Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My review of Irkadura

Warning: spoilers abound.



Irkadura grips you with an iron stranglehold and smashes you over the head with its brutal surreality.  I honestly chose to read it first of Ksenia Anske's works because of the red cover, a shallow fact I'm not at all ashamed to admit.  It is a beautiful cover.  The content of the story, though, is remarkable, and I guess it's my job for this little while to tell you why that is to me.

The subject matter of Irkadura is grotesque, yet handled perfectly.  Irina is an unwanted child, a situation I can relate to a little.  She is made to feel like a burden all her life, or maybe that is just a little of myself that I am choosing to see in her.  She is used by everyone around her.  Her family see her as little more than a convenient chore doer.  Her mother's boyfriends have used her for horribly more than that, especially the last one.  His name doesn't really matter, and at this moment it escapes me, so I'll call him what Irina does: the boar.

When the book opens, the most terrible thing has already happened.  The boar has gotten Irina pregnant.  She cannot tell anyone what he is doing to her because she has not spoken since she was two.  If you focus on Irina's psychological mutism, you go into this book worried that it will be too awkward a tale with the main character unable to communicate with anyone around her, but Irina is deft at getting her point across when she needs to do so.  More importantly, Irina speaks to us the readers, and she makes us love her through every horrible thing she has to endure.

When she stands on the hospital rooftop, ready to step out into the air and end it all, we are there with her.  We understand her choice.  We also breathe a sigh of utter relief when she doesn't end up dying before giving birth to her child.

She considers an abortion.  Think about it; if you were raped daily for over a year and this is how you came to be pregnant, wouldn't you, too, consider aborting the damn beast's offspring?  I'm personally against abortion, but also believe it is every woman's right to decide for herself what to do in a circumstance where she cannot or does not want to support a child.  Freedom of choice means freedom to choose what we will, and we all must respect that.  Still, I wanted to reach through the screen and slap Irina for going through with it… but then she didn't, and I loved her all the more for the way in which she came to WANT her child.

The baby speaks to Irina, which can be seen in one of a few ways.  It can be considered a paranormal element to the story.  It can be seen as a psychological quirk on Irina's part.  It doesn't really matter in the end.  What matters are the choices that Irina makes, and how sometimes no matter what we choose to do, sometimes the world will just royally fuck us over anyway.

Irina meets and falls in love with an actor named Pavlik, or Pavel.  Pavlik is gay, but his lover is killed by a sniper in the midst of political turmoil.  In this same attack, Pavlik is severely wounded, and it is Irina that saves his life.  She ends up living with the boy and his parents, who begrudgingly take her in.  Pavlik's mother is cold at first, but eventually she and her husband accept Irina.  They welcome this mute stranger into their family.  They discover Irina's pregnancy, and Pavlik takes the blame, trying to protect his friend and protect the secret of his homosexuality.  It is sad that he would feel the need to do such a thing, but that is what many feel the need to do, whether back in the 90's when this book takes place, or even in some places today.

Irina hates hiding the truth.  She does it for Pavlik, for a while, but in the end, she reveals the truth to everyone; her own family as well as Pavel's.  She tells them that she was raped for over a year by her mother's boyfriend, and that the child in her belly is his.  Pavlik marries her anyway, and his family and Irina's are both there for the young couple.  They are the odd couple I would like to see in a television series, but of course that will never happen.

The boar, uninvited, finds his way to the wedding party.  The boar kills Pavlik.  Then, the thing happens that I spent most of the book waiting for; Irina kills the boar, and it is glorious.  It is also not the end.

In the end, Irina gives birth to her child, whom she names Pavlik after the father she chose for him.  At the very end, things are kind of left up for interpretation, at least until (if she is going to do so) Ksenia writes and releases another book about these fascinating characters.  You can choose to believe that Irina finally does leap to her death, this time from a hospital window and with newborn little Pavlik in her arms, or you can choose to believe that the two of them survive.


I choose to believe that they lived, and that their story is far, far from over.

***

Live excellently.  Forgive freely.  Admit your faults.  Embrace weirdness.  Hate no one.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Name of the Doctor is Rumplestiltskin


As a fan of Doctor Who and Once Upon a Time, I'm used to character backstory mysteries messing with my head.  To cope, my brain concocts its own convoluted explanations, a few of which have proved correct over the years.  As a fan of crossover events, I've always had a story in the back of my head making the Doctor an old inhabitant of Storybrooke before he ever stepped foot on Gallifrey.  He used magic to escape a legacy he no longer wanted, and ended up further back in time and farther away across dimensions than he intended, but I had the wrong Storybrooke resident set for the role.  In the past, I believed Henry would become the Doctor; now I firmly believe Mr. Gold is a better candidate.

At the moment, Rumple has been banished from Storybrooke by his wife, Belle, who finally accepted that he has never changed or given up power to be with her.  She still loves him, but she can't be with him any longer (though the show runners have promised this isn't the end for them).  He's coming back with the "Queens of Darkness," and that promises to be interesting, but I want to skip to the after.

Eventually, Gold will accept that he cannot continue to subject the people he loves to his selfish desires for power.  He will make another ultimate sacrifice; he will give up his power and send himself as far away as he can magically accomplish.  Being Rumple, though, he can't bear to go alone.  With his son dead and his wife no longer able to trust him, he chooses to take his grandson Henry along for the ride to wherever a vague spell will send him.

In proper magical fashion, the spell reduces them both in age and sets them up with new lives in the past on Gallifrey.  Unfortunately, the amnesia part of the spell only works on Henry; Rumple is doomed to remember everything about their old lives and familial bond from Storybrooke, while Henry gets the fresh start Rumple really wanted for himself.  Now here's where it gets complicated.

Rumplestiltskin will become the Doctor.  Many fans have theorized that he had a wife and a family on Gallifrey, but for my little crossover theory, I maintain that the early Doctor could not get over his love for Belle, and so lived a solitary life.  People may've attached themselves to him, but I think Susan only called him grandfather out of affection and admiration; I don't believe they were related.  Rumple took centuries and several Time Lord regenerations to get enough over Belle that he'd even let another woman kiss him, let alone become his lover or wife.

All the while, across their many faces and conflicts, the Doctor was tormented by his knowledge of who the Master truly was; Henry grew up to become the Master, a mirror of the monster that Rumple left Storybrooke to stop being.


Rumple can't get a happy ending no matter how far he travels or how much he is finally willing to give up.  He sacrifices all magic and goes to a universe where advanced science is firmly entrenched as the replacement for all the magic he has always known and coveted.  He becomes a great, though often reluctant, hero down the ages, and yet he is inevitably plagued by the monster his grandson accidentally became.  The Master is a reminder of Rumple's past, and the Doctor can never escape him, nor can he bring himself to ever really deal with him.  Think about the Doctor's reaction to the Master's choice to die at the end of the Martha Jones season of Doctor Who; that was more than just grief over the loss of an old foe and friend.  The Doctor was losing a friend; Rumple was losing family.

Now, look at what the Master has become more recently, and my little theory rings eerily true.


Missy calls herself the Queen of Evil.  The Doctor/Rumple's look when he realizes who Missy is, looks to me like he's seeing his old protege return in the strangest way possible.  The Master may not consciously remember anything about his history pre-Gallifrey, but a little of his life as Henry, the adopted son of Regina Mills, has remained in the subconscious part of his mind, shaping the form and personality of her first female regeneration.

The Doctor has always been the reluctant hero, the begrudging friend, and pretends to prefer life on his own though he never remains alone for very long.  Is he truly the old ageless beast from the Enchanted Forest, the Dark One whose deals only benefit himself, finally set free from magic only to be trapped in an endless life in a time machine that may as well be magic itself?  The Tardis, being what it is, snatched him up from Gallifrey and has always taken him where he "needs" to be, but is this punishment for his past or just a very long form of rehabilitation?


***

Live excellently.  Forgive freely.  Admit your faults.  Embrace weirdness.  Hate no one.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Silly is my Shame of Embarrassment

(Image found on Pixabay)

Do any of us really grow up?

There are moments I still feel like the child who thought grown ups were eternal giants and I, little boy, was a burden unworthy of their secrets. Am I the only one?

Don't look at me

As I began to grow, to learn, and to realize things about the world for myself, I felt left out of some vast community. I couldn't speak the secret language. I didn't follow the references they casually made. I was deathly terrified of being found out for the outsider I was. This is when I stopped innocently meeting strangers' eyes. When I was small, I trusted strangers implicitly. I lost the ability to give that trust when I gave in absolutely to my fear.

What am I ashamed of?

At some point, my embarrassment shifted. I was ashamed of being gay, but that eventually went away. I was ashamed of pretending to be Christian all my life, but that stopped when I left my mother's church. These days, I find my lingering embarrassment stems from the oddest places. I'm embarrassed when people hear the music I like. I'm embarrassed to have anyone hear me sing. I'm afraid that somehow I am still the kid who gets red faced so easily. I built up a hard shell to protect that kid, and all I've really accomplished is hiding the world from myself. I've let myself miss too much.

Look them in the eye

It has gone on long enough. Far too long, in point of fact. It is time that I looked more people in the eye. I have spent years programming myself to hide. I have let the bad habits possess my thoughts, my actions, and my time. No more! It has slowed my writing to a scary stalled point I often fear I will never escape. I have finished works before. I have stumbled time and time again. These mistakes and missteps do not own or define me. I will burn them away and rise from those ashes a better man than I have been.

I will write. I will sing. I will live.

***

Live excellently. Forgive freely. Admit your faults. Embrace weirdness. Hate no one.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

They Come - a short story

I wrote this last week between taking orders at work; it was kind of a busy lunch rush, but I had this idea and I had to get it out of my head, so onto my phone it went.  Then, I posted it to my ello account, even though at the time I had no followers (I have one at the moment).  I like ello but I still haven't pinned down quite what I'm going to do with it.  It could be the first place I put up all my short pieces of fiction from here on out, or something.  Anyway, here's this piece, now available for a wider potential audience.
***
image found on Pixabay
THEY COME
They come every night for my bones.
All my life, I've felt them wriggling, writhing, crawling. They are never where I can see them. They must always remain out of sight. The walls of the worlds mean very little to them. They scavenge and pilfer and scrape at the refuse of the dwellers of the lighted places. Their mistake was taking me for one of their own.
When I was seven, visiting at my aunt's, I woke deep in the night and knew I was not alone.
There were my family members, of course. My aunt and uncle, my cousins, myself, and my little brother. All of them were fast asleep, whatever that's supposed to mean.
The presence I felt was none of them.
I slithered out of the sleeping bag. My feet met the cold wooden floor begrudgingly. I crept out of my cousins' bedroom, careful to look out into the hall before I dared venture forth. The presence was not there.
I thought fleetingly of my mother and father as I walked toward my aunt's kitchen. I wondered, not for the first time, where either of them could be. I knew I was not alone, but I had never really understood the concept of being alone until that moment.
I faced the archway that would admit me into the kitchen. My eyes refused to look anywhere below the arch itself, high overhead. It seemed miles above me, but my uncle managed to smack his forehead into it at least twice a week.
After some trembling minutes, I passed under the archway and found myself in the dark kitchen. It was an ordinary, albeit slightly large, apartment kitchen. It was as dark as the rest of the house, with some street light peaking in around curtains.
The kitchen was divided abnormally. I had never seen, and would never see again, anything like it. There was an invisible wall now separating one half of the room from the other. I only knew it was there because on the other side of it, that part of the kitchen shared it's space with another place. It was another world. Movies and television had prepared me a little, but encountering the fact of this concept snapped my young brain. I shook my head, but the vision was still there.
I cannot now describe the actual details if what I saw there. All that remains are vague impressions.
There was an alien landscape that stretched far, far beyond the confines of my aunt's dismal kitchen. There was vegetation that might have moved in wind or by its own volition.
The presence was there, of course. It was not alone. There were several, unless my mind has multiplied the number over time to compensate for the immensity I felt before me that night.
What astounded me most was the sense of surprise I picked up from their end. I had always been able to feel what others felt, sporadically, but never so overpoweringly. My own emotions were drowned in the bottomless depth of their shock.
They assumed that I, a very strange little creature in their eyes, had opened this partial breach between our distant worlds.
I wasn't sure if they were wrong.
They may not have built the bridge spanning such unfathomable spaces - I cannot do justice in mere words to the vastness of vastnesses separating us - but they have somehow maintained some level of linkage ever since.
I can feel them every moment, though often I manage to make myself forget that I sm feeling them.
They have not been surprised once in all the years of my life since that night. They do not yet understand how I was first able to open the bridge. They cannot grasp the idea that I may not have done it on purpose, or at all.
I actually don't know who or what opened it that night, but I learned that I can.
There are countless layers of worlds that resemble my own before you get anywhere close to their level of probability divergence. Most people exist in counterpart form on most of the similar earths.
I connected in my adolescence with every last one of my own others. We communed in the realm of our dreams, which I made into a shared space. We looked, and found that mine was the only version of our life that had been touched by such a terribly alien presence. The decision was unanimous.
I am the only version of myself that still lives. All my others sacrificed themselves; it only took ten years before I felt the last life go out, out there, in the neighborverses. A moment later, the last corpse synced with my living body, effectively rendering me indestructible.
Whatever damage might be done to me, it is deflected onto one if my alternate bodies. They are all already dead, so there can truly be no harm.
The presence I felt when I was seven is still coming for me.
They come every night, just after I fall asleep.
They believe I have forgotten them. They do not feel me as I feel them. Perhaps they cannot; maybe it's just a little oversight, and they aren't really so different from us as I imagine.
They found me quickly after the bridge collapsed that night. Their own lingering presence brought them back to my aunt's kitchen within a month, and the next time my mother took me there to visit, they had me locked.
They come every single night of my life, but they can never touch me.
No one can.
***
Live excellently.  Forgive freely.  Admit your faults.  Embrace weirdness.  Hate no one.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Maria - an excerpt from The Killers Club

A young mother meets her earth-bound saint… or will he be her Killer?  This is an excerpt from Maria, the fifth chapter of The Accidental Killer (Vol. 1 in The Killers Club).

***

(image found on Pixabay)

You say this story ain’t s’posed to be ‘bout me?  Well, I tell you what.  How’s about you sit back there and you listen and maybe you see it ain’t gonna be ‘bout what you think.

My Momma always used to try to tell me to think about the Saints.  Saints this and Saints that, but from the time I was small I knew I wasn’t gonna stand for none of that Saintly bullshit.  God and devils and Saints, it all don’t mean no big thing here on earth where you has to work and toil and blister and bleed.  This world is all about the work you gonna put into it.

So can you imagine the surprise on my face when I wound up with my very own Saint, of all my very own?

I had left my babies with the sweet fat lady next door.  She was always looking after my babies for me when she could, when I’d be over at work or down at the market where I did not like to take my boy and my girl because I was not gonna be the white trash woman with the screaming brat kids, oh no sir you can better believe me on that.

Don’t matter I was never whiter than a sweat-stinking man’s white tee shirt that he never took off for a month.  When you’re living in a trailer park, almost don’t matter what color your skin is, you gets lumped in with the white trashiest of the trash.

I think the sweet fat lady next door is one of the only exceptions I ever did meet.  I don’t never knew how she wound up in that trailer park, but I think for the grace of those Saints my Momma loved, it musta been.

She was watching my Jasmine and Jasmine’s brother Fidel, and I was over visiting my Momma in her final resting place.  She was beautiful when she was alive.  I could not afford to put her in the ground representing that, so I had to go take her some pretty flowers sometimes.

I don’t think she minded if I sometimes did not pay for them, but stole them from overtop of gravestones that were so elaborate and decorated all pretty already, that they didn’t need flowers.  My Momma needed some flowers.

I was carrying the flowers I took that day from on top of that sad family’s bench.  They were in a cute little cup on a saucer, just little sprigs and things, but it was enough.

I almost dropped it all when I caught my first sight of my Saint.

I had always admired these really beautiful angel stone statues over this couple I imagined had been very old and sweet.  If you looked at the dates that showed you when they were born and when they were supposed to died, they weren’t really very old at all, which makes you sad so I just wouldn’t think of them that way.  In the story I made up in my head for them, they wanted to play a joke on their grandchildren and children so they had their birth years moved up to make them seem a lot younger.  I pictured them smiling down in the earth.

The Mister had been named Tate and the Missus had been named Constance.  I never could remember their last name, and I s’pose it really does not matter now.  Does it.

In all the time that I gone to visit with my Momma, bringing her flowers and pictures from my babies even though they never did remember her, I had never seen anyone visiting with Tate and Constance.  Nobody ever left them flowers, or pictures from children.  No one ever put a framed photograph there, or miss-you cards, or anything at all.  It was really sad.

Then, this day, this one day out of a million or something, there he is.  My Saint.

He didn’t see me.  He had his back to me across all that grass and dead people underfoot.  I could not see his face, but I knew it had to be a beautiful face.  So, was I wanting to make a good first impression on him?  You had better sit back and believe it!

I put my flowers for my Momma down, saw I was on the wrong grave, picked ’em up, ran over to the right spot, set them down again, futzed with my hair to make it bounce like the sweet old fat lady said I should do more to make the boys want me even though I had thought I had done had my fill of all them boys, and then I pulled a cigarette out of the pack I keep in my bra.

I do not like thinking that my babies might be playing one day and go looking for something new and shiny and find my cigarettes and lighter and hurt themselves, so I keep those things of mine out of sight.  Around the house, I have stash places.  On my person, I keep it in my bra because it’s been a long time since Jasmine or her brother Fidel got weaned off my tits, and they don’t have any interest in going back there onto ’em.

I take one long drag off my cigarette.  I’m wanting to focus on waiting for my Saint to turn around, but the smoke tastes delicious.  I let out this little sighing squeak sometimes, when I didn’t have a chance to smoke for a few days ‘cause I could not get away from my babies for long enough, and I do not like smelling like smoking too much around them.

I let that noise out my lips, and he turns around.  He’s looking at me hard for a second, and it’s scaring me down to my bones.  For a second, I want to turn away from my Saint and run.  He looks like a vengeful god.  I heard that somewhere, never knew what it meant though until that moment standing over my Momma, and him with the stone angels looming large and majestic behind him.

He’s wearing all kinds of white things.  White boots under white pants.  I can’t see ’em then, but I imagine he’s got really white socks on his feet that go halfway up to his knees.  He’s got on a white dress shirt with a white tie.  He even has on these dorky white suspenders.  The finishing touch for me is these white-framed sunglasses, with mirrored frames that on top of all that white clothing, the mirrors don’t look silver but reflect everything like it’s white.  Or maybe that’s just my stupid memory playing tricks on me.

His skin is white but not too pale.  The only thing on him that ain’t really all that white is his hair, dark and short, but I still wanna run my fingers through it.

I puff away on my cigarette, trying to smoke all slow and cool like, even though he’s scaring me from all those feet away.

Then, he smiles and starts walking towards me.  I melt a little bit.  I ain’t afraid no more.


Before he can get too close, something in my belly twists.  I let a man fool me with that kinda smile before.  He musta seen something go wrong in my face, ‘cause he stopped real short and just stood there, like he was waiting for me to give him permission to come any further.

***

Live excellently.  Forgive freely.  Admit your faults.  Embrace weirdness.  Hate no one.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How a Born-Again Optimist Can LOVE Horror (NSFW images)

I hope this little term I think I'm coining, "Born-Again Optimist," makes sense.  It sounds perfect to me.  For a very long time, due to depression and an all-around crappy life (or so I thought at the time), I was an entrenched pessimist.  Self-destructive, mildly suicidal (I never took a melon baller to one of my eyes or jumped off a bridge), and generally unjoyful.  That's all (mostly (just about completely)) behind me.  Onward!

I turned my back on the light for a long time, content to wallow in darkness. No more!

Horror is, to me, the refined form of the scary story.  A scary story is something that sends chills up your spine, sure, but it doesn't undermine your sense of safety in your real life.  It doesn't give you any real, lasting, deeply disturbing nightmares (unless you're an especially sensitive individual).  Scary stories are well and good, but horror does more than merely creep you out.  Horror should entertain as well as terrify, on at least some level.  It should leave you with a sense that all is NOT right with the world, your world, the actual world on which you walk.


When I put it that way, horror sounds like something one might want to avoid, doesn't it?  But nope, I love it.  I love reading horror, watching horror, and especially writing horror.  I haven't churned out the worst or best of my career, for my "career" is still stuck at the starting line, but I have touched on what I consider to be horror in every story I have ever written.

People like to complain an awful lot.  I'm a person, so I do my fair share of it, too, I'm sure.  What bugs me is when people wonder why they don't get much accomplished in their lives; I'll tell you what it is: you're focusing too much on the little problems, and not focusing enough on how it could all be so, so very much worse.  Enjoy the good you have!  Think about how much worse your life COULD be, and be damn grateful it isn't THAT bad.

Horror should show you how things could be worse, could go worse, could get worse, and what you should take away - alongside fear and a healthy sense of paranoia, though you'll want to keep the latter in check - is a sense of gratitude for the possibilities for joy and accomplishment that remain in your life right now.

Life is always going to be a struggle; push onward and it will always be worth the effort.

Reach for your goals.  Kick obstacles out of your way like Batwoman searching for answers in Gotham.  (Yes, I meant Batwoman.  Look into Kate Kane's story if you don't know it yet.  I'd highly recommend the work of creative team J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman.)  Don't trample over other people, though.  Spread optimistic glee and horror-fueled gratitude to strangers and loved ones alike.

It could be worse.  Remember that and be happy, damn it.  ;)

***


Live excellently.  Forgive freely.  Admit your faults.  Embrace weirdness.  Hate no one.