Chapter3: “The Serpent of Old”

The darkness pressed heavily down on John.

It beckoned him to fall down to his knees, to submit.

He struggled to stand, though immobile.

John curled his fingers inwards and felt his palms begin to dampened. His breaths shortened.

It wasn’t that he couldn’t see anything that was scary. No, the scary part was that he didn’t know what to fear to begin with. He began to understand the terror of loneliness, of not existing. John closed his eyes and thought of his mother’s cold hands cupping his face. He thought of her eyes, stern, her lips, pouting. She was never the one to yell or even raise her voice. He felt the love behind her scrunched eyebrows and crow’s feet which he learned from his father never to mention. He opened his eyes again, and it crushed him harder, even now.

From behind the thick drape of blackness, a monotonous drone drowned out his breathing. It had always been there. The slight pressure against his eardrums was becoming unbearable now, filling his mind until it was empty of thought and fear. The constancy of the sound lulled him into an uneasy stupor, helpless to even shield his face from the unseen horrors.

In the darkness he felt tiny. He wondered if the end was an arm’s length away or if the expanse even had an end. Afraid of being pulled into the emptiness, he kept his arm by his side and tightly balled up the end of his loose shirt.

He peered into the infinite blackness, trying to uncoil the void before him. The sound segmented into a rhythmic pulse, echoing all around him. The pulsing didn’t go very far before it came back twice as loud, sharpening into a hiss that pierced his ears. John saw a sudden movement as the noise cut off. In the darkness all he could make out were two angular eyes, yellow and glazed, and fleshless lips framing a set of polished fangs. Out from the shadow, a snake sprang at him. His muscles unlocked and with a swift, fluid motion he stepped to the side. He felt the smooth scales brush his face and a chill emanate from his spine. As he completed his revolution, he met another pair of eyes.

Just like that he was frozen again. There was no sound of struggling, but John could see the snake coiling around the figure’s neck, about half a foot below his bloodshot eyes. Despite the hostile hisses and display of the porcelain fangs, it seemed like the snake had no intention of biting its victim. Those eyes held him there. There was a feeling of betrayal behind them. “Why are you just standing there? Why aren’t you helping me?” they seemed to ask.

John turned around again and ran. It wasn’t his fault. In the stillness it seemed like he wasn’t moving even though his lungs burned and his legs ached. He didn’t mean for this to happen. He felt like a child, locked inside a room, madly pounding at the door, desperate for the sliver of light peeking through at bottom. It was an accident. He couldn’t face the darkness looming over his shoulders. He couldn’t look back. Although he knew the real danger was on the other side, he longed to join the shadows dancing behind the door.

“Why aren’t you helping me?”

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Here you go! Hope you guys enjoy this. It’s sort of like an intercalary chapter and this sort of theme will be repeated throughout my writing. As always, feedback is very much appreciated and need. Crush my soul as long as it’s with constructive criticism. Thanks and hang on tight for the next chapter!

For past chapters click here.

 

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Try the peanut butter pie

This adventure started with a little app called Ness. This a user-based app, with its simplified interface, makes recommendations based on past eats, location, time of day, and of course how fat you and your wallet are feeling. It’s a foodie’s paradise.

I don’t just love to eat, because who doesn’t? I love to try new things. I’ve written another food related post called Spice of Life actually.

Scrolling through the app, I stumbled across Shuck Oyster Bar. It didn’t take me long to deduce through the reviews and pictures that it was located smack dab in the hipster capital of Orange County: SOCO. I knew I just had to go.

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Stepping into the restaurant, I’ll admit there was a twinge of intimidation, but it was everything I expected: modern whitewashed interior with some wood decor, oversized incandescent lightbulbs, an iPad-integrated cash register, and chalkboards plastered on the walls. I basked in the sophistication of the wine racks and took my seat. The service was incredibly attentive start to finish (which could be contributed to the fact my friends and I were the only patrons during the afternoon lull).

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To start off, we order the Seafood Stew, Chowda, and grilled cheese. I’ll keep the descriptions brief as I understand this isn’t a food blog. I’m sure you’ll all appreciate it though.

Talk about authentic! The Chowda here made me rethink everything I thought I knew about clam chowder. The bits of fresh clams in the ridiculously smooth and creamy soup was almost as killer as the inevitable heart attack in my near future. If that wasn’t bad (good?) enough, the block of butter that came neatly tucked between the accompanying bread definitely was.

 

 

The grilled cheese was a pretty $10. It’s a simple sandwich but you could see the aged fanciness ooze from its crispy sides. I guess it’s a dollar for every year the cheddar is aged. While the seafood stew was my least favorite dish, it served as a delicious dip for the sandwiches.

 

We washed it all down with our cucumber-infused water and mentally prepared ourselves for the oysters.

I went with the chef’s selection of a dozen oysters. The variety was outstanding, but the most notable one was the Naked Cowgirl, both for the name and the taste. It was on the larger side and the brininess was just right. With a cheers, we downed those shucking oysters and knew the bill was going to be worth every penny. The taste of ocean definitely confirmed their claim of getting their oyster fresh daily.

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I see you all scrunching up your noses in disapproval as you picture me slurping down the raw oyster as a string of slime trails from my lips, but a wise man once said, “Always try the peanut butter pie.”

Peanut butter pie actually sounds delicious so I’m not sure it’s the best analogy, but the idea is spot on. Why risk the chance of missing out on something beautiful just because it’s a little out of your norm?

A passionately driven food fanatic.

A hunger inspired knowledge seeker.

A promoter of personal adventure.

A collector of edible experiences.

Those are the words of Robert Navarro, writer of 100eats. I find “hunger inspired knowledge seeker” epitomizing of myself: I eat not only to satisfy my hunger but also my curiosity. I want to experience everything I can in life and that just happens to include food. I am very grateful for a family that doesn’t mind my picking off each of their plates. I get fidgety when I’m limited to one dish. I’m the type that asks “Are you going to finish that?” before you’re two bites in. I don’t know if that makes me a pig or a “passionately driven food fanatic” but let’s go with the latter.

I also inherited my father’s love for travel, and I’m waiting for the day I can take my adventures all over the world. That would be the life. I’m also waiting for the day I can return to this establishment and try the $20 Belon oyster, French imported. Anything topped with creme fraiche and Osetra caviar has to taste good, even if it means you have to fool yourself into thinking so.

I will not recommend this restaurant specifically, but I’d definitely recommend you all get out there and experience something, food-related or not.

The Writer’s Curse

“He peered into the infinite darkness  pitch blackness  nothingness, trying to uncoil the void that laid before him.”

That’s a possible bit from my upcoming Chapter3. But I’m struggling to find those perfect words that would truly describe the darkness. Darkness (in concept as well as semantics) is very vague in of itself. To leave it at simply darkness would be doing the word an injustice. Unknowingly writing poorly is one thing, but it becomes a sin when you deliberately cop out, knowing full well the literary potential you’re squandering. This is no mere belief. It goes beyond that. I am incapable of betraying myself to this. It eats at me, like when you’re grasping at the air for that word dangling off the tip of your tongue. You know it’s there – that it exists – but that knowledge only makes you want to explode with frustration. And compromise is never an option.

To help some of you guys understand the degree to which this eats at me, I have once scoured a dictionary to find a word, going off of nothing but its first letter. Why is that anyway? How is it that our brain manages to know what the word starts with yet keeps the rest of it from us? Anyway, it was u. That’s all I had. Fortunately, the u section is relatively short and the second letter was b. Now and forever, ubiquitous will be seared onto my mind.

Fun fact: ubiquitous is the most looked up word starting with u.

It definitely was a pain to go through all that, but when I pumped out my final draft, read it over again, and saw how snugly that ubiquitous fit in my piece, I knew it was all worth it. Sometimes a single word can make all the difference in setting up tone and tying together your writing. At that point you can’t really call it a curse anymore.

Writer’s blessing-in-disguise doesn’t flow all that well though.

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Sit tight, my loyal readers. I’ll get Chapter3 out before the end of this month. Thanks for the continued support.

Rainy Day

Ever since I can remember, I have always stayed up to listen to the rain on the side of my bed. Not so much look at it, but rather stare out into the darkness and listen to the pitter-patter against my window and the constant trickle down the gutter. At 3AM, the rain drowns out all other noises. The complacency of the stillness and silence gives time for contemplation.

Thunderstorms are a whole different story. I can’t help but smile as a heavy one rolls directly over me. It’s exhilarating yet at the same time comforting. I get chills all over just thinking about it. I feel like the lightning is a flashing sign that says, “Hey! Get ready! The thunder’s coming. Wait for it…”

BOOM! goes the thunder.

Being from California, thunderstorms are a real treat. I’m sure anyone reading from Texas could care less and probably scoff at my naïve enthusiasm, but over here it still holds a novelty factor.

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There are those devastating mornings when I would wake up to see the puddles of drowned earthworms and realize that I had missed last night’s rainfall. But the rain would greet me (almost apologetically) with that clean-smelling aroma that’s probably one part asphalt and two parts acid rain.

There are so many kind of rains. There’s tropical rain. The kind you can strip to your underwear and dance around in (given you’re a child and it’s culturally acceptable wherever you are). There’s windy rain. The kind that gives you a friendly smack on the face time to time and gives the rain bursts of energy and dynamic. Then there’s weekend, winter rain. The kind that makes your heart jump out of your chest and dance as you imagine shredding down the slopes the next day with powder all up in your face. Or maybe that’s just me.

Then (if you’re really, really lucky like I am right now) there’s rain at the crack of dawn, when the birds come out to join in it’s chorus.

Space Team

“Engage the freaking Tachyon Drive!”

“Stop yelling at me!”

“Newtonian Photomist to full power!”

“My station is falling apart!”

“Wait! Wait! Everyone flip! Incoming wormhole!”

“We’re all gonna die!”

“NO! Not like this. Not here!”

And that was a brief example dialogue one would expect during a game of Space Team. The exclamation points are understatements of the loud chaos that ensues. If I could only recommend one thing for the rest of my life, it would be this game. I literally want to add exclamation points to every sentence, but just assume that from now on. Accept the excitement that is oozing out of me right now.

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Here’s a quick rundown of the game:

You and up to 3 other people are in a spaceship. Commands are listed on each device (phone or tablet). It may be for you or another member, but everyone must communicate and collaborate to get it done before the timer for each instruction is up. Too many mistakes and you all die a painful, fiery death.

It’s a ridiculously simple local multiplayer game with retro 8-bit style graphics, but probably the most intense and interactive game out there on the app store. It’s easily overlooked (took me a year before I finally tried it out), but once you and a couple friends download it, it’s SPACE PARTY time! For added chaos, they have a “Massive Mode” which doubles the max amount of player but is prone to crashing.

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Now let’s get deep (since this post can’t just be a game review).

Although this game teaches the wonderful and vital concept of teamwork, it also brings the worst out of us. The further we hurtle into the “heart of darkness” of deep space, the more chaos rises to the surface. I probably get the worst with my patience. I’m the guy that is playing on other people’s phones in addition to mine and screaming out commands. And this is just a game. I can’t even imagine (or rather I do not want to imagine) how crazy I’d get in the face of actual life-threatening danger. Would I be the first to abandon ship and grab the only escape pod? Would I be the one that betrays the crew to the alien bounty hunters chasing us? I hope all this psychoanalysis doesn’t kill the game for me, but that’s some food for thought.

We truly get to know ourselves when inhibitions are forgotten amidst chaos.

Chapter2: “Moon under her feet”

The thing’s mouth unhinged and an airy rasp came out in place of a groan. OK. Not the time to panic. I pulled out my wand and blasted it with some Lacarnum Inflamarae.

Damn it! Still a muggle.

With the bitterness of old wizarding dreams crushed long ago, I sprinted across the room as the thing got its head through the window. I gave it a shove and felt my hands pass right through it. Its decayed flesh crumbled between my fingers like dry sand.

I couldn’t stop. My body kept going forward as if I had passed through little more than a cloud of thick musk. The momentum carried me over the ledge and out into the biting winds.

CRAP, CRAP, CRAP, CRAP!!!

Cold air whipped my face for a split second. This might be a good time to mention that my room is on the second (and three quarters) story.

The thing’s snarling was quickly replaced with the crunch of my ribs splintering. The thing about Newfoundland’s winter nights is that the fluffy white powder we all know and love freezes over pretty hard. But hey. Instant ice pack, right?

My lungs were emptied along with a good deal of my bladder. I took half a breath in and felt my limbs go numb and my chest explode with burning pain. My blood pumped faster and harder against my battered insides, forcing me to let out the little air I was able to take in.

The thing had disintegrated underneath me, and the dust from its remains filled my throat. The particles hovered around me, eager to replace the dust that I managed to feebly cough out. The ringing in my ears was fading now, and I was able to pick out some faint moaning. I shifted my weight to the left where I felt like there were fewer broken ribs. Sheer horror washed over me as I rolled onto my back. There were more. More of the things. Zombies. Walkers. The undead. Whatever you want to call them.

I screamed for help. Loud. I don’t know what nonsense people tell you about being so scared they can’t make a sound, but through the splitting pain and all, I yelled with everything I had.

It felt like the desolate town absorbed the sound of my desperate cries and ravenously devoured every thud from their approaching footsteps. Not an echo. A blanket of silence had fallen over, muffling, suffocating me.

I had never felt so alone, so helpless. The cricket chirps ceased. The snow felt warm between my bare toes. I couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t think. With every exhalation I could feel the life leaving my body. I was trapped.

As my vision faded in and out I saw the corpses become corpses again. Their limp bodies fell to the ground. All but one. A girl. She wasn’t the same decayed earthy brown. Her pale skin made her look dead but in such a different way. A beautiful way.

The pain in my chest melted away as I stared into her blue eyes and my breathing steadied to the rhythm of her gentle footsteps. These weren’t generic blue eyes. They were that exact shade the dawn sky gets right before the sun breaks its horizon. Soft and tranquil, but tinged with a fierce purple-red.

I closed my eyes and let the darkness envelop me.

“It’s okay. I’m here now.”

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I’m terribly sorry for the wait guys. I’ll be sure to get these next chapters out faster, but out of everything on this blog, I want to maintain the quality of the novel itself.

As a novice writer, I’d appreciate any and all feedback (positive and negative) from you guys. I really hope you enjoy reading this chapter!

If you haven’t read the previous chapter yet, click here.

Legostalgia

Nostalgia is easily one of the most powerful tools with the widest range of emotion you can use in your writing. You can break a reader down in reminiscent tears or bring that smirk to the corner of their lips. And behind that tiny smirk can hold so many beautiful memories.

Today I saw the Lego Movie. Out of all the movies out there, this was the one that coaxed that rebel tear out from my eyes. This cheesy, stop animation movie  opened the floodgates of childhood memories. I looked back at the crazy robot fights I had with my friend with our made-up rules. Half the battle was being able to agree on which rules to allow. Then there were the cities and towers we constructed with the mismatched bricks we could find. It was our own little world we its own set of laws. We had the freedom to do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted (until dinnertime of course).

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The Lego company made a brilliant move with this film. The whole franchise relies on nostalgic references whether it’s Star Wars, Harry Potter, or Batman. This is what makes literary allusions so great too. With a simple reference to another preexisting work, the reader can get so much and you as the writer didn’t even need to delve that deeply into the matter. However, it also relies on the reader’s knowledge. For example, my cousin who lived most her life in Vietnam was in the theater too. She literally slept through the movie about 15 minutes in. The play on nostalgia had absolutely no effect on her because there were no memories from which nostalgia could stem from. She had marbles, not Legos. So with these sort of things, extra attention to the target audience must be kept in mind. 

What is something in your life that holds a lot more meaning behind it than it normally should?

Just a dream?

Have you woken up from an amazing dream and desperately tried to recollect its events as more and more slipped away?

My dreams are intricately cinematic with multiple POV’s and angles, action sequences, conflict, and love interests. I rarely recall my dreams though. The great part about that, however, is that it sort of filters out the boring dreams. My subconscience even manages to slip in some emotional scene to tug at your (or I guess just my) heart strings or throws in slow-mo here and there. I like to imagine myself as a director in these situation so forgive me if I speak as if my dreams have an audience. My dream even have establishing shots. But the thing I appreciate most of all is the attention to detail of it all. The plots are original, sometimes even interesting, but it’s so broken up. So sporadic. This is exactly how I feel with this whole project. The ideas are there. But the continuity is lacking. And I’m only on the second chapter! So I end up with the Miami Heats. Great components that struggle to work together. A mashup of incoherency (albeit great incoherency) where the only conflict exists with the storyline.

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This is another topic all together but imagine not being a mere spectator of something but actually experiencing it. Take “living a dream” to a whole new level. Imagine immersing yourself into a movie so deeply as to have your adrenaline rush, your tears fall, and your breath cut off. I want to create something one day that does this to my audience: weave a story so intriguing with imagery so beautiful that they pay no notice to the realism or verisimilitude.

My first chapter was a breeze because I was just laying down the foundation. Now there’s the whole issue of building upon it, while maintaining sense and furthering the plot. And it’s only going to get harder as I get farther and farther into the book. (I apologize in advance but I love my metaphors) If I seek to build a skyscraper, I better plan it pretty darn well before letting people go in it. But if every story is making the building more unstable, I can’t really continue from there.

So where do I go from here?

Frankenstein

I have been able to read Frankenstein, a classic tale of a monster that learns how to read and speak French. These are some things I was able to take from it:
Again the motifs of tragedy (the murders of Frankenstein’s loved ones) dominates the book. I found the contrast between and disruption of Frankenstein’s picteresque life with that which was to come (although like the rest of the book it was excessively drawn out). Then there was the supernatural aspect which always sparks at least some inkling of interest in me, especially when a little science fiction is thrown in the mix.

I thoroughly enjoyed the irony in the fact that Frankenstein essentially created his on undoing. There was the constant battle in my mind of whether he deserved it or not. This ambiguity is what I believe kept me engaged in between the horrendously monotenous painting of nature scenes and meticulous narration of every little thing. Who was the real monster? Frankenstein or the creation. It was rather frustating at the same time because just as you begin developing sympathies towards the well-spoken creation, it’d go off and kill someone.
The conflict of mankind vs the monster has its ups and downs. What I mean by that is Mary Shelley draws the hopeful gleamor from your eyes that perhaps somehow the monster could make it and then BAM! She grinds it beneath her feet. This ability makes or breaks writers in my opinion. The ability to manipulate your readers in a certain direction only to throw them the opposite way. Toy with their emotions and make them audibly vocalize gasps of shock.
I hope I can pull that off in this mystery, thriller of mine.

Green Eggs and Hamlet

Just one chapter in, and I’m suffering some mild writer’s block. I feel like I’m chasing a plot without a map. Just running around looking for any clues. Unfortunately I’m not much of a sleuth. I have so many ideas floating around though. Now I just need a net to catch them all. Maybe even get a scrapbook with cute, artsy paper to put them in. I’m sorry. Sometimes I get carried away with cheesy analogies. I hope none of you are lactose intolerant. Ok that was the last pun. It was a Gouda one though wasn’t it.
Anyway, although I didn’t get much writing done, I did finish up Hamlet. It got me wondering what about Shakespeare’s work made it so entertaining. The supernatural aspect of King Hamlet’s death made it edgy. Murders are always interesting. The play started and ending with murder with Polonius’ sprinkled into the mix. But I think what really hooked people was the life he endowed his characters with. Pure emotion poured from their raw personalities. I hope to make my own characters just as rich and dynamic. A great plot can’t go anywhere if they are no great characters to drive it forward. I  imagine it like pasting some stick figures onto the masterpiece that is the Island of La Grande Jatte. The landscape and scenery is all there, but it most be given life, depth, personality by interesting characters.

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