Reflections

We’re sitting here, our children around us, our baby being so funny.  There have been times in my life when I’ve been inspired by something or other and whatever idea that came to me really stuck in my head.  It’s been a while since I’ve had that kind of inspiration, but I think that’s natural.  I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than sit in the living room with the family and just hang out.  My wife and I had tough times growing up for different reasons, and we are dedicated to keeping our children’s lives filled with love and positivity.  It’s the most important thing to us.

I’d be devastated if something happened that caused a rift.  Relationships aren’t easy.  My wife and I have been together since high school.  That’s a long time to learn and grow.  It’s not always easy to grow over that time without hurting each other.  We’ve hurt each other for sure.  But in the end, we’re best friends, as close as ever, more in love than ever.  There have been hard times, but none of it matters now.  There are a handful of things that do matter.  Our wedding, the births of our children, moments we’ve shared with family.  We’ve left hard times behind us.  It’s all for the better.  Because all of the bad stuff taught us lessons.  Bad stuff is hard, but it causes growth if you embrace the lessons.  When you grow from hard times, you can leave the crappy stuff behind because it means nothing.

I’m sitting here watching my one year old make funny faces and smush her face into the couch cushion because she must think it’s hilarious.  I think of what I missed out because I was preoccupied or we were fighting or I was focused on stuff that never actually meant anything.  Mentally, emotionally, I missed too much.  It’s only been three years since we’ve been parents, but that’s still too much.  I can’t miss anything else, and I won’t. This family is all that’s ever mattered and now we’re both in a mindset to honor that fact.  I can’t believe I didn’t get my mind straight sooner.  It’s a hard thing to do, to completely change yourself.  But when there are things like two little princesses and an incredible wife hanging in the balance, it doesn’t make changing easier, but it gives plain, clear, strong motivation.

I’m glad we are where we are now.  Our life is in the present and the future.  The past is empty.

I like to think I could write stories about this stuff.  Dramas.  Romances.  But I can’t.  Or I don’t.  My mind doesn’t weave stories about real stuff.  It’s impossible for me.  Maybe because it’s too personal.  Characters and stories are influenced by my life, but I could never actually put my life stories into writing.  My life isn’t for other people to read about.  I’ve been enjoying rereading some of my short fiction.  I went down a list of publications to submit to, so rewriting my old work lends itself to this initiative.  Writing has always been an escape for me.  I did it a lot when I needed to escape from bad times.  I don’t need it too much these days.  I’m so happy that I don’t want to escape from anything.  Someday when that perfect story appears in my head, I’ll write something.  But for now, I’m really loving reading and fixing my old stuff.

Short Story Rewrite: The Day the World Ended

This is one of my favorite short stories.  I changed it a little.  I’ve enjoyed going back over my writing and purging the thoughts out of it that I no longer want or need.  It’s satisfying to clear out the crap, the stuff that never meant anything, the stuff that just clogs up the writer in my brain.  There were some things that had gone into little details of this story that needed to go.  I think as a writer, all of my life, all of my thoughts and feelings go into my writing, so sometimes it’s good to go through, do some rewrites, and purge the stuff you don’t need.  So I’ve rewritten this story bc i didn’t need some the original details.  My life is newer now, better now, better than it could have ever been before.  And so I wanted to try to make this story the same.

A lot of my stories have characters that reflect things about myself and people I know.  This story includes nobody.  It was inspired solely by an idea that when the world ends, maybe nothing really happens.  And here it is.

The Day the World Ended

The day the world ended, I was standing on the curb outside the grocery store.  You know those old electricity switches that a mad scientist would use to bring his monster to life?  The big handle, with the two hinged prongs.  That what the end sounded like.  It must have been audible throughout the world, I’m guessing.

The moment wasn’t preceded by anything.  There was no thunderclap or divine announcement.  Angels and demons didn’t begin battling on Earth for dominance.  No, it was quite anticlimactic.  Someone flipped the switch.  That was it.

*KA-CHUNK*

One minute, the world was a bright, colorful landscape, the home of life, of humanity.  And then it was over.  The sky went gray.  The ground and the sun went gray.  Everything everywhere became gray, different shades of gray.  The world had turned into the music video of Ah-ha’s “Take On Me,” only the world didn’t have an awesome 80’s pop song playing in the background.

After a minute, the streets flooded with people.  Obviously, we were all curious as to what was happening.  It didn’t take long for us to figure it out.  Two types of escalators appeared all over the place.  Golden escalators took people up into the gray clouds while other black escalators took more reluctant riders down into the fiery ground.  We all stood in line for the golden steps, each of us hoping to be worthy of bliss eternal.  I stepped up on the stair, and fell straight through to the gray parking lot beneath.

“Shit,” I muttered.  Knowing there would be more rejects behind me, I rolled out of the way and stood up.  I watched the next reject fall through.  He hit the ground hard.  And then he drifted – unwillingly – toward the black escalator.  I felt lucky as I walked away.  The rejected man apparently did not feel lucky, as indicated by his wild screaming.

My house looked the same when I arrived.  Aside from the gray paint job, everything looked the same.  Down the street, a golden escalator had sprouted up, bringing a swarm of hundreds.

I stared indifferently for a moment and went in my house.

Having been judged and deemed unworthy of salvation, I decided just to relax.  Unfortunately, nothing in my fridge had any taste.  All of the soda was flat.  The TV had a special bulletin screen on every channel telling us that Limbo TV would be up and running soon.  All of my clocks had stopped.  All of my lights were off and the curtains were closed, but the gray, dry sunlight still lit up my whole house with an eerie glow.  I did manage to fall asleep on my couch with a pillow pressed against my face.

A sharp knock at my front door woke me an indeterminate amount of time later.  I sat up, realizing that time meant nothing.  If the clocks wouldn’t be working, then what point did they serve?  Was this a lesson to learn?  Time is inconsequential?

I shook my head before answering the door.  My neighbor greeted me with a cute smile.  Her light red hair was a mess, flying every which way, and her fair cheeks were streaked with mascara.  She wore a long, thin, nearly see-through white dress that someone else probably would have slept in.  I had always thought her to be super cute, but her completely disheveled appearance was slightly off-putting.  She reminded me of someone suffering a hangover, but she was completely coherent.

“Hi, Sam,” she said in a perky voice that didn’t match her tear-stained cheeks.

“Hello, Jill,” I replied.

“How’s it going?”

“It’s, um… well, it’s going gray, I guess.  I haven’t been crying though, which seems to be what you’ve been doing.  Is everything okay?  As okay as… it can be, I guess.”

She laughed, slightly off.  “Uh, yeah.  It’s the end of the world.  I’m bound to be a little sad.”

I nodded understandingly.  “So, what’s up?” I asked.

She stared at me.  As if I wasn’t getting the gist of her visit.  We stood in awkward silence.

“I got a postcard from – you know there’s like nobody to talk to around here, right?  Most people have been sent up or down.  There’s just a handful of us left in town.”

“I had no idea.  I’ve been sitting in my house since the gray happened.”

“Oh,” Jill said, set off balance.  She held up a glossy print of a middle-aged couple in Hawaiian shirts waving at the camera.  “Well, I thought I’d come show you this postcard I got from my parents.  Kinda sucks, if you ask me.  They sent it from the Pearly Gates.”

“Wow.  That’s pretty cruel for the rest of us who couldn’t get on the escalators.”

“Yeah, tell me about it.  All three of us got on an escalator, and only I fell through.  I got this like a minute after they disappeared into the clouds.”

“That’s pretty harsh,” I said, arching an eyebrow pensively.

Just then, a man in an all black postal worker’s uniform walked up to my door.  He was distinctly red, and a pointed tail whipped around behind him.

“What are your names?” he asked officiously, producing a clipboard from his bag.

We told him and he scanned his list to find neither of our names.  Then he handed both of us a pamphlet and a postcard.  He handed me two postcards.

“Enjoy Limbo,” he said before moving on down the road.

“Shit.  That sucks,” I said, holding up the postcard of my own parents screaming in dirty oversized white shirts in front of towering flames.  I flipped the picture away.

“Look at this,” Jill said.  “I’ve been invited to a place out in Hershey.”

“I have too,” I said, examining my own postcard.  “It says it’s been established by the Divine Limbo Association.  It’s a place for the unplaced to live.”

She looked at me with pale green eyes.  “Want to go?”

“Sure,” I shrugged.  “Let’s leave tomorrow.”

“Okay.”

“I’m going to pack some clothes and stuff.  Do you need anything from your house?”

“I don’t think so,” she replied airily.

“Okay, then.  Come in.  We can read through these pamphlets.”

Jill and I spent the evening browsing the TV stations of Limbo.  Apparently, Limbo TV only showed reruns.  That was lucky, because I could watch Seinfeld for all eternity.  We snacked on tasteless food and drinks.  We skimmed sections of the welcome pamphlet now and then.  At one point, Jill straddled me and began kissing me.  We had sex as if we were playing checkers, a common activity.  Then we sat together once more.

“I wonder if there are sports in Limbo,” I said as I clicked through the channels.  With the turn of evening, the TV bathed us in pale gray light, little flecks of gray dust floating in the purgatorial beam.

Jill fell asleep while I watched a rerun of Grazio Castellano bowling a perfect game in 1953.

The next gray morning, I awoke on the couch, still sitting, but with Jill and her tousled head lying in my lap.  I shook her awake.  Gently.

“Want to try to eat some breakfast before we leave?” I asked, hoping the lack of taste from yesterday had been temporary.

Jill blinked the sleep from her cloudy green eyes and then laid a deep, passionate kiss on me.  She proceeded afterward to stand up casually and go straight to sit down at my kitchen table.

“Yeah, I’ll have some breakfast,” she said, yawning.

I made us eggs over easy and some turkey sausage.  A flap of egg tumbled from my mouth as I licked my lips unhappily.

“That’s gross,” I grumped.  “Food was gross yesterday, and it still is today.”

“It’s like the airport food in ‘The Langoliers,’” Jill commented, pushing her plate away.

“This sucks.  I guess there’s no good food in Limbo.  At least sex is just as good.”

“I’d say it’s better.  Considering there’s no disease, no STDs, no UTIs, not even conception in Limbo.  We could fool around all day with whoever we wanted with no consequence.”

“Oh, that’s right.  I forgot you read that in the pamphlet.  No birth or death.  No sickness or bodily damage.  Just pain and physics.  I suppose if we stick around until the New World, we’ll have to be careful then.  Plenty of diseases in the New World I’m assuming.  I’d still like a milkshake or a cheesesteak or something.  Some damn tasty pizza would be nice.”

“Maybe the DLA has food in Hershey.”

I shrugged.  “Let’s go then.  I Googled directions and made reservations at the DLA hotel last night before I fell asleep.”

“Yeah, let’s get going.  But come to bed again first.”

An hour later, my car started almost soundlessly.  It was odd.  The car functioned as normal, but with a severely dampened sound.  Navigating through the lawless streets of Limbo was somewhat time-consuming.  There weren’t mobs of anarchists or stampedes of farm animals.  The world was like Woodstock.  Roving gangs of half-naked hippies wandered aimlessly within drifting clouds of fragrant smoke.  On one corner of my neighborhood, a group of string musicians faced-off against a group of woodwinds.  The sound of the music was sweet, palpable.  Unlike the sound of the car which had been muffled to near nonexistence.  I stopped the car to listen for a while.  Jill even got out and danced around a little.

She came up to my car door and kissed me.  “Don’t forget they say there’s no telling when this ends.  It’ll just be the New World one day, no alarms.  So get out here and Limbo it up, please.”

I smiled.  “All right.”

We danced for hours.  The music wrapped us in something thick and comforting.  The sun shined, but didn’t.  It rose up to noon and down into the evening, but the light never changed.  We didn’t get tired either.  Eventually, we made our way back to the car and drove off.

We passed a large hill normally used for sledders in the winter.  It had been transformed into a massive mudslide, and tons of people of all clothed levels were enjoying the slide down.

I parked the car and we climbed out, stripping to our skin.  Being in Limbo seemed to have eliminated my inhibitions.  We slid down several times and splashed around in the puddles at the bottom.  Somewhere, a sound system blasted Pink Floyd.  Jill tackled me at one point, smacking into me like an NFL linebacker.  We slid several feet and rolled around before she planted a muddy kiss on me.

After an hour, a guy rinsed us off with a fire hose attached to a hydrant.  We dried off, clothed ourselves, and continued on.

Our town dropped away around us as we made our way toward Hershey.

Aside from the carefree people and the gray filter on my eyes, the world was pretty much the same.  I flipped on the radio.

“I wonder how much radio has changed,” Jill said.  Her pale red hair still stuck up in all directions in a manner much cuter than I had considered before.  I thought for a moment about beginning a study about how quickly a person’s attractiveness increases if they are as aggressively affectionate as Jill had been.

“Hmm, Elvis Duran is still on,” I noted as Q102 resounded through my car.  “Let’s listen to the news.”

Welcome to Limbo Headlines, the announcer said in a deep, melodious voice.  As we’ve said before, this passed moment of reckoning had been set 80 years ago by the Institution for Earthly Replanning.  Once the planet has been replanned, those in Limbo will have a chance to return to Earth as one of the First.  Those returning will keep their current ages, but will begin aging as normal. 

You may have noticed a lack of organization in Limbo.  Do not be alarmed.  You are permitted to do as you please, but remember that you will be judged the moment you qualify to enter Hell.  There is no return from Hell. 

“That’s scary,” Jill cried.  “I hope I don’t qualify!”  Her voice dropped to a whisper.  “I’ve been thinking about sex since the color went away!”

“Whoa.  Calm down,” I said.  “They would have gotten you already.  Didn’t you see the hippies back at home?  Sex and drugs didn’t send them down.  And I’m pretty sure some people were getting it on in that mud pit.  You’d probably have to kill someone or something to go to Hell.”

She let out a deep sigh.  “Okay, good.  Wow, that freaked me out.”

“I’m glad you’ve calmed down.”

“Oh!  Listen!”

This is a serious announcement.  Religious group, who uselessly predict the world’s end and discriminate against others are the reason for the current Earthly replanning.  The replanning is being used to evolve the human race.  The IER hopes to repopulate the planet with minds disinterested in any type of religious uprising or discrimination. 

A representative for the GOD organization released a statement this morning, saying, “All religious groups causing more trouble than good in the world will be relegated to Limbo for all eternity.  The point of life is to love and prosper.  The Word of GOD is meant to be interpreted as the interpreter sees fit for the good of self and other without pressure.  Only those understand of this universal standard will populate the New World.”  The GOD organization obviously has plans for the human race. However, they declined to comment further when questioned about this initiative. 

“That…is crazy!” Jill blurted.  “Don’t foment insurrection, I guess.”

“Define foment.”

“You define foment.”

We laughed raucously.

“I hope they have the Blu-ray collection of The Office in Hershey,” Jill laughed.

One more announcement before we get to the debate hour.  The laws of physics are absolute.  If you try to fly off of a building or into a canyon, you will not die since Limbo contains neither birth nor death.  But you will experience a lot of pain.  Pain and physics still exist in Limbo. 

Now to the debates.  Today we will be discussing overindulgence.  It wasn’t healthy before.  Is it now?

Jill chuckled, a tinkling little laugh that charmed me to the core.  “This is exciting.  I never thought The End could hold so much possibility.  I mean, what if we get chosen to be the First?  Can you imagine being one of the first New People?”

“That is a pretty interesting thought,” I admitted.  “I wonder if the IER is resetting the planet too, like getting rid of the buildings and stuff.  We’d get to start fresh, like back at the beginning of the universe.”

“Mmhmm.”  Jill settled deep into her seat and stared out the window.

We drove through the hilly farmland of central Pennsylvania, past abandoned road work, frolicking cows at pasture, and more roving gangs of nudity and smoke.  Most of the gangs out this way looked Amish.  It didn’t surprise me.  Not that Amish folk didn’t deserve to go to Heaven, but unassuming, hardworking, pious people seem like the exact type of people the GOD organization would want to repopulate the Earth with.  Most of the golden escalators had disappeared at this point, but this small snapshot of Amish country still had a few remaining.  Maybe the Amish had an open invitation to Heaven to take whenever they desired.

After about an hour of driving, Jill sat up, wiping the nap from her eyes with the back of her hand.

“I’m getting a little antsy,” she declared.  “Let’s get out and walk around a little.  There!  Let’s explore that farm.”

I pulled over onto the shoulder and we got out.  Jill trotted off with me in tow.

“This looks fun,” she commented airily.  “And maybe we’ll find a barn with hay nice enough to fool around in!”

We walked through all the buildings, the barns, the stables, the sheds, and the farmhouse.  As we walked, Jill’s hand found mine.  We visited all the animals, cows, horses and goats.  We tasted the food in the farmhouse to find it was as tasteless as all the rest.  We used the master bedroom.  After all, that king bed needed to be used properly with the farmers having gone up or down or anywhere else.

At one point, Jill squealed and took off toward a water tower.  We climbed the ladder to the catwalk, and then we climbed small rungs on the tank to sit at the very top.  We sat close together, the gray midday sun lighting up the gray world around us.  Hills and farms and trees stretched out in all directions.  From the top of the water tower we could even see the skyline of Philadelphia behind us, and the Kissing Tower in Hershey in front of us.

The sky looked like it was perpetually preparing a rainstorm, though nothing fell on us.  A large group of revelers had congregated in a field around a five-piece band.  Somehow, this Limbo, this world we were a part of, was the most peaceful place I could imagine.  And the strange relationship between Jill and me filled me with satisfaction.

We sat close together, our arms and legs pressed against one another.  I felt her relax next to me.  She wrapped her arms around my body.

“This is nice,” she breathed.  “This is peaceful.”

“It is,” I whispered.

We remained there for hours, just enjoying each other’s company.  The colorless sun drifted toward the west, and we looked at each other.

My cell phone startled me when it rang.  I’d forgotten about it completely.  “Hello?” I said confusedly.  I didn’t recognize the number.

“Sam Larson?”

“Yes.”

“I’m calling from the DLA Hotel in Hershey.  I’m confirming your reservation with Jill Handley.”

“Um…okay.”

“Just so you know, the two of you are our first guests this Eternity, so I’d like to congratulate both of you on being our very First humans.  You’ve been guaranteed replacement on the replanned Earth!”

“Oh…awesome!  Thank you.”

I hung up.  Jill looked at me expectantly.

“It looks like we’re the first to reserve a room at the Limbo hotel.  Since we were…first, we get to be Firsts.”

Her pale green eyes went wide.  “Really?  That’s incredible!”  She settled in even more next to me.  “I wonder how long we’ll have to wait.”

“I don’t know.”  I took a deliberate breath.  “Your eyes remind me of a song.  A Mountain Goats song.  ‘Pale Green Things.’  It’s a good one.”

“Mmm.  I know it.”

“It makes me think of the song before that on that album.  ‘Love, Love, Love.’”

“I know that one too.  Had it on vinyl back home.”

“Oh nice.  I thought of it because of your eyes and because of what the radio had said.  It’s like the Mountain Goats had the formula all along.”

“What, love?”

“I think it’s that one line: ‘Some things you’ll do for money, and some you’ll do for fun.  But the things you do for love are gonna come back to you one by one.’”

“I love that song.  And that album.”

“Me too.  I wonder if the GOD organization will make things different this time or if humans are just destined to misunderstand.”

“Like, you think GOD might have replanned Earth some other time, but the messages they tried to get across didn’t work out?  Like humans just naturally drift away from love and toward greed and shit?”

“Seems that way, doesn’t it?”

“Hmm.  Yeah.  Kinda sad.”

“It is sad.  Makes me want to make a difference.  We’re the first ones who get to make the New World better.  Maybe we should start by starting some kind of group.  Like a love group.”

“Like an orgy?  Or a meetup where everyone puts love first.”

“Yeah.  Not an orgy.”

“Yeah,” Jill breathed sleepily.  She laughed a peaceful little laugh.  The air around her face became colored, like someone had painted in all the colors around her for the moment that her laugh lingered in the air.

“Wow, look at that,” I said, though Jill had fallen asleep.  “Maybe we’re making a difference already.”

A Short Story – Initiation

We lived in the middle of nowhere.  But Dad still made us glamour each morning to prepare us for the real world.  I was the youngest, so I learned the glamour last.  We all looked the same naturally.  That’s why Dad taught us separately to glamour.  So we’d look different while glamoured.  I liked my glamour more than my natural self.  Dad understood.  My brothers didn’t.

But this lesson was different from glamour.

A family always had only three.  I was third.  Dad liked to say that having a girl third was good luck.

The front door of our house stood open.  Flecks of snow spun and spiraled in to melt peacefully on the carpet.  Dad stood there tall and lanky.  His glamour made him a look like a lumberjack, a man of the forest.  He smiled at me, and at my brothers.

“Ready?” he asked.

“Where’re we going?” my oldest brother said.

Dad smiled.  He flipped a can of soup in his hand and smiled bigger.  “Soup.”

“In the forest?” I asked.

“Of course.  Look at it out there.  It’s beautiful!”

Dad stepped out into the snowfall, revealing the pristine white covering to the three of us.

“Do we have to, Dad?” my other brother asked.

“Let’s go kids!”

My brothers grumbled, but I followed Dad quietly.

We lived in the middle of nowhere.  The forest maintained constant peace.  And when the snow would fall, muffling the already silent forest, it was like being in outer space, I would imagine.  Silence for us was serenity.

We didn’t talk as we trekked through the forest, churning up a single file line in the snow, leaving the rest untouched.  My brothers didn’t even grumble any more.  They knew the value in the silence.  It was like a drug to us.  I felt my body shimmering in the silence.  The less sound going into my ears, the more I flourished.

Eventually we lost track of time and distance.  And then Dad stopped.  We sat on logs around a fire that Dad built without trouble.  He cleared a circle in the snow and ignited a pile of sticks and logs with a spit, fading the glamour on his face for a moment.

We sat around peacefully, holding our hands to the fire for warmth.  Dad produced a pot that he sat on the fire.  He gestured for each of us to add a small handful of snow, which we did in turn, oldest to youngest.  When I dropped my snow in, Dad took out the Campbell’s soup.  Chicken Noodle.  He unglamoured his hand to cut the can open and pour it in the pot.

We sat in silence once more.

Only the fire crackling and the soup bubbling permeated the veil of snowy silence around us.  I took a deep breath to enjoy the cool calm.  I always thought this was the real reason for living in the middle of nowhere.  My brothers enjoyed TV and video games.  I enjoyed silence and books.  I caught Dad’s eyes as I came out of my internal contemplation.  He winked at me with his glamour smile.

We sat for minutes, enjoying the quiet.  When tendrils of soupy aroma started rising from the pot, Dad sat up straight.

“Ready, kids?”

We nodded as one.

Dad smiled.  He brought a pouch out from his pocket, small, brown, tied with a yellow string.  Dad opened the pouch, being sure to keep it away from his face.  He put a vertical finger to his lips.

“We must stay quiet now,” he whispered.  Then he dumped the pouch.  Dust puffed out into the soup.  Dad quickly went about stirring the soup to incorporate the powder.

“What is it?” my older brother asked in barely a whisper.

“Bones.  They’re attracted to the bones of their own.”

We all nodded in understanding before falling completely silent once more.  I watched the soupy aroma drift into the cold air and dissipate.  As the powder dissolved, the tendrils rose in different colors.  Soon I stared through blood-red steam, the powder now part of the soup itself.  I could see Dad in his natural form through the steam, the red color betraying his glamour.

Then the smell arrived.  I nearly keeled over at the stench.  My brothers moved to gag and run and complain, but Dad kept them in line.  Dad sat bravely on his log, breathing in that acrid odor.  He gestured for us to wait.  It would not take long, he assured us.

And it didn’t.  Soon they came.  A man and a woman.  Hiking through the woods.

“Aw yeah, that smells amazing!” the man cried.  All four of us had to hold back at the belligerently loud squawking of the human man.

“Wow, it does,” the woman agreed.  They came up to our fire, smiling at us as if we were just like them.

“Making soup?” the man asked.  “Smells great.  Is it your own recipe?”

“Sort of,” Dad said.  “Are you guys hungry?  Do you want some?”

“Oh, that would be awesome.”

“Thank you so much for offering,” the woman said.

The man sat on an empty log between my brothers.  The woman sat between me and Dad.

“Well, kids,” Dad said.  “We’re almost done.”

“Why didn’t you tell us this was our first hunt?” my older brother asked.

“I enjoy surprises.”

I smiled.  Dad smiled at me.  The woman was now terrified.  I looked over at my brothers.  They let the glamour fade to reveal their natural selves.  My other brother looked at me with completely white eyes.  A hiss escaped his long sharp toothy grin before he snapped around on the man and sunk his teeth into human flesh.

I looked at the now screaming woman.  Dad skewered her with his claws to hold her in place while I slipped off my own glamour.  I looked down at my long. clawed fingers for a moment before slowly pushing them through the woman’s stomach.  Blood poured over my hand.

I felt the hunger boiling up inside me like the soup boiling over on the fire.  The woman continued to scream.  Her partner was long dead, unable to utter any more sound.  I tore my fingers out of the woman’s belly, spraying the pristine snow with her insides, painting the forest human red.

And then I bit into her flesh.

The eleventh post – goodbye social media 

I’m not big on social media stuff. I don’t really like it that much. I don’t think this blog is really social media but I’m lumping it in. 

I’ve always used writing as kind of an escape. Also it’s the way I’ve always expressed my creativity. It’s fun and I’m really proud of most of the things I’ve written. I still have the creativity flowing. I still think up lots of different things to write but my life has always been about building a family and so I’m going to focus on that. I’ve been focusing on that. Writing will always be a passion of mine. And I’m working on a project right now. But my writing will need to stay small and on the side while my life moves in the right direction. 

I’ll never stop writing that’s for sure. Misophonica will always be a primary work for me that I always think about and develope.  I’m not quitting writing I’m just shifting it off the Internet to me, for me, for my family, for my wife.  

I enjoy blogging and maybe I’ll do it again some day, here on misophonica. Some day. But not for a while. I’m in the best place I’ve ever been in my life, emotionally, professionally, creatively. I know myself better than ever and it’s awesome. And this little growing family we built is stronger and happier than ever and things are only getting better. 

I’ve blogged and posted writing on and off for years. And now it’s time to step away from it. Maybe I’ll address the internet again in the future. For now though. 

See ya later. 

The Tenth Post – Considering Shutdowns

Hello Everybody,

I’ve mentioned in my last two bigger posts that I’ve been watching the youtube channel invisible_i a lot lately.  It’s for a reason.  Today’s video is a regular Friday Q&A.  In it, Katy talks about meltdowns.  She’s talked about meltdowns before, but I didn’t really relate.  I generally don’t have meltdowns, though I have had some in my life.  What she talks about that I did relate to a lot this week is the opposite of a meltdown: a shutdown.

I realized that this happens to me on like a mini-level.  I don’t think I have large scale shutdowns, but I have small shutdowns that hit me hard for a short amount of time and then something usually pulls me out of it.  Usually, my wife or kids will pull me out of a shutdown before they’re even affected by it.  All they really need to do is be present to pull me out of a shutdown, but since they are my whole life, the stress of life with two young children plus whatever else is bothering me, tends to put me in that shutdown in the first place.  It’s nothing that they do, it’s just my own inability to manage my environment.

There are things that can make me shut down everywhere.  I’ve posted about misophonia before, and that’s a big factor.  Sounds that put me on edge and bring out that physical reaction definitely shut me down.  It happens at work a lot because there are too many sounds that irritate me.  They make me flip out, literally after a single sound.  At work, there’s no support, so I end up having to put music in my ears and try to ignore it, but that’s where I shut down.  I realize that I shut down a lot at work.  I tend to recognize it after there’s an opportunity to get out of it, like someone will walk by or be near me at my desk, or even try to talk to me, and I’ll be silent or monosyllabic.  I can recognize times in my life where I should be social and I’m instead completely shut down.  It’s not because I hate people or don’t want to be social, but it’s usually because whatever is happening around me is too much to handle.  I get overwhelmed in situations where there’s a lot of sound and interaction with people.  I know it’s fun to like be at a place where there’s lots of people and then go to another place with lots of people because, you know, one of your friends is like, hey let’s go to this place, but after enduring X amount of time of sensory overload, I need to be somewhere quiet with the exact sounds that I want and can control.

Unfortunately, I have these shutdowns with my family as well.  The work shutdowns are probably much easier just because I have to handle it completely on my own and nobody else is affected by it.  Being at home, being overwhelmed by something, like maybe both kids are sad and screaming, my poor, amazing wife will usually take the brunt of that shutdown.  My shutdowns at home aren’t the same as at work.  I don’t put on headphones and crawl into bed.  It’s more like, I need to be silent and not talked to so I can filter out all of the sounds and movement.  So when I do get talked to, like my wife trying to tell me what we should do about these screaming kids, I’ll snap at her or ignore her.  Or a combination of the two, like look at her and listen to what she’s saying, and then turn away and do something else.  In those moments, I can’t force myself out.  I need to focus on what is overwhelming me and let it filter out.  Sadly, when there are two young kids, there are things that need to be done.  I don’t have much time for myself to handle my mental state.  I like to think my mind is quite adaptive though, and I’ve been able to use the fact that there are things that need to be done as a way of combating the shutdown.  I’ll pick up the baby and carry her around while I do whatever is next for the night, like make dinner or put her to bed.  But it’s hard for sure.  I don’t like putting my wife into those positions where I seem to be completely disinterested in listening to her or don’t care about her or whatever.  She’s completely incredible, I don’t think anyone could handle me daily like this, and I’m grateful that she understands me.

I do feel lucky that I was never viewed the way I’m viewing myself now, mental health-wise.  Growing up, I don’t think there was any consideration that I might be different.  I grew up coping with the way I respond to sounds, coping with the way I react to other people, and situations.  Presently, I’m aware that often I overlook the term “thank you.”  I will say thanks to like people I talk to for my job or cashiers at stores.  But I don’t say it a lot outside of work and the service industry.  When I do say it, it’s a concerted effort.  But my whole life, I’ve had to put forth that effort, so I’m in my 30s now and it’s natural at this point.  Though I am learning that a lot of the things I do to see normal or social or polite take a massive effort from me mentally because they’re not all hardwired into my brain.  They’re learned from 34 years of life not realizing that I didn’t have these things built-in.

Anyway, Katy’s video today really got me thinking and I wanted to put my thoughts down.  The more I think about what Katy talks about, the more I see Elliot as being this way.  He has shutdowns too.  Like when he leaves class in the beginning and when he leaves the party after Sammy kisses him.  Interesting.

Acceptingly yours,

Matt

The Ninth Post – I Don’t Care

Hello Everybody,

I was thinking about my relationship to the main character of my story.  The day I’m writing this post, I was standing in the breakroom at work, making coffee, thinking about something regarding me and Elliot.  In a lot of my writing, the main characters tend to have characteristics of me because I’m telling the story through them and they react to things like I would, etc.  There were times when I’ve thought the stories I tell with these me-protagonists were significant, like they were telling me secrets about myself, but I don’t think that’s the case.  It’s more of a situation like, if it were me, then I would say this.  It’s not like, hey writer, your writing mind is trying to tell you something.

Anyway, with the recent contemplation on my own life, who I really am, I’ve wondered some things about Elliot from Misophonica.

I have this feeling that Elliot is on the autism spectrum.  Watch videos on this YouTube channel to really understand the spectrum and Asperger’s if you want to learn. — > INVISIBLE_i

So Elliot displays a lot of my qualities.  He suffers from misophonia, just like I do, and that was one of the first things I thought about when writing the story.  I had wanted to write a story about a music prodigy who hated sounds.  It’s not so much hating sounds because I love sounds, but it’s the physical reaction to sounds.  I have a physical, sometimes painful reaction to some sounds.  It may not seem like a big deal, but when your toddler is coughing because she’s a little sick and the sound of her constant cough makes you physically unstable, then you’ve probably got a problem.

Misophonia is a big similarity that Elliot and I share.  There are others, but that’s the big one.  One different I’ve thought about, though, is that I don’t care about a ton of stuff.  Specifically, the tidiness of my personal living space.  My side of the bedroom is a mess at all times.  But Elliot’s side of the dorm room is perfectly neat.  Craig’s is messy, but Elliot’s is pristine.  In retrospect, I don’t agree with that.  Elliot isn’t me to a T but I feel like he would be messy.  Part of why I have this thought is that I don’t like the Big Bang Theory.  I don’t know enough about the show, but Sheldon seems to be on the spectrum, possibly he has Asperger’s, and he’s portrayed as like this high functioning Rainman type guy.  Which is fine.  He all super neat and tidy and needs things just right all the time.  But to me that seems more of a Hollywood mainstream portrayal of the autism spectrum.  Though Sheldon is very high functioning and capable, that’s a great portrayal I think.

Whatever, I’m not writing about Sheldon and that dumb show.  I’m writing about how I don’t care.  I don’t care about my living space in the bedroom being tidy.  But I’m not going in there and throwing stuff on the ground, going, “Meh, I don’t care, I’m outta h-h-h-heeeeerrre.” (if you catch that reference, you’re a master of 90s pop culture).  What I mean by I don’t care is, I’ll go in and kick off my work pants and socks and get in comfy clothes and then move on to whatever I’m doing next.  I don’t care about so many things because the things I do care about are prominently in the forefront.  I’ll never care about keeping my clothes organized and neat because at the moment when I make that mess, I’m only caring about getting out to the living room to see my family.  And I imagine that is how Elliot functions.  He’s so obsessed with music, I can see things like keeping his room clean falling by the wayside because he’s only caring about music at the moment.

Now I wonder if I should rewrite him a little.  But then I wonder if the autism spectrum thoughts I’ve had shouldn’t really be a thing because the story is about accepting people, not about his struggles as someone on the spectrum.  But maybe it’s all the same thing.  Or maybe it doesn’t have to be a thing at all, and I’ll just know that he’s on the spectrum.  Kinda like how J.K. Rowling knew that Dumbledore was gay, but didn’t tell anyone until later.  All right, that’s a good plan.  Once I’m a billionaire, I’ll tweet out that Elliot is autistic.

Acceptingly yours,

Matthew Raup

The Eighth Post – a mobile spontaneous post 

I wrote a poem. I’ve been seeing myself differently in a specific way and I was in a skyscraper last week kind of floating in this new perspective and felt this poem pretty intently. So here it is.
I hear the hum of central air from high above a cityscape

Seeing, not city, but the silent movement of cars across asphalt

A Distant highway rages with vehicles, each one a world, an ecosystem

Each motored frame carrying people to destinations

This is the multiverse; this is reality; this is every dimension that swirls around us threatening to burst open across lines of separation.

Then the journey, long or short, ends.

The lines of spearation blur and fade.

Mechanical atmospheres swell and pop issuing forth the people inside to mix and make new worlds.

The Seventh Post – Because I Remembered I Had This Blog

Hi Everybody,

So I guess I’m probably going to end up just writing thoughts and stuff on this blog.  As much as I wanted this whole thing to be a crusade to get my script noticed, it’s way harder than that.  I admire people who have such a strong drive to do things creatively that it becomes their career because I’ve never had that.  And while I am wildly passionate about writing, it is an escape for me.  That’s how it’s always been assimilated into my being, and when I have nothing to escape from, it gets harder to write.  And then all the stuff after the writing, like this blog, kickstarter, whatever, that’s all like the management stuff that I get instantly demotivated from.  Not because I’m not passionate about my work, but just because.  My free time is dedicated to my family, so it’s not so easy to find little blocks of time to work on things like this very purposeful blog.  And that’s okay for me.  My family is my life; nothing makes me happier than being with them.  So it’s all good.

You know, until I remember I started this blog and should freakin write something on it.

Contrary to what I just said in that first paragraph, writing has been better than ever actually.  I’ve got lots of ideas.  Even if they don’t translate to words 100% of the time, when I do finally find a voice, I’m writing to completion and not getting blocked.  For me, my personal life has a lot to do with getting writer’s block because I tend to get distracted.  I also used to have this problem where I would tell the story I was writing and then I’d lose the story.  It happened way too many times.  That outlet is long gone though (thankfully), and so when I have a really nice grip on a story, I’ll tell my wife.  She’s the outlet that keeps my creativity flowing and I’m quite thankful for that.  She knows when to ask me for more and when to not, which is important because if I tell too much of a story, it begins to slip away from me.  I have this odd thing in my mind where when I’m writing a story, that story is coming into existence right then, regardless of how much is in my head, when the words are written, now the story is alive.  And if I go blabbering to someone about the whole story before I’ve written it, then it’s already been told and now there’s no point in writing it.  Just a me thing.

Right now, I’ve been writing a little differently.  The last time I touched Misophonica was when a friend read it and offered some ideas to me.  That was over a month ago.  Then came some personal things that I’ve been dealing with.  One or two things that have overtaken my mind and forced most other things out.  I’ve gotten a handle on those now (thanks to THIS youtube channel), and I’m back to creating something semi-new.  I love writing scripts.  And writing is a numbers game.  The more you write, the better you should get.  And the more you write, the more you have to send to people to get noticed.  Something’s hopefully going to stick somewhere if you have ten things out there as opposed to one.  So I’m undertaking an adaptation that I’ve thought about for years.  I wrote a short novel called The City’s Assassin.  The first novel I was really proud of with a complete story and no frayed loose ends.  I’ve always pictured it as a 10-ish episode show on HBO or something like that, so I’m translating it to a script.  It’s really fun.  I love using an existing show that I loved as an example of how to write.  I did it with Misophonica too.  I’m using the pilot of Sneaky Pete for my example this time.

I’m sure I’ll post the City’s Assassin pilot script once I’m happy with it.  But I do believe I’m going to take my time.  Whew.  Might be a boring entry today.  But I guess sometimes, I just need to write some thoughts down.

Acceptingly yours,

Matthew Raup

The Sixth Post – Thoughts about Gender Roles

Hello Everyone,

At the start of writing Misophonica, I didn’t really know myself.  That wasn’t too long ago actually.  Something that I don’t talk about in the script, but I do find myself being frustrated with daily, is gender roles.  The idea that men and women need to exist within predetermined boxes that highlight masculinity and femininity is so dumb.  And then a man or woman steps out of his or her respective boxes and suddenly he/she is too girly, too manly.  Now you’re gay or weird or whatever.  It’s such an archaic perspective on humans.  Makes me a little sick.

I see it a lot in clothing.  My older daughter is big enough to wear cool clothing, and being into comics and stuff, I want her to wear awesome nerd clothes.  She has a Captain America shirt, but of course it’s pink.  That’s fine.  I love pink.  I wanted her to have an Ant-man jacket from the Disney store, but it’s only sold in boy’s and it’s cut for a boy instead of something unisex.  We got her a Baymax pajama set made for a boy and the cut is all boyish.  Just make shit fit everyone the same, they’re kids.  Why’s a 3-year old need to be feminine or masculine?  Just make the shit the same for everyone.  It’s the same with Star Wars.  Trying to find a goddamn Darth Vader or Storm Trooper set of anything for a girl is impossible it seems.

This is 2017, but I felt these things in the 90s too, when I was a kid, and just liked what I liked without thinking about why I liked it.  I don’t remember the entirety of my childhood, day for day, but I remember moments.  And I distinctly remember a moment in 4th grade when we were talking about our favorite colors and mine was pink.  I didn’t wear any pink clothes, I doubt they made pink boy’s clothing back then, but I still loved the color.  I still love it now.  I also loved the fluorescent colors.  Man they were cool.  As I grew up, life was never about chasing girls or expressing my manliness.  My friends and I played D&D and Magic: the Gathering in dimly-lit basements with bags of snacks, boxes of Little Debbie’s, and 2-liters of our favorite sodas.

Back then we used the word gay as an insult.  “You’re so gay.”  “That’s gay.”  Not to justify the usage, I’m just saying that’s what the 90s was like.  It makes me think back to some of my favorite movies and I cringe.  That’s another talk for another day though.

I find the general avoidance of people not conforming to gender roles a little disturbing.  The fact that mainstream media needs to stay in these boxes to make money just sucks.  I know Amazon and Netflix are gaining a more mainstream presence, but shows like Transparent and Sense 8 only really get traction on these “Off-Off-Broadway” platforms.  I don’t like it.  (Broadway being Network TV, Off-Broadway being other cable channels like FX).

I have a hard time understanding the inability to get over stuff like this.  I know why.  Americans have been brainwashed with the socially acceptable Manly Man and Womanly Woman figure since forever.  Men go out and make money and get their feet rubbed and grill on the manly grill and smile as their petite little wives care for the children and then he goes out and spreads his manliness around the world blah blah blah.  And women stay at home and get banged and subjugated etc…  I don’t understand why we, as a country, haven’t moved on from this mindset and realized that we all can do anything.  Nobody has to do what their gender dictates.  Isn’t that what freedom is supposed to be anyway?  Can’t a man stay home and get banged and subjugated?  If he’s into that sort of thing.  Anyway.

Tangential off-shoot

This might be a tangent, but I’ve never understood why women insist on wearing high heels to… well ever.  When these women who are already beautiful without wearing death-shoes are at the red carpets looking like giant monsters walking on sticks, I just don’t get it.  I’ve always felt like heels were women staying inside that box of femininity.  That’s why I feel like Gal Gadot wearing flats to whatever was a huge deal.  That was an important moment for women to maybe wake up a bit and realize you don’t have to live in the man’s box that he made for you a hundred years ago.  Gal starred in a successful superhero film where she kicked the shit out of dudes and saved the day and then she was like, fuck your heels, I’m wearing some damn flats that feel good on my feet.  I think Gal is the type of figure that could start something.

For the record, I don’t like radicalism of any kind, I think it’s counterproductive, and while I don’t like Trump in any way, I don’t think the march on Washington and everywhere across the country did anything for women’s rights.  Yes, it showed unity, which is awesome, but I still think it was counterproductive.  Trump didn’t give a shit where anyone marched, he was still going to piss on the ACA, especially the parts that are supposed to protect the rights of women’s healthcare.

But my point is just this: Gal Gadot took a step on a red carpet in flat shoes, no heels, and she didn’t back down on her decision to do so when she was asked about it.  Maybe more women who hate heels will do that next time.  Maybe this is the small voice that is needed to make a real difference in the fight for equality.  If you don’t like those heels, stop wearing them, ladies.  If you like them, go for it, but don’t ever feel like you need to fit into an antiquated standard of what a woman should be.

End Tangential Off-shoot

So back to the main point I’m writing about.  Gender roles are dumb.  I like pink stuff.  I’ll wear pink and purple and whatever.  I don’t care.  Nobody should care.  My sexuality and identity will be the same whether I wear something pink or blue.  I want the world to have that perspective, but I worry that we’re a long way away, especially as a country.  This piece is like over a thousand words, so I gotta stop it there.

Acceptingly yours,

Matt

The Fifth Post – Rewriting an Old Short

I’ve got loads of writing.  A handful of it is completed and most of it is not.  Even the completed stuff, I’m never totally satisfied with.  But that’s really the reason I need to consider it completed.  If I read and reread all my old writing, I’d always find something to change.  But I did it today.  So here’s one of my first completed shorts.  Reread and rewritten.