I hope wherever you are life sees you well enough, good enough, with hope enough.
This writing prompt post was going to be very different but I got caught up in writing for it and suddenly I just wanted to talk about writing no matter who's reading.
Small Stories Have Big Impact
For those of us who post fic, or do Twitter stories, or in some other way share tall tales, it can sometimes feel like we're writing for maybe just two readers.
That's two people who need our story. Two people who in their day are doing their commute, queuing on an interminable line, exhausted or tired or just bored senseless and need, like the child they once were, to be told a story.
And when they find the time to finally fire up their laptop or look at their phone and there you are? Continuing the tale of two space princes loving their way through the galaxy or the warrior priestess who's gone back in time, or whatever it is you write that they love?
Well something inside their chest eases. And then they have ten minutes, thirty, an entire hour of peace and hope while they read what you've written.
Maybe we want more than just two readers and that's grand and we can pursue that. Yet what we have right now is good, too. It's enough.
In these times of trial, in any time when things are hard for you, me, or those two people, the stories we tell, the magic we make with words, it matters. So much.
So let's keep making that magic, okay?
Last Week's Writing Prompt Included Moomins & Mirrors
Here are a few quotes from Into the Light. Remember, if a previous prompt inspires you, go for it. I'll excerpt those too!
Tell us a story, okay? A little one, a long one. Spin us a tale about empathy or wifi or whatever is inspired in you.
“Okay, I gotta go, that was the doorbell, it’s gonna be the tech psychic.”
I can practically hear Mel raise an eyebrow.
“You’re actually going through with this?”
“I’ve had 5 different tech support people and not one of them could find anything wrong with the wifi.”
“A tech psychic though? He’s got to be a fraud.”
“Probably. I am desperate though.”
I hang up and open the door.* *
45 minutes later, still sitting on my purple carpet, my router cradled in his lap, Jake throws a lengthy explanation at me, but the only thing I hear is… what?
“Are you saying that my wifi is sentient?”
“All tech is. You just usually don’t notice it.”
I assume he is making a joke, but the laughter dies in my throat when my smartStereo turns on, blasting my favourite song through the speakers.
I shiver and my router blinks, once, twice, and then the music abruptly dies.
“Are you sure I’m not just… I don’t know… haunted?”
“You’re ready to believe in malevolent spirits but not in tech developing sentiency?“
He has a point.
“Okay, let’s say I believe you. What do I do?”
“What do you mean?”
“My wifi breaks down every time I am sad or angry. That’s not helpful.”
“Because I can’t reach out to people for advice or comfort.”
The music starts blasting again and we both jump. Jake starts laughing. I really can’t see the humour in any of this. My house is haunted by a sentient wifi connection, I have been forced to consult a tech psychic and now my smartStereo apparently lost its mind.
Jake pats the router still sitting in his lap, which for some reason turns the music off, and then grins at me. “I think what you need is a relationship counsellor.”
“Excuse me?” Now my tech psychic apparently lost his mind.
“K, let me put this in terms you understand. Say you were living with another human. What would you expect them to do when you are sad?”
“Sit with me and listen?”
He waves his hand in a ‘there you go’ motion.
“My wifi turns off because it wants to sit with me and listen?”
He waves his hand in another ‘there you go’ motion. I want to punch him. Not for the first time today.
“It’s turning its focus towards you. You should feel flattered.”
“Oh, should I now? Mostly I feel confused. And slightly freaked out, if I’m completely honest.”
Jake looks serious for the first time and gently pats my knee. “You should try it. It is an honour. Mostly they don’t care about us. We are like insects to them. Short-lived and unimportant.”
“If that was meant to be reassuring, let me tell you, it really wasn’t!”
“It will not harm you. But seriously, try it.”
I give up. Sentient wifi. Okay.
“Do I need to cuddle the router?”
“What? Oh, no. That was just for show.” He hands me the router with a grin and now I really want to punch him.
But since I have nothing to lose (except for maybe my sanity), I wait until Jake has left to lie down on the purple carpet next to my router. It feels weird to talk to the empty apartment, but after a while, when the sun has gone down, the light turns on in a gentle shade the light switch definitely has no setting for and the smartStereo starts to play soft classical music.
It is surprisingly nice and comforting.
Thank you THM!
(I just saw a wild apostrophe and I’m blaming autocorrect)
Ali, let me holler at you for a bit… WHAT A LOVELY TALE!!!
Did I ever tell you about my grandma, your great-grandma? She was a short, stubborn, snow-haired lady with a lilac knitted cardigan cosying a soft figure perfect for hugs. She had a voice like a lullaby. This tale is one she spun for me one night when I was sick and afraid and I felt so alone, as if I was the only one of my kind in the whole world. I had a fever, near death for a while, apparently. I had to be taken to the shore to be cooled down with seawater, although I only know what I’ve been told about that.
A long time ago, long before wi-fi brought the world to your home on your terms and you had to go out to meet the world on it’s terms, my grandma lived in a fishing village up north and I lived with her. When grandma was a young woman, she was out on her fishing boat one early summer day and when she hauled up her nets there were not just fish wriggling, all sparkling silver in the sunlight. There was a man.
At least, he looked enough like a man. He was hurt so my grandma saw to her catch then tended his injuries. He was handsome, she said, with sandy coloured hair and birthmarks like dapples on his skin. My grandma asked the man if he would come back with her and help land her catch if he felt recovered enough. Well, he agreed, and that is how my grandparents met. She literally fished a husband out of the North Sea.
I never met him, although I have seen a grainy black-and-white photograph. He stayed with grandma long enough to see my mother reach her first birthday, then one day in June he dived back into the sea from the stern of the fishing boat and never came home. She said he was never found, neither up the coast nor down it nor caught in another vessel’s nets. She told me she cried for a month but then the birthmarks that made his beautiful skin look like a spotted seal-pelt started to show on my mother when she swam in the shallows close to shore, and she thought of all the people in the village who had lost loved ones to the sea and realised that she had not looked properly at what she had gained.
Maybe I just borrowed him for a while, she told me. We loved each other, but I couldn’t follow him and maybe he couldn’t stay with me.
My mother grew up to be a fisherwoman. She worked with grandma and every so often they’d wave at the harbour seals who would pop their heads up to sniff the air and chase each other around the boat, sometimes coming close enough to scrounge any fish that wouldn’t sell.
I was five years old when my mother was declared lost at sea and my grandma took me in. I never took to the fishing business, though, and the family firm couldn’t compete in a modern, technology-driven business. Thankfully, grandma didn’t see the firm close. Her last trip out with the fishing boat was the boat’s last trip too: on a calm Sunday at dawn I scattered her ashes while an honour guard watched with their rounded heads up proud and their shining, black eyes open. One by one they yipped at me and dived.
I know now that it was an invitation, one that I must accept. I often thought you too young to tell, or too worldly, or too disbelieving, but grandma is not here to care for you and I have waited as long as I can.
I hope that when your time comes, you will also find our family under the waves.
I know better. Of course I do. But broke, living in my car, and denied the necessary freedom of internet access for the sixth day running prove too much for my caution. I have job applications to lodge, even with my small hope of success, and no data left on my phone. The lure of the open WiFi network named SpinATale is too strong.
I fall headlong into SpinATale’s web.
First my screen goes dark, and when it fires up again a moment later my Star Wars wallpaper has been replaced by what looks like tangled purple crochet that reminds me of my first and only attempt at a scarf, made when I was twelve.
I hit escape.
This is either my second mistake or my next good choice of the day.
My finger hits the escape key and freezes there, stuck onto the keyboard which is communing with the cascade of code and energy beyond the Bluetooth chip.
Words appear across the screen – first in white text.
Spin a Tale with me.
Then in black.
Tell Your Story.
Then in deep purple.
Share Your Story.
My story. Huh. I stare at the flashing words and think about my story.
I was unlucky. I misjudged. I lost my job. I lost my hope. I lost my love and I lost my way. I’m on my last fifty bucks and my last legs. My life’s not going anywhere, and I’ve literally and figuratively got nothing in the tank to take me anywhere. I’m down and nearly out and nobody cares.
I blink at the new words, in deep, dark red. I still can’t get my finger off the escape key.
Do you want to escape?
This life? This moment? This noisy world where no sound I make can be heard? Where I shout into the void and nobody listens and nobody cares?
We care. We will listen.
Can a wireless network show empathy for a blip of human data stuck in the hardware world?
We will share your story. You will be heard.
Oh hell yes I want to escape. I want to flee, fly, flow into whatever lurks behind SpinATale’s cryptic, mind-reading connection.
Double click ESC to Escape.
I double click.
You hear me now, don’t you?