The Leap of Faith Principle – I’m Still Here (+ “Lindsey’s Dream”)

Did you know that giant tarantulas will often keep frogs as pets? Apparently they’ll keep them safe from predators and in return the frogs eat insects that would threaten the spider’s eggs before they hatch.
I guess that means Aragog probably chose a toad for his Hogwarts pet, huh?

Happy Tuesday, everybody!

I don’t know where you live, but in the areas around my neighborhood, people put up these signs in their front lawns a lot. They’re black signs with white lettering and they all sport famous historical or motivational quotes. One of my favorites is by poet and activist Maya Angelou, which says:

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
-Maya Angelou

I guess in that way, her quote has a lot in common with Papa Kratos (check out the last post for the reference). It’s terrific because it, like Kratos, doesn’t expect perfection, doesn’t even expect success. It just expects that you’ll apply yourself the best that you can – The. Best. You don’t need to apologize for failure or coming up short, you can keep your apologies and save yourself the time and words. Instead, observe what’s happened, the effects of your efforts, and fold that experience into your next try.

Because of a lot of life events recently (short version: helping my mother renovate her house, retire, and move), I’m still feeling pretty sensitive to motivational sentiments. So that’s what today’s post is. Like some others, this one came together a while ago in probably a single afternoon on the back of a napkin one day at work. We’ll get into more in The Take.

Without furter adieu, I present:

Lindsey’s Dream

I was standing on a cliff by the ocean. There was a rocky precipice about twelve feet out and there was a small crowd of people standing on it. They all looked happy, fulfilled, and whole. I looked down at the space between our places and saw bodies. They were lifeless, broken, bobbing with the ebb and flow of the waves against the rocks. They were the people who had jumped and didn’t make it. I looked behind me and saw an ocean of people. They stood dressed in rags like me, cold, shaking with anxiety and fear. They were the people who never jumped because they had also seen the waves.

I wanted to jump because I wanted to be where the happy people were, but was afraid because I didn’t want to fall. I looked down at the waves again and, this time, saw something I hadn’t noticed before. It was a hand, then another, then another. They were people who had survived the fall and were climbing back up. So I stood and I watched. Not every climber finished, many fell, but one made it and stood next to me.

“What will you do now?” I asked him.

Breathless, he answered simply: “Rest and jump again.”

And he did. He was old and gaunt, he saw there was reason to be afraid, but he jumped. The man fell short, but he clung to the side of the rocky precipice. Eventually, he pulled himself onto it and was folded in among his new peers. I decided to name him ‘Murphy’.

That was when I jumped too. I had seen others jump with a timid step and that lack of conviction made them slip. I jumped with strong legs and a clear mind, but still I fell. The waves were hard, shocking with the cold, and threw me with overwhelming strength. I saw the lifeless forms around me and felt the seduction of giving into the waves. But I remembered the man’s conviction. It was that conviction that drove him to jump, fall, and yet never drown. I looked to the cliffs. The rock up to the precipice was impossible – sheer, flat, and held an imposing slant. The climb I witnessed the old man make was jagged and sharp, but doable. It started with grabbing the first hold.

So it was that I jumped, fell, climbed, and would jump again. Now those sad faces were watching me. Some were silent, others bid me cease my efforts and join them by their heatless fires. I shuffled off their hindering grasps and made another leap. I had learned. I knew how to run, where to step and where not, and which rocks to spring from. I reached my hand out as I had so many times before, but this time found purchase on the precipice. I allowed myself a smile at a few of the successful who took notice, but the rock I held broke and I fell.

This was the first time I’d felt so frozen by the waves in my many leaps from the bluff. I had done everything correctly. I had made my leaps, I had learned from my falls, I had persevered the pain, the cold, the rock. Yet this time it was the rock that had let me go. It was not my fault, but I still fell. So I began to sink, and as the deep blue grew darker the seduction of the bidding cold returned. I felt my feet touch the inviting, slick, uneven bottom and the light began to close in around my vision of the precipice I had been so near.

I would have let the water take me to join the other fallen if I hadn’t seen it. There, from the bottom of the waters at the base of the cliffs, I saw handholds hidden in the flat stone column of the precipice. They were folded, narrow slits in the stone like gills on a fish, only to be seen from an angle the bottom of the water provided. So, I pushed off the bottom, ascended toward the light, and took a filling breath after I broke the surface. The air tasted of old salt, but I had a love for it. I swam to the base of the column and placed my hands upon it. It was flawlessly smooth, like the surface of polished marble, and it was warm.

I soon found the small pockets hidden in the stone, scarcely wide enough for my fingers, and began to climb. It was terribly demanding, but not unlike what I’d endured in my efforts anyway. I climbed, with aching muscles, burning lungs, and quivering joints, but I climbed. I made it to the edge of the precipice I’d leapt for so many times and pulled myself onto it.

“I knew you would make it,” came a familiar voice. I turned and saw Murphy standing there. I smiled in return, looked about my new peers, and was confused. “What’s the matter?” he asked.

“They’re the same,” I said.

I inspected the community atop the precipice. Everyone stood dressed in rags, and while there were those who wore a contented smile like Murphy did, many others frowned or shook with their own cold. I walked between them, wondering what could bring them displeasure when we had made it. I wondered this until I came to the other edge of the precipice and saw.

I looked around me and saw many with discontented faces. I looked down and saw still bodies, bobbing with the ebb and flow of the waves. I looked up and saw another precipice with a small crowd waiting on the other side, all with happy, wholesome faces.

“Will you stay?” Murphy asked, who had followed me.

I looked at him, then back to the precipice. I smiled at him, placed my steps carefully, and I jumped.

FIN

The Take: “Lindsey” is really kind of an arbitrary name for the perspective in this. Ultimately, what it comes down to is the picture of the various aspects of a leap of faith. I think it originates from an old military turn-o’-phrase, but: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” Back in September of 2018, I left a comfortable manufacturing job to write full-time and put myself on a sabbatical. About two weeks after my last day, my mom got sick, and since then, it’s been a lot of hospital visits, phone calls with insurance, realtors, etc etc.
It was a leap of faith and that turned from coffee-house-bohemia right to dumptruck-of-life-events very quickly, but that’s what a leap of faith is. I think that’s what I’ve come away from this having absorbed, mostly because of this: I’m still here.
I’m still here, my mom has seen better circumstances but I think she’s happy, her house is coming along, I love my family and friends probably now more than ever, and writing has been a lot of wheel-spinning, but it’s gathered bits of traction here and there (check out Hidden Histories by ThirdFlatiron Publishing now and keep an eye out for my episode with the NIGHT LIGHT podcast coming soon! *plug plug nudge nudge*).
It began as a leap of faith, has NOT gone according to plan, but that’s alright. And I guess just try to bear that in mind the next time you’re faced with a choice that comes with a jump (or if you’re in one now). People treat it like a coin toss with Success/Failure being like Life/Death and I just don’t think that’s true. Especially because even though this jump’s come up Tails, a lot of good has come from it and I can always jump again.

Anyway, that’s enough lecturing. I’ll catch you guys Thursday!

Ciao.

Today’s Fable Fact source: https://roaring.earth/tarantulas-and-frogs-are-friends-with-benefits/

Let’s Get Real #2: My Mental Coaches are Fictitious (Mostly)

Did you know there’s a kind of bamboo that only blossoms about once every 130 years, and when it does, every stalk blooms and then dies at the same time – no matter where on the planet the stalks are. Damn Nature…

Hey, happy Thursday, everybody.

I like to think I have a mind for quotes, but then again, I think most of us do. When you hear something that resonates with you either on a personal level or in a way that relates to the present moment you come across it, those words can be powerful. Very powerful.

Once upon a time, I resolved to consider wisdom that did that for me, no matter where I found it. When I decided to keep my ears open in that way, I started realizing that a lot of the places that my mantras and sayings came from were…unexpected. I also realized that I talk to my self – All. The. Time. And not always offering sayings in my own voice (if that makes sense).

Where those sayings come from is just as varied as the things they have to impart. Today, I’d like to go over my team of mental coaches, or at least, the top three I hear the most often. Maybe the next time you’re having a rough go, you’ll find a use for what they tell me – or realize you have some of your own!

Anyway, introducing first:

#1Deadpool
“Maximum Effort!”

Deadpool’s here because he’s likable, a crowd favorite, and his advice is incredibly straightforward. If you’ve seen his movie, it’s captured in those two dutiful words. I’ve used this for everything from finishing that hard trail run or getting through a tough emotional moment to just plain ol’ getting out of bed in the morning. It’s simple and to the point. It doesn’t scream “Do it!” quite like Shia LaBeouf or the cliche “You can do it!” All it asks is that you give your best, and not in that tired way kids hear their parents tell them.

Folded into those words isn’t a demand or expectation that you accomplish what you’re striving to do, it just expects you give it your genuine maximum. It doesn’t care about failure, just how much of you gets put into it. Often times, you’ll be surprised by what you can do with a lil’ of this.

#2 – Kratos
“Do not be sorry. Be better.”

Aaaah! I love this one! And even though we’re marking it number two, it might be my favorite just by Chill Factor (that’s level of goosebumps, not how cool you feel on a beanbag chair). It has a lot in common with Deadpool’s “Maximum Effort”, actually, in that it also accepts failure – in fact, the phrase is all about it.

For any who’ve played (or at least heard about) 2018’s “God of War” or its previous installments, chances are you’ve heard of Kratos. He’s the Greek…well, God of War. In last year’s game, his story continues and we find he has a son. During one of the scenes in the game [NO SPOILERS], Atreus, his son, sort of messes up on a hunt. He turns to Big Papa Kratos and says it: “Do not be sorry. Be better.” What’s so great about it is what it says by not saying it. In six little words, it says all of this:
“Don’t apologize, not because you’ve done nothing wrong, but because it’s alright to be wrong, make a mistake. In fact, you need to make mistakes to improve. Only, learn from them. Don’t wallow in guilt over a mistake or accident, because that does absolutely nothing. Not you, me, nor anyone else gains from your wallowing or regret. Do not be sorry, be better. I’m not mad. I don’t want your guilt, your sadness, or your reasons – I want you to grow. So do not apologize. Learn, be better.”

#3 – Kevin Hart
“Stop bein’ a bitch!”

Alright, so not all of them are fictional characters. Also, this one doesn’t need much explaining (I hope). Sometimes, it’s just a good thing to hear if Deadpool’s advice doesn’t quite get through. Besides, Hart has a good voice and comedic presence to take the bite out of a bit like this. To boot, in real life, the man himself is a part of a huge positivity movement (I encourage you to check out the events he’s done with Nike or his interview on Joe Rogan’s podcast).

#4 – Conor McGregor [Bonus]

He’s been more and more of a controversial character in recent years, and for good reason. Especially during his rise in the UFC before becoming champion (the first time), he was always a brash talker, but also had more than a fair share of motivational statements and this one’s no different:

“In the struggle, when things are going good and you visualize these good things happening and you visualize more good things happening – that’s easy, that’s easy. What’s not easy to do, is when things are going bad and you’re visualizing the good stuff.”

I don’t want to comment much on the man’s actions of late, but I also don’t want to understate the importance of this advice. When things are difficult, it can be easy to get lost in how poorly things look.

Anyway, that’s all for now. See ya Tuesday, y’all.

Interested in more? Like knee-slappers and chin-scratchers? Check out my first published work in the Third Flatiron’s “Hidden Histories” anthology here (and tell ’em Evan sent ya!): 
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PRN5ZQ1

Today’s FableFact source:  https://grapee.jp/en/114838

Do You Think You Know You?

Happy Thursday everybody!

Did you know that at one point the Vatican offered people time off purgatory for following the Pope on Twitter? Neat.

Today’s piece of buried treasure is a weird one. Rather than introduce it, I think I’m just gonna roll right into it.
I present:

The Stories we Tell Ourselves

-door opens and closes-

-raincoat is set on hanger-

-buzz of lights flickering to life-

“Well, let’s just get right to it, shall we?

“I would call myself a smart man, perhaps even a poetic one; but I’m no genius. Still, I imagine that when someone reaches that point of breaking the genius threshold, it must come with complete, anarchic chaos for them internally for a time. Especially nowadays, most of the genius ideas that draw from simplicity have to have been taken. I mean, we won’t know until someone comes up with the next one, but that’s beside the point. The point here is that nowadays, genius is determined by invention or mechanical or technological innovation. That’s right, my friends, long gone are the days where our brightest minds generated ideas for the betterment of their neighbors. The Enlightenment is over! Now, genius sells for a profit to a crowd of hungry dummies; but again, I digress.

-pacing footsteps-

“When a mind breaks into the realm of greater intelligence, it isn’t a clean break, especially it being their debut for that kind of prestige. No, the universe’s workings are too messy and our proud understanding is too small for things to go off without a hitch. This all brings us to this man, a Dr. Dennis P. Ramchoff, a former head of retentive neuroscience and pharmacology at Terminus Inc. Some of you may know Dr. Ramchoff for his accredited founding of the ‘Hypothetical Yielding of Potential Non-Occurrences’ – or H.Y.P.N.O. A drug that allows its user to, for a time, relive as a conscious experience a personal memory; only, under the drug’s effects allow you to act independently during the experience, altering it however you may with your subconscious adapting it for plausibility’s sake. It’s easy to think of it like lucid dreaming, but with more serious consequences.”

“What kind of consequences, sir?”

“Well memory, to perhaps a greater degree than dreaming, is a strange thing, son.”

“How do you mean?”

“For one, haven’t heard of too many cases in my day where folks get chemically addicted to dreaming. With HYPNO on the other hand, you can usually spot an addict. Hallucinations, delusions, long and short term memory loss, even some accounts of Alzheimer’s disease found in 30-year-old’s have been attributed to overuse.”

“Makes you wonder if it’s worth it.”

“Mmhm, well, when you approach it philosophically, it isn’t hard to see the temptation. Relive any personal memory, truly relive it? We’ve all had daydreams where we think back to a time or event we wish had gone differently, but it’s always still abstract and strangely intangible. Even if just inside the shelter of your own mind, it can become real if you’ve access to the drug. At the same time, similar thinking can illuminate the graver angle to the pill. You much of a reader, son?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You know who Thomas Nagle is?”

“I’m sorry sir, but no I don’t.”

“Quite alright, quite alright. I suggest you read him, but the short version of what you’ll come to understand is that, truly, all you have is the present moment and all you can be sure of is the contents of your own mind.”

“I’m not sure I follow.”

“Believe me that’s fine. You see, what makes the idea of memories so strange when you think about it comes with accepting those two things, and that takes time. It goes something like this: you know the past exists because your memories tell you so and because those memories help to explain the world around you at present, sure, but since your memories don’t exist outside your own mind, you argue yourself in a circle trying to confirm that they exist externally. You know those events happened and exist separately from you because you remember it, but using what’s in your mind to prove what has happened outside your mind, you get nowhere. And if the present moment is all that exists, then your memory is an unprovable record of something that doesn’t exist, but is still relied upon day-to-day. Any better?”

“I think a little, go on.”

“Excellent. Well, that’s where HYPNO comes into play and can make a world of trouble. When you use the drug relive a memory alternatively and create that experience, to the user it still creates a new, valid memory of that experience. All you have is the present to draw connections as to which one is authentic. For example, four years ago you were at a social engagement where you became intimate with the woman who is now your significant other, and without that occurrence, the two of you may never have gotten acquainted on that level. Say that you use HYPNO to relive that event and become intimate with a different individual at that same event, some fantasy you wanted to live out. When the drug wheres off, you now have two valid memories of the same event that have drastically different endings, yet you may be comfortably certain of which occurred in reality when you find yourself still romantically engaged with the first woman and not the second.”

“Even that small example seems dangerously confusing.”

“And that’s just the beginning. If one should generate enough memories through the substance that their mental space gets cluttered it can become extremely difficult, nigh impossible, to separate earthly history from your own because to you it’s all real.”

“Why not keep records? Notes to yourself as to which memories are the real ones?”

“Seems a little obvious, don’t you think? It isn’t that people tried, but simply put: doubt kills it. It can begin simply enough to separate two memories by using notes or physical reminders. But should those reminders be misplaced, lost, destroyed, or, even more sinister, tampered with, what then? Or should the idea enter your mind that the anchor you’ve left yourself was itself a misremembering, suddenly you can’t trust your own evidence. It’s doubly true if the duplicated experience was of an event in the distant past; the alternative remains fresher in your mind than the original, easier to trust as a result. These possibilities are all under the law of the mind-body problem; to attempt proving external reality via internal evidence gets you no traction whatsoever.

-beat-

“You’re being quiet.”

“Yes, I’m sorry. It’s just a lot to consider.”

“Mmmhm, making genius doesn’t give the pleasure of a clean break, as I said. Something always gets overlooked with something this revolutionary and something so inchoate as our understanding of consciousness. Isn’t that right, Dennis?”

“Excuse me?”

“When an addict should create so many alternative experiences that authentic, natural memories are lost, where does identity lie in all of that?”

“What did you say?”

“Personhood remains as immeasurable as it ever has been, but our past thoughts, decisions, and actions are what help the ego shape it. What should happen to that system if a mind becomes so muddled in a quagmire of fabricated experiences indistinguishable from reality?”

“I’m speaking to you!”

“Near as we can tell, and what the practical man will tell you, as the mind dreams we consciously experience it delving into itself while the body sleeps. Whether this is the case or whether dreams are the self’s recess from a mortal casing is ultimately uncertain. Regardless of which explanation you prefer, it is, in the end, a conscious experience that is only shown perspective up waking.”

“Let me out of here!”

“After years of addictive use, fabricated memories being compiled and compiled atop those of an earthly history but all of them real to the mind in which they reside, attempts at keeping authenticating records having long since failed, allow me to ask: where are you right now?”

“I said for you to let me go.”

“And I asked you a very simple question. I will resort to harsher methods if pushed, Mr. Ramchoff.”

-a drawer opens-

-something heavy is set on the table-

“Where are you right now?”

“Being held in your classroom.”

“Yes, and why is that?”

“I don’t know.”

“Don’t you? What is the date today?”

“I don’t know!”

“Come now, think. I’ll give you a hint: it’s mid-November. Hmm, anything? Anything at all? I asked you a question, Dennis.”

“November eighteenth, two-thousand twenty-five.”

“Mmhm, and what makes that particular day special?”

“It’s the day I got the idea that started HYPNO.”

“Yes. Bright young man striding toward an equally bright future in biochemistry. How, oh, how did you find yourself in an introductory philosophy class?”

“Why are you doing this?”

“We’ve been over this, the subconscious adapts according to the user’s actions. So, tell me, why am I here? Hmm, tell me. Come on, speak up.”

“Because you gave me the idea.”

“Good.”

“I was looking out that window while you lectured about ontology. I wasn’t ignoring you, just listening and thinking.”

“What about?”

“The park across the road.”

“Doesn’t sound like listening.”

“I was remembering a time Fiona and I were at a park that looked a lot like that one. We’d just met a few weeks prior and it was the spot we shared our first kiss.”

“Very sweet.”

“The point was I was remembering it. It may have been your lecture, but I started contemplating the existence of my memory of that moment, most everything you said earlier; how it was something unique to my own mind, something no one else had. The further away in time the moment got, the more the dreams of it faded and the more I wanted to hold onto it.”

“I’ll bet you never imagined what HYPNO would do.”

“It was a selfish design over a selfish want.”

“You open the world to something of that caliber before it’s ready and you sunder it. Political corruption more chaotic than ever it was before, with false memory claims being slung this way and that, seizures and strokes spiking in audiences of all ages of the unprepared, and an almost complete dissolution of the study of history. My boy, when you sever a people’s connection to its past overnight, you stir a typhoon of their present.”

“You’d mentioned once an old religious saying: ‘You can’t step into the same river even once’. Of course going to mean that the river is truly ever-changing, completely fluid, never exactly in one instant is it the same form; and the human experience is no different, right?”

“You’re certainly not the same man you were when you came here. Guilty conscience looking for where you went wrong?”

“It’s odd…startling…to look back and realize it was altogether a different person in that seat. If our selves are defined by our memories, asking who we are is unanswerable. What, then, does that make us? Stories?”

“Now you’re getting it.”

FIN

The Take: This one’s from early 2016 and I guess I was feeling really, really, really philosophical at the time and if I remember right, the title comes straight out of a quote from Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. The result wound up being a pretty dense brick of text with a fun idea attached. While the construction was clunky and the idea of H.Y.P.N.O. was basically just super lucid dreaming in a pill, it was fun to come up with the acronym and think of the consequences stemming from something like it.

Anyway, that was fun. See ya Tuesday!

Interested in more? Like knee-slappers and chin-scratchers? Check out my first published work in the Third Flatiron’s “Hidden Histories” anthology here: 
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PRN5ZQ1

Today’s FableFact source:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/16/vatican-indulgences-pope-francis-tweets

Dawning of a New Era

Okay. First post, starting in three…two…

…now.

Did you know that in Rock, Paper, Scissors, 80% of people will throw Scissors first?

Phew. Well, that wasn’t so bad. Now that the ice-breaker’s out of the way, I guess we can be polite and move onto introductions.

Hey all, name’s Evan. I’m an emerging author out of Northern California. What’s that mean? Means I’m an optimistic git that left his day job to write fiction full(ish)-time. What’s that mean? Means I don’t have exactly forever to make me a prolific figure in literature.

That’s where this operation – and YOU – come in. I write new stuff all the time and while that’s happening, the “old stuff” piles up. I’m calling this “The Light of Day” because I’m, in part, making it the spot for all those scribblings that wouldn’t see it otherwise (*snarf snarf*). I’ve described it a bit like my rookie card that will be really cool when I hit the Big Leagues.

But for real, this is where I’ll post previously tucked-away stories from workshops, thought experiments, and old concept work-up’s (with commentary, for that sweet cherry on top) that all need a comfy display case. Plus some true stories from my own life that I love telling but don’t have the heart to honor with an open mic set. And I’m sure if I’m not careful, it’ll be a fun place to learn about US copyright law.

Anyway, let’s get to it. First up, an old one and first jump into a fully allegorical work.
I present: The Heron.

The Heron

Kyle groaned as she slowly awoke, her eyes painfully fluttering open as they took in the light. Though this wasn’t the first time she’d lost consciousness like that while in this place, she gasped once fully awake. The vast distance between herself and the ground still unnerved her despite its practiced appearance with every new waking. As she hung there, her head pounded and her fingers felt bloated with their prolonged suspension. She began wondering how long she had been out as the Heron made another pass a short distance away. The gust sent from its powerful wings made her sway ever so gently and brought a pulse of pain from her ankles.

The Heron. Kyle’s gut told her the Heron meant her no harm, though she felt certain it was aware of her presence. At any point, she knew, the giant bird could glide by and pluck her from the sky like a grape from a vine. But every time she awoke, the bird flew by. And every time it let her be.

It would come make its passes every few hours – at least it felt like hours between the great bird’s appearances. There was no sun in this place and no moon by which to judge time, only the blank white void of open space on all sides, the ground far, far below, and the door high above her. Reminded again of her goal, she looked to her feet which ached, bound at the ankle by the Cord that tied her to this place.

The Cord. She had no memory of coming to this bizarre, empty place, and while it felt foreign, she sensed an elementary familiarity from the Heron that watched her and the Cord that bound her. It was secured tightly about her ankles at one end, while the other extended high above to the upper surface of the sky where the door waited. It taunted her at times, boasting the vast distance it crossed while at others it offered hope, being the means by which she might escape; though this knowledge brought with it a thought that gnawed at the back of her mind and recalled her attention to the blade tucked in the small of her back.

The Knife. She didn’t know how she’d come to have it, but that seemed to fit – it felt like a part of this place rather than something of hers or her past. What she did know, what she could feel, was the tempting offer of release it carried: a release from the pain, release from this struggle, a release from the door and the thirst of it for which she suffered. At any time she could use it to cut the Cord and fall rather than face the climb before her.

Kyle shook the thought from her mind and breathed deep. She blinked rapidly and looked about her, twisting and turning her body to scan her unchanging surroundings, but mostly to limber up. As she became more lively, the memory of her last attempt before blacking out weaved its way into her thoughts. She’d begun to climb and made it some distance but lost her grip on the Cord and fell, dislocating her left hip. She lightly patted it now, as it had returned to normal, the way her injuries always did upon waking.

Her eyes caught sight of the Heron in the distance and though the thought of the overwhelming pain troubled her as she considered the climb again, its sway over her felt strangely muffled as she focused on the great bird. She felt another breeze on the wind from the Heron’s wake and the chill made her skin tingle, her hair raise, and breathed a renewed life into the her ember spirit. She looked to the Cord now with new purpose.

With a grit to her teeth, she folded her body over and gripped the Cord just beyond her feet. She bent her knees as she pulled the cable in and straightened her body once she’d made enough progress that she might support herself with one standing loop for her feet and another about her forearm. A sigh of relief fell easily from her lips as the blood drained from her head and the pressure faded. She looked up at the few hundred meters of cable between herself and her goal. Sounding a grunt to start, Kyle began pulling cable and started her climb.

The journey upwards was difficult. Her muscles burned and her breath came hard. She had grown wiser since her previous failures and learned to collect lengths of cable with her climb and fashion holds with them that she might earn brief respite between climbs. Still, even with this new strategy in place, she experienced little more relief than when she had hung far below. Often, her mind drifted to thoughts of the Knife, but she fought them off as best she could. The strain made her bones ache as she pulled herself skyward and yet they wracked whenever she paused idle for breath. Kyle rested and turned thought to how long she had been fighting when saw the Heron once more, though this time much closer.

She could see its muscles contort as it used its wings and watched its noble blue feathers ripple with the motions of flight. The bird made only the soft sound of wind as it keenly sliced the air about her. Kyle felt its eyes upon her as she admired its course through the void and soon met them with her own gaze. Her world slowed as the two locked eyes and for the briefest moment she felt nothing but the wind. In that moment, the Heron had made her a promise. She slowly nodded and looked again to the door. She was surprised to find how much closer it was. So much focus had been on her hands, technique, and the Cord before her, she didn’t notice the distance she’d come. She breathed a small breath of thanks and tensed herself for the final stretch, intent on earning the bird’s promise.

As Kyle continued her ascent, she noticed the bird didn’t stray as it usually did. The beast continued its watch during her final hours of contest with the Cord and rose through the sky with her. It pumped its wings more and more and would squawk whenever she slipped or faltered, as an attentive parent or coach. The closer Kyle came to her goal, the more excited the bird’s movements also grew. As she took her final pulls and laid her hand at long last against her goal, she looked to the Heron and whispered her thanks. With the last of her strength, she pushed the door open and lifted herself through.

She collapsed on the other side and fell into the soft grass of her Elysium as the manacles of the Cord vanished from her ankles, leaving the thick rope to fall. She lied breathless of weary exhaustion. Kyle rolled to her knees and turned her face to the sky. She screamed with the strongest emotions she’d ever felt until her lungs could give no more. The tears she earned slowly rolled down her cheeks and burned as they fell. Through her blurred vision, she could see the Heron high above, dancing through the sky. As a smile came to her lips, her eyes fell closed, and for a moment that seemed a blissful eternity, she felt nothing but the softness of the wind.

FIN

The Take: This one’s from waaaaay back in 2015 and I think it came together in a single evening. The whole idea came together when, at work, I saw a spider hanging from a line of web. It was right there in the middle of the room with high ceilings at about head height and it struck me as weird. To me, it’s just a spider that happens to be near my forehead. But the spider is basically at the end of a 300-meter rope and its options are climb all the way back up or fall. Obviously it’s different since it’s a friggin’ spider, but the idea of being in that same circumstance, suspended in a vastly open space like that, with those options – felt like food for thought. Interpret it any other way you’d like, but to me the Heron was always determination, the Cord is the challenge, and the Knife was capitulation (“giving up” – the way out that’s always there). I think any of us that’s had a goal, heaps of struggle that came with it, but pressed on to realize it anyway – however big or small – can relate to Kyle.

Aaaaaand that’s the gist. This should be pretty cool. (I hope so, at any rate, ’cause I’m gonna charge forward with it whether it is or not.) Keep a look out every Tuesday and Thursday for new stuff, see the progression unfold as I monkey with this new toolkit, plus links to where you can check out my other published works (anthologies, e-zines, podcasts, etc).

Interested in more? Like knee-slappers and chin-scratchers? Check out my first published work in the Third Flatiron’s “Hidden Histories” anthology here:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PRN5ZQ1

Ciao, for now.