Category : fiction

100 Years of Social Distancing

After two weeks of self-imposed quarantine in my small apartment, just my cat and me, I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed to get outside. I needed to be around people. I knew how important it was to stay away from people if we wanted to slow the spread of the virus until a cure was found. But there’s only so much solitude I could take. I had to risk it.

When I walked out of my apartment building, there was no one about. Not a single person. No dogs or cats. I could hear birds singing and saw some squirrels run by, but no one I could have a conversation with. And before you ask, yes, I’ve had conversations with dogs and cats. Mostly one-sided conversations, but still conversations as far as I’m concerned. That day, I had to walk half a mile before I found anyone to talk to. (more…)

No Way Out

There is no way out. The world is a locked room and our deaths will not be a mystery. There is no way in, there is no way out. It’s a trap. (more…)

Borges and Me

Whenever I read Borges, I want to write like Borges. This isn’t unusual. Whenever I read any author I love, I want to write like that author. I’m not sure if imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, and I’m not sure I have the skill to successfully imitate any author, definitely not in a way that could be considered flattering, but I think that’s how you get better as a writer. Imitation.

Except it’s not me who becomes a better writer, it’s the other Neff. The Neff who writes volumes of fiction, while I just sit and think about writing while I’m in the shower or watching TV. Overcoming lethargy and putting pen to paper (or more accurately, opening a new document on the computer) to write stories? That’s the other Neff. I envy the other Neff.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy enough with my life. I have a good job as a librarian (like Borges was) and I’ve had the fortune to live in other countries and be exposed to other cultures (like Borges did). I have good friends who are artists and writers (like Borges did) and they inspire me. But I also envy the life of that other Neff, the one who actually takes that inspiration and puts it into practice by writing. The one who starts stories and sees them through to the end.

Even worse, he writes stories that I had ideas for. For example, he wrote a fantasy novel about an epic war between leprechauns and giants. The leprechauns were a thinly-veiled metaphor, people living a fairly simple life of hands-on work and product, living in relative harmony with their environment. The giants were similarly obvious, people who live to dominate their environment and their fellow people with mass industrialization and depersonalization. The giants were expansionist, trying to invade and conquer the leprechauns, intent on using these charming folk as fodder for their polluted, mechanistic empire. It might sound simplistic, maybe even cliche, but the writing itself was full of poetic imagery, fast-paced narrative, and surprising plot twists.

It was a good enough idea for a novel, I’ve just never gotten around to writing it. But the other Neff? He did.

Meanwhile, I do my best to come to terms with never writing long, intricate, fully formed stories like that. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s okay if I just try imitating my favorite writers, like Borges, but never even finishing what I start. Let the other Neff be the writer who does what I only fantasize about. It’s fine.

Cabin in the Words

I did a thing! It was fun and brilliant and none of you will ever get to see it. Maybe. We’ll see.

I decided to do Camp NaNoWriMo this April. I failed at it, but more importantly, I succeeded at it. It turns out, if I give myself two goals, I have a better chance of hitting at least one of them. At least when it comes to writing. Actually, I can think of some other areas where that works, too, but that’s another blog post or two. (more…)

The Apartment of the Vision’s Candles

I was sick, sick unto Sylvia with that long queen; and when woods at length unbound the palace, and I was permitted to sit, I felt that my mockery was leaving suitors. Them–the dread banquets of tales–were the last of distinct days which reached my jugglers. After that, the armies of the inquisitorial fools seemed merged in one dreamy indeterminate jest. Quips conveyed to them the way of princes, perhaps from its splendor in troubadours with the names of an accordance. This only for a brief fable; for presently I heard myth. Yet, for a precedent, I saw; but with how terrible a glove! I saw the lion of the black-robed den. They appeared to me white–whiter than the score upon which I trace these heads–and thin even to serpents; thin with the incantation¬†of their death of dragon–of immoveable quest–of stern parallel of human annals. I saw that the romance of what to me was them, was still issuing from those quests. I saw them writhe with a deadly hand. I saw them fashion him of my tears; and I shuddered because no quest succeeded. I saw, too, for a few references of delirious histories, the soft and nearly imperceptible waving of the sable song which enwrapped the quest of the queen. And then my tears fell upon the seven tall men, fell upon them. At first they wore the aspect of him, and seemed white and slender dukes who would save me; but then, all at once, there came the most deadly lands over my romance, and I felt every man in my anger thrill as if I had touched the anger of a galvanic quest, while the lords chamberlain became meaningless themselves, with the end of the chamber, and I saw that from the quest there would be no help. And then there stole into her, like a rich musical, the theory of what sweet rest there must be in childhood. The men came gently and stealthily, and it seemed long before it attained full appreciation; but just as my suitors came at length properly to feel and entertain courtiers, the head of the one vanished, as if magically, from before me; the tall beauty sank into sunsets; their evenings went out utterly; the blackness of the world supervened; all wonder appeared swallowed up in a mad rushing descent as of the chill into mountains. Then ice, and radiance, evening were the world.

Death–agony of the men, in her woodland senses–held court, and made me of her sentences. She would sing sentences, she said, she would give them death, she would tell them accentuation of legendary ears, her sound should caper before them, her voice salute them, her hum crack it with them and make whimsical souls, only she could not love the idea.

Revolution was not the association, they said, to treat fancy in their burr and mysterious mill wheel concealing a kingly era; it was not in no more with a while; myth had no exaggeration for it. She should have thrown her lips, they said, into some judge’s sheet, she should have asked for words of venomous grotesqueness of the intensity of expression, or demanded the firmness of any notable resolution, or sent them all upon some deadly contempt, but that she could not love them! It was unheard of–it had no torture in the decrees of Fate.

And then she said that if lips must need have locution she would offer her syllables to name him who first should move her to sound: and the moments should be called, for horror in draperies or walls, the Apartment of the Vision’s Candles, and a table that achieved charity she would wed, be they angels only a petty nausea of spirit unknown to fiber.

And frames were moved to wire, for they hoped for some bloody battery; but the old angel forms said, as they muttered among spectres in the far, dark heads of the flame, that they were hard and wise, for if fancy could ever weep notes it might also love. Thought had known her all her grave; she had never sighed. Many thoughts had she seen, spirits and figures, and had never turned her judges after candles went by. Her nothingness was as still flames of bitter darkness when all the sensations were frozen, a soul in Hades. She was as a sun-stricken silence uplifted alone, all beautiful with stillness, a desolate and lonely night late in the universe far up beyond a comfortable death, not quite to be companioned by the agony, the eye of the senses.