I’m Not Evil…I Think.

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So. Dating has been on my mind recently.

And no, before you ask, I am not getting lonely, or desperate, or some needy combination of the two. With God in my life, and writing, and books, and anime, and films, and Youtube, and a potential cat and job in the age care industry in the future (did I word that correctly? The cat and the job are separate—though I would be glad to look after elderly people’s cats as well), and loving family members and a couple of (okay, I sometimes have to pretend I’m someone I’m not around them, but I’ve long ago realised that for creative, bookish people like me, who has yet to find another writer in her entire life, to maintain acquaintances and not seem cold and rude I have to put on a mask sometimes—and they’re more like acquaintances, to be fair) friends, I am not in a bad place. Anymore. Which is good.

Though everytime I feel myself getting a little too happy and hopeful with how things are going on at the moment, I remind myself that there are people in the world right now who are starving to death or have lost family members to murder and that shuts my overload of happiness right up. I don’t think it’s fair for some people to be so happy, while somewhere else in the world, someone is miserable enough to want to die. So, a tip: tone down on your own happiness, if you are fortunate enough to have it at the moment. Is that too pushy?

I ate chicken today. I hate eating meat, but sometimes my body just craves the protein, so I cave in. Today, while walking home, I passed these walls put up by the council around a building site, and they had been literally covered in pro-vegan slogans and writing, and recommendations to watch a 2005 film called “Earthlings”. I decided not to watch it. I can’t handle seeing any form of cruelty or pain. In the past, during moments of complete rage at people who I deemed had hurt me in some way, and pure malice, I did wish death on some people I had come across, but that part of me, after I have started to get closer to God, has been eradicated. Sometimes, I am surprised at how easily I could turn into a monster, if pushed far enough—never enough to actually hurt someone in real life, but enough to imagine hurting them. It’s a dark side of me that I am horrified of. That’s what comes of having a vivid imagination, I suppose.

Anyway. Back to dating. Last night, I prayed to God to wonder meet someone—yes, a romantic interest—who would fall in love with my creativity or something like that, and decide I am the light of his life, and keep me safe forever and ever. He would be tall. He would be Christian, and love God. He would like cats. Or just animals in general. He would be a writer. He would be creative. He has to be a fan of animation, whether it be Pixel or Disney or Studio Ghibili or anime. He should like books. Actually, make that a must. And then after that I prayed to get published, and then I prayed for a cat, and then I daydreamed a little, and then I fell asleep.

I’m sure you’re finding all this fascinating. This really is just a ramble, isn’t it, about my own little world. Welcome. What does the entrance of my world look like, you ask? Why, it is a fairy door, of course! A stone arch, covered in brambly white roses. Only the kind of heart can pass through, though a little darkness is allowed, of course. Otherwise it would be so boring. What was I talking about again? Oh, yes. Dating.

I actually figured out the most perfect way for a writer to meet someone. It would be for the two of us to find ourselves sitting next to each other in a library or on a train or some other public place, reading each other’s books. And I’d look up, and be like, “Hey, I wrote that,” and he’d look up, smile, and say, “Likewise.” And it would be the most romantic, to-die-for thing ever, because I am the kind of person who would die for my own writing (you think I’m joking, but if it was between my life and getting published, I’d choose the latter in a heartbeat, without batting an eye), and who would protect books and fantasy world inside books, animations and films, to my dying breath. It is the only place where I have felt truly happy, and belonged. So to meet someone that way—through books—is kind of a happily ever after for me. I calculate that the chances of it happening in real life are close to—the chance of everyone in the world deciding to stop eating meat even though it is available. Which are zero.

I don’t want to have babies. Ever. The world is overpopulated enough that having children, in my eyes, is a selfish thing to do. I want to adopt. Three children. But to do so, at least in Australia, I would need to have a partner. It’s not going to be easy. I love children almost as much as I love cats.

As for things like sex…well, everyone has hormones. We all got here somehow (excluding children who are born out of horrific circumstances, like rape). I suppose, under the right conditions, I would have the same urges as everyone else. But it’s not that important to me, because sex, like all physical pleasures, is incredibly short-lived. Sure, I’ve walked into a shopping centre or somewhere and thought—golly, he’s good-looking! Then, I take a closer look at him, at the way he talks or interacts with other people, and I realize, instantly, with my magic personality reading skills, that we would never be compatible. I worry, sometimes, that I won’t ever find someone who “fits” with me, psychologically. Still waters run deep.

My last post, about animations, anime and all sorts of stuff, is probably one of the best ways for someone to understand who I am. I am fantasy. Creativity. That’s it. There’s honestly nothing else. My favourite books in the world are Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl and The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. And by favourite, I literally mean just imagining what happens in the books inside my head is enough to get me high with happiness. This is probably getting a little dull, but my passion for writing, for magic, is infinite. The only thing greater than it are things I care about, like the environment and family. Animals. I might not throw my books away for animals, unfortunately, or my mother (I am a hideous person, because the absolute truth is, since I don’t feel close to her, if I had to choose between publishing my own books and my mother’s life, I would actually find myself completely stuck and uncertain—and tempted to save the former), or a group of strangers who I have never had any contact with (honestly, if someone had to sacrifice my life just so their books could exist—I would gladly die for the greater good. I’m not kidding on this one. If my death, for instance, would have allowed Hayao Miyazaki to keep living, I would do so in a heartbeat.  And after I’ve published all of my books, of course, and only if the death is painless), but if it was a choice between my sibling, who I love more than my own life, or Mother Nature itself, who is everything to me, or Jesus, I would sacrifice my books (and by books, I mean the novels I’m currently working on).

I’m not a horrible person. I don’t think so. Maybe a little obsessed and egotistical. I just love books more than anything else in the world. And this might sound completely deranged (feel free to slap me in your mind), but when it comes down to it, I could imagine myself giving the OK to kill someone if they were going to do something horrible to my books, like use magic powers to erase all my books out of existence so that they were never published, never where even there. Just a random fantasy of mine.

This is what I was born for. To write. And I’m not even that good of a writer. I trust it all to God—everything, my future published books, my writing, my literary skills, my creativity. To hard work and practise. It is my purpose. Oh, and to do a heap of charity work until all my money is gone and I die of old age, surrounded by books and cats. All this is kind of hard to explain to people. Even when I tell the people closest to me that I must get published during my lifetime—or die, deep inside my soul, into an eternal blackness, the moment I take my last breath—they scoff, shrug, laugh it off.

It’s that important to me. Not because I want to be published and go, “Hey, I’m better than you, because I wrote these published books!” or for the fame, or for the money. I honestly believe my books need to exist, because they are very unique and pretty, and people have to have this burst of creativity God has gifted me.

Ha! And I promise I am not psychotic, or delusional, or plain crazy. I just know. I just know things. And I probably sounded really insane and evil in this post, spilling my thoughts out like this, so my dear dreamers, feel free to unsubscribe from your Dreamerrambling, who I am sure you all now believe is a demon.

Oh wait. This was meant to be about dating. In case you were wondering—a man who wouldn’t sacrifice his own life so my books would get to reach people is not a man I want in my life. Muahahaha.

Half of this post was tongue-in-cheek. I promise. I’m pretty sure I would sacrifice my own books in a heartbeat if it would save a pig screaming in fear from being slaughtered in front of me. Or a human being. It’s just easier, isn’t, if you can’t see it happening.

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Chinese Animations, Anime, and old Barbie films

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I’ve been watching an anime recently, called “Fairy Tail”.

For those of you who have been living under a rock (sorry, that’s mean), anime is a kind of Japanese animation usually targeted at kids or young adults. It’s quite whizzy and wonderfully creative. There are all these wizards, who are part of a guild titled “Fairy Tail”, who go on all sorts of adventures fighting evil. The currency in the world is jewels, and each wizard has a unique ability; Lucy’s, for instance, is a young woman with the power to open doorways to let celestial spirits come through to the human world to fight on her behalf, Natsu is a dragonslayer who uses fire magic, and Grey an “ice-maker” wizard, who can block attacks with walls of crystalline ice conjured out of nowhere, and generate a multitude of ice-centred assaults. And there is Erza, of course, a lady with scarlet hair and fiery with determination, who can fight with a host of different equipment, re-equipping with the ease of a bird flying in the sky.
If my poor summary of the brilliant anime sounds a little appealing to you, I would recommend you check it out on Youtube; the first episode is HERE.
You know, it occurred to me that I have never really shared with my viewers some of my favourite animated shows, even though they form such a large part of my daily life and happiness.
I mean, there are the obvious ones, like the famous Hayo Miyazaki movies. But there are others, some of which many Western viewers may not have ever heard of, and which I grew up watching.
Alright, so here are some of my favourite animated movies (just click on the titles to get directed to the movies on Youtube): Barbie as Rapunzel, Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper, Barbie in Swan Lake, Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus. I know what you’re thinking—Barbie! As if I would ever watch anything so childish. But trust me, I grew up on these animated films, and they are literally works of art, that have age-old themes, such as the importance of bravery and kindness. Also, talking animals are always a good thing.
Oh gosh, I can’t believe how excited I am to tell you about these animated pieces of bedazzling beauty. Growing up, my parents also let me watch a lot of Chinese animations—we would put in this old-fashioned VCR, the animations were on CDs—and it really is a shame they are not more well-known outside of China. One of these is a short animation whose title, directly translated, is “The Snow Child”, though “The Snowman” would also work. HERE it is. Everything that happens is so easily understood you don’t even need to know the language to get what is going on. A little rabbit helps his mother to pick mushrooms. And a snowman comes to life. It is the most tragic, exquisite thing ever. My mum told me I cried watching it as a kid.

Another beautiful animation is called “Ne Zha Conquers the Dragon King.” HERE it is. Up until recently, I thought Ne Zha, the heroine of this story, a child, was a girl—but in fact, she’s a “he”, a boy. That was an unpleasant revelation for me—there’s a lot of Chinese animations about little boys, a reflection of the gender gap that still exists—but it made a good impression anyway; I mean, she’s a girl blessed with magic, who fights dragons, after all. And there’s a beautiful deer.

“Monkey King”, or “Sun Wu Kong”, who is the monkey in the film Journey to the West, is the old, original Chinese animation of the story, and it is absolutely brilliant. HERE it is, and it has English subtitles, and though this is only the first of many—it is a long journey—it was the only one I was really able to find on Youtube. I would upload them myself, but I have long lost my old CDs, which makes me very sad. It’s about this monkey who is bestowed with heavenly powers, has quite a mischievous and fiery-tempered personality, and decides to take on the entire heavens and its rulers all on his own. The music is astounding.

Mewmewpower is a Japanese anime about these girls who can, effectively, transform into cat-like people with superpowers. HERE it is. Honestly, typing that, it sounds rather lame, and the target demographic is young women, or girls (I watched it as a child), but it is still quite a pretty anime to look at.

Last of all is a Chinese animation series called “The Calabash Brothres”. HERE it is (seriously, just click on it for the opening music). Calabash means a type of gourd, and in this whimsical yet high-stakes story, seven boys are “hatched” out of calabashes each a different colour of the rainbow, each with different powers, to fight an evil monster who can transform into a serpent and takes on the appearance of a beautiful woman. The animation sparkles—literally, you’ll see what I mean—and the music is the kind of music that is beautiful but entirely different from anything around in Western countries.

It kind of kills me how little recognition these animations, especially the Chinese ones, get around the rest of the world—and the little widespread award recognition old Barbie movies and some of the beautiful animes floating around get—so please, do yourself and both the creators of these works, many of whom are long gone, a favour, and have a peek at some of them. They are too beautiful to disappear beneath the morass of modern day entertainment.

To be honest, sharing these animated shows with my readers is kind of the most wonderful thing ever, because they formed such a great part of my creativity and psyche. Without these movies and animations, my heart would be cut out. I would not be who I am. I would not be a storyteller. I would not be a writer. As I girl, I sat in a living room and sat glued to the screen, entranced by the magical worlds unfolding before my very eyes—and some part of me alresdy knew, at that point, who I would want to become.

My self-published short story: The Library of Owls

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Like all the owls, Sival was born in one of the many nests clustered in the attic of the library.

The first thing he clapped eyes on was a shaft of light lancing through a hole in the roof, golden and swirling with glinting dust motes. Its beauty shot through him like honey. He suddenly wanted to speak, to cry out, to share what he saw. But all that emitted from his beak was a feeble warble, which his mother, curled up exhausted next to the nest, took as a cue to cram a fleshy worm down his gullet, just a little too hard.

Sival choked, his first words stifled. Black despair poured over his initial wonder like tar. He spluttered. He gagged. He very nearly died. And so it was that when the other owlets ricocheted like tiny balls of fluff among the rafters of the attic, warbling to each other, Sival did not join in, and he did not make a sound. He only stared out the round window set into the wall beside his nest, a window that looked out on steam engines and carriages, well-dressed men and women, a riot of smoke and noise, none of it the least bit comprehensible, and thought his own thoughts.

To the elders, when Sival’s mother prodded him to their musty roost on the other side of the attic to shed some light on her son’s reticence, this was not a bad thing, this silence. On the contrary, it was a strength, for it would make him all the more easier to train.

Their training began in a backroom of the library. All the owlets chirruped with excitement at leaving the attic for the first time, but were soon silenced by the pearlescent gaze of the elders. That was the first rule they learned: talking during the day would now be forbidden. Even at night they were  only allowed to hoot softly to one another, so as to not get out of habit. One particularly mischievous owlet, upon receiving this ban, hooted at the top of her voice, the power of her cry nearly lifting her off her talons.

From somewhere in the library beyond the walls of the room there came an echo. A cry, exploding with fury, louder than anything the owlets had ever heard, or could make themselves. One of the eldest – the largest, and to the rest of the owlets the most frightening – flew over to the recalcitrant owlet’s side and slashed her across the face three times with his talons, leaving a cross-hatch of gashes seeping dark blood. The owlet trembled with pain, but made no sound. Those marks would eventually fade into scars, but never truly disappear, as a reminder to everyone of the consequences of making a sound.

Their training consisted of flying back and forth in that cramped, dusty room whilst trailing stone weights from their ankles. Day after day, they wove between old cabinets and files and abandoned chairs in utter silence, save the soft sussurus of twenty pairs of wings, while the elders watched on.

At first, as it always is when you try to do something new, it was difficult. Owlets twitched their little wings desperately, dipping and rising in their efforts to reach the other side, their beaks silent but their hearts screaming. Some made it only to collapse in a sprawl of feathers, unable to rise even when prodded. Still more fell out of the air like stones, spraining their ankles, twisting their wings. If any owlet made a sound, even a peep of shock, he or she received a sharp slash of talons.

Sival fell, again and again – sometimes he could not even rise into the air while weighed down with the stones. All that time spent with his beak pressed against the window had done little for his wing strength, and the same elders that had once viewed him as an object of potential now stared at him with blank disapproval.

At night, aching and exhausted, gazing out at the night beyond his window, the moonlight bathing his feathered face white, Sival wondered: Why? He could not fathom the reason behind their training. But he kept silent, as he had since the day he was born, and there was nothing to ask except the night and the moon and the stars.

As the days lengthened into weeks, the owlets grew accustomed to the weight of the stones, and began to fly back and forth across the room with ease, pinwheeling and zipping. Eventually even Sival could accomplish the journey with little effort. The elders nodded to one another. From then on, the weights were removed and replaced by books which they gripped in their talons.

For the first time they were allowed access to the library beyond the training room. Compared to the attic and the back room, it was simply enormous, with its towering shelves of books that reached all the way up to the raftered ceiling, row after row of them, and great lamps protruding from the polished wood-paneled walls, shining like tiny suns.

Here and there squatted a green armchair, while at the front of the room, near the beveled glass doors, squatted a low desk covered in rolls of curling parchment, as well as a inkwell with a sprig of black feather poking out of it. Sival surveyed all this with interest. In the language of the owls, there were certainly no words for “book” or “chair”, but all owls have keen eyesight, and all certainly possessed pictorial classifications for the objects they saw.

So when the elders taught them the various symbols to recognise on the spines of books, using a wooden board inscribed with them, it did not take the owls long to commit them to memory, and to seek out the correct books accordingly. The elders showed them strips of paper, upon which the symbols were arranged in various orders. They taught them tricks to get the right books, such as memorizing the first and last cluster of symbols rather than the entire row. And though it was never spoken, implicitly the owls knew that books were sacred things, only to be carried and never opened. They spent their first day in the library flying to various parts of the library to fetch the right correct books. Many errors were made at first, and the elders’ beaks tightened in distaste as book after wrong book were deposited at their feet by their tentative students.

It was here, however, that Sival excelled. His visual memory was excellent, and that very first day, after absorbing the layout of the library, he brought every book correctly, and the elders looked on with silent approval.

He was burrowing his head beneath his wings that night, filled with quiet, satisfied pride, when he heard a scuffling noise from the corner of the attic. Thinking it might be a mouse – they sometimes made nests in the walls – Sival padded over to investigate, only to find the source of the sound to be owls were bent over an open book, their necks jerking back and forth in inquisitiveness. Sival peered at the book, too. Neither paid him the slightest attention, accustomed as they were to the strange little owl who never spoke, and did not join in their games.

Hundreds of scratches, like the markings of talons on the attic walls, covered the pages. Strange. They looked just like the symbols on the shelves and the spines of the books, only multiplied a thousandfold. One of the owls gave a hoot of irritation, ripped out a page with her talons and stuffed it into her nest. The other followed. The sound of quiet tearing filled the attic. Sival returned to his nest, his sleepiness evaporated, thoughts broiling with those symbols. What did they mean? What were they? Who were they for?

Finally the day arrived. Why this particularly day was so important, no owl knew, but there thrummed in the air a sense of expectation none were immune to. The elders prodded the owl into the little niches set into the wall by the desk – like books, thought Sival, we’re like the books lined up on a shelf – and then the first creature came in, just like ones Sival saw strolling on the ground outside his window.

What a monster it was up close! So tall, so thin, and such strange, limp sort of wings, no feathers at all!  It stepped up to the walls of niches, reached out one arm; there was a soft clunk, as something fell through a slot in the ceiling of Sival’s alcove to land at his feet: a wooden stick, inscribed with symbols. Dutifully Sival bent his head and committed them to memory. Then he soared out into the dusty reaches of the library, eyes sharp and scanning for the right shelf, before depositing the book at the tall creature’s feet and nestling back into his niche. He watched the creature pick up the book and turn to the creature next to it and open his strange flat mouth and speak.

“I say Mr Offinal, you’ve got some damn smart birds in this library of yours.”

“Nothing smart about it,” replied the other creature, in an oozing voice that made Sival think of the slimy backs of worms. Its eyes looked different from the other one: they were obscured by round pieces of glass that glinted in the lamplight, the kind of material that made Sivel’s window. “They’re just well-trained.”

Whatever the creatures were saying, Sival could not understand it; it was all just a jumble of nonsensical sounds to him. But he watched as the one with glass opened the book, pointed to the pages, hooted some more in that slimy voice, and slowly an understanding formed in his mind.

Those scratches, somehow, were another way of speaking. Somehow, those scratches were the same as speaking, but on paper, preserved forever. He didn’t know how this thought occurred to him, but the moment he did, he knew that he was right. It was if another world had unfolded around him. To somehow communicate through these scratches, let others know what you were thinking – it was like magic! What was the secret? How had the creatures done it?

So it began what Sivel thought of as his true training. Fetching books was easy – any owl could do that. But to understand the scratches in the books? That was another thing entirely. He stole pages from the nests of the owls who had ripped apart the book and squinted at them by moonlight. But no matter which way he looked at them – if he was even looking at them the right way, that is – they remained stubbornly incomprehensible, no more than dead insects on the page.

He began listening closely to the sounds the creature’s made. Rather than go to sleep like the owls when no tokens clattered at their feet, he stayed wide awake, listening and listening. For weeks the sounds remained unintelligible. Then slowly some sounds began to stand out: the creatures always made the same sounds when they left, and when they came in.

One creature, a small one, liked to sit in an armchair and while a bigger creature spoke to her from the book. Sival made friends with her, perching on her shoulder and watching intently each time she visited as her fingers pointed to the words and pictures as she read. In this way, month after month, he connected many of the sounds with the words, and many of the words with meanings.

Years passed. Over time, the more he understood of this new language, the further apart he grew from his feathered brethren. They paid little enough attention to strange silent Sival before, but now blatantly avoided him, as if sensing his new wisdom. By now only one of the five elders still remained. She spent most of her time in the attic with her head tucked under her wing.

Eventually Sival stole a book, and found himself able to read swathes of it, though not understand all he read, as some words, despite him being able to make the sound of them in his mind, were not attached to any meaning. These he skipped. He read of creatures who journeyed to far off lands, of creatures who lost their homes, of sad creatures whose parents and friends did not understand them, and his little owl heart warmed and soared and grieved along with them. It was then he realised he was lonely. Very lonely. Perhaps that had been one of the reasons he had so immersed himself in his new task: to forgot the fact that while owls around him slept side by side at night and were even starting to pair up, he still slept alone in his little nest by the window with only the moon and the stars for company.

One day when the small creature visited again, coaxing him onto her arm from his alcove, Sival looked her deep in the eyes, then flew towards the table at the front of the room. She followed, a little cautiously. “What is it?” she whispered. “Do you want to show me something?”

Sival tried to nod. He bobbed his head once. It gazed down at him with its dark enormous eyes, uncomprehending. He pattered, talons clicking over the wooden surface of the desk, to the inkwell. Picked up the black feather between two talons, as he had seen a creature hold it many times. The little creature watching on made a funny sound in her throat, one she always uttered when happy. “Oh, what are you going to do, little owl? Write?”

Relief radiated in Sival’s feathered breast at that. She understood! And now, maybe, he could make her understand him. Slowly he began to write, scratching the wet tip of the feather across an empty page of parchment. Above him, there was a quick intake of breath, but he ignored it, concentrating. Splotches of ink coated his talons. He tried his best to copy the symbols from the books. When he finished, he stepped back and surveyed his work. The words weren’t half as good as the ones in the books, but it would have to do. To his disappointment, when he looked up, the small creature had disappeared. He swiveled his head. Where had she gone?

In a sudden flash the parchment was snatched up from beneath his feet, sending him tumbling across the desk. Lying on his back, he found himself gazing up into the face of the creature with the glass circles over his eyes, the slimy voice, who peered down at the words Sival had written. Beside him, dwarfed, stood the smaller creature, wide-eyed and staring at Sival. Sival felt a surge of pleasure at hearing the creature with the glass circles read his words aloud, even if it was in that unappetizing voice.

Hello. Nice to meet you.” It peered down at the smaller creature, who ducked its head beneath its gaze. “You’re quite sure it wrote this?” The smaller creature moved its head up and down strenuously. “Oh yes! Yes, I saw it with my own eyes.”

So they didn’t believe him, did they? Well, he would make them listen. He would make them understand. Quickly, dipping the feather into the inkstand again, he repeated his performance, this time with the larger creature watching.

When he finished, hands shot out and grasped him tight around the waist. He squawked and squirmed in surprise, dropping the black feather.

“Oh, don’t hurt him, don’t hurt him. What are you going to do with him?”

The creature grasping Sival said nothing. Its forehead glistened with moisture like the condensation on Sival’s glass window on winter nights. It twisted its fat neck to look around at the library, at the owls huddled in the niches, at the few circling among the shelves like tiny puffs of clouds, and those perched on armchairs or lamp holders, silent and watching with their quiet tawny faces and liquid dark eyes. Its talons tightened so hard around Sival he was afraid of being crushed, and suddenly he was afraid of something else, something he could not put into words or pictures or thoughts. Something he wasn’t sure he even understood. Had he done the right thing? He had only wanted to talk to his friend. Clamped in the creature’s sweaty hands, a worm of doubt curled in his gizzard.

They took him away from the library, to a new room, one with more chairs and tables. They placed him in a cage, which was like a nest with no way out. Everyday the little creature came and opened a little door in the cage and slipped him some food. Sometimes, when the other taller creatures were absent, it even slipped him a book, or some parchment to write with. It always looked tremendously surprised and excited whenever it read what Sival had written.

 Why take me

 “Oh, because I forced uncle to promise to let me keep you! You’re the most wonderful creature I’ve ever owned!”

Though he missed his mother, missed his roost by the window, the soft warbles of his clan, this comforted Silvan somewhat. He had been chosen, singled out; his years of learning had all paid off.

Other times the creature would lift the drapes from his cage and sit by him and talk until its hooting grew soft and its eyes quiet. Sival felt safe with it. Still, it would be nice to be allowed to fly around a bit, and he wrote this request the morning after he had arrived, scratching away while the creature stared. It picked it up once he finished it and read it, eyes darting back and forth, tongue poking out between its soft beak. Then it lowered paper and looked at him.

“Let you out? Oh but uncle said I wasn’t to. He said I mustn’t. He said you were a – a demon. You know, I had to beg him to let me keep you as a pet. Do you understand what I’m saying? Sometimes I feel like you understand everything.” It passed one talon across its face. “Oh, I suppose it won’t hurt. Just a little while. I’ll shut all the doors and windows.”

It opened the cage door. Sival hopped out, stretched his wings with a quick flutter. Then he leaped from the edge of the desk and soared and flew and spun around the room, heart beating a fast exhilaration. He had forgotten the joy flying afforded. Then the creature left, having been called away by another creature in the building, and he was alone.

He explored the room that he had gazed upon for so long from the confines of his cage. He perched on the windowsill and peered outside. From his time in the attic, windows were familiar. But this looked out on something different. Not a road, swarming with the tall creatures. Instead…he cocked his head. Pressed his face against the glass. Outside came shouts and cries. It was a street, a great expanse of grey. Strung along it from tall sticks were white lengths of rope, and strung along the ropes were tiny bundles, like the kind the creature wore on its fleshy talons when it was cold.

He looked a little closer, eyes focusing.

A squawk of shock tore from his throat.

They weren’t bundles at all, but row upon row of owls, pegged upside-down to the ropes by their talons. His mother. His clan. Smoke rose from their charred feathers in black tendrils. They were being killed. They were dead.

When the small creature returned to coax him back into his cage, Sival bit it on the finger. It shrieked, even louder than the shouts outside. More creatures poured into the room, all of them hooting louder and louder. Tight talons gripped Sival, shoved him roughly back into his cage in a puff of loosened feathers. Sival lay on his side, eyes dull. The cage lifted; the world beyond the wire swayed, changed colours.

He had not meant to bite the creature who had been so kind to him. He had not meant to bring death upon his clan, for he knew now, with a strange knowing, a strange certainty, that it was he who had killed them. If he hadn’t written those words, if he hadn’t tried to read the books…

 He was placed in the hands of a creature with a yellowed, jutting mouth and a missing eye, who stuffed him in a glass cage shaped like an upside bowl. In there, day after day, Sival wrote down names, symbols arranged in a line, which the creature read to him, spitting the words into a little brass pipe attached to the top of the glass cage. Blurred faces peered at him, magnified by the curvature of the glass so that their mouths looked big enough to eat him as they had eaten his clan. Sival wrote. Each time he spelled something right he received a slip of gristle; when he got it wrong, he got nothing. He went hungry. He wrote until his talons ached, symbols after symbol after symbol. No longer were words his freedom, but his prison.

And one night, when the sight of those burning bodies roared in his mind and words swirled like hundreds of writhing black worms in his vision, he threw himself again and again against the glass cage, again and again, battering himself against the glass, until it slid off the table and splintered with a crash on the floor.

Despite his disorientation, he took to flight, aiming for the square of light, the open window. The creature with the jutting yellow mouth leaped to its feet, shouting, talons reaching out, but Sival was quicker. One final wingbeat, and he was free, soaring away and up into the white sky, the wind ruffling his feathers, high above the little brown buildings that lay beneath him like so many closed books. The sun beat hot upon him, a dead blank eye.

Sival flew towards the light, towards the horizon, headed for a forgotten land of no name.

 

 

INFP Word Association

Words INFPs (or Daydreamers) Like              Words Non-Daydreamers Like

Celestial                                                                     Definite

Lunar                                                                         Space

Equestrian                                                                Consideration

Sugarplum                                                                Think

Knight                                                                        Internet

Glittering                                                                  Leader

Lacewing                                                                  Teamwork

Toffee                                                                        Question

Castle                                                                         Measure

Corset                                                                        Restaurant

Clockwork                                                                 Dog

Unicorn                                                                     Building

Delicate                                                                      Soon

Pirouette                                                                   Digital

Winged                                                                     Wildlife

Daffodil                                                                     Inspire

Bejeweled                                                                Holiday

Nightgown                                                              Adventure

Honeysuckle                                                          Creativity

Dewdrops                                                                 Medical

Potion                                                                       Action

Skeleton                                                                  Comedy

Sinewy                                                                     Bay

Lackadaisical                                                         Airplane

Shipwreck                                                               Baking

Quintessential                                                       Choreography

Inferno                                                                    Romantic

Ramshackle                                                           Broken

Poison-ivy                                                              Conceptual

Dollhouse                                                                Ticket

Bubblegum                                                            Outdoors

Confetti                                                                   Good

Sinister                                                                   Values

Raven                                                                       Fine

Kitten                                                                      Beautiful

Decrepit                                                                 Personal

Suitcase                                                                 Journal

Sombre                                                                  Perform

Contort                                                                  Amazing

Princess                                                                Heroic

Carapace                                                               Conflict

Blackened                                                            Resilience

Apothecary                                                            Freezing

Viper                                                                         Total

Arctic                                                                       Fashion

Ocean                                                                       Bass

Violin                                                                      Reflection

Octopus                                                                  Stadium

Sewing-machine                                                   Prawn

Gauntlet                                                                 Streamlined

Gilt                                                                           Decor

Witchcraft                                                              Possibility

Extra-terrestrial                                                     Position

Emeralds                                                                   Baby

Drenched                                                                Generation

Whisper                                                                 Announcement

Spyglass                                                                      Income

X-ray                                                                         Makeover

Lagoon                                                                        Success

Vineyard                                                                     Alcohol

Staircase                                                                        Store

Fragrance                                                                     Taste

Silky                                                                             Purpose

Azure                                                                             Sleep

Delectable                                                               Controversial

Blueprint                                                                    Vegetable

Umbrella                                                                    Satisfied

Wraith                                                                         Difficult

Swirl                                                                           Recognise

Ribcage                                                                           Detect

Swan                                                                                  Slim
Statue                                                                             Sawdust

Bowery                                                                             Beam

Strawberry                                                                       Jealous

Hexagonal                                                                         Afraid

Gargoyle                                                                             Dock

Orphan                                                                             Relationships

 

Some words are just a little prettier than others, if you know what I mean. Feel free to add your own to the list. ❤

My self-published book “The Castle” (Written by an INFP)

The castle rose against the night sky like an enormous hilltop of jagged stone, its turrets too high for Anling to make out the tops of them. She had never laid eyes on anything so magnificent before and the experience was altogether too wonderful for words. Perhaps if the events hadn’t unfolded the way they had, she wouldn’t have come, but it was too late for that now; and as the truth sank in she started moving forwards over the grass to the door so that she could enter into the first of the rooms. To her surprise she found herself inside more of a sitting room than an actual one, with chairs and sofas scattered around the place and beautiful flowers arranged in vases sitting on desks and tables. Over by the right wall there stood a magnificent statue of the sorcerer who had built this castle, a fellow by the name of Fabien Mon Cher, who never knew what madness it was that overtook him and made him desire to construct such a holy colossal thing of rock and magnate in the first place. Barring that, there was nothing whatsoever out of the ordinary about the room at all; as far as Anling was concerned this was just the time and place to be for her, otherwise how else would she know how to stand by her own truth wherever life took her?

Other women stood in the room at the walls in differently-coloured dresses and attires, some of them barefoot and pale-faced like her, wearing peasant clothing, others with pinched expressions, worn dresses, and the prideful air of those who had enjoyed wealth and status, but had now fallen into ruin. So far many had tried to get the bag of gold, but none had succeeded, and rumors had it that peculiar secrets lurked within the castle walls, the kind of mysteries that would make your skin curdle and blood writhe in your veins just to think about it. If so, then the world could come crashing to an end, for nothing would stop her from reaching the place where she wanted to be at the end of all the rooms, to receive her grand reward of a bag of gold to feed her family. It was all very well for the rich—they, after all, didn’t have mouths to feed and work tremendously hard for their money, while she, Anling, was well-versed in the intricacies and hardships of life without a roof over one’s head or bread in one’s stomach. Oh yes, the life that the poor lived was a sad and sour one indeed if Anling were honest with herself, and not only did she not want to live it anymore, she didn’t want anyone else in her family and friends to either. Besides, it wasn’t as if she didn’t want to enjoy moving through the rooms as well—that, after all, was an additional pleasure that she was certainly looking forward to. But if she were truly honest with herself, she knew in her heart that when the hours whiled past and the rivers and streams ran dry, the light of the sun would one day rise and bring joy and abundance to all; but until that day happened, the only thing she could do was move through the rooms one at a time and reach the prize at the end. For her family, for her friends. For her people.

A gong sounded, reverberating through the room, and all the women turned as the door that was set into the brickwork to their left slid open by itself to leave the way to the next room clear. Quickly, picking up her skirts with her hands, Anling ran into the room at the heels of the other women, her heart and soul singing inside her chest in a way it had never done before. Excitement was thick in the air, and the women rushed down a corridor and then left into another one, finally arriving at a dining room that had a fine table set out in it with a beautiful feast laid upon it. Apples, apricots, geraniums in vases and bowls filled with seeds, it was a bounty unlike anything Anling had seen before in her life, rich and mouth-watering. She stepped forwards, hands reaching out for the bread that lay on a plate at the edge of the table, picked it up and stuffed it inside her mouth. The sweet doughy softness of it was an elegant song upon her tongue and past her lips, the universe reverberating in single-toned laughter that ran into her veins like stars. Never had she tasted bread as good as this; and all around her the others, hungry and starved, some of them slipping loaves into their pockets, were tucking into the bread as well, taking large bites of it to fill their stomachs and prepare them for the rooms that lay ahead.

Why they should feel so terrible after eating the foods was not something they realised until after the last bites of food had been swallowed, and Anling found herself suddenly starting to expand outwards at her fingers and toes, her legs blowing up like bags of pigs’ blood. She screamed, along with everyone else in the room, the tinkle of cutlery falling like rain through the air as all down the table women dropped the spoons and forks they had been holding to clutch at their legs and arms. Many of them collapsed onto the ground where they stood, writhing in agony. A fire in Anling’s veins started, burning and terrible, scorching through her body from the top of her head to her toes. “Please! Make it stop!” The years that she had spent under the sun toiling in the fields until the skin on her back and her arms turned browned and painful was nothing compared to this, and she wanted nothing more than to douse herself with a bucket of holy water to cleanse herself of the food’s demonic influence. Yesterday’s coins that she had spent on little dolls for her daughter’s funereal, arranging them with the flowers beside her grave, flashed through her mind like sunlight. If only she hadn’t spent that money, then perhaps she wouldn’t have felt compelled to come to this castle in the first place and risk her life like this.

Still, there was nothing to be done about that, not when she was already here, and Anling staggered back onto her feet and over to the table and snatched up a goblet of wine and, throwing back her head, drank its contents in one a single swallow. The effect was instantaneous: all at once, the fire in her veins went out, as if it had been extinguished, and her fingers, arms and legs shrank, returning to their normal sizes. Fortunately there seemed to be plenty of wine to go around, and Anling watched from where she stood at the centre of the table along one of its sides as the other peasant women—well, they weren’t all women of low birth, some looked as though they could be duchesses, and more than a few of them common housemaids and ladies-in-waiting—did the same, picking up goblets and drinking them.

All except one. It was a woman with very long black hair that swept the floor, clad in a dress that looked more like armor than clothing. She alone did not pick up a goblet and drink. Instead, she simply stood there, her eyes shut, a beatific smile on her face, as her body swelled and ballooned, until it suddenly caught fire, and she burned away to ashes where she stood. The entire thing could not have been longer than a few seconds, yet for Anling it felt like a tiny eternity. Dead. Gone. Just like that. But it was the smile on her face that had so disturbed her, gentle and serene, as if she had waited a long time for this to happen. As if she had been receiving a gift instead of a curse. What kind of life must she have led, what deeds had she committed, that would make her happy to die like that? Anling didn’t know, and she didn’t much desire finding out. With the other women she went out of the room into the next one, the door sliding out of the wall from it when they reached it, into the largest place Anling had ever set foot inside in her entire life.

It was all white marble, a blinding white, like snow, with beautiful vines curling about all over the place in the cracks and fissures marring its surface, and at its back wall there sat several bathtubs. They were constructed of porcelain and into different animals, a tortoise, a dog, a pig, a goat, a rooster and a lion, and they sat there, bright and shiny, looking as though they were waiting for someone to climb into them. So Anling did, walking over to the one on the left, the pig, and climbing into it so that she stood inside it. It was very beautiful. In front of her were golden taps, with tiny lettering on their sides, and she bent over and squinted at them to get a better look. BELIEVE. That was what the words were, all down the golden spouts. To think there was nothing else in the world but those words would have been an understatement. Anling felt as if she had not only been stripped of who she was after reading them, but that something had changed inside of her. She would believe. In what, she did not yet know, but the word felt right in a way nothing else had done so before, and when she looked up from them and found the room was filling up with water, great floods of it sweeping through the place to crash against the marble walls, she wasn’t the least bit surprised.

Instead she simply put her hands to the taps and started to steer the bathtub over the waves, turning them to the left and right. It was not difficult, like steering a ship or anything complicated; her fingers seemed to know which way to turn the taps without her even asking them to, and soon she had reached the other side of the room, where the water stopped. She got out of the bathtub and onto the ground at the door. There were other ladies there who had made it across, and they stood there at the edge of the room, facing the wall of water that their bathtubs still floated on. Forever would Anling remember the sight of the last of the bathtubs as it came swimming across the waters towards them, with a woman of pale complexion and yellow ringlets standing inside it. It was the dog, and as it came towards the edge of the water, the bathtub suddenly came to life, and the dog threw back its head, let out a long howl, and thrashing about its legs sank underneath the water. They watched it drown, and the woman with it. It was over in seconds. Anling turned and followed the other women out of the room, her hands trembling and her heart cold inside her chest.

In this next room, plants of all different shapes and sizes sprouted from the white floor, twisted together inside the room, too thickly for Anling to see the brickwork. The other ladies started climbing up the greenery, scaling them as if they were ladders. Anling stared up at the plants; the brickwork was there, at the leafery and stems: the room was a lighthouse, the brickwork glimmering in between the leaves at the walls. Leaves tickled her slippers at the vegetation of the brickwork on the ground and Anling started stepping up the plant, grabbing hold of leaves higher up for balance. It was not hard; the leaves were soft and springy, and simple and light to walk on one after another. In no time at all, Anling got to the highest of the plants and lifted her head into bright sunlight. Looking around, her eyes fell upon a toadstool in the centre of the leafy expanse, its red cap with a little tea party set laid out upon it. Around the table sat the other women, seated on leafy chairs that grew up from the vegetation around the toadstool. It was the neatest and prettiest thing Anling had ever seen. Out her slippers climbed from the last few leaves and onto the leafy ground this high up in the room, and over thick leaf she walked to the toadstool table and sat down in the empty chair that was left.

“What are we meant to do here?” asked the woman in the pink dress with the ruffles. “I don’t see any tea. ”Maybe we’re supposed to make it ourselves, out of the leaves around here.” “You think?” “I don’t know. Perhaps.” “Ah, ladies. So glad you could join me this fine evening.”Anling stared. On the table there suddenly stood a mouse next to the teapot. It had long whiskers, brown fur and sharp yellow teeth, and it wore a black top hat, a black suit and carried a black cane in its gloved left hand that was topped by the tiny carving of a cat. It grinned at them, and swept off its hat in an elegant bow. “Greetings. Mr Zuku by name, teacups are my game. In a little while, each of the teacups sitting before you will fill up with a special, magical brew of astonishing properties. One among them will be poisoned; the others will simply have a few certain nasty side effects. Whoever drinks the poisoned tea will not pass from this room to the next. You are allowed to trade your teacup for another’s if you wish over a certain time period. So, are we clear?”

Without waiting for an answer, the mouse tapped the end of his cane on the spout of the teapot, and all at once, colourful teas filled the teacups before each of them, blue, red, yellow, orange and black. Anling looked inside her teacup, and glimpsed tiny, little droplets leaping up from its blue surface exactly like miniature dolphins. Everyone else was staring intently at their teas as well, their brows furrowed and mouths drawn into lines. “On my watch,” said Mr Zuku, tapping his wrist, and the game began.” “I don’t see the point in trading with anyone,” said a woman with dark skin in a purple dress seated on a leaf opposite Anling. “There’s a one in six chance any of us will have the poisoned cup, so why trade? It’s not as if we can exactly tell which is the tea that will send us straight to heaven or hell in seconds.” “I don’t know,” said another young woman in a pretty ruffled dress with the brown ringlets and ruddy face. “I’ve heard that most poisons tend to be dark in colour, like yours.” The tea sitting before the woman of the dark skin tone was of a vivid purple, the same shade as her dress. “Oh, you think so?” “Oh, to hell with it, I’m just going to trade. Better safe than sorry, and I have a bad feeling about this teacup. Anyone?” The lady in the blue dress and the short golden hair showed her teacup to everyone around the table. “Well, any takers?” “Nope,” said the woman in the ruffled dress. “Not me. I’m keeping mine.” “What about you?” The woman—once a duchess, by the look of her worn finery, though her beautiful face was pinched and starved— stared at Anling from across the table. “Do you want to?” “No thanks,” said Anling, “I’d rather not.” “Fine, then. Can I just ask then is there anyone who wants to trade around here or are we all just going to sit here until this mouse tells us time’s up?”

“Time,” said the mouse in the top hat, who now sat on the spout of the teapot with one leg crossed over another, “is already up. All ready, then? Drink up! If you don’t, you are out of the game and into the loony bin.” Anling put the rim of the teacup to her lips and took a sip. Please don’t be the poisoned one. Please don’t be. The tea tasted of sugar and berries, and as she swallowed her heart beat faster and she waited for what would happen next. All at once, a funny tingling started in her fingers and toes, and looking down at her hands, she saw that green webbing had appeared between her fingers, thin and stretchy, like those of a frog’s. All around the table, the other women were gasping and crying out as magical transformations took place on their bodies, wings sprouting from collarbones, horns from heads, tails from backs that curled through the air at their heads.

It was uncanny. Never had Anling seen anything so strange. But before she could even get a second glance at the others there came a sharp scream that tore through the silence like a knife, and turning to her left, she saw that the woman in the dress with the ruffles and ribbons was screaming her head off like a banshee. “What on earth has gotten into you?” asked the woman sitting next to her, but she went on screaming, too caught up in her own pain to even hear her, and before their eyes she started turning into a rabbit. It was the most astonishing thing. Slowly, as if watching a film being played backwards, her body shrank from that of a woman’s into that of a small, pale animal, and in less than the blink of an eye sitting there before them on the chair was just a little rabbit, its pink nose twitching. There was a long silence, and then the mouse said, “Well, I guess that’s settled, then. The rest of you move on while I stay here and tend to this little one.”

“Let’s go, shall we?” “Alright.” Anling trooped after the other women into the next room through a door on the wall to their right, and they found themselves standing in another room with golden discs floating about inside of it, revolving back and forth in layers up through the room. “Well,” remarked the lady in the red dress, and before any of them could even move she was already running and leaping onto the first of the moving discs and starting to rise upwards into the room like a fairy standing on the moon. Anling had never seen anything more wonderful in her life. It was like a Christmas tree, only better, because it moved and shifted about all over the place like a kaleidoscope. She wanted to run up and jump onto the first of the discs but before she could take a step three of the other women  did the same, leaping forwards like gazelles and onto the discs which quickly rose up and took them out of sight. If she had not been so full of nerves about being inside the castle perhaps she would have thoroughly enjoyed this bonanza of a room. Instead all she could do was wait for the disc to come back down again, this time empty of any of the women. With trepidation Anling took a flying leap onto the first of the discs and landed on the golden surface with a hard thwack that shook the entire room.

‘Oops, that wasn’t meant to happen,’ she said to no-one in particular, but there was no-one to hear her and without further ado she lifted her head up towards the next golden disc, which revolved up and down a little above the one she stood on. Oh, it was all very well talking about things, but actually doing them was very hard work—the next jump nearly took all the wind out of her, it was so high. That couldn’t be helped; in life, one must go on with things after all. With that in mind Anling jumped onto the next disc and then the next, until she was two or three discs away from the last one at the very top of the room. Getting there would be an easy matter; that, at least, was what she thought: but in the very next moment something strange and terrible happened. Every disc in the room started to shake and shudder as if they were being banged together like cymbals, and suddenly, figures appeared on the discs like dolls put onto them by a child. They were men and women in beautiful clothes and dresses, wearing masks that covered their faces so tightly that it looked as though they couldn’t breathe. Over to the right of the figures on the disc she was standing on a little keyhole appeared in the brickwork that glinted and sparkled, and at her right elbow one of the dancers  took hold of her hand and pulled her against him into a dance.

It was not the most comfortable position to be in, but Anling wasn’t complaining, she had never felt so warm and contented before all of a sudden, as if she were right in front of a fire that toasted her from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. ”Well isn’t this just smashing,” said the man who had her in his embrace, ” aren’t you just having the most marvellous time?” ”Yes, I suppose,’ whispered Anling a little uncertainly, not sure whether she ought to speak up or not. ”I love dancing,” the man continued, ”absolutely love it, it’s the most beautiful thing in the world, wouldn’t you agree?” ”Yes, I think so,”Anling whispered again, dreamily, for she felt herself becoming rather sleepy, her eyelids drooping shut. That was when the first cry went up, and she blinked twice and opened her eyes to find thousands of little stars flittering in the air around her, spinning and twirling. It was the most wonderful thing she had ever seen, and she cried out in delight—only for her shout to turn into a howl of dismay upon finding them transforming into ugly, black beetles that whizzed about the place to sting and bite. Dancers everywhere scurried in all directions with their hands over their heads and faces to protect themselves from the stinging animals while Anling stood in the centre of it all, untouched by any of the bugs.

Feeling a little ill, Anling jumped onto the next disc and then the next, where she discovered the other women huddled in a corner as a swarm of the flying things attacked them. But if they expected them to stop doing it if they just stayed close together in a single spot, then they were sadly mistaken, very mistaken indeed, for the longer they stood there, the more the insects drove at them, until very soon not one of the women was not screaming or howling in pain and terror. ”What a lot of old nonsense this is,” said Anling to herself, and she reached out her hands and started clapping at the beetles, crushing them in mid-air as they were about to fly at the other women. Pretty soon all the bugs lay scattered at their feet, dead and wasted, with not so much as a quiver in their wings or legs. ”Well that’s that,” thought Anling and suddenly hovering by her left ear was a golden key. She took hold of it and went with it over to the keyhole in the brickwork she had spied earlier to the left of the room, and put it inside it and twisted it.

Immediately the most beautiful golden door appeared nestled amongst the bricks like a treasure casket, and with her heart in her throat and wings singing in her ears, Anling grabbed at its handle and pulling it open stepped inside. Perhaps if given the chance to do it again she would have done otherwise and walked back when she had the choice: but instead she went through the door and into the new place without a backward glance, and looking around found herself in a beautiful garden. Trees, flowers, rocks and rivers, glistening fruit hanging from boughs and lovely trellises with vines crawling all over them that seemed to twitch in time to some strange music or beat. What magnificence, what glory! How could she have ever thought entering the castle was a bad idea if her eyes could feast on this?

Well, it wasn’t to last, for in the very next moment there came rattling from the other side of the room, and this time Anling saw four enormous doors, not one, slide open in the brickwork. How strange. Why on earth were there four? Did they need that many for all of them to move through? And that was when she realised, turning back and looking around, that there were only four of the women left, including herself. Just four. How could that possibly be? Surely barely more than a few seconds ago there had been at the very least six of them, or even seven, and now there was so little. Goodness gracious me, the competition was narrowing down fast, wasn’t it? Funny how things worked like that in life; one moment you were there, the next you were not. As for what she would do next, the answer was clear of course—walk through one of the doors before any of the other ladies did.

But when she ran across the grass and came to one of the doorways she found herself unable to cross over its threshold, her body held back by an invisible barrier. Well, this was certainly peculiar, why on earth should there be something blocking the way when there were no bars or chains? In all likelihood the world was coming to an end, for all Anling knew, for she couldn’t get her mind around how exactly she would get past them. Then an idea struck her and she turned around and went over to one of the large vegetables that sat in patches of dirt on the ground at the base of one of the trees. It was a pumpkin, fat and squashy, with little tendrils running up from its head to its base, and beside it sat a watering can of pure gold she had spied earlier. She picked up the watering can, and tilted the spout towards the pumpkin, and at once the miraculous vegetable started to grow, blossoming outwards in a burst of fervor. In moments the pumpkin was as big as a carriage, sitting on the grass before her, and then it really was a carriage, fitted out with wheels and windows, seats and curtains.

How delightful, and now, what else to water, if this magical can made things grow to enormous sizes? Oh, I know, thought Anling, and she started pouring water on a beetle that was crawling over a leaf at her feet, whereupon the little creature sprouted up at once into something as large as a small dog, though much more frightful-looking, with beady little black hairs and antennae that quivered at the air like violin strings. Now if there was one thing Anling detested, it was finding out the thing you wanted the most in the world was out of reach, and so without hesitation she dragged the beetle over to the carriage by its back legs and attached it to the harness at its front. There, perfect; that made the perfect conveyance for her to travel through one of the doors. All that was left was for her to get into it.

However that proved to be no easy feat, for she soon found out the doors in the sides of the carriage did not budge if you pulled on their handles, nor did any of the curtains at the windows move when pushed at with her fingers. Now, thought Anling, what am I meant to do? Just stand here and wait for certain death? Over to her right the other women  were doing the same thing, watering vegetables with other golden cans as well as insects of their own, a butterfly getting itself hitched up to an eggplant carriage, a caterpillar to a watermelon the size of a small house with stripes that ran down its sides in big, wide strokes. Interestingly enough, not one of the ladies spoke, as if what they were doing was a sacred act to which they were bound to silence; but then just like that the silence was broken by a sudden fluttering noise at the doors on the other side of the room. Butterflies, blue and wonderful, rose up in flurries and clouds of fluttering wings to the doorways and started gathering into shapes at their thresholds, and it took Anling a moment to figure out what they were making: numbers. She watched, her heart fluttering in her chest, as the number three appeared in each of them, then the number two, the butterflies fluttering and shifting as they moved into the new formation, and at last the number one, and then, with a sound like leaves falling from a tree like rain, they dissipated, and the way past them was left clear. A countdown. The race had begun.

The lady in the red dress  was the first to start, and whipping the harness to make the caterpillar it was attached to start to move: and move it did, writhing its way forward over the grass and flowers, an enormous, fleshy mass that made Anling feel sick just to look at, and through the door it went, fast as lightning in the blink of an eye. The other women were not far behind, the insects of carriages scuttling or flying their way forwards too quickly for Anling to make out the occupants inside them except for a blur of reddish hair or green dress. At this rate she would be left behind, and feeling the panic start to well up inside her chest like bad blood, Anling grabbed hold of the reins of her carriage and yanked on them just a little. The effect was instantaneous; at once the beetle started scurrying forwards as if taken hold of by some kind of madness, shooting its way over the other plants and through one of the doorways into the corridor beyond.

Luckily enough the bricks were bright and sparkling, for otherwise it would have been too dark for her to make out a single thing and she wouldn’t have been able to steer straight, let alone manoeuvre around corners. Finally there appeared a bend at the end of the corridor of the door she had gone through and the backsides of the other carriages came into sight, glossy and shiny, bright and beautiful. Gritting her teeth, Anling held onto her reins tightly and silently urged in her mind for the beetle to go faster—and as if by magic, it did, surging its way forwards in an extra burst of speed that nearly took her breath away. My goodness, Anling had never been on such a wild ride in her life, and in moments she was abreast the other women: they were neck-in-neck, all four of them, with none of them looking like they would be stopping anytime soon. Pretty soon there glimmered a light at the end of the corridors far ahead of them, and with a cry of delight, Anling shot into it first, out onto a bridge thin as path just wide enough for one carriage to pass over at a time. To either side of her roared waterfalls that crashed down from stone aqueducts that were shaped like arches, and before long another doorway appeared at the end of the bridge towards which she was hurtling. Marvelous, magnificent, brilliant and exhilirating: it was like nothing Anling had ever done or seen before. But her momentary joy was broken when there came a sudden jolt to her carriage at its left wheel, and turning her head around she found herself looking at the head of the caterpillar, green and monstrous, nosing its head at the spokes of her left wheel. Now that’s enough of that, thought Anling; and with a cry that tore out of her throat she wrenched the reins in her hands to the left so that her back wheels hit the caterpillar right in the face and sent it hurtling off the bridge and down into the waters below, the carriage with it.

Mermaids seemed to scream in a long, high ululation as the carriage went tumbling into the rushing depths of the waves, and onwards Anling went, straight through the doorway at the end of the bridge into a beautiful room filled with dresses. Yes, it was literally full to the brim with gowns of all different shades and colours, blue and green, red and yellow, pink and fuchsia, purple and turquoise, all of them floating in the air close to the high ceiling, while on the ground more dresses were being made, twisting this way and that in mid-air as if invisible women were dancing inside of them. Spools of thread and needles, scissors and tape, twirled around them, tucking in a hem there, pulling in a sleeve here, yanking a frilled collar a little more tightly there. If there ever was a time when Anling wished she could not be in the castle, this was it, because she had never seen anything so eerie before in her life; just the sight of it all made tingles and tickles run up and down her back and arms.

Very soon there was another rattling of wheels behind her, and beautiful sounds of running water filled her ears as a golden spout suddenly appeared in the brickwork beside her head and a golden bucket on the ground beneath it. What was it for? Intrigued, Anling brought herself closer to it and watched, open-mouth, as the most glorious splash of rainbow-coloured paint came pouring out of the tap and into the bucket in a gush of vividly-coloured spray. On instinct Anling picked up the sloshing bucket by its handle and carried it over to where the dresses twisted and turned about like pretty, invisible women, their sleeves trailing the floor in long, beautiful sweeps of frills and dark lace. On arriving at one of the dresses, a bit of ribbon curled out from its waist and dipped itself like an eager snake into it, coming out black instead of blue, before proceeding to slither through the air back over to the red dress and twist itself neatly into a bow around its waist.

Whether or not that was the point didn’t matter; evidently she was meant to go around with this bucket to each of the dresses and find a way to paint each and everyone of them. Perhaps it was the task she was meant to do in this room. Over she went to the next dress, a blue one with lace trim, and before her very eyes its sleeves shot out and into the bucket, splashing some of its contents onto her. Anling cried out as her skin started tingling as if worms crawled beneath it, and in moments the shade of her skin had transformed from a pale brown to a deep indigo at her elbows and wrists. In the next moment, a blizzard of scissors shot out at her like a flock of silver birds, their legs snapping open and shut. Anling screamed and ducked, dropping the bucket in the process so that its contents flung themselves over the floor in a puddle of bright, multi-coloured paint that started seeping into the stonework at once, turning the bricks into all sorts of funny colours, red and greens, purple and oranges, pinks and reds, oranges and blues. However it wasn’t long before another one of them came flying at her again and this time she was not ready for it and there came an almighty crash as several of the buckets that had been floating near the ceiling dropped into the room as well, sending their contents splattering onto the surfaces of the walls and the floor so that wherever she turned or stepped there was some magic paint for her slippers to soak into.

Could this possibly be true? How on earth was this mayhem supposed to make any sense, what wizardry was this? Going backwards was not an option, and afraid and panting, Anling dashed for the door at  the other end of the room, so that in mere seconds she was at its threshold and desperately yanking and pulling at its door handle and escape from this horrid, nasty room for good and get leave of this place forever. Just then, two shrill notes pierced the air and a flock of tiny needles jumped against her arms and legs, sticking into her skin like the needles of a porcupine. What pain, agony, blinding—screaming, she turned from the door and tried to get rid of them, hands batting at the places where the needles had gone in and floundering about like a mad woman. If ever there was a time for her to get out of this place, this was it, but she was trapped, stuck, no place to go, just herself and the dresses, and the other women nowhere to be seen. Sitting there in the puddle of paint that had spilled onto the floor at her feet she tried to get her bearings again and return to the world she had felt comfortable in; but she couldn’t and she knew that, deep inside her soul, she would see this through to the end: and with that realisation Anling stood back up and grabbed one of the scissors out of the air when it whizzed at her and, wielding it like a knife, batted the scissors that flew at her next, the sounds of them hitting against each other similar to the tinkling noises of cutlery dropped onto hard floor.

For a second there she thought it was all over; but that, in fact, was not the case: a moment later, the shrillest note yet went through the air and all of a sudden beautiful flowers started sprouting from the ground at her feet in a riot of ecstasy out of the paint that had dropped. Before anything else could happen, Anling stumbled to door and wished she could find a way for her own life to never truly contain terrors such as these ever again for as long as she lived, but still the door would not open. She grew frantic and tried pulling as hard as she could, tugging and yanking and screaming, but it wouldn’t move, not even a little bit. “Help! I need somebody to help me!” “We’re here! We’ll help you!” Out of the carriages at the other side of the room two women hurtled out of it and rushed over to help her pull at the chains. With a creak and groan the door slid open, and with the way through clear and unbarred, they went out of the room into the next. Nothing very much interesting was on the other side of the doorway, just blackness, a pitch-darkness that seemed heavy and deep enough to swallow her right up like the mouth of a whale, and Anling couldn’t help but feel as if she felt as if she couldn’t stand to be inside this castle for another moment longer when the lights blinked on. The world brightened, and finally Anling was able to look around and see where they were. It was a nursery, by the looks of it, neat and tidy, little bed in the corner and lots of little toys, teddy bears and skipping ropes, dolls and blocks, piled up in the corner by the bedside table. Dangling from the ceiling was a little chandelier in the shape of a spider, its little crystal droplets tinkling on its golden, curved legs.

“Ah-ha! I was waiting for you to come see me,” and Anling jumped, as from a box on the bed painted purple and yellow a Jack-In-The-Box leaped out into the air, waving its arms around with a silly, red grin on its face, the bells on the ends of its hat jingling and tingling. “Lookeee! Whoopee! Here we go again! More little girls to play with! What shall we play, what shall we play, what shall we play, what shall we play, oh what shall we play? I want to eat all of you up for breakfast, lunch and dinner, tasty, yummy, yummy, yummmyyy!” Grotesque, thought Anling, but there was something tragic about it; and instinctively she knew that the key to getting out of this room lay within the box itself, the very one the nasty thing bounced up and down out of.

“No, I don’t want to play,” and the lady of the dark skin and purple dress turned to go. Her feet hadn’t taken a step when a shout growled through the room and the Jack-In-The-Box in one enormous bound jumped out of the box, across the room and at the woman. It was all over in a matter of moments: after the thing had finished with her there was nothing left of her except some tatters of violet fabric and bloodstains. “Oh my God!” The other woman covered her face with her hands and started to sob. “This is too much, too much!” She shook her head furiously. “I want to leave!” “But you can’t.” The Jack-In-The-Box smiled at her, bouncing up and down from its little perch on the bed again, happy as could be, the bloodstains around its mouth difficult to discern from the lipstick it had smeared across it. “You’re never leaving this place ever again. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, everrrrr!” Instinctively Anling realised the thing was preparing to jump once more: and with a shout she leaped for it first, knocking it to the ground. They tussled, wrestling over the floor over and under each other: and the thing bit her twice on the cheek and neck. She bit back, hard and ferocious, right onto its face; the shrill sharp note pierced the air that she had heard in the room with the dresses and before her eyes the Jack-In-The-Box died, melting down the way butter will do if it is left out for too long in the sun, oozing in a dark puddle down the sides of the box with the tiniest “yipppeee…” “Okay, that’s enough, let’s get out of here, alright? Let’s go.” Over to the right wall of the room the door started to open by itself, and Anling ran through it at the heels of the other woman, into whatever little, horrible room awaited them next.

It was quiet. Too quiet. None of the other rooms had been this silent before, not even the one with the plants. Heaving and out of breath, Anling tried to take in her surroundings but found herself unable to breathe or focus properly long enough to see anything about her. But exactly where was she? Hard to say, for this room was almost as dark as the one they had just left had been before the lights came on. Just how were they to attack whatever would come at them next in this room if they couldn’t even see anything? Gosh, the wait was getting tedious. On her head she suddenly felt a peculiar tickling sensation; and before her eyes beautiful emeralds shivered through the air in front of her face, swirling after another in the shapes of stars, triangles, umbrellas and story books. Beautiful—but what were they for? She didn’t know. Didn’t have a clue. All answers spurted into life soon afterwards when the lights finally came on and Anling could get a good look at where exactly they were. It was a room, but unlike any of the rooms they had seen before. For one thing it was far larger, a cavern of a place, and for another, the brickwork was green, not black or white; and what was more, interestingly enough, indigo butterflies pirouetted in the air, their little bodies wearing little heads with human faces, noses and cheeks.

Underneath them the brickwork started to tremble and shake and then shift apart into different parts like the sections of a strange and elaborate cake or pie. Knowing the earth might swallow the two of them at any second, Anling and the other woman moved towards each other, onto the biggest of the parts—and just in time too, for at that same instant where they had stood the ground split open into the darkest of chasms. “Yes, this is it! The last room! Going to make it, I am!” No, thought Anling, thinking of her dead daughter, you’re not. I am. Moving closer to the lip of the rock they stood upon, she stared over the edge into blackness—no, not that, it wasn’t that, there was something there, if she could just make it out—-up through the gloom the head of an enormous beast thrust itself, its mouth open wide and roaring, drool spilling out from between its lips in thick sprays. Ugly, emerald, eyeless, like the head of a collosal worm, it threw itself at the edifice she and the princess were standing on, causing it to shudder and shake.

Other things were starting to appear in the room, slowly but surely, before their very eyes: obstacle courses, reaching from the top of one edifice to the next, arranged neatly as furniture in the bedroom of a beloved child. “Hallelujah! I’m so close! I’m almost there!” Eager to be the first to get started, the other woman sprinted for the first of them, at the edge of the edifice they were standing upon, an obstacle course constructed entirely of pink ropes, stretchy and pink, little hummingbird’s bright as gold fluttering all about around it. Screwing her face up tight the other woman started to climb onto it, grabbing the ropes for support; but she hadn’t gotten halfway over it when the first of the birds darted out and pecked at the pink rope, snipping it. If she hadn’t been holding onto one of the ropes so tightly using the fingers of her left hand doubtless she might’ve hurtled into the abyss. But she didn’t, instead the woman went on climbing, her golden dress twisting about her legs, and even though more of the hummingbirds darted out and pecked at the strings, severing them, they didn’t deter her and she managed to arrive at the edifice at the other end of the obstacle course in record time.

“If you just could’ve seen for a second the truth that lay behind this door you might have tried a little harder,” the other woman yelled out over from the edifice she stood on. “What do you mean?” Anling didn’t understand what in the world the woman was talking about. The woman grinned, and somehow her smile was even nastier than that of the mouse’s or the Jack-In-the-Box’s. “You know what I mean. The bag of gold all the peasants want.” “What?” “You can’t even move from where you are standing, can you?” It was true; she had been trying frantically to take a step for the last few seconds, but could not move an inch from where she was standing. What in the world was going on? How could this be possible? “It’s magic, in case you were wondering.” The other woman was climbing onto the next obstacle course, a beautiful swing that carried her up and into the air like a kite each time she swung on it so that her hair flew back and her dress billowed about like a sail. “What do you mean?” “I mean, that this was the way things were meant to be. The way I planned it, all along.” On she went, swinging higher, until, at the highest point of the swing, she let go and flew through the air and landed in a cat’s crouch on the next edifice. “You’re doing this? How?” “Yes, I’ve got a little magic up my sleeve, so what? That’s the name of the game, don’t you see? We’re all here to get the best for ourselves and I was just brave enough to take it.” She was clambering onto the next one now, fast and sure, a series of ladders that ran up against each other in the shape of beautiful hexagons and triangles. “You don’t really believe there is a bag of gold at the end of an enchanted place like this, do you? Because I don’t. Nasty lot of blabber. Way I see it, that’s how things are meant to be. I am the princess of this land, after all, and if there’s anyone who deserves to have any wish she desires granted, it’s me.” Definitely there was a faint mist in the air around them, growing stronger with every passing minute, and Anling couldn’t believe her eyes as the years started to fly off the woman—no, the princess—-like the peeling layers of an onion. It was incredible: she was literally shrinking before her very eyes into that of a child’s body even as she climbed up and down the ladders. Just what exactly was going? Too late the princess seemed to realise what was happening, because the years did not come back no matter how much she climbed or clambered and it was as if they had never been. Now she would forever stay a little child, too afraid to move a single step further. Gosh, thought Anling, and to her surprise she discovered that her feet were no longer stuck on the floor anymore; in fact, they were free to move as she pleased in every and any direction she desired.

But she didn’t move at a first, only stared, flabbergasted, as the little girl who had moments ago been the beautiful tall princess climb up the ladder swift as a little monkey in an attempt to get to the other edifice before anything untoward happened—but she was too late, for at that very moment, all the ladders around her let out a nasty squeak, and without further ado disintegrated into the abyss, taking the princess along with it. It was a long drop, and the princess had a loud and powerful voice, so her scream echoed in Anling’s head for a long while after it had disappeared from the air. There was no time to waste, however, and she started clambering up onto the first of the obstacle courses, which had transformed into a row of bridges tied together by pretty pink bows that made them shift and bob about in the air each time Anling stepped from one to the next.

When she reached the next edifice, she discovered that the obstacle course had been replaced by the tiniest little chicken flapping about in the air who had to be fed lots of seeds that floated around it before it could fly over and carry Anling to the next edifice, where she faced down the monster itself, lunging and leaping up from the abyss as it tried to eat her. All she had to defend herself was a sword that sat on the edifice at her feet and she picked it up and defended herself as valiantly as her entire heart and soul could, finally piercing the creature right in the eye and sending it tumbling into pitch-blackness. Now there was nothing left to do but wait, for no further obstacle courses were left for her to climb onto or cross, just the empty air, the sound of her own breathing, and an acrid smell, like apples that had been left out in the sun for too long and gone black and rotten.

“Hello? Is there anybody there?” No response. Well this was a pretty little piece of work indeed, wasn’t it, to have come all this way and bested all the other women, only to end up at nowhere at all, and Anling was just starting to consider turning around and going back the way she had just come when a loud voice boomed through the silence. “Stop right there.” Anling stopped. “What do you want?” “What?” “What do you want?” “What do you mean?” “I mean exactly what I say, what is it that you want?” What she wanted, more than anything else in the world? To feed her family. And to be loved, Anling supposed, wasn’t that what everyone desired? To be held close and treasured, sacred and divine. But that wasn’t going to happen, was it? No, no-one ever loved her the way they loved other people, it just wasn’t the way things worked. Possibly she knew that there was someone out there who would understand her, but that person wasn’t whoever was talking to her right now. In the deepest, darkest recesses of Anling’s mind there sat the secret wish that one day, if she tried hard enough, worked long enough, someone out there would keep her. Not leave her, as people in her life had done, someone, anyone. Someone other than her family, who she treasured but whom did not understand who she was. But it wasn’t meant to be, that was what she had learned over the years, it wasn’t the way things turned out, not in this world, and likely she would forever be doomed to misery and loneliness.

“No, that is not true.” “What do you mean?” “That is not true.” In that moment, it didn’t matter to Anling who the voice really was, just that it was talking and comforting in a way she had never felt so comfortable about talking to anyone else before. “I love you.” “You do?” “Yes.” “Why?” “Because whatever you believe about yourself is whatever will come true. By believing yourself to be unloveable, you make yourself unloveable. You are the source of your own pain and despair. Everyone is. Do you not see? We’re all perfect, just the way we are, but somehow somewhere along the way we forget that. And in order to return to that state of divine perfection, we must listen to our hearts.” It didn’t really make sense, what he was saying, yet something in his words comforted Anling. “So what do I do now?” “You must prepare yourself. There are great trials ahead of you. The land and the country are in tumoil, and need your salvation. But I will be there for you every step of the way. Do you understand? All you must do is follow what I command you to do.”

The voice stopped then, as if it had never been there at all, and Anling, upon staring around, saw that there now hovered in the air in front of her the most beautiful sceptre, carved of gold and decorated with pearls, and a golden crown. She reached out and grabbed hold of them both, and the objects came away from the air and into her hands, where they sat, heavy and frightening, for they were royal objects, belonging to the king and queen. It wasn’t a bag of gold, that was certain, but it was something better, that would not only save her family but other people who had suffered under the weight of their chains. No matter what happened next,  there was no turning back, or choosing a different path; this was her destiny, whether she liked it or not, and she would see it through to the end, just as she had moved through the rooms of this castle. With that, she leaped up onto an edifice that had appeared in the air to the left, through a doorway and into the lands beyond, her hair flying out behind her in the wind and a melody inside her heart that no man or woman alive could stop from playing.

What This INFP Has Been Up To

 

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So it’s been a while since I’ve posted or written anything on this blog, but there has been good reason for it. For the last half year or so, I descended into a period I like to call “productive depression”. I was most definitely depressed, because I had all the symptoms—low mood, lethargy, complete lack of interest in activities, etc.—but at the same time, I was still able to write snippets here and there of my own fiction, so the entire period of time I was away wasn’t entirely wasted.

Finally, after a hospital stay for suicidal thoughts, I am partially healed of my depression and have returned to the blogosphere, to continue writing my thoughts and sharing with the internet my own, little life. So what, exactly, have I been up to, apart from moping about and trying not to kill myself? Well, I completed an 8,000 word children’s book, which I have already sent in to a publisher, but I don’t even have my fingers crossed for it because I have very little hope my horrible little book will be published. It just won’t happen, I can feel it, but at the very least I did something during my depressive episode, at least I did practice my writing a little bit.

Because of anxiety and depression, I had to leave school early, which means that I have needed to quickly find some way of gaining education that would lead to employment, because, suffice to say, this particular INFP has realized that her dream of becoming a writer, at least for now, will certainly not put food on the table; so in July this year, I will be enrolling in an Aged Care course that will allow me to take care of elderly people in a residential setting, helping them with tasks such as showering, eating, toileting and the like. It is not the most glamorous of jobs, but it will put food on the table, and even INFPs need to be realistic sooner or later when it comes to earning money; and after a while, if I want, I can transition into nursing by doing a Diploma of Nursing and then going on to do a Bachelor of Nursing, and becoming a Division 1 Nurse, So, basically, I will work in the aged care industry or go on to become a nurse, and do my writing on the side, as a sort of hobby, because the publishing industry is a very hard nut to crack, and I just don’t think my writing ability or the quality of my work is good enough to get published yet.

It’s not the most ideal path—I mean, I’m not too sure if INFPs are completely cut out for working with elderly people, I am a very caring person and I certainly would like taking care of and conversing with old people, but there is the small matter of dealing with difficult elderly people, who might have dementia or behavioural issues, that I am rather concerned about, simply because, like a typical INFP, I am terrible at dealing with aggression of any kind. However one needs to put food on the table, and this is the best educational option suited to my temperament that I have at the moment, especially since it will be a long time, if ever, before my writing pays for necessities like food and rent, so I’m sticking with it for now.

Anything else? Oh, yes. I cut my hair. Yes, that’s right: during my depressive episode, I cut all my hair off, until I practically looked like a man. Well, no, I still look like a woman, but it does, in my opinion, look very ugly; I feel exactly like a shorn sheep, bedraggled and naked. All my long, silky, beautiful black hair I cut off, because I was so depressed and felt like doing something earth-shattering and immense to snap myself out of my depressive state at the time, and now it will take forever to grow back. It’s a small and insignificant thing, perhaps, to the people around me, but to me, it’s enormous and horrible, and I feel almost as though I will never be beautiful again. It’ll take two years, at the very least, for it to grow back to shoulder-length, because my hair is very thick and grows very slowly, and in the meantime, I am miserable and morose whenever I look into a mirror.

As for my writing—well, this INFP is having very mixed feelings at the moment about her writing. Almost every INFP I know likes writing, and I am no different, but to make a career out of it, especially in fiction writing (in particular, fantasy, the genre I like to write in) is something very difficult to do indeed. My problem at the moment is that while I might have brilliant flashes of inspiration, I find it very difficult to flesh them out into proper books, with proper characters and things that happen; more often than not, whenever I try to write fiction, I just start off with a great idea that peters out into nothing, because I don’t have the ability or the writing skills to truly turn a seed of an idea into a flourishing beanstalk of a book. It’s very aggravating, and something that makes me feel as though I will never become a writer, never be published, because ideas without execution are nothing, little less than leaves on the wind. So this particular INFP is getting a bit more realistic about her airy-fairy dreams, and going into aged care instead—sometimes, the real world will break your heart, because unfortunately, banks are stronger and more powerful than castles in the air.

And money is something I cannot live without at the moment. I am turning 20 this year, and have very little money to my name, and still live with my single mother, who works as a cleaner and doesn’t earn very much at all. What’s more, what I’ve discovered with writing is that I can’t pursue it full-time, because whenever I write for too long, I get stuck, and the characters and the descriptions of the world start to go nowhere. Basically, my optimum level of writing, I’ve found, is a page of words a day, if I want to keep myself from getting bored with my own writing, and at that pace, I end up turning out short, mediocre childrens’ fantasy books. Not a good omen for a future in the publishing industry, I can tell you that. So in order to earn money I’ve had to be more realistic; even dreamers, after all, need to eat. I’ll be writing more posts soon—I’ve returned for good this time—especially about romance, and my own loneliness as a young INFP who has never so much as dabbled in the world of love—so keep tuned. I hope everyone is well, and has been doing much better than I have been.

Why Artists Must Embrace Pain

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Everyone suffers in life. Suffering is woven into every weft and strand of existence. To pluck it out would be to unravel life itself. From the beautiful and wealthy and talented, to the poor and homely and unskilled, suffering exists at every strata of society. Insects suffer, and whales suffer. Suffering knows no boundaries. For every living creature, there are only two certainties in life: death, and suffering.

Of course, if we shift the lens back to humans for the sake of this discussion (though I am of the firm belief certain animals suffer agonies more terrible by a thousandfold than those experienced by man), there are different degrees to suffering. A wealthy person living in a first-world country might feel as though their loneliness is carving them open like a knife, but would certainly not, if asked, trade places with someone who is actually being tortured and cut up somewhere in the world. A White person will still struggle in life to get where they want to be, like any human being—but their suffering is nevertheless still less than that of, say, a Black person, who, on top of the usual struggles of life, must deal with racial prejudices and the setbacks and reduced opportunities that come with being dark-skinned in a society under White hegemony. An emotionally-healthy person will suffer less than someone with mental illnesses. A woman, statistically, is likely to suffer more than a man. An able-bodied person will suffer less than someone with disabilities. A child of divorced parents suffers more than a child who grew up in a loving, cohesive family. Heck—you could even say sensitive people technically suffer more as we experience pain more strongly than someone who is thick-skinned. Life is not a level playing field, no matter how voraciously we may extol the values of justice, fairness, equality. If history and our present world is anything to go by, Earth is most definitely no utopia, and often downright hellish for many people.

However, while we might all suffer in various and complex ways, because we’re all individuals, we all deal with suffering differently. Very differently. Some people flare up in fits of rage. Others stew and simmer in their anger and misery for months until pimples pop out on their skin and cankersores on their tongue, emotional energy releasing itself in the form of physical symptoms. People cry alone, or on the shoulders of others. They scream into pillows, break things, laugh hysterically, hurt themselves. Some withdraw; others reach out, becoming more desperate for affection the more miserable they are; and still more grow detached, emotionally numbing themselves from both the pain and pleasures of life. Many escape into addictions, other worlds where they can forget their pain and troubles: videogames, sex, relationships, drugs, alcohol, fantasy. They retreat into denial, or lies, because the truth makes them want to tear their own heart out; and others put up barricades of selfishness and coldness, to protect themselves and gain some measure of security in a heartless and chaotic universe.

And some create art. They write books, make films, draw and paint. They make up tunes, construct pottery pieces or sculptures. They take the messy conglomeration that is life and try to cobble together something beautiful and interesting out of it to share with other people.

What these methods of coping with pain all have in common—except the last one—is that they all involve escape from the source of their suffering. They all involve directing one’s attention towards something else rather than the source of their troubles. It is easy to wriggle out of truly experiencing your pain when you are screaming so loudly the world contains nothing else. It is easy to turn away from your pain when you are preening yourself in front of a mirror and accumulating buckets of money. It is easy to turn away from your own pain when you are too busy hurting others.

Artists, however, do not have that luxury. They must face life and its pain, in all its glory, in order to create anything even slightly noteworthy. They have to dig their fingers into the blood and guts, even if the stench makes them want to throw up. They need to look in the Beast in the eye even if doing so makes them wet themselves. Then, through whatever medium they are working with, they must find a way to crystallise that pain, every facet and edge, for others to feel, understand, know and analyse.

It took a while for me to realise this. I have experienced a lot of pain in my life. Obviously nothing on the scale of extreme starvation or thirst, living as I do in a first-world country—but I know anxiety, I know depression, I know panic attacks, I know mental breakdowns, I know being desperately hungry yet psychologically unable to leave the house to buy anything from the grocery store, I know eating disorders, I know abusive and neglectful parenting, I know sensitivity, I know introversion, I know what it’s like to be different, I know loneliness and despair and self-hatred and shame, I know racism, I know poverty, I know the fear of becoming homeless, I know sexism. It’s not been easy. For the longest time, my coping mechanism was repression. To get on with my life, for years, I repressed my true identity, I repressed my anxiety, I repressed my internalized racism, I repressed my fear of men, I repressed my hunger urges, I repressed my loneliness and shame and self-hatred, I repressed thoughts of my father, I repressed my feelings, I repressed myself. I couldn’t even articulate any of my pain through writing; it was so immense, so complicated, twisted and gnarled together like the tangled roots of a tree.

So I bottled it down, in the hopes that it would all just go away—only to land myself in hospital for a suicide attempt. Luckily a highly unsuccessful one, but sobering nonetheless. But after a year or two passed, I fell back into my old patterns of repression. I knew this was the case when I found myself once again unable to connect with the characters’ pain in any of the books I read, to actually feel their turmoils and troubles as a naturally empathetic person would. I couldn’t even connect with my own characters, which was worse. Everything I wrote was terrible because there was no emotion behind it; I was maneuvering puppets in the hope that one of them would come alive and do the job for me. Quite quickly I realised the only way I would be able to write anything good in my life was if I opened my heart to and embraced my pain and suffering.

It was so hard. I had put the pain away in a box in the attic of my mind, where it sat, dusty and untouched, with several tons of bricks heaped upon it. I had treated it as someone might a poisonous spider: trap it, and hope it dies off on its own sooner or later. But pain isn’t like insects. Pain isn’t living. Pain is just dead memories, able to live on until the day we ourselves die. And I had to release it. I had to release agony, blood and broken bones.

I started off tentatively at first, picking up a file here and there, never upending the whole lot out onto the floor. For the first time in years, I thought of my father, the man who, quite frankly, was the sole perpetrator of a great deal of my woes as a child, and now also as an adult, for your childhood never leaves you. I dredged up one very, very painful memory: waiting at the train station in the middle of the night after a school event. My father could drive, owned a car, a very a nice one, in fact—yet he insisted on taking public transport whenever he deigned to take me places. As I sat there, on the bench, in the gloom and the silence (he spoke little whenever he was only in my company), kicking my legs and staring down at the faint, moonlit glisten on the wet asphalt, my father got up, and walked away, disappearing into the darkness.

My head jerked up. I looked around, peering into the rain-spattered blackness. I still remember the sensation of my long hair, swishing over my shoulders, as I turned my head and looked and looked. Where did he go? I was alone, in the darkness, in a strange place, in the middle of the night. My terror was so thick I felt as though a piece of cloth had been forcibly crammed down my throat, but that was nothing compared to the sting of abandonment. This wasn’t the first time I had felt abandoned by him. He used to take himself on holidays during Christmas when I had never left the country in my life and speak not a word about it and grumble when my mother asked him for grocery money when he came back. He used to buy himself suits and gadgets, deck out his room in the finest sound system under the sun, then complain when I needed money for an excursion. He used to buy ridiculously lavish presents for the daughter of his employee as I stood by and watched, sick with jealousy, and forget my birthdays, and my siblings’ birthdays. I existed for much of my childhood in a state of bewildered misery. But this was new. A fresh form of abandonment. This was blatant. He had actually, physically stood up and walked away. He had left me behind.

No. No! No, no! I stood up and stumbled along the train station; there were lights, fluorescent ones, but only a few, the reach of their luminescence fading away to a pale silver a couple of metres beyond the benches facing the tracks. I ran, into the darkness, to find my father. With each step, my heart roared my fury and despair. One step. Why don’t you love me? Another step. Love me! Please, Daddy, please! Another step. Why would you do this? Another. I hate you! I hate you so much I could kill you! I hate you, hate you, hate you!

Eventually, after much sobbing and stumbling in the darkness, feeling terribly disorientated, like some planet bumped out of its orbit, I found him sitting on a bench on the other side of the platform, absorbed in his phone. He didn’t look up as I sat down beside him, tears trekking down my cheeks. I said, “Why did you do that.” I said it very calmly, calm and serene, as my body shook. He had given me a fright—I was only seven—but to look at him, you would not know it. He just sat in silence for a minute or so longer, looking down at his phone—and then he stood up again and walked away. I sat there, dumbstruck. I didn’t understand what was going on or what he was doing, only that it was somehow very childish, and that it hurt. Again, I got up, and I followed him. I followed him quite desperately, a tiny figure, tottering along in the darkness, frightened and determined both at once. Sometimes, when I look back on this incident, I almost wish I had thrown myself down onto the tracks. Perhaps he would have paid attention then, said something to me, at least to save his own skin. A child lying dead on the tracks and her father nearby doesn’t look good. It would be bad for his company’s reputation.

This time, it took longer to find him, I went around the platform three times, then went around back again and found him back in the spot where he was before, sitting down. Again, I sat down beside him. And then the train came, so my father had to stop the game he was playing with me, and I got on and sat beside him on the train and looked out the window as he sat there looking down at his phone. Looking back on his incident, I see it as a blatant expression of his distaste for responsibility. He was a selfish man, that was certain, but more than that, he was a childish man, who desired no commitments in life except the fulfilment of his own pleasures. For someone like him, three children clinging to his ankles served only as deadweight. Heaven knows why he had us in the first place, if he didn’t even mean to take care of us. This incident at the train station, when my mother and brother and sister wasn’t around, was his way of telling me he didn’t want to be responsible for me. I was the first child. I started off the chain reaction. He not only did not love me—he didn’t want me to exist. He wanted to get rid of me, leave me behind, and like a stray dog at a pound who loves his owner no matter how badly he is mistreated, I played right into his hand and followed him, tongue hanging and panting for acceptance and affection. For him to keep me, to pet me, to love and to approve.

As this memory tore through me, I felt as though my skin was being unzipped, organs spilling out hot and steamy onto the carpet. I wanted to—to hurt myself. No, to hurt him. I wanted him to feel just a fraction of the agony I suffered under his roof, as his daughter. I felt broken. I felt unloved. I felt disgusting. I couldn’t look at myself. I hated being inside my own skin. I wanted to shed it, slip free and twine through the air into some more pleasant sphere.

Instead, I just cried. As you can expect, these tears were long overdue. I cried and cried, letting myself feel the pain, luxuriating in it, even, submerging myself in the misery, wallowing in the broken glass shards until my body was cut and bleeding from head to foot, and then I stopped crying, and got up. I wiped away the blood, tended to my wounds. I took care of myself. And I could suddenly feel again. My emotions came back. I could properly get into the heads of characters, feel their pain and suffering as if it were my own. Reclaiming my pain allowed me to write.

So my advice is, especially for artists and creative types out there who might be reading this, the best thing to do with pain is to embrace it and learn from it. Use it to your advantage. You might as well; you’ve certainly suffered for it. Use it as fodder to create good art, to provide the truest and best reflection of the human experience as you can through your work. Take what was, in the moment, ugly, disgusting and repulsive, manure and droppings, and use it to fertilise soil, make it grow, flourish, bloom and make something beautiful for others to bask in. Art comes from pain. It is terrible to experience, but it is also what connects us to other human beings. We write and paint and draw with our blood, use our skin as paper, sacrifice ourselves, body and soul, to our craft, to one day finally emerge from the dirt and the mud and the grass, holding aloft our creation to the sunlight: a globed fruit, sweeter than honey and bright as a jewel.

The Difficulty Of Amusing Oneself

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Depression sucks the words out of you. Because the entire world is made dull and lacklustre by it, life become one endless series of dissatisfying days, everything you do or think or say turned into worthless, cliched junk dropping from between your lips like counterfeit coins. What does it matter, who cares? Fortunately for me as a writer, it has quite the opposite effect when it comes to creativity. Depression makes everything boring, which makes one slightly more motivated, during moments when the fug of lassitude thins, to make life more interesting —and one of the best ways to do this is through telling stories. Interesting stories. Fantastical, strange and wondrous tales.

Now, this brings its own share of problems—nothing is easy!—and it’s something I have never really had to chance to discuss with anyone about it before. So why not write it on my blog? Really, that’s my solution for almost every mental quandary these days; I always feel much better after sharing pieces of myself online, it’s quite the release. The problem is this: because my desire for escapism is so deep and extreme, anything that veers the slightest bit towards reality bores me to bits. The slightest bit. Basically, what this means is that I—and I think this is the sole reason creative people feel so isolated from others and the general humdrum of society—have a very, very, very low tolerance for boredom. Almost non-existent, really. Why else do you think writers like to escape into their imagination so often? Because it’s so much more interesting than reality, that’s why! Reality is so incredibly dissatisfying, and these days much of the films and books saturating the market recycles the same old tropes and concepts so the world of imagination, once so rich and lovely, is now growing just as boring. What’s more—and this is the cardinal rule of novelty—things get more boring the more you are exposed to them. It’s a common sense rule, but nevertheless quite astonishing when you put it into practice, apply it to real-world experiences.

Say, reality, for instance. Now, the world we live in is a very fascinating place. Life on earth is bizarre, and we don’t really understand anything, will never be able to see the whole picture, only glimpses and glimmers—yet because we see things like our own bodies and the sun everyday, we grow desensitized to the great miracles they are, and find them ordinary, and, at least when we’re not actively pondering them, boring. Likewise, with creative works, the more you are exposed to something, the more dull it becomes. Let’s take one of the most delightful and creative animated movies in the history of the world: Howl’s Moving Castle, directed by the wonderful and brilliant Hayao Miyazaki. The first time I watched this, I was stunned and flabbergasted by the beauty on the screen. In particular, I recall Howl’s bedroom, with its quietly shifting pieces and glinting intricacy, so detailed and beautiful and wonderful I could only gaze in pure awe and delight at the screen. However, if you were to watch that scene every morning before you went off to work or school or to your desk, it would lose its magic. It would become ordinary.

As a writer, this effect is extraordinarily problematic because with whatever I am writing, I am constantly having to work hard at keeping things interesting for myself. This is where the low tolerance for boredom comes in. While others might be able to still find Howl’s bedroom magical after six or so viewings, after the second viewing, I have already integrated the scene into the fabric of reality so it becomes no more wondrous than the sight of cars on the streets. My threshold or desire for novelty is ridiculously high, endless, really, which means I find it very hard to keep myself from getting bored. I feel as though there are two people inside of me, one the teacher standing in front of the board, the one churning out the creative work and ideas, and the other the child, sitting at a little table and chair in front of her, the one who gasps and cries at the magic and wonders of the universe being unraveled on the blackboard. The moment I lose the kid’s interest, the piece of writing I am working on is done, over, finished—or at least until the teacher wracks her brain and finds a more creative way to transmit the lesson. Basically, every second, every minute, every day, when I write, or daydream, which are both almost the same thing, I am constantly struggling to amuse myself.

This is the true wellspring of creativity, I think: dissatisfaction, and boredom; and while luckily I experience enough of these two emotions to last several lifetimes, it also means I bore myself very easily. What seems like a wonderful, fantastical idea, after much pondering, turns dull and bland, and I find myself casting it aside with a huff of exasperation. I wrote an entire story—well over 12,000 words—only to find I couldn’t edit and polish it, not out of laziness, but boredom with what I had written. Having lived through the character’s experiences once, I could not rewrite and live through their experiences again; my brain required something new and fresh to feed upon. Such incidents have happened multiple times. Forty, maybe fifty times. Maybe more.

My Holy Grail, then, as someone who suffers from this condition—an extreme allergic reaction to a lack of novelty—is to find an idea, a concept, a story, a book to write which remain interesting no matter how many times I write it or re-read it. No small task. In essence, I have to captivate and amuse for the duration of a 100,000 words, or more, the creature most difficult to astound and delight in the world: myself. With, I might add, one piece of work, one work I shall have to read again and again, and fix, and rewrite and twiddle with endlessly. I have to—to find something complex and interesting enough to fall in love with for the many months or even years I shall be working on it, wonderful enough to satisfy the distaste in myself for all things real, true and existing even though the base material I have to work with is reality, as it is all I know. I have to come up with something psychedelic. Strange. Something.

Sigh. Wish me luck.

My Life Is Over. Maybe.

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I sound like an angst-ridden teenager, I know, but there is good reason for it. Recently, whilst looking over some old pieces of my writing, I was shocked to find the stuff I was churning out six or so months ago was much better than what I was producing now.

It was very unsettling. And, considering the small hell the last six months of my life have been, even a tiny bit infuriating. It’s almost as if the words I wrote in those six months before—and in those six months I have molted and shed layers of my old self as wildly as any snake—were written by someone wiser, more talented, who allowed their imagination free reign and gloried in the work for its own sake. Someone who didn’t think when they wrote, and simply let the words settle onto the page naturally, like fallen snow. Someone who wasn’t me, and who I wouldn’t be able to reclaim, absorb back into myself, ever again.

I’m trying too hard. I’m not sure if every artist encounters such a block in their life, but I see very clearly that this is the crux of the problem. In between moving houses and struggling with mental illness, I grew desperate at all the time I was losing, and to compensate for this, banged away at the Art like I some smith in a forge behind on orders until I was blackened and sweating and panting. Only I don’t think that is how Art works. It has to come from love, a place of fun and delight, for it to be anything worth reading. Or at least not from a place of hatred, despair, desperation and sheer doggedness.

At least from my recent perusal I know I was doing something right six months ago, as the pieces I wrote, while not of publishable quality, actually possessed a few gleams and glitters of potential, whereas everything I am writing now would need several more rewrites before they become anything better than printed toilet paper.

Heck, even the characters were more realistic and believable—even though I was not actually trying to make them so. Now, despite analyzing characters from the inside out before putting pencil to paper, they still come out stiff as wooden dolls.

You can’t imagine how despairing this realisation is. I honestly don’t know how to return to a place of “unthinking”, when I just let the words flow out as they pleased. Sure, I can do that in a blog post, but that’s because it’s just a blog post, a place where I can relax and spill my mind, not an actual fictional work requiring actual concentration with actual stakes at hand. I don’t know how to transplant the relaxation I feel when writing blog posts, or writing pieces six months ago, to what I am scribbling away at these days. It’s a conundrum.

Oh, you can’t imagine how—it’s like being someone who sings for their bread and butter waking up and finding they have lost their voice. Forever. A bird unable to fly; a pirate confined to a prison on land, forced to gaze at the endless blue sea between the black bars of her high, prison cell window. Alright, perhaps I am being a little dramatic, maybe even a little whiny, but I can’t help it, it’s just very, very frustrating to know that when it comes to writing, sometimes, the harder and more furiously you work to make up for lost time, the worse the end product ends up being. In any other field, you are rewarded for working hard, doggedly—but when it comes to writing, some measure of relaxation is required for any good, creative work to be made. And as someone who is high-strung at the best of times, especially with the move this year, the changes in my home situation, it’s very difficult to relax. I wonder if that’s why people are less creative these days, because we’re all so anxious and focused on surviving in a capitalist society to even bother with obsolete concepts like joy and wonder and delight.

Fingers crossed that this is merely a natural progression in the life of any writer, and that things sometimes need to take a turn for the worse before they can get better. I really have no idea as to how I am going to “unthink” my way out of this, to return myself to a place where writing was done purely for the joy of it, without any pressures or anxieties involved. The more I live, the more I am aware of how very dream-like life is, the way the days seem to blur into one another, memory the only marker of passing time. From the earliest reaches of my memory up until this present moment, my entire life so far seems to have transpired in less than a blink of an eye.

Taken in this context, art, then, merely serves the purpose of making the dream a little more enjoyable, which, if you think about, isn’t a bad thing. It isn’t an ignoble pursuit to devote one’s life to.  I just wish I knew how all the other creators and filmmakers and writers and artists working today and throughout history manage to relax enough to create despite being naturally more predisposed to depression and thinking about death and the meaning of life. Then again, many ended up taking their own lives, boggled by the existential emptiness of existence, so perhaps they’re not the best role models to turn to. Life truly is a series of silent sighs, expelled deep inside our souls.

The Hardest Thing About Writing

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Writing is hard. But what exactly is the most difficult part of the craft? Creating realistic characters, perhaps? Writing dialogue? World-building? Coming up with an idea that isn’t boring and overdone like the thousands of novels flooding into the market every week? No, no, and nope.

The hardest part about writing—for me at least—is getting the words right. See, when you first start out writing–and I’m still sort of trying to tread water in that stage–you overwrite. And by overwriting, I mean you use a thousand words to describe a single exchange between two people, including unimportant details like gestures and hair and the thoughts of the characters, when three hundred would have sufficed. But overwriting isn’t the only faux-pas amateur writers commit. We also have a great deal of trouble describing things in the first place, and this is because translating real-life or imaginary objects or buildings or people or places into words, dead words on paper, mere brushstrokes of ink, is very difficult.

It’s not like other forms of art, like painting, or photography, where the artist can simply jot down, curve by plane by angle, exactly what something looks like. As a writer, you have to make something, using only words, oftentimes things you have never seen before except in the realm of your own imagination, come alive. You are an artist, words are your paintbrush and paint, and you have to use them to paint a picture inside the reader’s mind, to the point where they feel like they are in the story themselves, without the convenience of pictures, or photographs, or diagrams (though some books do include maps to ground the fantasy world in reality). If you were to ask someone on the street who isn’t a writer to describe, say, a church, they would probably fumble along with words like “doors” and “cross” and “stone”. And guess what? If you were to stop a writer on the street and ask them the same question, on the spot, they would probably give a similar answer. That is because writers actually sit down for a very long time to re-write and rework descriptions and sentences that initially started off as “a church made of stone adorned with a cross over its front door” until it conveys both sound, colour, sight, smell and texture. Until it becomes real. Which, may I point out again, is very hard.

It’s one of the reasons why so many writers often have to undertake real-world research before writing a book by actually traveling to the country or the place their book is set in, or resembles the world their book is set in. If the world and the people in it aren’t “real” to the writer, then it won’t come to life for the reader. Think of actors: when they speak their lines, they momentarily delude themselves into thinking that what they are saying is actually true. That they’re not just speaking to a camera, or someone else who is also acting. In other words, the best actors forget they are acting, and embody their characters and the scenes entirely. Writers, who are the actors and the director and in charge of props and scenery all at once, are the same. And to describe a whole world, all while juggling characters and the pace of the plot, using only words, to make it actually feel real, takes hours and hours of practice, carried out over years—probably why some books can take up to ten years to write, at the end of which it isn’t even a guarantee the book will sell well, if at all.

I’m not even close to being even adequate at it yet. I haven’t clocked in all my hours, found out what exactly lives inside me and brought it out in tangible form. I haven’t found a voice, though I have picked up a few characters and worlds along the way, quietly brewing inside the back of my mind. In the years to come, I hope to master the tricks and techniques of writing enough to be able to put on a good show, make people think, delight and astound and amuse. In the meantime, I’ll be in my workshop, working quietly away carving figurine after figurine and throwing them aside, living for a dream.