I started writing this quite a while ago, I think late October or early November. The first chapter is here. I haven't had much time for anything besides Maximum Recursion Depth and I've never been consistent about doing "real" writing anyway, but I wanted to swing back to this. I don't know if it'll ever properly finish, but I think it still has places to go.
I worry that this is getting too meandering and I'm not sure how to take it where it's supposed to go, or even where it's supposed to go, but also if you combine these two chapters, at its current pace it's still pretty short even for a short story, so maybe it's ok to let it breathe some more. I hope the general themes I'm going for are coming through and there is a reasonable amount of foreboding for what will come, that it is neither too melodramatic nor too aimless, as I worry it may be. There's a certain thematic juxtaposition I'm going for, that I'd rather not say explicitly even though I don't think I'm being very subtle, and I think that juxtaposition is what makes the story interesting, but also, makes it hard for me to figure out how to fulfill on it without having to give up that thread, so it's sort of a difficult balance, but hopefully, it will come together the way I'm envisioning it.
I love that period in the early morning, that brief window around 5am or so, depending on the time of year, where it's no longer dark, but the sun isn't quite up yet either. There's a gray stillness. It's too late for the late night and too early for the morning hustle. Things are quiet. Nobody fucks with you in that Gray Zone, it's the only real peace you'll ever experience, and most of us sleep right through it. It's more than that though. It's like... it's not part of reality. Society doesn't expect anything from you, it's out of phase with your circadian rhythm, it's a sort of liminal space, like a lucid dream. Once the sun's up, you have to deal with the world. Predators abound, and all that; assholes down the street or on the road, unreasonable deadlines or a shitty boss, family drama, your own fully lucid thoughts. Nowhere to hide, besides maybe the bathroom stall, but then you're still stuck with yourself.
That's one way of thinking about it she says. I can already tell I've lost her. I knew I should have canceled, but I knew if I did it would probably never happen, so here we are, basically the same as if it isn't happening and now I'm that much closer to tomorrow morning. I'm in a mood, it happens.
The night has barely started and I'm already heading back home. Then a motion detector picks me up and then there's a bright light, and I see a raccoon rummaging through the trash, and the raccoon sees me. We stare each other down, that little bandit thinking he's in for it, but what am I going to do? I'm no threat to him, but anyway, he runs off, of course. To a nocturnal creature, the blinding spotlight must be what nightmares are made of.
I've been feeling a little better since I started working at the Indigo Saint's Cathedral. It's some kind of internship or fellowship; it pays to stick around after the seminar after all I guess. It's just about enough to pay the bills at least, and I'm in over my head, but with this on my resume, I should be able to do anything. But that's then and this is now and in the meantime, I'm staring at a screen wondering what to do next.
Not much happened after that. I had a dream... it was interesting, I think. I don't remember. My eyes adjust quickly to The Gray Zone. I'm glad I started getting up early again. Make coffee, take a walk. The sun begins to rise; I just woke up but I'm already tired. Each morning, like trying to race against the rising sun, knowing I can't possibly win, and then just giving in. Psychologists call it "learned helplessness". I swear, as the sun rises, I can feel sparks in my brain as serotonin binds to receptors, opening gates in the neurons, post-synaptic potentials building up to action potentials, setting off a cascading response of sodium and calcium and other things, beads of light turning into threads of consciousness; the tendrils of sunlight squirming through my molecules, an unwanted shove onto the stage for my brain, forcing me into lucidity, forcing all of us into this illuminated state; so many colors and features, and yet we all know we're seeing the same thing. I resent this unwanted feeling of consciousness. Already, I'm thinking about what dreams I will have tonight.
I do look forward to going to the Cathedral, actually. But now that I work there, it's not the same. I can already tell, I'm loading it with so much nervous energy. Already associating this place with the fear and anxiety of the job, of being a part of the world and at its whims. I notice now, how bright the Cathedral is, and how open. I thought I'd have a cubicle at least, but it's an open floor plan. The other engineers seem nice enough, but I can already tell they're sizing me up, or maybe that's just one way, my own insecurities. "Projection", that's what it's called. But I'm here; they could have chosen anyone, but they chose me, they wouldn't have done that if they didn't think I can do it, so I guess I can do it. I can do it. I can. I loop through that for a while and realize I've wasted the better part of the last half hour, well, this whole morning's basically over at this rate.
How's your first week going he asks. Great I say too enthusiastically. I mean it though. I haven't really gotten much done, and I don't know what I'm doing, but it's exciting being here, thinking about what I'm eventually going to be able to do, even if I'm not sure how I'm ever going to do it. But I guess it'll just work itself out eventually. It's still sunny by the time I leave, sunset nowhere in sight. I worked all fucking day, and still, it mocks me, taunting me to keep going but I'm all spent.
A month goes by, and I know they're expecting results soon, but it feels like I've barely started. The Indigo Saint is going to want to talk to me soon. I used to get excited by the prospect, but now, I don't even know what I'll have to say to him. I leave a little early, again. I wasn't getting much done anyway, and I'm stressed out, so what's the point.
It only took until midwinter, but it finally gets dark before I leave the office, even when I leave a little early. I was going to watch that new horror movie tonight, and I guess now I can watch it sooner than later. You know that uncanny feeling, that little tingling sensation, that unsettlingness of good weird horror? That gives you something to think about, even when you're reasonably confident it means nothing, or even when you know exactly what it's supposed to mean but somehow it feels like there's more? It feels kind of good, right? Masochism for the amygdala; gives you fake things to be afraid of so you don't have to deal with the horrors facing you in broad daylight. Horror is always steeped in darkness. Why are the boogeymen so afraid of the light?