Drabble 165 – Susurrus

A photo of pews in a church.

I haven’t spent a lot of time in churches. My family doesn’t practice religion, which is not to say that they’re not religious, only that the only times I’ve been to churches have been during daycare, weddings, funerals, and my own baptism. Oh, and that time I was tricked into attending a religious festival on Halloween.

When I do occasionally venture into a church, as I did last weekend, I can understand the appeal. The hushed sense of reverence, the comfort of rituals, the assurance of a meaning, a purpose, a plan that we’re not capable of comprehending. It feels important in a way that most of the spaces I normally inhabit don’t. I like that about it, even if the space isn’t really for me.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 164 – Celerity

A field.

I’ve thought a lot about wilderness over the past few weeks, about open spaces and their rarity, about climate change, the imagined version of my future, and how that’s changing every day. I’m lucky to live where I do; I take long walks with my friends, finding lakes we didn’t know existed. I have mountains on one side, saltwater on the other. I’ve seen deer casually stroll out from the woods behind my house, and all day I get to enjoy birdsong. It’s easy to pretend that my impact on the world doesn’t matter when I’m surrounded by so much natural beauty. But it does matter, and as I grow increasingly conscious of that, I mull over other questions.

What would the world look like, what would it feel like, if it was more empty than I could ever imagine it?

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 163 – Aubade

Sunset over mountains.

I’m moving. Not far, but the idea of moving has me thinking about all the things I love about where I live now. The sounds of the birds that live in the marsh. The sunsets. The short bike ride to gorgeous, expansive farmland.

I will miss these things once I’ve moved. There’s plenty I won’t miss, too—bugs, especially mosquitos. The children running out into the road, directly in front of cars. How many people let their dogs run around without leashes.

It’ll be nice to be in a new home, but I don’t know that I’ll ever stop comparing the two. Moving, even setting aside all the physical labor, is hard. I’ll miss my gray walls, my constantly overgrown garden, the stupid hedge that I can never keep trimmed.

Because I’m moving, I’m going to be light on drabbles for a bit. I hope to be back soon, writing from a new house with new memories to be made in it.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 162 – Ame Damnée

A photo of fire.

I was fired from my very first job. Not fired in a dramatic sense—fired in a “quietly taken off the schedule” way. Fired in a “we’re never going to tell you you’re fired” way. Fired in a “you can keep calling and asking when your shifts are but the truth is that you don’t have any and never will again, and no, we’re not going to tell you that, either,” kind of way.

It was a shame, because I actually really liked the job. Despite customer service being soul-sucking and dehumanizing, I like talking with people. Unfortunately, that first job had a lot of expectations for what I should be doing (everything) that were at odds with what I was legally allowed to do (cleaning tables). As a minor with no cash register training and no food handler’s permit, you are, it turns out, not a valuable employee at a fish ‘n chips place, especially when the rest of the staff goes out on a smoke break and leaves you, a wide-eyed 17-year-old, alone to handle the rush.

I still feel kind of bad about it, like I should have tried harder. But I was seventeen, and was far better at that than working in a fish ‘n chips place.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 161 – Lucent

A photo of glowing shapes against a black background.

When I was but a wee babe online, I stumbled upon the infamous Ted’s Caving Page (which I would not recommend visiting without an ad blocker). It was one of the first pieces of web-based horror fiction I’d ever encountered, and at the time I wasn’t entirely sure that it was fiction. I didn’t know how to verify things, what terms to search to ease the part of me that was turning this single experience into a deep-seated fear.

I’ve never been in a cave. I probably won’t ever go into a cave, because the moment I step through its mouth (and that we call it a mouth is telling—like we’re stepping into the jaws of some creature to be willingly swallowed) is the moment I start panicking and have to leave immediately. But I find them fascinating anyway; maybe more so, because I really don’t know what’s hiding inside.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 160 – Heirofastidia

A photo of a rosary.

Sometimes you sit down to write and everything that comes out is too close to the truth. There’s a reason I write fiction—I prefer to keep something of myself to myself. It’s not hard to find the meaning in what I write, but I like to pretend that it is, like drawing a thin veil over the top. We can both see what’s beneath, but for decency’s sake we’ll pretend otherwise.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 159 – Nephelai

A photo of mist against a forest background.

I’ve had Greek mythology on my mind lately after devouring Madeleine Miller’s The Song of Achilles and Circe. These stories were part of my childhood, but returning to them as an adult, I find so much more than I could have imagined. As a kid, I swallowed them up. As an adult, I find myself wanting to shove my fingers through the cracks and look deeper. I want to look behind the curtain, under the table, out into the dark depths of the forest.

Both of these books take stories that have existed for centuries and broaden them, exploring the edges and pushing at the boundaries. It’s part understanding cultural context, but it’s also universality—Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship in context, yes, but also the timeless concept of desires that don’t quite align. The role of women in Ancient Greece, of course, but also the weight of expectations.

I think that’s why I’ve always been such a sucker for a good myth, well-told. I’m not Persephone, I’m not Artemis, but these stories ignite my curiosity and encourage my imagination because they are still so easy to identify with, even centuries later. The themes are there, even if the context is different.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 158 – Enoptromancy

A photo of a mirror against a pink wall. Palm leaves can be seen in the lower right hand corner of the mirror.

I’ve had a fear of mirrors since I was a kid and a girl on my bus told me you could summon Bloody Mary by repeating her name three times. She said the ghost would appear and scratch you, and showed me her arms to prove it. She was a purveyor of eerie urban legends—she said the worry dolls my family had given me to help me cope with some difficult life stuff would come to life and make my worries come true, that the houses on our bus ride home were haunted, and so on—and I bought into every one of them. Of course, I’d never say Bloody Mary aloud, but would it count if I thought it? Did they have to be said altogether, or would three times spread out over a lifetime still summon her?

Aside from one brief dabble into Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board, I was always too scared to try any of the creepy sleepover rituals we whispered about. In high school, my friends went walking through a graveyard on Halloween—I crossed the street, saying I’d rather walk home in the dark by myself than through a graveyard.

I’ve eased up a bit since then, but even while writing this, I wondered if Bloody Mary would know that I’d written her name three times in one blog post, that I’m seated in front of a window and that it’s so dark outside I can see my reflection in it. The scratches on that girl’s arms left such an impression on me that I can’t shake the fear decades later.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 157 – Oceanid

A close-up view of an ocean wave.

While writing The Compendium of Magical Beasts, I thought a lot about monsters and myths and women. In part because my narrator, like me, is the kind of person who would think about those things, and in part because I feel that to leave out discussions of marginalization, even in a book about creatures that probably don’t exist, was to do folklore and history and science a disservice. The chapter on nymphs is one of my favorites for that reason. I could have written a straightforward explanation of what a nymph is and how they live, but there’s more to it than that—call somebody a ‘nymph’ today, and you’re not saying they’re a forest-dwelling spirit. Same with ‘harpy’ or ‘siren,’ both words that meant female monsters, and now mean female monsters in a different way.

According to myth, there are some three thousand oceanids, with only a handful of them being worthy of names and stories. Of those stories, most involve them giving birth, or nursing, or caretaking; there was only one story to be told, and it was told again and again and again.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 156 – Desiderium

A photo of an old analog camera.

I’ve been thinking a lot about nostalgia lately. A couple hours ago, I finished playing through Night in the Woods for a second time, and after that, I edited an essay about Kingdom Hearts 3. Both are nostalgic in their own ways, both a little muddled and confused in their emotions, but also both hopeful.

I look back at where I came from and sometimes it stings, sometimes it doesn’t. I keep coming back to this line from a poem—my instructor read this to us in class, and I still hear it in her voice, every time.

We're still growing but the stitches hurt     Let us be
True to one another for the world
 
Easy on the myths now 
Make it up     Sleep well
- "Sediments of Santa Monica" by Brenda Hillman

It’s nice, isn’t it? Nice in a painful way.

Nostalgia used to be considered a sickness back in the 17th century—a real sickness, one that doctors would try to treat. The definition has since shifted to mean something more wistful. Less painful, more thoughtful. I think it can be both.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.