I am writing a short story to submit to this anthology! I have had a poor attention span all this semester due to stress and death and panic and self-castigation over my failure to get at least fifty pages of the Worst Cleric Ever book finished by the end of February despite my vow to do so two months previously!
Thus I am posting my unfinished short story here! Here on this Livejournal! Its presence in public where other people can see it will, it is hoped, cause me to immediately see every single one of its flaws in glaring detail (as has been the case with my senior research), allowing me to correct them and understand in a blinding flash of semi-competence how it should be structured! And then I will hurt myself banging my head against the wall but at least I will have finished the stupid short story!
Please do not attempt to tell me things about it! That is not the point of this exercise! The comments are turned off! If you wish you may insult me in two weeks about my discomfort with the first-person POV and its result which is my heroine’s over-the-top “salty”-as-it-is-called language, because in two weeks there will be two weeks left before the first deadline!
Do not tell me I am wrong about things about Sweden! That is also not the point!
“IN THE SNOW”
A man lives underneath the Japanese National Diet Building. He has been there since he took the mandatory test that accompanies the college boards at age sixteen, and was given a cause of death that was so long the paper touched the floor. The government sent him to school to learn either physics, medicine, or military history, even though he’s not very smart, and then took him back and put him to work on something.
There is an tiny, wealthy town in Sweden where the death machine gave every single person the message, “KILLED BY HANNAH JANSSON.” They all pooled their money together and hired assassins to kill every Hannah Jansson in the world. The assassins are still out there, but the people in the town are calmer now, and now they all believe that there is a Hannah Jansson that they’ve missed living somewhere nearby, preparing.
A little baby’s cause of death was “SLEEP,” and her father kept waking her up until she died, because if you stay awake for too long, you die the next time you sleep.
And there are also many stories about *microwaves*. The ultimate urban legend, posited by scientists as far back as 1873 but not yet isolated, has got the death machine, a microwave, cockroach eggs, a tourist, and a very small dog. And there weren’t even microwaves and the death machine in 1873, I don’t even know how that works.
Outside the death machine booth in the mall, this girl’s supposed to have picked up a piece of paper off the floor. It said “NO.”
Richard’s mom is going to kill him.
I didn’t go to the party and I don’t really know how it happened, everyone who talks about it says something different. I guess at least two people – Lien and someone else – must have been sober for them to have gotten to the mall. But they all went and used the death machine. All of them got easy stuff like “CANCER” or “HEART ATTACK,” except Richard.
Lien told me that Richard had been going, “wait, what’s this mean? You guys? Who’s got a -” giggle “- someone got a fucking dictionary? What’s this word mean?” And he’d showed it to her, and Lien said she hadn’t known, so she hadn’t answered, but someone else had said a second later, “Filicide means your Dad *fucking kills you*.”
Lien said, “I think whoever it was probably said “Dad” just, you know, because when you think of killing you think of guys. It’s the whole, uhh, the doctor who’s operating on his son, only it’s actually *her* son? The -”
“Cultural conditioning and shit,” I said.
“Yeah… So, uhhh. So I said, “Well, technically, it could also mean *either* parent. It could also mean your Mom.””
Then she kind of bonked her head against the wall and didn’t say anything else for like, ten minutes.
Do I look like a priest? Do I look like the Catholic church has deemed me able to receive motherfucking confession, Lien? What do you want me to fucking say to that, “But other than that, how was it? I mean, was the little printer, like, was it the same kind as in an ATM? How was the *typeface*?” Goddamnit, Lien.
Richard’s dad had died in a car wreck when he was eleven. I think he’d almost gotten over that by the time of the party, he wasn’t all freaking people out with talking about him at weird times anymore. He drank a lot, though, and probably that’s what that was about. It’s got to be what happened at the party, too, pretty much.
Also, Richard’s mom is *probably* dying. She’s got cancer, she’s been all in hospitals all the time for a couple years, they live with his uncle. I don’t think he’s ever told anyone else whether he’s ever told his Mom, but they both look at each other funny now. Maybe she looks at everyone funny. She has this tired, weirdly smug, look on her face, sitting in the passenger seat of the car sometimes when his uncle comes and picks him up. She’s not crazy or anything, she’s just angry. I’ve only talked to her like, twice, I think she’s actually really young, I guess she was in high school or something when she had him. She’s angry.
So we’re all pretty sure she’s going to kill him soon, is I guess what I’m saying.
Close to the end of summer before senior year I was going around the the football field by myself putting garbage in bags while the wind tried to blow me over. There’d been some sort of music thing the night before, the whole Save All the Friggin Owls club (that is not its real name) was supposed to be there cleaning, but I was the only one who’d shown up – Dad’d said everyone would be there and driven me out, he was at his office doing something.
The sky was really dark gray and too close to the ground, and grass was yellow and dried out, all thick colors. The wind was hard and pushed me around and threw twigs and grasshoppers at me and made me feel kind of fucking happy, because I could fake like I was getting in a fight with it. Yes, I have some fucking problems. I may even cuss too much.
The forest up around the northwest of the field looked black and cold, and the wind seemed to be coming out of it, like it was coming from another country. I stayed near those sides instead of near the road or the school, partly because that’s where fighting with the wind gets you, and partly because I felt better near that country than near the school.
I’m not a cheerful person. But I don’t think I’m depressed or anything, either. Sometimes people start telling me things about themselves, and then say it’s because I seem to know where I’m going, that I know myself better than most people. I don’t think that’s true, and even if it was, I want to ask them, how is that supposed to be a good thing? What do you want to know?
I’d had a piece of paper folded up in my jacket pocket, sticking me in the side. I tripped on a stick or my feet and fell over. The paper fell out and the wind caught it immediately. It went straight up, spinning, somehow, into the trees. I stood there and watched for a minute, sort of expecting it to come back. I couldn’t remember what it even was. After a second I wasn’t even sure what color it had been.
[here’s where I stopped]
GRRRRAHHH ALL SHORT STORIES END IN A ROAR OF EXISTENTIAL RAGE YES YES I SEE IT
(It probably will not actually end in a roar of existential rage!)
This entry may disappear at some point!