Bird and Dragonfly

February 15th

I don’t know where I am or how I got here. I’m not even sure why I’m writing this down. All I know is that I had my pen and my journal in my pocket when I woke up, and I might as well use them.

I’m at the bottom of what I think is a well. The patch of sky I can see is dark. It’s a purple color I’ve never seen before, but somehow lit. It’s no bigger than a quarter. I’ve tried climbing out for what felt like hours already. I’ve tried screaming for help. The walls are too smooth, and I’ve lost my voice. I can’t get out on my own, and I don’t think anyone is coming to help me.

There is writing on the stones too, but I can’t read any of it. I can barely make out letters in the blotches. I don’t know what they were written with, but I can imagine. The light coming in is just enough to see the stains all around, from the ground up to a point just past my reach. How old are they? There are no bones down here with me, so whoever wrote them, wherever they went, they  somehow got out.

Why would anyone do this? It doesn’t make sense. I don’t have anything they could want.

I don’t know how long I’ve been here, but I do know what day I came. It was Valentine’s day. I know that much because I’m still wearing the clothes I had on when I went to see her. Her. Could she be behind this? That can’t be true. She didn’t have any reason to. She couldn’t have… I can’t remember her clearly. Something is wrong.

February

I don’t know how long ago I wrote that last entry. It was at least a few hours, maybe even a day. I can’t really tell. What little I see of the sky never changes. I couldn’t bring myself to write anything more, even though I intended to; I was too busy thinking about her. I remember how I saw her then, but I can see her now in my mind as well, and it’s not the same. Something is off about her, something about her I couldn’t see then, but that I can remember now.

The street was as busy as ever that day, but she shone through the crowd, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. It was as though she was a tongue of black fire, flickering down the sidewalk. I watched her pause at a corner, lingering there with the rest of the herd, waiting. I should’ve felt ashamed, I should’ve looked away and forced myself to forget about her right then and there. I had to talk to her. I wanted to do so much more in the back of my reptilian mind that I had to tighten the grip on its leash.

I crossed the street and stopped her, engorged with abrupt virility and a dreadful thrill coiled tightly in my chest. When she looked up at me, something wasn’t right with her eyes. Why didn’t I see it then? They twitched unnaturally, darting quicker than mine could follow. Her irises were wider than they should’ve been, taking up more of the sphere with their color, with soft black blotches instead of the streaking lines we have around the pupil. Instead of noticing any of that, I felt a pang of an emotion I can’t even name when I looked into them. It wasn’t lust or love, it was less sophisticated than any of those, pulling me to her.  Even now, as I remember it from outside that moment and myself, I still feel the draw of that formless attraction.

I smiled and said some foolish thing I’m too embarrassed to write down. She laughed, of course, but she didn’t turn me away. She stood there, close to me, confronting me with self-assured femininity, letting me bask in it. She spoke to me with a soft lilt to her voice, as though she knew exactly what I was going through. She was goading that desperate anxiety on, making my shapeless, unreasonable desire as unbearable as it could be.

I was so drunk with that feeling that I didn’t see her eyes twitching, I didn’t see the strange way the strands of her waist-long hair were actually loops with no tips. How could I miss that? Instead, I felt the whole of me pulsing with the rhythm of my heartbeat. I could feel a honeyed warmth making me aware of every single vein in my body while I stood next to her. I don’t understand where that feeling came from. It couldn’t have been the mere seduction. Was it my own elation at a small romantic victory? Or was it something else, something outside of me that was making me feel that way?

We talked for a few minutes. The crowd didn’t care about us, flowing around where we stood. No one as much as looked at us. Why weren’t they looking at her, like I was compelled to? I’m trying to remember the face of anyone who went by us, just one. I can’t get a grip on any of them. They just slide past us, along the periphery, and all I can focus on is her. Her voice, her hair, her eyes. It was all so clear to me then. Nothing else was.

We agreed to meet for dinner that night, and she left, taking the heat from me as she, a black flame once again, flickered away. She took that warmth, and left me in the crowd with the craving for it.

There’s no doubt in my mind now. She did this to me, whatever this is.

I just spotted a line on the wall, written in a scabby stain like the rest. “Don’t give in to it.”

I have to get out of here.

I lost track of time again until a moment ago. I didn’t lose consciousness, I’m sure of that. My mind just went blank, quieter than it has ever been, though not because I was making an effort to make it so. My thoughts, the voice of my consciousness simply drifted away on its own. It was the last sliver of a mainland gradually slipping away over the horizon of a stilled sea. Now that I can give voice to my thoughts again, though, I feel compelled to write them down. I’m sure they’ll fade again. But what does it matter? The sky here never changes.

I caught a glimpse of something under the dirt and moss at the bottom of the well. It shook me out of that anesthetized trance. While I was scuffing around, I must’ve torn some of it aside. The bottom of the well is actually one smooth rock slab, with an etching of what looks like a dragonfly. There’s more of the same illegible writing carved around it, cruder, scratched in with pieces of rock. It seems like everyone who has come here feels the same urge I do to write. The lines of the carving are still clean, with each of its wings describing a smooth arch. A long, thin loop curving at the end. Its eyes are carefully textured too, suggesting different swaths of color on them.

When I realized what it was, the memory of the conversation we had later that night struck me. I remember that conversation word for word now. We were surrounded by other couples in the tiny restaurant we went to. Idyllic candle-lit dinners, lovers speaking softly. We were the same, except that, as I can see now, so infuriatingly clear in my mind’s eye, something else was sitting across from me. Something else was brushing the back of my hand with its fingers, smiling at me.

“Supposedly,” I said, “today is the day birds start pairing off with their mates for the spring.”

“Really?”, she replied, playfully mocking me with her stare.

“Yes, really! There’s a little more to today than just greeting cards and roses. That came later. It used to be a little more significant than that.”

“Oh, I believe it”, she said, “There is always a darker side of all these little celebrations. They’ve just taken the thorns out of them. De-fanged the old superstitions. Underneath all the varnish, though, there’s still a speck of the old.”

“Do you believe in them? The superstitions?”

“Not necessarily. I don’t really care about that, though. What I do care about is your answer to a question I’ve got for you.”

The same warmth I had felt before rushed through me again as she leaned in closer, staring right into my eyes while she lowered her voice, and she asked…

“Do you think a bird looking for a mate might choose a dragonfly instead?”

“Don’t birds usually eat dragonflies?”, I countered foolishly. It wasn’t the answer she was looking for.

Right then, her eyes twitched in fast, minuscule convulsions. I must’ve seen it. There’s no way I would remember now if I hadn’t. I just ignored it, pushed it aside before it was even a thought. Why, I don’t know. She was staring at me hard, expectant, almost angry. I couldn’t bear the tension that was suddenly there.

“It would have to be a beautiful dragonfly,” I finally conceded, playing along.

“Yes,” her manner softened. Her smile came back as she canted her head to one side, “What would the bird do then?”

“He’d have to become a dragonfly too,” I answered, and her smile became a grin. The thrill of it made my blood boil like it had before.

“We’re very different, you and I,” she said, “So it’ll be up to you to try to become something like me, right?”

I chuckled. Deluded, blind, I laughed at the notion that we were so far from the same. Remembering one’s own arrogance is a very bitter medicine.

I said “Absolutely,” as I leaned in, following the ecstatic urge to kiss her. For all the strangeness I remember about her now, I can’t deny how sweet her lips tasted on mine.

“I’ll grow wings for you tonight.”

This week at the Green Dragon In…

Recently, I’ve written about the OnLive micro-console posing a challenge to the Big Three (Xbox360, PS3 and Wii), and Microsoft’s bid to revolutionize the way we interact with consoles altogether with Kinect. These are both signs of technology’s irreversible march forward. We could look back at the coleco-vision and pinball machines to see how far electronic entertainment devices have come, from a button and a dial to… nothing at all, via the multi-button monstrosities we’re grasping onto today. The controls also meant the games became more involved, more detailed, if not more nuanced. The hardware has become more robust, more flexible. That flexibility has broken another barrier some of the first consoles aimed to overcome: consoles aren’t just for gaming anymore.

You’ll recall I wrote about how the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Marketplace were opening new avenues for independent game makers to reach their audience. Well, as I’m sure some of you will have already noticed, games isn’t the only thing available there.

Here we have to step back and look at the whole board for a second. On one hand, we’ve seen how consoles have become more powerful and capable. On the other, we have also seen how the internet has grown from something only the tech-savvy cared about into a seemingly omnipresent and ephemeral layer of our reality. Every single human activity that takes place in any place with a modicum of civilization will plug into the internet in some way, minor or not. Now that it’s there, it’s very difficult to see how we would do without it. William Gibson, it seems, had it right.

Continue reading → This week at the Green Dragon In…

The art of writing for games.

I just wanted to point at this post over at www.gamasutra.com. It’s quite educational about how to (successfully) write for a game. Being interested in doing that myself, I found it to be a rich little treasure-trove of tidbits for any aspiring storyteller. However, he also shines a light, obliquely as it were, at the problems involved in writing for videogames: misconceptions, limitations, conflicting requirements, etc.. Viewing the writer as a specialized perhaps the best way to approach the problem, but that isn’t something the writers themselves can do; they can merely encourage his clients to view him as an integral part of the team, rather than an apocryphal element. As the media continues to develop, and the relationship between story, place, character, sound and visuals is explored deeper, the role of the game writer will come to stand out.

There have been more and more games as of late that lean heavily on their narrative to be engaging, such as Alan Wake, but the craft of writing for videogames lags far behind the other disciplines involved in this media. People like the author of the post I linked above will push that aspect of videogame production forward. What remains to be seen is just how well the rest of the industry will listen to them.

Joe Abercrombie’s world in The Blade Itself

I’m almost done with Book One of the First Law series by Joe Abercrombie, it’s a very enjoyable, quick read. The prose is effective, polished and direct; he emphasizes elements in his description sparingly. He only does so when he needs them to set the atmosphere and accomplish the effect he’s after. The characters are consistent, believable, and thoroughly human. Mr. Abercrombie reveals of each of them, again, just enough to sculpt them as perfectly as he needs to. Both of these characteristics serve him well, as that brevity is vital for the quick pace of the narrative, as well as the other, overarching effect he’s after: telling his story from several points of view, simultaneously.

Each of the narrating characters –the story is told from a mixed third-person perspective– has a palpably different vision of the world, which can only be appreciated when all of their perspectives are assembled together. This effect is at its strongest when the contrast of what one character thinks as commonplace surprises another.

Those multiple perspectives gradually reveal the mechanisms, the cosmology of this universe. The cosmology, in turn, was more or less in plain view of all the characters. However, the significance of each detail is not brought to light until the pieces begin to fit together.

There are hints that sketch a model similar to the one defined in Tolkien’s Silmarillion, where there is one creator atop a long pyramid of quasi-divine servants that has the mortal creatures of the world at its base.

Not everything is revealed in the first book, nevertheless, which could have just as easily been an enjoyable read of a “lighter” incarnation of the genre. Mr. Abercrombie begins to ask the questions that remit me back to Tolkien’s work towards the end. Or rather, I, as a reader, didn’t put the pieces together until then.

A thoroughly enjoyable experience. I look forward to the rest of the series.

How monsters are made.

This is a document I’ll be continuously updating as I put down my own theories on the matter. Every time I do so, it’ll keep on popping up here to the top of the pile. Things I still have to cover:

The medieval creation of symbolic creatures and the implications therein regarding reality.

The shift in perspective with the dawning of the age of reason and insanity.

Modern monsters in some further fashion.

Continue reading → How monsters are made.

The Promethean Cycle

I’ve attached a small script (three scenes) to this post. This is an adaptation of a concept I initially explored in a short story I wrote in Spanish. It’s a somewhat hard sci-fi story I’m still developing, exploring a number of concepts through it. It’s one of my more intellectual endeavors, as I’m chasing down a couple of abstract white whales here, such as religion, fate, human nature, and so forth.

In any case, here’s the link.

The Letter

There is no easy way out of this. You of all people should know that this is going to haunt you until you obey its call. Yes, you are scared, no you’re not the first, and there’s plenty of others wedged in the dragon’s smile. But if you manage to break through, if you manage to ignite and shine, for just a second, for just a flare… But yes, it might not even be real; that moment of glory might not even be perceptible once you reach it. Though, if it is, if that sensation actually exists, how could you not try to feel it?

There are so many paths to truth, there are so many roads to follow, and everyone does have to find their own. You were never a follower, even if you’ve felt the temptation of that solace. You cannot succumb to it; you can’t let yourself be drawn by the comfort of not being to blame for your own mistakes, for your own failures. When you’re not a follower, part of the herd, you can choose the rock that will be your stepping stone, or the one that breaks your back.

Yes, it is a selfish desire, private and dark. It’s craving recognition, absolutely, but you have to understand that it’s still born from your own strength. You can’t speak to an empty room and expect to get a reaction. Language needs someone to receive it for it to be alive, and like it, you need someone to notice that you’re speaking. Though, be clear; do you want to smash their apathy, or do you want to slash the veil to some universal truth? Do you write for vanity, or for revelation? Don’t bother with the semantics, with the weight of those words. They are your own, and that should be good enough. That question needs an answer; you need to know exactly what you’re craving. That will determine the trail ahead, the obstacles you’ll face, and what you’ll disdain.

Regardless, the visions are there. What comes of them is entirely up to you. Don’t despair, they’ll always keep you company.