A Beautiful Void

A Beautiful Void

Postby Gloom » Sun Dec 21, 2014 9:48 pm

As has explicitly been noted by the few of you over the last few months, it has been somewhat of an unfair while since I've last participated in the affairs of this community or posted on the forum to any appreciable degree. While this undoubtedly has at least some reason in the fact that I've been preoccupied throughout the time with writing for various projects of mine (Missing Stars being one thereof), the truth is that, once again, none have been justifiably demanding and I simply haven't felt comfortable saying much for having so very little of merit to say. Perhaps naively, I'd assumed that now that I've finished my service and have an effectively endless amount of time to dedicate to it, my writing would progress far faster, but in the manner so typical of the weak-willed and the undisciplined I seem to have far too quickly sank into a spiral of paradoxical idleness and restlessness in light of the occasion. Each day I promise myself that I would write ever so much, and every day I find myself wasting doing meaningless things and telling myself that the morrow would be different. Now, I've spent the huge measure of free time I've been given with evident unfitting and am going to have to begin my studies, which would once again occupy me just enough for me to be able to tell myself that I can't afford to write as much as I wish to.

For that, I apologize.

If it's any comfort to you, I can assure that progress on Missing Stars is being made constantly, that (for reasons which, sadly, I'm not able to reveal at the time and that would thus have to remain within the realm of comical teasing) I believe that very soon the pace of my work making the last of the edits to Katja's Act 1 route should increase exponentially over the coming few weeks, and that from the looks of it her related artwork stands to be absolutely wonderful (for all of us having been forced to, for reasons that shall remain similarly unspecified, to significantly tone down the sheer sex-appeal of some of her less up-to-date drafts).

The story below, like an unfortunate several of the fruits of my late, unscrupulous work, has been added to infrequently over the course of weeks and thus suffers from an obvious lack of coherence and direction, as if its inherently lacking premise, poor structure and excessively artistic presentation were not damning enough. The idea originally came from a friend having read several chapters of my previous unrelated work on this forum (Heart's Desire) and noting that the characters feel "detached" and "kind of autistic". I deliberately attempted to avoid taking several easy paths throughout it, though reading through it now, I'm beginning to fear that perhaps I've done so just to the degree that it doesn't benefit from the charming simplicity these may have offered while in the same time falling into similar (but harder to justify) traps of stereotyping and cliche. It doesn't refer to any particular figures from Missing Stars, nor does it have any direct relation to the plot or contain any clues regarding it. It was simply within what I see as the spirit of the game, and related (however tangentially) to a story that I've previously posted around these parts, and thus I've seen fit to post it as well. So far criticism which I've received from the few with which the idea was shared has been lukewarm at best (due to a combination of the aforementioned writing issues, as well as others which I would save you the bother of having to read my personal opinions of, although they were entirely justified), but I feel as if my mind would be freer to focus on other ones if I'd officially let this go, and this seemed the best way of going about it in a hurry and without the inevitable sense of having failed myself as a so-called writer. This is not a Christmas work, but for the sake of it, I'm going to go ahead and slyly suggest that you may consider it a personal gift from myself in case that it doesn't come to me offering you one on the holiday itself.

Goodnight.

A Beautiful Void

"I don't love you", I tell her softly, picking up another black stone from the box.

"I don't love you", she replies, struggling to find the proper intonation, then pushes herself off her chair and, leaning over the table between us, plants a gentle kiss on my forehead.

There's no joyous glimmer shining within her eyes as she speaks, nor are her lips stretched in an affectionate smile. She doesn't blush and her voice is as steady as I've ever known it.

Her eyes are simply her eyes. Her face is her face, her voice is her voice – and I'd much rather they remain so than twisted by force to express an emotion she doesn't truly feel. However another who might've cared for it had deigned to define our relationship, that she would understand my sentiment in thus saying has been key to it throughout.

It doesn't make me happy, although I'd like to believe that I understand why it would. There's – or there should be, an anxiousness concomitant to that emotion. It's called warm. My heart should beat faster, and it doesn't.

Rather, I feel content. I am at peace, and wouldn't mind if the feeling lingered. I suppose you could call that a form of happiness, although I don't see the point. It's been a few days since the last time.
The stone is smooth, and round, and cool in my hand.

I hold it between my fingers, pondering my next move while she wordlessly awaits her turn. Others are looking at us from their seats around the common room, wide eyes turning from the television screen, from cards and steaming mugs of coffee.

They would've told me that I should mind that. The fact that I'm able to make that connection is evidence that on some level, I do.

Do they think the two of us strange? The thought appears in mind – a thought, as opposed to a concern. By definition, a concern would've made me uncomfortable, which, discomfort being a more tangible thing, I can patently tell I am not. In that sense, concerns can be useful.

A thought is simply whatever it is. It doesn't cause the opposite of discomfort.

All concerns are thoughts. Not all thoughts are concerns. Perhaps for another they would've been. For obvious reasons, I couldn't tell. Neither could anyone else, though unlike me, they may make the claim to.

I'm honest. So is she. Sometimes people mistake this for a disability.

She picks up a white stone from the box, and after only a moment's deliberation, places it down on the board, on an intersection between two of my own black ones. Her fingers move quickly and soundlessly. She doesn't speak, and her lips remain faint and tight.

The spot on my forehead where they'd touched a minute back burns coldly in the evening air. It's an unpleasant sensation, but one that, in context, I'm glad for being able to feel. It doesn't evoke them, but rather, a realization that this is comparable to the bittersweetness of fruit flavored cough syrup, or the blinding pain of quickly removing a Band-Aid.

Her lips were soft and warm, and moist. An instinctual wish exists that they touch the same spot again, and remain there, because of the cold.

It's not something I can ask from her. It would be uncomfortable for the both of us.

But the thought remains. For the time being, I let it, ignoring the urge to wipe her spittle off. Once it's gone, I know that I'd want to recall it, and with luck be able to. It sounds to me the most efficient way of experiencing it. I've tried a few.

The lights in her room were off when she invited me. It was cold outside, and when I asked her whether she'd be, she said that she doesn't mind.

I reach once again for the box to pick up a stone, lifting my gaze from the board to meet hers. It flutters away from my own, fleeting like an entoptic ghost floating before one's sight after staring at the sun.

She has eyes so pale and blue that in a dim light, or from more than a short distance, her irises all but seem to melt and disappear into the cornea. I've been told that this is considered by as many beautiful as who think it repulsive, but I've never been able to judge. It's their movement that intrigues me – quick and precise, like her fingers before. Darting from place to place, almost too fast to follow, never stopping for once. From a boy sitting at a table behind us, to an oil-paint picture of the lake on the wall, to the television, to the window and back to the board. There's a pattern to their movement, beyond the reach of my mind, and I derive the same waiting for those moments they meet mine that I do resolving a riddle, or playing a game in this room. Even if I can't find the answer, or lose, I'm left feeling stimulated and energized.

Another stone placed on the board. Another nigh audible thud on wood. She'd told me once that the sound of them being put down too hard hurts her ears, and ever since I've been trying to do it more quietly. On occasions, I become overexcited and forget to, and then she closes her eyes tightly and her neck recoils. I apologize, and she apologizes, too, even though it is normally my fault – my teacher says that, given doubt, it's usually preferable to, so I assume so did hers.

The mistake is not undone, but between the two of us, this ritual makes it alright. The next time, I try harder.

A little by every few seconds, or more when we stop to think, the wooden board is covered by a pattern of black and white. It grows from the center, like a jeweled moss, steadily towards the edges, bursting into a semblance of local disarray around spots where the two of us have lost ourselves in contest. Despite the arrangement of stones remaining static, whenever I take my eyes off of them then look back, new shapes stand out before them as if emerging from within the material.

It is her turn. She thinks for nearly a minute, far more so than she took any previous turn this game, then places her white stone in a position adjacent to the outline of one of my enclosures.

I recognize this moment as one in which it would've been appropriate for me to frown, had I been in company where this matters. I struggle to find sense in her last move.

My initial assumption, of course, is that she must've realized something that I did not, and now is exploiting this flaw in my strategy to gain an advantage. It would've been logical for her to try to, given the nature of our game. Yet, for all my attempts, I can't see it.

The possibility exists that it's simply my fault for having played carelessly until now. That she's been able to find a flaw in my strategy so fundamental that I've skipped completely even considering it, and is biding her time by making such moves that seem out of context to be senseless in order to lead to ones that would increase her gain.

Back then, she asked me what I want to do. I told her that it was her idea, but she said that she doesn't know how. None of us spoke, and it was cold. She shuddered like a rabbit.

I make another move, not wishing to appear as if I, myself, am taking too long to think. She responds, and so does I, and within a few more turns again makes a move that is inexplicable to me.
Now I'm concerned. Doesn't she want to play? Does she feel unwell? She's too smart, and far too good at this game, to have simply made such a mistake.

I ask her whether she's feeling alright, and she doesn't answer. Normally it wouldn't have mattered. Now her silence feels wrong.

"You made a bad move", I say. "Do you want to take it back?"

She shakes her head. "No. It is your turn."

Three of the other students turn from their activities to look our way. Their expressions are different from before. They puzzle me. They mask an intent.

They've said before that she and I look like we're wearing masks, but this isn't true. A mask, in this sense, is a metaphor for an expression used to deceive. Why would either of us like to deceive the other? We both dislike being confused. We don't like it when people hold secrets. She told me so, herself.

If that weren't the case, I wouldn't be feeling anxious. I wouldn't have these concerns.

She makes another move, which seems random to me. I make one in turn, but can no longer tell whether it's right.

To say that this game is predictable would be very incorrect. It's true that its rules are simple and concise. They have few exceptions, and never change. There are only two types of pieces, which are colored in such a way as to make them impossible to mistake, and only one type of move to make. Each one leads logically to the next. The number of possible turns is finite.

And yet, the amount of ways in which the game can end is effectively incalculable. It is said to be orders of magnitude larger than the estimated number of atoms in the universe. Since neither of us can read each other's minds, we know neither what the other would do on their turn, nor how we would decide to respond. We cannot tell how the game would end, and it makes it exciting.
We talked about this a few weeks after we had started to play together regularly. She said that she was pleased to know that in that way, too, we are alike.

Both of us are afraid of cockroaches, whom we think move too fast. Both of us like to eat mint flavored ice-cream, even when it is cold outside, and even though both my older sister and her younger brother do not. The symmetry of it delighted us.

Both of us enjoy horror films, even though we don't like to be afraid in real life, and agree that neither of us could live through most of them, unless we decided not to enter a scary situation at the first place. We both like physics, although our reasons differ: she says that it helps her put reality in context, and I'm not sure what my reason is, though I know that it isn't the same, and not one I've been able to thus far put into words.

The clock on the classroom wall ticks. Another thud. I make my move. "Do you want to have coffee later? We can buy something sweet, too."

She nods. I hope that she's thinking about what I said, rather than whatever she did before.

Her fingers hover above the wooden box where we keep our stones, long and delicate and thin like twigs. She hesitates before picking one up, and for a moment, one tip of her lips moves slightly aside.
It's neither a smile nor a frown. I can't remember whether it's an expression I was supposed to be able to recognize. I try to imitate her, in case that's what she would want, but I know that it wouldn't look the same. My lips are too thick to be like hers, and shaped too evenly.

She has beautiful lips. They are thin, like many things about her are, and only a little bit darker than the skin surrounding them. They curve in an angle which is just high enough the distance between their center and the tip of her nose wouldn't bother me.

Once, I felt like I had to know what they feel like, so I touched them, although I know well that it's not right to touch somebody else' body without permission, and sometimes don't like it much when people do it to me. She closed her eyes and I recoiled. I felt very sorry about it.

"Are you hurt?" I asked her. She turned away from me and faced the wall for about seven minutes, not saying anything. It was an uncomfortable silence, like now, but in the end, she faced me back and said "no."

I asked her what that meant, but she didn't want to answer. Sometimes I touch her lips when she's down, or if I want to. I haven't told anyone about this, but I think this might be for the best. She closes her eyes if she doesn't mind, or if it feels nice. Sometimes I press even harder, to feel the flesh yielding beneath my fingernail.

If I push too hard, she says so, out loud. It makes it simple to stop and understand that I've done wrong.

She said, back then, that I should try touching other places, too. Neither of us knew which would feel as nice. Some hurt her. Some made her close her eyes.

She writhed like an insect on that bed, when I did. It scared me so much that I said I didn't want to go on. I helped her change the sheets, because she wet them a little.

If the others know what happened, than they haven't spoken to me about this. Neither have I told about this to her. I don't think it'd do any good to. If she was hurt, or I was, it's best if the two of us forget.

The others may guess at it, although they might find it strange, or unimportant. I would've asked her, but it didn't seem right.

Normally, she is better than me at understanding this sort of things, even if it might not be as much as they do. I trust that if anything of consequence happens, she would inform me of it, so that we could decide together what to do.

Time passes, and the board is almost full. Soon, one way or another, our game would end. I look at the clock, then back at her, then ask whether she'd want to play another once we're done. She says that she doesn’t know, and I sit back while she thinks about her next move.

Either way, I wouldn't mind it.

Her fingers move surely. A nigh inaudible thud of stone on chaffed wood sounds. Another second has passed, and the board is one intersection closer to being used for this game. So far as I can tell from the current state of it, I seem to be inclined to win – but I ought not to tell that to myself until we've finished.

For all the simplicity of its' rules, the beauty of this game which the two of us have so admired, that she compared to while discussing physics and I rued so rarely finding exemplified in nature, is that it changes in the mind. All it could take is for a stone to be put down where I haven't followed it before, and the entire board could turn around. I imagine it as the pieces physically changing color, or disappearing off the board as I count them for score. It looks like a television screen when the receptor is broken.

I'm fairly certain that the others would find that image unaesthetic. I think it's wonderful. The idea occurred to me not long ago, so I haven't been able to speak of it to her yet, but I believe that she'd agree if we ever did.

I reach for the box of stones. Its edges are worn from many people's fingers before my own and hers having rubbed against it to pick up a piece, so the both of us avoid touching them.

I hold tightly onto the stone, not at all the way I should be, between my fingers. I imagine her looking at my fist and wondering whether I'm angry. It's not that. Maybe it's because I want to slow down so we wouldn't have to pack up and leave so soon. It's not right.

I take a deep breath in and let it out, like my teacher's taught me, and play.

Eyes so pale and blue they barely have any color stare at me from the other side of our table.

"Is anything wrong?" she asks.

Her voice doesn't mean anything. She isn't smiling.

Why would she ask that? Is that because I breathed out so loudly? Because I've asked her a similar question before? Why would it matter to her?

I was only trying to understand.

"No, nothing is wrong", I reassure her.

She nods, because she knows that I'm looking, and doesn't think there's a reason for her to talk, too.

Her gesture confuses me. Perhaps she notices my frown.

"Do you want to continue playing?" I repeat my question from before. It's not something I do very often, certainly not with her. Unlike some of the others, when she or I answer a question – assuming we've understood it and that nothing about the circumstances' changed since we last have – it's because we mean it wholeheartedly. Else we'd have asked to think some more before.

She shakes her head. I'm not sure how I'm feeling right now, and the thought is concerning.

It's not that I care all that much about another game. Something else is wrong, something that, like the reason I like physics, or why I want her to kiss my forehead again, I can't put into words in my mind.

The game is never finished. My stomach churns at the notion. Despite being nearly fully covered in stones, the board feels empty when I look at it. Not physically. Perhaps in some other way.

There are holes in it, now. Places that I feel like I know should've been filled with black and white, but weren't. Now they won't be, ever. Not in this particular game.

I comfort myself thinking that we may play again tomorrow, but this particular one will not end. It's frozen in my mind. I don't know if I want it to be frozen in hers, too. I don't think she'd like it to be. It's a selfish thought, like I want her to share my displeasure.

"Do you want to have coffee after this?" she asks.

I agree – I have, after all, been the one to offer it first this time – and we carefully put all the stones back in the box and the board back in the cardboard box and store it back with the other games on the shelf. The others follow us with their looks all the way there. Some of them are talking to each other, and I believe it might be about us, but I can't hear well enough what they're saying.
A girl is laughing. Did I do something wrong?

She stands still, looking out through the window and seeming unmindful. She's thinking about something, and so does I. It's that I doubt that we think about the same things, and then, although I don't want to, that the symmetry of that itself is beautiful.

There's an imaginary border deep in the mind, beneath which my thoughts haven't reached. I like to pretend that on one side of it is reason, and on the other is whatever is opposite to reason. I can't say for sure, but I think that I don't go there enough. I'm not sure if I go there enough to miss it, or want to, or want to go.

For the first, which in the manner of the second I cannot explain, I think that if it existed in reality it would've been a place that I would've liked to take her.

She says something, and to my shame, I am not listening. I know that I would've been offended if she's done this to me, and feel ashamed. Neither of us like not being listened to.

We speak so little that, when we do, it's because something must be said.

The clock is still ticking on the wall behind us. Outside, more and more of the yard away from the window is covered in darkness. Swallowed, but darkness isn't a living thing, and doesn't need to eat. It's not yet late enough for it to be the sort that does, either. I can still see the trees and benches and flowerbeds with my eyes. They look colorless, and soon their appearance would be a memory forced into my vision, and I'd have to tell myself that I can't truly make out the way they are.

It doesn't feel real to me. I don't care about the color of flowers, or whether or not they would change with the time.

"Do you like watching them?" I ask her.

She turns to face my way. Her eyes are glinting, moving quickly between the window and mine. She says that she doesn't understand.

"Do you like watching the flowers?"

She makes a gesture with both of her hands, towards each other, which I never saw her making before. It doesn't explain anything. I'm not even sure if she knows what it means. I want to ask, but air wouldn't come out my throat.

"I don't know", she answers. "Flowers are interesting, sometimes."

Her voice is so faint that it can barely be told from the room around. Like many things about her, it's subtle. It's thin.

"Do you want to come to my room tonight?"
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Gloom
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Re: A Beautiful Void

Postby brainy_kevin » Wed Dec 24, 2014 3:07 am

Nice read.
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