“Unsent Letters” Introduction

People hiding behind masks, never saying how they feel, and the regret of not doing so. And more ramblings!

Note: I’ve been sick the past week. This has negatively affected about everything in my life: creativity, motivation, writing, brain-storming. I haven’t done anything. I’ve been slacking. Although I’ve been consistently writing chapters for the Creepy Story (or whatever) and while I don’t want to break my flow, I also want to get something posted in the meantime. This is an introduction (kinda elaborated on here) about some bullshit hypothetical “story” about writing letters to people from your past but never actually sending them. While I don’t think I’ll make any progress on it because I’m having so much fun being creepy lately, I do like my introduction to it. So while I’m working on getting my shit together again, enjoy this.

Sometimes lying awake in bed you start to think of people from your past. They drift into your thoughts like waves coming in from the ocean, memories here and there, times both good and bad, and you start to wonder what happened to them. It has been years since you’ve seen them and you start to reflect upon the fact that there was a singular last time you’ve seen them and how at the time you never knew it was the last time you’d see them. You start to feel bittersweet and nostalgic and yearning for this lost past. People that are no longer part of your life but somehow part of you as they gave you a memory of them. They formed you into the person you are today. What exactly happened to them? And what did they mean to you? What did you mean to them? Did you mean anything to them?

As time passes you get a clearer image of how they altered your life. As pain, happiness, regret, yearning, joy, and sadness are dulled with time you’re left with only truth as to how they changed you as a person and how you feel about them. Exes and enemies turn from hated individuals to fondly remembered people for how they helped you grow and change. It wasn’t them that was flawed, it was you and them as a pair that were flawed. Old friends and coworkers also take on a new light as you find yourself wondering what happened to the vast number of people who have entered and exited your life, sometimes forever, and who have left small but permanent changes to you. Carving you in the slow and permanent way that flowing water carves stone.

I always find myself wanting to talk to these people just one more time. Not enough to break societal bonds and actually talk to them — that’d be weird — but enough to fantasize about when I’m unable to sleep at 2 a.m. Mental conversations with them as I run into them at a store. Facebook messages sent drunkenly at 3 a.m. on the weekend. Maybe the stray email here and there. Or, lastly, writing on a computer or in a notebook that might not be discovered until after I die. A sort of final “thanks for being in my life and sorry for not saying what I wanted to say when I had the chance to say it” to them. Maybe somehow ramblings about them in personal notebooks might make their way to them and they’d know how important they were to me.

Maybe that’s part of it too: kicking myself in the ass for not being as genuinely open to others as I should’ve been. I still do it too. You always have to play the “be cool” game with people you know. You can’t tell people you love them if they aren’t family, and conversely you can’t tell people you despise them, once again, if they’re not immediate family. While some are more open than others, every one of us walks through life carrying around a mask showing a certain face to everyone else we interact with. The times you actually get to see the soul underneath the person, the thing that really matters, are surprisingly sparse and I can’t help but feel that this is a major area of regret in everyone’s lives. It’s like life is a constant lie that we tell to other people…and that people are telling to us. Who are these people that we go to school with, work around, are friends with, are in love with, see in grocery stores, or get mad at while driving? We see them and we think we know them, but we don’t really know them.

Sometimes in one of these rare moods I’ve found myself writing letters to people, letters that I’ll never actually send but where I can trick my mind into getting some things off my chest. Say what I need to say to these long gone fragments of my past. It sort of worked too. I used to actually open up the Yahoo email app and write these things as drafts, writing a legitimate email and only stopping before hitting the send button. I’d write heartfelt letters to people totally ripping open my soul for them to see and just not send it. I’d feel better afterwards even though I knew I never sent the things. Apparently my brain and emotions are that gullible.

(I don’t know how I feel about complaining that we don’t open ourselves up enough while also saying that I purposefully write letters that I don’t send. It seems like I equally want to bond with people but also hide my true feelings behind some elaborate mechanism for hiding myself. I’m just point out that, yes, I’m aware of how dumb and hypocritical this sounds.)

This is where the pragmatic author in me appears and goes “that sounds like a great idea for a story!” and I really do think it’s at least an interesting idea. I can write all of these fake, never to be sent letters to people that I want to clear things up with, delete the names and any other pertinent information, and make it into a book. I don’t know what to think of it as it sounds: cringy, terribly thought out, like a good idea, kinda contrived, ungenuine, heartfelt, clever, stupid, and overly emotional. It’s all over the place. It can act as an autobiographical account of my average as can be life while also being a fragmentary puzzle that is purposefully vague. Plus, since you’re only getting my point of view you’d wonder how factual it truly is and how the people I’m writing to might have totally different outlooks on things.

A part of me likes the idea of doing some experimental rip open your soul work especially while trying to put together an actual narrative. Sometimes you just want your damn heart to bleed onto paper and this seems like a perfect thing to do just that. I don’t even care if it turns out horrible because it sounds like it’ll make me feel better and maybe even give me some closure to past events. At the very least I’m sure I’ll unearth a bucket load of demon buried deep within my subconscious and if that isn’t fun then I don’t know what is.

Another Note: As with everything, you might think you have a good idea until you find out it’s been done already. Not that I’ve found an actual story or collection of unsent letters (mostly because I don’t even want to look and be discouraged) but I have found a subreddit with basically the same thing going on. People writing anonymous letters to others so they can get things off their chests, vent, feel closure, and whatever other reasons people feel the need to write anonymous letters. It’s really interesting.

The Demon Tree

The tree wants me dead.

The tree is a malicious menace. The tree is a dark demon. The tree is an evil entity. The tree is after me. The tree wants me dead. I don’t even know why but the tree wants my soul.

I never had these thoughts sober. I don’t like using the word “sober” here because “sober” is usually used in regards to alcohol usage/abuse. I think words like “fucked up” are more appropriate here. I don’t even remember what I was on at the time and does it really matter? With the drugs pulling apart reality, removing the facade that is always over the actual reality, I could see beyond. And the tree was a demon. It was such a simple and obvious realization that I’m surprised it took my body being loaded with chemicals to actually notice it.

Sober, as much as the word didn’t apply to the concoction within, the tree never bothered me. It was only a minor irritant in my life, nothing threatening to my very being. When it would storm or was windy I was always terrified of the bastard falling over onto the house. Somehow smashing and killing me as I was on the toilet or walking up the stairs. You know, dying one of the mundane deaths that I’m perpetually terrified of. People are killed by buses — I know they’re dead and don’t actually care about how they died — but in the moments before they die, I always wondered if they’re able to think, “Is this really how I go? A bus? Really?!” A fleeting moment of disbelief that their life is over due to such a silly chance occurrence. It has to be demeaning in a way. Or fitting. A perfectly mundane, hilarious, and chance encounter marking the end of a life filled with the mundane, hilarious, and chance encounters. Glorious deaths are only fitting for glorious lives, and to be honest there are none outside of books/film/video games.

Sometimes the tree (when it was windy, the tree couldn’t do much on its own so relied on the wind to assist in tormenting me) would shed its pine needles all over my car. It’s not that I’m one of those people that were obsessed with my vehicle, but a stray pine needle or two sticking out from the crevice between the hood and car’s body would incessantly bother me until I removed it. Sometimes they would get caught under the wiper blades and instead of a perfectly wiped window, I’d have tiny streaks due to the needles that were wedged under the blades. Stuff like that. Not threatening by any means, but still something to slightly ruin your day.

And the sap, let’s not forget the sap. The tree itself was about thirty feet from where I parked my car, but somehow sap would still find its way to my vehicle. Sap on the windows which was smeared any time I rolled the window down/up or used my wipers. And tree sap is something unique that is almost impossible to remove once it finds its way somewhere. You need to make a dedicated effort to remove pine sap from a vehicle and if this happened in the winter it was going to stay there for a long time hardening. I would also walk through the yard and have sap stuck to my foot. Once again nothing to really ruin your day, but still an annoyance.

In my drug-fueled state I seen the tree for what it was: a demon. A menace that did all of these things on purpose. It had only been gently toying with me in regular day-to-day life and I had never caught onto him until that day. It was in the evening, well after sunset where the sun lights up the upper level clouds against the darkened but still star-free sky. The clouds took on an ethereal light against the dark navy of the sky above it. And the tree? It looked not as a thing but an absence of something against the clouds. A spidery, tall, and looming presence that was black and only black. A shape that you could see only because it blocked out material things behind it. It wasn’t so much a thing or an object as a void. A huge, looming, void presiding over the porch.

I wasn’t sure if it hated me alone or people in general. Trees are generally terrifying to me, at least when I think about them for too long. Trees are so old and plants in general have been around on this planet millions (if not billions) of years before animals, let alone us shitty humans. Ever present and ever looming. Forests of them covered the planet silently for millions of years before any conscious human ever was around to think about them.

And what did us humans do once we showed up? We figured out how to fuck the planet up in ever more efficient and dangerous ways with every technical advancement we developed. Agriculture. Smelting. Metallurgy. The industrial revolution. Trains. Coal. Oil. Fossil fuels. Cars. Airplanes. Burn down the forests because we need to eat beef. We need farms. In the blink of an eye (geologically speaking) a holocaust of trees had occurred, and you can’t help but understand why this tree wanted me dead.

As the drugs ripped apart and rearranged the overlying world and universe I was able to see thing I didn’t normally see. The trees roots went deep, down hundreds of feet just like any other tree, but where the roots ended? A big black mass of void, evil, and malice. The roots entwined and fed off the darkness drawing it up into the trunk and distributing it to the rest of its limbs. The other trees weren’t like this even if they had some deep and underlying fear of humans; they were innocent trees that simply grew and enjoyed their lives, but this one was different. The rest of the trees even seemed to be slightly leaning away from this large demon I was staring at. As if even they wanted to get away from him even fixed to the ground as they were.

As for where the darkness below me came? I have no idea. I didn’t want to think about it very much, especially in my state.

The tree reached for me as a tree would try, but it was still bound by physical laws. I could see a dim reddish light glowing at the core of the tree, it was his anger for me. The branches hung listlessly and swung towards me when wind gave it a reason to do so. The branches nearest to the ground sort of bowing down and upwards like a beckoning finger.

The tree wanted me dead. Maybe it wanted everyone dead, I didn’t know for sure. But the joke was on the tree: most of the time I wanted myself dead as well but wasn’t courageous enough to go through with the task of bowing out of life. But I looked into the heart of the tree, the glowing red heart of hatred that it had, and I held my glass up to him.

“I tell you what, old sport. If I ever do decide to exit this awful realm, well, you can help me.”

The tree swayed slightly even though no obvious wind was about.

“If I ever decide to bow out, maybe I’ll use a noose, I’ll toss it right over your branch.” I pointed to one of his low-hanging and thicker limbs. “Right there. Would that make you happy?”

It swayed again.

“But I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll hang around for as long as possible. Hell, I might even chop you down. Burn you. Maybe take up paper making for a hobby? You know, do what my ancestors have done for centuries. I bet you would make good charcoal to grill with.”

It leered at me in a way that only a tree could do.

“Don’t be too upset, I’m only joking. I bet we will be best friends in the end, after everything has been said and done.”

The tree nodded in eager agreement.

The Smiling Faces

The room was white. There were no shadows. There was a line of faces, faces looking at me and smiling. All types of people, all races, female and males, mostly younger but some middle aged, all smiling at me. The row of faces was endless, but didn’t display any perspective. It was if the row of faces was two-dimensional. Even the faces far to the left and to the right were seen dead-on, no side perspectives or anything. The room was featureless, no obvious walls, corners, floors, doors, or anything. Just white. White with smiling faces.

I was a photographer for some reason. I didn’t have a camera, or a tripod, or anything but knew I was there to take pictures. Everyone looked at me with blank expressions except for their smiles. They all had that hesitant closed-mouth smile, with their lips and cheeks straining upwards as far as they could without showing their teeth. Those smiles are always strange and insincere, even the smiles that do display actual happiness and joy have an embarrassment and unwillingness to open up and let happiness be real. As if being happy is an affront to the world or something. Scowling is fine, blandness is fine, and a small grin is fine, but true happiness? No. No laughter. No real smiles. No joy. Always hide it from the world.

I looked up and down the row of faces. As a photographer you needed to be fun and lighthearted. I wasn’t good at doing that. I didn’t know why I was a photographer. I was terrible at getting people to smile. How was I to turn these hesitant half-smiles into fully fledged photograph-worthy faces of pure happiness?

I asked them with the fakest tone of enthusiasm possible to smile. “You need to smile! I want to see some teeth! We need these pictures to be good. They’ve paid a lot of money for these pictures to be good!”

The faces turned and looked at each other. There were no bodies, just faces. Not that they were beheaded or anything, I just didn’t notice any bodies being present. Just the ever present heads. The heads that seemed too scared and afraid to actually smile.

“Come on, smile!”

The face directly in front of me looked down at the ground and all around the room-that-didn’t-exist, hesitant and seemingly deep in thought and fear. Guarding something horrendous. Finally, she let her lips open and develop into a fully-fledged and joyous smile.

And her teeth. Blacked. Rotten. Pungent. I wasn’t close to her, but the smell permeated the room instantly. None of the other hesitant faces seemed to notice anything with their dumb half-smiles and their blank stares directed towards me.

“Okay. Good. That’s a good smile. Beautiful.” I held down a few coughs and heaves that my body was demanding of me. “How about everyone else? Smile like the beautiful lady right here, okay?”

They all hesitatingly opened their mouths into a multitude of hideously genuine smiles, all with rotting and wrenchingly awful smelling teeth being displayed to me and only me. The blackness and stench of their mouths seemed to suck the light out of the room. It was still white obviously, but seemed tarnished.

“Those are nice smiles…really. Nice…” I coughed a bit. The faces kept smiling with some beginning to silently and horribly laugh.

“Why, why are your teeth so rotten?” I asked. “You, you all have dental insurance. Why? Why don’t you get your teeth fixed?”

Their laughing started to become hideous and fearful.

“Get your fucking teeth fixed. What is wrong with you all? They’re rotting! Literally in your mouth?! A permanent part of you is dying inside you. Doesn’t that bother you at all?”

The faces slowly turned from laughter to crying, crossing that subtle boundary that separates the two. Ugly laughing into ugly crying. Tears streaming down their faces and into their mouths. I imagined the salty tears entering the rotten crevices of the teeth and burning like acid on skin, or alcohol on a wound. Their faces seemed to confirm my beliefs: they were all hideously crying and screaming with no sounds to be heard, tears flowing into their mouths incessantly.

“Don’t you smell that awful smell? Everytime you breathe, you don’t notice it? You don’t want to vomit every time you inhale, every time you look into a mirror? They’re rotting inside of you. They’re bones but in your mouth and rotting. Pull them out. Why don’t you pull them out? Get rid of them. Before the putrefaction spreads.”

Immediately as I said it, their teeth started falling out. Everyone of the faces’ teeth were falling out onto the white floor that wasn’t really there. But they made the floor appear. They gave it definition, shade, and color. Teeth blackened and pungent all over the floor, with yellow puss and ooze pooling around them. There was no escape from the scent. I couldn’t puke; my body wouldn’t let me. It was an affront to the white room and my body wouldn’t allow me to soil it further. I started to run along the row of faces, constantly screaming and howling in perfect silence. My feet were bare and as I ran the rotted, sharp, and jagged teeth dug into my feet. They were razors and every step I took they embedded themselves into my feet. They worked their way into the bones of my feet, as if my foot was made of putty or jelly. I could taste the awful stench of the puss as it seeped into my bloodstream. It was the odor of rotten potatoes. The white room turned a sickly off-white and yellowish color. The puss was in my eyes. The stench was in my nose. The rotting was in my brain.

I turned and saw a mirror. I opened my mouth. My teeth were rotted. My teeth stank. It was inside me and eating me away. My teeth fell into my hands. My nails were rotted. My nails stank. They fell off onto the floor. My feet were blackened and decayed. My toes fell off. I looked into the mirror once again to see a corpse without teeth staring back at me. I screamed but no sound came out. The faces reflecting in the mirror continued to scream, howl and cry — not at me but with me. I was one of them. I was one of them all along and was too terrified to see it. Our pungent howls in unison silently turned the room black.

Lucid Dreaming

A journal entry on dreaming.

October 22, 2019

This might not be correct, or truthful, or totally accurate, but it kinda makes sense. Let me just jot a few things down. Consider for a moment that consciousness itself takes place in the brain. Sure, while a bunch of sensory information supposedly comes in from our eyes, ears, nose, and the nerves from around our body and is processed by the brain, the experience of actually being is just the brain doing whatever the hell the brain does. It’s all contained up there. If anyone reads these words, their eyes are sending information to their brain where they understand what I’m writing. They’re experiencing what I’ve written. The words become alive in the form of consciousness. It’s magical in a way if you really think about it.

While were all pretty certain the outside world exists, your knowledge of it is limited by your own consciousness. All of us are hopelessly locked inside our own heads. If you really let your mind wander, you might even question if this outside world even exists. The trees and the warm sunlight that your brain is processing could just be your brain making shit up, and while you’re pretty certain that reality is “the real world” there’s always room for doubt in the corners of your mind if you care to seek them out. Basically like the movie The Matrix. That kinda creeping reality and the waking realization of “I’m alive?” is a strange and shocking thing. Like existence is just a series of senses and thoughts your brain is processing. That’s all it has to be at a bare minimum. While it could be more, it could also not be more.

Once again, consider that consciousness is just inside your head. It seems so obvious that I don’t know what I’m supposed to explain here. You’re that collection of thoughts and sensations in your head. The thoughts aren’t happening to you, they are you. Also consider that dreams are also a collection of thoughts and sensations inside your head. Is there any reason to say that dreams are fake and reality is real? Sure, the thing we call reality seems to play by different rules than dreams do, but what makes those “the correct” version of how things really are? The waking world seems to be a lot more coherent, logical, and moved by causality while the dream world seems really fragmentary where nothing makes sense. At the risk of sounding like a drunken/stoned teenager having some profound idea that isn’t really profound at all, what if our dreams are real and our waking lives are “fake”? Even that doesn’t seem to make sense; to me they seem interchangeable. Dreams and reality both occur in consciousness. Consciousness is our own personal reality. Dreams are therefore as real to us as everyday waking life. Right? There is no this or that, just what is.

I ranted a bit as drunkards do. I intend to pursue lucid dreaming. To sum up, lucid dreaming is training yourself to know when you are dreaming. By knowing this you can “take control” of your dream-self and even in some cases the very fabric of the dream itself. Usually the dream verison of us are basically strangers: we don’t know why we do what we do and sometimes you can’t even properly control your body. By lucid dreaming you can take charge of yourself, and given the dream’s weakened rules compared to reality, you can effectively change the fabric of reality itself. You can shut off gravity and fly. You can leave gravity alone and just ignore it. You can meet people you’ve left behind in life and talk to them. You can create new people. You can live separate lives. Anything you want to build in a lucid dream is possible if only you train yourself.

The main way to train seems to be writing your dreams down as soon as you wake up. Apparently people dream nearly every night, and even multiple times per night; we only think we don’t dream because we rarely remember them. This is because we have no need to remember them. Sure a few vivid ones stick around for a few hours or even a few days, but then even they become fuzzy and forgotten by the passage of time. By writing your dreams down right after you awake, you can begin to recognize what you dream and how the dreams feel. With enough reflection you can catch the fact that you’re dreaming while you’re dreaming and then the universe is yours to command. Totally free from the typical limits of your “real” self, or maybe realizing the powers that your real-self actually has. Once again stressing the possibility that dreams and reality are equally “real” places, and that dream-you and real-you are equally real aspects of whatever “you” actually is.

There seems to be a whole part of reality that we don’t even take advantage of and because we call it “dreaming” it remains only a curiosity.

Time is Running Out

An author desperately tries to write a story.

This is the first (posted) chapter to the hypothesized story about random bullshit that I’ve decided to try writing. And it’s exactly what I hoped it would be: total subconscious ramblings with zero regard to an overarching plot or anything. I’m also not suicidal so don’t worry.

I need to sit down and get this chapter written fast. Why is that, you might ask? It’s because I just ate a fist full of cough medicine pills, that’s why. I took the fuckers ten minutes ago, and the clock is ticking. These boys kick in after about an hour and when that happens time ceases to exist. And after that point I’ll have no idea what is going on. I won’t be able to write a story. I also can’t believe it took ten fucking minutes for the computer to turn on. But that’s what I get for buying the cheapest laptop I could find for this writing adventure of mine. Whatever.

I took fifteen of those pills by the way. They’re Robitussin Cough Gels. The only active ingredient is dextromethorphan, more frequently known as DXM. This is mostly because when people actually abuse dextromethorphan they quickly become unable to spell/pronounce that monstrosity of a word and DXM is a quick way to get your point across to people: I’m abusing fucking cough medicine. Like a teenager.

They’re each 15 milligrams a pill which means I’ve eaten 225 milligrams. And because I’m a Man of Science this means I’ve dosed about 3.1 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. When you take drugs you need to account for your body weight. Any alcoholic knows this. Skinny people can get by only drinking a few beers while your large people need about nine of them to get drunk. The same is true for dextromethorphan: the more you weigh the more you need to take. By dividing the milligram dosage by your weight (in kilograms because science only uses the metric system) you’re left with the dose per kilogram of body weight. This tells you in a simple number how fucked up you will become. This 3.1 mg/kg dose will put me firmly in the second plateau of DXM exploration. I’ll be fucked up, kinda drunk, kinda dopey, but nothing involving ego-death or meeting aliens/divine beings. I won’t be seeing music or transcending to another dimension. I’ll just be fucked up and walking around with the classic robotic walk that DXMers display. It’s called robotripping for a reason.

Okay, okay. Enough rambling. I only have like twenty minutes left before all hell breaks loose. Get your shit together. Okay, so what is this chapter going to be about today? Um. Okay. It’s going to be about that guy at work that is awful at conversations. Work. Weather. Sports. The Holy Trinity of mundaneness. Of talking because you have to talk because silence is scary. His name is Johnny. It can’t be John because John sounds to mature. Maybe Larry? Or Lonny? Or Bobby? No. Fuck it. Johnny is good enough. Let’s get to work.

I was on break one day. A day like any other day. And Johnny walks into the break room. And he says, “Did you know that it’s cold out?”

I looked out the window and it was snowing. I don’t know if anyone considered it warm if it’s snowing outside. I said, “Yeah. It looks pretty cold outside. It is snowing.”

“Do you think it’s going to warm up soon, James?”

It was January. The end of January. Warmth was just an illusion by that point: a vague shadow of a memory, a long-forgotten sensation. What exactly did heat even feel like anymore? It was the furthest thing from reality at this time of the year. By this time you’d just bear down and deal with life one day at a time. It was cold — brutally cold — like if you went outside you actually had a chance of dying if you didn’t wear the proper clothing. Why anyone voluntarily lived in the Midwest was a question I’d ask myself daily in January and February. Something about Scandinavian settlers I vaguely recalled.

“Yeah probably not.”

He looked at me and looked away. He looked at me. He looked away. Again and again. Johnny couldn’t sit still. Johnny wanted to talk. Socialize at all costs because silence was a demon. Silence was something dark and nebulous that only appeared in the absence of something actual tangible. Sound is a thing, silence is that thing not being there. Silence is to sound what death is to life. Johnny stared at me, his eyes bulging.

“Do you have any more vacations left?”

I had told Johnny over and over in the past weeks that my sole vacation was scheduled for July. Even though January and July both start with J’s like Johnny’s name they were polar opposites. January was so cold and dark that you could die if you didn’t wear enough clothes outside. July was so hot and bright that you could die if you wore too many clothes outside. My vacation was as far away from me as physically possible. The Earth had to be on the opposite side of the sun for me to be on vacation: my vacation was literally 180 million miles away.

“Um. Uh. Yeah. Mine is scheduled for July.”

Johnny nodded and started looking at me, and away, and at me, and away all over again.

He then said, “Maybe you should kill yourself James.”

“What?”

He looked at me slightly confused. “Have you met Bill the new guy, James?”

“Oh.” I thought for a moment. Maybe I misunderstood him. “I thought you said something else. No, I haven’t met Bill.”

“I think Bill wants you to kill yourself,” Johnny said.

“What?”

Johnny looked confused. “I didn’t say anything,” he said. “Are you okay?”

“Oh. Yeah. I think I’m fine…”

I felt tired and sleepy and like I might be in a dream. But I wasn’t in a dream because reality had some fabric to it that dreams never had. While I never dreamt in black-and-white the colors were always dull. I glanced at the vending machine which seemed to be on fire with the intense red color from the Cheez-Its and the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos contained within. It surely wasn’t a dream: the colors were too bright. I closed my eyes and opened them. I was alive. I was there. I felt like a puppet. I felt like a robot. I felt as if I was in a dream but I wasn’t dreaming. I felt fake.

“Just kill yourself James.”

“Johnny…no. What?”

“I didn’t say anything James. But if I did say something it would be ‘Kill yourself, James.’”

“I don’t feel good Johnny. I think I should go home.”

“Well, you can’t kill yourself here, now can you? Do you have a gun at home? Or some rope for a noose? Everyone has rope, right?” Johnny laughed a very childish laugh.

The walls kinda shifted and shimmered. Like it was an illusion painted over whatever was really there and the illusion was starting to melt away. I went to stand up but my legs we just as rubbery and unreal as the walls appeared.

“You know what the goal of life is James? And call me John by the way — not Johnny. Not anymore that is. The goal of life is to be happy James.” It was as if John was talking to a child, trying to explain some immensely obvious thing to someone oblivious to it. “If life is a function, like a mathematical function, x- an y-, and maybe a z-axis if you really want, life is about maximizing the happiness in your life.

“Do you know what integrals are? The area under the curve? All of our choices are driven by maximizing the area under the curve of our happiness function. This sort of f-of-x where x is time and f(x) is happiness. We make choices to maximize this over time. And it all adds up as integrals do. If the line is above zero you add happiness and if the line is below zero you subtract happiness. Does that makes sense to you, Jimmy?”

I blinked trying to come back to reality. But since I was already in reality where was I trying to escape to?

“It probably doesn’t make sense to you. It makes sense to me though. My f(x) is always positive, I live and my happiness adds up to infinity. Because life is so simple! I have it all figured out Jimmy! You overcomplicate things, you know that right? Yes, you do. And as you overcomplicate things your function goes below zero and subtracts happiness from your life. And as this goes on? It keeps getting worse for you.

“What you need to do is to maximize your happiness integral function by stopping it in its tracks right now: which means killing yourself. Every day you add time to your happiness function you subtract from your total happiness integral because yours is below zero. The way forward is so clear I don’t understand how you don’t see it: just get on with it. Find a bag and put it over your head. Breathe in helium. Shoot yourself in the head. Hang yourself from the ceiling. Poison yourself. Whatever you want to do really.

“Johnny…John. Whatever. Please stop. I feel sick. I…”

He giggled his childish giggle. I closed my eyes and opened them again and Johnny was staring at me. He looked away. He looked at me. And looked away.

“James, you don’t look too good! You look sick! Maybe you should go home!”

“Why did you say all of that to me?”

“Say what? I just said it was snowing really hard outside. Look at how it’s coming down! Wow! My hands are so cold, I had to bring two pairs of gloves to work today. Burr!” He clapped his hands together. As childish as ever.

The walls continued to melt, my legs still allowed me no escape, and the table I was sitting on started to consume me. It was melting like a heated piece of plastic would and I sank into it, melting along with everything else in reality. And while terrified I melted right into it, my brain turning to a sticky goo just like everything else in existence.

An Introduction to The Introductions

Elaborations on possible future stories and an impending mental breakdown.

I’m writing this more for my benefit than anyone else’s. But since people sometimes supposedly actually read my shit I think I should post whatever trash I actually write down here. Usually I write a draft in Google Docs and then post it here, but this thing is being written right here. At the very least it should serve as sort of an outline for what the reader can expect of me in the future and at the most it should shine some light on what is actually going on in my (I’m guessing) immensely flawed mind. Maybe a snapshot into how a supposed writer actually writes? A disjointed method to the madness? Let’s get into it, shall we?

I’m about sick of my Apex story. It’s not that I’m sick of it, I guess, it’s that it doesn’t work as an outlet for me. I began work on my Apex novel (a place I used to work) because it had the most stuff written so it was mostly piecing things together, formatting, proofreading, and making sure it all makes sense together. I’ve constantly said that it lacks an actual cohesive plot so I’ve also been trying to do that as I post chapters on this blog. As you can imagine, much of this is “grunt work” where I’m not actually writing what is on my mind. While I do write a few new chapters here and there as I’m inspired, the Apex story is mostly a chore in memory recollection and piecing things together that are already written: there isn’t much creativity going on. There isn’t any outlet.

Other writers should know this well; when you start writing, ideas, feelings, and connections blossom out of nowhere within you and you find yourself spewing out deep and disturbing things nearly constantly. It’s almost like you have to write daily just to clear your mind. Given this, I need to get these things out while the Apex novel doesn’t allow for it. The shitty Apex stories don’t give me an outlet to self-expression, and isn’t that what writing is all about in the first place? A way to express yourself to others?

I’ve found myself with a few ideas floating around in my head that make little to no sense which I’m tempted to pursue at the expense of actually finishing the Apex novel, at least in the near future. I really don’t care either. It’ll get done when it gets done and I’m okay with this as I’ve realized that writing is much more complicated than I expected. Writing seems to be a reflection of the person and people are complex as hell, especially when you don’t even understand yourself. It’s no surprise that I have about four or five ideas going on where I’m just spewing stuff out of my mind with no cohesiveness at all. It’s messy. And it’s scary to be honest.

Here’s a few of the ideas I might pursue here, so if you do follow this blog or its Facebook page you might expect a disjointed mess of all of these topics to be posted in the near future.

There’s idea for an Apex sequel that involves my current job at UPS. This “novel” is meant to be much more direct, focused, and mature than the disjointed Apex one, and I’ve already been throwing around a few chapters for it with the ending being especially fleshed out. There are a few issues to be worked out, namely figuring out names that both hint towards and obscure the real inspirations behind the people in the story (also I still work with these people. It’s hard to write stories about people who you see almost daily, especially if you shit on them in your story!), but the ideas are there and I’m tempted to put pen-to-paper about it, or finger-to-keyboard because it’s 2019. I also expect it to be really fucking dark.

A few weeks ago I came upon the idea of writing imaginary letters to people from my past. You know, people that you want to say something to that you either can’t or are socially-bound to not contact. I’m talking ex-girlfriends, ex-friends, people who you’ve fallen out of contact with, or even people who you’ve wanted to say something to and never got the balls to say it. A list of things unsaid. A sort of tribute to people everywhere wearing masks and never saying what they actually want to say until it’s too late when they can’t actually say it. Lately I’ve been feeling really raw emotionally and like I want to set things straight with people in my past. I’m still debating whether this is a totally cringy and terrible idea (which it seems to be) or if it’s a genuinely good idea. We’ll see I guess.

Lastly is this idea for…whatever the hell it is. I’ve been fascinated with the film Eraserhead for supposedly being a batshit insane film from auteur David Lynch. Despite my best efforts I haven’t been able to watch it which upsets me greatly. Even though I haven’t seen it, I’ve listened to the soundtrack, read the Wikipedia page on it, and have seen Lynch’s influence in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Even though I haven’t actually seen it I sort of understand what it is: a dark, creepy film without a clear plot or theme that just plops up random scene after scene leaving things to your subconscious to piece together. Real creepy music and imagery. Some out of left field total bullshit.

And I’d like to write a novel like that. Like just get my mind in a certain mindset and just write and let things happen. Let a story develop or totally disregard a story. To just write whatever happens to appear in my mind. To take a snapshot of whatever is going on upstairs and get it out there, a sort of photo album of my current mental state over the next year or so. Just writing total bullshit and gluing it together and seeing what actually happens. I don’t even know what a finished product like this would look like.

To close, the Apex novel is not cutting it in terms of self expression; other works seem like they would give me more of an outlet to my current fucked up mental state. I got the UPS novel: a cohesive and dark novel with an actual story. I got the stupidly-titled Unwritten Letters novel which is just a collection of emo rambling about my past life and sounds like it’s a terrible idea. And there’s the Who-The-Fuck-Knows story that is me trying to make a David Lynch movie (which I’ve never actually seen) in book form where I let my subconscious unguided writings write the story.

Look, if anyone has any feedback let me know. Because as you can probably tell I have zero damn idea for what I’m trying to do anyways. Literally any feedback is better than no feedback so let me know what you think.

Coleslaw and The Forklift Challenge

Killing time at work with forklifts and nickels.

The work day was always simple for us: a plane would come in, we’d unload it, load all of the packages from the plane’s containers into gaylords, load the gaylords into trucks which were then shipped to Milwaukee. The entire plane basically went to Milwaukee (I’m not sure why Amazon didn’t just fly the plane to Milwaukee in the first place…) which was nice; we didn’t have to sort the packages. The plane would show up and we’d put everything into trucks. It was very simple to do.

After that we’d usually set up for the following shift because they apparently had a terrible and unfortunate habit of either snacking on lead-based paint, mistaking the supply of earplugs for marshmallow-like candies, and/or eating glue/crayons while on break. Whichever one of these was actually true doesn’t matter because I’m sure you understand my point: the next shift couldn’t do a fucking thing on their own without assistance from us. It wasn’t too big of a deal since our shift usually finished a few hours early anyways. It wasn’t like we had anything better to do after our work was complete.

Setting up the follow shift was fairly easy: they loaded their own 767 and so required nineteen pallets to be set up. We’d haul the nineteen dollies into the building with tugs, put nineteen pallets on the dollies (loving called “cookie-sheets” by those who didn’t have the word “pallet” in their vocabulary. And for the wooden pallets? Those would be called “skids.”), and then affix nineteen cargo nets to each of the pallets cookie-sheets. The hardest part about setup was untangling the infernal cargo nets. They were always tangled into some indecipherable mess.

Untangling cargo nets was partly art and partly science. When I first began untangling them I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I’d pull random lines and hope that it made the problem better, like a toddler trying to untie their shoes. My technique was complete randomness guided by nothing logical. I’d try something, fail horribly at it, then try something else until the net finally succumbed to my brute-force “just-try-everything-until-it-works” technique or until someone with actual skill took over for me. Cargo nets were like a really difficult and dirty version of a rubix cube, another puzzle I couldn’t figure out at all.

Then one day a switch was flipped in my brain: I found myself instantly good at untangling the damn things! This was really interesting because I still had no idea how to explain to someone how to untangle the nets. As I was untangling them I knew exactly what I was doing — I had a plan and some mental algorithm I was following — but if you asked me to explain it to a new-hire I would be at a loss for words. Someone would be messing with a net obviously doing the wrong thing — I couldn’t explain what was obviously wrong but they would be fucking it up — and I’d go over and fix it. I was an expert but an expert in such a way that I couldn’t explain it to others. Some would say that if you can’t explain something clearly to others that you don’t truly understand it yourself. Maybe I didn’t understand the nets after all.

Anyways, with like twenty-five people untangling nets a few clueless amatures couldn’t slow things down much. We’d still finish our shift and the crayon-eaters’ nineteen-dolly setup within about thirty minutes. Usually this meant that we still had time to kill before our shift was up. What the hell do you do with that much free time at work?

Usually you make up shit to do.

Some people would go outside and hide from management under the guise of taking cigarettes/cigars/vape breaks. Some would stand around in a group and talk. Some would sweep the floor. Some would wander around doing random things like use the bathroom, walk to the end of the building, walk back, and then attempt to find a broom but then discover that all the brooms were taken. Just kinda wandering around and pissing time away. To be honest everyone was pissing time away, even if they appeared busy. Even the people sweeping the floor, while doing something that would qualify as “actual work” weren’t doing anything to assist Amazon in actually shipping packages or cutting costs. Yes they were keeping the workplace clean but this had zero effect on anything really. No one would appreciate it. It’s a thing called “busy work” for a reason.

Another technique to piss time away was to make up random stuff to do: have tug races to see which tug was the fastest; see who could move a thousand-pound test weight on their own; see how many times you could flip a traffic cone and have it land upright; etc. One day Elrod, recently promoted to supervisor, had one of these ideas. He posited to half the crew (as the other people were sweeping like the plebeians they were) a challenge:

“I bet none of you fuckers can pick up a penny with a forklift. None of you fuckers are good enough to pick up a fucking penny. You know what?! I’ll bet you,” Elrod checked his wallet, “ten fucking goddamn dollars that no one can pick up a penny with a forklift.”

We all looked around for anyone who would accept Elrond’s Quest. There was obviously no downside to doing so except looking like a total asshole attempting to pick up a penny with a multi-thousand pound forklift. This would be the definition of the word overkill. I glanced over at Coleslaw and I could see the gears turning in his head, his mind mulling over his ability to operate a forklift versus the risk of looking like an idiot in front of a group of people.

“So, you’re gonna do this right Coleslaw?” I asked of him.

“I don’t know, man. I’m thinking about it,” he replied.

Although Apex had a strict policy of not having phones while working, I checked mine for the time. “We have twenty minutes for you to screw around trying it. There’s nothing better to do. Just give it a shot ya dingus. You got this. You’re one of the better forklift operators around this dump.” Some of the other forklift operators glanced at me after that comment.

Coleslaw thought for a bit and then spoke up. “Hey Elroy, I’ll try it.”

“Alright! My man! You know you’re going to totally fuck it up but, hey, who cares? Give it your best shot Cole!”

About ten of us stood in a rough semi-circle as Elrod tossed a nickel (no one actually had a penny because they’re useless. But whatever, the challenge is still the same.) onto the floor. Mr. Slaw walked off to grab a forklift and returned a few moments later.

To clarify, the entire challenge of using a forklift to pick up a penny/nickel is a challenge in precision equipment operation. You simply can’t slide the forks under the coin because the fork itself is thicker than the coin! Trying to do this would cause the coin to slide across the floor. The trick was to somehow place a force on the very edge of the coin and by using the downward force of the forks flip the coin onto the top of the fork. You’d place this force on the coin and while slowly backing up the lift can cause the penny to rotate and hop right onto one of the forks. I didn’t understand it at first, but watching Coleslaw’s methodical trial-and-error and equipment-operating prowess at work cleared things up for me.

The Slaw drove his lift it over to the nickel. Initially, he did his best to place his left fork (the one with a slightly better perspective of the coin) over the it, but upon lowering the forks discovered that he was three inches off. He maneuvered the lift with some crisp and purposeful  turns of the steering wheel, finessed the levers, and eventually had the tip of the fork directly over the center of the coin. He tilted the forks down slightly, lowered them, and tried to back up; the coin simply scraped across the ground as the pressure on it was too great. Cole did some adjustments to the forks’ tilt and height and tried again; this time the coin jumped! It didn’t rotate onto the fork like it was supposed to but it did leave the ground for a fraction of a second.

We all watched kinda riveted and kinda bored at the same time. On one hand there was nothing else to do, and on the other hand there was this fucking amazing display of pure forklift operating prowess right in front of us. We didn’t know whether to yawn or to cheer, and we sort of did both at the same time. Multiple yawns followed by a lazy, “You almost got it Slaw…keep it up…”

Coleslaw kept hopping and eventually flipping the nickel with no success while a few of the ADD-stricken people walked away. A few went to use the restroom. Some went and clocked out, ready to go on with the other duties in their day. But a handful of us remained to witness the spectacle: Mario, Dusty, Elrod, Tiffany, Anakin and Tuna all watched with varying degrees of awe. Tiffany looked blatantly bored standing there with her arms crossed while Tuna was fucking riveted to each tiny flip Coleslaw gave to the nickel. His mouth literally open and his eyes looking like a cat staring at a mouse it was about to pounce on.

And then it happened: a flip just like the rest accompanied by Mr. Slaw’s preemptive acceleration of the forklift totally caught the nickel on his left fork. A minor cheer erupted within the remaining spectators which sounded pretty fucking pathetic. The clap of only 25% of a group clapping. In a large warehouse seven people half-shounting and half-saying YAAAY sounded pretty lame. There was no stadiumesque AHHHHHHHH and there was no oceanic sound of clapping and cheering washing over you in waves. It was a blah-and-neutered YAHHH COLLLE SLAAAWWWWwww…..

Cole raised the forks to Elrod’s eye level and drove it the few feet directly towards his face. He said, “Here is your nickel,” with a sly smile on his face. Coleslaw had succeeded: if forklifting was an Olympic sport Coleslaw would be bringing home the gold medal for the USA.

Elrod wasn’t too upset over the loss of his $10 because this was the kind of shit he lived for: pure pointless, bullshit excitement only for the sake of excitement and nothing else. He whipped out his wallet, swapped the nickel with the $10 on the fork, and made a slight salute to Coleslaw. As soon as Coleslaw lowered the forks the $10 blew off. Dusty picked it up for him, Slaw parked his lift, and walked over to claim his prize.

It was time to clock out and leave for the day and for all of Coleslaw’s troubles he was $10 richer — about the hourly pay of us peons at Apex. But considering that Slaw earned his $10 in fifteen minutes he was actually earning about $40 per hour! If only forklifting nickels was an actual job he would be set for the rest of his life.

Dusty asked him what he was going to do with his prize. “Are you going to buy some blow or some hookers with your money?”

Cole (the type of person that would never actually buy cocaine or hookers) simply smiled and said, “I don’t know. Both maybe?”

Dusty laughed. “You could get a really ugly hooker along with a Ziploc baggie of cornstarch for $10. I bet you could get an STD for free though; think of it as an added bonus. The gift that keeps on giving. At least that’s what I’ve heard from My Boy Elroy.”

“I’ll probably go grab some McDonald’s or something with the cash. I’m pretty hungry.”

We clocked out for the day. Before I went to my next job I had the same thought despite not picking up a nickel with a forklift: McDonald’s did sound good and I was hungry.