I’m a dragon whose scales have been torn from my skin.
I have so many holes, you could look right in.
I’ve been chip-chip-chipped away since I was young.
No beast should wish, such as this, for oblivion.
I still have some remnants of the fire I once had,
But now it’s just smoke, and it looks quite sad.
My wings are stiff and no longer take flight.
In truth, I long to be met by some gallant knight.
I try to remember—hang on!—to who I was before,
The King Dragon of Flame with the mightiest roar.
The one who once held the world in his jaws…
Oh, God, how I miss the dragon I was.
I’m awake again at 5am
And I’m shaking like I’m breaking down.
The sun is peering in, a familiar sight
Another, familiar, sleepless night.
A sleepless night to remind me that
I’m old—too old—too old and I’ll drown.
I’ll drown beneath this uselessness
I’ll drown beneath the helplessness
I’ll drown beneath this unfilled wish, where my chance is missed,
And I’ve lost my grip.
They don’t see how hard I try
Or that getting out of bed is a major win
They look at me and they see a lie.
They think I’m making up this shit.
They don’t see who I really am or where I’ve been.
I’m just a bundle of excuses, my heart on my sleeve
A word etched in my skin for this time of need
And I’ll just end up like all those before me.
Because I’m pathetic that I need them to adore me.
But there are those few moments of peace
Where I can doze off and I can dream
And I swear I’m not crazy.
I’m not losing myself, I’m not losing my mind.
And I know the day, I can tell you the time.
And I swear that it will be OK.
Look at how far I’ve come already.
My legs may shake, but I swear I’m steady.
Even if I don’t believe it now, I can make it true.
So goodnight, demons.
Goodnight and fuck you.
The only positive thing about digging, Ronny came to believe, was that it kept him in shape. He would muse to himself late at night, when the food went scarce, the hunger got to be too bad, and he had run out of scrap to tinker with that he would be quite the lady killer had there been any ladies left. Were there any people left? If there were, Ronny did not know. He had not seen another human being in what felt like an eternity.
He felt his thoughts veering to how alone he truly was and stopped digging for a moment, leaning against his shovel which was still embedded in the earth. Ronny shook his head almost violently, like he was physically expelling those thoughts. He did this often as of late, with the intention of clearing his mind until he saw nothing. No images, no sounds even. Just nothing. Once his mind was clear, he would try to think of only useful or happy things.
Ronny wiped the sweat off of his forehead and surveyed his surroundings for his companion. His eyes squinted from the oppressively bright and blistering sun. When he could not see the robot, he began to call out.
“Drillbit! Where are you, buddy? You find anything?”
Almost instantly, he heard the mechanical whirring of his only friend’s movement as the robot made its way over to him. Ronny frowned when he saw the golf club in its hand.
“I thought I told you not to play with this,” Ronny said, pulling the club away from the robot. “Remember? Not for you.”
Drillbit shrugged. “You broke the other shovel last week and I have had no success in locating a new one. I decided to hit a few balls in the meantime. Do not worry, I retrieved every last one.”
Ronny sighed and handed the club back to Drillbit. He rubbed the bridge of his nose in frustration.
Back before the last of the wars, when civilization crumbled and everything became desolate, he had worked as a repairman. However, his real passion was robotics. Ronny would often look at the picture he still kept of himself and his parents on his graduation day, when they were so proud of him and he had been so sure that his brains and his talent would land him a job right away. But a month of searching turned into two. Two months became a year before he knew it, and he then found himself working out of Hank’s Handymen Repair Shop. To help himself stay sharp, and to quell the feelings of inadequacy that came with not being able to work in his field, he began to build a robot. He could never seem to find the time to work on his creation back in those days, though. He had always been too tired from the long hours he toiled. Though once the world came to a screeching halt, he found himself with nothing but time and with debilitating loneliness as his motivation. He could never stay mad at Drillbit for long. It was his only friend.
Ronny returned to digging, and Drillbit cocked its head to the left. He glanced up at the metal man and seemed to sense what it was going to ask. “No,” he responded before the question came, “I didn’t find anything here. But the soil looks good. I think I can plant the seeds you found a little while ago here. They should grow here, I think.” After a moment’s pause, he added, “Just do me a favor and scan for more scrap, OK? Who knows what you’ll find?”
Drillbit nodded and stood at attention. Its head slowly turned a full 360 degrees, surveying the area around them. When its scan was complete, it shook its head as if to right itself and said, “No scrap metal detected. However, there is a large metal contraption heading this way.”
Ronny stopped digging and sharply turned his gaze to Drillbit. “What?!”
“Something large and metal is heading in this direction with great speed. It should arrive in approximately two minutes.”
Ronny’s eyes shifted in thought, his expression awash with concern. “We have to go now. Get your ass in the van, Drillbit.” With shovel in hand, he began running toward his vehicle, robot in tow. As lonely as he had been, his last encounter with any people had not gone well. He was not keen on sticking around to see if these were other wanderers or if they were thieves like the ones he had previously tangled with. He had been lucky then, as the only weapons they had were bats and his only weapon was the golf club. And Drillbit was strong enough to withstand being hit with wood. He knew that he may someday encounter a larger threat with better weapons and he was not going to find out if this was that threat.
By the time they reached the van, he was able to see the car approaching in the distance. Panicking, he yelled at Drillbit to get in as he threw the shovel in the back and hopped in the driver’s seat. He grabbed the keys out of his pocket and fumbled to insert the correct one in the ignition. “C’mon! C’mon!” he berated himself until he finally got it and turned the key.
Just as the engine turned, however, the car sped in front of the van. It was large and looked like the luxury vehicles that some of his clients had had back in the world. The doors all opened at once, and men in black suits stepped out, three of them, and stood between the car and the van, staring at Ronny. They were followed by a woman clad in a tailored, scarlet suit, who got out of the back of the car and walked around to stand in front of the men.
“Mr. Burlew,” she said with a smile, “may I have just a moment of your time?”
In my corner of the world, as of the start of writing this post, it is currently 5:20 in the morning. I don’t sleep much anymore, at least not at night. You see, when we first moved into our apartment back in late July/early August, my brother and I ran into a problem… Centipedes.
While waiting for the closing on our house, the money from which we will be using in part to buy furniture, we’ve been sleeping on air mattresses in our living room. The first couple of nights, there was maybe one or two of these hideous creatures, but then one night, every time I would start to doze off, I would see something move. That night, I killed four or five of them. And that started a trend.
So, in my search for how to rid myself of these suckers, I discovered that they were nocturnal. This meant that I was going to be nocturnal, too. My sleep cycle has been all fucked up since we moved in because I can’t sleep knowing that these things are potentially crawling around me.
And before you say, “Oh, but they’re good! They eat and scare off all the other stuff that will come into your apartment!!” I know. But I don’t want them in my home, either. And I would take a bunch of spiders, that do the same thing, over these grotesque, terrifying things any day.
Fortunately, though we still get the occasional free-roamer, they have drastically decreased in frequency thanks to measures we’ve taken and the Fall weather finally kicking in. So, now, my brain is free to wander to things that make me extremely anxious and keep me awake in that way.
Among the thoughts that are making me extremely anxious are the ones that go a little like, “You’ll never amount to anything,” or, “You never write and you’re a failure already.” If you’ve ever tried to do anything ever in your life, you probably know those classics or some variation. However, I decided to try to force myself to write something to try to break myself out of this funk. That’s when I came up with an idea.
I’ve never done a writing prompt exercise before. At least not since my freshman year of high school when it was for an assignment. So I decided to do just that. I found a prompt site I liked, which would give me a set of story parameters. Also on the site were name generators, which I used to get the name of my main character. On another site, I got a list of six titles generated for me. All of these sites will be linked at the end of this post, both to give credit where it’s due and also so that you can use them, too, if you want to try to do this as well.
The plan is to write a story for all six titles using the parameters given to me by the prompt generator.
1. The Visions of the Nothing
2. Absent Edge
(Note: I figured the Paladin name would work better than the other generators for a god character. Also, I’m probably only going to use the first name.)
3. The Rings’s Past
4. The Silent Beginning
(Note: As with the Paladin name, I thought using the Dragon Name Generator would much better serve the purposes of these parameters. Again, not perfect, but better than a normal name.)
5. Legend in the Snake
6. Silk of Child
The plan is to do at least one a day to get myself used to working on things daily. One thing I’ll say is that, if I do another series like this, I’ll use a different title generator because these titles are painful. Not “painful” as in “hard to work with,” although they are, but in the way that they make no grammatical or linguistic sense. At least not to me.
One more note before I add the links and wrap up this post is that the stories and names generated were the very first to pop up. I didn’t “shop around,” so to speak, until I found one I liked. The only exception was when something other than the genre was a repeat of a previous prompt.
I’ve already written the first one, so I will post it right after this post goes up.
I’ll also link back to this post on every story in case you guys want a refresher on the rules I’m imposing on myself. And, if you decide to do this challenge yourself, let me know! I’d love to read what you come up with.
It all started with a ransom note and a wristband.
My friend, Kat, asked me a few weeks back if she could have a wristband sent to my house as a favor to her. I told her that this was fine, and I sent her a message when it arrived. Since she was bogged down with finals, she completely forgot to come pick it up.
I hadn’t heard from her in a week, so I decided to have fun while reminding her that I still had her wristband.
We had a good laugh and she told me she’d take me out for coffee in a little while.
She showed up at my house a couple of hours later, and we went to a drive-thru. After we got our drinks, we began to drive around for a bit when we noticed a dirt path that we had never driven through before. This is something that Kat and I do occasionally. We see roads and trails off the beaten path and will drive through it to explore.
“Hm, never been through there before,” Kat said.
“Fuck it. Let’s go!” I replied.
There were a couple of gigantic, glaring flaws in this plan, however. Firstly, Kat and I are dumbasses and we thought it would be cool to be adventurers to begin with. Secondly, neither of us took into account the fact that this was a dirt path and that it had been raining all day. Not even as we began to drive up the muddy, flooded trail. Not even still when I said, “You know, if we get stuck, it’ll be terrifying, but there would be a ten second period of time where it would be hilarious.”
I swear on everything I hold dear to me that I said this. And, no. It wasn’t hilarious. Not even for one second. I didn’t even get to finish this statement before we were deeply sunk into the mud.
We totally deserved to be stuck there and to panic and to reevaluate every decision we have ever made in our entire lives. I know that I did when I got out to push the car.
Fortunately, my personality is such that if I am in a situation that would usually greatly upset me or make me extra anxious, but the person I am in the situation with is upset first, I switch immediately to “Hero Mode.” My need to ensure that my companion is OK and remains calm far outweighs any impulse to freak out, myself. So, when Kat almost began to cry and have a panic attack, I suggested that she put the car in reverse and that I would go out and push it. For a moment, it seemed like it would actually work. The car did move back an inch or two. But, unfortunately, it also got the car further lodged into the muddy ditch.
After about a half hour trying various gears and pushing the car, we stood out in the rain, looking over this very sorry situation in which we got ourselves. Kat was now evermore panic-stricken, and we were no closer to getting out of there. That’s when the lightbulb went off in my head.
“Kat, do you have AARP?” I said. I took a moment, realized I was very, very wrong, and said, “No, I meant Triple-A?”
After assuring Kat that her aunt (through whom she leases her car and has insurance) would not find out about this situation if she called Triple-A, we got back in her car and made the call. Within ten minutes, we received a phone call from the guy that was there to assist us. He couldn’t find us, however, because we were a bit of the way down the dirt path, away from the actual road. In order to properly guide him, Kat left to meet him at the entrance and I found myself alone. Allow me to set the scene.
Overgrown plants on either side of me. The windows were foggy at the time that Kat left me. She left the driver’s side door open, and, through the foliage, I noticed a very large body of water. As my mind played tricks on me, I briefly thought to myself, So, this is how it ends.
After being by myself for a few minutes and picturing Satan popping up in front of the car, I called Kat to see what was going on. As soon as she answered, I heard the beep, beep, beep of a large vehicle in reverse. She got out of the truck and back in the car.
“I told him I’d marry him if I wasn’t so gay,” was the first thing she said to me when she got back in. The next was to tell me that he was a surly and wonderful man.
He truly was both of these things. The first words I heard him speak were, “Aw, great. Now I have to get in the mud.” After I apologized with a nervous laugh, he waved me off with a chuckle. “This isn’t the worst I’ve done, I can tell you that.”
Eventually, we wound up on the flatbed of the truck so he could take us out of that godforsaken place. Thankfully, I was still in Hero Mode, so I was momentarily able to shrug off my extreme fear of heights and enjoy what was kind of a cool (albeit completely avoidable) experience. Kat and I both started laughing, realizing that we had made it out of what could have been a very bad situation.
He took us to a small, empty, nearby parking lot to let us off the flatbed. At his request, Kat took a lap around the lot to make sure there wasn’t any damage that would pose an immediate problem. It felt like we were on our way to Victory Lane at Daytona. When he finished telling her everything that she would need to do to make sure the car was one hundred percent, Kat bear-hugged him and said, “You’re such a good dude!”
When we began driving again after saying our farewells, we finally noticed how muddy and gross we were. My sneakers, which are partially velour, had mud caked onto them, and her pants and shoes were a mess. So we went to the nearby Target for new pants and shoes, but not before jumping in puddles to attempt to dislodge the mud. Predictably, that didn’t work and we only really succeeded in making our socks wet.
After going around and picking out what we needed, we both went into the large, “Family” restroom to get changed. She took off her jeans and immediately threw them into the trash bin. As I turned around to look through the bag and grab my new pair of socks and shoes, I heard Kat turn on the sink. The sound of the water was followed immediately by her stressed voice, saying, “Oh, no! Jack, I wet my pants! Can you go into the other bathroom and dry them for me?” I agreed, taking the pants with the belief that it was only a small wet patch.
For what was likely the fourth time that night, I was very wrong. I was in the restroom, by myself, for twenty minutes trying to dry sweatpants that turned out to be soaked. I had a self-aware moment, and began to laugh uncontrollably, just before one of the workers entered. This only made me laugh more, because I knew I must have looked like a crazy person. Then, realizing how insane I looked, I did the completely normal thing to do and explained myself, totally out-of-the-blue.
“I’m not crazy. It’s just been a night and these pants are wet.”
I let her leave first as a courtesy before accepting defeat that the pants couldn’t get any drier than what I had already managed. I returned to the single restroom and handed Kat her now-damp pants. She took them, looked at them for a moment, and then sighed.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
She shook her head and said, “Man, now I really have to pee.”
After a moment of silence, I shrugged and said, “You know what? Go for it. That wouldn’t be the weirdest thing that’s happened tonight.”
As she peed, I put my new socks and shoes on. As I lean up against the wall for support while doing this, Kat suddenly looked at me. She said, with more sincerity than I’ve ever heard before, “Jack? You know something?”
I looked back at her and said, “What is it, Kat?”
“If you weren’t already one of my best friends, you definitely would be after tonight.”
Have you ever done something out of impulse? Something so stupid and really pointless in the grand scheme of things, but you just had to do it? Or has something really trivial annoyed you to such an extent that you were equally –or doubly– annoyed with yourself for how much it irritated you? Did you almost feel a little crazy because of this thing you did or saw?
I’ve suffered from OCD since I was about twelve-years-old. On good days, it’s a minor nuisance. On bad days, it can cause anxiety and panic attacks so bad that you feel like the whole world is out to get you. Though my last relationship ended for multiple reasons, one of the contributing factors from my end was how bad my OCD had been during that time. My biggest obsession is self-cleanliness, particularly my hands. My compulsion –in other words, how I deal with it– is to wash my hands so thoroughly that I look like a surgeon preparing for the OR. I know this is what it looks like because of the countless people who have made this joke in public restrooms. And I carry hand sanitizer around with me, so I am always prepared for the possibility of soap and water not being readily available. It’s become to me what an inhaler is to an asthma patient, even if only to help me breathe easier just knowing I have it on me in case it’s needed.
Other “obsessions” are just things that annoy me. They’re pet-peeves that get to me more than they probably should. Like when I see someone write “should of” or “could of” instead of “should’ve/should have” or “could’ve/could have.” Or when people don’t feel that Oxford commas are necessary. However, there are times where I know I’m being completely unreasonable, and the rational voice in my brain that tries its hardest to help me function as close to standard normalcy as possible clashes with the part of me that wants to scream or punch things because of a small grammatical error (that I am sure I’ve made, myself, before) or something along the same vein. One such incident happened to me recently.
My brother received a small amount of money and told me that he would be sending me a portion through PayPal. However, it would take a couple of days for his check to fully clear. In the meantime, he bought dinner that night and used his card to pay for the order. I can only assume that he had placed it on the coffee table after he completed the transaction. At some point, it managed to get placed on an end table by one of my books, which blocked it from view. Ironically, I now realize that I probably saw it just sitting there and absent-mindedly placed it by my book to make sure we didn’t lose it.
We each searched for the card once my brother realized that it was missing later that night. We overturned couch cushions, threw pillows around, and rearranged boxes packed with belongings ready for our move, but we could not find this card anywhere. He checked his wallet at least five times. I checked mine on the off chance that I had placed it in there, considering our cards are the same color. When we continuously turned up nothing, we began to panic.
Because it was late and we each had to be up early the next morning, we decided to resume our search when we each returned home the following night. Much of the same happened until I glanced over by the book, which I hadn’t touched since the card had gone missing, and I saw the shining logo of the credit card company on it. After I pulled the card out, we were both relieved, and my brother sat down to send me the money. He told me he wrote a note on it and to let him know when I checked my account.
For the sake of this story, I’ll say he was going to send me $20. The next day, I logged onto my account and saw that he sent me $19.99. The note he wrote on it stated that “the bank” deducted one cent as a charge for losing his card. I had two instantaneous and entirely opposite reactions to seeing this. The first was to laugh, because I thought it was really funny. The second was to hyper-focus on that 99 cents and stew in my irritation over the incompleteness of it.
The rational side of my brain said, “That was a cute joke!”
The OCD said, “Why would he do this to me!?” In some ways, although I was irritated, the dramatic nature of this thought made me laugh more.
I sent him a text alerting him that I checked my account and the predicament in which I now found myself; all at once entirely amused and so irritated that I almost began scratching the armrests of my chair. He responded with, “Hahaha I’M SORRY!!”
I told him that, even though it was funny, it wasn’t funny at all. A couple of minutes later, he told me to check my account again. He sent me the remaining cent and attached a note that “upon further review, the bank will waive the fee.” Seeing just the one cent there also annoyed me, but nowhere near as much. I began laughing again when I tried to transfer it to my bank, only to discover that the lowest amount I could send was a dollar. I sent another text telling him that the penny was now in limbo and it was all his fault. His response made me laugh harder, because now he was irritated by the penny having to stay in “purgatory.”
In our irritation, we initially had a little bit of difficulty coming up with a plan. He asked if I just wanted him to send 99 cents. I told him I just wanted the penny and that would leave me with a dollar more.
“So just give me a GOD DAMN SINGLE!!” he sent back to me.
At this point, I was laughing uncontrollably at the sheer ridiculousness of the situation. I told him that didn’t make sense, because that would mean I still wouldn’t get the penny. Mind you, I don’t care about not having a penny, but at this point, it was just the principle of the matter. That poor, lone cent was trapped and by God, I would rescue it. In the end, he sent me a full dollar so that I could transfer the funds and give him the dollar bill to make it even.
I once read a fortune on a Bazooka Joe comic strip that said, “Happy is the one that can look in the mirror and laugh.” Although my OCD causes me a great deal of distress most of the time, I am able to occasionally take a step back and look at silly situations like this that it plays a part in creating, and genuinely find it hilarious. I was annoyed, but I had a good laugh, and I’ll take all the laughs I can.
Whereas I can’t say that I’m grateful for my OCD, nor will I raise a glass to toast it any time soon, I do sincerely enjoy the few moments like this where there is levity and humor that would not have happened if not for its presence.
This thing that I love
so very much
is all at once easy and difficult to explain.
You know when you have a new lover,
And all of your friends tell you they don’t know
what you see in her?
That you can do better?
Because maybe she isn’t conventionally attractive,
but damn, if she isn’t gorgeous to you.
To me, that’s what it feels like
every single time
I try to tell people about why I love MMA.
What you see and what I see are so vastly different
that our respective eyes might as well be speaking different languages.
You see barbarism and blood.
I see beauty.
You see violence and pain,
while I see precise precision, a puzzle,
a chess match where the stakes have never been higher.
Something you might hear a lot of fighters say
is that you can learn everything about a person
during a fight in fifteen minutes or less.
You can know more about what this person is made of
what drives them
in mere moments when you’d never know any of this
in fifteen years of friendship.
I am so envious of this.
I am envious because I am not built for the cage.
My hands are too small,
my shoulders are too narrow.
And though there are plenty of fighters who are small,
Demetrious Johnson I am not.
Joanna Jędrzejczyk I am not.
And it hurts me to know
that I will never get to know another human being that deeply.
It hurts me to know that there are people
who will look at my lover and take her for face value.
They do not see how she lifted me and held me
during one of the worst times of my life.
They cannot understand how she, of all things,
could have been so comforting.
They will see her as nothing more
than two savages trying to beat each other up.
But the joke is on you
because, in this sport, being called a savage
is one of the highest compliments you can receive.
No, we are not delusional.
Yes, we know it’s violent.
No, it is not barbaric.
Yes, it is an art.
I know that I can talk until I’m blue in the face
and it won’t matter.
It’s not for everyone.
And that’s OK.
But friends, please understand,
that just because you don’t,
It doesn’t mean my lover is everything you think or you say.