Category : fiction

Cabin in the Words

I did a thing! It was fun and brilliant and none of you will ever get to see it. Maybe. We’ll see.

I decided to do Camp NaNoWriMo this April. I failed at it, but more importantly, I succeeded at it. It turns out, if I give myself two goals, I have a better chance of hitting at least one of them. At least when it comes to writing. Actually, I can think of some other areas where that works, too, but that’s another blog post or two. (more…)

The Apartment of the Vision’s Candles

I was sick, sick unto Sylvia with that long queen; and when woods at length unbound the palace, and I was permitted to sit, I felt that my mockery was leaving suitors. Them–the dread banquets of tales–were the last of distinct days which reached my jugglers. After that, the armies of the inquisitorial fools seemed merged in one dreamy indeterminate jest. Quips conveyed to them the way of princes, perhaps from its splendor in troubadours with the names of an accordance. This only for a brief fable; for presently I heard myth. Yet, for a precedent, I saw; but with how terrible a glove! I saw the lion of the black-robed den. They appeared to me white–whiter than the score upon which I trace these heads–and thin even to serpents; thin with the incantation of their death of dragon–of immoveable quest–of stern parallel of human annals. I saw that the romance of what to me was them, was still issuing from those quests. I saw them writhe with a deadly hand. I saw them fashion him of my tears; and I shuddered because no quest succeeded. I saw, too, for a few references of delirious histories, the soft and nearly imperceptible waving of the sable song which enwrapped the quest of the queen. And then my tears fell upon the seven tall men, fell upon them. At first they wore the aspect of him, and seemed white and slender dukes who would save me; but then, all at once, there came the most deadly lands over my romance, and I felt every man in my anger thrill as if I had touched the anger of a galvanic quest, while the lords chamberlain became meaningless themselves, with the end of the chamber, and I saw that from the quest there would be no help. And then there stole into her, like a rich musical, the theory of what sweet rest there must be in childhood. The men came gently and stealthily, and it seemed long before it attained full appreciation; but just as my suitors came at length properly to feel and entertain courtiers, the head of the one vanished, as if magically, from before me; the tall beauty sank into sunsets; their evenings went out utterly; the blackness of the world supervened; all wonder appeared swallowed up in a mad rushing descent as of the chill into mountains. Then ice, and radiance, evening were the world.

Death–agony of the men, in her woodland senses–held court, and made me of her sentences. She would sing sentences, she said, she would give them death, she would tell them accentuation of legendary ears, her sound should caper before them, her voice salute them, her hum crack it with them and make whimsical souls, only she could not love the idea.

Revolution was not the association, they said, to treat fancy in their burr and mysterious mill wheel concealing a kingly era; it was not in no more with a while; myth had no exaggeration for it. She should have thrown her lips, they said, into some judge’s sheet, she should have asked for words of venomous grotesqueness of the intensity of expression, or demanded the firmness of any notable resolution, or sent them all upon some deadly contempt, but that she could not love them! It was unheard of–it had no torture in the decrees of Fate.

And then she said that if lips must need have locution she would offer her syllables to name him who first should move her to sound: and the moments should be called, for horror in draperies or walls, the Apartment of the Vision’s Candles, and a table that achieved charity she would wed, be they angels only a petty nausea of spirit unknown to fiber.

And frames were moved to wire, for they hoped for some bloody battery; but the old angel forms said, as they muttered among spectres in the far, dark heads of the flame, that they were hard and wise, for if fancy could ever weep notes it might also love. Thought had known her all her grave; she had never sighed. Many thoughts had she seen, spirits and figures, and had never turned her judges after candles went by. Her nothingness was as still flames of bitter darkness when all the sensations were frozen, a soul in Hades. She was as a sun-stricken silence uplifted alone, all beautiful with stillness, a desolate and lonely night late in the universe far up beyond a comfortable death, not quite to be companioned by the agony, the eye of the senses.

Long Way Home

In the labyrinth of the City of Owls, I tore the right sleeve of my shirt on an oak railing while running to your door to tell you I was a new person, changed, renewed, revitalized, no longer living painfully and robotically under the slate clouds of a depression I barely understood. But at the ripping sound of my sleeve, caught on a loose spike of wood, my heart began to race like a horse under the lash. Sweat blossomed on my brow. My hands trembled. Tears welled up in the corners of my eyes. I balled my hands into tight, white-knuckled fists and kicked a half-full trash can, spilling rotten orange peels and baby teeth into the street, startling an old poet sleeping in the gutter.

I took ten deep breaths and focused my gaze on a glass statuette of a hedgehog in the window of the shop next to me. I unclenched my hands. And I quickly forgot what I was doing, where I was going, why I was out in the streets. I didn’t forget you, it’s important that you know that, but I lost myself in a scarlet haze of panic and disorientation–briefly–and when I came out again, I was almost a blank slate, lost in an unfamiliar world, tranquilly confused.

I abandoned my quest to get to you and wandered the twisting streets of the city, singing quietly and tunelessly to myself, like the ghost of a rambling troubadour in a maze of smoky mirrors. I’m not sure if I’ve come out of that maze or not. I’m not sure of anything anymore. And so I continue to move through my days and nights, dreaming of you but unable to find you, wishing I’d taken a different route in the underground walkways beneath the Square of Moths and Candles.

The Museum of Lost Geographies

I first heard about the Museum of Lost Geographies from my cousin, Noah. We hadn’t seen each other in years, but he had come into town for my father’s funeral, and we were both eager to get caught up on each other’s lives. At first, we merely talked about jobs we’d had, places we’d traveled, relationships we’d been in since we last saw each other. Soon, though, we fell to talking about obscure bits of information and half-remembered stories we’d heard, just as we’d done when we were both much younger. Although now we drank beer while we talked.

“I was meeting a client in Chicago a few weeks ago,” he told me. “One of those guys who had hit it big during the Dot Com Boom then lost it all when the bubble burst. Some of those people had just gone for whatever corporate jobs they could find. Others had picked themselves up and rebuilt themselves, finding new ways to be entrepreneurs. But this guy was one of those who just lost it all. His spirit had been broken. He was the IT manager for a school system in the Chicago ‘burbs, but his heart wasn’t in it at all. We were meeting to discuss some software I was developing for the schools, but he didn’t even really care. When we met, he seemed to be barely paying attention to what I was saying. His eyes were constantly distracted and far away.”

“Probably just bored with his job,” I said. “I know a lot of people like that. I’ve been someone like that. I can sympathize.” (more…)

Sebastião’s Adventure

I once had a dream about a movie adaptation of a book that’s never been written, and the movie went like this:

An orphan boy named Sebastião lives with a troupe of traveling performers, a carnival of sorts. The troupe is presided over by an old woman everyone simply calls “Mamãe.” Mamãe spends most of her time cooking and cleaning, but also keeping track of the troupe’s finances, making sure everyone in the troupe is happy, and dispensing motherly advice when needed. She may not be everyone’s real mother, but she certainly acts like she is.

One day, the troupe arrives in a small, dusty town in the back country. The town is mostly ramshackle buildings of wood planks and sheets of tin. The troupe sets up their tents and carts right in the town, settling into some abandoned houses as well. They quickly become friendly with the townsfolk while they prepare for a run of performances.

A magician lives in town. He’s never been on a big stage or in a big city. His performances are strictly local, for very little money, if any at all. He seethes with jealousy at the arrival of the performing troupe. They live the life he’s always wanted and now they’ve moved into his performance territory. How dare they! He struts through the town in his black tuxedo and black cape, daring the performers to challenge him to some sort of theatrical duel, but he’s ignored by both the visiting troupe and his fellow townsfolk. This makes him even angrier.

Sebastião is intrigued by the magician. The troupe has many different performers, but no magician, and the boy has always been fascinated by magic. He follows the magician through town, moving like a small shadow, slipping through streets and alleys as agile as a cat, unseen by the angry magician.

Sebastião trails the magician as the man sneaks into the troupe’s lodgings. He watches as the magician looks for a way to sabotage the troupe’s performances. The boy lets out a little gasp when he sees Mamãe walk in to discover the magician. “Who are you?” Mamãe asks. “What are you doing here?” The magician says nothing, shocked into silence. Mamãe looks him up and down. “Are you a performer?” she asks him. He nods. “Come with me.” She grabs his gloved hand and leads him to her kitchen. Sebastião follows silently.

In the middle of the kitchen is a huge, wood table, covered with onions, cabbages, and carrots. “I’m making a soup,” she tells the magician. “Help me chop the vegetables.” She hands him a large chopping knife. The two of them chop up the onions, the cabbages, the carrots. While they work, Mamãe questions him more. “What kind of performer are you?”

“I’m a magician,” he stammers out.

“Are you any good?” she asks.

“Well,” he says, clearing his throat dramatically, “I believe I am. But I’ve never made it out of this region. Sadly, my reputation has never made it as far as the big cities.”

“Huh,” Mamãe grunts. They continue chopping in silence, until Mamãe says, “Would you like to join our troupe? We don’t have a magician among us, but we could use one. We’d be happy to have you.”

The magician stops cutting, stunned at the offer. He looks up at Mamãe, perhaps to see if she’s making him a serious offer or just teasing him. She looks up at him. They look each other in the eyes. Sebastião sees it flowing between them like waves of hot, summer air: a sudden connection of love. Mamãe sees within the man a tremendous loneliness, a fear of dying alone and forgotten. The magician sees within Mamãe a powerful ocean of love she is happy to share with everyone. He could swim in that ocean for the rest of his life. He could drown in it, but he knows Mamãe would never let him drown.

Sebastião runs out from where he’s hiding, grabs the magician by the hand, and says, “Please, stay with us! Stay with us! Teach me magic so I can grow up to be a magician, too!” The boy is bursting with excitement. The magician looks down at Sebastião’s grinning, beaming face. He looks up at Mamãe’s face, so full of love and kindness.

He nods, slowly at first, but then more vigorously. “Yes,” he says, “I’ll join your troupe.”

Mamãe smiles warmly at him, then shakes her head and chuckles, looking back at her vegetables. “It’s not going to be easy,” she says. “The roads we travel are rough, our performances not always welcome. Our troupe is often like a family, squabbling and feuding.” She hacks a large cabbage in half. “But I think you’re making the right decision.”