These are the things that I wrote to be taken as fiction. Things that are not true on purpose. This is as opposed to things that I said that I thought were true but aren’t. Those are just me being wrong.
I finally make it to work. I have missed several days. Weeks? Months? I don’t know how long I have been gone. I have been gone so long I have even forgotten what the business I work for does. I have forgotten where the time clock is. I have even forgotten how to read the time clock, how to operate it, and what language the time cards are written in. It took so long to find and to operate the arcane contraption that I am several hours late clocking in. I think to myself “I will be blamed for this.”
The office is decorated in glass and chrome like an 80’s bar. It has swag lamps on chains like someplace straight out of the 70’s. The chairs are overstuffed and upholstered in cream-colored plush leather. The entire room is so bright that I feel like I’m being blinded. Like I’m having vertigo and a visual migraine at the same time. “Is this really an office?” I ask myself as I squint through the glare.
I park myself at a table in an empty chair next to the son of a friend. I hadn’t realized we worked at the same place. I remembered him being in high school. The snooty bastard won’t talk to me in anything more than clipped sentences. I remember that I asked him about clocking in, and he had seemed mad even then. I thought he had been mad because I was late and couldn’t make the simple machine work properly.
He’s probably mad because I stole his mother’s purse. I decide to go visit her to take her back the purloined purse, and so I get on the bus that is in front of me. The bus takes me to a familiar place that is not my friend’s house, but rather to a mall I know that isn’t in the city I think I am in. Thought I was in.
I think to myself “this is weird” as I push through the crowded street making my way to the mall. As I am walking in this bustling crowd of people I look down and realize that I am walking in my stocking feet. There is glass and other debris in the road. I need to put on some shoes if I am going to keep walking.
I stop at a convenience store in the mall to buy some shoes. The aisles are long and narrow and snake everywhere in the mall for no apparent reason. I have to go down several dark hallways to find the only pair of sandals in the place. When I get back to the register to pay they charge me $24 for the retread sandals that I had owned as child. Just as weirdly as finding my own sandals in a mall that shouldn’t be where it is, and then having to pay to keep them, my childhood sandals still fit my adult feet perfectly, even with my socks on.
I am now broke from being overcharged for the sandals that I already owned, but I figure I can make it to my friend’s house on foot now that I am wearing shoes, so I start walking again.
As I am walking I notice that the stolen purse I am carrying is turning inside out. I have to change the way I am carrying it so that it still looks like a giant brown pleather purse and not an animal that has somehow turned inside out at the end of my arm. As I am making the purse look right I stumble across my friend stabbing garbage in her yard with a spiked stick. The spike is a sewing needle on the end of a wooden broom handle. I notice that she is bent and wizened like a cartoonish old woman and when she speaks the voice comes out of her cracked old lips in Natasha’s fake Russian accent.
I ask her “what have you been up to? I haven’t seen you in awhile,” and she replies “I’m being quiet after my honeymoon.” and then cackles at me. I wake up in a sweat. What time is it?
Editor’ note. I recorded some bad audio of me reading this article. It should be visible directly above this note. I will probably replace the bad audio with some other bad audio, but I also might not. I might just make it and most of this editor’s note disappear. Which one of these event will happen is a coin toss away. Audio is harder for me these days than it was when I owned those sandals. I notice that I slur and mutter. I don’t know if I can correct that or not.
I probably owe a hat/tip to this episode of Radiolab,
In which Jad Abumrad and Brooke Gladstone muse about the passing of Joe Frank and what his life meant to the two of them. Meant to all of us. I had never heard of Joe Frank before that episode, and I probably would not have listened to his radio program. The inside of my head is weird enough all on its own. I need my distractions to be more pedestrian than the inside of my own head. Am I as good at creating as Joe Frank was? No. Not on my best day. He had to do what he did every week like clockwork for decades. I’m nowhere near as imaginative as that.
The most underrated of all the characters in Tolkien’s created universe.
Galadriel was born into the glory of the Two Trees, in Valinor. she was born when the Noldor were at the height of their power and knowledge, sitting at the feet of the Valar. She was descended from both the Noldor and the Vanyar through the blood of her grandmother Indris. She was also descended from the Telari through her mother, the daughter of Olwe, high king of the Telari.
The Vanyar elves were the favored of the Valar, who sang Arda into existence at the direction of Eru Iluvatar, the creator of all things. The Vanyar responded first to the summoning of the huntsman Orome. Orome, alone of the Valar to seek combat with the creatures of Melkor in the dark times. Orome, who brought a message from the Valar who hoped to shield the firstborn of Eru Iluvatar from the perils of the world that Melkor had secretly seeded into his song of Arda.
The world lived in darkness when the firstborn came into being. Melkor had destroyed the works that the other Valar had sang into the world as part of their songs, including the towers of light used by the Valar to illuminate their work. All the works that Melkor could not destroy, he perverted.
The only light in Arda when the firstborn awoke came from the stars that Varda set alight before time began. Varda understood Melkor’s intentions before all the other Valar, and contrived to put her creations beyond his reach so that the world would not live in complete darkness after he destroyed the sources of light that were within his reach. Melkor hated the light, and especially hated the stars of Varda that spied down upon him.
Varda alone provided revelation to the elves in their time of birth. This is why all elves revere her, even the dark elves, the Sindar, who never set foot on Valinor where Varda dwells, or saw the light of the two trees. The light that lives on in the Eldar and can be seen by the keen-eyed and those that are near to death. This is what separates the Sindar from the Eldar, the living light of the two trees that resides in the bodies of the Eldar.
The Noldor followed the Vanyar to Valinor. The Noldor were the most powerful of all of the elves, and spent their eons of time in Valinor learning all that the Valar would teach them of the making of things. After the Noldor followed the hosts of the Telari elves. The Telari loved the night and the stars and did not want to go to Valinor, even though they would be safe from the creatures of Melkor there. They stopped short of entering Valinor and lived on the edge of the light, on an island in the great outer sea of Arda.
King Olwe’s daughter Eärwen was the mother of Galadriel. Her father was Finarfin, son of Finwe, high king of the Noldor. She carried the blood of all three of the tribes of the Eldar, and was born in the presence of the Two Trees, whose living light was captured by Feanor in his greatest creation, the Silmarils. This was in the first age. This was the beginning that Galadriel knew.
When Melkor became Morgoth, stealing the Silmarils, killing Finwe and escaping from the other Valar, renouncing kinship with those who kept him captive in Valinor, the stage was set for the tragedy that was told in the Silmarillion. The Noldor left Valinor in pursuit of Morgoth, even though they knew that they had no hope of defeating him, whose power was equal to that of the Valar in the beginning. But they refused to sit idle at the feet of the creators of the world, who appeared to do nothing to right the wrongs that Morgoth enacted upon their creations.
What the Noldor did not understand was that the song had been sung already. The Valar could do only what they had woven into the song of the world before time began. They had agreed to be constrained by the limits of time when they entered into the world of Arda and made it what it was. But they were not powerless, as they soon demonstrated.
It was then that the sun and the moon were created and set in the sky, and Galadriel was there on the beach in Beleriand to witness the first dawning of the moon and then the sun, along with the rest of the Noldor that had pursued Morgoth. She stayed with her brother, Finrod Felagund, as he established one of the longest lasting and largest kingdoms that vied with Morgoth for control of Beleriand. But her desires led her away from the Noldor and their hopeless pursuit of vengeance. She stayed for a time with her Sindarin kin in the realm of King Thingol. But staying safely hidden from the threats of Morgoth’s creatures was what chafed on her in Valinor. So she left Menegroth and passed beyond the girdle of Melian in search of places that were not safe. Challenges that were not hopeless.
At the Telerin port of Alqualondë before the betrayal and the leaving of Valinor, Galadriel met Celeborn, who would become her husband. Her companion and fellow traveller through the ages of Middle Earth. Together they passed beyond the Ered Luin, and so were not present when Finrod fell into darkness. Did not die in the sacking of Nargothrond or Menegroth. Could not be drowned with the rest of the inhabitants of Beleriand when it was destroyed at the ending of the first age. Destroyed in the War of Wrath that saw Morgoth defeated by the Valar and thrust, bound, into the outer darkness.
She and Celeborn lived on through the long millenia of the Second age. She gave birth to a daughter who became the wife of Elrond half-elven, who in turn gave birth to Arwen Undomiel. They witnessed the pinnacle of Noldorian achievements in the harnessing of power within the great rings by Celebrimbor, a grandson of Feanor. Celebrimbor who was betrayed by Sauron when he created the One Ring to rule over all the others, and thereby gain control of Elves, Dwarves and Men. A feat that was denied to his former master, Morgoth. Sauron,who we met first as a mere lackey in service to Morgoth, beaten in battle by the hound Huan who, with Luthien Tinuviel, rescued Beren from Sauron’s dungeons.
Sauron who had been defeated by a dog of the first age, was in turn defeated by the Numenoreans when they came against him in their quests for empire in the latter part of the second age. Galadriel witnessed all of this from her kingdom in Lorien.
Likewise she witnessed the beginning of the third age, when the world was changed, curved, so that Valinor would always be beyond the reach of mere mortals. Changed when the king of Numenor, the descendants of Elrond’s half-elven brother, grew so bold that they challenged the Valar for dominance of Valinor. Sauron had bided his time, worked his magics, had been made a counselor of the king of Numenor. Had put the idea of invading Valinor into the head of the king, hoping to be rid of the Numenoreans so that he could continue his own personal conquest of Middle Earth.
…Only to be caught up in the change that Eru Iluvatar inflicted on the world, his physical form destroyed in the drowning of Numenor. Forced to flee back to Mordor as a mist, where he had to lay quietly reconstructing himself before he could take up the one ring once again. This too, Galadriel saw.
She saw it, because she was the keeper of one of the three Elven rings.
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky, Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone, Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die, One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
..and so she knew when Sauron had returned. As did the holders of all of the other rings of power. They waged war on Sauron when it was known that he had survived the destruction of Numenor, many thousands of bright elves slain in the course of war. Galadriel witnessed all of this. The fall of Gil-Galad. The betrayal of Isildur. The loss of the one ring to time.
She knew it would re-emerge one day. That story is told in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings and I won’t duplicate it here. I’m telling this story simply to say that when Frodo sees Arwen glow with the light of the Two Trees in Fellowship of the Ring, I knew immediately that Peter Jackson really didn’t understand the story he was telling. When I watched The Two Towers, I knew that Peter Jackson was no J.R.R. Tolkien. But that is a tale for another day. I will say only this. Arwen is Galadriel’s granddaughter, Mr. Jackson. A mere wisp of a girl compared to her. She does not glow the way that Galadriel glows, having been in the presence of the two trees. Galadriel who knew true power, in the form of Melkor and the Valar. You should have paid more attention to the lore, sir.
…And I also tell this story to observe that of course Galadriel left Middle Earth after the destruction of the one ring and the banishment of Sauron, the retiring of the last of the Ainur back to Valinor. The Ainur being present in Middle Earth in the form of the great wizards. She left because there was no real power left in Middle Earth now that wasn’t transitory. Mortal. Impermanent. The immortal that is surrounded by the mortal can either retire into obscurity, or rise to power at the expense of mortal men. We saw what she thought of that kind of power.
The Wife said, on reading this “So you finally got to finish that argument, ten years later.” Yes. Yes I have. That’s what happens when you become a writer. Featured image from lotr.fandom.com.
As is, with writing, means you find a desk or a table where you promise yourself, as a debt of honor, to write one page or passage or for one hour a day. (Well, let’s say five days a week.) You start somewhere, anywhere. It doesn’t matter where, because it will almost certain go badly. It is supposed to. But maybe you can describe, badly, the place where your book takes place.
This is the intro to a work I’d love to finish some day. I’d love to finish it before the dark future it predicts comes true.
We had Denver. For awhile anyway, we had Denver. Then a particularly bad stormfront passed over the rockies dragging the Earth-bound poison with it, and after that the Denver radio station that we had looked to as the last hope for humanity went silent.
There were plenty of survivors at first, don’t get me wrong. Submarines at sea, for example. Stealthy death machines that were suddenly without purpose or much hope for long-term survival. Their mission to rain death upon an enemy successful without their having to kill a single person directly. Mission accomplished. They were among the last to go. Those nuclear fueled, hermetically sealed pressure vessels were perfect for long-term survival, except for one thing. No way to re-supply without opening the hatches and suffocating with the rest of humanity.
A few of them teamed up. They linked their death machines together in the hope of maintaining life-sustaining atmosphere for long enough for the outside to be livable again, but that just meant they took longer to starve to death. In the end, you can’t live on fungus scraped from the damp walls of a submarine. Not for long, anyway.
Before the last of them went silent, we lost the crew on the orbiting platform. The not-quite-ready for primetime gateway to space. The hopefully self-sustaining first effort at off-world colonization brought to a halt before it even had a chance to fail, the beam-jacks suffocating in their orbiting barracks after the air scrubbers failed. Those were particularly ugly deaths to witness.
Ugly deaths, compared to the vast majority of human beings on the planet surface. Most of them simply lost consciousness and suffocated in their sleep. How I envy them. They didn’t have to face the knowledge that humankind had committed willful suicide. As surely as the redneck who said “hold my beer” and “watch this” knew that he could do the impossible, humanity continued to poison the mother that gave birth to them, always thinking that they had one more year. One more month. One more day. To enjoy that latte. Hamburgers in discardable wrappers. Sweet, sweet sodas in plastic bottles. Disposable diapers.
How I envy the unknowing dead.
It happened suddenly, if suddenly means that glaciers moved at lightspeed. I mean, we knew it would happen eventually, we’d been told about it for decades. But it didn’t matter enough to the average person. It wasn’t going to happen tomorrow. It was going to be hard to change everyone’s habits. It was going to cost a lot of people their jobs, as if jobs were the most important thing about life on Earth.
So we ignored the warnings. We pretended that there was an all-powerful god who would make sure we didn’t destroy ourselves, as if the stories about him hadn’t included cautionary tales about him nearly destroying us all himself in a fit of pique. We ignored the truism “god helps them that helps themselves” and went on feeding poison into the systems that sustained us, pretending that the red warning lights and klaxons weren’t raising hell all around us. Hottest years on record. Raging wildfires that burned entire states to the ground. Storms of a size and speed that we had never seen before.
Miami had to be vacated, as did Houston. New Orleans was already a lake by then. Venice’s great experiment with sea walls had already failed, and the seas had reclaimed the areas of the Netherlands that had so carefully been pulled from the sea in the first place. China’s attempts to build new islands in the South Pacific? Laughingly thwarted by the oceans that gobbled them right back up. The Indian ocean now covering a lot of low-land india and where the Amazon rainforests had been before they were burned off was now several feet underwater. The vast oceans had gotten even more vast, but sadly no less acidic.
I wonder if the transplants from Miami who were handed bottles of disposable water to refresh themselves with refused to accept the water, insisted on drinking straight from a fountain? Did any of them make the connection between death and plastic? I don’t remember any stories like that, but then there were a lot of stories and not much time to see them all, there at the end. When that last coral reef died. When the krill ran out and the whales starved to death. When the great encircling ocean was returned to its most primitive primordial inhabitants, and their waste by-products rose up out of the oceans and engulfed the land.
What was it like to be on the beach that day? I don’t have to wonder what it’s like today because I have that feed on 24/7 now. No birds, no animals of any kind visible today. But what was it like on the day, the day that being outside was a death sentence? Could you smell the rotten egg smell before the poison killed you? Did you notice the birds falling out of the sky, squirrels out of the trees, before you yourself lost consciousness?
I tend toward the maudlin. I used to wonder what the eyes in a severed head recorded as it flipped lazily through the air on its way to landing on solid ground. Decapitation humor. The truth is far less entertaining than the fiction. The truth is that the loss of fluidic pressure in the head causes consciousness to cease in the brain. There is no thought after the neck is severed. There is just blissful death. No more rigid procedure to follow. No more same-old, same-old protein packs to consume.
The video feed I watch most frequently has a bench in the foreground. In the early days there was a man’s head visible there, as if he was still watching the waves lapping the eerily familiar beach. His head blew out of screen a few weeks ago, either severed from the rest of his body, or the whole thing slumped over, it would be hard to tell without going out there to look, and we can’t go outside the habitat. Outside is death.
“His caseworker was one of those people who say the word “escapism” as if it’s a moral failing, a regrettable hobby, a mental-health diagnosis. As if escape is not, in itself, one of the highest order of magics they’ll ever see in their miserable mortal lives, right up there with true love and prophetic dreams and fireflies blinking in synchrony on a June evening.”
Naked and wet, she stumbles out of the tall grass near the lake’s edge and collapses at my feet. To my eyes she looked like a goddess, limned in a halo of light from the far-off city streets behind her, as I caught first sight of her. It’s probably the alcohol we’ve all been drinking affecting my judgement. Or maybe she was a ghost, a vengeful spirit come to exact her toll upon unsuspecting campers and night fishermen. And then there she was as real as the beer can in my hand lying at my feet in her birthday suit.
“I made it” she giggles and then burps prodigiously, shattering the unearthly image. “Excuse me!” she exclaims and seems genuinely mortified. “I’ve had a little too much to drink” she offers “maybe even a lot too much” she adds hesitantly, looking around and suddenly noticing things are not quite adding up right, that there seems to be a few things missing.
“You’re gonna want to go find your clothes” I offered helpfully. Ever a gentleman, I think to myself. “Yep” she says “I am naked alright” as if finally figuring out what was missing in the equation. “How did I get naked?” she starts to cry “Where are my clothes?”
Editor’s note. A fictionalized intro to the true story I created a narrative for in this article.
Woke up from a nightmare a few minutes ago. In my nightmare, something was discovered in the desert that was said to answer the question “is there a god?” to look at this thing causes instant death, but in the moment of death it is said that you will know the answer to this question.
Well respected leaders of various factions go to see this thing, only to die (pick your favorite names out of a hat in descending order) with the last words “it’s true” on their lips. Both groups, skeptics and believers alike, claiming that this thing confirms their belief. That there isn’t a god. That there is a god.
Do you go look? People are dying by the thousands on the belief that this thing answers the question. Does it matter?
I just don’t understand why it matters enough to spend money on the subject. If the world ends tomorrow, will god care that you gave money to the right organizations? Really? Of all of this, I find that assertion hardest to believe. This is bad news for the religious organizations hoping to part me from my money, when it comes to the subject of the (latest) predictions of doomsday.
I got a comment from a poster over at dancarlin.com suggesting that this sounded like a Twilight Zone episode; how would I complete it? Thinking I might engage in a creative writing experiment, and see how many endings could be spawned, I wrote this paragraph;
You choose to make the trek, to take the hajj. After weeks of travel, you find yourself in the remote location that your guide tells you the object can be found in (he smirks when you pay him his final fee. Why is that?) traveling the final few feet to the location seems to take as long as the journey up to this point has taken. In front of you is a mound of stinking corpses which conceals the mystical object; a tribute to the common man’s need. Apparently you must climb the pile. A final indignity to be suffered before gaining the knowledge you seek.
Apparently there aren’t any creative writing types on the Dan Carlin boards; or maybe they just don’t hang out on a thread titled Atheism is not a Belief System. In any case, I gave it a week or so, then completed the story in the fashion that came to me in the shower a few days after having the dream;
You climb the stinking pile of bodies. As you step on the face of what was once probably an attractive woman; someones cherished child, perhaps a loving wife and mother, before she became just anther corpse in a pile of tribute, you realize that you are mere inches from the top. Mere inches from the cherished knowledge, the answer to that most important of questions, is there a god?
For one last instant you pause. Even in the reeking atmosphere it feels so good to breath, to feel the pulse in your veins. But the knowledge. The knowledge will be worth the sacrifice. The task must be completed.
You struggle the last disgusting few inches, and your head crests the top of the pile. Suddenly you realize that the object is before you. Your first thought is “that’s it?” but the thought is erased by the agony of your heart convulsing in your chest. The pain is unbearable and you release your grisly handhold in the hair of the last person to gaze upon the object, but this causes you to loose your footing and you topple back down to the bottom of the pile.
The thought occurs to you that you are dying, and you still don’t have your answer. You rage at the injustice of it all, to come so far only to be robbed of the promise. The whispers all said that the answer would be given. Where was your answer. But your rage is impotent, the pain is flowing out of your body, and you vision begins to cloud.
Laying there gazing into the dimming distance, you see a figure approaching you. Could it be?
As the figure begins to form from the haze, you notice that it is crowned with horns, and is shaped as a satyr, but reddish in color. The demon chuckles softly to itself and speaks. “You were a fool to sacrifice the greatest gift in the universe, the gift of life, for such fleeting knowledge. Little good will it do you now” He reaches down for you.
Your last breath comes out as a whisper. “it’s true”
Editor’s note. This partial outline of a story is now a page on the blog named the Godstone. I’m still looking for feedback.