Terry–Third Sword

That’s how I found myself outside of Noria the following day, trudging uphill in the stifling heat on a dirt road. Again, I was presented with an environment I had never experienced before, but this time I was not as overwhelmed with wonder. I was trekking into a completely foreign wilderness, and for whatever reason, I was unfazed and uninspired. Before me was a vast expanse of green hills, with more trees than I had ever seen before. This place made me realize just how arid my homeland was.

Even so, it was hot here as well. Though the trees provided shade, the road itself was in direct sunlight. Perhaps it was the oppressive heat that dampened my enthusiasm. I was particularly grateful for my non-synthetic clothing, which stunk less when drenched in sweat.

Barry had told me of a mushroom dealer, who in turn told me of a cattle herder named Terry who grew the food of wisdom and sold it to anyone determined to make the journey. The dealer had made it a business to act as courier between Terry and Noria–Terry himself refused to go to the city–but I didn’t want to deal with any middle man. I wanted to speak with someone who knew how to grow the mushrooms, a secret that no one in Noria seemed to care about.

As I shifted the strap of the bag from one sweaty shoulder to the next, I began to wish that Hope had taught me her technique, and perhaps provided me with seeds. As it was, I was forced to walk. The bag contained the basic necessities of travel, and also a synthetic worm blanket I had purchased for sleeping outside. Several times throughout the day I was convinced that the wounds on my hands had begun to bleed again, but it was only the moistness of my palms. It took eight long hours to reach Terry’s farm, and by the end I was thoroughly exhausted.

I met him at the top of a hill overlooking his modest home and his cow fields. The house was small and wooden. It appeared to have been made from entire trees shaved of their branches and stacked on top of each other in a criss-cross fashion, simultaneously giving it a very round and very square look.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” he said. He was a short, pale man, in the Norran fashion, with very curly brown hair and small eyes with overly large pupils. Unlike the Norran fashion, he kept his beard, scraggly unkempt as it was. His accent was strange–high-pitched–and it took me a moment to understand what he had said.

“You knew I was coming?” I asked.

“Of course,” he said.

Had he foretold my coming somehow? It was easy to believe that the mushrooms might have given him special insight into the future. Perhaps I had much more to learn from him than I had supposed.

“Ever since I noticed you at the bottom of the hill. You walk slowly.”

“It’s so hot today,” I explained. “The heat has drained my strength.”

“Have you got wheels instead of feet?” He bent slightly to check, as if he thought this was as likely an idea as any.

All I could think to say was, “No.”

“Then why not walk through the forest?”


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This is an excerpt from my novel, The Last Years of the Third Sword. If youwant to read more, check it out on smashwords. There is a free sample, and the actual cost is only $1.99! As always, let me know what you think.

Killing Thought

I had to kill my imagination or it would have killed me.

One breath. Another. Were they getting easier? No. And not harder either. Thinking into the future even a moment was too dangerous.

I had to kill my memory, too.

One step. Another. I wanted to go somewhere else. I needed to get away from–nothing. I must not remember.

My eyes traced wood grains in the floor as I walked. They twisted around each other in knots, then swept straight across the room. In my peripheral vision I saw a shape swerve out of my way.

“Are you okay, Tricia?”

My name. Had they heard it? I turned to check. Liam had heard. I could tell because he had let go of Kayla’s waist.

I wrote this in response to a writing prompt to pick a sentence by an author you like from a random page in a book. I drew mine from Orson Scott Card’s Hidden Empire. “She could handle this for a moment, for moment she could stay calm, and then for this next moment, and again, to her surprise, for the moment after.”

Pico

I stepped out of the longboat and into the water. The salt seeped into my skin through the scratches on my foot, but it didn’t sting too bad. My mind wasn’t on my foot anyway. How could it be? I had landed!

I had landed on a sandy beach, and though I was still hopeful, I was pretty sure this wasn’t California. The storm must have blown us up the coast several hundred miles, perhaps more.

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The sand extended for a ways until it hit a sharp ridge, around twenty feet high, most likely landscaped by people. People. On top of the ridge, a line of dilapidated houses, apartment buildings, and hotels sulked in the waning sunlight, but if any people still lived in them, they hadn’t come out investigate the intrepid conquistador who just landed on their shore.

I dragged the boat up onto shore until I was sure the tide wouldn’t take it out to sea, then I gathered up everything I could not live without before setting off toward the town.

Dune grasses had taken over the beach after the people left. The footing was treacherous, and my sea legs almost gave me a sprained ankle when I slipped and fell. Now sand clung my wet sleeves and the side of my face.

This is in response to a writing prompt about swimming. The last place I went swimming was Cannon Beach, Oregon, and I took this photo at sunset. This piece is unfinished (clearly), and may become part of a larger project of mine.

Thoughts on Place

Perhaps I’m the only one who feels this way, but I feel that the place I was born is the “normal” place to be born, as if being born anywhere else is something extra.

Obviously, examining this deeply held feeling from a rational standpoint makes it ridiculous. Eastern Oregon clearly isn’t the most normal place to live or be born. There can’t be a “normal” place.

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Still, the feeling remains, and though it may seem innocuous, I think it may actually be a harmful thing, because along with it comes the feeling that who I am is the most “normal” person to be. I am a cisgendered white male, and if I accept that as normal and all other traits as something added on top of that, then I’m given to incorrect assumptions about other people’s identities as well as my own.

So there’s my problem: I have this deeply ingrained feeling of my own circumstances as normal, and in order to be a kind, productive, good person, I need to at least ignore the feeling, if not get rid of it.

Does anyone else feel this way? Is it a feeling singular to privileged people? Let me know what you think. Raising my own awareness with discussion seems like a good first step. That or mushrooms ; ) .

This was a response to a writing prompt. I had just listened to the song “Not California” by HEM, which got me thinking about place bias. Feel free to write your own response and link to it in the comments.

Thoughts on Preference

A thought I’ve been having recently.

If you listen in on conversations people have in public, or you examine the conversations that you have with others, you’ll notice that most of what people talk about is incredibly trivial stuff. There’s nothing inherently wrong with talking about trivial stuff, that’s just socializing, but I want to take a closer look at these run-of-the-mill conversations.

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There’s one type of conversation that people always seem to be having: comparing preferences.

“I like McLeod’s Bar; they have local beers and stuff.”

“Oh yeah me too, but not Fridays because it’s too crowded.”

When I stop and think about it, so many conversations I have are simply based around stating, explaining, and often defending my preferences in comparison to other peoples’. What does it say about us that we are so focused on this?

It seems to me that people have a hyper-involvement in other peoples’ preferences because of insecurities. There’s an underlying feeling of: if other people don’t share my love of something, either they’ve made a mistake or I have, and our culture does not brook much incorrectness.

The truth of the matter is that people simply like different stuff, and getting hung up on those differences is at the very least a waste of time, and at worst harmful. Take a look at the religious community attempting to foist their preferences on the LGBT community.

Solution: eat some mushrooms and talk it out.

This was a writing response to a prompt. Examine the last thing you wrote and pick out the fiftieth word. Use that word as a starting point for your writing today. My word was talking. Let me know what you think in the comments of on facebook or twitter.

Talking to Rachael Perry

“Hey Greg!” Professor Mitchell calls to me as I’m standing up.

Not now.

Star pupil or not, this could very well be the last time between now and judgment day when I could ask for Rachael Perry for her number, and I would not waste that small time window talking to Professor Mitchell about whatever-the-hell it was that he wanted to talk about.

“Sorry, Professor, I’m in a hurry.” I hurried out the door before he could say anything more. I hurried so fast, in fact, that I almost missed Rachael standing alone just outside the door. Had she been waiting for me?

“Hi, Greg,” she said.

I’m not prepared for this. I had been ready to sprint down the hall for a while, then catch my breath surreptitiously while trying to earn her elusive attention, but here she is: alone and waiting outside the physics classroom, engaging me in conversation.

“Fuck,” I say.

She twists her face a bit and replies, as well she should, “Excuse me?”

“I mean: I love you.”

I will never see Rachael Perry again.

This was written in response to a writing prompt I posted earlier. In reality, I stayed behind to talk to the professor, and I’ve always wondered what might have happened if I hadn’t. Things could have been worse. What sort of things do you regret?

Mr. Happy

When Mr. Happy wakes up, he goes for a run.
You sit on the couch and turn the TV on.
When Mr. Happy plays golf, he gets each hole in one.
You think about leaving and putting clothes on.
Mr. Happy enjoys cool drinks in the sun.
You’ve closed your blinds to shut out the dawn.
Mr. Happy will always have fun.
You just woke up, but you’re starting to yawn.
Mr. Happy is happy in every scene.
You can be Mr. Happy if you buy our sunscreen.

Short, but it’s what came to mind. This is a response to a writing prompt I posted earlier today. It was to write about a dream, and part of my dream involved me as a squirrel in an electric golf course. Let me know what you dreamed about, and if you have the time, what you wrote about it.

Rocks in His Shoes

There were rocks in Adam’s boots, big ones, by the feel of it. They had been bouncing around in there, bumping against his toes for the past couple hours. He asked Eli to stop for a moment while he knelt in the snow to take off his boots.

“What is it?” asked Eli.

“Rocks,” replied Adam.

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He batted at the caked snow on the bottoms of his woolen breeches before rolling them above the necks of his boots, then he took out his gloves to undo the laces. The cold had stiffened them, and packed snow had lodged itself in the crease between top and tongue. Though it was laborious, he eventually peeled off his left boot. It came off with such force he fell backward into the snow.

More beleaguered than triumphant, Adam shook the boot upside down in the air. No rocks dropped out. He couldn’t even hear their tell-tale echoes on the inside. His steadily stiffening fingers found nothing when he reached in.

“It was my toes,” he said.

“What?”

“I thought I had rocks in my boots, but it was my toes.”

Adam took off his left sock and found he could not feel his toes. They felt brittle, as if he could break them off like icicles. He didn’t dare to try.

Eli, still standing, looked at his brother’s feet with apprehension. “We should pick up the pace. Your blood isn’t running fast enough.”

Adam nodded in response and pulled his sock back on. Without his gloves, his hands had become clumsy, and even such a simple task proved difficult. When it came to tying his laces he burst into tears.

“I can’t move my fingers. I can’t move my fingers.”

Panic gripped his throat until he could not breath properly. He fell back again into the snow and looked up at the sky. It was a clear day, and the setting sun was in plain view, but too far away. As his throat closed up, he closed his eyes and imagined drawing the sun closer, reaching out with his hand-

Eli grasped it and pulled him to his feet. “Take my gloves, they’re warmer,” he said. He took Adam’s gloves, then knelt to tie up Adam’s left boot. Eli’s fingers still retained their warmth and dexterity, so he made quick work of it.

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Adam wiped the tears from his eyes and vowed not cry any more; they could freeze on his face. Still, the day was ending, and they could not walk all night.

“I might not make it,” he said, trying to keep his voice even. “As soon as we stop moving, I’m dead.”

“Then we can’t stop moving.”

I wrote this as a response to a writing prompt. It is a scene from a novel that I haven’t written yet. Perhaps this will spur me to write the rest! Tell me about your own response in the comments!

Green Island Boy

Last I left port on a voyage of sorts–
we never did reach the sea–
I witnessed a scene from the land of dreams,
but it wasn’t meant for me.

We set out at midday and into the bay,
our ship headed north-by-northeast.
A mist came about soon as we were out
though it should have been burned by the heat.

I’d sailed these climes near two-hundred times
and never once had I seen
so close to the docks this jutting out rock
completely covered in green.

While the mist drifted in wisps
wetting the deck and the rail,
I thought I could hear a sound passing queer,
between a bark and a wail.

Over the stern, I squinted to learn
the source of the tremulous cry.
Without any luck, I almost gave up,
but then something caught my eye:

it was a young lad, in leaves was he clad,
which hid him largely from view.
His hair was white as blackest night
and his eyes were of similar hue.

When I called ahoy to the green island boy
he suddenly quit his song,
stood up on his feet and made his retreat
and vanished before long.

Then a violent swell came up from hell
and capsized the ship with its force.
I swam for the port, for I would not resort
to risking the island of course.

Of the rest on the ship: no one else lives
to repeat what happened that day,
so here I will stay till the end of my days,
rather than crossing the bay.

Last I left port on a voyage of sorts–
we never did reach the sea–
I witnessed a scene from the land of dreams,
but it wasn’t meant for me.

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This was written as a response to a writing prompt. I’ve included the picture that inspired me. Write something of your own and tell me about it in the comments!

Madeline

I don’t normally give money to homeless people.

My parents would probably say something like, “I donate to charities,” and sometimes I say that too, but not so often. I feel bad when I say it. Even as a kid, I felt it was a bit douchey. Is that supposed to make them feel any better? If I’m being honest with myself, though, that’s not why I feel bad. I feel bad because I don’t donate to any charities. I don’t even donate my blood; I’m afraid of needles. What does it say about me that I place my personal comfort over saving lives?

He’s half-sitting, half-lying on the ground, his emaciated dog curled up beside him. In his grimy, scarred hands he holds a sign made from a scrap of a pizza box. It just says, “Anything helps. God bless.”

I wonder for a moment if he’s even religious, or if he wrote that because he gets more money that way. I would prefer to think that he’s not, that he’s being underhanded. I imagine him a few hours from now soliciting meth or coke or whatever other kind of drug homeless people do. Whatever it is, it’s something evil and bad for you, something I would never do.

He’s braced against a cement raised bed, his neck on a level with wood chips surrounding the base of some tree. It has white flowers, and during this time of year it really stinks. It drops these berries that get crushed by foot traffic and stick to the bottoms of your shoes. I want to hurry on.

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Eye contact. Even his pale blue eyes seem malnourished to me, the skin around them crinkled and burnt by the sun. He knows that I’m looking at him now. I could simply look away again and pretend nothing happened. I’ve done it before. By the time I’m home I will have forgotten this. Will he? So many people must pass him by….

I’ll often avoid carrying cash for this reason, but I know in my purse right now I have a five-dollar bill; my neighbor insisted on paying me for cat-sitting.

I reach my hand into my purse, telling myself this is no commitment. I could take out my cell phone if I change my mind. My heart is pounding, sweat breaks out on my palms. Before I realize, I’ve stopped in front of him with the five-dollar bill.

“Thank you,” he says preemptively.

In his smile I only see the teeth that are missing or rotten.

I wrote this as a response to a writing prompt I came up with today. Feel free to write your own response and tell me about it in the comments!