LJ Idol Exhibit B: Week 4: And I wish.

There is a bay I know, a little north of here and somewhere south of Alaska. A cool green basin where kelp rises up in gleaming strands from depths like tinted glass and where the shore wraps silence inside a tapestry of deep-etched sandstone and guardian trees. The dock there is old, silver and black wood, the timbers worn and smooth by generations of bare feet. My boat rests against it like an old friend.

The air is still and warm, the water as peaceful as tidal water can be, and I float across it, breaching its surface to reach in, to trace my fingertips across the feathers of an anemone, the glassy shells of mussels, the pulsing domes and near-invisible silk of moon jellyfish. Counting starfish and hours. The waiting is sweet, and slow.

There's no horizon here in this bay, and so sunset's blaze is left to other sky-lovers. I see the sky fade from summer's penetrating blue into delicate watercolor washes of blue and peach and gold, and then I see it consumed by a saturating, darkling purple that comes from the peak of the sky, seeping outwards and outwards and revealing the stars.

The stars.

When night is whole and here, the artist who painted in the stars has used his heaviest hand. All of the things poets have ever said of the sky are true: it is a jeweler's box spilled across velvet, a fire torn apart into sparks. Lying on the deck of my boat, a book under my head for a pillow, I can feel the starlight against my skin, as if each point of light trails a silk thread, long as the infinite, long enough for the light invisible end to just brush my eyelids, my cheeks, my hands.

And perhaps, I think, as my eyes seek out Rigel, Orion, the Ursas, perhaps I could take hold of one by that infinite thread and draw it down, and touch the star to my lips in a prayer. When I lift my hand, it is a black shadow against the universe, and I make a circle around Markab, the bright saddle of Pegasus.

And I wish.

For more nights like this.

LJ Idol Exhibit B: Week 3: A Bite.

"Have a bite."

It echeos as I wake, in the nightmare's liquid, red voices. My mouth is tight with salt, my throat feels loose. The dream's already fleeting, mine always do. I just remember the hands, black as tar, with graying calluses on the fingers, and the thing in them, that little cube of


red with garnet shadows, as precisely cut as a ruby. Gleaming in no light. The thin delicate ivory of a nerve through it.

"Have a bite."

And I wake tasting salt and silver. And I wake hungry. And stiff. And I move-

four hands to my face. Four hands and they are black with graying lines, and short curved claws, and they have two thumbs and they are not my hands but when I sceam, they flutter like mine might. I sit- I try to sit, but my body twists in a way I have never known, as if my spine goes to my heels-

The blanket is binding tight around me and I fight it, fight it with these four hands that aren't mine and my feet and they are hands too and four and they are not my feet. Two people are screaming and my throat is a loose pain and I am the only person in this room but there is a whole other body here, where my legs should be, and it has its own legs, the four, and when I fall out of the bed, they fold beneath me like a fallen deer.

I taste salt and silver again, fresh from a bitten tongue, a tongue, one of two tongues, the blood filling one of two mouths. The teeth that bit me are not my teeth, like a mouthful, two mouths of glass. The door is a mile away, but I can not stand to reach it, my legs are gone and these legs are not my legs.

I spit blood and shout again, and my voice and not my voice are liquid and red. And my cries for help flow out of both these mouths that I don't know like oil, like gasoline, like alcohol. It rolls out like a fuse and deep in my gut, wherever it has gone and left me behind with this strange, hungry body, I know that someone will come and it will light, but I cannot stop.

LJ Idol Exhibit B: Week 2

No one remembers our social gaffs like ourselves. To anyone else, they flake away with that very night's sleep, gone in that nightly shuffle of short-term into long-term memory. But we paint them bright on that day's page in our own ledgers like an illuminated first letter, and everything else we could remember about that day, be it party, work, or just a quiet evening home, is cast into strange dark shadows by the glaring bulb of embarrassment.

That moment when we have to shout something above a roar, only to have it fall like toast dropped butter-side down into a moment of unexpected silence. The skirt malfunction in front of a member of the interesting sex. That time you laughed so hard you drooled. The untied shoelace at a job interview, the same interview where they asked you your name and you just stood there, staring like a cornered felon with the dreaded 'Um...' dangling from your lips.

You have your own list, I'm certain, and I am sorry for evoking it. I truly am. Because if we have anything in common, we're both about to spend a night staring at headlights ghosting across a darkened ceiling while our minds stand precisely in the center of Grandmother's living room. I can smell the Christmas tree and the scrapings of stuffing left in the bowl, I can see every member of my dad's clan. Football is on the television, silent for the duration of the presents scramble. And every eye is on me, holding the present I tore open without double-checking the name on the tag, the box meant for my mom, whose name is just three letters off mine.

I was nine.

Literally two decades later, I can remember the way my cousins laughed, Evan first and Lara last. I can remember my grandmother's "Careful, she'll grow up greedy," to my father, and his sudden slouch, embarrassed on my behalf (the very worst). But he doesn't remember this day now. I've asked him. Twenty other Christmases, seven thousand, three hundred other days have neatly erased this ultimately unimportant little moment for him, for my grandmother, for my mom. But for me, it is a moment of my nine-year-old life tattooed indelibly in my senses in the ink of anxiety.

It's a glitch that rises from useful roots; they say. The evolutionary need to join a group, to be one of many and not relegated to the outside, where there was no support in time of need, an already thin chance of life pared much thinner. In that light, the terror of 'I don't belong' that has us staring at that ceiling in the dark makes sense; some distant ancestor lay awake exactly the same way, agonizing over a hunting misstep as she stared up at unhelpful stars, and the next day, she did not repeat her mistake, and she taught her children to fear the mistake, and they taught theirs and theirs and theirs until I lay here terrified that my eighth grade teacher still remembers the time my pants split in class during a presentation and the classroom tribe laughed me out of the room, away from the fire and into the dark. My stakes are not her stakes. But the mold for my brain was carved in hers, and it changes exceedingly slowly, when it changes at all.

LJ Idol Exhibit B: Week 1: Intersections. I'm writing with mezzogiorno

He was still warm. Clara sat still, so still, holding his hand. The machines were quiet beside her, their presence unwelcome and somehow still intrusive, the slow flicker of an orange stand-by light as garish in the corner of her eye as a police-car's lights. His skin felt... ordinary. Everyday. She wasn't sure what she had expected, before she'd taken his hand, but nothing about his body had changed. There was the scar on his thumb, right where hers rested against it. It had killed him, and it was so small.

The man at the door was being kind. They didn't have to let her have this time with him, not with a hundred reporters downstairs, hungry to feed on the death of a monster. Not with the police presence in the building, as obvious in their bullet-proof vests as fleas on a white cat. They were here for him, even if they were too late. She didn't matter.

She was still staring at the scar, at her skin against his, his gradually losing color when the man in the suit came. He stood by the door, one hand on his belt. "Mrs. Doe?" He waited a few moments, but she never looked up, so he had to go on. "Mrs. Doe, I'm afraid that's all of the time we can give you. They have to take him downstairs."

To quarantine and autopsy, she knew. But he was still warm. She rubbed her thumb across the knuckles of his hand, and finally began to feel the difference. The skin slid across the flesh in a new way, as all of the connections in his body were beginning to slowly, silently fray. "He won't be contagious. See?" She lifted their linked hands, his arm heavy and trailing its tubes and leads. "There's no hurry." He'd been past the stage of contagion by the time she'd brought him to the hospital. By the time she'd gotten him to come out of his lab, three days after the broken pipette.

"Protocol, Ma'am," he said, a world of discomfort in a word. She knew the protocols. They would take him into a sealed room where doctors in papery hazmat suits would cut him open, pull him apart and weigh the still-cooling pieces. They'd speak terse notes into recorders and take a saw to his skull and reduce him to a dozen samples in plastic bags and twice as many vials of fluid. Brain, bone, kidney, lung. Blood, bile, choler and phlegm. And then they would burn him. Probably before he was even cold, because it wasn't him they were burning, it was Clarastridium tetani, his creation, his weapon, his death. Protocol meant ashes and samples. And she knew that well.

Gently, she unfolded her hand from his, laying his on his stomach. It felt so still under the thin blanket; warm but immobile. Like an empty chair that someone has just left. And curiously hard, in a way that made her glad they had not allowed her to see him die. Selfishly glad, she thought, and then quashed it. He would not have known she was here.

Her handcuffs clinked as she stood up and she eased them, taking a long moment staring down at them to get her face under control. She walked forward, and he stepped aside, out of her way, then took her arm. Two of the four guards outside the door joined him, their guns slung on straps over their shoulders. She let them shepherd her through the hospital's cleared hallways, staring at the white and gray tiles, taking turn after turn. If she kept looking at her feet in their white prison-issue shoes, she wouldn't look back.

Their warning was a crackle on the man in the suit's radio. "The press found the exit," said a terse voice, sounding a thousand miles away. The hand on her shoulder tightened.

"We planned for that," he said, though he sounded angry. "Mrs. Doe, don't stop, don't speak to anybody, do you understand?"

She didn't say a word. But she would, soon. A lot of words. They knew their protocols. She had hers. She had his. And his protocol was for the world to learn.

[And mezzogiorno's companion piece to this can be found here, so please makes sure to read that one too.]
Here's Matt!

LJ Idol Exhibit B: Week 0: Introductions

One possible introduction for shanns_ljidol

Shann is one of those people who you meet on a bus, when the hour is so late and the road has been so long that you aren't entirely sure you're awake. Conversation passes with the same effortless slipping as the yellow stripes in the road, topics like the peaks and swoops of power lines and laughter like the headlights of passing cars.

You sit beside her and there are stories. She's telling them or you're telling them or perhaps they're happening in front of you, it's all going to be hard to distinguish tomorrow. There will be ink on both your hands, and pages torn out of the notebook, and the taste of coffee under your breath.

When she gets off, your roads diverging at a peeling yellow bus station deep in the woods, it won't be her name you remember as the bus pulls away, but the regret that your paths have parted there, and you continue on the highway, ignorant of where her road goes next.

Yes, here it is again, LJ Idol. This is a weekly journaling competition, and I am sure there will be voting.
Here's Matt!

Boat update!

Today came with an unexpected amount of progress on Gandalf! Dad, apparently, woke up with a bug in his ear about it, and so he provided the motivation I was missing to just Get To Work. Together, we pulled out the entire port bunk and the shelf behind it, cut, pried, and unscrewed the v-berth locker from the main cabin bulkhead, and worked the entire port side of the main bulkhead loose. In the process, we found many dead wasps's nests, both of the mud and paper varieties, wet and dry, and a few strange surprises in Gandalf's anatomy. We now think, but aren't sure, that it was once ducted to use the engine's heat to warm the for'ard cabin. Neat, though not something I'll be recreating. Albin Vegas are built in Sweden, so maybe it makes sense that they plan for sub-zero cruising.

With the current fervor between the two of us, Dad and I hope to have the main bulkheads out by May. There are a few steps between us and that point, but not so many as it seemed. Unfortunately, the next one is the grossest: the head and all of its plumbing have to come out. This is a 39 year-old toilet, with a tank of unknown age... and fluid. Not even speculating as to the composition of that. But out it must come and so it shall be.

Also, I found what might be the first difficult-to-repair structural damage: Under one of my life-line stanchions, someone has jury-rigged a repair with some aluminum plates to shore up two serious-looking cracks in the fiberglass, near the hull-deck joint. I need to be able to trust every one of my life-line stanchions, so I have to figure out a solid, lasting repair for this.

Right now, below-decks looks a bit like chaos as things come apart. There are loose bolts and nuts and bits of trim scattered everywhere. But this is major progress. Things are finally moving again.
Here's Matt!

Haunted Hotel and TDL.

My haunted hotel is being haunty again.

(Disclaimer here; I do not believe in ghosts. I have seen one thing in my life that I can only explain using ghosts as the narrative, but I don't believe that the dead linger around to fuck with us, that mean thoughts take shape to prey on the living, or anything similar. I could, conceivably, believe in thin walls between the different planes of Everett existence, and I believe very, very strongly in the ultimate suggestibility and outright gullibility of the pattern-hungry human mind.)

So my hotel. The ghosts here at the Lodge are several: There is the cold column on the stairs leading up to the landing below the third floor, that is sometimes a tangible river of frigid air flowing down to dissipate in the warmth of the second story corridor. I think that is the one Kevin calls Laura. There is the chilly gentle hand at the front desk, that touches the cheeks of those who stand over the fax machine. There is the little flash of friendly rainbow light outside Room 212, waiting for me every morning when I go to the elevator to fetch ice for breakfast. There is whatever it is who inhabits all three of the southernmost rooms, 112, 216, and 310, making their doors so unfriendly that my hand trembles on the key, freezes on the knob. There are the footsteps in 211 when no one is renting that room, sometimes with voices, sometimes without.

So that is five ghosts, two friendly, two unkind, and one unknown. 212 is one I can and have shown to other people, and he's always seemed cheerful. Hand is almost a comforting touch, despite the cold. 211 is a mystery, pacing away at the oddest hours. Laura is not quite sinister, but my lizardbrain hurries past her, sidles up the warmer side of the steps, never stares. A coworker avoids those steps entirely. Southrooms is menace, pure and simple.

And I still don't believe in ghosts.

There's the Inn, too. The Inn seems the more-likely habitat for a haunt. It has a damp feeling to the rooms when they're empty, and the ceilings are too high, the proportions all wrong. It makes me think of the Bates Motel. Again, the southernmost rooms (428, 430) exude that quiet, near-hostile feeling of unwelcome. Don't open my door, they whisper. You won't like what you find. 428, at least, I have a rational reason to fear - beside its front door, facing away from the rest of the hotel and alone on a side-street, is a little cave made by the slope of the hill and the floor of the adjacent restaurant above. On my first week working alone, a windy, rainy February night, I went out there to make certain the windows were all shut tight, and was about to open the door when the cave spoke aloud. (Dad-a-chum? Ded-a-chek?) Startled, I shone my flashlight in there, and it gleamed off a sharp beak, a half-dozen pairs of bright eyes. Wild turkeys, I realized a moment later, but by then I was already running, racing back for the safety of my fireside lobby. It took me weeks to make it out that far again.

And then there's the cat. Kevin, who no longer is willing to work nights, swears that the Inn is inhabited by the ghosts of cats. I've heard only one, an intermittent, confident yowl that seemed to wander up and down an empty staircase, every inch of where it might be in my sight. The cat may visit any time; he's good company.


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Here's Matt!

Pretending I haven't neglected this journal for months on end...

I have two spaces I’m working on to unfuck right now. First is my room. It’s a very tiny room, and so it gets destroyed very easily, and then becomes so hard to move around in that cleaning it up feels like a ridiculously complicated task.

Second is my boat. I have a small sailboat, and it’s in pretty messy shape, so there’s a lot of cleaning to do before I can really start on the renovations. Sadly, the 20/10s don’t work well for the boat, because most tasks can’t be broken down that far. (Tasks like; dismantling a bulkhead, installing new wiring, etc.) But there are a few, like vacuuming out the crud that accumulates, and draining the rain-full bilge. So I need to be tackling those more regularly, and hopefully they’ll inspire me to do more aboard in general.

I’m at work right now, which is of course the time when my brain is most disposed to do stuff. But as soon as I get home, I intend to spend 20 minutes vacuuming out the boat, take 10, and then another twenty cleaning out one drawer of my dresser so it can be home to clothes again.

Unless it’s raining.