Posted by: rebeccajrobare | January 22, 2016

I wrote a thing!

For the Flash Fiction challenge on Chuck Wendig’s blog

 

The Incubus’ Tale

He sat, head down, under the lights, the harsh fluorescent glare casting sullen shadows on his face. Steam curled from an untouched cup of coffee. He was not handcuffed, but he sat like he was, wrists resting next to each other on the table.

Officer Schneider leaned forward. Her nicotine-stained fingers twitched slightly against the table; it had been far too long since her last cigarette, far too long since her last meal. Her own coffee cup had been drained to the dregs, with a few escaped grounds swirling in the remaining drops of liquid. She felt a headache coming on. I’m getting too old for this shit, she thought, and this time the sarcasm was tinged with the rueful thought that it might, at last, be true.

She breathed, once, not quite a sigh through her nose, and said, “Let’s go through this one more time.”

“She wasn’t supposed to die,” the boy began, but Schneider interrupted.

“Start at the beginning,” she said. “Start with how you met.”

“It was a club,” he said. “Hairspray.” The name of the club. “Goth night.” His black t-shirt and skinny black jeans, Doc Martens and eyeliner, seemed to support this, as did the silver rings and wallet chain that had been confiscated when he was brought in – not that the night mattered. “I was dancing. She was dancing.”

He looked up, and Schneider saw a little bit of light come into the boy’s dark eyes, so black it was nearly impossible to tell iris from pupil – or maybe that was these ridiculous lights. She rubbed a finger across her temple. “Go on.”

“She just looked so, so alive,” he said, as though being alive were a marker of great beauty, the way other boys might talk about a woman’s hair or eyes or smile. “And I went over to where she was, and we danced, and then we went out to the tent, and had a cigarette.”

The mention of a cigarette made Schneider’s fingers twitch again. God, she needed a break. “The tent?” she prompted, instead of walking away, turning the whole thing over to someone else, and going home to have a whole pack of smokes for dinner.

He shrugged. “It’s just a tent where people go to smoke. It was cold, though, so we went back to her place after that.”

Officer Schneider had seen the place. Small, reasonably neat with a clutter of city living – takeout boxes in the trash, high-heeled shoes dropped casually near the door. Except for the body, there hadn’t been anything unusual about it.

“What did you do when you got back?”

He shrugged again. What do you think we did? he seemed to ask. “Went to bed.” A flush crept into his pale face, not like a blush of embarrassment, but a warming, as though he had been the corpse, and the thought of sex had brought him back to life.

“And then?”

The boy dropped his eyes again. “I guess I kissed her too hard,” he mumbled. Now he blushed with shame. Not guilt, not like he felt bad about killing her, but like the kiss had been a mistake, like if he had kissed her properly she would still be alive.

After hearing the same story six times, Schneider was starting to wonder. They got caught on this point every time. “Are you telling me,” she said slowly, “that you killed this girl by kissing her too hard?”

He nodded, and Schneider’s fingers twitched again. “There was no bruising around her mouth, and no signs of asphyxiation. How you could you kiss her hard enough to kill her? How could a kiss that hard leave no sign?”

She had hit the end. She did hit the wall, reached out to the gray-painted concrete and pounded the side of her fist into it.

“I could . . . show you?”

“Show me?”

“I could kiss you.”

“Is that a joke?”

“No! I just mean, um, I think you would understand if you felt it.”

Schneider wondered. This kid could not be the world’s best kisser. She could lose her job for kissing a suspect. Would it tell her anything about how the young woman had died? She decided. She would let the boy kiss her, and then she would put the fear of God into him for wasting police time on a horrible accident, and then she would go home. There would be cigarettes, and maybe some ice cream, and sleep.

She turned back to the boy. “Okay, kid. Show me.”

* * *

The door to the interrogation room opened to reveal two suited men, who watched Officer Schneider’s body slump to the floor. The boy looked up in chagrin.

“Twice in one night?” asked the older of the two men. His shoulders strained the fabric of the expensive jacket.

The boy looked down again. “Sorry, dad.”

The younger, slenderer man patted the older on the arm. “Now, Luce. He’s just feeling his age. It takes practice to suck the life out of a woman and leave her alive. This happens to every young incubus.”

A wisp of smoke escaped the older man’s nostrils as he sighed. “I suppose you’re right. Clean up this mess for me?” As the second man nodded, he gathered the boy in with a wave of his arm, and shook his head. “Two in one night.” He sounded a little proud. “We’ll have to tell your mother.”

Posted by: rebeccajrobare | June 24, 2014

Housekeeping

I’m thinking that I may want to make this blog a more “professional” space. That’s in quotes, because there are many kinds of professions, and for some of them my writings here are appropriate. But this has functioned as a personal blog with occasional forays into fiction, and I think I might be better served with a page that showcases my analytic and science writing skills. The personal and fiction can go hang out in a different, more casual space. Expect changes to come!

Posted by: rebeccajrobare | April 24, 2014

Work = Virtue

Hard work is a virtue.

Virtue is its own reward.

These phrases have been echoing in my head and I have been trying to unpack their connection. If these are transitive principles, then we can read here, “hard work is its own reward.” And it does look as though we, American workers, are expected to hold to this principle, that we work hard for the work’s own sake, with no expectation of another reward. Why else does full-time minimum wage (or less, if you work in some restaurants, or have disability benefits) exist? The minimum wage in Pennsylvania is $7.25 per hour. A person making this wage would earn a little more than $15,000 a year, working 40 hours per week for 52 weeks, assuming no unpaid leave or vacation. The average rent for a 1 bedroom apartment outside of Philadelphia’s city center is more than $800 per month. The $9,600 per year an $800/mo apartment would cost a minimum wage worker is 64% of this hypothetical person’s annual income.

I am hypothesizing based on averages; any individual’s experience will differ from this. But if I have $450 per month to parcel out among electric, gas, telephone, and internet, today’s basic utilities, I don’t have much left for food, leisure, or luxuries – let alone a car or transpass to get me to work, clothes and shoes to wear on the job, tuition for classes that might help me get a degree to get a higher-paying job, care for my children while I’m working, or medical co-pays (I’m assuming my employer offers a medical benefit, as I am working full-time). But now, what if I have children, who need clothes and food and help with their homework, a larger apartment than a one-bedroom? What if my child breaks her leg on the soccer field? Now she needs a hospital and follow-up and Tylenol, maybe even physical therapy. All on $7.25 an hour.

But a lot of jobs aren’t hiring full-time, because of that medical benefit. So instead of one job, I’m balancing two – with two sets of uniforms to buy and two schedules to maintain? And I have to buy my own health insurance (because I make too much money for government assistance – this is PA, without Medicaid expansion). How do I help my child with her homework and take her to soccer practice?

I’m working, remember. I’m working my ass off – maybe sixty hours a week, if both my jobs are thirty hours – but what am I working for? It’s not for a vacation, because I can’t afford to be away from work. It’s not for my retirement, because at this rate of pay I can’t save anything – forget about emergencies or a college fund for my daughter – forget about a prom dress or soccer cleats! Is it for a better life for my daughter, attending Philadelphia’s prominently overcrowded and underfunded schools? When I can’t pay for college? When she won’t be able to afford it herself working at a minimum wage job very similar to mine? Will her life be better? Will it include anything other than hard work that offers the barest subsistence in exchange?

It’s not just about the working poor, who are so euphemistically called the working class to hide the fact that they toil in poverty? (You see that it is work that defines these folk; their poverty is thought unimportant.) I myself – well educated, with my schooling largely paid for by a generous family who could afford to indulge their generosity – still graduated with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, and even though I have a job that pays reasonably well, making progress in paying down that debt feels like a never-ending battle, with the constant unexpected pressures of life. For those with hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loans, it’s worse – their professional jobs, jobs requiring graduate degrees, don’t pay enough to make saving possible when minimum payments are due. What are we working for? It’s not likely to be private-school tuition and ballet lessons for our children, like our parents, maybe, gave to us. When my parents were my age, they knew what they were working for: a house where their daughters could have separate bedrooms, graduate tuition for my father — they gave up their own luxuries and pastimes for us, I know. But for my children, what do I have to give up? What am I working for?

And what if I am sick or disabled? My job is protected, to some degree, by FMLA, but I am guaranteed only unpaid leave, and even with my employer’s generous health insurance, there’s a limit to the copays and medications I can afford when I’m not earning. A permanent disability leaves me in a worse state, as I spend money and time to prove my disability to the satisfaction of the government, who will give me a pittance to live on as best I can, as a parasite in a society that reviles those who cannot or do not work.

So if I am working, what am I working for – if through work I cannot achieve comfort for myself or opportunity for my children? It is no wonder to me that a man might be more inclined to sit in the sunlight and beg for charity if his alternative is to work endlessly for no reward, because this way at least he has the sunlight.

So we come back to work, as a virtue – because we tell the disabled woman (especially if she is disabled by unseen pain or mental illness) or the panhandling man that they are wrong or worthless, or if we don’t say it directly, it shows in our eyes when we see them beg, or buy food with government benefits?

And what when they send out the thousandth resume with no return, when all they want to do is work – when they are forbidden from working and must hear that they are worthless without it? “Get a job,” when they are denied one, or when working at one gets one nothing but work?

Capitalism thrives on self-interest. If work is a virtue, if virtue is its own reward, then we lack self-interest as a motivator. There is nothing to work for, so there’s not much of a reason to work. And if people don’t do the work necessary to society – farming, serving food, making clothing – the work we don’t celebrate, the work that is its own, only reward – then the new oligarchs will find that their homes are not clean, their shoes not shined, their meat not cooked, and that they have sat fiddling during the fall of their world. They have become so consumed with their own selves that they have forgotten that their comforts depend on the labor of others, and they have given those others no more reason to labor. Virtue is not enough.

Posted by: rebeccajrobare | November 26, 2013

Some Updates

Just a couple of notes –

Please be sure to include your e-mail address when you send us money via PayPal. We see your name, but not your e-mail address, so this helps us keep track of how to contact you if we were to need to!

We do list the registration itself separately from information on whether you have paid, so if you would like to reserve a spot and send payment later, that’s fine. However, please don’t register until you know that you are going to attend! We need to provide an accurate count to the venue.

Be aware that we won’t be shipping you a physical ticket. All registrations go on a list, and we check attendees off as they arrive, Give us feedback on this, though – would you prefer a paper or printable ticket to our current, list-based system?                     

Posted by: rebeccajrobare | October 16, 2013

A New Adventure

I could bore you all with the details of my laborious health process right now – I’ve been to four doctor’s appointments in the past two weeks and to Outpatient Imaging twice – but while I hope we are starting to find some clues about my mysterious illness, I would rather not think about that for a bit. Instead, I have – as I so often do – started a new tale, and written a short first chapter for it. Here’s to starting stories, and here’s to the hope and work of finishing them.

 

The Last Adventure

Chapter 1: A Conversation at Midnight

Death, Orrin felt, was best discussed at night. He couldn’t sleep these days, anyway. The fear that preyed on his mind was largest at night, and even before that fear had taken shape he had found himself lying awake most nights, or puttering around his lonely cottage. It was approaching midnight, then, when he poured a measure of ink into a silver bowl, and sent a mental summons to his oldest friend.

It was not long before two faces appeared in the ink. Donatell was the elder of the two, though that didn’t mean much when all three were well past their seventieth year. Many, many years before, Donatell had encouraged Orrin to make the journey to Evaron to seek the source of power. The younger of the two was Anton, who had been a beauty in his youth. Donatell had at first been afraid to encourage Anton, concerned that it would be too easy for a man of power to seduce the beautiful youth. Anton had persisted, and in time had sought power himself. The three had been friends and colleagues for more than forty years, and in that time, they had seen many other friends come and go.

It was the going that concerned Orrin now.

“My friends,” he said to the faces in the ink, “it is so good to see your faces. Thank you for heeding my call.”

“Of course, Orrin,” said Donatell, and “Are you well?” said Anton. Orrin smiled to himself, thinking of Anton taking Donatell’s hand in concern.

“I am well, but I am worried. With every conversation, I fear it is our last.”

“The same thought has been in my mind,” said Donatell.

Orrin smiled sadly. “I am too wise to fear my own death, or to try to delay it. But I fear what the world may face without us. It has been too long since a young man has sought the source of power in Evaron, too long since a new wizard has come to us for training. I fear that when we are dead, magic will die with us as well.”

“I share your fears,” said Donatell, as Anton nodded gravely. “But what can we do? The hour is late, my friend, and we are old. We have no acolytes, no descendants. Even those who need our help come to us only in their most desperate need, fearing we are beyond giving them aid.”

“There is only one thing we can do,” said Orrin. “We must find acolytes, and show them the way to Evaron.”

Donatell frowned, but Anton laughed. “Where do we find acolytes? They hardly grow on trees. And do you really think we could go to Evaron, at our age? I do not think I would survive the journey.”

Orrin was grave. “None of us will escape death,” he said. “Isn’t it better for us to die trying to preserve magic for future generations, than safe and comfortable in our homes, and let the source of power slip away from this world?”

Anton fell silent, and Donatell began to nod. “I see where you wish us to go,” he said. “We must make the journey to Evaron, and we must find acolytes along the way. There may be no likely youths in our towns, but there may yet be men willing to risk their lives for magic. Perhaps we will find them as we travel.”

“And if not, it is in my mind that at least one of us would have to go to Evaron anyway,” continued Orrin. “If we are to be the last of our line, we must seal the source of power so that none will ever discover it, and have magic without teaching. Such a thing could destroy the world, more surely than the lack of magic will.” Orrin paused, and then said, “I will make this journey alone, if I must, for I think that it needs to be done.”

“No,” said Anton, “You are right. And you mustn’t go alone. Better that we should journey together, better that we should die together, than to pass into darkness without fighting to preserve what is ours.”

Donatell leaned his head on Anton’s shoulder. “And Anton and I would never be separated. No, we must all go. And, perhaps, we must hasten. The days draw in, and the winds are turning cold. Autumn is upon us, and who knows who will live to see another spring? We must prepare. Orrin, be ready. We shall be with you in a few days’ time, to begin the journey to Evaron.”

Posted by: rebeccajrobare | August 8, 2013

Hypothesis

Today has been an interesting day. I woke feeling short of breath and had a hard time forcing myself out of bed. I hurried through breakfast and left my coffee on the counter when I headed, late, to work. At work I got more coffee, but only felt worse, lightheaded. After an hour I took myself off to the ER, feeling like I was going to pass out.
I did not pass out in fact, not even when the nurse had trouble with my vein and had to manipulate the needle, the physical reaction to which left me sweaty and ill. In the end it was decided that I had suffered “near syncope” which means that I felt like I was going to faint but didn’t, and the information that my blood sugar was “on the low end of normal.”
The nurse who took my blood sugar said that it was 70. According to the American Diabetes Association, that is the lower bound of normal; below that one may experience symptoms of hypoglycemia. Symptoms like fatigue, lightheadedness, headache. Experiencing this at night may lead to waking with fatigue and headache, and furthermore has a symptom of night sweats, which I have and didn’t realize were a symptom of anything.
This means that I now have a working hypothesis about why I’ve been feeling do bad (my blood sugar gets low at night) and a solution for it (have a snack of protein and complex carbs before bed, or when I wake up halfway through the night). I can also ask my doctor about a glucose tolerance test, which I haven’t had; I only know that my fasting blood sugar is right in the center of normal.
Having a hypothesis, something to investigate and ameliorate – something that would sufficiently explain both why I feel so severely but unpredictably bad and why the doctors keep finding nothing wrong with me – makes me feel much more optimistic that I may figure out how to be as well as I want to be. Hell, after resting and eating a proper meal, I felt well enough to play Wii Sports for a while.
It’s late and I won’t add to my story tonight, but there will be another “Temple River” installment soon. Thanks for tuning in; I don’t mind shouting into the ether, but there’s something comforting in the idea that I’m not.

Posted by: rebeccajrobare | July 30, 2013

Some New Ideas

Cranky tonight. I was fine until I went on Facebook, where I saw an article about how the courts have decided that vaccines cause autism. I didn’t read much of the article; it had the gall to claim itself to be unbiased and then launched into several paragraphs lauding Andrew Wakefield as a persecuted hero.
Not much pisses me off more than this particular brand of bullshit. The thing I’ll note is that the poster is a nurse, which makes me realize something kind of terrifying: that when I have children who I take to the doctor, I will have to inquire about the vaccine status of the medical professionals in the office. Someone exposed to sick babies and not immune to measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox? Not handling a child of mine!
Other than that, I won’t rant further, as I have done so before and I don’t need to drive my small collection of readers away by repeating myself.🙂
Had another fatigue day yesterday, not quite as bad as Thursday. Got a doctor’s appointment, about which I have decided to be generous: the NP was concerned with yesterday, not the whole history of illness and fatigue that I drag around. It just means I need to put my head together with my GP about it, and if he thinks I’m crazy then I can go find someone who can help me feel better. I don’t care about a diagnosis except as far as it dictates the treatment; but I want to be well enough to work and take care of my home and eventually have a family.
I was going to go back to my story tonight, but I had such an interesting dream last night I want to put down the story idea it generated so I don’t forget it.
The story takes place in a dystopian future, advanced in technology but ravaged by war, so that the technology different groups have available can be very different. In this landscape, an educated young woman is sold into slavery. She does not know why, as no one other than herself should have property rights over her person, but it is a thing known to happen. (Slavery is not quite legal in the fragmented country, but it is practiced by those powerful enough that they do not worry about recognizing the law.
After several days in captivity, the woman is sold to a sort of pirate and trader who has a large ship that travels up and down a major river. The ship does not usually sail on the water, though it can, but instead hovers above it. She has been bought for the purpose of keeping the trade accounts, following the murder of the previous accountant, who was skimming. The story will chronicle the woman’s travels as she unravels the mystery of her bondage, wins her freedom, and becomes a major player in the land’s renewal.

After days of near-darkness, the red evening light was harsh on my eyes as I was led out onto the pier. I pushed my filthy hair out of my eyes and watched the approach of a small barge carrying several men. One stood tall in the prow, an imposing figure with cut muscles in his chest and arms, easily apparent because of the sleeveless vest he wore. His mustaches were waxed precisely, and he wore a single earring in his right ear. This would be Captain Zhou, then, the famed pirate lord who, I had been informed, would be purchasing me.
I fingered the leather collar around my neck until a sharp jerk on the attached rope caused me to stagger. So far slavery had meant a night of terror and three days of squalid darkness, and I was most certainly not accustomed to it, nor did I intend to be. There had been, I was sure, some mistake that had led to my kidnapping instead of some intended target, and someone could surely be persuaded to seek a judgment against the slave-trader to secure my release, or else pay the price required to purchase my freedom. Until I could seek aid, however, I was forced to tolerate whatever ills were forced on me.
Zhou stepped onto the pier, followed by a slender man in a fine coat, and a barrel chested man carrying a gun and a sword. Others sat in the barge to wait. The slave trader gestured stiffly with his right hand, as though he had intended to offer Zhou a handshake and thought better of it. Instead he bowed awkwardly, and babbled.
“This is the one I promised you, my lord, skilled in keeping records and accounts.” Had I been targeted, then? And was that me, specifically, or just someone with my skills?
Zhou looked me up and down, then jerked his head. The slender man came forward, taking something out of his satchel. He took my left wrist, stretched my arm out, and jabbed the needle of a bio-scanner into my vein. I could not see the results as they came up on the screen, but he pronounced me “clean”, and handed over a wallet to the slave trader. The rope tied to my collar was given to the slender man in exchange, and I was led into the barge and pressed to my knees. We rowed off with Zhou again standing in the prow and the other pirates sitting ahead of the four rowers, and me on my knees between them. Thus I began my life as a slave, at twilight on the twenty-seventh day of July, 2134.

Posted by: rebeccajrobare | July 25, 2013

The Spice Must Flow

I’m sorry I haven’t posted for a few days, O handful of readers. I spent the last several days increasingly tired, and woke today with insurmountable fatigue and achy muscle pain all over my body. It was a flu-like feeling but without flu’s other symptoms. The act of dressing required more spoons* than I had available to me, and I very reluctantly called out of work sick. I always wrestle with guilt and fear in these circumstances, but sometimes there’s not much to do but stay in bed.
Fortunately I have good pals, many of whom have had pain and fatigue problems of their own. Today’s “flare-up” isn’t related to any medical condition I know about (I’m well aware that doesn’t preclude having a condition that hasn’t been diagnosed yet), but the practices and attitudes that get my friends through days of lupus, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain helped me today.
I took a hot bath with Epsom salts. I did lovingkindness meditation. I rested in bed and forgave myself for it. Then I tried something I read about a little while ago, and figured that it couldn’t hurt.
Turmeric is a spice that is said to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The research on it seems to be fairly credible, with there being some scientific confirmation of the information on natural-health websites. I tried a recipe of turmeric, cinnamon, and honey in heated almond milk. It was tasty, a little bitter, a little sweet. As I drank it, a feeling of calm and clarity came over me, and I began to feel more comfortable. After 12 ounces of the stuff, I was in much less pain, felt hungry, and had enough energy that I was able to cook a simple meal. Either the turmeric milk is the best anti-inflammatory I’ve ever encountered, or it was the best placebo effect I’ve ever encountered. Not that I care too much either way, right now! I’m too pleased about feeling better.
I intend to continue to experiment with turmeric, to see if my body continues to like it as much as it did tonight. If it is really this good, I may make it a daily part of my diet. Please remember, while reading this, that your mileage may vary; any medicine, herb, or food that works very well for one may be neutral to another and harmful to a third. And while I’m working hard at becoming the expert on my body and what it needs, I am not an expert on bodies in general. (I’m good with brains, but more in a lab sense than medicine sense.)

*Spoons = a metaphor for the resources one has to get through everyday life while dealing with chronic illness and/or pain. Google “spoon theory” or visit butyoudontlooksick.com for more information.

Posted by: rebeccajrobare | July 18, 2013

So Close!

I am 20 calories of carbohydrates over my goals for today. Eating is a basic animal function, and I am a member of a culture that does very badly at it at this point in history. I managed to miss the gym the past two days, too, but at least that’s because I’ve been working late. It feels more legitimate than skipping because I don’t feel like it.
Today’s body/weight revelation: like many women of my culture, I dislike my body’s appearance. Like some other proportion of women, I think I should embrace my body for what it is. Part of the body image and health stress I have is over that cognitive dissonance; I keep telling myself I shouldn’t have a particular emotion. That’s never helpful. Next step, then, is to try to generate compassion for myself, for feeling this dissonance, for wanting to embrace my body, for disliking and sometimes hating my body. All the feelings can exist as they are and be as complicated as they need to be, and they can just be my feelings; I don’t need to identify with them.
(In related news, I need to get back to the meditation habit, because that training is standing me in good stead these days.)
A surprising number of people read my last two posts – it was very flattering! Thanks for looking in. I am quite happy to write for myself, but it’s nice to think that other people get something from it as well. A little more story tonight, I think, to round my day out.

The University
My four years as a squire in the Library were marked by hard but satisfying labor. Daily we were given lessons on mathematics, anatomy, natural history, and all the other building blocks of knowledge. In addition to these classes, of course, we worked, bringing books from the stacks to scholars and returning them to their proper places; dusting the lesser-used volumes; ensuring the proper working of the pneumatic tube system that brought messages all over the library; and guarding, always, against the danger of fire.
I thought nothing at all of the day when dusting a collection of genealogical records brought on a fit of sneezing that would not stop, nor the day when the heat in the Library’s upper reaches sent me into a faint, followed by a headache that lasted for a day. I was young, and even if sickness was frowned upon, certainly no one suspected that I was displaying some sort of systemic weakness.
After four years of squiredom, I received my emancipation, and I immediately applied for entry to the University. There was no question of my success; I had spent four years immersed in scholarly work, and it was easily thought that I would soon produce my own.
The squires of the Library and the Army are expected to be under the direction of older and wiser individuals. Scholars and soldiers are a somewhat different matter. As a scholar, any failing or weakness would render me unfit for the honor being shown to me by my city-state. In being permitted to study, an investment was being made in my education that I was expected to repay, by developing knowledge important to Greycliff. So I was told when I swore the oath that enrolled me in the University, and I agreed eagerly, thinking nothing of it. I was sent to apprentice under an anatomist, whose area of specialty was the brain, and I labored under her direction for several years.
Little did I know, she was already in disgrace. She was ill, often, and though she sent messages by tube and her dissection theatre was capably managed by another scholar, the other scholars had little patience for her weakness and no tolerance for her students, who often needed assistance for lack of better mentoring.
One morning, as I was leaving my home in the southern part of the city of Greycliff, I noticed that everything around me seemed oddly bright, as if the objects of my daily life were glowing from the inside. I dismissed it as a trick of the light, for the sun was shining directly into my flat. I left as usual, to head into the city’s more elevated northern area where the University was located.
Fifteen minutes later, I was doubled over in pain, quite blocking the stone pathway on which I had been walking. Someone shoved me from behind, and someone else made a rude comment. I straightened, pulled myself together, and walked the rest of the way to my tutorial, where I sat with my hands over my eyes and my head on the table while being drilled on the structures of the brain. Another student put his hand on my head and said helpfully, “I hope you don’t have a brain tumor.” Of course, beneath that I heard “But if you do, can I have your brain once you’re dead?” Even though he didn’t say it. I returned home once my exam was over and spent the next day in bed.
I recognized the symptoms, of course; after all, wasn’t the brain my area of study? The pounding pain, just on the right side of my head, the aversion to light, the edge of nausea. Hemicrania. But all I felt inside myself was, “Weak! Unable to take the pressure!”
I lasted six weeks before finding a physician, who prescribed a compound made of ergot that eased enough of the pain that I no longer missed one lecture out of every three. If I needed this drug then I would take it gladly, as long as it let me keep up the appearance of strength. No one needed to know how weak I really was, and as long as I was thought to properly embody Greycliff’s fabled strength and dedication to duty, then what did it matter that I knew myself to be less than perfect?

Posted by: rebeccajrobare | July 16, 2013

Too Tired!

I didn’t make it to the gym today, which means I’m short my goal by one workout. Lather, rinse, repeat; it just means I’m trying for week 2. This is after consultation last week with a dietitian, work-sponsored, because my job is useful like that.
Even though I’m coming up a little short on my health goals, I’m still making headway on my writing goals. At the moment, that’s mostly, “write more”; eventually I’ll need to operationalize it but for the moment I can let it be easy. I do have my update of “The Prince” to post, but to do that I have to go get it and turn on the light and so forth. So story time tonight is a piece of the story I mentioned last night. I don’t know if this will be the beginning, but nearish the beginning I think, or maybe it’ll just be background and world-building. We’ll see.

Temple River
One: The Library
The existence of Temple River was not a secret. Even as children we knew it was out there. In the puppet shows and street theatre there was a character type, the “mad healer,” who was always coughing and ill, or delusional and speaking in tongues, or covered in mud, or even (in a play I saw during University) spewing fake vomit over the front rows. That’s what Temple River was: a place for madmen and fanatics, no place that any sensible citizen of Greycliff would ever be persuaded to go.
This is the story of how I found myself sent “down the river,” as is the euphemism, the story of how I came to Temple River and what I did there.
I suppose that even as a child I was not quite normal by Greycliff standards. As all know, Greycliff values strength and unity, and its army is renowned throughout the world. Mercenary captains from Greycliff earn wealth and renown, while most royal houses field Greycliff-trained bodyguards. I, on the other hand, was a bookish youth. At fourteen, the age when most Greycliff youths become squires in the army, I could read Gallish, interpret Avalian poetry, and cypher complex algebra, but I couldn’t climb a rope, run a mile, or turn a cartwheel. I dreaded the day of Army indoctrination, and it came as a great relief to me that I was exempted military service and sent, instead, from the foothills above the cliffs into the cliff city itself, to fulfill my four-year period of service to the city-state as a squire in the Great Library.
I had been taken to the Library a handful of times as a child, but that was not enough to quell my wonder. I remember the hope and promise of that day as our barge came around a slow curve in the river and I saw it, full on in the sunlight. Carved from the grey stone of the canyon, it rose from the riverbed to the heights, not the largest facade in Greycliff, but more beautiful than any I had seen. The sunlight reflected off windows of stained glass set in the facade, and I thought how wonderful is must be to be inside and look at the glass pictures of the warriors who had fought to preserve our city, the artisans who had carved it from the stone, and the scholars who had built the Library and the University, the twin citadels of learning that brought students to Greycliff from all over the world.
I was not taken to the library that day. That first day was devoted to the tedious business of settling in: unpacking my trunk of books and possessions, being fitted for livery, meeting the fellow youths who would share my squiredom. I remember them still: the dark-haired girl who made a study of primitive cultures’ superstitions; the sandy-headed youth who played music; the husky boy who made me laugh with his clowning. We thought, in the manner of fourteen-year-olds, that we should be friends forever.
And the next day, there was the Library.

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