Please Read My Lonely Talk (Part 2): Prexing Elevator Chat

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Looking for Part 1? Right here, my friend.

For most of my life on your world, I’ve made my living working in an elegance palace. Before you ask, the place where I work is really nothing more than a bordello. I don’t know who came up with the name elegance palace, but I have to tell you, neither I nor any of the other employees working there find anything elegant about it.

The elegance palace is hidden in plain sight amongst neighboring office buildings, yet secreted behind its by-appointment-only financial institutional facade lies a towering empire of adult-themed enterprises. From boutiques to restaurants, bars, clubs and pleasure suites, if it’s something even remotely related to sex, an office is listed for it in the directory. I call it prex melata, which in my native tongue translates as ejaculation building.

The thing I really hate about the prex is that it only has one entrance and one elevator. Yes, you heard me correctly. One. Elevator. When my shift eventually ends, no matter how carefully I time it, I always manage to get trapped in the elevator with potential customers who know who I am because I’m the only person on the planet who looks like me.

Alien.

The thing that doesn’t belong. The piece that doesn’t fit. I have no idea how you ply your trade, but put yourself in my shoes for a moment and try to imagine that after an arduous day of ending the lives of concupiscent individuals through intercourse that you now have to ride in a crowded box with clients who have just engaged in the sexual practice of their comfort level or financial ability, all of them eyeing you and thinking that they’re the one who could probably beat the odds and survive.

I hate it. I hate the looks, I hate the arrogance, and I hate the sameness of it all. Eventually, they all will come to see me. Eventually, they all will die.

At least in the elevator there’s hardly any conversation. I envy the employees who don’t have to talk to the clients they service. I, on the other hand, am legally obligated to strike up conversations with everyone interested in sleeping with me. I’m the only elegance employee that comes with a Surgeon General warning. Sleeping with me will kill you. You must be made fully aware of that and sign legal documents to that effect.

Occasionally, though, I’ll encounter a client that asks, “Do you work here?”

Well, duh, is what I think, although I answer, “Yes

I’d like to visit you. What’s your name? What floor do you work on? Do you see clients outside of here?”

I want to tell him not to come. Tell him that I don’t want to see him. That I don’t talk to, let alone service, clients outside the prex, especially those who have not paid to talk to me.

Some clients do that, the smart ones. They come in and lose their nerve and I don’t blame them. They still have to pay for my time but I cut them a discounted rate. And while I don’t enjoy talking to people who view me as a sexable piece of offworld flesh, I take pity on the ones who back out at the last minute. It must be similar to talking someone down off a ledge.

If I do happen to get a talker on the elevator, I don’t smile or make eye contact. I simply answer their questions as curtly as possible and walk away abruptly when the elevator doors open. This usually avoids them feeling comfortable enough to follow me on the street. It’s the thing that scares me the most about the job, honestly.

I have a friend who prefers to be identified by the gender-neutral pronouns they, their and them, well, they’re more of a colleague, in the business we call the sexociates, and I don’t know if it’s a vibe they give off or what, but they attract more gawker stalkers than all the rest of us combined.

Gawker stalkers are the creepers who lurk around the prex exit and watch the girls as they leave the building. It’s gotten so bad that Tawni, my sexociate, not their actual name but I doubt even I know their real name, has a taxi on call that they run into every night as soon as the elevator doors open.

Gawker stalkers never do anything to the sexociates, to my knowledge, they just watch. But it’s still creepy. I get chills thinking about the possibility of some strange creeper following me home. They should just commit and pay the fee and get to play a little bit rather than being a loser that skulks in the shadows and goes home alone, unsatisfied.

Surprisingly enough, I haven’t crossed social paths with too many prudish types. When most people find out what I do for a living, they seem so fascinated with the concept of bartering intercourse execution for currency. I almost regret letting people know because all our conversation after that point turns to them pumping me for kinky-or-weird-but-true stories.

And that’s when my relationships begin to die.

I don’t have any eccentric stories. My sex organ forces orgasm and death, and if that isn’t enough to interest you, then what else do we have to talk about? My life is boring, really. So boring that no one wants to hear about it.

How about you?

Will you please read my lonely talk?

To be continued…

– Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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Greetings From Europa – Brave New World

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This is Alexander Edwards, former captain of the Intergalactic Space Vessel Expediter.

Greetings from Europa.

I know that sounds hokey, like one of those golden age of radio programs, but I really couldn’t think of a clever opening line. I chose that particular opening because it’s the most accurate. This broadcast is coming to you from the Jupiter moon we were warned to stay away from in 2001: A Space Odyssey. And truth to tell, I don’t know if I can really call this a broadcast. I mean, I was able to salvage this transmitter, but I’m no engineer. The green light blinks but I’m not sure this thing is working. And is a broadcast truly a broadcast if no one hears it?

I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m rambling. My thoughts are all over the place right now. I have so much information to impart and have no idea where to begin. My crew and I were on route to Saturn when our ship, the Expediter, was bombarded by meteorites the size of Fiddle Faddle and we were forced to make an emergency landing here on Europa. It was a catastrophe. But they say any crash you can walk away from is a good one.

The problem is, I’m the only one who can make that statement. The rest of the crew died on impact and I spent the next three days burying them in shallow graves. I know what you must be thinking, why would I waste three days of oxygen burying dead men. The way I see it, if not for their sacrifice, I wouldn’t have had oxygen to begin with. And they were friends who deserved a decent burial at the very least. I did for them what I hope they’d do for me in the situations were reversed.

Turns out that I used up all their oxygen for nothing. When I had depleted the last of the air supply, I decided that I was going to take my life by removing my helmet and succumbing to the Martian atmosphere. As you can see, I wasn’t successful. Oh, I removed my helmet, all right. I just didn’t die very well. It turns out that an aborted terraforming project that the Intergalactic Council labeled a failure, actually produced a layer of breathable oxygen. It’s thin and took my body some time to adjust to it, but it’s here nonetheless and is pollution free which isn’t a bad trade-off.

I wish I could tell you how long it’s been since I crash landed here, but I honestly have no idea. At the time I wasn’t thinking about tracking the days. The bulk of my concentration was focused on staying alive. I’m sure you understand. So, let’s just say I’ve been here for a while. A long while. Long enough to make contact with the indigenous life forms here, and acclimate myself to the Europan way of life. In fact, I’m married now…with children.

I would elaborate on that, but I’m trying to keep the transmissions short in order to conserve energy since I’m not sure how much juice this generator holds.

Until next broadcast, this is Captain Edwards, signing off.

To be continued…

– Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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Please Read My Lonely Talk (Part 1): Call Me Desla

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Please, call me Desla.

Not my actual name, mind you, but there is no real reason for you to know me by anything else. I was born– well, that is not important either, is it? All you need to know is that I am an alien — the extraterrestrial kind, not the immigrant kind — we can engage in intercourse for a fee, and you will most certainly not survive the experience.

Upon entering my boudoir you will undoubtedly notice the notches on the posts of my ornate bed. Your first inclination might be to assume these markings to be sexual conquests, and you would be severely mistaken. They are actually deaths. The number of grooves carved into the wooden headboard is one hundred and ninety-seven, at present, but the actual number is at least four times that. Only the deaths I regret have been engraved here. The rest received precisely what they came seeking and ultimately deserved.

A bit harsh, I realize, but how could you expect me to pity or mourn the passing of those who have tossed away so many possibilities, so many futures in search of la mort parfaite?

But I digress.

Due to the residency protocols of your Office of Planetside Security, the majority of my life was made an open book, yet there are certain things that remain hard for me to discuss. It is known that I was charged with treason back home for defending my personal beliefs — which remains my concern alone — and because my mate stood by my side during the trial, we were both exiled from my homeworld.

Set adrift in space, my people chose to let the universe decide our fate. If we were intercepted by a space vessel and taken aboard or found a world that would permit us to stay, then we were fortunate and were surely meant to live. If not, we would die on our craft when the life support and/or provisions ran out.

We traveled for what seemed like an eternity and never crossed paths with another vessel. Eventually, the ship malfunctioned and crash-landed on your planet. Only I survived, pulled from the twisted wreckage of my prison ship by a farmer who hid me away and chained me in his barn like an animal. He hosed me down and threw me scraps to keep me alive. What I did not know was that he was mustering the courage to have his way with me.

When I realized what he had in mind, I tried to warn him but I didn’t speak the language yet. I’m not sure even if I did that it would have made a difference. He forced himself on me and upon orgasm, promptly died.

My race can only mate with one partner in our entire lifetime. The first union sets into play a biological defense against infidelity by secreting a vaginal toxin that forces orgasm and subsequently death.

The aptitude test I was given, to determine if there was a place on Earth for me, was grueling and humiliating. And when I was finally issued a case worker, she sat with me and explained that the only opportunity available was in legalized prostitution. I was insulted and furious and baffled by the thinking behind this. Did they not understand that of all the professions they could have handed me that this was by far the worst possible choice? Then I stepped back to look at the bigger picture. The planet was overpopulated by indigenous humans and the influx of extraterrestrials and what better to cull the population than to tempt the thrill seekers who wanted to risk death? To treat terminal patients who wanted sweet release?

So, I embraced my role in society and performed my duty and was dubbed the “Whorebinger of Death” and the “Grim Raper” by the press. And naturally, because humans are bizarre creatures, there were ladies who worked the same profession who envied me.

I have yet to warm to this planet and it does not resemble my home planet in any way. My assimilation was slow to nonexistent and this was primarily my fault since I declined to undergo the genetic surgery offered to offworlders to make us appear more human. Though the human form is better suited for the physicality of this world and less cumbersome and my world has turned its back on me, I am still proud to be of my race.

The more time I spend here, the less confident I am about my appearance. On the occasions I watch a television show or movie or glance at an advertisement that places perfect people on display and I learn that there are those among you who feel your appearance doesn’t measure up, consider this: at least you are of the same species.

I stand at the edge of acceptability, balancing on the fine line of grotesque fascination and physical revulsion simple because my eyes are not the same color or shape as humans, and my hair, what little I have in places considered odd by your lot, was actually tufts of fine fur.

I also need to be aware of my nails and keep them within an acceptable length to where they were not considered claws. The same with my smile. Apparently, when I bare my teeth it triggers a fight or flight response in most people.

To be continued…

– Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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Excuse Me… Who Are You, Really?

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“The first question she was asked was What do you do? as if that were enough to define you. Nobody ever asked you who you really were, because that changed. You might be a judge or a mother or a dreamer. You might be a loner or a visionary or a pessimist. You might be the victim, and you might be the bully. You could be the parent, and also the child. You might wound one day and heal the next.” ― Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes

Why is that we commonly equate our life’s meaning with our work? Why is our sense of self so steeped in our achievements and how well we perform? And when we’re not constantly accomplishing, or striving to accomplish, why do we then feel worthless? As though our existences have been entirely depleted of meaning?

When I don’t write, or when I don’t feel much like writing, I feel like I’ve wasted a day. When moments pass me by that I don’t document—colorful, important moments that penning about now will surely help me learn the grand significance of later—I am overcome with regret. If I consider my role as the documenter of my life, what purpose do I serve on the planet if I’m not documenting?

Why is our sense of integrity and well-being so wrapped up in what we do, when what we do is not equal to who we are? The simple truth is because untangling the two isn’t easy.

Right now, ask yourself who you are. And in doing so, don’t allow yourself to answer in terms of profession, hobbies, relationships or material attachments. All of a sudden the notion of who you are becomes a far more intricate and convoluted matter, doesn’t it?

In many ways it seems an impossible question to answer simply because it’s so societally ingrained, and accepted, to create identities around what we do, accomplish, are talented and skillful in, the company we keep, and things we own or are able to own.

But what happens when all that falls away? When we’re left with nothing but ourselves? When, like an onion, each of those material outer layers is peeled back and we’re left with only ourselves, our essence and core being? What does that self consist of? Who is it? What is it? And how can we stop attaching so fervently to those outer sheaths long enough to make our own acquaintance? Because when it comes down to it, we are all we have. And the thing about those layers is that although seemingly protective, they merely make it easier to live in a state of denial; to focus stringently on esoteric elements so we never actually have to make the most important journey of all… the journey within.

The minute we attach our identity to something outside ourselves—whether it be our profession, relationships, recreational activities—when we are no longer capable of or excited about working that job or honing that skill or being with that person, we ultimately lose ourselves and sense of security. Because that is all we’ve allowed ourselves to know of ourselves.

But here’s the thing, our lives are ladened with purpose and meaning, we just have to be open to realizing it. We’re all here for purposes that extend far beyond mere occupations and relational titles. And every day we’re granted a plethora of opportunities to understand, showcase, and experience that. We’re here to be active participants in life; to feel fully, to love others and ourselves, to grow, to enjoy, to learn from life’s highs, lows, valleys and peaks.

There’s a quote I love from a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson on the definition of success and I read it every time I get down on myself for not accomplishing and thus not feeling like the best version of myself—or rather, feeling like no self at all—and it goes like this:

“To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intellingent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – this is to have succeeded.”

What enthralls me so deeply about this simple, yet evocative, passage is that it reminds me that success is measured in a myriad of ways. Too often people become so deeply connected to, and insistent on, climbing corporate ladders and other outward elements, that it becomes their only monitor of success, achievement, and thus, sense of self. And while that may indeed be one standard of success, so is simply living well, being well, enjoying each day, showing kindness to others, fulfilling passions, introducing a bit more creativity to the world through your very own unique and individualized thoughts, getting to know and love your self. Your true self — sans all the unprotected outer layers.

In my opinion, that is accomplishment and fortune defined. We just need to eradicate our preconceived notions of success and self-worth to realize it.

Sally forth and be writeful.

— Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

No Future In Arguing

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Because of the argument with her mother, Lakshmi wasn’t able to sleep. It happened ten days ago to this very minute and her hatred for her mother hadn’t abated one iota. Truth to tell, she wasn’t able to remember who started the argument or what the initial disagreement was about, but, as with most feuds, it opened a doorway for all the other things, the niggling bits of minutia to spill out and words were exchanged and feeling were hurt on both sides.

Ten days of freezing her mother out. Ten days of refusing to eat or talk or even be in the same room as her mother. Ten nights of lying awake in bed, staring at the headlights of passing cars that trailed rectangles across her ceiling. Lakshmi knew every inch of the ceiling and walls of her room like the back of her hands… which was why she was shocked when her eyes fell upon the crack.

It was beside the mirror that sat atop her chest of drawers, a horizontal crack no longer than a foot in length that looked like a demonic smile. Lakshmi stared at the crack, long and hard, wondering how she had missed something so obvious before… when it blinked. All right, so maybe blinked wasn’t the proper word, but she could have sworn she saw a light flicker from within the crack.

Probably just the wiring, she thought as she pushed a chair against the wall beneath the crack. At night Lakshmi heard mice scurrying between the walls. One of them must have nibbled on a wire and exposed it. She’d have to remember to tell her father in the morning. She was sure it had to be a fire hazard.

Lakshmi stood on the chair and inspected the crack, running her index finger along its jagged yet smooth edge. It was surprisingly cold to the touch and she thought she felt a slight suction… then the flicker again.

This time she was sure she hadn’t imagined it. Lakshmi leaned forward and stared into the crack and was surprised to see something within it. She saw…

Herself.

It was like watching a movie. She watched herself being herself, doing the things she normally did, but not in any day she ever remembered. The images began at a normal pace then sped up to such a degree where to anyone else they would have appeared to be nothing but a blur but Lakshmi was able to follow along because she was somehow connected to them. They were her personal images, of her life and she was living them, retaining the information contained within them.

Her eyes glued to the crack, Lakshmi watched the rest of her life, the entirety of her existence, literally flash before her:

  • Her relationship with her mother falls apart in a series of little spats over the next few years that leads to the big fight when she turns seventeen that causes irreparable damage. That will be the final time the two will ever speak to one another.
  • Her father grows miserable with all the constant fighting, which wears on his soul until he can’t take it anymore. Lakshmi cries uncontrollably the day he finally leaves their home for another woman. She begins smoking to handle the stress.
  • Her dream career of becoming a geophysicist vanishes that day she quits college for a job that allows her to move out of the family home and away from her mother for good.
  • She works so many menial jobs, none of which manages to hold her attention for very long, and slowly saps all the dreams and creativity she holds in reserve. With each successive job, the sheen in her eyes dulls a bit more.
  • As with the job situation, so, too, her love life. Her many attempts at love fail for the same reasons time and time again. Somehow, she becomes relationship poison and seeks out the same.
  • Eventually, her worries and frustrations in finding a mate causes her to settle for a man beneath her standards, a man who adds nothing to her life, a man who also works dead end job after job with no hope of career advancement.
  • Then comes the struggle to save money for secondhand furniture and a used car, and as rents increase, their apartments over the years become smaller and rattier.
  • She cries alone in the bathroom with a pregnancy test showing a positive result.
  • The birth of her daughter, Enid, is agonizing and when it’s done and the baby is placed in her arms, she knows she should feel something, tries to feel love, but the emotions just won’t come.
  • Not long after, she’s pregnant again with a premature boy this time, Jack, and makes the effort to spread the already nonexistent love even thinner.
  • Jack is born sickly and remains that way. Medical bills mount that they’re unable to pay, and her husband comes home later and later complaining of overtime that is never reflected in his paycheck.
  • Fed up, her husband leaves in much the same way that her father did, for another woman, and she now is forced to get a second job to make ends meet.
  • Her already distant relationship with her daughter grows volatile when Enid turns to drugs after running with a group of delinquents.
  • Jack’s condition worsens and neither her husband nor Enid are present at the hospital as he dies.
  • She develops a cough that turns into a hacking fit that turns into lung cancer that kills her a day before her sixty-sixth birthday. And like her son, she, too, dies alone.

Lakshmi thought the images would stop there, but was sadly mistaken. She was actually able to see beyond her own death, where Enid, holding a one-year Narcotics Anonymous recovery coin, arrives at her hospital room moments too late. Too late to apologize, too late to make amends, too late to say “I love you.” And the pain of this sends her running back to a den to score, where a fatal hot dose takes her life.

***

A noise, the sound of wood and plaster breaking in reverse, pulled Lakshmi away from the visions of her future and back into the room with such a quickness that she staggered back, fell off the chair, and hit the hardwood floor with a heavy thud.

A concerned woman’s voice called from outside the room and down the hall. Her mother. The woman she hated mere moments ago and wished all the nastiness a seven-year-old girl’s mind could muster… but now, there was something else. Something she couldn’t quite remember. The images of her future started jumbling inside her head to point they made no sense and turned into so much mental vapor.

Something about her father and her husband leaving? Something about a baby… a girl, or maybe a boy, sick and dying? And a fight, a big fight…

Lakshmi scrambled to her feet and raced out of the door and down the hall as memories evaporated from her mind. There was something she had to do, something before these feelings vanished and she went back to being angry.

Lakshmi burst into her parents room, where her father, just about to fall into a deep sleep, jumped at the girl’s sudden arrival.

Her mother, on the other hand, was fastening her dressing gown and about to investigate the sound from her daughter’s room, when her daughter rushed up, arms flung wide and embraced her.

“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” Lakshmi sobbed, as the memories of her future disappeared completely.

Her father watched in confusion. Her mother shrugged at him, smiled and stroked her daughter’s hair, cooing that everything will be all right. Everything will be just fine now.

***

In Lakshmi’s room, the crack in the wall, once the length of a wooden school ruler, began to shrink, as the wall knitted itself whole again.

Sally forth and be patching things up with family members and friends to avoid bleak futuresingly writeful.

– Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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The Math of the Moment

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There were two things that Evan knew:

  1. Mathematics
  2. He lived the wrong kind of life

The first he had known nearly all his life, from age four, if a proud mother’s braggadocio was to be believed. The second he only recently discovered, when he first laid eyes on The Woman. As was his nature, Evan quickly tabulated the absolute value in his head to assess his chances with her. The figures hadn’t added up.

The Woman, obviously accustomed to being the object of men’s stares, avoided eye contact with every XY chromosome in the room as she stood in the doorway and scanned the tables for a place to sit. There were so many free spaces, Evan hadn’t given the possibility of her settling next to him a second thought… until she did just that.

Suddenly the nearness of her had Evan checking the computations of his existence and wondering how he came to live a life so cruel as to deny him the reality of waking up beside The Woman every single morning. The closer she stepped, the more he realized just how lacking he was. The more he examined himself, the further away he pushed the percentages of the two of them spending the rest of their lives together.

But even though he knew down to his square root that nothing could ever have existed between them, he couldn’t let the thought of her go. He wracked his brain trying to suss out what needed to be done to correct their blaring parities.

What charismatic calculus would he have had to perform in order to make the possibility of a relationship between them a reality? What was he lacking that could have been excavated from the untapped depths of his soul in this limited time they cohabitated at this table, these minutes that were passing far too quickly. that would have given her pause? What prime number would have made her consider the impossible? Convinced her to go against every single internal voice and take a chance on a fractioned man well past his sell-by date? A man who needed her greater than she would ever have needed him?

Instead of coming up with solutions to solve the theorem, he vapor locked. He went to the place where he should have found inspiration and courage and instead stood staring down at a dry well.

If this were a movie, a romantic comedy following a by-the-numbers formula, this would have been their meet cute moment, where though she had no time for him, Evan would somehow have found the nerve to punch above his weight class, as he swung for the fences, until he stumbled upon that one right sentence, quite by accident, that would have opened the door of their budding relationship just a crack.

But this wasn’t a movie in which Evan had access to some writer, a prince of prose, to whip up a witty bit of icebreaking banter, which meant he sat there quiet as a church mouse as the woman of his dreams failed to acknowledge his presence as she sipped her small yet overpriced mall beverage and worked her delicate thumbs across her smartphone keypad.

Perhaps he had approached it wrong. His shyness and lack of confidence in this situation was the problem, but all problems had a solution, so if he somehow broke down the math of the moment, he could not only solve the equation but restructure the formula to his benefit.

And so he began with

The Problem

He was absolutely enchanted by this stranger, who, when she left this table, wouldn’t have known him from Adam due to his insecurities. And while the thought of either tricking or forcing her to have affection for him against her will was a repulsive notion, he wanted to at least put forth the concept of a relationship between them.

The Equation

The left-hand side of the equation needed to describe the geometry of the manifestation of what a man considered love and the lengths he would go through to achieve it. The right-hand side needed to reflect the concomitant swirling curvature of a woman’s nurture and passion weighed against the romanticized notions of love.

Evan pulled a tattered notebook from his backpack and wrote the equation. Front and back on all the blank pages. On the backs of pages containing non-related items. In the margins. On every napkin he laid his hands on. and finally on the table itself.

He wrote and wrote until his brain collapsed under the sheer weight of computations, then he wrote some more. He continued to write until he finally discovered…

The Solution

Evan straightened his back, turned to The Woman, cleared his throat and said in a voice squeakier than he would have liked, “Excuse me, Miss. Hello, my name is Evan.”

Sally forth and be mathing your way into the perfect relationshipingly writeful.

– Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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Things Kept Precious

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My mother warned me to guard the things I held precious by keeping them hidden inside me. The only thing I held precious was her and I found it impossible to place her inside my body. I was too young to understand she was talking about love. Too young to save the best parts of my mother’s love in my heart. Too consumed by the hate caused by her leaving me on my own. Too young to accept that death comes to us all.

It was hard to hold onto her love. Hard because I watched her body decay and rot away to nothingness. I watched to see the precious things she kept inside her and where she managed to hide them so I could do the same. I never found them. I watched as I picked vermin from her flesh and fought away carrion from her decaying form, until the day she was unrecognizable to me.

In particular, I watched her heart. Who knew what was inside there but I knew it was fragile because my mother spoke many times about how it had been broken. She said, “Sometimes you have to break a heart to find out how strong it really is.”

But when her heart became visible, I couldn’t see any cracks. I watched it as it bruised like an apple and disintegrated away. Nothing inside it but emptiness. I was hoping to see love—even though I had no idea what love looked like—or at least be privy to some secret that would explain the world to me. I found none of those things.

Her heart was a chamber for maggots. That was what my mother kept precious. Little disgusting creatures that fed off her body. They were everywhere. Stripping my mother of her beauty.

It grew harder to remember her face. I tried to recall the last time I saw her eyes or her smile but that memory was too distant in the past, lost in the forest of forgetfulness.

Occasionally I dreamt of my mother, standing in a room somewhere I had never been but yet felt so familiar to me, her face was a storm. Clouds roiled where features should have been. When she spoke, her voice was a swarm of black bees the drained the life of anything it touched. The bees blotted out the room and ate a pet dog I only had in dreams and never in real life, before coming for me.

I would run from the house and through the trees, down a dirt path that led to a black pond of brackish water. The water called to me and I was torn for the water was frightening, but so too were the bees who devoured trees on their way to eat me.

No real choice at all, I dove into the pond and discovered the water was actually tar and I was being pulled in, just as other creatures foolish enough to make the same mistake, the same fear-based choice as I had.

My nose and mouth filled with hot thick liquid, bitter molasses that scorched my insides, and melted me like butter on the griddle.

I woke alone in the dark, choking for air, my chest weighted with the heaviness of fear. My breathing was a thick, wet noise like someone sloshing through mud — or tar! — and I no longer felt safe in this world, so I did the only thing I could think to do.

I crawled inside the remains of my mother’s body and wrapped her tight around me so that I could be the thing she kept precious.

Sally forth and be keeping things preciousingly writeful.

– Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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The Island of Misfit Posts #2: No Enemy But Time

Like its predecessor, Discouraged by Discouragement, this pesky fella here is another one of those posts that didn’t quite turn out as expected and ended up on the cutting room floor (though a part of its sentiment made its way into You’re Where You Are). Caught somewhere between my musings of growing older while still struggling with the craft and my intent of advising impatient writers to slow down, the post started taking the shape of something neither fish, flesh, nor good red herring:

“Do you think, I have not just cause to weep, when I consider that Alexander at my age had conquered so many nations, and I have all this time done nothing that is memorable!” — Julius Caesar

When you reach a certain age, you become acutely aware of time, how much you’ve squandered on things you swore were important at the moment, and how little you still have left in your account. Whenever I get the time brain bug, I’m always brought back to the line from Delmore Schwartz’s poem, Calmly We Walk through This April’s Day (quoted in that horrendous film Star Trek: Generations), “Time is the fire in which we burn.” I love that line. It resonates within me.

But I digress.

Many aspiring authors feel the pressures of time, either believing because of their age that they’ve gotten a late start in the writing process and need to play catch up, or simply haven’t got the proper time to devote to a writing regime, so they attempt to bang out herculean writing tasks without bothering to first learn the rules. They assume because they’ve taken on board the advice to write everyday that their skill set automatically improves and mistakes auto-correct themselves. They read, as instructed, but fail to apply storytelling rules–plotting, story goals, scenes and sequences, the purpose of characters, effective use of dialogue–to their own work.

That’s not to say their writing is bad, it simply lacks a consistent quality. A beautiful bit of prose or a dynamic character can easily get lost in the quagmire of weak grammar, poor pacing, and a meandering plot. Recognizing it can sometimes be hard to turn an objective eye on your own writing, here are a few questions to ask yourself, to see if you need to go back to writers boot camp:

1. Do you tell a story?

I assume you’re familiar with the phrase, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” This applies to your writing as well, especially when you’re concentrating on your piece at the word choice and sentence structure level. Sometimes it helps to take a step back and get a big picture view of what you’re attempting to do, what it is you’re really trying to write about. The answer isn’t always as clear cut as you’d imagine.

2. Is your writing concise?

This one’s a toughie, because it calls on you to chuck out everything you learned in school about the proper way to write an essay. Well, this ain’t about writing essays, bub (or bubette, no gender discrimination here) and the rules of pacing language are different in fiction. The first rule you need to learn is: Never use a long sentence when a short one does the same job.

3. Are you addicted to adjectives and adverbs?

Adjectives and adverbs are among the more hotly debated issues in the writing community, and while opinions vary, the common rule of thumb is less is more. It can be hard to spot over usage while writing so when you’re done with your piece, look for chains–a string of adjective and adverb two or greater–and whittle it down until you’re left with one or two essential ones. Also worth bearing in mind, when you feel the need to modify a noun or a verb, make sure they need to be modified. If they do, select the best word to convey your meaning.

4. Are you familiar with the word “subtle?”

Your audience is smarter than you realize. There’s no need for you to spell everything out in exacting detail. And, believe it or not, some folks actually enjoy interpreting things for themselves.

5. Should you be shifting viewpoints?

Hopping from one character’s head to another without causing audience confusion requires a certain level of skill, and I’m certainly not suggesting that you shouldn’t be doing it (and if I told you not to, you’d rush out and do it anyway) but why not baby step your way towards it? Work on mastering the one character viewpoint first.

6. Do you show too much?

Yes, the standard rule is “show, don’t tell” but you don’t need to show everything. When in doubt, refer to Elmore Leonard’s rule,”Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”

7. Do you create apathetic characters?

You’re an artist, your work is all about the truth, even in fiction. I get it. I’ve been there. But creating a realistic character based on your current bout of apathy, depression, or (heaven forbid) suicidal thoughts, often doesn’t make for good reading. Your characters must have wants and needs to push the plot forward. Audiences have no need to read stories where the characters have no desire to live or accomplish something.

8. Is your antagonist one dimensional?

Villains that are evil for evil’s sake are boring. Flesh them out with wants and needs like you would your main character. And remember, every villain is a hero in their own mind.

9. Does your dialogue matter?

Yes, leaving white on the page is a good thing as no one like slogging through dense blocks of description, but are you breaking up paragraphs with bits of meaningless chatter? Dialogue should be used as a communication between characters that evokes reaction. One characters says something that another character reacts to, which sparks a reaction, and so on, until the scene concludes. If you have no idea what your character has to say, then you don’t know your character well enough.

10. Can you write an ending?

Some people excel at writing beginnings, and that all they’re good at. Each chapter is a new beginning, with no middle to be found and as for an ending? I’m sure you can work out the answer to that. Other people get off to a slow start in the beginning, come into their own in the middle and peter out at the finish line. Let’s face it, endings are tough. Not only must you keep it clear and simple while you deliver on the promise of the premise (without being didactic), but you have to tie up all your story’s loose ends, and if you’re planning to surprise your audience, it shouldn’t be with an inappropriate twist, added for shock value. Keep in mind that writing the words “The End” doesn’t finish a story if it has no resolution.

In truth, I couldn’t finish it because I wasn’t in the proper frame of mind at the time. Although it might not be visible in the post, that damned time brain bug kept nagging at me, not with words, but with a feeling – the feeling of being left behind in the race for achievement. Before you say a word, I know better. In fact, one of my favorite quotes on this matter comes from the now famous commencement speech, Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97:

“The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.”

But we’re human, aren’t we? And sometimes knowing a truth doesn’t prevent you from feeling the exact opposite.

Sally forth and be writeful.

— Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Custody Battle

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Kylie heard there were people who actually had the luxury of choosing whether or not to be a fucking asshole. She, unfortunately, was not one of those lucky shitheads. Her great grandfather was an old-fashioned asshole who begat an even bigger asshole, who begat the king of all assholes, who married the high exalted queen bitch asswipe, better known as the person she called Mommy Whorest. All this to illustrate why Kylie felt she wasn’t totally responsible for the way she was. Not so fucking easy to be a goddammed pillar of the community when the gene pool you’re pulled from was a shitty septic tank.

The other genetic trait she inherited was the uncanny ability to choose the absolute douchiest mate. Enter: Simon. Ever much the prick match to her assholosity, only he wasn’t merely a prick to her, sometimes he was a cunt, too. They were made for one another, the most fearsome twosome since the Kray brothers. And as long as they had a mutual target to focus their hatred on, they maintained wedded bliss. When no target presented itself, they turned on one another like rabid ass dogs.

There was only one person on the entire face of the planet who was spared their abusive wrath, Ms. Brittany Anne, their daughter. The only thing they gave two shits about because she was the only thing the pair created that remained unsullied by the shitstorm of their separate and combined fucked up worlds. And as the only thing they had ever gotten goddammed right, Brittany Anne was the only thing they would have abso-fucking-lutely died for, no hesitation, no questions asked.

So, when their marriage shit the bed for the final time, Kylie told Simon he could keep the house, the car, everything in the joint account, the whole ball of wax, just as long as she got Brittany.

Of course, Simon was having none of that and they wound up in court, which to Kylie was the stupidest move he could have made. He ate his balls in the courtroom. He was a living off the grid, import/export, bootlegging sonuvabitch who looked like dogshit warmed over on paper. Hadn’t taken the judge long to award her full custody, but she knew in her heart of bastard hearts that the motherfucking court order wasn’t anything but a piece of paper to wipe her ass with.

It took Simon less than four hours to enlist the aid of his brothers, who Kylie knew to be a bunch of fake fucking tough guys who swore they had King Kong sized balls simply because they watched Scarface and Goodfellas on continuous DVD loop. And when Kylie was in the kitchen microwaving dinner, those shitbirds kidnapped her daughter.

Being that there wasn’t an Einstein among them and together their collective IQ couldn’t reach room temperature, Kylie knew exactly where they were holding Brittany. The hot house. It was where Simon operated his numerous non-corporate businesses, a tiny hovel where his inbred fucktard brothers shacked up when their whore mother threw their shiftless asses out. It was also a shitty crack den that sat in the otherwise decent residential neighborhood like an infected, bloody hemorrhoid. One that was definitely getting lanced tonight.

After Kylie cased the house and picked the best spot for her approach, she drew her piece, the assault rifle pushing its way from under her denim duster. Simon always accused her of having penis envy, and if that was the case then this bitch of a rifle was her goddammed hard on!

Lep stepped out of the front door, planted his feet on the porch and turned his gat Kylie’s way. The gun was a piece of shit .44 he bought out of a Kmart shopping cart from some dude with a serious boner for Clint Eastwood.

The youngest of all the brothers, Lep’s real name was Earl but his brothers gave him the moniker due to his height and bizarre resemblance to a leprechaun. Four foot if he was an inch and at least two feet of that was head. Combined with his high pitch laugh, he had a nickname that stuck for life.

Even thirty feet away and caught off guard, Kylie had more than enough time to clean this asshat’s clock. She whirled around and squeezed her trigger. His oversized head came apart like a pumpkin in a microwave. To his credit, he managed to take a few steps forward and pulled his trigger before he collapsed, but the shot went wild, missing Kylie by a mile.

Lep was the rare brother who had never really done anything to Kylie and for the briefest of instances, she kind of felt sorry for him. But he did try to shoot her, so fuck him, that dancing under rainbows, gold hoarding, headless motherfucker!

The sound of the rifle shot was bound to bring out the rest of the boys so Kylie put a little pep in her step as she walked toward the house.

Slick Sid, the middle brother with the oily, bad skin, was next out of the house and his face went slack the moment his eyes fell on Lep’s body. He started screaming. Screaming like the little bitch he was. Kylie though. Mouth going off like a little pussy siren.

When Sid saw Kylie coming at him, rifle leveled, his hand shot down to the pistol in his waistband, even while he continued to scream. She could have shot his dumb ass but chose not to. Maybe hadn’t even needed to.

By the time Sid’s gun cleared his waistband, Kylie was on top of him. Rifle butt to the family jewels doubled him over, then an elbow to the jaw knocked him down to the hardwood porch deck. Sid’s hand twitched on the pistol grip which made Kylie stomp down on his jaw with a horrible crunch.

“Where is she?” Kylie’s voice was controlled rage. Sid made a noise that Kylie took to be “Who?” Maybe smashing his jaw wasn’t the best idea.

“My daughter, bitch! Where’s my child?” Kylie knelt down and pried the pistol from Sid’s hand. She placed the muzzle on his temple and cocked the piece.

Call it self-preservation or simply blind luck but Sid’s hand shot up and clutched the gun in a manner so that the meat of his hand between thumb and forefinger blocked the hammer from firing.

Kylie was caught off guard as Sid twisted the gun out of her grip, spun the barrel in the opposite direction and squeezed the trigger.

This mutherfucker! she thought as she took a gunshot to the stomach. Kylie grunted as she brought the shotgun up to his neck. Sid’s throat bloated with automatic rifle ammunition and burst, spitting a dark crimson stain on the bare hardwood.

Kylie pressed her back against the house near the front door, the worst possible place she could have been but the wound in her gut wasn’t letting her go anywhere.

“I know you heard the commotion, so you know I’m out here,” she yelled into the darkened doorway, putting pressure on her stomach to try to stop the bleeding. She prayed they couldn’t detect the pain in her voice. “Si, can you hear me? Two of yours are dead. Didn’t need to be that way. Just give my daughter back unharmed and we’ll call it quits. How’s that sound to you?”

Kylie thought she heard someone running inside the house but couldn’t be sure over the sound of her own heart in her ears as blood continued to ooze from her belly. Unbeknownst to her, Gabby Otis, the mute brother, crept around the side of the house and would have had her dead to rights if he hadn’t stepped on a loose floorboard.

The creak snapped Kylie to attention. She brought the shotgun around and blew the bottom part of Otis’ right leg clean off his body. The man dropped face first off the porch… but never let go of the gun.

Otis’ gun came up over the lip of the porch deck, shakily trying to target Kylie. She put the man in her sights and pulled the trigger. Jammed.

Kylie cursed and squeezed her bullet-pierced stomach as she grabbed the rifle by the barrel and swung it at Otis’ hand. Not a direct hit but the butt connected with enough force to send the gun flying off into the unkempt lawn grass.

Kylie angled the rifle butt at Otis’ head, connected and did it once more for good measure. Otis’ eyes fluttered close as he lost consciousness. His head still in striking distance, she aimed the rifle butt again, catching him full on this time. The left side of Otis’s head caved in and blood squirted from his right ear.

Without warning, Kylie cried out in agony as she was blown forward by the impact of a bullet in her back. She tumbled over the porch railing and landed face first in the grass. Though every movement was pure agony, Kylie twisted her head and struggled to understand what she was looking at.

Brittany Anne, the young girl with clear traces of her mother in her face, a face that was now a mask of fury covered with a sheen of tears, held a pistol in her tiny trembling hands.

Kylie tried to ask her daughter, “Why?” but only managed to cough blood as her mouth formed the word. A shadow fell over Kylie.

“No one took her, you dumb cunt.” the familiar voice said. “She came to me on her own. She wants to live with her daddy right now. Isn’t that right, pumpkin?”

Kylie lifted her head up from the grass, trailing threads of pink saliva and blood, in time to see her little girl nod her head.

“But, if you want to stay,” Simon said, “… there’s one thing I’m going to need you to do. Remember what it was?”

Brittany Anne nodded a second time and answered, “Kill Mommy.”

“What? No!” Kylie said as the pistol in Brittany Anne’s hand went off a second time.

To be continued…

Sally forth and be handling your domestic disputes professionalingly writeful.

– Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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Songs As Stories: My Mind Is Not My Own Today

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*Inspired by the song “Once In A Lifetime” by The Talking Heads

My mind is not my own today. Neither of my minds.

That reality continues to plague me as I make my way through both my workaday lives, and I mingle with people both strange and familiar. My minds are not my own today. I have to keep telling myself not to put too much stock in my conflicting thoughts as none of them truly belong to me.

But it wasn’t always this way. Once I had a singular life. A life I can no longer recall because I am not in control of my memories. Not since this morning, when I woke up living two separate lives simultaneously and asking myself, “How did I get here?”

In my left eye, I see the existence where I live in squalor in some poverty-stricken part of the world, and although I have many friends and am surrounded by people who care about me, I am alone and lonely. There is no one here for me. No one to share my life. But somehow I manage to remain happy. Or at least I am not unhappy. Which is more than most can claim.

In my right eye, I live the other side of the coin. My house is unbelievably vast and luxurious. My wife is statuesque and blindingly beautiful, and my car, my car is large enough for a small family to live in.

One would think as my wealth has no limit, it would be a freeing thing, correct? But I find that I can’t manage it properly, for this fortune comes with no instruction manual. Can you tell me how a beautiful wife, a gorgeous specimen of a woman that was supposedly tailored to suit my needs actually works? What of a house and car that I feel absolutely microbic in? It is all somehow wrong as if I am a three dimensional being living in a three and one-quarter dimension reality.

Then my doubts become corporeal and wrap their bony fingers around my ankle in a death grip and pull me under the rushing tide of all the moral debts I have incurred throughout my lifetime.

The tide is a repo service that removes all the things that I possess. The push-to-start conveyance is no longer my large automobile, the mansion is no longer my beautiful house and the amazon is no longer my beautiful wife. Unable to hold my breath for long, I gasp for air, each mouthful leaking my fortune along with my air.

The repossession waters dissolve my belongings, removing them from my existence, remnants of luxury items sink to the bottom of the ocean as waves push me away from opulence and wash me onto a fork in the road of a highway, the signposts of which points left for “Right” and right for “Wrong”. What do these signs mean? Which should I take? What have I done? What have I become? Ami I right, or am I wrong?

And when I question my realities, a voice keeps repeating, a voice inside my head, a voice that is not my own, one phrase that is meant to calm me, to reassure me that everything is as it’s meant to be…

Same as it ever was.

Same as it ever was.

Same as it ever was.

Sally forth and be letting the days go byingly writeful.

– Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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