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Capture the Flag

cute dragon

Sometimes life just gets too much and something has to crack. I am afraid I have hit that point. I am making this an entry in the hope that I can save someone worthy from the hell of elimination.

And so.

Here I stand, in the middle of the field, right beside the flag. I'm just going to stand here and let someone take it from me. Run, little minions run!

Truth is I have way too much going on, and I hate bowing out, this being the last season and all, but it has been several weeks since I've really brought my A Game, and I don't think it's fair for me to keep skating by when others deserve my place more.

So this IS an entry, because I can take the fall for someone else instead of just bying out. But I ask you sweet people to let me fall. Don't vote for me. Read the others and vote for them.

Here. *hands over the flag*

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Letter to my past self.

cute dragon
I just reread this post, and realised that was less than a year ago.

So.

Dear Jax from a year ago.

Where you are here, not even a year from writing that post, is worth fighting for. We haven't got everything yet, no. We're not quite where we want to be.

But we have the people again. We have purpose. We have many of the things you were fighting for that day. We feel strong. We can see the road, the way to get where you want to be.

We have tribe again. We have people we can call up at any time of the day or night who will be there. We have so many of the things we didn't know we'd ever get again. We have A PLAN.

We're winning.

You built this life. Between then and now. You did this. And you're feeling pretty good about it right now. Your head is high, and you're making your life be what you need it to be.

It's going to be worth it. Keep fighting. <3

Love, Jax from today. 

When someone knows you

cute dragon
I've been retribing. It's interesting. It's been a while since I had a group of people who really got me around me on a regular basis. But it's happening. And then today this happened, and I had to laugh because it's a perfect example of that thing I keep talking about, where your people know you better than you know yourself.

I was talking to someone who knows me well, and I said that I am a pacifist. And he laughed and said, "You're not a pacifist!" And I said, "What are you talking about? Of course I am. I am firmly against violence."

And he said, "Well, yes, but that's only because for you words are so much more effective."

My weapon isn't physical violence, but that doesn't make me a pacifist.

I had honestly not ever not for one second thought of it that way.

But he's right. I'm a warrior. I just use words, not knives.

Huh.

I fucking love my tribe. 

The Fiction of the Fix [LJ Idol - Week 23]

cute dragon
I'm going obvious with this one, because this is a topic much on my mind at the moment.

Depression sucks donkey balls, guys. Not even just for the obvious reasons, where it saps your will to fight, and your ability to function normally in the world, and destroys your relationships. Those are all bad things, very bad things, but that's not what I want to talk about.

It's because once it gets in, even after you get better, you're only ever really in remission. You can take the pills and do the therapy, and implement any number of techniques to catch it and derail it, but it's always there, lurking. And the weirdest shit can trigger it.

Bad weather. The wrong song. A story on the internet that hits your buttons at just the wrong moment. A friend saying something in passing that you take as a pointed comment. And suddenly it all comes crashing down, and before you know it you haven't eaten anything except toast for four days, and you haven't showered and the idea of leaving your house fills you with a deep-seated dread that you can't even begin to explain to other people.

It's a sneaky fuck, and you have to be vigilant. And that's really hard sometimes. For me, the problem is that I need alone time, but that can morph so easily into depression hermitting. Especially when my kid is away visiting his dad. I have to consciously give myself a limit. Or each day try and evaluate whether it's really recharge alone time or whether I am switching to the other thing that leads to unshowered toast-eating hiding in my house.

I talk about my brainmonkeys, because I'm a narrative girl, and making it a story is how I give it meaning. But also because separating it like that from myself kind of makes it easier to fight. When I start to hear those voices (you're not good enough, no one really likes you anyway, you'll never amount to anything, this is as good as it gets, giveupgiveupgiveup), I can go, wait, that's not actually me. That's BRAINMONKEYS. And they're lying. It makes it easier to ignore them, shut them up, act like I can't hear them. Fake it till I make it.

I fought my way, tooth and claw and bleeding and weeping, out of that hole. But it's always there, one tiny misstep away, and I have to constantly be careful not to fall in. Sometimes I don't notice till someone close to me points it out. Sometimes I spot it coming and can derail it. My mental health is hard-won, and it's a battle that's never entirely over.

But I guess I have better weapons now, and that's something. Not fixed. Never fixed. But better, and more well equipped. 

Sweep the Leg [LJ Idol Week 22]

cute dragon
Gina is not a punk rocker. She's not a dancer. She has brown hair that she wears tied back in a ponytail. She plays field hockey, but not well, and only because they have to do a sport. She did ballet for six horrible months in junior school, because her mother insisted.

Gina is not coordinated. She read Twilight and snorted at the idea that clumsy girls could be attractive to boys. Gina is not attractive to boys. It's not that she isn't pretty. It's not even that she isn't interesting. She knows she's interesting. But she's shy, and she can't dance, and she's bad at sports and it takes a while to get to know her, so, generally speaking, the boys don't bother. They talk to the bright girls, the ones with perfect athletic bodies who can make their feet land where they want them to, and who have control over every movement they make.

It's not the boys that Gina envies so much as that control. That casual ability those girls have to make their bodies do what they want them to do. A small voice in Gina's head says she could get there if she tried. It's simply a matter of training. But another part of her believes that her lack of coordination is somehow in her genes, and not something that she'll ever overcome. She doesn't believe she'll ever have that comfortable ease of movement, that instinctive trust that her limbs are going to go where she sends them.

When she is alone, Gina sings. She never lets other people hear her, so she doesn't know how good she is. How her voice has that instinctive, comfortable ability she longs for for her limbs. She doesn't know that when she sings, when she raises her voice up, the world pauses to listen. Sometimes, on the really good days, Gina tries to dance too, but her feet are clumsy and her arms feel all wrong, and so she crashes to a halt, her body's inability to do what it's told inhibiting her easy perfect voice.

Gina sings alone. But one day, one day soon, someone is going to overhear her. She will be mortified of course, but it won't matter. Because once word gets out about her voice, doors will start to open.

Gina doesn't know it yet, but her life is about to change. Someone is going to hear that soaring voice, come to a standstill, and then show Gina just how special and effortlessly magnificent she can be. Someday, maybe, if things go right, she will even be taught to dance. It will never be effortless, like her voice is, but she will dance. And her feet will land exactly where she intends them to.

The Music Made Me Do It [LJ Idol - Week 21]

cute dragon
No matter how many deaths that I die I will never forget

The door opens, and I see that smile, that blossoming grin that reaches into me and sings to the thing that lives curling in my blood, that smoky darkness, like shadow, like love, like the place where the light and the dark meet. I know, in the first moment, that I should slam it shut, I know he's nothing but trouble, I know, I know, and yet I smile and welcome him in.

He meets me there, you see, he looks into me and sees the darkest things, the things I hide from everyone, the shadows, and he knows exactly what it's like to have that live in you, right there, keeping step with your light, driving you on and higher. He knows that that darkness is both my worst enemy and my greatest strength. He knows. And because he knows, I open my arms and pull him in. Because he knows, I ignore the warnings, hand my heart over, and stand there knowing I'm doomed, we're doomed, but we'll do it anyway.

No matter how many lives that I live, I will never regret

The thing is, over the years I have learnt two things.

The first is that I am bored by the good ones. Every time there has been someone who has been a 'catch', someone I could take home, someone who worships the ground I walk on, someone who will do anything for me, every time I've had the perfect romance white picket fence possibility, I've looked into it and known that I won't stay. That this thing in me, this curling smoking darkness will make me run. That I'll always need the wolves at my heels, and the song of the night ringing in my ears. I used to think that maybe if the right one came along, my wild heart could be tamed, but no. If you want to love a fire-beast, you must be willing to ride the wind with the smoke and the sparks.

The second is that I cannot expect the other ones to stay any more than I can be expected to stay. The ones who know, the ones who feel the fire the way I do, we burn out fast, we explode, and they leave. They leave for the same reasons I leave. Because they get bored, because a new thing appears, shining and tantalising, and they, like me, must run to get it.

I used to think this meant I was doomed, either to boredom or heartbreak, that there was no middle ground, it's one or the other, always. But now I think maybe the key is to love the elemental thing lightly, to laugh in joy at her flight, to watch his hunt with your own hunger, to embrace the wildness, drink in the dark, and not try to change it. You cannot harness the wind, and you cannot clip the wings of a dragon. If you must love the elemental things, and some of us MUST, then you must have the courage to love it absolutely, even the parts that run and scream and bite and flee to the night.

There is a fire inside of this heart, and a riot about to explode into flames

They named me after a thing that burns, that is light and fire and pain. They named me for the thing in me that scalds when it touches, and I believed no one would ever stand in that light, in the full force of that fire, and not crumble to ash.

I should have known it would be a blacksmith. I should have known that if anyone could withstand the thing in my blood, it would be someone who knows how to twist flame to make beauty.

And so, though I know the danger, when he reaches for me, I reach back. When his teeth sink into my skin, and his nails rake across me, I cry out in pain and love and pull him closer, and we fall, spinning, into the fire, into the dark, through the hurricane, into the eye. And in the eye, the dark is the light, and it is there on the edges of the impossible, that love burns.

Crash, crash, burn, let it all burn

====
The song that inspired this can be found here, but be warned, the vid is NOT worksafe.

Rapture of the Deep [LJ Idol - Week 20]

cute dragon
Maria is standing at the edge of the universe, the edge of everything, the edge of time itself, maybe. Her feet are firm on the ground, her face raised to the sky, her eyes closed.

"Mother", she whispers into the rising wind. She can feel the thing at the centre of the world, restless and churning, full of all the creative and destructive power of the universe, calling to her, singing to the blood in her veins and the thing in her belly that wants to twist the world.

She is so far from home, so far from the bloodlines that define who she is, that she cannot help but reach out across the wastes, out across the space that isn't space, the thing at the centre, the place in the heart of all things that throbs and throbs and aches to be free, to explode, to be out.

She can feel it all, the earth and the ground, and the waters and the fire, like magma, but made of all the ideas ever, and the thing around her neck, the thing the old woman gave her, it burns and burns, and she thinks of the old woman's eyes and how cold they were and wonders for a second whether she knows the truth, but it is too late now, because she has uttered the Words of Power she was given, and she knows her feet are on the ground, and she knows (maybe, she thinks?) that the wind blowing about her is not a real wind, it is the wind of stories, of blood, of magic, the wind that blows between the words, between the notes of songs, and she knows she can ride it.

She can feel the chains too, the fetters that hold that thing in place, that power in the middle, that deep deep sea of creationdestruction, that spinning churning thing. She knows they are strong, that she has it under control, and then the very next instant she knows to the depths of her being that the control is an illusion.

Her eyes fly open as she realises that she can't contain this thing she has done, and this time when the word is torn from her lips, it is a prayer, pleading, and then it is the sound of a small human just calling for comfort, "Mother??"

The earth bucks beneath her feet, and she falls to her knees, and now the wind is not just a wind, it is screaming, screaming every nightmare horror tale, every screaming character dying beneath the stabbing of their writer's pen, every idea, terrible and horrific, flying out into the world, every beautiful terrible thing that has ever been imagined, all collapsing around her, flying around her all at once.

She can't see for the dust rising up beneath the wind, the wind that shouldn't have been a real wind, and she is at the centre of it, small and broken, and unable to contain it. But she must. She must.

And so she hauls herself to her feet against the wind. She raises her hands, she reaches deep, deep into herself, and outside of herself into the thing, the place, the magical centre of all things, and she grabs the reins, the chains, the thing that holds the sea in check, and she yells out her Words again, unable to hear them as they are torn from her lips. She feels the thing, the Deep, buck and scream against her control, but she regains it, slowly, slowly, too slowly to stop the damage it is wreaking on the world, but she pulls it back, and closes the door.

By the time the wind stops blowing, she is more tired than she has ever been, her legs shaking, her arms bleeding from the things in the air slicing her skin. When it stops blowing, she falls, falls down against the earth.

The old woman's eyes were too cold. She should have known, she should have...

"I'm sorry, Mommy", she whispers, wondering if it was worth it, if she made any difference, before the blackness washes over her, sparing her temporarily from knowing the horror of what she has done.

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I'm intersecting with the ever awesome deidrewilliams, and her entry is here.

Kindling [LJ Idol - Week 19]

cute dragon
"It smells like summer," she says.

I smile and glance across to where she is splayed out on the grass like a cat, feline and graceful and feral, still in the clothes she went out dancing in last night, and came back in long after the sun was up. One arm is arched over her face, elbow shielding her eyes from the sun, and she is the epitome of relaxation. I can almost hear her purring.

"It is getting to that time of year," I say, raising my face to the sun which is hot for the first time in months. I pop a chip into my mouth. Bast showed up with Steers takeaways, and is lying on her stomach on the grass, her chin resting on her arms, eyes closed.

I know that over the next couple of hours they will all show up, one by one, drawn together by the unheard story of the night before, by the sunlight and the leftover alcohol in their blood. Pulled by the thing Sunshine's not telling us. This happens sometimes, when one of us needs it. It is unspoken, a force of nature, like gravity, like the way the compass point turns north.

And they do, one by one, in various states of hungoverness and slightly embarrassed sleepiness. They gather, we gather, in the sun on the grass in her backyard, waiting for her to tell us.

Once we're all here, she raises herself on one elbow, and smiles an uncharacteristically guileless smile.

"All my girls are here. You must be worried."

"What happened, dragonlass?" says Lupe, her voice the perfect pitch of concern and lack of judgement. Lupe's always been able to draw her out, make her tell the truth in ways she won't to me. I am too close. I am too in love with her.

She shrugs, and looks away. "Nothing, really. There was a boy." There's always a boy. She pauses, staring out at nothing for a moment. "He was new though. There's something different about this one."

Hawk cocks her head, a small smile dancing round her lips. "We've heard that before."

Sunshine frowns. "I know. And yet." Her frown deepens. "He's... like me. Like us."

We glance at each other. That much is new. She normally keeps them at arm's length even as she reels them in. To pull one into this circle, that would be new.

She shrugs then, like she's shaking it off. And then she smiles her evil smile, the one that makes them fall at her feet. "He tastes like sin. And home. And fire."

"So like you then." The words are out of my mouth before I can catch them, and I look up and she is smiling at me, a smile like the sun. Get too close to the sun and you'll combust.

"Yes, Whisperlass. Just imagine what we're like together." She shivers then, though it's hard to tell which shiver it is - fear or desire. Maybe both.

Lupe is frowning. "He sounds... dangerous. To you." That's new too. It's normally the other way around.

Sunshine's smile broadens. "Yes. It's delicious."

Lupe laughs a small wry laugh and shakes her head. "Be careful. I mean, I know you, so I know you won't, but I love you so I have to say it anyway."

Sunshine blows her a kiss, before her face settles into a strangely soft look. It is so unusual on her that for a moment I don't recognise it. Then with a start I realise that it's wistfulness.

"It's nice though," she says, softly, "not to have to hold it back. Not to worry about burning up one I like."

"You sure about that?" I say. Even I have been burned by her on occasion, and I'm arguably the person she loves most in the world.

"He is made of fire too." She is speaking soft and slow, like the words for what she wants to say don't exist. Then her smile blossoms again, and there is real joy there. "I don't think I can hurt him. Not beyond a certain point, anyway. I may actually have met my match. Finally."

Bast giggles. "That should be interesting."

Interesting. That's the word all right.

====================

* This is the beginning of the answer to the question asked at the end of the last Sunshine story I wrote. What happens when she meets her match?

Disinformation [LJ Idol Week 18]

cute dragon
When you let yourself think about it, you know it's wrong. You know omission is lying. You know that if you were honest with yourself, you'd recognise that hiding who you are from the people closest to you hurts everyone, yourself included.

When you let yourself think about it, you know that you can't really be loved by someone who doesn't know who you are. You look at him, and he smiles at you, that bright, amazed smile he's always smiled, like he's not sure how you ended up in his life, and you know what you're doing is cruel. But you know you can't stop. Or you can, but it would be a lie too. The only way to stop is to stop being yourself, and now that you have it back, you can't do that.

But the only way to stop lying by omission is to tell the truth. The whole truth. All of it, even the ugly parts. And you know that's going to hurt him, possibly irreparably. You have a lot to lose both ways, and you honestly can't tell which is worse. So you stop thinking about it, and vow to deal with it. Soon. Sometime. But not today.

The thing about lying is it gets easier with time. You develop habits, techniques. You learn what to blow off as unimportant. You learn not to leave your phone lying around. You learn to hide the smiles, and the shining eyes when you get the thing you're hungering for. You learn that maybe just one person really seeing you is enough. And then you learn that it isn't.

Over time it becomes habit, and then one day you think about how you used to vow that you'd live your life in such a way that you could never be blackmailed, and now that's not true. You read an article about how much strength it takes to tell your partner you want an open relationship, and you fill with envy for people who have that strength. You hear about people having honest and true relationships, and you find yourself wishing so hard that you had that, but you don't. Because you lied, and now coming clean is so much harder. You should have told him earlier, but you didn't, and now you're pregnant with his child, and how can you tell him now? Now you're in love with someone else, and it's not just "I want an open relationship", it's "I want an open relationship with THIS person". And that seems impossible.

So you don't and you don't. You should, of course you should. You should have said it when you first realised it was what you needed. Before other people became involved. Before it became about more than just who you are. Before you became a cheater.

But you didn't. And the lies weave you in, trap you in a spider gossamer web of sticky emotions and guilt until you can hardly move or even breathe any more.

So one day you tell the truth. All of it. And it blows everything up. Not entirely, and not all at once. But suddenly you're shining lights into all the corners you haven't looked at, and all those sticky gossamer cobweb lies are being blown away, and you can breath for the first time in years. And when you start to breath, you start to realise just how much you gave up.

Your relationship doesn't survive. It might have if you hadn't started lying, but it's too late for that. Because now you know the things that are true, were always true. Now you know who you are is more important than holding together the story you were telling yourself about your future. Now you know that sometimes in order to really know who you are, in order to be true to that thing, you have to have the courage to tell the truth. You have to have the courage to be seen. REALLY seen.

And when you do, nothing beats that. That's how you find out who you are. And who really loves who you ARE. The price is high. But it's worth it.

"You can hide and be liked, you can even hide to be liked. But you can't hide and be loved." - chuckatwood

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Hi LJ World

cute dragon
So, I haven't posted anything here that wasn't an Idol post in a million years. Give or take. I've been toying with abandoning LJ once Idol is over. But I dunno. I used to post nearly every day for a while, but my writer voice is finding other outlets these days.

Haven't really decided. Mostly just wondering who's still out there and reading? Anyone?
cute dragon
Trigger warning for rape.

Hitting post on this is terrifying. I'm going to do it anyway.

This is a true story. Well, part of it is. No, all of it is. It's also a fiction. Well, part of it is. No, all of it is. It's also an origin story. Sunshine's origin story, to be precise, and while I've told it a million times, this is sort of her version of it. Which makes it definitive, in some ways. Stop dithering, Bel. :)

You don't have to vote for me, of course, but please be gentle on this one. :)

Cut for triggerinessCollapse )

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Chekov's Gun [LJ Idol Week 15]

cute dragon
Here is the thing.

Sometimes you know; sometimes it is written right in, right at the start of the story. You walk in, and you know it's a tragedy. You know this tale ends with heart-break and woe, and you follow along anyway, because you love the characters, because life can be so beautiful on the way to heartbreak and woe.

Sometimes the outcome is inevitable. Sometimes you look at the patterns, and you think, 99 out of a hundred of these lead to fiery horror and pain and tears, and then you look at the one shining other possibility, and you think, maybe, and you follow the road anyway.

Sometimes you walk into the room, and the gun is on the shelf, and you can see it, and you know, because you know narrative better than anything, so you know what it means when you walk into a room and a gun is on the shelf. You know how stories work. You know how this ends, with blood and weeping, but then you turn and see the beautiful things the room holds, and so you stay anyway.

Sometimes someone strolls into your life, all shining and smiles and wonder, and you take one look at them and you know, right away, this is trouble. This person is trouble of the best kind. This is one of those people who makes waves and ripples that will echo and echo for years and decades across your life, and you know you should back away slowly, or better yet, turn tail and flee. You know the only possible outcome here is heartbreak, but you also know that that's how stories start. So you stay.

Because the madman in the box offers to show you all of time and space, and you know it's dangerous. You might die. Terrible things might happen. You'll never be the same again. And you go. Because wonderful things might happen. And you'll never be the same again.

Because when a man in sunglasses offers to tell you the truth of the universe, you say yes. When you find a magical land in the back of a wardrobe, you push through and explore. When the letter comes saying you're a wizard, you get in the train.

You know stories. You know how they work. You know that when the beautiful person who makes your soul leap holds out his hand to you and says, "Do you trust me?", you have to say yes, and take it. And jump.

Even when you can see the gun. Even when you know it'll end in heartbreak.

You may crash to your doom, but at least you will know what it felt like to JUMP.

Confession from the Chair [LJ Idol Week 14]

cute dragon
They watch it in the millions, tuning in every week. Some live-stream on the website, the more old-school turn on their televisions, all over the world.

One chair. One camera. One story. Every week.

Some are horrible. There is the child who sits, quietly, not fidgeting. And in a small clear child voice, with her hands folded in her lap, she stares straight at the camera and tells how she pulls the legs off beetles and the wings off birds. She talks about how interesting it is to her to watch the blood pulse out, slowing as the heart does. She wonders aloud whether humans do that too.

Some are sad. There is a woman who chain smokes in the chair, her hands moving all the time like tiny desperate birds trying to fly away. She says she knows her husband is cheating on her, she tells the things he says to her about how useless she is, how she'll never amount to anything without him. She says, "I know I should leave" and her hands flutter uselessly against the air, moths against an invisible barrier, "but where would I go? He's right."

Some are beautiful. A young man sits and tells a story about the boy he met in Peru three years ago, when he was seventeen. About how they fell in love and kissed, and made love outside under the moon, and listened to birdcalls he didn't know, and looked at an unfamiliar sky of stars. He says he had to leave, and they lost touch, and he's fallen in love since, but part of his heart remains in Peru, fucking gloriously under a sky full of the wrong stars.

A handsome man smiles deprecatingly at the camera and talks about his perfect life, his beautiful wife and their three daughters. He has a good job, and a nice house, and solid car that he bought new. They eat good food, and have excellent friends who come round for barbeques and beer on the weekends. "But," he says, leaning closer, telling his secret to an audience of millions, "really, all I want to do is run away. Go somewhere new, where no one knows me, and start all over again, this time be who I really am. I'm not this suburban husband and father. I'm something much more interesting. I must be."

A beautiful woman sits, lounging, deceptively casual. She's super-model gorgeous, thin, with long blonde hair, perfectly made up face and nails, black high heels, legs to kill for. She smiles at the camera, while they hold their breath, waiting. She has everything, she must, mustn't she? Looking like that, like she could make Fred MacMurray kill her husband for her. What secret could she possibly have? Then she sighs and says, "All I really want is to be a man. But I'm so good at being a woman. And so I don't change. Even though I hate all of this." She waves her hand up and down her perfect female body, and looks so sad our hearts break a little, even those of us who envy or hate her.

Week after week, they come. They sit. And they tell their stories, their secrets, for a world of people who watch and judge and laugh and cry and sympathise. The next morning, hour, minute, there are always memes and tweets flying across the waves, across the world. Messages of love and support or hate and judgement. Hundreds of people shake their heads, say "I'd never do it, I don't understand why anyone would sit in a chair and tell their deepest secrets to the whole world."

But it's simple, really.

Everyone just wants to be heard.

Time to fly [LJ Idol Week 13]

cute dragon
It's time to fly.

Ask me how I know? Ask me how this building feeling in the pit of my stomach translates into wind under my wings. Ask me how I know that the tide is turning. That it isn't just about my fabled itchy feet. Ask me.

I know, because the earth tells me. I know because the wind changes, and I can smell it, like the woman in Chocolat. I know because my ties to where I am are lessening in favour of where I'm going. I know because I can feel my wings unfurling.

I've been grounded so long. Some of you never even knew me before I got grounded. Some of you never knew the version of me that could make magic happen with her hands, the me who was able to make things out of thin air, who was able to have an idea, and chase it down and make it real. Who would fly to the ends of the earth in search of an adventure. Who was unafraid to hold her head up high and peek over the edge of the sandbags just to see what was there.

It's been so long, and I doubted myself so hard for such a long time. I moved from crutch to crutch and excuse to excuse. I kept affirming my wings, like I thought maybe if I said it loud enough it would be true, and I could believe again. But I didn't know. I didn't believe. I couldn't trust myself enough to jump.

Well, I do now. I'm scared, of course, because jumping off cliffs is scary. I might fall. It may have been too long since I unfurled them, they may be stiff and cobwebby. But everything I have done for the last few years has been leading me to this point. I wanted a life where I could live by my own rules, stand in the sun in all my glory and say this is who I am, take it or leave it. I wanted a life where I wake up knowing what I am doing MATTERS. Every day. I want to use that fire that's been burning in my belly again, slowly slowly coming back to life. Sooner or later I have to stop hiding behind my crutches, stop making excuses, and really jump.

Maybe my wings won't flap so hard, maybe it'll take time to get back up to where the air currents really let you soar. Maybe I'll have to learn to fly again, painfully and slowly.

Or maybe I've been learning all this time. Maybe I've been jumping and crashing, and jumping and crashing and getting back up and healing and jumping again all this time. But now. This is it.

Time to fly. 

A Barrel of Monkeys [LJ Idol - Week 12]

cute dragon

I know that look. I'm watching her as she's dancing, and I see it happen, watch her cross over. She's suddenly not dancing for joy, there is something else, something predatory in the way her hips move, something dangerous in the way her eyes wander around the place, looking for something. When they light up, I follow her glance and I see him.

He's a pretty average patron of this place. I don't know him, but I know his type, and I know Sunshine, so I know he doesn't stand a chance. I watch the smile form on her lips, I watch her draw his gaze and grin, and then dance away, making him wonder if he imagined the connect, the frisson of power, of attraction she sends out.

I don't know how she does it. I know by now that her magic is a real thing. I've been around her long enough to know that the swish of a dragon tail, the fire in her, none of it is quite human, it's something else. I've seen enough to know that she doesn't always have control of the thing that burns inside her. I know her well enough to know that when she goes hunting, she doesn't care who she hurts.

I'm not responsible for her, of course, but I try to minimise the damage she causes, and so I cross her path as she's bee-lining for the poor boy at the bar.

"Buy you a drink, Sunshine?"

"Whisper-lass!" She is happy to see me, as always, and she plants a kiss on my forehead which burns, like her kisses always do. "I am fairly certain my next drink is taken care of, but if I bomb out, I shall take you up on that."

I catch her hand as she's sliding past me - she can be very single-minded. When she turns, there's a small echo of anger in her, frustration at being slowed in her pursuit. "What did he do, Sun?"

"Do?"

"To deserve you." I am not normally so blunt, but I've been watching her do this for a while now, watching her burn them out. Watching what they're like after she's moved on, bored. She laughs, a high brittle sound, and cocks her head quizzically at me. I have never seen her look so fey.

"Why, Whisper, my darling, I do not know what you mean."

I roll my eyes. "You do, love. You really do."

She hardens then and steps into my space, but she is my best friend and I know (I do, don't I?) that she will never hurt me, not me. Her eyes flash, and her voice is like ice and fire somehow mixed up together, hard and bright and dangerous. Soft, but scathing.

"If he hasn't, he will. You know it. Stop trying to save them from me, Whisper. I'm not doing real damage. And they earn it, every one. I'm not talking about this right now. I'm having fun. This conversation has no place in fun." The last word is spat out, like a curse. I seldom risk her anger. Few of us do. But tonight I am tired of the fighting, tired of her anger, tired of how she burns and runs and burns and flies.

"Sunshine. Remember who you're talking to. I love you. I just... this can't be right, this thing you're doing."

Her smile returns, harsh and dazzling. Her voice is flippant. "What am I doing?"

"You're burning them up. They're different after you."

"Yes. That's the idea."

"But why? What does it prove? It doesn't change...."

She is suddenly right up in my face, her eyes afire, green and definitely, unquestionably, alien, for just a second. "Stop." Her voice is a hiss, angry, vicious. "Stop, Whisper. We don't talk about that. EVER."

For a moment, the world is spinning, and all I can see is that fire inside her, that vicious flame, never quenched, always hungry for more, always angry. And then suddenly the moment has passed, and she runs a finger down my cheek and smiles, cocky and playful, not dangerous, not vicious, just my Sunshine, my girl, this fire-thing I adore. She grins at me, kisses my cheek, light and quick.

"It's nothing, darling girl. Just fun. I'm just having some fun."

And she's gone, wandering over, and I watch him smile, confused and happy to have her attention, and he buys her a drink and I watch as she plays her game, a hunter, a siren.

"Oh Sunshine-girl. One day, you'll meet your match. And then what? Then what?"

Fun.

A barrel of fucking monkeys.

Recency Bias [LJ Idol - Week 11]

cute dragon
Molly goes to wine-tasting club. Every second Tuesday night, she puts on her coat, gets in her car and goes to sit with a bunch of other people. They swill and taste, and talk about the legs and the flavour notes, like they know what all that means. Molly has no idea. She had some notion when she started that maybe she'd gain some elegance, some sophistication, if she could talk knowledgeably about wine, but over the weeks she's been going, she has come to the conclusion that none of them know anything, they're just making it up. She thinks maybe somewhere out in the world there are people who maybe do know, but none of them are in this club.

I like this one. It has.. fruity overtones. Easy to drink. Probably good with fish.

It was started by Larry. Larry is a middle aged man, with a slightly pudgy centre and a nearly receding hairline who fancies himself a sophisticate. Larry is one of those men who is uncomfortable around women, like he thinks they're some kind of strange alien race, and so he's developed all these little 'tools' for dealing with them. The wine thing is one of them. He thinks if he knows about wine he'll impress women. He also talks endlessly about his salsa dancing. Molly thinks about what it might be like to dance with Larry, and shudders. He's just a little too handsy, and a little too vocal about what a "nice guy" he is. She knows that type. That never goes well.

Ooh, this one's even better. I like the slightly tart aftertaste.

Molly works in an office, pushing papers around and getting things signed. She hates her job, but she's too scared to leave. She doesn't really know what she'd do if she could do "whatever she wanted" anyway. She was a hard worker at school, got good grades, but never really felt passionate about anything. She joined the wine club in an effort to get some glamour in her life, but she thinks maybe the rest of them did too. Most of them are nice enough, Larry's creepiness notwithstanding. There is laughter and she thinks she's having fun, at least some of the time. Sandra always makes that "spit or swallow" joke and they all laugh and she winks, like she's being risque. Molly thinks Sandra has her eye on Allan, a shy IT guy with a warm smile. Allan is oblivious though.

Oh wow, I love this one! It would work really well with dessert, don't you think?

Sometimes Molly wonders whether she should invite some of them round for dinner. Maybe not all of them, but she likes Sandra. Sandra laughs easily and loudly, not like most of the women she knows, who titter behind their hands like laughter is something shameful. She has fantasies where she and Sandra becomes best friends like she sees on TV, sharing their secrets and drinking champagne and toasting their friendship as they vilify their last ex-boyfriends. Molly has never had a best friend like that. It's been years since she had anything she'd call a real ex-boyfriend too.

Mm, I love a robust red.

As they pick up their coats, and say their goodbyes, she and Sandra head to their cars which are parked side by side.
"You were quiet tonight, Molly," Sandra says. "You know, I've noticed you always like whichever wine we have last the best."
"Do I?"
Sandra nods. She pulls her car keys out and stares at them for a second. "I probably shouldn't drive. I definitely swallowed more than I spat tonight." She rolls her eyes. "It's been a long week already and it's only Tuesday. You know how some weeks are like that."
"I can give you a ride," Molly hears herself saying.
"Really? You wouldn't mind?"
Molly shakes her head. "You'll be able to come back and get your car in the morning, right?"
Sandra nods. "Yeah, I don't usually take it to work anyway. No parking for such lowly types as me at the University."
"You work at the University?"
Sandra nods. "Well, sort of. I'm studying. International Relations. When I started I had high hopes of working for UNESCO or something, but now I think I'll be lucky if I can get a lecturing position." She pulls a face. "Academia, man. You're lucky you avoided it and got a real job."
Molly snorts. "Yeah, lucky. I hate my job."
Sandra stares at her. "Really? You seem so... content."
Molly shakes her head. "Nope. Not content. Bored, mostly."
Sandra gives her a long, long look, and then grins, mischief in her eyes. "Screw this. Let's go out. Find a bar, drink too much, dance. Let's do it."
For a moment Molly is about to protest, she has work in the morning, it's a Tuesday, she's always so responsible. But she stops herself. She's always so responsible. She wants a best friend. This is how those stories start, right? So she grins back at Sandra.
"Okay. Let's go."

This one. This is my favourite.
cute dragon
Heartbeats: Voices Against Oppression is now available on Amazon, in both paperback and Kindle editions.

Paperback here.
Kindle here.
And it's on Goodreads here.

This is the blurb from Amazon:

Heartbeats: Voices Against Oppression was created as a collaboration between M. Kate Allen, Jax Goss of Solarwyrm Press, and Kristen Duvall of Fey Publishing. We wanted to create something that would speak powerfully for the many thousands of men, women and children worldwide who live enslaved and oppressed, while simultaneously raising funds for those who fight trafficking and slavery. In this book are stories of oppression and liberation, of empowerment and the stripping away of power, of enslavement and escape. Many are hard to read, many will break your hearts or make them soar, all are united in the idea that the use and abuse by some humans of other humans must stop. Every person who worked on this project did it for free, so that absolutely all the profits made from the book can go to notforsalecampaign.org, and the excellent work they do. By buying it, you are helping that work continue. May we someday live in a world where such work is not needed.

===

I'm incredibly proud to be part of this initiative, and the important work it supports at Not For Sale. It's not news to anyone that I am powerfully opposed to all forms of oppression and othering, and I think that this sort of slavery and trafficking is something we as a species need to stamp out. Every person who worked on this book, from the writers, to the editor, to the publisher, to the cover designer, did it for free, so that every single cent we make from the sale of the book can go to this very important cause. The stories are difficult to read in many cases, touching, and haunting and profoundly moving. Some are heart-breaking, some are empowering, all are worth the read.

So buy it. Because it's good. Because the stories are incredible and should be read. And buy it to support the Not For Sale Campaign.

Let's prove the power of story, of narrative, of our voices, can make a difference in the world.

Love [LJ Idol Week 10]

cute dragon
Here is my advice.

Love.

Love against all odds, love when you shouldn't, love when it's hard and hopeless and impossible. Love when it's easy and everything falls into place. Love as much and as often and as rashly and with as much abandon as you can muster.

It's going to hurt you sometimes, it's going to explode and end and you'll think you can't go on without it. It's going to bring you to your knees, it's going to make you crazy. It's going to destroy you, tear your heart out. Sometimes it's going to be thrown back in your face, rejected outright.

Do it anyway.

Because it's the point, it's the reason, it's the thing at the heart of us as people, and if you don't choose love, you'll have to choose being afraid and hidden. I'm not only talking about romantic love, either. Love your parents. And if you can't (some people can't, for good reason) then love your siblings. And if you can't (some people have terrible siblings) then love your children. And if you don't have children, love your friends. Love your hobbies. Love a TV show. Love the sun. Love the snow. Love yourself. (That last may be the hardest.)

Love.

There is an episode of Torchwood where a character has been brought back from the dead (yes, I know, that happens a lot in that show), and one of the others asks her what's there. And she says something about how when you die there's just darkness, and all we can do against it is scream. And I remember when I saw it, I said, "No, we can SING."

Because that's what we do against the darkness. We love, we SING, fiercely and violently if we have to. With as much light and strength and beauty as we can. When faced with the abyss, all we can do in the face of that is LOVE. Be the shining thing in the night. Be the light.

And if you can't love lightly, then love darkly. If you can't love easy, then love HARD. If you can't love softly, then love ferociously. Afraid of the hurt? FUCK THE HURT. Love anyway. Afraid of the loneliness when love leaves? Everything ends, baby, LOVE ANYWAY. Afraid that it will break you open? Good. You should break open, we all should. It may hurt like a motherfucker, it may tear you to shreds. But it'll teach you to stand back up. It'll teach you that you CAN stand back up. So do it anyway.

Because nothing is better. Nothing makes you feel like you are standing on the edge of a cliff singing into the wind like love. Nothing is as loud a song in the darkness as love. Nothing makes you feel as alive as love. It is the heart of everything. It is a choice we all make. Love or fear. Fuck fear. Love.

Do it.

Face the abyss, the uncertainty, the fear. Accept that it might hurt you, probably WILL hurt you. And do it anyway.

LOVE.

Tags:

Yes, And... [LJI Week 8]

cute dragon
This is a rare non-fiction LJI post, because I cannot resist a prompt that so expresses exactly where in my life I am right now.

I have an ampersand tattooed on my right forearm. It has a wider story, which I have told elsewhere, but I am mentioning it so you know how important this is to me. It's so important that I marked my body with it.

Several years ago, I discovered the music of Amanda Palmer, and, specifically, this one song, Ampersand. Here it is, for those of you who enjoy having a soundtrack.



I'm not gonna live my life on one side of an ampersand,
Even if I went with you I'm not the girl you think I am.


These were the lines that ended my marriage. More or less. I mean, of course it's not that simple. My marriage ended because I realised I was pretending to be something I wasn't, someone I wasn't. My marriage ended because I realised that I was compromising things I wasn't willing to compromise any more, and we couldn't find a way to make that work. My marriage ended cos I cheated. Because he wanted me to be someone I wasn't. Because I had tried to be someone I wasn't, and I couldn't lie any more. Because for us to go forward, one of us would have had to give up our SELVES, and that's not an acceptable solution. For a million tiny and huge reasons that added up to the end of a road we were done walking together.

It was messy, we both made big mistakes and handled things badly. In the aftermath, I nearly lost myself altogether. I waded through depression, financial hardship, I vanished. I VANISHED. I stopped being me, and became nothing but the struggle to survive. And then something started to happen.

I came back. In small pieces. I started piecing my history back together, stitching my story back into place. I started looking at all the broken things, and the amazing thing about that place where everything is broken, is that you can CHOOSE. You can look at the pieces, and decide which bits you're going to keep and which bits it's long gone time to let go of.

I chose Yes. AND. I started looking, and I started picking out the bits made of yes. You know, the thing about me, the real me, deep down under all the inevitable bullshit, is that I'm basically a people-loving hippy optimist. All the cynical hating so many people do? I just, I am not built that way. At my best, when I'm really inhabiting myself, I am mostly made of joy and inclusion. I had sort of forgotten that.

It's crazy, because time and again people I love and respect have said that to me, that the thing about me is that I wear my heart on my sleeve, I'm just not that mysterious. I'm inclusive, I give people the benefit of the doubt, sometimes long after I should probably have stopped doing that. Someone very close to me recently told me that I am like a puppy, my love is blatant all over me all the time. For a minute I was weirdly offended, because we're supposed to be aloof and mysterious, right? But then I thought about it, and, well... is that so bad? To be quietly joyful. To focus on the YES?

I have wasted years of my life
Agonizing about the fires
I started when I thought that to be strong, you must be flame retardant
And now to dress the wounds calls into question
How authentic they are


I have some wounds. I am scarred. They're all internal. Doesn't everyone? But I keep getting up. I am the dragon girl. I am the motherfucking phoenix. I am Sunshine. I am the Bright Girl. Throughout my life, I've been given these nicknames that are about fire and light, and it's good to feel like I am that thing again. The thing based in joy. I tell people that I love them again. I stopped doing that for a while, which is weird, very weird, if you know me. I told my romantic partners, but not all the other people. Now I do. Because I DO. I love my people. I love people.

I'm reconnecting. I'm pulling the strands of my tribe and gradually tying them back together. I am mending that web of connect, that thing that was my superpower. Last night one of my oldest bestest friends said to me, "My Jax is BACK!", and I could FEEL the truth of that. I am, once again, all the best parts of who I was fifteen years ago, but with a bit more wisdom, and a greater ability to temper my more destructive impulses.

I feel like ME. Consistently. Not in small flashes of memory, but like I am actually returning to myself, regaining the balance of that intrinsic thing that is me.

I'm saying yes.

Yes, love, and yes, friendship, and yes, light, and yes, joy, and yes, ME.

YES LIFE.

And I may be romantic
And I may risk my life for it
But I ain't gonna die for you
You know I ain't no Juliet.

No True Scotsman [LJI Week 7]

cute dragon
Gladys is gorgeous. He stares at her across the room. He's never spoken to her, but they've worked on the same floor of the building for a couple of years now, and every time he sees her he is struck by it again. She's perfect. And they'd be perfect together. He knows it.

He watches as she pours herself a cup of coffee, looking up to smile and greet a coworker. She's always smiling, he thinks. She must be the warmest person he's ever met.

Not that he's actually met her, of course. There was that one office party where they were seated at the same table, and someone at the table introduced everyone. He spent the whole night trying to work out how to talk to her, but the others were all so much better at it. Conversation flowed easily around him, and then that tall guy from the mailroom asked her to dance and she was gone, circulating and talking to people who weren't him. She's so confident, he thinks. Perfect.

She catches him staring, and he looks away quickly. When he glances up, she's coming over. His hands start to shake. She sits down in the chair beside him.

"Hi," she says breezily, "It's Jon, right?"

"Jeff," he corrects. She almost knew my name.

"Jeff! Of course, I'm sorry. It's hard to keep everyone straight in this place." She laughs, and her laughter is like a peal of perfect bells.

She is looking around. The room is fuller than usual. "Is it someone's birthday or something?" she asks.

"Retirement," he replies, gesturing at Mike, who is finally leaving after being there for over thirty years.

"Ah," she says. She pulls a face. "Old people, man. Don't you hate them?"

He glances at her. It seems a strange thing for such a kind, warm person to say. "I suppose we'll all be old one day," he says.

"I guess," she brushes it away. "I hope I never get like that though. All sad and small and wrinkled and void of life. You know?"

He glances at Mike. Mike is still a pretty healthy guy. He's known him for a long time. He's retiring to pursue his dream of riding a yacht around the world. He certainly isn't small and sad, and definitely not devoid of life. He looks back at Gladys. "I guess you don't know Mike very well?"

"Why would I? Isn't he IT? I just call them when the computer breaks." She leans closer to him as if letting him in on a secret. "They always tell you to restart it. You know what? I always say I have, even if I haven't. I mean, come on. Like that really works."

She's smart, he thinks. I've known that for a long time. Isn't she?

"It actually helps with a lot of issues."

"Oh god, don't tell me you're IT too?"

"No. I'm in Accounts. But I do know a bit about computers. You pick things up."

"Maybe you do." She laughs again, a discordant note. "I can't be bothered with all that. I just want it to work, you know?"

He looks at her face. She was beautiful, he was sure of it. But now that he looks closer, he notices that her nose is a little sharp, her eyes dart around too much, like she's always looking for someone more interesting to talk to. Her mouth is just a little pinched.

She downs the last of her coffee. "I have to dash. Busy busy, you know!"

She barely acknowledges his "See ya" before she is on her feet and moving away. She walks over to Mike, gushing and smiling, wishing him well, and then she's out the door and gone.

He stares for a while at the door through which she left. He always knew, he thinks. He always knew she was a bit shallow. And now that he thinks about it, she was never that gorgeous.

He drinks the last of his cold coffee, and goes back to work.

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