A girl and her cat take on the world with nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book and enough dreams to fill the universe.
Wow. Today is a special day. I have enough posts to merit an older posts button/link. Go. Look at it. It’s at the bottom of the homepage. I thought it was never going to happen. Today is also especially fantastic because it is my last Saturday on the overnights and last night/this morning was my last Friday! I am so close to being finished with Walmart, I can almost taste it. That’s right. It’s sweet. Like freedom.
Like that part in V for Vendetta, without the rain and fire and revolution.
Today is also a big day because, as I stated on Twitter yesterday, I am going to actually share some of my original fictional work with you. This is a big step and I am taking very deep, yogic breaths to calm my nerves because I am one of those “my work is never good enough” people. I go along with Leonardo da Vinci’s statement “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” (Or it goes something like that.) Anyway, enough stalling and more sharing.
This is about what this feels like….
Co-written with the beautiful Alicia Granger
Yakov stared at Emelia while she stood in her cage, scowling at him. He picked up a spare rod and tapped the bars at the foot of the cage, producing a tinny melody. He quirked her a smile and she turned her back on him. Lionel approached her prison with his eyes downcast. He reached out and gripped the bars, his face pulled into a grimace.
“Emelia, while I am not in agreement with the captain’s plans, I cannot stop him,” Lionel started. Emelia found herself cornered between her two least favorite people in a small iron prison. She huffed angrily at his excuse and shot him a glare. “Darling, sailors are a suspicious lot. You cannot take this too seriously. It’s not even permanent.” He stuck his hand through the bars and touched her arm; she brushed him off and stared at her brown boots.
“Like you did so much to try and stop Yakov. You really argued against this arrangement, didn’t you? Right, of course, I guess I forgot all of those discussions,” Emelia fumed. She grabbed the bars of her cage and thrust her face close to his.
“Emelia, I talked with him while you were…”
“Not around? Is that what you were going to say, Lionel? Not around? I have been chained to his waist for twenty five days. When have I not been around?” she cut him off. “I never want to speak to you again! I hate you!” she screamed, hot tears spilling down her face. “You didn’t even fight for my freedom. I hate you!” Emelia slid down, seemingly depleted from her outburst, until she was sitting in a lump on the floor of her cage. Lionel’s heart broke into a thousand pieces as he saw his best friend sniffle pathetically into her skirt. Yakov shot him a sympathetic glance through the bars, before prodding Emelia with his stick. She groaned in response. He poked her once more with more force. She spat on his shoe. His left hand shot through the bars and gripped Emelia’s hair and forced her up.
“You will stand,” he scolded. Emelia squinted her eyes at him in silent protest. “This will be good for you, you spoiled brat. You don’t realize it yet, but I’m doing you a huge favor. You’ll finally be cured of your snobbish, boring behavior.” He leered at her as she threw herself against the cage with a frustrated yell and reached futilely in an attempt to claw his eye out.
“We are ‘ere, Cap’n,” one of the crew called down. “Shall we give ‘er the big send off?” Emelia heard the clanking of pulleys and ropes and gears being pulled tight and turned. Her eyes grew big as her cage was lifted off the deck and began to swing wildly.
“We’ll be back in a short five months time,” Yakov said, waving his hat to her in a mock bow. She turned to look at Lionel, who looked just as shocked as she was. She stretched out her hand in a desperate gesture.
“Lionel? Lionel! Don’t let him do this! Lionel! Help!” she screamed as her cage swung out over the side of the ship and began to be lowered in jolting movements. “Wait! I don’t have the key! Help! Yakov! Yakov! You’re going to regret this, you son of a bitch!” she screeched back to the men on deck. Yakov grimaced.
“I’ve got to keep her away from my sailors, they’re teaching her unladylike words. She won’t be fit for you to marry if she keeps this up,” he said conversationally to Lionel. Lionel looked out at the descending cage with a panicked face before he turned the expression to the captain.
“She came all that way for me. She endured all of that hardship so that she could bring me home,” he said quietly.
“Frankly, my dear creator, she was a menace aboard my ship. I couldn’t stand it any longer, maybe this will help.” Yakov patted Lionel’s back in a gesture of brotherhood. Emelia’s screams could still be heard as she approached the earth.
“My god! You have just sentenced her to a death of starvation and you don’t even give a damn! You may pretend to be a man, but you are a poor imitation!” Lionel yelled in a panic as he turned and rushed below decks, abandoning the captain to his own thoughts and company. Yakov leaned against the ship’s railing and sighed. He looked down at his gloved left hand and opened and closed his fist, the feeling of disgust growing in his stomach. A half-bot. Not human and not robot. Stuck between two worlds, Yakov had come to despise both himself and his creator. He was an exile in limbo, a hell that could only be experienced by a free-thinking half-bot. Lionel had only created one free thinker, created only one damned man with no memory of who his biological body belonged to and a golden side to hide.
The ropes that were descending Emelia’s cage drew taught. Yakov called up to the men who were about to release the ropes, “We cannot afford to waste that length of cord! I’ll go down and unhook her and you will real me back in when you hear my whistle!” His men saluted, giving each other hidden glances. They knew, with the knowledge that middle-aged men who have sons and daughters all have, that their half-bot captain actually cared more for the girl he had just dropped overboard more than he wanted to admit. They only worried what would become of his affections as they watched him scale easily down the rope and back to earth.
Yakov’s boots landed steadily on the grass when he released his hands from the heavy cord. Emelia was curled up inside her cage, sobbing. She looked up at the sudden thump; her eyes lit up with a small glimmer of hope. Her hands gripped the bars of her tiny prison as she pulled herself up.
“I knew you wouldn’t go through with it!” she cried happily, reaching for the captain’s jacket. “You came back for me! Yakov, thank you! I owe you my life,” Emelia said with all the sincerity in the world. Yakov strutted over to the cage and kept his perpetual smirk on his face. He pulled the key out of his pocket and stuck it in the lock while Emelia stood breathlessly watching. She took a cautious step towards the now unlocked door that was only being held closed by Yakov’s body. “This isn’t… You’re not taking me back up to the ship, are you?” she said quietly, looking him directly in the eye. She cursed herself for even thinking that he would ever try to help her; he would never know how much she wanted him to rescue her.
“Consider it a debt that you’ve owed me for a long time,” he said, returning her stare. They stood there for a moment in a heavy silence, awkwardly hoping that the other would do exactly what the other one wished. Suddenly, Yakov couldn’t stand it anymore and shot his hands through the bars, gripping Emelia’s shoulders, forcing her forward. He planted his lips against hers and practically moaned at the bittersweet sensation of the intimate gesture. Her surprise was tangible in his hands, but it melted away as she leaned of her own free will into his embrace. Emelia’s hands grabbed at his lapels in an attempt to bring him closer. They stood like that for a long while, hands exploring bodies and tongues fighting for dominance. Just as abruptly as he had begun, Yakov broke the kiss.
“You have to be here in five months, please. For me. Be here,” he whispered in pleading earnest before looking at her for a brief moment that seemed to be endless to both. He shook his head and let out a long shrill whistle before shooting straight up into the sky.
“Yakov!” Emelia screamed in surprise and betrayal as she burst through her cage’s door. “Yakov! Yakov!”
“It’s Captain!” he shouted to her. She watched his quickly vanishing boots and the ship floating lazily above her. Her boot kicked at a pebble on the ground before she sat down heavily and wiped her mouth with her sleeve. She spat to her side in utter disgust. Why did she have to give in to him so easily, she asked herself. Why would she even let her heart flutter like it did when she saw who it had been when he arrived outside her carriage? Why had she been so elated the past twenty five days tied to the half-bot she thought she despised? She was engaged, but the captain offered something new and dangerous. Her fiancé was a coward and cared more for his machines than he did her. Emelia gripped her hair and pulled as she let out a frustrated yell. She was done playing with fire. Yakov would regret every warm feeling he had caused her to feel. She would turn her heart to ice.
“That’s twice you’ve stolen a kiss from me. I assure you, Captain, it’s the last,” Emelia swore to the white clouds floating above her. The black giant black shadows of clouds went unnoticed by the desperate girl. Her broken scream shattered the peaceful meadow’s silence as she pulled herself into a tight ball against the coming night and the fleeting warmth of the late afternoon faded into a distant memory. Her scream turned into choking sobs that robbed her of the precious air her lungs fought for.
“I want to die. I want to die. I want to die,” Emelia repeated to herself in-between gasps and sobs. “I want to die. I want to die. Oh, god. Why? Why, God? You think this is funny?” she screeched to the heavens. Ripping into the ground with her fingers in an attempt to dig her own grave, Emelia closed her eyes and gave into welcoming exhaustion as the first drops of rain fell.
Back aboard the ship, Yakov stalked into his cabin and looked out the shattered windows angrily. He pulled out his ornate chair and sat with his boots perched on the window sills, his fingers forming a point where he rested his chin. Damn that stupid girl for making him feel as though he was wrenching his mechanical heart from its human vessels. He was a half-bot, a free-thinking one, but a half-bot none the less. Half-bots didn’t have emotions, they had programs. Absentmindedly, he kicked out a single glass pane in frustration.
“Lionel. I need to talk to Lionel,” he sighed, standing up so quickly his chair fell over with a thud. Yakov strode across the room with purpose and left his chambers with a thread of hope in his wired soul.
Lionel was pacing down by the pipes and the furnaces, the sheer proximity of the machines offering him a small piece of solace. He pounded his fist against one of the pipes and pulled it back quickly, ignoring the large burn the hot metal had created against his flesh. Equations and inventions flashed through his thoughts while Emelia’s bright singing and worried face the day he had left served as an interlude between mechanics. What sort of man was he, to have abandoned his love to the plans of a man who didn’t have an actual brain, but a jumble of wires and electrical connections. Self-hatred filled Lionel and consumed every sense he possessed. He shouted in rage and threw a wrench across the dismal room.
“Sir,” Yakov said politely as he entered into the room, eyeing his creator warily. Lionel spun around, hatred flaming the life in his eyes. He stalked towards the half-bot and shoved him with every once of strength his body could spare. Yakov stumbled backwards, but did not fall. “I understand your hatred,” he began, but was cut off by a blow to his jaw. His human hand felt the place of impact and he smiled. Yakov delivered a swift backhand with his left hand to Lionel’s approaching figure that sent him reeling off into more steaming pipes. Lionel shrieked in pain from the hit and the burns the steam and pipes had created before launching himself at Yakov again. The half-bot stood calmly and caught its creator by the throat with its mechanical hand. Yakov lifted Lionel of the floor before slamming him down on his back. The sound of air leaving Lionel’s lungs registered in both men’s ears as Yakov straddled the now breathless man on the floor. He gripped his lapels and yanked Lionel off the floor so that he was staring Yakov straight in the eye.
“Now, Lionel, I have a question for you and you will do your level best to answer it. Why do I feel emotion?” Yakov asked sincerely, watching his creator’s face with an intensity that scared Lionel.
“You feel emotion?” Lionel scoffed, rolling his eyes. His voice was shallow and harsh. “I believe that you are probably just imitating the behavior of the people you see around you. You would not actually be able to feel emotion because you don’t have a heart and you don’t have a soul. You’re some Frankenstein creation that is half formed metal and half rotting skin. You’re a damned machine so quit pretending like you’re a person! You’re not! You are a machine that I created! I should destroy you! I was foolish and too young to understand what I was doing when I melded your parts together. I created a machine that is stronger than I am and I failed to program you. You believe you feel and are closer to being a human than a robot. Look under that gold plate on your head and you’ll find only wires. For god’s sake, you even smell of rotting flesh!” Yakov abruptly dropped Lionel’s coat and the man fell to the floor.
“You don’t know what you’ve created. I can feel and you are the one that is closer to a machine than I am,” he said as he stood. “Emelia loves you so much, Lionel. She loves you so much and you won’t even fight for her freedom. I intrigue you so much you have abandoned your humanity. All because I am the one that got away. You have abandoned the one good thing in your life. The one thing that you believe is capable of feeling and you let it go. You let me drop her over the edge of this ship! You let her go!” Yakov shouted at the man on the ground who was looking at him incredulously. Yakov sunk to his knees and held his head. “You let her go! You let her go.”
“I don’t believe it,” Lionel gasped. “You think you’re in love with Emelia!” He laughed outright. “You don’t feel, Yakov! You’re incapable of it. She’s in love with me! She’s going to marry me! What could you possibly offer her? A cold shoulder to cry on? You don’t even know what it means to be in love with someone! Emelia would never fall for you! She’s already fallen for me! I know her world, her hopes and dreams; I know her. You just tied her to a chain and had toted her around in some sick form of medieval torture. You have grossly abused this one woman and you did it out of ‘love’! I told you, you can’t love, you can’t hate. You can’t live.” Lionel continued to laugh maliciously from his place on the ground. Yakov quietly rose and rushed out of the room as the ship suddenly keeled right and panicked shouts could be heard from above. He didn’t care what Lionel said, he was in love with Emelia and he was more alive than the cold-hearted man sitting on the floor.
Hope it wasn’t too painful. I’ll see you all on Monday. (And here are some illustrations/character sketches from this story.)
This is Yakov. He wears an eyepatch to cover up his mechanical eye and a wig to conceal the gold plates of his skull. The rest is easily covered up by clothing and though you can’t see it in this picture, his gold plating is engraved. The backwards number in blue at the top is his make and can be found at the nape of his neck, right next to the off switch.
This is Lionel. I like to think of him as “Hipster-beta.” His colors never really match and he’s constantly getting grease spots on his clothes and ripping his shirts on random machinery.
If you can get over the really bad proportions of this picture, this is what Emelia started out in at the beginning of this story. (During the section you just read or pretended to read, she is not wearing this elaborate clothing.) There is a tiny green dot at the top of her red tie. You can’t really see it in this picture, but that is a green eyeball brooch. It is like a tiny camera that is constantly filming and the film goes back to this woman named Arden, who will eventually come out as that type of person who just wants to see the world burn.
There’s the tiny brooch again. I have no idea when Emelia would wear this, but this is who it is of. Victorian dresses rock on so many different levels.
And just because I can, here is my interpretation of my best friend’s four betas as characters in a Tim Burton film. All three of the male characters have sadly passed on, but that’s not surprising since it’s a Tim Burton film. Their names are (from left to right) Maximus, Elmo, Sophie, and Gordon.
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No One Here But a Writer Who Gets Up and Try
Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller
Psychological, thriller, mystery, secrets, betrayal, adoption, romance, poetry, art
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New York City based photographer STEFAN FALKE visits artists who live and work on both sides of the 2000 miles long U.S.- Mexico border to document the vibrant culture of the region for his ongoing project. All photos and texts © Stefan Falke (No use without written permission by the author)