The Skin of the Earth – Chapter 3

Chapter 3

He had studied conflict resolution, human psychology, workplace dynamics … none of which had prepared him for the resolute indifference currently being exercised by his partner. A frog is a frog. That was the last thing his sister, Maddie, had said to him before he had left for the boden. She spoke in dreamtongue now because the spark they had used to waken her had been tainted. It can’t be anything else, no matter how much it wants to be a salamander. Was Sundown the salamander? A creature of fire, it wasn’t entirely unfitting.

Daniel took a seat, exhaling, expelling as much negative energy as he could, and decided to try and wait out his new partner.

Two detectives walked by on their way into the captain’s office, sharing a smirk.

“Who’s this, Sunny? Mail order groom?”

“New intern,” Sundown muttered without bothering to open her eyes.

Daniel opened his mouth to say something but the two men had already left. He returned his attention to Sundown, finding his patience expended. “Are you going to tell me about what happened this morning?”

“Not right now.”

“Then when?”

“Later.”

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Let’s Talk About Death

My mother died on December 26, 2015. Due to a complication from the vasculitis she had been battling for two years, she had to have emergency surgery and shortly thereafter, had a stroke and then another. She simply never woke up.

I tend not to say “I lost my mother” when I have to tell people. It’s a weird thing to say, isn’t it? To have lost something implies ownership of responsibility. I’m not responsible for my mother’s death and I certainly didn’t misplace her. This, of course, speaks to the very clumsy way we have for talking about death. (Pun: intended?)

“I lost my mother” means I am the one (or one of the ones atleast) who takes on the burden of her death. She was mine; now she’s not.

For similar reasons, I don’t often say “she passed” either because I can’t say what exactly she passed (congratulations, you’ve passed life) or where she passed to – it seems like a mostly empty phrase for someone not-so-religious like me. I prefer to tell people that she left or that she’s gone away, but, then, that can bring up new problems during these death conversations because you’re not sticking to the script.

I hate the script.

For the first six months or so after my mum’s death, I loathed bringing up her demise to people who didn’t know. Not because it hurt (it did), but because speaking about my mother inevitably prompted an “I’m sorry” from the person I was speaking to – as if the very mention of her required some sort of apology.

I don’t mean to sound rude. I know that the “I’m sorry” is the best way we have to communicate our sympathy but I think we can all agree it’s inadequate at best. People die everyday and yet we don’t really have the linguistic ability to efficiently talk about death. As both a writer and designer, I feel like there’s room for improvement.

My dad’s favourite euphemism for death was “taking the big dirt nap”. Gallows humor. My family’s motto should have been there’s always time for a joke. (It is, in fact, the cake will not defeat us, but that’s a whole other story.) I know some people find it vulgar or immature, and there are definitely times when joking is not appropriate, but humor is a good weapon against the limits of our deathspeak – a chisel to pick away at the walls.

I remember sitting around the dining room table at my grandparents’ the day after my grandfather had died. My grandmother had decided that she would not inter my grandfather after the funeral (he was to be cremated) but, instead, would keep the urn in the house so that the two of them could be buried together at the same time when she left. My uncles were discussing this. I remember it like it happened yesterday. I remember the white doilies, the golden oak chairs with the uncomfortable flowered cushions and one of my uncles saying as casual as you like: “Well, atleast if something happens to the urn, they have central vac. He did always say he wanted to be in this house forever …”

I was eleven and this was the first death I really had the emotional capacity to feel. Death was less scary for me after this particular conversation though. Forget the talks about “going to a better place”, “he’s not in any pain anymore” (and all the rest of the greatest hits); this is what I needed to hear, my uncles treating my grandfather’s death just as they would anything else – by making a joke. That made it natural, I guess.

We fear speaking about death because we fear dying, but speaking about dying doesn’t make the grim reaper appear (he’s not Beetlejuice), so what’s the deal? How many people out there don’t have a will because they don’t even want to think about death, let alone speak about it? (Pro tip: Get a will done.) And for those who must console, we fumble with misshapen words and phrases, trying to make them fit because we have nothing else.

Humor takes the edge off. Directness skips all the awkward implications. I don’t know what the answer is yet, but it seems to me that it starts with deciding to talk about death. At the very least, let’s go off-script. The script needs some serious rewrites.

 

Death doesn’t happen to those who die; it happens to the living.

The Skin of the Earth — Chapter 2

Chapter 2

“Come on,” the man wailed. “I don’t know a thing about Jerrica, or anything.”

“Really?” Sundown commented. She began a slow tour of the one-room apartment. Daniel made a point of standing back as his new partner played her little game. She stopped in front of a beat up side table with a gaudy lamp sat atop it and started playing with the purple beads that hung from the shade. “Because Finley told me you were running crystal for Jerrica.”

“Fin? Come on, Sunny. That’s bad data. You know how much that one lies.” The man’s voice sounded calm enough but the sweat on his brow betrayed him.

“Exactly why I’m here, Diggs. Got to verify …” Sundown put a boot on the side table …

“I can’t believe you don’t trust me –”

… and kicked it over. The lamp shattered, and shards of rose quartz spilled out onto the dirty carpet.

Diggs, for his part, just stared silently at the pile of pink gems.

Curious, Daniel knelt down and picked one up. They buzzed softly in his hands. “Tuning crystals,” he said. “They’re pure.”

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Mirror — Storytweet

New #140story — what do you think?

Erik splashed water on his face. He could feel eyes on him but surely the men’s room was safe.

His reflection quietly disagreed.

What is a storytweet?

Basically, an exercise/experiment to stretch my brevity and impact skills. The goal is to set a scene or atleast provide a tiny window to a bigger story in 140 characters or less.

Check out the other storytweets here.

The Skin of the Earth — Chapter 1

Chapter 1

The sidewalk felt strange under Daniel’s feet. Maybe it wasn’t so much the concrete of the sidewalk but the knowledge that below the sidewalk was, quite literally, merely ground. The skin of the world. Solid was, perhaps, a better word than strange. The sidewalk felt thoroughly solid underfoot. It was an unnerving sensation for a man who had spent the entirety of his life in the himmelburg, the city in the sky.

Just one of many to come, Daniel decided.

So far, everything his brothers had warned him about the bodenburg seemed to be true. It was incredibly hot, smelly and occasionally sticky. Just like any long-unwashed body.

The badge that hung from his neck beeped, indicating that it had found his target – his partner. Well, his soon-to-be-partner. They hadn’t actually met yet.

“Tell me,” he said to the device.

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The Skin of the Earth — Prologue

Prologue

Parker’s paws stung with each step. The cold, cold rain had made her pads raw. The earth was not soft anymore. The two-leggeds had turned it to hard rock that tore at her feet as she loped through the forest of metal and cement. A sharp stone caught her in between her toes, stumbling her, but she did not whimper. Her people were all but gone, and such sounds would only attract predators.

The rain seemed to be breaking against the cement in the same way the ocean once broke against the earth, trying to push it back maybe, or perhaps trying to destroy it one drop at a time. She did not know for sure. The rain beings and nimkee birds only brought storms now. She would not have been able to find her way if it wasn’t for her nose, the rain was so thick and violent. The acrid scent of the fire tugged at her nostrils.

The problem, of course, was that the fire hadn’t started yet.

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