I like it.
I like that it is not too much on the eyes but still pleasant to look at with the colours and all that; a few smudges on the side but those are mostly negligible and there is a certainty to those stroke marks - decisive sure scratches like there was no doubt in the artist's mind whatsoever, yes...I like it.
When the Elders tell it, it sounds like pure fiction.
The things of legend and myths, but they insist it's true. I don't dare to question how they know that considering that all the information they have from 'Before' is all they have read and what has been passed down to them but, like I said, they insist it's true. And I am finding that conviction is a hard thing to displace.
'Before', if you dare to believe it, the earth was green. Yes, green. All the plants grew comfortably on the outside rather than the dome-raised temperature-conscious things we have that in some seasons will not produce any food. We've had several episodes of mass starvation deaths. It's nothing new.
And there was water! Freely flowing water - not the stuff we work for. Masses and masses of water. The separated what the Elders call 'continents'. The story is that all the different tribes lived on different continents back then. Nothing like the giant sun-scotched land mass we have now. Somedays I stare at the map and I can't believe it was ever any different.
Today though, I start on my journey to demystify the myths. If I can't come up with a better answer in three months for the fall, I will have to take up my new position as the Colony's farmer. If this hasn't been clear yet, no one in their right minds would volunteer for this job because starvation is a given and I will be the pariah that failed to stop it.
An Introvert’s Guide to First Days.
I have no idea why it specifies 'Introverts' in this guide.
First days are alarming for anyone.
Whether it's school, work, relationships, parenthood, lockup (or lockdown), loss, death...(you get it), there is something unsettling about Day 1s. It is the dread mixed with anticipation and expectation and the unspoken belief that how you handle anything on Day 1 sets the course for eternity. No, really. I mean eternity.
So how do you go about First Days?
14 days before Day 1
The 'two weeks before' is a notable first stage. It is a time of ignorant bliss for most of the things that happen and therefore becomes a time you cycle back to when your new normal becomes unbearable. So you probably want to remember what happened two weeks before. No one will come out and ask 'What were you doing 2 weeks before (your new circumstance)' but you'll know. And for some of them, there will be that disbelief, 'Can't believe just two weeks ago I was laughing at that insane meme?' What I'm saying is that every moment is precious because you never know when it will turn into 14 days before Day 1. You probably want to start your journal or video logs. Something that gives a somewhat proper account for this time.
3 days before Day 1
Because time is its own thief and in a blink of an eye you have three days to Day 1.
For those you see coming - Tell your squad, plan a 'last day of' party. Go through your list. Yes Introvert, I'm sure you have your list of what you will do till end of day. Pretend not to be thinking about it. Don't worry, you are fooling no one.
For those you don't see coming - ...
2 days before Day 1
Because a count down only makes sense when it's 3, 2, 1...can't be skipping this one.
For those you see coming - Tell your squad again, have your 'last day of' party. Go through your list. Let everyone know you are thinking about it. Torture yourself with hypothetical scenarios of what could possibly go wrong.
For those you don't see coming - ....
1 day before Day 1
Because there is that thin line of Before and After and it's usually separated by a few hours.
For those you see coming - Your squad is already in on it and they are probably calling or texting or whatever to kill your nerves. Be reachable - or not.
Go through your phone gallery and whisper after every photo 'Oh my goodness tomorrow I will be (in your new circumstance).
Lay out your gorgeous first-day outfit and hope it is as good as you imagined it to be. Try it on. Get second and seventh opinions on it.
Go through the conversations you will have in your head, how you will introduce yourself. You won't have a second chance to make a first impression - get it right. Pack your novel - just in case.
Fail to get enough sleep because you are overthinking everything.
For those you don't see coming - ...
You've made it.
For those you see coming - Ready or not, here you go!
For those you don't see coming - You're not ready but life doesn't care.
DISCLAIMER; All opinions here (yes opinions, I'm not a certified Guide) are subject to amendment. Also, these occurrences are known to vary from person to person. Beware what you take to heart.
For my sanity.
Played a lot of 'The Witcher - Wild Hunt' at the start of quarantine. That was fun. Then I went on an unplanned hiatus from it all. 'Assassin's Creed Odyssey' didn't quite take hold but I'm thinking of getting back to it after I'm done with 'The Outer Worlds'. 'Ori and the will of the wisps' also looks great. If only I could convince my brother to let me play it.
I worked so hard on what I thought was the one, poured my soul into it, gave it my all and lay dreaming of all the praise I would get once the world realised my genius. My heart - a victim of habit - still skipped a bit when I opened up my email even though I was high on unfounded confidence that this was it. Sorry it read, we enjoyed reading this but will not be using it for our project and my heart crushed into a thousand pieces even though it’s not entirely a stranger to this process. I will pick myself after my therapuetic pity party - the inner debate of whether this is what I’m meant to do and send in another I believe to be ’the one’ very soon.
Day in her life.
You walk off to the bathroom in a half sleep daze and expect to shoot straight into the bowl. But there is nothing to hold and you are forced to sit to do your business. It’s odd but doable and you think nothing of it. You believe your facial hair to itch and you run a hand over your face to find absolute smoothness.
You start to wake up!
You open your eyes to find two new friends hanging off your chest. Now you are wide awake. And sleepy or not, you should have known something was off. It doesn't stop you from touching the strange apparitions on your chest. They've always amused you anyway. Why deny yourself the pleasure when they are in close range. Not large and a bit of you deflates. Size matters. You know this so well as a boy. Does it matter to girls?
You sit on the toilet wondering how long this will last. Is this a bad dream or not? Worst of all, is this permanent or not? You settle for a bad dream and temporary and go back to bed. Any minute you will wake up and all will be right with the world again. An hour later and you realise this is not a passing fever.
You call in sick at work. You need all the time in the world to figure this out. You can't remember if there was ever a moment in your life when you wanted to be a girl and now you are lost at what you should do with this predicament you find yourself in. What was the first thing you wanted to do as a girl? How do girls fill their days? It's a redundant question you know. They probably do the same things guys do. You figure that this day is going to be filled with questions of what is appropriate or not for a girl.
None of your clothes fit the small frame you appear in. You have no bra. Obviously. But you've noticed the new trend where girls are hardly married to them anymore. Your underwear feels weird. Really weird. Every movement reminds you of your missing member. And that is truly what you feel like - dismembered. You shudder to think of the permanence of all of this.
You slip in and out of the jeans easily and settle for your shorts whose waist fitting you can adjust. And throw on one of those slim-fitting shirts that appear large on this tiny frame. Look at the bright side of things. This could be fun. You try to convince yourself. You make a plan.
But first, breakfast. You think of whipping up something like your mother used to - a pie or those butter cookies you loved. You go through the motions and find that cooking is not inborn or particular to girls. Or maybe that's because you retained your 'male brain'. Shouldn't muscle memory be stronger? Or this body you got had never done any cooking. For the first time, you consider if there is anyone out there who woke up in your body. Were they handling their transition better?
You go visit your father. When he opens the door, he sputters. You know why. You've always looked mostly like him and whatever voodoo they performed on you didn't change that fact. You think of explaining that it's you but there are few times in your life that you've seen your father off his tracks and you relish this moment. And besides you've always wondered how he'd behave around a girl, a daughter.
In his shock, he lets you in and asks you to explain. You don't think there is much to say and you make up a story hoping he'll fill in the gaps. He shakes his head fiercely and insists that he has only ever had sexual relations with your mother. You are a blur of emotions on how to take that information. Especially considering that at just 28, your 'body count' is quickly catching up with your age. And they have been at least two girls who claimed you had gotten them pregnant. But your father doesn't budge from his claim. You tell him that it might have been a result of a drunken night. He seems doubtful. You start to wonder about the life your father has led but still insist. You look like him! To push him into a corner you suggest a DNA test and he gives up. He asks why you are here and you give those scripted answers 'to know you, know my origin'. In your head, you can't wait to laugh about this away from him.
He cries over this and you feel guilty. He is so open around his 'daughter'. You can't recall if you ever saw your father cry. Even when your mum died. You know he mourned her. He still does but he was never vulnerable around you. He just patted you on the back the day you buried her and asked you to be strong. He writes you a cheque of an amount you didn't think 'poor father' had. You've always asked him for money and all he ever tells you is to man up. You are shocked by the amount, truly shocked. And you wait for him to explain that he was leaving this for his son but he says nothing. You feel robbed somehow. Of course, you've still ended up with the money but he doesn't know that it's you.
On your way out, he hugs you. You haven't done that in a decade and it feels good. You don't know if he is this expressive because he lost his wife or because you are a girl. And you refuse to ponder it further for fear of what you might find. He says he wants to get to know you and you feel yourself on the brink of tears. You want that too. Deeply. Before he goes. He asks for a meeting a week. At your favourite place. You tell him 'The Garage'. It's where you work but he shows no recognition. You can't wait for the shock on his face when it's you; male and estranged, that shows up.
Your meeting with dear old dad eats up most of your time but it paid off. You have enough money to pay off your debts and then some. You feel rich and it's a good feeling. You surmise that it is a good feeling in any gender. The boys are at your usual hang out. For a moment, you forget your new body and rush up to them. They stare at you all weird with something that looks like recognition laced with suspicion. You tell them you are your sister and you talk about them so often it feels like meeting long-lost friends. They buy it and conversation flows. They send drinks round the table and once or twice they find excuse to bump into your chest. They do it so casually it takes you forever to notice that it is inappropriate.
A girl walks in and you all turn to look. She ignores the stares and cat-whistles. You wonder if her breasts are comfortable in that bra and try to tell if hers are bigger. But you think she's got great legs and say that out loud. She raises an eyebrow and stares at you till you are uncomfortable. The guys on your table are choking with quiet laughter. She says thanks and shrugs it off. Almost. She chances glances at you a number of times but you've moved on to more thinking. Don't women comment on those things? They always seem so open with each other. Did you say it wrong? Do women have a code to go by on how to compliment each other? You give up. Women are just as unfathomable from a female's meagre perspective as a male's.
The boys smooth it over and the moment is passed.
You also want a date and pull up your dating app. You look a mess, you know it. But you've thought about it, on and off throughout the day - how different sex must be from a woman's perspective. You think of going through with it but does pregnancy mean staying in this body for 9 more months, tied to the purpose of ensuring the continuity of the species? You decide to go out with a girl, at least that's not so far out of your depth.
You find your date dressed to impress and you feel a little terrible. The app showed your very male profile. You give her the well-used sister excuse. That you were caught up but didn't want to stand her up and sent your sister instead. This could be fun. You'll still pay the bill though. She relaxes visibly and says you'll go dutch. 'Us girls have got to stick together you know' she adds. Your day experience hasn't given enough insight into the depth of that statement. But you've noticed the looks that have followed you throughout the day from the men. And because you know most of the thoughts that accompany those looks, you've felt uneasy. You've also noticed the looks from the women, so open and trusting. They've encouraged you to coo at their babies, one even asked you to hold one as she searched for something. You've always loved babies so it's not an aftereffect of oestrogen but here it's not laced with suspicion of how you could be a killer or worse, a pedophile. It's uncanny how occurence of just one chromosome changes your course in so many ways.
You sit through the date and its great. Disarmed of your need to impress, you both bring your imperfect selves forward. You really listen to her now that your mind is not high on the aftermath of the date. And she is not stiff like you usually find them, as though constantly auditioning for something. She likes the food here and says so, admits she can't cook. You say same but are now thinking of cooking classes. She loves the idea and wants to tag along but there is a high chance you'll be back to your true self and say maybe she should go with your brother. She asks you if your brother is nice. You think of talking yourself up to her but the trust in her eyes leads you to give the truth. If she is looking for long term commitment, you don't think he is there yet but if she is looking for a good time, a wild body shaking then he's the guy. She laughs at your term but thanks you for your honesty. Away from the sexual tension, the two of you have really gotten along. You decide she makes a good friend, maybe more. But slow steps. Slow steps. You think of making a 'Find Friends App' fashioned after your experience.
You are not a man of prayer but you find yourself bargaining with the gods to return your weird old self just before you turn in. It's not been bad. It has actually not been bad, aside from a few mishaps. But a day is not enough to appreciate all the facets of a female existence.
Entry Log 3
I don’t think there is anything wrong with the patient and I’m almost inclined to believe that his family is out to get him like he claims which is why they stashed him here. He doesn’t fit the mould of their perfect family and they registered it as madness. I just think his brain is underdeveloped. He has a very childish approach to things. It is very undesirable but I don’t think it is reason enough to have him locked up. The wildest thing I’ve heard him say so far is that he talks to God. Has conversations with Him every so often and gains information on how to better the world. And while that is absolutely insane, I’ve known Christians to go around with that claim and they are not being locked up.
Entry Log 7
Reality has dawned on Patient G. I think he has come to realise that he won’t be leaving this establishment any time soon. He asked if he was going home once the weekend was over. I wasn’t around but I got the news. He put up a fight, refused his meds and screamed to everyone that would listen how he is not mad. This is the first sign that he actually could be. It has been my experience that the maddest people are the ones who adamantly insist on their sanity. He has been giving everyone the silent treatment. Will the fact that the patient can’t communicate verbally affect my diagnosis? Not likely.
Entry Log 15
Have I learnt anything new about the patient? No. Some days, to be honest, my job bores me. I thought it would be exciting to dive into ‘insanity’. But there is nothing extraordinary about insanity. They get set in their insane ways and there the behaviour patterns are born. Habit is entrenched and there is nothing new to learn. Patient G has hang onto his right to remain silent. I didn’t think it was possible for a human to choose silence and stick to it. But the monks used to do this, didn’t they? Weren’t they also talking to God. In his silence he has taken to writing and complete compliance. He takes his meds and shows up for the group meets. His eyes don’t seem distant like most of the others. He always seems to be looking straight at me. Unflinching. Unblinking. Usually, I wouldn’t mind but in a madhouse, every thing, every act is questionable.
I tried to coax him out of his silence. I sit with him everyday for two hours and watch him write with all manner of concentration. He has symbols and numbers and words no one can understand. He expertly ignores my attempts at conversation.
Side note: I found myself doodling some of the symbols he was writing yesterday. Hanging out with the crazies is turning me crazy. I need a vacation! Or to turn myself in.
Entry Log 17
The nurse called me out to say that Patient G has been ‘possessed’. Yes, she used that very word as though she is not an esteemed colleague in the sciences. I wanted her to explain what she possibly meant by ‘possessed’. Was he levitating or channeling energy? I must be watching a lot of ghost stories. I blame it on the monotony of this job. But she rushed me to his room. And I think ‘possessed’ was a fitting description for the scene I walked into. Every possible inch of his room was room had been scribbled on and he kept writing. As high up as he could get anyway. He kept murmuring ‘Got to get it out’ over and over. When he was dragged away, he broke down into tears. Saying we were keeping him from his divine misssion.
Have I ignored him so much and in so doing contributed to his grave decline?
The positive from this, he has finally broken his silent spell. Maybe I can get some answers. I don’t want to clean up the writings yet. There might be something to them. And now that he is talking he could be enticed to explain them. I just need to appeal to his imagined ‘genius’. Not hard at all. Humans are always wrapped up in their importance.
Entry Log 21
Patient G is incoherent. Without his precious pens to write, he was taken to using his nails. It’s painful to watch. I can't imagine it's like to live through. Maybe it’s this environment that has cost him his mind. You see, when he came in he was absolutely sound. He laughed at my jokes (and that is always a sign of a sound mind) and talked about his future. Sure that lasted for about four days but he was there. And now I can’t help but worry that I have lost the world a ‘genius’. I did say his thoughts were childish at first, right. I don’t think childish thoughts cancel out ‘genius’. I believe excellence is best groomed in childish innocence. Not weighed down by the fear of failure.
But Patient G is not talking. Again! I have lamented this before - there is hardly anything new that happens in this house. When he does, it makes no sense. Because I seem to be registering a mental decline here, I am going to ask for Patient G to go back home. Three weeks and I have thrown in the towel! I’m an absolute failure of a doctor. Which is why I have sent in an application to work in a children’s hospital. I hope working with children will be less depressing.
I haven’t gotten to cleaning up that room. I’m going away for three days for my own sanity. Maybe when I return I will deal with this.
Entry Log 25
I hardly enjoyed my brief break. Spent every waking moment thinking of that writing and his claims. That he was given this information for the betterment of humanity. Sometime during my absence, Patient G went home. I understand he was happy to see his mother and took on a new aura we hadn’t seen in those days.
Back to the writings though, I had someone come to clean it up and he exclaimed when he saw it. Claimed this was a language on its own. An ancient language that is finding its way back in circulation. A number of scrolls were found in the desert. It’s been all the rage on TV and he has followed that development so closely. We called in the experts of course. They said that the writing is code for how to decipher the languages. The code of science demands that I only believe all this when there is evidence to support the claim.
Entry Log 53
Do you remember those mad writings Patient G scribbled all over my perfect walls? And the lost scrolls? If you dare to believe it, they used the scribbles and found that the scrolls embody a prophesy. That is good for the believers but I am hardly moved by those things. I want to write it off as a conspiracy. Someone planted them and sent the patient here. Why is it easier for me to make up things other than to believe what they have seen? Science!!
There must be sound reasoning behind the course of those events. Because if I dare to believe that Patient G was onto something - possessed some genius, I’ll have to consider that for all the loonies in here. And some of their claims are simply audacious!
But this will no longer be my problem. Uncle has asked me to join him in his private practise. It will be better than this I can guarantee. I can’t get out of this madhouse fast enough.
Journal Entry No. 32
When forced to confront my own company
I have found that solititude isn’t
as bad as I feared.
That I am fun by myself
And can stage a concert when -
with the speakers on loud -
I belt out song after song of my favourite albums.
And that has saved my sanity!
I have soaked up the comfort of my bed
And realised the beauty of simplicity.
For my bed has been my library, my church,
my cinema and - should I admit this - my dining room.
I have tapped into my creativity
with nothing but TTTIIIIMMMMEEE to nurture it.
whipping up pastries I had only ever bought before.
trying my hand at things I had once believed were not for me.
And the writing!!!!!!
Things were put into perspective
And I found the relationship with myself to be most essential.
Whoever it is, they are late!
And for the tenth time in an hour, she questioned the wisdom in setting up this meeting. She changed her cushions for a third time and sat sipping on her second cup of tea. She pulled out her phone to make new plans. The night was still young and there was more she could do with her youth than sit by and watch life pass her by. This is the thought that kept her awake at night and stopped her from making long-term commitments. The logic behind this was simple; if she was committed to something she couldn't do it all. And more than anything she wanted to do it all before the clock chimed on her life.
The knock on her door sounded like a secret code; two short taps, one loud one and crowned off by three short taps. The thought in her head was that it was a weird way to knock and she hoped she hadn't invited a serial killer to her house for tea.
'You are not the person I was expecting,' she said to the figure standing outside her door. And he definitely wasn't who she was expecting. She was waiting on one of those mobile therapists. She had filled in a bunch of answers online and had been told one would be with her, today. He just didn't look like what she expected a therapist to look like with his gray beard that was tucked into his waist belt, an hourglass and a scythe.
Common sense reminded her to verify his identity.
'Who exactly are you?'
'Your worst nightmare,' he answered in a gruff voice and pushed his way through the door. Not violently but authoritatively. Like he had more right to be in her house than she did. She watched him from the door as he changed her cushions and made himself well at home.
'This is not funny. And I don't know who sent you here but I'd rather you leave. Before I call the police.' Was she supposed to shut the door behind her when there was a strange man in the house. But her phone was on the couch where the stranger had made himself comfortable. He seemed to notice that and smiled back at her.
'It would be a shame if the police came over, considering you invited me here.' He picked out the raisins in her cookies and bit into them.
'According to the answers you filled in, you said you wanted help facing your fears and here I am. Your fear in the flesh.'
'I'm scared of heights like every rational human and need it fixed for the hiking trip I'm supposed to take. But strangers and being kidnapped are becoming a close second.' she snarled and he laughed.
'I've watched you for a while...'
'And that's not creepy at all,' she mumbled, interrupting him. He ignored her.
'...and you are more scared of time, the uncertain future, time running out,' he paused, 'death. And who better to walk you through that fear than Father Time himself.'
'I am not scared of time,' she said softly and slowly, as though she was talking to a little child, 'Father Time is a myth and why would you be Father Time when you are an hour late to a meeting.' She figured this was a delusional old man and there was no harm in interracting him.
'Who says I'm late? Maybe I'm proving a point. How you can't comfortably sit in the silence because you are working against unseen deadlines. Come child, sit, let's have a chat about time.'
A brief conversation with Jan.
A part of me is frightened to sit down with It but the viewership has voted for this and the network needs the ratings. After the onslaught that 2020 has been, we need hope and a change of perspective. The face before me is uncertain; from the side it looks approachable with soft smiles and the hypnotising side eyes it keeps throwing my way, from the front it is menacing - the hard lines of its facial frame cutting apart all the things I want to say and from the back...it is beautiful like most things appear in hindsight. Overall, it bears the kind of face no one can properly read.
“We are live in 3, 2...” the 1 and 0 are signaled by her fingers.
“Welcome to The Future Show. Your number one speculative show, current on all things Future and I am your host, Calen Dar. Today we bring you the long awaited January with..
“January 2021,” It interrupts. When I give it a puzzled look, It clarifies, “to be distinguished from all other Januarys. January 2020 inclusive.”
“Of course.” I am not excited to have this conversation. The year 2020 has destroyed my desire to make plans and have meaningful conversations with my viewers when January comes around but I press on, “And it is here to answer some of your most asked questions...”
“You know January 2020 was a show off.” January 2021 cuts me off. Again. I can tell that It comes with plenty of interruptions too. “Came to the stage to a chorus of expectations, being the start of a new decade and all that if you remember. Used to boast of the so many plans it held, how it would be remembered for years to come.” It crosses its legs and leans back, “Achieved it more dramatically than any of us expected if you ask me.” I want to spray all my stray thoughts at January but it won’t do on live TV and holding on to a job these days is akin to the stuff of myths and fairytales. Instead I paste a smile on my face. The last thing I want to do is let January think it can rattle me and waylay me from my plans.
“January 2021! What a mouthful. Can I call you Jan 21 instead?”
“Just Jan can do actually.” What a shift from wishing to be distinguished! But I hold in my misgivings about my guest.
“Right. Just Jan.” I draw out the name and It turns my way with another of its faces that I can’t read. “People are desperate to know what you hold in store for them.”
“Oooh. And I have plenty in store,” I lean closer because I am naturally curious, “Especially on the fashion platform. I’m thinking of bringing back some of the 80s fashion and...”
“That’s not really what people want to know.” I take a deep breath. Surely, Jan knows what we all desperately want answers to but It wants me to drag it all out. “We are more interested in more important subjects, no offence to the fashion industry. But we are curious about things that pertain to climate and the global village. Are there any pandemics we should be cautious of? Any global unrests that we can change in time? That sort of thing.”
“Well how should I know!” Jan purses its lips and flips its hair. I want to jump out my blue armchair and strangle It. “I am one of those spontaneous stars. You never know what you are getting till I am on the stage. But there are definitely other things I don’t mind speculating over.”
“If they are not the things I pointed out, I don’t think anyone will be interested in hearing them.” I wait for Jan to object to the comment and dive into what we want to know. But Jan just sits quietly, fiddling with its fingers. I suspect that It gets a kick out of seeing us kill ourselves with speculations and predictions It won’t confirm or deny. I had never thought of this before, but I am coming to the conclusion that Jan might be the harshest of the Elite Twelve.
“Thank you though for taking the time to come out and sit with me.” I signal that I am done with this conversation that is going nowhere. Jan gets up with all its arrogance; It doesn’t give me a second look and It definitely doesn’t beg to get a little more time in the spotlight. I know this brief show will be a great disappointment to my viewers and think of how best I can remedy that. A genius thought strikes my mind as I look at Jan’s departing figure, “Maybe I will talk to February 2021 and get some thoughts on the new year. I'm sure Feb will be willing to talk since It gets less time on the stage anyway."
The comment throws Jan into a frenzy. It tries to make it back on the stage with fire spitting out of its eyes and mouth but is held back by security. Jan shouts “Don’t you dare talk to Feb. Don’t you dare or you'll regret it! No one talks till I have had my say. They all get their cue from me and have no idea what I have in store. DO. NOT. TALK. TO. FEB."
I only take deep breaths when they shut the door behind Jan. The little drama has been caught on camera and I'm sure that when my heart is not beating out of my chest I will see the humour in all of it.
"Well folks, you saw and heard it here first. On the Future Show. Jan tries to kill the Calen Dar and doesn't want anyone talking to February 2021." I wait for the studio to transition into a commercial break and run off the stage. I find my assistant and give the order.
"Have someone check up on Feb 2021 and put It in protective custody. Jan didn't leave here in the best state."