So here we go.

Scary Typewriter

I figured since I haven’t been writing anything in this blog at all, I should make some sort of bold apologetic gesture. Everyone who really knows me knows that this is about as personal as I get. Actually, this is unprecedented even for me, but I’m feeling particularly fidgety at the moment and crazy notions always spawn out of restlessness.

Showing people the crap you create is always a weird experience. I think it’s because you want it to be good and so much of you knows that it can always be better.

Neil Gaiman wrote on his blog that you’ll never be satisfied with what you write. You’ll always find something wrong with it, and it’s really just a matter of learning how to deal with that. But he’s Neil Gaiman and a brilliant writer, so I don’t know if I fully believe him.

It could be true, though. It is certainly true for me. Sometimes I go back and reread everything I’ve ever written and I laugh. I laugh right there, on the spot, by myself. I look like a fool, but I laugh.

Well, whatever. We do the best we can and eventually we just have to sit back and love it unconditionally. We accept it for all its disastrous failures and embarrassing personal revelations.

So here we go.

.And we’re off!

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SIRENA, SIRENA

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I.

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The island shifts with the waters and the winds, a silent creature, wild and restless. It calls out to distant shores, to the old men who still wait by the water’s edge and watch the horizon for a glimpse of its floating figure against the changing light of the sun. And they call it Sirena, the floating island.

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“James, this is the last time! Wake up now, or we’ll be late!” Her voice pierced the early morning air, echoing across the hallway. It broke through the wooden door guarding the boy’s room and slid beneath the covers and slipped through his bed sheets.

“Almost, I’m almost th—” James muttered sleepily into the soft body of his pillow, twisting and turning his small body with childish defiance. He tangled his legs in the thin sheets, anchoring himself to the comfort of his bed and clinging desperately to the places he could only ever see in his sleep. Still, the pitch and persistence of his mother’s voice were unrelenting. Her commands became louder as she wrenched open his bedroom door.

“No, no, not this time. Everyone is ready except you, and I refuse to walk into the chapel late again. The door squeaks and I know that’s all the others will be talking about at tea if it happens again.” She pulled open the dark curtains hanging over the glass windows, and morning light bathed the room in a warm glow. The brightness of the sun stung the boy’s eyes and shook him from his dreams. He was back in his room, legs caught in cotton layers and the waters of the ocean waiting miles away.

The heavy, wooden door of the church was old, and its hinges were coated with a rusty bronze. Even despite the rush, the Martin’s were late and the door squeaked as they entered the building. James and his family slid into one of the back pews and listened to the rest of the sermon. Once the pastor finished, the soft melody of the piano began to play, and the voices of the choir rolled over the congregation in waves of grace and sound. From the back, James watched as the sea of heads bowed in prayer. He did the same. He knew the others would pray for peace, for compassion and mercy, for faithfulness. Some would pray for their rocky marriages and bickering families, for their crippling finances, for their ailing friends. James knew his mother would be praying for his grandfather’s health, and he knew she would be praying for him as well. Still, though he lowered his head and squeezed his eyelids tightly shut, James could think of nothing to say.

Seek and you shall find. It was all that he remembered from the pastor’s sermon. Seek and you shall find, seek and you shall find. The rest of the words blurred with his thoughts of the island. James first heard about Sirena from his grandfather, who swore it existed. And it did. The old man was certain that he saw it in the distance as he sailed on the Mediterranean Sea from Santorini to Crete. He had never seen an island there before, but that night, he caught a glimpse of it behind the evening fog, and began to row out to explore. It disappeared before he could ever reach it. Locals thought it was a miracle and skeptics wrote it off as an old legend, but James’ grandfather preferred to call it a divine truth. He didn’t believe in much, but he believed in that island—Sirena, Sirena.

James opened one eye and stared at his mother, her head bowed down humbly and her hands clasped tightly together. She had always said her father should forget about the island. In his old age, he had begun forgetting much more than just Sirena, and James was sure that she was taking back what she had said. Though his memory was failing and his heart was weak, the old man continued to speak of the island. He called for it in his sleep, and told stories of its mystery, even when he wasn’t sure who he was telling stories to, even when no one was listening. There was nothing his grandfather wanted more than to see it once again. It wasn’t insanity or old age. It was Sirena, the unbreakable hold, the unmistakable call. It was real, it was real. James was certain it was real, and in his certainty, he began to pray.

“Dear God, let me find the island. Amen.” And that was it. It was all of his faith and all that he believed. James spent the rest of the service in a motionless stupor, his mind wandering around the world in search of the distant, floating island in his dreams.

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It floats through the world; a solitary figure lost somewhere at sea. The island moves to the rhythms of the earth, pushed and pulled by the ocean’s waves. A mysterious force surrounds its shores and settles like an invisible fog around its borders.

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“James Martin,” The call of his name shot past the desks in front of him and mingled with a flurry of giggles and snickers. “Is there something especially interesting about that globe? Because if not, I would suggest you keep your eyes on the chalkboard. That is, after all, where I happen to be teaching today’s lesson.”

His teacher watched him through narrow eyes, cold and brutal. His classmates did the same, though their stares hinted more of mockery than anything else. James did not look up. He could not hold the weight of their eyes. He shook his head shamefully and sat properly in his seat. His teacher turned back to the board and continued her lesson. James let her voice become a stirring noise in the back of his mind. They were learning about fractions, and he did not care for it. He liked the lesson last Tuesday—ocean currents.

James knew nothing about numerators or denominators, but he knew the way the waters moved. He knew about warm and cold surface currents and the deeper ones that circulated in dark waters. He knew about upwellings that raised up the cold from below and pushed it away from the western coasts. Surface currents flowed towards the equator under the pressure of the atmosphere, and gyres formed around large mounds of water where they collided. The island could be anywhere. The blaze of the sun and the blow of the winds made the oceans shift. Sirena flowed with the waters of the earth, and James would find it.

The lunch bell rang and students pooled around the classroom door to leave. James slowly closed his notebook, its margins filled with thick pencil drawings. As he put his things into a backpack, his eyes wandered to the corner of the classroom. He stared at the large globe fixed in its metal frame. It showed the oceans and the continents, the mountains and the seas. It showed the world, whole and complete. But it did not show Sirena. It could not show Sirena. The lands that stretched across the globe were unchanging. They had been captured and tamed, chained down and forced into permanence. Sirena would never be.

He spun the globe on its axis, watching the surface of the ball rotate around. He traveled great distances, crossing the raised contours of mountain ranges and sliding past blue paper oceans with his fingertips. Two steps and he could journey across a continent. He traced the flow of the currents within seconds, following an imagined path for the island from sea to sea with a quick slide of his finger along the smooth, round shell. The island could be anywhere, and James would find it.

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Though many have gone in search of it, the legends say the island does not want to be found. It hides behind thick veils of morning mist and buries itself in the dark centers of raging storms. At times, the ocean opens up its churning waters to Sirena. The island is swallowed whole, waiting in the belly of the sea until it is spit out into new waters, drifting on unmarked horizons and passing foreign lands.

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“Swimmers, take your marks.” A woman’s voice, crackling and shaky, echoed through the natatorium. CRACK! The shot of a starting gun blasted through the air. Though James’ thoughts floated behind and adjusted gradually to the reality of his body, the mechanical push of his feet off the raised platform catapulted him into the pool. The water guarded him from the roar of the crowd, muffled voices and muted noise. The world around him fell away—the white tiles at the bottom of the pool, the passing seconds and milliseconds of the timer, the line of buoys that confined him in a long, narrow stretch. There was nothing but the steady pace of his swimming and the jumbled memory of his grandfather’s voice, whispering sweet words of Sirena, Sirena. He swam on, he swam on.

“You can’t reach it with a boat—you have to swim. If you take a boat, the waves around the island will deceive you and push it far away. Then you’ll never get there. You have to swim.”

James cut through the pool, breaking through the clear blue. The reach, the catch, the pull, the recovery. The motions had become a part of him, circulating within his mind and moving naturally through his body. His arms spun like windmills, reaching swiftly above his head. His elbow flexed for the catch, arm extending forward at the shoulder, moving outward as the rest of his body rotated. Then the pull propelled him forward, and the recovery set everything back again. Back to the beginning, to the starting position, to the next stroke. The reach, the catch, the pull, the recovery. James lost himself in the swim. Each stroke carried him towards the end, each kick pushed him closer. Closer, closer, closer.

“You a good swimmer, boy? Let me see those arms. Yeah, you got strong arms. If you can find it, you’ll make it all the way. You’ll make it to the island.”

He reached the edge of the pool, then pushed off and hurled himself towards the other side for another lap. The numbers and distance blurred over time, just as the figures swimming parallel to him faded away. James could see nothing but the water, the lights above the surface leaving a soft glow. There was nothing but the swim, the fixed path of his body through the empty pool.

“You know, it takes real heart to find Sirena, Jimmy. You got a good heart, don’t you?”

He reached out his hand to touch it—it was so close. He stretched his body as far as he could, until it hurt, until he felt the strain in the muscles of his fingers. He could feel it. He could feel it draw near, he could taste that victory. Through the water, he could hear the voices chanting. They cheered and whistled, but the sound seemed far from him. James felt the pulse of the water. He could hear the island call him through the waves. Sirena, Sirena.

“Mostly, you got to want it. She doesn’t show herself to just anyone, this island. If you want it badly enough, you’ll find Sirena. You’ll find the island.”

His head broke out from the surface and the chaos of the onlookers erupted in his ears. He climbed out of the pool, greeted by congratulations and hearty pats on the back. The pool behind him was still moving, its contents spilling onto the cement edges. James smiled and shook water out of his ears. It was just a swim, and Sirena was still waiting.

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Each night, it drifts through new worlds, a cluster of mountainous rocks keeping old mysteries safe within aging stone. Untouched and wildly untamed, the rocks hover over the water like monsters. They float on the surface—silent giants overgrown with green, massive forms carved carefully by rain and wind.

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“Are you even listening to me?” His head snapped up quickly at the sound of her shrill voice. He looked up at her and nodded, despite his guilt. There were times when he was certain she knew. They had known each other for years; friends even before they became lovers. She was one of the few people who tried to understand—so much of James Martin was left floating in his head and stirring in his dreams. At times, he just was not present. He was always drifting off into himself. Distant, empty eyes; neutral, blank face. Her eyes narrowed coldly, and she pursed her mouth into a thin line. “What do you think, then? What were you thinking about?”

Sirena—he had been thinking about Sirena. He was always thinking about it. About the way it moved across the sea, the way its currents shifted and changed to hide its secrets, the way it concealed itself in wind patterns and tropical storms. There were legends and stories about Sirena that filtered through small fishing towns and seaside ports. It was rumored to be passing through the warm waters around Fiji, though the bulk of the information rested on old, weary men who smelled of fish and heavy liquor.

“Fiji,” he replied cautiously. “I was thinking about Fiji.”

Immediately, her face relaxed and the corners of her mouth spread out into a wide smile. James was not certain what question he had answered, but it seemed correct enough to satisfy her. She was a pretty girl, and he liked her well enough.

“Really? I didn’t think you were paying attention! That’s a great idea! Fiji…can you imagine? I’ve always wanted to vacation in Fiji. The white sands, the clear waters—it’s perfect.”

James stared at her as she raved about the vacation, detached and unaffected by her excitement. It did not matter to him; none of it really mattered to him. She was just another girl. Fiji was just another piece of land. But Sirena—Sirena was his. It called to him in his dreams; it drew him closer with each passing day.

The girl continued to talk. Her words were clutter, and he wanted his mind clear. James muffled the sound of her chattering voice with the familiar crash of waves against the island’s shores, the calming sound bringing him far from the noise and back home to the steady drift of the island.

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It is a moving island that floats and shifts with the winds, unconquered and unmapped. Great men seek to claim it. They envy its power and relish in its mystery, searching for what they cannot find and wanting what they can never have. The island Sirena has no masters; it yields to no one. It is a moving island, elusive and uncatchable, a solitary drifter calling out to distant shores as it passes.

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“But, Mister Martin, how do you find it?”

It was the question he had spent his entire life answering, the question that lulled him into waters of deep sleep with its hopeful promises. Each night, another glimpse. He saw the island in his dreams, and the sight of it sustained him. He had spent his whole life searching, and now he would wait. He would wait for it to appear through the thick morning mist or come out from behind a heavy evening fog, just like the legends said it would, just like his grandfather knew it would.

The girl was young, about six. She was no older than he had been when the tale of Sirena lured him under its spell. He saw hints of himself in her wide eyes, flat brown saucers fixed on his heavily wrinkled face. The stare was hypnotic and James could not hold it for long; he looked away. He tore his eyes from the deep longing in her gaze, seeing his own wants reflected in her youth and instead looked out into the dark ocean waters stretched out before him.

James opened his mouth to say something, but the inside of his mouth felt unbearably dry. He felt an aching thirst that flooded over him as he stared out at the vastness of the sea. The water teased his senses. It was heavy with salt, and would not satisfy, but he longed for it still. The cracked skin of his lips craved the sweet taste of fresh water, but the saliva that covered it as he ran his tongue over the edges of his mouth did nothing but wet it. He was thirsty, and there was nothing. Everything around him went unnoticed including the young girl who waited on his reply and the young boy who appeared beside her.

“It’s almost six. Mom says we have to go.” The boy grumbled, tugging hard on his sister’s thin arm. She squealed in pain and wriggled herself out of her brother’s grasp.

Still, he was much older than she was, and he grabbed her wrist tightly as she protested, “But I want to know how to find Sirena! I want to find the island! I want to—”

Her brother silenced her with a mean hiss and a rough shake. She opened her mouth briefly, as if to rebel against his bullying, but closed it just as quickly and followed him away from the porch. Their squabbling grew faint the further they walked down the strip of sand. Even so, James could hear the older boy’s cold, cruel voice floating towards him on the northern breeze. It stung, each word sounding brittle and harsh as it weaved its way through his mind.

“Jessie, it isn’t real. Dad says old man Martin is crazy and that’s why he’s all alone with no one to take care of him. There’s no such thing as a floating island.” The children slowly disappeared into the distance. The breeze shifted and carried their voices east, blowing a cold draft across the shore and agitating the dark waters. The salty wind nipped at the loose, bare skin of his arms and made his body tremble. It looked like a storm brewing. Another season, another storm—he had lived through many, strengthened only by the thought of the island and the silent peace of its still waters. It was getting late, and the sun had all but disappeared. He closed his eyes and let himself forget about the children. James could hear nothing but the call of the ocean and the crash of the waves folding on top of each other. He closed his eyes and let the island take him away, a solitary figure drifting aimlessly out to sea.

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II.

The storm began with a tremble. The surface of the water vibrated slightly, forming ripples and waves that pressed against the wooden hull. The boat rocked back and forth, rising and falling upon the changing landscape. Its nose tore through sheets of waves and the impact shook its frame. James’s stomach churned with the waters moving strong and deep beneath him. The rhythm pulsed through the wood and into his bones. His hand in firm control of the engine, he steered the small boat towards a clump of land in the distance.

Just as quickly as the waters began to stir, the storm passed—or rather, he passed through it. He headed closer to Sirena and felt the strange force that surrounded the island, guarding the secrets it had carried with it for years. Its power sent shivers through his body. The ocean grew comfortably warm and settled into a steady ease, lapping at the sides of the tiny motorboat. It was time; James jumped into the sea and hurled his body through the waters. Each stroke carried him closer. He swam alongside the island, shifting slightly with the tides that rolled into its hidden caverns.

Within the shell of the island, a clear pool of water was nestled between the twisted stalagmites and stalactites. The water lay motionless and flat, a looking glass with hidden depths and unknown mysteries, a mirror reflecting the dark walls of the cave in its face. James threw himself into it, breaking the stillness with waves and ripples of his own. His head plunged below the surface. Eyes opened, expecting a sting but feeling none. The water was fresh. The rough flesh of his tongue ran itself over wet lips washed clean of sea water. It tasted sweet, and for a moment, he was overwhelmed by the island and all the mysteries it protected from the world.

He floated to the surface and stared up at the dark frame of the cave. James Martin was weightless in the water’s palm. He closed his eyes and drifted quietly on the clear blue sheet, detaching his mind from its shackles to the land and letting the island Sirena slowly carry him away.

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About Booki
"Somewhere man must know that self-perception is the most frightening of all human observations. He must know that when a man faces himself, he is looking into an abyss."

One Response to So here we go.

  1. bryawnt says:

    i like. a lot.

    *applause*

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