What We Fall To
A girl sits on her bed, a flashlight clutched between her knees, pointed at a book in her hand. Slowly, she works her way through, murmuring the words, stumbling. She reads of fairies and dragons and knights and queens, and as she does, their silhouettes play on the wall before her. She reads on, only peripherally aware of the show dancing along with the words of the story, little sword fights in impossible detail. Outside, a storm rages, thunder crashing and lightning cracking. In her room, it is quiet. In her room, the humidity of the outside is not welcome, and there is only silky calm. A haven shrouded in shadow and darkness as if it were a blanket.
A girl reads and shadows play around her.
The world is motionless ice outside the window, the type of cold that swallows the possibility of life or sound. She can remember the bite of the snow on her hands, eating away at her, hardening her, flakes in her eyes, wind tugging at her ears as she trekked through covered sidewalks on the way home, hands and chin retreating into her down coat that was not keeping her in the least bit warm. But she is inside now, wrapped in blankets, her cold hands curled around a steaming mug of tea. It’s painfully hot right now, contrasted against her burning coolness. Her eyes flicker closed, but she does not sleep; she simply rests in this haven, smiling in the middle of a tempest. Shadows retreat to the far corners, resting under furniture and dancing idly in the flames of the fireplace.
A young woman stands in a tree, feet gripping a branch, hand braced against the trunk, watching the world pass below her. She would sit, let the branches caress her, but that feels like giving up somehow. Nothing is ever accomplished by sitting down. Nothing gets better by sitting down. The mute of casual conversation passes below, and she focuses on blurring the words to white noise as warm tears brush down her face and a migraine pulses through her skull, pushing and pushing relentlessly. Slowly, she weaves darkness through her fingers like string, steadying her breath to the flowing rhythm of the motion.
She’s at the local state park, path abandoned a ways back. Tall, flowering grasses brush against her thighs as sun beats down against her skin, pushing the shadows off her so that they trail behind her in a dark wake. In the city, no one notices one more unaccounted for shadow within the bustle of bodies and streetlights, but in the park, there is no one there who could notice; nothing but the shuffling noises of nature.
Murky figures dance around her, sparring each other with blades that do not cut and blows that do not land. Their forms wrap around the wildflowers that bob with the wind, careless of the wargames raging around them. Laughter echoes on the breeze in eerie joy. The woman supervises it all, carefully siphoning portions of her life and will into the figures, animating them with pieces of herself. She feels what they feel, and they are what she is. Pieces of her soul, distanced and formed by darkness.
It is not cold as a shadow.
When they wrapped around her, they were cool against her skin, but when she became them, everything was hot and colorful and wild to the sight, mute to the ears as if heard from underwater. She had almost lost herself when she first tried it, and then spent weeks shivering when she had returned to herself, the human existence seeming too loud, too mundane and comprehensible. Colorless.
Little pieces. That’s all she ever gave up, letting fragments of herself go for periods of time, living through the shadows. Her physical body was vacant during those times, in abandoned trances that grounded her to all that was real and solid, sitting with just enough consciousness relegated to its upkeep to keep it from slumping to the ground, just enough to remind her to return to it. All that was supposed to matter. She found herself slipping, failing to remember why all the things that were crucial in her life held any meaning. Slip, slip, and recoil back into herself, gasping and shivering. Reminding herself that she needed her physical body, needed all the mortal things she had built her life around. Reminding herself that she was solid and that was natural and that was good and that was how it was meant to be and meant to stay. Letting her essence condense to a single core deep in her chest, so heavy that it pulled her to the ground, tethering her.
Had she eased into it, letting more and more go, giving looser and looser grip, she might have kept hold of herself.
In the end, it was simple impulse. Shadows steamed off her in wispy tendrils, dissipating in the air behind her as she wandered through the all but abandoned park she was so accustomed to, her chest pushing in, her chest pushing out, stalking through the grasses, trying to notice the sunlight against her skin, trying to find color in the world. The woman was deaf to the usual unobtrusive lull of nature being nature, echoes reverberating through her mind, drowning the world out.
In the fields where she had spent so much time with her shadows, she remembered the disproportionate heat of warm tea in cold hands, the coolness of the shadows, the warmth and vibrancy of her shallow dives into the world of shadows. And since she craved light and intensity, she abandoned her body, her anchor, completely, seeping the entirety of her Self into shadow.
She was blind. Her heart rate picked up. Fear. But of course, she did not have a heart in this form, so it could not be palpitating. It was, though. Pounding, pounding, pounding, pulsing throughout her as if her entirety were a ritual drum, and she were pounding, pounding, pounding, as she burned. Because she realised then that she was burning. Everything was so that that there was no other explanation than that she was burning. She must have been on fire, except she did not have a body that could catch fire. She opened her mouth to shout, but no sound came out, though air rustled uselessly within her. Helplessness. There was everything in too small a moment, all soundless screams and heat and that pounding, pounding, pounding.
She had been mistaken about her blindness. She could see everything but in blinding definition, burning colors, pounded into her, each detail driving, drilled, into her, fighting to get her attention, pushing others away, yelling, screaming for her. She could see everything to the extent of blindness and it was not a quiet blindness but the kind that pounded through, making everything an Impossible that huddled close, begging to be grasped.
The pounding was not pushing all else away, filling her ears with everything in the world and more, but that there was nothing else to be heard because she was deaf and not in the way that she could not see because there was too much to see, too much input, but deaf in the way that she could not hear because there was absolutely nothing but perceived silence and it hurt in a different way than that not being able to see, the absence and the overflow contrasting each other and fighting and pounding and pounding and pounding.
It’s not that she stopped burning, that she suddenly saw less or more, that sound returned suddenly to her. It’s not even that she got used to it, but that she endured in agonizing paralysis until she was not a woman and so she could not be burning because shadows did not catch fire and so it could not be burning.
Burning implied wrongness. This was not wrong. It was hot. It was life when one does not have a life of their own to get in the way. Feverish, lively. Scalding but not burning.
There was no pounding because that was too simple a rhythm.
The Universe does not dance in time.
The Universe does not understand randomness.
The Shadow finds an irregular sort of normality just sane enough that it pauses, for the first time comprehending the body it exists near, vacantly supine on the ground, eyes facing endlessly upwards. There is recognition, but no identification. The Body is still pounding, pounding, pounding. But to breathe is to suffocate. To have a heart is to be tied down, and brains are blind.
It has no lungs or heart or brain. Those necessities are trivial and it does not want the burden.
The Shadow fades into the darkness of the world.
A girl sits on her bed, a flashlight clutched between her knees, pointed at a book in her hand. Shadows dance on the wall, content to play out a human fantasy, an entirety encapsulated in a fragment. Fairies and dragons and knights and queens dance together, all together, all One, and more, themselves but also the dark places of the world, the shadows staring out into sunshine, reveling in heat and light, silent laughter and burning coolness.
We all grew up at breakneck speeds, the world spinning, rushing past in a largely incomprehensible blur. Daisy picking and bug catching and talking to the wizard who lived under the willow. Time spun, too fast to know and too slow to tolerate so we urged it on, yearning for the day that we could do all those ‘grown- up’ things we understood the edges of and pined for the novelty of.
See her hair streaming behind her as she runs, years falling into her in the span of seconds. Only she knows that she’s moving in slow motion, or was it stop motion? But to her family, her age blurs together because she is growing up too fast. All kids her age do.
A top spins on a table until it falls like kids holding hands and singing ‘ring around the rosy’ until they all fall down and breath catches before they stand up because the falling is so recognizable and how do they get back up? Because maybe watching them close enough will teach me how to do it.
Perhaps it’s that they’re lighter. They aren’t weighed down by the worries of years, the fear of failure or is it the fear of oblivion? They don’t know that sometimes when you fall, you don’t get back up, so, incessantly, they get back up and there was never any doubt that they would. Except for in those of us who were watching with hitched breath.
When I close my eyes and imagine it, they don’t fall. They only spin, faster and faster until the centripetal force pulls their hands apart and they fly away, scattered to the corners of the earth where they stand or fall according to their own destinies.
I think maybe I’m kneeling, trying to decide to stand up, if it’s worth the risk of falling.
Wanting to Want
I wrote a lot about love.
Because if I could capture it in words and tie a little piece of it to the page, I could feel it and fall into it and want love the way you’re supposed to want love.
Want love like holding hands and the sun setting and kisses and laughter.
Want love like ‘you’re enough for me’ and passing notes and heads on shoulders.
I just don’t want to be alone.
This I Believe
Everything came together at one moment. I was in bed messaging a friend. I was yelling at him actually. I believe the phrasing was something like, “Stop being edgy and go outside and stare at a freaking leaf!” I believe in magic and that leaf is the basis for all of it.
The actual start is lunches at school. I eat outside when it’s warm. I like the sunshine over me and the leaves under me. I had finished eating and was lying on my stomach staring at a clover patch within the grass. Did you know leaves sparkle? They have this glittering sheen of a color that is somehow both white and everything but and it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. First and foremost, that is my go to example of magic.
It got me thinking though. Leaves can’t be the only manifestation. Just as powerful are the stars. Lying outside at night, staring up at them, there’s this stillness that is not still. Those are the stars that people told stories about before everything was complicated. Stars are as constant as it’s possible to be and there’s something comforting about that which manages to quiet everything else.
I know that there’s a science behind it all and I do know the scientific occurrences that cause these to be true. I know, for example, that sun shines through raindrops which separate the ultraviolet light to create a rainbow. The how and why are not mysteries, but still that rainbow has power. Without fail, when a rainbow appears, I smile and stare and have to resist an urge to follow it. A rainbow is inherently magical and I would argue it’s not despite the explanation but in connection to it. For each specific step to line up in that moment to cause that result is magic just as strong as the emotional response it elicits.
I believe in quite a bit but it all comes down to one thing. I believe in magic. I believe we are magical. Every action comes down to that. I have an effect on that which surrounds me and it has a likewise effect back. I love watching one of my best friends talk about something she loves. Her face lights up. Her words are stronger and no matter what she says there is the same underlying message of I am alive and living and so are you and so are we all. I want to have the same effect. I want to remind people to live and love. I want to make my surroundings better so they can have a positive effect and maybe someday everything will be better. I can make some of that difference because just as surely as leaves, stars, and rainbows are magical, so am I.
I really thought.
Can you hear the words screaming from my mind begging to be heard in the light of day?
But I didn’t say.
I really knew.
Who are you to tell me who I am and who I was meant to be? Can’t you hear me dying with every truth you tear from my famished mind?
But I didn’t defend.
I really believed.
I let myself fall into the cosmic arms of the universe and I breathed in the overwhelming suffocation of relativity.
And so I defended.
And so I said.
It was always warm here. This reality was stuck in the cool warmth characteristic of the first few days of spring. For miles and miles, the surface was covered in emerald green grass. The sky was completely blue, not even a sun disturbing the smooth canvas, though there was no way to describe this world besides ‘sunny.’ This world was an empty world, content to exist in serene simplicity, except for a small grouping of dandelions surrounding the Creator, though you would not expect one such as her would hold such a mighty title. She was small, young. Thin chestnut hair hung around her shoulders, hanging limply down near the bottom of her back, a conglomerate of loose strands and thin braids, sprinkled with long grasses weaved throughout. Closer observance would reveal silver tears rolling down her tan face, despite the cheery calm of her surroundings.
The Creator carefully selected a gorgeously full dandelion and plucked it from the earth after gently brushing its head with her finger tip, disrupting a trail of pollen to drift in an unseen breeze. As she picked the flower, the asteroids of a dead planet crashed together with silent ferocity elsewhere in the universe. Purple mist wrapped around it, concealing this process of chaotic creation from the many prying eyes throughout all universes and reality, each eager to steal the dying secret of creation. She examined the flower and the curtain of mist dispersed to reveal a lush planet of canyons and rivers, forests filled with ferns and ivies, vast oceans with massive waves, breezy fields of lavender and violets. “One flower for creation,” she murmured, her voice thick with tears.
She picked another dandelion. Eight remained. She rolled this new flower between her palms and honeybees popped into existence. She tied the second dandelion to the first, and the bees found a home in the forests of the new planet, pollinating and creating and making honey. “Another for fertility.”
Again, she chose a flower, making sure to harvest it near the base of the stem. There was no room for mistakes. As she rolled it between her palms, fish popped into existence in the seas. They found their breath as she tied this third dandelion to the second. “This dandelion for calm.” Six dandelions remaining.
She removed another flower from the earth the place birds in the sky. “And this one for freedom.” She tied the knot. Each bird spread their wings to feel the cool breeze under them as they soared, unfettered by gravity. Five remaining.
She picked another and cats appeared on the surface, this new planet growing more bountiful even as the Creator’s home became more barren. Four flowers remained. She tied this one to the chain of the others, struggling with shaking hands. She created with the energy of destruction. Some would call her selfless or brave. “Coward,” she muttered to herself as she fastened the knot.
Her hand hovered over a new flower. One thin finger brushed the petals, coming away yellow with pollen. The Creator looked at her finger for a moment, a single tear dripping off her chin, falling onto her finger before splattering onto the ground and sinking into the earth. In one quick motion, she picked the flower. “This one for ambition,” she whispered and mankind popped into existence. As she tied the flower to her chain, humans started making tools. Three remaining.
In quick succession, she swiped for a dandelion as if she wouldn’t be able to bring herself to do it if she was slower. “For need,” she muttered, tying the flower to the rest. All the creatures of the new planet felt the hunger in their stomachs. Two flowers left.
Just as quickly, she took the next. “For chaos.” Her voice was louder this time, stronger but also colder as if fortified by some hate. Rain and lightning poured over the new planet, torrenting all the newly created creatures with quick, hard raindrops. One left.
She gave it a hard stare and something in her seemed to die as she took the last dandelion from the land and tied it to the others. “For hate. For apathy. For cold and for violence.” Man turned his tools to weapon. He killed animals for food and other men for jealousy.
She tied the ends of the chains to create a crown. “So mote it be,” she declared flatly. The Creator stared at the crown. She knew her duty to it. For all the rest, she had rested it in her palms and offered it to the wind, which had greedily snatched it from her, carrying it away to a Ruler. The Creator stood. She gripped the crown in her fingers, not willing to relinquish control. Instead, she set it on her head.
Wind picked up, whipping the Creator’s white, grass-stained dress around her calves, her hair blowing about her wildly. But the flower crown remained calmly on her head. “This new world will be mine,” she declared. “I have killed my home, but I will not die with it. I am more. I will continue.” Her voice was barely discernible in the wailing gales of hurricane force winds yet the corners of her lips almost seemed to quirk upwards, unharried by the violent storm of rage and destruction around her. Even as she spoke, the emerald grass shriveled and disintegrated, carried in the wind to form a storm of detritus that spiraled like a swarm of locusts. The Creator seemed unaffected. In contrast, she almost seemed to be glowing with green energy, encircling her and pulsing with the steady beat of her heart. Her feet lifted from the ground and she floated towards the heavens, her body expanding, consciousness shifting. She was no longer Creator but Ruler, no longer a physical entity, but one of pure energy, encircling the infinite span of everything she had painstakingly created.
With a simple breath, she erased all those who had deigned to assert command over her creations from existence, placing herself to the direct worship of all beings. “I have been Creator and am now Ruler. All those who deny me, know that you remove yourself from my benevolence. I will not harm you, but neither will I protect you. Should there come a day that all deny me, all will fall to chaos and all will live or die by their own merit.”
With all reality and more stretched out ahead, a part of her, still she wanted for her home. With a loving stroke of thought, she re-fertilized that planet, filling it with fresh dandelions. With a whim, she added daisies and other wildflowers. Then, with a blink of energy, she formed a new Creator to sit in those endless fields and weave her imagination, allowing each harvested flower to regrow for an endless supply of variety and possibility. The Ruler gave her heart to that planet, to its Creator. May they be everlasting in that position, as she had never been destined to be.
A Raindrop’s Journey
The first thing I remember is the lingering, the Mother Cloud holding me, preventing me from the inevitable battle path- the plummet- towards Earth. I remember looking down, seeing the curved horizon of the hulking sphere I knew I would be one day sent to fight. And I trembled.
“Benjamin.” The rumbling voice of Mother Cloud. You would recognize it, though I believe you call her voice by a different name. Thunder. “Do not shake. You must not shiver so. For millennia, your siblings have charged on Earth. You will do the same. It is no use fearing that which is inevitable.” And that was the moment I shut down. I locked away the fear, Mother Cloud’s voice echoing in my mind. No use, no use, no use. I consider that my first death. My second was more final. It started with the preparation of the Charge.
I was chilling with my squad and I think we could all feel the Falling begin. Each moment brought us a little closer to leaving Mother Cloud. We knew what would happen next. The moment we left the other cloud we would begin Falling for real, and then the Charge. After that, no one really knows. You don’t come back. I ignored the familiar tickle of fear in me, sealing it off with a cocky grin. I addressed my best mate, Mike. “You ready for this?”
He grinned back. “You kidding with me, Benji? I was condensed ready for this. May be a death drop, but you know I’ll being enjoying any second I got.”
I laughed. “You thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?”
“That she’s a fine formed raindrop at 10 o’clock?” The only one near us, actually. Most of the females knew to stay away from my squad unless they felt like being harassed. I mean, we were harmless, but they tended to keep their distance anyways.
“You know it. Go get her.”
He shot me one last crooked smile as he made his way over to her. A calm came over me then as I watched him flirt shamelessly -we had done this together countless times (had I wanted, I could have told you exactly the words he used, his exact angle, without listening)- and her pretend to be offended even as a hint of a blush rose in her. The boundary of Mother Cload was closer than ever now. Then closer. And closer. Mike’s drop finally moved away from him, huffing, and he headed back to me. And then it began.
I was startled at first as the plummet began, the first few moments of the Falling. I lost all sense of space and time and for just a moment, a ghost of who I head been worked itself up to the surface and I was terrified. But I still remembered her words- no use- and I shoved Benjamin (the small bit of water vapor that clung to Mother Cloud and did his best to please her) back into myself, once again assuming the role of Benji: womanizer, jerk, and best of all, absolutely fearless. That was when the Falling turned into the Falling, second greatest achievement I would ever have, the first steps towards glory and heroism. After all, everyone loves a hero.
I sped towards Earth, its mass appearing larger and larger as I got closer and closer. I looked to Mike, both of us reflecting some mixture of pride and exhilaration. There wasn’t a hint of fear in his face and that helped my confidence to grow. As Earth grew large enough to make out some details, I continued to accelerate. I had entered the Charge.
Mother Cloud lit the sky with flashes of lightning, each striking the Earth with familiar ferocity and force. Each new flash was accompanied by her battle cry. I missed her. Heavens, I missed her. It was enough to allow Benjamin to come crawling back to the surface again. I looked to Mike. He didn’t spam w me a glance at this stage, focused on our foe with a new intensity. For once, he wasn’t grinning, that wicked joy having gave way to some sort of warrior he had been encasing. I felt alone. I was approaching Earth quickly. Too quickly. It was so large. What was I against it? I tried to turn back but I kept falling. I had milliseconds left before I reached the Destination. I was starting to understand why no one came back. They hadn’t passed to some happy retirement elsewhere. The Destination was going to be all of our End. Closer, closer. And arrived.
I expected a crash at least. Perhaps a dent. I Ended with a mere plink on the glass of a car window, Mike next to me. Everyone I knew around me. I couldn’t yell loud enough to those still in the Mother Cloud but I wanted to. I’m not sure what I would have told them. I think I would have told them to stay up there. Don’t give in to the Falling. I don’t know if that was possible. And so, as the next generation began their Falling, I Ended, just as they soon would.
#action #suspense #philosophy #existentialism #abstraction
My people have argued for years about if we are gods or simply bookkeepers. Our minds can reach across galaxies to watch the tales of other worlds play out. We write them down and archive them in unbelievably vast libraries that have been developed over eons of watching and recording. I believe we are the latter. I have to, for if we are gods, we are cruel ones. We observe safely from our planet that has never documented a war of our own and we have watched atrocities be committed, watched genocides and slavery and done nothing but put it to paper. We have the power to stop it. We can manipulate the stories we watch but we don’t. It is forbidden. We are told to trust in the prophecies - short pieces of guidance passed down to each planet upon its first observance. Instead, we are to stay neutral, watch, and write. Is it so bad that I could not?
I stared up at the night sky, the stars spanning the night sky with no lights to dim them and no clouds to block them. One could see everything here and the world was loud with its natural noises, the nearest street being leagues away. This had been the destination of my long journey, to feel the natural rhythms of the world spinning around me. My people called this the Opposite Realm, but I knew otherwise. This was not opposite, but rather the natural state, what entropy would eventually give over to, if not for the constant fight against it. I could just barely discern the constellations I had grown up with here. They blended with so many other stars, entire galaxies coming together in purple and green streaks across the sky. I did not stir; I did not disturb the field of tall grasses that washed over me, reflecting the sky’s own purples and blues and greens in its coloration. There was a reason they called it the living night sky. They say if you could soar above it all, the stars and galaxies would be reflected back in the plants. I envisioned myself a small, barely discernible speck in the span of the field. I must have camouflaged pretty well. With my skin a swirling mix of blues and purples and spotted with freckles that shifted to match the constellations, long violet hair, and blue eyes, I myself appeared a piece of night sky.
My eyes adjusted to the dark and I scanned across the horizon for a branch of galaxy that felt right. I latched to the arm of a spiral galaxy, reaching for an inhabited planet which I then used to focus my vision. It was then that she caught my eyes. She was sagging against her binds, silvery razor wires that spiraled up each of her limbs to the main joint, as a male whipped her with a golden lance. It struck me that she did not cry out, did not fight it or even move. She had clearly been in captivity for months- each rib jutted separately from under her skin- but her hair still shone, hanging limply around silver shoulders, hiding her face. A golden collar flashed around her neck, braided metal that lay flush against her skin, clearly very solid but able to flow with the movement of her neck. Beyond the pink blood that fell from her, it was the only color to her that I could see. My breathing hitched as another lash landed on her bare back, ripping deep through soft skin. She was vulnerable, weak, naked, dying, yet just for a moment I could see her as she was born to become and it took my breath away. It was an image that I knew would never stop haunting me. She was ghostly beautiful, all silver and black. A strong jawline and cheekbones filled in for what I had just seen, her skin smooth and unmarred, muscles rippling beneath it. Her eyes had no pupil or iris, but instead were a sea of mercury framed by the darkest of lashes. She was proud in a suit of silver armour, a silver glow pulsing around her, full of energy. It was irreconcilable with the version that slumped in my vision currently. Elaea Argenti, my mind supplied, the Silver Princess.
#adventure #suspense #fantasy #lgbt