Prompt — The Most Important Thing

(I’ve narrated this story and published it on YouTube! Go check it out if you would rather listen!)

 

“What’s the most important thing a girl needs to live?” Sage asked.

“This must be another one of your trick questions,” her staff replied.

“Nope! Not a trick,” she said, stamping her bare feet as she jumped across the tree roots. “Just a simple question.”

“But there is nothing simple about that question. There’s too much subjectivity involved.”

Sage stopped in her tracks. There were no appropriate tree roots to jump to. She hated walking in grass almost as much as the grass hated her walking in it. Almost. She turned around and started jumping back across, stepping on the same roots once more. “You know you think a lot for a dumb stick.”

“Would you expect any different?” it’s voice hummed into her mind. “I’ve seen more sunrises than every person on Earth combined.”

Sage frowned. “But the sun doesn’t rise or set here.”

“My point stands.”

“You’re stalling. You never answered the question.”

“The trick question?”

“It’s not a trick question!” her already high-pitched voice rose an octave in anger.

The staff was not intimidated. It was bigger than her, after all. “Very well. A girl needs the same thing that everyone else needs to live. Food and water. Perhaps shelter, too, depending on circumstances.”

“Wrong!” Sage sang.

“Do you mean psychologically? It could be said that a girl requires love, even if that love comes from herself.”

“Wrong!” she said again. It was at this point that she had circled the tree again. No roots to jump onto unless she turned around.

“Sage, I know you hate walking on grass, but we’re going to be here for eternity if we keep going like this.”

“There’s nowhere else to go,” Sage said. She wiped a tear from her eye at the thought of stepping on the grass. Then, she turned around and started hopping the way she had come.

“Why don’t you just use your magic?” the staff said. More a request than a command.

“I don’t believe in magic,” she scoffed.

“Wh-what? The Everlight is a realm governed by magic. It’s the lifeblood of everything here! Especially me and you!”

“Nope. I’m just a normal human girl that has very vivid hallucinations,” Sage decided.

“By the Allsoul… But normal girls don’t have vivid hallucinations.”

Sage stopped, eyes wide. “You’re right! I’m not normal at all! You know, for a dumb stick you can be pretty clever.”

The staff didn’t reply, and the two were silent for a moment.

“So,” her staff offered. “What’s the answer to the question?”

“What question?”

“The most important thing a girl needs to live?”

Sage’s playful smile widened into a mischievous grin. “What does it matter?”

“I don’t understand.”

“I didn’t expect you to.”

“…are you going to explain? Why ask the question if the answer doesn’t matter?” the staff asked.

“What’s the point? An old stick like you has had bazillions of years to figure it out, and you didn’t. You can’t hope to learn now.”

“Allow me to try,” it said.

Sage got to the end of the tree again. Before she could turn around, however, the staff thrust itself from her grasp and split into three. The wood bent and twisted into large tree roots that did not attach to any tree, but instead floated in the air, waiting for her to jump onto then.

Gleefully, she hopped across the new roots. As she hopped, more tree roots appeared ahead of her, leaving the grass below blessedly untouched as the bridge slowly led her to a new tree, where the forest was denser. Once she stood safely on the natural trees, the staff once again formed in her hands.

“Are there girl sticks like you?” Sage asked as she began hopping across the tree roots once more.

“What do you mean?”

“You’re fun to talk to and all,” she explained. “I just think I’d get along with a girl staff better.”

“Are you saying I’m a boy staff? That’s absurd. Staves have no gender. You don’t have a gender, either, if we’re being technical.”

She shrugged. “That sort of talk is exactly what makes you a boy staff. If you knew better, you’d know that the answer to my earlier question wasn’t important. It was the question that was important.”

“Why ask a question you don’t want to know the answer to?”

“That’s what makes you a boy. You’re too focused on getting somewhere.”

“How does that make any sense?” the staff asked.

“These tree roots aren’t any better to jump across as the tree we were at before, you know. Not everything needs to have a ‘why’.”

“But your question didn’t seem rhetorical. You seemed to genuinely want an answer.”

“I already know the answer,” Sage laughed. “The most important thing a girl needs to live is color. Obviously.”

“I suppose you mean metaphorically.”

“Of course,” she rolled her eyes.

“And boys don’t need color to live?”

“Boys can’t see color,” Sage explained. “They only have rods. Girls have cones. I heard a human talking about it once.”

“I think perhaps you may have misunderstood what they were saying.”

“What do you know? You’re just a dumb stick.”

“And you’re just a silly girl that doesn’t believe in magic and hates stepping on grass.”

Sage’s smile broadened. “Looks like we’re finally getting somewhere.”

 

 

Prompt: https://ryky.deviantart.com/art/Cave-of-miracles-691436552

Me — Constant Improvement

I try to live my life in a state of constant improvement. I didn’t like that I called myself a writer when I didn’t write, so I started a blog. I didn’t like how I dressed, so I changed it. I’ve noticed I can be a narcissistic jerk sometimes, so I stopped… Okay, I’m still working on that one.

Point is, I try to fix everything I don’t like about myself over time, tackling one thing at a time. For the new year, I wanted to read a chapter every day and fit in some meditation time, too. (I had been doing the latter for a good month or two, though.)

But as it so happens, my schedule is pretty tight. I’m 100% busy from basically Monday 8am to Wednesday 10pm. So it can be pretty tough to fit that sort of thing in. Last Wednesday, I allowed myself to skip a day of reading and meditating.

Problem is, I literally haven’t done either ever since.

I’m not that broken up about it, though. I don’t feel like mediating was really doing anything for me. That probably means I was doing something wrong (because a few times I started drifting off to sleep). It did help me learn to just stop overcoming short term anxiety, but that’s basically all I use those techniques for now.

As for reading, it’s still just really hard. I don’t know what it is, really. I’m such a slow reader, and it makes it extremely hard to want to read. And audiobooks are amazing and all, but I’m actually a visual person, so sometimes I will misunderstand or skip things entirely with audiobooks because I’ll accidentally tune out. Oh well.

Does that mean I’m doing a bad job with improving myself? I mean, maybe. But I’m also doing a bunch of stuff still, so dropping a few things doesn’t feel terrible. On one hand, writing (and narrating) a short story every week. I’m also prepping for a big project, which I’m still debating on whether or not to post on the blog (I probably will, but I make no promises).

I know that a lot of people will say “Dude, chill, you don’t have to be productive 200% of the time. It’s not good for you. Take some time to unwind once in a while.”

The problem with that is that part of me feels like I am relaxing a lot, and I just give off the vibe that I’m extremely busy. I would love to get inside the head of the average Joe for a day just for some perspective. How much is my drive to become better is unnecessary?

I’ll admit—I almost didn’t write today. I know nobody is reading this, and I don’t blame them. It’s no cool fantasy story. But I think writing even when it’s hard builds character, and the last thing I want is to get into the habit of skipping blog days just because I’m tired or have nothing to say.

Tune in Friday for content that won’t be a waste of your time!

Review — Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I know, I know. There’s nothing I can say about this movie that hasn’t already been said. Most people hate it, a few people love it. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any other movies recently, so this is what I’m going to talk about today. My perspective may have been a little different than most, so I’ll tell you what: regardless of what you may think about the movie, you’ll probably disagree with me. So, since it’s been several weeks, and nobody in the universe is going to read a review about a Star Wars movie at this point if they haven’t already seen it, there will be spoilers ahead.

Before I get into likes and dislikes, some background. My close family, (at least the people I spend the most time with) are all nerds. That said, I’m also the youngest of six, so sometimes I can be left out of the loop with things. Such was the case with the Star Wars franchise. The first Star Wars movie I watched in its entirety was Episode III: Revenge of the Sith in theaters. Before you bust out your pitchforks, though, know this: I was eight at the time, and while I knew vaguely about the characters and the premise, I didn’t really know anything. The literal eight year old I was liked the movie for the action, but since it was just one of many movies for me at the time, I all but forgot the entire thing within a year.

Fast forward to now. I’ve since seen every Star Wars film, and the first movie I got to really see and appreciate in theaters as a valid audience member was Rogue One. For as much as I liked it, I couldn’t give you more than two names of any of the characters in that movie. It was just too much, too fast for me. A solid war movie overall, and you can read my review of it here. (Plus if the entire movie was made just as an excuse to put the Vader scene in theaters, it would still be worth it).

Anyways, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, was the first time I really got to sit down and watch a new story unfold in this universe. I was ecstatic, and I’ll be honest, I loved it. I walked out of the movie theater thinking it was the best Skywalker film made yet. That isn’t to say it didn’t have flaws, but overall, the choices that were made in the movie worked really well for me. At the time.

I’ve since watched YouTube commentaries on the film, and have read up a bit on a lot of things, and it’s opened my eyes a bit to really see what the current trilogy is doing wrong. The Last Jedi is not a masterpiece. The side-plot with the planet only serves to further a love interest that I hated (which was my biggest gripe immediately after watching it) and narrative-wise makes things worse for our heroes, there were lots of silly character choices that were either meaningless or contradictory, and nobody in this movie ever learns anything.

But I did enjoy a lot of the scenes. The “silent scene” was astonishing to me, because everyone in the theater managed to be quiet, and it was a great moment. (It did make me wonder, though, why wasn’t that choice made half an hour ago? Or, heck, why aren’t spaceships used as missiles all the time? One cruiser for one flagship? Deal.) I actually really enjoyed Rey’s character arc, and the complexity of her character in contrast to Kylo Ren was pretty neat. It was an interesting new twist, and I liked it. I also didn’t mind things like Leia using the Force to save herself and the kid using the Force at the end. Sure, you can make the argument that nobody can use the Force until you’re trained to use it, but the Star Wars universe is a big place that encompasses a very long period of time. Lots of strange and unexpected things can happen. Besides, a character saying “This is impossible” in a story should not be taken as absolute, 100%, unavoidable truth. Things change.

As I said, the movie isn’t without it’s faults. There’s a lot of valid complaints about it, but I still think the movie is overall great, and certainly quite enjoyable. Maybe not for diehard fans that have trouble suspending disbelief for new content in familiar mediums, but still.

As for me, I’m just hoping that whatever trilogy what’s-his-name got approved to direct after Episode IX is an Old Republic trilogy. That would be sweet.

 

Me — Knowing Yourself

Recently (within the past few years) I’ve noticed that I really don’t know myself all that well. I, like everyone else, have this nebulous list of wants and needs, but lately, I’ve realized that in order to figure out the “how” of achieving this list, it’s important to understand the “why” those wants and needs are in place. If you don’t know the “why”, figuring out the “how” can be nearly impossible.

It isn’t enough to say “I want to start a family and be successful.” There are lots of ways to accomplish this. If you want a family because you think it will make you feel validated as a person, you need to dig deeper. There are lots of ways to feel validated as a person. This isn’t to say that your list of wants is wrong, just that the why can inform your decision making. Why is having a family the way you choose to pursue your goal of validation? Is it because you never felt like you had a supportive family? Or because you want to leave something behind? Or something completely different?

These aren’t the questions I ask myself, but the idea is the same. Figuring out the “why” will make the “how” much clearer, but it’s not always easy to see. Sometimes, the wants themselves are difficult to understand. This happens a lot with teenagers who are just finding things (and people) they like. I’m sure we’ve all heard stories about (or are) people who dated people against their sexual preference because they didn’t know themselves to act differently. It’s a learning process, and the path is really obscure. As in, the canopy is four feet high and we can’t even see where we’re going because we’re constantly getting whacked with leaves and branches.

I don’t have any clear cut answers that will help you figure out who you are. I’m a little busy asking myself hard questions. There are two things that I’ve made a habit of doing, though, to ensure that I’m at least on the right path. One: ask yourself if you’re happy, or if you feel you’re taking steps to get there. If not, what steps can you take now that will put you in that direction? Two: Constantly keep tabs on how you feel. Keep track of what makes you feel good and bad, and use this as a road map. Play Hot-Cold by yourself, and soon you’ll develop a compass that will get you somewhere. It may not be the place that you expected to go, but constantly questioning everything, and thinking about why you are the way you are is bound to yield good results, even if it doesn’t happen right away.

In my experience, everyone older than you seems to know what you’re doing. It’s amazing, if you think about it. Everyone 50% older than me seems to have their life on track, but as soon as I get that old, I realize I’m wrong. I’m probably showing my age a bit by asking this half-rhetorical question, but I’m curious: do people ever really “figure out” who they are? Or are we all just swimming around in a pool of confusion and only barely figuring out where we should be?

Spear Gate — Chapter Twelve, Pt. 1

(Mild content warning on this one.)

 

It was dark before Esmina found her way back to the Liar’s Respite, and despite her heart pounding in fear and exertion as she raced back, it was met with no words at all on her father’s part. As relieved as she was, though, she was afraid she might face repercussions later.

They had gotten two rooms, adjacent to each other. The Tenshari servant standing guard outside had been kind in greeting, as Berold had probably paid him to be. Since they had brought almost none of their own servants with them to Tal’Doraken, it seemed her father was being generous with his coin.

Esmina retired into her rooms, as silently as possible so as not to rouse her father. She found that her trunk had been brought to her room, and after changing into a nightgown fell back onto her bed with a lazy sigh.

She didn’t have any way to know for sure, but she could have sworn her father had waited until she started drifting her off to sleep to wake her up.

“Esmina,” he said, swinging the door open without so much as a knock of warning. “Time to go.”

She woke back up with a start. Looking out the window, it seemed just as dark as it was when she first walked in, but that wasn’t saying much.

“Quickly now,” he demanded. “We have places to be.”

“May I at least clothe myself, father?” she asked.

“Don’t be daft,” he rolled his eyes. “I’m not going to whisk my daughter away unclothed. What kind of father do you take me for? You have three minutes.” And with that, he closed the door. Yesterday, that would have been a stupid question. He was cruel, but not stupid. But then he bought a drunkard as her escort through the city.

Soon, she was dressed once again in a simple long tunic and leggings. Fresh clothes, in case anyone recognized her. Besides, they would only be here for the day, and she had packed an excess.

Soon her and her father were back in the streets of the city. It was colder than she remembered it being. Had she actually fallen asleep for a while, or was it the panic of running back to the inn that made her misremember?

Her father seemed to be in a bad mood, which she considered a small blessing, because they did not speak much as they made their way through the sparse torchlight of the city. Berold held the Night Seal writ in his hands, all but marching towards the Ministry Office as they went. The streets were mostly empty now, with some Tenshari servants milling about.

She kept quiet, avoiding anything that might cause him to speak to her. As they walked she noticed that the buildings on the street they were currently on had enormous windows, almost walls of glass. So much glass had to cost an insane amount of money, and it was everywhere. They had no signs announcing what kind of establishment they were, but whatever their purpose was, they were towing the line as to what religious customs regarded as ‘indoors’. Esmina paled when she stole a glance inside.

Several women walked around inside, wearing little more than undergarments as they tended to their patrons. Aenias above, those two didn’t even have that much decency. And what was that one doing to…

“We’re walking next to the brothels?” Esmina hissed, voice hushed.

“It’s the quickest way to the Ministry Offices,” her father replied, unconcerned. It was not a defense, it was the simple explanation.

I’m fourteen, father,” she said.

“And yet I imagine you’re still older than some of the workers here.”

She was so appalled she almost retched. What had gotten into him lately? “This is too far,” she said.

He glanced down at her. “You may not care for me very much, but know that this is a life you do not have to endure. This is the life of many an orphan with nowhere else to go.”

She broke his gaze. Another one of his vile lessons. Her eyes wandered to another one of the buildings, and to her amazement she recognized the drunkard from earlier today, with a… maid, sitting on his lap. He was well dressed now, and he gazed outside as the two of them passed.

Some primal fear caught Esmina as she looked away, ashamed and embarrassed that she had seen two people so… engaged. She noticed her father looking in the direction of the drunkard. They were making eye contact.

And Berold nodded to him.

Story — The Girl, the Owl, and the Creek

(I’ve narrated this story and published it on YouTube! Go check it out if you would rather listen!)

 

The girl sat on a nice outcropping, perched over the gentle creek as water passed beneath and ahead of her. Her pale legs dangled like wind chimes in the breeze, which was as lazy and timeless as the water that flowed on, ever onward, towards distant falls.

As always, she brought three of the best stones she could find. Ones that could, with luck, skip all the way across the water and onto the beach on the other side. Three stones. One for each undesirable piece of herself.

An owl peered at her from the branch of a nearby tree, cocking its head to and fro as it judged her and her stones. The pieces of herself that she held so dear.

“What do you think to do with those stones?” The owl said from his lofty seat. The girl had never heard an owl speak before, but this one certainly had. His voice was cool and methodical, as if he were some distant cousin to the creek he lived near.

“Whatever could you mean, owl?” the girl replied. “Certainly you have seen travelers come by this creek with their stones to toss across this creek. I am sure I am not the first girl to stop by here.”

“Certainly not,” he said. “I have seen many a girl travel to this outcropping and toss her burdens into the water. May I ask what drove you here to do the same?”

The girl had no wish to confide her troubles to anyone, especially no owl. “How could an owl possibly understand my troubles?” she asked. “As I am sure I could not understand an owl’s troubles.”

“I understand that when a stone falls upon water, it always sinks eventually,” the owl reasoned. “For all I may appear to lack, it seems I know something that you do not.”

The girl made a face and turned away from the owl. “Of course I know that,” she said angrily. Then, she looked back to the owl, who had not seemed upset by her response. “But these are no mere stones. They are the pieces of me that I do not like,” the girl confessed.

The owl hooted in satisfaction. “Of course they are,” he said. “That is why you wish to toss them into the creek, never to be seen again.”

“I am not like you, owl,” the girl said. “You need and treasure everything you have. Without your wings, you could not soar through the wind as you pleased. Without your claws, you would not be able to land once you found your way home. And without your feathers, you could not stay warm and cozy as you slept.

“I have none of these things,” she continued. “But I have burdens I do not wish to bear. If I can throw these stones all the way across this creek, it means I will overcome that burden. If I fail and it sinks into the creek, then it means I must carry it longer.”

The owl considered this for a moment, then nodded. “This seems rather foolish,” he said.

The girl frowned at this. “It seems no more foolish than a girl speaking with an owl.”

“It seems rather foolish,” the owl said again. “For you are asking the creek to release you of your burdens. You see, by carrying these stones and tossing them into the creek, you are not removing these burdens. You are simply forcing the creek to bear them.”

“Now who seems foolish!” the girl cried. “What burden can a creek possibly bear?”

“Why, the creek bears all the burdens of those who have come before you,” the owl replied. “And soon, the creek will no longer be able to bear all of them. If enough girls like you come to this outcropping and toss their stones into the creek, soon the stones will no longer fall into the water, but instead on top of each other. The creek will be no more, because it will no longer be able to hold the burdens of others, and it will die.”

“But what if I throw these stones, and all three of them land upon the other side, joining the stones on the beach?” the girl asked.

The owl hooted again, neither happy, nor mad. “It is even worse. If you throw the stones and all three of them land upon the other side of the creek, then you are forcing the beach to carry your burdens. If enough girls like you come to this outcropping and toss their stones across the creek, then the beach will cease to be. It will become so overcrowded and heavy with the burdens of others, it will fall into the creek, and it will die. But now, if the heavy burden falls upon the creek, both the beach and the creek will die.”

The girl looked at her stones, guilty because she supposed the owl was right. She did not want to kill the beach or the creek simply because she did not want to carry these stones. “What would you suggest I do, dear owl?” she asked. “I still do not wish to carry these on my own.”

“It is simple,” the owl said. “You must learn to cherish these stones not as burdens, but as treasures.” And as he said this, he leaped down from his perch onto the outcropping beside her. He took her stones, and with one of his claws began scratching on them.

In a moment, he presented the stones back to the girl, each with a unique carving upon it. One bore the carving of a wing. Another, the carving of a claw. And the last carving resembled a feather. “With these stones,” the owl spoke, “you will learn what it is that makes you special. The stone with a wing will guide you on your path. A path not without burden, but with purpose. The feather will lighten your step, not so it is without troubles, but so it is happy even with them. The claw will help you carry these burdens, and it will also allow you to carve the stones of others, so that they, too, may turn their troubles into treasures.”

The girl smiled brightly at the owl and thanked him for his words. Without another word, she scooped up her stones and turned away from the creek and the beach, burdens in hand, and yet light of foot.

 

Me — Spending Time

This post is sort of a ramble. It’s neither a rant nor a lecture: just talking about me and my lifestyle.

I’m one of those people that isn’t ever satisfied if I’m only doing one thing. If something doesn’t require 100% of my focus, then I’ll almost certainly be doing something else in addition to it. Usually this means podcasts while playing video games, driving, drawing, etc. The last several weeks I’ve had nothing better to do, so I blasted through Oathbringer while I played a ton of Heroes of the Storm.

It’s sort of odd, because I feel like I’m wasting my time if I’m only doing one thing at a time (with the exception of writing, of course). I get virtually nothing out of playing Heroes, so even that sometimes feels unproductive. Couldn’t I be doing something better with my time while I listen to audiobooks? Like laundry, or general house tidying?

I know this probably sounds a bit crazy. I’m totally aware of how obsessed I am with this much constant productiveness, but it’s also who I’ve grown comfortable with being. If playing a video games with an audiobook in the background feels unproductive, I bet you can imagine how it feels when I’m not even listening to that audiobook. But this means I’m always getting things done.

Recently I’ve also taken on meditation, which interacts very strangely with that philosophy. Meditation is all about stopping and just enjoy the moment—doing absolutely nothing. I’ve heard lots of great things about meditation in the past, and while I do feel its helped me be more present in the moment, I don’t think it’s been groundbreaking as far as changing my lifestyle. Admittedly, it can still feel like a chore sometimes, but it works pretty well with reducing spikes in anxiety.

I’ve found that this whole mindset of “everything must have a productive purpose” is hard for other people to understand. I don’t really watch TV shows. If you want to get anything out of it you can’t do anything on the sidelines, and they’re often dozens, if not hundreds of hours long. Movies can be okay—you get through the entire beginning and end of the story in less than three hours—but even then I don’t make a habit of watching them. If I could, I’d watch classic movies a lot, though. I feel there’s a lot I could get out of them, it’s just hard for me in particular to get access to them.

And yet, where has all this gotten me? I personally don’t think this has given me any sort of upper hand among my peers as far as experience goes. If somebody asks me what I’ve been doing with my time not watching the shows and movies everyone has seen, I really wouldn’t know what to tell them. I wouldn’t say I’ve read a large amount of audiobooks, or played lots of different kinds of games. I don’t feel as though I’m much further ahead than anyone my age, really.

I suppose that’s probably pretty good. Maybe it means that no matter what you do or what you’ve done, somebody my age still has all the time in the world to be or do something completely new and worthwhile.