🐟Sleep with the Fishes
Keep on Swimming — and Writing
Episodes of Into the Storymaze include writing tips or a work-in-progress; a creative something I’m digging; a nod to my comics-writing credits; plus a quote that’s got me 🤔 about what’s next.
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Well, it’s been a minute too many since last episode, and I apologize for that. There’s a slippery slope of one missed week becomes two becomes something else gets in the way that leads to I will definitely catch things up next weekend but then — I suppose this Bingo covers it as well as anything.
I hope you enjoy what I’m sharing, but I *know* I enjoy writing to you. So my singular goal for ‘22 is to keep up with the keyboard. I hope your year is off to a great start!
It’s another Storymatic inspired tale, drawing prompt cards and letting the words fall where they may. This animal wildcard really took this one into strange waters. :) Including both audio *and* text versions.
As a goldfish, Poseidon considered himself a pet of few demands. Clean water, food flakes, colorful pebbles. If the bowl could accomodate an air-powered action accessory, so much the better. He'd especially liked the treasure chest that would pop open every few bubbles to reveal a saucy mermaid hidden within. Poseidon knew they were from different worlds, but a fish could dream, couldn't he?
He had no problem with the humans who looked in on him, occasionally tapping the side of his glass, either in greeting or with the now-and-again demand to perform. "Over here, Poseidon, hey there little guy, come over and say hi!" The distance to traverse any point in the bowl to the tapping side was limited, even by goldfish standards, so he was never quite sure what achievement they expected of him.
Maybe his world looked different from the outside, distorted by the glass and water. Or perhaps the humans' eyes simply perceived distance in some strange, unknowable fashion. In any event, a few fin motions was a small price to pay for a gleeful, "Good boy, look at him go!" — and usually an extra sprinkle of the delish flakes.
Most time passed in a pleasant haze of a full belly, and his bowl's placement in the kitchen bay window. The sunlight streaming in brightened his day, warmed his water to a just-so degree, and allowed for plenty of entertainment as the legged giants busied themselves back and forth in their dry existence.
Except now it was just memory. The humans had uprooted themselves — and Poseidon with them. The familiar items — whatever the glowing and colorful geometry they passed back and forth, or hunkered down in front of — had been systematically placed inside dull brown rectangles and squares. His own bowl had been jostled and repositioned time and time again, his precious window and its light and warmth farther and farther away, now just a dim memory.
The "big move" they promised each other had been a harrowing, queasy nightmare for Poseidon. Sloshing, slopping, churning waters. His treasure chest pulled out his bowl, mermaid be gone, their unrequited love torn further asunder than a mere difference in species. His pebbles churning and bouncing up, colorful projectiles he had to dodge instead of enjoy. The seeming concern behind that morning's "You doing ok, little guy?" was a lie. This was made more clear by the fact there were no flakes to be had. They had forgotten to feed him. They had forgotten him.
By that afternoon — he had learned the concept of time listening in as the humans consistently asked for advice on it from a disembodied voice they called "Alexa" — they had finished their travels. Poseidon glanced every which was with his bulging eyes, his tail working the water to spin him around 360, looking for this new home's version of yesterday's window and warming rays.
Instead, here he was walled in by rows of the brown rectangles, surrounded by shadow. Still no flakes. The water growing colder as the day grew darker. He found himself slipping into a chilly sleep, slipping to the bottom of the tank, to rest on top of pebbles that now seemed devoid of all color. Uncaring whether he ever rose to swim again…
In his goldfish dreams, Poseidon is back at the carnival, born into a tank of hundreds of fishy brethren, not so much gold as blue. Transformed a vibrant cobalt by the dye dumped into their water to make it gleam under the nighttime lights at the game table.
"Winning costs you just a dollar, it's a pet for life, get it in and you win!" the Voice promised as eager humans waved a green rectangle in exchange for a white circle, a ball to bounce off the edges of the bowl after bowl arranged into row after row. Ping, ping, ping — the ricochet sound in tandem with "Close, sorry, try again!"
Then a single "Sploosh!" — the ball landing on top of the water pushing down through the liquid to pulse over the then nameless fish. The disorienting rush of the bowl going up, up, up. "Well done, here's your prize, take good care of him!" Faces surrounding from all sides, the teeth not hungry — he hopes! — but projecting some cross species communication of delight.
Fueled by the past his miniature mind conjures up, Poseidon's fins and tail twitch and flap, lifting him off the bottom of his bowl and beginning a slow sleepy swim around the circumference of his bowl. In his mind the years rush by, the blue flushing out of his system over many changes in water, blue-gold rushing together into an energized blur. It streams out of him, a rocketing propellant that makes him faster and faster, faster than any goldfish ever was. He'll show them he's more than they've forgotten. He's a king of the bowl, a titan of the sea, a true Poseidon.
Reality reflects dreamland, as the goldfish's actual swimming increases in speed, creating a vortex within the water. The rapid motion destabilizes the bowl, rocking it just enough that it tips this way. Then that. Then back and forth again — and again. Each bump becoming a wobble becoming one bounce closer to the edge of the table and —
Poseidon wakes to that same disorienting rush of so long ago — except now it's down, down, down. The sickening lurch ends with a shrieking crash as the bowl, his home, shatters. His pebbles fly away, taking their colors with them. He's gasping now, there's no way to breathe, there's no hope. This is the end.
Then once again — it's faces surrounding from all sides. There are no smiles in this moment, only roars of sound. "What happened?" "Oh no!" "Charlene, didn't we tell you to watch where you left his bowl!?!" "It was that stupid cat, he's always had it in for Poseidon!" The words always sound strange, but now out here in the cursed air they're even more distorted, less meaningful.
What does bring meaning though is water. Blessed, blessed water, suddenly all around, anew. Beyond, a container that's not a bowl — "Charlene, what happened to the flowers that were in this vase?" "Don't give me grief, mom, you told me to find something to put him in, I grabbed the first thing I could find!" — but which now sits in front of window where sunlight again promises its gifts. Even for a goldfish, a new day brings new promises and potential. Not to be wasted lazing about in a haze of flakes and warm water.
Tomorrow, Poseidon vowed, he would talk to the mermaid.
Who do you know who’d enjoy a dip in the Storymaze? Invite them in…
Time travel stories are tough. Many quickly collapse under their own twists to outwit their audience (or themselves) with too-clever-by-half complications. Others are inept journeys into the quantum realm, and just let the contradictions collide with the lazy shrug of the uncaring storyteller. (And if the storyteller don’t care, why should the audience?) And then there are little gems that play with the concept deftly and delightfully. One Minute Time Machine is a choice 5 min 40 sec that keeps true to its internal time logic, and had me grinning by the inevitable end.
How are you spending time in your Storymaze?
If I was more timely with my own schedule I’d have run this reminiscence closer to the holiday. But with this particular take on Christmas, that might have just guaranteed coal in my stocking.
The Hellraiser Holiday Special — and its cousin, the Summer Special — were one part cashing in on a good thing (aka a licensed property); and one part “What are we gonna do with all this story inventory?” The anthology nature of the Hellraiser series meant many stories were purchased in advance of any particular issue scheduling, and then assembled to fit closer to publication. Here we had stitched together several disparate tales of damnation with a connective story bridge where a trio of Cenobites solved the mystery of a messy Yuletide massacre. (Our demonology operated on strict rules of discipline. An orderly massacre would have been just fine.)
While this was great fun to write, it was a bit more EC Comics than Clive Barker. In a look back, I think it took us a bit off the main of that carefully crafted Cenobite lore that set us up to explore darker, stranger, more dangerous avenues of down below. BUT — we did get this banger of a cover by the singular Kevin O’Neill. And for the infernal majesty of that mad art, we should all thank Santa.
“We don’t know what we’re doing sometimes. But this is the essence of creativity. — George Kvasnikov
Thanks for taking a break from the dark web to check out this share-out of projects I’m working on, plus things that have me jazzed. I’m D.G. Chichester. If that looks pretentious, feel free to just call me “Dan.”
I earned my word-cred writing comic book titles like Daredevil, Terror Inc., Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD and Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, along with digital widgets in the world wide web of advertising. I keep my storytelling cred by trying new things — this is one, with more on the way. I like weird tales, so if things here bend that way — now you know why!
Folks seem to like the comic book adventures I’ve written, so if you haven’t checked one out — please do. Many are now available in fab collected editions.
For the eager moments between newsletters…
@dgchichester — 280 characters from the Twitterverse
@dgchichester — images via Instagramland