaving.
I hear a click, and with a fresh fear I realize he’s made his decision.
I hear the first fraction of a gunshot.
Then I hear nothing.
I’ve had this floating around in my head for a while. It’s a good idea but I’m nowhere near flippant or cynical enough to do it justice. And there would have to be a lot of flippant and cynical humor in this, or it just wouldn’t hit the tone I envision.
Setting: World War II era, maybe?
The story centers around a disturbed, suicidal young man, maybe 20-30, and his quest to die—rather, get himself killed. He’s wanted to die for years, but something, be it religious beliefs or family-related, prevents him from taking his own life. The assumed ‘loophole’, then: to be as reckless as humanly possible, do the dirtiest jobs, and run headlong into the most harrowing situations. He becomes a firefighter and his lack of regard for his own life imbues him with an unhealthy fearlessness. He quickly becomes a hero in the eyes of the public—a man revered as “brave”. But still, he feels nothing. He’s only disappointed in his own survival. So he proceeds to sign up for a sequence of even more dangerous jobs, eventually being conscripted into the army.
He’s thrilled about this, much to the bewilderment of his family. They mistake his strange ideation for patriotism. He winds up on the frontlines, and watches the other men and their reactions. He notes the dichotomy—his apathy in stark contrast to their horror and trauma. He finds a dull portion of amusement in this, but not enough to make life ‘worth it’.
But then, something happens.
He begins to bond with the other men in his rank. He begins feeling emotions he doesn’t recognize—inexplicable urges of self-preservation, and glimmers of camaraderie. His apathy and loneliness corrodes. And he realizes that he doesn’t want to die. He wants to live, because he’s found that happiness and friendship are possible, even to a social outcast like him.
But he and his band are ambushed, and there he must sacrifice himself to save them. In his dying moments, he reflects on the irony and beauty that he finally got his deepest wish—to die wanting to live.
Dunno’ if there’s already anything out there like this. There probably is, but meh.
Also, I’d want Tarantino to write and direct it. Because Tarantino. :3
And what I’ve seen of Fight Club—that’s the vibe I’d like. It’s not a Tarantino movie, I know, but that’s beside the point haha.
i somehow manage to bring Rob Zombie up in the context of this challenge.
If life had a color, I believe it would be white, if only because spectrally speaking, white is the combination of all visible wavelengths of light, making it in essence “every color”. Which is funny. Because a lot of people don’t even consider white a color. But yes, objects we see as “white” basically reflect the whole spectrum, making plain ol’ white the most colorful color of all.
Even stranger? I learned of white’s status as ‘all the colors’ from Rob Zombie. You heard right. That Rob Zombie. One random night forever ago I was watching a part of one of his Halloween remakes and Dr. Loomis was explaining color to a young Michael Myers. He pretty much said that spectrally speaking, true black was the absence of color, and true white was the antithesis, being all the colors. I was just like—cool.
See, I absorb weird pieces of information like that, to regurgitate at random times like this. (With a quick double-check from the handy dandy internet.)
If white is every visible wavelength then that means, like life, it holds multitudes—the blue of sadness, the green of envy, the purple of depression, the yellow of madness, the orange of happiness, the red of anger, the gray of ambivalence, the brown of...brown.
People fail to recognize life’s weight and value as well, and just as white is often discredited as a color, life is often discredited as meaningful by the cynical, the jaded, the cruel, the greedy.
None of these thoughts are really my own, honestly. Maybe one or two or so? Dunno’.
So, among others, thank you Mr. Zombie.
between here and the hereafter.
As a person who’s never been too far removed from death, this question fascinates me. By that I mean I’ve lost many acquaintances, family members, friends. The first part of my life I believed in the hereafter because I was told. Then I had a crisis of faith, I guess you could call it, did some soul searching for the better part of a year, and landed right back at the beginning, choosing to keep my initial beliefs.
I was pretty young when my 17-year-old cousin hanged himself. I vaguely recall a family member of his having their picture taken at his gravesite, and in review a hand was placed to their shoulder. No one could figure out who it belonged to. I’m pretty sure no one had placed a hand to their shoulder at the time the picture was taken. Was it my cousin, allowed back to comfort the bereaved? Was it an angel? This question was never answered, but I believe it was a sign. A sign of something beyond the corporeal realm.
Another cousin of mine died of cancer in his twenties. My uncle mourned him for several years, before himself dying to a medical mistake, when his diabetes medicine damaged his liver. At the funeral one of my aunts told of a call his family had gotten, from D’s (name withheld for privacy) cellphone. D was the son he’d lost all those years before. I assumed his cellphone had surely been deactivated by then. What explanation could there be, then? Some solicitor hijacked the number? What were the odds it would be that exact one? My aunt said the person who’d received the call answered, only to hear dead silence on the other end. They interpreted it thusly: my uncle was with D, and the call was our assurance.
I believe in Heaven. Hell. The latter scares me more than nothingness ever could, at this juncture. I come from a very spiritual family. There have been a couple accounts of family members having dreams and visions of dead family members shortly before their own deaths. It’s come to be a sort of harbinger. Perhaps it’s to ease the fear of the process. I’ve heard someone say: “It’s not the dying; it’s the getting there.”
(Also these are old accounts and my memory isn’t the greatest so take everything I say with a grain of salt, and allow for a margin of error.)
Another topic that sort of ties in:
Do I believe in ghosts? I’ve actually considered posting about this before. My interpretation of ghosts is that they’re actually evil spirits impersonating the dead. I believe the dead move on once the soul and spirit part from the body. “Absent from the body, present with the LORD.” That kind of cements it for me. And think of it like this: I’ve heard of a ghost encounter where a little girl died in this house and close to a century later “she” was tormenting the new family who’d moved in. What motive would a little girl have to do that, unless it was something evil impersonating her? Another reason to dislike the dark side—they deface the memories of innocent people by impersonating them. But again, that’s just my hypothesis.
I could probably go way deeper with this, but I’m gonna’ stop there...
Of Words and Worlds
When you’re a kid, you’re relatively powerless. Add being an only child, having a painfully bashful predisposition, and having an eccentric personality that you’ve yet to really grow into, let alone embrace—and you have younger me. I had a crippling phobia of ball so gym became a nightmare. It was a required class too, thus I’d often find myself stranded amid a cacophony of balls flying, kids screaming, and teachers perhaps too distracted to manage the chaos. I’d sag off into my corner and watch, hoping for the chaos to keep at bay. Feeling like a coward. Cultivating a complex that would morph and lead to a smatter of other insecurities. At the core was powerlessness. I was small, even for my age. I knew death before I should’ve, maybe. And then again. Again. Again. Powerlessness became a fixture. And there was no friction to be had outside the escapism provided by creativity. Television. Movies. Other people’s fantasies laid out for me to watch and enjoy.
So I tried my hand at drawing up worlds of my own, a bit more intricate than my past scribbles. Being slightly older, I started putting words to my worlds, serious words—keeping record of the movies that played almost constantly behind tired eyes. They’d fall together, in vague semblances of coherence. They’d give shape to characters, dialogues. They’d imbue in my small hands a sense of power, something I was at a loss for in reality. And for however long, I’d immerse myself and play with my friends my allies my words.
Words were a foothold against the hurricane of early preadolescence. I would hold bouquets of dreams between little ears, given life by my hands, if only on paper. I’d create a role model, an alter ego, a nemesis. I’d take the things that scared me, make them a character beholden to my will, and fight back. In my head I had power. My notebooks were the exhibits.
My worlds collected nuance with age. I’d find myself trying to understand rather than vilify. I think watching and reading and writing has expanded and honed my empathy like little else. As a writer, you become every character, however shallow, one-dimensional, or wicked they may be. You try to find the anatomy of an emotion, the color, the flavor.
You learn there will always be beautiful things to do with words, even when you don’t have much to say. You can talk forever about nothing and, if you’re talented and practiced enough, make it beautiful.
Or on the days when you’re at your most charged and electric and genuine, you can hold a body’s worth of emotion in a tiny sentence, and make it say everything. Words are catharsis. Words are release.
I have to write because if I don’t I get down. Bummed. Overwhelmed. It’s just one of those natural, inexplicable drives that I have, and not everyone has it so I can’t expect everyone to understand. I have been through phases where I hate writing as much, if not more, than I love it. That’s probably in part due to my OCD, and in other part due to feeling like I’ve wasted my time. It’s easy to feel like you’re wasting your time when you write your heart out to little or no applause. When the validation just isn’t there. It’s not so much that you want to be the shallow archetype of “rich and famous”, but you want people to appreciate the results of your labor, the baring of your soul. There’s nothing shallow about that, in my opinion. And I understand.
Why did I write, then, back before I had a place to publish?
I guess...hope. It’s how I am—I have to have something to wake up for, something to chase after. To borrow a phrase from Nolan’s Joker, “I’m like a dog chasing cars; I wouldn’t know what to do if I caught one.” It’s the thrill of the chase. I’ve chased recognition since I was young, perhaps too young to even grasp what recognition truly was. All I knew was, whenever the teacher would let me read one of my stories to the class, whenever I’d get to share the thing that I wrote with another person—I don’t think you can really put *that* feeling into words, and I wanted more. Now I’m here and I have 586 followers and that’s amazing to me. But the aspirational side of me tells me to keep going. The day I stop chasing bigger cars is the day I stagnate, and that’s a bit too close to giving up for my tastes.
I found power in the words. I find life in the chase. And really, what more could you ask for?
a day in the life
(An amalgamation of alliteration)
Allen accidentally ate aluminum.
Ashley achieved accolades as an associative adjudicator. Auburn ambition.
Arielle abolished aristocracy, ablated all authority, and abdicated, advocating anarchy.
Alison actualized atrocious affronts, afflicting all associated.
Abby’s animals aestivated, alarming Addison.
Annie agglomerated animations—ambulating artificial aliens.
Amy argued aggressively, admonishing, avenging, and advecting awful avarice.
Alex advertised autonomy, adumbrating administrative abasement.
Alfie addressed antithetical advice, arborizing accusations.
Archie actualized an aquatint artwork.
Amelia amiably accosted Audrey.
Ada amassed acquaintances, ambling aimlessly after asinine approval.
Avery articulated approximations.
Acidic aquaplanes approached; Allen arbitrarily amassed anger.
Aria affixed an addendum.
Amicable Amber aligned, assisting Aiden’s abjection.
Alvin allayed annual anxieties. Albuquerque’s alleviation.
Alfred abnegated authorship, affected at Andrea’s appraisal. Allonym androgynous.
Airbrushed Andy antagonized accusers. Airtight alibi.
Agnes acted auspiciously, abrasively abating acquiescence.
Angela autographed assorted automobiles.
Aurora abraded Anthony, aiding auditory atrophy.
Aaliyah acknowledged and accepted Abbott’s apology.
Adele adopted Apples, an Alabama alligator.
An auxiliary assisted Arielle, adding agents and ammo.
Allen anticipated acrid agony.
Ashley acerbically advocated an acquittal. Agonistes.
Abby adopted Adele’s Alabama alligator Apples after an awful attack.
Amelia’s adroit adulation addled Audrey.
Ada ate alone. Atomizing adamance.
Aria: anguished, alacrity ambiguous, allegiance ardent.
Avuncular axioms assuage and atone. All affectation. Adulation an aegis. Affirm ad hoc algorithm. Affable affront ad infinitum. Ambivalent alienation—animosity alluded, an apathetic aplomb. All Ada’s attributes.
Antipathy an antecedent, antagonizing all. Avaricious appendages, augmenting audacity, abandoning agility. Avaricious appendages, all awry. Aberration afoot. Abey and abet. All Arielle, abridged. All Arielle, ammo and anger. Atavistic action. Abysmally abstruse. Ada and Arielle ate alone.
Alvin’s aegis—an acclimatized abomination. Alacrity abases. Ada and Arielle and Alvin ate alone.
Aaliyah and Abbot acquaint and acquit. Affection’s advent.
Allen attenuates: attrition afflicted. Ada and Arielle and Alvin and Allen ate alone.
Andy’s aspersions assault. Andy, alone, abjures.
Ashley accrues accouterments and associates. Ashley’s abode—abaculus art acervated. Allemande allusion. Altiloquence arrayed.
Abby accrues animals, alone ablated.
Amy, an aggressive alcoholic. Archie, an amazing artist. Avery...? Alex afflicted—acrimony. Aaliyah and Abbot, allegiant accomplices. Allied accessories. Allision.
Archie aggravatedly abducents from an awkward abbozzo.
Amy abuses alcohol, asservations absent. Abiotrophy.
Atomic anger. Apathy apropos. Abuse akin.
Atmosphere absorbs and allocates apathy.
Abby amusedly abequitated, and almost adequitated alongside Angela’s Audi. Acissmus. “Alongside” aborted.
Abby and Apples ate alone.
Even Ashley’s analects are angora. Abatjour abasking.
Ashley—agerasia adjacent. Amoral akinesia.
Amy—agelast, aggled, alysmic.
Andrew’s autogolpe angered Arielle. Auxiliary aligned. Action affirmed.
Armogan. Abby absorbs aquamarine apricity. Ambience.
Ada. Arielle. Alvin. Allen. Amy.
Atmosphere absorbs and allocates apathy.
Alison’s arrogance attacks. Arguments anorexic, abscinding intelligence. Abseiling reason.
Abby accoyed an angry Apples. Adversity arising. Alabama authorities do not approve. Abby is arrested. Apples is released back into an Alabama afforestation area.
Ashley’s authorial ascent angers Amy.
Allen’s health problems compound; abrupt achromatopsia begets achroous atmospheres.
A subliminal acclimation.
Acicular audacity aligns. Amy is arrested for the alcoholic ambulation of an apricot accented Aston Martin. Arielle is arrested for anarchy, unauthorized accruing of ammo, and attacking Andrew. Acracy ablated.
Ashley’s acropodium fissures and flakes. All adjudiciary authority is ablated.
Alison is arrested. Assault and battery. Allen’s arrest entails.
Allen testifies ardently against Alison. All chance for acquittal is ablated.
Arielle is tried as an anarchist and assailant. Alcatraz? No. Allenwood? Maybe.
Archie advertises his artwork, arranging them along Apricot Avenue.
Abby misses Apples, adynamia rising. Anger in an Aeropostale hoodie. Affreux affrayer.
Aaliyah and Abbot—affined.
Ada awaits an airport arrest.
Amelia and Audrey reacquaint, and set all anger aside.
Allen recovers, ambition anew.
Ashley retires and opens Apex, a charity shelter. Amorality and apathy ablated.
Archie goes to auction, and allots his artwork for astronomic amounts.
Atmosphere absorbs and allocates the ability to excel.
Angela and Aaron argue.
Addy and Avon assimilate. An army of articulate ants, arranging, arraying, aligning, absconding. Ava adorns abridgments; acute abecedarian, advecting amusement. Arranging alphabets and abolishing absurdity, amounting adjectives, adverbs, and advertising aerodynamic advice. Aesthetics alive. Alphabetic architect, aging awesomely. Ava asserts authority.
Albatross ascend amid algae aligned aquaplanes. Agriculture adds ambience. Amphibians and anemones adorn. Airy ambience affixes and alights Amber’s affections. Animals agglomerate; an amusing, anthropological anthology. Archeologically amazing aqueducts, arched above aqua-scapes, amiably align the atmosphere. An awesome achievement. Amber apricates. Anxieties, arrogance, apprehension, anger, antagonism, annoyance—all ablated. Ancient Asian architecture adds awesomeness. Animals animate and audition, as Amber adventurously advances. An adolescent amphibian adjoins Amber’s adventure. An alpaca, an adder, an asp, and an aardvark all abequitate.
And my mind got tired here so...
(And yes I researched a-words. Arranging them into sentences was the hard part tho. :P Also, I think I used a few of these more than once but I assumed it counted as long as the sentence sorta' made sense.)
a random spilling of thoughts
I must have gone insane. Because I decided to do something so far out of my comfort zone that it’s, like, in another universe. I—having no prior experience as a commentator, having the bare minimum of tech knowledge, and barely knowing how to turn a computer on—decided to attempt to cover an iceberg on yt. So far the journey has been a big yikes. Research is relatively easy; it’s just the other stuff. I tried recording myself talking in GarageBand and quickly discovered that I couldn’t even do that right. Which I should’ve probably figured, as my speech has never been the clearest. Once this notion was cemented, I decided to practice elocution, so I did that for a little while and finally got a few good (read: passable) takes. I was gonna’ do the visuals on iMovie. They were basically a bunch of stills with info—pretty much just a slideshow with me talking over it. But that fell through when iMovie smushed the images down and made the text so little to read that you’d have a better shot reading pinholes. The alternative frames were Ken Burns, which, no. And a cropped full-screen option. Which would only allow me a small chunk of my image to work with. So no iMovie. That being my only editor, I had to search up others, preferably free because I’ve recently spent way too much money on other stuff. I ended up trying to download this thing called Blender, as per recommendation. It took like 20 hours. And my Mac was so out of date that after it downloaded, it wouldn’t run. I needed OS 10.13 or later. So I had to check for updates manually since my computer, which always dogs me with updates, decided to stop dogging me with updates the exact day I needed them*. Bruh. Having located the updates on the Apps thingy, I tried to update all. Several failed, but the important ones took. So I tried to reopen Blender, and...it still wouldn’t open because the update was for 10.12 and, again, it required a 10.13 or later. I waited to see if my Mac would give me the option of a new new update. I shut it down and turned it back on, I think twice. But no. No such result. So I went searching online for downloads of 10.13, as I discovered Apple gives these things out for free. I found one and tried to download it. And when a glitch, I guess, stopped the download, I tried downloading it AgAiN. And when the same glitch, I guess, stopped that download, I tried something else. Eventually I came to a point where I decided to just forgo the stairstep of updates and go for the newest—Big Sur. Stray observation: they name their updates the most random things. High Sierra was my first online pursuit. I’m assuming that’s referencing a location and not a junkie. Probably Nevada. Big Sur is a place (I know because Thompson referenced it hehe I’m smort :^)), so that would make sense. I’m overthinking this. Anyway, I wound up finding a Big Sur download available, so I’ve been shooting for that. You know how it shows the projected time remaining below the download bar. I think that hit like 90+ hours at one point. It’s been like a day(?) and I have over 60 left. Yay.
I don’t even know if I’ll go through with the iceberg, but that’s been my struggle. I’ve been on this thing for such a long time. Gotta’ love how most YouTubers can churn these things out in like a week. Hahaha*cries in three plus weeks*.
*Addendum: My computer probably didn’t dog me with updates because I usually select the ‘remind me tomorrow’ option and I don’t think a full day had passed.
On other fronts, my acne is improving since I finally tried Proactiv. I think I’ve described my acne as ‘an uphill battle if that hill was 100% vertical’ before. It’s sad when you can go down the skin care aisle at Target and be like “doesn’t work, doesn’t work, doesn’t work”. So to find something that is actually working is a very valued feat, since my acne is apparently tOo PoWeRfuL for common products. I have had some really weird dreams since I started using Proactiv, but since my dreams are already kinda’ bonkers, I can’t say for sure if Proactiv is the cause. My body is super sensitive to chemicals and stuff, so that’s the foundation for my hypothesis.
Oh, and Wattpad. I joined afresh a couple months back and I’m up to 154 followers now (but unlike here it fluctuates a lot so no guarantees how long that’ll last). I had a pretty wild experience within my first, like, month I think. Because unlike last time I’m a little more outgoing now and I follow accounts that look cool, which makes me more easily discoverable to others. Well, apparently I got on the radar of a spam account. So they followed me, I guess seeing me as an easy followback. And I did follow them back. Then a bunch more spam accounts started glomming on and following me, and it was super confusing because none of these people were English and I don’t think there’s any translators on WP, so I was just like...I don’t understaaaand why they’re so interested in me probably just for a followback yeah that’s definitely it haha. Tho I mostly don’t follow spam accounts back anymore because more always come and it’s kinna’ stressful. O^O Wattpad is a *totally* different animal from TheProse. The first spam attack was funny. I was freaking out because my followers jumped from I think like 37 to 140-something overnight. I was nooot used to that kind of “fame”. Most of the ones I didn’t follow back then got salty and gradually left. I caught on. It’s just whatevs. *Shrug*
Anyway, I’ve been gone a lot on here, so now you know part of where I’ve been. :3
#hyperbolic, #humor, #random