Archive Tag: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 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 155 – Kairosclerosis

Kairosclerosis

This year, I have been trying to be good to myself. A month has gone by and I’ve written just one drabble, which is a sign that it’s working.

But having one this month, is also a sign that it’s working. People talk a lot about filling their creative wells, about taking time away from work to recharge. I’ve been trying to do more of that, spending more time with books I love and less with work. Sometimes anxiety gets the best of me and I don’t succeed, and other times work becomes the fun thing, as it did when I covered Global Game Jam a couple weeks ago.

I’m trying to find balance. Some weeks are better than others—this one, so far, is going well. Last week went poorly. I’m sure I’ll fluctuate through the rest of the year as I experiment with things that work and many of them blow up in my face, but for now I feel good. Peaceful. Cared for.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 154 – Calumny

A photo of a woman whispering into a mans ear.

I’ve had some extremely weird rumors spread about me. Not recently, or at least not to my knowledge, but there was a time in middle school, in particular, when people actually came up to me to ask if they were true. Looking back, the rumor that I was a poorly behaved kid with dozens of detentions is not only laughable, but so benign that I can’t believe it bothered me as much as it did.

Which isn’t to say that rumors don’t have power; obviously they do. The stakes were low when I was 12 and the worst thing anybody could think to say about me was that I got a lot of detentions. I’m sure other people have said worse things about me now that I have 30 years of making friends and enemies with people, but I try—try—not to think about them.

The idea picks at me, though, that there’s a narrative about me that I can’t control, that somebody might have more say over the person I know myself to be than I do. Unfortunately, I just have to let it go, shrugging off the annoyance that I don’t get to tell my own story.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 153 – Abstemious

My family is extremely Norweigian. Not necessarily in the tradition sense—though we are extremely fond of saying uff da, but in the food sense. I’ve never tried it, but my grandparents love lutefisk. We keep pickled herring in the fridge for Christmas. It’s not as bad as it sounds, though trying it once was enough for me.

Lefse, on the other hand, is a beloved favorite. It’s a thin, crepe-like potato pancake we smear with butter and sprinkle with sugar. The dough is sweet and delicate, and practically melts in your mouth.

The problem is that nearly every Swedish bakery in our area has closed up, and lefse is a laborious task. You have to rice potatoes (essentially putting them through a special press that turns them into thin grains), mix in flour, sugar, salt, butter, and cream, and turn that into a dough. Once it’s cool, it needs to be rolled out with a special grooved pin to 1/8th of an inch or less, then tossed onto a 400-degree griddle with a special stick. Cook it too long and it gets bitter, not enough and it’s still doughy.

I know all this because I spent some eight hours making it this weekend. And I do mean painstaking—my shoulders are still aching from all the rolling, my hands are burned from bumping the griddle.

But it was worth it. Not because it tasted good, but because I now appreciate how much work goes into it. Because I’ve started a new tradition where I make it for my family, especially since this first time it was a surprise.

And also because it tasted good. There are more burned spots and not-quite-cooked areas on my lefse, but it’s still delicious. 

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 152 – Haliography

A photo of the ocean.

I still have dreams about the island where I grew up. There’s some half-true version of it in my mind, where everything is both bigger and smaller, where everything is the same and entirely different. There are large fields of grass where there should be a highway, and the ocean extends forever instead of butting up against the other landmasses nearby. But the ocean is shallow, and you can walk out and out and out and the water will never go above your waist.

I return there again and again when I sleep, running over these imaginary fields, stepping into a shallow ocean that never ends. Even when the dreams are nightmares—they often are—there’s something comforting about returning to this place that I know so well despite it being entirely unfamiliar.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 151 – Flatulopetic

John Collier's "A Glass of Wine with Caesar Borgia," depicting Cesare and Lucrezia Borgias next to Pope Alexander. Cesare and Pope Alexander are seated, while Lucrezia stands.
John Collier

Lucrezia Borgia probably wasn’t a poisoner. It’s a myth that persisted through the ages, likely because the Borgia family had many enemies who benefitted from spreading rumors about them. And despite the common “poison is a woman’s weapon,” refrain, most poisoners are men.

But the myths persist. Lucrezia murdered her family’s way to power thanks to a ring containing foxglove or arsenic, it’s said, despite there being no evidence that such a thing ever happened.

For some reason, I was disappointed to learn that it wasn’t true, that she was just another victim (likely not innocent, but a victim nonetheless) of rumor.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 150 – Widdershins

A photo of many mushrooms growing together.

It’s been a while since I last found time to write a drabble. Or rather, it’s been a while since I found time to post—I think I wrote this one two weeks ago, but failed to actually read through and schedule it.

I’m not particularly sorry, either. It used to be that missing a week would have made me impossibly stressed, despite these drabbles not getting a lot of views and the likelihood of somebody coming to yell at me about it being slim. Still, I think a lot about what I owe to others, about what I promise, about what I’m allowed.

Writing these short stories every week started as an exercise. A writer should have a blog, according to my English professors, but what could I blog about? I should get used to having my fiction read by others, but how? Can I dedicate the time every week to train myself to post with regularity?

I could, it turns out. And I still can, when it’s a priority. But writing these was once my primary way to put my writing in front of people and isn’t anymore. Now, these 100-word stories are a respite from whatever I’m working on, a place to flex my creative muscles and challenge myself. This blog so far might have sounded like I’m leading up to saying that drabbles are going away forever while I focus on, I don’t know, more “important” work, but they’re not. I like them, and I like what they force me to do, so I’ll keep doing them—though perhaps with more lapses, because as it turns out, a writer should have a blog, but that blog is practice for other things that may have to take precedence.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.