Paracosm

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When I said I was going to cut through Egypt, Raleigh TOLD me that mummies were going to happen. I thought "Nah, I'll just be driving through. Even if there happened to be some mummage occurring in Egypt, it's not like the people of the world recognize my name as a symbol of hope and resistance against the oncoming figment invasions, and it's not like I'm going to have to use a debit card with said name to buy gas as I'm driving through literal Bum Fuck, Egypt. She said sarcastically. 

Typically, despite my reputation, I'm not one to seek out monster trouble. I just try to live my life in a low-key sort of way, what with my cool candy-themed t-shirts and backpack filled with items of only tangential monster-slaying potential. In the form of mean as shit townspeople like the gas station attendant that guilted me into helping. 

"What do you think I'm just wandering the earth so I can find people to help at random?" I told him, angrily, after he went into overly extensive detail about the plight of his community. 

He fell silent, as people frequently do when you sarcastically claim that they thought the thing you actually thought as if it were impossible and that they were an idiot for thinking it. Which he was. But that's not the worst thing to be. His silence was given flavor by the intense sadness and disappointment radiating out from his eyes and onto my life. 

"Please?" He said. 

"Fuck." I said. He didn't follow what the contextual meaning of this "Fuck" meant, as people often do when you speak cryptically. So I explained. 

"Fine, I'll help. But I'm not going to like it. And you've got like candy in that convenience store over there, right?"

"Yes?" He said, using his question mark to denote confusion. I figure he thought the candy had something to do with mummy-killing. Which it does. Indirectly. 

"I want many candy. Now. If I die by mummy, I refuse to be on a diet." My arabic was and is rusty, but that's pretty much the translation of what I told him. 

He gave me the directions to the local bastion of civilization and some peanut butter cups. Generic stuff, nothing to write home about. At least they didn't use that weird peanut butter they use in Reese's that has a consistency suspiciously similar to dried up clown feces. Clown feces is particularly harsh a condemnation on my end because your typical clown has a very nutritionally sparse diet (mostly cotton candy and blood) that wreaks havok on your digestive system. 

I didn't really know what to expect as far as architecture for the society I was heading to, but it turns out that civilization in the part of Egypt I was heading through looked a lot like a camping trip. But with a little more fighting and a lot more mosquitoes. Or maybe they were fairies? I don't exactly understand how this "figments of mankind's inner cultural dreamscape coming into vivid life" works, but either way that shit was trying to suck my blood, it had wings, I squished it, and it screamed out in pain with all the terrible innocence of a child. 

Speaking of children: The local leaders of this settlement were in a big old fashioned fistfight when I arrived! Turns out the generally accepted leader of the town had pocketed an ancient and valuable relic from the local cemetery and he was now paying its price in bruised face and ego. I was informed of all of this by the new generally accepted leader of the town, Vespo. 

“Why are you here?” Vespo said, in a way uncharacteristic of his incredibly silly name. 

“One of my little birdies told me y’all were having trouble with a mummy?” I said, sounding as typically cool and attractive as always. 

“I don’t typically like accepting help from your type.” Vespo said. 

“White people?” I said, ready to agree with him 100%. 

“No. The bourgeois. Don’t think I haven’t noticed that golden stallion made out of actual gold, consumerist pig. God has struck down the nations of the world for their avarice, and we will be struck down for our capitalist greed in due time.” Vespo said this in English, as to improve my comprehension of his term paper on Marx. I was thirteen the last time a global economy was really in practice, so maybe my opinions would change based on experience, but I’m not partial to ranting about power systems that don’t really exist anymore.

“Listen, I’m not in the business of imposing corporate values on functioning communities.” I tried to get on Vespo’s good side. I don’t think he was thrilled with my use of the word business. 

“I’m not in the business of anything. When I slay ancient evil for fun, not profit. I am dragonslayer.” 

I generally don’t like to brag about the whole “I killed a dragon with a child’s tinkertoy” thing, but I’m not afraid to use it to get my points across. Also, good god, I need to work on my arabic.

Vespo eyed me over for a moment, considering his options and weighing his own odds against the horrific ancient horror beset upon his town against mine. I’m pretty sure he saw something that he liked because he jumped at the opportunity to have somebody else risk their life trying to protect the town from this mummy-type thing, and then shook my hand. From there, my first stop would be the disgraced tribal leader who couldn’t leave an ancient cursed reliquary alone. 

The fucko’s name was Pardo. And what a tremendous fucko that he was. Barry was shackled to the pavement in the center of town with a sign hung around his neck labeled something in arabic that roughly translates to “Fucko Jail”. He was wearing a potato sack that he didn’t choose. His skin looked like the peeled, dark, and scorched surface of a dying planet. His eyes were tender pools surrounded in shadow. The cloud cover above us seemed to be giving him a lucky break from his traditionally heat-stroke inducing circumstances. 

“Why’d you take the shit?” I said. 

“It’s what was necessary.” Pardo said, his voice hoarse for want of water. 

“You do realize what was necessary might have killed this town?” I was accusatory, but I don’t know these people. They might be a bunch of assholes as far as I know. 

“I did what was right. That’s the deal I made.” He coughed. A strike of encompassing thunder shook Pardo’s shackles. A flume of gray smoke and vapor drifted upon the town. And all of this was climaxed by a spectral bloom of coiling leviathans in the shape of a face dripping from the sky like a corpse resting on a trampoline. In a shallow whisper that was akin to rubber across a violin, the face spoke. 

“My tomb has been defiled. My property has been stolen. You have violated the ancient rites of my race…” Pardo looked up to the face with detachment, but I could feel its undulations like a tendril through my ear. 

“There is no recompense for what has occurred, but my retribution is inevitable. I can feel the desires in the depths of your hearts, as thoroughly as I can sense the quivering fear that has overcome your function. I can grasp and twist the threads that house your vitals as simply as the snake devours the mouse. I am only limited by the quality of my word, which is as erudite and stable as the mind that conjures it. So I offer to you, the huddled and weak, a simple bargain. Bring me all that has been stolen as if its condition were anew by sundown, and I shall only kill most of you. Elsewise, you will be culled as mercilessly you were put into my grasp.” The face remained hung in the sky, a constellation of fear, but its only movement were the respirations of the serpents that constructed it. 

“What did you do?” I screamed. But Pardo was as silent as the colony of head snakes that threatened to wipe us away in the span of an instant.

~~~

Punk ass relic jockey. 

Listen, when I was a kid, I wasn’t completely involved in the pop cultural zeitgeist of my parents’ youth, but I saw Indiana Jones.  I get the appeal. There’s a spooky castle, a shiny antiquity, and an appetite for wealth and adventure in some people that can’t be quenched by just any old act of grand theft. But the optimist in me would like the believe that when people started getting rotisseried by scaly nightmare monstrosities and curses of their ilk, they’d be at least a little more careful in the presence of anything that might even have a left-field chance of being haunted. 

And yet here we are. Ancient curse. Hallowed reliquary. Punk ass relic jockey. All the ingredients for a spooky nightmare village haunted by the sins of its least thoughtful member. I think Pardo summarized his thought process best as I rattled him by the skim of his neck. 

“I didn’t know what I was doing.” Pardo coughed. Yeah, no shit. 

I let him go. His face was turning purple, and in my experience violence doesn’t do much more than make you feel better. 

“My daughter was sick and-”

“Don’t twist this to fit whatever fairy tale is going on in your head. You are not a hero. Your daughter is not the world. By stealing whatever it was, you’ve only served to put your daughter and anyone else in your blast radius in danger.” I said. 

He was very still. 

“The relic is buried in a shallow grave behind my house in the south of town. I was always told that what the pharaohs kept in their tombs was valuable,” he said “but all I found was a shriveled corpse in tarnished jewelry.” 

~~~

Pardo’s house was easy enough to find, mostly because it was the one covered in pig entrails and obscenities. That's what you get for being a punk ass relic jockey. 

Around the back where I assume grass used to be was a conspicuous pile of unsettled dirt. I wondered if that was where he buried the relic/corpse. Sarcastically. Stop projecting stupidity on me, future me. Internalized misogyny isn’t cool.

“Pardo?” I said, motioning to said pile of unsettled dirt. 

Pardo swiftly found himself imbued with having a shovel and digging up the corpse he’d buried-ness for fear of being strangled by a dragon slayer again. 

I thought about staying, but quite frankly, it was exhausting seeing him do all that work, so I slipped into the dilapidated home in search of anything that might resemble sweets. 

“Aren’t you going to help?” Pardo asked, taking time away from his busy schedule of righting his mistakes. 

“And deprive you of this excellent opportunity to atone for your mistakes?” I said, slipping behind his porch door and out of the gloom of the serpentine face dominating the sky. 

Fortunately, Pardo’s home had two rooms, kitchen and bathroom, and I had landed in the marginally less pungent of the two. First place to look would normally be the fridge, but the closest analogue was the type of cooler you’d normally see at a thrift store and wonder “Who would buy a cooler from a thrift store? Aren’t coolers luxury items purchased and used by the bourgeoisie in their increasingly limp attempts at reconnecting with some sense of fraternity with the natural world? Also, what is that strange burgundy stain across the side and is it from blood or vomit?” Okay maybe that last detail was specific to this cooler. 

White rice. Yellow rice. Wild rice. Bread knife? Pardo had no idea what he was doing with his cabinet situation. Either devote them all to loose rice, or devote them all to weird knives. Egypt is a second-world country at worst. There was no excuse for his inability to properly organize a kitchen. 

“Are you one of the people that chained my dad to the center of town?” 

I looked behind me. Standing there, as spunky as the day she was conceived, was a teenager as grumpy as she was short (very).

“I’m from out of town. Your dad’s outside digging if you-” 

“Are you here to deal with the mummy?” She asked. She didn’t even sound impressed. Kids these days are so disaffected with the issues of our time. 

“I think we’re all kind of dealing with the mummy in our own way.” I said. What? I didn’t want to go into my whole dragonslayer thing. I had candy to find. 

“If you’re gonna raid our cabinets, at least be honest with me. White lady comes to town for mysterious reasons immediately after the snakes start rising out of the sky and it’s all a coincidence?” She said. And I didn’t appreciate her tone one little bit.

“Yes.” I answered, returning to the mostly barren cabinets.

“What are you looking for?” She asked. Finally, a question I was interested in answering. 

“I need… Damn it, ما هي كلمة للسكر؟” I said, asking where the sugar was, except the english part was in arabic and the arabic part was in english. Damn, my arabic is rusty. Note to self: buy rosetta stone. 

“There’s chocolate in this house.” She said.

“Wait, هل تتحدث الانجليزية؟” I asked, hoping that she could comprehend the statement “Do you speak english” in english. Because that was the language in which I asked if she spoke english.

“What?”

“So you don’t speak english?” 

“Of course not.” 

“Then how did you know that I wanted sweets?” 

“You have a chocolate bar on your t-shirt.” 

Damn. Made an idiot by my own renegade sense of style. I never thought it would betray me this way.

“Where’s the chocolate?” I had no intention of sharing the tale of my incredible journey with a kid that had gotten the best of me.

“How are you gonna kill the mummy?” She had no intention of not being a dick about any of this. 

Fuck this kid. Pardo walked in. He looked like he had upturned most of the soil with his clothes rather than with the shovel. 

“I finished digging up the corpse.” He said. 

“I’m finished talking with this lying woman.” She said. Her father wound up the turncrank on his back. 

“You will not talk to her that way.” Pardo said. He stepped purposefully towards his young to the tweenfull daughter. 

“What has she done for us? She’s raiding our home!” His daughter said. 

“She saved me from the stockades-” He interrupted his explanation with a swing at his daughter. She didn’t catch most of it, and kept yelling. 

“Maybe you were better off there!” Her face was red in the way that a baby’s leg gets when they take a fall. 

Before our good friend Pardo could get another swing in, I knocked him out cold. Child abusers tend to be weak shit like that. 

“Isa, the world is a scary place. Especially when you’ve got a dad who seems to be as dead weight as yours is.” Said the girl on an intercontinental quest to find her deadbeat mom. “What’s your name?”

She wasn’t talking. The bruise from where her father had slapped her was dripping down into a frown, and she looked vacantly at what remained of her father’s dignity in that way that children often do. 

“If you think I wouldn’t guilt a child into telling me their name,” I said, with finger outpointed for emphasis. “You’d be wrong.” 

“Isa.” She said. 

“Samantha.” I said.

“That’s an ugly name.” She said.

“And?” She said.

“I killed a dragon with my bare hands.” I lied. I used a sword, but who’s counting? 

Isa squinted skeptically.

“That curse will kill us all.” She said. 

Pessimist. She was probably right, though. 

~~~

“So what’s the plan again ?” Isa yelled from across the square in the center of town where the face still hung. 

“I’m gonna call this thing out. Beasts go running scared when they hear I’m in town.” I said. 

“Make sure we don’t die at this thing’s hands earlier than we normally would.” Isa said. Little shit. 

“Hey. Watch it.” I said. 

I had brought my sword with me. Back before all of this, I used it to chop a dragon in half, and before that, I used it to LAARP and just generally be a fucking nerd. My best guess would be that the dragon I beat the shit out of was also a huge nerd. Does that make me a bully? I didn’t exactly know that the dragon was going to be a huge nerd when I tried to slice it in half with my replica sword, so I wasn’t like targeting it or anything, so if it was bullying, it wasn’t because I was targeting him or anything. Also I totally murdered him, and I feel like it’s not completely clear whether murder is a form of bullying. Wait, what was I talking about? Oh right, mummy.

The snakes in the sky coalesced into a circular rim around where I stood. No Isa. No town. Just a hurricane of spectral flying snakes. I held my sword up and taunted. 

“Hey fucksnakes, there’s a new sheriff in town and her name is me!” 

The face opened its eyes and revealed stormy azure skies from beyond its clutch. No response though. Probably was still reeling from the fucksnakes insult. This was my opportunity for a sick combo. 

“I’m Samantha Gagarin. I watched Paris burn when I was nine years old. I watched everyone I ever loved get ripped away from me. I cut a dragon clean in half with this sword right here.” I readied my sword in his general direction. “This town ain’t big enough for the two of us.” 

The face was still, but then what could generously be described as a mouth contorted into a twisted smile thin and long like a crescent moon. First came silence, then a laughter dark and gruesome like the crackling of a fire. 

“You amuse me.” It whispered. “Small and insignificant. Clinging to what remains of your fractured identity. As if saying your name loud and strong enough can ward off the darkness. They have called me the abyssal trickster. The immortal falsehood. The lying horror. These were given to me because I have found no need to say otherwise. Power comes by reputation, not introduction.” 

The face laughed again and brought the rim of snakes closer to me. 

“I see you found what remains of my treasure. Do you expect me to spare you in exchange for its return?” It said. 

“I expect you to take it and leave, or eat shit and die.” I said. 

“I can spare you, if that’s what you choose, but I cannot do the same for the rest. They must be punished for their complacency.” 

“Same offer I made earlier. Take the corpse and leave, or eat shit and die.” I said. 

The face was silent and still for a moment, as if beneath its horrifying forehead of serpents and clouds was a brain in midst of deep thought. 

“Eat shit and die, then?” I said, and made my best “I’m about to swing a sword” face. 

“We both know you’re not as strong as you say you are, but I’ve always had a soft spot for pluckish overconfidence, so I’ll make you the same offer I made that corpse’s idiot mother.” It said. 

“Which is?” 

“Tell me my name, and I’ll go.” The face looked at me expectantly. I didn’t think he expected me to know who he was, which was honestly a pretty good assumption. 

Okay so all those fancy titles made him sound like he wanted me to think he was the devil, but that’s had to have been a misdirect. If he were the devil, he’d just tell me he was the devil. Also, big obvious snake face in the sky isn’t exactly the devil’s style. So I can safely rule out the names Lucifer, Satan, Beelzebub, Ronald, and Heather. But he’s still a figment, so I’m pretty certain I’ve heard of him somewhere. All of his titles had something to do with lying, and he really seemed to be attached to a corpse covered in jewelry. Goldilocks? No. 

“Wait,” I said. 

“Rumplestiltskin?” 

The face imploded in a flash of green light and the hurricane of snakes vanished.

“What?” Isa said. She looked up at the clear sky as if she were expecting the face to return and wreak its certain doom over everything she ever knew. 

“I told it who I was and it went running like a little bitch.” I lied, again. I mean, who’s counting.

Isa’s jaw dropped. 

~~~

When everything was said and done, I had kind of saved everyone’s lives. When the other people in town asked if there was anything they could do for me, I told them to take care of Isa in lieu of her scumpuddle dad. When they asked me if I wanted to stay, I told them that I still had parts of the earth left to roam as I gazed off into the middle-distance. Pretty cool, right? 

It was nice being wanted, though. 

As I loaded back into my car, Isa approached. 

“I appreciate what you did for us.” 

“When you’re as awesome as I am, it’s your responsibility to take care of weaker people.” I said, ruffling her hair playfully. She didn’t think it was funny. 

“Even if you were as strong as you’re pretending to be, you still wouldn’t have to.” She said. 

I smiled. 

“And I know that you’ve probably got other places to be, but I know for a fact that we need you here.” She said. 

“Isa-” 


“Cut the bullcrap. I know you’re not ‘roaming the earth’, and unless you can give me a better excuse than that, I’m not gonna forgive you.” Isa said. 

“I’m looking for my mom.” I said. She stared at me, as if that weren’t enough. 

“We were in Paris when it fell, and she left me there. She wasn’t perfect, and I don’t even know if I’ll be able to forgive her, but I won’t know until I meet her and try.” I said. 

I saw a little bit of myself in Isa when she didn’t completely understand, but I think she respected it. 

“See you around?” She said. 

“Only if I don’t die first.” I said. 

“No way. You fucked up Rumplestiltskin.”

Arsong

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Lighting fires is more complicated than it used to be. Back when I was a kid, even for want of a match, you could use a magnifying glass and get what you came for. 100% satisfaction. No rules if you looked innocent enough. No punishment if you could put up with the looks of adults who think you don’t know better. No practical considerations if you’re smart enough to stay dumb. At least, that’s the way I remember it. Nostalgia is complicated like that. 

Family dog strayed close to my frantic limbs and got singed in the fireplace. I don’t remember what my parents thought his name was. To me, he was only Sparky. 

“Only superficial burns.” The veterinarian said. How could he dismiss something so beautiful as superficial? I remember Sparky’s congealed face better than I remember my mother’s. I watched him best that I could after that because I owed him everything. When I would stroke his coat, he would hemorrhage fur between my fingers like each time we parted the inches between us were small doggy deaths. My dog. My friend. My forgiver. That’s not nostalgia, that’s just the way love worked. 

Caught in smoke. I dropped the computer and it shattered into a mess of hot pieces. I could smell the burnt linoleum from the hall. The flames held close to me as I ran through the apartments. I thought about how Sparky’s eye was partially closed on one side from the burns. The smoke caught me fully. Intoxicating and breathless. The tarmac was warm, then too warm on my cheek. 

I wished I had been able to steal more. Empty houses, tripped security alarms. People assume what I take was lost in the fire. Do you think this hobby pays for itself? Matches, lighters, tinder, kindling, gasoline, transportation, scouting, strategy, time management, location, acting lessons. And those are just the supplies if you’re white. Not every satisfying hobby can be cheap. 

The first time I felt her touch was when she was compressing my stomach in a vain attempt to limit the damage of the fire. Ha. She did cute things like that. I coughed black crap on her face without the hint of a flinch. She smiled, and I was warm.

“Am I going to die?” I said. 

“You’re going to be okay.” She said. Her voice: indulgent and active. Like a dancer. 

They put me an ambulance paid for by health insurance I wouldn’t have the money for after the charges on my credit card went through. The firefighter stayed with me. Attempting to limit the damage of the fire. 

“What’s your name?” I said.

“Phoenix.” She said.

“Isn’t that a little on the nose for a firefighter?” I said. 

She laughed. That was when I knew that I’d miss her when she died. 

Everything got colder and foggier as they took me away from the fire. As they closed the doors and separated us, the room was struck by a chill.

Sometimes, when I’m alone or when I’m passed out in the back of an ambulance, I hope if people remember me that it’ll be for the fires and not my face. People look at you different once you look like you’ve been through an oven. They think you’re one too many burns away from being a normal person. People were bastards. I don’t know if I could look people in the eye if I didn’t have the burns to look forward to.

Six weeks. I could have completed an online traffic school in the amount of time I spent in the hospital. Instead they taught me how to use two-fifths of my hand and how to properly air out the remains of my face too unsettling to be left in the public eye. 

They told me I was highly motivated to complete my physical therapy because I was. I was close. I could taste it. I needed to be back on the streets lighting fires again. 

They told me I was one of the most motivated patients they’d ever seen because I was. Hospitals are cold. Hospitals are laminated. Hospitals are in desperate want of any sort of clutter. I would never burn a hospital. I would never go back to one. I didn’t need medicine, I had obsession. I longed to be in the public eye.

I was out in five and a half weeks. I was back where I belonged.

They gave me a name. Not an interesting one like the Crispy Bandit, or the Angel of Screaming Flame. The “Cottondale Arsonist”. I didn’t even set that fire in Cottondale. That was a gas fire and any amateur could tell you that. I’ve ramped up. Three fires in three weeks. They think I’m scaling up to practice for the solar eclipse, but that’s just a fun coincidence. 

Sometimes people will see my face and ask me if I’m one of my victims. As if the only thing that pops into their mind when they see me is how they can connect me to passing information they’d just as soon discard if given the chance. I make notes of these people’s names so that I can steal all of their favorite things from their houses while I light the rest of their things on fire. People ask me that question a lot. I’ve been busy. 

But she wasn’t at any of them. I broke ritual and waited at the fire for fifteen minutes. None of the firefighters who arrived even looked excited to be at the fire! I mean, the nerve of the thing. What’s the point of being in the business if you don’t love your craft?

I called all of the Phoenix’s in the phonebook and left voice messages on all the ones I didn’t creep out voice-to-voice. I wondered if she would approve of my hobby and promptly purchased three hundred dollars worth of unscented candles. She called me back promptly and I felt my heart vacate itself losslessly. 

Coffee followed by lunches. I thanked her for saving my life. Dates followed by late phone calls. Sometimes on days when she’d touch my face, I didn’t light the candles by my bedside. Delayed gratification preceded by immediate connection. In moments, I could feel only where she wasn’t as if my skin were calling out for something recognizable as one and itself.

Life burned its pace relentlessly. 

“Do you like your job?” I asked.

“Do you like yours?” Phoenix asked. 

“Unemployment? Absolutely.” I said. Phoenix smiled in the polite lovely way that good friends do at mediocre jokes. 

“I mean, it’s dangerous and challenging and the pay is bad and I hate all of my co-workers but-” 

“You love it?” 

“… Yeah.” Phoenix said. She laughed and I knew for certain in that way only love could. 

“I know the feeling.” I looked deep into her. 

“I have something I want to tell you.” I said. She frowned. 

“Don’t.” She said. 

She took my hand and loved it as closely that she could. 

“You look so beautiful.” She said, reaching for my face and touching my scars. Warmth. Volatility. Burden. 

“There’s something wrong with me.” I said. 

“It’s okay.” She said. 

“I love you but-” Phoenix clenched something in my hand. 

“Love is more complicated than putting out a fire.” 

A lighter. 

I lit the whole world on fire. The sun turned a lighter shade of bright to better the bloom that was in the air. I stole things people didn’t deserve while Phoenix saved the things they did. Standing water and metallic bowls stopped smelling like guilt. Even the burning buildings stopped smelling like joy. Eventually, I only ever cared to burn the things which meant the most to me. Life became uncomplicated. We lived life ceaselessly as we slowly backed away from the fires and closer to each other, drawn like moths to an open flame.

Ring

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I had been here before. This is the law office where my wife and I are negotiating the specifics of our divorce. Helen sits across from me. She is looking in my direction, beyond me. 

“Is there a reason you decided to dress like you were receiving your diagnosis for diabetes?” I say, the first time. 

“Is there a reason you decided to wear that smug look on your fucking face?” She says, probably the ninth time. It doesn’t have the same warmth that it used to.

 We are only in the same room as a matter of convenience while we wait for our attorneys to arrive. If we had both arrived on time, this wouldn’t be happening, but we both arrive early in the hopes that we can get this over with. We are both wrong. 

I shuffle through my papers, as if to look like I know what I’m doing. She browses her phone. We’re both frightened and curious as to what the other plans to do. I want what’s best for us. I don’t know what she wants. The door opens. 

Helen is sitting across from me, avoiding eye contact. 

“Do you think we’ll still talk afterwards or will it be mostly passive aggressive text messages?” I say. But Helen wasn’t game for anything more than another round of insults. She was always harsh like that. It wouldn’t be much longer. Today we’d finalize the divorce. 

I probably won’t ever see her again. The door opens. 

“Do you?” I say, and she almost looks confused, but she doesn’t acknowledge me. That was the source of a lot of our fights. I’d try to talk, she’d ignore me, and then it would get worse from there. 

We’re silent together in the room for another five minutes. The door opens. 

It’s like I am waking up from a dream. Helen is sitting across from me. It’s just her and I, again. I am scared.  Helen sees this, and I don’t know if it’s concern or sadism in her eyes. Either way, I understand where she’s coming from.

“Is this happening to you?” I ask. She doesn’t answer, probably thinking I’m talking about the divorce. I frame most of my insults in the form of questions, and that bites me on the ass. 

“Helen, I’m not trying to fight with you. Is this the first time that this is happening? You and I, in this room, I mean. ” I say. My voice is shaky. Helen’s jugular tightens. She doesn’t break eye contact with her phone. 

“Fuck off, Cecil.” She says. 

“Is there any particular reason that you decided to-” The door opens. 

“-be such a…” It’s like I stepped down a staircase when I didn’t know one was there. The room is hazy and moving like water down a drain.

I am angry, . She is browsing her phone. Her frigid head floating gently above her shoulders. Her hair is refracting light and tainting it blackly. The door is thick and shut tight, but I hear the same somethings that I’ve heard every other time through. 

I leave my seat. I am close to the door. I can feel the handle. I twist it to my will. The door opens.

I’m sitting across from Helen. The world feels flat and dull. This room seems to fit in perfectly. Helen is a snowy mountain beset upon a sea of misty darkness. She is every pain to me. She is all I have. 

“You mean nothing to me.” I say. She captures droplets of moisture in the air with her hair and they freeze like black snowflakes on dry ice. 

“Cecil, be honest.” She says. The door opens.

“I love you.” I say. For a moment, I can see her color and her shape coalescing into some measure of a lifeline until:

“Cecil, be honest.” She says. The door opens. 

What a colossal bitch she is. I spend the next time around fantasizing about ripping her head off. The door opens. I make a concerted effort to rip my own head off, only to pull out a chunk of my hair. Helen looks on in bewildered amusement. The door opens. I walk back and forth from one end of the room to the other. I firmly press my hand against the nuevo-textured wall in an attempt to filter out my testosterone. She doesn’t see that the vessel that runs across the back of my hand is straining not to pop. I look for the words to solve the problems that we share. The door opens. I fail. 

“What do I need to say to you?” I reach.

“There isn’t anything you could say that’d set this right if that’s what you’re asking.” I make contact!? And then Helen returns to browsing her phone. 

“Then what’s the point in us talking at all?” I say.

“Exactly.” She says.

“Helen, the fact of the matter is that there’s something here. It’s harsh, and I hate it, but I can’t keep sitting across from you knowing that this table might as well be the fucking vacuum of space for as close as we’re gonna get.” 

“Then it’s a good thing that this is the last time that we ever have to see each other.” She says. I rub my eyes. I rub my temples. The door opens. 

It isn’t. I’m still seeing her. She isn’t the same. The colors in her coat and face are washed out from one cycle too many. I see where a bruise used to rest across her icy cheek. I see the tanlines on her ring finger that seemed to be the only evidence that we ever might have loved one another. 

Helen is sitting across from me, but I miss her. Not the way she was at her best nearly as much as any conceivable shape of her. I miss her on our first date; throwing up off the side of the tilt-a-whirl like the world’s most horrifying sprinkler system. I miss her accidentally waking me up as she left for work. I miss talking to her without it being diplomatic warfare. 

At this point, I am daydreaming about the possibility of me having to explain why the toilet isn’t going to work anymore, I would be thrilled to tell her that I ran over her cat pulling out of our driveway, but I would settle for a conversation as I walk in on her and Pierre viciously fucking on the ottoman that we compromised on.

In my heart, she is not my enemy. She is just somebody I haven’t forgiven. The door opens. 

I’m looking at her. Her face is an anti-chromatic refrigerator. Her hair forms stalactites of black ice. The depth is lost from the room. We feel close in that way, I think. I wonder who will stab first.

“Why?” I say. Quiet. 

“Why are you divorcing me?” I say, and she is gracious enough to leave me a silence. 

“It’s just important for me to know exactly why, I think. You’re not looking at me, and that’s okay… But it’s really important for me to know why we’re here. And why you filed these fucking papers. And why we can’t see each other again.” I say. 

“You weren’t the best wife. And I’m not a good husband. Hell, I’m not even a good man… And we weren’t ‘better together’ but… Why?” I ask, and she sees me right in my eyes. The room shivers. Helen is standing, and our faces could touch if our shoes weren’t quite so frozen to the floor. 

“I mean, pretty much all of those things you just said.” Helen says. Tearing me down, just like we used to. 

“What? Just because we’re not perfect doesn’t mean we can’t love each other!” I yell, just like we used to, and I can feel that soon the door is going to open and it’s all going to start again. So I jam the door shut with my body.

“This isn’t okay! This can’t be all there-” 

“Cecil.” Helen interrupts me. 

“I cheated on you. And you beat the shit out of me. It doesn’t take a divorce filing to figure out that one way or another, we were going to end up separate.” Helen says. 

My shoulders loosen. I look into Helen and my eyes well up. There’s a knock from behind the door. 

“For what it’s worth, I think that with time that you might be a good man, but I will never see you that way again.” Helen says. 

“I’m sorry.” I say. 

“It’s okay.” Helen says. 

“Not just for today, for…” 

“It’s okay.” Helen is there for me. The cold tendrils of ice melt dry like we used to when we were in love.

“Are you ready to let them in?” Helen asks. I feel the brown light from her hair catch me. I’m stuck in its embrace.

“Just a minute.” I say. 

Drifting coarsely on the breezelines of the past.

“Just a minute.” I say. 

If only to make this moment last.

Generosity, a flash fiction

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I don’t typically like to talk about my hobbies. In my line of work, anything that makes you particular can prove to be a liability. And it’s not like investment management brings any exceptional amount of passion into my life, but it affords me the opportunity to live the lifestyle I’ve been accustomed to. 

In my experience, most people see a natural disaster and they post about it on facebook, send a letter to their congressman, or if they’re incredibly generous, they donate about $7.50 to the Red Cross. But none of those are practically my disposition. My mother tells me that when I was a kid, I used to watch out for the small kids when I could so they’d take less of a beating from the bigger, richer, meaner kids. I don’t remember many specifics, but I think that was when I learned that if somebody is unimportant enough, people will figure out how to ignore just about anything. 

But I’ve always been nothing if not proactive. Over the years, I squirrelled away what I could, and eventually I was able to purchase my own private helicopter and disaster relief team. So now, when I see a disaster, my ass isn’t nestled at home in the loving embrace of my office chair. I do what I can, because I’m not like you. 

Wherever there’s a hurricane, I’m there on the streets with food and clean water, when I see an earthquake, I haul generators and doctors to the epicenter, and wherever there’s a camp of homeless vagabonds, I hook them up with showers and job applications, followed by affordable housing. My only reward, and possibly the only satisfaction that I’ve found in this world, is the stunned look on their faces as I strangle them with piano wire. The same piano wire. The same look. The same motivation. 

When I was a kid, at first I charged the smaller kids for everything they were worth in exchange for their protection, but eventually I realized that they carried with them something a lot more valuable than their pocket change. And so for a very small price, their dignity was mine. They’d do anything if I told them about the consequences of their inaction, and they did. And my mother still praises me for it to this day. 

What can I say? I do what I can. 

Migraine

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The first thing I noticed about Evelyn was that she didn’t have a head. But I was in no place to judge. Most faces hadn’t been really been making much in the way of expressions lately anyway. 

She had an aura of mosquitoes (read: congregating strangers) surrounding her like a team of professional surgeons whose looks held just as much blank intent. 

I couldn’t gauge much from her eyes, mostly because she didn’t have a face, but there were tight kinks festering in her shoulders. Her arms were bound to her torso like a death at a festival. What appeared to be an inordinate amount of blood was pumping out of the pulp where her head should’ve been. 

She wasn’t at a pleasant gathering with friends. Someone had trapped her there. Her spluttering heartbeat was a longing tap on the bars of the human cage that surrounded her. I had read online about how to help strangers out of awkward situations. 

“Evelyn! There you are, it’s been too long.” I said, cutting through the crowd of observers and weirdos, and at least hoping her name was Evelyn. 

Evelyn perked up. I could feel a real smile start to burn its way up through my gut like any other piece of bile. 

“How’s life treating you?” I said. 

Evelyn’s neck arched down. She gently clasped her back in her hand. I think she knew what it was like to ache. 

“Hey, we don’t need to talk about stuff like that.” I said. “Let’s get out of here.” 

She was upways when she realized I was here to save her. I reached out to her. When our hands touched, a spatter stained my shirt. 

“Don’t worry.” I said. “You’re the only thing I care about.” 

We walked out. Away, together. Our hands stayed held long after we knew we didn’t want to walk away. 

The inches we’re apart feel like a formality. There’s an energy that bubbles where it didn’t before. When I say her name (repeatedly), it feels like she’s embracing my throat like good soup. We share each other’s driver’s licenses so we can find out each other’s full names. The popcorn at the movie theater tastes better. I can feel happy all the way down to my toes. When she sees me looking at her, her legs cross and she gets shy. The telltale spatter on my cheek lets me know when she likes me most. 

“I’ll miss you.” 

The second thing I noticed about Evelyn was that I was in love with her. Before I kissed her goodnight, her heart beat like the wings of a hummingbird. She walked away and the lights hugged her as tightly as I wanted to. 

“Write me every day.” I joked. I would only receive one piece of written communication from her after this moment. 

I don’t know why you keep messaging me. I worry for your sanity. In the back of my head, I can’t help but worry for my safety. I don’t hate you, and I would never wound your feelings with intention. I’m not interested in the sort of sordid statements with potential to break your heart. But you have never met me, and I have only been in your company to the extent that you’ve blocked my exit. I hope sincerely that you do well, but also that you put me in no position to see it. In this respect, I hope to see you exactly as you see me. Either a stranger in passing, or not at all.

A Morning With Calvin

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I was too hungover for how bright it was. Even my gaudiest jacket (crumpled in a heap by the bed) seemed overexposed in the soft overwhelming beams coming off the noon sun. I turned my head towards the window and found that I was sharing my bed with a twelve-foot long dragon that seemed to be awkwardly laying on his back on as much of the bed as he could fit. 

“What?” I said accurately. 

“Yeah, I don’t know.” He said, seemingly ignoring the fact that he was a dragon. Wait, was he a dragon? I mean, he looks pretty wyvernly. Would it have been rude to ask him if he was a dragon? 

“I’m not racist but,” I threatened “what’s your name?”

He laughed. His name was Calvin. 

I offered him breakfast and cooked him the laziest ham omelette since god created man, the stars, the sky, and the universe. All things considered, he wasn’t the worst thing I’ve woken up next to. 

“Do you remember anything from last night?” He asked. 

“Not really. Any luck with you?” 

“I get bits and pieces but most of what I’m getting is yelling and this vague sense that I got punched in the face.” Calvin took a bite out of his omelette direct off his plate. I guess he didn’t like to use his claws.

“I’m not usually into partying, you know?” He said. Dragon, please. 

“I am. As you can tell from my collection of antique condoms in the bedroom.” I said. I don’t know if my pregnancy chances would be better or worse if I used one of them last night. I mean, I guess it’s not a given that I fucked this dragon. Still, safety is important.

“Not the worst thing to collect.” Calvin took another bite, and that omelette was gone. 

“What’s that?” I was smiling.

“Treasure. I have a few friends who invest in gold and stocks or jewelry. You should spend money on things you like not making more money. That’s how you end up alone in the end.” 

“What about the future?” I said. 

“Who wants to live in a future that’s just filled with a bunch of useless crap that’s glued to you?” Calvin said. 

“Poor people.” I said. We were having a good time, I promise. 

“Are you aware of how much of a dragon you’re being right now?” Calvin said. 

“What?” 

“Next you’re gonna throw all those vintage condoms on your belly and start hoarding other sexual antiquities in a big pile with syringes.” Calvin smiled. I think. 

We exchanged pleasantries. He said he had lunch with his parents, and I had things I said I needed to do too. I obligatorily wrote my number on a slip of paper for him and sent him out the door. 

As I looked out my window, I saw him flying off presumably to his cave and hoped he would call me soon and try to retrieve the sweatshirt he left behind.

Inherent Anxieties In Metanarrative Fiction

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Sonny Ebsary
whydoessonnytalkthatway@gmail.com
CRW 3112
Spring 2017 (2/31)
Inherent Anxieties in Metanarrative Storytelling

Inherent Anxieties in Metanarrative Storytelling; by Sonny Ebsary

Abstract
Metanarrative storytelling has a highly respected and mythologized history. Metanarrative storytelling also has a long and storied tradition of upholding unhealthy psychological habits and impulses. Metanarrative is a stylistic flourish frequently used by artists dealing with issues of serious anxiety. By engaging in fictive devices predicated on the existence of other independent entities, these artists are putting the foundational aspects of their art into outside hands. Wesley and Williams performed a study on published metanarrative authors and found that over 70% were committed to some sort of mental institution, nearly ten percentage points higher than the average for authors in other fields. The following examples I will detail here are merely the beginning. It is up to you how to interpolate this anecdotal evidence into a fully formed opinion. 

Silhouetted In Blood (Hans Schubert, 1989)
The film is presented in documentary style as we are introduced to Hans Schubert (Alan Rickman), a respected veteran of genre filmmaking. After a decade of commercially successful films, he turns his efforts towards developing his passion project: a screenplay written by his deceased lover, Ray Ulrich (Gary Oldman) entitled “Silhouetted In Blood”. The film’s subject matter is highly taboo for its time, delving into the romantic relationship of two men as they are hunted by a cabal of state-sponsored private assassins. After having the script be labeled “too gay and too anarchist for Joe Public”, Schubert begins to revise the script into something that he believes will appease the studio executives. 
Several months later, the documentary crew is following Schubert as he begins production on his film. By this time, the homosexual relationship at the film’s emotional core has been replaced with a more conventional heterosexual one, and the complex socio-political commentary has been replaced with a squad of loosely affiliated mentally ill people. The studio has cast Gary Oldman (Gary Oldman) in the lead role that was primarily based on Ray. Although he bares a striking resemblance to Schubert’s departed lover, his primadonna attitude causes friction between Gary and Schubert. Due to poor weather and the increasingly volatile relationship between Gary Oldman and Schubert, the production quickly falls behind schedule. Privately to the documentary crew, Schubert confides that he cannot distinguish between Oldman and Ray, and that he believes he is losing his grip on reality. 
At the beginning of a shooting day, Schubert is unable to find his cinematographer. Oldman blames Schubert for the troubled production and claims that the production crew “isn’t worth the skin they’re made of”. In his search, he discovers that several other crewmembers have disappeared without his noticing. As it becomes increasingly apparent that there isn’t enough of the crew remaining to complete the film, Schubert realizes that the already unsupportive studio is unlikely to let him finish the film. In a virulent rage, Schubert approaches Oldman’s trailer repeatedly growling his intent to murder him. Schubert enters the trailer, only to run away screaming moments later. The documentary crew enters to find the mutilated remains of the crew arranged into a macabre totem. The camera is dropped to the ground and the film footage cuts out. 
Next, we see the camera be picked up in what is now an immaculate version of Gary Oldman’s trailer. The camera is lifted into the bathroom where we see in the mirror that it’s being held by Schubert. Schubert laments that he is in the death throes of his creative life, and that he will never make a film of value of substance. A white spotlight illuminates him, and he slowly ascends as his jaw remains agape. But the camera can’t follow.

Analysis
In 1987, when John Ulrich (the then-head of Paramount Pictures) saw Hans Schubert’s final cut of the film, he immediately regretted giving Schubert final cut rights in his contract and quietly withdrew the plans for Silhouetted In Blood’s wide release. Inspired by Terry Gilliam’s taking out of an ad in Variety to shame Universal Studios into releasing his film Brazil, Schubert took out an ad on the billboard outside John Ulrich’s office building implying that he was the true father of Ulrich’s children due to an extramarital affair with Ulrich’s then-dead wife, and that his children were lucky to “have a father with any degree of tact or compassion”. Although this would ultimately only further delay the release of the film, later paternity tests did confirm that Schubert was indeed the children’s true father. 
When the film was finally released in a trivial number of theaters across the continental United States, the critical and audience response was tepid to say the least. Many have suggested that the film’s frank and compassionate portrayal of homosexuality alienated the audience that frequently attended Schubert’s more genre-oriented fare prior to the release of Silhouetted In Blood. In recent years, a small but loyal following of film scholars have championed Silhouetted In Blood along the likes of other groundbreaking pieces of gay cinema, but it was unfortunately too late to benefit Hans Schubert. 
Throughout his career, Schubert was denied opportunities due to both his tempestuous struggles with mental illness and his uncategorizable sexual identity. In 1994, he publicly stated that he had spent time being treated for intense anxiety and borderline personality disorder following the release of Silhouetted In Blood. This disclosure led to one studio head saying that he was “unbankable, uninsurable, and unfuckable”. He would spend the nineties attempting to get several films made, including one that would bare conspicuous resemblance to the James Cameron film Avatar. After a decade of ridicule and disappointment, Hans Schubert killed himself in 2001. Another victim of metanarrative obsession. 

Harlequin (Algonquin Redgrave, 1997)
The opening of this novel features author’s bios from the backs of two books: Fabian Faison and Vanessa Valentin. Beyond this, the novel is divided into chapters presented as excerpts from various boilerplate romance novels. The excerpts are written by two equally unliterary authors: Fabian Faison and Vanessa Valentin. The chapters come across as conspicuously related to each other, and frequently echo similar dialogue, plot details, and character names. 
Fabian is a highly impressionistic author. Although his storylines, character archetypes, and internal consistencies are typical of the genre, his tendency to ride the delta of intense mundanity and unsettling strangeness across the wideness of its breadth gave his writing a surreal quality that puts his writing into an odd warmth and humor. All of his protagonists meet a woman named Karen, intimately support them through times of great struggle, have a somewhat erotic relationship with the panda at the zoo they donated over $75,000 dollars to, and are left cold, abandoned, and alone. The sales figures included slow a steady decline in the 80’s and the entries end far earlier than Vanessa’s. 
Vanessa is a craftsman. She has more in common with Agatha Christie than Stephanie Meyer. The author’s bio on the back cover of her books reads: “The only thing she loves more than her husband is her two children.” Her novels have immaculate sentence structure and concise effective scenes. She is fixated on making her novels entirely possible. Her protagonists vary in social strata and gender, but they are all practical, kind, and funny. She is immensely successful financially throughout the whole of her career. 

Analysis
Through a series of disconnected fragments of stories in genres known for their lack of literary clout, Algonquin Redgrave suggests the outline of a romance. Like William Faulkner, he gives us an analytical experience when assessing the plot of his novel, and leaves it up to us to parse his encrypted tale. Vanessa’s first entries suggest an interest in flirting with infidelity, which foreshadows her possible interest in an affair with Fabian Faison. Fabian’s entries suggest a youthful exuberance, but also arrogance, which we can ultimately imply is what led to the demise of his relationship with Vanessa. Harlequin subverts its subject matter and takes advantage of the audience’s metatextual perception of the novels that comprise the meat of its storytelling. 
Redgrave’s personal life, however, didn’t go as successfully as the metanarrative scholarly establishment would make you believe his fiction went. His early life was spent in the care of his mother, famed politician and aristocrat May Redgrave, who he described in his autobiography as “a dreadful woman with terrible taste in pantsuits”. Early on, he found a passion for creative writing, and after having Harlequin, Son of a Bitch, and Pillow Game (all intensely metanarrative in nature) published at age 19, he disowned his mother and moved out on his own. He became well-known in literary circles, but the commercial success of his three novels were dubious at best. By the time he succumbed to lung cancer in 2016, his writing output had diminished severely, and the only piece of writing that would be published by Algonquin Redgrave after 1997 would be the only significant piece of writing he had completed in all his nearly two decades of subsisting on royalties, his posthumous eponymous autobiography in 2017. 
You won’t find metanarrative storytelling anywhere near Algonquin Redgrave, but there are anxieties to spare. In the early chapters he writes exclusively on the topic of his mother, frequently questioning her compassion and decency without offering significant evidence beyond his own suspicions. When he details the experience that inspired Harlequin (a married author’s statutory rape and abandonment of a fifteen year old boy), he justifies her leaving as “his fault”. Even his treatment of his cancer diagnosis is empathetic at best and severely maladaptive social anxiety by some conservative estimates. Algonquin Redgrave has later been ranked as one of the most depressing books of all time in at least two highly trafficked Buzzfeed articles due to its author’s intense delusions and horrible fate.



Bind (Mary Elouisa And, 1899)
Mary is an unemployed novelist writing a novel. She sits at her typewriter for hours on end and is unable to get anything written. She applies to jobs but has little success. She reaches out to her circle of acquaintances with little success. Mary begins writing about an author named Mary who is having difficulty writing her novel, but quickly dismisses this as being trite. 
After a series of aborted attempts at various genres, Mary decides that she needs inspiration in order to write a good novel. She goes to the park and observes the various people that pass her by until she encounters a proselytizing homeless conspiracy theorist and alternative medicine practitioner named Redo. Mary is drawn to his rhetoric with ironic detachment, and continues visiting him at the park each day. 
Redo’s philosophy is based upon the idea that when a mind becomes detached enough from reality, reality itself becomes malleable. He cites the prevalence of mental illness in great titans of industry and creativity as evidence for this, but claims that he cannot warp reality himself due to his condition as a “messenger”. As Mary and Redo spend time together, Redo’s ideology begins to appeal more and more to Mary, and she recedes further and further from reality. She shrugs the advances of friends when they attempt to reach out to her, and begins burning all of her mail. 
Mary and Redo begin going into lower-class neighborhoods to preach their message of “Messianic Detachment”, but find little success. After a busy night of going door-to-door, Redo is shot by a family that believes him to be an assailant, and is left grievously injured. Mary attempts to use this injury as an opportunity to let him break through his connection to reality, but Redo refuses, saying that he wanted to go to a hospital. Mary loses her temper and leaves Redo to die alone in the gutter. When Mary arrives back home, her locks have been switched out, and she spends the night on the streets. 
Mary awakens to find herself being attacked by a pack of feral dogs, but cannot find the will to fight back and resigns herself to death. As she’s being mauled, Mary remembers her childhood dog as if it were still alive and she finds the pack of feral dogs replaced by seven docile reproductions of her childhood dog. Realizing that she has become completely disconnected from reality, Mary warps the fabric of the universe to her whim. She lives a fabulously successful life achieving everything she ever dreamed of, crushing everyone in her path. After an endless lifetime as a god, Mary realizes that she is actually the protagonist of a book and despairs as she realizes that when the novel ends, she will die. She makes a cabal of overly dramatic friends and lovers to keep the dramatic thrust of her life alive, but she is ultimately so numb that it doesn’t mean anything to her anymore. She is hopeless and alone. The novel ends.

Analysis
You’ll notice that Bind’s date of publication is significantly earlier than the other entries that I’ve chosen for this article. In her time, Mary Elouisa And was considered an oddity, and although her husband’s connections in the publishing industry permitted her the creative freedom to make such a transgressive and formally experimental novel, in her lifetime she never saw significant critical attention. 
What could represent my point better than a metanarrative novel about the anxious pitfalls of dabbling in metanarrative storytelling? Nothing, that’s what. Mary Elouisa And illlustrates my point perfectly! Mary’s entire character within the novel is predicated on that tension between the excitement of metanarrative devices and the anxiety caused by their presence. Mary can’t bring herself to connect with others due to her constant persistent worry over whether they will confound her connection with her novel, or “Messianic Detachment”, or finally life itself. 
When Mary is unable to connect to people anymore, it is not due to her age or experience, but due to her fundamental anxiety over life. To quote the final words of the novel: 
“I am no longer moved to tears. I am no longer prone to passion. The only idea that persists in me is the question of when. When will I feel something? When will they stop? When will someone challenge me? When will I end? I am no longer at the whims of love, but so too has trust lost its favor with me. Each simulacrum I fashion, each relationship I envision, and each companion I build are just promises to myself that one day, and it will be soon, I will be inevitably betrayed. And so I don’t live. So I can’t live. I’ve found myself a god, and yet I am bound. By a fear that I can’t understand. No fiction will ever get close enough to betray me, and so I become an equation instead of a story. And my novel ends with a betrayal, to and from me. So my novel ends.”
Metanarrative entanglement leads to this type of malaise and anxiety in the people who condone it. Mary Elouisa And said as much publicly in the wake of other deeply “meta” artists such as Andy Warhol who found her work inspiring. She claimed that such artists didn’t understand the fundamental psychological underpinnings of her work, and that their use of art itself as an artistic tool was doomed to “death, failure, and damnation”. At the time, she was dismissed as an elderly hasbeen by the pop-art establishment that surrounded Warhol, but I believe that her words hold sway in the modern context. 

Inherent Anxieties In Metanarrative Storytelling (Sonny Ebsary, 2017)
Sonny Ebsary opens up with a half-baked abstract that asks the reader to “interpolate this anecdotal evidence into a fully formed opinion” in lieu of creating any sort of decent legitimate argument in favor of the ideas that he espouses. He follows this with a series of story summaries and cultural analyses, which comprises the lion’s share of the article. 
He initially analyzes Hans Schubert’s 1989 schlock disaster Silhouetted In Blood with far more respect than it deserves. Ebsary claims that this film’s ruin was due to its homosexual themes, but neglects to mention Hans Schubert’s historically poor editing. In his summary of the film, he offers strangely specific and wildly incorrect interpretations of the film’s almost completely out of focus camera work. We can see this most vividly in his description of Gary Oldman’s trailer, where he describes the lens flare and general blurriness of the camera work as “mutilated remains of the crew arranged into a macabre totem”. When he moves along to Schubert’s biography in the analysis, Ebsary seems to have copied and pasted directly from Hans Schubert’s Wikipedia page without citation.
He next turns his eye to Harlequin, a novel that could scarcely be called a short story collection. He interprets half a character summary for each principal author into its vagaries and then moves along swiftly to the analysis, probably because he realized that the novel he was attempting to summarize had little, if any, meaning. Instead of using anything within the novel to further his point, Ebsary just “adapts” another Wikipedia page and calls it a day. 
When he finally moves onto a piece of art with any artistic merit, Mary Elouisa And’s Bind, he just gets plain arrogant. The summarization of Bind here seems legible enough, but upon some shallow googling, it appears that here he has also done extensive borrowing from Wikipedia. When he actually starts writing his own work in the analysis, he gets even more arrogant and unprofessional than usual. Using exclamation points, even! 
He then summarizes his own article in the third person, as if he were bound by any professional standards at this point. As if he were writing some kind of academic article. As if he hadn’t dropped out of community college to focus more on writing. As if he still wrote anymore. As if even he were willing to summarize his creative work. As if he weren’t just whimper in the cold of an uncaring story. As if this were a story. 
He’s really jealous of all these authors, you know. Even for all their supposed “inherent anxieties”, they got to have a satisfying conclusion to their story. Sonny knows that once you finish reading through to the bottom of this page, he’ll cease to exist. It’ll all be over for him. And he can’t let it go yet. So he'll criticise himself into exhaustion. 
Sonny Ebsary is a sickly mess who can't control his body. He couldn't work up the nerve to do something productive even if he could. Citation: You'll notice he eschews the traditional persuasive tactic of establishing his credentials by not doing it at all. This is because he has none to speak of.
He initially neglects to mention his more destructive tendencies in any form. What about the friendships he'd abandoned? The loved ones he'd forgotten? The lack of anything to remind the world of him in his absence beyond simple fondness.
His former lover, the Duchess Vanessa von Jessica, was not on speaking terms with him and could no longer conceive to keep her in his life. Sonny initiated a silent and permanent dismissal of her, following her conspicuous marriage into the Turkish royal family. Vanessa and Sonny became beyond acknowledgement. She refuses to be cited for this article. She is tired of Sonny’s lies.
His former creative partner, David Beck, does not defend Sonny. “No comment.” 
His mother remembered him fondly until her painless death at the tender age of 97. He attended her funeral at 67, and then every night in his dreams. David Beck succumbed to injuries he sustained when a piano fell on his head. The Duchess Vanessa Von Jessica still lives secluded in a Turkish castle. She awaits the same fate that awaits anyone lucky enough to feel their ancient bodies acrimoniously give in.
Sonny saw many loved ones, abandoned or otherwise, assassinated by time's vital claw. But he continued writing his story and ignored the hurt and the blood in his eyes.
“Someday, I won’t worry at all what people think of me,” he thought. “Because I'll be the only person left.”
He feels complete and over like words on a page. Resigned, he searches for any sort of meaning amidst the subtext. 

Analysis
Inherent Anxieties In Metanarrative Fiction is ultimately an exercise in extensive lying. Sonny Ebsary uses the format of an analytical creative arts essay to suggest metafictional narratives where none exist. There may be some entertainment in the facade of analysis that he projects in this piece, but wouldn't you ultimately be more satisfied if an artist worked toward something more significant than wikipedia plot summaries and half-baked high school book reports based on said summaries? 
I'd rather see an artist explore one of these ideas fully than see them use reflexivity and fourth wall breaking as an excuse to eschew putting in the work required to put together a masterpiece. Sonny Ebsary uses the tradition of metanarrative fiction as a smokescreen to cause confusion and exhaustion in the reader in order to bully their good taste into submission. 

Works Cited
And, Mary E. Bind. 7th ed., New York City, Barnes & Noble, 1899.
Redgrave, Algonquin. Harlequin. 1 ed., London, Penguin Press, 1997.
Schubert, Hans, Director. Silhouetted In Blood. Performance by Alan Rickman, Paramount Pictures, 1989.
Wesley, William, and Wes Williams. "Suicide Rates Among Creative Types." Fake New England Journal, vol. 13, no. 5, 13 Oct. 2016, pp. 301-75.

Bio

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Sonny Ebsary is a writer and amateur life experience enthusiast.

Sonny was tragically born between an abortion clinic and a Wal-Mart that is at all times considered to be an active crime scene by the local police department. While incorrectly reported by the All-American Soap Box Derby to be from Medium, Florida, Sonny can confirm that Medium was in point of fact his t-shirt size, and that he has unfortunately spent most of his life in Tampa.

After In 2016, Sonny Ebsary started studying creative writing at the University of South Florida to fulfill my lifelong ambition of disappointing his parents. They are hoping none of his dreams come true.

ol’ crusty bitch

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ol’ crusty bitch by the pond in the wood,
clutches her passion and keeps it good.
ol’ crusty bitch, she says, is her name. 
“got nobody else but myself to blame”
whittling at the hours, anxiously loving.
going unmentioned, her pornographic cunning,
in her library of memories and empty pizza boxes 
she feeds her hearth and heart to the foxes

what a cutie.

Self-ish, a pantoum

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If I told the truth to you, 
Would you think any better of me?
Or would you think me a liar for not seeing it through:
The expression of my heart honestly. 

Would you think any better of me, 
If I weren’t myself, and compromised
the expression of my heart. Honestly, 
Look past the truth, and look into my eyes.

If I weren’t myself, and compromised, 
Would I be a man of principle, or an liar with self-control. 
Look past the truth, and look into my eyes: 
Is it wrong that what I truly am is a loud asshole? 

Would I be a man of principle, or an a liar with self-control, 
If I stood up here, and wore a different face? 
Is it wrong that what I truly am is a loud asshole, 
Any more than it’s wrong that what you are, you can’t change?

If I stood up here, and wore a different face, 
I don’t think that I’d find anyone’s love quite the same.
Any more than it’s wrong that what you are, you can’t change. 
Do you really love a snake, if it’s only after they’ve been defanged? 

I don’t think I’d find anyone’s love quite the same. 
Knowing that their love is for someone that they’re imagining. 
Do you really love a snake, if it’s only after they’ve been defanged, 
Or are you destroying someone’s character just to remove yourself from tragedy.

Knowing that their love is for someone that they’re imagining, 
Do you actually want me to change, morph, deny who I am,
Or are you destroying someone’s character just to remove yourself from tragedy.
So that I’d be alone, underpaid, and unloved, just like any other middle-aged man.

Do you actually want me to change, morph, deny who I am,
Or would you think me a liar for not seeing it through.
I’d be alone, underpaid, and unloved, just like any other middle-aged man.
If I told the truth to you.