Squid in the Deep Blue Ocean

Pitch black. Perfectly black. Darkness that nothing can penetrate. Sinking lower down, feeling the pressure increase, going from swimming pool to hug to football tackle.

Don’t ever turn on a light. Don’t ever try to see what may lay beyond your own skin.

Against his better judgment, he turns on the light anyway. His flashlight sweeps an arc, not nearly wide enough or bright enough. With it comes all the crashing fears about what lives here; before it was comforting darkness where as long as he could see nothing, nothing could see him. Now, the blackness stretches above and behind and all around him, still unceasing, but enveloping him in a bubble. Vulnerability.

Moving his arm takes more effort. Not just the stiff suit, but the water, and the knowledge that this is an unknown world. The very thing he walked over, the very thing he sat above and looked down upon in boats and airplanes was what now surrounded him, capable of snuffing out his life at any moment. The suit could fail, or he could have a medical emergency, or some marine creature could attack.

The surfacers might not even known what it was, whatever attacked him. The grainy film could only be so accurate, so discernible. Speed could blur any images beyond recognition. Even if it didn’t, the creature could very well be a newly discovered species.

Now what would that be like? he wondered. The first human killed by an animal. Not really a new animal–that wasn’t a good way of putting it–but a newly discovered one. An animal that would never have seen anything like a human before, because it was adapted to the opposite of everything humans were supposed to live in.

Originally, contact had been made by a shaking guard shoving an envelope at him through the grates. A letter soaked through with body sweat and crumpled in shaking fists and against the curves of some stranger’s body. Funny how the things we store everything about ourselves on are so unlike us. It was on some official letterhead, with a signature, a real signature. It hadn’t really said much. Just that somebody like him might be a real good fit for the program, some kind of ocean research. Just in fancier words. He figured that was a nice way of asking him to clean out the shitter on some kind of research vessel. Saddest thing was, he would have taken that over any comfort the prison could have provided. Being back on the ocean–that was something to die for.

Funny how floating on top was a spiritual experience.

It felt like it was getting colder, but he’s not sure what might be causing it. He refuses to believe that there’s a problem with the suit. They promised him. The suit wouldn’t fail. He could survive as long as his body and the things living there would let him.

It was a week or two–time in the concrete and beige was so hard to tell–later that the man in the suit arrived. The guy across from him was hooting and hollering and causing a scene, the second the rich man came into sight. Probably a good thing, since he had been passed out awkwardly on the cot. After all, he didn’t know anybody would be coming, and there wasn’t a whole lot else to do. He still scowled at Brian. Putting on a show. That’s what his advisor called it.

That was before the walls had closed in over him: still bright-eyed and hopeful, in the thick of academia. Studying under the top in his field. Halfway done with his thesis. Living in a shitty apartment with an even shittier roommate, not making quite enough money, but still overjoyed with the prospects of what could be, what was to come. That potential–that was what kept people in schools. The proof that they could do anything, until they finally get out, and there’s only one thing they could do. Everything was decisions, and then nothing was.

Still sinking slowly down, ever so slowly. They had warned him: nothing they put on the suit could be guaranteed to get him all the way down. He could try to swim, too; get down lower that way. Or he could just sit there, suspended in the water, wondering and watching and waiting.

It was definitely colder. Maybe they didn’t correctly calculate the amount of insulation he’d need.

And there: he was still moving. Shining the light towards the ground proved that there was, in fact, ground. Something to put his feet on. Something to help him feel human again. Maybe that explained why kings got so power-hungry. Their feet didn’t touch the ground, feel the weight of their flesh and joints enough.

It was four days before his twenty-eighth birthday that he was woken up to crazed scrambling and was pulled out of his bed before he could begin to think. Explanations from then on out remained hazy and vague. He doesn’t remember agreeing, much less admitting, to anything, and yet here he was. In prison.

A flash of iridescent color. Panic sets in. Dying sounded okay in the brochure, when it was still a distant future. Not right now. Not for a little while longer. He doesn’t dare to flip the light back on, even though it’s the first thing he does. In the distance, he sees a giant squid, eyes as big as dinner plates, receding into the distance. Come to investigate, maybe, or just going where ever it is that squid go.

Slowly, breathtakingly slowly, he flexed his toes, waiting to make contact with the ground. Waiting to–

The tips of the suit, metal where his toes would otherwise be, brushes the sand ever so lightly and the ground erupts–a gaping hole swallowing the sand for nearly twenty feet around, gulping upwards to swallow him completely and there’s nothing he can do, even though this is his worst nightmare. The flashlight flips off and the hard-compressed flesh begins pressing against his suit. Nothing they said, nothing they could have said, could have prepared him for this moment.

The pressure gets a little lighter. The inside of the thing, maybe gets a little lighter, a different shade of pitch black. Sounds other than his pounding heart return.

A new life. Eyes blinking open. Nothing understood–everything to be understood.

Small Acts of Forgiveness

There are some days that I look at the clock on the bottom right-hand corner of my computer screen, realize it says one AM on a school night, and look at what I’m writing and hate myself for it. I’m rambling again, about why I feel one way or another, some kind of self-indulgent over-analysis. The kind of thing that other people don’t want to read.

Most night that I spend writing go like this. Realizing that I’m writing the wrong kind of thing, even though it’s the only kind of thing that my fingers will spill. Even if it’s the truth, or as close to the truth as I can get, the sorts of half-truths that come out as you’re trying to cross your denial and come to terms with the truth. The times where you can see it, distant, on the horizon, even if you’re not there yet.

But I’m beginning to realize that I need to stop stopping myself. The only way to get better at writing is to read, and then to write. You will write like what you read–garbage in, garbage out, as my grandfather used to say, stolen out of the mouths of greater men. And you must write prolifically.

What I’ve been reading has been the sort of thing I stomp on when I do it myself: this so-called self-indulgent over-analysis. Maybe not quite so personal, but Emerson and Zora Neale Hurston and Virginia Woolf and a whole host of other authors that I’ve read for pleasure and for school have seen far more of the world than I have, being trapped in mostly-white suburbia for the time being. The only thing I know well is myself, and the tiny world that I’ve found myself in, and so comes the second rule of writing: write what you know.

Now, that one had been fought with, and mercilessly. A lot of people would probably agree that it’s been put down completely. But there’s something to be said for knowing something about whatever you’re writing. Maybe not the “right” knowledge, or the way we understand things today, but knowledge nonetheless. We can say, after all, that an ant’s understanding of the world may not be right in the grand sense of things, but it is right in its own eyes. And so with a medieval peasant, of which a number of great books have been written, even though we cannot travel in time, and so with animals, who cannot speak, and so with the people of the future. Knowledge does not have to be complete, or correct, or any number of other things.

It is impossible to write the life of a coal miner, however, if you do not know something about him–perhaps not what he does in his line of work, or what color hat he wears, but what he feels after a day in the mines, and if the dark dust under his fingernails is ever washed away. Does the toil make him bored and restless, or is he holding on to what he knows for dear life?

All I know is that I’m still holding on to my YA-inspired ideals of what a great story is, even though now I’m reading different things. I’m telling myself that nobody wants to hear what I’m saying because I am not interesting or unique, as much as I’d like to imagine otherwise.  Maybe the idea isn’t to write something wholly new. Maybe the idea is to write something that makes others step back and say, “That’s what I’m feeling. Thank god I’m not the only one. Somebody finally put it into words.”

Now I’m giving myself permission to write open letters, as much as it’s a dead and buried fad, to people I know I’ll never have the courage or opportunity to talk to. Permission to say what I feel, and to feel it unapologetically, or at least as much as I can muster up before I subconsciously press them back down to whatever hellish depths they came out of. Permission to be fake deep when it’s the only way I know how to say things, and to say things the way I believe they should be said, damn the current preferences. Permission to listen to sad music and cry a little bit and then say things that aren’t happy and aren’t really healthy, but are proof that maybe I’m getting healthier. Permission to not be unique, but maybe, just maybe, honest.

Late Night Thoughts, Part I

While I generally maintain that creating and maintaining a commonplace book is a great deal different than a writer’s notebook, H.P. Lovecraft’s “Commonplace Book of the Weird” is still a favorite piece. So, here’s a patched-together list of things written down in my phone’s note app, on scraps of paper on my nightstand, and in the margins of my school notes. None of them are terribly significant by themselves, though they are the usual source of inspiration for posts.

 

Poetry is constraining and my words are an extension of myself.

Instability kills lab rats, but I’m not dead yet.

Paper people. Seem too good to be true, not sure what is underneath. Do you get to know them?

Being aware of falling out of a crush, yet not doing anything about it. Confusing emotions.

What’s the difference between fake deep and real deep? Fake it ’til you make it. Waking up to reality.

Separation as a coping method. Control as a coping method. Knowledge as a coping method.

Everyone has a project. Most of them don’t know what that project it. Paraphrase of a teacher’s teacher.

Do you wink at other people? (Added at a later date: Yes.)

Down to the quick. Abusing fidget toys and nervous habits. Destroyed mechanical pencils.

Trainspotting. A hobby?

That weird feeling you get because you’re wearing baggy shorts.

How much do you believe that fantastical, magical things can happen? How much is hope, and how much is sheer delusion, sheer insanity? Is it normal to wish for happiness? For flight? For unicorns? For invisibility?

Just at one of those introspective ages where everything is a big philosophical question.

Building one great puzzle to look back upon as I lay dying. Made up of all these little pieces of information, ideas, emotions.

Vaguely defined relationship: vague little pecks on the cheek, vague cuddles, vague conversations drifting off into oblivion. Nothing defined, yet nothing questioned. Brain fog and sleep deprivation coming not to a point, but to a slow settling.

But the masks we’ve worn for so many years are so comfortable, if feels like our skin will tear off like paper when we try to lift them off. A masquerade ball lasting for far longer than ever intended, with no real purpose.

People say I’m self aware but I never feel like I have a good sense of myself.

Squid in the deep blue ocean.

Aimless love letters.

I never meant to be so harsh, this was just the way I was always talked to.

Language connoisseur: sorry for the word salad, it pairs best with our melodious wines.

So easily wounded. So easily lead into the valley of the shadow of death. So easily left counting numbers and patterns, hoping for salvation. Can you not see that I am a fragile wretch? Can you not offer some kind of mercy? …At least don’t yell at me.

Epilepsy is the common factor for those who successfully make the transition into AI. (A/N: this references a long-term project that would provide more context.)