Gotta Love Nostalgia

Everyone has that one thing or perhaps multiple things that bring up a strong sense of nostalgia. Whether its a family memory, an old show, a game, old job, etc. etc. etc. I love the feeling of nostalgia. It gives you a sense of roots and personal history. However, its definitely not something that can be easily explained. I mean, I’m about to go on and on about something that’s given me strong nostalgic feelings lately and you’re likely going to think: ‘really? She’s writing about this? Come on, your old posts are better.’ Well, you’re probably right. So, in continuing further, I dare you to relate in some way. You likely don’t have any feelings for what I’m about to write about, but you do have something else that brings a sense of nostalgia to you and I want you to keep that thing in mind. If anything, it’s always nice to pause a moment and remember a good thing from days long passed.

So, about a week ago, a new game came out for the Nintendo Switch (no it’s not a Zelda game), and I preordered it so I didn’t have to wait to play it. The game is Pokemon Snap. It’s a cute, little game where you get to play wildlife photographer in the pokemon world. You just take snapshots of pokemon in their natural habitat. There’s no catching, no training, no battling, and no trading. You’re just a snap happy photographer taking pictures.

When you think about it, the point of the game isn’t that exciting. There’s no villain you have to fight, no puzzles to solves, it’s just picture taking. So, it’s not a game for everyone. I got it because I used to play the Nintendo 64 version of Pokemon Snap ALL THE TIME. I completed the Photodex, found all th Pokemon Signs, and I was quite proud of myself for doing so. Even now, I can recall all the music, sound effects, gameplay, and tricks in each area. When I was little, I always hoped they’d come out with another one. Now that I’m in my twenties, they finally did!

Do you remember a time when you got the news that they were remaking something you loved as a kid? Maybe a Disney movie, an old tv show, a theme park restoring an old roller coaster, a game (in my case), or whatever it was that you were obsessed with as a kid? You hear the news and you get excited, but then comes the influx of emotions where you’re not sure its a good idea. Maybe it won’t be as good as the original? Maybe they’ll butcher an important scene or part or they’ll pick the wrong actors or mess up the story line. Or they’ll change something where it just isn’t the same anymore? I felt that when I heard about the new Pokemon Snap. I was super excited, but then very weary that it just wouldn’t be the same as the old 64 version or the developers would change something that doesn’t need to be changed.

Thankfully, in my case, they didn’t remake the old Pokemon Snap, they expanded on it. A LOT of new pokemon have come out since the original game so the developers are including a LOT of those new pokemon. Plus, its in a new region, there are new areas to explore, new mysterious to solve, and they give you little challenges and clues in each area to help you get the best pictures. I may not have played the new version of Pokemon Snap as much as I would’ve liked since it came out, but I can happily say I’m NOT disappointed in it. A lot of controls and items are the same and they included new items to help you get the best photos. They also make it possible to edit your photos and enhance them. It’s gotten a very good improvement and let’s not forget that video game graphics have come a long way since 1999. So the designers deserve a huge pat on the back for how well they crafted the different ecosystems and landscapes of the region you explore in the game.

Speaking of ecosystems and landscape. They expanded on something in this new version of Pokemon Snap that was pretty mellow in the old game. For those of you unfamiliar with the game: there is a reason you go around taking pictures. In both games, you’re helping a professor document the habits and behavior of pokemon. In the new game, they expand it further by giving more detail to the lab you work at: the Laboratory of Ecology and Natural Sciences. This game is meant for kids, so it’s likely a kid isn’t going to know what ecology and natural sciences are, but they will understand the point. You go around a habitat (a swamp, a cave, a desert, a jungle, a meadow, or under the ocean, etc. etc. etc.), taking pictures of the pokemon, and how they interact with each other and their surroundings. You also get to find new paths and areas and uncover inspiring discoveries about plant life too–all by keeping your disturbance to the habitat a minimum.

Now, pokemon aren’t real and the magical mysteries in the game don’t exist, but what if you implied the concept of Pokemon Snap to the real world? One of my favorite things about the game is that it can be an inspiration for someone to go into ecology and natural sciences. They may enjoy taking pictures in the game so much that they want to take pictures of nature and study the environments of Earth. I, for one, am someone who’s fascinated by animal behavior and when I see the chance to snatch a good photo of some wildlife, I try to take it. There’s been a spotted owl around my work lately and I’ve chased it around the property (I’m not very stealthy at work) trying to snatch a good photo of it! Now, Pokemon Snap likely isn’t the reason I chase wildlife around, but it may have played a part. I think the new Pokemon Snap does a great job of highlighting the careers of a researcher and a wildlife photographer. I hope every kid out there that plays it gets inspired to research wildlife beyond what’s done in the game.

Alright, enough of my nostalgia. I could go on…and on…and on. However, this blog isn’t here so I can ramble about Pokemon. I wanted to share my nostalgia in hopes to get you thinking about yours. So, what is it? What gives you a strong sense of nostalgia? A song? A show? A game? Etc.? Do you think that thing inspired some habit or career of yours? Or could potentially inspire others? Let me know what you think in the comments below and thank you for taking the time to read this post!

A Million Dreams…

How many of you are The Greatest Showman fans? I certainly loved that movie when I first saw it and I think the soundtrack for it is fantastic! My favorite song in that soundtrack is A Million Dreams. If you’re not familiar with it, go watch the movie, but to simplify it, the main character is singing about all the dreams he wants to come true in his life, all the dreams he wants to include in the circus. It’s a very uplifting song, beautiful music, the dance is graceful and energetic, and the whole of it is just inspiring. However, that’s not why I like it so much.

I see the song through a different perspective, a writer’s perspective. Maybe you can relate or maybe this will just sound like nonsense, but I hope it’ll at least be a good read.

Let’s start with the first verse:

“I close my eyes and I can see a world that’s waiting up for me that I call my own.

I consider myself a dreamer and a daydreamer. When I lay down at night, I can’t fall asleep right away like some people do. So, to help pass the time until sleep finally decides to show up, I daydream about my novels, my stories, and my imaginations. The world I see is the main setting of my completed, yet unpublished, novel: a mighty castle on an open, golden field. Its certainly its own world that I call my own.

Now the next song lyric:

“Through the dark, through the door, through where no one’s been before, but it feels like home.”

Obviously, no ones been to my castle on the golden field before, but to me it feels like home because I know it so well. I’m sure other writers could relate about the settings in their novels. I know it sounds crazy. You’ve probably think I’ve lost my mind at this point, but I don’t care if it sounds crazy, because wouldn’t any of us want to live in a world that we design?

Now, let’s move on to the main chorus:

“Every night I lie in bed
The brightest colours fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
Oh a million dreams for the world we’re gonna make

I feel like this speaks for itself. I mean, I already admitted to not be able to sleep at night. Sometimes, I’ll get an idea for one of my stories and I’ll play that idea in my head over and over ahead that I just can’t fall asleep. Are there any others that can relate to this? Any others that see your stories as the bright colours in your head and as the dreams that keep you awake?

The song goes on to be more fitting for The Greatest Showman plot, but every time it hits the chorus, it gives me motivation to work on my own stories again. I hope you don’t stop dreaming. I hope you have a million dreams keeping you awake and the inspiration and excitement to seize them. Thanks for reading over my perspective of A Million Dreams, I hope you enjoyed it.

Writing Prompt: Getting Away with Murder

Use the following words: Snow Queen, windmill, tunnel, childhood, endanger, cypress, wine, horseback, temperature, imperial.

There isn’t enough wine in the world for this. I’m standing under the cypress tree, bearing witness as my childhood nemesis is carried away in a body bag. Little miss perfect never knew how to shut up. She always bragged about all the good she did for endangered animals and yet, she has the largest hummer on the lot, a giant mansion, and a diamond ring on each finger. She took more than she gave and that’s why she’s gone now. Her money will go to those that need it–those endangered animals deserve better and my horseback rescue ranch down the road won’t go bankrupt.

I feel like the Snow Queen in the middle of summer. They load her body in the truck and yet, I just stand here like I’m watching a rabbit cross the road. I followed her last night. After I begged her to help me save my ranch. I would pay her back, but she scoffed at me, said she couldn’t do it and she turned away. She thought I left, but I was so angry, that I waited at the end of her drive and when she drove off in the thick of the night. I tailed her.

She went to the windmill north of town. The windmill is a relic, fading away and forgotten. So why was she going there? I got my answer when I followed her in. All the money that was supposed to be going to the endangered animals was hiding in that windmill. I shouted at her, but I don’t remember what either of us said. I think she threatened me. Threatened to buy out my ranch and tear it down. Fury turned my vision red and the next thing I knew red was scattered across the floor.

My grandfather’s imperial pistol was in my hand and smoke drifted from the barrel. I only kept the weapon on me to scare off coyotes, but the first bullet was lodged her heart. I didn’t feel anything as her blood bled out on the money. I was probably standing there like an idiot for over ten minutes before my mind finally realized what I did. I killed that greedy witch and you know what? The world is better off with her dead, but I can’t go to jail. What would happen to my ranch, to the money, to the endangered animals if I was stuck behind bars?

I’ve seen enough crime shows to know that the number one thing you don’t do to solve a crime is mess with the crime scene. So, I messed with everything. I rearranged the entire windmill to hide the blood stains, packed up all the money into my car, and used the old, secret tunnel to drag her body out of there.

The tunnel led to an old farm that was seized by the banks. No one bought it. No one took care of it. So everything was overgrown. Temperature fluctuated a lot between the windmill, tunnel, and farm that I suspect it’ll screw up evidence. I left her body in the barn and took a long path back to the windmill so that maybe I couldn’t be tracked. I hopped in my car, dumped my pistol in the river, drove back to the my ranch, and the stored the money in the second safe in my attic. I changed my clothes and burned the old ones in my firepit then spent the rest of my night with the horses and a bottle of wine.

The next morning, I drove around town trying to “find” her. I stopped by her house and when she didn’t answer, I spoke with everyone in town. I let everyone believe I was trying to sell her my ranch to get out of debt. When no one could point me in her direction. I drove around all day before finding her body.

When the cops showed up, they asked me a few questions. The biggest one was if she had any enemies. Well, no one in town liked her, I told them. Everyone is going to think she got what she deserved. They believed me and they didn’t consider me a suspect. Over the next few months, I’ll use her money to slowly pay off my loans and save my ranch and what’s left over will be an anonymous donation to the endangered animals. Just like it should be.

I Gotta Tell You about Saturn!

Lately, I’ve been working on a sci/fi story and it’s set in our Solar System years into the future. Well, I’m having to do a lot of research about space to write this novel and I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned. Some things in the novel I’m going probably going to pull the whole: “it’s a sci/fi, it works that way just cause it works that way,” but for the setting, I want to get as accurate as I can. I’ve learn a lot of cool things about the Solar System that I gotta share!

Besides Earth, one of the major planets featured in my sci/fi is Saturn. Well…kind of. No one actually goes to Saturn in the story, but they go to plenty of Saturn’s moons. Saturn has a BUNCH of moons. 82 according to NASA’s website. The largest being Titan (which is larger than Mercury, the planet), and it’s smallest is probably the moonlet: Pan which is a whole 23 km wide (have you ever heard the term moonlet before? I hadn’t until I started this research, it means small natural or artificial satellite. It’s such a cute word!). Of Saturn’s major moons, Mimas is the smallest and I consider it the Death Star moon. Look up of a photo of it. It has a giant crater that makes it look like the Death Star from Star Wars. It’s because of this Death Star look that I decided to have Mimas as one of the moons that appear in my story. Did you know it has an icy and crater-covered surface?

Another fun fact I want to share is about Saturn’s rings. Did you know that it’s rings are labeled? It makes sense that they would be, I mean, its literally like naming geography but in space. Their names go from A Ring down the alphabet to G Ring. The A, B, and C Rings are the main ones you see when looking at Saturn and the large gap between A and B is called the Cassini Division. Saturn’s rings are mostly composed of ice and the A Ring even has a gap in it that’s called the Encke Gap–and it’s held open by our little friend: Pan.

It’s too easy to get lost in the research. You start learning so much that you just want to throw it all into the novel, but then you’re writing a textbook and not a story. Somewhere you gotta find the balance and for my story, I’m focusing on getting the basics of a setting like Mimas having an icy surface and Pan being tucked in the Encke Gap. Maybe when the story is fully written, I’ll have a space expert read it and let me know if I did space justice enough as a setting. I could go on about Saturn and space–I mean, solarsystem.nasa.gov has a really cool interactive Solar System. None of the moonlets are on it, but you can see the major moons of the different planets (and of course you can’t forget how pretty Earth and the Moon are).

Space is so cool. Its so easy to forget about. There’s such a big universe outside our atmosphere. Its definitely something to keep you pondering.

Thanks for reading! I have to get back to writing my story, but I hope you enjoyed these fun facts! If you have any to share about space, feel free to comment them below!

Writing Prompt: New Invention

What’s something you would like to see invented that would make your life easier?

To all you writers, tinkers, and theorists out there: have you ever had a moment where you had the perfect phrasing for a story, essay, or any other project of yours and yet you couldn’t get that phrasing down because you didn’t have a pen, paper, journal, phone, or any other device to copy that phrasing upon? And when you finally get the chance to write it down, its stolen from your mind like a thief in the night? How many perfect scenes or character descriptions have you lost just because you couldn’t write it down fast enough? Well, you’ve no need to lose any more, my friends, because writers, I have GOOD NEWS for you!

All of us here at Mind’s Hallway Industries have a developed what we’re proudly calling: the Writer’s Buddy 3000. If you’re comfortable wearing earbuds, you’ll enjoy the Writer’s Buddy! You just need to slip it on your ear and start the creative processes in your mind! The Writer’s Buddy connects to your personal laptop or other device and while you’re daydreaming away, it will transcribe your thoughts onto a Word Document! You could write your story, essay, or other work wherever you are! Writing has never been easier!

What’s more is that the Writer’s Buddy 3000 is also waterproof! So, you could wear it in the shower–where you do your best thinking–and all those creative thoughts of yours will be recorded on your own computer! No more of your amazing work would be washed down the drain!

For safety reasons, the Writer’s Buddy 3000 only connects to one computer and it’s entirely hack proof! The Writer’s Buddy also does not have a self storage so none of your thoughts will remain on it. Meaning, if you ever lose it or it gets stolen, no one will be able to steal your work! (Mind’s Hallway industries is not responsible for the theft of devices connected to any Writer’s Buddy 3000s).

So if you’re tired of thinking of the perfect wording for your project and then losing it by the time you get the chance to write it down, you need the Writer’s Buddy 3000! Supplies are limited so order yours TODAY!

*Disclaimer: The Writer’s Buddy 3000 and Mind’s Hallway Industries are fictional creations and do not actually exist (as awesome as it would be if they did). Best of luck to all you writers out there who come up with the perfect phrasing and struggle to remember it word for word by the time you can write it down. You’re not alone.

What Do You See in a Storm?

A couple weeks ago, I had the honor of watching a storm on the horizon while I drove to work. It was dark enough that morning that I didn’t even realize it was a storm until lightning flashed through the clouds. Now, I LOVE storms. I love the pouring rain, the ground-quaking thunder, the dark of the sky, but most of all: the lightning. I love watching lightning and not just their flash, but seeing the actual bolt itself. And I saw a ton of those on that drive to work and it really fired me up for the morning.

For those of you keeping up with my blog, you know that my drive to work includes this little woodsy road where the streetlights don’t reach. That stormy morning, I was really looking forward to getting to that road and seeing the bolts light up the dark. Yes, the trees would probably block my view, but I knew it had to be so cool to be on that dark road with no streetlights, car lights (except for mine of course), or any other light taking away the brightness of the lightning. My prayer was to see just one bolt while on that dark and hilly road and you know what? I got to see TWO.

The first one flashed before I even got to the hills and it looked so good! The edges of the bolt were perfectly defined by the darkness of the sky and the black of the nightly trees framed it like a perfect photoshop. I wanted to paint it!! And I still do (but I’ve never been good at painting lightning. I’ll have to give it another try someday). I was just so thankful that morning that I got to see for an instant, a lightning bolt in the middle of the darkness. And then the second one flashed.

The second one was much bigger than the first! I was just reaching the top of the first hill on that eastbound road, so I got a beautiful picture of the taller, second hill, covered in shadow, and leading up to a fractured lightning bolt between the thick of the trees. It took my breath away.

As I was climbing that second hill, I got to thinking about my old post Reach for the Sunrise. In that post, I talk about climbing this very same hill toward the beauty of the dawn, but that dark morning, I was driving toward a storm. It got me thinking that maybe I could write a post about this? About driving toward a storm and come up with a fun metaphor to make me sound “enlightened” or whatever word you want to use. But if you really think about it, who wants to drive toward a storm? Storms are dangerous! Strong winds from one could turn into a tornado. Rain could turn into floods and lightning could kill you in a flash. So why would anyone drive toward a storm?

Now, I know there are storm chasers out there. People get paid to put their lives in danger, and if you’re like me, you just have a fascination for storms, but still wouldn’t drive into one unless I had too. I think most of us wouldn’t drive toward a storm unless we had too to get where we’re going.

That got me thinking even further. Yes, I was driving toward the storm, but it wasn’t the storm I was focusing on. I was watching for the lightning, the light in the darkness. Everyone goes through storms in life whether literal storms or metaphorical ones. So when you go through a storm in life, what are you looking for? Are you looking for the end of the storm just to get out of it? Are you staring at the rain and hoping you don’t drown? Are you cowering from the thunder or dodging lightning strikes?

It’s hard to be calm during a storm, but if you’re not, you have a harder time making it out. Everyone looks for different things to guide them through, so what are you looking for? Are you like me and you’re looking for that light in the darkness to show the way whether its sunlight or lightning? Are you even trying to make it through your storm? I hope you are, because no one deserves to be stuck in the pouring down rain.

Whether you’re stuck in a literal storm or not, I hope you try to find the beauty in it like I did with the lightning on my morning drive. Storms may be dangerous, but you can’t let them scare you. So, the next time you go through a storm, I dare you to take a good look around and decide what you’re going to see: the darkness or the light?

Nothing Scarier…

All through childhood and even today, one of my favorite sayings is that “nothing is scarier than a blank piece of paper.” Now, I should probably add on “for a writer” at the beginning or end of it because let’s be real, there are some incredibly scary things out there (like ticks…and other bugs).

So, when I comes to a writer, or any artist, a blank page or blank canvas can be pretty scary. You can sit down to write or draw or paint etc. And, if you’re like me, you just find yourself staring at the page. If you know what you want to write or draw, great! That’s half the battle. But then you gotta figure out how are you going to start? Start with a description? Start with some facts? If you don’t know what you want to write or draw and you’re like me, you just kinda sit there staring at the page and eventually the page wins.

Same goes for journals. I know I’m not the only one who has a thousand journals and yet most of them haven’t anything written in them. One of my favorite journals is a leather bound one I got years ago. And yet, I have written nothing in it. My first thought was “oh, I’ll write a story that goes with the design on the cover!” but then I worry that the story won’t be good enough. I think I should just use it for my thoughts–it is a journal after all–but it just too pretty for my thoughts, so it sits in my desk with nothing inside because I can’t decide what’s good enough to write in it. Someday I’ll write something, we’ll just have to wait and see what pops into my head.

So, blank pages are scary and pretty journals deserve more than just basic thoughts. But my favorite part of a blank page and a blank journal is all the possibilities. They’re endless. You could write a report, a story, a memoir, a poem, gibberish, anything! Same goes for drawing. You could paint puppies, or doodle drawbridges, make maps, copy artwork or sketch star systems. It’s just a matter of what do you want to do?

Now, as endlwess as the possibilities are, it’s also pretty daunting. What if you mess up? What if it’s all wrong? What if you lose your train of thought or accidentally damage the paper or canvas? You want some friendly advice for when those thoughts start to creep up?

Shut up.

Just shut those thoughts right up because they’re only holding you back. Just start writing or drawing and if you screw up? There’s more paper. Just think of all those tv and movie scenes where someone is trying to write the right thing, but they keep crumpling up the paper and tossing it into the waste basket. The important thing is that you’re trying. Practice makes perfect after all.

So don’t let the scariness of a piece of paper stop you. Put your pencil, pen, paintbrush, or fingers on the keyboard and go! Don’t think about it until you edit. Start writing right now!

Finch Among Starlings

Do you ever feel out of place? Like you don’t belong in a crowd of people? Or a group of friends? Or even your own family? Be assured that you’re not the only one.

I’m an introvert. I’m the quiet one, the one who won’t speak up unless you talk to me first. Kinda like a finch. I’ve heard finches are some of the quietest birds in the world. They still have a song, but you don’t hear it as often. Then, you have the other end of the spectrum. I have a bunch of starlings that live around my house and they’re noisy. You’ll always know when they show up. And I guarantee that if you put a finch among them, you’d have to look real hard to find it.

Lately, I’ve been feeling very out of place like a finch among starlings. I get together with my loud and extroverted family and I’m the awkward one just sitting at the counter. At work, I’m the quiet one who doesn’t quite get all the jokes my coworkers tell. I’m also the one who lives under a rock, so it’s hard to get into conversations when I have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. Then, there’s my online group of friends. We don’t know each other’s real names, but we’ve been talking and roleplaying for over 10 years. I’m the one who got us all together by starting the roleplay, but more often than not, that’s all I feel like I am. I try to get into conversations and write fanfics for my characters on there, but more and more I just feel ignored.

Maybe you have a group of friends, coworkers, or even family that you feel like you don’t belong too. It’s so frustrating, right? Especially if you’re an introvert. Everyone around you has all the boldness to say what’s on their mind and they’ll even have the guts to talk over you to make sure they’re heard. And, if you’re like me, you let them. You let them talk and say what’s on their mind, you be kind and listen because you hope they would do the same in return, but they don’t, or someone else barges into the conversation before you even get to finish and the topic changes so what you wanted to say is forgotten. To go a little further, maybe you give your heart to people, do something for them when they ask. You try to encourage them when they’re down. They appreciate everything you do and maybe they’ll listen to your encouragement, but when you need something done. When you need that encouragement, where are they?

I know there’s some people out there who have the mentality of “what do I get out of it?” They won’t do anything for anyone else unless they get something out of it. That’s kinda selfish, right? I mean, yeah, some people would say that’s smart, you don’t want people walking all over you, but what ever happened to the goodness of the heart? To selfLESSness?

I have to be honest. There’s a lot that I want to scream into this post. I mean, I had a pretty terrible day–some things were piling up and to top it off I found a tick on my side! Those of you who know me know how much that freaks me out. The way I’m feeling right now, I just want to complain. I want to complain about being a finch among starlings. How I asked for favors from some people, put my faith in some people, and got nothing in return. I want to complain about all the rejections I’ve been getting when I know my book is good, and I want to complain about the type of person I am and how easily a tiny tick could make me fall apart (although, it wasn’t that tiny…it was about the size of an eraser on the end of a pencil, so the stupid thing was huge!).

Even finches have bad days though. I mean, not everyone can be bright and encouraging all the time. Candles do burn out. That’s where selflessness can come in and save the day. One act. One encouraging word can change someone’s whole day. You don’t know what anyone’s going through. You don’t see what they don’t want you to see. You don’t see them running to the bathroom at work to hide their tears when they just heard bad news. You don’t see how they find a quiet spot to get away. You don’t see the scars on their thighs from wounds they inflicted themselves. Or the trouble behind the mask on their face. People always smile and say they’re fine, because it’s too uncomfortable to be NOT fine. Everyone says their fine because that’s the answer everyone wants to hear. If you’re not fine, then you’re not handling life right.

When did fine become the new normal? Fine sucks. Whenever I hear some say they’re fine, I admit, I have my doubts. One of the perks of being a finch is that you pay more attention to the subtle things people do. How often does someone look you in the eye? What are they doing with their hands? Are they tense? How’s their respiratory rate? Quick? Deep? Are they shrugging things off? Being distant? I need to asking “How are you” twice when I notice these things, because sometimes people need you to ask multiple times before they’re honest. I’m guilty of it.

We’ve let saying “I’m fine” become a habit. The words comes out before you can even stop yourself and though you think you should take it back, you decide not too because the other person has already accepted it. I’m even guilty of fighting back the second question. Someone will ask: “How are you?” And the automatic: “I’m fine!” comes out. They’ll lean in: “Are you sure?” and for a second that feels like weeks, my mind is fighting the battle of whether or not I should tell the truth. The truth doesn’t always win though. The truth is too messy and other people don’t need to be included in my problems. No one needs to see that I’m not fine. So, I smile and I shrug and I say: “Yeah! I’m great.”

This post has completely derailed from what I originally intended it to be about, but its content is still important–I think. I triple-dog-dare you to tell the truth the next time someone asks “How are you?” And I dare you to stop using the word “fine.” If you truly are doing alright, then pick a different word so people can believe it. Also dare you to ask beyond the “How are you?” We’re all stuck in this life together, finches and starlings. Might as well look out for each other and make selflessness the new normal.

Zombies and the Witch

I don’t know about you, but I can get some pretty vivid dreams while laying in bed at night. I think they’re pretty cool, exciting, and adventurous. Some of them I’ve even written down because they’d make great novels someday. If you don’t mind, I would love to share one pretty vivid and actiony dream I had back when I was in college. I still remember it. I’ve told the story of it enough times that it’s stayed with me. I’m sure I could turn it into a novel, but zombies were never my thing, and I think you all would get a kick out this tale now instead of having to wait however many years for it to get written and published. Some say dreams come from what you experience throughout the day. Well, the only way I can explain this dream is that my old roommate and I used to play a lot of video games.

Imagine, if you will, a desolate city. The zombie apocalypse has occurred and there aren’t too many of us left. Cars sit abandoned on the side of roads, buildings are broken into, shattered glass covers the sidewalks, and “people” are lingering about moaning, groaning, and hungry for brains. My roommate and I hadn’t seen anyone that didn’t want to eat us for months and we’d grown reliant on each other. We were restocking supplies by looting an abandoned lab when all of a sudden we come across two guys who didn’t want to suck our brains out. They seemed pretty fit and were clearly surviving well, but before we could chitchat, a wave of zombies invaded the lab–I blame the guys for luring them to us. We fought back. There were two entrances to the lab and between the four of us we were able to cover them. We killed a few zombies and thought we were in the clear for a bit. My roommate was still covering the door the two of us were holding while I went to pack up the rest of the supplies, but as for the two guys who joined us? They got a little TOO relaxed.

Another wave of zombies hit us and they hit us hard. I saw one of the guys go down as the mindless monsters came barging in through their door. My roommate and I took cover behind different desks. We knew we had to fight back, but we needed a chance to get weapons again. She got clever and used chemicals found in the lab to fight back. I don’t know my chemicals that well, so I just grabbed the first bludgeoning item I could find…which turned out to be a femur.

Think about it, you’re in the middle of a zombie attack and while you’re in a lab full of potentially dangerous equipment, you decide to use the femur of a rotting skeleton you found under a desk as a weapon. Not my proudest moment, but you know what? It worked out. The femur was still in pretty good shape and I smashed the head of it into the heads of many zombies. We killed them all and found a lull period in between the waves. There was no discussion, we needed to get out of here. The two guys with us miraculously survived and though they weren’t very helpful, I suggested we team up. Four heads are better than two, right? Plus, I thought my roommate and I could do a better job at keeping them alive than they could at keeping themselves alive. They decided they didn’t want to team up and they left us immediately after the zombie attack was over. My roommate and I shrugged it off and we wished them best. I returned the femur back to the skeleton and we headed out.

The streets were empty of zombies and people. Nothing but abandoned vehicles, trash blowing through the streets, and useless blinking spotlights lined the city. Our plan was to get into the country. Get out of the city where less zombies paraded at night. We were trying to decide on a car. We had our pick of anything on the street. No. We didn’t know how to hotwire one, but abandoned vehicles come with abandoned keys.

The vehicle we chose was a big, red semi-truck. I didn’t think it was a good idea. Neither of us have experience driving something that big. Plus, it was a stick shift–which my roommate can’t drive. My truck is stick, so I could potentially drive this giant semi-truck, but I didn’t want push my luck. Yet, my roommate convinced me. This semi had an extended cab we could hunker down in and we could store things in the trailer attached to it (which I don’t even know if we looked to see what was in there in the first place). Next thing I know, I’m driving this big ol’ truck out of the city and I’m having a blast running over every zombie we came across.

Eventually, we make it to the country. Wide, green plains with one lane highways and the bright, shining sun overhead. When it gets dark, we park the truck under an overpass, sleep, and move on the next day. We didn’t have a destination in mind, we enjoyed the freedom of the open road, filled up gas when we needed too and kept on trucking.

In the middle of nowhere (and I literally mean nowhere), we find this giant antique-style mansion. This massive house just sitting on a wide open plain. Nothing around it except the highway which has no cars except for my semi. Seeing no harm, my roommate and I decide to go explore it. We’re in the zombie apocalypse, so it’s likely that no one is home and the worst that could happen is we walk right into a mansion full of zombies.

What we found was something MUCH worse.

The mansion was fascinating! There were a bunch of antiques in it that had to be worth thousands of dollars if not more. We explored it carefully, the porch creaked, the furnishings were elegant and fit for English royalty, and there were no zombies. Much to our surprise, there were no zombies! We determined that this place was a safe spot to hang out for a bit, so we started to relax. We’re fawning over the antiques we found and going from room to room to see what we might be useful to take with us when we suddenly saw HER at the end of the hall.

It was like in one of those horror movies where the jump scare gets you. The camera is focused on the main characters and suddenly it flashes to the end of a long, dark hallway and the flickering lights reveal the monster at the end. Except our monster was a woman and from the moment I saw her, I had a deep sense of dread in my gut. Even though I had never seen her before, I knew what she was. She was a witch.

She was beautiful for a witch. Not your typical old hag with warts on her pointed nose and wrinkly eyes. No. Our witch was tall and skinny. She looked as if someone had taken Cruella DeVil and blended her with Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. She gave us a pleasant smile. That kind where you know she’s up to no good, but she faking it so well that you’re second guessing yourself. My roommate hesitated, but I didn’t. I grabbed my friend’s arm and bolted out of there. We’re flying down staircases, heading for the front door and I hear the witch laugh behind us. It scared the living daylights out of me and I was cursing myself because I should’ve known better than to trespass on some strange, giant mansion in the middle of literal nowhere! My roommate had gotten ahead of me and the front door was in our sights when I suddenly felt heavy. My steps slowed and exhaustion hit me so hard that I was struggling to remain on my feet. My roommate made it out and didn’t realize I fell to my knees when my feet couldn’t support my weight anymore. I knew the witch had cast some sort of spell and I knew I couldn’t resist it as much as I wanted too. I was trying to crawl my way out. I fought with every haggard breath, dragged myself on my elbows! Yet, the front door drew no closer and my roommate didn’t return. My head hit the carpet. I was too tired to continue and I knew I didn’t have a choice in the matter. The witch’s red high heels crossed in front of my vision before I blacked out.

I woke up in a log cabin of some sort, like one of those buildings from the 1850s. I was laying on a cot made out of straw and animal fur and I might as well have been wearing Little House on the Prairie. You know, one of those old, heavy farm gowns from the 1850s? I didn’t wake up alone. Someone was watching over me, obviously waiting for me to wake. It should’ve been strange to see him, but I treated it like an every day occurrence. I woke up to a Khajit watching over me (a Khajit is a catfolk from the Elder Scrolls Game series). He had white fur with black lynx markings and his name was Purple (weird, right?). He was very kind and I immediately considered him a friend. He told me that I was now in a compound, protected by the outside world (zombies). He said the compound was created by the one they gratefully serve and honor: the witch.

That should’ve had bells and whistles going off in my head that I was in some sort of prison camp, but it didn’t. Instead, I smiled back at Purple and agreed with him! I told him I owed the witch my life because she saved me! It still makes my skin crawl to this day to think that I had a dream where I went from running from an obviously evil witch to believing she somehow saved my life (but you gotta admit, this is like good story material here)!

Purple told me that everyone in the compound had a role and I had one as well. He showed me around and the compound was basically a village from the 1850s with towering log walls surrounding it to “protect us from the outside world.” Everyone in the village was happy and content within their roles. It like everyone was Joo Dee from Avatar; the Last Airbender, and I was now one of them–content and okay with being a part of the witch’s little compound. Purple showed me what my role was. I was to work with him in the grain mill. We worked well together and the days were all the same: wake up before sunrise, head to the mill, go to bed at sunset. Everything was predictable. Everyone did the same thing everyday, ate the same thing, and pretty much said the same thing like we were all NPCs (non-playable characters) from a video game. Well, one evening, while Purple and I were working, Purple got called away for a reason I never learned. I was left alone in the mill and something invaded the clockwork of the day to day.

I was minding my business and grinding grain when I heard the wall creak. Now, the grain mill is make out of wood like everything else in this compound, so creaky buildings isn’t unnatural, but this one was. It was long and hesitant as if someone was trying not to make the wall creak. I turn my head to find a modern-looking girl slowly pushing open one of the wall panels. When she saw me, she flushed with relief and a bright smile spread her lips. “I finally found you!” she exclaimed quietly. Purple started coming back, so she had to hide back in the wall panel. “Don’t worry,” she whispered. “I’m going to get you out. Don’t trust anyone!”

I asked Purple about her, but he was genuinely confused at what I was talking about. He didn’t look like he believed me when I said I saw the girl, and I didn’t blame him. Everyone knew everyone in the compound and the only people in here were who the witch brought in. Which had me thinking that the girl somehow snuck in.

I couldn’t shake the unease brought on by the girl’s words. Back at Purple and mine’s cabin, I thought it over. I had a sinking feeling that she was an enemy of the witch we so faithfully served and revered. That should’ve made her my enemy as well, but I felt no ill toward the girl. I kept thinking about what the girl looked like. She was in a rag-tag t-shirt and jeans, her hair in a low ponytail and mud and blood(?) streaked on her face. There was something familiar about that. She looked like a fighter…a survivor…and she was looking for me…?

The realization clicked in my brain so fast and so hard that I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach. That girl was my roommate! And I remembered seeing her flee out the door as we were running away from…from the witch.

A cold sense of dread layered upon my skin. I remembered everything! The zombie fight. The semi-truck. The witch’s mansion. I finally understood what happened to me after I blacked out. I had been brainwashed by the witch and Purple and everyone else in this compound was under the exact same influence. I considered Purple a friend, so I wanted to save him, but I knew I needed to find my roommate and formulate a plan. I wanted to make the witch pay by tearing down her entire scheme and freeing the compound–I wouldn’t mind killing her in the process either. The next day, I would find my roommate and whatever allies I could get. A world with zombies was dangerous enough without a witch brainwashing everyone who was left.

Unfortunately, this was the part where my dream ended. I like to think that my roommate and I defeated the witch and freed the compound, but it wasn’t a reoccurring dream, nor one that continued the next night. If I wanted too, I could type up an ending, finish the story my subconscious so graciously gave me, but there are other stories I’d rather write, and I thought you would enjoy the pondering of a story with no ending. You can decide how ends. Maybe I was able to escape and my roommate and I drove our semi-truck through the walls of the compound? Or we headed back to the witch’s mansion and discovered those antiques were actually magical artifacts and we used them again her? Or maybe something completely new occurred like we found a bunker of non-brainwashed people to help us? Maybe we tamed zombies and used them against the witch? The story is yours to decide. It’s definitely something to think about. I just hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Morning in the Pines

A humble, wooden bench sitting in the woods.
It leans from age and the stress of the weather,
but it won’t fall. Its as strong as ever.
A path runs beside it, so muddy and murky,
that no one comes near it, for their shoes will get dirty.
Even forgotten, the bench is not alone,
for the nature around it reminds that it’s home.

The singing birds say all is good.
Cardinals chirp, a scarlet red.
While the titmouse buzzes out of bed.
A flock of juncos flitter about,
With the morning nigh, no one could pout.
Through the trees, they dance and fly.
Every one of them at home in the peak of the sky.

A breeze bustles the great limbs of the pines.
Light paints their needles in different shades of green,
after a long winter both frigid and mean.
The sweet pine scent is given with a yawn,
to greet the cool watercolors of dawn.
Throughout the day, they’ll be quite proud,
to give shade to every sweating brow.

Insects buzz on flowers to dine,
on tangy nectar so soft and sweet.
Every bee knows its their favorite treat.
Spiders’ webs drift through the air
like thin strains of silver hair.
A small detail in the thick of the forest,
Life goes on in joyous chorus.

A humble wooden bench sitting in the woods.
The singing birds say all is good.
A breeze bustles the great limbs of the pines.
Insects buzz on flowers to dine.
What a morning to be alive,
sitting back in the thick of the pines.