Short: The Dancing Fire

My family gathered around the fire fighting against the breeze chill
Howling in the Autumn months we watched the flame stood still
Embers of the blaze licked our faces with heat
Stepping closer now my heart and flame met with a beat
I looked around the family our eyes locked in a trance
The flames kept on rising in its fledgling dance

My father lost himself to the red light
It tugged and twisted to him in this cool night
But mere seconds passed before I heard a groan
He was on the floor writhing, his heart had flown

My mother moved with the wriggling flicker not knowing why
Making her think of times to come, those gone and won’t come by
She stepped and reached out to it as a dancer to their partner
Kept on walking the blaze embraced her without falter

I looked around what remained her eyes locked in a trance
The flames kept on rising in its gruesome dance

My sister occupied her mind with fear
She fell back and the flames singed her tears
Bringing her back into the fold of its burning life
Shrieked one moment then no more of strife

My body was locked from movement running
In my head of thoughts that were not coming
I knew the dancing flame would scorch me next
But it sat smiling at my eyes, my fear perplexed

I looked around and nothing remained except a flames’ eyes locked in a trance
The flames were dying now it had no more to dance

I realised what it had done,
A reaction to what we had begun,
My father lay still motionless,
My mother unrecognisable into crisp,
My sister scared to her death
and me alone but with my breath

The fire had chosen us to see its wrath
That I was last was surely its torturing path
Myself alone I tried to scream
It’ll come for you next Hallowe’en.

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Unfiction – Depression And Anxiety Sucks

The amount of times I’ve started, sometimes even finished and then promptly deleted this is something I’ve lost count of. Despite most of the year in regular therapy and getting so much better at talking about this, I couldn’t share this. Will I even put this up? Pfft.

A little over two years ago now I went to my GP and said “So I think I might have depression?” whilst out of breath because I ran round there as I was running late, giving what I can only imagine was the impression of someone so terrified of talking about it that they were trying to catch their breath, but truthfully by that point I had finally resolved to go and see the doctor about whatever ‘it’ was. The only thing I hadn’t done was tell the truth to my parents. Going to see the GP then was just a check-up because I hadn’t had one in ages and that made sense to me. Of course they knew it was a lie but they went with it, I must have had my reasons.

I talk with the doctor a bit and then he says he doesn’t think it’s depression, although I was noted for having seen a doctor about it several years prior, but that actually it’s anxiety, as he then lists out the symptoms. Oh, I realise, this does sound right. Huh. Well okay then, working out what it is is probably going to be pretty helpful. Would I go for a five-week session of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) at a hospital that wasn’t entirely convenient? Sure, I wanted to try anything. I was resolved, remember? It needed to happen.

The CBT didn’t help. Not really. The counsellor I saw was pleasant and understanding and was able to highlight numerous damaging tendencies I have, but then I could’ve told you how my perfectionist trait was so warped aiming high was not good enough, especially as the bar was constantly moving further and further upwards quicker than I could keep up. She did try though, on the final session, to get me to confront a particular issue and I just froze. No words came out my mouth. I shook my head weakly, recoiled from any sense of action because why would I do that when I’m a worthless piece of garbage and why on earth should anyone believe what I write down for this thing when I don’t believe it myself?

As she put it to me, the course of CBT I was on was really for people with “surface level” issues or those who had been on a longer and more involved course due to having much worse issues (read: suicidal) and were having something of a check-up. Being neither, she promised to push to try and keep me on for something as part of the NHS, but I was not able to, although she did point me to MIND where I have been attending therapy since. I do not blame her or the NHS for that, the funding needs to be there, but that’s another story.

Before I started weekly therapy I had periodic sessions. During the second the therapist said “And how do you feel about your depression?” I knew beforehand that the two were linked, albeit varying from person to person, but I could do nothing to argue with her because she was right, it wasn’t just anxiety, it was depression. You know, the double whammy of fun!

Between the two, the depression makes me think I’m not worthy of happiness, in turn making me miserable, which has the knock-on effect of amplifying the anxiety that I won’t be happy because I’m not doing anything to make me so. And I’m pretty lucky in that regard because my depression tends more often to hit harder in waves rather than be constant so there is some respite. Of course the anxiety is a constant problem so no solace there.

This has impacted every facet of my life. I volunteer so that I can feel like I’m doing something productive, “knowing” that I am incapable of accomplishing anything else. I find it hard to let people get emotionally close, be it friends or family, because the idea that someone should care when I “know” that there’s nothing worth caring about seems abstract and that even if I did have the opportunity I still wouldn’t say anything. I indulge in subtle self-destructive tendencies because success is more terrifying than failure with there being so much more to lose, not for myself because obviously I am of little worth, but for other people it may impact. And so on.

The fact I can say this though is critical to resolving it. The first instance of depression I had was when I was 19. I went to the GP after one specific incident that was otherwise totally out of character, I raised concerns about depression without really knowing anything about it, but nothing came of it. I didn’t go back to talk about it. I then made a pretty big decision that to this day I don’t consider a bad or good move, just one I now understood why it was made because that’s all my mind could do to think of as helping. I spent months unhappy, not having any real idea of what to do. I ‘fixed’ it several months later, tricking myself into happiness and thinking that would be enough.

It’s amazing how many alarm bells you’re willing to overlook simply because you don’t know how to address a problem you’re not sure even exists. I went at least a year, if not two, as I finished my degree, suffering from a renewed bout of depression that I had no real way to address. All I could think of was this weird thing that I couldn’t spell out that was doing something and it was all very washy and therefore, why look into it? I waited so many years before raising even the concern with a doctor. I look back at this time with a depression-amplified regret of having been wasted.

I have in my head this simple image explaining acknowledgement of mental health issues. One panel would have someone on crutches and a wrapped up leg. Someone else would go “Oh my god, are you okay?!” and the person would respond “Broke my leg. Suuuuuuuucks.” Second panel would have person A ask person B if they were alright. B would say “Yeah, fine, you?” with a smile on their face whilst a thought bubble said “No, I think I’m shit and feel alone and I have no idea what to do.” But they’ve already said they’re fine, so that’s that. Besides, they were just being nice by asking, no need to trouble them.

I have gotten better about talking about this with some people, but remain cold with others about it. We don’t know everything that goes on in the heads of the people we care about, but what we can do is try to be considerate and there for them, regardless their issue because that time you ask if they’re alright, that might be the time they finally fight against what their brain is telling them, willing them to do and speak out and reach for help.

In a recent therapy session I commented that I was so used to relying on my brain to get through various situations, dodge and avoid others and generally be useful, but for almost nine years it has twisted logic in a way I didn’t want. I can’t rely on what I thought was my greatest tool and it is terrifying. But I don’t want that to be the case anymore. I’m bored of losing a battle to something I should be able to control. It is a long, long process with set-backs and overriding sadness and hopelessness, but I realised that. I also realised that feeling like I deserve happiness is okay. I need to get there, but it’s a solid aim to have.

Welcome to the trenches in my mind. Gonna be here a long time.

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Short: You’ll Love’em

Harry lifted his fork, took the bite and then chewed incredibly slowly. The longer he spent eating, he thought, the less time he would need to spend actually trying to make conversation with Rose. She wasn’t unpleasant, but they clearly weren’t a match. He knew that, she knew that, the waiter knew that. As he swallowed he thought up a fun anecdote, lifted his head and smiled briefly. Rose took notice, opened her eyes widely in anticipation and swept her hair from her face to make it look like she was paying full attention. Harry lowered his jaw, but as he was about to start speaking he realised she just wouldn’t appreciate it, not even a chance of ironic laughter. As the short eternity of his jaw just hanging open continued, he made his fork dive back onto his plate, fiddled around with it hoping to grab something, brought the fork back up and closed his lips around it.

Had she any energy Rose would’ve sighed in frustration, but it just didn’t seem worth it. It wasn’t that he wasn’t nice and all and Izzy wasn’t lying when she said he was hot, but it was an empty kind of hot. The kind of hot you’d get going to your grandparents bungalow. The kind of hot you think you must escape from basically as soon as possible. So Rose just sat there smiling. Two different dating apps, but she agrees to a blind date from mutual friends. Never again! Did they know her that badly? Oh, wait, what if she really was actually that boring? Come to think of it, it’s not like she had that much interest online based on how infrequently her phone buzzed. God, she was the boring one of the group. That was it. It was the only thing that made sense. Realising that her face might be displaying this potential revelation, she smiled broadly hoping for the agony to come to an end.

Man, why’s she smiling so much now? Is she okay? Maybe she’s ill. Ah, if she’s ill she’ll have to go home. Then I can go home too. I mean, the dessert here looks alright, but do I really want to be sitting here alone? Should I order it anyhow? What is the etiquette on that? All these thoughts raced through Harry’s mind in a second. He was now more interested on enduring the suffering if it could ensure a knickerbocker glory. Did he really want it though? The name’s great, but is it actually that enjoyable? He glanced over at Rose who had now finished her meal and was sipping gingerly the remnants of her white wine. White wine with a chicken meal…was that right? I always thought it should be red. Is this why it’s going wrong? Hell, it’s been so long since my last date that maybe it’s changed since then. Do I no longer know the wine rules?

Rose’s internal face displayed confusion, possibly even concern, without realising that she was still maintaining the façade on her actual face. Was he okay? He was looking very thoughtful all of a sudden. Should something be said? What if it’s nothing? What if he’s a bit, y’know, brain dead? Is that it, has he had an aneurysm? Oh god, what’s wrong with me that I’m hoping he has an aneurysm so that I can get out of this. Am I hoping for that? I mean, I appear to have gotten over thinking it was an awful thing to think pretty quickly. See, this is why I don’t go on dates because I’m often wishing that all the men have brain problems. I’m weird. I’m a broken person. I need help! Help me, Harry! Say something, tell me you’re okay!

Harry was lost in thought, no longer finishing off his plate, taking several moments to realise Rose was looking very intently at him. More than before, even. Had he dropped something? He slowly lowered his head and looked down his shirt, but it was clean. Well ironed too. Ha, good job, me. Way to show those creases who’s boss. Granted, it did take me ten minutes to iron one shirt, but it was definitely a quality ironing. Oh, wait, why is there a drop of water the…oh. Oh no. He raised his right hand and brushed its side against his lower lip, wiping away some dribble. Sure, nothing was going to happen with Rose, but he wanted to leave with some damn dignity. Ah, any sense of a smile on her has gone. Well, drool will do it. Well done Harry, you’ve done it again!

He did, didn’t he? He just drooled. My eyes aren’t deceiving me. That actually happened. Oh my god. Do I literally attract cave men? Is it my hair? Rose pat down her hair to see if there was anything wrong with it, but it was as she wanted it to be. My face? She brushed the palm of her hand over her face, making sure everything that should be on it indeed was. Urgh. Well, fine. Screw this diet. I’m having some cake because I might as well write off just about everything from this evening. Come on waiter, come here. Notice my pain. See me suffering. I am a grown woman on a terrible date sitting opposite said date who has just drooled onto his shirt. I need cake. No, I deserve cake. I require it. Get the hell over here.

As the waiter approached empty handed, Rose pondered momentarily if she had latent telepathy, but swiftly removed the thought owing to the fact that neither of them had touched their plates for a few minutes now, so of course the waiter would come over. Harry was preparing to shove his plate in the air, waiting for it to be removed from the table, much like himself. For a minute the two of them became totally engaged in the waiter, responding that they very much enjoyed the meal and similarly, they wanted to look at the dessert menu. It was a moment after that that they both realised they’d just committed themselves to staying even longer with each other.

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Unfiction: Porn as a silent weapon

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We’re mostly conditioned to avoid discussing sex. Even sex education at school, where you’re supposed to be given a full and proper understanding about sex, is questionably delivered and taken in and then that’s it, you’re on your own (insert masturbation joke here). Sure it might come up in conversation every so often, but it’s not something you aim your conversation towards. This is despite the fact that not only do the birds do it and, I’m reliably informed, the bees do it too, but humans do it quite a lot. All the statistics are there, it proves that yes, humans do good at good doing. And then there’s porn.

Porn is a substantial business that has been really quite important in the expansion of the internet. Quality video streaming has been required and that know-how trickles down, whilst recently virtual reality headsets have benefited from the experience VR porn supposedly provides. Porn doesn’t get this big without being consumed, but as an extension of sex it too isn’t talked about. Until it is, but not really.

Within the last few years, the UK government banned certain types of pornography that was allowed to be produced in the UK and somehow managing to be misogynistic in some of the types too, proving once and for all that the government is pretty good at screwing people. (Incidentally, this also happened to be the forms must searched for by Brits.) It’d be all too easy to overlook this as a case of “Ew, porn, avoid discussion at all costs!” but quite a few things that are banned tend to force people to go to greater odds to get said things; low-level recreational drugs springs to mind, but even if we put aside this aspect, there’s something quite insidious here.

See the thing is, the ultimate question here, is who’ll stand up for spanking? The answer is simple: no-one. We don’t talk about sex and porn, so why on earth would we speak out openly in defiance of the government of all things about it? You’d be seen as foolish, but more than that as someone bad and shameful. This is a little ridiculous though because even if we don’t talk about it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen! So no-one stands up for it and like that, forms of pornography are banned. Simple stuff, no-one openly cares because oh god you’re talking about it and this is incredibly awkward make it stop. But hey, these types of porn weren’t banned from being viewed so it’s not a tragic loss…until we get to this week.

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The upcoming plans are that some forms of pornography can only be accessed by age verification (which totally won’t be completely useless) and that some forms can be out-right banned from access if they’re deemed ‘harmful’ because children might see this and why the hell are children given unsupervised access allowing them to access porn in the first place? But that’s another discussion. So this new law could potentially have websites banned from access in the UK because of hosting certain sexual material. The thing is, the BBFC are given the task of deciding what’s appropriate or not for these matters and who are they to decide what consenting adults do, both in the production of and consumption of porn? Emphasis on consenting adults here as it goes to reason that anything else isn’t legal anyhow.

One of the problems above this here isn’t that a group are being charged to decide this it’s how it will be implemented, but that many websites don’t just contain singular material; it’s not for nothing that Vine partly became what it was/will continue to be because of porn, but look on it now and there’s an incredibly wide variety of material. The question then becomes, do you ban Vine? It’s not all porn, but it is on there. How would you be able to differentiate that material? How much and of what type of porn has to be on a website before the whole thing is prohibited from being accessed? Naturally that becomes significantly unfair when a relatively small part of a website or web service makes the whole thing prohibited, especially if the reason you are looking or using it isn’t for the porn.

These are all quite reasonable questions, but that doesn’t even address the half of it. Why only these forms of pornography being restricted? What’s so specific about them above everything else? What about the people with desires/fetishes that harms no-one who are unable to access content for no reason other than it has been decided that what they consume makes them indecent, undignified or gross? How else are you supposed to interpret that? You’re being declared as those things, but it’s sex and porn, so you just don’t talk about or argue it…you just go looking for it elsewhere, but you already looked at it so you’re probably on a list of people who are into Other sex acts.

It all starts to sound a bit conspiracy theory territory, but nothing I’ve written here is false and critically it’s actually happening right now. Like that, porn has become a way to divide people. Sure, this ridiculous restriction won’t really work, “So what’s the problem really then, Joel? I mean if people can get around it, what’s the big deal?” Well I still think it’s a pretty big deal anyhow if for nothing else it shows government intention and can be extended in the future to include more “questionable” materials, but when you start partnering it up with the ‘Snooper’s Charter’, which is terrifying all by itself, it gets into some seriously dark territory; not only is it decided that his material is supposedly wrong, but it’s also been recorded who has viewed it and various agencies can access this information…

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Hopefully it doesn’t need to be said, but nothing good has ever come from a government being able to divide and highlight parts of the citizens it represents, with information to back it up, saying that “These people are wrong” simply because it has been decided that they are. The threat of this is, again, conspiratorial in tone, but we already know agencies were gathering this information, it was simply illegal before and even then they were not simply pushing the boundary, but leaping past it too. Now you have the scenario where this stuff is legal and if nature is consistent, they’ll be pushing this new boundary too, but even if they didn’t that’s a considerable capability to obtain so much data on private activity and let’s be super clear here, not using the internet when it has become so ingrained in society, culture and just about everything else is a completely idiotic consideration as a means of avoiding this.

These are simple measures of an authority wanting to maintain power and said authority, but even if you accept that with a deft touch these wouldn’t be completely terrible and merely only tragically bad, the foundation has been laid for where this stuff can get really insidious, where it goes beyond pornography. Hey, what of a simple suggestion and anything to do with [pick a religion here] is prohibited? It might seem like it’s really easy to pull out examples that seem simultaneously stark and ridiculous because of the implication, but it’s there. It’s right there. When you make The Other different only because you say so and then imply that they’re Other for things that have been deemed indecent, undignified and gross, nothing good can possibly come from that and history is keen to show us this time and time again.

So how does this change? How can these things be reversed? Well, a change of government would do that or at least any opposition to these things would be welcome, but in lieu of that my sincere hope is that since these have such vivid breaches of privacy, the EU courts would get involved and…oh. Dammit. And like that, porn becomes a battleground for political censorship where one side fields artillery and the other side hasn’t even turned up to fight because no-one wanted to take lead and say “I want to watch spanking!” So it’s not really about porn, it’s about what porn is about.

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Short: Broke(n) Hero

One prompt, from one person, once a week. Here’s last week’s efforts.

“The world’s greatest superhero is too broke to afford a costume. As a result, no one takes them seriously.”

With the remote in one hand and a nearly empty glass of scotch in the other, he was a bit confused as to where the daily despair came from. Usually it was the scotch (neat) but the news report and vox pop with clueless people going “Well, he does good, but he doesn’t look good, does he?” and “I dunno maaaan, he kinda looks like a fool but where would we be without him?” or “Hey, if you need help with your look, hit me up? I can be your fashion side kick, yeah!” weren’t exactly doing much for his self-esteem. It’s not like they weren’t grateful, but that just seemed to make it worse. So there he sat, in stunned silence as the TV kept on blaring at him, but all he could do was let it wash over him. He wasn’t even disappointed at this point, it was hardly news to him.

What can you do when you can do anything, though? Keep yourself quiet, was his answer. John Garner, strongest, quickest, most resilient person on the planet, best thought of himself as a humble member of society doing what he could. The problem really started when he discovered his capabilities. For a little while it was the best thing that could ever happen to him and those he could help, relieving him from the doldrums of office life; sure, it wasn’t the best paying job, but he could do that, save the city from destruction and be back in time for dinner without so much as a fuss. It began to take a toll on him though. These herculean acts started putting attention on him, attention he didn’t want. The office might have been a meaningless, sombre affair, but it was his meaningless, sombre affair that he could go back to after casually stopping an evil scientist here or a super-powered wrong-doer there. The stress of it all caught up, so he had to quit one and weighing up which was the better thing to be doing, it seemed like an obvious choice.

As he finished his fourth glass of scotch for the evening, a simple task given the fact alcohol had no impact on him, he reached behind for the bottle only to put his hand on his mask it sat on. The blue plastic had been broken and scarred several times over and fabric was well and truly coming undone. He hadn’t used it for years, instead resorting to the mask of looking like an Average Joe. An unkempt beard, clean but messy hair, a narrow nose, soft eyebrows and brown eyes kept him from looking too distinctive. Besides, when you can run as fast as John could, it could be pretty hard to get a good look in to pass judgement. Except he wasn’t always moving at full speed, so shabby chinos and a short-sleeved white shirt that was missing its top button were what first introduced an assailant to a swift end.

When he first started out, with his government funded costume protecting who he was, he cared so much about what he could do he consequently tried equally as hard. As he felt the control of his life slip away from him though, his attention being pulled every which way, he started to care less. Of course even when he didn’t terribly care, he still sought out to try as much as he could because it was all the meaning he had left for himself. After so many incidents, his suit got worn out and he just didn’t care enough to wear it. His life had been consumed by this role that he no longer felt he was anybody except for being a hero. He stopped repairing the costume after a certain point, but this lack of ‘formal’ presentation caught wrong-doers off-guard and they were easily stopped. They didn’t take John seriously so he just stopped trying too, but instead of eventually being caught out at some point, he still effortlessly took down his opponents.

Besides the government cheques he got monthly, a ‘hero wage’, every time he met with a representative they offered to pay for a new costumed suit, but he declined just saying he’d sort it out in his own time, something that was never argued because who would argue with someone that powerful? By the time in the month he would maybe think about getting a new one sorted out, his wallet was empty. He’d even down-sized into a small flat not wanting to burden the tax payers with a high upkeep, but between buying an otherwise excessive amount of alcohol and meals for one, he didn’t have enough to go out and get costume materials and with that any interest he had in doing anything about the suit disappeared near instantly for another month.

Looking at the time he turned the TV off and slinked away to bed, lazily pulling back the covers and kicking off his shoes before getting comfortable within the covers. For a brief moment a glimmer of hope and aspiration overcame his thinking, but went back into the recesses of his mind as quickly as they had appeared.

The bad guys laughed at him when he apprehended them, the public thought he was a fortunate joke and he just didn’t have the willpower left to argue with either. Maybe they’d treat me seriously if I acted against the public, he’d think every so often, but his heart was just pure enough that no matter how low he felt, he’d never switch sides. That’s how things would remain then. Some people would try and rise up to try and prove they could best him and fail, the public would outpour thanks and appreciation and rely on John for what his abilities allowed him to do and he would swoop in and save the day with no effort required. He would often dream of being back in the doldrums.

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Short: The Hamster’s Pet

You know how it’s cool to have a space to just do your own thing? Well, on some Saturday afternoon’s, I attend a creative writing workshop to do just that. This is one of the pieces of work from one of the workshops. Not every piece of work in this category will be complete, although I might feel compelled to carry it on after the workshop. Hell, they might not even be good, but in the interests of showing a vague creative process and its product, well it’ll go up on here anyhow. And for good measure, I’ll try and explain the exercises that led to the work (and at this point, I’m starting to know a thing or two about those).

Just under two years ago there was a workshop with a fun premise; make a list of things you might find in a pocket. The list was expectedly varied, the item I remember the most being a fish in a bag. After the communally-built list had enough ideas, we had to pick a handful. Here’s mine: dragon egg, hamster, business card (not own), drawing of a ghost, Allen key, a shell. After this we had to try and make sense of it all through making a character who would possess these items. The notes I had were quite scattered, but for full disclosure:

The Hamster's Pet notes

Of course not everything you note down ends up ‘making it in’. Or maybe you just didn’t have the time to include it. Anyhow, before uploading writing that comes from these workshops, I’ve thought about going back and adding any content, besides just fixing up stuff here and there. I want to in this case, but honestly I don’t know where to go to next. At 350 words it manages to be a nice little contained scene, where you get an idea for the world and some of the weird stuff that goes on. There’s a lot taken for granted, but also some things that are just put in there to sound amusing because the thing is, when I’m writing in that space I don’t really think about what I would do afterwards, more just getting out anything that sounds good in my head. A process I’m sure most of the people who go to these workshops go through too. So here’s what I did. I hope you enjoy.

The Hamster's Pet

The Hamster’s Pet (31/5/14)

We had just arrived in Luxembourg when Maurissa insisted that we start trying to sell some of our goods before we went to the hotel. Bless her little heart. Well, relatively speaking it is obviously much larger than mine. Yes, anyhow, I distinctly remember seeing a flock of dragon-kin brushing past one of the taller buildings, yelping annoyingly as they went by. Fearsome, ugly things really, but there you go. In the time spent observing this, I had not noticed Maurissa had stopped and started speaking to a stranger. My elocution lessons were being shown to be unsuccessful.

“Uhhhh, well, y’see, this ‘ere dragon egg is from a rare breed, yes indeed! Bred by legendary dragon trainer Marsel Deronkus.” Her foreign accent was jarring, despite the cosmopolitan location.
“I very much doubt that, miss.” The stout, roundly man responded with as much sincerity as fat on his bones. Instead of walking away and going to the darn hotel as I was secretly pleading for us to do so, with the hand tucked behind her blue and red blouse, she clicked her fingers and looked steely eyed into the man opposite.
“I ummm, really think you’ll want this, sir. Only 5 gold pieces too!” Her pitch was as elevated as much as two octaves up, possibly three.
“Wow, what a deal!” The man sputtered out his words, in between his necessary heavy breathing, and forked over the gold. Job well done, I suppose.

Maurissa lowered her head and retrieved me from inside the rim of her hat. Compared to her scruffy face, my wiggling nose and whiskers had twice the sense of decorum.
“Whatcha think, Olly, hotel time?” Oh, I forgive this all for her reassuring smile. I got a paw, scratched my belly and then nodded my head.
“I think it best. We rest up and then journey on this evening for some nice grub. Say, carrot soup for myself and something equally delicious for yourself?” Hmm, sweet carrot soup. Truly, a feast for the Hamster Queer Herself!
“Sounds great!” Another warm smile. She put me back onto her hat with the full delight of the sun on my back then bounded along to our place of rest, till dinner at least.

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Short: Shoes

You know how it’s cool to have a space to just do your own thing? Well, on some Saturday afternoon’s, I attend a creative writing workshop to do just that. This is one of the pieces of work from one of the workshops. Not every piece of work in this category will be complete, although I might feel compelled to carry it on after the workshop. Hell, they might not even be good, but in the interests of showing a vague creative process and its product, well it’ll go up on here anyhow. And for good measure, I’ll try and explain the exercises that led to the work (and at this point, I’m starting to know a thing or two about those).

This short is from the most recent workshop I attended, on Hopes and Fears. It’s hard not to look a little insularly about these things because they’re inherently so personal, but then that’s part of the creative process, isn’t it, to look beyond. The first exercise was to write down words we associated with fear. For reference, here’s what I came up with: anxiety, chaos, consequence, obstacle, unknowing, risk, loss, gain, experience, compulsion, drive, calm and confidence. Yeah, analyse that. Through sharing what we had all come up with, it was clear there was certainly overlap, though that’s not too surprising. The next task was to write about a character that had a fear, explaining what it was. This led into a follow-up piece where we had to put our character in a situation that forced them to address the fear.

Below then are the two parts, the first about the character and their fear, the second them facing it. It’s worth pointing out as well that thee style we were to write in, in both cases, wasn’t specified, so you get to see my character from two perspectives. Unlike the last short from these workshops I put up, there was no substantial content added “in post”, just the odd addition here and there and some grammatical clean-up. So, here’s a short about a man and his shoes.

shoes

Shoes (19/3/16)

I really hate shoes. It’s not that they make me feel uncomfortable…well they do, just not physically. Ever since I was little I hated socks. Bear with me here. I just wanted to see my toes wiggling. When you put socks on, you can’t do that. I mean, you know they’re there and hell, you can see’em, but they’re restrained. So I don’t wear socks. And that’s fine! Well, most of the time. But shoes, you kinda need to wear shoes. Can’t go on the underground without shoes or you’ll have no toes left! Because the thing is with shoes is that you know your toes are trapped. They can’t escape their leather prison. You can wriggle them, but you can’t see’em. If you lift them up they’ll touch the roof, but it’s not that high.

So, I buy oversized shoes that don’t fit me. They’re uncomfortable. Sure I take them off as soon as I can, but it’s not fun in the meantime. I walk around oddly, like I have a problem with my feet. And I do, it’s that they’re being covered by a trap that won’t set them free. And what if when you take them off you hurt your toes too, huh? It’s happened, I’ve heard stories!

***

Jimmy looked down at his feet, all free and full of life, his toes wiggling without impunity. Alas, the time had come. His phone informed him that it was once again 5.28pm. Work was at an end, but the journey before him was about to begin. The cold autumn night prevented the use of sandals, a minor miracle of modern footwear, and combined with the evening’s festivities of Daniel’s birthday drinks, he knew that a busy bar would be the location. He rationaled his reluctance by going through this same thought process, whilst his reluctant muscle memory guided his hands to his left shoe, sat patiently and terrifyingly motionless next to its sibling, in anticipation of wrapping it around his foot. A moment of respite, it wasn’t the pair of boots his girlfriend had bought him that he promised “Oh yeah, I’ll wear them more often, I’m sure they’re as roomy as you say!”

He looked around, hoping he had wasted enough time in his ongoing daily conflict, but it was alarmingly still 5.28pm. He cursed his quick thinking as his knee raised and connected with the bottom of his desk and his foot remained poised, as if it was the one that bore responsibility for his emotional reaction in this scenario. As the foot increased velocity and the toes, still wriggling, entered the event horizon of the shoe’s black hole, Jimmy started choking. Mercifully, it required all his attention and for a brief moment he contemplated hasty death and the freedom from shoe wearing that would provide.

Unfortunately the choking quickly suspended and a shoeless peace was not to happen. A glance at the phone revealed the passing of time. A sigh at it now being 5.29. He ever-reluctantly repeated the process, his foot and shoe ready to duel once more. The foot entered the shoe and slid on with relative ease, but the wriggling had stopped. “Oh god,” he thought as surely this time he’d cut his toes. He pulled out his foot immediately and ducked his head under the desk. There his toes were, limp from lack of movement and the knowledge that they had stopped wriggling because he had stopped them. The shoe went back on with unease, but constant wriggling was enough assurance that the toes were indeed still there, this time…

The problematic situation had reached its half-way point, but the calls from those around that it was time to get a move-on didn’t help matters. “They don’t understand,” Jimmy thought. “They’d probably be happy if they lost all their toes!” The right shoe was now in focus. It stood defiantly, like a horizontal monolith. There was nothing inviting about it. Still, there was no loose liquid in his throat to choke on and he really did have to get a move on.

It was do-or-die and with extreme malice, his foot rose aggressively at the same time his shoe was locked into position. They met in mid-air, but Jimmy was determined to win the conflict. With force his foot was shoved in, quickly dispelling and displacing the air in the shoe. He wriggled his toes defiantly. “Ha, screw you!” His colleagues looked bemused, but less so from the first time this had happened, many times before. Ready to go, Jimmy shuffled towards the group. This battle was a narrow victory, but it was just one in the eternal struggle.

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