You’ll want to read this

“What lives in the Tower?”

Carolinus jerked his fierce old bearded face around to look at him.

“What’s living there?” he snapped. “I don’t know. We’ll find out soon enough. What is there—neither alive nor dead, just in existence at the spot—is the manifestation of pure evil.”

“But how can we do anything against that?”

“We can’t. We can only contain it. Just as you—if you’re essentially a good person—contain the potentialities for evil in yourself, by killing its creatures, your evil impulses and actions.”

“Oh?” said Jim.

“Certainly. And since evil opposes good in like manner, its creatures, the ones in the Tower, will try to destroy us.”

Jim felt a cold lump in his throat. He swallowed.

“Destroy us?”

“Why no, they’ll probably just invite us to tea—” The sarcasm in the old magician’s voice broke off suddenly with the voice itself. They had just stepped through a low screen of bushes and instinctively checked to a halt.”

 

St. Dragon and the George (not a typo)

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When Your Psyche is a Backstabbing Traitor

People ask me how I feel about my son leaving to go back to the U.S. while we stay here in the Philippines.  I smile and say we will miss him, and then I talk about how much money we are going to save on groceries, on our electricity bill, on our phone bills, on our internet (remember our charges are based somewhat on use), etc.  I talk about the closet in his room that I am going to get to use (it’s bigger than the one in our room).  I think of the groceries I won’t be buying, the deviled eggs I won’t be making for after school snacks several times a week, the coconut I will get to have entirely to myself (if I can cut it open without him).

Then the other night I had this horrible, awful nightmare, full of weirdness that never seemed weird at the time (as nightmares do).  It was the kind of things that wakes you up in a cold sweat, heart pounding, feeling desolated and  wanting to wail like a banshee.
We were at a Bible study with all of our Filipino friends (including several who do not know each other) and neighbors. It was in a pavilion- just a roof, no walls, and the floor was a bare dirt floor that was very, very muddy because it had rained recently.

Different men would get up to speak and encourage us, and from time to time, the ground beneath them would make a slurping noise and just collapse, dragging them down out of sight in an instant- it was this awful, muddy, sinkhole. But the other men in the group would just shrug, go up to the muddy pit, reach in and pull them out and the meeting continued. It was no big deal. And nobody ever suggested not standing in the sinkhole. Then my husband and son got up to speak along with two or three of our Filipino friends, and suddenly, they all sank. And when the other men went to pull them out, they couldn’t find my two guys. So then everybody just shrugged and went home, and I was there by myself trying to find them in the mudhole (while trying to keep our disabled child out of it).  I wanted to dive in after them, but I couldn’t leave her alone,  and no matter how many times I plunged my arms into the mud up to my shoulders, I couldn’t find them, either. At some point one of our daughters came to help. I hadn’t known she was there, but it seemed normal. And then somehow we were in a kitchen of a restaurant that served Filipino food (but still had this muddy sinkhole in it where my husband son had disappeared, and that seemed normal), and I was still on my stomach digging through the mud up to my eyebrows to no avail, and that seemed devastatingly horribly real but also normal. Sometimes I could hear their voices still,  but I couldn’t reach them in the strangely mobile pit of mud. The restaurant people told us we were in their way (politely), but were not unsympathetic when we explained, and they offered us shrimp to eat while we dug, and Jenny-Any-Dots had some but I didn’t (Jenny Any Dots hates shrimp and would never eat it, especially not if she has to peel it, and at any rate, of course she wouldn’t stop for a shrimp eating break if her daddy and brother were lost in a mud-pit). Somebody brought us a pole, but that didn’t help, and just when it was all entirely unendurable and horrible and I was nearly hysterically inconsolable,  I woke up.
After going over it in my head for a while, I realized that also in my dream, my son was about 8 or 9 years old instead of a 6’4″ 18, soon to be 19 year old.

I realized this is probably how my psyche really feels about my son graduating and getting ready to leave the Philippines and go back to the U.S. while we stay here. But I would prefer that my psyche just keep its most horrid manifestations entirely to itself.

(two nights later my nightmares were all about Visaya pronouns, which was exhausting, but preferable to being waterboarded by a grief I am not interested in acknowledging I have.)

Posted in Davao Diary | 4 Responses

Why Do We Have To Know This Stuff?

This is a really interesting and fun old short story about an archaeology expedition on Mars and the efforts of a member of the team to decipher a language for which there can be no Rosetta Stone.

Or can there?

It’s Omnilingual, by H. Beam Piper

It won’t convince a die-hard skeptic, of course, because your 12 year old die-hard skeptic isn’t really skeptical about whether or not ‘this stuff’ might have a use, he just is convinced it has no use for *him*, and just as you cannot convince a 2 year old that you can’t see the picture he sees when he is looking at the pages and showing you only the cover, you can’t do much to convince a hardened 12 year old skeptic that when he is twenty he might wish to know more about subjects he disdained at 12.  He kind of has to make it to twenty to find that out.

 

For best use, I’d simply include this story with half a dozen other short stories in a brief introduction to speculative fiction in short form.  A few others:

A Pail of Air, from The World Turned Upside Down

A Gun for a Dinosaur, also from The World Turned Upside Down anthology; going back in time to hunt dinosaur. A good man dies, another man demonstrates the truth of the Biblical warning about digging a pit for others and falling into it yourself.

The Hunting Game, by Robert Scheckley- Humorous.  neither the hunter nor the hunted have any idea what they are actually up against.

Harrison Bergeron, by Kurt Vonnegut: classic tale of the tragic result of equality as mandated by democratic votes.

The Barnhouse Effect, Kurt Vonnegut (both of these are found in Welcome to the  Monkey House, an anthology of Vonnegut stories)- Read carefully.  What really causes war? Is it truly that lack of resources, or something else inherent in human-kind?

And He Built a Crooked House, by Heinlein: about an architect who outdoes himself and almost undoes himself building into another dimension. Fun story, interesting ideas.

A Sound of Thunder, Ray Bradbury – another time travel book about hunting dinosaurs.  Makes an interesting compare and contrast tale beside a gun for a dinosaur.  The Butterfly Effect- I don’t know if it comes from this story, or if Bradbury incorporated it into his story.

The Feeling of Power, by Isaac Asimov – what happens when everybody forgets how to do any arithmetic and leaves it entirely up to the computers, and then somebody else rediscovers it?    Weaker than the others.

The Cold Equation, by Tom Godwin: Heartbreaking story built on the solid premise that math doesn’t care about your feelings.  Things are as they are, not as you wish them to be, and there are hard realities,  things that you can’t change.  Unfortunately, to make the story work there are a couple of extremely irritating and irksome flaws.  If the punishment for trespassing was death, you’d expect there to be a sign a bit more stringently worded than “Do not enter,” for one thing. But the underlying premise is sound.  Math does not care about your wishful thinking, nor do physics (or biology, I would add).

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Graduation

The Boy walked with his classmates at the private school he’s been attention part time since we moved to the Philippines.  We gave him a diploma.  What I am saying here is that tonight I handed him a piece of paper marking the end of my 29th consecutive year of homeschooling.

 

Aren’t I supposed to get a watch or something?

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Martial Law

Mindanao (the island where we live) is under martial law because of fighting between the government and terrorist groups in a city about six hours from here.  
http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/duterte-declares-martial-law-in-southern-philippines/ar-BBBsy5L?OCID=ansmsnnews11
 
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-40022529
 
http://k2.abs-cbnnews.com/news/05/23/17/duterte-declares-martial-law-in-mindanao
 
http://k2.abs-cbnnews.com/news/05/23/17/philippines-needs-modern-weapons-vs-isis-duterte-tells-putin
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