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The site is live!

Took me long enough.

I figured it was about damn time I got myself a website together given that I plan on releasing a book soon, and I’ve been expanding my platform outreach. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll sell merchandise on this thing.

Well, I won’t get ahead of myself on that. I need a book first.

Wherever you’ve come from, thank you, welcome, and I hope you enjoy the stories!

Lost in a Dream – Picking a Cover

Hi guys!

So, as most of you know, I’m currently writing a novel called Lost in a Dream. It’s nearly finished, and with it getting so close, I thought now would be a good time to start figuring out the cover.

Now, I’ll be honest–I made these, and I know they aren’t professional. However, a good cover costs about $400 minimum, and I need to put as much money as possible into hiring an editor to make my story the best it can possibly be. So, with that said, I drafted up a couple covers, and I’d love feedback about which one you guys think is the best. My girlfriend has an eye for art and thinks the first one has much better dragons. They also take up more empty space.

Any pixellation is just because of the presentation, the files are SVG and scale smoothly (including the gradient, which looks weirdly like blinds on the left half when I export it as a PNG file.

1.
2.

These are my two current drafts–let me know your thoughts! I’ve also been thinking about a faint pattern on each side, since the story is very much about night/day. Maybe a light star pattern on the left, a sun pattern on the right, or something. If you have ideas, let me know!

Thank you 😀

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Written for a contest over at /r/WritingPrompts 🙂

I often wonder what I could have done differently. I think that’s the worst part of it all, honestly. I miss her, yes, I miss her every day, but what hurts the most is that I was so goddamn close when it happened. Close enough to do something, if only I’d been paying attention, but we’d each had one too many and. . .

Well, it doesn’t really matter, does it?

I’ve come to learn that grief is a circular prison; it never ends, but rather, it is a ceaseless loop of beginnings. So many fucking things begin: depression, healing, or a random breakdown, or hopelessness like being caught in a riptide that sucks the breath out of you, but none of it ever ends. It’s a string of half-finished pains and unanswered questions that defy the sands of time to survive and burrow into broken hearts. No matter how far you run, you’re still trapped in the circle, wandering an endless hallway of memories and regrets. There’s no escaping it.

You see a lot of the same things when you run down the same hallway for a few weeks; reliving that one night on the beach, a bonfire shaking its fist at the ocean breeze trying to smother it, or maybe when you stayed up all night playing Pokemon Crystal because she never had a Gameboy as a kid. Sometimes you end up at the darkest section, where you just curl up for a little while and cry because you’re exhausted and there’s just nothing else to do. A birthday. An anniversary.

God, we fell in love too young. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. 

Sometimes I get down on my hands and knees in the darkness, running my finger along the uneven cobblestone, tracing lines in hopes that I’ll find something, anything, to help make sense of it all. I never find anything, but I try anyway, aimless as it is. My friends call it ‘dwelling’, but they don’t get it. None of them can understand how hard it is to ask a question that will never get answered.

It might be pointless, but I’ve started this journal to help me maintain a semblance of sanity. I feel like I’m in the dark again, scouring the ground for clues, and need some modicum of method to the madness, even if it’s a lie.

Hopefully no one else ever reads this shit. I was just feeling kinda poetic.


I went through her box again tonight. I know, I promised myself I wouldn’t, but I couldn’t help it. The orange chicken my mom ordered for dinner reminded me of her.

Honestly, who tries to keep a team of only bat Pokemon? It doesn’t even make any sense, none of them are very good. She’s got a legendary in a box at the center, and two Golbats on her team. It’s ridiculous.

Fuck, I miss her.

The batteries died after an hour and I’m out of AAs again, so I dug around through the box some more. Found that high school notebook she sketched random stuff in, all kinds of cool doodles and concepts where there should’ve been more notes. I just wish I could see them finished someday. What was weird, though, is that there was some stuff near the end of the notebook that I found by just flipping through it for no reason. A poem, mainly. I never noticed before since she sandwiched it between empty pages–I didn’t know she ever wrote anything, so maybe she was just embarrassed. No matter the reason, it was. . . haunting. I couldn’t even cry, it just sort of crushed my soul.

She sits still with hollow eyes,  

In a melting world of golden sighs,  

Wondering where warm winds blow,  

And if there’s a place for her to go.

She’d cry more if there were tears,  

Enough for all the world’s fears,  

And maybe some extra, too,  

For people like me and you,

Why must life hurt us so?  

We’re born and fight until we go,  

It’s a hamster wheel of work and pains,  

What do we make out of these chains?

Some things just refuse to end,

That’s where it cut off. She must not have ever finished it. It’s so. . . depressing, but at the same time, I feel the words like they’re a part of me. Like they were written for me to find, right here, right now. A poem for the future. A poem for me.

And, like her drawings, and our love, and our plans and family–it has no end. It’s only the beginning of something she’ll never get to finish.


I couldn’t pay much attention at work today and pretended to be sick so Sam would let me go home early. A few well-placed groans and stifled coughs did the trick.

It’s the damn poem. I keep thinking about it and some of the phrases, they just feel so real for me. “We’re born and fight until we go”, and “Some things just refuse to end” are just so accurate and hit me where it hurts the most.

Nathan blew up my phone again, today, and I lied and said I was busy. I just can’t pretend to be happy and have fun right now, and they’ve learned at this point that there’s no point in fighting back. It just feels so unfair for me to still be here. They can’t possibly understand it.

I think I’m going to take a couple of personal days. Not going to use them for anything else, anyway, and there are some people I want to talk to.

The poem needs to be finished. I just can’t have another piece of her lying around like this, it’s so. . . wrong. And I feel like, for once, I can actually do something about it.


Nathan texted me again today, as if yesterday didn’t happen. He’s a good friend, because a good friend is stubborn as hell, and that’s his best trait. Everyone else has sort of given up on me in a way, and I can’t blame them. It just doesn’t feel right. Normal shit doesn’t make sense anymore, as silly as that sounds. I let him down nicely.

Besides, I actually wasn’t lying to him, for once–I have plans.

I’m going to meet with a local author I found on Facebook. He doesn’t have much of a following yet, but I read some of his stuff and it’s better than anything I could do. I want to see what he can make of the poem. I pretended to be a fan and he agreed to meet with me for coffee today at Starbucks. Feels a little bad but it’ll make him feel better, too, so I figure there’s no harm done. I’ll take this with me and write down any gems he has to say.

Notes:

  • fuck

Well, that was a waste of time. It was awkward as hell, and at least half of that was me, but he didn’t help much. I think he quickly figured out that I am not actually obsessed with him. When I showed him the poem, he just kinda sighed for a long time and then shrugged. Said he wasn’t a very good poet, and that poetry and writing isn’t the same thing. Didn’t even want to try.

Which would be fine, but one thing he said really bothered me. “Writing is like art, you know. Sometimes art is just like a real picture, but sometimes it’s abstract. Just because something doesn’t seem finished doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value as-is,” or something like that. You know, some holier-than-thou shit you’d expect from a wannabe author. The poem clearly stops partway through, and she deserves an ending. A proper ending. She was a person, not a fucking Picasso painting. I’ll just find someone else.


Today’s the worst it’s been in a while. I called out of work again, so there goes my last sick day. This is what music and alcohol are for. Too hard to think when you’re hammered to the floor and can hardly hear your own thoughts.

It was so stupid. I just wanted some sushi to take home, and their special was the dragon roll. Her favorite.

i dont understand how i fall apart so easily


Work makes everything so much worse. I swear to God, as if life doesn’t suck enough, my manager just has this natural desire to make everything ten times more miserable. Why is it my fault that her best project manager quit? That means go out and find another one, not look at me like I suddenly have two jobs. Jesus Christ. Gonna go to bed early tonight.

I’ve been reading some poetry lately. I really like this one by Robert Frost.

Nature’s first green is gold,  

Her hardest hue to hold.  

Her early leaf’s a flower;  

But only so an hour.  

Then leaf subsides to leaf,  

So Eden sank to grief,  

So dawn goes down to day  

Nothing gold can stay.

Just makes a lot of sense, and it sounds nice. I feel like that leaf, you know. A leaf in autumn that’s just always falling, and a dried husk of what it once was.

I’m clearly fucked if I’m relating to leaves.


Alright, I know how desperate this is going to sound, but it’s the best thing I could come up with: I’m going to meet a psychologist. Found one on ZocDoc that I only had to wait three days for.

It’s ironic, because everyone used to tell me I need to see one so I can get a better handle on my grief, feel some liberation, be free, etc, and I always refused. Seemed corny to me, and just talking to someone isn’t going to fix any of this. I’m sure psychs have plenty of wisdom to offer, but last time I checked, wisdom doesn’t undo the past. Words can’t fill the hole she left behind.

And yet, here I am, sitting in the parking lot outside of her office, wasting as many seconds as possible before I actually have to deal with the situation. I’m gonna try to be more careful than I was with the author, or it’ll turn into an actual therapy session.

Notes:

  • The poem has strong inclinations of regret and sadness, but it’s hard to predict the ending
  • She wrote it in high-school, when she was not used to dealing with her emotions in a healthy manner
  • If she had revisited it as an adult, she may have decided to give it a happier ending
  • The only person who could’ve truly ended it is her, anything else is a guess
  • It’s not

why doesnt anyone get it


I lost control of the conversation we were having after a little while and had to sleep it off. Took a few zzzquil when I got home and let myself rest.

What she said made sense, I guess, it just wasn’t helpful at all. I get that no one else can really end her poem, and I shouldn’t pretend that someone else could. It wouldn’t be hers anymore, it’d be theirs. I got a bit stubborn in the moment and tried to stand my ground on that.

It turned into an argument–for me, at least. I just get so frustrated. I’m still trapped in the circle, running laps around her grave, and. . . I mean, maybe the psych was right. Maybe I am doing this to myself, at least partially. It just doesn’t feel like that. It feels like I’m trying to break out, like I’m clawing at the walls until my fingers are shredded.

Am I?

Or am I standing at the edge of a bridge, too afraid to cross it because I’m scared I might fall?

She had a lot of good analogies. I should’ve written more of them down, but panic attacks are a bitch. I have no idea how I drove home.


It’s been a little while since I’ve written one of these. I dunno, maybe this stupid journal hurts more than it helps. I don’t know what helps. I think I need to pull away from all of this.


For once, I’m writing about something that felt good. I know I said I’d stop, but I figured it’d be nice to actually throw something positive into this abyss.

Today was a pretty good day. I interacted more with Joan and Steve during my lunch break, and they seemed to be happy about it. We had a few good laughs, talked about how shit the movies are these days. Damn Disney took over the entire industry. It was nice, though, to chat with them, and I usually hate chatting, but I’ve been working with them for a while and I normally eat lunch alone in my cube.

So yeah. Progress, and all of that.


I actually got promoted today, and it even came with a pay raise! Damn, I would’ve never expected that to happen. Guess Sam picked up on the extra work I’ve been doing and has been happy with it. Good things come in time, and all of that. Maybe I’ve been too hard on her.

I’m a project manager now! I think I deserve it, with all the hard work I’ve done. It’s nice to be recognized.

Take that, depression! Victory is mine.


Ah, fucking hell. There’s a new girl at work, and I wasn’t paying attention when Sam brought her by to meet me. I’ve been pretty complacent lately, focusing on doing better for myself, even going to the gym sometimes, but when I turned around, for just a second. . . I saw her eyes. They were so fucking blue, I just. . .

Fucking hell.


nothing gold can stay


I can’t stop thinking about the poem, again. I swear, it’s like I can’t actually push anything out, it’s just swept under the rug. 

That psych was wrong. It seemed like dwelling, and in some ways it was, but I think this is closure for me. I’ve been going about it wrong, but I need to find a means to an end. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but. . .

I’m going to talk with Dad about it. I really wish Mom was still here for a time like this. She’d know what to do.

Notes:

Never mind, he’d just take the piss out of me for bringing a journal.


You know, it’s funny. I always pinned my dad for the kind of guy to hate giving advice about this kind of thing, but he was real serious about the conversation once I opened up a little. I guess he lost his sister when he was pretty young. I didn’t know that.

We talked for a really long time, and he said some pretty real shit that hit me. He said, “Some things don’t make sense, and it’s bullshit, but if you try to make sense of them, you’ll just go insane. You have to make your own sense.”

Goddamn do I feel that in my soul.

I tried so hard to piece together what little of her I have left, but it was selfish. That wannabe author had it right–well, kinda. I get what he meant now about how just because something isn’t finished, doesn’t mean it isn’t right. I can never finish her poem for her, and neither can anyone else.

But that doesn’t mean it’s over. So dawn goes down to day.


I think this is my last entry.

I finally went out with some of the guys today, and it was a lot of fun. I didn’t feel guilty for the first time in a while now, and they were all really supportive of me. I think she’d be proud.

I’ve thought a while about all the things I learned, not just from others, but about myself. I’ve been thinking about this all wrong, haven’t I?

Some things never end, and that’s okay. The human connection, the love we build, it’s like a little egg we shelter from the harsh winds of time that hatches and grows into a big, beautiful bird, something majestic and strong, like an eagle or hawk. It needs to fly and feel the air beneath its wings, so when it gets caged–for one reason or another–it suffers, and tries so hard to break free. I see now that I was not trapped in a prison, but rather that I built the prison and locked my love for her inside it. You cannot learn the ending to an unfinished story. . .

You can only be the ending yourself.

Forgive me, I’m not exactly Robert Frost.

She sits still with hollow eyes,  

In a melting world of golden sighs,  

Wondering where warm winds blow,  

And if there’s a place for her to go.

She’d cry more if there were tears,  

Enough for all the world’s fears,  

And maybe some extra, too,  

For people like me and you,

Why must life hurt us so?  

We’re born and fight until we go,  

It’s a hamster wheel of work and pains,  

What do we make out of these chains?

Some things just refuse to end,

                        ~

I know it hurts, it hurts so fucking bad,  

To look into the unknown,  

We have no idea what we’re doing here,  

Confused flesh and bone.

But maybe that’s the point of this,  

To tangle messy souls,  

Get lost together in this life,  

A road with bumps and holes.

How’d I forget you’re still in my heart?  

Wherever that may be,  

And as for what to make of it,  

I think that part’s up to me.

Yeah, some things just refuse to end,  

Like a bond with my closest friend,

Or the prison I’d shut myself in,  

They only begin again,  

And again,  

And again.

Four Judges

This is one of my favorite stories, and has gotten me the most outreach so far. Let me know what you think of it! 🙂

In a room blacker than night, devoid of stars or any other such beauties, I floated. It was some shattered gap between nowhere and everywhere, the kind of lonely afterlife I’d always imagined would suit me best.

I deserved nothing more.

It stayed that way for — how do I put this? Forever, and yet not forever. I did not age, or move, or even feel the eons slink by in a human manner, and yet I knew it had been an eternity by the time the angel first appeared. He was a stark contrast to the void around us, brighter than the sun, yet cast light on nothing, as if his glow were being devoured by the abyss.

Suddenly, I was standing on a circular piece of stone, and had some semblance of weight and being.

The angel opened his arms and spoke not in words, but directly to my mind. “Timothy Halpert Bennington. You are now ready for judgment.”

Judgement. Ha, of course the afterlife would be something like religions predicted. I’m sure my life had left a bad taste in God’s mouth. I didn’t respond, only stared into the nothing below me.

“Your first Judge: the one you were cruelest to in life.”

I cocked my head, brows knitting into a line. People from my life would be judging me?

No. No, please, just send me to Hell.

My eyes tried to shut, like slamming the door behind you to avoid a conversation you don’t want to deal with, but something kept them open. The angel hadn’t moved a muscle, and yet, I knew it was him.

A pocket of light smudged something within itself. That smear of darkness stepped forward, onto another stone tile, and clarified as the pocket zipped up.

It was her. I knew it would be, but that didn’t make it any easier to bear.

“Oh, Timmy, you’re so young,” she said, a soft smile on her face. “I’ve missed you so much.”

I couldn’t meet her eyes and searched for words, but my lips only trembled, mouthing empty motions. My eyes fell to the stone beneath her.

“Look at me, Timothy.”

I obliged.

“When you were a boy, no more than fifteen, you once burned all of my photo albums. Not just the ones with your father in them, but the ones of us, family trips and gatherings, every memory I ever had. They were erased forever, those last bits I had of him and our carefree times. I cried every day for a month, when you weren’t home. That was my joy, mementos of when life was simple and fun, which you turned to ash.”

There was nothing I wanted more than to squeeze my eyes shut, but I could not; I was forced to watch the sadness in her eyes as she spoke.

“That was your most cruel action– it hurt me more than when your father left us. He had always been unkind, but for you, the light of my life, to torch away our memories like that… it broke me.”

Before I could muster the courage to apologize, she slipped away into light. I felt sick, so humanly sick in my stomach, but knew there would be no relief. One does not vomit in the afterlife.

The angel offered me no reprieve. “Your second judge: the one you were most kind to.”

Once more a flash, and once more an approach. My eyes widened, face flickering as I tried to understand.

“You didn’t expect to see me again, did you?” Her smile was wide and bashful.

“How…?”

“Oh, silly boy. The mind plays tricks on us sometimes. You probably thought that, because you’d caused me a great pain in life, there was no way you could have brought me joy, but life is not that black and white. It’s so much more than that.”

Still I searched, and still I found no words.

“You were harsh — even cruel — at times, but it wasn’t always like that. Your pain changed you, and even then, you weren’t a purely cruel person. Just one that lashed out once in a while because you didn’t understand how to handle it. Life can get very confusing.

“This is my favorite story. When you were ten — such a cute little man — you wrote me a poem for a school project. I’ll never forget the words on that card: To Mom, my bestest friend. I love you more than gummy bears or mac and cheese. You make me happier than Racer when I drop a potato chip and he eats it. Happy birthday to the best mommy in the whole wide world. You wrote that on a card decorated with hearts and smiley faces. You didn’t know it, but that was right when I’d first been diagnosed and your father started to show signs of his poor character as a man. Then, on top of it, you cooked me dinner, and it was so bad but I ate every bite. It was the best meal I’ve ever had.

“Never in my entire life have I felt as happy as I did in that moment. You were such a deeply caring boy before everything went wrong.”

I barely even remembered any of that. Had I really done something to make her happy? Why didn’t I remember it, when I remembered such other, terrible things so clearly?

She disappeared into the light as I searched my soul, digging for answers but only turning up dirt. The angel, kind as he was, did not let me take a moment to figure things out.

“Your third judge: the one whose life you saved.”

I froze. The one whose life I saved? I’d never saved a life, I’d only done things far from it. Perhaps it was standard practice, and no one would walk through the portal this time.

But, just like clockwork, she was back again, her smile warmer than the halo over her head.

I gaped at her. “No. No, I killed you. This makes no sense, I didn’t save you. Is this some kind of sick joke? Do angels play pranks on people?”

“Oh, sweetie,” she said, shaking her head. “It was mercy. Besides, the sickness had already stolen me. Letting me go in peace in no way makes it your fault. Have you held yourself accountable all this time?”

I couldn’t find it in me to respond, mashing my teeth together instead.

“It was my time to go. There was so much pain and suffering that plagued me, in the end; my sickness was no fault of yours. The fact that you put all your hurt aside and stayed with me so I wouldn’t be alone meant more than the world. You did the most brave thing a boy can do for his mother, and saved me.

Finally, there were words I found that I’d been looking for, choked and jagged as they were. “I love you, Mom. I’m so sorry I wasn’t a better son.”

“Shh, now, darling. Your hurt is almost over. I’ll be waiting for you.”

One final time, she faded away.

“And now, your final judge,” the angel said. “The one whose life you took.”

My nails bit into the skin, I clenched so hard, and I breathed deep to keep myself together in front of the angel overseeing it all– though, honestly, hiding things probably didn’t work when in the presence of Godly beings.

For when the swirling portal of light opened, it was not my mother that walked through as it had been the previous three times. No, it was someone much more familiar, and somehow, more terrifying.

Me.

I fought hard to look away, harder than I’d fought before, but I just couldn’t. There was no power in me, wherever I was, and so I simply stood there, frozen and sobbing at my own reflection.

“This is probably pretty rough for you,” he said, pursing his lips.

I let out a croak in response.

“You’ve always been too hard on yourself, you know that? Isn’t it time that you get a little peace, too?”

“I don’t deserve it,” I whispered.

“Everyone does. This world is a complicated and terrifying place, and everyone knows their own pain. You lived a life consumed by yours, more than equal penance for your mistakes.

“You’ve heard what she had to say, and seen the smile she still wears. You hurt her, yes, but you were also the joy of her life. Your father left because she was sick, not because you weren’t worth it; he was the problem, not either of you. Your mother loved and still loves you, and you’re not a bad man for the things you suffered. I only wish I could’ve shown you that earlier.

“But, alas, I digress. Let’s not do this– you’ve spent long enough convincing yourself you don’t deserve to be happy. It’s time to rest, now, Tim. Be at peace.”

He held out a hand.

I stepped forward and took it.