is the one where everything is unfamiliar.
The air is cold and unforgiving,
the landscape mysterious and terrifying.
It feels like you’re drowning and flying at the same time.
Every stranger is a shadow that looms over you,
with threatening auras on all sides.
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It’s easy to forget about tragedy when it’s left in the past.
Soon enough, the gunshots fade from memory,
especially in those who were not first-person witnesses,
and the zeitgeist stabilizes.
It is only when pain becomes permanent in the minds of the majority
that change occurs.
Today, I am 20-years-old.
Though it is not the new year, it is my new year.
The world somehow feels different now,
like I have undergone a great transformation,
but not too different.
No, rather my life has felt much more like a pebble in a slingshot.
As a kid, I was gently put into the pouch.
Always cared for, life never felt stressful, even as the world around me went on in disaster.
As a teen, the hand of time pulled back on the bands would
eventually send me flying.
At that point, I only held a fraction of the knowledge I do now.
By the time I am 50 or so, I will be soaring through the air,
eventually landing into the ground that will be my final resting place.
Maybe it is presumptuous of me to assume I will make it that far,
but if I do I only hope my landing isn’t turbulent.
But I am twenty now.
The bands have just been released and I am beginning my flight through unknown airspace.
The worst thing about being a pebble is that during all of this,
It’s pretty hard not to feel small.
Even while in the air I still don’t know where I will end up.
For now, I will spend my days trying to be more like a rock:
Sturdy, not as easily moved by whatever wind is blowing that day,
comfortable in their position, mostly on the ground...stable.
I don’t know what it is that I want for my birthday, except for stability.
There have been many times I’ve felt useless, like the kind of useless you feel when a friend stops believing love is real, and you are both sitting together in her car, and she is crying.
I try and offer solace but it never quite makes it off the tip of my tongue.
She asked me how to make tears stop falling from her face.
I told her that the rain only stops once the storm is over,
When all that can be released has been.
At the moment it felt like telling a drug addict
to just stop taking pills. That was how useless I was.
And so, we rode through the night.
The bass in the car was enough to rattle our seats,
and the music drowned out any coherency.
The moon was full and beautiful.
I could not hear my friends,
but I knew they were there.
That night, I was not alone.
As a guy, it can be pretty hard to be vulnerable.
Your wants and desires get held captive by a fear of seeming weak,
and sometimes even molded by it.
However, it gets a lot easier to talk about the things you want out of life
when someone who cares about you is listening.
It becomes as if there is no one, except elevated by a warm, caring smile,
and a hug when the conversation is over.
I think, that, if I had to make a list of things that make life better, that would be number one.
Something I’ve decided to bring back from my old blog is a series I call Riveting Writing Prompts, where I take writing prompts from around the internet and write short stories based on them. Since I am moving the series to this blog, I’ve decided to just start it over. Here is the first prompt:
With the prompt laid out, here the story:
It all happened fairly quick. One day I was alone in my room, endlessly scrolling through my phone, and wondering what it is I would do with my life. College was fast approaching and I still had no idea. I had figured before that deciding when I got there would be easy enough, but that soon felt like easier said than done. The stress had been building for a while now, and the more I thought about it the more it felt like I was gonna pop like a balloon. “James, can you come help me decorate the living room?” My family and I had recently just moved into a new house, so it only makes sense that my mom would. However, as I got out of my bed and began to approach the door, the ground beneath me began to shake violently. I was soon knocked down to the floor, at which point a blindingly bright light shone in from the window near the corner. I closed my eyes and laid down on the floor.
After a few minutes, the ground stopped rumbling and the normal sunlight returned. I quickly walked over to my bedroom door and opened it, only to find that my room was now sitting in the middle of a field of grass. My house and the rest of my family were nowhere to be found. The panic set in quickly, and my body began to sweat all over. In my head the surroundings completely disappeared. It was at this point that I could think of how I was going to get back home. My body was stuck. It was as if the door frame captured me, unwilling to let me advance. Except, I knew that I was the only one prevent progress.
However, my fear was soon overwhelmed by a loud, continuous noise, which was accompanied by a large pillar of flames that appeared to be coming from somewhere off in the distance. Seeing as how I had no other decent options, I headed towards the fire. Once again though, the fear took over. My head soon filled with nightmares about being torched on sight, or finding out that the people in that direction were actually some kind of human traffickers having a rough time, and that I was about to just wander in their and be there next breakthrough. For as much as that fear lingered over me, it made no sense to worry about it now.
As I got closer to the fire, I saw two people, one man and one woman, standing around what appeared to be some kind of outline on the ground, with pillar of flames rising up from its center. “Excuse me…” I tried getting there attention, but the flames were too loud. While walking towards the two I tripped over myself, which apparently caught their attention, as the fire stopped and they rushed over to help. “Hey, man, you gotta be careful. Were practicing some really dangerous magic over here. Are you alright.” “Yeah, I’m fine,” I responded, “but, wait, did you just say magic?” They immediately looked back at each other with a confused look, and then again turned their attention to me. “Yeah, you know, magic, the thing the world basically runs on.” It occurred to me at that moment that I was no longer in the same universe as before. Still, the fear in me had more or less run out, so it did not come as big of a shock as one might think.
“Ok, I know this is going to sound crazy, but I am actually from another world altogether. Quick question though, do you guys know what technology is?” The woman responded this time. “You mean that stuff in fairy tales about how humans used metal to build great machines to revolutionize the world?” “Wait, did the first part of my question not phase you?” They looked back at each other again, and again to me. “No, not really.” “In fact, we can send you back right now, if you want,” said the guy. “Seriously?” I never thought it would be that easy, but I suppose it is a magical world.
The two prepared a new circle and told me to stand in the middle. “Now, just think about where it is you want to go back to.” “Oh, and don’t forget whatever you came with.” At that point I remembered my room too. I closed my eyes, and a few seconds later I was back in my room. I rushed to the window and looked outside, and I saw the rest of my house, along with my mom’s beat up old car peeking out from the driveway. I was home. “Well, that was a pretty lame other-world experience.”
The first time I traveled deep into my mind,
I was terrified.
It was a land where the sun was always gone,
and the moon had long since been removed.
In other words, there was no light, no hope.
This was a world that rumbled, that tremored.
The very ground I stood on was unstable.
The darkness laid thick over everything,
to the point where even my own hand remained invisible to me.
I knew it would be a long journey, but I thought I could handle it.
However, this world also made noises,
More than just rumbles and tremors.
It shrieked, it roared, it howled, it...cried.
Before I ventured further than the gates,
I remember thinking, “I’m gonna need a lot more
than war paint.”
It is hard to control yourself when
emotions have been bottled up,
and now they are spilling out onto the floor.
The right response is hard to describe,
and yet probably involves some combination of
crying, yelling, kicking, and a nap.
Mental health is not a container into which you pour your
problems. It is so much more fragile.
I had a dream last night,
one about an alternate reality.
It was a world in which I did not hate myself.
One in which happiness was not a natural resource
that was running out.
One in which the weight of the world was but a few small feathers
I forgot were even on my back.
One in which being alive meant more than just surviving,
it was a world in which getting out of bed was a good thing.
Then, I woke up. I remembered that gravity affects us all the same,
and that depression is always weighing me down.
I checked for the scars of my past, and they were still there.