Three-Toed

Three-Toed

by Diego Green

 

Ever since the move, since the complete upheaval of her life, Valerie had encountered the same dream with increasing frequency. Always, in the dream, she would find herself lying face-up in bed, eyes wide-open staring at the black ceiling. It was then that the twinges of distinct and biting pain would begin. Sporadic at first, Valerie felt it start inside her skull, a jagged scraping against bone and brain, moving rapidly down her spine – a crawling sensation, the feeling of something navigating beneath her flesh with tiny piercing pincers.

 

As the sensation passed into her lower back, prodding into kidneys and intestines, Valerie realized that she was completely paralyzed, unable to scream or even move her eyes. Burning hot, the pain moved down into her left leg – more than pain, it was a feeling of a creature burrowing through her body, a thing clawing itself a passage out. It ended in a violent burst of agony, an eruption of warm blood from the sole of her left foot spraying onto sheets.

 

* * *

 

Valerie awakes into late afternoon, her brow and bedspread well-dampened by perspiration. After several minutes of listless haze, Val remembers the significance of the day and the time, sitting up and appreciating the silent house devoid of her working mother and father. She swears aloud as she focuses on the hands of the clock hanging at room’s end – it’s far later than the June sunlight makes it appear. Rushing, Val pulls on clothes from the littered bedroom floor. She is almost out the door when she notices the tiny trail of dark footprints – birdlike, maybe, three taloned toes – running across the hardwood floor, shining in the slanted sun, leading back to the bottom of her bed sheets stained deep orange in dried blood.

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Marcus

Marcus

Like jackals, the fleshy ghouls bowed red-faced over the corpses scattered across the stone church steps. From afar, I watched as the sergeant and Reyes approached the bobbing feeders unnoticed, machetes drawn. Though pressed against a brick wall a half block away, a charge of heated terror passed down through body and limb as the ghouls at last became aware of the living meat within their midst, their gore-slathered faces upturning in slow unison to meet the quick silent movements of the two soldiers. The monsters, a half-dozen at quick count, had barely made it to their feet before all were cut down with effortless efficiency – clean slices through the fragile neck followed up with a crushing blow to the disembodied cranium.

Hardly had Reyes and the sergeant begun to wipe the gore from their blades when, from the open towering doors of the church, there came several more ghoulies, fresh and groaning as they shambled down the steps. Shaking, I managed to find the cold metal of the small revolver tucked into the deep pocket of my jumpsuit, fingers slick with sweat – its single bullet in the chamber to be used solely for an emergency only. I watched an unending parade topple over one another to reach the two statue-still soldiers. I watched as Sam, my protector, left my side without a word to rush headlong into the fray, unslinging the rifle from his shoulder in a seamless motion.

Seemingly without fear, the sergeant charged up the steps with her blade raised, fluidly slicing at the leg bones of the descending ghouls as if they were tree branches. Suddenly unbalanced, their bodies fell and crumpled, dripping down to the littered sidewalk. Behind the sergeant, Roberto Reyes looked to be laughing, his head thrown back. In an instant, he leapt towards the nearest upright ghoul, striking the creature’s skull with such force that the head was nearly cleaved in two. Much like a figure out of an epic, Reyes threw himself headlong into the throng of his enemies, collapsing several at once with the sheer weight of his considerable frame.

I jumped as Sam fired the first round from his rifle into the growing crowd streaming out of the church. No longer watching, back against the wall around the corner from the carnage and eyes closed shut, I listened as round after round were discharged in methodical fashion. Still gripping the slippery revolver, I knew with utmost certainty that I had no place in this city and resolved at once to use the opportunity presented to run.

Opening my eyes, however, revealed a once desolate street to be now brimming with shambling, hunger-gripped denizens in all stages of disintegration ranging from the fresh black-bleeding fleshies to the desiccated eyeless mummies. In a panic, I ran back to the middle of the intersection, each street emanating from it containing the same scene of a slowly advancing herd of ghouls alerted and motivated by the booming blasts of gunfire.

“Yo, Marcus!”

Spinning around, I saw the squad standing atop the gore-darkened church steps, surrounded by the mounds of their fallen ghoul adversaries. Reyes was waving me on, big toothy smile on his face. The other two quickly ducked into the darkened interior of the church, closing one of the opened doors. Reyes remained, still calling out to me, waving, laughing, as if I were an old friend late to a bonfire.

As if all of Hell’s unwanted dead were not descending upon us, craving nothing more than to devour us down to the bone.

Flightless

It was something of a bad omen, that flattened skull-crushed squirrel lying in a ring of its own erupted innards. Ella smelled the stench of rot the moment she stepped down from the front porch. Must’ve fallen off a shaky branch from the towering heights of the aged tree, splattering against the dry cracked ground. Solemnly, Ella turned the poor collapsed creature over with the toe of her shoe, partaking in the squirming miracle of newborn maggot life.

Bone Den

Bone Den

“What you think it is?” asked Evan.  He stepped in closer to the mouth of the downward sloping tunnel before him, straining to look within. After several feet, it seemed as though the passage dropped sharply down, disappearing into dark earth.

“Think it’s maybe like a tomb or something.” said Joe, standing far back from where his friend stood, as if the opening might reach out at any moment to swallow him.

“Nah, a tomb’s made of stone and has angels and things all over it. Much fancier than this. Like a little fancy house for dead people.  We ain’t anywhere near the cemetery.  Just looks like a big animal hole or some shit.”

“What kinda animal makes a hole this big?”

Joe took a few more steps back, hands pushed into the pockets of his shorts.  He walked around the mouth of the burrow, mounds of dug-up dirt rising almost as tall as him surrounding it. Near his feet were small gatherings of smooth stones, most piled neatly but some scattered across the grassless dirt of the forest clearing.

“And what’s with all them rocks everywhere? All put in little piles”

“Don’t know . . . probably just someone messing around.”

“C’mon, look at ‘em, they’re grave markers, dead people underneath ‘em, and that thing’s a tomb! Not like a fancy one, but like, ancient time shit.”

“Man, whatever it is, I’d like to get inside,” said Evan, crouching down and taking a few small steps into the tunnel, craning his head forward to see if there was a bottom to the plunging hole.

“Gonna rain soon, Evan.” Joe said – his refrain for the past half-hour, it had begun to gain weight, drab darkening clouds seeping across the once spotless clear sky, air growing heavy with moisture, droplets stinging cold on heads and hands.

“So what?”, said Evan. There were more important things than not getting wet. He took another step forward, stooped down, foot almost to the point of teetering on the edge. Evan kicked at a clump of dirt, watching to see how far it would fall. He listened to the clod roll down the incline – didn’t seem so steep, he’d climbed down worse before.

“Gonna level with you Joe.” Evan said without turning, still studying the hole. He held his voice steady, words low. “This place might be holding buried treasure.”

“Bullshit. Where’d you hear that?”

“Cal told me.”

“Cal’s full of shit.”

“Yeah, got proof this time though.” Evan pulled from deep jean pockets a thing that instantly caught what remained of the diminished sun, reflecting yellow as it flipped through the air toward Joe.

“What is it?” At Joe’s feet, half-buried in sandy brown soil, lay a golden disk, an unfamiliar coin larger than a half-dollar. Picking it up, holding it, the coin felt unusually weighted.

“Fuck you think it is Joe? Treasure, buried goddamn treasure.”

* * *

It was true, on most occasions, that Evan’s older brother Calvin was a liar, a notorious bullshitter, always looking for an opportunity to make his little brother look foolish. Two nights ago though, Evan had asked Calvin for a story. He couldn’t sleep, too worked up, kept looking over to Tim’s empty side of the room, more room for the two of them now but it was just empty, neither brother wanting to encroach on sacred space.  “Tell me a story Cal”, asked Evan, in the dark, staring up at the bottom boards of his brother’s bed.  “Okay, okay”, Cal gave in.

“Ever hear of the Hoek brothers?” Cal began, lowered voice, black-outlined face peeking from over the above bunk edge. Evan hadn’t, of course not, then again Cal pulled ninety percent of his stories outta his ass. “Couple of bank robbers,” Call continued, “back in nineteen hundred and whatever, pulled a ton of heists, never got caught either.”

“What about ‘em’?”

Calvin grew serious, the smile in his voice dying. He spoke of desperate men on the run, ruthless killers willing to perform any feat on their escape flight from the law. “Most naturally,” Cal said, “they eventually made their escape to the wilds of Indiana, delving deep into the marshy swampland.”

“Fuck off Cal…” Evan turned in his bed, wrapping covers tight and shutting his eyes.

“Fine, don’t believe me.” Ping of metal echoed high in the dark, something small and dense hitting Evan’s sheets. Groping in the dark, Evan’s hand settled on the cold disk of the coin. He felt the lumped imperfections across its face, the uneven ridges forming the circular wall.

“This shit real?” Evan held the coin against the barely moonlit window outline, glimmer of gold apparent in the bright snatches of shine caught by the tiny relic.

“You tell me. Found it out in the marsh off Morris Road, just lying buried half-inch under mud for anybody to find.”

“You’re full of it.” Evan stared into the shifting dark. “Think there’s anymore?”

“Probably all been found, that’s probably the last of it.” Cal said distantly, turning over, disturbing creaking bedsprings.

“You don’t believe that.” 

* * *

“So you coming with or not, Joe?” Evan stood entirely within the tunnel’s entrance, beginning to lower himself down onto the decline.

“Hell no. Might get stuck or something.”

“Nah, you ain’t gonna get stuck, it’s a big-ass hole. I can almost stand in it, see?”

“Yeah, you’re right, we’ll just get caught when we’re six feet underground, too cramped to even turn around. Best part is, won’t be nobody to hear us screaming.”

Evan clenched his jaw, should have never asked Joe to come with, not this far out. No one else around though, none of the guys willing to come this far out into the marsh – only reason Joe did was ‘cause he had no friends, nothing better to do on a Saturday morning. But after not even a half-hour of walking, Joe had started complaining about his being hungry or about getting scratched up by branches. Probably didn’t realize how far a mile was when trekking through wooded terrain, probably looking for any excuse to turn around. Joe was the kind of kid that’d be happier left sitting at home, air-conditioning blasting to keep his face free from sweat, a game controller tight in his hands.

“You go on ahead, Evan. Think I’ll just wait out here for ya. Lemme know how it is.”

“I sure will.”

Digging his shoes into the moistened earth, Evan slowly began his descent. The burrow was wide and tall enough going down that he could move while crouched, pushing hands against the ceiling of the tunnel to steady himself.  From behind, Evan could hear Joe calling for him to stop, but the boy’s voice sounded far off, blown distant by the winds blowing from deep within the ground – most likely coming from another passage somewhere deep within leading above ground.

Truth was, Evan was glad to have Joe waiting and watching his back. He didn’t want to come out to the burrow alone, beginning to get a bad feeling about the place. But he needed to explore it, same feeling he always felt inside like something catching fire and keeping his legs from moving still, kept him pacing back and forth in his room all night wondering what could be down that one game trail he never took, what was hidden inside that abandoned mill at the edge of town, or what waited inside the old Laninga farmhouse just beyond the marsh. It was that same fire that forced him downward, that urged him to explore every musty inch of this darkening, deepening hole in the earth.

After twenty feet or so, the steep downward slope leveled off, the dark tunnel opening up into a wider chamber.  Joe’s calls were becoming more incessant, though quiet from such a great height. Evan was determined to see something, to find anything strange or unbelonging before he had to call it quits and make that long bike ride back to town. Bending down, he stooped through the entrance of the larger underground room, cool air rushing past his face.

Evan straightened up to a full standing position, his height easily fitting within the open space, wind whistling from the tunnel entrance above.  He walked slowly and carefully, eyes unable at first to cut through the darkness of the burrow, essentially blind. But slowly, his eyes adjusted, allowing the texture of the walls around him became clear, dim-outlined shapes appearing. Evan couldn’t think of a better place for treasure to hide than this strange burrow. Who else would have built it so large but people? Really, what critter was large enough to dig it otherwise? Inspecting the chamber, making a careful path around its perimeter, Evan’s sneaker touched something on the dirt floor – a small, pale object among many others, all strewn about. Evan bent down to touch it.

“Evan! Evan! Evan!” 

Joe’s voice came down frantic and echoing from above, the boy shouting as loud as he could. Evan jumped at the sudden noise, tripping over the scattered mess and falling forward on his arms. From above, Evan could hear the sound of scrambling, dirt rolling down the hole towards him. Something landed hard on the dirt floor behind.

“Get up,” Joe whispered, raspy, “get up, Evan!”

Hands under arms pulled at Evan, propping his body up.  Evan turned to see Joe, breathing heavy, his eyes wide.  “Don’t talk.” Joe’s voice was hardly audible, hardly recognizable. Joe pulled Evan away from the light of the day, into the chamber, grabbing tight onto Evan’s shirt with sweaty, dirt-covered hands. For several moments they were silent, Joe shivering as he gripped tighter onto Evan.

Then he heard the thing, that which had so terrified his friend. From above, the sound of deep and throaty gurgling seeped in.

“What is that?” asked Evan, his voice strained now too, fear catching dry in his throat. He was answered only with shushing, a small and sweaty and dirty hand placed over his mouth.

For several minutes, the two boys listened to the strange sounds of murmuring liquid – sound like a person drowning in shallow water – the occasional hollow noise of something thumping swiftly back and forth across the ground.  Suddenly it seemed to move very quickly away from the burrow entrance, the sound of its weight moving across the ground disappearing. The two boys continued waiting without a muscle twitch or exhaled breath.  After many more moments, the gurgling thing seemed to be gone.

“It was something…a beast. Taller than a man, much taller, and wearing dark ragged clothes, had a face like…like a skull but…the mouth was-”

Evan crawled to the bottom of the slope, looked up into the sunlight.

“Sounded like somebody choking on something, sure it wasn’t just a weird guy?”

“Wasn’t no fucking guy.” Joe’s eyes were stuck open, rolling side to side within his head as he backed himself further into the chamber. “We need to find another way, not going back up there, hell no.”

“Don’t hear nothing now.” Evan said, wishing he’d brought along his dad’s old twenty-two rifle like he had originally intended. “You can probably run home if you’re fast enough…”

“You ain’t still thinking ‘bout gold?”

“Whole reason we came out here, ain’t it?”

“Look at the ground,” Joe’s voice dropped, words pushed out as harsh whispers as though his throat was constricting, “those are bones Evan, animal bones, this is probably where it eats.”

Joe turned, “we gotta go Evan!”, he was fast running away to the far end of the chamber, kicking at the bones as he went. Evan watched him run out of sight, listening to the scrapes of his shoes grow quiet.

“Think I see a light over here!” called Joe, echoing through the blackness.

“Damn Joe, wait up!” Evan yelled, running blind, arms out to guide him through the narrowing passage. Soon enough, he could see the light as well, distant and faint. Dammit Joe! The other boy ran faster than Evan had seen him run. Never should have brought him so far out, not his element, only did it because mom made me feel bad. His mother had told him that Joe still new in town and far from home, that he should make friends, be nice.

From close-by, Evan heard a high-pitched scream. Closer to the light, Evan saw what could only be the beast, body bend straight down at its middle in a sharp angle, long dangling arms held wide against against the light as if to balance itself as its head and upper torso bent down, nearly touching the floor.  Evan saw something fleshy and small lying on the ground beneath it. He watched as the skull-head began to change, enlarging, the white gleam of something sharp reflecting in the sparse sunlight.

Evan ran now, hearing the sounds of ripping meat, a liquid-filled growl following him through the winding underground avenues. Dark on all sides, the smell of fresh dirt and stale air in his nose, Evan reached into his pockets, feeling for the familiar square of smooth metal. Thank god he remembered to grab it on his way out the door, lucky lighter. Tim gave it to him just before getting on that army bus, dressed up in his battle dress and triangle hat, looking so serious.  Why’d you have to be gone Tim?  Evan cried when Tim left on that bus, weeped and weeped, silent so Cal wouldn’t hear it but then he thought he had seen the middle brother tearing up into before climbing up to his bed that night.

In the newly ignited flickering flame of the lighter, Evan saw the size of the place enclosing him. He was in another chamber, different from the first one he had been in, the ceiling lower and walls stretching out into pitch blackness. The room was filled with the same strange pale objects that he could now see were clearly bones, long ones, some human-looking. Shreds of clothing and pieces of boot lay among the remains along with something thin and wooden – the long, smooth handle of a wood-cutting ax, its rusted head still attached.

He took a step back, and another, disoriented. Evan’s left foot caught empty air and he stumbled, nearly letting the lighter slip from his shaking hand. He looked back, another step and he would have fallen, a steep decline gouged into the flooring – another burrow passage leading deeper still underground.

Evan held the tiny flame against the deep hole. He watched the light bounce across an expansive array of small and large bones, many fragmented and some intact, littering the sloping walls of the hole as far as he could see. They were animal bones mostly, Evan knew their shapes well from hunting trips with his brothers.  The big, long, and thin bones of deer, toothy bottom jaws; the heavy-looking vertebrae, and the tiny sharp and fragile parts of a rabbit – not much meat on a rabbit but enough to stew up, get all them bones out and make the most of it, what Tim would always tell him and Cal; Evan could see the beaks and clawed feet of birds as well, and even the elongated head of a horse skull way deep down.

Evan felt movement, something large making its way through the tunnels, felt it in the earth beneath his feet. Evan backed away, too fast, tripping upon his own feet and losing balance, falling down hard to hit the back of his head, causing a white glare all around his vision.  All those bones, it really was just like in that one old story Cal had told about the old man, the crazy animal skinner out in the woods, where did all the bones go?  There was that old scary legend – “can’t sleep Cal, tell me something cool” – told about the old hunter living deep in the marsh, in a cabin all alone. He would hunt and skin animals, all sorts, skin them alive because he wanted to see how long they could live before dying from pain and bleeding. He started with small critters, rabbits and squirrels, moving up to stray cats and dogs, then deer and coyotes and wolves, until even that got boring for him.

Evan watched as bones the rattled, listening to the noise behind grow closer, a sound of dragging claws, of that same throaty gurgling. Whatever was coming was coming too fast to run from. Then, when the beast seemed to be upon him, the clawing and throat gurgles halted, only the sound of rasping coming around the corner, the beast just beyond the reach of the tiny flame. With his free hand, Evan reached for the discarded woodcutting ax, heavier than he thought it would be. Evan struggled to lift it with the one arm, dropping the head against the floor with a great thud.

“Who’s there?” Evan called out, loudest voice he could manage.

The beast stirred and at last Evan could see its skeletal form appear like smoke from depths of the tunnels, black outlines dancing, cast-off from the erratic lighter fire.

“What’d you do with Joe?” he asked, knowing the answer, voice drying into a hoarse whine. Was it only a few weeks ago that short little Joe had grown taller than him?  Grew a head higher in a few nights it seemed, suddenly stood and Evan was staring at his chin.  Joe tried standing up to Evan, feeling brave, feeling big, getting mad when Evan called him out – called him a limp-armed girl – on not being able to put a spiral on a football. Height wasn’t enough for Joe to take on Evan though, still got knocked flat by a good tackle, all about catching the bigger guy off-guard, taking him off his feet with a quick moment of force. Standing real tall now Joe, thought Evan, what the hell happened to you?

It was no use trying to lift that ax with one hand, far too heavy to swing. The flame was hardly carrying its weight, only distorting the room and the monster in it. Evan dropped the lighter, throwing the room into pure darkness for a moment, before what little light remained from the outside trickled through, casting a thin layer of gleam onto the outlines of the tunnel and beast.

Evan raised the ax above his head with both hands. He watched the blackness in front of him, waiting for the rush of pain, waiting to drop the weight of the blade down from his arms while his shaking legs threatened to collapse. Then, at last, the monstrous face appeared dimly before his own – too-long skull, white eyeballs seemingly without sight – and its jaw unhinged, the entire head looking to open up wide from a slit into a gigantic maw. The beast’s mouth hole opened large enough to swallow up Evan’s head down to his neck bones in a single gulp, the hot air rushing out from within the black innards smelling of rancid meat.

Down came the ax.

From the Bottom Up

From the Bottom Up

This morning, for the first time in perhaps eight months, if not longer, I went for a run. It felt good to have the wind on my face, sun on my arms, and fire in my chest – for all of ten minutes until my breathing gave out and my legs began to cramp. I stopped just short of reaching the quarry in town – one of my favorite landmarks to run past – hands on knees, sweat visibly dripping from underneath the brim of my cap onto the pavement below.

 

Half-a-mile. I had run only half of a mile.

 

And I felt like death, my legs numbing, my breath ragged, but it felt good. It felt good getting back out there, even if realistically I hadn’t accomplished much. It was a step (or several) in the right direction.

 

This is obviously a metaphor for other things in my life, most obviously my writing. I’m not really sure what exactly has been holding me back from finishing any piece of meaningful work, but I’m sure fear of failure is among the multitude of reasons. In fact, that fear has probably been the number one contributing factor to the formation of The Block.

 

It has gotten to the point where I can barely write a single passage, a single page, a single paragraph without self-critiquing it to the point of hatred for the piece and, ultimately, the shelving or outright deleting of it. It’s like, I’m trying so hard to mold my writing to fit into a place it hasn’t even reached yet – like I’m killing myself to get in shape for a marathon when I can’t even do a 5k yet.

 

So…let’s start from the bottom again. Let’s pretend I don’t really know what I’m doing – because honestly I don’t. Even if at some point I did, it’s clear I’ve let my abilities deteriorate and fester. So now it’s time to be humble, allow myself to fall flat on my face, and get a good look at the world from the bottom up – and see just how far and high I have yet to climb.

The Ravages of Forward Temporal Movement

The Ravages of Forward Temporal Movement

Total cliche – after being a twenty-something for a full decade, the millennial panics at the prospect of turning thirty, entering adulthood unequivocally. This is me today. Happy Birthday.

Okay, I’m being a bit dramatic.

Maybe it’s different for other people, maybe it’s the same. I still sometimes see myself as a nineteen-year-old kid discovering myself, my identity, full of angst and rebellion – as a boy of  ten, unsure and beset by the hormonal injections of puberty, learning firsthand the cruelty of my peers and the indifference of the world. Sometimes I am four, full of newness and blissful ignorance, activated by a too-familiar scent, a well-worn image, a sensation burned into my spine.

But now I am thirty, and it does not seem to fit. Four years ago I was living in my mother’s house still, in Chicago, in the city – fours years later finds me in Indiana, smack dab between my hometown and Indianapolis, for all intents and purposes – the country.

Not that I’m knocking it. Though the culture shock at first was jarring, I’ve since grown quite comfortable in my rustic surroundings. Sure, I still live in town, far from the flat-land-wilds of the corn-and-bean-laden countryside. All the same, a far-cry from the roar of the urban jungle, the constant rumble of electrified trains and hybrid public buses. But, I’m losing focus…where was I, oh yeah, thirty.

It’s just weird. I recall an article I read once claiming that domesticated house cats never truly grow up, that they will forever retain their kitten persona under the care of their human-parents. It makes sense, what purpose is there to growing up, to becoming savage, if one’s life necessities – food, water, shelter – are provided free of violence and struggle. I feel that it’s much the same with modern, privileged (first world) humans. We never truly grow up, we never truly become the savage, resourceful survivalists, much less killers, that human beings were meant to be, that we had to be in order to survive in the wild. Thus we remain children masquerading as what we believe adulthood to be – a patchwork collection of behavior learned from observation of our parents and straight copycatting of popular culture…all the more accessible in this digital, streaming, shareable age we live in.

So no, I don’t feel thirty, nor do I know what thirty should feel like. And, just as I felt as a nineteen-year-old throughout most, if not all, of my twenties, I believe that I will spend most of all of my thirties trapped, frozen in time, at this moment as a reluctant twenty-nine-year-old, unready to advance yet thrust into it, trying my best to  conform to a stage of life that I know nothing about, a stage of life that I doubt has any meaning beyond what an individual makes of it.

 

 

 

 

Writing at the Speed of Sloth

Writing at the Speed of Sloth

I’ll admit I’ve been struck more than once by the awful sting of jealousy upon seeing another author post their daily/monthly word count onto social media. So casually do they drop numbers in the thousands, tens of thousands, appearing as literal fountains of raw literature. It is enough to cause one to harbor intense feelings of inadequacy…at least if one is an underachieving, unmotivated (read: lazy) writer.

To be blunt, I am a bit slow. Slow learner, slow reader, slow walker, slow video game completionist, and above all, a slow writer. While most all of the preceding is forgivable, there really is no excuse for being slow at what is supposedly one of my passions in life. What’s worse, speed isn’t even the main concern. I’d be perfectly fine with a slow and steady trickle of words if indeed steady was actually in the equation. In truth, the trickle is really a dried up river bed, only occasionally moistened by sporadic rain showers that provide only enough liquid for a sputtering, let alone babbling, brook – briefly at that.

So the title of this post is misleading, (it was the best I could come up with, being so lazy a writer), and in reality should read something more like: Not Writing Very Much at All But When I Do I Find Myself Crippled By Self-Critique and Overthinking so Hardly Anything Actually Gets Written Down. But that’s not very catchy or clickbait-y for that matter. Getting back to jealousy though, it really does burn me up to see other writers merrily quip about enormous and exhausting amounts of spilt ink (or bits or whatever). And it’s not at all a feeling of hatred for them so much as it is a feeling of loathing for myself. Like, what is their secret, what are they doing that I’m not?

But I know the answer, I’ve known it for a long time.

“Don’t try to polish the turd before it has been fully shat out.” Not a direct quote and I have no idea who said that but it certainly rings true for me. My problem is that I do indeed try to polish every centimeter of that steaming log as its in media res, to put it poetically. To the point where, and I’m sorry to continue with this metaphor but it works, I end up holding more in than I let out, leading to what can only be described as a sort of creative constipation. It’s almost as if I’m afraid of my own excrement, or rather, afraid of what others will think of it, even though everybody does it.

Because everyone does write shit. Everybody. Writing is such an unnatural form of communication, such an unwieldy art form, that no one can expect to get it right in one go for anything more complex than casual conversation. Writing an article, penning an academic essay, crafting a work of fiction – these all take serious considerations that go beyond spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. The writer must take into account the perspective of the potential reader, readability of language used, relevancy to the topic or the overall theme, use of believable dialect and authentic scene setting…

See, there I go. This is the process that runs behind every word written during my first draft. Never mind basic plot points, characterization, or, you know, finishing anything – I’m too worried about whether or not these three words really work together in this line of prose.

I need an intervention.