Sunday, January 14, 2018

When I Live By the Garden and the Sea

Optimism at its finest is what drags me through life by a thick red rope, saving me from destructive ends like Rahab’s scarlet cord. The boiled down blackness that brims on the edge of tears and hopeless thoughts is clouded over with chalky white nebula spread across the bright blue sky that makes me think of foamy waves in the ocean. All I needs is a purple octopus to give me a wave of his tentacle among the waves of ocean's depths. But I can soar free among those chalk clouds and feel free from the sticky tar pit of inner thoughts. Who said fun and games have to stop when life gets hard? I need—no, I crave—the innocence of a child clutching my finger with all five of his. I need laughter—stupid laughter that can only be described as utterly dumb and breathlessly alive. I need the fantasy, the hope, the things otherworldly to grab on and pull me away from those secret vaults of the twisted labyrinths in my mind. Because without optimism the monsters return and they demand my source of life—the beating my heart.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Explorers

Have you ever just stopped to look up at the sky and wondered until your eyes blurred and your breath caught in your throat? I do that. I do that all the time. I dream in color and think deep about things that probably don’t matter but that is how I am wired. I suppose it is kind of crazy but when you look me in the eyes and tell me the truth I think I am looking into your soul and that anything can happen and my insides start to swirl around like galaxies in outer space or perhaps like the blender when we make milkshakes and our arms brush and I can smell the milk and the ice cream and chocolate. And it is liquidly and beautifully foamy and I cannot stand how good the coldness feels running down my throat. But sometimes that same feeling of feeling content and in a perfect place washes over me as I walk and look across the world in retrospect and just slowly my heart beings to tell me “YES." This is perfect. And I smile and start to laugh silently to myself as my heart is warm and my stomach squiggles around like a caterpillar on a branch. And my eyes water from happiness and I know that I am here for a reason and purpose and I can scream to God that I have found my place in this world and I am so happy and all glory goes to Him and Him alone. And then when I stare into the soul which is cliché but it is what it is I just know that there must be something more than this. I can’t go through life thinking it is all a waste and that this is where it ends. The moon is bright and my heart sings with the stars that look down softly at me and I know that there is more to this piece of the story. This chapter isn’t over and maybe it can only end in two places but I know it won’t be a waste by the time it is over. I feel like grabbing your hand and running off. Maybe take a road trip across the plains and stare at grass and corn and pretend we are in another world. Or look at the wide open expanse and dream among the clouds as we pretend they are different animals or shapes or food that we want to reach out and grab hold of and stuff our face with until we feel our stomachs groaning in horror at the taste. Or maybe we could catch a plane and go anywhere in the world and just explore and live in a culture we do not understand. And maybe we will see something interesting and maybe we will learn something new and just live life to its fullest. And perhaps we will take a train and feel like we have time traveled to the past and this is the only way to travel across the continents. And then we can feel like real explorers.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A List of Proposal Ideas

  • Take a long walk through a corn maze and kiss her between the ears before getting down on one knee.
  • Visit a zoo and ask in front of an extra cool animal exhibit. (Maybe the polar bears with the underwater view? Or giraffes or lions or literally anything cool and not in the dark.)
  • Take her stargazing and compare your love to the night sky.
  • Show up at her doorstep and say you're looking for someone to share in an adventure. 
  • Carve out a book and give it to her so when she opens it, the ring is visible. (Bonus if the page the ring is on is a reference to marriage/proposal/love but not by Jonathan Swift.)
  • Have a picnic in a secluded forest clearing surrounded by nature. After you eat (because food is important), ask.
  • Buy a bunch of balloons and released all of them except the one the ring is attached to.
  • Carry her to the top of a volcano/mountain and declare your love in front of the fiery depths. (Note: make sure you're not being followed by agangly creature who likes rings and/or don't drop the ring into the fire unless you're determined to defeat a dark lord who has threatened to enslave all of humanity.)
  • Plant a letterbox just for her and have her follow the clues.
  • Create a map for buried treasure and find X marks the spot, which obviously is you on one knee with a ring.
  • Write a letter and send it by owl so in case she never received her Hogwarts letter, she at least has that.
  • Ride a roller coaster and hold up a sign when the camera flashes. (Or put it on a t-shirt underneath your plaid shirt or jacket and open up your shirt so she doesn't see it.)
  • Solve a murder and text her, "Marry me, if convenient." Wait a minute and then send a second text that says, "If not convenient, marry me anyways."
  • Buy her a dog and attach the ring to the collar. (And hope she bothers to look at the collar instead of just hug/pet/kiss the dog a thousand times.)
  • Take a long walk on a beach and "find" a message in a vintage bottle. As she reads, get down on one knee.
  • Cut off her hand and ask her to join the Dark Side and rule the galaxy with you.
  • Make her waffles and write "Will you marry me?" with whipped cream.
  • Jump off a waterfall in Hawaii together and when you both survive, ask her. 
  • Rescue her from a tower and offer to sacrifice your life for her by cutting off her hair. 
Or you know...

Take her for a long walk through a forest that recently exploded with the colors of autumn and let her waste time as she takes pictures of books with the leaves for bookstagram. Stop by a lovely, little, algae-covered pond and have a picnic with a Star Wars blanket. Eat pizza waffles and Cheetos and homemade cookies while you chat about the gorgeous weather and the bugs on the leaves and the birds in the trees and the books she brought with her just in case. Always bring a book or two.


Then go on another long walk that includes a planked bridge through a swampy area, a dreamy path across a stream, and a steep hill through leaves and trees and dirt and sky. Find a man-made outlook placed on the edge of a cliff and take a moment to look out across the forest that looks like it's on fire. Turn to her, with the perfect ray of sunshine coming in between the tree branches. Tell her you're looking for someone to share in an adventure. Giver her a moment to breathe as she realizes you just quoted The Hobbit. Tell her that you don't want just anybody for this adventure, only her. Tell her how much you love her, whether with words or with that beaming smile stretching across your face and sinking deep into your eyes. Pull out a little box and get down on your knee, brushing against all that beautiful nature of leaves and dirt. Ask her to to marry you and wait for her to find her voice to say yes.

In four months, I get to marry my slimy frog.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

October Writing Challenge #31: Hollow

Whoa. I did it. I wrote every single day for a month, and I posted it on my blog. I wrote a total of 27,568 words this month and that wasn't without a specific word count goal in mind. That's amazing. Now, I have to do it all over again, but almost double that word count, in order to win NaNoWriMo. Here we go!

Day #31: Hollow

Word count: 646

Owen frowned and held the egg up to his ear. Something… was off. The five eggs, four of which still lay cuddled in the nest, had the correct speckles and coloring to be dragon eggs. But they were lighter than normal.

“What is it?” Evie asked. Owen jumped; he’d forgotten she was standing behind him, waiting for him to turn around in excitement and announce they hadn’t found just one dragon egg but five.

He craned his neck to look at her and shrugged. “Something doesn’t feel right about this. Something…”

He tapped the shell and felt his heart sink. His shoulders slumped and he let out a sigh. The eggs were light because they were hollow.

He twirled the egg around in his hands and searched for something that would indicate why the egg was hollow.

Dragons didn’t lay hollow eggs, of course. That would be pointless. When they laid eggs, the eggs were usually heavy due to the forming baby dragon inside. But if something attacked the nest and stole the contents of the egg, well…

Sure enough, Owen’s finger passed over a small pinprick hole on the surface of the egg. It was no bigger than a hair, and most people would pass over it without a second glance. But Owen had been trained to search for such inconsistencies, especially when it came to eggs.

There were many creatures in the wild that liked to snatch eggs or steal their contents for a meal. There was one in particular that had a razor-thin needle jutting from its clawed fingers that liked to insert into eggs and suck the contents dry. Vampire hedgehogs.

They were similar to regular hedgehogs with their spiny backs and squishy snouts, but unlike regular hedgehogs, they had their vampiric claw they used to eat eggs. Instead of busting eggs open with their mouths and making a mess of their meal, they slid the needle-like claw into the egg, sucked up the contents, and waddled off into the woods without a mess.

It was a cruel trick, Owen had observed, for a mother dragon to return to the nest and realize one of her babies was gone, despite the egg still being in the vicinity. Sometimes the dragon didn’t notice until the other eggs had hatched and it would nudge the empty egg in dismay. Usually, the mother dragon abandoned the egg once the others had hatched and began to grow out of the nest.

Hollow eggs, like the ones before him, were popular for poachers to find and then sell for decorations or custom attired. Owen had seen his fair share of dragon eggs on hats, as jewelry, even as a belt buckle adornment. It made him sad to see the eggs intact, the baby dragons never seeing the world.

“I’m sorry, Evie,” Owen finally said after inspecting each one to find the same kind of hole on all five eggs. “These eggs are empty.”

The small intake of breath between her lips sent a shudder through Owen.

“Empty?” Her voice was so full of surprised innocence, reminding Owen how little of the world she knew. “How can they be empty?”

He turned toward her, one egg in hand, and held it up. “Give me your hand.”

She hesitated, and his face flushed. This constant tension between them left Owen feeling out of sorts, but now didn’t seem like the time to let it bother him. Finally, she lifted her hand and he gently led her fingers over the surface of the egg, stopping when they reached the hole. Evie took the egg and ran her fingers over the surface. She marveled at the small incision, which had destroyed the life of five baby dragons.

“Oh,” Evie said.

Owen turned away from her, tears wetting his eyes as his heart felt like it was breaking apart in his chest like the breaking of an egg.

Monday, October 30, 2017

October Writing Challenge #30: Alone

I like to think of J.J. has a blend between Rey from The Force Awakens and Eleven from Stranger Things. She has power inside of her she's still trying to discover and a past she can't quite remember. She was given her powers for a purpose, but she's also learning to make her powers her own. I'm excited to see where her story takes me, whenever I decide to write it.

Day 30: Alone

Word count: 649

“Hello?” J.J. called. She pounded her fists against the mirrored window. It had to be a one-way mirror. The dimensions of the room, the type of tiling on the floor, the smoothness of the walls--it all screamed interrogation room. Someone had to be on the other side watching, listening.

“Is anybody there?” Her voice felt hoarse from yelling, but she couldn’t quit. If she quit, they might go away.

She smacked her palm against the glass. “Max?”

Even she thought her tone sounded mournful, despite the niggling at her mind that it was all a lie. That was the idea, after all. Play off the pity he felt for her. It had to be pity, she thought. Why else would the smartest person she’d ever meant care so much for her? Why would he take the time to show her around the Institute, teach her how to fight and embrace her powers? Why would he take her to the roof to stargaze or breathe fresh air?

“Max, if you’re listening, please…” Her voice cracked. The warning in her brain rose; more lying. “Please help me. I don’t want to stay here. I’m-I’m scared.”

Her internal lie detector was buzzing out of control, but no one would be able to tell from the outside. It was all in her head. She wasn’t scared. She felt content, actually. No more security guard eyeballing her every step, no professors correcting her faults, no students competing with her, breathing down her neck, pretending to be her friend.

In here, her thoughts were her own. In here, she could only wonder at who watched her. In here, it she was alone.

And before the Institute, before the crazy kids who begged her to join them, before Max, she had wanted to always be alone. Avoid the kids at school, try not to anger the foster parents, stay in her room and read books and play video games. Alone was safe. Alone meant no one was looking, no one was judging, no one cared.

J.J. went to the opposite wall from the mirror and sat down with her back against the smooth drywall, knees pulled to her chest. She looked down at her hands. Her knuckles were still tender from her last bout of boxing, several days ago. She clenched her fingers into fists until her nails bit into her palms. The raw power that ran her veins still frightened her.

Glimpses of the faces, the people, who had faced the wrath of this power flashed through her mind. Bloody, bruised, battered. She had done that.

If she hadn’t seen the footage, the pictures, she might not have believed it. But Max had been right; she was dangerous. Not just because of the power inside her, but what that power was meant to do. What she was meant to do.

It was better for her to be alone. Isolated from the world, from other people. Then she couldn’t hurt them. Then she could be safe from herself.

She leaned her head back against the wall, closing her eyes, her fists curled into her lap. Content washed over her. If this was her fate, so be it. Trapped in a room, no bigger than a storage closet, with nothing but a table and a chair. She would survive, as she always did. One day at a time, alone and safe.

She ignored the prick at her thoughts that detected a lie. This was no lie. It couldn’t be. It was only truth.

The door creaked on its hinges as it opened, and J.J. opened her eyes. Relief flooded through her, despite all the convincing she’d done that being alone was for the best. Because when she looked up into Max’s brown eyes, his brow furrowed in a deep sadness that never seemed to go away, she realized she didn’t want to be alone.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

October Writing Challenge #29: Ghostly

This whole month of writing has been kind of weird because most of the prompts are Halloween themed, or at least spooky, ghost-y themed. I don't usually write spooky or scary stories. So it's been interesting to take a word or phrase that is normally associated with Halloween or spooky and make it fit what I write--fantasy, science-fiction, etc.

Day 29: Ghostly

Word count: 432

He appeared from the shadows, a figure all in gray, and strode toward her. The dim lighting from the street lamp cast his shadow across the rain puddles that marred the alleyway.

“Who are you?” J.J. asked. The question lingered in the air, echoing around her. The sound made her ears tingle. Something was wrong.

The man didn’t reply; he just continued to walk, each step moving him forward in a strange, wavering rhythm. There one second, several steps forward the next. As if he could teleport a little at a time or skip through the air like a ghost.

“Who?” she began again, but then the man was in front of her and moving through her. She jumped back to get out of his way, but he had passed--right through her--and continued to walk.

“Wha-what?” The word bounced from wall to wall, disappearing into the rain-clouded night. J.J. turned on foot, realizing just then that she wore no shoes, and raced after the man. “Wait!”

Her bare feet slapped the wet pavement, sending shudders across her toes and heels. But she didn’t stop.

She chased him, even as if moved further and further away. Every five steps of hers was only one of his. The alley ended up ahead, a chain-link fence blocking the way. J.J. came to a halt, her feet skidding against broken pavement, as the man walked through the fence, just like he had walked through her.

A ghost? She wondered. Willa would tell her that ghosts weren’t real; that she was only seeing someone with abilities. But here and now, in the middle of the city--it was impossible. Brett would tell her the man was most certainly a ghost. Then she’d probably chase after him, no matter the cost. Kal would just laugh. He’d tip his head back, eyes half-closed, mouth open wide to show his perfectly straight teeth, and he’d laugh.

Wait, J.J. thought. Willa? Kal? Brett? Those were her friends. But where were they? Where was she?

She glanced around, rain splattering her face with fat, cold droplets. She was in the city. In an alleyway. A familiar alleyway. Why wasn’t she at the Institute?

She couldn’t remember, yet she knew this place. The alleyway with the chain-linked fence and broken asphalt. The walls with the graffiti splattered brick and the rusty fire escapes zigzagging up the buildings. She remembered the dented trash cans and the plastic bags fluttering in the wind.She had been here before. A long time ago.

That man, she thought, was not the ghost.

She was.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

October Writing Challenge #28: In the Cemetery

To be honest, this writing challenge has been exhausting. I'm glad I've stuck with it thus far, but I'm looking toward November 1 with relief. Although, that does mean NaNoWriMo begins, and I have decided to attempt it, despite not having a story in mind yet. But I'm ready to write a single story, not snippets or drabbles. I want something with a beginning, middle, and end. Something with more development and more connection. We'll see what happens after that.

Day 28: In the Cemetery
Word count: 379

In the cemetery, there is a grave where grass no longer grows. The headstone that pokes above the ground is faded with age. Cracks drizzle down the sides of the stone, like bolts of lightning skittering down the horizon. The once pristine engravings are but scratches across the limestone surface.

It is at this particular gravestone, where the grass does not grow, where a perfect square of dirt covers the ground, that the girl in the blue dress sits.

It is on clear days and dark nights when the girl can be seen. She sits on the dirt, facing the headstone, her hair braided carefully into two down her back. Her blue dress is bright, matching the clear sky and the ribbons in her hair. She wears black, buckled shoes with lacy white socks. She does not turn. She does not move. She does not even breathe.

She just sits in the cemetery, staring at the grave, as if trying to read the words that faded long ago.
On dreary days, she cannot be found, but the dirt around the grave never dampens. It always stays dry and fresh with the perfect imprint of two shoes. On clear nights, she does not dwell at the grave, though one might see her walking about the cemetery, searching, always searching, for something that can never be found.

But on the dark nights, when the moon is shrouded by cloud or wane, she can be heard humming to herself a sad, little song. On clear days, she does not utter a sound, but only sits in stillness and silence.

The stories about the girl at the grave vary. Some say she used to live near the graveyard, before it expanded, and that the spot was a favorite of hers. Where she played with her dolls or read her favorite books. Others think she appeared only after the grave was dug, that her own body lay beneath the ground, separated permanently from her spirit that wanders the cemetery, trying to find rest.

But there are others who know the truth of the girl. Of why she wears a blue dress. Of why she only hums on dark nights. Of why she cannot be found on dreary days.

But those people cannot be found.