Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Month: April, 2011

Ariel’s Story #9 – Fisticuffs

     I was dumbfounded. Have you ever considered the depth of that word? Dumb and confounded. That was me. Fully. I stood there in the increasingly cold, nasty water and stared. Something fell apart in my mind, but I could not think of what it was. It was like my entire understanding of how everything good worked turned out to be broken. For here was the Husband and here was the Bride. Combined they were the foundation of everything right and good and happy. And something was horribly wrong.
     I could not hold her mouth above water for long, and the Man’s strength overcame me and she sunk back into the water. Her eyelids began to sink again, like the look of a girl fighting sleep. Sleep won and she closed them. The Man looked at me without turning his head. Just barely a glance. As if only to let me know he saw me there, but was still choosing to ignore me.
     “Ho, there, Man,” I said. “What is the meaning of all this?”
     He did not look at me.
     “I say, what means all this? Why are you treating your bride so? I had heard you freed her, but now it seems she is your captive!”
     He spared me not a glance. I realized speaking with him was useless. It almost seemed that there was no life in him at all. And an ill realization took hold on me.
     This is not the husband of Sume el Raj. An impostor. A kidnapper.
     My heart sank into a hasty sort of anger. The anger felt pure. And maybe it was. I balled my hands into fists and set myself to fight against the man.
     I lunged forward and struck him in the jaw. My fist crumpled against him and I heard a crack as one of the bones in my hand broke. I yelled and fell to my knees in the pain, getting dirty up to my neck.
     I was so angry. Burning, red and black anger. So angry at this false husband of a man and the pain he had inflicted on me and Sume that I hardly noticed him place another hand on my head and push me lower into the water. I struggled and sputtered against him as the water entered my mouth and nose. I was able to get out, but not before swallowing more than a few mouthfuls of the grime.
     I stood a few paces off, wary of the insidious man who had so fully captured Sume and nearly me with her. I looked into his eyes and saw nothing. I looked into Sume’s eyes and saw that sleepy pleading. But I was not the one to save her.
     I came back to the shore, covered in grime. And there was, of course, no water to wash it off. My brethren were waking and doing their morning ablutions. It suddenly sickened me to watch them bath and drink that filth, though I myself was covered in it. I took my place among them, and starting following them in the morning wash, for it was the tradition of our group to do it. But something was wrong in the back of my head. Something that wondered why I was doing these things, while Sume was stuck out there in the dirt.
     Something must be done.
     But the man was so strong. So very, very strong. I looked down at my hand. It was purple and swelling. Throbbing in that way the cartoon cat’s hand throbs when the mouse whacks it with a mallet. But it wasn’t funny. It wasn’t funny at all.
     Can’t do it alone. I’d need help. I’d need …
     I looked at the people around me. Blessed lovers of the bride and husband. Blessed brothers and sisters who had devoted themselves to truth, yet washing themselves in lies.
     … an army.

Short Story – Layali

I was hoping to throw something else up before putting up another short, but Easter weekend being as busy as it was there was not much else to do.

Layali is a short story from about a year ago. It’s about a young Afghani girl struggling to find her identity in suburban Canada.

People are a lot more complicated than we usually give them credit for. We prefer things to be black and white. We like our films to have definite good guys and definite bad guys. We don’t like ambiguity. We don’t like things we can’t label. And that hurts people. Hurts lots of people.

Enjoy.

Short Story – Cleaning House

Cleaning House is one of my newer stories. It’s about a father trying to get his kids to clean the house. Sounds boring, but I don’t think it is. It’s funny and has some witty dialogue. It’s a lot more representative of the type of voice and writing I’m dabbling in than the last short I posted. Read it. Enjoy it. Tell me what you think.

Innocence Lost

I used to stare at this painting every time I visited my artist friends in Peterborough. It’s the kind of painting that grabs by the throat with silky fingers and demands to be gazed at.

My wife must have noticed, because she secretly bought it for me this month.

Paintings used to confuse me. I can look at stories and film and draw meaning from them pretty naturally, but I couldn’t do that with paintings. Until one day I was asking my artist friend what the rules were.
“What rules?” she said.
“The rules in interpreting art. How do I know what the artist is trying to communicate? Do colours mean something? Shapes? Help me out here.” Can you sense my desperate need to have everything defined and quantified?
“No rules, silly. Don’t try to figure out what the artist was trying to say. What is the piece saying to you.
Sounds simple, eh? Probably something you already knew. But it changed everything for me. I could suddenly see life in an art form I hadn’t understood. I think that’s when I really fell in love with this one.

Go check out Needle and Nest Design. Buy something. Leave an encouraging comment. Pick up some inspiration for your own journey. I sure did. Love you, Ben and Mel.

I looked up at the sky
    for I was innocent and fearless
And the sky opened herself to me and showed me glorious things.
    Things of sunshine
    Things of green
    Things of life and light and lovelies uncountable.
And everything was bright and beautiful.
    I looked with the longing on a child, my scarlet hair flying in the wind.
    I drank with reckless abandon, caring not for the cliche.
    In my hunger.
    In my desire.
    In passion, pure and pleasured.
Oh, it was good.

I looked up at the sky
    feared.
For the sky had died.
    Grey.
    Dark.
    Cold.
Silent stony streams with flowed dryly beneath me.
    I tilted my head to the heavens, lips parted in desire for something loved and lost.
    Hair torn by unknown hands, dipped in oil I could not rinse.
My thirst abandoned me.
    and my hunger
    desire
    blah.

Twit. Twitter. Tweet.
    Red, flitting and flying about.
    It landed before me, upon the crooked finger of a branch clinging to life.
    I wanted to touch.
    I wanted to reach.
    But I remembered the taint upon my head.
Twit. Twitter. Tweet.
    It bore its own mark
    yet was beautiful still.
    Yet was beautiful still.
    Yet loved still.
Am I still lovely?
    (yes)
Am I still beautiful?
    (yes)
I am pale and thin. I am sick and stained. But do you still look upon me with desire?
    (for the good is greater than the taint)
    Yes?
    (and the root is purer than the branch)
    Yes?
    (and dare not say otherwise, bride)
I looked up again, the bird was full of love and taint together.
    May I touch your bird?
    (darling, it was for that reason i sent him)

Review: The Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson

Even after all these centuries, seeing a thunderclast up close made Kalak shiver. The beast’s hand was as long as a man was tall. He’d been killed by hands like those before, and it hadn’t been pleasant.
Of course, dying rarely was.

Even without his contribution to The Wheel of Time, Brandon Sanderson is a valuable voice in the realm of fantasy. The Way of Kings, the first book in The Stormlight Archive, is his first shot at something with a scope as large as The Wheel of Time or A Song of Ice and Fire. I was a little wary as I picked it up.

I shouldn’t have been.

Like all of his books, the magic system is delicately defined and clever. But unlike books like Mistborn, the world is huge. I was worried about that only because when you read something with so many PoV characters you tend to love some and hate others. That’s what we all found with the Wheel of Time, right? (Oh no, not another Elayne chapter!) But with The Way of Kings I was surprised to see that I wanted to know what was happening with every character.

I enjoy how Sanderson is never afraid of pitting philosophies against each other in his works. Just like in Mistborn he examines concepts of sin vs purity, atheism vs religion and mortality vs ascendancy. And he does it all in ways that do not seem trite or preachy.

The Way of Kings tells the tale of a world at war from the point of view of warring surgeons, thieving scholars and mournful killers. The plot is deep and intricate. The characters are living and lovable. The cultures are many and true. I’m excited to see where this series will go. Pick it up. You won’t regret it.

Quotes:

– “Well, I myself find that respect is like manure. Use it where needed, and growth will flourish. Spread it on too thick, and things just start to smell.”

– “This last year in particular, you’ve become to be the person the others all claim that they are. Can’t you see how intriguing that makes you?”

– “You wonder why I reject the devotaries.”
“I do.”
“Most of them seek to stop the questions.”

– “Just an idle comment, nothing more.” He reached over, laying a hand on Kaladin’s shoulder. “My comments are often idle. I never can get them to do any solid work.”

New Story: The Dark Man

The Dark Man

I wrote this in the last few weeks of 2009. I was a fan of anagrams back then and supposed they were a clever and subtle way of putting hidden meanings into my stories. Not sure it worked. In this story, it only succeeded in giving my protagonist a really awkward name. Live and learn, eh?

The story itself isn’t all that original, I think. You’ll find similar themes in Star Wars and Mistborn and other fantasies. But I think it’s a theme that bears retelling. The theme of monolithic evil turning out to a bit more complicated and, maybe, earning a fleeting sliver of sympathy. And then the questions of whether or not that makes a difference.

I like this story because it came around the time I was trying to stretch and change as a writer. It’s my first experience with fantasy, my favorite genre, and even though I wouldn’t count it as an especially well-written work, it’s got a special place in my heart. Enjoy it.

The Greatest Writer in the World!!!!1

     She was the best writer in the world. Susan Less. Sue, to her friends. Never heard of her? That’s a shame. Because she was the best. Like, mind-bogglingly greater than any writer you’ve ever read. She would have made Stephen King look like Dr. Suess. She would have made Dr. Suess look like Spongebob. She would have made Spongebob look like … well, I guess it’s not hard to make Spongebob seem trite.
     You like Dickens? Austen? Twain? Their plots and characters would have looked as shallow as Dan Brown’s compared to Sue’s. And you want deep and hidden meanings? Yann Martel would have seemed preachy and infantile next to the gems Sue would have laid out for you. In fact, after reading one of Sue’s books, you would instantly be morphed into a newer, better person. Your eyes would be opened. Reading one of her books would, I imagine, be like beholding the face of God, watching him smile and say to you ‘Finally, my favorite child has come home.’ Yep. That good.
     What, you’re skeptical? You don’t believe me? You’re checking her out on the Internet now and can’t seem to find were bibliography? Let me prove her worth to you.
     They say the average person has a vocabulary of 4000 words. Shakespeare have something like 29,000. Slick, eh? Well Sue Less blows them out of the water. She knows at least 100,000 words! That’s right, there are English words out there that only she knows! Put that in your pipe and smoke it!
     And they say the best writers are prolific readers. So Sue rises again to the top. I can say with 100% certainty and no fear of hyperbole that she has read more books than every English-speaker put together! Boom!
     And as to the writing craft itself, she listens to every podcast, reads every blog and attend every single writing conference. The money she has spent on conferences, writing workshops and books numbers in the hundreds of thousands. No one has spend more resources on the craft than Sue.
     So there you go! I think I’ve made my point. It’s obvious that she is the best out there. Who else has such a deep, intricate knowledge of language and stories and style? No one. That’s who.
     I can’t wait until she finally writes something. Surely once she does, the world will be changed forever. Surely peace will come. Surely we shall all be forever changed and our hearts will turn to gold.
     Surely.