Tuesday, 5 November 2013

On Buckets

I have heard and thought a lot about buckets during the past phase of my life. Metaphorical buckets at least. The metaphor is of a bucket that is full, but instead of liquid or jelly beans or pebbles or sand or whatever else a bucket could be full of, this one is full of your good emotions, your optimal sense of fulfillment. If you are hurtful to another person you are emptying their bucket, and likewise your bucket is emptied when someone is hurtful to you.

It is a simple enough analogy, easy to explain to children, but utterly, utterly wrong.

I will give a rather horrible example from my own life to suggest that in fact no one can "empty your bucket", that the responsibility for retaining a full bucket lies solely on our own shoulders.

I was in an argument with a friend of mine who got angry and told me (and I paraphrase to keep this article PG rated) to "Go to a horrible place where we are no longer friends, and have fun never accomplishing anything because you are a loser with no talent."

That is not a really nice thing to say to somebody, and my bucket emptied, and I felt awful.

One way to perceive the situation is what the bucket analogy regularly does. It says, "I was happy before this was said to me and now I am sad, therefore I must be sad because of what was said to me."

(Buzzer sound) Wrong. Sorry, points for effort, but that isn't at all accurate.

The hurtful thing in this example is like an arrow designed to pierce my bucket, but the reason I am sad is only vaguely related to the arrow.

I am sad because I believe the things that were said, at least is part. It is true that I struggle with feelings that I will "never amount to anything" or that I am not good enough to be published. In fact, it would later be admitted to me the only reason it was said in the first place: he knew it would have the affect he was going for. Points for observation skills.

My bucket is empty because I emptied it. Perhaps it would not be empty had my friend not said anything hurtful, but that is not the most valuable point.

If I did not believe the "hurtful things" then it would hardly matter when someone said them to me. Sticks and stones and all of that jazz. When you are hurt by someone else's thoughts it is usually (maybe not always), but usually because your emotional state mirrors the attack. Someone calls you stupid, and you feel stupid. You are usually angry and the reason is simply that it sucks when someone breaks through the lies we tell ourselves and shows us that we really were kind of faking it, and we felt stupid today, so thanks for pointing it out.

With the bucket analogy it is the actions of others that cause your pain. You have no control over those actions, and therefore no control over your pain. The solution can be properly communicating your feelings to the other person (you have made me feel horrible with your hurtful words) but in any case it involves conflict with the outside world. Once these actions are confronted and defeated (hopefully through proper communication and mutual respect) you can return to your state of optimum self-fulfillment.

Let's continue the example. What will happen should I communicate with mutual respect with my friend? Well in fact we did communicate. He explained why he said what he said and apologized (sort of) and lo and behold our friendship, which seemed so on the rocks for a time, remained intact. The bucket analogy must be right because communication can heal wounds and repair damage to relationships.

If the bucket analogy was right, with a sincere apology and a repaired friendship, my optimal state of self-fulfillment should be back in place and I should be happy. Therein lies the flaw of the bucket analogy, or the bucket way of thinking, for in fact the reason I am unhappy is because of my own abuse to myself, and not the actions of the outside world. My friend merely pointed out something that I struggle with when I am being an ass to myself. His apologies and our friendship are aside from the fact that my emotions are abused by my own attacks against them.

If actions of others are arrows, then armor is our shields, but how can you defend attacks from within? Your own attacks on your psyche are the most damaging, and are the true bucket destroyers.

When you wake up and feel that you are ugly, or that you are not smart enough for that promotion, or that you are a mean person who has let the people around you down, or that you are not witty enough to be interesting on a date, or the thousands of other things that we say to ourselves all of the time, these are the things that empty our buckets. They are the hardest to admit and surely the hardest to resolve. The actions of others are easy to work out. You confront, conflict, and sometimes you manage to even resolve. In many cases the resolution gives the whole situation a miss and you end up with an enemy instead of a friend, or the loss of a job, or the loss of a family member (hopefully only metaphorically).

Most confrontations are just a way of avoiding working on your own bucket. Put off the work of refilling the bucket or repairing the leak by blaming it all on someone else. Focus your upset(s) on another person instead of focusing them on yourself. This is where hatred stems from, or at least one of the places. It is the creation of a fictitious entity who exists inside the real body of another individual. This fictitious entity becomes the focal point for all of your problems. You use grand words like "You are the reason I am unhappy. You make me not want to come home from work. You make me feel stupid. You have stolen from me." The fictitious entity is always easy to spot. It is always apparent in sentences where "You" can be replaced with "I" and the sentence still makes sense. "I am the reason I am unhappy. I make me not want to come home from work. I make me feel stupid. I have stolen from me."

When it comes to emotions there is only one conflict, and that conflict is eternal. It is the conflict you wage with yourself. It is literally all in your head. No one can hurt my feelings by telling me that I am stupid, or at least it would be a very rare day indeed if that were to happen. The reason for this is because while I believe many things about myself, being stupid is not one of them. Only an idiot would call me stupid, because a smarter person would have picked another adjective which might have had more effect, like loser or ugly or something like that.

Why do we say things like that? Why would I ever say to someone, "You are ugly"?

It is a defense mechanism, exactly the same as the stink from a skunk. Someone has probably said something to me, or done something, and my internal douchebag that lives in my head has gone to town, and so I lash out at somebody else.

It all starts with your bucket. You hurt me and emptied my bucket so now I'm going to hurt you and empty your bucket. It isn't that simple though, because usually you won't hurt the person who emptied your bucket because if you had enough brains to do that they couldn't have emptied your bucket in the first place. No, instead you'll hit someone easier, someone closer, someone who might put up with it and not hit back. So you'll find someone that you perceive to be weaker than you, or you'll find someone who you believe has to put up with your crap: the smaller kid at school, the shy guy from the copy room, your sibling, or your spouse.

Everyone goes around kicking everyone's buckets and all that happens is water splashes around a lot and the really wise ones of us go get a mop and fill up their own buckets with the liquid no one else seems concerned about losing.

If someone calls you a name and it bothers you and you think that maybe you should talk to that person about the name they called you, stop. Look instead at why the name bothered you and start there. If you can resolve the why then the rest will work itself out. The name will not bother you anymore, you will be happier than before the person called you the name in the first place, and you can in fact thank the person for helping you realize something that was bothering you and getting in the way of your optimal sense of fulfillment.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013


by John T. Bennett


So I got to thinking, as is sometimes the case, about the nature of our Universe, whether it is expanding, contracting, what shape it is, etcetera. Firstly let us lay down a few principles for the sake of this argument. Principle number one is that mathematics is a language. A language is a series of symbols, gestures, and expressions to help describe something. A language, therefore, while pointing to the truth, cannot actually be considered "the truth". In essence what this boils down to is a flaw in reasoning that because a mathematical equation, theory, what-have-you, is logically sound and consistent, it constitutes actual truth.

Let's give a brief example. Einstein can be attributed for the inclusion of a fourth dimension (time), where math had previously only been concerned with three. One of his peers whose name I've forgotten (starts with a 'K' I think) offered up a beautifully written piece describing the universe in five dimensions. When you worked in five dimensions the math allowed for special and general relativity and Maxwell's electromagnetic laws (field theory).

String Theory uses the same trick. Each time you insist upon a new law of nature, you can try to wrangle it and force it into the pre-existing framework like a puzzle piece that doesn't want to fit OR you can simply add another dimension which you assume must be folded up within the original three/four dimensions, and the math comes out smooth as a cucumber--though I assume incredibly complicated.

Now, this raises questions. How many dimensions are there in the Universe? It is easy to convince someone that there are three. We can go forward, up/down, and "through", so there you have x, y, and z. Pretty simple. But can you prove it? Mathematics has shown that the Universe can be worded different ways. A 2 dimensional universe can be conceived as a 3 dimensional universe all wrapped up like a tight ball, and it is just as sound and consistent. So if this is the case, how could you prove which one is true?

Physics does not like ambiguities, at least not classical mechanics. A system must be able to be traced back in time, and with the ability to "wrap up" dimensions, it would be impossible to know at any given point whether you were a 2 dimensional universe, or an 11 dimensional universe, and they cannot both be true. Well, they could, but that's another argument for later.

I would suggest, by pointing out the obvious, that neither is true. Dimensions are an abstract concept used in mathematics, which we have already decided is a language. If I am trying to communicate I do so in a variety of ways, but one is by adding complexity to simplify speech. For example perhaps I am talking about a kitchen and have come up with the term shelf. It would become complicated to keep talking about the kitchen if shelf were the only term I had.

"Put the milk on the shelf."
"Put the cup on the shelf. No, not the same shelf as the milk. A different shelf."
"Put the pancake mix on the shelf, but neither the shelf used by the milk or the cup."
"Put the plate on the shelf, using the same shelf as the cup unless there will then be not enough room for other cups, in which case the plate should go on another shelf that is definitely not the same shelf used for pancake mix or milk."
"I would like to specify that the milk should go on the shelf that is kept cold. So for future reference I will call it the shelf that is kept cold, and we will call the pancake mix shelf the shelf that is..."

The term shelf is great, but communicating with one term, or let's just call it a simple term, becomes complicated over time. In a kitchen with only one shelf there would be no reason to have more than one term, but language evolves along with the kitchen. We invent terms which are usually more than one syllable long, and we will call those terms complex terms. Complex terms possess much more information than the number of bits contained within them. For example, let is take a simple term, like shelf, and compare it to a complex term, like refridgerator.

What information does shelf tell us? Well we know that shelves are flat and that they are generally mounted to a surface, and used for putting things on. That is roughly all that the word shelf will tell us. For any more in depth information you would require other words, such as big shelf, or small shelf, or 3 ' by 4' shelf, etcetera.

What does the word refridgerator tell us? A refridgerator tells us to look for an object with a door, inside of which will be several shelves, and probably at least one drawer, and inside the temperature is kept cooler than outside, though only if "powered" by some means whether than be electricity or natural (such as a cold storage--namely that it is conceivable that a 'fridge could be powered by some other means and retain all the other functions). The word refridgerator becomes a specific location without having to specify the location. If I go to almost any house in the world and someone tells me to put something in the refridgerator, the only information I require to find the refridgerator is where the space they use for a "kitchen" is. Kitchen, of course, is also a complex term, meaning simply that it is one word with many other words "wrapped up" as it were.

I am using the term complex term. You could exchange complex term for concept but for the nature of this argument, I am going to simply continue to speak in terms of complexity. Complexity, according to information theory, also adds depth, and it also generates entropy, and we will come to that later.

So, what are dimensions? Mathematically speaking, dimensions can be seen as simply complex terms. More complicated bits of language that in fact make communication much simpler. It is irrelevant, therefore, to speak of how many dimensions the universe has. That is like asking how many words does it take to describe an elephant? By definition you could narrow it down to, let's say 10, and everyone agree that an elephant can be described in no less than 10 words, but that would never be true. An elephant could be described in one complex word (concept) that automatically contains those other 10 words. This is true of language, as an elephant is a complex term describing an animal of a specific size (very large) and generally colour (usually grey, to describe an elephant of another colour, you would have to include a separate word--if you say elephant it is grey, if you want to talk about a pink elephant you have to use the word pink), weight (very heavy), physical features (large trunk), fears (scared of mice) and so on and so on. The word elephant conjures up many words to your mind. The definition of a complex term is one that when you think about it and write down your thoughts, you will unravel a long list of thoughts. Simple terms, like blue, are a much shorter list. Blue really only describes the "blueness" of an object, and nothing else. For any more information, you require more words, like navy, to get more specifity.

So long story short, it is a flaw in reasoning to assume that the universe possesses a set number of dimensions as dimensions are an abstract concept of a language used to communicate about the universe. When we talk about something, the something does not automatically get captured in our speech like a soul was believed to be captured by a photo. The something we are talking about is independant of our language to describe it.

The Universe, therefore, has exactly as many dimensions as are useful in making communication simpler. If it is just as easy to speak of the universe in four dimensions, then it has four. If it is easier to speak of it in five dimensions, it should have five. The Universe could have any number of dimensions, all of which are indeterminable. Again, it would be like trying to work out exactly how much information is in the word elephant. The amount of information in a word is relative to the amount of information in the mind of the receiver. If I say elephant to a zoologist, the word will contain much more information than if I say elephant to a secretary (unless the secretary used to be a zoologist). Words that are abundant in information can also possess no information, as in the example that I say the word elephant to someone that does not know what an elephant is. In this case, I must manually unravel the word in order to explain it to the person, at which point, elephant will become a word that will from then on mean all of those things (or at least the ones that person remembers).

Dimensions are the same thing. Describing the universe in fourteen dimensions is great. It is however useless if you do not take the time to explain to "outsiders" what those extra ten dimensions stand for. And does the Universe have fourteen dimensions? Yes. Obviously. If I can prove that elephant includes the word "grey", then I can prove that the universe has those dimensions as long as it is consistent and logically sound. Elephant does not include the word abyss, for example, because elephants are not composed of abysses (that we know of). If I can describe something with language, it is assumed that the thing I am describing has those qualities. Even fictitious objects possess the qualities I imbue them with, and are subject to the same laws.

Take the word "life" for example. As the various fields of science, philosophy, theology, etcetera all expand their reasoning, life becomes a much more complicated term. Life now includes words such as organism, which themselves are complex terms. Therefore you have complex terms wrapped up in more complex terms, ad infinitum. The Universe is the same way, and for this reason I will eventually get around to my HARD DRIVE UNIVERSE theory, which is not so much a theory as simply a way of perceiving things that I think is handy.

So the Universe must have fourteen dimensions if you can describe it using fourteen dimensions. But the underlying point is that the universe, (or let us just say reality) always has more dimensions than we are describing. Using the term elephant for example, fails to accurately describe even the simplest of elephants, namely one sketched by a two year old with no talent. The complex term is a tool for communication. The barrier of any language will be its ability to completely describe anything that it is talking about, and math is no exception.

So, in conclusion, if you view the varying types of mathematics as grammatical rules to make describing a system more simple, than mathematics is no truer than the word elephant. The goal of math is to create the best term for description and nothing more. Mathematical "proofs" are not true in and of themselves, they are only consistent within their own language framework.

This point leads into my next point, but for now I will stop here as I have other things to do today.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Rambling Dream Fever (the creative process?)


I created this song years ago, some time around when I first started learning how to play the guitar. It was really just a way to take what were (to me) a gibberish poem I had scribbled down late one night and set it to the few chords I happened to know at the time.

Lately a friend lent me a little device called a Maschine. It is neat once you figure out how to make the buttons do things, and I'm just tenacious enough with things that make noise to do just that. I am not exactly sure what the technical name for such a piece of equipment is. It is some sort of sequencer/synthesizer device. Simply put, you push buttons, and it makes noise.

I was listening to a hip hop song called Dead and Gone and I had been struggling with this little do-hicky thingamajig for about a week, thoroughly convinced that anything that could make so many different noises must be a good thing, but equally convinced that I had wasted a whopping amount of time creating sound patterns I would probably never do anything with it.

I suddenly remembered this old rambling song that I rarely play.

It took me a few days to "finish" the new version, which is quite different than the chords I used to pick out on the guitar. I was not able to add guitar to the song because of the tunes incredibly strange tempo. In fact, the backbeat little piano melody thing keeps horrible time.

More importantly I do not think that anything I did on the guitar actually added to the song.

It is what it is.

Life comes full circle some times. "Rambling Dream Fever" is a song created from a "poem" I wrote back in high school, written at a time when I hardly knew how to play the guitar. Ten years later it has taken a new form, created entirely on a new instrument, this time called a Maschine, that I hardly know how to play.

I wish I had more time to learn all the instruments I would like to play.

I love making noise.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Tragic Story of Bob

Can the flapping of butterfly wings in Timbucktoo cause the tornado that blows Dorothy to Oz?

Would you be surprised if the answer seemed like it could be yes?

Bob wonders. He really wonders. You see, Bob tried to get a job selling batteries. He won't get that job for a variety of reasons. Someone was cheated. Someone else was hurt. In another town, a guy named Alan was let out of jail and pardoned for his crimes. It turns out that Alan was not as deserving of his special treatment as it had been originally surmised. A wrong decision was made.

Many people were upset that these terrible things were happening, and it was confusing since in many cases the people who were the most upset were not the people who actually had the bad things happen to them. 

Bob made the mistake of going to a bar one night. In retrospect he probably shouldn't have. Butterfly wings are very powerful.

Bob punched someone at a bar. The person very likely deserved it. Bob received an assault charge and a criminal record. He had to take an anger management class and serve some community service. Later he would tell people that he felt very bad for having punched the guy in the bar who deserved it. It was a silly thing to have done.

Bob could not have known at the time that there were more obscure reasons for not punching the guy at the bar who deserved it, reasons that extended far beyond that it was simply a silly thing to have done. A man named Alan was pardoned, and Alan should not have been given a free pass. Alan was not responsible for the someone who was cheated, or the someone who was hurt, but had the system not been flawed enough to grant Alan a pardon in the first place, then it seemed logical to assume that these other bad things might not have happened.

People were tired of bad things happening. They tried to put more laws in place to stop bad things from happening, but for some reason that had little affect. They decided that the only thing left to do was make sure that punishments were more severe and long lasting. Mayors and Prime Ministers and such were fine with the decision since they were tired of bad things happening as well. Every time something bad happened, like the whole Alan incident, their names kept getting thrown around negatively in the newspapers.

The Mayors and Prime Ministers had long ago determined that it was very hard to fix holes in existing plumbing. It was much easier to simply remove the plumbing and let the shit fall where it may. A bill would be passed eliminating Bob's chance to ever receive a pardon for having punched a guy in a bar who deserved it. It was foolproof. No one could complain about Alan being given an unfair pardon if nobody could receive pardons anymore.

Why wouldn't a peace loving society pass a bill eliminating pardons? Bob could be a person who cheated or hurt people, or might some day be wrongfully let out of prison. Right?

Unlikely since Bob was never in prison in the first place, though he does share at least one thing in common with the above mentioned man named Alan, in that they both have a criminal record.

Meanwhile, a corporation somewhere decided that it was okay to push the boundaries during their interview process. They got away with asking some questions that they should not have been able to ask. After all, it was written in black and white under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that the corporation was not allowed to ask the sorts of questions that it asked.

Bob did not know when he punched the guy in the bar who deserved it that corporations were getting away with asking questions they were not allowed to ask. He was not aware that the company that sold batteries was one of those corporations. At the time he would not have even cared because Bob always wanted more for himself than working for minimum wage selling batteries, but he punched a guy in a bar who deserved it, so many of his options went the way of the Dodo.

Bob, it turns out, thinks that it is horrible when bad things happen to people. He feels very strongly that people should not be cheated or hurt, and people who should be in jail should probably stay there, and that some people should not receive pardons. What Bob did not understand when he punched the guy in the bar who deserved it was how those things he believed very strongly in would have anything to do with him getting a job selling batteries.

Too bad for Bob. Butterflies flapped their wings. The battery company is going to ask Bob some questions that they are not allowed to ask. If Bob answers these questions he will not get the job. If he refuses to answer these questions, he will not get the job. The battery company is able to ask the sorts of questions it is asking, which it is not supposed to be allowed to ask, because someone was cheated, and someone was hurt; somewhere someone stole a cookie from a child, and somewhere else some vandals wrecked a tombstone. Plus there was Alan.

Bob deserves what is coming to him. After all he once punched a guy in a bar who deserved it. Why would we want someone of that calibre selling us batteries? Bob was irresponsible once, so there is absolutely nothing to say that he won't be irresponsible again some day.

Of course, that is the price for freedom. The Bobs of the world get swept under the rug, then the rug gets driven over by a Mac Truck. Tolerance and Understanding breed weakness, and Criminals like Bob prey on weakness. Everybody knows that.


Sunday, 22 July 2012

Flying (A poem)

Am I alone when I dream to fly?
Do ants go to sleep to be fireflies?
Do elephants imagine feathered wings?
Do penguins long to ride on the wind?
When I close my eyes and float on the air
Am I the lonely one up there
Or do the many-legged bugs
All feel the same, and envy doves?
Am I alone when I dream to fly
Or do we all wish to ride the skies
To cast away our earthly binds
And sail, and soar, and dip, and glide?

Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Saw

The house is silent. It is almost nine o'clock and already shadows gather to make their nightly rounds. One room escapes their tide, kept at bay by the glow from a small crackling fire. Here in the den a grandfather clock counts away the seconds, its wise oak countenance always wary of time's fickle passing. The room smells of age, reeks of it in fact. Volumes of tattered yellowing books line the shelves, gathering dust and age. A sense of loneliness pervades, the oppressive feeling that belongs to all neglected objects. It has been a long time, too long, since any of these volumes were opened. Here was a room that was once filled with dreams, that was once vital and alive. Those dreams are gone and what was once vital now lies comatose, just like the old man who sits across from the fire. His eyes stare in to the embers, but he is not looking. His vision is fine, yet still it has been some time since he has really seen anything. The fire longs for a new log, even just a poke or a prod. In his faded green leather chair, the old man fails to care. Like the neglected books, like the encroaching shadows, like the watchful grandfather clock and the slowly dying fire, the old man waits.

His hair is a disheveled mess of white and gray strands, wild like an aged Medusa. Skin dry as leather hide, he was once a strapping young man and worked a hard life. Those years of toil have left their mark in the sallow complexion which stares back at him on the rare occasions he glimpses himself in a mirror. Where sharp eyes used to take in the world, listlessness now resides. There are many who have commented that he looks dead already. He used to maintain a goatee, sometimes a beard. The wiry nubs of hair that grow on his chin could hardly be called either. He appears a homeless man, and isn't that how he feels? Isn't that why he sits alone, bitter from memories he has long since locked away? His eyes tell his tale. One look and the whole story is revealed. He has the look of Lear, and has fallen just the same.

The old man's name is Fredrick Mourn. This house is his life. He has been alive for seventy-four years. He has been dead for far too long. In five years he has not made a single attempt to leave his house. The drapes are closed tight. The outside world is a virus, his home the quarantine. Neighbors have pondered over his mysteries. Some even tried to be helpful. He stopped acknowledging their attempts at consolation long ago, and they stopped caring. The young children have decided he is a warlock, or a vampire. If life were that magical, he would not have had to lock himself away. He talks to his lawyer three or four times a year over the phone. He hangs up on his children on the rare occasions they try calling again. There are hours between when he wakes up and when he sleeps. They have long since become a blur. Just at night, when he takes a seat in his old leather chair and stares at the fire, does he really pay attention. He sometimes thinks. More often than not, he doesn't. His heart still beats. At times he is angry for that. He comes to the den for comfort. He is not completely alone, not here. A strange companion found him five years ago, right at the time he sealed his tomb. It lives in the far corner of the basement, covered in spider webs, dust and shadows. Nothing spectacular, except for once every night, without fail. A reminder perhaps that not everything has abandoned him.

The table saw is broken. It was broken nearly ten years ago, perhaps more, and it is still broken. Its cord hangs dispiritedly on the floor. Even if it was plugged in, Fredrick is reasonably sure the nearest plug was one of the ones damaged in the flood of '83. It is unlikely the machine would get much of a jolt. The circular blade was damaged on the last job the little rust bucket was employed for, and now sits at an odd angle within the device, rusted to the point that Fredrick would not be surprised if it simply would not budge even if the saw had power. The tool should have been taken to the dump long ago, and yet, just like himself, it remains in the house, stubborn and refusing to pass on.

At nine o'clock on the dot every night for five years the table saw has turned on. The blade has started spinning, the motor buzzing. In a house of silence it is the closest sound to joy that Fredrick has known. For sixty minutes the saw sings, uninterrupted and without fail. At ten o'clock, as mysteriously as how it turned on in the first place, the saw shuts off. In the early days, Fredrick used to busy himself trying to understand the phenomena. He would travel down the rickety old stairs to the basement risking death if he fell. He would surely crack a hip and there would be no one coming to check on him. He would get to the bottom of the stairs and look dumbfounded as the saw roared as if new. He checked the limp cord and noted that it was not plugged in. He sliced a few pieces of wood a time or two. The cuts were straight. That blade should not have even spun and yet the pieces were flawless. Of course he wondered whether he imagined the whole thing. He lived by himself. It was conceivable he had gone mad. After a while he realized he didn't care. It was just himself and the table saw now, alone in the house and sealed from the world. He cared little for that world, the one that would insist that the table saw could not turn on once a night at nine o'clock. So he started coming to the den. He would sit in his chair and stare at the fire and listen to the saw until it stopped.

The grandfather clock began to chime, its resonant voice announcing what Fredrick already knew. The table saw had started to spin. It was nine o'clock. He pressed his lips and cast a wary glance around the room. Everything looked the same. Everything was the same. The books, the fire, the clock. Was it the fire that was different? Perhaps it did not burn as bright as it normally did. He listened to the sound of the table saw. Was it the same sound it always made? He couldn't be sure. He thought that it was. Castrating himself mentally for his sudden anxiousness he tried to settle in his chair. Something was different. He could not put his finger on it but he knew for certain that he was right. Being the sole resident, the self imprisoned recluse in this house for five years, you had come to know its feel. The taste of the rooms, the feel of the spaces, expansive or cramped, the give of the floorboards. It was not a lot different than a spouse, not to Fredrick. This house had been his mistress. He knew her every secret.

The thought brought with it a tide of memory, the kind he had locked away long ago. Painful. Accusing. These were the reasons that Fredrick was hiding, but it was no use. A switch had been flipped. The flood came and his eyes widened.

The car.


The black Cavalier lurched around the corner like a locomotive. Eddy Pierce was at the wheel, drunk. Sober Eddy would have had time to stop the car or swerve out of the way. Probably. Fredrick could almost see the Cavalier's evil intentions, always remember the way that haunting vehicle had laughed at him. That didn't happen though, did it? Janice had already stepped out on the road. She didn't see the black Cavalier coming. It had happened so fast, but there had been time. Time enough to save her, to shout at her, to leap out and push her out of the way. Why hadn't he saved her? He just stood on the sidewalk, frozen, and watched for Christ's sake!

It started at the wake. People whispering. People always whisper at a wake, but Fredrick knew better. They were talking about him. They had probably read the paper. That article about the accident might has well have spelled it out in black and white. It was right there between the lines. They all thought it was his fault. Fredrick Mourn could have saved his wife and he didn't. Now they whispered. The kids too. Stacy the worst. Tears barely covered the malice you could see in those eyes. She knew her father was guilty.

“It should not have been her.”

Who said that? Was it Stacy? Adam? Someone said it. He knew what they meant, whoever said it. No, it should not have been her. Not Janice. It should have been him. They knew, and he knew. All those eyes, weeping and accusatory.

The whispering did not stop with the wake. Every time he went out he could hear it. In every consoling look he could see it. They wanted Janice to be walking out of that house. That was what their looks said. They loved Janice. The world would be better if she were alive and he was dead. Stacy would phone. Adam less so. Adam had always been that way, never had a great relationship with his old man, but Fredrick knew the real reason. They were ashamed of him, probably couldn't even wait for the inheritance now that mom was gone. Greedy bastards. So he drew the lines while drawing the drapes, mounted his defenses inside his castle, and waited.

He had not thought about Janice in five years. He could feel the tears mounting in his eyes like water behind a cracking dam. He felt wretched. For five years he had forced himself not to think of his wife, the woman he had loved for forty-two years. He had never grieved her loss, never accepted that she was gone at all. Stacy and Adam tried to get through but his shield was too strong.

He wept, each tear carrying another regret to pool upon the floor. There was something different tonight. He thought that perhaps it had been different for some time now, that he had just been ignoring it. He tried to stop time five years ago. How foolish. How childish it now seemed. The black Cavalier killed two people that day, they just hadn't buried the second in the ground yet.

He thought he understood the permeating differentness in the house. Death. That old trickster would not be fooled by a few pulled drapes. He almost smiles, except it is not funny. So many forms the reaper could take, it chose this one. He supposes he is not afraid. He thought that he would not care, but he does. If he could do things differently, but no, no one gets a chance to do things differently. Just Jimmy Stewart.

I'm sorry Janice. Stacy. Adam.

I'm sorry Fredrick.

The house is quiet. It takes a moment for the realization to dawn. The table saw has shut off. It can't be ten o'clock yet. He glances warily at the grandfather clock. He feels suddenly very alone. He can hear the quietness of the house. It is almost maddening. The crackling of the fire, the ticking of the clock, the clanks and clunks of the ducts. It is only 9:32. In five years the saw has been consistent. Why has the table saw turned off early? He feels faint. A shortness of breath attacks him and for a moment he thinks that it may be a panic attack. An image of a scythe etches his thoughts, not a scythe this time but a circular blade. A rusty, bent, circular blade. He knows why the table saw has quit before its time. As the last breath escapes his lips, the fire dies out as well.

The End

Monday, 4 June 2012

We'd Like to 'ear Another Story

He stared at the keyboard, fingers trembling. They would come again tonight, they always came. He could run, they would follow. He could hide, they would find him. No door could stop them, no wall could keep them out. Tiny eyes, glowing red, would watch him. Then grimacing mouths, full of razor teeth, would open, and they would speak.

"We'd like to 'ear another story," they'd say in their hackneyed English accents. Their tiny heads, beneath their little bowler hats, would nod as one. They were naked except for those bowler hats.  They would repeat their request and look to each other expectantly.

"We'd like to 'ear another story."

He loathes to remember the night he did not have a story ready. He can still feel those talon-like nails tearing at his skin. They had screamed in his ears, ripped at his clothes, scratched at his eyes. They were like children, demon children. One day, their tantrums would kill him.

How much more could he take? There were no more stories to tell. They demanded entertainment and he had nothing to give them. He panicked, stood from his chair, paced the room. He felt the coiling snake of despair in his stomach. He wondered what would one day be chiseled in to his tombstone.

Died by Writer's Block.

He dreamed of escape, even if that escape meant death. He had tried before. Oh, how he'd tried.

“No, no, no,” they would say as they patched him up. “Not tonight, no, not tonight.”

Would he ever be free of this torment?

“You are wasting time,” he cursed himself. His future hardly mattered, it was the present that concerned him, and they would be here soon. He could not take another night of torture. His fingers began to type.  With sudden vigour and purpose, he typed. His tired eyes widened. It was a good story, perhaps one of his best. He did not look up at the clock until he was finished.  It was almost midnight. He was elated, at least for the moment. He cast a final look at the tale and sighed relief. He had done it.

They came as they always came, sitting down and waiting patiently for him to begin. They loved him, he knew, but it was a very conditional love. While his words continued to fill some void in their demonic little lives, they would continue to come, night after night. If his stories stopped, or failed to be interesting, that love would turn to hatred. The tiny demons would cast him aside, rip him asunder, discard him to the shadows and loneliness and death that awaited him; then they would move on, restless to fill the insatiable void once more.

“We'd like to 'ear another story,” they said, their eyes aglow with that red excitement. 

He spun his tale. They listened. He had survived one more night.