Friday, August 13, 2010

Titles: If you're interested.

These aren't really that interesting but I thought you might like to have some context for the excerpts, because the chapter titles are all indicative of what the chapter is about, and they form a nice little view of the book as a whole.

Tentative Title for the whole thing: Our Selves Explode in Light

Chapter 1: At 11th and Florence and I'm Nobody's Sweetheart.
Chapter 2: Where There’s Tea For Two, And Songbirds Sing Like Barges.
Chapter 3: In The Hospital, Where I Met My Other Selves
Chapter 4: We Aren't The Ones To Answer Your Questions
Chapter 5: About Organs Breaking, And Barges Singing Like Songbirds
Chapter 6: Or Why I’m Safely Asleep In Your Mind
Chapter 7: Sometimes I Can Really See Myself With You
Chapter 8: But I Can't Tell Who I Am, And I Might Not Be Me.
Chapter 9: Even If You Wanted Me To Do Something, I Couldn't.
Chapter 10: Because Nothing Can Stop Me From Hurting Myself.
Chapter 11: And Dreaming All Of This Was Such A Silly Lie.
Chapter 12: In Real Life All We Can Do Is Watch
Epilogue: Our Selves Explode In Light

Excerpt 5: From Chapter 5

The man behind the desk was very angry. Blake could not understand why. He had provided proof of lack of identity. His fingerprints were entered into a computer and even after several hours of searching the faithful machine had not been able to find a match. A man was dispatched to one of the central bureaucratic facilities with a photograph of Blake. There even larger, boxier, angrier, computers would be put to the task of finding out just who our young protagonist was at that very moment of his life. These advanced machines were programmed to spend eighty percent of their processing power searching for just who Blake had been, his schooling, his grades in school, any crushes on boys or girls in his class that he had ever had. What sort of macaroni he preferred to paste onto construction paper, or how he felt about the very thrilling sensation of making a clean cut through card stock with safety scissors. The computers began a thorough search through every disappointing prom date that had been registered in the last quarter century, because their programming (correctly) surmised that Thomas had:
A) gone to prom in the last quarter century and
B) had disappointed his semipopular date (who it turns out was Kathleen Watkins, a basketball cheerleader who hated Chemistry but loved Physics for obvious and unknown reasons respectively)

However the advanced alloys and super-cooled central processing units of the servers assigned to identifying this physically broken young man could not find the answer to this solution. As Thomas’s jaw had been broken in several places in the accident the current alignment of his teeth, indeed even his mandibles could not be identified from extant dental records. In fact this line of investigation was pointless because Thomas’s parents had never taken him to a licensed dentist. They had taken him to their good friend Montgomery Alberto Montenegro, or as he preferred Monty. Monty had lost his dental license as a young upright man in the late sixties. He was robbed of this important facet of his life by a lawsuit against a former jazz musician, who after years of playing hard bop and an even harder secret heroin addiction, was no longer susceptible to the effects of any of anesthetics in Monty’s arsenal, and therefore felt very abused after a triple root canal.
Monty had preformed all of Thomas’s dental work, taken every last x-ray, even cemented and wired the youth’s braces. He was by all accounts a hardworking and honest dentist. Indeed the very paragon of dentistry. However through the cruel twist of fate and a lost soul’s abuse of heroin Monty had only attended three annual Dentist conventions and was therefore largely out of touch with the latest in dental techniques and practices. So to the trained eye Thomas’s existing dental records looked much much older, as the hand that had guided and shaped the jaw had been out of touch with the newer techniques to quide and shape the proud square jaws of Americas youth. Thomas’s newly squared and solidified jaw now fell into step with those of his peers. Whereas before he had a thin intellectual jaw, he now had a firm bold lantern jaw.
After seventeen straight hours of the whole bureaucratic facility’s computers being dedicated to searching the vast and transient networks and databases that currently define our societies definitions of life and identity (well at least as far as death and taxes are concerned) Thomas Blake was declared a non-person. This was a unique situation, and the decision has been studied at many of the secret universities that secretly train the citizens who become bureaucrats. It is known as the Clarence Richmond Decision, after the person who invented the form that allowed what happened to legally take place. In case you are wondering the form is available government wide, indeed it can even be requested from the Fish and Game office. The reason is that each of these offices needs to recognize the validity of the form, and intra-office politics dictate that if two offices have the same form and they both recognize it as valid, then both should implement the form. In bureaucratic circles this is referred to as Building the Dam.

Excerpt 4: From Chapter 4

Today had been long, too long. Her neck ached, and her eyes burned from staring at her monitor. Her work had begun to bother her. The emails she was receiving from her coworkers had begun to be rather strange, they were too personal, and not related at all to the business of business. When she opened the computer she found an email from Cheryl. It read:

“Hey Evy, just wanted to see how your doing on that project I gave you last week. Also, my husband called last week. We ended up going to the bar, anyway one thing led to another and we did it in the alleyway behind the bar. It was so hot. I seriously orgasmed six times. Can you believe it? I couldn’t, he was never that good when we were married. Shoot me an email back, let me know what you think. We should get coffee soon, it has been way too long since we’ve pretended to do that.”
While this disturbed Evelyn it did not surprise her, Cheryl had a bad habit of slipping personal details into her business emails. This email was just outside the range of what she had come to expect but it wasn’t really out of character. However that was just the beginning, and a short message from Frank in Accounting where he explained that he “had a rash on (his) left nut for the last three weeks” precipitated the deluge of personal details from the company’s personnel. Emails came pouring in. At ten o’clock Evelyn’s email account was full. Every employee in the company, including employees at the branch offices in Texas and Ohio had sent her short disgustingly detailed missives about their lives. Evelyn had tried to respond to these, but gave up. She called the IT desk and asked them what to do. Greg, the technician at the desk didn’t believe her, he said that no one could fill up a corporate email account, and when he asked Evelyn if she had gotten his email about having sexual fantasies about his third grade teacher, Mrs. Hoskins, Evelyn hung up. So she did the only thing she thought she could do, she began reading the emails again.
Then impossible things started happening. Evelyn had accepted the fact that everyone employed by her company could feasibly email her personal things, on a case-by-case basis it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility, and maybe someone had sent around a message that said she was very good at handling these matters.
Evelyn worked through lunch, and then stayed late. She was like Hercules fighting the Lernaen Hydra. Each email she answered was replaced by two more. She tried deleting whole pages at a time but that just encouraged more and more emails. It was if every action she could take encouraged more and more people to send her the messy details of their lives. She read about suicidal thoughts, about falling in love again, about seeing their first child being born and about being in a car accident while teaching a daughter to drive. She read about rape and lust and passion and abstinence, about how a man had never masturbated, had never had sex, had looked at women naked on the internet and in real life and found nothing, how he had looked at naked men, animals, children, even plants and inanimate objects and still he had never had an erection, this man was immune to sex in all of its insane varieties. She read about how a grandmother hated her daughter for having such beautiful children, and how she loved her grandchildren more than anything, and how she hated herself for this, because before she had been pure and free, a statue on the pedestal of herself she had held herself naked on the beach and felt the sun’s golden rays bathe her in perfection, but now even though she had more sexual partners, some barely old enough drive, most still in college, some older than her, and one born on exactly the same day down to the hour as her, even now in the lush jungle of her sexuality she felt cold and angry because of the impossibly perfect love that the sight of her grandchildren inspired in her.

Excerpt 3: From Chapter 3:

He was seven again, and his father had just come home from work. His cheeks were flushed and he pulled a second beer from the fridge as he loosened his tie and walked upstairs aggressively to the master bedroom. He felt like he was in trouble even though his homework was all done. Then there was yelling and the meatloaf got cold on the kitchen counter. Thomas and his sister hid in the basement, playing distractedly with toys until tearfully their parents called them up to eat. There was silence at the table. Nobody spoke as his father stood, walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge. The sound of the bottle being opened was followed closely by the slam of the back door.
Thomas was vaguely aware of something cold and metallic being pressed against his cheek. There was a cool hand being laid on his forehead, and his hair was slicked back against his scalp. He was throwing up. Was he in the hospital again?
No. He was eight and still in his boyscout uniform. He didn’t have any merit badges, tonight he was supposed to get his first one. He had held back with all his might. He had felt the sickness coming on as he got on the bus after school, but he had held on. He ate very little dinner and bounced from side to side in his seat, claiming to be too excited, but he was bouncing to stop the nausea. He was turning down the shake n’ bake chicken because it wouldn’t have stayed down. It wasn’t until they pulled into the parking lot of the Lutheran Church on Delancey and he had stepped out of the van that it started. First the milk from dinner, then the warm ovenroll, everything came tumbling out of him. He fell to his hands and knees: fruit punch from lunch, a corn dog, green beans, a piece of gum, and finally a couple of bran flakes. The waves came and left him less. He felt empty and shallow, sweating there in the parking lot of St. Mark’s Evangelical. Hands came around him, lifted him to his feet, and a cloth wiped his mouth. “You made it out of the car at least.” A voice said. But all he could do was look at the vomit, it was failure, he had almost made it. He had almost gotten a badge, he was going to know how to tie knots, or maybe start fires, but that was all over now. With success so close at hand he had thrown up, all over it. Then blackness. And then a voice, humming worriedly, and a cool cloth being wiped across his forehead.
“where am I?” But the words didn’t come out that way.
“Shh. Rest now.”
His eyes opened for single second, expecting to find the lamp next to his boyhood bed, but instead there was fluorescent light, and a water stain above his head. A woman with blonde hair was seated next to him, and he saw the red fullness of her lips, and then blackness.
But in the background the vomiting had stopped.
And the blackness gave way to visions. He was in a crib, and above him was a white washed ceiling. And on the ceiling, above him was a tawny water stain. He reached up with hands too small to be his, and arms too long to belong to the hands, but the ceiling receded as he reached, drawing away from him. The sound of footsteps filled his ears, a horrid marching, as if columns and columns of soldiers were coming.
Thomas focused with all of his power on the water stain. He wanted, no, needed it to be everything but what was around him. He didn’t blink, and in the eternity of the approaching footsteps the ceiling slowly morphed. It wasn’t white washed anymore, it was a ceiling tile, but now his eyes were closed, he knew this, but he could still see, as if his eyelids were sunglasses, and the whole room seemed darker. He was in an aging hospital, and the stain wasn’t just a stain, but it was in the shape of a mating pair of monarch butterflies. This realization led to another more brilliant leap of genius, indeed the tawny water stain was not a butterfly, or even a pair of butterflies, but it was a whole migration of butterflies on their way south to Mexico to die and birth and birth and die. But soon even this was not enough, and the tawny water stain was not an image of migration but of the proud country Bolivia, or more correctly and grandly the Plurinational State of Bolivia, or even more grandly and correctly Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia.
As his mind focused on the stain, the sound of footsteps grew louder and louder ringing with military precision, echoing down the long corridors of the ancient hospital. He soon saw that the map of Bolivia was indeed a perfect cartographic record of the Crab Nebula. In his mind he hoped that might bear a passing resemblance to a scar he’d had since childhood. The scar on his left knee was a result of an experiment with a stolen lighter and various inflammable materials. The resulting explosion left him miraculously unharmed except for the burn on his left knee which now, but that wasn’t right, was it someone else’s knee? The memory seemed to have left him. He felt lighter, nauseous, maybe because of how light he felt. It was like being at the top of a roller coaster hill, only he wasn’t bound to the tracks, he could go down or side to side, or up, forever up held aloft by his own buoyancy. He felt sick with the choices.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Excerpt 2 from Chapter 2:

Things quickly get crazy, and you won't understand any of this, i've posted this deliberately out of context:

“Yes, your big toe. Give it to me.”

“So if you eat my big toe, just my big toe, then you won’t kill me?”

“Would eating you kill you? How strange. I didn’t kill the teapot or the table when I ate them.”

“Well they weren’t alive.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because they didn’t grow, or change… well that’s not right… look they didn’t ever move about on their own did they?”

“I’m not sure, you knew them longer than I did.”

“What? I thought you were here before me.”

“No, you were talking to yourself when I… became.”

“Oh, so are you still going to eat me?”

“Not if I can just eat your big toe.”

“Ok… what one do you want.”

“I don’t know, you pick, I’ve never been able to decide anything.”

“Alright, so we’re agreed that if you get this toe you won’t eat me, right?”

“No I won’t eat you, don’t be ridiculous, how could I eat YOU?”

“Ok do it then.”

Thomas trembled as the shape knelt down and lifted his left foot, and lovingly unlaced his shoe, removed his sock and carefully inserted the big toe into its no-mouth. The feeling of losing his toe into nothingness wasn’t exactly unpleasant. Seeing as Thomas remembered his big toe always running into objects and rarely bringing him any joy, he wasn’t after all one of those people who find the sensation of their toe being sucked to be the height of eroticism, Thomas actually enjoyed the sensation of losing his left foot’s big too. Soon the no-teeth had bitten all the way through, and to his surprise there was no blood, there was no wound. His foot ended cleanly and neatly where a big toe would have been. He found that he could not remember what it felt like to have that big toe. He could remember the fact that he had it at one point, but only the concept of the toe remained, there were no longer any memories of how it felt to wiggle the toe in a sock.

“Well that wasn’t so bad at all.” Thomas said still shaking, but now shaking more from relief than fear.

“That was incredible, and look!” The nothing pointed with its no-hand towards what was once its no-toe, and a miracle had occurred, there on the left foot was a big toe, to be specific: the sinister hallux. It was exactly the same as the toe Thomas had just lost, but now it was attached to nothing.

The shape said “If I thought I was living before… this” the nothing gestured wildly around and down at the toe “this my friend is living!”

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Excerpt From Chapter 1:

Remember everyone this is a rough draft, so please be kind:

They sat in the darkened living room; the fireplace cast shadows on the walls, and left the room in a flickering red twilight. The cousins, and aunts and uncles had left; the grandparents were asleep in the guest room upstairs. The necessary dishes had been cleaned, and the dishwasher hummed contentedly. The remaining dishes, the serving plates, and larger bowls, were left on the counter piled next to the sink. His mother was weary from a barrage of in-laws and she had opened a bottle of red wine for herself and sat back comfortably in her leather recliner. He began slowly: “Well, Mom, yes, there is something wrong.”

A concerned look appeared on his mother’s face.

“No, I’m not failing school- if that’s what you’re thinking” it was what she was thinking “and no it isn’t girl troubles.” Girl troubles were Mrs. Jennings second conclusion, and after this last sentence his mother’s face twisted into a look of confusion, and then a look of worry, greater than her initial look of concern about Thomas’s grades, came over her face. She asked “You’re not… gay” softly whispering the word gay with an exaggeration of her mouth, and then after a pause “are you?” Thomas, feeling the mind of his mother begining to brush against the barriers of his own, was silent for a minute.

“No, mother, I’m not gay.” He paused, then he began again, “It’s just that, well, I feel like I’m losing myself.”

“What do you mean losing yourself?” She asked with incredulity. “People don’t just lose themselves. Its not like you can just forget yourself at the beach or on the subway, you’re not a wallet or a watch.” Thomas’s mother was beginning to get into a comfortable ranting position, but when she took a long sip from her wine glass Thomas interjected.

“Its like, I don’t know what I want to do, I mean, other people know what they want me to do, sometimes I feel like I’m being told to do something, even when nobody has told me to do it.” Thomas was slowly realizing that what he wanted to communicate would be impossible to say to his mother. “I just feel like all my goals and dreams, you know, what I want to do with my life, like they’re being slowly taken away from me, like someone else’s goals and dreams are replacing mine, and not just someone’s everyone else’s.”

As he continued he saw his mother’s eyes glaze over, he knew she was switching into an automatic response mode. She opened her mouth to speak, but before she could begin Thomas continued “I…I just feel like I… like I’m not myself anymore, like I’m becoming everyone else.”

At this his mother cut him off, “Thomas, are you on… the weed? Is that what I have to deal with now? I have to take care of my… dope fiend son now? It’s bad enough that your father drinks like a fish” she said as she gestured vaguely with her hand she splashed droplets of wine across the room. “I’m going to go to the pharmacy tomorrow, and I’m going to get one of those home drug testing kits, and you’d better hope mister, that you’re piss comes out clean, or else I’m pulling you out of that fancy university and sending you to community college, you’ll have to live at home of course…” His mother’s words began to fade to white noise.