Author Archives: KatieHal

Counterpoint: I Don’t Wanna Die

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My friend Auston has posted today about the age-old (ha!) sci-fi genre question, “Who wants to live forever?” He does not.

Counterpoint: I don’t wanna die.

Dying, quite frankly, terrifies me like nothing else. The very idea of it is something that I cannot honestly focus on without getting seriously freaked out. I consider myself to be more spiritual than religious, so while I’m not sure what, I do feel fairly confident that something is out there greater than us. I believe humans have souls. I believe that what we do matters.

And yet…I can’t convince myself that I know what will happen to me when I die. Is there a Heaven? Will I go there? Or will be it a fiery abyss for me for some reason? (I actually don’t believe that Hell can exist as given to us in Biblical terms, not in parallel with Biblical Heaven. How can we exist in a state of pure joy and happiness for all eternity if we know people we loved in life are suffering in damnation at the same time?) Will I exist as some sort of ghostly spirit, lurking about in the material world yet never interacting with it? (Now THAT sounds like Hell.) Or will I simply cease to exist, end of story, into the ground with me and that’s that?

This latter one terrifies me most of all. It’s impossible to really conceive of an end to awareness, simply ceasing to be and that’s that. So that leads into considering awareness of only an endless dark abyss and absence of everything, which similar to a ghostly existence, sounds like Hell. Really, almost all these options are not desirable, for all that death is a part of life. Some sort of reincarnation or Heaven sounds good, but neither of those are things I can ever know to be true or not without the death part, the risk that they are wrong entirely and I just cease to be.

Which brings us back to: I don’t wanna die!

(As a sidebar, growing old has a lot of downsides I’d be okay with avoiding, too.)

We’re talking sci-fi here, too, of course, so let’s take a practical look at the popular options for How to Avoid Death Without Even Trying.

1) Vampires

“Drink from me, and live forever.”

This is NOT a vampire.

Vampires have a number of variations in fiction, so we’re going to take the basic and most often-used traits.

The Cons: cannot go into daylight or you will die, a stake through the heart will kill you, and holy items harm you.

The Pros: live forever so long as you avoid a few certain things, eternal youth, and by most accounts you get to be superstrong, fast, can heal all other wounds, and are nigh-invulnerable.

The If-y Parts: You have to drink blood to live, technically a walking corpse, and you might by your nature be a killing machine without a soul.

I’m not an outdoorsy person, but I like getting some sun now and again (with a heavy dose of SPF 30+), so no more sunlight is kind of a bummer, but I think I could deal with it. I would miss barbecues, though. It would be more awful if I couldn’t be awake during the daytime at all, but I don’t think that trait is prevalent enough to be a given. Avoiding getting stabbed in the heart and touched by holy objects wouldn’t be so difficult. So the cons are so far things I can deal with, if they are unfortunate and things to be on the lookout for. The pros speak for themselves and sound pretty good to me!

Now the If-y Parts, on the other hand…well, these are the things that are either in too much contention in the genre to be certain of or things I’m really not so sure I’d be okay with. Walking corpse is one of those things were in most fiction, they seem to get by okay. Vampires are cold to the touch, no pulse, but usually seem to get by just fine, no issues with a lack  of blood flow and frankly their sex lives seem to improve if anything. But there’s a big issue for me here: that means never having kids. Some people don’t care about that, but I do, I want kids someday, and this would be a real big end to that idea. Then we’ve got nutrition. Blooddrinking is kind of nasty when you get down to it, and does that mean I couldn’t eat anything else? Or would food just not be as good anymore? I like food! I’d miss food a lot. I also don’t dig much on drinking blood from just about anything, from people to little furry forest creatures.

And finally, the soulless/killing machine factor is rather up in the air as well. I REALLY don’t want to be a soulless killing machine. I might not give a crap about that once I am one, but I’d like to not become one and go around killing people and so forth. Not on my agenda at all.

If I could get a definitive answer on the killing machine thing, I might go in for being a vampire. You get a raw deal on some things, but there are a lot of pros to outweigh the cons.

2) Immortals, Highlander-style

These guys start off not knowing they’re Immortal, but they get there after they die the first time. Which could lead to wacky hijinx, some serious confusion, or outright hysteria. The shocking reveal of their true nature aside, let’s get into long-term Pros & Cons.

Are you SURE there can be only one?

Pros: You have eternal youth AND you’ve still got a pulse! Good for you!

Cons: Really, none, beyond the everyone you love will grow old and die around you part, but that’s a given for all of these.

If-y Part: For some reason, There Can Be Only One.

Why is that If-y when it’s the driving point of all six five movies (the 6th is a reboot that’s still in pre-production), the live-action TV show, the 3 cartoon shows, and at least one (crappy) video game?

I answer with another question: How many Highlander items did I just list? (11 10!)

This ‘there can be only one’ thing is total crap! There was only one at the end of the first movie, AND YET….! So it’s a load of BS, by the series’ very own vague continuity problems. On top of that, WHY can there be only one? Just ’cause seems to be the answer. You’ll get some bad apples in any bushel of a certain size, but it seems to me that most of these guys could’ve just, y’know, agreed to NOT kill each other and everything would be just fine.

But to honor the idea of the series somewhat, it would be a big Con if a handful of other people were really interested in taking off my head for a piss-poor excuse. Guys, I’d be happy to share my knowledge with you if just asked, y’know. On the other hand, avoiding a select few individuals and not getting into swordfights shouldn’t be all that difficult.

3) Immortals, demi-god style

Not actual gods, because that’s going outside the human race completely. But these are the demi-gods who pop up in fiction who are human descendants of gods and often are themselves immortal.

Pros: Immortality, eternal youth, and quite possibly some cool powers

Cons: ….

If-y Parts: Your divine parents may be a divine pain in the ass.

Yeah, that’s all I got for this one.

4) Mutant Healing Powers

There are two big examples from pop culture I can use here: Wolverine from the X-Men, and Claire “The Cheerleader” Bennet from Heroes.

I don't care how much mutant healing you've got, this is a terrible idea.

It's...clobbering time?

Pros: You heal everything, and you do it so fast that you are slow to age and possibly immortal.

Cons: ….

If-y Parts: You don’t actually know if you’re immortal, and the government may want to perform experiments on you.

You can still feel pain, you can still bleed and breathe, and you don’t actually know the extent of your own immortality. Could you survive a gunshot to the head? Do you really want to find out? Also, there’s that pesky government that shows up in these stories more than others.

This one’s kind of ideal. How often do normal people stumble into life-ending situations? Far less than these people do in fiction, that’s for sure! So avoid those, avoid the government (how well you can do this may vary), and you’re pretty much set if you’ve got mutant healing powers. And if you’d like your immortality tinged with a little more uncertainty, this is the brand for you, my friend.

In the end, it will still be awful no matter what kind of immortal you are to watch the people around you die while you do not. Let’s not downplay this fact. And maybe, someday, you’ll realize you too would rather move on from this world, uncertainty be damned (or, possibly, you be damned). Is this a survivable tragedy for you? I tend to think it would be, but I’m young, and my experiences with loss are very limited. I know it would not be a fun time. And then how do you deal with this fact as you continue to live? Form only passing acquaintances? Only hang out with other immortals like yourself? (More difficult if you’re the Highlander variety.)

Or just continue to exist until you can finally figure out a way to face that fear of the ultimate unknown? If you’re immortal, then the choice is yours.

The Ringer, Pilot Episode

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Here there be spoilers.

It’s hard to see Sarah Michelle Gellar do anything and not think of her as Buffy Summers, Vampire Slayer. It was an immensely iconic role, the one that propelled her into fame, and a cult favorite that she played for seven years. Plus, well, Buffy’s awesome! (Yes, I’m a Buffy fan, and a Whedon fan, and make no apologies for either!)

When myself and a friend, a fellow Buffy fan, watched SMG in The Grudge a few years back, we couldn’t take the movie seriously as the psychological horror flick it was meant to be. “C’mon, Buffy, call up Giles and Willow and kick this thing’s ass already!” we laughed at the relatively helpless and useless Karen as she moped around the movie. (This didn’t stop me from getting freaked out enough by the freaky weird hair-ghost-lady that made that creaky noise when I was trying to get to sleep later, of course, but that’s just me and horror movies.)

So watching the pilot episode of The Ringer, I’m again struck with the difficulty of separating SMG from Buffy. Especially when it opens with a dash of an action sequence and all I really want is to see do an awesome scissor kick and get up and kick this guy’s ass. But we quickly cut to a few days earlier to see how she got into this mess without her Slayer powers.

Bridget is the ex-stripper, recovering addict, murder witness, convinced she’ll be killed if she testifies, so she doesn’t, thus guaranteeing the murderer goes free and comes after her. Great work, Bridget, but then again your character description does prepare us for bad decisions out of you. So she skips town to meet up with her twin sister Siobhan, whom she hasn’t seen in six years. They go for a nice boat ride, Bridget tries to apologize for, it’s implied, the death of someone named Sean. We see  a picture later–Sean looks to be Siobhan’s little boy. Big oops. Siobhan claims to have forgiven her, but also has never told her husband Bridget even exists, much less her friends and so forth. They go for a bad CGI boat ride. Bridget falls asleep, wakes up, and Siobhan is gone despite the boat being afloat in the ocean, within sight of land but still pretty far. Bridget sees a way out of her predicament and assumes Siobhan’s life, which is not so perfect–her marriage seems to be a sham, she’s banging her best friend’s husband, her teenage step-daughter hates her, and she’s supposed to be 4 weeks pregnant with said paramour’s baby. Also there’s a  huge picture of her when you walk into her luxury condo, and that’s just awkward for everyone.

So in the end, we get back to that opening scene at last for a little action–Bridget is supposed to meet her BFF at the new loft luxury condo that’s being put together by said BFF, but it’s dark and creepy and a guy in a ski mask wants to beat her with a crowbar. They struggle, she grabs a gun she stashed earlier, and shoots him with the claim that she’s not Bridget. Except, oops again, turns out this guy was trying to kill Siobhan. Who’s alive in Paris, smoking (hey! you’re pregnant, stop that!), and probably not thrilled this didn’t work out.

Okay, recap over. Phew. The thing is, for a show with a plethora of little twists, they’re all kind of…old hat or played out in a boring fashion. The rich woman with a sham marriage who’s sleeping with her friend’s husband? Who’s step-daughter hates her? Who’s life is not as perfect as it may seem? And now the pauper must play the princess, but doesn’t know how? Eh. I’ve seen all these things before. I thought it would be difficult for Bridget, who’s 6 months sober, to pretend to be a New York socialite at galas and whatnot, but they immediately give her the pregnancy excuse for that. They don’t quite tell us how Siobhan’s little boy ended up dead thanks to Bridget, and that’s fine, but…really, the only interesting thing is we don’t quite know why someone wants Siobhan dead, but we do know she is either selfish enough and/or hates her twin sister enough to manipulate her into taking her place s she can die in her stead. Except she’s got a decent set-up going, so why does Siobhan want out altogether and for the world to think she’s dead?

There’s good mystery here, but the way it’s played out so far is just kind of boring. It has all the beats of being a show full of dramatic twists, but then they happen and the outcome is what you’d expect. I want more intrigue, more actual unexpected twists, more ass-kicking…okay, it’s not necessarily that kind of show, but I DO want more personality. What we’ve got so far is the big problem: Siobhan is a cold-shouldered bitch, and Bridget is…um, desperate? I guess? I actually have no idea what Bridget’s deal is. We’re told she’s sarcastic, but she really only is in the scene when we’re told that. There’s nothing strong about her character so far. She may as well Karen from The Grudge, walking around a Japanese house over and over again until it finally decides to kill her or make her catatonic or something. What was the deal with that house anyways? It just sucked the will to live out of you. Or it did if you were Jason Behr. He should stop being in things with SMG, he always ends up dead because of her. If he shows up in The Ringer, I’m calling it now, totally gonna die ’cause of some bad decision on Bridget’s part.

Ahem! Anyways, I’ll check it out next week at least, but I’m not sure if this so-far sort of sleepy drama is going to stay on my list. Unless they add some demons, then I’m sold.

Catching Up on Photo Challenges: “Path” and “Textured”

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My recent post about the Art of Climbing Trees was actually inspired by the “Path” photo challenge from two Fridays ago, and this image:

The picture got me thinking about the recent Treetop Adventure course I did with some friends out in Catamount, NY. Disorganized place, but the climbing around and ziplining was fun for the most part! And thus did tree climbing come to mind, and thus a post about the climbing trees. I love climbing trees.

This past Friday, the theme was “Textured,” with this gorgeous image to introduce the theme:

I’m not even sure what it is exactly, and I love that. Rain and a streetlight through a windshield? Or a light reflecting on the wet concrete below it? A brilliant moon? Something else entirely? Alright, I know it’s not the moon, but my first impression when seeing it was that it was. The picture has a lonely feel to it, and that might be why the moon feels right. The moon, too, has a certain loneliness to it, doesn’t it?

So I’m going to explore that, and also Bette’s father in the wake of his son’s death. This takes place a few months later, as opposed to at the funeral reception.

Textured

George Lauden pushed his fingers under his glasses to rub at his eyes and the bridge of his nose. Staying awake and alert was especially important right now–not only was it pouring rain outside, the house was also quite late. Or should that be early? 1:30 AM, in either case.

The last one to leave the office for the Wellingham Crier, as usual. That’s how it had been for almost all his years there, but in the last few months, the hours had gotten longer and longer. George himself had only just recently begun to notice. The sky was darker when he left, but at first he’d shrugged it off, the year was turning towards fall so that was only natural. Then he told himself, and his wife, it was election coverage, that it was a busy end of summer politically, both locally and across the state. And with layoffs last spring, they had fewer reporters to cover the increased number of stories, and as the editor-in-chief, he couldn’t ask his employees to work longer hours than he was willing to put in. It wasn’t untrue, any of it, and George enjoyed getting a chance to dig into journalism again instead of spending all of his time managing and editing and supervising the layout and so forth. Hitting the pavement again felt good, felt like being his old self again, like someone he’d forgotten without noticing at all as that person ebbed away and out of his life.

Tonight he was coming back from not one but two interviews. The first, the earlier one, a congressional candidate, a rare Massachusetts Republican from a few towns over. George didn’t personally agree with a number of the man’s policies, but his role was to investigate and inform, not to judge. It had gone well enough, the candidate was cordial and more upfront than he’d expected.

The second interview had not been on the books. In fact, it hadn’t been for the Crier at all, although it had been something in the paper’s record rooms that lead him there. The second interview was not one he intended to tell anyone about. As far as anyone would know, George Lauden had spent the night writing up his congressional interview, lost track of time, and was now driving home with a sincere apology to his wife in the morning.

If she’d even noticed, of course. If she hadn’t had too much wine and fallen asleep on the couch by eleven. George had his patterns that had creeped up on him since their son’s death, and Miriam had her own. Neither of them liked what the other was doing, but George wasn’t sure which he could claim was the more destructive on their marriage just yet.

And if Miriam knew what he was really doing…

He sighed. When he had first expressed a need to know what had truly lead to Graham’s unusual–and, in his mind, unsolved–death to his wife, she had immediately rejected the idea. Dwelling on his death would not help them, they had to move on from their grief. They had lives to live, a daughter who needed them both now more than ever. What could he possibly find that the police hadn’t? And what good would it do even if he did find something? Nothing would bring their son back to them now.

So while Miriam buried her grief in glasses of wine, George had buried his by digging into their son’s private life. It had all been very frustratingly vague, almost as Graham had intentionally obscured the trail of his activities in the year before he died. Lately, George was retracing his son’s steps when he worked one summer as an office boy at the Crier, during which he’d spent much time in the records room organizing the piles that had accumulated there over time. The records were still fairly immaculate a year later thanks to Graham’s efforts, complete with a computerized ledger that everyone now used to sign out old papers if they were needed.

Graham, it turned out, had taken out a few while he worked on that ledger. Old papers, very old, preserved on microfiche from the late 1700s, in the earliest days of the Crier and Wellingham itself. Papers that featured stories on missing townspeople, suspected mass murders by the natives, and finally one that reveals a local woodsman and retired soldier named Thomas Blaclson to have been the true culprit, himself killed by a lynch mob from the sounds of it. Nasty stuff. And then, of all things, a paper from the summer of 1985. That was the one that George hadn’t been able to figure out for weeks, but narrowing down the articles, he found one small mention of the opening of a perculiar little store in Llanfair called Maddock’s Oddities and Antiquities.

And then he’d had a very interesting conversation with the owner in the witching hours, George thought with dark humor. He glanced over at his briefcase, where the chapbook of ghost stories his son had written under a psuedonym sat inside. One of those had been a retelling of the Thomas Blackson tale, the so-called ‘Lantern Man’ Graham had researched in the Crier. A strange thing to learn, indeed, but what connection did this hidden interest in old ghost stories have to do with Graham’s death?

*****

That ended up being much longer than I thought it would be. It doesn’t feel finished, but I think I’d rather do any continuations of this piece elsewhere. This is starting to add to something I’d already been considering, redoing Ghostlight from a 3rd person perspective and a changing POV (although still mostly Bette’s POV). Not the most helpful thing to consider when I’m about halfway (or more) through writing the first draft, but if it makes the story better, it would be worthwhile.

Also, I wrote this while listening to the Inception soundtrack via youtube. Awesome and perfect mood-setter!

A Hollow Feeling

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I was awakened sometime after 9:03 AM. My college roommate’s cell phone kept ringing, although she was in a class. When that wasn’t answered, her room phone rang, and it went on like that for a few cycles. Finally I got up and grabbed one of them, knowing it could only be her boyfriend (whom I didn’t like) calling. Only he could be that persistently annoying, especially at this time of the morning. “She’s not here,” I said bluntly, tired and irritated.

“Turn on the TV. Two planes just crashed into the World Trade Center towers,” he replied without preamble.

I turned on her TV and was greeted with the image we now all have etched in our memories. Two towers. Two smoking holes. I sat down on her bed in shock. I don’t remember the rest of that conversation, but it was brief.

All my other roommates were eventually gathered in our common room, watching on that TV. A side camera was on one of the towers as a newscaster talked when it started shifting, moving. “Is that–oh my god. Oh my god, I think that tower’s falling,” I stammered, completely stunned. This was not something any of us there in that room had even thought could happen.

And whether we knew it or not in those moments, I think that shocked feeling that pervaded in everyone that day was the feeling, knowing, that the world had changed forever. And not for the better. Things were different now. Darker.

I cannot fathom the kind of terror people in the buildings and planes must have felt. I cannot fathom the hatred that drove those responsible to imagine, plan, an execute this plan, to kill over 3,000 people they did not know and had not ever met, in the space of just a few hours. I can empathize with but not fully know the grief of those who lost a loved one. I suppose that makes me lucky, that I have a certain distance from this tragedy.

But any amount of distance doesn’t change that hollow feeling, however large or small, that I get when I think about 9/11. Because it’s an incredibly complicated flood of feelings about that day, about what happened then, and what’s happened since. “Tragedy” truly is the only word that can, on its own, describe all of it. But it’s still much more than that at the same time.

I suppose my point is… well, I wasn’t planning to write this. I’ve kind of avoided writing about 9/11 when it’s come up in various places recently, because I feel its something words cannot accurately describe. Words can do a lot of things, but they cannot capture this. It cannot be contained by words alone. It’s a day, a tragedy, an event, a series of events, that are better portrayed in the images that we cannot forget, in the tears we feel when we are faced with it again, the hollow loss when we know the world was forever altered in those moments.

The memorial that they are opening today at the site of the World Trade Center is beautiful. It’s extremely well-done–conception to execution. That the names are grouped by association, friends and rescuers next to one another forever, remembered with the people they knew, the people who not only died with them but more importantly lived with them. The falling water, the footprints of the towers, and finally the second waterfalls, the inner ones, that descend into an empty darkness.

Delicious subplots

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I’ve been struggling with the next step in Ghostlight for a little while now, and it occurred to me as I rode up the elevator to my apartment today why that is. I don’t have a subplot!

Not entirely accurate. I do, but the subplot of the romantic entanglement has gotten tied into the main plot, which has indisposed the romantic interest, Jesse, for about 24 hours. So that can’t go anywhere. The other subplot, what happened to Graham three years ago, is a long-term subplot that won’t be getting resolved anytime soon. So I need a new subplot to work into the story. Fortunately I think I’ve got a way to get one out of some already-existing events and characters.

But also, I’m trying to navigate the shifting tones of the book–on the one hand, there’s supernatural creepiness and murders and ghosts, and on the other, my main characters are still all high schoolers. Those can be done together with great success–Buffy, Vampire Diaries, the list goes on–but it’s a little harder sometimes to have them not feel like they’re clashing. Right now, I feel like they are. The one is so very different from the other, and I’m getting into the first chunk of scenes in a row of Bette actually at the high school for the purpose of going to class. And I feel like some of my characters are flat right now.

Of course, I’m also trying to push through and just keep going instead of getting stuck circling this one point in the narrative instead. Keep going when you’ve got writer’s block, right? But I can get kind of obsessed about a detail if it’s not perfect. Not always a helpful trait!

I’ve gotten this far, though, and I’m taking that as a good sign. I can get this far, I must be able to get further.

Having a subplot will help, though.

Small tight dark spaces in the ground

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After writing a piece from the point-of-view of Bette’s mother at her son’s funeral, I got interested in seeing what else had happened there for the remaining members of the Lauden family. So here’s Bette’s point of view on that day; I tried writing it in 3rd person to match Miriam’s piece, but it turns out I’m far too used to writing in first person for Bette. So here’s what happened to her that day.

*******

Someone is saying sad things about Graham, and nice things about death. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

I’ve been staring at my feet since we sat down. I’ve only worn these shoes once before, to the 8th grade Spring dance. I went with Jesse, Harvey and Chase, all of us together. No dates. We danced, talked, jumped around to the fast songs and sang at the top of our lungs with everyone else. There’s a scuff mark across the top of the left shoe where Harvey stepped on me at some point. I would’ve tried to get rid of it before the funeral, but I kind of forgot about things like shoes until I remembered I needed to put them on this morning.

Everyone starts singing in a mumbled, disorganized, and toneless way. It’s awful. Graham wasn’t a musician, but he liked music, fun music, pop songs that he’d dance around his room too, singing under his breath. He would hate this. He’d look at me and roll his eyes and we’d both smile.

I smile now, until I see the coffin sitting a few feet in front of me. Why is the family seated closest to the coffin? I want nothing to do with it. I want to be as far away from this as possible. We should be sitting in the back. Then I wouldn’t have to look at this, knowing my brother is inside and that he’s never coming out again. It’s like the shittest game of hide and seek in the world. He isn’t hiding and I’m not seeking, but here we are. Something in my chest is surging up, swelling with wretchedness and spilling out onto my face through my eyes. He will never smile or laugh or play any kind of game.

And I don’t even really know why. He’s just…gone and everything is empty where he used to be, places I can see and places I can only feel.

They are lowering the coffin into the ground, and when I close my eyes, I can feel the walls closing in around me. The small tight dark space that he’s been given, and now everything outside of that closed off as well, deep inside the ground, swallowed whole by it. I can’t breathe. I can’t move. Everything’s spinning and pressing in and he isn’t moving and I can’t breathe….

A few minutes later, I learn that I threw up, and then passed out. Everyone’s looking at me. I look at the hole in the ground. I can’t see the coffin anymore, and my dad helps me into my seat. I shake quietly, inside, and don’t look up again.

There’s a reception afterward. Why do they call it that? That’s a word for weddings, for happy things, for a family that’s growing not one that’s shrinking. This is just…depression, served with food. I didn’t eat. I had  water and then sat down on a padded bench outside the bathrooms by myself until Jesse sits down next to me.

“How’s your stomach?” he asks.

“Bad.”

He moves over and puts an arm around my shoulders. This is how we sat on the couch a few days ago, when no one else was home. We were about to kiss. We look at each other now and I feel a pull to move closer, to touch his lips with mine. He feels it, too, I can tell. The look he has now is the one he had then.

“Bette…” he says quietly, a voice, a word, meant only for me. I start to close my eyes and lean…

But I see the coffin again, the pit dug in the dirt, and my stomach rolls and my eyes snap open. Jesse hasn’t noticed. He isn’t looking. And if I kiss him now, I’ll always think of my dead brother when I kiss him. “I can’t.”

I stand up and walk away, crying for Graham, for myself, for Jesse, for small tight dark spaces in the ground from which there is no escape. I don’t look back.

Words matter, words have power

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This a slightly edited post I made on another journal a few years ago, but the despite the passing of time, the message and intent are still important to me.

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There is always drama. Always. Stupid, pointless, useless drama, and were these actual in-person interactions,  it would never happen. Because in person, you would never get away with (or feel like you could get away with) the things people say when they’re online. There are no interruptions, no gasps of shock, tears of pain, none of it. The human element is removed, and the reactions are filtered. Online interactions always lose something in translation, allow certain kinds of actions to be followed through while excising others entirely from the equation. And at some point, we take advantage of and count on that.

You can yell and everyone hears you. You can scream and rant and insult, and no one even has the option of cutting you off with a well-earned slap across the face when you’ve gone too far. That line that exists in social interaction, that prevents us from saying the horrible, wretched things we would say if we had nothing stopping us, it does not exist. So we say those things, because we can. We know we can.

Online interaction proves more than anything else that words can hurt. They can cut and hurt and leave marks far longer than physical attacks often can. The scars you don’t see, the blood you don’t feel on your hands.

It isn’t brave. It isn’t “right.” It isn’t okay to do it just because you can.

When the rules, the guidelines, the accepted parameters of how we treat one another, are taken away from an interaction, a conversation, a relationship, are no longer there and visible, we can become monsters. We can be horrible, we can harm, we can destroy, and no one can stop us. Does it matter? Is it liberating? It is corrupting?

Maybe it’s all of those. But, “when nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do.” The same holds true here. Because that line doesn’t exist, because it is so easily forgotten, because you cannot see the face, hear the voice, sense the palpable mood in a room full of people when you speak–because of all these things, our decorum, our treatment of others with respect, matters all the more. Because it is so easy to ignore, and to act as though I that center around which this universe revolves. I am the one talking, and I am the one that you will listen to. Because I command your attention, because I am the most important one here. I. I. I. I.

This isn’t not true, but it isn’t true, and it isn’t false.

The standards we give ourselves for how we treat one another are not set in stone. They are not oxygen–they are not a hard fact, a thing we must acknowledge or else we die. They are things we create. They are mutable, adaptable, changeable, and elective. This is why they are so important, because they exist only when we create them. We chose how we treat one another, how we interact and acknowledge one another.

My words are power, written and spoken alike, and I will treat them with the respect that they deserve, with the care that they require because they are so dangerous, so deadly, so wonderful.

Other people deserve our respect. This is not a fact because nature makes it so. This is a fact, to me, because I make it so. This is why it matters more.