Project 52: Toppling Atlas

1 short story a week. 52 weeks a year.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New Short Story: 01.05.13 "I Find Myself So Often Dreaming."

Working Title: I Find Myself So Often Dreaming.

     My face dampens as the ocean crashes upon the shore, peppering me with small and salty pools of water. Pools too shallow to wade, but deep in their own way; deep, in that I could spend a lifetime swimming through the thought of them. I could know every secret, every inch of every drop, but I'd know nothing of the sea that gave birth to them. I'd know nothing of where they came, or why they chose me to first meet.
     I've often thought the same of life. One's worldly travels – the places that you tread, and the individuals you meet - do nothing but calm a deep-breasted calling many can't seem to ignore. You can go so far, do so much, be so many, but you'll only know those drops intimately. You'll never learn a single real thing. Except happiness, of course. I suppose I shouldn't say it as though happiness isn't important. It would be most unwise to think a smile is anything other than a form of victory. The ocean, still swirling and lashing, joins the wind in chilling me to the bone. The night sky is dark, but the moon sits high, and adds a glow to the world.
     The sun, he sings, and it fills us with desires, and motivation to be something. The sun is a grand symphony played by many characters that tie cords to our arms and legs, and forces us to move, regardless of direction. By comparison, the moon is a low voice, shyly singing a song by herself. This is why all men make so many promises when the hour turns late, and their bodies feel as though they should be fast asleep already. We promise to do so many great things, because there isn't the noise of daylight to distract us. The sun makes us want to be somebody, but the moon only wants us to be ourselves. Just one song, and we all hear it. It's why the stars cluster together around her, yet the sun stands alone. The sun needs no such love, it finds that through our actions, it feels it by watching us learn to love each other.

     Picking up a small stone, I skip it out into the ocean, watching it grow larger and larger by the second. It finally rests on the horizon, and shows as the silhouette of an island. Closing my eyes, I plunge into the water, and allow the waves to drag me out. An unending swarm of white hands trying to pull me in every direction, but I float straight towards that island. I am a drowning man, and I laugh the entire way.
     Driftwood, I shake off the sand, and climb into a tree. Standing on the top branches, I start growing taller. Stepping off, my spindly legs land in the coarse sand, and I start to make my way up the massive mountain, the plants and rocks of the island now being dwarfed by my feet. At the highest point, I look up, and see the moon above me. She's so close, I can make out individual beams peeking through the skittish clouds. I lace my fingers with them, and pull my way up towards the night sky, hearing the song louder, hearing my song more intimately.
     She sings only for me now, and I know it. Rising up, I now tower above the island, letting the waves crash against my feet dangling in the water as I hold myself in the air, no longer able to distinguish all the tiny hands that make up the waves. I crane my neck, and strain myself to reach her, that luminescent glow growing brighter in front of my very eyes. I am a breath away from her, when she suddenly stops singing, and turns away from me, crawling westward.
     Swinging my massive legs, I trudge after her, but the ocean starts pulling me under. I feel myself shrinking as those hands tug at me. From over my shoulders, I hear the whispers of a grand symphony practicing their song, and those beams of moonlight dissolve in my hands. I stare after her, but let the ocean swallow me. After all, I'm a drowning man, aren't I? Just a drowning man.

     I awake with a startle as a far reaching tide dampens my feet, and I see small crabs crawling on the several volumes of books I brought with me to the beach the prior evening. The sun is rising, and I realize it's time to head home. I'll find my way here again in a few nights, when I can no longer take reality, and I'll sit on the warm sand and invent so many great and wonderful things in my head. 
     For as long as I live, I'll never stop dreaming, or creating, or trying. I'm drowning, but I'll kick and fight until I'm washed up on some mysterious shore, one with strange trees, and stranger waves that take form and grow. Perhaps just another figure in somebody else's imagination, perhaps something else. I often dream of what it will be like when I do finally leave this world, but moreso, I often just dream. I'll never apologize for doing so.

New Short Story: 01.25.13 "Madness"

Working Title: Madness.

     Soft, is my breathing; calculated breaths, each starving for rhythmic perfection. My body hasn't moved an inch for quite some time now. No, with each finger top, with every toe, I can feel the nerves in my body bunched up tight, wanting to leap out at anything near, though. What manner of madness have I come upon that I ever began to question the very nature of my soul? What had I planned on doing with the secrets it held? Could I have stilled the creeping thoughts that lead me to this point, I would have long since taken the advantage.
     That opportunity never appeared, but perhaps it had never truly existed in the first place. How should I - trapped in this unaware body - even begin to have an idea of it? Madness; of course it's madness. So here I lay in my bed, the hours having long since floated away, abandoning me to the confines of my own thoughts; spoken by a voice that sounds distant in my head, but I assume it to be my own.
     Of all the questions that snap and break into 100 more during these nights, there is a constant thought among the frenzy I can pluck out. I wonder to myself if I'll always be alone. Even that voice in the back of my head that I've come to find such solace in has stopped answering. It's all such a grand joke, that I can hear laughter through my head, and I thankfully cry myself to sleep that night.
     The morning may not be bring any answers, but at least it will bring with it the sun. For now, I will have to cling to that. The man falling down a cliff cares not of the sharpness of the rock which he grabs, nor the size, or color, or wild growth that rests upon it. He cares not of the chemical composition of the stone, or how long it has been jutting from the cliff-side. He just grabs whatever he can catch, and clings to it until he falls again, or finally finds the strength, or perhaps nerve, to climb back to safety.
     It's all madness, I know nothing about climbing mountains. I know nothing of finding sleep, or finding myself. Nothing of hope, or its partner despair. I know nothing, save for madness. If one could be said to know madness, which my shaky resolve assumes not. Perhaps I just know nothing at all.
     The sun rises, and with it, my body stands from the bed, and starts to groom and wash. Another day of going through the motions, interacting, smiling, and striving, but you can always find me in that room when the hour turns late. You can hear me laughing, but you'll never see it in my eyes. No, only madness. The hours begin to float on by.

New Short Story: 01.29.13 "Vinegar in Place of Wine."

Working Title: Vinegar in Place of Wine. 

    Two men sit near a warm fire in an otherwise dark room. The younger of the two is perched on a granite slab jutting out around the fireplace with an obviously impatient look on his face. The elder is sitting in a leather chair, frayed around the edges of the arm rests; the chair, seemingly just as old as the man who sits in it.
     “No, no, no! You're not listening to me!” the older man exclaims. The younger rolls his eyes back, understanding that the conversation is going nowhere. “Uncle Maxwell! I understand you'd never go through with this when you were my age, I fully understand that. But things have changed since you were a young buck.” “That they have, Douglas. Much more than you could possibly imagine,” Maxwell says, his voice tinged with the curious affect regret has on language. It is soft, and distant, perhaps even considered rude to some.
     “Let me stop you at the door before you try to take a trip down memory lane. If I stay in town, and land this deal, I'll become a partner for sure. This is something Melissa and I both want. So honestly, who cares if we just have a quick elopement? Quick and easy, so we can get back to our busy lives,” Douglas says, starting to sound irritable. His dry tone, and jaw held slightly tilted up in a condescending way suggesting that he is repeating himself.
     “Despite what you may think, boy, I've heard you all five times. It is you who isn't hearing me. Some regrets never go away, and if people judged you for what you lacked, instead of what you have, I'd be a laughing stock,” Maxwell said. “Uncle, your silly hypothetical means nothing in real life. You're extremely powerful, and have accomplished so much in life. There is literally nothing you can't have, and yet you mention lacking. There is nothing you lack that you couldn't easily acquire,” Douglas spoke, the dim outline of a temper starting to peek through.
     “No, my boy, I can have all the materials that I want. That's like having a body without a soul. Wonderful family gatherings, one filled with accidental traditions that grow new additions with each and every year that passes. Sitting around a bonfire with close friends, talking of great hopes and dreams, and saying all of the things we plan to do, even if somewhere deep down we know it may never happen. The smile of a newborn baby. One that has my eyes and nose, but that smile, no, that smile has to come from his beautiful mother. No Dougie, when you get a little older, you'll see just how poor I really am.”
     “Alright then, fine, have it your way. Is that it though? Embarrassing family, loud friends, and horrid babies. Anything else I seemingly can't live without?” Douglas asked. “The most important of them all, Doug,” Maxwell said. Dropping his head into his hands, Douglas ran a hand through his hair, and sighed. “What, exactly, is the most important thing of all, uncle?” “Young love,” Maxwell says. Douglas moves his mouth, but words can't seem to form.
     His eyes dart back and forth as though looking for support from some phantom audience. “You must be joking,” Douglas finally manages to spit out. “Hello? I'm getting married any day now. I'm only 26, and engaged. What part of young love am I missing, Uncle?” Maxwell drops his brows, and looks Douglas directly in the eyes. “Alright, nephew. Alright. I'm sorry to have upset you, but tell me, when was the last time you told each other that you truly loved one another,” Maxwell asked. “Every night at 8 o clock, just before bed. The same as any other night,” Douglas snapped.
     Maxwell let a small frown appear, and reached his hands out meekly to rest on Douglas' shoulders. “Love shouldn't be a part of a set schedule for you two. Not for many years yet, my boy,” Maxwell said. Shifting to remove Maxwell's hands, Douglas grit his teeth together and stared at his uncle defiantly. “Well what the hell would you know, uncle? Have you ever wondered if you only idolize these things because you never had them? Hmm? Like a child whose friends has a shiny new toy, and he gets his first taste of envy looking at it?” Douglas asked. “What do you know?”
     Maxwell's deep gray eyes peered at Douglas, regret starting to flood back into his voice. “I know that for many years now, my looking for young love was like drinking vinegar in place of wine and I know that to this day, I still drink every last hopeful drop,” Maxwell said, the years starting to show on his face.
     After several minutes of frowning at the floor, Douglas stood up, and stormed across the room. Stopping in the doorway, Douglas looked over his shoulder, and looked down on his uncle. The light of a nearby window tracing his body, and making his face appear dark. “You disappoint me, uncle. You're every bit the fool mother says,” and with that, walked away. “Not nearly as much as you'll come to disappoint yourself,” Maxwell said to nobody in particular. The sound of a vehicle is heard starting up, and the squeal of Douglas' tires shrink and eventually fade into the distance. “You're right about the fool part, I suppose. I think I just told a grand joke tonight,” Maxwell said. “I hope you never have to laugh at it.”

     Maxwell's hands start to shiver, but he doesn't hold them to the fire. He doesn't feel the chill in his body. He stares into the flames for a long while, not really feeling anything at all.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New Free-verse: Winter Wilt

Winter Wilt.

Darling, don't you smell it on my breath?
We have that beautiful path alongside the house,
the same one you spent those summers at.
Obsessively placing rocks,
and trimming the flowers that grew alongside it.
Those flowers that grew so vibrant, and so plentiful.

And oh, how you cried when winter crawled in,
and swallowed all your pretty colors.
How you cried when the earth shifted,
and moved your stones slightly out of place.
Everything is always changing.

Darling, can't you smell it on my breath?
Perhaps it's just your gentle soul,
a quality I used to think endearing.
But I see your petite outline sitting by that clock,
thinking you can watch the hands tick themselves
all the way around until spring.

I want to shake you sometimes, because they will come back.
They always do, just like we have so many times.
But I feel as though there is a hole in my stomach,
letting all manner of terrible things slip through.
Little monsters that burrow deep and eat away at me.

Darling, by now you have to smell it on my breath.
I walked down that path on my way here,
breathing through my mouth, like I know you hate.
It melted the snow, turning the frozen dirt to mud,
of which I tracked into this room now.
I hope it doesn't remind you of fresh rain.

If you're mad about cleaning up the mud though,
I'm sure that broken bottle of Old No. 7 in our bedroom
will make matters even worse.
It's all fairly silly, isn't it?
That we'd rather be miserable than lonely?

I'm sorry to make this winter harder on you,
but I can promise you'll make it through.
Unless of course you don't, 
but I cannot pull you anymore,
not when you dig in your heels the entire time.
Don't think it's the alcohol talking.
This is me.
I am talking, but not for much longer.

I'm not the man I used to be, 
I know that now.
You're not the same woman either,
I know that now, too.

Please don't hate me, unless that helps.