December 27, 2011

orion.

Tall grass feels a bit too much like home. Through it, she pulls me along like she’s been here before and it wouldn’t surprise me. She talks and talks and talks. She only does it because normally I devour her every word. That’s why I get to explore Carolina fields with the prettiest girl at the university. I give my attention away better than anyone. This field, this grass are unwelcome right now. My eyes want to look down, but I know I’ll see it – my identity written on the long blades. Even without acknowledging the poking sensation in my legs, I can’t stop picturing my sister and I laying together on matted grasses. I’m trying not to go there, but I see my sister’s pretty face anyways. As I slip back into the conversation, my tour guide somehow found her way onto the topic of politics. I feel especially sick now and I almost want to think about my old house. The big trees, the solace.

Eventually, my companion maneuvers us to the river where she sits on a fallen tree by the water. Instead of sitting I walk to the threshold of the water by almost no power of my own. The beauty behind me talks now about our college’s poor response to a local emergency. A topic that would normally secure my opinion now doesn’t even provoke me to face her. I miss my family. On the other side there are white blooms hanging over the rivers frame. The long, lean branches sway in the wind and the ivory blossoms bob in unison.

“Did you hear about that?” She interrupts.
“No. I...”
“You seem distracted. Everything ok?”

I’m given the option of sharing myself, but what do I say? Tell her that my father could name the constellations off the a river’s reflection with his young daughter on his shoulders? Something she neither cares about nor would understand. Or that I’d trade a thousand nights with her for one hour laying in the grass with them?

“I’m ok. What were you saying about the dean?”

She continues, but I’m no longer hers. I’m held captive by a string of memories. I try to remember something my Dad said about women who talk too much. Maybe something about the difference between noisy crows and doves that gaze silently at you. I wish I could remember and I wish I knew the constellations.

November 21, 2011

Everything and Nothing at All


The wind shifts and a thousand leaves quiver above my head.  I pull the wool of my collar up higher, but warmth cannot erase their whispers.  They know—I know they know.   My mother comes up from behind me and clasps my hand.  Hers are cold and thin, cloaked by wrinkles and time.  Her wire frame looks so frail against the towering oak—powerless.  I squeeze her hand a little tighter, but I’m cautious.  I try to exercise restraint.  I’m scared of squeezing it too tight, I’m scared of not squeezing hard enough, but either way she gives me nothing.

She does not speak, she never has.  She simply tilts her head to the side and lets a tear discreetly roll off the weathered peak of her face, and tilts it back.  She stares at the tree tenderly, mournfully. I just stare.

* * *

I was eleven when she told my uncles to bury him four feet deeper.  She wanted to leave room for the roots, not that anyone asked—no one cared.  They simply did what they were told.  But a foot from finishing  I took the shovel from their hands and buried him six.  I packed the dirt tight, so when my mother came with the sapling she hit me with an open hand and cried.  She clawed at the earth with her fingers for hours.  My uncles took me inside and let her.  I laid in bed for the rest of the day and played with my cheek, putting pressure on it till I felt the warmth flush my face and sting.

She came in my room that night and for a second I thought my father had raised from the dead.  I laid still and pretended to be asleep.  I wanted to pray but I didn’t know what to ask for anymore.  So I just alternated please and thank you over and over in my head and hoped that it would do.  I felt dry lips press against my forehead and crusty fingers brush back my hair.  But they were gentle and fair.  I released a heavy sigh that gave myself away.  She whispered sorry and disappeared.  That night I tossed and turned.  I kept trying to wipe off the dirt that fell in my bed but no matter what I did I always found more.  I tried not to care, I knew I’d never hear those words again.

* * * 

A yellow leaf drifts from the tree and brushes my face.  I swat it down and resist the urge to crush it beneath my feet. Twenty years later his touch still makes me cringe.  My mother tries not to notice.  The cold coffee and toast I forced down for breakfast begins to rebel against me; the acid in my stomach rises and my brow instinctively furrows.  It frustrates me how reactionary it is.  Makes me feel strung up like a marionette, unable to tell myself when to breath or blink or cry.  I just do.  Even in death he still pulls the strings.

My eyes begin to water and I feel myself constrict, my mother lets my hand fall.  I cannot tell whether I feel heavier or lighter. 

The tears burn paths down my skin and mix with the earth.  I can’t tell whose I am. 

I collapse at the feet of my mother, and beat at the earth with my fists.  I cannot tell whether I’m old or young.
 
The wind wails, the leaves shudder and I feel moved by everything, and nothing at all. 

She turns away and solemnly takes her seat in a rusted folding chair, attempting to take shelter in the shadow of a beast she never could outrun.  I close my eyes in no spirit at all, and try to muster a please and thank you to a God I pray is not my father.

October 25, 2011

Write a Novel in a Month


November is National Novel Writing Month (or something like that) and so I'm going to take the plunge and write A Wall for Zombies.  I'll be posting it to a Google Docs and then self-publishing it in early December.  Crazy, perhaps?  Anyone else want to write a novel this month?

October 18, 2011

Why Authors Drink

I stare at the screen and he stares back in defiant silence, a bold white canvas daring me to conjure up a story.  I close my eyes, but the picture is fuzzy at best.  I have scenes.  Tiny scenes.  Incomplete.  Flashes of movement and a vague sense of mood.  I turn again, but this time to my inner critic.

What if this sucks?
What if the conflict doesn't create the right tension? 
What if the scene feels corny? 
What if the dialogue doesn't differentiate voice well enough? 
What if my work never gets published?
What if I work hard and no one reads it? 
Am I, at that point, no different than the crazy man who talks to himself?

I used to believe that authors drank out of a bohemian stereotype.  I thought they sought out booze and philandering and loud arguments as source material for their work.  I figured Captain Morgan was just another muse, but one who never asked a person to give anything back in return.

I'm starting to wonder if alcohol is less about the experience and more about a security blanket.  It's a shot of cheap courage and a dose of anesthesia simultaneously.  It's two feet planted firmly on the ground, but it's also wobbly knees and a cloudy head.  It's permission to be reckless and it's a calm in the face of chaos.

No one told me how terrifying fiction would be.  There is a risk in creating something.  There's the fear that it won't be as good as I had hoped, that what began as something that felt profound and meaningful will be trite and dull.  It's why I walked away from the blank document this morning and turned to Twitter.  I don't have to create anything on Twitter.

There's a fear afterward of looking at a piece honestly after I've written it.  After working so hard to silence the critic, it's hard to open the cage and let him roam freely.  I want to protect what I've written.  I want to believe it was somehow more special than it really was.  And it's hard to face it with clear eyes and say, "this isn't working."

For the record, I don't drink much and I don't drink regularly.  However, I get why so many authors drank themselves to death.  They weren't wild.  They weren't bohemian.  They were scared that they wouldn't be able to create and they were scared of what they had created.

September 22, 2011

Slow Down

Dear Self,

Slow down.  This isn't a school assignment.  You don't get credit for finishing early.   And, try as you might, you won't write a novel in a day. Spend time getting to know the characters.  Day dream.  Rethink the plot.  Revisit the setting until you can taste the salt in the sea.  Learn to show rather than tell.  Re-write the dialogue so that the characters own their own voice.  For all the talk of writing being a marathon, that's not it at all.  It's much more like making love.  Take your time, be a little less selfish and you'll find that the climax will be as powerful as the journey itself.

Sincerely,
John


September 16, 2011

Quinn's Picture

I can still see her in his eyes. When we sit in those chairs, it feels like I should let him be alone. I know if I leave him alone that he will break. Relationships need caring and tending to like old mine shafts. It’s not a clean job at all, and there’s always a chance that it will collapse on you. So I decided to turn my head lamp on and go in. I continue to sit there while he silently weeps off and on, tormented by love lost. The sun is setting. Even I still hold the feelings of hurt and abandonment. Tonight, every time I think about her I cry.

We were both there when she died. He sat next to and held onto his love of 53 years as she slipped away. It was a death that I wouldn’t have wished upon any living being, especially a person that meant so much to me. When the nurse came in and confirmed that she was gone, he kissed her one last time and said goodbye.

These two chairs have been here since the day I was born. They represent relationships. It was the conversational spot for all of us grandchildren. She would grab some oranges off the tree by the house and sit with us in the same spot to talk and watch the sun set. She always had a way of inserting wisdom in a non threatening way. I had no problem sharing my deepest secrets with her while cars drove by and the wind gently blew our hair.

It was there that I told her about the first boy I decided to date. It was there I learned about Jesus. It was there we often laughed for hours about nothing. It was there, that she was no longer.

He still weeps. I place my head on his shoulder, and together, we watch the sun set. He places his old cracked fingers on my hand and squeezes tightly. When a person can’t express something in words, especially love, they squeeze hands. I knew exactly what he meant.

September 15, 2011

Quinn's picture!!!


Remember the old high top chairs out back, our chairs? The ones we took out of my grandpa’s old shed? We put them by the river bend and talked our adolescence away. It’s hard to think that was five years ago, maybe if I had known then what we both know now it could have been different? 

You were my best friend you know? I liked the way all the other girls at school would snicker as I walked past them. I was standing next to you and you wanted me there. You chose me. Of course it wasn’t the same for them as it was for me. I was never in love with you. Had I know then that you felt the opposite…well…well maybe I wouldn’t have let it get to where it went. 

It was after that spring shower, remember? The water had risen in the river; everyone cried it was going to be a one hundred year flood, the worst of its kind. But we didn’t care. All we cared about was that the water was finally high enough that we could dive in without hitting our heads. 

I miss those endless hours of watching your skin glisten as you would call me to jump in after you. I can almost hear it, “Nina, come in! Come on!” We were still innocent then, you know? Like we had everything and wanted nothing. Well not until that night when you wanted to know more. Remember what you asked me?
“Do you wonder if?” you asked your head down avoiding my eyes as your voice began to trail off. We were sitting on the cold ground. Your hands rustled with the weeds while your mind wrestled with your thoughts.
“Do I ever wonder if what?” I replied as I spit the sun flower seeds out of my mouth. The sun was setting and there was a slight breeze that sent a chill through my wet body and caused goose bumps. I had no idea what you were talking about. 

I was a sixteen year old country girl who had been raised by her daddy and brothers.  Men were nothing but best friends and allies to me.  So you can imagine my confusion when you leaned in and kissed me there. On that sacred land, our land, our spot, next to our chairs.
I didn’t pull away. But I didn’t return either. I guess I was old enough to wonder what it all felt like. But looking back I think should have stopped you when you pulled me closer. When your hand began to push against the small of my back and found its way under my shirt. It didn’t even register when you began to lean me back so softly and your grip so strong I didn’t feel the ground moving closer to me.

“I’ve always wanted this with you,” you said. “You whispered it so low and soft that my head felt hazy as a soft sensation shot up my spine. 

I suppose in that moment I wanted it too. 

I can’t remember when or how my clothes came off. But I do remember the softness of your touch, the gentleness in your voice, and love in your actions.  It was the first for us both. 

Standing here now, I see the decaying chairs untouched since that sunset five years ago. I feel the loss in my heart for my friend who will no longer speak to me. Afterwords you were so happy, jubilant even. And me? Well it’s funny how one moment of your life; one choice can throw you into a whirlwind of uncertainty. After that moment I no longer knew who I was. I no longer knew why I felt the way I felt. I know longer knew you.

 I guess all I wanted to do in coming here today was to say, “I’m sorry.”

September 14, 2011

the window and the mirror.


















That stainless steel bowl in her hands is starting to bother me. She is stirring something that looks like batter, so I’m sure she’s baking for friends or new neighbors. She presses her ear into the phone and when she laughs, stirs faster. I watch her through the window from my spot outside of the house. This chair under the trees is my sanctuary, away from the world, away from her. I read, hang with the neighbors, be silent, and sit with my dog. Yet, I’m not away really from her at all. I continue to haunt her. She talks on the phone and looks vacantly right at me, but doesn’t acknowledge me. As usual, she is preoccupied by something else – gossip, dishes, a joke, baking, anything really. There was a time where she would wave or smile at me, now it’s the landscape around me she digests. She looks through me, and does not see me.

I stare hard enough to see the flour on her purple apron. She walks away from the window. These small rejections are starting to mount for me, so I try to focus on something else. This land is my retreat. My Dad built this farmhouse for my mom 50 years ago and as the only son, it became mine by default. I didn’t earn it and don’t really know how to take care of it, but it eases my mind in moments like this. The dog pops his head up as a truck slowly approaches. It’s old Cam. He sputters by and holds up a steady calloused hand. I wave back with my pathetic soft hand. The truck gets going as slow as it stopped, but surely it makes its way down the road until it’s a pea on the horizon. I look back at the window and she’s gone. The chair cracks as I stretch out and lean back into the sun. Things sound different out here. I like it. Every noise is dampened, yet magnified by the silence. The dog jumps up at the sound of a faint whistle and darts around the side of the house for a meal. She never forgets to feed him. Or forgets anything really. The chores on this land are enough to keep two people occupied for a lifetime. It overwhelms me every day, but it doesn’t seem to bother her. Suddenly she reappears in the window. On the phone again. My mind begins to sink into darkness, then it strikes me.

I need the window. It’s not a mirror looking back at myself that grows me. It’s a window. It’s separateness that I need. A woman with a force on the earth that I can’t control or manipulate. She is her own beating heart with ambitions and loves different from my own. She needs to bake. The best thing she has to offer me is her strange and complete uniqueness. The tearing and meshing at which we meet in the middle is only a bonus to how extraordinary she is. I sit stunned.

In the midst of cleaning up the kitchen she stops directly in front of the window and looks out. I’m not sure if she is looking at me. I smile and wave to her. She smiles back, disappears momentarily, then reappears in the window with a large smile holding up the cake she just baked. It has my name written on it.

September 13, 2011

Mornings

I wrote this a while ago, but I think I might keep going with it.




The beast awakens from her slumber.

Deep breathing, and icy cold eyes peeking from the dark, warm cave.
She can hear the other animals frolicking around like it's summer time, but it's not summer time.
They are different breeds, so they naturally don't understand her sleep patterns, but it's ok because she doesn't understand theirs.
She's not looking for change, just acceptance.
Ready to be in quiet. Ready for complete peace, dreaming of the meal she had slaughtered the night before.

But her readiness can not compete with the lively pace at which the earth is spinning today.
At which the excited dogs are singing to each other in their hunger.
She can not escape. She can not communicate. Because they are oblivious.

They remind her continually, "it's day time, it's day time, it's day time."

She knows.

And she's waiting for the sun to go back down. She likes to roam, and to quietly take in the world when the leaves are settled and conflict in the busy lives of the local frogs and rodents has decided to go to bed.
Survival of the fittest at it's prime.
The moon at night is brighter, and her shadow darker.
The anticipation of finding something beautiful in the night never ends, and she always finds something beautiful.
Nature tells her that she's safe, she doesn't have to worry or doubt. She doesn't have to be happy or sad. She doesn't have to be wrong or right. Nervous or confident. In love, or out of love.
Just be.
Just listen.

She returns to her cave in the dawn of her adventures.
There, she lay.
There, she is but a figment of every Morning's imagination.

Quinn's Picture

"You still keep the chairs out there?" she asks me with a tinge of hope.

"It's a memorial."

"I see," she says. But she doesn't. She doesn't see it at all.

"People use the term 'lost' to describe it. He was my closest friend. It was a slow and painful death. I mourned. Lost is a word for car keys and smart phones. I didn't lose anything."

"But I thought you said it wasn't real?"

 "Reality is perception," I hide behind Wittgenstein. Now there's a man who hasn't let me down.

"The relationship seemed so real at one time."

"Tell me about the ritual again," she says. I can tell she wants to save me. Not to earn Jesus points or to feel better about herself. To her, this is all real. She can't fathom the finality of death. She hasn't held onto her son, watching the morphine drip, listening to the beeps and buzzes and machines telling you "he's still alive" when he's already slipping into the oblivion.

"I used to sit at the chair and imagine God was sitting with me. Not behind me or far from me or above me or whatever. Just there. Sitting in that chair. I couldn't pray with my eyes closed. I'd think of the Cubs or my to-do list or snippets of porn. I couldn't keep a prayer journal, either. But I'd sit there in that pre-twilight phase, where the whole world seems magical and the rays of light would fall through the trees and my God, it all seemed so real at that moment. Always. I'd point it out to him, 'Hey Jesus, check out that view,' and I'd imagine him saying, 'Me, too.' And that would be it. I could never sing praise songs. Homoerotic love songs before a really bad PowerPoint slide and untuned clashing guitars. But here it felt real. Always. And then, it just disappeared. Lost. Yeah, maybe that's the right term after all. Lost."

"Can we maybe both sit there?" she awkwardly asks.

I nod my head.

"Sometimes when God feels like a fairy tale, I find that he's hiding inside the people around me," she continues.

"Tell him it's a pretty sick game of hide and seek," I snarl back.

 We sit alone on the chairs, sharing stories of childhood. Brother and sister again.  The light moves into the magical phase and then fades so slowly that I can't pinpoint the moment it's gone. God, I wish the light would last.

"Jess, I didn't step away from the light.  You know that, right?  I just looked up one day and it was gone."

September 10, 2011

this picture.

My uncle owns several acres in Bend, Oregon and about ten years back he built a beautiful country style two story home on the lot. There is a pond, farm animals, a garden, and random pets everywhere-It has the makings of a real country house. Last summer my mom and I decided to take a road trip down the west coast and we made an obligatory one night stop in Bend. I slept in a guest room that was appropriately decorated with quilts, etc. I don’t sleep well away from home and especially in uncomfortable beds, so I was up at dawn. For those who haven’t been to the northwest in the summer, the sun doesn’t set until 10pm every night and it rises really early. I was fortunate to wake up at dawn to get some awesome pictures. I had my old 35mm Minolta (RIP), that took random shots I couldn’t control. This was one of them. The lighting it captured is difficult to describe. To my right is a large pond, about 50 yards behind me is the house and to my left is the “main” road. I was just wandering around the land and stumbled across the two random lawn chairs tucked under some beautiful trees in a quiet part of the land. It was really cold and the sun is the only thing that warms up the northwest. Well, that’s my setup, it’s your turn to write something inspired by this picture.

September 9, 2011

I think I have a novel pent up inside me.

However, haven't had the time to quit life and write like I'd like. 

I see it as the first person narrative of a marriage, wracked (wrecked?) by an affair.  I'm interested in exploring passion and heartache and how those two things so often come hand in hand.  I'd like it to jump through time so that you're reading excerpts of the falling in love process interspersed with pain. Here's a little:

I don’t realize exactly when it happens but I start to see you everywhere.  You are in the books I read, first in the interesting thoughts and phrasings that I know your writer’s mind would connect with.  I resist the urge to email you, chat you, text you, call you constantly with quoted passages.  I buy you a book, the first that makes me think of you so overwhelmingly that I am called by some primal urge to purchase it, wrap it. 

(I put more thought than is reasonable into how to present it to you, settling on the wrapping paper supplied gratis at the bookstore so I don’t seem overwrought but then go and purchase a lovely, thick grosgrain ribbon that I hope effectively communicates both your insistence upon quality and your masculine nature, and also my designer’s mind.)  You seem pleased but you never mention it again and I feel shy and ridiculous for putting myself so far out on a limb of my own construction.  It’s a gesture I don’t repeat, even after we are intimate. 

Then, I see you in the characters that inhabit my fiction. 

Then, you recommend books to me-first you mention then, then you lend me some of your favorite tomes and I am almost unable to crack them for the weightiness I imagine they bring to me.  To us.  I hear your voice when I read them-silly fiction to entertain me, books in religion and philosophy that feel like they’re long lost friends and finally, a book of your favorite poetry.  Your friends are thinkers and writers, too, so you are mentioned here and there in what I read and the first glance of your name transmits a golden hot jolt throughout my veins.  My heart’s thudding returns to normal, but I start devouring the missives with a greater urgency hoping for another interaction with you, as seen by someone else.

September 8, 2011

Finding the Voice

So, I'm trying out four approaches on A Wall for Zombies: 


1. Telling the whole story through the perspective of the dad.

2. Switching between two characters in first person.  This has allowed me to delve deeper into the main character's mind.  However, it's been hard to find two distinct voices.

3. Third person.  This has led me to be a little more detached.  I like the ability to switch scenes more easily and build anticipation.  However, I'm not crazy about the fact that I can't offer any stylized prose and it doesn't always fit with a present tense active voice (which I think is the voice this story needs)

4. Third person with journal entries.  I like the versatility of this, but it feels very cheesy.  Really? Both the father and the son keep journals?  See, it's a bit strange.

I'd love your thoughts on this.

September 7, 2011

Let's talk!

Okay guys, tell me a little about your inspirations to write.
What makes those creative juices flow. What pushes you to put down that remote, turn off that movie, and sit down and just write it out?

For me it's a lot of things. Mostly emotions.
But things that inspire me?
Movies.
Books.
Songs.
People.
Dr. Mario.

September 6, 2011

scotland 4am.

I know its not much, but this is one of my favorite photos I've taken. This is a writers blog, so forgive me, but I wanted to post this somewhere.

August 30, 2011

a fragment of the end

Yep, more of the zombie book.  It's looking less and less like a young adult novel:

The soldiers neither wept nor wailed nor wrung their hands. But in unison, they spoke a stoic silence. It’s not my fault. I was just following orders.

Nobody spoke.

A moment of silence, not for the dead or for the living, but for the sense of relief that they had done their duty without blinking an eye. They slipped on their headsets and sighed a collective breath. By fear or by conquest or by dawn’s early light, it made little difference. Let the dead bury the dead. There’s a six-inch cheese steak waiting for me.

They walked in an un-zombie-like trance, unaware of the present, detached from the past, victims in their own minds of a go-to-college-free scam. Young men. Boys almost. Disconnected from time and space and place, feeling neither the relief of innocence or the remorse of guilt.

Mostly they were just tired. Maybe they would make love to a flickering image or get lost in a battle of apparition ideals. Or maybe they would talk about the Dodgers or the Packers or Manchester United and embrace the mirage of the mundane and ever-so-gently turn away from their memory.  Maybe later they would reconcile their actions and their humanity, but right now, my God, what they would do for a steak and cheese and a bed with real pillows.

The viewers at home were tired, too. The food was burning and they were fighting an insurmountable battle to keep a three-year-old from throwing his food on the floor and so they turned away, ever-so-slightly; amused, but mostly relieved that yet another monster had been slain. With every tug at a shirt or story from school or did you know what Margaret said about you yesterday, they soon forgot what exactly they were supposed to be afraid of.

The linguist sketched out a scene, grappling with his loss of words, until finally penning, with poetic precision, a piece on pretentious personification, "Death is not the battle cry and bag pipes offering the Dirge of Destruction.  Death is Apathy, arriving in plainclothes, drinking sweet tea and greeting us in denim jeans, slipping in with a seductively silent soliloquy. She lulls us into a dazing, dozing, dreamy denial. and steps into the calm complacency. Then finally, she asks us to kindly sit still as she taps her syringe  and then walks away. I am Apathy.  I have become Death."

Then he closed his book, refusing the silence of the semantic environment. His victory would be one of clarity.  “We witnessed genocide. We saw the death of a culture.”

“The truth is that cultures change. They die. They transform every time we rewrite our stories. To say that a race is dead or a culture is dead or a society is dead denies the deeper reality that a father and a mother and a son and a brother are dead. Today, humanity died,” the anthropologist answered.

“Maybe Apocolypse is the right word for it,” the linguist replied.  Then looking away, he whispered, “Maybe we shouldn’t try and put words to it.”

a tender man.

He spoke. Tears fell on his torn black coat. “I fell from her grace and she won’t let me return. Banished from her presence forever I wander eternally in a haze of regret. Her silent coldness shatters my heart.”

Affected by his brokenness the sovereign monarch wept with him. Her graceful empathy was the very thing that put her in power. She sheltered the poor man in her kingdom and nothing was withheld from him. Her pity, though, soon turned to envy. And she too, had him banished.

August 29, 2011

This is a small excerpt from my story... I started writing it not thinking it would be in the story initially, but loved it so much I had to find room to add it. There is much more to the piece but just wanted to share this moment. :)


As the new morning broke through the sky Ryell walked outside on his way to work. He looked to the East and there he could see a handful of people walking up towards the mountain. Every morning those same people made the hike and every morning Ryell watched them. Today they were noticeably one less. Clio, would never take that hike again.
                Ryell looked back at the small apartment they shared and looked upon the tiny addition that was built in the corner next to the alley way. When Clio had become too sick to make the hike Ryell made a bamboo mat and placed it in the corner. He used old ply wood and cloth to create a room. A little shrine for her to prey in. It was not the same as the vigorous walk up the mountain. Breathing the frosty mountain air and existing amongst the dew moist trees, but he wanted Clio to feel like she had a place to go. He remember how he placed the wild mountain flowers, in recycled tin and jars that he had found along the roads, around the tiny lot. He had bartered for a single stick of incense and let it fill the room with strong smoke of jasmine and wet wood. He put his bedding in a corner for her to sit on while she meditated and prayed. The room was peaceful and in its own way pretty.
                She had been sleeping when he came in to get her. He was so eager to show her the new studio. Something he could give just to her. He picked her up and carried her lame body across the apartment and through the door outside. Her arms were wrapped around his neck and she nestled her head into his neck as she watched happily to see where he was taking her. The morning was cold and the frost pinched at her nose and made her eyes dry. Even in her sickness, Clio was unaltered by her unjust fate. She smiled, laughed, and then cried as Ryell gently placed her upon the mat. She looked around the tiny temple with awe and excitement.
 “Is it wrong of me to be so happy thinking it is a gift for me, when it is really meant for God?” she asked smiling at Ryell.
He stood leaning against the door looking down at her on her knees, smiling as he shook his head. 
“No,” it’s not wrong he replied. He had never thought of it as a gift to God. It was in Ryell’s mind for Clio, and nothing more.

August 21, 2011

Reflections of a Zombie

The following is a first-person character study for a third-person novel I plan to write:

He calls the concoction a “suicide,” and surrenders his taste buds to the random sample of corn syrup and coloring. His is a world of plastic fragments and vivid chemicals.  It's a fountain whose blue is too vivid for any natural competition.

We cram into the plastic shell of the SUV and begin the journey of release. While other boys will be dressing as zombies and using extortion for free Fun Size Snickers, we’ll be celebrating the autumn equinox by breathing in the steamy vitality of life, recognizing the vapor of existence and the illusion of eternity forged in plastic.

He’ll cry.

I did the first time.

On some level, I still do. It’s just that surrounded by a hyper-macho group of men, tears are not an option and within minutes of the Flesh Feast, I experience the paradoxical sense of losing and gaining, living and dying, destroying and creating.

Still, it will be harder for a child raised around pets and petting zoos and animated cartoons. He understands personification without ever knowing the meaning of person, uninhibited and unfettered. He experiences animation without knowing the animism that makes his story real.

He’ll sink his canines into the raw flesh and feel the steamy sanguine fluid dripping down his lips. He will be at once repulsed and intrigued and in the process he will know something about humanity buried under the pavement of the Magical Kingdom.

Don’t get me wrong. We won’t kill a human.  Zombies aren’t canabalistic. We are human.

We don’t go on murder binges and terrorize cities.  I suppose some of that might have been true in the past. We would line up in rows and hunt an entire village. However, one must consider the cultural context. This was an age when Aztecs would sacrifice prisoners to their gods and Europeans would burn those who didn’t agree with their theology and slavery, rape and mass genocide were all fair game in war.

This was before the Age of Progress. We’ve developed antiseptic ways of committing mass murder. Nowadays, we press buttons and hit targets and use drones, but I suppose shrapnel is simply a more evolved version of an arrow - one that allows the user to sit comfortably from a plush chair in an air-conditioned room, drinking Red Bull or stale coffee with fake creamer.

We’ve evolved.

Zombies, however, have not evolved. We still use our canines for cutting meat. I know it sounds primitive and upsetting that we hunt with our hands and suck the warm blood in the moment. Instead of thinking “backwards” and “primitive,” consider it “vintage” or “classic.” We’re organic. We’re into raw food. It’s just that we tend to go omnivorous and sometimes that means attacking large game. (Incidentally, no one seems offended by our collective cultural salad binges)

You can fault us for eating meat that runs free range. I suppose if killing is wrong, then we are murderers. But the human body requires death. We are covered with bacteria. We inhale micro-organisms. You can’t go a minute without participating in the life cycle. So we’re all killers, I guess.

However, I miss the ethical argument that it’s better to eat meat that was once crammed into a tiny space and is now chopped up, days later, and placed on styrofoam and wrapped in cellophane. The Zombie culture doesn’t have quite the same affinity for petroleum-based products that one finds in most of the Western world.

If it were raw fish wrapped in seaweed, we would be trendy hipsters on the cutting edge. If it’s a wildebeest or a deer or a polar bear and we’re attacking as a pack, well then it’s repulsive. Note to self: next time we attack a wildebeest, make sure that we don a flea market jacket, an ironic t-shirt and waver between self-loathing whining and sardonic comments about the world. Maybe we’ll play a vintage record and politely pull apart the animal flesh while discussing whether or not the Green Party is a viable option in this next election.

Or maybe we’ll just pump it full of phosphates and toss it onto the grill, cover it in some artificially-flavored corn syrup mix and then toss place it on a paper plate. I’m sure the earth will understand.

Another misconception is the intellectual capacity of the Zombie culture. This again stems from the inherent xenophobia and ethnocentricism of European missionaries. Our language is nuanced and layered in metaphor. Missionaries missed that, claiming we mindlessly grunted about in lined formations.

It takes awhile to grasp the guttural sounds or to decipher the tonal language. In some ways, our language is actually more developed in the Latin-based languages that are all the rage in Europe. We have not only a second person plural (missing in English) but also a verb tense that allows for the second person to be addressed while removed from the first person. We also have verb tenses differentiating between definite, paradox, contradictory thoughts and cognitive dissonance. Layers. It takes awhile to comprehend the language.

Now, what about the myth of stealing the minds of humans and turning them into mindless walkers? It’s true that we are reminded that "the mind is a feast."  But we've never asked anyone to drink our blood or break our body.

What about the inconsistencies of slow and fast zombies?  We meditate.  We experience a collective trance.  Then we explode in shared energy, being fully present, full active.  We become the living dead, the voice of autumn.  

Yes, we believe in magic. We believe in a world surrounded by animism. Superstition, you call it. And maybe you are right. But we are under no illusion that the dots and ones and zeroes are the same as the flesh and blood terrestrial terrain of our human condition. We stare at the stars. You stare at a screen. Both of us believe in magic.

Perhaps the Zombie culture is indeed backward. Perhaps I am being ethnocentric in my own right. However, last time I checked, it is more inhuman to split apart and atom and blow away a city than to attack large game with our bare teeth.