A Muse of Utter Convenience

Goddamn you Muse. Goddamn you. You touch my shoulder and whisper into my ear at the worst times. You tickle my neck with your verbose lips as you run your soft fingertips through my hair. But why, oh why, must you do this while I am driving. Why must you visit me when I am entrenched in work, elbow deep in blood, or in the heat of a blazing inferno. You entice me, and force your words into my thoughts, but I sit there impotent, unable to act on your foreplay. You fill my mind with beautiful prose, multisyllabic lines with such deep enthralling content, and I am afraid of losing it forever, vanished inside my alcohol addled brain.

So you are a tease, a constant tease. I sit, staring at the screen, typing away at the keyboard with droll content barely eking from my mind, but when I am walking through the woods, with no implements to write or duplicate my thoughts, you come to me. My hands firmly grasping the wheel of my vehicle, plying the interstate at high speeds, you sit in the passenger seat, just rambling on and on, never halting your speech for even a breath. Why must you be so difficult?

And then there are those nights, those dark, cold nights, when you slither into bed, curling up next to me, whispering sweet loquacious sentences into my ear. You curl your warm body against mine, interjecting the most garrulous topics into my dreams, which render down to beautiful stanzas and prose. In a stupor I sit up, grasping at the last lines remembered in the painterly visions of my sleepy hallucinations, clinging at hope that I can scribble the pleonastic utterance of my mind’s characters.

Oh, Muse of mine. Let’s set a date, a schedule on my calendar. We can meet on the days I am free to write, or you know, just drop by whenever the feeling strikes you, like when I am walking through a museum, engrossed in the quietude of art, you know a time of utter convenience. Please, come to me whenever you feel like, but I would prefer you to schedule your visits in advance. Oh, and next time, bring a bottle of wine. I prefer red.

Holodeck from Hell

As my friend, Tom and I, were driving back from Brooklyn on I-678, we had enthralling conversation that lasted till we reached I-91 in Connecticut–if you are familiar with interstates in southern New England, you would know that is a pretty long stretch of driving. This conversation was one of importance that parallels politics, global warming, and indigenous rights to natural resources of postcolonial nation-states. Our minds drifted through childhood television programs, and the likes of MASH, Rescue 911, and Unsolved Mysteries graced our thoughts, as we spoke of shows that we vividly remembered. We talked about these shows, recalling our affinity towards Star Trek: The Next Generation, and reminisced about one thing, that even then, when we watched the show on primetime, we made note of this egregious writer’s faux pas, the ever destructive Holodeck.

Now I can appreciate that writers of sitcoms cannot fill every episode with plot enhancing stories, which further the underlying objective of the starship Enterprises’ mission, and they cannot keep finding planets and new civilizations every episode, because, lets be honest, the solar system would then be teaming with so much life that it would seem a little ridiculous. Bantering our theories back and forth, we came up with a consensus on a this topic of conversation, and it did not bode so well for the creators of The Next Generation.

First off, the writer’s of the show needed filler, and with the creation of the holodeck, they had enough filler to last a lifetime. Like I said before, they could not stumble upon a new civilization every episode without it seeming ridiculous. Or neither could every episode take place on the bridge of the enterprise, knowing sheer boredom would emerge from this, so what is the writers best tool, a trope that gives them unlimited ability to create stories that have no connection to the underlying plot line of the series. Think about it, the writers are all huddled in a room, and one of them has this genius idea, “What if we create a room? And in this room, they can replicate environments and scenarios, like watching a movie, but they are part of it. It will be interactive…I mean its the future, why wouldn’t they have this? And this way, we can write in episodes that have nothing to do with the plot of the show. You know, filler episodes.” I can see them all, shaking their heads, agreeing with the greatest tool ever given to the writer of a sitcom, unlimited possibility. But wait, heres the kicker.

So the holodeck seems a legit idea for the future. In fact, it is probably the most sane thing they could have ever done for that crew. Think about it, you’re trapped on a starship, millions of lightyears away from earth, the same environment seen day in and day out, and the only chance of touching your feet to a planet’s surface is by joining the away team, that, well, if you are not one of the main characters, than you are sure to die–we will address that in a future blog. So this holographic room of recreation has its merits, I will definitely make this concession, but that is where my praise ends.

You are the captain of a starship, and your crew keeps getting locked within a room which seems to want to malfunction and kill you, don’t you think you might do something about this? So why is it that EVERYONE, at one point or another on that damned show, has been trapped inside the holodeck?  Don’t you think, that at some point, you would say, “Hey, maybe we should put an out of service sign on this thing?” Better yet, why would you constantly keep going in there after you’ve been stuck inside many times before. Ok, human nature aside of a propensity for sheer stupidity, it just seems a little over the top. Especially, when  a crew member does become trapped inside this hellish room, the rest of the crew searches for them and never thinks to check the holodeck, as if they wouldn’t inspect the one room that seems to want to kill people. At this point, this all seems illogical. But wait, there’s more.

Can you imagine the Federation of Planet’s contract bid process. You’re a company that has holographic room technology, and you wish to install your product on the ship, securing a strong monetary contract for your company. You know you have competition though, two other corporations are waiting to one up you, stealing the contract from you, and walk away a rich happy firm, lining their pockets with the good taxpayer’s dollars. The government agent leans back in his chair, and confidently asks why your product stands out amongst the rest. With a dry smile and straight face you lean forward and say two words, “lethal mode.” Ok, seriously, lethal! You have an option for your holodeck to be lethal. In what application would this ever be necessary or acceptable to use. How does this, in anyway, make practical sense? I see the government agent standing up in a burst of excitement, “Brilliant, that’s just the kind of innovative spirit we are looking for in a company. You have the contract.” So it is not stressful enough, being so far from home on a star ship, but then you have to wonder if this holographic death box of a room will malfunction and try and kill you every time you use it, which seems pretty damn often.

So, if you are a person who loves to watch reruns of television, and a tendency to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation, the next time you watch the show, think about the ridiculousness of the holodeck. Think about the fact that the ship has a room that can kill you, locks you in about twenty-five percent of the time, and then malfunctions and tries and kills you. Oh, and yes, I forgot, has the ability to make an evil sentient being, that then could leave the holodeck and plot to destroy the ship. Yeah, those writers were geniuses. Geniuses I tell you, “Hey, what do you think this episode should be about? Hmmm, let’s do a Sherlock Holmes episode on the holodeck. You know, filler.” Genius.

 

Today is the Day

I think I’ll write today. That’s it, I’ll write the book to end all books, the book which will get me published, my manuscript will ooze literary savant. I will sit down and words will pour from my fingertips as I furiously bang against the keyboard at a such a speed that my fingers will blur in my sight. I will examine the meaning of life, and put such deep philosophies into print, that my characters will be the most insightful, yet flawed, in the whole existence of history, and prehistory for that matter. Oh, it will be glorious.

I can see the scene set. The environment, the smells, the touch, the emotions, I will make all these things so believable, as I paint the canvas with my thoughts, that when the reader puts down the book, they will be distraught at how fake reality is. Today is the day that I paint my grand masterpiece. Today is the day.

Kissing my wife on her forehead, I relayed the news, and with an excitement bordering on neurosis, closed the door to my office. Coffee cup in hand, steam rising from the molten onyx liquid, which could make a boulder jitter, I took the first lip burning sip, and sat down to work.

Adjusting the lamp in my office–or as I prefer to call it, writing sanctuary–I flicked it off and on, off and on, listening to the click of the round nob, affixed to the brass, 50s, banker’s desk lamp. Staring at the white screen in from of me, I proceeded to fix the keyboard so as to have the maximal typing angle for my wrists. I then adjusted the seat, and analyzed the positioning of my arms, postulating the length of writing time, versus muscle memory, and comfortability of this posture.

Satisfied with this, I now stood up, and looking out the window, saw a flock of turkeys, eating seed from underneath my bird feeder. Their plumage was gorgeous as the sunlight reflected off their feathers, and I wondered how much bird feed in a week was consumed by these birds, and whether or not we should be putting seed down specifically for them, since it would be unfair feeding all the other smaller birds which fly to our feeder, but leave these poor turkeys to scratch up the snow for the leavings and unwanted seeds. These birds found themselves under my feeder for some time, little over a half hour, and then they trotted down the hill, meandering in the lower part of the woods for another hour.

As I sat back down at my desk, I looked around the room, and thought, how distracting all the clutter was. So, I set to work, moving this object here, and that object there. Well, that certainly helped my writing, because after all the organizing, and tidying, I typed a whole paragraph before it was time for lunch. Finding myself a bit peckish, and thirsty, I suggested to my wife we have a light lunch, because work was to be done.

Pawing through the fridge I found condiments, beer, champagne, mead, wilted lettuce–which I placed back in its spot to wilt some more–and various assortment of cheeses. This, being  insufficient a lunch to aid in the endeavors of writing, with a swift step we made our way to the local brewpub. As always the waitress was friendly, and plied her wares upon us, with a quick friendly efficiency, which any salesperson would be jealous. I don’t recall how much we ate or drink, but I believe it was merely a snack.

Making our way back home, we took the dog for a walk, because it would be cruel not to, and then I went right back to my manuscript which would be the benchmark for all literature in the future of known civilization. I then noticed that I had not checked my email in a few hours, and found many adds which could aid me in my quest for great writing. The advertisements of certain travel companies, promising me cheap discounts to Belgium and Ireland, certainly could aid in the prose of any author. Why these countries could be the locations for such stories, or muses of sorts.

This led me to a frantic search for discount travel books on Western European travel, and I came across many that were outdated by a few years. This being insufficient, I found one recent copy on eBay, which just so serendipitously was ending in only an hour. I made a bid, and was instantly outbid, so I put in an outrageously fair price, and then went back to writing.

Not wanting to miss out on such a great opportunity this cheap travel guide was, I clicked the mouse over, just a few times, to my open web browser, hidden behind my almost blank literary canvas, just to make sure I wasn’t missing out on such a good deal. I sensed I was to be the victor of such an auction, and resigned myself to set aside my literary genius for a moment, and not pass up such an instrumental opportunity, that could forever change my life. If I won this guide I could travel Europe unhindered, having the knowledge of which all the locals had, for the subtitle even said “All the tourists know, and the secrets the locals keep for themselves.” I mean, how could someone pass on that.

The victor, last minute sniping, and bids well suited for the cost of such a book I could buy at the local bookstore with no shipping and handling attached to its price–I knew this accomplishment was big. In fact so big because of what it meant for my writing. I sat back, tilting my chair on two legs, and imagined the characters I would develop in Beligium, the bars that would become settings in stories, and the medieval churches, which would be the allegory for so many conflicts the recovering Catholic main character would encounter. Oh this all swirled in my head, and looking outside I realized that the earth was taking on a grey pall.

Opening the door to my office, I looked back inside, and satisfied with my days work, I stepped out into the warmth of the living room, standing next to the wood stove. I rubbed my hands together, warming them after all the hard work, satisfied with my day of writing.

 

 

 

The Last Romanov

Trash blew down the street, rustling against the empty pavement, as he stood there enveloped by the darkness. Streetlights overhead stood like frozen sentinels, their light having died long ago. Glass broken on some, others just no longer functioning, they stood there as monuments to a different era.  People once felt safe to walk the streets at night, a time when they felt that artificial light illuminated the darkness, protecting them from what lurked in the shadows. Light can only do so much now. The orange glow of these large lamps would expose and highlight one’s vulnerability in the night, working contradictory to their true purpose, exposing rather than protecting. Their absence was welcomed, their state of disrepair, the veil of which masked his movement.  He wandered down the street, hugging the brick walls of decrepit vacant buildings, keeping close to the alleyways to duck within. The buildings offered cover, they offered a safety from the open street, from the revealing sidewalk.

Stepping over bags of trash, which cascaded out vacant doorways onto the street, he navigated the refuse of the masses, stumbling over heaping piles of bloated black sacks. His steps were deliberate, as he positioned his body, his balance, with each movement. His calculated actions maintained a stealth on the dead street, where only the loose trash showed life. Shadows cast by the moon overhead, beaming down brilliant rays of the lightest blue, coating the world in an ethereal light, became his refuge, and allowed him a greater comfort on his journey. Resting against the husk of a deceased maple tree, in one of these black voids, he found himself staring out across the landscape, and thinking how beautiful all this entropy was, blanketed in the soft moonlight. The dead hay, where once was green grass, was blue in the lunar rays, and the buildings scars were rendered moot in the contrast between light and dark. Realizing he lingered too long, he darted his eyes to and fro, and then moved on, advancing  shadow to shadow.

In the distance he could see the monolith of a building rising into the night sky. Its oxidized copper domes were still intact, and sat upon the granite structure, which rose from the street. He could not help himself, and stepping out into the open street, he took in the grand view of this building, allowing imagination to take him to another time. In the few seconds  standing there, he envisioned the construction of this building, and could see the grand architect, with blueprints in hand and pencil tucked behind his ear, standing where he stood, overseeing the creation of this marvel. He envisaged, this view was chosen so the street ended at this structure, that this building was so important to the community, a road led to it. And then he heard it, off in the distance, a noise like a screech owl, sounding prey in the dark lit woods, on a snowy night.

Frozen in place, he stood there, a sudden rush of fear taken hold of him. Hearing the screech again, he bolted off the road, and found a small hole in the side of a building. Moving debris from the opening, brick and mortar scratched against each other, as he frantically moved the materials away till he could fit in this small space. Fearing what could be inside, living in this recess, he dove in, knowing what was out on the street, producing that sound, was far worse than any animal that could fit in that hole. Cramming himself into that small space, he pulled back some of the brick, and forced his body as far back into the void as he could. As he pulled back the last brick, a screech, louder and far more ominous than the first, rang through the air, and seemed to amplify in his small hovel, ringing loudly through his ears. Watching out through the small opening, he waited for the parade he suspected would come.

Slowly a body walked down the street, with deliberate strides, each one so long, it seemed inhuman. In the moonlight his face was bright white, like a sun bleached skull, and very much like this image, the hair was vacant from his head, not even eyebrows to show. Stopping in the middle of the street, the man craned his neck like a bird, his body still, his legs in a lunge position, only his head and neck moving. He opened his mouth and screeched again. And with focused movements he made his way down the street, till he was out of view. The screeches continued as he walked down the street, and they eerily mixed in with the sound of boot heels which followed close behind.

First one, then two, then uncountable numbers arrived in the street. Their bodies forming one dark mass in the dull light. From that horde, individuals broke off, scouring the alleyways, poking the garbage heaps, swinging spiked sticks at any object that resembled a human figure. He lay there, his breathing even too loud for his liking, and watched as a silhouette sifted through the heaps of garbage directly in front of his hiding place. As the black figure came closer to his refuge, he could see this creature’s club poke the loose brick, which covered the makeshift entrance. He began sweating in nervous anticipation of the horrors that would descend upon him, and his imagination raced with all the torture that flashed like a slide show through his mind . Like a rabbit wanting to run, waiting till the last second, muscles tensed, and ready for flight, knowing full well it wouldn’t matter, he held his breath, even the beating of his heart thumped so loudly, it rang through the air.

A screech cut through the night, and the black figure turned, and pulled his club out of the rubble, knocking the unsecured bricks away, exposing him to the world. The figure ran through the pale light toward the group, while the screech came again, and again, until it was a succession of shrill sounds. And then he heard it, heard the man screaming as he ran away from this armed swarm, pleading for help. Some unsuspecting person, hidden in the shadows like himself, was rooted out, and now being chased like quarry, as if it were all part of some dystopian fox-hunt. The pack followed this poor soul down the street, and the screeches faded off into the distance, as this already dead stranger ran for his life. This fortunate, yet tragic, event was a boon, and crawling out of his hole, entered the street, knowing his path was clear up to his destination.

After a short while he reached the tall marble steps of the building looming in front of him, and began to ascend them, one at a time. With each step he could feel the concave marble worn by weather, use, and time. The black, which swirled through the white stone, seemed alive in the pale light, dancing as he alighted each step. Reaching the top platform, he turned around and looked out upon the dismal world, and saw nothing but buildings jutting up into the dark sky, a jagged world of stalagmites, wasting away in the chaos. A wind pulsed by, whispering across his face, and he felt his cheeks flush against the cool air. Turning, he stared at the prodigious bronze doors. Reliefs cast in the metal contained clusters of grapes and vines, Roman and Greek gods, ancient philosophers and Caesars. He ran his hand across this door, and he felt insignificant, dwarfed by the enormity of this treasure. Tracing his fingers across a relief of Pan playing his flute, he could not help wonder, how many hands had touched this door before his? How many people had entered these doors with a deep yearning for something so far from their own lives? He could not imagine it in better times, because he had not been alive to witness it, instead he could only recollect on what his parents had passed on to him in stories.

Leaning his shoulder against the massive doors, he pressed into them, exerting his body, flexing his muscles, tensing his back, pushing with all his might against years of neglect. Straining against the stubbornness of the hinges, the door began to open, inch by inch, until it crept ajar enough for him to slide though sideways. Entering the building, it was like a massive crypt, a mausoleum built for kings. High vaulted ceilings could be seen as the moonlight streamed through tall stained glass windows, and small eyes, inserted just below the roof lines along the walls. Standing there, slow and deliberate, he panned his vision, and was awestruck by the enormity and beauty of the architecture. Moving one small step at a time, allowing his vision to acclimate to the darker conditions within this building, his feet moved amongst the dust and dirt collected through time. Large cobwebs filled whole spaces, masking corners and whole walls with their white filament. These massive webs hung like large white, wool blankets strung from looms against the wall.

Standing before a wooden railing set atop iron, he found himself on a grand staircase, overlooking the main room. On each side of the landing, upon which he stood, a large set of stairs, formed of black marble, descended into this great room. In the gloom of the night, only rays of blue eked through the windows, illuminating very few details. Carefully he descended each step, making his way to the floor. In that cavernous room, he came to find himself staring across long wooden tables, with oak chairs strewn everywhere in a discordant mess. Some of these chairs were smashed along the floor, pieces missing, laying there like marionettes flopped on the ground, lifeless reminders of what once was. Others were pulled up to tables, left in a row, as if someone had neatly come along, spacing each chair equally one from the other.

Making his way past a shattered chair in the middle of the floor, he walked to the end of a shelf, and ran his hand along the tall piece of wood. He closed his eyes and felt the grain of the quarter-sawn oak under his fingertips, and rubbed his thumb over an imperfection, a small divot, and felt an electric sensation run through his body. His excitement was palpable, and turning down an aisle between two oak monoliths, he found himself staring at nothing, empty space. Even in the dim light he knew he stared at nothing. Frantically he ran his hands along wooden shelves filled with nothing but years of dust. The soft pillowy grime, collected under his fingers like skin schluffing off bones. He ran from stack to stack, and found nothing but the same. In his panic, his disappointment, he ran from aisle to aisle, shelf to shelf, and searched in the emptiness, looking for his reward.

“No,” he yelled.

A single word he uttered, he yelled, echoing off the vaulted ceiling of the empty reading room.

“No,” he whispered.

Slumping down in a chair, he fixed his eyes to the ceiling, examining the cobweb filled chandeliers, and trying in vain to identify the images painted on the ceiling. He did this for quite a while, and with his eyes transfixed on the ceiling, he did not notice the old man enter the room.

His long, thick, grey beard hung low, and ran down his chest, like foamy water churned over rapids as it cascades down a waterfall. His clothes were tattered, and ripped, their life lasting well beyond the intended use. Suddenly a noise alerted him, as the old man shuffled across the room, and spinning in his chair, he fell over the table backwards, landing on the ground like a turtle on its back. As he lay on his back, a face wrinkled with time, and hidden by thick hair hovered over his, and spoke.

“What is it you want?”

He felt a sharp object stick into his side, and saw the metal poker gripped by the old man’s right hand, sharpened to lethal point, jutting into his ribcage. Speechless he just lay there, the force of the object getting stronger and more painful.

“Come. Out with it. There is not much meat left on the bones of this old man, but I will not be eaten. Speak your words, or death will find you quickly.”

Wetting his mouth with what little saliva he had, he finally spoke.

“I’ve come for…books. Books. I’ve come for books.”

“To burn I suspect. Like those heathens that burned so many before, disagreeing with the topic, you will seek to destroy the written language, so none other may share in it. Well as you can see we have none, so off with you, before your heart is pierced.”

“No, not to burn. To read. I’ve come to read.”

“No one can read. Don’t lie to me.”

“My parents. They taught me, long ago. They were Livrelutionists. They read in public, created poetry circles, their intellectualism was subversion, their literature traitorous. They fought against the demise of literature. The state. The state executed them, along with all the others. The public saw fit to accommodate, and so they cowered in their homes, while my parents hung in the street. The state saw fit to let me live. They sent me to reconditioning school, taught me about the image. The digital word. The image and the oral, but the word, literature, they tried to erase that from my mind, but they could not.”

“And you have come here to read?”

“To read.”

The old man took the poker from his chest, and stood back, giving him his hand. Helping him up, he held his hand firmly, and shook it up and down.

“What is this?”

“A handshake. It is what civilized people do when they meet. It was a greeting long ago. And now, in keeping with old customs, we introduce ourselves. My name is Anton Romanov.”

“I am Orwell Bradbury.”

Anton just stood there gripping the man’s hand with his aged and gnarled fingers. And then with a squeeze released it.

“That is a strange name.”

“My parents named me after two revolutionaries in literature. They told me that surnames did not matter anymore, so they gave me one which they felt reflected the times in which I was born.”

“They could not have picked one more appropriate.”

They both sat in wooden chairs facing each other. As Anton sat down, it was as if the creaking of the chair mimicked the sound of his bones, and Orwell wondered if it was really the wood or the ossein that shuddered so.

“What happened to all the books?” Orwell said.

“What happened to the books? That’s a questions that I have asked myself many times. What happened to all the books?” Anton shifted in his chair after saying that and sat in silence staring at a stained-glass window directly behind Orwell.

To be continued……….

Stone and Mortar

He clawed his fingers against the stone walls, like a rabid animal seeking escape. The cold rough stone walls abraded his fingertips, and in his bewilderment he continued until it felt as if his fingernails would snap off. The abject darkness of the cell swallowed him whole. No light to be found it was as if the abyss that trapped him devoured any bit of light. He sat back, hunched over, his bloodied fingers clutched to his face as he wept into his hands. His intermittent sobs broke the air of the stolid room as he rocked himself back and forth, muttering in the vacancy of the void. Standing up, he pressed his hands against the cold walls, palms flat against the rough stone, and probed inch by inch, centimeter by centimeter, as his bloodied fingers probed crack, crevice, and mortared joint.

No shades of grey, no shapes formed, the darkness consumed his eyesight. The image of the darkness, one large globular mass, he never knew to be so black, so consuming. A feeling of emptiness washed over him, and closing his eyes there was a comfort in this, as if he were asleep, as if he were not really there, and this was all a dream.

In the onyx darkness he probed each nook, each minute crevice in the rough stones, searching for something, anything, other than the cold rock of his prison. As time passed, unknown to him, he found each corner, forming a square room, only four corners where walls join together. Through this search he found nothing, no door, no window, no entrance into the room.

He could not recollect how he came to this place, this dark dank prison, where darkness seemed to be his guard, the emptiness his warden, the stones his cellmates. He could not remember any events before his consciousness of the darkness, all he knew, was he was in a stone prison, with no way in, and no way out.

He probed the low hung ceiling, and could feel the disgusting slime of moisture clinging to the stones above. Looking for metal, a joint, a piece of wood, anything to signify a trap door, a hatch, an entrance. His greatest fear wasn’t his entrapment, but a lack of access. He realized if he could not escape, no one could enter, and that he was sealed within this crypt, as if buried alive in this stone tomb. He probed the darkness, he clawed the walls, he bloodied his fingers. The darkness, as black as coal, consumed him, it ate away at him, till nothing was left, but a bag of skin and bones, and a crazed laugh which echoed around the room, in the darkness.

A Dull Grey Sky

Rain falls outside the window cascading down the smooth glass surface, forming rivulets of clear distortion. I love days such as this, and when they occur I revert back to my childhood, yearning for the days of blanket forts and Halloween themed cartoons, while munching on sugar cookies so brilliantly cut into witch, pumpkin, and scarecrow shapes. Brightly colored autumn leaves cling precariously to limbs outside, while the cold urges them to make their descent to the fetid earth lying at its feet. Large gusts of wind contort branches, twisting them in directions as if some giant pulls on them, attempting to yank their roots from the deep dark humus.

Alas days such as this must come to an end, and the earth covered in snow, but for today, autumn rages outside, and I will relish every moment of such a day.