i know, like everyone else
that the present isn’t the past
but yesterday’s dream just came true;
so do i follow my instincts and trust you
or do i wait for someone else to appear?
it it cruel or is it frank
to tell you, point blank
that i don’t feel how i did?
makes your emotions for me
look a bit inappropriate.
I heard a ghost story recently. It went something like this:
There was a little boy, called Tim, who was 12 years old. His parents got an emergency call at 10pm one night, and had to go to sort things out.
They put him to bed before they went, and told him that the dog was under his bed, so if he woke up in the night and they weren’t around, he could put his hand under the bed and the dog would lick it, so he’d know that he was safe.
He woke up around 2am, feeling scared, and put his hand under the bed. He felt a tongue licking it, so he went back to sleep, feeling reassured.
He woke up again not long after, and the same happened. He fell asleep pretty easily the second time.
Then he woke at 5am. His parents weren’t in yet and it was stormy outside, and the lightning was flashing in through a gap in the curtains. He put his hand under the bed, felt the lick, and then felt brave enough to get up and close the curtains fully. When he got there, he took a quick peek outside, and saw his dog strung up on the washing line, with writing on the outside of his window saying “Not only dogs have tongues.”
Obviously, there’s a lot in the delivery (which is why this story has no effect whatsoever when written down). However, deconstructing it gives some insights into what makes a ghost story good.
First, there needs to be some inventiveness on the part of the storyteller to provide enough detail to conjure up some emotion towards the characters. My two sentences set the scene, but was it spoken, you’d expect it to be more informal and take a little more time over it.
Secondly, there’s the setting up and foiling of the expectation/suspense. When I heard this story, after the first mention of “hand under bed”, a friend assumed (outspokenly) that the dog was going to bite his hand off. The listener knows, from the outset, that with two characters and one bed, not much can happen. Thus, to make a good story, you have to counter the expectation by doing the unexpected.
Thirdly, there’s the rule of three. Things happen in threes in a lot of stories, but in most of the ghost stories I’ve been told, there are two non-events linking to the final event. Ideally the two non-events bear some relation to the final event, but not enough to give it away.
Fourthly, there’s the element of horror. Something dramatic needs to be depicted to make a final impact, hopefully something graphic, involving blood, or veins, or something.
The final rule is to leave the listener with uncertainty as to what happens. This attacks one’s sense of security. In this story, the final event leaves us unsure as to what is underneath the bed, and it even makes us unsure of what had happened earlier in the story. It’s pulling the rug from under us, and is the clever bit.
it’s too hot to write. the temperature is 33 C (91 F) and in England, we normally don’t have airconed houses. for some people, this might be fine, but we’re not really used to it over here. that’s what you get for global warming though.
now i’ve kick-started this post by talking about the weather (smalltalk rule #1), I present you with some collective nouns, which i guarantee you’ll read and use every day for the rest of your life. if you have some, don’t hesistate to add them in the comments. this could even become the world’s number one resource for unusual collective nouns! (highly unlikely, but we must be optimistic.)
a salad of vegetarians
a walk of pedestrians
a drum of percussionists
a shine of streelights
a shade of curtains
a fall of leaves
draw a simple white line
between the black and the grey.
draw a watertight box
and file me away.
— everyone’s said this once, about how easy it is to look for simple solutions to complex problems. It manifests in people coming up with ever more complex names to label bands. People ask me what kind of music I play, I say “rock”. Most people leave it there, but some say “what kind of rock? experimental? rock’n’roll? metal? indie? electronica-indie-dance-synth-technorave-crossover [not a real genre]?”. Maybe being able to say exactly what something is gives some a sense of security. I just get annoyed by talking about generalities. Yet here I am, generalising away.
you’re always the one to bring me down
with the colourless words you spit in my face
i always feel fine until you drop round
and afterward i’m left with your bitter taste.
my friends tell me to let you go
they tell you to “get lost, leave her alone”
and i’d say it myself, but i’m weak and i know it
— scared of the future and coping with the unknown.
i just want to know why you won’t let me sleep
i lie awake at night, thinking of your cruel face
after 2a.m. i dream of your whisperings
you’re killing me with a cold, crushing embrace.
— this one has been hanging around in embryonic form for a long time (I think maybe two years). This daily writing thing is really helping me sort out all those old ideas and “finish” them off.
it started with a friend
he’d tried it. suggested i didn’t do the same
there wasn’t any kick, he said
it was just uneasy pain.
something was ignited. months later
i thought i’d try it myself. just to see how
it felt, on a night of desperation. carefully
selected the spot. i’d avoided it up to now
but i made the mark. warmth fell over my fingers
cold steel against the skin. cleansing the wound,
i fell asleep soon afterwards. the feeling lingers —
i dreamt of it. the morning after, i groomed and moved on
until the next night. and the next. no, it wasn’t
the end of the world. just a new way to escape it
and i couldn’t be blamed. besides, i knew it’d have to stop.
it turned into an addiction. night after night, the scrape
of blade against skin. soft red blood on my upper left arm.
i kept it as much to myself as i could. why should anyone else know?
it was my second life, a way of dealing with the first
until one moment where i knew it had to let it go.
i’d grown out of it, and i wanted to throw it away.
i ramped myself off it. making the cuts, but lighter by degrees.
every one was going to be the last. until the one which was —
two days after my birthday. i was free!
yes, the cravings still returned,
and sometimes the cuts burned.
but i’d decided to stop, and that was it.
i still have scars, long narrow slits,
but they’re fading.
all i had to say was no.
The world spins and swerves, like
Hell it’s so unnerving. what
Else can i do but hold on tighter?
Sky and sun burn my eyes. they’re too bright
Can i just lie down here and die?
Regret and fear mingle, the
Embarrassment too great. i was a fool —
Am a fool for taking it. i hate this feeling and
Myself. i scream and shake.
— an acrostic, written for a competition at allpoetry.com. represents a person on a bad trip for me. i believe this is the first acrostic i’ve written. constraints are interesting, but i’m not sure acrostics are my thing. the picture summons up such a strong image for me that fitting it into “the scream” is a nightmare.
a body worn in, a soft pink pallor;
a mind in distress and a face without glamour.
her eyes lifeless,
with dread for tomorrow.
but when she sleeps, under soft white sheets;
a mind unwinds and a white heart beats.
her breaths full,
unworried and free.
thoughts of old friends, lost family and then
just as she is lost in love and joy
the night ends. she groggily wakes
and back return the pains and aches.
— written for an allpoetry.com competition to go alongside the picture above.
then take a pill
we promise that it won’t make you ill.
feeling shy, or tired, or blue?
we have a solution for you —
we sell some drugs, totally legal, you’ll see
and we’re doing this for your own good. you’ll be
happier and fitter by far before long, your eyes
will be sparkling and your insomnia gone.
we have the patent, so it’s only sixty quid
for one round of treatment, but without it you can’t live —
you can’t be happy when lacking our support! your blues will
stay on, and you’ll never be able to snooze.
environmental, you say? the cause? why no!
we have the solution, only sixty quid a throw.
— I apologise for not posting these last four days. I was trying to keep up writing something every day, but I had one boring day and nothing sprung to mind, which was naturally followed by three days of forgetting that this even exists. I have just finished watching both seasons of House, and I think that may have had something to do with the lack of creativity (twelve episodes spread across three days can’t be good for anybody).
Just taken a bunch of nighttime photos, using a tripod I was given at Christmas but hadn’t got round to using. They’re not fantastic, but I think there are some nice ones in there, somewhere.