He didn’t think he would survive. How could he? He was lost in a strange land; his belongings buried under a ton of sand. His throat burned and ached. His lungs felt ready to burst with sand. Thinking hurt. Breathing hurt. Everything hurt.
He was going to die.
The storm around him grew stronger. He sunk to his knees, his tattered clothes billowing around him. The sands burned his skin to the point he believed his flesh would melt off his bones. He could barely keep himself upright. The winds of the sandstorm forced him down; deeper and deeper into the land and hopelessness. Soon he would become one with the desert; trapped under a dune a mile high.
He closed his eyes, resigned to his fate. He took three deep breaths and nearly suffocated on sand. Then he opened his eyes.
To his astonishment, the sand formed a funnel; the wind gathering dust and insects and shrubbery into a vortex. He could hear nothing but the whoosh of the wind--until a voice clear as sunlight called his name. Was he hallucinating? Or was this an omen of his survival? He struggled to his feet. The voice called his name again, and then a third time.
The voice emanated from the tornado.
He took a shaky step towards it. Moving against the wind, he continued at a snail’s pace, one step at a time, towards the voice. And salvation? The voice continued to beckon him with sweet whispers. He obeyed. Even as the tornado began to alter shape.
The funnel twisted in its center and other points until it resembled a wet rag being wrung dry. The wind subsided and he was able to get a better view of the tornado, which began shrinking in height. He noticed it took the shape of a starfish.
He stumble-ran the final paces forward. Exhausted and spent, he fell at the feet of the humanoid form that had emerged from wind and sand. On his knees as if before royalty, he looked up and met the eyes of the loveliest woman he had ever seen.
“Welcome, Dominique,” the woman said, her voice a soothing lullaby. “You must be weary. Come, rest.”
Knowing not what else to do, Dominique reached up towards her. She engulfed him within the confines of sand and heat. The scent of juniper radiated off her body. She took him within her; she felt amazing. Although he knew boils and blisters would be the result, he couldn’t stop himself. Her coarse tongue tasted of far east spices he couldn’t pronounce. She was the best he ever had. Yet, in the back of his mind, Dominique knew that the consequences would be painful and deadly. Still he refused to pull out.
*Author's note: This story takes place in the Detecting Magic with Dick Hunter universe. It is the origin story of Mort des Hommes, the antagonist in the first book, The Mort des Hommes Files. The sequel, The Demonic Dozen, will be released March 7, 2017.
A few months ago I cleaned up the files in my computer. During the process, I peaked at my files of unfinished novels. There are some books I’ve been writing bit by bit for 5 or more years. I read some of them. They were painful to read.
I normally just leave it at that, but this time I was curious about them. They were good ideas, just executed poorly. How did such great ideas transition into horrible writing?
I flipped through my notes. I made detailed preparations for each project: created settings and characters, did prior research and made scene-by-scene outlines in advance so I wouldn’t get stuck, etc. Yet each and every time I found myself sputtering out of steam after 10,000 words or so. What was the problem?
I was the problem.
Not that I didn’t allocate enough writing time (although that is a symptom of the cause) or that I hit a wall of writer’s block. Looking back on previous work, I realized that at the time I just wasn’t good enough of a writer. My talent level was inadequate to the scope of my ideas.
And my mind somehow knew this. It knew I was not ready to give life to my ideas. My writing brain shut down in order to save myself from myself.
How did this happen? Perhaps I spent too much time and effort chasing mentors, reading every book and blog on how to write I could find, going to conferences believing that if I networked with the right people I’d become a better writer through osmosis.
Studying, networking and learning from experienced writers are important for a writer’s growth. When I was out doing that I forgot the most critical path to writing better. I neglected to write.
Similar to a seldom used muscle, my writing brain was weak and limp. I had sought knowledge but didn’t put it to use. I wasn’t being wise with my gift.
I used to take long writing hiatuses and then jump straight into a lengthy project. I’ll pursue other interests, mostly catching up on streaming TV or playing video games, occasionally some light reading. When I’d take up writing again, my flabby writing muscles couldn’t handle the strain.
I still don’t write everyday. I will write something here and there; snippets of prose here, snatches of poems there. A lot of them will never see the light of day. This keeps me in decent writing shape.
When I began working on The Demonic Dozen, my body and mind were ready for the long haul. I was ready to persevere.
My talent is catching up to my visions of my work. My writing is better for it.
If he had been born two hundred and thirty-odd years ago,
He would not have been considered a man--
A favorite servant, perhaps—and his intelligence
Would have been dismissed as mere mimicry.
That was then, and this is now. How much has
The US evolved these past two centuries?
Boisterous millions refuse to see pass the shade of his skin,
The molasses quality his name has on their tongues,
Or his membership to a particular political party.
They see only the man, not the office he is elected to.
This is a strange reversal of what is common:
The practice of worshipping the President as omnipotent savior.
The President of the United States of America is considered infallible;
Not by some divine gift or even in truth, but through citizen’s expectations.
Each time we inaugurate a President, we bear witness
To an alchemical transformation of a human into an Office;
The citizen is no longer a person, but the President—a Title.
A person can be ridiculed and despised without retaliation,
But the Title must be respected; it must endure--
Pristine and unblemished—indefinitely.
No one person is above the Presidency or the Office’s purpose. (See: JFK.)
A perverse form of nationalism, born from fears that too much change
During shifts of power could jolt the country askew, ensures a smooth transition.
The President is slipped a playbook, a guide to continue the USA’s imperial march.
Each time we inaugurate a President, we simply bear witness
To an empire switching masks during an ongoing masquerade ball.
*Originally written in 2013 in response to President Barack Obama's 2nd inauguration, and published in the anthology Poets' America.
Words = Life
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