Halloween Roundup

I’ve finally reached Assignment 19 of Writing 101, about a month after the original assignment was published. Fantastic!

This assignment was about featuring a guest post as part of a collaboration we were asked to consider in a previous assignment. Needless to say, that plan didn’t pan out in any way. So instead, I’ll go with the alternate assignment, which is to feature a roundup of posts that we’ve enjoyed reading this week.

For me, that’s an easy one. A couple of months ago, I had participated in the first WEP (Write, Edit, Publish) Challenge of the year, a bi-monthly blogging event hosted by Yolanda Renee and Denise Covey. It was a lot of fun, and when they announced a Halloween challenge, I was on board right away. I mean, how could I not write a story based around my second favorite occasion of the year?

The challenge took place from October 21st to 23rd, and there were quite a few spooky entries to check out. They’re all included in the link below. Please do check them out, and drop a comment or three! My entry can be found on my fiction blog Tales of Unusual Strangeness, but the direct link to the story’s on the list (it’s number 16):

WEP Halloween Challenge

Happy reading! For best results, make sure you’re completely alone with not a single light on. Bwahahaha!

Dreaming with Open Eyes

During the second week of Writing 101, we were supposed to ask for reader feedback, in the form of a poll or some other suitable method, on what sort of content they would like to see on the blog. I forgot to do that on the day it was assigned, and completely forgot to come back to it. Oops. Though I intend to set up an independent reader poll later on this month.

The 15th assignment was about writing on a reader-suggested topic, based off the poll. Needless to say, I’ve come up empty on that front. Fortunately, the good folks at WordPress provided some alternate topics to post about. One of them particularly piqued my interest.

The topic was: Have you ever felt awake, but in a dream?

I find the phrasing of that question to be a bit ambiguous. It could mean, have you ever had a dream so vivid, it felt like you were awake? Or it could mean, have you ever felt like you’re living a waking life inside a dream? I think one of those interpretations is definitely more valid than the other, but ultimately, both work for me!

Many people can relate to the former, I’m sure. You’re having a dream, either about something wonderful or something extremely terrifying, and it feels like it’s actually happening. Then you wake up and realize it was all a dream, but the world feels strange. You can still recall the dream so vividly, remember every detail, every sensation…and yet, none of it was real. You shared a romantic moment with someone you couldn’t pursue in real life, reconciled with an estranged friend, discovered that a long-dead relative was somehow alive again. And just like that, it all vanished, but those moments lingered. Heartbreak and disappointment was all you woke up to find.

If your dream involved being chased by zombie dentists, though, perhaps it was best that it turned out to only be a dream. Not that it’ll stop you from shrieking any time you hear anything that remotely sounds like a drill for the rest of the day.

The other interpretation, about living a life that feels like a dream, is something I experienced a lot in high school. My family lived in Kuwait until I was 6, at which point the first Gulf War broke out and we had to leave. I remember being woken in the middle of the night by my mom. We had to pack up all our things right then and go over to a friend’s house (serving as a temporary safe house), and in a few days, we’d leave the country. I was drowsy and confused and don’t remember much else about that night. It almost feels like we wound up at the safe house instantaneously.

For many years after that, I often had the weird idea that maybe I was still asleep back in Kuwait and everything that had happened from the point my mom ‘woke’ me was just a dream. Moving to a different country, changing school, making new friends, going through adolescence. All of it was just a strange fiction dreamed up by a 6 year old boy. Kind of like the ending of St. Elsewhere.

It was a ridiculous notion of course, and one that I grew out of, but it’s creepy to think about, the idea that everything I know and love might disappear in the literal blink of an eye. I might just wake up one day as a little boy who had a really long, vivid and confusing dream, one that haunts him for a while but is forgotten as soon as he sits down to watch cartoons.

Keep sleeping, little buddy. Keep sleeping.

The Golden Hood

After an unplanned hiatus, I’ve decided to chug along with the last few posts of Writing 101, although the course is now in the archives of WordPress history. I’ve combined two consecutive prompts here. One asked us to tell a story through a series of vignettes, while the other tasked us with telling a story that took place over the course of a single day. Here’s my take on both.

 

It was a morning like any other in the city. Traffic was backed up, trains were running behind schedule and pedestrians littered the streets. People were staring at phones and newspapers, keeping up with events all around the world while paying little attention to the world that was all around them. The explosion took everyone by surprise. A derelict building had caught fire. Emergency workers pulled several bodies out of the building. Alongside, police recovered the charred remains of a white robe with a golden hood.


Karen had woken up before her alarm. She always did. She had a full morning to work through, preparing lunch for the kids and making sure breakfast was on the table before everyone headed out. Once the school bus left, she had a little time to herself. Still dressed in her fluffy night gown, Karen poured herself a cup of coffee and plopped down on the couch to watch some TV.

She flicked through channels idly, passed by the news, and went back again. There was a report about an explosion earlier in the morning in the hospital district. There were a few fatalities. Latest reports indicated that the victims were dead prior to the explosion. Evidence seemed to suggest this was another act perpetrated by the terrorist organization known as the Order of the Golden Hood.

Karen flicked over to a soap opera and went to pour herself some more coffee.


It was just another boring afternoon at the office for Mike Teller. The morning had been full of meetings that only succeeded in wasting everyone’s time, and he was trying to make his way through the post-lunch slump so he could go home and laze around on the couch. He wondered what Karen was making for dinner. His manager dropped by with some real work for him to do, completely ruining his plan to just zone out for the rest of the day.

Sighing, Mike flipped through the project notes that had been handed to him. It was going to be a long afternoon. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Alvin, one of the junior associates who had just joined the company a few weeks ago. Mike casually strolled over to Alvin’s desk and chatted him up. After sufficiently flattering the young man’s ego, Mike handed him the folder with the air of passing on a great responsibility. Go-getter that he was, Alvin got to work on the report right away, while Mike walked back to his desk, ready for two hours of no productivity whatsoever

As Alvin was looking over the folder, a small piece of paper fell out. He picked it up, thinking it was some extraneous note that somebody forgot to staple. Instead, he found a short message, written very neatly in gold ink:

In the name of the Golden Hood

The office was evacuated early that afternoon. The official story was that it was a safety precaution because of a gas leak. But whispers went around that the Order of the Golden Hood had struck yet again, with some sort of nerve gas. Mike decided to go to a nearby bar and get some afternoon drinking in. He hadn’t seen Alvin during the evacuation, and wouldn’t find out about his death until seeing it on the news later.


At about 5:30, Karen heard the front door open. Mike walked in, a little unsteady on his feet. She asked him how his day was, as she always did. He told her what happened. She expressed the appropriate amount of surprise and then went to put dinner on the table. Ever since the Golden Hood’s attacks had intensified, these sorts of conversation were quite routine around the city. The kids were in their rooms, doing their homework; most likely, they were doing anything but that.

Mike and Karen settled themselves on the couch, plates balanced on their laps. The news was on, talking about several more attacks perpetrated by the Order of the Golden Hood. The city was slowly going to pieces, and there was no way to stop it. There was no information on any of the Order’s members, or even how many there were. Even the Order’s objective remained a mystery. It seemed to exist only to spread chaos.

After dinner, Mike and Karen sat around for a bit making small talk, and then buried themselves in their computers.At 10:30 sharp, it was lights out.


Midnight. When the whole city should have been asleep, but many parts were still wide awake, and would be until the early hours.

Karen got out of bed quietly, making sure not to wake Mike. She stripped off her pajamas and opened the middle drawer of her dresser. It was where she kept old clothes that she didn’t wear as often anymore, but buried under the messy pile of disused clothing was something she wore quite often. It was a pristine white robe, neatly folded. Underneath it was a gold hood.

She put on the robe and pulled the hood over her head, almost reverently. It was a good night for chaos.

The Librarian

Every shelf in the Library’s cavernous aisles is stacked with worlds and universes, full of life, and also of death. Nobody ever checks out any books from there, though. Nor are there any avid readers wandering around inside, casually flicking through pages while speaking to each other in hushed tones. The Library has existed for as long as anyone can remember, growing in size over untold years (or is it millennia?), a beast that subsists on knowledge and can never be satisfied. And deep in its silently beating heart sits the Librarian. He is the keeper of stories, a guardian of fiction and fact. He was there once upon a time and he will be there happily ever after, though he cannot say if it will be happy or not.

The Librarian has seen the Library’s foundation being laid. He will see its last stone crumble to dust. He has seen babies cradled in their mothers’ arms and old men laying on their deathbeds. He has seen lovers light up the dance floor and enemies scorch the battlefield. Heroes fighting villains; teenagers navigating their lives through friendship and love; regular folks grappling with careers and relationships, hoping to find happiness. The Librarian has seen them all, page after page, chapter after chapter.

He finishes reading the life of a famous radio personality with a dysfunctional family; the poor man dies alone and his family feuds over his assets before the body’s even gone cold. The Librarian sighs and closes the book. The family’s stories will have to wait for another day; perhaps he’ll read some lighter fare next. He returns the book to its shelf where it will be put away for good, never to be read again.

Endings are usually the problem. Some stories take their time building toward an inevitable conclusion, others are cut short abruptly; so many of them are tragedies. He had quite enjoyed the one about the dinosaurs, but was disappointed with how it ended. Asteroid impacts seemed like a cheap storytelling device. His chair creaks a welcome as he settles back into it, exhausted from today’s reading. He glances at the giant tome sitting on one side of his desk: The Saga of Humanity. That one’s been an ongoing project; he reads a handful of chapters every few years, but is no closer to the end. Sometimes, he finds himself tempted to peek at the ending, but that would spoil the surprise. He’ll pick it up again in a year or two and see how the story’s progressed.

The Librarian removes his glasses and rubs his temples, leaning back. Tomorrow he will once again explore new worlds, new lives. He hopes that at least some endings will be happy as he closes his eyes and drifts off into a sleep without dreams.