Creativity

The Voice

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“You can’t do this,” whispered a malevolent voice in the dark, a sound Amanda hadn’t heard in years.

She gritted her teeth, dug in her heels and tried to stand her ground. But it was persuasive, and Amanda didn’t know if she was strong enough to defy it.

The voice had been with her from birth, a dry hollow rattle that only she could hear. Its jealous strains had always tempted her to doubt, but the successes of her youth had made her confident, perhaps overly so, and for decades, the voice was little more than a nuisance, a background static in a constellation of accomplishments and accolades.

She’d conjured whole worlds ex nihilo, populated an entire cosmos in the realm where reality and conscious thought were one. Still, the voice was persistent, pointing out the flaws, the imperfections in her work.

“That world over there,” it would say, “Look how it wobbles and tilts on its axis.”

And Amanda would see it as if for the first time and realize the voice was right.

“And that world over there,” the voice would continue, “Look at its bulbous, oblong shape. How can you call yourself a professional?”

And Amanda would look again and once more realize the voice was right.

On and on the voice argued, and no matter how long Amanda honed the finer details, no matter how long she strove to satisfy the exacting requirements of perfection, she always fell short, and the voice was always there to remind her.

Amanda’s final attempt had been almost ten years ago, a tiny desert world that had come to her in a dream. In her eyes, it was a possibility for redemption, an opportunity to reduce that awful voice to silence at last, and she labored for the better part of a year, drawing on every resource left at her disposal.

When at last she was finished, sweaty and short of breath, the voice offered a terse appraisal.

“A good idea that suffers from a lackluster implementation.”

Amanda withered. A few weeks later, she retired.

But the urge to create had proved too strong to ignore. She’d tried, of course. For years she’d tried. She’d worked other jobs, and when she got home she would occupy her off hours with various unrelated hobbies, all in the vain hope of drowning a desire that had only ever lead to heartbreak and frustration. But the old dreams refused to die, and though Amanda had found some temporary respite from the voice, she knew it wouldn’t be long before she would have to try again.

When that time finally came, when the need to create grew into an all-consuming fire that threatened to scour her soul to the bone, she locked herself in her basement, where she’d covered over her old workshop with a faded dusty tarp. Now, taking a deep breath, she swept the tarp aside.

“What are you doing?” asked a familiar voice. “You’ve been out of practice for years. What makes you think you’ll succeed now?”

Amanda trembled. She knew it spoke the truth. Even during her peak, the voice had found plenty of flaws in her work. What made her think she could do better now?

Still, the desire to create overwhelmed her. It was an ocean of power held back by only a single floodgate, a force of nature that would destroy her if she didn’t channel it properly. So she ignored the voice. She picked up her old tools, dusted them off beneath the dim illumination of a nearby desk lamp, and after a shuddering, rattling breath, she got to work.

“Didn’t you hear me?” asked the voice, incredulous at her determination. “You’re going to fail. You’re going to fuck this up just like you fuck up everything.”

Amanda hesitated. She tried to focus on the nascent world in front of her, tried to shut out the voice’s spiteful remarks, but it was hard, it was so hard. The tools slipped in her fingers, and she wondered, not for the first time, if she was making a mistake.

But that urge, that need to create, it burned, it burned so much, and every moment she spent second guessing instead of working was a moment of torture and almost unbearable agony. So in spite of the voice’s constant rebukes, in spite of her own crippling doubts, she kept at it.

On and on she toiled, for hours or days, she couldn’t say, and as the rusty hinges and squealing iron gears began to turn as they once had so many years ago, the pent up magic burst inside her like a grenade, a shower of bright, coruscating sparks that filled Amanda with almost euphoric joy.

When at last she’d finished, the voice offered a scathing critique.

“That world,” it mocked, “Look how crude and simple it is. Hardly your best.”

Amanda considered its remarks. “You’re right,” she said, but after having released a decade of frustration, after having poured her soul into the project, she discovered that was okay. She’d learned that through the lens of imperfection, beauty could only be magnified.

The voice sputtered and could offer no reply. For so long, it had used the truth as a weapon. Now, that weapon was useless. Deflated, it fled into the darkness and was silent at last.

Amanda knew it would return, that in the fullness of time it would make her doubt again. But instead of shrinking away from the inevitability, instead of hanging up her tools for another ten years, she decided she would face it head on.

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Friday Freewrite

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What’s Friday Freewrite? Find out here.

Sometimes, when I realize something about myself, I wonder if what I’ve seen is true or if it’s just a vain reflection catching sight of another reflection. I feel like my soul exists in a hall of mirrors, capturing all the worst and most superficial aspects of myself and reflecting them back in disproportionate and grotesque detail.


Sometimes, even our search for the truth, the most noble, intimate, vulnerable and purposeful aspect of our soul, becomes corrupted, a vanity, a parody of a search that enjoys all the trappings and adornments of associated with a searching soul while the soul itself has refused to search any longer.


I look in the mirror, a broken battered version of my former self1, and I recoil back at the hideous visage that stares back at me, so alien in appearance.

My soul, blackened like my face, peers outward, coroded2.

I want to die.


Footnotes

1. This one is fictional, not autobiographical.

2. Should be spelled corroded.

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Friday Freewrite

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What’s Friday Freewrite? Find out here.

He saw the old man standing there after communion1, looking so serene. Surely heaven2 waited for the likes of him. But what if he were to stumble? To fall, to lose grace before he met his end?3, 4

He could make sure the man got to heaven2, could hasten his appointment with Christ to make sure he was in a state of grace when he died.

Yes, God would be pleased with him for his holy work, for his effort to save a soul.

He lunged forward, knife in hand. He would set the man free.


The congregation spoke out in unison5, a low bass monotone thrum, and Jason couldn’t help but be reminded of the Borg6. “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.”


Footnotes

1. This came to me during mass one Sunday. It’s based on a deranged man’s perverted understanding of Catholic theology concerning the “state of grace” and its necessity for salvation (see footnote #4 for more on this.) I like to explore humanity from peculiar angles.

2. Heaven should be capitalized.

3. The last two sentences sound better and make more sense if written like this: “But what if he were to stumble, to fall from grace before he met his end?”

4. Catholics believe that one can lose their salvation by sinning gravely and by not repenting of that sin before they die. Through the lens of insanity, the deranged individual reasons that the old man, on account of his holy appearance, must be in a state of grace. He further concludes that since it’s possible the old man might sin gravely in the future and therefore lose his salvation, he can do him a favor by killing him now, therefore guaranteeing the old man a place in Heaven.

5. At first, I didn’t want to include this passage because I thought it would detract from the more serious and horrific one that precedes it. But I wrote both of these on the same day and they share a common theme, so I decided to go for it.

6. If you’ve ever watched Star Trek, you’ll get the reference 🙂

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