Writing project, December 2020

This month’s word is view, meaning “an instance of seeing or beholding; visual inspection”; “a particular manner of looking at something”;
“contemplation or consideration of a matter with reference to action”; “a general account or description of a subject” or “a conception of a thing; opinion; theory”.

————–

I always seem to be looking sideways to everyone else, tilted, off-kilter. Twisted, somehow.

It’s odd, or I suppose, I’m odd. Things are never quite right, never precisely what others see. There’s nothing wrong with that, I guess, but somehow people don’t like it.

I’m always problematic, always different, and different, of course, is bad. I mean, nobody says that, but I can tell. I can always tell.

Last to be chosen, first to be forgotten. And there’s always an excuse, always a reason, but really the reason is me. People just don’t like me.

That sounds self-pitying, but it’s simply a fact. I’m used to it now. I’ll admit it used to bother me, that I never fit in, but I’m strangely proud of it now.

Making a virtue of your vices, I think it’s called.

Or I’m just a pretentious weirdo. That could be it, too.

In any case, I’ve learned not to care. More, to take pride in it, in my strangeness. In my skewed view, the little twist to everything I perceive.

But sometimes, I wonder: what’s it like to be normal, to be one of them? What would it be like to see the world straight on?

But I’ll never know, I can never know. I can’t truly understand them any more than they do me. It’s just that I’m outnumbered. I know there are others like me, I’ve just yet to meet any.

But that’s my hope, one day to meet someone else like me. Someone who understands, who sees me. Someone who has a skewed view. Someone just like me.

Someday, somewhere, someone.

© bardofupton 2020

Writing project, November 2020

This month’s word is incomplete, meaning “not complete; lacking some part”.

————–

I stared at my project, the thing I’d dedicated literal years of my life to. It felt… incomplete. I wasn’t sure why – I’d covered every base I could think of, researched and cross-referenced every angle I or any of my colleagues had come up with. Every i was dotted, every t crossed. And yet, it still seemed unfinished.

I looked at it from every angle I could find, couldn’t find anything missing. And yet…

I sighed.

I would have to destroy everything and start again. It was the only way.

Wasn’t it?

© bardofupton 2020

Writing project, October 2020

This month’s word is water, meaning “a transparent, odorless, tasteless liquid, a compound of hydrogen and oxygen, H2O, freezing at 32°F or 0°C and boiling at 212°F or 100°C, that in a more or less impure state constitutes rain, oceans, lakes, rivers, etc.: it contains 11.188 percent hydrogen and 88.812 percent oxygen, by weight” or “a special form or variety of this liquid, as rain”.

————–

It was wet. That hard pounding kind of rain, that seems to come both vertically and horizontally. I was soaked, after only moments outdoors, and I was still wondering what had possessed me to leave my warm dry bedroom and come out in it.

Surely I didn’t crave chocolate that much.

I laughed hollowly. Of course I did. I’d crawl over hot coals for my favourite chocolate bar, and my stash had run out. It was my own fault for coming home drunk last night and scarfing the lot on a whim. I was normally very good at keeping myself stocked up, but, well, here we were, taking a long walk to the one and only local shop that stocked my fave.

I could, of course, get chocolate closer, but it was inferior, and I was unwilling to allow it to sully my taste buds.

So here I was, completely sodden, and miserable, but determined not to turn back. After all, I was wet already, right?

How much worse could it get? I thought, only to curse myself seconds later as a car sped past me, spraying me head to foot with dirty water – and most annoyingly, down into my shoes – as it drove through a gigantic puddle. I was pissed off at having my feet wet, but even more so that my knee jerk reaction was still to superstitiously blame myself for tempting fate by saying that.

But the shop wasn’t much further, and it would be a shame to turn back now. I trudged onwards, mentally berating my drunken self from last night.

“You just had to eat it all, didn’t you? And now I have to deal with the conseoquences.”

The rain starts to fall even harder, and a strong wind blows it directly into my face. I pull my hood tighter around my face and keep walking. I can feel water sloshing around inside my shoes. It’s an unpleasant feeling. But I’m so close now, I can see the block where the shop is up ahead.

I can almost taste the chocolate slowly melting in my mouth. I close my eyes to savour the experience and promptly fall over, twisting my ankle. I get back up and limp on towards the shop. Nearly there, nearly there, I remind myself.

I can barely see through the driving rain, I’m navigating purely on instinct as I reach the door of the shop. I reach out and grope for the handle, then turn it. It doesn’t budge. I shake it a few times to no effect, then wipe water from my face so I can see.

There’s a sign on the door.

“Closed indefinitely due to flooding”.

© bardofupton 2020

Writing project, May 2020

This month’s word is misery, meaning “wretchedness of condition or circumstances”, “distress or suffering caused by need, privation, or poverty”, “great mental or emotional distress; extreme unhappiness” or “a cause or source of distress”.

CW: mental health

It’s a little late, sorry.

————–

My life’s okay, I think. Nothing amazing, nothing terrible. And yet I feel a crushing weight upon me.

I eat, breathe, sleep, with a constant darkness within me. I don’t know why; it came upon me slowly, subtly, sneaking up on me. One day I just started to cry, for no particular reason, and I realised something was wrong.

But maybe it’s always been like that, and I just never realised. Maybe I’ve always been in pain, but I just didn’t know it.

It doesn’t really matter how I got here; the fact is that I am here, and I have to deal with that. If I can.

I’ll start with one thing. Just one thing. One, tiny, little, insignificant thing. All I need to do is pick up the phone. Pick up the phone and dial. Pick up the phone and dial a friend.

That’s it. That’s all. Just one thing. Just reach out, just say hello, just say “help me”.

Just one thing. One little thing.

The hardest thing in the world.

© bardofupton 2020

Writing project, April 2020

This month’s word is isolation, meaning “an act or instance of isolating”, “the state of being isolated” or “the complete separation from others of a person suffering from contagious or infectious disease; quarantine”.

CW: mention of suicide, mention of abuse

————–

Sometimes someone hurts you so much, so deeply, that all you can do is run.

I look at the sentence I’ve just written, and it makes me shudder with the truth of it.

I ran. It wasn’t even a thought, more of an instinct. I didn’t consider any practicalities like money, clothes, food; I just saw an opening and I bolted before it closed.

I didn’t think of the others; I couldn’t, wrapped within my own misery and pain, it was impossible to consider them, and what might happen to them. What he might do, having lost one victim, to those who remained behind.

I fled for years, across galaxies, leaving world after world behind me. Every time I started to settle down, to feel a little bit safe, I would start to worry that maybe he had also gotten on a spaceship and was chasing me across the universe. And I’d gather my things, and run.

I keep trying to believe that he’s dead. I tell myself that time dilation is on my side, that it’s been centuries for him. But I won’t believe he’s dead until I see a corpse. Oh, I checked the records, of course I did, but it was nearly two centuries by then and records can be faked. Especially old ones. They say he’s dead, but I just can’t believe it. I can’t let myself believe it, because what if it’s a lie? What if he’s tracking me across space, across time?

I never really believed he would just let me go.

********

I’ve never been able to face what happened, to think about it in terms more specific than “what he did” or “the thing that happened”. I always just wrapped it up with all the feelings I had, pain and anger and misery and even love, and squashed it down somewhere inside me. I just never think about it, but I’m thinking about it now that I have nothing but time.

I’ve come so far, in all senses of that phrase, but when I think about him now I still revert to the terrified being that I was then. I think I’m stronger these days; I want to be stronger, but sometimes I think I’m the same, that, despite everything I’ve done in the intervening years, nothing has changed.

********

It took me years, and light years, to start believing I had escaped him, that he couldn’t find me. To begin to think that I could be free.

Only to end up here. Trapped, again, but this time by physics and chemistry, down on this planet with an atmosphere that would kill me if I left my ship. If the gravity didn’t crush me first.

I’ve sent a distress call, but I don’t know if anyone received it, if anyone is coming, or if they’ll even make it in time. So I’ve been wondering what will kill me first.

The gravity? My ship is strong, but it wasn’t made for this. I can hear it creaking and groaning all the time.

The atmosphere? A tiny crack could let enough of it in to kill me, so I monitor the hull integrity obsessively.

Starvation? That’s unlikely, I’ve got supplies for years.

Myself? Maybe. Maybe. But I have tried so hard to survive, given up so much, taken so many chances, I can’t really see myself giving up now. As long as I’m alive, there’s always a chance someone will come for me. Or maybe I’ll think of something clever and escape on my own.

I never believed in hope; it always seemed like a lie designed to stop you from trying to leave. And yet, somehow, down here in this murky atmosphere, I’m starting to feel the first stirrings of it.

I kind of like it. I think I’ll sit with it, and with my memories, and trust that whatever happens will happen. Finally, I think I’m learning how to settle down.

It’s just a shame it took this to make it happen.

© bardofupton 2020

Writing project, March 2020

This month’s word is flight, meaning “the act, manner, or power of flying” or “an act or instance of fleeing or running away; hasty departure”. Sorry it’s late, life is kinda distracting at the moment. And it’s very short, too, for the same reason.

————–

Flight.

I always thought it would be the coolest superpower. Just, y’know, speeding through the air, all alone, up above everything and everyone.

The reality is not like that.

It’s cold, the air is full of crap (and don’t get me started on the insects if you fly low), and I constantly get lost because it turns out I am not good at judging distances or recognising landmarks.

So yeah, I can fly, but the truth is, I’d rather take the bus.

© bardofupton 2020

Writing project, December 2019

This month’s word is conversation, meaning “informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc., by spoken words; oral communication between persons; talk; colloquy.”.

————–

“I don’t know what you want.”

“I just want to talk.”

“About?”

Sigh, shrug. “Oh, I don’t know.”

” You’re the one that wants to talk!”

“Well, you know. Since we’re stuck here til the fog lifts, might as well get to know each other.”

“Why? We’ll never see each other again; it’s just a waste of time.”

“Do you have anything else to do?”

“Yes, I’m going to sit here and wait.”

“You can talk and wait at the same time.”

“No, I can’t.”

“Of course you can.”

“No, I can’t. Waiting is a very active process for me, you’re just distracting me.”

“But I’m bored.”

“Not my problem. Just met you, don’t really like you.”

“Huh. Well, that’s rude.”

“Like I said, I don’t like you.”

“Well, if that’s your attitude, I’ll just leave you alone then.”

“Great, thanks.”

Pause.

“I’m still bored, though. Please talk to me. Please please please.”

“No.”

“Please please please please please please please please please please.”

“I am walking away from you now. Do not follow me.”

Pause.

“So, I bet you’d like to talk to me.”

“Uh …”

“Great! So, let me tell you about my life. I was born in….”

© bardofupton 2019

Writing project, April 2019

This month’s word is voice, meaning “the sound or sounds uttered through the mouth of living creatures, especially of human beings in speaking, shouting, singing, etc.”.

————–

I have an amazing voice. Everyone says so.

Sorry, I know that’s not what you asked. How did I first realise my talent, wasn’t it? I’m not sure I’d really call it a talent! It’s just a feature of me. I think, though, it was when I started going to school. I always thought that everyone reacted to children’s voices the way my family did to mine. I mean, you do, don’t you, when you’re little? You think everyone’s family is the same as yours. I thought everyone gathered around to listen adoringly to their children.

When I went to school, I suppose. I noticed that the teachers responded differently to the other children. And after a few weeks someone contacted the authorities and I was taken away from my family.

For my own good, they told me. They said it would be safer. Although they never made it clear who for.

After that, it was testing, testing and more testing. And then they decided to train me as a diplomat. Well, you know how that turned out! Accusations of undue influence, a UN resolution passed banning the use of people with “special abilities” in diplomatic positions, and of course, the Search.

Yes, I wish the Search had found someone else, anyone else, who was like me. It’s lonely being the only one. It’s lonely being me. I can’t even date, because I can’t turn it off. Why do you think I have this speech-to-text setup? Why do you think you’re in a separate room?

Because nobody trusts me, that’s why. Nobody wants to hear me speak any more. Because they’re afraid – you’re afraid – that I’m the monster. And I’m not useful any more, either, so why not lock me away? Can’t trust people like me, even if there are no other people like me. Can’t let me go, don’t want to kill me, just in case.

In case of what? That’s obvious, isn’t it? Never throw away a potential asset, right?

I don’t want to talk to you any more.

What do I want? I want to be normal. I want… I want to be able to have a conversation where the other person disagrees with me. I want to have a conversation where the other person can disagree with me.

You can’t give me that. Nobody can. So please go. And tell them I won’t give any more interviews. I’m tired, I’m done with this. I don’t want to be here any more.

Just leave me alone. It’s the only thing you can do for me now.

© bardofupton 2019

Inkwarriors, part 3 (Fiction)

Meril sighed, putting her chalk down and staring glumly at the glyphs she had attempted to draw.

“I swear I actually get worse the more I practice,” she muttered.

She grabbed a cloth and quickly erased her writing. Even though it was just chalk, and not ink, the habit of destroying any work that was unintended for permanence was ingrained. Also, she didn’t want anyone to see what a bad job she’d done. She knew what the glyphs should look like, but somewhere between her brain and her fingers that knowledge seemed to get lost.

“Precisely why I should do something else with my life,” she said aloud.

“Like befriend that wizard?” Paro inquired quietly from the doorway.

“No, I was thinking of a job,” Meril explained.

“Didn’t you read that book I gave you?”

“Yes, but I’m a terrible inkwarrior. My glyphs are misshapen, so they don’t work. What’s the point of keeping me?”

“You know our secrets, though.”

“I wouldn’t betray you!”

“What if this wizard you’re pining after asked you to?”

“I… I wouldn’t.”

“Easy to say, Meril. But not so easy for us to believe. And we can’t have wizards knowing our secrets.” Paro sighed. “And it’s not just up to us. Even if the guild would let you go, the priests would not.” He patted Meril’s shoulder. “You’re not the first to want something different, Meril, but that’s not the world we live in. You need to make the best of it.”

Meril sighed again. “I know,” she said sadly. “I know.”

“Keep studying,” Paro told her as he left the room.

Meril nodded, but stared out the window instead. Maybe her wizard would walk by. It was around the time they normally did.

She’d first noticed them a year ago, rushing past in the bright pink robes of a wizard’s apprentice. The robes were meant to make them stand out, and they did. It was the pink that had attracted Meril’s attention that first day, as she was staring aimlessly out of the window. And then they had dropped an item, some kind of glass container, and it had broken. She’d seen the look of horror on their face, and felt a pang of sympathy. She too had destroyed important objects, and paid the price in increased chores and angry scolding.

The wizard had looked around furtively, not seeing Meril at the high, narrow window, and had muttered a quick spell. The shards of glass crawled back together, and Meril felt a strange thrill at seeing something forbidden. She knew that if she’d had that power, she’d have used it for the same purpose. She also knew that she should report the use of magic, so that the inkwarriors’ guild could check for cracks in the real, but she had no intention of doing so. It would be a secret between her and the wizard.

After that, she’d looked out for them every day, and gradually come to feel that she knew them. Loving them was a simple step from there. She had still not actually met them or learned their name, but she was determined to make that happen. Somehow.

© bardofupton 2018