For the past few months, I’ve had a very strong urge to write a story by hand, like I did way back in elementary school before I learned how to type. Ever since I started writing in Word rather than on paper, I’ve always written things (especially fiction) out of order. This has been the case every NaNoWriMo (and is why going back and editing Prime has been such a pain, haha).
I actually don’t think I’ve written a fictional story in order in over seven years. At least.
It’d be an interesting challenge to see if I could still do it. I have one or two stories in mind that I’d like to try it with—who knows? Maybe it’ll happen.
The NaNoWriMo website has been reset, meaning that NaNoWriMo 2015 is approaching quickly!
I’m preeeeetty sure I’m going to participate this year…that might change due to school stuff if necessary, but barring that, I’m totally going to do it. I think my idea for this year’s novel will come from a dream I had awhile back. It was about this realtor in some town out in the desert who not only had to act as a realtor for the living inhabitants of the town but for the dead ones as well (the ghosts). That is, he had to figure out how best to divide the real estate market between those who wanted to live in houses and those who wanted to haunt them. Every time he screws up, someone ends up living in a haunted house.
It’s a pretty dumb idea, but I like the title “Ghost Town Realty” for it even though it’s not really a ghost town he’s dealing with.
Blah. We’ll see how it goes.
I’m in the mood to edit “Odor,” that short story I wrote about the anosmic dude who got an implant in his brain in order to be able to smell. When I wrote it back in 2013 I really just wrote it to write it, if that makes any sense. I’d been wanting to write about anosmia for a long time, but I had always approached it from a non-fiction standpoint and could never get anything written. But once I made it a fictional account, writing about it became ridiculously easy and free-flowing. I think I wrote the original story in about two hours, then edited only a few things afterward.
Thus, it’s not perfect. Far from it. But I want to edit it so that it can get closer to perfect, because it’s a very personal story and I just want it to be told right.
Anyway. I didn’t have anything else to blog about today, so you get that little snippet of thought.
The SCP Foundation is an interesting concept for a website. It’s a place for creative writing that allows for people to create “SCPs”, or things/creatures/phenomena that require special containment procedures. The SCPs, therefore, are all fictional, but each entry is written as if the thing is real.
From the site:
“We are the last bastion of security in a world where natural laws rapidly break down. We are here to protect humanity from the things that go bump in the night, from people who wield power beyond mortal understanding. We are here to make the world a safer place. We are the holders of wonders, and the caretakers of dreams. We are why the world continues.”
Here are some good examples:
Give it a read; some of the entries are really interesting. But don’t read it alone at night, ‘cause some of the entries are also really disturbing.
So I’ve edited 45 more (single-spaced) pages of Prime since I started working on it about a month ago. That may not sound like much, but it’s 45 more pages than I’ve edited in the past year and a half. (Blame Nate, he’s giving me the motivation to write/edit.)
I seriously doubt I’m going to ever do anything with it (mainly because it will still be crap even after the 30th edit or whatever), but it’s nice to be working on it again. As crappy as Prime is, it’s my baby and I love it.
I’m pretty sure hell has just frozen over, as I’ve decided to go back and edit Prime some more. I was on an editing streak way back in summer of 2013, but then I stopped because I got to a rough part at the end of one chapter and I wasn’t quite sure where to go from there to get to the next chapter I’d written. And being me, I didn’t want to just skip a part and continue editing—I wanted to edit everything in order.
So I just…stopped.
But I’ve had the urge to work on that story for about a week now, and today I finally just went back and started where I’d left off. I finished editing the chapter I’d left and then continued on. Is the edit good? Not really. But it’s better than what it was, and it’s not like there won’t be more drafts of this nonsense (if I don’t just get completely sick of it and delete it off the face of the earth) in which I can make things even better.
That is, if an 80-or-so page setup for a really horrible “divide by zero” joke is even capable of being bettered.
So yeah. Prime’s still around and it’s finally going to be worked on again. Yay for everyone.
So today I spent a lot of time packing for the move (when am I not packing for a move?) and I came across an old story I’d written in a journal in first grade. I’d like to share it with you because a) I want to demonstrate that my writing ability has in fact not improved since first grade and b) I have nothing else of interest today.
I remember we had to write a story about Halloween for this particular writing assignment, but other than that it was pretty open. My incredibly creative title for this thing was “The Poisonous Pumpkin.”
Once there was a boy named Jacob. His dad said, “Son, we are moving to Pennsylvania! But first we must buy some pumpkins, for it is getting close to Halloween.”
“Okay,” said Jacob. “Give me some money and I’ll got to the store and buy six pumpkins.”
“Okay,” said his dad. “Here’s six dollars, one for each pumpkin. Put on your coat.”
“Alright,” said Jacob. “Bye!”
Soon he got to the pumpkin selling place. “Here’s six dollars for six pumpkins!” said Jacob.
“Okay,” said the pumpkin seller. “Pick your pumpkins.”
So Jacob found the best six pumpkins. He was about to go home when he saw a pumpkin with a scary face and lips already carved out. He put back one of his pumpkins and took that one.
When he got home his dad had already packed. “Come on, son!” he said. “Put your bike and the pumpkins you bought in the back of the car. By the way, that’s a very strange pumpkin you bought.”
“I know,” said Jacob. “It was already carved. Can you believe it?”
“Now son, don’t start making up stories.”
“Now let’s go!”
So they got into the car and drove off. Finally they reached Pennsylvania. Jacob got out of the car. “What a house!” he said.
“Don’t forget the pumpkins,” his dad said.
“I won’t.” He opened the back door of the car…”Dad?” asked Jacob.
“The pumpkin with the face already carved out…”
“Yes?” said his dad.
“Is the window open?” asked his dad.
“Yes,” replied Jacob.
“Well, it probably fell out the window.”
“But we didn’t hit any bumps!” said Jacob.
“Yes we did,” said his dad. “The gravel road.”
“But those were just little bumps,” said Jacob. “Even I barely felt them.”
“Oh, let’s just forget about the pumpkin.”
The next day Jacob woke up. [best line in this whole damn story.]
“Come on Jacob!” Said his dad. “You don’t want to be late for the first day of school.” Jacob got up, got dressed, and went downstairs for breakfast. Jacob saw the old dry leaves out the window and remembered the crackling he heard that night. But before he could say anything to his dad, the school bus arrived.
“Hurry!” said his dad. Jacob got his backpack and ran outside. But the poisonous pumpkin was watching behind a bush. He knew that when Jacob got home he would have a friend with him, and that he could poison Jacob’s friend.
When Jacob did get home, he did have a friend named Andrew with him. Andrew was spending the night.
“Let’s go upstairs and play,” said Jacob.
“Okay,” replied Andrew.
They played until it was time for dinner. When Jacob and Andrew and his dad went to bed, the door opened.
“Did you hear that?” said Andrew.
“I sure did,” replied Jacob. “My dad’s asleep. Let’s go down and see!” They went downstairs, turned around, and looked out the door. There was the poisonous pumpkin with a can of pop and an ax in his vines.
“Run!” said Jacob. Jacob and Andrew ran as fast as they could, but the pumpkin came after them, waving its ax.
“Dad!” yelled Jacob. “The pumpkin’s alive!”
Suddenly, the as slipped from the vines and flew in front of Jacob. He quickly grabbed it. Then he ran after the poisonous pumpkin. The poisonous pumpkin was drinking his pop and spitting poison at Jacob. One shot almost hit him. After a long time of running, the pumpkin got tired. Soon, it collapsed. Jacob chopped him up and burned him. The poisonous pumpkin was never heard of again.
Riveting. Man, that plot skips around like a scratched CD and then just crashes and burns, doesn’t it? Also, I love how the pumpkin has to infuse pop with the poison in order for it to be effective. And that he needed an ax, too, like as a backup. Way to write a villain, Claudia.
There are indeed illustrations for this, but they’re even more embarrassing than the writing, so you don’t get those.
Do you see this?
Do you know what this is?
This is the page count/word count for the longest coherently-themed story I’ve got on my computer right now.
Do you know what the story is? It’s freaking fan fiction.
What is wrong with me.
Hey, so tomorrow is the halfway point of NaNoWriMo 2014, which is traditionally (not really) the day I post an excerpt. But tomorrow I’m hoping to hit 500 miles and thus I’ll be dedicating my blog to that.
So let’s break (non-)tradition and post an excerpt today!
So here’s the setup you need to understand the excerpt: I’m writing about TREES! Specifically, I’m writing about six giant redwoods in the Grove of Titans in California. The basic plot (so far) is this: Hesher is the oldest tree in the grove at 2,762 years old. Dooser, the tree growing next to him, is quite a bit younger but is the tallest tree in the grove. Since the two trees grow so close to one another, they are practically best friends.
One night, Hesher secretly tells Dooser that he is tired of living—he’s lived so long he feels like he’s seen everything and is tired of every day feeling the exact same. He doesn’t tell Dooser to kill him, but he tells him that it would be a great favor to him if ever an opportunity would arise for Dooser to somehow shorten his life.
(I know that sounds like the most morbid, emo plot ever, but Hesher is looking at death from an optimistic standpoint—he realizes that he’s been alive a very, very long time and feels in part like it’s time for the next step, which is to become part of the earth once more and be recycled back into nutrients for other trees).
Anyway. One night there’s a pretty bad wind storm that’s powerful enough to shake even the redwoods. After some thought, Dooser determines that this is one of those opportunities Hesher had been talking about, so during a particularly big gust of wind, Dooser lets one of his larger branches fall on Hesher. This causes the older tree to collapse (he was partially rotted through in the lower portion of his trunk) and he is mostly uprooted once he falls to the ground
The other trees, of course, are extremely upset by this, as they know that Hesher will now die a slow death on the forest floor. Some of them blame Dooser and claim that the “accident” was no real accident. Dooser, however, keeps quiet about this, as he knows that if he tells them about Hesher’s wishes, he’d be disrespecting him and his authority as the oldest tree.
Following this storm, there is an extremely hot and dry period with no rainfall and very little relief from an abnormally hot summer. Dooser starts been spending his nighttime talking to the fallen Hesher, keeping him company, but one night Hesher falls asleep as the sun sets while Dooser stays awake at night. However, he realizes that Arrodine, the tree across the grove, is awake and he starts talking to her. The two are about the same age and have been friends for a long time, but they had grown apart recently, partially due to the branch incident. This is their first one-on-one conversation in a long time.
(Note that this is unedited NaNoWriMo blathering, so apologies for the lack of quality.)
But one of those rare nights during which Hesher slept, during the midst of the drought when there was still no rain in sight, Dooser found that he was not alone in the dark. Around sunset, Hesher had fallen into a sleep that had started out restless but progressed rather rapidly into a deep, motionless sleep. It was rare for trees to be completely still, even when asleep, but Hesher was so completely exhausted that there was not even a flutter of his leaves, save for the bit of motion caused by the winds that managed to make it to the forest floor. Dooser didn’t know if Hesher’s stillness was due solely to exhaustion or to the death that was slowly taking over his body. He didn’t want to think about the latter option.
But as he stood towering into the night sky, unable to sleep as always and keeping a watchful eye over his fallen friend, he realized that Arrodine was awake across the grove. He couldn’t see her, of course, save for the dim glow of moonlight flickering against her leaves and coating the rough edges of her sheaths of bark in a velvet-like glow. But he could tell by the way she was moving that she wasn’t asleep like the others.
He ventured to speak to her, but as soon as he spoke her name he knew it had been too soft for her to hear. He was so used to speaking to Hesher, who was much closer and much quieter (Arrodine would have to hear him over the rustle of her great mass of leaves; Hesher wasn’t able to move his leaves like he used to) that his voice now naturally took a quieter, more gentle tone than it did during the day.
But to his surprise, the large tree answered from across the grove. “Dooser? Are you awake?”
He gave a rustle of his branches in confirmation. “Can’t sleep?” he asked her, relieved to find that he wasn’t going to have to spend the night alone in silence.
“I can’t,” she replied. There was a hesitation before she spoke again. “I…I’m thirsty.” Though there was an undertone of shame in her admittance to this fact—she never liked to admit discomfort—there was also a great sense of relief in her voice. Dooser suspected she would probably never admit such a grievance to any other tree in the Grove.
“I’m thirsty, too,” Dooser said, hoping to validate her complaint by stating that he felt the same way. “I wish it would rain. We all need it so badly.”
“I hate this drought,” Arrodine said. “I hate not having enough water. I hate being so dry. It makes it easier for the bugs—” She paused, giving her massive trunk a quick torque—one that was enough of a twist to disrupt the dozens of bark beetles that had chewed their way through her dry, brittle bark and had made a passage to her inner trunk. They scuttled out and over her rough surface, their shells glittering in the moonlight, and disappeared into the forest floor from whence they came.
Arrodine resumed her sentence. “—it makes it easier for the bugs to latch on and chew on my bark. They’re trying to get to my heartwood. I’m surprised they haven’t yet in this dryness.”
Dooser looked across at her. She was no more illuminated than she had been when they first started speaking, but the twist of her trunk left her leaves in motion and they glimmered like twinkling stars against the dark night. The great presence that was her trunk groaned and creaked as it settled back into place. For a brief moment, Dooser’s attention turned to Hesher, whom he could see slightly better owing to the tree’s supine position on the forest floor. Hesher was clearly illuminated by the moon, and Dooser could tell that he was still in a deep sleep. He was in such a sleep, in fact, that a conversation with Arrodine wouldn’t wake him.
So Dooser spoke again. “I’m sorry about your beetles,” he said earnestly. Arrodine had been plagued on and off by the bark beetles and similar other pests for as long as she had been growing opposite of him. What made her more of a frequent target than any of the other trees around her, Dooser didn’t know. Perhaps it was because the sheer size of her trunk made it almost impossible for her to monitor every inch of it every second of the day. Dooser himself had a hard enough time doing that, and he was probably a fourth of her size, volume wise. He tried to change the subject to something a little bit more optimistic, though he found himself unable to talk about anything but water. “I can’t wait ‘till it rains.”
“Neither can I,” she replied. “I almost forgot what it’s like to drink from saturated soil. My roots are as deep as they can get and they’re starting to run out of moisture. If only there was a way to get closer to the ground in order to dig deeper and—” She let her sentence trial off. Dooser felt her glance toward Hesher, who lay as close to the ground as any redwood could possibly get. He realized that she didn’t find it appropriate to talk about such a thing when their oldest member lay dying on the forest floor.
“Do you think Hesher will make it ‘till it rains?” He asked, thinking about the fallen tree.
“Dooser! It’s not right to talk about such a thing. Of course he’ll make it to the rain.”
“You don’t know that,” Dooser countered. “I don’t know that. I don’t think even Hesher knows that. It depends on a lot of things.”
She spoke after a bit of hesitation. “Like how many roots he has still functioning,” she eventually said, as if to rationalize what factors were needed in order for the old tree to live until the drought had ceased.
“And how deep they are.”
“And whether or not there’s a fire.”
“Don’t talk about fire,” Dooser was quick to comment, shuddering at the thought of flames ripping through the dehydrated forest. “It’s too dry for there to even be clouds. No chance of them, so no chance of lightning.”
They were quiet for a moment or two.
“I’m starting to think that half the forest won’t even make it until the rain,” Arrodine said finally. “It’s so dry. We’re so thirsty. When the sun comes up in the morning, I think to myself, ‘this is it, it’s going to start turning around today, it can’t be this dry forever.’ But then I see those firs behind you—there’s five of them—who sit in a sunny patch all day long—I see the dread that overcomes them as the sun’s rays hit the very tops of their branches and then slowly descend down their entire trunks. They’re suffering, Dooser. They’re brittle and they look almost ready to collapse. And as the day goes on I see no relief in the dryness, and the sun just keeps shining on those firs. They’re so relieved when the sun goes down. So am I. I’m starting to like the night more and more.”
Dooser didn’t quite know what to say to this. “It will rain,” was his weak, unconvincing response. “It always rains. I’ve been through bad droughts before. It always rains.” He stopped. Arrodine said nothing in response, so he said, “I like the nights, too.”
“I hear you talk with Hesher,” she said softly, almost gently, as if she were forbidden from doing so. “Every so often I wake up for a few minutes or so; you’re always talking when I wake up like that. Do you talk to him a lot?”
“Every night,” Dooser replied with a bit of caution. He didn’t want to accidentally make her feel guilty for not speaking to the old redwood as much as she had when he’d been standing, but he also didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that it was one of his branches that had downed Hesher in the first place—a fact about which he was sure the other trees thought he should feel guilty. He added, “does that bother your sleep?”
“No,” she answered. “Not at all. I like the sound of it, of the two of you talking. It’s almost—” She paused, thinking, and Dooser suspected she was going to say that it was almost like old times—like when Hesher had still been standing.
But instead she said, “It’s calming. I like hearing conversation when I wake up. It makes the nights not as lonely, especially now that I’m starting to prefer them to the day.”
They were silent for a moment, with nothing but the dry sound of their branches swaying in the hot wind. Even at night they couldn’t escape the heat in its entirety.
Dooser said, “I miss talking to you, Arrodine. Remember how we used to talk at night so often?”
“I do,” she replied. “I miss it too.”
In the silence that followed, a memory was shared between the two trees: a memory of their younger selves staying up well past sunset until the others of the Grove went to sleep, and then, in hushed tones, discussing anything and everything they could think of. Apart from Hesher, Dooser’s relationship with Arrodine had been the closest relationship he’d ever had to another being. The fact that they had been slowly drifting apart in the sense that their nightly conversations had grown more and more infrequent—not to mention shorter and shorter—was a fact that he hadn’t wanted to face up until this point. But here it was, staring straight at him.
Across the Grove, he heard Arrodine shift her branches restlessly. Was it the silence getting to her? Or the memories? Or possibly just the heat?
“We should start talking like that again,” he said to break the uncomfortable silence.
“I’d like that,” she said.
“It will be just like it was, back when we were younger. And shorter,” he laughed, referencing himself.
She laughed, too. “And smaller.” She creaked her trunk for emphasis.
“We should talk again soon,” he said, excited about the prospect of revitalizing his relationship with the large tree across the Grove.
“After—” It was Dooser’s turn to stop himself. After what? He couldn’t help his gaze from traveling down to Hesher. The fallen tree lay still in his deep sleep. For now, he was oblivious to the heat still hovering in the air, making the other trees and plants and creatures uneasy and uncomfortable. He was oblivious to the extreme lack of water plaguing the forest, this by virtue of the majority of his roots either being ripped from their anchoring or simply snapped as he had fallen. He was oblivious to the passing of time that would once again bring a new day and would bring him, thus, one day closer to his death.
And he was oblivious to the fact that this inevitable death of his was now being used as a marker in the future—a point at which Dooser could resume his nightly talks with Arrodine. He felt shame at even hinting at such a thing wash over his body, but Arrodine was quick to attempt to repair his blunder.
“After the rain?” She suggested.
Dooser heaved a sigh of relief, though he was sure that she was just being kind and had realized that he had unconsciously been referring to Hesher’s death.
“After the rain.” He ruffled his leaves as she did, trying in vain to relieve himself of some of the heat. He peered up into the night sky, its color a deep, velvety blue-black dotted intermittently with the pinpoints of stars. Even in the vast expanse toward which he reached, into which he towered further than any other living thing as far as he could see, Dooser could not escape from the heat. He could not escape from the here and now.
He let his branches come to a shuddering standstill, listening as the dry, browning leaves crackled against one another until they all became silent, not to speak again until he wanted them to, like a million dying creatures waiting for an excuse to voice their last thoughts.
He sensed Arrodine looking across at him and he looked back at her, the massive tree swaying her branches and creating the slightest breeze. Her leaves, like his, crackled like death.
“I hate this drought,” he said.
And happy midnight kickoff of NaNoWriMo!
So I’m definitely doing my tree story. I have no idea what the plot’s going to be yet, but I have two character names in mind. Considering this is the most I’ve ever had planned out before a NaNo, I figured why not.
Be prepared for a lot of tree posts.
(I tried to think of a good pun but I failed. Great start to the new month, huh?)
My NaNoWriMo this year is going to be about trees.
Probably from the perspective of one (or more) trees.
Because hell, when has any one of my NaNo novels made any damn sense?
(Sorry, I got nothing today)
Apparently, my body’s new way of coping with stress is to partially wake up in the middle of the night and write either really nonsensical poems or stupid little notes that are actually parts of my dreams.
Either that or I’m writing stuff during the day that I’m totally blocking out. But I’m pretty sure I’m doing it almost in a sleepwalking (sleepwriting?) fashion.
I…I don’t really remember writing this. I just remember Red Bull coursing through my soul and then passing out in my chair around 8 AM.
I, the Strawberry
Bold and Red
In silken sun, in garden bed
Firm and ripe with seeded tread
No darkness do I see
I, the Strawberry
Bold and Red
Human hands tear off my head
Now I lay bitten, frayed, and dead
No sunlight left in me
Woah, this actually looks really cool.
From the Wiki page: Ren’Py supports nearly all features that a visual novel might reasonably be expected to have, including branching stories, save file systems, rollback to previous points in the story, a variety of scene transitions and so on. Ren’Py scripts have a screenplay-like syntax, and can additionally include blocks of Python code to allow advanced users to add new features of their own.
Miiiiight have to download this and try it out.
(This isn’t a poem I hate poems this is just me rambling sorry I’ll shut up I haven’t slept since Thursday.)
(I’m also super emotional ‘cause someone I’ve connected to very strongly over the past few weeks just left Moscow forever.)
I am the friend that helps you move. Right after the last final of the semester or at 3:30 in the morning, I am the one unfolding empty boxes and asking you what you want to pack first.
I am the friend that cleans the kitchen. You pack the stuff in the pantry and last of the cutlery and I scrub the counters, cabinets, and fridge until everything is as clean as the day you moved in.
I am the friend who distracts you. You need a break and so do I, so I suggest we watch a few YouTube videos and we sit on the warm pile of freshly-dried laundry and watch clips of Disney movies for half an hour.
I am the friend that buys the packing tape. It’s 9 PM and you’re panicking because you’ve got an empty tape dispenser but three more boxes still and I run to the gas station down the road while you continue to prioritize your possessions in anticipation for my return with more tape.
I am the friend that folds your clothes. It’s your least favorite thing to do, but you don’t want to just throw your clothes into boxes. So I fold each item for you to pack neatly away. Yes, even the underwear.
I am the friend who makes space in your car. I play Tetris with your boxes and appliances and manage to fit in the sleeping bag and toolkit that you were sure you’d have to leave behind.
I am the friend that drives you around. You need to take your unused U-Haul boxes back but there’s not enough room in your car, so we load them into mine and I take you to return them. I remind you that you need to stop at the post office and request a permanent change of address.
I am the friend who sees you last. The apartment is clean and the car is packed and you’re ready to leave. We don’t know how to say goodbye, so we just hug again and again until it’s finally time for you to go. I wave from the sidewalk and you wave from your open car window until we can no longer see each other.
And even though I am the friend you have known for the least amount of time, I am also the friend who will miss you the most.
For our second long story in Fiction, we had the options of either writing something new or revising one of our old draft stories we did earlier in the semester. After screwing around with a nonsense cliché story, I made the decision to revise my “Odor” story (first draft posted here). There are actually two reasons I wanted to do so:
1. For a long while, I’ve wanted to write about my experience with anosmia. Apart from a blog about it every now and again, I’ve never been able to really formally write about it. I’m not sure why—it’s kind of a difficult thing to write about in a formal setting, I guess. But trying to make a fictional story that involved a character who had anosmia really made it easy to express a lot of the things I wanted to express about anosmia without having it be about me. So that meant a lot.
2. When we workshopped my draft of “Odor” way back at the beginning of the semester, someone asked, “being born without a sense of smell is a thing?” I think that’s all I need as my second reason.
I probably shouldn’t do it this year ‘cause I have a TON of other stuff to do, but what the hell. That’s never stopped me before, right?
But I think I’m going to do things a little differently this year. I have one more “long” story due in Fiction on the 20th. I’m going to use that as an excuse to be a NaNo rebel this year. Instead of a novel, I’m going to get my 50,000 words in a bunch of short stories. Hopefully one of these will develop into something good enough to turn in on the 20th.
And I may or may not post them here as I complete them. I probably won’t ‘cause they’ll probably suck, but who knows?
I also have to remember to actually update my wordcount on the NaNo site. For some reason, I’m really bad at doing that consistently.
I don’t know why I’m posting this. Why am I posting this? This is horrible. I dread Wednesday.
Carnival Mind (Alternate Title: Writer’s Block Sucks)
On Saturday, July 17, 2049, the world population hit nine billion and I fell asleep at my grandfather’s funeral. As someone who studies human population growth as a career, my excitement over the first fact (which I’d seen on the news as I’d gotten ready for the funeral that morning) should have prevented the second from ever happening. But as it was, nothing in the world was exciting enough to have kept me awake during the most boring funeral service imaginable.
My tiredness in the first place was due to staying up with Grandfather during his final days. Seeing as how he’d outlived all of his children, the rest of the family figured it would be best for one of the grandkids to take care of him as his health started to decline. So I, being geographically the closest, had packed a few things, left my apartment and cat in the care of my next door neighbor, and moved in with Grandfather for what we all thought would be a week at most.
That was back in May. During the three months I spent with him, he actually seemed no different than any of the previous times I’d come to visit. But as May turned into June and June turned into July, he began sleeping less and less and eventually not at all, until his exhausted body finally gave in and resigned to permanent stillness. During his last week, I managed to stay awake with him right up until the very end.
But once he was finally gone, my ability to sleep returned and I found myself unable to stay awake during even the most engaging activities. So one could imagine how well I would handle a funeral. One minute I was listening to the priest ramble on about God and the afterlife and the next minute I was being jarred awake by my step-sister’s elbow as she hissed vulgarities at me under her breath.
“Jesus, wake up, Victor,” she whispered, nodding her head in the direction of the back of the church. “The press is here.”
Of course the press was there. When the oldest man in the world dies, he automatically loses the privilege of an intimate, family-exclusive funeral. I looked back in the direction of her nod. It wasn’t just the press. The Guinness guys were there, too—no doubt to get an official photo of the funeral to publish in their annual book.
Guinness World Records had been tracking Grandfather for 40-some-odd years. In 2017, the oldest living person had died at age 120, leaving Grandfather (who was 119 at the time) as the current record holder. In 2025, he made the record books yet again on his 127th birthday as the oldest human being ever officially documented. And with each additional year he lived, he made that record harder and harder to break for the next 100-something destined to push the limits of human longevity.
I’d started working at the U.S. Census Bureau in 2040, when I was 26. Moving to Washington, D.C. for work put me in close proximity to Grandfather, who was 142 at the time but still living independently in Baltimore. Knowing that his last two surviving children were too old ever to visit and that most of the other grandkids were west of the Mississippi River, I decided that it would be good of me to start paying him regular visits. He had raised me after the death of my father, after all.
So every Sunday I’d drive the 100 miles to Richmond. I’d pick him up and we’d get ice cream to take to the park and watch the old chess players duke it out on the public boards. To my surprise, Grandfather took a keen interest in my job once he found out what it actually was that I did. We hadn’t really spoken since I graduated high school and I had to explain how I ended up working for the government. However, he seemed to ignore the “U.S.” part of “U.S. Census Bureau” and ended up always wanting to know about the state of the world’s population, not just the country’s, during my visits.
Every Sunday was the same conversation.
“What’s the score, Vic?” he’d ask.
I’d look it up on the population ticker on the Census Bureau website every Sunday morning so I could give him the most accurate value.
“When we gonna hit the big 9 billion?”
“Soon,” I’d say. As the years progressed, I gave him different estimates. May of 2045. December of 2047. Within the year.
Regardless of the estimate, he’d always shake his head. “Too many people,” he’d say. “Too many living too long. What’s the point of living if you can’t even remember that that’s what you’re doing?”
Once, he equated the growing population with the reason technology had stalled around 2020. “I may be from the 1800s,” he said, “but I’m not an idiot. I knew we’d never get flying cars or teleportation or any of that science fiction nonsense because people would be too busy inventing pacemakers for worn-out hearts and hearing aids for worn-out ears and adult diapers for worn-out pissers, and then re-inventing them so that they didn’t cause chafing during shuffleboard.”
I would look at him sitting there, still as spry and alert in his 14th decade of life as he’d been in his 4th, and try to explain that aging was not as easy for everyone else as it had been for him.
Grandfather had lived like he was part of time itself—untouchable and unchangeable by the events around him, but intimately involved in everything that happened. He had married his first wife just as the First World War began in 1914. His subsequent marriages—all seven of them—seemed to coincide with similarly significant events on the world stage. The reason for so many marriages was simple: he was never unfaithful, he never divorced—he just continued to live.
Over a span of 40 fertile years, Grandfather produced 23 children. The eldest was in her late 30s when the youngest was born in 1949. Of the 23, 22 managed to at least reach their 100th birthday. And it wasn’t just his kids who had shunned the conventional lifespan—his kid’s kids—his grandkids—showed a similar inclination towards prolonged finiteness. Some of the oldest ones, by the time Grandfather passed, already had their centennial birthdays behind them.
The whole family was a delightful genetic anomaly for age researchers. In 2014, the year I was born (my father had managed to produce me at age 65; I try not to visualize the night of my conception), some company paid the family a significant sum to allow a thorough exploration of their genes. The researchers had sampled Grandfather first and found that his unwillingness to submit to the reaper was likely due to the presence of two rare genetic mutations—one that slowed the deterioration of his genetic material, another that affected his chromosomes’ resistance to cancers. The odds of these two mutations occurring in the same person, the researchers told him, were lower than the odds of someone winning the Powerball twice in a row.
But they also told him that the likely reason his children were living so long was because he’d passed these miracle genes onto them. And indeed, the tests revealed that the mutations were the gift that kept on giving: 22 of his children were told that they, too, had won the genetic lottery. My father, the second youngest of the bunch, was the statistical anomaly within the statistical anomaly. He possessed neither mutation.
None of Grandfather’s children made it to his funeral. They’d lived long, of course, but none had lived long enough to see the death of the man that had gifted them with life back in the previous century. They waited for him, though—posed solemnly and unmoving next to their various mothers in the cemetery ground where we would all head once the in-church portion of the service concluded.
I made a mental note to myself as I sat in the pew, playing with the buttons on the front of my jacket to alleviate my boredom, to say hello to my father once we were down there. I did the subtraction in my head: 2049 – 2028. He’d been gone for 21 years.
It was only in July that Grandfather’s health had truly started to decline. He’d gradually been sleeping less and less, and by the middle of the month he was awake for upwards of 22 hours a day. His breathing grew labored and though he couldn’t sleep, he was too weak to get out of bed. I had tried to keep up a regimen of daily walks—at least one per every six hours—but the regimen had to be abandoned as even sitting up became too difficult an activity for Grandfather to carry out.
The fourth day before he died was the last day he slept at all. It was a Sunday. He was obviously too weak for an excursion to the park, so I brought a bowls of Rocky Road to his room and opened the window so we could hear the birds in the tree outside. Pulling a chair next to the bed, I joked about trying to find a televised chess game so that we could complete our usual Sunday experience.
His appetite had left him. He had no desire for the ice cream but asked me the same question he always did whenever we had our weekly get-togethers.
“What’s the score, Vic?”
“8,999,860,340.” So said the ticker that morning.
“Soon,” I replied. “Very soon. Next week, maybe.”
He wanted to say more, I think, but became racked with a wet cough that sounded like an engine trying to turn over in his lungs. Still, as he coughed he shook his head disapprovingly at the statistic I’d provided.
“Too many people?” I asked, assuming that was what he was thinking.
He nodded, the cough dissipating, and cleared his throat of the mucus before speaking again. “Too many. I want a flying car before I die.”
There were at least 320 people at the funeral, not counting the media. They were all relatives, most of them direct. I’d stood in the back and counted before the service began. Undoubtedly others had trickled in as the priest led the opening prayers. Perhaps others had snuck out due to how boring it all was. And as much as I wanted to leave—I could wait for Grandfather down at the cemetery with my aunts and uncles; surely they could provide me with at least as much liveliness as the priest—I was scheduled to give a short eulogy along with four of my other step-siblings once the priest had finished his blessings. At least, I hoped they would be short. Mine was.
I snuck another glance over my shoulder at the six or seven photographers and reporters, all who looked as bored as I felt. They had exhausted the polite amount of pre-procession photos and questions and were standing around picking their fingers and shifting their weight, waiting as the rest of us were for the priest to proclaim his final “Amen” and let us be mournful again rather than just bored.
There was great media hoopla when grandfather turned 150 in 2048. His unprecedented age earned him unprecedented fame, which he responded to with quiet humility (“I’m just getting old,” he’d said. “Anyone can do that.”). CNN’s article about him was entitled, “The Oldest of the Oldest Old.” Huffington Post was a bit more humorous: “150 is the New 100.” But it was Time that scored an actual interview which ended up taking five pages in an edition that featured a well-lighted portrait of Grandfather on the cover and the words, “Man of the Century and a Half” printed below.
The interviewer asked him about his exceptionally long past. What was his earliest memory? (Playing with his next door neighbor Georgie during the summer of 1899.) His favorite decade? (The 1940s.) Most memorable political event? (Either JFK’s assassination in 1963 or the election of Koss, the first Gray Party President, in 2044.)
Then things got a bit more serious. She asked him what he knew about the genetic testing performed on him and his family, to which he replied that he knew very little. She asked about his kids, who he could still name perfectly as if he was reading from a roster, before zeroing in on my father and the fact that he lacked the genes that had kept his brothers and sisters going well past 100.
But Grandfather had refused to answer her question regarding his feelings about my father’s death in 2028 and her subsequent question about the impending fate of my father’s son (me), who also lacked the mutations that had given the rest of the family extended lives. The end of the printed article had undergone careful editing so as to still contain what had actually been said but to also mask the fact that Grandfather had walked out of the interview spewing profanity and ranting about invasion of privacy.
My father’s funeral had been held on a Friday afternoon, three days before what would have been his 80th birthday. It wasn’t a media sensation. It was quiet and family-only. He’d had had a stroke. It was quick and likely painless, according to his doctors. The suffering was reserved for those who outlived him.
I was 14. I’d shaved for the first time for the funeral. My deepening voice was starting to sound like Father’s. I was pubescent and I was mourning, and seeing Grandfather smiling over the open casket that morning incited both my hormones and my grief. It was the first time I’d ever truly yelled at anyone. It was the first time I’d ever cursed. I ran from the church and spent the rest of the burial service crying beneath the outside stairs.
Grandfather found me and apologized, but it was a long time before I publically forgave him. It was an even longer time before I let myself stop thinking about that smile every time I saw him.
By Wednesday, July 14th, Grandfather had been sleepless for nearly four days. So had I. Together we drifted within the dreamlike phase between consciousness and unconsciousness. His breathing sounded like the broken bellows of a music-less accordion, and when he talked it sounded like air was escaping somewhere within him, giving an eerie hollowness to his words.
All day he seemed like he was working up the strength to tell me something, but couldn’t get more than a word or two out at a time. But that night he requested a cold glass of water, which he drank with the voracity of someone who’d just finished a marathon. This seemed to give him the energy he needed to finally say what he wanted to say.
“Seven years ago,” he said, the loose rattle of mucus in his lungs forcing him to speak slowly, “I remember waking up one morning in this bed, laying here just like this. I remember closing my eyes and realizing that, in that moment, I could remember everything that had ever happened to me.” He held his hands out, palm facing upward, as if he was trying to channel his younger self.
“Every memory was there in the front of my head, all kind of melded together.” He gave a weak huff of laughter. “It was like a carnival—a big celebration or something. I could recall my first wife as clearly as I could my last. I could see you as a kid, as same age as Georgie, the kid I used to play with back when I was 10. It was all there, everything together. The memories were like people to me. I stayed in bed that whole morning just living with them.”
He paused to catch his breath, waiting for the rattling to abate before continuing again. “Seven years ago. You know what I think it was? I think it was my sweet spot. I think, at that point in my life, I had just enough memories. Everything fit with everything else.”
Another pause. He tried to fight through his labored breathing, the gaps between his sentences lengthening. “I never felt that way again. After a certain point, there were too many memories. Too many people. So the carnival stopped. People started packing up and going home, one by one. And things got quiet.”
Almost as if to emphasize his point, he held his lungs still for a moment and the rattling ceased, revealing a background of static silence in the dark, still bedroom.
“When things get quiet…that’s when you start to get tired. That’s when you start to wear out.” He turned his head towards me. It was the first time he’d looked directly at me in three days. “Your father and you…you’re lucky. The rest of this family, we don’t die like normal people. We don’t have strokes or get cancer. We don’t get Alzheimer’s. We don’t even get arthritis or bad knees. But 100 years, 150 years…it’s a long time. You get too many memories. You get tired and you wear out.” His breathing was rapid and raspy, but he somehow managed to roll onto his side so that he was directly facing me.
“That’s why I was so happy the day your father died. I was happy for him, Victor. He got to die. He didn’t have to just wear out.” He took a few labored, hollow breaths. “People deserve to die.”
His eyes looked as if he wanted to continue but was physically unable to. He rolled onto his back again and concentrated on his breathing. I realized that, as he’d been speaking, I’d placed my hand on a blanketed portion of his upper leg and was probably gripping him a little too tightly. I relaxed my grip but didn’t remove my hand. I didn’t say anything. What could I have said? I wiped my eyes. I kissed him gently.
The bellows of his lungs continued to pump with a hollow timbre throughout the night, the rhythm slowing, then quickening, then slowing again as if consistency was something for which they no longer had strength. However, by sunrise, even the shallowest pumping was too much of a strain for their owner, and with one last expulsion, they finally came to rest. On July 15, 2049, Grandfather died at 151 years old. Officially, as later verified by Guinness, he had lived a total of 151 years, 3 months, and 21 days.
The priest was finally done. He gave up his place at the front of the church after announcing to the audience that some of the members of the family wished to pay their respects with brief eulogies. I was first. As I made my way forward, I felt the faintest smile touch the edges of my lips. Grandfather may not have died the way he’d wanted to, but he had finally gotten there. He had finally gotten what he deserved.
I knew that wherever the afterlife took him, he was with my father again, the two sharing moments that had been lost to the time between a son dying in an instant and a father living well past his allotted years. And if the afterlife granted him any awareness of those who were still living, I knew that he would still be happy for me. He would be happy that I was destined to die rather than fade—that I would get to keep my carnival.