Project 52: Toppling Atlas

1 short story a week. 52 weeks a year.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Week Twenty Five: August 16th - August 22nd

Hey guys. I haven't posted in awhile, and it was because I was working out the kinks with this story here. Unfortunately, because of my deadline I rushed myself, and as such, I turned out to miss too much, and was very unorganized. The problem was that this was the concept I had for the first novel I wanted to write, but I decided to try transferring it to a short story medium for fun. It turned out too difficult a task without ripping out half of the book, so I just gave you a single weeks truth, and the final Magnum Opus. Anyway, I hope you still enjoy it, and I'm still a bit iffy on the ending. Let me know what you think should happen.

It doesn't really have a name right now, so the working title it.

Falling Sand

Hello, my name is Alec Harrow. I am a wallflower from a town called Hogjaw, Alabama. Yes, you read that correctly, yes I'm aware how ridiculous that sounds, and yes, there are only a few hundred people in the town. My folks died a few years back in a tragic fire that the police said was started by a meth lab of theirs exploding. I never doubted it though, because they never seemed right in the head. I was hit by my father a lot, and my mother would tell me how much she hated me. After awhile you just sort of accept what they say, and hope it's over quick. Because of these reasons, I am an introvert, and maybe by some standards, an intellectual. That however, doesn't sit well with the locals.

My peers despise me, because I like to just sit and ponder. Whereas the adults despise me, because I'm different. In a cynical sense, it's sort of funny that people hate me because of how I chose to deal with the abuse they are unaware of. Oh well, it's not their fault after all. They are just simple folks, with happy little minds, and if I were to call out their actions, I may shatter the shell they've made. Who am I to do that?

I was 16 when I got the call. My great uncle Krauser passed away, and as his only living relative, I was to receive his mansion. I know what you're thinking, there is no way this could be true. I myself thought it a scam at first, and threw away the letter, returning to my daily life. So imagine my surprise, when a sleek black limousine pulled up, and out stepped a man clad in black, with pulled back hair, and thick rimmed glasses. He introduced himself as my uncle's closest friend, and lawyer for 65 years. His name was Giancarlo, and he asked me if I was ready to go. When you don't own anything, the only thing to keep you anchored somewhere is memories, and I could honestly have done without those anyway, so I got into the vehicle.

We drove quickly through the decaying country side my gorgeous state had to offer, and within an hour pulled into an airport. “An airport?” I asked. “Where exactly is this house?”. Giancarlo raised his eyebrows at me, and sighed a little. “California dear boy, now hurry up,or we'll be late”. So off I was to the busy state of California, young head full of all the ridiculous things you'd expect of a boy of 16 raised in my condition to think. “California looks beautiful in the magazines!” I say anxiously to Giancarlo. “The people seem friendly too, I hope I like it there”. Looking back, it was an ominous look at my future, the way Giancarlo again raised that eyebrow and smirked at me. “The people sure are different in California” he says. I never heard the sarcasm in those heavy words.

When first arriving at the mansion, everything was exactly what you'd expect from a cheesy movie. I ate a lot of bad food, did a lot of stupid things like indoor slip n' slide, and broke things I probably shouldn't have. Things took a turn for the worse when school started though. Back home, I excused peoples actions, because they weren't smart enough to know any better. To me, yelling at them would be like smacking a baby for crying. But the people of this place were the exact opposite; they all knew too much, and they were reduced to horrible, horrible people because of it. School was worse than ever now.

This continued for several months. Me getting my ass kicked, teachers ignoring my craving to learn, and the same social exile I experienced back home, but on a much larger scale. Everything changed the day I found the room though. While exploring the house one day, lost in the thought of a thought, I came upon a bookshelf in my great uncle's old study, that had something peculiar about it. I had seen it 100 times already, but now there was an element I couldn't quite place my thumb on. I stared at the book shelf until I fell asleep, and upon waking, something deep in my childish imagination told me to start looking for a handle, like in the old cartoons. Against my better judgment, books were being torn from the wall before I could even tell myself to be rational.

The entire content of the shelf was now littering the floor, along with my body, heavily gasping for air. I should have judged these objects by their covers, for they were only books; books and nothing else. Despair set in quick, but it was swiftly overrun with my explosive laughter. What did I think would happen? I would find a magical doorway to a strange new world? I fell onto my side thrashing, holding my stomach while laughing. Lady luck seemed to have felt sorry for me on this occasion, because after the giggling was over, I sat up straight to leave, and my shoe overturned a book onto the ground. A tiny metallic ring found its way through the haze of laughter I had, and managed to dodge every book in its way to my ear. Slowly, I picked up the book, and found a small, plain brass key laying on the ground. It took only moments for my arms to take control of themselves, and throw me at the bookshelf.

I spent the next four hours poking around the bookshelf, until in a childish fury, I pulled the shelf down, and sent it flying towards the ground. Open books on the ground had their backs broken by my tantrum. Mentally jotting down a lesson of maturity for later, I calmed myself, and went to work on the wall. After perhaps thirty minutes, my fingernail found a crease falling vertically down the wall. “A doorway” I muttered to myself. The fresh wallpaper on top hindered me from seeing it before, but I now knew that there was a room back here. Moments later, I had found a small section on the wallpaper that would echo if tapped; I had found my key hole. Inserting the tiny key, and giving it a tiny twist, set off the loud clank and the loud grind of a mechanism in the wall, and after awhile, the door finally popped open a bit.

What I saw in this room on this day, was the most peculiar thing of my entire short life. Lit up by multiple florescent lights, I had walked into the deepest reaches of my uncles mind. Inside, lay a room completely covered in drawers, except for a small blank space on the wall, with a chair and desk pushed up against it. Nothing besides a few raven feather quills, with intricate winding metal nibs, and a small envelope say on his desk. As I walked closer however, I saw the “To Alec” written on the envelope, propped upright on a large paperweight. When I opened the message, in elaborate handwriting, the letter read:

“Dear Alec,

I had been afraid you weren't smart enough to figure it out, but I am glad you've made it. I've sent men to watch you for the past few years, and it sickened me to see how they treated you. You never met me, because of the arguments I've had with your parents regarding your well being. I wanted you to move here with me, but they refused to give you up. In their own distorted way, they loved you, you know. Regardless, I had hopes you would inherit the mental prowess men of our family have had for generations, and now here you are, ready to start your journey. Inside each of these drawers, are a fact of life I have taken the liberty to tell you, and I hope you take them to heart. Each week, I want you to open a new drawer, until you reach ten truths. At this point, I think you should be heading down the right road to find your own truths. After the tenth, I want you to open this small chest on my desk, and read the letter inside. Of all my truths, this is my Magnum Opus, and I hope it will help you decide correctly. Take care, be yourself, and remember that even though we never met, I have loved you like a son for as long as you lived, and I regret that I couldn't have brought you home sooner my boy.

- Krauser Harrow.

If you're confused reading that, imagine how I must have felt. Regardless, I decided to accept the task my uncle set before me, and turned to face the wall nearest to the door. The drawers we placed in sets of five, in the form of columns. When I counted the amount of columns themselves, I saw that the entire room had ten of them. “Choose ten drawers, when I'm presented with ten columns of five? I guess I'll pick a single drawer from each row I suppose” I said to myself. I picked a drawer, and stared at it for a few minutes before finally wrapping my fingers around the handle. “Here goes nothing” I say with a sigh, and pull open the drawer.

Inside of the first drawer, lay old black and white photos of people in the 40's it looks like. At the beach, or at a drive-in movie theater, or at the fair. After a few, I recognize one of the men to be my uncle, and one of the women looked oddly familiar too. My mind flashed back to an old photo out in my uncles study of him and a young woman holding each other on a beach. I smiled to myself because of the situation; I was feeling warm with the thoughts of my uncle and his first love, and he had done more for me than anyone else had ever, and yet I never did truly meet him. I was becoming friends with an illusion. Was this the point of this room? So that even after he was gone, he could still try to help? I have had a lot of bad luck in my life, but never getting the chance to tell my uncle how I came to love him would be my greatest regret.

I dug through more photos, and started to look at some of the items laid about in the drawer. Rusting old bottle caps, and seashells covered in sand. It hit me though that these objects held more than oxidation and ground up rock; these held memories. My poor smile was straining it's hardest to fit my face, but it could never handle the weight of what I found next. A newspaper article, turning yellow with age, and wrapped in lamination read “Maria Rosen, local teen found dead in tragic house fire.”. I was beaten by my father, insulted by my mother, shunned by my own local people, and robbed of the one good thing in my life by time, but this was the first time in awhile I could remember crying. At the back of the drawer lay a small piece of paper, folded in half and propped upright like a triangle. Wiping away tears, I pulled it out, and slowly read the statement my uncle wanted to leave me. “Funerals should be held in a windowless building for 24 hours, so just for a little while, people wouldn't have to worry about morning.”. I laid down on the floor, and cried myself to sleep that night. What a peculiar feeling.

Waking up, I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, and was jolted up by the thought of school. Looking at my watch, the clock read “10:42” with the hands pointing at me mockingly. I folded the note up into my wallet, and ran out of the room, tripping over the littered shelf, and the paralyzed books in my way. I arrived late, but the only thing said to me by my teacher was a raised eyebrow, and a small cough. I sat down, and started to take notes. I quickly realized that this day was like any other, when on my way to my next class, I had my books swatted from my hands, and I was knocked down by a large man in the hallway. “What uncle told me doesn't help me at all! What am I supposed to do with that” I asked myself quietly. I picked myself and the books up somberly, and went about my way to my next class. Believe it or not, this was a good morning for me, when you look at how the rest of my day went.

I pushed open my front door, and walked to the fridge to grab some ice for my newly obtained black eye. “What a rough week” I said to myself, and laid down on one of my couches. I had a huge living room, full of several 40 foot couches, and when they only need to seat one, they seem even bigger. I turned on the TV, and let myself drift off to peace, if only for a little while. I spent the majority of my life being by myself and my thoughts, but oddly enough, the goodness of my uncle was making things worse for me. Being alone now made something in my stomach clench, and for the first time in awhile, I felt despair. I ran to my uncles study, and found my way into the room.

I brought a book in from my uncles study, and started to read it while I waited for midnight to come around. “The Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad, and before I knew it, I placed the book down for a second, and read that 12 hours had gone by. I finally picked up the shouts my stomach had been making for quite some time I imagine, and I felt my bladder bursting to its seams. I rushed out of the room, and took care of what I needed. When I came back, the clock read midnight, and it was time to step over to my new row to choose from. I rested my hand on a handle, and closed my eyes.

(Due to the difficulty of writing 10 separate instances of this without losing the reader, I am using a shitty technique of wrapping them all up for the main character while leaving you, the viewer, unaware. I am sorry, but I planned on a short story, perhaps if I ever write this as a legitimate book, you will better enjoy it heh)

Two months came and went, and things were different for me. If somebody pushed me, I'd swing back. If somebody started insulting me, I'd be quick to start tearing them down with my words to end it. Fucking worms, don't they know who I am? I am Alec Harrow, age 16, and I held the world in my grasp. I had riches, I had peace of mind, I had the truth, and best of all, I had my mind. I was in the sewage of life like everyone else, but I knew where the scent came from, and I knew how to ignore it. Better, I dove down, and shoved everything else out of my way. I had become the king of the landfill, and all truths were in my power. People are shit, happiness is transient, and accomplishments are meaningless. I was a cynic, and I was right, and if any those of lower intelligence thought otherwise, I'd bury them. I walked into my home, and went to my uncles room. Today, I would open the chest, and with my uncle's help, I would surpass his life's work, and know it all. God was at the top of this mountain, and I had my hand on the pinnacle.

I sat down, and stared at the chest for a long while. I sat trying to decipher what could have been in there, but I was too scared to just open it. The minutes waltzed around my head until they tired out, and the clock read that two hours had passed. “It's time to open it” I said to myself, and turning the small brass key, it opened with a click. Inside lay a small parchment rolled up into a tube, and closed with a black ribbon. I slowly reached into the box, and pulled it out. The paper smelt faintly of plants, and the acrid smell of ink. I opened it, and my jaw mimicked the paper as it fell from my hand. The paper was written, in sloppy, incomprehensible script, with large slashes of black ink through the words. I marched out of the room, throwing whatever I could find on the ground, and arrived in my living room to see Giancarlo standing in the middle, looking away from me out of a window. He turns to me, and with a sad face, holds out his hand. "In his final moments, your uncle wanted you to read this, but had to have me write it for him”. Snatching it from his hand, I sat down on the first step of my stairwell and started to read the message.

“In my last moments of strength, I wrote you a letter in my chest to help you see past all of the terrible things this life has to offer, but it wasn't until my final moments of weakness that I could see the real truth my boy. I have wasted my life being angry with everything, and this is my last gift to you. Problems are like sand; take them for what they weigh, and let them quickly fall through your fingers. The most important truth of ll was right in front of my face all those years. Live boy! Forget it all, and just live!

Your Uncle Krauser, who desperately wishes he could have been the family you needed; who desperately wished he could have been the family you deserve.

It took me a few days to piece together what had happened, but I finally crawled out of my room, and threw open the curtains in my living room. The trees looked fuller, and the sun felt warm on my face. “Just live huh?” I asked myself. I thought long and hard about it, and I think I realized what he had meant. Life is too short to find all the answers right away. I've got a long life ahead of me to find those out, and not everything is terrible. Terrible things like murder, and robbery, and abuse happens, but wonderful things like a baby being born, the mechanics of friends and family, and love also exist.

“I'll live my life to the fullest uncle, just like you asked!”. In some sense, I did surpass my uncles “truths”, and I only did so with his help. I lifted my chin up, walked out my door, and started my way to school. I will start over again, and this time, I will help out everyone.

The noise of city clockwork echoes down an alleyway, and rats dig through the trash laying on the ground. Near the entrance lays a mother cat, feeding six kittens, and her motherly purr washes over them as they cry for life. A truck drives past, and the gust sweeps a newspaper article into the air to float over the contents of the alley to land in the lap of a young girl sitting in the alley on her break from work. Cigarette limp in her mouth with her eyes closed, the paper lands on her hand, and with one eye, she looks down to see what the bother is. “What is this?” she asks as she picks it up to read. The article read: “Obituary. Alec Harrow, local student, age 16 was shot dead today at school. 'We were too late. We were too damn late' – Mr. G”. Crumpling the article, the girl put the cigarette out, and walked back into the building.

Outside of the alley, a TV in a shop played the news, and a reporter with graying hair, and a black suit somberly read off the days latest events.

“School shooting is a shameful reminder to us all of the fragile human psyche. Student Ethan Olivere brought in a Colt Delta Elite 10mm pistol, and open fired on a student who had recently given him trouble at school. Ethan was an orphan, who came from an abusive family when he was younger, and never truly fit in. Feeling as if nobody understood him, he brought a gun in to kill himself at school, but the day of his planned suicide, a student knocked his books from his hands, and pushed him to the ground for being in the way. The next day Ethan took his gun, and shot that student in the head in the middle of the cafeteria. Alec Harrow, age 16, was a new student with a chip on his shoulder, and suffered a terrible fate for it.”

Learn your lessons from your mistakes, try your hardest to be the best person you can be, and savor every second of your life. Life may be covered in inky slime, and the foul scent may drive you mad. Blood, and sweat, and tears may wash down the streets to try and drown you, but understand that as long as you keep kicking, every moment is precious. Live your life, and let everything else pass right on through.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Week Twenty Four: August 9th - August 15th

Again, no show guys. Just not feeling it anymore. I may close down the blog or something soon. *shrugs*. Doesn't really matter anyway.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Week Twenty Three: August 2nd - August 8th

No show again. I had press badges to GenCon 2010, and got my nerd on with interviews and such. I may post some of it on here, but it probably wouldn't be very entertaining haha.

Here is that article I wrote over GenCon. I only managed to write on the last thing we attended, and the article is pretty lame anyway. But enjoy I guess.

Notes From the Underground: Roleplaying Your Way Into Adulthood.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Week Twenty Two: July 26th - August 1st

A creature with inky skin loudly fumbles through the air on heavy wings; moonlight making its body an eerie silhouette of a man. Upon closer inspection, his mouth is moving as if talking, but the heavy gusts surrounding him make it inaudible. The man's mouth stops its running, and his movement soon follows; massive wings holding him up as if wading water. Sunken eyes peer out of a dark face looking lost, the whites glowing in the moonlight. “Illyena” he whispers; “Momma, poppa, sister... none of you ever understood. You never tried”.
We're introduced to the scene by the sound of glass shattering. “I'm crazy?” a woman screams. “I'd rather be crazy than a freak! Look at those wings of yours, they are hideous!”. “Illyena, please stop this, please. I don't want these damned wings either, but what choice have I!”. Another dinner plate chases an insult as they both crash upon the wall behind the man. Just staring ahead blankly, a new plate slowly finds its way to his face; ceramic shards draw blood that slowly disappears as the skin underneath it starts to turn an inky, reflective black. “I hate what I've become, please help me!” the man wails. Out of things to throw, Illyena screams a final “FREAK!” and runs from the room. The scene ends as lights dim over the crying man.
The sun starts to climb the horizon. The dull light of the morning reveals the charred remnants of buildings underneath the man; the smoke rising from the cinders begins to swirl around him as the air begins to turn. Thin plumes at first, but quickly solid gray envelopes him. Inside, a scream is heard. “MOTHER! Can't you see all of my angels are falling! Father, can't you see all of my old demons are calling!” Laughter rides the wind and is carried up into the sky to branch out over the land. The noise crashes onto barren dirt; no ears exist to listen anymore.
We're introduced to the scene by the sound of a child wailing. “Robin, it's me, your big brother. Please don't be afraid”. An older couple rush into the room and look in horror at the siblings. “Get away from her you monster!” the women shouts. “Mother, it's still me, I'm still the same person, please don't be afraid”. Grabbing his daughter by the arm, the older man pulls her away from the man, and grabs a baseball bat. “You're no son of mine anymore!” the father yells. “Now get out of the house, or else!”. “But mother... father... it's me, Icarus, please stop” the man whimpers. “I warned you!” the father shouts as he starts to swing the bat at the man's head. The blows do no more damage then a blade of grass to the man, but he just stares ahead. “Why won't you see it... I thought you loved me...”. Standing up, Icarus looks at the family. The scene ends with shouts turning into silence.
Head thrown back, the man stop his laughing, and looks at the sun. “Icarus huh? It's only fitting that I should rid myself of all my wax”. “Good bye beloved family. I've stood behind you my entire life, but you just couldn't stand behind me. I'll fly close to the sun, and for just one second, I can remember what it means to feel something without fear. Since I couldn't have yours, I will accept the sun's warm embrace. I've loved you all so very much, and I'm sorry for what I've done”. Staring at nothing in particular, the man starts to fly towards the horizon without looking back. The mangled arm of a young girl lays partially charred from under boards of the house. Laughter floods back on echoes to wash over the house, but nobody can hear it. The ruins of a city casts shadows in the distant; not even the scavengers have come out for the bodies yet. All is deathly silent.