Friday Freewrite

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What’s Friday Freewrite? Find out here.

Noise. Voices chattering and clattering, stumbling one over the other, tumbling, rolling across the air, through the restaurant, falling, even though falling doesn’t make sense.

Words, jumbled, tangled, mingled, mixed, floating, falling, colliding, crashing, like clapping symbols, stumbling finally to my ears in a great drunken disorderly fashion.

The noise drowns all thought, leaving me alone, isolated, turned inward on myself, thinking, surrounded by a thousand and one voices, none of them one with me. My voice is the only one silent.

Thinking, reflecting, pondering, wondering, worrying, anxious that I’ll always be alone, solitary, by myself. Forever, everlasting, a great void filled with darkness, a great cavernous empty space, with only me to fill its lonely halls.

Cathedral, columns rising into the infinite depths of sky, reaching, grasping, pulling toward heaven, trying to pull it down, bring it here to us broken earthly creatures.

Colors, swirling, tumbling, mixing, splashing.

Cars, growling, engines churning, shaking, vibrating, moving in place.

Rhythm. Rhyme. Music. Beat. Tamborine. Strumming, beating, hitting, shaking.

Bells. Tinkling, shaking, twirling, a streaking silver rainbow arcing across the sky, shining, glittering, reflecting back bright blinding crystaline light, illumination.

Chase1. Azure fire, glowing, piercing, blinding. The glow suffuses the darkness, gives it substance, texture without touch, patterns and shapes and definition, blue, filling his eyes; blue, filling his mind; blue, filling his heart; blue, filling his ears2.

Blue. Azure. Fire. Burning. Imolating. Consuming. Destroying. Raging. Tearing. Canceling existence. Annihilating. Cutting. Piercing.

Fire. Raging, a bright burning sun, blackening, charring, killing, painting the world with bright golden light, new life in the face of death, creation in destruction, beauty in ugliness, lightness in darkness.

Contradictions. Filing my ears, buzzing, contorting, twisting, filling me with tension, mind taut3 like a rope, waiting, despairing, crying out for safety, for salvation, for obliteration.

The soul, yearning, feeling, reaching. Truth, so far, so wide, so broad, so narrow, a light in the vast multitudinous darkness, one of infinite possibilities, the truth alone given substance and form, a million alternate realities denied existence, darkness without end.

Needing, wishing, loneliness, coursing through my veins like acid, burning, killing, annihilating love, leaving behind only bitter alkali in its place.

Evil. Patient. Waiting. Dark, choking vines, climbing, reaching into my mind with feelers, poking, prodding, pushing buttons, testing, probing for vulnerabilities.


Footnotes

1. I was looking at a Chase Bank sign when I wrote this. It glows a bright blue at night 🙂

2. As I’ve said before, like dreams, freewriting often doesn’t make sense. These are words that happened to tumble into my head at the time. You’ll see a lot more of this in future posts.

3. I actually misspelled this as taught, but reproducing that error here would have changed the meaning. I’ll do my best to present my freewriting in its raw form, but whenever that raw form presents an ambiguity that wasn’t actually present in my mind at the time of writing, I’ll correct it.

A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 7

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You can read part 6 here. Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

For three days, I thought about how I would get away. My double had used magic to pass from his world into mine. Unfortunately, I would have to find another way.

The window would have been a fantastic choice, had it not been for the fact that it was on the second floor and that there was nothing for me to grab a hold of on the way down. Once, in a mad desire for instant freedom, I considered jumping. But after a careful survey of the ground below, the need for self-preservation overcame the impulse. Survival was paramount. In such a world as this, I would have to look out for myself.

Querying years of accumulated knowledge from TV, I thought in a fit of desperation that perhaps I could tie mirror-Eugene’s clothes and bed sheets together, forming a makeshift rope that I could climb down to freedom. But an hour spent trying to create secure knots in thick swaths of fabric proved futile, and I learned that perhaps TV didn’t possess all the answers after all.

The only way out, I concluded, was through the door. I would have snuck out a long time ago had it not been for the fact that my new mom always kept it locked, and that she only ever opened it to give me food or to let my brother in when he wanted to see me.

For three days, I wracked my brain, and for three days, I came up short. Despair was slowly turning sour, like milk left out in the sun. I began to brood. Hatred toward my double for trapping me in this God-forsaken place transformed into hatred toward new mom and brother, not just for what they had done to me, but for the fact that they looked so much like the ones I had left behind. Their very existence was a mockery, a cruel sadistic torture.

I began to entertain dark thoughts, much like those mirror-Eugene had told me about in the few weeks he’d visited me in my own room. I wanted to hurt them, to make them pay for how they’d treated me.

It was on the third day, during one of my many fantasies, that an idea struck like a bolt of lightening. My lips curled into a slow creeping smile as I lay there in the dark. I could kill two birds with one stone, I realized. I could hurt my new brother, and I could use his pain as an opportunity to escape.

I spent the rest of the night planning, resolved that this would be the last night I’d ever spend in that house.

Read part 8 here.

Friday Freewrite

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The human mind is pregnant with ideas, tumbling and spinning, popping in and out of existence deep within the labyrinth of the subconscious, souls without bodies, dreaming of a day when they will finally be allowed to surface, granted new life through the power of articulation. Sadly, the conscious mind capable of freeing them from their dark and lonely prison is a frail and cumbersome thing, burdened by the often bulky and imprecise tedium of language; it’s an old man with arthritic joints, hunched at the shoulders, weak in the knees, capable of bearing to the surface but a handful of thoughts at a time. By the time a few of them have been released into the world, at last expressed in the full stature of their essence, a million more have winked into being, most of them doomed to an eternity in Hell, forever denied an audience with those who would otherwise know their secrets.

The blogs, short stories and books I write represent an infinitesimal fraction of those which come into being inside my head every day, some of them known to me and some of them not. In an effort to capture more of them before they’re lost forever, I’ve been practicing the art of freewriting.

What’s freewriting?

Ordinarily, sitting down to write is an active conscious experience, subject to the rules of spelling and syntax. The number of thoughts we can allow into our awareness in such a state is merely a trickle, thicker and slower than molasses. In the time it takes us to express those thoughts, thousands of others have come and gone, lost forever, cursed to drift in the empty space of the subconscious, eternally out of reach.

Grammar and structure are important, of course. They allow us to communicate in a concise and organized manner. But sometimes we need to bypass some of the many layers of the conscious mind, filters that prevent so many good ideas from ever surfacing.

Freewriting is setting down on paper whatever pops into our heads as soon as it pops into our heads, without a care for spelling or grammar. It’s a leap of faith. You don’t know what’s going to come out of you until it’s already there before your eyes, granted life in its rawest nascent form. It’s a mode of expression that heavily favors the wellspring of the subconscious. Ordinarily intended for private consumption, there’s no need for editing. It’s a seed, a literary embryo whose soul has been anchored to the world so that it can someday grow up to be a novel, short story or a blog.

Okay. And What’s Friday Freewrite?

Unfortunately, my time is limited. I have a full-time job, familial responsibilities and other duties that have nothing to do with my art. The time required to feed and water all these seeds is exorbitant, and far more than I can ever hope to afford.

I would like that to change someday. But until I win the lottery or post that magic blog that will make me go viral and sell a million books, I thought it would be fun to at least share some of these seeds. They may not be well structured, consistent or grammatically sound, but they’re the ideas from which my fiction is born in their crudest form. Like unrefined ore, they may not be as polished as smelted gold, but they nevertheless contain interesting concepts and images that deserve an audience, and I believe it’s better to share them imperfectly than not to share them at all.

Starting next week, I’ll post a selection from my freewriting every Friday. Some of them may blossom into more fully developed entities later. Many of them will not. But all of them will enjoy existence, however skeletal, because it would break my heart if they were to be lost.

Most of my freewriting is abstract and dreamlike, containing disjoint symbols, thoughts and sensations. Some of it, however, ponders more tangible and concrete ideas. I’ll try to curate an interesting mix of both.

I’ve already scheduled posts to automatically publish through the end of this year, and I’ll continue to add more to the queue, so expect regular content. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. Stay tuned!

A Case of Mistaken Identity: Revised Part 6

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As I mentioned in my last post, I was going back through previously written installments to fix inconsistencies and to improve the story. I’ve finished editing part 6, concluding this round of revision. Starting next week, I’ll continue the series with new material. Thank you very much for your patience, and I hope you’ve enjoyed A Case of Mistaken Identity so far!

Please note that this installment was significantly altered. You can read the revised part 6 here.

A Case of Mistaken Identity: An Update

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It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted the last installment. I’d like to explain why. As I was going through previous posts and sharing them with others, I was discovering that a lot of what I’d written was inconsistent and needed substantial revision. I’ve taken the time to do so, and have finished editing parts 1-5.

I’m going to revise part 6 next week, and then I’ll continue on with part 7 the following week. Thank you so much for your patience, and I hope you’ll continue to enjoy the story.

Here are links to the revised chapters:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 6

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You can read part 5 here. Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

Needless to say, my experience in that house was wretched.

My true mother never did come to rescue me. Neither did mirror-Eugene return to tell me it had all been a cruel joke. I held onto this foolish hope for three or four days, staying up late into the night, staring at the inside of my new closet with the door wide open, waiting for the door on the other side to reappear.

A week later, I’d resigned myself to my fate, realizing that I would never see my home again.

I wondered what my double was up to. Was he happy with his new mom? Mom. My mom. I missed her so much my chest ached. I can’t begin to describe the despair and the torment I experienced when I realized she was lost to me forever.

My new mom was just as bad as mirror-Eugene had described and worse. Every morning, I donned torn and weathered hand-me-down clothes; whiled away the hours in my room alone, laying on my bed, staring up at the ceiling; ate a bare-bones breakfast and didn’t dine again until dinner. My two meals per day consisted of meager helpings of burnt toast or leftover stew that did little to nourish my listless body, and each day I would feel the painful teeth of hunger chomp down inside my stomach.

I wasn’t allowed to see other parts of the house, and only ever caught glimpses when someone came by to feed me or when my new brother came to see me. Each time, I regretted it. It was just enough like my own house that I ended up homesick, and just different enough that I would be left feeling dizzy and disoriented.

My new brother was a demon loosed from Hell. He would find me in my room each night before I went to bed, the corners of his wicked grin catching broken shards of moonlight from the window in the dark. He would squeeze my neck in his arms like a vice until I became light headed, or hit various parts of my body until I bruised like an overripe banana.

I would cry out to my new mom in desperation, and each time, she would come to my room in a huff. She would behold her eldest, who beamed up at her, face adorned in an immaculate smile, then turn to me, dripping venom, demand that I keep my goddamn mouth shut and slam the door. I don’t know if she knew what my brother was up to. I didn’t think she would care if she did.

My true older brother and I had always gotten along fairly well. There’d always been the occasional fight, but there’d never been any true malice, not like that between my new older brother and I. The first few nights I protested and demanded to know what I’d ever done to him. For all I knew, mirror-Eugene had brought it on himself. But Tom would only stare at me in silence, a knowing twinkle in his eye, then continue with his gruesome work.

The weight on my soul’s shoulders was too much for me to bear. It crushed me on the inside, so that I could hardly speak, eat, or sleep. My new mother never asked if I was all right. If anything, she seemed relieved when I’d at last discovered the virtue of silence.

I put up with this for three weeks.

It wasn’t until a particularly brutal fraternal beating that left blood spurting from my nose and my right eye swollen shut that my will to survive at last overtook the shock that had come over me since crossing over into mirror-Eugene’s world. I lay on my back that night and made my decision.

I was going to escape.

Read part 7 here.

A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 5

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You can read part 4 here. Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

Panic seized my chest, and I grew short of breath. I clawed and scratched and pounded at the wall that had only recently been a door, begging mirror-Eugene to let me back through to the other side.

I don’t know how long I’d been banging and shouting, but at some point I heard the door to the room burst open. I turned just in time to watch the knob smash into the wall.

“Eugene! What’s gotten into you? Stop that banging now.”

Mom!

Mom had come to rescue me. Somehow, she’d learned about my twin (or perhaps she’d known all along, a superpower that all mothers seem to have in common.)

“Mom!” I cried, basking in the familiar shape of her face. I ran to her, ready to grab hold of her and to never let go again.

“Eugene,” she snapped. She stared down at me as I attached myself to her leg. “Get off. Eugene, what kind of game are you playing? This isn’t funny.”

The frosty contemptuous tone in her voice stopped me short. I pulled away and examined her face more closely. Suddenly, I felt hopelessly and desperately disoriented. It was like gazing at my mom through a fun house mirror. Some of the features were the same, but there were extreme differences. Whereas the mom I remembered had long brown hair that ran down the sides of her face in curls, this one had short bright red hair that stuck up in uneven bunches. Whereas the mom I remembered possessed flawless alabaster skin, this one had skin that reminded me of the surface of the moon, full of pocks, divots and craters.

She was an aberration, a twisted half-truth that wrenched my stomach and made me feel like throwing up.

“Mom?” Once again, my chest tightened and it was difficult to breathe. “Take me home. Please.”

She glared at me, drilled into my skull with her eyes. I beheld nothing but malice in her features, and something inside me withered, a part of my soul that’s remained lifeless ever since.

Her face flushed, and before I knew what was happening, her right hand flashed before me and I was knocked backward through the air. I peeled myself off the floor a moment later, head swimming, and looked up dazedly to find her standing before me.

Horrified, I reached up to feel the cheek she’d struck. It burned.

I remembered what mirror-Eugene had told me about his own mom, how she locked him in his room every day and wouldn’t let him out except to eat. But I couldn’t believe this was that woman. Despite the differences, she still looked so much like my own mom that I refused to believe she could be anyone else.

God, I want to go home.

Would I ever find my way back home again? With a ferocity I couldn’t possibly articulate, I wanted my mom to reach out to me, to tell me that she loved me, that she would rescue me from this terrible place and take me home. I wanted her to tell me that everything would be okay. More than anything, I just wanted her to tell me everything would be okay.

I cried.

“Oh, stop it with the waterworks, Eugene. It won’t work. Not any more.”

“Mom?” called a sleepy voice from the doorway. It seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place it. “What’s going on?”

I watched through blurred vision as a shape emerged behind her.

“It’s your brother,” she spat. “He’s acting up again.”

The shape behind her moved closer, and as it came into focus my breath caught inside my throat. He looked older, and his voice was deeper, but I recognized my deceased brother despite the difference in years.

“Tom,” I whispered, half in awe, half in disbelief. “But, you’re dead. How did you –” I stopped. Vertigo engulfed me, and it was all I could do just to stand.

He looked down at me, seemingly impassive, but there was a sparkle in his eyes that sent a chill down my spine. “What are you talking about?”

“It’s another one of his games,” she said, pointing to me as if I were a venomous snake.

“Are you playing games?” asked my brother, stepping up to my hands, which were spread out on the floor. He pressed down on them with his left shoe until I cried out in surprise.

“Careful,” he warned, smiling. “Play too many games and someone might get hurt.”

He gazed down at me a moment longer, as if he might have more to say, then suddenly wheeled around and headed back the way he’d come.

“Goodnight, Tom,” said the woman before me, looking back at him beatifically, as if he were the only thing right in her whole world. Then she turned back to me and her smile vanished. “As for you,” she said, following in her older son’s footsteps, “I don’t want to hear another peep. You hear me? Go to sleep. Now. Don’t make me come back here.” Then she too left the room, slamming the door behind her.

But I didn’t go to sleep, and I didn’t sleep again for a long time.

Read Part 6 here.

“The Others,” Coming to an E-Bookstore Near You

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UPDATE: This has been published. You can read the first three chapters for free by clicking here.

I’m interrupting your regularly scheduled programming to update you regarding the publication of my soon-to-be-released middle grade fantasy, The Others. A Case of Mistaken Identity will resume next week.

As I mentioned back in April, I’ve been working on this book since 2013. Here’s a working (and very rough) synopsis, to give you an idea of what the story’s about:

Jason is your average eleven year-old boy. He likes TV. He has a babysitter he could do without. His little sister Janie is his archnemesis. He also happens to have a passion for magic.

Not real magic, of course. Jason has devoted himself to the study of illusion and sleight-of-hand since the age of five, when his dad showed him his first magic trick. But everything Jason thinks he knows about the world and how it works is suddenly called into question the day he runs off after a fight with his little sister. He visits a small magic shop that’s recently opened near his house and meets the owner, an older man named Hruby. In response to Jason’s skeptical attitude regarding the authenticity of true magic, he offers Jason a very special item, a wand that he says has the power to make things disappear.

Jason is doubtful of its abilities. But when he abruptly makes his sister disappear after a heated argument, he quickly learns that there’s more to the world than its rational, well-understood surface, and in a panic, he races back to the store, hoping to enlist the aid of the only person who will believe him.

But Janie’s lost in a very dangerous place, and she isn’t alone…

It’s been a long and winding road, filled with copious revisions, all of which resulted from the input I received from my writing group and intrepid alpha readers. Now, a year later, I’m finally preparing The Others for publication.

I just received a heavily marked-up copy of the manuscript from my developmental editor, and will be spending the next three months revising per her feedback. When that’s complete, I’ll send it off to beta readers for more feedback, revise again, submit the manuscript for line and copy editing, complete any outstanding revisions and finally release it to the world sometime between April and June, 2015.

Golly, that sounds swell! Where can I get more information?

I’m glad you asked! I send out regular monthly updates to my mailing list. It’s the best way I have to connect one-on-one with my friends and fans. If you’d like to be a part of the fun, you can join by clicking here. As usual, you’ll receive a free copy of my short story, The Sign. And if you sign up between now and December 31, 2014, I’ll also send you a free copy of The Others as soon as it’s released in the format of your choice.

A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 4

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You can read part 3 here. Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

I can show you how. My twin’s words reverberated inside my head.

He’d said he could show me another world. I wanted desperately to explore. I would often pretend that I was an astronaut or an adventurer. In the past, I’d had access to a host of secret worlds whose only keys lay within the confines of my imagination. Now, the adventure would be real.

“What do I have to do?” I asked, heart jackhammering inside my chest.

The jack-o-lantern smile that adorned his face should have been a red flag. But I was too eager, too excited, and that excitement made me stupid.

“Not much,” he assured me. “I’ll do all the work. Come on.” He walked to the other side of the room and gestured for me to follow.

We stopped in front of my closet.

“In there?” I asked, pointing at the door.

“Yes,” he said, back turned to me. He gazed up at it, focused and intent. “This is where I came from. The world here is still soft. It’s easier to bend.”

I stood dumbfounded as my twin looked at the door. I queried him a couple more times for additional information, but each time he held up his right hand to shush me and said, “Hold on. I’m trying to concentrate.”

I wondered what was happening, if he just needed time to think or if he was actually doing something I couldn’t see. A few weeks ago, I would have told you that magic outside the imagination was impossible. Now, it was as ordinary as breathing air.

After a while, his face slackened, and a few moments later he turned back to face me, weary but triumphant. “There, it’s done.”

“What’s done?”

“Open the door,” said mirror-Eugene, and his mouth spread into a smug smile. He seemed pleased with himself.

I sidled up to the door, examining it with a thoughtful eye. The last time I’d checked the closet, there’d been nothing there, just a bunch of clothes and old junk. And yet my twin had somehow passed through it from his own world into mine, and had continued to do so every night for the past few weeks.

My forehead throbbed with blood, and my hands broke out into a sweat. I reached for the knob. Turned it. Opened the door.

I gasped.

Beyond the variously colored t-shirts and jeans that hung from wire hooks was a much wider space, one that could not have possibly fit within the confines of a simple closet. The visage was incomplete, a kaleidoscope of broken shapes and textures only partially glimpsed behind the clothes, but it was enough for me to realize I was peering into another world. Mirror-Eugene’s world.

“Awesome,” I whispered.

“Go on.”

I took a moment to catch my breath before going forward. I glanced back. He urged me on. I took one hesitant step forward and turned again.

“Are you coming with me?”

“I have to stay here to keep it open.”

“Oh.” I was scared to go alone, but it wasn’t long before excitement overcame the cautious side of my nature. I brushed past shirts and pants, casting them aside like they were broad hanging leaves in a tropical jungle. A moment later, I passed through a second doorway and found myself in mirror-Eugene’s room.

Mostly, it was the same. But despite the dark I could see that there were differences. For one, the room was mostly empty, save for a tiny single bed propped up against the wall with nothing but a bare mattress and a flat pillow. There were no pictures on the walls. The floor was wood instead of carpet.

I heard my twin speak suddenly from beyond the closet. “Sorry.”

“What?” I turned around just in time to see the door on the other side swing shut.

“Eugene?” I called. I lunged for the closet, hoping to make it through before the door had closed completely, but by the time I got there there it had slammed and there was nothing left but a thick plaster wall.

“No,” I breathed. “Eugene! Come back!”

Nothing.

I banged and clawed at the wall, desperation driving me further down the road of hopeless futility.

An unexpected voice spoke up from somewhere else in the house. “What’s that racket?” It sounded like my mom.

A moment later, I heard footsteps.

Read Part 5 here.

A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 3

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You can read part 2 here. Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

For the next few weeks, my double visited me in my room at night. He was the identical twin brother I never had. We hung around in the dark until the small hours of the morning, talking about random things.

We often swapped stories of our families. I was fascinated to learn that he had an older brother. I too once had an older brother, three years my senior. Unfortunately, he’d died in a car crash along with my dad when I was five. I wondered if my brother had looked the same as his, if perhaps his own mirror double would have visited in the middle of the night like mine.

In so many ways we were the same. His name was also Eugene.  We laughed at the same jokes. We had similar personalities.

But the reflection was distorted, imperfect.

My otherworldly counterpart had a dark side. For example, during our geneological tales, I learned that whereas I loved my mom and trusted her completely, my twin loathed his own. He would dream up scenarios in which she burned to death in a fire or fell out of his family’s second story window. His eyes would burn with opalescent fire whenever he told such stories, and I would always be struck by the sudden urge to draw the duvet tighter around my shoulders.

But despite this disturbing trait, we became fast friends. He was the brother I’d always wanted, the brother I thought I’d lost all those years ago. I should have known better than to trust him.

“Why do you hate your mom so much?” I asked on the last night I would spend in my own bed.

Mirror-Eugene looked down, averting his eyes. I couldn’t tell if he was sad, angry or both. “Because my mom hates me. She locks me in my room and never lets me out, not even for dinner.”

“Why?” I asked, shocked.

But my twin wouldn’t answer. Instead, he turned to stare out the window, as if contemplating the darkness on the outside.

I decided to change the subject. “What’s it like, going from your world to mine. Is it hard?”

My twin’s head whipped back to me, eyes narrow. “No,” he said. “It’s easy. You just have to know what you’re doing. Why?”

“No reason. I just wish I could see your world.” I dreamed of a universe that was a warped reflection of my own. “That would be so cool.”

My double grew quiet and still. He looked around the room, as if unsure of something. (Later, I would think that maybe he’d been conflicted, that perhaps he’d felt a pang of guilt over what he’d been about to do.)

“You can,” he said finally, “If you want to.”

“Really?”

“Yes,” he whispered, grinning. “I can show you how.”

Read Part 4 here.