A Writer’s Book of Days — 16 October 2016

16 October 2016Write about being deserted

He had left her.

Well, not Tanya. Not her, now. But the Speaker of Hastur whose memories now suffused Tanya’s own.

It made the past as clear as day to her. But it was a past of unknown lands and mysterious powers bent against strange creatures.

Tanya hesitated to call it an alternate reality, because it felt so real to her. The whisper of wind through trees, the cold brush of night’s dew on her skin. The rich, clean scent of green leaves – a sharp contrast to the unavoidable pollution that suffused the air now.

It was all just as real to Tanya as the shitty house, the blistering heat of the summer sun on asphalt, and bitter aftertaste of a pale ale.

Now that she carried the coin with her.

Whatever conduit the coin made between Tanya and the long-dead intelligence it connected her to, the strength of it made Tanya see double wherever she went.

The bank teller’s line would melt away for a moment, revealing a tangled nexus of tree-roots from every corner of a vast forest a hundred miles across or more.

And somehow, she knew that he knew every tree’s name.

At home, the drab walls would flicker a moment, seeming to morph into dark stone adorned with dreary candelabra.

Only that bar remained unchanging. For whatever reason, in the weeks sense she’d taken up the coin, Tanya had been spending more and more time at that hipster, millennial bar – both labels that she abhorred most times.

It wasn’t until a few days ago, as these flashes of reality grew to a near-constant pace, that Tanya realized the bar was immune.

She didn’t know how it remained unchanged, but her subconscious had picked up on it and so now she went there as a means toward feeling a little like her old self.

Like her true self, she had to keep reminding herself.

But then she spied that stranger-who-wasn’t-a-stranger again, and the memories of the Speaker of Hastur screamed for her to pay attention.

That was when she remembered that he had left her.

Her husband. The warden of the wicked wood. A powerful sorcerer entrusted with the guardianship of the world, by keeping its magical side hidden.

A powerful and important man. Which meant Tanya had been a powerful and important woman.

Until they had both been betrayed. And her husband abandoned her.

She was still learning the details. But the emotion was clear. The wound was fresh. The pain real.

Though, given the apparent ageless nature of this intelligence, Tanya wondered what the timespan on a “fresh” wound would be.

Best not to think about it unless she wanted to drive herself further mad.

At least now she had a clearer reason for hating that traitor-stranger.

And a clearer goal in mind.

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A Writer’s Book of Days — 12 October 2016

12 October 2016She kept it in a box under the stairs

Tanya slammed the door behind her as she raced into her house and down the stairs into the basement. She found the old, wooden box of memories under the stairs, where it always was

She hesitated.

It might have been nothing. A chance encounter at a local bar. Nothing to get upset about.

But the way he had watched her. His eyes following her movements to and from her table throughout the night. Like a cat following the back and forth ticking of a metronome.

Or like a cat on the prowl, tracking the movement of its prey.

Tanya shuddered and wrapped her hands around her elbows for warmth. It was just the basement, she told herself. The basement was cold no matter what time of year it was.

If the man had been alone, Tanya would have said something. Not to him, of course. No.

Well, probably not to him.

But to the bartender, certainly. Though the man hadn’t said or done anything, the way he watched Tanya had made her noticeably uncomfortable and self-conscious.

But she didn’t say anything because he was clearly with friends.

And not the rowdy, bawdy, disrespectful, or threatening kind of friends, either. There was a big man who nonetheless came across as non-threatening and friendly, and a petite young woman who could barely be at the legal drinking age, if at all.

The three of them joked and laughed and if the man watching Tanya didn’t smile as often as the other two, that was okay, right? It didn’t have to mean that he was unhappy or angry or sociopathic. Only that he was a bit more withdrawn than others. Tanya could accept that.

But then the second woman arrived, and Tanya’s entire world snapped into focus.

She was tall, with long, full, golden hair and a stride that spoke of both confidence and impatience. As she entered the bar, at least seven different sets of eyes turned to regard her, including Tanya’s own.

But not the man’s. His attention stayed fixed on Tanya.

The woman wasted no time looking around. Whether this was a regular meeting spot or she simply had a strong sense of place, Tanya couldn’t say, but the woman strode directly to the other three and joined in their comfortable familiarity.

Tanya remembered what it was like to have that kind of companionship. But it was a distant memory.

Looking at these four, however, as the man turned to greet the newcomer, Tanya suddenly had a notion that she knew them from somewhere.

An unshakeable certainty that they were important to her life. Especially the blonde woman and, though she was loathe to admit it, the man who had been staring at her all night.

Tanya spent the next ten minutes wracking her brain for some inkling of where she might have known them. Then she took out her phone and scrolled though all her past pictures, and all her friends’ pictures, looking for these four strangers.

Nothing.

Then, as she looked up, she met the eyes of the man who had been watching her.

And suddenly she knew without a doubt, from where, and more importantly when, she must know this man.

So now she sits at the foot of her basement stairs, staring at the old wooden box she had hidden there.

She had hoped to never have to look inside it again. But if he was here, in her town, then she has no choice.

She has to stop him. At all costs.

Tanya tears open the lid of the box.

Inside is just as she left it. Photographs from when she was young, the only remaining copies. A charred cross that once sat above the fireplace mantle at her parents’ house, one of the only things they could recover from the fire.

And at the bottom of the box, beneath all the rest, wrapped in a simple, teal cloth, sits a silver coin.

Tanya reaches past all of the memories from her own life and touches the cloth. Even with the insulation afforded by the material, Tanya feels the memories beginning to press at the edges of her mind.

Memories of the past. Of hidden worlds.

Memories of her ancestor.

Foreign memories.

Tanya’s hand flinches away. Can she really let all of that back into herself again? She had barely escaped her first encounter with the coin, managing to salvage her sanity and identity only when she begged the persona who dwelt within the coin to let her go. Let her live her own life.

At that thought, however, a notion begins to nibble at Tanya’s mind.

Had she escaped?

If the persona of her ancestor had retreated into the coin, then why had Tanya recognized those four people in the bar? Shouldn’t she have thought nothing of the strange man incessantly watching her?

For that matter, why hadn’t she been more worried about the man’s obvious stalkerish behavior? Tanya wasn’t the type of woman to ignore such harassment, and yet she had written it off as “non-threatening.” Why?

Because he was with his friends. And a piece of her-

No. A piece of her ancestor that is still inside her. It recognized them.

Tanya shoves the box away from her and falls back on her butt. She scrambles partway up the stairs, her heart racing, her breath coming in panicked gasps.

A minute or two later, following several long, slow, deep breaths, Tanya manages to calm herself. Tears streak down her face, and her arms and legs tremble (though whether from panic or weariness, she cannot say).

She watches the box now with that same predatory gaze that the man had watched her in the bar.

But even that thought begins to make her panic. No doubt he had gained that hunter’s instinct from his ancestor coin, just as Tanya had gained hers from her own.

There was little hope that Tanya could ward off her ancestor’s foreign mind with a vigilance gained from that same mind.

Besides, said a small voice, Tanya needed the full power and knowledge of her ancestor coin if she was going to protect her home from that man.

He was dangerous. The most dangerous foe she had ever faced. The Stalker. The Nightveil.

The Traitor.

He had to be stopped. Punished. And she was the only one still left who could do it.

Tanya blinked and suddenly found herself standing.

For a moment, she was confused. Then she looked down at her hand in a panic.

Her eyes widened as she held up her hand, clenched tight, with the corner of a teal cloth poking out from between her fingers.

Tanya didn’t even have time to scream before the voice of her ancestor drowned out her own.

A Writer’s Book of Days – 3 August 2016

“…the details of unremarkable days” (after Ryan Schendler)

This is what I am stuck in. Wake up. Stand. Cook. Sit. Eat. Drink. Stand. Wash. Sit. Watch, play, listen. Keep sitting. Stand. Scrounge. Eat. Sit. Eat. Watch, play, listen. Keep sitting. Stand. Wash. Lay. Sleep.

Repeat.

It’s not a life. It’s an existence. A prison of my mind’s own making.

Every glimmer of opportunity or motivation that I might latch onto, every chance to break from the pattern and do something different, is buried under the relentless pressure of established habit. A tyranny of familiarity.

I don’t consider myself one who fears new things. Yet my behavior shows that I must, or else I would not be so trapped in this cycle.

I rewatch the same shows. I repeat the same music. I replay the same games. I am only motivated to read a book when it’s an author I already know. And in the rare instance that I travel, it is to places and events I have already been – same stories, different faces.

Life is too short. But the moment we exist in is too long and immediate for us to perceive that truth when we move through each day.

Life is too short. And for some that means seeking what comforts it has to offer. Why take a chance on something new and risk disappointment? You only have so many opportunities to enjoy yourself, and so much of life is spent unconscious or indebted to your obligations.

Life is too short. And for others that means seeking every new experience it has to offer. The new and the novel is their drug of choice. Why waste your time on a repeat experience when there are so many other new and exciting things to see? You only have so many opportunities to enjoy yourself, and so much of life is spent unconscious or engaged with the overly familiar.

“Life is too short.” Why are all the wisest sentiments trite cliches? Because truth is overly familiar?

All the same, life is too short to be stuck in the details of unremarkable days. Wake. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Aspire for more tomorrow.

I don’t have answers for how to break this pattern. But maybe now I’ll actually start looking for some.

A Writer’s Book of Days – 4 July 2016

She Wore Flowers in Her Hair

She wore flowers in her hair, black roses all around. They did nothing to overshadow her scowl, and yet she made them look pretty.

But she traded that crown. Traded that crown for another. Far and away. Far and away.

Soon another comes dancing along, ready to add her steps to the song.

She wore flowers in her hair, blooming blue and full. They added to her smile, but he caused her cracks to show.

He tore away that crown. Traded it for another. One near and dear and hardly won. Near and dear and hardly won.

Because another came dancing along, ready to add her steps to the song.

She wore flowers in her hair, leaves all green and bright. They matched her life and luster. Her dances filled the night.

But he gave away that crown. Gave it away to another. To a former dancer faded away. Faded away.

Faded away.

Eventually another came dancing along, not knowing all that had gone wrong.

She wore flowers in her hair, shining like dandelions. She smiled and laughed and took half a chance to see what this man was about.

They set aside that crown. Both looking back at the others. And then they clear the stage, leaving the lights to die.

They all wear flowers in their hair. Black, blue, green, and gold. And they all survived the man, who never knows what he holds. And knows not where he goes.

A Writer’s Book of Days – 1 July 2016


This is What Was Overheard

This is what was overheard on the way to the fall. A man spoke in rhyme and doomed us all.

We listened and repeated everything we heard, because a man came to captivate us with every single word.

With outrage and indignance we spread the words around. Some of us in support and some of us opposed.

Those with louder voices failed to use them well. The only thing they cared for was what they had to sell. And those of us who laughed and booed and cheered watched as our day of inaction drew near.

Anything seems impossible until it comes to pass. Then a thing seems inevitable, when so many things could have happened to prevent it.

Less attention derails any public work.

Less funding restricts any project’s options.

Less time forces prioritization and limits an idea’s scope.

Opinion without action is impotent. Action without consequence is flagrant. Consequence without temperance is reckless.

And sometimes shadows cast in shades of grey leave us unclear on which direction the light is coming from.

A Writer’s Book of Days – 27 June 2016

“What will die with me when I die…” (After Jorge Luis Borges)

What will die with me when I die?

Is it worlds? A hundred thousand imaginary realms populated by yet-unmet characters and powered by yet-unmade magic dancing through a million yet-untold stories.

No. For even those that make the trip from my head to the page will still be unrealized. Nothing ever turns out as we expect, even when we are the makers, seemingly in control of all our actions.

And even still, we craft imperfect representatives to carry our visions to other minds.

Continue reading “A Writer’s Book of Days – 27 June 2016”

A Writer’s Book of Days – 23 June 2016

Write About a Haircut

He ran his hand over his face, feeling the bristle and scruff of his beard scratch against his palm.

“Yeah, you’re looking pretty werewolfish,” she said as she set the towels on the chair in the corner. “Though the rest of you is in great shape.”

He felt his hair as it clung to his neck and face, greasy and slick. His shoulders slumped.

“Oh, stop that,” she said. She crouched down in front of him and set a hand on his knee. “We’ll get you in a presentable state in no time. Relax. Be glad you’re alive.”

He nodded.

She patted his knee and stood up. “Good. Now lean back.”

Continue reading “A Writer’s Book of Days – 23 June 2016”