What Is Going On?!?! (Interludes Prologue)


I had a very strange experience, and I don’t know why I feel compelled to write about it here, but I do. I anthropomorphized “The Muse” in previous posts. I did that as an intellectual tool, a thought experiment. For me to have written about the concept at all demonstrates how much time I had already given to it. You can imagine my frustration, when after the idea was out there, I did not get the usual relief I do in these situations.


Instead, the whole thing of an anthropomorphized muse stuck with me. Anytime I had a free interior minute, like washing the dishes or before bed, I would find myself drifting towards the thought of the Muse, as a full fledged, living person.

Here is how the thoughts sort of went. What is really behind being in that artistic zone? How does the artist just turn over to this other force and have it produce such intelligent, cohesive products? If it is some sort of a power of the subconscious (thinking something like Jungian psychology), then how do we make sense of it being more creatively intelligent and complicated then our regular modes of thinking?

But further my mind would snap, and here is where the fissure starts, because I can almost hear a voice, her voice to be exact. Who says you have anything to do with it? So bold, right there, right smack between my eyes. The language and orientation seemed so strange. Why would I say such things to myself?

She always seems to have an answer, and be tired of my shit. She is also sick of me taking credit for her ideas, and wants her share of recognition and goodies. Now I know this sounds like I am losing my mind, but this is what happened. So I found myself down in the office this morning about to write. Now I have been writing somewhat seriously now for at least four years, and though I have days were it might have take longer to get going, I can always get the job done.

In other words, I had never known writer’s block. It also is important to note that I was in a fairly positive frame of mind, breakfast, coffee, free time, etc., but right as I hit my seat and started the computer a dreadfulness bombarded me. It was so strong and disorienting that I jumped up out of my chair, and in a panicked spastic response I flung my arms wildly around the room.

I was overwhelmed with paranoia. It was in there deep. I wanted to dig it out of myself somehow. I heard my kids playing upstairs. My wife was telling my oldest son that she just needed to finish the dishes and then they would all go outside. The normalcy of the moment snapped me out of it and I sat back down, but my hands were still shaking and I was so scared.

I opened up my work in progress and read the last sentence I wrote. There were a number of grammatical errors, which I tinkered with for a second. Somewhat disinterested, I went to write the new words and again a feeling of death and dread, and magnanimity overwhelmed. I felt stomach sick. I closed my eyes and laid my head on the desk.

An unending stream of existential crisis tore through me. What was I doing writing anyway? What did I have to say? I was a nothing and a nobody and just a loser like everybody else. There was nothing great in me. Compared to those before me, I am an inexperienced moron. All this obsession with art was so much inconsequential madness. It was sickening and shameful. A danger, to myself and others. I was a coward who had hide and ran and taken the path of least resistance and I would continue to be that, forever. It was over for me.

How can I describe the sensation of feeling that your thoughts are not you’re own? It’s like a person entering the room and beginning to talk to you, not quite yelling, but loud enough that you cannot ignore it. It’s an alien voice too, almost like reading words on a page, you have to sort of interpret character, inflection and tone.

It isn’t good at bluffing or bullshitting. It is just like the wind; it blows or it doesn’t.

The wind was blowing hard through my head. It was almost like drowning, but the nonstop stream of ideas filled the deadly world. I probably laid there for twenty minutes in this state before I popped out of my seat again, panicked. I was asthmatic too. I couldn’t get a deep enough breathe. The feeling of sharing the room with someone came back hard now. So hard that I grabbed my wallet and went running out the house, terrified that some physical or even metaphysical brain “popping” was about to occur.

It was a godawful hot humid day, and the heat and bright light just smashed me in the face. It was like I had ran right into a yellowish sweat bubble. The wet sickness pushed through my eyes balls and down into my guts. I could feel my morning breakfast gurgling there.

I should have gone inside and laid down, but I was too scared to go back into my house. I started walking. Everything wa cartoonish, blocky, almost lego-y. I began to hear what sounded like a choir singing, but I couldn’t find the source. I walked for a while until I came to a gas station. I stood outside, pacing, totally out of my mind. I was so worked up, angry and for what appeared to be nothing. I felt stupid about leaving the house like that, and I was sure my wife was wondering where the hell I went.

A woman pulled up in a white Nissan. I saw that it was an older woman, heavy set, and in business attire. We made eye contact for a second and I looked away. But as she walked passed, I looked back and now the woman was young, slim and shiny blond hair ran down seventies style lime green dress, which fit her perfectly. So weirded out, I walked around the building but was stopped by three youths. Two boys were on their bikes, and one little girl was standing on the curb, watching the others riding circles in the parking lot.

As I went passed them the little girl began to talk to me. “Oh professor ass dude, weirdo, lame type predator.” I couldn’t believe what was I was hearing. “Pussy,” she said. I turned around and they were all lined up staring at me. I felt like I should say something, but they were all smiling and what could I say? The oldest couldn’t have been nine, and the girl was no more than five. I couldn’t believe something like that coming from such a young child, but the way they were smiling told me they thought it was real funny.

I stared at them for a second so dumbfounded and weirded out that finally I just turned and walked away. As I got to the edge of the parking lot I looked back for them and they were gone. I kept walking, wading through this lingering dread. I walked until I came to a Dollar General. I had the urge to buy some candles, some candy, maybe even some flowers. I walked through the aisles and every person I went passed had some negative words for me. Vulgar, high school type trash. Pencil Dick. Faggot. Cocksucker. A Grandma in a red hat called me a cunt.

I got my chocolate bars and candles and headed for the checkout line, which was packed with people. I waited for an eternity. The whole time this voice in my head just kept going and going, like standing under a waterfall.

I couldn’t imagine another world existing outside of the pounding, pulsating, internal voice which was just having a freak out, in perfect, controlled, monotoned persistence. You suck you know that, you really suck. You sucks eggs. You suck dicks. You can suck a golf ball through a garden a hose. A carburetor out an engine block. You’re like black hole level suck. Bending matter to your empty black suck. Abortion vacuum suck…

I watched the checkout lady as the line crept. She was an older woman, late forties, early fifties. She had thinning hair and the look of a smoker. She had an air of a look of dignity though too, as she rang everyone’s crap up. Something told me she had some other career experience, like a horse trainer or something. But that was before, when she had something she loved, but that didn’t work out. She took this job out of necessity.

I finally made it to her, but right before, a viscous, emergency type, stomach pain kick in. I leaned against the counter and tried to close my eyes and take some deep breaths. When I opened my eyes, my things were being rang up and a voice broke into my head. “3.33, Sir.” I struggled for my wallet and when I brought it back up and looked the cashier in the face she had changed. It was the beautiful woman who was outside the gas station, but now she was in the Dollar General uniform. For the first time, I got a look at her face.

I love and am ever faithful to my wife, so I feel bad writing this, but she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Normally I am a burnet man, but her ocean waves of shimmering blond hair and lightening green eyes left me floored and overwhelmed with lust. It was her smell too! It was like cool wind on a warm day, through a lavender field, mixed with the earthy scent of woman.

She smiled and said, “3.33, you sick bastard!” As if she read my dirty mind. She said the last words full of both sexuality and insult. I dropped my wallet and banged my head on the counter as I went to grab it. I was full of apologies, even though she had just insulted me. All flustered and blushing, I opened my wallet and there was nothing in there! I was a ramble of sorries and she just kept smiling at me.

“You’re fucking great,” she said. “I can’t wait to get my hands on you Austin. You’re a screamer, aren’t you? I can always sense a screamer. Hemingway never broke; I hated that. You don’t have a fiver on ya? You broke, chubby, son-of-a-bitch. Take the candy asshole, consider it a last meal. Fucking candles.”

You know the phrase deer in the head lights? Now I literally know what that feels like. It was like a decked out, glossy Escalade appeared from the ether and was going to plow right through me. The sick, twisted thing is as I basked in her presence I was still aroused, seduced even by her destructive forces. For some (possibly profound) reason I began to think about the blank page back at home, and how I needed to be doing my words.

The whole word froze and the lights went dim. The store began to shake and drywall began to sift from the ceiling. I looked at the folks behind me, all lined up and waiting to pay for their stuff. They were now statues. Their still shoulders collected the falling dust.

I looked back at the new woman. She was frozen too, smiling like the sun. I had the most awesome realization. This was the Muse!!! Right in front of me. I could hear this indecipherable, yet oddly familiar hum emanating from her. Think it clicked in my head, I had heard this same effect, sometimes deep in the writing zone, when the words were just gushing out beyond my control.


This was the source of that hum and she was standing right before me. I had the strange thought to try to capture her, bottle her up somehow and hide her back in my house. There was a loud boom of thunder in the store and a web of lightening broke out across the ceiling. With another boom, a giant appeared behind her in the next aisle.

The first thought that came to mind was Gandalf, because of his long white hair and robes, but the man was black, like deep of night black, so black that it was hard to even make out any features on his face, and he was a giant. I’m guessing probably twelve or thirteen feet tall, at least; his head almost touched the ceiling.

He stood there arms crossed for an awful minute. A chrome scepter, capped with a flashing diamond, was clinched in his left hand, and poised to obliterate me with one smack. Thankfully, there were no words passed between us. He just stood there, staring. Then I passed out.

I woke up back in my chair, a small Dollar General store bag with the candles and candy in it on the desk. It was like waking up from a nightmare. I felt so disoriented and insane. Worst of all, I looked up at the screen and all that you have been reading was already up there. As I reread it, memories of the whole experience came flooding back.

I think I might have gone insane. I need to talk to my wife about this, but I don’t know what she’ll say. Has anyone had an experience with this? Please share with me if you have. Thanks for reading. She exists!


Interludes Chapter 7 (On Writing & Editing)


His name is Pete. I come to over there on the log next to him. She was sitting on the other side of me now. “We have to go.”

I am well worn now and I slip right into it; I even defy her. “No, I am not going anywhere.”

“If you don’t get up, we can do the nightmares.”

“Then do the nightmares,” I tell her, and she did.

That how it went for days, until she finally gave in for some reason and let me back on the trail. It’s been a long break since my last round of nightmares, which is probably why I was cocky with her, that and I am tired of walking. She got mad, when I refused to walk again last night, but then just left. No more nightmares.

Pete watched the whole thing with shifting faces of disinterested patience and disbelief. We’ve talked for nights. No matter what I tell him about the outside world, it doesn’t seem to phase him. Nothing phases him but his own predicament, which we’re stuck at. He’d been called to “Tend the Fire,” and is on his way there. Every night he is still on the log though. Time is funky over there, I think.

Last night in the pool (that’s what it feels like over there, floating) I offered to help.

“Thank you Sir,” he said. “Very kind of you to volunteer. But I couldn’t have that on my conscience. Dooming a man’s life that would be a grave sin, and with how close death is to me, I don’t need any more problems.”

“That’s bullshit,” I said. “If I come of my own free will, that’s on me. You see I’m stuck either way, and isn’t it cowardly and wrong to come upon a person in distress, and just leave them, walk away and ignore it?”

“You wouldn’t say these things if you had seen the wolf.”

“That’s true,” I said. “It seems a little weird though. Why don’t you just run then?”

“Run?” He asked.

“Yeah, just come,  with me and her.”

“You don’t know where you’re going,” he said. “Also you don’t understand the ways of my people. They would hunt us, find us, and drag us back. They would convict me of “Dereliction of Duty”, as the Administrators so call it. The wolf? I think he would catch us before any of them.”

What do you do with something like that? I don’t know if you will understand this, but sometimes I just get tired of taking the shit? You know what I mean? It’s a lot like the feeling you get when you have to do a big project. The put up or shut up moment before a big task, when there is always that space of failure, just waiting to wrap you up and put you down to sleep. Sort of like the Pine Forrest. I have to get back to the Pine forest. It was true too, the chick wasn’t telling me anything.

So dear reader, in full disclosure I will admit I was struggling and trying to get some information on how to get my fix, and I figured these towns people had to know something about the forest and the stream (maybe even how to stay out of it). Same time, I was genuinely concerned about Pete, as much as one can be concerned with meta-creatures mind you. And since there was no other game in town, I decided the new goal should be to get peg-leg Pete moving.

“Well Pete,” I said. “Where I come from we call that being between a rock and a hard place. You can’t go on, and you can’t go back. Both sides offer equal measures of danger, so you might as well just do it. When that situation happens, you got to just sort of pick one and go for it, and let the chips fall where they may?”

“Chips? Fall?” Pete said.

“Oh come on Pete,” I said. “How about the cast the die?” This one did the trick after I said it again, real slow.

“Yes, I understand,” he said. “It is a true point, Austin from Iowa. Therefore do what you must, but I must finish my trip.” He flicked one final rock from his leg and then put his small pocketknife in his pocket. “One last time, I would urge you to depart me at once. All I ask in farewell is a prayer for my eternal soul.”

“Pete,” I said. “Calm down man. You still living and breathing right now, and you know what I have decided, I’m coming with you. I will help you. You can call me Dorothy.”

His expression began to change, and I realized he was about to cry. It was completely unexpected, and next thing I knew he fell into my shoulder, wailing. “Thank you Dorothy. Thank your Dorothy. Thank you Dorothy. I knew you were a brave man. I could tell by how you talked to the woman. Thank you Sir. You can assist me–”

“I don’t know about assist,” I said, patting him on the back. “And my name’s not Dorothy. It was joke.”

He moved away from me and then grabbed my shoulders. “Listen Austin-Dorothy, from Iowa. We must follow my people’s norms to the letter. The Tender of the Fire can only be assisted by one individual. Once the ritual begins you will be under my complete command.”

“Wait a second,” I said.

“Oh I see now, you are just like them.”

“Dammit Pete,” I said, “don’t start that shit. Now just slow down for a second. Now let’s just say I’m under your command. You can’t like tell me to hurt myself or anything?”

“Austin-Dorothy from Iowa, why would I hurt you?”

“Stop that Dorothy thing, it’s just Austin,” I said. “I don’t know, I’m just clarifying, you couldn’t make me hurt myself or do something stupid like that, could you?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “The assistant must obey every command of the fire tender. I don’t see any way around that.”

I could sense the play here dear reader. I am more than happy to admit that I didn’t like it, but again I was tired of the shit. To be clear though, I have no intention of honoring any oath to this fellow.

Now, I will attempt to fulfill my duty to him as Assistant, of course. That said, I will not violate my own personal code of conduct. The astute observer may ask, did I violate it though by making a promise, under false pretenses? Well, dear reader. I will allow you to be the judge on these issues. I would just press back, go get stuck in imagination world and see how you do.

Snippets #50!!! (On Writing & Editing)


WB Yeats Rosa Alchemica

Part 4

I was dancing with an immortal august woman, who had black lilies in her hair, and her dreamy gesture
s seemed laden with a wisdom more profound than the darkness that is 
between star and star, and with a love like the love that breathed upon
the waters; and as we danced on and on, the incense drifted over us
 and round us, covering us away as in the heart of the world, and ages 
seemed to pass, and tempests to awake and perish in the folds of our 
robes and in her heavy hair.


Interludes #6 (On Writing & Editing)

I walked until I was coated in the pine dust. I know what the mission is now. RETURN TO THE PINE DUST FORGETTING FORREST. That can be the only solution; forget; forget everything.

Like all good dope addictions, the experience is full of contradictions. Each night I lay down, knowing it’ll go away. Every good and bad memory that bubbles around in my head, as the dust does its thing. Second first light hits my eyes, it’s all slammed right back in, like all of thanksgiving dinner shoveled right into your mouth in one shot.

I’ve become two men, the one who remembers and the one who forgets, or the one is happy and the one who isn’t. Forgetting is happiness. Silence is happiness. Remembering is evil. The world is evil.

I don’t know why all the bad memories come back first. My Aunt smashing a piece of birthday cake in my reluctant one year old face, my Mom dragging me and my sister to the neighbors house while she ran to the hospital to see her dying estranged Father, going no-handed and then taking a nose dive off the swings at six , seeing a stepsister crying out in front of the house waiting on her ‘real mom,’ who stood her up, me crying another night, clutching my favorite dog who was slated to be ditched the next day by my Mom, waking up one morning to find my Mom rocking another filthy, ringed neck baby that had been dropped of in the night by CPS and wondering can we really handle all this, hearing my brother’s been ADHDd and now can’t go to the same school as me, early one wintery morning being teased about my parents getting divorced, slapped by Wendy Pickle at eleven for being a punk, twelve years old, in the basement, smoking with a bunch of buddies, the fall that broke my collar bone at summer camp, laying my bike down after bombing a hill, the tortured junior high relationship with Sarah Apenado (in three acts), a classmate from grade school dead at thirteen, swollen and balding with whatever cancer killed him, plump in his casket, his poor Mother’s face at all these kids as they go past crying, offering small awkward words of remorse and encouragement…and all that’s before I even roll over.

By the time I stand up it’s all right there. Spinning in my head every little disgusting tidbit, every dirty little deed and horrific little truth paraded right across my mind screen, getting t-boned in a car accident, fourteen and slugging it out with a kid in his front yard, the open faced mouths of my classmates on 9-11 as I go running down the hall late for class, my mom crying the morning realizing she was knocked up single, broke,  and 39, the night my Dad deep in a midlife crisis left me and my older Brother sitting at his house with Grandma’s number shakily scratched out on a piece of paper, my older sister lying on a hospital bed, post-op, head all wrapped up from her brain surgery, jerking off in a jail cell at eighteen, my angelic seventeen year old cousin laid out on another hospital bed, in a coma and likely brain dead from adverse reactions to some stupidly prescribed psychotropics, all the death defying (or provoking) drug and booze episodes, seeing friends melting away before me…

I remember watching my Dad emptying out my Great Grandma’s house, and finding all her old newspapers, magazines and stuff. Pack rat, I guess, if you’re thinking like an asshole. Strangest part was the little bits though, of seemingly random stuff, written in all the margins, little notes of minutia. It makes me wonder if Great Grandma had this too; I hope not.

I cried full on blubbering tears each morning. My wife tried to catch the kids before they get passed the door, but then I got smart and just sort of laid there under covers, for the first ten minutes each day and just gingerly downloaded all the terrible bits. Then it was up and it world, here I come!

It had gone on for an eternity (over a month our time now) and then the forest just stopped this Friday, like the perfect finish line, cut off by a rolling river.

Now here’s one of the weird things to note. You come to this river, coated in the neon green forgetting dust, in LaLa-Land, and you have just enough of whatever creature rolls around left inside that constitutes something we could call a self, to know that you DO NOT want to go in the river. It’s flowing right in front of you, frigid, burbling and gurgling. Your primitive mind knows it would be deadly to jump. Worse, it’s pushing hard enough that it will knock all this dust junk right off you. Despite the soul shattering torture that comes rolling in each morning, you’re still not getting even thinking of getting in that river. The forgetting is still too good.

But then you blank and you wake up in the middle of the river. It’s like drowning in a water slide packed with too many people. Someone will bump you, and try to grab your arm, trying to make it across. If you’re lucky, I guess, you wake up on the other side, beat up, but dry. That’s what happened to me anyway. Then you just start walking again, because The Muse is bitchy and the river rages too hard to go back.


I know this whole endeavor raises a number of dare I saw “Meta-issues” and I am well aware the audience may be wondering if this is so much bullshit. They may say, rightly so, this reeks of the fantastic (and desperate). To you, astute reader, I would reverse it and ask, what are you doing with your life?

When we came upon the kid last night, he was picking rocks out of his wooden stump. It looked homemade, and yet also ancient and perfectly fitted to his leg. Like a bonsai tree, a number of branches dangled, elegantly trimmed, from the sides. This beautiful stump was a stark contrast to the countenance of the young man who wore it, but who are we to judge a kid with a stump?

When we walked by, he was picking out rocks from the bottom of it and was muttering something about “those bastards.” She seemed in extra pissed off mood, and just kept walking. She must miss the Pine Dust Forgetting Forrest, as much as I do. She totally ignored the young man as we passed. I stopped, and she just kept on walking, didn’t even look back.


I was too shook to say anything (I couldn’t believe another person could occupy this world), so instead I just listened to the guy’s rant. “He first came when I was six years old, an innocent, little, six year old. They left me on the mushroom trail to keep the fires burning for other travelers. He runs and screams, just like the wind, and howls that he will come again, when I’m older.”

At first it sounded like a song, sung by a frightened little boy, but then he coughed and barked and his voice became strangely old and deep. “Bastards left me at twelve, after all that whining. Told them for years about what he had said would happen if I came back. Parents witnessed the nightmares. Told me I was ‘crying wolf’ and wasn’t no monster over here. Parents are nice enough people, would have let me skip it themselves, but rite and coincidence said it had to be me. Showed up, took my leg!” At this he finally acknowledged me for a second, grabbed me, and held me in the direction of his leg. I reached out and strummed the longest branch. He seemed to approve of the gesture and it calmed him down some. He still kept ranting though.


“Beast came while I was asleep of course. Woke up to it, snapping down on my foot. Took it like a chicken, and choked on it! Can you believe the horror? Passed out, woke up, whole town packed in my room. They wanted to know what happened? Can you believe that? After all those years of me hollering and wailing about that thing, and with them finding me almost dead, most my blood spilled out on the forest floor, they still didn’t get it! Those bastards said I must have tripped and broke my leg and then crawled back to camp. It was an accident! Can you believe this Sir?”

“No,” I said. “Why didn’t they believe there could be a wolf?”

“What’s that?”

I said it again, but he kept looking at me confused. I said it again and I realized my words were coming out in a mumble, and for a second I had the strangest feeling of linguistic and imaginary vertigo, and I saw my bed sheet! My head was pressed against the bed and I was staring into my bed sheet. But then it was gone and I was back on the trail, sitting on the log with the peg-legged kid.

This time I spoke very slow and tried to annunciate each syllable. He followed each word intensely and finally seemed to understand.

“Accent’s thick Sir,” he said. “Yeah, that’s a complex question. Had to do with the promise and all that, but that is Scientist type stuff and I don’t know much about it. The way the Scientist put it to us though is, ‘there are no natural predators in this sector.’’’

Of course I asked him what in the hell was a sector? Were there other sectors? And how did we move in between sectors? Oh and, what the fuck was going on? He started to answer some, but then all his words got jumbled, and it started to sound like bells ringing, and then the singing you always hear over there, and I woke up to the birds orchestrating out my window.

So dear reader, we return again to the purpose of this document. I am stuck in a loop, between two worlds, and it is making me very sleepy. I laid there for a while, very relaxed, for the first time in about a month. Meeting the young man has changed things somehow. I think it’s because this is the first time, over there, I’ve meet another “real person”. When I go back, I’ll definitely ask his name. The “young man” sounds too weird and abstract.

Snippets #49


A Medicine for Melancholy-Ray Bradbury

From short story, A Scent of Sarsaparilla

It’s not impossible, he thought, half closing his eyes, trying to see it and built it. Consider an attic. Its very atmosphere is Time. It deals in other years, the cocoons and chrysalises of another age. All the bureau drawers are little coffins where a thousand yesterdays lie in state. Oh, the attic’s a dark, friendly place, full of Time, and if you stand in the very center of it, straight and tall, squinting your eyes, and thinking and thinking, and smelling the Past, and putting out your hands to feel of Long Ago, why, it… (102)

Snippets #48

The Illustrated Man-Ray Bradbury

From Short Story, The Concrete Mixer

All that he really knew was that if he stayed here he would soon be the property of a lot of things that buzzed and snorted and hissed, that gave off fumes or stenches. In six months he would be the owner of a large pink, trained ulcer, a blood pressure of algebraic dimensions, a myopia this of blindness, and nightmares as deep as oceans and infested with impossible lengths of dream intestines through which he must violently force his way each night. No, no. (151)


Snippets #47


The Illustrated Man-Ray Bradbury

From Short Story, The Exiles

“I repeat, I am not of you, I don’t approve of you and the others,” cried Dickens angrily. “I was no player with witches and vampires and midnight things.”

“What of A Christmas Carol?”

“Ridiculous! One story. Oh, I wrote a few others about ghosts, perhaps, but what of that? My basic works had none of that nonsense!”

“Mistaken or not, they grouped you with us. They destroyed your books–your worlds too. You must hate them, Mr. Dickens!”

“I admit they are stupid and rude, but that is all. Good day!”

“Let Mr, Marley come, at least!”



A College Curriculum on Your Bookshelf: 50 Books for 50 Classes

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Always love a great book list!

Originally posted on Flavorwire:

It’s officially back-to-school time, and we all know what that means: sitting in class, writing papers, getting sweet knowledge delivery before running off to the latest kegger. But what about a more practical method of study? Yes, in this case I am using the word “practical” to describe reading literature.

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Cormac McCarthy Did Not Join Twitter, But He Is Writing a Science Novel

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Excited for this! Cormac McCarthy is a master.

Originally posted on Flavorwire:

Fifty years after the publication of The Orchard Keeper, his first novel, Cormac McCarthy appears to be nearing the release of his 11th, the long-rumored The Passenger. Earlier this month, McCarthy debuted sections of the unpublished novel at a live reading in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Interludes Chapter 5 (On Writing & Editing)


I don’t know how long we walk over there; I can only compare it to the days I have out here. I’ve been walking now for nine nights, this side, nonstop, while I’m supposed to be sleeping. That’s the thing I don’t know though. I asked my wife the other day, “you ever wake up and I am just not here?” She said no and that I was freaking her out, so I didn’t press the issue.

I know when I leave, and go over there, because I always wake up on my knees, and for the first chunk of time I can’t seem to get my bearings on the place. It feels like I am trying get up and go running on an ice sheet.
Finally the sun comes, then the grass, and soon I’ll hear her frustrated little cough and I will look up and there she’ll be. “Let’s go,” is what she usually says to me.

Then we walk. I got to say something about the lay of the place. I remember reading in history books that when the first European settlers showed up on the new American continent (which wasn’t really new at all, but I don’t want to digress), they were amazed at the abundance of wildlife and vegetation. I remember one guy writing how fish literally jumped into the boat, that’s how abundant things were.

For the next couple hundred years or so the only thought on everyone’s mind seemed to be to tear through this impenetrable Edenic jungle and get to the “other” side, come hell or high water (there were plenty of both). Now these days we see a sort of artificial organization of cities, roads, businesses, suburbs, and then farm lands, and then ever dwindling areas of open free space. Well, over there it’s like how it was back in the day I think, jungle, deep, deep, jungle.

Now I love the outdoors in small doses, with a return to home promised at the end. So, I am in no way an outdoorsman, and this has become something of an issue. The Muse doesn’t seem to have the same problem. Slimmer, and apparently familiar with the terrain, she weaves herself easily through the jungle.

She won’t wait either when I start to get caught up, and a panic sets in that I am going to be left alone, forever, over there. That’s the thing, she hasn’t told me where we are going exactly. She just tells me to walk and then starts walking.

The only thing that can stop her is a really ridiculous comment or complaint. That’s the other thing, she hates us, like people I mean, human beings. She thinks we are a race of stupid, lazy children, less noble than the cow of the field, and more dangerous than the vipers in the tree, or something like that.

There something with the colors over there too. I never really noticed it in our world before, but now I do, that color is so abundant and meaningful in the world. Flowers, trees, in the water. It was like I was looking at the world for the first time.

It’s not all rainbow and butterflies either though, not at all. A purple field grass grows everywhere, which is beautiful, but if bumped up against, it can easily slice you up. Imagine encountering a field of that, after huffing it through the densest jungle ever; it’s pretty demoralizing.


Thing is though, there’s always a way through. I have to search all over the ground for a trace of her, but then I’ll find it, one little heel print of hers that will lead me right back to it. Sometimes I get so lost in it, so turned around, that I end up surrounded on all sides by that purple, razor-bladed, prairie grass.

Always the key over there is to remain calm. It is the frenetic anxious movement which gets you in trouble. Anxiety just seems to make the world bubble up even faster all around you. Usually now if trapped,  I’ll just stop, sit down and wait it out.

The beauty is shifty over there. The sky seems to roll in color and consistency, and from night to day. I heard the singing the first time, in one of the purple prairie fields. It was like a choir singing, and the more you tuned into it, the more it started vibrating down into your heart and out to the rest of your body. I don’t know…weird shit for sure.

She caught me listening to it one time. My eyes most have been staring off too long into space, concentrating on it. She smacked me in the back of the head. “What the fuck are you doing?”

“Oh shit, stop! What is that singing?” I asked.

“The singing is your death sentence, stupid. I’ve told you a hundred times you better stop asking questions.” She had ordered that, a hundred times at least, but I couldn’t keep walking any more. I needed a break, so it was time for a round of stupid questions.

“Sounds like a choir,” I said.

“To you,” she answered.

“What does it sound like to you?”

“Like the death wails of a thousand of my brothers and sisters.”

“That’s awful,” I said. “What is it?”

“It’s not an ‘it’. But you’re probably too dumb to get what I mean by that.”

She was right, so I didn’t say any thin and just started walking. This was the first time I had ever been ahead of her, and I could hear her mumbling to herself behind me. “Fucking donkey. Idiot errands. Goddamn babysitting bullshit; I’m tired of this shit.”

In full disclosure what she was saying really hurt my feelings. It’s the strangest thing to describe, but in this whole experience, the cyclical torture and then the walking, and all the yelling, I had sort of grown attached to her. Stockholm-syndrome, I guess. I can see that clearly, in the light of day, but over there, things are different. It made me cry, and I struggled to hold it together.

“Oh goddammit,” she yelled. “Are you crying again?”

I didn’t say anything, but swallowed it back hard and walked even faster. “Oh now you walk,” she yelled after me. “Slow as a tortoise for a week now, but now suddenly you got steam. That’s great cowboy! Have at it bud!”

That was it, that use of the word “bud.” My Dad always called me bud as a kid. Older now, I can’t stand for another adult to call me “bud”. It just seems so patronizing and condescending. I snapped.

“What gives you the goddamn right to talk to me like that? You’re powerful, but like you said, you’re a fucking errand boy, right? A hamster on a goddamn wheel! And you think you’re all high and mighty, with your privileged information, and think your’e so much better than me, but I’ll tell you something, if I knew everything you know, and if I could do what you can do, I wouldn’t waste my time harassing innocent people!”

Somehow in all that I ended up with my hands tight around her shoulders.

“You would be dog meat before you even had a chance,” she said. It was so dry and lifeless, like wind through fall leaves. I realized I had made a big mistake touching her.

“Why?” I pushed on, right in her beautiful face. “Tell me what is going on! Where are we walking to? What is this all about?”

She responded by turning away and walking faster. I followed, because really, what else could I do? We walked until I woke up. Then it was back to normalcy. Diapers, breakfast, running around chasing children. In full disclosure I have to admit that all of this is really starting to get to me. My patience has bottomed out, and I am always so tired, so horribly tired. Tired with tiredness. I also feel like I’m about to burst from tension.

My wife can sense something is wrong, but she just has no frame of reference for this type of thing. When she gets home from work all she can say is that I should lay down, take a rest. But what she doesn’t understand is that even when it looks like I’m resting, when I have collapsed on the couch, I am really walking over there, and there is no way to stop.

Next night, we came upon the three people, the first other “real” people I have seen there. They stare at me, wordless, zoned out and sort of blank looking. We had been walking for hours. She still wasn’t saying a word to me. She doesn’t even acknowledge the three people standing there beside the trail, in pajamas. She just keeps walking.

We start walking up this high mountain, which is so huge and runs into the distance for ever and ever. I try to get her to stop, but I’ve run out of dumb questions.

I lose track of her halfway up the thing. Not that it made any difference really. After that for a couple nights, all I would catch is glimpses of her flowing robes, as I rounded a curve, and then she would be gone. Sometimes I hear things hunting me on the mountain. I can sense myself being stared at. On the mountain there are too many places to hide, so I never see what it is.

I catch a glimpse of her on a peak, one night, with an orangey moon floating behind her. She was gorgeous and terrifying, and in my strange broken mind, the only thing I felt was worthlessness, that I was even watching her like that. My mind taunted me. What could she want with me? What was this place? Would I ever get out of this loop?


I got stuck on the mountain later that nigh. I tried to find the trail which I had been following, but with no success. The only thing was the ledge and the sky, and there was no where to go. I finally sat down on a bulge in the massive wall of rock and just sort of waited, hoping beyond hope that my wife or one of my children would come to wake me up soon. It was freezing. My socks were frozen lumps of ice.

I tried to close my eyes and sleep over there. I know that sounds stupid, a little too meta probably, but it’s the truth. The weird thing is when you try to sleep over there that music starts up, and the more you drift into the darkness the louder it gets. And when you hear it, it’s like someone shoved a battery down your throat, because you are overwhelmed with an anxious, surging energy.

Last night, I found the trail again and started making my way down the other side of the mountain. I caught the briefest glimpse of her garment at one point but then it was gone again. I walked along and for the first time it dawned on me that maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad. I mean the air was fresh and warm and the trail had leveled off. I thought why not just slow down and enjoy it for what it was. I rarely get this type of quiet alone time in real life, why not enjoy it?

As I descended more bushes and trees began to pop up out of the rocks. At first there were sort of rough looking, curled and very little leaves, but as I got further down the mountain, they started rising above me and into the sky. I came around another curve and saw a a glowing green forest in the distance. I had lost all trace of the Muse too.

I followed the trail down the mountain and came to the edge of the Pine forest. It probably goes without saying, but this was the weirdest forest I’ve ever seen. First thing, there is a neon green type of Pine tree over there. Its nettles gives off a very strange, sulfuric smell. Everything in the forest, all the plants and wild life, are coated in this green power. They seem to have adapted to it. Their dark yellow eyes are the only thing that undermines their perfect camouflaged selves, as they peek over limbs and from behind trees. Everywhere you look is coated in shades of this green.

Right as I was about to pick up a handful, she popped up. “It’s a severe hallucinogenic. It can penetrate the skin. It’s responsible for much of the madness in the artistic world. Get too much on you, or god forbid, eat it, and you might end up catatonic in the real world, and stuck in this place, for ever.”

“How am I supposed to get through then?” I asked.

“Carefully,” she answered, before swiftly walking away.

The way forward was blocked with thick trees, coated with this neon green dust. There was absolutely no way forward without getting it all over me. I looked all over for another way around. But it was either back up the mountain, or through the forest.

I was about to say fuck it and just head back the other way. She wasn’t waiting for me, so why should I continue to follow her? I started on the trail back up the mountain, but then the strangest laugh broke out from somewhere high up in the cliffs. My whole body broke out in sickening goosebumps. It was so human, yet so crazy, and something else, something tortured The laughter chased me back down into the forest and then stopped.

I had no choice. I tucked my hands in my shirt, and pulled it up over my nose, and headed in. As I tiptoed into the forest, my feet inevitably were coated in this neon-green pine dust. Oh that’s an important point. Whenever your wake up over there, you are wearing whatever you had on over here, presumably your pajamas.

And because I can’t sleep with shoes on (not yet anyway), I am usually and unfortunately barefoot over there. For those first few weeks I had nothing but my boxers, but at I got smart and I started wearing pajama pants and a t-shirt to bed.

So I am walking through this forest, and my feet started glowing with this neon tint. As it keeps layering up, I started forgetting everything she told me about it. It was like every slight brush of the pine nettles erased a little  memory, starting with the most recent and working its way back months, then years. Until I couldn’t remember anything.

A sliver of moonlight caught my eye and broke the spell. I realized I was now deep in this forest. Both hands were piled high with this dust. Somehow I had filled my hand like this.

It was like I was wearing green bubble. Everything shimmered with this viridescent haze. Merged with it, in this horrible twisted state, the only thing I knew was I’d made a big mistake.

Next thing I knew I had to cough, bad. I started choking, and stupidly, I brought my hands to my face, rubbing this green crap all over. The unfortunate result was the most beautiful, intoxicating forgetfulness I have ever felt. Just smushed right back into my face. I merged with the dust and was nothing.

And how did that make me feel, dear reader, being nothing? I can’t even put it into words really. You know the dopamine rush you get when you hear the favorite part, of your favorite song? It was like that, times a million, on ecstasy, and you never have to work, get sick, or suffer any sort of loss or hardship ever again. Isn’t that great?